Asbestos: The Deadly Threat to DIYers

What You Don't Know CAN Kill You

asbestos

Today Rachel Lynch from the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance will share with us about a deadly fiber that most people don’t know enough about.

What DIYers don’t know about asbestos just might kill them. Tiny particles of asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous material used in construction in the 1970s, can enter a person’s lungs and cause Mesothelioma. This rare form of cancer only comes from contact with asbestos.

Shockingly, although we’ve known for years that asbestos causes cancer, other countries import this toxin into our country on a regular basis.

What is Asbestos?

At first, no one knew about the side effects of asbestos. Its cheap and strong qualities seemed to provide the perfect tool for myriad construction applications. After all, it has the ability to resist heat, fire and electricity.

The material can be found in wallpaper, cement, insulation, floor/ceiling tiles, pipes, furnaces, and broilers among other building materials. In addition, the toxin was used frequently in the military and ship building. Unfortunately, when inhaled, it can cause cancer.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. There are four different types of mesothelioma—pleural, peritoneal, pericardial and testicular. Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lungs and is the most common form of the disease. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases.

asbestosEach type of the disease presents itself with varying symptoms. Due to the variation, it is extremely difficult for patients to get an accurate and timely diagnosis. Unfortunately, all too often patients receive an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis only after the cancer has progressed into the third or fourth stage. Most patients are first misdiagnosed with a more common respiratory illness such as the flu or pneumonia. To make matters worse, mesothelioma has a long latency period—it typically does not manifest until 20 to 40 years after asbestos exposure occurs.

Most often those diagnosed with mesothelioma have only 12 to 21 months to live. Prognosis can improve with early diagnosis. As previously stated, though, most cases are not confirmed until the third or fourth stage when it is too late for treatment. At that point, palliative care is the only option.

How Does Asbestos Exposure Occur?

Three distinct waves of asbestos exposure have occurred in the United States. The first wave of exposure impacted those handling asbestos in their occupations—mainly men working in mining, military personnel, and tradesmen. The second wave of exposure impacted the workers’ families. Those who worked with asbestos brought home the asbestos fibers on their clothing—unknowingly exposing their families when particles fell all their clothing and family members inhaled them.

The third—and current wave—of asbestos exposure has a close connection to the DIY craze. Many homes and schools have asbestos in them. The material is relatively harmless when left alone. However, when Do-it-Yourselfers dig into a project, they often disturb the material and release asbestos dust into the air. Anyone nearby could inhale the fibers and end up with mesothelioma

If you have an older home, consult an asbestos professional to have your home inspected before beginning any remodeling projects.asbestos

International Use of Asbestos

While asbestos use in the United States has tapered off, there are parts of the world where the asbestos trade thrives.

Although the last asbestos mine in the United States shut down in 2002, manufacturers in the United States still wanted to use the cheap and resistant material. With the United States no longer mining and manufacturing our own asbestos and asbestos products, the nation’s imports provide a major driving force in the growth in the international asbestos trade.

Other countries have imported more than 8 million pounds of asbestos into the United States since 2006. The majority of that—more than 7.6 million pounds of asbestos—arrived at the ports of New Orleans and Houston. Other ports receiving shipments of asbestos and asbestos products include Newark, Long Beach and Los Angeles. From those ports the toxic material travels out to 29 different states by either truck or rail. So, while the ban on mining asbestos protects U.S. miners from occupational asbestos exposure, the toxin still makes its way to all corners of the country and continues to put Americans in great danger.

Why is Asbestos still legal?

After reading all this you might be wondering—If we know that asbestos contains a cancer-causing toxin why do we still use it? I can assure you it’s not for lack of trying.

Beginning in the 1970s, when researchers discovered that asbestos causes cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency began attempting to ban the carcinogenic material. Unfortunately, they didn’t find success.

Almost 40 years later, the Senate unanimously passed the Ban Asbestos in America Act. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives squashed the bill and it never made it to the President.

“It’s reprehensible that Congress has allowed the man-made asbestos crisis to continue,” says Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), which represents asbestos victims. “Each year, up to 15,000 Americans die from preventable mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases and imports still continue.“

What Now?

