Cancer Taught Me to Embrace Normal

It’s a rare occasion when I sit down at 7:30 am in the morning, flip on the television and watch a Netflix documentary.  But after 4 straight days of early morning rises, this is what I did.  I invited Brene Brown into my family room to join me in my day.

Now if you have had the good fortune to watch The Call to Courage on Netflix I am sure we share, at the very least, an admiration for her stage presence.  Beyond that I can only reflect upon my personal admiration for her work, her research and her word.

To itemize all of her insights would be a total spoiler for you.  But there was one that I would like to expound upon because it resonated so deeply with me.

Appreciating Normal

I was totally qualified to lead the line of the great many of us who go through life mechanically.  I tended to the daily tasks that needed tending to.  I said ‘have a great day’ without thought as someone left the house in the morning.  And I grudgingly tackled the nuisance of the daily dinner menu.

This was how I did the normal of my everyday life.  I did normal mindlessly.  Until I got cancer.

In no way, shape or form do I consider this disease, my disease, a blessing of any kind contrary to those who have offered up to me the notion that some form of clarity is tied to a cancer diagnosis.

What going through cancer did do was steal my normal.  Those aspects of mundane in my life were replaced with appointments, tests, results, recoveries and fears.

I found myself searching for normalcy and it was in that search that I found gratitude.  Yes, in the midst of it all, I became grateful.  Grateful for hearing the garage door slam because I knew that someone made it home safely.  Grateful for a dish breaking because people were eating together.  Grateful for kids fighting because those children are mine and they are well and they are near.  Grateful for my sleeping husband because he is my best friend and most avid supporter.

So Now…

As life moves forward from cancer and with the grace of God that I am still living it, I have gratefully settled back in to my normal.  It’s not, nor will it ever be perfect.  But I have made a commitment to practice gratitude daily which helps me to breathe and accept some nuances of my normal that will never quite be appreciated.  Case in point is the danger zone marked by the 75 pairs of shoes piled in my back hall for instance.

So here is to Normal!  Normal is where I live most of my life.  Normal is that sweet spot between the highs and the lows.  And normal is right where I want to be.

 

Does Sleeping in on the Weekend Make Up for Lack of Sleep During the Week?

Sleep is our reward at the end of the day that allows our body to regroup, repair and restore.  But what happens if we don’t get enough sleep?

In the short term the effects of not getting adequate sleep can include:

  • Lack of alertness
  • Impaired memory
  • Moodiness

Chronic lack of sleep can have a severe impact on your health leading to serious health issues such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart issues
  • obesity
  • depression

And research has shown that long-term sleep disruptions may raise the risk of some cancers including prostate cancers and breast cancers.

https://www.cathybiase.com/sleeping-cancer-fighting-powerhouse/

So now that we know, in broad sweeps, the importance of getting adequate sleep,  how much sleep is enough sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.

So let’s do the math.  If we take the average of required sleep time to be 8 hours per night then multiply that number by 7 days a week, that works out to 56 hours of sleep a week to hit the desired target.  And when we get less than our needed amount of nightly sleep, this results in what scientists call a ‘sleep debt’.

So here is the question, if we fall short of the average 7-9 hours of sleep during the week, can we repay this sleep debt by sleeping in on the weekend?  Many of us assume yes but research suggests otherwise.

In this study researchers enlisted 36 healthy adults age 18 to 39 to stay for two weeks in a laboratory.  Their food intake, light exposure and sleep were monitored.

Volunteers were divided into groups. One group was allowed to sleep 9 hours each night for 9 nights. The second was allowed 5 hours per night over that same 9 day period. The third group slept no more than 5 hours nightly for 5 days followed by a weekend when they could sleep as much as they liked before returning to 2 days of restricted sleep.

Both of the sleep-restricted groups snacked more at night, gained weight and saw declines in insulin sensitivity during the study period. While those in the weekend recovery group saw mild improvements (including reduced nighttime snacking) during the weekend, those benefits went away when the sleep-restricted workweek resumed.  According to Christopher Depner, lead author of the study

In the end, we didn’t see any benefit in any metabolic outcome in the people who got to sleep in on the weekend

Getting a good sleep on a nightly basis is something many of us need to work on.

Here are some tips to help the Sandman come your way.

Tips for better sleep:

  1. Turn all electronics off 1 hour before bedtime
  2. Do not eat 3 hours before bedtime
  3. Sleep in a cool, dark room
  4. If you must have electronics in your room, keep them 2 feet away from your bed
  5. Be consistent with your bed time aiming to go to bed around 10pm

Sleep well friends!

Here is a very interesting and informative interview that I did with Dr. Garcia-Rill entitled “Why Do We Sleep?”

Have a listen:)

 

References:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30098-3

http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/22/5/872

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763417301628

 

 

 

How You Can Manage Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the abnormal swelling that is caused by a build up of lymph fluid and most commonly occurs in the arms and in the legs.

According to the World Health Organization there are over 170 million people world wide who suffer from secondary lymphedema.  It affects approximately 15% of all cancer survivors and an estimated 30% of those treated for breast cancer after surgery to remove lymph nodes.

