Thursday, April 28, 2016
Know how to support someone who is diagnosed
For an athlete diagnosed with cancer, the decision to tell others is difficult. They are afraid enough for their life, not to mention losing their friends, their sport, and their social network around it.
When they tell, the lay experts come out of the woodwork like termites- suddenly everyone becomes an armchair oncology expert, especially when it comes to nutrition. Resist the urge.
1. Don’t tell them about alternative treatments that you’ve heard of, or that you read somewhere about a study that showed some type of special juice cured cancer. Their LIFE is at stake here. If we knew the juice cured cancer, we’d all be drinking it.
2. Don’t imply that they did something to cause their cancer. Don’t try to figure out why. You’ll come off as contemptful or judgmental, not to mention what this does to your friend with cancer who is already overwhelmed.
3. Don’t freak out, look up statistics on their type of cancer, or give them information off the Internet. Let their doctors practice medicine and do what they do best- treat cancer. It might be hard to put yourself in their shoes, but try. If you had cancer, wouldn’t you want to choose the treatment that had the most evidence for success and rely on experts who have been trained specifically in treating cancer?
4. Don’t make assumptions, no matter how well-meaning you are, that they can “beat” cancer, tell them they are a “fighter”. Some people don’t want to hear this. If they do, then great, give them the support they want. Ask them what they want.
5. If someone is being treated for cancer, don’t recommend supplements or antioxidants to them. The chemotherapy is intended to kill cells. That’s what you want to do in the case of cancer. You want oxidative stress and free radicals. Otherwise you’re counteracting the chemotherapy.
6. If they are getting chemo, don’t give them fresh fruits or vegetables, fresh flowers or plants, expose them to pets or sick kids, and avoid going to see them if you’re sick. Their immune system is going to be weak until after they recover from chemo. This is not the time to bring them kale and chia smoothies unless their cancer doctors say it’s okay.
1. Go here and click on the body parts to get some basic tips on supporting someone with cancer.
2. If you’re finding yourself so freaked out by your friend who has cancer, examine your own reasons for your freak out. Do you have some of your own issues that are unresolved? Maybe this is a chance for you to get some counseling for yourself so you can give better support to the person with cancer.
3. Remember, it’s not about you. THEY have cancer, not you. You have your health. Use the abundant energy that you were blessed with to help them. Do some footwork, offer to do laundry, errands, things they don’t have the energy for. Walk the dog, clean the yard, shovel snow. Use some of your own precious training time to do something for them. That shows you care.
If you are diagnosed- it doesn’t automatically mean the end of your athletic career.
1. First, you’re going to panic. That’s normal. But I’m going to tell you this, as hard as it is, as an athlete, you need to take your lifestyle into consideration when talking with your doctors.
2. Even though your first impulse might be: “Cut it out of me and get it over with!”, what you do and how you approach surgery and treatment decisions can make a big impact on your ability to recover and resume your sport, and your comfort in doing so. Take your time, it will be worth it in the long run.
3. Don’t be pressured into choosing any one method of treatment. Make sure you ask the doctor how it will impact participation in your sport, and at the level you hope to achieve. Get a second opinion if you’re not convinced it’s right for you. If you can find a doctor who is an athlete, that’s even better.
4. Cancer is very rarely an immediate life-threatening emergency. You should take the time to discuss any decisions with your oncologists, breast surgeons, urologist, plastic surgeons, radiation oncologist, or anyone else in your care. For example: certain reconstruction methods may be better for some athletes than others. If you use your upper body a lot in your sport, make sure your doctor understands how important your sport is to you.
5. The way they approach radiation treatment, which chemotherapy they use, the type of surgery, and any reconstruction can make an impact on your ability to return to and recover your ability to do your sport. Prostate cancer treatments can also impact your comfort in returning to running and other activities.
6. Depending on what type of cancer it is, you might need some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, and it takes time. Athletes are known for not giving up, for having endurance, and believing in themselves. You can use these mental skills in coping with cancer treatment and recovery, plus the determination to come back.
7. Athletes also start out in better health than most patients giving them an edge. They are also more likely to be able to continue some form of exercise during treatment, which helps them throughout the process and in recovering faster.
It’s not over when it’s over, so don’t forget support afterwards
1. After cancer treatment it can take a lot of time and effort to recover. While athletes have an advantage, there is still a lot of physical, emotional, and even social recovery for athletes with cancer.
2. After treatment they have to regain their strength and fitness. They might be anemic, have lost muscle mass, or range of motion. They can feel abandoned by their workout buddies. Remember them. Don’t let your own athletic goals get in the way of being a friend to them. Make time even if it’s not in a workout, or offer to do an easy workout with them.