Until researchers discover a cure for Mesothelioma, prevention and raising awareness provide the best recourses for early treatment. If you or a loved one believe they have experienced asbestos exposure, visit a medical professional.

By raising awareness of Mesothelioma, people may realize they have been exposed to it and seek help before symptoms arise. A simple mention that you may have been exposed to asbestos could enable early detection, significantly increasing your chances of survival.

asbestosRachel Lynch is the Press and Media Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, a leading authority in providing information about asbestos exposure and its link to mesothelioma.

 

 

 

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The Blood and the PTSD

What Jesus can do with one - for the other.

I ran frantically through the house, sweat dripping down my back and my eyes wide open with that familiar gritty I’ve-spent-all-night-awake-in-the-hospital-feeling.

I grabbed things and flung them into suitcases and yelled again for my kids to get out! No one answered and I redoubled my efforts. Piles of laundry gave way to my kick and I grabbed my son’s favorite jammies and thrust them into the outside pocke of his hospital suitcase. But this was not about hospitals. It was about life or death. Something was fast approaching our house and I dashed through the kitchen with it’s pile of dirty dishes and stack of mail to sort through.

I peered through the dirty windows and screamed, “Run! Get out, everyone’s got to get out!” Again, no one replied. “Andrew!” I screeched at the top of my lungs. I knew he wouldn’t be able to get out of the house in time, he was slow from his chemo treatments and I searched frantically for his bald head in the house.

My breath seared my lungs as I gasped and raced down the hall to the girls’ room. “Larissa, Karina!” I shrieked with everything in me, but only silence greeted my calls. My breath sobbed out my throat as I raced into my own room. “Randy!” I screamed with everything I had in me, shaking uncontrollably I looked under the bed and raced to the closet, yanking everything out in my search.

I could feel the flood reaching the house and I could smell it surrounding the house and still I had not successfully gotten my family out. As I backed out of my bedroom, whimpering in dismay, my feet sloshed through the deluge sweeping into our house. I fought my way back down the hall only to see with dismay that the front door had been swept open by the flood and the warm, thick liquid poured into our house. As it swept around my knees I staggered under the weight and the swirling red mass, “Help me!” I screamed with every fiber of my being. “Someone help me get my family to safety!” I have never worked harder in my life – not for rescue, nor safety, nor love. Where was God? Why was this blood overtaking our house and why could I not rescue my family?

I screamed again – the strongest most horrific screech of fear – it echoed and bounced into the silent, blood-filled night.

“Carol!” my husband’s warm hand found my frozen and trembling one and I grasped it like a life-line. “Carol,” Randy’s drowsy voice barely penetrated my fear, “everyone’s okay. The girls are in bed, Andrew is asleep. Nothing’s coming in the house. We’re okay.”

I stared at the ceiling in confusion. I could hear no sounds of an approaching flood and the room was dark with a sliver of moon showing out the window. My heart pounded in my chest but my feet were dry and no smell of blood hovered in the air. I clutched his hand tighter and looked at my bedside clock.

2:00 a.m. My most hated hours of the night. Either I was wide-awake or dreaming awful things – neither option was a good one for me.

“Was I screaming?” I asked, pulling his hand closer still.

“Just once.” he responded, already drifting back out, used to my nightmares and my sleeplessness.

“Is Andrew okay?” I persisted. My mind knew, without a doubt, that something was wrong. My heart-rate warned of imminent threat and my brain told me it was Andrew.

“Andrew’s fine. I just checked. No fever. Carol, go to sleep. Everything is fine.”

Everything is NOT fine. I must be dying. That’s it. I’m going crazy and I’m going to die from it. Oh boy – here goes my cycle.

With that I got up and went outside, to sit with my dog in the moonlight, pouring out my need to the God of the stars. My doctor said PTSD. I said crazy. My husband said I’d get through it.

Blood.

Really? Blood overtaking our house and flooding us out? It doesn’t take a genius to interpret my dream.

Almost three years of fighting leukemia with spinal taps, blood transfusions, plasma donations, platelet cells and the constant need for blood counts explained the dream. Almost three years of trying to let my girls live a “normal” life while juggling hospitals and treatments, work and housekeeping made the out-of-control feeling in the dream an obvious choice.

