How do you tell your partner, parent or child that you have cancer?


th image credit: Good Search

If you’ve ever been re-diagnosed with cancer, how did you tell the people who were by your side through cancer before?

Some people openly talk about the concerns they have when they find lumps or bumps. I guess the atmosphere is set up for this a bit more when you live with a partner, parent, or child. Other  patients bring another person with them to every doctor appointment, or at least the ones they know they’ll be getting information that could change their life.

If you go to the doctor alone, and get the news, “you have cancer” or, “cancer is back” — how do you tell your partner, parent, or child? How do you tell your best friends? There’s something that seems to shift when it’s the second re-diagnosis; the third time of cancer.

It was the hardest thing I can recall ever sharing with my parents. It took me weeks to tell each of them, and a month to share with friends, and only as we’d plan to get together for other reasons.

If you’ve been tapped on the shoulder by cancer again, maybe you need to sit with the information before sharing it with others—who’ll seem to take it personally, and who’ll look at you genuinely hurt, shocked, and confused. These are the people you’d never in a million years set out to hurt. They’re the one who’ve pulled for you, and rooted you on during cancer the first, and second time. They celebrated your triumph, and closed the door with you on any thought of cancer coming back. They believed in you when you said, “I’m cancer free” and ” I’m done with cancer.” These people still believe in you. And for me, that’s why it was so hard to tell them—again.

A while back I wrote a post called, “Don’t let the diagnosis kill you.” I wrote it before I knew anything of my re-diagnosis. It’s been a great reminder for me when my mind strays to dark territories. We all die at some point. That’s the thing about life: You can’t get out alive. But that doesn’t mean we (with or without cancer) can mope around about the card(s) we’ve been dealt.

Look around you. You have awesome people in your life. You are loved. And by many people, you are loved unconditionally. Think of that! without conditions. Wow. Take it in. Breathe in life. If you’ve been re-diagnosed, I’m sorry. It’s tough on the psyche as well as the body. But hold your head high, tell your loved ones when and how you can. Keep in mind, you’ve had more time to absorb the news than they have.

I’ve always been a staunch believer of telling the truth, and in some cases, that means just telling it quickly. I didn’t see this one coming: I was visiting my dad. I thought we had 45 minutes together and alone before we headed out. When I went to confirm, he said, “No. We’re leaving in 10 minutes.” Oooo, not in my plan. I was waiting for my way-too-hot oatmeal to cool down. I still needed to put on make-up, and brush my teeth. I put down my breakfast spoon, mainly to ensure I didn’t fling oatmeal anywhere, and kept one eye on the clock.

I quickly apologized for the timing, and for the news itself. “—I have bumps again. Cancer is back.” My voice started to crack, but I was able to rein it right back in. We didn’t have time for my that, and it would only hurt my dad more, seeing me drop into a puddle of tears over something he couldn’t do anything about. His head lowered. I could see he was going into analytical mode. I picked up my spoon, and began shoveling oatmeal into my mouth, keeping my eye on the clock. “Sorry. It’s sort of complicated. They’ll do more testing, and I’ll keep you updated. I wanted to tell you face to face.”

Done.

I got up to wash my bowl, put on make-up, and brush my teeth. We left on time.

Wherever you are on this journey. Peace.

 

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Diagnosis isn’t always black and white


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image credit: Good Search

If you’ve ever had a biopsy come back negative, and not one, but two surgeons come in the room for “the talk”—then you know sometimes a biopsy can show a negative result, but come back positive after further testing. Unfortunately, that “further testing” is often after surgery, and chopping body parts off, one by one isn’t the ideal way to become cancer-free.

For the past few months, I’ve been in the been in the process of being re-diagnosed. Borrowing from sophisticated theory: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck. The only difference in this case is, tests have come back negative. So, technically, it’s not a duck—or cancer. Most people would be doing the “happy dance”—and in the past, I would have done it, too. The only thing stopping me is my memory.

