The Path to Mending a Broken Heart

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I have assessed and treated a lot of broken hearts in my career. There are many causes of a broken heart, and the main ones being the loss of a loved one, or the loss of your own own health (and the anticipated loss of the future).

When a person breaks a limb, such as an arm or leg they immediately receive medical attention. The motivation is to get the broken pieces to heal back together so it can be functional again. The broken limb is promptly given a very snug-fitting, long-lasting hug in the form of a cast. Sometimes a brace. There are instructions to wear this cast for about six weeks. For some, that’s the longest six weeks of their lives. Everything changes. The way they do things changes. How they look changes. They are looked at as being somewhat disabled…broken.

When someone’s heart is broken, if they are lucky, they are given a nice warm hug. The hug doesn’t last for weeks, however, but many doses are recommended over the coming weeks and months. There is no specific doctor’s orders given on how many hugs, how long, what to expect, etc. There will be lots of tears, sadness and possibly self-isolation. I believe this is the equivalent to the cast for the broken limb. It’s a way of protecting and immobilizing the broken parts so it can heal.

Much like a broken arm or leg, the heart takes time to heal. Although the outward signs of brokenness are not there (you can’t see the hole left in the heart, or the crack in it), there is a real, bonafide injury. I consider the spirit, soul and “heart” of a person as one and the same. When we’ve had an emotional trauma or injury to our spirit, it takes a very special form of healing. It’s something that can’t be rushed, and there is no specific time frame on when it will be healed.

A broken heart will never be the same. Neither will a broken arm or leg. For some, the heart will have permanent scarring, emptiness, or pain. For others, the pain will eventually subside, and the emptiness will eventually be filled. But we know this is not something that can be rushed. And it’s different for everybody.

If you or someone you know is healing from a broken heart, make sure you take your time. Don’t force it or use pressure. A broken arm can’t heal any faster if you try to use it. The broken leg may become more damaged if you try to walk on it before it’s strong enough. The broken heart will only get worse if you ignore it and try to push it.

When the time is right, you will start to try things that won’t emotionally or spiritually hurt you. For example, you may be encouraged to “get out” more, but you may feel it’s too soon to be around others. Answering questions such as “How are you?” may be too much for you to handle. When you feel you are strong enough, and you are ready to start getting back into “real life,’ you may want to try rehabilitating your heart first. Baby-steps towards repairing the soul can help. Do things that make your heart feel good. The soul knows what it needs. Listen to that. The practice of self-compassion is so important on this path to healing a broken heart.

Bottom line is, don’t rush and don’t push. Any broken bone or heart takes time to heal. Give yourself that time and honour your body’s natural process of healing.

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “Living Well With and After Cancer” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

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Cancer Up the Wazoo – Upcoming Book Announcement

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Book cover idea for Cancer Up the Wazoo

I have been working on a new book! It’s an anthology for people who have been affected by a rare form of cancer – anal cancer. I have a great group of writers who are putting together their experiences and thoughts and I am editing it and putting it all together. It will be professionally copy edited and I will be self-publishing through CreateSpace. It will be available on Amazon. We are planning for a paperback copy. An electronic version will be provided if there is a demand for that.

The target date for release is in Fall 2018. If you want to be advised when the book is available, please contact me and I will put you on my notice list!

The book is inclusive and diverse and will have stories written by men and women. Friends and family members of those affected also have some advice and experience to share. We have contributions by teachers, professors, nurses, social workers, technicians, clinicians, principals, counsellors, personal support workers, and so many more! It will be helpful to anyone who is affected with cancer, especially anal cancer. Professionals, family members, caregiver, patients and survivors will enjoy this book. It will include almost everything you need to get through!

Topics in Cancer Up the Wazoo to include:

  • Anal Cancer – The Basics
  • For the Newly Diagnosed
  • Mental Health and Coping
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Advocacy and Awareness
  • List of Supplies You May Need
  • Positive Affirmations to Help You Get Through
  • A Transformational Journey Through Cancer
  • When a Close Friend Has Cancer
  • The Power of a Mother’s Love
  • Cancer Blessings
  • What Cancer “Taught” Me
  • Overcoming the Shame of Anal Cancer
  • The Seven Phases of the Cancer Journey
  • Moving On After Cancer
  • Etc.

