By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Category Archives: Patients

shopping cart in a grocery store aisle

As a cashier, I have seen the range of emotions and responses to COVID-19 as people venture out to go shopping. Now that many states are lifting Stay-at-Home orders, people seem divided. Many are excited to be able to go to other non-essential places. They are happy to begin a return to normal. There are others, though, who must maintain the cautious social distancing that others are ready to shed. These are people who have illnesses such as cancer and their family members. For these vulnerable people, I have some suggestions for making grocery shopping safer and easier. Minimize exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses by doing any of the following Utilize InstaCart Shoppers (don’t forget to tip them) Order groceries online from the comfort Read more…

Breathing Exercise

This is part 4 of our Breathless Series. In Part 1, we looked at some of the reasons for breathlessness in cancer patients. I also shared my husband’s experience with shortness of breath to the point he nearly died. In Part 2, we looked at medical approaches to breathlessness. Part 3 was a look at non-medical approaches to breathlessness, including breathing techniques and ways of controlling your environment to alleviate symptoms of breathlessness. In this final installment of the series, we will look at more non-medical ways to alleviate shortness of breath: breathing exercise. Breathing is Medicine Donna Wilson, RN, is a personal trainer at the integrative medicine center at Memorial Sloan Ketterling Cancer Center in New York. She helps restore flexibility, reduce breathlessness and fatigue in Read more…

Breathing Technique

This is part 3 of our Breathless Series. In Part 1, we looked at some of the reasons for breathlessness in cancer patients. I also shared my husband’s experience with shortness of breath to the point he nearly died. In Part 2, we looked at medical approaches to breathlessness. This post will be about non-medical approaches to breathlessness, including breathing technique and ways of controlling your environment to alleviate symptoms of breathlessness. Non-medical approaches, including specific breathing techniques, can be very effective ways to breathe easier. On January 25, 2017, the Lung Cancer Alliance, kicked off their Coping Series with a webinar called “Breathing Easier.” The Coping Series is designed to educate and provide practical ways to manage the most common symptoms and side effects experienced Read more…

Breathlessness A Medical Approach

This is part 2 of our Breathless Series. In Part 1, we looked at some of the reasons for breathlessness in cancer patients. I also shared my husband’s experience with shortness of breath to the point he nearly died. There are both medical and non-medical approaches to alleviate the symptoms of breathlessness. In this post, we will talk about the medical approach. The Lung Cancer Alliance In 2017, the Lung Cancer Alliance recently held a webinar called, “Breathing Easier.” It was the first webinar in their Coping Series. This is a series designed to educate and provide practical ways to manage the most common symptoms and side effects experienced by lung cancer patients and survivors. Because Approximately half of all cancer patients complain of breathlessness at Read more…

Shortness of breath and cancer

The most common side effect of lung cancer is dyspnea, better known as shortness of breath. 90% of Lung cancer patients experience this at some point, during, and even long after treatment has ended. In a Lung Cancer Alliance survey, lung cancer survivors of 5 or more years, still rated it as their most problematic issue. It isn’t only lung cancer patients who suffer from breathlessness. Approximately half of all cancer patients complain of breathlessness at some point. (1) Shortness of breath is sometimes called air hunger. Unfortunately, for many cancer patients, it’s a part of their everyday life, negatively impacting their ability to do the things they need and want to do. Our Story In the fall of 2015, Dan’s stage IV lung cancer Read more…

Healthy living for Seniors with Cancer

If you have cancer, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential for feeling your best and improving your chances of treatment success. Senior cancer patients can benefit from a wide range of healthy habits, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and socialization. These healthy habits will help you manage treatment side effects and reduce painful cancer symptoms—and help you feel a little better every day! Here are some great ways to live healthy with a cancer diagnosis. Seek Out Support A good support network is vital to your overall health and wellness during treatment and beyond. Cancer patients with a good support network report better quality of life than those without. The people around you can provide all kinds of valuable assistance, including emotional support to help Read more…

