Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cancer and Living

Good Morning Cancer Patients and Survivors;
The holiday season is here. Are you preparing for it? Are you getting ready to spend time with friends and family celebrating the time and being together? It may be hard for you to do when your worrying about your cancer, your treatment success, the next test results or your suffering through the side effects of chemo and radiation. However, you could be doing that anyway regardless of the season. Now is the time to put those thoughts and worries aside and start living in the season. It will take your mind off the agony of cancer and focus your attention on living again, even if for just the season.

Too many cancer patients stop living their lives when they are diagnosed with cancer. They take a very inward focus and decide to stop living and doing the things they did before cancer or even doing new things. Your journey with cancer will run its course whether you decide to keep living your life with cancer or you elect to stop living and suffer through it. Every cancer patient decides this on their own. We recently buried a friend who was diagnosed with bone cancer over 5 years ago. He was mad at the world and stopped living what was once an active life. He lived for 5 years before the end and lost 5 years of living, waiting to die. In fact, he wanted to know when he would die so he could stop waiting.

Don't let cancer and the treatment strip you of your will to live. You just have cancer. You'll know when you're dieing. So don't waist the time you have by not continuing to live your life as fully as possible. Enjoy the holiday season the best you can and cherrish the time you are able to spend with your family and friends. When your asked by others at gatherings, how you are doing, just respond, "I'm getting through it" and then change the subject by asking how they are doing. Even though others want to know how you are doing, you don't want to spend your time at gatherings talking about your cancer.

So cheer up, its the holidays, and a good reason to keep living. Enjoy the time, don't over do it and appreciate the small joys and the opportunity you have to keep living your life. Keep your sense of humor and never ever give up.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Learning to Tolerate the Waiting

Good Morning Cancer Patients;
I was reminded today when I was standing in a long line waiting to renew my license how I have distilled waiting down to its essence. The cancer treatment journey is filled with waiting. I think the whole process was designed around waiting. If you are not very tolerant of waiting and waiting annoyes you as it used to annoy me, you are going to be in for a series of long waits and miserable aggravations.

One of the first things cancer treatment taught me was how to wait, because you spend enormous amounts of time waiting - waiting to register, waiting to be called, waiting to have your vital signs taken, waiting for blood to be drawn, waiting to be admitted, waiting to have tests run, waiting for test results, waiting for the oncologist to see you, waiting for the infusion nurse to connect you to the infusion pump, and waiting, waiting, waiting some more.

Being good at waiting is an acquired skill. One I acquired and mastered during my journey with cancer. I sometimes wondered as I was graciously waiting, if the reason for the wait was because no one expected me to show up at the appointment time they gave me and were surprised and not ready when I showed up. Since I had begun to recognize I would be doing a great deal of waiting on this journey I figured I had 2 choices - First, get aggravated and complain which would do nothing but waste my energy and aggravate the help - Second, learn how to deal with it. I chose the latter.

The way I began to tolerate it was I began to expect to wait and therefore came prepared to do something with the wait time. I always brought my own materials to read and my cell phone for calls I had to make. When I ran out of things to do that I brought with me I began to watch and observe what was going on. How many people were waiting? What was the average wait time? What was the demographics of those that were waiting? How were the people waiting being treated by the service providers? How many service reps were there and how many of them were waiting on people to be serviced? I found observing what was going on to be much more entertaining than anything I had brought with me to occupy the wait time.

Today I still use this approach to waiting and waiting doesn't bother me. My attitude is - Its like being in church, and as long as you have to be there, you may as well get something out of it. Enjoy the waiting...

Dealing with the Fear

Good Morning Cancer Patients;
There is never a good time to be diagnosed with cancer and as soon as that happens you become overwhelmed by the fear factor. Unfortunately the fear factor will be your companion on your journey with cancer from here on out. I don't think it ever goes away, only subsides in its intensity. The sooner you can get control of your fear, the sooner you stop wasting your needed energy and strength on the fear and start using them for treatment and recovery, as well as living a quality life with cancer as more cancer patients do today.

Don't underestimate the grip fear can have on you with cancer and how it can demotivate you and distract you from executing the task at hand, which is to get through the treatment and contribute to its success. As your journey continues you will find the fear factor interfering at various times: waiting to hear about test results; getting tested; going through surgery; feeling new pains in your body; worrying about recurrence; and numerous other times. You should recognize when the intensity the fear increases and begin to settle it quickly.

