How I Am Thriving After Breast Cancer

30 Aug

A post by Barbara Jacoby

I suppose that for me the most important thing that I discovered as a two-time breast cancer “surthriver” was that I did not want to be defined by this disease.  I didn’t want people who learned of my cancer to look at me with pity or to feel sorry for me.  Heck, I didn’t feel sorry for myself so why should anyone else?  Personally, I didn’t even want to think about it.  I just wanted to go on with life and the fewer people that knew about the cancer, the better.  I was a very private person and my business was my business so I was not interested in reaching out to anyone for help or guidance.  After all, they didn’t know me so they couldn’t possibly know how I felt or what was best for me.

I continued to work my regular job and enjoyed each day more than I could ever have imagined.  I was so grateful for life and being fortunate enough to have had incredible people around me who not only saved my life with surgery and treatments but who supported me through every step of recovery.   But most importantly, my husband suggested that I write a blog and he would create a website for it.  He knew that I loved to write and he wanted to give me an outlet to put into words what I was feeling and thinking.  I finally agreed to do so just as something to do in my spare time but what has evolved is beyond anything that I could have imagined.

I don’t remember exactly when I decided to cross the line into the cancer zone but I will never forget the response that I received after doing so.  I started to receive responses from people all over the world who were cancer survivors, who were caregivers and who were family and friends of others who were going through all types of cancer.  They were so thankful and grateful for my opening up and sharing things from my perspective.  Some were inspired and felt that they had been given their own freedom to discuss their disease.  Some were questioning me with regard to what they should do and say around those who had cancer.  And then there were those who were the little ones who just wanted to write to someone about the fact that their parent or grandparent had cancer and they were so scared about it.

This gave me a whole new life and a way to help to realize one of my life goals, that of being able to help others.  The cancer has changed my life forever but in so many positive ways that I could never begin to express.  Therefore, I guess I can honestly say that I am grateful for having had cancer as my life is so much better for the experience.

Best,
Barbara

Barbara was born and raised in Williamsport, PA (Home of Little League Baseball).  She moved to California in the 80′s where she met my husband of 15 years.  In July of 2007 she found a lump under her breast that turned out to be breast cancer and had a lumpectomy.  Just four months later, cancer was discovered again resulting in her choosing to have a double mastectomy.  She has lost many members of her family to cancer.  Her father died of lung and brain cancer and in 2008 after a lengthy battle, her baby brother died of renal cancer also known as kidney cancer.  She is also a survivor of domestic violence. She wants to  share stories of her life to let others know that when facing life challenging situations, they are not alone.  Another important fact is that she loves martinis, ice cream (chocolate of course), and peanut butter.  Please don’t tell anybody, but sometimes that is her dinner.
The inspiration for this website comes from the inspirational music CD that my husband Kirk and I created together called Let Life Happen.

Barbara Jacoby
LetLifeHappen.com
(818) 308-LIFE (5433)

After Treatment, Now what?

2 Aug

When I finished with radiation and started settling in at home, a new and unexpected side effect arose: post-treatment letdown. I know. I know. How dare I suggest it? Why on earth would I think it?

When diagnosed with FBC (F-bomb breast cancer), I felt the loss of my health.  Then the loss of my breasts. Then the loss of my mind. Now, I feel the loss of treatment.

When people ask how I’m feeling, they want to hear:  ”I feel great!”  What I want to say is: “I’m exhausted, confused and I miss my daily treatment.”  I usually say something in between.

Please understand that of course I’m thrilled to be done with chemo and radiation. DUH.  I am elated that I am feeling well enough to be fully present for my daughter, a/k/a Finally Five and the HOTY.  I am beyond excited to hike, catch up with friends and even to begin thinking about my professional life again (Silver Lining).

What I know about myself is that I am a person who loves habit and consistency. Treatment became a comforting constant in my life.  Medical treatment is a satisfyingly structured exercise that feeds my craving for consistency. Radiation felt similar to a job. Monday through Friday, I showed up at 7:40 am for my 7:45 treatment.  Just like clockwork.

I know that not having anymore radiation treatments and receiving a great report from my radiation oncologist is a sign of progress, of success even. However, not having my daily treatments leaves me feeling static.

The truth is that having treatment, doing something, is easier than the uncertainty of waiting.

Additionally the end of treatment leaves me alone with my body.  I admit to having a slightly distrustful relationship with my body right now.  It did, after all, dupe me by getting FBC in the first place.

I’m very hopeful that we (my mind, heart and body) have reconciled whatever caused the dis-ease in the first place so that we can move forward into the next chapter of life, in unison and without FBC (Silver Lining).

