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Mon, Oct 7 2:19pm · Letting Go of the Past Can be Hard in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_223317898Article contributed by Erin Haefner

We have all experienced pain at some point in our lives. Whatever pain we have experienced, it can be hard to let go. A good way to cure this pain is to let go of the past. Trust me, it is a lot easier said than done. I have a few tips on letting go:

  • You can’t change the past. You just can’t. But, you can change the future. When you put your past behind you, that gives you room to open your mind to the future. New opportunities lie ahead, and can only be fully taken advantage of if you are in the present; focusing on what you can do now that will benefit you in the future.
  • A favorite quote of mine from Abraham Lincoln:

“You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.” My interpretation of this quote is that everything will all be well in time. I have found whenever I am very sad or angry, it doesn’t last forever. With time, I have laughed again, smiled again, and had fun again. Sorrow does not last forever.

  • You have survived 100% of your worst days. Keep up the good work. With each passing day, you are getting stronger and stronger. Each bad day comes and goes, and you are still standing.
  • My family and I always like to remind each other of this quote: “Where are you? Here. What time is it? Now. What are you? This moment.” – Dan Millman. This always reminds me to be present and live in the present moment – and not worry about the past or what I could have done differently. This also helps me to focus on goals I want to achieve in the future. What can I do NOW, HERE, and in THIS MOMENT that will benefit my future goals?

What are your tips and tricks to let go of the past?

Wed, Sep 25 12:52pm · Cancer Affects Your Body, But it Affects Your Emotions and Feelings, Too in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_98332214Article contributed by Cancer Education Center staff; Jeri Lensing and Angela Young

Your attitudes, emotions, and moods can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. You may feel good one day and terrible the next. Know that this is normal and that, with time, most people are able to adjust to a cancer diagnosis and move forward with their lives.

Once you learn that you or a loved one has cancer, you may no longer feel safe. You may feel afraid, exposed, weak, and vulnerable. Such feelings often last through treatment. Anxiety and sadness are common, too.

It’s normal to worry, especially at certain times, such as when waiting to start treatment. “The worst time for me was waiting for that first chemo treatment,” said one patient. “Once it was over, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I was OK. I actually felt better because I was finally doing something about the cancer.”

Many people with cancer use one or more kinds of alternative or complementary therapies. And they often don’t tell their doctors about these decisions. The best approach is to look carefully at your choices. Talk to your doctor about any method you are using or thinking about trying. There are many complementary methods you can safely use along with standard treatment to help relieve symptoms or side effects, to ease pain, and to help you enjoy life more. Even if they aren’t fully tested, you can choose methods that don’t usually cause harm and won’t interfere with your cancer treatment.

Here are examples of some complementary methods that some people have found helpful and safe when used along with standard medical treatment:

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a technique in which very thin needles are put into the body to treat a number of symptoms. It may help with mild pain and some types of nausea.
  • Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant substances, called essential oils, distilled from plants to alter mood or improve symptoms such as stress or nausea.
  • Art therapy: Art therapy is used to help people with physical and emotional problems by using creative activities to express emotions.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a treatment method that uses monitoring devices to help people gain conscious control over physical processes that are usually controlled automatically, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating, and muscle tension.
  • Labyrinth walking: Involves a meditative walk along a set circular pathway that goes to the center and comes back out. Labyrinths can also be “walked” online or on a grooved board following the curved path with a finger.
  • Massage therapy: Massage involves manipulation, rubbing, and kneading of the body’s muscle and soft tissue. Some studies suggest massage can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and pain and increase alertness.
  • Meditation: Meditation is a mind-body process in which a person uses concentration or reflection to relax the body and calm the mind.
  • Music therapy: Music therapy is offered by trained healthcare professionals who use music to promote healing and enhance quality of life.
  • Prayer and spirituality: Spirituality is generally described as an awareness of something greater than the individual self. It’s often expressed through religion and/or prayer, but there are many other paths of spiritual pursuit and expression.
  • Tai chi: Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art. It’s a mind-body system that uses movement, meditation, and breathing to improve health and well being. It’s been shown to improve strength and balance in some people.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a form of non-aerobic exercise that involves a program of precise posture and breathing activities.

