Contributors

Lifestyle support for young adult cancer and chronic illness

patients, survivors, and caregivers

Lacuna Loft is excited to introduce some guest bloggers!  These great folks represent a variety of perspectives on the myriad of topics covered here at Lacuna Loft.  Here is a bit about each of them.  Enjoy!

Want to join our team of contributors?  Email info@lacunaloft.com for more info!

Andrea

Andrea Ridgard is a 500 Hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher, with a focus on Ayurveda as well as an Ayurvedic Health Counselor. She currently teaches yoga classes and private lessons Ann Arbor, where she is expanding her business to include Ayurevdic Diet & Lifestyle Consultations. To read more about Ayurveda, visit groundedhere.com/ayurveda.

At the beginning of her Yoga teaching career, before she knew anything about Ayurveda, Andrea also spent time cooking for Oncology patients in treatment, delivering warm, home-cooked meals for them and their loved ones. She is eager to share her insight and collaborate with others in exploring wellness daily for all of us, whether bearing a severe illness, caring for someone who is, or just trying to get through life feeling our whole, true, and healthy selves.  When not practicing or teaching yoga, Andrea enjoys cooking with local ingredients, growing her own food, hiking with her husband and dog, and sharing food with friends and family. She also volunteers with The Agrarian Adventure.

Angela

I was diagnosed with a “rare and aggressive” stage 4a uterine carcinosarcoma (MMMT) in July of 2012 at the age of 33.  At an age where my career was finally taking off and I was actively trying to be unsingle so I can have a kid or 2, this brought my life to a screeching halt.  Having been in relative good health up to that point in my life, there were a lot of firsts, first MRI, first ultrasound, first CT scan, first blood transfusion, first surgery, first chemotherapy treatment, first ambulance ride, first time in an emergency room, first time shaving my head, and so on. After a year of that, I was declared to be cancer free.  I could no longer reproduce, having lost my uterus and ovaries, and I was in menopause.

Now that I am cancer free for almost 2 years, I want to be visible to those who may be scouring the web like I did, share my successes and my struggles, and maybe bring some hope to those who are fighting the battle.  I am 36 now and work a busy full-time job, going to school for a master’s degree, and still trying to be unsingle. I like to play video games and since I enjoy interior design, I probably watch too much HGTV.  My hope is to squeeze in some time to write again.

Carly

Carly McCrory is an Eastern Illinois University alum, big sister, communications director, and cancer survivor. Diagnosed at age 21 with melanoma, Carly has since spent her time sharing her experience with others and raising money for the fight against cancer by participating in several events benefitting the American Cancer Society. She is the Co-Chair of Relay for Life of Douglas County (Illinois) and Co-Founder & Chair of Tuscola Coaches vs. Cancer.

In her spare time, she enjoys traveling (recently spent two weeks in New Zealand with her best friends), St. Louis Cardinals games, craft beer, board games (Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, the list goes on…), and concerts.

Big fan of: sunscreen, Monical’s Pizza, sweets, politics, vintage furniture, and her family.

Twitter: @carannmcc         Instagram: @carannmcc

Catherine

Hello! I’m Catherine!  I’m currently a physical therapist at a large, urban hospital in St. Louis. I see a broad range of patients, including some that have been affected by cancer and other potentially long-term illnesses. I hope to add some informative posts addressing common medical issues among this population into the mix.

 I also have a love of healthful cooking, and will be sharing healthful, easy, low-cost recipes from time to time.

Cecilia

My name’s Cecilia. I am 24 years old & was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer on January 28, 2014. My cancer is ER/PR-, HER2+. I am BRCA negative.  I had a unilateral mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction on March 13. I am currently working my way through 12 weekly rounds of chemo (Taxol & Herceptin, 4 down, 8 to go!). I was living in upstate NY with my boyfriend when I received my diagnosis. I had my surgery there & my first chemo. Then I moved back to Southern California to finish my treatment with my family. At the end of August, I will be moving to Boston to go to grad school (& finish up my year of Herceptin). So as you can see, cancer is just a speed bump & I am not letting it get in the way of my plans.  

I’d also like to introduce myself as Cecilia, not just a cancer fighter. I am a 24 year old vegan who is preparing to go to Northeastern University to get her Masters in Law & Public Policy. I have an overweight cat, Snacks. I love reading, music, hiking, yoga, social justice, tattoos,  and fashion. I have a wonderful boyfriend (who’s been supportive through all of this). I received my Bachelor’s in English Literature & Political Science. I enjoy both a night out with friends & a night in binge watching Netflix.  I’m just a typical 24 year old girl who is figuring out where she wants her life to go, but now I’m battling cancer.

