Sexual Health and Pleasure With Cancer in Your Life

By Barbara Musser of SexyAfterCancer.com

We all understand the need for physical health and how precious that can be when we Sexual Healthare on the cancer journey. Serious or chronic health issues like cancer change our lives and we have the opportunity to take responsibility for our health and wellbeing in all areas in new ways. We learn when to get help, what kind of help we need and how to create plans for health management.

Physical health includes sexual health. For many people it’s embarrassing to even have sexuality and know that we are sexual beings ~ just look at the design of our bodies to know that we are designed for sexual function and reproduction. We can take this for granted, and then it all changes with cancer treatments. We aren’t asked about our sexual health, we don’t know how to talk about it, and we don’t always know what sexual health really is. Doctors are trained to look for pathology instead of wellness, and to treat pathology. It’s easy to end up ignoring our sexuality ~ the old “out of sight, out of mind” approach. Or we can get superstitious about it, thinking things like, “What’s meant to be, will be.”

When our genitals and sexuality are altered by cancer and treatments, it’s easy to think we’re not meant to have a healthy sex life.  We may not even know what a healthy sex life is. Stop for a moment and think what you were taught about sex when you first learned. Who told you about sex? What did they say? Chances are is what all about pregnancy and disease prevention, not about pleasure. There may even have been some shaming. Most of us didn’t learn a lot about the joys of sex and how to be creative in our pleasure.

When cancer comes into the picture things often don’t work in the same ways in our bodies and genitals. The traditional ideas that sex involves penetration and intercourse can now be painful and we avoid it. After all, who wants to do something that’s painful? What can we do?

This is an opportunity to define intimacy and sexuality for ourselves and discover our capacity for sexual health. To begin, get to know what your capacity is by exploring what feels good to you now. What kind of touch and where, how much or how little pressure? Where do you feel numb or pain? Does massage feel good? Gentle stroking with fingernails or a feather? Stretching and gentle pulling? Kissing? Where? What kinds of lubricants do you like?  Is intercourse painful? Do you use any sex toys? If so, what do you use and how? What would you like to explore and learn about? Is it easy for you to talk about these matters with your partner?

Whatever state you are in with these questions and your sexuality, you can always radiate erotic energy simply by thinking about it.  This doesn’t have to be anything overtly sexual; rather, it’s a state of mind, something that is internal to you. We can tap into deep sexual energy with a partner without getting physical. You can affirm sexual health regardless of external circumstances.

Join me on April 19 for a FREE webinar all about this: “You and Your Body – Cancer, Intimacy and Sexuality.” We’ll talk about what happens in the body, how arousal happens (or doesn’t) and some ways to begin to feel pleasure again. There will be plenty of time for questions and it will be a lively conversation. Register today!

Using Communication to Build Stronger Relationships After a Cancer Diagnosis

Ali Schaffer, LCSW
Manager, Patient and Family-Centered Care at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Many people feel a loss of control after a cancer diagnosis.  This feeling, along with the triage-cancer-blog-relationshipsother emotional responses, can impact many areas of life, including intimate relationships.  Even without a cancer diagnosis, relationships are complicated and require time, energy and work to be successful.

Cancer is happening to both of you.  “The unique dynamics that define each couple are in precarious balance during good times and easily upset during crisis.” -Jane Hill, CURE Magazine

For many people, cancer represents a crisis and a lot of change(s).  During a crisis, such as cancer, it can be helpful to stop and return to the basics as a way to stabilize yourself and/or your relationships.  Through clear, honest and open communication you may experience a stronger relationship.

People cope differently…in life and with cancer.

In addition to acknowledging each persons’ individual coping style and response to cancer (which may change over time), communication is one of the most valuable tools that can help you and your partner connect during this stressful time and build/maintain a strong relationship.  Each relationship, with or without a cancer diagnosis, has unique strengths and weaknesses.  And, the pre-existing dynamics of the relationship will likely continue to impact the relationship post-cancer diagnosis.

Many couples benefit from working with a licensed professional for additional guidance to navigate the common issues and communication challenges associated with the unique experience of living with cancer.

