Category Archives: Patients

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 Read more…

a shift in perspective

Today we’ll continue to look at resilience and how when things get hard, we can bounce. We will look at 4 ways a shift in perspective can make a big difference in our lives as we face cancer (whether our own, or cancer in the life of a loved one). Avoid seeing crises A shift in perspective doesn’t mean going into denial or sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich (which by the way, they don’t actually do). It just means that you reserve crisis mode for a real crisis, rather than situations that might someday turn into a crisis. Some people are natural worry warts. They do what a former pastor of ours called horriblizing. They find the drama in every situation Read more…

cancer survivorship tip

When people hear that my husband has survived for 6 years with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer they often ask me what our top cancer survivorship tip would be. So in honor of his 6th cancerversary, I have put together some of the best advice we have used and continue to use. Cancer Survivorship Tip #1 Get Educated I don’t mean that you should read articles filled with pseudoscience. You should find out exactly what kind of cancer you have and what the newest and older treatments for this cancer are. How can you expect this cancer to affect your life in the near future? One of your best resources will be your oncology team. That brings us to the next tip… Cancer Survivorship Read more…

Paperwork

Are you familiar with the different types of paperwork you should have in place when you have an illness like cancer? Today I’m going to give an overview of some of them and how we approached things like healthcare directives, wills, powers of attorney, and the POLST. Healthcare Directive Back in 2012, my husband filled out a healthcare directive. This paperwork has many names and is commonly called a “living will.” I recommend that everyone have a healthcare directive and that they fill it out while they are healthy. If you wait until you are sick, it is far more difficult to do because you will feel far more emotional about it, and likely overwhelmed. Because doctors had just diagnosed Dan with a terminal illness, Read more…

Metastasis

One of the most frightening words a cancer patient can hear is, “metastasis.” We learned in the post, Cancer Cells: Juvenile Delinquent Zombies, that one of the reasons that cancer is such a deadly disease is its ability to metastasize, or spread from one part of the body to another. Depending on what kind of cancer the patient has, the most serious form is known as “metastatic.” How Cancer Metastasizes The place where cancer first develops is called the primary tumor site. From there, cancer spreads locally, invading nearby healthy tissue. If too much time passes between the emergence of the primary tumor and treatment or treatment is unsuccessful, cancer cells will break away from the primary tumor site. They then move through the walls of 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…

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