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    What Everybody Ought to Know About Fertility Preservation & Cancer

    Our Blog Post today is from Robyn Stoller, the founder of CancerHawk and also was a caregiver for her Husband Alan who had been diagnosed with kidney cancer, followed by pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. Robyn is a tireless advocate for cancer patients everywhere. Her article today touches on the issues with fertility when dealing with cancer and treatments. 

    Chemotherapy and radiation can harm your fertility or cause sterility. For women, certain therapies can cause ovarian damage or failure, early menopause, genetic damage to growing eggs and other reproductive problems. For men, treatments can cause damage to the testes and interfere with sperm production.
    With that said, not all cancer treatments harm fertility. The likelihood that this will occur depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, treatment regimen, and age at the time of treatment. Fertility issues can be a temporary or permanent side effect of treatment. They can also occur immediately or at some point after treatment has ended.
    Fertility preservation is an option for those cancer survivors who hope to have children naturally at some point in the future. Ask your oncology team about your infertility risks and consult a reproductive specialist if possible.
    Get the Facts on Fertility Preservation for People with Cancer
    In most cases, decisions on fertility preservation need to be made before treatment begins.
    There are several incredible resources created to help cancer patients and survivors make sense of fertility preservation:
    MyOncofertility.org is a fantastic resource for patients and their parents and partners whose fertility may have or will be impaired by cancer treatments. This site provides answers to cancer-related fertility questions, guidance for talking to physicians about fertility concerns, and assistance in finding a local fertility preservation specialist.
    SaveMyFertility.org is another great resource for adult cancer patients and the parents of children with cancer who want to learn more about preserving their fertility before and during cancer treatment, and protecting their hormonal health after treatment.
    Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator (powered by MyOncoFertility) is a super helpful, interactive tool that allows you to explore options for family building before, during and after cancer treatment.
    Fertline (866-708-FERT) connects patients with a fertility preservation program and refer them for consultations or procedures.
    Navigators from Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults or LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Services can also provide guidance through the experience.
    Financial Assistance for Fertility Preservation
    Fertility preservation can be expensive but there is financial assistance available.
    LIVESTRONG Fertility Discount Program provides access to discounted sperm banking services for qualified men. To learn about this program for men, click HERE. LIVESTRONG also offers assistance to qualified female applicants by providing access to fertility medications and discounted services from reproductive endocrinologists across the country. To learn about this program for women, click HERE.
    The Heart Beat Program offers eligible female patients select fertility medications at no cost. For more information on this program, click HERE.
    What if you’ve already finished treatment and are now thinking about starting a family?
    If you’ve already finished cancer treatment and are thinking about fertility for the first time, talk to your oncologist. Discuss your past cancer treatment and any possible effects on your fertility. If you are at risk of being infertile, your oncologist can refer you to a fertility specialist for help.
    For a complete listing of organizations that provide fertility information and assistance programs for people with cancer, visit The CancerHawk Navigator.

    You can also connect with CancerHawk on these platforms:
    Twitter @Cancerhawk
    Facebook  CancerHawk
    Website CancerHawk.com
    Pinterest 
    CancerHawk
    LinkedIn CancerHawk

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    5 Ways to Give Back During The Holidays

    The Holiday Season is in full swing and most of us are thinking of things to give your friends and loved ones. Some of us are even making last minute changes to our wish lists. And then some of us cancer survivors and caregivers have an urge to do more, to give back in some way. After going through a life-altering event like cancer, many of us feel a need to help others, in whatever way we can. 

