How Stuttering Prepared Me for Cancer (Stacey MacDonald)

About the author:Β Stacey MacDonald lives in Seattle, WA.Β  She is a life-long stutterer. Β  She is the proud Mom of her daughter, Ava, and kitty, Lucy.

Stacey is currently in remission and hopes to stay that way!

Okay, my title is a bit misleading, because I don’t think anything can actually prepare anyone to hear “you have cancer”. During my medical ordeal, I saw a lot of parallels to my stuttering. My stuttering and cancer always have come back to “Why me?” But, I don’t stay there long. You have to rise up, adjust and move forward.

There will always be questions and misunderstandings about both stuttering and cancer. But, the more we seek to know more, share our personal experiences and keep talking about things, the unknown tends to be a less frightening place. Plus, we know that we are never alone.

I would like the world to know that stuttering and being a cancer survivor are just small aspects of my life. They do not define who I am, however they are challenges that I will carry for the rest of my life.

I had posted the following list a few months ago on my Facebook page. Some are new. But, all can be applied to stuttering, cancer and life in general.

What would you add?


  • Not all treatments/therapies are the same. One may help one person and not do a darn thing for another.Β  Find what works for you! (P.S. You have the ultimate decision to seek help, if any)
  • Your circumstances are unique to you
  • People fear what they don’t understand. Educate yourself and then share what you have learned (but, don’t give unsolicited advice!)
  • There will always be someone who just can’t handle your differences
  • You cannot compare your situation to someone else’s
  • You can be an inspiration to others…just by trying
  • It is okay to have a pity party…once in a while. Just don’t make it your “normal”
  • Some days are better than others
  • Celebrate the victories
  • You never have to go through it alone. Reach out to people who understand, and have been (or are)there
  • It is okay to ask for help when you need it
  • Patience will take you a long way–with yourself and others
  • Even in scary situations, find the good

Wishing everyone patience, understanding and good health!

460 total views, 7 views today


Comments

How Stuttering Prepared Me for Cancer (Stacey MacDonald) — 61 Comments

  1. Love this Stacey! You’re right, there appear to be many parallels between stuttering and cancer, as you describe it. You’re living proof that seeking help from our communities helps. Thank you for contributing this paper.

  2. Stacey,
    Thank you for sharing such a valuable piece of your story! I love the list of advice that you have compiled throughout your journey through cancer and your journey with stuttering.

    Recently, I have faced a few struggles of my own (nothing compared to cancer OR stuttering) but I have learned a lot along the way. Through my recent struggles, I have learned to celebrate the victories and it has truly been life changing. I have been able to use every little victory to turn my thoughts completely around. I am glad this is something that has helped you through your circumstances too. It’s amazing how life can change with just a simple change of thought!

    Thank you for sharing your positivity and advice!

    Sarah

    • Dear Sarah, Thanks for taking the time to read my paper.
      It truly is amazing how by changing your mind, you can change quite a few things. πŸ™‚ I appreciate your kind comments. All the best to you!

  3. Hello Stacey,

    My name is Meredith Towey. I am a student studying speech-language pathology. I really appreciated how you mentioned that it is okay to have a pity party sometimes.
    Too often, people receive the message that they must be strong ALL the time. I like how you mentioned finding the good in hard situations too. I was wondering if you could elaborate on some techniques that may have helped you during the hard times. Do you have any advice that I can pass along to my clients if I notice they may be struggling to find the light?

    Best,
    Meredith Towey

    • Dear Meredith,
      Forgive the late response.
      One thing that really helps me is making a Pros/Cons list. I also write down things that I am grateful for, when I feel myself getting down.
      Life is not always easy, stuttering or not. But, there is so much to be grateful for! Thanks for leaving your comment. I appreciate the feedback.

  4. Thank you for sharing your valuable story for the stuttering community. Today my family (team sugie) swam a mile for the women’s cancer resource center fund raiser in Oakland California.
    always Michael

  5. This is very eye opening, and I am glad you shared your story! I can tell that you have a positive outlook on life and can always find good in this world, which I think we all need to focus on. You are a great example of how reaching out to people who care and people who are working through the same types of struggles can help. I agree with you about talking about the unknown can make it less scary, I think more people should use that strategy. I am glad you realized that and I am so glad you are in remission. Continue to rise and up and praise your victories.

