Dana Stewart

Look, I’m a huge fan of adding something new to your life after cancer, something that means the world to you, something that you really care about.  That’s why I have so much in common with Dana, she took her energy and she’s channeled it into becoming an advocate for young adults who had cancer, for cancer survivors and their caregivers. Here is what we cover in this conversation:

  • Overcoming the diagnosis
  • Your emotional shield during treatment
  • The challenges beyond recovery
  • Our right and duty to ask for help
  • Caregivers, the forgotten people
  • Living stories and why we need more of them
  • Survivors and the road ahead
  • The instruction book for cancer (that doesn’t exist)
  • and much, much more!


The Dragonfly Angel Society

Dana Stewart (Cure Today)

Episode 026: Stand Up For Your Rights

Full Transcript

Joe:                 Well, Dana, thanks so much for joining me.  I really want to go back to if you had a time machine and we were to go back to this crazy time when you found out you had cancer, how did you react?  What went through your mind?

Dana:              My very first thought was, I never thought I would get it.  I feel naïve saying that, but I was 32 years sold.  I really had no family history.  For me, it was like for everybody, it was a massive shock, but I was in that initial denial, this can’t be happening, this would have never happened to me.  I know everybody says that, but it was nothing that I ever planned on happening, unfortunately. 

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely.  Your family and your friends, how did they react?  Did they support you in a way that you wanted to be supported?

Dana:              Absolutely.  I think everybody shared in their surprise and denial, if you will, like I did.  When I originally found my lump, I unfortunately didn’t act on it immediately because I had that mindset of, I’m so young, nobody in my family had breast cancer, I’m sure it’s nothing, I’ll just go about my life.  The next time I see my doctor, I’ll have it checked.  When I had it checked, they really weren’t worried, it didn’t feel like cancer.  Everybody was status quo.  Then when we started going down that road that it really was cancer, the good thing is, after my friends and family got over that initial shock,

I was blown away by the support I received.  You find out who your friends and family really are.  It was pretty amazing.  Actually, it’s what got me through because I didn’t get a lot of the crying, they wouldn’t let me be the woe is me.  They were like, fine, we’re going to fight this with you.  It was an incredible journey for them to be with me on.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s so fantastic to hear, Dana.  Even if you have those people who are really close to you and they’re really supporting you through it, it can still be really tough to deal with emotionally and mentally because stuff like in between treatment and you’re waiting for results and to hear from your specialists.  Was there anything that helped you stay on top of it emotionally and mentally?

Dana:              During treatment, I found that I was on auto-pilot.  I had my list of appointments, treatments, my surgeries, everything.  I’m kind of a planner.  As long as I had my list of here’s what I have to do, I worked with my nurse navigator on that, I felt pretty comfortable that I could make it through.  Like I said, I kind of turned on autopilot, so the emotions were kind of suppressed.  For me, it was let’s just do everything they tell me to do and let’s get this done and move on with my life.  That was, in my opinion, the easy part.  It was the aftermath for me that was a lot more difficult.

I allowed myself to feel the emotions when I was done with my final chemo treatment.  That’s where it really got tough for me more so than the treatment itself.  One of the big things that I… that I prayed that the cancer isn’t going to come back.  Nobody understands this.  Threw that on a piece of paper and was allowed to just get it out there.  The paper never judged me.  I think that was probably one of the best tools that I ever used to get through.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic.  Was that like a diary that you had?  Would you write in it every day?

Dana:              Yes, not every day.  I wrote in it a lot and I also kind of used it to keep track of my journey.  Today, I went to the doctor and we finalised my surgery.  I decided to go with the mastectomy.  Here, were my thoughts why I did that.  Then one of the big things I did was in the back of it, I printed out small pictures of family and friends and trips and all of this stuff that I had done before my treatment started and put a little collage together.  I remember titling it: Why am I doing this?  Chemo is hard.  Making these surgery decisions to remove parts of your body is terrifying.  I had to remind myself, why am I doing this?  What am I doing?  I put all of that together and I would go to the back of my notebook and I would look back and be like, because of these people and these things that happened in my life and that’s why.  I wrote in it a ton and I carried it with me to every appointment.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic, Dana.  I really agree with you, this having a visual cue, having this reminder of what you’re fighting for.  That’s really powerful.  Did you come up with it yourself?

