Managing Your Own Care…

I had previously written about my mother being diagnosed with cancer.  Well, we just had the surgery for the tumor removal.  Surgery went well.  Recovery was a different story.   

Let me start by saying the team of doctors is, has been and continue to be wonderful.  I truly have only praise for them regarding the success of the surgery and the way they were able to manage the post-surgery complications and avoid having to undergo another operation. 

That being said…  I am truly shocked by the care my mom received from the nursing staff during recovery.  We were at a very prestigious, high-ranking, world-renowned (blah, blah, blah) hospital…  one of the “you need to go HERE” kind of hospitals.  I had high expectations that my mom would be receiving the “best of the best” in care.  Let me just give you a run-down of what the “best of the best” entailed: 

1.  A faulty catheter.  Can you imagine that for the first three days of the recovery, my mom had to ask a nurse to come in almost every time she had to pee?  And that after three days, we had to get pretty vocal to get the catheter changed out so my mom could lay on her back, immobile, in peace without having to feel like her bladder was going to explode. And have to wait 20 minutes for a nurse to respond to the “call” button.  Seriously?  No one could figure out it wasn’t working? 

2.  She had a lumbar drain in.  They were draining 30 cc’s every four hours.  Pretty important to monitor that, right?  My dad had to call the nurse back in after he/she had left and FORGOTTEN THEY WERE DRAINING HER.  Wow. 

3.  Nurse walks in with eyedrops.  My mother (in her semi-conscious, medicated state) acts confused…  we’d been there four days and she hadn’t been given eyedrops before.  So (now that I’ve witnessed the competency level of the staff and no longer assume they know what they are doing) ask the nurse to double check and let me know why we need eye drops. 

Oops!  They aren’t eye drops!  They’re antibiotics for the nose. The nurse was actually going to put nose drop antibiotics in my mom’s eyes.  AWESOME. 

4.  And the winner is… I don’t even know how to say this.  Since my mom has to be flat on her back, immobile, for five days…  the initial bowel movement had to be in a bed pan.  Nurse comes in to remove the bed pan, takes a towel to clean my mom up, and LEAVES THE TOWEL ON THE SINK.  For lack of a better word…  a POOPY towel.  On the sink.  In our room.  Now I know why infections run rampant in hospitals.  At this point I was thinking the safest thing we could do for my mom was to get her OUT of the hospital. 

I could keep going, but I’ll spare the rest of the gory details.  I’ve learned a valuable lesson and would like to pass it along…   

Manage your own care.  Listen to the doctors, ask questions, stay informed.  Take care of yourself, or your family member.  No one else cares the way you do. 

And just a side note:  This is not meant to bash nurses.  I had two c-sections and my nurses were PHENOMENAL.  Loved every single one of them.  In my mom’s case it was the nursing staff that dropped the ball (repetitively) but it could just as easily be the doctors.  My husband’s grandfather died as a result of being prescribed Amiodarone for too long and it ultimately did too much damage to his lungs.  So I’ll say it again…  stay informed and manage your own care!!

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Heart Healthy Snacks for the Quintuple Bypass Patient

I guess the older you get, the more you have to learn…  voluntarily or otherwise!!  A friend of mine just underwent a “Quintuple” Bypass Surgery.  I’d heard of a triple before…  never heard about the quadruple and definitely never a quintuple!  Yikes!  Fortunately I don’t think he even knew it was that bad before he headed in…  if he did, he didn’t share it with his friends and co-workers!!  Please note:  he did not have a heart attack.  He simply went for an annual check-up.  Goes to show how important those are, at any age!! 

Obviously the recovery from something like this is pretty substantial.  I wouldn’t know first hand because the man didn’t want visitors!!  Who can blame him, right?  So I went to work on a care package for the guy.   Most important note:  Think “Low Fat, No Salt”.  That was the response I received when I inquired about the necessary diet during recovery (and I assume for the rest of his life…). 

As it turns out, there are some tasty (and some admittedly not so tasty) little treats out there for the heart-conscious!!  Here’s what I found so far: 

  • Unsalted pretzels
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Frozen grapes (sound pretty good when it’s 105 degrees outside)
  • Fat-free yogurt
  • Homemade Salsa with Baked Chips
  • Raw veggies with hummus
  • Fruit
  • Rice cakes

A great idea for a care package?  Call Whole Foods.  They have a “concierge” service.   I know… I would’ve laughed at that a few years ago but now that I have two toddlers?  Well, let’s just say I have a new appreciation for “time” and more so, “time not spent in a grocery store with two toddlers”. 