I sat on my back deck, my dog huddled at my side, staring at the moon and unconsciously I began to hum the closing-the-worship song that we sang every Vespers at the school where I taught.

When floods overwhelm us (even when it’s PTSD and in our minds), Jesus blood can get us through.

I smiled at the moon. Blood had taken over our lives, enough to permeate my dreams. Worry threatened me in constant over-loads. My feelings of inadequacy flooded me often. I sighed again.

Yes, Jesus, let the blood overtake me.

Let it wash over me.

Allow it to reach the highest mountain, and flow to the lowest valley!

Permit that blood to give me strength to soothe my doubts and calm my fears

Please Lord, dry my tears.

Let the blood give me strength, from day to day, and never, never, never lose it’s power!

Feelings of inadequacy during #caregiving almost overwhelmed - until Jesus' blood...… Click To Tweet

Take a moment and listen to this song – it’s so incredibly powerful!  Then, leave a comment and link up if you’d like!  We love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

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A Caregiver You Know Might Need This Book

Dr. Bengtson Releases a Hope Prevails Bible Study Guide

BengtsonNot Knowing That I Stood in Need

When my husband miraculously recovered from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with Central Nervous System involvement I knew I should feel grateful and blessed. I did, mostly. But a heavy blanket of depression crept over me and sucked the color out of my days. I felt as if an angry monster lurked inside, ready to lash out at any moment. I had no idea that I needed something.

It took me awhile to acknowledge that perhaps I suffered from depression (after all, shouldn’t I feel blessed? Which just made me feel guiltier and more depressed). At the time, I found a good resource that helped me understand my feelings and start traveling out of the darkness.

I wish I would have had Hope Prevails Bible Study: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengston. Not only has Dr. Bengston traveled through depression, she has experienced seasons of caregiving as well. In fact, her husband received a cancer diagnosis on the day her first book, Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression launched last year. Dr. Bengston knows first-hand how caregiving can wear a person down and how maintaining a positive attitude of hope plays an important role in a caregiver’s life.

Dr. Bengtson graciously answered a few questions about the unique challenges that caregivers face.

What lies do caregivers need to be aware of both during and after a loved one’s illness?

Dr. Bengtson: Caregivers need to be aware of the lie that somehow our loved-one’s well-being depends on us. It doesn’t. God has them in His hand and He cares for them so much better than we ever could. We just need to cooperate with Him.

We also need to be aware of the lie that will scream that their healing isn’t permanent. Only God knows. So, we rejoice in the promise that God says that by His stripes we are healed. We don’t know if that will be this side of heaven or not, but we thank Him that God’s ways are best.

Caregivers also must be careful to guard against the lie that says that more we do, the better off they will be, or that no one can care for them as good as we can. We need to take time to rest ourselves so that we can care for them. And sometimes resting means delegating or allowing others to step in and help.

As a cancer caregiver yourself, what extra advice would you give a caregiver who struggles with hopelessness?

Dr. Bengtson: As a caregiver, we have to be careful to guard against hopelessness. We have to be careful not to let anxiety have a place in our mind. One of the best ways to do that is to repeat God’s promises out loud, such as Psalm 39:7 “”But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” and Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Go to Him. Share your burdens. He wants to help you carry them. He wants to be your strength. You do not have to go through this alone. Even when friends and family do not understand, he does!

Who Needs Dr. Bengtson’s Book

If you act as a caregiver to someone, I strongly recommend that you read this book as preventative maintenance! Traveling through a caregiving journey calls for extra fortifications—something this book provides. If you know a caregiver, consider giving the book to them as a gift. Often times caregivers look fine on the outside, but inside they feel lost and abandoned. The easy-to-use and understand Bible study takes the reader on a journey of hope. I found the play lists of hope-filled songs especially helpful. Dr. Bengtson has curated a wide variety of Christian music artists to help lift the listener’s spirits throughout the day.

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What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

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2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

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The Cost of Caregiving to Working Family Caregivers

Cost of Caregiving to Working Caregivers

by Samantha Stein
Many people like to say that being busy is a myth. No one is truly too busy, and it is all a matter of time management. However, I wonder if any of these people know what it is like to manage the cost of caregiving, holding down a paying job, and keeping a family together. All while fighting to maintain your own well-being in the process.

