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 at the same time.

If Neuropathy Comes Knocking

If you notice symptoms of neuropathy (or any change in your health and well-being) tell your oncologist immediately. They need to know as soon as possible how your body is reacting to the treatment you are on. Then, your doctor can make any necessary changes in your treatment plan and address your concerns when side effects are more easily managed.

Also, see a neurologist to rule out any underlying neurological problems that might be causing your symptoms. If you haven’t had a recent brain MRI, talk to your doctor about getting one.

Consult an orthopedist. They can check your musculoskeletal structure for problems that could be affecting your feet and legs.

Chemotherapy and Neuropathy

Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells. It can also affect nerves that connect the spinal cord to the patient’s muscles, skin and internal organs.

Whether a patient develops chemotherapy-induced neuropathy depends on many factors, including the type of chemotherapy used, and at what doses it’s given. And, of course, the individual patient’s health also plays a part.  It can begin at any time after treatment starts and often gets worse as treatment goes on.

Chemotherapy-induced neuropathy may go away after treatment is completed, or it may be a long-term or even permanent problem.

Preventing chemotherapy-induced neuropathy.

Before beginning any treatment plan, discuss the risks of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy and the ways you can work with your medical team to prevent it.

Is the potential neuropathy from any given treatment usually temporary or is it often permanent?

Find out what side effects to should watch for.

Ask your doctor their preferred way of receiving messages is. Many doctors are moving to electronic charting. Some still prefer to get a phone call.

Your doctor might change the way he or she gives you your chemotherapy. He/she might:

  • Reduce the dose of the chemotherapy
  • Administer smaller doses more frequently
  • Deliver chemotherapy as a slow, non-stop infusion over a longer period of time

Medical Treatments for Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathy

Oral medications:

  • Steroids (short term)
  • Low dose antidepressants
  • Prescription pain medication (opioids)

Medical Marijuana (in states where it is legal) (1)

Topical Creams:

  • Steroidal creams (short term)
  • Lidocaine, which is a numbing cream or ointment
  • Capsaicin, which is made from the capsaicin oils of hot peppers

Occupational Therapy

  • To help with fine motor coordination (Buttons and shoelaces etc.)
  • To decrease the risk of falls

Alternative/Complementary Therapies:

Relaxation Techniques:

  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Hypnosis
  • Biofeedback

Research has proven that these, and other relaxation techniques, can greatly reduce pain levels in patients. (2)

For more information, read this article from the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. (3)

 

acupuncture for neuropathyAcupuncture

Research has shown that Acupuncture improves nerve conduction in peripheral neuropathy. (5) Be sure to use a licensed acupuncture specialist. More and more chiropractors are learning acupuncture.

I have been receiving acupuncture at a pain clinic for the pain in my feet. I was skeptical of the practice until I experienced its benefits.

My doctor told me what led him to become licensed in acupuncture. His father in law is a veterinarian. One day he said, “Grant, I want to show you something.” He then proceeded to perform acupuncture on a dog who was suffering from arthritis in her hips. After the acupuncture session was over, the dog could walk with no problems. “There’s no placebo effect in animals,” he pointed out. Seeing was believing, and my doctor went back to school to learn an additional way of helping his patients.

Manual Lymph Drainage

Because manual lymph drainage is contraindicated in the presence of metastatic cancer, and its benefits have not been well established, I will not go into detail on this alternative treatment for neuropathy other than to say that the reason this is potentially harmful is because of the way the lymphatic system can be used to transport cancer cells around the body with metastasis. You certainly don’t want to help the process out. If you don’t have metastatic cancer and would like to investigate further, check with a reputable massage therapist.

ExercisePool therapy for neuropathy

Exercise to improve your circulation. Consider pool therapy or swimming if pain makes “regular” exercise or walking too painful. Check with your doctor to make sure that the pool is safe for you. Some people need to avoid the chlorinated water because of its effects on their skin. There is also an increased risk of infection. Your doctor will be able to help you weigh the benefits and risks.

Some Additional Suggestions

Avoid alcohol, since it can cause and/or make nerve damage worse.

If you have neuropathy in your fingers, be careful when handling sharp objects. Wear protective gloves while gardening or doing other chores which could damage your hands.

Likewise, if you have neuropathy in your feet, avoid walking barefoot or in open-toed shoes. If the neuropathy in your feet affects your balance, or you stumble on occasion because of it, use supportive aids(handrails, cane, walker). Have grab bars installed in your bathroom.

Avoid extreme temperatures. Check the temperature that your hot water heater is set on so that you don’t scald yourself accidentally.

Eat a high fiber diet if constipation is a problem. Not only can neuropathy affect your bowel habits, but so can the medications you take to manage pain.

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. The Neuropathy Journal, Treating Neuropathic Pain with Medical Marijuana. Morrow, David
  2. Western Journal of Medicine. 2001 Oct; 175(4): 269–272. Pub Med.gov
  3. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. https://www.foundationforpn.org/living-well/integrative-therapies/mind-and-body/
  4. Acupuncture treatment improves nerve conduction in peripheral neuropathy. Eur J Neurol. 2007 Mar;14(3):276-81. Pub Med.gov

 

Originally posted 2018-02-12 07:00:39.


Helping Someone in Crisis

You likely know someone whose world has been turned upside down by a life-altering diagnosis such as cancer.  If you don’t, unfortunately, you will. You want to be able to help someone in crisis, but, how?. When my husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, we experienced the good the bad and the ugly when it came to the way people gave us support. Some people with good intentions ultimately caused us a lot of pain. We also had friends and family that who did things that made an amazing difference.

