Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year? New Experiences!

The New Year is here and have you made a new resolution? I don’t know about you, but adding one more thing to my plate could be just one more thing to do, more pressure than I might already have in my life. To be honest, working at Buddy Kemp I am inspired every day by the stories of survivors who have added or, better said, incorporated something new into their life to bring meaning and fullness.

So maybe the New Year for you might be about looking and seeing all that is out there for you to experience. Here at Buddy Kemp we are trying to reach out to those who might be looking for a new experience. Here are a few ideas that might meet your New Year “new” expectations:
- Meditation through breathing and body movement. Our new Qi Gong class does just that. Join us the second Thursday of each month at 7pm.
- Doodling. Every Saturday in February from 10 – 11:30 a.m. you can come and let your creativity run wild! No strings attached, and there’ll even be an expert artist to help you hone your skills if you like.
- Drumming. This brings a new meaning to beating out stress! Join us for African Drumming the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.

It’s our resolution in 2012 to create more classes and programming based on what YOU want! Sooo… keep us posted! What can we do to make 2012 a more educational, entertaining, relaxing year for you?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, December 16, 2011

Defining the "New Normal"

One cannot say enough about the life changes that take place once a cancer diagnosis is given. The medical piece alone – the plan of care - can include months of weekly treatments and appointments with physicians.

Then there’s the other half of your life - the non-medical stuff – that you need to consider and change, including: exercise, nutrition and coping with the emotional aspects of cancer. Suffice to say, in many cases there becomes a “new normal,”

This “new normal” shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is a big deal to figure out what fits within your new routine. Places like Buddy Kemp offer programs and groups for cancer survivor and family members to get the support they need to help define and adjust to the “new normal.” Many also find it helpful to be among other survivors, as the camaraderie offers support in making the changes that might work for you.

Regardless, there are no rules for what’s right or what’s wrong in creating a “new normal.” Let us know what has been helpful to you!

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Power of Relationships...

I heard on the news this morning that the idea that there are six degrees of separation between any two people on Earth has now decreased to 4.75 degrees of separation. This concept that we are on average a mere 4.75 steps away from a common connection to each other started me thinking about the connection between cancer survivors.

I consistently see survivors and their families develop bonds with other survivors they meet along the cancer journey. What begins as crossing paths in a radiation waiting room or infusion center can flourish into a deep and meaningful relationship. The bond is not always obvious as it forms but it is apparent when you hear them lightly reference each other as “members of the club” (referring to routine visits to the chemotherapy infusion rooms). Even survivors who are more reserved in making relationships with other survivors show evidence of a bond when they inquire about a familiar face that is absent from where they expect to see them.

This says a lot about the power of human relationships and the impact that we have on others around us. No, it may not be your intention to build a relationship with someone who is going through cancer. Your focus most likely is surviving and getting through treatment but the natural empathy that each of us possesses draws us to have concern for one another.

Although it is not your intention to inspire or encourage, recognize that the power of your presence can inspire and does encourage. Remember this the next time you are walking through the infusion room or waiting for your oncology appointment. Be mindful of those around you and how your kind word or friendly smile may be a gift to a newly diagnosed person - the fuel that helps motivate them on their path to survivorship.

How do you connect with other survivors?

~ Tiffany, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, giving thanks and, of course, turkey and pumpkin pie. It also kicks off a holiday season filled with family traditions, shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, traveling, rushing, timelines, stress, anxiety…… whew!

Just thinking about all these things can make a person tired, especially if they are going through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It’s not uncommon for cancer survivors to become overwhelmed with trying to sustain family holiday traditions while at the same time worrying about low blood counts, upcoming treatment schedules, side effects and fatigue. They may also be experiencing fear and sadness that this might be their last holiday.

This holiday season as you are trying to find “your new normal,” take time to evaluate what’s important to you and to your family. Maybe think about creating a new tradition or streamlining some of the old ones. Or better yet, ask your family how they would like to spend the holidays this year; you may be surprised with what you will hear.

And if you feel that keeping with tradition is what will bring some much-needed normalcy to your life, then go for it. So as you celebrate this special time with your loved ones - whatever you decide to do -just remember to take time to sit back and enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

~ Lorraine
Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Monday, October 31, 2011

Caregivers: What have you done for YOU lately?

Before a plane takes off, flight attendants advise you to secure your oxygen mask first before helping others. That’s good advice. If you don’t take care of yourself, you may not be able to help those who need your help. See, when you take care of yourself, everyone benefits. The same philosophy applies to cancer caregivers.

As caregivers it’s important to maintain activities and relationships that are meaningful. Treat yourself: Take a bath. Get a massage. Listen to your favorite music. Read an uplifting or inspirational book. Enjoy the fall leaves on a walk. Take time to maintain your friendships. Caring for another does not mean giving up your own needs and desires.

