‘You Have Cancer’: What To Do When You Hear These Words, for Yourself or a Loved One

‘You Have Cancer’: What To Do When You Hear These Words, for Yourself or a Loved One

By Joanna Morgan MSN, RN, OCN & Joselyn Hayes BSW, CSW

For over 35 years, we’ve been helping people and their families through the many emotions and challenges that change their lives after hearing these three words. I’m Joanna Morgan, an oncology nurse navigator and I’m Joselyn Hayes, an oncology social worker, at Bryan Medical Center.

While each person and every situation is different, there are some strategies that seem to help everyone. We hope sharing these will help you – whether you’re the one receiving a cancer diagnosis or it’s a loved one.

What Do You Do When You Hear the Words “You Have Cancer”?

Breathe. Surround yourself with people you love. Allow others to help and support you.

Most people ask, why me? Most people wonder if they have done something to cause the cancer and come up with ideas of why it occurred. If you are having these thoughts you are not alone. Cancer is not a punishment for things you did or didn’t do. Blaming yourself doesn’t help and often makes you feel worse. It’s almost impossible to know exactly what caused the cancer. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself now, both your body and your mind.

Ways You Can Help Someone With a Cancer Diagnosis

When someone we care about is diagnosed with cancer, we want to help but often don’t know what to do or say.

According to the American Cancer Society, people with strong emotional support tend to adjust better to the changes that cancer brings to their lives, have a more positive outlook and report a better quality of life.

Here are some ways you can provide support:

Keep in Touch

  • Write, text, email or call often (try to keep it short) – this lets the person know you are thinking of them.
  • Call at times that work best for your friend.
  • Be available: When your friend calls or texts you, answer right away.

Visit

  • Call before you visit, and be understanding if your friend doesn’t feel well enough to visit.
  • Keep the visit short: understand they may be too tired to actively participate.
  • Don’t be afraid to touch, hug or shake hands.

Know What to Say (And Do)

  • Listen. Allow your friend to honestly share how they are feeling (good, bad or ugly).
  • Give advice only when asked. Don’t urge your friend to fight the cancer if that is not their goal, offer treatment suggestions or share negative stories from your experiences with others who have gone through cancer treatment.
  • Support your loved one’s treatment decisions.
  • Remember the caregiver and seek ways to support and help this person.
  • Stay connected throughout the entire treatment process and beyond – checking in regularly over time is very helpful and meaningful.
  • Let your friend know “we’ll get through this together.”

Know What Not to Say

  • “Everything is going to be fine.” We are often tempted to say it will be fine, but this can make the person with cancer feel like you’re unwilling to talk about the realities and challenges of a cancer diagnosis.
  • “You’ve got the good kind of cancer.” There is no ‘good kind’. Any cancer diagnosis causes fear and changes a person’s life.
  • Nothing at all. Say something, anything. It’s okay to admit you don’t know what to say. What’s most important is starting a conversation.
  • “Let me know how I can help.” People rarely reach out and ask for help. They are exhausted emotionally and physically and don’t have the energy to think about what you can do, and even if they did it’s hard for most people to ask for help. Instead offer concrete ideas of ways you can help, and when your friend takes you up on your offer, make sure you follow through!

How to Help

  • Offer to run errands – get groceries, pick up prescriptions or help transport to and from appointments.
  • Make meals or help coordinate meal drop offs from other friends.
  • Help with tasks – cleaning their house, lawn care, babysitting, pet sitting, walking the dog.

Ways the Bryan Cancer Program Can Help

At Bryan, we have specially trained nurses and social workers to help you and your family through each step of your cancer care. Our oncology certified nurse navigators can help you through all aspects of your cancer care, and especially decisions about treatment.

Oncology social workers have expertise to help you navigate the emotions, financial and insurance concerns, and other areas related to receiving the care you need.

We’re here for you – to support and help you with compassion and expertise, to relieve some of the stress and uncertainty in your life. And to help you determine and navigate your best course of treatment.

You are Not Alone. We’ll Travel This Road Together.

