Thursday, November 18, 2010

Surviving Holiday Stress!

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us start to feel stress build at the thought of traveling, entertaining and merely surviving the activities that we are anticipating. On the other hand, some may be dreading the season due to the loss of a loved one, or because of the inability to fully enjoy the activities of the season due to cancer treatment. In either case, the holidays can be a stressful time for many. How do you handle this stress when your energy is already zapped?

First of all, it is important to plan ahead and simplify as much as possible. Think about what you would like to do and this year don’t worry about what others expect of you. This is the time to take care of yourself, and trying to keep up with your pre-cancer pace may not be realistic right now.

Second, set limits and make time to rest! You know best how much you can handle, and it is important for you to stick to those limits. Be sure to take breaks and try not to spread yourself too thin. It’s ok to say no if you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.

Enlist help and seek support when you need it. Ask others to assist if you are playing host or hostess. Delegate responsibilities when possible. If you are grieving, reach out for support from friends, family or a support group. The holidays can be a very tough time, and trying to get through them alone without the necessary support can make them even more difficult.

~ Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sexuality, intimacy... and cancer?

Sexuality and intimacy….two words that cancer survivors are often afraid to consider, but words that are relevant and significant to their well-being nonetheless. Considering about half of all cancer survivors experience sexual problems after treatment, it is a subject worth addressing. Unfortunately, many people don’t feel comfortable bringing up the issue, so they wait for their doctor to do it and sometimes it never happens.

Oftentimes survivors feel that they should just be grateful that they are surviving, and their sexual concerns shouldn’t be important. Other times the thought of anything sexual or intimate seems scary or downright impossible due to the treatment they have had.

Cancer treatment has both physical and mental effects on people. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can all affect one’s libido and self image. They can cause one to withdraw from his or her partner, become depressed and have difficulties with sexual activity.

It is important to talk about these issues, as they can lead to further problems in current relationships or with prospective relationships, as well as be very harmful to one’s self esteem. Talking to a counselor is a good place to start, and physical therapy can be helpful for certain types of problems caused by treatment. Just don’t give up or assume your problem is just something you’ll have to live with. Help is available.

~ Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - Timeout Needed

Jessica filling in for Liana…

Liana has a lot going on at home right now and asked that she have the week off from blogging. Sometimes we get to a point that we just need to sit back and realize we need a break. It is important for us to know ourselves and know when we need to step back, take a breath and think about our needs.

Often when we have someone else in our house with a lot going on, like cancer, it is hard to think about ourselves. Many times we think that we need to put that other person first and then us. But – like I’ve said so many times before, we can’t do anything for someone else until we’ve helped ourselves. This week, Liana has done that and she has asked me to let you know why.

Last week, Liana’s family was told by her dad’s team of doctors that the tumor in his brain is growing and spreading to other parts of his brain. Right now, there are not any other treatments that will help to stop the growth of the tumor. There are some medicines available that will help with some of the side effects of the tumor to make him more comfortable, but nothing that will stop the growth of the tumor. Liana and her family are staying positive and are remaining optimistic about what will come next for her dad.

I thank Liana for allowing me to share this news with all of you. I hope that this will remind you that you are not alone and there are other people your age learning how to navigate cancer. Please keep this family and all families like Liana’s in your thoughts as they navigate the road ahead.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Glass Half Full - Impressions of an Oncology Social Worker

“You work in oncology? Isn’t that depressing?”

I hear this a lot. Actually I get almost that same reaction in some form each time I tell someone what I do. I’ve gotten used to it, and it doesn’t surprise me. What does seem surprising to some, though, is my response. No, it isn’t depressing. Of course there are some sad times, given the nature of the work. However, “sad” isn’t how I would describe the overall feeling I get when I am with my clients. Amazed, inspired and encouraged better describe the effect they have on me.

I am always amazed by the strength and resiliency of the survivors who cross my path. I have learned so much from them about finding inner strength and about finding blessings and hope when things seem to be falling apart. I have watched survivors endure surgeries and treatments that do their best to knock them down, yet they find that strength to get up and keep going.

I also see this same type of strength in caregivers. They often willingly and lovingly make many sacrifices to care for their loved ones. These demonstrations of selflessness and love are inspirational and encouraging.

When people make the assumption that my job would be depressing, I often wonder if they know any cancer survivors. Have they ever really talked to someone who has battled this disease? Because regardless of whether someone has finished his or her fight or is still fighting, I believe there is a lot to be learned. Not how sad it is to have to battle a disease such as cancer, though this is undeniably so, but rather how amazing, inspiring, and encouraging it is to know someone with the strength and grace to battle a disease such as cancer.

Julie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesdays with Liana - talking about cancer

It’s Jessica, chiming in for Liana this week!

Is it difficult for you to talk about cancer? When someone asks about your parent who may not know they have cancer, is it easy for you to tell other people that your parent has cancer? Or when someone asks you how you’re doing with everything, are you able to answer honestly?

Sometimes it is easier for us to pretend that are handling things ok and not deal with things that bother us. And yes, I will agree, in the moment it is probably less painful to hide our emotions and pretend we don’t feel bad or upset about something. However, in the long run not dealing with these feelings causes more trouble down the line. If we find a useful way to work out our negative feelings, then later we will be better equipped to handle them in other situations.

So this week if you don’t already have someone, find a person with whom you are comfortable talking and can share your feelings. Some people who can be helpful in listening to you would be one or both of your parents, another close relative, a friend’s parent, teacher, counselor or even someone at a religious group you are apart of.

Share with us some people you have found helpful to talk to and with whom you feel comfortable sharing.