Addicted to Anti-Anxiety or “Nerve” Pills — Benzodiazepine use disorder and what to do about it

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Many people, especially women, develop feelings of anxiety and worry. Some call it “bad nerves.” This predisposition to feeling anxious can cause problems with everyday living, coping, and sleeping. I have assessed and interviewed many older people with a range of problems with anxiety. Feeling anxious is a completely normal reaction to stress or a situation where you may feel fearful. However, being in a continuous state of feeling afraid can cause problems both mentally and physically. Some say they feel like they are “trembling inside.”

Anti-anxiety medications (also known as “nerve pills”) are used by many people. These pills come from the family of “benzodiazepines.” Some of the commonly prescribed anxiolytics in Canada or the United States include (but not limited to):

  • Clonazepam (Rivotril)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazepam (Valium)

A commonly prescribed non-benzodiazepine that acts like one is Zopiclone (eszopiclone in the USA). It is commonly used as a “sleeping pill.”

Generally, benzodiazepines end in “pam” or “lam.” Use of these medications can initially improve symptoms by offering a sedating effect, however, they can also be addictive. Side effects of these drugs include increasing the risk of cognitive impairment, confusion, delirium, falls, fractures, drowsiness, and motor vehical accidents. They are not recommended for use by older adults. In fact, older people are recommended to gradually reduce their dosage (a slow and steady decrease is recommended over a sudden discontinuance due to withdrawal symptoms). Always talk to a doctor about any changes to your medication. As the dose is gradually reduced and preferably stopped, it is important to identify and optimize alternatives to managing any underlying issues. These alternatives are preferably not other medicines.

Sometimes these medications are used on an “as needed” basis. For example, if you are afraid of flying, and you need to go on an airplane, you can take one of these medications (prescribed by your doctor) to use in specific situations. Or, if you have claustrophobia and you need to go for a scan such as an MRI, taking this medication may make it more bearable.

I have also seen where these medications are prescribed for help with sleep. People who have an anxiety disorder may be prescribed this classification of medications to see if it helps reduce anxiety or panic attacks. In older people, antidepressants are the preferred class of medications to help with anxiety.

Some other key tips to remember:

  • Avoid taking benzodiazepines with opioids or alcohol.
  • These medications are more often prescribed to women (Almost 1 in 5 Canadian women report to have used in the past year).
  • Almost 1 in 10 Canadians in Quebec have been reported to have an addiction to benzodiazepines.
  • If a benzodiazepine addiction is present, consider there may also be other substance use disorders or behaviours present (e.g, alcohol, opioids, marijuana, gambling).
  • If you are older, it’s best not to start taking benzodiazepines.
  • If the addiction is getting worse, an admission to a treatment facility may be necessary.

If you are finding yourself feeling “addicted” or “dependent” on these medications (or other substances or behaviours), you are “craving” these drugs, or you are needing to increase your dosage, you may want to see your doctor to discuss alternatives. Reducing the risk of harm is key.

For more details, The Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health has published the Canadian Guidelines on Benzodiazepine Receptor Agonist Use Disorder Among Older Adults (2019) and is found online: https://ccsmh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Benzodiazepine_Receptor_Agonist_Use_Disorder_ENG.pdf

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

Low-Risk Alcohol Usage Guidelines for Older Adults – Know your limits

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Most adults enjoy drinking alcohol on occasion. Sometimes, though, this occasional drink turns into a daily habit. One drink turns into two or more. If a person is not mindful, this habit could turn into an addiction. Addiction is also known as dependency or substance use disorder.

People can become addicted to not only alcohol but drugs, including prescription drugs (such as benzodiazepines and opiates). For example, nicotine, the drug found in cigarettes, is very addictive. Addictive behaviour can also be problematic, as in gambling, sex, or online gaming.

Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. Yet a number of effective treatments are available and people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives. – American Psychiatric Association, retrieved 03 Dec 2019.

