Holding Your Shadow in Front of You

It’s been a great week here at camp, but a tough one for the cancer community. I’ve gotten to know so many incredible people through the work I’m doing, and it often feels like I know them. These are people I’ve never met in person, whom I feel a deep connection to because of our mutual life experience. I cheer for their highs and feel the pain of their lows. I knew becoming a part of this community would lift me up more than anything ever could, and I was right. The knowledge that you are not alone makes such a huge difference. Cancer is isolating and can make you feel as though you barely recognize yourself. The cancer community beams with examples of people who may not be the exact same as they were before cancer, but are now beautifully so much more.

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Love for Better + Co.!

It’s such an honor when companies and people I love share their love for Better and Company! I am so grateful, and wanted to put our features in one place so you can learn more about these amazing organizations through their posts. Click through to see what they’ve shared about Better + Co., then explore all they have to offer on their websites!

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10 Things I Wish I Had Known When My Husband was Diagnosed with Cancer: 1.5 Years Later

It’s been a year and a half since Tommy was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It honestly feels like a lifetime ago. So much about our lives has changed, and so much has been learned. I woke up today feeling incredibly grateful for the place we are at right this moment. I say this moment because we have learned to appreciate the present in a way I could not have understood a year and a half ago. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but today, right this moment there is so much to be grateful for. I was thinking back to the very beginning of this journey, and wondered what advice would have been helpful to hear in those early days. I would not have been able to fully understand it all at the time, but I came up with a list of things that might be helpful for new caregivers/fighters.

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Latest Scan Results and Updates from Tommy!

It has only been 6 weeks since the last scan, and yesterday was already scan results day AGAIN (with my current regimen that’s the protocol) and let me tell you: the news is GREAT! All evidence of disease is continuing to shrink and I am now officially considered a “responder” in my trial. In this particular case, my doctor says that it is not very common to be a responder in the first place (lucky me!) but if you become one, the odds of this treatment continuing to work greatly increases. Basically this is very good news.

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Jessica Walker
Cancer Resources Blog Series: Working During Cancer Treatment

One of the biggest surprises to me during the past year is the amount of support available to cancer fighters. I know about them now, but at the beginning, I had no idea the number of resources we could have been taking advantage of! When you first have a diagnosis, your brain is going a million miles a minute, and you don’t always have time to seek out these resources. To make them accessible, I am starting a weekly series highlighting some of the resources we found to be most helpful. These will range from financial assistance, therapy and counseling, transportation aids, at-home nurses, and more. Have an organization or resource you love and want to share? Tell me about them in the comments below!

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Latest Scan Results (Spoiler: THEY'RE GOOD!) and Life Updates

It’s been a while since I posted an update regarding Tommy’s treatment! A lot has happened in the past two months, and we are in a great spot, so I wanted to fill you all in with what we’ve been up to.

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Using the 'Ball and the Box Analogy' to Navigate Living With Cancer

Recently I came across a picture being shared on social media that brilliantly illustrated grief. It is called “The Ball and the Box Analogy”. Lauren Herschel originally posted the photo (shown below) with the explanation that the button represents the pain you feel from grief and loss. When we first experience grief, our “ball” is huge. It frequently and easily hits the pain button, and it’s hard to avoid or ignore. As time goes on, the ball shrinks. This doesn’t mean that the pain hurts any less when it’s hit, but the hits become less frequent, with more recovery time in between.

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Just Be Still

I’ve never been good at meditating. I attempted to practice various methods in college but always found myself getting distracted, getting bored, and eventually getting up off the floor to do something else. I had essentially given up, finding daily journaling to have the centering effect I was seeking through meditation. Recently a friend recommended I give it another go. This was after I shared how frustrated I was by the never-ending cycle of worrying about the future while desperately trying to remain in the moment. The present was painful, the future was scary, and I didn’t know where to focus. I decided to try again, not expecting much to come from it.

