Unexpected Insights from a Reluctant Client

with Vicky Benoit

by Nicole LaCour

Vicky Benoit
Today will be joyous, for the beauty slamming against my face is unwilling to be ignored. -quote on the artwork held by Vicky

When she walked into her first MilesStrong* meeting, Vicky Benoit had been secluded in her home for months. “I never would have chosen the program, had the MPCS outreach person not been there, at the radiologist’s office.” Until then, she had not reached out to other people fighting cancer. “People like me are not eager to get help,” she admitted. “It’s a group you’d rather never join.” As the group of four women told their stories, Vicky realized how much she had been holding inside. “It was big to me. I had been bunched up. There I was in this room filled with this energy and emotion, it was so real. It was overwhelming but really good. I needed it so much. And we laughed a lot. I asked questions about my hair and how to handle my grandchildren and silly, practical things. I had been unconnected and these women reminded me of the value of connection and it really helped.”

It took her about a week after that first meeting to let herself feel the raw emotions she had been keeping at bay; feelings not just for herself but also for the courageous women she had met that day. She was struck by the common challenge of strong women, fighting cancer: to allow yourself to be cared for. Always the caretaker, it’s difficult to ask for and receive care and absolve yourself of the responsibility of always being the strong, caring person.

Vicky spent most of her life studying the human mind. With a master’s degree in psychology, she’s counseled people from a variety of backgrounds. She’s studied the affects of tumors and strokes on the brain, helping patients find their strengths and abilities. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that her experience with cancer and its treatments brought her extraordinary insight into her own psyche.

Vicky always considered herself a strong person, so after her first chemotherapy treatment, she thought, “Oh, this isn’t so bad,” and carried on with life, taking her dog to the vet. Then the affects hit her and she could barely get herself home. She would need a new kind of strength now. “I had my own way of dealing with it,” she remembered. “When I was a little girl I used to have a dream, that I would build a mountain around myself and go into it and decorate it. That’s what I did through treatment. I went into my mountain.”

She drew upon her training and used positive visualization. “I would have talks with my body. I would tell it, ‘You’ve been such a good body all these years. You’re doing a good job. You can get through this.’” She wished for peace and harmony for her blood cells. She saw them calming down and it helped her to stay calm and endure what is often harsh treatment. “I saw my body as a castle and the chemicals helped to keep the house in order.”

Ever the psychologist, Vicky studied her own mind and found the bombardment of aggressive chemicals and radiation brought her a heightened insight. “Your self is brought to the edge,” she said. “You’re going through so many changes, that it makes you more intuitive, like a magical gift. You scrape all the layers; all the ways you thought you knew how to cope. And with all that gone, it’s just your raw self because that’s all you can deal with. It was pretty cool.”

Long before cancer, Vicky was forced to find her sea legs when she was hit, head-on by a truck in 1998. Plagued with chronic pain, she searched for someone to heal her. It became a full time job and she developed a healthy skepticism towards doctors. It was a time when she realized that being strong was important to her, that she was resilient and had the capacity to overcome major set backs.

Then along came cancer. In July of 2014, only a year after losing her sister, a doctor informed her that she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “I didn’t hear a thing after that. It was so unreal to me.” Vicky sat in the office saying, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” She remembered a nurse saying, “Would you like us to call your husband?”

“Oh, that’s a good idea,” she replied.

Facing treatment, Vicky had to let go of her feelings about doctors. She had to trust in her healer. She remembered saying to herself, “I’m just going to have to trust this doctor, which was not easy, trust the process, and buy into it 100%. With cancer, it was about letting go.” Vicky had to learn to let others be strong for her. It was difficult to watch her family deal with the stress. She found herself the recipient of care she would not have asked for on her own. “A whole network of friends and family didn’t let me stay alone,” she said. Her daughter sent care packages of health food and others brought her healing talismans. Vicky learned to augment her own strength with the love and kindness of others.

And then she found MPCS. “It was a wonderful gateway for re-socialization and coming back to the world.”

Recently turning 63, Vicky said, “I’m a young girl. I have lots of plans. Cancer was just another hurtle in the race of life.”


*MilesStrong is an eight week program that specializes in exercise, education and support for cancer patients in treatment.


Pamper Your Lymphatic System

Pamper your Lymphatic System

lymph-system1Fifteen minutes of meditation, an hour of Gentle Yoga, some stretching or maybe even a little aerobic exercise…any of these things will help one of your bodies most important systems: the lymphatic system.

Chances are you’ve heard all about lymph nodes and your lymphatic system from your doctors. Maybe more than you ever wanted to. So, you know that the lymphatic system is responsible for protecting the body from foreign invaders and cleaning out your system of toxins and pathogens.

Did you know that stimulating your body through exercise and meditation can encourage proper drainage and production in your lymphatic system? While this is important for everyone, people fighting cancer are especially vulnerable to weakness in their lymphatic system functioning.

Additionally, radiation, surgery, infection and cancer itself can cause lymphedema, a condition that occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain fluid, usually from the arms or legs.

Exercise can be a powerful tool in both preventing this condition and providing relief from its symptoms and discomforts.

The MPCS Wellness Center offers regular classes that can help you pamper your lymphatic system:

Full Wellness Center Schedule

YOGA: Offered three times/week. Guided stretching and focused breathing aid your overall health and well being.

 PILATES & TONING: Offered three times/week with light weights and core strengthening.

 MEDITATION: Guided breathing from the diaphragm can help your lymphatic system flow properly.

 “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” –old Zen proverb

Our Wellness professionals cater to individual needs and levels. The Wellness Center is a haven for people fighting, surviving and living with cancer. Open sessions, free weights and exercise machines provide the opportunity to exercise at your own pace and schedule. Our classes guide you through enhanced wellness. At the Wellness Center clients meet and share with people who are experiencing similar challenges and triumphs, creating the added benefit of camaraderie with people who are in the unique position of understanding your experiences.