Instead of allowing myself to feel distressed, I’m recognizing what is missing in my life:  the consistent predictability of daily treatments. SO, I see this void as an opportunity to CREATE new Silver Linings. FBC happened TO me. Now, it’s time for me to take control again and to actively engage in doing things that will PREVENT a recurrence….things like: daily exercise, weekly yoga and meditation, and cooking.  This feels like an ultimate Silver Lined gift.

Hollye Jacobs, Hollye Jacobs, RN, MS, MSW
The Silver Pen began as a way for me to document the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and oftentimes hilarious journey through, with, over and around breast cancer. One year later I’m
still in recovery but now on a journey to find Silver Linings in all aspects of life.

The Silver Pen: http://www.thesilverpen.com/

The Nude Beach Dilemma

19 Jul

Would you go to a nude beach and present yourself if you had a singular or bi-lateral mastectomy?

How’s that subject food for thought?  A person going through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is brave and courageous.  It is a nasty trip.  You will not be ‘tiptoeing through the tulips.’  Everyone handles it in a different way.  Even if you are brave and tough it takes a lot of inner strength and emotional training to be strong.  Surgical scars, scar tissue, burn scars from radiation therapy, sore underarms from lymph node dissection, unable to raise your arm(s) above your head, sickness from the chemo, sickness from the meds you may have to take after your treatment (for 5 years) and then hoping and praying that this treatment works and you have a good chance of making it.

Partial mastectomy, take off one breast, take off both breasts, and then…. reconstruction, is this for you? Some women go through it like a charm; others have issues all along the way.  Implants, trans-flap, expanders to hold the “right places” for the implants that are to be filled a little every month.  Or, the implants are put into your body the minute your breasts come off….

With all these possibilities of “the negative” can you pull the “rabbit out of the hat” and open the world to your scars?  Many women emphatically do not want to talk about having had breast cancer.  Many women are emotionally scarred for life. They can’t look in a mirror.

Then there are those who put up a bubble, turn negatives into positives, put on a smile and look up and say, yes, there is a “Can” in Cancer. Fight, be strong, you can cry, but then pull up your “bra straps” in the event you still have bras and walk on with your head high.  So, when I saw the women at the nude beach, totally uninhibited, with one scar and one breast, the strength they had by being nude and saying to the world  “I am a SURVIVOR!”

Would I go to a nude beach and “be nude.”  (My husband wouldn’t go with me!) Yes, and with a beautiful mural tattooed across my chest.  I would bare my soul and say, thank you God, I am alive and well and I am not afraid of who I am and what is left of me!

I am not only a survivor, I am a “thriver.’  Why am I a “thriver?”  In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined that writing, “Laughter Is The Breast Medicine,” would have brought me to this place in life…from a bilateral mastectomy to a Keynote Speaker for Breast Cancer, an advocate for women’s health, a mentor to help people over the “bumps in the road,” and a humorist to make people laugh at this ugly disease called cancer. I am having the time of my life meeting people and carrying the message that there is life after breast cancer. If I can educate and save a breast, I have achieved one of my goals.  Being healthy and a  “thriver” enable me to do this.

Eileen Kaplan, Author & Humorist

“Laughter Is The Breast Medicine”

Keynote Speaker for Breast Cancer, Mentor, and Advocate for Women’s Wellness

eyekap@att.net          www.laughteristhebreastmedicine.com

My Radical Recovery

12 Jul

“I don’t know if I want to do it anymore,” I said. “Do what anymore?” my friend Darren asked. “Live,” I answered, “live.” And on April 9th, 2004, cancer came a-calling.

Diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer at the age of thirty-three, I had a 40% shot at surviving 5 years. My sister, fresh off her own session, gifted me a free reading with Cindy-the-Psychic. Normally, I wouldn’t have bought into that “woo-woo crap” but desperate times called for desperate measures. So I accepted. Without skipping a beat, Cindy said, “This isn’t about you dying. It’s about you choosing to live.”

And so I did. I quit smoking and got traditional (chemo, lumpectomy and radiation) treatment at Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle. I read Bernie Siegel’s “Love, Medicine & Miracles” and morphed into an exceptional patient. Avoiding all side effect information, I called chemo my “magical elixir” and visualized Ms. Pac-Man munching her way through my tumor.

I also became an alternative therapy slut. You name it, I tried it. I hopped on a Migun Massage bed and felt the healing power of its jade wands. I rubbed a SynchroZapper over my breast to purge parasites with low-voltage electrical currents. I joined AIM for remote energetic frequency balancing. I lit a St. Peregrine candle and prayed to the Patron Saint of Cancer. And I survived.

But I didn’t stop there. I traded Seattle for New York, vodka-crans for coffee, happy hour for yoga and T.V. for meditation. With the help of a great therapist, I opened to intimacy and bid emotionally unavailable men adieu. I picked up a Leica, found photography and unleashed the artist inside of me. Reading “When Things Fall Apart” and “A Return to Love,” I dove deeply into spirituality. I found Unity of New York and a family in its tub of love. And I thrived.

