Walk with Friends

three-women-walkingSunday, April 27, 2014
Team Survivor Northwest 4th Annual “Walk with Friends 5K” at Marymoor Park (Redmond) on Sunday, April 27, 2014! If you would like to volunteer for the event, send an email to om@teamsurvivornw.org. You can register for this event through our website at http://www.teamsurvivornw.org

Each year Team Survivor Northwest hosts their annual Walk with Friends event. This is a great way to kick off spring one step at a time. The spring and summer is a great time to get out there and get moving! It always amazes me how much people underestimate the simple act of walking. There is a misconception that people have to do rigorous activities such as running to get in shape. However, walking is a wonderful way to get back out there and start breaking a sweat! Walk with Friends is a great event for this because it is a great way to not only start off spring on a healthy note, but also to meet other people in the community and to as the name suggests, make new friends and reacquaint with old ones. TSNW’s annual Walk with Friends will be held on April 27th, 2014 at Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA. Registration is now open and is available through the Team Survivor Northwest website at www.teamsurvivornw.org.

This event is also a great opportunity to support a great cause! Team Survivor Northwest is a non-profit organization that offers fitness classes at no cost to all female cancer survivors. We offer a variety of fitness programs designed to meet the needs of women at any stage of their cancer journey. Our goal is to help these women take an active role in their ongoing physical and emotional healing. It is also our goal to help them find a sense of camaraderie. I work in the oncology field, and find that the hardest time for many of my patients is surprisingly when they finish treatment. They are not seeing their care team as much and I think there is a sense of fear and anxiety around the question of what next? Team Survivor hopes to help survivors through that stage of what’s next through fitness but also through introducing them to many other survivors that can relate and help them through this process.

Joan Tierney, a survivor and member of Team Survivor Northwest, was kind enough to share her journey. For Joan walking helped her through one of the most difficult times in her life, and becoming a member of Team Survivor Northwest helped her to share that journey with so many others. We are grateful to Joan for sharing her inspiring road to recovery:

“Growing up in New England, walking was always a fun activity shared with my sisters and parents, regardless of the weather. I appreciated the sound of crunching leaves in the fall, the sights of the glistening snow and frost on winter days, the smells of lilacs, hyacinths, and fresh cut grass in spring, and best of all the feeling of sand, sun, and saltwater of the beaches we walked on for hours.
Now, as I walk through the seasons, it is part of my journey to health and wellness, a journey that I share with the women of Team Survivor NW, as they encourage and celebrate my personal goal of walking in one 5K event each month.

My cancer diagnosis and treatment was uneventful, but it left me with severe lymphedema in my legs and pelvis. Undaunted by this potentially debilitating condition, I pursued manual lymph drainage, swimming, yoga and healthy steps classes through Cancer Lifeline , where I met Mary Carney and Elaine Eigeman. Mary invited me to participate in the March 2012 Walk with Friends Event at Marymoor Park. My legs gave way just before the turn around, we were soaked from the pouring rain, but the enthusiasm of the walkers and runners was contagious and I wanted to learn more about Team Survivor NW, so when Mary encouraged me to attend the 2013 retreat, I jumped at the opportunity. women walking 2

It was at the retreat where I met Brenda Frost who spoke about the walk/run training group and her recent completion of the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. It was at this moment that I realized that I, too, could utilize the training group, set a goal and find the Tinkerbell inside of me. I had successfully completed the 2012 Iron Girl 5 K with a 21 minute pace and had the shin splints to prove it. Now it was time to learn from a coach and train for endurance and proper technique. I left the retreat with a personal goal of walking in three summer 5K events and the means to achieve it.

When I signed up for the Run/Walk group, I was delighted to learn that the coach was Kristina Englund who had been my fitness Core trainer in my pre-cancer days. I had come full circle and was back working with a trusted coach. I started out slowly and built myself up to complete the 2013 May Walk with Friends, the June Shore Run, benefitting Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the July See Jane Run Event with my daughter. I completed the entire Walk with Friends Course and met my fundraising goal; I increased my time to 1:12 and enjoyed the views of Lake Washington as my husband, David and I completed the 35th Annual Shore Run, and my daughter and I loved our “I Ran for Chocolate” medals earned during See Jane Run.

During the Shore Run, I met two young survivors who challenged me to walk a 5K each month. August found David and I walking in the Columbia Winery Walk for Children’s Hospital, and upon completion, I immediately searched for my next event. I walked in the Women of Wonder Event, a very special 5K for me. For as I rounded the last lap of the event, I saw Mary Carney’s amazing smile, as she said, “I already finished, but I came for you, so we could walk over the finish line together.” October marked the Husky Dawg Dash. David and I enjoyed the fall foliage and the Husky Marching Band playing “So Glad you Made It” as we approached the Drumheller Fountain. We also walked the 2.5 mile Pumpkin Push for Neighborhood Health Clinics during October and the two mile Breast Cancer Walk.

