• 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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  • Opening My Heart After Cancer

    I met my husband just about two years after I had finished cancer treatments. 

    I was still raw. I was terrified every day that I was relapsing. I had no idea how to have a new normal in my life, let alone know how to make a relationship a part of it.

    Cancer was something that would always be a part of who I am and whoever I met following cancer would have no idea, which meant that I was going to have to be the one to not only tell them, but to help them understand my “baggage.”

    Who doesn’t have baggage coming into a relationship? This is true; however, my baggage would affect most areas of my life including love, self-confidence, and intimacy.

    After I met my now-husband, I was scared. I was scared to talk to him; I mean really talk to him about myself. I was scared that the GVH (graft vs. host) scars would be visible to him and that I would seem ugly. The story, while comedic now, goes that he asked me to be his girlfriend for the first time and I said no.

    I really, truly liked him and loved spending time with him; however, my fears were too great. I knew that I needed to start being honest about my cancer experience. After multiple serious conversations about what I had been through, what I had seen friends go through, and what I was still dealing with, my husband asked me, again, to be his girlfriend — and this time, I said yes!

    I’d like to say that once I was in a relationship, all my doubts and fears disappeared and my self-confidence was completely restored. But this was not the case.

    Sicknesses and ailments came that now not only terrified me, but terrified the other person that I brought into the equation. I still struggled with being able to love myself again, which made it that much harder for me to allow someone else to love me. I had been so hardened by the friends I lost during cancer that I didn’t (and wouldn’t) allow myself to believe that anyone else would stay with me after cancer.

    Having relationships after cancer doesn’t just add another person to your equation, it’s adds a whole new family and another set of friends. I didn’t do any public service announcements to tell everyone about my cancer but it was something that, after time, I chose not to hide. I was open with my husband’s family and his friends. I chose to let them see the strength I had rather than the fears that seemed to overwhelm me at times. The only thing harder than telling my future husband that I could not give him a family was having to tell his parents that I was not someone who could give them grandchildren in a traditional sense. But they continued to love me just the same.

    Beating cancer was one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but surviving my cancer has been the bigger challenge.

    I push to survive every day now, and the best part is that I have someone alongside me to do it with. Everyone may not get their “fairytale ending”, but I am so happy that I got mine. My husband is the greatest man; he is so strong and confident in all the areas I am not. He is reassuring even when he is scared. And, when I had to share with him that cancer would also affect having a future family, he took everything in stride and supported me. I have been through the ringer — but so has he.

    Supporting me in the aftermath of cancer is not easy; learning that we would not have our own biological children is a loss that we still grieve, but I have found someone who may not have been there for that chapter of my life, but who certainly understands all of those pieces of me.

    Bottom line…relationships are hard. They’re intimidating and they require work, even without adding cancer to the equation! When you find that right person, however, they will accept you for who you are, including your cancer. And they won’t mind the extra “work,” finances, and fears that come with someone who is a cancer survivor.

     


    About the Author 

    Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 10.47.14 AMPaige Strassner is one of our 13thirty participants! She graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2013 with a B.S. in Nursing. She currently works at University of Rochester Medical Center in the Medical Intensive Care unit.  She enjoys spending time with family and friends, singing, and exercising.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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! 

  • 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! 

  • 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! 

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