For a number of reasons, it is essential to keep in mind that as we age, it is recommended we reduce our consumption of alcohol. For adults aged 65 and older, it is important to be aware of the low-risk guidelines.

Canada’s Low-Risk Guidelines (DrinkSense for Seniors) which is provided by the “Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction”, states that limits for adults (not older adults) who drink alcohol should be 10 drinks a week for women with no more than two per day, and 15 drinks a week for men with no more than three drinks a day on most days. There is no specific limit for older adults, but one of their “Safer Drinking Tips” includes the advice of “Always consider your age, body weight, and health problems that might suggest lower limits.”

 

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Standard Drink Portions:

      • Beer – 341 ml (12 oz.) of 5% alcohol content
      • Wine – 142 ml (5 oz.) of 12% alcohol content
      • Cider/Cooler – 341 m. (12 oz.) 5% alcohol content
      • Distilled alcohol/80 proof liquor (rye, gin, rum, vodka, etc.) – 43 ml (1.5 oz.) 40% alcohol content

 

I attended an “Aging and Addictions” course in November 2019 which was held by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, and they supported the drafted recommendations entitled “Prevention: Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines” for those 65 and older (noted below).

 

Low-Risk Drinking Limits (65+)

    • Women: No more than 1 standard drink per day, with no more than 5 drinks in total per week.
    • Men: No more than 1-2 standard drinks per day, with no more than 7 per week in total.
    • Non-drinking days are recommended every week.

Source: Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Health. Canadian Guidelines for Older Adults. Prevention, Assessment, and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder, 2019.

 

These drafted guidelines are more in line with what I would recommend. I have seen what alcohol dependence can do to people and it is heartbreaking. And as noted in a previous post here on my website, to help preserve cognitive health, experts recommend no more than 2-4 drinks per week (see my Memory Rescue book review.)

For those who have a drinking problem, there is often stigma and shame attached. Many people can’t abstain or reduce their drinking behaviour on their own (harm reduction) and need help. If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, addiction or dependence, please contact the Addictions Helpline in your area.

> Addictions Helpline Canada 

> Addictions Helpline USA

AA 12-Step (https://www.aa.org/) or Smart Recovery (https://www.smartrecovery.org/) are peer support options to consider as well.

If you are considering getting on top of your drinking problem and need someone to talk to, please contact me and I can assist you in finding the help you need.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction

https://amho.ca/wp-content/uploads/Mon-300pm-IP1-3a-Older-Adults-with-Alcohol-Related-Problems-Best-Practice-Guidelines.pdf

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help/get-help-problematic-substance-use.html

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.aa.org/

https://www.smartrecovery.org/

https://www.drinksenseab.ca/drinksense-tips/seniors/

https://ccsmh.ca/alcohol-guidelines/

“A Standard Drink” image source: https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/what-standard-drink

 

 

 

 

Weaknesses Are Only As Strong As We Allow Them To Be

I saw this quote on Instagram, on the Optimal Living Daily account (@oldpodcast) — “The more willing you are to face your weaknesses, the less likely they are to remain weaknesses.” I wanted to know more about Tynan, the person who was quoted. I took his quote, put it onto a picture my husband took while on vacation in Hawaii, and wanted to share it. I hope this inspires you to face your weaknesses, too.

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What weaknesses are you willing to face?

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

Caring for Parents with Memory Issues (Video; 28 minutes)

 

 

Where does one begin when memory problems become an issue with an aging parent?

Issues such as getting a diagnosis, terminology (What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?), resources (Book: Caring for a Husband with Dementia; App: Dementia Caregiver Solutions for iOS; Alzheimer Society), sundowning, and managing difficult behaviours are all discussed in this half-hour video.

Check out my video interview with Nancy Baker from Healing Healthy with Nancy called “Caring for Parents with Memory Issues.”

