My Cancer Story 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.
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.
We hold on to each other, we revel in memories, and we pop a bottle of champagne to toast your memory while flipping cancer the bird. We embrace those who are still with us, and carry forward the memories of those who have gone before us.
Not only is Barb riding in the West Coast Tour de Pink, but in September she completed the East Coast Tour de Pink, and earlier this year her gorgeous cherry blossom design was selected by Liv/Giant for their official Tour de Pink bicycle.
Barb isn’t alone in this, and that is one of the reasons that the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) exists. Cancer can be very lonely, and much of the the breast cancer outreach is oriented towards senior citizens, and does not address the issues faced by young women, such as dating after a mastectomy, fertility, building a career while battling cancer, a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy or while breast feeding, and too many other issues to list here. YSC is there to help make sure no young woman has to go through breast cancer alone.
Barb is not alone on the ride either; she has a team pedaling along with her. Team Sakura is named for the Japanese word for the cherry blossom. These delicate blooms have taken on a special meaning for the members of our YSC group in Seattle. The blooms light up our spring, and they signify the temporary nature of life, as well as it’s delicate beauty. And they remind us to embrace each moment, to live fully, throwing everything we’ve got at life.
And so they ride. They ride to get back at cancer, they ride to support each other, and they ride because they can.
Last year’s Tour de Pink was the first for Karen Lawson as well. Neither Barb nor Karen thought of themselves as athletes. Karen said, “I thought it seemed beyond my wildest dreams. I could barely walk during treatment and physical exercise afterwards seemed like a million miles away from what I could manage.”
Barb and Karen trained together, along with their partners, Brent and Sebastian. The training can be difficult, often extending over a hundred miles each week. But completing the ride was a fulfilling experience:
“I’m awed by the support and love from all the other riders and volunteers. They are so dedicated. And then I’m so awed by the survivors riding. Really taking back their lives and doing something so hard with such grace. The ride is really tough, but it also feels really safe because there is so much support. It was a great achievement and made me feel really powerful. I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone but myself and I’m proud that I did that.”
This year they’ve got a much bigger team, that means more support, and more fun and antics as they prepare. Training is still intense, but they always travel at the speed of the slowest rider. It’s not a race, and no one gets left behind.
Sheila Cain is new to the Tour de Pink this year. She was surprised at the commitment involved in training. In the beginning she thought hour long rides were time consuming, but now six hour training runs are frequent. The sacrifice and the challenge of the Tour de Pink is not just the 200 miles one weekend each fall, it’s also the months of training that make that ride possible.
[Photos provided by Karen Lawson and Nicole Taylor]
Team Sakura Members:
Carl Taylor* *training only
These amazing people have done so much. They’ve endured the cut, poison, and burn that is cancer treatment – or they’ve been there for their partners through it. They’ve put in the blood and sweat to train for this event. The members of this team have logged countless hours volunteering for YSC in other capacities as well. And now, they are ten days away from the start of this epic ride.
They have a team page, and they have a team fundraising obligation of $25,000, and they are almost there. But not quite. As of today, they are about $1,500 short.
I’ve talked about YSC ad nauseum on this blog – but only because I am so passionate about this organization. The doctors saved my life, but it was YSC that saved me, my sanity, my spirit, my sense of self. I had wonderful friends and family members who were so helpful during treatment, but they didn’t comprehend what I was going through. The women at YSC did, and they helped me pull myself through.
I wrote this post last year, but Team Sakura rides again this year! Here’s a link to their 2014 fundraising page, in case you’re inclined to support these amazing women, and this organization that helps so many women living with cancer.
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.
And don’t even ask about the condition of the house. At a time when cleanliness is more important than ever, the strength to tackle that job is tied up in continuing the cycle of breath entering and exiting the body in a timely manner. It’s really hard to scrub toilets while you’re going through chemo.
Paying it forward
Debbie Cantwell was blessed with a strong support system while she was going through her own breast cancer battle, so she decided to pay it forward. From her kitchen table, and armed with determination and inspiration, Debbie started a non-profit organization, the Pink Daisy Project, to help other young women with breast cancer who were struggling and didn’t have the same kind of strong support system to call on.
