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6 days ago · Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment in Cancer Education Center

shutterstock_751563748 feelings scaleWhen you began your cancer treatment, you couldn’t wait for the day you’d finish. However, now that your treatment is completed, you aren’t sure if you’re ready to move forward as a cancer survivor.

A variety of emotions is normal and, despite being eager to return to a more normal life, it can be scary to step away from the doctors and nurses who supported you through treatment. Take time to acknowledge how and understand why you feel these emotions and what you can do about them.

Fear of recurrence in cancer survivors

Fear of recurrence is common in cancer survivors. Though they may go years without any sign of disease, cancer survivors say the thought of recurrence is always with them. You might worry that every ache or pain is a sign of your cancer recurring. Eventually these fears will fade, though they may never go away completely. The feelings might be especially strong before follow-up visits to your doctor or the anniversary of your cancer diagnosis.

To calm fears and influence your future health try to:

  • Take care of your body. Focus on keeping yourself healthy. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fit exercise into your day. Get enough sleep so that you wake feeling refreshed.
  • Go to all of your follow-up appointments. You may fear the worst when it’s time for your next follow-up appointment. Don’t let that stop you from going. Write down questions about any signs or symptoms that worry you and use the time with your doctor to ask them. Ask about your risk of recurrence and what signs and symptoms to watch for. Knowing more may help you feel more in control.
  • Get all your follow-up tests. Discuss with your doctor plans for follow-up and monitoring of your cancer. Together, you will formulate a specific plan based on your situation. Not everyone needs regular scans or blood tests. Ask your doctor about creating a plan to look for late side effects of the cancer therapy. Many cancer treatments can cause side effects years later.
  • Be open about your fears. Express your concerns to your friends, family, other cancer survivors, your doctor or a counselor. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of discussing your fears, try recording your thoughts in a journal.
  • Keep busy. Get out of the house and find activities that will take your mind off your worries.

Stress in cancer survivors

When you were diagnosed with cancer, you might have focused completely on your treatment and getting healthy. Now that you’ve completed treatment, all those projects around the house and the things on your to-do list are competing for your attention. This can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Don’t feel you need to do everything at once. Take time for yourself as you establish a new daily routine. Try exercising, talking with other cancer survivors and taking time for activities you enjoy.

Depression and anxiety in cancer survivors

Lingering feelings of sadness and anger can interfere with your daily life. For many people these feelings will dissipate. But for others, these feelings can develop into depression.

Tell your doctor about your feelings. If needed, you can be referred to someone who can help you through talk therapy, medication or both. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are keys to successfully overcoming depression.

Self-consciousness in cancer survivors

If surgery or other treatment changed your appearance, you might feel self-conscious about your body.

Changes in skin color, weight gain or loss, the loss of a limb, or the placement of an ostomy might make you feel like you’d rather stay home, away from other people. You might withdraw from friends and family. And self-consciousness can strain your relationship with your partner if you don’t feel worthy of love or affection.

Take time to grieve. But also learn to focus on the ways cancer has made you a stronger person and realize that you’re more than the scars that cancer has left behind. When you’re more confident about your appearance, others will feel more comfortable around you.

Loneliness in cancer survivors

You might feel as if others can’t understand what you’ve been through, which makes it hard to relate to other people and can lead to loneliness. Friends and family might be unsure of how to help you, and some people may even be afraid of you because you’ve had cancer.

Don’t deal with loneliness on your own. Consider joining a support group with other cancer survivors who are having the same emotions you are. Contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society for more information. Or try an online message board for cancer survivors, such as the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network.

Where to go for help

While experiencing any of these emotions is normal, that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If you find that your feelings are overwhelming you, or interfering with your everyday life, it’s a good idea to consider getting some help. Whether it’s talking with friends, family, therapist or as part of a support group with other cancer survivors – find what works best for you. You can also consider offering your own expertise to other patients who are going through active treatment and help them in their journey.

You know what is best for you. If you have advice for others on calming fears, talking through emotions or seeking support, please share. We would love to hear from you!

Wed, Sep 5 2:32pm · 14th Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk - Registration Open in Cancer Education Center

JTJ walkRegistration is now open for Join the Journey’s 14th Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk! Registration will close on Friday, September 14th.

WHEN: Sunday, September 16th, 2018

WHERE: Mayo High School – 1420 11th Avenue SE, Rochester, MN

WHAT: Registration includes pre-walk event, t-shirt, 5-mile walk with supporters and survivors, post-walk entertainment and lunch!

TIME: Pre-walk event starts at 8:45am

HOW TO REGISTER: Visit Breast Cancer Walk 2018 or register via Facebook .

Join the Journey’s mission is to promote breast cancer awareness in our community and to provide support to individuals on their breast cancer journey through programs and services such as the Pink Ribbon Mentors, Making Waves Dragonboat, Creative Support Series, support groups, book program, and other additional items provided to patients at Mayo Clinic. Please visit Join the Journey for additional information.