The first time I had cancer, the biopsy test came back positive. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t trust the medical field much, either. During treatment, I required another biopsy, which came back negative. The medical staff didn’t trust the test results but they gave me the option to leave the bump alone, watching it, knowing I may return someday for it to be removed. They also gave me the option to go ahead and have the second bump removed along with the originally planned surgery for the removal of the first tumor. I opted to have a two-for-one surgery. Tests run after surgery came back positive. It was cancer, but had tested negative before surgery.

Two years later, at my last appointment with the surgical oncologist who removed cancer the first time, saw a bump near my collar-bone. It tested positive. New treatment for cancer began, again.

Another two years down the road: I see bumps that look like cancer, feel like cancer, and are located in similar places, just a little higher up. But, tests have come back negative.

So, What does one do in the meantime? Here’s what I suggest: keep a (positive, strong) song in your heart, whistle a happy tune, and think, do and be kind.

—Oh, and maybe that’s what we all should do—before, during and after any type of diagnosis.

 

Anger


 

 

 

 image credit: Google

 

Cancer. Anger. Anxiety. Depression.

 

This is a re-post:

Ask your medical team if the cancer treatment you receive can trigger emotional change. Some medications have side effects of possible depression, anger or anxiety. It’s much easier to deal with these new emotions when you know where it’s coming from. In addition to medication, anger can arise from the process of menopause. You’re not crazy. You’re not a horrible person. Your body is used to a certain amount of estrogen and progesterone, and now that’s gone. It’s a triple-quadruple whammy: Chemo, surgeries, medication, menopause. (It’s enough to make you scream, isn’t it?)

 

Some say anger helps them through cancer. I’ve met some very angry people. Their anger may help them, but that doesn’t mean I need to be their target or audience for inappropriate dealings of their anger. I’m all for tying to understand frustration, and supporting others when we can. This coin has two sides: People encouraging each other. People practicing the life they want.

 

Having said this, when someone’s depressed, they cannot just turn on the switch to joy. It takes time and effort on everyone’s part. When I was diagnosed with cancer, in fact—with every change and every surgery (6) I found myself at the bottom of the emotional ladder. (Even if it was a new level, I’d be at the lowest rung of that level.) I’ve been a New Thought minister and know the ropes around positive thinking. But, some days I had to allow others to lift me, knowing I was being dark and miserable—and knowing at some level, someday I’d return to “me.” My mantra was often, “Trust. Float.” (We don’t float in water by fighting it. We float by relaxing into it.)

 

As I often point out, this isn’t about stuffing or internalizing emotions. If you’re angry, go ahead—swear at cancer, punch a pillow, cry, shake your fist at God. Do what feels good. Then, move out of anger. It will not serve you to stay there. But, if you’re angry, fearful or sad and you ignore it, you’re asking for trouble. Be present. Know how you feel. Only then can you make a shift to a better feeling. Even just by saying, “I want to feel better.” It’s like an alert to your body that you’re ready to shift gears. After making that announcement, you can continue with a list of (start with five) things for which you’re grateful. I covered my walls with shelf paper and used felt tips pens for my “Wall of Gratitude.” I knew I wouldn’t seek out a journal to read or write when I felt awful. This way it was in my constant view, and I’d get lost in it, reading and thinking, Yes! I really am grateful for that!

 

Lean into friends, family, neighbors, support groups, medical team, and counselors. Notice the support around you. I received incredible support from grocery store cashiers, and the general public. Not long after completing chemo, I was at Costco one night in December, buying one box of smoked salmon. That’s it. Nothing else. A woman in the line next to me pointed at me, and loud enough to cross the checkout lanes said, “YOU ROCK!” At first I smiled, “Thank you.” She said it again with emphasis. I teared up. She understood the absurdity. Costco. Night shopping. Christmas time. One item.

 

Cancer is often accompanied with feelings of isolation and loneliness, intensifying with anger. You may storm in and out anger during the few years of cancer treatment. It may continue after treatment is over. Many patients focus on getting back to “the way it was before.” It may happen, and if not, maybe the change in the long run will be spectacular. As you get fresh air, good sleep, exercise, and healthy food, you’re raising the bar for the new norm. If you need to, get angry. But direct it appropriately, and move on.

