MAKE THE INTERNET YOUR FRIEND, NOT YOUR FOE!

I receive e-mails and questions from people all over the country because of my website and articles I write for CURE®.

There are so many poignant questions and concerns:

“What chemo are you on?”
“What are the side effects?"
“I am scared to death to start chemo after reading about the side effects from patients on the Internet.”
   
I just want to shout through the computer – "STOP DRIVING YOURSELF CRAZY!"

I am the first person to Google any new conditions, chemo or treatment I am on. However, the key is knowing when to stop! When I was first diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), I read about it by the hour. The more I read, the more confused I became. It is a cancer, it is not a cancer, you can live an average of 18 months, and you can live up to 9 years. Some people need oral chemo, others need a bone marrow transplant – HELP!
    
When I finally found out there were four or five different kinds of this cancer and determined which one I had, I settled down to read about that one. I was fortunate to have the one that people live the longest. I found out which oral medication I would be on. I switched from a doctor who would not answer my questions to one who always asks before she leaves the room if I have any concerns. Then I signed off because I wanted to stop reading and start living!

Here are four tips to keep in mind when researching your condition.

1. You will not experience every symptom listed.   
Each time I have been on a new chemo, I look it up. But here is where you need to be careful. If one reads the literature accommodating any – and I mean any drug (even aspirin) there seems to be every side effect listed in the world. Drug companies are required to list any symptom one person or more may report. Admittedly, chemo is poison so somewhere in the world people would have suffered nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions and on and on. But most people do not have every single one of the reactions or they would be dead!
 
2. People who suffer negative effects are more likely to write about them than success stories.
When people tell me they are scared to go on chemo after reading all this “stuff” posted by patients with cancer on the Internet, I use a caution: Remember that people who suffer negative effects are more likely to write about them. If the effects are not as bad, they may be off doing other things and living their lives. The remarks on the Internet can be skewed. It is not that I don’t believe patients have bad side effects and I have certainly had them, but I would rather experience some of these then not live!
    
However, the cancer survivor does need to know what to look for on each new medication. When I started my Vidaza shots, the nurse and the lab assistant sat down with me and carefully went over a list of side effects including fever and chills. They told me to call the doctor no matter what time of the day or night if my fever was over 100.4 degrees. I did experience these effects by the third day and called the oncologist on duty. We decided since I was coming in the next day I would be checked, but the fever went away on its own.
    
If something happened that I suspect is a side effect of chemo like the esophagitis and ulceration of the stomach I experienced, I would look it up to see if this was common. It was listed as a possible side effect, but a single pill from my gastroenterologist took care of it and I moved on.

3. Every patient is unique and can respond to treatments differently. 
We also need to remember that every person is different. For example, the doctors are reluctant to put me on steroids due to a rare immune deficiency. They are not sure what would happen because the statistical chances of finding a patient or two with both my rare type of cancer (MDS) and the rare immune deficiency (IGA) is slim to none. If it becomes a matter of saving my life to be placed on steroids, I know the doctors would do it under strict medical supervision.
    
Recently, I was put on Procrit shots for several months. I quickly looked up the side effects. The usual long list was there but the one that repeatedly came up first was the danger of blood clots. I turned off the computer knowing if there is any redness or swelling, I need to go to the Emergency Department immediately. The Internet provided me with the important information I sought, so I decided to stop there.
    
You may also want to use your pharmacist to help you with any new medication, whether chemo or not. These professionals work with the drugs eight to twelve hours a day and are very informative and helpful

4. Consider the source.
The other thing we need to remember is where the information is coming from. Other patients are a huge help in support and ways to cope. For factual information, be discriminating on the Internet, and use realizable sources like Cancer Center of America. AICR, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, MD Anderson and other research facilities.

People actually have sent me articles stating there will be a cure for all cancer coming out in a year. When I check the source; it is usually a place I never heard of.

Really? I think if there is a cure my oncologist would tell me!

