By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family
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…

encourage a cancer patient or caregiver

One of the questions I get most frequently is how to encourage a cancer patient or caregiver. After all, when we see someone going through something so difficult, it’s natural to want to encourage them–but how? The monster they’re up against seems so immense! “I Just Don’t Know What to Say.” It’s difficult to know what to say when a friend or family member’s life is turned upside down cancer. After all, there is nothing you can you say that will change their diagnosis. But you can encourage your friend. What’s important isn’t what you say, but that you care enough to be there and listen. In fact, “I don’t know what to say,” is the perfect way to let them know that you realize 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…

Giving gifts to brighten a patient's day.

Confession: I’m a Terrible Gift Giver. I don’t know why. I just am. Each Christmas my sisters-in-law and I all exchange gifts. They are little gift bags of things that make life fun: notebooks, lotions, great pens, etc. I am always in awe of the ladies’ creativity and thoughtfulness. In comparison, my ideas are unoriginal, and my gift bags aren’t nearly as cute. Still, they appreciate my effort. Gifts are another way to show someone you care about them. Money Money can be a sensitive subject, but it is an important part of life. Many times, we’ve had people bless us with cash, checks, and gift cards just when we needed it most. Because of being self-employed Realtors, we don’t get sick pay. So, when Dan Read more…

Household Chores

There are so many things in life that require your attention, even if you are facing a crisis like cancer. Thankfully, one of those things can be somewhat ignored for a while: household chores. Unfortunately, they can’t be ignored forever. Even if you are accustomed to a neat and tidy home, it’s really important to give yourself and your family members some grace when it comes to household chores, because they can quickly pile up. This is especially true if you have children and/or teenagers at home. While the world won’t fall apart if your house is a mess, a backup of household chores can put some people on edge and overwhelm them even more. The best way to deal with this is to find Read more…

Firefighters with Cancer

It’s been 17 years since “9/11.” No doubt, you remember where you were on that day. Images of heroic first responders are etched in our memories forever. Exactly how has the health of survivors and first responders (including firefighters) at Ground Zero been impacted? Are there more firefighters with cancer than in the general population? One recent study (1) estimates 2960 new cancer cases in the WTC-exposed cohort between January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2031. This means that in the future we can expect to see greater numbers of WTC-exposed rescue and recovery workers, including firefighters with cancer. It’s still hard to find clear statistics. Collecting data takes decades, so we won’t know for many years, the full cost they paid that day. But, we Read more…

when you have to watch your loved one suffer

I often write about the practical side of facing cancer. One thing I haven’t written about is what it’s like to watch your loved one suffer. It’s something that people try not to think about. Friends and family who don’t live with the patient 24/7 often miss the drama of middle of the night pain. This is a good thing. It’s not something that anyone would want to see and hear. Yet it falls to a spouse or other close caregiver to be there. This is also a good thing because no one should suffer alone. What is like, really, to watch your loved one suffer? The best way I can describe it is a feeling of utter helplessness. You want to make the pain Read more…

Daisy Letters

Do you have a child in your life in need of encouragement? There’s a young girl in England who would love to help by sending one of her Daisy Letters! How Daisy Letters Began Beginning at the age of 6 months old, Leanna spent much of her life in the hospital, fighting cancer twice. Her response to her personal trials was to help other kids who were facing difficult circumstances. She began the non-profit, Daisy Letters, with the goal of brightening up the day of the children who are going through tough times. Leanna does something rarely done anymore. She sends handwritten letters of encouragement. The effect is amazing! Anyone can nominate a child or teen, between the ages 0-19 years to receive one of Leanna’s 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…

Your Self Care

We hear a lot about self-care, especially as caregivers. Yet many of us continue to feel guilty when we practice it.  Why is that? What can you do to change your attitude toward your self-care? Everyone else comes first. As caregivers, we become good at looking out for the well-being of everyone around us, while neglecting our own well-being. It’s an easy trap to fall into. As your loved one is being diagnosed, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. This is the fight or flight mechanism that turns on when you need to make rapid life and death decisions. It’s understandable that for a while, all of your attention will be focused on your loved one. The problem is that we often forget Read more…

