Useful Apps for Cancer Patients

Baird Apps Cancer

Modern technology can be an amazing tool to help with our daily lives. Today, even cancer patients can find a variety of useful apps to assist in their treatment and recovery by monitoring symptoms, storing data, providing information and support. Of course, nothing can or should take the place of your physician and care team’s advice, but here are a few apps that may help keep and organize your data and assist in other ways as you navigate the course of your illness.

Cancer.net Mobile

Developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), this app provides easy-to-use tools to help you plan and manage care – from diagnosis through treatment and beyond, and is provided by Cancer.Net. It includes the latest oncologist-approved cancer information.

Pocket Cancer Care Guide

Provided by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the Pocket Cancer Care Guide is an app that allows you to quickly and easily build lists of practical questions used to guide conversations between you and your doctors and nurses. Users can browse hundreds of questions in categories relevant to stages of your cancer diagnosis, build lists of questions to use when talking to your doctor or nurse, link doctor appointments to your lists and automatically add it to your calendar and record and playback your doctor’s or nurse’s answers. There’s also a glossary of medical terms for reference.

My Cancer Coach

This app, by Genomic Health, Inc., is a free mobile app developed in partnership with BreastCancer.org, Men’s Health Network, and Fight Colorectal Cancer. The app provides specific information about personalized cancer treatments to help manage your cancer’s progression. It’s like having ‘Cancer 101’ in your pocket. Questions about your stage of cancer? Should you get surgery? Is radiation necessary? Do you need chemotherapy? Is your cancer metastatic? My Cancer Coach provides easy-to-understand treatment information for breast, prostate, and colon cancer patients and their caregivers.

Create To Heal

This app is brought to you by The Women Wings Foundation Create to Heal (TM) program. It is designed to gently take you from your head into your heart, where the healing process begins. Because stress is the number one contributor to all major diseases, including cancer, the goal of this app is to provide patients with relief from stress through the use of beautiful imagery, sounds and words.

The Create to Heal (TM) guided meditations, music and art have been tested in several hospitals and cancer centers over a period of 5 years, with hundreds of cancer patients, survivors and their families. This app gives patients the tools to continue their creative therapy and stress reduction at home, at work, wherever they are. The app offers 10 music tracks, 4 guided meditations, 36 pieces of art, and 60+ inspirational messages.

My Medical

My Medical is a comprehensive record-keeping app for your personal medical information. The app offers autocompletion and autosuggestion for a wealth of medical jargon, including prescription drug names; vaccinations; common afflictions; life support options; laboratory units; and much more.

In addition, there are areas for emergency contacts, health insurance, doctors’ contact information, and other data that are not strictly part of a traditional personal health record (PHR) are all available. It will put doctor’s appointments and upcoming lab tests on your calendar. You can even set reminder alarms directly from the app, without ever going into your calendar. Finally, the app offers an area for files to be attached to your record. For example, you can add a picture of the pill next to a medication, or a copy of your insurance card alongside a provider’s contact information.

iHealth Log

iHealth Log helps individuals with chronic health issues manage their disease.  All medications and dosages are easily maintained along with important prescription details including a photograph of the medication and physician and pharmacy information.  The diary tracks daily medications and measurements which are critical to disease management.  iHealth Log makes it easy to email lists of medications to schools, summer camps and health care providers and it has reporting capabilities to plot measurement data and send this data via email to the physician.

Practicing mindfulness during cancer treatment

baird-cancer-mindfulness

Mindfulness is a common buzzword floating around many online sites these days. What is mindfulness, and what does it do?

Mindfulness is defined as:

“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

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.

According to the website Cancer Forward, “there are many studies about mindfulness and its benefits for cancer patients. They show positive improved psychological functioning, reduction of stress symptoms, enhanced coping and wellbeing in cancer outpatients. This adds up to a greater sense of peace, ease, and resiliency while living with cancer. The stillness that comes with mindfulness meditation fosters deep, physical relaxation and an opening of the heart.”

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.

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients

baird-holiday-gifts

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.

5 things your infusion center nurse wants you to know

 

baird-infusion-center

As a cancer patient, your physician may have prescribed infusion treatment, meaning a visit to the infusion center is in your near future. We spoke with Julia Lewis, RN, BSN, OCN, an infusion center nurse, about some tips that the nursing staff wants you to know. Here is her advice.

