Cancer and Thriving not Surviving

Come near to God and He will come near to you. James 4:8

Before a cancer diagnosis, you could easily see the most important things in your life, the things that made life full, rich, and worth living: sitting in the backyard with the sun on your face, watching your favorite baseball team win in the bottom of the 9th, buying a silly birthday card for your granddaughter, helping your neighbor fix his car, eating a tomato fresh off the vine, singing a favorite song in church. The most important things in your life bring joy, hope, fulfillment and purpose. Christ is the Light to reach in the darkness of cancer so you can thrive on the blessings He has given you.

  • What were the most important things in your life before your diagnosis?

 

  • Which of these things are still important? Do you have new things that are important?

 

  • If cancer is not the most important thing in your life, how do you figure out where it fits?

Jesus is a master at pushing back the chaos of cancer for everyone. Whether you have drawn close to Him since childhood, wandered from the comfort of His presence, or know Jesus only as an acquaintance or stranger, it doesn’t matter. Jesus sees you as His precious child and He is with you now. He is closer than your breath. Whether sitting in the chemo room or waiting for your scan results, Jesus is with you.

As a believer in Christ, you may know that through life or death, Christ is always with you. But please also know this: Jesus has much more to offer you than the certainty of your salvation.

Beyond being your Savior, I pray you come to know Jesus as:
• the rock that holds you when you’re weak.
• the arms that lift you from the depths.
• the light that flickers in your darkness.
• the voice that soothes you in the silence.
Jesus is all you need and more.

Except from Seeing God in Your Cancer Journey

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Resource Spotlight: Stupid Cancer

A Cancer Resource Treasure: Stupid Cancer

By: Meagan Spalding – Projects Coordinator, Cancer Companions Ministry

In one sentence can you tell us about Stupid Cancer and its mission?
Stupid Cancer is a nonprofit whose mission is to help empower everyone affected by adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer by ending isolation and building community.

What is a fun fact about your organization?
Stupid Cancer once drove across the country to spread awareness about the unqiue challenges of AYAs – two staff members and a duck!

Can you talk more about CancerCon and its importance?
CancerCon is Stupid Cancer’s annual conference for adolescents and young adults affected by cancer. For over a decade, we’ve gathered hundreds of young adult patients, survivors, caregivers, and professionals together for a life-changing weekend of plenaries, workshops, breakout sessions, and social activities. This year we will be hosting our second virtual conference on June 11 – 13, 2021.

How are you preparing or currently dealing with cancer on the rise after covid?
As the landscape for cancer care changes amid the global pandemic, Stupid Cancer will continue to support all those patient, survivors, caregivers, and professionals by providing opportunities for people to connect and share their experiences.

What was one good thing that came out of the past year and the pandemic?
CancerCon 2020 was originally scheduled for April, and of course, we were forced to reschedule due to the rising threat of Covid-19. As a result, we hosted Digital CancerCon in June, which was our first virtual conference that was also free to attend. By removing some of the barriers to access, like travel and health concerns, we were able to welcome three times as many attendees from across the world to this life changing event.

Any new things for Stupid Cancer on the horizon?
We are excited to introduce a brand new program launching this May: Discussion Series. Facilitated by licensed professionals, this is a month-long deep dive into crucial AYA topics with weekly sessions. Each session features a presentation with small group discussion afterwards. We remain committed to addressing the needs of marginalized communities within the underserved AYA community through thoughtful discussion and robust program development.

Thank you Stupid Cancer for all of your amazing work with our youth!!!

Do you have an organization in mind that is making a difference in the cancer community and deserves recognition? Send your recommendations to Meagan Spalding at Meagan@cancer-companions.org for the chance to be featured in our next newsletter!

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Onco Hero Spotlight: Crystal Orf

Meet Crystal Orf: Registered Nurse/Educator for the Cardiac Cath Lab and Interventional Radiology

By: Meagan Spalding – Projects Coordinator, Cancer Companions Ministry

What is one thing many people don’t know about your area of expertise?
Our cancer patients come to us primarily for Port Placements, but my focus is helping the patient and the families cope with the current situation of their disease process.

