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 part of life even when cancer isn’t. It stinks that cancer is the reason for this change, but accepting it will make the holidays much easier to enjoy.

To survive the holidays you must prioritize

On your quest to survive the holidays this year, make a list of everything you would like to do. This puts it all in one place. Now, pull out your calendar. Get a good grasp on what you are already obligated to do in the next month. Is there anything you can cancel?

What can you add? Don’t add it yet. Just get the vision of what you have to work with in regards to your time. Think about how you feel at the end of each day. Some people still have plenty of energy and others are ready to drop by 6 PM. With all of that in mind, look at that list of things you want to add to your schedule. What can you cut? What should stay? Do the things that you want to keep as part of your holidays fit into your schedule? If so, add them to your calendar.

Also, are there things that don’t feed your soul? This is the year to drop them. You don’t have to put up the lights on the outside of your house this year. You can go for a drive through a neighborhood with especially nice lights to get the twinkle in. A couple of years ago we bought an artificial tree during a great sale. I had always balked at the idea of an artificial tree, but it was getting too hard to deal with a real one each year. We even bought scented sticks that make the tree smell real. Now, we get just as excited setting up our tree as we ever did a real one. This has simplified life.

To survive the holidays, get help

Are there things you can delegate this month? Can a friend take your kids caroling? Can you ask your children to decorate the tree this year (if they are old enough)? Shop online, rather than hitting the stores. All of these things will reduce the amount of energy you have to expand.

Where will the family celebrate?

Often, it’s difficult to go out of town for the holidays when someone in your family has cancer. This might mean having family come to you. That doesn’t mean the work should come to you. If you choose this option, let everyone know that you will need their help. Make sure everyone knows that you can’t have people stay at your house at this time.

Survive the Holidays

What about the meal?

Make a list of thing you need help with, including what you would like for meal items. One way of doing this is to take care of the turkey and ask visitors to bring a side item. A couple of people can bring pies. Even if guests are coming from out of town, they can pick up prebaked pies and sides from the local store. Some people avoid cooking altogether by having the meal catered. In order to organize this, use a mass email or an app like Facebook Messenger to delegate menu items. Have someone bring plastic plates and utensils so there’s minimal clean-up.

If you are going to survive the holidays you have to be honest

Family and friends often have a hard time getting used to the fact that you are dealing with cancer. It can be difficult for them to envision how much this affects your life. This is especially true if the patient is able to carry on as if they are fine, even if it is with great difficulty. This amazing acting job can bite you in the end. Let everyone know that even though it will be harder than usual, you still want to celebrate. You just need some help to make that possible. Hopefully, they will be more than happy to help.

Answer the question

People will ask if there is anything you need help with. So often we say, “No, but thank you for asking.” Why do we do this? They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t want to help. Be prepared to answer the question. Have a list of things you need to have done, ready. What can be delegated?

Know when you need to say “no” so you can survive the holidays.

Are you tired? Lay down. The party can carry on while you rest. Remember to budget your time and space. Have a room that’s just for you. This is important when you go visiting, also. Ask the host if they have a spare room where you can lay down if you need to. Discuss this with them ahead of time so they can be prepared.

Make Memories

This year you can do more than survive the holidays. You can thrive during this festive season. Take lots of pictures and video. Embrace the joy and even the sad feelings that come with this time of year. Be there for one another and give thanks for the good things. Be gentle with one another—and yourself.

What is one thing you plan on doing differently this year? Please share in the comments.

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSONThe Erickson Family

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker


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.

Office Visit

What’s a general physical?

A physical is all about preventive healthcare. Regular screenings and a general review of your current medical problems and prescriptions will happen at an annual exam. This is the appointment when your doctor will assess things like how your diet and exercise are affecting your health and what you can do to improve these things. You will get any necessary immunizations at this visit. For this reason, patients often schedule their general physical in the fall so they can get the flu shot without scheduling a special appointment. The key thing here is that physicals deal with the well-being of a person who is generally healthy.

Where the confusion comes in

If you go to your doctor for an ear infection, you will be scheduled for an office visit. You can’t expect your doctor to discuss how your diet may be contributing to iron deficiency to any great length at this visit.

Likewise, don’t schedule a physical to save yourself a co-pay (often insurance companies don’t charge a co-pay for a physical) when you want to discuss your chronic headaches.

How often should I get a general physical?

  • Ages 19-21, once every 2-3 yearsPhysical
  • Ages 22-64, once every 1-3 years
  • Over age 65, once a year

Of course, if you have certain risk factors such as diabetes, depression, smoking etc., your doctor may recommend more frequent physicals.

Why can’t I just talk about what’s going on with my health?

You can, but you have to understand that you might need to schedule more than one appointment if you want your concerns to get the attention they deserve. That’s because of the way appointments are scheduled. The reason for this scheduling system is proper billing, and allotting enough time for each of the doctor’s patient’s needs.

An example:

If Mrs. X comes in for an appointment about her ear infection, she is given a 10-minute appointment. She may be in the office for 30 minutes, but she gets 10 minutes with the doctor. When the doctor gets into the room she springs on him that she is also dealing with chronic incontinence (inability to control her bladder). That’s an entirely different problem that probably requires a urologist. SO, the doctor doesn’t even talk to her about the incontinence other than to give her a referral to the urologist, and he gives her a prescription for an antibiotic for her ear infection. Mrs. X feels like he glossed over her problems. In fact, the doctor did the best thing he could do (albeit in a rushed manner) because he had to fit 2 problems into 1 appointment slot.

