10 Ways to Help Siblings of Cancer Patients

 

Cancer has a profound effect on the entire family, especially when it’s a child whose been diagnosed.  While everyone is understandably focused on the care of the ill child, it’s natural for siblings to feel anxious, neglected, scared and even resentful at times.  MD Anderson‘s website offers great advice via podcast on how to tell children that sibling has cancer.  Click HERE to listen to it.

 

The article below was posted on The Primary Children’s Hospital of Salt Lake City, Utah. It offers good suggestions for helping siblings not get lost in shuffle so I am re-posting it here on CancerHawk.  For more insight into this topic as well as other children’s issues, check out the Primary Children’s Hospital blog “Play Ground“, it’s packed with lots of helpful information.

 

“A cancer diagnosis in a child affects the entire family. Out of necessity, the sick child gets more attention from parents and often receives special treatment or gifts. The sick child’s siblings are very aware of this shift in the family dynamic and are impacted by the emotional turmoil.

Young children may regress in their behavioral development, potty training, and sleeping habits. Older kids may experience feelings of jealously and resentment toward their sibling, or feel a sense of guilt for being well. They may even feel that their sibling’s illness is somehow their fault. Siblings of cancer patients may also feel pressure to take on added responsibilities in an attempt to reduce the stress that the cancer has placed on the family. In many cases, worries become internalized and causes siblings to feel isolated from their peers. These children often have a hard time concentrating in school.

Primary Children’s cancer team understands the ripple effects that cancer has on families. Our Social Workers and Child Life Specialists can provide parents with information that will help them have productive discussions that can benefit the whole family.

As an important part of a family’s treatment plan, parents may also consider a “Sibling Session.” Sibling Sessions provide all members of the family with the opportunity to discuss difficult emotions and family changes. The sessions allow children to openly communicate their feelings about having a brother or sister with a life-threatening disease. By freely sharing their fears and concerns with others, the siblings of cancer patients can more effectively work through their emotions and can increase acceptance of the new family dynamic—and possibly prevent future problems. It can also help to clear up any misconceptions about the illness with age-appropriate teaching.

One key issue centers on communication between well siblings and the child with cancer. Well siblings should be encouraged to maintain communication with the sick sibling, but should be given the choice whether or not to visit the hospital. If the well children want to visit, prepare them beforehand about the state of the sick child and what they will see at the hospital. Use words they understand, but use correct terms like cancer, leukemia, and chemotherapy. Using the proper words makes the situation less scary. If a well sibling does not want to visit, don’t push it. However, you should encourage some form of communication, such as letters, text messages, or using Facetime/Skype.

Other Ways Parents Can Support Siblings of Cancer Patients:

  1. Be open and honest with them about the seriousness of the situation.
  2. Give them permission to express feelings of guilt, jealously, anger, sadness, fear, and love—and validate these feelings.
  3. Spend as much time with the well children as possible—by phone, at the hospital, or in extra one-on-one time at home.
  4. Continue daily routines as much as possible. Maintain the same boundaries and same rules for both the sick and well children. Continue to talk with well children about what’s going on in their lives, including everyday things.
  5. Reassure them that just because their sibling is sick, they won’t become sick as well. And, assure them that this is not their fault and they did nothing to cause the illness.
  6. Keep school teachers informed about the situation so that they will be sensitive about the well children’s feelings and concerns.
  7. Stress the healthy aspects of the sick child, such as his/her sense of humor, interests, and talents.
  8. Be careful not to burden well children with extra duties and thank them for their help.
  9. Give well children permission not to talk just about their sick sibling with others. They may be getting asked a lot about their sibling and this gives them permission to talk about themselves and their accomplishments as well.
  10. Ask friends who want to give the sick child a gift to make it a family present so all siblings will reap the benefits of a caring family and community.”

Do you have any suggestions to help siblings of a cancer patient?

5 Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

PicMonkey Collage2

 

Getting through the holiday season can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but if you or a loved one is facing cancer, the holidays can be especially trying.  For some people, the demands of the season will be physically and emotionally overwhelming. For others, treatments and unpleasant side effects can disrupt long-held traditions.

