By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family
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…

Radon

You can’t see it or smell it. It’s in the air, both outdoors and in, as well as in drinking water from rivers and streams. It can be deadly. It may sound like something from a science fiction story, but it’s real. It’s radon. Why is Radon a Big Deal? Each year, it contributes to as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths.[1] It’s a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking and is the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Non-smokers account for 20% of annual lung cancer deaths in the US[2] What is Radon? Radon is an odorless, colorless, highly radioactive gas. The alpha radiation released by radon is the same as that of plutonium. It’s soluble and easily penetrates materials 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. Caregiver health physical 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 of 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 work 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 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) is based on 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? Read more…

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 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…

Cancer patient Self Care

When you’re undergoing cancer treatment, you are constantly being exposed to medical interventions. This focus on treatments, doctors appointments, and medication can make you forget about the ways in which you can support your own recovery. Through good self-care, you can help keep your mind and body as healthy as possible, giving you the emotional, physical, and mental strength to continue living your life and eventually get better. Exercise According to the Conversation (1), exercise can reduce side effects from treatments and make these more tolerable, as well as minimize the mental, emotional, and physical decline associated with cancer. Of course, cancer treatment is exhausting, so you will not always be able to do high-impact exercise. However, a combination of aerobics, strength training, balance, and Read more…

Respite Care

Caregiving is too big for one person to do alone. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what most caregivers try to do, at first. This is especially a problem when you are caring for a spouse with cancer or other chronic illness. In the past, it might have always been the two of you working as a team. You probably think that’s how this is going to work, as well. But, cancer is just too big for one caregiver to handle alone. Respite care can be the perfect weapon your battle with burnout. It really can feel lonely The patient may come home from treatment and go to bed for 8 hours. During that time, you are left to take care of the things you normally do as Read more…

Quit a bad habit

While most people know that smoking, excessive drinking, and illicit drug pose a definite health risk, they are often unaware of the effect that a bad habit can have on their mental well-being. Kick the smoking habit in the ash Each of these activities begins as a way of altering your physical response to stress. For example, in the beginning, nicotine actually reduces stress, feelings of anger, muscle tension, and appetite. The effect is only temporary, though. The more you smoke, the more the nicotine changes your brain. Eventually (often quickly), smoking becomes a habit. As the nicotine in your system is depleted, you experience withdrawal symptoms, reinforcing the habit. These withdrawal symptoms will leave a smoker feeling anxious and stressed. Think before you drink Read more…

Having Pets

I grew up always having pets: Cats, dogs, horses, iguanas and other lizards, even a tarantula that survived over 12 years. My kids, on the other hand, haven’t had the luxury of living in a menagerie of cuddly critters. My two youngest are extremely allergic to nearly anything with fur.  Too much time with the wrong animal and they can wind up in the hospital—it’s happened. Fortunately, we’ve found an animal that no one is allergic to and we all love—gerbils! I was opposed to getting them in the beginning. Now, I’m their #1 fan. There’s good science to back up the benefits of having pets around. Having Pets can help the Elderly We have a neighbor who recently turned 92. She still walks her Read more…

Internet Research

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

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