Again, there are some safe complementary therapies out there that can help you feel better. But there are other treatments that can hurt you. Before investing your money and time in any non-traditional medicine, please talk to your doctor about whether or not it may help you in your fight against cancer.  Especially if it is something you would take orally, such as a supplement.

Connect with others talking about emotions, feelings and mood related to living with cancer in the Cancer: Managing Symptoms group.


Mon, Sep 16 3:15pm · Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month in Cancer Education Center


September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month.  Gynecological cancers are cancers of women’s reproductive organs and include cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancer.

Some signs to watch for include:

  • pain or pressure in the pelvis that won’t go away and you don’t know why it is there
  • feeling too full, too fast – and not because you ate too much food
  • unusual vaginal bleeding – a longer or heavier period than normal (for you) or bleeding that comes after menopause

If you notice unusual symptoms for two weeks or longer, please consult your doctor.  It may be nothing, but it is a good idea to get checked out.

Watch this short video to learn more about lifestyle, screening and symptoms related to gynecological cancers.

Connect online with other women living with a gynecologic cancer in the Gynecologic Cancers support group on Mayo Clinic Connect.

Mon, Aug 19 1:35pm · Millennials and Generation Z: How to Stay Active in a Growing Age of Technology in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_187400009Article contributed by Erin Haefner

I was recently reading an article on the American Cancer Society’s website titled, “Obesity-Related Cancers Rising in Young Adults in the U.S., Millennials have about double the risk of some cancers compared to Baby Boomers at same age.” And I was shocked at what I was reading. Something that stuck out to me was this: “The increasing risk of obesity-related cancers in younger generations has the potential to halt or reverse the progress we’ve achieved in reducing the death rate from cancer in the last 20 to 30 years.”

What this boils down to is that more and more people under the age of 50 (millennials and younger generations) are at greater risk to get an obesity-related cancer, and something needs to change. The world of technology is constantly evolving, taking our motivation, energy, and healthy lifestyle away. As a member of Generation Z myself, I feel compelled to share some tips on how to stay active in a world that is changing around us.

  1. Give yourself a step goal for the day. I own a Fitbit and it has really helped motivate me to get 10,000 steps a day. Owning one, I have also found that I am more motivated to be active for at least 30 minutes every day, as the Fitbit tracks your activity level through your heart rate throughout the day. Walking is a simple, yet very beneficial form of exercise.
  2. Take the stairs. I just finished up my junior year of college and I lived on the 8th floor of my dormitory. On the ground floor there are practice rooms that the music majors of the building (me) could practice late at night without having to walk across campus when it was dark outside. Every day after classes, rehearsals, and lessons, I walked up the stairs to my 8th floor room. I also took the 8 flights of stairs whenever I would use the practice rooms, which was quite often. Of course, this was hard at first, but it just got easier and easier every day. I never had to wait for an elevator, and my legs have never felt better.
  3. Clean your house – often! I don’t know about you, but whenever I have ever dusted, vacuumed, swept, or likewise, I have always been a little winded after those tasks. Maybe it was the constant moving of my arms, or the weight of the cleaning supplies I was carrying, but it felt like a small workout. I was able to jam to some music, get exercise, AND have a nice, clean, and organized house in the end. It’s a win-win-win!
  4. Dance. When I was in high school, I used to be a dancer. I was on a dance team for two years and I loved every minute of it. We competed in tournaments and we put on recitals often. Now that I am in college, and have a full-time summer job, I don’t have time to participate in extracurriculars like that. But, whenever I have a free moment, even if it’s just for an hour or less, I dance. I find dancing to be a way to escape the world. I don’t care if I am bad, or if there is no organization to the dance I am doing, as long as I am having fun, I am dancing my little heart out. This is the time to dance when nobody is watching, because there IS nobody watching!
  5. Make an exercise challenge out of your favorite TV show or movie. I’ll be honest. Despite my busy schedule, I still somehow find the time to watch a lot of TV. One of my favorite shows, and a favorite of a lot of people’s, is Friends. I have been challenging myself to do an exercise whenever a character does one of their signature things. For example, if you are familiar with the show, here are some of the things I do for each of the characters:
    1. Monica: Do 25 jumping jacks whenever Monica says “I know!”
    2. Rachel: Do 30 sit-ups whenever Rachel talks about anything related to shopping or fashion.
    3. Chandler: Do a plank for one minute whenever Chandler is sarcastic.
    4. Phoebe: Run in place for the duration of one of Phoebe’s songs.
    5. Ross: Do 15 burpees whenever Ross says “We were on a break!” or talks about dinosaurs.
    6. Joey: Do 20 squats whenever Joey is eating something or talking about food.
  6. Do arm stretches at your desk. I am working here at Mayo Clinic this summer and I am doing a lot of sitting at a desk for hours. As much as I can, I am doing arm stretches while I sit. I also try to get up and move every chance I get, even if I am just walking to the bathroom. Check out some of Mayo Clinic’s tips on this!

