• 3 Reasons Why Goal-Setting is Crucial to Your Health

    January brings a sense of brand new-ness to the year ahead. New Year’s Day is filled with pressure to have your vision board completed, goals outlined, and resolutions finalized. New year, new you!

    But give it a week, and life is still happening the same way, with the same challenges, and the shine-y brand new-ness starts to wear off quickly.

    As a cancer patient, it can be even harder to look ahead to big, lofty goals when your biggest accomplishment this morning could have been to walk to the bathroom and back unassisted (trust me, I’ve been there!). When you’re having trouble keeping food down, or you’re lying on your hospital bed staring at the wall as you wait for the next round of meds…

    It can seem pretty difficult to even see beyond the day ahead.

    But in the midst of treatment, hospital stays, and recovery, goal-setting can actually help you emotionally and spiritually! Setting a few realistic and attainable goals can keep you motivated, focused, and empowered.

    “Goal setting helps us be present and move forward,” says Lauren Garvey, MS, CRC, NCC, a counselor and facilitator at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont Health. “A forward mindset and positivity are very important, especially during cancer treatment.”

    Here are a few other reasons why setting goals during your cancer journey is crucial to your health and wellness:

    1) Gives you purpose

    When you’re in the thick of it, cancer feels like your whole world and everything you knew as reality before cancer seems like a distant memory. But that’s not true! Yes, cancer changes your life, but everything you knew before your diagnosis and treatment is still reality — you just may see it all through a different lens.

    When you have set goals that you’re working toward, you’re actually giving yourself a sense of accomplishment and purpose. And your goals don’t always have to be task-oriented! Maybe the goal is to eliminate tasks or activities that aren’t serving you well anymore, or adding health and wellness as you work toward recovery.

    2) Hope is actually healing

    Looking forward to something gives you hope. And hope is scientifically-proven to combat depression.”If you’ve taken time to think about your goals, you’ve already done something good for yourself,” says Garvey. “You’ve shifted your mindset toward the future and have taken a step toward reducing feelings of sadness or depression.”

    3) Keeps you connected to others

    If you include your support system in your goal-setting, you’re asking others who care about you to keep you accountable. Maybe your goal is simply, “Make time for self-care.” In that case, your support system would make sure you have what you need: a massage, a hot bath if you can, lavender essential oil or calming sachets for sleep, a soothing and nourishing meal, etc.

    By including those closest to you in your goal-setting process, you’re allowing them to feel connected and involved in your journey in practical ways, rather than watching helplessly from the sidelines. This will strengthen your relationships and create a sense of sharing the journey.

    Goal-setting should be about balance and centering yourself — not stressful or overwhelming. If you begin to feel like you’re under pressure to accomplish something, check in with your accountability person to figure out why you feel that pressure and remove the stressors. Cancer may feel out of your control, but you are still YOU. Grab a notebook and a pen, and starting writing, sketching, and dreaming!

    Above all, celebrate your strength daily. Even if you’re simply putting one foot in front of the other, it’s more than enough. Everyone’s journey looks different; never compare your milestones to others’. Paint your life-picture with your own strokes and colors — and step back occasionally to observe the progress.

    You’re a masterpiece in the making.


    About the Author

    Sabrina Gauer is our Communications Coordinator and Wellness Coach here at 13thirty Cancer Connect! Follow her blog and Instagram for more tips and encouragement for whole health and wellness living! 

  • 2017 was a fantastic year at 13thirty Cancer Connect!

  • The Impact of 13thirty Cancer Connect

    Guest Post by Dan Faliy, 13thirty Intern

    Of all my volunteering experience and contributions to various charitable organizations, I have never felt like I was making a difference more than when I spent six weeks with the incredible staff of 13thirty Cancer Connect.

    Upon starting my internship, the atmosphere of love and support was overwhelming — and I knew that I would truly enjoy my time at this organization. Simply walking through the Center and seeing the pictures of the teens and young adults who call 13thirty “home” was quite powerful. 13thirty has had such a profound effect on their lives; one family even brought a pair of boxing gloves signed by Mohammed Ali, which were anonymously gifted to their son (Louis D’Amanda III) shortly before he died, and gave them to 13thirty as a reminder of the strength, perseverance, and fighting spirit that embodies AYA cancer survivors.

    I was able to help in a variety of ways as an intern — from helping with Journeys preparation, to joining the Cancer Outreach of Rochester, to coming up with creative names for the quilts donated to the Center from a generous local quilter for 13thirty’s annual holiday sale.

    As a member of the medical profession, evidence is very important to me whenever deciding on a recommendation. One of the tasks that I was assigned was to analyze this evidence and organize the information. 13thirty, along with all of the great things they do for teens and young adults impacted by cancer, also helps parents through the difficulties of having a child with cancer. One of the programs focuses on the mental and physical health of the parents and their progress is monitored weekly. Every parent enrolled in the program had, without exception, improved both physically and mentally from the beginning to the end of the eight weeks.

