This week has flown by, and I'm kind of sad to see it ending. Maybe next year during October, I'll feature cancer survivors for 2 weeks instead of just one.
Today I'm featuring 2 cancer survivors. The first is Stephanie Butland, whose blog is called Bah! to Cancer. I love the line right under the title of her blog... Breast cancer had a pop at Stephanie. It really wishes it hadn't! Haha! Isn't that great?! The other survivor is Shelly Eyre. Shelly is one of the wonderful people who helped me at the chemo center. She runs the support groups there, and iS actually a big reason why I started writing about my breast cancer journey. She encouraged me to record everything. I just love her.
KARA: "What are the most important things that you've learn while going through breast cancer?"
STEPHANIE: "Going through breast cancer, I've learned:
- to look after myself. To admit when I'm tired, when I'm hungry, when I don't want to do very much, when I need someone to look after me.
- to ask for help. I was never very good at this before. I'm not that good at it now, but I'm getting better. This has also helped me to learn how willing people are to help - and how much better they can cope if they are allowed to help.
- how much I love my life. This experience has shown me that I am absolutely in the right place, with the right people, doing the right job.
- what doesn't matter. There have been things in my life that I've stopped doing because breast cancer made me realize that they didn't really mean that much to me. It's almost as though going through breast cancer has burned away everything I don't need in my life and left me happier and more secure in the things that I do do."
KARA: "How has breast cancer changed you?"
STEPHANIE: "Well, I think I'm learning to be more patient. And I think I am more appreciative of what I have. I asked my husband and he says I'm less hard on myself.
And I've got a funky new hair color (thanks to chemo), a couple of dinky little scars and a teeny tiny blue tattoo!"
KARA: "Because it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, can you give the women who read this blog some advice about breast cancer?"
STEPHANIE: "My advice about breast cancer:
Check your breasts. If you find anything unusual, go straight to the doctor. If it isn't cancer - and it probably isn't - you lose nothing. If it is, catching it earlier can save your life. I'm fairly sure it saved mine.
Ask lots of questions. (The only stupid question is the one you don't ask.)
Take notes when you go to meetings and appointments.
Keep a diary of your symptoms and side effects so that you can discuss them with your team the next time you see him.
Don't assume the worst. Just because you have cancer it doesn't mean you're going to die. Just because you're having chemotherapy doesn't mean you're going to be constantly ill. Just because you're having radiotherapy doesn't mean you're going to be permanently exhausted.
Make the most of all the help that's offered. There are charities that offer everything from counseling to hypnotherapy, to hair and make-up lessons for people with cancer, and they really help.
Trust your instincts. If you feel a course of treatment isn't right for you don't be afraid to say so. Most consultants (doctors) are treating the average/norm and you have the right to question that."
(I actually interviewed Shelly with the same questions as the nurses, instead of as a cancer survivor - but I think of her first and foremost as a survivor! Instead of writing my questions here, I think I'll just let her talk...)
SHELLY: "I am a survivor of leukemia and uterine cancer. It’s been almost 9 years now. My sister was not so lucky. She died of leukemia at 37 leaving 10 children and now my brother is waiting a bone marrow transplant because of his leukemia. So my investment in working with cancer patients is a natural flow from my life.
I always say I have a JOY, not job. I am so lucky to work with so many amazing people and to help a little on their journey. I run all the support groups and classes at the Central Utah Clinic and we call our space “The Healing Place”. We talk about moving from surviving to thriving, about healing your life. Sometimes that means being cured of disease, sometimes not. Healing is often a deep spiritual process. Healing relationships means asking forgiveness, forgiving, expressing gratitude and love. When you have said and done all of that Healing happens. I am honored to witness this healing everyday.
Cancer changes your life and you are never the same. People who can get to a place where they can see the gifts of cancer are always changed for the better. I lost everything during my three year process. I learned it is just stuff. What was most important was the relationships that endured the ups and downs of that time. The circle of my life had always been large. Cancer made it a deep and meaningful circle. Life is such a gift and I am thankful everyday."
Thank you, ladies. Tomorrow will be the last of our Breast Cancer Awareness week. I'll write a little about my cancer journey, and then we'll move on to next week's Incredible Woman!!!