How do you help someone in crisis?

Since you’re reading this, I am sure that you want to be a blessing to the people in your life who are going through the fire of cancer or some other life-altering diagnosis. You have unique strengths and gifts that can benefit them at the point of their greatest need. I want to help you know how to use these strengths and gifts to their maximum potential.

Helping someone in crisis doesn’t have to feel like a burden. In fact, it should bless you as much as your friend. Here are some ideas for making the experience of supporting a friend a good one for you, your friend, and their family.

Prepare Yourself, Emotionally

It can be difficult to see someone in crisis, especially when it’s someone you care about. Reacting in the moment can result in saying something unintentionally insensitive, Avoid this by processing your own feelings beforehand. It can be difficult to hear that a friend is facing cancer or some other crisis. Take time to acknowledge and cope with your own emotions about their diagnosis before you see him or her. This way, you can keep the focus on your friend.

This isn’t an excuse to avoid someone in crisis. All too often, people steer clear of friends who have a life-threatening illness like cancer or a life-changing crisis like divorce or financial ruin. It is so painful to go through a crisis and discover half of your friends have disappeared. Often people who avoid friends in crisis don’t even realize that’s what they are doing. They may think they are waiting for a better time to see their friend. Unfortunately, lots of people do this. The result for someone in crisis is a feeling of abandonment.

You might think your friend has a lot of people around to support him/her and that you would only be in the way. I’ve talked to many patients and caregivers who found that their circle of friends suddenly shrank with their diagnosis, often because people made this assumption. So, how do you prepare?

Learn about the diagnosis

Your friend may not want to talk about the details. It can be physically and emotionally tiring to repeat the same information to different people. If possible, ask the person’s spouse or a mutual friend may be able to give you the basics. This way you will have the correct information. If there’s information that is unknown or not shared, don’t push for more. You aren’t getting a medical degree, just a general idea of what your friend is dealing with.

Be prepared for changes in your friend’s appearance

Weight changes, hair loss, fatigue, symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath are common side effects of cancer and many treatments. The opposite can also be true. Newer treatments have fewer appearance altering side effects. But, this doesn’t diminish the seriousness of what the patient is going through. Often, a person’s appearance doesn’t match up with what’s happening inside of their body and how they are feeling. So, instead of commenting on any physical changes, start your visit by saying “It’s good to see you.”

Follow the Golden Rule

It can really help when deciding how to treat a friend who has cancer, or the primary caregiver for a cancer patient. How would you want to be treated if you were in their shoes? Better yet, how does your friend want to be treated? Not everyone wants the same thing. Some people need time to process on their own. Others want to surrounded by supportive friends. How does your friend typically react to difficult trials? Do they withdraw? Do they want to talk? If you aren’t sure of what they want, just ask. Ask even if you think you know what they want. They might surprise you.

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

Ideas for helping someone in crisis

These ideas will work for people affected by any life-altering diagnosis. These ideas came out of our family’s experience, and the experiences of others fighting similar battles. I share these ideas and more in my book. Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com. Although each person with cancer is different, we have heard a harmonizing chorus of feelings expressed by people with a life-altering diagnosis.

Check-in with a phone call

Before visiting, giving advice, and asking questions, ask if it is welcome. Make it clear that saying no is perfectly fine.

When possible, let your friend know when you will be calling. Write it on your calendar so you don’t forget. Also, let him/her know that it’s okay not to answer the phone.

Don’t be afraid to make plans for the future. This gives your friend something to look forward to. When making plans, be flexible in case something comes up or your friend needs to cancel or reschedule.

Be real

Don’t let your friend’s illness get in the way of your friendship. Continue to ask them about their interests, hobbies, life events and other topics not related to cancer. People going through treatment sometimes need a break from talking about the disease. Be cheerful when you naturally would be, and humorous and fun when appropriate. A light conversation or funny story can make a friend’s day. This doesn’t mean ignoring the elephant in the room. Allow for sadness. Don’t ignore uncomfortable topics or feelings. Your friend may need to talk to someone he/she trusts.

Offer specific help

Often, when talking to someone in crisis, you ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” 9 times out of 10 they will say no. This is because they’re so overwhelmed that they have no idea what they need. It’s better to instead anticipate his/her needs and offering to help with specific tasks, such as taking care of children, pets, or preparing a meal. If your friend declines an offer of help, don’t take it personally. It can be hard for many people to learn to accept help. Let them know you’re “on call” for emergencies, and offer again in the future. Keep your promises. If you commit to helping, it’s important that you follow through. They are counting on you.

Read his or her blog, web page, or group emails

It is often difficult for someone in crisis to be so open about such personal information, especially in such a public forum such as the internet. Yet, this is how someone in crisis can share their experience with friends and family. By following their story, you are showing you care about your friend. Stay current with these updates to avoid blunders when you talk to them. Also, this means that your friend won’t have to repeat experiences or information multiple times. These updates can also be a great way to start a conversation.

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


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 that time. His scans were now farther apart. Instead of being every 6 weeks, they were every 3 months. What if cancer began to progress just after a scan, and then grew, unchecked, for 3 months? What if? That question plagued me.

We were counting on God to give us the time we needed as a family, and we were counting on people to pray for us, so I also feared that because Dan was doing well, people would forget that we still needed prayer. And, at certain times, like when Dan was about to have a scan, or he just wasn’t feeling quite right, a what if would cross our minds.