Being a caregiver can be a tough job, so get support. Joining a support group like Caregiver’s Connection provides support, understanding and helpful information for caregivers. Caregiver’s Connection meets every Thursday at Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center from 2 – 3 p.m. In We’ll even have a special guest the first Thursday in January, a speaker will present on applying for disability and other financial matters. vers,

It’s also important to pamper yourself every now and again. After all, you deserve it! Join us for our 2nd Annual Caregiver’s Retreat on November 10 from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p. m. Caregivers of cancer patients will be served lunch, hear a presentation by Josephine Hicks, author of “If There’s ANYTHING I Can Do: What You Can Do When Serious Illness Strikes,” enjoy chair massages and demonstrations for yoga, tai chi and chi gong. Please let us know you’re coming! RSVP is requested by November 8 at 704-384-5223.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Metastatic Breast Cancer - Living Stronger, Living Longer

There is no doubt the face of Stage IV breast cancer is changing. With advances in treatment also comes extension of survival, to the point that a metastatic diagnosisis treated more like a chronic disease rather than a terminal diagnosis.

Because of this, the need arose for a separate support group, as those with metastatic disease felt they had different needs than women who were still hopeful for a cure. For women with primary disease (when it hasn’t spread to other parts of the body) the focus is more on cure, recovery and life after treatment. For women with metastatic cancer, their focus is different because they live with the awareness they will have this disease for the rest of their life.

A few years back, two local stage IV survivors (and, in my opinion, very empowered women), spearheaded the group that now meets once, if not twice, a month. Common topics of the group include sharing treatment information, giving tips on dealing with side effects, and offering questions to ask their doctor. These women realize their life depends on these treatments and that staying informed is empowering. In fact, they share a common goal, which is to live their best life today and continue to hope for tomorrow.

Also thanks to this group's efforts, a special educational session is being held on Oct. 13 for stage IV survivors and their families. Participants are invited and encourage to grill a panel of medical experts with as many questions as they can think of! Even better - a light dinner will be served at 6 p.m. Interested? Call to register: 704-384-5223.

This event celebrates the proclamation of Oct. 13 as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. While a lot of work still needs to be done, we're making strides toward educating the community about what it means to live with this disease.

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Monday, September 12, 2011

Time for Work Again!

Returning to work after completing chemotherapy can be a very anxiety-driven time. For many survivors, this anxiety is based on fears such as:

  • Fear that fatigue will prevent them from keeping up with the pace of their job.
  • Fear of the impact their chemo brain will have on their ability to do their job well.
  • And for some, it’s a fear of what the future will bring.

Returning to work should be viewed as a sign of gaining back some normalcy in life and can be eased into with the right preparation. You may ask, “How do I do this?” Here are some tips to help prepare you for a great first day back on the job:

  • Use the old standby suggestion of making lists, using a daily planner or monthly calendar to keep organized. It really does help.
  • Practice doing word and number games or puzzles to get your mind thinking again and sharp as a tack.
  • Meditate or practice a deep breathing relaxation exercise every day to reduce anxiety.
  • Consider a Loving Kindness Meditation and spread the love to yourself as well as your co-workers.
  • Start back to work part-time if possible, especially for the first week or two.
  • Allow time in your day to rest - even a few minutes will make you feel rejuvenated.
  • Take a walk at lunch time and get some fresh air.
  • But most of all have faith in yourself and your abilities.

After all, you are a SURVIVOR!

~ Lorraine Silvano, LCSW, OSW-C
Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, September 2, 2011

To the Summit!

Our very own Teal Diva, Shannon Routh, posted on her blog that today is summit day on their trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Check out her journey thus far, and help us in wishing her well on her ascent!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Young Adult Dilemma

Issues for young adult survivors can be very different from any other age group affected by cancer. Managing a family, being able to have a family, and dating all suddenly seem difficult and surreal.

Going through treatment may spark early menopause or decrease fertility in women and men, and fertility treatments can be very expensive. The issue of raising a family spans all stages of life, but it can prove seemingly impossible for those who have been ill.

What place does this take in your life now? It seems like you don’t have time to stop. The fear of losing your job hovers, especially if you’re the breadwinner. The mere thought of dating seems tedious and foreboding, as you’re unsure when and how to share your health history, and if you’ll be able to find people to relate to.

In times like these, it is essential to reach out and use your resources. The American Cancer Society is able to connect you to people your age with similar struggles. Now is the time to accept help and look for support. Realize you can’t do it all and be forgiving. You are human and have to take care of yourself. By establishing a good communication structure with your medical team, the lines will be open for any help you may receive. A key factor to keep in mind is that support can come in many different forms.

What types of support have proven the most helpful to you or someone you know?

Are you interested in being part of Presbyterian's new young survivor committee? Email us to let us know!

~ Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, July 22, 2011

Konquering Kancer - 1 year, 5 months and 4 days

Thanks to Shannon R., ovarian cancer survivor and Teal Diva founder, for sharing her thoughts about her journey with Kancer. Shannon will be facing another challenge in the coming weeks: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise ovarian cancer awareness. If you were to write a letter to Kancer, what would you say?

Dear Kancer,

It has been a while since we last spoke; one year, five months and four days, to be exact. I am appreciative of you respecting my wishes and keeping your distance. So, I bet you are curious why I am writing again. Well, I’ve got this ‘thing’ coming up, which I will talk a little more in just a bit because it is really why I am writing and perhaps why you may hear from me again soon. Because of this ‘thing,’ the folks at Presbyterian asked me to write on their blog from time to time in an effort to raise awareness and introduce people to why I am doing this ‘thing’.

