Tag Archives: cancer survivors

Sandy Ginsburg

Tiny, energetic. Warm eyes and welcoming smile. That is my first impression of Sandy Ginsburg.SANDY She is President of Cancer Support Now, a grass roots cancer survivor organization that believes no one has to go through cancer alone whether as a survivor or caregiver, whatever their needs may be. As CSN’s leader she lives this core belief every single day.

I met Sandy for a leisurely summer lunch at the Indigo Crow in Corrales. We see each other at board meetings and committee meetings. It was nice to have her all to myself with no distractions.

A surprise to me, Sandy was a reporter for many years. She worked for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, based in Washington, D C. She also worked for the Institute for Social Research which is the world’s largest academic social science survey and research organization at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In New Mexico, she worked for Dr. Hal Rhodes, chairman of the Political Science Department at UNM. She was involved in establishing the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy with First Lady Kathy Carruthers. She has managed the NM Arts and Crafts Fair and has been involved in the Wheels Museum.

She is married to Ron. Her daughter Sarah is a lawyer and her grandson, Mark, is well loved.

Sandy is no stranger to cancer. She was first treated for breast cancer when she was 47. She completed her treatment and thought she was done.   Breast cancer appeared in her other breast at age 50. Realizing that cancer wasn’t just going away after treatment, she pursued all the things we do when we are trying to optimize our health. Three years later another cancer appeared in a lymph node that was missed during her second cancer treatment. At this juncture, she came to the conclusion that all the things she did to help her body stay healthy were not working.  She changed gears. Determined to enjoy her life, she stopped pushing, lives normally, and is happy.

She was treated for a brain tumor in 2002.  Cured, she says. She is currently being treated for a ten-year-old Leukemia(CML) and for a three-year-old bladder cancer. Sandy amazes me.  She is the leader of our group and she is always there. Strong, smiling, good natured. She is a role model for me. She is a role model for all of us who have crossed paths with cancer.

Sandy joined People Living Through Cancer as a committee member. PLTC was founded by Catherine Logan-Carrillo as a local cancer support community. Seeing the value in PLTC, Sandy became deeply involved as a board member and then as president. When Catherine retired from PLTC and later started Cancer Support Now, Sandy joined her. Sandy is current president.

She had said her strengths were in networking, bringing people together and organization. Having seen her in action for the last year, she is right.

Sandy attends many local events and keeps connected with her many contacts.  Frequently, at committee meetings she will include a new person with interesting insights that will contribute helpful information.

Yesterday’s board meeting is characteristic of Sandy’s organization. We had a written agenda.  Members present have assignments or are on active committees.  Each was asked for progress. Meetings are informal. There is ample time for discussion. Still the agenda is covered and at the end of the meeting we know where our organization stands and what we need to do next. She’s an excellent community leader.

I asked her why she gives so much of her time to the community. She said her family has a history of community involvement and it was automatic that she should too. Simple as that.

Eleanor Schick

 

Eleanor

Eleanor

I instantly liked Eleanor when I met her. She pays attention to you when you are speaking to her. She cares,  is thoughtful and helpful.

She manages the Cancer Support Now Helpline which is available seven days a week for those in the community who need answers to questions about their or a family member’s cancer.   She is available 9 am to 9 pm 7 days a week by calling: 505-255-0405 or 855-955-3500. This is what she told me about her work with the helpline:

“I refer callers, whether caregivers or patient/survivors to groups, or to one on one support or when neither seems appropriate I provide support to them in the moment, and on an ongoing basis, and whenever they need, sometimes for years.

Though cancer issues are what prompts someone  to make the first call, supporting them becomes whatever they need…whether its referrals to other providers, or ongoing emotional support…about cancer but also about anything.

There are some people who need support but ask me to please call them regularly, rather than initiating the call themselves, and I’m happy to do that.

I support people on hospice and people who have a loved one on hospice, and I continue to support people who have lost a loved one to cancer for as long as they need, sometimes years.

Cancer often brings up issues of PTSD because new trauma tends to reawaken old trauma. I have experience with PTSD and often support people who are working through it. I have referred some with PTSD to counseling, though I continue to support them as well.

I love this work.”

It is easy to see that she does love her work.  Beyond her work at the Helpline she has so much to her credit.

