One of HOPE's values is to focus on the people fighting cancer
and the circle of individuals who surround them in support - their
"peeps" as one of HOPE's original founders called them. "Words of
HOPE" is a blog to reach the peeps - anyone whose life has been
touched by the word cancer. Posts will appear monthly and will
include voices who want to reach out to you in support on your
journey - doctors, nurses, survivors, caregivers, family members,
dietitians, fitness experts and more.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
I recently helped to facilitate our free cancer survivorship
program, A Time to Heal. As any teacher knows learning goes two
ways - from teacher to student…and from student to teacher.
Spending 12 weeks with a group of cancer survivors who are learning
to thrive after their diagnosis changes you. Sitting and listening
to the presenters each week, my little green notebook began to fill
up with suggestions for my own life: how to listen to my body, how
to control my mind when fears take over, how to take charge of what
I'm putting into my body and what I'm doing (or not doing) to keep
physically fit and healthy.
At each session I watched the participants, both cancer
survivors and their caregivers, begin to move forward and make a
plan. Making a plan requires looking ahead in your life, a big step
for a cancer survivor especially if they are not that far out of
treatment. Treatment is about killing cancer cells today, how you
are feeling today, and what you need to do to feel better - today.
The A Time To Heal curriculum helps a survivor to move beyond
"today" and look forward to a new "tomorrow". The survivor and
their caregiver create a plan for how they see "their best life".
They come to terms with what has happened to them and learn many
tips and tricks to help them in their new lives.
One of my favorite parts of the class is sitting around the
table and guiding the participants as they share their journeys:
the highlights of their past week, the troubles that may have
arisen, the change they've noticed in a particular relationship,
the fear of the next scan. Slowly, week by week, this collection of
cancer survivors and caregivers becomes a support group, not just a
learning environment. Each one inspires another. They have all been
changed by cancer, and sometimes even for the better.
On a dreary November day, I watched a fall session graduate. To
quote one participant, "I feel like a whole other person - I can
handle it now!" Caring warmth radiated from the entire group as
each participant shared one important step from their action plan
-changes they will make one step at a time. They had found
their sense of calm.
So why did I ask you what is your combine? On that same dreary
November day, I also attended a six-month reunion party. A nearly
full class reconvened to share stories and laughter and support
each other once again. One participant brought starter plants for
everyone as she had renewed her love of growing things. She also
started painting again and brought her resurrected garden art piece
for all to see. One participant shared the news that her cancer had
metastasized but she had peace about it. After work, when her
thoughts were getting the best of her, she'd call her boyfriend. He
was out working in his combine and he'd let her know where he was.
She would find him, climb in, they would talk, and eventually she
would be lulled to sleep by the combine's engine as it moved along
row after row. Peace in the combine.
We all need a "combine" in our lives. Some of us look in the
wrong places for peace and contentment in our trials. I'm
privileged to facilitate a class that helps survivors find their
"combine" and move forward in their lives. We've just completed a
spring session and held the fall reunion party, and at times the
sessions were difficult to fit into my "schedule". But I'm working
on shifting my priorities, making ATTH a priority, and remembering
the lessons I learn from the participants. And I've determined
helping families on the cancer journey is my
Registration is now open for the fall session of this free
cancer survivorship program, A Time To Heal - visit /local-events for more information or call
Nurse Direct at 1-800-362-9900. The session runs from August
29-November 14 and will be located at the Menasha Corporation
Community Room in Neenah. The program is open to individuals from
all health systems.
Executive Director of HOPE Cancer Connection and Facilitator for A
Time To Heal
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Talking to someone you care about who has cancer can feel
awkward. Here are some tips to help you:
Some things you might say:
- I'm sorry this has happened to you. I care about you very
- May I give you a hug?
- Do you want to talk about it?
- My prayers and thoughts will be with you and your family
- I'm not sure I'm saying this the right way, but I want you to
- What are you feeling?
- I will be with you and support you during this difficult
- What do you think the Packers chances are for next year? (talk
about things they are interested in)
- I've been wondering how you've been feeling?
- I'm free on Tuesday afternoon. Can I help you by…?
- Driving to appointments, cooking a meal, shoveling snow, taking
care of the garden, giving rides to the kids, etc.
- Offer something specific. They are probably overwhelmed with
decisions about health care, fears, concern for themselves and
their family not day-to-day matters.
- If you really want to help, sit down, take a couple minutes,
and think about what might help them most.
