Do You Need To Vent?

Recently, I stumbled upon an article that said venting can be healthy. Even cathartic. Insightful and inspiring. Another offered tips for healthy venting. Hmmm … Perhaps, we should give it a try?

Some of us are just wired hot, where temperament is concerned. Others bottle their frustrations, deep inside. When you live with a Chronic illness, there always seems to be something that goes awry. It’s the nature of the beast. And it’s a pain in the backside. So, learning to manage this stress can be a good thing for our health as well as our relationships. 

I don’t like to wallow in negativity, but I do believe that we can learn through our experiences — even the bad ones. So, let’s vent a little. Let’s open the windows of our souls and get rid of the things that are dragging us down. Let’s talk about what works and what does not. Let’s do so in a productive way. We’re friends. We share many of the same difficulties. Who knows? It may actually help a few of us, in the process! 

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Reference Links:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/benefits-of-venting-go-both-ways/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/design-your-path/201108/anger-management-the-five-ws-healthy-venting

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201404/6-virtues-and-6-vices-venting

*Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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September Is …

My mother loved the autumn. It was her favorite time of year. From warm cider to the brightly-colored falling leaves, she thoroughly embraced the season. I always think of my mother, when September arrives. This year is no different. September, in all its glory, is a time for many things. But none are as important as its role in awareness. September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. That too reminds me of Mom … and others.

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Three members of my family have been diagnosed with a form of Blood Cancer. I lost my mother to a rare, Blood Cancer in 2008 (Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma primary to the bone). So, I take awareness for this form of Cancer personally. I know what it can do.

Blood Cancer affects children and adults. In fact, every three minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a Blood Cancer. Survival rates have improved greatly, in the last two decades. Yet, every nine minutes, a patient will succumb to the disease. Over 600K are expected to die from Cancer, in the U.S., this year. Nearly 10% of them will have a type of Blood Cancer.

Most of us know what Cancer is, or we have a pretty good idea. We associate the disease with terms like mass, tumor and malignant. But what exactly is a Blood Cancer? Blood Cancers affect the production and function of the body’s blood cells. Most of these cancers will start in the bone marrow, where blood is produced. There are three main types of Blood Cancer:

  • Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood.
  • Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in cells that are part of the body’s immune system.
  • Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells.

To date, there are no effective screening tests for the early detection of Blood Cancers. But there are warning signs that we can share and make others aware of:

  • Unexplained fever.
  • Persistent fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath during normal activity.
  • Sweats, especially at night.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Persistent cough.
  • Abdominal pain, fullness and/or swelling.
  • Lymph node pain.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I encourage you to see your doctor immediately. 

If you have been diagnosed with a Blood Cancer, take a moment to just let the news sink in. Cancer treatment can be complex and often times overwhelming for the patient, caregiver and family. Tests and treatment approaches can vary. But there are many materials available that will help to explain each step, in terms that you can understand. There are support groups available, in many areas. Online chats and podcasts are offered on various cancer-support websites, i.e. the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Cancer Society, etc.

Your Treatment Team (usually comprised of primary care physicians, a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist and radiation oncologist), can not only answer questions, they can help connect you with the materials and support you need. Once you are in remission, or your disease is under control, good follow-up care is critical to your well-being. Some hospitals offer Survivorship Clinics that give cancer survivors comprehensive monitoring and support. Yearly exams are part of this clinical approach, as well as regular visits to your primary physician.

Since 1960, the five-year relative survival rate for Leukemia has more than quadrupled. Patients are fighting Blood Cancers, every day. Many are winning their battle. Medical breakthroughs continue to be made. And one day, God willing, there may be a cure.

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. It was designated as such, by Congress, just two short years after my mother passed. If Mom were here today, I think she’d like the idea. No. Scratch that. I know she would like the idea. As someone who worked professionally in healthcare for over 40 years, she would be tirelessly involved. We can do more to fight Blood Cancer! We will do more! The lives of millions are depending on it! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.nfcr.org/blog/7-facts-need-know-blood-cancers/

http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Cancers/

https://www.webmd.com/cancer/lymphoma/default.htm

http://www.lls.org/blood-cancer-awareness-month

https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/september-blood-cancer-awareness-month

*Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

You & Your Doctor: Is The Relationship Working?

It’s a tough question, but a pertinent one. Is the relationship with your doctor working? Many patients may not even consider the interaction between themselves and their doctor/s to be a “relationship”. They might even laugh at the thought, feeling the term is meant for something more intimate. But that’s exactly what it is — a relationship. One that has been discussed in thousands of medical articles and books, dating back to Hippocrates. And where Chronic illness is concerned, it’s a long-term partnership for your health. If it isn’t working, guess who suffers the consequences? You. 

