Cancer Related Information

Find Meaning in Life’s Challenges

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I’ve been putting off reading Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address to the 2016 UC Berkeley grads – knowing it would bring out the feels. I read it this morning to help fire up some inspiration – sure enough, it hit me just like I expected…

The entire speech is poignant, funny and meaningful, but here’s what resonated with me the most…

“when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void—or in the face of any challenge—you can choose joy and meaning.”

‘Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings. My New Year’s resolution this year is to write down three moments of joy before I go to bed each night.  This simple practice has changed my life. Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful. Try it. Start tonight…”

‘Build resilient communities. We find our humanity—our will to live and our ability to love—in our connections to one another. Be there for your family and friends. And I mean in person. Not just in a message with a heart emoji.’

Scotty’s cancer battle profoundly changed me. And, while I do at times find myself getting dragged under by the minutiae of life, I try my hardest to focus on being thankful and choosing joy. It’s about perspective – my life could be a lot worse as I found out. I choose to be thankful and look for the meaning and joy in every day. It sounds schmultzy, but it’s true. Life is way too short to hold onto anger, be resentful, let fear control you or hang out with toxic people.

Thank you goes out to Ms. Sandberg for sharing her very personal, intimate experience with the world. By sharing it, she is helping others find meaning in their challenges. I’m glad I finally read it – it was definitely worth it.

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The Mediterranean Diet: Heart & Mind Healthy

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Mediterranean DietHave you heard of the Mediterranean diet? Here’s the basics…

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise

Recent research has shown that eating this way can cause weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and premature death: Science Daily: ‘Mediterranean’ diet linked to lower risk of heart attacks, strokes in heart patients.

“A ‘Mediterranean’ diet, high in fruit, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods, is linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke in people who already have heart disease, according to a study of over 15,000 people in 39 countries around the world. The research also showed that eating greater amounts of healthy food was more important for these people than avoiding unhealthy foods — a ‘Western’ diet.”

In addition to lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke, the Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

If you look at the basics of this approach, you can call it whatever you want. It’s eating healthy: not eating a lot of processed foods and exercise!  (I’m sure many of us love the drinking red wine part!)  No shockers, no surprises.  Most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.

When I am on point, this is very much how I eat – although I do use Kerrygold butter and don’t eat legumes often. I am also gluten and dairy free (minus the butter!) for sensitivity issues Through trial and error, I have found that Dairy causes eczema and congestion for me and gluten seems to cause me gut and fatigue issues. So, when I do partake in eating them – it’s after careful deliberation on the pros and cons of what’s being eaten.

Want to learn more? Mediterranean Diet 101: A Meal Plan That Can Save Your Life

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Be Inspired

Alive or Breathing

David Bowie: The Fabric of My Youth

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David Bowie - RIP Even though David Bowie was as far removed from my real life as possible, waking up to the news of his death from cancer caused my heart to sink. I wouldn’t even say I was a huge fan of his music other than an appreciation of his talent and art –  but to me, he represented the freedom to be different, to reinvent yourself any time, and how to live life on your own terms.  He was a part of the fabric of my youth– the 80’s music scene. Bowie, Queen, Duran Duran – huge musical influencers during the eighties.

Why do deaths of icons hit people so hard?

I think it’s a reminder of the passing of time and the realization that we are getting older, even though it feels like yesterday. Cancer hits everyone. He was 69 years old: way too young to die no matter how. But cancer doesn’t discriminate. You can be famous, rich, kind, amazing or poor and anonymous. Cancer doesn’t care.

Bowie was an artist – writer, creative genius, actor, musician. I love that he was also able to see the humor in his legacy:

He just released his final album last week – and like his musician friend Freddie Mercury, his final video was a parting gift and a goodbye on his own terms.

David Bowie’s last release, Lazarus, was ‘parting gift’ for fans in carefully planned finale : The producer of Blackstar confirms David Bowie had planned his poignant final message, and videos and lyrics show how he approached his death

Be Ready: Life Can Change At Any Minute

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Just Breathe It was a stressful morning – Scotty had his regular colonoscopy scan which should be no big deal at this point. It’s a routine scan that he has to have every three years not only because he had colon cancer, but turns out he is a polyp maker. While we were in the pre-op room, waiting for the doctor to call for him, the feelings started building inside. I started to tear up and fill with anxiety which then started to make Scotty uncomfortable. It’s not that there was any inkling that anything was wrong, but it brings up a lot of PTSD-like feelings. The memories of being in the same situation 7+ years ago when I heard he had cancer. I took some deep breaths and told myself it’s all OK -it will be OK and regained control of my emotions. The last thing I wanted to do was upset Scotty as he headed in to get a scope up his hiney. He had not really eating in two days, and no coffee – he didn’t need to see me bubble up with fear.  As they wheeled him away, i stopped in the hallway to watch until he was out of sight. The little voice in my head telling me it was all going to be OK.

