Healthy Heart

Lymphoma, the Persistence of Inspirational Women, and the Power of Language

Each year, Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC) sponsors their Blood Cancer Patient Forum. They invite speakers to bring them news about such topics as treatment advances and management of cancer from a fully developed psycho-social perspective. Essentially, they dish up good old-fashioned support for patients and their families.

LBC does not receive government funding and is supported entirely by voluntary donations from supports, sponsors and fundraisers (Scoop Health).

The featured speaker for the 2017 session is Tracey Hancock. As a survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL), and a business and life coach, Tracey has much to offer attenders. HL forms in the lymph system, which is a major player in the immune system.

LinkedIn tells us more about Tracey and her work. For example, Tracey’s words on life and business success: “It's about who you show up as and how you perform each day, and the level of your health is going to influence both of those aspects. That makes health a high priority and dare I say it – it makes your health your number 1 priority.”

And there lies the crux of Tracey’s inspirational message to those attending the 2017 LBC session.

Tracey’s inspirational journey

According to Scoop Health, Tracey was a very active business woman and outdoors enthusiast when Hodgkin lymphoma invaded her life in 2015. The disease and its treatment ravaged her. There were days she couldn’t even get out of bed.
However, in the midst of this, she chose to not let the disease run her life. Instead, she appointed herself as “the CEO of my life and health journey.”

As a foundation for her approach, she leaned on her educational specialty and hands-on experience as a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) coach and mentor, Scoop Health concludes.

Wiley describes NLP as “one of the most exciting psychological techniques in use today. (It) helps you model yourself on those-or, more accurately, the thought processes of those-who are stellar in their fields.”

We also learn from Wiley that NLP has its origin in behavioral psychology of the 1970s. We are informed that the concepts of NLP are now common to diverse areas to include the business arena, where NLP offers its unique application of goal setting.

Scoop Health further clarifies the NLP process as being one to ” help you correct language you use that leads to negative thinking.”

How NLP helped Tracey’s health

From Psychology Today, we find that “The goals of NLP are to help the client understand that the way one views the world affects how one operates in the world, and that it is necessary to change the thoughts and behavior patterns that have not proven beneficial in the past and that only serve to block one’s healing and success”.

During her season of chemotherapy and radiation, Tracey put to good use the tenets of NLP and her business coaching skills to draw up a plan “to support and rebuild her health” (Health Scoop).

It’s a common belief that someone who’s “been in the trenches,” and has paid their dues, so to speak, is better equipped to help others in the same or similar situations. As such, Tracey has taken it upon herself to support and encourage others with blood cancers in her role as a motivational speaker.

In speaking with others, Tracey says she talks of the “Power of Language” and shares why and how “she chose not to see herself as a victim … (and) instead positioned (herself) as the leader of my health journey.”

The US Leukemia and Lymphoma Society speaker

In the U.S., another motivational speaker will take the fall podium as the 2017 keynote speaker for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society North Texas Cancer Conference and Expo. This speaker is two-time cancer survivor Lila Javan, of Los Angeles. The event is a “free educational conference to include workshops by top hematology and oncology experts” (LLS).

We are introduced to this young woman via the webpage for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: As a profession, Lila is a photographer and filmmaker. She is also the founder of the group’s primary money-raising campaign, Climb2Cure. The motto of this fundraiser is “Climbing Kilimanjaro is our journey; Curing Cancer is Our Goal.”

And there’s quite a story behind all of that.

Lila’s first brush with Adult Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) came in 2010, at age 36. AML, like HL, is a blood cell cancer. But, while HL involves cancerous white blood cells, AML can involve white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. It’s an aggressive form of leukemia that affects both the blood and the bone marrow. It’s directly connected to abnormal blood cell production by the bone marrow. AML is considered to be “the most common type of acute leukemia in adults” (National Institute of Health/National Cancer Institute).

Within a year after receiving a bone marrow transplant, Lila was living as a cancer survivor (LLC). Four years later, she began making plans to climb Kilimanjaro. However, she was side-stepped by another bout of AML which called for a stem cell transplant (LLS).

Lila’s interesting fundraiser

To help lift Lila’s spirits during this second phase of recovery, a friend hung a picture of Kilimanjaro at eye level to urge Lila onward.

Lila’s bubbling enthusiasm for that climb eventually netted a group of supporters. As she tells it, “An amazing thing happened - my solo trip became a group trip. Now, a group of 14 doctors, nurses, therapists and friends all wanted to journey with me to climb the highest peak in Africa.”

We learn from Lila’s post on the LLS site that she spoke with LLS and got their fundraiser endorsement, not only for the African climb, but for future expansions to other mountain treks, as well. The fundraiser included a donor drive for the national bone marrow/stem cell registry.

For the original climb, Lila and her team were able to raise $133,000 for the charity. Following that feat, Lila and her oncologist were interviewed by NBC. This clip can be accessed online at Life Connected.

Lila actively advocates for donor drives and supports the LLS stance that “For the thousands of people diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. That cure may be inside YOU. You can cure cancer; join the national registry and save a life”.

Lila has shared that she’s turning her journey into a documentary film and already has her sights set on a new climb of Mt. Everest (Life Connected).

Final thoughts

Two women. Two different lives. Each affected by cancer, but both strong-minded and resolute. A duo able to take their eyes off their struggles and reach out to help others who share similar paths.