Reaching out to help cancer survivors navigate holidays

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With helplines and small grants, Living Beyond Breast Cancer supports patients. (WPVI)

The holidays can be stressful for anyone.

But for women dealing with breast cancer, too, the challenges are even bigger.

There's a local organization which tries to help, in many ways.

"So what happened at school? Anything exciting?" says Karen Hegedus to her teenaged children.

Hegedus thought she was done with breast cancer several years ago.

But just before Thanksgiving last year, she was shocked to learn it was back.

Karen had no idea how she'd get through holidays, let alone keep the family's finances afloat.

"We were still working on bills from my initial diagnosis and treatment," she recalls.

Jean Sachs of Living Beyond Breast Cancer says the holidays can be really hard for women in treatment, or even well past it.

"Families assume you're just going to be the same, and what we hear a lot is women are just not the same," says Sachs.

"You might not want to be happy, and social like you were the year before. Or maybe you do, but don't have energy," she adds.

Because Karen had pain, and has intensive treatment, she quickly adopted a new normal.

"You learn not to sweat the little things anymore," she says with a twinkle and a smile.

Her husband and kids jumped right into action.

"They helped decorate, put the tree up, things like that," she notes.

Son Mike also began making meals.

Through LBBC, Karen also received a small grant from the Cis Golder fund, named for a late volunteer.

"Paid a month of our mortgage, which was tremendous," says a relieved Karen.

And she's learned that asking for, and accepting help is a must.

"You think you're Superwoman, but asking for help is a real good thing," she says.

Karen is especially thankful for "Cleaning for a Reason," a program providing a free house cleaning for women in treatment.

Karen says it makes better use of her family's time.

"They don't want to spend their time cleaning, they want to spend it with you," she says.

In the past year, Karen has taken advantage of many LBBC programs.

"They had some really good webinars about some other treatments that might help, like yoga and massage therapy," she adds.

The bottom line, says Jean Sachs, take care of yourself, and don't be apologetic.

"You know, just be what you can," says Sachs.

Karen's son loved cooking so much, he's now studying culinary arts.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers programs and services year-round, such as the peer-to-peer helpline.

For more information, visit the LBBC website.

For information on the Cis B. Golder Quality of Life grants, CLICK HERE.
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