Monday, December 27, 2010

Bringing in a New Year

Many people use the New Year as a symbol to make changes in their lives. These changes usually have to do with commitments to take better care of oneself. Some of us are more successful than others in making these commitments become a reality.

Many cancer survivors incorporate changes in their lives “to beat the odds." Frequently these changes revolve around health and nutrition. There is so much in literature these days about nutrition and cancer. How does one begin to make any of these changes when it comes to diet? Is it going to feel like yet another sacrifice when you already are facing many challenges?

Many survivors find it helpful to meet with a nutritionist to review current eating habits. The nutritionist may recommend some changes that may actually have a positive effect on your energy! Incorporating changes slowly may be one of the tools to help you succeed in making any changes.

What has helped you to make lifestyle changes that actually make you feel better?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Monday, December 13, 2010

Telling Your Children about a Cancer Diagnosis

News of Elizabeth Edwards' passing last week has brought attention to the fact that cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter whether you're single, married, young, old, rich, poor or anything in between. It also reminds us that, for every person going through treatment for cancer, there are family and friends who are also experiencing the emotional toll of the disease.

Elizabeth Edwards' children were widely different ages, so as you can imagine, the approach to educating each of them about their mother's illness was very different. Regardless of what the family said and how they looked in front of the camera, it was the conversations behind closed doors that were the most difficult and mattered most.

At Buddy Kemp we see many parents who are struggling with the same questions that undoubtedly Elizabeth Edwards faced early in her diagnosis: "How should I talk to my children about cancer? What kind of support do they need?"

Often times parents who are recently diagnosed struggle with whether or not they should tell their children, and if so, what they should tell them. Age is an important factor to consider when planning your conversation. The good news is that, among other things, there are many books available to help. For example, for younger children you can find books that incorporate the basics about a cancer diagnosis, such as hairloss and fatigue. It's important as well to speak with your children's teachers about your situation.

Buddy Kemp offers a staff of specially trained counselors who can sit down with you and your children to help facilitate discussion. Children's Lives Include Moments of Bravery (CLIMB) is a six-week program is designed for children ages 6-12 to help them cope with their parent or grandparents cancer diagnosis and enable them to express themselves through art and group discussion. The next session will begin on January 18. (contact 704-384-5223 for more inf0). Additionally, children of any age are invited to Buddy Kemp for counseling sessions to help them cope with their parent's diagnosis.

How has your family dealt with news of a cancer diagnosis? If you are a child, how did you feel? If you are a parent, how did you share the information?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Traditions - they can be changed!

Many of us can remember growing and becoming accustomed to traditions we had in our homes and shared with family members and friends. As we grow up and start our own families we frequently begin our own traditions as well.

Sometimes we are forced to change these long-established traditions as changes occur in our health status. If you have been in the role of “doing it all” and having everyone at your house, this year may be a good time to seek ways to share holiday preparations with others. Choose to do the part of the preparations that you enjoy and that will not take all of your energy.

You can also take advantage of the change and let others know this year is going to be the beginning of a new tradition! Ask them to take part in planning for the holiday together. Family members may be hesitant to approach you, so your initiation will let everyone know you recognize the need for a change.

Has anyone done this ? How did it work out? Do you have any tips for those who may be struggling with changing roles and tradition?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Thoughts on Thinking

Do you think about how much time you spend thinking about your sick parent?
I find that I don’t think about it a lot. When I'm at school, my mind’s on other things. And that’s a good thing.

What about you? On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most, how often do you think about your sick parent during the day? For me, it’s at least a 6. It’s sort of hard *not* to think about.

Another thing: This kind of goes back to one of my earlier blogs about talking about cancer with a friend. It’s ok to not want to talk. Your friends don’t get to see you everyday and they want to know how you and your parent are.

My friend just recently asked me how my dad was doing. Not only did I not want to talk about it, but it’s a long story.

TTYL!
~Liana

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Surviving Holiday Stress!

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us start to feel stress build at the thought of traveling, entertaining and merely surviving the activities that we are anticipating. On the other hand, some may be dreading the season due to the loss of a loved one, or because of the inability to fully enjoy the activities of the season due to cancer treatment. In either case, the holidays can be a stressful time for many. How do you handle this stress when your energy is already zapped?

First of all, it is important to plan ahead and simplify as much as possible. Think about what you would like to do and this year don’t worry about what others expect of you. This is the time to take care of yourself, and trying to keep up with your pre-cancer pace may not be realistic right now.

Second, set limits and make time to rest! You know best how much you can handle, and it is important for you to stick to those limits. Be sure to take breaks and try not to spread yourself too thin. It’s ok to say no if you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.

Enlist help and seek support when you need it. Ask others to assist if you are playing host or hostess. Delegate responsibilities when possible. If you are grieving, reach out for support from friends, family or a support group. The holidays can be a very tough time, and trying to get through them alone without the necessary support can make them even more difficult.

~ Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sexuality, intimacy... and cancer?

Sexuality and intimacy….two words that cancer survivors are often afraid to consider, but words that are relevant and significant to their well-being nonetheless. Considering about half of all cancer survivors experience sexual problems after treatment, it is a subject worth addressing. Unfortunately, many people don’t feel comfortable bringing up the issue, so they wait for their doctor to do it and sometimes it never happens.

Oftentimes survivors feel that they should just be grateful that they are surviving, and their sexual concerns shouldn’t be important. Other times the thought of anything sexual or intimate seems scary or downright impossible due to the treatment they have had.

Cancer treatment has both physical and mental effects on people. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can all affect one’s libido and self image. They can cause one to withdraw from his or her partner, become depressed and have difficulties with sexual activity.

