A Typical Panic Attack

In a previous post, I pointed out that being diagnosed with cancer often causes anxiety. I know it did for me.  I recently came across a video I thought was worth posting it to this blog.  I hope you enjoy it.  Just what causes panic attacks?  The short and obvious answer: panic attacks are caused by high anxiety.

But, what exactly is anxiety? Understanding how anxiety crops up will help you defeat panic attacks.

One of the biggest myths surrounding anxiety is that it is harmful and can lead to a number of various life-threatening conditions.

Definition of Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as a state of apprehension or fear resulting from the anticipation of a real or imagined threat, event, or situation. It is one of the most common human emotions experienced by people at some point in their lives.

However, most people who have never experienced a panic attack, or extreme anxiety, fail to realize the terrifying nature of the experience. Extreme dizziness, blurred vision, tingling and feelings of breathlessness—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

When these sensations occur and people do not understand why, they feel they have contracted an illness, or a serious mental condition. The threat of losing complete control seems very real and naturally very terrifying.

Fight/Flight Response: One of the root causes of panic attacks?

I am sure most of you have heard of the fight/flight response as an explanation for one of the root causes of panic attacks. Have you made the connection between this response and the unusual sensations you experience during and after a panic attack episode?

Anxiety is a response to a danger or threat. It is so named because all of its effects are aimed toward either fighting or fleeing from the danger. Thus, the sole purpose of anxiety is to protect the individual from harm. This may seem ironic given that you no doubt feel your anxiety is actually causing you great harm…perhaps the most significant of all the causes of panic attacks.

However, the anxiety that the fight/flight response created was vital in the daily survival of our ancient ancestors—when faced with some danger, an automatic response would take over that propelled them to take immediate action such as attack or run. Even in today’s hectic world, this is still a necessary mechanism. It comes in useful when you must respond to a real threat within a split second.

Anxiety is a built-in mechanism to protect us from danger. Interestingly, it is a mechanism that protects but does not harm—an important point that will be elaborated upon later.

The Physical Manifestations of a Panic Attack: Other pieces of the puzzle to understand the causes of panic attacks. Nervousness and Chemical Effects…

When confronted with danger, the brain sends signals to a section of the nervous system. It is this system that is responsible for gearing the body up for action and also calms the body down and restores equilibrium. To carry out these two vital functions, the autonomic nervous system has two subsections, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

Although I don’t want to become too “scientific,” having a basic understanding of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system will help you understand the causes of panic attacks.

The sympathetic nervous system is the one we tend to know all too much about because it primes our body for action, readies us for the “fight or flight” response, while the parasympathetic nervous system is the one we love dearly as it serves as our restoring system, which returns the body to its normal state.

When either of these systems is activated, they stimulate the whole body, which has an “all or nothing” effect. This explains why when a panic attack occurs, the individual often feels a number of different sensations throughout the body.

The sympathetic system is responsible for releasing the adrenaline from the adrenal glands on the kidneys. These are small glands located just above the kidneys. Less known, however, is that the adrenal glands also release adrenaline, which functions as the body’s chemical messengers to keep the activity going. When a panic attack begins, it does not switch off as easily as it is turned on. There is always a period of what would seem increased or continued anxiety, as these messengers travel throughout the body. Think of them as one of the physiological causes of panic attacks, if you will.

After a period of time, the parasympathetic nervous system gets called into action. Its role is to return the body to normal functioning once the perceived danger is gone. The parasympathetic system is the system we all know and love, because it returns us to a calm relaxed state.

When we engage in a coping strategy that we have learned, for example, a relaxation technique, we are in fact willing the parasympathetic nervous system into action. A good thing to remember is that this system will be brought into action at some stage whether we will it or not. The body cannot continue in an ever-increasing spiral of anxiety. It reaches a point where it simply must kick in, relaxing the body. This is one of the many built-in protection systems our bodies have for survival.

You can do your best with worrying thoughts, keeping the sympathetic nervous system going, but eventually it stops. In time, it becomes a little smarter than us, and realizes that there really is no danger. Our bodies are incredibly intelligent—modern science is always discovering amazing patterns of intelligence that run throughout the cells of our body. Our body seems to have infinite ways of dealing with the most complicated array of functions we take for granted. Rest assured that your body’s primary goal is to keep you alive and well.