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Keywords: Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Book, App, Essential Oils

Memory Rescue by Dr. Daniel Amen (2017) – Book Review

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I am a geriatric mental health clinician, and frequently I am asked: “How can I improve my memory skills?” The usual recommendations from doctors are, “Exercise and learn new things.” I have been on a quest to find some other tips and tools that people can use to help improve or maintain their brain and memory functions as they age. This need has led me to try to find the perfect book to recommend to those who are looking for more information. “Memory Rescue” has some useful information but it’s not the book I was looking for.

I purchased a copy (Amazon) of psychiatrist Dr. Amen’s book “Memory Rescue: Supercharge your brain, reverse memory loss, and remember what matters most” which has a second subtitle, “The official program of the Amen Clinics.” The Amen Clinics are found all over the USA, and the services and programs offered there are to help people with various mental health and brain health concerns (such as memory loss, ADD, and traumatic brain injury).

This book starts out with 20 testimonials and reviews which is very impressive until I realized they were all from men. The male-dominated view about memory problems and the Amen Clinic program was very strong. The only female presence I felt was from Dr. Amen’s wife, Tana, which was very sparse. There were also a handful of case studies that were about females. As a woman reader and professional, I wish there had been a more balanced perspective.

The overall takeaway of this book, for me, was that this was a big advertisement for his Memory Rescue Program that he offers through his Amen Clinics and the MyBrainFitLife.com website. There were case examples of how his clinics help people, and there were lots of “SPECT” (single photon emission computed tomography) scan photos to “prove” it. Even after looking at numerous SPECT images, I still wasn’t 100% sure what I was looking for. I felt these images were a bit overkill.

Here in Canada, we don’t have access to Amen Clinics, and SPECT scans are reserved for those exceptional cases (which I am still not sure what those cases are.) We tend to favour CT, MRI and PET scans.

Ultimately I was looking for concrete tips on “how to improve memory skills” and “how to improve memory problems.” Amen’s program is intended to enhance your mood and memory skills using the BRIGHT MINDS risk factor approach, with each letter standing for a component of the “ultimate memory formula.” Blood Flow, Retirement and Aging, Inflammation, Genetics, Head Trauma, Toxins, Mental Health, Immunity/Infection Issues, Neurohormone Deficiencies, Diabesity, and Sleep Issues. There was quite a lot of repetition throughout the book, with the main recommendations being: Exercise, Nutrition, Nutraceuticals (and supplements).

On pages 28-30, you can take the “Amen Clinics’ Early Warning Signs Questionnaire.” Your score will provide you with a risk of “significant memory issues,” from low to high. Amen states, if you are at moderate to high risk, it is important to get a thorough medical evaluation.

This book brought up some new terms and concerns. Those including my need for nutraceuticals (which Amen sells on his BrainMD website), getting tested for the APOE gene (related to Alzheimer’s disease), an integrative medicine doctor (but doesn’t say where I can find one). He was heavy on the recommendation of Gingko Biloba (a natural supplement that has limited research evidence to help prevent memory problems, see GEM study). He was anti-marijuana use and wasn’t that clear on what the recommendation was for alcohol use (was it 2-4 servings a week or only 2?).  He suggests coconut oil is good for our brains, but I have read that it is not good for our bodies. There is a lot of reference to the Memory Rescue Diet, but it is not discussed until chapter 16. There are a lot of references to the Bible, which surprised me. He also suggested that “praying to release your worries and to rejoice over the good things around you can help reduce your risk of mental health problems” (p. 337).

Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, I was looking for specific tips and techniques to help people improve their memory skills. The most helpful part of the book in this regard is found in Chapter 17 “Sharpen Your Memory––Brain Workouts for a Richer Life.” He provides a lot of suggestions of what activities can help strengthen the different areas of the brain such as playing Scrabble, completing crossword puzzles, and learning to play a new musical instrument. He suggests engaging in “map reading” without a GPS device. He’s a big fan of table tennis and other coordination activities, such as dancing, yoga, and tai chi. He says we should travel to new and interesting places and develop relationships with smart people. Music, especially classical, can enhance memory and cognitive function. Surprisingly, I didn’t find the instruction to “pay attention” to what we are doing, which I believe is an essential tip for being able to remember things in the first place. He doesn’t speak to word-finding difficulties, either, which is one thing a lot of older folks are initially concerned about.

