BarbaraTako

Posting since January 19, 2016

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Posts I've Started
Article Talk: Stress Reduction May Lower Cancer Recurrence Rates
August 28, 2017
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Surprise! Cancer Treatment Causes Difficult Emotions
August 02, 2016
Cancer wreaked havoc on my mental state and emotions. It really wasn’t cancer itself that did it, rather it was the surgical menopause and the hormonal effects of chemotherapy, steroids, radiation, fear of recurrence and fatigue that weighed on my mind and my feelings. Couldn't someone have warned me?

I already felt bad for getting cancer, as though I had somehow stepped into something yucky that everyone else had managed to see and to walk around. What did I do wrong? Why did I get cancer? These are the questions many cancer patients ask. What did I do? We want to know so we don’t do it again. Many of those answers aren’t available yet, but the doctors try to be supportive and commence ...

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After Breast Cancer, Looking Normal Isn't Always Feeling Normal
August 02, 2016
I was done with chemotherapy! I was done with radiation! I was done with multiple surgeries, including having my ovaries and uterus removed! My hair was back, and there was some color in my face again! So what was the problem? I didn’t feel normal. In fact, I felt anything but normal. Truly, my weakened immune system landed me back in the hospital with an intestinal infection (C. diff), which is so nasty that it wasn’t a good idea to have visitors.

There is an unhappy little surprise for cancer chemotherapy survivors after their hair grows back. Our bodies are still weakened, and maybe even damaged from treatments. Many breast cancer survivors are on another medication for at least an additional five years that has its ...

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Tired of Cancer Fatigue: Let Me Off Cancer's Merry-Go-Round
June 18, 2016
Cancer fatigue feels ongoing to me. I won’t let it win. I am trying different things to cope, and yet the fatigue continues for me even after six years out from my first cancer diagnosis. I have tried getting plenty of rest. I completed a sleep study. I saw a sleep psychotherapist. Blood work and PET scans have all been done. I am currently trying melatonin. My next steps, the ones I actually hold the highest hopes for, are improving my diet and exercise habits.

Maybe I am just getting old? If so, those feelings of fatigue still correlated suspiciously with my chemotherapy treatments, surgeries, radiation and beyond. Chemotherapy is a big deal. It saved my life. It changed my hormones. I also suspect ...

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Fear of Recurrence: Practice Makes It Better
April 17, 2016
“I am afraid of my cancer coming back.”

Every time I say it or think that, it is an acknowledgement of a fundamental truth for me — uncertainty. Every time I choose to face it, a little bit of cancer’s power over me is reduced. “Fear of recurrence” is the technical name. I learned that the doctors’ jobs were to save my life. My job was to cope with the fear and uncertainty … for life.

It is the ongoing fear and uncertainty that impacts my thoughts and emotions. A cancer diagnosis means being sentenced to a lifetime of conscious uncertainty — whether someone is diagnosed in their 20s or up into their 80s and beyond.

The uncertainty is difficult because most ...

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I Was a Bad Sport About My Cancer
April 06, 2016
I was a bad sport about my first cancer. Please learn from me.

At the time of my first diagnosis of breast cancer at age 46, I was very scared and became extremely self-focused for many months. Looking back at that more than five years later, I am not happy about it. I am not proud of it. At the time, I was blessed with faith, family and friends, but I still wasn’t gracious about having cancer.

My lack of grace about my breast cancer hurt my teenage daughters and husband. I am truly sorry. I regret it. I had choices about how I handled things, and I wish I had done some of them differently.

I was diligent. I researched. I ...

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Cancer Is Lonely Enough, Don't Do Cancer Alone
March 10, 2016
Cancer is a lonely disease. This disease is a life-changing experience compared to the daily events of the family and friends that surround you. They want to help, and yet they just may not always understand what you are experiencing — at least that is how I felt. Cancer feels isolating and can be very hard during the moments when you just want to talk to someone who “gets it.”

As a two-time survivor who is over five and half years out from my first cancer, I would encourage newly diagnosed cancer survivors not to do cancer alone. Find someone, or better yet, multiple someones to discuss and process your cancer experiences.

Ideally, a live support group with real live fellow cancer survivors ...

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Do I Trust My Body After Cancer? No.
February 04, 2016
Do I trust my body after cancer? Emphatically no! My body betrayed me with breast cancer and then again with melanoma. My cancer survivor’s body has betrayed me twice, so there is no reason to think that it can’t happen again, or again and again. I continue to be surprised at the number of cancer survivors who have dealt with two or more cancers.

I wait in hope for medical research to provide some answers and, most importantly, some solutions. I do vow to take better care of my body after my cancers. I am working on healthier eating and exercise. I know there are studies that show those behaviors can decrease my chances of cancer recurrence by a significant amount. That said, it ...

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Tired of Cancer and the Uncertainty It Brings
January 28, 2016
I am stalling in making my appointments to see my doctors in 2016. It isn’t rational. I know I need to be monitored and checked out regularly. I am just tired of my cancers. Sometimes people are tired of their spouse or a family member or their home or job. Today, I am tired of cancer.

