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Who Wants My Underwear? Barely Used Boxers Go to Highest Bidder

2017 March 27
undy run

By Tai Prohaska

Blue polka dots covered Forest Park in St. Louis last Saturday as nearly 2,000 runners and walkers raised awareness at the Colon Cancer Alliance Undy Run. Dotted boxers were official garb for registered participants, and they were often accompanied by T-shirts emblazoned with “bum puns” and scatological humor.

For example, the Hershey Squirts team shirt was a big hit. The poop emoji was popular too. Runners were encouraged to “Race to the End” and walkers were out “Strollin’ for the Colon”. Allsup team members wore “Team Becky” T-shirts with sneaker prints on the back, with the message, “Stomp Out Cancer.” Other shirts encouraged folks to “Protect Your ASSets.”

Humor helps us talk about issues that aren’t easy to address. Of cancers that affect both men and women, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. One in 3people diagnosed with colon cancer will die of the disease. But it doesn’t have to be fatal. If detected early or in the pre-cancerous stages, colon cancer can be successfully treated or avoided.

Organizations like the Colon Cancer Alliance are instrumental in raising awareness and improving access to life-saving screenings like colonoscopies. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of adults aged 50 or older (about 22 million people)—the age group at greatest risk of developing colorectal cancer—have not been screened as recommended. In addition, colon cancer diagnoses in people under age 50 have been steadily increasing.

Workplace issues are significant for those diagnosed during their prime earning years. They often need information about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits that provide a monthly income based on what an individual has paid into the system, and access to Medicare.

The Undy Run is one of my favorite events. It not only provides a safe place to run around in my underwear once a year, it also gives me the opportunity to share information on how to apply for disability benefits with individuals and families affected by colon cancer.

This year was really cool because I placed third in my age group for the 5k. Joe McBroom, an Allsup VA- accredited Claims Agent who helps veterans with their disability appeals, took first in his age group.

The Undy Run is also a fundraiser. So, I am willing to part with my award-winning pair of 2017 St. Louis Undy Run boxers, as worn in the photo, to the highest bidder. Submit a bid by clicking on the comment box under the blog headline. All proceeds will go to Team Allsup’s Undy Run fundraising effort.

Next : What to Expect During a Colonoscopy

Trusting Your Spiritual “G.U.T.”

2017 March 22
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Rev. LaWanda Smith Long, MDiv-Lead Chaplain, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

We have all heard the phrases “listen to your gut, or pay attention to your gut.”

We all have experienced those gut and intuitive feelings that seem to be trying to tell us something.  Many times we ignore those gut messages because they cause us to pause and ponder. We dismiss them as nothing and refuse to listen to them.

What are those gut messages? As a chaplain and minister, I would like to assert that sometimes those gut messages may be an inner witness of God’s voice speaking to us about hidden truths about what is going on in our body, soul or spirit.

As a mnemonic device, I use the word gut as an acronym: G.U.T, as in God Uttering Truth.  In honor of colorectal cancer awareness month, I want you to consider trusting your spiritual G.U.T.  God speaks truth to our inward parts. God speaks truth to our inner being where we have a sense of peace and tranquility far from our worries and fears.

I invite you to explore those G.U.T. messages by listening to your body, your soul and spirit. Quiet your spirit to hear what God is trying to tell you on a practical level about your health and about your life.

Perhaps your spiritual G.U.T. is telling you to go to the doctor and check out that unexplained symptom. Trust your G.U.T. and go. Sometimes your G.U.T. may say to get that second opinion about a diagnosis or treatment without feeling guilty. Trusting your spiritual G.U.T. will help you find your voice and become a participating advocate for your health and wellbeing.

After you listen, start to talk. Talk to your family about medical issues that may run in your family. Talk to your doctors about symptoms you are experiencing, no matter how embarrassing the description of the symptom may seem. Communicate with others and stay connected to those who can help you.

Stay connected to your loved ones, your faith community, friends and medical community. Most importantly, stay connected to you. Stay positive and maintain a spirit of hope.

 

Next: Undy Run Recap

Get a Dog

2017 March 21
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By Crawford Clay, Certified Patient & Family Support Navigator, Colon Cancer Alliance

Want to prevent cancer? Get a dog.

That’s the best advice I’ve ever received. We got our dog, Ranger, Christmas of 2005. That was the year I finished treatment for stage III rectal cancer. That was 12 years ago. I’ve been cancer free this whole time.

