Friday, February 19, 2016

Select the Best Oncologist and Treatment Team for You

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;

When you're born you can't select your parents or your siblings but when you are diagnosed with cancer, you can select your oncologist and your cancer treatment team. Most cancer patients are referred to an oncologist by another physician who identified the cancer, and most cancer patients go along with the referral. Unfortunately, a referral to an oncologist by the referring physician doesn't mean the oncologist referred is the right one for you. You know you are in trouble when during the first meeting the oncologist confirms the diagnosis of cancer and then informs you he can tell you how long you have to live. Keep in mind the oncologist has no skin in the game in the treatment and cure of your cancer. The oncologist gets paid to treat you for your cancer and gets paid whether you are cured or not.

Your battle with cancer is the worst battle of your life and for your life and you want an oncologist and treatment team that is committed to doing everything possible to cure your cancer and has the resources and intellectual capital invested to do so. You want the assurance you can take them into the trench fight with you and they won't abandon you when they have completed their prescribed regime of treatment but have not cured you of the cancer. Just because the oncologist is associated with a hospital that treats cancer and attends to cancer patients doesn't mean they are good at it; they invest in the treatment process and are current on the treatment regimes and drugs; they are familiar with the latest advances and new protocols being made for your cancer; and, are familiar with the leading cancer research and treatment hospitals. Oncologists are like mechanics, they know how to be a mechanic. The question is: Do they have the expertise, experience and resources to repair your make and model of car, and in your case, treat you and cure you of your specific type cancer; they won't give up and will keep working with you until they have you cured?

It is the responsibility of the cancer patient and the caregiver to select the best oncologist and treatment team for their cancer, one they are comfortable with and trust will do their best to cure their cancer. When I selected my oncologist he had been referred to me by the physician that diagnosed my cancer. I was fortunate that he had the commitment and stamina to use his resources to take me all the way through the treatment until I was cured.  When we met at our first of many office visits, I informed him he was to either cure me or kill me with the treatment but he was not to give up. He assured he wouldn't, and would say at every office visit " I must be curing you because I haven't killed you yet". I felt confident he would do everything he could and call on every resource he had at his disposal.

I have experienced too many cancer patients that didn't want to make the effort to select an oncologist that had the experience and expertise to treat their specific type of cancer. Some didn't want to go the extra distance or cross the river to go to the best oncologist for their treatment. Many waited to long to make the decision. When their current oncologist gave up they began the search for the best oncologist for their type of cancer. Unfortunately, too much time was wasted with their previous treatment which depleted their strength, stamina and immune system.

In the cancer treatment journey you have to control your own destiny and make the right choices. Selecting the right oncologist and treatment team is the first choice you make that should be right for you. You don't want to get half way through the journey and have to change oncologists and treatment teams. Making this choice is difficult to do when you are first diagnosed because the fear factor has such a tight grip on you. If you feel later on the choice was not right, then change your oncologist as quickly as possible. Remember the oncologist and treatment team are getting paid whether you win or lose.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never give up

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Courage of a Cancer Patient

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
When you are diagnosed with cancer you don't realize at first the journey you are taking and the battle your body will be in. Most cancer patients receive the diagnosis, listen to the prescribed treatment regime and start the process of cancer treatment with their oncologist and cancer treatment team or surgeon. Every cancer patient has a choice when first diagnosed with cancer: to start treatment of some kind or to not start treatment. Either decision requires courage, the courage to start and go through treatment or the courage to not receive treatment. I think courage is a moral value that sustains our decision regarding treatment. It allows us to stand strong during the brutal abuse treatment causes us and the caregiver, and provides the positive attitude, this too will pass, and the cancer will be eliminated. Surviving cancer or living with cancer forces you to live your life for a new reason and that takes courage. Courage gives you the strength to endure: the treatment process and debilitating side effects; surgery if required; and, recovery from the treatment and surgery.

With every cancer patient and caregiver you know and meet you should recognize their courage and encourage them to stay strong and not give up. Commend them for their courage which they will not have recognized. Encourage them to not give up the fight and cancer is not worth dieing for.

