Nancy and John Frank
Nancy and John Frank are from Pocatello, ID, where they are very involved in their local cancer support group. During Labor Day weekend of 2005, Nancy was rushed to the emergency room. Doctors found carcinoid tumors on her small intestine. The cancer later metastasized to her liver. Most recently Nancy had surgery to remove a large section of her liver.
Although she remains at Stage 4, Nancy says she is feeling fine and is being treated with octeotride, a chemotherapy agent that slows carcinoid tumors. She receives an injection once a month. Meanwhile, she and her husband John stay busy with yoga, dancing, and their support group.
The support group in Pocatello is called Helping Other People Endure, or HOPE. It is unique in that it consists of current patients, survivors, and support people. According to the Franks, typical groups are usually meant to only help survivors acclimate to “normal” life. As a cancer patient and as a caregiver, Nancy and John have benefited greatly from the group and emphasize the necessity of a good support system.
John: Cancer doesn’t discriminate between religions, sexual orientation, anything like that. The one thing none of us can afford to do is to hang on to any preconceived prejudices. You love everybody for who they are and it doesn’t matter, because we all share the fear of an uncertain future. So it brings out the realness in people. It brings out the thing that is most important to people. You don’t have the luxury of the petty thoughts. In that way, some people are actually blessed to have cancer come into their lives because they can cut through and can learn some lessons as they search deep inside themselves.
Nancy: Research will tell you that you need to do what the doctors tell you, you need to eat right, you need to exercise, and you need to have good support. That can be your husband, your neighbor, family, or a support group. All of those things are important.
[The HOPE group] isn’t morbid. We can get absolutely falling off our chairs laughing at some things the rest of the world wouldn’t think at all funny. We can also be serious when we need to. It’s a great way of sharing information because someone else has been where you are at the moment and can tell you you’re not the only one going through it, or that it’s not forever, that you will get through it.
I think it’s an important thing that anyone who is in a caregiver or support person role realize that you don’t have anything to give back if you haven’t taken care of yourself. And maybe it means you find somebody else to be there for that half a day while you go out and have coffee with your friends or take a walk or play a half a round of golf or whatever it is that replenishes your soul. But that person needs to have that time as well.
John: The biggest thing is, don’t worry about being a good support. Just be there for the person you love. Sometimes it’s just as simple as holding hands. Being able to wipe something from the side of their mouth.
John: Nancy has a saying, ‘I have cancer but cancer doesn’t have me.’ She chooses to be a survivor and live her life.
Nancy: I do yoga twice or three times a week, which I find very helpful. John and I dance, we walk, we love to go to Yellowstone National Park and hike and see the animals. We stay engaged in life. There truly can be days when you don’t remember you have cancer. I’m at a point where there are some days where I don’t think about it. And that’s a good thing.
John: One way to feel better and to get better is to do work for other people. When you think your life is really bad and you’re scared for your loved one... If you can pick up a lady who has no ride to the doctor, help an old man to get groceries who has got no family... If you can do that for other people even when you’re sick, life will get better by doing those things. It works.
Nancy: There are parts of it that are very very hard, especially when you know this is something that does not have a cure currently… But I think cancer has also very much made me appreciate what I do have.
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