    This was very important to me because it is obvious without seeing anything on paper that the organization does so much to help everyone involved — but to have physical proof was the icing on the cake.

    I could tell countless stories about how much I enjoyed my time with 13thirty Cancer Connect, but actions speak louder than words. I will make my appreciation known by continuing to be involved with the organization as a volunteer, and once I get out of school, a donor. The staff is incredible and are continuously working hard to support AYAs and their families. I encourage anyone who is interested in helping those impacted by cancer to offer your services, your time, and your support to 13thirty Cancer Connect.


    ROC the Day 2017 is November 28th! It’s a 24-hour window of giving in our community, and here at 13thirty, we want to continue to make a positive impact on our teens, young adults, and families. We appreciate all the support from our generous donors — without YOU, none of this would be possible! Please click the link and choose 13thirty Cancer Connect for your ROC the Day contribution! Thank you!

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  • Celebrating Life at Journeys!

    On November 4, we will gather once again to celebrate the lives of all the teens and young adults with cancer that we have been privileged to know and love over the years. This will be the 16th Journeys, our Annual Celebration of Living!

    If you’ve been to Journeys, you know how special this night is. If you’ve never been, I hope this will be the year you will join us because Journeys is unlike any other charity gala. In fact, we don’t call it a gala because there is no formal dress, the special themed centerpieces are fashioned on my dining room table, and there are only a few, short speeches! We call it a Celebration because that’s what we do.

    We celebrate all the kids who have inspired us to be the best we can be and to give as much as we’re able.

    Past 13thirty members, whose bonds of friendship were forged years ago, reunite as if no time or space has separated them. Present members welcome potential new members in friendship. Our families share stories with common themes and guests who have not been touched by adolescent and young adult cancer are forever changed by the energy in the room.

    During the cocktail hour, student groups provide the music, enthusiastic volunteers sell raffle tickets and corks for the wine pull, while delicious appetizers are passed by the wonderful staff of Creative Caterers. After dinner, the program starts with our time-honored, candle lighting ceremony, during which we remember our friends who — though gone — continue to warm our hearts with their light. We recognize special folks who have helped us. This year’s “Corporate Sponsor Salute” goes to ValPak of Rochester and Dr. Barbara Asselin will receive the “Make a Difference Award.”

    And then, it’s time for the highlight of the night: The kids’ performance!

    Each year, we have a theme around which the “kids” of 13thirty Cancer Connect craft a presentation that will give our guests an authentic view of what it’s like to be a teen or young adult with cancer. As you might gather from our invitation, this year’s theme is “Bridges” —  but I’m not going to say any more. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself what we’ve put together for you! We are thrilled to be working with Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle from Airigami (airigami.com) this year. Here’s a clue – there are balloons involved. Lots of them! Local poets, Charlie Cote and Danielle Shied, helped the kids put feelings to words and our friend Dan Roach, as always, makes us sound and look great!

    It’s going to be an amazing night and I hope you will be there because if you are, you will see what keeps me going every day.

    When Melissa died, our hearts were forever shattered but I knew we were strong enough to carry on, to continue living, to somehow put one foot in front of the other. What I didn’t know was just how much better I could be, how much more I could love, how much joy I would find in the young people I work with every day. They are the beacons of hope in this (sometimes) dark world. They rise above the small things and keep focus on what’s important. They truly live and love life and I am so very proud of them all.

    I promise you, Journeys is a night you don’t want to miss! You can RSVP online until Oct. 26 at www.roc.13thirty.org.

    See you on November 4th!


    About the Author

    lauren-spiker-1Lauren Spiker is our founder, executive director, and chief visionary with a pulse on what’s happening in the world of AYA oncology. Her dreams are big and bold!

  • Your Story Matters

    “Owning your story is the bravest thing you will ever do.” – Brene Brown

    It doesn’t always seem like a good thing.

    A diagnosis changes your life and turns everything upside down. Suddenly, people are looking to see how you’ll pull through it, cheering you on and telling you what an inspiration you are.

    You don’t always feel like an inspiration.

    Some days, you just want to crawl under the covers and disappear from the world.

    Social media in our day and age has made it harder and harder to do that. With smartphones and a constant lifeline to the outside world, we’re in the spotlight even more than we’d sometimes like to be. Everyone wants an update — or we feel the pressure to keep everyone informed about our lives 24/7.

    But there is a positive aspect to sharing your story. And more than just sharing, but really owning your journey and being okay with it.

    It takes time. Some of us are ready to share details and process as the story unfolds. Others need to walk through it first, and process later. We are all different, every journey is different, and your story will impact someone else in a powerful way if you are willing to share it.

    Because somewhere out there, someone just like you is struggling with the exact same thing, hoping for a sense of connection.

    It may be easier to push away the feelings and just “get on with life”, but when you shift your perspective to the mindset that your journey is for a greater purpose, you are taking a big, brave step. Owning your story will empower others to do the same. It’s a ripple effect that you may never fully see in this lifetime, but it’s true nonetheless: your pain will have a purpose.