There will be tons more! This book will have tips, support, resources, advice and especially HOPE for those who are going through this cancer experience. There are references to God and faith. There will also be some humor sprinkled throughout!

Warm regards,

Angela G. Gentile

P.S. There is still time to contribute if you want to have your voice heard!

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “Living Well With and After Cancer” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

 

The Truth Is – Alternative Therapies Provide Nothing More than Placebo Effects (Book Review)

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Trick or Treatment by Singh & Ernst

Dr. Simon Singh and Professor Edzard Ernst team up in Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial (2008) to bust the myths of the effectiveness of some of the most popular complementary and alternative treatments. Ernst’s impressive occupational and education history make him far more than qualified to be the one to take on this task. He was formerly a clinical doctor and studied homeopathy. Singh has a Ph.D. in particle physics and is a New York Times bestselling author. Trick or Treatment was written in response to His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales’ request to have alternative treatments examined closely for their efficacy based on scientific testing. Ernst and Singh put together an impressive lineup of reasons why unorthodox and ancient treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine are mainly nothing more than a placebo and also come with risks.

This controversial stand on alternative treatments has me convinced, as I am a scientific-based kind of believer – especially when it comes to healthcare, risks and providing false hope. I am a cancer survivor and have done my due diligence of researching treatments and cures, both orthodox and integrative. I do sway sometimes into the “fantasy” and “wishful thinking” camp when it comes to some of the energy healing modalities, such as Spiritual, Reiki, Chakras and Pendulum (or dowsing) healing. I consider myself very open-minded, and if there are little costs and little risks involved, I am willing to give anything a try.

The book is quite repetitive on some points, mainly, that alternative therapies don’t work. It also seemed to be one big advertisement for St. John’s Wort, an herbal medicine that has been proven to treat mild to moderate depression. There was also some support for “fish oil” to combat inflammation in arthritis.

I liked the fact that Ernst has a history in homeopathy and he took the time to research many of the alternative and complementary therapies according to scientific-based evidence. Many of these therapies have been studied and he has dug up the dirt and given us a couple quick reference tools to refer to. For example, he has two pages of “Herbal Medicine Ratings” and cautions people that even though these are categorized as “natural” remedies, they are not always safe. He also strongly urges people to let their doctor know what herbs they are taking as they can interfere with pharmaceuticals. His second guide will be discussed below.

There are many references throughout the book giving examples of how people with cancer often seek alternative therapies (or at least are recommended by others to seek them). For example, the often-recommended “natural anti-cancer” treatment of laetrile (apricot pits) has been used and promoted since the nineteenth century. Due to scientific rigors, laetrile has since been labelled as “quackery” due to its ineffectiveness and risky side effects. Although this information is out there, people continue to use it to this day. This is true for many other alternative treatments.

The authors list ten culprits why these unproven and disproven treatments continue to be used, promoted and wrongfully touted as effective. It is an actual eye-opener, especially when we realize the power of the media, universities and alternative gurus such as Deepak Chopra and Dr. Andrew Weil.

There is an impressive “Rapid Guide to Alternative Therapies” which has about 35 different modalities covering many popular and not-so-popular techniques and gadgets people are using (e.g., crystals, magnets, special diets). The authors include a definition, background, evidence and conclusion and reassure the reader these therapies have been rigorously investigated against scientific evidence and meta-analyses where available.

This is a well-written book which has helped me open my eyes to the reasons why these alternative therapies are still around, despite the truth, that they are nothing more than placebos (and some come with risks that are rarely talked about). Placebos that are harmless offer nothing more than psychological benefits. Where there is belief and hope that something will work, it most likely will. That’s the power of the mind at work. If nothing else, it will provide the person with a sense of hope for the future, a feeling of wellness and a certain level of comfort that there is something “magical” at work. As long as there are little risks, little costs and big rewards, people will continue to seek out these treatments. Unfortunately there are some very expensive “treatments” as well, and charlatans and quacks are taking advantage of people when they are vulnerable.

