by Brandon Borders, development & marketing intern
Things look a lot different today, the last day of my Internship, than they did six years ago.
Six years ago, I was a junior in high school. I played Soccer — the best sport in the world — for Columbia City High School and with a club in Fort Wayne, was involved with church, and had a few good buddies I enjoyed hanging out with. For the most part, I had not a care in the world.
I thought I knew a lot about myself back then. I thought I had it all figured out.
Then came cancer. The nasty disease that you often heard about but never thought would happen to you or your family. Well, it did, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer over five years ago.
To be honest, at the time, I didn’t realize the significance of the diagnosis. But throughout her five-year fight, I learned a lot about myself.
Through watching my mom persevere through the journey, celebrating when the cancer seemed to disappear and fearlessly pushing forward when it reappeared, I learned what it meant to fight. Nothing is harder in life than going through Cancer, and I’ve seen no one fight harder than her.
Through generous gifts of meals, money and time from friends and family from across the country and from our local church, I learned the impact of Christ’s love in action.
Through the way my dad took care of mom during her fight, I learned what type of man I could be. I learned by example what it meant to love unconditionally, through “sickness and in health,” a vow I will be making to my soon-to-be-wife.
Through talking with mom just last summer about the possibility of not making it much longer, the difficulty in continuing the fight, and her desire to be with God in heaven, which she did last July.
All of these things and more, in one way or another, led me to pursue an internship at Cancer Services. The impact an organization like Cancer Services can have in a cancer patient’s life is enormous. I learned that from my mom’s life, and realized the importance of Cancer Services on a trip with my Huntington University public relations practicum class last Fall to meet with Amber Recker.
My experience as an Intern here has been more fruitful than I could have ever imagined. It has allowed me to utilize my talents, while fulfilling a deeper inner purpose that I barely knew existed. Everything I have helped accomplish at Cancer Services, whether it be working on e-Carelines or cutting out stencils, makes a difference.
Today, nearly six years after my mom’s initial diagnosis, I am wrapping up my last day at Cancer Services. It is sad, but exciting, as well. A new chapter of life is about to begin, and I’m excited about the person I have become, thankful for the people in my life, and excited about the opportunities to support Cancer Services in the future.
*As an intern at Cancer Services, Brandon was instrumental in designing and implementing our bi-weekly e-newsletter, e-Carelines. He also created a flickr account for the organization and countless graphic elements, including invitations, postcards, agency brochures. He wrote press releases and blog posts and proofed grant proposals and reports. His work here helped further the mission of our organization and gave him insight into what a job in PR/Marketing would be like. He will be missed!
by Dianne May, President & CEO
We’ve all heard by now that Elizabeth Edwards has died. She made it clear to friends and family that she didn’t want it said that “she lost her battle with cancer.” In her words, the battle is about living a good life and she won.
As overwhelming and all-consuming as a cancer diagnosis can be, most people come to the conclusion that they don’t want to be defined by their cancer experience. That’s true of many of the difficult challenges that life brings.
Elizabeth lost her first child in an auto accident when he was a teenager. I heard her in an interview once talking about grief and loss. She was firm in her belief that friends and family should never shy away from talking about someone who has died. Rather she believed that such conversations were not so much a reminder that the loved one had died but rather a reminder that the individual had lived and such memories brought joy.
By all accounts, Elizabeth was a strong and nurturing soul, a force to be reckoned with, and a woman who won her battle by living a good life.
by Gail Hamm, Program Director
There is a certain tension between caregivers and patients- a delicate dance, if you will. Each tries to protect the other. And even if communication was good before the need for caregiving, there may still be times of conflict and hurt feelings. Important things may not be said because it is difficult to talk about the “elephant in the living room.” At other times, it is difficult to understand each other’s perspective.
I have watched this dance play out in many ways. From the perspective of the cancer survivor (a person is a survivor from the day of diagnosis, by the way)… I have heard this person ask, “How do I get my family to accept the new me?” Sometimes the “new me” looks, acts, sounds, ambulates, or eats differently from the “me” before diagnosis and treatment. The “new me” is who he is now, and cannot go back. There is no choice. The survivor is making accommodations to survive and thrive in his new way of living. It takes a lot of time and perseverance to assume the new mantle of self, find meaning from the experience, and survive day-to-day. In addition, he may also be short- tempered and frustrated, and just plain not feeling well.