Achieving the fabled work-life balance becomes even more challenging if you put caregiving into the mix. Becoming a caregiver to a loved takes time, energy, and money. After all, not everyone can quit their jobs and dedicate their time to caregiving because the costs can quickly drain bank accounts.

This brings in a question that many ask: how can I manage the cost of caregiving, secure our nest egg, and maintain my health? All without leaving my job?

caregiver cost

Invest in Your Care Coverage Now

High-hour caregivers often face various health problems during or after caregiving. Some have even shared that their illnesses and conditions were developed or aggravated because of the demands of care.

As care costs in America continue to increase rapidly, it would be a wise financial move to purchase long term care coverage now while caregivers still have more room in their finances. To avoid confusion on what policies cover and how it works, refer to the Long Term Care Insurance Buyer’s Guide to determine if this type of coverage works best for you.

Bear in mind that it is always good to be prepared especially when the risks are too high. Long term care services are too expensive to leave to chance.

Research on Community Services

Communities and organizations offer various services that help working caregivers manage their tasks effectively. As these services are often free or offered at a low cost, caregivers and their care recipients can minimize the cost of caregiving substantially.

The problem comes when these public programs do not reach the notice of caregivers. This is why you should be vigilant in researching for possible benefits in your area. You or your loved one may fit the qualifications for benefits. You can also look into the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp.org. This website helps older adults find benefits that match their needs.

Learn about the Benefits Offered by Employers

Some employers have made special adjustments to allow caregivers to manage work and their caregiving duties more easily. These programs and benefits depend on the company, so would have to check with your HR or your manager. However, the usual accommodations are working on flexible time, working from home, or additional paid leave of absences.

Final Thoughts on the Cost of Caregiving

It will be difficult to stay on top of your game, especially when you are dealing with the financial, emotional, physical, mental, and social costs of caregiving while keeping a steady source of income. In fact, studies show that three out of five working caregivers say that they have experienced at least one impact in their employment situation.

On more than one occasion, it will get overwhelming and stressful.

No one wants to experience caregiver stress and burnout. Keep in mind that in order to care for your loved ones effectively, you have to care for yourself too. Spending a day at a spa, or choosing to not hang out with friends in order to enjoy some much-deserved alone time might benefit you. Whatever you do, make sure to dedicate resources and time to keeping your well-being in place.

Submersion or Submission: Which would you choose?

How a caregiver can prevent "drowning" or going under, when struggling to keep afloat

We have a choice as caregivers: accept help or drown!

In the fifth part of our series on how caregivers seem to experience the same reactions to circumstances that a drowning person experiences, we explore the options a drowning person has–submersion or submission.

“From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.” On Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

Drowning:

Overwhelmed. Depressed. Struggling. Devastated. Overpowered. Shocked. Overcome. Distressed. Swamped. Drained. Exhausted. Scared. Confused. Done in. At the end of the rope.

All caregivers know these words.

No matter how brave we want to be – no matter how brave we ARE, there comes a point in a caregiver’s journey where we just feel like we can’t go on. We KNOW we must be going under.

For some, that point might come out of the nowhere and smack us when we think we’re doing great. For others, that point might creep up on us; we know it’s coming, but we don’t know what to do about it—except just tread water for all we’re worth until we cannot struggle any longer. For some, “the point” might last for a few moments of desperation. For others, that point might become a new way of life that terrifies us with it’s ceaseless reality.

The point of submersion hits us all.

The waters will close over our heads: Unless a “trained lifeguard” comes to our rescue.
A caregiver’s network of ‘trained lifeguards’ includes caring people who know how to spot signs of distress. Many of us cling to a Higher Power. Most of us receive offers of help, but we feel unsure of how to balance things. Some of us feel that we wouldn’t be doing a great job as caregiver if we relinquished responsibilities.

I am a trained lifeguard. In our training and practice for water rescues (especially deep water or water with currents), the most important training involves knowing what to do with those drowning victims who resist rescue efforts—the people that fight (out of sheer panic) our efforts to help.