- Can I come over to visit? - Suggest a time but be flexible and
sensitive to side effects due to their treatment such as nausea or
fatigue. Follow through and plan the next visit too!
Heard, not told
Dependability, not promises
Involved, not avoided
Love, Love, Love
Be cautious with the following:
- How are you? How are you feeling? - Broad questions might be
too much for someone overwhelmed with worries. Try something more
- It will get better. I'm sure you will be fine. I don't think
you need to worry! - You might be denying their very real fears and
worries with these questions causing them to withdraw or shut down
communication. Your intention is good, but it may suggest that you
don't want to talk about the cancer anymore.
- I know how you feel - Really?? Do you? It would be better to
ask them what they are feeling and then listen carefully
- At least your cancer is only… - This is another way of denying
their fears and worries. They don't want any cancer.
- Why do you think you got this cancer? - This could reinforce
the guilt they might already have about getting cancer. Better to
talk about the hope of the future than possible guilt from the
- I had a good friend who died from that cancer. - This
probably gets said out of your own fear and suggests that you
already know everything they will be going through. It can heighten
the fears and worries the cancer survivor already has. Your friend
would prefer to hear a story of hope and survival.
Compiled by Chris Mings, Calumet County Relay For Life
Volunteer. Includes ideas and suggestions from The American Cancer
Society and Lori Hope, author of Help Me Live: 20 Things People
With Cancer Want You to Know at lorihope.com.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
A healthy mouth is vital to achieving overall health. It can be
of particular importance during cancer treatments. It is not only a
concern for comfort but can also prevent delays in treatments and
risks of infection that could potentially spread to other areas of
Many types of chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the head
& neck region, as well as some targeted therapies can cause
significant changes in the mouth, the two most common being Dry
Mouth and mouth sores called Oral Mucositis.
A dry mouth is far more than an annoyance. Saliva is needed for
proper digestion, swallowing and speaking. It helps to reduce taste
changes often associated with cancer treatments. Saliva acts as a
lubricant to prevent injury to the oral tissues and protects the
teeth from cavities and enamel erosion. Saliva's protective agents
can also defend against infections like Thrush, which is very
important when the immune system is compromised from low blood
For those receiving chemotherapy, issues with Dry Mouth will
typically return to normal when treatments are complete. Radiation
to the head and neck can result in permanent damage to salivary
glands causing lifelong oral complications associated with lack of
saliva. The extent of the damage to salivary glands or other oral
structures depends greatly on the dosage and direction of the beam
Oral Mucositis affects, to some degree, approximately 40% of
those receiving standard dose chemotherapy and nearly all who
receive radiation to the head and neck. Mucositis can range from
mild soreness of the oral tissues to severe, painful ulcerations
that result in complications with eating, delays in treatments and
risks of infection. Oral Mucositis may be accentuated by using oral
care products with harsh, irritating ingredients and by trauma from
improper oral hygiene techniques, existing dental issues and food
Dry Mouth, Oral Mucositis, and other oral complications
associated with cancer treatments can be minimized, and in some
cases prevented, by being proactive with your dental care, product
selection and modified oral hygiene techniques.
Simple ways to protect your mouth include:
- Good oral hygiene and plaque removal are essential.
- Use an extra soft toothbrush with a small, compact head to
avoid tissue trauma.
- Use toothpaste free of irritating ingredients including
detergents, peroxide, tartar control and whitening agents.
- Choose a mouth rinse that does not contain alcohol, phenol or
- Stimulate saliva with sugarless gum and mints sweetened 100%
- Use over-the-counter oral moisturizers
- Avoid dry, salty, sharp and sticky foods. Choose foods
moistened with sauces and gravies.
- Avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine and high acid
levels like soft drinks. Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of
- Talk with your Physician or Dentist for prescription products
to relieve Dry Mouth and protect oral tissues.
Find more information on oral health and cancer treatments at www.sideeffectsupport.com
Download our free informational brochure, "Cancer Treatments and
Oral Health" at
Jill Meyer Lippert, Registered Dental Hygienist
Founder of Side Effect Support LLC
Monday, March 07, 2016
Palliative care is not new but it is getting a lot more
attention in the world of cancer care. We believe this new
focus is because the ultimate goal of palliative care, improving
quality of life, is important to you and the doctors and nurses on
your health care team. Note: the focus of palliative
care's work is on life and living and not on death and dying.