  • What has happened since the last scan? What if the cancer has progressed?
  • Will we be able to stay the course, or will we suddenly have to learn about a new treatment? What if that treatment doesn’t work?
  • If there is a new treatment, what will the new side-effects be like? What if the treatment is really hard?
  • What if the treatment involves infusions? Are our schedule and routine going to go through another upheaval?
  • Will there be another option when this one runs out (Because it always stops working at some point)?

Kids worry, too

Our kids worried too. In the back of their minds was their own “what if” list. It was especially bad just before a scan.

While most young children, will be able to quickly move beyond the cancer once treatment is done and you’re feeling better, some children worry more than others and may need continued support.

Teens may avoid talking openly about their fears or concerns. It is often easier for teens to discuss their fears with someone outside the family. You can see if they would like you to coordinate a time for them to talk with an adult they trust or can feel at ease with.

Kids tend to see things just as they are. Once you complete your treatment, life goes back to normal and you begin to look like your “old self” again, they will probably think that the illness is over. You might want to tell your children that everything will be fine, but it’s best to let some time pass before you give them any assurances. Unfortunately, cancer can recur or metastasize (spread to another part of the body).

Dealing with the question What if

 

Dealing with feelings of uncertainty

You should be honest about your feelings of uncertainty—with yourself and with your kids. They may be experiencing some of the same thoughts that you are. Be honest about the fact that if the cancer returns, it will mean more treatment, of some sort.

During this time, you can—and should, be happy. When a treatment is ended, there is plenty to be happy about, and you can share those things together. Maybe you’re looking forward to not feeling nauseous anymore. If you lost your hair due to treatment, you can enjoy seeing it return (maybe even different from before). Enjoy the moment, even if you don’t know what to expect in the future.

Our Story

When you have a “treatable” cancer and you respond to the treatment there is every reason to hope. My husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV, metastatic, lung cancer. We were told that his cancer was terminal and that we were buying time. Even though it looked hopeless, medically, we had reason to hope. Our hope is in the Lord, Jesus Christ. He has been our strength throughout this journey. I am grateful for that hope. We have had over five amazing years of memories, to date, that we might have otherwise missed.

Dan’s most recent scan shows that his cancer is again progressing. That means starting a difficult course of treatment, again, and worries about whether or not it will work—and for how long. It’s during these times that I remind myself, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34 RSV (1)

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.  from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Originally posted 2018-02-05 07:00:45.


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 was diagnosed with cancer, one of the things that began to suffer was our finances. With all of Dan’s appointments, and him becoming sick from treatment, many potential clients were unsure of whether we’d be able to give them the attention they needed in their home buying/selling process. Often they were tempted to choose someone else to represent them and we were left with no income.

Even patients with jobs that offer sick pay, find that it runs out all too quickly.

The patient’s spouse needs to be there for the patient during treatment and recovery, and not only for support. When someone is facing an illness that can be terminal, it’s important for the family to have as much time together as possible.

This is especially a concern when there are children at home. Emotional struggles and fear can quickly creep in. Having both parents there to manage the children’s insecurities and the by-products of the situation make a big difference. You can learn more about parenting with cancer in my upcoming book, Facing Cancer as a Parent.

The Gift of Giving

Some people are more comfortable giving gifts, than “doing something.” That’s wonderful because gifts can make as much of a difference as anything. They can be a huge blessing and brighten someone’s day.

Gifts can be practical, fun, interesting, serious, or light, depending on what your friend needs the most.

When giving gifts, it’s helpful to keep in mind the interests and hobbies of your friend. They may appreciate something really silly or unusual, or something that is deeply meaningful.

If the patient is someone you don’t know as well, like a neighbor or work colleague, you may want to stick with something more traditional.

Gifts We’ve Received

We’ve received some gifts that have lightened our load during this journey. Gift cards to order pizza enabled us to make our daughter’s 11th birthday more special, even though we were financially strapped.

One day a dear couple stopped by with a pair of slippers, a robe, comfy pajama bottoms, and several meals. We were overwhelmed by their love for us.

Another couple came over during the holidays with a basket full of fruit, and a gift card for groceries which we used in order to have a wonderful Christmas meal with all of our kids.

We’ve been given timely financial gifts that have dramatically improved our lives.

I could go on, but instead, I’ll give you a list of some ideas you can use to bless the people in your life who are struggling.

Some Suggestions:

Facing Cancer has great ideas for a gift to give cancer patients.
Facing Cancer as a Friend is available on Amazon.com in Paperback and Kindle formats.

Digital Gifts:

  • CDs or gift cards for downloadable music or audiobooks
  • DVDs of movies, TV shows, or documentaries
  • A video message from family and friends
  • Pictures of friends and family
  • An e-reader and a gift card to add some books to it.

Traditional Comfort Gifts:

  • A good book, or a magazine or newspaper subscription.
  • Crossword or Sudoku puzzles
  • Note cards or a journal
  • Gift a soft, comfortable hat or scarf if your friend will lose his/her hair with treatment. This helps men and women feel more comfortable in appearance, and physically. You lose a lot of heat through your head in the winter if you don’t have hair. Bald heads burn easily in the summer sun without protection.
  • Gift a super comfy blanket, socks, or robe, for couch lounging or trips to chemo.
  • Slippers, pajamas or robe
  • Give a plant or send a flower delivery. However, make sure the person isn’t on neutropenic precautions first; fresh flowers can be an infection risk for cancer patients with weakened immune systems. Also, make sure they don’t have any sensitivities. Lilies, in particular, can have strong scents that bother some people.

