Tuesday, September 4, 2012
My Turn at Fame
During our retreat last week with Little Pink Houses of Hope, I did a phone interview with a reporter who was doing a story on the organization and wanted to talk with one of the participants. The article was posted this weekend. :) So yes, I am famous via the Bethany Beach Wave!
RETREAT GIVES CANCER PATIENTS, FAMILIES A BREAK FROM ROUTINE
BETHANY BEACH -- For the last six months, Jill Lustberg has been juicing.
No, not the juicing associated with Barry Bonds' Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque transformation. Lustberg's juicing comes in the form of a shake, equal parts kale, cucumber, green apple and lime.
She started juicing when she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time; four years prior, she was told her cancer was in remission.
Ironically, now the 41-year-old from St. Louis, Mo., is smiling wider than ever.
In the midst of her treatment, Lustberg balances her work at Washington University with raising a 6-year-old daughter and racing to medical appointments. Through it all, her husband, Jason, is by her side.
The pressures of work and treatment leave little time for her family to enjoy each other's company. Instead, their attention is focused on chemotherapy schedules and making green cocktails that would never be mistaken for appletinis.
A vacation wasn't just a hope, but a need -- not only for Lustberg but for her daughter, Rory, and Jason.
"As a mom, it's nearly impossible to put your mind at rest because you're always thinking about kids, school, work, cleaning the house," Lustberg said. "To find the time to put yourself first and take care of your health is hard to do. Part of your health is your connection to your family. To relax, not think about laundry and the to-do list of everyday life is a true gift."
While undergoing treatment, Lustberg received an email from a fellow cancer patient about a week-long trip to Bethany Beach. It was a retreat hosted by Little Pink Houses of Hope, a nonprofit organization based out of Burlington, N.C.
The Lustbergs and six other families traveled to Bethany to distract them from the daily grind associated with cancer. Instead, their concerns were how sore their arms would be after a day of kayaking, do I need a manicure, pedicure or both, and who will get to brag for the remainder of the trip about getting the lowest score at miniature golf.
LPHOH founder Jeanine Patten-Coble summed up the week's motto as "live stronger, laugh harder and love deeper."
"This week is designed to let them have fun," she said. "Just because you have this diagnosis doesn't mean your life has to take this big stop."
Patten-Coble is also a cancer survivor. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, she felt obligated to give back to those who are fighting a similar battle.
During her year and a half of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Patten-Coble's main concern centered around the well-being of her husband and son. They were her rocks, and for every moment she didn't think she could persevere, she could not bear to know what was running through the minds of her loved ones.
For the Lustbergs, chores like grocery shopping and cooking have been shifted to Jason's plate.
A trip to the beach is an unparalleled remedy. For seven days, sweeping the floors and cooking dinner were forgotten.
"There's still a separation for what it's like for the family and for me," Lustberg said. "You come here and disconnect from all of life's stresses with your family -- it's great. It helps to get away from your daily routine."
Lustberg's greatest concern is not the state of her recovery, but that her daughter isn't overwhelmed by her condition.
Every day brings uncertainty to Jill and Jason. Explaining the ins and outs of cancer to a 6-year-old and hoping they comprehend is as easy as teaching calculus to the family pet.
Lustberg struggles with how much information should be imparted onto Rory; what does she need to know, how much stress is being unfairly placed onto her and why does mommy continue to down these strange green drinks?
"You just don't ever feel like you know the right answers," Lustberg said.
Rory had never been to the beach and she'd never ridden a horse. Both of those activities were checked off her to-do list last week.
Lustberg has a theory. Treat every day as a good day. Focus solely on the now. Then, she said, there's nothing not to be happy about.
Her positive attitude sets the tone for her family. Jason and Rory's lives revolve around Jill's health and happiness, and vice versa.
Lustberg recently completed her chemotherapy treatment. Maintenance will be the goal from here on out, and she'll do so with memories of the beach trip in her back pocket and optimism at every hurdle.
"To relax with my husband and kid on our own would be impossible," she said. "I don't know how you do it any other way."