FAQ & Resources: I Have Cancer


In 2013, I was diagnosed with stage II Hodgkin's Lymphoma Cancer and documented my journey through blogging. What made my case intriguing was the number of obstacles I faced. First, my uncle passed away from cancer. Then our family dog. Later my little brother at the age of 21 was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

I went to be by my little brother's side at the beginning of treatment and then went back to where my family was stationed to prepare for the birth of our 2nd child. At the time, my husband was deployed. I had symptoms during the last part of my pregnancy but always shrugged it off to being typical symptoms and stress from being alone. I never fathomed (especially so close to my brother) that becoming anemic and a general unwell feeling would lead me to my cancer diagnosis. I never imagined my father would also get diagnosed. It's been a crazy journey.

Throughout the year of chemotherapy and keeping everyone in the loop, I was asked a series of frequently asked questions and for resources. So here, I compiled a list for those going through the same obstacles and interested in similar answers. I hope this is helpful to those going through a diagnosis or even those who have a family member going through it.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


HOW DID YOU FIND OUT YOU HAD HODGKIN'S? I was ill more often than the average person should be. I used to crash and take naps every single day and thought that was also normal.

My symptoms started off with extreme fatigue. It was to the point that I wasn't able to lift my head off of a pillow. It slowly progressed to not being able to breathe normally. I had a pressure in my chest that was easily mistaken (several times) as anxiety and panic disorder. It happened to be a 13 cm tumor, though.

Then I started uncontrollably itching, mostly on my legs. It was like a thousand mosquitos attacked my legs. It didn't take long for me to begin experiencing night sweats. I woke up with my clothing and sheets drenched in water. At the time, I didn't notice, but I did drop a lot of weight quickly. Another symptom I had was a swollen lymph node in my neck. It didn't hurt or bother me, but it was a swollen little ball that stuck slightly out of my neck. 


I had an unwell feeling altogether. I'd get dizzy from the lack of oxygen due to the tumor that I was unaware of. My gut said something was wrong.

WHAT CANCER WERE YOUR BROTHER AND DAD DIAGNOSED WITH? My brother and I were both diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. My father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. All three are considered blood cancers. My father's diagnosis is the worst out of us all because it's bone cancer, and he will be on chemo for the rest of his life. 


Update: My father passed on February 6, 2020. To read more about that: End of Life Journey: Finding Courage to Say Goodbye 

DOES CANCER RUN IN YOUR FAMILY? No. There is no cancer on either side of our families. The fact that my father, brother, and I have it at the same time is rare. It is not a known genetic disease (passed on). We also had genetic testing done and no mutating genes present. That tells our specialists that this was most likely environmentally caused.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? Cocoa Beach and Cocoa, FL (Brevard County, FL).

DO YOU HAVE CHEMO ADVICE? Check out my Treatment Advice for Hodgkin's Lymphoma and 15 Side Effects of Chemotherapy posts.

HOW CAN I HELP MY FRIEND? I wrote an article called "What cancer patients want you to know." 




FASHION AND BEAUTY

STAND UP TO CANCER: I got "Stand Up To Cancer" t-shirts as a way to bring awareness to my illness.  I handed out SU2C  bracelets to family and friends so they could be a part of my journey too. I always suggest finding something that represents and brings awareness to your illness. 

WIGS: This is probably the thing I get asked the most when it comes to cancer treatments! Hair loss can be traumatizing, especially for women. I got ALL of my wigs off of eBay and Amazon! My favorite is the LACE FRONT WIGS because they look the most realistic. The two stores I like the most on eBay are WIG GLAMOUR and WIG FEVER



HEADPIECES: I went to department stores for scarves, but I highly suggest beanies. Pictured is a beanie I got off of an Etsy store called Gypsy Love Headbands.


EYEBROWS: Unfortunately, your eyebrows may fall out during chemotherapy sessions. I used a stencil as a guide to drawing them on since I had a completely empty slate. The stencil I used was from Anastasia Beverly Hills, which is a cosmetic product that specializes in eyebrows. Typically you would use a pencil to draw on eyebrows, but I actually used powder too. The powder I used was a kit from Urban Decay. You want to use the lightest color (blondish) so that it's not apparent. Go to your local makeup store for assistance. Let the ladies know your situation, and they should be able to help you out and may even give you a makeover! 


FALSE LASHESArdell Natural Multipack and Kiss Look So Natural Lash multipacks have 5 pairs of lashes in each pack (found in the cosmetics section at most stores). False lashes are reusable after one wear. I suggest the Kiss Ever EZ Lash Adhesive clear glue with aloe to glue the lashes on.

CONCEALER: When going through treatment, your skin is going to show the fact that you're poisoning your body. If you make an effort to go out, I highly suggest using a chemical-free concealer for your under eyes. To help the "sick eye" look, I also recommend a toxin-free under eye cream. Check out Brilliant Eye Brightener by Thrive Cosmetics and Eyebright Overnight Regenerative Serum by Drifting by the Sea.

