Finding inspiration in the wild

Steve is a guest blogger for the Cancer Support Community who shared his story on our website. If you have a story, experience or thought you would like to share with us click here.

Having survived 27 years with type 1 diabetes, triple bypass open heart surgery, two pancreas transplants and two cancer diagnoses, I feel very fortunate to be so healthy now. I have a transplanted pancreas producing insulin, and have achieved five years of remission.

This brings me to share an analogy on what is possible when we pursue our dreams, call upon our human spirit to rise above man’s most threatening diseases, and most importantly, are there for other human beings who are also faced with the demands of disease.

There are two animals who characterize what it is like to live with and beat life’s most dangerous diseases. One is the wild horned ram that lives in the deep canyons of Hawaii. The other is the masked Siberian husky. Each possesses a unique combination of qualities that help make it more likely to survive and thrive with when facing harsh demands.

The ram displays a rugged independence, and is able to stand alone against the harsh realities of the wilderness. The ram is determined to find a way that works for him. He is strong, can endure discomfort and always rise to the next level of rocks, brush and vegetation. Ultimately, he is a daring climber.

The Siberian husky is a quiet, self-reflective leader with a mask that distinguishes his bold face. He is tender, compassionate, free-spirited and optimistic. The husky’s special skill is his enormous endurance through a tundra that takes a toll on his body. The husky is more loyal than the ram and also shows more warmth.  The ram is a challenger with a feisty attitude.

As a result of knowing anything is possible, I cherish each and every day I’m alive. But an even more special and rewarding, is the joy of helping others who have medical needs, so they too can receive the same chances in life as I have. As each of us work together to accomplish this, it’s comforting to know that the spiritual qualities so eloquently expressed by the husky and the ram are in all of us.

-”HeartofSoul” Steve

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Tips for staying healthy during flu season

The winter months bring shorter days and cooler temperatures. Most people associate this season with celebrations and holidays, but it is important to remember that it is also influenza (flu) season.

Seasonal flu is a contagious illness caused by a variety of flu viruses, which spread in a number of ways. You can catch the flu if you are in close contact with someone who is already sick, or if an infected individual coughs or sneezes on or near you. Additionally, touching contaminated surfaces can also expose you to flu viruses.

Most flu viruses affect the respiratory system and cause symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, cough, sore throat, fatigue, runny nose, and body aches.

While it usually only lasts for a few days, the flu can lead to other complications such as bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic illnesses.

If you are living with cancer, getting the flu can put you at risk for additional complications. If you suspect you might have the flu, call your doctor right away and follow their advice closely.

Here are some precautions you can take this flu season:

  • Talk to your doctor about vaccinations or antiviral medications that could lower your chance of complications
  • If you start experiencing flu like symptoms at work, go home as soon as possible
  • Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap, or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer
  • Make sure your home and workplace have disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Disinfect frequently used surfaces at work and at home
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and face
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Avoid crowded spaces and large gatherings
  • Try to get enough sleep
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Drink plenty of fluids

For more information on healthy living, visit our Living Healthy With Cancer page.

 

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New Year’s resolutions for people living with cancer

New Year’s resolutions are tricky. It’s hard to break old habits and start new ones—so when you don’t have a strategy, lofty resolutions often end up falling flat. If you’re living with cancer and are trying to live healthier in the New Year, check out our suggestions below, and remember, if you’re considering making major changes to your exercise or eating habits, consult with your health care team first.

 

Move more—even if it’s just a little bit each day. If you’re like a ton of other people out there (myself included) you’ve probably made a resolution at some point to exercise more. This one can sound really fun at first, until you: a) realize you don’t really have a strategy for how to actually do this b) remember how cold it is outside in the beginning of the year  or c) were only half serious when you announced that this was your New Year’s resolution anyway.

Sadly, there’s a reason why gym memberships all go on sale in January but aren’t as hyped up a few months later in April. And if you have cancer, keeping your resolution to be more active can be even more of a challenge. However, you can still make a resolution to be more active without feeling ashamed by February (or the second week of January) for not sticking to your new fitness plan.

Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day, try to take some time to move more—even if it’s just taking a short walk outside with a family member or friend. If you live near a Cancer Support Community affiliate, take a look at their schedule of classes to see if one might fit your schedule. Physical activity can help you build energy, reduce depression and anxiety and improve your overall quality of life.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any sort of exercise program. Your health care team can help you determine what precautions to take when exercising and give suggestions for exercises that are right for you.

Eat better. Eating well when you have cancer can be a challenge for a lot of reasons. Finding the time to grocery shop and prepare a meal can be exhausting, and your treatment may be making you feel like you don’t even want to eat anyway.