It is important to talk about these issues, as they can lead to further problems in current relationships or with prospective relationships, as well as be very harmful to one’s self esteem. Talking to a counselor is a good place to start, and physical therapy can be helpful for certain types of problems caused by treatment. Just don’t give up or assume your problem is just something you’ll have to live with. Help is available.

~ Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Timeout Needed

Jessica filling in for Liana…

Liana has a lot going on at home right now and asked that she have the week off from blogging. Sometimes we get to a point that we just need to sit back and realize we need a break. It is important for us to know ourselves and know when we need to step back, take a breath and think about our needs.

Often when we have someone else in our house with a lot going on, like cancer, it is hard to think about ourselves. Many times we think that we need to put that other person first and then us. But – like I’ve said so many times before, we can’t do anything for someone else until we’ve helped ourselves. This week, Liana has done that and she has asked me to let you know why.

Last week, Liana’s family was told by her dad’s team of doctors that the tumor in his brain is growing and spreading to other parts of his brain. Right now, there are not any other treatments that will help to stop the growth of the tumor. There are some medicines available that will help with some of the side effects of the tumor to make him more comfortable, but nothing that will stop the growth of the tumor. Liana and her family are staying positive and are remaining optimistic about what will come next for her dad.

I thank Liana for allowing me to share this news with all of you. I hope that this will remind you that you are not alone and there are other people your age learning how to navigate cancer. Please keep this family and all families like Liana’s in your thoughts as they navigate the road ahead.


Jessica

Friday, November 5, 2010

Glass Half Full - Impressions of an Oncology Social Worker

“You work in oncology? Isn’t that depressing?”

I hear this a lot. Actually I get almost that same reaction in some form each time I tell someone what I do. I’ve gotten used to it, and it doesn’t surprise me. What does seem surprising to some, though, is my response. No, it isn’t depressing. Of course there are some sad times, given the nature of the work. However, “sad” isn’t how I would describe the overall feeling I get when I am with my clients. Amazed, inspired and encouraged better describe the effect they have on me.

I am always amazed by the strength and resiliency of the survivors who cross my path. I have learned so much from them about finding inner strength and about finding blessings and hope when things seem to be falling apart. I have watched survivors endure surgeries and treatments that do their best to knock them down, yet they find that strength to get up and keep going.

I also see this same type of strength in caregivers. They often willingly and lovingly make many sacrifices to care for their loved ones. These demonstrations of selflessness and love are inspirational and encouraging.

When people make the assumption that my job would be depressing, I often wonder if they know any cancer survivors. Have they ever really talked to someone who has battled this disease? Because regardless of whether someone has finished his or her fight or is still fighting, I believe there is a lot to be learned. Not how sad it is to have to battle a disease such as cancer, though this is undeniably so, but rather how amazing, inspiring, and encouraging it is to know someone with the strength and grace to battle a disease such as cancer.

Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - talking about cancer

It’s Jessica, chiming in for Liana this week!

Is it difficult for you to talk about cancer? When someone asks about your parent who may not know they have cancer, is it easy for you to tell other people that your parent has cancer? Or when someone asks you how you’re doing with everything, are you able to answer honestly?

Sometimes it is easier for us to pretend that are handling things ok and not deal with things that bother us. And yes, I will agree, in the moment it is probably less painful to hide our emotions and pretend we don’t feel bad or upset about something. However, in the long run not dealing with these feelings causes more trouble down the line. If we find a useful way to work out our negative feelings, then later we will be better equipped to handle them in other situations.

So this week if you don’t already have someone, find a person with whom you are comfortable talking and can share your feelings. Some people who can be helpful in listening to you would be one or both of your parents, another close relative, a friend’s parent, teacher, counselor or even someone at a religious group you are apart of.

Share with us some people you have found helpful to talk to and with whom you feel comfortable sharing.


Jessica

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Memory Lane

Heyyy!
Lately I've been thinking (and yes, it did hurt :P) about a year and a half ago. That was when my daddy was healthy.

It seems like it's been a century. But the things that keep coming to mind are our traditions. Every Saturday morning we'd get up early and head off to garage sales and thrift stores. After we were done bargain hunting we'd get bagels. :)

What's your favorite memory of when your parent was healthy? Do you have any mementos from that memory? Mine is a ring that my dad bought be at the thrift store for ten cents. I never take it off.

Love~ Liana

Amidst all of the chaos and changes you are probably experiencing right now, looking back and thinking about some of the fun things you did before cancer entered your life can be a really fun thing to do. It can also be somewhat painful to think about how things were and how much they have changed since then. But, as we’ve talked about in previous blogs, change happens and embracing that change and finding ways to make it work for you is going to make that change bearable.

So, if you haven’t taken time to think about some of your memories you have of your family traditions, do that this week. If those traditions can continue – make it your mission to make sure that happens and enjoy every minute of it! If those traditions aren’t really possible right now, find a way to maybe change it a little so you could still do it or make a new tradition, something that is special and meaningful to your family.

As a side note –Wednesdays with Liana was started 3 months ago! Thank you to all of you who have read and enjoyed our words each week, and we encourage you to share your story. This blog is for you, the readers, and we would love to incorporate your experiences and thoughts each week. Please know that this is a place for you to share and get input from others and that your words will be greatly welcomed!!

If you would like to read more about Liana, her story and how and why this blog was started please read a lovely article about her in the Charlotte Observer.

Have a great week!

Jessica

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - To Complain or not to Complain?

Hey y'all! Liana here.
Complaining. Something your parents tell you not to do. And when your parent was diagnosed, the complaints were endless.


