By Heather Valladarez, social work counselor
"How do I work, take care of my kids, be a good spouse, and find care for my loved one during the day?"
"I am taking care of my dad throughout the day, but I don't have any time for myself. This is becoming stressful."
These are just some of the situations that bring stress to caregivers for cancer patients.
While the caregiving experience can be extremely rewarding, it can also be very challenging. This so-called caregiver fatigue can be difficult both physically and emotionally.
As a cancer caregiver, you may experience any or all of the following emotional or physical stressors:
- feeling overwhelmed
- a lack of energy or feeling tired for long periods of time
- sleeping too much or too little
- weight gain, weight loss or other physical symptoms
- losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Continue reading Cancer caregivers: 4 tips to reduce stress.
By Emily Weaver
Depression is a serious illness
that can have a major impact on an individual's quality of life. In fact,
15-25% of people diagnosed with cancer also suffer from depression. This is more than double that of the general
population. Studies show that mental health
and social well-being can affect the success of treatment.
Distinguishing depression from normal sadness
Depression is more than just the normal
feelings of sadness. Depression is a when an individual experiences at least
one of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:
- Feeling sad most of the time
- Loss of pleasure and interest in activities you used to
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Slow physical and mental responses
- Unexplained tiredness
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling guilt for no reason
- Decreased concentration ability
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Continue reading Depression in cancer patients: What you should know.
By Sarah Hines and Rebecca Savoie, social work counselors
A cancer diagnosis
is almost universally a life-changing event, with significant effects on patients, family and other loved ones.
Patients and caregivers affected by a brain tumor diagnosis
often face a unique set of challenges because a brain tumor
is often associated with the sudden onset of symptoms
that have both physical and cognitive effects. Brain tumor patients: Common challenges
Some common challenges faced by brain tumor patients include:
- Physical symptoms like headaches, seizures, vision and hearing loss, weakness or inability to move arms and legs and difficulty moving around
- Difficulty with language, both understanding and communicating
- Impaired reasoning, processing and decision-making capacity
- Word-finding difficulty, memory concerns and attention deficits
- Changes in personality and behavior (aggression, irritability, impulsivity or depressive symptoms)
- Loneliness, loss, anticipating loss or anxiety about death
- Role changes (from caregiver to the cared for, from breadwinner to disabled, from partner in relationship to dependent)
- Knowing who and how much to tell about your disease and when
- Difficulty navigating the health care system and communicating with health care professionals
Continue reading After a brain tumor diagnosis: Establishing a "new normal".
By April Greene and Wendy Griffith, social work counselors
Mother's Day is a special day that we set aside to celebrate our mothers and honor the joys of motherhood. But for moms diagnosed with cancer, this day can be especially trying.
While you may feel grateful to spend this special day with your children and loved ones, you also may wonder how many more Mother's Days you have left.
Some moms even feel guilty on Mother's Day because it reminds them of the things they can no longer do for their family.
Rather than focusing on the difficult feelings, why not focus on celebrating the real meaning of Mother's Day by spending time with your family and making memories that you'll all cherish?
Making handprints: An easy way to make memories
Making a handprint with your loved ones is one great way to do this - even if you're experiencing mixed emotions and limitations from cancer or cancer treatment.
Continue reading Moms with cancer: Making Mother's Day memories.
By Laura Nathan-Garner
A parent's cancer diagnosis can turn a child's world upside down, no matter how young or old the child is.
But coping with a parent's cancer diagnosis can be especially difficult for teens, tweens and even younger children.
Below our social work counselors April Greene and Wendy Griffith answer questions about parenting through cancer and helping kids and teens cope with a parent's cancer diagnosis.
What's the best way to talk to kids about cancer?
No matter what your prognosis is, it's essential to talk openly and honestly with kids. If you're telling your kids for the first time, try to have this conversation in a private space where you can focus on the discussion and be close enough to physically console your kids if needed.
Children tend to think in very concrete terms and like to know what's going on and what to expect. If they ask something that you don't know the answer to, it's okay to tell them that you don't know and that you will work on finding the answer. The most important thing is to communicate openly, honestly and frequently.
Continue reading When a parent has cancer: Helping teens and kids cope.
By Stephen Collazo, Department of Social Work
Today is National Healthcare Decisions Day.
Whether you're a patient or caregiver, having conversations about future care should be an essential part of your cancer treatment planning process at every stage. It should start at the time of diagnosis.
