5 Things Cancer Survivors Should Know About Their Mental Health

It’s normal to feel worried, sad, afraid, or even angry after being diagnosed with cancer. Some treatments for cancer also can affect your feelings or make it hard for you to concentrate or remember things.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, now is a good time to understand that mental health care is as important as caring for your physical health during and after cancer treatment.

Chemo Brain Is Real!

You may have heard about “chemo brain.” Chemo brain describes problems with thinking (cognition, memory, attention) that may occur as a result of receiving chemotherapy to treat cancer. These concerns may affect patients during or after cancer treatments. Emotional and mental health problems that survivors may face—such as depression, anxiety, stress, and trouble sleeping—can all contribute to this and make thinking and learning harder. You could have difficulty learning new facts or skills, concentrating, or remembering things during and after treatment.

It’s Important to Talk About It—Even When It’s Hard

You may feel like it’s more difficult to talk about mental health problems, or you may feel uncomfortable talking about your struggles. Maybe it’s because your family members or friends don’t talk about mental health, your cultural beliefs don’t support having mental health discussions, or you feel you should be “strong” or “brave” and keep it to yourself. Nobody is wrong for feeling one way or another, but it’s important to understand that sharing how you’re feeling mentally is just as important as sharing how you feel physically. Talk to your health care provider about how you are feeling emotionally. You may also find that support groups for cancer survivors can be helpful places where you can talk to other people with similar experiences.

Be Patient—Getting Back to “Normal” May Take Time

You may be relieved after your cancer treatment is finished, feel empowered, or have a new set of goals that you are ready to pursue. But you may also worry about life after cancer. It may take time before you are able to do some of the things you did before at work, at home, or in daily life. You may depend on other people for help more than you are used to, and you may worry about money and about your cancer coming back. If you experience these things, be patient about getting back to feeling “normal.” Be open-minded about what your “new normal” looks like—and talk to someone about it.

You Can Do Something About It…

Talk to your health care team about how you feel—not just physically, but also mentally—before, during, and after treatment. They can refer you to health care providers who can help you manage these changes. Talking to experts about ways you can adjust is very important, because mental health problems can get worse if they are ignored.

…And So Can Your Health Care Team

Your care team can assess and monitor changes in your mental health and, when indicated, link you with mental health professionals who can address concerns through talk therapy, relaxation interventions, medication, and referrals to online or in-person groups with people who may have similar experiences as you, so you know you’re not alone in going through this. Your team can also give you tips for things that might improve your mental health, like diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep.

Together, your physical and mental health care teams can help keep you as healthy as possible during this time of uncertainty and change.

By Natasha Buchanan Lunsford, PhD from the CDC website. 

Nutrition Tips During Cancer Treatments!

  1.  Beware Of Changes In Your Weight: Chemo can cause unexpected gains and losses.
  2. Go Big For Breakfast: Hunger hits harder in the morning.
  3. Change It Up: Your taste buds are going to change so experiment with food.
  4. Don’t Dodge Family: You will need family support.
  5. Colors Of The Rainbow: Be sure to fill your plate with colorful veggies and fruits.
  6. Puree: Smoothies and soups are going to be your best friend.
  7. Snack: It’s important to intake as many calories as you can.
  8. Move: It’s important to move when you can. It will boost your appetite as well.

Latest New From Bridge Breast Network!

We made the NEWS!

“Celebration of the Spirit and Soul” (an inspirational, educational breast cancer awareness visual arts exhibit) was held on March 22, 2019 at the African American Museum in Dallas, Texas. This outing resulted in a great occasion for Life Member Pat Carroll, because she reunited with a “dear friend of 40 years ago,” Ms. Jacqueline Stewart! The two worked together at ARCO Oil and Gas back when Club Sister Carroll first made Dallas her home.

Mrs. Stewart received services from the Bridge Breast Network due to having no health insurance. The Bridge Breast Network is a community partner with South Dallas BPW’s “Triple The PINK” Committee. “Triple The PINK” is one of the NANBPWC’s national projects, and Pat Carroll faithfully serves on this committee. Pat was delighted to see her longtime friend whom she met at her very first job in Dallas!”

We are so honored to have been helping so many women with breast cancer. Thank you for your kind words Jacqueline Stewart!

