Tag Archive | Jennifer McNutt

Thoughts For Families With a Sick Child

Childhood CancerHaving a child who is going through health issue can be a very difficult time for a family. You can find yourself feeling lost and alone, overwhelmed, and unsure of where to turn. As a mother of three kids, I have been there myself, and while I’ve been lucky enough that my kid’s health issues haven’t been as serious as cancer ( though we did have a couple of scares) , they have been difficult so  I can understand the stress parents go through. I’d like to share a few things that helped me, and I hope you find them helpful too.

First, take a minute to catch your breath. When you first find out that your child has an illness, it can feel as if you are being bombarded with so much information that your head is spinning. You may feel as if you are almost drowning under the weight of it all. That’s normal. After all, who wouldn’t feel that way upon hearing this type of news? Take a minute and breathe deep breaths.  I know that sounds trite, but it’s true. Allow yourself time to find your center. This will help you in the days that lie ahead.

Give yourself time to absorb the news you have been given. Ask your child’s doctor if you can have a bit of time to develop a list of questions and concerns before you make any major choices. Keep a pad of paper or some other way of taking notes with you all the time so that when something comes into your mind, you can record it before it slips your mind.

Some parents find it helpful to go online and find out every bit of information they can about their child’s condition. Some would rather not know. Do what’s right for you, but I would strongly suggest that if you “take to the ‘net”, you quickly develop a filter, as not everything on there will be helpful to you or even true. Use what helps you and forget about the rest. Take your child’s medical team’s answers as the final authority, as they know your individual situation and all the factors involved.

Based on the age of your child, you may have a lot of questions from them. There may also be fear, sadness and anger from them about their diagnosis. Again, all of that is normal. Allow them to feel what they feel, and understand that you can’t fix everything for them. That’s a hard one for most parents. I have been here myself, and as much as I wished I could take all their pain on myself and make them better, I had to accept that I couldn’t.

Give your child a way to express their feelings. If your children are anything like mine, it may be hard for them to talk about their emotions, especially with their mom or dad, but they still need to let their feelings out.  You can purchase a special journal for them Sick Childto write in, allow them the opportunity to draw, paint or express their thoughts through some other medium. For some kids, a mobile device such as a tablet or netbook with a journal app might be just the thing.

On the subject of feelings and emotions, you’re probably going to go through a whole range of them too. Sadness, anger, uncertainty, and fear (lots of fear) are to be expected. Just as with your child, you need an outlet too. Journaling, talking with supportive friends and family or a professional counselor can make a big difference. If there are support groups in your area, make good use of them.

If you are married or in a relationship with your child’s other parent, going through something like this can strain that bond. Keep it mind that the strain doesn’t have to translate to a break. Be there for each other, and if you need help, this is another place ab where counseling can make a big difference.

If you are having trouble navigating through the health care system, find out if there is a patient advocate that you can access. They will be there for you and your individual situation, and can make the whole process much less stressful.

Having three kids, something that I have found it that it can be all too easy for the siblings of the ill child to feel as if they are being lost in the shuffle, which is understandable. Recognize that this is a very difficult time for them as well, and they need you too. Try and carve out some one on one time with them if you can. Even if it’s just taking younger kids to the playground or the older ones out for dinner, it will make them feel loved, which will go a long way.

One more thing about siblings that I found out the hard way. Depending on their age and ability to understand, don’t try and sugar coat the situation should they ask questions. Be honest. I don’t mean you have to be brutally honest, but keep in mind that, especially with internet access, kids today can easily find out a lot of information on their own. What they may well be looking for is honest assurance. In the case of one of my own kids, we told her younger brother that she was ill, that her doctors didn’t know why but they were doing everything they could to make her better. We gave more “technical” information to her older sister, but it had the same underlying message. If you don’t know the answers to your kid’s questions, it’s okay to admit that. Let them know you will try and find out the information they are looking for.

Keep FightingSomething that is incredibly important for any parent with a child who is facing a major health issue (or any parent for that matter) is to find some time to take care of yourself, and to not feel guilty about it. You need to “recharge” so you can be there and fully engaged for your little one. You can’t do that if you are worn down and exhausted. Take some time to have a decent meal out (and not in the hospital) go for a quiet walk in the park, do some window shopping, read a book, get together with friends and family for an afternoon, go to a movie, show, concert or game, work in your garden, play a sport you enjoy, get your hair done, meditate, do something, anything, to give you a few minutes where your mind can relax. It will leave you fresh and ready to keep up the good fight.