It can be difficult for the caregiver to accept the “new me,” precisely because there is a “new me.” Out of love, the caregiver offers food and advice. And when the survivor refuses or only eats a little, the caregiver can become extremely frustrated. There may also be the unspoken fear that, “If I don’t feed him, he will die…. it’s my responsibility to nurture my husband and keep him alive.” There is a certain feeling of impotency and helplessness in not being able to protect and save our loved ones.
Caregivers, out of their love for the survivors, are struggling to provide assistance, but what they are offering may be rebuffed…not out of diminished love or caring, but because the survivor wants to do it in his or her own way. To the caregiver it feels like rejection. To the person being cared for, it feels like smothering. In either case, both are trying their best to maintain relationships while dealing with a new lifestyle for which no one asked nor planned.
If you are in this situation, I highly recommend the support group venue as a way to share triumphs and dilemmas. Others have dealt with what you may be experiencing. In coming to a support group and sharing, caregivers and survivors are bringing problems out into the open and finding solutions. Listening to others provides new perspectives and renewed energy for the caregiver/patient dance. Cancer Services offers a variety of support groups. Check out the possibilities at cancer-services.org or call 260-484-9560 or toll free 866-484-9560.
by Nimal Gernando, cancer survivor and Cancer Services client
One beautiful day in June 2008, I was attending a conference in Indianapolis and developed a slight and sudden pain in my lower abdomen. I tried to shrug it off, but it didn’t go away and actually got worse. I had a bad feeling about it, so I decided to head home. I called my wife on the way, and she suggested that I call the doctor. The doctor saw me right away, but he couldn’t find anything and suggested that I get a CAT scan. The scan showed a tumor blocking my colon, so I had a colonoscopy, which confirmed the tumor and I underwent surgery to remove it immediately. That was the beginning of a new life for me and one that has been humbling and challenging.
After my diagnosis, I found Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, which has been a huge source of support and encouragement to me and my family. My Client Advocate, Brandon, has been there at every turn and has never hesitated to provide the information that I need. I have also been enjoying the massages provided through its new program, Caring Touch. The experience is so relaxing and comforting. I am thankful to Cancer Services for the support and services provided on my journey.
My life goes on and I am enjoying it to the fullest. I have learned to look on the bright side and have been counting my blessings. I have two boys: Nathan (8) and Nelig (7). My wife, Shanthinie, has been strong and is taking care of me and the two boys with much courage and perseverance. She is scared, yet she has been there to support me and take care of the family throughout this journey. We do not have family in the area, so she has found strength in the community, especially from our church family, which has rallied around us and offered encouragement and support. Life is a struggle but I am keeping my hope alive.
By Mary Jo Wolf, cancer survivor and Cancer Services client
My cancer journey began in November 2008, when I discovered a lump in my right breast. I didn’t panic and went about my evening as scheduled, but the thought of that strange mass lingered in my mind. I had been through an unwanted divorce in April, my family lived 6 hours away, and suddenly, I felt alone.
I went to my doctor on Monday. She examined me and immediately set an appointment for me at the Breast Diagnostic Center. On Tuesday, I had a mammogram, followed by an ultrasound. There was fluid around the mass that needed to be drained, but unfortunately, the radiologist couldn’t get it to drain. I had a total of five biopsies that day, and then made an appointment with a surgeon who would give me the biopsy results. I went to each of these appointments alone, hoping it was nothing. I didn’t believe that I might have cancer and I didn’t want to alarm anyone.
When I met with the surgeon for the biopsy results, my friend Becki came with me. She was diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year and knew I needed support. The diagnosis was DCIS (Ductile Carcinoma in Situ – noninvasive breast cancer). Becki started to cry and I was in shock. A million questions went through my mind. The surgeon recommended a lumpectomy. He would remove the lump and send it to the lab to get the exact diagnosis. He was fairly certain that no more treatment would be needed. My surgery was scheduled for Monday, November 24. My only child’s 21st birthday would be the next day. How was I going to tell her that I had cancer? Surgery went as scheduled and my wonderful daughter gave up her birthday celebration to take care of me.
Unfortunately, at my follow-up appointment , the surgeon reluctantly informed me that another surgery would be necessary because cancer cells were still present, and the mass tested positive for triple negative invasive breast cancer.
A week later, I had a second surgery, followed by complications. The incision would not heal; there was infection and a lot of pain. I met with my oncologist and she explained that I needed 20 weeks of chemo. Although my cancer didn’t spread to the lymph nodes, they had to treat it aggressively as if it did.