Here are some tools and thoughts for creating meaningful and productive communication within your relationship:

COMMUNICATION:

  • Discuss ALL of your feelings.
  • Set aside some time to create safe space in which to talk about your feelings and work to understand the other persons’ feelings.
  • Listen with a sense of curiosity, reflecting back what you hear, acknowledge your partner’s feelings and take in what he/she has said before you respond, even if you disagree.
  • Take relaxing breaths.
  • Ask for a time-out.
  • Use “I” statements.
  • Be willing to ask for help.
  • Share expectations of yourself and others.
  • Assumptions can be
  • Sometimes you don’t need answers, you just need someone to listen.

BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATION

  • “We’ve never talked about this before.”
  • “I’m embarrassed.”
  • “I get so emotional/angry/mad/sad when we talk and it makes it difficult for me to clearly say what I mean.”
  • “He/She doesn’t want to talk about it.”
  • “It never seems to be the right time.”
  • “I don’t know what to say, or how to start a conversation.”
  • “He/She won’t listen to me.”

 POSSIBLE COMMUNICATION TOPICS

  • Priorities-does anything need to be changed?
  • Meaning of cancer and impact of treatment
  • Intimacy and sex
  • Needs and wants
  • Personal/Caregiver/Couple/Family goals
  • Finances
  • Feelings
  • “I see you…and I appreciate…”
  • What is fun?
  • Healthcare navigation
  • Getting back couple time
  • How can we create a cancer-free zone?
  • What happens after treatment ends?
  • Changes in roles

Initially, it may feel difficult or awkward to use these communication tools or to initiate these types of conversations.  Overtime, it will likely become easier and feel more natural to communicate with your partner and ultimately feel heard, understood and supported.  The information and tips included are suggestions, and it might take multiple attempts to find what works for you and your partner.  It is also important to revisit these topics and techniques as your needs and responses will change.  Hopefully, this will help you and your partner to create meaningful dialogue that can strengthen your relationship and aid your ability to cope with cancer.

For more practical tips and tools to strengthen your relationship, tune into to the webinar on March 22, 2017! Register today!

Triage Life: Dealing with Documents

Triage Life Dealing with DocumentsDealing with the large amount of paperwork that accompanies medical treatment can be overwhelming. A cancer diagnosis introduces a steady stream of new documents, such as medical bills and prescriptions, in addition to the normal mail you get and paper that piles up in your home during everyday life. So, it is very common for medical treatment to create situational disorganization- disorganization is one’s day to day life that is brought upon by a major life event, such as a cancer diagnosis.

To address this issue, Triage Cancer hosted a webinar featuring Sara Skillen, CPO and owner of SkillSet Organizing, to discuss practical and achievable ways to keep medical paperwork organized and under control. Here are several resources presented in the webinar that help minimize paperwork-related stress when facing a cancer diagnosis:

Say Goodbye to Junk Mail

  • DMAChoice is an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association to help people manage mail. Through this website, you can request to stop receiving entire categories of mail, such as catalogs or credit offers, or you can unsubscribe from individual companies.
  • PaperKarma is an app that helps you eliminate unwanted paper mail with your smartphone. Simply take a picture of the unwanted mail through the app and you will be unsubscribed from the mailing list.

Keep it Together

  • The Lifebook is a comprehensive toolkit for those facing a serious medical diagnosis. The 3-ring binder features 16 tabbed sections for information such as lab reports and prescriptions, a 12-month appointment calendar, a business card holder, blank pages for notes, and much more.
  • LifeWrap is another resource that helps patients sort and store various medical information. In addition to a physical filing system, LifeWrap also provides a feature that allows users to make a digital replica of their information to store on their computer.

These are just a few of the great tips Sara presented during the webinar on how to reduce paper clutter when dealing with a major life event.

You can listen to the full webinar for more tips and resources. Thanks to Sara Skillen from SkillSet Organizing for joining Triage Cancer and sharing this valuable information!

Cancer Survivor Prevails in Disputed Embryos Case

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to take up a widely-publicized Triage Cancer Blog Supreme Courtcase, Szafranski v. Dunston, involving disputed embryos.

Karla Dunston, a doctor, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009. Because her treatment presented the risk of infertility, Ms. Dunston took steps to preserve her fertility. She asked her boyfriend, Jacob Szafranski, to help her by allowing her to use his sperm to create embryos before she had to start her cancer treatment. He agreed, and they went to a fertility clinic where she underwent a cycle of IVF and successfully froze three embryos.