Book Review

Today I will be sharing my review of the book, “Hospice Hope: Uplifting Stories of Those in Hospice” by Chaplain Dale A. Swan. I met Chaplain Dale when my husband was in hospice. He gave me his book to help me through that time, I was so impressed that I wanted to write a review of it. The first thing that I noticed was Chaplain Dale’s voice in the stories he wrote for “Hospice Hope.” Reading the short reflections was like talking to him, with his positive and yet, sensitive manner. Hospice Hope? You wouldn’t think that reading stories about people dying would be very uplifting, but it was! Each story truly offered hope: Hope for a good death, hope for reconciliation with loved ones Read more…

Cope with Stress

Here are 10 healthy ways to cope with the stress and anxiety that often accompany caregiving: Play a Game 50% of all men and 48% of all women play video games[1], including me. Of course, playing an analog game is another healthy way to cope with stress. You can play a board game as a family or if you prefer to play solo, a deck of cards can provide lots of enjoyment. While many people view this as a waste of time, there are positive things about gaming (in moderation).  One of them is stress relief. Games provide an escape from the pressures you may be under as a caregiver. It’s important that you don’t spend so much time playing games, that you fall behind Read more…

Walking

Caregivers often experience greater depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, than their non-caregiving counterparts. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, has been proven to improve your mood while reducing stress and anxiety. Even as little as 5 minutes of this movement can make a difference. Walking increases the feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. The caregiver’s physical health tends to suffer as well.[1] One of the best, most available ways to improve your health is to start walking. Walking improves your overall physical health. This is important because an additional health issue will only add to the things on your plate. Mindful Walking Mindful walking is an excellent way to combine the physical and mental benefits of movement and mindfulness. This video will take you through one way Read more…

Vacation

Our family has always enjoyed traveling. Sometimes we will take a vacation as a family, while at other times. My husband and I will plan a getaway for just the 2 of us. When Dan was diagnosed with cancer, vacations changed. We had to travel around his treatment schedule. But, it became more important than ever to make memories and to enjoy the other benefits of getting away for a while. Exposure to other cultures Whether in your home country or abroad, you will find lots of people who live differently than you do. By learning about different cultures, you think more deeply about your own traditions, beliefs, and values. This is an important exercise. You gain insight into human psychology, and often feel greater Read more…

Should've, Could've, Would've

Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve is the root of senseless guilt. I… …should’ve pushed him to see the doctor sooner. …would’ve been a better husband if only… …could’ve been more understanding. …should’ve known better. …would’ve had our water tested if… …could’ve driven mom to the doctor that time if only… Refocus All of these things have a way of pulling us back into the past when what we need to be focused on are today and tomorrow. We spent years wondering just what it was that caused my husband’s cancer. This is pretty common. It’s our way of trying to make sense of something so senseless. We’ve picked through his life to try to figure out when the turning point was. He wasn’t a smoker. Was it 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…

Thankful for the Gift of Gratitude

Gratitude is good for the soul Gratitude is also a choice. You can choose whether to be thankful or not. We’ve all seen examples of people who don’t appreciate what they have, as well as others who have very little, but who are extremely thankful for it. What does this have to do with preventing burnout? It comes down to the parasympathetic nervous system The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS triggers your fight or flight response. Whereas the PNS calms you down. It lowers cortisol levels (stress hormones) and increases oxytocin (feel-good hormones). Research shows that when we feel gratitude, the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered, giving you those calming, feel-good benefits. Write it down! Read more…

Cancer Cells 101

Cancer is a complex disease. In fact, it is really many diseases with one thing in common— cancer cells have a communication problem. To understand cancer cells, you need to first understand healthy cells and how they function. A cell is the basic, structural unit of all known living organisms. It’s the smallest unit of life that can replicate independently. Each cell contains DNA, a blueprint for how proteins are produced or suppressed in the body Healthy Cells Healthy cells stop growing when there are enough cells present. In the “cell cycle” damaged cells are repaired and old cells die and are replaced if appropriate. Your skin is a good example of this. New skin cells are produced in the bottom layers of your epidermis. Over Read more…

Sleep Hygiene

Have you ever heard the term, “sleep hygiene?” Just as oral hygiene is the way you care for your mouth and teeth, sleep hygiene is the collection of practices and habits dealing with your sleeping life. They are extremely important, since approximately one-third of your life is spent, asleep. Some people sleep a bit more, and others, less. The key is to feel rested when you wake up. If you don’t, it’s likely that you have poor sleep hygiene. Many wearable activity trackers, such as certain models of the Fitbit, are able to track your sleep and give you a good idea of how much you sleep and what the quality of that sleep is. Temperature. Like Goldilocks, you don’t want to too hot or Read more…

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