Changing our perspective on cancer: I...


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Changing our perspective on cancer: In memory of Karen Zeppa Coyne

Aug. 9, 2017 | by Facing Cancer Together

Karen Zeppa Coyne was a champion for living a fulfilling life with cancer.

The loving wife, mother and Look Good Feel Better ambassador sadly died July 30 after a decade long battle with the disease.

Her drive to change the perspective on cancer and its treatment will forever remain with the Foundation.

Always optimistic and hopeful, Karen didn’t want her diagnosis to be looked at with fear, sympathy or helplessness.

“The past perspective of cancer makes people feel weak, sick and fearful for the patient and at a loss of 'what to do,’” Karen wrote in a 2014 blog post for Look Good Feel Better. “Put me in the categories with those you know who are living fulfilled lives with all of the stresses and anxieties of the physical illness they carry with them.”

“We must learn to live with any disease, be it cancer, heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.”

Karen truly embodied this sentiment.

It was during her chemotherapy treatments that she discovered a passion for exercise and took part in a medical study on the effects of exercise on breast cancer patients. She carried on with her exercise routine well after treatment and shared this passion - as well as her positive outlook - with Look Good Feel Better’s online cancer support community.

“Her perspective represents and resonates with many women and teens who face cancer today,” said CEO & President Dee Diaz. “All of us at the Foundation are deeply saddened by Karen’s passing. She was a brave voice and champion of Look Good Feel Better. She will be missed by many.”

 

Read Karen’s 2014 blog post about learning to live with cancer:

 

Let’s re-think cancer

By Karen Zeppa Coyne, FacingCancer.ca

I had lunch recently with two relatively new acquaintances. As I sat there, listening to their challenges regarding the state of their health, it compelled me to wonder, "What is so different about me?"  You see, I have been diagnosed once again with cancer. I have been trying various new treatments over the past 12 months and finally seem to be on a form of oral chemo that is keeping the cancer at bay. My oncologist tells me that I will be on various drugs for the rest of my life. For a 54-year-old with a mother who just turned 89, I plan that the rest of my life is at least another 35 years or so.

Which brings me to my lunch.  My friends both had heart attacks within the past 18 months. One is in her late 40's, the other in her late 50's. What I find in common with them is that our 'diseases' bring us fear of the unknown, fear of death, anxiety over medications and side effects. Other similarities include the desire to live healthy lifestyles through exercise and better eating habits. We are all suffering from a 'chronic disease' which could become lethal at any time.

When someone is diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis, they are treated and often provided with lifestyle rehabilitation to help them live with the disease. In most cases, they go on living long lives. People treat them with care and a positive outlook. They, however, live with the scars of diagnosis and treatment, sometimes anxiety ridden.  I understand this, and I believe any cancer patient can relate to this.

The world looks at cancer diagnosis differently. However hard we try, the past perspective of cancer makes people feel weak, sick and fearful for the patient and at a loss of 'what to do'.

What if we were to change that perspective and look at cancer treatment in the same light as other chronic illness?  We receive a diagnosis, we treat it (often the treatment can be hard), we move on with direction on how to live a healthy lifestyle and live with the emotional scars that follow. The fact is that cancer touches one in three lives. What is the statistic for heart disease?  I believe it is close to one in three.

Let's focus on how to 'live' with the disease.  I want to teach those around me who fear cancer or think that cancer = death that the formula is 'any disease' = death.  Anything could come along at any time and shorten our lives.

We must learn to live with any disease, be it cancer, heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.

My mother at 89 has shown me that you can be diagnosed with life threatening disease and continue to live a long healthy life for 40 years or more.

So, do not look at me with fear, compassion, sympathy and helplessness. Put me in the categories with those you know who are living fulfilled lives with all of the stresses and anxieties of the physical illness they carry with them. We all need to accept, grow and continue to carry on knowing that we will never really know when where or how our lives may end.

Cancer is a diagnosis, not a sentence.  Chronic, yes. Deadly, yes.  But what isn't? Let's change our outlook.

 


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