Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The remaining resolutions concern time management.

Keeping my other resolutions—blog more regularly, juicing, daily Bible reading, more frequent exercise—requires better time management.

Lack of time is a fundamental stressor in the life of a caregiver. Finding time for oneself is often impossible. This was true for me even before I became a writer. Three years ago when I first began writing for publication, I pared down my schedule and adjusted my priorities so that I would have time to take care of my husband and fulfill my own desire to write. Giving up tennis gave me ample time to write, publish, and market my first book.

Writers are great procrastinators. As time passed, I’ve found ways to waste the time I gained. If I vow to write for an hour each day, I sit down at the computer and waste 30 or 45 minutes reading emails and checking facebook, my favorite shopping sites, and e-bay. By the time I get around to working on my book, articles, or blog, I am sleepy or hungry. Once I get up from my work station, I am likely not to return.

I’m trying something different this year. Instead of devoting an hour a day to business, I am committing to ½ hour. And most important, I don’t do anything else on the computer until that time is up. No facebook, no Pinterest, no emails until I’ve done something constructive. Surprisingly, getting started is half the battle. When the half hour ends, I often plunge ahead with what I’m working on.

I encourage you to consider how you are spending your time. Can you become a better time manager? Take a look at those activities that suck precious minutes from your day. Would you be better off without them? Such pastimes can masquerade as tension relievers but actually result in creating tension when they keep you from productive activities (exercise, Bible Study, social interaction, reading). Maybe you need to limit your time on Facebook or computer games.

Betty White summed up my feelings about Facebook when she hosted Saturday Night Live:

“I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time. I would never say the people on it are losers, but that’s only because I’m polite. People say ‘But Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends.’ Well at my age, if I wanna connect with old friends, I need a Ouija Board. Needless to say, we didn’t have Facebook when I was growing up. We had phonebook, but you wouldn’t waste an afternoon with it.”

Right on, Betty!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Juicing-- Drink Your Veggies

Let’s take a look at juicing--resolution #7.

I have been “cleaning” up my diet for so long, my insides should be Mr. Clean-sparkling. Unfortunately, they are not. After failing to adhere to many New Year’s resolutions, this time I’ve decide to ratchet my expectations down a bit. Rather than deny myself anything, I’m going to add something--a nutrient brimming, daily juice.

The NCI, National Cancer Institute, recommends 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Juicing is an excellent way to reach that goal. Early in our cancer journey—actually between Jim’s lobectomy (that's lobectomy not lobotomy) and the time he started chemo (6 weeks)—I incorporated juicing into his daily routine. I started with the more palatable carrot combinations and eventually cajoled him into drinking three, eight ounce glasses a day. My hope was not to cure the cancer but to build him up before he began treatment. Evidently, it worked.

Once he started chemo, we gave up juicing. With the loss of appetite, nausea and mouth sores, getting him to eat anything was an accomplishment. Over the last 10 years, during periods of remission, I tried juicing again. We bought a Blendtec to make fruit smoothies into which I would sneak an occasional handful of spinach. Fruit combinations go down easy—vegetables, not so much.

My friend, Jess Ainscough, The Wellness Warrior, who is fighting cancer with the Gerson method has some excellent advice on juicing. This is her recipe for basic green juice.

Caution: Items in picture appear much tastier than they are :)

1 stalk kale
1 stalk silverbeet or Swiss chard
1 leaf Cos (Romaine) lettuce
1 frozen banana
Coconut water or purified water
1 tsp spirulina

What to do:

1. Add green leaves to the blender and cover with coconut water and/or water. Blend until smooth.

2. Add frozen banana and blend again.

3. Add spirulina and blend again.

4. Enjoy!

The first three steps are easy enough, but the last step gives me trouble. I don’t really enjoy the concoction. The addition of fresh lemon juice helps somewhat.

Juicing—even once a day—is a chore for me. During the busy holiday, on a trip to Costco for more processed, fat laden foods, I noticed a bottle of familiar looking green sludge on the shelf in the refrigerator section. After examining the list of ingredients, I decided to give “Naked-The Green Machine” a try.