What exactly is palliative care? Palliative care is an
approach to care for patients who are living with a serious or life
threatening illness. When you are being treated for a serious
illness, like cancer, your health care team will include
oncologists, nurses, and others, by adding palliative care
specialists you will have the best care possible - care focused on
treating the medical problem and care focused on your quality of
life. Together you and the care team will work to manage your
symptoms, control your pain and provide additional support to meet
spiritual, emotional, and social needs, ultimately creating a plan
for how you want to manage your disease.
One of the more common myths around palliative care is that it is
the same as hospice. Hospice is a type of palliative care
that is important for patients when the focus of their care is
moving from changing the course of the disease to comfort
measures. Palliative care is a holistic approach to care for
patients with serious (perhaps even life-threatening) illness that
considers how the illness is impacting the body, mind and spirit of
each patient. Research looking at the impact of palliative
care supports the belief that early involvement of the palliative
care team is beneficial to patients and their families. In
short, palliative care helps you (and your family) focus on what
matters most as you manage the stress and strain of living with a
serious illness. Our message is that palliative care is of
benefit at ANY stage of serious illness!
By taking charge of your cancer journey, you can ultimately take
charge of how you want things to be throughout the course of your
illness and when needed to your death. Together with your
doctor a plan for your care can be developed that fits with your
personal goals of care and the medical situation. Please
share your plans with your family and others who are close to
you. Know that there are many resources available to help you
have this conversation. For your convenience we are including
a couple of well-respected web sites that provide information on
palliative care for your consideration. (https://getpalliativecare.org/ AND http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/palliativecare/index)
You have lots of living to do and palliative care can help you make
the most out of life with cancer!
Olumuyiwa O. Adeboye, MD, FACP, MBA and Ann K. Patek, RN,
Ministry Health Care
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Being diagnosed with cancer is perhaps the most frightening time
in a person's life. The three words "you have cancer" can induce
heightened feelings of anxiety and fear. Finding support to help
one cope not only with the physical component, but the mental,
social and emotional components is also very important.
For purposes of this blog, I will focus on the benefits of
support groups and how they can play an integral role in helping
one cope with a diagnosis of cancer. There are many different ways
individuals and families can find support. Support groups offer
certain things that other supportive resources may not, such as a
sense of camaraderie and understanding. People often find comfort
and support by talking with and listening to others who are also
dealing with something very similar. I co-facilitate a support
group for individuals with blood cancers and their support person,
through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and have seen the
benefits a support group can offer. Individuals and their support
person find this venue to be a "safe" place to vent their feelings
and offer/gather support. That sense of camaraderie is very evident
and it is great to see the hope and support that is offered.
Sometimes, it's nice to have one's feelings validated or get
suggestions or comfort from others who are on a very similar
journey with cancer. The hope of this is that people can find
better ways to cope with the day to day stressors cancer can
induce. It is important to mention that groups can be just for the
patient or include a support person. Also keep in mind that the
patient is in control of their level of participation and can
attend on a short term or long-term basis.
When considering a support group, it is important that there are
trained facilitators to help lead the group and keep things on
track. Support groups may not be for everyone and if you are
unsure, please talk to the oncology social worker or other
supportive staff at the cancer center for help in finding an
appropriate group or other type of supportive resource. Sometimes a
person may benefit more from individual counseling and their cancer
care team can help with this. Support groups can come in different
forms, such as face-to-face, online, or over the phone. I would
again direct you to speak with an oncology social worker or other
supportive staff at your cancer center for guidance and a listing
of safe and credible supports. It can be very daunting to navigate
things online and it is important that you are getting safe and
credible information and support.
Carrie Olm MSW, Oncology Social Worker at St. Elizabeth
Friday, May 30, 2014
If you are currently dealing with cancer or have dealt with
cancer in the past, one of the questions that you may be wondering
is, can I get life insurance?
This is an extremely common question, yet it is one that is very
difficult to answer. This is because there are so many different
types and severities of diagnoses. Finding a life insurance quote
after a cancer diagnosis can be difficult but not impossible. Your
chances of receiving life insurance will largely depend on if you
are currently undergoing treatment or how long ago your treatment
was completed. Your chances also depend greatly on the history,
type, stage, treatment and grade of the cancer.
Life insurance companies will ultimately look at the curability,
severity and treatment of your cancer. Certain types of cancer are
considered to be very low risk and a history of these may not
affect premiums or insurance at all. History of other types of
higher risk cancers may receive a substandard rating (meaning you
might pay more) or possibly even a decline.