I would love to hear how you stay active! Feel free to leave a comment down below.

Or head here to start a conversation.

Here are 7 additional links about Healthy Living:

Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk

Exercise: When to check with your doctor first

Healthy habits that boost happiness

Office exercise: Add more activity to your workday

Desk stretches: Video collection

Sitting at your desk doesn’t have to be a pain in the neck

Standing workstation

Wed, Jul 24 4:24pm · Sunscreen Season in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_392637715The older I get, the more I think about the impact of sun exposure on my skin. When I was growing up sunscreen wasn’t really a “thing.” The only protection we had was zinc oxide and it was applied to very little surface area – mainly just the nose and cheeks. My father has had to endure multiple rounds of Mohs procedures. I picked him up after one of his appointments and it was very sobering to see all the bandaged areas on his face. It has motivated me to be more diligent about protecting my skin and my children’s. My kids complain about my insistence with their sunscreen application and the constant reminders (they may refer to that as nagging!) and I still help my youngest son in getting those hard to reach places. While I’m applying, he’s protesting and my response is always “You’ll thank me when you’re 40!” After my dad’s most recent Mohs procedure, he got a black eye based on the proximity of the area they were working on. I begged him to take a selfie and send it to all of the older grandkids. My dad is not big on selfies, nor sharing a less than photogenic moment. But, after a couple of days, he did honor my request and sent the pic to them with a funny caption of “you should see the other guy!” All of this leads me to sharing more tips on sunscreen use. Summer is in full swing and we are spending more time outdoors. Also, our days are longer and we are seeing more hours of sunlight. We all know that we are recommended to protect our skin with sunscreen.

Here are some interesting and informative things to think about.

Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. So how much should a person apply? Most adults need one ounce. A good visual to think of is how much you would need to fill a shot glass – that roughly equals an ounce.

You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Make sure you get those areas that receive a lot of rays – shoulders, the back of your neck, the tops of your ears, your nose and your head, especially if you don’t have much hair. A wide-brimmed hat can also give extra protection.

Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Remember, people of all skin colors are at-risk for sunburn and other harmful effects of UV radiation, so always protect yourself. Be especially careful if you have:

  • pale skin
  • blond, red, or light brown hair
  • been treated for skin cancer
  • a family member who has had skin cancer

Listen to this Mayo Clinic Radio Health Minute on melanoma risk factors.

Wed, Jul 17 1:10pm · Forefront: The Latest Edition of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center Magazine in Cancer Education Center

bnr-forefront1Volume 8, Issue 2, June 2019

The Summer 2019 issue of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center magazine, Forefront, has arrived. Features include brief news articles about Mayo Clinic Cancer Center research, video commentary from researchers, and investigator profiles. Click here to subscribe, read this newsletter edition or view archived publications.

Director’s Message: Prioritizing Cancer Research

Federal cancer research funding is vital to meet growing challenges as the population ages.

Predicting Pancreatic Cancer in Patients with Diabetes

The UCP-1 gene may serve as a potential biomarker even before symptoms develop in high-risk groups.

Study Helps Clarify Role of T Cells in Follicular Lymphoma

The researchers’ findings could lead to new treatments for this type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Cervical Cancer Screening Low, Marked by Racial Disparity

Mayo Clinic urges health professionals to find new ways to boost compliance with national guidelines.

Study Backs Oxybutynin for Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors

Researchers say the drug improves quality of life in women who can’t take hormone-based therapy.

Oral Blood Clot Drug Safe, Effective in Patients with Cancer

Apixaban is easier to use than traditional blood thinners and has fewer side effects, research shows.