Some people feel that doing something is better than doing nothing – as the placebo effect works in mysterious ways.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the truth about alternative medicine and would rather put their efforts, resources and hope into reliable, scientific-based, effective medical treatments and cures.

The other book I read on this topic came up with the same conclusion about the placebo effect – Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul A. Offit.

Angela G. Gentile

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “Living Well With and After Cancer” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Surviving and Thriving – Before, During and After an Anal Cancer Diagnosis (Book Review)

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Kicking Cancer in the Butt by Theresa Mayhew

4/5 Stars

Theresa Mayhew’s part memoir, part self-help book, “Kicking Cancer in the Butt: A Guide to Thriving in Spite of Anal Cancer” (2010) is an account of her experience with a rare form of cancer. She speaks highly of her involvement with the website and online community called “Blog for a Cure” and some of her female blogging friends also share parts of their experiences and advice. They have all been diagnosed with anal cancer.

Mayhew’s book is quite short, and there are lots of empty pages and white space (perhaps for notes?). The layout and formatting came with a couple of errors (such as a small gutter on the left page and page numbering format at the bottom suddenly switches at page 10.) All in all, 66 pages and a bigger font, makes for a quick read. I was able to complete it in two sittings.

Mayhew divides the book into three parts – Before (Diagnosis), During (Treatment) and After (Post-treatment). She comes from a spiritual background, called “Eckankar – Religion of the Light and Sound of God.” I had to look that one up and found out that this religion believes in karma and reincarnation. She also believes in and subscribes to non-traditional forms of healing such as “The Healing Codes” (another topic I had to look up.) She claims her spiritual and healing code practices “helped keep her in balance emotionally.” She also spoke of “MindMovies” and practicing “The Five Rites” which were all topics I was unfamiliar with.

Mayhew provides very basic information on anal cancer and a very long list of questions to ask your doctor (this list would take a long time to discuss!). She provides a list of things you may want to have on hand before your treatment starts, like ointments and baby wipes. There is a very short chapter on financial assistance.

In the first section of part two, “During”, she chronicles her own treatment, week by week, which included chemotherapy and radiation. She also includes some photographs to help the reader envision her and her experience. In this section of the book, her online blogging friends who also have cancer share some of their own experiences. Nova Sprick’s writing is very impressive throughout the book, and she shares some interesting concepts such as “Yoga Nidra” which means sleep yoga. I looked this up on YouTube and found some great relaxation guides (learned something else new!).

Mayhew and her friends at Blog for a Cure include all kinds of tips and terms, side effects, after effects and suggestions of how to navigate and cope with the diagnosis, treatment and how to “thrive” after the treatment of anal cancer. I wish they had talked more about the need for professional help in terms of depression and/or anxiety as I know this is a troublesome area for some (myself included).

The last pages of the book include a page “About the Author” and a page of “Resources.” It was an enjoyable read and I added many of my own notes, as I have been through anal cancer treatment myself. I tried to look up Mayhew via her website as noted in her “About the Author” section, but her page is no longer in service. I later found out that she passed away in 2011.

This book would be a good read and reference tool for anyone who has a diagnosis of anal cancer and it would also be of specific interest to those who are followers of Eckankar practices. Those who believe in God or a higher power would also find it helpful, as there are references to spiritual comfort and meaning throughout the book. Loved ones or caregivers would also benefit as it helps them understand what the person with anal cancer may be going through.

Angela G. Gentile

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “Living Well With and After Cancer” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

A Holistic Wellness and Rehabilitation Program for Those Who Have Completed Cancer Treatment – Book Review

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“After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients After Cancer” (2015) by doctors Gerald Lemole, Pallav Mehta and Dwight McKee is based on the premise that cancer patients would benefit from a rehabilitation program same as cardiac patients. These doctors who work within an integrative care model argue that a well-designed and personalized program which includes exercise, nutrition and stress management would help those who have been treated for cancer live a better quality of life and help reduce the risk for relapses or recurrences. The body, mind and spirit are well-covered in this holistic approach to wellness after cancer.

Although the font was very small in the paperback I read, I was able to read it although I needed my reading glasses! Most people with cancer are aged over 50 so I was surprised to see such a small font.

