Archive for the ‘guest post’ Category

Guest Post: What I Learned While Caring for my Wife Through Cancer

I received a request for a guest post from a reader who identifies with some of the writing about cancer.  I like to publish anything I can that might help others who find themselves on the cancer bus, whether as a patient or a caregiver, so I accepted his request. 

Without further ado, here is what Cameron learned during his role as a caregiver. (His wife’s name being the same as mine is a complete coincidence.)

My wife has often remarked that she can’t imagine what it must have been like for me as her caregiver when she was diagnosed with cancer. I hope that with this story I can give her a better understanding of that, as well as help anyone currently struggling through a difficult fight with cancer.

Heather’s diagnosis came three months after the birth of our only child. Lily was such a joy and we were filled with happiness to have welcomed her into our lives. We had no idea how quickly that joy would be replaced with fear and anger when Heather’s doctor gave us the news – she had mesothelioma. I watched as she cried and began to wonder how we would ever make it through this diagnosis. I was so filled with emotion that I almost broke down. It took the doctor’s many questions about medical decisions to bring me back.

I was so filled with anger after Heather’s diagnosis that I began communicating with profanity to vent my emotions. I knew it needed to stop, but it was so hard to be the rock that Heather needed. Eventually, I was able to control my temper and emotions when it occurred to me how selfish I was being. I began to understand that the last thing in the world my wife needed was to know just how scared I really was. From that moment on, I did my very best to be nothing but a stable source of hope and optimism for my wife. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

My to-do list was so long every single day, as I inherited a multitude of new responsibilities for which I was completely unprepared. I had to work, make travel arrangements, take care of Heather and Lily, take care of our home, and take care of our pets. I also had to arrange for medical appointments and travel arrangements. I couldn’t do it all, so I learned to prioritize and accept the help that our loved ones offered. I was still overwhelmed, but this made it much easier on me. I will forever be grateful to each and every person who reached out to us with love and support during this difficult time.

The most difficult period for me was being away from Heather and Lily for two months. Following her surgery in Boston, Heather flew to South Dakota to stay with her parents while she recovered. Lily was already with them. I knew I couldn’t work and take care of Lily and Heather at the same time, so I stayed home and she went to recover and prepare for her chemotherapy and radiation with her parents. I don’t regret this decision, because it was the best one for our family, but it was so difficult. I am just so happy that we made it to a point that we had to make that difficult decision.

I saw Heather and Lily only once, for about a day. I drove 11 hours after work on Friday only to make the same drive home on Sunday so that I could go to work Monday morning. It was a lot of travel for only a few precious hours with my family, but it was worth every second.

It wasn’t easy to live like this, but I learned a lot. I learned that it is necessary to accept the help of others in a time of difficulty. Even more importantly, I learned never to regret or second-guess the tough decisions that cancer forced us to make. Rather, we learned to take comfort in the fact that we had the ability to make choices at all, as it gave us some small amount of control over a situation that often felt completely out of our control. It’s been more than six years, and despite the usually troubling prognosis for mesothelioma, Heather is now healthy and cancer free. I can only hope that our story can provide a source of hope and help to those currently struggling through cancer.

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Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 24

Today’s post is from Lorraine Kerz. She lives in Greenfield Massachusetts. She is the founder of Sy’s Fund, a tribute fund to her son Silas “Sy” River Bennett. Sy’s Fund provides meaningful gifts and integrative therapies for young adults with cancer ages 18 through 39. It is a national fund.

In the autumn of 2007, my son Silas “Sy” River Bennett was not thinking about cancer. He had returned to college to study journalism, and with the presidential elections coming up, Silas was excited about meeting the candidates and asking the tough questions. In fact, he was due to graduate in the spring of 2008, and it was clear that he had found his calling with journalism. Outspoken and brave, with an electric mind and hilariously dry sense of humor, Silas was ready to take on the world.

