Thursday, April 28, 2011

Zzzz's - you CAN catch them!

One of the common complaints that I hear from those going through cancer treatment is difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. Sometimes insomnia can be the result of an anxious thought, pain, medications, or a combination of the same.

Experts suggest that you limit heavy meals and caffeine before bedtime. They also recommend you make your sleeping environment comfortable and dark. While there are several medications that can be prescribed or purchased to help you get to sleep and stay asleep, I have also found the following techniques to be helpful:

Develop a bedtime ritual
Before going to sleep, develop a ritual that is naturally relaxing and calming. Taking a relaxing bath, reading, listening to gentle music and enjoying aromatherapy are great ways to end a day. It helps the mind and body recognize that it is time to sleep and eases you into the transition.

Practice a pre-sleep breathing technique
Using progressive muscle relaxation combined with deep breathing exercises further calms your body and clears your mind before sleep. You may incorporate the use of peaceful imagery, or you can simply breathe and enjoy the benefits that deep breathing brings.

Repeat a soothing mantra
If you find that you have awakened from your sleep, before getting up and turning on the television try repeating a mantra and breathing deep to help you drift off again. It doesn’t happen immediately, but with practice you can condition yourself to fall back asleep. Don’t spend more than 20 minutes trying to fall asleep, though. Get up and do something else then start the pre-sleep technique again.

What have you found to be successful? Post and share with others!

~ Tiffany, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ready, Set... Return to Work?!

Returning to work after an illness is never easy. For those contemplating a return to work after cancer or in midst of cancer treatment, it may be helpful to consider the following:

How has the treatment affected my ability perform my job duties?
Chemobrain, fatigue, pain, loss of sensation in hands and feet…any of these symptoms can interfere with your job performance. Fatigue and lack of endurance may limit your ability to work extended hours, travel frequently, or perform physically demanding jobs. Chemobrain may create difficulty with word retrieval and concentration while pain may even reduce your ability to sit or stand in one position for any length of time. Take a moment to assess these areas as you approach your return to work.

Are there ways I can prepare for my return?
After you have made an honest assessment of your ability to perform your job duties, the next step is to have a conversation with your employer. Talk about what is realistic for you and what you need to perform better. Find out if modifications to your work environment are possible and if there are other resources to help ease your transition. Having a trusted peer or supervisor review your work until you are comfortable with your ability to produce accurate data is sometimes helpful. Some individuals find success in writing everything down or using a tape recorder if allowed to not miss any detail.

Will my health status be considered in evaluations?
Be practical as you approach this topic with your manager. Make sure that it will not be held against you if you have to take time for medical appointments. Ask about having your health considered when productivity goals are set.

You may find other helpful tips or information by contacting The Patient Advocate Foundation at or by calling your local vocational rehabilitation office.

What advice do you have for those returning to work?

~ Tiffany, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Written from the Heart

Last summer my sister and I were visiting our parents and discovered our old diaries. We both used to journal daily when we were in high school and college, so there were several in the box. We shared some memories with each other, like ending a relationship, watching a best friend move, and losing a grandparent and both agreed that journaling got us through some difficult times. We were also able to reminisce about our successes and other great memories.

Whether you write about your thoughts about treatment options, your fears about recurrence or frustrations with fatigue, journaling can be a way a great way to clarify your thoughts and problem solve. Journaling can also help you express your hopes, dreams and plans for when treatment ends.

Tips for getting started: find a quiet place, set a goal to write at least 10-15 minutes, and then write whatever comes to mind. If writing your thoughts intimidates you, start with your day-to-day schedule: what you liked and what you would change if you could have a ‘do over.’ Always try to end with something positive.

Journaling is not for everyone, if you find that writing is more stressful than beneficial, you might want to pursue other means of expression. What experiences have you had with journaling?

~ Debbie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, April 8, 2011

Relaxation - Just Try It!

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum

Who has time to relax after receiving a cancer diagnosis, and worrying about treatment and how it will affect your family, finances and future?! Well, now is the perfect time to relax! Studies confirm that there are both physical and psychological benefits from relaxation. Some of these benefits include reduction in anxiety and depression and improvement with memory. Other benefits include reducing nausea and improving digestion. There are several methods used to achieve relaxation:

  • Deep breath exercises, where you inhale from the diaphragm, hold your breath and slowly exhale.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense and relax various muscles from head to toe.

  • Imagery, where you visualize a peaceful place or color to relax you.

  • Meditation, where you relax your mind. You pick a mantra, or word that brings positive thoughts, and repeat the word over and over again.

At Buddy Kemp, we invite you to join our program, “Techniques for Relaxation, Meditation & Healing,” where you can learn relaxation and meditation techniques to help facilitate healing and symptom management. The program is every Monday from 7 – 9 p.m.

What other techniques help you relax?

~ Debbie, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center