An hour or so later, he was wheeled back into recovery laughing with the nurses as he was hooked up to the monitors as he recovered. Dr. Crenshaw explained they found some polyps, which he removed and are being sent for a biopsy, but saw nothing concerning and to come back in 3 years or so. Wheww – I took a deep breath and instantly felt lighter.  I can’t explain the feelings stuff like this bubbles up –  it’s a reminder that life can change at any minute and be ready.

As I waited for Scotty’s procedure to be done, I was reminded how important it is to do what you can to stay healthy. While I was sitting in the waiting room this morning, I looked around the waiting room and noted what some of the people waiting were  eating – most of were eating shit food.  Sugar filled granola bars, a bag of chips and one particularly large guy was sipping on an over-sized Coke. Here we are in a hospital waiting room and people are eating shit. Maybe they don’t care, maybe they don’t know how to eat better, maybe they do eat better and this is a once in a blue moon snack. It was just an observation that caused me to pause…

The week started off great, with a clean scan – I can handle whatever the rest of the week brings and so can you!

 

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Oct 2015I’ve been very retrospective and contemplative lately – thinking through things that have and are happening in my life. One of the things I have been doing, healthy or not, is revisiting some of the blogs I used to follow during Scotty’s cancer treatment.  I’m not sure why I revisit them. Maybe it’s to remind me how fortunate we were to catch his colon cancer early. Maybe it’s to remind me how precious life is. Maybe it’s to remind me that there are many, many people out there with bigger, life and death decisions they are dealing with.  Maybe it’s the real knowledge you can glean from their journey. Maybe it’s all of the above and more…

A few of the blog authors’ have died – my stomach drops when I revisit a blog and find the most recent post is their obituary. The blogs I followed were written by people who wrote so eloquently about their journey and held onto their strength until the very end.

It’s always a reminder to me that cancer happens to real people, rich, poor, young and old. It doesn’t discriminate.

I read a recent blog post from Julie Yip-Williams: My cancer fighting journey, who is battling Stage 4 Colon Cancer that really struck me…

I had grown over the months from the belligerent warrior who was determined to beat this cancer to the more contemplative philosopher who seeks above all else to find meaning, peace and acceptance in a life over which I have little control. Cancer, at least for me, truly is a journey that makes me question and analyze all my beliefs about myself (as in whether I am strong or weak, brave or cowardly), about the existence of a higher being and its role in the affairs of mankind, about commitment and love (as in how far will I go to stay alive for my family), about the meaning of my life and life in general, about death and what awaits. If you are open to these inevitable questions that only something like incurable cancer can force into the forefront of your mind, if you allow yourself the time and patience to mull over these complex, baffling, painful and impossible queries, the journey both will change you (for the better I believe) and make you more of who you have always been.

If you want to learn more about Julie, who is a prominent NYC attorney, here’s a good article: One Story: How The Challenge Of Colon Cancer Stage 4 Is Making Julie Yip-Williams Better, Smarter, Kinder

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month. A recent article I came across had the title Celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness.  The use of the word celebrate seemed odd to me. Real women and men are battling right now and while they celebrate their personal victories, the fact that they are dealing with this horrible disease at all is not cause to celebrate. We shouldn’t celebrate by talking about boobs and wearing pink. Instead, let’s figure out a way to make breast cancer detection methods easier and cheaper to access, learn ways each of us can influence brands and countries to limit exposure to the harmful chemicals that are invading our daily lives, and become more educated and aware of the ways each one of us can prevent cancer ourselves.

I was inspired when I read about football player, DeAngelo Williams, offering to pay for mammograms instead of wearing pink as a way to honor his mom who died from breast cancer.  What an honorable way to make a true impact as opposed to just wearing pink or forgoing a bra for the day. Not every can afford to do that kind of gesture of course, but it certainly is leading by example. Maybe more professional athletes will learn from his actions and start putting money where their mouth is.

Seven Years Cancer Free: Breathe

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Hoaglund - Seven Years Colon Cancer FreeThis morning we made the drive to the Lombardi Cancer Center like we did so many times during Scotty’s colon cancer treatment. It was odd that today’s appointment was on a Tuesday, because it was every other Tuesday for months after his surgery, that we settled in for all day chemo appointments.

The hospital is undergoing renovation, so it didn’t look the same but the feelings came rushing back all the same.  When we wen to to check in, the lady asked “have we really not seen you since 2011?”  We smiled and headed towards the back to take a seat.

We didn’t wait long before we were ushered into the exam room and a fellow, who is a doctor in a period of medical training after completing a specialty training, greeted us. Each time we went in for chemo, we experienced a different fellow before seeing Dr. Marshall.  Lombardi is a learning hospital so it’s expected.