Ms. Dunston completed her cancer treatment and went into remission. However, she was left infertile, and the embryos that were frozen are now her only option for having biological children. Unfortunately, in 2010, the couple broke up, and in 2011, Mr. Szafranski sued to prevent Ms. Dunston from using the embryos to have a child.

This case presented complicated issues about embryo disposition that state of Illinois had not addressed before, and it highlights subjects that cancer patients need to think through when considering fertility preservation. It isn’t clear how courts will decide if one person can use their embryos to become a biological parent if the other person involved objects. Should the embryos be destroyed? Kept frozen until agreement is reached? Given to whomever the court believes has more at stake?

Before Szafranski, cases in other states had been decided in different ways, but no clear approach had been established. Some states looked at whether there had been a contract formed about the disposition of the embryos when they were created, and strictly upheld any such agreement between the parties, even if circumstances and wishes had changed. Some applied a “balancing” test where the court weighed the interests of each person to decide the best outcome, even if there had been a contract. One court created a standard called “contemporaneous mutual consent,” which basically said that even if the couple agreed when they created the embryos, they had to also be in agreement at the time that the embryos were to be used or destroyed. This approach essentially allows either party to change their mind and have “veto” power over the other.

This case worked its way through the Illinois courts, and ultimately, the Illinois Court of Appeals adopted a hybrid approach. It said that if the facts showed that a contract – oral or written – existed, this should be controlling. But absent a valid contract, a trial court could consider the individual facts of the case and apply the balancing test. The trial court had found that when Ms. Dunston asked, and Mr. Szafranski agreed to create the embryos, a valid oral contract had been formed. That discussion included an understanding that Ms. Dunston would be able to use the embryos after cancer treatment in order to try to get pregnant, since that was the entire purpose. The court rejected Mr. Szafranski’s argument that an informed consent document from the fertility clinic (which stated that the embryos could not be used or disposed of unless both parties were in agreement) changed their verbal agreement.

The Supreme Court’s unwillingness to review this case means Mr. Szafranski cannot block Ms. Dunston from using the embryos to try to become pregnant. But it also leaves the law around disputed embryos unsettled, creating uncertainty about what types of agreements either between couples or between couples and their fertility providers will be recognized as binding, or whether compelling interests of one party will tip a court’s ruling in their favor.

Interestingly, this case is only the second of twelve disputed embryo cases in which the person seeking to have a biological child prevailed over the person seeking to avoid parenthood. In both cases, for the infertile female cancer survivors who won, the disputed embryos represented their only possible chance at biological motherhood. In the words of the Illinois Court of Appeals, “Karla’s interest in using the pre-embryos is paramount given her inability to have a biological child by any other means.

 

Joyce Reinecke, JD, is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Fertility Preservation, a 501c3 charitable organization whose exclusive focus is fertility preservation for cancer patients. Joyce is also a cancer survivor who became a parent after undergoing fertility preservation. A version of this blog originally appeared here.

College and Cancer: Tips from the Inside

by Michele Rosenthal

One of my former students and advisees has said, “Being a college student is difficult enough. Adding cancer to the mix only makes things harder.”

I have been privileged to call higher education my professional home for many years. My experiences put me in close touch with students, faculty and administrative colleagues. I thoroughly enjoy working with young adults because of their energy, enthusiasm, and drive to move forward in their lives. My administratlibrary-869061_640ive work both in student and academic affairs at institutions in the midatlantic and northeastern regions of the United States has allowed me to support and help college students navigate the academic and student services landscape so that they can maximize their college journey.

In my experience, when college students are diagnosed with cancer, their drive to move forward does not diminish. For some the path may need to be altered or put on hold, but the commitment to complete their degree and move forward is palpable.

This drive is especially important at a time when budget concerns have forced institutions to cut back on resources. On many campuses, there are fewer staff members and many members of the faculty have been tasked with increased administrative responsibilities.

The very good news is that those who choose to work in higher education are committed to education and to doing their best to create academic environments that are conducive to learning despite cut backs and limited resources.

