Attention Metro Transit Passengers… by Michelle Shkolnick

“ATTENTION METRO TRANSIT PASSENGERS. THERE IS A DISABLED TRAIN DIRECTLY AHEAD OF US. WE WILL BE MOVING SHORTLY. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND APOLOGIZE FOR THE SERVICE INTERRUPTION.”

I read this little blurb in a professional magazine I was reviewing last week for a work presentation. The author was using it as a metaphor to discuss interruptions at work and their impact on quality and productivity. My mind went instantly to cancer.

ATTENTION METRO TRANSIT PASSENGERS….

“BC” (before cancer) I rode the metaphorical train day in and day out and thought that cancer happened to other people. I am sure that there were people battling cancer on my train each day, but I really did not notice them, let alone ever really think much about what I could do to help them. After all, I was just a passenger on this train. Not the engineer or the dispatcher or the switch person. I was just a passenger. I didn’t have a job function here. I just rode the train day after day, assuming I would get to my destination as scheduled like I had hundreds of other times.

THERE IS A DISABLED TRAIN DIRECTLY AHEAD OF US….

At 12:15 pm the first Friday in March 2001, I heard the words, “You have cancer,” and I was no longer just a passenger on that train. The train on which I had been riding all this time was now the disabled train. It was a feeling like no other when the train came to a grinding halt that day. It sounded ferociously loud, then oddly quiet in the aftermath…quiet enough to hear my own heart beating rhythmically in my chest and my own lungs steadily breathing in and out…although I sometimes wonder how I managed to do that when all the air had just been sucked out of the room. In that instant, I was thrown into the roles of engineer and dispatcher and switch person.

I was stuck. Stuck in panic. Stuck in fear. Stuck in the prospect of my own mortality. How the hell do I get this train moving again?

WE WILL BE MOVING SHORTLY….

Less than eight hours after hearing those three dreaded words, I figured out a way to get that train moving. No one had given me any operating instructions, but as the engineer responsible for running the locomotive, it was my job to get things in motion. I did what I was so accustomed to doing…I went to the Internet…and I typed in “cancer.” And for reasons that still remain a mystery to me, I chose the American Cancer Society website (www.cancer.org) from amongst the MILLIONS of results that popped up in a fraction of a second. What I needed to get unstuck was right there in front of me…

On that web page, there was a place to click to learn about cancer. If the dispatcher’s job is defined as being the person who is responsible for moving trains over a territory, I had found what I needed. I selected breast cancer from the menu and began reading. I researched the different types of breast cancer and the various treatment options. I found a list of questions that I should ask my doctor and different resources for support in putting my life back together. That night, into the wee hours of the next morning, I got my train unstuck.

Over the days and weeks and months that followed, I ran the rail yard like any good switch person would, managing other crew members along my tracks to ensure we were doing all the right things to handle the situation. Surgery…scans…chemo…radiation…more scans…keeping everything on schedule. The dispatcher part of me was in constant communications with my medical crew, ensuring “occupancy on the tracks” as needed. The train navigated all turns as planned each and every time.

WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND APOLOGIZE FOR THE SERVICE INTERRUPTION…

Sometimes it sucked to be on the disabled train. In its wake were other trains that suffered collateral damage and I think it sucked worse to be on those trains. I think first and foremost of my parents and my sisters and my closest friends…their trains came to a grinding halt that day because of my disabled train. On that day in March, they all stopped being just passengers on their trains. They became stewards attending to this passenger…and cooks preparing my meals…and porters carrying my baggage and their own, including sometimes the emotional kind.

How can I ever really thank people for their patience during something like this? What kind of apology can I offer that would ever cover this kind of “service interruption?”

In 2012, over 1.6 MILLION new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. The good news is that 5-year cancer survival rates for “all cancers diagnosed between 2001 and 2007 is 67%, up from 49% in 1975-1977.” There are currently 12 MILLION survivors alive today, thanks in large part to the American Cancer Society. We ARE creating a world with LESS CANCER and MORE BIRTHDAYS!

I will never know what made me choose the American Cancer Society website that night. But I do know that I am eternally grateful for the information that I found there (and for the Relay family that I found three months later) that helped me get – and keep – my train unstuck.

Please know that the American Cancer Society provides valuable information, resources and HOPE if you or someone you love should ever hear the announcement: “ATTENTION METRO TRANSIT PASSENGERS…”

by Michelle Shkolnick – 2012 Hero of Hope

This is the second post of Michelle Shkolnick’s  series as a contributor for the ACSNebraska.org site.  Shkolnick, who is an American Cancer Society Relay For Life Hero of Hope in 2012 will share her captivating writing ability with ACSNebraska readers every other week in May and June.  She will talk about her cancer journey, the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life, survivorship and the people she’s met along the way.  Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and began Relaying in Omaha that summer.  This year, she travels across Nebraska talking to fellow Relayers and inspiring people to help the American Cancer Society make a difference by saving lives.  Please check back with ACSNebraska.org or subscribe to the site because you won’t want to miss a word of Michelle’s stories.  Her next story is scheduled to be posted on Tuesday, June 5.