While there are many other things you can do to prevent cancer, dog ownership is the easiest and most fun. Research links both tobacco and alcohol use to many common forms of cancer, including colon cancer. Quitting tobacco is the biggest thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting cancer. It’s also much harder than getting a dog.

What is so important about dog ownership? Ranger has to be walked every day. I like to exercise but not in the cold. Ranger loves the cold. He doesn’t care about rain; he’s got to get his 30 minutes in. Walking 30 minutes a day lowers stress, strengthens your cardiovascular system and can led to weight loss. Stress and obesity are both linked to cancer.

That said, even if you can’t afford a dog or you live in a place that doesn’t allow dogs you should still try to exercise. Try getting some fish or another pet. Relaxing on the couch will make both of you happier.

Other things are linked to colon cancer as well. People with diabetes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease are all at a higher risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer also runs in families like mine.

Colon cancer prevention also has a special weapon more powerful than even dog ownership. Screening actually prevents colon cancer.

Everyone should be screened starting at 50 (African Americans should be screened starting at 45.) If you have a close relative with colon cancer, you should be screened 10 years before they were diagnosed. Since I was diagnosed at 43, my daughters should be screened at 33.

If you are at average risk of colon cancer, any U.S. Preventive Services Task Force approved test is fine. If you are at high risk, then a colonoscopy is the only test for you—it is the only test that can find and remove polyps.

You are average risk if you have no close relatives with colon cancer, you don’t have any disease like diabetes or IBS that increases your risk and you aren’t symptomatic.

Symptoms of colon cancer include bleeding, change in bathroom habits, change in stool shape, abdominal pain, and bloating. If you have any of these symptoms see a doctor and find out what the problem is. It may not be colon cancer, but it’s something.

Ranger is a chocolate lab, spaniel mix. He likes long walks, naps and having his ears scratched. He is an avid Dress in Blue Day model and aspiring marathon lounger.

Next: Trusting your GUT

Back to Work with an Ostomy

2017 March 20
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By Jeanine Gleba, Advocacy Manager; Jay Pacitti, Executive Director, and

Ed Pfueller, Communications Manager, United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc.

From the board room to construction to long shifts in a hospital, people living with an ostomy (colostomy, ileostomy, urostomy, etc.) work every job imaginable. Embracing a new normal in life after ostomy surgery is key to living an active life. For many, that daily norm means returning to work.

According to the American College of Surgeons once you have recovered from surgery, your ostomy should not limit your return to work. The timing of your return depends on your individual recovery and the physical demands of your job.

Whether to tell your employer or co-workers is a personal choice depending on your work situation, but some feel it helps if you require frequent breaks or other accommodations. Remember that your co-workers will likely not realize you have an ostomy unless you tell them.

Here are a few tips from United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA’s) Facebook community and Advocacy Network.

  1. Be Prepared: In the case of a possible leak, have a complete change of your ostomy supplies as well as a change of clothes you can bring to the restroom.“Pack in a backpack, zippered tote, or small duffle bag that you can store in your desk drawer or locker.” –Jane Ashley-publishing/author
  2. Know Your Rights: You have legal rights under the American with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment-based discrimination. Workplace complaints to the UOAA are rare but they still occur. Read our self-advocacy resource here.“My coworkers all knew, especially of the trials and tribulations pre-op. But still, there was hostility and harassment at times.” Jacque- Retired Government.
  3. Dispose/Empty Your Pouch Properly: Investigate the best restroom/changing facilities to empty or change your pouch. Consider the use of pouch or ostomy deodorizer drops or spray, and plastic bags for disposal. “My purse contains a 1-ounce bottle of Poo-Pourri, a Tide pen, a lubricating deodorant sachet, and baby wipes.” Margie -Academia.
  4. Find the Best Clothing for Your Job: Consider loose clothing if sitting for long hours, or try a stoma belt if you have an active job. A skin barrier may be helpful if you perspire on the job. “I wear a hernia belt”- Megan-Nursing
  5. Don’t Stress Stoma Noise: If your stoma decides to speak up at the next meeting, relax. You may be the only one who notices “All bodies make sounds” Penny- Construction
  6. Hydrate: “Stay on top of your fluid intake. Don’t get distracted and have it result in an ER visit.” Heather Brigstock-Nursing
  7. Find Support: Know that you are not alone. UOAA has more than 330 affiliated support groups  that offer advice, information and support.

With some preparation and patience you’ll soon be confident in the workplace, and for many, feeling in better health than before surgery.