Not so convinced?

Try holding your breath for as long as you can. No matter how strong your mental will is, it can never override the will of the body. This is good news—no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that you are gong to die from a panic attack, you won’t. Your body will override that fear and search for a state of balance. There has never been a reported incident of someone dying from a panic attack.

Remember this next time you have a panic attack; he causes of panic attacks cannot do you any physical harm. Your mind may make the sensations continue longer than the body intended, but eventually everything will return to a state of balance. In fact, balance (homeostasis) is what our body continually strives for.

The interference for your body is nothing more than the sensations of doing rigorous exercise. Our body is not alarmed by these symptoms. Why should it be? It knows its own capability. It’s our thinking minds that panic, which overreact and scream in sheer terror! We tend to fear the worst and exaggerate our own sensations. A quickened heart beat becomes a heart attack. An overactive mind seems like a close shave with schizophrenia. Is it our fault? Not really—we are simply diagnosing from poor information.

Cardiovascular Effects Activity in the sympathetic nervous system increases our heartbeat rate, speeds up the blood flow throughout the body, ensures all areas are well supplied with oxygen and that waste products are removed. This happens in order to prime the body for action.

A fascinating feature of the “fight or flight” mechanism is that blood (which is channelled from areas where it is currently not needed by a tightening of the blood vessels) is brought to areas where it is urgently needed.

For example, should there be a physical attack, blood drains from the skin, fingers, and toes so that less blood is lost, and is moved to “active areas” such as the thighs and biceps to help the body prepare for action.

This is why many feel numbness and tingling during a panic attack-often misinterpreted as some serious health risk-such as the precursor to a heart attack. Interestingly, most people who suffer from anxiety often feel they have heart problems. If you are really worried that such is the case with your situation, visit your doctor and have it checked out. At least then you can put your mind at rest.

Respiratory Effects

One of the scariest effects of a panic attack is the fear of suffocating or smothering. It is very common during a panic attack to feel tightness in the chest and throat. I’m sure everyone can relate to some fear of losing control of your breathing. From personal experience, anxiety grows from the fear that your breathing itself would cease and you would be unable to recover. Can a panic attack stop our breathing? No.

A panic attack is associated with an increase in the speed and depth of breathing. This has obvious importance for the defense of the body since the tissues need to get more oxygen to prepare for action. The feelings produced by this increase in breathing, however, can include breathlessness, hyperventilation, sensations of choking or smothering, and even pains or tightness in the chest. The real problem is that these sensations are alien to us, and they feel unnatural.

Having experienced extreme panic attacks myself, I remember that on many occasions, I would have this feeling that I couldn’t trust my body to do the breathing for me, so I would have to manually take over and tell myself when to breathe in and when to breathe out. Of course, this didn’t suit my body’s requirement of oxygen and so the sensations would intensify—along with the anxiety. It was only when I employed the technique I will describe for you later, did I let the body continue doing what it does best—running the whole show.

Importantly, a side-effect of increased breathing, (especially if no actual activity occurs) is that the blood supply to the head is actually decreased. While such a decrease is only a small amount and is not at all dangerous, it produces a variety of unpleasant but harmless symptoms that include dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, sense of unreality, and hot flushes.

Other Physical Effects of Panic Attacks:

Now that we’ve discussed some of the primary physiological causes of panic attacks, there are a number of other effects that are produced by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, none of which are in any way harmful.

For example, the pupils widen to let in more light, which may result in blurred vision, or “seeing” stars, etc. There is a decrease in salivation, resulting in dry mouth. There is decreased activity in the digestive system, which often produces nausea, a heavy feeling in the stomach, and even constipation. Finally, many of the muscle groups tense up in preparation for “fight or flight” and this results in subjective feelings of tension, sometimes extending to actual aches and pains, as well as trembling and shaking.

Overall, the fight/flight response results in a general activation of the whole bodily metabolism. Thus, one often feels hot and flushed and, because this process takes a lot of energy, the person generally feels tired and drained.

Mental Manifestations: Are the causes of panic attacks all in my head? is a question many people wonder to themselves.