Too Smart for Cancer

with Elizabeth Long Kinler

by Nicole LaCour

Elizabeth Long

People often say when they hear the word cancer from their doctor, they don’t hear anything else that follows. At Miles Perret, our clients often tell us that it takes time to get up the courage to come through our doors and find out about the many ways we can help them. That wasn’t true for Elizabeth Long. As soon as she was dropped off at home from the gallbladder surgery that revealed metastasized, stage IV cancer, she got in her car and drove straight to Miles Perret Cancer Services.

Elizabeth believes in the empowerment of information. “I got all the pamphlets. I read how to tell your children. The library was very useful. I looked at the wigs and the head coverings. I got my “so you’ve got cancer”* bag and my binder.” Her visit to MPCS was one part of Elizabeth’s preparation for what she was about to face.

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Cancer is Weird

With Jane Armentor

by Nicole LaCour

IMG_0551Fighting cancer changes your life. From the day the doctor gives you the diagnosis, things get weird. Maybe it’s looking forward to having strange chemicals put into your body and being disappointed when your white cell count is low and you have to skip a session. Maybe it’s laughing with your daughter in the wig room at Miles Perret as you try on different styles. Maybe it’s finding yourself wishing you had a more commonplace cancer, so you had someone to talk about it with. Maybe it’s the numbness in your feet and wearing shoes that you used to make fun of when your mom wore them. It’s drastically changing your diet and appreciating spring like you never have before. It’s having a party to shave your head and scheduling a rotation of friends and family who refuse to let you go to chemotherapy alone. Fighting and living with cancer brings weird things into your life.

Jane Armentor is used to things being a little weird. When she began college at USL in 1975, everyone thought she had a weird accent. She landed in Lafayette by way of a couple of years in England by way of eight years in Iran. “I loved it there,” she remembers. “In the winter, the snow would start at the top of the mountains and by the time it snowed in town, the mountains were covered in white. It was beautiful.” But an unusual childhood didn’t prepare her for hearing the news that she had stage IV pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to her liver. Jane had coaxed the initial news out of her doctor on the phone while she was at work. A lifetime smoker, Jane went to her car and reached for her habitual comfort.

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7 Things You Learn When You Beat Cancer 4 Times


Life lessons from Charlene Morella, Cancer Warrior

ONE:  Carpé Diem,  Seize the Day

It’s a cliché you hear all the time. But when you hear it from a woman who’s beaten cancer four times, it’s not just a cliché. Charlene Morella has always been an optimist. “The original Pollyanna,” she calls herself. Her glass-is-always-half-full attitude was tested over the course of 33 years by four bouts of cancer. “I’m one of the luckiest women in the world. I keep beating it. I’ve got a wonderful family and really good friends. I can see the sunshine in the morning. I wake up every day and think, ‘I’m alive. God, thank you again.’” _DSC8990 The Four: Charlene battled Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1982 for about a year. It was a rough fight with all the challenges that come with fighting cancer; hair loss, weight loss, emotional and physical toil and strain on her family. But she beat it and came out the other side strong, her optimism a constant companion. She was cancer free for 25 years until 2007 when doctors found cancer in her stomach. This time surgery was her cure and she had her stomach completely removed. She had to train herself to eat again. “I can out eat my husband now,” she said. In 2010, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma tested her will and she fought that too. This time, modern medicine had advanced with targeted drugs and she was able to beat back cancer’s attack on her white blood cells once again.  And in 2014, the Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma recurred. Again, targeted, advanced drug treatments helped her beat it. After five treatments, the chemotherapy was becoming too much for her body and her doctor paused the regimen. Then they ran a test and it showed that those five treatments had been enough and the lymphoma was gone. With each diagnosis Charlene refused to give up and didn’t allow herself to be a victim. She chose instead to fight and have gratitude for making it through each time. “My husband finds me dancing in the kitchen sometimes singing, ‘I love my life.’”  

TWO:  Modern medicine is great, but your health is yours. Be involved in your treatment plan. Continue reading

Survivor Spotlight: Pandora Pratt


Pandora Patt

1/15/2014 by Nicole LaCour

Everyone has days in their lives that are seared in their memory, moments you will never forget. For Pandora Patt, two such moments changed her life. When she was12 years old, her brother-in-law, a minister gave her an important message. “He gave me a word of knowledge, a word from God,” she remembered. He told her, “God is going to use you throughout your life, to minister to people, to help them heal.” Pandora knew something had changed.

On June 5, 2014 Pandora received a different kind of knowledge. Her doctor informed her that she had a mass in her stomach. “He called me at 7:30 in the morning and said, ‘You have to see the oncologist today.’ As soon as he said oncologist, I knew.” It was Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Pandora was faced with one of the biggest challenges of her life.

Today, Pandora walks into a room full of light and beauty. Her short, natural hair growing back, rather stylishly and accentuating the shape of her face, her lovely skin tone and her bright eyes. She is a woman of presence.

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Love & Health


Scientists have long been keen to prove that love gives us health benefits.

The benefits of love are explicit and measurable:

Helps beat cancer: University of Iowa researchers found that ovarian cancer patients with a strong sense of connection to others and satisfying relationships had more vigorous “natural killer” cell activity at the site of the tumor than those who didn’t have those social ties. (These desirable white blood cells kill cancerous cells as part of the body’s immune system.) 

Leads to a longer life: The National Longitudinal Mortality Study, which has been tracking more than a million subjects since 1979, shows that married people live longer. Plus, they have fewer heart attacks and lower cancer rates, and even get pneumonia less frequently than singles. source: prevention.com: How Love Keeps You Healthy by Sandra Mahony