As a reminder of where I was in thought one year, five months and four days ago, I have included my last letter to you.

Dear Kancer, Tomorrow I hope to say goodbye for good. While it has been interesting getting to know you and though I am forever changed by you, I am happy to part ways. I was extremely scared of you in September, but now I no longer fear you. I know that God gives me the strength to face you! He will not give me more than I can handle. You have scarred me not only physically but emotionally. I have tried to overcome you by having a positive attitude and not let you get me down. You have made it tough. You have made my body weak. There are days I am physically tired and just plain worn out. Days I find it hard to lift a finger or move even a toe. I still can't look at my scars. And as of last night, I am 37 pounds heavier. I absolutely hate the way I look and feel. And I have become more aware of people around me...what I mean by that is that I notice all of my shortcomings in everyone that passes me by. So you have left me in a state of mind I have never been in before. You have given new meaning to soul searching. But on a positive note, you have given me the knowledge to help others. You have slowed me down - in a good way - by teaching me to appreciate life more. You have brought my husband and me closer together. You have reconnected me with people I otherwise may not have reconnected with. I have met other women who also know you personally. You made me a stronger woman. So farewell kancer. Thank you for the goo;, thank you for the bad. Both are shaping me for the person I am meant to be. I will get there and I will be stronger when I do. Shannon

Well, I have come along way since this letter. I have gained a lot of my strength back. There certainly were days when I questioned if I would ever be able to walk farther than the end of my street without tiring out, thanks to you. Now, I can not only walk to the end of the street without tiring, but I can run four miles. I ran a 5k and an 8k and finished both. One thing you have taught me is to slow down. Life is not a race. I definitely do things at my own pace.

This brings me to that ‘thing’ I mentioned earlier.

On August 29, I will be standing at the base of a huge obstacle; one that is 19, 340 feet above sea level. I will be a half-mile above sea level looking up. Yes, I am climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

Now, why in the world do I care if you know about this? Besides the fact that I am happy to have the strength and willpower to even attempt it, you two have a lot in common.

Kancer, you are/were my Kilimanjaro. I want to look at this mountain in front of me the same way I looked at you the first time. I will cry because I am overwhelmed and not quite sure how the end will turn out. I will question myself and perhaps have doubt that I can actually do this. It will undoubtedly be the topic of conversation for those involved. And there will be that moment where a decision needs to be made and I will put my big girl panties on and deal with it. My hope is to have the strength, willpower, faith and belief that I can do this.

I definitely have doubters. People say I am allowing you to ‘define’ me. There are people who say I give you too much of myself because of the work I do with Teal Diva. I disagree. I mean, it’s been one year, five months and four days since we last chatted. The way I see it, I am working against you so that I can arm people with the knowledge I did not have. I am trying hard to give toward research so lives can be saved.

Kancer, you took a lot from me. Because of you, I have more faith than I have ever had. But my relationship with God is very broken and bruised. I am an ‘on the surface’ kind of girl. I don’t like digging too deep with emotions…afraid of what I might find, I guess. I am hoping Kilimanjaro will restore my relationship with God in a new and different way. I am hoping to find myself A SURVIVOR WITHOUT CANCER! So that I can continue helping others.

I will write more to you as we continue our training. I am sure I will have a lot more to say.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A New Look, A New You!

When a cancer patient undergoes treatment, their body may experience physical changes. Some of the changes can be difficult to cope with because many people are used to looking the same way their entire life, up until now. Patients may have lost their hair or had to undergo surgery as part of their treatment. Everyone’s body can react differently, depending on what kind of cancer they are going through. Thankfully, there are options out there to help everyone!

The Look Good…Feel Better program is administered by the American Cancer Society, and takes place every first and fourth Monday at Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center, as well as many other places around the nation! (The Look Good…Feel Better website has a place where you can locate a program near you!) The program has served more than 700,000 women all over America and has 14,000 volunteers. It allows cancer patients to learn complimentary beauty techniques that help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. The program includes beauty sessions for women and teens where a professionally trained cosmetologist shares helpful makeup tips with cancer patients and provides free makeup kits for each participant at the end of the session. Patients are more than welcome to bring a friend to the session, too!

A common side affect from cancer treatment is hair loss. Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center offers wig services as well, which are completely free to borrow and are available to try on! Patients are also provided with free scarves and hats to borrow (and we’re always accepting donations!). Patients are taught other tips, like how to care for their scalp, keep it out of the sun, and how to tie a scarf properly for coverage. It never fails that these sessions usually end up being a fun, social event where everyone can chat, make new friends, and look fabulous in the mean time!

It’s important to remember that you can still look amazing if you are going through treatment! I encourage you to step outside of what you feel that you have always looked like…why not take this time to start a new look, a new you!

Join us for an upcoming session! New programs have been added in Huntersville (July 11) and Matthews (July 18) as well. To register for Look Good...Feel Better, call 704-384-5223.

-Marcia Lampert, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Limbo: Not Always an Enjoyable Dance

For many cancer survivors, the period after their last treatment is expected to be a breath of fresh air. Expectations are high, as they might expect to walk out of their doctors’ office to hear birds chirping and a chorus of cherubim singing in excitement. Unfortunately, many cancer survivors do not feel this instant satisfaction; instead, it’s quite the opposite.