In summary – use the resources at your disposal but be careful. Do not get into a panic due to every single story, symptom or side effect. You are an individual and it is your body. Trust your own instincts and ask questions of the people who know you the best, like your doctor. Let the Internet be your friend – not your foe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CANCER 'SURVIVOR':WHAT'S IN A WORD?

Isn’t everyone a survivor from the time of diagnosis to the end? One reader thinks so.

By Jane Biehl PhD

I never believed the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.”  I have been terribly hurt by words and have, unfortunately, uttered phrases I wished I could take back as soon as I said them.  Words and language are very important.

     However, I am a little – no a lot – puzzled about the bantering around in the cancer community about what the word “survivor” means.

     I was thrilled when the Cancer Center where I receive treatments decided to sponsor a Gallery of Hope for cancer survivors. The director said she called several people, who said they were interested.  A professional photographer took the pictures and a quote is written from each person.  The pictures will be hung in a huge atrium overlooking where ground is to be broken in the fall for a brand new Cancer Center.

     I was distressed, however, when she stated several people had declined, because they were still undergoing treatment and felt they could not be called survivors.

     Wait - what! I always have felt from the second of diagnosis we are surviving.  We put one foot in front of the other and moved on.  I did feel I had not been through the trauma of some of my cohorts who faced surgery, radiation and mutilating treatments.  When I gathered with others who accepted being in the Gallery of Hope, several of us confessed we felt this way.  However, we all had our stories, our individual problems and agreed to participate, though we felt humbled.  I realized personally that eight years is a long time to be on chemo, thus my story was unique, and so I went ahead and said yes.

    I considered it truly sad that the term “survivor” connotates such different meanings to different people.  I was concerned that some surviving members of the cancer community didn’t participate in this wonderful program because they weren’t “cured” or achieved NED – no evidence of disease.

Wikipedia (dictionary.sensagent.com/cancer survivor/en-en/) says “A cancer survivor is an individual who is considered a cancer survivor from the time of cancer diagnosis through the balance of his or her life.”

     The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship also defines it from the beginning of diagnosis to the balance of life, even if dying.  Furthermore, NCCS also extends this term to family, friends and voluntary caregivers. MacMillan Cancer Support, on the other hand, excludes persons in the terminal phases of illness.

     All admit that survivor is a “loaded” term.  In the breast cancer culture, it defines women who have had an emotional or physical trauma.  Alternate terms are also used such as “alivers” and “thrivers” which emphasize living as well as possible.  This terminology even extends to “previvers,” who have not been diagnosed, but survived a predisposition to cancer due to certain genetic mutations.

     Rick Boulay (https://www.curetoday.com/community/rick-boulay/2017/12/cancer-redefined-survivor) is a gynecologic oncologist. He maintains a diagnosed patient is already a survivor.  At the other end of the spectrum is Howard Wolinsky (https://www./medpage/today.com/special-reports/apatientsjourney/79229 ) who admits that survivor is a better term than the previously coined term of “victim.”  Since he has had no treatments other than biopsies for surveillance of prostate cancer, he doesn’t feel he deserves to be called a survivor. In my book, going through biopsies and waiting for results is like having a Sword of Damocles hanging over one’s head, and is another method of surviving. But if he is uncomfortable with that term I can accept this.

     I could go on and on with various articles, but I am going to state my own opinion here.  Please, people – let’s get a middle ground.

     Some of us older people remember in the world of disabilities when we called people who had a disability “handicapped.”  The community of people with various disabilities was insulted, because the term came from handing out a cap for begging.  So the term was changed (correctly I feel) to a person with a disability, emphasizing the person first and the disability second.

    Another attempt was made to change the term to physically challenged.  As a person with profound hearing loss, I truly thought this change was over the top.  Let’s stick with the term disability and be done with it.

     I don’t think cancer patients should be called “victims”.  However, to say someone diagnosed with cancer isn’t a survivor because they are undergoing treatment and not cured is not fair! 