He had been plagued by what he thought was a pinched nerve in his neck since early that summer; like many young adults, Silas did not have health insurance, so had put off seeing a doctor for financial reasons. Several weeks into the school semester, my son woke up one morning to find that he could no longer get out of bed on his own. He called for an ambulance, and was taken to the local ER. There, with one simple x-ray, Sy’s world was shattered. It was October 1st, four days before his 29th birthday, when Silas found out that cancer had eaten through a vertebra in his neck. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with non small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer. The cancer had moved outside of his lung and spread to his bones, making it stage IV.

I cannot imagine getting such devastating news at the age of 29; the news that there was no cure, rather, that doctors would try to control the cancer for as long as they could. I do know that as a mom I felt that we had to fix it. After all, it was 2007, and with advancements in the medical world, it had to be possible. Little did I know then that Silas had been diagnosed with the most highly stigmatized and underfunded cancer possible.

Silas endured chemotherapy, radiation treatments, two separate surgeries to stabilize his neck, and a clinical trial. He was very sick, and was hospitalized more often than he was happy about. Silas fought hard, and he did everything within his power to stay on this earth for as long as he could. Yet on May 27th, 2008, less than 8 months after his cancer diagnosis, my beautiful son took his last breath.

When Silas was sick, we talked about the stigma and lack of education around lung cancer. We talked about helping people to understand “when he got better.” I had promised him that I would do my part to help spread awareness. In my mind, my son was the one standing beside me, doing the talking; he was, after all, the journalist… In my mind, Silas would get well again, and continue working for social change. After Sy’s death, I knew that this was a promise I had to keep for both of us now.

Some facts:
• Lung cancer is the number one adult cancer killer in the United States.
• Lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, prostate, colon, and melanoma cancers combined.
• 65% of new lung cancer cases are diagnosed in people who are former smokers, or who have never smoked.
• Over 50% of new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed at a very late stage.
• For each person who dies of breast cancer, over $26,000 will have been spent on research, while for each person who dies of lung cancer, a mere $1,200 will have been spent. (Lung cancer advocates do not want less money to be spent on other cancers; rather, we are looking for equal opportunity funding.)
• Lung cancer can be caused by radon, lead, chemical exposure, unknown pollutants, house fires, and there are possibly hormonal and genetic links as well.

Some people who get lung cancer are smokers, and some are not. I like to think that eventually we will evolve enough as a society to recognize that a person is far more than their nicotine habit, and that by virtue of being human, we are in fact imperfect. It’s time to get on with the important business of demanding funding for lung cancer research. It’s time to move on from the shame of lung cancer and recognize that each human life is precious, and that people we love will continue to die needlessly until we become a united voice for change. As Sy’s mom, I am heartbroken. Yet with Sy’s courage and ability to speak up for social change, I know that I must find courage of my own to speak for those who are no longer here, and to fight for those hundreds of thousands who will become victims of this horrific disease if we do not lend voice to ending the stigma and insist on funding for early detection, research, and cures. It’s not too much to ask for, truly, it isn’t…

Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 23

Today’s personal cancer account is from Michelle who has posted here before.

My name is Michelle, and I’m a two-time cancer survivor.  Since April, I’ve been shaving my head — the chemotherapy I was on caused itching and sensitivity on my scalp.  This outward symbol of my fight has often prompted conversations with strangers, and I’m surprised at how many people assume that, because I’m a 30-something woman, I have breast cancer.

Usually, these conversations center around someone telling me about their mother/sister/aunt/friend/cousin that battled breast cancer, and that person’s story, and how the well-meaning stranger just knows I’ll beat it and be a survivor and…

Then, they see my blue bracelet on my wrist and stop, and look at me with a perplexed smile on their face.  Or, they ask how I was diagnosed, and I tell them I had a colonoscopy.  I’ve even had someone ask me where I had my reconstruction done, since “they” look so good.  *sigh*

These moments can (and often do) become a teaching moment.  I’ve become, whether I like it or not, a walking billboard for colon cancer.  I tell my new friend that I’m a colon cancer survivor, and more often than not, the reaction is confusion.

