• warren-wong-277326

    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! 

  • © Sarah Eischen Photography

    When You’re Feeling Alone

    Image Source

    “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! 

  • healthybreakfast2

    Easy Ways to Live Healthy

    Whole health and wellness seems to be trendy these days. But what exactly does it all mean? And how can you — cancer patient or “healthy” person — incorporate whole health into your lifestyle?

    The idea of “holistic” wellness simply means to treat the entire body as a “whole” system, rather than disconnected, separate parts. It’s about really being in tune mind, body, and spirit to address underlying problems (as simple as an upset stomach to more complex chronic issues) at their root, rather than treating the symptom by itself.

    We all tend to live in the mindset that we’re healthy until we get sick. But what if we looked at health as the goal to reach for instead of simply “not sick”? What benefits are there to living a “whole health” lifestyle?

    • Creates balance
    • Boosts your mood
    • Better awareness of physical abnormalities
    • Improves sleep and healing
    • Boosts your immune system
    • Promotes clarity and better brain function

    And that is merely scratching the surface! 

    But what does this look like in a daily routine? It could be waking up a little earlier and going to bed a little earlier. Choosing a raw, vegan dessert over those premixed and processed brownies. Adding more leafy greens into your diet, and embracing “meatless Monday”. Parking further away from your destination to get some cardio in. Learning a couple of easy, simple yoga poses to stimulate circulation and give your lymphatic system some love. Go for your monthly massage. Take a walk after dinner.

    “Starting with small, painless changes helps establish the mentality that healthy change is not necessarily painful change. It’s easy to build from here by adding more healthy substitutions. It’s about doing what you can, to the best of your ability, and treating your body like the gift that it truly is.” – Rick Olderman, MS, PT 

    Find those things that make you feel well. Don’t be bogged down or overwhelmed by all of the “healthy” advice and available research — you know what’s right for YOUR body. You know how certain foods energize you or slow you down. You know how you feel after staying up too late or missing a meal. You already have that intuition when you’re getting sick. So tap into that same intuition!

    Whole, healthy living doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s simply about learning to trust yourself when it comes to your body, mind, and spirit, and taking care of the precious life you’ve been given — for however long that might be. Living your BEST life TODAY is about learning to embrace gratitude, giving yourself permission to create space and breathing room, learning by trial and error, recognizing stress and releasing those things beyond your control.

    Your mindset is powerful; cultivate positivity, and you’ll be amazed at the everyday difference! Whole health is more than just the what you eat — it’s how you approach all aspects of your life.

     


    13thirty Cancer Connect is a place where teens and young adults impacted by cancer are living their best lives — TODAY! We get it here. We’ve been through it or are still walking through it. And we are supporting each other in health and wellness through our Fit! programs and events! 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! 

  • yoga

    Finding Your Peace – How Rest Can Change Your Perspective

    “Being diagnosed with cancer really opened my eyes to the fact that anyone can have it and that even though we think we have control over everything in our lives, we don’t. What I was forced to learn…was to put myself first. To really honor myself by saying no to the things I don’t want to do…I don’t believe you have to be diagnosed to come to these lessons, but sometimes the catastrophic moments in life force you to focus on the immediate.” Sheryl Crow, from her foreword of Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kris Carr.

    “Now inhale and exhale. Really focus on your breathing, dropping your shoulders, closing your eyes, and bringing yourself to center.”

    I was seated with legs crossed and hands on my knees, yoga mat beneath me. The instructor was patiently and intentionally guiding us through the meditative portion of the class, and I felt my stress lift from my shoulders as I focused on my breath. It reminded me that I hadn’t really thought about breathing that day. It’s a necessity of life, but we too often take it for granted.

    Inhale.
    Exhale.

    Seems so simple, but how often do you forget to just take a deep, cleansing breath throughout the day? How often do you forget to stop living in crisis-mode every time a situation arises?

    How often do you put yourself first?

    Rest and meditation tend to come with negative labels in our busywork society and culture. There’s never enough time in the day to accomplish everything. By the time we’ve raced through our day, whether that looks like doctor’s appointments, school, taking care of children, making dinner, cleaning, dealing with deadlines at work, etc…we crash into bed at night, usually after a few episodes on Netflix, utterly spent.

    But what if we decided to look at resting as a good thing? Sometimes that means actual sleep, and making sure we are getting adequate sleep to heal our bodies (READ: Put the phone on airplane mode and get away from screens before bed!), but other times, that just means being able to say no to the things you don’t want to do. Honor yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak up. As cancer patients, survivors, and thrivers, we are too often allowing other people to make decisions for us (spouses, parents, well-meaning friends, doctors, bosses, and so on).

    But what if you just said “No” when you needed to? Firmly, politely, and without explanation or justification?

    Taking time for yourself and finding your peace can look like spending an afternoon with a good book and your cellphone off. Maybe it’s a gentle flow yoga class with a friend. Maybe it’s journaling and exploring your emotions on paper.

    According to an article published in Psychology Today, meditation, rest, and reflection have scientifically-proven health benefits: “It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don’t have to be slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy, jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn’t have to run you. Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself.”

    Whatever helps you to center yourself, breathe, and reflect is the way you heal from the inside out. Letting go of those activities that are life-draining instead of life-giving. And getting alone with your thoughts, closing your eyes, and giving meditation a shot can change your perspective on all aspects of life. You don’t have to give in to the rushed, busywork mentality.

    You can choose to be centered.

     


     

    13thirty Cancer Connect offers monthly yoga, Fit! classes, and massage for parents! Please contact stephen@13thirty.org for more program information and how to register.

     

    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! 

  • paddlegroup

    Why Support Groups Are Important to Your Health

    Support groups.

    As an AYA cancer patient, those words made me cringe with anxiety.