The nutrition section talks about the use of coconut oil as a recommended choice for cooking. Even though the authors say coconut oil is a saturated fat, they still recommend it. They also do not recommend canola oil. This information is contradictory to what some Canadian dieticians are recommending now. The recipe section near the end of the book also has coconut oil as an alternate for olive oil. These recipes and the advice re: canola and coconut oils should be researched a bit more before making your own choice in what oils you use.

The book has some repetitive information, however, the repeats seem to stress some of the important points. On the other hand, it completely neglected some important topics (or there was very little information on) such as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Mindfulness. The importance and benefits of journalling and writing were not stressed and it would have been nice to see a little more written about that.

The index is not as good as it could be. I found some key terms were missing such as cervical cancer and paillomavirus.

I would have loved to see a listing of “approved” complementary or supplemental treatments, services and modalities. There is a sprinkling of ideas throughout the book, but it would have been nice to have a chapter that explained each idea and the science around them when it comes to wellness and health. It would have also been helpful to see a listing of harmful modalities or treatments.

Chapter 7, “Avoiding Toxins”, was too unrealistic for me. One of the recommendations was to rid your house of your carpets. This is an extreme measure for those of us who have carpets, and it would be a very costly venture. Some of the advice such as using non-toxic cleaning supplies and avoiding toxins in your food (such as mercury in fish) are more realistic goals to achieve. This would have been a good place to add information about HPV and the vaccine.

Chapter 8, which comprises about a quarter of the book, focuses on 11 common types of cancers and the doctors share their “Cancer Protocols” on cancers such as breast, lung and prostate. The cancer I had, anal cancer, was not mentioned in the book, unfortunately.

Overall, it’s a well-edited and researched book with a lot of scientific references in the “Endnotes” section. The “Conclusion” is an excellent reference as it lists 28 points the doctors call “The Quick Hits.” A great book for anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, is at or near completion of treatment, and is proactive in restoring, maintaining and maximizing his or her health.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

A Wild, Life-Changing Roller Coaster Ride in the Dark (Book Review)

51+TXv-YH+LIt was very hard to put down Michele Longabaugh’s book, If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Dying: The dawning of hope from the shadows of darkness…blogging through Stage 4 Anal Cancer (2012). Being diagnosed with anal cancer myself, I was drawn to read this book in the hopes of getting some insight into the disease and how to manage it. Being diagnosed with this type of cancer in her late 40s makes Michele relatively young (as the average age of diagnosis of anal cancer is in the early 60s). Anal cancer is quite rare, and can be difficult to find support. Not only do some consider it a stigmatizing and shameful disease, the treatment for it is torturous. Michele’s courage and the sharing of her experience helps destigmatize anal cancer and her rise from shame to advocacy is very inspiring.

The book starts with a beautifully written Foreword by Michele’s loving husband, Jerry. The way he describes her writing is “random, raw and honest.” I would definitely agree with the random and raw, as this book is comprised of her blog posts (typos and all!) written over a period of about two years. The honest part, well, we’ll have to take his word for it!

The writings are very engaging, and each chapter (blog post) has a theme and a story or insight to share. The posts are sometimes upbeat and laughable, sometimes they are stories of the hell and torture Michele endures (which is hard to take). Sometimes they are loving tales of family, friends or healthcare providers. The reader can learn a lot about Michele’s experiences with cancer and its treatment (including a lot of crying, grief and scary parts) and she shares stories about things like medications, “narcotic naps”, ointments, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and her fondness for “Dr. Cutie” and her blog-worthy visits with the “butt doctor.”

Michele tends to rely heavily on family, friends, and prayer (she’s Lutheran) for support and strength during her cancer ordeal. I like this about her story, because I can totally relate in many ways. In addition to having a loving husband, she has three outstanding children – Maggie, AJ and CJ. Both Michele and her husband sing high praises for Michele’s sister, “sissy” Renee, who is described as an angel on earth. Michele’s two “besties” Laurie and Marie, also shine as two very important and special people in her life. Michele is a very popular, kind and loving person, and it shows in her writing.

