Who inspires us?

Jennifer Griffin and Hoda Kotb,, two of the 2014 Spring Celebration's inspiring honorees.

Jennifer Griffin and Hoda Kotb,, two of the 2014 Spring Celebration’s inspiring honorees.

Every year in April, we host our annual Spring Celebration—an elegant evening of dinner, dancing and fun with many of our close friends in the cancer community. We also take this night to honor and celebrate the strides made to help us achieve our mission, “to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community.” This year we are honoring four special people who have inspired us and who have made significant contributions to the community. Learn more about the 2015 Founders Award Honorees:

1. The Founders Award for Leadership: Dr. Larry Gluck & the Greenville Health System Cancer Institute. Dr. Larry Gluck has been the Medical Director for the Greenville Health System’s Aphresis Program since 1992 and the Medical Director for the Greenville Health System’s Cancer Institute since 2002. In 2012, Greenville Health System’s Cancer Institute established the Center for Integrative Oncology and Survivorship, which included the first-in-the-nation partnership with the Cancer Support Community to offer social and emotional support in the hospital setting, paving the way for a major leap forward in total cancer care. Dr. Gluck’s continued and ongoing efforts in research, vision, leadership and patient care has positively impacted the lives of countless patients and their families.

2. The Founders Award for Innovation: Lilly Oncology. Lilly Oncology is a global health care leader that unites caring with discovery to make life better for people around the world. Across the globe, Lilly Oncology employees work to discover and bring life-changing medicines to those who need them, improve the understanding and management of disease, and give back communities through philanthropy and volunteerism. CSC honors Lilly Oncology with the Founders Award for Innovation.

3. The Founders Award for Empowerment: Barak Goodman and Cancer: The Emperor of All MaladiesIf you haven’t heard yet about the new documentary that’s sweeping the nation, visit the PBS website to catch all three parts of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies. This documentary series illustrates cancer like never before, with history lessons, medical advancements and personal stories of triumph and loss all rolled into one inspiring documentary. For this reason, Barak Goodman is presented with the Founders Award for Empowerment.  We interviewed Barak as well as Ken Burns in a special episode of the Frankly Speaking About Cancer radio show. Check it out here.

4. The Founders Award for Spirit: Daniel Jacobs. Few things are more devastating to an athlete than to be told that they have cancer, but Daniel Jacobs refused to give up after his 2011 bone cancer diagnosis. Daniel Jacobs, the “Miracle Man” boxer became the first cancer survivor to win the WBA Middleweight Title in 2014, just three years after his initial diagnosis. For such strength of self, CSC awards Daniel the Founders Award for Spirit. Click here to listen to this week’s special encore radio show to learn more about Daniel’s inspiring story.

Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #CSCGala15 on Twitter to see pics and snippets of the night’s activities and to spot one of the amazing people listed here. And to keep up with more CSC events and to make sure you don’t miss out on the next celebration, stay aware of CSC’s calendar of events, and subscribe to our email list here. We hope to see you soon!

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4 ways to stress less

stress awarenessHave you ever found yourself feeling so stressed that you have to put things on hold? April is Stress Awareness Month, and the Cancer Support Community recognizes that a cancer diagnosis can influence stress levels. That is why we are celebrating the resources we have for stress management. These tips below can be used regularly to ensure healthy stress levels or during times when you feel especially stressed.

1. Schedule time for self-care.
When things are especially hectic and overwhelming, it can feel as though you barely have time to eat or sleep, let alone take time to do a leisurely activity. However, these are the times when caring for yourself is most important, as it directly works to relieve stress and bring calmness into your life. If you feel yourself feeling especially stressed on a certain day, you can set aside tasks that do not need to be completed that day in order to take some time to do what you enjoy and find relaxing such as yoga, journaling, etc.

2. Break down tasks into smaller steps.
People are often presented with large tasks that can seem daunting. In the case of living with cancer or caring for someone with cancer, this may include coordinating financial support for treatments, figuring out employment changes, or navigating the presence of cancer within the family. Although these tasks may seem difficult, they may actually not be as stressful if you break them down into daily or weekly goals. That way, you will create a clear plan for how to complete the task, while also only doing small amounts each day to avoid feeling overwhelmed while still feeling a sense of accomplishment.

3. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.
When things are particularly stressful, it is often difficult to rationalize taking time to cook a healthy meal, sleep the number of hours needed, or exercise. However, by incorporating these activities into your daily routine, you can better maintain your stress level. Eating well and sleeping enough can give you enough energy to deal with the stressors of your day. Exercising helps relieve stress by releasing endorphins and concentrating your focus.

4. Ask for help.
Stress can arise when you feel there is just too much for you to get done. This is where help from others can reduce stress. Your friends, family, and others can help with tasks that you can focus on the most important or pressing matter at the time. Help can also come in the form of talking to a loved one about your stress. You can also do this through CSC’s Cancer Support Helpline at 1-888-793-9355 or online resources.

For more information on stress management, check out CSC’s emotional health page. Remember, although Stress Awareness Month is only in April, you can be mindful of your stress levels and care for yourself all year long!

Posted in Living with Cancer | 1 Comment

Be the boss over cancer

Today’s guest blog post is from Kelsey Fenton, Associate Manager of Programs at Cancer and Careers. Click here to learn more about their upcoming event, the National Conference on Work & Cancer.

cancer and careers blog photo

Hello! I’m Kelsey Fenton, Associate Manager of Programs at Cancer and Careers, a national non-profit organization that empowers and educates people with cancer to thrive in their workplace, and a long-time partner of CSC.