If your doctor refers you to a specialist

Sometimes patients feel like their doctor is pushing them off to another doctor because they don’t want to deal with them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, seeing a specialist is the best thing you can do if you have a specialized problem. For example, if you suffer from chronic headaches, a neurologist may be the best person to assess and treat the problem.

If you would like to get more information on how to get more out of your doctor appointments, sign up for the FREE Appointment 101 series!

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Originally posted 2017-12-16 15:55:06.


recurrence

The metaphor of a rollercoaster is often used to describe cancer, and for good reason. The ups and downs of your emotions, your schedule and the status of your health affect a patient and their family from the moment you suspect there’s a problem. This is especially hard for children, who have far less information than adults do, about what’s happening, They depend on their parents to help them know how to respond to these peaks and valleys. The first thing you can do to help your children through a recurrence of your cancer is to assess how you’re handling things.

The good times

After enduring the hard times of cancer treatment and finally being declared NED, in remission, or even “cancer-free,” you want to celebrate. At the very least, you want to breathe a sigh of relief and go back to life as normal. Thankfully, you are soon feeling like the old you. But still, it’s hard. Every twinge of pain makes you wonder if it’s back. Afterall, everyone responds differently to various forms of treatment.

Just as you rely on your care team, they rely on you to communicate with them in order to catch a recurrence of cancer. Just like the first time you go through treatment, early detection of disease activity is crucial. You dread your return appointments to the doctor. What if they find something?

Then, One day they do

The results of a scan come back and the doctor tells you it’s a recurrence. The rug is pulled out from under your feet. It feels very much like the first time the doctor told you it was cancer. You have the same fears and questions as you did when cancer first came in your life, except now, you’re more physically beaten up from various treatments. You may also be running out of treatment options. Your kids are older and very aware of the difficulties that come with each new treatment plan.

My Tip

We’ve always tried to have another treatment option waiting in the wings so that if the current treatment isn’t working, we know what the next step is. That’s helped us to feel less overwhelmed at scan time. This time, though, we have no idea what happens next.

Keeping in touch with your care team

It’s important that you have a good relationship with your medical team. If you feel you can trust them, it is much easier to walk into the unknown. They’ll help you to know whether side effects are temporary, how long they might last, and if a side effect warrants going off of a drug.

Knowing that you trust your medical team will help your children to feel better about things. It’s a good idea to periodically clarify your goals with your care team.

  • Is your cancer (still) curable?
  • What kind of life extension does your doctor think you can get from a given treatment?
  • What is the plan, if this treatment doesn’t work?
  • How can you relieve pain and other side effects?

All of these are things are important to know as you’re weighing your treatment options. Your children will also want to know about these things, especially if they are school age or older.

Only you can decide what is right for you and your family. Even when the medical options run out, or you choose not to pursue them, you can still have quality time with your family.

A Second opinion never hurts.

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed, or you are having a recurrence of your cancer, it’s your life on the line. That being said, it is very likely they will affirm what your doctor is doing. That affirmation can go a long way toward you feeling comfortable with your treatment and building trust with your medical team. Make sure that you let them know about your goals for treatment and bring a full set of medical records with you.

Be prepared

When starting a new course of treatment, make sure that you have the proper medications on hand to control potential side effects you may experience over the weekend, or in the middle of the night when it’s more difficult to reach your doctor. You don’t need to suffer. There are ways to alleviate the side effects of treatment as well as the symptoms of the disease. In order for your doctor or palliative care specialist to best help you, you need to tell them if you are having problems.

The effect of recurrence on your family

Our daughter, Emily described the feeling of recurrence from the viewpoint Emily Ericksonof a patient’s child. “Can’t he just be okay? I just want him to be okay. It really is a roller coaster of emotions for us [kids} as well. If you have your own issues that you’re dealing with, they become maximized with each recurrence.”

This is true. Examining the impact of recurrence on survivors of cancer and their family members, it has been observed that, “Cancer recurrence is described as one of the most stressful phases of cancer. Recurrence brings back many negative emotions, which are different and may be more intense than those after the first diagnosis of cancer. Survivors and their family members have to deal with new psychological distress.” (1)

Teach your children well

It’s hard to go back to the grind of treatment or change to a new one with uncertain side effects and results. Enduring another course of cancer treatment is quite a lesson in delayed gratification, for your children. It shows them what you are willing to do for a time (now), in the hope of having more quality time with them, later.

Recurrence doesn’t mean it’s the end: Our Story

My husband gets his treatment from the University of Minnesota. When he was first diagnosed, we went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN with the blessing of his oncologist. The Mayo, in turn, said he couldn’t possibly be getting better care. This helped us feel secure with his treatment plan. This made it worth getting a second opinion, even though it didn’t change his actual treatment.

We put on brave faces for our kids. Still, they were crushed when I told them about the scan results. They’d had four years on this roller coaster. During that time, they’d made many friends with parents who have cancer. They had seen some of those friends lose a parent to cancer.

We had a month to absorb the shock. Dan took a couple of short trips that needed to happen before he started treatment again. Melissa Turgeon from the Angel Foundation came to our home with an intern and a photographer and gave us some amazing memories. They made plaster molds of Dan’s hand and of our hands together. The photographer captured those moments as well as some very fun family pictures. We were preparing for the end of those kinds of good times.

