Category Archives: Caretaker

Real Hope for Stage 4 Lung Cancer

An Important Question  

What options are there for stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer patients with limited metastatic disease – the cancer has spread to less than 3 organs other than the lung? 

Study after study have shown that most failures of chemotherapy are exactly at the places of the original lung cancer, and not new sites.  So why not focus on those areas instead of giving more “maintenance” chemotherapy? 

An Important Clinical Trial  

Dr. Daniel Gomez and colleagues spearheaded a clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov space NCT01725165) that randomly assigned stage 4 lung patients to “maintenance” chemotherapy versus local therapy (mostly radiation, but some with surgery) versus no treatment at all. 

The multi-center study was published in the British journal called The Lancet Oncology in December 2016, pages 1672-1682.  To be eligible for the clinical trial, stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer patients had standard chemotherapy and were in relatively good shape after chemotherapy treatment. 

A Breakthrough Result 

Although only 74 lung cancer patients were entered into the clinical trial from 2012 to 2016, a real breakthrough result was seen.  The breakthrough result was that the local therapy group (radiation or surgery) survived 12 months versus 4 months for the “maintenance” chemotherapy group.  The clinical trial was closed early because the doctors saw better results in the local therapy group (radiation or surgery) versus the “maintenance” chemotherapy group. 

Where Do You Go from Here?  

As a CyberKnife cancer specialist in Dayton Ohio, CyberKnife offers our stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer patients real hope.  And CyberKnife can help you beat your non-small cell lung cancer without surgery.  No pain and no incisions. Real hope for another year of symptom free survival. 

If you have any questions about your lung cancer, please feel free to call me, Dr. Edward Hughes at 855-Dayton 1.  Or visit our website and I guarantee that I will see you within 1-3 days of your phone call.

WHO IS CARING FOR THE SURVIVORS CAREGIVER?

This blog was posted a while back, however, it rings true every day. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who took care of you.

"One person caring about another represents life's greatest value."- Jim Rohn

“One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.”- Jim Rohn

A cancer diagnosis changes the lives of many. The patient is not the only person affected. Life also changes for those who care about and love the person with cancer especially for the person who will help the patient get through the cancer experience-the caregiver. Caregivers are the unsung heroes of cancer survivorship. Primary caregivers are a major part of the health care team because they are doing things like: giving medications on time, helping manage side effects, communicating with the physicians and nurses, taking the patient to appointments, and keeping other family and friends up to date on what is happening. This primary caregiver does all of this while trying to manage normal day to day activities. Becoming a caregiver is like taking on a second job. It is not an easy job. And it must be done with a positive attitude as the cancer patient often draws strength from the caregiver.

The question is “who is caring for the caregiver?” This is a role that a friend or a secondary family member can take on.

Depression and exhaustion are two major concerns with primary caregivers. The American Cancer Society has a Checklist for Caregivers that gives excellent advice. I strongly recommend that survivors, primary caregivers and family/friends utilize this resource. It offers tips and insights to keep the caregiver healthy inside and out.

The focus of course is to find excellent support for the cancer survivor, as it should be; but the caregiver will benefit from support too. They do not usually have time to join support groups in person, so the internet can be just what is needed. There are online support groups that are disease specific or simply cancer in general. Find the one that is easiest to use and has like-minded people. The chat rooms can be a great place to trade information and to learn from each other’s experiences. Sometimes it serves as a place to share your fears and frustrations with others who understand what you are going through. The right online chat room should be a safe place without judgment. I only ask that you use caution when taking advice regarding medical treatment and medication. Always seek the counsel of the patients health care professional. This includes beginning any new supplements. Some herbs and vitamins are very powerful and may interfere with some medications or treatments.

Know your Rights as a Caregiver. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that guarantees up to 12 weeks off from work per year to take care of a seriously ill family member. Your employer must hold your job and not penalize you. However, they are NOT required to pay you. FMLA only applies to companies that employ more than 50 employees or public agencies. Learn more here.

The caregiver is likely the point person for a number of legal issues as well. An Advanced Directive is a document that can help the patient to spell out their wishes in regards to their overall health care, with special attention to end-of-life care. The caregiver may also be asked to become the Durable Power of Attorney for health care decision. This has nothing to do with money or finances, but only to help carry out health care decisions. Ask your attorney or physician to help get these forms started. I recommend that these forms be completed early, while the patient is capable of making sound decisions. This really takes the pressure off of the caregiver and gives them the legal support that may be necessary when family members disagree.

Every cancer survivor needs a strong, compassionate caregiver. This caregiver needs special attention and care themselves.

4 Key Things You Can Do When a Loved One Has Cancer

We celebrated Mother’s Day this past Sunday. I cherished the phone call that I made to wish my own mother a Happy Mother’s Day.  I enjoyed seeing my wife’s daughters and family wish her the same. Mothers are the ultimate caretakers. Everyone needs to be cared for at different stages in their life.

"One person caring about another represents life's greatest value."- Jim Rohn

“One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.”- Jim Rohn

But it was a bittersweet holiday for me this year. My own mother will soon be 89 years old. I know that there will not be many more of those phone calls. And while it was great seeing my wife showered with love, I also know how difficult this day was for her. It was her first Mother’s Day without her own mother. She passed away from head and neck cancer last fall. My wife spent much of last year traveling to Florida to help take care of her. Many of us have experienced this role reversal. The child becomes the caretaker.

