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Don’t Get Angry—Get Checked

2015 October 8

dan-allsup-blogBy The Old Sarge of Allsup

I am the father of a breast cancer victim and husband of a breast cancer survivor.  I know the importance of early detection and treatment.

My world first came apart in late November 2009.

My wife, Rose, and I were packed and ready to drive from southern Illinois to our new home near Phoenix, and our twin daughters, Pat and Chris, were going to help us make the 1,500-mile drive. The day before we were to head west, Chris nonchalantly asked if Rose and I wanted to accompany her to the doctor’s office.

“Sure,” I said. “What’s up?”

“I had him check a lump in my breast and I’m going in to get the results. I’m sure it’s no big deal, but you can come to the doctor’s office with me if you want.”

Chris’ body language told us that it certainly was a big deal. She was terrified. We knew it was bad news when the doctor greeted us and told Chris he was happy she brought her parents to the office with her.

It was breast cancer. Rose and I reeled and Chris was speechless as the doctor droned on about surgeries, chemo, radiation and implants. We had hundreds of questions but didn’t know what they were. Chris didn’t know it at the time, but from that moment forward, her life would be ruled by the medical appointments penciled in on her calendar.

It wasn’t until later that we learned that Chris had known about the suspicious lump for nearly a year. Several women in our family had histories of breast cysts, so that had to be the problem. Besides, some of her friends had told the 37-year-old Chris not to worry about it because she was too young for breast cancer. She wasn’t.

It wasn’t until Pat threatened to tell Rose and me about the suspicious lump that Chris finally relented and saw her doctor. By then, it was already too late. It was already Stage IV.

We were devastated, but life must go on. Even when your world is turned upside so violently that you’re sick to your stomach. Pat and Chris helped us move to Arizona as planned, and then they returned to Illinois. We stayed in constant touch by phone and we were with her for the mastectomy.

My world came apart again in January 2010.

Less than six weeks after Chris’ diagnosis, Rose had a lump in her breast biopsied and once again it was cancer. Once again, we were stunned as the oncologist discussed surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The difference was that Rose had her suspicious lump checked out early on and the cancer was treatable.

In the following months, Rose and Chris had more than a few telephone conversations about breast cancer treatments. At least once, they chatted interstate while being hooked up to chemo and IV bags. In one bittersweet moment, Chris took credit for her mother’s early detection of her cancer. “If it wasn’t for me, Mom wouldn’t have had that lump checked out so early. I think I saved her life,” she said.

Perhaps she did. After many months of treatment, radiation and chemo, Rose was finally declared cancer free. We celebrated, of course, but it was a restrained celebration. Rose was in the clear, but Chris was still very ill. Although we never spoke of it, we knew the eventual outcome.bc-blog

Chris left us on January 18, 2014. In those 38 months of her suffering, how many times did she awake screaming into the night, asking herself why she didn’t go to the doctor sooner? How many times did Rose and I do the same? We were devastated, but there was also righteous anger at Chris for denying herself a chance at surviving this horrible disease. I’ll admit it. I’m still angry. She cheated herself—and her family—out of so very much.

Do yourself and your family a favor. Breast Cancer Awareness Month or not, arrange for regular checkups and take immediate action. It may save your life.

Tomorrow: Tennessee Cancer Coalition’s “Ask Me” campaign.

Exercise Is The Best Medicine For Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients

2015 October 7

AnitaKellmanBy Guest Blogger Anita “Sarge” Kellman, founder, Kellman Beat Cancer Boot Camp

If a doctor tells you to take a pill that would help control your weight, improve your mood and sleep, give you more energy, reduce stress and anxiety, improve your skin and reduce cancer risk and recurrence of cancers, would you take it?

Sounds like a miracle pill? Well it is. The secret is…it is not a pill, it’s exercise! Yes, the power of exercise is greater than you think.

New studies are discovering the benefits exercise can have on the prevention of cancer, as well as for people of all ages beginning or already going through cancer treatment.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment, they often think they should not exercise, that they will be tired and want to save energy.

That is not true. More and more medical professionals are embracing “prehabilitation.”

Prehabilitation—or prehab—is, in its simplest form, medical interventions, including exercise, strength training and nutritional education, that can help patients get physically and emotionally stronger before they start treatment or surgery.

The goal of a prehab program is to reduce treatment complications and speed recovery.

