Rejoice in the Small Victories

Anyone who has had a loved one with cancer understands how stressful the ongoing 3-6 month marks are, waiting to hear if the blood work and bone-scans are clear. When those we love have had ongoing health issues and it seems like every time we turn around there is another doctor appointment, medical test or treatment plan it can be hard to find reasons to celebrate. Leading to being in a constant state of waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Unintentionally, by focusing on a future negative result that may (or may not) happen, we can fail to acknowledge the small victories – such as a bone-scan coming back the same (meaning it showed no change or growth in the cancer which is a GOOD THING). Regrettably we overlook the opportunity to celebrate these small victories because once we leave the doctor’s office we begin to focus on the “next appointment” in 3-6 months.

Focusing on what seems like an imminent future outcome can have some benefit when it leads to putting in place a plan for potential future health care needs.  Conversely, it can rob us of the joy of present time spent with our loved one.  The reality is, outside of a new treatment and/or miracle (which could happen), negative test results are a possibility sooner or later, but NOT TODAY!!!

Today I encourage you to:

  • No matter what the test results say, REJOICE in time together TODAY! 
  • If today, or during your last appointment, the cancer hasn’t changed, grown or spread SHOUT HURRAH!!!
  • If in this moment the blood work is showing normal ranges (even if it pertains to the continuance of your chemo treatment) share a YIPPEE!!!
  • If you are alive today – do a HAPPY DANCE!

I understand how stressful the thought of the cancer spreading can be.  Trust me I KNOW!!

Nonetheless, expending a good portion of your emotional energy being nervous about an unknown future can deprive you of peace, joy and the appreciation for another day of life, love and family.

**In honor of my Mom and all of the other women still fighting the fight against Breast Cancer, through the end of the year 50% of my book sales will go to support breast cancer research. **

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The Word that Changed Our Lives – Cancer

“It’s Cancer”.

My sister and I tried to compose ourselves and comprehend the significance of what we had just heard the doctor say.

Did he just say that our mom has breast cancer?

Having worked in hospice for many years, I knew that once the word “cancer” was spoken most of what was said after was lost in translation.  So I focused on being present to what the doctor was saying next.  The doctor continued, “I feel from what I’ve seen that it’s stage 1 breast cancer, which means we caught it early and I am confident your mom will live a long, healthy life.”

I have encountered more doctors than I’d like to admit who share a cancer diagnosis with a patient and then abruptly walk out of the room.  Our hospice team had numerous in-services for doctors titled “Breaking Bad News”, however; it was usually the staff who came, many times sharing their frustration at how their doctor does a quick “exit stage left” after dropping the C-bomb on a patient.

Having experienced this from both a professional and personal standpoint, I wanted to share some advice for when the doctor shares life changing news:

    • If the doctor is using terminology you don’t understand ask him what it means.
    • If another staff member comes in to answer questions politely ask why the doctor isn’t answering the questions and how their care team is set up.  **Many times there are physician assistants who work as patient advocates and are the contact for ongoing information and support.
  • If you feel comfortable with the treatment option set out by the doctor then move forward with it.
    • However, unless it’s a time sensitive situation, you don’t have to immediately move forward with the treatment option outlined by the doctor. You have the right to ask more questions and seek a second opinion about your care.
    • Ask for the after-hours number to call and ask the questions that may have come up after leaving the doctor’s office.  Make sure the phone number connects you with your doctor or a team member who knows about your case and has access to your records.
  • Do your research.
    • Websites like WebMD have a lot of information that can assist in understanding both diagnosis and treatment options, but clarify and verify the information you find with a doctor or other diagnosis specific medical professional.
    • Call around to disease specific treatment centers and ask questions about their programs.
    • Explore alternative/holistic treatments options that could supplement and/or support your treatment.
  • Get a second opinion.
    • There is nothing wrong with seeking a second (or even third) opinion when given a serious diagnosis.
  • Ask your doctor about research trials in your area that your loved one may qualify for.
  • Get information on other social resources and support groups offered by the hospital system.  For example, my local hospital offers free massages to both the patient and their caregiver, as well as resources for free wigs, discounted mastectomy bras and programs on how to manage and reduce stress.

Focus on gathering information on available options so that you can assist your loved one in making an educated decision about their care.

In honor of my Mom and all of the other women still fighting the fight against Breast Cancer, through the end of the year 50% of my book sales will go to support breast cancer research. **

For more caregiving support visit

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What’s the Plan?

In light of the recent natural disasters, I realized that the subject matter of evacuation is not a topic touched on in my blogging tenure.  For people living in the south who are more frequently affected by flooding and issues related to hurricanes, earthquakes, as well as those living in the west where fires are an annual threat, I would guess that asking about an evacuation plan when searching for a long-term care community/facility for an elderly loved one would be second nature (if not it should be!).