Lifeguards learn to approach with words, so that the drowning person knows we want to help. We practice gripping the victim firmly and continuing to talk, if we can, so that the victim understands what we are trying to do. But often people panic anyway, sure that both rescuer and victim will drown in the overwhelming waters.

Lifeguards learn that sometimes we will have to keep our distance and let the victim lose energy so that we can rescue them.

Carol dries out after rescuing a girl from drowning in Trujillo, Peru in 2010.

I rescued a child once, in a pool I was not familiar with and therefore did not know the water’s depth. At first, the frightened girl struggled in my arms and tried to “help” me kick, but her futile efforts took us both under water several times. I ordered her, in a rather stern manner, to lay back and let me carry her—to let me do the work—and I promised to get her over to the edge. For me, the edge was only about 10 feet away and I knew I could get her there with no difficulty. For her, the distance seemed insurmountable, and she had no idea of my swimming ability.

In the end, she clung to my arm, which I held firmly around her, and she relaxed, until I boosted her onto the edge of the pool. Her mother thanked me with tears while I sat in the sun, drying my clothing so I could continue my day.

I felt blessed; I had been able to use my training to help someone survive.

While I was a struggling caregiver, desperately trying to hold my head above water, but feeling that with each submersion it took me longer and longer to reach the surface, a friend told me that I was depriving others of the blessing of helping me, by trying to be so strong and to do everything myself. I was a good “swimmer”, but even the best can only swim for so long before they need a helping hand.

Don’t keep “struggling on the surface until submersion occurs”:

Let others around you gain a blessing by helping. #caregiver #caregiving #blessedbutstressed Click To TweetSubmit to the lifeguards that hover nearby. Don’t submit to submersion!

If you’re a caregiver, have you ever had to submit?  How did it make you feel?

If you’re someone who loves a caregiver, do you have any tips on helping out a frantic ‘drowning’ caregiver?

 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Vegan Cinnamon Apple Cake with Maple Frosting

applesauce

Part of living a less stressful life has to do with making healthier choices for your self and for your family.  After Pedro’s stem-cell transplant, we decided that we could do more to eat healthfully.  Over the next year, we completely cut white flour and white sugar out of our diet.  While this cake still has unhealthy things in it (sugar), the majority of the ingredients beat anything you’ll find in a boxed cake mix!

 Cinnamon Apple Cake with Maple Frosting

by Anita Strawn de Ojeda

Preheat oven to 350º

Grease and flour two 8-inch round baking pans (I use whole-wheat flour)

1/3 cup ground flax seeds (you can buy whole flax seeds and grind them in a clean coffee grinder)
¾ cup chopped dates (the dried kind work fine)
2/3 cup boiling water
Place the first two ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over the top of them.  Wait a few minutes for the mixture to cool.
Add:
½ cup coconut butter, melted or softened
2 c. applesauce
3 c. whole wheat flour (I like to use Wheat Montana Prairie Gold)
2  teaspoons of cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ Tablespoons baking powder
¾  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾  c. brown or raw sugar

Beat all ingredients for three minutes on medium-high speed and pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for ten minutes and then remove from pan and allow to cool thoroughly before frosting.
 

Maple Frosting:

¼ cup coconut butter, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons cool water
Mix until smooth and use immediately to frost the cake (I use about a fourth of it to hold the two layers together).

 

applesauce

Cake so yummy, no one will know it's #vegan! Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Angels and Lifeguards: What a Caregiver Needs

When You're Drowning, There Is Hope!

Lifeguards: Angels in human skin who recognize signs of struggle in another person.

In this third part of our series on Drowning in Plain Sight, we salute those ‘lifeguards’ and ‘guardian angels’ who recognize a caregiver’s silent struggle in the waters of caregiving despair.

“Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.” On Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

The engine shuddered to stop and I hunched for a moment over the steering wheel.

I could see the family room light while the rest of the house was dark. That meant that Randy had been detained again, and the girls were home alone. I closed my eyes with relief that we live in such a safe place, with staff for neighbors and Randy’s office window shining its light across the parking lot. Fifteen hours ago Andrew and I had left home in the pre-dawn hours. Since then, Andrew had suffered through anesthesia, spinal tapping, recovery, chemo, and blood draws before the long drive home. The darkness magnified our exhaustion and reminded us that suppertime had come and gone.

