Five Things You Can do for Someone with Cancer

So someone you care about just got diagnosed with Cancer. There are a LOT of emotions going on, most of them shitty ones. It’s a rough time. Really effing rough. Some people don’t know what to say or do, so they don’t do anything. Other folks, are there in an instant, offering ALL THE HELP. Others want to help, but just don’t know what to do. There is no “right” way to react. But you can be assured that if you act from the heart and it will mean something to your loved one.

  1. If they ask for help of some kind and you can be of assistance, do it. Folks going through Cancer treatment need rides, company, meals, distractions, and hope. Shortly after my diagnosis and meeting with my surgeon, my friend Kevin said, “What do you need from us?” My answer was that I didn’t want to feel alone. Cancer treatment is a very lonely thing because ultimately you have to endure this all by yourself. I wanted to avoid that feeling as much as possible, so I asked for walking buddies, visitors, and distractions. TeamKLB came through for me in a MILLION different ways.
  2. Calls, texts, cards, flowers, emails. The amount of people that were checking in on me really helped to pull me through emotionally. “Grief shared is halfed. Joy shared is doubled.” There is no truer quote for me. Because I shared my story so openly, a weight was lifted off of me. Check in on your loved one and allow them to share their feelings with you. This is not about how uncomfortable this may feel for you, this is about being there for your loved one.
  3. If your love language is Acts of Service (as mine is), here were my favorite acts of service: homemade healthy meals, helping me put Christmas away, cleaning my house, delivering food (usually Jamba Juice), and being a walking buddy.
  4. If your love language is Gifts, here are my favorite gifts: Whole Foods gift cards,  Nordstrom square silk scarves (for those that lose their hair), a lightweight sleeping cap (again for those that lose their hair), cozy blankets/socks/sweaters, breast cancer jewelry, book gift cards, iTunes gift cards, and boredom boxes with puzzles and the like. I got quite a few handmade gifts, which to me, fall under both Gifts and Acts of Service, and these were my most favorite: a watercolor of me, a cross stitch saying TeamKLB, and a hand carved wooden ribbon.
  5. Help your loved one get in contact with a Cancer support center. For me, Bay Area Cancer Connections was an integral component of my healing. They had tons of resources, as I’m sure other Cancer support centers do as well.

It saddens me that I need a post like this on my blog. My journey began in 2014 and I have been asked this question too many times already. I wish you the best, I wish your loved one the best, and I wish for a world without Cancer.

I’ll leave you with a quote.

“Having a complete meltdown IS handling your grief. Keeping it bottled up and deep inside you and not going into it is called avoiding your grief. It’s like standing in waves at the sea shore. In the beginning there are lots of rollers, they come very fast, they knock you all over the place. Down the road they come more slowly, but they never stop coming completely. And every so often there is just a killer wave that knocks you down, takes you under, flips you down and up and down, until all you can do is hope that very soon you will pop into the air and be able to catch a breath. YOU don’t handle the waves, the WAVES handle you. Give yourself as much time and space as you need. The less you fight the waves, the sooner you pop up into the air again.”

Hugs and Health <3,

Katie

8/20/15

Hello there #teamklb,

It’s been a LONG time since my last post, but I thought it was time to fill you in on what’s been going on in my life lately.

Most of you know that I accepted a new position at work – I will be a Math TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment). This means that I’ll be teaching teachers and coaching them with our new Common Core State Standards and our newly adopted math curriculum. School is now back in session, and this past Monday, while being introduced to about 350 teachers as the district’s new Math TOSA, it felt like quite a victory. One year ago I was scared to get the results back from my breast MRI and now here I am in a new position in the district. It felt like I had really won. I think of all that I’ve gone through and accomplished in the last 12 months, and it amazes me. I kicked cancer’s ass, went into remission, successfully completed radiation, went back to work, applied for and accepted the Math TOSA position, finished a bunch of nutrition classes, and started a new job. WOW. I’d like to thank Lori for taking a chance one me in this role. When I got home from the interview, I told Jim that I thought I totally bombed the interview. I had chemobrain on top of normal nervousness. When I was offered the position, Jim told me that even when I think I stink, I’m still pretty awesome. Thanks! <3

I spent most of my summer either packing up my classroom (sniffle, sniffle) or doing homework (LOTS OF HOMEWORK). I wanted to use my free time to get caught up and possibly “ahead”. Every month I basically have a 10-12 page paper to write. It’s getting easier now that I’m in the swing of things, but it still takes a ton of my time. I should be finished with my nutrition program in early spring 2016. YAY!