Cheryl

I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2014 at the age of 33.  When cancer enters your life, you have no choice but to let it in…and then declare war and find a way to rid yourself of that uninvited and unwelcome house guest!

I’m not only a cancer survivor, I’m so much more than that.  I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a full-time employee, etc.  My Mom and my husband have been my primary caregivers.  Add in my 4 children (ages 11, 7, 5, and 2) and a couple of best friends and you have the basis of my support system.  My family is my life. I love finding new activities for us to do, new places to explore, and new adventures for us to experience.  In my down time I love to read and do yoga.  I’m also a member of an amazing local resource that provides support to people who are living with cancer.  I’m a work in progress and I’m happy for a chance to be able to give back and help others like me.  There is joy to be found in sharing your experiences and making connections with other people who have encountered the “C” word and are striving to survive and find out how to live life after cancer.

Christina

Christina is the founder and host of The Cancer GamePlan, a podcast that features the stories of inspiring cancer warriors. After her two battles with stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma (and a pretty severe case of PTSD), Christina felt more inspired than ever to quit living small and really go for her dreams. Just six months after getting the all-clear from her doctors, Christina and her boyfriend quit their jobs, started a travel company (called Boutique Japan), sold everything they owned, and took off to see the world!

During her travels she had a burning desire to give back to her fellow cancer warriors. Her involvement with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, both during and after her cancer battles had shown her the healing power of sharing our stories and how fulfilling it is to give back. That’s when the idea for The Cancer GamePlan was born. Today Christina is passionate about helping her fellow cancer warriors move past their emotional and mental blocks so they too can live their best lives everyday, no matter what situation they’re in!

Dana

Dana Major is a single mother of a 17 year old daughter, and 13 and 9 year old sons. Her 13 year old son, Sebastian, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma when he was 10 years old. Being the primary caregiver for a child cancer patient, as well as a full time mother, is a rather intricate juggling act. When she briefly hangs up the supermom cape, she is the office manager for a local church. Dana is also an artist and owns her own photography business, Mayhem Images.

Elena

Hi! I’m Elena.  I’m a speech-language pathologist in an early childhood program by day, but I also have a love for clothes and personal style (I used to have a personal lifestyle blog over here; now I mostly stick to instagram).

While I’m the daughter/granddaughter/friend of people who have battled (and triumphed over!) cancer, it hasn’t affected me directly, so I will be very open to your feedback and what you’d most like to see here. I’m planning on writing about style 1) on a budget and 2) for changing bodies. I’ve always had a firm belief in the way I dress and present myself affecting how I feel, and I hope to come at my posts from this perspective. Is the right pair of red flats or pair of earrings everything? No, not at all, but sometimes it is that extra baby step that helps me approach my morning with a cheerier perspective; that gives me an extra jolt of confidence when the day ahead is looking rockier than usual.

Grace

Grace van Velden. I was born in South Africa, grew up partly in Michigan, and am currently living in Boston. I’m passionate about environmental conservation, public health, cancer research, beekeeping, and camping. Though I am beginning my Masters in Public Health program in Fall 2015, my health journey began a long time before.  When I was 17, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and painful form of juvenile bone cancer. After nearly a year of chemotherapy and several surgeries, I was declared cancer free (!) and began freshman year at university three weeks later. I held onto my cancer experience as a powerful and formative piece of my identity to give me strength and challenge me to be the most positive person I can be. When I was re-diagnosed at 21, this attitude, and my many wonderful friends and family, are what carried me through.

 

Jane

My name is Jane, and I am a migraineur – a sufferer of migraines.  From a practical point of view, my migraines have put my career on hold, disrupted my social life, and constricted my world.  From a more philosophical one, they have challenged my sense of identity.  Am I an academic if I haven’t worked in three years?  Am I a traveler and adventurer despite being frequently homebound?  If I define myself by how I spend my time, and by what I do, then I am a migraineur, and an expert one at that.  My headaches are essentially a full-time job.

But I don’t want my disease to be my identity.  I do not “do” migraines, at least not voluntarily; this isn’t a choice I have made or a life I have pursued.  So let me introduce myself again.  My name is Jane, and I am an engineer.  I am a writer.  I am a thinker and a dreamer, a reader and a dog-walker, a novice runner and enthusiast for hand-written letters.  I am an occasional traveler, a lover of silly jokes, and a blogger at Lacuna Loft.

Janna

Hello! My name is Janna. I am a typical 28 year old Midwestern girl – except I have cancer.

