Guest Post: Katie Carpenter, What sparks hope?

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Facing Cancer Together is a multimedia project that aims to build support for those who are facing cancer. We want to thank Katie Carpenter for contributing an inspiring blog post about hope.

I would encourage you, if you have your own story, to share it with someone. It may be just what someone needs to hear to create that spark within them to keep fighting and looking forward with hope.

“You have cancer.” Those three words can change a life in an instant. A diagnosis can oftentimes bring fear and anxiety into a person’s life and raise some pretty scary questions like “Am I going to die?” or “How will I pay for this?”

So, it’s important for people who are facing cancer to know that they’re not alone in their fight. What they need most is hope.

When the world says, “Give up” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”

It must feel especially lonely when facing a rare cancer, such as mesothelioma, that may not receive as much attention and awareness as others. But we are in this together.

Our ongoing series, Facing Cancer Together, is taking a closer look at the impact of cancer in our community. We’ve learned from caregivers, doctors, cancer patients and mesothelioma survivors that it’s compassion, humor, and sharing stories that can go a long way in providing comfort, strength and ultimately hope in the darkness of cancer.

Compassion

We’ve met numerous doctors, nurse navigators, support group leaders, researchers, mesothelioma patient advocates and counselors that have been working alongside cancer patients and their families to offer the best treatments, and take care of the whole patient- body and mind. They show compassion in the face of fear, and create a plan of hope to help patients move towards health.

Doctor Speaking with PatientDr. Roy Williams, a Medical Oncologist at PinnacleHealth-Fox Chase Regional Cancer Center, is passionate about what he does, and is compassionate towards each of the patients in his care. He said, “I am frequently asked ‘How can you stand to be a cancer doctor?’ The answer is complicated, but quite simply—I am inspired by the courage, strength, faith, generosity, and even the humor of cancer patients and their families.”

Why is compassion so important to a cancer patient? “I want compassion not pity,” said journalist and cancer survivor Lori Hope when we spoke with her about what cancer patients really want you to know. “You don’t want to feel like someone is looking down on you. What you want is to feel compassion and on equal ground… not as if there’s something wrong with you or that there’s something you did that gave you cancer.” She added, “Blaming doesn’t shore up hope. You don’t need to look back, you need to look forward.”

Humor

This is also key in maintaining hope while facing a stressful, painful, and scary disease.

Lori Hope said, “Sometimes you just need to laugh and forget cancer for a while. People with cancer want people to know this: humor enhances hope and creates a positive outlook on world. It can be hard to escape ‘cancerland’ in mind and body, so humor is an escape. Laughter is great medicine!”

Garnet StevensGarnet Stevens is another person we talked to and learned a lot from. He is undergoing treatment for brain cancer and says that blogging has helped him during his journey, not only to help keep family and friends informed on how he’s doing, but to help himself stay positive.He says, “This is a brutal disease. It may make you want to give up, but don’t. Find that person in your life that will keep you positive, find the thing you like to do the most if that keeps you positive, and always continue trying to find that positive.”

His words and sense of humor inspire others to find the positives in their own life, and to keep going… and to, as Garnet says at the end of each blog post, “keep the faith.” He said, “If I can give a fellow survivor, or the people taking care of them, a brief moment of humor, then all of the chemo and radiation will be worth it. (Well, maybe it’s not exactly an even trade!)”

Many mesothelioma survivors have formed a strong support community online. Since mesothelioma is a rare cancer, survivors have built connections through blogs and Facebook. Several survivors communicate from Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Canada and the U.S.

Sharing Stories

The motto of Facing Cancer Together is “Connecting stories. Connecting lives.” That’s because we believe so strongly in the power that comes from sharing personal stories and experience. I am inspired daily by the wisdom and strength in the stories I hear. And, I am touched by the way that people are helping each other cope with what may be the most difficult thing to overcome in their life. I am grateful for these wise teachers.

I have heard from many of these cancer survivors that sharing their own story has been healing for them, it validates their experiences. That’s why cancer patients also have a great opportunity to be a light of hope to others. Their words of wisdom offer comfort and encouragement, and say to those who are facing cancer, “You’re not alone.”

The Mesothelioma Wall of Hope is a place for caregivers and survivors to provide insight about their journey with mesothelioma. Each one has a message to the community and what their inspiration is to fight.

It’s comforting to know that there is a truly caring community of advocates and survivors out there who are sharing their wisdom. They’ve been there. They know what its like to get a diagnosis and know what it feels like to lose hair, feel sick, and struggle. Patients need to hear hopeful stories from others who have traveled that road.katie-carpenter-287x300

Written by:Katie Carpenter,Producer ofFacing Cancer Together

Facing Cancer Together is a multimedia project designed to inspire and guide honest conversations about the many aspects of cancer. You can create a patch to add to our Facing Cancer Together Digital Quilt of cancer stories. Explore the individual stories that combine to tell a larger narrative about the impact of cancer on lives in our own communities.

We are extremely grateful to be a part of a strong and supportive community. Thank you to Katie and all of the members of Facing Cancer Together. If you would like to share your support with the community, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.


Ben Leer is an outreach coordinator with The Mesothelioma Center. He works toward increasing education and awareness of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Part of Ben’s job is to reach out and engage with patients, caregivers and family members on our online communities.

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