Tag Archives: Cancer

Cancer, Divorce & The Holidays

BadLast year, I had finally gathered enough strength and courage to file for divorce. A decision that was extremely difficult to make after the devastation our family had faced with two cancer diagnoses within 3 years of each other. I often wondered why the woman my husband made such a poor decision to have an affair with did not question his actions, or would question hurting his wife after cancer, or the impact this affair would have on the children. I also had the fear of finding love again after having had cancer, dating, and living my life on a ticking time clock between scans.

The real truth was, it was not about me, or the kids, or this woman. It was about “him.” A selfish decision he made without remorse, guilt, or shame. Today, he still has taken no accountability for his poor decisions or actions. It has been almost a year and a half since I filed for divorce, and the pain, the anger, and the hurt never goes away completely. My psychologist described all the emotions of divorce relating to a “tossed salad”. You have all these ingredients that are tied to each emotion, and they come to surface during different times and triggers. He was absolutely right with this analogy. And, it helped me understand how I was teetering between each one, and not in any specific order.

Cancer causes you to loose control. It teaches you that there is no certainty, and that fear can debilitate you if you allow it to happen.

Divorce, has the same emotions, combined with the other stages of grief, such as denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, and finally acceptance.

The common stages of all of these emotions is that you can overcome them. The grief surely can be overwhelming, and at times it can make you question your strength and ability to rise above the adversity.

This year, I am choosing to embrace every moment that God has given me to celebrate MY life, I chose so hard to fight for. Not once, but twice. Not to mention, my two greatest blessings, my children.

You can take a diagnosis like cancer, or a devastation like divorce and allow it define you – OR – you can let it inspire, empower, and strengthen you to overcome the worst moments of your life. When I have moments of sadness or anger, I like to take a moment to reflect on the many blessings around me, and focus on what I am most grateful for. You see, I have lost a lot of friends to this horrific disease, and I choose to remember them, and honor their memory each and every day with the work that I do. The lives that were lost are always way too soon.

Should I spend my life, allowing cancer, or divorce to define me?

Not this holiday season.

Cancer Patients with Strong Religious or Spiritual Beliefs Report Better Health

When Gregg Carr was diagnosed with lung cancer, he turned to his faith to help him find meaning during difficult times. “This cancer has helped me renew my spirituality. I’m convinced God wants me to help more people,” said Carr. After 4 months of aggressive and often painful treatment, Carr says he now feels well enough to return to work. In his small town in Illinois, he often counsels others facing their own cancer diagnosis.

Carr is far from alone in finding comfort and meaning through religion during cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69% of cancer patients say they pray for their health. A recent study published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, suggests a link between religious or spiritual beliefs and better physical health reported among patients with cancer.

“In our observational study, we found people who found feelings of transcendence or meaningfulness or peace reported feeling the least physical problems,” said lead author Heather Jim, PhD. “A lot of cancer patients have a reaction when diagnosed of ‘Why me?’ or feel like they’re being punished or get angry. This is a normal part of coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis.”

For the report, researchers from Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues looked at the results of several published studies on the topic, which included more than 32,000 cancer patients combined. They found a link between patients with higher levels of spiritual well-being and reporting better physical health. The researchers did not look at whether spiritual well-being affected patient survival or cancer recurrence.

The authors defined religion as belonging to a religious organization and attending organized services, while spirituality is a connection to a force larger than oneself. For some people, religion is an expression of their spirituality, while others find spirituality outside of organized religion.

The authors say religion and spirituality can help cancer patients find meaning in their illness and provide comfort in the face of fear. These patients might also be more likely to get practical help that aids in their recovery, because they are often connected to a community of people who share their beliefs and can provide meals, help around the house, rides to medical appointments, and other types of hands-on care.

Read more.

Media May Overhype Some Unproved Cancer Meds

According to USA Today , a report published online in JAMA Oncology indicates that “the media often use” words or phrases like “breakthrough,” “game changer,” or “miracle drug” when discussing “new cancer drugs, even when the drugs are unproved.”

The Washington Post  “To Your Health” blog reports that near the end of June, “not long after the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology,” researchers did a Google News search for “the phrase ‘cancer drug,’ along with nearly a dozen superlatives, such as ‘revolutionary’ and ‘miracle.’” Their “inquiry turned up 94 articles from 66 separate news outlets, referencing 36 different drugs.” The researchers found that “despite the glowing adjectives, half the treatments had not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration; a handful of them had not yet even been tested in humans.”

Modern Healthcare  “Vital Signs” blog reports that “when the researchers examined who made the superlative comments about the drugs, they found that while physicians (27%), patients (8%) and industry experts (9%) made several of the comments, 55% had no attribution—in other words, the superlative assertions were being made by the journalists themselves.”

HealthDay (10/30, Thompson, 22K) reports that “cancer patients are most harmed by this hype, said Dr. Lidia Schapira, editor-in-chief of Cancer.Net and an oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.”

