5 Businesses Helping Cancer Patients Recover

Each year, it seems a new charity, event, or awareness campaign for cancer patients. We love this. 2015 has been an amazing year for cancer research and fundraising. Business owners have been vital in stepping up with programs that support patients, research, new treatments, and loved ones. And in this Golden Age of Start-ups, an incredible trend has emerged: start-ups that focus on life after cancer treatment and post-treatment healing. People are investing in the health of their neighbors, their loved ones, their friends – and here are a few that we love:

  1. This spa owner in Colorado tops our list. She trains her massage therapists in oncology massage treatments for cancer survivors, and provides free massages to cancer patients, their caregivers.

  2.  Sable’s Foods, a Connecticut-based nutrition business catering to cancer patients with protein bars that meet specific nutrional needs. Sable’s Foods was developed by a former oncology nurse, who describes her bars as “designed by the cancer community, for the cancer community.”
  3. Vinnie Myers of Little Vinny’s Tattoos in Maryland – who helps survivors of breast cancer regain their confidence, self-esteem, and mental wellness with his sought-after three-dimensional nipple tattoos. Patients who have had a mastectomy, and don’t want another surgery to reconstruct a nipple, head to Vinnie for a crucial part of their mental and physical recovery.

  4. This spa, Oncology Spa Care Center, which helps current chemotherapy or radiation patients keep some normalcy in their lives – by importing a specific nail polish that helps prevent nails from falling off during chemo sessions. Melanie Jeanteur, the spa owner, is the only distributor of this polish in the United States. Way to go, Melanie.
  5. And last but not least, one of the most important parts of post-cancer recovery: mental health. Cancer patients often feel isolated post-treatment, as they have just gone through a major trauma that many of their loved ones haven’t. That’s why this breast cancer survivor, Rhonda Smith, created a nationwide program of after-cancer-mental health support via retreats, mentoring programs with survivors, and seminars. It’s thriving, and it’s making the world a little easier and lot more loving for cancer survivors.

Keep the Faith

by Susie Korzec

My life’s tagline has always been, “would rather be at Fenway” and when the chance came along to make that a reality, I jumped on it. It’s sort of strange, really, the strong connection that I seem to have with a place that up until this season, I had barely stepped into. But, there’s just something about Fenway that brings me a sense of comfort and connects me to things that completely define me as a person.

Me on Yawkey Way!
Me on Landsdowne!

It was a snowy day in February when I got the voicemail that would set the tone for 2015. The message was from the Red Sox, and they were offering me a staff position for the upcoming season. I knew it was going to be a lot working two jobs, but I called back immediately. I could barely make out an audible “thanks” before I hung up the phone and accepted what has been my dream job for the last decade.

From there, it was a waiting game. As, each day brought me closer and closer to the start of the season, my excitement grew knowing that the boys of summer would be back, and that all would be right with the world again. I walked into Fenway on opening day and for a moment it felt like time had stopped. I breathed in the warm spring air, and all of a sudden I was 13 again – racing up and down the concourse with my dad, trying to take in every sight, sound and smell of a place I had imagined for so long. Then just like that, I was 15 – on the phone with him, tears streaming down my face as the 2004 team clenched the World Series. Finally, I was 16 – saying my hardest goodbye to my best friend and teacher of all things baseball. He’d lost his long, hard fight against cancer.

As I took those next few steps into the concourse, I knew he was right there with me.

Life isn't always easy.
Life isn’t always easy.

This season wasn’t the most ideal for the Red Sox. There were hardships coming from all sides – something we’ve all felt at one point or another. But, I stuck it out and backed those boys though every last pitch. It’s what my dad would’ve wanted me to do. Red Sox Nation endured, and when Coach Farrell was faced with the same disease that affects so many of us, we put all of our strength behind him. It’s what you do. Knowing he’s ready to come back next season and fight, makes me think of my dad, who with every time he was told “you won’t make it” he did.

I can’t wait to walk into that concourse again.

I like the idea of believing in something bigger than yourself (which is probably what made me become a red sox fan in the first place). It takes a great sense of faith, hope and trust. That’s why I go into every season thinking we’re making it to the World Series. If you don’t have faith, you may as well have nothing.

A little piece of my dad left on the Green Monster.
A little piece of my dad left on the Green Monster.

And while life doesn’t always go the way you want it (much like a baseball season) it’s that little spark of faith that keeps you going.

It’s those little memories of those who have shaped you, and whether they are still here or gone, you keep them close to your heart.

This is why I am going bald for the day – in hopes that my story will inspire others to find the connections that help them heal.

And to remind everyone to never lose faith.