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming – the emotions, the unknown, the decisions. At Bryan, our specialty trained nurses and social workers are here to help you and your family through each step of your cancer care.

Talk to your doctor about a referral to this Bryan oncology nurse navigator and social worker program. This is a free service for our patients.

Joanna Morgan MSN, RN, OCN

Joanna Morgan MSN, RN, OCN

Oncology Nurse Navigator

Joselyn Hayes BSW, CSW

Joselyn Hayes BSW, CSW

Oncology Social Worker

Darting Memories

Darting Memories

Being a retired educator, our poor grandkids have learned I always have a lot of questions about school. I tend to ask what classes they are taking, who their teachers are and what topic they are studying in a particular class. I also ask about tests, their projects and grades. I guess my questions come with the territory of my professional life.

All of the grandkids have used me as a topic or reference in one class or another, and they love asking me questions. Heck, they have probably also used me as a class project I’m not even aware of like “Things not to do when you get older” or “Why do older adults not understand their phones?”

Finding Out More

I knew our grandson was taking a literature class this semester. He’s not a huge reader, so I wanted to know how he was doing. I couldn’t remember if he was taking a Holocaust Literature class or the Sci-fi Literature class, since both are great opportunities to get students involved. He responded by saying he was taking the Sci-fi Lit class. Next question, “Who’s your teacher?” As my retirement years keep growing, I know fewer and fewer teachers. I have found my influence with the kids or their teachers is waning. Probably a good thing on everyone’s behalf. Next question, “Do you like it?” He said it was OK for an English class. I thought to myself, “BONUS!” I know he won’t read “War and Peace” soon, but a positive response was a thrill to hear.

Next question, “What are you reading?” I could tell he was deep in thought for a second. In my mind I’m thinking, the kid has no idea what he’s reading? Doesn’t he go to class every day? Is he not participating in any class discussion because he’s not reading the book? Why the hesitancy? Following the sci-fi theme, is this kid really an alien who has been taken the body over my grandson?

Memories Come Darting Back

Two seconds passed and my grandson looks at me with a twinkle in his eye and he hit his chest four times and made some whistling sounds. What the heck was this? Are they teaching sound effects in sci-fi class? I thought for two seconds. I then asked if the novel he was reading was “Frankenstein” written by Mary Shelley. He smiled at me. Telepathically, we recalled the time all four grandkids watched the movie “Young Frankenstein” at our house.

We watched the movie during one of our movie dates at our house. “Young Frankenstein” has always been one of my favorite movies, so of course I wanted to share this unique experience with them. Both my grandson and I started slapping our chests making the whistling sound. This is the scene when the police chief pretends to throw the darts at the dart board. The chief actually puts the darts into his wooden arm. The chief made a whistling sound with his mouth imitating the darts going through the air and striking the dart board.

Reliving Memories Together

Soon, the other grandkids caught on and joined in the charade. The five of us had a great time sharing our experience with their parents and grandpa. It was a fun reminder of how we’ve enjoyed connecting in the past. One of our granddaughters then commented they liked the “Young Frankenstein” movie, however, she was really freaked out by the movie, “The Crows.” The Crows?? The rest of us looked at each other in a confused state of not being able to recall the movie. She talked about the scene which really scared her. It was when the crows were in the school yard attacking the kids running down the street. I quickly realized she was talking about the movie, “The Birds.” What a hoot, and I laughed till I cried.

The grandkids haven’t been over to see a movie in a couple of years, so to have them recall some of those memories was a thrill for me and, hopefully, for them. It was a reminder to me that the memories I hope to create may or may not have a long term connection with my grandkids, but when it does, it sure is great.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Becoming More Intentional in Life

Becoming More Intentional in Life

During many of my leadership lessons, my students and I often discuss how important creativity is. In most instances, students believe creativity is a skill they have lost. So, I recently began teaching a leadership unit focused solely on creativity.

I started planning many activities around not only embracing the creativity each student has, but challenging each student to further enhance their creativity as well. I have activities planned from seeing the world through shapes, doodling, researching personality traits, inspiring others, taking a gratitude walk and spending ten minutes in complete silence.

