Author: Jenna Frinfrock
When Bag It announced the creation of the virtual Tribute Garden this past spring, I knew I needed to show my support by paying tribute not only to my dad, but also to his oncologist. In 2009 my father was diagnosed with advanced stage-four multiple myeloma. It was a terrifying diagnosis, followed by weeks of radiation treatments, months of chemotherapy medications, and a final successful stem cell transplant. Through it all, my dad had the good fortune of being a patient of Dr. Michael Boxer’s at Arizona Oncology. Not only did Dr. Boxer patiently answer all of our questions, he took the time to know us personally and encourage my dad throughout his treatments in the years following his original diagnosis.
I truly cannot imagine what we would have done without the reassuring kindness and medical expertise that Dr. Boxer offered at every visit. Over the course of the last ten years, Dr. Boxer was instrumental in allowing my dad to beat back his cancer into remission and enjoy years of family gatherings. Because of Dr. Boxer’s care, my dad was able to attend family BBQs, celebrate holiday dinners and enjoy weekly zoo trips with his four grandchildren.
We all know that familiar adage, “it takes a village to raise a child.” I believe the same can be said when it comes to supporting someone with cancer. I will forever be grateful for the role that Dr. Boxer played in “our village” as he oversaw my dad’s care and treatment for ten years. It was a privilege for me to submit a tribute on his behalf when he retired from Arizona Oncology in June of 2020 after a very prestigious and inspiring career.
Check out the Virtual Tribute Garden here. It’s a place where you can recognize those touched by cancer.
It’s a wonderful time to show your thanks to a medical provider, caregiver or friend.
So, how are you?
Let’s face it, months into life during a pandemic, everyone is struggling on some level. A Kaiser poll indicated that over 50% of Americans report that the pandemic and social-distancing are affecting their mental health. More people report that they are experiencing depression and anxiety. Emergency hotlines have noted over a 1000% increase in calls in comparison to 2019. If you need help, please get help.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 pandemic can cause strong feelings of stress for adults and children, including:
- Fear & worry about your own health & the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic physical health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
If you’re experiencing any of these, there are ways to manage your symptoms and cope while maintaining physical distancing.
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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers several steps you can take to prevent this stressful time from impacting your mental health.
1) Maintain A Routine
If you’re not used to working from home, you may find the transition challenging. Creating a new teleworking routine will help you get into the right mindset, feel more productive and keep the boundaries between work and home from blurring. Bringing structure into your daily routine is key.
2) Take Reasonable Safety Precautions, But Don’t Go Overboard
Use only reliable sources of information, such as the CDC or Johns Hopkins University, to inform and make a plan for your health habits. Don’t let anxiety direct your behavior. Limit how much time you spend watching or listening to news that makes you upset.
3) Find Ways To “Get Going”
Now more than ever, you need to practice self-care. Practicing sound mental hygiene can help boost your psychological immunity. If you are prone to depression, you might be finding it harder to get out of bed in the morning, motivate yourself to accomplish chores or get started on a work project.
4) Try Not To Fixate On Sleep
The changes in your usual schedule, together with anxiety, can wreak havoc on your sleep. It might be helpful to listen to a guided meditation available on YouTube or one of the many meditation apps, such as 10% Happier, Headspace or the UCLA Center for Mindfulness
5) Stick To Consistent Meal Times
Eating only at meal times, rather than stress-snacking throughout the day, can also help you maintain your mental and physical wellbeing. Nourish yourself with healthy foods. However, it’s also perfectly fine to enjoy some comfort foods, like freshly baked cookies. Now is not the time to start a restrictive diet.
6) Follow Your Regular Mental Health Treatment Plan
Make sure you have an adequate supply of medication and take it as prescribed. Many mental health providers are now offering tele-therapy, either by phone or video, to comply with social distancing requirements. If you are dealing with cancer or a chronic illness, please keep connected to your healthcare provider by virtual visits or in person if safety permits (Bag It). Check with your insurer to see what virtual services they will cover.
7) Practice Mindfulness And Acceptance Techniques
Whether you use meditation, yoga or prayer, focusing your attention on the present moment, rather than worrying about a catastrophic, uncertain future, can help you manage your distress. One good introductory resource, among many, is “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World,” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. The UCSD Center for Mindfulness also has free, guided meditations and useful information about the practice.
8) Be Kind To Yourself
A vast body of research conducted by the psychologist Kristin Neff and colleagues has shown the value of self-compassion for coping with emotional challenges and adversity. To ease feelings of isolation, acknowledge your struggle with kindness, rather than self-judgment, and recognize that millions of people world-wide are sharing your experience right now.
We all know that staying physically active has many benefits for our health such as increased flexibility/balance/muscle strength, controlling weight, regulating blood pressure, digestion, improved mood, thinking, and sleep, just to name a few.
