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Cancer Q & A

with Kathy Kanavos

Ask Me Anything!

Kathy O'Keefe Kanavos addresses your
concerns about Cancer

Dear Kathy,

I am a breast cancer survivor and want to be of help to other breast cancer patients but I don't know if I am ready to take that step, yet. How did you know when you were ready to help others?

Janet, MA

Dear Janet,

I applaud you for thinking of other patients. I do understand your concerns. They are perfectly natural. I too was worried about how I would react to someone else's cancer related emotional and physical pain. However, once I was actively involved as a phone counselor for the R. A. BLOCH CANCER FOUNDATION, I realized that the fastest way to take my attention off of my own fears was to help others.

You have a wealth of information from experience that you are not even aware that you possess, and it will not be evident to you until someone asks you for help. Just hearing the voice of a survivor can be a God-send to someone still battling cancer.

I found helping others therapeutic and cathartic. Yours will be a voice of wisdom from the trenches rather than theories from the manuals. Work at your own pace and depth of emotions. Some of the concerns of those you work with will reawaken painful memories in your psyche, but it is a way to work through your old issues while helping others.

If you do not know something, you cannot teach it. You, on the other hand, know how to survive because you are a survivor. Go forth with confidence and know that I am always here for you.

Big Hug,


Dear Kathy,

Friends have told me not to look any information up on the internet concerning my breast cancer because it is all negative and will only scare me. I am very tempted to do some research. What should I do?


Dear Hali,

I think I understand why your friends are trying to protect you from the information on the internet and I think they have your best interests at heart. There is so much information available on the internet; much of it is difficult to understand and some of it may not be accurate.

However, when I was going through my treatment both times, I did research on the internet and double and triple checked the available facts. The trick was not allowing the negative facts and statistics to affect me. You must stay positive right now.

That said, let me also say this: Knowledge about your type and grade of cancer, the treatment alternatives, and the proper supportive care is essential. Knowledge is power. It will allow you to make informational decisions, to self advocate, to anticipate potential problems, and to feel a sense of control over your life.

I hope this helps you in your decision. And you can always do what I did. I asked my friends to forward me all the positive information they found concerning my cancer on the internet.

Ask me anything.


Dear Kathy,

My breast cancer treatment seems so long that I cannot focus on its completion, and this is making me very depressed. I keep wondering if it will ever end?!

Will my life ever be normal again? What should I do?

Linda, Pennsylvania

If you are struggling with your own diagnosis, or know someone who is, please email Kathy with your questions and concerns at:

Dear, Linda,

Yes, Linda, it does get better. I remember thinking the same thoughts you have shared here with me, and may I add that they are perfectly normal ones to entertain.

You have had a drastic life-change. I remember how depressed I was when I realized my second breast cancer treatment would consist of surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy, followed by more surgery, followed by a month and a half of radiation followed by…. It seemed to be never ending! I was looking too far ahead.

So I began to focus on setting reasonable goals and celebrating the passing of every milestone, no matter how big or small because…there are no small accomplishments when it comes to cancer treatment and becoming a survivor.

During therapy remember to set reasonable goals, such as completing the 1/3 mark of your chemotherapy schedule. Then celebrate meeting that goal in a way that is special to you. It can be with others or simply with a quiet moment or evening alone. Give thanks to yourself for "hanging in there" AND for reaching that important mark in your treatment with the ability to celebrate.

You are a winner! Celebrations were an important part in maintaining the quality of my life. Good luck with your treatments.

Ask me anything.


Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos is a two-time breast cancer survivor who penned SURVIVING TRAUMALAND: The Intuitive Aspects of Healing.

She is represented by Devra Jacobs of Dancing Word Group, and Steve Allen Media. In addition to writing this column, she's a phone counselor for R.A. BLOCH Cancer Foundation, an inspirational speaker, and appears frequently on inspirational radio shows.

Visit her website and Facebook page, follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.