My November event was the Seattle Marathon Santa v Super Heroes 5K where David and I were joined by our son, Noah and daughter, Michele. Walking from the Seattle Center to Benaroya Hall, we really enjoyed the architecture and beauty of Downtown. Upon completion, we watched the Children’s Hospital patients walk their last mile needed to complete their 26 mile walking goal. There was not a dry eye as we cheered them on.

December found Michele and I walking up the hills of Kirkland in the 12Ks of Christmas, benefitting foster children, and on January 1, we were joined my friend Nicole and her dogs on the Dry Run of the Resolution Run and Polar Bear event. It was fitting to walk with David and Michele in the Love em or Leave em Valentines Dash for my February walk. I have registered for the March St. Pat’s Day Dash.

It is fitting, that I complete my 12 for 12 goal at the April Walk with Friends 5K. I hope to see everyone there as we all celebrate our commitment to health and wellness.

As I completed each walk, I was not only stronger and healthier, but I was feeling part of a great community of walkers, runners, joggers, and strollers gathering not only for ourselves but for the causes that are near and dear to us.

Thank you Team Survivor NW, Coach Kit, family, and friends supporting me on this journey. April will find me training for a 10K See Jane Run and maybe, with Chi Walking techniques learned at the 2014 Retreat, I can complete the Tinkerbell Half with Brenda Frost. See you on the circuit.”

First we would like to thank Joan for sharing her wonderful story. I think it is always motivating to hear other people’s journeys and see that even when things seem impossible they are possible. At Team Survivor Northwest we try to help our members persevere through those difficult times, by having people like Joan by their side. It is our goal to help build the sense of community that Joan speaks of among our members. So, come join the Team Survivor Northwest community and come walk with friends on April 27th!

Blog written by Adrienne Coleman, Outreach Coordinator for Team Survivor Northwest. Special thanks to Joan Tierney for her participation in this blog.

Fertility After Cancer – On My Own Terms

Andrea head shotWritten by: Andrea MacPherson

I am surrounded by super-powered fertile women. My boyfriend’s sisters have pushed out three beautiful babies in the past two years. A high school friend planned her third baby so easily that she knew her due date six months before they had even conceived. And while I’m thrilled for all of these women and I love all of these babies, there is always that initial sting when I realize how easy it is for them, and how cancer has made my baby-making potential a bit more blurry.

When I was twenty years old I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over the course of one weekend, my priorities went from midterms, college parties and gaining independence to basic survival instincts. My cancer diagnosis began with a scary drug reaction to the pneumonia vaccine, and left me zero time to think about even how I was to prepare for chemotherapy the next week, let alone my options for fertility preservation. “Just stay alive and figure the rest out later,” I told myself, and ultimately left the decisions in the hands of my doctor. I trusted this man very much, but in hindsight I do wish I had asked more questions about fertility preservation, and possibly taken more steps to protect my reproductive system from my cancer treatment.

I won’t know how fertile I am until I try. I do know that my chemotherapy cocktail could make it harder to get pregnant, but also increases my risk of miscarriage significantly. I have many cancer friends who have finished treatment and gone on to live happy, kid-filled lives, but I also know women who have never gotten their period again, or became menopausal the second they stopped taking birth control pills. Until I am ready to test the waters, I won’t know which category I fit into. So until then I tell myself not to think about it too hard. Instead I hug my pregnant friends and be the best auntie I can be.

It can be lonely when your biological clock is ticking twice as fast as the peers around you. When nurses are saying not to wait and doctors want to refer you to fertility specialists, panic can set in easily. However, stepping away from those pressures to procreate can also be refreshing. I will admit it is a daily battle. But forcing myself to not worry about my fertile ambiguity has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself post-cancer. It’s taught me to open up my life to other possibilities that I didn’t consider to be part of my path before. I know now that for me, waiting a bit longer to talk about babies is okay, because in all honesty I’m just not ready yet. And in the meantime, I am actually enjoying life without kids. I am traveling the world. I am working hard to grow a career. I can focus on building a relationship with my boyfriend that is a strong foundation for whatever ups and downs life may throw at us, kids or no kids. And in doing that, I’ve learned that babies don’t necessarily make a family – that love makes a family. So no matter what lies ahead for me and my family, I can slow down and live my life on my own terms, in my own time, and that is a pretty awesome place to be.

About Andrea MacPherson
After undergoing treatment for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma at age 20 without anyone remotely close in age around, Andrea MacPherson made it her goal to help young adult cancer survivors connect and strive through their own treatment. She has fundraised and volunteered for several cancer organizations including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, First Descents, and Puget Sound Blood Center. Andrea served on an advisory board for Seattle Children’s, helping design their new Adolescent & Young Adult Oncology Unit. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Thrive Through Cancer (thrivethroughcancer.org) and will be 8 years cancer-free this April.