Dana Farber Cancer Institute posted these 5 tips for reducing holiday stress:

1. Keep it simple

Don’t worry about doing it all. Baking cookies or entertaining might have been easy in the past, but may seem overwhelming this year. Pick one or two special traditions and then ask family and friends for help. Make a list of what is most meaningful and prioritize. Some families even create new traditions when a loved one is going through treatment. Instead of a big holiday party, this year, plan a small potluck dinner and have everyone pitch in.

2. Go online

Skip the long lines and mall mayhem this time of year. Crowded shopping centers may be filled with holiday cheer, but they can be overwhelming. Shopping online lets people browse from the comfort of their couch. Invite friends over for gift wrapping or a cookie swap. Simple homemade gifts and cards, or even a phone call, can be just as special. The Internet is full of holiday e-card options and even grocery delivery services.

3. Express yourself

As the song says, this is the happiest time of the year. But if you or a family member is not feeling that way, it’s okay. Don’t feel obligated to be festive. Remember that it’s okay to show emotion – tears can bring a sense of relief. Pay attention to feelings and signs of stress. Joy can be side-by-side with other emotions like sadness or frustration, and it can help to talk these through with a loved one or a professional counselor.

4. Listen to your body

Fatigue due to cancer treatment is a common problem, so try to balance activity with rest. Conserving energy this time of year is important for most everyone. It’s important for people going through treatment to plan activities when they typically feel at their best and be sure to set aside time to relax and recover. Also stick to healthy activities. Take a walk with family or friends.

5. Plan a little “me” time

Do something enjoyable for yourself. This can provide a break from worries, and renews a sense of hope and satisfaction with life. Watching a favorite movie, talking to friends, playing seasonal music, or getting some fresh air can give a sense of peace and hopefulness. Try to focus on things to be thankful for to help enjoy – and let go of – what you can.

 

What do YOU do to reduce stress while celebrating the holidays with cancer?  Email robyn@cancerhawk.com OR tweet your suggestions to @CancerHawk and we’ll post them on our site.  

 

@CancerGamePlan tweeted that she makes gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Chocolate Pudding Cake laughing a ton with those you love most!

@mandahuginkiss says that it’s important to be around friends & family but in quieter gatherings.  Try not to over do it.  Indulge a little.

Announcing Cancer Survivor’s Scholarship

I’d like to introduce you to yet another new scholarship program for cancer survivors- the first annual Survivors Scholarshipcreated and funded by The Law Offices of Chalik & Chalik.  This $1000 scholarship is open to any cancer survivor attending college or law school this spring.  The award will be paid directly to the college in the student’s name to help with tuition or materials costs.  Additional requirements include:

  • Recipient must be a U.S. citizen or otherwise authorized to work in the United States
  • Recipient has been accepted, and will be or is attending a certified University or Law School in the Spring of 2015
  • Academic achievement as reflected by an undergraduate cumulative minimum 3.0 GPA

 

How to Apply

Complete the Survivors Scholarship online application as well as a short personal essay about how cancer has influenced your choice to pursue a higher education.  Applicants will also be required to provide an official copy of his or her college or high school transcripts.  The deadline is January 12, 2015. (scholarship will applied to the upcoming spring semester).

The scholarship winner will be determined solely by a selection committee based on the written essay and application criteria listed above.

For more information, visit Chalik & Chalik Survivors Scholarship website.

All questions should be directed to media@chaliklaw.com.  For more information, visit Chalik & Chalik Survivors Scholarship website.

Pam’s Angel Kit Gives Comfort & Warmth

 

Image
We all need a little love once in a while… and if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are receiving chemotherapy, check out the Pamela A. Kearby Foundation.   To help provide comfort and alleviate some of the more common side effects caused by chemotherapy, the foundation delivers Pam’s Angel Kits (PAK) to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas) area FREE of charge.

 

The PAK includes items such as a soft travel pillow and a warm, cozy blanket plus an inspirational book, a glass water bottle, word search and crossword puzzle books to keep the mind active, lip balms & lotions, a PAK t-shirt and even a few nutritional snacks as a healthy diet has shown to be beneficial towards the healing process.

 

If you live outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, these bags are available for purchase.  (BTW, long term, the Foundation hopes to get these bags to as many men and women as possible, and not only for those with a breast cancer diagnosis but for any individual going through treatment regardless of where they live.)