Though cancer changed me irrevocably, it is mostly in positive ways. Cancer has provided me an opportunity to become a passionate, outspoken advocate for myself and others. It has also allowed me to re-invent myself in a way I never thought possible. I am currently getting an advanced degree in mortuary science while working part-time as a funeral assistant. I also serve on an advisory council for a local adolescent and young adult cancer program.

In my spare time, I am a very proud aunt, sister, daughter, friend, and lover of crafting. I am also an avid reader – from fiction to medical research to outdated magazines in hospital waiting rooms – you name it, I’ll read it!

I love talking with young people going through cancer, as we face unique challenges in our journey.  One step at a time, we’ll navigate through our journeys together!

Jasmine

As a thriving 22 year old working in London, I was on top of the world. I had started my life adventure….but cancer had other plans. I ended up scarred, physically and emotionally, and although I beat the disease, I thought I was going to be scarred for life. However, I found a way to see my scar as empowering and beautiful.

In 2011 as a 23 year old cancer survivor, I started a project called Scar Stories. I organised professional photographers to capture beautiful images of cancer survivors and their scars and held exhibitions to raise funds for young adult cancer support. The project kicked off and it changed my life. Scar Stories Inc. is now a registered charity and sells a book of portraits and has lots of projects on the go.

As a cancer survivor four years in remission I am still confronted by unique issues on a daily basis. Writing about what it’s like as a young adult cancer survivor helps me deal with these issues and I hope that by sharing my writing, other young adults in similar situations don’t feel so alone.

Julia

Julia is a writer, bartender, new Army Officer’s wife, new aunt, and a caregiver for her mother undergoing colorectal cancer treatments. Since the diagnosis in mid-April 2015, Julia began the juggling act of work, wedding planning, cooing over baby pictures, and taking care of her mother through major surgery and now chemo. As someone who writes through stress, Julia is hoping to provide a different perspective for Lacuna Loft as a young adult caregiver taking care of a parent with cancer.

Karen

I removed healthy body parts. My breasts and ovaries were plotting against me. Cancer was lurking in the background so I dealt it a pre-emptive strike. Why? I tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation. It gave me an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer. If you knew your chance of winning the lotto was 87% wouldn’t you buy a lottery ticket? Or if the pilot told you that you had an 87% chance of crashing, would you board the plane?  Armed with a positive BRCA test, I moved quickly to schedule a risk reducing hysterectomy including my ovaries and a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction.  Earlier this year, I started the first BRCA support group in Montreal, Canada BRCA Chat Montreal is a group for women dealing with BRCA or any other hereditary breast and or ovarian cancer.

Kelsey

Kelsey is passionate about exploring. Yoga is her map for the journey to love her body, her community, and her self. She practices on the mat (and teaches) so that she can bring peace, love, and passion to her whole life (and the whole world!). Her favorite questions to find time and inspiration to fit everything in her daily life are “How?” and “Why?”. Kelsey is excited to share some wellbeing wisdom on Lacuna Loft!

Kelsey has lived in Southeast Asia and throughout the Midwest US. She loves to explore as a local in any city she finds herself in – finding free music and yoga is her specialty. Kelsey spent the last three years mentoring college aged men and women. She is a self proclaimed hobby-grazer and loves to try new things. She currently lives on the East Coast with her husband, Evan, and their puppy, Argo.

Kevin

I mess with words for a living.  The decision to do so was inspired by catching a solidly sufficient case of the cancer in the fall of 2011.  I was 25 years old, about to make the 26th notch on my growth wall, when I noticed a funky mole on my leg and found myself chained in for a nightmarish ride shortly thereafter.  In the days and years before that, I was living the young rebel life in NYC, masquerading as a corporate exec, campaigning for human rights, folding clothes, and scrambling for a tiny piece of calm in a whirlwind of chaos.  Even before that, I sprouted from the rich, coal-encrusted soil of Central Pennsylvania, where legend has it that I took my first tentative steps into young adulthood at the Pennsylvania State University.

During treatment, I wrote two books, both of which are available on Amazon.  One is an account of my run-in with cancer as a young adult, complete with the wisdom and life experience that only a terminal diagnosis can provide, along with anecdotes unique to walking the bridge between life and death.  You can find the book here.  Now I’m a freelance writer and author, with a finished novel ready to pitch.  I’m a regular contributor to various publications such as The Huffington Post, and I’ve been featured by numerous organizations and have met several wonderful people along my post-cancer journey.