Have you found that at school, church, temple, etc, people complain about the littlest things? My hair wouldn't straighten, my parents wouldn't buy me Oreos, it's cold out. You probably whine about this stuff too.

I find that when someone complains about a little non-important detail in their life, it irks me. I usually look at that person and say "yeah. You're life is soooo hard." Sarcasm of course. This usually gets me an apology.

Sometimes I realize this isn't the best way to go. I'm probably the only person that does that. :)

Tell me your experience with this in comments below!!!!!


Since your parent’s diagnosis, how has your perspective on things changed? Do things other people do or say affect you differently now? Do you complain less? Do you value time with family or friends more than you did before?
Tell us what has changed for you.

Jessica

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wedesdays with Liana - Defining Cancer

Cancer. We know it's a disease. We know it's life threatening. We know it can be cured. These are things our brain knows about cancer. But what does your heart know?

I asked my friends to tell me their own definition of cancer. I got many varied answers, but the same meaning behind them. My friend Maddie said, "[Cancer is] an illness that brings many tears, but with hope and a positive attitude it can be conquered!"

Elizabeth defined cancer as "a disease that not only slows you down a bit, but can make you stronger throughout the time you have it."

Carson responded with, "Cancer is a challenge that can be overcome. Cancer is a test that tests our strength. Cancer is a monster. Cancer is a heartbreaker. Overall, cancer is something we can fight."

My BFF Nikki says, "Cancer is a lethal illness that causes pain, heartbreak, and many many tears. But if you are mentally and emotionally strong you can get through it. And once you beat it, you can do anything!"

Mine? My definition is all of these combined. "Cancer is a disease that pretty much stinks. It changes schedules, people's physically strength and feelings toward life. But it will not change the way you feel about the sick person. It will not take over your life. And it will not win."

Tell me yours and what you think about the ones my friends came up with!

My friend's grandmother has cancer. We can not let cancer beat her grandma. Please keep her in your prayers.

Liana

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Managing Pain

Pain management is a common concern for many cancer survivors especially when newly diagnosed. I’m often asked, “What is the best way to manage my pain?”

Effective communication with your health care team is the best defense in managing pain. It’s important to paint an accurate picture for your oncologist describing the type of pain, where it falls on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the most severe, how often it occurs, how long it lasts, and what attempts you have already made in eliminating it.

If your oncologist has prescribed pain medication, be sure to follow the instructions in order to stay ahead of the pain. Also be sure to let your oncologist know if it is not working effectively in reducing the pain or is causing uncomfortable side effects. You may also try complementary non-medical techniques such as guided imagery, meditation, and acupuncture.

What worked best for you in managing your pain?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Helping Hands

People love to help.

Have you noticed that people are trying to help out your family more since your parent was diagnosed? Maybe they cook you dinner or do errands.

We've been getting dinners a lot lately and that makes it much easier on my mom - one less thing she has to do. Also, my friends’ parents are happy to carpool me. My daddy's friends hang out with him on certain days and drive him around to errands.

Are people helping you out more? If so, do you feel like you owe them? I do! So I always thank them profusely.

Signed Liana

What Liana’s family has been able to do is wonderful! When things like a new baby or a death or someone getting sick or hurt happens, the first question many others always ask is, “What can I do to help?” Many times, most families will say something like “If I think of something, I’ll let you know.” Then – they never really ask anyone for things they really need!

Having an answer to that question will not only help your family, but it will also help the person who is helping you. Sounds strange I know! But – for someone not going through what you’re going through it’s hard for them to imagine your circumstances and they probably feel pretty clueless. But if you and your family are able to identify ways they can help you, it will help to make them feel included and give them a way to feel like they’re giving back to you.

Liana’s family has some great suggestions – someone to help with carpooling, meals, someone to hang out with mom or dad while everyone else is at school or work.

Some other ideas you can ask people to do are something as simple as prayer if that’s important to you, running errands for your family, or watching your animal if you go out of town for treatment.

If you feel like you have all of these things covered, you could ask friends and family to donate to a cancer organization that maybe has helped your family or join a local walk that benefits cancer in honor of your parent.

Jessica

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Heroes Don't Have to Have Capes

Right now in school, in my language arts class, we are talking about heroes. The first person that came to mind...was not my dad L

But when we had to write an essay on our hero, I did pick my dad. To me he is a hero. He never once complains about being sick.

In class we talked about what characteristics a hero has. My dad is brave, strong, determined and kind.

Who's your hero?? Even if it's not your mom or dad, what characteristics could make them a hero?

Liana

So, I was not going to add to Liana’s words this week because her words were so powerful to me when I first read them. How cool that Liana was able to admit that, at first, she did not recognize her father as a hero, but once she thought about the characteristics of a hero, she saw those things in her dad! BUT – through my work this week I made some observations that inspired me to share!

Think about the last time you were sick or hurt – Did you go to school? If you work, did you go to work? When you were home did you do your normal chores? Did you do a modified version of your normal daily routine? Or did you lie on the couch or in your bed and do nothing at all?

Did you feel bad for yourself that you were hurt or sick? Or did you have a positive attitude about it and help everyone around you feel better about you being hurt or sick?

I’m going to make an assumption and bet that for most of you, your routine changed a bit and you did less than you normally do in terms of school, work and chores. And although you may not have been a total grump, at times you were not thrilled with the situation and maybe complained or felt sorry for yourself just a bit.

You are HUMAN and all of those things are normal and okay. We tend to forget that our parents are HUMAN TOO! When mom or dad is sick, especially if they have cancer or if their spouse or partner has cancer, they’re going to feel bad at times, do less and maybe even be a little grumpy. They have a lot going on, and unlike a cold or everyday sickness we get, their fatigue, nausea and pain doesn’t go away in a matter of days. They deal with these things sometimes on a daily basis for days or weeks on end.

