Saturday, November 21, 2015

Making Love Once a Week Makes a Lot of Happiness

Here is an interesting bit of research on marital happiness and frequency of sex. Over the years you too have probably read articles that suggested that the more sex a couple has the happier their marriage will be. Well, maybe not.

Turns out that have sex once a week, regularly, weekly, can keep the bonds of matrimony grinning and intact. The Society for Personality and Social Psychology now confirms that marital happiness associated with having sex just once a week is just enough sex.

And it turns out that that sexy happiness is quite valuable: Investigators discovered there is a larger difference in happiness between people who had sex once a month compared to those making love once a week than there is between people with incomes in the $15,poo to $25,000 range and those in the $50,00 to $75,000 range.

So money won't make you any happier but making love will.

And in CancerLand we love having a weekly, loving goal. :)

Here is the full article:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

You Gotta Laugh

At times like these--the combination of terrorism and chemotherapy--you just gotta laugh. And you do love the people who can bring humor to the oncology center or who can make a tsunami of lasagna seem funny.

I do challenge someone in CancerLand to write a humor handbook for patients and caregivers. (We know the professionals have their own dark humor-- don't worry, it's understood and professionally appropriate.) But still, don't you wish you had a joke up your sleeve or a trick in your bag?

Now you can. I want to share this totally uncancer resource today so you can have a grin or maybe if you are the friend or caregiver you can give this to a friend in CancerLand.

"Great American Humor" by Gerd De Lay--is that little compendium of little jokes. Kind of simple puns and one-liners and the stuff that old time speakers might have used to warm up an audience. This book has 1,000 jokes, witty sayings, and one-liners.

Don't know what to bring or send? Here it is. Awkwardness prevented. The day saved. Take a look.

It will make you smile too.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hard Blessings--Jewish Ways Through Illness

When, as patients, we hear our serious diagnosis, or when we are in the depths of a painful or scary treatment we need extra help. Caregivers too have their times of feeling, “I can’t keep doing this” or “I’m going to lose all of me while he/she is sick.” They need some extra help also. 

We know about diagnosis-specific support groups, and emotional support resources but we also need spiritual help. 

This week I read a beautiful book about spiritual support during illness in the Jewish faithHard Blessings—Jewish Ways Through Illness, by Susan Kaplow offers stories and practices from Judaism that can call us back to our faith during illness.
tradition. The book,

The book is beautiful is so many ways. It is consoling, reminding, encouraging and it is also a beautiful object to keep nearby. Susan Kaplow is writer, collector and she is a visual artist. The stories by Susan and other contributors are illustrated by Susan’s artwork.

This book can also be a help and a guide for people who are not Jewish. This book offers us a powerful example of how we can each integrate our spiritual beliefs into our healing and how we live with our illness or caregiving.

The place of hard blessing touches all of us, and we can all find inspiration in this beautiful book.

Here is a link to the website for Hard Blessings-Jewish Ways Through Illness:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Triangles and the Way Out of Victim

This morning in church we prayed these words: “But only say the word and I shall be healed”, and I almost laughed out loud.

This week it was three words that words that jump-started some crucial healing for me: The Karpman Drama Triangle. That is a psycho-social theory developed by Stephen Karpman. In it he describes the cycle-- or triangle --of how we move from rescuer or persecutor to victim—always cycling through to victim, victim, victim. I stumbled on this in some unrelated
research but there it was: triangles, rescuing, blaming and victims. The very words that I needed to hear and heal.

It was perfect timing. I realized that I have the bad habit of trying to out-victim the victim in my relationship with John, and in other parts of my life as well. Karpman would simply say, “Uh huh.”

Here’s where it gets’s tricky: cancer care. People with cancer—those in the throes of chemo and surgery are kind of victim-y and cancer caregivers—those in the midst of physical and emotional exhaustion are wonderfully victim-ish, and those surrounding both of them make perfect persecutors: “You should”,  “You never should”, “You must”, “Do it this way, and “Well…”.

Cancer care is loaded with victims, rescuers and persecutors all vying for top billing: Who can be the biggest victim. We even say “cancer victim”. (Stop saying that.) It’s so easy to say, “take care of yourself first”--but in real life, and real caregiving, theory is honored in the breach. 

Maybe the Karpman Triangle can be taught to caregivers. Maybe we can give out little triangle pins as a reminder. 

Maybe I need a little triangle tattooed right on my hand. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Free Flights for Cancer Patients

Here is information to share with your family and friends in CancerLand. Tell them about the Corporate Angel Network which arranges free flights to treatment for cancer patients using empty seats on corporate jets.

