Tag Archives: cancer

52 FEATS – NUMBER 28 (Counting My Blessings)

12 Jul

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

It was my plan to do a “Counting My Blessings” Feat this week (I also thought about calling it “Keeping on the Sunny Side” or “Remaining Positive”), and yesterday it became much more important than I originally realized.

A friend of mine was moved to a hospice center last night.  He’s been battling cancer for over 3 years now, fighting with everything he’s got.  It’s not that he’s a super-positive person; in fact, you might consider him downright crabby, even on his good days.  But the will to survive is strong, and he has endured more than any of his friends can believe.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to defeat this terrible disease once and for all.

All kinds of things have been going through my mind, things about which I can’t come up with answers.  My friend isn’t married and has no kids – does that make this situation better or worse?  Is it right to expect certain responses to grief from others?  And what about the ethical dilemma of withholding nutrition?

I’m going to visit him tonight.  I’m nervous because I’ve never been to a hospice center, but more so because I’ve never talked to someone who knew they were dying.  I don’t know how to handle a conversation with him, but I’m going to do my best to get my crying done before I see him.  Then afterwards, I’ll come back home, have another good cry, and kiss my kids within an inch of their lives.

Count your blessings, people.

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Fun in the Sun? Not So Much…

21 Jun

Someone recently asked my biggest regret in life.

I didn’t have to ponder that one.

“Not using sunscreen until my mid-30s!” I said.

My pal laughed, like I was making a joke or trying to sound glib.  But it’s 100-percent true.  I wake up every morning to crow’s feet and “overgrown freckles,” which continue to expand into unsightly splotches.  Let’s not even talk about my wrinkles.  (Suffice it to say, I recently got bangs.)

I’ve had chemical peels, each hurting like a son-of-a-you-know-what as several layers of skin burns away.  I’ve considered Botox for my brow and Rejuvaderm for my “commas,” those ever-deepening gullies framing my mouth.  For now, I make due with slathering SPF 70 or more on my face and hands every morning.  I reapply if I’m spending any time outside.

Vanity plays a big role in my epidermal angst, but so does an underlying unease about skin cancer.  I’m the poster child for melanoma: blue eyes, fair skin, a childhood spent at the beach that yielded plenty of bad burns.  My husband (another blue-eyed albino) and I do monthly “mole checks,” during which we scan each other’s backs for those sinister growths.  Sexy?  Not at all.  Necessary?  Probably.

So do me a favor this summer: Slap on that sunblock even if your outdoor excursions consist of darting outside to fetch the mail!  The American Academy of Dermatology offers additional advice:

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin.  “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.  Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
  • Seek shade when appropriate.  Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Use extra caution near water and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds.  Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.  If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

For more, visit www.aad.org.

No Cancer is Good Cancer

11 Feb

In honor of World Health Organization’s “World Cancer Day” this month, we invited guest blogger Christine to share her story with us.  Christine was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a year and a half ago, when her kids were only 2 and 4.  The pain of her illness and various treatments has often left her in dire need of childcare.  Wanting to help others in her situation, Christine founded Babysitting for Kindness, a nonprofit organization that pairs up volunteer babysitters with families in need.  If you would like to volunteer, or if yours is a family in need, please visit their website at www.babysittingforkindness.org.

For more information on thyroid cancer, visit the Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association website at www.thyca.org.

People often say thyroid cancer is the “best” kind of cancer to have because it won’t kill you.  I can tell you personally thyroid cancer hurts.  Surgeries hurt.  Thyroid cancer spreads.  This means more surgeries.  Radiation is no walk in the park.  Thyroid cancer patients often do multiple rounds of radiation.  Many doctors are going by a playbook written forty years ago before diet coke and fertilizers consumed our population.

Today’s thyroid cancer is the one cancer that is on the rise with more diagnosis and more severity of symptoms.  Every cancer is unique to the individual that it is found within, and you can speak with any oncologist and they will tell you that even the “best” kind of cancer can kill you.

Don’t be complacent, and trust your body!  If you think you have a symptom, get it checked out.  The cost you pay in the long run is certainly dearer than the price of the doctor’s visit.

RESPECT YOUR INTUITION – You know your own body.  Listen to it!

I spent a year weak and at some points bedridden because of a doctor’s misdiagnosis and medication that caused me to lose almost all of my muscle mass.  I knew the problem was in my neck.  I had classic hyperthyroid symptoms including weight loss, weakness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and twitching.  I kept telling the doctors that my thyroid was getting bigger, and I was getting progressively worse.

In October, when the symptoms disrupted my ability to care for my kids, I went to an ENT who declared that I had Lyme disease and dosed me with medication that tripled the intensity of all of my symptoms.  He even said that other doctors wouldn’t understand.  When I went to doctors seeking “second” opinions – call it complacence or just plain malpractice – they didn’t see what was glaringly obvious to the doctors I saw later at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  (I had one neurologist who said my chart was so odd that he submitted my records to Mayo Clinic.)