    So how can you give back? Here are 5 easy ways to give back during this season of giving. 
    First, what are you good at? Do you have any special skills? Can you speak in front of groups? If so that is a good starting point, now you need to decide who you're giving back to. There are lots of organizations that are in need of volunteers, especially during the Holiday Season. You could easily find hundreds of places and ways to help out around just about any community, but we will concentrate on giving back to the cancer community for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. 
    1) Your Cancer Treatment Facility - This could be an easy place to check with on how you could help out. Lots of treatment centers have volunteers that will help with comfort items, like handing out blankets, getting something to drink for the patients, or simply just sitting next to someone that is having treatment and is alone. One of our own WhatNexters "Dan7264" makes regular visits to the center where he received his treatment and sits with patients that might not have someone with them. He also has quirky shirts printed up and gives them out to the patients. The shirts have a variety of funny quotes on them and they help to lighten the mood and lessen the reality of the moment for them. It's easy to get started with this one, just stop by your local cancer treatment facility and ask how you could volunteer.  
    Read More About Dan's Volunteer Work


     
    2) Volunteer with local cancer-related charity - Organizations like the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life, StandUp2Cancer, Gilda's Club, the ACS Hope Lodges, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and many others are always looking for volunteers. Most of the time you can choose how much or how little you want to offer in time, they will always be grateful for whatever you can give. 
    American Cancer Society - Their largest fundraising effort comes from their own Relay For Life organization. You can click on their link and find your local chapter and give them a call or contact them online to find out how you can help out. You can join an existing team, if you have some friends that are already participating, or you can start your own team and raise money for Relay For Life. The funds raised help patients, survivors, caregivers, and family through research programs that develop new treatment programs, benefits to patients and support programs for cancer patients. 
    Road to Recovery - The American Cancer Society also has opportunities for you to drive patients to treatment and back home. It's a simple program that means the World to a cancer patient that has no other way to get to and from treatments. To find out how to get involved in this program, contact the Road to Recovery Program. 

    StandUp2Cancer - A relatively new cancer charity compared to some of the others that have been around for 30 or 40 years, StandUp2Cancer is another organization that won't turn down an offer to help. They have events Nationwide to raise money for cancer research and patient benefit programs. If you feel that you have the energy and drive, you can even start your own chapter or organize an event in your hometown. Click here for their volunteer form. 
    The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.
    Monies raised for them help with funding research projects and helping cancer patients get through and be able to afford treatments. You can get involved with them by checking their website here.

    Hope Lodges - The American Cancer Society offers rooms free of charge to cancer patients and a caregiver when having treatment at a facility more than 50 miles from their own home. According to their website: "Each Hope Lodge offers cancer patients and their caregivers a free place to stay when their best hope for effective treatment may be in another city. Not having to worry about where to stay or how to pay for lodging allows guests to focus on getting better. Hope Lodge provides a nurturing, home-like environment where guests can retreat to private rooms or connect with others. Every Hope Lodge also offers a variety of resources and information about cancer and how best to fight the disease."

    Each hope lodge has needs for volunteers for things like providing dinner for the house on one night, helping with routine cleaning, talking with patients or caregivers, and more. Many civic groups will provide a dinner for the house and help with the serving as a project. You may either contact the Hope Lodge near you or suggest this activity to your civic group as a way to give back. 
    Gilda's Club - Gilda's Club is a community organization for people living with cancer, their families, and friends. Local chapters provide meeting places where those living with cancer, their families, and friends can join with others to build emotional and social support as a supplement to medical care. Free of charge and nonprofit, Gilda's Club chapters offer support and networking groups, lectures, workshops and social events in a nonresidential, homelike setting. 

    The club was named in tribute to an original Saturday Night Live cast member Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. In 2009, Gilda's Club merged with The Wellness Community to form the Cancer Support Community, although local branches generally opted to retain the name Gilda's Club.
    Most Gilda's Clubs will hold support nights, events that will include a guest speaker, someone who has beaten the odds and been through their own cancer experience or as a caregiver for someone who has. They also are happy to have volunteer help for events and other activities they may have. To find out how you might be able to volunteer with them, check out their partner website Cancer Support Community.
    3) Online Support - There are several organizations that offer online support for cancer patients, their caregivers and family. WhatNext is the internet's leading resource of first-hand cancer experiences. As a survivor or current patient, your experiences are more valuable than you may know. There is a very simple, but extremely needed opportunity for you to give back. All you have to do is be active on the site, answer questions, post questions of your own, post some inspirational, motivational, or educational quotes on our Pinboard. 