 

Related Resources:

 

 

1-800-227-2345 English, Spanish, Asian and Pacific Languages. They also have a chat line.

 

 

1-800-4-cancer 1-800-422-6237  English, Spanish. They also have a chat line.

 

What’s your cancer song?


still standing Image credit: Good Search

You know how it goes. You hear a song on the radio, and it’s not a love song, or break-up song, but a cancer song. The words fit your situation perfectly, or communicates what you need to hear to boost you up. When I was first diagnosed, I played and re-played Mario Lanza’s “When You Walk Through a Storm.” The song gave me strength, reminding me I was not on the path alone.

Then, my roots deepened with a gospel song from The Glide Ensemble Love to Give CD. “God Will Take Care of You.” I’d play the second one all the way to the cancer clinic—over and over, and over. “Don’t you worry so much about the path you chose. . .”

Word got out I was groovin’ to gospel. I was gifted the WOW Gospel 2008 CD. I’d have my morning pep session, listening to a song on the CD sung by Myron Butler and Levi. “Stronger” starts off with a guy saying, “Ugh, I wasn’t really expecting this.” It makes me laugh. What a perfect cancer lament! Then the song goes into, “You thought the test was gonna take you out, but now you’re stronger than before.”

Toward the end of chemo, my song became Elton John’s “Still Standing.” “Did you think this fool could ever win, well look at me, I’m comin’ back again. . .”

Several years later, I was re-diagnosed, a second time. Working out at the gym, Pat Benatar came belting over the radio: “Hit me with your best shot! . . . You don’t fight fair – that’s okay, see if I care. . . I’ll get right back on my feet again.” The song gave me some “umph” to put into my workout, as I sang this song along in my mind to cancer.

What song brings you through though or scary times of the cancer journey?

 

The Importance of Encouraging Words


be positive Image Credit: Good Search

When you were diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, what was your reaction? Did you let your shock, anger, fear just come out in the office? Or did it hit you later? And, when it did hit, what was it like? Some people sit and cry. Some have a surge of fear or anger well up. Others turn analytical, turning their focus within.

Did you ever express your emotions as a knee jerk reaction in the exam room, only to be told by someone on the medical team, “Be positive.” That’s great advice, but I also think it depends when and where that advice is given. If you’re in the exam room and have just been diagnosed, or re-diagnosed, I think, “Be positive” is a cop-out for staff. They deal with the words all day, everyday—for cancer in someone else’s body. Even if it’s a re-diagnosis, it’s new information to you. If you’re the one who found the bump on your body, there’s still that phase where you don’t know if it’s cancer or not. There’s that waiting period. Blood test, biopsy, and maybe a scan or two.  I know it’s a matter of semantics, but hearing, “I’m sorry. Stay focused on the good” or “I know this is hard. Keep positive” has a better ring to it than, “Be  positive.”As if being positive will magically change the bump from malignant to benign over night.

For me, the doctor’s office is the place where I vent. I expect that to be the safe place for my complaints about side effects, and the place for me to ask tons of questions that have popped up since my last visit, or while hearing a new diagnosis. Being told to, “Be positive” at this point doesn’t help me. When I’m at home, I listen to hypnotherapy, beautiful music, and comedy. I walk the beach, or read New Thought books. I meditate. I pray. I surround myself with like-minded people, who will affirm good. I’ve just begun to travel again. I’m working a bit, too. My book is with an editor now. Being told, “Be positive” from a nurse as she hands me the doctor’s urgent orders for four tests, allows me to witness someone who’s uncomfortable with the moment. Ha! That makes two of us. . .

Like most people, I claim to be a positive person. For over thirty years, I’ve been steeped in New Thought (positive, practical spirituality). When I go dark, it feels very foreign to me. Even in really tough times, I can bring myself back to the Light, to break up the downward pull. Sometimes it means I come back to the Light 100 times a day. Like the Chinese proverb: Fall down seven times. Get up eight. It’s not about denying the dark side. It’s about denying the dark side, power.