The book is well-referenced, and he claims to walk the talk. The index is sub-par, and it could have been enhanced to make finding things a lot easier to find. Some of the reviews online of Amen Clinics state it is a very costly program. There is no mention of costs, but there is mention that the process of improving cognition or mental health often takes months. It’s assumed the program costs thousands of dollars. The MyBrainFitLife.com online program also has a cost, a yearly fee of USD 99. There are some free Brain Assessments (which I completed) which can help one decide on the level of risk one is at. If someone already has memory impairment, a caregiver or loved one will need to read this book as it tends to have some jargon and technical language, and there is lots to read and learn about.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Amen Clinic Memory Rescue Program. For specific information on brain health and tips for improving memory skills, Chapter 17 is where you want to start. If you believe in God or a higher power, this will also confirm your faith in how prayer and scripture can support your mental health. The book is somewhat repetitive, however, it drives home the main message––that having a healthy body means better chances for a healthy brain.

I’ll leave you with this: Amen provides hope––“Yet new research suggests that a ‘memory rescue’ program, like the one presented in this book, can dramatically improve memory and can prevent and sometimes even reverse some forms of dementia. Given how most doctors approach this issue, however, you cannot count on traditional medicine to rescue your memory.” (p. 4).

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW (Specialist in Aging)

 

 

Appropriate and/or Correct Words and Phrases (No offense!)

words by https://redzenradishphotography.com

Photo credit: Words by Kristina Krause of Redzenradish Photography

√ Use … × Instead of…

Mental Health:

√ Died by suicide

× Committed/Completed/Successful suicide

√ Suicidal ideation with a plan; suicide without a plan

× Active suicidal ideation; Passive suicidal ideation  

√ Alcohol use disorder/Benzodiazepine use disorder

× Alcohol dependence or use continuous

√ Person with a mental health disability; person who has/person diagnosed with depression/schizophrenia, etc.; Terminology varies throughout countries – “insane” and “insanity” are generally legal terms and reported as such in news programming

× Negative references to mental health and well-being such as: lunatic, mental patient, mental disease, neurotic, psychotic, crazy

Physical Abilities:

√ Hard of hearing; deaf; deafened or late-deafened; Deaf (uses sign language)

× Hearing-impaired; blanket term “deaf” used at the wrong time 

√ Person who uses a wheelchair

√ Wheelchair user

× Wheelchair-bound  

√ Non-disabled

× Normal

√ Person living with vision loss

√ Person who is blind

√ Person who has a vision impairment

× Blind; visually impaired  

√ Person with a disability

√ Persons with disabilities

√ People with disabilities

√ Individuals with disabilities

× Disabled, invalid, handicapped, physically challenged (challenges and handicaps are environmental conditions) 

√  Person born with a disability

× Birth defect, deformity/deformed, congenital defect

√ Person with a disability or a person with a/who has a motion disability;

√ Person with (e.g., a spinal cord injury)

× Crippled or lame

Medical Conditions:

√ Has (e.g., asthma, cancer)

× Suffers from (e.g., asthma, cancer)   

√ Person/people/individual with (a) dementia

√ Person/people/individual living with dementia

√ Person/people living well with dementia

√ A person with Alzheimer’s disease

× Dementia sufferer; demented; senile or senile dementia; burden; victim; plague; epidemic; living death (e.g., dementia is a living death)

♥ Re: “dementia patient” – okay to use when talking about people in a hospital or actually using a care service).

√  Person who has (a particular disease or condition). Ex: A person who has had a stroke.