Healthy Eating During Treatment!

Whether you are recovering from surgery, receiving radiation, or chemotherapy, you need to continue to focus on the breast cancer. Eating well during this time has never been more important. Good nutrition will keep you strong, help rebuild tissue, allow your body to handle side effects from treatment, and potentially help fight infection.

We have a variety of patients ask us what constitutes a healthy diet. Well, it consists of a variety of foods including a lot of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains. It should give you nutrients to keep you strong while you are being treated. The goal is to eat foods that will help rebuild your tissues and keep your immune system strong. Also, foods high in protein can help tame THE side effects from treatments like chemotherapy.

It’s important to never forget meals and to eat enough calories throughout the day. Items like cottage cheese, eggs, oatmeal, and protein shakes are great options to help keep you full throughout the day. Be sure to eat small portions of food frequently and eat them slowly.

Everyone’s nutritional needs vary so we will work hard to find what’s the best meal plan for you. Eating healthy will make you feel more energetic, maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk of infection, and recover quickly.

Short-Term Side Effects of Breast Cancer Radiation.

We have a variety of patients who will need radiation therapy once they have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, we are going to discuss what are some of the short term side effects of radiation therapy.

The most common side effect is the area that receives the radiation therapy will become irritated. The area that will receive the treatment will feel more sensitive and even turn pink/red. The area will feel like a sunburn because it will potentially start to peel, blister, and even itch. Don’t forget the area can become more tender and sore. The irritation can get worse throughout your sessions, but it will get better once all treatments are completed. Another temporary side effect is if you are going to be treated near your underarms then you may loose underarm hair and you might perspire less. Woman tend to feel more fatigued as the weeks go by. However, this will elevate within a few weeks of the last treatment.

Remember, radiation therapy is given daily over weeks so it can be a bit of a time commitment. Therefore, work with your family to get a schedule in place so it doesn’t become stressful.

Here are a few things you can do to make the skin less sensitive during radiation treatment:

  • Don’t shower with hot water
  • Avoid the shower water to hit the treated area directly
  • Use fragrance-free soaps with moisturizers
  • Wear loose-fitting shirts, preferably cotton.
  • Avoid having skin-on-skin contact
  • Wear bras without an underwire
  • Try to keep your arm away from your body
  • Apply 1% hydrocortisone cream thinly over the affected area 3 times a day
  • Use a sunblock with SPF 30 or higher on the treated area
  • Apply sunblock 30 minutes before you leave your home

 

Breast Cancer Survivor!

Maria is a 49 year old single mother of two who was referred to the Bridge Breast Network (BBN) by one of our community partners. She had been experiencing sharp pains in her right breast. As the months passed, the pain grew stronger and she noticed a lumped had developed. Maria was unsure of where to turn for help because she had no insurance.
She received a diagnostic mammogram and biopsy through a grant from Susan G. Komen. It revealed a her mass which was positive for breast cancer. Maria underwent a double mastectomy and was then referred her to the BBN for further treatment. Maria was introduced to her case manager during our Breast Cancer 101 session. Her case manager who assured her the BBN would be there to see her through treatment. One week later Maria meet with the oncologist who explained her breast cancer journey was not over, but just beginning.
Maria endured 12 cycles of vigorous chemotherapy and experienced a variety of side effects including hair loss. One day while in the area, Maria and her daughter stopped by the BBN office with her daughter to show her appreciation and gratitude to the staff for their support during her time of need. Maria was assisted with a where to find a wig and even a breast prosthetics when she was at Bridge Breast Network. She was directed to Dr. Maria Gonzalez at the BBN office who helped her find the perfect wig, Maria. Afterwards, she was measured for a bra and prosthesis. Maria left the office with so much more confidence thanks to our case manager. She called later that week to let us know that she was feeling spiritually and physically better after her visit.
We save lives by providing access to diagnostic and treatment services for breast cancer to low income, uninsured and underinsured individuals. Please, let us know if you know anyone suffering from breast cancer. We are here to help.

Applying for Disability Benefits with Breast Cancer in Texas

Breast cancer its treatments can prevent you from maintaining employment. It may put you out of work for a few weeks, or indefinitely. When your illness is likely to prevent you from working for a year or longer, you can potentially qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Disability benefits can be the financial support you need to get by without employment income.