You want to be happy, but you’re not. You’re suddenly not sure who you are anymore. You try to pick up and get going again, but with different energy levels it’s no longer an easy task. You may not have any desire to go back to the same job or do the same things with your free time. Friends and family members want you to go back to how you were before the diagnosis, but things have changed. You might not be able to get out of this rut at first, and that proves extremely devastating because you had set your sights on complete joy and freedom by this point

Doctors don’t always address these feelings, so patients may wind up feeling lost or angry with themselves. Women feel especially isolated; it takes energy they don’t have to explain to friends or family members why they don’t feel well. This creates a rift in many relationships and tension soars. Relationships need mending, and that can sometimes be too much for someone who doesn’t initially have a lot of energy to spare.

What can you do to get out of this dance? If you normalize the situation for yourself, you can rest-assured that you are not crazy! Expectations need to be reevaluated, fears need to be addressed and new normal goals should be set. Slow down; take it a day at a time. Don’t look too far ahead and be OK with having a day without a lot of energy. Survivors need to be who they need to be without having to explain it to anyone. It is normal to carry these feelings over from the last treatment.

By easing back into a new normal schedule, you will get those rewarding feelings that you’ve been anticipating. Counseling is a great support system, and the Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center provides these services free of charge. Working out provides stabilization and perhaps helps get you back on a routine. Strides to Strength is a great cancer-centered exercise and fatigue management program that can help get you back in the swing of things.

What methods have you or a loved one used to lift yourself from these negative feelings?

~ Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Start Something New NOW?!

There are seemingly boundless means of finding support as a cancer survivor. Many people are familiar with such paths as group therapy sessions and one-on-ones with counselors. But there are tracks that aren’t so well known, like yoga classes, meditation techniques and makeup seminars. Even with the wide array of available options, some cancer patients and survivors find it difficult to find help, simply because they’ve never felt the need to seek it before.

Maybe you’ve never considered yourself to be someone who would benefit from therapy or enjoy a support group. Try it. Everything about your life has changed – it can be comforting to meet others experiencing the same sense of upheaval. Even if you’ve always thought of yourself as an independent, stand-on-your-own-two-feet type, cancer is a heavy weight to bear alone.

Maybe you’ve never had trouble relaxing before, never thought to meditate or practice yoga. Try it. Just because you used to be able to push your worries aside doesn’t mean you couldn’t use some help now. With things as serious as chemo or surgery to think about, it is no surprise that negativity and nerves can begin to dominate your thoughts.

Maybe you’ve never taken a class to learn how to apply makeup or care for a wig. Try it. Cancer and chemo change the body and alter physical appearance, most dramatically through hair loss. It may take a new routine to help you feel comfortable—or even fantastic—in your body again. Cosmetics classes like Look Good, Feel Better can teach you tips for looking and feeling great again.

The thing to keep in mind is that there is something out there for everyone, something that will give you the support you need to continue on your journey through cancer. You just have to be willing to try new things. There are plenty of resources here at Buddy Kemp to help you find the right support for you.

Did your diagnosis change the way you think about asking for support? Did you try something new in your search for support?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cancer Survivors: Thank YOU!

Prior to working in the oncology field, hearing the word “cancer” brought to mind the image of someone who was very ill. I didn’t think of a cancer patient as the handsome man in the grocery store or the beautiful woman down the street - that was not the image I had at all. Then I quickly realized it was impossible to know by looking at a person whether they have been affected by cancer or not, because they literally come in every shape and size - cancer does not discriminate!

We always speak about the journey of survivors and their family. Well, when people enter our doors here at Buddy Kemp, we have the privilege of becoming part of that blessed journey. The relationships we build with them are so meaningful to us.

Many times, people on the outside looking in tell me, “It must be so difficult to do what you do every day at work.” On the contrary, working with cancer survivors and their families is the most rewarding experience, and I’m so lucky to be a part of it. I used to live a lot in the future, making plans for this or that. I couldn’t wait until ____ (you can fill in the blank). Living in the future, I easily forgot how beautiful each day was, and I certainly forgot to enjoy it! These days I’m able to remind myself that things are happening now, and I’m going to miss them if I’m thinking about the future. Working with cancer survivors has definitely pushed me to see the glass half full rather than half empty.

To those people who tell me how difficult I must have it, I say to them that what I do gives me inspiration and courage in my life. It is an extreme blessing to be able to work with cancer survivors every day. So I want to say “thank you” to all of those who have touched my life in my time of working here at Buddy Kemp. My outlook is brighter and I am more inspired because of you. I feel so fortunate to work a unique place like Buddy Kemp and to witness the gift it is for those who are dealing with cancer.

How has first or second-hand experience affected your outlook on cancer? What about your outlook on life?

~Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, June 10, 2011

From the outside looking in: How cancer changes you!

A lot of people have a moment in life that will stick with them forever. For many survivors, that moment is when they discovered they had cancer. The diagnosis changes everything to a survivor. How you see the world; your whole outlook on life has changed. Major reevaluations take place, and the shift is to the present.

On a day-to-day basis, one may change up their dreams and goals from focusing on their future to living in the present. You may ask yourself, “What can I do today?,” as your immediate plans are much more valuable than any event years down the road.