Gift Cards:

  • Gift certificates for massage, spa services, restaurants or museum/art gallery passes can all help lift someone’s spirits and make life a little more “normal.”
  • Grocery stores gift cards can be extremly helpful.
  • Buy gas cards to help with the extra driving to appointments. I remember one week when we spent about 10 hours driving to and from appointments. Friends gave us gas cards which made a huge difference!

Splurge and Pamper:

  • Accessories (earrings, bracelets, scarves, ties, hats), makeup, or beauty items
  • Portable hobby supply kits (scrapbooking, drawing, and needlepoint) or puzzles can be relaxing gifts.

Paid Services:

  • Treat him or her to a spa or beauty treatment: manicure/pedicure, facial, makeup application, etc. It may be the first time they’ve felt pampered in a while.
  • Housecleaning- When someone has cancer, the entire household goes into “survival mode,” and cleaning often falls by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean that the newly accumulated dust and clutter go unnoticed.

Often, patients and caregivers are embarrassed at the condition their home is in because they lack the time and energy to clean. They scurry around trying to get things in order when they hear that someone is stopping by. This leaves them exhausted, later.

You could offer to help clean, (use your best judgment as to how this will be received). Often shame and embarrassment will keep people from accepting.

Paying for a visit from a cleaning service on chemo day would be a huge blessing. They will return home to a spiffed up house and have one less thing to worry about.

Note* Make sure that they are okay with this since some people are very private and will not be as appreciative of this.

  • Send a mobile masseuse for a gift massage. Use caution if the patient has metastatic cancer that has spread to their lymphatic system. The safest thing to do is to have them check with their doctor. This is also a great gift for stressed-out caregivers.

If you want to give “outside of the box”:

  • Check to see if your employer would allow you to donate money or vacation time to cover paid-time-off hours for the patient or caregiver you work with.
  • Look into donating air miles so that they can take a trip, or family from far away can visit.

A Bonus Idea for the Adventurous: A Chemo Day Bag!

Spending time in the “chemo chair” is no fun. The day often includes several different appointments and can become long and drawn out. One way to bless someone who’s receiving chemotherapy is to give them something to make the day easier and the time to go by faster.

Any bag will do. If you are going to go all out, a diaper bag has plenty of room, and all of the pockets are great for organizing the goodies you can fill it with. Don’t feel like you need to use all of these ideas. Even a small gift bag with one or two of the items will let the patient know you care and want to make their chemo day easier. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • You could include things like a travel mug with herbal tea or cocoa packets.
  • Lotion and Chapstick help with the drying effect of chemo.
  • Mints, lemon drops or “Preggo-pops” (ginger candy), all help with nausea associated with chemotherapy.
  • A favorite novel, puzzle book or devotional can help pass the hours in the chair. Add a journal and pen for the patient to record their thoughts at such an emotional time.
  • Hand sanitizer and baby wipes are wonderful for cleaning up after a snack (which you could also include).
  • If you really feel like going all out, you could add a quilt or a fleece blanket.
  • A heating pad is a great addition for extra comfort and warmth during those long chemo sessions.
  • Consider putting together a small bag for the caregiver. Often they sit in a folding chair during the hours the patient is receiving chemo.

Gift a Chemo Day Bag

Our Story

Dan developed “brain mets,” or metastasis to the brain, two years after Dan his initial diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. He went to the University of Minnesota for a procedure called, “Gamma Knife.” It used concentrated rays of radiation to strategically eliminate the tumor in his brain while sparing the rest of the brain. It was going to be a long day, so my mother-in-law came along to keep me company. My brother-in-law gave us a ride so that we wouldn’t need to worry about driving and parking. My sister-in-law sent little gift bags with snacks and reading material for our wait. Each of these loved ones made a frightening day much easier.

Note: This post and its suggestions have been excerpted from the book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has 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


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 Daisy Letters. When I heard of Daisy Letters, I went to Leanna’s site and nominated our daughter, Emily. Emily was really struggling with what was happening with her dad’s cancer. Having Asperger’s only added to the difficulty of expressing her emotions in a healthy way. I could see that she was very sad, but I didn’t know how to reach her. I filled in the online forms explaining why Emily could use a dose of encouragement. A few weeks later, a letter arrived from the UK. Emily looked at it with wonderment. Who could have sent it?

A few weeks later…

a letter arrived from the UK. Emily looked at it with wonderment. Emily wondered, “Who could have sent it?” as she examined the letter with international postage. I don’t know what Leanna wrote, but it meant a lot to Emily. She had an extra bounce in her step after that. She still has the letter sent across the sea, by another girl her age, who she has never met, but who cared enough to write.

Leanna says, (in her beautiful British accent) “I know how hard it can be struggling with illnesses, or being in hospital for long periods of time, or having a bad day where life is tough. I would have loved to receive a letter to encourage me, and so I want to be able to do this for other children and teenagers. A handwritten, personal letter can mean so much to the recipient, and with words of strength, encouragement, and care, I want to bring a smile to people’s faces and hopefully brighten up their day.”

She is certainly succeeding!

If your child, or a child you know could use that kind of encouragement, go to the Daisy Letters website to nominate them. If you’d like to help Leanna, you can donate stationery, envelopes, or money to be put towards stamps, and ink cartridges. Send her a message in the reply section on her site, letting her know you would like to help. She will respond, letting you know the best place to send your donation.

Sometimes it’s good to take a “digital break.”

That’s what I’m going to be doing in the month of January. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting as much writing done as I should be, so rather than spending time on email, social media, and other online activities; I will be writing and reconnecting with my goals for 2018. You will still see weekly blog posts on Facing Cancer with Grace, because I have already written them and will post them automatically, using a scheduler. Even though I may not respond to your comments right away, I will read them and appreciate them greatly. Since I won’t be sharing my posts to social media in January I would appreciate it if those of you who use social media would share my posts. Thank you!

