Seeking Center: The Podcast

Healing Through Connection: The Power of Community in the Face of a Diagnosis - Episode 26

August 01, 2022 Robyn Miller Brecker, Karen Loenser, Christina Merrill Season 2 Episode 26
Seeking Center: The Podcast
Healing Through Connection: The Power of Community in the Face of a Diagnosis - Episode 26
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We are so honored and grateful to be talking with Christina Merrill today. She is the Founder and CEO of the Bone Marrow & Cancer Foundation, and is the brainchild of the CancerBuddy, which is a free app that helps Cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers find buddies to share similar experiences, resources, educational information, emotional support, and a supportive community.  It’s a wonderful way for people to connect by diagnosis, treatment, side effects, age, interests, hospital and geographical location. CancerBuddy makes the experience of dealing with cancer a little less lonely for patients, caregivers, and survivors.

Since starting the Bone Marrow & Cancer Foundation in 1992, Christina has dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for cancer patients and bone marrow transplant patients and their families. She has married her passion with her purpose which is evident in all of the lives she’s impacted and the continued evolution of resources she creates year after year.

At a time where wholistic wellness is no longer a luxury, but instead a necessity for the good of us all, Christina shares her 30+ years of experience working with patients in the face of a harrowing diagnosis, and gives you resources and ways to help those specifically on their cancer journey.

For more information on Christina or the Bone Marrow & Cancer Foundation, visit bonemarrow.org.

You can currently download the CancerBuddy app in the App Store for iPhones. 

Follow CancerBuddy on Instagram @cancerbuddyapp

Robyn: [00:00:00] I'm Robyn Miller Brecker, 

Karen: and I'm Karen Loenser. Welcome to seeking center. The podcast,

Robyn: join us each week as we have the conversations and weed through the spiritual and holistic clutter for you, we'll boil it down to what you need to know. Now 

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We'll talk to the trailblazers who will introduce you to the practices, products, and experiences. That may be just what you need to hear about to transform your life. 

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The newsletter at seeking center 

Christina: We are so 

Robyn: honored and grateful to be talking with Christina Merrill today. She is the founder and CEO of the bone marrow and cancer foundation, and is the brainchild of cancer buddy, which is a free app that helps cancer patients, survivors, and [00:01:00] caregivers find buddies to share similar experiences.

Resources, educational information, emotional support, and a supportive community. It's a great way for people to connect by diagnosis. Treatment side effects, age interests, hospital and geographical location. This initiative will make the experience of dealing with cancer. A little less lonely for patients, caregivers, and survivors, since starting the bone marrow and cancer foundation in 1992, Christina has dedicated her life to improving the quality of.

For cancer patients and bone marrow transplants patients and their families. She has married her passion with her purpose, which is evident in all of the lives she's impacted and the continued evolution of resources she creates year after year. At a time where holistic wellness is no longer a luxury, but instead a necessity for the good of us.

All, we are grateful to find out more about cancer, buddy Christina's experiences and give [00:02:00] you all ways to help those on a cancer journey. Hi Christina. 

Christina: Hi there. So great to be with you today. That was 

Karen: great to have you here. So many questions and first of all, congratulations on the launch of cancer, buddy.

We know the journey that you've been on, get this into the hands of so many people who really need it 

Christina: and can 

Karen: utilize it right away. 

Christina: Thank you. I'm excited to share it with everybody and get cancer buddy, out into the cancer community. 

Robyn: We are too.

And you've dedicated your life's work to supporting people and families through their cancer journeys. What made you feel called to do this 

Christina: work? I think. Goes way back when I was a little girl, I was such a caregiver and with my sisters and my parents and my animals, and then, went to social work school and found this passion to help cancer patients through my different internships with cancer patients and their families.

And I saw an incredible opportunity to. [00:03:00] Give back and to be able to support these families and these people that are struggling with a diagnosis that they, have their whole lives have been turned upside down. And I started the foundation in 1992, as you mentioned, and. There wasn't a tremendous amount of focus on support and holistic, the whole person approach.

And so I really saw that there was a opportunity and a gap in the healthcare system that I could provide. 

Karen: And you really did. before we go to that, I wanna ask you a question about being young and facing cancer and all those patients that you saw when you first started in your career.