I reached back and laid a hand on Andrew’s bony little knee and shook gently. “Wake up, little man, we’re home.” Oh, that didn’t sound very cheerful. It just sounded tired. I scraped energy from the bottom of my soul, shifted in my seat and tried again, “Let’s go in the house, Drew, we gotta get supper!”

“Not hungwy,” he grumped from the car seat.

“I know,” I sighed. Who would be hungry after all the things that had filled his little body today?

I slumped up the sidewalk, towing the chemo laden little boy after me.

Supper was the last thing I wanted to tackle, but I straightened my shoulders and mentally gave myself a shake. From somewhere I needed to dredge the energy to ask the girls about their day, to fix something nutritious, to read to them and tuck them into bed.

I twisted the handle and the door swung open. As I opened my mouth to call out to the girls, a wonderful aroma swept across my consciousness. Food! Someone had brought a casserole! Bless that someone!

“Hello Larissa! Hey Karina! We’re home!” I yelled.

Two sets of footsteps pounded around the corner and two happy girls bounced into us where we stood rooted in the entryway. “Mommy, Grammy brought us food! Everything! You can’t believe it!” shouted Karina while she hugged me hard.

“She said you didn’t need to think at all, just eat,” added Larissa, her arms wrapped around my neck.

I smiled with guilty remembrance. Last week, after the same kind of chemo day, Grammy had been at our house when we got home. She’d brought a casserole from a church friend and I was ever so grateful. But within a few moments, her gentle hands had pried mine from the refrigerator handle, where they had frozen in indecision. “Carol, you’ve been staring in the fridge for awhile now, what are you looking for? Can I get something for you?”

At that I had burst into tears, “I don’t know what I’m looking for, I don’t know what goes with this casserole, I don’t know what kind of vegetable to make, I don’t know what kind of anything to get. I just don’t know….”

Grammy had smiled, led me to the kitchen stool, left me there and gotten out salad dressing and salad fixings. Now why couldn’t I have thought of that?

I had explained to her the phenomenon of chemo brain,

how it can affect your ability to think at the oddest moments, and how while I never received any chemo whatsoever, I still got a hefty case of chemo brain after long days of chemotherapy. She had just laughed her typical hearty laugh, hugged me, and finished fixing supper for my family.

Today, someone hadn’t just brought a casserole.

Reverently I picked up a paper plate while I surveyed my kitchen counter. A complete meal, along with anything and everything needed to eat it marched down the counter. Drink, along with plastic cups, casserole, veggies, salad, rolls with bread and jam. I recognized some of the things from my refrigerator; others I had never seen before. But I didn’t have to make any decisions or fix a single item. I wouldn’t even have to wash dishes when dinner was over, as the spread included plastic ware, napkins—everything! My only decision was how much to put on my plate.

“Mommy, why are you standing there holding that plate like it’s gold?” asked Karina.

I laughed aloud, “Because it is!” I replied as I began to dish up platefuls of food for the family. “Because it is pure gold!”

Pure gold—that’s Grammy.

Grammy and Papa had been waiting for me on my front sidewalk on the day of Andrew’s diagnosis, along with a group of friends. Waiting so I wouldn’t be alone. Waiting to help in whatever capacity I needed. They had helped pack up the girls, and me, and held me while I cried.

Sometimes you just need to be held while you cry #caregiver #angelsindisguise #blessedbutstressed Click To Tweet

Grammy had already washed my laundry more than once, she’d done mending for us, she’d cleaned my bathroom, and she’d watched my girls when I couldn’t be there. She and Papa had shampooed our carpet when we’d had to sterilize everything in order to bring Andrew home. Every day, as I walked into work, I received Grammy’s huge bright and happy smile, and a hug. When I couldn’t be at work, she would call to see what had gone wrong, and to find out what she needed to do to help out our family. Grammy and Papa kept track of our chemo days, long after others had forgotten, and made sure to call with prayer support when they knew it was going to be a long one.

Grammy and Papa are just amazing people, their help incredible, and their support inexhaustible. These two extraordinary people started out with regular names like Darlene and John, but throughout Andrew’s illness they grew into “Grammy and Papa,” the names their ‘real’ grandchildren call them, and the role they play in our lives.