Window Of Opportunity Before Cancer Treatment

The window of opportunity for prehab is the time between diagnosis and the initiation of treatment, whether the patient has surgery or begins chemotherapy or other treatment.

Patients rarely begin cancer treatment immediately after diagnosis. There is a period of time spent on more testing, seeking a second opinion, considering treatment options, or just waiting for an opening on the surgical schedule.

bc-blogThis is the time to think about what prehabilitation means to you and your doctor. Begin to explore how you can fit exercise into your daily schedule.

I know it can be daunting. The question I get most often is how to start an exercise program. The key to success is to start slow.

Most everyone is capable of incorporating some exercise into their daily routine. In fact, you are probably already doing it. Everyday walking is a great form of cardio. When you reach for an item on a shelf, you are stretching. Lifting even small items works the upper body and sitting engages muscles—think squats.

Consider joining a support group that focuses on physical and mental fitness. Many groups offer the camaraderie of others going through the same issues as they battle cancer.

Your cancer diagnosis has challenged you. Now is the time to challenge yourself to get stronger—physically and mentally—as you begin your treatment.

Whether you are a cancer survivor, a supporter of someone going through cancer treatment, or someone who wants to increase their chances of never getting cancer—exercise really is the best medicine.

Tomorrow: A father and husband urges women to get screened for breast cancer.


Breast Cancer Awareness Month-Just a Pink Haze?

2015 October 6

Breast-Cancer-blog-ChristineBy Guest Blogger Christine Carpenter, 21-year breast cancer survivor and National Breast Cancer Coalition Iowa field coordinator

As a breast cancer survivor, I do not want to view breast cancer through the pink haze of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. It seems more like “feel good about breast cancer month” than anything related to what I went through as someone with breast cancer. The pain from surgery, the sickness from chemotherapy, and the psychological torment are not snuffed out by the color pink. I am already painfully aware of breast cancer.

We are aware that breast cancer exists. That every woman is at risk. But awareness masks the hard truths that cannot be made better with a pink ribbon, like the fact that people are still dying. In fact, in the U.S. alone breast cancer kills about 40,000 women and 450 men each year, and 522,000 women around the world. Awareness alone will never save the women and men we love from breast cancer. But prevention can.

It is time to acknowledge the benefit we have achieved from awareness, and move forward with a new approach. The National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) has set a deadline — Breast Cancer Deadline 2020® — to know how to end breast cancer by Jan. 1, 2020. The only way we can truly end this disease is to make sure no one gets it in the first place.

NBCC is working with researchers and patient advocates on the Artemis Project® for a preventive breast cancer vaccine. That’s right, a vaccine for breast cancer.

Imagine a world where we do not have to worry about toxic treatments because no one needs to be treated. Another component to the Artemis Project is an initiative that examines metastasis, the process by which cancer spreads and becomes lethal.

bc-blogThink about it. No one gets breast cancer. No one dies of breast cancer. A vaccine and knowing how to prevent the spread of breast cancer would do the one thing awareness cannot—save the lives of the women and men we love.

It is time to move from awareness to prevention. If much of the resources that are currently directed at breast cancer awareness were redistributed to prevention, imagine how much faster we could start saving lives. Until then, complacency will be the status quo in breast cancer. It’s time to stop advocating for the disease and instead advocate for the deadline—Jan. 1, 2020.

Please help us save lives. We need you to take meaningful action.

Stay connected by following NBCC on Twitter and like them on Facebook. Do it for yourself. Do it for your loved ones. Do it for humanity. Do it.

Tomorrow: Boot camp for breast cancer.

We’re All In This Together

2015 October 5

Allen_DoederleinBy Guest Blogger Allen Doederlein, president, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

As I consider the sea of pink I see all over the nation as we enter Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, I’m prompted to consider a cliché.

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”—this is a well-entrenched cliché. Like most clichés, it has a strong basis in the truth of our collective experience.

In the world of health-related advocacy, which is my world as president of the national Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), there can be a great deal of this cliché in action. “Oh, they’ve got it so easy in the ABC-disease community, and they get all the money,” say the members of the XYZ-disease community.

This sort of sentiment has always struck me as ironic. How can we say that folks “have it so much easier” when, just like us, they’re dealing with an incredibly difficult, often hard to treat, illness with life-and-death stakes?

