A sad day

24 Aug

Today is a sad day for us.

After years of standing by his innocence, Lance Armstrong has announced that he will not fight the allegations against USADA anymore.

He says “Enough is enough.” So far there has not been tests that were proven positive by the USADA although they insist that they have the ability to find Armstrong guilty from testaments of his previous teammates.

We are deeply saddened by this unfair jurisdiction. No matter what happens, even if the titles of the seven Tour de France he has so painstakingly won were stripped, he remains in our hearts a cancer hero.

We believe, Lance.

http://lancearmstrong.com/news-events/lance-armstrongs-statement-of-august-23-2012

What to say to a cancer patient

24 Jul

Recently I knew of two friends’ dear ones who are diagnosed with cancer. It is always sad, especially when I know young people who have to deal with cancer whilst they are in the prime of their lives.

One of the things I realised with my own experience is that many young people do not know how to respond when their friends are diagnosed with cancer. Simply because cancer is a faraway concept when you’re in your thirties and living the life, pursuing your career and enjoying the life after the twenties.

So what can you say if someone you know has cancer? Here is what I think is helpful.

1) Be calm.

Remember that your friend is probably under a lot of stress and overwhelmed by the diagnosis. It won’t help if you burst into tears and sob. He or she will be obliged to deal with your feelings and that causes more stress. Instead, be calm and show your friend that you are able to handle this piece of news, even if you are falling apart inside.

2) Listen.

Hearing what your friend has to say about his/her experience may trigger your own fears about mortality. It may be very tempting to speak out about your fears – what if you can have cancer too? – but at this moment, it is not about you. Your friend has cancer and does not need to hear about your nagging fear about a lump you had for the last four years. Be a faithful friend and listen to what he/she has to say.

3) Say what you know.

And that means saying things that you know, for sure. Like ” I will be here for you if you need my help in anyway”. Things which you should not say are, ” I’m sure everything will be alright.” Because you don’t know. So don’t say that. And don’t tell your friend what you know about cancer, if you do not know for sure. It is not the best time to confuse your friend at this moment with half-truths and hearsay.

4) Be helpful and mean it.

Many times cancer patients do not know what help they need. So try to suggest ways you can help. Eg. Suggest that you can ferry your friend to the hospital, visit the doctor with her or help with any chores around the house. And if your friend doesn’t accept your help initially, don’t despair. She might not be ready to ask for help yet.

5) Be sensitive.

Ask if your friend is comfortable speaking about cancer. There are days when a cancer patient is tired of being just a cancer patient and wishes to be normal. Remember your friend for who she is and try to be normal around her. She will appreciate being treated as a friend and person, instead of just a cancer patient.

There you have it! Remember, it is difficult to deal with cancer AND someone else’s reaction to cancer. So go easy on your friend.

Here is a helpful website for caring for cancer patients:

MacMillan Cancer Support

 

Young adults with cancer, finally

7 Jun

Finally we are getting the conversation about young adults! LiveSTRONG, bless them, has started a series of topics to help young adult cancer survivors move forward. There are interviews and accounts from survivors about how cancer has affected them and how they can move on with the leftover effects from treatments.

Some helpful topics include: Dating and sex after treatment, Fertility, Friends and family etc.

I’m so happy that they decided to do a series on this because more young adults are being affected by cancer and we need to get the conversation going. How to survive cancer treatment and also as important, how to deal with the diagnosis while these adults are in the prime of their lives.

You can visit the LiveSTRONG blog for more details, or watch the videos on YouTube.

Cancer and Depression

3 Jun

I’ve written about post-cancer depression here before. It creeps in like a bad flu and when it happens most people are surprised. Depressed? Not me. I’m a fighter, fighting against cancer. Nothing’s gonna get me, no, nothing at all.

The truth is, post-cancer depression is a lot more complex than that. There is a sense of great loss and also a sense of betrayal that the body and soul will not ever return to normal.

