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    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!

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    Hashtags: All About AYA Cancer!

    Our new video podcast series is up and running on our Youtube channel! 

    “Hashtags: All About AYA Cancer!” seeks to inform, share, and inspire those who have been recently diagnosed, those who are years out of treatment, and friends and family who don’t quite know how to react or treat a teen or young adult impacted by cancer.

    Our hosts, 13thirty Program Coordinator, Steve Esposito, and Communications Coordinator and young adult survivor, Sabrina Gauer, have gathered stories, interviews, and video footage to share with viewers about the underserved and largely unrecognized population of cancer patients and survivors.

    Whether it’s touring the 13thirty office, filling you in on events here at the Center, talking to a teen or young adult about their experiences, or getting feedback from medical professionals and healthcare specialists, Steve and Sabrina are here to answer your questions and keep you informed about AYA (adolescent and young adult) cancer! Keep up with “Hashtags: All About AYA Cancer!” on our Youtube channel!

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    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! 

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    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 lens 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.

  • The Power of Community

    Most definitions of parenthood are variations on a theme – “The state of being a parent.”

    This is a useful construct if you understand what it means to be a parent but for many of us, parenthood is an ever evolving, often terrifying, but always rewarding job. Most of us learn what it means to be a parent through trial and error until we settle into the role. After a while, we get the hang of it.

    But if you’re a parent of a child with cancer, this quote probably resonates: If parenthood came with a GPS, it would mostly just say: RECALCULATING.

    When you child is diagnosed with cancer, all bets are off. Each day brings new challenges and even greater unknowns. Everything you ever thought you knew becomes unclear and decisions once made without thought are now scrutinized and agonized over. Routine flies out the window, hospital procedures dictate schedules and sleep is brief and interrupted. Healthy eating? Forget about it. Many of us rely on caffeine, fast food, and the undying love for our children to keep going each day.

    When added together – sleep deprivation and coffee overload, junk food and escalating stress – the toll on cancer parents is high.

    Taking care of those we love takes priority over self-care.

    That’s where 13thirty Cancer Connect comes in. Thanks to a grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, our parents are making the time to take care of themselves. 13thirty Fit – Parents is a 12-month program offering physical fitness classes, gentle yoga, and free massage to help alleviate the burden of caregiving.

    Just like our programs for teens and young adults, our parents’ programs are designed to help weary parents build a new peer community with others who understand. At 13thirty, everyone ‘gets it’, so words are often unnecessary. Support is free for the asking and the coffee pot is always on!

    If you are a parent, come and visit our Center. We’ll give you the nickel tour and listen for as long as you need. Contact Steve at (585) 563-6221 to register for fitness or yoga and to make a massage appointment. Not only will you feel better, you’ll make new friends with like-minded folks.

    You deserve that and more, don’t you think?

    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!

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    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! 

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    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.

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    When You’re Feeling Alone

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    “You are enough exactly as you are. The world needs your gift and the world needs your story.” – Crystal Paine

    Everyone else is living a carefree life…they don’t get it.

    This is my own fight. 

    I wish someone understood what I’m going through.

    Everything’s changed…and no one else can see it.

    You want me to just “move on” with life after everything that’s happened?!

    Will I ever get back to “normal” again?

    If you’re anything like me, these thoughts have swirled through your mind and played with your emotions more than once as you’ve navigated through the ups and downs of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Or maybe you’re a parent walking through this with your child (no matter what age they may be), or a sibling watching your sister or brother on this hard journey, and you know that pressing weight of loneliness and being misunderstood.

    It seems while everyone else gets to go on with their lives, you’re stuck in this weird twilight zone of dealing with disease.

    Can you relate?

    For me, being 27 years old and newly diagnosed with cancer, I felt disconnected from my friends. Even two years later, I still find it hard to relate to others who haven’t gone through the hard times that have made them stronger. But I found myself needing and learning to surround myself with understanding community.

    I found that here at 13thirty Cancer Connect, and through other amazing organizations who have set out to create that community for AYA cancer patients and survivors. To have friends here in Rochester, NY, and all over the country now who have been through it, and who get it, is more of a gift than I ever could have realized without walking through my own struggle. And just as their support and understanding has uplifted me, I have been able to share my story to encourage others as well.

    Here’s the truth: You are NOT alone, and your story MATTERS.

    We’ve talked about why support groups are important, but the fact remains that many AYA cancer patients and survivors are prone to depression, loneliness, and isolation due to their diagnoses, treatments, and the lingering after-effects of cancer; whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. And support and wellness groups that offer hope, encouragement, friendship, and high quality programs that foster creativity, positivity, and safe space to share organically about experiences through diagnosis and the cancer journey can greatly combat those statistics!

    At 13thirty Cancer Connect, you can embrace community, wellness, and support through all the highs and lows. You are NOT alone. We all get it here. And we are all in this together — living our BEST lives, TODAY! Visit our Rochester page or stop in to the Center to meet the staff and get connected!

    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! 

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