Overwhelmed. That’s the best way to describe the experience of being diagnosed with cancer. Overwhelmed with information. Overwhelmed with emotions. Overwhelmed with fear. Overwhelmed with questions.
The whirlwind is not restricted to the patient. The same is true for their spouse, their children, their friends and their loved ones. All are sent spinning. All feel helpless. Nobody knows where to begin or what their first steps should be.
This is exactly the situation that Jen Kraemer-Smith found herself in back in 2012 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not only was she overwhelmed with information and questions, but her situation was complicated by the fact that at just 38 years old and pregnant with her third child, she was emotionally overwrought and felt ill-equipped to deal with the situation and uncertain as to what information to look for first. At the same time that she was experiencing this frustration and helplessness, her good friend Andrea Delbanco was going through a similar level of uncertainty. Delbanco wanted to be a good, supportive friend, but had no idea where to start.
In discussing the problem, the two agreed that they wished that there was a simple, manageable, highly accessible resource that they could use for themselves. The goal was to get answers to the many questions that they had in a controllable way. Speaking to People magazine Kraemer-Smith recalls her physician speaking but being unable to make sense of what was being said. “When the doctor starts speaking to you, at least for me, it was like a buzzing in my ears. My husband was sitting next to me and he was as terrified as I was, and the doctors kept saying, ‘Do you have any questions?’ and you’re terrified and frightened. The whole idea of it was too daunting.”
The two women agreed that having a way to ask their questions in a controllable, non-threatening way, would be invaluable. They also knew that what would make such a resource even more valuable would be if it were something that would be easy to share with others in Kraemer-Smith’s circle of friends and family who were looking for the best ways to be supportive. They decided that since no such tool existed, they would create it themselves, and that’s how The Cancer Conversation was born.
The Cancer Conversation is a simple deck of forty playing cards that provide information for patients and their caregivers. They aim to help them get the answers to their questions in a step-by-step, manageable manner. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the card sets were created in a variety of formats suitable not only for patients, but also for caregivers, friends and family, and even for couples. The basic set is available to cover four different topics, including common concerns, emotional elements, practical planning and potential pitfalls. The sets allow people to pull one card at a time and to tackle the particular issue or question that is presented without trying to take on too much all at once. There is no correct order, and if a question or task is too charged for the patient, they can always put it back for another time and pull another card.
The topics on each individual card have been carefully devised to spark conversation about the various topics that cancer patients and their support system want and need to address, including issues such as the best ways to be supportive, how cancer treatments will affect fertility and intimacy, and planning for the future. Among the most important questions broached by the cards are those surrounding financial planning. Many cancer patients are unaware of the economic strain that their illness is likely to place on their family. Many have been forced into financial bankruptcy as a result of being unprepared for the high costs of their care. The professionals at Fifth Season Financial are dedicated to providing financial help for cancer patients and those who are faced with advanced stage illness as they confront their financial concerns. We are patient and compassionate, and here to answer all of you questions and provide you with life-changing options that can ease many of your challenges.
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