Plaster Casts

When I told the girls, they were happy but hesitant to get too excited. One of our daughters said. “We’ve just seen this so many times; up and down, up and down.” The girls were now older and more experienced with this dreaded disease. They knew what was ahead. We had plaster casts made of Dan’s hands and one of his hand and mine together. The Angel Foundation arranged to have a photographer capture our family on film before things changed…again.

Melissa Turgeon from the Angel Foundation made plaster casts of Dan’s hands. Photo by Jim Bovine.

Surprise!

Then, Dan went back in for a pre-chemo CT scan, just to get a baseline of where he was. The cancer that was on the previous month’s scan was mostly gone! So, back on the Tagrisso Dan went.

After 2 years of Tagrisso, the cancer again progressed. Gemzar and Cisplatin were used for a while, but it’s no longer responding to treatment and the University of Minnesota has run out of options for him.

The end of the line?

Having nothing left with which to barricade the door to death is frightening. It can feel like the end of the line. Dan will return to the Mayo Clinic in the hope that they will have an experimental treatment that he can try. The treatment might work, but it might not.

It really is a roller coaster.

It’s okay to grieve

While it is best if your kids see you as being in control of your emotions so that they aren’t afraid, it is still okay to grieve. In fact, it is very healthy. You may feel frustrated by the news of recurrence. You’ve done everything that you were supposed to do and now you are back in the chemo chair.

Often, everyone in the family is trying to be strong, leaving others in the family to wonder if they are the only one hurting and if it’s even okay to feel like they do. It’s helpful for families to take some time to talk together about their feelings. It can help each member to know that they aren’t the only one who is sad (or angry or frustrated, etc.) about the recurrence. Then, you can roll up your sleeves and move forward in the way that is best for you and your family.

More…

For more information about how to help your family through your cancer journey, check out my latest book, Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer. It’s available in paperback and Kindle!

Buy it TODAY!

 

 

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

The Erickson Family

Footnotes:

  1. ‘Again’: the impact of recurrence on survivors of cancer and family members.  2010 Jul;19(13-14):2048-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2009.03145.x. Vivar CGWhyte DAMcQueen A.

Originally posted 2018-08-06 07:00:01.


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 integrative medicine center at Memorial Sloan Ketterling Cancer Center in New York. She helps restore flexibility, reduce breathlessness and fatigue in cancer patients and survivors. In a recent webinar presented by the Lung Cancer Alliance, she shared some breathing exercises that can be used to strengthen your breathing.

It may sound counter-intuitive to use breathing to combat breathlessness. But, Donna says, “Breathing is medicine. Exercise is medicine.”

In part 3 of this series, we learned about the mechanics of breathing, as well as some ways we can breathe to bring immediate relief of breathlessness. Pursed-lip breathing is a great example of this.

We want more than short-term relief, though. We want long-term improvement in our breathing. Breathing exercises along with other exercises to strengthen the muscles in chest wall will help you to breathe most efficiently.

By John Pierce (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise

We talked about diaphragmatic breathing in the last post. Let’s get a little more detailed here.

If you place your fingers just below your rib cage and breathe, you will feel the diaphragm. Try it!

Breathing is the perfect exchange.

You breathe oxygen in (ideally through your nose):

Feel your diaphragm flex downward as your lungs fill with air.

Now, exhale carbon dioxide (though your mouth):

Feel your diaphragm flexes upward as the air is pushed out.

Relaxation Breath 4-8-8:

  1. For this breathing exercise, inhale through your nose for the count of four (This is a mental count, not actual seconds). This increases the amount of air you take in
  2. Hold that breath for the count of 8. This allows air to be distributed throughout your lungs
  3. Breathe out with pursed lips for a count of 8. This keeps airways open longer and prompts a larger inhalation through the nose

“Sniffles”

This fast breathing exercise uses “sniffles” to strengthen the diaphragm:

  1. Sit with your back upright.
  2. Place your hands on your knees, and your feet, flat on the floor.
  3. Close your mouth.
  4. Inhale for 2 counts through the nose.
  5. Exhale for 2 counts through the nose.
  6. Continue to breathe in this pattern.

In the beginning, you will keep this up for 15-30 seconds. Your goal is to eventually perform this for 60 seconds, once or twice each day.

“Healing Breath” Breathing Exercise

This is especially helpful for episodes of breathlessness from coughing, activity, or anxiety.

  1. In a sitting position, gently tilt your chin to your chest. This will relax you.
    1. Breathe out through lips in short bursts 10x
  2. When Neck muscles feel less stressed:
    1. Breathe in through the nose
    2. Breathe out through pursed lips 3x
  3. Then when your breathing normalizes:
    1. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4
    2. Breathe out through your mouth making an “AH” sound for a count of 8.

To see this demonstrated, check out this video.

Coordinated Breathing Exercise

It’s so important as a cancer survivor to keep moving! Donna Wilson has a great video that addresses the difficulties cancer patients face as they resume movement after cancer treatment and/or being sedentary for quite some time. Check out her other videos as well!

Shortness of breath during exercise is normal. Your muscles contract during exercise. Because of this, you need to breathe faster to get more oxygen to the muscles.  Modify what you are doing if necessary. Coordinate your breathing with exertion.

You always breathe in (unless you have a neurological injury).