Michele’s adventures of checking things off her “Bucket List” makes for some interesting stories and helps her find joy and pleasure. There are plenty of tears and suffering (both physical and mental) in her life, and she is able to appreciate humourus moments by laughing along or making an odd joke here and there. Near the end of the book, Michele shares some insight about her “Un-Bucket List.” These are things she would never want to do.

Overall, this book did what it was supposed to do; it helped inspire me and gave me hope that this fight against cancer can be won. We can all join Michele on this wild roller coaster ride in the dark by continuing to follow her blog on tumbler – ihavebuttwhat.tumblr.com.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

1 in 2 Canadians Will Develop Cancer in Their Lifetime; 89% Will Be 50 and Older

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With age comes the increased risk for certain diseases and health problems. At age 51 I was hit with a diagnosis of cancer. When I reviewed the statistics and information on cancer and who gets it, I was quite surprised to realize that one of the risk factors is aging. There were other things I learned about cancer that were quite alarming. I think we all want to believe we are immune to it. It can strike anyone, anytime, but those 50 and older are more susceptible.

“Ageing is another fundamental factor for the development of cancer. The incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, most likely due to a build-up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age. The overall risk accumulation is combined with the tendency for cellular repair mechanisms to be less effective as a person grows older.” – World Health Organization

The Canadian Cancer Society states cancer is the leading form of death in Canada, and is responsible for 30% of all deaths. The most common types of cancer are lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal (not including non-melanoma skin cancer). Most people who are affected by cancer are aged 50 and older. In fact, 89% of all cancers occur in those 50 and up.

Unfortunately, 1 in 2 Canadians (49% men and 45% women) are expected to develop cancer in their lifetime; 1 in 4 will die from cancer.

Research is always being done and we know that about half of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle choices. The Centre of Excellence in Cancer Prevention states there are six things we can do to help prevent cancer:

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight.
  2. Eat healthy.
  3. Be physically active and limit sedentary behaviour.
  4. Practice sun safety.
  5. Limit alcohol consumption.
  6. Don’t smoke tobacco or marijuana.

Cancer is caused by changes (gene mutations) to the DNA within cells. The cells receive errors and normal functioning is interrupted, allowing the cell to become cancerous. Some of these mutations are inherited from your parents, and others you acquire after birth. There are a number of known triggers that can cause gene mutations, such as smoking, radiation, viruses, cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), obesity, hormones, chronic inflammation and a lack of exercise. Who and why someone develops cancer while others do not is still remains a mystery for the most part. Research is ongoing to answer these questions.

There are over 100 types of this life-threatening disease. There is currently no cure for cancer, but there are treatments that help extend life (such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery). Early detection is the best way to help ensure the best chances for survival. Unfortunately many cancers don’t have any symptoms until it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. Cancer often gets found when patients are having tests done for other health concerns.

The 10th common cancer found in women that can be successfully treated and prevented if detected early is cervical cancer. Regular screening for this type of cancer is recommended and it is performed in the doctor’s office. This is called a Pap test.

Lung cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer (in women) and prostate cancer (in men) are most frequent types of cancers that develop in those 50 and older. 2 out of 3 people who get lung cancer are aged 65 and older and the average age of diagnosis is 70. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. Smokers are at a high risk for lung cancer.

Cancer screening looks for cancer before it causes symptoms. When I turned 50, I remember getting a notice in the mail for me to get a test to check for blood in my stool. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends screening for early signs of health problems that could lead to cancer. The areas that they recommend screening for those who are “older” are:

  • Breast cancer – breast exam, mammography
  • Colorectal cancer – Fecal Occult Blood Test
  • Other screening tests include: digital rectal exams, and prostate cancer screening.

Although age is the number one risk factor for cancer, a family history of cancer is the second risk factor. Those who have close family relatives who have developed cancer should discuss this with their doctor. The third risk factor is obesity. Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of some cancers.

Cancer is a disease that no one likes to think about or talk about. It’s a condition that affects people of all ages, but is more commonly found in those 50 and older. There are steps that can be taken to reduce our risk of getting cancer, and there are screening tests that can be done when we are feeling well. Being in tune with our bodies, reporting any unusual symptoms such as pains, bleeding, lumps or sores that don’t heal to your doctor are important steps in early detection.