  6. Wow! This was such a great read. Thank you for sharing your story. My favorite line was “You can be an inspiration to others…just by trying.” You are really living up to this quote and by sharing your story you have inspired many people to push through all of their obstacles in life. Finding the good in scary situations is really hard for a lot of people to do. It’s people like you who will allow people to see it is possible to find the good. I’m currently a graduate student studying speech pathology and your story excites me to be able to work with individuals just like you. I hope I can someday help people find the good even in these scary situations. I’m so happy you are in remission thank you for inspiring me with your message.

    • Dear Mary,
      Thank you so much for your kind comments. My stuttering can be quite severe at times, but I keep going. My cancer was very serious, but I kept going. Finding the good can be tricky, but it is there. πŸ™‚
      Wishing you the best in your studies!

  7. Stacey,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. It was very inspiring to read, and I loved that you said that neither your stutter nor your cancer diagnosis define you. You are so strong! I also loved that you expressed that it is okay to have a pity party. It often seems that people always have to be strong and not let their stutter get in the ways of their lives. But, I think you make such a great point that there are going to be bad days it is okay to accept that.

    I am a Speech and Language Pathology graduate student, and in our stuttering courses we have learned that people who stutter often times see an increase or worsening in their stuttering if they are under stress or have other external factors affecting their lives. I was very curious when reading your paper if you saw a change in your stuttering after your cancer diagnosis. Did you see any change in your stuttering like disfluencies or secondary characteristics after you had been diagnosed?

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Once again, I really enjoyed reading about your journey and seeing the positive outlook that you have on life. I am eager to hear your response to my question above πŸ™‚

    -Annie

    • Dear Annie,
      Sorry for the late response.
      During my medical ordeal, my stuttering increased quite a bit and it changed (typical of stuttering). However, my mind was more on getting better, so any techniques or other things associated with stuttering were put on the back burner. I also think chemotherapy made it slightly worse. One main thing that I remained doing was to advertise and let EVERYONE I encountered, that I stuttered. It was invaluable, because I didn’t want the medical community assume it was anything else! Letting the “cat out of the bag” is invaluable to people who stutter, in my opinion. It levels out the playing field and no one is guessing. I hope that makes sense.
      All the best to you in your studies!

  8. Stacey-
    Thank you so much for sharing this experience! I love your perspective and positivity. Your thoughts are inspiring and helped me to see a different mindset. My favorite thing you mentioned was that Stuttering, cancer or whatever challenge you are dealing with doesn’t have to define you. I love this! My daughter was diagnosed with Epilepsy when she was 12 and that was exactly the advice I would have loved to have her hear.

    • Dear Kristen, Thank you for your comments. We all have puzzle pieces that fit together to make us unique, but it is that variety that makes life interesting for sure. πŸ™‚
      All the best to you and your daughter!

  9. Hi Stacey,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is truly inspirational. I loved what you said that situations in our lives cannot define who we are as a person. Like what you said, cancer and stuttering should not take over and hinder you from enjoying life. I’m currently a graduate student in speech pathology. Your inspirational story has motivated me even more to help those who are in need. Again, thank you so much for your story.

  10. Stacey,

    I think sharing the similarities between stuttering and cancer will help more people understand fluency disorders. So many people are touched by cancer, yet fewer know a PWS. Relating the two will hopefully make the world more accepting.

    Social media is a great way to advocate and your list of tips are so relatable. I like that you focus on the individual, rather than suggesting ways the world can change. Having a positive outlook will undoubtedly influence the way people view stuttering and cancer. I especially liked the points of having pity parities every once in a while, celebrating victories, and being an inspiration to others. You relayed a very meaningful message.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  11. Stacey,
    I enjoyed reading your story. I appreciate how you have found a positive outlook about the challenges within your life. I think that no matter what a person might be going through, not matter how severe, the biggest victory a person can have is the resistance to not let the challenges define you. I can imagine that resisting that defeat can be very hard at times. Some PWS probably struggle for a very long time to find the light in acceptance that you have found. As a future SLP I feel your tips and advice will reach many people in a variety of different places in terms of acceptance. Even as a person who is fluent, your advice is applicable to many other challenges in life too. Thank you for sharing your resilience, and positive outlook.

    • Dear Samantha, Thank you so much for your kind comments. Life can be challenging, but it also can be pretty darn amazing! πŸ™‚
      All the best to you in your future career as an SLP!

  12. Stacey,
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us. I think if I were in your shoes, the “why me” would be so difficult to overcome. But you are right, staying positive and moving forward is the best course with any trial that life throws our way. I love that you also included that it is ok to throw a pity party! We have to face our own feelings and let ourselves break down once in a while. The key is not to remain broken.