SKINCARE: The inside of your body is taking a significant beating, and it's going to show on the outside. There are things you can do to help guide your skin to recover. I suggest Drifting by the Sea Organic Skincare because not only are their products eco-friendly but also toxic-free. 






RESOURCES AND INFORMATION


916-706-0599
Advocacy, medical information, patient education, research, legislation, prevent, and referrals.

Air Care Alliance
888-260-9707
Offers a central listing of free transportation services provided by volunteer pilots and charitable aviation groups.

Air Charity Network
877-621-7177
Coordinates free air transportation for children and adults in need through various organizations around the United States.

Air Compassion for Veterans
857-228-4636
Provides free air and ground transportation for ill, injured, and wounded veterans and their families for medical care.

Along Comes Hope
805-322-1423
Provides support of the families of children with cancer through financial assistance with travel for treatment, creative, emotional support programs, and advocacy to promote policy changes, awareness, and education.

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
866-423-3965
The largest scientific organization in the world focused on every aspect of cancer research.

American Brain Tumor Association
800-886-2282
Support and education for people living with cancer and their families and friends.

American Cancer Society (ACS)
800-ACS-2345
A website with resources and information about the tall type of cancer, news stories, research information, statistics, alternative approaches, and tips for living with cancer.

American Childhood Cancer Organization
Maintains a list of organizations offering financial assistance.

American Lung Association
800-586-4872
Resources, patient education, prevention, and support groups.

Angel Airline Samaritans
Facilitates no-cost or reduced rate commercial airline tickets to and from distant specialized medical evaluations or treatments for people with cancer in need and their families.

Angel Flight East
215-358-1900
A non-profit organization dedicated to servicing the community by facilitating free air transportation for children and adults with medical conditions who need to get to treatment far from home.

Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network
888-901-2666
Advocacy, support groups, and patient education.

Breast Advocate App for iPhone and Android
This free app provides anyone diagnosed with breast cancer or at risk of developing breast cancer a voice in the decisions surrounding surgery.

Breastcancer.org
A non-profit organization dedicated to providing the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer.

Bringing Hope Home
484-580-8395
A non-profit organization that provides local families with cancer through financial and emotional support.

Cancer And Careers
646-929-8032
A program of the CEW Foundations, the charitable arm of Cosmetic Executive Women, INc., A New York-bases non-profit organization of executives in the beauty, cosmetics, fragrance, and related industries.

CancerCare
800-813-4673
Provides limited financial assistance for co-pays, transportation, home care, and childcare.

Cancer Connect
You are not alone-This online community is a fully moderated, peer-to-peer support group for cancer patients and caregivers.

Cancer Family Relief Fund
A charitable organization that encourages and facilitates grants to children whose parent or guardian is struggling with a diagnosis of cancer.

Cancer Support Community (CSC)
888-793-9355
Offers a comprehensive menu of personalized and essential services, including support groups, counseling, education, and healthy lifestyle programs.

Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (CFAC)
A group of national organizations that provide financial help to patients.

Candlelighters of Brevard
321-751-4008
A non-profit organization focusing on children.

Caring Bridge
651-452-7940
A non-profit web service that connects family and friends during a critical illness, treatment, or recovery.

Corporate Angel Network
914-328-1313
Arranges free air transportation of people with cancer traveling to treatment using empty seats on private and corporate jets.

Good Days
877-968-7233
Provides financial support by covering co-pays for those with life-altering conditions.

Healthcare Hospitality Network
800-542-9730
An association of more than 200 non-profit organizations that provide lodging and support services to patients, families, and their loved ones who are receiving medical treatment away from home.

Health Well Foundation
800-675-8416
A nationally recognized independent non-profit organization providing access to life-changing medical treatments they otherwise would not be able to afford.

Hope Lodge
800-227-2345
Gives people with cancer and their caregivers a free place to stay while receiving treatment in another city.

Joe's House
877-563-7468
A non-profit organization providing a nation-wide online service that helps people with cancer and their families find a place to stay when traveling away from home for medical treatment.

Kidney Cancer Association
800-950-9132
Advocacy, individual counseling, medical and patient education, and referrals.

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
800-955-4572
Advocacy, financial assistance, medical information, patient education, and referrals.

LifeLine Pilots
800-822-7972
Facilities free air transportation through volunteer pilots of a financially distressed passenger with medical and humanitarian needs.

LIVESTRONG
855-220-7777
Resources, medical information, patient education, and survivorship.

Lolly's Locks
240-428-1985
A non-profit organization dedicated to providing high-quality wigs to cancer patients suffering hair loss side-effects of chemotherapy.

Look Good...Feel Better
800-395-LOOK
A national public service program to help women offset appearance-related changes from cancer treatment.

LympheDIVAs
866-411-DIVA
Medically correct compression apparel for women with post-breast cancer lymphedema.