The goal of the fight/flight response is making the individual aware of the potential danger that may be present. Therefore, when activated, the mental priority is placed upon searching the surroundings for potential threats. In this state one is highly-strung, so to speak. It is very difficult to concentrate on any one activity, as the mind has been trained to seek all potential threats and not to give up until the threat has been identified. As soon as the panic hits, many people look for the quick and easiest exit from their current surroundings, such as by simply leaving the bank queue and walking outside. Sometimes the anxiety can heighten, if we perceive that leaving will cause some sort of social embarrassment.

If you have a panic attack while at the workplace but feel you must press on with whatever task it is you are doing, it is quite understandable that you would find it very hard to concentrate. It is quite common to become agitated and generally restless in such a situation. Many individuals I have worked with who have suffered from panic attacks over the years indicated that artificial light—such as that which comes from computer monitors and televisions screens—can can be one of the causes of panic attacks by triggering them or worsen a panic attack, particularly if the person is feeling tired or run down.

This is worth bearing in mind if you work for long periods of time on a computer. Regular break reminders should be set up on your computer to remind you to get up from the desk and get some fresh air when possible.

In other situations, when during a panic attack an outside threat cannot normally be found, the mind turns inwards and begins to contemplate the possible illness the body or mind could be suffering from. This ranges from thinking it might have been something you ate at lunch, to the possibility of an oncoming cardiac arrest.

The burning question is: Why is the fight/flight response activated during a panic attack even when there is apparently nothing to be frightened of?

Upon closer examination of the causes of panic attacks, it would appear that what we are afraid of are the sensations themselves—we are afraid of the body losing control. These unexpected physical symptoms create the fear or panic that something is terribly wrong. Why do you experience the physical symptoms of the fight/flight response if you are not frightened to begin with? There are many ways these symptoms can manifest themselves, not just through fear.

For example, it may be that you have become generally stressed for some reason in your life, and this stress results in an increase in the production of adrenaline and other chemicals, which from time to time, would produce symptoms….and which you perceive as the causes of panic attacks.

This increased adrenaline can be maintained chemically in the body, even after the stress has long gone. Another possibility is diet, which directly affects our level of stress. Excess caffeine, alcohol, or sugar is known for causing stress in the body, and is believed to be one of the contributing factors of the causes of panic attacks (Chapter 5 gives a full discussion on diet and its importance).

Unresolved emotions are often pointed to as possible trigger of panic attacks, but it is important to point out that eliminating panic attacks from your life does not necessarily mean analyzing your psyche and digging into your subconscious. The “One Move” technique will teach you to deal with the present moment and defuse the attack along with removing the underlying anxiety that sparks the initial anxiety.

 

Posted in General

I Am Now An “Official” Cancer Survivor

Official Cancer Survivor

Yesterday I had an appointment with my oncologist to review my recent PET
Scan, chest ex-ray and blood work.  He congratulated me by saying,

you are now an “official” Cancer Survivor“.  I was diagnosed in 2005 and
now it’s 2010.  I guess five years is the accepted time span for being an
official cancer survivor.  I don’t necessarily believe that.  I
believe if you have been diagnosed with cancer, even if the
diagnosis was just five minutes ago
, and you are still alive, you are an
official cancer survivor.

I realize that after five years, your chances for remaining cancer free
improves considerably.  If you were diagnosed with cancer yesterday, five
years ago, or 10 years ago , and you are still alive, you
are
a cancer survivor.  Do you wants to continue
being a official cancer survivor?  If so, it’s up to you; not your doctors.
It’s like your stock broker told you when he was presenting an investment
opportunity, “Past results do not guarantee future results.”  You
need to take responsibility for your continued survival.  You need to be
proactive.  You know, things like having a healthy diet, exercise, avoiding
cancer risks and things like that.