By preparing for your future, you can ensure your choices are given the utmost respect.
Here are some steps for implementing the advance care planning process in your specific medical situation. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it serves as a good starting point for patients and families.
Continue reading Advance care planning: 4 steps for planning your future.
By Crystal McCown, social work counselor fellow
Navigating your way through a cancer journey can be tough. It can be hard to find time to care for your body, spirit and mind.
Journaling is one way patients can care for themselves. Writing down your thoughts gives you an opportunity to work out your feelings and emotions, which may help you relax and find reasons to be happier and more hopeful about the future.
Methods of journaling
There are many different types of journaling. Here are a few you might want to explore:
- Gratitude journaling: Write down everything you're grateful for. This focuses your attention on positive aspects of your life.
- Blog: A blog is a website that you can easily update by writing short posts. Blog posts can be as simple as commentary on your day-to-day life and treatment, or reflection pieces exploring your life's purpose or connecting with a higher power.
- Stream-of-consciousness writing: Write down everything that comes to your mind. This unstructured, unedited writing will reflect your raw thoughts and observations.
- Art journaling: Draw, doodle or scrapbook what you're feeling and thinking.
- Line-a-day journaling: Limit yourself to a single line or sentence for the day.
Continue reading Journaling your way through cancer.
By Christine Durlam and Amy LaMarca Lyon, social work counselors
How will you tell your family and friends? Will your friends treat you differently? Will you have to quit your job? Who will take care of your kids?
It's normal to have these questions and thoughts. But it's important for you to know that you're not alone and that many others are facing these same challenges.
Here are a few tips for coping with a new diagnosis of cancer.
Continue reading 6 tips to cope with a cancer diagnosis.
By Emily Weaver, Social Work Counselor
You're sitting in the waiting room, your heart is racing, your palms are sweating and your blood pressure is rising.
You've had difficulty sleeping the past few nights because your mind is racing with worries about your upcoming CT or MRI scans.
You've considered cancelling your appointment, but know it will only delay your care in the long run.
Patients and cancer professionals call this "scanxiety." And, because CT and MRI scans are associated with the diagnosis of cancer, scanxiety is a normal feeling.
But sometimes scanxiety can interfere with your daily life and the ability to engage in your own medical care.
Here are strategies you can use to help manage scanxiety.
Continue reading CT and MRI scans: Tips for coping with stress .
By Sarah Hines
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
- Maya Angelou
While the masses are out shopping for long-stem roses, many of our patients and their loved ones find themselves preoccupied with MRI results, blood counts and chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, cancer doesn't only affect the individual who is diagnosed. Relationships are impacted, with spouses, partners, and significant others of patients facing many challenges and hurdles throughout the cancer journey.
As a couple adapts to a cancer diagnosis, it's important to understand that old communication patterns may no longer serve the same purpose. Couples often utilize very different coping styles to handle the diagnosis. Some openly express their emotions, while others reflect on them internally.
Continue reading Strengthening relationships during the cancer journey.
By Sarah Hines
"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., let's reflect on how the ideas of uniqueness and unity expressed in this quote apply to our lives and hold special meaning for those affected by cancer.
By understanding how your cancer experience is both unique to your own situation and similar to the experience shared by others, there's an opportunity to find both meaning and hope.
Understanding the uniqueness of cancer
The effect of cancer and treatment on the body
Not every type of cancer affects every person in the same way. The same is true for how different patients respond to different treatments and their side effects. Age, gender, physical activity, diet and environmental factors all differ from patient to patient.
Continue reading The cancer experience: Finding similarities in our unique experiences.
By April Greene and Wendy Griffith
With the holiday season upon us, there is no better opportunity to work on creating your legacy.
For many cancer patients, this can be a helpful way to cope with the cancer experience.
Creating your legacy isn't about death and dying, though. It's about life and living. It's about making connections and sharing precious moments with the special people in your life.
Legacy work is the act of putting the things you want your loved ones to remember about you or learn from you on paper or into a project or activity.
No matter what holiday you celebrate, the time you spend with loved ones and the memories that you make together will be a part of your legacy. They will live on for years and may even create traditions that will be carried on by future generations.
How to create memories
Wondering how your current holiday activities are contributing to your legacy? Or need some inspiration for creating some new traditions? Here are some ideas.
Continue reading How to build your legacy and make memories that last .