I have seen patients that are in denial, I’ve had them speak to me about what they would have done differently in their lives and given me advice. I have also had them throw things at me, yell at me, and then break down crying as I comfort them. I have watched school age children wheel in their parents dying of cancer, and helped family members come to terms with their loved one.

Emotionally I am drained most days because the patients are in such stressful and anxiety filled situations, and I want them to know I truly care about them as a person.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is helping someone through the procedure. They can come in nervous, unsure of what will happen – and I get to be that person who explains things calmly and loves on them. I can be there for a person at sometimes their darkest time in their life. We have to be a light to every patient we meet. It is all about them.

What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome at work?
The greatest challenge for me is how to handle the sadness of diagnoses along the way. I had a very hard time my first year with cancer patients. There was one patient with little kids that explained to me the ages her kids were now would be the last age she sees. After taking care of her I did not know how to handle such heavy emotions.

The physician came up to me and said “Crystal, I know you have said you don’t understand how I can do this job day in and day out. Let me tell you how I look at things. We get to have this patient for 1-2 hours of their disease process. Our job is to make it the best possible experience – not add to their already hard experiences they are going to have and go through. We make this as easy and comforting as possible. It’s all we can do with the little time we have them.”

From that moment on I looked at it differently. Instead of a sad overwhelming feeling – I approached it as being blessed to help them when I did have them and be there for them.

This profession has its hard days, how do you fill your own cup?
I have a very long quiet time in the morning with God that consists of Bible reading, devotionals, book reading, yoga and stillness and silence. I also attend yoga classes and enjoy hiking, swimming, and going to the gym. Journaling with God has become a huge heart saver and helps me work through what I have to see at work. Even though I like my time alone – I love sharing time with close friends that are like family to me.

Do you know an Onco Hero that has an inspiring story to share and deserves recognition? Send your recommendations to Meagan Spalding at Meagan@cancer-companions.org for the chance to be featured in our next newsletter!

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Covid-19 And The Rise Of Cancer Diagnosis

By Lori Roa RN

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristi Davis, an otherwise healthy 45-year-old woman and single mother of 4, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in January.  Her experience has been somewhat different than previous years due to Covid-19.

“On January 13th, I found out my oldest son had covid. About an hour          and a half later, I got a call that I was diagnosed with cancer. The next   day, I                found out that my daughter had covid as well,” Davis shared.   “Due to the diagnoses, I could not see anyone about the cancer for 14            days. Waiting for the appointment was hard.”

Kristi’s medical team wanted to see her as soon as possible, but did need to adhere to current Covid-19 protocol.  She was seen the first day that protocol would allow.  She would go on to experience several more delays before starting treatment, bringing her to 6 weeks before getting treatment.

“I also had to first go through covid screenings before getting a chemo port placement, as well as a sentinel node biopsy- which meant an additional test and another delay,” Davis states. “They had to have the lab results before I could have surgery.”

Davis is one of many who have experienced increased hurdles to getting medical care the past year. While Covid-19 has become a regular topic of discussion quite literally impossible to ignore, cancer remains as big of a threat as ever, and even predicted to be a growing threat in the coming years.

Why Are Cancer Cases On The Rise?

According to the Epic Health Research Network, there was between an 86% and 94% drop in preventative cervical, colon and breast cancer screenings across the country in 2020 when compared with 2017-2019.  This means an incredible drop in the number of cases diagnosed, and an incredible number of cases that have progressed undetected.

Oncology medical professionals would agree that prevention is always better than treating.  However, the pandemic caused an enormous gap in the efforts of early detection. As doctors’ offices began to close down in early 2020 to take precautions during the growing pandemic, they also began spacing out cancer screenings.  Patients who went in for appointments every three months were now being pushed back to six months.  Some forwent the screenings altogether in fear of going into hospitals overrun with covid patients.  A diagnosis would not be made if a screening never took place.