    To get involved in supporting others on WhatNext, all you have to do is Register, fill out your own cancer diagnosis profile and fill in some information that describes your cancer journey (what you were diagnosed with and what treatments, side effects that you have been through) then take a look at our questions page for questions that you may have experience with and information to add to the conversation. 
    Do you remember your first day of officially being a cancer patient? You were most likely scared and had lots of questions running through your head. Do you remember the first time you logged on to WhatNext and got some answers that you were needing? It helps a newly diagnosed patient greatly by having someone to talk to that has been there and beat that. First, just knowing that there are others out there that have already beaten the same cancer that you currently are fighting, is a comfort. Being able to talk to them and ask questions specific to you and your type of cancer is a huge help. 
    Giving back on WhatNext is the easiest way that anyone can offer help and support, and it costs you nothing but time. We welcome you to join in the conversations and see how you can help someone on the site. You can even ask to be a guest moderator if you want. 
    Another easy way to help others on the site is to share your cancer story in detail through a blog post. Don't worry, you don't have to be a writer, you can simply write out what you have been through following an outline we will provide for you. We will take your information and tidy it up into a great motivational, and inspirational article that is sure to inspire thousands. For more information email us. Our website and social network reach literally millions of people in a week. You can be a part of it. 
    4)  Use Your Hobby - Do you knit, sew, or are you a great cook? You can take most any hobby and turn it into a way to give back and support cancer patients. You are very aware that most cancer patients will lose their hair during chemo. You could knit some cute caps, beanies, scarves, etc and drop them off at your treatment facility. You could even search out cancer patients in your community to help directly. Any community in America has cancer patients, chances are that you know some of them. Give them a call and offer your talents to them. You might make a dish for supper for them that can be easily warmed up in the oven or microwave. 
    Just be aware that most cancer patients will not readily ask for your help. If you call them up and ask if they need anything, they are likely to say no. But, if you call up and say "I have a great dish I made for you and your family for supper, what time is good time to drop it off"? You are likely to get a yes. 
    5) Give Items That Help Patients - You can give your hair. Pantene Beautiful will accept your hair that will then be used in making wigs for cancer patients. For more information, contact them here. 
    Your cancer related hand me downs. Do you have a wig, mastectomy/lumpectomy bra, or some scarves that are still in great shape that you no longer need? Donate it to your local cancer treatment facility or to The Fight Club Survivor Organization who will give them to those in need for free. 
    Some organizations will also accept large items as a gift that they may sell. A used car that you no longer need is a great gift to some organizations. And, it's tax deductible. Or you may want to get a jump on Spring cleaning and clean out the garage or attic/basement and donate those items to a local organization that will sell them in a yard sale to donate the funds to their organization. Most Relay For Life chapters will gladly take your donated items, there is always a team that has an annual yard sale as a fundraiser. Just contact your local Relay Event Chair or any Committee member and they will help you. 
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    Having an Attitude of Gratitude to Thank Your Nurses and Doctors

    This Holiday Season most cancer patients want to show a little gratitude to their Nurses and Doctors. If you're having a little trouble coming up with ways that you might do that, here are some ideas from the members of the WhatNext Community. This is how you can have an attitude of gratitude to thank your Nurses and Doctors. 