Social Security Disability Benefit Programs Available

Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration come in two forms. Qualifying medically is the same for both, but each will have its own technical requirements.

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – which is for disabled workers who have paid Social Security taxes over their employment history and who have accumulated between 20 and 40 work credits, depending on the age in which you apply. A work credit is a metric that represents how much you actually paid in taxes. Most workers earn the maximum of four work credits per year, so your employment history must typically range from five to ten years to qualify. SSDI recipients in Texas will receive Medicare 24 months after their cancer started.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – which is a support program available to low-income individuals of all ages, including disabled children and adults as well as the elderly. This program has strict income and financial asset limits, but there are no work history requirements to qualify. SSI recipients in Texas will automatically be enrolled in Medicaid.

Meeting the program requirements for SSI and/or SSDI additionally requires you either:

  • meet a Blue Book listed condition

OR

  • qualify through a residual functional capacity (RFC) analysis.

These options are the medical eligibility portion of qualifying for SSD benefits.

Medical Eligibility and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is among the Social Security Administration (SSA’s) listed disabilities, though usually only those with advanced breast cancer meet the Blue Book specifications. The Blue Book is the SSA’s manual of impairments and is used by disability examiners when they review benefit applications.

The breast cancer listing appears in Section 13.10 of the Blue Book. This listing requires advanced cancer that has spread beyond regional lymph nodes. To meet the listing, your cancer must be:

  • An inflammatory carcinoma with adhesions to the skin, chest wall, or mammary gland internal nodes

OR

  • A carcinoma that has spread, with tumors present in axillary as well as regional lymph nodes, including infraclavicular (below your clavicle) or supraclavicular (above the clavicle) lymph nodes

OR

  • A carcinoma and has returned after initial treatment and is no longer responding to available therapies

Early Stage Breast Cancer and Disability Benefits

Breast cancer in its early stages does not meet the SSA’s Blue Book requirements, but you may still be able to qualify for benefits. The SSA must look at your “activities of daily living” or ADLs and decide if your illness and required treatments make it impossible for you to work for 12 months or longer. This process is known as a residual functional capacity (RFC) analysis. Activities of daily living include your ability to sit, stand, walk, or do other household activities like cooking or cleaning.

Severe reactions to chemotherapy and radiation may cause significant daily limitations and make it impossible for you to complete everyday tasks in your personal life. These same reactions can certainly prevent you from returning to work. If you are so impaired by your cancer and treatments that you cannot work, then you may be granted benefits through an RFC analysis.

Compassionate Allowance and Metastatic Breast Cancer

While the SSA’s Blue Book listing requires particular medical evidence for documenting breast cancer with metastases, it is also important to note that the SSA understands the debilitating nature of advanced breast cancer. As such, metastatic breast cancer is among the medical conditions that qualify for expedited review under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance (CAL) program.

If you have advanced breast cancer and submit an application for benefits, your application is flagged and pushed through the review process quickly. The CAL program also minimized the medical evidence requirements in order to get your medical approval for benefits as fast as possible. You can be approved in as little as 10 days if your breast cancer has metastasized.

Applying for Benefits

The SSI and SSDI programs have separate applications. The SSDI application can be filled out online, but if you’re applying for SSI, you must participate in a personal interview with an SSA representative. SSI interviews are typically conducted at the local office. SSDI applications can be completed at the local office as well, if you choose.

Here are just a few of the SSA branch offices in Texas at which you can submit your SSI or SSDI application:

  • Abilene – 1202 E. South 11th St., Abilene, TX 79602
  • Austin – 1029 Camino La Costa, Austin, TX 78752
  • Dallas – 2530 S. Malcolm X Blvd., Dallas, TX 75226
  • Houston – 16200 Dillard Dr., Houston, TX 77040
  • Lubbock – 5826 16th St., Lubbock, TX 79416
  • Fort Worth – 819 Taylor St., Fort Worth, TX 76102
  • Odessa – 2015 E. 37th St., Odessa, TX 79762
  • San Antonio –  3438 E. Southcross, San Antonio, TX 78223

Deanna Power
Community Outreach Manager
Social Security Disability Help
857-366-7629

Food That Help Fight Cancer. Part Two.