That being said, one of the things they’ll do for you is put together a little care package!  They actually prepared him a meal (grilled chicken breast, a corn & tomato salad, fresh fruit and a green salad) along with a sampling of some of the tasty treats above and delivered it (for a delivery charge of $18, of course).  Money well spent, in my opinion!!

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Sinonasal Undifferentiated Carcinoma – ever heard of it?

I wish I’d never heard of it, either!  I can honestly say 4 months ago I would never have imagined this to be one of the articles I would be writing about. 

It’s one of those “rare” cancers, but now that my mom is fighting it, “rare” has hit a little closer to home. 

Sinonasal Undifferentiated Carcinoma (SNUC) is a rare cancer of the nasal cavity and/or paranasal sinuses.  It’s very aggressive and often has a poor prognosis if not detected early.   From what I’ve researched (aka: googled) that seems to be a result of the following:

  1. It’s rare, so no one has a lot of experience with it therefore there’s not years and years of experience in successfully treating it.
  2. It has the same symptoms of a sinus infection (nose bleeds, nasal obstruction, runny nose, double or blurred vision) so it’s very commonly diagnosed incorrectly.  This is unfortunate because it is a very malignant, aggressive cancer so by the time it’s truly diagnosed it’s often metastasized. 

 Fortunately, I think we caught my mom’s early enough.  She’s not a fan of not being able to breathe, as it turns out.  So after her nose was “stuffed up” for a month or two, even though it was allergy season, she headed straight to the allergist.  Who, by the way, misdiagnosed her and gave her a few rounds of antibiotics, I believe… maybe steroids too.  I didn’t pay too much attention through all that because we just thought she had a sinus infection from hell.  When that didn’t work, they referred her to an Ear, Nose and Throat guy (ENT), where a MRI was performed, a mass was detected and she was referred to the team of specialists she’s working with now. 

Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation treatments and surgery.  I think the combination of radiation treatment and surgery is supposed to provide a greater chance of remission than radiation alone. Like I said, I’m not a doctor.   Just a googler.  So take this for what it’s worth! 

I’m sharing this because while it may be “rare”, it might actually happen to you or someone you know.  And odds are, you or they will just chalk it up to an annoying sinus infection and keep right on moving.  I would have.  But I’m relieved my mom didn’t.

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Green Smoothies: Introduce Greens into your Diet!

My sister and I, coincidentally enough, both have two toddlers.  So, we’ve had a lot of loud, tiring play dates.  But once the babies got a little older, we had more time to actually talk…  to each other.  About adult things.  We’d talk about work… I’d talk about football…  and she’d talk about the most recent organic, whole food book she’d found or feed me her latest purchase…  from organic chocolate treats she bought for the kids, juicing (which I talked about earlier) to green smoothies (which I’m going to talk about now!). 

I’ll be honest…  I had a hard time getting that first smoothie down.  It tasted…  green.  Just really green.  The only reason it was even remotely good was because it was cold (and it was over 100 degrees out)…  and I was drinking something without having a toddler in my lap…  or wrapped around my neck.  But after reading up on them a little (my sister gave me the “The Green Smoothie Revolution” by Victoria Boutenko – I highly recommend!), I learned a little bit more about what you should start off with and why. 

Why a green smoothie? 

  • Green leaves contain all the essential minerals, vitamins and amino acids we need (with the exclusion of B12)
  • Greens need to enter our systems in a liquified form due to their high cellulose level.  That can be done by either 1.) One Process:  Blending or 2.)  2 Processes:  Chewing followed by Mixing with Stomach Acid.   

My personal opinion?  Blending sounds more effective.  Plus, I’m a big fan of a meals that travel well.  Time is money.  If I can drive and eat my breakfast, or work and drink my lunch, I’m sold.  Well, as long as the taste buds are happy. 

And, green leaves contain fiber… which is extremely beneficial for cleaning out the toxins we build up.  Another bonus.  Definitely beats the fiber drinks my dad used to always drink!

And, if you start out easy…  more fruits and less greens…  it works better.  I never did ask what my sister put in that first one but I’m fairly confident there were no fruits to be found!  You slowly acquire a taste for the “greener” smoothie but it is NOT overnight.  At least, not for me.

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Finally – some good news for Melanoma!

For all the Floridians (and all sun lovers), it’s been reported that we have some good news on the Melanoma front! 

For those that don’t know, Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.  Melanoma defined is a malignant tumor of melanocytes.  Melanocytes defined are cells that produce melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin.  Fortunately, melanoma isn’t as common as the other forms of skin cancer, such as basal and squamous cell, but it’s definitely the deadliest!  Treatments usually range from surgical removal of the tumor to chemo/radiation treatments.  Your best bet for a cure is to find it early on when it’s small so you can just remove it and call it a day! 