The onset of lymphedema can occur during treatments, days, months or years after the treatment protocol is completed.

Unfortunately lymphedema cannot be cured but it can be managed by employing some or all of the following strategies to encourage movement of the lymph fluid:

Dry Brushing

Contrast Showers

Rebounding

Regular Exercise

Lymphatic Massage

Compression Bandaging

Dry Brushing

The benefits of dry brushing are many and include:

  1. Dead layers of skin being removed and pores unclogged
  2. Blood circulation increased to the internal organs and the skin, which promotes oxygenation and healing
  3. The detoxification qualities of the skin maintained
  4. Hormone and oil-producing glands being stimulated
  5. Nerve endings stimulated in the skin helping to maintain the health of the entire nervous system
  6. Muscle tone assisted and fat deposits more evenly spread

How to Perform a Dry Brush Massage
Use a natural bristle brush with a brush pad about the size of your own hand

Start with the soles of your feet. Brush in a circular motion as you move up your body brushing feet to legs, hands to arms, back to abdomen, and chest to neck. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure.  Just enough to make your skin feel warm, about 5-10 minutes. The massage is best performed when you wake in the morning and before you go to bed at night.

Contrast Showers

 

Alternating hot and cold showers improves blood circulation, increases cellular oxidation, enhances immunity, strengthens the nervous system and flushes cellular toxins into the blood.

When we shower in hot water for less than five minutes, it has a stimulating effect on our circulation. When we have a cold shower for less than one minute, we stimulate blood flow and metabolism. Cold showers first constrict and then dilate blood vessels. When we finish with a cold shower the following physiological effects happen:

  • Increased oxygen absorption
  • Increased tissue tone
  • Increased white blood cell count improving immunity
  • Increased red blood cell count
  • Decreased blood glucose
  • Heightened metabolism

Rebounding

A rebounder a small trampoline. Jumping on a rebounder 5-10 minutes a day improves the circulation of lymphatic fluid. Muscular contractions push the fluid through the lymphatic vessels. When the muscular contraction is used in combination with deep breathing, lymphatic circulation is enhanced even more. This improves the body’s cancer-fighting ability.

Additional benefits of rebounding include:

  • Gentle massage of the internal organs, including the liver and colon
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Improved digestion, elimination and body detoxification
  • Burning calories
  • Increased energy
  • Improvement in cardiovascular health
  • Stress reduction

Regular Exercise

Exercising, of all kinds, causes muscle contractions encouraging the flow of lymph fluid.  Exercising also:

  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Helps manage weight
  • Improves mitochondrial health
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves muscle tone

Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage stimulates the circulation of blood and lymph, moving tissue fluid into the lymph vessels from the tissues.

As a result, lymph drainage massage can help remove toxins and wastes from the tissues. Increased lymph flow will also help with immunity, reduce the risk of infection, and speed the healing of inflammation.

Lymphedema Compression Bandages

Compression bandages help to limit the amount of fluid building up in the limb. When functioning without limitation, there is a constant flow of fluid from the tiny blood vessels into the tissues. This fluid will then be drained by the lymph system. For those with lymphedema, wearing a compression garment reduces excessive or unnecessary flow of fluid from the bloodstream into the tissues.

Lymphedema compression sleeves encourage the fluid within the affected limb to move towards the body where it can drain away more easily. Compression sleeves have a graduated compression, with more at the hand or foot than at the top of the garment.  This directs the fluid to the root of the limb which is either the groin or armpit.

Finally compression garments provide the muscles with a firm resistance to work against improving the function of the lymphatic system and encourage the movement of fluid along the lymph routes.

Summary

Your routine for lymphedema management:

 1)    Make a daily practice out of dry brush massage

2)    Have a contrast shower daily

3)    Use a rebounder four hours weekly; 5 – 30 minutes once or twice daily

4)    Exercise approximately 4 hours per week

5)    Routinely go for lymphatic massages

6)    Wear a compression bandage daily

References

Why You Should Start Dry Brushing Today

Health Benefits of Rebounding

The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage

The Benefits Of Wearing A Lymphedema Compression Sleeve

 

6 Health Habits to Learn Before Turning 60 by Dr. Patsi Krakoff

By Dr. Patsi Krakoff, author War on Aging

Dr. Patsi Krakoff is a retired psychologist with 30 years’ experience in behaviour modification and health and wellness coaching. She is a life-long writer having been published in Paris, France where she lived for 20 years. She founded Content for Coaches, a writing service providing leadership articles for executive coaches. War on Aging was written with her husband Robert Krakoff to help healthy seniors live longer through better exercise and nutrition. 

6 Health Habits to Learn Before Turning 60

In my 70s, I have become a health nut. I’m always talking about better health habits for seniors. While others my age are remodeling kitchens and becoming gourmet cooks, I talk about the latest trends in diets, cardio workouts and high intensity interval training.

I’m not sure anybody listens anymore, and I don’t mind, as long as they keep inviting me to lunch. I try not to talk too much about nutrition when they do.

I wasn’t always this way. Like other women my age, I spent a lot of my life indulging on junk food and desserts, then yo-yo dieting to keep the weight off. My idea of working out was shopping all three floors of Nordstrom’s with a credit card.