Meet the Investigator: Kabir Mody, M.D.

In this Cancer Center video, Dr. Mody discusses research on pancreatic cancer and liver cancer.


Mon, Jun 17 11:21am · Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Can Affect Cancer Survivors in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_232886320Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that is triggered by a shocking, terrifying, or scary event.   We often associate PTSD with war, sexual or physical assault, or a serious accident. Research has shown that post-traumatic stress disorder can also occur with cancer survivors — especially since you’re dealing with a life-threatening medical diagnosis.

This is particularly true of childhood cancer survivors, survivors of aggressive cancers and cancers that require intense treatments.

Some of the symptoms and emotions of PTSD include:

  • Problems sleeping because of intrusive dreams or flashbacks of trauma
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Irritability and anger
  • Self-destructive behaviors, such as drinking too much or taking unusual risks
  • Uncontrolled sadness and crying spells
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not there

It’s normal to have some of these symptoms as a cancer survivor. However, if you’re having disturbing thoughts and feelings for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.

Some types of therapy used in PTSD treatment include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy — this helps you recognize the thought patters triggering anxiety and symptoms. Recommendations for strategies to help modify these thoughts are part of this therapy.
  • Psychotherapy — this may include group discussions or individual counseling to work through symptoms and emotions. It can also be helpful to talk to others who are going through similar experiences.
  • Medications — (anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, or anti-anxiety) — this is usually a short-term strategy to deal with extreme depression or anxiety.
  • Support groups — can help with emotional aspects of cancer.  Sharing in a safe place with other people who have similar experiences can help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety.

Treatment for PTSD can help you regain a sense of control over your life. With successful treatment, you can also feel better about yourself and learn ways to cope if symptoms return. These strategies can help provide skills to cope better with the traumatic event — and move beyond it.

What’s been your experience? Share your thoughts here or head over to this discussion on the topic.

Tue, Jun 11 1:00pm · Self-Compassion…When You Need It Most in Cancer Education Center


While I was growing up my parents would frequently tell me it was “important to treat other people the way you would want to be treated.” Many of us know that wise advice as the “Golden Rule.” Years later, while teaching stress management classes, I began sharing my “Silver Rule.”  This is a slight variation on the earlier well-known phrase. The modification of the guiding principle encourages us to be as kind and gentle to ourselves as we would be to someone we love who’s in a similar situation. Show kindness to ourselves when we are less than perfect? Who knew that would be such a challenge! Many of us have pretty harsh inner critics that raise voices loud and clear when we say, do or think something that we regret, such as:

“What a stupid thing to say?”

“How insensitive!”

“Why can’t I be more…”

Those thoughts can also accompany our feelings about being a caregiver or a patient with cancer. Has your inner voice ever said anything similar to “why are you feeling sorry for yourself when so many people have it so much worse?” or “I shouldn’t have complained about my cancer.  No one really wants to hear about it anyway.”  I’m using those examples because I have heard both of them, but there are so many other situations that we could just as easily name.

The silver rule, or showing self-compassion, would have us respond to ourselves in a kinder, more supportive way.  For example, think of someone you love dearly.  Now imagine they just did or said the same thing you are berating yourself for saying or doing.  How would you respond to them?  Would you use the same words and tone that your inner critic just used on yourself?  Probably not. Take a moment and think about how you feel when you are harshly chastised versus when you are accepted as someone who is human, but may have made a mistake.  Which one of those responses leads to a better outcome?

This week one of the chaplains at Mayo Clinic spoke to us about this topic.  She encouraged us to take a self-compassion break when we are experiencing stressful situations and directed us to a website of Dr. Kristin Neff: https://self-compassion.org/. When we are experiencing challenging problems, the following three steps are helpful to give ourselves a self-compassion break:

  1. Recognize this is truly a painful situation. Many times we do not acknowledge that we are hurting and this is a stressful time.
  2. Recognize that suffering is a part of life. No one escapes difficult situations.
  3. Treat yourself as kindly and compassionately as you would someone else you love.

Old habits are hard to break, but it is possible.  The first step is recognizing that change can happen and it will lead to a healthier, kinder future.  As with all change, it takes awareness and practice.  Are there ways you have started being more self-compassionate?  We’d love to hear your experiences.