 

If you know of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy for a diagnosis of breast cancer or if you yourself are a patient and would like one of these comforting kits, please visit the Pamela A. Kearby Foundation or email them at pamsangels12@gmail.com.

 

 

Giving Thanks for this FREE Thanksgiving Dinner

 

Fifth Season Financial is looking to donate a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings to three patients diagnosed with an advanced cancer and their families.

Here’s how it works:

Visit Fifth Season Financial.com to fill out the form on the right side of the page.  You can either nominate a patient or they can fill out the form themselves.  Entries must be made on behalf of a person who is:

  • 18 years or older
  • Diagnosed with an advanced cancer
  • A United States citizen or permanent resident

At 11:00 am on November 20, three winners will be selected. Winners will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $250 to be used at a local supermarket or food caterer.  Winners will be contacted directly so they can provide details of where their special dinner should be ordered from and sent to.

#ThankfulForYou #HappyThanksgiving

Questions to Ask Your Oncologist at the Initial Consultation

 

When we received Alan’s diagnosis of sarcoma, we were in complete shock and terrified. We could barely breathe, much less begin to have an intelligent conversation with our doctor.  Fortunately we had a day to process the diagnosis and were then able to make an attempt at preparing for our initial meeting with our medical oncologist.

 

Depending on the doctor that you are meeting with, he or she may or may not be proactive in giving you all the information you need to really understand what’s going on.  Since you don’t know ahead of time which type of doctor you’ll be meeting, it’s best to come prepared with a written list of questions you have.

 

Cancer.net and MyCancer.com are two sites that list out fantastic questions to ask your doctor before you begin cancer treatments.  Below are some of the questions found on these sites as well as from my own personal experience.  Ask only those questions that you believe would help you, and feel free to overlook those that wouldn’t.

  • What are my treatment options?
  • Which treatments, or combination of treatments, do you recommend? Why?
  • What is the goal of the treatment you are recommending?  To cure or to extend life or to ease symptoms?
  • When will you know if the treatment is working and how?
  • What clinical trials (research studies involving people) are open to me?
  • Who will be part of my treatment team, and what does each member do?
  • How much experience do you (or the treatment team) have treating this type of cancer?
  • How effective and useful do you feel biomarker testing and analysis are for my particular cancer?
  • How likely is it that molecular profiling will uncover something useable for my cancer?
  • What will happen if molecular profiling identifies an “off-label” treatment that might be effective for me?
  • Will I need to be hospitalized for treatment, or is this treatment done in an outpatient clinic?
  • What is the expected timeline for my treatment plan? Do I need to be treated right away?
  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
  • What are the expected (not possible) side effects of the treatment you are recommending?
  • Will this treatment affect my fertility (ability to become pregnant or father children)?  If so, have a discussion on fertility preservation.
  • How can I keep myself as healthy as possible during treatment?
  • Are there any supplementary treatments, vitamins or nutritional aids that would help my treatments?

 

A few additional suggestions…

  • If possible, bring a friend or someone who can be objective on the appointment(s) with you.  These appointments can be overwhelming and processing all the information you will be given may be difficult to do.
  • Take notes or better yet, bring a recorder (Thank goodness for smart phones).
  • Know that at each doctor’s appointment and stage of treatment, more questions will come up.
  • Ask questions, even if you think they’re stupid.  After all, the only stupid question is a question not asked.
  • When formulating treatment plans, always get a second opinion.  Although it might seem overwhelming, second opinions will either confirm what you’ve already been told or present different options to weigh.

 

What additional questions did you ask or wished you had asked?  Do you have any additional advice for the newly diagnosed?  

Personalizing Your Treatment Plan with Cancer Panels

 

No two people are alike; and no two cancers are alike.  This explains why two people with the same cancer diagnosis can respond differently to the same treatment regimen. This is the basic premise behind precision medicine and individualized treatments.

 

Now imagine a room filled with top oncology experts and scientists.   In this room, a 3 hour conversation takes place about one individual’s cancer diagnosis.  Various treatment approaches- both conventional and novel are discussed and debated.  The end result: the treating physician is given treatment recommendations created just for that cancer patient by renowned oncology experts.  Talk about personalized medicine at it’s best!  Watch one patient’s perspective on Cancer Panels in the above video.