Dana:              Yes, I like to do that visual/creative kind of thing, like scrapbooking and things like that.  Something that I knew if I had that with me, I would stay on the course.  I loved to write, and journaling has always kind of helped me.  Just having that notebook with me was almost like my version of a little kid with a teddy bear.  It just was very comforting to have that where I was going.  It was there, it was my safe place.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic because it also gets all of these worries out of your head and out into the real world.  On the paper, whatever it is, but it’s out of your head.

Dana:              Exactly.  That’s where it needs to go, otherwise, it bottlenecks up there and not good.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely.  Dana, you mentioned that it really hit you emotionally when you finished treatment.  What happened then?  Why do you think it worked out that way?

Dana:              For me, I don’t bottle up my emotions, per se, but I was in that fight mode.  Looking back, in my mind, I was like, I don’t have time to worry and be fearful.  I have to go through chemo.  I have to decide what kind of surgery I’m going to do.  The big thing was, I have to hope I live and make through this.  I have cancer.  I have no idea what’s happening with it.  You hear the word, you think you’re dead on Tuesday.  In my mind, it was just, emotions, I’ll worry about them later.  Looking back, I kind of wish I wouldn’t have done that.  I kind of wish I would have gone through the process as it was happening.  For me, I bottled it up, I had my last chemo.  I had seen doctors every week to every three weeks.

I was finished with my last chemo treatment and they were like, “Hey, cool, you’re done.  Great.  We’ll see you in two months.” I was like, “What just happened?” I say I crashed and burned.  I had a complete meltdown, couldn’t stop crying.  It all flooded in at that moment what had happened to me for the last six months.  I think that’s why the emotional toll was so great for me because I just didn’t have time to do it when I was trying to figure out, how was I going to beat cancer.

Joe:                 Cool.  How did you get through it?  How did you get through this really tough time?

Dana:              I talk a lot.  I talk to a lot of people.  I actually saw a therapist.  I know sometimes people are like, I don’t want to do that or that must mean you’re crazy.  I tell everybody, go talk to somebody.  Talk to a professional.  Talk to somebody who’s not a family or a friend, who’s going to automatically be like, you’re going to be okay, everything’s okay.  You need to hear from somebody who really doesn’t know you or just is a professional in the situation saying, alright, here’s why this is happening, here’s what you can do to get out of it, and yes, right now, you need to mourn the situation.

I found that going to speak to somebody.  Quite honestly, I still talk to somebody today, helped me tremendously break down what was happening, because I didn’t understand it.  I was like, I should be so happy.  I’m done.  Everybody wants to celebrate.  This is so great, and I’m miserable.  Going and talking to someone, it was a gamechanger.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic, Dana.  I think that’s so brave of you because I guess I’m speaking for myself here, but probably for many of us, it doesn’t really occur for you to go and see a professional, right?  It’s like it’s cancer, it’s supposed to be tough, right?

Dana:              Right.  That was the thing, too.  My oncologist was the one who told me.  He was like, I think you just need to go and talk to somebody.  I was like, about what?  It just doesn’t click.  I’m like, what am I supposed to talk about?  Then when I went through the process, I was like, okay.

Joe:                 Yes, exactly.  I think it’s really great, in many ways it’s kind of like a stranger on a train.  There’s no filter, there’s clearly no agenda, you can just say whatever you want, right?

Dana:              Exactly.  It goes back to that whole judgement thing.  If your family friends – good family and friends are not going to judge you – but you’re still not going to maybe open up as much and tell them, I’m so afraid that I’m not going to live past the next year.  I would dabble in that a little bit with my parents or my friends.  Like, no, you’ll be fine.  It’s like, you don’t know that.  You don’t know how I feel by saying that.  Going to somebody, like you say, a stranger on a train, they’re not saying, “Don’t think that”, they’re like, “Here’s why you’re thinking that.” It helps break it down and you’re like, okay, cool.  I’m really not crazy, these are normal feelings.  Excellent.  That helps.