However, for those living in areas that have not, and most likely will not experience the magnitude of a weather related disaster that those in Florida or Houston have, questions related to a facilities evacuation plan should become a priority as well.

Some questions to ask when touring facilities

  • What is their plan for evacuation in case of natural/other disaster? (ex: Power outages, tornadoes, flooding, blizzards)
  • Is the plan written down? (ask for a copy)
  • How often are they required by law to go over procedures and/or do practice drills with their staff? How often do they?
  • How do they train new staff on evacuation procedures and what is their practice for ongoing staff training?
  • Do they have backup generators?
    • How many?
    • How often are they checked?
    • How are they maintained?
  • If they were to be confined in the facility for several days (or more) without access to food and medical suppliers due to weather, how much food supplies and medication do they keep on hand to ensure they can properly care for their residents?
  • Is the plan prioritized by resident frailty?
  • Do they work with local hospitals and other facilities in case they would need to evacuate their residents?
  • Where in the facility are copies of the plan kept?
  • If you were to ask where the copies of the plan are to any of their staff, would they be able to quickly answer you and locate the plan?
  • How do they communicate with/get information to family members about weather related events? (Group email/text, Facebook page, Twitter?)

No matter where in the country you live, there is always a chance that there could be some weather related issue that could impact the well-being of the elderly living in long-term care communities/facilities.  A facilities disaster plan is key to the safety of their residents.

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The power to run the race: A reminder to all caregivers

Chariots of Fire was a great movie. It serves as a reminder that in the midst of any and all hardship, obstacle or circumstance, there is strength readily available.

As you watch this YouTube clip, take notice of a great line “Where does the power to run the race come from? It comes from within”.

Be encouraged today. The strength to finish the race, the journey, lies within you.

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6 Things Every Caregiver Caring for Seniors with Vision Problems Must Know

As a caregiver, there are a lot of different things you need to keep in check to make sure you are taking care of your seniors in the best way possible. Eye and vision related problems are not only common, but to a point inevitable in seniors. If you are a caregiver caring for a senior with eye problems, you can follow these tips to make your job easier and make you senior’s life a little more comfortable.

  1. Have Open Conversations

As a caregiver, you must always encourage the people you are caring for to actively participate in discussions regarding their medical treatment. This will make them feel comfortable while establishing a sense of responsibility and commitment towards their personal well-being within them.

  1. Preventative Care for Eyeglasses

The most common problem among seniors is that they are unable to keep track of their belongings more often than not. They might even end up sitting on it or stepping on them, leaving them disoriented. So, remember to check their glasses on a regular basis to ensure they are in good shape.

  1. Provide Additional Reading Tools

Due to problems like low vision or decreased color vision, activities like reading and writing can be quite difficult for seniors. This can be tackled by providing them with additional reading tools like magnifying glasses with in-built LED lights.

As for settings with excessive bright light, you can provide the seniors with specially designed sunglasses. In fact these days, light-sensitive lenses known as photochromatic lenses that are known to auto adjust to bright lights are also available.

  1. Provide Nutrient Rich Meals

Always try to ensure the seniors are provided with well-balanced meals that are filled with essential nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, D & E, Lutein, Zexanthin, Zinc, Omega 3 fatty acids and Selenium. The intake of these vitamins can be supplement by providing a diet rich in proteins like fish, soy and eggs supplemented by leafy greens and fruits.

  1. Rest and Relaxation

While ensuring proper precautions are taken to ensure that vision loss doesn’t overwhelm the seniors suffering from it, it is also necessary to ensure they also give their eyes rest by indulging in other recreational activities like yoga, board games or slow-walking. This not only benefits their health but also keeps their spirits high!

  1. Regular Eye Exams

It is especially important for caregivers to schedule routine eye exams for seniors suffering from vision related problem in order to keep a tab on the effectiveness of the care that is being administered. It also enables early diagnosis of various other vision related problems. Problems such as low vision and cataract can be tackled efficiently by minimally invasive procedures if detected in its earlier stages.

Be sure to set-up a medical emergency plan in case of mishaps or accidents. Maintain a file that contains a brief summary of the senior’s medical history as well as a list of medication being consumed by them on stand-by. This will ensure instant help is administered, whenever required. And lastly, always keep a lively attitude and a positive outlook, so you can provide encouragement to the seniors that require your assistance!