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Doctors often know what spouses, partners and children do not know. After all, HIPAA now defines who a physician talks to about your health. It’s meant to protect your privacy. Discussions between a doctor and patient vary, i.e. diagnosis, medications, test results, symptoms, complications, etc. These are very important and highly personal. So, trust is key.

When trust exists between a doctor and patient, it is beneficial to both parties. Trust results in better communication and smarter decisions. That in turn results in the best of health care. A good doctor-patient relationship is the foundation for ethically practicing medicine. It is the responsible approach, by any physician. And one that every patient can certainly appreciate.

Do you trust your doctor? Are you comfortable discussing your health with him/her?When you have an appointment, do you feel that you are given adequate attention? Are your test results explained to your satisfaction? Were your questions answered? Were you even given an opportunity to speak? If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, then you may seriously need to consider the future of your doctor-patient relationship.

Do you feel as if you aren’t being heard (not for lack of trying)? Do you sometimes feel like a helpless guinea pig? Have you ever left your doctor’s office feeling like you’ve just experienced a fly-by from an F-22? Dazed. Scared. Frustrated. Anxious. Has your condition worsened under your doctor’s treatment approach? Have you lost confidence in your doctor’s abilities? Or in his/her game-plan for your health? Have you ever felt insulted by your doctor’s remarks? Or perhaps it was his/her tone that made matters worse? Does the thought of finding another doctor ever enter your head? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then your doctor-patient relationship has issues. You may need to make a change.

Back in 2006, a medical study asked Mayo Clinic patients what traits they considered to be “ideal” for any doctor. The patients involved were seen by doctors in 14 various medical specialties. The seven most sought traits, according to those participating in the study, were as follows:

  • Empathetic
  • Humane
  • Confident
  • Forthright
  • Personal
  • Respectful
  • Thorough

It’s not a lot to ask, when you think about it. Does your doctor fit the description? Or do you wish that he/she did? Only you know for certain.

If change is on the horizon, it’s important to do a little “homework” beforehand. There are reference links below that can help you. But, first and foremost, talk to your healthcare insurance. You want a doctor that is in their network. Healthcare is expensive and complicated enough. There’s no need to exacerbate those areas. Next, you want to know about the doctor’s Board Certifications. Where did he/she attend Medical School? Some are more distinguished than others. Then, you should consider the hospital/s that is connected to the doctor. This is where you may one day go for tests, treatment, possibly surgery. Be aware of any disciplinary action, or lawsuits, that involve the doctor or hospital. Ask about the doctor’s connections with Big Pharm. Is he/she working for you or them? You want the best medication for your condition, not a choice that has been heavily influenced by a sales-pitch. And, unfortunately, this does happen. So, don’t be shy. Ask questions. Expect and get answers. What are their office policies? Do they offer Patient Portals that are available 24/7 online? This is a relationship; remember? If it feels right, move forward and make the change. If not, keep looking until a more compatible physician can be found. 

Your health and well-being depends greatly upon your doctor and the relationship that you build with him/her. So, never hesitate to be actively involved. This is, after all, your life. If you have a doctor who you can trust, then you have the makings of a good relationship. Talk candidly. Work together. Become a team. You will find that you’re better equipped to manage your Chronic illness and less stressed. Setbacks are inevitable, but so are the solutions. And a better quality of life is always the goal!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496871/

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20060309/7-key-traits-of-ideal-doctor#1

http://certificationmatters.org/

https://apps.ama-assn.org/doctorfinder/

https://www.healthgrades.com/

https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/hipaa-privacy-rule

https://www.abms.org/board-certification/

https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/code-medical-ethics-patient-physician-relationships

*Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

 

 

A Splash Of Relief

Many of us have been in pain, at one time or another. Some have experienced severe pain. But if you are one of the millions who live with a Chronic illness, you may also be living with chronic pain. Harsh. Relentless. Overwhelming. It’s unlike any pain that you have ever experienced — consuming you. And managing it is a struggle all its own. If this is you, relief may be easier than you ever imagined. Are you ready to take the plunge?

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In the summertime, most of us think of a swimming pool as a great place to escape the heat. Relax. Unwind. All of which are true. But a swimming pool can also provide the perfect environment for Aquatic Therapy, or Water Therapy as it is also known. 