Several ways to settle the fear include: mentally removing yourself from the situation that has caused the fear to intensify; recognizing the toll the fear can have on you and mentally forcing it out of your thought process when it emerges; creating a distraction so you won't dwell on what is causing the fear; continue living your life and not letting the fear interrupt you.

Fear on this journey is not your friend but it is your companion. Don't let it strip you of the energy you need for treatment and recovery.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recovery Nutrition

Good Morning Cancer Survivors;
I recently provided a session for about 40 cancer survivors, patients and caregivers at a Cancer Resource Center. One of the discussions that took place was the nutritional requirements necessary for recovery from cancer treatment. I was amazed to learn not one cancer patient had been advised by their cancer treatment team or oncologist about the nutrition requirements they need, to assist and support recovery. Moreover, most were not aware of the antioxidant and hi-nutritional foods they should be eating to help rebuild their immune system, physical strength, stamina, blood counts and begin to refurbish their bodies from the treatment side effects.

Recovering from treatment and the nutritional requirements should not be underestimated. Just because treatment is finished doesn't mean the journey is finished. I believed when I finished treatment I needed to rebuild my system as quickly as possible for two reasons:
-To ward-off getting sick while my immune system was weak and rebuilding
-To be able to go through the treatment process again if needed, like I had to do earlier in my treatment journey.

When you complete treatment your entire system is depleted and needs appropriate nutritional attention. Your appetite will eventually return but early on you will have to force the issue. More protein,antioxidant-based and good calorie based foods need to be consumed. For protein its meat, fish and protein-based vegetables and nuts. For hi-antioxidants its berries, nuts, green tea, real fruit juice, specific vegetables, grains and spices. The more antioxidants, the greater strength you provide your immune system to ward off cancer. If the treatment didn't make you lactose intolerant, yogurt will help the digestion system and immune system.

When you finish treatment you are on your own for recovery. More protein, antioxidants, good calories,exercise and at least eight hours of sleep will help your recovery. Its your recovery, go for it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Exercise Helps During Treatment

Good Morning Cancer Patients;
I was recently reminded by a follower of this blog I have not posted in over a month. I apologize for being remiss in trying to post monthly. I became very busy from the time of the last posting.

I came upon another published article in the USA Today April 20, 2011 titled "A Springboard to Recovery Exercise helps Shannon Miller during cancer treatment" the front page of section C of the paper.This is one of several articles I've found discussing how exercise assists treatment. The article states there is a growing body of research showing exercise helps with the side effects from treatment and decreases the risk of recurrence while improving overall survival.

Unfortunately, exercise is not being prescribed as part of the treatment regime, yet, but I believe there exists enough common sense evidence already that exercise helps. Specifically, in my case, I found daily exercise of weight lifting and walking helped the neuropathy, took my mind off the side effects that were bothering me and also allowed me to not dwell on the fact I had cancer. My personal belief was I wanted my metabolism and bodily functions operational when I went in for treatment so my circulation and heart rate were up to speed to disperse the chemo to the proper location in my body. Before chemo treatments of 5 hours per day; 5 days a week; off for three weeks and then do it again for over 8 rounds; with one round of 25 days of radiation while carrying a 24 chemo infusion pack; I started my day with a walk I thought was brisk but by the end of the treatment week it was not. I would eat a solid breakfast of high protein and anti-oxidants foods; do a workout exercise in the gym and be in the infusion chair for treatment by 8:00AM. I wanted my system up and running for treatment. As treatment went on I found I had to change the exercise routine to get through it because my stamina and strength diminished by the end of the week. I have always had a physical workout routine of lifting weights but during treatment I focused it specifically to complete the exercise. When treatment was completed I used exercise to help me recover and rebuild my system for strength, stamina and endurance. The exercise also helped a great deal with the neuropathy and other side effects as well as took my mind off the pain from the treatment.