Prevent Cancer by living a healthy lifestyle

I know I just said that you can prevent cancer from coming back by living a
healthy lifestyle.  I also know that for some people, that is easier said
than done.  But did you know that living a healthy lifestyle can become a
habit.  It can become automatic.  You can live a healthy style
completely automatically without even thinking about it.  Let me give you
an example.  Let’s say that you are driving your car and another car or a
pedestrian suddenly darts out in front of you.  Dou you consciously weigh
all your options?  Do you think, “I should bear left?  Or, “I
should veer right?
or “I should hit the breaks”?  No, of
course you don’t.  You do what is best robotically without even thinking
about it. How did you learn to do that?  By driving every day for a period
of time.  The more you drive safely the more it becomes a habit.  You
become a safe driver.  The same thing is true developing the habit of
living healthy.  How many people are nervous about or even fail their first
driving test?  Most of us.  Most of us will falter and forget things
we should do as we embark on a healthy lifestyle.  But like driving skills
living a healthy lifestyle will become habitual.

Posted in General, Preventing Cancer, Surviving Cancer

Warnings Concerning Cancer

I’m not an alarmist nor do I subscribe to conspiracy theories.  I’m not Chicken Little and I don’t believe the sky is falling.  However, I am no longer keeping my head in the sand either.  I am now paying close attention to the many warnings concerning cancer.

Ignoring Cancer Warnings

This article is to point out the folly of ignoring cancer warnings just because we don’t believe them and consider those making them as “Prophets of Gloom”, Alarmist, or Conspiracy Theorists.

I ignored the warnings concerning skin cancer.  From my pre-teen years I seldom used sun protection even though I practically lived on the beach for the entire summer months.  As an adult, I seldom if ever used any type of sun protection.  I’m not alone.  Men are two times more likely than women to not protect their skin in the sun.

We ignore warnings from dermatologists that shade and clothing should be the first line of defense against sun damage.  I know I did. And I was recently treated for Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

I should have heeded the cancer warnings signs.

Almost all of my life I suffered heartburn, a sour, burning sensation in the back of my throat, and other symptoms such as chronic cough, laryngitis, and nausea.  Did I take heed and talk with a doctor about it?  NO, I just bought a lot of over-the-counter anti-acid remedies.  I’ve read that that people over the age of 40 who have a long-term history of heartburn be screened for Barrett’s esophagus.  I knew a history of current or past smoking is a factor in developing Barrett’s Esophagus.  Years ago my doctor wanted to perform an upper endoscopy and biopsy.  It didn’t sound like a very pleasant procedure so I declined.

Now I have Barrett’s Esophagus which increases the risk of developing Esophageal Aden Carcinoma, which is a serious, potentially fatal cancer of the esophagus.

I should have heeded the warnings signs.

I ignored the cancer warnings concerning smoking.  I was diagnosed and treated for Stage Four cancer and almost died.  The treatment and their complications were terrible.  The cancer started in my tonsils and there is absolutely do doubt that my smoking was the cause of my cancer.

I should have heeded the cancer warnings signs

I remember the warnings about lead paint. Not too many people heeded them.  Not even government health agencies.  Not until children started dying due to lead poising.
We should have heeded the warnings signs.

Health warnings are not the only warnings that we ignore.  There were many warning concerning the business practices of Bernard Madoff.
We should have heeded those warnings.

Warnings Lehman Brothers were ignored.  According to the Bloomberg Report: The warning was ominous: “Massive global wealth destruction.”  We ignored those warnings resulting in the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Cancer Warnings That Are Too Often Ignored

Let’s get back to cancer warnings that are too often ignored.

Women are taught the importance of detecting bodily changes and seeking medical care.  Too many will either miss the early warning signs of cancer or ignore them.

Celebrated photographer Terry O’Neill lived with bowel cancer for ten years without knowing it.  He said, “I ignored cancer warning signs…it nearly killed me.”

Many people ignore the early warning signs of cancer out of fear or a lack of knowledge about warning signs. And, by the time some people realize something is definitely wrong, it’s often too late to prevent the continued spread of the cancer.

It’s not so much that we ignore the warnings.  It’s that we don’t know the health risks and dangers of many products.  Why does it tale so long for us to be warned about the health dangers of so many products?”

Lobbyist Prevent Cancer Warnings From Being Published

America’s healthcare industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to influence congress.  Right now there are six lobbyists for every member of Congress.  It was the lobbyist who kept health warnings about smoking away from the American people and the entire world for years.

