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Ask the Therapist: Betsey Cowardin

In a previous Survivor Newsletter* we offered survivors the opportunity to ask questions about how to answer questions about their breast cancer diagnosis and recovery and also how to handle the expectations and stress of the holidays. We’re fortunate to have Betsey Cowardin, a therapist and 20-year breast cancer “thrivor” answer some of your questions.

*Sign-up for our survivor-only newsletter.

Q1: What can survivors do and say to best support another survivor?  Many of us have gone through it, but time may have passed and things may have changed.

A1: Start by saying you are sorry the other survivor is experiencing cancer and that you will keep them in your thoughts and best wishes. Ask them how they are doing. Share that you are a survivor and want to support the other survivor in whatever way would be helpful for that person.

Q2: How do I balance my needs and stress with other people needing to feel helpful?  I feel like I need to be polite.

A2: Let the other people know that you appreciate their desire and willingness to be helpful and then let them know what you need at this time which could include a range of things from providing a dinner for your family, child care if you have young children needing attention, to running errands, taking you to your treatments or time for yourself simply to rest and be quiet. And if you don’t know what you need at this time, that is okay too. Also tell them that you are balancing a great deal and sometimes dealing with the stress requires down time for resting and recovering from the stress.This is not the time to try to please others however cancer doesn’t warrant being impolite.

Q3: What kind of feelings or struggles are my caregivers going through with my breast cancer journey?

A3: It is highly likely that your care givers are experiencing concern, fear, sadness, anger, hopefulness, fatigue, uncertainty and stress regarding your breast cancer journey. Not unlike what you the survivor is experiencing and struggling with.  Best to ask your caregivers what they are feeling and then you can open up the conversation for sharing your individual experiences.  After all, we are all in this journey together.

Q4: After the five year window of survivorship, I feel like I’ve reached a new place, kind of a no-man’s land or uncharted waters.  My identity as a survivor is different as I start to really move on from that experience. How might this affect me throughout the rest of my life?

A4: Indeed you have reached a new place in your life and created a new normal for yourself…however you define your new normal in life’s unchartered waters.  Hopefully your identity has transformed from a survivor to a thriver.  I can’t read the future for you so I don’t know how surviving cancer might affect you throughout the rest of your life.  I can share with you that as a 20 year breast cancer thriver, I am more sensitive to the vulnerability and fragility of life and how quickly life can change.  This has created an opportunity to live my life differently…in gratitude and with awareness of my life purpose.  Give yourself time for self-discovery and developing greater self-awareness.

Q5: What is the best way to handle the additional stress of the holidays?

A5: With or without cancer, we need to practice good self care in order to manage the additional stress of the holidays.  What does that look like? Set clear limits: Don’t over-commit, over-schedule, over-indulge. Establish realistic expectations with family and friends. Get enough rest. Eat healthy. Exercise a little bit each day if that won’t interfere with your treatment(s). Get outside in nature for some relaxation and enjoyment. Re-evaluate your holiday traditions and decide which traditions to keep and which traditions to let go of.  Try to focus on the true meaning of the specific holiday you celebrate.

Q6: For non-survivors, what should we say to a friend when we hear they are diagnosed?

A6: How about:  “Oh no, I am so sorry that you have been diagnosed with cancer. This stinks!”  What we say to our newly diagnosed friend depends on our personal style so just be yourself and convey your sincere feelings.

December Volunteer of the Month: Karen Ickes

When Karen Ickes was diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago, she knew right away she wanted to use her experience and breast cancer battle to help educate others. We are fortunate to have had Karen as a volunteer with Susan G. Komen Columbus for the last 16 years and are grateful for the many contributions she has made.

Karen at the 1999 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure with her chemo nurse, Tammy and the daughter of a friend .

Karen (center) at the 1999 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure with her chemo nurse, Tammy, and the daughter of a friend .

“From helping with Race registration, to being part of the Education Committee, from attending health fairs and to more recently helping to review grant applications – Karen’s insight and generosity are a tremendous asset to our organization,” said Natalie Guagenti, Director of Volunteers at Komen Columbus.

For these reasons and more, we are proud to name Karen Ickes as our December Volunteer of the Month!

Karen shares with us, in her own words, why she enjoys volunteering with Komen Columbus.

What (or whom) inspired you to get involved with Komen Columbus?
On April Fool’s Day in 1997 I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. After going through one year of high dose chemo, a stem cell transplant and radiation, I wanted to find a way to get involved with an organization which would work towards finding a way to cure the disease and help educate other women about the importance of getting the proper testing and understanding changes in your body. Through Komen Columbus, I’ve met some wonderful survivors and volunteers and staff, all of whom are dedicated to the same mission and purpose.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus?
My favorite part about volunteering is when I can help just one person learn more about detection and the importance of working with your doctor. During a recent health fair, we had so many people stop by our booth with very little knowledge or understanding of breast cancer. The pamphlets and brochures provide a lot of good information in a simple and easy to understand fashion.

What is the most memorable moment or event you’ve experienced with Komen Columbus? And why?
Every time I go to the Race and see all of the survivors, along with the tremendous support from the community, it creates a memorable event for me. It is such a wonderfully positive experience with so much camaraderie and celebration.

When you’re not volunteering for Komen Columbus, what do you like to do?
I’ve been retired for a couple of years and I have enjoyed spending more time trying to improve my golf game, traveling and getting involved in a variety of community philanthropic activities.

November Volunteer of the Month: Subha Lembach

Introducing our November Volunteer of the Month, Subha Lembach!

Subha’s infectious spirit and positive attitude are the keys to her success as a member of the Komen Columbus Speakers Bureau.