 I went through. My son's diagnosis. It was really one of the lowest points of my life, because I was so afraid. I almost just turned my back on the whole thing. It was one of those moments in my 

Christina: life where it was like, I can do anything, but that, 

Karen: Walking a baby through a cancer diagnosis to healing and all that went with it was just too [00:04:00] overwhelming for me.

What gave you the courage to. Walk that walk and face all those patients and all that fear and uncertainty and maybe, people who had terminal issues and, weren't going to make it through, that's bravery 

Christina: In the biggest sense. How did you come to that? A lot of my friends would say to me, how are you facing this every day in your job?

And I was in my early twenties. And how are you managing that piece of it all? And for me, it was heartbreaking to see parents come in. Cause I worked initially in pediatrics. So to see parents coming from all over the world really to save. Children. It could be an infant to a toddler, to a teen and these families were so uncertain about what was happening to them. And they were scared and they were intimidated by the healthcare system and by medical professionals, They just did not know how to navigate everything. And they were also challenged with not just the mortality of their child, but also, how are [00:05:00] they gonna afford keeping food on the table or a mortgage or their electricity on or in those days we had T.

In the walls, not cell phones or how they were gonna, pay for a TV to be put on in the hospital room, cuz that was a charge or a telephone to communicate with their other children at home or their spouses cuz only, often one, mom or dad came with the child. And so instead of it being, a scary process for me to face every day.

Instead, I just saw it as an opportunity to help these families and show them support and love and a community that could help lift them up and get them through this incredibly difficult process. And of course there was very sad times when there was lives that were lost and it was heartbreaking.

And I was devastated by these families. And what they had to go through. And I wasn't a mom at the time, so I couldn't even relate to them as being a parent. And then later on, I have four children of my own, and I can't imagine going [00:06:00] through that with my own child., but I know that I would want a person like me by their side.

Karen: And you just did such a beautiful job of describing it's so much more than a diagnosis for a family. , it's a, like you were just saying it's for everyone. It's not even just for the child or the one patient. It affects everybody in the family in such an 

Christina: extensive way that 

Karen: they can't even be prepared for.

Like you said, financial, emotional, physical. Not knowing how to navigate the doctors and write questions to ask and yeah, let alone any kind of network of support other than what you're seeing right there in the hospital. So I know the walk that you walked, and I know how often we looked to the social worker, because they were really our only.

Voice of emotional outlet and alternatives of which there were, by the way, none, at that point as a holistic kind of based family. We were looking for those kind of resources in the hospital and people looked at us like we were a little 

Christina: nutty. Yeah. How long ago was that for you? It was years ago, so yeah, [00:07:00] it wasn't like now with integrative services now in the hospitals and they're more in tune with that kind of support. And so you were really navigating on your own, trying to get through this. And also there's all those HIPAA regulations, which prevents nurses and social workers and doctors to share another patient's information because you might have that great connection that could be so supportive, but you never meet them because the doctors aren't allowed to share that information with you.

So that's where cancer buddy's really gonna be helpful. Yeah. And 

Robyn: Also you started the bone marrow. And cancer foundation. How did you decide to focus on bone marrow? 

Christina: It's a really long and lengthy process for a patient. And they are not just in the hospital for, let's say around of chemotherapy or surgery and then discharged.

and at the time it was like the boy in the bubble. So they were in isolation for sometimes two months and this is in the [00:08:00] early nineties, late eighties. . And so these children would be totally isolated and the only human connection they would have was through, let's say like rubber gloves, that they could, get into touch their family's members hand or something.

It was really incredible to watch this process. And it was such a incredibly emotional time for families. Not only were they experienced Life threatening diagnosis, but they were also completely isolated. And those families the parents or the spouses, and this is, way pre COVID.

They could not go and be, let's say, take public transportation or. They had to figure out ways to get to the hospital, to visit their child without being exposed to anybody's, a cold or flu that could literally be life threatening to their child if they gave their child a cold, because that child's immune system was at round zero.

and by having a transplant, they were getting a new immune system. It was [00:09:00] very fragile for the family. And so that's why because I knew that was a population that really needed support. And 

Robyn: you'd started to touch on this, but since you started it in 1992 to.

 Have you seen evolve in terms of research, resources, support? 

