4 Words Foundation, Inc.

  Because Awareness DOES Matter!


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Cancer is Not Defined by Month

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on August 4, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Repost - Originally written 08/09/2017

I just realized this morning that all the Cancer Awareness months are so well known that individuals do not stop to think that there are a couple of months on the Cancer Awareness Calendar that do not have any cancer related to them; August and December.

Why is that?  Did someone decide to go on a cancer awareness holiday? 

Cancer is not defined by a week, a month, or a year; it is everyday.  Those who are currently battling cancer, those who have survived do not get to take an awareness holiday.  It is now a part of their lives forever.  If you are currently battling; your days are filled with anxiety, hope, and fear.  If you have survived cancer you also have the same anxiety, hope and fear, although it may be of a different scope.

While there are some cancer awareness events held during these months, they may not be as well attended as families take vacation, some get ready for college, a new school year begins in many communities, and everyone just wants to enjoy the end of summer.

I get it, life gets busy.  But to cancer patients/survivors/families this disease does not take a holiday.

We need to keep the converation going, keep cancer awareness in our sights, and continue to Unite in the Fight.

June is National Cancer Survivor Month

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on June 2, 2018 at 4:20 AM

What do I think about when I hear the words "Cancer Survivor?" 

I think about all the individuals who heard the words "you have cancer" from their physician. I think about the millions of emotions those words instill.  The fear, saddness, anger, each and everyone of them has faced.  I think about the challenges of treatment.  Chemotherapy and its effects.  The days/weeks of daily Radiation.  The multiple diagnostic tests needed to see if treatment is working, if the cancer is gone, if it has come back.  I think about the financial burden many individuals/families have faced and the strain it places on them.  

Having cancer changes you.  During treatment it's about getting through the day and keeping life as normal as possible.  After treatment and for many years later the word Cancer never leaves your thoughts.  The first year or two of survival is filled with many doctor appointments, treatment and tests.  As each "Cancer Free"  year passes things begin to get back to a New Normal.  Your physicians may now only see you once a year for follow-up.  You have more time to do the things you used to do.  However the one thing that never changes is that "Cancer" is always on your mind.  You become more aware of your own health.  It's hard not to panic with each new twinge, pain or ache.  Having Cancer should not change the person you are; it should DEFINE who you become.

As a survivor, I am grateful to my husband who was and is there for me through this journey.  To my family and friends for their support both during and after treatment and which continues to this day.  To my healthcare team (physicians, surgeons, nurses) who face this disease daily and take the time during my annual vists to make me feel special, listen to my concerns and truly care about my well-being.

As a survivor, I believe Cancer made me a better person.  I look at things differently. I have a bigger purpose in life.  I want to help individuals understand the importance of health screenings in the prevention, detection, and treatment of Cancer.  I want people to know they are not alone in the fight.  I want to make a difference in raising Cancer Awareness.   I want people to take care of their health so they can be around to take care of their family.  

What do you think about when you hear the words "Cancer Survivor?"  

The Loss of a Community Resource

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on April 5, 2018 at 12:30 AM

Last night's news about Susan G. Komen SWFL closing was a devasting blow to our local community and those affected by a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.  They have been a major resource in our community and their closing in May will have a dramatic affect on our area.                          While the national chapter is still in existence it has to make you wonder how much support will actually be returned to our area.

It saddens me to think that their closure is about money.  The contracts with the national organization reflect how much a chapter is supposed to raise during the year.  From all the information provided, the local chapter provided 25% or net proceeds raised back to the national organization while the remaining was used for programs/projects in the local area.  So if the goal is not met the affliate must close?  This is where it makes it seem like it's all about the money - not the people.  Many good people have worked with the local chapter of Susan G. Komen and raised significant dollars for their cause. This is not the first affliate to close and probably will not be the last.

The past year has been difficult to raise funds for all of the local nonprofits in our community.  Hurricane Irma took its toll and whatever monies may have been set aside for donations needed to be used to help victims of the storm, or to get an individuals own home back in order.  Requiring a specific dollar amount to be tied to a contract to utilize the nonprofits name in my opinion is ridiculous.  What happened to supporting the cause and the people?  Where did their passion go?

4 Words Foundation is honored to receive even the smallest amount an individual might be able to spare. A small donation from many people can have a huge effect.  $1.00 from 100 people can fund a mammogram, $2.00 from the same 100 people could cover a CT Lung Cancer Screening, or consultation with a physician, or someone's copay for diagnostic imaging in their cancer diagnosis.  Even loose change, collected in a jar, can add up to a significant donation.

