Why do I do what I do?
I do not know truly - I do know that helping people is super important to me and the main reason why I formed a nonprofit to help other cancer survivors get back to "normal".
For many years, I taught college and K-12 and saw firsthand how difficult it is for kids' today to be college and career ready. Then I wound up becoming a cancer patient and meeting many folks way younger than I who are dealing with both cancer AND having to be a student or a young worker and it just boggled my mind with the difficulties facing them.
Many years ago, before cancer (feels like a lifetime ago but was early 2016), I wrote a book on college readiness pulling from my 13+ years as a college professor in the NYC area coupled with my 5+ years as a K-12 teacher and built out my lessons and help into a book. Now, though, knowing what I do about young adult cancer and how a diagnosis derails one's life, I decided to take my lessons and apply them specifically for the student who has undergone a health crisis.
I designed and published the workbook and am working on the online course component to go with it. I hope to have it all ready to launch before Christmas.
As a new nonprofit, I still struggle with funding and trying to get my head wrapped around how to move forward. I also had a few months of inactivity trying to get myself moving again... Now that I am moving, I am happy to be back in action but also know I need to keep myself in Balance and not get overwhelmed with comparisons and trying to do it all at once. Slow and steady is also a great strategy.
How can I help you get your Balance After Cancer?
As a professor and educator since 2003 both online and in person, I feel education is key to life. If I am not learning, I am not living. This course is the first of MANY to come - some will be free, some will require a small fee ($20 or $30) to sign up. This course is The Basics - all about getting back to "normal" after cancer, major life-changing diagnosis or other news like genetic predisposition to cancer... Watch the video below for a quick overview of the course.
As someone who is focused on helping others oh and who has helped people for over 20 years with resumes, career planning and more (seriously, check out my other small business, The Next Step), I feel that founding this nonprofit is what I am meant to do and grow.
Years ago I began to meditate to help me calm my ever racing mind. I had issues, and the issues involved anxiety and nerves and just being over involved with every aspect of my life - it was fun - NOT.
After being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at 39 years old making me a young breast cancer patient I had to change my ways and fast. How can you face a potentially life threatening illness while under a constant thought of anxiety that I would not survive the unknown and the uncertainty.
I had heard about the power of the mind via the Heal documentary and thought I would look to find a hypnosis that would help me feel I could keep my body cancer free - and I know this could all be futile and that no matter what I do or did I could still have my cancer return or progress as over 1/3 of cancer patients become metastatic no matter what - or actually the question for that is without knowing why.
My hypnosis is homemade and funny - but it does what I need it to do - it walks through every organ, every piece of my body and talks about how those all are cancer free, no evidence of disease, no inflammation and more.
It might seem strange but I do feel the hypnosis has helped me put some fears aside - when I first created the hypnosis track I was euphoric thinking about how awesome it was to do this for my body and my health.
I also have noticed that my wbc seems to be improving despite being on a clinical trial of a drug that lowers my wbc - more on my clinical trial is coming in a future post.
What do you do to help your body and mind heal after something as traumatic as cancer? How do you try to take back control over the very things we have no control over - that which goes on inside of our bodies? Please share with me or ask me if you want to know more about my routine / plan for dealing with the whole life after cancer diagnosis. Thx! Supermom XOXO
I know I already wrote about how I am a Unicorn but this is a bit more about options and how I made my choices.
I knew when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my right boob that I wanted it chopped off. The doctors tried to tell me to wait to see if a lumpectomy was an option but I just knew it had to go. Ultimately, I did need a mastectomy as the tumor was 5.6cm and dispersed throughout the breast not in one spot only.
I also knew I did not want to reconstruct. This is a very personal decision.
I only knew flat was an option to me because I was too stubborn to have additional surgeries. I wanted it over and done with and knee reconstruction would cause more surgery and or more complications.
I had to meet with a plastic surgeon anyway despite knowing I did not want to have an implant.
That meeting was fun - the nurse told me I was nuts to not want to reconstruct (I’m paraphrasing) but she thought especially because I was so young that I would miss the breast.
Well, I don’t miss it. I’m half flat no longer using prosthetics AND posing topless to prove it - let me just tell you I have never been the type of person to be nude anywhere but you know the normal places and circumstances. I’ll be 42 this year and I never thought I would pose naked anywhere - but I also never thought I would get cancer soooo
I’m just happy in my skin I love my body scars and all- do you?
I’m so lucky to be alive and to have a supportive husband who just doesn’t care that I only have one boob. I forget why people stare at me when I’m out as I’m more than lopsided I’m just bone on the right side.
I wish I had been this kind to my body before - I never appreciated or loved myself as much as I do now: I pose for these pics smiling so other women know that even with just my one tit I’m still happy feel as though I am sexy and womanly despite only having one breast.
What have you done to appreciate your body no matter what it has going for it or missing from it? After 2 children and yo yo-ing weight and just general abusing myself with junk food stress and anxiety I am now as close to who I truly am in my soul one boob and all.
Photo credit: Sophie Mayanne - Behind the Scars Project
Clinical Trials & Me...
When I was close to finishing my active treatment (8 rounds of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation) my oncologist recommended I take part in a clinical trial.