One option for those currently undergoing treatment or with a
history of severe cancer is a guaranteed issue life insurance
policy. Guaranteed life insurance is a type of life insurance in
which the applicant will not undergo any medical underwriting.
Because of this lack of underwriting, this means that anyone, even
those currently undergoing treatment, will be able to get life
insurance. These policies do not come without any drawbacks. Since
the insurance company is not asking any medical questions, they are
taking on a substantially higher risk and therefore they often
issue these at higher premiums and for lower face amounts. That
being said, they are often an excellent option for those with no
other means of obtaining life insurance.
Another strategy for obtaining life insurance for those who
normally cannot is to get it through your employer. Some employers
do offer life insurance to their employees. These plans can be
offered to employees in terms of flat amounts (such as $50,000 or
$100,000) or they can be offered as a multiple of your current
salary (such as 1x or 2x current salary). Often employee life
insurance will not have underwriting questions and will issue it to
every employee that chooses to sign up. This makes it an excellent
option to consider when shopping for life insurance. One of the
drawbacks of this type of insurance is that the coverage often
stops when the employee stops working for the employer. This can
make it difficult for those who stop working because of illness.
Although this is not always the case, it is something that everyone
should consider when signing up for life insurance through an
Life insurance is a very important aspect of one's overall
financial plan. A properly designed life insurance policy can help
with issues such as end of life expenses, supplemental income to
family members, estate planning, debt repayment, charitable giving,
college planning and many more.
Mike Dreyer, Dreyer and Associates,
Monday, February 24, 2014
Integrative medicine is a healing oriented medicine that
takes into account all aspects of a person, and draws from both
conventional medicine and complementary approaches to find
the most effective, least invasive path to healing for each
person. As far as cancer, integrative medicine can help at all
stages--by optimizing overall health to prevent cancers from
arising, by relieving side effects of the cancer or
treatments, and by helping to prevent recurrences of
cancer. A patient's treatment plan will probably include
conventional cancer care like chemotherapy, surgery or radiation,
but also addresses evidence-based complementary therapies like
nutrition, supplements, acupuncture, massage and mind-body
therapies like yoga or meditation.
As far as prevention, there are many factors that
contribute to the development of cancer. Some are within our
control and others, like our genes, are not. However, research
is showing that gene expression is greatly influenced by
multiple factors, including the foods we eat, toxins we are exposed
to, and stress hormones. So even if a person has a strong
family history of cancer, there are many things that person can do
to influence gene expression and the chances of getting cancer. The
American Cancer Society estimates that 1/3 of cancers could be
prevented through healthy nutrition and healthy weight. Another 1/3
could be prevented by not smoking. Integrative medicine focuses on
helping people make healthy changes in nutrition and physical
activity, as well as addressing mental, emotional, social and
spiritual aspects that influence health.
During treatment for cancer, integrative medicine
offers ways of helping with side effects of the treatment or
- Acupuncture can be very helpful for pain,
neuropathy, nausea from chemotherapy, dry mouth from radiation,
stress and anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue. Typical treatment
involves needles placed just under the skin on the arms and legs,
including a point on the inner arm that is especially useful for
nausea. The needles are left in place for 20-30 minutes. Most
patients experience deep relaxation during the treatment and have a
sense of well being after acupuncture.
- Yoga has been shown in clinical studies with
cancer patients to lower stress hormones and improve sleep,
fatigue, quality of life, and physical functioning.
- Research on meditation in cancer patients
shows that it can help with stress, quality of life, fatigue,
anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness meditation, which cultivates
non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, is the type of
meditation that has been most studied. Classes in meditation and
yoga are available in Appleton and Oshkosh through Affinity Health
System, The Y and yoga studios throughout the valley.
- Herbal medicines and supplements can interact
with conventional treatments so should be used only with your
- Aromatherapy can help with nausea and
After cancer treatments are finished, people are
often interested in what they can do to help prevent a recurrence.
This can be a good time to re-evaluate life goals, lifestyle habits
and make healthy changes, which can have a big impact on risk of
recurrence as well as quality of life. As far as physical activity,
the World Health Organization estimates that exercise in breast
cancer survivors can reduce a woman's risk of recurrence by 26-40%.
Healthy nutrition is also essential. In addition, it is important
to address stress, emotional health, relationships, and make
changes in order to live in accordance with one's life goals,
passions, and purpose.
