In this article by Loni Nannini to the Arizona Daily Star, we learn how the Bag It Bag has helped 90,000+ cancer patients and how it will be showcased at the Bag It for Cancer Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 17, at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona Campus, 5049 E. Broadway. Read the Article. OR Learn More About the Breakfast.
October is Health Literacy Month. A study by Health & Human Services Office of the Surgeon General showed that only about 12% of Americans have proficient health literacy skills. Unfortunately, many adults lack good knowledge about their medical condition and treatment, and don’t know how to get information that is presented in a way they can understand. People report having difficulty completing medical forms and relaying important details to their doctor about their health. They may not be able to accurately read directions to take their medicines as prescribed. Each of these common situations can be linked to poor health outcomes.
Bag It Cancer is committed to expanding health literacy for all populations. Our Bag It Bag is all about making sure that anyone with cancer can find, understand and use reliable information to make decisions about their health and guide them through a complex cancer care system.
For nearly 20 years we have worked with healthcare providers who make it a practice to give Bag It Bags to their patients at diagnosis. Having a bag of printed, clear, easy to understand materials from trustworthy cancer organizations, with customizable tools to make it their own, helps people get involved in their care and feel a bit more in control.
Let’s Start with The Basics in The Bag
- My Healthcare Team. Knowing who is on your healthcare team and what their role is points you in the right direction for your questions or other assistance.
- Cancer Words. There’s a short list of definitions for common cancer words, including cancer treatments, that you may not be familiar with but need to know.
- Lists of Questions to Ask. Asking the right questions at the right time helps you to get the info you need about your care and other areas of your life affected by a cancer diagnosis.
- Making Treatment Decisions. The bag walks you through what to consider as you make decisions about your treatment and care, including sources for more information about your cancer type and life situations.
- There’s a Lot to Keep Track of…medical records, appointments, business cards, questions and notes for the doctor, and lots and lots of paperwork. My Companion Guidebook has places for everything plus checklists to simplify the steps.
- Easy Tips and Hacks to Use Like these:
- If you’re not sure you understand what is being said to you by your healthcare team, ask for it to be explained again in everyday language (and in your preferred language). Then repeat the information back to the person to make sure you got it right.
- Bring someone to your appointments to listen and write down the information, or ask permission to record the visit. This will help to ensure accuracy and saves you from trying to remember everything that is said to you. Another idea is to ask for the information to be given to you in writing (and in your preferred language) so you can read it again at home.
In this month’s Podcast, Executive Director Mindy Griffith welcomes guests Carly Boos, CLL Society Executive Director and Uterine Cancer Program Director and Kitty Silverman, SHARE Support Center Uterine Cancer Program Director. They talk about their partnership with Bag It Cancer and the valuable services and programs offered for individuals with CLL or uterine cancer.
Every cancer patient deserves the best care possible. There isn’t a provider on the planet who disagrees with that. For many cancer centers and health systems, the best means putting together an all-star team capable of meeting the full needs of the patient, including “financial, psychological, social, logistical or related to communication.” That is why no oncology team is complete without an Oncology Nurse Navigator.
An Oncology Nurse Navigator is a clinically trained individual (typically a professional RN with oncology-specific clinical knowledge) who offers individualized assistance to patients and caregivers to help address barriers to timely and appropriate cancer treatment. They advocate for their patients throughout the cancer care continuum from diagnosis through survivorship and coordinate all components involved in cancer care, including surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists; social workers; patient education; community support; financial and insurance assistance; etc. They perform a vital role on the patient’s cancer care team.
Bringing on an Oncology Nurse Navigator is the first step. Equipping them with the best tools available is the second. That is why so many providers turn to Bag It Cancer. Oncology Nurse Navigators can assist patients with various issues beyond healthcare; comprehensive patient education tools like Bag It matter a lot in these situations. By providing a Bag It Bag, an Oncology Nurse Navigator can also help a patient learn to advocate for themselves and introduce them to reliable information that can often be difficult to find.
”When meeting patients for the first time, we often find the devastation of the new Cancer diagnosis to be overwhelming. They are not sure who to turn to, or where to begin. As certified Nurse Navigators, our first meeting is a cornerstone for care needs and coordination.