Susie Korzec is a marketing administrator at the Briar Group, Red Sox Fan Club Representative, and 2105 Be Bold, Be Bald! participant. On October 16th, Susie will put vanity aside and go bald to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and to stand in solidarity with those affected by cancer across the country.  To sponsor Susie and #BeBold against cancer, click here. 

5 Foods That Could Prevent Cancer

Though no studies uphold that specific foods interrupt or prevent cancer, there are foods that exhibit cancer-fighting properties. Research suggests that a generally healthy diet including many-colored fruits and vegetables is important for avoiding heart disease, diabetes, and maybe even cancer. According to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, foods of plant origination, such as garlic or berries, reveal critical links to cancer forestallment. What’s in these nourishing eats that may come to the aid of those at risk of cancer? Phytonutrients and antioxidants. Plus they belong to the supreme category in food: low cal. Does it get much better than that?

1. Garlic

The sulfur compounds in these pungent-tasting bulbs are both enemies and friends. We all know that garlic’s sulfur content causes bad breath. But, on a constructive note, if you’re upset about the quick spell of halitosis post-garlic, think about how those sulfur compounds bringing about the odor might also halt cancer-causing substances from establishing in your body. They also promote DNA repair and kill cancer cells. Tip: Stick with the cloves—peel and chop them up, then let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking. Enzymes activate!

2. Broccoli

Broccoli is the best source of sulforaphane which, scientists are attempting to prove, might reduce chances of getting cancer. Remember when your mom stuffed Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies are most protective against mouth, esophagus and stomach cancer—so steam your broccoli, nibble on some raw florets, whatever! Just fit it into your diet.

3. Tomatoes

The bright redness of tomatoes comes from the phytochemical lycopene. Researchers theorize that lycopene shield cells from harm that may lead to cancer by strengthening the immune system. You can eat your cooked tomatoes or processed tomatoes. Processing makes cancer-fighting compounds more available to your body since heat breaks down the plant’s cell walls.

4. Strawberries

Everyone knows that strawberries are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C. You can almost taste the health as you bite into the succulent fruit. According to laboratory tests, strawberries contain the antioxidant ellagic acid which appears to have anticancer properties that crank up enzymes. These enzymes destroy cancer-causing substances and slow the growth and spread of tumors.

5. Carrots

If you want to talk disease-fighting nutrients, talk carrots. Carrots are so easy to snack on, too—especially baby ones. They’re almost like Oreos… almost. They have beta-carotene which protects cell membranes from dangerous harm and slow-moving growth of cancer cells. Tip: cook your carrots to get the best effect of antioxidants.

How to Help a Friend Through Their Fight

Your friend just told you the news that nobody wants to hear. “I have cancer.” You may feel that you want to help them and show you care, but you don’t know how to help or what to say. Sending thoughtful gifts, helping with the everyday basics, or just sitting down, listening to them, and offering a shoulder to cry on are great ways to help. Here are a few ways you can help a friend that is fighting, with some insight from a cancer survivor:

Be There, Listen

All someone with cancer may want is someone to listen. Letting your friend cry on your shoulder or giving them a hug could be as helpful and thoughtful as a tangible gift. Acknowledge that your friend is going through a hard time. You may feel like you don’t know what to say, and that’s okay too. Instead of saying “I know what you’re going through,” if you’ve never had cancer or “everything will be okay,” when it may not feel like it, say things like “This must be tough, I’m here for you.”

Focus on the Good

Encourage talking about topics that don’t focus on their disease. Talk about fun times, gossip with friends; things you’ve always talked about. “One big thing for me was not treating me like I was sick,” 23-year-old Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor Brenna Crowe said, “My friends planned nights out to help me forget I was even sick.” Taking a positive approach could help make things seem a bit better than they may feel. “I had a friend come with me to try on wigs right before I lost my hair, and it kind of made things a lot less miserable when we made it fun,” recalls Crowe.

Help With Everyday Life

Sometimes, the nicest thing you can do is just to help with everyday tasks. Running errands, cleaning the house, or cooking dinner may become harder to do when your friend is receiving treatment and feeling tired. Visits to the hospital or treatment center may be everyday life for them now. Offer to give them a ride to a doctor’s appointment or go to a treatment session with them. “Days could be really long, so when friends came to treatments, it made them a lot easier and go by a lot faster,” Crowe said about her experience.

Send Thoughtful Gifts

When most people think “get well” gifts, they think flowers or homemade meals. While someone going through chemotherapy may appreciate the thought of flowers or food, flowers could irritate their weakened immune system and food may accentuate the nausea caused by their treatment. Instead, give a thoughtful gift such as a book to read or movie to watch during the long days of treatment. Consider a gift certificate to a spa for a massage, or a local grocery store so they can pick up their everyday items.

