Monthly Archives: April 2015

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Courage through cancer

This is a guest blog post by MyLifeLine.org member, Roberta Aberle. Roberta will be presented the George Karl Courage Award at MyLifeLine.org’s annual Jockeys, Juleps and Jazz event.

Throughout my journey, I’ve lost loved ones, some to cancer, some to other conditions. Recently, not just one but two of my former classmates went to their final resting place. Both only 50 years old. Both too young to depart.

Of course, losing friends who are my own age shakes me to the core. Lisa died after barely 3 years; originally having been diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer, considered early detection and highly treatable. I am confident with that staging and with the known successes for breast cancer treatment in particular, it’s unlikely her oncologist uttered a prognosis of only a few years. She passed through her first phase of treatment successful, achieving remission and went on about her life.

But the cancer metastasized and returned in her liver, lungs and bones. So she went after it again. The 2nd treatment regimen was successful too and she achieved cancer-free designation. It was her 3rd and final battle that she didn’t respond to treatment and ultimately lost her life to the disease.

I can’t help but draw parallels between her fight and my own. It is virtually impossible to not go down that path. She had a fighting attitude and never once believed that she couldn’t overcome her diagnosis. And she had every reason to feel that way. Early diagnosis. Early stage. Highly successful treatment plans. High cure rates and survival statistics. She had all the odds on her side.

How do you not compare and contrast?

My diagnosis was extensive, wide spread disease status. Inoperable. Rare and relatively little known about this particular form of cancer. Grouped either with stomach, colon or ovarian cancer, none of which are highly curable and are often lethal forms in a given period of time. Heck, we don’t even have our own cancer color for Primary Peritoneal, it’s that distinct.

I don’t deserve to live through this any less than Lisa did. She has a family, a husband, a daughter. She was devout and learning to live her life as an example for others to model. She also expressed herself through writing, poetry in particular. She had a mischievous streak and a heartfelt laugh. She had made mistakes and lived through pitfalls in her life. But she was a good person. A really good person.

I guess my point is that it brings to the forefront again how indiscriminate this disease can be. No amount of money – like Steve Jobs or Farrah Fawcett – can protect your fate. No amount of religious or spiritual strength can cure you. No amount of intention or focus can guarantee you longevity. It is simply whether you respond to treatment or not. But then you can start out responding and the cancer changes form and then you don’t.

Like a daily game of rolling the dice. Will it roll in my favor or not?

As hard as a it is, saying goodbye to a friend like Lisa. Losing another individual like Bart. Talented to his very core. But he has left us as well as this young age. It’s hard to stay upbeat about my chances for survival.

I have friends who have lost a parent at this age. Decades ago thinking about death before the age of 50 was hard enough. But now that I am at this age, it is even harder to comprehend. It hasn’t been nearly enough time. I don’t wonder about how much time I have left to live, I have a specific projection and prognosis. Then again, neither Lisa or Bart had a short prognosis and yet they are gone. No one knows what the outcome will be.

If anything, sad events like these remind me of what I am up against. But it also reminds me that anything can happen and for that it’s important to remain living in this amplified state of awareness that I live in now.

Every experience is another memory being built. Each interaction is a chance to show someone what I value about them. Each days brings an opportunity to learn or to teach. I get to live with an heightened sense of what is precious to me and why. What is important to spend my time on and what isn’t.

This diagnosis has put me in a precarious place, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a discouraging place. I choose to not let another day go by that I don’t acknowledge and appreciate at least one specific aspect of my day. Whether it is the crystal blue skies on a unseasonably warm December day or the scent of a wood burning fireplace permeating a cool night. Whatever moment it is that you choose to focus on in a given day, I just hope that you can experience as fully and completely as I seem to be able to do now.

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About the author: Born in Rapid City, South Dakota, but raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, Roberta Aberle has been surrounded by cancer her entire life. Diagnosed with the rare cancer, Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma Stage IIIC, on Leap Day, 2012; after a total hysterectomy in 2009 was performed to reduce her risk for developing cancer, Roberta has been both a fighter and advocate for rare, sub-types of cancer. “I’d love to see other cancers reach the level of awareness and fundraising that breast cancer has with the Susan G. Komen Foundation,” she says. Roberta has been on multiple treatment regimens since her diagnosis in 2012, with the goal remaining to see some phase of remission. Her treatment has included clinical studies, surgery, intraperitoneal/hyperthermic chemotherapy, but has also incorporated many holistic approaches such as journaling, meditation, aquatics and nutritional strategies. Her primary goal is to not only reach remission but to use her experience to help demystify the cloak around cancer for caregivers by speaking honestly and authentically about the insights gained living the role of a cancer patient.

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Writing Cancer

This is a guest blog post by MyLifeLine.org member, Joni Hemond.

It’s evening, and twilight is fading to dimness outside the large dusty windows of the high school classroom. They file in, one by one. You have Edward, an architect wearing a black half-turtle neck who is dreaming of writing the ultimate book of historical architecture. Cynthia sits pin straight and a bit out of place in the beat-up desk, several sharpened pencils lying in a neat row inform of her, a gray-bunned grandmother anxious get feedback on how best to write a memoir. Then there’s Johan, a rotund middle-aged accountant who would be better-suited wearing Norse Viking clothing than his baggy jeans and golf shirt, flashing a chipped-toothed grin as he talks about his love for sci-fi. Pony-tailed Jennifer, fresh out of college, can’t wait to get started on her romance novel. And then there’s Joni, doctor-turned-cancer-patient, mother of three, ready to take the journey she documented in a series blogs and turn it into something more.

