By Vikki Moran
At age 30, Joslyn was diagnosed with having cysts in her breasts and began getting regular mammograms. In 2013, for whatever reason, she did not go. In 2014, early summer, when the weather is great and all appears new and fresh in the world, her own world came crashing down.
Over a happy Memorial Day weekend, a letter showed up regarding the mammography results. She was instructed to consult a surgeon. After a biopsy and a 3D mammography at Albany Medical Center, the wheels of her new normal started turning. Surgeries, chemo, support groups and endless tests. Did I mention, she was not yet 40!
With family and friends, she learned that she had tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene, leaving little choice but to move swiftly and, most importantly, well-armed with information on what was now a sad game of surviving this adventure.
BRCA1 and BRCA11 – 5% to 10% of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary, caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child. Genes are particles in cells, contained in chromosome and made of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA contains the instructions for building proteins. And proteins control the structure and function of all the cells that make up your body.
Today, very much in control of her life, dreams and future, Joslyn credits a support group at To Life!(www.tolife.org) for getting her off to a path of acceptance and gratitude. “Many people were on the same path that I was on. There was a platform for me to share my story with people on the same journey.”
She told how, very early on after surgery, her dad drove her to her first To Life! meeting and then drove around the community in Delmar until she was done so she could attend. Not being able to drive, not feeling very well and frightened, she said, illustrates how much she and we all need our support teams.
Valuable resources include The Look Good Feel Better program (www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org) offered through a collaboration of the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, the American Cancer Society, Inc., one of the nation’s largest voluntary health organizations, and the Professional Beauty Association | National Cosmetology Association. It is a free, non-medical, brand-neutral national public service program created to help individuals with cancer look good, improve their self-esteem, and thereby manage their treatment and recovery with greater confidence. It certainly worked for Joslyn.
Connecting resources to people
Today Joslyn volunteers at the St. Mary’s Cancer Treatment Center in Troy one day a week as an advocate for American Cancer Society Hope Club. She works hard and is committed to connecting resources to people in need as she once was. Joslyn also dreams of a time where she can become a patient navigator. Currently, there is a nursing component but she hopes that some programs can be developed or opened up for those without a nursing degree.
In a recent powerpoint presentation, Joslyn put together a list of services that allow cancer survivors to move forward with courage and assistance. She has learned the ropes of survivor and wishes to share them with as many people as possible.
The future is never guaranteed to any of us, but certainly we should expect more when we are young. If your world turns upside down with a cancer diagnosis, take a giant leap over the diagnosis and treatments into a future you need to create. Wave to Josylyn McArdle along your path, as she will be on hers.
Sampling of breast cancer support resources
Joslyn McAardle shares the following sampling of resources to persons seeking assistance after breast cancer
ToLife! Delmar; 439-5975; www.tolife.org – ToLife! has many activities throughout the year, including educational health and wellness workshops and support groups. Fund-raising events include annual gala, pink ball, Freihofer’s community walk, and fashion show.
Kripalu The Berkshires; 866.200.5203; www.kripalu.org/resources/moving-forward-after-cancer – Programs include Facing Cancer with Courage. Joslyn participated in a five-day program. Scholarships available.
Peaceful Acres 3740 Rynex Corners Road, Pattersonville; 887.3178; www.peacefulacreshorses.com/rejuvenation-retreats – Peaceful Acres Horses is committed to the restoration of hope and building “emotional courage” for women who have been diagnosed with cancer. Its special horse rejuvenation retreats offer women the comfort of being with others who have understanding and empathy for the life changes that have taken place once they were diagnosed with cancer. Scholarships available.
LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Various locations; www.livestrong.org/what-we-do/program/livestrong-at-the-ymca – LIVESTRONG partnered with the YMCA of the USA in 2007 to create LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a 12-week physical activity program designed to get survivors back on their feet.
Visions of Strength through St. Peters Health Partners 271.3500; www.nehealth.com – This event benefits the Integrative Wellness Program at the Cancer Treatment Center at Samaritan Hospital.
Cancer and Careers www.cancerandcareers.org – Provides advice, interactive tools and educational events to educate people with cancer to thrive in their workplace.
Cleaning for a Reason www.cleaningforareason.org – Cleaning for a Reason is a nonprofit organization with the mission of giving the gift of free house cleaning for women undergoing treatment for any type of cancer.
TruJoy, Inc. www.trujoy.org – Trujoy’s mission: To support and empower women and their families in the Capital Region affected by breast cancer or ovarian cancer and to promote programs and activities to further understanding of the impact of genetics and family history on breast and ovarian cancers. Resources to help you, including a mastectomy toolkit to make you more comfortable during post-op. GET the kit.
Rudy A. Ciccotti Family Recreation Center 30 Aviation Road, Albany; 867.8920; www.ciccotticenter.org – The Center offers a cancer fitness program.