6 Things To Know When You’re Diagnosed With Cancer
While talking to Leslie about her mother’s cancer, it reminded me of some resources that have been so helpful for me. During the 5 years of going through cancer, I learned about some key resources.
1. Free Lyft rides for cancer patients
The ACS, American Cancer Society is providing free Lyft rides 1 (888) 227-6333 for patients to their medical appointments. I can’t get rides to acupuncture, but I am able to get rides to see my oncologist and for chemotherapy. The intake takes about 20 minutes and you can do it over the phone.
During the intake, the American Cancer Society will take the address of your doctor’s office. After you are set up, you can request a ride (a day ahead) and request a ride, you just have to tell give them the appointment date and time. The American Cancer Society will try to find a volunteer in the area and if one isn’t found, they will book a Lyft ride for you. Don’t use the app yourself or you will be charged. You will still get text notifications with updates about your ride. When you are done with your appointment, you can call the separate phone number (877) 661-2862 for a return ride.
Driving up to an hour away (one-way) was sometimes risky. After getting chemotherapy, I could be very tired, so having this option with ACS and Lyft has been such a relief.
2. WeSpark Cancer Support Center
This center in Sherman Oaks supports cancer patients and caregivers with free services, classes and workshops. As the cancer patient/survivor, after you do the initial intake appointment that takes about 30 minutes, you are set up to go to all offerings on their calendar, free of charge. The caregiver(s) you choose will be able to attend group offerings and some of the one-on-one appointments. It’s best to check with the WeSpark office 818-906-3022 for the current guidelines.
Here is a partial list of ones off the top of my head:
Individual sessions that require an appointment
Acupuncture, group or individual
Cannabis use for cancer
Potlucks with different themes (Vegetarian, Italian, Mexican, farmer’s market, Thanksgiving)
Beauty Bus; facials, makeup, haircuts and manicures are serviced by professionals
WeSpark is a non-profit organization that operates off of donations. It is still a source I turn to for guidance, comfort and camaraderie. It’s like walking into a place full of angels, some fallen, some healed and strong. I’ve walked into the Zentangle drawing class or a Gentle Yoga class feeling down and I always walk out feeling so much better.
GiveForward is what my friend used to raise funds for my expenses. It’s very expensive to be sick; supplements can be pricey and definitely add up and there were times I paid for testing out of pocket. Once it was $1,500 for a PET scan. I was able to post updates, which is convenient because many people will want to know what is going on and you won’t want to have to do this individually each time something happened.
People who wanted to give anonymously had the option to and you could send them a thank you through the website. GiveForward has since been acquired by GoFundMe.
MealTrain is a popular calendar service to coordinate and organize meal giving around events when people need it most:
Arrival of a new baby
The organizer pays a $10 fee. You can specify a particular diet and list allergies and intolerances. Friends and family can sign up to cook and drop off meals using a calendar and it can be posted to Facebook too.
5. Doctors work for you
The first oncologist I had, Dr. S., made me nervous. I realized that I always wanted someone with me, not so much to take notes or help me sort through the information during visits, but because I needed emotional support. It was because Dr. S was scaring me by saying, “If you don’t do chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, you will die.” That approach does not resonate with me.
Besides, doctors don’t know for sure how treatment will work for you. They are going off past results and there is new technology, new research and treatments all the time. It’s not for Dr. S to tell me with certainty that I will die if I don’t do what they tell me. It’s more accurate to say, “The likelihood that this chemotherapy treatment will work for you is 50%” (or whatever the percentage is).
With Dr. S, I chose only to do Herceptin and not Taxotere or Perjeta—he recommended all three, as is recommended for people with the type of cancer I had. After a few doses of Herceptin only, I stopped seeing Dr. S and switched to my current doctor, Dr. L. I eventually did all 3 chemotherapies later on under Dr. L and he asked why I chose to do this with him and not with the other doctor and it’s because Dr. L isn’t a fearmonger, he actually listens to what my concerns are.
Ultimately, five months of Herceptin, Taxotere and Perjeta didn’t work for me. When Dr. L switched me to TDM-1/Kadcyla, I responded very well and the tumors shrunk quickly. By the third chemotherapy session, I couldn’t see or feel the tumors anymore. On February 5, 2016, I was declared NED, no evidence of disease.
Maybe if I stuck with Dr. S, he would eventually steer me towards TDM-1/Kadcyla, but I didn’t feel supported, I felt threatened. I don’t need the added stress of a doctor who scares me.
Being under Dr. L’s care makes me feel like I have control and I feel comfortable speaking up for what I want and to voice my concerns. And that means a great deal to me.
6. Cancer & the 7 Chakras
I recently spoke with someone, I’ll call her Leslie, whose mother is going through treatment for throat cancer. I asked Leslie if she felt like the cancer was connected to her throat chakra, which is associated with speaking up for yourself and your needs. Leslie said that there was a definite connection.
I think it’s important to acknowledge where the cancer is in relation to the chakras. I believe that our sicknesses can manifest into the corresponding part of the body. In my case, I had 7 consecutive years of heartbreak and loss. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that main tumor was in my left breast. I made this connection back then when I was diagnosed and worked to release the emotions that had been left behind.
I continue to reflect and work on negative emotions and letting them go. I feel it’s been an important part of my healing.