When Viki Berry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, she was more than rattled by the news.
“I kept thinking, how did I get cancer? What did I do that caused this to happen?” Viki recalls.
It took Viki some time to wrap her head around her diagnosis. But once she came to terms with what she was facing, she chose to be an advocate for her health, both physically and emotionally. Viki sought treatment at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, as well as support through a variety of resources, including Oregon Cancer Foundation.
“I knew early on that I had to take care of me, and that’s not a selfish thing,” she says.
Viki made physical activity a priority, finding time to exercise—from yoga to walking to step aerobics classes—even when she was fatigued from treatment or didn’t feel like moving.
“Sometimes, it’s a struggle, and I have to give myself the OK to take it easy. There are times that I go to step class and I don’t use the step, or I give myself frequent breaks. But I know that physical activity is good for my body, so I force myself to move.”
Support and information
A cancer diagnosis brings with it a host of emotions, and many people, like Viki, would rather not burden their families with their worries and fears. Viki joined a blood cancer support group through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which allowed her to connect with other survivors and to gather insight from their experiences.
Viki also attends the NOURISH: Food for Life nutrition and cooking classes, a partnership between OCF, Positive Community Kitchen (PCK) and Whole Foods Market. The classes, taught by PCK president Shanna Hutton and held monthly, at no charge, offer cancer survivors nutrition information, as well as demonstrations on how to prepare meals that are gluten-free and feature seasonal ingredients.
“A lot of people think they understand the properties in foods, like fats, carbs, fiber and such, but they don’t typically understand which foods help with inflammation,” Viki says. “Shanna is very knowledgeable and she knows what is in different types of foods and how it impacts the body.”
For more information on the NOURISH classes or to watch a cooking demonstration, click here.
Series on Survivorship
In addition to her on-going support group, Viki participated in Oregon Cancer Foundation’s Series on Survivorship, a 10-week series for cancer survivors that explores issues that often arise after treatment ends. Topics include how to manage anxiety, fears and other emotions; exploring forms of self-care and healing; understanding how relationships are impacted by cancer; and learning how to eat and exercise to be healthy and reduce the risk of recurrence.
“The Survivorship Series was another way for me to talk about the situations I was going through and get ideas and advice on how I could handle them,” Viki says. “It gave me the opportunity to hear about other people’s experiences and glean useful information from them.”
Planning for the next Survivorship Series is underway. There is no cost to attend. Survivors may participate on their own, or they can ask a spouse, partner or caregiver to attend with them. For more information and to pre-register, contact Amy Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541.632.6354.
For Viki, tapping into Oregon Cancer Foundation’s resources has been as valuable to her as the medical treatment she’s received. And she regularly shares with other survivors information about services available in the community.
“When I talk with a survivor who says they don’t feel like they have the support they need, I always ask, “Have you heard about Oregon Cancer Foundation?'” Viki says. “Cancer can be a very isolating illness. But OCF is there to help in so many ways. I want people to know that the foundation is available to them.”