Category Archives: It Takes a Village

Unsung Hero

Tara L. Robinson, author of The Ultimate Risk (Hay House, April 2017) and publisher of Whole Living Journal, recently nominated me for one of Cancer Family Care’s 2017 Unsung Hero Patient Awards. The banquet was Tuesday, May 16, in Cincinnati, OH. Here is her nomination. Thank you, Tara!

 

Heidi is truly an inspiration beyond words. Not only is she an Unsung Hero because of her own personal growth work, but also because she has been determined to help others with what she learned from her experience.

And, let me tell you, what she learned was A LOT!

When Heidi was diagnosed with a rare Stage 4 cancer, she immediately put into action all of her advanced awareness of the mind-body-spirit connection. She turned over every single stone and healing became a full time job for her. She researched, overhauled her diet, maximized the effects of sound meditation, art therapy, dream interpretation, etc. She courageously chronicled the details her journey as it unfolded on her Caring Bridge webpage where friends and family remained on the edges of their seats waiting to see what Heidi discovered next.

She never faltered in her optimistic attitude and eventually made a most difficult, life-changing decision necessary to propel her into remission.

All of us who watched Heidi’s healing trek in awe could see the strong possibility that her online accounts would one day be perfect material for a book. She did, in fact, get right to work compiling all she had learned and experienced into an extensive resource for others on the healing journey. Her book, Thriver Soup, was traditionally published and has been helping patients and families around the world ever since.

Heidi and Tara at the awards banquet

I personally have been so inspired by Heidi’s story that I wrote about her in my own book, The Ultimate Risk (Hay House, April 2017) as I recounted why she was the recipient of the first Voices of Women award. Not only was she the first recipient, but she was actually the inspiration for the creation of this award that celebrates and acknowledges “outstanding achievement in personal growth and transformation.” This is the greatest act of service, because as we change ourselves, we change the world. I saw Heidi change the world as she bravely changed herself. The VOW award was created to honor remarkable women who have “risen from the ashes,” or have simply displayed great courage in excavating their inner lives, thereby changing themselves and changing the world…Heidi is the epitome of this award.

Heidi continued to suffer the worst of life’s challenges when her son suddenly passed away. However, her spirit is not to be defeated. She once again drew on the strength and faith she had cultivated during her cancer journey to not only survive, but thrive through even this tragedy.

Heidi is definitely an Unsung Hero and deserves to be honored as such. Our world is a better place because of Heidi Bright.

Mesothelioma Website Gives Virgil a Chance to Survive

Note: Virgil Anderson is alive today and receiving life-saving treatment because he found an organization that provided him with the information and support he needed. As we all share what we learn from our journeys with cancer, whether ours or another’s, we can give each other more options and genuine hope. Thank you, Virgil, for sharing this with us.

Virgil writes:

My story of illness and cancer is similar to the struggles of others: I was diagnosed at 50 with the devastating type of cancer called mesothelioma. I am now very sick and fighting for treatment and for my life. I am limited and unable to enjoy the activities I once did. Just breathing is difficult for me now, and I can blame all this on exposure to asbestos.

My message is an important one, and I want to educate people about the risks of exposure to asbestos. I want other people to know that prevention is important with mesothelioma and that early detection and diagnosis are crucial for effective treatment. Avoid asbestos, but if you have been exposed, get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

I grew up in the small town of Williamson, W.Va., and my story with asbestos began in high school. I worked in demolition, taking down buildings with tools and with my own hands. It was hard work and I was exposed to asbestos-laden dust. Disrupting asbestos in older buildings is one of the top ways people are exposed to asbestos fibers.

After that job I moved on to others, including working on cars. I tore out and replaced hood liners and made repairs to cars, including working with clutches and brakes. All of these parts contained asbestos. Without knowing the dangers or how to protect myself, I was again exposed to asbestos fibers.

Asbestos was once used extensively in so many applications, especially in the construction of buildings. The real dangers of inhaling or accidentally consuming this mineral were not known until the 1970s when regulations were finally put into place. Because I never knew the risks, I worked for years around asbestos and now I have mesothelioma.

I am now living with the consequences, as are many other older Americans. Mesothelioma sneaks up on you many years after asbestos exposure. I now have a hard time breathing and even walking. I spend much of my time in bed, unable to do normal daily tasks. My symptoms include chest pain, a terrible cough, and shortness of breath.

Treatment is limited for me. Treatment for mesothelioma is already difficult, but my cancer has spread to the lymph nodes so surgery is not an option. I am hoping to undergo chemotherapy, which may shrink the tumors and bring me some relief, but a cure for this disease just isn’t possible.

