One of the best things that happened to me this summer is the gift of a wicker hanging swing chair. We keep it in our backyard and it has quickly become one of my favorite spots, to sit slow and spend some quiet time in prayer.
I have to admit, I find myself a bit surprised that our backyard has now become one of my favorite spots, because for a very long time it was one of my least favorite areas of our home, that is, until I had an attitude change.
Thank youPfizer for sponsoring this post. Join Pfizer’s This Is Living With Cancer™initiative by sharing your story with #InspirationLives on Facebook and Instagram to support and inspire those who have been affected by cancer, and be sure to check out the LivingWith™mobile app available viaiTunes andGoogle Play.
As a two-time cancer survivor, I have been the patient. I know what it is to be in deep need of others and their support. I know the importance of caregivers and how they can make a scary, horrible experience into something quite beautiful and bearable.
Being in remission for seven years has also allowed me to be the caregiver. I know what it means to show up and support a loved one while they are in the fight for their life. I know the beauty of bearing burdens and how coming alongside another in their suffering can not only help them, but also can change you and give your life moments deep meaning and beauty.
I’ve talked a lot about the brave cancer fighters I’ve met and loved. I have the unique opportunity as a survivor myself and, through this blog, to reach and meet many cancer fighters.
What I have not talked about very much is the role of caregiver.
In my fight with stage 3b breast cancer, I had the honor of watching so many precious caregivers come alongside me and show me what deep caring and giving looks like.
I have been given seven precious years to implement what I have learned to help others in their need.
I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I have also found a tool to pass on to you for when you find yourself in the role of caregiver.
Pfizer offers This Is Living With Cancer™, a national awareness program that includes a free mobile app for anyone living with cancer calledLivingWith™. It is designed to help manage some of the daily challenges faced by people living with cancer.
As a caregiver, this is a helpful tool for your loved one to utilize. It can give you both direction, clarity and a place to gather and keep all the things!
It can help your confidence that you CAN do this and do it well. It is a helpful tool that may aid you in communication both with your loved one who is fighting cancer and with those who love them because caregiving will take a team.
Keys for a Cancer Caregiver: Community, Communication & a Caring Heart
Three main things you will need when caregiving is Community, Communication & a Caring Heart
As you can see, all three things are addressed on the dashboard of the app:
My Circle is the hub of community.
Requests and Health Notes may help with communication.
Well-Being could help you care for your loved one and may even inspire you to do some self-care, too!
The app helps your loved one “assign a Proxy who can manage your account on your behalf if desired. Champions who are the people you rely on the most for daily help, and Supporters receive updates and help where and when they can.”
You can help your loved one schedule and organize support right there in the app and keep everyone up-to-date.
As a caregiver, helping build a team is so important. It allows different people to serve in their unique and gifted ways.
It also keeps one person from being overwhelmed with the caregiving and will help surround the patient with love, which is so very healing.
Good communication is so important, and sometimes it can be hard as the caregiver to know exactly what is needed and when.
As a caregiver, it informs you in a simple way about how they are doing and gives you a heads up on how to care for them.
It gives you a way to help them communicate with your loved one’s supporters, know how to organize their thoughts and needs and share them with just a touch of a button.
Battling cancer can be overwhelming for both the patient and the caregiver. This app can be a helpful way to simplify the communication process.
The app helps you keep track of important notes and questions in between appointments. As a caregiver, you are a listener, and you can encourage your loved one to put his or her cares and concerns into list form to ask his or her doctor. This may help him or her release worry.
When you attend doctors’ appointments, keep the app open and take active notes for your loved one. This can be very helpful.
What is said during doctors’ appointments can be filled with many emotions, good and bad. Being present during these precious, life-changing moments with your loved one should not be taken lightly.
Oftentimes, your loved one is going to hear test results that can take his or her breath away . . . again, both in a good and bad way. With cancer, it can go either way.
Knowing that the important things the doctor says are being tracked and gathered in one accessible place may bring peace of mind.
A Caring Heart
Cancer can reveal just how precious life is. As a caregiver, you may find your love and care for the person with cancer almost overwhelming. You want to help your loved one fight and fight well.
The app can keep track of your loved one’s steps, sleep, pain and mood.
I encourage you, as a caregiver, to be mindful of these things for yourself. You want to be your strongest self, and that means taking care of your own basic needs, too.
Make sure you are getting the rest you need. Take walks. Hydrate. Practice self-care and take care of that caring heart of yours.
You will not regret doing your best in caregiving. It may not be a role you imagined playing or even chose to play, but look for the beauty in things that are difficult, for love is why it is so hard in the first place.
It would not be hard if you didn’t care. Take care of your dear, caring heart and keep choosing love!
