Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What We've Learned Since 9/11: Improving our Relationships in the Wake of a Tragedy

In the ten years since the planes struck the World Trade Center, we've learned a great deal about how much we took for granted. In one brief moment, our worldview was altered and assumptions were destroyed. In the days that followed, we grieved for those lost and the families who were trying to cope in the wake of the tragedy. What have we learned during those ten years? What lessons were we able to take from that day and apply to our own lives, regardless of whether we lived in New York, Pennsylvania, or even across the country. Everyone felt some degree of loss on that tragic day, regardless of their geographic proximity.

Never Take the Ones You Love for Granted

Tragedy could strike any day. While it might not be in the form of planes crashing into buildings, it could be a person who was drinking and made the choice to get behind the wheel. It could be an earthquake that sends buildings crashing to the ground. It could be a chance blood clot, wreaking havoc in the lung or brain. The reality is, we are all mortal. You just never know.

Say "I Love You" Every Day

How many people walked out of their homes that morning and headed to work without a second thought? How many people wish they had taken the two seconds to tell that person who is gone forever "I love you"? Don't live with this regret. Never miss the opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to you. Shower them with hugs and kisses every chance you get.

Show Your Affection

In addition to telling the people you love how important they are, make a point of showing them. Hugs and kisses are great, but take it a step further. Do the chores you know they hate doing. Make plans to do activities they want to do. Talk to them about their day -- and really listen.


It can be hard to let go when someone has hurt you. But holding onto a grudge hurts you much more than it hurts them. Let go. It's okay to learn from the experience, but remember that we all make mistakes and bad choices. If you've let those choices stand between you and a family member or a long-lost friend, take this opportunity to call or write and talk it out. Give them your forgiveness or, if you were the one who messed up, ask for theirs. You may not always get it, but you will know that you tried.

Adding these lessons to your life will improve your relationships with everyone you know. You will rest easier knowing that bygones are bygones and the people who are important to you know that, without question, you love them very much.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Power of Gratitude

Most of us have experienced that feeling of, "is this all there is?" "Is my life destined for this existence of semi-happiness, constantly chasing something I can't seem to attain?" It seems that we focus on what we don't have rather than what we do have. Your new house loses its luster when your best friend moves into a bigger one. Your 3 day vacation in Vermont seems less exciting when you find out your cousin is spending 2 weeks in Fiji. These, of course, are some of the pettiest reasons to feel unfulfilled. It could be much worse. So why can't we seem to remember how lucky we are when faced with life's everyday disappointments?                                                                                                                                            

A friend recently sent me a list of powerful "reminders" of how lucky we are to have what we take for granted on a daily basis. Sometimes it helps to have a little perspective:

  • If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.
  • If you have money in your bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among 8% of the world’s wealthy.
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.
  • If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.
  • If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.
  • If your parents are alive and still married, you're a rare individual.
  • If you can go to your place of worship without the fear that someone will assault or kill you, you are luckier than 3 billion people in the world.
The first time I read this, I felt a sense of guilt. How could I be so self-consumed? How could I have overlooked these obvious reasons to be filled with gratitude? 

I realized that most of my life has been viewed through a peephole, rather than a window. I have spent so much time focusing on how I compare to the circle of friends and acquaintances around me (most of which I am still feel luckier than, but always focus on the few who seem to dwarf my accomplishments), that I lost sight of my blessings as compared to the majority of the world around me. I am lucky and I am blessed, and although I know that I will surely fall into another period of narrow-minded pity in the future, I hope that I am able to see through the weeds of discouragement and bring myself back to this moment of realization. 

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.  ~Epictetus

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spirituality and its Positive Effects Among the Terminally Ill

As a cancer patient, being terminally ill and facing the prospect of death is not an easy journey for many people. This is generally a time filled with not only physical pain and scars but also emotional and social challenges. However, with spirituality, many people are better able to cope with life-threatening illnesses and to enjoy the positive psychological effects that it offers.

Spirituality may mean different things to different people but it is usually the belief or awareness that there is something or a being that is greater than the individual. It may also be the way people connect to others and things as they find their purpose in life. Some people may associate spirituality with religion and prayer. Other forms of spirituality may include meditation, yoga, reading inspirational books and passages, singing religious and inspirational songs, having personal and quiet time and attending spiritual services or meetings. Spirituality affects varying elements of your life, including your values, emotions, beliefs, thoughts and relationships.

