Cancer Related Information

Dogs are Awesome: Their Amazing Health Benefits

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Dogs are Awesome: Their Amazing Health BenefitsDogs are amazing and awesome

Last night, I watched this video: A dog’s remarkable journey to find a home: A distance of 6,455 miles doesn’t begin to measure the journey one dog made to join a team and find a family (video below) and I literally sat there crying for a few minutes after the video was over. What a special bond some dogs develop with their people. But even more than the companionship and love they give, dogs are good for your overall health.

Here are just a few of the many benefits:

  • Dogs are heart healthy According to the British Journal of Medicine, dog owners tend to have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fewer heart attacks, and have fewer medical problems than those without pets.
  • Dogs help boost your mood Hanging out with your pooch can make you more calm and raises your brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, the mood chemicals in your body!
  • Dogs get you moving Dog owners tend to exercise more by taking walks and running around with their doggies.
  • Dogs help boost kids’ immune systems According to Science Daily, kids who grow up with dogs have fewer allergies and are less likely to have eczema. They also are exposed to more dirt!
  • Dogs teach responsibility and commitment Caring for a dog is a major commitment and requires patience. It’s a 24/7, 365 day commitment.
  • They can detect health issues In addition to sniffing out cancer, dogs can also be trained to identify seizures, severe allergies, and other health issues.

Shannen Doherty Says Her German Shepherd Was The First To Detect Her Cancer

 

Dogs are Awesome

And while not directly related to health, but definitely affects a person’s overall well-being: DOGS REALLY CAN TELL IF SOMEONE IS A BAD PERSON

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Dog quote

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month Which Means I Run a 5K

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I’ve been taking some time off from blogging in case you haven’t noticed. I haven’t taken a planned break for years and wanted to reset. I’ve always blogged for the passion of it. To be able to share my own struggles, experiences, successes and hard work and have it help someone else – that’s my goal. That’s what inspires and motivates me. Learning about how others have succeeded has helped me throughout the years without a doubt. I don’t like to blog out of obligation and I guess that’s why I took a break.  I just didn’t feel like writing. But, here I am again…

A few updates from the past month or so to catch everyone up:

I’ve been living large all Fall and Winter long. Not really paying attention to what I’m eating and like so many of us – hearing my inner voice tell me I shouldn’t be eating with abandon. And I have noticed that my lack of attention has slowly started to show on my body. So, when Wayne, my trainer, mentioned that we needed to start weighing me in again – because Spring/Summer is coming – it hit me like a ton of bricks. Oh SHIT. What? Why? Why? Really? Ugh…

I’ve been getting back in the swing of things with making sure I am getting enough protein and limiting the crap I’m eating. Exercise isn’t my issue. It’s CARBS. I love CARBS and sugar! Sign..

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month - Scope It OutAs many of you know, my silver fox of a husband, Scotty was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age 37, so it’s a cause that hits so close to home that it is my home!  March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon Cancer is survivable if it’s caught early, so know the signs and symptoms.

One again, Team Hoagie’s Heroes will be running the 2017 Washington DC Scope It Out 5K at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC on March 19th,  We are celebrating Scotty’s 9th year colon cancer free. (He was diagnosed in July 2008).  If you can, join us or support our Hoagie’s Heroes Team in Scope It Out with a tax-deductible donation.

With that said, I am beyond touched by the kindness of so many people that I have met. I have received donations from some wonderful, awesome unexpected people. It blows me away and truly warms my heart that the people around me are the best people in the world. Not that I had any doubt. I appreciate all the donations from everyone but here is a story that totally made me cry.

Title Boxing started last month having a monthly campaign whereas for every check in on Facebook, they donate a dollar to a charity. The person with the most check-ins for the month gets to choose the charity.  I always check in as a matter of practice and I guess I was in the lead for a while.  I had no idea, but a fellow boxer Donna saw my post on Facebook about supporting Team Hoagie’s Heroes.  So, she set out to win the check in challenge and to surprise me, she picked my fundraising effort to donate to. When I sent her a note thanking her, she said,

I saw your post about the 5k a couple of weeks ago and then heard that you and I were in a close race for the check-ins. I felt it was the perfect way to honor you and your husband. I am honored to be supporting you in some small way.

How seriously kind and awesome was that? I’m blown away. I have met Donna a few times, maybe and yet – she did this. Now, that’s a stand-up person.