Angela G. Gentile

 

Resources:

Cancer Fact Sheet, World Health Organization. Feb. 2017. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/

Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017. http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-101/canadian-cancer-statistics-publication/?region=bc

Centre of Excellence in Cancer Prevention. https://cancerprevent.ca

Cancer – Diseases and Conditions, Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/basics/causes/con-20032378

Key Statistics for Lung Cancer, The American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

Virgil’s Story About His Experience With Mesothelioma

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Danger Asbestos – Photo credit: www.caslab.com

Please welcome our guest writer, Virgil Anderson. He has a diagnosis of mesothelioma which is a rare type of cancer that presents itself mainly in people aged fifty to seventy. He says over 90% of mesothelioma cases are found in people aged 55 plus and it disproportionately affects men due to the correlation with working in the trades. Virgil is from the USA. If you are looking for Canadian content, you can visit the Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation for more information. For more information on asbestos, visit Web MD.

My Cancer Story

My name is Virgil Anderson, and my experience with mesothelioma has been a difficult one. I was exposed to asbestos through the work I did as a young man and am paying the price now by being diagnosed with this rare and terrible cancer. It causes uncomfortable, painful symptoms, limits my ability to get around, and has left me with deep emotional scars. And yet, I have managed to maintain hope and a positive perspective as a I fight this disease.

Asbestos in the Workplace

My story begins with my upbringing in West Virginia. We all worked hard in my family, and had to in order to make ends meet. As soon as I was old enough for a real, paying job, I got into demolition. This was as a teenager when I was young and strong and able to do this tough, physical work. As I helped tear down old buildings I remember being constantly surrounded by dust. Only later did I realize that there were asbestos fibers in the dust and that I was inadequately protected from it.

Later I was able to get more skilled work. I learned to be an auto mechanic, which was much more interesting work and paid better. Throughout my career in this industry I also did work that caused me to be exposed to asbestos. I tore out hood liners, which had been made with asbestos to protect against the heat of the engine. I removed and replaced brakes and clutches, also made with asbestos. Opening up those parts, the dust would fly, and again it was asbestos.

A Mesothelioma Diagnosis – The Risks of Asbestos

All of those tiny fibers of asbestos I inhaled over the years would come back to haunt me. Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos gets sick, but those who do suffer from the damage the small, needle-like fibers cause as they lodge in the tissues of the body. Because the fibers are often inhaled, they get stuck in the tissue around the lungs, called the pleura. Here they cause damage that can lead to a number of illnesses.

In my case, that illness would turn out to be pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the pleural tissue. Around the age of 50, after working for decades, I began to experience respiratory symptoms. When I went to the ER, I was diagnosed with pneumonia, but antibiotics didn’t help and my symptoms only got worse. Eventually I was correctly diagnosed, and found out I had developed mesothelioma after years of working with and around asbestos.

Treatment for Mesothelioma

Getting treatment for mesothelioma was challenging, as there are few specialists qualified to work with this rare cancer. Ultimately I was able to secure financial assistance and care through the National Cancer Institute. I was not a candidate for surgery, but I have had chemotherapy treatments to slow the growth of the tumors.

What really keeps me going and motivates me to keep fighting are my family and my faith. Without family I don’t know where I would be. Since I can’t work I can’t earn and I rely on them to provide me with a home and to take care of me. As I fight this awful cancer, I know I may not survive it, but I take comfort in my faith and in the time I still have with the people I love. My message to others with this disease is to find your own source of comfort and inspiration. Keep fighting, and enjoy the important things in life.

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Written by Virgil Anderson

 

 

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Call For Submissions for Upcoming Book on Anal Cancer

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Call for Summary/Ideas – Deadline for Submissions December 10, 2017

Re: Anal Cancer (AC) Book – A Collection Compiled by Angela Gentile (title to be determined)

 

Dear Potential Co-Author,

This is your chance to become a published author and to help you promote any other work you may have (books, blogs, etc.). Your contribution to this book on anal cancer will provide your invaluable insight, advice and support to others who may be going through something similar. It could help end the stigma of this disease and educate others on the importance of the HPV vaccine.

