The Big C and Me: my cancer story

My cancer story: this is a collection of my blog posts and articles about my cancer experience over the years. I decided to pull them all together into one place to make them easy to find.

This turned out to be a much bigger projected than I expected. I’ve cataloged more than thirty here so far, and there are many more to add.

my cancer story | CoffeeJitters | Judy Schwartz Haley

This is a work in progress. I will continue adding the posts already completed as well as the new posts to come, so check back from time to time. Tags are coming soon to allow for searching by topic.

It has been an eye opening exercise to go back through these posts and see how my attitude, perspective, writing style, and my life in general have all evolved over time.

My hope is that these pieces will provide someone with cancer some measure of hope, comfort, and useful information to help them along this difficult road. Even if you don’t have cancer, you just might find this story interesting.

My Cancer Story

Stuffed Bra | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

The Stuffed Bra and the Wandering Socks

July 15, 2010 - I try evening out the post-mastectomy lopsidedness by stuffing my bra with socks. Hilarity ensues.

Walkthrough of chemo day | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Walkthrough of chemo day for a cancer patient

August 9, 2010 - Ever wondered what a day of chemotherapy was like for a cancer patient? I thought I’d bring you along today, and give you a snapshot of what cancer treatment looks like. I hope its helpful to the newly diagnosed. Obvious disclaimer: of course, every patient’s treatment is different, and each cancer treatment center is different.

Scarred | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley


January 13, 2011 - "It was my good boob that tried to kill me." Thoughts on body image and my changing attitude towards towards my ever growing collection of scars.

Walkthrough of Radiation Treatment for a Cancer Patient | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Walkthrough of Radiation Treatment for a Cancer Patient

February 4, 2011 - Curious what radiation treatment is like for cancer patients? Here’s a peek into my experience getting radiated for breast cancer.


It's not the same

March 6, 2011 - Cancer is difficult at any age, but at each stage of life, the impact is experienced differently.

wait. what? | CoffeeJitters.Net | Judy Schwartz Haley

Wait. What?

July 14, 2011 - Just one of those days - and thoughts on completing cancer treatment.

Who in this Room | CoffeeJitters.Net | Judy Schwartz Haley

Who in this Room

September 29, 2011 - I went straight to the bookstore after I got the “I’m sorry it’s cancer” phone call; surely amongst all the wisdom coded into letters and words, pressed to paper, and bound to books, would be some little snippet that would tell me how to move forward. Since that day I’ve read a lot of books about living with cancer, but when Katherine Malmo placed the slender, uncorrected galley of “Who in This Room” in my hands, I knew I was in possession of something different.

It isnt easy being pink | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

It isn't Easy Being Pink

October 4, 2011 - It’s that time of year when the world is washed in pink, and people prance around in their favorite toungue-in-cheek, boob-aware apparel. But how much awareness does all this bring to the realities of breast cancer (and work towards a cure), and how much does this just turn our attention to boobs?

On the Radio | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

On the Radio

October 13, 2011 - This is the story of how I became an on air radio personality. Ok, it’s not. I’m not. It’s not even about me. This is a story about Debbie Cantwell, and the non-profit organization she started on her kitchen table, all by herself, to help young women with breast cancer, like me.

Harmony Hill | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Harmony Hill

October 19, 2011 - I’ve spent the past two days working on a couple projects that have had me knee deep in photographs from the Young Survival Coalition. That’s had me a little emotional, to say the least: memories, faces, friends…

In Living Pink 2011 | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

In Living Pink 2011

October 26, 2011 - It sounds cliche to say that women who have faced down a life-threatening diagnosis really know how to embrace life. It is cliche. It’s not even always true. But my girls? My friends? They know how to party.

Get Hitched Give Hope | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Get Hitched Give Hope

Get Hitched Give Hope brings together wedding related vendors from around the region, allowing the wedding party to meet the vendors, bid on wedding products and services, and plan their weddings while raising money for a great cause. Brilliant, really. ... And the Young Survival Coalition (an organization which has been of immense help to me in my cancer battle) was one of the beneficiaries, along with The Dream Foundation, which grants wishes to adults in the last year of their battle with life threatening diseases.

