Aug 14

The Physical Losses of Cancer

As cancer survivors, we all sacrificed parts of our bodies in the hope that we would live. Later we realized the physical losses of cancer were only the beginning.  This is Part 2 in a series of Life After Cancer. 

by Lynne Hartke

Several years ago, while our daughter was asleep and home alone, a burglar entered our house through an unlocked window.

Let me rephrase that.

A BURGLAR CAME INTO OUR HOUSE WHILE OUR DAUGHTER WAS HOME ALONE AND SLEEPING! (more…)

Aug 07

First the Earth Shook: Life After Cancer

For every cancer survivor, first the ground shakes. Then the tsunami comes. The only difference is the number of waves.  Physical losses. Relationship Challenges. Emotional Upheaval. It’s a wonder we don’t drown in it all. A 5-part series by blogger and 7-year breast cancer survivor, Lynne Hartke: Life After Cancer.

by Lynne Hartke

“Whomever reads a map, explores a place with their mind.”

The words are displayed next to two maps at the Visitors’ Center in Paracas, a small fishing community on the coastline of Peru. The exhibit implied that Paracas can be best understood after studying the two maps. The topographical map showed the elevation changes of a desert plain. The nautical map showed a community affected by its location to the sea.

I smiled when I read the words because I have never been good at maps. I am directionally-challenged. At our hostel, the night before, I had taken three wrong turns to find the kitchen. Maps confuse me. As I stared at the maps on the wall, Juan Carlos, our tour guide, motioned us to move on to the next exhibit.

Vamanos amigos. Come this way, friends.

(more…)

Jul 06

I am sorry I didn’t beat cancer

by Uzmamd

Yep, sorry, my apologies, with a diagnosis of metastasis four months ago, I didn’t beat cancer.

Every one said, “You are going to beat it”, some said, “If anyone can, you can!!”. They cheered me on as I endured one treatment after another and I kept fighting “like a girl”. I was told I will kick cancer’s ass and will show cancer who is the boss. I rode the wave of positivity and determination. I believed that I will beat it too. I thrived on the fantasy of the cancer submitting to my will and strength.

Songs, inspirational quotes, memes, greeting cards and stories, all led to me to the one end point, “beating cancer”. Being very much a type A personality, I accepted the challenge, I said to myself “I will beat cancer”. Except for one open book exam, I have hardly failed at something in life. So why not this!

However, two and a half years after my first breast cancer diagnosis, I was diagnosed with metastatic disease in the lymph nodes in my chest and some spots in my liver. Shocked and traumatized only begins to define of what I experienced. It was a very hard and exhausting process to come to acceptance.

Broken and beaten, it felt like a failure as if I let down every one who thought I would “knock the shit out of cancer”. I was no longer the example of how stage 3 can be a success story and inspiration.  As a doctor I understood that it was nothing that I did, to bring back my cancer. But I still felt a sense of shame.

Statistics indicate that 30 percent of those are diagnosed with early stage cancer will develop metastasis. I had just held on to 70 percent much more dearly. Medical science currently doesn’t know the exact mechanism through which cancer cells find home in other organs of the body.

The time had come to let go of being a “survivor” and on to a “thriver” or a “lifer”, the terms preferred by metastatic community since we ultimately end up not surviving the disease.

When I was diagnosed the first time, one of the things that helped me very much was supporting others with breast cancer. I did this so their journey could be easier and smoother through the knowledge and experience I had. I wrote blogs and participated actively in online groups.

Since the recurrence happened, I often wondered if I scared other survivors, if they looked at me and worried about getting metastatic cancer and sometime I even wondered if they actively avoided me. I, the face of incurable metastatic cancer, everything that everyone  diagnosed with breast cancer is worried about. The fear of dying of this terminal illness that has no cure. I have no cure.