But did you know that getting regular exercise may also:
- Help you live longer?
- Ironically, reduce fatigue and increase your energy?
- Reduce your risk for developing some types of cancers?
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers recurring?
- Ease some side effects of cancer treatment?
We have so many gadgets to inform us of what level of activity we are doing down to the minute on a daily basis. We even get “scolded” if we are not moving enough! When these gadgets first came out many thought that was exactly what they were – just gadgets. Today, many feel these are lifesaving instruments. Use the great technology out there to your advantage and commit to getting fit!
Check in with your doctor for guidance on how to begin an exercise routine that’s right for you. If you have no health restrictions, gradually build up to 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity). Take it slow at first and if you miss a day just try again the next day.
Aim for a combo of cardio and strength training. (You can do strength training with or without weights)
Besides the obvious forms of exercise like walking, running, hiking, biking, swimming, aerobics, activities like dancing, gardening (digging, raking), household chores (vacuuming, mopping, washing windows, sorry!) or actively playing with children can be just as effective.
If you can’t do full 30-minute sessions some days, break it up into 2 or 3 sessions of 10 or 15 minutes each. It all counts!
Make it easy and fun! Change it up and do a variety of activities you enjoy by yourself or with a safely-distanced buddy.
Crankin’ up the tunes while you work will actually make you move faster and with more intensity.
Join us in our 2020 Get Moving for Bag It Fundraiser, Oct. 16-25, for a variety of activities to get you motivated.
Learn More and Register Here!
Let’s say the unthinkable happens.
You suddenly become hospitalized due to Covid-19 and are unable to communicate, make decisions for yourself or have a loved one by your side.
Preparation of your advance directives for health care is the best way to give voice to your wishes and what matters most to you. A healthcare power of attorney informs your doctors about your preferences for medical care and could give helpful insights to those you select to speak on your behalf. It’s impossible to account for all the possible scenarios and every potential long-term impact on your health from Covid-19. But even expressing what makes life worth living for you or the quality of life you don’t want to suffer later can guide the decisions made about treatments to provide and when.
If you’ve already put the appropriate documents in place and shared them with the right people, good job – but keep reading if you did that pre-Covid! Now is a good time to pull them out and reread them to make sure you are comfortable with your instructions in light of the pandemic. Do they reflect your treatment preferences no matter the reason for your condition or critical illness, or do you have definite ideas about treatments you do and do not want in the case of Covid? Are any changes needed to the named agents appointed to act on your behalf? Do you need to add back-up trusted agents in the event your appointed spouse/partner or other household members also fall ill?
Whether you need to complete these documents for the first time or an update is due, make this a priority today! Below is more information about where to find resources for your state as well as tools and resources to complete the process.
The Conversation Project
Downloadable life care planning packet for Arizona
Downloadable life care planning packet for Arizona: (Spanish)
AZ End of Life Partnership
Downloadable advance directives for 50 states:
POLST (portable medical order for emergency medical care)
Once the paperwork is in order, provide copies to the involved people in your life and also have a frank conversation with them about what’s important to you. While it may not be easy to talk about it, having the documents ready and sharing your personal values with them means everyone will feel more prepared and brings a bit of control and peace of mind – just in case the unexpected happens.
Calling all Bag It Friends across the country – WE NEED YOU!
As the planning began for the 17th Annual Take a Hike for Bag It and with the ramifications and uncertainties of COVID 19 it became apparent that the format of our annual event would need to be changed. A few things that we needed to keep in mind: how to have a financially successful fundraising event and still keep the integrity of the annual hike that the participants would love and continue to support. After much research, input from our hike volunteers, past participants, board and staff it was decided that the 17th Annual Take a Hike for Bag It become Get Moving for Bag It.
This year’s event let’s you hike, bike or whatever you like on your own time and on your own turf.
Bag It is reaching out to all our loyal friends as we NEED your continuing support. We have created a unique fundraising event as the annual Take a Hike for Bag It in Tucson is on hold this year. We are hoping to have ALL our friends from the West Coast to the East Coast join us and support this year’s annual fundraising event as it is essential for Bag It to continue to fulfill its mission.
Get Moving to support Bag It’s mission to educate, support & empower those impacted by cancer.
Your participation helps raise funds to continue to provide the Bag It bag at NO CHARGE to those impacted by cancer. The contents in the bag helps patients and caregivers talk to their healthcare providers, know what questions to ask, and serve as the most important advocate on their healthcare team. Will you help empower the expected 1.8 million new cancer cases to be diagnosed this year in the United States?
It’s simple: Sign up and Get Moving!
Once registered you will have full access to the Get Moving information, daily activities, and be entered into drawings and contests.