Rhonda Eyzaguirre, PhD, is a school psychologist and mother of two children. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, and completed active treatments in 2018. Jennifer Dresser is a two-time cancer survivor and mother of four children. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and had a recurrence in 2019. She completed active treatments in June 2020. Mari Guzman is an attorney and mother of two children. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, and completed active treatments in November 2020. They are co-authors of "Hope Anong Us: Stories of Three Young Breast Cancer Survivors" and they answered our questions about cancer and their book.
Humor Beats Cancer: How did you all come together to write the book?
Rhonda: Mari and I met 10 years ago, when our sons were in preschool. Jennifer and I met six years ago, when our daughters were in kindergarten. As our children became friends, we have been able to share the joys and challenges of parenting. We have different faiths and different life experiences, but share a strong connection to each other through our children, our friendships and our overlapping cancer journeys. Writing the book has been therapeutic and part of the healing process for all three of us.
Humor Beats Cancer: Why did you write the book?
Rhonda: We collaborated on "Hope Among Us: Stories of Three Young Breast Cancer
Survivors" to try to help others going through cancer themselves or better understand the journey of a loved one. I met with Jennifer and Mari to provide support and encouragement since they were going through breast cancer treatment. It was very healing to share our experiences and commiserate over the side effects of our treatments. We realized we were all diagnosed at a young age, and were treated at the same hospital. We also had the exact same diagnosis - estrogen positive, progesterone positive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. If that wasn't enough, our mothers are also breast cancer survivors! We decided to share our experiences on paper - with honesty and humor. We want to encourage people through our struggles and triumphs, and give them hope. H.O.P.E. is the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel, and also stands for Hold On Pain Ends.
Humor Beats Cancer: What do you hope people get from the book?
Mari: Breast cancer can be a very isolating and unsettling experience. Our hope is that people find strength, comfort, and courage from reading our inspirational stories that help them move through their own cancer journey. Also, it is very important for people impacted by cancer to seek out resources, both in person and virtually. We share many resources that have helped, and continue to help, us and our families on this cancer journey, and we hope they help you too. Never lose hope!
Humor Beats Cancer: How did you incorporate humor into your cancer journey?
Jennifer: Marjorie Pay Hinckley, as quoted in our book, said “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.” I have to agree. During my cancer journeys, I tried to find humor in most situations. When I was bald from chemo, I would tease little kids and had many jokes about my appearance; it wasn’t my fault and it was temporary, so why not laugh about it? I posed for pictures with boxing gloves on and in boxing positions during my rounds of chemo. My daughters and I had fun recording ourselves singing with smiles my anthem song while I was bed-ridden after surgery. When my left expander was deflated for a couple of months for radiation I joked about having one boob. In fact, I had a radiation treatment on Halloween and my radiation techs asked me where my costume was. I replied with a smile “I’m the uni-boober.” Again, it was nothing I had control over and it was temporary. I didn’t have control over a lot of things, but I did have control of how I responded to it all and crying does give me a headache.
Humor Beats Cancer: Why is humor important to help deal with life’s challenges?
Jennifer: Brad Wilcox has said “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” Humor can improve our perspective and lighten our load. In fact, many medical studies have linked laughter with better physical and mental health. Humor allows us to view our lives in a more positive light, deal with conflicts, and cope with trials that might otherwise seem overwhelming. I know that when I try to incorporate a positive attitude and humor into my trials it helps me to release frustrations and put problems in a different light. “Laughter is the best medicine.”
Humor Beats Cancer: What did you learn from facing cancer?
Mari: I learned many things from facing cancer. However, one of the most important things I learned is that my body is stronger than I give it credit for. In the famous words of Bob Marley, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” Surgery and the many months of active treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) took a tremendous toll on my body. I babied my body during and after treatments, terrified that I was not strong enough to do the things that I used to do. Then I realized, with the support from medical professionals, family, and friends, that I was holding myself back from living. I started biking, hiking, and returned to the gym for strength training. I learned to channel my doubts into cautious courage.
Another very important thing I learned is that cancer is a lifelong journey. The journey does not end when treatment is over. Cancer will always be a part of my life. While the worries may fade over time, I have learned that they will never disappear. However, I am learning how to balance positive thinking with the worry.