Dear Gem - Month 30 | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Dear Gem - Month 30

November 9, 2011 - I have a feeling that this is going to be a part of a new pattern in our lives, that we will need to learn to just brace ourselves for Pinktober every year. We’ll learn to let the wave of pink wash over us without dredging up too much trauma, while embracing the opportunities that come in at the same time. We need to remember that Pinktober is a time of reunion with those who have become close friends in this breast cancer battle, it’s also a time to celebrate life, and raise some money to help all those who will be diagnosed in the year ahead.

Why Mommy | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Why Mommy

February 6, 2012 - In the cold, dark, fear of 3 a.m., when the cancer patient is most alone, I found ToddlerPlanet, ... Days after my diagnosis, before I learned to reign in my imagination and to view Dr.Google for what it is, I found Susan’s blog. I read for hours: post after post, page after page. It seemed she was speaking directly to me, addressing my personal concerns about life, death, love, cancer, and most important to me at that moment, the well being of my child.

Traveling Companions | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Traveling Companions

February 29, 2012 - Of course I still worry about how many years I have left, but even more important than the number of trips you make around the sun is your traveling companions along the way.

Three | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley


March 23, 2012 - Yesterday, my little girl turned three (yes, she shares a birthday with William Shatner). Today, I’m making calls trying to find a venue for her birthday party. I’m that on top of things.

Courage Night | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Courage Night

April 3, 2012 - I have been invited to participate in Courage Night, an author event sponsored by the Young Survival Coalition where 5 young survivors of breast cancer will read from their books, followed by a book signing. Well, in my case, I will read from my blog. I’m beside myself with excitement about this event, and a little nervous.

relearning-how-to-dream-after-cancer | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

A Relearning How to Dream After Cancer Blog

May 22, 2012 - Just as a physical injury can leave the body bound up in a tight little ball of muscle, the emotional trauma can have a similar impact on the spirit. Yoga and stretching and movement will little by little improve the flexibility and range of the body, but it’s sometimes painful and frightening. It is work that exists entirely outside of the comfort zone. I’ve reached the point where I understand what I have been intuitively trying to do, yet simultaneously resisting – to improve the flexibility and range of my imagination, of my ability to re-dream my future.

Deep Thoughts | CoffeeJitters.Net | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Deep Thoughts

May 29, 2012 - I’m just not at a point where I can talk about it all. It’s just so much… So much what does this cancer diagnosis mean to the rest of my life? to what extent will I let it define me? what do I want to do when I grow up? will it have something to do with cancer? should I change my major? what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything? does it even matter? where are my shoes? how will we pay rent? did I take my pills this morning, or was that yesterday? who am I? who are you? will Lizzie and Mr. Darcy ever work things out?


Normalizing - in a good way

June 26, 2012 - “People give you 3 months to mourn, and a year to have cancer, then they expect you to get back to normal.” I don’t know where I heard this quote first, but I’ve experienced the truth of the statement both in terms of mourning and cancer recovery.


Little Pick-Me-Ups

July 3, 2012 - A friend once said to me “Enough with the character building; we’ve got plenty of character.” And I do believe I have plenty of character, yet life keeps the lessons coming at me. One of those lessons is that I need to make a practice of taking care of myself, and I’m not just talking about the physical parts (exercising more, and eating less garbage), although that is an element. I’m talking about taking care of the rest of me – the parts that make me me.

Dont be afraid to ask for help | Parenting with Cancer | Judy Schwartz Haley

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Interview at Parenting with Cancer
May 18, 2012 - people are going to give you unsolicited advice, and they are going to be very adamant in their opinion that their way is the only right way to deal with this. It’s not. You need to do what’s right for you and your family, and not worry about everyone else’s opinion, no matter how pushy they are.

contending with change | CoffeeJitters.Net | Judy Schwartz Haley

Contending with Change

July 17, 2012 - You want to change YSC? You want to change the one thing that has been most helpful in keeping me sane over the past two years? I looked around the room; I wasn’t the only one looking uncomfortable. This wasn’t just any room, this was a room full of breast cancer survivors and supporters. These are women and men who are all-too-familiar with having change thrust upon them, changes no one should have to endure.

Cancer and Guilt | Survivorship Partners | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Cancer and Guilt

Published at Survivorship Partners
July 23, 2012 - Every once in a while I still catch myself feeling guilty about the cancer, and then I feel guilty about feeling guilty, and then I remember how far I’ve come and give myself a break. Nobody deserves cancer; not me, and not anyone else.