Spring Ahead, Don’t Fall Behind

March blog pictureWritten By: Adrienne Coleman
Outreach Coordinator, Team Survivor Northwest

As I stare out the window into what seems like an endless stream of rain, it is hard to believe that the first day of spring is right around the corner. Yes, believe it! March 9th officially marks the time for Americans across the country to Spring ahead! Each year as this day approaches I can’t help but feel excited! To me the first day of spring marks the approach of longer days with more light, the prospect of sunshine, and from a fitness standpoint, it marks the beginning of the spring and summer fitness season and activities. At Team Survivor Northwest we have a lot of exciting spring and summer classes and activities for current and prospective members!

The winter months can seem to drag on in Seattle, and it is common during these months that many of us do not follow through with our fitness goals. It is easy to fall behind, and as so often happens once we feel like we have fallen off track, it is easier to just give up entirely. However, it is our goal to help bring you out of the winter lull and help you get that spring back in your step. It is time to stop talking about the things you want to do and just do it! We have a number of programs, designed for a variety of interests and fitness levels. Once you find a program that interests you, it is incredibly easy to become a member! Team Survivor offers all their programs at no cost to women at any stage in their cancer journey.

Step 1: Visit our website http://www.teamsurvivornw.org where you will find our 2014 membership forms.

Step 2: Complete the membership form and either fax or mail the membership form to Team Survivor Northwest

Step 3: Have your oncologist or if you have been out of treatment for a number of years your PCP sign the medical release form and return this to TSNW via mail or fax.

Step 4: Receive your membership card in the mail and start attending fabulous programs at no cost to you!

Dragon Boating:
If you are looking for a team activity that allows you to get away from it all without leaving the city, get a tremendous workout, and enjoy the camaraderie of a great group of women, come out and see what dragon boating is all about and why it continues to be the fastest growing water sport worldwide.

History of Dragon Boating
In 1999, Club SAKE paddler Hong Ho wanted to expand the Seattle team’s mission and memorialize her mother who had died of cancer. She called Team Survivor Northwest to offer Club SAKE’s assistance in starting a dragon boat team of women cancer survivors. About ten enthusiastic survivors and volunteers showed up that August. Today, the program has over sixty women survivors on the active roster!

Dragon Boating Season
Our main season runs from the first week in April through September. A small, but growing number of us are paddling year round. During the main season, we practice two times per week at the Leschi Marina on Lake Washington Blvd in Seattle.

Dragon Boat paddling is a great activity that gets you outside and keeps you in the company of some wonderful people! New paddlers are always welcome.

Mark your calendar! Our 2014 Orientation Meeting will be Saturday March 8 at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance from 9-noon! Also please join us for the Seattle Dragon boat festival, which will be held on July 19th from 9:00am-5:00pm at South Lake Union Park in Seattle. Team Survivor Northwest is the designated non-profit of the Seattle Dragon Boat festival.

For more information or to be put on the Dragon Boat interest list, contact our Program Manager in the TSNW office at pm@teamsurvivornw.org or (206)732-8350.

iStock_000013893723SmallWalk Run Program:
The walk run program at Team Survivor Northwest focuses on helping to train participants for marathons within the Seattle area. It is a step-by-step program that can get even a beginner marathoner ready for the big day! Interested? Please join us on April 5th for our Walk/Run spring session kickoff! Location to be decided. Please visit our website for more details or email our program manager at pm@teamsurvivornw.org or (206)732-8350.

Want to participate in a low key community walk to get you back out there? Then please join us at our Team Survivor Northwest 4th Annual “Walk with Friends 5K” at Marymoor Park (Redmond) on Sunday, April 27, 2014! If you would like to volunteer for the event, send an email to om@teamsurvivornw.org. Registration opens on March 7!

Urban Hiking:
Fridays at 9:00am.
If you are new or returning to hiking, this program will get you started and on your way to better health. There is nothing like being part of a group to help motivate you! Explore the parks and neighborhoods of the greater Seattle area, the East side and Mercer Island. We meet at various locations, hike for 3-4 miles and try to get our heart rates up. Plan on up to 2 hours.
For more information or to be added to the Urban Hike interest list, please contact our Program Manager in the TSNW office, 206.732.8350 or pm@teamsurvivornw.org.

thCAFM10DLMidweek Hikes:
Midweek hikes happen on Wednesdays and this season we have already had some great hikes including a wet but fun trip to Twin Falls and a few gorgeous days at Mount Rainier.

Midweek hikes are trail hikes in the mountains, which mean you will see some beautiful scenery. It also means that they are more challenging than walking in the city. These hikes are progressive; we start with easier hikes and work up to longer distances and more elevation gain as we get further into the season.

Our Program Manager can help you figure out the right level of challenge for you right now and how to get you from here to there.