Most of you also know that we took a “Katie Kicked Cancer’s Ass” trip to Europe this past summer as well. My mom, Kamy, Jim, and I spent 2 1/2 weeks traveling through Italy and Mallorca. It was an amazing trip and it definitely scratched my traveling itch. It was hotter than hell, but we still had an amazing time. My favorites: 1) walking out of the Venice train station and seeing waterways and not roads, 2) eating padron peppers every chance I got in Mallorca, 3) Florence, everything Florence, especially the food, 4) the glass blowing in Murano and the lace making in Burano 5) checking out the castle in Alcudia and the lighthouse Cap de Formentor, and 6) Stand up paddle-boarding in Santa Ponsa.

During the summer, at some point it hit me that people treat me like I didn’t have cancer. Which is a double-edged sword. On one side, I want to move on and forget that I had cancer. That would be the ultimate sign of moving on with my life. I want to feel, look, and be normal again. On the other side, I’ll never be able to forget. My body is changed: I’m not a strong as I once was, I can’t do all the things I once did, and I still have plenty of scars. I also can’t take each day for granted like I once did. I’m also significantly more emotional than I ever was. It makes it hard to move on. I’m still trying to move on, but it’s going to take a while.

Jim and I were talking on our trip to the Central Coast and I said, “Sometimes I feel like I never had cancer because I almost forget”. We continued this conversation and I told him that I couldn’t really blame others for forgetting that I had cancer when sometimes even I forget it. I’m also glad to be at a point in this journey to be able to (even if just momentarily) forget that I had cancer.

During my monthly massage in June, my masseuse took hold of my right arm (the chemo infiltration arm that is STILL swollen over one year later) and said to me, that my arm was mad at me for damaging it. It was hurt. And I should apologize to it. Some of you might think this is crazy, but back when I was preparing for surgery, I read a book called Prepare For Surgery, Heal Faster. In it, she recommends that you make peace with the part of you that is being operated on. So, I started apologizing to my breasts for being mad at them (this may sound familiar, as I’ve blogged about it before). For several weeks leading up to the surgery, I had a strange pain in my breast, where the tumor was. After apologizing to them and thanking them for fighting off the cancer, etc., the pain went away and has never come back. So, I figured apologizing to my right arm for harming it, couldn’t hurt. And since I’ve been doing that each night, both my masseuse and I have noticed a difference in the arm. Call it what you will, but I’m convinced that it worked.

There’s a new(ish) song out called Fight Song by Rachel Platten and it’s become my “Katie kicked cancer’s ass” Anthem. I know this is true for many cancer survivors. Whenever I hear it playing, I basically burst into tears. I think about one year ago going through chemo and barely being able to walk or do very basic tasks and how just a few weeks ago I was able to run for the first time in about 20 months or that I was able to bike to bay and back (~15 miles). Last year I felt like death and now my life is so vibrant. When I take the time to stop to think about it about, I nearly always cry.

Confession time: Looking back, I’m really sure that I should have had a blood transfusion. During every chemo cycle, the week after chemo, I felt very much like I would pass out, but so long as I stayed home and in bed, I was good. Once I got the picc line in and had to go to the doctor every week to get it cleaned, during that appointment (only on the fist week of the new chemo cycle) I always almost passed out. Twice they kept me longer to give me additional fluids, but the other times I just toughed it out because I REALLY didn’t want a blood transfusion. I tried to avoid letting on just how bad I felt so that the nurses wouldn’t admit me. Oh well, too late now.

