• 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!

  • A Cancer Survivor’s Guide to the Holidays

    The holidays can be beautiful. And stressful. No matter which way you try to spin it, gathering with friends and family, decorating the house, shopping for presents, trying to squeeze in all the traditions, and make time for everything can get exhausting if we let it. And when you add cancer to the list, even the happiest times lose their spark when you’re worried about the health care needs of yourself or someone close to you.

    But it doesn’t have to be crazy this year. Here’s a few tips to staying present (see what I did there?) and enjoying the “most wonderful time of year”, even dealing with cancer and after-effects of illness:

    Make yourself a priority.

    • Give your emotions some space and express your feelings, no matter how good or bad they might be.
    • It’s easy to forget about your nutrition when you’re surrounded by cookies and treats! Eat your greens and make time physical activity to release tension and boost your oxygen levels.
    • Allow yourself simple pleasures that will help lift your mood. Maybe that’s listening to your body when you need a nap, enjoying a book you’ve been wanting to get into, or taking a hot bath and diffusing some essential oils like lavender for relaxation. saz-b-466958
    • Find distractions that will keep your mind in the present: going to a movie, dinner, playing cards with friends, or other activities you enjoy.
    • Meditate. Practice yoga and stretching to relax and release.
    • Plan in advance how you want to spend your time, with whom, and for how long. Give yourself permission to step away from anything or anyone with negative or toxic energy.
    • Practice saying “No”. You don’t have to participate in everything. People will understand if you can’t attend or need time to yourself. And if they don’t…well, practice boundaries and recognize that your well-being is more important.

    Don’t let this season overwhelm you.

    • Stress lowers the immune system and creates havoc in your body systems. Learn to be okay with letting others help you. Don’t pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations or try to do everything yourself.
    • If you’re of drinking age, don’t overindulge in alcohol. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can “bring out” or amplify negative feelings.
    • Don’t try to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Give yourself permission to be real. paul-green-58111
    • Buying things will not make up for any negative feelings you are having. Stick to a budge for the holidays. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. And don’t exhaust yourself trying to cram shopping in. “Hustle and bustle” can really take a toll on your health!
    • Don’t try to do everything. Make a list, and be realistic with your time and energy.
    • Don’t abandon healthy habits! Get plenty of sleep. Stay active when you’re up for it. Eat well.

    Holidays tend to heighten grief.

    It’s true — we seem to feel a lot more during the holidays. Extreme emotions of joy and sadness can surface. jennifer-pallian-173714And as a cancer survivor, I have been in that place where thoughts of “survivor’s guilt” and disconnection reveal themselves. Allow yourself to feel pain and whatever other emotions come along, too.

    Grief is an important part of the healing process, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay in that headspace. Try following some of the tips above, and remember it’s okay to distract yourself sometimes. Be fully there with your family and loved ones, practice self-care, and embrace the beauty of the season!


    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! 

  • 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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  • The Lessons of Cancer

    I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 22, right in the middle of graduate school.

    Having cancer was not personally the terrible experience that I believe most people picture when they think about being diagnosed with cancer. I really looked at having leukemia as a learning experience, especially because I am going into the medical profession. Even when diagnosed, I was honestly relieved that there was finally a reason why I had been feeling sick for so long.

    Having a diagnosis was like having a goal for me — knowing that leukemia was something that I could beat.

    There were certainly some bumps along the road, like having a reaction to chemo, getting hospitalized right before finals week, and missing exams. And, not being able to graduate with my friends this past year was probably the most disappointing moment through my treatment. However, I would say with certainty that the positive experiences outweigh the negatives.

    My relationships with my friends are just as strong, if not stronger now than they were before I had cancer, and I even made some new friends in the process. I was able to convince my family that I needed a dog. I learned a lot about love and sacrifice from my family. And I found that I am really passionate about helping other young adults with cancer.

    I really do believe that everything happens for a reason — I had cancer so that I could help somebody else.