Are lobbyist influencing researches and governments concerning the risk of developing brain cancer by using cel phones?  Here’s what leading researchers are saying:
Mobile Phones Are More Dangerous Than Smoking.

Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by award-winning cancer expert Dr. Vini Khurana has concluded.

Vini Khurana, a top Australian neurosurgeon says the world’s heavy reliance on mobile phones could be a greater threat to human health than smoking and even asbestos.

As cell phone use increases, the potential risk of health problems from cell phones continues to grow.  Teenagers and children are at the greatest risk as their brain tissues continue to grow and radiation penetrates deeper into their skull.

Cell Phone Cancer Warning

Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning

 

A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer, although there is no consensus among scientists that they do and industry leaders dispute the claim.The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no U.S. states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom wants his city to be the nation’s first to require the warnings.

Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, said numerous studies point to the cancer risk, and she has persuaded legislative leaders to allow her proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 session that begins in January, a session usually reserved for emergency and governors’ bills.

Protect Yourself.  Heed the Cell Phone Cancer Warning.  I am.  I am no longer keeping my head in the sand.  I am now paying close attention to the many warnings concerning cancer, including the warnings concerning the cancer risks of using cel phones.

Posted in General

Stupid or Crazy?

During the 50 plus years that I smoked, I often said to someone lighting a cigarette, “There are only two types of people who smoke; crazy people and stupid people”.  Then I would watch their reaction.  While they were deciding whether or not to throw their cigarette away, I would light up my Camel non filter.  I thought that was cute.  It usually got a laugh.

Which do you think I am?  I continued to smoke even after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer that started in my tonsils.  I continued to smoke after my cancer treatments which included several surgeries, extensive chemotherapy that almost killed me, and 38 treatments of radiation.  I continued to smoke when the doctor warned me that if I didn’t quit, the cancer would come back.  Not might come back but would come back. I still continued to smoke.  Stupid or crazy?  I don’t know but I finally quit.

What I do know, is that quitting smoking is very difficult.  In fact, research shows that quitting smoking is more difficult then quitting an alcohol or a heroin addiction.  Difficult? Yes.  Impossible?  No.

I don’t think you can scare most people into quitting smoking.  I read all the warning labels on every pack of cigarettes I smoked.  I went through horrible medical treatments with even worse complications and side effects.  Did that scare me into quitting?  No!  I could list two or more pages of specific health problems and risks proven to be connected with smoking.  These health warnings are written right on the pack of your cigarettes.  It doesn’t seem to be scaring many people into quitting.

Here is another thought.  Most people can not be reasoned into quitting.  Why is that?  Someone once said, “You can’t reason a person into something they were not reasoned into.”  I don’t think there are too many people who were reasoned into smoking.  So they can’t be reasoned into quitting.  If you are going to quit, you have to provide the reason for doing so and the motivation for quitting yourself.

Once you decide to quit, you CAN quit.  No, I didn’t say it would be easy.  I said, You can quit! You may need help but here is plenty of help available.

OK, OK.  I’ll get off my soap box.  Nothing worse than a reformed smoker.  Tomorrow’s post won’t be about smoking.  In the mean time you may want to check out these resources.

Government Resources

Posted in Smoking And Cancer

Smoking And Lung Cancer

Smokers may develop a fatalistic attitude and assume there is little they can do to improve their chances of survival after a diagnosis of lung cancer. That would be a mistake, say researchers writing today in the British Medical Journal.

The above  is from

The Los Angeles Times

Tomorrow I am going topost my experience with smoking.  It was smoking that caused my Stage 4 cancer.  There is no doubt about that.  Be sure to check this blog tomorrow.

Posted in Smoking And Cancer

Pet Scan

Pet Scan

Yesterday, as part of my cancer follow up, I had a PET Scan at the Sandwich, MA Health Center.  Pet Scans are not too bad unless you are claustrophobic.  Or, if you are like me and have very hard veins to find or access.  A PET scan requires the technician to inject a chemical into your vein prior to the scan.

As usual, they had a very difficult time trying to find a vein they could access.  They examined the entire length of both of my arms without any luck.  Then they examined the backs of my hands.  I was hoping they wouldn’t be able to use any of those veins.  The times when those veins were used for injections or blood samples, the back of my hand was horribly bruised for a week or more.  Very ugly.  They were not able to find a vein they could access on the back of either hand.