People don’t always breathe out efficiently, though.

Pursed lip breathing creates back-pressure in your airways. This prevents your small airways from closing and makes breathing easier. Never hold your breath.

Breathing out is the key. The power is in the exhale. Whenever you do something that takes effort (push, pull, lift, bend over), breathe out. Coordinate breath with movement

Breathing Exercise
Image courtesy of the Lung Cancer Alliance

Check out this tip sheet on coping with shortness of breath, from the Lung Cancer Alliance.

I would like to thank the Lung Cancer Alliance and Donna Wilson for allowing me to share this information with you (originally at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker).

To learn more about the Lung Cancer Alliance, check out their website, their Facebook page, or their Toll-Free Helpline 1-800-298-2436. Contact them for more information on living with lung cancer.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Interpreter

Have you ever thought about what it’s like to have limited English speaking skills? How would you handle things like a doctor’s appointment? There are things such as disabilities, and being a Limited-English speaking person (or LEP), which can affect your communication with your health care team and your access to support services.  Today, we’re going to learn why an interpreter is a crucial part of health care for people who aren’t fluent in English.

18%, or 47 million people in 2000, spoke a Language other than English at home. 8.1% of the population, age 5 and older spoke English less than “very well” (2000 US Census)

Check-in Downstairs

A few years ago, our local clinic was getting a major renovation. For 2 years they jostled departments around and several times, even moved where patients checked in. When they moved the check-in desk from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor, I witnessed something that made me see how hard something as basic as a doctor’s appointment can be for someone who doesn’t speak English well.

Use an interpreter if English is a second language, to get the best care

I saw a little old lady who I would guess was from Russia or the eastern bloc. She made it all the way up to the second floor, pushing her walker an inch at a time, only to discover they weren’t doing check-ins there anymore. She tried to get the attention of the woman at the desk. Finally, the woman noticed her and said, “There was a sign downstairs. You have to go back down.” There was little sign of understanding. After some exchange, the little old lady returned to the first floor with great effort. Fifteen minutes later, she returned. Her doctor was on the second floor. She looked completely exhausted from the up and down and up again.

I imagined how hard it must be to immigrate as an old woman; a whole new country, a new language, and health problems, as well. She needed an interpreter.

Who has a right to a translator or interpreter*?

If you’re hearing impaired, under the Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), your health care provider must provide you with an interpreter, if you need one in order to clearly communicate with your healthcare provider.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination based on national origin is prohibited. Executive Order 13166 issued in 2000, says that people have a right to meaningful access to federally funded programs and activities. Many individual federal programs, states, and localities also have provisions requiring language services for LEP individuals. These provisions are valid, even in “English-only” states. For more information, check out the LEP.gov website.

*The difference between a translator and an interpreter is described well at Language Scientific’s website. Check it out.

What’s the process of getting a translator?

If you or a loved one needs these services, contact your health care provider prior to your appointment, to let them know. Don’t hire your own interpreter and expect to be reimbursed. Most medical facilities contract with a third-party company which provides translators and/or interpreters on an on-call, as needed basis, at no cost to the patient. Covering the cost of the interpreter is one of the normal costs of operating a business for your clinic or hospital.

Just say “NO”

Occasionally, a health care provider may try to encourage you to bring a family member or friend to your appointment as a way to “save costs.” Say no. It is difficult for family members and friends to be neutral and translate everything they hear. Using family and friends as interpreters can also have a negative effect on your patient confidentiality. Instead, if you are comfortable, bring a trusted friend with to your appointment to keep an ear out for anything that might be lost in translation.

Also, Medical Interpreters are qualified in ways which even someone who is bilingual can’t compare to. They have expert knowledge of proper medical terminology, enabling them to facilitate communication effectively. This saves time and prevents medical mistakes based on miscommunication. They are also available on-demand, night or day.

“But I don’t need an interpreter.”

You may be wondering how this pertains to you. First, I hope that I’ve opened your eyes to something that many of us know little about. It also illustrates a picture of health care for all of us. It is a specialized area that many people don’t fully understand. It’s like they are speaking one language and the doctors are speaking another. This causes confusion and miscommunication. These are the root of many frustrations in life. Never be afraid to ask for clarification when you don’t understand something your doctor says or does.

For more information on using an interpreter see:

Office of Inspector General, Guidance and Standards on Language Access Services: Medicare Providers (Department of Health & Human Services)

Also, if you would like to get more information on how to get more out of your doctor appointments, sign up for the FREE Appointment 101 series!

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Originally posted 2017-12-16 15:36:36.


Advance Care Directive

What is an Advance Care Directive?

People often think of an advance care directive in the context of a terminal illness, such as cancer. But, this legal document should be in place for unexpected emergencies, such as car accidents, as well. It is also known as a healthcare declaration, a directive to physicians, a medical directive, a health care directive, and a living will. The exact terminology often depends on where you live.

Planning Ahead: Yes, You Do Need One!

Advance care directives are a powerful tool. They take away guilt and resentment that survivors may have regarding how someone has died. You’re able to be very specific about your feelings regarding end-of-life care, removing any doubts that various family members may have. This is what most people associate with an advance care directive (A.K.A. Living Will).