Joe:                 Yes.  During that time, both during treatment and after, it’s so hard for not only yourself but also for the people close to you.  I know you’re really close with your mum.  It’s really hard for them to watch you go through cancer.  Like, in your experience, what are some of the biggest challenges for the caregiver?

Dana:              That’s a good question.  Honestly, I think they’re some of the most forgotten people in this whole thing.  Granted, the focus has to be on the person going through it, but the caregivers are needed and they’re those rocks that we need.  Their emotions and everything are pushed aside.  Like, we don’t want to hear it, I don’t care that you’re upset today.  I just had a mastectomy.  You are feeling worried, I don’t really want to hear it.  I went back and forth with my mom and dad, mostly my mom was my caregiver.

We struggled a couple of times because she would want to tell me her emotions, like, I don’t want to hear you saying you’re going to die, you’re going to live, you’re going to be fine.  I was like, I don’t want to hear you say that, I don’t want to hear that you don’t agree with what I’m saying.  We would butt heads a bit because it was hard for me to process her emotions because I couldn’t even process mine.  Then she had nobody to talk to because none of her friends had kids who were going through cancer at that time.  She was just like, I have to support my daughter, and nobody can support me.  We talked a lot about that, especially after I was done.

One of the things that my mom and I agreed about, right after I had my crash and burn after treatment was, we’re going to agree to disagree.  She’s going to feel this way, I’m going to feel this way.  We’re both just going to realise that’s what’s happening.  It was a lot better than us trying to be like, dissecting each other’s feelings and trying to understand what we couldn’t understand.  The caregiver situation is very interesting to me now that I’m so far out and seeing it more.  They’re like the forgotten people.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s such a great way of putting it.  They really are the forgotten people.

Dana:              I feel bad saying it because we need them.

Joe:                 Yes, exactly, because really the way I see it is, obviously, like you said, the whole focus in on the person going through cancer, but when you’re the caregiver, you’ve got not only to be the rock and support the person who’s going through it, but you also have to try to maintain some sort of semblance of normal everyday life.  You have to still try to go on and show up and be normal or whatever that is, right?

Dana:              Very true, yes.  Exactly.

Joe:                 What sort of advice would you have for someone who is a caregiver, for someone who – what should you do to support someone through cancer but also to support themselves and to take care of themselves, as well?

Dana:              Good question.  I’m not sure I have a 100 percent answer, but when you support the person going through the cancer, I don’t know how to say it without sounding like a real awful person, but you have to make sure that their emotions, what they’re going through in that moment is the focus when you’re talking to them.  Just let them talk it out, don’t fight what they’re saying.  If they’re telling you, “I’m terrified the cancer is going to come back and I’m so worried I’m going to die.” What didn’t help me was, no, no, no, you’ll be fine. Dana Photo

Okay, I’m hearing you, that must be so scary, tell me that at any time.  I’m here to listen.  I think just accepting what that person is saying and being there to just be their sounding board because both of you have no idea what to expect in this whole thing, so trying to challenge back feelings, at least for me, didn’t work.  The other thing is, I would say, take care of yourself, find somebody to talk to, find a friend, find a professional, make sure you’re still taking care of yourself.  It’s so easy to forget yourself when you’re worried about your sister, your husband, your daughter, whoever, your friend.  I think that just reminding, as a caregiver, selfcare, you need to get your rest, you need to talk.  You need to go exercise, you need to go do your stuff, too.  You’re as important to yourself as that person that you’re caring for.  It’s a very tough place to be, it really is.

Joe:                 Yes, so true, Dana.  Look, I really connected with your article on how we need to focus about living stories, they’re so important.  That’s something that nobody really talks about.  Can you share your perspective on that?