And of all the books, websites that I’ve read, nothing describes it as succinct as Dana Jennings, a writer for the New York Times. Gosh I wish I could write like him!

“Partly, I think, I’m grieving for the person I was before I learned I had cancer. Mortality is no longer abstract, and a certain innocence has been lost.

And while the physical trauma is past, the stress lingers and brings with it days washed in fine shades of gray. In the same way that radiation has a half-life, stress does, too. We all ache to be the heroes of our own tales, right? Well, I’m not feeling too heroic these days.” – Dana Jennings

After Cancer, Ambushed by Depression : Dana Jennings, The New York Times

Have a peaceful and joyful day ahead.

Return of the M

2 Jun

It’s fantastic news! My period is finally back after a hiatus of two dark years.

In the last two years, after my first chemotherapy treatment, I have been in a premature menopause. Never in my life did I realise the importance of estrogen to my body. As my cancer is estrogen receptive, it is good news for my cancer cells that I was in menopause. But menopause, oh menopause! I had no idea how difficult it is to go through menopause, the hot flashes, the memory loss, the dry skin… everything they say in the books are true! For a while I was worried that I would be part of the 50% of women whose periods never return and they will be pushed into menopause. Now I am just grateful that I could finally be rid of the menopause goodies!

In terms of fertility, I wasn’t sure about what to expect. My oncologist’s advice is to continue having Tamoxifen for three years (it’s been one and a half years) but if I am planning to start a family then I can stop the Tamoxifen early in order to try for a baby. Wow, the many difficult questions in life! As Tamoxifen stays in the body for a considerable amount of time and it is hazardous for the foetus, it is important to stay off Tamoxifen for a good six months before actively trying to conceive. Looks like I have to do some serious planning… since I am not even married and now am in the process of “relocation”…

After visiting my oncologist, I had another visit to my Chinese traditional medicine doctor. Again, it’s great news about the period resuming. For one, that means my body is returning to normal and the hormones are balancing themselves. The difficulties of menopause will slowly fade away and I can look forward to getting back to normal! Yippee!! But with traditional medicine, I was told to stay clear of cold drinks and foods that are considered too “cooling”. Also, I was told to have more ginger tea which will be good for my body.

Let’s hope this body recovers and gets back to normal! Go, baby go! 

No mud, no lotus

19 Apr

Since the ending of my cancer treatment, there has been many instances in my life where I catch myself thinking, “Is this what I want permanently or is this just a temporary side effect that is affecting me now which will change later?” To be honest, I still cannot really tell the difference.

In the past year where I have been coping with the difficulties of a long-distance relationship and relocation, it has dawned on me that I cannot trust myself to make long term decisions. All I can do is to live in the present, to be in the “now”. Thinking about the future just compounds anxiety which I am not able to cope for now.

When I find myself being anxious or worried about the future, I like to tune in to my favourite Buddhist teacher, Tara Brach. It sounds cheesy but sometimes her podcasts are exactly what I need to stay calm and not get swept into downward spiralling thoughts.

My favourite podcast by far is one called “No mud, no lotus”. In it she talks about the intrinsic link between the mud and the lotus. One does not exist without another. And same with life, there can be no blossom if there is no suffering. We all have our own mud. In fact, our lives are pretty much the mud and it is up to us if we recognise the lotus or not.

You can find Tara Brach’s podcasts in iTunes, or visit her website at http://www.tarabrach.com/index.html

Surviving Cancer

31 Mar

This is a great post from Livestrong – a video of Genae Girard, a breast cancer survivor on the various stages and coping mechanisms post-cancer.

When I look back at my cancer journey, it is very clear to me that the most difficult stages are the beginning (diagnosis) and the recovery (after treatment). Although there is not much emphasis on post-treatment care, I feel that it is imperative that every patient is duly prepared by the medical team about the challenges post-treatment, both physically and mentally. Being mentally prepared for the new normal will make the transition back to life a lot easier and less stressful.