    We hear from Nurses all the time about working long, busy and stressful shifts. They are our caregivers and our lifeline. Most of the time they are the first point of contact to the Doctor and the person we are telling all of our problems too and they are the ones that are actually delivering our life-saving treatments. A little thank you can go a long way, here are some ideas to be sure they know we appreciate what they do. 
    1) Food - Everybody likes to eat! The Entire staff at most treatment facilities, clinics and hospitals are usually running around crazy busy. Many say that their lunch or dinner consists of whatever they can grab out of the break room. What to take? You could put the personal touch to it and bake some cookies, brownies, or any baked treat that most people love to cheat on their diet with. And that brings up a debate. Should you take healthy treats and foods, or sweet treats? One Nurse reports that many of her colleagues were battling weight issues and the plates of cookies, cupcakes, and brownies didn't help that fight. So, why not give both? Drop off a plate of cookies and a fruit basket, that way there is something for everyone.  

    "Jamison" describes her exerience of being a Nurse and seeing this problem first-hand: Nurses ALWAYS appreciate gratitude from patients. Cookies and baked goods are nice but so many patients give these as a show of thanks, year-round, resulting in overweight nurses. I can say this because I worked many years in the ICU and there was always a plate of cookies, doughnuts or cakes in the break room. I watched a lot of my nursing friends battle weight gain over the years, not a result of these gifts, of course, but a contributor to poor eating habits... They are great gifts when you are starving... but better for the health of our caregivers are fruit baskets, a bag of organic apples or oranges, veggie trays, teas or coffees with special creamers."
    2) Gift Cards - We spend a lot of time with our Nurses while getting treatments, and most of the time learn a few things about them. What books they like, movies they like, where they like to go eat, etc. So, a great way to let them know you appreciate them is to give them something that they like. Get a gift card to their favorite restaurant or coffee house, the movie theatre, the Zoo or any other place that they may have mentioned they like. Since you have already learned that they like this place, they are sure to love it. Amazon is now a market for almost anything you can think of, it's a great place to look to for ideas for gifts and gift cards. 

    3) Special local favorites. Do you have a special place in the City you live in that has gifts or special handcrafted or handmade items? How about a local winery, craft shop, candy shop or something like that? In our little town, there is a candy maker that has wonderful candies and their gift boxes are prized gifts for anyone that knows about them. A gift from someplace like this is likely to be a welcomed gift. It will be thoughtful, unique and appreciated. You may want to find out a little about your Nurse or Doctor before giving something like a bottle of wine to be sure it's something that they would appreciate. 

    4) Houseplants and Foliage - Lots of people love houseplants. If you have had a few conversations with your recipient through your time together you may have picked up on the fact that they are big plant lovers, you might have even heard them mention a plant that they love. Plants can be a thoughtful gift, and they can last for generations when well cared for. Making sure that they are plant lovers and don't have any allergies to plants would be a good idea! 

    5) Hand Written Thank You Notes - If you are struggling to find something just right, or are limited in funds, a plain old handwritten thank you card can go a long way! I have heard Nurses say that they didn't really want anything as a thank you from their patients, other than a Thank You! If you have been paying attention while you have been at the clinic you have probably learned the names of all the people on the team. Personalizing the card with a Dear "XXXXXX" will be appreciated, you might mention something in your message about something they have shared with you during your time together, this shows you have taken an interest in their life and appreciate their life as much as they appreciate yours. 

    6) Handmade scarf, toboggan, mittens, etc. - If you are a skilled knitter or like to crochet, you might get deep into your gifting and make something for your special ones.  I know this is time-consuming, but it's just an idea. Some people will have some things pre-made for occasions like this so they can maybe do a little personalizing and boom, it's ready to give. If not, there are usually places that you can buy something like this, but it truly means so much more if it came from your own hands. This one is not for everyone, but a good one if possible.
     
    7) Bottles or containers of local honey, fruits, jellies, jams, etc.- These are items that almost anyone will use, and if you have a local supplier that has a good name for being a great gift to give, you will score big with these. 