Christina: Obviously there's incredible advances in medicine and Such a diagnosis like leukemia and having a bone marrow transplant. It could be a, in the 90% range of cure, it's really been incredible.

The advances they've had with so many diseases and with bone marrow transplants and also with just traditional therapies. And then of course they have immunotherapy now, which has been huge in the cancer world. And so there's been so many of those advances. But along with those advances, a lot of these main cancer institutions have holistic divisions now.

So I've really seen a increase in an open mindness of doctors to say, yes, go get. Acupuncture or do [00:10:00] mindfulness or do yoga or get massage therapy and, nutrition and things like that. So all these really state of the art cancer centers are really trying to provide a whole person approach, not just the medical, but also these other alternative therapies as an integrative part of their treatment.

So I've seen a lot of advances in that area. Why do you think Christina, why do you think that there was a pivot 

Karen: in opening up the door to a holistic wellness versus just there was almost like a church and state separation when I was there, 

Christina: With my son. What do you think changed that?

I think that the patients. Really we're requesting it. So I don't even know if it's ever really come necessarily fullheartedly from the medical world. Cause I don't even know if they fully embrace it, but I think it's the patient's needs to have this holistic approach to their treatment and they see the benefits of it.

And I've seen the benefits of it with my patients. From nutrition to [00:11:00] acupuncture, to mindfulness, to imagery, to all of those aspects, to really help patients have more of a positive attitude. And so that's been a huge advance as well. I think it's very patient driven. 

Karen: I'm glad to hear it. I honestly think, from a patient mother perspective that you really did see. Those resources helping.

It, wasn't just a nice to have from, all of the levels of toxicity from the chemotherapy. All of it was necessary. Of course. Yeah. But to counterbalance all of that in the body, having all of this alternative support, I think not only for my son, but I think for the rest of us, the caregivers 

Christina: really got us through that experience.

 That has really increased. that's really been our mission at the foundation because our. At the bone around cancer foundation is not we don't provide funding for research. It's all the patient care. And so we help families with fundraising as well as we've give them financial assistance.

We've given out millions of [00:12:00] dollars over the years to families for all of their treatment. Care, all the ancillary costs that go along with cancer treatment. So it could be paying for housing. It could be paying for a nutritionist to come in and to buy good food for them and all those sort of things.

It can be to provide a caregiver cuz caregivers. Instrumental, you can't even go through cancer treatment without having a caregiver. It's so difficult. And so we have a fund where we raise money for patients, but also for their caregivers to be able to take off from work and to take a leave of absence and then they can step in and that's their job is for the next six months or a year or however long it is.

They're gonna get a stipend from this fund so that they can feel some sense of, I depend. And not dependent on the patient and feel like that's their job. And it's a really important job to have. So we do a lot of supportive care across the board. 

Robyn: That's incredible. I think most people, [00:13:00] when they first hear a diagnosis, whether it's for themselves or for a loved one, they're not even thinking about that yet.

And then very quickly it becomes clear yes. That you need the help. Wow. What an incredible service you are helping to provide. 

Karen: That's true. And financially, I think that is a big thing that people don't realize that it's it's not just hard enough that you have the diagnosis to get through and navigate all of that.

But when we looked at the bills that we had just for Graham , 20 years ago, it was well over million dollars in costs that 

Christina: We had to manage. 

Karen: And what parent wouldn't do that for their child. 

Christina: And I saw that all the time where parents were just struggling, trying to go to work, take care of their other children. And try to be at the hospital at the same time. And it was just painful to watch because , they couldn't take a leave of absence from work or their jobs. Weren't allowing it And they had to keep their health insurance 

Robyn: and so you created the foundation. And then you had this idea. For cancer, buddy. Can you talk about what led you [00:14:00] to that and what inspired you?

Christina: Yes. First of all, I had a program In 2001, that was a peer support program. And I saw the benefits firsthand, these incredible relationships that were formed between patients or a patient a newly diagnosed patient and A patient that had been out of treatment for a year plus.

And so I saw the benefits not only for the newly diagnosed, but also for the patient that had been out for a year. They felt like they were giving back and all that they experienced was not for, not because they were now sharing their experience and all that. They learned to a newly diagnosed patient, or could be a parent sharing with another parent about what they're gonna experience with their child and what to look out for and all these things.