    My first experience with an AYA cancer support group left me feeling depressed and disconnected. I had sat in a sterile, uncomfortable hospital meeting room with a handful of others who were in various stages of their cancers. As we shared our thoughts and feelings in a painfully awkward circle, it became crystal clear:

    This wasn’t working for me.

    The following months were spent trying to figure out my “new normal” while attempting to get back to “regular” life as I knew it — and it wasn’t easy. I ended up quitting my job, discovering a new passion, and finding myself on an entirely different path than I ever expected.

    But no one really understood me.

    Our teens & young adults at Canadice Lake for our 2016 outdoor program with Pack Paddle Ski!

    One day, I received a phone call from the social worker in my oncologist’s department with the name of another AYA cancer patient who had a very similar surgery to my own. I immediately reached out to her, and we got together over coffee. For the first time since my diagnosis, I felt like I had someone who “got” me! It was an incredible feeling! She understood what I had gone through, could relate to the emotions and uncertainties, and could laugh with me about the changes and challenges of our particular cancer.

    It was the most freeing experience I had had since the diagnosis.

    A few days later, she reached out to me about a group called 13thirty Cancer Connect and the Fit! program. “You need to meet Lauren,” my friend texted. “You’ll love her!” I hesitated, given my previous experience with cancer groups, but I was also curious about 13thirty. So I made an appointment to meet with Lauren Spiker and signed up for the 13thirty Fit! program. The rest, as they say, is history!

    Connecting with others who “get it” is so important to our overall wellbeing.

    According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, support groups are places where we can heal and trust the process of  our journeys in a safe space. The article lists out the following benefits of a support group:

    • Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
    • Gaining a sense of empowerment and control
    • Improving your coping skills and sense of adjustment
    • Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
    • Reducing distress, depression, anxiety or fatigue
    • Developing a clearer understanding of what to expect with your situation
    • Getting practical advice or information about treatment options
    • Comparing notes about resources, such as doctors and alternative options

    At 13thirty Cancer Connect, we’ve been through it all: diagnoses, doctors, hospitals, medications, side-effects, scars, disabilities, challenges, and triumphs. Our lives have been changed in such a drastic way, but to be accepted and understood in a space where we can thrive together is key on our survivorship journeys. We encourage one another, cheer each other on, believe in each other. Whether it’s through teen & young adult events, parents & caregivers support, hanging out at the Center, being out in the community, or catching up outside of 13thirty, you will find its so much more than a “support group”; there’s a sense of belonging to a family here!

    Visit www.roc.13thirty.org for our upcoming events, or stop by the Center to say hello!

     

    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! 

  • 5 Ways to Stay Healthy this Summer

    I don’t know about you, but it feels as though every May, I start mapping out all the awesome summer plans I have; swimming, being at the lake with friends, trying new restaurants, attempting a roadtrip, hiking, and looking forward to warm summer evenings around bonfires. Pinterest and Instagram are filled with snapshots of happy people seemingly having the time of their lives (which, of course, is hardly ever the case!).

    But, suddenly it’s mid-July, and I haven’t accomplished most of that!

    Maybe time is flying by for you, too. But as the days get busier and fuller with things to do, we tend to let our health slide to an after-thought. As cancer patients and survivors, it’s even more critical to pay attention to our health and wellness, and to be careful to make space for relaxing and stress-relief!

    Here are five easy ways we can focus on staying healthy this summer!

    • Put the phone down.

    Let’s be honest- whether you’re in the hospital right now while it seems all your friends are out living “carefree” summer days, recovering at home with energy levels that require more naps than endless summer nights, or you’re back at the routine of life and trying to keep up with the everyday, social media is an easy way to lose track of time and create a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out). 

    Give yourself a break! You’re doing great! Schedule times in the day when you let mindless scrolling happen – but don’t forget to turn the phone off for a while and connect with actual, real life.

    • Rest! 

    One of the hardest things to do is listen to your body. When we ignore our need for rest and recovery, we cause ourselves more harm than we realize. Find what makes you feel rested: reading, a nap in the hammock, taking a second to breathe and practice mindfulness. In a culture where being “busy” makes us feel most productive, it’s imperative to our healing to take time and rest.

    • Protect your skin.

    With skin cancers continually on the rise, it’s not surprising that sunscreen usage is even more important these days! Make sure your sunscreen is as natural as possible (i.e., no cancer-causing chemicals!), as it only takes about 20 seconds for anything applied to your skin to reach your bloodstream! Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website for a list of best sunscreens to use this summer.

    • Eat local!

    Seasonal fruits and veggies will nourish your body and spirit this summer! Visit your local farmer’s market, or gather up some friends and go blueberry-picking at places like Wild Hill Farm, or look for the “Locally grown” signs in your favorite grocery store to support sustainable growers  in your area! When you buy produce in-season, you are saving money and eating the freshest, most nutrient-dense, immune-boosting foods.

    • Enjoy the little things.

    Practice gratitude. No matter where you’re at this summer – whether life looks exactly like you want it, or you’re facing an uphill battle right now – every day is a new day to be thankful for the little blessings. It’s not always easy to see the bright side, but the more you practice being grateful for the small things, there’s something beautiful that happens inside of you. When you can see beyond your current circumstances and see a glimmer of light, it’s life-giving and strengthening.

    No matter the season, your health should always be a top priority. Whether you’re starting from scratch or you’re already working on living a healthy lifestyle, it’s always easier when you have support and encouragement! At 13thirty Cancer Connect, we’re here to support you in your whole wellness journey through connections with each other, our 13thirty Fit! programs, yoga and massage, activities and events that bring us together (like our 2017 Bandana Bolt!) and helping adolescents and young adults (AYAs) impacted by cancer live their very best lives – today! Check out our events page and follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!) to stay up-to-date on how to 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!