depression brain

Image: anxietybehaviour.com

The After period of breast cancer presents its own unique set of challenges. The anxiety and depression that sneaked in AFTER my breast cancer treatment was a real shocker. Once I was done with treatment, I thought I was done. However, yet again, breast cancer laughed right in my face!

The fantastic organization, Living Beyond Breast Cancer addressed anxiety and depression issues in a webinar (have you ever done a webinar? They are so great!) with psychiatrist Ruth H. Steinman in 2013. Boy, oh boy, was it great! I recently went back to LBBC’s website to listen to the podcast.

Dr. Steinman assured us that although conflicting emotions can be confusing to you and those around you, anxiety and depression after breast cancer is absolutely normal and these difficult-to-hold emotions usually lessen over time.

Here’s an interesting (and sometimes confusing) thing about anxiety and/or depression after breast cancer treatment: they tend to occur at various frequencies and levels of intensity.  These emotions can be suddenly re-experienced with “trigger events” such as anniversary dates, birthdays, holidays, etc.

I had a trigger event not too long ago when a woman I knew died after a very sudden breast cancer recurrence. The last time I saw her in Philly she was planning a birthday party for her son. Unfortunately, she died a few months ago. This sent chills down my spine and turned on my anxiety button. What I know is that these emotions can pop up at any time!

In the webinar, Dr. Steinman described certain things that can provoke anxiety and depression:

  • Pain, fatigue, nausea
  • Body image
  • Inability to care for family
  • Financial instability
  • Tests/scans – waiting for results
  • Appointments with oncology team
  • Hearing of others recurrence or death
  • Feelings of pain or fatigue, or develop a cough

She described the prevalent symptoms of anxiety and depression:

  • Fear
  • On edge
  • Restless
  • Muscle tension
  • Easily fatigued
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Problem with focus during day

Ummmm, I have had most all of these. Geesh! How about you? It just reiterates the fact that breast cancer is still never far from my mind.  In fact, it lingers just below the surface.

Below are some practical tips (you know I love practical tips!) to help manage these feelings:

  • Pace life to avoid being overwhelmed. While this is rather challenging, actively focusing on this does help. Just yesterday, I literally stopped myself in my tracks, sat down in a chair and rebooted at a slower pace.
  • Set short term goals. I frequently break my to-do lists down to the hour. In other words, I’ll say to myself, “In the next hour, I’m going to do so-and-so.”  This helps me immensely!
  • Work on developing non-cancer identity. From the time I started writing the blog, I have been adamant about cancer being one – just one! – part of my life. It is so important to identify with many more things in your life – other than cancer.
  • Spirituality I find a great deal of my spirituality comes from nature. Nature is a great sources of soulfulness and joy. When I am hiking or at the beach, I am joyfully reminded that I am part of something much, much bigger in the world.
  • Reinforce past adaptive strategies for coping under stress. In other words, ask yourself: What else has been difficult in your life and how did you handle?)
  • Support from family, community, health care providers. After my diagnosis and during treatment, I had the most amazing support system. It was truly incredible and I am still so grateful for the support. What I have found is that it’s ok – better than ok, actually – to lean on this support system even after treatment.
  • Writing. You know how I feel about writing. I write all the time. Much never even makes it to the blog. I especially like to write about gratitude and Shining Moments – shocker.
  • Diet, Nutrition & Exercise are so so so important!  Not only do they reduce the risk of recurrence, but they also help balance feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Complementary Therapies, such as meditation, energy work (Qi Gong, Reiki, etc. and relaxation techniques (breathing, muscle relaxation, guided imagery) continue to be hugely helpful when I’m feeling off-kilter.

If you have prolonged feelings of anxiety or depression, please-please-please call your doctor. The Shining Moment is that there are ways to help balance and contend with these trying feelings.

Additionally, you may also call the American Psychological Oncology Society Helpline: 1-866-APOS 4 Help (1-866-276-7443) http://www.apos-society.org/survivors/helpline/helpline.aspx

 