Dana:              Well, the way I was thinking about it was, I feel like you get so caught up in cancer, death.  Nobody sees anything in between and I don’t mean to be negative, but a perfect example of it to me is when I was diagnosed, my grandpa was 80-something at the time.  He was around in the early days, where you were diagnosed with cancer and you were dead.  I was diagnosed with cancer, and we laugh about it now, it’s not really that funny, but I was like, I’m convinced, I was diagnosed on a Tuesday and grandpa thought I’d be dead by Saturday.  He was just having a meltdown.

I’m like, guys, it’s not a death sentence.  Let’s focus on the living things and things that are going on in these everyday stories.  This instead of worrying about it.  I stink at it.  I’m so fearful half the time that my cancer is going to recur and I’m not going to live long enough to do anything.  I was diagnosed when I was 32.  I was terrified I was never going to make 40.  I just think, at least for me, I got so hung up on stuff like that, you just miss out on everything else.  Cancer is not a good thing by any means, but there are things that awaken in you, to go and do what you want to do.  That’s the perspective, that’s taken me, in all fairness, a really long time to figure out.

Joe:                 Absolutely.  We hear, you’re right, we hear all of these so negative stories about cancer, about death and dying, and about all of this negative stuff that really isn’t supportive.  Like yourself, I wanted to hear the positive stuff.  I wanted to hear the stories that let me know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  I wanted to know that you could overcome cancer and have a life beyond that, you know?

Dana:              Exactly.  I think that’s a really hard lesson to learn.  Again, in the instruction book that doesn’t exist, nobody tells you that.  Nobody tells you that.  It’s so hard to figure that out and see that it’s potentially not a death sentence.  Whether you’re stage one or stage four, in my opinion, it doesn’t really matter.  It doesn’t mean that everything stops today.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely.  If you were writing the survival manual that doesn’t exist.  Especially if you had a chapter for young adults because that’s a real area that is probably overlooked again.  What sort of advice do you have for younger folks who are forced to confront cancer and it’s the last thing they have expected, how do you deal with it all?

Dana:              That’s a big question.  I’ve said it a couple of times, so I was 32, I was single, no kids.  I feel like in the culture today, when you think of cancer and you think of diagnosis, you think, like, my grandma, my uncle, older people.  At least, initially, that was eight years ago.  I was like, young adults, they are the forgotten people, we’re not the childhood cancer, we’re not these older adults, one in two who are going to get cancer in their lifetime or whatever it is.  We’re in the middle that nobody wants to think about, and nobody expects to get it.  That, to me, is almost the biggest struggle.

My advice would be, this is so easy to say, and I know when I was diagnosed, I didn’t want to hear it, but it doesn’t mean that everything is done.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t go and do whatever you want to do.  It also doesn’t mean that you just have to listen to a doctor who’s going to tell you if you feel a lump or you don’t feel well or whatever the case may be, that you’re fine, you’re too young, don’t worry about it.  I’ve heard those stories before too and that always just sends me over the edge with young adults facing cancer, because I know many people who are kind of brushed off, like, no, you’re too young.

To me, at least even at the beginning, fight for your body and make sure you’re getting the care and the treatment from medical professionals that you think is right for you, and don’t let them tell you you’re too young.  I’ve heard it, people have heard it.  If you’re already diagnosed and you’ve hit that point, what helped me was, I had a bucket list of stuff I wanted to do immediately that I refused to wait for anymore.  Not because I’m telling everybody, if you have cancer, that’s it for you, but use this as your wake-up call to go and do.  Don’t do the waiting, don’t wait around and just, someday I’ll do it.

Just go do it, whether it’s something as silly as, I don’t know, being a tourist in your own town to taking that trip that you always wanted to take.  I feel like people just get so hung up on, you know, I got cancer at a young age, so that’s it for me.  It doesn’t have to be.

Joe:                 Exactly.  I know that it’s such a cliché, but cancer was such an incredible wake-up call.  It made me realise that, yes, there is no time like now.  The past is gone, the future is completely shrouded in this unknown.  The only time to live your life is right now, isn’t it?