Remember, there is always a reason to not do something, now Team Survivor Northwest has given you a reason to get out there and get active this spring and summer! Sometimes when it comes to fitness we are all our own worst enemy. However, take advantage of all of the great programs here at Team Survivor Northwest, and let us help you spring ahead and leave winter behind!

Feel Your Worthiness

Written by Wade Brill
Wade Brill Coaching

Wade in Cancer HatI hit a wall after my 12th and final session of chemo. The nurses spent a lot of time poking me—trying to find a vein that was still alive. It was the most emotionally and physically draining session. I felt like I had been running a marathon the last 6 months and I was finally crossing the finish line, feeling weak and tired.

Looking back, I felt raped by chemotherapy. This powerful and extremely toxic drug invaded my body, destroyed many of my cells, took away my cancer and left me feeling frail, tired, bald, pale, sad, unmotivated, lonely, and lost. The months that followed were even worse. I felt I was in an in-between state in life where I wasn’t scheduling my life around chemo appointments anymore, yet I didn’t know where I was heading. Doctors, family, friends and society made me feel I needed to pick up where I left off. However, I asked myself: how am I supposed to move on and jump back into my “normal” life when I look, feel and am someone different? I tried to hold onto the belief that life would automatically go back to “normal.” I thought my hair would magically grow back to its thick and luscious state in a month. I thought I would have my body and natural skin color again. I thought I would finally feel happy because I was done with treatment. Yet none of those expectations came to fruition.

I felt just like the dead and bare trees during the dark and cold days of winter—dull and a bit lifeless inside. I faced an internal struggle where my mind wanted to move on to bigger and brighter things, yet my body and emotions needed more time to heal. I rediscovered Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Wherever You Go, There You Are. In Kabat-Zinn’s book, there is a chapter that discusses “dignity” and how we can create dignity within ourselves by the simple act of sitting up straight during meditation. As a Pilates instructor, I already knew and valued correct posture and alignment, however, I was struck by the concept that sitting with dignity “we are coming back [to] our original worthiness.” When I read this statement, a sense of ease and peace flooded my body and soul. I felt like I was given permission to feel whole and complete again through a simple mental and physical shift.

Meditation photoI began to practice mindfulness meditation every morning for at least ten minutes a day, creating the space for me to sit up tall, breathe deep into my cells, and send love and positive energy through my veins. Connecting to my original worthiness and dignity fostered confidence and compassion. I crawled out of my dark place to see the light and opportunity life offered me. I rediscovered my true essence, which I felt I had lost forever due to the wrath of chemo. When we can connect to our essence, we can plug back into life and feel driven to live and create the existence we wish. By mediating, I was able to find myself on a deeper level, feel my worthiness and start to live the life I was meant to live. I was able to come to peace with my current mental and physical state and learned to have patience and love for my body as I healed.

Fast-forward three years. I am now cancer free. I have my thick long hair back. I feel fully energized and I am passionate about living and loving life. The journey was not easy. It took a lot of commitment, dedication, and faith in my self and the world. However, I am here breathing, creating balance and living brilliantly because I was able to feel my worthiness.

To find your worthiness, I invite you to spend at least 10 minutes connecting to your breath, feel the dignity in your posture and smile to sense the love and positive energy that flows through your body. It can be difficult, but creating time and space each day to acknowledge and pay respect to yourself on a deeper level is crucial. Allow any negative thoughts to disappear and just be. Know, believe and breathe in your worthiness. You survived. So now allow yourself to thrive.

New Year’s Resolutions….Not so cliche after all

TSNW new years resolutionBlog written by Adrienne Coleman, Outreach Coordinator for Team Survivor Northwest
Special thanks to Maggie Brower for her participation in this blog

I used to think of New Year’s resolutions as something that is kind of cliché or scripted. It is kind of like Valentine’s Day, do we really need one day to make change or tell someone how we feel? However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a resolution is a resolution, no matter what day or the reason. Let’s face it, there is something inspiring about a fresh start or a new year to motivate us all to be better or do better at something in our life. That being said, the first step is to make a resolution, no matter what day of the year it may be.

I think the first step to any resolution is to make it something that is realistic. It is great to make grand scale goals; however in my experience it often works better to start small, so that you can build to that bigger goal. If a resolution is too lofty, it can make it feel unattainable, which let’s face it, if we feel like we can’t do something, then most often we are not going to try to do it. That being said, when it comes to life after cancer, it can be incredibly difficult to even process the thought of resolutions, because it is difficult to know where to begin.