On a relationship level, family or friends that you have felt close to may become apprehensive about relating to you. These people are suddenly uncertain about what to say or do, which is why it is important to understand that cancer is a journey for everyone involved.

On a spiritual level, faith becomes an important part of your journey. You may go back to your faith; you may discover something that becomes your backbone of support. The need to connect to something spiritual, especially on a daily basis, is a powerful urge.

You may expand your belief system to incorporate more spiritual customs, such as alternative medicine. Suddenly yoga and other methods that you once considered taboo aren’t so weird anymore and are now even providing support. Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center offers a mind/body healing cancer support group, and then our cancer rehabilitation program offers yoga for cancer survivors.

What have been some experiences on your spiritual journey with Cancer? Have you added any new routines to your life?

~ Marcia, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finding Calm in the Chaos

After a cancer diagnosis, it is easy for negative thoughts to overwhelm you. The chatter can at times be so loud that the best way to describe it is chaotic.

So what do you do when you feel overcome by negativity? Many individuals are finding success by using meditation to find peace from those nagging, worry-filled thoughts.

If you have difficulty understanding how the practice of meditation can be helpful, take a moment to imagine with me. Simply visualize yourself bound tightly, struggling for release. Then imagine hearing someone whisper the instruction “look in your hand.” When you look you see that you are holding onto the rope that binds you…and all you have to do is let go.

This is what the practice of meditation does. It allows you to let go of the mental images and thoughts that bind you by restricting your ability to mentally move to a better place. It is deeper than spending quiet time but is also learning to free oneself from the chatter that interrupts the calm.

Let me hear about your meditative experience. Please post a comment.

~ Tiffany, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, May 6, 2011

Emotions, Faith and Cancer - all part of the equation

How do you work through the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and still remain a person of faith?

More and more frequently, I work with individuals who define themselves as a“believer” or "person of faith.” Even so, they feel conflicted about the fear, anger and frustration they experience after diagnosis. I appreciate their dilemma because a person’s faith is private and personal. I wonder, however, if the messages sent by faith communities to inspire are being misinterpreted to mean if you are struggling emotionally you are somehow spiritually weak.

Do the tried and true phrases like “He’ll never put more on you than you can bear” or “He knows best” offered when you share your challenges mean that one can’t feel sadness? Why can’t one be hopeful, inspired, and faithful with real human emotions? My answer is of course you can!

In my practice I remind individuals that a cancer diagnosis can shake the core of your spiritual foundation, but it doesn’t mean that the foundation isn’t still standing. Instead, allow yourself to be honest about your fears, and use resources like counseling and support groups to help you reinforce your faith. Consider these as complements to the spiritual practices that have sustained you so far!

How do you manage your emotions and your faith?

~ Tiffany, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Zzzz's - you CAN catch them!

One of the common complaints that I hear from those going through cancer treatment is difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. Sometimes insomnia can be the result of an anxious thought, pain, medications, or a combination of the same.

Experts suggest that you limit heavy meals and caffeine before bedtime. They also recommend you make your sleeping environment comfortable and dark. While there are several medications that can be prescribed or purchased to help you get to sleep and stay asleep, I have also found the following techniques to be helpful:

Develop a bedtime ritual
Before going to sleep, develop a ritual that is naturally relaxing and calming. Taking a relaxing bath, reading, listening to gentle music and enjoying aromatherapy are great ways to end a day. It helps the mind and body recognize that it is time to sleep and eases you into the transition.

Practice a pre-sleep breathing technique
Using progressive muscle relaxation combined with deep breathing exercises further calms your body and clears your mind before sleep. You may incorporate the use of peaceful imagery, or you can simply breathe and enjoy the benefits that deep breathing brings.

Repeat a soothing mantra
If you find that you have awakened from your sleep, before getting up and turning on the television try repeating a mantra and breathing deep to help you drift off again. It doesn’t happen immediately, but with practice you can condition yourself to fall back asleep. Don’t spend more than 20 minutes trying to fall asleep, though. Get up and do something else then start the pre-sleep technique again.

What have you found to be successful? Post and share with others!

~ Tiffany, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ready, Set... Return to Work?!

Returning to work after an illness is never easy. For those contemplating a return to work after cancer or in midst of cancer treatment, it may be helpful to consider the following:

How has the treatment affected my ability perform my job duties?
Chemobrain, fatigue, pain, loss of sensation in hands and feet…any of these symptoms can interfere with your job performance. Fatigue and lack of endurance may limit your ability to work extended hours, travel frequently, or perform physically demanding jobs. Chemobrain may create difficulty with word retrieval and concentration while pain may even reduce your ability to sit or stand in one position for any length of time. Take a moment to assess these areas as you approach your return to work.

Are there ways I can prepare for my return?
After you have made an honest assessment of your ability to perform your job duties, the next step is to have a conversation with your employer. Talk about what is realistic for you and what you need to perform better. Find out if modifications to your work environment are possible and if there are other resources to help ease your transition. Having a trusted peer or supervisor review your work until you are comfortable with your ability to produce accurate data is sometimes helpful. Some individuals find success in writing everything down or using a tape recorder if allowed to not miss any detail.