You should create one as soon as possible, ideally, before you are ever faced with a life-threatening accident or illness. Once you are ill, the process of putting together your advance care directive can seem emotionally overwhelming. It’ll make you acutely aware of the fact that you will, in fact, die long before you want to. It’s real, rather than theoretical, as I would be if you weren’t facing death. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just been diagnosed or you’ve been fighting your cancer for a long time and can feel death knocking on the door of your life.

Advance Care Directive

Our Story

In the beginning of Dan’s cancer journey, he had a very hard time approaching the advance care directive. So, I got a booklet[1] and went through 2-3 questions each day with him. I asked him the questions and he answered. When I needed some things to be clarified I asked further questions so that there was no doubt in my mind as to what his wishes were. I wrote all of his answers down as he gave them.

This process took the logistical burden off of him and it made the process less overwhelming. We always stopped after 2 or 3 questions so it didn’t feel so awful. The other benefit to this was that he and I were communicating about his wishes. This is essential since I will need to ensure they were carried out as he wished. I was listed as his proxy, giving me the final say about his health care.

Power of Attorney*

Power of attorney gives someone you choose, the right to act on your behalf in financial or real estate issues. This sometimes scares people. Handing over that kind of legal power is a big deal. It’s actually not as concerning as it sounds. For one thing, you will choose someone who you really trust.

Secondly, there are different types of power of attorney. In real estate, we often have clients who are unable to be at closing. They give someone they trust, a limited, or “specific,” power of attorney. This allows the proxy to sign legal documents on their behalf in that instance only, or in all legal matters that are defined, for a limited period of time.

In most cases, power of attorney will end if it expires during the time the person granting it becomes incapacitated. So how does this help you in a medical emergency? You will want to make sure that you have a durable power of attorney in place. This is done by adding additional language to reflect your wishes.

Advance Directive

Medical Power of Attorney*

Power of attorney documents ensure your financial and legal issues will be handled if you are unable to, but what about medical decisions that need to be made? This is where the medical power of attorney comes into play. This is also known as durable power of attorney for healthcare, healthcare proxy, or healthcare agent. Just as in a power of attorney, you’ll want to make sure the proxy you choose is someone you trust to carry out your medical decisions if you are unable to.

Make it Legal*

No matter what, you should get in touch with an attorney who can give you the specific legal information that fits your situation. Laws vary from state to state, so you always want to make sure you are following your local laws. National Cancer Legal Services Network offers referrals to free legal services programs so that people affected by cancer may focus on medical care and their quality of life.

Your Proxy and Other Loved Ones

“Because I love you, I need to know what you want. Because you love me, you need to let me know, so I can know what to do.” -Dr. Vic Sandler

When looking for a proxy (which you’ll need), a spouse is ideal. Whoever you choose, they will need to be someone whom you can count on to carry out your wishes. They may need to be strong in the midst of other loved ones who don’t understand the decisions you’ve made.

Often, a patient decides that there is a point at which they no longer wish to keep fighting. This may be at the point when they are no longer able to express their wishes and must count on a proxy to carry them out. This may mean not opting for ventilation machines or feeding tubes.

The thought of losing the patient can be unbearable to family and friends. They may get angry with the proxy for making decisions that the patient would have wanted. The best prevention for this is to make it very clear to everyone in your family and close circle of friends what your wishes are. Also, tell your loved ones and your proxy, that you’re so grateful to have a proxy you can count on to carry your wishes out. Hearing these things from your lips will go a long way toward giving all of your loved one’s peace of mind.

It’s important that you talk to your children about this. Explain to them, in an age-appropriate way, why you’re making the decisions you’re making. They need to know that you’d rather be with them, but that your time is becoming short. You want the time you have together to be good time.

Family Care Conference

Your Advance Care Directive is More than Medical

After you’ve written or filled out your Advance care directive you’ll need to have it notarized. You then give it to your clinic to keep on file in the event there is a question of how to proceed near the end of your life.

The advance care directive addresses your specific health care desires as you near the end of life, but it isn’t limited to medical decisions. As part of this process, you can also express what you’d like done in your last days and hours.

  • Who’s going to be at your bedside?
  • Do you want everyone you know, there? Do you want time reserved for your closest family members?
  • Is there anyone you don’t want there?
  • Would you like music played?
  • Is there a special pet you’d like to hold?
  • How would you like to be dressed?
  • Do you wish to have a member of the clergy there? Anyone in particular?

The more, well thought out the process of death is, the better the death can be. The better your death is, the easier it is for your family to cope after you’re gone.

Footnotes:

[1] Advance care directive paperwork (or booklets) are usually available from your doctor’s office. While not essential, a pre-designed booklet made specifically for planning your advance care directive can be extremely helpful in this process. It will ensure that you have covered all of the bases and guide you through the process.

*Note: Please see our Legal Disclaimer.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Originally posted 2017-12-14 02:52:41.


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 some point. (1) The information they shared is valuable to an even wider audience of cancer survivors.

Much of the information in this post comes from the webinar. I appreciate the Lung Cancer Alliance allowing me to share it (originally at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker). I encourage you to go to their website to learn more ways of coping with lung cancer.

Treat the Cancer

Dr. Lynn Reinke, Ph.D., ARNP, FAAN (University of Washington) is a nurse practitioner, recognized nationally and internationally as a dyspnea crisis management expert. She says that the first key to managing shortness of breath is to treat the lung cancer [or any cancer that has metastasized to the lungs] along with its symptoms.