Life after cancer is an incredibly scary time for most survivors. In my experience in working with survivors many feel vulnerable, alone, and unsure of how to start rebuilding. Maggie Brower, a longtime board member and member of Team Survivor Northwest, was kind enough to talk to me about her experiences of finding the strength to start making those resolutions. When I asked Maggie to participate in this month’s blog, I wanted to keep the conversation very open ended. So, the only thing I asked her to think about was resolutions she made after her diagnosis and treatment. Here is what she had to say:

“I would have to say that my best resolution after my diagnosis came through peer pressure. I had joined the dragon boat team at TSNW and after a long Saturday morning practice we were paddling back to the dock when the coach said, “If you’ve ever run a 5K, pull your paddle out of the water (rest, in other words). Then she let the people who have done a 10K, then a triathlon. I was in the back of the boat and essentially one of the very few still paddling this heavy boat….realizing that all these women (one in her 80s) had recently done all these events!

As the dragon boat season ended and the TSNW retreat was coming up I signed up. They talked a lot about resolutions and what we wanted to accomplish in that year. Sally Edwards attended that retreat and spoke about the Danskin. All things combined….guess what I did that year? I completed my first triathlon! At the retreat we were told to make a commitment and TSNW mailed it to us 3 months later. By that point, I was well on my way training for this event. I completed it in one hour and 50 minutes!”

I think we can all agree that all resolutions are easier when you have other people encouraging you along the way, specifically people who have been through a similar journey or experience. I also think it is inspiring to see other people’s accomplishments, which in return inspire us to push ourselves beyond what we thought is possible, which is exactly what Maggie did, and what we try to accomplish in our programs at Team Survivor Northwest. I love the story that Maggie tells of being on the boat and hearing all these amazing achievements of her fellow paddlers. It is such a wonderful moment for both her and the other women. As Maggie proved, when you are presented with a challenge you rise to it, and then say what’s next? That is the beauty of a resolution; once you start making them… it can be hard to stop.

I was really touched by my conversation, specifically by something she ended up emailing me later. She was afraid it was going to sound too morbid, but for me it was actually perfectly put. For our conversation we emailed our thoughts. She had emailed me her thoughts, and then a few minutes later I received another email. She had humorously written that she was taking out the garbage, when she was struck by something else she wanted to include in our conversation:

“I don’t know whether it coincided with cancer or not but I feel like it did. For the last several years I have also had this urge in January to do a couple things….It’s like a cleansing and a knowing that you’ve made it through an entire year again….and I have to gather up the books that I have started and not finished. Usually there are 2-3 on my night stand. I make a plan to either finish them or pass them on to a friend. The other thing I do is I make plans to finish all the art projects that I have wanted to do or I have started and not completed. In that category there are usually 6-8 things left undone. Paintings that need attention or cards that I haven’t quite finished. I just have this sense that I need to leave things finished in life so that when it is my time to go…things will be done.”

In essence, what Maggie is saying here is not at all morbid, and instead it is hopeful. It is like paying it forward. The definition of paying it forward is to respond to a person’s kindness to oneself by being kind to someone else. I am constantly starting projects, books, an email to a friend, and then in a flash I am so easily distracted by something else, often never returning to that original thought, project, or idea. So, I have taken her advice, and started with my books. I went through any books that I had already read, books I’d half read, and books that I knew I would never read. Then I got on the phone and called my mom and my sister to see if they might be interested in my literary pileup. I encouraged them to do the same with the books they had, and so the process of paying it forward was initiated. It is all in the way we look at things. I love the idea of not stressing about unfinished projects. Instead it’s something that we can enjoy returning to, reflecting on, and then using those projects to somehow benefit others in our life.

Resolutions can truly be anything, but most importantly they are a time to reflect. We hope that through our resolutions we can change, grow, or challenge ourselves or others. However, what my conversation with Maggie taught me is that cancer or no cancer we all need to start by just being grateful for making it through another year.

Need a resolution? Or just a fun weekend away?

Join Team Survivor Northwest for their annual retreat scheduled for the weekend of January 24th-26th at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA. It’s a time when women make new friends, renew old acquaintances, learn the latest in cancer research, and try new exercises and activities. Most of all, it’s YOUR weekend. You can participate as much or as little as you want. There will be group activities, breakout sessions, panel discussions, time to relax and chat, and an opportunity for a beach bonfire and more. Please visit our website for more information and to register!

Cognitive Complaints and Cancer Treatment: What do we know about “Chemo-Brain”?

By: Benjamin Felleman, M.S.

Jane arrives for her first appointment at the University of Washington Memory Wellness Clinic. She tells one of the staff members:

“Ever since Chemo, I’ve just felt fuzzy and haven’t been able to think as clearly as I used to. Simple tasks just feel like they take more mental effort. I used to love reading but now I can’t stay focused; sometimes I can’t find the right word to say when I’m trying to speak; and the last couple weeks I’ve forgotten about important appointments I was supposed to attend…It’s embarrassing.”

If this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing what is typically referred to as “Chemo Brain” – a constellation of subtle cognitive symptoms associated with cancer and cancer related treatments. The most commonly described cognitive symptoms experienced by cancer-survivors include difficulties with memory, attention, information-processing speed, and organization. While some of the earlier research called into question whether it was a unique phenomenon (not just features of depression, anxiety, fatigue), it is now clear that chemo-brain is real and experienced by thousands of people each year.

