What to Say?

By: Katie Austin 

I sat up late at night recently thinking about my friends that are fighting cancer. I read their Facebook posts and my mind wanders back to the time when I was fighting cancer. I started crying as I was reminded of the thoughtful, wonderful things that my family and friends did for me to keep me strong throughout my struggle to stay positive.

What’s crazy is that I find myself not being sure of what to say to my fellow survivors. I don’t want to say anything that might upset them in any way.

Then I remembered something. I read an article a few years ago that really helped. It was something that I wished I would have come across when I was fighting cancer. Something for me to give those close to me some insight and not to be afraid to talk about normal stuff.

I’ll provide you with a link to the article at the end but here are a few to get you started:

  • “I don’t know what to say but I’m here for you.” It’s ok not knowing what to say. Sometimes being honest about not knowing what to say keeps the conversation real/open. The person fighting cancer may not know what to say either or remember because of chemo brain…LOL.
  • “I’m here to listen.” This is always something that can be shared, as it is so reassuring to know that there is someone that can listen. Remember that they are sharing their feelings and that it will be good for them to get out any frustrations, which will help you to better understand where they are coming from.
  • “Let me help with…” This is a good one! It was always easier for me to say yes/no to something specific that someone was offering to help with rather than an open question, “What can I help with?” They may be too overwhelmed at the time and it may be too much pressure to come on with something specific on their own.
  • “How are things going with you?” or “How is your family?” Talking about things other than cancer was a relief. I wanted to just talk about normal stuff too and it was a break from the daily cancer treatments, doctor appointments, and everything else that came with it.
  • A simple text can mean the most. The littlest things do mean a lot. A simple text to say “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for you” doesn’t require a response but lets that person know you care.

You can find more ideas here: https://www.whatnext.com/blog/posts/10-things-cancer-patients-love-to-hear.

Remember, that this is a journey not only for the cancer patient but for their family and friends as well. No matter what you do or say, it will help them to stay positive and they will know that you care.

Do you have an idea or quote that was helpful for your friend or family member?  If you do, post it here so that we can share with our Every Woman Blog family.

Moving On

By: Katie Austin

In my last blog post, I talked about living life with purpose. This has been a tough thing for me to do as I want so badly to get back to the person that I used to be.

Then again, do I remember who I was before cancer?

Katie

Before I could begin to answer that question, I needed to come to terms with where I was in that very moment. After being thrown into the whirlwind of cancer treatment, doctor’s appointments, and many sleepless nights, I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore and I couldn’t see straight. I often found myself going through the motions of daily life instead of enjoying what I was doing. My mind was thinking about what I needed to do next while also worrying that my cancer would come back.

You go from fighting cancer to living with cancer.

I had to come to terms with the fact that my cancer is in remission and that I will never be cancer free.

moving_on

In the 6 years since my last cancer treatment, I have been keeping myself busy. Trying to get to all of the things that I love to do. But what I realized earlier this year was that I was covering up the wounds and never letting myself truly heal. I haven’t faced the reality of my life as it is now. I need to face my fears before I can get myself to a healthier place.

I will never be the person that I was before cancer. I have to stop trying to be the person I was before. My mindset has to change before I can live my life with purpose.

moving_on_2

This is going to be a year of change and a lot of firsts.This is going to be a work in progress and I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

By: Leah Prescott

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

Even though I have always liked my hair long, sometimes it’s just time for a change. There’s nothing like a nice short cut when late summer days are still hot and humid! Sometimes I am nervous about a change like this, but donating the length of my hair always motivates me to try a new style. This was my third time donating hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, and I always feel great about the experience so I wanted to share it here.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

Pantene Beautiful Lengths uses donations to create wigs for cancer patients. Cancer takes so much from its victims, and I just love knowing my hair will help someone going through a difficult time! Beautiful Lengths requirements are simple: Hair must be a minimum of eight inches in length, have no dyes or chemical treatments and contain less than 5% grey. Check out the details here: http://pantene.com/en-us/experience-main-section2/beautiful-lengths

It takes eight to fifteen donations to make just one wig, so donating hair is very important! Why not consider donating your next chop to a great cause? If you aren’t able to donate hair, Pantene also accepts monetary contributions to finance their cause.

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

What do you think of my new cut? I’m working up the nerve to go even shorter next time!

Survivormode: Part I

By: Katie Austin 

You would think that life after cancer would be easy. Treatments are in the distant past, visits with the medical staff are less frequent, my hair is getting longer, and food tastes amazing. All I dreamed about during my cancer fight was to get back to normal.

But then, is life ever truly “normal?” Was it “normal” before I started this journey?

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

Breast Friends – Katie and Brandy

My mind wanders, thinking about all of the things I did before cancer and what I am doing after cancer. Then I question how much of what I was doing before my cancer journey is still active in my life and what “new” things I have taken on.