Dana:              It’s so true.  I don’t like to give cancer credit for anything because it completely stinks, and it can just screw up your life plans pretty quick.  It can be a wake-up call, that you can turn into a positive and that brings me to another thing that I did that was an amazing little adventure.  One of my oldest friends, she’s about six years younger than me, I’ve known her since she was born.  I was her babysitter, we’re like sisters.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer two years after me, which was absolutely ridiculous because I thought I took one for the team, thinking nobody else was going to be affected this young.  It’s not that common.  We went through it together.  I was done and then she was done and we’re like, do you know what?  We’re not going to waste any more time on anything.

She had come up with the idea, let’s do something, one new thing every single day for a year.  We called it life-it-up-365.  We did something new every single day for an entire year.  It was something as silly as learning to tie a tie, trying a new food.  Whatever the case may be, we each did our own things, some things we did together.  For that entire year, we did a new thing.  It was probably one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done, and I assure you, I never would have even thought of it had I not had cancer.

Joe:                 Yes, fantastic.  I love it.  Life-it-up-365, is that what you called it?

Dana:              Yes.

Joe:                 Wow.  That should be a website.

Dana:              Well, we had started a Facebook page.  She had gotten the idea from a lady that she had seen speak that had done something similar, and then we kind of did it and took our own twist onto it.  We always keep saying, we’ve got to keep this going.  Then life interjected again.  Yes, we need to restart that up.

Joe:                 Yes, for sure.  I know that one thing that comes up for every single person who went through cancer is obviously the fear of cancer coming back.  I always get that before my regular check-ups.  How do you deal with it?  What would you recommend to someone who’s going through it?

Dana:              I’ll be completely honest with you, I’ve struggled with it for a long time.  I’m eight years out and I still have fears.  I mentioned earlier, I still go talk to somebody because I am still fearful.  What didn’t help me, and this might help others, so it depends on the person, was a lot of people told me, that fear will go away and you’ll feel so much better in a year, two, three, five years.  It always sits with me.  I like to tell people, it’s okay if it doesn’t go away.  To me, it’s not the fact that it’s gone away, I’ve just gotten better with dealing with it.  Over time, I can just handle it better than I used to.  I think it’s normal,

I think it’s common.  I think it’s absolutely right to fear it.  Don’t let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t and that you’re fine, you should move on.  I gob ack to some of the other things that I talked about with you earlier.  I still do a lot of writing, I still talk to somebody, just getting those words out there to me is what’s helped so much more than just keeping it bottled up.  I tried bottling it up a year after I was done, I tried bottling it up four years after I was done.  It did not work.  I tell people, talk about it.  Don’t be upset if it doesn’t go away.  It may not.  It may always be a part of your cancer journey, whether you’re a year out, six months into your treatment, or twenty years down the road.  I think any of that is fine.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely, Dana, do you know what?  Doing this podcast and I started writing a book, a lot of that stuff, in other words, doing something that is bigger than myself really gave me a better grasp, a better way of dealing with cancer, of dealing with life.  Did you in any way go through a similar experience with what you’re doing with the dragon fly angel society and writing your articles?  Was that similar in any way?

Dana:              Absolutely.  I was shaking my head as you were talking with what you have done.  100 percent agree.  Writing a lot and giving other people my opinion or feedback and then reading other people’s feedback or articles or listening to a podcast and starting my website: The dragon fly angel society.  That kind of kept me going, that kind of helped me get my feelings out there, get my fears out there, and I thought of newly diagnosed Dana.  I still do.

What would she want to see when she was told she had cancer?  I think back to all of the stuff I couldn’t find, like, didn’t know what survivorship was like, stuff like that.  That actually, over the last couple of years, to your point, I agree with you 1000 percent, that has helped me tremendously.  It really has.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic because I really do think that is the sort of stuff that really gives you the point of focus on something positive, something that is really like an outlet for emotions, for negativity and it allows you to look beyond – it allows me to look beyond my own fears and frustrations and stuff like that.  Dana, tell me about dragon fly angel society?  What does it mean to you?  How did you get started?