The result of budget cuts sometimes means that students need to work harder to advocate for themselves however. Simply stated, on some campuses in can be difficult to meet with a staff member in person as immediately as one may like or to receive a quick response to an email because personnel have been reduced and workloads are large. In the case of a college student who has been diagnosed with cancer, self-advocacy and tenacity are essential. It is especially important for you to be able to tell your unique story so that a situation can be created to fit your needs.

If you are student who has been diagnosed with cancer, here are 3 things that you absolutely need to know:

Create Your Support Network: While tittles vary, it is important to consider resources like The Director of Disabilities Services and Support, The Director of Health Services, The Dean of Students, Your class dean or academic advisor, your favorite professor, the Office of Student Services. Staff members in these offices will be poised to assist and support you. It is important to reach out to the The Director of Disabilities Services and Support early since accommodations that you may be entitled to (ex. extra time on an exam, housing preferences, transportation needs) cannot be granted retroactively. It might be a bit difficult to secure an appointment early on but do not give up. These folks will want to help you! Advocate and help them to get to know you.

You can complete your degree: While your diagnosis and treatment plan may alter your timeline, you can complete your degree. Do your best to be open to a reduced course load, taking time off and securing accommodations to support you while on campus. It may take time to be willing and open to making a change in your academic plan. Keep your eye on the prize and trust that although your plan may need to change, there are creative options that will allow you to earn your degree.

Create a Balance: Don’t forget to continue to engage in all that you love. If you were part of a team but can’t compete at the time of your diagnosis, maybe you can help manage it to continue to be involved. If you sang acapella or attended Student Government meetings, continue to as your treatment plan and energy allow. Do your best to let others in (as you feel comfortable) while engaging in a realistic curricular and co-curricular plan that makes sense for you.

Please feel free to contact me at MicheleRosenthal@Verizon.net if you need support and assistance to navigate and carve out a path for your unique journey.

Michele Rosenthal is a member of Triage Cancer’s Speakers Bureau and an educational consultant who has helped countless young adults with cancer identify appropriate on-campus resources and develop realistic plans for their unique circumstances.  She is currently the Assistant Dean, Undergraduate Programs, Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University.

Resilience: Thriving, Not Just Surviving

by Ruth Bachman, The Hourglass Fund Project, Inspiring Speaker and Award-winning Author
 
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. ~Robert Frost
 
HourglassCancer is a very powerful and proficient teacher with the potential for profound transformation. It is a change that draws a line in the sand between the way we once looked at life and death and how we currently live life after surrendering, accepting, letting go and integrating that insight into who we are.
In his book, The Beethoven Factor, Dr. Paul Pearsall describes “Thrivers” as those who know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” He defines “thriving” as stress induced growth that happens when we face a challenge. The way we respond to change – both large and small – is a good indication of our level of resilience.
Resilience is navigating the complexity of everyday life with resources that promote well-being and cushion us against being overwhelmed. Most experts agree the key indicators of resilience are: self-awareness, mindfulness, purpose, self-care and relationships. Resilience is a complex set of skills and attitudes that can be enhanced and learned.  A resilient response to change is far from effortless.  Not unlike a garden, cultivating resilience requires intention, attention and effort which allows us to grow.
Within the depths of winter, it is hard to imagine spring. The beauty of nature takes time. Imagine tending a garden – your very own little plot of earth. Trust that it can be cultivated and that cultivation will bring it to its full potential. Even though it’s full of rocks and the soil is dry, you begin to plow your plot with patience, sowing the seeds of your future well-being. At the beginning, joy might be found in just feeling that your little plot of earth is workable. You stop looking for a different or better place to be. This does not mean that there are suddenly flowers growing where there were previously only rocks. It means you have confidence and hope that something will grow here. As you cultivate your garden, tending it with a quiet mind and an open heart, the conditions become more conducive to growth. Slow down, breathe deeply, listen to your heart. Have patience and faith. Something beautiful will blossom in your garden.
        
How do we increase our resilience? Primarily by putting forth the effort each day to focus on what is right – cultivating the positive. It sounds so simple. The key is focus – where are we bringing our attention?
For more information on how to build resiliency, attend our next webinar, featuring Ruth, on April 19, 2016. Register at http://triagecancer.org/webinars/. Can’t attend, not to worry, we record our webinars and post them for later viewing.

