AICR supporter Frieda Peischler has lived with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 1967 when she was 24. She is now 70 years old and an inspiration to other survivors and everyone else around her.
“In the 1960s, I told my oncologist there was no way I was going to lay down and die,” she recalls. “I was going to fight this.”
“When you’re going through treatment, like chemo, you feel the isolation,” she says. “You’ve got to have a list of people you can call. You need to talk to get out of yourself – and kid yourself into thinking you’re normal, even if you aren’t!”
Ms. Peischler has mentored other patients for 40 years. “I try to get them to do things like keeping a journal, so you can remember questions you have for the doctor next time you go.
“You’ve got to get creative when you’re going through chemotherapy,” she says. “It makes you a little funny in the head!”
A priest who is also a psychologist trained her for two years in helping other survivors who were very depressed. Now people come to her for help.
“Everyone knows someone who’s had cancer,” Frieda comments. “A lot of the time regular people don’t know how to relate to people who are sick. It just comes down to being real. I think it means acclimating cancer into your life but not letting it control you.”
Frieda says she has lost her hair four times now. She used to order wigs that were gray, but one day they sent her a red one by mistake. “In the choir where I sing, the guys told me I’m really a redhead at heart. You have to have an attitude if you’re a redhead!”
That’s how she feels about cancer, as well. She has faced many side effects of treatment, including thrush of the mouth and kidney problems from radiation therapy that now require her to have dialysis.
Her brother, with whom she lives on their family farm in Pennsylvania, would take her to treatments at 5:30 am every day then pick her up at 11:30. She also organized a team of friends to bring her to treatments as well.
“He reminded me to eat, too,” she says. Her weight plummeted to 110 pounds from her usual weight of 170. “I was always looking for a chair with a cushion on it,” she jokes.
Despite the grueling regimen, Frieda encouraged her fellow patients to eat a healthy plant-based diet. A nutritionist where she also receives dialysis re-designs recipes for her particular dietary needs.
“I’ve met six people in dialysis who live in apartments,” she says. “I got them to try growing peppers and tomatoes on their balconies.”
Finding Beauty in the Basics
Frieda has supported AICR for almost 15 years because “I had to support research somewhere along the line. Your newsletter and the researchers AICR funds are indirectly supporting me and other people who have cancer.”
Along with eating healthy foods, Frieda agrees with AICR’s message to get daily physical activity.
Her 200-year-old farmhouse is where she and her brother grow their own vegetables and fruits. She picks apricots, plums, sour cherries, pears and apples and makes her own preserves. She also fills a large freezer with fruits and vegetables.
With food, she says, “There is beauty in the basics. And it’s important to just walk around – I walk around my barn three times for exercise.” The farm is a peaceful place, too, where her relatives and friends come to relax and enjoy the natural beauty.