This is a very small scale non-profit, and the grants to these young women with breast cancer are quite small as well, a few hundred dollars in gift cards or services. Just enough to turn the tide a bit, to get the momentum going again, a lift, a kindness, hope.
How the Pink Daisy Project helped me
The help I received from the Pink Daisy Project while I was going through treatment did all those things for me. I could buy diapers for my baby, and put gas in the car, but it did something more than that, too. By lifting one of my burdens, the gift lifted my spirits. I felt less weighed down. It put a little bit of bounce in my step, my energy level actually improved. Kindness has huge implications in the world.
Every once in a while, I take advantage of the fact that my blog has an audience to tell people about the good work that the Pink Daisy Project is doing. I want to shout it from the rooftops.
But, at a moment like this, more importantly, I want people to consider giving. Financially, times are tough for most of us right now, and that translates into fewer and smaller donations than usual. Of course, the need remains, and applications for assistance keep coming in.
I think its important to note that the money is not just sent out to just anyone. There is an application process, and the stories are vetted. These are amazing, resilient women, who found the strength to ask for help when it became necessary. These are women who take care of others, but at this moment, need some care taking from others. Here is another family that the Pink Daisy Project helped.
This is Shelly and her son:
My name is Shelly and I’m a young breast cancer survivor.
During treatments and surgeries my marriage fell apart, I was unable to work and had another surgery in a week when me and my son had to leave an abusive life. I was terrified!
School was getting ready to start and I couldn’t even get pencils for my son.
Pink Daisy stepped into my life at that point, I received gift cards for Kroger , with those I was able to get all the supplies my son needed! I was also given food cards that helped us to have what little money I had go towards getting utilities turned on and food in our stomachs.
I cried with relief to be able to do these things, my son had already been thru so much, watching me go thru everything with treatments, and lost his world when we had to leave. And PDP helped me help my son thru the most difficult time we ever faced.
Me and my son have plans to help pay this gift forward so other families in same positions can get the help and lifeline Pink Daisy gives! We thank Pink Daisy and all the supporters of this wonderful group with all our hearts!
Please consider giving, or at least sharing this story.
This is a sponsored post by me on behalf of Lifescript.com.
After my breast cancer diagnosis, I spent many late nights curled up with my laptop and Dr. Internet, becoming increasingly terrified by the grim prospects offered up by the search engines. I needed information, but I had forgotten that the internet favors sensationalism, so the most extreme cases rise to the top. (more…)
I’ve had a little practice with change management – those changes that are planned months and years in advance, those changes that come out of nowhere and leave you off balance with your head spinning, and those little gradual changes that sneak up on you, and one day you realize your baby is half your height, and has opinions that are very much all her own.
The best parts of my life came about through change, as did the worst. I’ve been thinking about my attraction/repulsion response to change – sometimes both sensations at the same time in regards to the same issue.
CoffeeJitters has been a single girl making her way in the world blog, a wedding blog, an infertility blog, a photography blog, a quitting my job and going back to school full time blog, a wow! I’m pregnant! blog, a mommy blog, a cancer blog, and a relearning how to dream after cancer blog.
I’m still trying to relearn how to dream after cancer. It’s surprising how much imagination and willpower it takes to re-imagine your future after this kind of diagnosis. But, now I’ve moved on a little, from dreaming to planning, and even doing. Baby steps, people.
This blog is my story, my life, and mostly, a very public love letter to my husband and daughter. If you’d like to read more, here are a few of my favorites to get you started:
I just drool over Holly Yashi Jewelry. Their designs are quirky and out of the ordinary, yet still delicate and elegant. I love that combination.
My husband gave me a Holly Yashi set for our very first wedding anniversary, and it’s still a wardrobe staple for me. So, when Holly Yashi’s representative contacted me about doing a giveaway on my blog, my heart skipped a beat.
Holly Hosterman, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Holly Yashi, was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago. (more…)