They discussed the possibility of sending me to the Falmouth Hospital’s IV Department.  I was not crazy about that.  I just wanted to get the procedure over with.  The technicians were very thorough.  They put hot towels on my arms to see if that would expand my veins.  That didn’t work.  As I said, these technicians were very professional and did not give up.

Finally they found a vein on my wrist they thought they could access and asked my permission to try.  I gave it to them.  Bingo, it worked and I had my Pet Scan.

As I mentioned, the staff of the Sandwich, MA Health Center were very professional, competent and caring.  My thanks to all of them.  I wish I had taken their names so I could publically thank them.

When I got home I had an email from my ex-wife asking how it went.  She also said she was worried about the results of the PET scan.  Personally, I am not worried.  If it shows the cancer has not come back, obviously I will be happy.  If it shows that it has come back or they find a new one, I will accept that too.  Surviving Stage 4 Cancer with multiple complications as a result of the Cancer Treatment, I have learned not to worry about things I have no control over.  In a previous post, I wrote that I won the battle with my Stage 4 Cancer, not by fighting it but by surrendering.   Today, I believe that I am a better person as a result of going through my battle with Cancer.

Posted in General

What Do We Know About Cancer?

Cancer Research

When I was first diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and the shock, fear and depression lessened, I did a great deal of research about cancer.  I wanted to know everything I could about the horrid disease called cancer.  I began to do as much cancer research as I could.

I’m still doing research and there is still an awful lot that I don’t know.  There is still a lot that the professional don’t know yet.  But thankfully, the research goes on.  And still there is much that we do not know.

Forms of Cancer

There are countless diverse forms of cancer and new discoveries are being uncovered on a daily basis. What we do know about cancer is what it is and how it affects the body.  We also know what the risk factors are. I am learning everyday about habits and behaviors to lessen the risk of cancer developing.  I am also learning about new treatments.  I created this blog help lower your risk of going through the turmoil of being diagnosed and treated for cancer.

Cancer education and research has given those in the medical community the skills to diagnose and treat cancer in the early stages.

All cancer is the result of cells that increase in an unseemly fashion.  They all begin from bad cell growth; it doesn’t matter where it is located within the body.  Normal cells divide and grow in the body on a regular, healthy basis everyday.

Cancer cells, however do not act this way; they divide more rapidly.  Then they mass forming, a tumor and sometimes they travel to other areas of the body and start taking over the normal cells. This is called metastasis.

Primary Cancer

Cancers are named for the part of the body in which the originated; this is called the primary cancer.  This fact is important because cancer treatment is based upon where the cancer starts.  My cancer first showed visible signs of a large growth on the right side of me neck.  The doctors told me they thought my cancer started in my tonsils but they wouldn’t be certain until they did tonsillectomy and biopsy. I responded by asking, “You think it started in my tonsils?”  I followed that question with, “I don’t care where it started, just get rid of it.”  That’s when I learned that cancer treatment is based upon the primary cancer; where the cancer starts even if it travels elsewhere in the body.

Lowering The Risk Of Developing Cancer

Today I focus much of my research on lowering the risk of developing cancer.  From the professional research I have read, I have discovered many things we can do to lower the risk of developing cancer.  By using these discoveries, we can adjust our lifestyles and diets to avoid things that increase our risk for developing cancer.  However, there is NO guaranteed way to avoid cancer.  Even doctors do not know every thing about cancer, so being able to avoid it all together is, to all intents and purposes, impossible.  Lowering your risks, however, is much better than not doing anything at all.  Research has shown that the less risk factors we have, the less of a chance we have for developing cancer.

Posted in General, Preventing Cancer

What is Cancer Video

Cancer
View more presentations from johnfink.
Posted in General

Long Term Follow up Program For Children Diagnosed with Cancer

Imagine your child being cured of a life-threatening childhood cancer only to discover that long-term health problems may develop as a result of the very treatments that cured the cancer.   Such is the case for the estimated 270,000 childhood cancer survivors living in the United States today.  Every parent and loved one  of a child treated for cancer  needs to read this Free Report.  It could prevent major health problems for the cancer treated child later in life.