3. Don’t expect them to jump right back into racing and training. It can take a while, but often, they can come back, and sometimes, stronger than ever.
Cancer Harbors is an online service that is designed for people after cancer treatment, as a guide to recovering. It has special material and support for athletes with cancer, to help them physically and psychologically recover their strength and confidence. Emotional and social support, with coaching and guidance. It is for anyone, including non-athletes, who need help in the anxiety-filled year after they leave their cancer doctors behind. It’s a thoughtful way to support a friend who is going through cancer treatment, to give them the edge in recovering and getting back to the sport they love. It’s also a great way to learn more about cancer in general.
We go outdoors, have more energy, and avoid unhealthy habits like sitting in front of the TV eating garbage. We set goals and achieve them, see the country and the world, and know how to have a good time.
When I’m not running, I’m an oncology nurse and cancer recovery coach. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard from a patient diagnosed with cancer, “I don’t understand how I got cancer. I ate organic foods, had a perfect diet, exercised, never smoked, avoided toxins, managed my stress...why did this happen to me?”… all those dollars would do wonders for my race bucket list.
The truth is, based on our current state of scientific understanding, we cannot absolutely prevent most cancers. Certainly there is a ton of evidence that exercise and healthy living can prevent chronic disease and make you more likely to live a healthier life and be more independent into old age.
I’m not saying it’s futile, or you should give up, sit on the couch and eat trash out of bag until you roll onto the floor in a sugar coma. I do want you to understand that being an athlete will not absolutely protect you.
We don’t do a very good job of educating the public about a disease that is likely to strike somewhere between one-third and one-half of us during our lifetimes. There’s a lot of misinformation, and that can lead to completely over-the-top, irrational fear.
What cancer is
Cancer is a wide range of diseases with a common characteristic: something goes wrong in the way the cells regulate growth, and results in uncontrolled cell growth. It happens at the molecular level, in the cell’s genetic material.
Cancer is not one disease, so there is no such thing as a single cure for cancer.
There are hundreds of different varieties of cancer, they all behave differently. That’s why they are all treated differently. What one person gets for cancer treatment can be completely different than what another person gets for cancer, even if their cancers started in the same part of the body.
Many people still equate cancer with death, and our society is in extreme denial when it comes to facing our mortality. Athletes often trick themselves into thinking their sport will give them immunity. Sorry to break the news, but your running shoes won’t protect you.
But the good news is, athletes are gifted with qualities that will often help them get through treatment and recover in a lot better shape than non-athletes. Determination, endurance, positive attitude, willingness to tolerate discomfort, and overall physical fitness are key qualities in achieving good outcomes during and after cancer treatment.
Fear and Judgment
Anyone can develop cancer, and it doesn’t mean you did something wrong. From what we know now, evidence seems to show that other than hereditary risk (mutations passed down in your family), and certain exposures and behaviors we know that are associated with cancer (like asbestos, smoking), it’s unpredictable. The older you get, the more likely it is that you will have it, and you might not even know it. Sometimes you might not even have to do anything about it and it won’t kill you.
Cancer does kill people, but not nearly as often as it used to. Sometimes it’s bad luck- some people’s cancers are undetectable until a very late stage. Don’t assume it’s the person’s fault for not getting screened. It’s important not to judge.
No one is saying you shouldn’t fear something that is potentially life-threatening. But a little knowledge goes a long way- in terms of early detection, managing anxiety, and coping in case it does happen to you or someone you care about.
Cancer concepts and misconceptions
- Prevention. People confuse screening and early detection efforts with prevention. You really can’t completely prevent most cancers. Mammograms, pap smears, and colonoscopies don’t prevent cancer. They screen for it in hopes that it will be detected early enough to be treatable. By taking care of yourself, eating right and exercising, what you are really doing is reducing the risk, or likelihood, that you will develop cancer. Risk is based on statistics in the general population.
- Early detection and screening. Squeamish is no excuse. Suck it up and get a colonoscopy. Don’t be so vain…believe me, they’ve seen plenty of butts, yours is no big deal. I promise you they won’t remember what yours looked like, even if you run into your doctor on the street.
- Know your family history. If anyone in your family has cancer, let your doctor know. This is reason enough to make sure you do your screenings. If several people in your family have cancer, ask your doctor about genetic counseling. Really. It doesn’t hurt one bit and it might save your life or someone else’s in your family. (Counseling first, never jump into testing)
- Learn about it- from the right sources. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a good place to start http://cancer.gov Don’t ask Dr. Google.