    It's a common thing to thank and acknowledge people during the Holidays. Everyone from the garbage man to the doorman, the mailman, your boss, and co-workers, etc. usually get a thank you and sometimes a gift or tip. When it comes to my medical team, I try to thank everyone that is involved with my treatment from the receptionist/clerk that checks me in at the Doctor's office when I have a routine check-up, to the Nurses, interns, right on up to the Oncologist and Surgeon. I want them to know that I truly appreciate what they have chosen for the life's vocation, especially since I am one of their beneficiaries. 
    And when I'm in the hospital for a few days, I try to thank everyone that comes in my room. I also want them to know that we appreciate their care. I also believe that your attitude toward these caregivers can have an effect on the level of care you receive. It doesn't cost you a dime to be a good, and thankful patient, and you may reap the benefits of it when you need something at 2 AM and the floor you are on is very busy. 
    This Holiday Season, have an attitude of gratitude and share some love and appreciation for those involved in your care. Everyone loves to be recognized. And on that note, THANK YOU, for being with us at WhatNext!
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    Great Books to Help You Through Treatments

    Chemo can last 8 hours or more, waiting for hours in the waiting room and exam room for your doctor will add up to days by the end of your cancer journey. These little periods of time can be used to help you through the whole cancer thing by reading some great inspirational, motivational or educational books. You will have lots of time on your hands through this, so why not make good use of it? Here are some great books to help you through treatments. Our WhatNext Community suggested these:


    This is going to sound super creepy. But I got into Handmaiden's Tale . Oddly, reading, a dark, creepy book took my mind off things and distracted me and compelled me. May not be for everyone to go dark, but I actually associate my dx with this book.  And Speak the Language of Healing -" Fuxitol"
    Lance Armstrong's book..."It's Not About the Bike / My Journey Back to Life ."-"Russ"
    Here is a great list from WhatNexter "Jene1835" I also use {overdrive} to borrow books from the library. I have read: 1. Just Show up by Kara Tippetts 2. The Hardest Place by Karen Tippetts 3. The Tree that survived winter by Mary Fahy 4. Chicken Soup for Breast Cancer Survivors 5. The Silver Lining 6. Not Just One in Eight by Barbara Stevens 7. A Walking Miracle by Patricia Johnson ( a flight attendant) 8. The Shack by William P. Young 9. God Said Not Yet (one man experience with terminal cancer) by Daniel Edward Neff 10. Stand by Her (breast cancer Guide for men) by John W. Anderson 11. Don't Just Fall - How I Grew Up (conquered illness, and made it down the mountain) by Josh Sandquist (diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma at the age of 9) 12. Tearful Surrender by Marquita E. Batchelor 13. I Believe in my myself I don't have to cry anymore (cancer survivor PLUS) by Dorothy Anderson Brown 14. Touched by Cancer by Teri Rose 15. Fearless by Maimah Karmo (achieving life's purpose thought breast cancer) (nat'l speaker) 16. Still have the faith (husband with a wife of 17 1/2 years diagnosed with breast cancer, 4 years since her death. How men think, feel and communicate Before-During-After cancer with a spouse (www.Stillhavefaith.com) 17. How we became thrivers (www.BreastCancerwellness.org
    "The Silver Lining" by Hollye Jacobs . She's a nurse, a young mom, and a Breast Cancer Survivor. It is a realistic story of her journey with breast cancer. And how, no matter how terrible things were, that she always looked for the Silver Lining in each situation. It's an inspiring story. - "Clinda"
    Books I have found to be great are the books by Kris Carr - Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips ,Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor , and Crazy Sexy Cancer Diet . Kris is pretty awesome!Hope these books help someone! - "Yvette0516"

    Cancer on $5 a day. Not including Chemo, is a funny book to lift your mood. - "CrazyHarry"
    I read a humorous "mammoir" called When Good Boobs Turn Bad ,some of her anecdotes cracked me up! My favorite Christian memoir was Off Script by Cary Schmidt , Hodgkin's survivor. - "TiffanyJ"
    Welcome to the Club, Surviving Cancer one Laugh at a Time by Myles Beskind .A friend of mine had recommended, "Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy ". - "KLC"
    I loved "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch . other books I would recommend "How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers ", "And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together by Shapiro, Dan " - "SueRae1"
    My cancer journey led me to this wonderful book: "Cancer As a Turning Point " by Lawerence LeShan, PH. D.; lots of changes coming for the better. Blessings. - "Mhtx"