While screening and prevention remain the core issues, other obstacles compounded the ability to receive services.  Those that need transportation were at a disadvantage.  Calling a friend or family member was not always an option between social distancing, ride share services, public transportation and other medical risks associated with social interaction required during transport.  Offices began leaning towards virtual appointments.  Access to technology and the ability to use technology impacted the decision to make virtual appointments.  If you did not own a vehicle or computer, on top of your regular doctors not taking in person appointments, the likelihood of a regular screening went down significantly in the past year.

When Covid 19 made its way to Davis’s town, she took precautions but went about her daily life.  She went to her mammogram appointment last June, which came back normal- a false negative.  Her screenings and doctor appointments were delayed, but she went when she could get scheduled.  After a breast biopsy at age 33, she takes her screenings seriously.

Those undergoing treatment also face new obstacles, such as increased risk when doing daily errands or seeing loved ones who may be in busy workplaces.

Now that Davis has started chemotherapy, she is much more concerned about going to public places.  While Davis feels that the importance of receiving her treatments outweigh the risks of going to her appointments, the risk and fear of Covid could potentially deter or delay some from getting treatments that further compromise their immune system.

“I don’t do appointments unless they are absolutely necessary, or I will ask if there is a way to do non-oncology appointments over the phone or internet,” she says. “I don’t feel so free to just walk into a store or the hospital if I need something. The only way I know to stay safe now is to stay home.”

Cancer is not novel, but it remains a deadly contender. The American Cancer Society predicts there will be an estimated 608,570 deaths due to cancer in the United States in 2021, predicting a short-term drop-in diagnosis following an increase in late-stage diagnosis and preventable cancer deaths.  The CDC has counted over 560,000 Covid deaths since January 21, 2020, making cancer an oncoming contender in causes of death.  These numbers do not take into account the effects of cancer, or cancer treatment, during Covid 19 onset.  While these numbers offer predictions for the next year, Norman Sharpless, director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, reports the effects of Covid-19 on cancer screenings data could suggest nearly 10,000 excess deaths from breast and colorectal cancer over the next decade when compared to previously expected data.

Organizations which serve cancer patients have already seen an increase in clients.  Cancer Companions, a Christian cancer ministry, has seen the need for their services increase of 157% since last year.

Can We Change The Outcome?

Globally we are working to change the way we approach healthcare while attempting to end the pandemic.  The Epic Health Research Network data in 2021 shows screenings are beginning to rise with the onset of Covid-19 vaccination availability. Specifically, The U.S. National Cancer Institute has worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to increase access, flexibility, and support for clinical trials, such as offering more remote services. In addition, more clinical trials addressing the relationship between Covid-19 and cancer are being funded.  The more we know about the relationship, the safer we can make hospitals, screenings, and treatments.  When the public feels safe, our screenings and diagnostic testing will continue to rise.

On the local level, practices are making adjustments, as well. Many patients have received more in home health visits, including injections and blood lab draws that previously would have been office visits.   Office visits are reserved for necessary testing that cannot be done remotely or at home, such as CT or MRI.

Davis has had more appointments now than ever before.  She is glad to have the continued health safety measures, but hopes to see evidence based decisions made on necessary protocol in the future.  “I don’t think anyone should feel they can’t go to the doctor due to someone else being careless with protocols.  The clinics and hospitals are clearly doing all they can to protect the patients as well as themselves, which I appreciate. I know it has not been easy on either side.”

 

Graph from Epic Health Research Network, depicting years 2017, 2018, 2019 and early 2020 Breast, Colon and Cervical Cancer screenings

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6497/1290

https://ehrn.org/articles/delays-in-preventive-cancer-screenings-during-covid-19-pandemic/

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Cancer Prayer Partner Information Request

Please send more info on being a Cancer Prayer Partner Volunteer







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Cancer and Focus Devotional

Excerpt from Finding Hope in your Cancer Journey by Karen Tripp

Be Alert for excessive concerns/worries that make you focus on fear instead of Christ.

Let’s say you had a concern. You saw your doctor and he said, “It’s not anything to worry about.” But you still worry. Getting a second opinion is good, but at some point you either
have an action to take, or you do not. Everybody worries. The question is, does focusing on negative things that might happen draw us closer to Christ, or farther away?

