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Cancer & Medical Cancer Resilience Life Transitions Pre & Post Surgical Terminal Illness

Chronic Illnesses, Telehealth and the Pandemic

Chronic Illness, Telehealth and the Pandemic

The pandemic has impacted the lives of almost everyone in some way. But healthcare has been incredibly impacted. Specifically, in order to keep people safe from contracting the COVID-19 virus, telehealth has become more prominent than ever. And previously neglected chronic illnesses seemed to catch up with many of us during the pandemic. While it’s not necessarily new, the pandemic boosted the practice of telehealth tremendously across the country. And there are many benefits to it for people who might otherwise have accessibility issues. 

But, if you’re dealing with a chronic illness, telehealth and other changes made in the healthcare industry might not be in your best interest. 

So, how has the pandemic changed treatment for those who are suffering from chronic illnesses? 

Chronic Illness; from Frustration to Telehealth

Whether you’ve been able to hop on to a telehealth session with your doctor or not, the pandemic has caused a lot of frustration in getting deserved treatment. 

First, if you have been able to meet with your doctor(s) in person, you’ve probably experienced extended wait times. Many clinics and practices are short-staffed. Others are trying to space patients out, so time spent in different waiting areas is longer. 

When you have a chronic illness, long wait times can be difficult. You might be in pain or discomfort, and sitting there longer than usual will not help. Extended waits between visits have also become prominent, which can be difficult if you need help and relief immediately. 

At the start of COVID, hospitals were forced to put more resources into treating critical patients with the virus. As a result, patients with chronic illnesses or other cases were seen less frequently. Those depending on consistent treatment suffered, as a result. 

Telehealth and Managing Your Chronic Illness

Because the treatment changes brought on by COVID may not be going back to “normal” just yet, learning how to manage your illness at home is crucial. Obviously, that’s another huge change that can cause additional stress and confusion during times of need. 

For some people, home management techniques simply don’t work. Or, they might for a while, but eventually, medical treatment is necessary. Patients having to wait significantly longer between visits can find themselves on a decline very quickly. 

No matter what symptoms you’re having, one thing you can do to help manage them is to have an open dialogue with your doctor. One benefit of telehealth is that it often makes healthcare providers more accessible. Consistent communication is important. If you explain what you’re dealing with, your provider may be able to call in a new prescription or recommend something else. 

Taking Care of Yourself

The lack of treatment options and availability throughout COVID is, again, extremely frustrating. If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’re waiting for your doctor to see you (yet again), you’ve probably felt completely overwhelmed. 

One of the best things you can do is to take care of yourself and manage your stress. Don’t let yourself get too frustrated by these treatment changes. Instead, find ways to relax and de-stress every day. Doing so can help to lower your blood pressure and may have a pain-reducing effect on your body. 

Hopefully, now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, normalcy will return to the healthcare industry. In some cases, however, pandemic practices might be here to stay. You may have to get used to longer wait times between visits, distancing, and the expanded and increasing promotion of telehealth. 

Make sure you’re communicating your issues and concerns with your doctor, no matter what the rest of the pandemic may bring. Doing so may give you peace of mind, and hopefully, some measure of relief. 

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Cancer Resilience Uncategorized

5 Tips from Breast Cancer Survivors on How to Live Fearlessly

5 Tips from Breast Cancer Survivors

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in support of breast cancer survivor and their loved ones; it is a special time to make sure the word gets out. You may have already seen things like pink ribbons, walks, and campaigns for a cure.

We’ve indeed come a long way in terms of breast cancer research and general awareness, as well as early detection. But, hearing the word “cancer” at any stage is scary and overwhelming.

Thankfully, because of the awareness surrounding it, breast cancer is often treatable and beatable. And breast cancer survivor stories are inspiring! Here are a few inspiring tips we can learn from those who’ve dealt with breast cancer head-on.

1. Don’t Compare Yourself With Others

Breast cancer can affect different women in different ways. It depends on how the disease has progressed, the type of treatment you’re using, etc. It isn’t fair to compare yourself to other people who have gone through it.

This approach to life is one we should all follow—we’re all different, and that’s okay. From Nancy Reagan to Sheryl Crow, each breast cancer survivors all have a unique, compelling story to tell.