I recommend it, not as a replacement for fresh juice, but as an option for those days when you are in a hurry. And, it tastes good—so good that I wonder how much of the beneficial greens are included in the fruit mixture. Evita Ochel, editor of Evolving Wellness and a certified nutritionist, biologist and educator, says about Naked, “This product is way better than 99% of all the other bottled beverages out there,” but it still loses something in the processing.

If you are a novice juicer you might give Naked a try. I’m hoping this tasty alternative will prepare my picky palate for the more potent home-brewed potion.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Dose of Gratitude to fight Cancer

Enough about exercise let’s move on, or rather back, to my second resolution:

2. Before getting out of bed, give thanks for five things.

If you have read my first book, Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat, you may remember that one of the first lessons I learned when confronted with cancer was that I was to respond to my situation with thanksgiving—not for the cancer, of course, but for the good that God could bring from it.

It should be easier to give thanks when all is well in life, but after a long period of adversity, often we are lulled into thinking that we have earned our blessings. Not wanting to fall into that trap, during this welcome time of Jim’s remission, I decided to make a conscious effort to thank God for the blessings of the day—morning and night.

The Bible gives clear instructions about giving thanks. "At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father" (Ephesians 5: 20). Like many commands in the Bible, to give thanks in all situations seems not only difficult but counterintuitive. However, life experience has shown me that all of God’s laws were designed for our own good that we might have joyful abundant lives. This one is no exception.

Gratitude has lately become a buzz word among health experts. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that people who maintain an “attitude of gratitude” tend to be happier and healthier than those who don’t.

Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude and the editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology has done research indicating that gratitude not only can increase happiness but can even help people with chronic health problems.

If gratitude goes against your grain, don't worry. Change your behavior, and the attitude will follow.

1. Follow my lead and start and end the day with thanksgiving. If you can't find five reasons to be grateful, start with one. Even if you don't "feel" thankful, do it anyway.

2. You might also keep a gratitude journal, recording daily the blessings you have received.

3. Make it a point to thank those who perform a service for you.

4. Write a note or send a card to someone whom you appreciate.

Start today. After a few weeks you should see a change in the way you feel.

And, Thanks for following my blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Exercise and Cancer

The benefits of exercise are indisputable but you may not know that physical activity has been shown to effect cancer recovery and cancer prevention. Today's guest blogger is David Haas, a cancer survivor, patient advocate, and researcher for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Cancer and Exercise: The Benefits are Enormous

No one wants to hear the word cancer, ever. There is nothing good about the word and what it means for anyone that has to hear it because it typically means that someone you love, or even you yourself has been diagnosed with the terrible illness and the road ahead is going to be a long, arduous one. Unfortunately, too many people are diagnosed every year with different forms of cancer, especially rare cancers such as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma doctors, and other doctors that treat other forms of cancer, believe in the benefits of exercising whether you were recently diagnosed with cancer, are undergoing treatment for cancer or you have overcome cancer and are currently in remission.

You know that the benefits of exercise are enormous in your everyday life; healthier bodies are just a few of the benefits of exercise. But did you know that exercising while you are fighting cancer also has enormous health benefits? According to the New York Times, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center sponsors an aerobics class for cancer patients because doctors are so positive that the effects of good health and exercise are beneficial to patients in their attempt to overcome cancer.

It is no secret that working out is not everyone’s favorite activity, but it does make you feel better when you are finished. You feel healthier and your mood is improved because you’ve just done something good for yourself and your body. When you are undergoing cancer treatments, recently learned of a diagnosis or are in remission, the positive attitude – and other health benefits – attained from exercising is helpful to you. Doctors recommend exercising as much as possible, when possible during the course of your cancer treatments or diagnosis. Of course, not all cancer patients are in the position to work out at all times, but even light exercise such as a short walk each day is enough to boost health, both mentally and physically.