  • She has written and illustrated over 30 published children’s books. When Mama Wore A Hat  was distributed free to cancer treatment centers across the country by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. It is now distributed free by Cancer Services of New Mexico in every child’s gift bag made available to all adults treated with cancer who have children in their lives.
  • She was a professional dancer in a NYC company.
  • She loves to write. She believes,”writing allows us to follow a train of thought to completion in a way that expresses an inner wisdom that isn’t available in normal conversation.”
  • For 10 years, she was a Writer in Residence in the Rio Grande Writing Project at UNM, a local site of the National Writing Project.
  • She has been a community support for many writers. She has given author talks in Children Literature classes at UNM.  She has done the same in many elementary schools around the city.
  • Her writing experience spawned the idea of writing support groups for cancer survivors and for caregivers. She and Anjie Cureton developed the two ongoing writing support groups  at UNM Cancer Center. They each meet once a week: Journaling Support Group,(caregiver, 255-0405) and Survivors Writing Together (255-0405).

Eleanor wisdom:

“I believe that cancer, even with its traumas and losses, gives us each the chance to connect with a higher wisdom in ourselves if we do the work, and if we reach out for support in it.”

It is easy to see why I like Eleanor so very much.

Cancer Support Now Conference time

cancer support now logoI was selling raffle tickets for our chocolate gift basket♥. Guests were choosing items from the breakfast table. Others were meeting old friends; starting new friendships registration packets in hand.  Sandy♥ was on the stage ready to welcome everyone. Dr Michael Linver♥ would be arriving soon for the keynote.

I stood there talking with a woman who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She had the surgery a few weeks ago and would be having radiation next. Her experience had been such a whirlwind that she was still absorbing what had happened to her. She was looking for answers. And she wanted to feel that she was not the only one. She was tentative. But she was here. She was me one year ago.

One year ago I had completed breast cancer radiation three months before  and thyroid cancer radiation one month before. The conference was new to me. It was a port in the storm.  Kind faces not in scrubs. Welcoming. Informative. A chance to speak out. A chance to hear and be heard. I was heard.

I was welcomed into the group. This year I am on the board of Cancer Support Now♥  I was on the planning committee for the 4th Annual Long-Term Effects of Cancer Survivorship Conference. I am fortunate to be a part of something so valuable to the individual with cancer.

I feel the real value of our conference is to the individual. We are a port in the storm with open arms and friendship and information.

After Dr Linver’s excellent talk we moved to our breakout sessions. Mine was the Fatigue/Sleep Issues. Popular subject.  Catherine Offutt, a woman who radiates positive energy, and Patricia Torn, an excellent speaker,  led us with an interactive, fun and funny experience. The best formula for learning.

Jason’s Deli Box lunches and conversation were next. Upstairs the ABQ School of Massage Therapy and Health Sciences♥ were giving free chair massages. Not a bad way to spend the day.

A rehabilitation panel discussion was lively. George Fraser PT, co-owner of Fifty ‘n Fit♥ stole the show with information about osteoporosis, fractures and exercise post treatment.

My next breakout session was titled End of Life Planning and Support. It did not deliver as titled. I was disappointed as I needed help in this area. It was a philosophy based discussion. Interesting. However, I think most of us already had our philosophy pinned down but not our end of life plan.

What was memorable for me was the Closing. We gathered to discuss what we liked, what we would want next year. Everyone showed up. Last year there were some and this year there were many. Our attendees took ownership of the conference. It was the best thing that could have happened. They wanted to be heard. Led by the excellent Patricia Torn, they were heard.  We went home happy.

 

Notes♥

ChocGlitz&Cream is owned by Celeste Davis and is located not far from Rust Memorial on Unser. Excellent chocolate.

Sandy Ginsburg, president Cancer Support Now. Excellent role model for us in the cancer community.

Michael Linver, MD, FACR, F.S.B.I., international lecturer on mammography, excellent speaker. We are lucky to have Dr. Linver in our community.

Cancer Support Now is the sponsor of The 4th Annual Long-Term Effects of Cancer Survivorship Conference

ABQ School of Massage Therapy and Health Sciences is owned by Dawn Saunders. She is amazing. I have had my best massages at her school.

Fifty ‘n Fit is owned by George Fraser and his wife.

Cancer Club Thought of the day: how about no choice in the matter

cancer club thoughtsCathy, my very dear sister-in-law, and I were having one of our long conversations.  She is in New York.  I am here.  If we were in the same place, we would spend a lot of time together.  She was saying we have no choice but to carry on.  We were discussing difficult times and when someone says, “How’s it going?”,  she says what choice do we have but to say fine because we have to carry on.