2. It’s Okay to Be Scared

While fear surrounding a cancer diagnosis shouldn’t take over your life, it’s okay to admit that you’re scared or overwhelmed. That’s a normal response, and acknowledging it can help others around you to be as supportive as possible.

Perhaps you think that you have to be strong all of the time—you don’t. You can put up a fight and beat your cancer, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have moments of fear or weakness. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come to you naturally.

To this day, Christina Applegate shakes when she recalls getting the phone call confirming her biopsy results. The bottom line is that it’s okay to be scared. Courage means facing your fear, regardless of how you feel.

3. Ask For Help

Most breast cancer survivors know that it’s nearly impossible to get through this disease on your own. Again, you might feel as though you have to be strong. Or, maybe you want to prove to yourself that you can get through this without anyone’s assistance. This mindset is not uncommon for people to possess in everyday life, as well.

However, family and friends are there to help you. They’ll likely be more than happy to do everything from prepare meals on days where you’re too tired to mow your front lawn.

Don’t feel as though you have to keep up with the pace of life as you go through challenging times. Reaching out for help will give you time to regroup.

4. Adjust to Your “New Normal”

Breast cancer survivors (and all of us) can fearlessly live when they choose to adjust to the new normal of life. What does that mean? It’s a bit different for everyone, of course.

You might have to change everything from your eating habits to your sleeping patterns. Some people deal with “chemo brain,” which can cause your body to go through changes that you didn’t have to worry about before. These changes include graying hair, fatigue, etc.

You might also have to put more focus on rebuilding relationships and understanding your limits.

In many ways, once you’ve experienced a traumatic event, your life will never go back to being the way it was before. So embrace your “new normal.”

5. Seek Mental Help If You’re Struggling

If you’re in recovery and you’re having a hard time adjusting to your new life, you may benefit from talking to a counselor or therapist. Counseling for cancer patients isn’t uncommon. A counselor can help you from the initial diagnosis to living your life in remission.

Whether you were recently diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re going through treatment, or you’ve beaten the disease, you don’t have to deal with the ins and outs of how it affects your life on your own.

Feel free to contact me to set up an appointment, and let’s talk. Or, visit my page about counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones to learn more about how I can help.

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Cancer Resilience Uncategorized

Chemo and Radiation: 5 Ways to Make Sense of the Emotional Impact

Cancer patients who undergo chemo and radiation treatment have to deal with a lot all at once. While these treatments are designed to kill the cancer cells, they impact your body in many negative ways as well.

Chemo and radiation can make you feel weak and sick. For many people, hair begins to fall out. You’ll likely start to notice other uncomfortable symptoms, too.

Most people tend to focus on the physical impact of chemo and radiation. Yet, it’s also important to recognize the emotional impact of the process.

To put it plainly, these treatments are difficult to go through. Not only are you dealing with a scary disease, but the treatments for that disease can be just as troublesome.

Thankfully, making sense of the emotional impact can actually make chemo and radiation easier to get through.

Let’s take a look at five effective ways you can manage that emotional impact.

1. Understand You’ll Have Ups and Downs

Just as some days you’ll physically feel better than others, your emotions may be all over the place, too.

Some days you might feel happy. Others you might feel angry, sad, or frustrated.

Accepting the fact that your emotions can change quickly is an important part of getting through your treatment. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel rather than getting down because you can’t always control your emotions. Ups and downs are part of the journey. 

2. Learn Your Triggers

One thing you can do to help you make sense of your emotions during chemo and radiation is to identify what might be triggering the negative ones.

When you have an idea of what changes your outlook from a positive to a negative one, you can take better control over it. Then, the emotional impact doesn’t seem so powerful or as extreme.

3. Identify What’s Really Bothering You

One of the best things you can do to make sense of the emotional impact of these treatments is to find out what’s really bothering you.

This is different from what triggered the emotions. Instead, you may have several things going on all at once aside from treatment—household duties, work responsibilities, relationships issues—causing you to feel overwhelmed.

Furthermore, you may hold onto those feelings for too long, causing the negative emotions to rise up. When you figure out the underlying cause of those negative emotions, you can focus on it, and work on strategies to get through it.