“But that doesn’t happen to women.”

“I didn’t know it could happen to someone so young.”

Colon cancer does not discriminate.  Traditionally, it’s diagnosed in people over the age of 50.  However, recently, there’s been an increase in the number of people diagnosed under the age of 50.  Matter of fact, the age group with the largest increase in diagnoses is 20-29 years old.

There is a lot of research currently taking place to try to determine reasons for this disturbing statistic.  I won’t use this forum to speculate on those reasons.  I will, however, provide you with a few things you can do to help lower your risk.  I’ll also provide you with some of the most common signs and symptoms, so that you are armed with what you need for early detection.

Consider your car: you put fuel into it, you get the oil changed, and you perform routine maintenance on it.  These steps are required to ensure that it will start when turn the key.  Your body requires the same upkeep — proper fuel, routine check-ups, etc.

It is a proven fact that cutting down your intake of red meat can decrease the potential of colon polyps, which are the pre-cursors to colon cancer.  I’m not asking you to never eat steak again.  Instead, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and increase your intake of whole grains.  Remember that the food you eat is fuel for your body.  If you don’t put the proper fuel into your body, it may not run as well as you’d like it to.

Exercise is a must — it’s not an option.  Our bodies are meant to be used; if we are sedentary because of our jobs, it is our responsibility to make sure that we carve out regular time to work out.  I’m not recommending that you go out tomorrow to run a marathon – but, start out by walking for 20-30 minutes daily.  Regular exercise increases your body’s ability to fend of disease, recover from illness, fight off germs, and increases your endorphins (those feel-good hormones).  It helps provide your body with the strength and endurance to fight and recover from the awful things that can (and, let’s be honest, will) happen to it.

Be aware of the signs of colon cancer.  Be aware of your body, and be strong enough to talk with your doctor if you have concerns.  Colon cancer is much easier to beat when it’s found in the earliest stages.  If you have blood in your stool, changes in your bowel movements, unexplained weight loss or gain, or you feel like you are not emptying your bowel after a movement, talk with your doctor.

Typical screening for colon cancer begins at 50, if you are asymptomatic and you have no family history of colon cancer.  However, if a first- or second-generation relative (parent, sibling, child, grandparent, etc.) has a history of colon cancer, you should start getting colonoscopies 10 years prior to that person’s diagnosis.  For example, I was originally diagnosed at the age of 31 — my children will need to start getting colonoscopies at the age of 21.

In addition to the above, you must also get screened if you have symptoms.  You may be able to explain away some blood on your stool, occasional diarrhea, constipation, or bloating…but, wouldn’t it be nice to know that what you’re experiencing is nothing more than a hemorroid, a reaction to your diet, or dehydration?  That peace of mind?  Yes — it’s worth it.  Believe me, it’s better than the alternative.

This month, the pink ribbon is everywhere.  We are all more conscious about breast self-exams, mammograms, and general awareness of this awful disease.  Please remember that you need to be aware of your body all year long, and to talk with your doctor if you have any questions.  If something doesn’t feel right, don’t blow it off.  In my case, talking about my concerns saved my life.  Because I had an uncomfortable conversation with my doctor, I’m here to raise my children.

And, for the record, while my fight isn’t over yet, I’m winning.  🙂  Michelle 2, Cancer 0.

Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 22

This week, I have some personal accounts of cancer for you. They are not all breast cancer, but really, “You have cancer” has a smiliar effect on anyone, regardless (more or less) of what kind of cancer it is.

Today’s personal account is from a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. She is a breast cancer survivor.

As I pondered about what to write for this piece, it occurred to me that I did not wish to dwell on the physical aspects of this journey, because in reality it has been a much more profound emotional and psychological experience.

I am a believer that all things happen for a reason. That reason may not be apparent to you at first, or even for many years. However, the journey you take may not just be about you. It may be for someone else’s benefit. Perhaps someone you love needs to learn lessons from your experience. We are always teaching.