Research as to whether spiritual well-being may reduce survival rates and healing is mixed with some supporting the claim and others showing that it does not provide any healthy benefits. However, studies have revealed that there are some positive emotional effects of spirituality among people who are terminally ill. These may include:

•Helping you to cope with the stress and the anxiety of dying,
•Having feelings of hope and optimism and living a life with meaning,
•Coping better with your situation and the possibility of death,
•Being more aware of yourself, your abilities and feeling empowered,
•Providing comfort and peace during your life-threatening illness,
•Accepting and preparing for death as an outcome,
•Feeling a sense of connectedness with family, friends and other people,
•Improving your faith and confidence.

For some people, a part of the positive psychological impact in the midst of end-of-life illnesses is planning for their final wishes when they pass on. This may include items for the program and venues for the service as well as a final resting place.

The importance of spirituality in health care is emphasized with the palliative therapy approach that assists patients and their families with their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Having support and care from a team of professionals to deal with your particular situation offer comfort and help to alleviate the stress during serious and life-threatening illnesses. Some spiritual well-being resources may include counseling and speaking with a chaplain.

If you are a terminally ill patient, spirituality may offer you relief and positive emotional strength as you cope with life and death challenges. A useful resource for information on the impact of spirituality for people facing end-of-life issues is the American Cancer Society at http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/MindBodyandSpirit/spirituality-and-prayer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Holiday Weekend Indulgences with Cancer Fighting Powers?

It's days like today, after I've consumed the staples of summer barbecues in excess for three consecutive days, that I tend to search for things to make me feel better about my diet-busting indulgences. Smores? Sangria? Not a problem. I was actually eating with the intent of improving my overall health...well maybe not, but here are some redeeming qualities of those calorie-packed guilty pleasures:
One of my absolute favorites. Nothing completes a good S'more like a Hershey bar, which happens to contain an antioxidant compound called procyanidin. Although research is still in its infancy stage, scientists have observed these molecules slow the development of breast cancer in lab cell cultures and prostate cancer in rats. It has been suggested that the most efficient way to introduce procyanidin into the bloodstream is to consume chocolate drinks. So go ahead! While you're at it, save those chocolate bars for the next morning and blend away for a nice S'more Smoothie. 
Red wine contains high levels of resveratrol, a plant chemical which has been shown to reduce tumours in lab tests. Depending on the type of grape used to make the wine, some wines may contain more cancer-fighting antioxidants than others. For example, wines grown in Southern France are high in procyanidin, that neat little compound found in dark chocolate. As if that weren't enough, add oranges, cherries, apples, or another fruit to your sangria recipe to boost the health benefits!

Well, although that wasn't as therapeutic as I thought it would be, I think I'm at least in the right frame of mind to get back on track this week. Grilled eggplant with tomato sauce and salad on the menu tonight!

Source: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/254062/The-ultimate-anti-cancer-diet

Friday, July 1, 2011

Medicare will Continue to Cover Avastin...So What's Avastin?

The US Food and Drug Administration has taken a hard look at Avastin, a drug used in cancer treatment. It is used in therapy for several forms of the disease, but on June 29, 2011, an advisory committee for the FDA voted unanimously to rescind the drug's approval in breast cancer treatment, stating the risks outweigh the advantages. Don McLeod, a Medicare spokesperson, stated that they will continue to pay for the drug if it is revoked: “The label change will not affect our coverage."

Avastin is marketed by the Switzerland-based Roche--the world's largest biotech company. According to Roche, "Avastin is approved in the US and Europe for the treatment of advanced stages of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and kidney cancer, and Avastin is also available in the US and over 32 other countries for the treatment of patients with glioblastoma (a type of brain cancer). Avastin is the only anti-angiogenic therapy available for the treatment of these numerous advanced cancer types, which collectively cause over 2.5 million deaths each year."

An article by Reuters states "Some 17,000 U.S. patients take Avastin, which costs about $8,000 a month. Using Avastin for metastatic breast cancer costs about $88,000 a year, based on people taking it for approximately 11.3 months."

The high cost may not be as much of an issue if the evidence of its effectiveness were more concrete. Avastin belongs to a family of drugs called "monoclonal antibodies", which are designed to inhibit the growth of tumors by blocking the production of new blood vessels--basically "starving" the cancer. It is not considered chemotherapy medication, as it does not directly attack cancer cells, though it is only approved for use in combination with chemotherapy.

Safety information from the Avastin website states, "The most common side effects of Avastin that occurred at >10% and at least twice the control rate include nosebleeds, headache, high blood pressure, inflammation of the nose, too much protein in the urine, taste change, dry skin, rectal bleeding, tear production disorder, back pain, and inflammation of the skin."