4. Don’t Go Through It Alone

Having a strong support group is invaluable when going through any type of treatment for cancer. The emotional impact is often too much to handle on your own. Plus, you shouldn’t have to!

Making sense of your emotions doesn’t have to be something you go through alone. Talking to someone you love about those emotions can actually make a big difference.

Surround yourself with people who support you and will be there for you. They can lift your spirits and provide a comforting ear to listen. Simply talking through your emotions with someone can help you to make more sense of them.

5. Counseling for Cancer Patients

Along those same lines, some cancer patients benefit from seeing a counselor or therapist. If you’re really struggling with how to handle your emotions from chemo and radiation, a professional can help you to work through your feelings and learn to manage them.

There is absolutely no doubt that going through these treatments is one of the most difficult things to endure. The physical, mental, and emotional toll it can take can feel crippling.

Being able to talk to someone who can give you the tools you need to get through it can make a big difference in your overall treatment.

When you better understand your emotions, you can put a different spin on the entire treatment process.

While chemo and radiation will always be difficult to go through, knowing how to make sense of your emotions can lessen the overall impact, and motivate you to stay strong as your body fights back.

If you’re ready to make sense of your emotions as you navigate the chemo and radiation process, I would like to help. Please, contact me today. Or, visit here to learn more about how I can help you.

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Cancer Resilience

Counseling for Cancer Patients and their Loved Ones

Counseling for Cancer Patients and their Loved Ones

A patient who is first diagnosed with cancer is usually overwhelmed and frightened. Feelings of sadness, confusion, worry, and anger are completely natural. The patient’s psychological and social well-being are impacted, and a patient’s relationship with family and friends can be affected by this as well. The physical/medical hurdles, adjusting relationships and changes in personal philosophy may lead to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and it is really important to find ways to address these feelings. Counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones can be a great help during this time.

Counseling can help the patient to better cope with the side effects and the pain that evolves from treatment. It may also help the patient and his family better deal with and express these common feelings, as well as provide a safe place to discuss their concerns.
Most cancer patients have to grieve the loss of their previous lifestyle, learn to accept their new reality, and make the most of their new situation. Many will experience an evolution of their view on life and likely re-assess their priorities. The process of living with cancer is life-changing; for the patient and for those who love them. Facing cancer is an experience that often leads the patient to re-examine his core values and passions and can motivate them to pursue new goals of great personal importance.

Here are some of the ways counseling can help the person facing cancer and their loved ones too:

For Newly Diagnosed
1. A safe place to deal with the emotional impact, worry, and fear
2. Working on addressing feelings of depression, guilt and self-doubt
3. Openly discussing the effects and the impact of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy
4. Developing skills to assist with the side effects of treatment                                                         5. Strategies to manage the stress and pain

For Loved Ones / Caregivers
1. Dealing with feelings of lack of control, anxiety and stress
2. Addressing new obligations and loss of previous lifestyle
3. Helping to gain a new perspective and deal with the new challenges in a healthy manner

For Beyond Treatment
1. Going through the process of grieving the loss of the old self and accepting the new self
2. Living with the uncertainty of long term survival
3. Adapting to the physical changes and limitations
4. Addressing challenges related to intimacy, reproduction, and employment
5. Addressing feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and mood fluctuations

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Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy

Cancer is not a disease which will only affect a person physically. It is also something which will affect a person emotionally and psychologically. This has always been the hardest to handle and that’s why counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones is recommended for many oncology patients by their physicians.

Getting to know that a person has cancer is a really hard thing for the patient as well as for the loved onew. Even though people are happy to get treated and healed. There are many times the treatment itself have greatly affected the patients, psychologically. It is hard to say whether it is the side effect of medications alone or a phase of psychological acceptance of the disease. Anyhow, what has become clear is that counseling for a patient should be carried out throughout the whole time of treatment and sometimes even after a full recovery. This might help a patient develop confidence, self esteem and resilience. Whether you admit it or not, all cancer patients are fighters… GREAT fighters. Their confidence goes down only because, at times, they don’t accept it.

