Looking Ahead during Cancer Treatment
- Sydney Lippa is 28-year-old kindergarten teacher currently fighting soft-tissue sarcoma. But despite her first round of treatment being unsuccessful, she’s determined to stay positive and look toward happy things in the future. The term sarcoma is used to describe an array of more than 70 rare cancers that begin in the bones and the soft tissues.
- She’s even planning her wedding for next July while undergoing more chemotherapy.
- A cancer battle, or any health struggle for that matter, can lead to a whole host of complex emotions – and it’s okay to allow yourself to feel the negative ones too. But holding onto hope in the face of adversity can be a really powerful way to get through the toughest of times. Leaning on your faith and focusing on positive thinking are two ways to try to do that.
Lippa got engaged to her fiancé, Griffin Magness, in March – just before her diagnosis. Then, she was given her diagnosis over the summer.Read More
Lippa, who’s been teaching at Carroll Manor Elementary School for seven years, stood at the head of the classroom for three weeks before beginning her intense chemotherapy treatments in September. Unfortunately, she had to leave school to focus on her health, but Lippa knew that didn’t mean she had to put her whole life on hold, so she started planning her wedding.
“Sometimes it feels a little bit silly to be planning a wedding when I have something so huge happening and something so devastating happening,” she said.
But that feeling of silliness fades away to excitement and hope when she thinks of her wedding.
“I’m not letting cancer take this away from me, like I want to get married, I love Griff, and I wanna marry him, and that’s gonna happen,” she said.
And even though her first round of treatment was unsuccessful, Lippa is determined to focus on her faith and stay positive as she completes her next round of chemotherapy.
“My thoughts go from shallow things to deep things, but my biggest thing is prayer,” she said of her mindset. “Right now I am feeling hopeful… I’m excited for Christmas, it’s my favorite holiday and I know the reason for the season.”
And, thankfully, Lippa has a loving fiancé in her corner to support her through this trying time as well.
“I know the woman I’m marrying, and I know her devotion to God, her perseverance,” Magness said. “She’s gonna get through this, and it’s been amazing to see her strength.”
Lippa should complete her current round of chemotherapy in early 2022, then she’ll have more scans to find out if her tumor has decreased in size.
The term sarcoma is used to describe an array of more than 70 rare cancers that begin in the bones and the soft tissues, such as muscles. This diverse group of diseases accounts for only about one percent of tumors in adults and just over 10 percent of tumors in children.
The main symptom of sarcomas is generally a slow-growing, painless mass, but symptoms can be hard to detect as soft tissue sarcomas are typically painless and bone sarcomas can be mistakenly diagnosed as orthopedic injuries.
“Unfortunately, most sarcomas do not cause many of the symptoms that may be associated with other cancers,” Dr. Dale Shepard, director of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute Phase I and Sarcoma Programs, tells SurvivorNet. “A mass the size of a golf ball or larger and growing should be evaluated as a potential sarcoma. It’s important that patients who do have symptoms are not dismissive of them.”
Types of Sarcoma Cancers
The word sarcoma refers to a large array of bone and soft tissue cancers, and individual cancers within that set go by unique names. Some of the types of sarcomas include:
- Ewing’s sarcoma is a cancer that typically occurs in and around the bones, often in the arms or legs, or the bones of the pelvis. It most commonly occurs in children and young adults.
- Kaposi sarcoma is a very rare type of cancer that causes lesions on the skin, in lymph nodes, organs, and the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and throat. It typically affects people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV.
- Epithelioid sarcoma is a type of soft tissue cancer that grows slowly. It is likely to begin under the skin of areas like the finger, hand, forearm, lower part of the leg, or foot.
- Synovial sarcoma, also called malignant synovioma, is a cancer that can form soft tissues such as muscle or ligaments, commonly close to joints or in areas like the arm, leg, or foot.
- Osteogenic sarcoma, also called osteosarcoma, starts in the bone, often as it is forming as a young person grows.
- Spindle cell sarcoma is very rare, comprising as little as 2 percent of all primary bone cancer cases. It can start in the bone, often in the arms, legs, and pelvis, and usually occurs in people over 40.
Faith during a Cancer Journey
For some people like Lippa, turning to faith can be a great way to keep spirits high when cancer starts taking an emotional and/or physical toll. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69% of cancer patients say they rely on their faith to get them through cancer treatment.
Monica Layton, an ovarian cancer survivor, believes in the power of faith during a fight with cancer. She turned to her church congregation for support as she battled cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic and then went through recovery.
“[I’ve] gone to the same church for a long time, so it’s like another family that really supports me,” Layton told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “We’re Episcopalian, and when I was having surgery my priest came to the hospital and stayed and prayed with my family the whole time – and it was a long surgery. And then he came back to the hospital every day to pray with me.”
In addition to praying for her, Layton’s church also sent flowers, cards and a prayer blanket and often visited her.
“They were so kind,” Layton said. “I think my faith has been very important, crucial for me. Just the prayer really helps, I think.”
Staying Positive through Treatment
It’s very normal to have negative feelings throughout your cancer journey, and it’s okay to express them too! Anger, shame, fear, anxiety – it’s all to be expected. But doctors will tell you that people who find a way to work through the emotions and stay positive tend to have better outcomes.
“A positive attitude is really important,” says Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “I’m pretty good at telling what kind of patients are going to still have this attitude and probably going to live the longest, even with bad, bad disease. And those are patients who, they have gratitude in life.”
At SurvivorNet, we get to share many stories of positivity and resilience because there’s no shortage of brave cancer warriors holding onto hope in the face of adversity. Take Lippa, for example. She’s so determined to hold onto the light in life throughout her cancer journey that she’s even planning her wedding while undergoing treatment.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, is another resilient cancer survivor like Lippa. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in high school and proceeded to beat the disease not once, but twice. Understandably so, Ripley-Burgess has had to work through a lot of complex emotions that came with her cancer journey. Even still, she’s always managed to look at life with a positive attitude.
“As I’ve worked through the complex emotions of cancer, I’ve uncovered some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities,” she previously told SurvivorNet. “I carry a very real sense that life is short, and I’m grateful to be living it! This has made me optimistic. Optimism doesn’t mean that fear, pain and division don’t exist – they do. Our world is full of negativity, judgment, and hate. Optimism means that I believe there’s always good to be found despite the bad, and this is what my life is centered around.”
She moves through life with a sense of purpose unique to someone who’s been faced with the darkest of times. Happily in remission today, she’s determined to, one day, leave the world better than she found it.
“We can choose to stay positive, treat others with respect and look for the light in spite of the darkness,” she said. “This type of attitude and behavior will lead to the kind of legacies I believe all of us hope to leave.”