Every cancer patient decides how they will respond to the challenges of cancer. How they deal with their cancer and the treatment journey, is their decision. It takes courage. As a cancer survivor I support their decision and admire their courage.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never give up.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Staying Motivate Ain't Easy

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
Staying motivated in a long cancer treatment process is not like going on the family vacation and enduring the long ride to your vacation destination as your motivation dwindles because the car ride lasts longer than your motivational spirit. But once you've reach your vacation destination, the long journey seems tolerable and is forgotten as your motivation and excitement about arriving return.

I was fortunate that my cancer treatment only lasted 13 months. But 13 months can seem like eternity when every day is filled with enduring the numerous side effects treatment doles out, the pain and discomfort from the treatment itself, be it from chemo, radiation and surgery. The nauseousness, dehydration, diarrhea, constipation, flu-like symptoms and all the other treatment related discomforts and aggravations the treatment process bestows on you, doesn't lend itself to staying motivated over a long duration of treatment.

To stay motivated during treatment requires work and the ability to identify motivating factors ( little things that  help you keep your attitude and avoid depression). These can be as simple as: finishing the last treatment for the week and enjoying the week end; having a day when the nauseousness is more tolerable; being told your blood work results are improving; carrying a few songs in your head that you feel have personal meaning and help you stay motivated.

During my treatment I carried several songs in my head that always seemed to percolate up. These were: "It's a Great Day to be Alive" by Travis Tritt; "Center Field" by John Fogerty; "Shape I'm In" by The Arc Angels; and "How Sweet It Is" by James Taylor. I recently heard a great song that just came out and I would have included in that list. I recommend you consider carrying it around in your head. The song is by Reba McEntire, titled " Livin' Ain't Killed Me Yet ". The following are the words to the song I thought I would share with you. The song is a Country Rock fast beat song you can enjoy and most cancer patients should relate to.
 "Living Ain't Killed Me Yet"
Life will throw you a curve ball
Back against a brick wall
Push you right up to the edge
It'll hit you from your blind side
Kick you in the backside
Barely even break a sweat

It's a roll with the punches
Funny little life we lead
Oh, but I'm in it for the long haul
Win, lose or draw, y'all
It won't get the best of me

Cause I been down to the wire
With my feet to the fire
But this livin' ain't killed me yet
Well I been tested and tried
But I still got some fight
No, this livin' ain't killed me,
Livin' ain't killed me yet

I won't let a couple mistakes
Wrong turns that I've made
Be a noose around my neck
Hurt will hurt if you let it
Unless you just forget it
Shake it off, and say what's next

It's an up down, spin around
crazy kinda world we're in, oh yeah
But I'm in it for the long haul, win, lose or draw
Might fall, but I'll get up again

Cause I been down to the wire
With my feet to the wire
But this livin' ain't killed me yet
Well I been tested and tried
But I still got some fight
No, this livin' ain't killed me,
Livin' ain't killed me yet

Oh, I'm in it for the long haul
Win, lose or draw
As long as I've got air to breathe
Ah, it won't get the best of me!

Cause I been down to the wire
With my feet to the fire
But this livin' ain't killed me yet
I been tested and tried
But I still got some fight
No, this livin' ain't killed me,
Livin' ain't killed me,
livin' ain't killed me oh oh oh yet
Nawww yet. 
Staying motivate ain't easy in a long cancer treatment. You need to find the mechanisms that will help you when you need motivation the most and livin' ain't killed you yet.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never give up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cancer Isn't Worth Dieing For

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
Cancer treatment becomes a rigorous brutal undertaking with its numerous treatment protocols, side effects, surgeries, treatment regimes, and the physical abuse treatment puts your body through. No matter how bad the treatment is, and you may feel like dieing rather than continuing with treatment, cancer is not worth dieing for.