“Subha has unselfishly become an advocate for breast cancer survivors, through her work with several aspects of our affiliate over the past few years,” said Julie McMahon, Director of Mission at Komen Columbus. ” We are fortunate to have such a dedicated volunteer as part of the Komen community.

Subha shares with us, in her own words, why she volunteers with Komen Columbus.

Subha Lembach

Subha with her daughter, Elizabeth, at the Komen Young Professionals Fashion Show.

What (or whom) inspired you to get involved with Komen Columbus?

I became involved with Komen Columbus because in the time span of one year, I had seven friends all diagnosed with breast cancer. Only one of them was over the age of 40. It was a no brainer for me to be involved and to try to something so that I might one day never ever have to go through a friend telling me they have breast cancer or to hear those words directed at me or my daughter.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus?

My favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus -they make volunteering fun. The other volunteers are great!

When I first moved to Columbus, I would coordinate Pink It Up the day before the Race and there would be dozens of volunteers running around putting up pink ribbons throughout downtown. It was so much fun and a great way to spend an afternoon with friends making a difference while still being able to push your baby around in a stroller.

Later, I became involved with the Grants Review Committee, which I also really enjoyed. As a member of this Committee, I met some terrific survivors, health care professionals, caregivers, and others. The diversity and richness of perspective was invigorating and inspiring. We had some pretty serious discussions and really thought through how we can make the most impact with respect to prevention, education, and survivor support.

I currently volunteer in the Speaker’s Bureau which is a real treat. I love public speaking and it has been fun getting to meet women interested in learning more about breast cancer.

What is the most memorable moment or event you’ve experienced with Komen Columbus? And why?

My favorite event was the recent KYP Fashion Show. I took my 11 year old daughter and it was great fun as well as an inspiring educational message for her. There were so many great caregivers representing husbands, friends, etc., that it was wonderful for her to see what being a good spouse or friend really means as well as how life is a combination of happiness and sadness, but at the end of the day, its about the people in your life and resiliency and hope.

When you’re not volunteering for Komen Columbus, what do you like to do?

I really like to volunteer, hang out with my daughter and husband, and take advantage of all of the great cultural opportunities Columbus has to offer, from the ballet to theater to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to the Conservatory to the Museum of Art.

Thank You Supporters!

Komen Columbus just completed a very busy Breast Cancer Awareness Month! October was filled with events and activities designed to educate, empower and fundraise.  We are able to give the gift of hope to so many only because of the generous support of our community. On behalf those who we help, we would like to extend a very warm thank you to the following individuals, schools and companies, as well as all our volunteers who give so generously of their time. For more information on how to become a partner, please call 614-297-8155 or visit us online at komencolumbus.org

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EVENTS

11athletics
Becky Atcheson Fundraiser
BelFlex Staffing
Big Walnut Middle School
Columbus Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery
Columbus Crew
Encore Columbus
Epcon Communities
Grand Prix Karting
Komen Young Professionals
Lomonico’s Market and Eatery
Marathon for the Cure Team 2014
OhioHealth
Ohio University School of Nursing
Olentangy Berkshire Middle School
Otterbein University
Scioto Downs Racino
Title Boxing Club Grandview
Yabo’s Tacos

VOLLEY FOR THE CURE

Volley for the Cure fundraisers have already raised $42,706! Stay tuned for the final total from the 2014 season!

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VOLUNTEERS

Shelly Biggs
Barb DePalma
Karen Ickes
Kim Jennings
Janice Joos
Susan Kelly
Kristin Mainzer
Diane & Bill Niehoff
Sue Ringler
Gail Sadler
Sharon Solis
Janell Thomas
Margi Wysong

Special thanks to Board Members Angela An, Doug Knutson and Tammy Weis for being so instrumental in hosting our Pink Tailgate Fundraiser.

WORSHIP IN PINK

This was a banner year for the Worship in Pink as the number of religious organizations which participated doubled from last year. In all an estimated 4,190 people were educated about breast health and about the local resources funded by Komen Columbus, and 290 survivors were honored and celebrated. We sincerely appreciate you embracing this message and sharing it with your spiritual communities.

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Family Gives Me Strength – Adriana de la Peña

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“I was 42 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time. I was more concerned about my family and how my diagnosis would affect them. It’s because of my family that I fought against breast cancer and all the obstacles that presented itself. We just moved to the United States from Mexico City, Mexico for my husband’s job when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t understand English very well and I felt very isolated and scared.  Now I am proud to say I have beat this disease TWICE and I use my medical background and personal experience to help other Latinas in our community learn more about breast cancer and the resources available through the Latina Breast Cancer Project at OhioHealth – a program funded by Susan G. Komen Columbus. My family gives me strength to keep moving forward and keep fighting. Through my work I honor their unconditional love and support to help others.” ~ Adriana

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Faith, Family & Friends Give Me Strength – Maria Durant

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“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer there were three things that kept me going: my faith, family and friends. All three kept me strong and are very much intertwined. My faith gave me the courage to look within and know that I would not be alone in fighting this disease…to know that I could help others if I spoke out about breast cancer. And of course my family and friends kept me motivated to fight. My son was only three when I was diagnosed so “mommy” had to keep moving to keep up with him.  You can’t give up when you have these three in your corner.”  ~ Maria Durant

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Family Gives Me Strength – Amber Burg

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“Today is another new day.  I can choose to reflect on the things I have lost, or I can choose to reflect on the reasons I still have to be thankful- my family: my godsend of a husband John and my two incredible kids Grace and Johnny.  The love from my family is what gives me strength every day to fight and survivor this disease.  When my four-year-old daughter looks into my eyes and asks me if she is going to get cancer too, I want to tell her with certainty she will not be another statistic.  Since my diagnosis, I have found a new purpose for my life.  I want to be an advocate for young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and to raise awareness that breast cancer does not discriminate when it comes to age.” – Amber Burg

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