cancer and insomnia

Dealing with cancer can be overwhelming enough. When you are also dealing with insomnia, the effects on your mental health and ability to heal can be devastating. You need quality rest in order to recover and manage your cancer symptoms, but you also need it to properly manage your emotional well-being. So how can you do all of this without turning to medications? You can start by trying some of these sleep-boosting tips and tricks. Invest in a Comforting New Mattress and Bedding to Beat Insomnia Shopping for a new mattress can be stressful, When you are also living with cancer, dealing with that extra stress can be detrimental to your emotional health. Luckily, you can order one of the new “bed-in-a-box” mattresses from the Read more…

survive the holidays

Surviving the holidays can be difficult when you or someone you love is literally trying to survive the holidays. This almost always means the celebration will look different. I’ve put together a few thoughts and tips to give you a leg up. To survive the holidays you must first accept that things will be different. You won’t be participating in the cookie exchange or Christmas caroling. Things that were once fun, are in this new reality, exhausting. Even if you do have the energy to do them, they may zap your reserves so that you’re left burned out. One of the best things you can do is to recognize that the holidays will look different this year—maybe from now on. That’s okay. Change is a Read more…

mesothelioma advocate

As an advocate for cancer patients and their families, I daily hear from people facing cancer. Recently, a gentleman named Virgil wrote to me about his experience, Doctors recently diagnosed Virgil with mesothelioma. This diagnosis turned Virgil’s life upside down. What is Mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that forms in the thin protective tissues which cover the lungs and the abdomen. Exposure to asbestos causes cancer in the mesothelium tissues. This cancer is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of silicate minerals that are fibrous in nature and functions well as a fire retardant. It was once a commonly used insulator. Now that the dangers of asbestos are well known, it has fallen out of use. It can still be found Read more…

Good Nutrition

Getting good nutrition can be difficult when you have cancer, both because of the disease and side effects of the treatment. There are some things you can do to overcome this obstacle to your healing. Cancer can make good nutrition more difficult Patients with head and neck cancer often have malnutrition before they start treatment. This is due to pain and trouble swallowing, swelling, and bleeding. Often a patient needs to consider a feeding tube as a temporary way of receiving the nutrients they need during their treatment.  Eating softer foods is important when you have cancer of the head and neck. The pancreas makes an enzyme which helps break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. This enzyme aids digestion and helps to neutralize stomach acid Read more…

Oncology Care Teams

When someone is being treated for cancer, they will work with a team of medical professionals in the oncology department. This team approach ensures you get the best medical care possible. Who are some of the people on a care team? Receptionist/Appointment Specialist This will be the first person you talk to at the cancer center. They take your insurance information as well as your co-pay. When your appointment is done, they will make upcoming appointments that your doctor has ordered. These may include lab work, imaging, and future oncology appointments. Lab Technician The lab technician will take your blood, or urine and run any necessary tests on it.  If they are taking blood, they may access your port to do this. The results let Read more…

Targeted Treatments

Not that long ago, cancer treatments were synonymous with losing your hair and suffering from nausea and vomiting. Now with the advancements in cancer research, it’s not uncommon for patients to go complete a treatment regimen without either of these issues.  One of these advancements is targeted therapy, also called targeted treatments. Targeted treatments “target” specific genes or proteins found in cancer cells These genes and proteins are related to cancer growth. Many different types of cells make up the tissues in your body, from your bones to your skin. Cancer cells are created when specific genes in healthy cells mutate or change. To learn more about how cancer cells are made, check out my post on cancer cells. Our Story When Dan’s oncologist first Read more…

Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a set of symptoms affecting the nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy affects your nerves, or those on the periphery of your body: Skin, fingers, toes, etc. Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is when these symptoms are the result of chemotherapy. Symptoms of Neuropathy Numbness Pain This may be constant, or it may come and go like a sharp, shooting/stabbing pain. Tingling, pins, and needles or electric shock type pain. Muscle cramps Muscle fatigue Burning sensation Lack of dexterity, trouble buttoning shirt etc. Problems with balance Sensitivity to cold/heat Trouble swallowing Blood Pressure changes Decrease in reflexes Symptoms tend to start farthest away from your head (toes and feet) and move closer to your head over time. They are usually bilateral, affecting both sides of the body Read more…

palliative care specialist

Have you ever talked with a palliative care specialist? Do you know what they do, or how they could help you with your cancer treatment? What a palliative care specialist does “Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. This type of care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness-whatever the diagnosis. “The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be Read more…