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

Originally posted 2018-01-29 07:00:59.


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 care services enable patients and families to heal.

There’s always hope.

People often start out their treatment plan with big hopes. Over the course of a terminal illness, those hopes can be dashed, sometimes over and over again. It can be discouraging for patients and their loved ones. Even if they are disappointed, there’s still hope. It just changes. They go from hoping for a cure to hoping for a quality of life. They hope for time. And then they hope for an end to life that isn’t devastating. They hope they can say the things they need so much to say. They’re hoping that when things get difficult, They won’t be alone. They’ll have people they can count on and trust.

Your Medical Team

You need to trust your medical team. If you don’t–get a new one.
As you begin the process of dying, your doctor may tell you that the time is near. Yet, you might not think of yourself as dying. It’s similar to how we don’t see ourselves getting old until crow’s feet are surrounding the eyes that are staring back at us in the mirror.

While you can’t predict exactly when you’ll die, your doctor has seen it countless times before, and as your cancer worsens, can give you an idea of when it may happen. It’s important to trust your medical team so that you can make the appropriate plans. At the same time, focus on and making the most of each day, one day at a time. Stay involved with life, doing the things that you love, for as long as you can.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative Care focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family. Your medical team should talk to you about this at the very beginning of your cancer journey. It is helpful for all oncology patients, not just those that are terminally ill.

What is Hospice?

Many people think that hospice is a place, but it’s not. It’s actually a collaborative approach to providing care. You receive these services wherever you are living, whether at home, a nursing home, or a facility that specializes in the care of hospice patients.

Hospice and palliative care combined is the newest recognized specialty, receiving official recognition by the American Board of Medical Specialties as recently as 2006.

While receiving hospice and palliative care services, you will have a medical team that’ll help you and your family manage any problems or issues related to your terminal illness. This team may include any of the following:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Home health aides
  • Massage therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Nutritionists
  • Social workers
  • Physical and/or occupational therapists
  • Various types of counselors
  • Clergy who specialize in end of life care

This team is created specifically for your needs and can include as few or as many members as you want and need.

What You May Not Know About Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice and palliative care services are covered by Medicare and at least in part by most insurance plans. Once you are part of a hospice program, you can leave the program at any time. You can always make adjustments to the services you receive.

In the past, people thought of hospice and palliative care services as “the end.” They dreaded even the idea. The fact is, in a recent study, terminally ill patients were found to have lived longer on hospice, than those who did not use hospice services.(1)

One recent change to hospice care is that in some circumstances, you can still receive curative treatment for your illness. In the past, this wasn’t allowed. There are also transitional hospice and palliative care programs where you receive palliative care until it is time to receive hospice. This gives patients a seamless transition in their services.

You aren’t limited to a set amount of time on hospice. While the program is meant to be short-term (under 6 months), you can be reassessed for re-enrollment if you exceed that amount of time. You can also go off of hospice for any reason, and later receive services again.

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

Our Story

My husband enrolled in a transitional palliative care to hospice program in late 2015. It gave me as his wife and caregiver a great feeling of comfort. We had access to medical care 24/7. This helped me to rest easy knowing that even in the middle of the night, I could call a nurse out to our home, if necessary.

We requested that an oncology social worker come to our home and meet with our daughters.  She was able to help them work through their feelings and anxieties about their dad’s illness. She gave them some coloring journals that were made especially for children who had a parent with cancer. This helped them a lot!

Thanks to a new treatment,  his condition stabilized within a couple of months, and he was able to end his hospice services. When the time comes that he needs them again, he will resume.

The Sooner the Better

It is better to start hospice services sooner rather than later. Half of all hospice patients receive less than 3 weeks of care, while over 35% receive services for less than 7 days.(2) This isn’t long enough to form a good, trusting relationship with your care team.

You will get physical support when you enter hospice, but if you enter too late, you can miss out on spiritual, emotional, and relational healing.

When making the decision about whether or not to look into hospice services, consider the needs of your family along with your own. Hospice addresses the needs of not only the patient but their family members as well. People who wait too long to get hospice care are missing out on valuable resources available to them and their family members. For a minimum of one year after the death of a loved one, family members are eligible to receive bereavement care and counseling through the hospice program.

Chaplains

Even if you aren’t religious, or ascribe to a different faith tradition, it is extremely helpful to spend time with a chaplain. They may be available where you receive your cancer treatment or through your faith community. Hospitals almost always have a chaplain on staff. They’re knowledgeable and experienced in helping people process the end of their time here on earth.

Our Story

Hospice and palliative care are especially helpful for patients who have young children. When Dan was extremely ill, the transitional palliative care to hospice program sent a social worker to our home to help our daughters through the difficult time. She gave our daughters specially designed coloring books for kids who had a parent with a terminal illness. These were incredibly helpful for the girls as they sorted out their emotions and fears. The social worker talked to them and answered their questions. She helped them to feel safe in an incredibly frightening time.

Is now a good time to look into hospice or palliative care services?

Having professionals who specialize in helping patients as they near the end of life can save you valuable time. Don’t ignore the valuable resources that are within your grasp. If your healthcare team hasn’t given you information about services that can help you at this time, tell them that you need to know who would be helpful to talk to so you can make plans for yourself and your family.

