Category Archives: Living with Cancer

Blog Posts about Living with Cancer


It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to check out their website and even sign up for the IWSG Newsletter. Today I will explore putting a schedule in place for writing. I’ll focus on the genre of self-help as it relates to writing about cancer, as I answer this month’s IWSG Day question:February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?If you want to have some fun, take a look at the Wikipedia page for the list of writing genres. You may be surprised at how many there are. So, it’s difficult for me, as a writer to choose just one. My favorite thing to write is fiction, especially mysteries. But at this point in time, I write more non-fiction. If I had to narrow it down to a specific genre, it would be self-help. Until I got this question, I never would have categorized writing about cancer that way. It’s interesting to note my reason for writing about cancer is to help people.My first book, Facing Cancer as a Friend, How to Support Someone who has Cancer, Read more…


When you or a loved one are diagnosed with cancer, survival tops your priority list. As time passes, you meet other cancer patients. Some of them survive. Some of them die. Learning that one of your friends has died of cancer, always brings with it a sadness–and sometimes, guilt. It’s a phenomenon known as survivor’s guilt.EncouragementAs a 5-year -survivor of stage IV lung cancer, my husband, Dan, tries to encourage others on their journey. I, in turn, try to encourage caregivers that there is hope. There are new treatments and new tools in the palliative care toolbox to help patients deal with the side effects of cancer treatments. There are also a lot of support groups and systems to help both patients and caregivers.When it starts going bad.We recently found out that someone we know “lost her battle with cancer.” I don’t even want to get into the controversy surrounding that statement. I don’t like it much, but for all intents and purposes, it works. We wonder if we lied to them. Why have we had the grace of this time, when others with terminal cancer don’t? Survivor’s guilt rears its ugly head.In the back of your mind, you wonder if you were Read more…


There’s a word that’s unique to the cancer experience. Scanxiety.Most people are familiar with anxiety. There are many types of anxiety, including (but not limited to): generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, phobias, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome).Scanxiety is a form of situational anxiety or acute stress reaction disorder. Because of the nature of cancer, patients are already experiencing chronic stress, or the stress of demands that seem endless, with little hope in sight for long stretches of time. When you add an additional stressor to this, it can feel overwhelming, leading to physical symptoms of stress and anxiety for the patient, and his or her family members.The first time you experience scanxiety is when you suspect you have cancer and are in the process of having it diagnosed—or ruled out as a concern.Our StoryWhen Dan felt hard, enlarged lymph nodes, just above his left collarbone, we knew something was wrong. The soonest the doctor could see him was three days later. During that time, we looked at all the possibilities, and the most likely cause of his symptoms was cancer.Upon examining him, the doctor said, “I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I can tell you that it’s Read more…


Do you remember the last time you went to the doctor? If it was within the past couple of years, chances are, you were asked to “rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being no pain, and 10 being the greatest amount of pain humanly possible.” What does that even mean?? I’m going to shed some light on this enigmatic pain scale, so the next time you or a loved one goes to the doctor, you can get the best care possible.Patients hate the pain scaleYou are suddenly put on the spot. The nurse or doctor is waiting for you to put a number on what you’re experiencing. It’s the worst pain you’ve ever felt, but is it a 10? It is if you feel like a bear is gnawing on your leg while bees sting your eyeballs and you have your hand caught in an ever-tightening vice. Crazy, right? But that’s a 10. It’s pain that is nearly intolerable. Every once in a while a doctor will see a 10, but the patient is in too much pain by that time to even communicate the number. That’s a 10.There is the opposite problem as Read more…


Firefighters and Cancer

It’s been 16 years since “9/11.” No doubt, you remember where you were on that day. Images of heroic first responders are etched in our memories forever. How has the health of survivors and first responders (including firefighters) at Ground Zero been impacted? It’s hard to find clear statistics. Collecting data takes decades, so we won’t know for many years, the full cost they paid that day. But, we do know that firefighters, in general, have an increased risk of cancer.Check out the video at the end of this article. Dallas Firefighters share their cancer experiences.Imagine you’re a firefighter.You put on your gear. Manufactured used special chemicals to make it flame retardant. You go into a burning home and get everyone to safety. The chemicals in the smoky air surrounding you stick to your gear. Fire after fire, they accumulate. After the fire, you toss the gear in the back of your truck.You don’t wash it. For 2 reasons:Your dirty gear and helmet are a badge of honor within the firefighting culture. The soot and grime show that you’ve seen a lot of fire.Frequent washing causes rapid deterioration of your gear. That means replacing it more often, which means an increased Read more…