Our Story

When my husband, Dan, experienced severe shortness of breath, it was because his cancer was out of control. It prompted his doctors to order a new CT scan. The results told us that it was time to change treatments. The following month, there were more scans and his treatment plan changed with each one until they found one that worked. That was when he could breathe again! Until then, several other medications were used to help with his cough and breathlessness.

Medications for Breathlessness

As we learned in the first post in this series, there are many causes of breathlessness. Talk to your provider about what medications are appropriate for you.

Also, learn the correct way to use these medications to maximize the effectiveness.  Because many of these medications are inhaled, the technique you use is very important. When you are being prescribed an inhaled medication, a doctor or nurse will be happy to demonstrate the proper way technique. They can also give you a “spacer.” The Asthma Society of Canada has a great illustration and instructions on their site for using a spacer.

Bronchodilators such as albuterol are fast acting and helpful to use prior to activity that may cause shortness of breath.

Breathlessness
(2)

Long-acting bronchodilators last 12 hours. Some use steroids and some reduce inflammation in the lungs.

Nebulizers are helpful for acute breathlessness. A nebulizer is a portable machine which delivers the medication in the form of a breathable mist.

 

 

Other medications:

Opioids, such as low doses of morphine (10-30 mg) are widely used to manage breathlessness. Even experts don’t fully understand why they work. The anxiety-reducing and cough-relieving effects of diamorphine make it ideal for lung cancer. Even patients with COPD can safely use oral morphine for shortness of breath, The patient starts on a low dose, and which is raised per response and side-effects. This level of morphine is well below the amount that patients are prescribed for pain.

Anti-anxiety medications such as lorazepam. Shortness of breath can trigger anxiety attacks. Anxiety, in turn, causes people to tense up and this further reduces lung capacity. It can become a vicious cycle. Anxiety medications can end this cycle.

Oxygen

Oxygen is only helpful if the blood levels of oxygen are low. You can still experience breathlessness without having a low blood-oxygen level. To see whether oxygen is appropriate for you, doctors will test your oxygen level with an oximeter. That’s the little clamp they place on your finger that has a red light in it. Normal blood oxygen levels are between 75 and 100 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). A level of 60 mmHg or lower indicates the need for supplemental oxygen.

Our Story

People often asked why the doctors didn’t put Dan on oxygen when he was so sick. His numbers were always borderline, but not low enough to merit oxygen therapy. It was counter-intuitive to us since he was struggling to breathe. Yet, these guidelines are in place for a very good reason. Too much oxygen can be dangerous, as well. Levels of over 110 mmHg can damage the cells in your lungs.

Next Post…

Non-medical interventions are often the most effective way to cope with long-term treatment of breathlessness. In the next post, we will look at non-medical approaches to breathlessness, including breathing techniques and exercises. If you haven’t already signed up to receive alerts when our weekly post is up, do that now. If you know someone who is living with cancer, pass this along to them.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

1 Virtual Medical Center, Breathlessness in Cancer; https://www.myvmc.com/symptoms/breathlessness-in-cancer/

2 By Trainer2a (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 


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 had progressed in his lungs and had metastasized to his brain so it was time to change his treatment.  They put him on a new type of treatment called immunotherapy, specifically, Opdivo. We had big hopes for this new drug which had been having great results in many patients.

Within 3 weeks, Dan developed a cough.  Coughing was a known side effect of Opdivo. It was getting worse by the week. In November, less than two months into the treatment, we went away for a romantic weekend in St. Paul. We went on a tour of the St. Paul Cathedral and visited Landmark Center. We stayed at the Covington Inn, a floating bed and breakfast on a tug-boat sitting on the Mississippi River. Before leaving St. Paul, we walked along Summit Avenue, a historic district lined with well-preserved Victorian homes, including the Governor’s Mansion.

It was a turning point in our lives.

We got home in the afternoon and went to bed exhausted. Dan was in bed for days. It became nearly impossible for him to speak without breaking into a coughing fit. He had just walked over a mile down Summit Avenue, and a week later, could no longer walk across the room without having to sit down. He couldn’t get a deep breath.

“Helpless. Frustrating. Scary.”

Shortness of breath can feel like a tightness in the chest or an inability to take a deep enough breath. In 2015, my husband suffered from severe breathlessness.  I asked Dan to tell me in a few words what this felt like. He said, “Helpless. Frustrating. Scary, because as you continue to lose your breath, you know there’s a limit to what you can lose before you have a big problem. You see your everyday life getting more and more difficult. Just taking a shower is exhausting. Soon, you’re bedridden and hospice is the only thing you have to help. It’s really very sad.”

There are many causes of shortness of breath.

Among the causes of breathlessness in cancer patients (especially with advanced cancer) are:

  • pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs)
  • anemia (insufficient red blood cells to transport oxygen)
  • obstruction of airways due to tumors
  • lymphangitis (thickening of the lymphatics in the lung, sometimes caused by cancer cells)
  • removal of part of all of a lung
  • smoking-related lung issues
  • heart failure or damage
  • pulmonary toxicity caused by chemotherapy and/or radiation
  • fatigue and pain which make taking a deep breath difficult
  • an anxiety cycle which causes panic and a sensation of breathlessness.