It’s okay to be present with the diagnosis given you—but then you must decide how you walk this path. There will be moments you trip and fall. Your thoughts may go dark, you may hurt physically and emotionally. Tend to your wounds—then get up. Find the good in the situation. Find the good in life; in humanity.

If you hear, “Be positive” it’s because people want you to experience happiness. Cancer cannot take that away. (Well, okay, it can—but that’s because we drift off with it, giving cancer and it’s side effects the power to claim our life while we are still living.)

Cold Caps May Reduce Hair Loss During Chemo


cold cap image credit: Good Search

You’ve either heard, seen or experienced it: Chemo-related hair loss. For many women, it’s the toughest part of cancer. It’s an announcement of your health status. People will freely ask you, “What kind of cancer do you have?” Now there’s a buzz about a new treatment in the U.S. that may help keep your private details of cancer hair loss from the public eye.

It’s been dubbed “the cold cap” and has been used in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada for years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any of the caps used in other countries. Now U.S. researchers are experimenting with this hair-preserving treatment for those undergoing chemo. This summer, researchers in the U.S. will begin enrolling 110 early-stage breast cancer patients to participate in a study of the brand DigniCap.

The cap is so cold that it numbs the scalp during chemotherapy. Near-freezing temperatures of the cap are said to reduce the blood flow in the scalp. With such low temperatures, the hair follicles are more difficult to harm by the drugs used in chemo, a drug that effects all fast growing cells—both healthy and cancerous ones.

I wonder if the cap, being so cold, creates any headaches for the patient. Ever eat ice cream too fast? During chemo, I was frequently very cold. With a cold cap, will it be standard for the patient to get warm blankets, too? I’ve read that patients keep much of their hair. Does that mean it gets real thin, but doesn’t all fall out? So many things to wait and learn.

Have you or anyone you know used a cold cap? What are your thoughts about them?

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Grew Tomatoes. Now What?


tomato vine image credit: Good Search

Did you grow tomatoes this summer and now wonder what to do with them? If you can find a neighbor who grew zucchini, you’re in luck! Swap vegetables, and swap some recipes, too. Here are some facts about the tomato you can digest in good health:

When processed or cooked, tomatoes actually contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes. The structure of the antioxidant lycopene changes, making it more easily absorbed by our bodies. So, pour on the pasta sauce, and feel good about buying canned tomatoes in the winter. Just half-cup of tomato sauce is plenty for an adequate lycopene boost to your system. Food sources of lycopene have been found to be more beneficial than supplements. Here’s a link for more information about lycopene.

 

Tons of tomatoes—now what?

Tomatoes are consumed more than any other non-starchy vegetable in America. Here are some ideas to make sure they don’t go to waste.

  • Share them! If a friend or neighbor has plenty of something else, barter 😉
  • No sandwich is complete without a tomato slice.
  • Is spaghetti for dinner? Cook up some tomatoes, and crush them for the sauce.
  • To add some character to your breakfast eggs, dice some tomatoes.
  • Cold or warm tomato or gazpacho soup. You’re on your own here. I’ve never made either.
  • Stuff tomatoes like you would a stuffed pepper and cook, or stuff it with tuna, or cottage cheese.
  • Make stew or soup with all sorts of tomatoes: fresh, canned, dried – they each add their own flavor.

For snacks or h’orderves:

  • Make some salsa for a quick appetizer: (dice tomatoes, chop cilantro, onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and squeeze some lemon.) If you have a molcajete – a traditional Mexican version of a mortar and pestle, crush the ingredients – it’ll bring the flavor out even more by crushing them a bit. If you like smooth rather than chunky salsa, put things in the blender after you chop them up.
  • Another side dish or snack with tomato: thick slices of tomatoes and alternatively overlap with slices of mozzarella cheese as you make your way around a plate (If you’re near a Costco, they sell packages already sliced.) Add some fresh basil. Drizzle olive oil on top, and add salt and pepper, and balsamic vinegar if you want a stronger flavor.