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Seven Thoughts on Accepting Change After Cancer

It's easy to hate change, especially when it barges in frightening and unwanted. Usually, the first instinct is to fight it every step of the way. But if it's serenity you seek, you're only going to get there by accepting the changes you cannot change.

When I'm struggling with change (which happens much more than I like to admit) the following help me see things through different eyes:

1.  "Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken." - Frank Herbert - Change wakes us up and makes us re-evaluate our priorities and choices.

2.  "You must be the

Working Through Cancer Anger

After a short break, I'm happy to be back!

Unfortunately, I wasn't very happy after my mastectomy and experienced my fair share of cancer anger. In my latest article for CURE I write about anger, a common emotional response to being diagnosed with and treated for cancer. 

Working Through Cancer Anger

A few months after my mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction, I had it out with the light fixture in my walk-in closet. 

Like me, the bulb was burnt out. Removing the cover to replace it was easy, but I couldn’t get the cover back on for the life of me.

As I struggled, I got more and more

It's Time for Bed. Are You Too Tense to Sleep?

Do you have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep during the night?

I sure do. I've always been prone to insomnia but, while I was undergoing cancer treatment, it was especially bad.  

I've learned the hard way that the best way to keep yourself wide awake is to freak out about not sleeping. Now I know that putting the focus on relaxation, rather than sleep, is the key.

It's impossible to relax and fall asleep if you've been tense all day. To help you get relaxed, I share nine tips in my latest CURE article.

It's Time for Bed. Are You Too Tense to Sleep?

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep. Homer   

The worry and stress of living with cancer often leads to insomnia. I often couldn’t fall asleep, or would pass out and be wide awake a few hours later, unable to get back to sleep. I had no idea how badly it was affecting me until my therapist pointed out how fatigued I was during an especially miserable session.  

As I always tell my children, “When you’re tired, everything’s worse.” In my struggles with insomnia, however, I’ve learned that putting the focus on sleep doesn’t help. In fact, it often makes things worse by creating more anxiety.  

Instead, I've learned I must back up a step and focus on relaxation. If I can relax, I can activate healing responses within myself, one of which is sleep.  

You can’t go to bed and instantly relax if you’ve been anxious and stressed all day. The following steps will strengthen your relaxation muscle and help you face bedtime ready to sleep: 

Read more at CURE.

Wishing you a great night's sleep!

Survival > Existence,

Image courtesy Al Thomas

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January is National Blood Donor Month. Have You Considered Donating Blood?

Every January for the past few years, I've written about how important blood donation is to me. My latest CURE post focuses on the importance of blood donation to cancer patients and how we, as cancer survivors, may be eligible to give this precious gift of life:

Did You Know You Might be Able to Donate Blood? 

A week or so before my mastectomy, I found myself in the blood donation center at my hospital. Before my diagnosis, I thought a lot about donating blood, but never actually rolled up my sleeve. Now, here I was, making an autologous blood donation in preparation for surgery.  

I went in hoping I wouldn’t need my blood and it could be used by someone who did. What I didn’t know was that “autologous” meant my donation was usable only by me. Disappointed my blood would be destroyed and realizing how easy it was to donate, I promised the nurse I would be back.

Since then, I’ve donated blood and platelets many times and encourage other survivors to consider it too. You might think, as many cancer survivors do, that you aren’t eligible to donate, but according to the American Red Cross:

Eligibility depends on the type of cancer and treatment history. If you had leukemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s Disease and other cancers of the blood, you are not eligible to donate. Other types of cancer are acceptable if the cancer has been treated successfully and it has been more than 12 months since treatment was completed and there has been no cancer recurrence in this time. Lower risk in-situ cancers including squamous or basal cell cancers of the skin that have been completely removed do not require a 12 month waiting period.

Precancerous conditions of the uterine cervix do not disqualify you from donation if the abnormality has been treated successfully. You should discuss your particular situation with the health historian at the time of donation.

Since 1970, National Blood Donor Month has been observed in January, when seasonal illnesses and bad weather make it especially hard to collect enough blood for patient needs. What motivates me to go out into the cold (and I don’t like needles any more than the next person) is the following from the American Red Cross:

More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.

I’ve written about blood donation several times at WhereWeGoNow, but one comment left by a reader truly put it all into perspective . . . 

Read more at CURE.

If you're interested, find out today if you're eligible to roll up a sleeve and give fellow cancer patients the ultimate gift! 

Survival > Existence,

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Thought for the New Year: Do You Need a Time Out From Cancer?

Happy almost New Year! As we move forward into 2015, I'm wishing you all the best for the New Year. 

I hope you have exciting plans and opportunities for the New Year. For me, I'm thrilled to share a piece of good news: I'm now writing for Cure as a featured contributor.

My first article, offering tips for quieting your mind, is especially relevant this holiday season. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets harried and overwhelmed!) 

Do You Need a Time Out from Cancer?