And so I saw these incredible connections being informed, but it was all very manually driven. And we would, get names of patients and we would connect them and do the whole process. And we connected thousands of [00:15:00] patients together, but it was all very arduous and a process.

And so years later, and this program has been flourishing for years. Personally got divorced and got onto the dating apps, which every. Single person I seen, seems to be on these dating naps, and so I got on the dating naps and I was, sitting there swiping and I'm thinking to myself, oh my God, forget trying to find the love of my life.

I just have come up with this process where I have to take this functionality and create a connection for patients, a peer support connection, and take our program that we've had since 2001 and put it in a digital world on an app. I started taking notes and, everything that was really great about features on a dating app.

 and I, found myself getting on all these other dating apps so I could compare them all. so it was a whole research process. If you meet somebody too. and sorry, started going on that on even reached out to, some heads of different dating [00:16:00] apps to see if they were interested in supporting my concept.

And so I got a lot of great feedback and and then found this incredible information officer. And she, led me to state of the art greatest designers in the app world and started, going out, getting seed money. And before I knew it I was, getting a prototype made.

 

Robyn: Think about 1992 self to 2022, Christina. You couldn't even thought of, the technology that would be available. And then here you are having created this tremendous foundation and now you're entering the tech world.

 With certain intention, of course, , 

Christina: and , I, took 30 years of my experience patient. Yes. To create an app that. Is so it's very focused on peer support. So I'm really staying true to that and and true to providing resources to families and patients on the app that will help them from financial to nutrition, to [00:17:00] holistic, to all sorts of opportunities.

And so it definitely took the 30 years, cuz I don't think that I could create that. From a year's experience of working in the cancer world or two years, like it really took a lot of all my experiences and then bringing in focus groups of patients and survivors and caregivers and medical professionals.

Karen: What I just love so much 

Christina: about your story is the fact that you 

Karen: walked this walk, you didn't just keep walking. You 

Christina: allowed these inspirations that you had to really 

Karen: put the work into manifesting more out of them. 

Christina: With the foundation that you 

Karen: created and then literally using your own experience to open the door to an app, so many people are inspired, but they don't always follow through.

And see it through like you did. Were there any moments that really challenged you that made you think twice about it or did it just flow from point a to point Z to you got it out the door? 

Christina: At first, what was daunting was what it was gonna cost. So I think the cost of it was daunting [00:18:00] to me to think, I had never raised that much money.

So close to a million dollars for one program. Out the door. I've raised that for programs over time, but not just to get it launched to a place where it could be shared in the cancer community. And so I think that was daunting, but then all of a sudden I would tell people about it and.

One person would lead me to another person. And the funding was just flowing in because everybody was saying, this is the most amazing and from huge corporations and pharmaceutical world of advocacy for patients and from private foundations and individuals, they all just really embraced it. And I was, overwhelmed by.

The funding that was coming in very quickly and the response I was getting 

Robyn: well. And you also have, as you said, you have those 30 years of experience, you also have all of these connections into the various hospitals and cancer centers. Really need this. Yeah. Because you're [00:19:00] meeting people where they are 

Christina: in today's world.

Yes. And I think that's my leg up is that we're not a.com. We are a nonprofit and our intentions are. Close to what all of our mission for 30 years. So our intention is to provide this incredible support to patients. It's not about making money like so many dot coms and it's about creating a space for patients that they can all connect and find resources and find others with similar experiences and everything.

Is I think that's our leg up and the fact that I'm been in the healthcare world for 30 years and the foundation is at all the cancer centers around the United States. So we have a great rapport with social workers and nurses and doctors, and everybody, knows the foundation. So we're just now sharing another resource for their patients.

How are you getting 

Karen: the word out about cancer buddy now? What is the plan for getting this into the hands of everybody 

Robyn: Which we know are millions of people 

Christina: [00:20:00] yeah, yes. Yeah. 19 million survivors in the United States.

And then. About close to 2 million newly diagnosed patients every year. So the capacity is huge and the opportunity. And so right now, what we're doing is we had brochures made cancer, buddy brochures and we are sending them to all the cancer centers, to social work departments and nurse navigators.

And patient reps and things like that. And so we're just getting it into the hands of these folks and we're also, of course doing social media stuff. People can follow us at cancer buddy app on Instagram. And we have some great ambassadors so far. We have some folks that are taking this on as their own cause and wanting to share it amongst their followers and so forth.

