Personal Triumph

Carrie Sanders got first-hand experience with cancer at only age 19. During this challenging and traumatic period, she decided that she wanted to dedicate herself to live her life with meaning and purpose by entering the medical field. As a psychotherapist, she's created a journal that intends to support women through their journey with cancer.

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A Q&A with Carrie Sanders, author of The Breast Cancer Journey Planner



SheKnows: Please start by telling us about yourself

Carrie Sanders: I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. At 20, I began working as a receptionist in a medical office, the beginnings of a career in the medical field. At 23, I returned to school at the University of Washington, where I received my Bachelor's degree. In 2004 I received my Master's degree in mental health counseling from Seattle University.

Now a psychotherapist in private practice, I counsel clients with numerous issues and specialize in treating clients impacted by cancer. I plan to write several more books that address the needs of people diagnosed with various types of cancer. I live with my husband in Bellevue, Washington, and we are expecting our first child in January (our miraculous surprise).

Beating cancer

SheKnows: Can you share a little insight in your personal experience with (and triumph over) cancer?

Carrie Sanders: At the age of 19, I had some very unusual physical symptoms that later were diagnosed as Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymphatic system). A biopsy and multiple tests showed a malignant chest tumor the size of dinner plate. I learned I was in Stage 3B, meaning the cancer had spread from my chest to my pelvis. I went through major exploratory surgery, six months of chemotherapy and three months of radiation therapy. I felt alone, scared, and utterly lost. Despite having many people supporting and caring for me, I realized I had to pull myself through this very challenging and traumatic experience. I started reading books on how to heal and tried every technique that I learned (no matter how silly or crazy the technique seemed). It was also during this time that I realized I wanted to help people impacted by cancer make their experience less challenging and far less traumatic. My cancer experience gave me "the ticket to begin living my life" - to live my life everyday with meaning and purpose.

Advice for the newly diagnosed

SheKnows: What are three key things you'd share with someone newly diagnosed with breast cancer?

Carrie Sanders: 1. Increase their self-care techniques to at least once a day, everyday – think of things that you love to do that end with an "ing" to help you identify your list (reading, walking, meditating, socializing, etc). Before and after each self-care technique, say to yourself, "I am loving and caring for myself right now." The mind and body positively process this message.

2. Begin journaling – journal all of your thoughts and feelings, especially ones that keep reoccurring. Give your thoughts and feelings to the paper.

3. Replace all of your worries with what you want. (e.g. if you are worrying about what the future holds for you, replace those thoughts with what you want to see in your future). If your mind wonders back to those worries, just repeat to yourself "that's OK," and bring yourself back to what you want.

Tips for loved ones of breast cancer survivors

SheKnows: Many of us know a friend or loved one with breast cancer and want to help and be supportive, but often we don't know where to start. What would you recommend?

Carrie Sanders: My recommendations:

• Listen to her fears and concerns, and avoid comparing her experience, situation or her emotional response to others (every woman experience, situation and response is unique).

• Help her gather information. Go to her doctor appointments. Be a listening ear and/or transcriber. Help her research information and resources so that she can make informed decisions.

• Offer practical help (grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, babysitting, etc).

• Be the Rock of Gibraltar - reassure her she is not a burden to help and don't let her push you away, but respect her wishes for privacy/alone time.

• Treat her as you would want to be treated if you were in a similar situation.

Sources for more information on breast cancer

American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

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Comments

Comments on "The Breast Cancer Journey Planner"

Carlton October 23, 2009 | 9:21 PM

I think it's awesome!

elaine Gibson July 06, 2009 | 2:39 PM

I am a volunteer for Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation in Boise Idaho. We are the Idaho affiliate for Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation in Seattle, Wa. We are a non-profit and give emotional support for the newly diagnosed breast cancer women. I have two of your beautiful Journey Planner to give to our newly diagnosed and wondered if we could get a few more as we need them to give away to our referrals. All of our volunteers are breast cancer survivors and give hands on, one on one support. Your planner would be so helpfull. Thank you. Elaine Gibson. 208-888-1095

elaine Gibson July 06, 2009 | 2:38 PM

I am a volunteer for Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation in Boise Idaho. We are the Idaho affiliate for Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation in Seattle, Wa. We are a non-profit and give emotional support for the newly diagnosed breast cancer women. I have two of your beautiful Journey Planner to give to our newly diagnosed and wondered if we could get a few more as we need them to give away to our referrals. All of our volunteers are breast cancer survivors and give hands on, one on one support. Your planner would be so helpfull. Thank you. Elaine Gibson. 208-888-1095

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