The mobilization, action-orientation, and incredibly effective PR and communications efforts of the breast cancer community are impressive. On our bad days, we in other advocacy families may bemoan that this well-organized and strategic cadre of advocates is somehow taking what could be ours in focus or dollars. Yet I think such sentiment, even fleetingly, misses some hugely important points.

  1. Just because a cause is well-organized or well-funded doesn’t mean that another cause can’t be these things, too. Indeed, a strategic and organized playbook and savvy investments in PR and communications are things that all of us in health-related advocacy would do well to emulate.
  2. All healthcare advocacy will increasingly need to focus on concurrent prevention of illness and promotion of wellness, coupled with knowledge and tools for early detection. This is true for all categories of cancer and mood disorders.bc-blog
  3. Rather than looking at the color of others’ lawns, we need to realize that we’re all standing on the same earth, no matter the color. That is, the struggles and opportunities in healthcare are largely connected and related. With respect to breast cancer and mood disorders (such as depression), specifically, there is growing evidence that aggressive treatment of both conditions at the same time is beneficial to outcomes related to recurrence, quality of life, and longevity.

Maybe from now on, whether our “main” advocacy ribbon is pink (breast cancer), lime green (mental health), or any other color of the ribbon rainbow, we can consider not the cliché of how green the grass is on that side of the fence, but rather focus on another cliché: “We’re all in this together.” Because, truly, we are all in this together!

Find more about the DBSA at, including the Wellness Tracker and other resources. The organization and others are observing Mental Illness Awareness Week from Oct. 4-10, 2015.

Tomorrow: Is a breast cancer vaccine within reach?

Twenty Years With Breast Cancer

2015 October 2

Medha-Sutliff-jpgBy Guest Blogger Medha Sutliff, Midwest senior field manager, Young Survival Coalition

I had a really strange dream last night. In this dream, I was sure I had never had cancer. It’s strange because cancer’s been in my dreams and part of my reality for the past 20 years.

When I was 27, I had a lump removed from my right breast. Young women tend to have dense breasts. It was a fibroid. No big deal, right? Then they told me they found some suspicious cells. I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer: ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

The Loneliness Of A Young Survivor

Remember, this was the early 90s—in the early days of the pink ribbons, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Susan G. Komen.

Nobody really talked about breast cancer. I wish I could say I was as brave as many of the newly diagnosed young women I know. But back then, I was one of only a handful of young women around the country diagnosed under the age of 30.

Did I stand up and say, “Young women get breast cancer too!”? No. I just wanted to get on with life. I had so much support from my family, but I was uncertain and felt alone. No one who looked like me had breast cancer.

Finding Community Support The Second Time Around

Fast forward 10 years. I was 37 and I felt a change in my right breast. The cancer had come back in the scar tissue of my lumpectomy from 10 years prior.

This time, it roared back a little louder: Stage 1, invasive ductal carcinoma. This time, it was mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy. I was already a 10-year cancer survivor, and now faced breast cancer for the second time under age 40.

But this time, I was not alone. I found the Young Survival Coalition. I connected with other young women who were going through the same struggles as I was and who just “got it.” An amazing circle of support.bc-blog

This year I hit my 20-year “cancerversary.” Being considered a long-term survivor and beating breast cancer twice under the age of 40 is a strange place to be.

My world can change in an instant. It’s not about dreams. It’s my reality. I can only hope other young women diagnosed with cancer find their circle of support like I did.

To help with that, I’m now on staff with YSC as part of their Community Engagement Department, sharing resources and supporting young women in need. I can also proudly stand as a trained breast cancer advocate, doing what I can to end this disease.

Check out YSC and reach out to me at if my story has meaning for you.

Monday-Breast cancer and depression.

Blogging for Breast Cancer—Loud and Clear

2015 October 1

bc-blogBy Tai of Allsup

This site will be the home of the “Blog-a-Thon for Breast Cancer” throughout October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is the most common cause of cancer death for Hispanic women, and the second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Given those statistics, odds are you know someone who has been impacted by breast cancer.

Despite its prevalence, there was a time when the words “breast cancer” were uttered only in hushed tones. Stigma and shame attached to them like leeches. Fortunately, today, there is a whole month dedicated to celebrating survivors, promoting prevention, and shining the spotlight on advances in treatment and survival rates.

However, there are still whispered words around the topic of breast cancer. I bet you can think of a few.

How do we talk about breast cancer in the workplace? In the bedroom? With children? How do we honor those who have passed away? Are pink ribbons symbols of hope, or have they been co-opted by marketers to sell products? Is it time to move beyond raising awareness? If so, where do we go?

