Yearly Archives: 2014

 
Photo Credit: K. Lundblad

Photo Credit: K. Lundblad

Stage IV cancer can look different in each of us. For those of us in treatment and experiencing side effects, cancer is often all too consuming…but for people not currently in treatment (and feeling relatively well), focusing on other life issues and trusting can be a new and unforeseen challenge .

One group member, who has stage IV ovarian cancer, shared that she feels as if she is living in two different worlds…one as a 56-year-old woman (her current age) and one much older. She is currently out of treatment, “feeling pretty good,” and is seeing her oncologist less. She has not been working and since her last treatment ended and she is finding that she has more time for herself.  In one world she presents as a healthy 56-year-old woman who thinks about the future…planning trips, wanting to date and meet the “right” man. Her friends tell her she looks so good. In her other world she feels that her body has betrayed her and that she has a harder time doing the things she used to be able to do so easily. She also feels lazy (and that others may view her this way) for not working now that she’s out of treatment. In this “cancer world” she thinks about all of her possessions…not wanting to burden her only child with her things and papers. She finds herself spending a lot of time paring down the things she will no longer need, and which will not be wanted by her son when she’s no longer alive. In her cancer support group, she has permission to ask the bigger questions, like when will her cancer return and what will the next stage look like.

Do you feel that you live in 2 different worlds (some of the time/a lot of the time)? Why or why not? Are there challenges?

***As caregivers we can also live in two different worlds. What does this feel like? How do you juggle both/live between the two? What is this experience like?

I look forward to hearing your experiences!

Warmly,
Stephanie

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Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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Lucy's-artwork-009-web

Photo Credit: K. Lundblad

Have you been told by friends, family members and/or neighbors that you look so good? For most of us not living with cancer these are nice words to hear…but for those of us who have cancer, these words can feel forced or even dismissive.

One woman who has advanced breast cancer shared in a support group that she feels people say “you look so good” to make themselves feel better. She also said that when she hears this, it feels as though everything she’s been through, and is currently going through, is being minimized.

Another group member, a man living with metastatic prostate cancer, shared that when someone tells him that he “looks so good,” he responds by telling them, “You don’t have x-ray vision.”

How do you feel when someone tells you, you look so good?

Do these words feel good or bad to you and why? What are your responses when you hear this?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Warmly,

Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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Some people have the gift of storytelling; sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings that make us feel like they are speaking just to us.

These three women/bloggers/cancer survivors do just that. I hope that you will be touched… or even inspired by their words and experiences. We can learn so much by sharing our stories!

Lisa Bonchek Adams

Photo Credit: Lisa Adams – Twitter

Lisa Bonchek Adams is a stage IV breast cancer survivor. She is a wife, mother to three young children… and she is doing as much as she can for as long as she can.

I first learned about Lisa Adam’s tweets and blog when two controversial columns by Emma Keller (The Guardian) and Bill Keller (The New York Times) broke. I was intrigued to learn more about this woman who they portrayed as sharing too much about her terminal cancer experiences on social media; I have been hooked on her writings ever since! Through her tweets and blog, Lisa Adams shares her thoughts, feelings and experiences as they relate to her cancer diagnosis… and more. She allows her readers to enter her “cancer world” in such a deep and profound way. Each entry is written with passion, grace and love. She has the ability to make you think and feel in an open, honest and thoughtful way.  I find myself excited to read her latest post or tweet… her realness and insight are truly inspiring.

Follow Lisa Bonchek Adams:  Blog  |  Twitter  |  Facebook


Susan Gubar

Photo Credit: Indiana University, Bloomington

Susan Gubar is living with advanced ovarian cancer. She is a writer, feminist scholar and professor. I read her book, Memoir of a Debulked Woman, after a trusted friend’s recommendation; Susan’s book did not disappoint!

She also blogs regularly in The New York Times. Susan Gubar says out loud what many of us are thinking, feeling and experiencing… but may not always feel comfortable sharing. She gives her readers a “real” inside look as to what cancer can do to your body, mind and soul. She asks thought-provoking questions that leave her readers thinking and wanting for more.

Follow Susan Gubar:  Blog


Suleika Jaouad

Photo Credit: Anne Francey

Suleika Jaouad is an Emmy Award-winning New York Times Well columnist, cancer survivor and health advocate. Her blog and video series “Life, Interrupted” is captivating and inspiring. A while back, I found Suleika’s writings in The New York Times Health Section and have been hooked ever since!

On her website, she shares “I want to help you tackle life’s difficult moments with integrity, compassion and a healthy dose of humor and sass”…and she does just that!

Follow Suleika Jaouad:  Blog  |  Twitter  |  Facebook


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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couple-shadow-msTalking about sex is an uncomfortable topic for most of us on any given day…now throw cancer in the mix and the subject of sex rarely is discussed.

Sex is a natural feeling and act…and most often kept private. People seem to be more comfortable making jokes about sex rather than sharing their feelings and experiences about the sex they are having (or not having!). Many of us feel embarrassed and even unsure talking about this intimate subject.

Many of us (health professionals included) under-estimate the importance of sex and the impact cancer has on us and our intimate relationships.

If you or your partner/spouse have pain or fatigue (the list can go on and on), sex may be currently absent, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings about this.

If sex is challenging or even if just the thought of it is challenging, I want you to know that you are not alone. Talking about this very private part of your life can be helpful and validating…and we can learn a lot by sharing.