Join us in Chicago, on Friday, April 8th

chicago-theatre-890350_640For the third year in a row, Cancer and Careers will travel to the Windy City to host a free, daylong event focused on the challenges working people with cancer face in their efforts to balance treatment/recovery and employment.
 
Cancer and Careers’ Chief Mission Officer Rebecca Nellis will co-present with Triage Cancer’s Chief Operating Officer, Monica Bryant to provide patients, survivors, healthcare professionals, caregivers, and employers the information and tools they need to address important issues.  Among the topics that will be covered: disclosure, privacy & online brand; working through treatment and returning to work, including legal rights; managing finances; and health insurance options. In addition to the in-person presentations, attendees will be given helpful materials – including guides, workbooks & one-sheets – to take with them, for easy reference.
 
The Conference will be held at the Hotel Chicago Downtown and begins with breakfast at 8:00 AM. Lunch and parking are provided as well. To register, go to www.cancerandcareers.org/en/midwest. We hope to see you there!
 
If you’re unable to join us in April, we’ll be partnering with Triage Cancer again – this time in NYC – for Cancer and Careers’ annual National Conference on Work & Cancer, on June 17th. Triage Cancer has been an integral partner on this, CAC’s biggest event, since it launched six years ago. So we’re excited to have them involved again. Both Joanna Morales, Triage Cancer’s CEO, and Monica Bryant, will be there to present. For information and to register for the National Conference, go to www.cancerandcareers.org/conference. Travel scholarships are available for the National Conference; applications are due by April 15th.
 
If you’re on the West Coast, save the date of Saturday, October 15, 2016, when we’ll host our second West Coast Conference, in Los Angeles. Again, Triage Cancer will be there! Details and registration will be available at the end of March, at www.cancerandcareers.org/en/westcoast.

Book: Your Glasses Are on Top of Your Head

We are absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to share with you that Brenda Elsagher, a member of Triage Cancer’s Speakers Bureau has just released another book!  Elsagher_5.5x8.5_Frontcover_Web

Your Glasses Are on Top of Your Head, takes a look at aging from many different perspectives. The stories are funny, hopeful, and often self-mocking, yet inspirational, adventurous, and full of wisdom. Make sure to keep reading for an excerpt…

​Autographed Copies are available for Presale between now and September 15th.  ​Click here to order your copies

Order Brenda’s book through Pay Pal only until September 15th at this discounted price. (Retail price is $16.95  after September 15th and then you can order it through Amazon. Buy your  autographed copy now for $14.95 includes shipping and taxes.  (USA sales only) Books shipped September 15th.​ 

      ***

     “Growing old is not for sissies!” said the salty 102-year-old woman as she rolled her walker into my salon. She was the fourth generation of a family I had known for twenty-five years. I had cut hair for the other three generations, and now I was getting to know the matriarch. Her daughter, now in her seventies, had been a funny woman until a botched surgery left her with unrelenting facial pain. I felt it was a personal challenge to get these two women to laugh out loud during my interactions with them, even if only for a short time.

Somehow early on in my life I found that humor could help distract one from pain, whether it was physical or emotional, and later I found it could even distract from spiritual pain, too. I experienced all those things myself, and could sense when it might be appropriate to attempt to make someone laugh, even in a very sad or uncomfortable time.

My dad modeled some of this intuition, as he always found a way to make a visiting friend of one of the eight kids feel welcome—especially the quiet ones. Dad would find a way to make her laugh, and ultimately our friend would relax a little, and then my dad might ask her questions about herself, and usually find something else to tease her about. This taught me a couple of things early on—tease people to set a level of comfort, and use humor to relax situations.

You can get people to endear to you if you ask them about their lives, and get to know them.

Those were invaluable tools I use to this day. Besides, I’m genuinely interested in learning about how others think, what is precious to them, or maybe what motivates them. Perhaps this is why this is my fourth anthology; I love collaborating with others.

Throughout my earlier career as a hairstylist, I found lots of opportunities to reduce my stress using humor, especially when I was running behind. “You are on time and I am not. I will reward your patience with a beautiful style just for you. Then prepare yourself. When you get home, your husband won’t be able to resist you and your hair will most likely be tousled.”