Blog-a-Thon For Breast Cancer – Visit In October

Breast Cancer Awareness Month provides the opportunity to discuss these issues and share varied perspectives on a disease that claims more than 41,000 women and 400 men each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The idea for a “Blog-a-Thon for Breast Cancer” was born at the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Leadership Summit. Many of the guest bloggers are community advocates from across the nation. Some are government employees. Others work for nonprofit organizations. They are survivors, mothers and friends. They are entrepreneurs. They are experts in mental health, advocacy and disability policy. They range in age, geography and experiences. And they all share the desire to improve the health and quality of life of human beings.

For the next 30 days, consider the “Blog-a-Thon for Breast Cancer” a megaphone for words that can save, change and enrich lives. If you’d like to add your voice, contact me at

Visit all month long to keep reading.

Tomorrow: Twenty years of breast cancer—A blog from a young survivor.

Living Life Differently—Reflecting on Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month

2015 September 28

blogBy Tai of Allsup

Every year in the U.S., 12,500 people start to live their lives differently due to spinal cord injuries (SCI), according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC).

Studies estimate 240,000 to 337,000 people in the U.S. are living with SCIs.

As September and National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month come to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the impact of spinal cord injuries and how they change lives.


One year after injury, only 12 percent of individuals with SCI are employed, reports NSCISC. Individuals who are unable to return to work for 12 months or more after injury may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. When and if they are able to return to work, individuals with SSDI can obtain free re-employment assistance through a Social Security approved Employment Network. More than one-third of individuals with SCI are employed 20 years after injury.


The average healthcare and living expenses for individuals with SCI vary greatly based on education level, injury severity and pre-employment history. The study, Costs of Care Following Spinal Cord Injury reported first-year costs can range from about $350,000 to more than $1 million. Subsequent annual costs can range from $42,000 to $185,000. In addition to SSDI, which provides a monthly income, there are a number of additional resources available to individuals with SCI. Visit United Spinal Resource Center’s financial assistance page to learn more.

Community and Peer Support

The emotional impact related to injury and impairment, chronic pain and fatigue, as well as loss of mobility and employment can lead to social isolation, anxiety, depression, and a reduced quality of life for people living with SCI.

The Spinal Network brings people together to offer resources and networking opportunities through support groups nationwide. The goal of the Spinal Network is to ensure more peer support groups in cities and towns across the U.S. are connected to the best resources to help people maintain independent and active lifestyles.


“Help us provide what every person with a spinal cord injury deserves: an opportunity to recover at their maximum potential,” reads Project Walk Orlando’s website. Project Walk Orlando is just one of many rehabilitation programs throughout the nation. The National Rehabilitation Hospital’s publication, Choosing a High-Quality Medical Rehabilitation Program can help individuals identify programs that best suit their needs.

Individuals can take advantage of numerous available resources. By connecting with people who can provide emotional, financial and medical assistance—individuals with SCI can learn to live differently and also live well.

Visit for more information on applying for SSDI benefits.

Editor’s note: Team Allsup was pleased to participate in Project Walk Orlando’s Walk-n-Roll-a-Thon to raise awareness and funds during Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

What Do You Do When Social Security Disability Benefits Are Denied

2015 September 21

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

About 1.9 million people saw their Social Security disability applications denied last year. That’s based on the 68 percent denial rate Social Security reported for fiscal year 2014.

Generally speaking—your chances aren’t good. However, they are better with a representative like Allsup. We helped more than 50 percent of our customers last year receive their benefits with their initial application, before filing any appeals.

Now you’re facing an appeal.

You can decide not to pursue the appeal. Many people don’t—the figures come down to about 1 in 3 people who push forward.

But there are risks when you don’t appeal. There are timelines and dates that are critical to your insured status and ability to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

The longer you wait, the greater your risk of losing access to benefits.

Answering Social Security Disability Questions

What should you do? Speaking as someone who has helped thousands of people through the appeals process—the answer to your question is: File an appeal.

The second part of my answer is: Get a representative to help present your claim at the appeal.

I’ve talked here before about how important the details are for your SSDI claim. An expert disability representative can help you figure out what is pertinent and what is not.

There is a lot to be said for knowing what Social Security disability examiners are looking for—it’s kind of like tax preparers who help taxpayers. Not every dollar you spent or check you wrote last year is relevant to your tax return.