It is a LONG-TERM FOLLOW-UP RESOURCE GUIDE.  You can access this 238 page report by Clicking Here. This report is free and provided to you by the Children’s Oncology Group.  you will not have to provide your email address to read it.  You won’t be asked to buy or subscribe to anything.  Just Get It Now.

Posted in Children with cancer

Children diagnosed with cancer

I mentioned in a previous post, that one of the saddest and most heartbreaking scenes I have ever witnessed was walking down the hallway of the cancer treatment hospital where I had my initial chemotherapy treatments and surgeries.  What I saw that broke my heart were the many children undergoing cancer treatment.  You wouldn’t be human if your heart didn’t break looking at the many children smiling with their bald heads.  Actually, not all of them were smiling; some were crying or looked very frightened.  I could also see the pain on the faces of their parents although they were trying to look brave and strong for their children.

I have five grown children, fortunately none of them were ever diagnosed with this horrible disease.  However, I often wondered how I would respond if one of my children had been diagnosed with cancer.  Today, I worry that it may happen to one of my grandchildren.  I try to push those thoughts out of my mind when they creep in.  I try to think of positive things about children with cancer.  And there are some good things:

Almost 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer survive it.

I have been critical of many of today’s cancer treatments and the doctor’s motivation for prescribing some treatments.  In spite of that, medical treatment for cancer has come a long way over the years.  It used to be that almost any diagnosis of cancer was an automatic death sentence.  That’s no longer true.  Today there are many people, like myself, who have survived Stage IV cancer.

Over the past 20 years, there has been some increase in the incidence of children diagnosed with all forms of invasive cancer, from 11.5 cases per 100,000 children in 1975 to 14.8 per 100,000 children in 2004. During this same time, however, death rates declined dramatically and 5-year survival rates increased for most childhood cancers.  Source: Cancer.Gov

Late Effects for children diagnosed with cancer

Above, I pointed out the good news concerning children diagnosed with cancer.  Unfortunately, there is also some bad news.  Late side effects can crop up months, or even years after cancer has been treated.  If parents  are not aware of these delayed possibilities, they might not connect the symptoms or developments with the cancer treatment.  As a result, a seemingly insignificant health problem could become a life-threatening problem.  Parents need to be aware of these things and be prepared.

Parents need to be informed and proactive.

You are your child’s primary caregiver.  Even when your children grow up (do they ever?) 🙂 and have families of their own; you are still their parent.  From the moment your child is diagnosed with cancer, you should keep a journal.  From the first diagnosis keep a pencil and notebook, or even a small voice recorder with you and record everything.  This will help you during your child’s treatment.  More importantly, you will have an accurate and detailed record for the future.  That could be extremely important.

Be Open And Honest

Be honest with yourself, your family and most importantly with your child. The knowledge you have acquired regarding late side effects will help your child lead a full, healthy and productive life.

From the very beginning, immediately following your child’s diagnosis,  maintain a healthy way of living for your entire family .  A healthy diet throughout and following treatment will help minimize side effects,  boost energy, improve moods, increase self-esteem and fuel the immune system.

Following your child’s treatment, get together all the basic information for your child’s continued care.  A copy of that entire file should be given to your child.  Not just the medical but a record of your own fears and tears.  That journal could some day be one of child’s most prized posessions.

School Difficulties For The Child Cancer Survivor

You should be aware that, as a result of  the cancer and/or the treatment, your child may have difficulty in school.  Schedule a meeting with the school administrators, teachers and guidance counselors to confer about your child’s requirements and health issues. Discuss with them about learning problems such as chemobrain (Yes, that’s a real medical condition),  resulting from chemotherapy. You may consider having your child take a neuropsychological evaluation.  remember, knowledge is power and prevention is still the best medicine.

Be aware that transitioning to “normal life” after treatment ends may bring about fear, anxiety and stress.

“It is critical that childhood cancer survivors receive accurate and current information about late effects,”  Stacia Wagner, a National Children’s Cancer Society (N.C.C.S.) survivorship specialist and cancer survivor.

Posted in Children with cancer

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