The Importance of Being Intentional

The whole purpose of the unit is being intentional in finding ways to enhance one’s creativity. As I started thinking, the word “intentional” kept creeping up in my mind. I decided I needed to take the challenge along with my students to be more intentional.

With the busyness of the winter season at both home and school, I decided I would model intentionality by spending 15 minutes in stillness for the next 30 days. I suggested to my students that they all pick out a notebook to write or doodle in. The ultimate goal of the project is to connect to our inner creativity.

Practicing What You Preach

I wanted something more than a doodle book, therefore I started searching for something as a visible reminder to be intentional about my time of quietness. The idea came to me quite quickly. Six years ago, I kept a little gratitude book that I carried with me at all times. I was intentional in writing down the little blessings, and I also added meaningful pictures and inspiring Bible verses.

Due to the number of times we looked through it, the pages were torn and the edges were bent. However, the book was filled with love. I made this little gratitude book for two years, but I stopped making my little gratitude books. Looking back, I realized the busyness of life just took over. It also just seemed natural to have pictures on my laptop and on an external hard drive. I told myself I would print them out someday. Someday turned into some month which ultimately turned into never.

Make a Visual Record of What You’ve Learned

The visual reminder of my intentionality is simple—create a little gratitude book. During those 15 minutes of intentional stillness, I am going to record in words and pictures the joys in my life. My little book with those torn pages and bent edges will be moments of joy and moments I do not want to forget.

Ultimately, I hope modeling intentionality for the next 30 days with a visible end product to share with my senior students will encourage them to unlock their creativity. These quiet moments, however, will go beyond enhancing my creativity skills. These moments will allow me to pause, reflect and be thankful for all of my blessings.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Just the phrase “parent-teacher conference” makes me anxious. However, this last experience was a positive one. Typically, parent-teacher conferences happen either right before or right after report cards. And with grades in the picture, the stakes are raised.

That means it’s worthwhile to make the most of the short time you have to meet with the teacher, and it’s also reasonable to expect that the teacher is prepared to discuss your child in a meaningful way.

Some have been more successful than others, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the preparation beforehand that makes the difference.

Worry Leads to Joy

Like most parent-teacher conferences I worry, as the last few experiences haven’t been positive. Going into this year, I was expecting the typical: Cohen’s reading isn’t grade level, he’s getting upset very easily, he’s becoming anxious, he’s needing to go the office, and so on. Those have been his critiques for the past three years.

But boy was I surprised during this year’s conference. Cohen’s teacher had nothing but good things to say about him. The way she described him and her attitude towards him gave me goosebumps. You could see her overall joy when talking about Cohen. She talked about his wonderful personality, his willingness to help, and his compassion towards others. She made the executive decision to stop the score sheet he had to bring home every day because he continuously got a perfect score. She was shocked that he needed to do those sheets for the last three years.

Sure, she addressed his reading and his anxiety when taking tests, but she was proud of his determination and his willingness to participate despite his lack of confidence when it comes to reading. Lastly, she hoped her son, who is 6 months old, will have Cohen’s characteristics when he’s that age. This comment brought tears to my eyes. I have never left a conference feeling so proud and excited for him like I have in this class with this teacher!

It’s All in the Preparation

This last conference made me realize that there are different ways to prepare. I’d like to offer a few tips on how you, as a parent, can get the most helpful information from your child’s parent-teacher conference.

I purposely choose the last conference of the night. That way if we go long, I’m not holding up anyone else. If I can, I don’t bring my children. That way I can bring up things that I want to say that I wouldn’t say in front my child and vice versa.

As hard as it is, I try and come with an open mind. As a parent, I have to remind myself of this often, but my children’s grades and behavior are not a reflection of who I am as a person. They have free will and will make mistakes and decisions that I don’t approve of, but It doesn’t make me a bad parent.

Ask the Teacher Questions

I also bring specific questions or concerns and not the typical, “So how’s my kid doing in your class?” Since we only have a few minutes to talk, I’d like to know right away which areas are of concern.