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. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management Vol. 33 No. 3 March 2007. Comparing Hospice and Nonhospice Patient Survival Among Patients Who Die Within a Three-Year Window. Stephen R. Connor, PhD, Bruce Pyenson, FSA, MAAA, Kathryn Fitch, RN, MA, MEd, Carol Spence, RN, MS, and Kosuke Iwasaki, FIAJ, MAAA, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (S.R.C., C.S.), Alexandria, Virginia;
    and Milliman, Inc. (B.P., K.F., K.I.), New York, New York, USA
  2. NHPCO Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America. Alexandria, VA: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, September 2015

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 Patient- The Center

When Karen, a breast cancer patient was no longer able to bring meals to neighborhood functions or help with the kids’ school activities, people remarked at how hard it was without her, since they depended on her. Often, people say things like this to let the patient know they are important. However, this added a new layer of guilt to Karen’s shoulders, even though that was never the speakers’ intentions. So, don’t say anything to the patient regarding the effects of his/her cancer on you. Instead, listen to and comfort the patient. It’s about them—not you.

Circle of Support for a Spouse/Caregiver

What about their spouse or caregiver? They’re next in line for support. Draw another circle around the “patient” circle.  That’s the “spouse/caregiver” ring.  Only the patient is allowed to dump The spouse or caregiver. Anyone else should listen to and comfort the spouse or caregiver. So, it’s about the caregiver/spouse too—not you.

Circle of Support for Other Immediate Family Members

Next, draw another circle around the first, which will represent the immediate family. Immediate family can vent to anyone other than the patient and the spouse/caregiver.

One thing to note is that immediate family can vent with one another. They all share the same concerns and are able to comfort one another in a unique and special way.

Circle of Support for Extended Family, Friends, and ColleaguesRing Theory of Cancer Support

Draw a fourth circle around the immediate family circle. This one represents extended family and close friends.

A fifth circle will represent colleagues and friends. Each subsequent circle of people is a little more distant from the patient and their situation.

You never want to dump on or vent to someone in a circle closer to the patient than the circle you’re in.  For example, a friend would not dump on a parent or a spouse. They could, however, talk to another friend, or someone outside of the situation.

Circle of Support for Lookie-Loos

Lookie-Loos reside on the outer edge of the rings. These are people who have nothing at stake. They are the grocer or the guy that visits your garage sale, someone from church who hasn’t spoken to the patient or caregiver in months, or someone who happened to come upon the patient or caregiver’s blog.

Lookie-Loos can keep their thoughts to themselves. They aren’t allowed to dump on anyone, but they can offer comfort. In fact, many times, a lookie-loo has been a great source of encouragement to our family.

It’s Etiquette that Works in any Crisis

Hopefully, this explains in a nutshell, the etiquette of who to comfort (anyone who is hurting), and who to dump on (only people in a circle larger than yours—and never the patient).

Dumping or venting is anything that isn’t solely and directly supportive. Remember the adage, “It’s not about me.” While it may affect you, dumping on anyone in a circle closer to the patient than you are, can be seen as insensitive, selfish, and tacky, even when said with the best of intentions.

By the way, this works for any crisis someone may go through, health, financial, marital, etc.

This information and more is found in my book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has 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

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Originally posted 2018-01-22 07:00:36.


Get a Mammogram

Today (May 14, 2018) is National Women’s Check-Up Day. Even if you aren’t getting a check-up today, you can make the call to schedule one. You can also decide whether or not to get a mammogram. Here are the basics:

When and how often should you get a mammogram?

Until recently, recommendations were for women to get screening mammograms beginning at age 40. Recently, the American Cancer Society has said that women can wait until age 45 to start getting annual mammograms and cut back to every other year once they turn 55. Still, they should have the option to get a mammogram beginning at age 40.

When you get a mammogram, is a personal decision that should be made based on your doctor’s recommendations and your personal medical history.  Be aware, that you don’t need to get one as early or as often as it was recommended in the past.

I recently had my first mammogram at age 42.

Why did I decide to have a screening mammogram before age 45?

Because:

  • My doctor recommended it and I trust her.
  • I’m very aware of false positives and won’t get stressed out if initial tests results are unclear.
  • I have seen what happens when cancer isn’t caught early.

Check out my post on a day in the life of a cancer patient, Living with Cancer

Planning to get a mammogram? Here are some tips:

  • It’s a good idea to have your mammogram at the same facility and at the same time of year so images can easily be compared from year to year.
  • If you’ve had a mammogram in the past and then, get a mammogram someplace new, either bring your records with you or have them sent to the new facility. That way the older pictures can be compared with the new ones.
  • Avoid scheduling your mammogram the week prior to your period to avoid swollen tender breasts. This will reduce discomfort and you will get better images.

You might be offered 2 types of mammograms

2D Mammograms are the usual mammogram. They are covered by most health insurances and will do a good job of screening.

3D Mammograms are clearer and more detailed. Most insurances DON’T cover 3D mammograms, so if you would like one, be prepared to pay out of pocket. Also, there is no evidence that the new 3D mammograms save more lives than the traditional 2D mammograms. Be aware, though, that they are available.

The day of your mammogram

  • Don’t wear any lotions, antiperspirants or perfumes. They can show up on the image.
  • Be sure to let the technician know if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as any changes in your breasts.

What to expect

You will be given a gown and asked to undress from the waist up.

The technician will position one breast on the machine’s plastic plate. Then she will lower another plastic plate, compressing your breast. This will be done horizontally, and then diagonally, ensuring the image includes tissue that goes into your armpit. The diagonal compression does pinch a bit, but overall, the procedure doesn’t hurt and lasts only seconds.