I hope that by sharing my story as far and as wide as I can that I will reach people who may still be able to take steps to prevent mesothelioma or to get screened and treated early. If there is any chance you think you may have been exposed to asbestos, do not wait to talk to your doctor about it. Monitor yourself for symptoms and get screening tests to catch this terrible disease early. My story should help others avoid a similar fate.

 

Psychosocial Support in Cancer Care

Psychosocial support in cancer care was addressed briefly Oct. 8 at the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation patient symposium in St. Louis, Mo.  This was one of several cancer treatment topics that I have been reporting about.

Dr. Yasmin Asvat, clinical psychologist at the Siteman Cancer Center, said, “What is a healthy emotional response to a diagnosis? All emotional responses are valid and appropriate. They’re human responses.”

Initial emotions can include sadness, anger, shock, disbelief, denial, and for a few, acceptance.

“Our bodies are looking for balance to be restored,” she said. “If we are not getting to adjustment and acceptance, how can we live well through this journey?”

Thirty percent of patients experience chronic distress after a diagnosis. “To what degree is the distress interfering with the ability to cope effectively?”

Normal feelings like sadness, fear, and vulnerability can become disabling feelings like depression and anxiety.

“Distress can be experienced throughout the cancer care trajectory,” she said.

Dr. Asvat sees her role as partner in balancing patients’ goals with fears. She tries to provide physical interventions and strategies for fatigue, pain, insomnia, and developing a healthy lifestyle.

Thriver Soup Thursday–Save Lives by Raising Awareness

sarcoma ribbon copyWe must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity. That the happiness of one person or nation is the happiness of humanity.

The Dalai Lama

Some diseases receive enormous amounts of media attention. Others are sidelined or not even recognized by most people. I had never heard the word “sarcoma” when suddenly I was thrust into the world of a terminal diagnosis with a few months to live.

What if I had known that my symptoms indicated severe danger, when I thought I was just having perimenopausal symptoms? How many lives can be saved by raising awareness so others can avoid the devastation I was fortunate enough to have lived through?

I had an incredibly rare sarcoma—and only one in 100 cancer diagnoses is for sarcoma, which is cancer of the connective tissues. The Sarcoma Alliance and Sarcoma Foundation of America want to raise awareness about this disease to help others recognize it and get treatment fast to save lives.

These foundations are asking the White House to name July as Sarcoma Awareness Month. At least 100,000 petition signatures are required by July 29, 2016 for the White House to consider this initiative.

Please sign the petition and share it with others.

Alongside this petition is a movement to name July 15 as LMS Awareness Day. LMS is short for leiomyosarcoma, a rare and deadly cancer. Ask your state legislators to pass resolutions similar to one passed in Michigan (email me and I’ll send the sample to you). Then ask your federal legislators to support this at the federal level.

The suffering of each individual with a rare disease does affect us all at some level. Advocate for others, and they will probably advocate for you as well.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

Here is a link to contact information when advocating to your elected officials: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Sources:

www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/04/20-wise-quotes-from-the-dalai-lama/

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?utm_campaign=Bobek%20Ltd&utm_source=39150&utm_medium=Affiliate&tpl=39150-42119&id=163453907&irgwc=1

Kindly Christmas

Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.

Qur’an 39.10

I was in need of much kindness.

I was a single mother whose firstborn had recently passed away and whose only other child was spending Christmas with his father.

Dread filled my heart when I thought about the upcoming holiday. Christmas 2014 had seemed horrible enough. My 19-year-old had purchased a one-way ticket to hell years earlier–turning to substance abuse, most likely in part because of my end-stage cancer diagnosis in 2009–and he was dragging us along. We spent three long hours in a drug rehab facility. A thick blanket of pain hung heavily around each person as we ate, played bingo, and strained to make small talk. Anger, hurt, sorrow, fear, and powerlessness pervaded my being.

My son ended up doing what most heroin addicts do—he overdosed in June. Then a friend of his overdosed before Thanksgiving, bringing another cascade of grief.

What to do for Christmas this year? I wanted to avoid sobbing into a cup of tea all day. Lovely friends invited me to join them, and I am grateful, but it still would have been a horrible holiday. I knew I needed to get completely away from the memories for awhile.

Heidi by tree 1 webThen I had a conversation with one of my sisters-in-law, followed by an invitation to Seattle for the holidays.

It was perfect. I left a week before Christmas and stayed well into the new year to avoid emotional triggers. They piled my lap with more gifts than I have received in decades. My sister-in-law cooked amazing meals and showed me the treasures she had been collecting for a museum she plans to open in Astoria, Oregon, in June. I also disappeared into my deceased parents’ past, scanning hundreds of old family slides and transcribing German letters.

My brother and his family acted with great kindness, and I am so grateful. I actually had a really nice Christmas.

 

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

If you know someone who has suffered a great loss, your kindness is deeply appreciated.