    Choose Joy by Kay Warren, Battlefield for the Mind by Joyce Meyer . These books helped me a lot. Also, Where Is God When It Hurts? By Philip Yancey. It helps explain why we suffer. This book really helps if you are struggling with,"Why did this happen to me?" Good luck to you in everything. God bless you:) - "DorothyV"
    If you are looking for free books to read, here is a list provided by WhatNexter "Ejourneys" that she used:
    Due to my carpal tunnel (exacerbated by anastrozole) and presbyopia, almost all of my book reading is digital. In addition to Gutenberg, sources of free ebooks include Internet Archive: https://archive.org/ Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/ Open Library: https://openlibrary.org/ U Chicago Press offers a free ebook each month: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/books/freeEbook Manybooks: http://manybooks.net/ Cambridge University: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/ebooks/free.html Wright American Fiction collection from Indiana University: http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/TEIgeneral/welcome.do?brand=wright Forgotten books: https://www.forgottenbooks.com/en The Online Books Page, Univ. of Pennsylvania: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/ Hathi Trust Digital Library: https://www.hathitrust.org/
    And, if you would like to read my own story of surviving 3 cancer diagnoses, 2 types of cancer, over a 29 year period, and surviving the side effects of a mini-stroke, losing all teeth and having over 14 surgeries to correct those problems, and trying to move into survivorship, you can get it here: Cancer, You Will Not Get Me, 3 Times is Enough!

    Different people have different needs for motivation and inspiration and what they need to help them through. You should be able to find something on this list of books to fill that need. Another option is audio books that you can listen to when you just don't have the energy to hold a book or maybe you want to just close your eyes and sit back and relax while listening. What books have you found to be inspirational, motivational or educational to help you through your cancer journey? Please list them below in the comments and let's build a great list to help others.
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    A strange journey (memories of a teenage girl)

    This weeks Wednesday's WhatNexter Of The Week is Tracy. She is a long time Thyroid Cancer survivor of 37 years. Here is a little about her journey through Thyroid cancer, starting as a 14 year old.