UOAA promotes quality of life for people with ostomies and continent diversions through information, support, advocacy and collaboration. For more information, visit www.ostomy.org or call (800) 826-0826.

Next: Canines and Colon Cancer

Easing Colon Cancer’s Financial Burden

2017 March 17
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By Lindsay Frye, Meredith’s Miracles

Cancer is a frightening word, no matter its context. It is a devastating and shocking diagnosis that can strike anyone at any time. Most people are familiar with some of the treatments and happenings that come with any cancer diagnosis.

However, unless you or someone close to you are fighting the battle, you do not get to witness the other hardships that come along. A cancer diagnosis carries a huge financial burden. Not only is treatment expensive, but life still has to go on.  A cancer diagnosis does not halt bills from arriving, cars from breaking or children from growing. In fact, cancer can completely take away a person’s ability to work and provide for their family’s most simple needs.

Meredith’s Miracles Colon Cancer Foundation witnesses this financial stress daily, as we converse with young (those diagnosed under age 40) colon cancer patients struggling to keep up with bills or keep the lights on in their homes. We provide financial assistance through grants that cover daily living expenses such as rent and mortgages, daycare costs, utilities, car payments and repairs so that patients can focus on their families and their health. Meredith’s Miracles began when a brave young woman wanted to pay forward the generosity she received during her fight with colon cancer.

We were thrilled to lighten someone’s burden by giving out one “miracle” in 2009 to now becoming the leading organization offering financial assistance to young colon cancer patients across the United States with non-medical expenses.

The stories of past-due bills piling up are endless amongst the cancer patient population, especially when these courageous people are unable to work due to their treatment schedules and side effects from their treatment. Meredith’s Miracles loves being able to bestow miracles upon these brave young people. We have granted over $271,350 to over 215 young colon cancer patients in 43 states. These grants have been able to put smiles on faces and lift spirits of young people fighting some of the toughest fights of their lives.
If you know someone fighting a cancer diagnosis, could you think of a small way you could ease his or her financial burden? Could you bring their family a meal because they might not have the energy to cook? Could you fill up their gas tank so they could make it to their treatment? These small tokens of generosity go so much further than you may realize during these cancer battles.

Next: Returning to Work After Ostomy Surgery

What if I Have a Hemorrhoid?

2017 March 16
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By Geri Lynn Baumlatt, Executive Director Patient Engagement, Emmi

No one wants to be told it’s time to get a colonoscopy. “Do I really need it?” they ask. The Prep can be unpleasant, and the procedure embarrassing.

It’s no surprise people often cancel or skip scheduled appointments. It’s essential to make sure people know why they should get screened, but we also must walk people through the prep and address their concerns.

That’s why we created a multimedia program (see below) that helps people prepare for a colonoscopy. A common question not usually covered is, “If I have a hemorrhoid, will that cause pain during the colonoscopy?” Many people won’t ask that question—they simply don’t show up for their procedure. The good news is it shouldn’t hurt. Just bringing up this question beforehand and reassuring them can make a big difference.

Proactively answering questions and setting expectations has positive effects.  When concerns about the experience are addressed, people are comfortable asking other questions. As one woman who viewed a program about an upcoming procedure said,

“This makes me feel like the few questions I have left won’t seem as out of place or stupid to nurses and doctors since some of them were already addressed in the program.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what about the dreaded prep?
Setting expectations helps. For most people, the prep is the worst part—so once you get through it, the worst is behind you. (Yes, the puns write themselves and humor can help as well.) It’s best to go beyond telling people to drink all the prep and to include tips to make it easier, like chilling it and drinking it through a straw.

It’s also helpful to let people know how they can tell when their colon is really clean. It’s reassuring to know you’re not going through the prep for nothing and that your doctor will be able to see your colon and reduce the need for a repeat colonoscopy. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic used this multimedia program and found that patients were more likely to have satisfactory bowel prep and were less likely to need another colonoscopy.

Does this help patients and hospitals?
Yes. When people get friendly, patient-centered information that speaks to their questions, needs and concerns, they’re more likely to show up for their procedure. It also reduces their anxiety. One study showed that people who viewed the program were also:

  • more knowledgeable about colonoscopy,
  • needed less sedation medication (18%),
  • and their procedure times were 14% shorter

Shorter procedures and less sedation also mean safer procedures.

Thoroughly explaining the procedure and talking candidly with patients can go a long way in making sure they show up for their colonoscopy and improving their experience.