Eat super seeds every day! They are a high nutrient food and they are packed with healthy goodness. Seeds contain all the starting materials needed to grow into a complex plant, and because of this, they are a very alive, nutritious food.
Keeping a jar of super seed mix in the refrigerator is an easy way to have these little superfoods on hand at all times.
Many seeds (like pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds) are a complete protein source! Seeds have more protein and minerals than nuts and less saturated fat.
GOOD FATS FROM A WHOLE FOOD SOURCE
Seeds are rich in ALA Omega 3 fats which feed the brain and plays a key role in metabolism and energy production.
Having a good fat in your diet is important for the absorption of nutrients, including anti-cancer phytochemicals.
Lignans are antioxidants that may help support the immune system and can help balance hormone levels in the body.
They also have anti-estrogenic effects and can prevent naturally occurring hormones from binding to estrogen receptors and exerting their negative effects.
I am especially interested in the lignans in seeds as I am a survivor of hormone-sensitive breast cancer.
Again, as a breast cancer survivor, I am very interested in all of the health benefits of seeds.
My husband has been pre-diabetic in the past, so he also makes sure to get his seeds in every day, too!
Plant foods, in general, can be very disease protective, and so eat your seeds!
Thank you Pfizer for sponsoring this post. Join Pfizer’s #InspirationLives initiative by sharing your story with the hashtag on Facebook and Instagram to support and inspire those who have been affected by cancer, and be sure to check out the LivingWith™ mobile app available via iTunes and Google Play!
Cancer Diagnosis – A Reason for a Circle of Support
Every person who has been diagnosed with cancer knows exactly where they were when they heard the words “you have cancer.” These 3 little words are so powerful that knees get weak and the wind is knocked right out of you. You lose your breath, your heart pounds, and all of a sudden your whole world becomes a fight to keep breathing.
I’ve heard these words twice in my life.
The first time, I was a young 22-year-old cosmetologist working at a hair salon. I was blow drying my favorite client and was called away for a phone call. It was my dermatologist with biopsy results from a freckle on my stomach that had turned darker and darker. I answered the phone and he said, “I’m sorry to tell you: it tested positive for melanoma. Please make an appointment to come see me right away.”
I had read enough to know that back in 1998, melanoma was very deadly if it was advanced enough to get into the bloodstream. I went back to drying my client’s hair, hoping the dryer was loud enough to block out the sound of my pounding heart. I didn’t tell her the words I had just heard, even though she was my favorite. I needed a moment to take it all in. I needed a moment to breathe.
The second time I heard the words “you have cancer,” I was 34 years old, a wife and a mom of 3 beautiful girls. It felt different: more serious. My doctor called. This time I was at home in my bedroom, my 3 girls and their friends playing downstairs. I wrote about the call in my journal:
The doctor comes on the phone, voice low and serious.
“Amy, I’m sorry to have to tell you that you have invasive ductal carcinoma.”
Silence . . . my breath taken, but my heart beating louder and faster.
“Do you understand what I am saying? That means you have breast cancer.”
I find myself in my closet, the phone still attached to my ear. I am having to concentrate on my breath, and I say the word “OK” 3 times. It is the only thing I can think of to say. My knees feel weird. Is this what they mean by “weak in the knees”?
With the words “you have cancer,” life instantly becomes overwhelming and everything feels different. Life feels out of control. Appointments, doctors, scans, medications, surgeries and staying alive become your new normal. There is a lost sense of stability, and you are faced with your mortality. Your entire life becomes about living, and you fight to just breathe and stay alive.
The Importance of Having a Circle of Support
This is a fight that must not be done alone. Some of the most beautiful life moments can happen in this unwanted new normal, and they often involve others.
In my fight, I challenged my 3 young girls to look for treasures in the midst of the hard. We had to find ourselves thankful even when life was spiraling. I knew this would make this new journey bearable, but I don’t think I realized just how much it would change it and not just make it bearable, but beautiful.
Treasures came from above through our circle of support.
We are made for relationships. We are made to give love and receive love. People fighting cancer find themselves doing a lot of the receiving, and that is okay. The key is being willing to. It can be an adjustment if you are used to being the one giving, but, oh, the beauty of receiving love! If you are a cancer fighter, learn how to receive.
My circle of support came around me and taught me so much. I’ve had a front row seat for an extended time to see how it is done. Receiving love and support from others changed my journey and made it a precious one. I now know how to better give support and love others because of how others supported me.
There are treasures to be found even in cancer, in the giving and receiving of love the most beautiful circle is formed. A circle of support.
An Easy Way to Reach Out and Form Your Circle of Support
You can form a circle of support through the LivingWith™ app. This app is part of Pfizer’s This is Living with Cancer™ initiative designed to help people manage their lives with cancer and stay connected to their communities. The mobile app is designed to help manage some of the daily challenges faced by people living with cancer and organize certain important information in one place.
