Meet Mary

Mary Sheskey MSW, LSW

For more than 40 years, my professional career had been as a graphic and package designer. I had provided services to corporations and companies across the country that depended on my talent to bring their products to market. As a business owner, I was used to being in control. But when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, that changed. I experienced the devastating emotional, physical, psychological, financial and spiritual repercussions that come with a cancer diagnosis.

In April 2013, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a fast-moving, invasive cancer that had to be addressed immediately. Although I had owned my own business for more than 30 years, high health care costs and pre-existing conditions meant I was not able to get insurance. Without insurance coverage, my doctor wouldn’t make an appointment.

I was devastated, but I knew I had to get medical care, so I found the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project through the State of Ohio, which is a type of Medicaid coverage based on income, and they sent me to OhioHealth, where I had surgery and chemotherapy.

During my first month after diagnosis, I had medical appointments every day. As I sat in waiting rooms filling out general information for the thousandth time, I felt like something, or rather, someone was missing from my treatment. Despite having a nurse navigator, radiologist, oncologist, surgeon, and chemo nurse, I felt alone and helpless. In this time when I needed support the most, I had no one who could help me put my life back together after it had changed so dramatically.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it becomes your whole focus. There are constant appointments and doctors and nurses calling to check in. But after treatment ends there’s nothing – no appointments, no one asking how you’re doing.

I knew I needed support and help at this pivotal point, and I knew I was not the only person who felt this way. Every woman I encountered during my treatment was potentially facing the same feeling: a void, a loss. Now what?

These feelings drove me to return to college, 40 years after receiving my bachelor’s degree. I saw that there was a need for someone else to be part of the health care team, such as a social worker, to help patients and caregivers understand how the cancer would impact all aspects of their lives. I wanted to be that person, so I pursued a master’s degree in social work. I was motivated to help ensure that no one else had to endure the same helplessness that I did during my treatment.

In July of 2018, I began volunteering with Cancer Support Community Central Ohio. I was impressed with the caring, community environment where I could provide support to others when they needed it most. Fortunately, a position opened, and I was hired in November. Now, as the Clinical Program Coordinator at Cancer Support Community, I have the opportunity to help survivors, caretakers and their families discover the benefits of our programs that can help them strengthen themselves in body, mind and spirit to help them fight the emotional and social effects of cancer.

More importantly to me, as a social worker, I get to be that missing part in someone else’s treatment that I felt I did not have during my own. Cancer Support Community has allowed me to fulfill my dream of working as a social worker with cancer survivors and caretakers to help them develop the tools that they need to get through their cancer journey.  My passion is to help others, like myself, find the knowledge and strength to win back their lives. I want others to know that they may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have them.

At Cancer Support Community, we provide a community where people can support each other, grow and learn. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our participants, and with each person I interact with, I am reminded of why I became a social worker.

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Mary Sheskey MSW, LSW For more than 40 years, my professional career had been as a graphic and package designer. I had provided services to corporations and companies across the country that depended on my talent to bring their products to market. As a business owner, I was used to being in control. But when… Read more.

Meet Trish

Trish’s Story

The page on my calendar had turned to November 2017. It was time to start planning for the holidays, which, in my family, is a season of great celebration filled with joy and laughter, chilly days spent baking, shopping, and decorating, and time spent with family and friends.

However, that holiday season would be different. I had my annual mammogram that month and a small mass was found that turned out to be Stage 1 breast cancer. A surgery date was scheduled for the week of Christmas.  I was numb. It was the holidays. How could I tell friends and family that I had cancer at this time of year? In addition, I was the person who usually was taking care of others. I thought I could cope with my diagnosis initially with only the help of my husband, and I decided not to tell anyone until my surgery was completed.

Thankfully, surgery went well; that was my Christmas present. It was time to tell other family members and friends about my cancer.

Some were upset that I hadn’t told them sooner, but some treated me with cautious optimism. As long as I was walking and “looking okay,” everyone assumed I was fine. I wasn’t. I needed help, but I found it difficult to ask for it.

On my final day of radiation, I rang the bell, signifying the end of my treatment. But it also signified the end of four months of my medical team being in contact with me several times a week to check on my progress, asking if I had any questions and if I was doing okay, and telling me what to expect next. The phone stopped ringing. No more ongoing appointments were scheduled. Now what? I felt alone, and all the emotions that I had kept to myself were starting to surface.

During an appointment in radiation oncology, I read a Cancer Support Community newsletter and noticed the organization offered a wide array of programs, including a breast cancer support group, nutrition classes, a book club, and meditation – all of which interested me. A few days later, I saw a segment on television about Cancer Support Community. I decided to call. It was a decision that changed my outlook and my life.

I attended my first breast cancer support meeting, confident that I would be able to get through it without shedding a tear when it was time for me to tell my story. I wanted to show I was strong. I was wrong. Sitting among a group of amazing, resilient and compassionate women who had undergone their own unique breast cancer journeys, I felt empowered to share my story. And my pent-up emotions came pouring out.

The others patiently listened, and I received advice and information that only can be exchanged among women who have endured a similar experience. Most importantly, I developed sincere friendships that continue to flourish.