Next: Young Onset Colon Cancer and Financial Struggles

Help for Cancer Caregivers

2017 March 15

By John Schall, Chief Executive Officer of Caregiver Action Network (CAN)

Rarely do you see it coming. A cancer diagnosis strikes out of nowhere and with all the force of a speeding train. Fortunately, many patients have family caregivers to help them face the challenges and struggles that come along with it.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, making it an ideal time to recognize all those affected by cancer, particularly those who are so often overlooked – the family caregivers.

Family caregivers should be acknowledged as an indispensable part of the healthcare team for their loved one with cancer. Family caregivers know more about their loved one’s day-to-day care needs than anyone else.

Family caregivers play a vital role in care because they are the one constant in the patient’s life. Cancer patients usually have multiple doctors. Nurses change shifts. But whether at home or in the doctor’s office, at the pharmacy or in the hospital, family caregivers are present with their loved ones across all care settings. They are there as full partners with their loved ones through it all.

Cancer isn’t only straining for the patient – it profoundly affects family members and is often particularly difficult and overwhelming for the family caregiver. Caregivers often juggle numerous tasks, in addition to managing a family, work and other priorities in their own lives. That’s why it’s imperative for caregivers to adequately care for themselves.

The long-term stress associated with being a cancer caregiver can be a blow to a caregiver’s mental and physical health. Caregivers have a higher incidence of major health conditions such as depression, hypertension, and diabetes, often directly as a result of the stress that comes from caregiving.  Caregivers must be sure to care for themselves so they can give their loved one the best care possible.

Unfortunately, caregivers too often overlook their own needs. Ignoring their health (sleeping, eating, exercising and visiting a doctor) further undermines caregivers’ health. What’s more, caregiver stress can erode the immune system and actually increase susceptibility to illness.

Though there never seem to be enough hours in the day, Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is here to help. In addition to the voluminous resources and advice available at CaregiverAction.org, CAN also created HelpForCancerCaregivers.org to specifically provide cancer caregivers with the information and resources they need to care for their loved one and to provide for their own health. If you make only one priority during Colon Cancer Awareness Month as a family caregiver, make sure your loved ones (and yourself) get colonoscopies on time!

Watching a loved one in a cancer struggle pushes everyone to the limit of their strength. Caregivers need to give themselves credit for what they’re doing, and be forgiving when they make mistakes. Most of all, caregivers should remember that they are doing the best they can in a labor of love.

Next: Easing Colonoscopy Fears

Taking Care

2017 March 14
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Martha Raymond, MA CPN

Founder/CEO, The Raymond Foundation

Forty years ago I lost my Dad to colon cancer.

Before my Dad became ill, my childhood was carefree, filled with joyous family vacations, friends, beloved pets, school projects, music and dance lessons. Inevitably, when my Dad became ill our family life changed forever.  He was in and out of the hospital for over three years prior to his passing. I knew that surgeries, tests and procedures were taking place, but was too young to understand. I did understand, however, that our family would never be the same.

My carefree childhood days were gone. I was no longer free of care.

As I reflect on this time, I realize that in many ways I became a caregiver at a very young age. Responsibility, compassion and empathy became my focus. I knew that in small ways I could help my Mom, Dad and family. I had to do something to help ease the suffering our family was experiencing.

Children may not be typical caregivers, but since I didn’t know that at the time, I persevered with my plan to help an out of control situation become a little bit more bearable. I controlled what I could by helping around the house without being asked, taking care of our beloved dog and cats, practicing my music lessons every day, and by making sure I was a straight ‘A’ student with afterschool activities to keep me occupied.

My goal was to be dependable and responsible. I was taking care of the things I could.

A few short years after my Dad passed, my Mom was also diagnosed with colon cancer. My role as a college-age caregiver began, and I tried to do all I could to ease her suffering;– to comfort and provide love and support during her final days.

Today, sadly, a new generation of children and young adults are trying to sort out the complex feelings as they help their Mom or Dad cope with this devastating disease. Understanding these feelings and the need to help our youngest caregivers has led me to focus on creating educational and support programs for children, adolescents and young adults. It’s vitally important to support our young caregivers as they support their loved one.

We all understand that cancer affects the entire family, but for me I feel that it also shaped my life into who I am today. My life’s purpose was defined so long ago. This sense of purpose keeps me grounded in my patient and caregiver advocacy work.