Dana:              When I was done with – well, I wouldn’t say that – when I was done with chemo and I had that initial crash and burn right after I was done, I kind of wanted to do something.  I volunteer, I work with the survival coalition and a couple of other organisations to just stay involved.  It helps to meet people.  I felt was still missing was, there was so little on survivorship.  I didn’t know if it was because nobody wanted to talk about it, like when they were done with their cancer treatment, they were like, peace out, I’m out of this realm and I’m not going back.  Or if people just couldn’t focus on it because obviously the most important thing is the diagnosis and the active treatment and getting cancer out of people’s bodies.  I don’t know.

I was just like, now what do I do?  Nobody can tell me, we’ve kind of been laughing about it, but there’s no survivorship book or things, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.  I was thinking about it for a while and then my mom and I were talking a lot and we had talked about this whole caregiver person, as well, and the lack of resources for them.  She and I were just talking and like, we want to do something, but we have no idea what to do.  Then we were both like, what if we do something on survivorship?  What if we help people who are done and then throw their hands up and say, “Now what do I do?

What do their caregivers do?” That’s really how it got started because we just started talking about, what do we do?  I kept saying, I’m lost, I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with my life and nobody has any information for me on how to be a survivor.  Then I would find resources here and three, and books that I liked, and ideas that I had.  We were just like, what if we just put all of those onto one website where we could tell people, hey, go here and if you like books, if you like websites, if you like writing or whatever the case may be, or you want to hear survivor stories, come to our website, we’ll put it all there and let you then choose your adventure.  I can’t give medical advice,

I’m not a doctor or anything along those lines, but I can get people these resources in one spot, then maybe I could make it easier for them than it was for me.  That’s how we got it started.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic, Dana.  I think when you were talking about what would you say to your old self, I felt that every step of the way, if I was thinking of when I was going through treatment, when the treatment is finished.  I feel like I found out about all of these resources that I’ve never heard about when I actually needed it at a particular time.  It’s so amazing, that I think that experience is almost universal, right?  We could have all went, why didn’t I know about this earlier?

Dana:              Exactly.

Joe:                 It’s fantastic what you’re doing and what you’re doing with your mum, because you’ve got the dual perspective, right?  You’ve got you, obviously you went through it, and your mum went through it with you and you bring it all together.

Dana:              Exactly.  There are some decent resources out there that either a lot of people don’t know about or maybe people just don’t want to hear about until they’re done.  Then at that point they just want a break from it.  Then they don’t realise, maybe they’re like me and they don’t realise, two/three/six months down the road, two years down the road, shoot, I really do need something.  That’s why we’re like, come to our website and we’ll help you figure out where you need to go and get that professional advice you need, or a website you’re looking for or something like that.  it just seemed like such a thing that I wish I would have had to get started.  There are a lot of really good resources out there that I just don’t think a lot of people know about.

Joe:                 Yes, absolutely.  Sometimes it’s just about connecting people to those resources.

Dana:              Absolutely.  You’re absolutely right on that.

Joe:                 If someone wanted to find out and visit your website, what would they do?

Dana:              All they’d have to do, if you go to the website, the front page is basically our story, so if you’re curious to know about how we got started.  It’s more so classifications, do you like websites?  You click on the website box and then you can see if you’re looking for breast cancer or general cancer or young adult cancer, or whatever the case may be.  Obviously, most of it is focused on breast cancer, that’s what I know best.  You can go to the website and click, and it’ll take you onto this group or organisation, you just build your road from there.

If you’re looking for books, if you’re looking for some magazines, survivor stories, it’s all literally on that front page and you just go to the initial website and then you can start your journey.  Like, choose your own adventure, if you will.  We kind of just put it all in one spot and then it allows you to go off to these other websites and organisations to find what you’re looking for.  It’s very easy.  Then we do some blogging.  We do newsletters.  We try to connect people through survivor stories.  Things like that.  All stuff that I wanted to see when I was done.