The support group has provided so much comfort and hope. Knowing that I’m not the only one who feels this way helps me make it through each day. I’ve met people I know will be my friends for the rest of our lives. We’re there for each other when one of us gets depressed or has a bad day. And we share in each other’s happiness and joyful times.

When I attend other programs and events at Cancer Support Community, I know my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being will be enriched. During the Cooking for Wellness classes, not only do participants learn to prepare nutritious meals, but it’s also a venue to share meal ideas with other cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. The monthly book club meetings are 60-minutes of mentally stimulating, thought-provoking conversations, while the Qigong and meditation classes are relaxing and spiritually uplifting.

During my cancer journey, it was easy to slip into a dark hole and feel depressed, anxious, and even question my purpose in life. Now I have a life filled with hope and live each day to its fullest. I have Cancer Support Community to thank for that.

An Update from Trish:

The holidays are upon us once again and I’m glad to report that my first-year post-surgery tests and exam were all good! I continue to attend the support group and other programs at Cancer Support Community that have been so helpful throughout my cancer journey.

On behalf of all my fellow participants at Cancer Support Community, thank you for your support. Your gifts mean that all the programs the organization offers will continue to be offered at no cost, so anyone impacted by cancer can find the support they need to improve their quality of life. You are helping to make a real difference for each one of us. Thank you!

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Trish’s Story The page on my calendar had turned to November 2017. It was time to start planning for the holidays, which, in my family, is a season of great celebration filled with joy and laughter, chilly days spent baking, shopping, and decorating, and time spent with family and friends. However, that holiday season would… Read more.

Meet Pete

My Today

There is no explaining how you feel when your doctor says, “you have cancer.” This diagnosis was so overwhelming that I was not myself, and my temper, patience, and ability to reason effectively changed greatly. Not having much of a support network in town, other than close family, made it even more difficult to process.

My wife Kathy and I moved to Hilliard in early 2015 to be near our children and granddaughter. I had worked in industrial sales and banking during my career, and I retired from Charter One Bank at the end of 2011.

Kathy’s mom moved here with us, and she just turned 90. We had lived in Twinsburg, Ohio, for 35 years, so this was a big adventure for us! And while we were glad to be bringing our family together here in Columbus, we left behind our network of close friends and activities that we had enjoyed for a long time, and knew only a few new neighbors here.

Less than 18 months after moving here, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had no idea that anything was wrong, except for a pain in my right hip that I thought to be a pulled muscle from one of my regular walks. The Stage IV part was due to the cancer becoming involved in my pelvic bone.

My first day of chemotherapy infusion was another moment etched in my memory. When that needle went in, it seemed to change me forever. I obviously was not ready for all of this, and without a network of local friends, I felt extremely alone, except for my family, of course.

My daughter, Laura, began searching for help for me, and she discovered Cancer Support Community Central Ohio. She came here first to register herself and set up my appointment. When I walked in, I felt extremely welcome. I sat with Jen (one of the social workers) to review my history. We talked (and cried a bit) about how few friends I had here in Columbus, and she presented the programs and resources that are available at Cancer Support Community.

It was like finding an oasis in the desert! Who knew all of this was available, at a time when I truly needed help? Instead of loneliness and despair, I had a new surge of hope that things would get better. My new motto became “No one can take away my Today!” I use this motto today and have used it every day since coming here for the first time. When God calls me home someday, I will give up “my Today” freely, but until then no one can take away my Today!

I started attending the Friday Tai Chi class, taught by Dan Lucas. Dan is an outstanding martial arts teacher and the extent of his knowledge is as amazing as his ability to perform Tai Chi. I learned that doing a type of twisting exercise causes the lymph nodes to bring wellness to the body, not disease like my lymphoma. I attended Dan’s class until my energy levels from the chemotherapy treatments and my very poor balance would not allow me to continue. I want to resume activities like Tai Chi, Qigong or yoga more actively very soon. All these activities are available at Cancer Support Community.

While I was receiving my chemotherapy treatments, my sister Anne became very ill in Florida, first with a disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, then a stroke, and then a diagnosis of cancer in her kidneys. Because my immune system had been compromised due to the chemotherapy treatments, I was not allowed to travel to see her in her time of need. I discussed this with Angie (Cancer Support Community’s program director). Angie was really there for me, and was extremely kind and understanding of my frustration of not being able to go see Anne. We discussed travel options when chemotherapy was over, and she gave me hope when cancer was trying to take my hope away. Anne passed away right after my last chemotherapy treatment, but I was able to attend her services in Florida with my family soon after.

The real story of Cancer Support Community is the essence of what Angie did for me, being there to listen to me about how cancer was affecting my life. This was also true when my best friend, Kevin, passed away a month later from the same cancer as my diagnosis. I was able to talk about it with Angie.

There are truly caring, loving people in this place and I wanted to be a part of this community that cares. Since the beginning of this year, I have been volunteering in the office on Friday afternoons, trying to help the staff with whatever needs to be done. And I have been proud to represent Cancer Support Community at several health fairs, “working the table” to help others discover this incredible group of caring people who can help them find a way to be strong, so that no one can take away their today either.

