In this week’s Dr. Rob I would like to share with you some of the take-aways from our last Leaders Connect breakfast on surviving cancer with Steve Sarns, Kathy Macdonald, Heather FeldKamp, Larry Eiler, and Jan Hansen.

Steve Sarns:

  1. Have faith in a greater power
  2. Stay positive – it takes 10 positive thoughts to defeat one negative thought
  3. Power of Music – Listen to music from your youth – I listened to early Chicago music, it filled my heart and brain with joy.
  4. Stay in top shape at all times so you are ready for the next bump in the road – It gives you great confidence and will help you recover quicker and better.    Being is shape give you a reservoir of energy to survive Cancer Treatment such as Chemo and Radiation therapy.
  5. Keep exercising post Treatment to rebuild your endurance and muscle – also great for your brain health – helps defeat depression
  6. Positive from experiences of having Cancer – a) you own your battle, its you against cancer  b) you may well find out that people love your, welcome their support including their prayers c) you cherish life more then ever, enjoy the simple pleasures of life – ie, a beautiful smile, the air you breath, a walk with your dog, your family, listening to your friends – I mean really listening to support them, enjoy the taste of food, the smells around you, being Grateful for everyday,  don’t sweat the small stuff, enjoy LOVE
  7. Don’t Fear Death,  If you don’t fear death, you are not afraid to LIVE
  8. Be a Warrior – A Cancer Ass Kicker
  9. No Fear no Tears
  10. Make sure your Cancer Fears you more than you fear its,  Crush it.
  11. Let the people you Love know you Love them – say it every day.
  12. Do acts of kindness for others every day
  13. And don’t forget to do something nice for YOU every day
  14. This is only our Mortal Life – Cherish it yet embrace eternal life
  15. Do your best to be positive not only for yourself = yet also for the medical team treating you – they have a tough job.

Kathy Macdonald:

  • Pay attention to your body.  You will detect a problem long before anyone else.
  • If something seems “off”, get it checked out. QUICK.
  • If the first response from the medical community seems insufficient, see another physician. Time is important.
  • The medical community will focus on your treatment ONLY.  Your post-treatment phase can be the toughest. Go online for help, or find a community.  Those who gave you treatment will not serve you in this phase.
  • Recovery includes a strong focus on rebuilding your body.  Enroll in a program like LifeStrong.  Most Y’s offer it and it is free of cost to cancer survivors.  It will be the best money you did not spend.

Heather Feldkamp:

  • Always get a second opinion, don’t just take the first Dr./Hospital at their word. You know your body best, you need to be your own advocate. Don’t be afraid to research out and try some holistic or alternative treatments.
  • Communicate, communicate – tell your story, because if you don’t someone else well.
  • Focus on the good things, on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Negative attitude will not help you heal.
  • Let others help you, if they want to bring food, let them… If they want to drive you to an appointment, let them.
  • Be a believer, a fighter, know that you can overcome your challenges. Don’t let cancer define you.
  • Get healthy, eat right and exercise, you might not be able to do what you used to, but find out what you can do.
  • Remember your caregivers, your family and friends are going through this with you, often in silence.
  • Find a support group, friends and family are okay, but others that are going through the same challenges are good to network with, there is always something new to be learned.


  • Don’t stick your head in the sand and think “it’s over”, cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence.
  • Don’t hide and push people away, they can help you.
  • Don’t wait, if you have something happening, something different going on, get to the doctors right away.
  • Don’t forget your loved ones, you might be the one with the cancer, but they are scared too… don’t be selfish.
  • Don’t let yourself be negative and depressed all the time, you need to live, a pity party is not going to help you survive this and may even deter others from trying to help you.

Larry Eiler:
Your mind can be your worst enemy, or your best friend. It’s always with you, 24 hours each day, 168 hours each week. Use it for good. When your are diagnosed with any form of cancer, or other serious disease, your mind is your internal compass and propels how you think. It will help you handle the information you get from well meaning family and friends who want to help you with prayers, thoughts, feelings. Family, friends and faith are core in many lives. They compliment your mind to help you control you spiritual, physical emotional and mental reactions to cancer. Your mind is your best friend.

I like to rely on techniques for controlling the awful things that can propel your mind the wrong way.  I developed two acronyms that help to keep me positive and focused.  They have become my mantra of loving kindness:
Spiritual                    Alcohol
Physical                    Writing
Emotional                  Anxiety
Mental                       Relationships
What goes on in your head every day.  It’s what you are.

Jan Hansen:
It becomes very meaningful to a cancer survivor to have people who just want to be with them.  My advice is to ask the survivor what you can do to help them in their day to day activities.  You could also offer to take them out to lunch or tea.  Most importantly just be present with them.  If that means just sitting with them, then do that. There is a great book that can help you when you don’t know what to say to someone who has cancer:  “Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I Have Loved” by Kate Bowler.

Also, be aware of the amount of stress that is on the caretakers.  In addition to asking the cancer survivor how you can help them, also think about asking if you can talk to their caretaker. Offer the caretaker support because they are also going through a very difficult time.  We get through the rough times by our sense of community and by taking one step at a time together.

What some audience members shared about their experience listening to the survivors:
I feel inspired to reach out to my neighbor who is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer and offer her options- to go out for tea, to bring her lunch or to just sit and listen or share some quiet time together.” Kendra Theriot

I’ve been battling Stage IV Colon Cancer for nearly a year now, and I very much appreciated hearing every single one of the panel members’ experiences and perspectives on the disease.  

  • Jan’s suggestions on how friends and family can help those with cancer; and I’ve already ordered the book she recommended.
  • Heather’s persistence in being her own best advocate in making healthcare choices, both traditional and holistic.
  • How fantastic Kathy looked after all she’s been through.
  • Steve’s STRENGTH and power over his seemingly dire circumstances.
  • Larry’s comments on the importance of our thoughts and thought processes, and making cancer our best friend (embracing it).
    Overall, it’s just so encouraging to meet so many survivors who continue to successfully battle this monster disease.  Thank you for providing such an interesting, insightful morning!” Beth Hewitt

I took away a couple things I will do right now. We are all so busy, busy, busy all of the time. It is the way of the world. I have a couple behaviors I will change immediately.  The fabric of life is made up of the time we spend with family and friends. I am going to work even harder to slow down and soak in every second of this special time, especially with my kids.  Similar to that, I am going to reach out to not only my circle of friends/family, but also to those who once were friends, colleagues or people I connected with and somehow lost touch. I have friends all over the world who I have not seen or heard from in many, many years. I miss hearing from some of them.   Finally, I am going to learn a new hobby. I am going to learn to play the guitar. I want to write songs and sing them to my grandchildren (who better not be here for another 10-12 years). Thank you for all you do to make this world a better place for everyone!” Brandon Black

Touch speaks louder than words.” Peter Marshall

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