After a bunch of questions from Dr. Marshall – we were told to get out of there! We don’t need to come back. Scott was advised to continue seeing his primary doc regularly and get his colonoscopies as recommended. He has one scheduled for December already!

Mercedes - Oncology Nurse

We hugged, took a SEVEN Year pic, and said our goodbyes. Before we left the hospital, we stopped by to surprise our amazing nurse, Mercedes, who helped us get through all of our chemo sessions years ago.  We found her at the front desk on the 5th floor and as she turned around, I could tell she didn’t know who the heck I was. But, once she saw Scotty, it was all over. Seeing the huge smile on her face as she came rushing over to hug us both  warmed my heart. She asked about our kiddos, and as I showed her their first day of school pics, it occurred to me that she hadn’t seen them since they were 4 and 6 years old. We do send a holiday card each year but other than that — time just goes by.

Scotty had his surgery August 2008 and we began his chemo seven years ago this month. So much has changed in our lives,  I wrote this paragraph Feb 2011 and it still holds true…

I haven’t spoken much about our cancer journey lately – not because it doesn’t continue to color everything we do, but more so because we are moving on – living our ‘yes we had cancer‘ life. Moving on doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when the reality of what we have and are still going through doesn’t come back at us like a Mac truck.

As we drove back home, we both let go of the breath we were holding…

The Cancer Never Goes Away

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Cancer SucksI shared this article from the NYT yesterday on my Facebook page, After Cancer’s Calm, a Daughter’s Emotional Storm, but wanted to expand on it a bit more. This month marks 8 years since Scott’s cancer diagnosis. For those that are new to my blog, you can learn about how cancer changed my family by visiting my original blog Colon C-The Journey

In the past 8 years, I learned that the life we live now is our new normal. The before cancer life was gone the moment we were told Scotty had cancer. We no longer had the life where we worried about the mundane stuff of life. I’m not saying the day to day struggles aren’t important. They are and we still are faced with them daily.  But after July 2008, in addition to those life challenges, our family had to navigate a huge, enormous, mind blowing issue.   Scott was 37 years old – he wasn’t supposed to hear ‘you have cancer‘. We were enjoying being parents, our careers flourishing, being with each other, creating a good life and in the blink of an eye we were dealing with the enormity of cancer.  It was a real life lesson about life not being fair…

Fuck CancerHere we are, 8 years later. Scott is cancer free. Things are great and we all move on, right?  Well not exactly. What I have learned is that even though the physical cancer is gone, what my family went through has forever affected us. The entire experience changes you forever – there is a new and different normal to navigate. Some of the new normal is great. I approach life with a different perspective; more appreciative of my life.

My kiddos, who were relatively young during Scott’s treatment, have shown the effects of seeing their father go through treatment. During treatment, we were very open and honest about what was going on in a non-scary and age appropriate way. I let them both know what they may or may not see or experience during the chemo, and made sure to try to keep their lives as stable as possible. They had to deal with changing plans and being comfortable with having to be flexible. We showed them the IV Port and the chemo pack Scotty wore every other week. We didn’t hide what was going on — but didn’t make it scary either. It was a part of our lives for that period of time.

8 Years Cancer FreeThey certainly seemed to weather the storm fairly in tact.  But there are signs of how it affected them. Both kids tend to be aware and more sensitive if one of us is sick – even if it’s as nebulous as the common cold.  They both display empathy and caring for their friends and offer to help people in need automatically.  They ask a lot of questions when they hear someone has died of cancer in our lives or even if it’s someone on the news.  They won’t ever really remember the life we had before cancer.

Scotty, of course, has physical and mental repercussions of having cancer. I probably can’t even imagine some of the lingering effects, even 8 years after his initial diagnosis.

Remember even if the cancer is gone from someone’s life, the cancer never goes away…

http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/124248873681/ive-been-going-through-chemo-for-six-months-now

Celebrating Mathias: 2nd Annual Team Mathias 5K and Family Fun Run!

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Team Mathias

This past December, Mathias Giordano lost his cancer battle. Tomorrow he would have celebrated his 14th birthday. I have not been able to get him out of my thoughts since first hearing about him and what an amazing young man he was from my friend Gwen. Gwen and I, along with her son and HB ran the 5K this morning to remember him and raise money for childhood cancer research.

It was an amazing feeling to start my day with a 5K run to support Team Mathias in the Team Mathias 5K and Family Fun Run 2015y

 

I was so proud of HB. I thought she was going to back out of coming with me early this morning but no. She stayed true to her commitment and did great. This is now the second race we have done together. I can’t even describe how much it fills my heart with so much love and pride that she is open to tackling the races with me.  I think one of the reasons that I continue to be moved by Mathias is my own kiddos are around the same age – and after seeing how hard Scott’s cancer battle was, I can only imagine how much harder it is for those younger.  During the pre-race speeches, I teared up thinking about him and his family. What an amazing example of faith and perseverance.

