Stories from cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and family members! Rather than focusing on medical information sharing, we have intimate conversations with real people about their journeys with cancer. In their own words, the storytellers share their personal experiences and offer words of wisdom to the community. Telling and listening to stories heals. Let’s break the cancer taboo together one story at a time. Follow this podcast so you will know when new stories are released! http://talkaboutcancerpodcast.com
Embrace it all
Jason reflected on his experience of losing his dad as a child and how the cultural norms of the Vietnamese culture shaped his experience of grief and mourning. We also explore what he is doing differently as an adult now that he has had some time to reflect on his earlier experience.
It was so interesting to listen to Jason reflect on his experience of grief as a child and what his perspective is now as an adult. I especially admire the way he was able to reflect on his experience in a non-judgmental way. Because sometimes we can fall into the spiral of regret when it comes to losing a loved one - thinking back over the things we should have said, could have done differently - and just beat ourselves up. So I love that he is at a place where he is accepting of what has happened but also moving forward in a way that better serves his emotional needs while in grief.
One thing he said that really humbled me, which was that - while it’s really hard to lose someone you love to cancer, and to anything really, the emotions you feel also means that you’ve had a meaningful relationship with that person, and that is something beautiful to be thankful for. I also loved what he said about keeping his grandmother “near” after death by embracing all the emotions he’s experiencing now from her passing. It is something that’s been surfacing for me lately, which is how to continue to remember my dad and honor his life as time continues to pass. I feel grateful that in listening to Jason’s reflections, it helped me realize that what I am doing with this podcast IS my way of continuing to remember and honor my dad.
That’s a wrap for today. Please follow the podcast if you would like to hear more stories from cancer survivors, caregivers, and family members. I would really appreciate it if you can leave an honest rating and review in Apple Podcasts or Podchaser so I know if I am serving the interests and needs of you listeners out there. You can also share any feedback and suggestions directly with me by visiting http://talkaboutcancerpodcast.com.
As always, thank you for listening!
Every step of the way
We have our first sister duo on the show to share their story with us. You will hear about how they managed stress family members and friends had unintentionally caused and how they were always a team in getting through every situation.
I had fun chatting with the sister duo Bella and Tonia. As someone who didn’t grow up with a sibling under the same roof, I marveled at the close relationship they have with one another. But what was very interesting to me was that, even as close as they were, they still needed to find support and release away from each other sometimes. Like how Bella talked about feeling like she was on an island during treatment even though Tonia was at every doctor’s appointments, or how Tonia would only cry when she wasn’t around Bella, because Tonia knew it would have only stressed Bella out more to see her in distress. I’m glad they both then also talked about what helped them get through, like how Bella found the support groups on FB so she didn’t feel so alone anymore and Tonia would take time out to do things she wanted to do and not be anybody’s caregiver every once in a while.
One thing Bella said that opened my eyes was to surround yourself with people who not only love you, but more importantly, people who will challenge your decision because they know you are making them based on fear or anger. I’m a big advocate for respecting a patient’s decision about their own treatment, especially when it comes to the decision to not pursue treatment. But Bella helped me understand that sometimes a bit of reasoning may be warranted, especially if you can tell that the patient’s decision-making process may be too clouded by negative emotions.
Lastly, I loved their message about there being no shame in asking about resources that may be available to cancer patients. A bit of TLC - whether it’s free massages or gift cards - isn’t going to make everything better but it can help in getting through one day to the next. And as in the example they shared, unless you ask, you won’t always be told what’s available… which honestly boggles my mind but that’s a topic for another day.
Here are some of the resources Bella and Tonia shared:
https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/https://imermanangels.org/ For survivors and caregivers, website also in Spanishhttps://www.sephorastands.com/classes_for_confidence/Please follow the podcast if you would like to hear more stories from cancer survivors, caregivers, and family members. I would really appreciate it if you can leave an honest rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser so I know if I am serving the interests and needs of you listeners out there. You can also share any feedback and suggestions directly with me by visiting http://talkaboutcancerpodcast.com.