Treatment Options

Shortness of breath
Lung function tests

Once your doctor determines the cause of your breathlessness, they will be able to give you some treatment options. The treatment for shortness of breath will depend on the cause of it. For example, if it’s caused by pleural effusion, the fluid around the lungs will need to be drained.

shortness of breath

We began an investigation into the matter with his medical team, including an oncologist and a pulmonologist. He had bloodwork, scans, breathing tests, and a bronchoscopy. We were told that Dan’s cough and shortness of breath were was not a side effect of the immunotherapy, as was previously thought. The treatment wasn’t working, so the cancer had been progressing. He had lymphangitic spread (2). This is a term used to describe the spread of cancer throughout the lungs. Cancer was filling his lungs and he couldn’t breathe.

“Do you have a healthcare directive?”

The doctors began talking about decisions that needed to be made at the end of life. “What about intubation?” “Have you reassessed your healthcare directive?” We had lived with Dan’s terminal cancer for over three years and yet we were surprised by these questions. It was like having cold water thrown on us.  It quickly brought the reality we were facing, into focus.

Along with attempts to ease the discomfort of breathlessness, Dan began one treatment after another. First, a traditional chemotherapy, and then two different targeted therapies, recently released by the FDA, each one after another. Finally, one worked, Tagrisso. It began killing cancer cells and he soon regained his lung function.

Next post…

Treatment options for shortness of breath include medical interventions, environmental changes, breathing techniques, and exercises to improve breathing. Be sure to read my next post to learn more about some solutions to shortness of breath. The link will go live when the post is published.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

1 Virtual Medical Center, Breathlessness in Cancer; https://www.myvmc.com/symptoms/breathlessness-in-cancer/

2 lymphangitic carcinomatosis (LIM-fan-JIH-tik KAR-sih-NOH-muh-TOH-sis) A condition in which cancer cells spread from the original (primary) tumor and invade lymph vessels (thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells through the body’s lymph system). The invaded lymph vessels then fill up with cancer cells and become blocked. Although lymphangitic carcinomatosis can occur anywhere in the body, it commonly happens in the lungs. It can happen in many types of cancer but is most common in breast, lung, colon, stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. Also called carcinomatous lymphangitis. (NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms)

 


Priceless4purpose

We’ve recommended Priceless4Purpose and Mystic Views to several friends facing cancer and they have had as good an experience as we did.

Spotlight on Giving Back: Priceless4Purpose

Being diagnosed with cancer plunges patients and family members into the quicksand of physical, financial, mental, and emotional overwhelm. It can be hard for patients to take a break in order to refreshPriceless4Purpose: The Steve Bartlett Cancer Non-Profit Organization. is doing something about this by providing an opportunity for patients and a companion to stay at Mystic Views, a bed and breakfast in northern Minnesota.

Cindy Bartlett knows the strain that cancer can put on people, as much as anyone.

The story of this unique respite service began in 2005 when Cindy and her husband Steve decided to start a bed and breakfast in northern Minnesota.

After 3 years, they had finally found their new home. Their Realtor showed them the lakeside property about 30 minutes north of Brainerd in the peak of winter. Even with the cold Minnesota snow surrounding them, they knew that this was the place for them.

By the time they were ready to receive guests in 2008, Steve was diagnosed with colon cancer. He had been awfully tired, but they attributed that to all of the work that was going into getting Mystic Views ready.

Priceless4Purpose

Steve’s battle lasted 20 months.

Over the course of Steve’s treatment at Hubert Humphrey Cancer Center, he and Cindy met many other couples walking the same journey as they were. Some survived, but others didn’t. Steve died in 2010.

“At first,” says Cindy, “I thought, what did we do that was so bad, to deserve this? But then, it didn’t take me long to say, why not us?”

One day, about 6 months after Steve’s death, Cindy took a break, herself, to enjoy one of the hot tub’s at Mystic Views. As she relaxed, she thought about other couples she and Steve had become friends with at treatments. She wanted them to be able to experience rest in the midst of their battle. She remembered that Steve would always say, “I’m the luckiest person to be able to come back here to recoup between treatments.” That was the birth of Priceless4Purpose.

Cindy went to work, making her vision a reality.

It took about 2 years to transition Mystic Views from a for-profit business to the 501c3, Priceless4Purpose. Cindy became an expert in grant writing. Along with her 3 sons, she set out to find the funding to make Priceless4Purpose a reality.

Since 2013, over 100 cancer patients have been able to experience the rest and relaxation that comes from time away in the quiet of nature because of Priceless4Purpose.

Priceless4Purpose is unique, in that it serves adult patients undergoing active cancer treatment in Minnesota, regardless of stage, sex, or type of cancer. Patients can come alone or with an adult loved one of their choosing.

Priceless4Purpose grants guests up to 3 nights respite with both breakfast and dinner, served in their suite. The room includes a king-sized bed and a Jacuzzi. There’s also a private deck which overlooks a private, environmental lake.

Priceless4Purpose
Cindy Bartlett made us some amazing meals during our stay at Mystic Views.

You can help Priceless4Purpose when you shop on Amazon.com.

Support the Mystic Views Adult Cancer respite program whenever you make a purchase on Amazon, at no cost to yourself!

Whenever you make a purchase at Amazon, just use http://smile.amazon.com/ch/45-2602288. Amazon will donate to Priceless4Purpose through the Amazon Smile Program. It’s super easy!

You can also patronize Mystic Views. Paying customers who don’t have cancer, but who are looking for a peaceful B&B are welcome. You can find Mystic Views “north of the tension zone,” near the Minnesota resort towns of Nisswa and Pequot Lakes, so if you decide to head to town, unique shops and activities abound.