 

Partnering with the Team Mathias was Be the Match®, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation. They conduct research to improve transplant outcomes provide support and resources for patients, and partner with a global network

My last 5K was in March for Scope it Out Colon Cancer Awareness and my 5K pace was 9:36. This race I finished with a 8:45 minute pace. So I’m pretty pleased with that improvement. Boxing and Cycling are really helping my overall lung capacity for sure.

11301561_10152972810248741_263347669_nChildhood Cancer Statistics – Important Facts

Each year, the parents of approximately 15,700 kids will hear the words “your child has cancer.” Across all ages, ethnic groups and socio-economics, this disease remains the number one cause of death by disease in children. Despite major advances – from an overall survival rate of 10 percent just fifty years ago to nearly 90 percent today, for many rare cancers, the survival rate is much lower. Furthermore, the number of diagnosed cases annually has not declined in nearly 20 years.

  • Every day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • 12% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive.
  • Children’s cancer affects all ethnic, gender and socio-economic groups.
  • The average age of children diagnosed is six.
  • More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.
  • 60% of children who survive cancer suffer late-effects, such as infertility, heart failure and secondary cancers.
  • There are approximately 375,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer in the United States.
    • That equates to 1 in 530 adults ages 20-39.

Team Mathias 5K
Team Mathias

You Are Not Alone

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“We read to know we’re not alone.” ― William Nicholson, Shadowlands

 

This quote, by William Nicholson, in the movie Shadowlands, is one of my all time favorites and I turn to it for perspective often.  Shadowlands, a 1993 movie based on the life and love of C.S. Lewis’s life, is a film I have watched dozens of times throughout the years and each time, it hits me deep. When the young man in the film tells  CS Lewis why he reads so much –we read to know we’re not alone, it said volumes.

cs-lewisIt’s a simple but true thought for just about everyone. The need to know we aren’t alone. There is no discounting the importance and power in knowing that there is someone else out there, in this vast world, who thinks, feels, or has experienced what we are going through.  It has the power to offer comfort, give us strength, calm our anxiety, and motivate and inspire us to change. Sometimes, it’s the one thing that pulls us through a rough time.

Sharing our mistakes, flaws, wounds is hard no matter who you are. The bravery required to open up, be honest,  and show your vulnerabilities is one of the hardest things for any of us to. Imagine then putting pen to paper and sharing these experiences beyond your closest trusted circle.  It’s not a small thing…

The ability to let down our defenses and share what really happens behind the social media filters is important. No one lives a trouble free life.  We all have hardships and successes. We all have flaws and things we love about ourselves. Life is about learning to live your best life in the peaks AND in the valleys and inviting people who make you smile, lift you up, and push you to be better along for the ride.

I am sharing these two stories below as examples of not being alone in our struggle. I know they have helped a few people already. Thank you Naomi and VP Joe Biden for being brave enough to share.

The Real Face of Depression

“The Real Face of Depression” to bring awareness to the world that depressed people aren’t just those in the corner crying and pulling their hair out like you see in most depictions, although sometimes we may feel that way. Depressed people are everyday people – they are your co-worker, they are your friend, your neighbor, and in my case, a fitness coach. We look happy on the outside, we have big smiles in our pictures that come up on Facebook, we are the new moms smiling and playing with precious little babies, we are top CrossFit athletes at The Games…”

Family losses frame Vice President Biden’s career

“The most successful and happiest people I’ve known understand that a good life, at its core, is about being personal. It’s about being engaged. It’s about being there for a friend or a colleague when they’re injured or in an accident,”  Biden told the Yale crowd, adding: “It all seems to get down to being personal. That’s the stuff that fosters relationships. It’s the only way to breed trust.” 

Kindness: Put More Of It In The World

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if-you-want-more-kindness-in-the-world-put-it-there-zero-deanEvery day you have to make the decision to be happy and approach things with the best of intentions. Some days it’s not easy, especially when you are feeling like things aren’t going the way you imagined. There are lots of examples of true kindness and beauty every day to help remind us to be thankful for all we have.

Cancer sucks! Here’s an amazing story of kindness by high school students who gave up their class trip to donate the money to their principal’s cancer treatment.

Kindness Matters

SELFLESS SACRIFICE: A high school principal was brought to tears when her senior class unanimously decided to give up their class trip to donate nearly $8,000 to her cancer treatment. HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS SACRIFICE CLASS TRIP TO DONATE TO PRINCIPAL’S CANCER CARE

 

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