Following my heart, I met and married my soul mate. I faced the fear of being unlovable, at last, and danced with my darkest shadows. I still do. I studied Reiki, Matrix Energetics, and Dream Work and quit working in an office. Hosting my own radio show, Get GLOWING, I got a PhD from evolutionary experts in the fields of healing, transformation and personal empowerment.

The last thing I wanted to do was be a Cancer Coach. But, when Angela Strank appeared on my show, she led us through an exercise to uncover our true purpose. As she asked, “What have you been through in your life that you are uniquely positioned to help others with?” I heard, “Cancer” followed immediately by “I’m Jennifer Alhasa, Cancer Coach” clear as day. So here I am.

8 years after my breast cancer diagnosis, I continue to thrive. I eat a mostly raw and vegan diet, full of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and nuts. Herbal tea’s my drink of choice now and water is my other favorite beverage. I walk barefoot in green grass and hug trees as often as possible. When the ocean’s too far away, I take sea-salt baths to clean my energy. I walk a mile or more every day and do yoga 3 times a week. I meditate daily and pray constantly. When fear arises, and it does, I use Angel Cards and the Osho Zen Tarot to hear my guides more clearly. I have no health insurance and haven’t seen a doctor in almost 2 years. Instead, I live, baby, I LIVE!

_______________

I’m Jennifer Alhasa, Cancer Coach. A survivor of Advanced Breast Cancer, I teach tools and techniques for Radical Recovery. I combine natural gifts, practical spirituality and life experience to inspire clients to claim a conscious, whole and joyous life! One-on-one in-person in NYC and globally via Skype, I deliver strategies for survival and empowerment for the cancer journey and beyond! I’m active on Twitter (@JenniferAlhasa) and Facebook (Jennifer Alhasa) and glow for all to see! Claim your Radical Recovery today at JenniferAlhasa.com!

Help Yourself and You will help Me

29 Jun

My Dear Blogger Friends

I need your help. In a couple of weeks I will start an intense coach training program and I need practice clients.

How would you like to enhance your life with minimal investment? Most of you, I imagine would say a resounding “YES!!!!!”

Your investment includes:
*Working with a coach trained at one of the most prestigious coaching schools in the world.
*Working with a leader trained at one of the most prestigious coaching schools in the world.
*Working with an experienced coach at a steeply reduced rate increasing the value of your investment.

Your benefits:
*Learning where to be curious about your life experiences
*Learning you have all the answers, you just need to learn how to access them.
*I hold a safe place for you to experiment with scary territory .

Now that you’ve seen your personal benefits and the investment benefits here is a little bit about me.

For the past 20 years, I have been enjoying my career in nursing, providing knowledge, compassion, and a sense of humor with my patients.As a co-active life coach, I was trained at one of the top professional coach training schools in the world. My passion for life is motivating me to share my gift of empathy and courage with others through, speaking, writing, and coaching. Those of you who know me, know that my experience with breast cancer has given me a unique perspective into the vulnerability of life.

Curiosity and desire for a “bigger” life has brought me to a better understanding of the human condition. I use my sense of humor to bring a sometimes-intense situation into perspective. My articulate, non-judgmental, easy-to talk-to style opens up an environment for clients to feel at home. I am a reliable confidant who is honest, yet gentle with my responses.

We connect via phone or Skype in the comfort of your own home or office. A special fee package for you with a commitment of 6 months and as long as you find value, is $97 per month for individual 1 hour weekly sessions. This is my gift to you for helping me to reach my goal of certification.

Thank you for your continued support
Sue Bock
coachsue@bestlifeafterbreastcancer.com

http://bestlifeafterbreastcancer.com

925-806-0316

Goodbye Girls, Hello Life.

20 Jun

It is June of 2011, nine am in the morning. I am in Doctor Kaufman’s office having my annual gynecological appointment. She is giving me a breast exam and she says these innocent words yet again, “hmmm, there are changes AGAIN in your breasts, we are going to move your scans up.” At first I was perfectly fine.  By the time I left her office, drive five minutes up the road I am hysterical. I am not doing cancer, no way, no how.  My next thought was it’s time for these girls to go. My husband Isaac is in California, it’s a three-hour time difference. It took all day to reach him. By then I had worked myself into a wonderful frenzy. It was not a pretty sight.

Looking back I can definitely say that I went crazy in a short amount of time. I actually felt that I had a good reason to be hysterical; I carry a ton of baggage. Nine women on my mother’s side of the family have had breast or ovarian cancer spanning three generations, including my grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, cousins and great aunts. There were two women on my fathers and two best girlfriends. Thirteen women. Many of them have not survived.  I also carry the BRCA2 gene mutation.