During the last ten years of owning my second hair salon, I was also learning to write comedy, and perform in comedy clubs. One thing led to another, and I was putting less time in the salon, and instead traveling a couple times a month to speak. It took about six years for me to realize speaking was a serious path to explore; then I made a new business card offering to speak.

I had been writing, and it was time to fully commit to the career based on humor, particularly focusing on humor through adversity. I used all the skills I had practiced and learned about communication and took them on the road, and began doing comedy and speaking for huge groups of people.

Laughing . . . as Death Announces Itself

One day a woman called and told me she had just read my first book, If the Battle Is Over, Why am I Still in Uniform? She said she could relate a lot to what I went through as a colon cancer survivor, except with one difference: her diagnosis was terminal. She was a couple years younger than me, and our kids were similar in age. When she asked me to speak at her support group close to my home, I didn’t hesitate.

The first person I met in the group said, “I don’t know how I can possibly laugh at anything about colon cancer. I lost my beautiful daughter to it last year.”

I knew this might be difficult, but I did the best I could, and he thanked me afterward for helping him see he could laugh at awful things, and that cancer wouldn’t have so much power over him anymore. He said he wished his wife had come with him.

Teresa, the woman who had asked me to speak, wanted to keep in touch, and so we made plans for lunch at her favorite Mexican restaurant nearby. A couple months went by; she invited me to visit and showed me her scrapbooking room, and I learned how dedicated she was to this hobby. She had been making huge scrapbooks for everyone in her family, and they were beautiful. I learned she had several trips planned for each of her children. She allowed them to take one day off a month from school to hang out with her and was doing a lot of fun things, creating happy memories while she still felt good, hoping beyond statistics that she would survive. She lived with purpose, also took trips with friends and sisters, living life with gusto and making more memory books from those trips.

When I ran into her at a craft boutique, we both celebrated that she was still alive. We set time for some margaritas, and again I enjoyed her company very much. I would call and tease her when she answered the phone, saying something charming like, “Well, you are still alive!” It sounds crass in writing, but it was the weird right thing for me to say, and for us to laugh about because it was her ultimate worry. It was a couple more months before I heard from her again.

“Brenda, I’ve got something to tell you, and then a favor to ask of you.”

“Okay friend, what is it?”

“We just got back from the doctors, and the cancer is now in my brain. I won’t have much time left, months only, and there’s something I want to discuss. I want you to give the eulogy at my funeral.”

“Wow, Teresa, I know the cancer must have really gone to your brain. You want someone from your family who’s known you for a long time to do this at your funeral, not a friend you barely know. We’ve only seen each other a few times and there’s a lot I don’t know about you. I’m honored, but I don’t think I am the right person.”

“Brenda, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I knew this time was coming. This is why I know this is a big favor. You will have to spend some time with my family and me, getting to know me. I want people to laugh at my funeral, so I want you to do this because you are funny, and I know you’ll send them away with a special gift.”

“What’s that, Teresa?”

“I want you to tell them how important it is for them to get their colonoscopies. You and I were unusual because we were diagnosed so young. As you said in your talk at the support group, it is your mission to educate people on this. You’ve got to urge them to follow through as a last word from me. Can you do this? Will you do this for me?”

“How can I refuse? Are you sure?”

“You will give the perfect eulogy, I know it.”

“Okay, when shall I come over?”

Over the next couple months, I went to Teresa’s quite a bit, met her kids, got to know her husband, saw the projects she had done over the years, looked at all the scrapbooks she had made, talked about her things left undone so far, and talked about her funeral.

She had less and less energy, and had been sleeping for two days and not eating or drinking much when I sat by her bed. I wanted to say goodbye again, as I had some speeches to give out of town. Suddenly, she sat up in her bed, looked right at me, and said, “Brenda, have I done enough?”

I answered, “Oh my gosh girl, I would say so. You’ve packed in special days with your kids, you’ve traveled to many great places, you’ve scrapbooked everything that walked by—I think you’ve done enough.”

She smiled, and lay back down and went to sleep again. A couple days later she died, and the family called me. They even changed the funeral date to accommodate my schedule because they knew what Teresa wanted. I was honored to give her eulogy.