Many psychiatrists believe that the transitional period after an intensive cancer treatment is the most likely period to cause psychological distress. For some patients this period may be as stressful, or even moreso, as it was to initially undergo the treatment itself.

Further, the people around the patient might expect the patient to be ‘completely normal’ after the successful treatment and may not appreciate what the patient has already gone through…and is still going through. But, many people do not understand that the cancer patients become more sensitive, anxious and uncertain about things around him. It is very easy to understand. A person who has lived for months in the sorrow, fear and uncertainty of leaving the loved once and all the other things takes some time to get back to who he was. Even though a doctor may confirm their full recovery many patients stay uncertain for a while.

How a cancer patient is affected psychologically depends on many factors. Some of these are:
Age
Overall temperament in normal
Coping skills
Social supports
Type of cancer
Severity
Family/ friends support
Memory and thinking after chemotherapy

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has many side effects. It does not only kill cancer cells, but it also affects many other normal cells in the body. Among these are the brain cells. About 20% – 60% of cancer patients who undergo standard doses of chemotherapy, experience some degree of cognitive dysfunction and memory problems.

The affected brain is casually often called ‘chemo brain’. The main cause of the chemobrain is presumed to be the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy. The chemobrain causes diffused mental cloudiness and may affect a person’s cognition, social and occupational behaviors, sense of his own self and the quality of life. Moreover, it affects concentration, memory, comprehension and reasoning as well. And the common byproduct of these is our favorite “S” word; stress.

The studies have shown that many people undergoing this type of cancer treatment have problems with short term memory and difficulty recalling words. Some patients are not acknowledged about these changes and are alarmed at the presence of it and misunderstanding it as a spread or worsening of the disease. But, when people know what they are going through, even when scary, painful or difficult they often experience a much lower stress level and consequently are able to prepare and face these symptoms quite bravely.

The effects of chemobrain may exist during chemotherapy and even afterwards up to 10 years, in some cases. These changes may be subtle in most patients, while for some it can be more profound. At the moment there are no specific treatments and preventive measures known, but, if the patients have problems with thinking or memory, which interferes with the daily work, he/she may seek help from a doctor.

There are different memory training exercises and programs and also many other treatments which will improve the brain function such as problem solving abilities and logical thinking. Finding a counselor and being familiar with this situation is a brave step for the patient as well as the loved ones.

As all the other drugs, chemotherapy has its side effects too. But every person does not face the same experience during chemotherapy. Some have really less amount of side effects while the others find it very hard to face the treatment.

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Other psychological issues after chemotherapy and radiotherapy

People, who suffer from cancer for a long time, deal with a lot of stress. Moreover, they face problems with sleep, concentration and appetite together with physical symptoms such as palpitations, due to the intensive treatment which they go through. Some oncologists also mention that they find patients fearful and hyper-vigilant.

According to many recent studies, one third of cancer survivors have suffered from symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, which are;

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the event(cancer treatment)
Reliving the event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the having cancer and getting treated
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Negative feelings about yourself or other people
Inability to experience positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships

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Counseling Support For Cancer Patients And Their Loved Ones Is Needed

This shows us the huge need of counseling and psychological support for cancer patients together with the cancer treatment. (And caregivers and loved ones also need support during this time.) Even though being alive is something to be happy about, there are some patients who feel guilty about it. This happens mainly if they have a friend or family member who has died with a cancer. As we know some patients join support groups where there are many cancer patients. Here these patients make very close friendship with each other most of the time. Yes, this is a great support to face cancer than fighting it alone. But, with the time, when members pass away the other patients might experience loss, grief and then guilt of being alive. Support and counseling for cancer patients and their loved ones can make a big difference here as well.

Cancer Resilience is one of my areas of specialty and is a personal passion. I am a nationally board certified and licensed professional counselor who is dedicated to my clients. My approach is based on several counseling styles and I tailor them to each patient according to their unique situation. If you are facing this journey, or love someone who is, please call. I’d like to help.

Ben Carrettin is Nationally Board Certified and Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked in the field for many years. His areas of specialty include counseling cancer, cardiac and serious medical patients and their families, as well as other select areas. Ben is also a Lay Chaplain with advanced training in pastoral care and is personally passionate about his work and his commitment to his clients.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

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Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.