    If people shy away from using this term, that is their choice. I do not want them to choose not to use it for the rest of us.  Currently 65% of adults diagnosed with cancer in the developed world are expected to live at least 5 years after the diagnosis according to Wikipedia.   They are all warriors.  And this includes the family, friends and caregivers who do so much for us.

          A dictionary definition of survivors (https://www.bing.com/search?q=definition+for+survivor&form) is a “Person who copes well with difficulties in their life.” Every single cancer patient I know is coping one way or another.  It is not up to me to judge how well, because we all cope differently.

     Call yourself whatever term you wish.  Join or don’t join a group who calls ourselves survivors.  But – please- stop saying those of us who have not been cured of this insidious disease and still undergoing treatment aren’t surviving.  Don’t make it sound like people feel they do not deserve to be in a Gallery of Hope, because they are not cured.  They are the epitome of hope!  Just accept that every single cancer patient/caregiver/family member/ and everyone touched by cancer is facing every morning with the challenge of trying to live the best life they can.  We all have hope, which makes us the best survivors of all!  

    

CANCER IS LIKE VEILED SUNSHINE

My favorite meteorologist has a running joke with one of the anchor men on television about the use of the words “veiled sunshine.”  He thinks it is funny and teases her about it, while she laughs and uses the term often.

     It is an unusual term.  I also chuckle when she says the day will be partly sunny or partly cloudy.  Which part?  It can’t be at the same time obviously.  So is it sunny enough for the neighbors to use the pool, or too rainy for the baseball game?

     However, if you really think about it these are very descriptive of not only the weather – but of cancer.

     Every one of us has a life with ups and downs, shadows and sunshine, darkness and light, and sometimes on the same day.  I am an emotional person and after a bad day, I try to laugh and be happy when something funny happens.  I do not live in a tropical climate like Florida but in Northeast Ohio, which is one of the cloudiest areas of the country.  I have the dubious honor of living five miles from an armory that was built before missiles could be directed.  The reason is - we are so cloudy that the airplanes couldn’t see where to drop the weapons! The counter part  of living here is on sunny days my neighbors and I are all walking, biking, greeting each other, and most appreciative of the sun’s rays.

     My cancer is ongoing and I have been fighting it for nine years.  I have had the bad days, when the chemo has overwhelmed me and I have given up hope.  Then I have the good days, when it is in temporarily remission and I feel great like sunshine!  I think almost every cancer survivor goes through this.

     However, it is the veiled sunshine that we really think about.  The clouds are covering the sky, but if we peek really hard we can see the sunshine trying desperately to come through.  If one little cloud moves, the whole array of shining rays appears making us feel good. 

     This is the reason cancer survivors have hope.  We hang on to that little crack of sunshine to keep us going behind the gray and dreary clouds. I feel certain when my journey on earth is finished, I will see the rays of light.  I have friends who have had near death experiences and they describe the light and sense of peace vividly.

     Cancer and life is much like the weather.  We need to keep peeking for the rays of sun, and be certain the clouds won’t last forever.  Rays of light are important to all of us, and  “veiled sunshine” reminds us hope is always there.

    

CANCER AND LIFE ARE NOT LINEAR JOURNEYS

One of the hardest things to realize about cancer is that it rarely goes in a straight line.

Did you believe when you were young that life went in a straight line?  I sure did, and was very naïve.  I had my life all mapped out for me.  I would go to college, get my master’s in library science and get a job as a librarian.  I planned down the road to find my prince, get married and have 2.5 children.  (In those days of zero population growth we were told to have no more than two children). I would be a librarian for thirty years and retire with a good pension like my parents did.  I told a friend during my last year in college, I would get a job, a car, an apartment and go to Europe. She cautiously told me this might take a long time.

     Yeah – right.  Woody Allen formulated the quote “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

     Now at the age of 68, I look back and laugh along with God.  Life did not go in a straight line, but in many ways it went better with all my ups and downs.

     I was a librarian for 19 years before I made a career switch to being a rehabilitation counselor, because I wanted to work with people with disabilities.  I taught college for over thirty years as an adjunct, which I never knew I would enjoy so much! When I physically was no longer able to teach, I became a writer.  What is special is that each career segued into the next one.