I have learned that so much of what we have to deal with daily is insignificant and unimportant. Many people are so wrapped up in themselves…what they wear, what they drive, what kind of electronic device they own etc. These “things” do not define who we are, no more than this diagnosis defines me!!! Are you kind? Are you compassionate? Are you emotionally intelligent? Are you emotionally available to others? This is what really matters…at least for me!

I have learned to be careful not to be too quick to judge others, for everyone is struggling with their own battles. Say a kind word, smile more, lend a hand, and speak softly.

I have learned, most importantly, that I am loved!! The support and immense love I have felt from my family and friends through their acts of kindness and caring have been overwhelming and humbling. When we are faced with our own immortality, these are the things that matter. It may sound cliché, but remember that every day is a gift, that is why it is called the present.

Epilogue:

What a coincidence!!!……..

As I am writing this, I am on a flight to Salt Lake City. The airline is selling “pink” lemonade for $2.00, with 50% of the proceeds going to breast cancer awareness and research. I don’t like the “pink thing” much. It is corporate’s way of capitalizing on someone else’s tragedy to make a buck. Distasteful to me….just my thought.

Cancer: An Invitation to Grow (guest post)

Today’s post is a guest post from David Haas. He blogs at Haas Blaag. You can also follow him on Twitter at @dhaas22.

Cancer. No one system of medicine or healing can claim the kind of quick success many people crave. Terminal conditions and cancer are in transitory states all the time: people will have good days and bad days. On the good days, it is critical to remember how to take care of the basics; on the bad days, it is critical to remember you need to fight.

Here is a humble list of the basics that work best when combined:

Nutrition
Nutrition includes guiding more oxygen into the blood through deep, calm, continuous breathing. Super-greens mixed with almonds, fruit, and yogurt in a blender.  Less Meat can be a good thing. This can help make a healthier body to help fight the cancer. Can you invent a recipe for health?

Heather’s note: my oncologist’s office recommended that I not eat fresh fruits or veggies, as they often contain germs that my depressed immune system might not be able to fight off. Raw or frozen – no good. Cooked – good. Since my immune system has recovered, however, smoothies like this one have become a regular part of my diet.

Circulation
Inventing ways to move the blood through injured or diseased areas may be difficult and uncomfortable. However, when you gently guide your blood with your mind to these areas, natural circulation causes wounds to repair — with time. Can you invent a posture that improves your movements?

Heather’s note: Again, this was not applicable to me, as I had a blood cancer. That said, good posture has an army of benefits, whether you are a cancer patient or not.

Calm the Central Nervous System
Not only does the nervous system more appropriately respond to the cancer or illness when it is calm, using therapeutic sounds/ meditation can cause immune system receptors to vibrate. Can you find a CD/mediation that has this effect on your nervous system?

There is so much individual personality involved in the successful management of a cancer condition.  Increasing one’s mesothelioma life expectancy is very different then increasing a breast cancer life expectancy.

Experiment
This is the stage where you do not yet know what works for you. You may decide to begin with any of the above categories or invent one of your own. Most people who have diseases encounter disturbing past memories when they sit with their illness long enough. If you can listen to the memories with a strong and neutral frame of mind yet always entering a positive frame of mind, the memories will circulate. Eventually this difficult practice promotes a healthy, present mind.

Investment
When you know the difference between what makes symptoms worse and what makes them better, it is time to invest more in the former while de-vesting from the latter.

Duration
How long you can sustain new habits is often a matter of building a good support network for your new lifestyle. The discomfort in the beginning will subside as the benefits of your practice accumulate — with time.

Serious conditions are a rather blunt invitation to grow as a human being. The good news is that we have been invited to grow as human beings.

Are You A Testament to “Change IS Possible”?

Hello, fabulous readers!

I am thinking ahead to when The Kid arrives … there’s not going to be a whole lot of blogging going on for a while around that time.