Wendy Rahn, a cancer survivor, stated that once she underwent her double mastectomy, her shoulders were in so much pain she was often hunched over and unable to stand straight. After doing some research she discovered that she may be able to alleviate the pain with exercise and decided to give it a go. Upon exercising, the pain was alleviated and she has since opened a fitness center in Minnesota designed to help cancer patients and survivors with their pain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Get off the Couch, Potato

4. Exercise at least four days per week. (mixing Pilates, Barre Tone, walking)

Don’t worry. You didn’t miss resolutions 2 and 3. My original intention was to discuss the resolutions in the listed order. However, today I am skipping ahead to # 4 because the topic goes hand in hand with a book I am recommending written by my friend and colleague, Kathi Casey. If you are fighting cancer or if you are caregiver for someone who is, you probably have little time to devote to organized exercise. Kathi's book will give you some creative ways to incorporate fitness into your daily routine--however hectic it might be.

You probably know by now how these promotions work. If you purchase the book today, you will receive hundreds of bonuses from authors (including me), business leaders, and experts in various fields.

Note: I am recommending Kathi’s book not endorsing the products or services included in the bonuses. That said, I’m sure there are some among the many partners that you would find helpful and in keeping with a Christian world view.

About the book:

“Get Off the Couch Potato!” is a powerful, yet fun, 30-day fitness program you can begin while lying on your couch watching TV! Each day's exercise is demonstrated by Kathi's lovable Couch Potato!

Kathi Casey's awesome 30-day fitness plan is the perfect solution for over-worked parents, television addicted teens, out of shape Baby Boomers, and more. Destined to become a classic, this little book will make you laugh and provide you with many tips and tools so you can take charge of your own health care - regardless of what Congress does! Pick up your copy of "Get Off the Couch, Potato!" now! www.getoffthecouchpotato.com

The GREATEST GOLDMINE of inspirational affirmations and daily exercises designed to get the most dedicated "couch potatoes" off the couch and moving! Make 2012 the year that you achieve those New Year’s resolutions to get back in shape – You deserve it!

Tomorrow guest blogger, David Haas, cancer survivor and patient advocate with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, will share more on this topic.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Magic of Melatonin

In the early nineties, long before Cancer arrived at our doorstep, I started taking melatonin as a sleep aid. We were traveling a lot at the time and moving across time zones which exacerbated my pre-existing sleep problems. When I saw that it helped with jet lag, I wanted to try it for insomnia but I was concerned about side-effects, the correct dosage, and any problems that might arise with self medication—even though it was touted as natural and harmless.

We didn’t even own a computer at the time which made research a little more difficult. So when I saw The Melatonin Miracle in the book section at our natural food store, I snatched it up. This is what I learned:

1. Melatonin is a hormone produced in all mammals by the pineal gland.

2. The pineal gland, sometimes referred to as the “aging clock,” is part of the endocrine system and located in the center of the brain.

3. The production of melatonin, affected directly by the circadian cycle, decreases as we age.

4. Melatonin has proven to be a safe and effective sleep aid.

The authors, Walter Pierpaoli and William Regelson, included much more in the book about the benefits of melatonin supplementation: slowing the aging process, boosting the immune system, increase in sexual function, improved memory, and more. I wasn’t thoroughly convinced the pill was a miracle solution to all of these problems, but if it would help me get a good night’s sleep, it was miracle enough. If it delivered on all the other promises, all the better.

I started taking melatonin regularly in 1994 and have continued to this day. I take two, one milligram pills, sublingually, between 10 and 10:30 every night. I seldom have any problem going to or staying asleep. The only side effect I have ever experienced is intensified dreaming.

In 2009, during Jim’s fourth episode of lung cancer, his oncologist recommended that he take 20 milligrams of melatonin each night along with metformin a drug used for diabetics. Recent research, he explained, indicated that the two drugs, or I should say the supplement and the drug, in combination, were being used to slow the progression of solid tumor cancers.

It seems Pierpaoli and Regelson were on the right track; maybe melatonin is a miracle.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tips for a Restful Sleep

“When thou liest down, thou shall not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down and thy sleep shall be sweet” (Proverbs 3: 24).

I have had sleeping problems most of my life. I suffered from insomnia, night terrors, sleep walking and talking, and most other sleep disturbances. In college and during my young adult years, my main problem was falling asleep. In later years I had trouble staying asleep.