Often, they don’t get the luxury of calling in to work. Someone has to support the family. They also don’t get to skip the daily chores; someone has to clean the house, walk the dog and have something for dinner. Just like all of us, they are going to have grumpy or tired days, days where they do not feel like doing anything. It may be occasionally, or you may feel that they’re in a bad mood for days on end.

So, instead of being mad that they’re in a bad mood, just sit for a moment and think about what it is like to be in mom or dad’s shoes. They’re either tired of being sick or tired of having their spouse or partner be sick. Understand they don’t like this situation any more than you do. Take a minute to look at all that they are doing. Then – when you can’t take their grumpiness or bad mood anymore – FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT BETTER! Offer to help with some additional things, offer to do something that you know they enjoy. Let them know you love them and that you are supporting them in this journey.


Take a few minutes this week to find commonality between your parents and what Webster says is a hero:

Definition of HERO

1a : a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b : an illustrious warrior c : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d : one that shows great courage

4: an object of extreme admiration and devotion : idol

Jessica

Thursday, September 16, 2010

By any other name…

Yesterday, I was asked by a client: “Why is it that you call me a survivor when I just started treatment?”

My response was to ask her what she would like to be called. She sort of shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t know. I guess a fighter. I can’t consider myself a survivor until it’s over.”

So I said, “Great, I will call you a fighter.” But later as I pondered our conversation I struggled with my response to her. I wanted to ask “When is it over?” Sure, some say when you have no evidence of cancer on a scan it is over. Others believe if you live five years without a recurrence or new detection of cancer then it is over. But is there truly a defining moment?

I wanted to ask her why she can’t consider herself a survivor. Each day she lives beyond her diagnosis she has survived cancer. Whether she is in treatment or completes treatment she is a survivor. Whether she is fighting for seven minutes or seven years she is still a survivor.

Isn’t a survivor by any other name still a survivor? Let me hear your thoughts bloggers?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - finding answers

Hi all! It's Jessica again, chiming in for Liana.

Here's a question: How much do you know about your parent’s cancer diagnosis? Do you just know they have cancer, do you know that mom or dad is getting chemo or radiation or do you know every little detail of their treatment plan?

This can vary between households. Sometimes as teens and young adults we don’t want all of the details; sometimes we do. Sometimes adults don’t tell us all the details because they want to protect us. How is this for you? Do you wish you knew more, less or are you comfortable with your knowledge?

The National Cancer Institute has a great website, www.cancer.gov. They have information specifically for teens and young adults who have a parent with cancer. It has a lot of information geared toward you and where you are in life and how that relates to your parent having cancer. They also have information about a cancer diagnosis, explain different treatments in terms that aren’t hard to understand and even talk about the side effects that go along with those treatments.

For me personally, I feel more comfortable in a situation where I have some knowledge of what to expect. There are times when we will not have prior knowledge, but fortunately with cancer, there is information out there to help you be better informed and prepared.

So I hope that you will take the time to ask questions and do some research if there are things you have questions about or aren’t sure about. Open the lines of communication this week if you feel out of the loop. Unless you let mom or dad know, they aren’t mind readers! If they don’t tell you a lot, it may be because they think you don’t want to know and if that’s not the case, TELL THEM! Just remember, anyone can post anything on the Internet. Check out websites like cancer.gov, Cancercare, or the American Cancer Society that you know are reputable sites.

Jessica

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - The Power of Positive Thinking

Hi there! It's Jessica, chiming in for Liana this week.

I hope you all are having a nice week, and if you're in Charlotte schools - I hope you are enjoying your two-day week! If you're like I was in school, I counted down until my next break. I am an active and social person, therefore I did not enjoy spending my the majority of my day sitting inside a classroom. Needless to say, days off were truly a blessing to me!

This week, think about things you're not very excited about, whether they relate to mom or dad having cancer or not. Then, brainstorm ideas to make those things a little more enjoyable or pleasant to you. By trying to stay optimistic, sometimes those bad things don't seem so bad - they just need a little bit of positive light!

Spend this week making your life a little less stressful (recharge those batteries!) and find things in your life you do enjoy and are thankful for to make those not-so-fun things a little more enjoyable.

Please send positive thoughts to all those you know who are fighting cancer!

Jessica

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hand In Hand


When I see a couple walking hand in hand on the beach, two children walking hand in hand after a full day on the playground, or even thinking about walking with one of my children hand in hand, a warm feeling of comfort comes to mind. The comfort that comes in knowing that someone will be there for you to walk with you, hand in hand, on your journey makes me think of the wonderful opportunity I have when I come into contact with the cancer patients and their loved ones.

I hope Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center gives the patient and their loved ones the same comfort of walking with someone hand in hand. Our goal is to meet people where they are -- which could be a newly diagnosed patient, one who has a recurrence, or someone facing the end of life. Their emotions, full of anxiety, anger, fear, or sadness, can be a challenge, as we sometimes become the target of those emotions.

One way I hope to bring a little comfort to the cancer patients I meet is when I help them find the resources they need to help them get through their treatment. Our Hand In Hand grant was established to provide direct help to patients when their resources are low. This grant is a one-time financial assistance with housing and utility bills. Feel free to share your story of how a Hand In Hand grant helped you. Know someone who needs a helping hand? Have them call 704-384-5223 to get connected.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Being a Helper

Do you guys find you’re helping a lot more? I do.

Not just chores.