Dark Lie: “Anyone that’s been through what I’ve
been through would worry, too.”
God’s Truth: “Satan loves us to have excessive
worries, because in that negative place, it’s
harder to focus on Jesus.”

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
▶ Answer these questions from the verse above and chart below:
• What does NOT come from God?
• What kind of spirit has God given us?
If you are frightened or worried, it’s not from God. Feeling confident, loved, and self-controlled is from God. He wants to shower you with these. Let us ask for these things in
prayer.

Prayer #2 Please pray aloud with me:
God,
I know the worries and fears I have are not from You. Each thought I have that is fear-filled is a lie trying to pull me from You. Rip the negative thoughts from my mind. Shower me with the confidence, love and self-control that come only from You. You are my rock and my fortress. In Your loving hands I place my life. AMEN.

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Efficient and Effective Technology Based Ministry for Improving the Quality of Life

This presentation, presented by our Executive Director, Karen Tripp and Jamie Spikes PhD RN, discusses how Cancer Companions is an efficient and effective technology based ministry.

View and download the presentation here!

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NCCN 2021 Conference Abstract: The effect of a Christian-based support group on the emotional health of cancer survivors and caregivers

The effect of a Christian-based support group on the emotional health of cancer survivors and caregivers
Karen Tripp1 MS LMFT
Sarah Kivett1 RN, BSN, OCN, CHPN
1Cancer Companions, Cottleville, MO
INTRODUCTION Clinically significant depression and anxiety have been shown to negatively impact cancer treatment tolerance, quality of life, and overall survivorship. Conversely, scientific literature has demonstrated the stress-buffering effects of religion and spirituality on physiological processes such as reduced cardiovascular reactivity, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation, and inflammation. These results underscore the importance of attending to patients’ religious and spiritual needs as part of comprehensive cancer care. As such, the purpose of this investigation was to determine if a religious-based support program improves the overall emotional health of individuals who were battling cancer.
METHODS 110 cancer patients, survivors and caregivers were invited to participate in a Christian-based cancer support program through church announcements, personal invitations, website and social media. The program lasted 9 weeks. At the final meeting, participants were asked to complete evaluation forms on the program. Data from the survey was tabulated and group means were calculated.
RESULTS The Christian-based support group had a positive impact on the emotional wellbeing of cancer patients. Of those surveyed, 91% felt that their anxiety had improved or greatly improved throughout the study period. Moreover, depression scores decreased by 79%.
CONCLUSIONS These results underscore the importance of a faith-based program as a component of a comprehensive cancer care plan.

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Cancer and God’s Word

On the hard cancer days, sometimes the dark thoughts of cancer can block our view of Christ.

To battle dark lies, we need a good weaponthe sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17) This means that to battle the lies we must think, speak and believe Scripture. We all need some Scriptures for when the lies get into our heads.

                                                                                                                                 Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

Six Great Verses to Battle the Dark Lies: Battle Verse

Write your name in each blank below.

1) You can do all things, _________________, through Him who strengthens you. Philippians 4:13

2) For nothing, ______________________________, will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37

3) What then shall you say to these things, ________________________________?

If God is for you, who is against you? Romans 8:31

4) ________________________________________, is anything too difficult for the LORD? Genesis 18:14

5) …when you are tempted, ________________ ________________, he will provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13b

6) For the Spirit God gave you does not make you timid, ________________________, but gives you power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

EXCERPT from Finding Hope in Your Cancer Journey

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Cancer Day of Prayer

What: Monthly Prayer Video featuring the cancers honored that month.
When:Video released first Monday of each month.
How to view: View on our Facebook/instagram/youtube
OR
Receive video each month by email. (sign up BELOW)
FEATURED CANCER PRAYERS
March: Colo-rectal, Kidney and Multiple Myloma
April: Testicular, Esophageal, and Head and Neck
May: Melanoma/Skin and Brain
June: Cancer Survivors
July: Sarcoma and Bladder
August: Caregivers
September: Childhood, gynecological, leukemia/lymphoma, ovarian, prostate and thyroid
October: Breast and Liver
November: pancreatic, lung, stomach and carcinoid
December: prayers for those celebrating Christmas in their cancer journey

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