    Thanks again!
    Erika

  13. Thank you Stacey, for this palpable reminder that there is always good to be had in moments of suffering– even when we don’t initially see or feel it. I’m currently a graduate student in speech-language pathology, and I think this reminder will be extremely encouraging for future clients that I may serve. However, I’m wondering if you feel that there are times when attempting to remind my clients that they can find good in their circumstances could be interpreted as minimizing their suffering, especially as someone who isn’t experiencing the circumstances personally? How do you think can I remind my clients who stutter that they can find the silver lining without coming across as naive, or as if I’m downplaying their challenges?

    • Good questions! I’d have to say it would depend on the client. I do a lot of Pros/Cons lists. What is good/what is not so good/is it really that bad?
      Sorry I don’t have a more definite answer. Just as people all stuttering differently, people who stutter are all in different stages of acceptance. I have learned that over the years.

  14. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and making the comparison between stuttering and cancer. I first was drawn to your article by the title. It really caught me off guard, but after reading it, I understand. This comparison makes understanding stuttering more relatable. Although cancer and stuttering may be very different, they are the same in that they both having differing degrees of severity, differing plans of treatment, differing ways they effect the person, and overall unique to the person. It is possible for people reading this article to not know anyone who stutters, or know much about it at all in general, but everyone knows and hears a lot about cancer. This factor allows readers to be empathetic and knowledgeable in understanding the depth of stuttering.
    I also appreciate your positivity and resilience, you are an inspiration!

  15. You are courageous. Your outlooks on stuttering have made me question how other people who stutter deal with the several other obstacles in their life. I wish there were more people in this world that had the β€œfind the good in the bad situations too” attitude. I know that all individuals, not just those who stutter or have cancer, would benefit from listening to your story and positivity. Keep fighting!

  16. Stacey,
    Your experiences as well as your insights on life are simply inspiring. I love the similarities that you have drawn between two seemingly different challenges: stuttering and cancer. Thank you for your amazing attitude and the world needs more people like you! I am a graduate student, studying speech-language pathology and I am curious as to whether or not you experienced any changes in your stuttering secondary to being diagnosed with cancer? I am currently taking a class on fluency disorders and I have learned that in times of increased stress, a person might also have increased stuttering.
    Thanks for your time,
    Sarah

    • Dear Sarah, Thank you for taking the time to read my story. My stuttering did change and actually got more pronounced. I’m not sure if it was the chemotherapy (a few days after each treatment, my stuttering increased a LOT!) or just the fact that stuttering and all things related went on the back burner for awhile. Stress can increase my own stutter. I made a point of continuing sharing that I did stutter. Mainly, so the medical teams didn’t consider it was something else, i.e. stroke, seizure. I even asked a nurse to put a note on my door, stating that I stuttered.
      All the best to you in your graduate studies!

  17. Stacey,

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. As a first-year graduate student at Western Carolina University, I believe your story and the list you have created can be used in speech therapy when an individual is feeling unsure or unmotivated. Your list of advice can even help me through the rough moments of grad school. Although grad school is nowhere near the hardships you have been through, I think it is sometimes hard for me to remember to celebrate the victories (even if they are small). Thank you again for sharing your story and I hope I can pass on your positivity through speech therapy.

    -Allison

    • I was also wondering what made you see the parallel between your stuttering and cancer? Was it due to a doctor/therapist or was it just a realization you had yourself? Thank you again!

      -Allison

      • Dear Allison, Thanks for taking the time to read my story. I actually had a lot of time to think during my “down time” and realized that my cancer “battle” was a lot like stuttering. People told me a lot of what to expect, what could happen, what happened to their cousin, etc. But, then I found that my journey was just that: mine. I would hear stories through the curtain of women going through what I was going through, but their experiences were so different than mine. How they were reacting to treatments, their attitudes, etc. Just like in stuttering therapy or how others handle their own stuttering. One thing may not work for me, but works for someone else. I’m in a different place in my journey than others who stutter.
        Life isn’t always glitter and glam, but celebrating all the good things makes life great. πŸ™‚
        All the best to you in your education!

  18. Hello Stacey!

    You have an amazing story! As a first year graduate student, it is so helpful to have lists such as yours that you have made. You mention that “people fear what they do not understand.” In our fluency course we talk a lot about informing the public and even parents of PWS what we as therapists know about the topic and how we can help. How would you suggest informing the public about stuttering? For instance, I think it is important that you said not all therapies are the same. How do I as an aspiring speech pathologist educate this while also stressing the importance of each person being unique?