But before cancer, I was a regular human person too, just like everyone else.  A better human person in some ways, and worse in others.  My cancer diagnosis is something that happened to me, and I would be lying if I said that it didn’t, at least in some part, define me.  It brought me painfully in touch with the my genuine self.  Like most other young adult survivors, though, I still struggle off and on to rediscover the fundamental meaning of my life.  Occasionally I remember that there are only a few vitally important things in life, and I go off and tend to them.

Leah RM

I’m Leah Robberts-Mosser. I’m an artist, writer, pastor, wife, mother, friend, and daughter of a woman who lost her battle with cancer in 2010. I was in my 20s, newly married, working on my Masters degree, and interviewing for jobs when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer. As a pastor, I’ve journeyed with people of all ages navigating cancer and other major illness, like Mallory (Lacuna Loft’s founder) and Sebastian (Dana’s son). As an artist who happens to be a pastor, or a pastor who happens to be an artist, I’ve paid special attention to that place where creativity and spirituality meet to form a well from which we draw life-giving refreshment.

Leah S

Hello, I’m Leah.  By age 29, being diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin Lymphoma left me changed forever. For me, this change was a much needed massive internal healing. Marcus Aurelius was right when he said “everything that arises in life is the right material for your growth and the growth of those around you.”  You can learn more about me here.

So one part of me is definitely all-business, but when I take that hat off, I am a mama, wife, and yoga teacher. When I’m not listening to the Frozen soundtrack for the 15th time, or on the lake with my family, you can find me on my mat, or enjoying closet dork activities such as reading, or writing. I don’t like wearing bras and I enjoy cheese, coffee, and marathons … of Downton Abbey (heck no, I don’t run! I rebound. And lay in savasana: ) These guilty pleasures are sometimes all at the same time after my cubs fall asleep.  I live life as though it is rigged in my favor. Because it is.

Leanne

I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at age thirteen. Since I was a teenager when all of this happened, I didn’t process the experience as well as I might have done as an adult. I’ve spent the last several years thinking and feeling through it all. I want to be part of the cancer fighter and survivor community. I’m excited to be here at Lacuna Loft, where I can get to know the amazing “cancer club” here, as well as members of other long-term illness “clubs.”

My life has recently been touched by chronic Lyme disease, which my sister and mother have both battled over the past few years. In addition, my best friend, the one who sat at my bedside after every surgery, contracted breast cancer last year. Long-term illness is a big part of my and my family’s lives, a fact I’ve accepted but not necessarily embraced.

One thing I’ve learned is that I can process all of these life challenges through writing. I have my own blog, Words From the Sowul, where I think deep and search for meaning in life (some might say “philosophize”) from a cancer survivor’s perspective.

Matt

My name’s Matthew Paul Mewhorter, AKA: Cancer Owl.  I make cartoons about having cancer and draw myself as an owl.  Yeah, you read that right. Don’t believe me? Go to www.cancerowl.com and see what I mean. I love making these cartoons, and lots of other people love them too.

Almost a year ago, I was doing my thing as a therapist, husband and father in Virginia,  when I got the news that I had colorectal cancer. Yikes! And since that diagnosis, I’ve been poked, prodded, examined, scanned, poisoned, burned, cut up and given a bag on my belly to poop in. In other words, excellent material for a cartoon!

Lacuna Loft has been generous enough to allow me to share my experiences with you, and I hope you find the same kind of hope and humor in reading my work as I do making them.

Michele

One day I was a 29-year-old newlywed, just back from my honeymoon. The next I was still that 29-year-old newlywed — with a lump in my neck that I’d found while putting on a necklace. Two months later, I got the diagnosis: papillary thyroid cancer.

I had my thyroid removed and radioactive iodine treatment. Two years later, the cancer came back. I’d been a professional writer for years, but this prompted me to I start writing for myself. At first, I wrote my blog, A Storybook Life, to update my family about my treatment. And then I realized that my writing was part of my treatment; it gave me an outlet and a connection to other people facing some of the same issues.

I passed the five-year anniversary of my last treatment in July 2015, and now I’m the mom to two kids, too. But my cancer story isn’t over; I hope to have decades of survivorship ahead of me. So, I’m still writing — and reading. I’m glad to be part of the Lacuna Loft community.

Vanessa

While battling lymphoma at age 25, Vanessa realized that there was a dearth of support for young people to deal with their cancer diagnosis. Support groups full of grandparents didn’t address having job or family stress, and she vowed that when she was back on her feet she would help people like her find a way to cope and thrive. Focusing on the things that got her through her dark times, and using her creativity as an outlet, she started Survival Organs, selling stuffed organs with funny faces. You can’t punch your real guts but you can punch one of hers.