While on vacation, my left foot started hurting (I broke it 14 years ago and it has never hurt like this since the cast has been off). It was quite strange because it basically hurt exactly where I broke it. At first I thought nothing of it, but it hurt again a few days later. Then I remembered at one of my follow up appointments with my oncologist, he said when cancer returns, it often returns to the blood, brain, lungs, and bones. So I freaked out a little and emailed the doctors office to get an appointment with a podiatrist as soon as we got back. I asked for an exam and x-ray to provide me with some peace of mind. While I didn’t really think the cancer had returned in my foot, I did freak out for a second in the doctor’s office while waiting for him to come and review the x-rays. What if the cancer had returned? Could I go through chemo again? What would my chances be this time? LUCKILY, I’m still #cancerfreehappyklb.

Also, oddly enough, the radiated skin has been very irritated lately. It’s been on and off, but for several weeks now, it feels like it might look red and irritated, but it isn’t. It just hurts. It doesn’t hurt all the time, just every few days or so. I told my doctor and he had me come in just to take a look. The nurse said that sometimes people get shingles where the skin was radiated, but luckily that’s not the case with me. They just said that it was fine and to keep on applying aloe and the calendula cream.

In July, I had an appointment with my plastic surgeon to discuss surgery. I had a whole bunch of questions for him. Most of them are about the more vain aspects of my reconstruction (like, can you make them any bigger? one is higher than the other, can you fix this? can you lipo the “side fat” that I was left with post surgery? etc. – answer to all of those questions is yes btw). After the appointment, I felt incredibly excited to have the surgery. My first thought was that I was excited because during/after surgery nothing is expected of me. I don’t have to work, cook, clean, take care of anyone. It sounds weird, but it’s really nice. My friend Liz pointed out to me that maybe I was excited because this is my last big hurdle to jump through. She’s right. After this I’ll be pretty much done. Also, I think I’m excited to have these expanders out. They are really uncomfortable. This leads me to my last tidbit of info for you. My reconstructive surgery has been scheduled for Wednesday October 7th at 12:30pm. (that is going to kill me by the way – fasting for twelve and a half hours is pure torture for me). I will be taking two weeks off from work. I anticipate being in the hospital one night and feeling much better much sooner (this is the “easy” surgery). I’m sure I’ll be up for visitors during my time off and help with meals would again be appreciated.

I feel like I’ve unloaded a lot off my shoulders. Thanks for listening!

As always, much love you to #teamklb

XOXOXO

Katie

I’ll leave you with something funny. In looking into nipple reconstruction, I’ve come across these “rub-on nipple tattoos” hehehehehehehe  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/09/prweb12201139.htm

Things Cancer has Taught Me

Hi friends!

Well it’s been a while since my last post. All is well. In going to my support groups, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned since all of this began just three month ago. There are things that I’m grateful for and things that really piss me off. Today, I’ll post about the things cancer has taught me, and I’ll save my rants and raves for another post.

1. When someone you care about gets diagnosed with something (anything), it’s hard to know what to say. For me, I know I would probably cry if I talk with someone about their scary diagnosis, so I know I’ve avoided it in the past. BAD KATIE! I now know that whatever I do/say, I need to do/say something. Whether it is a call, a card, a text, an email, it doesn’t matter, just doing something to show that I care is what matters. Since my diagnosis, so many people have reached out to me (some that I’m close to, some that I’m not close to – even the checker at whole foods gave me a hug!!) and I have learned that people just want to know that others are rooting for them in their time of need. Obviously, I have the best team ever, because I am constantly reminded of this. This was lesson number one and a lesson I needed to learn.

2. Don’t take a single moment for granted. While I know that I am going to be cancer free very soon and I am going to live a long and healthy life, hearing “it’s cancer” makes you think about your mortality. After one of my first doctors appointments, I had dinner with friends and family because I wanted to spend as much time as I have with people that are important to me. I remembering telling Jim, “Life is for living” which to means that I’d like to spend as much time as I can doing the things I love and spending time with the people I love.