× Suffers from; was stricken with; is confined to; or is afflicted by/with. These terms patronize, pity, victimize or insult.

Other Terms:

√ Older people; older person; older adult

× Elderly; old people; old person

 ♥ Seniors or senior citizens is an acceptable term for most.

√ Accessible parking

× Handicapped parking

√ Accessible bathrooms

× Handicapped bathrooms

√ Person with an intellectual disability or persons with learning disabilities

× Mentally retarded; retarded; mentally defective; mentally challenged

 √ Indigenous Peoples, First Nations Peoples, Inuit Peoples, Metis Peoples, Aboriginal Peoples. Note: Always go with what they are calling themselves. 

Eskimo, Indian, Native are less-used terms and can be taken as derogatory.

√ Black (as an adjective); African-American/African-Americans (as nouns) (both are acceptable, but not necessarily interchangeable.) In Canada, Black or Black Canadian.

× N-word 

SIMPLE RULE: It’s people first. The person comes first.

The disability or disease comes second.

REGARDING IMAGES: Use images that reflect the whole person, rather than a fading face or wrinkled hands. This is especially important when the article is about living a positive life or overcoming challenges.

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,” “How to Edit an Anthology: Write or Compile a Collection that Sells,” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

Search terms: politically correct, political correctness, terminology, writing, speaking, sensitive, appropriate, modern, neutral, acceptable

 

How a Dog or Puppy Can Bring Joy and Companionship into Your Life

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When I was going through my cancer ordeal, my dog, Rocky (a senior), was my constant companion. He lay beside me on my bed, he followed me downstairs when I went to get something to eat, and on the days I was bedbound, he seemed to be aware of my plight. When my family went out to work or school, or attended family functions that I wasn’t well enough to go to, Rocky was there with me. He seemed to get me more than anyone else. We bonded in a special way. I was never alone.

After my treatments were completed (which were absolutely torturous!), my daughter Simone started talking about wanting a new puppy. She was saying how she was missing having a little girl-dog around, so I encouraged her to get one for herself. I told her we would help her look after it. It didn’t take her long to decide and she went for it!

Well, what a joy this little one has brought to our lives. The fun and excitement started when my daughter called us to say one of the breeders she called said she had puppies that were just a few days old, and she could come and take a look! Soon after, Simone and I made plans to go out to the country to see the puppies. They were purebred Havanese (like a small poodle).

Simone picked out a blond female and named her Berkeley. We visited her every week as she grew old enough to be weaned from her mother. I (we) had something fun, sweet and exciting to look forward to. This helped get my mind off my cancer ordeal. Rocky was still my trusty companion, and this little addition was going to bring a new dynamic to our household. The anticipation of the day we could bring her home was killing us! We were in love.

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When we went to get Berkeley to bring her back to her forever home, it was as if we had brought home a new baby! We had visitors, puppy gifts, even a “Puppy Shower” my daughter planned. Simone wanted to bond with the puppy so she made sure she looked after all the pup’s needs – such as comfort, food, water and a warm comfy place to sleep. She had to get up in the night to let her out to do her business. The household and family dynamics were changed. Even Rocky had to adapt to having a little one around. Heck, I am even called Gramma now!

I was house-bound for many months during my healing and recovery, so I was the main one helping with the house-training. Often I played with Berkeley as she had lots of energy and a playful spirit (when she was awake). When she started teething, we had to make sure she had lots of appropriate chew toys and made sure the house was “puppy-proofed.”

Berkeley has added so much joy to our lives. I can’t imagine what my recovery journey would have been like without Rocky and our new little one. Raising a puppy is hard work, but the rewards are tremendous.

Please share your dog (or pet) story.

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. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com.

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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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

 

 

 

Patience: A Calm, Accepting Approach to Interrupted Plans

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We were running out of eggs and milk (and a few other things) so I decided to make a trip to Costco. Also, I had to pick up some medication. I call it a “trip” because I find the whole process quite overwhelming, even on a good day.

