6 Resolutions for a Healthy New Year

baird-healthy-resolutionsWhen dealing with a cancer diagnosis, the celebration of a new year may feel a bit bittersweet. Your health concerns have taken precedence over many areas of your life and you may feel a bit apprehensive about the New Year. Many of your friends and family will make resolutions to get healthy or lose weight. There’s no reason you can’t make some health-related resolutions of your own – even while going through cancer treatment. Here are some healthy ideas that you might not have thought of that help improve your overall health and well-being.

Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a common buzzword floating around many online sites these days. What is mindfulness, and what does it do? By the textbook definition, mindfulness sounds a great deal like meditation, a technique used for centuries to clear the mind, de-stress the body and improve focus and concentration. But mindfulness takes meditation a step further and asks the practitioner to incorporate mindfulness throughout the day, rather than mediate for a few moments at the beginning or ending of each day. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present, where you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance – without judging them good or bad. Anyone can practice mindfulness. It takes no special equipment, training or locations. All it takes is a willingness to learn and turn inward to acknowledge feelings and the present day. Many websites feature detailed ideas on how to get started, or ask a healthcare practitioner for direction. By practicing this technique, it allows the mind to better cope with the day-to-day stresses, anxiety and negativity that creeps into the day.

Stay hydrated. Drink a full 8-ounce (or larger) glass of water each time medication is taken. If you have to take pills in the morning, at lunch, at dinner and at bedtime, that’s 32 ounces of water each day. If larger volumes of water seem difficult, try keeping bottled water handy at several locations throughout the house, and try to sip from them whenever you can. Incorporate high water-content foods into your diet. Foods like cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, watermelon, spinach, cantaloupe and strawberries are not only good for you – but are also more than 90% water. Try alternative sources of fluids like popsicles, milkshakes, sports drinks or smoothies. Increase the amount of fluid you take in if you’re outside in hot weather or exercising. If you’re sweating, you’re reducing the amount of water in your body, so it needs to be replenished.

Exercise your mind. Maintaining good health not only includes diet and exercise and our physical presence, but also good mental health and memory strength as well. Without stimulation, the brain is just like our muscles, it loses strength and ability if it is not challenged on a regular basis. However, research has shown that the brain needs to be challenged, not just stimulated, in order to retain memory and clarity over time. Crossword puzzles, for example, may be your go-to brain exercise, but if you breeze right through them, it may be time for something that challenges your brain in a different way, like painting or Sudoku.

See the world. With the holidays soon over many are thinking ahead to vacation travel to beaches, or the mountains, or destinations beyond with family and friends. If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, it’s no different; you need time to recharge from the day-to-day stresses of life, and especially your medical condition. When undergoing cancer treatment, there are a few extra precautions and considerations for the traveler, but that shouldn’t stop you from traveling or enjoying a vacation away from home. Careful planning can ensure you have a great – yet safe – experience.

Get some sun – safely. After being cooped up during the winter, many are looking forward to spending more time outdoors exercising or taking care of upcoming spring yard work. Whether spending the day outside, or just taking care of a few chores, it’s important to always protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Depending on your skin tone, even just a few minutes can cause damage to your skin.

Incorporate superfoods. While no single food will protect you from disease, there are many foods that have disease-fighting properties that can be grown easily in your home garden. Some foods actually increase your risk of cancer, but some, such as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale; Lycopene rich foods such as tomatoes and tomato based products and leafy, green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards and chard, all support a healthy body and strengthen your immune system.





Holiday Gratitude


This December, the VCU Health Baird Vascular Institute celebrates its fifth anniversary of serving the community of central Virginia in offering the best of vascular care. A lot can change in five years and for BVI, things have only gotten better. After receiving the gracious gift of a building and land from the family of the late Dr. Charles L. Baird, a lot of work went into molding BVI into a vascular center providing top quality vascular expertise in a warm, friendly environment nestled into the community.