Her husband, my brother, died of metastatic colon(appendix) cancer about two and a half years ago.  She’s had a hard time.  They were married over 40 years. They were a good fit.  Being alone has been hard for her. I am always missing my brother so it has been hard for me too.

I have two cancers.  I had to be tested, to have surgery, to have radiation treatments, to have new pills and then more doctors’ visits.  New news is shocking, life changing.  There is the adjustment period. Then  adaptation and just keep going.  With the nature of my situation, I will have more cancers.  I wondered how I will be.  I know now.  I will just proceed through a variation of the above steps and I would carry on.

That is what we all do. We go through the necessary steps and then we carry on.

Everyone says I have a great attitude. I don’t see it as a requirement to being a cancer patient. My attitude is good, in part, because I have had much intense adversity in my life.  I am used to difficult times.  My attitude is good also because I find a great deal of pleasure in the day to day.  I know how to be happy in the present moment, just like a little kid.

I carry on even though I have very difficult times. I carry on because I do in fact love the little things in life. I would miss them to much if I didn’t carry on.

 

Cancer Club thoughts-helping

Cancer victims have concrete problems.  Cancer makes a person face his mortality.  Suddenly life is no longer taken for granted.  Survival becomes an issue.  Add to that the  scary thought of the big C spreading throughout the body.  There is a feeling of loss of control. Unnerving!  Life becomes uncertain forever. Still, many cancer worries are  about everyday issues. Am I going to be able to function independently during treatment?  Where do I turn for help? How do I get to the pharmacy for prescriptions?  How to I make meals when I feel so sick?  What if I become very sick during the night, will I die alone?  How will I pay for my treatment?  Are my friends avoiding me because I have cancer? Cancer can be fatal. Some cancers can be cured. Cancer can also be a chronic condition. There are many cancers that cannot be cured but can be managed. These cancers require careful monitoring and intermittent treatment.  Cancer can recur. It can recur any time after treatment. It can recur after years of being monitored. Cancer treatment side effects can last forever. When you want to help a friend with cancer, offer concrete help. The most important help you can offer is to stay connected and be a resource for your friend.  Call your friend. Text them. You might:

  • Drive a friend to a doctor appointment or a treatment.
  • Get them out of the house for a coffee or lunch.
  • Be clearly available if they need help when they are in treatment.
  • Pick up a prescription for them.
  • Call or leave a message to say you are thinking of them.
  • Offer to help with laundry, cooking, or light housework.
  • Drive them to family events and bring them home when they are tired.
  • If you are far away, send them greeting cards.

Many cancer patients feel deserted by friends and family once the initial crisis is over.  It is frequently expected that a sick person will be treated and then will get back to normal.  Well meaning family and friends will insist that sick time is over and it is time to get back in the routine. This is not how it works with cancer.

Cancer effects are long-lasting. Extreme fatigue is common. For cancer patients, treatment and then side effects can extend over a long period of time. Physical stamina may be diminished. Finances may be devastated.

Readjusting to a new normal takes work and it takes time. The most important thing you can do to help is to stay connected. Call. Text. Send Cards. Offer specific things you are willing to do to help. Be helpful in ways that work for you. Remember there are few quick fixes for cancer.

Spring 2014 Family Cancer Retreat

Cancer Services of New Mexico’s Spring 2014 Family Cancer Retreat  starts tomorrow May 2,  2014.  It is a weekend all expense paid retreat at the Pyramid, a popular hotel in Albuquerque.

It is for cancer survivors, their caregivers, i.e. family. There are presentations on every aspect of cancer, for example:  Patient and Family Communications in Serious Illness, New Developments in Cancer Treatment,  Talking with Kids about Cancer.  There is a creative expressions workshop, Yoga for Happiness and Healing. A wide range of activity.  One on one counseling sessions.

Too late to sign up for this one. There will be another in the Fall. You will need to send in an application. Your oncologist (or your doc managing your care) will need to send in a form.

Cancer Services of New Mexico                                                                                                                   P O Box 51735, Albuquerque NM 87181-1735                                                                                        Phone:   505-259-9583                Email:    info@cancerservicesNM.org                                  Website:   http://www.cancerservicesNM.org

The New Mexico Department of Health  and United Way of Central New Mexico are also sponsors.