My daddy has a brain tumor so he's confused a lot. He can't read or write very well. I usually have to either read something to him or write something for him.

I also find that I'm trying my best to help my mom out. Whether it's getting her something or just staying out of the way.

I want things to be easy for my parents, or as easy as their life can get ;) .

What about you? Are you doing more things for your parents? And what about chores? Less or more??

Signed Liana

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - New Responsibilities

Not only have things changed in the home with your sick parent, your healthy parent has changed too. The caregiver (someone who takes care of the sick person) has a lot on their mind. If your ill parent can't drive or work, the caregiver has a lot of things that they have to do. It's very stressful. My mommy is a strong woman. She takes care of daddy, takes care of me and Derek, works, drives us places, and still finds time to buy us a candy bar. J

Yet, she is more tired. Whenever she has the chance, she wants to relax. I understand that, but I sometimes want to be with her. How has your caregiver changed? Do you find that he/she is exhausted? Tell me in comments below!!

Signed Liana

Change change change. With change comes more change. As your parent with cancer is able to do less, the parent without cancer must do more. Last week I shared some ways that you can work to help out both parents with the added responsibilities and I hope you were able to use some of those ideas and work to accept some of those changes and find a way to make them work for you.

Now that you’ve thought about ways you can help your parent with more responsibilities, this gives them more time to do things for themselves. Having time to do something for themselves like taking a bath, going for a walk or just spending some time alone is important. Our bodies function similar to our cell phone batteries; if we use our phone texting and talking all day, eventually our battery is going to die and we have to plug it in to recharge. If we run our bodies down both physically and emotionally by working, running errands, doing all of the household chores and being the strong person for the person who is sick and we don’t give ourselves time to recharge, our batteries are going to go dead. Just like taking time to plug in our phones, we’ve got to find time to recharge ourselves. Your parents need time to do this. Sometimes, they may need to do this alone, but other times they would probably enjoy doing it with you.

So, it is important that you recognize your parent needs this time. It would also be helpful to let them know your feelings about it. Let them know you feel like you don’t get to spend as much time with them, but that you also understand they need down time. Then, give them solutions to go along with your concerns. Come up with ways you can be with them while they find time to relax. Set a time each week that you go on a walk together, or plan time to go get your hair or nails done, or if money is tight, plan a spa night at home: surprise your parent and have dinner ready for them and then sit and eat together. Come up with ideas that you know will help your parent to relax and “recharge” that you can do together!

As school is starting for many of you this week, it is important to find time for this because you will now also have more responsibility. Take time to care for yourselves so that you have the energy to give your best at school!!

Jessica

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Good Change, Bad Change

Hey everyone! Liana here.
When your parent was diagnosed with cancer, a lot of things changed. Your schedule for activities might have changed, your parents’ schedule might’ve changed, but a big change is in the home.

I find that I’m helping a lot more than I used to. Loading the dishwasher, feeding my dogs and doing laundry. Do you feel like you’re doing a lot more chores than usual?
Also, my dad gets tired a lot and takes naps every now and then. I have to be quiet sometimes so I don’t disturb him.

I have an older brother who is in high school. He was always mean to me, like a brother should be. But ever since daddy was diagnosed, he’s been slightly more cruel. If you have a sibling, how do they act? Do you guys get along more? Or just the opposite, like me and my brother? If you don’t a brother or sister, do you sometimes feel alone?
Can’t wait to hear from you!

Signed, Liana


Change is never easy, but change caused by a cancer diagnosis can be especially difficult. These are changes that families are forced to make that you probably have a lot of negative feelings toward. So, trying to have a positive attitude and stepping up to share some of the new responsibilities will make it easier for everyone in your family and maybe make it seem a little less difficult.

So, instead of waiting for mom or dad to tell you to take out the trash or help with the laundry and you possibly arguing with them over it, just go ahead and take out the trash when you see it get full or put it on the curb when you know it’s trash day. Go ahead and load the dishwasher when the sink is full or walk the dog. By you taking initiative and doing extra things around the house, it may make your parents less stressed, which may make the cancer experience a little less difficult.

Your challenge this week is to find one change that you don’t like and then think about something that changed but that you actually like - one positive!!
Jessica

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Caring Counts!

What's up? It's Liana!

I love to hang out with my friends! My friends have always been there for me, especially when my dad’s tumor grew back. Some of my friends read my daddy's CaringBridge (an online journal of how he's doing). All of them ask me how he's doing. I think it's so sweet! But other than that we don’t really talk about it. When my friends come over to hang out, they don't treat my dad any different than any other human. What about you? Do you and your friends talk about your sick parent at all? How do your friends act around your parent? Answer me in comments below!

Signed Liana

For a lot of teens during junior high or high school is when you start talking to your parents less and less and talking to your friends more about things you maybe used to talk with your parents about. It’s a natural thing and it happens in a lot of families, as we grow and mature our support system changes. You may have that one best friend that you tell everything to or a close group of friends that you share a lot with. But, how do you talk to a friend about something that they may have no clue about…like CANCER?!?

It is often intimidating for you, the person who has a parent with cancer to talk with your friends about it, or it might be hard for them to talk with you about it.

Here are some tips for talking with your friends:

  • Your friends may not know what to say or how to approach the subject, so if you’re comfortable, bring it up with them. You can either tell them it’s ok with you if they ask questions, or let them know that you’re still struggling with it and it’s difficult for you to talk about it. But, that if you want to talk, you will let them know.
  • If your parent has a Caring Bridge page, or another website with information and updates, you can share that with them so they can read and follow how your parent is doing.
  • If you feel as if your friends are more distant and you don’t see them as often, it may be that they feel like they would bother you if they came around or that you’re busy now. Talk with them about this, tell them that you miss spending time together, and that you know things are different with you, but you would still like to hang out and set up time to see them.
  • As long as you are able to communicate how you’re feeling either by talking about it or letting them know that it’s too hard to talk about it right now, they’ll be able to stay in the loop. Just like you want to know how your parent is doing and how they’re feeling, your friends want to know how you are too!