Lincoln Residents Raise More Than $215,000 in Fight Against Breast Cancer

On Sunday, nearly six-thousand Lincoln residents joined together at the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer® walk to help create a world with less breast cancer and more birthdays. The Society is encouraging women to choose to put their personal breast health first to stay well and reduce their risk of breast cancer. This noncompetitive event united the entire community to celebrate breast cancer survivors, educate people about how to reduce their breast cancer risk or find the disease early, and raise funds to end the disease. The event raised an estimated $215,000 to support the Society’s efforts to save lives by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures and fighting back against breast cancer.

“We are extremely pleased with the support received this year from Lincoln and surrounding communities,” commented Randall Jantzen, the American Cancer Society’s event manager for the 2011 Making Strides walk.  “Each year, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer seems to gain participants and in turn, makes a greater impact on our community in the fight against breast cancer.  The dollars raised through Making Strides will help the American Cancer Society save lives and create more birthdays for mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends and neighbors right here in Nebraska.”

This year, Lincoln’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk was one of more than 200 held across the country.  Making Strides Against Breast Cancer supports the American Cancer Society’s unique mission to fight cancer on all fronts and save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or finding it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking research and by fighting back by encouraging lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. Over time, the Society has invested more in breast cancer research than any other voluntary public health organization, spending more on breast cancer research and investing more than $418.7 million in breast cancer research grants since 1971. As a result, more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors will celebrate a birthday this year.

Sponsors of this year’s Lincoln Making Strides event include: Bryan LGH Health System, Schneider Electric, Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center and St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center.

It is not too late to make a donation to Lincoln’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. Visit http://www.makingstrideslincoln.org to help the Society continue making strides and saving lives. For more information about breast cancer, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org/stridesonline.

 

For more pictures of the event, please go to our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/American-Cancer-Society-Nebraska-Region/133787466690637

Breast Cancer Visitation Program Helps Newly Diagnosed Patients

For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program has helped people (female and male) cope with their breast cancer experience. This experience begins when someone is faced with the possibility of a breast cancer diagnosis and continues throughout the entire period that breast cancer remains a personal concern.

“When people first find out they have breast cancer, they may feel overwhelmed, vulnerable, and alone,” commented Mike Lefler, Director of Communications for the Nebraska Region of the American Cancer Society.  “While under this stress, many people must also learn about and try to understand complex medical treatments and then choose the best one.  Reach to Recovery allows these patients to have a little bit of guidance and stability during the entire process.”

Talking with a specially trained Reach to Recovery volunteer at this time can give a measure of comfort and an opportunity for emotional grounding and informed decision-making. Volunteers are breast cancer survivors who give patients and family members an opportunity to express feelings, talk about fears and concerns, and ask questions of someone who is knowledgeable and level-headed. Most importantly, Reach to Recovery volunteers offer understanding, support, and hope because they themselves have survived breast cancer and gone on to live normal, productive lives.”

How it works

Through face-to-face visits or by phone, Reach to Recovery volunteers give support for:

  • People recently diagnosed with breast cancer
  • People facing a possible diagnosis of breast cancer
  • Those interested in or who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy
  • Those considering breast reconstruction
  • Those who have lymphedema
  • Those who are undergoing or who have completed treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • People facing breast cancer recurrence or metastasis (the spread of cancer to another part of the body)

Volunteers are trained to give support and up-to-date information, including literature for spouses, children, friends, and other loved ones. Volunteers can also, when appropriate, provide breast cancer patients with a temporary breast form and information on types of permanent prostheses, as well as lists of where those items are available within a patient’s community. No products are endorsed.  Aside from the emotional support provided, volunteers may also assist patients with other resources within their community to help them through treatment and beyond.

For more information or to locate a Reach to Recovery program in your area, visit “In Your Area” on our Web site at www.cancer.org or call us toll-free at 1-800-227-2345.

Reach to Recovery volunteers

Reach to Recovery works through carefully selected and trained volunteers who have fully adjusted to their breast cancer treatment. All volunteers complete an initial training and participate in ongoing continuing education sessions.

If you are a breast cancer survivor who has overcome cancer to regain a well adjusted and emotionally stable everyday life, call us toll-free at 1-800-227-2345 or call your local American Cancer Society office to become a Reach to Recovery volunteer.  Volunteers must be out of treatment for one year before serving in the Reach to Recovery program.