We all know to stay away from things that hurt your body. Things like cigarettes and alcohol. We are here to tell you that cancer can start from your daily habits like your diet. It’s important to put good things in your body like superfoods

and foods that are high in antioxidants! Today, we are going to share those super foods that can keep happy and healthy.

  1. Olive Oil: This oil is high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. It’s an acid that is fatty and can help fight cancel cells.

Oleocanthal, a compound found in the oil, can kill cancer cells in as fast as 30 minutes, according to an article published in the Journal of Cellular & Molecular Oncology.

2. Tea: Especially, green tea. This is another antioxidant. There are many studies that show how this beverage can help fight. “Green tea contains compounds called catechins that may stop the growth of cancer cells and prevent cellular mutation that contribute to cancer growth,” says Mirkin.

3. Garlic: It’s the one food we know that can fight off sickness. We believe it can help those suffering from cancer too!  “Garlic’s active ingredients allicin and the enzyme allinase have strong antioxidant properties,” says Mirkin. It’s shown that those who eat more garlic have a better chance to reduce their risk of cancer.

Food That Helps Fight Cancer! Part One.

We all know to stay away from things that hurt your body. Things like cigarettes and alcohol. We are here to tell you that cancer can start from your daily habits like your diet. It’s important to put good things in your body like superfoods and foods that are high in antioxidants! Today, we are going to share those super foods that can keep happy and healthy.

“New studies have found that eating a plant-based diet, low alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy body weight significantly reduces the risk for breast cancer,” Sarah Mirkin, RD a registered dietician and nutritionist tells Bustle over email. “Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals which protect the body from cancer growth. These foods are also anti-inflammatory, which reduces cancer risk.”

Berries: “Berries are rich in ellagic acid, an antioxidant that destroy cancer causing substances and slow tumor growth,” says DR. Mirkin.

Strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are high in antioxidants, and some studies have shown that animals who ate these can reduce breast tumor volume by 60-70 percent.

2. Cruciferous Vegetables:  Vegetables in this family such as broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower can contain glucosinates. This is an ingredient that activates protective enzymes in the body that help fight off cancer.

3. Fruits and vegetables are high in beta-carotene (antioxidant) like sweet potatoes and carrots.

Foods that contain this carotenoid like sweet potatoes and squash have been linked to a lower risk of getting breast cancer as well as a greater likelihood of breast-cancer survival,

4. Fish: Foods that are high in omagas help reduce inflammation in the body.

A study published in Breast Cancer Research found that women who consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fish have a lowered risk of breast cancer, so load up on fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines to receive their benefits

5. Turmeric: This tasteless herb contains another anti-inflammatory, curcumin. It technically inhibits breast cancer growth. Throw it in your lattes, stews, and more!*

*information/studies provided by bustle.com

Managing Breast Cancer During The Holidays

We know everyone loves this time of year because you can spend it with your loved ones. However, the season can go from extremely joyful to stressful for some women and men with breast cancer. It can have to do with a variety of reasons like juggling responsibilities or social outings.

Whenever an individual is going through something as traumatic as a breast cancer diagnosis can change their perspective on priorities during this time of the year. Sometimes they will just need some quiet time and others will want to be around people more. The journey can have serious ups and downs so it’s all about taking it one day at a time.

Our three things we believe everyone should remember whenever diagnosed are acceptance, communication, and flexibility. If you or someone close to you is going through or recently completed treatment, consider these tips for helping through the holidays.

For People with Cancer:

Accept where you are.  Listen to your body. If you are feeling tired then rest. If you are feeling less social than usual know those feelings are fine.  Allow yourself to be where you are emotionally and physically.

However, if you feel you are having trouble coping, let your health care provider know. Seeking help is not a bad thing. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings.

Communicate your needs and feelings. Be open about what you need and what you want the holiday experience to be. There is no right or wrong here.

Keep your calendar open.   It’s okay to have plans in the future, but you won’t know your energy levels until the day of. Accept invitations tentatively.

Be flexible with traditions.  T It’s important to talk to your family about what the holiday season hold. Discuss what is really important to you, but to also take advantage of when your energy levels are high.

We will be discussing exceptions for friends and family next week.