But secretly, I think, their real names are “angels.”

If you missed the first two stories in this series, you can find them here and here.

‘Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.’ Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning ResponseOn Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue
Every #caregiver needs an angel, or a #lifeguard! #blessedbutstressed #childhoodcancer Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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31 Ways to Nurture Yourself for Caregivers

nurture

The Importance of Self-Care Increases with Caregiving

If you spend time caring for someone else, you need to make sure that you spend thoughtful time caring for yourself. This month on my other blog, I’m writing a series on 31 Ways to Nurture Yourself. So often people tell caregivers, “Take time to take care of yourself,” but in the stress of caring for someone else, caregivers can’t figure out what exactly that means.

You can find ideas, as well as the psychology behind self-care and self-nurturing over at www.anitaojeda.com.

A fellow caregiver, Karen Sebastian, also has a great series (this one designed especially for caregivers), called the ABCs of Self-Nurture for Caregivers.

Julie Steele has a series about mothering one’s self. You’ll find great ideas for self-care.

Tammy McDonald has a series on grief that might interest you, too.

If you do nothing else today to care for yourself, take the time to visit one of these series and glean some great ideas on how to take care of yourself! Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy and patience to take care of someone else!

If you don't take time to care for yourself, you won't have the energy and patience to care for… Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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You Might be Drowning in Plain Sight

Drowning and Caregiving

Sometimes caregivers are drowning in plain sight!

Drowning victims and caregivers share more than one might think. In this five-part series we explore the phenomena of “Drowning in Plain Sight.”

As you read, whether you’re a caregiver or someone who loves a caregiver, think about the people in your ‘pool’–is anyone drowning?

“Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.” Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response–On Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

The doctor adjusted his stethoscope on my back and told me to take a deep breath. I breathed in, and sat, not paying much attention to what was happening. The stethoscope didn’t move. “Again,” he ordered softly.

I let out the air I’d been holding and took another breath while my mind skipped to what I needed to grab from the store before I headed home from this appointment.
The stethoscope still had not journeyed to a new spot.

“Carol,” he reprimanded, “take a de-e-e-p breath!”

I reached deep and breathed properly. This I could do. My life might be falling apart and things running out of control, but I could breathe deep. I’m a flute player. My flute teacher used to make me practice breathing and taught me how to breathe deeply from the abdomen. I drew a deep breath and found that my air seemed to have nowhere to go.

I pretended to myself that all was normal and waited for the stethoscope to go to the next spot.

The stethoscope dropped while the doctor felt along my back.

What was the deal? He’d only listened to my breaths at the top of my back, that wasn’t normal, was it? Oh really. Who cares? I wonder if I mixed Andrew’s nasty medicine with chocolate pudding, would that help him get it down? Swallowing posed the problems…pudding is soft, maybe he could get it down that way. Oh, and besides the pudding, I should get some shaving cream. Karina needed to study her spelling words and writing in shaving cream is a fun way. Yeah, and my grades are due next week, so while she’s practicing spelling, I should get those tests graded. Man, I wish this headache would go away.

“Have you ever had asthma?” the question came out of nowhere.

“Asthma?” Was he kidding? “No, I’ve never had asthma. My breathing is fine—I’ve never had any problem.”

Silence.

“Why, is there a problem?” I finally thought to ask.

“Well, Carol. If you don’t have asthma…then…you’re not breathing.”

I laughed out loud. “I assure you I’m breathing. I’m alive.”

He smiled kindly and explained to me that the muscles in my back felt like the slightly atrophied muscles of an asthmatic patient; showing signs of not breathing deeply enough. I sighed and the very act of doing so proved to me that this doctor was way off.
Not breathing – who ever heard of that. Of COURSE I was breathing.

One has to breathe to live.

The beautiful water belies the silent drama…

He explained more fully that while he was listening, I took a decent breath, but then half the time forgot to let it back out. I needed to practice breathing by taking in big breaths, holding it to the count of three and blowing it – hard – all the way out. Then push even more out if I could. I was holding too much in.