Upon receiving a cancer diagnosis, you might be overwhelmed not only with treatment decisions, finding support and financial stress (in which CSC provides a number of great resources) but also employment challenges. Whether you are deciding if you should take time off for treatment, are looking for work after treatment or trying to figure out how to manage working through treatment, there is a lot of information that you need to gather – from various sources.

At Cancer and Careers, we provide a variety of programs and information in person, print and online to help you gather such information and navigate the practical and legal challenges of balancing work and cancer.

Our signature event is the National Conference on Work & Cancer. This year, the conference will be held June 12 in New York City and covers topics such as job search, online reputation management, health insurance, flexible work options and more! We encourage cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, healthcare professionals and employers to attend. If you’re not in NYC, we offer travel scholarships (applications open until 4/15)!  More information about the conference, travel scholarships and registration can be found on our website, at www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/events/conference.

If you can’t join us in NYC, visit our website to learn more about our nationwide events, to sign up for one of our webinars or to order a copy of one of our free publications, including our new, 4th Edition Living & Working with Cancer Workbook.

And always feel free to email us at cancerandcareers@cew.org with any questions about our programs or balancing work and cancer. Together, we will help you be the boss over cancer!

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What I’ve learned from watching “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”

emperor of all maladies imageCancer is commonly called a thief, a villain, a plague and a few “NSFW” words I won’t use here. But its latest nickname is “The Emperor.” When it comes to an illness, cancer truly is the emperor. It rules all others, makes no exception to who it targets, is powerful, greedy and does not want to be stopped.

When I first started watching the PBS documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies on Monday night I wasn’t sure I agreed with calling cancer an emperor. It seemed to be such a positive and powerful term to place on something with such a negative impact. But after two nights of tuning in and live tweeting, and as I get ready for the third, I get it. Cancer is a disease like no other, even within itself it never seems to be the same way twice—it’s smarter than that. Giving a powerful disease a powerful name pays respect to the millions of people who take on “The Emperor” every year–a respect greatly earned by all who are affected.

But that isn’t the only thing that struck me while watching the first two nights of the film. For anyone who hasn’t watched yet, it takes us back to decades ago and walks us through the progression of treatment and innovation–from when we first treated childhood leukemia with chemicals (an extremely radical idea in its day), to the first radiation therapy treatment given by a homemade x-ray, to using a form of mustard gas, and then the inspiring success of the Herceptin clinical trial. However, cancer treatment isn’t the only thing that progressed during the film. We have come leaps and bounds from the early days when it comes to patient support. Cancer was once believed to be a communicable disease, where patients were sent away from society upon their diagnosis. People lived in fear that they could catch the disease, or worse, give it to their friends, family members or neighbors. Treatment decisions were made by the physician, not the patient. And social and emotional distress was just an unfortunate side effect to be overlooked.

Today, the landscape is different, but there are still strides to be made, not just in searching for a cure, but in improving the entire patient experience. Until cancer is history, the Cancer Support Community and countless others will be working tirelessly to support all who are impacted by this malady.

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies airs at 9 p.m. ET on your local PBS channel. CSC and countless others will be tweeting our thoughts throughout the film with the hashtag #CancerFilm. Follow us at @CancerSupportcm to join in the conversation. To learn more about this important documentary, listen to this episode of Frankly Speaking About Cancer with two of the men behind the film, Executive Producer Ken Burns and Director Barak Goodman.

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What we can learn from Angelina Jolie Pitt

Angelina Jolie“I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this.…There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.” – Angelina Jolie Pitt 

Yesterday, Angelina Jolie Pitt made headlines when she revealed her decision to surgically remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, due to an estimated 50% risk that she would develop ovarian cancer. The risk stems from a hereditary mutated gene, the BRCA1, which not only affected Jolie’s ovaries, but gave her an 87% chance of developing breast cancer as well (before her double mastectomy in 2013).

We sometimes forget that even celebrities face challenges which can make them feel lost and without control, but the emotional effects of cancer are universal. People say cancer doesn’t discriminate, but that’s not true; cancer is an unfair disease which affects the population unequally, and the sad truth is that some of us are more at risk for certain cancers based on our genetic backgrounds than others. But just because you carry a gene doesn’t mean that you don’t have options.

CSC has talked in the past about the importance of staying informed about your own personal circumstance, but this has never been more important than with regards to your genetic inheritance. So what are the steps to determining your next move?

  1. Study your situation: Find out about the history of cancer in your family. If you’re worried that you might be a gene carrier, consult a doctor. The earlier you know about your risk and the more you know about your risk, the faster you can start brainstorming your choices.
  2. Lay out all your options: Talk to your doctor, family, friends and loved ones about the realities that you are facing and the best course of action. Utilize CSC’s Open to Options to formulate a list of targeted questions to ask your oncologist about treatment choices, and feel empowered to make the choice that best fits your personal needs.  Talk to other people about the routes they took and their experiences through the Living Room, our online community. Now is the time to put everything on the table.
  3. Reflect: Don’t jump to conclusions, be judgmental or rule anything out; take your time and really evaluate each possibility with an open mind. Don’t let yourself be ruled by any fears you may have, and remember that the best decisions are made with a calm and clear head.
  4. Choose the best option for YOU: When it comes down to it, you are the one who knows yourself best, and you are the one who should make the call.

Facing your fears to make this decision can be intimidating, even for stars like Angelina Jolie. But, as Karen Hurley, a clinical psychologist specializing in hereditary cancer risk noted, “Ms. Jolie’s story beautifully illustrates a hidden truth about making big decisions (medical or otherwise):  the process of listening to yourself and deciding what it right for you creates that peaceful center that will help you through the ups and downs of screening, surgery and treatment.”

We know you’ve got what it takes. And you know you’re not alone.

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