How Cancer Events Bind Us Together

by Melodie on October 19, 2010

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Earlier this month, I met hundreds of folks at the Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston, Maine. This annual fundraising event features walking, running and biking activities, live entertainment, a health and wellness expo, and other activities. Its purpose is to raise funds for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing that actor Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) founded in honor of his mother, a cancer survivor.

Fellow life coach Pat Grosser and I had a booth there where we could talk with people about the services we offer. Perhaps you stopped by. If so, thank you! We heard so many incredible stories of courage and perseverance from survivors, their families and friends, and from those who had lost loved ones to cancer.

To close the Challenge on Sunday afternoon, Patrick Dempsey and his mom led a group of cancer survivors on a walk through the grounds where onlookers cheered, smiled and shouted words of encouragement. I walked with a rose in my hand, flanked by fellow survivors, and was surprised to find tears in my eyes. It felt like we were on a race to the finish line, buoyed on by many who wished us well.

Events like the Patrick Dempsey Challenge have become popular in the United States as effective ways to raise funds for cancer support and research. As the weekend progressed and I saw the numbers of cancer survivors participating with their loved ones, I found myself wondering: Do people gather together for events like this for reasons that are more than merely fund raising?

I think the answer is yes.

1. Events like these help us realize that we’re not alone.

Cancer is essentially a solitary experience. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of friends or family members around to help. It just means that no one can go through it for you. You are the one who is moved through the CT tube for yet another scan or the one getting a port hooked up for a chemo treatment. You’re the one staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m., unable to sleep. A cancer event brings lots of people together who have endured the same thing, separately. We realize we have fellow sojourners.

2. Events like these allow us to do something.

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it feels like all control is stripped away. It’s common to feel impotent and helpless. But when you can raise money for a cause, there is now something that can be done. Your efforts join with others’ and make a difference for someone, perhaps even you. I met a number of participants who had names or photos pinned to their shirts or caps that reminded us all that they were doing this on behalf of a loved one. That’s a tangible gift.

3. Events like these keep us preparing for a hopeful future.

When a physical challenge is involved, like a triathlon or a 5k run, you can’t just show up and hope to finish. There’s a lot of preparation ahead of time – getting up at 5:30 a.m. and lacing up the running shoes or plunging into a pool day after day to build endurance. It can be hard for someone with cancer to dare to think too far into the future. Yet, when you prepare for an endurance event, you must think ahead. You have to believe that you will live long enough and be healthy enough to participate, and finish the course. Taking the first step to register for a 5k walk can begin building a powerful confidence that you will beat this cancer and be here to celebrate the future.

 If you long for a meaningful connection with other cancer survivors and their loved ones, want to build up your strength to its potential, and raise money for a cause beyond yourself, consider a cancer event. You can google “cancer fundraising events + [your state]” to find possibilities in your area. This is a great time to be thinking forward to next summer, and what you want it to hold.

 Can you envision ways that participating in a cancer event would help build you up in body and spirit? Plan your next step now.

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What to Do When You Feel Shortchanged by Your Illness

by Tom Robinson on August 24, 2010

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Melodie’s note: Chronic illness coach Tom Robinson is back with some more great advice for those healing from serious conditions. Tom helps people with chronic illness rediscover their dreams and live extraordinary lives. This article is reprinted with permission from Tom’s blog which you can check out at

A while ago I worked with a client I’ll call John, who had ulcerative colitis. John had learned the hard way that if he didn’t follow a very strict diet, he would have intestinal and other symptoms that were very severe. But when he adhered to that diet, he felt extremely deprived. Those feelings of deprivation would lead to cravings, which he would eventually give in to, and would again experience all those awful symptoms.

I think that one of the hardest things about having a chronic illness is dealing with feeling shortchanged and deprived. We can easily feel like that because of all the things we can no longer do – things like eating whatever we want, working as many hours as we want, traveling without worrying where the nearest bathroom is, or being the active and attentive partner, spouse, or parent that we used to be.

The first thing I tell clients who feel shortchanged or deprived because of any kind of limitation that is due to their illness is to fully acknowledge those feelings. We often try to tell ourselves that those limitations aren’t a big deal, or we try to discount our feelings by telling ourselves that many other people have limitations that are much harder to live with than ours are. But those strategies don’t work, because there is a part of us that knows we aren’t being honest with ourselves.

I have found, both from coaching others and dealing with my own illness and the feelings that come with it, that what does work is for us to tell ourselves we are sorry we feel shortchanged and deprived. And it’s very important when we say that to ourselves that we really mean it. Just imagine for a moment how unsupported and uncared for you would feel if a friend told you they were sorry because of how you felt, but you sensed that he didn’t mean it. So when you tell yourself you’re sorry, make sure you truly mean it.

After my clients tell themselves how sorry they are, I then give them the following challenge: Brainstorm to find alternatives for the things they can’t do because of their limitations, that give them the same feelings of enjoyment and fulfillment that the things they no longer can do used to give them. I encourage you to take on this challenge too. For example, if it’s difficult for you to travel, you can become internet pen pals with people in your favorite foreign country. Or if you can’t participate in the outdoor activities you formerly did with your children, you can learn how to play their favorite video or computer games with them. The list of possible alternative things to do is limited only by your imagination, and I bet you can find some that you enjoy more than you thought possible.

Getting back to John, I suggested that he find some special foods he really enjoyed that didn’t exacerbate his symptoms, and I also suggested that he do things like buy himself a CD he wanted every week he adhered to his diet, so that he wouldn’t feel deprived. He found these suggestions very helpful.

If you are feeling shortchanged or deprived because of any illness related limitations you have, I encourage you to first fully acknowledge them, then let that part of you that is feeling that way know how sorry you are, and finally, do some brainstorming to come up with enjoyable and satisfying alternatives for the things you’re no longer able to do.

Reprinted with permission.

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