Knowing how many basal and squamous cells my dad has had removed over the years has kept me going to my dermatologist every six months for a check-up.  I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves being in the sun and has already spent a good portion of their youth basking in the sun! 

On to the good news!  Dr. Allen Lichter, chief executive officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, states “Melanoma has just seen a renaissance of new agents, and more are being tested.”  Two new drugs Vemurafenib and Yervoy, produced unprecedented gains in survival in separate studies of people with melanoma.  The patients in the study were people with advanced, inoperable melanoma. 

Vemurafenib targets a gene mutation that exisits in about half of melanomas.  Yervoy stimulates the immune system to fight tumors. 

While the drugs aren’t cures, they are definitely a step in the right direction.  And hey…  one course of Yervoy will only cost approximately $120,000! 

I, for one, hope to learn from those that have gone before me (like my dad) and avoid the whole situation by playing it safe in the sun and keep making the annual trips to the dermatologist.  But it’s good to know that if all my precautions fail, there may be some hope for melanoma after all!

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Florida Moms: Losing the Baby Weight

Looking for a few tips?  I’m a work in progress, so I can only tell you what I’m doing and I don’t hold myself out as an expert!   But, after having babies (and the added benefit of two c-sections)  I’m coming to terms that the stomach (my problem area) will never again be flat.  Hmmm…  let me rephrase.  Given my lifestyle choices, it will never again be flat.  Now, if my to-do list ever runs low and I have excess hours to work out AND a personal chef to create fabulously tasty, healthy menu options for the family, then maybe my body will return to it’s pre-pregnancy state.  Until then, I will happily settle for “good enough” if it  balances a career, a family, and a work-out regime especially for mom! 

Remember my sister?  The “consumer”?  She knows no boundaries…  she’s tried every diet out there.  And she’s got the books to prove it.  Her favorite?  South Beach.  My favorite?  Hands down South Beach.  Why?  For starters, it was Miami cardiologist Arthur Agatston who found it because he wanted to “find a way for his heart patients to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way.”  Love the “Miami” “healthy” and “sustainable” part of that! 

Basically, I love the whole idea behind South Beach – that it’s a “lifestyle change”.   The first two weeks of HELL (aka Phase I) actually do curb your cravings for sugar, etc.  Make no mistake, there will be no bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruit or (and this part really sucks) alchohol. 

The good news about Phase I is that it makes you so miserable that you’re jazzed when you get to slowly add back carbs, like “whole grain wheat bread” and fruit in Phase II.  To this day I more or less stick to Phase III of the South Beach diet (with the occasional indulgements, of course!).  It’s something that you can maintain pretty easily and appreciate because it does take some suffering to get to enjoy the benefits of Phase III!  

FYI, no…  I am not paid by South Beach!!  I’m assuming they won’t mind that I promote their diet!!  :)

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Juicing… once you start you won’t want to stop!

My sister is what you call a “consumer”…  a very healthy, organic one at that!  Fortunately she has the means that enable her to research the new “trends”, buy all the necessary equipment to experiment with them and subsequently donate all products related to the failed experiments!!  I am extremely fortunate to be the recipient of knowlege (and equipment) gained from all her experiments!!  Her last success?  Juicing!  And what a success it is!!   Now, there are a lot of books on juicing…  I’ll just try and give you a brief overview of why you should think about trying it out! 

The first reason?  These drinks are wonderful.  As in, truly amazing.  A fantastic way to start the day!!  I was a little nervous to try the first one.  If you knew some of the things she’s made me try in the past you’d understand my caution!  Granted, some are better than others.  I prefer the fruits juices over the veggie ones… 

The second reason…  fresh juice provides the body with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, carbohydrates and numerous other little treats much faster than actually eating the fruits and veggies!  It all has to do with the time it takes to digest…  drinking your fruits and veggies deliver all the nutrients immediately…  providing an all natural energy boost that’s way better than the coffees and energy drinks most of us use. 

The third reason is just an extension of the second…  anti-oxidants.  Vitamins A, C and E fight cancer, heart disease and the overall process of just flat out getting older! 

You don’t need too much to start…  I recommend a really good book that will walk you through the process.  My sister gave me “the big book of juices” by Natalie Savona, which I highly recommend.  (Granted, it’s the only one I’ve read so…  I guess I’m biased!) If you have a juice extractor, a citrus press and a blender you’ll be good to go on the majority of juicing recipes.  You don’t need to run out and buy the most expensive of all the gadgets…  buy the cheaper stuff first while you’re in the beginning stages!  It’s a healthy habit you can try out relatively cheaply…  which is always a bonus in my opinion!