Dr. Jennifer Norden, HOPE Medical Advisory
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
What inspires us to be a part of a cancer survivor group? After
an individual has been diagnosed with cancer it is an immediate,
life-changing event. I have been part of this process for
years and the crack, or shift that happens to a patient after this
diagnosis is almost palpable. As a physician, having limited
time with the patient, I have wondered about how this impacts the
patient and the people around them.
Small little tidbits of listening and watching patients outside
of my formal interactions have helped me gather some insight into
this. Watching a two-week prostate cancer survivor, waiting
patiently, to go out to breakfast with a new buddy who is
finishing his last week of radiation for his prostate cancer. -
they are still meeting for breakfast two years later. Watching
three women talk about their families in the waiting room
while we work on the radiation therapy machine. One woman, on
the day of her last treatment, shared a cake and brought in
her two young boys to meet the other patients and introduce them to
her friends and staff.
Watching how some individuals are able to share this crack
or shift into a healthier place has been inspiring. I am
now convinced that the time patients share their lives during
this "accidental" period (waiting for their
radiation treatments) means more to their psychological
healing that anything a physician can offer. What if we
actually had a time, place, organization, web site, or intention to
make this happen after a patient had cancer therapy?
I believe HOPE Cancer Connection of the Fox Valley is the
organization to connect the individuals I have been watching.
HOPE's newly launched website is a place to find the support,
resources and connections that are available to a family going
through cancer. I have been a part of HOPE since the
beginning and it is my pleasure to introduce you to the connections
you need wherever you are in your cancer journey.
As a member of the Medical Advisory Board, I can assure you that
we will help you find the safe links to the information and support
you need. We'll pass on the articles and information that health
providers alone have access to. We will approve every piece of
information on the website. And we will listen to the feedback you
give us - additional needs that you see in the Fox Valley that we
can help with, questions you have in your journey, and specific
types of information we should be including on the website, things
we don't have time to talk about at your office visit.
Now we know what a group of people, who have experienced this
shift or crack in their life after cancer treatment, can do to make
a cancer survivor's life just a little bit better in the Fox
Dr. Robert Kohl, Radiation Oncologist, HOPE Medical
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
There are certain moments in our life that never leave us -
saying, "I do"; hearing the doctor say, "It's a boy"; catching an
emergency bulletin announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the
explosion of the space shuttle, or the fall of the Twin Towers.
Your mind can always go back to where you were, whom you were with,
and what you were doing at that specific moment in time.
Hearing the words, "you have cancer" knocks your world on end. I
remember my parents traveling 200 miles to tell us in person that
my mother had breast cancer. And I vividly remember watching my
mother's knees become weak when the surgeon told us my father's
cancer was lymphoma, not a simple gastric tumor. The word "cancer"
affects the one who receives the diagnosis and an entire circle of
individuals around them. The spouse/partner suddenly becomes a
caregiver; family members take the call to action to heart and step
in and often on top of each other; children become scared and
worried; co-workers and friends wonder if they have what it takes
to "be there" on a daily basis. And let's face it; it's a word that
gives the majority of us the chills.
HOPE Cancer Connection was built by caring individuals with a
deep desire to be there for those on the cancer journey - for the
survivor as well as those around them. HOPE's website is the one
place that gives you the tools you need to navigate your way
through cancer in the Fox Valley. From cancer team descriptions,
advice on how to get a second opinion, local support groups that
provide the "we've been there too" angle to where to find a wig,
skin care after chemo, and programs on how to rebuild your life
after cancer. HOPE offers local support in an easily navigated
website that has been approved by our Medical Advisory Council.
It's a safe place to get the answers to the questions cancer brings
to your life.
It's my absolute pleasure to introduce you to HOPE Cancer
Connection's featured survivors from the valley. I hope you will
take a moment to read their stories and find a connection to your
own journey. Our goal is to provide the infrastructure in which
existing and emerging cancer resources can be easily accessed. We
hope to continuously be adding new resources to the website as we
find out about more and more individuals who are hoping to making a
difference in the world of the cancer survivor. We hope that you
will team with us - be our eyes and ears in the valley - and let us
know what resources, opportunities or events need to be added to
We welcome you to HOPE Cancer Connection of the Fox Valley where
we believe in supporting your journey with HOPE.
Brenda Bonn, Executive Director, HOPE Cancer Connection
of the Fox Valley