Will my health status be considered in evaluations?
Be practical as you approach this topic with your manager. Make sure that it will not be held against you if you have to take time for medical appointments. Ask about having your health considered when productivity goals are set.

You may find other helpful tips or information by contacting The Patient Advocate Foundation at or by calling your local vocational rehabilitation office.

What advice do you have for those returning to work?

~ Tiffany, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Written from the Heart

Last summer my sister and I were visiting our parents and discovered our old diaries. We both used to journal daily when we were in high school and college, so there were several in the box. We shared some memories with each other, like ending a relationship, watching a best friend move, and losing a grandparent and both agreed that journaling got us through some difficult times. We were also able to reminisce about our successes and other great memories.

Whether you write about your thoughts about treatment options, your fears about recurrence or frustrations with fatigue, journaling can be a way a great way to clarify your thoughts and problem solve. Journaling can also help you express your hopes, dreams and plans for when treatment ends.

Tips for getting started: find a quiet place, set a goal to write at least 10-15 minutes, and then write whatever comes to mind. If writing your thoughts intimidates you, start with your day-to-day schedule: what you liked and what you would change if you could have a ‘do over.’ Always try to end with something positive.

Journaling is not for everyone, if you find that writing is more stressful than beneficial, you might want to pursue other means of expression. What experiences have you had with journaling?

~ Debbie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, April 8, 2011

Relaxation - Just Try It!

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum

Who has time to relax after receiving a cancer diagnosis, and worrying about treatment and how it will affect your family, finances and future?! Well, now is the perfect time to relax! Studies confirm that there are both physical and psychological benefits from relaxation. Some of these benefits include reduction in anxiety and depression and improvement with memory. Other benefits include reducing nausea and improving digestion. There are several methods used to achieve relaxation:

  • Deep breath exercises, where you inhale from the diaphragm, hold your breath and slowly exhale.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense and relax various muscles from head to toe.

  • Imagery, where you visualize a peaceful place or color to relax you.

  • Meditation, where you relax your mind. You pick a mantra, or word that brings positive thoughts, and repeat the word over and over again.

At Buddy Kemp, we invite you to join our program, “Techniques for Relaxation, Meditation & Healing,” where you can learn relaxation and meditation techniques to help facilitate healing and symptom management. The program is every Monday from 7 – 9 p.m.

What other techniques help you relax?

~ Debbie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fighting for a Cure - thoughts from a pediatric cancer doc

I met Jessica Ueltschi in November 2009. She was a pale toddler, scared and tearful. I told her that she was in the hospital because I was trying to figure out how to make her feel better. She cried and said she wanted to go home. Her blood tests came back, and a diagnosis of pre-B acute lymphocytic leukemia was confirmed. I told her parents that she had leukemia. Her mother, Heather, became pale, put her hand over her heart, and then said, "Excuse me." She ran into the little bathroom, and I could hear her retching into the toilet. Her father stood by stoically - turned into stone. Jessica then spent the next five weeks in the hospital.

Jessica is in remission now. She is continuing her maintenance phase of chemotherapy, which involves oral chemotherapy every day, monthly intravenous chemotherapy, and spinal taps every few months.

I hope she will be cured. Our definition of a cure is that you haven't relapsed within 5 years after treatment. One out of every two children with acute myeloid leukemia are expected to relapse. Two out of 10 children with acute lymphocytic leukemia are expected to relapse.

Imagine enduring harsh chemotherapy for eight months, then more chemotherapy for two to three years. Then after that, you are watching and waiting every day for the next five years - hoping and believing you are still in remission because you must, but fearing that will be the day the cancer comes back. Imagine you are the parent of that child.

Parents ask what will happen if their child relapses, and I always tell them that we will never give up. There is always a treatment, always hope. Sometimes that treatment means a bone marrow transplant. Sometimes their child has already had a bone marrow transplant. The grim reality is that their child has suffered and will suffer immeasurably and unfairly.

And yet, these children are amazing. To look at Jessica today, you would never know she has battled leukemia. Her blond curls frame her chubby cheeks, and she bounces with joy wherever she goes. She gives us artwork and hugs, and holds our hand when she wants to go play. That is exactly how a child who has battled leukemia should be - filled with joy. Because no matter what the disease or the treatment, we should never take away a child's capacity for joy. And we are in turn are blessed with the knowledge that every day is a gift.

I am raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society because what I do as a pediatric oncologist is simply not enough. It is not enough for the one in two or the two in 10 children who relapse. It is not enough for the children we have lost. I can only care for my patients one at a time. But by funding millions and millions in research dollars, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society can support research in every academic center across the nation. Research is the only way other pediatric oncologists and I will ever be able to tell every parent, "Your child will be cured."

While research funds dwindle, cancer continues to spread. Cancer is not in a recession, nor does it care that we are. Cancer can strike anyone at anytime - it is indiscriminate and no man, woman, or child is completely immune. If are we to beat cancer, we must be more relentless than the disease itself.

Jessica is now the Girl of the Year and Eli Roe (another patient hero) is the Boy of the Year for the Western NC chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I am raising funds in their honor. Please consider a donation to

Share your day's gift of life by sharing my cause today.

Thank you,

Jessica Bell, MD

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring - a fresh start!