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Reading Should Be Without Rules

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Reading Without RulesAbout a year and half ago, I decided to start reading before I went to bed every night. I had long given up reading anything more than a magazine or a quick web article and realized I missed having some quiet, yet productive time each day. I don’t really have any sort of rules about what I read — and when I don’t feel like starting something new, I reread one of my favorite Outlander books. (I love them!)  I prefer reading books that help me escape into new worlds and experience different lives – Escape Fiction. Some people think that we shouldn’t read to escape reality. I’m not on board with that — sometimes a great story is the only thing that helps you hold on. Recently, I came across this quote:

“reading books is a waste of time if you don’t let them change you. If books really are “portals” then they should leave you somewhere you weren’t when you finish them. Somewhere enlightened.”  

My take: Read because you want to — no rules, no parameters. Read because you love it, you enjoy a story, relate to characters, it helps you cope with whatever is going on in your life, you love reading the written word. READ with no rules! I think reading changes you whether you are cognizant of it or not.

And turns out it’s healthy for you:

I loved this recent article about President Obama, who said reading helped him survive the White House.

“…talked about the indispensable role that books have played during his presidency and throughout his life — from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.”

When Breath Becomes Air

 

I just finished a book that has stayed with me, When Breath Becomes Air. It’s a non-fiction autobiographical book written by Paul Kalanithi, about his life and illness, battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. It’s a quick read that packs a powerful punch. Sad, poignant, introspective — all words to describe it. I went back and reread parts after I was done because I wanted to feel the feelings again after reading the closing chapter which was written by his wife, Lucy.

Blood Donation: An Easy and Important Way to Give Back

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Donate Blood: It Saves LivesIt’s always been important for me to do some sort of charity regularly but I made a deal with myself to go outside of my norm and give back in different ways this year and do it at least monthly. So with that in mind, I read a Facebook call out that blood donation was needed and that they were especially in need of type O.

I happen to be Type O+.

Type O+ blood is important because it is the most common blood type (1 in 3 people have it) and therefore is needed most. It is what maintains the country’s blood supply. So, I checked online to see if I could make an appointment to donate and sure enough, there was an appointment available nearby. Here’s where I went: Inova Blood Donor Services

You can choose to donate plasma and platelets, but I opted for a whole blood donation. There was a dude there donating platelets and you could tell it was quite a process and takes some time.

After filling out the paperwork, I was taken into a little office and asked some general follow up questions. Then my blood pressure was taken and my finger was pricked to get some blood to check my iron levels. All was good, so I headed to the blood donation lounge chair area. There, the person taking my blood looked for a good vein – found one and got me all set up and the blood flowing. I’m not that squeamish around needles – my strategy is as long as I don’t look while they are sticking me – I’m good to go.  I did have two babies after all!

Here are a few things to know before you go…

  1. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, work out beforehand. The person who took my blood explained that many times if a person comes in after a workout, they are dehydrated and it’s not only harder to get blood from them, the patient could end up not feeling so good.  Good to know, since I did indeed go in after a boxing workout!
  2. Bring ID. You will have to fill out some quick paperwork and they will need to see your ID.
  3. Make an appointment. I do believe that they will take walk ins but if you make an appointment, the entire process is not that long. At least when I went yesterday – from start to finish it took less than 30 mins.
  4. Bring your own Post Donation Snack if you have Restrictions. They strongly encourage you to stick around their cafe area and enjoy a snack and a drink. It’s to ensure you don’t faint or have other strange side effects from the donation. The ‘cafe’ was stocked with high sugar, processed foods though. I just happened to have a protein bar in my purse that I ate. The fridge was full of fruit juices and water. I opted for water.  Not a judgement, just a good to know…
  5. Post blood donation, take it easy. Drink lots of water and refrain from strenuous exercise or lifting heavy. Ha!

Blood Donation MattersThat’s it – 30 minutes from start to finish. I feel fine today and feel even better because I know I am helping someone, somewhere. If you can, donate! It’s an easy way to give back on a regular basis.

BTW: I donated in honor and memory of Mathias Giordano. Their family has set up a Team Mathias sponsor code 8164 so anyone can donate in his memory & for all the kids who have been affected by cancer.

 

Fitness is Rented and Needs to Be Paid Every Day

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Where have I been? What’s been going on? I wish I could share some exciting details or news, but the truth is I have been lacking inspiration and motivation the past few weeks. Maybe it’s the election results, or the change of seasons- whatever it is, it’s been affecting me big time.