Some information is absolutely critical, other information isn’t important at all.

That’s where an SSDI expert like Allsup provides important value. We help you get through this complicated process of information gathering, medical records review and submission to Social Security.

We also assist with your hearing, if one is necessary. At Allsup, we want to help you get your benefits without a hearing, if it’s possible.

Visit our Disability Appeal Representation section on for more information.

If you simply aren’t sure about your claim for SSDI benefits, we can answer your questions about applying or filing an appeal.

Click here for a free SSDI evaluation or call (800) 678-3276.


The Champion Of Yes

2015 September 11

AF_LogoBy Guest Blogger Wade Balmer, vice president of Cause Development, Great West Region, Arthritis Foundation

At the Arthritis Foundation, we have a new motto that echoes down our halls…Champion of Yes.

Who is a Champion of Yes? It is those affected by arthritis, confronted by challenges and obstacles because of the disease, who find ways to overcome and adapt.

Arthritis is a thief. People with arthritis know this full well. It steals everyday joys and long-term dreams. It isolates, and it ostracizes. It is painful. It induces a spirit of No.

I think of Mary, who arrived at one of our events pushed in a wheelchair by her granddaughters. She had to retire early from her job of 30 years because of osteoarthritis in her hips and elbows. Her pain is severe, and she can’t get through the day without taking dozens of medications for her pain. She hopes to get out of her wheelchair so she can drive herself to her granddaughter’s dance recitals.

I think of Becky, who just turned 30 and has an 8-month-old son named Zach. She’s trying her best to take care of him, but struggles to zipper his clothes and fasten his diapers when her hands are inflamed from her rheumatoid arthritis. She’s too embarrassed to ask for help.

I think of Sam, 9 years old with juvenile arthritis. He sits on the bench at recess every day, doodling to pass the time as he watches his friends on the playground. His knees are too swollen; he can’t run, he can’t play.

We hear so many other stories of No every day. At the Arthritis Foundation, we know that it doesn’t have to be this way. We are in a unique place of authority and action, working to find a cure, but also fighting for the everyday victories.

This is why the Arthritis Foundation has become the Champion of Yes. We lead the fight for the arthritis community and help conquer everyday battles through life-changing information, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections.

We can help you find ways to afford medications, better communicate with your healthcare team and discover community support and resources to overcome everyday obstacles and No’s.

Let us help you find your Yes, like we did for Mary when we provided her with health resources to become more mobile; or Becky, whom we helped with training on adaptive devices to make dressing Zach easier; or Sam, who is now connected to other kids with juvenile arthritis who can help him persevere.

Join us as we help those with arthritis chart a winning course to conquer arthritis.

Visit our website, join our events, attend our educational programs and share your own stories of Yes online. Together, we can make each day another stride toward a cure.

September Is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

2015 September 4

Gary-BloomBy Guest Blogger Gary Bloom, executive director, ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month grew from a weeklong observance in 2000 to a full month in September 2003. It is a worldwide observance, sponsored and initiated by ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association.

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month promotes thyroid cancer awareness for early detection, expert care, and increased research to achieve cures for all forms of thyroid cancer.

ThyCa provides a wide variety of free materials to help raise awareness (, and we’d love your help in spreading the word!

Talk to your friends, share a message on your Facebook page, blog or other personal website, or post flyers on bulletin boards or other public places where you visit.

Wondering what to share? Here are the Top 10 things to know about Thyroid Cancer:

  1. Thyroid cancer has had the fastest increase in incidence of any cancer in recent years.
  2. Thyroid cancer affects people of all ages, from young children to seniors.
  3. Both women and men get thyroid cancer, and more than two-thirds of the people with thyroid cancer are women.
  4. Thyroid cancer has many types and variants, with treatment tailored to the type and individual.
  5. When found early, thyroid cancer is usually treatable.
  6. Even when treatable, thyroid cancer is life disrupting, expensive, and stressful for patients and loved ones.
  7. A simple thyroid neck check done by a medical professional during a routine appointment can detect a thyroid nodule.
  8. Most thyroid nodules are benign, not cancerous.
  9. Some thyroid cancers, however, are aggressive and difficult to treat.
  10. Free information, packets by mail, support groups, educational events and more are available from the nonprofit ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. at

Thank you for your help in raising awareness—both during Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month and throughout the year.

Want to talk further or get more involved, let us know! You can email us at any time.