Every cancer patient decides how they will deal with their cancer. Doing no more than going to treatment and suffering through the agony of treatment and treatment side effects, is a choice. Today with the many advances in cancer treatments, there are more cancer patients surviving cancer or are living with cancer than ever before.

Every cancer patient makes the choice to be a survivor and decides how they want to achieve being a survivor. You will always feel like a victim or a specimen going through treatment but meandering through  treatment, hoping not to lose your life to cancer, is not something to look forward to. Your alternative choice as a cancer patient, is to address and challenges of cancer before you.

 Cancer treatment is a high stakes poker game, where the treatment team is determined to cure your cancer, and hope they can do it before the treatment defeats you. It is incumbent on the cancer patient to take a proactive and aggressive approach to doing everything possible to help your body endure the grueling side effects and deterioration of strength, stamina and the body's immune system. Taking a proactive role in your treatment creates the mental strength and fortitude to continue with treatment. It also helps reduce the fear factor that has become your unwanted companion on your cancer journey. Being proactive with your treatment helps build your resolve and inner strength.

If it takes getting a second opinion regarding your diagnosis, treatment and the choices you have regarding your cancer, then get it. The more you know, the more you control the fear factor and the better the decisions you can make. If your oncologist tells you there is nothing more he can do. He is telling you he has exhausted his knowledge and resource base. Ask for a referral or find another oncologist that has the attitude and motivation to help you win this battle.

Cancer patients need to take control of their destiny in cancer treatment. They need to decide they want to skew the survival statistics by defeating cancer. You may have to get mad dog mad about having cancer in order to buck up to do everything possible to help your treatment team be successful with the treatment. No one ever dated the prom queen (king) by hoping not to lose. Buck up and take the battle to cancer. Get an attitude and get mad dog mad. Find what works for you and never give up. Cancer isn't worth dieing for.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never give up.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Take Charge of Your Body's Well Being

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
When you're diagnosed with cancer your oncologist and your cancer treatment team treat the disease. Their focus is defeating your cancer and curing you. Their intent is to kill the cancer before they kill the cancer patient with the treatment. The issue I see more and more is the issue of the well being of the cancer patient not being of equal importance of focus while going through treatment. Let's face it, the oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, infusion nurse and all the other professionals on your cancer treatment team get paid whether their treatment is successful or it fails. Would their success rate change if they were paid based on the survival and cure rate of the cancer patient? What is lacking in most cancer patient treatment regimes is a combination of treatment to cure the disease coupled with  proactive patient care, so the cancer patient can; endure the grueling toxic abuse treatment creates, successfully get through the treatment rounds and recover for the next round, and enable completion of the treatment protocol.  For example, if during chemo treatment the cancer patient drops 10 percent of their body weight, they are putting their body's well being at risk. They lose body mass and strength, have reduced their nutritional replenishment needed to meet the recovery and nutritional needs of their body as well as reduced the capability of the body to fight infection. As the body becomes weaker, the ability to sustain normal living becomes more challenging. The cycle of self-degradation from cancer treatment continues. Most of the time a feeding tube is inserted into the stomach to ensure the cancer patient is receiving adequate nutrition. This occurs as a result of the lost body weight. It is a reactive remedy to the lost body weight, body strength and lost nutritional needs to endure cancer treatment, rather than a proactive remedy that works with the cancer patient during treatment to maintain body weight and physical strength, increase their nutritional requirements and ward off infections.When the oncologist prescribes the product Boost or Ensure to supplement the cancer patient's nutritional needs, or requires a feeding tube be inserted, the cancer patient has neglected taking charge of their body's well being. They have allowed the cancer treatment process to take charge of their body's well being with one of many reactive remedies.