Thank you for listening!
Give yourself grace
Victoria talked about turning to alcohol to numb the anxiety and pain she experienced in the aftermath of cancer treatment and reminded us to let go of the expectations we put on ourselves and get support to develop healthier ways to cope with trauma.
I so appreciated Victoria for coming on the show to share her story about the trauma she experienced with cancer and alcohol abuse. She brought so much humanity to an issue that may not be talked about very often - which is that in dealing with the mental and physical trauma of cancer, some of us might unintentionally end up coping in ways that are harmful to ourselves and those around us.
The truth is, alcohol use is so common in our society, especially during this past year when almost everyone has had to cope with the disruptions brought on by the pandemic. So many of my friends and family drank just to relax from the workday so it’s not hard to see why people would turn to alcohol when dealing with the trauma they are experiencing from cancer.
Victoria’s message about giving yourself grace in a situation like that is so important. Everyone’s experience with cancer has so many dimensions so even if you’ve had a successful treatment outcome, for example, it doesn’t mean everything else goes back to normal. Victoria and I continued to chat after we stopped recording for a bit where we talked about how many human experiences are really not an “either-or” dichotomy, but that often, seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time. In her case, she was absolutely grateful that her cancer treatment worked, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t hard to work through the trauma that came with it.
You can find more information about Victoria’s coaching services and her podcast at: https://www.victoriaenglishmartin.com/
Victoria recommended the book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace for people who want to better understand alcohol addiction and recovery.
That’s a wrap for today. Please subscribe to the podcast if you would like to hear more stories from cancer survivors, caregivers, and family members. You can let me know which topics you would like to hear more about or share any feedback about the show by going to http://talkaboutcancerpodcast.com.
Thank you for listening!
See you on the moon
Jason spoke lovingly about his memories of his mom - who battled three types of cancer for over a decade - and the ways in which he continues to remember and honor her legacy since she died in 2019. He also shared some interesting stories about kilts and prostate cancer awareness.
What a storyteller Jason was. There was literally a story to illustrate every point he made in our conversation! It was really interesting to hear how Jason’s experience as an officer for more than 20 years has influenced his perspectives about life and death.
One part that stuck with me was how Jason didn’t make it in time to see his mom before she died, which was so crushing but I could see that Jason was able to move forward from that because he had an important job to do - which was to MC the celebration of life she planned. I mean, what a gift she had given to Jason so that he knew exactly what he needed to do to honor her life and get closure. And then there were the actual gifts for the family as well! What an amazing way to let her family continue to experience her love beyond her death.
I had a mini epiphany from our conversation. If you recall, at one point I was talking to Jason about not letting what happened during the last few months of my dad’s life consume my memories of him, because it was a small part and shouldn’t define his life and who he was as a person. When I thought about that more after our conversation, I realized that only when I was able to move on from those imageries of suffering in my head did the unexpected moments of breakdown start to happen less. Maybe it just took time for those imageries to become more blurry and be less painful in my mind. I do often wonder at what point will the unexpected moments of intense emotions stop occurring. Is it 5 years? 10 year? Or maybe never? I don't know yet.
You can find Jason at:
What’s Your Emergency podcast: http://wyeradio.com/Kilted to Kick Cancer: https://www.kiltedtokickcancer.org/A couple of books Jason recommended for people who want to better understand the experience of someone who is facing their own mortality.
Chasing Daylight by Paul KalanithiWhen Breath Becomes Air by Eugene O’KellyPlease subscribe to the podcast if you would like to hear more stories from cancer survivors, caregivers, and family members. You can let me know which topics you would like to hear more about or share any feedback about the show by going to http://talkaboutcancerpodcast.com.
Thank you for listening!
Lean into the pain
Stephanie took us through some of the toughest parts of her cancer journey, including how she had to postpone her wedding, how she got lost in the dark space, and what helped her to get through and eventually reconnect with life again.