Author Bio:  

Aaron Barriga is the online marketing manager for Insight Vision Center. With a knack for understanding medical procedures, and an interest in eye and vision health, Aaron loves to share what he knows and what he learns. He blogs with a mission of informing readers about the latest eye care technology and other topics related to eye care especially LASIK. He loves collecting coasters from the different bars and restaurants he visits during his travels



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Patient Strategies for Communicating with Multiple Doctors

giant_candlestick_phone_om.jpgYears ago I met a woman at a rehab facility while visiting a family member.  She was recovering from a stroke and looking forward to getting back home.  I acknowledged how well she was doing considering the circumstances.  She said “It all comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”  She went on to explain that she was actually in her doctor’s office, located in the building attached to the hospital when she had the stroke, within minutes they had her in the emergency room.

She then added “It’s my own fault I had the stroke, I went off my blood thinners in anticipation of a procedure with a specialist and didn’t talk to my primary doctor before doing it.”

Unfortunately her story is not unique.  Even though there are more systems in place than ever before to support continuity of care and communication between physicians, I wanted to share some pro-active tips when you or your loved one have multiple care providers.

  • Don’t assume that your doctors communicate with each other (or view updates on your electronic record).
  • ALWAYS bring an updated list of your current medications to EVERY appointment, noting when they are taken and dosage, better yet bring the actual bottles to each appointment.  This way nothing gets lost in translation (including your dentist/chiropractor). 
  • Along the same lines, ask each doctor for a list of the medications they have on file for you to compare to your list. 
  • If you have scheduled a test or procedure with a specialist call your primary doctor’s office to make them aware of it. 
  • When having any tests run, ask them to send a copy of the results to your primary doctor as well.  If they say it’s available on your e-record, politely ask again that they make his office aware of it.
  • You have the right to get copies of your medical records and tests results.  Make sure to ask for a copy for your personal records or understand how to access them from online portals.
  • When it comes to your health, NOTHING is too small to share.  If there are ANY changes in how you feel should be shared with ALL of your doctors/specialists. 
  • ASK QUESTIONS! Many times our visits are a whirlwind of information, however, you have the right to ask as many questions (even if they are the same ones over and over) until you FULLY understand the information being given to you by the provider!
  • You have the right to refuse treatment of any kind until you fully understand why it was ordered and what possible outcomes/side-effects are.

We can’t all be in the right place at the right time when a health emergency occurs.  Making communication with your primary doctor and/or specialist (in the case of an Oncologist) a priority about upcoming tests and procedures, you may be able to steer clear of potential life threatening issues.

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In Loving Memory of Tillie Cutler

Paul, Tillie & Me

July 9th my mother-in-law passed away. She was an amazing woman whom I admired tremendously.  Though she had humble beginnings and she and her husband often struggled to make ends meet during their family rearing years, all of her children went to college with several gaining master’s degrees and one earning his PhD.

As I think about the times I spent with her, there are several lessons I have come to realize

  • Faith is the Foundation– Tillie was an amazing Christian woman. Her faith in a Savior named Jesus was so strong that not only did her husband become a Christian, but went to seminary to become a Minister of Evangelism, all 3 of her sons became Lutheran Ministers and her daughters serve in their local congregations in a variety of ways.
  • Family First – Tillie always put her family at the forefront of her life. Moving from Iowa to Florida to be closer to her oldest daughter Cathy, she and her husband eventually moved in with them and helped to raise their children.  Though the rest of her children were spread out around the country, she made it a priority to make it to baptisms, confirmations, graduations and weddings of as many of her 18 grandchildren as physically possible.
  • Give generously to others – Some would say Tillie had the gift of hospitality.  Though they didn’t have very much money, and raising 5 children even with money is challenging, Tillie and Ed opened her home to countless people both near and far as they hosted several missionaries.  Many of my husband’s close friends growing up share stories of how their home was the hub.  Many of them even spent short periods living with them.  As my Sister-in-law wrote in her obituary, “with Ed’s gift of evangelism, one could say Ed and Tillie were a tag team.  Ed would bring in a neighbor or stranger and feed them God’s word and Tillie would shower them with food and a listening ear.”
  • Expect greatness from those around you – She expected a lot from those close to her, not because she was demanding, but because she knew that each of us has the capacity to do amazing things in this world. In this way she also gave those around her encouragement, lifting them up to reach for higher goals and never giving up on them when they fell short.

My brother-in-law wrote, “Mom touched the lives of many people around the table.  Her listening ear and sage counsel saved many lives from heartache and pain, and instilled confidence to live life to its fullest.  Her stalwart defense of her family members against any assaults was commendable.  She did not mince words.  She would say it the way that she saw it, plain and simple.”

To fully acknowledge the life of this amazing woman would most likely be more of a novel then a blog post.  However, for me and those closest to her, her life can be summed up in one word LOVE.

Thank you for the lessons Tillie, you will be missed.

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