Posts Tagged ‘cancer survivor’

8 Ways to Cope with Cancer as a Young Adult

Friend SupportReceiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Just imagine how hard it would be to hear the news as a young adult. The challenges of being diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 39 are different from those in patients who are diagnosed later in life.

Many young adults diagnosed with cancer experience a disruption in a new career and dating. Cancer and any treatments that follow can sometimes have long-term affects on a person’s ability to start a family.

Here are eight ways to help you cope with cancer as a young adult:

  1. Request and ask for help. Having a support system during this time is critical. Be sure to reach out to others for support even after your treatment is completed.
  2. Consider giving friends and family members specific tasks in order to help you. Some friends and family members may not be sure how best to support you during this time. It may be helpful to you and them to provide friends and family members with specific requests. For example, request rides to treatment, ask for certain meals to be made or errands to be ran.
  3. Educate yourself. Having knowledge about your diagnosis and treatment often helps young patients maintain some sort of control during this time. This also helps to ensure you are making educated decisions about your healthcare.
  4. Ask questions! Do not hesitate to ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions. Write down your questions prior to your medical appointments.
  5. Inquire about how your treatment will affect you. Many treatments affect a patient’s ability to conceive children in the future. Talk with your medical professional about this and what options may be available to you.
  6. Consider reaching out to other young cancer survivors through young adult support groups or connecting online. The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University currently has a new Young Adult Cancer Survivor Online Support Group that meets once a month. This group is specific for any young adult who was diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 18 and 39.
  7. Reach out to a social worker for additional emotional support. Oncology social workers have a special level of expertise and are trained to provide support to patients as they are coping with diagnosis and treatment. It is often helpful to be able to process your feelings with someone else. Social workers also have a wealth of knowledge about additional resources that may be helpful.
  8. Try not to compare yourself to other friends or family members. Your cancer diagnosis may have altered your life pattern, however, it does not have to destroy it.

The cancer diagnosis is something that happened to you, but it doesn’t have to define you or control your future. There is help out there; you just have to know where to look and who to ask.

About Joy McCall, LMSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

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Survivor Story: Debbie Church’s Battle with Breast Cancer

Debbie Church

Debbie Church is Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and a 5-year breast cancer survivor. Debbie has shared her story through the journey of survivorship below. We’re lucky to have Debbie and Saint Joseph’s Hospital as part of the Emory Healthcare family and we thank her for sharing her story. We hope our readers and community members are as inspired by her story as we are!

“Dick and I fell in love over 32 years ago and have never quite gotten over it! We have had some interesting moments, but we have made it through each challenge. Love always finds a way. Unexpectedly, our lives changed in an instant when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2008. We knew life would never be the same. Life is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”

Read more of Debbie’s story on the Saint Joseph’s Hospital blog >>

About Debbie Church, BA
Debbie Church, BA in Psychology and History, Salem College, and a M.Div. from Southeastern Seminary Wake Forest and a Certified Cancer Services Navigator has worked in oncology for over 20 years. She is currently employed at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta as Coordinator of the Cancer Survivors’ Network and Patient Navigator. She has worked also as Director of Support Services and Chaplain at Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers, Atlanta Medical Center and various hospitals in the Southeast. She has spoken at many cancer events including GASCO Conferences here in Atlanta and other hospice and oncology centers in the southeast. She was a contributing author for Thomas Nelson’s Women’s Study Bible as well as publishing a book in 2010 with her husband, Don’t’ Ever Look Down; Surviving Cancer Together.

The Effects of Chemo and Radiation on Survivors Web Chat

I am a survivor. I beat Ewing’s sarcoma, a childhood cancer, which I was diagnosed with at 8 years old. I fought the cancer with an intense treatment plan that included 6 weeks of radiation therapy followed by 7 cycles of multi – agent chemotherapy. As a result of the aggressive treatment plan, I developed heart failure and ultimately had to receive a heart transplant. I beat the odds and am here to tell my story of survivorship!

Join me on Tuesday, February 19 from 12-1pm for a live, interactive chat about weathering the storms of cancer. Despite the side effects that have impacted my life greatly, long after the completion of my therapy, I am bubbling with hope and smiling about thoughts of my future.

About Stephanie Zimmerman

Stephanie is a patient and family advisor for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is also a cancer and heart failure survivor and late effects cancer educator. She co –founded My Heart, yourHands, Inc., a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to equipping survivors with late effects after cancer treatment.

 

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We Are Winship – Survive and Thrive

Shawn Ware felt a small lump in her breast while in the shower on January 2nd, 2009, and on that day, the journey on the fight against breast cancer began for Shawn, her husband Albert, daughter Demitria, son Jalen, and mother Eva Freeman. As part of her treatment plan, Shawn underwent a lumpectomy and additional treatment with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Shawn Ware, breast cancer survivor

Shawn Ware

“You know those side effects that you see in fine print? I had all those and more,” she says, somehow able to laugh about them now. “I didn’t know that your eyelashes act as windshield wipers, and when I lost mine, I had to wear glasses just to keep things from getting in my eyes.”