I take out a sheet of paper, make two columns (“Before” and “After”), and begin writing down all of my thoughts. If there is something that I did before and am doing now, I list it in both columns. I continue this process until I can no longer think of anything else to write down. After I am finished, I sit back and look at my list, and it becomes clear.

Do you think my list is longer on the “Before” or “After” side of the page?

You might be surprised to read that the “After” column is longer. How can that be? I don’t have the energy to do all the things I used to do in a day. But there on paper, it is clear that I have more on my plate now than I did before my cancer diagnosis.

How can that be? I thought I had everything in my life balanced.

To dive deeper into my list, I take the “After” list and begin checking off each item that I feel is something that clearly defines who I am or what I want to accomplish in life. Then, it hits me and I begin to cry.

I am keeping myself busy so that I don’t have to think, feel or relive anything to do with cancer. If I keep myself busy enough, then I don’t have to worry. I am hiding from the fact that I lost close friends last year to cancer, that I have several friends who are fighting now, and that I am always looking over my shoulder to see if cancer will raise its ugly head again.

And then, I had an Aha! moment: I can’t outrun what will always be with me. I will always have cancer but it will not always have me.

I realized that I was clearly in what I would call, “survivormode.” I am doing everything and anything because I am scared to not be a part of life, because cancer took such a big part of my life. It’s one thing for me to protect myself but I can’t actively be a part of life if all I am ever doing is being busy.

Like a movie ending that leaves you hanging, this where I am going to leave you (for now). 🙂 I am going to begin taking steps to get to the healthier, happier me and will be sure to write about my progress in future blog posts. That way, I will be able to share what I learned along the way.

Until then, wishing each of you a blessed day and looking forward to seeing you back at the Every Woman Blog!

Feel the Tatas Year Round

By: Chaunte McClure

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has ended, but unfortunately, breast cancer has not. Lumps are still forming in women’s and men’s breasts, patients are still undergoing chemo, families are hurting because their loved ones have been diagnosed, survivors are in remission and holding on to hope, and researchers are still trying to find a cure.

I hesitated to write this blog because I wanted to fit it in last month, but I didn’t want to interrupt the Baby Talk series. I decided to move forward with addressing the topic because I want you to remember to feel your boobies even after Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over.

In October, breast cancer awareness is heightened. But then it fizzles out until it’s promoted again the next year. Ladies, it is our responsibility to do monthly self-breast exams. Don’t wait until your annual doctor’s visit for your gynecologist to examine your breasts. Too often, cancer is detected late because women and men didn’t take time to feel their tatas. Perhaps we don’t think about it or maybe we think it can’t happen to us, but it can.

KeyahThink you’re too young? Keyah Gibson’s college career was interrupted in February because she was experiencing back pain, which was originally diagnosed as muscle spasms. Later in the spring semester, the pain was unbearable and her mom decided to take her to another doctor for a second opinion. There they learned that Keyah’s spine was deteriorating. The doctor told her either she was malnourished or had cancer. To her dismay, the test results showed she had breast cancer, which spread to her bones. Keyah withdrew from college to undergo six months of chemotherapy and last month, she rang the bell in celebration of her final round of chemo treatments. Keyah is doing well and has started a foundation, Fighting Pretty, to educate and bring awareness to other young ladies.

Not everyone survives this aggressive disease. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, more than 40,000 women died of breast cancer in 2011. My family was touched by this disease in 2006 when my aunt was diagnosed at stage four. She lived about six months after the diagnosis. Because of her, I pound the pavement at an annual walk in her memory and in honor and support of survivors and fighters like Keyah.

I’m in my late thirties and I’ve already had two mammograms. In my twenties, I discovered a lump in my breast and scheduled a doctor’s appointment as soon as I could. Fortunately, the lump is benign, but I have to continue monitoring it for changes.

Please don’t let the fact that you don’t have a family history of breast cancer stop you from getting a mammogram or doing self-breast exams. My family didn’t have a history (at least that we were aware of).

In case you still need to be convinced, remember, early detection saves lives. You’re worth it!

Breast Cancer With Help From Our Friends

Patti Handel is a four-time cancer survivor.

“’Cancer’ is the scariest word in the English language,” she said. “But it’s only part of us. It doesn’t define us.

The 61-year-old from Irmo shares words of wisdom at monthly meetings of Woman to Woman, Lexington Medical Center’s support group for breast cancer survivors.

Handel started attending Woman to Woman meetings after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007, just one month after she and her husband moved to Irmo from Long Island, New York.

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

Patti Handel and Brenda Osteen at the West Columbia Riverwalk

“I didn’t have a South Carolina driver’s license yet and I needed an oncologist, surgeon and other doctors. It was overwhelming.”