So we're just doing, very much organically trying to get it into the hospitals and being on your show and so forth, just, every bit to share our message and our mission. 

Robyn: And I know in my own [00:21:00] world, unfortunately, I meet people on a weekly basis who are newly diagnosed or know somebody newly diagnosed.

And I know for me, I'm so grateful to have. Resource for people to turn to now so that they can find others like them who are going through this and find the support that 

Christina: they need. Yeah. And it's obviously it's going to really connect with many different age groups, but I think that a really vulnerable age group is the AYA adolescent to young adults.

And there are, 90,000 young adults that are being diagnosed. And many of those are, young kids and also teens in college age. And they're trying to get through. Have normalcy in their life. And all of a sudden they're diagnosed and now they've lost their friends and they don't have that community.

And nobody, that age, but they don't know what to say to you. they don't have the experience to be able to face it with their friends. It's scary for them. And so they really lose. All their friends, they go into [00:22:00] isolation, let's say they're in college. And they're trying to get through an education.

It's just all daunting and such loneliness for this group. So I think that this app will really speak to this group and a neat filter on cancer buddy is are currently in college or university, we can connect college age kids across the United States at all different universities.

So they felt they have a community to say, I have chemo brain, I can't study, what do I do? And tips and things like that for that group. And so I'm hoping that will really take off amongst all these universities that they'll offer cancer buddy, in the health system and so forth at these places.

And of course, teens are on the apps and they're isolated and lonely, and there could be in the hospital and they can, communicate with another team somewhere else around the country, or even within their own hospital, because you can connect within your own hospital. There's a filter.

So if you're at a certain hospital, you put the name of the hospital in, and then you connect to all the different patients in [00:23:00] that hospital. So you could meet up after. Chemotherapy, if you're on an outpatient or a parent could go take a walk or get a cup of coffee with another parent, that's going through something similar.

So I think there's this tremendous opportunity. And this is where 

Robyn: too, we live in a, such a digital world, however, When you are going through chemo and treatments, you're there for hours and however many days a week. So that signage in brochure wear and all of that is so important 

Christina: yes, and I was just thinking too, the other 

Karen: opportunity that you're offering are people who have gone through and navigated and are well 

Christina: and have managed 

Karen: to.

Get to the other side. And I think that's been such a gift for me to other mothers who I know who have children. Who've been recently diagnosed who think like I did at the time that it was a death sentence 

Christina: and yeah, there 

Karen: was no possible way that I was ever gonna be able to get through it.

And yet we did. 

Christina: And so to be able to tell that to another parent, it's such a 

Karen: lifeline that you're sending to them in that [00:24:00] moment when they really need it the most. I think is a wonderful opportunity 

Christina: for people like me to have as well, to be able to give that give back to someone else it's so meaningful and it really feeds your soul, to be able to say, I've experienced this and now I'm gonna help others get through it too.

And no matter what the outcome is, and. It just is an amazing connection that you're able to offer these other moms that you've walked through it and there's hope and all of that. So it's so important. And I think that with cancer buddy it's also a main hub, so you can get on there to connect with others, but you can also join a group so you can join a nutrition group or a counseling group, or how to speak to my friends about cancer.

What do I tell my girlfriend? When she doesn't call me all the time and I'm missing that connection, and there's all sorts of opportunities on cancer buddy to. Get all the resources and support that you need, including financial assistance, because it connects you to the bone marrow cancer foundation to all of our great financial assistance [00:25:00] programs as well.

So you really have the opportunity to understand your whole treatment process right here on a single. And you made 

Robyn: it so easy. It's so simple. It's beautifully designed both from a literal design perspective, but also from a user interface perspective, it's 

Christina: just easy. I just wanted to make it as easy and friendly as possible so that you didn't need a tutorial to be able to get on there, like a lot of apps that you can get on.

And you're just confused about how to search something or go to something. So I wanted to make it as simple as possible. 

Karen: I would just love to know in terms of the holistic side of things. And that was just so not there. When we went through our journey. what in your mind have been those big, really helpful resources on the holistic side? 