When your body is immersed in water, it allows you to relieve physical stresses. Even something as simple as flotation has its benefits. Pressure is taken away from your muscles and joints. Other water options include: lap swimming, water aerobics, water yoga, and aquajogging. Aside from offering wonderful, low-impact exercise, the pool also gives you the opportunity to reduce your pain, lower your blood-pressure and enjoy yourself. You might even lose some weight. But, there’s more. Aquatic Therapy can increase your mobility — alleviating that pesky stiffness. It can also reduce fatigue. And all are positives for the management of any Chronic illness, especially one with chronic pain. Results vary, but studies have shown that utilizing a pool does work. And that makes this therapy something to strongly consider. You can have a better quality of life. So, go for it!

As with any exercise program, you should first talk to your doctor. He or she may even make recommendations that will help you find the best option, for your specific health needs. Most Aquatic Therapy is done in an indoor pool, with warm water. But outdoor facilities can also be used. If you are interested in exploring Aquatic Therapy, you can find a program at your local YMCA, a Health Club, Athletic Club, or Spa.  

Life is meant to be enjoyed. That’s possible, even with a Chronic illness. It starts with good pain management … and a splash!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/health_benefits_water_exercise.html

https://www.healthcentral.com/article/study-finds-swimming-reduces-pain-associated-with-fibromyalgia

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/exercise/arthritis-friendly/lap-swimming.php

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/water-aerobics

https://www.painscience.com/articles/aquatic-therapy.php

* Photo by Haley Phelps on Unsplash

 

A Patient Has Rights

When you or a loved one is sick, there’s a lot to juggle. Tests. Medications. Sometimes, surgical procedures. There’s endless questions to ask. Answers that are desperately needed. And no matter how earnestly you address this upheaval, you are bound to forget something. In healthcare, your crisis is just another day at work. But for you as well as your loved ones, it’s life-altering. Scary. Often times, it may seem easier to just nod and follow along. You may find yourself even doing so, despite the concerns that are keeping you awake at night. Perhaps, you just don’t want to make a fuss? Appear difficult? Take up too much of the doctor’s time? Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a Chronic illness understands your hesitation, confusion, fears. You want to get well — not make waves. But this isn’t Obedience Training for a new puppy. This is your life — your health. And you have rights. It’s important to know them! 

 

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Back in the summer of 1970, a grass-roots organization called The National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) drafted a document of 26 requests regarding healthcare treatment. This became the first Patient’s Bill of Rights. Their action came on the heels of a revision to hospital standards, by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. After several months of negotiation, many of the requests were included in the revised hospital standards by JCAH. In 1972, the American Hospital Association adopted a Patient’s Bill of Rights for operational use. By 1988, all 50 states had adopted a form of the Patient’s Bill of Rights to protect patients. The American Medical Association (AMA) followed suit, a year later. In 1992, the Patient’s Bill of Rights was acknowledged Federally and updated. Another revision took place, in 2010, on the Federal level. And most recently, at the Federal level, a revision was added this year to include the “Right To Try” for terminally-ill patients. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most nations have a form of a Patient’s Bill of Rights that stem from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). They may vary slightly, but all were created to protect the patient. This is something to remember, when traveling abroad.

Yet, despite these many actions, Patient’s Rights are still violated. In 2016, the National Institute for Patient Rights (NIPR) conducted a study to see just how well the system works. Their findings comprised a list of the Top Ten violations of Patient’s Rights:

  • The failure to communicate
  • Adequate presentation of treatment options.
  • A lack of respect for advance directives.
  • Miscommunication.
  • Conflict between medical team & patient/advocate.
  • The right to know hospital charges and payment methods.
  • The right to review the patient’s bill.
  • Knowledge of hospital resources, including the complaints & grievance process, patient representatives, or ethics committee.
  • The right to know the identity & professional status of those working on the patient.
  • The right to review medical records, account information, etc.

It’s difficult trying to juggle the overwhelming news of a diagnosis, treatment, etc. But the process will be easier, in the long run, if you aren’t afraid to ask questions. Patients have rights. It’s a matter of professional ethics and law. Caregivers, advocates and/or family members can help by discussing a patient’s concerns with them. Make notes. That way, questions will be answered to the satisfaction of the patient. And if they aren’t, take action. Your health, or the health of a loved one, is too precious to leave to chance.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/38/17.33

http://www.nationalhealthcouncil.org/resources/nhc-publications/principles-patients-rights-and-responsibilities

https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Federal+Patients%27+Bill+of+Rights

https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Health-Insurance-Market-Reforms/Patients-Bill-of-Rights.html

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/104767-president-obama-unveils-patients-bill-of-rights

http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/389514-right-to-try-is-a-win-for-patient-rights-and-president-trump

http://techfeatured.com/automotive/1430/patient-rights-top-ten-list-of-most-violated

https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/patients-rights-i-origin-and-nature-patientsrights

http://www.who.int/genomics/public/patientrights/en/

* Photo by Mariano Rossi on Unsplash