So, she found comfort – and new friends in a new town – at the support group, which is designed to offer companionship to women who are recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

At Woman to Woman, cancer survivors share their experiences, learn about the latest treatment options and swap tips including how pickle juice seems to help cure chemotherapy-induced nausea.

That’s where Patti met Brenda Osteen in 2010.

Brenda, age 67, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 after a mammogram. The Lexington resident endured a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstruction.

At the meetings, Patti and Brenda hit it off.

“Patti’s been where I’ve been,” Brenda said. “You can’t explain cancer to someone who hasn’t gone through it. It’s like trying to explain a migraine to someone who never had a headache.”

When you see Patti and Brenda together, you can tell they’re close. Both impeccably dressed, they laugh like college friends and share jokes and stories that make you laugh from your belly.

From trading bestsellers they’ve read to talking about their grandchildren while sipping a cocktail at a weekly dinner, they understand each other well.

“We need friends to hold hands with, laugh with and cry with,” Patti said.

Patti especially needed Brenda’s support after a cancer recurrence in her leg in 2010, and another in her abdomen and pelvis one year ago.

Brenda and Patti

Brenda and Patti

“When it came back, I was mad as a hornet,” Patti said.

Patti has had chemotherapy three times and lost her hair twice. She’s monitored every 8 weeks, with scans every three months.

Brenda has inspired Patti to stay positive.

“We get up, put on our makeup, lipstick and earrings – and head out. Life is too precious to waste,” Brenda said.

Kelly Jeffcoat, breast cancer nurse navigator at Lexington Medical Center, runs the Woman to Woman support group at the hospital. As a breast cancer survivor herself, she has a first-hand understanding of the group’s experience.

“This crazy, horrible thing called breast cancer ends up giving you these beautiful relationships,” she said.

Having a cheering section during cancer is important. Studies have shown that women with friends who support them through their cancer journey may experience better outcomes.

Patti and Brenda count Kelly as a big part of the cheering section.

“Kelly is instrumental in the treatment, care and recovery of women going through breast cancer,” Patti said. “Kelly can really say, ‘I know how you feel. I understand.’”

Patti and Brenda will attend Women’s Night Out on October 14, Lexington Medical Center’s annual dinner that recognizes October as breast cancer awareness month and honors cancer survivors and their families. More than 900 people attend each year.

The event includes a silent auction, physician exhibits, fashion show featuring models who are breast cancer survivors, dinner and a talk with keynote speaker Kate Larsen. A breast cancer survivor, Larsen will talk about the importance of friendship during cancer treatment.

For more information about Women’s Night Out or to purchase tickets, visit LexMed.com or call Lexington Medical Center Community Outreach at (803) 936-8850.

The Woman to Woman support group at Lexington Medical Center meets on the 4th Thursday of each month at 5:00 p.m. inside the Women’s Imaging lobby at 2728 Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia. That’s Lexington Medical Park 1 on the hospital campus. The support group is free and open to any woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, regardless of where she has received her treatment.

For more information about Lexington Medical Center’s cancer services, visit LexMed.com.

Women’s Night Out for Breast Cancer

Lexington Medical Center will host its annual Women’s Night Out on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in downtown Columbia. The event recognizes October as breast cancer awareness month and honors cancer survivors and their families. More than 900 people attend each year.

Women's Night Out

Join us for a silent auction, physician exhibit, signature cocktail, fashion show featuring breast cancer survivors and dinner. Attendees will also enjoy a keynote speech by Kate Larsen. Diagnosed with stage II breast cancer at age 46, she went from a seasonal fitness instructor, personal trainer, certified wellness coach and mom of three to a chemotherapy patient. Larsen will talk about how the power of having girlfriends in the midst of a dark and difficult journey gave her help, hope and a renewed sense of joy in her life.

Proceeds from Women’s Night Out benefit the Crystal Smith Breast Cancer Fund, a Lexington Medical Center Foundation program that supports women undergoing cancer treatment.

“Women’s Night Out is an inspiring evening that recognizes resilient women in our community,” said Barbara Willm, vice president of Community Relations at Lexington Medical Center.

Tickets for Women’s Night Out cost $40 each. Exhibits and the silent auction begin at 5:00 p.m. Dinner begins at 7:00 p.m. Call (803) 936-8850 or visit LexMed.com to purchase tickets. You can also sponsor a table for 8 honoring a breast cancer survivor for $350. Dress for the event is business casual, but jeans friendly. There will be free valet parking and a cash bar.

Lexington Medical Center diagnoses approximately 250 breast cancer patients each year. The hospital’s breast program has accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) and the American College of Radiology (ACR). Lexington Medical Center has four Women’s Imaging centers and a mobile mammography van, all offering digital mammography. Lexington Medical Center’s cancer program also has accreditation with commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. To learn more about Lexington Medical Center’s Breast Health Center, visit http://bit.ly/1rJXMnx.