Whether you decide to take in the sites or enjoy the tranquil atmosphere at Mystic Views, you will leave feeling rejuvenated.

 

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since 2012, when my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Originally posted 2017-12-12 00:06:55.


fatigue is why cancer patients are so tired all the time

This is a picture of my husband, Dan, during a 2-hour visit to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. He became so tired on this trip, that he had to lay down. Most people experience fatigue at some point in their lives, but it usually doesn’t last long. Once you sleep or even just quietly rest for a while, the fatigue goes away and you feel refreshed. Have you ever wondered why cancer patients are always so tired?

Healing takes energy

I remember the fatigue of early pregnancy. When I asked my doctor about it, he said that building a human being within my body was the equivalent of climbing a mountain. I had never thought of it that way. It takes that same energy to fight off a deadly disease! Cells are the building blocks of life, and apparently, they are heavy to hoist! That’s why cancer patients are always so tired.

Treatment is a major reason why cancer patients are so tired

The first cancer treatment that doctors prescribed for Dan was a targeted treatment called, Tarceva. It’s considered an easier treatment than traditional chemotherapies. Yet, within a week, Dan felt completely drained.  “It’s like you’re a car that isn’t running on all cylinders,” he says. “It always feels like bedtime. You fool yourself into thinking, ‘I’ll just go to bed and rest up and then I’ll get up and do it.’” Dan chuckled. “Sure you will.”

Then, two years into his cancer journey, Dan’s doctor put him on a traditional chemotherapy, and things went from bad to worse. Taking a shower, using the bathroom, even eating, were exhausting. After a chemotherapy appointment, he would spend days in bed, only getting up when he absolutely needed to.

It became a cycle

He had no strength and no endurance.

It only got worse over time because he didn’t exercise much.

His muscles atrophied.

He had no strength and no endurance.

It only got worse over time because he didn’t exercise much.

His muscles atrophied.

With fatigue comes a lack of drive and desire to do anything

“You have stuff to do, but you don’t want to do anything,” he says. “If you try to push through anyway, you pay for it and end up in bed for a few days, so you live within the boundaries of the fatigue.”

This can lead to frustration, irritability, and depression. It can be hard at times to know whether what you’re experiencing is fatigue or depression since they share many of the same symptoms. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to discuss what you’re feeling with your doctor. While fatigue is one of the most common symptoms in cancer patients, it’s also one of the least discussed.

Mental Fatigue

Along with the physical fatigue, Dan also experienced mental fatigue. It was often hard to concentrate for any length of time. He describes it as having a cloudy mind. “It’s like your mind is yawning,” he said.

Talking to people was also difficult. Dan would push himself through a conversation in order to stay engaged, But, by the end of the conversation, he would realize that he was wiped out.

He knows he’s crossed the line when he can no longer think of the words he wants to say. He recalls a visit with a friend. “Twice during that conversation, I was convinced that nothing I said made any sense at all.’’

Over time, the fatigue got worse.

Dan used to enjoy going for walks and biking. After a year of treatment, Dan would walk to the end of the cul-de-sac in our neighborhood and had to rest. He just couldn’t keep going. walking up steps was hard. He was breathless all the time.

There are a lot of possible reasons why cancer patients are so tired. Doctors were especially concerned about Dan’s breathlessness and fatigue because he has lung cancer. They needed to know whether it was cancer or the treatment that was causing his shortness of breath and fatigue.

Dan’s doctor ordered lab work to make sure Dan didn’t have another underlying problem that needed to be addressed such as low blood counts or anemia. She checked his lung function and ran a CT scan to ensure that his cancer wasn’t progressing. After the doctor ruled out several possible reasons for fatigue, she said that his fatigue was due to his treatment.

Getting Some Pep

Dan asked for the drug, Ritalin. Ritalin is best known as an ADHD drug given to children. Ironically, it can give adults more energy. Ritalin is a controlled substance, and it certainly isn’t the answer for all fatigue. Only you and your doctor can decide on the best way to address you fatigue. For Dan, the fatigue was so debilitating that this was worth trying. And, it worked! It didn’t completely fix the problem, but it made a noticeable difference in his energy levels.

Dan also drinks a caffeinated beverage each evening with dinner. For most of us, this would cause disturbed sleep patterns. But it gave Dan a boost, just long enough to get through until bedtime.

Know your best time of day.

Dan learned that he functioned best an hour after waking up in the morning. By that time, he’s slept all night and then had a cup of coffee. This is the best time for him to do anything that requires a lot of energy or a clear head.

Dan also listens to what his body is saying. It’s not worth the consequences of ignoring it. When he plans his schedule, he knows that he can only do one thing each day. It might be visiting with a friend, a real estate appointment, or going to church. Dan has learned that if the day will involve expending more energy than normal, it will need to come from somewhere. To prepare, he rests both the day before and the day after.

Every treatment is different

They will all have one thing in common—fatigue. Dan isn’t on any treatment at this time, yet after over 5 years of various targeted treatments and chemotherapies, he still struggles with fatigue. Once you have cancer, and especially after years of treatment, you are never the same again. Finding ways of coping with cancer-related fatigue will go a long way toward enjoying life a lot more.

Now Available!!

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-07-23 07:00:18.

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