Your Choices Determine Your Health


One of the things I’m working on this year is to be more observant. Yesterday I was at Infusion and what I observed was: staff eating fast food (junk food) from Wendy’s, drinking Cokes and snacking on endless amounts of Red Vines and chocolates. Actually this ain’t new but it really got me to thinking. I mean we are in a cancer ward. Are these women really that disconnected as to how these patients got sick in the first place? Do they think getting cancer is just “bad luck, bad genes, or some mystery disease?”

I admit, I wasn’t eating great before I got cancer. I thought I was. I was vegetarian! But the main thing missing from my diet was the vegetables! One of my strengths (which also gets me into trouble) is speaking my mind; calling people on their own bullshit, but I am working on being observant this year and that means keeping my opinions to myself — but that doesn’t mean I won’t write about it.

The funny thing is a couple of these women whom I work with complain they can’t seem to lose weight. They don’t like the way they look, so they go on some ridiculous diet; like adding chia seeds to their bottled water, convincing themselves this will achieve their goal. Are they serious? Diets do not work! There are no magic pills! The only thing that works is a lifestyle change; a change in attitude and self-discipline.

Last year I did tell them that, but one got mad and the other shrugged it off, “You and your GMOs.”

Am I sometimes tempted to eat a french fry, drink a Coco Cola, eat candy? Hell yes! But I stop myself because I know it will make me sick; maybe not right that second but eventually eating that crap will catch up with me and the next thing I know I’ll be back in that chemo treatment chair. I also know my health is my responsibility. What I put in my mouth is my responsibility. My choices determine my health.

I just don’t get it that these women can’t see it. Statistically, 1 in 3 women will get cancer sometime in their lifetime. That’s 30% of the women in Infusion; only a small percent will be from genetics, the rest is environmental and life choices. I hope they wake up before its too late.

Be Well!

The Ebola Scare


Who has not heard about Ebola these days? I’m guessing almost everyone, since it’s on all the local and cable news channels. I’ve read that the media is scaring Americans into thinking there is pandemic just around the corner and others complain that media is not doing enough to keep us informed. The latest news story is about the nurse in Texas who caught Ebola from her dying patient, even though she was wearing protective gear.

Catching diseases and dying from bacterial infections from a hospital environment is nothing new. Every time I was admitted to the hospital during my cancer treatment, I thought about germs (I admit I became a germaphobe and still am). Doctors are aware that the longer a patient stays in the hospital his/her chances of catching something unrelated to their illness goes up. Why? Because humans work there. Humans make mistakes all the time and that includes hospital staff. Another reason is, hospitals are full of sick people. In my opinion that’s what it boils down to.

Ebola is on everyone’s radar but there are plenty of diseases/bacteria/germs floating around, that have been around for years, not only in hospitals, but ALL public places. For example, let’s take restaurants. I worked in them for twenty years. How many of you wash your hands before you sit down to eat? Be honest, because when I was waiting tables, I rarely saw anyone. A customer might have gone to visit the bathroom, but since I didn’t follow them to see if they washed their hands; they might have just used the toilet and walked out. How many of you have been in a public bathroom and watched people leave the stall and walk out without washing their hands? I’ve seen plenty. It’s the same with employees. Just because there are signs posted for them to wash their hands, doesn’t mean they do.

Have you ever thought about how many people sat on the same chair you sit on while dining in your favorite restaurant? Do you think it’s sanitary? How about the ketchup bottle you’re using? The salt and pepper shakers? Salad tongs? Get the picture? Restaurant workers (at least in the places I worked) are instructed to clean these after each customer but many don’t, and if they do, they use the same rag all day long. Many restaurants do not have busboys and that means the food server who is taking your order probably just bussed a table and did not wash his/her hands before bringing you your food.  I know because I have been guilty of it. Don’t get me started about how many germs are on the money we handle.

Let’s go back to hospitals. I volunteer in one. I have a soft spot for this place because the hospital staff saved my life, but they are not perfect. They are human. They are understaffed and overworked. It’s a miracle there aren’t more problems. It isn’t just the hospital I volunteer and am a patient at. It’s all of them. I visited patients in other hospitals over the years and have seen some really scary stuff… as far as cleanliness goes. I’ve witnessed staff in all areas of the hospital from nurses to doctors to receptionists cough and sneeze in their hands and continuing working.  They ARE following the rules. They ARE covering their mouths. The problem is, they are using the same hands they just sneezed in to touch computer keyboards, or the handle on the drawer where the supplies are kept and even the patient. That’s how germs spread. No one is going to stop what they are doing to wash their hands every time they sneeze or cough, and frankly, I don’t even think they realize what they are doing. Time is limited. There are too many patients and not enough staff and “it ain’t changing anytime soon.”