    Choosing to see the greater good isn’t easy. Choosing to own your story isn’t easy. Choosing to share your journey for the benefit of others who are struggling isn’t easy.

    But it will be worth it. You will grieve, you will release, and you will heal.

    And it’s scientific, too! According to Lissa Rankin, M.D., “Telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth. Each us is a constantly unfolding narrative, a hero in a novel no one else can write. And yet so many of us leave our stories untold, our songs unsung—and when this happens, we wind up feeling lonely, listless, out of touch with our life’s purpose, plagued with a chronic sense that something is out of alignment. We may even wind up feeling unworthy, unloved, or sick.”

    Healing is only possible when you can let go and trust. Rankin continues, “Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares bears witness to it, you turn off the body’s stress responses, flipping off toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and flipping on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocindopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. Not only does this turn on the body’s innate self-repair mechanisms and function as preventative medicine—or treatment if you’re sick. It also relaxes your nervous system and helps heal your mind of depression, anxiety, fearanger, and feelings of disconnection.” (Psychology Today)

    So don’t be afraid of your story. It may hurt, it may feel uncomfortable to share at first. But the more you allow yourself to embrace your journey and truly believe in the greater purpose you play in the lives of others through your willingness to just be YOU, amazing things will start to happen — not just in your own life, but unlocking courage and inspiration in the lives of others who need to hear exactly what only you can say.


    About the Author

    Sabrina Gauer is our Communications Coordinator and Wellness Coach here at 13thirty Cancer Connect! Follow her blog and Instagram for more tips and encouragement for whole health and wellness living! 

  • Cancer Taught Me How to Deal with Heartbreak

    It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard once or twice…“Thank God _____ happened!”Personally, this has haunted me for years; thirteen to be exact. Thirteen years ago, I went out for ice cream and came back with cancer. Sounds crazy, right? Well I may have left out a few details…

    To make a long story short, I was in a car accident. It was a summer night, and I was on my way home from getting ice cream. While being examined after the accident, a large mass was discovered in my chest. Two weeks later, after many tests, I found out I had cancer.

    From then on when I tell my story, the only response I ever hear is, “Thank God you were in that accident!”

    It’s a nice thought, really. I get how people are trying to find the positive in a devastating situation. But honestly, at 19 years old…it was the last thing I wanted to hear. And thirteen years later, I’m still getting the “Thank God ____ happened!” response, and I think my eye twitches a little bit every time I hear it.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I am thankful I was in that accident because who knows if we would have found the cancer before it was too late! But still…something about the “what ifs” starts to get the better of me. And in the past year for me, life went from being the most exciting time to probably the one thing more devastating than cancer: heartbreak.

    I would imagine as a parent, watching your child go to battle with cancer is heartbreaking. My poor mom; not only did she have a sick kid, she had a sick “young adult” who wasn’t very pleasant to begin with. She was definitely heartbroken, but she’s tough as nails and never let me see it.

    So, when heartbreak happened to me earlier this year, it was the first time in my life that I knew what pain really was. Cancer wasn’t painful, it was inconvenient. But this current situation was true, raw pain.

    I found myself reflecting back on the “cake walk” that cancer was. I found myself back in the same “Thank God ____ happened!” mindset before I made the potentially biggest mistake of my life. This time, when it was something I really cared about, I finally understood.

    We learn our life lessons in many ways. People say that “everything happens for a reason” or that it “builds character”. Throughout my life experiences, I definitely learned some things; some were easy, some were hard. In the end, it’s doesn’t matter what life throws at you: cancer, heartbreak, loss… what matters is what you do with those experiences. They are what make you who you are.

    As much as I hate to admit “everything happens for a reason”, it does. There is a master plan that we don’t necessarily create, but we navigate between the good and the bad. We use life’s teachable moments to feed who we are and how we live our lives. Many of my survivor friends have expressed feelings of “little things don’t matter anymore” or how big things become little things when real big things happen.

    As much as I’d like to forget or pretend like I never had cancer, I did. And it was a big deal, until the next big deal came along. I think about what that experience taught me, and how it made me the person I am today. I’m strong, smart, determined, compassionate, and optimistic. I’m able to find the positive in all things because I’ve seen that it’s not a “big deal”. Learning to have a thick skin through cancer helped me understand that heartbreak really isn’t so bad.

    It could be worse and in the end: I’m a Survivor.

    So the next time someone says, “Thank God ____ happened!”, I’ll suppress my twitchy eye and say, “Yes, I’m thankful every day.”

     


    About the Author

    UntitledKaren L. Rector is one of our 13thirty participants! She graduated from St. John Fisher College in 2007 with a B.S. in Management – Marketing. She currently works at Windstream Communications in the HR – Training & Development Department as an Instructional Designer. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to local festivals and hosting parties.