     I didn’t get to Europe until I was forty, but have traveled to several places since.  I never met the love of my life, but have worked with children in most of my careers.  I figured since most of my relatives lived to be old I would too – until I was diagnosed with cancer.

     I also thought cancer was a straight line.  I thought people underwent chemo or radiation or other treatments and either got better or did not.  I was so wrong, and what made me think that cancer is any different than life?
     I was given a time limit to live and am past that.  I never knew one could be on chemo for as long as eight years.  Just when I thought I would always be on chemo, I have been off for almost a year. I have changed cancer treatments from oral chemo, to Vidaza shots, to Procrit shots and will probably undergo different treatments in the future.   I have visited the cancer center where I receive treatment ranging as many as five times a month to every six weeks. I have felt terrible, sick, better, good, but always fatigued.

     My emotions have run from elated, to depressed, to sad, to fear, to anxiety, to anger, to happy – sometimes the same week!

     Isn’t this like life? Our cancer journeys don’t usually go from diagnosis to treatment to cure, but back and forth just like life!

     We cancer survivors cannot expect a straight line.  Sometime all we can do is hang on for a turbulent, confusing, crazy ride!

VISION BOARDS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS

Vision boards are both therapeutic and fun for cancer survivors and everyone else!

 What is a Vision Board?  Oprah Winfrey explains it this way. “I was speaking with Michelle (Obama) and Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver –we were all doing a big rally out in California.  At the end of the rally Michelle Obama said something powerful.  I want you to leave here and envision Barack Obama taking the oath of office. I created a vision board.  I had never had a vision board before.  I came home, I got me a board and put Barack Obama’s picture on it, and I put a picture of the dress I want to wear to the inauguration.” https://www.makeavisionboard.com/vision board success

      I have read Becoming by Michelle Obama and did not remember it being mentioned.  I knew nothing about vision boards.  On a routine visit to my oncologist, she told me she was arranging a program and wanted me to come.  My sister was with me and knew all about them.  Together they gave me some ideas like bringing pictures of my beloved hearing ear service dog. I gathered pictures of several important events of my life, and then asked a friend to go with me.

     There were about 25 people including cancer survivors, my oncologist and her husband, hospital staff and families of the survivors including children.  Each of us was given a plain picture frame 8 ½ by 11.  Some of us had brought our own pictures, while on a long table were piles of magazines and more clip art pictures and slogans. The leader of the program explained what we should do and showed a video about this activity.

     I am not an artist, but a writer.  I honestly did not know where to start.  I was apprehensive, and just sat there stupidly for a few minutes.  I looked around and everyone else was busy.  My hearing ear dog was with me watching me expectantly.  I looked for scissors but there were pinking shears.  I asked my friend why they had those (she is a gorgeous seamstress) and she said to make the pictures prettier.  I grumbled a little bit because they were awkward to use, but they did make the pictures more decorative.

     I finally decided I could not be the only one in the room doing nothing.  What happened next is the great thing about vision boards in my opinion.  These boards evolve and create themselves with help from us!  As I looked over my items I realized what I wanted was to write more, travel more and to dream about more events.  I also wanted my dog’s picture on there.

     I took my travel pictures from Alaska and Canada as my background. I put the titles of two of my books on there.  The book Paw prints on my soul: Lessons of a service dog has a beautiful picture of my dog.  The other title Life is short – Eat the donut is my motto since being diagnosed with cancer.  I wrote out my goals of writing, traveling and dreaming.  I wandered over to the table and saw the words “Best Self” and added that.  Finally, I took a picture from Facebook of my oncologist who has kept me alive for 9 years.  I knew she also loves to travel and placed it next to the gorgeous Alaskan scenery of Glacier Bay.

     I sat there in awe.  I never planned this – it just happened.  The magic of the vision board had captured me! I looked around the room and every single person had a special board –even the children.  I only wish I had time to see all of the boards, but the meeting was finished so I left.