I mentioned it above, and something I can’t endorse enough, is to find a support group for parents going through something similar to you. It can do you a world of good to talk to other people who know and understand.

Finally, one really important thing to keep in mind is that it’s okay to be angry at the situation. It’s okay to wonder why this is happening to your child, it’s okay to be sad and to even cry, to be frustrated, and to feel like you are being pulled in 100 different directions at once. If you feel guilty, remember, none of this is your fault.   You don’t have to be strong and carry the weight of this alone. There are supports that exist to help you, so please ask your child’s doctors or hospital care team about how to access them.  If all else fails, and you feel like you are at the end of your rope and just want to scream, go ahead and do it. Find somewhere private and just cut loose with everything you’re feeling. It can do you a world of good. I say that based on personal experience.

I hope that this has helped you a bit. Bering a parent is one of the toughest jobs, and when you find out your child is sick, it gets 1000 times more difficult. Take care of, and be patient with, yourself. You are doing your best to navigate through a situation nothing can really prepare you for. You are finding your way the best way you know how.

~Jennifer McNutt

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TRT Linked To Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer AwarenessTestosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has become much more commonplace than in years past. Once a treatment for men suffering from a condition known as hypogonadism, where the body doesn’t produce enough testosterone on its own and requires a supplemental source of the hormone, more and more men are being prescribed this treatment for other reasons. Studies have shown that testosterone replacement therapy may offer a wide range of benefits for men with hypogonadism, including improved libido, mood, cognition, muscle mass, bone density, stronger erections, and red blood cell production, and TRT can be easily obtained over the internet, in magazine ads, or through telemarketers who boast it as a muscle producer or erectile dysfunction remedy. However, there could be severe potential hazards associated with TRT.

A recent study at the University of Chicago in Illinois and published in Endocrinology has shown that TRT may be directly linked to prostate cancer. A study was done using rats who had prostate cancer to see what effect TRT would have on the rate of tumour growth. Those who received “slow dose” form of testosterone showed a growth of 10-18pecent, while those using the regular dose had a growth rate increase of 50-71 percent.

The study’s author, Maarten C. Bosland, Phd noted that this does not conclusively prove that TRT will have the same effect in humans, but that it is still quite troubling. Sales of testosterone replacement therapy currently sit at over $2 billion a year, and with no long term studies in humans to show whether or not it could contribute to the rapid growth of prostate cancer, there is a real question as to whether or not it is safe to use.

The FDA is considering requiring drug manufacturers it use better labeling on this medication and to perform studies into its effects on cardiovascular health. So far, isn’t asking for any studies into its effect on prostate cancer. This means that not that much is known about this potentially lethal side effect. What is known is that, in men with prostate cancer, androgen inhibitor therapy can be a very effective way of slowing or even stopping the growth of the tumor. Since many prostate tumors are androgen (e.g.-testosterone) dependant, there is a strong possibility of a link between TRT and the growth of this type of cancer. Unfortunately, as stated above, there are currently no long term studies into the safety of TRT, as its use for purposes other than hypogonadism is relatively new.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, and is found most commonly in African Americans and those with a family history of the disease. It is also prevalent in those who are obese or have a poor diet. Fortunately, if detected early, it has a survival rate of 95%. As with any cancer, early detection is vital.

Jennifer McNutt

Canadarm Cancer Technology

STS-2_Canadarm_debut

New Technology Could Help Save Lives

Technology that has been used in space aboard the International Space Station and the space shuttle has found a new life saving application here on Earth.

The same technology that is used in the robotic Canadarm, which was developed by the Canada Space Agency, will be used to help perform biopsies of breast legions to determine whether or not they are cancerous. It can be used inside an MRI, and it’s so precise that it can guide a needle to within a millimeter of the desired location. This means the procedure is less invasive and causes less trauma, pain, and bruising. It will also allow the radiologist to view the procedure in real time.

The new system was developed at the Center for Surgical Invention and Innovation in Hamilton, Ontario Canada, and is being tested at St.Joseph Hospital in the same city. It’s also being studied by a team from Laval, Quebec.