Have a great week!

Jessica

Monday, August 9, 2010

Things to consider before returning to work

If you are planning to return to work during treatment or immediately after, take a moment to consider how treatment will impacted your ability to perform your job duties. Are you used to working long hours, traveling? Is your position physically demanding or emotionally draining? All these factors coupled with cancer-related fatigue may not allow you to continue at the same pace.

Those who experience “Chemobrain” are often frustrated in their workplace because of difficulty concentrating and producing and retaining information as easily as before their chemotherapy. Also, post-surgery pain may reduce your mobility or prevent you from being able to sit or stand for long periods without breaks.

The best way to cope? Talk to your employer about these possibilities before you return to work. Be realistic by asking for adjustments to help you perform better-at least during the transition phase. These adjustments can include a modified work environment or cutting back on job responsibilities.

You may also request that a manager or peer review your work until you feel comfortable with your ability to produce accurate data. Adopt the habit of writing everything down or use a tape recorder if your employer allows. Finally, find out about other resources available through your human resource department to help you until you are fully able to reintegrate into your past role. What tips and tricks worked for you when you transitioned back into work?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Traveling to Treatment

Hey! Liana here.

The hospital my daddy goes to is two hours from where we live. If my parents are away over night, during the school year, my grandparents will stay over. During the summer though, my brother and I stay at their house. Sometimes, I'll sleep over at my friends' house. What about you guys?

When they're away, I actually don’t think about it all that much. I don’t really worry about what they're going to tell me when they get home. I expect bad news so that way I don’t get my hopes up. Plus, if it is bad news, it doesn’t hurt as much.

Do you guys worry when your parent has a "check-up"? Do you ever wish you could be a fly on the wall and know what’s going on? Or, do you go with your parent to their appointments? Tell us in a comment below!

Signed, Liana

One thing that all cancer treatments have in common is doctor’s appointments and many times, LOTS of doctor’s appointments. For some families, the doctor’s office is just down the street, for others it is a few hours and for others it can even be across the country. Regardless of how far your parent travels to see the doctor, those “check-up” appointments are stressful. These appointments are where you hear things like whether the treatment is working or not, what the next phase of treatment is going to be and how it will make you feel or the dreaded, the cancer is back.

Some teens go to these appointments with their parents and others don’t for different reasons. Obviously, cancer doesn’t schedule itself around the school year or other activities and events you have going on.

How does this work in your family? Does it make you feel better if you can go to the doctor with your mom or dad or it is easier for you to not go? What things do you do to make these times less stressful for you? What is communication like between you and your parents after these appointments? Do they tell you everything or do you want to know everything?

Jessica

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Introducing Wednesdays with Liana!

Hey! I'm Liana! I am thirteen years old.

My daddy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in February 2009. Since then, he has had 2 brain surgeries and 2 recurrences. I don't have a lot of friends who are going through the same thing as me so I know what it is like to feel misunderstood.

I hope this blog helps a lot of teens find that they are not alone. Leave comments below!!

This week just introduce yourself and tell us your encounter with cancer.
Signed, Liana


Hello! My name is Jessica and I am one of the social workers at Presbyterian Hospital. I work with children, teens and young adults who have cancer as well as children, teens and young adults who have a parent with cancer.

As Liana has expressed, having a parent with cancer can be overwhelming and you may often find yourself feeling like no one understands you. This blog is a place for teens and young adults who have a parent with cancer to meet others who also have a parent with cancer and learn from one another. It’s a safe space to express your thoughts and feelings.

I look forward to hearing from those who find our blog and learning of your experiences!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A new voice on the Buddy Kemp blog

What could you have in common with a 13-year-old girl? It could be a lot; it could be a little. One thing you are guaranteed to share, however, is a cancer connection.

Meet Liana. This bright young lady knows cancer all too well. Her father has been fighting brain cancer for over a year now. Liana wants to reach out to others who are going through a similar experience, and she felt this blog was a great way to share her thoughts and feelings and see what voices there are that need to be heard.

Because Liana and her mission to reach out to others are so special, we have decided to dediate a weekly posting to her. Wednesdays with Liana starts tomorrow, so we hope you'll check in, feel at home and CONNECT!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Benefits of Attending a Support Group

You’ve just been told that you have cancer and you’re feeling tearful and unable to manage your emotions. Or maybe you’re in the middle of treatment and struggling with side effects. You could even have just completed treatment and feel you’re still not free from the cancer cloud and the dreaded fear of recurrence.

Attending a support group can be beneficial during any of these situations as well as any others that cause you distress. Many survivors tend to isolate themselves with these concerns, and attending a support group can help alleviate them by learning that you are not alone. “But wait,” you say. “I don’t want to hear other people’s horror stories. Besides, I can only relate to someone with my type of cancer, who is my age, or has my same family situation, etc.”

This may be true at times, but overall most people who take that first step and attend a support group find that there are many generalities with a cancer diagnosis that bring about a sense of normalcy with regards to what you are experiencing.

I often suggest that a survivor attend a support group for the first time with an expectation that you will not relate to everybody’s experience; however you can pick and choose the things that you identify with and take those points away with you. What support groups have you attended and what was your experience like?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Good Advocate Can Go a Long Way

Cancer patients who are less stressed and receive services quicker often have a good advocate. Good advocates I have seen include a patient’s coworker, a patient’s parent, and the patient himself.