If your child is unhappy in school, you may be the emotional dump at home who hears about all the things that went wrong during the day. That’s what I hear from Cohen most days. I don’t get to witness my children having fun with their friends at lunch or answering a question that stumped everyone else in the class. I learned that we needed to focus and build on these little victories together.

Lastly, tell the teacher what works well at home and what you need help with. I often feel like I’m on my own once my children get home, but teachers often have tips that may help studying and getting organized at home go more smoothly too.

Now that I know a few tricks of the trade, I am less anxious for these conferences. I feel that Cohen is growing and learning in third grade. I love that his teacher was so open and honest with me, and I’m glad she is willing to work with him and for him. I trust in her and am so happy she is teaching my child because Cohen is starting hate school a little less.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

On the Road to a Healthy Heart: Dr. Keith Miller Takes His Own Advice

On the Road to a Healthy Heart: Dr. Keith Miller Takes His Own Advice

I started thinking a lot about my heart health because, at 52 years old (holy crap!), I have come to terms with the reality that I am not immune to the disease that I attempt to PREVENT and TREAT every day as a cardiologist. In short, I have been confronted with my own vulnerability.

So far, thank goodness, I haven’t had any health issues, but I want to be honest with myself and deal with my own future risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death.

Plus, there are a lot of people like me out there who are getting a little “middle-age-ish,” who may not fully appreciate their risk of cardiovascular disease.

So I thought it would be interesting, educational and perhaps inspirational to share my own personal experience of going through a risk assessment and trying to reduce my risk of heart and vascular disease. I’m focusing on lifestyle changes, but also evaluating whether I am a candidate for prescription medications (such as statins) to reduce my risk.

I had lab work done to find out my cholesterol levels and a coronary calcium scan to help define my risk. And, I have calculated my 10-year risk.

I also signed up for the Good Life Halfsy because I needed a goal to motivate me to exercise!

Identifying Your (and My) Risk for Heart Attack or Stroke

Using only a few, easily obtained pieces of information about your health, you can find out whether you’re on the right track or need some serious lifestyle intervention. You can determine if a little improvement in your diet and exercise program is enough, or whether you may benefit from a medication to lower your blood pressure or your cholesterol level.

If you are in your:

  • 50s or 60s – Age alone becomes a very important risk factor for heart disease. Even if you’re seemingly healthy you may be at risk. Let’s face it, cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, stroke and heart failure are extremely common and we are all at risk to one degree or another.
  • 40s – You aren’t off the hook, and depending on other risk factors, blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medications may help you.

Taking a Dose of My Own Medicine

I recently did my own cardiovascular health assessment.

Here are my stats:

  • 52-year-old white male
  • Total cholesterol – 255 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol – 71 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol – 168 mg/dL
  • Systolic blood pressure – 110 mmHg
  • Non-smoker
  • Non-diabetic without hypertension

My 10-year risk of having a heart attack or stroke was 3.2%. Not too bad!

I was a little disappointed that my LDL cholesterol was 168 mg/dL, which is definitely higher than I would like. A little improvement in my diet and exercise should do the trick to fix this.

If that 10-year risk number had been 5% or more, with other risk factors like family history, I might have considered going on a cholesterol medicine.

What Can Be Measured Can Be Managed

The point is, heart attack and stroke risk can be measured. And what can be measured can be managed. Lifestyle changes and blood pressure or cholesterol treatment have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease in people with elevated risk.

The question is, are you one of those people? Don’t wait to find out!

Find Out Your Risk & Take Action if Needed

If you don’t know your cholesterol numbers or you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, talk to your doctor or consider taking part in a health screening offered by Bryan Health.

Find out if you’re at risk with our helpful cardiovascular risk estimator!

The next health screening where you can find out your cholesterol levels, A1c and other important health information is:

Thursday, Nov. 21, 7-9 a.m.

Bryan LifePointe Campus, 7501 S. 27th St.

To learn more and register, click below!

Other Free Risk Assessments

HeartAware

Offered by Bryan Health

Find out your heart age, risk for heart disease and steps you can take to improve your heart health.