For 4 Words Foundation, it's about those we can help.  We might not be able to fund an individual's entire request, but sometimes just a little help can take away some of the stress.  Even if someone cannot donate financially to us they can help by volunteering at our events, spreading the word about our organization, or providing in-kind donations that can be utilized during fundraising events.

Luckily there are many other non-profits who may be able to help fill the void.  Maybe not all of it, but at least as a community we can band together and help each other, raise awareness about the importance of health screenings in the prevention, early detection and treatment of ALL cancers.  We are here for you - Because Awareness DOES Matter.

Supporting Medical Office Staff

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on January 29, 2018 at 6:20 AM

Supporting Medical Office Personnel

Last week was a very stressful week in the world of assisting patients.   As individuals called to explain why they needed financial assistance, they also blamed the medical office staff of not having compassion or empathy.

When an individual finds out they need additional testings due to the fact they may have cancer, their brain goes into overdrive.  They panic as they are faced with new plan year deductibles, coinsurance and personal expenses that now are overwhelming.  They are frightened, angry, scared and sometimes confused.  As they speak with the financial departments of the healthcare facilities they are now informed how much their financial responsibility will be for the next test.  This is the breaking point for most of them and they EXPLODE.  This week the explosion was directed at me.  

We have some of the finest facilities for testing in SWFL and their personnel are the backbone of these companies.  They must face these patients each and everyday at work, all while maintaining their composure.  What we all must realize is that these employees deal with patients receiving bad news (health or financial) each and every day.  They may even have their own health/financial worries, however they are there to communicate the information from the business to the patient. That is what they are paid for and are required to do; it's part of their job description.  I am sure they do not relish in the fact of delivering bad news to anyone.  It takes a special person to handle this type of position and in my opinion do it very well.  I even once witnessed one of these conversations while waiting for my own diagnostic testing.  The patient was extremely overwhelmed, however the employee maintained her composure, providing the information as clearly and concisely as she could.

I personnally have been a patient on the receiving end of this type of information.  It's not easy to swallow; but then again it's not the fault of the employee at the facility.  Not everyone handles bad news the same.  Some realize that it is what it is, while others just get down right mad.  We just should not put the blame on them.

My suggestions to those I spoke with this past week was to take a step back and breathe.  Getting past the bad news and determining where or how to move forward may only take a minute, hour, day or month; but you will get there.  Placing blame and anger where it does not belong is not the best use of energy.  Our energy should be spent in determining how to best take care of ourself.

Our healthcare professionals ARE there for us, even if it doesn't feel like it in the moment.  After all is said and done, they really do care.

Health Awareness

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on November 11, 2017 at 5:40 AM

A few months ago I visited my physician for my annual Gynecological exam.  This is a great time to discuss any concerns and I brought a few to this visit.  I explained to the physician some ongoing symptoms that did not seem to get better over the prior months.  As individuals we are told to listen to our bodies, contact our physicians with any concerns.  We know our own bodies and we know what is normal or not. 

As we age, sometimes new symptoms are just part of the aging process, some might not be.  Some symptoms can be just benign in nature while others might be signalling a serious health condition.  After multiple tests regarding these symptoms (ie: diagnostic colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, MRI, etc.) these symptoms continued. 

As a women, there are some issues that we are told have "silent" symptoms.  I was concerned about "below-the-belt" conditions and asked it I could have an Ultrasound to rule out other possible causes.  The physician obliged my request and ordered the Transvaginal Ultrasound.

Upon my return to the office after the testing was done I was assured that everything was okay.  As I was leaving the office I heard the physician say out loud, "stop watching TV".  I turned about and asked - "just what do you mean by that?"   They stated that just because a celebrity had died of Ovarian Cancer, didn't mean everyone would get it.  Quite frankly I was stunned by this response, turned and proceeded to the checkout window.

Now maybe they didn't mean to say that out loud, maybe they were having a rough day; however I have been going to this physician for years and I am not the type of patient to call for every ache in my body.  I had a genuine concern (and still do).  This physician has always been one of my favorites, talks direct, doesn't sugar coat issues and this is what I respect most about them. 

I am a cancer awareness advocate for both women and men.  I'm also a cancer survivor.  This episode a few months ago has really hit a nerve.  I now don't know if I should bring concerns up to this physician at my next visit, or is it time to consider changing to a new one?

I am a believer that taking care of your health should be a partnership between patient and physician.  Like a business, if the partners no longer think on the same terms, or agree with common issues it is time to have the discussion that may result in parting ways.