Christina: Of things. I think the opportunity to educate patients on different benefits of holistically, a full kind of treatment process is so important.

 and what I've seen with patients is that if you. Can [00:26:00] just offer them different resources like that and have them try them that they, really open their mind to say, wow, that really worked for me. and obviously I'm very committed to nutrition and having a very much of a great.

Nutritional guide and process for patients. And it's something that's really lacking in the healthcare system and cuz they focus so much on the treatment and the surgery and all those aspects. But you really have to know what you're putting in your body and taking care of your mind and all those aspects to make everything work.

Karen: Have you seen people who've actually implemented those resource in their cancer journey? Really 

Christina: Do better. Oh yes. I've had tons of patients use all these, aspects of a holistic approach and first hand I've seen patients that the doctors will say, I don't know what you're doing.

 But keep doing it because your cancer is, like somebody that's had stage four and they might never. Quote, unquote, be in remission. They have to live [00:27:00] with cancer. And so those folks are really determined to do things that they can stop and halt the cancer besides their chemotherapy or surgery.

And they wanna do anything they can to. Create that kind of support and a strong immune system in their body. And I've seen incredible process of patients really changing their diets and doing acupuncture in all these different holistic aspects. And. The doctor who will literally just say I don't know what you're doing, but your cancer hasn't grown in six months or a year.

And we just will keep doing the cat scans and we'll keep an eye on everything every six months or every three months, but we don't need to start chemotherapy yet. And I'm still working with a young man that had an endocrine sort of type pancreatic cancer. He has not started chemotherapy and it's been about four years and he's just strict on all these other holistic aspects.

And he went through, four rounds of chemotherapy. So he went through all the traditional [00:28:00] treatment and he will embrace it again if he has to. But he's just like a poster child when it comes to being really dedicated to your diet and all other aspects. 

Karen: That's the very thing that you want people to share, 

Christina: Yeah. And it's really educating doctors as well in that process, cuz they don't want you to take supplements and things like that might interact negatively with the chemotherapy.

So they're very cautious when it comes to that. I'm finding now more and more that the doctor will encourage you to go talk to the pharmacist and say, I'm on these chemos.

And I also wanna take, melatonin or something at nighttime, or I wanna take just something that, we wouldn't think would be a problem, but they're very scared. The patient doesn't wanna take anything that might interact. And having doctors encourage. The patient to talk, not just to blow it off and say, you can't take any supplements at all.

But to actually say, let's talk to the pharmacist and see, if there's any interactions with this drug and the supplements that you wanna take. So I love doctors that will be open-minded about that sort of [00:29:00] stuff. Yeah. Cause it, it 

Robyn: speaks to that whole aspect. it really is all of it. And so that integration.

So important and these resources now are available where they may not have been 20 years ago. Those supplements or acupuncture is more readily available. Reiki and so forth. For yourself, are there certain spiritual practices that are part of your daily or weekly routine?

Just because you are taking on so much, on a daily basis that. That's heavy. That's heavy energy what do you do to keep yourself centered? Yes. Grounded. I definitely have 

Christina: a therapist. yeah. Number one. And I exercise and I do mindfulness and I do visualization for myself and I'm very.

Open to all aspects, of the universe providing support and and I always feel that I've had some incredible opportunities. Presented to me. And I feel [00:30:00] like, unless you take the time to be mindful about these opportunities and about yourself and about your work that you sometimes, you wouldn't pick up on it or you would ignore it.

. So I find it's super important to have, positive attitude and yoga and meditation and exercise and eat, and all those aspects and take supplements. And I've been to a preventative, cancer doctor for years just on my own nutrition. And so I definitely practice what I preach to my patients.

Robyn: When talking about nutrition, are there overarching principles that you follow? 

Christina: Yeah.

Just the basics, of not eating processed foods and not a lot of sugar in your diet and try to really limit that and eat, a well rounded, plant based diet and Mediterranean sort of diet or things like that are healthy and organic as much as possible, and.

A , low histamine diet. So to keep your inflammation in your body down is [00:31:00] important with cancer as a whole. , I have great handouts for my patients on low histamine diets, and I try to follow that myself. To really keep, your body as healthy as possible.

So I do follow all of it myself and I've learned so much, so I try to pass it on to my four sons and and they are really amazing whenever they get sick or they're not feeling well. They're asking me, they're texting me for the, for all the supplements that I always put them on at home.