Taking care of those we love.  I can’t think of a more fulfilling or important purpose in life.

Next:  Easing Colonoscopy Fears

Returning to Work After Colon Cancer

2017 March 13
CCA

Crawford Clay, Certified Patient & Family Support Navigator, Colon Cancer Alliance

Cancer is expensive. There is no doubt about it. Most of us can’t wait to return to work, pay down our debts and get life back to normal. Sometimes though, we hit roadblocks.

I hit a roadblock shortly after finishing chemo. Driving home one day I realized I was lost. Lost doing something I had done countless times before. That was scary. Thankfully, I could call my wife who got me home.

Chemo brain 1, Crawford 0.

At that point, I realized I might not be able to return to work full time. How can you go to work if you can’t remember how to get home? Happily, my chemo brain cleared up enough that it’s not a problem anymore. It took almost a year, though.

Other roadblocks included frequent trips to the bathroom. Not every job allows freedom to go to the bathroom. Mine did. A temporary ileostomy restricted my lifting. Later on I developed a hernia. I didn’t have neuropathy, but many people do. It took me about a year to regain my stamina and overcome these obstacles.

What do you do if you can’t work? You go on Social Security disability (SSDI) right? Thinking about disability, I had two big questions.  One, could I afford it? Two, what would I do for insurance? Let’s face it, SSDI benefits help, but it’s not a lot of money. Health insurance is an issue for anyone not already on Medicare.

I decided to continue working for a few reasons. Health insurance was the biggest reason. I also needed to contribute to the welfare of my family. Forty-four seemed too young to retire. Like many survivors, I felt the need to give back to the world that helped me survive.

If you are wondering if you should return to work, ask yourself:

  • Can you physically do your job?
  • Can you stay out of the bathroom long enough to do your job?
  • What will you do for insurance and healthcare?
  • What will you do to give your life purpose and meaning?

For some people the issue is clear-cut. For others it’s more of a gray area. There’s no easy answer. If you want to talk it over with someone, you can call the Colon Cancer Alliance toll-free helpline at (877) 422 2030.

Allsup can also help you.

Consider hiring a professional if you decide to file for disability. Filing for disability is like buttoning your shirt if you can’t feel your fingers. It’s not impossible, but you’ll appreciate the help.

People who want to give back should consider becoming a volunteer or a Buddy for the Colon Cancer Alliance.

Editor’s note: If you are already receiving SSDI benefits, and are interested in returning to work, you can learn about resources available to you at AllsupES.com.

Next: A Caregiver’s Perspective on Colon Cancer

Navigating the Maze of Cancer Survivorship

2017 March 10

 

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By Joanna L. Morales, Esq., CEO, Triage Cancer

When people hear the words, “you have cancer,” the last thing they think about are the legal issues they may face because of their diagnosis.

Many people are unaware of their rights and the resources available to guide them through the maze of legal, employment and insurance systems, or help them deal with the financial impact that cancer has on their lives.

A 2005 Institute of Medicine report, “From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition,” recognized that employment, insurance and financial issues should be addressed to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors.

For example, Paul is 43 and has been working at ABC Company for 10 years. He was married three years ago, had his first child two years ago, and bought his first home last year.  Paul just learned that he has colon cancer, which drops him into a maze of cancer-related legal issues.

He knows that if he takes a wrong turn, he may lose his job, his insurance, or even his home. With decisions and deadlines looming, Paul has to decide:

  • Can he work through his treatment, or will he need to take time off work?
  • Can he get a reasonable accommodation to help him continue working through his treatment?
  • Does he have to disclose his diagnosis to his employer?
  • Will his job be protected if he takes time off?
  • Will he be paid while he’s on leave??
  • If he does take time off or loses his job, can he keep his health or life insurance coverage?
  • If so, will he qualify for state or federal disability insurance benefits?
  • How will he pay his bills and take care of his family?
  • What he will do if he becomes unable to make healthcare or financial decisions for himself?

At each turn in the maze, there are more questions and Paul isn’t sure where to turn for help. His healthcare team? His supervisor or human resources department at work? Fortunately for Paul, and millions of other cancer survivors, there are resources, other than his health insurance, to help him find his way through the maze.

For example, Triage Cancer is a nonprofit organization that provides practical information on cancer survivorship. It offers:

Cancer can be a life-altering experience. But arming oneself with information about legal rights and options can help slay dragons in the maze of cancer-related legal issues.

 

Next: Work After Colon Cancer