I guess I'll figure it out in a couple of months when I return for my annual exam.

I'm Proof - Mammograms Work!

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on October 4, 2017 at 6:15 AM


October is upon us and as everyone knows it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  October we are surrounded by messages, fundraising events, and everything pink.  How could we not know it is all about Breast Cancer?

1 in 8 women are diagnosed with Breast Cancer each year.  These diagnosis don't just happen in October.  They happen each and every month and range from Stage 0 to Stage 4.  Thankfully to the researchers, physicians and other healthcare professionals; a diagnosis of Breast Cancer is no longer a death sentence.  In fact more and more women AND men are surviving this diagnosis.

The mission of 4 Words Foundation has always been, and will continue to be about raising awareness in the prevention, detection, and treatment of ALL cancers - including Breast Cancer.

By practicing well care you can prevent many illnesses, however the most important fact is that by receiving your annual screenings you are able to detect cancers at earlier stages when they are most treatable with much better outcomes.  So why not take time for yourself, schedule your annual mammogram.  It was because of my own annual mammogram that my Breast Cancer was discovered and I was able to receive the quick and decisive treatment needed to be where I am today - cancer free and loving life.

"I'm Proof - Mammograms Work"

5 Year's Cancer Free

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on June 18, 2017 at 4:50 AM

This month marks my 5 year anniversary of being cancer free.  Through the caring and compassion of my healthcare providers and the support of my family and friends, I am truly thankful.

I no longer have to go to the Oncologist for check-ups, I will continue to see my Radiation Oncologist yearly, and I finally get to stop taking the chemo-preventative prescription.  However, the one thing that will always be a part of my life is the fact that I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and survived it.  As always I will still get my annual mammograms, and continue to practice well-care.  In fact, practicing well-care is what caught my cancer early.  I am a staunch supporter of annual exams; whether they be with my primary care provider or my gynecologist.  

Starting 4 Words Foundation, with the help of my best friend and my niece, was based on those I met during treatment.  Some stated they had not had an exam in months/years, others didn't see their physician until it was too late.  They denied they had a problem.

Cancer is scary; there is no doubt about it.  The fear of the unknown can be paralizing to most individuals, it can knock the wind right out of you. However, once you are past the initial shock, moving forward is your only option.  It is never easy, it can take a lot of personal strength.  

Thanks to the advances in medicine, more women that ever are finding their Breast Cancer early, being treated and having better outcomes than years ago.   There is absolutely no reason for not getting screened.  Take charge of your health.  We want you to be around to take care of your family.


"JUST" - A Word That Hurts

Posted by marie@4wordsfoundation.org on April 16, 2017 at 5:40 AM

A couple of months ago I had an appointment with my Oncologist whom I currently see every 4-6 months.  These appointments are normally informative and collaborative in my healthcare.  During this particular visit I wanted to discuss an issue regarding some symptoms I have been experiencing for the past few months.  The physician listened as I explained the symptoms, the tests I had already had, their findings, etc.  After examining me stated, "I don't think it is anything to worry about, you "JUST" had DCIS."

I have heard that word from the Oncologist before but this particular visit that one word hit a nerve.   If I "JUST" had DCIS then why did I have surgery, lose 15% of my breast, spend 6.5 weeks going to daily radiation therapy, and currently take a prescription to prevent recurrence?  I left the office that day feeling very insignificant.  In fact it has bothered me so much that is why I have written this blog.  Writing is very  cathartic for me.  

DCIS (Ductual Carcinoma In Situ) is Stage 0, and has a >95% cure rate when diagnosed and treated early.   I am very fortunate to have caught and treated my cancer very early and my prognosis is excellent, however many others are not as fortunate.  To any cancer patient or their family, regardless of the type of cancer diagnosis, it is not "JUST" cancer.   

For the most part as survivors or current patients, we are able to go on with our lives; however their are times that the thought of cancer might continually enter our mind.  For me, it is just before each doctor visit or diagnostic test.  It usually comes to the forefront a few days before each appointment.  For others it's everyday.  Everyone deals with their diagnosis, treatment, feelings and survivorship differently.  There is no right or wrong way.  We are entitled to our feelings and concerns and to have them diminished by the word "JUST" is incomprehensible to me.  My feelings or those of any cancer patient are not "JUST".

A cancer diagnosis, its treatment, and survivorship are life long reminders to us; that we are human, we have feelings/emotions, we are not invincible, that it will always be on minds and that each of our particular cancer diagnosis are not "JUST".