There is no such thing as a bad exercise. I encourage you to walk, swim, use a treadmill, lift weights, jump rope, jog, ice skate, box, ride a bike or any other exercise that will get your blood circulating and more oxygen into your blood stream, as well as get your heart rate up, your breathing moving, and the chemo through your system. The battle will be to muster the energy during treatment but I assure you when you complete your workout, you will feel much better.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Excitement of Life

Good Morning Cancer Patients;
The excitement of life has the power to drown out the pain and nausea of cancer treatment. It's almost spring and every day approaching spring is one less day for winter to continue. The early spring flowers are starting to pop up, tulips and crocuses. The warm weather we experienced has the trees beginning to get buds on them. The neighborhood is showing signs of life as people come outside. More days are being filled with sunshine. Daylight is lasting longer and soon it will be time to turn the clocks forward again; while the excitement of life continues as new born babies and puppies enter our lives, children play outside, the migratory birds return to our areas and the grass begins to turn green. Even with cancer you can enjoy life, as more and more people are not only surviving cancer but are living quality lives with cancer.

Its the excitement of life that can put the spark in you to live through, and sometimes, just push through the agonies cancer and treatment throw at you. You had a life before cancer and you have one now. Don't let cancer strip you of the opportunity to live it and enjoy the excitement it brings every day. Cherish the opportunities you have before you and don't waist your time on life's trivial many things that distract you and consume enormous energy you need for better causes. Every day won't be a winner but every day doesn't have to be a loser. Its your excitement for life that determines what is a good day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Surviving Cancer is a Team Effort

Good Morning Cancer Patients
Being treated for cancer requires a coordinated team effort of three primary players. They are:
- The Oncologist leading the treatment effort and defining the treatment regime for your specific cancer.
-The Cancer Treatment Team consisting of all the cancer treatment providers, nurses, medical
technicians, radiologists, pharmacists, infusion room nurses, CT and PET scan technicians,
dietitians, and many others you may encounter during the treatment process.
- You, the cancer patient and your caregiver.

Most cancer patients and their caregivers don't think of themselves as being part of the coordinated team effort. Instead, they may see themselves as unwilling participants that have been ambushed by this dreadfull disease that has just totally disrupted their lives and has put them in this predicament of having cancer treatment done to them. In addition, the treatment process may encourage this perception.

When you are diagnosed, your oncologist puts together a treatment protocal and directs the treatment team in the execution of the protocal. They know exactly what they are going to do to treat you and do everything to cure your cancer. The question is " What do you need to be doing as a member of this coordinated team effort to contribute to the success of your treatment?" Doing nothing but showing-up for treatment and office visits with the oncologist is a choice, but passive "hoping not to lose" behavior. Your alternative choice is to get on the team bus and begin to be part of the coordinated team effort. Challenge your oncologist and cancer treatment team to direct you and your caregiver on what you should be doing to contribute to the success of the treatment. This is going to be one of the worst battles of your life and a battle for your life so get engaged to win. Your charter is to improve your personal survival of cancer, whether it's for three days, three weeks, three months, three years or thirty years. Become a proactive member of your coordinated team.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tough Job for the Caregiver

Good Morning Cancer Patients;
The second toughest battle during the cancer treatment process is the one your caregiver endures. The caregiver for the cancer patient may be a spouse, brother or sister, parent or child, friend or neighbor or some combination there of. Being a caregiver for a cancer patient doesn't come with a set of rules. The roles are not defined and the repsonsibilities are many. Being the caregiver means your life has been disrupted equally as much as the cancer patient's life has been disrupted with the diagnosis of cancer.

Three "Must Get Rights" for the caregiver will help the caregiver get through the journey. These are:
- Define your role-- what you will and won't do, what is expected of you and what should not
be expected of you. You may not know this when the journey starts but you can define it
asthe journey progresses. Learn the cancer treatment system and settle your emotions.
- Maintain your life-- You had a life before you became the caregiver, try to maintain as
much of it as time will allow. Make time for yourself, manage the stress you are under and
stay healthy.
- Don't be a martyr. Being anointed the caregiver doesn't require martyrdom. Take
advantage of anyone's help that is offered to you. Be patient with your cancer patient and
push when needed.

Your responsibilities as a caregiver should focus on providing:
- Physical strength and support to help your cancer patient endure the rigors and toxic
abuse of treatment
-Emotional reinforcement and encouragement to help your patient stay strong, nourished,
motivated and focused
- Provide spiritual support to assist the patient deal with the fear, anxiety, emotional stress.

The role of the caregiver is not easy. I believe it is one of greatest acts of undeniable charity a person can give to another.