My name is Sharon and I am a pre-vivor of hereditary breast cancer, wife, mother, sister, friend, life coach and your basic miracle maker.

Detaching from my girls was an eight year decision in the making. It started with my sisters breast cancer diagnosis, which propelled me to get genetic testing done. I had stuck my head in the sand for many year avoiding it. These past eight years have been filled with many changes including a remarriage to my wonderful husband,  a loss of a girlfriend, my girls etc. Although very successful,
I was very unfulfilled in my job and seeking to do more with my life. Being laid off was a gift in disguise.  With the support of my husband, I made the decision to study and be a certified professional life coach so that I could attain lifelong dream of helping others. During this time my second best girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer. Since breast cancer has been such a huge part of my life I focused my business within this community.

Fast forward eight years to last June. I announced to the world that I had decided to let the girls go. Why? Announcing it would help me keep my word to myself.  It took all of my skills as a life coach to keep myself sane.  One of the things that I did was look in the mirror every day and say goodbye to them. It was a way of expressing all of the swirling thoughts and emotions that engulfed me. Fortunately for me I had the time to do it.  I also reached out for support to very key people. The wonderful individuals who I knew would support me in my decision to say hello to life that was worry free.

The experience created many miracle moments including the miracle of new-found appreciation, bravery and courage of other women who either have my choice or have limited choices. It brought the miracle and true value of help, peace of mind and balance. It also spurred me to write that book that I was always talking about. Saying good-bye to my girls brought clarity to my mission and purpose to what is possible in my life and to share that with others through my MiracleMindest programs. Lastly I finally and most important, I got busy living.

Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld is a pre-vivor of hereditary breast cancer, MIRACLE MAKER and founder of Good Grief Coaching.  Many cancer patients, caregivers, pre-vivors and staff come to Sharon to gain tools and techniques to create the MIRACLE OF WHAT IS POSSIBLE so they can get busy living.  Sharon has a knack for helping people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Her life coaching is offered to support organizations, treatment centers and direct to clients. To connect call 856-270-2308, sharon@goodgriefcoaching.com or visit www.goodgriefcoaching.com

Words to Live By

12 Jun

I don’t say this lightly and I’m not trying to be flip. But for me, the reality of how I thrive in survivorship all boils down to attitude and how I    choose  to respond to any given situation. This is such a simple, yet incredibly complex concept, one it took a lifetime of experiences for me to cultivate and embrace. It was also one I needed to hold on to for dear life once I received a cancer diagnosis.

To be fair, I’ve always been an optimist. My husband once complained it wasn’t easy living with Mary ”Frigging” Poppins all the time. I asked him would he prefer the alternative. That made him pause. J How did I come to be this way? I credit a great deal of my attitude to books, and a few simple and powerful quotes that have struck a chord with me.

I happened upon my first book in college while trying to figure out my path, If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else. This book asked me to look at what my interests and passions were, and what was I good at. It then suggested I choose that path. Such an easy premise, that unfortunately too many people don’t take the time to reflect on and follow through with.

“There is nothing to Fear except fear itself.”

Flash forward a decade, to when I found myself not exactly enjoying what I was doing but afraid to make a change. For all the classic reasons, what I call the What If…Syndrome. You know, our self-talk, I would but what if … here is where you fill in the blank with all your fears.  Once again, a terrific book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway appeared in my life, helping me to adjust my attitude and thrive.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt plenty of fear and a sense of no control when I first heard I cancer. But what I was able to do was acknowledge my fear, face it by talking about it, and then educate myself about it, which is incredibly empowering. I knew once I was through with treatments, I could take this concept to help others recognize that knowledge is power.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Once again a decade later, a book became central to my ability to thrive in survivorship, bringing me full circle. However, I was doing the writing. I felt there was a gap in patient education. Even after treatments I kept thinking about this void for others. Rather than let it go, I followed my heart and took a stab at writing it. If nothing else, it’s been very cathartic!

The best advice I could offer for thriving can be found on any of my many Life is good t-shirts.

Do what you love. Love what you do.

Bio:

As a fitness specialist for 20+ years, Cara Novy-Bennewitz has worked with thousands of individuals. Her focus has always been on education and empowerment. After being unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer, rather than feel like a victim, Cara decided to take her personal experience and develop a guidebook to help others. While there were many resources available to her through the treatment and recovery process, there was not one tool that she could easily reference or access. So Cara created Diagnosis: Breast Cancer – The Best Action Plan for Navigating Your Journey. As a seasoned educator and presenter Cara hopes to empower patients and their loved ones throughout their breast cancer journeys.