What if

Cancer can often feel like a roll of the dice. The unknown can be the hardest part of cancer and its treatment. This causes patients and their families to often ask, what if. One year into his treatment plan, Dan’s doctor declared that Dan was NED (having no evidence of disease). This is a term used to describe what people think of as a state of remission (in certain types of cancer). It is a wonderful feeling to be NED. Still, because Dan’s cancer was advanced and ultimately terminal, we had been told that it was only temporary and that at some point Dan’s cancer would rear its ugly head again. What If One thing that surprised me was how uneasy I felt, even during Read more…

Hospice and palliative care

The battles of the war against cancer are waged, daily within the bodies of patients young and old, wealthy and poor. There we have made great strides. In 2014, “UK death rates for breast, bowel, lung and prostate cancer combined are down by almost a third in 20 years.” (1) Yet, like any war, the casualties at the hands of this disease are great. That’s when hospice and palliative care enter the picture. Curing vs. Healing There comes a time when we need to switch from curative treatment to healing efforts. We can heal, even as we die. There can be healing of relationships, spiritual healing, letting go of the things that never should have been clung to in the first place. Hospice and palliative Read more…

No two cancers are alike.

I recently read an article about John McCain and Jimmy Carter.[1]  Apparently, a lot of people wonder why their cancers could have had such different outcomes. The thinking behind this is something most cancer patients encounter throughout their journey. People often don’t realize that no two cancers are alike. Today I’ll share some of the reasons for this, and what it means for cancer patients and their loved ones. Where cancer originates is what kind of cancer the patient has. One of the reasons no two cancers are alike is because they originate in different areas of the body. For example, Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with melanoma. This is a dangerous form of skin cancer. John McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma. A glioblastoma is a Read more…

Ring Theory Circle of Support

The Ring Theory-Finding Your Circle of Support The Ring Theory was created by breast cancer survivor and clinical psychologist, Dr. Susan Silk Ph.D., and arbitrator/mediator, Barry Goldman. The gist of it is this: Comfort in. Dump out. Who you comfort, and who you “dump” your grief on (in other words, who comforts you) will determine what circle of support you reside in. Take out a piece of paper. In the middle of the page, draw a small circle. Label it with the patient’s name. The patient is in the center circle of support because the patient is the center of their cancer universe. It is everyone else’s job to support them. No one is allowed to dump on the patient. What does that mean? The Read more…

Cancer patient Self Care

When you’re undergoing cancer treatment, you are constantly being exposed to medical interventions. This focus on treatments, doctors appointments, and medication can make you forget about the ways in which you can support your own recovery. Through good self-care, you can help keep your mind and body as healthy as possible, giving you the emotional, physical, and mental strength to continue living your life and eventually get better. Exercise According to the Conversation (1), exercise can reduce side effects from treatments and make these more tolerable, as well as minimize the mental, emotional, and physical decline associated with cancer. Of course, cancer treatment is exhausting, so you will not always be able to do high-impact exercise. However, a combination of aerobics, strength training, balance, and Read more…

Quit a bad habit

While most people know that smoking, excessive drinking, and illicit drug pose a definite health risk, they are often unaware of the effect that a bad habit can have on their mental well-being. Kick the smoking habit in the ash Each of these activities begins as a way of altering your physical response to stress. For example, in the beginning, nicotine actually reduces stress, feelings of anger, muscle tension, and appetite. The effect is only temporary, though. The more you smoke, the more the nicotine changes your brain. Eventually (often quickly), smoking becomes a habit. As the nicotine in your system is depleted, you experience withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the habit. These withdrawal symptoms will leave a smoker feeling anxious and stressed. Think before you drink Read more…

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