The mental noise that comes with cancer is deafening. Taking cancer time-outs can quiet your anxiety.

“I think, therefore I am.” René Descartes

I think a lot and have always assumed the millions of thoughts banging around in my head were productive.  Sure, I end up worrying nonstop too, but that’s the price of thinking things through and problem solving, right? 

With apologies to Descartes, I tend to believe, “I think, therefore I am working the problem.” 

Over the years, infertility, miscarriages and breast cancer worked my mind to exhaustion. When I was under siege, sleep was the only break I got and it never came easily or lasted long enough. As soon as I opened my eyes, the thoughts were there again, right where they left off. 

As painful and fatiguing as all that thinking (and worrying) was, I felt compelled to keep at it. In truth, I was in a continuous thought loop and couldn’t get out. 
 
What I needed was a time-out. 

Read more at Cure.

I wish you peace and serenity, health and happiness in 2015!

Survival > Existence,

 

Image courtesy Ehsan Khakbaz H.

PS: I plan to post an article a week at Cure. To find them, click on my Cure badge, which you'll find below and in the sidebar to the right. I really appreciate your support over at my new home at Cure! Make sure to visit often and leave comments (I answer every one!) 

 

 

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What's Your Breaking Bad News Story?

If you've been diagnosed with cancer, you have a breaking bad news story. 

And, you're probably never going to forget it.

Besides the usual who, what where and when, you also remember the how. How did your doctor break your bad news? Was he or she sensitive and compassionate? Or, was your doctor distracted, rushed, uncomfortable and insensitive? 

It's hard to believe, but medical schools don't teach compassionate communication skills. To fill the gap, the BBN (Breaking Bad News) Model was created by doctors to teach doctors and other medical professionals the compassionate way to break bad news to patients. 

I'm happy to celebrate the work of this organization and wanted to share an article I wrote about it recently for Cure Magazine:

The Art of Breaking Bad News

BY DEBBIE WOODBURY

At the age of 38, Lesley Andrews found herself in a breast surgeon’s office. She wasn’t too worried about the lump in her breast, assuming it was like the one she’d found three years earlier, which was benign.

After an examination and an ultrasound, the doctor took her into his office, sat behind the desk and said, “I don’t like the shape of this one.”

“My stomach dropped, and I got very upset and anxious,” Andrews says. “I was looking to him for guidance, but he wouldn’t look at me. He kept checking his beeper and wouldn’t answer my questions. Finally, he told me to go to the front desk to make an appointment for a biopsy. As I left, he said, ‘Have a nice day.’”

Read more at Cure

To learn more about the BBN Foundation, take a look at the video below. It was shot a few weeks ago at the 2nd Annual BBN Foundation Moment of Compassionate Truth Fall Gala, which I attended with my husband. (Lisa Marie Latino of Hip New Jersey and I talk at the end of the video.)

Today, and always, I hope all your news is good news!

Survival > Existence,

Welcome Old Friends & New Friends to the WWGN Community!

This week we've been blessed with many new WWGN members, mostly due to the guest post I wrote for Cure Magazine.

(Right now the iconic Girl Scout song: "Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold," is playing in my head. )

Because not everyone has been here from the very beginning, I though I'd reintroduce a blog post I wrote a while back. This post is about cancer anger and it is the reason I was originally contacted by Cure Magazine and ended up being quoted in an article on anger. It's definitely one of my favorites because it's resonated with so many people:

Coping With Cancer Anger 

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. Maya Angelou

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an emotion as "a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body." Notice there is no value judgment as to the negativity or positivity of our emotions. They are simply reactions to friends, family, medical professionals and cancer itself.

The truth is we often consider anger to be a negative and try to avoid it at all costs. The social message is loud and clear: Don't overreact, don't yell, don't curse, don't scream, and don't ever be impolite. Hold it in at all cost. But how do we cope with cancer anger?

As a cancer survivor, I remember a lot to be angry about. Although I never wondered "why me," I did feel anger about changes to my bodyloneliness, and having to deal with past emotional traumas stirred up by cancer. I was especially angry when a year had passed since my diagnosis and I was not yet "over" cancer. 

I also remember being really angry at the people who wanted to move on and forget about my cancer before I was ready to do the same. I felt alone, abandoned and unheard. As my anger increased, it got too big to share with those same people. The only thing that saved me was being able to voice my anger to my oncology therapist, who encouraged me to curse, yell and be impolite. I know it is only due to her being there for me that I was able to work through my cancer anger and get to a better place in those relationships.

Read more here.

The more I write and speak with you, the more I value our connection. We get each other. Thank you for that from the bottom of my heart.

Survival > Existence, 

Copyright 123RF Photos


Don't Miss Me In Cure Magazine - Coping with Cancer Anger


The summer issue of CURE Magazine is out! As promised in an earlier post, I'm quoted extensively in an article entitled Seeing Red: Coping with Anger During Cancer. It's a really interesting article on how anger is normal for cancer patients/survivors and how it can be used constructively to advance healing.