Fitness is RentedNow that the holiday season is here, most of us will be out socializing a lot more than usual. I get invited to a ton of Holiday Parties and Happy Hours in December and if I’m not careful, I start to slip back into old eating habits. I’m sure I’m not alone.  Last week, during one of my Body By Wayne training sessions, I was bitching about how hard the workout was (something I do regularly). I asked Wayne why it’s so hard to stay lean and healthy. How come there isn’t a pill I can take to keep this way? I workout all the damn time –hard workouts, that challenge me in many different ways, but yet each time I go, it’s a mental and physical challenge once again.  It’s not freakin’ fair, but the truth is — Fitness is rented. You have to pay that rent each and every day. And if it’s important to you, then you will do it.

What keeps me motivated to stay fit?

Here’s some insight into how I think…

  1. I have seen far too many older people become immobile and unable to take care of their most basic needs without help. For some, it wasn’t something under their control, but for the vast majority – if they moved their bodies and paid a bit more attention to their overall health when they were younger, they wouldn’t be that way.  When I start to lament about having to workout, I remember this.
  2. When Scotty was sick with colon cancer, we spent every other Tues at Georgetown Hospital getting his chemo. I saw and met a lot of very sick people. Exercising is one of the best ways to prevent many cancers — and it’s an hour of of my day.  One friggin hour! And if you can’t do a full workout – then just go for a walk. MOVE YOUR BODY. I remember our time getting Scotty well and the people I met. 
  3. I live in the suburbs and I am seeing more and more, people my age ignoring their health. We are at the cusp of “no, we aren’t old” and “no, we aren’t young” and so many of take little time to take care of ourselves. We know how important it is – but tend to get wrapped up in everything else. I remind myself how important it is to take time for myself to take care of myself. Not only for my own well-being, but as a good role model for my kids.

After thinking about those three important things, how can I really not go and workout? Those aren’t trivial reasons and I have no real excuse to skip. Not to mention that I love the feeling I have after a good workout and the great people I have met through my fitness journey. Hopefully, the insight I shared will help motivate you to stop waiting and begin…

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Determination is your responsiblity

September 21, 2016 is St. Jude Day at Chili’s

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Chilis and St Jude - Childhood Cancer Awareness MontHead over to Chili’s restaurants today for lunch or dinner and support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® by participating in their #CreateAPepper campaign!

Chili’s proclaims Sept. 21 as St. Jude Day and will celebrate by giving a minimum of $100,000 donation and an upcoming naming ceremony for support of the school program.

More info: CHILI’S MAKES $30 MILLION COMMITMENT TO ST. JUDE SCHOOL PROGRAM

3 Good Reasons to Live a Healthier Life

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Sometimes I take a few moments to remind myself why I took the steps to live a healthier life all those years ago. And I figured, we all can use the reminder – so lucky you! You get to read it too!

Right or Happy? You choose. As most of you know 8 years ago last month – Scott and I heard the scary words: You have cancer. He was 37 years old, no family history and cancer invaded his colon and our lives. You never know what can happen in your life at any given time, so you need to do whatever it is you need to do to live your best life. Do you want to be that senior citizen that we all know that has a hunched back, needs help taking a crap, is immobile?  I certainly don’t. Taking steps now to strength train so that your heart and muscles are strong is important. There are so many stories of older people, who strength train and workout, that look younger and don’t suffer from many of the ailments that others their age do. One hour of your day – to do what you can to ensure a healthier aging process.

 

Do you have kids? What message are you sending them when you don’t take time to practice self care? In my mind, you are telling them that you aren’t as important.  When you put your fitness and health at the top of your priorities, you are teaching them that you do matter. You are showing them that being healthy and finding time for exercise can happen even if you work full time and run your house. Is it hard to find the time? Yes. Sometimes it requires outside of the box thinking – asking a friend to watch your kids, carpooling to soccer practice, asking your spouse/kid to take on extra so that you can go workout.  I have heard from so many women – oh you are lucky that your husband helps you. Luck has nothing to do with it. We talk about it and I share with him what I need to make it work.  He and I talk about how important that time is to me -I’m happier and feel and look better. It’s rare to find a spouse or partner that wouldn’t support both of those things and step up to the plate when asked. The key is you HAVE TO COMMUNICATE what you need. Oftentimes, men don’t get it looking at it face value. You have to actually spell things out — which can get frustrating but my mantra when I start to get mad or resentful:


Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? You choose. 