I prayed a lot for the right words on the day of her funeral. A mixture of funny stories and poignant moments about Teresa and her family described a life well lived. I knew as I delivered my eulogy, it was the most important talk I had given in my life. Over three hundred people were present, and the only ones I knew were her family: this eulogy was for them. Of course, I delivered her gift to everyone sitting there, and we laughed as we remembered Teresa. I was humbled to be at this solemn occasion using my gifts of curiosity, intuition, and humor in difficult situations.

Enjoying Our Life—Today

As I age, I realize the importance of good friends and family, and I must continue to meet my desires to travel and see new things. It’s okay to be adventurous and curious about people and places, and even to be downright silly at times. In so many ways, I feel like life is just beginning. I care less about what other people think about my choices in life, and more about using my hours on projects that are good for my character and my sense of joy and giving. I know it’s not too late to try things I have long put off.

At our wedding, our soloist sang a John Lennon song taken from the poem, “Grow Old Along with Me; the Best Is Yet to Be.” I had always interpreted those words to mean to age as a couple, and enjoy it more as you age—and it would be good. Perhaps it might mean I am responsible for myself as I get older, to make my own life the best it can be. Whether it’s volunteering my time with animals, trying out a new recipe, joining a book club, or gardening, it’s something to stimulate me, my brain, and my interactions with others.

I think it might be true that we must remain open and willing to challenge our thinking and try new things―after all, the best is yet to be.

Triage Cancer Speaker Spotlight: Meet Jonny Imerman

JonnyPic2.FounderTab.CROPPEDJonny Imerman is a bit of a celebrity in the cancer community, and for good reason!  After being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 26, he founded Imerman Angels, a non-profit organization that carefully matches and individually pairs a person touched by cancer (a cancer fighter or survivor) with someone who has fought the same type of cancer (a Mentor Angel). Cancer caregivers (spouses, parents, children and other family and friends of fighters) also receive 1-on-1 connections with other caregivers.

When we sat down with Jonny, we asked him to weigh in on motivation, stress management and cancer.   In line with the mission of Imerman Angels, Jonny believes that one of the best ways to motivate someone with cancer is to introduce them to someone who is was diagnosed with the same type of cancer, gender, age, etc., and is back to living a well-adjusted, happy life.  Having a survivor who is able to “share their stories of strength, experience, and hope” can be imperative to helping someone who is currently dealing with the hardest parts of a cancer diagnosis.

But Jonny is realistic, knowing that just hearing other people’s stories may not be enough. Positive energy is also critical.  And Jonny is one of the most positive people we know!  So how does Jonny suggest maintaining positive energy?  By surrounding yourself with fun, upbeat, positive people, because you are likely to absorb that energy.

Similarly, it’s important for people coping with cancer to manage their stress effectively.  Jonny recommends trying a variety of different techniques to find the one that works best for you. For example, some people prefer getting a massage to exercising, meditation to seeing a therapist, or some combination thereof.  (Side note: Triage Cancer will be hosting a webinar on “Don’t Stress the Stress in December).

The third key is connectedness. Jonny strongly believes that as human beings, we are social creatures, and it is important for people to interact and feel connected to others. Whether it be your family, friends, doctors, caregivers, etc., people are likely to feel more motivated when they feel a connection to others.  If you need help finding that special connection, contact Imerman Angles to get matched today!

The one thing Jonny learned about cancer survivorship from his own experience is that it is important to know that there is a “beautiful life on the other side of the fence.” For a newly diagnosed cancer patient it is important to remember to find a way to laugh, even during the hardest times, and an Angel may help you do that!

Jonny believes that it is important for cancer survivors to share their stories with others because it brings awareness and it can save lives. As a member of Triage Cancer’s Speakers Bureau, Jonny is able to share his story and help to educate people and create awareness, while also being able to entertain and make people laugh. Jonny loves it when young adults talk to other young adults about cancer survivorship because it makes the experience more relatable. This peer-to-peer interaction allows for the speaker and the audience to connect on a deeper level.

Because we can’t be all work and no play, we had to ask about Jonny’s favorite movie.  Interestingly, Jonny told us Lone Survivor, a story about four Navy SEALs who were on a covert mission to defuse a high-level al-Qaeda operative.  Jonny says that it reminds him of how hard people fight to live, and how resilient the human body is. The fact that even though the Navy SEALs were outnumbered and came up against the impossible, they never stopped fighting, just like cancer survivors.