A big shout out to Stephanie for doing such a deep dive during our recording. She was so transparent in sharing some of the most vulnerable moments on her journey, and because she is such a great storyteller - which I attribute to her journalist background - I felt like I could see in my head the specific moments and conversations she described as we were chatting.
One thing that really blew me away was the great communication Stephanie and her husband had with each other. As Stephanie described, getting a cancer diagnosis can trigger so many insecurities and emotions because of the physical changes and limitations you experience. In absence of a strong foundation to lean on, it’s not surprising that new conflicts will often come up between family members.
I also really appreciated Stephanie calling out the importance of caregivers taking care of themselves, which is something we talked about in episode 8, but the message almost has more merit when it’s coming from a non-caregiver. Stephanie recognized that while it’s the patient who has to endure all the trials and tribulations in a physical sense, there’s nevertheless an emotional impact on the caregiver.
And her message about leaning into the pain is so powerful, and something that many of us have had to do in the last year when life had to slow down during the quarantine, so the issues we managed to bury with our busy schedules and endless distractions on our phones eventually surfaced. In retrospect, it is one of the big reasons why I finally pushed this podcast through - that I finally had time and mental space to organize my thoughts - even though I had been thinking about doing this since 2018.
You can find Stephanie at:
Twitter: @Patient_Story or @StephChuang
I can’t recommend it enough as a resource for people who are newly diagnosed. Please check it out and share it with others who can benefit from it.
Please subscribe to the podcast if you would like to hear more stories from cancer survivors, caregivers, and family members. You can let me know which topics you would like to hear more about or share any feedback about the show by going to http://talkaboutcancerpodcast.com.
Thank you for listening!
Us kids banding together
Michelle shared a lovely story about how her whole family came together to share the caregiving responsibilities when her dad’s health started to decline. And how they worked as an incredible team to support their dad and stepmom in the most difficult times, as well as each other through their grieving process.
Listening to Michelle’s story really warmed my heart. There were similarities in our experiences with our dads’ declines but I was so blown away by the way her whole family came together to support one another and made the experience better and more manageable for everyone. It was also really amazing to hear about the way they are continuing to support one another during their grieving process, and they are going about it in a way that gives each person space to work through things in their own way and on their own time.
One thing that I would like to call out is that sometimes people think the grieving process only starts after your loved ones die, but it often starts way before that point. For many, we experience grief each time a change happens - whether that’s weight loss, having a harder time walking, or experiencing chemo brain. Obviously, these types of changes hit the patients the hardest but caregivers experience grief in their own way as well as somewhat helpless bystanders, which in truth is one of the hardest parts of being a caregiver - is that feeling of not being able to help lessen the suffering your loved one is experiencing.
The other thing that stood out was Michelle’s conversation with her dad - how she told him that he didn’t have to keep fighting for the family. This stood out to me because I so often hear patients say that the one thing they fear the most is what is going to happen to the family members they leave behind. So I thought it was so courageous for Michelle to have had that candid conversation with her dad because it gave him the permission to prioritize his own needs in the time he had left. I never said the same thing to my dad because I assumed he wanted to keep fighting for himself, but lately, I’ve been wondering if that assumption was true just based on what I have been hearing from other patients.
You can find Michelle at https://breatheandbe.net/. She offers many great services and resources for people practicing faith, like meditation, yoga, and journaling.
Please subscribe to the podcast if you would like to hear more stories from cancer patients, caregivers, and family members. You can let me know which topics you would like to hear more about or share any feedback about the show by going to http://talkaboutcancerpodcast.com.
Thank you for listening!
Serena provides a gentle and empathetic space to process cancer from so many viewpoints (those with cancer, family members and friends). I am recommending this podcast to anyone who has been affected by cancer or knows someone who needs to feel understood in the cancer journey.
Unpretentious and informative. A way to heal through honest dialogue!