I am putting together a collection of works by many authors. I have written two other books and they are both on Amazon. This will be my first “anthology.” This book is intended to educate, inspire, strengthen and empower those affected. I am looking for chapters written by anal cancer patients/survivors/caregivers.

At this time, I am looking for 10-20 authors to provide a total of 10-20 chapters for this self-published book. I will put my time, money and energy into making this a meaningful book for those who are affected by anal cancer. It will also be of interest for those who want to learn more about the disease. If you are successful in being selected as one of the co-authors, I will help you write and refine your chapter(s) and I will also have it professionally edited.

There is no cost to you, and there is no compensation (other than knowing you will be helping others!). However, I will ensure you get two copies of the paperback book. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, and we will decide which one.

I have put together a listing of chapter ideas for you to review (see FILES in the closed members only Facebook group: AC Book or ask me for a listing). If you would like to do something else that is not on the list that is fine, too.

Please submit the following information via the form below, or ask me for my email address:

1. Your Name, Full Address, Phone Numbers (Home, work, cellular), Email.

2. Summary of your idea (up to 500 words). You can submit as many summaries as you’d like. Include the topic, what you want the main points to be, and whom you think will benefit most from your story or topic. The more personal and original the better! (Have a friend or family member review and proofread if you’d like a little more feedback before submitting.) Keep in mind, your completed chapter should be between 2,000 – 5,000 words.

3. Deadline for summary submission: Sunday December 10, 2017. Submit via email in form below. (.doc or .docx is acceptable. Google Docs is also accepted.)

If you already have a completed work (between 2,000-5,000 words), please feel free to submit that instead of a summary. Ideally, each chapter will be about 2,500 words but this is only a guideline.

I will review the submissions and get back to you, either way, on or before January 7, 2018.

Thank you for your interest and I look forward to your submission(s)!

Warm regards,

Angela Gentile

P.S. If you have a Facebook account and would like to be a part of the AC Book group, please request to join!

Contact me, here:

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

A Story of Cancer Survival That Will Touch Your Heart and Soul (and Funny Bone!) – Book review

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Brown Ribbon by Robbi Woolard

Psychologist Dr. Robbi Woolard is a survivor of a rare form of cancer. She was encouraged by two of her friends to put her experiences and thoughts into a book (eBook for Kindle). “Brown Ribbon” is part memoir, part self-help book and is written with a humorous slant (a story about a doctor and a commode made me laugh out loud!). She has an “incredibly strong faith” and her beliefs in God and heaven are referred to throughout the book. She is clearly not afraid of death and is a very brave and courageous woman. She believes accidents, illnesses such as cancer and other traumas are random events and no one is immune (no matter how well one lives their life).

Woolard writes in an entertaining, yet educational and inspiring tone. The book could have used some editing, however, the reader can forgive this oversight as she speaks in a conversational tone and the stories flow nicely. There are some repetitive themes, but overall it’s an easy and pleasurable read.

The warrior spirit in Woolard spares us the gruesome details of her anal cancer treatment. She gives the reader just enough information which helps one to imagine the suffering she experienced. She writes in a way that reassures the reader that although cancer and it’s treatment are difficult, the alternative is worse.

For those who want closure, they will find the last story of her post-anal cancer treatment to get a “colposcopy” a bit frustrating. The chapter called “Caving” does not provide the reader with the results of her biopsy, but Woolard states she hopes she had experienced the last appointment with that doctor (we can only hope along with her!).

In the final chapter, Woolard shares her own personal growth experience. I found this chapter called “Everything I Have Learned from Cancer” especially inspiring (as I am also affected by anal cancer myself). Many of her insights such as “setting new goals after cancer” and “improving connections with others” are very positive and uplifting. I can definitely identify with her lessons learned. She states, “As I age, I’ve begun to believe something that I’d never pondered in years past. I’ve always assumed that all of both the good and the bad that we experience culminate in who we become. Now, drawing upon many decades of both ends of the experience spectrum, I think all of it should be credited with making us richer, deeper, more complete human beings.”

A recommended read for those affected by cancer, especially newly diagnosed anal cancer patients, their families and survivors of cancer.

Get your copy – Brown Ribbon: A Personal Journey Through Anal Cancer and the Adventure it Entailed (2016) by Robbi Woolard.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com