By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Category Archives: Patients

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…

Internet Research

In the past, patients were often told to avoid doing their own internet research. That was because the internet really is a dumping ground for both information and misinformation. More and more, doctors are appreciating their patients’ efforts to participate in their healthcare. This is especially true when the patient uses internet research wisely. Benefits of doing your own research: You can decide if what is happening merits a trip to the doctor. Often you can be put at ease when you discover your symptoms might feel awful, but you most likely have a cold. Sometimes, odd, but otherwise painless symptoms mean something more ominous is happening. For example, when my husband felt 3 hardened lymph nodes above his left collarbone (supraclavicular nodes), that specific Read more…

Scanxiety

There’s a word that’s unique to the cancer experience. Scanxiety. Most people are familiar with anxiety. There are many types of anxiety, including (but not limited to): generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, phobias, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome). Scanxiety is a form of situational anxiety or acute stress reaction disorder. Because of the nature of cancer, patients are already experiencing chronic stress, or the stress of demands that seem endless, with little hope in sight for long stretches of time. When you add an additional stressor to this, it can feel overwhelming, leading to physical symptoms of stress and anxiety for the patient, and his or her family members. The first time you experience scanxiety is when you suspect you have cancer and are in Read more…

Journal

As a writer, keeping a journal has always come naturally to me. I first wrote in a journal, after reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank. I was touched by how she had one place to turn to when she needed to express her deepest held feelings, longings, and fears.  She was living in a small space with a lot of people and yet, the safest place for her thoughts was in the pages of her diary. Different ways to journal Since then, I’ve always had a journal of some sort. Although, the way I use them has varied. As a young girl, like Ann Frank, I chose to write down my dreams. Which boy did I have a crush on? How Read more…

Financial Help

Cancer will take a terrible toll on a family’s finances. There are medical and transportation expenses, as well as the hit your finances will take when you and your spouse need to take time off of work for appointments and sick days. There are countless other things that add up to a big gaping hole in your bank account. Playing catch up as well as the stress of the unknown can certainly lead to burnout. There are several types of financial help to combat burnout. It’s always best to consider the various possible sources of financial help long before you need them. Immediately get your budget in order You need to know exactly what’s going out and what’s coming in before you can adjust to Read more…

Clear the clutter to avoid burnout

Today you are going to clear the clutter from one area of your life. Any area…You get to choose. This morning I’ve been running around looking for a copy of orders for labs that my daughter’s doctor gave me a couple of months ago. She has an appointment at the lab tomorrow and I’m supposed to bring them with, but can I find them? No. That’s because my home is cluttered and disorganized. Some of it is mental chaos after the holidays, but there’s really no excuse. SO it’s time to clear the clutter. Clear the clutter from your home This is a tough area to keep in order when you are living with cancer. Housework tends to get tossed to the wayside in favor Read more…

Staging Your Cancer

Doctors stage a patient’s cancer at the time of diagnosis. Doctors determine the extent of your cancer, such as how large the tumor is, and if it has spread, using x-rays, lab tests, and other tests or procedures.  This is called the “stage” of your cancer. By staging cancer, your doctor can determine among other things, how aggressive the cancer is and how aggressive the treatment will have to be.  Today we will look at how these staging systems work. Most staging systems include information about (1): Where the tumor is located in the body The cell type (such as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma) The size of the tumor Whether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes Whether cancer has spread to a different part Read more…

Office Visit

There’s a difference between a general physical and a regular office visit. Knowing the difference can save you a lot of frustration when dealing with your doctor. What’s an office visit? An office visit is when you will discuss a new or existing health problem. You may get additional tests run or a referral to a specialist who deals with this problem specifically. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to treat the problem or reassess an existing prescription. This is also the type of visit you have when you want to talk about several vague problems that you’re concerned might add up to something more serious.   What’s a general physical? A physical is all about preventive healthcare. Regular screenings and a general review of Read more…

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