I thought it would be neat to have a series of guest posts of people telling their story. I know personally half a dozen people who have made huge changes in their lives in just the last year or two. I have no idea how many others have done similar things, or did them longer ago and I just don’t know about it.

If you’d like to share your story, please contact me at heather at secondchancefit dot com.

Does it need to be an amazing tale of losing tons of weight? No! You can write about changing a bad habit, making healthier habits, how your eating/drinking/exercising/use of chemicals/stress management/general mindset have changed. You can write about the snowball effect: you changed one little thing which led to another and then another. It can be something that was triggered by an event (illness in yourself or someone else, a car accident, etc.), something that you just decided, or something that someone else encouraged you to do that you decided to do. You can write about something else that I’m not thinking of off the top of my head.

In my life, if this request were made of me, I might write about:

  • doing my first 5K
  • doing my first triathlon
  • the gradual change of my eating habits over the past 10+ years
  • my more recent awareness of chemicals in foods, drinks, and storage containers
  • how being a cancer survivor has changed my life
  • how I’ve come to be more at peace with myself and my life and less of a stressball
  • how we continue to clean out/declutter the house and its effect on us mentally and financially

I’d like to have submissions by September 1 so we can make sure any revisions or anything are done and your post is ready to go. I’m due October 15, but The Kid seems to be growing much like I did, and I ended up being quite a bit early, so I’m looking to be ready to go by September 15.

Looking forward to reading your stories!

accommodating a vegetarian in a meat-eating family-guest post

If the 34 vegetarian recipes posted on this site so far aren’t enough to answer the “what can I feed a vegetarian?” question, perhaps today’s post will give you some guidance.

Today’s post is brought to you by Cindy Cullen who writes on the topic of culinary arts colleges . She welcomes your comments at her email id: cindycullen84 <@>gmail<.>com.

Vegetarian Meal Ideas for Mixed Families

What happens when one or more members of your family are staunch vegetarians and the rest must have meat at the table? Do you have to cook separate meals for the two groups or is there an easier way out? Vegetarianism is a fad for some, a test run for others, and a way of life for yet others. So if someone in your family decides to go the vegetarian way, don’t discourage their effort by refusing to cook for them – it’s not that hard to cater to a mixed crowd at the dinner table when you’re prepared and know what needs to be done.

  • Make some days wholly vegetarian days: Before you start to protest this meatless (pun unintended) idea, think of the benefits that wholesome vegetarian meals bring to your family’s health. Vegetables and fruits are filled with nutrients like vitamins and minerals which not only help you keep your calorie count down but also boost your general physical and mental wellbeing. Meat is rich in protein no doubt, but unless it’s lean and unless it’s fat-free, vegetarian meals are much better in terms of health. Also, when you go vegetarian a few days in the week, your menus become varied and you get to try out new recipes and food items.
  • Bring breakfast to lunch: If you’re stumped as to what to cook for your vegetarian child or spouse (or yourself) for lunch, go back to the breakfast menu to help you choose. An omelet is a great meal idea if they eat eggs, and if they don’t try out pancakes and waffles with fruit, honey and nuts. These make wholesome meals that include nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and the good kind of fat.
  • Replace the meat with vegetarian alternatives: If you’re cooking a meat dish with a salad and gravy or sauce, think of an equivalent vegetarian replacement for the meat – it’s similar to putting in a veggie patty into a burger instead of the meat. Soy, mixed vegetables, and potatoes are good substitutes that fill you up, and they can be eaten with the salad and gravy that you’ve prepared for the rest of the family. Do ensure that you keep the salad fully vegetarian by avoiding bacon bits and shredded chicken. And if your vegetarian does not eat eggs, avoid dressings that use eggs as an ingredient.

If you’re not used to cooking vegetarian, there will be times when you struggle to cater to the taste of your family member; however, if you’re armed with a few recipes and the necessary ingredients, it’s always possible to come up with some great vegetarian food.

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