We’re always looking for new resources, new people to write for us, it’s just my mom and me.  That’s basically what it is.  I feel like it’s a starting point for a cancer survivor or a caregiver.  Either right when you’re starting your diagnosis, there’s plenty of information, but the focus is more so when you’re done with your active treatment, where do you go from here?

Joe:                 That’s really cool, Dana.  I love it.  Given everything that you know now, you’ve read all of these websites, you’ve read all of these books, you’ve obviously thought about it a lot, you’ve processed it from writing articles and your journal and everything else.  As a cancer survivor, what is the best advice that you could give to someone who has survived cancer and now they have to deal with life?  It’s a big one.

Dana:              Just be patient.  Let yourself feel the path.  Don’t just, I need to go to four websites and I need to write four journal entries a day.  Write if it feels good.  Don’t write if it doesn’t feel good.  Just give yourself a break.  People will be giving you advice left and right and telling you this, that, and the other.  If you don’t want to talk about your cancer anymore for a while, or you don’t want to deal with it and you don’t want to go to a support group, or you want to go and see somebody individually, or whatever the case may be.  Do it.  I feel like we get so hung up on, well, this person said I should do this.  This person said don’t do that.  This person said become a vegan.

This person said… just give yourself a break, listen to what your body and your mind is telling you and go do it.  Don’t stress about it.  If you never want to do anything with cancer again when you’re done, don’t.  I just feel like we get so hung up on what everybody is telling us we should do, what is your mind telling you, you should do?  If you want to talk about it daily in a support group, go do it, but I just think you’ve got to just let yourself follow what works for you and not what everybody is telling you to do.

Joe:                 That’s such a great point, Dana.  What inspires you to live your life in the best way that you can?

Dana:              A lot of it has to do with the fact that I feel like it was a wake-up call.  There was so much I wanted to do.  I had never been kicked in the butt, if you will, to get it done, for me, it was just, cancer or not, it was just, shoot, there’s all the stuff I wanted to do, I started making a list, I was like, man, whether I have cancer or not, I’ve got to get moving on this stuff.  That was like my wake-up call, my inspiration to – I’m not going to say no if I don’t want to say no, I’m not going to say yes if I don’t want to say yes.

It just… I got to press a restart button.  In a way, that was kind of cool.  I moved to a different state, I quit my job and started something new.  I don’t know if I would have ever done that, had I not gotten sick.  Now, it’s like a little adventure.  What can I do next?  What’s next on my list?  That’s kind of fun.  It was kind of good to have that wake-up call.

Joe:                 Yes, that’s fantastic, Dana.  What is next one the list?  Do you know?  Do you have some plans that you can share?

Dana:              I was telling you, I just took the biggest trip of my life.  I wanted to go to Australia my whole life and I finally just went three weeks ago.

Joe:                 Yay.

Dana:              Yes.  At this point, I’m kind of like, I don’t know what I want to do.  That has been on my list since before I got sick.  That took a lot of planning and a lot of saving, so I just did that.  Honestly, I don’t know what’s next.  I literally just lived the biggest adventure that I was hoping to live in my life.  There are more places I want to see.  I’d like to maybe write a book if I could, that might be a next on my list.  I really want to keep the survivorship movement going and continue to help people who face the challenges like I faced.  I’ve said it many times, I’ve struggled immensely with survivorship and the emotions.  I was diagnosed with PTSD because of it.  I really had a rough go.

I feel inspired to – maybe what’s next for me is kind of getting a little bit more of that out there and helping others who experienced the same thing as I did.  If I can get more awareness out there, I’d like to do that, too, I think it’s so important that people – maybe there’s nobody like me, maybe there’s a lot of people like me.  You’re not the only ones.  It doesn’t have to stink.  It’s a rough go.  It’s definitely a rough go.  There are good things you can do to get through it.

Joe:                 That’s fantastic, Dana.  Thank you for being yourself and for putting yourself out there.

Dana:              Sure, thank you.  Thanks for letting me chat away.

Joe:                 No, I love it.  Thanks so much for your time.  I really appreciate it.

Dana:              You got it.  Thanks again.