  1. Wear loose comfortable clothing, because you’re going to be at the infusion center for awhile. Wear either a V-neck or button down shirt, or a shirt you don’t mind the neck being stretched down a bit to access to the port. Turtlenecks are a big hassle for both the patient and the staff and you’ll usually have to undress, so even on the coldest days – leave the turtlenecks at home. In addition, men may want to consider shaving the chest hair around the port site to make tape removal less painful.
  2. On the day of your infusion center visit, don’t put heavy lotion on the area over the port site, it makes the nursing staff have to scrub harder and the opsite more difficult to stick to the skin.
  3. We have some folks who still experience a lot of pain each time their port is accessed, but those are rare. When the port is first placed, just know it’s still tender and swollen, but it will get better. If you’re afraid of the pain when the port is accessed, there is a cream called Emla that can be put over the port itself on the skin. Put a little dab on the port site and cover with plastic and wait about an hour. It is a prescription only, so you’ll have to ask your physician to write a prescription, and you should know that it’s expensive, but an option if pain is an issue for you. Another more cost effective option is to ask the infusion center if they have a product called Pain-Ease spray, which is a cold spray that the nurse uses to numb the site and then place the stick. If the infusion center has this, it will save patients a lot of cost.
  4. Depending on the treatment, give yourself 2-3 hours for your visit. Bring your favorite book, or electronic device. Some infusion centers have magazines and books; some have a television at each center, but not all. Most infusion centers will offer snacks and drinks, but not cafeteria service. However, you can feel free to bring your own snacks or food– just be mindful of particularly smelly foods that can affect those suffering already from nausea.
  5. While on the topic of medical etiquette, there are a few things your nursing staff would like you to know. We don’t always get to say this to the patients who visit our center, but here are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s OK to have your cell phone if you need to make a quick call or need to let someone know where you are, but don’t use your infusion center time to catch up with every family member or friend you have – while on speaker phone. Be quiet, discrete and considerate of others. Also strong perfumes – cancer patients are sensitive to strong smells, and sometimes the perfume affects the nurses as well. Leave the perfume and cologne behind on infusion center day.

Finally, we want you to know that we do care about you. We become attached to our patients, and I have several that are very close to my heart. We celebrate their improving health, and mourn like family when their health takes a turn for the worse. We are there for you through this journey, cheering you on each step of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are some clothing options to cover my port?

When considering clothing options during any kind of treatment that requires a port, it’s important to remember not to choose any articles of clothing that bind or restrict excessively, to prevent any damage to the line.

If you want to detract away from the visibility of the port, choose clothing options that are patterned to help camouflage the area. For women, consider fabrics that drape loosely around the neckline, or have pin tucks, gathers or small pleats. For men, a t-shirt worn under a button up shirt helps to smooth out the area.

If you prefer, there are garment manufacturers that make clothing pieces that are attractive, functional and allow for easy access to a variety of port locations. Here are some options that are available online:

The craft and handmade site Etsy features a number of adaptive clothing alternatives via a search of “adaptive clothing for chemo.” Here is one example.

The key is to find clothing that you can feel comfortable and confident wearing, while still keeping the area of the port uncompromised. As with many daily activities a patient with a significant illness encounters, doing what works best for you, while still maintaining comfort is the goal.

Karen’s Story

Karen was battling breast cancer for the third time after a six-year remission. She came to Baird Vascular Institute for the implantation of her port for chemotherapy. Here is her story, and how Baird helped her.

“Breast cancer runs in my family. My mom, two of my grandmothers and one of my great grandmothers had it. I am a two-time breast cancer survivor and now a three-time breast cancer fighter. I have to keep a positive attitude. I’m definitely in this to win this and I will beat this again. “

What has helped you this time?

One thing that has helped me tremendously is a book I read by Barry Seigel titled Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients. It taught me to embrace the attitude of other people who have the will to fight and to live.”

Was VCU Baird convenient for you?

Another thing that has been important to me this time around is my relationship and experience with VCU Medical Center, including the VCU Baird Vascular Institute (BVI). The convenient location (of Baird) is great. The fact that I could go to this particular location for this procedure was fantastic. I didn’t have to go to the hospital and deal with all the confusion and hassle of parking and making my way to the right floor. The location really was key.

Was there one staff member at VCU Baird who stood out?

Richard, my nurse, was my primary contact through the whole process. I experienced great telephone contact prior to the appointment, and when Richard greeted me at the front desk, he was warm and welcoming, very thorough and he made me feel at ease. Richard explained how the procedure would be different, and was reassuring and straightforward. He even called to check on me, which is something I found out he does as a matter of course for every patient. Richard rocked.”

Patients like Karen are why the team at BVI works so hard to take care of our patients. Thank you, Karen, for your story and keep up the fight! Want to share your story? Email us at bairdvascularinstitute@mcvh-vcu.edu or give us a call, (804) 828-2600.