One time a patient asked her coworker to assist her after she was diagnosed with cancer. This coworker got online and started researching resources, and she found Buddy Kemp and several other organizations. She collected all the information needed and helped the patient fill out and submit the applications. The patient then described the relief she felt when these things were done and she could focus on her health and caring for her child.

Another patient had a mother who took on the advocate role. As an independent adult the patient didn’t want his siblings involved because the patient felt that his siblings would not follow his wishes or keep his health information confidential. Although his mother didn’t always agree, she was a great advocate because she respected and followed his wishes. This patient also stated his mother kept up with his appointment schedule, which was very complicated at times.

Another patient, newly diagnosed with cancer, turned out to be her own best advocate. She recognized that she needed help to navigate her cancer journey. She was referred to Buddy Kemp and explained her situation. She needed help but she also wanted to do as much as she could on her own. I gave her information about resources and how to access the services. We then came up with a plan for her to solicit help if she needed it.

Please keep in mind that, when you have friends and family who want to help, you should be prepared to give them specific tasks that you need done, i. e., organize medical bills, feed the pets, organize a transportation schedule, shop for groceries, etc., so they can advocate your wishes.

Feel free to share how your advocate lightened your load and made your journey less stressful.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dealing with a Diagnosis of Advanced Stage Breast Cancer

Learning that you have advanced stage breast cancer, whether during an initial diagnosis or if a recurrence has resulted in progression of disease, is difficult. To help process the information, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center provides a Metastatic Breast Cancer Support Group that meets twice a month. What women consistently say is that they feel different than women who are newly diagnosed or have curable disease. Finding support from other women who can relate to their issues, while difficult, is important because knowing that cancer will be something you’ll deal with for the rest of your life impacts how you rationally and emotionally approach the disease.

With any chronic illness, which is how advanced stage cancer is seen, coping with the long-term effects can be difficult not only for patients, but also for family and friends. Being proactive in one’s care and treatment is essential but can also be exhausting. Finding a support group or identifying ways to incorporate good self-care measures are just a few ways to aid in managing one’s care over the long term.

Are you or someone you love dealing with advanced stage disease? What are some tools that have helped you coped? What resources are you still looking for?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Financial Help for Cancer Patients - it's really out there!

In addition to the emotional and physical challenges of a cancer diagnosis, I often hear concerns about the financial hardship that occurs while a patient receives treatment. If your treatment prevents you from working or results in reduced or no income, how will you pay for your co-pays and medications? And with the added cost for your health care, how will you pay your rent and utilities during this time? Some patients use their savings, some borrow from family and friends, and others apply to the local and national programs that provide assistance with medications, transportation, housing and utilities. At Buddy Kemp, I help direct you to resources that may be helpful such as these agencies:

Cancer Care www.cancercare.org or 1-800-813-4673;

Needymeds www.needymeds.org

PAF Co-pay Relief Program www.copays.org or 1-866-512-3861,

Crisis Assistance Ministries www.crisisassistance.org or 704-371-3001.

What agencies and programs have you found helpful in your journey?

Monday, May 31, 2010

How do I live my life without always worrying that the cancer will come back?

This is a question that is asked by so many survivors. Once you have been faced with cancer, this fear will undoubtedly go through your head at some point. The anxiety about your upcoming scan or that ache that you have in your back can numb you with fear until it’s over and you know everything is fine. Until the next time. You want to stay positive, and you try your best, but you can’t get past that little voice saying, “What if...”

So what do you do to get through those times? Some survivors find that breathing exercises help them. Others use writing or meditation to calm themselves. Exercise, reading, or talking to a support person are also helpful. Do whatever helps you to feel calm and more in control of your thoughts. Be prepared. Be aware of what your triggers are. Then you will know when to expect the anxiety to increase and you can already be working to control it.

What are your triggers? What tools have worked for you when anxiety kicks in?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Should I take the keys?

When a loved one is cognitively affected due to brain cancer, metastasis, or treatment, many caregivers are left to make decisions about whether it is safe for their loved one to keep driving. The decision seems simple on the surface but guilt and sadness often creep up to cloud ones judgment. No caregiver wants to feel as though they are taking the independence of a loved one. After all they have already lost so much of their freedom because of cancer. Ultimately, it becomes not about simply when to “take the keys” but about what taking the keys represents.

My recommendation to caregivers is to let compassion guide you…but not to the point of irresponsibility. Together with the oncologist, have conversations about how cancer may affect thoughts and functioning. Be clear about a plan to move forward if your loved one should be affected. Ask your loved one to identify what it will “look” like when and if it is time to “take the keys”. Be creative about how you and your loved one can adjust your lifestyle and retain as much independence as possible.

What ways have you and your loved ones adapted to this and other challenges?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Celebrating Survivorship

Survivor’s Day will be Sunday, June 6, 2010, at Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center from 2-4pm. This year’s theme is “Seeds of Hope,” as survivors are planting seeds everyday on their journey, many with the support of family members, their medical community and with support groups and services offered through the Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center.

Celebrations are important, they signify milestones we have reached in our lives. When it comes to becoming a cancer survivor, everyday can become a celebration. On Survivors Day, cancer survivors take time out of busy schedules and routines to celebrate survivorship with other survivors , family and friends. There will be activities for all age groups, information on wellness and a delicious lunch.