Research in the late 1990s found that cognitive dysfunction occurs in the majority of cancer patients on active therapy, and that impairment frequently persists long after treatment. Lately there has been a resurgence of interest in the causes of chemo-brain, the different parts of the brain affected, as well as in promising new treatments. There are now textbooks on cancer and cognition (e.g., Meyers & Perry, 2008), a cancer dedicated taskforce (e.g., International Cognition and Cancer Task Force), and cognitive rehabilitation programs specifically for cancer-survivors.

The more we learn about cancer and cognition, the clearer it becomes that chemo-brain is a complicated interaction between many factors. Rather than any one cause, cognitive dysfunction following cancer can be attributed to a combination of:

• Indirect effects of cancer itself
• Neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy treatment
• Radiation therapy
• Immunotherapy
• Surgery
• Hormonal factors
• Co-or pre-existing neurologic and psychiatric illness

Likewise, it is also difficult to highlight any one particular brain structure involved in the condition. Results from neuroimaging studies point to the Hippocampus and … Dr. Monique Cherrier, a neuropsychologist and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, tells the Survivorship Program, “The latest findings from a study using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) techniques suggests a mechanism related to changes in white matter.”

Cancer survivors who are experiencing memory and thinking problems and live in the Seattle are in a unique position; they have access to a survivorship resource that may help. A research program at Fred Hutch is actively enrolling cancer survivors experiencing cognitive problems after treatment. The program consists of a 7-week group workshop, with cognitive testing both before and after the workshop. The program’s goal is to help improve memory and thinking abilities through teaching cognitive skills that have been proven effective for people with other kinds of cognitive conditions. Preliminary findings indicate an improvement in memory and attention by participating in our cognitive training program. We also do our best to make the process as fun and enjoyable as possible! If you, a friend, or loved one is interested in learning more about the study, please call 206-667-7930.

UW MHRP contact info

Staying Healthy for the Holidays…..and Beyond!

TSNW Healthy for the Holidays picBlog written by Adrienne Coleman, Outreach Coordinator for Team Survivor Northwest

There is no denying that I absolutely love the holiday season. I love all of the decorations and lights that pop up around the city, I love that everyone seems to be in a better mood, and I even love the Christmas music that they start playing the day after Thanksgiving and don’t stop playing until after Christmas. However, for me one of the things that I don’t love about the holidays is the temptation that surrounds all of us. For me that temptation exists in the form of cookies, cupcakes, and other devilishly delicious desserts that seem to appear around every corner this time of year.

Like everyone else I would like to say that I have will power, but to be honest, especially this year, I’m feeling that will power slipping. Even though we all feel that added sense of joy during the most wonderful time of the year, I think we can all agree there is also that added presence of stress during the holidays. There is the pressure to get a tree, get the decorations out, get your presents wrapped and mailed on time, plus the many social engagements that go along with the holidays. Although these things are fun, they are also riddled with anxiety. This added stress makes the presence of those delicious desserts even more welcoming. However, even though we are surrounded by temptation, the best way to beat them is to indulge in small portions, but most importantly to keep up our current fitness routines, or best of all find a new one!

Team Survivor Northwest is a non-profit organization located in Seattle, WA that offers all free fitness classes to all female cancer survivors. We provide a broad range of fitness and health education programs to enable women cancer survivors, in any stage of treatment or recovery and at any fitness level. So, as this holiday season is in full swing, and you are feeling like you need a way to get moving, consider some of Team Survivors many programs. All of our programs are at no cost to our members and we try to make it as easy as possible to become one:

Step 1: Visit our website www. teamsurvivornw.org and fill out the membership form. Step 2: Give the medical release portion to your oncologist to sign (if you have been out of treatment for a significant amount of time, you can also have your PCP sign), Step 3: Send us this information by mail or fax, Step 4: You will receive a membership card via mail and will be an official TSNW member! Below is a list of Team Survivor’s current programs. You can visit our website to find out more about any of these:

1.) Active Women Healthy Women
2.) Hiking
3.) Walking/Running Groups
4.) Nordic Walking
5.) Cycling
6.) Snowshoe adventure trip
7.) Dragon boating
8.) Triathlon Training
9.) Yoga
10.) Annual Retreat

Beyond the holiday stressors there are so many other reasons for cancer survivors to engage in regular physical activities. The holidays are just a great time to find a program to accomplish this goal. This is the time of year when people make changes or resolutions. A great way to accomplish your resolution is to start slow. Resolutions shouldn’t be added pressure. They should be a goal that you work toward, no matter how long it takes to attain that goal. Team Survivor’s programs are designed to give you the building blocks to your future fitness foundation. According to the American Cancer Society:

“A growing number of studies have looked at the impact of physical activity on cancer recurrence and long-term survival. Exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, body composition, fatigue, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, happiness, and several quality of life factors in cancer survivors.”