Having metastatic illness is an emotionally isolating experience, and a lot of women I know tend to withdraw from others after metastasis because it is hard for others to understand our subjective experience…the experience of living life with an incurable, relentless illness with never-ending treatments. It is so overwhelming for others; they don’t want to hear much as it reactivates their own fears of mortality. I have experienced that from some of the survivor friends who want to keep the distance from me but I understand that they want to contain their anxieties of ending in my shoes. I didn’t want to horrify others.

I often wondered what people think when they look at me and if and how sorry they feel for me. I imagine something to the effect of … “Oh this poor young woman with young children who has this illness that has no cure”.

Me and my metastatic cancer.

I remembered when I was newly diagnosed, the word “metastasis” used to send chills up my spine. I used to dread my facebook feed on Mondays, which are  #metsmonday. I did not want to be reminded that my cancer could metastasize, although at stage 3 with high grade cancer cells, I knew inside that the odds of it happening are very high.

One of my stage 4 friends has lived on with bone metastasis for 11 years, she gave me hope but I still would at times try and block her out of my mind, for my own sanity, so I could worry less about me. It sounds selfish but the fear of recurrence is haunting.

I also wanted denial so bad…deny that it could happen to me. I convinced myself that I am doing everything possible to reduce the chances of my recurrence. From good diet to exercise to supplements and yoga, lowering stress and getting enough sleep and all the medications and treatments, I did all possible to lower the chance of cancer taking root within me again.

But as time went on, I also worked hard on accepting what having had cancer meant. It meant accepting life that you have no control over…Life which transitions between sweet fantasies and harsh realities. I got used to those ups and downs. I saw my friends with stage four cancers, kick each day in the butt and beat cancer on a daily basis. My denial softened gradually and I thought, “if it (metastasis )happens I will be ok” . I celebrated every clean scan and a good oncologist visit but the fear of metastasis lingered.

And then it happened. I got another, “I am so sorry “ call from my doctor and I was devastated. Besides coping with my illness, I was sad that I lost my “credibility” as a cancer warrior who had “beaten” cancer.  I was not longer a “success story”.

During all of the angst, I received this message from a fellow survivor whom I got to “know” via Facebook.

It said,

“Until I “met” you, I could not think of stage 4.

I’d panic, hyperventilate

Start to decompensate.

Then I met you.

You are showing me, with grace, passion and humor how this can be done.

You are something of a role model to me.

Doing this stage 4 before I do, if I do.

I’m not so afraid anymore. I have someone doing this ahead of me and I know how to do it.

If I ever get metastasis, I will have someone to emulate….and I will think of you the whole time.

Forgive me if this bugs you or hurts you? I just admire you so much and thank you and God for putting me in my life, but I am also so very, very sorry for your cancer.”

And then I realized I really don’t need to “beat cancer”; I have to however beat life at its game, one day at a time.

I am sorry I didn’t beat cancer but now it really doesn’t matter because I am busy kicking life and showing others how to reconcile with stage 4 breast cancer.

Jun 21

Exciting Changes Made at Provision Project

June 21, 2016 — Portland, OR — Provision Project continues to grow in its mission to provide financial assistance to women in active treatment for breast cancer.  Because of the success we achieved in our first eighteen months, we are delighted to announce some exciting changes at Provision Project.

Jan James has moved into our new “Founder” position.  Jan has spent the first year of the Provision Project setting vision and getting our legal/financial structure in place.  Her new role will be vision-casting, fundraising, marketing, publicity and working closely with the Executive Director.

We are thrilled that former Provision Project board member, Rashida Willard, will now assume the role of Executive Director of Provision Project.

After Rashida’s own battle with breast cancer in 2013, she dove right in to helping others in the breast cancer community. In the Pacific Northwest, Rashida has taken on a leadership role in a private breast cancer support group and has built meaningful relationships with women in that group. “I have connected personally with so many women going through this awful but beautiful journey and am excited to provide leadership to such a wonderful organization. The need for financial assistance is so great and that is why I love and wholeheartedly believe in the work Provision Project does. ”

Rashida brings a wealth of knowledge in business management and organizational leadership and dynamics. Her experience and passion will see Provision Project well into the future.