I see this in my profession time and time again. But anytime you experience it first hand, it teaches you many new lessons. One of the charitable organizations we support is “Stand Up to Cancer.” For Mother’s Day weekend that organization ran newspaper ads stressing the power of caregivers and how much they really can help cancer survivors. Here are some tips that they had for caregivers that hit home to my wife and me.

1) They talk, you listen.

It’s harder than you think  – just listening without judging and without problem solving. Cancer patients simply want compassionate understanding. You can help care for them, but you cannot fix them or truly know what they are going through. You can hold their hand and be silent as you listen. Remember that laying hands on someone may be the greatest gift you can give.

2) Don’t ask, just do.

Instead of waiting for the cancer survivor to ask for help, just jump in and do. Most of us are too proud to ask for help even though we desperately need it. It is the everyday tasks that can be overwhelming. Simple tasks like doing laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning house become giant hurdles when the person doesn’t have the energy or strength. You can offer specific tasks that you can do for them. Helping with these little things are a huge help to the cancer survivor.

3) Learn, so you can understand.

While you will never fully know what your loved one is experiencing, you can learn what needs to be done to help them through this battle. Unless you are specifically asked, you do not want to give your opinion on medical issues. However if you understand all that is involved in their medical care, you’ll be better able to understand the treatment process and the terms being used. This way you can help the patient understand what is happening when they have so much information coming at them. You can track questions, help with appointments and know how you can be most useful. It’s best to use good Internet sources. If you are involved in their doctors’ visits, ask their nurses what are the resources that they recommend. Stick with national organization web sites for starters.

4) Keep them connected, be the bridge.

Remember that the cancer patient still wants to be part of everyday life. After diagnosis friends and even family may drift away. As a caregiver you may be in the best position to keep family and friends informed. With the Internet it’s easier than you think. There are websites like Caring Bridge and Care Monster to help you communicate with family and friends in a private forum. This also keeps you from having to explain what is going on over and over again. They can also leave messages for the survivor to read when they feel up to it. This is a way to stay connected on the survivors own time. Encourage friends and family to keep the survivor involved in everyday happenings too. This helps them feel connected and hopeful. Sometimes a loving note or words of encouragement can mean the world to the survivor who is feeling all alone in this.

Being a caregiver can be as self-less and as exhausting as motherhood. Neither the caregiver nor the mother are often told thank you, but they are both essential to the happiness and well-being of those that are in their care. So as we honor our mothers this May, take the time to say ‘Thank You’ to all the caregivers in your life. If you are a caregiver, know that you matter.

 

5 Things Every Cancer Patient Needs to Know about Their Caretaker

caretaker3

Who is Caring for the Caretaker?

A cancer diagnosis changes the life of many. The patient is not the only person affected. Life also changes for those who love and care for the person with cancer. The biggest change occurs for the person who will help the patient get through the cancer experience- the Caregiver. The question is “Who is caring for the caregiver?” These are 5 things that each cancer patient needs to know to help their caregiver. Caregivers are the unsung heroes of cancer survivorship.

1. Primary caregivers are a major part of the health care team because they are doing things like: giving medications on time, helping manage side effects, communicating with the medical professionals, taking the patient to appointments, and keeping other family and friends up to date on what is happening. This primary caregiver does all of this while trying to manage normal day to day activities. Becoming a caregiver is like taking on a second job. It is not an easy job. And it must be done with a positive attitude as the cancer patient often draws strength from the caregiver.  Ensuring that the caregiver has what he/she needs is a role that a friend or a secondary family member can take on.

2. Depression and exhaustion are two major concerns with primary caregivers. The American Cancer Society has a  Checklist for Caregivers that gives excellent advice. I strongly recommend that survivors, primary caregivers and family/friends utilize this resource. It offers tips and insights to keep the caregiver healthy inside and out.

3. Support groups can be an essential part of a cancer patient’s healing. But the caregiver will benefit from support too. They do not usually have time to join support groups in person, so the internet can be just what is needed. There are online support groups that are disease specific or cancer in general. Find the one that is easiest to use and has like-minded people. The chat rooms can be a great place to trade information and to learn from each other’s experiences. Sometimes it serves as a place to share your fears and frustrations with others who understand what you are going through. The right online chat room should be a safe place without judgment. I only ask that you use caution when taking advice regarding medical treatment and medication. Always seek the counsel of the patient’s health care professional. This includes beginning any new supplements. Some herbs and vitamins are very powerful and may interfere with some medications or treatments.

4. Know the Rights for a Caregiver. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that guarantees up to 12 weeks off from work per year to take care of a seriously ill family member. The employer must hold your job and not penalize you. However, they are NOT required to pay you. FMLA only applies to companies that employ more than 50 employees or are public agencies. Learn more here.

5. The caregiver is likely the point person for a number of legal issues as well. An Advanced Directive is a document that can help the patient to spell out their wishes in regards to their overall health care, with special attention to end-of-life care. The caregiver may also be asked to become the Durable Power of Attorney for health care decision. This has nothing to do with money or finances, but only to help carry out health care decisions. Ask your attorney or physician to help get these forms started. I recommend that these forms be completed early, while the patient is capable of making sound decisions. This really takes the pressure off of the caregiver and gives them the legal support that may be necessary when family members disagree.

Every cancer survivor needs a strong, compassionate caregiver. This caregiver needs special attention and care themselves.