So yes, the devilishly delicious desserts are a great reason to get out there and start moving, but quality of life is an even better reason. Give yourself the gift of fitness this holiday season, and it will be the gift that keeps on giving.

2014 Team Survivor Northwest’s Annual Retreat:
Looking for another great Christmas gift for yourself or someone else?! Team Survivor’s Annual Fitness Retreat is just around the corner. Each year we have an annual retreat that is an amazing weekend for all women cancer survivors and women living with cancer. It’s a time when women make new friends, renew old acquaintances, learn the latest in cancer research, and try new exercises and activities. This year it is being held at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA over the weekend of January 24th through the 26th. For more details or to register for this wonderful event please visit our website at http://www.teamsurvivornw.org.

It’s All About You: Focus. Commit. Plan

TSNW_logo_colorTeam Survivor’s 2014 Annual Retreat
Date: Friday, January 24 – Sunday, January 26, 2014
Location: Fort Worden, Port Townsend
Register: http://www.teamsurvivornw.org
Questions: board@teamsurvivornw.org

The noun form of retreat is defined as: “a place you can go to be alone, to get away from it all.” It is so rare in our overly stimulated and busy lives that opportunities arise that allow you to get away from it all, to spend time just focusing on you. At Team Survivor’s annual fitness retreat we strive to create a weekend of relaxation, self-discovery, and also opportunities to bond and connect with other women. The retreat is an amazing weekend for all women cancer survivors and women living with cancer. It’s a time when women make new friends, renew old acquaintances, learn the latest in cancer research, and try new exercises and activities. Most of all, it’s YOUR weekend. You can participate as much or as little as you want.

The great part about this weekend is that there are no expectations or itineraries. We have all been on vacations or getaways where the docket of activities is full and where time is spent racing from one activity to the next. However at the annual retreat we encourage all of our attendees to participate as much or as little as they want. There are plenty of activities to partake in; however no pressure to attend each and every one. The retreat takes place at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. It is a beautiful and serene location that allows all of our attendees to find the escape that they are seeking. TSNW Annual Retreat

I was able to attend the retreat for a day last year and I was inspired by the wonderful speakers, fitness classes, food and company. There is also something incredible about being able to spend the weekend with a group of women. There is a sense of sisterhood and camaraderie that is formed. Mary Carney, a long time Team Survivor member, wrote about the experiences of various attendees over the years and it is amazing to read the lasting effects of just one weekend:

• The TSNW “strangers” that Karen carpooled with became her close friends.

• The coaches that Sarah met set her on her exercise path. Their methods–targeted to help female cancer survivors compete–helped her through her first of many Triathlons.

• When Joan shops, she purchases the brightest vegetables in the store, because she heard a dietician’s lecture at the retreat 3 years ago.

• Gretchen went home and found a primary care provider (PCP) because of a lecture about the importance of care outside of oncology.

• Betty tried Nordic Walking at the retreat, joined the weekly walking group, and now walks both with and without the group.

• Jennifer savors the retreat’s excellent food and the restorative power of two nights away from the responsibilities of home.

• Angie, Sue and April discovered they lived quite close to each other, and formed an on-going mini-exercise group.

• The Easy Yoga class was the first EVER yoga experience for three retreat attendees, who have since found local yoga classes that they attend regularly.

• Kirsten found the bakery in town to add as a stop on future bike rides.

• The Intro to Juggling classes made juggling seem possible for all. Some continue to practice skills in the privacy of their homes!

• The Dragon boat presentation enticed Cathy to try it the following spring. She has not missed a practice since!

• During a workshop, the mysteries of her pedometer were made manifest to Colleen

• Janice felt she had regained Queen of the Playground status through her 4-square and hula-hoop triumphs. She vowed to defend her title at subsequent retreats.

• Hilary welcomes the annual opportunity to do a “Competitive Analysis” of health care providers. The retreat-sponsored lectures offer a painless way to meet health care practitioners and to hear the varied treatment views and approaches of local providers.

• After hearing individual stories at the retreats, Elizabeth was validated, and found solace in learning that she was not alone in her concerns. Everyone’s journey (treatment plan?) is individually different, but much is shared. The reassurance remains a comfort.

• Many, many women find opportunities for gratitude during quiet moments at the retreat–perhaps when skipping class to sleep in or to walk the beach. Gratitude for big and small. A ride to the retreat, a TSNW scholarship funding participation at the retreat, surviving treatment, the sound of the beach, the prospective that being with a group brings, the toothpaste in the ‘goody bag’, and the bird singing on the early morning walk. The women all strive to maintain that attitude at home.