It’s impossible to guarantee a 100% germ free environment when you are out in public.  Your home even has germs. Visitors bring in colds and flu, even though signs are posted in the hospital lobby for them to stay away. Nothing can be done when people choose to ignore the rules. Kids are walking germs. They pick their noses, sneeze and cough. They can’t help it. Their kids. And kids come with their parents to doctor appointments and to visit other patients.

So, the best thing you can do to protect yourself, as best you can, is to be proactive. If you see someone, especially in a hospital doing something unsanitary, call ’em on it. If you’re the patient ask the hospital staff to wash their hands in front of you or use the disinfectant gel. If they say they did, ask them to do it again. You can joke about it and say you’re a germ freak. If they refuse, ask for a supervisor. It’s YOUR health at risk, especially if your are immune compromised and many sick people in a hospital are. Wash your hands often. Bring along a small bottle of sanitizer. Don’t touch your face or mouth. Wear a mask. I wear one when I volunteer during the winter months because I don’t get a flu shot. I don’t want to bring anything to my patients or carry something home to my family. As a matter of fact, I decided while I am writing this, I will wear one everyday from now on.

Diseases will always be around. They cannot be stopped. The best defense against them is to take the offense.

To recap:  Wash your hands often. Use sanitizer. Wear a mask in public if you are immune compromised. And if you’re sick STAY HOME!

Be Well and Happy!


Nurses are Human too

This is an excerpt from a book I am writing.  Any feedback you have is appreciated.

chemo pic

After Dr.C got my rectal bleeding under control, the plan to start chemotherapy was pushed up by a week. The tumor seemed to have a mind of its own and might start bleeding again, so my doctors decided to start chemotherapy treatment while I was in the hospital. That sounded good to me. I thought the sooner the treatments began, the sooner the cancer would be killed and I could get on with my life.

But sometimes things have a way of not going as planned, especially when humans are involved. We all make mistakes and persons working in the medical field are no exception. I was doped up with morphine the whole time I was there. I slept a lot. My son stayed with me most of the time and slept in my room at night. When doctors and nurses came in my room, James always asked what they were doing, or spoke to them on my behalf. He was my Advanced Directive ( I will explain more about this in another chapter).

This particular morning James wasn’t in the room when the nurse came in to start my chemo cocktail. It must have been early because I don’t remember her being there. She hung the chemo bag on the IV stand along with the other bag that contained hydration (saline solution). I never paid attention to them unless one beeped and a nurse came in to either reset the buttons or change the bag.

Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon a male nurse showed up to tell me he would take care of me for the evening shift, that’s when he asked me, ” Do you know what time your chemo was started?”

 “No. I’m the patient. I don’t know what’s going, and please take all those cats with you when you leave.” (I loved those opiate drugs!)

With a concerned look on his face he left the room. I went back to sleep. A few minutes later he returned with another nurse. They mumbled to each other, while pushing buttons on the computer box. They left. I don’t know how much time went by because I fell asleep again, but I woke up hearing my son talking to someone. He sounded agitated. My radiation doctor was in the room. I didn’t know what was going on but judging by the expressions on their faces, I knew they were talking about something serious. I sat up.

My doctor said, “Don’t worry. I made some calls and we will find a solution.” That’s when I found out that the original nurse set the timer incorrectly. My chemo cocktail that was supposed to take 24 hours was administered in 6. In other words, my system was flooded with poison. My kidneys were at risk of shutting down.

I remained calm or was I just high on morphine and didn’t care? Opiates have a way of doing that to me. The song, “Qeu Sera Sera. Whatever will be, will be,” played in my head.  Over the next several hours all kinds of hospital personnel, wearing suits, came in to see me. They were in damage control.

My son never found out the name of the nurse who made the mistake. My kidneys never shut down. I was given too many bags of saline (that made me have to pee every hour… and I mean every hour) for that to happen. I did not get any sleep during the next two days.

Now you might be thinking if that happened to me, I would have sued the hospital, but I didn’t look at it that way. I was grateful to be getting treatment. Life is a crap shoot and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. So far I was winning. My kidneys made it through without a scratch. Instead of getting angry about my situation, I thought I am one tough broad! I never thought of myself that way before. And the nurse who made the mistake did not do it on purpose. It was simply a mistake.

I found out not to long ago that I became known as the “5FU girl.” The mistake that could have gone really ugly (but didn’t) changed hospital policy. That’s pretty cool.


So what do you think? Leave me a comment.

Be well!