Taking Back October

Taking Back October

September 26, 2012 - In September of 2010, I looked forward to October with some enthusiasm. It was my first Breast Cancer Awareness month since my diagnosis 7 months earlier, and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought a month dedicated to people like me might be fun, and there were some amazing fundraising parties, but I was not prepared for the Pepto Bismol-colored tidal wave that engulfed me.

Tags: Pink Daisy ProjectYoung Survival Coalition (YSC)

Tour de Pink

October 2, 2012 - Cancer didn’t make me stronger; it sapped my strength like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. You know what made me stronger? Having to make tough decisions and stand by them. Calling bullshit on bullshit. Moving forward despite the fear. Getting up every single day to be a mommy to my little girl, no matter how crappy I felt. Showing up for every treatment, even when I wanted to hide under the covers. Being a part of a support network for other young women with breast cancer.

Tags: Young Survival Coalition (YSC)
Moms with cancer supporting each other | Mom it Forward | by Judy Schwartz Haley

Moms with cancer supporting each other

Published at Mom it Forward
November 8, 2012 - I could not take care of my baby. Post-mastectomy, and in the midst of chemotherapy, I could not be left home alone with my baby because I was not strong enough to take care of her. That was my low point. It was also the point at which I discovered a group of young women with breast cancer, many of whom were also moms.


In the moment

March 12, 2013 - We spent the sunny Saturday afternoon traipsing around town, when my daughter was inspired into her own impromptu dance recital in front of this mural. She had no idea that it was the third anniversary of the day my life was turned upside down – the cancer diagnosis. She just grabbed the moment and savored it, so I did as well.

Tags: parenting with cancer

Four years... and a shark

March 26, 2013 - Another night in the hospital - But, I diverted my attention by focusing on something else. It was four years to the day from the night my daughter was born. I went in to the ER just about the same time I arrived at this same hospital four years earlier...

Tags: parenting with cancer
meesh 1

For Michele

April 13, 2013 - "She didn’t preach, she just showed us how to call bullshit on bullshit, how to advocate for yourself, how to pick up and move on, and how to focus on what you can change, and how to spend your time and energy on what really matters."

Tags: Young Survival Coalition (YSC)

A Circle of Women

June 11, 2013 - "A Circle of Women. 28 women, all whom I adore. 28 women finding ways to squeeze the day, every day, while living with cancer and it’s after effects."

Tags: Harmony Hill, Young Survival Coalition (YSC)
help young women living with breast cancer

How you can help young women living with breast cancer

July 9, 2013 - "I learned the hard way that the financial implications of cancer extend well beyond just the cost of medical care. It’s a far too frequent story where jobs are lost, or the hours worked drop below the minimum to maintain health insurance – or pay the rent. The cost of babysitters alone could bankrupt a family, and then there’s all those extra meals eaten out, and meal delivery services on speed dial, because mama just didn’t have the strength to prepare dinner. Again."But there are ways you can help someone with cancer...

Tags: Pink Daisy Project
candice 2222

Remembering Candice

August 21, 2013 - "I have this enduring image of Candice in my head. It’s not real, it’s imaginary, but there’s truth in it. She’s wearing a white Grecian gown and angel wings. No, not actual angel wings – these she crafted, right there in my imagination. She whipped up these wings from 14-gauge wire, feathers, a bolt of vintage white and gold Hollywood Regency fabric, and her emergency glitter supply. They’re fabulous. So was she."

Tags: in memory
YSC tour de pink | CoffeeJitters.Net

Team Sakura and the Tour de Pink

October 8, 2013 - How would you get back at breast cancer? Last year Barb Greenlee got back at cancer by riding 200+ miles on her bicycle in the YSC West Coast Tour de Pink to raise funds for the Young Survival Coalition. This year, she’s doing it twice.

Tags: Young Survival Coalition (YSC)


October 18, 2013 - I think sometimes fierce gets a glamorous image. It’s easy to think of finish lines, mountain tops, and triumphs when we think of the word fierce – but fierce isn’t the finish, it’s how you got there. Fierce is the long, lonely runs in the rain, months, even years before the starting line.
Judy Schwartz Haley


March 10, 2014 - Life keeps coming at me from a thousand different directions. It’s a maelstrom of joy and fear, comfort and pain, fun and hard work. It’s exhausting and overwhelming, and often moves me to tears. Maybe that’s how I know I’m really living.
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