 

“Mommy, are you going to die?”

picture2On May 28th, Thursday, it was the last day of school. I purposely scheduled my quarterly PET Scan, knowing how busy the day was going to be, with all the kids coming over to celebrate with their moms and friends. The anxiety and fear never leaves your mind, and the uncertainty overwhelms you. I tried my best to stay busy, but as the day and night progressed, I could feel my mind wonder. Conversations seemed to be less engaging for me, and all I wanted to do was call my oncologist to hear the results.

I had a big oncology conference the next morning in the city, and I was planning on driving that night after my parents arrived to relieve me. Than, the call came in, 9pm. There was an area, in my left adnexal, near my left ovary and fallopian tube that showed suspicious activity that needed to be further evaluated. All I could think of was, how in the world would I even have the time to find a gynecologic oncologist with my schedule so packed morning till night for the next 7 days. But, I had to do what women do best – put on my work hat, and place this to the back burner to focus on what the priority was at that moment. I had no choice. What I was able to do, and I realize how blessed I am, was the ability to access the top oncologists from all over the world. Professionally, I have the most amazing support network, and I asked every one I knew what this could be, and how to best proceed. The overall suggestion was to undergo surgery to remove this and get the pathology to determine if this was truly ovarian cancer as they suggested on the report, or the return of metastatic breast cancer.

When I arrived home from my trip, I had 3 names of the top gynecologic oncologists in my area. I scheduled my first appointment with a local doctor from Hinsdale Hospital. I went alone thinking I would hear the same suggestions from my connections. But, that was not the case. After my exam, and review of films, and tests, the doctor looked at me and said, “Ms. Jewett, I think you have metastatic breast cancer that has went to your ovary. We are going to need to perform a full hysterectomy. Now, keep in mind this could be benign, or it could also be a new primary, such as ovarian cancer. But, in my professional opinion, I think we are dealing with MBC.” As tears started to roll down my face, all I could think of was how much more could I possibly handle on my plate? Divorce? Cancer? Surgery?

The second opinion was the same recommendation. This doctor was the top gyn-onc from Northwestern. When I heard his thoughts on MBC, I cried and put my hand in his face and asked him to just stop talking. I could not hear anymore of his thoughts. Much less how he was going to take my uterus out through my vagina! I am 38 years old, cancer has taken my breasts, taken my ability to have any more children, and now it is going to take my remaining female parts next? When do I say enough is enough?

Cancer is an evil Bitch.

After that appointment, I had to meet with my attorney that is handling my divorce case. I remember sitting in the waiting room, thinking was this really my life? Not only did we have to discuss my financial concerns surrounding the divorce, but it was also time to consider a Will and Power of Attorney. And, I needed this information in place before my surgery date. I was sick to my stomach. All I wanted to do was to go home and hold my kids so tight and forget this was all happening.

My last appointment was with a female gyn-onc, on Thursday, who had a much more compassionate perspective and approach. She was able to confirm that this was not a mass, it was my ovary that was enlarged, and had some suspicious activity going on. She did agree that the best option would be a full hysterectomy. However, she understands that as a young woman, who is cycling every month, this would not be an easy journey. I asked if it was possible to leave my right ovary, at least until I was ready to let it go. She said she was open to that suggestion, but if I were to test positive for cancer, whether that was metastatic breast or ovarian, it would need to come out, no matter what. I like to think and believe there is hope. And, I like that she is a female doctor who has compassion, and understanding to do what is best for me in the midst of all the uncertainty and anxiety. I have come to realize that with a diagnosis like cancer, patients need to feel as if they have some form of control. It truly does help with the decision making.

When I arrived home from that appointment, my kids were very aware with what was going on. I had tried my best to keep them from all of this until I had a better idea what was going to happen. But, they had to know the reality, it was time. I sat them both down, alone. I explained to them that I had a PET scan, just as I always do every quarter, but this time something showed up that needed further evaluation.

My daughter, Kalli, immediately got upset and told me I was lying and she knows it was cancer. I told her we really did not know that, but I would need to have surgery to take out that “suspicious area” and some other parts to ensure we minimized my risk.

My son, Tyler, looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, are you going to die of cancer?” At this point, I could no longer hold back my emotions, and I simply told them both that I did not have that answer. What I could promise them was, I fought cancer twice now, and that I would do everything I could to fight it again. And this surgery was part of that process. I explained that we had some time until surgery, and that I wanted to take a vacation with them before, so we could enjoy the rest of their summer vacation before school started.

It has been the worst 3 weeks of my life. I have cried so much, felt the anxiety in my chest, and have feared what lies ahead. What I am so grateful for in the midst of this uncertainty is the overwhelming support, love, and compassion from all my friends and family, near and far, personally and professionally. I have gotten emails, calls, text messages, and cards, that fuel my strength to know we are not alone. There is an army with a lot of gear fighting this battle with us, and I will overcome this next chapter of my life.

So, for now I need time to process the reality. In the meantime, I am going to continue to focus on doing the work I love, embrace every moment of every day, and spend time with the people I love so much.

Life truly has a lot of challenges lately, but there is not a single moment that goes by that I do not count my blessings for the life I have been given.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for the support, and most of all, the love and compassion you have shown the kids and I.