Beloit and Cancer Support -
October is filled with spooky scares
Slightly over a year ago, I learned of a tumor growing inside of me; the doctors discovered this alien resting in my left breast, trying to eat its way into the rest of my body. I thought it quite apt that I began to reckon with this scary creature in October, a month commonly filled with monsters, ghouls, and gore (also known as Halloween).
The word “cancer” strikes fear into every mortal being; it lurks in the shadows and then leaps out at us when we least expect it. Last year, the “trick of treat” of Halloween seemed to be a gallows “trick” as I received my diagnosis of stage three breast cancer.
However, now, a year later, the “treat” is essentially my being completed with my treatments. I do admit the frightening alien will probably continue to haunt me as I will always wonder if it will reappear to try and finish the job of killing me.
Beloit Blessed with UW Cancer Center
Despite the turbulent roller coaster ride I experienced, people inundated me with their unconditional support. I originally sought most of my treatments from the University of Wisconsin – Madison Hospital (aka UW Health).
Luckily for me and many other current and future patients, a new cancer center cropped up in Beloit. I marveled at this coincidence. I felt extremely grateful knowing I wouldn’t have to drive back and forth to Madison to get my daily radiation treatments over the course of a month’s time.
The first time I entered the Beloit UW Cancer Center, I immediately felt welcome, both by the staff and the pleasant atmosphere of the new building
Unlike the busyness of a hospital setting, where people seem to be streaming to and fro at a more frenetic pace, people at the Center seemed to mosey about, taking their time to speak with patients and address questions and concerns. (Don’t misunderstand: hospital staff is equally as incredible, the pace just feels different).
Another benefit of the Center were various opportunities to meet others with cancer. The tireless breast cancer navigator, Taylor Becker, compiled lists of various organizations and connections for me to explore as well.
Dr. Peter Mahler assessed my case, and soon I was undergoing daily doses of radiation. Each day, two lovely women would greet me in the waiting room.
After changing into a standard hospital gown, I’d find myself lying down as a giant whirring machine moved around me, focusing its laser eyes upon the left side of my chest and armpit area.
The two staff present would chat amicably as they prepared the machine, providing me with as much comfort as possible as I held my arms high above my head for long periods of time.
My favorite part of this time was gazing up at the flat screen TV in the ceiling. Scenes of waterfalls, floating air balloons, swimming fish, or other nature-related images graced the screen (it was different each day) as I tried to channel my attention away from the machine’s movements.
Over the month, my skin became irritated and looked like an extreme case of sunburn. However, everyone went above and beyond to provide as much attention to detail in this department, and they kept a close eye on my skin issues and helped me figure out what to do to alleviate the pain that came with the blistered skin.
I am especially indebted to Deb Dorr of Beloit, who tirelessly drove me back and forth from Roscoe to the Center most early mornings. She and I quickly bonded, and she brought a huge smile to my face when she congratulated me with a surprise bouquet (courtesy of Shnucks) and balloons on my final day of radiation.
Livestrong and Lifelong Goals
Another Beloit offering took me by astonishment when I discovered a Livestrong program at the local YMCA. I found a flyer stating how cancer patients and survivors could attend a 12-week program for free.
According to the Beloit YMCA website, “This program fulfills the important need of supporting the increasing number of cancer survivors who find themselves in the transitional period between completing their cancer treatment and the shift to feeling physically and emotionally strong enough to attempt to return to their normal life or their ‘new normal’.”
Indeed, after finishing my treatments, the vacuum of time I had previously spent on driving to numerous doctor appointments (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, infections) seemed out of place at first.
However, once I met Nancy, Jan, and Jean, all fitness instructors leading the Livestrong program, I felt at home and ready to regain both my physical abilities and my inner confidence too.
I am finding it incredibly rewarding to meet others struggling with their own physical limitations brought on by cancer. I could certainly identify with this niche group of people whose lives were temporarily upended by cancer.
The workout regimen is malleable and I loved the opportunity to work at my own pace as I began to work out on treadmills, stair steppers, and other fitness equipment. Each day we all warmed up, did our exercises, and cooled down as a group before going back to our regular lives.
The best part for me, however, was being able to submerge into the big pool for a workout. After diagnosis, I wasn’t able to swim or enjoy such activities for about a year, so I found pool fitness to be refreshing and invigorating!