If you missed the original post I wrote on anger here at WWGN, I'm reposting it here in its entirety. I'm also working on a new post about cancer anger which I'll be posting very soon. To make sure you don't miss it, sign up at the Feedburner box to the right to get my posts sent directly to your email box. Also, don't miss my newsletter and gift to you: The WhereWeGoNow Manifesto - "20 Intentions for Your Inspired Survivorship" by signing up at the top of the home page. 

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. Maya Angelou

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an emotion as  "a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body." Notice there is no value judgment as to the negativity or positivity of our emotions. They are simply reactions to friends, family, medical professionals and cancer itself.

The truth is we often consider anger to be a and try to avoid it at all costs. The social message is loud and clear: Don't overreact, don't yell, don't curse, don't scream, and don't ever be impolite. Hold it in at all cost. But how do we cope with cancer anger?

As a cancer survivor, I remember a lot to be angry about. Although I never wondered "why me," I did feel anger about changes to my bodyloneliness, and having to deal with past emotional traumas stirred up by cancer. I was especially angry when a year had passed since my diagnosis and I was not yet "over" my cancer anger. 

I also remember being really angry at the people who wanted to move on and forget about my cancer before I was ready to do the same. I felt alone, abandoned and unheard. As my anger increased, it got too big to share with those same people. The only thing that saved me was being able to voice my anger to my oncology therapist, who encouraged me to curse, yell and be impolite. I know it is only due to her being there for me that I was able to work through my cancer anger and get to a better place in those relationships.

The experience which made me the most angry was my first mammogram after my diagnosis. I was already emotional about returning to the scene of my initial bad news, but the technician's insensitivity pushed me over the edge. She started off on the wrong foot by talking about my history in the middle of the waiting room, where our conversation could be overheard. 

In the dressing room, she asked me again about my history (she couldn't seem to understand why I only needed one breast to be mammogramed.) Finally, I realized that she didn't even believe that I had had a mastectomy, despite the fact that I told her so many times. At that point, she told me that many patients don't always know the difference between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. Really? You try having a mastectomy and then tell me you don't know the difference.

Next, she moved on to my diagnosis, which in her opinion (despite her lack of a medical degree), was "not breast cancer." This shocked me, but I looked her straight in the eye and responded that it was in fact cancer. Not to be deterred, she responded by saying that there was some debate whether it was or wasn't. At that point, I stopped talking because I didn't want to break down and cry, or possibly punch her.

Despite my silence, she kept talking. She told me she knew someone else who had DCIS and she had a mastectomy too, "so she wouldn't have to worry about it anymore." Could she not sense my intense worry and upset at that very moment? Or did she actually think that my mastectomy made it all better and I had nothing to worry about anymore?

When the mammogram was completed, she invited me to take a rose. I considered not taking it, because I was nauseous from the whole experience, but I did to keep my head down. I got dressed, holding myself together, walked as fast as I could out of there and got to my car, where I broke down and cried. When I got home, I threw away the rose.

A day later, I was still over the top angry and knew I had to do something. I decided to call the breast center and complain. When I talked about it later with my therapist, she applauded me for calling, but asked why I felt I had to hold it all in while I was there, rather than let the technician see the hurt she had caused. It was an excellent question.

The bitterness of cancer anger was exactly what I was feeling before I made that phone call. By holding in my anger, I caused it to eat through me, rather than use it to deal with the source of the problem. Once expressed appropriately (by complaining about how I was treated) my anger burned clean my resentment and bitterness. I felt validated. I felt empowered and I felt heard.

How have you coped with your cancer anger after cancer treatment? Have you been able to express it constructively, or have you held it in like I did? To read the many comments this post inspired, make sure to check it out here.

Yours in validation,

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Cancer Warriors Wednesday - Cure Magazine

I hope this doesn't sound like a shameless plug, but I thought you'd be interested to hear about Cure Magazine. Published four times a year, Cure focuses on cancer updates, research and education. In the next issue, coming out this summer, you will also find an article quoting me.  

You can subscribe to receive Cure at home for free if you are a cancer patient, survivor or caregiver living in the United States. The Spring Issue has articles on cancer side effects, how diet affects you, new treatments for bladder cancer, work and cancer issues, genetic testing, how to find reliable cancer information online, mindfulness meditation and more. 

The article I was interviewed for deals with anger during treatment. This is a subject I know well and wrote about in an earlier post. That post hit a nerve with a lot of readers, at least one of whom thought the discussion should be about "cancer rage." It seems that wherever you are in your cancer journey, anger is a recurrent issue.

I've found that the early cancer issues of anger, stress, loneliness, and fear don't go away just because treatment is completed. That's why it's a good thing to read, talk and share information. If you're interested in this resource, you can subscribe to Cure Magazine now. See you in the summer issue!