Shawn triumphed. “I was ready to conquer the world after my last round of radiation,” she says. And three years later, she is considered a survivor and a reason for celebration.

“Cancer, it stinks,” says Shawn, the general manager of Blomeyer Health Fitness Center at Emory. “But you do change. You certainly learn to appreciate the good and not let the little things bother you any more.”

Like millions of other Americans, Shawn is part of a growing trend—more people than ever are surviving cancer. In just six years, the number of cancer survivors has jumped by almost 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute—11.7 million in 2007, up from 9.8 million in 2001, the most recent years available.

The good news comes with some challenges, however. As cancer treatment has become more successful, survivors —and their caregivers and providers—have learned that there is a cost to surviving.

“Long-term survivorship starts on the day treatment ends,” says nurse practitioner Joan Giblin, the director of Winship’s new Survivorship Program. “You’re actively doing something during treatment, but when treatment ends, many patients tell us they feel like they have been set adrift without a clear course. Our survivorship program is trying to bridge that gap and provide survivors with tools for these difficult times.”

Giblin says that some survivors respond by isolating themselves. Still others “jump right back into their old lives or try to adjust to a new life by adapting to any after-effects they may still be experiencing.”

Survivors of all types of cancer can face myriad physical issues. Treatment itself can be so hard on the body that survivors sometimes suffer chronic pain, heart problems, depression, sexual dysfunction, and a mental fogginess dubbed “chemo brain.” They also are at heightened risk for recurrence and secondary cancers.

Physical problems arise within individual cancer groups. For example, head and neck cancer patients often have trouble swallowing and lose their sense of taste. Breast cancer patients must deal with the changes that come as a result of a lumpectomy or mastectomy and reconstruction.

In addition, family and relationship problems may arise as all in a survivor’s relationship network struggle to adjust to cancer and life after cancer.  Emotional challenges abound, from sadness, fear, and anger to serious depression. Fatigue is common.

Winship Cancer Institute is helping survivors deal not only with the late physical effects of cancer but also with the psychological and social issues that are part of surviving.

“We are now defining a ‘new normal’ for these patients,” says Giblin. “There can be long-term after-effects when treated for cancer, and we are finding ways to improve their quality of life while providing guidance on strategies for dealing with these after-effects.”

The Winship Survivorship Program officially started in November, 2011. Already more than 10 Winship survivorship “clinics” are being offered, focusing on survivors of 10 different cancer categories. The program holds workshops on such vital topics as nutrition, preventing lymphedema, how to talk to children about cancer, spirituality and pet therapy. Workshops have been held on sexuality and also on fatigue. In May, Winship announced its collaboration with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta for a special exercise program for cancer survivors. A unique collaboration, Winship at the Y was Giblin’s brainchild. She is at the hub of a very extensive interdisciplinary wheel that involves specialists from a wide range of treatment areas, including nutrition, pain management, and psychiatry to help survivors thrive.

“We have to change how we look at cancer patients,” Giblin says. “Many cancers are not curable in a conventional sense, but the improvement in the quality and quantity of life needs to be our priority. Much as we view diabetes as a chronic condition, we must look at many cancers in the same way.”

Head and neck cancer survivor Barry Elson, 70, had difficulty swallowing after his treatment. Barry, who was first diagnosed in 2003, had an esophageal dilation last year to improve his ability to swallow.

“I think in the press of your day-to-day survivorship, you forget to ask what (the treatment) might do to your long-term quality of life,” Barry says.

Shawn found that exercise has not only helped her gain physical strength but also has helped her mental outlook. Shawn was able to exercise throughout most of her treatment, even as ill as she was. Now, her worst worry is fatigue. But that doesn’t slow her down. In her job as fitness manager at Blomeyer, she conducts “boot camp” training sessions and teaches other classes.

Winship is also helping survivors thrive by providing support services to help survivors cope with employment and insurance issues that arise as a result of their cancer.

“After treatment,” Giblin says, “patients tend to not be able to work as long, and they don’t have the stamina they used to have.” In addition, there can be stigma in the workplace against a cancer survivor, which in times of layoffs, can result in their loss of employment and consequently, loss of benefits.

“It’s the people who can’t afford to lose their jobs who do,” she says.

And even in cases where survivors keep their insurance benefits, they might find a lack of integrated care as they celebrate more birthdays.

Paper records are lost through the years, hospitals and oncology offices change and primary care physicians—who don’t have experience in oncology —aren’t prepared or educated to provide the ongoing care cancer survivors need.

Barry says he fared well—a result, in part, of diligent Winship physicians Amy Chen and Dong Moon Shin, and the nursing staff—including Giblin.

Despite the side effects she faced during treatment, Shawn says she has grown from her cancer experience.

It makes her a stronger survivor, she says, and also more hopeful, optimistic, and motivated.
“It’s almost motivated me to do more,” she says. “It really helps me to live day by day. You make every day everlasting.”

Original Article Source: Winship Magazine

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