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Benefits of Exercise

We just want to take a minute to remind everyone the benefits of exercise. Really, we just want to motivate you to get going or get back into it (if you’re not already on a program). There are so many studies about the benefits of healthy eating, cardiovascular exercise, flexibility and strength training. We KNOW exercise is good for us. It helps us maintain high quality long term life. We always tell people that the hardest week is the first week. The first day back into a program is the hardest mental day. Breaking the routine and making the decision is a big mental hurdle that is easy to procrastinate. But, we say the first week is the hardest because it is the hardest physical week as well (because you will likely be sore after that first workout!).

We believe exercise helps us reduce stress, sleep better, stay more alert and mentally ready as well as all of the physical benefits. Think about all of the toxins you help your body flush when your getting a good cardiovascular workout in and sweating healthily. Getting your heart rate up to appropriate levels (with are age dependent) has proven benefits to cardiovascular health. The rule of thumb is 70% of max heart rate which is calculated by multiplying .7 by maximum heart rate.

Maximum Heart Rate = 220-age

Target Heart Rate (30 minutes) = .7(220-age) 

Feel better, look better, sleep better and live longer! Please get some walking, running, biking, swimming, hiking, rowing, sports, boot camp, workout videos or something that works for you. You have to make time. Whether you walk the stairs in your building at lunch or get up for boot camp at 5AM, we know you have time for some exercise and we are routing for you to do it!

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Seeing Clearly

The ability to see clearly is extremely important. Obviously, it is important metaphorically and physically. In this article, we are just going to discuss the physical importance of seeing clearly. One of our big topics is preventative medicine. We firmly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While it is an over spoken phrase, we feel it is not heard often enough (but we will get into hearing clearly in a different article!) 

Though poor vision itself is not particularly harmful to anyone in the sense that your eyes are going to hurt you. However, not seeing clearly can be a cause of many physical injuries. Degraded vision can be amplified by things like lack of sleep, poor lighting and dehydration.  The people most prone to injury are people that have degraded vision but believe they are seeing everything clearly. This is commonly caused by missing check-ups with the eye doctor. It is extremely important to maintain the correct prescription for your prescription eyeglasses or contacts.

Some people may be thinking… how can this poor vision be harmful to my health? Consider driving with poor vision. Driving with at dusk, missing a gray car while making a left turn and realizing that you missed something when the car broadsides you car. Degraded vision can certainly be a contributing factor to car accidents and therefore cause serious harm. However, it can cause all kinds of minor injuries. People missing things on the floor or sidewalk can cause twisted ankles, banged up shins or other relatively minor injuries. But, the main point is that getting your vision checked is important.

Once you have checked your vision, you’ll want to find quality and less expensive prescription eyeglasses. A recent news article with WZZM 13 discusses the value of Zenni Optical. It might be worth checking out! They are acclaimed for providing high quality products at low prices by providing directly to the end user. So, get your eyes checked and get some inexpensive high quality eye wear. We don’t want you bumping into things because you are not seeing clearly!

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Fun way to eat spinach

Well, my 5 1/2 year old daughter ate all of her spinach tonight, so I thought I would share the recipe. Since it is kid friendly, and based on one of the best veggies around, why not… right?

Thaw 3 frozen packages of spinach. Then separate 4 eggs with the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. Preheat your over to 350.

It’s quite simple, really. You start with a white sauce. Melt 1/4 cup butter (I didn’t promise this recipe was totally healthy) in a large sauce pan. After the butter melts, stir in 1/4 cup flour slowly with a whisk. Once the flour is dissolved, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Remove from heat. Then, pour a 1/4 of milk into the pan slowly continuing to mix with your whisk. Add a pinch of nutmeg, and return to slight boil. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing them in completely before adding the next.

Slowly mix the spinach into the white sauce using the whisk or a wooden spoon. Once the spinach is worked into the sauce, remove from heat.

In a mixer (or in a bowl with an electric hand mixer) whip the egg whites until fluffy.

Alternate adding the spinach/white sauce and the egg whites into an un-greased casserole dish. Do this carefully. Your goal is to have the mixture mixed… but, you don’t want to work the air out of the egg whites. The egg whites should form little pockets of air with the spinach around them.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife pulls out clean. You might want to use a water bath in the oven if you have uneven heat.

Let me know what you think! And, better yet, let me know if your kids like it!

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