     I went home and Googled more information on this phenomenon.  One explanation was these are visual presentations of what you want to accomplish in your life. Some people call them “dream boards” because you are putting your wishes on paper.

     A plethora of ideas ranging from Health and Fitness to Goals to Passions to Home Organizations to Travel can be on boards.  These are just a few ideas. The boards help us to identify, visualize and reinforce our goals.

https://www.financiallyfitandfab.com/vision-board-ideas/

     I didn’t read this before I started.  I looked over my past and knew what I wanted for my future.  What better activity for cancer survivors?  We all have fears and concerns, but to put our dreams in pictures gives us the most important emotion of all – HOPE.

     My wise and wonderful oncologist knew this and gave every one of us hope that evening! 

     

IS IMAGINATION MORE IMPORTANT THAN RESEARCH?

Which is more important – research or imagination? Maybe they equally vital in survivorship!

 

I was shocked when I read recently that Albert Einstein, one of the biggest geniuses in the world, was quoted as saying, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  Yet he is known for his brains, his contributions and his inventions that changed our lives.

     Wait – but did he have to “imagine” these theories before he proved them? Of course he did, and that took being creative and well – imaginative.

     I remember the hardest part of writing my dissertation was coming up with a hypothesis and stating what I was trying to prove. After a researcher does that, then the next step is to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

     It is also a well known fact that many inventions are developed when the inventor is trying to create something else.  Alexander Graham Bell is known for inventing the telephone, when actually he was looking for a device to help his deaf mother and wife.

     This certainly applies to cancer. All the new drugs, clinical trials, immunotherapy and surgeries started with a dream.  The researchers had to think how these treatments would work to prolong or save our lives.  The imagination of these scientists is the reason many of us are still here today.

     And we survivors can imagine too.  I like dreams better than reality.  Reality is that there is no cure for my type of blood cancer.  Reality is I am past the expectant life span.  Reality is I will most likely not live to the ripe old age of my parents and grandparents.  Reality is I will always be on some type of treatment regime.

     Imagination is there will be a cure someday for this type of cancer.  Imagination is if I had been diagnosed 10 years earlier, it would have been a death sentence.  Imagination is more and more treatments are coming out.  Imagination is perhaps an immunotherapy will be developed for blood cancer.

     It is so easy to become discouraged, depressed and feeling ill all the time.  But when this happens cancer survivors can think about Albert Einstein.

     We can be knowledgeable, look up research studies, and looking for answers all the time.  Or we can use our imagination to say “Maybe – sometime- in my lifetime – there will be a cure.”  It is up to us to decide which we want to develop –knowledge or imagination.  Honestly – I think I do a little of both, and there is nothing wrong with that!  

ATTITUDE MAKES A DIFFERENCE!

The attitude we have makes a huge difference in our lives and with cancer it can help us to live longer!

 

I bought a doggy daily calendar online for 2019 with all different breeds of dogs.  There is a wise saying for each day pictured with an adorable dog.  I am truly a dog lover and enjoy motivational quotes, so this was a perfect gift to me.  By the way, I also gave a calendar to three of my “doggy” friends for Christmas so I do share!

     One day a yellow lab which looked exactly like my hearing ear dog, Sita, popped up with a famous quote by Winston Churchill.  “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

     Ten little words that is ever so powerful.  I learned a long time ago that the happiest people are not necessarily the richest, for example.  I went to a very diverse high school with both rich and poor students and observed them from afar.  I remember going home and saying to my Mother that the rich kids were not the happiest.  As I grew and matured from facing my own demons of depression, I realized that it was not what happened to me that determined my happiness, but how I reacted. Several years of counseling helped me with this.

     But honestly – it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer that I realized how much my attitude influenced me.  I started to blog and mingle with other cancer survivors.  What really made an impression on me was how positive people can be who had been suffering from cancer, assaulted with side effects, and undergone horrible treatments such as chemo and immunotherapy for years.  I knew one of the reasons they were living so long (besides getting wonderful medical help) was they had a positive attitude to face each new day without fear.