Prepare for your digital detox

Last week, we talked about boundaries in caregiving, as well as the many hats a caregiver must wear. For friends and family, it can be difficult to know how to help in a situation that feels so helpless. In this post, I am going to look at helping someone who is ill through the eyes of a supportive friend or family member and also through the eyes of a caregiver and patient. Then I will share some simple solutions to care coordination and knowing how to help.As a Supportive Friend or Family Member:When you hear that someone you care about is facing cancer or some other life-altering illness, you want to somehow help. The question is: How? All sorts of things will run through your head. It’s common to assume they must already have a lot of help. There is probably some organized system in place complete with a meal rotation and prayer chain. It’s easy to feel like you would just be one more person underfoot. Maybe they already have enough meals or rides.Then, there’s the question of offering the help.You want to let them know you care and that you’d like to help, but, how? What if you Read more…


Do we need to “have it all together?”So many tragic things happen in this world and in our personal lives, that require us to have faith. What happens when the faith we have is imperfect? The truth is that we all have imperfect faith. The good news is that even with imperfect faith, our prayers make a difference.A Parent’s PerspectiveWhen one of my kids comes to me for help, I don’t require them to have everything in their life together before I respond to their need. If you have kids (of any age) I’m sure you feel the same way. That’s how it is with God. We can approach Him, even with imperfect faith.When you don’t really know GodI have many friends and loved ones, who don’t have a relationship with God. Some of them believe God exists, but they don’t understand who He is, or how to fit Him into their life. Then, something happens that shakes their world to its foundations. It might be a violent death, a divorce, or a life-changing illness. They often feel like they can’t pray, themselves, either because they don’t know how, or because they feel like they have imperfect faith and God Read more…


Prostate Cancer

This past Sunday, we celebrated Father’s Day.  Our family had an annual get-together with my husband’s side of the family. I’m so thankful for the men in our lives. It got me thinking about how important men’s health issues are, and how little we hear about them. So, this post will be about men’s health, and specifically, prostate cancer. I won’t go into the science of the prostate. Instead, my goal is to encourage men to think about their risk factors and take preventive measures as well as be screenings.Mind the GapWe hear a lot about women’s health issues. Unfortunately, the life expectancy gender gap has been growing. This is the number of years one gender is expected to live beyond the other.In 1920, the life expectancy gender gap was only 1 year.By 2014, men were dying almost 5 years sooner than women.Why the Gap?Men’s Health Library lists the following as some of the reasons for this gap in life expectancy:Men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death and are the victims of over 92% of workplace deaths.A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage.Men make ½ as many physician visits for prevention.Men Read more…


Today we will look at why people blame God for trials and sufferings in life. This is the second post that looks at Job from the Bible to gain insight into suffering.A few weeks ago, we explored the common (though often subconscious) idea that a person diagnosed with a life-altering illness, such as cancer, must have done something to cause it; smoking, drinking, unhealthy eating patterns, etc. You can check out that post here.I concluded the post by sharing how to be a supportive friend when someone is going through a trial, rather than one of Job’s comforters, blaming the sufferer. Beyond outward behavior that may or may not have contributed to someone getting cancer, there is often a blame game of another sort—sin and God’s will.Why people blame God when they or someone they know is suffering   Let’s return to Job, the epitome of suffering. He’s sitting on a dung heap in sackcloth and ashes, mourning the loss of all he held dear; his family, property, and his health. Job’s friends came and mourned with him for seven days in silence. Then they decided to tell him what they thought was the cause of, and solution to his Read more…


In part one of The Who Cares for the Caregiver series, we learned who caregivers are, We also looked at the affect caring for someone who has cancer or another serious illness, has on them. In Part two, we learned specific ways you can help a caregiver. In today’s post, the third and final installment in the caregiver series, we learn about the effect of caring for caregivers.Hearing CricketsI’m a very private, introverted person. At the time my husband, Dan was diagnosed with cancer, we hadn’t been married long. I was a stay at home mom and didn’t have many strong friendships.  So when the people found out that Dan had cancer, many calls and texts came to his cell phone and countless caring emails arrived in his inbox.I got a total of two, so I felt very much alone.The Turning PointThat changed when I received an email from my sister-in-law, Marion, on the evening of November 2, 2012. Here’s what she said*:Praying for you on THIS day, today—That Dan’s results would be given to you by the end of the day.  That the results would be so much better than expected.That you would be able to get at least an idea of Read more…

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