Medication assistance programs grid for patients (PDF)
Complied, updated, and provide by Wendalyn Andrews, Practice Manager, Division of Hematology/Oncology.

Male Breast Cancer Coalition
Providing an online space for men with breast cancer to share their stories and read the stories of others.

Mercy Medical Angels
888-675-1405
Offers free or low-cost transportation for funding medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Network
888-500-0370
National, independent, non-profit, dedicated to the unique concerns of the women and men living with metastatic breast cancer.

My Hope Chest
727-642-4243
Provides funding for uninsured women who desire reconstruction to have it.

MyLifeLine.org
A non-profit organization that encourages cancer patients and caregiving to create free personalized websites.

National Brain Tumor Society
800-770-8287
Advocacy, resources, medical information, patient education, peer matching, referrals, and support group.

National Cervical Cancer Coalition
800-685-5531
Counseling, insurance information, patient education, peer matching, referrals, and survivorship.

National Children's Cancer Society
314-241-1600
Advocacy, children's services, financial assistance, housing assistance, insurance information, patient education referrals, and transportation assistance.

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
888-650-9127
Advocacy, patient education, referrals, insurance information, survivorship, and resources.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
888.658-8898
Advocacy, hospice, counseling, medical info, patient education, and referrals.

National Lymphedema Network
800-541-3259
Advocacy, counseling, patient education, peer matching, referrals, and support groups.

National Marrow Donor Program
800-627-7692
Resources, financial assistance, housing assistance, counseling, insurance info, patient education, referrals, transplant information, and support.

National Organization for Rare Disorders
800-999-6673
Medication assistance.

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
888-682-7426
Advocacy, culturally specific resources, patient education, and referrals.

NeedyMeds.com
800-503-6897
Helping people locate assistance programs to help them afford their medications and other healthcare costs.

OncoLink
215-349-8895
The University of Pennsylvania's Cancer Center runs OncoLink, a database that provides comprehensive information about specific types of cancer, updates on cancer treatments, and new research advances.

PALS (Patient AirLift Services)
888-818-1231
Arranges free air transportation for people for medical diagnosis, treatment, or follow-up who cannot afford or are unable to fly commercially.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
877-272-6226
Advocacy, individual counseling, patient education, peer matching, referrals, and support groups.

Patient Access Network Foundation
866-316-7263
Assists patients with out-of-pocket costs associated with their treatment.

Patient Services, Inc.
800-366-7741
Provides assistance with insurance premiums and co-payments for people with chronic diseases.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Helps qualifying patients who lack prescription drug coverage obtain the medications they need.

Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN)
866-316-PANF
A non-profit group dedicated to assisting those who cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs associated with treatment needs.

Prostate Cancer Foundation
800-757-2873
Advocacy, patient education, and referrals.

Ronald McDonald House Charities
630-623-7048
Offer free or reduced-cost lodging for families of seriously ill children who are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.

RxHope.comRxHope.com
Helps patients obtain free or low-cost prescription medications.

The Pink Fund
877-234-PINK
Provide short--term financial aid to breast cancer patients in active treatment.

SHARE
212-719-0364
A network and community of women affected by breast and ovarian cancers.

Sharsheret
866-474-2774
Culturally sensitive support to young Jewish women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer as well as to those facing the risk of developing breast cancer.

Sisters Network
866-781-1808
Committed to increasing local and national attention not the devastating impact that breast cancer has in the African American community

The Assist Fund
855-845-3663
Provides financial support to the chronically ill patient with high-cost medications.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
800-955-4572
The patient financial aid program provides limited financial assistance to help defray treatment-related expenses for patients diagnosed with blood cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma.

The National Foundation for Transplants
800-489-3863
Provides fundraising assistance for patients needing transplants, including bone marrow and stem cell transplants.

The Patient Advocate Foundation
800-532-5274
Provides educations, legal counseling, and referrals for people with cancer who need assistance managing insurance, financial, debt crisis, and job discrimination issues.

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults
888-393-3863
Advocacy, educational materials, patient matching, referrals, support groups, and survivorship.

Thyroid Cancer Survivor's Association
877-588-7904
Advocacy, resources, counseling, education, and referrals.

Triage Cancer
424-258-4NAV
Dedicated to helping survivors, caregivers, and health care professionals navigate cancer survivorship issues.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation
877-880-TNBC
Ignites interest in the study of triple-negative breast cancer among researchers, physicians, educators, and scientists.

Young Survival Coalition (YSC)
977-YSC-1011
A non-profit network of breast cancer survivors and supporters dedicated to the concerns and issues that are unique to young women and breast cancer.

Zero - The Project to End Prostate Cancer
888-245-9455
Patient educations, prevent, detection, referrals, and advocacy.


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Have other information I can add here?  Comment below with additional resources, programs, and products that may help women going through cancer treatments.