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. The more people who stutter get out and talk, the more the public will know about stuttering. That can be scary for a stutterer! But, it is so important that we don’t hide.
      Stuttering is fascinating (and frustrating!), because no two people stutter the same way. Different degrees of fluency, secondaries, fears… One way to stress the fact that no two people stutter alike, is to join support groups, in person, or on line. You will meet people willing to share their own experiences.

  19. Stacey,

    Thank you for sharing your story! Your positive outlook on life is so refreshing! As a first year graduate student, I will strive to implement this list into my everyday life. I especially admired how you noted the importance of “rising up, adjusting, and moving forward.” You are an inspiration to all.

  20. Stacey,

    Thank you for your inspiring paper. I loved so many aspects of your bullet points! Some of my favorite bullet points were: Celebrate the victories, it is okay to ask for help when you need it, your circumstances are unique to you, and that people often fear what they don’t understand. The lack of knowledge about a population or diagnosis can generate fear and stigmas which is why it is so important to educate yourself and others around you without giving unsolicited advice. I think that those bullet points can apply to everyone. I think that those are important principles to live by. As a graduate SLP student, this paper was an important reminder that therapy needs to be individualized because not every person has the same experiences. You have truly inspired me! Thank you so much for your paper!

    -Makenzie

    • Mackenzie, Thank you for your kind words. As I wrote these points down, I figured they could apply to almost anyone. πŸ™‚ I agree with you, that any therapy needs to be tweaked to match what your client needs.
      All the best to you!

  21. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Stacey! What I enjoyed most about your passage was the “What would you add?” section. You included so many real life examples and situations that people who stutter experience on a daily basis. While I will never fully understand, I will never stop advocating and empathizing for people who stutter. I believe your first bullet point hits therapy right on the head. No two people are the same — regardless of if they stutter or not! We need to be mindful when considering therapy activities for all individuals. I wish you nothing but the best of luck on your future endeavors!

    • Ashley, Thank you so much for your kind comments and that you advocate and empathize with those of us who do stutter.
      I totally agree that therapy activities need to be individualized, after a basic foundation is set, so your client gets what he/she really needs or wants.
      All the best to you!

  22. Stacey,

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are inspirational and I loved your post. My favorite part was when you said that you often ask “Why me”, but you don’t stay in that mindset long. Recently, I have gone through some tough things and often catch myself thinking “why me”. Your post reiterates to me that I can acknowledge that something ‘sucks’, but then I need to turn the page and move past it. I also liked your list. I completely agree that this list can be applied to stuttering, cancer, and life in general. I think I need to write a couple of these on my bathroom mirror πŸ˜‰
    I saw that you replied to a comment saying that “people who stutter are all in different stages of acceptance.” When do you think you entered a stage of acceptance? I look forward to hearing back from you.

    -Camille

    • Camille, Thank you so much for your comments and taking the time to read my paper.
      For my own acceptance time frame, it came when I turned 30. I was at my wit’s end and so frustrated with stuttering. I was fortunate enough to attend an intensive program that helped me manage my stuttering. It was the first time that I really understood that there was no cure, but there were ways through it. It addressed so much more than trying to be fluent! I learned some great speech techniques, but the most valuable thing I got out of it was to learn to face and deal with all the other messy parts that I was dragging along while stuttering.

  23. Hello Stacey,

    Thank you for that inspirational article! I like how you wrote that not all treatment therapies are the same. As an SLP student, it reminds me of what my professor told our class, ‘We are not committed to any one fluency approach– we are committed to our clients’. This highlights the idea that different approaches can both be wonderful and effective and even perfect– as long as they are right for the person.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read my paper. Your professor was spot on! Stuttering is so frustrating and yet fascinating! Knowing your client and what he/she really wants or needs out of therapy is crucial to a successful relationship.
      Wishing you the best in your studies!

  24. Stacey,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your story! I absolutely loved when you said: “I would like the world to know that stuttering and being a cancer survivor are just small aspects of my life. They do not define who I am, however they are challenges that I will carry for the rest of my life.” As with any obstacle in a person’s life, the obstacle does not define you. As a future speech – language pathologist, your list is very beneficial and is something that I will always refer to, not just with clients who stutter, but for all! Your inspiration is admirable!