I’ve tried every method to cure insomnia—warm milk, a hot toddy, a clean conscience—and finally hit on a routine that helps. A warm bath, an hour or two of reading, a comfortable bed (preferably my own), high count cotton sheets, a room with good feng shui, and a few melatonin upon retiring. The room temperature has to be just right—not too hot, not too cold. The covers must be the right weight and the pillow neither too firm nor too squishy. When I am worried, I don’t count sheep, I repeat Bible verses.

These tips might help you get the quality sleep essential to mental and physical health:

1. Try to adhere to a regular bedtime.

2. Take a warm bath before retiring.

3. Keep the room cool. (68 degrees is good for me.)

4. Use natural fibers in bedding.

5. Avoid caffeine after 5 p.m.

6. If you are disturbed by noises, try a sound machine. (white noise, waves, birds chirping)

7. If you are over forty, consider melatonin supplements.

8. Keep a notepad by your bedside to record last minute thoughts.

9. Practice gratitude. Fall asleep thanking God for the blessings of the day.

10. Memorize scripture verses to repeat when you awaken in the night.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the benefits of melatonin as a sleep aid and as an immune system booster in cancer treatment.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How much sleep is enough?

Day five and holding.

Let’s take a look at the motivation behind my resolutions so that you can decide whether to incorporate some of them into your personal list.

1. Set alarm for fifteen minutes earlier.

Notice I didn’t mention the specific time I wake up.

I’ve always required a lot of sleep—at least eight hours, preferably nine. My mother who was lax about most health habits held firm on an early bedtime. The habit stuck with me. When my college friends were burning the midnight oil, I was fast asleep with my earplugs firmly inserted. Since my oldest child left for college, I set my alarm at the embarrassingly late hour of 8:30 a.m. on days that I have nothing scheduled which is most days since I rigidly avoid early morning activities and appointments.

Turns out Mom was right. Authorities agree that most adults need 7-9 hours of quality sleep for optimal health and performance. Recent research indicates that not getting enough sleep can contribute to a multitude of problems—even cancer. “....individuals [who do not get enough sleep] are not only immune suppressed, but they are also at an increased risk of developing a number of different types of cancer.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19095474

Jim was always an early riser—awake at 5 or 5:30 for a three to five mile run and then off to work by 7. He slept soundly and insisted he only needed five or six hours. That may have been because of the cat naps he grabbed in the middle of conversations, during movies, and, most alarmingly, while driving down the road. Now I wonder if those years of sleep deprivation contributed to the onset of lung cancer.

Why, then, if sleep is so important, am I beginning the year with the intention of getting less? Time management. I don’t think I’ll miss the fifteen minutes and I can use that time for some of my other resolutions.You, on the other hand, may need more sleep.

If you are a caregiver, sleep is essential to combat stress. If you are fighting cancer, sleep is essential to healing. Tomorrow I will give you some tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Caregiver's New Year Resolutions

Although New Years Eve is my least favorite holiday, I love the onset of the New Year. A New Year signifies a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to look at where we’ve been and where we are going.

I, like most people, make resolutions but seldom keep them all. Rather than berate myself for my lack of follow-through, I recognize the value of making the resolutions in the first place. I view them as goals which if practiced long enough might become habits. At the very least, I am headed in the right direction.

A caregiver’s goals should not add stress to an already stressful existence. They should be attainable and designed to improve well-being, both in mind and body.
Here are ten goals I have set for 2012. Remember, my husband is in remission; I have more time than when he is in treatment. My goals might be too ambitious for you or not ambitious enough.

A Caregivers New Year Resolutions

1. Set alarm fifteen minutes earlier.

2. Before getting out of bed, give thanks for five things.

3. Read Bible and daily devotional.

4. Exercise at least four days per week. (mixing Pilates, Barre Tone, walking)

5. Spend average of 30 minutes per day writing. (newsletter, blog, new book) No FB or email until writing is finished.

6. Blog. Blog. Blog.

7. Drink one vegetable smoothie or fresh juice drink five days per week.

8. Read and respond to emails twice daily—only.

9. Limit FB, Pinterest, and on line shopping to 20 min per day.

10. When I hit the bed, give thanks for five things.

On day three, my resolve is holding. In upcoming posts, I will elaborate on my resolutions AND let you know how I am doing.