Words of Wisdom in the Face of Cancer

Posted at: 10/21/2013 4:00 PM | Updated at: 10/21/2013 9:53 PM
By: Brittany Falkers

Terry Berg has a long relationship with breast cancer.  She was first diagnosed 20 years ago at age 50.  Berg was cancer free for about 17 years until her cancer came back and now it's returned for a third time.  While it might be easy to have a defeatist attitude in the face of a reoccurring cancer, Berg stays positive.

"So far, so far I'm doing good," Berg said.

After two decades and a third round fighting cancer, she has some sage advice for others battling cancer.  First off, she says to stay active because it's key to a better state of mind.

"It's really important, it takes the focus of how you're feeling and puts it somewhere else and you just feel a lot better when you're busy," Berg said.

Although her cancer has forced Terry to make some changes to her lifestyle, she finds ways to keep active in things that she loves.  She and her husband Bill have been harvesting wild rice for the past 40 years or so.  Now, because her cancer is in her spine, she can't keep up with those types of movements.  However, she pushes herself to keep physically active.  She even joined other breast cancer survivors for the Dragon Boat races in Wisconsin this past summer.

While she has to pass on some activities, she's picked up new hobbies.  She's started to make jean quilts for her family members.  "I make jean quilts for my grandkids, now I'm going to start making them for my great grand kids," she said.  "They all give me their old jeans and I cut them up and make them in quilts so they're kind of wrapped in love from their grandma and they love them."

Berg also keeps busy with her breast cancer support group at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth. The group, led by Medical Social Worker Tina Roberts, is a place to find strength and take back control.  "You actually feel like you're being proactive like you can do something where you might not otherwise feel that way," Roberts said. 

Both Roberts and Berg agree that cancer comes with more than it's fair share of struggles.  Some are physical while others are emotional, but often the two are interchangeable. 

"I think of the most devastating things, which hasn't happened to me yet is the loss of your hair," Berg said. 

Dealing with the loss of hair just adds another element of stress and finding wigs or scarves in a comfortable place can be tough.  Wigs can also be very expensive.  Some even average at about $800, Roberts said.  However, St. Luke's has a solution.  They offer an array of wigs, scarves and hats, free of charge at their cancer center.

"It gives them an opportunity to feel like they can do something to take care of themselves," Roberts said.

Berg says many cancer patients feel the need to take control of everything while fighting cancer, because cancer takes so much control away.  However, letting people in to help isn't always easy.

"When people hear that you have cancer, they want to help, but they don't know what to do.  So, I tell the people who want to help, be specific," Berg said.  "Think of things you can really do, because as a cancer survivor, or going through this time, it's extremely difficult to ask people to help you.  You think you should do everything yourself."

Both Berg and Roberts say to offer specific ways to help.  Offer a ride for their child, to make a meal or even to clean the house.  They say having something in particular in mind will make it easier for someone facing cancer to say yes.

"People really want to do kind things for other people. So, when people offer to do something kind for you, give them that opportunity," Roberts said. 
"You're actually giving someone a gift, because people want to do something."

A final word of advice from Berg, don't look back, only forward.  

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