That being said, don’t be surprised if your breasts feel tender the next day.

If you have breast implants or large breasts, they may take more than the usual two images per breast.

What if you are called back after your mammogram?

Most of the time, you will be notified by the radiologist or your doctor that your mammogram was normal. Sometimes, you will be notified within 5 days that they would like to take more images.  This is called a diagnostic mammogram. That may sound scary, but try not to worry.

Usually, this is nothing to be alarmed by. You may have a cyst or noncancerous tumor. The image may have been unclear or shown dense tissue that the radiologist wants a better look at.

During a diagnostic mammogram, more images will be taken than at a screening mammogram. You may also have an ultrasound done. or other imaging.

Get a mammogram

If it’s time for you to get a mammogram, don’t put it off.  It’s better to get it out of the way than to find out too late that something is wrong. You will sleep better knowing you are in good health.

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


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 symptom was said to indicate a 90% chance of metastatic lung cancer. It seemed improbable since he had never smoked and like most people, we thought of lung cancer as a smoker’s disease. Still, he made an appointment that saved his life.

Your doctor can’t keep up with all of the latest innovations in their field

Often, we expect our doctors to know everything. The medical field has become a complex place. Two years ago, my husband was ready to go to hospice. He could barely breathe; the cancer had so filled his lungs. He’d been following the experience of a blogger who was on a trial. Dan seemed to fit the profile of an ideal candidate for the drug. Finally, the FDA approved Tagrisso (a couple of months ahead of schedule). Dan asked his doctor to look into it. She did. She had him tested for the mutation the drug-treated and he was a match! Within two weeks of being on the drug, he was able to breathe again. He’s been on the drug ever since. His doctor appreciated his research and self-advocacy.

There are some drawbacks to internet research:

Sometimes the thing you think will be great—isn’t.

I’ve been using turmeric supplements as a way to ease the pain I experience from rheumatoid arthritis. Because it has worked well for me, we wondered if it would help with the pain Dan is in every day. We asked the palliative care specialist about it. She told us that even though turmeric is natural and over the counter, it isn’t something Dan should use. Turmeric is a natural blood thinner and Dan is a hemophiliac. It can also affect his blood counts that are already low because of the treatment he is on. We were glad we didn’t assume that an otherwise safe supplement is safe for him. Always check with your doctor about over the counter or “natural” supplements.

Internet Research isn’t a replacement for a doctor

No matter how empowered we can feel by the internet, there’s no replacement for a medical degree and years of experience. I often write posts for Quora, a user-input-based site. Every week, scared people ask me if their symptoms are indicative of cancer. I use the platform to encourage people to see their doctor when they are experiencing unusual symptoms. While most of these people don’t have cancer, there is often something happening with their health which needs to be addressed by a medical professional.

How you approach internet research is important

“Just the facts, Ma’am.”

Internet research has become second nature for most people, whether they are looking for a new car or the latest cancer treatments. It’s easy to pull up endless pages of information. But is the information factual? Is it experiential? Positive? Negative? These can be difficult questions to answer.

While the internet can be a valuable tool, it can also be a very frightening place, especially when you research cancer. Survival rates and statistics sound overwhelming when they’re not placed in the proper context. If you choose to research your symptoms or your diagnosis on the internet, use reputable websites. What makes a site, “reputable?”

User-Input Based Sites

Social Media and other user-input based sites such as forums have given everyone a platform. Because of that, there’s a lot more opinion on the internet than fact—especially when it comes to health issues. It’s difficult to wade through the endless sea of contradicting statements. Everyone has an opinion about cancer, cancer treatment, and what people should be doing. Random, anonymous people are very comfortable giving their opinions online. “Opinions,” is the keyword.

Many people use the Internet as their therapist. They post all their fears and the “what-ifs” online, where to the undiscerning eye, it can be frightening. While blogs and “cancer support” sites can be helpful for patients looking for support, they can also be a source of misinformation and confusion. The Internet tends to capture the negative. Because of this, use caution when reading user-input based sites. Keep in mind that the writer’s individual situation is different from yours.

Reading as a writer

Pseudoscience

Pseudoscience is rampant on the Internet. The Scrivener WordNet Dictionary defines pseudoscience as, “an activity resembling science but based on fallacious assumptions.”

Problems arise when patients or their loved ones believe pseudoscience and it contradicts what a health care provider recommends. This can cause a patient to delay a legitimate course of treatment. Meanwhile, cancer can spread.

This isn’t only a problem with cancer. I know of someone who didn’t follow their doctor’s advice in favor of another form of “treatment” for their diabetes. She went blind and ultimately died of a diabetic coma.

Rifts between family members often happen when they don’t agree on a treatment approach in light of a false promise made on the internet. The result is guilt, discord, and hurt feelings within the family.

What you need are facts pertaining to the cancer that you or your family is facing, rather than the cancer someone else has.

 

Using Trusted Resources

Health information, whether in print or online, should come from a trusted, credible source. Government agencies, hospitals, universities, medical journals, and books that provide evidence-based information are sources you can trust. Too often, other sources can provide misleading or incorrect information. If it makes claims that are too good to be true, remember—they usually are.

The National Cancer Institute gives the following advice on internet research:

Online sources of health information should make it easy for people to learn who is responsible for posting the information. They should make clear the original source of the information, along with the medical credentials of the people who prepare or review the posted material.