     I also observed my oncologist, who is one in a million.  She told me quietly one time that her patients seem to live longer than most.  I responded with, “Of course they do.  I am not surprised.  Your spirituality and healing shines through.”  Also – she spends hours every evening researching and trying to find new treatments for every single patient.

     Every type of cancer starts with malformed cells- sometimes just one.  But what happens after that is dependent on many factors.

     I do not mean to imply that attitude is the only factor, because I have lost too many relatives and friends who fought so hard and lost the battle.  Some cancers are just too far gone and the treatments are not working.

     However, if we are diagnosed with a cancer and have a chance, I believe attitude can be a huge factor.

     I have a dear friend who I have known for over 35 years.  She is such a role model for me.  She was born profoundly deaf, and had a difficult time in a hearing family who didn’t always understand her.  She went on to get her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, and spent a lifetime helping deaf and hard of hearing people to get jobs.  Two years before retirement, she collapsed in an unbelievable episode where her spinal discs gave way and she was permanently paralyzed from the waist on down.  Her response was “Well it isn’t my hands so I can still sign.”

     Despite many years of occupation therapy, physical therapy and other treatments, she has remained paralyzed for over a decade. Now she is often bedfast because of horrible wounds from sitting in her wheelchair too long.  I walked into her bedroom one day and she was making blankets for her church.  “This is something I can do from bed.”

     Every time I feel the least bit sorry for myself because of my chemo, I think of her being bedridden.  She was one of the most active people I ever knew. She was forced to quit her job and is unable to go to the church she loves.  Additionally, she lost one of her dearest friends from a sudden heart attack.  Yet her tremendous faith, determination and positive attitude keep her going. She always greets me with a smile and a heartfelt, How are you?”

     My service dog is almost 14 and has a limp, arthritis and problems getting up and down. But when it is time to leave the house and go in the morning, she jumps up and down in anticipation and excitement.

      Attitude doesn’t always help us to live longer, but it certainly can help us to live better.  It makes every day a gift we can enjoy for the next 24 hours.  It is amazing what I have learned from my doctor, my dog and my best friend!

    

 

 

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO RELAX!

I love to write – for me it is therapeutic and sort of like breathing.  Therefore I have written a lot of articles for Cure because for me it is well - fun!

     Cure has a wonderful Facebook page.  I follow it closely because I learn so much about different types of cancer, including mine.  I can also make encouraging comments to other writers, and there are wonderful contributors to this unique magazine!

     Another reason I check Facebook is to see how many “hits” I get on my articles.  I don’t do this for ego purposes (well maybe a little). However, I want to follow which type of articles readers like so I can oblige readers with articles that help them.  I have found some stunning results!

     I work diligently to write accurate and helpful articles on topics I know are pertinent to cancer such as anemia, peripheral neuropathy, side effects of chemo, and cancer causing insomnia.  These articles which I will call “research,” aren’t easy to write.  They are not research studies with participants, but a compilation of articles from reputable agencies which do conduct studies such as Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Cancer Treatment Center of America, Cure, and many others.  I have to carefully check and recheck my facts, list my sources, include links and make sure I am conveying the correct information from the right source.  The editors at Cure double check and contact me if there are any questions or inconsistencies.  I appreciate this, because we all feel it is important to share accurate information.

     I find it easier to write “hopeful” articles, where I share what has helped me on my cancer journey.  I want these to help others.  These include topics such as dealing with grief, how hope is around the corner for new treatments, and questioning if I will reach my goal.

     One agency, AAMDS, has been pulling out an article once a month written by me for their newsletter.  The senior editor told me the readers they have want the research type of articles more than the psychological.  The reason for this may be after a person is diagnosed with a specific and rare type of cancer such as MDS, people are constantly searching for new treatments, cures and doctors to help.  Occasionally I receive welcome messages through my website wanting more information.