    I was a teenager in the mid 70’s when diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer after being sick for several years. Luckily I lived in Seattle at this time so I was sent to Virginia Mason Clinic which was the major west coast cancer treatment center at this time.
    This clinic was so busy that you had to be accepted into the program. I joined a group of people in a room all wearing hospital gowns waiting for their turns to go in front of a board of doctors to see if they would be “chosen”. I was 14, extremely shy and scrawny wearing a small open-backed gown, on display, in front of a room full of men who are looking at me like I was a specimen. After reviewing the case notes they came up and started feeling my neck and asking me questions in a very brisk way. Since I had already dissolved into shyness, trying to respond was not possible. After a period of time, I was led off, I had been accepted.
    I spent the next few weeks in a dizzy of torture tests that involved clamping my head down (literally) while a machine went back and forth over my neck doing scans (tightening the clamp if I moved), having to hold nasty barium in my mouth until told to swallow to take pictures of my throat and other tests that seem barbaric compared to the way they are done today.
    During this time I was doing rounds with doctors trying to find the one who would be willing to treat me. When I met the one who ended up taking my case I was sitting watching two doctors discussing me (yet again) while my paper gown was dissolving at the seams because of my sweating ( a side effect of thyroid imbalance). I was still shy but getting less so after being poked, clamped, colored and inspected. I had learned to make jokes to keep myself from crying. When I met my new specialist he was distant and a bit cold. I did not know at the time that the reason for this was that he only took terminal cases and was guarding himself. I now know that his hospital nickname was “Dr. Death”. This man became my hero.
    Dr. Nielson never told me how bad my illness was and I never asked. After so many years of being sick and being told it was all in my head, I had this strong person to make me better. I had total trust in my hero. He told us that this kind of cancer was caused by exposure to radiation in the womb, enough to mutate but not enough to miscarry (a very fine line) and it waited until puberty to be triggered by hormones. I am a mutant! That explains so much.
    His plan was to do radical surgery to remove as many lymph nodes in my neck as he could and then do an experimental treatment involving radioactive iodine. My surgery lasted many hours and I was left with a scar from ear to ear. It was a very extensive surgery and I woke up in the Intensive care unit with tubes coming out of many places. I was told to sleep in a partially upright position for many months to reduce swelling in my neck (lymphedema). After recovering from surgery I was treated with radioactive Iodine. My memories of this involve a very large lead container that opened to a small vial; I was given a long straw and told to suck up the liquid in the vial (strange water). They tested me with the Geiger counter and rushed me off to a room with a nuclear warning sign on the door. Then behind a large lead shield to my bed. Everything I touched or came out of me was put behind lead and taken to nuclear waste. It was a very strange feeling.
    I was told later that I was not expected to live past 18. Dr. Nielson told me that it was my stubbornness that got me through this, not anything he did. The current treatment is based on the experimental treatment I had in high school. I am now 53, with a grown daughter. I not only survived longer than predicted but managed to have an incredible life.
    I have always been one that others have talked to about cancer. My scars are very visible (ear to ear) and I make a point of talking about it. It has been so nice to be able to share with more people on the WhatNext website in ways that I have in the past done in person. My cancer has in some ways been a blessing in that I have been able to support so many friends in ways that I would not have expected. Thank you all for letting me be a part of your journey.
    We thank Tracy for being a big part of WhatNext and sharing her story with us. Stop by her profile page on WhatNext and tell her thanks for sharing, and drop her a line of encouragement. Being a long time survivor she has experience and knowledge that might be able to help you, if you have questions for her, stop by her page and drop her a question.

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    After Cancer Treatment, How Do I Get Back to Being Me?

    Last year, this very weekend, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It seems so long ago because so much happened when I heard the words, “You have cancer.” to now a year later. As we all know, there are decisions and surgeries and treatment and within all of that is a loss of self.

    Lisa and her family

    .

    .
    I thought I knew who I was. I thought I was an uber-focused MOM (caps and emphasis, mine). I thought I was meant to be a local teacher so I could still do my number one which was to care for everyone else. I never thought about what I needed beyond just the bare minimum to be able to do all of the things I needed to do for other people. I am not knocking it; I just realized the hard way that if I did not care enough about me that I would not be able to do the things I did for others.
    I had some wise people in my life who kept telling me to slow down, to take care of me but I kept pushing myself to the limits. Activities, working, entrepreneurship, family obligations, full-time work...everything on ME without giving myself any slack. This is the story of all moms, all caretakers, all people who put other people before themselves. I used to side-eye people who put their obligations on hold to do things for themselves. I side-eyed them hard. I get it now.

    Lisa's first chemo treatment

    .

    Wish I could say that I would have gotten it without having gotten cancer, but I do not think I would have. I am nothing if not hard-headed, after all, I am half Sicilian. Now that I am standing here, post-cancer plot twist, I am taking the lessons that mattered and trying to forget the rest. I am trying to forget what fear I felt upon being diagnosed. I am learning to forget the way I worried pre-cancer compared to post-cancer diagnosis. I am trying to incorporate all of this “experience” into who I want to be NOW.
    During cancer treatment, I was working full time as that local teacher. I almost did not choose to go to the world-renowned cancer center in the metropolis of my city so I could still be nearby for kids and work. I no longer have said job, and I no longer have said pre-cancer mentalities so it is a time of reinvention for me.