Ironically, it is probably normal sometimes to be tired of something that has frightened me, worn me down and taken its pound of flesh in so many ways. Sheepishly, I feel a little stupid — tired of this problem? The universe could certainly send me a different one to keep me busy for a while. No, thank you. I am not sending out a request for another problem. ...

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Safety Net Gone: A Breast Cancer Survivor Stops Anastrazole
January 19, 2016
Recently, I put the bottle of anastrazole down by the household batteries and other things that need to go to the recycling center. I am disposing of a safety net in a situation that doesn’t offer a guarantee that it will be OK. My chemotherapy was also a safety net that didn’t offer a guarantee. Cancer creates a lifetime of uncertainty.

A couple days ago, I got rid of the small just-in-case-I-forget bottle I kept in my purse, for when I might be out and suddenly realize I forgot to take my estrogen suppressant. I remember now that there is another small bottle up at the cabin to safely dispose of too. The decision is made. No sense hanging on to old medicine, ...

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January 01, 1970

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January 01, 1970

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January 01, 1970

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Comments I've Made
Tired, Tired of Being Tired, but not Quitting
November 16, 2015
Call it tired. Call it fatigue. Call it a result of cancer or cancer’s treatment — or not. I would simply like to have the energy to “pop” out of bed and begin my day like I began my days before cancer. Most days I wake to find myself still tired, again. No, I am not depressed — I get out of bed every day. I like my life. I just want more energy to apply to my life. After breast cancer over five years ago and melanoma over one year ago, I want my drive back. I am motivated to live. I want to live. I just want to live more energetically. As a cancer survivor, do you struggle with this too?

The ...

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Cancer Beginners: Tips from a Two-Time Survivor
October 23, 2015
Often, success in life doesn’t come from intelligence or education or ability. It comes from stubbornness. I couldn’t think my way out of cancer no matter how much I desperately wanted a magic shortcut. I also didn’t have the magic ability to make my cancer go away. Cancer is a disease and I just had to work my way through it — first being diagnosed, then being treated for it and finally, ongoing survivorship. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it ... just get through it.

Persistence was and continues to be the key for me. Patience was a skill I tried to develop along the way, too. I learned that patience goes well with persistence. Patience can be ...

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Unhappy During Pink October
October 06, 2015
Sometimes October “pink” stinks. I am quiet during Breast Cancer Awareness month each year. I hunker down and just try to get through it. Am I being a bad sport? Maybe.

As a two-time cancer survivor, including breast cancer, I lament the lack of support and research for other stages, grades and types of breast cancer, and all other cancers. Yes, awareness and early detection are important for breast cancer survival but other issues with cancer are important too.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, one of my doctors told me I was very fortunate — to have an early stage garden-variety of breast cancer. I didn’t feel fortunate, though, not at all. I didn’t appropriately appreciate or comprehend his remark ...

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Chemo Brain: A Breast Cancer Survivor's Commentary
September 24, 2015
Chemo brain. I am glad the “experts” have finally decided that chemo brain is real. Gee, thanks. What were they thinking? I mean, let’s put harsh chemicals to kill the cancer in our bodies, call it chemotherapy, add a few steroids to help manage side effects, possibly remove hormone-generating organs like the ovaries and uterus if they aren’t already shut down by the chemo, and then conclude for a few years with some medications that suppress any poor hormones that might be left.

After that, let’s turn around and try to believe that none of that impacts the organ called the brain? In a previous post, I mentioned I can’t donate a kidney because of cancer, but hey, maybe the kidney got hurt by ...

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More Doctor Time, More Understanding
September 15, 2015
I wish my doctors knew what it felt like to have breast cancer, though I would never wish cancer on anybody, ever. I think I am really making more of a complaint in some ways about insurance companies — I wish insurance companies recognized the emotional impact of hearing, “you have cancer” and allowed oncology doctors to spend more time during the patient visits. When I think about my initial diagnosis and treatments, the nurses and the physician assistants were allowed more time with patients than the doctors.

Newly diagnosed, I had a lot of questions for my doctors. The PA and the nurses wound up answering many of my questions, or having to write them down, check with the doctors, and then get ...

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It Gets Better After the Shock of an Initial Cancer Diagnosis
August 26, 2015
Today I am in my fifties. I got breast cancer at age 46, just before my 47th birthday. I remember feeling bad for my husband — the day after my first chemotherapy, he was trying to make a small family birthday “celebration” for me. Needless to say, my mind was elsewhere, and I had no idea what would be “safe” to eat that evening or what would happen the first time chemo drugs were in my body.

My life was in the process of changing dramatically and I just wanted to survive. I desperately wanted my old life back. I was in tears, in shock and in grief as I began to mourn something that still felt too big to comprehend. My life had ...

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Cancer and Chemo Side Effects: I Am Fortunate and Tainted
July 24, 2015
During and since chemotherapy to treat my breast cancer, a few of the toes on my right foot go numb, and sometimes a few fingers on either hand for a very short period of time. I think this is called peripheral neuropathy. Now at over five years out from diagnosis, this still happens. It isn’t a big deal. It doesn’t really affect my walking or the use of my handsn — I am lucky.