If you are at risk, you can choose to have a free consultation with a nurse to discuss ways to improve your heart health.

My Life Check

Offered by the American Heart Association

Get a heart health score with recommendations to make improvements and track your progress.

Remember to Exercise!

Staying active is important for all of us, and any amount you do is helpful to your heart health. It doesn’t have to be a half-marathon! If you’re wondering how my training is going, here’s a photo of me after finishing this year’s Good Life Halfsy. I’m getting there!!

dr miller at the good life halfsy finish line

Let’s Improve our Heart Health Together

I hope you’ll join me so we can improve our heart health together. Take the screenings to find out your risk. Look for ways to improve your daily lifestyle. And, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it!

I invite you to follow me and see more videos and blogs to inspire you to better health.

Dr. Keith Miller, MD

Dr. Keith Miller, MD

Health Expert

Dr. Keith Miller, MD, is a cardiologist with Bryan Heart.

Dressing Up Never Gets Old

Dressing Up Never Gets Old

I love the fall and especially enjoy the Halloween season. When my grandkids were little, I volunteered to be the witch in residence at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Maybe I wasn’t the witch in residence, but I read books to any kids who happened to stop by my chair.

It was a wonderful experience, especially when my grandkids showed up for story time. Despite my makeup and costume, they knew exactly who I was. When our grandson saw me, he yelled “Hi, Grandma!” Needless to say, those words caused a little confusion with the kids I was reading to. I let out a cackle and brought everyone back into the groove.

A Growing Costume Collection

After several years of reading at the Zoo, enjoying the interaction and getting my little kid fix, I handed my books over to the next witch. I did not, however, turn in my witch’s costume. Over the years, I collected many costumes, including our daughters’ numerous dance costumes. Some are worse for the wear, but I’ve still held on to them. I used costumes and hats as props for introducing concepts at staff meetings and to participate in student theme days.

It’s not the spotlight I crave, but the laughter I can generate. I think I always had more fun than either staff or students had. I may have become a bit overzealous as I probably have too many costumes and hats. The hats and costumes each have their own storage bins and do take up a tad bit of room in our basement.

Grandma to the Halloween Rescue

Enough background of my costume fetish. A week before Halloween, one of our grandkids called. I always think when I get a call, it’s because they want to talk to me. It’s so cute when they call, “Hi Grandma. How are you?” “Hi Grandma. What are you up to?” “Hi Grandma…” then, they have a follow up question, which is why they actually called.

This call was a request for cowboy gear. Yes, one of our granddaughters was going to a party, which had a Western theme. Did I have any hats, shirts, skirts, boots? I detected desperation in her voice, and I determined the party was the next weekend. Yep, but better late than never.

Bringing Joy With One More Costume

I did an inventory. Yes, we did have some items which might work for her. Hats, shirts, boots and bandanas were all available for her use. I took pictures and sent them to her. What would work and what wouldn’t work for her party. She picked out a few things and tried them on. Score another point in the win column thanks to the costume store in a corner of our basement.

It always brings a smile to my face when you can deliver for your grandkids. Maybe that’s why I try to watch my diet, chase the Pickleball and listen to my doctor. I just know these costumes may someday be needed for my great grandkids.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Traveling Through Life with My Squad

Traveling Through Life with My Squad

The group text message went like this:

“Okay squad…I am 95% sure I want a tat. Who also needs one? I need my squad for moral support to get me through the door.”

“I am definitely out for the tattoo, but can be there for moral support.”

“I am in!!! I want one with my Dad’s handwriting.”

“I might consider it!”

“I will support. But out on the ink for me.”

I am an introvert and a private person. Being around crowds is very overwhelming to me, my anxiety rises and I tend to find myself conversing with only a few people whom I feel comfortable with. This may come as a surprise to some since I am surrounded by students, adults and other colleagues all the time in my career.

Forming My Squad

Believe me, throughout the many stages of life, I have tried to include everyone in everything. But I also realize that due to my introvertedness, it may be hard to get to know me and I can come off as unfriendly at times. And having people think I am unfriendly causes me additional stress. This is why my circle of friends is so important to me, especially during this stage of life.