 

 

Wed, Jul 25 1:08pm · Intimacy and sex after cancer treatment in Cancer Education Center

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Love, affection and intimacy are important to healthy relationships. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy may cause sexual side effects, affect your body image and can also impact your feelings about sex and intimacy. As a cancer survivor, keep in mind that you may need to give your body time to heal after surgery or treatment. Be patient.

Sexual dysfunction is more common with cancers of the reproductive system, such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. Treatment for other cancers such as colorectal and bladder cancer can also have an effect on sexual function.

Emotions can have a strong effect on your desire for sex due to anxiety, fears and physical changes during and after cancer treatment. It’s important to recognize these emotions and understand the impact they may have.

Intimacy and sex are strongly related, however, you may find that during this time of recovery and healing, your focus is more on intimacy and the emotional connection rather than the physical focus of a sexual relationship.

The following points may help you find new ways to be intimate with your partner:

  • Be open and honest — talk about how you’re feeling.
  • Ask them how they feel — never assume you know what they’re thinking.
  • Explore new ways to have a physical connection — try backrubs, foot massages, cuddling, reading together or simply holding hands.
  • As you’re feeling better, request a date night and suggest what you’d like to do.
  • When you feel like initiating a sexual connection, communicate what you’d like to try and begin slowly.
  • The level of connection you feel with your partner may depend on your own body image — let them know what you’re feeling so you can talk about it together.

Remember, sexuality and intimacy includes all parts of you — physical, emotional and spiritual. Many times, individuals share that intimacy and relationships were strengthened during this healing period.

Please reach out to each other on this topic. Receiving support and encouragement from others is so important. If you feel you need more help, don’t hesitate to ask for professional guidance.

 

Fri, Jul 20 3:07pm · Staying Safe in the Sun in Cancer Education Center

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The summer months are full of temptations luring us into the sun’s rays. However, with the incidence of skin cancer on the rise, it’s increasingly important to stay safe while enjoying outdoor activities. The good news is that people are now more aware of monitoring their skin and the need to see their doctor if they notice changes. Because of this, many skin cancers are detected earlier when treatment is more effective.

In honor of July being the National Awareness Month for UV Safety, below are some recommendations for helping to increase awareness of skin cancer risk as well as to prevent overexposure.

  • Understand your personal risk factors — such as fair skin, excess sun exposure, family history of skin cancer, weakened immune system and any precancerous skin conditions.
  • Begin protecting your skin with sunscreen (SPF 30 or above) and protective clothing (don’t forget a hat and sunglasses) — it’s not too late to make a difference.
  • Make changes in your outdoor activities — seek out the shade; take a walk in the evening; sit under the umbrella by the pool, avoid being out in the sun during key daylight hours when the sun is the most intense (10am-4pm), be sure to cover-up and protect your skin.
  • Schedule a baseline skin examination with a dermatologist and make a plan for how often you should return for skin examinations by a trained professional.
  • Track and report any changes in your skin — be on the lookout for moles that change, new moles or skin discolorations, any bleeding, irregular borders or scaling.
  • Skin cancer can occur in places that are not regularly exposed to the sun — check between toes, the soles of your feet and in the genital area.

Are you a skin cancer survivor? Please share your story with others to increase awareness of the dangers of excess sun exposure.

 

Thu, Jun 21 4:45pm · The Importance of Friends in Cancer Education Center

Thank you for raising this concern for compassion fatigue impacts many. As a caregiver, one typically prioritizes themselves last, so my first suggestion would be to carve out time to refill your cup whether it be through activities or hobbies you enjoy or simply placing yourself in a new environment (e.g. go for a walk, find respite in a different room, etc.). Sometimes just a change in scenery can recharge us. It may also be worthwhile to explore your own personal boundaries and upon that recognition share them with your loved one or those sharing caregiving responsibilities. If you don't have a support network, there may also be benefit in exploring local resources that could help provide respite for you so you can be the best you can be.

Thu, Jun 21 4:41pm · The Importance of Friends in Cancer Education Center

I can hear the desire you have to connect with others in your words and how you hold meaningful relationships dear. It also sounds like you spend a lot of time on the road. Conversations with those we cherish can be so fulfilling. Would it be possible to look at your commute time and try to structure that so you can use 1-2 of those trips during the week to call someone you wish to reconnect with? Using hands free devices of course! 🙂 I agree it's wonderful to have a goal in mind with retirement! What would bring joy to your days leading up to then?

Wed, Jun 20 10:33am · The Importance of Friends in Cancer Education Center

Well said! I like that you pointed out these special connections don't have to be in-person either! Many friendships span large distances and those are just as meaningful. Thank you for taking the time to share!