If you don’t have much of an appetite, try eating several smaller meals during the day instead of three large ones. If you’re feeling nauseous, try to track times, foods, smells or events that seem to trigger your nausea and make accommodations accordingly. It may also be helpful to have crackers or ginger tea on hand, and to avoid foods that are spicy, fatty or overly sweet. Read more tips on managing these and other problems with food here.

If finding time is the issue, don’t be afraid to ask others for help in putting meals together. There may be quite a few people in your life who want to help you out but just don’t know how. Ask someone to help organize a meal calendar for you so that your friends, neighbors or coworkers can help you out with home-cooked meals. Free tools like Meal Train even help you coordinate  a schedule of who is bringing what so that you can be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need (and so that you don’t end up with a refrigerator full of just lasagna!)

Feel more confident at your next doctors’ appointment. How many times have you gone to a doctor’s appointment, only to come home confused, a little frustrated and left with tons of unanswered questions? It’s not just you—patient-physician communication is a big topic in health care today, and one of the Cancer Support Community’s resources, called Open to Options, is a great resource that can help you organize your questions and concerns beforehand so that you have a productive appointment.

If you give our Cancer Support Helpline a call (that’s 888-793-9355, by the way) you can set up an over-the-phone appointment with a trained call center professional. He or she will help you walk through your questions and concerns and organize them into a typed list for you—perfect for bringing along to your next appointment. This service is also available face-to-face at many of our affiliates across North America—and of course, it is free of charge.

You may also find it helpful to have a second set of ears at your next doctors’ appointment. Consider bringing along a family member or a close friend so that they can take notes for you while you listen.

Have something to look forward to. Is there a special event in the year ahead (graduation, wedding, reunion, etc.) that is important to you? Thinking about and planning for the future helps us to find hope and feel motivated in our everyday lives. Take a moment to write down your goals or dreams for the year ahead. The very act of writing things down can be therapeutic itself.

In addition to the tips in this blog post, check out our Living Healthy With Cancer fact sheet with information on eating right, staying active, preventing infection and managing your care, and listen to our internet radio show for information each week on how to live well with cancer.

Do you have any resolutions for 2013? What is motivating you to live healthier in the New Year?

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Happy holidays from the Cancer Support Community

The Cancer Support Community family wishes you and your loved ones a very joyous holiday! Please note that our Cancer Support Helpline will be closed on Christmas Eve (12/24), Christmas Day (12/25), New Year’s Eve (12/31) and New Year’s Day (1/1). If you are experiencing an emergency at that time, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Happy Holidays!

-The CSC Team

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Being a caregiver during the holidays

Support the ones you love this holiday season, but don't forget to take care of yourself.

The holiday season is in full swing with parties, family get-togethers, traveling and so much holiday shopping. This is one of the busiest times of the year for most of us, but for those caring for a loved one with cancer it can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. While caring for your loved one during the holiday season, don’t forget to take care of yourself.  Here are some tips for having a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.

  1. Have a support system in place.  Just because you’re taking care of someone else doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have people watching out for you too. Sometimes it can be hard to talk to your loved one, since you both have so much going on, and you want to be supportive of your loved one during this hectic season. But, don’t let yourself feel lonely or isolated.  Make sure you have someone to talk to and people in place to help you when you’re busy.
  1. Celebrate new traditions. Holidays are usually a time of celebrated traditions, but cancer could limit you and your loved one’s ability to participate in your usual holiday rituals. Use this year to create new traditions that are easier for your loved one to participate in so that you both aren’t left out of the holiday fun.
  1. Be willing to accept help. Just because you’re the primary caregiver for your loved one doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. The holidays are a time of giving, and many people will want to offer you any assistance you may need. Don’t be afraid to let them help you, whether it’s with cooking, holiday shopping, transportation or just by listening. The extra support will ease your stress and let you focus on being there for your loved one.
  1.  Be mindful of your own health. This time of the year isn’t just the holiday season. It’s also the start of cold and flu season.  It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself when you’re trying to protect your loved one from a winter cold or flu, but if you get sick they could get sick too.  Bundle up, wash your hands frequently, and try to avoid contact with others who have a cold or the flu.
  1. Don’t forget to use your resources.  You aren’t alone this holiday season. In addition to help from other friends and family members, CSC is also available for any support you may need to help you make the most of the holidays with your loved one. The Cancer Support Helpline is available for any questions or concerns you may have. Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The Helpline will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, so if you are experiencing an emergency at that time, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  You can also visit The Living Room at any time for help with being a caregiver during the holidays. Our online discussion board is available 24/7. And for more tips, you can visit our Caregiving page.

 

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