Karen: That's awesome. It's important though 

Christina: people 

Karen: are willing to try anything when they're in. 

Christina: A life and death situation. Very vulnerable. They'll try. Yeah.

Anything. Yeah. 

Karen: And they're looking for resources and they wanna make sure they're doing the right thing and not the wrong thing. So having all these principles that you've seen in practice really work and pay off for people obviously is so important. But then also to have a platform where things that people may be trying that are new.

And just being able to offer feedback on how it has or hasn't 

Christina: worked for them again, you're offering a destination 

Karen: [00:32:00] for people that is vetted and trusted because it's real people going through real situations sharing real stories. And I think that's the best possible resource you can offer.

Robyn: I also wanna go back to you also talked about visualization do you follow guided meditation for that? Are there certain go-tos that help you create those visualizations? Cuz we talk about that all the time. 

Christina: Yeah. I love to have my patients that I work with to visualize Them on the other side of cancer and what that feels like, and to really feel it.

And you tell a patient, like they say I don't know how to visualize. And I don't, I don't know how to do it. It's not gonna work or whatever. And I'll say, don't think about, what your kitchen looks like or something like that.

And then they'll say, oh my God, that's all I can think about is what my kitchen looks like right now. And I'm like, you. Visualized your kitchen. So you can do this. You can completely do this and really feel it. And so I really try to do that myself. I visualize the app being created. I visualize.

Receiving the funding for the app and what that would feel like. And I [00:33:00] visualize all these things and I try to do this all the time because having a positive attitude and seeing your vision before it's, there is really helpful. It's a way of 

Karen: taking your power back. I remember with Graham, our son, even when he received the chemo we blessed the chemo.

. Before it started. And that felt empowering that we could do that at the moment and offer even though sometimes visualization of the after was really hard because it was just such a big leap 

Christina: cancer patients. They will visualize, an army of, soldiers, just attack and they, all sorts of different visualizations can help and empower them and give them strength.

The ability to get through such a daunting, terrible time. 

Robyn: I think that's really helpful. And I think people listening today, there's so many aspects of everything we talked about that they can really start to apply. If they're going through this or they know someone going through this, they can help recommend and Now you have [00:34:00] two major resources, You have cancer buddy app, and then you already have such an established foundation. That's helped so many people through these decades. it's an honor to talk to you 

Christina: thank you. I feel lucky that, I really feel like I've never gone to work a day in my life. I feel, of course it stresses me out sometimes to have to raise money every year for all of our programs and everything.

But besides that, I just wanna keep going and finding resources and programs and great things for patients and their families, I think to 

Robyn: When you see someone who is following exactly what they're meant to do and evolving as they go along, it's really pretty magical to see because you're making such a difference in this world, in this lifetime, and you've known it since you were young, 

Christina: thank you. And it's also, 

Karen: I don't know if you look at yourself this way, but you are such a healer in the sense of being able to walk the walk, but then extend it out. 

Christina: And that's the beauty of [00:35:00] technology 

Karen: in its best sense now is that we can utilize this tool.

To extend healing so much further than just one person 

Christina: . And that 

Karen: I think is really the beauty of what you created. So yeah, we really appreciate it from a mom who's walked the walk and I'm sure so many that you've heard from that are benefiting right away from this experience.

It's really, 

Christina: Inspiring for all of. 

So thank you for that.

Yeah it's really wonderful to hear stories and people coming back into the foundation, after their cancer experience and when they've healed and so forth also to come back and they wanna give back and they wanna be a part of our family of the bone marrow cancer foundation, 

and they wanna, give back and be a part of it. So that's really special as well. I've met most incredible families and people over my 30 years 

Karen: it's the circle of 

Christina: the healing journey, right? 

Karen: That is just a beautiful story all way around for everyone. All. So thank you so 

Robyn: much for, I know. Thank you for birthing this new baby and 

Christina: really for taking 

Robyn: the time today. And [00:36:00] so for more information on Christina or the bone marrow and cancer foundation, visit bone marrow.org, you can currently download the cancer buddy app in the app store on iPhones.

And as Christina said, you can follow. Cancer buddy on Instagram at 

Christina: cancer buddy app. 

Introduction
Healing Through Connection: The Power of Community in the Face of a Diagnosis