As the warm weather approaches, we see flowers blooming, birds nesting, and neighbors planting. Spring gives us an opportunity to get a fresh start on whatever we put on the backburner. Starting an exercise regimen or eating healthier can be a great jumpstart to spring, but also consider joining a support group, starting a new craft or working on some unresolved issues.

At Buddy Kemp we have some new groups and events springing up! The brain tumor support group meets on the fourth Thursday. The group focuses on coping skills related to their diagnosis. Caregivers that bring their loved one to the group can attend our weekly caregiver’s connections support group that meets at the same time. The newly formed colorectal support group will meet on the first Monday to discuss how they deal with issues related to their diagnosis. We also have craft time every Tuesday for those who want to work on their craft or learn a new craft. Check out our online classes, programs and events calendar to learn about the latest activities you can enjoy.

If you prefer one-on-one, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our counselors to assess and jump start your goals this spring.

Whatever your goal may be, think of spring as an opportunity to clean, purge and rejuvenate. How do you plan to jumpstart your spring?

~ Debbie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Go on, laugh a little!

“Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.” – Bob Newhart

Laughter is often called the best medicine, and what a great medicine it is for cancer patients! Finding humor during treatment at a time when nothing seems funny can be an excellent coping skill, as well as a great way to decompress. Laughter is known to relieve stress by relaxing the body and mind through the release of negative emotions and also serves as a distraction from pain or discomfort. It be a great diversion when things begin to get a little too heavy. When used at the right moment, laughter can quickly change the mood or tone of a situation and present a change in direction.

There are many ways to use laughter during treatment, including:
  • Watching a funny movie or television show while recovering from your last treatment
  • Looking for the humor in everything
  • Learning to laugh at yourself
  • Giving yourself permission to be silly
  • Making it a point to laugh every day
And most of all, laughter is infectious, so share it with others!

Another way to generate smiles is by giving back. If you're interested in enjoying an entertaining evening while raising money for Komen, please join us for Laugh for the Cure on March 10!

What are things that always seem to make you laugh? Do you do any funny things that always cause others to smile?

Take care, and laugh a little!
~ Lorraine, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Monday, February 28, 2011

Making Plans - Safe or Not Safe?

You’ve either finished your treatment or are still undergoing chemo and living under that “cancer cloud” - the cloud that makes you afraid to plan for that summer family vacation, paint your dining room, get a pet, etc. You’re questioning whether it’s worth it since you won’t be here to enjoy it. In other words, you’ve given cancer total control over you by allowing its cloud to put your life on hold while you’re waiting for that day to come when you may hear that the disease has come back.

Often times, cancer survivors living under this cloud will live in fear and worry from scan to scan while watching life go by. If you recognize yourself as living under this cloud, ask yourself why you had treatment in the first place? If the answer was to live, then isn’t it about time to take that leap and start living your life again, whatever that looks like for your?

One of my favorite quotes is by Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983) “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” What can you do to recognize how strong your winds of change are and blow this cloud away? Isn’t it time to start living your life?

~ Lorraine, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm Done with Treatment- Why am I so TIRED?!

Long-term fatigue is a common and frustrating side effect of cancer treatment. It’s often described as a “bone weary” tired, leaving one feeling debilitated and struggling to accomplish every day activities.

If you can, think of fatigue as being cumulative during the treatment process and a normal side effect from chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Now, combine this fatigue with any emotional symptoms that you may be experiencing such as depression, anxiety, fear of recurrence, or worry. It’s no wonder that you’re so tired!

So now that you have an explanation for your fatigue and recognize that it’s not you, how do you go about getting past it and enjoying life? First start by seeing your fatigue for what it really is, a normal side effect of your diagnosis. Working with a counselor at Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center or attending one of our many support groups can be very helpful in working through your emotional distress. Then add exercise to the equation to increase your endurance, but take it slow at first because overdoing it will only make you more tired. A program such as Strides to Strength can help you exercise safely and reach your goal. Check out their Web page and watch a patient testimonial video!

What will you do to help yourself feel better, have more energy and start living your life again?

~ Lorraine, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Caring for the Caregiver

“If you don’t take care of yourself how can you take care of someone else?!” How many times have you heard this said to your primary caregiver(s)? Caregiver burnout is a symptom of a cancer diagnosis and very common among those who are caring for someone in treatment.

Caregivers often experience physical symptoms associated with stress such as headache, muscle tightness, insomnia, fatigue, etc. Emotional symptoms of stress such as anger, guilt, fear, worry, or a sense of helplessness also directly impact the physical symptoms of caregiver burnout.

For many, the role of caregiver is a new one. Stop and take a moment to think about your caregiver and all that he/she has taken on to support you during treatment. If you recognize any signs of caregiver burnout, encourage your caregiver to take time for self-care and participate in activities that help reduce stress: exercise, hobbies, or any other type of respite activity.

You can also encourage them to meet with a counselor or attend a caregiver support group, for example our Caregiver Connections Support Group that meets every Thursday afternoon at Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center from 2-3 p.m. Or better yet, sign them up for an afternoon of relaxation at our Caregiver Retreat on March 10th where they can enjoy lunch, chair massages, relaxation techniques and a guest speaker!

How does your caregiver practice good self-care? Inquiring minds want to know…….