Recovering from a serious illness like cancer and its treatment takes time. Everything is slowed down and I have to be wary of running into some unexpected physical problems. I have to be ready for anything.

I learned something about myself today as I ventured out. Over the last few months, I have developed a very enhanced skill of patience. I noticed a lack of frustration and agitation as I moved through the motions of this Costco trip. What would normally make the average person impatient or annoyed, didn’t seem to bother me. I have never been much of an impatient type, but today I noticed a greater sense of calm and tolerance about me.

As I entered the parking lot, I didn’t mind that there were cars stopped, turning, moving slow, in front of me. I didn’t mind that I had to go to the far side of the lot to find a parking spot (I thought it wouldn’t be busy on a Tuesday morning – Ya, right!). I was “in the moment,” enjoying the “flow of life.”

When I arrived at the entrance of the store, there were a lot of people getting shopping carts, and getting in line for the “membership card” check. I didn’t mind having to wait my turn. At this point, I noticed a lot of people (all ages, male/female) rushing. Almost cutting me off at times. I wondered if I was moving too slow? Well, I wasn’t about to pick up the pace, as I was doing the best I could.

As I moved deeper into the store, I was noticing how quickly some people were moving. I found myself asking them in my head, What’s the rush? Is life that hectic for you that you practically have to “run” through Costco with your super-sized cart? Almost running into people? I wondered if anyone has been knocked over before. Or hit with a cart. I immediately became more aware of the space I was occupying and tried to stay on the sidelines in order not to get hurt.

I enjoyed all the sights. All the new things. I picked up my needed items and found myself browsing through isles I hadn’t been in for a long time. Seems like most people were practically running by and throwing things in their carts. A younger mom with a child literally threw a bag of frozen blueberries into her cart, barely stopping to let the door of the freezer close. Meanwhile, here I was, taking my time, looking at labels. Letting people go ahead of me.

When I got to the pharmacy, there was an older woman in line. I asked her if she was in the “Pick Up” your medication line. She only smiled at me. So I got closer and asked her again as I realized she didn’t hear me the first time. She apologized for not hearing me and said she was in line and moved forward a bit. I was not annoyed at all by her initial lack of response. Again, that sense of calm and patience was with me and I was surprised at the amount of understanding and compassion I had for her. I told her not to worry. I got in line behind her. As I picked up my medicine, I told the staff member I needed some info changed on my account (my phone number for example). She apologized and told me I had to go to the “Drop Off” line. I was completely okay with it and moved into another line.

I completed my shopping and got into another line to go through the checkout. A middle-aged woman cut in front of me and smiled. She said, “I am just trying to get in line.” I smiled back and gestured to her to go ahead of me. I was thinking maybe she has someone waiting for her at home, or maybe she’s on a tight deadline. So once again, my patience grew.

As I was leaving the store to get back into my car, there was an older man coming up and one of us had to let the other go by first or we’d crash into each other. I decided to slow my pace and let him go before me. I wondered what the proper etiquette is nowadays. Does a middle-aged woman (younger) let an older man go first? Or should the older man allow the woman to go first? Either way, I felt another surge of kindness and patience, and let the man go first.

I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation in the last few months. Does that have an influence on my levels of patience and calmness? I wonder. Or is just because I have been away from the hectic “Rat Race” for so long?

When I Google the definition of “patience,” the following comes up: “Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset.” I’d say I totally agree with that definition, as I lived it today.

As I get older, as I get more experience in life, my ability to be patient is developing into something beyond what I ever imagined. They say patience is a virtue. So that’s a good thing, right? However, maybe patience is a day-to-day thing, and maybe I won’t have much of it left by tomorrow.

What is your patience level like? How do you feel waiting in lines and having people cut you off? What do you make of this trip to Costco?

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 the creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “Gerontology Professionals of Canada.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com