 

And lastly, remember when you were single and started dating your partner? You had hobbies, you had interests, you looked a certain way. Are you still all of those things (hopefully improved)? What happens many times is that we get so wrapped up in being something to someone else, that we forget who we are. We become so wrapped up in being a soccer mom or <fill in the blank>, that we no longer pay attention to that person our partner fell for. I’m not saying that being a soccer mom or whatever shouldn’t be a part of your identity, but I have seen it become a person’s ENTIRE identity. What will happen when your kids become the adults they are destined to be and you are left there, with your partner? You need to nurture and tend to your own self and the relationships you are in. Too often, we let ourselves go for the sake of our kids. Make sure you are practicing self-care. The person you were when your spouse fell for you is important and valuable and needs to be remembered always.

 

Hopefully my reasons resonate with you as well. Life is so short — none of us know what the future holds but we can do our part to ensure that we have the best foundation to handle whatever comes.  Now get out there and move your body!

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Life is Short

5 Amazing Facts About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

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St Jude Blogger Tour 2016If you are a friend and/or a follower of this blog, you know I was invited to travel to Memphis, TN last week to learn about the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Because of my own personal experience with cancer,  this blog and my other social media outlets, they asked me to join 11 other bloggers from around the country to learn more about ts history, its mission and the possible ways we all can do our part to end childhood cancer (Adult and Childhood cancer!).  There is so much I want to share from my three day learning adventure.  This is the third year of their blogger tour and in total, they have about 70 bloggers nationwide helping spread the word through their amazing Blogger Ambassador Program.

Here are some high level, meaningful facts that resonated with me about St. Jude:

Families never pay. – If you are a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. you will never receive a bill. They do bill insurance but the family will not pay co-pays, lodging costs, food etc. Even if your child has to stay for an extended period of time. I know personally how stressed out I was thinking about the financial burden Scott’s cancer treatment was going to be. We had great insurance fortunately — but think about it – I was already overwhelmed and emotional about his cancer diagnosis in general. Add to that  — how am I going to pay for this? Knowing that you would do anything to save the child/husband/family member you love. And then to walk into St. Jude and be told – don’t worry. We got you. First disbelief, then relief and you can focus on the big stuff – getting your child well.

Donations support the hospital.  – Last I checked, 81 cents of every dollar donated goes directly towards research and treatment. Based on the info they shared with us, it costs $2.2 million dollars a day to run the hospital and research facility.  No non-profit can claim 100% of their donations go directly towards their mission because there are always costs associated with running any non-profit. Considering what a large organization St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is, 81 cents out of every dollar donated is pretty impressive.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is making a difference. – When they opened in Feb 1962, their overall survivor rates were under 20%. Today, it’s around 80%. They also study other diseases like malaria, sickle cell disease to name just a few. Clearly, they are definitely making a huge impact that resonates globally.  Their research is released to the public and freely available to any research facility, doctor, scientist and/or patient.

Danny Thomas - St JudeDanny Thomas – The story behind the building of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is inspiring.  Mr Thomas made a vow and he kept it and enlisted countless friends and visionaries to help.  He believed strongly “No child should die in the dawn of life”  and who in their right mind would disagree.

They pay attention to details. – Here are few of the services and details I noticed:

  • They have an on site school so kids can keep up with their school work.
  • They have their own gardens so they can prepare food using the fresh product (farm to table) as much as possible. And when not possible, they work with the local CSA to grow the crops and offer a Farmer’s Market monthly on site.
  • Their utensils, etc are as eco-friendly as possible.
  • They have Child Patient Specialists to work with the patients to help them understand what’s going on in an age-appropriate way.
  • Legacy Services – End of life is unfortunately something that does happen – they offer services and legacy keepsakes to help.
  • Milestone Events – graduations, proms, dances, parties including No More Chemo parties!
  • Wagons – when possible, the patients are wheeled around in red wagons instead of wheel chairs – keeping some of their childlike magic in tact.
  • The Hospital – obviously it’s state of the art, but it doesn’t smell like a hospital. It may be because of the high end air filtration systems, but it was nice to not be inundated with that sterile, alcohol smell common to most medical facilities.  And the walls are adorned with colorful, gorgeous murals and large images of their patients. It’s a warm, inviting place to be — which is awesome AND surprising since it’s not like the hospitals I have seen or visited before.

These flags represent all the countries where St. Jude Doctors and Researchers come from. The brightest minds in the world are all working together to end childhood cancer.

