Be A Survivor: Breast Cancer | Colorectal Cancer

Let's take back

the power

we've given to

the word cancer.

Say the word.

Just because you don’t have cancer doesn’t mean you’re not living with it.

Nearly everyone knows and cares about someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, but most of us still feel powerless to talk about it. It is a word that is loaded with fear, anxiety, and ignorance. We need a place where we can set those things aside, learn, and better understand what it means to live with cancer.

We can take back the power we’ve given the word “cancer.” We can start by not being afraid to say it.

Learn how

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Therapy Can Help Cancer Patients Face Challenges

Nurse with Cancer PatientPatients with a diagnosis of cancer face many challenges. They are able to cope with some on their own, but with others, many need a little assistance. Physical, occupational and speech therapies can help with those things that just continue to drag on or even start getting worse. This could be weakness, trouble doing your daily activities or even eating.

Therapy is here to help define what is problematic and assist in getting the patient back on the road to recovery and independence.

Weakness is often seen after many types of cancer. There are chemical, physical and psychological items that go with treatment of cancer that cause the body to slow and not function as well as it once did. The therapists can help find the areas that are weak and in need of a boost. With exercises, coping strategies and education, many patients are able to return to more functional lifestyles.

Here are 11 questions you can ask yourself to see if therapy may be something that would help you.

  1. Do I have pain?
  2. Am I noticing any swelling in the arms, torso or legs?
  3. Am I having fatigue?
  4. Can I move my arms and legs to do all the activities I perform daily? If not, is it because  you can’t lift them or because you feel tightness that limits the activity?
  5. Are you noticing problems with your balance or have you fallen?
  6. Is it hard to get in and out of a chair, bed or a vehicle?
  7. Are you having any pelvic pain or incontinence issues?
  8. Are you having any difficulties with daily activities or personal care items such as:
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Getting in and out of a tub or shower
  • Toilet use
  • Household chores
  • Activity tolerance
  1. Are you having any difficulties swallowing?
  2. Do you feel like memory issues are limiting your daily function?
  3. Are you having difficulty communicating?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, talk to your doctor about it. See if they agree that some therapy may be beneficial to help get back on track. There are eight Avera Therapy locations in Sioux Falls and Brandon, or you can call 605-322-5123 to find the location nearest you.


Dignity Robes Offer Compassion and Comfort

Dignity Robes for Breast Cancer TreatmentSometimes even the smallest thing can make a big difference. For women undergoing breast cancer treatment at Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls, Dignity Robes are one of those things.

Dignity Robes are essentially shirts with Velcro down the front and sides. The innovative design provides maximum coverage and comfort during radiation treatments. Velcro seams allow that only areas to be treated need be exposed. Dignity Robes are created by six volunteers who meet each Wednesday in the Prairie Center to sew them in assembly-line fashion.

“Receiving radiation treatment can be overwhelming, so our goal is to help our patients relax as much as possible,” says Dawn Sommer, a Radiation Therapist at Avera Medical Group Radiation Oncology. “When they can relax and stay in the same position during each session, that allows us to treat the area with even more precision. The benefits of wearing a Dignity Robe are both physical and emotional.”

Sommer first learned about Dignity Robes while attending the 2010 ASTRO National Conference for Radiation Oncology. She felt a strong desire to offer them to patients at Avera, so she applied for the Pay It Forward grant, which is funded by Avera employees. After receiving grant funds, she organized a team of volunteers and materials. Throughout the past two years, this small but dedicated team has given away more than 1,000 Dignity Robes.

Cancer Survivor Gives Back

One of those volunteers is also a breast cancer survivor. Sandy Wodzinski of Sioux Falls was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2014. After surgery in March, she was scheduled for radiation treatment at the Prairie Center in May. Wodzinski met Sommer during her first treatment.

“Dawn was one of my favorite therapists because she was always very friendly,” recalls Wodzinski. “When I received my Dignity Robe, it gave me the security of having that extra coverage and helped me feel more comfortable and relaxed. For me, the radiation process was painless, so getting past the emotional insecurity and fear was the biggest hurdle. My Dignity Robe and the radiation therapists really helped.”

“There’s an emotional component to healing too,” says Sommer. “Giving a patient a Dignity Robe is like giving her a hug. It’s a simple thing, but it lets her know that we care about how she feels.”

Wodzinski was so touched by the Dignity Robes project that she now finds purpose in volunteering her time to make them for other women undergoing breast cancer treatment.

“It’s a wonderful way for me to give back. I understand what the women who’ll wear them are going through and I also know how nice it is to receive one, so it means a lot to be a part of what they’re doing,” she says.

“Dignity Robes is just one way that we’re able to carry out Avera’s mission of compassion,” says Sommer. “It’s amazing to see the impact that they’ve had on our patients and I’m so thankful for the team of volunteers who make it possible.”

Today the project is funded by the Avera McKennan Foundation. For more information on Avera’s cancer services, visit

All Jokes Aside, Did You Get Your Colonoscopy Yet? (Infographic)

What do you call an Irish proctologist?
Colin O’Scopy!

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — everybody likes a good colonoscopy joke but there is nothing funny about colon cancer.

We know it’s not fun to prep for a colonoscopy. We get it. But colorectal cancer is the third leading type of cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Thankfully, if detected early through screenings it’s also one of the most preventable.

So if you’ve reached age 50, MAKE THE CALL and Schedule Your Appointment for this important screening.

Because a little laugh makes everything better, we’ve provided you with some fun facts to help pass the time.


Learning to live with cancer will not give you cancer.

Picture life with cancer.

Share pictures of life with cancer using the photo-sharing app Instagram on your smartphone. Just tag your photo with #PictureCancer.

We've discovered the cure for fear.

Say The Word in 140 characters.

We're taking back the power we've given the word cancer by curing fear through knowledge and support. Share your fears and send your support using hashtag #CureFear.

Cure Fear @CureFear

Dr. Kathleen Schneekloth, Radiation Oncologist, treats lung cancer patients each day

Cure Fear @CureFear

These numbers include both smokers and non-smokers. For smokers the risk is much higher, while for non-smokers the risk is lower.

Cure Fear @CureFear

Lung cancer accounts for about 14% of all new cancers.

Avera Sacred Heart @AveraSHH

Doris Esparza refused to give in to her diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer.

Cure Fear @CureFear

There will be about 22,350 new cases of multiple myeloma in the United States for 2013.