What do all these people, of varied backgrounds and ages and interests, have in common? They love to write. There are so many avenues of expression for a myriad of different emotions, and each person has their preferred medium. What is special about writing is the way it is shared. In the setting of a blog, it serves a dual role as a way to process a challenging experience and to keep loved ones informed of progress.

My writing on MyLifeLine.org evolved over the course of my journey with breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. At first it was more informative: I got this procedure and this is what it felt like. Here are the symptoms of chemotherapy. This is what medications I’m on. As I progressed, and the day-to-day contained less new information, I began to focus on how my experience related to others going through similar challenges, and how my diagnosis impacted those around me. Further still, I have begun to focus and ruminate on “bigger picture” ideas like the human condition and what it means to share our lives together on this beautiful Earth.

For me, the most important aspect is the way writing has helped me keep my sense of humor during a time that could have been characterized by frustration and sickness and self-pity. Of utmost importance to a writer are his/her readers. The last thing I want is to have my Guests get an alert that I have written a new blog and think, “Here we go. Another deep, dark, and depressing day in the life of a cancer patient.” I began to observe my world in a different way. I highlighted the mundane, strove to find the funny, and attempted to have a message of hope even during my lowest times. (Admittedly, it isn’t often much of a stretch to get a laugh when breasts are involved!)

My 14 months of treatment is nearly done, but my relationship with others through writing has hopefully just begun. Based on the words of encouragement and positive feedback I have received about my blog posts, I know that in a world where we are often separated from loved ones across miles and oceans—and even for those who I am able to see every day—writing links us together in a way few other forms of expression can.

I am entering the world of “survivorship,” and I am optimistic that cancer treatment will soon be in my past. But I am grateful that through my writing I have captured my time with cancer for unlimited years of self-reflection and inspiration.

About the Author: Joni is a happily married 41-year-old mom to 3 children (ages 6, 10, 12). She works as an academic pediatrician and feels that her job treating patients and teaching future physicians is a privilege. Outside of work, Joni loves running, writing, strategy board games, traveling, hiking, snowboarding, and hanging with family and friends. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in March 2014. In addition to fighting with chemo, surgery, and radiation, she’s given cancer an extra kick with exercise, a positive attitude, and writing about her experience on MyLifeLine.org.

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True Customer Care

MyLifeLine.org’s Customer Care Manager, Donna, shares her personal connection to cancer in this week’s blog post.

As I sit in the exam room waiting for the doctor to arrive, my mind wanders to the list of a million things I need to do today. I feel a bit annoyed that I have to wait. Doesn’t he know I have things to do?? At the end of my exam I am chatting with the doctor about my periods lasting for a month. He pauses and then says he wants to do an endometrial biopsy just to be sure there is nothing to worry about.

My scurrying thoughts stop as I try to focus on what he is not saying. What is he looking for? What should I be worried about? Afterwards, we say goodbye and I check out at the front desk. As I sit in the car, I start to wonder what it might be. Then I decide there is no use worrying because if anything is wrong, I will definitely be getting a call tomorrow.

The next day begins as any other day. I wake up, get the kids off to school and I return to looking for a job since I just left my previous job a few weeks prior. Mid-morning, the phone rings. It’s my doctor’s nurse asking me to come in today to talk with the doctor about my biopsy results. I freeze. My heart is racing. My mouth is dry as I somehow agree to come in to the office. As soon as I hang up the phone I call my sister-in-law who lives a few houses down the street. She agrees to go with me just in case it is bad news.

I feel like it is Ground Hog’s Day. I am sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor but this time I am praying that it is not bad news.

Then I hear what I have been dreading…”You have cancer.” I can only sob as I think of my three little children who just five years earlier lost their Dad in a car accident. How can this be happening? They will be orphans. Oh God, no this can’t be. As I sit there and sob uncontrollably I hear my sister-in-law’s voice. She is trying to comfort me through her own tears. We are both in shock.

Everyone has a story. We never know who has been touched by cancer, whether it be personally, a family member or a friend. I have experienced the loss of my mother to cancer. I am a 23-year cancer survivor myself now, and I watched my daughter go through her own cancer journey six years ago. This is why I am so passionate about my work at MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation.

As the customer care manager, I strive to provide the best customer care experience because I never know what the person on the other end of the phone or email may be experiencing. I have spoken with many of our members and their guests who express how thankful they are for this site where they can talk about their feelings, cancer treatments, or share a funny story with their group of supporters.

The next time you call or email us, know that we care, empathize and are truly concerned about where you are in your journey. We are cancer survivors, we have walked in your shoes and we are holding out a helping hand as others have done for us during our journeys.

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10 Inspirational Cancer Quotes

Uplifting quotes can help you find strength and motivation when it’s needed the most. Here are some inspirational cancer quotes to help you or your loved one through the difficulties of a cancer journey:

  1. “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” – Robert H. Schuller
  2.  “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” – Ziad K. Abdelnour
  3.  “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung
  4.  “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” – C.S. Lewis
  5. “Whenever we begin to feel as if we can no longer go on, hope whispers in our ear, to remind us, we are strong.” – Robert M. Hensel
  6. “Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.” – Lord Byron
  7. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  8.  “Scars are tattoos with better stories.” – Unknown
  9.  “Cancer didn’t bring me to my knees, it brought me to my feet.” – Michael Douglas
  10. “I am strong because I am weak. I am beautiful because I know my flaws. I am a lover because I am a fighter. I am fearless because I have been afraid. I am wise because I have been foolish. I can laugh because I’ve known sadness.” – Unknown

Has a motivational quote helped you throughout your cancer journey? Let us know in the comments.

Ziad K. Abdelnour Quote