It is amazing to read this collection of women’s shared experiences. They all have one thing in common and that is discovering something about themselves, their surroundings, their families, etc. that they didn’t have clarity on before. It is so easy to get wrapped in the chaotic ebb and flow of everyday life. It is so easy to become completely consumed and overwhelmed by our external life experiences that the internal is left behind. However, it is the internal part of each of our existence that allows us to feed or soul, to really nurture ourselves. If we are not kind to our bodies and our selves, then the rest of life just isn’t as fruitful. The retreat allows for that rare opportunity to really take time to listen to your mind, body, and soul. It is a time where you decide what you need without being influenced by work, family, and other of life’s obligations. As it was so well stated by Mary Carney’s conversations with various women who have attended the retreat, it is an opportunity to simply breathe, reboot, and maybe even make a new friend at the weekends end.

By Adrienne Coleman
Team Survivor Northwest Outreach Coordinator

Call for research participants: Communication and Quality of Life among Long-Term Cancer Survivors

Laura Ellingson, Professor of Communication at Santa Clara University, and Kristian Borofka, Student Research Assistant, are the principal investigators of a study that will explore the relationship among long-term survivors’ experiences of late effects, their perceived quality of life, and their perceptions of their ability to advocate for themselves with health care providers. Laura is a long-term survivor of osteosarcoma. In her professional life, she is a health communication researcher and professor.

Interested and eligible participants will complete an online survey which asks questions about late effects, quality of life, and communication with health care providers. The survey will take approximately 10-20 minutes to complete.

Am I eligible?
1. Age 18 years or older
2. Fluent in English
3. Survived at least 5 years past a diagnosis of any type of cancer
4. Not currently undergoing treatment for primary or secondary cancers (excluding the removal of non-melanoma skin cancers)

There is no cost to participate. If interested, you may enter your email address in a drawing to win one of three $50 Target gift cards.

If you would like further information or have questions about participating in this study, please contact Laura Ellingson OFF LIST at lellingson@scu.edu

To take the survey, click on this link, or copy and paste it into your


Play with the cards you’ve got, don’t fold!

By Nina Garkavi

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I was 22, just starting out as a young professional in the never-ending whirlwind of the Big Apple. I entered New York City, the concrete jungle and city of dreams in hopes of conquering it and leaving a mark. I took what I thought would be a short, relaxing spring vacation in Florida, but it turned out to be anything but that. My excruciating headaches led me to the ER where I was taken into the ICU and diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. One of my favorite quotes is the Yiddish proverb that says, “man plans and G-d laughs.” Despite the beach clothes that I packed in my suitcase, I was given enough hospital gowns for a five-week stay at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami and underwent two brain surgeries and other treatments. I was then transported home, to Seattle to undergo many bouts of radiation and chemotherapy while enduring the many side effects. Today, tumor free, certain side effects are still with me and serve as constant reminders of the amazing ability of the human body to adapt and beat all odds.Nina survived cancer t-shirt

When you are playing the game of life, a game we were all entered into, you get handed a deck of cards. Sometimes you can ‘go fish,’ but other times you have to wait until the new hand is dealt and new opportunities arise. The point is that you cannot cheat and pick out your cards; you have to play with the ones you’ve got. You have the power and amazing fortune to choose how you play and your ‘poker face’ determines how successful you are. Don’t let your hand define you, how you will act, and how you carry yourself throughout the day. Seek out the support that you need, engage with positive people, and prioritize.

1. Find things that make you happy every day and most importantly DO them. Schedule them as calendar events, set alarms—whatever you need to do to make certain that life doesn’t get in the way, because it will.

2. Wear happy and/or bright colors and accessories—it will affect your mood.

3. Establish a human, face-to-face social network in addition to an optional virtual one. In our current world, we’ve forgotten the basics: spend quality time with loved ones.

4. Reward yourself with something you enjoy (even for the smallest accomplishments)!

Cancer came into my life, as it likes to do – uninvited! I did not welcome it with open arms, but dealt with the fact that it pulled out a chair and joined my table. All I could do was deal with the bad and the ugly that it dragged in with it. For example, when I started losing my hair it was extremely scary and emotional. I watched clumps fall off one at a time, until I finally went in and just got my head shaved. (P.S. I highly recommend doing that to save you the long and emotional process). Something I had a minute ago, vanished. It was devastating at first, but after drying up my tears, I realized that hair does not matter!! It does not define you! You don’t have to play with it in conversations when you get nervous! It is overrated. Without it, you can focus on your personality shining and nothing hiding you or standing in your way!

Because my scar went all the way down the back of my head, I chose to cover it with bright and beautiful scarves. No hair, no eyebrows – just bright, colorful, patterned scarves! When I looked in the mirror, I saw color and happiness in the reflection. That made everything better. Even through a terrible time, I was able to give myself hope and share it with others around me. If you espouse hope and positivity, others will follow and believe in it too.

Your cancer will try to take over your life and its up to you not to let it. It’ll try its best and it’s hardest so you have to be ready to give it all you’ve got. Cherish every moment, strengthen every connection, and fight!