 

Panels can be set in as little as two weeks and are typically led by Dr. David Sidransky, renown oncologist and researcher.  The panel also reconvenes at a later date via teleconference to review the cancer patient’s progress and other developments.  If necessary, the panel will make additional treatment recommendations and suggestions. For more information, visit Cancer Panels website.

What Everybody Ought to Know About Fertility Preservation & Cancer

Chemotherapy and radiation can harm your fertility or cause sterility.  For women, certain therapies can cause ovarian damage or failure, early menopause, genetic damage to growing eggs and other reproductive problems.  For men, treatments can cause damage to the testes and interfere with sperm production.

With that said, not all cancer treatments harm fertility.  The likelihood that this will occur depends on several factors, including type of cancer, treatment regimen, and age at the time of treatment.  Fertility issues can be a temporary or permanent side effect of treatment.  They can also occur immediately or at some point after treatment has ended.

Fertility preservation is an option for those cancer survivors who hope to have children naturally at some point in the future.  Ask your oncology team about your infertility risks and consult a reproductive specialist if possible.

 

Get the Facts on Fertility Preservation

In most cases, decisions on fertility preservation need to be made before treatment begins.

There are several incredible resources created to help cancer patients and survivors make sense of fertility preservation:

  • MyOncofertility.org is a fantastic resource for patients and their parents and partners whose fertility may have or will be impaired by cancer treatments. This site provides answers to cancer-related fertility questions, guidance for talking to physicians about fertility concerns, and assistance in finding a local fertility preservation specialist.
  • Fertility Preservation Patient Navigator (powered by MyOncoFertility) is a super helpful, interactive tool that allows you to explore options for family building before, during and after cancer treatment.
  • Fertline (866-708-FERT) connects patients with a fertility preservation program and refer them for consultations or procedures.

 

Financial Assistance for Fertility Preservation

Fertility preservation can be expensive but there is financial assistance available.

  • LIVESTRONG Fertility Discount Program provides access to discounted sperm banking services for qualified men.  To learn about this program for men, click HERE.  LIVESTRONG also offers assistance to qualified female applicants by providing access to fertility medications and discounted services from reproductive endocrinologists across the country.  To learn about this program for women, click HERE.
  • The Heart Beat Program offers eligible female patients select fertility medications at no cost.  For more information on this program, click HERE.

 

What if you’ve already finished treatment and are now thinking about starting a family?

If you’ve already finished cancer treatment and are thinking about fertility for the first time, talk to your oncologist.  Discuss your past cancer treatment and any possible effects on your fertility.  If you are at risk of being infertile, your oncologist can refer you to a fertility specialist for help.

7 Tips to Nourish Your Body During Chemo

 

Good nutrition is important- especially if you have cancer. The challenge for many is that chemotherapy can wreak havoc on your ability to eat. Common side effects of chemo include mouth sores, nausea and loss of appetite. Chemo can also temporarily damage taste buds causing foods to taste metallic or cardboard-like.

The inability to eat, for whatever reason, can lead to malnutrition. When cancer patients become malnourished, they feel weak, tired and may be unable to receive the treatments they need to get better.

 

Follow these tips to give your body the nutrition it needs to stay strong and fight the cancer:

1. See A Dentist.

Chemotherapy can cause changes in the lining of the mouth and reduce saliva production leading to painful mouth sores and infections. It can also exacerbate any existing dental problems you had prior to cancer treatment. Visit your dentist before treatment begins (if possible) and throughout treatment to reduce the severity and frequency of these complications.

If you get mouth sores, try to eat blended soups and smoothies. Avoid any strong spices like ginger and red pepper flakes.

 

2. Get Your Protein On.

Chemotherapy often depletes white blood cell counts making cancer patients more prone to infection. Eating protein-rich foods will give your body the fuel it needs to build up its immune system.

Try making this delicious, protein-rich Moroccan Chicken recipe.

Don’t forget there are other sources of protein besides meat. Eggs, nuts, dairy and beans are also rich in protein. Adding unflavored protein powder to smoothies and soups will give you an extra protein boost.