Posted in Clue Me In with Medical facts | Leave a comment

Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." - Mary Anne Radmacher

Posted in Cool Quotes | Leave a comment

sweet potatoes

Image: Womansday.com

Did you know microwaving potatoes saves at least 25 minutes over baking them? Yuppers. A friend introduced me to this easy-peasy recipe because I was complaining that I couldn’t find simple healthy recipes that were quick to make, especially after a long day at work. If you are like me, making something nutritious that is simple and fast works great for me after a 10+ hour day. If you agree, this is definitely the recipe for you. And if you prep the black bean topping (without the spinach) up to 2 days ahead, all you need to do is reheat it, then fold in the spinach.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs. total), scrubbed and patted dry
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 bunch spinach, thick stems discarded, leaves chopped
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 large lime, cut into 4 wedges, plus more for serving
  • 6 oz. nonfat Greek yogurt (about ½ cup)
  • Sliced scallions, for serving
  1. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork, place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high, turning over halfway through, until just tender, 16-18 minutes.
  2. Ten minutes before the potatoes are finished, heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the beans, cumin, cayenne and 2 Tbsp water, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, tossing, until the beans are heated through, about 2 minutes.  Add the spinach, season with ¼ tsp salt and cook, tossing until beginning to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes; remove from heat.
  3. Split the potatoes and season with ¼ tsp each salt and pepper.  Squeeze a lime wedge over each potato, then top with the bean mixture.  Serve with a dollop of yogurt, sliced scallions and extra lime wedges, if desired.

Enjoy!

 

Posted in Remarkable Recipes | Leave a comment

funk funk funk

Image: novidadesgratis.com

Sometimes when I have an upcoming oncology appointment, I get into a funkilation. Yes, I still worry, and hope that my numbers are good. I acknowledge the fact that today’s funk has gone to a whole new level. I can be the obsessive worrisome type. Yes, I admit that I can be a bit neurotic. But if I do happen to obsess about something outside of my oncology appointment, it’s usually when the next Anthropologie catalog is going to arrive (it did today, by the way…Shining Moment). It’s just how I roll. However, my blood draw and impending oncology appointment has me off my game. Typical for me.

One thing that I know for sure:  A funk is funk. It doesn’t do me a single bit of good to deny it or pretend that it’s not there. It is what it is. The good news is that there are Shining Moments during periods of funkilation, just as there were Shining Moments during my breast cancer or any pain or hardship in life. All I had to do was look for them and they always appeared. Always.

Posted in Other Gems | Leave a comment

care takers

Image: meglad.com

Today, is the seventh anniversary of my father’s passing. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, and other times, it feels like it was decades ago. For those of you who have lost a loved one, I’m sure you can sympathize. As the caregiver for my father, I often felt I needed support, but never had time for a support group.

Although he had vascular, pulmonary, and cardio difficulties, it was his kidneys that failed him. After many operations and multiple hospitalizations for a terrible bed sore that became infected, my father’s leg was amputated in 2007, leaving him wheelchair- bound. As the caregiver, I was with my father for each event, meaning multiple long drives, days off work, and many sleep overs.

During his recovery, I was expected to give him a shot that cost $5000 per injection. Holy moly! To cope with the stress of his care and numerous hospitalizations, I kept a detailed journal, and often found myself meditating regularly. However, I realized these things only got me so far.

Then I thought about my physical, emotional and spiritual health while moving closer and closer to his passing. I often found myself running on empty, with approximately 2-5 hours of sleep. Realizing that my health was important as well, I decided to write my intentions in my journal which I thought could help me to function better as his caretaker (Shining Moment).

First and foremost, I found my support system. I was always talking with others, particularly other caregivers in the doctor’s office or hospital setting. I learned that supportive professionals could offer me a sage outlet to discuss my feelings during my father’s lengthy hospital stays. Also, close friends and family ranked high in my support system.

Keeping up with my own health was a challenge for me. (His illness and death occurred prior to my diagnosis of breast cancer). I learned I had to take my own medications and not skip my own medical appointments. I had to get rest and exercise. It was extremely difficult taking time out for myself. In addition, I had to make sure I wasn’t afraid to laugh.

Teaching myself to see the glass as half full took a lot of effort. Quite often days were filled with pain and uncertainty. I tried to find the positives in what I was doing when helping my father. Reading the sports page to him is a memory I will have for the rest of my life.

Finding the new normal was a challenge as a caretaker. (I’m still trying to find the new normal after breast cancer)! I realized maintaining a good balance between the needs of my father and myself was a challenge. I had to allow myself to look at new roles and routines for close friends and family members.

Unfortunately, sometimes there is no knowing how things will unfold. I had to learn to let go of the need to control and go with the flow. Learning to become comfortable with uncertainty was the most difficult thing for me. To this day, learning to let go is still hard.

My mantra for other caregivers is to stop worrying, because it won’t change anything, and replace it with finding ways to make each day meaningful.