While these side effects seem unpleasant, these are not the most severe. It is no wonder that the FDA is alarmed when reviewing the other side-effects that may occur:

Gastrointestinal Perforation: The development of a hole in the intestines or stomach.
Slow/Incomplete Wound Healing: Since the drug inhibits the growth of veins, surgical wounds heal slowly.
Various Serious Bleeding Issues: Stomach, coughing up blood, bleeding in the brain, and vaginal bleeding.
Stroke/Heart Issues: Includes heart attack, blood clots, mini-stroke, and chest pain.
Abnormal Passage Formation from one part of the body to another
Kidney Issues: Avastin increases protein in urine which can lead to serious or fatal kidney problems.
Vision and Nervous System Issues: Includes sluggishness, seizure, blindness, tremors, and confusion.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Alternative Medicine Therapies and Cancer: Emotional Freedom Technique

According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, cancer in its various forms is the cause of 13.3% of deaths worldwide, 19.3% of deaths in the United States alone (1). Over 1.5 million new cases are diagnosed every year in the United States. Particularly prevalent in the United States is mesothelioma, a form of cancer that affects the protective lining of internal organs, predominantly the lining of the lungs, heart, abdominal cavity, and testes. Excessive use of asbestos in architecture during the 1970s and 80s has been linked to the high incidence of mesothelioma in the United States, with death rates increasing significantly each year (2). Despite various pharmacological, chemotherapeutic, and surgical therapies for cancerous growth, including mesothelioma, the prognosis of the disease is very poor.

In light of the low success rate for current medical treatments of cancer, much research in alternative medicine therapies has begun in recent years. The motivation for study in these alternative therapies is to find an effective combination of clinical and psychological treatments of cancer. Such combinations of alternative medicine with current medical treatments may lead to a better prognosis for mesothelioma and cancer overall. One particularly promising alternative medicine therapy is the Emotional Freedom Technique, abbreviated EFT. Developed by Gary Craig two decades ago, EFT is a psychotherapeutic method of relieving the psychological and emotional consequences of disease, such as fear and anxiety. In essence, EFT is a non-invasive manner of triggering and desensitizing acupressure points located all over the body, causing a holistic betterment of the psyche and emotional condition. Proponents of EFT emphasize the benefits of its “energy psychology” approach in aiding cancer recovery.

EFT, in conjunction with other drug or surgical therapies, can improve cancer prognosis by complementing biological treatment with psychological improvements. Cancer is an emotionally taxing ailment, and current chemotherapy and surgical procedures only exacerbate this emotional drain. Thus, it is plausible to claim that alternative medicine therapies like EFT can prove to be extremely effective in the future as a complementary cancer treatment option. The outlook for such combination therapies is promising in providing an all-encompassing treatment for one of the most malignant diseases on the planet.

1. http://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/causes_death_2008/en/index.html
2. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@nho/documents/document/acspc-024113.pdf

Benefits of Reiki in Cancer Care

Reiki is one of many alternative healing practices being used to reduce stress and promote healing. Derived from the Japanese words for “Higher Power” and “life force energy”, the ancient healing art is performed by trained practitioners who place their hands near or lightly on the body to channel energy. It may also be administered to oneself with little training.

Used both to maintain good health and to create conditions for the body to repair itself, Reiki has recently been endorsed by Dr Mehmet Oz, one of the nation’s leading cardiologists and talk show hosts. As its benefits become increasingly more well-known, the practice is also gaining favor as an adjunct to traditional medical treatments. It is now being used in many hospitals to decrease the discomfort of treatments for cancer and to relieve symptoms of chronic diseases.

Because Reiki is “transferred” by a master teacher to a student in a process called an “attunement”, it is easily learned and practiced - thus allowing the recipient to tap into an unlimited source of universal energy for healing both oneself and others. The energy that supports life flows throughout the body and nourishes its organs and tissues. When negative thoughts or trauma disrupt its natural flow, energy is blocked or weakened. It is important to realize that Reiki does not heal illnesses; it helps to repair the energy field so that the body can resume its normal processes.

Although spiritual, the practice is not a part of any religion and requires no personal beliefs or dogma. Reiki does, however, promote a harmonious, ethical, and peaceful lifestyle that is compatible with the teachings of all cultures. Because Reiki’s energy comes from God, it may have positive spiritual and emotional components, as well as physical ones.

While all energy healers channel energy, Reiki is different from other styles because it can only be accessed by being passed from a Reiki Master to a student. Energy healers who use other methods may also be attuned to Reiki, and many report an increase in energetic ability as a result. The use of symbols is one of the ways Reiki energy is channeled, and some masters stress the importance of intention. Regardless, the energy is said to have an intelligence of its own that directs it to the area of the body where it is needed.

The American Cancer Society has endorsed Reiki as a form or complementary medicine for mesothelioma and other kinds of debilitating malignancies, and many hospitals now hire Reiki practitioners. Although more studies are needed to prove the benefits of Reiki in cancer care, it appears to help patients feel better without creating side effects.