I try not to gender stereotype and the aforementioned neurologist clearly isn’t implicated here, but while I was written off by five male doctors in DFW, three women physicians at Mayo Clinic saw my cancer poking through the skin and the misdiagnosis written in my blood work.  Of course ultrasound and biopsies followed to confirm.  I must say Mayo Clinic is one of a kind.  No wonder people seek it out from all over the world.  I had my cancer diagnosis within twelve hours of my plane landing, and surgery scheduled for two weeks later.  If you are ill, you can submit your case yourself at www.mayoclinic.com.

BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!

I could barely climb stairs, and all the while I was trying to maintain normalcy as I crawled after my rowdy children, aged two and four, who were bouncing off the walls.  Thank goodness for television.  I didn’t want my kids to become couch potatoes, but when I could hardly chase after them, it was in some sense a lifesaver.

Being at home was by far easier than where I spent most of 2010 with my kids – in doctors’ offices.  I kept wishing I had a babysitter to watch them while I went to doctor after doctor trying to figure out what was wrong.  (Playing hide n seek in a doctor’s office only holds water for about five minutes; although, playing hide n seek with a small toy bought me about thirty minutes.)

Keep in mind I was seeing specialists, so the wait time was often several hours.  I wanted/needed/prayed for a person to babysit.  We were already leaning on our family and friends for support, but it only put a small dent in our big need.  As soon as I began to get my strength back, I knew I had to be this support for others.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?  BABYSIT FOR KINDNESS – http://www.babysittingforkindness.org

We are doing our best to build and share a culture of kindness.  Plus, it’s totally fun!!  Parents with cancer NEED support.  Kids need it, too!  Something as simple as playing peek-a-boo, tag, or monopoly can make a kid’s week.

We are developing a solid volunteer base in the metroplex as we begin to reach out to local cancer support groups.  If you are willing to babysit for kindness, please email us at babysittingforkindness@gmail.com.  Please include “Volunteer” in the subject line, and let us know what information you would like us to pass along to a family in need as well as your Name and Zip Code.  A family in need will contact you and let you know more about their children, their location, and the time(s) that they would be grateful for your help.  Volunteer as much or as little as you want.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” – Mother Theresa

“If you wish for peace, give peace to another.” – Dalai Lama

“If you have much, give your wealth; if you have little, give your heart.” – Arab Proverb

“It’s a gift to be kind.” – Shaker Song

Babysit for Kindness Today!

National Suicide Prevention Week

8 Sep

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week.  Our guest blogger, Jessica, writes about suicide and its stigma in our society.  Jessica has been personally affected by suicide.

I have an aspiration that one day, suicide prevention and awareness will be as talked about as breast cancer prevention and awareness.  According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that there will be 39,840 (female) and 390 (male) deaths in the United States due to breast cancer this year.  The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) states that in 2007 “more than 34,500 Americans died by suicide”.  I imagine that this number has not declined in the past three years, and would bet that these numbers have increased.

If these two diseases lose close to the same number of people every year, shouldn’t they both be talked about?  Shouldn’t there be commercials for suicide prevention just like there are for breast cancer?  Shouldn’t radio stations support suicide prevention walks just like they do for breast cancer, such as the Susan G. Komen walk?  Should the word “suicide” still be looked down upon?  Does any disease deserve more compassion and support than another?  Shouldn’t every disease deserve timely data?  Do you find it strange that I have numbers for 2010 for cancer, but the most recent numbers for suicide are from 2007?

My goal is for one day to hear talk show hosts, radio DJ’s, television commercials, and the general public openly talk about suicide awareness and prevention.  I believe all diseases deserve much needed support.  It makes me sad that survivors of suicide don’t get the same community support as others who lose their loved ones to cancer.  Many people don’t understand that a person who takes his/her own life is suffering from a disease.  Many people believe that suicide is a behavioral problem, or an environmental problem.  I hope with more awareness, our general public will understand that suicide is a preventable disease with appropriate treatment.  It is estimated that for every death by suicide, 6-7 people are directly affected and immediately gain the new identification as a “survivor of suicide.”  That is a minimum of 207,000 persons newly aware of the painful effects of suicide.  While this is a large number, it seems minute to the amount of people who are clueless to the disease.  Survivors need support.  I hope that the amount of people that attend suicide prevention walks dramatically increases.

One day we will all openly talk about suicide and find more ways to prevent the tragedy, just as we do with cancer.

Will you help me spread the word? First we need to talk about awareness, and then we need to prevent suicide.  Help me change the view of suicide.  Let’s no longer let suicide be stigmatized.  You and I can make a difference.

Here is some information which might help you help someone else: http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/stats-and-tools/warning-signs.

Thank you,

Jessica

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