To top that off, every time I fly, because of lymphedema issues, I have a compression vest and compression arm sleeve to wear. They are hot and uncomfortable, and sometimes TSA doesn’t know what to make of them. They are reminders to me, singing “one of these is not like ...

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Cancer Fatigue: Tired of Being Tired
July 21, 2015
When I talk to the doctors about my fatigue, it feels like the doctors nod sympathetically and then metaphorically pat me on my head and send me on my way. The exams, tests and blood work have been completed. There is nothing tangible for them to treat. But, hey, I am tired, and I am sick and tired of being tired.

"The experts" say fatigue is a common, lingering side effect of cancer treatment. I am almost five years out and I have talked to other breast cancer patients that far out who also struggle with fatigue. What’s the deal? What is the answer? Is there an answer? Do other survivors struggle with this too?

One breast cancer survivor told me she was ...

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Cancer Emotional Survival 101: Tips for Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones
June 26, 2015
Back in the day, there were summaries of classical books and plays that provide a summarized version of the complete story (these summaries acutally still exist today). Here is the short summary of suggestions for someone newly diagnosed with cancer as written by me, someone who has been through breast cancer and melanoma.

Every cancer and every cancer patient are unique, and there are no true shortcuts through cancer. I wish there were. Still, I am hoping these ideas will help you. These are the thoughts I wish I could have heard and used to cope with the feelings of a cancer diagnosis right after hearing the words “You have cancer.” Maybe they will help you or someone you love. Here is the short ...

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Different Cancers, Different Journeys: One Problem With Lack of Public's Education
June 22, 2015
After I had cancer (breast cancer and melanoma), I wrote a book to help other cancer survivors. As a motivational speaker and a published writer, it was my way to turn bad events into something good to help fellow cancer patients. My book was based on my personal journaling and my research. I was not a doctor or a psychotherapist. I was and I currently am a cancer survivor who wants to help fellow cancer survivors and their loved ones.

It seemed that the doctors were there to treat the physical issues of cancer but that there was a shortage of resources to address the mental and emotional aspects of cancer — the uncertainty, worry and lingering side effects from treatment. I wrote the ...

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Five-Year Breast Cancer Anniversary
June 02, 2015
Anniversaries, birthdays and major life events now matter more. Today was an interesting day. I had appointments with my medical oncologist and my surgical oncologist. This was my five-year check-up. I was pretty sure from my five-year mammogram and from my five-year breast MRI that everything was currently OK but, as a cancer survivor, I never really know anymore. Both doctors agreed that things looked good. I am happy, blessed and grateful. I am a little over a year out on my melanoma, but that is a different story for another day.

As a survivor though, one never knows from day to day or year to year. The reality is that cancer can come back at anytime. It can come back before five years, ...

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Are You Rushing Your Body to Heal?
May 27, 2015
Wow. Awesome points, Debbie. Thank you for bringing this up and creating a discussion. I am five years out from breast cancer and still struggle with fatigue. I don't have the same body I had before cancer. I hope your article helps give us, as women, permission to give our bodies the time they need to heal. Thank you!!

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Facing Cancer with Courage and Grace or Tears and Fears? Me, I cried--a lot by Barbara Tako, breast cancer and melanoma survivor
April 14, 2015
Yes, I agree with your comments. Sometimes I wonder if my recovery from chemotherapy would have been faster if I felt I could have been simply a patient with a disease rather than a "brave breast cancer warrior" who was expected to "soldier on." When I got the melanoma last year, it seemed simpler in those regards. That said, if someone with the disease of breast cancer finds comfort in participating in the breast cancer "culture," I would not deny them that comfort and support. It probably depends on the individual and how much he or she identifies with their disease. Does that make sense?

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Facing Cancer with Courage and Grace or Tears and Fears? Me, I cried--a lot by Barbara Tako, breast cancer and melanoma survivor
April 02, 2015
Some breast cancer survivors get complimented for facing their cancer treatment with courage and grace. I look back, four years out from chemotherapy, and I think, I got through my cancer with tears and fears. Are some people braver then others? Or do we differ in how we show our tears and fears or how much the different treatments mess up our hormones and emotions in the process? I don’t know. I cried and worried my way through breast cancer treatment and the hormone driven and steroid driven emotional roller coast ride of my surgeries and treatments. I didn’t put a graceful face forward. My close friends and immediate family saw and heard extensively about my tears and fears. Looking back, maybe I should have spared ...

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Practicing Stress Management Improves Long-Term Mood, Quality of Life in Women with Breast Cancer
April 02, 2015
I think post active treatment care of physical, mental, and emotional health is critical for quality of survivorship. We are all struggling with ongoing uncertainty to varying degrees. As a breast cancer and melanoma survivor, I wrote the book I wish someone had handed to me at the time of my first diagnosis "Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools--We'll get you through this." It covers initial diagnosis, active treatment, and afterwards. I also wrote a clutter and home organizing book before my diagnosis and I found that simplifying my life helped me get through my cancers better, plus, some women I know like to de-clutter while they can't sleep from the steroids!

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