 

3. Stay Hydrated.

Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day- especially the day before receiving chemo. Fluids help flush the chemicals through your body and ease nausea. If the thought of drinking water makes you feel sick, try chilling it with cucumber slices or fresh lemons or buy a pre-flavored mineral water.

 

4. Keep Food Tasty.

Chemo can wreak havoc on your taste buds, making foods and drinks taste yucky. Renowned cancer nutrition expert Rebecca Katz suggests the following advice to keep food tasting yummy…

  • If the food you are eating has a metallic taste, add a little sweetener like maple syrup or agave nectar and a squeeze of lemon.
  • If the food you are eating tastes too sweet, try adding 6 drops of lemon or lime juice. Slowly add more until the sweetness tastes muted.
  • If the food you are eating tastes salty, try adding ¼ teaspoon lemon juice.
  • If the food you are eating tastes bitter, add some maple syrup or agave nectar to sweeten it.
  • If everything tastes like cardboard, add sea salt. A little spritz of lemon can also help.

 

5. Eat A Rainbow.

The more colorful your meal is, the more likely it will be filled with cancer-fighting nutrients. Eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables every day also helps naturally build up your immune system and improve memory.  (The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

Try making Smoky Chickpea, Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup.  It’s delicious, nutritious and colorful. The chick peas and lentils add a hearty dose of protein. It takes only 30 minutes to make and you probably have most, if not all of the ingredients, sitting in your pantry.

 

6. Practice Food Safety

Anyone can get sick from eating “bad” food. But cancer patients, whose immune system is already weakened from chemotherapy, are even more susceptible to infection from food. Practice safe food handling. Keep things clean, wash your hands often, and avoid unpasteurized dairy and juice and raw and undercooked foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. For more food safety tips during cancer treatment, click here.

 

7. Talk to a Professional

If you have any questions or concerns about your nutritional needs, maintaining your weight or the inability to tolerate certain foods, talk to your oncologist, nurse or professional dietician. The American Cancer Society’s guide “Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment” is loaded with lots of helpful information. Also visit the Pearlpoint Cancer Foundation for more tips and information on combating nutritional side effects caused by cancer treatment.

 

Do you have any nourishing tips you’ve learned along the way? If so, please share them with us. Knowledge is power!

 

More Inspirational Quotes for Anyone Touched By Cancer

318659_2526818333546_1346065350_32959402_702000029_n

 

Sometimes we read an inspirational quote or hear a speech (like the one I posted yesterday from Stuart Scott) that lift our spirit and give us perspective.  Simple words of wisdom from someone who has shared a similar journey can give us hope and strength- two much needed weapons in the fight against cancer.  Here are 18 inspirational, hope-filled quotes for cancer fighters,  cancer survivors or anyone who needs a little pick-me-up.  Why only 18?  The number 18 symbolizes “life” & “good luck” in Judaism.

 

1.  “No one is guaranteed a tomorrow… not me, not you, not a person with cancer. So let’s make the best of today.”~ Alan Stoller

2.  “Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” ~John Diamond

3.  “There are so many people out there who will tell you that you can’t.  What you’ve got to do is turn around and say ‘watch me'”. ~Author Unknown

4.  “We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up or fight like hell.” ~Lance Armstrong

5.  “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” ~Cayla Mills

6.  “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” ~Jim Valvano

7.   “You beat cancer by how you lived, why you lived and in the manner in which you lived. So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.” ~Stuart Scott

8.  “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” ~Dale Carnegie

9.  “Never, never, never give up.”  ~Winston Churchill

10.  “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” ~Winston Churchill

11.  “Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts; not amidst joy.” ~Felicia Hemans

12.  “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” ~Christopher Reeve

13.  “It’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” ~Abraham Lincoln

14.  “Scars are tattoos with better stories.” ~Author Unknown

15.  “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

16.  “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

17.  “At any given moment you have the power to say this is NOT how the story is going to end.” ~Author Unknown

18.  “Don’t lose hope, when it gets dark the stars come out.” ~Author Unknown

Do you have a favorite quote or saying that inspires you?  Please share it with us.  What you say might just brighten someone else’s day. ;-)