The results of this phase 1 trial will be shared with Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration. If it proves to be successful, it could be provided to cancer treatment centers for as low as $500,000, which should be within the budget of most hospitals.

~Jennifer McNutt

 

The Gift of Time

McNuttLast January, my mom passed away from end stage terminal lung cancer. From the time she was diagnosed until the day she died was less than six months, and during that time, she showed the same grace and strength she always had. She didn’t tell me right away that something was wrong. One day while we were talking on the phone, she told me that she’d had some routine blood testing done as part of her yearly check-up with her oncologist and that one of results was slightly higher than it should be. She’s had breast cancer about 15 years before, been treated with surgery, radiation and chemo, and beaten the disease. That experience made her realize that everyone’s days are limited, and to make the best of the ones you have.

She started traveling, and visited most of Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska, western Canada and the western US, and was in the middle of getting her next vacation plans made when she got the new test results back. Everything had been normal, except for that one result, so she needed some further investigations. I knew she was nervous, and when the results came back the she had lung cancer, she was really scared. I was visiting her and my father with my husband and kids around the time she got the news. She and I would spend hours talking every night after the kids went to bed. She’d be starting chemo, and she hated the idea. She didn’t know what the exact combination of drugs would be, and she said she didn’t want to. She’d known what they were when she had cancer before, and she said she’d looked them up online and spent hours reading about them and making herself feel even worse. She didn’t want that this time. As she put it, for her, “ignorance was bliss”. She started her chemo and got really sick, but she endured it because it was her best chance. She couldn’t have surgery or more radiation therapy, so chemo was her only option. She was trying to remain positive and even kept up with the planning for her trip. Things seemed to be going well.

The one day I got the call. The chemo hadn’t worked. When you hear news like that, you are in a state of shock and it doesn’t fully sink in at first. My mom, being the pragmatic sort that she was, was already looking into palliative care and other options. She was trying to stay upbeat, but I know she was having a very difficult time. I’d talk with her on the phone every day, and as time went by, she told me that she had accepted what she’d been told and was making the best of the time she had left. She and my dad would sit together in the evenings and have long talks about all the good times they’d been fortunate enough to have, and in sharing those memories, they both realized how much they loved each other and how lucky they’d been in the 49 years they’d been married. They were given a gift of time to say the things they wanted to say to each other but had always put off, thinking that there would always be time later. For them, there wouldn’t be.

She had told me that when they had first found out that her cancer was terminal, neither of them really knew what to say to each other, which I can understand. After all, what could you really say? As time went on, they reached a point of acceptance, and found that their good times together weren’t over. They’d still joke with one another. I’ll always remember my mom teasing my dad about something and him saying ‘yes dear” in a sarcastic voice. She laughed and said that she’d make a recording of herself nagging him so that after she was gone, he could listen to it whenever he wanted and that way, it would seem like she was still around. As odd as it may sound, I think being able to joke like that helped both of them.

As time went by, my mom’s health deteriorated and she was able to spend less and less time doing the things she loved. I knew she missed spending time in her garden, so every week or so I’d send her a bouquet of fresh carnations, sunflowers, or some other blossoms. She’d fuss over them, arranging them the way she wanted. I sent her a gift certificate for lunch or dinner at an inn about an hour away, and she and some good friends drive there in the early autumn when the leaves had turned color, which was something she had looked forward to every year. That was pretty much the last time she went anywhere, other than to see her doctor.

As the days went by, she got weaker and spent most of her time in her chair. She started needing more pain medication and palliative care and the visits from the VON nurse made sure she got what she needed. We still talked on the phone every day, and she would offer me advice about the different things I told her, and she’d tell me how she was doing. At first, we’d sometimes talk for over an hour a day, but as she began to fail, the calls got shorter, and she’d spend more time resting.

She hated the idea of being in the hospital, so my dad looked after her with some extra help form palliative care. She was able to stay at home until a few days before she died. I’d been quite sick and in the hospital myself and hadn’t been able to get down to see her for a couple of months, but I was finally cleared to travel a few days before that, so I was able to sit with her, talk to her, and hold her hand. My brother, father, and I took turns so that she would always have someone with her and not be alone.

She passed from this life surrounded by love.

~Jennifer McNutt

In loving memory of

Carol Coldwell

January 27th, 1942 – January 15th, 2014

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