Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Jan 10

Stephanie’s Story – “A Lump and a Bump”

What does breast cancer “look like” to you?

Stephanie was 30 years old and 17 weeks pregnant with her fourth child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Provision Project has met many women who have endured breast cancer treatment while having a baby on board. It’s a miracle to see beautiful newborns born perfectly healthy. The way our bodies are made is so amazing … women are usually able to have chemotherapy without harming their baby in any way. And many babies are born with a full head of hair!

Natalie, the “Bump,” was born in June 2013 and continues to thrive in every way. Hear her and Stephanie’s story here.

Oct 18

Climbing the Mountain of Cancer

by Kristin Knerr

I am honored that Provision Project has asked me to tell my story. This project is very close to my heart, and it’s a privilege to be a part of this group of women who have inspired me and encouraged me so much.

I don’t want to tell the story of my diagnosis or my journey through the battlefield. My story is most likely much like yours. The devastating phone call, the destruction of body, mind, and spirit. The confusion, the sorrow, the suffering, the agonizing pain. The coming undone.

What I want is to give you the most valuable weapon you must have if you are to survive and move on again. I want to give you hope. I want you to know in your darkest and loneliest of hours, that you will come out the other side again. In the burning away of all that you are and possess, do not let go of your hope. The sun is going to shine, your hair is going to grow back, you will laugh out loud, and you will grow strong once again, I promise. I will never say, “Don’t give up,” because I did, one thousand times. Victory isn’t in the not giving up. It’s in the getting up, over and over again. I don’t recall ever thinking that cancer would be the death of me, but I certainly do remember thinking that despair would. Connect yourself to other survivors because they understand, and they need you to survive as well. I am here with you. My name is in the link here somewhere, and I want you to friend me or message me. Take my hand, I’ll go with you as far as I am able. When you want to give up, I’ll stand in the gap for you.

After I finished treatment, I was left with some significant physical disabilities. I was not able to walk very well and suffered a severe spinal cord injury. I would wake up in the mornings, and the first thought I would have was, “I can’t” and I would cry myself out of bed. It took almost two years to be able to walk normally and a lot of physical therapy, but here I am, on the other side.

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to climb Mount Tetakawai located in Sonora, Mexico, surrounded by the Sea of Cortez. I was accompanied by my daughter, grandson, and a precious friend who has stayed with me through it all. Funny thing about mountains, they don’t look very intimidating when you see them from a distance. But when you stand at the base of them and look up, it appears insurmountable. I think being on the cancer battle field is a lot like climbing that mountain.

Mount Tetakawai isn’t an exceptionally large mountain, but it is technical and complicated. There are large sections of shale and slate with razor sharp edges. There are a few sections of rock that you can’t actually climb but can sort of throw your body over them. How did I climb that mountain? One rock at a time. I stopped and rested a few times, but I kept going. I came to a few spots that made me laugh because I knew there was no possible way I was strong enough to get through it, but I did. The love and encouragement from those that were with me got me over the top of several boulders. When I looked up at the mountain looming overhead, I knew I couldn’t do it, but when I looked at each rock as its own challenge, I knew I could do that. Let me tell you, the view from the top defies description. I was somehow changed inside, standing on the highest point, witnessing the way the ocean met the sky.

Keep going. Keep reaching up and forward, and keep your eyes on the little obstacles in front of you because before you know it, you will be at the top without even knowing how you really got there. Be courageous, be fierce, and most of all, be full of hope.

 

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 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…)

Mar 16

For the Luck of Cancer?

by Melissa Powell

If you were to see the scars that rest on my now flattened chest you might not consider me lucky, but you are not looking deep enough.

If you were to watch me climb out of bed each morning stiff from the medicine that continues to keep the stalker at bay you would not consider me lucky, but you are still not looking deep enough. (more…)

Mar 12

The Things I Wish I Was Told When I Was Diagnosed With Cancer

by Jeff Tomczek

Your relationships are about to change. All of them. Some will get stronger. They will probably not be with the people you would expect. The people you want to handle this well might not be able to for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons will be selfish. Some of them will be entirely innocent and circumstantial. All of them will be forgivable because no one plans for cancer. Carrying bitterness or anger won’t help your recovery. Fighting for anyone to stick with you won’t cure you. Those who can, will. (more…)

Mar 12

A Note to Our Loved Ones From a Woman With Breast Cancer

by Jan Owen James

Yes, I have had breast cancer. And I fought it. I probably had surgery. I might have had radiation. I might have had chemo. I might have lost my hair. I might have looked differently. I might have acted differently. Thank you for supporting me through that season of active treatment.

But now what? I look “normal” to you. I “seem” like I have good energy. I am acting pretty close to the way I used to, or so it seems. I may be back to work or back to the regular routine I had with the kids before cancer hit.

You say, “I’m so glad you got through it!” “I’m so glad that’s over!” “I’m so glad you’re DONE with that!”

But guess what? I have a secret to share with you. (more…)

Mar 12

“Losing” Friends to Cancer

After we’re diagnosed, all of us experience “losing” friends to cancer.  The following article explains why the people we “think” will be by our side might not be during cancer …. and why others we never expected take their place beside us.

 

I Lost a Friend Today

by Beth Whitley

I lost an old friend this week. Not in the idiomatic sense that he passed away, nor in the literal sense that I misplaced him in a crowded supermarket and never found my way back to him. Although, metaphorically, perhaps that’s exactly what happened: we lost each other in the crowded supermarket of life, and by the time we realized we’d gone astray, there were just too many aisles and trolleys and shelves of tinned goods to find our way back. Of course, if I hadn’t been pushing a wheelchair maybe I’d have been able to keep up a bit better. (more…)