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Positivity: Easier Said Than Done

I have spoken before about the positives (its even difficult for me to type that) of cancer, and they can be undeniable a lot of the time. That being said, I haven’t felt positive this week. Nothing bad happened, treatments are going really well, but I just felt like my positivity was forced/false. My most prominent emotion was anger. I found myself feeling angry; angry for Tommy as he was poked and prodded and fed new medications, angry for the lack of normalcy in our first year of marriage, and angry at myself for not being able to shake this negative perception. I felt like I was leading a double life: the one I wanted to be feeling, and how I actually felt. How do you remain positive without completely denying the reality of your situation?

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How Can I Support? What Cancer Fighters Find Truly Helpful

I spoke to a friend the other day who was looking for real, tangible ways to help a friend who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He wanted to help but wasn’t sure where to start- what was too much, and what was actually useful. It can be difficult to find the words, and sometimes the fear of saying the wrong thing shuts us down. Believe me, I UNDERSTAND! Even as the wife of a cancer fighter, searching for helpful things to do or say is not always easy. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest impact. I shared with my friend the acts of support we most appreciated and found most meaningful, and then I decided to ask a larger group of cancer fighters what they would add to the list. Every person copes in their own way and likes/dislikes different things, but here are some ideas that might open the door for you on your mission to support.

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Why a Second Opinion Changed Everything For Us

Tommy started treatment (again) this morning. The past week has been a tough one, especially mentally, as we prepared for this next round. Gearing up to fight a battle you thought you won is not for the faint of heart. You’re tired, frustrated, angry, but have to get back in the game. I didn’t know what to expect from today, but I can promise you, I did not expect to feel light, supported, and overjoyed…but I do.

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Why 2+2 Does Not Equal 4, and Other Things I've Learned After a Year in the Cancer World

Yesterday we had a few preliminary appointments as we begin this new clinical trial journey. Tommy was poked and prodded as they conducted scans, blood tests, and EKGs. I sat in the lobby holding his coat with the other caregivers. As I looked around the room I saw the familiar determined anxiety on their faces that I have felt the past year. We are always the youngest people in the office, but I feel like a veteran at this point. I think it must be the timing, but it feels like we’re gearing up to begin ‘second semester’ after a holiday break. We’ve rested, prepared, and completed all the winter assignments, but we would really rather stay home.

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Did Cancer Push PAUSE or FAST FORWARD?

I’ve been having one of those weeks where I feel like I’m not doing enough. I don’t mean on a daily to-do list scale, but on a BIG PICTURE LIFE scale. I just had a birthday, and it was an undeniable reminder that time keeps rolling along, no matter what life is asking of us.

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Survivor Struggles: The Post Treatment Mind Game

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I wanted to take the opportunity to speak out about the mental mine field that survivors and their care givers face post-treatment. When we think about cancer, we often focus on the physical struggles: nausea, pain, hair loss, surgeries, scars. But, the unseen struggles can often be more debilitating than the visible ones.

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Step 1: Get Up Off the Floor

I'm often asked how we stay positive through the difficult days. This question always takes me back to a specific moment where I found my self sobbing in a ball on our bathroom floor. Not quite the image of optimism or strength, but it's where it started.

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Gratitude and Moving Forward

In the wake of the overwhelming support and encouragement we have received this week after HeartThreads Docs shared our story on Facebook, I have been pulled into reflection on the year we have had. Some days it's easy to wake up and feel like it never happened. Some mornings the unseen marks on our minds and hearts show up a little deeper. Sometimes I feel like I've fully processed the fears and stresses we experienced, but most times I feel like I haven't even begin to see the impact that has been made.

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Crossing the Finish Starting Line

Tomorrow is the six month anniversary of Tommy's diagnosis. I won't share the statistics connected to this feat because they make me queasy, but just know, this is a HUGE milestone for esophageal cancer. We've been fighting for six months, and most days now it feels like we've beat it. He can eat normally, is working like crazy, and even performed in an Off-Broadway show this past weekend (it's unreal I know, he's a superstar).

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When You Can't Check It Off

I'm the kind of person who loves making lists. I love the feeling of completing a task, and checking it off. It's finished. I don't have to think about it again. I become very one track minded in my quest to complete a goal. I do not like to rest until a project is finished in every way. 

Cancer is not like that.

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Jessica Walker