I was so not sure of what to do. I mean, I had just finished the marathon of breast cancer stuff and with 2 kids, losing my job, and just you know life and wanting to get back to some semblance of normalcy I questioned my sanity for considering a trial.
The drug is called Imbrance and the trial is called Pallas. I was given the paperwork to think about and then went about trying to readjust to you know life.
But the thought of the trial was nagging me - I read the papers multiple times and could recount the 5-7 pages of potential side effects of the drug. I knew this drug was used to treat metastatic breast cancer but I was not metastatic - the point of the study is to see if this drug should be part of standard of care for early stagers as there is a plan for helping breast cancer patients stay progression free and recurrence free for as long as possible.
I was leaning towards signing up for the trial of which I would have a 50/50 chance of getting the pill or not (there is no placebo). My husband and mom were like, "Are you nuts?" and you know, I am. I signed up and got the pills and now I’m 12+ months in to a 24 month study and I have been so damn lucky.
My wbc (white blood cell) count is low so if I run fever I do need to go to hospital for work ups (which knock on wood my head my missing breast whatever) has only happened once - I am still taking the full dose of the drug (some people get it reduced to help with side effects).
So my post cancer life includes no period since February 2017, daily antihormone pills, once every 3 month lupron shot and for the next 12 months 3 week’s on imbrance, one week off.
Oh and working out, running 2 businesses, blogging, being a mom, a wife, a daughter a friend a sister and whatevs.
Look for a future post about what I wish you knew about living life as a cancer patient / survivor and about follow ups. Oh and because I am so basic, I made two videos about this and could not decide which one to use -- so here's the other one :). Which is clearer / better?
Also, did you get offered a trial? Have you been on one? What can you share about it? Thanks! Super Mom Xoxo
Let's say your friend is diagnosed with cancer, or your neighbor or your kids' friend's parent - what do you do and how?
It is important to be there for your friend, if you can. Please do not worry about saying something stupid or being "too much" to your friend. All anyone with cancer wants is someone to speak to them and NOT always ask about "so are you cured?" or "so are you going to die?" - there is a middle ground.
The middle ground includes our kids - just because we have cancer does not mean we no longer have children in our lives who love us and look to us with fear and worry that one day, when they wake up, we will be "gone".
This explains how you can help those of us with cancer who are also parents... Supermom out!
I went for my screening mammograms, despite knowing it was a total waste of time. No one in my family had ever had cancer. I never smoked a day in my life. I ate healthy. I was not obese. I exercised every day. I did not think I could ever get cancer - I had better chances of learning to fly then getting cancer.
Then, what started off as a slight calcification in a duct in April 2016 was Stage 3 cancer by December 2016. Cancer does NOT care who you are or what you have going for you. Cancer does not discriminate - and just because you do not have it in your family well that just means it might start with YOU.
Know your body - I had no lump but I had a huge, nasty cancer growing inside of me. Go to your screenings, demand a screening if you think you feel something NO MATTER YOUR AGE. I was "young breast cancer" at 39 years old and since sharing my story have met women even younger like 20, 25, etc AND men too who had all been diagnosed with breast cancer after advocating for themselves.
Know your body - know that dense breasts are less likely to show up on mammograms - mammograms are not perfect but are better than nothing. Watch the video for more tips on how to know your body and you know, mammogram your boobs instead of instagramming em.
All about telling your kids you have cancer - may you never know what it is like to see them process the information or the fear...
I cried a bit making this video - it is hard for me to know that I got sick and they got hurt because of it. Cancer is something that impacts everyone in the family.
When I had to tell my kids I had cancer, they were only 6 and 9 and I was their whole world. I cared for them exclusively and balanced my work, my small business and more but I did not do anything for ME or care much about me. If only I could have learned these lessons without getting you know the C word -- but since I cannot change that, instead I just try to help others deal with it.
Welcome to my blog all about survival, being a mom, being a breast cancer survivor and the art of BALANCE.
I was blogging about life, love and being one boobed over at The Time Between Is but found that site to be better equipped to sharing the survival tactics through the nonprofit I founded called Career After Cancer. This site will be where I share my truth - my unvarnished story of balancing on one boob.
If you are also in this with me, welcome to the club no one ever wanted to join. I hope instead you are just here to partake in the voyeurism of how a modern day Type A personality learned to let go and live within the confines of this thing called "NED" where you technically will always have cancer and you try, just the same, to be the mom you once were while recognizing all of the stupid good that came out of being told, "you have cancer".
And screw me because I never would thank cancer for ANYTHING and in fact, I wish every day that I and anyone else with this disease would ALL never have gotten it and that it could be eradicated off the face of the earth - so this is my open letter, my space to be and share all that I wish people would understand if you have perfect health, embrace it, know your risks though and do not be a jerk to those of us in the cancer community who struggle scan to scan, appointment to appointment and just want to be here to embrace our kids or have kids or just to be alive.
Thanks, your friendly neighborhood superhero, cancer mom.
Super Mom BC Eradicator - connect with me via the icons above :). Thanks! XOXO LISA (my secret identity ... )