Provision Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to provide financial assistance to women in active treatment for breast cancer.  Provision Project is an all-volunteer non-profit organization based in Mesa, Arizona.

Jun 02

What Does Cancer Look Like?

What does cancer look like? You might be surprised. This is Caitlin.

“I’m sitting at the doctor’s office for a check up and came across this picture as I wait. I can’t believe that is was over a year ago. I was just finishing my 5th round of chemo, barely any hair on my head and soon to deliver our little Lilian. It feels sometimes like that wasn’t my life, that surely at age 30 I couldn’t have gotten breast cancer. The last two years have been hard. So hard. I have felt indescribable exhaustion and huge waves of fear that my cancer could return. But above all of that I have seen the strength & courage that God placed in my soul. I have seen unwavering support from everyone around me and have gained the most beautiful gift of all, a new perspective. Thank you to those who continue to walk side by side with me.”‪#‎pregnantwithcancer‬ ‪#‎youngbreastcancer‬

Caitlin (with Lilian on board)

Nov 09

Arizona Mom Benefits From Provision Project

No one should have to make a decision between, “Should I pay my mortgage, utilities, buy groceries or miss out on a medical treatment?” This is especially true when you’re a single mom who is battling Stage 4 cancer. This was exactly the situation that Arizona mom, Tiffany, found herself in several months ago.

“In 2004 I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. I found out I was five weeks pregnant right before my mastectomy was scheduled,” she shared. Tiffany had her daughter, Ezri, in February, had her mastectomy and went on Tamoxifen.

In 2010, “My oncologist said I was ‘considered cured,’” she said. “He didn’t really base it on anything scientific.  It was just his opinion.” Then in January 2011, she asked her regular doctor if she’d run a tumor marker test. “In February 2011 I found out the cancer had metastasized to the bone, and I was Stage 4.”

She started immediate, high levels of chemo. During all of this, her daughter’s father left, and Tiffany was a newly single parent on disability struggling to pay the bills while fighting cancer. “I used up my savings.  My family had a fundraiser to help me out while I waited for the disability payments to come in,” she said, adding, “I was living on less than half of my income with 100% of the bills being my responsibility along with my treatments.” (more…)

Oct 23

Jasmine’s Story

Looking nothing like what we’ve been through.

Jasmine is battling Stage 4 breast cancer. She’s a young (29!) giving, loving single mom with 3 beautiful children who is fighting every day to be there for her kids. She was diagnosed when she was just 17.

Because of how advanced her cancer is, she is required to journey 247 miles (four hours one way) every other week to receive the treatment she needs to stay alive. She has no car of her own. (more…)

Oct 12

What You Don’t Know about Stage 4 Breast Cancer

by Jan James

Sisters, you know how steep your learning curve has been since you were diagnosed? Well, I hate to tell you this, but you still don’t know much. And I say that with all the love I can send you.

I remember about three years ago when I was getting one of my first chemo rounds, and I cheerfully said to the gal next to me (who also had bc), “So how many more rounds do you have?” (more…)

Aug 01

CALLING ALL CRAFTERS!

WE NEED YOUR HELP ON THIS SERVICE PROJECT!

We’re going into production of Prayer Buddies! If you are interested in helping make these adorable little stuffed animals which will be used to raise money for the Provision Project, just reply to this post. They’re simple to make and will help raise money to provide financial relief to women in active treatment for breast cancer.

Feel free to SHARE this with sewing groups, crafty friends, church service project groups, Girl Scouts, etc. We would appreciate ALL help on this project! (more…)

Jul 31

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark Places

by Tania Meek

Today I spent the afternoon with a friend going through breast cancer. She was pouring into others, as she always does . . . shining a light into other people’s dark places.

As we drove back home, I asked a pointed question. What had people (friends, family, and acquaintances) done right or wrong over the last few weeks, as she battled this horrible fight? (more…)