I want to thank our board members for all they do to make Cancer Support Community an exceptional resource for cancer survivors and their families and for those with no family, so that no one faces cancer alone. Without you, our programs like Cooking for Wellness, the Lunch & Learn programs, support groups, health fairs and many others, would not be available to be “discovered” and shared. Board member support magnifies the efforts of the wonderful caring people who work here to do what they do best, to provide hope to all who have heard or have been affected by the words “you have cancer.”

As for me, cancer continues to affect my life, and I currently attend cognitive behavioral therapy sessions to help me deal with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am not one to admit weakness, so having to resolve these issues was a revelation to someone like me. But there are answers today for problems that were ignored many years ago, and that is a very good thing. Toughening up does not solve anything if help is needed. Angie and I have discussed these issues, and I know I can come here to discuss anything about cancer and its effects and be heard.

The best news for me is that my oncologist told me last week that I have no new metabolic activity on my recent CT scan and blood work, and my next appointment is in three months! No one can take away my Today!!!

Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you today. God bless Cancer Support Community Central Ohio.

 

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My Today There is no explaining how you feel when your doctor says, “you have cancer.” This diagnosis was so overwhelming that I was not myself, and my temper, patience, and ability to reason effectively changed greatly. Not having much of a support network in town, other than close family, made it even more difficult… Read more.

Don’t Go on a Walk Without Your Sunblock!

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “it is estimated that nearly 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.” Summertime is the easiest time to skip proper care of your skin. However, your chances of getting skin cancer are increased by not taking care of your skin.

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention offers a list of things you should do to take care of your skin:

  • Do not burn or tan
    • Avoid intentional tanning.
    • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Seek shade
    • The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing
    • Long-sleeved shirt and pants.
    • A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Generously apply sunscreen
    • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher for protection from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
    • Apply 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand
    • These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Get Vitamin D safely
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Take vitamin supplements.

Early detection of melanoma can save your life. Be sure to examine your skin at least once a month. If you find a new or changing spot, contact your dermatologist to schedule an appointment.

Written by: Meagan Van Stone

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According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “it is estimated that nearly 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.” Summertime is the easiest time to skip proper care of your skin. However, your chances of getting skin cancer are increased by not taking care of your skin. The National Council on Skin… Read more.

Stress 101

Stress 101

Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand with a cancer diagnosis. Moreover, just because your active treatment has ended doesn’t mean the stress and anxiety will as well. You may worry about whether the treatment really worked. Or your cancer treatments may have brought changes to your body that you need to adapt to. You want to get back to normal, and you may wonder if you will ever feel the same as you did before cancer. Yet, you may need to put your “old” normal behind and adjust to a new normal.

Managing stress, no matter what circumstances you are under can be hard. Whether you are currently battling cancer, are a long-time cancer survivor, or are a friend or family member of someone who has a cancer diagnosis, stress can follow you no matter who you are. The real question is, how can you manage stress in a healthy way? It’s tempting to avoid stress, however avoiding the situation can be worse in the end.

Here are some common signs that you are avoiding your stress:

  1. Denying that the stressor exists
  2. Withdrawing from social experiences
  3. Avoiding any thoughts about the stressor
  4. Having wishful thoughts
  5. Using drugs or alcohol to forget the stressor
  6. Blaming and criticizing yourself for the stressor
  7. Keeping extra busy and ignoring the stressor

There are active, healthy ways to cope with stress from cancer:

  1. Take action. Do the next right thing
  2. Get support, join a support group or seek out a trusted friend
  3. Look for advice and information from trusted sources
  4. Accept that the stressor exists and decide what you can and cannot control
  5. Try to get a new perspective by finding any positives in the situation or in other areas of your life
  6. Become aware of your feelings about the stressor and express them to others

At Cancer Support Community, we offer a complete Distress Screening Program to help people identify specific areas of concern and find ways to alleviate them. The program includes a 15-question assessment, a report of the results explained by our licensed social worker, and an Individual Wellness Plan tailored to your specific concerns. The plan provides referrals to programs at Cancer Support Community that have been proven to be effective. This individual-based program allows for you to gauge your stress and can help you decide the best ways to manage it.

Stress management classes are offered regularly at Cancer Support Community and are often recommended for individuals who participate in the Distress Screening Program. Some of the classes we offer include yoga, Qigong, and mindfulness meditation. Any one of these classes could help with stress that you are feeling and allow you to take a deep breath and relax your mind, body, and spirit. To learn more about what stress management programs are offered, you are invited to click this link: https://cscco.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar/Support-Services.

If you would like to complete the Distress Screening Program, or need assistance on how to manage stress please call us at 614. 884.HOPE (4673).

 

Written By: Meagan Van Stone

 

 

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Stress 101 Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand with a cancer diagnosis. Moreover, just because your active treatment has ended doesn’t mean the stress and anxiety will as well. You may worry about whether the treatment really worked. Or your cancer treatments may have brought changes to your body that you need to adapt to. You… Read more.