~ Lorrraine, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, January 28, 2011

Can a Positive Attitude Influence Survival?

While there is no scientific proof that a person’s attitude can guarantee or influence survival, certainly a positive attitude will affect the quality of your life. People who feel positive and hopeful typically are happier than those who feel hopeless.

The problem with the “positive attitude” idea is that you and your family sometimes may translate this into never allowing yourself to feel sad, anxious, or uncertain. If this were to happen, it might mean that you never deal with these feelings, even though they are normal and understandable. Oftentimes, if you don’t acknowledge and deal with these feelings, they interfere with your ability to feel hopeful and positive, and therefore more in control of your life.

The other problem with the “positive attitude” idea is that people who believe this is the total answer in terms of their survival inevitably blame themselves if their disease recurs. I’ve heard people say that if only they had thought more positively or shown more faith or courage then maybe that would have influenced a different outcome. It’s vitally important to note that it is unlikely that recurrence or progression of disease can be attributed to one single factor, and it’s also completely understandable that remaining positive can be a challenge.

We do know from our experience that those who think positively, while still dealing with their natural anxieties about an uncertain future, are often happier people and have a better quality of life. There is no scientific evidence, however, that attitude will influence or guarantee survival. What’s most important is that you do what’s right for you.

Are there any tips or tricks you have used to keep a positive attitude? Are there areas in which you’re struggling and could use advice? Let us know your thoughts.

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Season of Change - Family Roles and Responsibilities

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, normal family routines are often disrupted. Whether it’s hospitalization for surgery or multiple appointments for treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, adjusting to the change in routine can be difficult and at times overwhelming - for both the person undergoing treatment as well as family that are involved in the care. Independence and privacy are issues that shift and are not easy to let go of, even when the patient knows they have to let others help them.

Even in the most loving families, it is normal to feel resentment when one member is ill and unable to carry on as usual, especially when the illness or treatment goes for an extended period of time. There are times when patients refuse to give up responsibilities out of their need for independence or concern that they are a burden to their family.

As a rule, you should continue to do as much as you did before your diagnosis for as long as you can if there is no medical reason not to. If decisions need to be made about temporarily shifting responsibilities, the patient should be involved in decisions unless they are unable to participate.

Family members need to realize that it’s common to feel anger or resentment because family life is different than it was before the diagnosis, and that sharing those feeling can be helpful. Whether talking to family, a counselor, or attending a caregiver support group, having a place to direct those feelings can aid in continuing to be supportive and involved. Being angry at cancer isn’t the same as being angry at the person who has cancer, and separating those feelings can be helpful for both the patient as well as the person offering to help care for them.

What has worked in your family? Share your thoughts or concerns.

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dealing with Loss

Although many people either complete treatment and survive cancer or experience long-term control of their disease, some do not. Losing a loved one is often a very difficult and overwhelming period in one’s life. The adjustment reactions that one goes through in an attempt to make sense out of what has happened and to them, and, perhaps, find some meaning or balance in their life takes time. It is understood that grief is a part of life, but just as each individual in unique, so is the way each person grieves.

As familiar as we are with our responses to gain and celebration, grief is the opposite side of that coin. Grief is the physical, emotional, and mental response that is felt in various ways. We have all come to realize that the five stages of grief (denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance) generally have no particular order, except that denial is almost always first. Denial acts like a filter, allowing information through in limited amounts so that it doesn't feel as overwhelming.

There are numerous reactions to grief, including getting in touch with loss, holding on, letting go, and making new attachments, to name a few. All of these reactions can manifest at any time, and moving in and out of the different stages is fluid rather than linear. It is also important to allow yourself time to grieve and attend to your needs, which can change day to day. While reaching out for support might not be something that is familiar, it is likely that the grief you are experiencing is unfamiliar as well.

Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center provides individual counseling as well as bereavement groups to those who have suffered a loss and are in need of support. We are here to help.

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Cancer Diagnosis and the Well Partner

A cancer diagnosis can have a profound effect on both the patient and his or her partner. In addition to the worry and concern that is inevitable, the well partner typically has to balance the emotional and practical responsibilities within the family.

One of the changes that might occur once a cancer diagnosis is made includes restructuring the household dynamics, especially when children are involved. There is also the additional challenge of finding a balance among the competing demands of children, a partner, job, and the patient’s own needs. Under the best of circumstances, finding this balance is difficult. When someone is ill, it becomes even harder.

Patience and good communication can be enormously helpful at this time. Some suggestions that the well partner might find useful include:

  • Reflect on your family’s needs and try to identify what are top priorities.
  • Think about organizing a support system.
  • Consider relaxing some standards and expectations.
  • Try not to neglect your own feelings and issues related to situations that arise.
  • Think through your role in your partner’s medical care.
  • Consider what financial and other issues may need your attention.

Some people, even those not used to seeking outside assistance, might find it useful to reach out for help. Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center provides support in various ways. The resource library has literature and information available and there are counselors, support groups, and a case manager who is able to provide support based on the needs of each individual. There's also a caregiver support group that meets on Thursdays at 2 p.m. to give well partners an opportunity to pause and rejuvenate.

What tips have worked for you, either as the patient or the caregiver?

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center