    I recently finished chemo, and I am not sure what I was expecting because when I think about what cancer looked like in my mind before all of this, I don’t think “post-cancer” was anything I ever envisioned. It certainly isn’t ever portrayed on TV or in the movies. The only thing I can really relate having leukemia to is to running a half marathon. When you start the race, you are thinking about the end goal, of finishing, but aren’t thinking about after. When you start the race, you think about making it to small milestones, like the first 3 miles (or the end of your first cycle of chemo). Next is the half way point which is a boost (for me this was getting to go back to school). Your legs are tired, but you don’t notice because you are so focused on making it to the finish line. Then, you only have a mile or two left when you are really fatigued — but you don’t really notice because you know you’re almost at the end (knowing that you only have a few procedures left).

    Finally, you cross the finish line and you stop running. And it hits you: your toes all have blisters, your calves are burning, your mouth is dry, and you are exhausted. You have met your goal, so you don’t have anything to focus on and you finally feel the weight of the 13.1 miles you just ran.

    This is what it was like to finish chemo. I got to the end, which was such a great feeling, but I finally realized how tired I was.

    It finally hit me what I had just been through over the past 29 months.

    I don’t know if I thought my life was just going to magically go back to how it had been before cancer…but I honestly feel kind of weird. Being post-treatment now, I feel like I need to re-learn what “normal” is again. This has been a lot more difficult than it was to adjust to having cancer.

    However, I know if I look at this through the lense of my cancer — an experience to learn and grow from — I will be able to take something from it and help others try to navigate “normal”.

    If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that cancer might leave you physically, but it never really goes away. Every day I have a choice to let that impact be positive or negative.

    Finding the positives aren’t always easy. But, because of all of this, I definitely choose to try to see the good in every situation, see the beauty in the world around me, and see how I can be a better person and use what I’ve learned to positively impact others.


    About the Author 

    catCat Gawronski is one of our 13thirty participants! She was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and has recently finished treatment. She is in her last year of pharmacy school at University at Buffalo.

  • Uncovering My Scars

    When I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma; a rare form of bone cancer.

    I underwent months of chemotherapy and an intensive limb salvage surgery that left me with a total knee replacement and metal rods the entire length of my right leg. Due to some complications, I underwent a second surgery, where I underwent a skin graph and muscle graph, to close up the wounds from surgery.

    This, of course, caused some pretty crazy scars. Scars that I’ve struggled with for the 12 years I’ve had them.

    I wish I could tell you I embraced them like I embraced my cancer diagnosis, with laughter and optimism, but I did not. I hid them for years. I hid them for five years to be exact. I was the crazy looking person on a 95-degree day wearing long pants. If I did get brave enough to wear shorts, I covered my leg in bulky braces that served no purpose other than to cover me up. I had seen the stares I got the few times I ventured out with just shorts on, and I hated every minute of it. I watched people crane their necks to get a better look and I focused intently at people in large crowds, scanning for eyes on my leg. I could always find them and I always felt them.

    It took me five long years to realize that people are going to stare and that I shouldn’t let it affect me any longer. Having 13thirty as such a significant part of my life helped me overcome these struggles tremendously. The more people I met at 13thirty, the better I felt. I watched in awe as they were rocking their bald heads and scars (seemingly) without a care in the world. Slowly but surely, I was building my own self-confidence. I stared at them, not to be rude, but because I was overwhelmed with how they carried themselves and how powerful they must feel to embrace all parts of their cancer journeys, even if it meant they looked a little different at times.

    The more I was around these types of people, the more I began to throw my insecurities out the window. If they could be proud of their scars, then there was no reason I couldn’t be too.

    Fast-forward to today, and I’m a completely different person when it comes to my scars and insecurities. I don’t care if people stare anymore. In fact, I want people to start staring, to start asking questions. I’m proud of that part of my life and truly believe the experiences I’ve been through have shaped who I am today. I enjoy telling my cancer story and I hope that by doing so, I can help others through their struggles, whether it be physical, mental or emotional.

    If I had any advice to give someone struggling with the after-effects of cancer, it would be to not wait as long as I did. Rock your bald heads. Rock those crazy scars. You’ve been through more than most people can ever imagine, and you should never feel bad about that.


    About the Author 

    brittanyBrittany McNair is one of our 13thirty participants! She is an 11 year cancer survivor, married with a puppy, and a baby on the way!

  • 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.