Having the Bag It Bag helps to introduce our ability to support and stabilize the care they need. At the same time, we use it to education them in essential ways. Lastly, it is a place to keep things from getting misplaced, and helps keep the Cancer ‘in its place’ in their lives from the start.”
Anyone that has ever met with an Oncology Nurse Navigator knows that support like patient education matters a lot and can be the difference between a good and bad experience for patients and caregivers.
So, if you don’t already have an Oncology Nurse Navigator on your team, or are interested in becoming a certified navigator, reach out to our friends at the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN).
If your practice needs to upgrade your patient education materials to match your new all-star team, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn how Bag It can enhance your practice.
We all know that a cancer diagnosis can be life-changing for everyone. Its impact isn’t just reserved to the physical changes experienced by patients, but also the mental health toll it can have on patients, families, friends, and entire communities. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, our team at Bag It would like to share some helpful tips for you and your loved ones to ease your journey to survivorship.
Change your environment (even for a short while)
Take a vacation with a loved one. Vacations offer many mental health benefits, including reducing depression and anxiety. Your vacation doesn’t need to be extensive; even a weekend road trip can help reduce stress. A study found that “a short, three-day leisure trip reduced perceived levels of stress and reduced levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol.” Another option is to take some time to enjoy nature. A 15-30 minute walk outside offers a chance to get some fresh air and reset. Maybe a stroll at the park or a hike on a trail might do the trick.
Take advantage of support programs in your community
Support groups are a safe, confidential space to share experiences and connect with others navigating similar challenges. They are often available in person or virtual, and you may find one at a local religious group, cancer center, or local cancer nonprofit. Studies have shown that attending a support group can lead to a better quality of life due to improved mood, self-image, and increased coping ability.
Take some time to count sheep
Sleep plays a vital role in how our bodies recover. A lack of adequate sleep has previously been thought to result from depression, but “growing evidence suggests that poor sleep may induce or exacerbate depression.” Inadequate sleep can also lead to anxiety disorders and may become an added source of worry and hyperarousal, which is a key contributor to insomnia. So find a bedtime each day that works for you. Wind down with some relaxation techniques as part of your bedtime routine and maximize comfort with a great mattress, pillow, and bedding. Your body will thank you for it.
Let’s get physical
Exercise offers so many benefits beyond just building muscle and burning calories. Moderate exercise “relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.” No matter your age or fitness level, 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week can make a lot of difference. You`ll feel more relaxed and see a change in your self-image. Physical activity is also essential for managing some of the side effects of cancer, including fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, and cardiovascular issues. It also plays a role in survivorship by reducing inflammation and joint pain.
Additional information can be found in the booklet Living Well with Cancer and Beyond. So find a fun activity that works for you, and get started today!
Form your squad
People face so many challenges daily, and these challenges get even more complex after a cancer diagnosis. It’s natural for people to retreat alone and deal in silence, but it’s not always the healthiest route. Find family members or close friends you trust as members of your support network. Social interactions are good for our overall physical and mental health. Cancer doesn’t have to be the focus of every conversation, and you have the right to determine what you feel comfortable sharing with others. A laugh with friends or dinner at your favorite restaurant can also offer a greater sense of well-being and relieves pent-up stress or pain.
Talk to your provider
It’s ok not to be ok. You are not alone. If the challenges around you become overwhelming or you find yourself in a dark place, never be ashamed to seek help. Talk to your provider or find a licensed mental health professional near you. If you have insurance, you can often find a provider in your network by visiting your insurance plan’s website. You can also visit the Bag It Resource Center to find reliable resources.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are available 24 hours a day, everyday, Call: 1-800-273-8255 or Text: “HELLO” to 741741
Lifeskills Behavioral Health. 2022. Social Connection & Healthy Activities | Mental Health Well-Being. [online] [Accessed 6 May 2022]
Four reasons to take a vacation. [online] [Accessed 6 May 2022]
Unity Point Health. 2022. 5 Powerful Benefits of Joining a Cancer Support Group (Infographic). [online] [Accessed 6 May 2022]
Suni, E., 2022. Mental Health and Sleep | Sleep Foundation. [online] [Accessed 6 May 2022]