I sure wish it was around at the time of my cancer treatment and fight. It would have been helpful to have all of my information in one place.
My favorite part would be using the Circle of Support on the LivingWith™ app to inform and connect with my friends and family.
The app helps you assign a proxy who can manage your account on your behalf if desired: Champions, who are the people you rely on the most for daily help, and Supporters, who receive updates and help where and when they can. You can schedule and organize your help right there in the app, staying in touch with your people and keeping everyone up to date.
How My Loved Ones Supported Me During My Breast Cancer Treatment
Despite not having the app, I still had amazing support.
If you are a cancer fighter, I hope the following stories give you ideas on how to answer your loved ones when they ask “What can I do?” If you are part of a cancer fighter’s circle of support, I hope my stories give you some great ideas of how you can support your loved one.
I had 7 surgeries in 3 years, and my recovery room at the hospital or at home was always brightened by flowers. A favorite I remember was an orchid from my sister-in-law. I also remember a simple sweet violet plant. My husband’s workplace sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a grocery store gift card attached to it. I loved all of them. You can never go wrong with flowers!
A teacher who taught young people at our church gathered their homemade art and get-well notes and delivered them to me. Teens from the non-profit organization that my husband worked for took the time to write letters and sent them to me. These 2 art deliveries touched my heart so much!
Another amazing piece of art I received was drawn by my teenage nephew and delivered to my hospital room. It was a sketch of a warrior, and he said it was me. That image and his love helped me find my courage. It is to this day a treasured gift.
FUN FOR THE KIDS
My girls were 10-, 9- and 7-year-old. Seeing their mom fight cancer was hard on them, but they sure loved getting spoiled and were so well loved. One of their favorite memories was getting to go to an indoor water park called CoCo Keys. This was such a generous, thoughtful gift from a sweet friend.
My father-in-law would come on a Saturday, pick my girls up and take them to a movie. I tried so hard to be awake and ‘up’ while my girls were home, so having them gone for a few hours gave me permission to relax the tough girl exterior that I kept while my girls were around and take a nap. They remember those special Grandpa dates to this day.
A reader of this blog sent me a homemade lap quilt. I could not get over the sweet generosity and the time I know she took to make it. I took it everywhere and it got lots of attention in the chemo room. It was a perfect size and so very beautiful. I felt so covered in love.
Another reader crocheted hats for my cold noggin. A friend knitted 3 hats for my girls and one for me too, we were all pretty cute in our lovely handmade hats!
OFFER TO TAKE NOTES AT DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS
I have a dear friend who I knew was wired to be resolute and could keep her emotions in check even when hearing hard things. She is so loving but also tough.
She is the one I asked to come with us to our first oncology appointment. My anxiety was so strong that I had to ask for a bag while we sat in the waiting room just in case I got sick. This was before knowing if cancer had spread, and the unknown was getting the best of me.
My husband and I needed someone to focus and take notes on the hard things that were said while our minds swirled, and her strong presence was what we needed.
HELP WITH OVERWHELMING PROJECTS
I remember while healing that the simple act of putting my Christmas decorations away was so overwhelming. I remember my sister and mom packing it all away for me as I sat in my jammies on our couch, so relieved when all the boxes were finally put away.
A sweet group of women offered to come and help me organize and add planters to beautify our front yard for spring. I still have those planters sitting out by our front steps, all these years later, a reminder of love every time I come home.
PACKAGES IN THE MAIL
So many sweet packages from loved ones, but as a mom, I especially loved the packages that came for my girls. I so enjoyed seeing my worried girls delight in things. It was healing for us all. One package I vividly remember came from a loving aunt and had teddy bears and candy for my girls.
So many cards were sent and I kept all of them. One from my aunt and uncle had some money tucked inside for groceries.
Oh goodness, what a gift. My sisters often would come and fold laundry and clean while I slept. My mother-in-law arranged for ongoing house cleaning while I was in treatment. The woman who came regularly to clean my home ended up becoming a mentor to me—talk about a full circle of support and a treasure from cancer! I have such sweet memories of being in her home and soaking in her wisdom.
There are many more examples I could give, specifically in the area of FOOD and PRESENCE—both were huge for creating a circle of support around me. Notice I said presence, not presents. Both are great but the former is so, so important.
I will talk about these 2 things extensively and share more stories in an upcoming post!
So what about you?
Do you have stories of your own circle of support?
Do you have a loved one that you are surrounding with support right now? If so, send them this post and tell them about the app!
What are specific ways or ideas you have for showing support?
Are you a cancer fighter that needs a circle of support? If so, get the app!