Brian Wogensen is a high school English teacher and department chair at a private school for girls in Los Angeles. In 2005, his wife, Liz Ganem, was diagnosed with breast cancer, five weeks after learning that she was pregnant. Seven years after the successful completion of treatment—and the healthy birth of their son—Liz was diagnosed with and treated for a new breast cancer.
Shannon Murphy, psychotherapist and mindfulness practitioner, was diagnosed in 2007 with breast cancer. She has been cancer free for ten years. Shannon talks about her decision to attend to the emotional aspects of cancer throughout her journey. She recounts speaking with cancer survivors to understand how they coped with the trauma of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment, and to understand how this experience could lead to profound personal change. She also talks about the transformative aspects of this traumatic experience and how facing a mortal danger led to healing of a damaged relationship. She also talks about how the experience strengthened her practice of mindfulness and meditation, leading to transformative personal growth.
Today I’m speaking with Lisa Gainsley, certified massage and lymphedema therapist, who works primarily with cancer patients. Lisa talks about how her journey of exploration—beginning with the academic study of cultural anthropology and religion, her training as a healer in various modalities, and her eventual specialization in the lymphatic system—brought her to the meaningful work of facilitating others in their own healing journey. She also talks about how her mother’s experience with lung cancer and her death when Lisa was 13 years old set her on a path of working with cancer patients as well as her own healing, wellness, and care of self.
People undergoing cancer treatments often seek healing and support beyond the confines of oncology and traditional medical practice. Many seek to participate in their own therapeutic journey via a variety of other healing modalities.
Today I’m speaking with Sharon Holly, yoga therapist, who in 2010 began a journey toward finding a new professional path as she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Sharon talks about her work as a yoga therapist, working in an individualized way with people undergoing treatment for and living with cancer. Sharon explains the yoga therapy philosophy as an integrative process of looking at the person as a whole, helping clients develop agency to become part of the healing process, and discovering what will help that won’t harm.
The fear that patients and their loved ones experience is one of the most difficult aspects of a cancer diagnosis. In addition to managing the fear of death, how do cancer patients with kids cope with the fear that their children will lose a parent?
Today I’m speaking with Marissa Weiss, mother, teacher, and dancer, who in 2016 was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction as part of her complex cancer treatment. Marissa talks about dealing with the overwhelming fear that her young children might grow up without their mother and how her husband’s sense of humor and the laughter they shared served an antidote to the terror they experienced throughout the process. Marissa also reflects on the very personal decision to have a double mastectomy and how she has coped with trauma by being in the moment, making meaning, and finding purpose in her cancer experience.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a shock, even to medical professionals who are well aware that cancer can happen to anyone. How does one cope with and respond to the changes in self-perception that occur when cancer intervenes?
Today, I speak with Catherine McDonough, yoga teacher and nurse practitioner, who in 2017 was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. We explore Catherine’s use of yoga and meditation as complementary practices to traditional oncology protocols. Catherine talks about her coping strategy of simplifying and becoming more mindful, less external. She also explores how this dreaded diagnosis has given her a measure of psychological freedom that has promoted her to lighten her attachment to things and leave a smaller footprint in her wake.
Finding wellness during and after cancer treatment can be challenging. Given the physical and emotional rigors of treatment and its aftermath, how can one develop and nurture a state of wellness that encompasses the mind, body, and spirit?
In this episode I talk with Kris Ellenberg, who in 2011 was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. We explore Kris’s strategies for finding wellness during and after her cancer treatment. Kris talks about developing a practice around wellness that supplemented her medical treatments for cancer with less conventional approaches such as Gyrotonics, yoga, lymphatic massage, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, meditation, and hypnotherapy. We also discuss the roles that community and social support, spiritual practice, and simply taking care of one’s self play in the active pursuit of wellness.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can make you feel like you’ve been plucked out of your familiar existence and dropped onto an unfamiliar planet. How does one cope with this altered life circumstance when faced with a terrain that is not only unfamiliar but also deeply frightening and threatening to one’s very existence?
In today’s episode of Real Cancer, I talk with Rory Green, psychotherapist and writing coach, who in 2015 was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. We explore Rory’s strategies for navigating feelings of fear and anxiety, her newfound appreciation for the mundane details of everyday life, and the gratitude practice she has maintained as a result of her diagnosis and treatment. We conclude with a discussion of the counsel that Rory has shared with others who are newly diagnosed with cancer or other life altering situations.
Family and friends can be your most vital supporters when you’re diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment, but your relationships with loved ones can also be strained by this stressful experience. Just when you most need their unstinting support, your loved ones are also dealing with the extreme uncertainty created by a cancer diagnoses, and this may make it hard to provide the support that is needed. The fear experienced by everybody affected by a cancer diagnoses can strengthen some bonds and fray others.
What happens when treatment undertaken in an attempt to extend your life ends up making you feel alienated from your community? How do you deal with the loss of pleasure and connection to the feeling of well-being that makes life worth living?
In today’s episode, I talk with Liz Ganem, writer and middle school teacher. Liz was treated twice—in 2006, when she was pregnant with her son, and again in 2013—for two different for breast cancers. Together we explore our experiences with support from family and friends, as well as the challenges of being in social situations during this time. We conclude with a discussion of some of the strategies that helped us to navigate this tricky time.