    Lisa at New York City 
    .
    I am still me, of course, but I want to think I am the better, more improved version of me. And no I will NOT thank cancer for that or anything - I still wish I never got the damn thing, but I did so I have to deal with it. For the bulk of my life, I have been an “expert” at resumes and even ran a semi-successful small business centered around careers and college.  (see www.thenextstep1234.com to see the remnants of that small business) - I even wrote books on how to be “career-ready” and to be “entrepreneur-ING” for your own career. Now I am sitting here, unemployed and not by choice for the first time in my life as an “employee”.
    Sadly, I am not alone. Many people have reached out to me who also lost their jobs during treatment. It stinks, but it can be looked at as an opportunity or at least that is how I am trying to re-frame it. The fact is that it sucks to have spent time working alongside people who have never dealt with their body breaking down and being told you are not working hard enough or being told your position is no longer available to you. It really is a kick in the proverbial nuts when you are barely holding your life together as you are looking in the mirror at a bald, one boobed woman and now no longer have that thing that was getting you to put your wig on straight and your lipstick on and go to work every damn day during chemotherapy (except treatment days) to do the best you could. To lose the chance to go back to be the real you, to kick ass after cancer and to show everyone what you can really do. This all sucks, and everyone has something similar in their hearts when they lose their job during or after treatment.

    We are, as humans, defined by our “work” - it is one of the first things we ask when meeting new people, the age-old “what do you do?” question. To lose that part of our identities in addition to losing our hair, our health, breasts or whatever is something that is truly another layer of nastiness to deal with in our plot twist. My heart breaks for everyone who had this happen to them.
    I know I cannot ruminate in that and I hope that you will not, either, if you had this other layer of nastiness added to the mix of your cancer plot twist. I have to see it as part of this new path, this new plot twist I am on and as someone who used to excel in resumes and interviews. I now am forging ahead on this NEW way of being professional - this new way of interviewing where my fake boob might not be situated right, my hair is in a style I would never have chosen for myself (but it really is rockin’, if I do say so myself). It is also about being so damn vulnerable and having people still be able to look at me and say, “She was sick.” because it is correct and I am no longer ashamed of it.

    Lisa growing new hair


    I am not saying that every interview is going to talk about my illness and what I have been through but I almost do not have to talk about it. It is me, this new me and as I forge ahead and try to make myself “career ready” again I am thinking and hoping that I can help others do the same for themselves after illness, such as cancer, takes away their “before” and leaves them with their “after”. We are still us but we are better.
    These are the top 5 things I “learned” from this plot twist:
    1- How to not care about the little stuff. I was the type of person who worried about everything who could catalog every little thing that DID go wrong and calculate what COULD go wrong and worry about it in advance, too, regardless of whether or not it could really happen. would lay awake at night after work thinking about all of the things I could have done better or what I said and why I said it and how others would be surely thinking about it right that moment, too, because I had done something so stupid. 
    2-Trying to figure out my Work/Life Balance. This is a true thing - it is something I want to find that ability to kick ass and be ME but also with the ability to still be around with family AND friends. I no longer want to just be the “mom” anymore; I want to be LISA, too.
    3-Being very protective of my health. I am totally all about listening to my body now when before I just ran, ran, ran without thinking - now I am staying clear on what my body needs and giving myself time to rest, when and if I can.
    4-Learning to help others. I am focused on sharing my story and trying to use my ‘talents” to help others in whatever way I can.
    5-Learning to let go and let God.I understand this will not work for everyone, if you do not believe in God, substitute whatever you need to give you peace in this world whether it be meditation, exercise, hypnosis, etc. I also do those things, too, though.
    Lisa Vento (Nielsen) Breast Cancer Blogger & Advocate http://www.thetimebetweenis.weebly.com
    Instagram: @thetimebetweenis
    Twitter: @timebetweenis

    Do you have a story about getting back to being you after cancer? How have you been able to do it? Contact us about sharing your story to help others. 
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