- Use caution when reading online or ads. Here’s a great place to visit if you have questions about a study or claim you read: http://healthnewsreview.org Anything that says, “a study” showed… One study is not a body of evidence. Studies need to be repeated, on large numbers of people, put through rigorous trials on humans under strict conditions, study conditions and findings examined for bias by experts, and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
On to Part Two...
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Yesterday was a typical Fort Collins spring day. A walk on the Power Trail, some yard work, followed by a trip to New Belgium brewery and all the local breweries were packed full of people.
We met some friends, had a few samples of new beer. I tried some kind of seasonal melon summer brew, it was light with just a hint of melon- I liked it.
Later we met with some other friends from Dennis's running days at Western State College. One of the guys on the team was visiting from DC, so a bunch of us got together for dinner and caught up on life in general nearly 30 years after they were teammates on the cross country and track teams.
Laughing about slowing down, gravity, gray hair, baldness, and reading glasses. And of course, rehashing some of the old crazy antics from their college days.
I'm just planning for my week ahead, I will go out and get a few miles in today. It looks like rain. Everything is getting green and blooming. Just a few scenes from around town over the past few days on my runs:
Friday, April 22, 2016
Seems like everywhere lately, I get powdered.
I'm not a skier even though I live in Colorado and I'm not talking about the lightweight white stuff that falls from the sky four months out of the year. Nope.
I'm talking about some arrogant pasty bastards.
Pompous Old White Dudes Explaining Righteously. The mansplainers.
What the hell is it about men now in their 60s and older who seem to think they have a special mission to keep the world on track, working like it always has, in their favor, and when someone bends the rules and does something different, they can't deal with it? Especially if that someone happens to be a woman.
Look here dudes, if you happen to be white and reading this, and thinking, "That B****, how dare she lump me into a category with a bunch of fuddy duddies and dinosaurs? I don't think like that!"
Maybe you don't, but you probably unconsciously, deep down, have adopted or inherited some vestiges of white male privilege so just be aware. You can handle it. Breathe. Now read on...
When I was in graduate school, back in the last century, ancient times, I can remember how it felt, being a woman in a doctoral program in science, and having no role models or mentors of my own gender. I wasn't the only female grad student in my program, but at the time there were absolutely ZERO women on the faculty in my department. In fact, they hired the very first female tenure-track faculty member the year I graduated.
When I brought my ideas to several faculty members to try to get my graduate committee together, I was told by the other female students definitely not to go to the one dude who was known as a pervert and had been known to have multiple affairs with students over the years. Which I later found out was true one day, when was out on a run and I caught him hiking down the trail, holding hands with one of the undergrad students in the department!! EEK!
But the one statement that sticks with me all these years later was the fairly young at the time (40ish) professor who told me point blank, "Your ideas have no place in our discipline."
F*** You very much, sir, so glad your pompous arrogant ideas have no place in the modern world and that people have evolved over the last 27 years since you said that to me, to accept those ideas as second nature.
That was in the late 80s, the very end of the heyday of complete and total male dominion over natural resources in academia.
In my graduate program I had all men on my committee, I managed to find four of them who didn't cling quite as tightly to the ideas of dominionistic types. Not that I still didn't struggle with sexism in many blatant and subtle ways. But I managed to get out of there with a Ph.D. and I'm still moving forward.
Bizarre ideas and all. Such bizarre ideas I have, along with others of my ilk. Let's look at some of them...
In graduate school, that physiology and social psychology might actually have anything in common that was worth studying. That qualitiative research might have any value in producing real world-applicable results.
In education, that we would hold everyone to the same standard, not having a separate standard for wrestlers and football players. Or that a lesbian administrator at a university could actually function at her job and even hire women faculty without having an ulterior motive to drive the men out and take over the campus with some Amazonistic agenda.
In healthcare or anywhere, that we could treat people with compassion and sensitivity in our workplaces. That we could stop skewing and screwing the balance of economic resources across all people. That we could do a better job with taking care of patients than rushing them through an auto industry-designed assembly line with understaffed, unsupported and unappreciated nurses.
In cancer care specifically, that we could clean up the mess we leave behind as healthcare workers and physicians treating people with potentially life-threatening disease for which we give potentially life-threatening at worst, quality of life-diminishing and traumatizing at best, treatments. And in business.
I have been noticing this in many aspects of what I'm doing, now that I've crossed over to the dark side into the domain of the corporate and business world, still firmly held by POWDER. They are so sure they know how to do everything exactly the way they know is right. They don't know a damn thing about you or your business, but they want to sell their consulting services to you and tell you how you should market things to potential customers, even though they wouldn't know the first thing about what those customers might be concerned about, value, or want.