Posted in Other Gems | Leave a comment

A leader leads by example whether he intends to or not. - unknown

Posted in Cool Quotes | Leave a comment

valentines day gift

Image:  minted.com

Boy, oh boy, have I got the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day! It’s truly the best photo op, ever. Picture this: You can upload 30 photos, then have them printed in a heart-shaped collage and framed.  It’s the ultimate personal, distinctive gift for your loved ones (or yourself). You can find this Heart Snapshot Mix Photo Art, starting at $42 with frame at minted.com.

 

Posted in Retail Tips | Leave a comment

caregiver

Image: vminewengland.com

Caregiving can be a demanding and stressful experience, either personally or professionally. Sometimes I don’t think that caregivers get enough credit for what they do. “Caregiver fatigue” is a serious condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. I know it sounds rotten, but I’ve seen it happen and have a great deal of sympathy for these caregivers who suffer from it.

First diagnosed in the 1950’s by nurses who worked directly with trauma victims, the disorder now extends to any caregiver who experiences emotional, mental, or physical exhaustion – sometimes referred to as “burnout.” The most important way to prevent caretaker fatigue is simply to recognize that it can occur and be on the lookout for red flags or warning signs that tend to creep into the caregiver’s personal and professional lives (often without even realizing it.) Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Bitterness toward friends or family who do not help “as much as they could”
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits
  • Decrease in energy
  • Decrease in experiencing pleasure
  • Decrease in productivity
  • Failing health – frequent headaches, back pain, muscle aches
  • Feeling depressed, helpless, hopeless, or trapped
  • Impaired motor skills (slow or clumsy)
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Isolation from others
  • Lowered immunity (readily susceptible to colds, illness)
  • New feelings of incompetence and self-doubt
  • Over-reaction to small disturbances
  • Pervasive negative attitude
  • Procrastination (more than usual)
  • Profound exhaustion, tiredness (not relieved by sleep)
  • Skipping work or coming in late
  • Taking out frustrations on others
  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope

A caregiver experiencing burnout feels empty and beyond the capacity to provide care. It’s such a rotten feeling. I remember experiencing caregiver fatigue as a result of providing relief for my father who had pulmonary, cardio and vascular issues. I felt horrible, and not being able to muster the ability to concentrate, and an overall feeling of helplessness.

For many caretakers, the emotional fatigue is greater than the physical exhaustion. With caretaker fatigue, feelings of anger and resentment at the care recipient can occur followed by feelings of guilt. Caretaker fatigue has a variety of causes including being over-extended and receiving little to no appreciation or recognition. The Shining Moment is that caregivers can take steps to keep or regain balance in their lives including:

  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits
  • Be gentle with yourself – avoid self-destructive behavior
  • Communicate your feelings
  • Create time away from caretaking
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Know that you are not alone and seek support
  • Nourish your creative side and outside interests
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Set Boundaries. Don’t be too afraid, proud, or shy to ask for help.

If you are a caretaker, or have a caretaker, please be mindful of “caretaker fatigue” and take measures to keep the symptoms at bay or when they do arise, seek assistance.

Additional Resources:

Websites:

 

Posted in Clue Me In with Medical facts | Leave a comment

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Posted in Cool Quotes | Leave a comment

chickenblue

Image:  cooking-with-us.com

Did you know that 1.25 billion pounds of chicken wings are expected to be gobbled up on Super Bowl Sunday by Americans? (Source: The National Chicken Council) WOWZA! That’s a lot of chicken! If you are worried about calories during your Super Bowl Party and are looking for something less fattening, the wings in this recipe are for you. They are baked-not fried-to cut the fat. They are easy to make and sooooo good.

Dip

  • 4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper

Wings

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot)
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 lbs. chicken wings, tips removed, wings separated at joints

Make dip:  In a bowl, combine blue cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice and garlic powder, stirring well. Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and chill for 2 hours.

Make wings:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Place a large cooling rack on top of sheet, mist with cooking spray. In a small pan, combine ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, sugar and butter.  Cook over low heat, stirring, until well combined and smooth.  Pour into a bowl and let cool.  Pour ¼ cup of sauce into a small bowl; toss wings with ½ cup sauce until coated.  Place wings on rack.  Roast for 10 minutes, then brush with more sauce.  Roast 10 minutes longer; brush with more sauce.  Turn wings over, brush with sauce and roast 10 minutes. Brush with more sauce and roast for a final 10 minutes.  Remove wings to a large bowl and toss with reserved sauce.  Serve with blue cheese dip on the side.

 

Posted in Remarkable Recipes | Leave a comment