We all want to do our best to help a friend or family member that has had their life changed by cancer. If you aren’t sure how you can help, always ask. Whether you give a gift, a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold, support from a friend will always help with the road to recovery.

The Ultimate Cancer Fighting Salad

salad

We all know the food we eat has a huge impact on our health, so why are we eating meatball subs for lunch every day? Just me? Really? Ok. Well even if you’re not eating meatballs every day, but you can probably pack more of a healthy punch into you lunch. For me personally, I know I have a family history of cancer, so I need to incorporate more cancer fighting foods into my meals. I usually eat the same lunch most days, so why not make it as healthy and cancer kicking as possible?

Spinach

Organic spinach is widely regarded as one of the healthiest foods in the grocery store. It’s packed with antioxidants that kill free radicals and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Spinach is also a great source of folate, which reduces the risks of breast and lung cancer. It’s the prefect salad base.

Red Peppers

Red bell peppers are the big dogs of the pepper world. They have twenty times the beta carotene of other peppers and three times the vitamin C. They also taste really great, so there’s that.

Carrots

Over the past five years or so, a lot of research has been done on the cancer fighting properties of carrots, with some doctors thinking carrots can cure leukemia. Whether it’s the vitamin A, beta-carotene, carotenoids, or any combination of them, carrots are a salad no brainer.

Blueberries

Blueberries are ranked as having the highest antioxidant capabilities among fruits and vegetables. That means they are amazing and you need to eat them often. Oh yeah they also contain ellagic acids and polyphenols which have been shown to slow the growth of tumors.

Salmon

Wild Alaskan salmon is a great source of omega-3s, which has been shown to boost mood, ward off Alzheimer’s, fight depression, and protect against cancer. Try to include a few servings in your diet each week

Flaxseed

Another free radical fighter! Are you noticing a pattern here? Flaxseed is an excellent source of lignin, which is one of the strongest free radical fighters. Studies have shown flaxseeds lower the risk of developing breast, colon, and prostate cancer, so sprinkle some on your salad.

Dressing

Don’t wipe out the health benefits of this cancer fighting salad with a glob of ranch dressing. Using kitchen staples like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and/or whatever spices you have in your pantry you can whip up a healthy dressing this salad deserves.

The start of a movement

jeff and mike 2004Up against the shrinking budgets and burgeoning workloads of these tough economic times, most people would say creating one’s own nonprofit organization is a little crazy. But this challenge was nothing compared with what Small Army — the agency I co-founded with my business partner, Mike Connell — faced before.

I will never forget the phone call I received from Mike on Dec. 26, 2005. He was calling to tell me that he had stage four squamous cell carcinoma. He’d previously won two battles with cancer and been in remission for 20 years, so by most medical standards, he should have been in the clear.

For the next two years, we at Small Army watched Mike’s battle: starting treatment two days after the birth of his third child; experiencing hope with each positive sign and frustration with each setback; and, finally, preparing his family for a future without him. We watched him leave us gracefully in November 2007. This was only seven days after the birth of my second child, and it changed my own perspective on life.

I saw the impact Mike had on those who loved him and worked with him, and it made me realize that, in our work, we have the power to make an impact on the world around us. One of the greatest things about being a creative marketing agency is that we are not bound by conventional thinking. Mike believed in big, bold ideas that could change the world, and it’s in his honor that Small Army created Small Army for a Cause, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to raising funds for health-related causes in bold and unique ways.

Be Bold, Be Bald! has become our signature event, raising money for cancer-related charities. The idea is simple: Wear a bald cap all day (this year, on October 16) and get friends, families and colleagues to sponsor you for doing so. No training or time off from work required. Just put the bald cap on in the morning, and take it off before you go to bed to show solidarity with the many cancer patients (like Mike) who lose their hair as a result of treatment.

No one has to worry about finding their own bald cap, either. We send participants bald caps when they sign up online and give them all the fundraising tools needed to solicit donations, including a personal online participation page. All proceeds will be donated to the cancer-related charity selected by the participant.

As an agency, we’re also finding this initiative is having a positive impact beyond what we’re doing to fight cancer. Many companies, including ours, find themselves stretched very thin in this tough economy. But while the significant workload of Be Bold, Be Bald! in some ways contributes to that, it’s also given everyone at the agency a sense of satisfaction and pride that is unique to this type of giving. It’s brought us closer as a team (often during late-night working sessions), and the agency is much stronger as a result.

So though Mike isn’t here with us today, his spirit lives on. He continues to help make the agency among the best in the region, and he’s helping us make a big impact in the fight against cancer.

Thanks, Mike. We miss you.