Or if a vendor wants to sell you their product, even if it's based on shoddy science and questionable claims, that if you reject them, they have to tell you how inhumane you are and question how you could possibly work with cancer patients. It doesn't matter if the vendor has unverifiable credentials or approaches you in a creepy and unprofessional way that immediately gives you the red flag to investigate them further...
I hope people who are non-white, non-Christian, non-male, non-straight, non-linear, non-robotic, non-upper middle class, non-dominant culture brainwashed don't have to deal with this crap much longer. It might be this way the rest of my working life, but damn I plan to keep doing something to change it until I turn up in a ditch off the side of the road with my stiff, running shoe-clad feet in the air. By my own doing, not by being ambushed by some coal-rolling, truck-swerving, gun-toting jerk high on POWDER.
Thanks for indulging me. As a certain poetic genius* once said, "Haters back off!"
*Miranda Sings, a girl.
Lately as I've been running along the Power Trail, or different parts of town, I have noticed a lot of people giving me the thumbs up sign.
I have no idea why. I'm trying to figure it out. Either it's because I'm so slow and I look like I'm struggling to run, maybe my form has deteriorated so badly that it looks like I'm about to draw my last breath, or maybe it's the gray hair.
I get this from men of all ages, and never women. Where I used to get catcalls which really pissed me off and occasionally resulted in me saying a few choice words to the offender, now it seems like I get the thumbs up everywhere. I prefer it this way. Even if it's like giving a ribbon to the last place kid for self-esteem, no one catcalls their grandmother. I'm pushing the crone age group, I suppose.
I'm okay with it.
Maybe I'm just assuming things here. Maybe I have toilet paper trailing out of my running shorts behind me or something else embarrassing?
Just a thing I noticed.
I have another blogpost brewing, it also has to do with gray hair, but it's not as pleasant an observation.
I did 13.1 miles today according to my phone app. I ran an hour and 45 minutes of it, the rest was walking. That's my longest run in a while, since February, I think. Maybe I did a 2 hour run in March, I can't keep track anymore.
What I do know is that I'm not feeling the motivation to train for anything. I'm getting out and trying to run an hour most days but it isn't always consistent. I do get the walking in, since I can get a lot of my desk work done while moving, it keeps me out of the butt vortex.
I have a lot of writing and blogging to do, you might see me here more often these days. I'm going to be writing a piece on cancer for runners as a guest blogpost for another blogger soon, and it will be a long piece with a continuation to here and my new work blog.
Have a great weekend and see you soon. Thanks for sticking with me, readers. It's been a rough run, lately.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
I have been running about 3-4 days a week, and feeling pretty good. Nothing exciting to report, I've been so busy that I just go through the neighborhood, down the Power Trail, or somewhere that doesn't involve taking extra time to drive.
Today is the Horsetooth Half Marathon and I am so glad I didn't decide to run it this year. Last time I ran it the weather was like this, actually worse because of the wind. It's 37 degrees outside and we have a big heap of wet snow outside, it was accumulating only for a few hours and now it's melting as it hits the ground. I'm glad because we have blossoms on our baby apricot trees this spring and I don't want any hard frosts to hurt them!!
I'm busy making videos and writing blogposts, press releases, tweets and social media posts, and other stuff. I know this doesn't have anything to do with running, but I am going to write a few posts for athletes and runners because we are not immune to cancer.
Here are a few links to my Cancer Harbors posts, articles, and so on... If you know someone with cancer, who has either recently been diagnosed, is going through treatment, or has recently (within the past year or two) completed treatment, send them to Cancer Harbors, because there are so many quality of life issues that go unaddressed by current medical practices in survivorship care.
Cancer Harbors website
Digital Health interventions in Cancer Survivorship
Hope to have more running news soon!
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
I've been working on talking with people, social media, spreading the word, putting some finishing touches on the website for the big launch of Cancer Harbors on Monday.
I was interviewed on a podcast, this time about nursing, listen if you're interested. It's been nearly two and a half years since I left the hospital and a lot has happened and I've come a long way. Every day is still full of learning and uncertainty, but I keep pushing ahead. It's an ultra, and ultra is what I do best.
Last night I ran with Wheaties Boy again and we talked marketing strategy. He put my mind somewhat more at ease with some things I've struggled with. It was raining and he was in shorts, I was bundled up in winter clothes. Now it's snowing but not sticking to the ground. Spring in Colorado is always interesting.
If I can somehow get brave enough to go in the house, change into running clothes, and get out, even for a half hour, I will feel so good. I should get my butt out of the vortex and go!