Brother! I’m holding too much in, all right, but it’s not air. It’s panic, it’s fear, it’s responsibilities, it’s life.

But breaths? I was doing fine!

I left the doctor’s office slightly miffed that I hadn’t gone in for breathing issues at all, yet he’d spent valuable time obsessing about my breathing.  Frankly, the doctor had scared me a little bit with his pronouncement about my back. This was the same doctor who kept telling me I needed to get some help; to stop carrying things on my own and to allow people to give me some relief. The same doctor who had, just the week before, reminded me that in order to keep caring for my leukemic boy I would need to eat a little better, drink more water and maybe begin exercising.

Again I snorted with disgust. Like I have time to exercise and eat better…I’d like to see him get up at 3 to get to chemo and return home after dark and still get Larissa to her club meeting and read with Karina and get papers graded. Drink more water? That’d be great, but who has time to count drinks and really, I’d just have to use the bathroom more often. But yeah…we all know those health rules and just as soon as I could, I would follow them like I used to do.

All the way along the one-hour highway route my mind berated that silly doctor who could never just treat what I was asking for, but continually reminded me of taking care of not just my sick boy, but me. My thoughts bounced around wildly like they had come into the habit of doing, and I drove steadily onward. Suddenly breath gusted out of my mouth as dizziness hit.

Whoa. That was weird. I think maybe I was holding my breath while I was thinking!

No, one doesn’t just hold a breath – no one thinks about breathing, they just do it and it works! It’s natural! I continued homeward, thoughts flying in a different direction. Out of nowhere another breath blew out. Oh my goodness, my shoulders are up and I had been holding my breath!

Catching myself holding my breath three more times on the way home convinced me that, indeed, my life had become so crazy that I was now holding my breath, along with my shoulders and my fears, in an effort to accomplish more than I could handle.
I had quit reaching out to friends, feeling that I didn’t have time.
All the things I most enjoyed doing I had given up in an effort to help my kids be “normal”.
I had quit walking in the morning, using that time to get a head start to my day.
I was no longer doing all the things to take care of myself, in order to care for my family.

And I was no longer breathing. 

Have you ever found yourself ‘not breathing’ and unable to communicate with others about your inability to breathe?

The series continues with Breathing Lessons.

Have you ever found yourself not breathing? #blessedbutstressed #caregiver Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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A Different Kind of Caregiving

SchoolOutdoor School Present

I watch as the sky turns from city glow to deep blue. None of the students stir, and traffic flows by like a roaring river (even this early). Finally the clouds behind the campsite change from vague shadows to glorious pink.

In the quiet of the morning, the stress starts to wash away. For the past six weeks, the students and I have planned for this day, this week. They decided what time they would need to leave school in order to arrive in San Diego by 4 in the afternoon (4 a.m., they said). They decided what they would like to visit and learn about on this Urban Jungle Expedition.

Today we go on a whale watching tour, and visit the USS Midway. Tomorrow, we’ll take in the Living Coast educational center and a beach. Many of them have never seen the ocean before. Wednesday, they will venture out into the city on their “Choose Your Own Adventure Day.” Using public transportation, they will travel to points of interest that they didn’t want to miss. The only caveat? They have a $10.00 budget. (Don’t worry, a staff member will travel with each group). Thursday, they’ll hit the zoo. “I can’t wait to see a lion,” one young man told me yesterday.

Outdoor School Past

For the past two years, I’ve done the bulk of the planning for outdoor school. Sure, they kids had choices about which hike or which class they wanted to take. But I made most of the decisions. I figured they should enjoy whatever I planned and go with the program because I’d done stuff like this before.

The results? We had fun. The kids loved the hikes, activities, and programming. But the trips took forever and kids dawdled at rest stops.

This time, the bus arrived 20 minutes early and everyone hustled through the bathroom lines at the rest areas. Students have told other staff members how much they appreciate getting to make choices and plan things.

Caregiver Lessons

In teacher mode, I’ve forgotten a basic human need. People (even students), like to have input. They like to feel as if their thoughts and ideas matter. It makes them happier about the situation–even if camping isn’t their thing.

And that’s a good reminder for caregivers. How can we involve and engage the ones we care for in the decisions? How can we make it a journey together rather than a journey for? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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