This trip meant the world to me – Seeing sick kids is hard but I was able to meet some amazing people (bloggers, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital staff, families, people from Memphis to name a few) and I left there feeling hopeful and inspired – ready to figure out how I can do my part to help.  The topic of cancer has always been threaded throughout this blog — so helping spread its important mission and work fits in perfectly. I will be sharing more about my trip, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and ways we can all help, so stay tuned…

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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St JudeI’m still processing the St. Jude Blogger Tour. It was a heavy topic but I came back feeling hopeful, inspired & grateful. My new blogger friend Melissa Fenton talked about  “turning guilt into gratitude” as we head back to our families and look at our healthy kids. Be grateful that we have healthy kids that can live their normal lives. I am taking that to heart and will do my part to end childhood cancer. I am even more forever changed..

I will share my entire experience in the next week — as it was full of information, emotions, fun and hope and what being a St Jude Ambassador Blogger means –including all the programs and ways people can get involved.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Next month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and there are a ton of ways to help, including a walk/run in many cities around the country. To search for an event in your community use this link: Find an event near you or Donate.

 

St Jude Walk/Run

 

Planning for a Family Visit with Toddlers in the DC Area

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camp kesemWe dropped the kids off for their yearly sleep away camp. Camp Kesem is a week long camp that serves children who have lost a parent to cancer, have a parent undergoing cancer treatment , or whose parent is a cancer survivor. The camp is an opportunity for kids to just be kids and to hang out with other kids who have experienced the life altering effects that cancer has on an entire family.

While Scotty is now 8 years cancer free, the long term effects are still present and the changes within our family are forever there. HB didn’t really want to go but we explained that in many ways, it’s important for other kids to see different perspectives of cancer and whether they see it or not, our kids were affected forever.

While they are at camp, I am heading to Memphis, and am excited and honored to be given this opportunity. The agenda over the next three days is full from 9a – 9p. They have us meeting with families, doctors, doing projects with the kids, touring the hospital, meeting with the Communications department and finding out being one of their ambassadors and what that entails.  I will be sure to share some of each day’s events while i am gone if i can. But as a I said, they have us booked all day, learning.

TrooperAnd last week, my brother and his two girls were here for the week. It’s been a very long time since I had toddlers in my house. It was quite an experience –and a lot of work. I forgot all the demands and attention they require. They were adorable and we had a great time. The most popular member of our household it seemed was Trooper. The girls loved him and he loved them back. It was awesome to see how gentle and affectionate he was to them. As big as he is, he can be gentle and playful. When they left, he moped around the house for a day or so missing them. He’s now back to normal – thank goodness!

Planning for a Family Visit with Toddlers

Their week long stay had me playing tour guide, so I thought I would share how I handled making plans for them knowing that because of their ages (2 and 5), we needed to have fun, be flexible, and get a taste of the beauty of Virginia (aka “grassy land” – which is what my 5 year old niece calls Virginia)….

I wanted to find events/attractions that would not take all day either — because as anyone that has had young kids — their attention spans are limited and they need naps. Here’s what I came up with and then also planned pool time, walks, and art activities at home. I was pretty pleased with myself for being so organized and planning activities that really worked out well for everyone…

National Aquarium Baltimore, MD Adults: $39.95
Children (3-11): $24.95
Seniors (65+): $34.95
National AquariumNational Harbor is a great place to take the kids –they can run around and the aquarium also offers the chance to touch jelly fish and other sea creatures on the 2nd floor.
Smithsonian Butterly Pavilion DC/Smithsonian Adults: $6.00
Children (2-12): $5.00
Seniors (65+): $5.50
Butterflies at the SmithsonianButterflies are EVERYWHERE in this small enclosure. The kids loved it.
Great Country Farms 18780 Foggy Bottom Rd, Bluemont, VA 20135 Weekdays: $8/Child & $10/Adult kids under 2: FREE Great Country FarmRide the Cow Train.
Solve the giant Mazes.
Grab some air on the Pumpkin Jumping Pillow.
Make friends with the Barnyard animals.
Hook the big one at the Fishing Pond.
Much, much more!
FLY DANCE COMPANY Wolf Trap – Theater in the woods $10.00/Ticket Thursday, August 4 at 10:30 am Fly Dance CompanySo you think you can dance? Check out this high-energy, gravity-defying dance crew as they mix hip-hop, pop n lock, and modern dance with colorful costumes and comic delivery. Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Great Falls Park Great Falls/Mclean VA 8.00 Park Entrance Fee Great Country Farm

Scenic National Park, with hiking and climbing on rocks.

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