3. Everything is normal, until it’s not. That was on a billboard about strokes that I used to pass on my way to/from Bauman College. For the first few weeks after my diagnosis, that saying came back to me many times because it definitely suited the situation. I feel like, at times, I took my health for granted, and once I was no longer healthy I wished that I had been better to myself (eating, sleeping, exercise, etc.).

4. Get off my butt and exercise! I know that I am totally guilty of complaining about not wanting to workout or exercise after a long day of work or just because I’m feeling lazy. But now that my ability to exercise has been very limited, I wish so badly that I could go for a run, bike ride, hike, or swim. Looking into the future, when I feel like skipping out on my exercise, I’m going to remember this time and make myself do it. PLUS, exercise is super important in disease prevention/reduction of symptoms.

5. It’s okay to cry. Whenever. For whatever reason(s).

6. The people that are most important in my life are the people that have been supportive through my time of need. People that haven’t been supportive, aren’t people that I need in my life. True colors….

7. Dogs are awesome. Jax, Zoe, Izzi, and Pismo have been the BEST company to have with me each day. If you don’t have a dog, I highly recommend reconsidering that decision. 🙂

8. Being more grateful. I started my #100happydays project to help me with being more grateful for the good things in my life and the timing for the project couldn’t have been more appropriate. It has now become my #cancerbabeshappydays project and it has helped me to realize that being grateful and appreciating the good things is really valuable. (If you’re not on FB/IG, I try to post a picture of something that has made me happy each day and I include the hashtag #cancerbabeshappydays.)

9. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s also okay to be weak and vulnerable. It’s all a part of life. We’re in this together.

10. I have the best team. I know that I’ve said this before, but I really mean it, and it comes straight from the heart. You all are **AMAZING**. Thank you. I love you.

Well… that’s it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that I’m grateful for cancer, because well, then I’d be a masochist. And I’m not a fan of the “everything happens for a reason” or the “it’s part of god’s plan” BS either (I’m agnostic). But I am grateful for the person that I’m becoming because of it. I have learned a lot and I know I will continue to do so.

XOXO

Katie

July 2014 Book of the Month – AntiCancer

July’s Clean Eating book of the the month: Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PHD. In the wake of my Breast Cancer diagnosis in 2014, I read as many books on cancer as I could get my hands on. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Anticancer was by far my favorite.  In this *five strawberry* book, Servan-SchreibScreen Shot 2016-06-24 at 5.28.40 PMer tells readers what they can do to help keep cancer at bay, keep it from coming back, or to surpass a not-so-optimistic prognosis.

Dr. Servan-Schreiber helps to bridge the gap between what the oncologists are telling patients and what they aren’t telling patients – like what cancer patients can do to help themselves. This is what people diagnosed with a disease want desperately to hear – give them some control and power when they feel like they have no control and no power over this situation. He is an MD and a PHD and a two-time brain cancer survivor– so this isn’t quackery here!

In Anticancer, Dr. Servan-Schreiber details his cancer story (or stories, I should say), studies about patients, and several main recommendations. Those recommendations are: 1) eat a diet that includes lots of plants, high-quality meats, low in sugar, low in refined carbs, and low in poor-quality fats, 2) supporting a healthy state of mind through meditation, 3) avoiding the fear hamster wheel by attending support groups, and lastly 4) getting enough exercise.
Servan-Schreiber tells readers that “[c]ancer lies dormant in all of us. Like all living organisms, our bodies are making defective cells all the time. That’s how tumors are born. But our bodies are also equipped with a number of mechanisms that detect and keep such cells in check.” This quote instills a bit a fear in me, knowing that cancer can be happening to all of us, all the time, BUT it also inspires hope because it empowers each of us to know that we have the power to make changes in our bodies and our futures.

A great read for anyone working to avoid cancer in their lifetime, anyone with cancer, cancer survivors, or caregivers. Anticancer gives readers the feeling of some control and power in battling this disease. Highly recommended for everyone!