The body's ability to fight cancer, endure the treatment process, stay strong, recover from each treatment round and ward off infection is one tough task that needs the commitment and rigor of the cancer patient. It's one tough journey for you and your body. Don't let the treatment process take charge of your body's well being. It could happen at some time anyway but if you take charge of your body's well being, you increase your ability to endure the treatment and improve the success of your treatment.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Dread of Dehydration

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
Dehydration is one side effect that sneaks up on you when you are in treatment. Your oncologist and cancer treatment team will encourage you to consume mass quantities of fluids when you are being treated so you don't get dehydrated. When I was going through chemo treatment they even infused hydration into me so I wouldn't become dehydrated. With all the attention to dehydration and the consumption of mass quantities of fluids, I became dehydrated anyway,at the completion of the radiation treatment and continuous chemo infusion.

When I completed the radiation and continuous chemo infusion I was in the oncologist office for a check-up. He informed me I had become dehydrated and wanted me to come in the next day for an infusion of hydration mix. I told him I was going to the lake to recover and assured him I would consume mass quantities of my favorite summer time fluids. He insisted I come first thing in the morning and informed me that my self-hydration plan was insufficient to replenish the needed hydration I required. Begrudgingly, I came in for the hydration infusion that was completed in about an hour. Although getting hydrated kept me from leaving for the lake first thing in the morning, the effects of the hydration did make me feel better. So I left an hour latter for the lake and kept myself hydrated with my favorite summer time fluids.

I can't say I felt bad being dehydrated. The way I was shown I was dehydrated, the nurse pinched the skin on my forearm before my wrist. If the pinched skin remained pinched and vertical as mine did at the time, I was dehydrated. If the pinched skin returned to its horizontal position I was not dehydrated. What made the matter worse was I had been put on a meds to remove the liquids that were accumulating in my lungs so I couldn't tell if I was drying out from the meds or from the chemo and radiation, regardless of how much liquids I consumed. It seemed like another cancer conspiracy, I needed to consume mass quantities of fluids to stay hydrated during treatment but needed to take meds to remove fluids from my lungs. I'm sure the combination of treatment and the meds contributed to the dehydration.

There doesn't seem to be an easy answer to this problem and maybe there isn't one. Treatment can dehydrate you if you do not hydrate your system. I know I hydrated my system but apparently it was insufficient to keep from becoming dehydrated.

Dehydration is just another side effect to put on your watch list when you are in treatment. Consume mass quantities of healthy fluids (water, tea, Gatorade, coffee, milk, soup, shakes, et al) and be aware of the potential to become dehydrated. If you become dehydrated during treatment, it should not be from your lack of hydration but from the side effects of the treatment.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never give up.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Good Things About Cancer Treatment

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Caregivers;
Every year when the month of August rolls around I remember the physical state I was in having completed two rounds of chemo treatment from June and July that required me to sit in an infusion chair for 5 hours, for 5 days in a week and repeat it the next month. When August came, I started 25 days of radiation treatment while carrying a 24 hour chemo infusion pack. I was getting pretty run down and chemo'd out. I knew there was more to come on the journey. 

I have never been a half empty or half full guy but thought there must be something good about cancer treatment besides reminding you of your mortality. About the 18th of August I started putting together a list of the good things I had experienced from cancer treatment. First, the test results showed shrinking of the tumor and my health was stable. I also noticed that chemo brain had set in, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why I did certain things, but it didn't bother me. I began to put a list together of the good things about cancer treatment, specifically chemo and radiation.
  • Mosquitoes, tics and chiggers won't bite you.
  • If you need to lose weight, 5 days of chemo will do it quickly.
  • Legal use of steroids.
  • No need to shave.
  • A bald head dries fast.
  • Won't need to get a haircut for a while.
  • Eat foods you don't like because you have no sense of taste.
  • Beer is one of the few things I could taste.
  • You could apply for a handicap parking tag.
  • Blame everything on chemo brain.
  • Get more sleep.
  • Sunburned without being in the sun. 
  • Pleased with small accomplishments
  • Much lower set of expectations
I’m sure there are more but this was the list I remember developing one day when I was not feeling very well and just needed to lift my spirits.

 When the treatment has got you down and your spirits could use a lift, try this. Best case, it will create a diversion so you take your mind off not feeling well. Use your sense of humor and make it work for you.

Stay strong, keep your sense of humor and never give up.