It is important to set aside this time to honor one another as each survivor moves along on their journey. Have there been any other rituals you may have created to honor your own survivorship?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chemotherapy-related Hair Loss

I’ve just been told that I need to have chemo and will lose my hair! What should I do now?
A) Let my hair fall out on its own
B) Cut my hair short before my first treatment
C) Shave my head bald

After talking with many survivors who have been through this, the general consensus is “C”. Being diagnosed with cancer can be devastating in itself and for many people, especially women, the thought of “going bald” can cause a whole new firestorm of emotions. Losing your hair, no matter how prepared you think you are can bring on many tears, fears, and anxiety. I often suggest to those newly diagnosed to go ahead and shave your head about a week after your first treatment as a way to gain back a sense of control. It’s also important to allow yourself to grieve the loss of your hair while remembering that this is a temporary situation, your hair WILL grow back once you’ve completed your chemo. Any of the three options above will be the best choice for you. Which one would you pick?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lost in Translation

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can feel like your traveling in a foreign country, where you don’t know the language and customs, and you don’t have the maps to help you find your way home. Once a diagnosis is made you are likely to meet with an array of different specialists, undergo a variety of tests, and get bombarded with terms that sound as if there is a minimum letter quota in order to qualify as a medical term. While all this is occurring, it is reasonable to find it difficult to focus on what is being told to you because you are still trying to digest being diagnosed with cancer.

When learning a new language, having an interpreter or a guide can be of great assistance. When navigating through the initial phase of diagnosis, having someone with you at appointments and tests can help to document while you listen and verify that you both heard the same information. Words and terms that you don’t know or understand can be written down and researched. It is also important to let those who are providing care know if there is something you are unclear about or have questions that need to be answered before proceeding forward. Understanding the language and terminology will aid in helping to make decisions regarding treatment and care.

Two websites that might be helpful are: National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov and the American Cancer Society www.cancer.org. Both have a glossary of terms and are useful for support in many aspects of cancer care. Are there are tools that you have found helpful in navigating through the initial phase of a cancer diagnosis? If so, sharing them would be helpful for those in need of support.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Things People Say!

I often hear from cancer survivors about upsetting remarks that people make to them after learning the survivor has cancer. Since when did a cancer diagnosis make you fair game for unwanted advice from strangers? Is it acceptable for you to be asked if your hair loss is a result of chemo just to satisfy someone’s curiosity? Or worse yet, why are people compelled to tell survivors the horror story of a relative or friend going through chemo or that they knew someone who died from that?

I believe at some point each of us has said the wrong thing. Maybe we were uncomfortable with the silence and searched for words to fill the void. Maybe we wanted to encourage someone going through a difficult time but the soothing words missed their mark. Sometimes it is okay to say “I don’t know what to say” and offer your support rather than risk offending or upsetting a person. Be genuine and respect the privacy of someone who has cancer. Just as with any other illness, it is their personal choice to share their experience. If you are fortunate enough to be the one they share it with, don’t try to find words to fix it, just be a friend.

Share your experience…What have you heard that you wished you hadn’t and how did you respond?

Monday, March 29, 2010

To Tell or Not to Tell: Talking to Kids About Cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer brings a whirlwind of questions and concerns. Along with the stressors of your (or your spouse’s) diagnosis, you have to figure out what to tell your kids. How much is enough? How much is too much? How do we answer questions that we don’t even know the answers to?

Parents often feel an obligation to protect their children from this painful issue. However, keeping kids in the dark is not the best approach. It is important to realize that your children will be aware that something is going on. They will sense the stress, they may hear bits of conversations, or someone else may say something to them. When no information is shared with children, they often make their own assumptions, which are often inaccurate and very scary for them. They also may feel that they are not valued enough to be included in the conversations. When they are told, it is best that the information comes from you, keeping in mind that things need to be explained in an age-appropriate manner. To younger children you may say, “Mommy is sick and will be going to the doctor a lot,” or “The medicine will make mommy’s hair fall out, but it will come back.” Older children and teens can handle more details, though it is still not necessary for them to be told everything. The important thing is to let them know that they can talk about it and ask questions. They will find security in normalcy and routine, so keep as many things the same as possible, including discipline and responsibilities in the home. Because there are sure to be some changes in their routine, enlist friends and family to help out.

Children tend to cope better when there is a “team approach.” Let them know you are all in it together, and you need each other’s help to get through it. It’s OK for your kids to see you cry and to know you are afraid, but then they need that reassurance that they are going to be ok and that you are going to do all that you can to get better. Assure them that it was not their fault, that they did not cause the cancer, and that it is not contagious.

What about when they ask those tough questions? Be as honest as you can and assure them that you will tell them when there is something important to tell. Then be sure you follow through. The dreaded question of “Are you going to die?” is often asked by children. A good response to this is, “Not everyone who has cancer dies, and I am getting the best treatment the doctors can give me.” If, of course, a parent is not going to be doing anymore treatment the conversation needs to be more focused on preparing the child for what to expect. It is also good to have a close friend or relative whom the child trusts available to talk to them. Sometimes it is easier for children to say or ask difficult things to someone besides their parents. School or church counselors are good options as well.

A great resource for this topic is Cancer in the Family, by Heiney, Hermann, Bruss & Fincannon, published by the American Cancer Society 2001.

How have you handled this touchy situation? What approach has worked best for you? Please share!

Welcome friends!

Welcome to the Buddy Kemp blog! It's a busy world out there, and we understand that - with things like chemo, radiation, surgery and life in general - sometimes there simply aren't enough hours in a day to meet in person to talk about how cancer is impacting your life. Our hope is that the words on this page will provide you with thought-provoking support and dialogue while journeying through cancer treatment and beyond. We look forward to starting a conversation with you!