Finding Support during a Cancer Journey
- Local favorite sports journalist Emily Waldon, 38, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of this year. She’s currently undergoing treatment, but her spirits are up as the minor league baseball community she covers rallies behind her fight.
- Many women develop breast cancer every year, and the disease is the subject of much research. There are many treatment options out there, but treatment paths depend greatly on the specifics of each case.
- There are many people out there for cancer warriors to be vulnerable with, if they’d like. And whether that’s through a job or social media or simply connecting with your closest family and friends, it’s worth it to at least try.
Waldon, 38, covers the minor league affiliates of the Detroit Tigers for Baseball America, and started her first season with the minors back in 2015. Since then, she’s become a local favorite, so players and readers were shocked and distressed to hear about her cancer diagnosis that arrived at the start of this year.Read More
Though she knew something was wrong, Waldon was still understandably shocked and upset after hearing the word ‘cancer.’
“You never want to hear that news about yourself, but I’m a very positive-minded person,” she said. “Once the initial shock wore off, it was a matter of getting my circle around me and my family and put a plan in place. My plan is to win. I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to not to push myself too hard.”
Waldon just began her first chemotherapy treatment this week, but she has a long road ahead of her before doctors determine whether or not she needs surgery.
“I will go through six cycles of chemo and hormone blockers,” she said. “Once those are done, they’ll decide what route to go surgically. There’s no plans for that until after the treatments are complete which will be June or July if everything goes smoothly.”
“If at all possible,” Waldon plans to keep working as she undergoes treatment simply because it’s her passion. And no one who knows her can deny that fact – especially if you look at all the wonderful work she’s done to support the players she covers during the pandemic.
“Anything I have ever done within minor league baseball is because it’s what I love to do,” she said. “I started networking to try and connect players and employers during the pandemic and I still do it when I can. We were able to get 50 or 60 players jobs and also raise about $14,000 for them combined to help take the edge off of their expenses. It’s a matter of them not getting a paycheck in the offseason. It’s such a glaring issue.
“For me, it was about shedding light on that and give fans a bigger picture what these guys go through in order to get to the Majors.”
Now, her beloved community of players, readers and followers are rallying behind her as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer. She’s received many messages of encouragement via social media and one of her friends has even appealed to her baseball community to raise money for her via GoFundMe.
“Many of us, myself included, know Emily through baseball,” wrote her GoFundMe organizer Tony Cappuccilli. “If you have ever had the opportunity to personally meet Emily, interact with her on social media, or carefully read the work she produces, you know she is one of the most caring, authentic people we could ever hope to come across in our lifetime. Her professionalism and positivity rubs off on everyone she is surrounded by. Her optimism for the best version of our game is inspiring. Her hope for inclusion by all who are invested in our great game comes from the most heartfelt place imaginable. Her desire to produce fair, accurate and positive work is a breath of fresh air in an industry which commonly wants to see the exact opposite. Emily focuses on building people up and telling the story that we all want to hear, from the standpoint of truth, compassion, and humanity. Emily’s constant advocacy for minor league players is a welcome and much needed voice for a group that often times has no voice at all.
“Now it’s our turn to help support her!”
In addition, two companies, Pitching Ninja and RotoWear, have teamed up to make pink Pitching Ninja shirts to help raise money for her. Much to her surprise, they’ve already sold out.
“In this situation, people saw a lot of good and wanted to show support in return,” she said. “The response has blown my mind and I’m feeling extremely grateful and blessed.”
Understanding Breast Cancer
We don’t know much about the specifics of Waldon’s case, but breast cancer has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
Finding the Support You Need
During a cancer battle, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Waldon had her wonderful minor league baseball community to help her see how many people she had in her corner, but you don’t have to be a locally loved sports journalist to get the support you need during your cancer battle.
There’s always people out there for you to be vulnerable with, if you’d like, and connecting with others as you battle the disease can make a world of difference. Another cancer warrior named Kate Hervey knows this all too well. A young college girl, she was shocked to be diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that tends to form near large joints in young adults, after seeing her doctor for tenderness and lumps in one of her legs.
Hervey, a nursing student at Michigan State, had to handle her cancer battle during the COVID-19 pandemic and scale back on her social activities as a high-risk patient. That’s when she turned to TikTok as a creative outlet and inspired thousands.
“One thing that was nice about TikTok that I loved and why I started posting more and more videos is how many people I was able to meet through TikTok and social media that are going through the same things,” she says. “I still text with this one girl who is 22. If I’m having a hard time, I will text her because she will understand. As much as my family and friends are supportive, it’s hard to vent to someone who doesn’t know what it’s really like.”
Hervey is now cancer-free, and says she couldn’t have done it without the love and support of her TikTok followers.
“I feel like I’ve made an impact on other people and they have made an impact on me through TikTok, which is crazy to say. I can help people go through what I’ve been going through as well.” She has graciously agreed to allow SurvivorNet to use her content in order to help our community.
So while sharing your story to a vast Tik Tok audience might not be your thing, it’s important to consider opening up to others during your cancer battle. Even if it’s with a smaller group, you never know how much the support can help you – or help those you share with – unless you try.