I look forward to hearing what you’re feeling, thinking and experiencing. This is a big topic and there is such much more to say. I’ll be back…

Warmly,

Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

 

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family

A Family’s Coping Tool

Recently I attended a conference for patients and caregivers given by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. During one of the breakout sessions, attendees were openly sharing what has (and has not!) been helpful to them since entering the “cancer world.”

One caregiver shared a helpful policy that he started after his father was diagnosed with lymphoma: no talking about cancer on the weekends. He found that he, his dad, and mom were always talking about his dad’s cancer in one way or another…and that cancer was now the only thing that they could connect on. While this caregiver understood why he and his family were so focused on the disease, he also realized that they were missing out on so many other important and interesting conversations. When his dad was feeling relatively good, he felt that it was important for the three of them to make time to discuss other topics; weekends seemed natural, this was a time when his dad did not have doctor’s appointments and/or treatments.

During his talk, he also shared that this was not always an easy task. He and his family had to take small steps at first. They started with 5:00 on Fridays through dinner time…and then through bedtime, with the goal being to get through Sunday night without talking about cancer.

This policy proved to be very helpful to this particular family. They were able to find time for other conversations, and even laughs…and through this process, they felt that they got to know each other a little better.

Is this something that you would be interested in trying? Why or why not? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this coping tool and what has been helpful to you and/or your family.

Warmly,

Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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by Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C

hands-ms-webThis is what one group member recently shared in a face-to-face advanced cancer support group.

I was struck by the way she shared this, self-assured and determined to let everyone know that her cancer was not going to define her. I admired her inner strength and her need to focus on what else she has going on in her life, which is a lot! There is so much more to us than having cancer, yet cancer can be all-consuming, as you well know…doctor appointments, treatment(s), recuperating from treatment(s), managing side effects, not to mention all the other things that come from having cancer. In many cases, cancer is a full-time job.

I would love to hear what makes you interesting…what are you interested in? What do you like to do? What makes you laugh and/or cry? What’s your favorite movie or book? What would you like us to know about you?

I hope this blog post will inspire you to think about you, and all the interesting things that make you special and interesting.

I look forward to hearing your experiences and thoughts.

Warmly,
Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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waiting-ms-webby Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C

Have you ever experienced long waits to see your doctor? You get to the office on time for your appointment (and often 10-15 minutes early for check-in as requested) only to have to wait…and wait. We’re often sitting in the waiting room wondering how much time to let go by before we can ask the person at the front desk, “How much longer will I have to wait?” What happens when you’re in the examining room waiting (wearing a gown and feeling vulnerable) for long periods of time? It can feel as though we’re invisible and that our time is not as important as the doctors. Many times we’re waiting to hear results from tests/scans…we’re likely feeling worried and even scared.

What do you do when you have to wait? What feelings come up when you’re in this situation? Do you share your frustrations with the doctor/nurse/healthcare team or do you keep it to yourself? It’s not uncommon to keep quiet. Having a conversation about something “unpleasant” takes energy and time…which we don’t always have…and fear of upsetting the person/people who are “caring” for us can feel unsettling.

I look forward to hearing your experiences and thoughts.

Warmly,

Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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Mosaic1by Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C

Welcome!

For those of you who are unsure about an online community, you are in good company. I am not on Facebook or a social media person. But, I do believe in the power of communication; of talking; of not feeling so alone. I believe in community and I know that connecting with others can be amazing.

You are not alone. There are other people who get it, who get you and where you are. Even though our stories or situations may be unique, they are special and important, and we can learn so much from each other.

I also know that it’s not always easy to meet face-to-face…it is great when we can, but there are many reasons why we may not be able to do this. With this online community:

  1. You get a place to be you.
  2. You get a place to express yourself when you want to. You don’t need to wait for a particular time to share.
  3. You can connect from the convenience of your home, office, hospital room… or wherever you are.
  4. You can share, laugh, cry, scream… feel what you need to feel.
  5. You can connect with others without having to travel which is especially helpful when you’re not feeling well or you’re too busy to get somewhere.
  6. A level of comfort, knowing that this group is professionally moderated by yours truly.

And who am I?  For those of you who don’t know me, probably many of you, my name is Stephanie. I am an oncology social worker with 20 years of experience. I run in-person support groups, for people living with cancer and their caregivers, in my community. I am in awe of all of the members of my groups – for what they are willing to share and how they take care of themselves by reaching out for support. I am new to this social media world, but I know there is a lot of potential here, and I believe we can really help each other. I will work hard to create a safe and productive space for all of you. I will moderate these conversations. I will try to help facilitate your interactions with periodic posts like this one to encourage you to share. I hope you will join us.  Please let me if you have thoughts, hopes and/or concerns for this space.

I know some of you may not be comfortable sharing, right away or ever. That’s okay too. You can come here and see what others are feeling, thinking, doing. And who knows, maybe you will be inspired too. That is my hope.

People need to get their feelings out. Here is one place you can feel free to do that, to let it all hang out.

I’m in, I hope you are too.

Warmly,

Stephanie

Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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The MetaCancer Foundation is proud to announce a new addition to our website. We have launched a bi-weekly blog featuring Stephanie Stern, MSW, LCSW-C, members of our board, and other guest bloggers. Make sure to subscribe for updates.

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