    Thank you,
    Katie

  25. Stacey,
    Thank you for sharing your incredible story, and congratulations on being in remission! I loved how you related your obstacles in a way that can be applied to anything someone is going through. Additionally, I love your positive outlook on life and appreciation for the small victories. I agree that no obstacle has the power to define who we are; we are so much more than any one thing we encounter. Above all, I admire your strength and determination to choose to see the best in every situation that life may throw your way. I will keep your list close for reference, as it is a wonderful reminder of the bigger picture in times that feel all-consuming.
    Thank you,
    -Jacki

  26. Stacy,

    Congratulations for being in remission! Thank you for sharing your story. I am a current graduate student in speech-language pathology and I commend you for not letting your situations and the big question “Why me?” define you. Instead you took what people would look at as disabilities and turned them around to accept them and keep moving forward. You didn’t let your battle stop you from fighting. But you also mention that it is okay to not be strong all the time, to allow your self a pity party all the time. My question is, what can we do to bridge the gap between the need to feel okay and strong all the time? I almost feel as if there is a stigma in society to.

    -Chelsey

  27. Chelsey,
    Thank you for taking the time to read my paper.
    That is a really good question about bridging that gap. You are correct in that society kind of “expects” people to be brave and strong all of the time. I do a lot of “pros/cons” list. I have also written down frustrations and then burned the papers. We all need some kind of safe outlet! Maybe people who read your post will contribute some other ideas for good safe outlets.
    Wishing you the best in your career!

  28. Hi Stacey, I hope all is well with you. It’s great to hear that you are in remission now. I just wanted to say that reading about what you’ve gone through is extremely inspirational. I also wanted to commend you for taking not one, but two diagnoses that most people struggle to overcome and turning them into something positive for not just yourself but for others as well. I was wondering if there was anything in particular that you used to help you get through all of it? What was the source of all your strength and perseverance? The reason I ask is because I’m currently a graduate student in a speech-language pathology program and anticipate working with others who stutter. From what I’ve learned and observed, most people with a stutter tend to view it as something negative so it would be interesting to hear how you managed to change your point of view.
    – Miriam

  29. Stacey,

    My name is Cassidy, and I am a speech-language pathology graduate student. I appreciate you sharing your experience here. I can tell that as you have battled cancer and stuttering, that you have been strengthened by sharing your experience and connecting with others. You said in your list that people fear what they don’t understand, and that it is important to educate yourself. Stuttering can so often be something people want to hide, and is not always easily understood. I’m sure that as you have reached out to others and learned more about stuttering, it has helped you to not associate fear with stuttering. Thank you for sharing your story, and congratulations on being in remission!

  30. Hi Stacey,
    I was drawn to your paper because of my mom. She is thankfully in remission too, and has been for nearly 10 years! I particularly liked your point about not being alone and seeking help. I was young enough when she was going through treatment that I wasn’t much of a support system for her, and I wish she had had someone to connect with that was going through a similar situation. She was and is an inspiration to me just as I’m sure you are to your daughter! Thank you for your wonderful insights!

  31. Stacey,

    Wow! What an incredible, inspiring story! Thank you so very much for sharing, it is not always easy to share personal challenges with others. However, you seem to have a wonderful outlook on life and it is a blessing to have you share that with others.

    I loved reading your list and I think I will copy a few of the bullet points down to keep as inspiration. I especially liked the point where you said, “Your circumstances are unique to you.” I am a Speech-Language Pathology student and as an undergraduate I had a professor who told us to never tell a client, “I understand what you are going through.” Even if we had experienced something similar to what our client was experiencing, our professor made if very clear to us that everyone is unique and has unique experiences. Even though you might be trying to be helpful and sympathetic by saying something like this, it is never appropriate to assume you know what your client is going through and feeling. I think this is a wonderful point to make, not only for people who are experiencing challenges, but for those who are trying to help those people.

    Your positive outlook on life is truly inspiring and I am sure you are an incredible role model for your daughter. I am so happy to hear that you are in remission! Do you have any advise for what health care professionals should NOT say to clients who are experiencing challenges such as yours?

    Once again, thank you so very much for sharing your story!
    Sarah

  32. Hi Chelsey,

    Thank you so much for taking a time to share your experience with us. I like that you stated not all treatment are the same. Currently, I am speech-language pathology student at U of M Duluth at Advanced Fluency course. I would like to know what is the best treatment/therapy that works well with you? Thanks

  33. Thank you so much for sharing your story! Your outlook is inspiring and you’ve mentioned so many helpful tips. I particularly connected to the idea that people fear what they don’t understand. Education can be such a powerful tool in erasing fears. But as you mentioned, unsolicited advice is never a good idea! Thank you again!

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