Note: the flights are to get patients (and guardians if the patient is young) to treatment--not for visiting or "wish" kinds of trips. But you know, if you have elected to go to a new city for diagnosis or treatment--that's another great big cost--and a big hit to a family budget.

Corporate Angel Network is a nonprofit--its supporters are corporations that make empty seats available. There is a database of available seats and patient families can request dates, cities etc as needed. Wonderful volunteers run the match-making part of the program.

I'm placing a link below so you can read more, and please forward this post to folks you love in CancerLand.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Money in CancerLand

Yes—Money and Cancer: two great taboos that we encounter in CancerLand. 

Many of us know the feeling when we experience people turning away from us or being insensitive because they don’t know how to talk about or ask about our cancer or our loved one’s cancer.

But money is the place where most of us turn away. It’s a different kind of uncomfortable. We are reluctant to ask about prices, costs, expenses and who is willing to ask, “Can we afford this?” when the conversation is about the cancer care of a loved one? 

Our culture sets certain taboos on talking about money in general, and then mix in a crisis, a hint of death, some judgments about family issues, illiteracy around savings, spending…and you have a great big silence.

One frequent blind spot is assuming that if you have health insurance you are all set. But, and you know this if you have cancer: seeing a doctor several times a month can mean a great big bill of co-pays. You can be in debt even before chemo begins. And, what people with cancer know that those who haven’t been there is that chemo is expensive stuff. Even with so-called, “good” health insurance that’s a lot more and bigger copays every week. It adds up fast.

That silence around money and the cost of cancer care can hurt everyone: the patient, the caregivers, the kids and extended family and friends as well. Money talk is just plain fraught. But it’s crucial. And there is help –both financial help and help in how to talk about it.

CURE Magazine has published a special report called “Paying for Cancer Care.” It’s a tremendous resource and it’s free as are most of the resources they provide in the print and online publication. 
Here are some of the articles in the publication:

Financial Fix: A cancer diagnosis could break the bank, but it doesn’t have to.

Risky Business: Concerns about insurance should be addressed early.

Debt Crisis: Coping with cancer’s financial aftermath calls for creative solutions.

Money Madness: Worry about the cost of care takes an emotional toll.

That’s just a start to what is available in the special report, “Paying for Cancer Care.” 

You can see the publication and all the links online at

You should also not be shy or reluctant to talk to the financial folks at your cancer center. They have some euphemistic titles like “Financial Resource Staff” or “Financial Planner” but just come right out and ask, “Who do I talk to about how much all of this costs and how I make a plan to handle the financial side of things?” 

Don’t let money worries or thinking that that help is for other people stop you. The financial hit is one more bad side effect of cancer. But not getting the guidance will just make it a scarier family issue and it might even make you feel distant from friends. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Don't Go to the Doctor Alone

You have heard the advice but maybe, like me, you thought, “Well really, I already know what they are going to say.” Or, “I’m such a private person I don’t want someone there for such an intimate conversation.  Or maybe you are the caregiver or the patient’s good friend and you thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to intrude”, or “Isn’t her son or daughter the best person to be there?”

But this week I got a big reminder of why we want someone with us at the doctor for any big news in CancerLand. Maybe it’s the start of he process—the diagnosis meeting or the one where they will lay out the treatment plan. OR maybe later in the process and it’s time for an update. I beg you: Take someone with you. OR offer to accompany your friend.

On Tuesday I went with my friend to what we knew would be an important appointment. There had been difficulties and then a lot of tests. Something was up. Now to get the news.  She has a daughter and a son and while they will need to be in future meetings, she was going to hear news that would upset them as well.

Here’s why it’s important to have an advocate with you. My friend is very smart, super competent, manages a pretty complex life on her own, but as soon as she heard the word “cancer” from the doctor it was as if her hearing and processing decreased by at least 70 %. That’s what happens. And it wasn’t completely new news. We both knew it was going to be some kind of cancer. We had talked about it ahead of time. She had made a list of things to ask, and options, family info etc. She was very smart about the whole process. But then, sitting next to her, I could feel her mental processing drain away. But because I was there, and I had her list I was able to say, “Now Anna would like to ask you this…and this…and
wondered about that.”

And I was her scribe. I wrote it all down: the doc’s answers and the instructions he gave—the next appointments and the order in which to schedule them and when to come back and which lab for the blood work.

If you were in the room you would have thought she was getting all of it. Anna is super poised and well-spoken. And she didn’t cry or shrink. But by the time we walked to the checkout area, all of the details were gone from her head—but I had written them down—for the scheduler and for Anna and her family later.

So if you are the patient—take a friend or advocate, and if you are a good friend, insist on going along to take notes—be the research assistant or CancerLand amanuensis. It’s a fabulous service and much better than making lasagna.