Early this morning, on the Estrella lakes, nearly 200 cancer fighters, survivors, and caregivers gathered for a morning walk. This year's event was double the size of last year's. Pink. Blue. Green. White. Burgundy. Walkers wore colors representing the cancers that have touched their lives.
Jeff and Judy Gauvin, Goodyear residents and the founders of Estrella Cancer Crusaders, hosted this event. Judy is a ten-year breast cancer survivor and - together with Jeff - she has the passion to make the annual walk a success year after year.
I've had the incredible opportunity to volunteer for the Gauvins. This morning I took some photos and videos of the event to put together for their website and social media. Two of the walkers at the event were willing to be interviewed. They are mother and daughter. One a breast cancer survivor. The other a uterine cancer survivor. When asked how they felt about having the opportunity to support one another through their battles, they used the word "blessed."
"Blessed." It's the same word I apply to my journey. As a six-time, six-year vocal cord cancer survivor, I'm blessed for countless reasons. Blessed for a loving family and the few friends who stuck around once the bad news hit. Blessed for an amazing husband who had the wherewithal to move us from Colorado to Arizona for better care. Blessed for Mayo Clinic tackling my case. Blessed for being cancer-free long enough to deliver a healthy, (and completely amazing in every way), daughter early on in my journey. And blessed for the one vocal cord which still functions... because Lord knows, I have a lot to say! (Humor is a must...)
Over the years, I've picked up a few tricks to help me keep organized so I can make the most of my appointments and follow up care. Doctors have actually thanked me for having the information ready when they walk in the room as it helps refresh their memories, too. I'm hoping some of these tips might be of use to others.
Tips for keeping organized while fighting cancer...
1. Get a binder. This is the best way to keep everything in one place. Yes, we all love our computers and cell phones. But when a doctor asks you for photos from your last surgery or your newest blood results from another doctor's office, you'll want to have this handy. (Don't rely on technology to work when you only have six minutes of your doctor's time.)
My binder is sectioned into various categories. Depending on your diagnosis, you'll want to modify your binder. Be sure to leave room for insurance papers, lab results, blood tests, doctor contacts and phone numbers, appointment reminders, and notes. Notes? YES! Write down your questions before every appointment and have them handy when the doctor walks in. This way, you won't forget any questions, and you'll be ready to write down answers. (Be sure to write down the answers - or have a loved one take notes - because you may be so nervous during the appointment you could forget what your doctor said.)
2. Resources. Estrella Cancer Crusaders has put together a modest list of starting points for finding resources in Arizona to help you get the information you're looking for. These are by no means the only resources available. But, they're a good start. Click here.
3. Be sure to listen to your doctor's advice. And don't try to diagnose yourself on the Internet. Odds are you'll only scare yourself.
4. Let your family and friends know what you're going through and take advantage of their offers for help and support.
5. Listen to your gut. If something doesn't sound right or feel right... go with your gut. Ask questions. Write down your feelings. And use the information to help you make the best decisions for you. Never feel bad about getting a second opinion. Just my humble advice...
"Cancer is a word. Not a sentence." ~John Diamond
While seeing the number of people double in size for this year's awareness walk was wonderful... it would be even better if no one showed up because cancer had been wiped out.
Until then, just remember a kind word or a helping hand for someone fighting the battle can go a long way.
To Jeff and Judy, thank you for all you do to bring awareness to all kinds of cancers. Your work is greatly appreciated.