Use the following questions to determine the credibility of health information published online:

  • Who manages this information? The person or group that has published health information online should be identified somewhere.
  • Who is paying for the project, and what is their purpose? You should be able to find this information in the “About Us” section.
  • What is the original source of the information that they have posted? If the information was originally published in a research journal or a book, they should say which one(s) so that you can find it.
  • How is information reviewed before it gets posted? Most health information publications have someone with medical or research credentials (e.g., someone who has earned an M.D., D.O., or Ph.D.) review the information before it gets posted, to make sure it is correct.
  • How current is the information? Online health information sources should show you when the information was posted or last reviewed.
  • If they are asking for personal information, how will they use that information and how will they protect your privacy? This is very important. Do not share personal information until you understand the policies under which it will be used and you are comfortable with any risk involved in sharing your information online.

You can learn more about doing internet research as well as using other sources of information cancer, by checking out the National Cancer Institutes’s Website: http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/using-trusted-resources.

Sometimes it’s good to take a “digital break.”

While internet research can be really helpful, there are also times when it’s good to take a digital break.  That’s what I’m going to be doing in the month of January. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting as much writing done as I should be, so rather than spending time on email, social media, and other online activities; I will be writing and reconnecting with my goals for 2018. You will still see weekly blog posts on Facing Cancer with Grace, because I have already written them and will post them automatically, using a scheduler. Even though I may not respond to your comments right away, I will read them and appreciate them greatly. Since I won’t be sharing my posts to social media in January I would appreciate it if those of you who use social media would share my posts. Thank you!

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 2018-01-15 07:00:48.


Ways you can help a caregiver

During the month of April, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I concentrated on writing posts for caregivers, There are many ways you can help a caregiver. Raising awareness of what day to day life is like as a caregiver is how I help.

At Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I wrote a retrospective post about what it was like writing 55 posts, posting them all in April, and then reading and commenting on the blogs of other participants. Check it out!

In this post, I share some of the many ways you can help a caregiver.

By choosing a couple of these suggestions you can help a caregiver greatly reduce their stress, and cope with their role as a caregiver. Which suggestions you decide to take on, will depend on your relationship with the caregiver and their specific situation, such as whether or not they have children.

These suggestions come from chapter 10 of the book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer

Here are some ways you can help a caregiver if you are close to them:

  • Make sure the caregiver doesn’t neglect their health. They should be making regular trips to the doctor and dentist.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of depression in the caregiver.
  • Encourage the caregiver to set up a blog such as caringbridge.org or an email list so that they can keep people updated without having to repeat themselves so often. If they are overwhelmed by this, you could start it and maintain it until they’re ready to take it over. Of course, only do what they are comfortable with. And, have the caregiver review any updates for accuracy before posting.
  • Allow the caregiver to vent. They often feel guilty expressing feelings of discouragement and frustration, so they keep them inside.

Here are some ways you can help a caregiver if they have young children:

  • Bring your young children to visit elderly patients, caregivers, and their children. This can often brighten up their day.
  • Babysit their children. Take them to and from school and activities. Take the kids out for a fun couple of hours. It can be an event, a restaurant, taking them out for ice cream, having them over for a sleepover, or just an hour in the park.
  • Take children to dental and doctor’s appointments. All too often, these appointments slip through the cracks of a busy schedule being maintained by exhausted parents. Ensuring the kids get their normal check-ups can prevent problems for them later on.
  • Offer to bring children to their place of worship if the parents are unable to go.

 

You can help a caregiver if you are close to the patient:

  • Offer to spend time with the patient if the patient is too ill and unable to be left alone. This will enable the caregiver a couple of hours to get out of the house or even to just take a much-needed nap. This time can be very renewing.

Here are some ways you can help a caregiver by pampering them:

  • Take the caregiver out for a coffee or lunch date.
  • Schedule a weekly walk with the caregiver. This will help them get often needed exercise and fresh air. During inclement weather, you can walk in a mall. Often malls open early, before the stores do, so people can walk without the crowds. Check out the Wikipedia article on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mall_walking.
  • Offer to take them out to a movie. If they’re too tired, drop off a rental with or without some microwave popcorn and some beverages. We have a couple of friends who took our entire family to the movies. It was an amazing gift to our family which we really appreciated.
  • Treat him or her to a spa day or a beauty treatment: manicure/pedicure, facial, makeup application, massage, etc. It may be the first time they’ve felt pampered in a while.
  • Arrange for a hairstylist to make a home visit to trim the entire family’s hair. This is something that’s often put on a back burner in the chaos of caregiving.

Ways you can help a caregiver

 

Here are some practical ways you can help a caregiver:

  • Call when you are en route to a store to see if you can pick anything up for him/her.
  • Say to the caregiver, “Give me a task.” It could be laundry or an errand like picking up groceries. Often, a patient will refuse the help that a caregiver greatly needs. Let them know that you can be in and out. No socializing needed (unless they would like some).
  • Offer to clean one room of their house. Bring dusting polish, window cleaner, etc., so that you can get right down to work. He or she may want to participate. Many hands make light work and you can chat while you get the job done. Your help will be greatly appreciated.
  • Offer to wash/fold laundry.
  • Wash and clean the car.
  • Help with seasonal tasks like cleaning gutters, raking leaves and shoveling.

    Facing Cancer as a Friend is available on Amazon.com.

Here are ways you can help a caregiver financially:

  • Donate money or vacation time to cover paid-time-off hours for the caregiver (some employers allow this).
  • Donate air miles so that they can take a trip or a family member from far away, with limited resources, can visit.

You can help a caregiver, spiritually, too:

  • If you are a praying person, pray for the caregiver and any children the patient has. Tell the caregiver that they are in your prayers. It can make a big difference, especially if they are a Christian.

 

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

 

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