At the time of the bequest, the VCU Health Medical Center’s Department of Radiology and Division of Vascular Surgery had already laid the groundwork for a freestanding outpatient vascular care clinic. Over the years, advances in medical imaging and minimally invasive surgery techniques had made it feasible to treat a wide array of vascular conditions on an outpatient basis, outside the hospital. The building and its convenient location were ideal for a facility intended to serve patients throughout Central Virginia, and the VCU Health Baird Vascular Institute held its grand opening in October 2011 and saw its first patient that following December.

We are proud of the success of our practice and excited about new technologies we’re employing to help patients live healthier, more active lives. We value each and every one of our patients and have the utmost respect for the trust they place in our physicians and staff.

The providers and staff at BVI have enjoyed the support of the VCU Health System and have worked to ensure that the services that are provided here stay true to the vision and values that Dr. Baird exemplified through his life and work.

We thank you for putting your trust in BVI for the last five years. Here’s to many more anniversary celebrations in the future.

Thank you,

The physicians and staff of VCU Health Baird Vascular Institute

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients


Many of us struggle when it comes time to buy a birthday, Christmas, or other gift for a loved one who is dealing with a life changing illness. We know their strength is limited, and they may not be able to enjoy many of the activities they once did. So what kinds of gifts are not only thoughtful, but practical as well?

We found a great list of ideas, and some things you might not have known, from a company called “Just Don’t Send Flowers.” Their blog lists a great deal of information specific to cancer patients and what types of gifts would be appropriate. Here’s a sampling:

Many common smells and odors that once may have been pleasant can suddenly become nauseating to the patient. Fragrance free lotions, soaps and candles are nice gift alternatives.

Cancer is hard on the skin, so it’s important to take care of the skin using natural ingredients without perfumes or chemicals.  Use all natural products, especially those that are paraben and sulfate free.

The use of an eye mask, earplugs and comfortable loungewear can help when the patient may need to sleep during the day.

There are natural anti-nausea and comforting items available without chemicals. For ages, ginger and peppermint have been used to help alleviate queasiness.  Cooling towels, pillows and ice packs also help to quell the effects of nausea.

Many patients report that the loss of hair contributes to feeling cold, especially as they sleep. Although head covering is purely a personal choice, it is nice to have a soft and breathable chemo beanie for sleep or wearing to warm up.

A more practical choice to a basket could be a nice tote bag or duffle bag to carry the patient’s clothes home from the hospital or rehab or maybe to tote all of their items to chemo treatment. Blankets, scarves, throws and neck pillows make the day in the chemo chair a little easier, too.

And if it’s a child with cancer, remember – they’re still kids.  They love what all kids love. Stuffed animals, activity books, ear buds, monogrammed backpacks. Make sure you send happy, vibrant colors as if it is their birthday. That makes everyone feel good.

Inspirational jewelry is a great choice. Something simple, elegant and beautiful can look great all the time and be a constant reminder to the patient that you are thinking of them.

The company offers a variety of gift packages for cancer patients on their website.

An Etsy seller also features a gift pack specifically for cancer patients with all natural products.

“These products have been packaged together to provide comfort to a family member or loved-one enduring the harshness of chemotherapy treatments and includes a moisturizing jar of Unscented Shea Creme, metal tin of Lip Balm, tin of Cuticle Balm and a petite bar of Unscented Castile Goat’s Milk Bath Soap.”

A Huffington Post article by a physician diagnosed with cancer outlines thoughtful ideas for cancer patients that are not only gifts, but also other ways to help a friend of loved one dealing with cancer.

Remembering what was said earlier about heightened sensitivities, Roswell Park Cancer Institute has put together a list of gifts to avoid which is not only helpful, but has some information on gifts that you may not realize trigger negative reactions.

Often the best gift you can give a friend going through cancer treatment is the gift of your support and time. Going to extra step to research and buy a great, useful gift will help bring a smile to their face.