     However, I also feel we survivors need reassurance.  Honestly, I still feel guilty for not doing what I did before my diagnosis. The articles that I read and “speak” to me are ones where writers talk about finding balance and trying to parcel time to get the most important things done.  We all struggle with this, but when our health is at stake it is even harder.

     I truly realized this when I browsed through and realized the article I wrote titled “The Art of Napping” had 135 hits!  I compared this to “Anemia and Cancer,” which received 43.  When trying to analyze why it began to make sense for me.  These two conditions are intertwined.  Because my blood counts are constantly low and with the chemo in my body, I feel exhausted and need naps!  But some magazines and writers leave out the psychological component and only talk about the causes of a condition such as anemia. What we really need is reassurance that it is OK to take naps!  And I truly have learned this from my “furry friends,” my cat and dog, who drop down and nap every afternoon whether I do or not.  Sometimes animals are smarter than people.

     More and more oncologist and researchers are realizing that we all want to live longer, but we want to live better.  My oncologist I met a couple of months ago at the Cleveland Clinic impressed me when he said, “I want you to live a quality of life, not just length!”

     So we writers should continue to tell our readers it is OK to nap and not to beat yourself up.  Napping enhances the quality of life!

     I will continue to write both types of articles.  I will do some research, but also talk about balance and making life better.  The wonderful thing is Cure Today publishes both types of information and knows how important the psychological is too.  We all need to know how to take care of ourselves, succeed in balancing our lives, have quality of life and not feel guilty!  It is a huge undertaking and one we all work every single day to achieve. We also know that some days are better than others!

 

CANCER AND ANGELS IN DISGUISE

     I have been asked several times whether I believe in angels, and I do.  I remember my Mother telling me that my sister was a preschooler when she insisted she saw an angel.  My wise mother never attempted to dissuade her.  How do we really know that angels don’t appear to innocent children who do not doubt and are open?

     However, this is not about those kinds of angels.  I want to talk about the angels here on earth that every one of us cancer survivors have (and others too).  Sometimes we aren’t even aware because they are so quiet about what they do.  Or we may be so upset and self absorbed with our illness we don’t see it.  We should never take them for granted, but we do!

     When I was having trouble understanding my first oncologist because of a heavy accent, I asked a friend to accompany me.  She was there to hold my hand when I was told my life span was around 104 months.  She went with me to a second more supportive doctor; until I assured her I was comfortable being alone and could understand this doctor.  This wonderful friend went with me to three different medical centers, until I found one that gave me hope.  She has been with me to all my bone marrow biopsies.  Every step of the way she has been like a sister to me.

     I have another friend who has cleaned and helped me out for years.  She told me she would take time off work if needed to take care of me.  She is like another sister.  I have a cousin who drove me to chemo, cooked for me, and stayed with me through some rough days when I needed her while adjusting to a new treatment.  I had two men from my church that came on one of the hottest days of summer to install a ceiling fan, because I was so hot and miserable from the chemo.

     When I had a recent downturn on my cancer journey, people from my church gathered and sent wonderful cards to me – some of them daily. I have other friends who have brought me soup and food when I was too tired to cook.,  A neighbor walks my dog for me when I have my bone marrow biopsies.  Another friend from church made me a beautiful blanket, so I would know I was warm and loved.  My sister lives out of state, but e-mails me daily and visits me monthly with love and encouragement.

     My oncologist and the nurses at the medical center treat me with compassion and respect, and have helped me through so many rough patches. To me they are all angels.  My Facebook friends are always encouraging and helping me out with their positive messages. Then there is my minister, who supports me when I sob and rail at how unfair this all is. My church and many other people assure me that I remain in their prayers.

     You see, these aren’t the angels who fly through the sky with halos and wings.  Although I do think they might be like Jimmy in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and will earn their wings in another world.   But these people are all angels dressed in everyday clothes. I am convinced that every one of us has angels, but don’t think about it.

     My hope is maybe I can pay it forward. If I try to be encouraging, , send cards,  listen to people in pain, and think about others, I can be an angel in disguise to someone else. In this tough world we need all the angels we can get!!!