Genes Aren’t Everything

I was lucky in some ways. I was blessed with small bones and a thin frame, meaning I could pass for healthy even when carrying 20 unnecessary pounds. It wasn’t until I turned 50 that I realized I was aging. I woke up in pain with a collapsed disk and an irregular heart rhythm.

The doctors prescribed medications and surgery. They explained, “You’re just getting old. Not to worry.”

I was angry and wanted to prove them wrong, only they were right. A hard look at my family history ruined it: everyone in my immediate family ̶ mother, father, sister ̶ died in their 50s and 60s. I was 64 at the time. It was time to tackle my health.

Behold, the Way Forward

I wasn’t on the Road to Damascus, but I imagined a shining white light pointing in the direction of the gym. I would go forth and sweat. I wasn’t ready to fast, but I’d throw out all junk food.

Today, at 74, I’ve settled into a life of exercise, good nutrition, and a commitment to healthy habits. I no longer struggle to keep these goals; it’s a way of life.

It didn’t happen overnight, it took persistence. I came to terms with aging and the fact that̶̶ like most seniors ̶I don’t have time left to get it right. Life and health are not a dress rehearsal.

Advice to a 50-Year-Old

The other day a friend asked me what she should tell her daughter ̶ who’s turning 50 ̶ and who isn’t taking good care of herself.

The midlife years are especially hard for working parents who are perpetually out of time and energy. But here’s what health habits I wish I had learned earlier in my own life.

  1. Eat for health. Good eating habits will ensure you avoid some of the diseases of aging, or at least slow them down (heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and dementia.) Starting in midlife, your cells don’t perform as well, meaning they become sensitive to the wrong foods and need more of the good stuff: vitamins, proteins and minerals. Cut down on portions and lose excess weight for good. It’s easier to attain a healthy weight in your 40s and 50s than in your 70s.
  2. Increase your exercise. Do more of what you love, be it sports, dance, yoga, Pilates, etc. Be consistent, never give up, even when sick or injured. The body can always do something while rehabbing. Include time for recovery and stretching and balance. The more you develop muscles at 40 and 50, the better you will look and feel at 70. And the easier an exercise habit will be as you turn 60 and 70.
  3. Don’t skimp on sleep. Remember to get 7-9 hours each night. Your brain needs it to preserve memory functions. Insomnia can lead to obesity, heart disease and dementia. The high rates of cognitive impairment in seniors can be diminished by attention to brain health in your 50s and 60s.
  4. Manage stress and emotions: Pay attention to moods and reach out to friends and others when needed. Nearly every 50-year-old has stress from family, relationships, work, and money periodically. Without stress management tools, it’s easy to let anger or sadness take a hold of you. Those tools will be essential to meeting the challenges of old age.
  5. Maintain good relationships and social connections. Stay in touch with loved ones and cultivate close friends. You’ll need them more than ever as you age. Social relationships contribute to good health and mental acuity.
  6. Find a sense of purpose. Don’t let others dictate what you ‘should’ be doing. Find your passion and focus time and energy doing what you love. While we can’t ignore the pressures of making a living and working, cultivate what you enjoy most. Prepare for the day when you will have more time for what you love.

You are never too young to get healthy. Start now in midlife, and you’ll be ahead of the game as you become a senior. You will look and feel ten years younger, and truly enjoy those golden years.

 

It’s 2019! Let’s Make Your Goals a Reality

Happy New Year everyone! I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones health and happiness in 2019.

The beginning of a new year seems like a great opportunity for a fresh start right? It’s 2019. Feet on ground. Face forward. Let’s make ME a better ME. I love it! This is the perfect mindset for change so let’s look at ways to help you to achieve your goals.

Bad news first.  Let’s get it out of the way!  According to the time management firm FranklinCovey, one third of resolutions don’t make it past the end of January. This is a significant number of fails.

But this won’t be us because we are going to tilt the odds in our favour and plant ourselves firmly within that 2/3’s group by adhering to a few simple strategies to transform our goals in to realities!

Here we go.

First off…

Make sure that you really want to do this!

Let’s start here. Make sure that you really want to achieve the resolution that you have made. Do you really want to switch to dandelion coffee or is it just the trendy thing to do?

If you are not fully invested in your resolution, it’s just not going to happen.

Make sure that the goals you set are realistic

Seriously. Don’t aim for a marathon if you don’t own running shoes.

Start small and build on your successes.

 

Write it down

A study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, found that those who wrote down their goals achieved significantly higher rates of success than those who did not. In fact her findings were that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.

Make a plan

Create key action steps that will keep you on your path to achieving your goals. For instance, if your New Year’s resolution is to meal plan for your weekly dinners, 3 actionable steps could look like this:

  1. Pick simple, tasty recipes on Saturday
  2. Shop for your weekly ingredients Sunday
  3. Wash and prep your veggies when you get home from shopping

You can achieve anything if you truly want to and are prepared to put in the work.

You’ve got this!!


References:

http://www.dominican.edu/academics/ahss/undergraduate-programs/psych/faculty/fulltime/gailmatthews/researchsummary2.pdf