Ten years ago our squad had one thing in common: our daughters’ softball team. Eventually, at the games, we started sitting by each other, sharing snacks, and learning about each other’s likes and dislikes. Over the course of ten years we have celebrated new additions to families, mourned the deaths of parents, shared hysterectomy stories and gone on family vacations.

Friends Through Thick & Thin

So naturally, I turned to my squad to find the courage to get a tattoo (or talk me out of it). Yet, what I appreciate about our squad is that there is definitely always a gathering place, we show constant support for all of our kids, we can laugh to “make it all better,” and we respect the silence that helps bond and grow all relationships.

Every stage of life brings new adventures, challenges, stories and milestones. While we travel through each of these stages, the best part is having a squad by your side for the journey.

There are those friends that come into our life journey for a short distance or even get out at the first stop sign. While others are there for the long haul and walk your journey with you. The softball moms could’ve sensed my closed nature and quickly jumped out at the first stop sign and given up on me long, long ago. But they didn’t—they all stayed in the vehicle, and I am incredibly thankful to be on this ride together.

Enjoying Every Bit of the Ride

This year is special. This year is hard. This year four of us have high school seniors. Two moms have kids who have already graduated, two moms are experiencing graduation for the first time, and another smiles and cries along with us and is trying to figure out how she will do this next year. Senior year is hard not only for the child, but also for the parents. We have spent our entire parenting years preparing our kids for their next journey, but we want to hold onto them and keep them in our homes just a little longer.

Yet, if it was not for our daughters, we would not be the friends or better yet, the family we are today. Each of us has our own joys, frustrations and insecurities, but we also bring our own perspectives and insight about life and the journey we are on. In the end, we all know we are still loved and we will be there for each stop along the way.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

I Share Too Much

I Share Too Much

“I know you, and I haven’t even met you.”

Lately, several bloggers I follow have written about issues of privacy and what they are willing to reveal about themselves in their blogs. I am an over-sharer, especially with friends. I reveal everything in real life, but I am more hesitant online and I try to retain some vagueness.

What You See Is What You Get

When I started writing for this blog, it was an exercise in public writing. I have, over the last several years, been open about my flaws, struggles and family issues. I’ve willingly allowed the blog to become a collection of personal essays. I try to be protective of the people in my life, but write about aspects of our lives together. I regard very few things as sacred—I am an open book.

I assume that I am not unique and that my experiences and feelings have been felt by many other humans. Commenters have said that they admire my openness and honesty, but it is less about those virtues than the fact that I like to live my life the easiest way possible. I want to be the “What You See is What You Get” version of myself online, because it’s easier. People who know me offline are rarely surprised by anything that I post. Recently, however, I think I overshared. There’s such a fine line between presenting the authentic you and sharing too much.

The Downside to Oversharing

In a recent blog, I discussed how important communication is with your spouse, as every married couple knows! However, my husband and I have been so busy, our communication has been lacking, resulting in built up anger and frustration. Lately, we’ve been having arguments and they never get resolved. We yell and go to bed angry and never talk about it, or at least it doesn’t get brought up for a good couple of weeks.

Well, the past fight had been eating away at me and I overshared with a bunch of friends and on social media. I divulged deep and embarrassing details from our marriage. At the time it made me feel better to talk about my feelings, but I realized after I shared these intimate details that I needed to talk to my husband instead of my friends. When these details came up at a group outing with my husband, I knew he was hurt.

Knowing When Enough Is Enough

In today’s world, communication that used to entail my best friend through a private pipeline is now something posted, tweeted and pinned. I decided I probably should make time to be a spouse, parent, take a shower, and occasionally talk to my husband. If I would have just talked to him in the first place — not during the argument, but set a time to talk — my oversharing may not have happened.

The beauty of blogging, and the thing that sets blogging apart from other forms of Internet marketing, is that it is personal and relational. Thus, I pride myself in being real and authentic, and to tell stories that other women can relate to. I just need to make sure that I strike that balance between sharing without oversharing and letting everyone see the real me, flaws and all.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

The Surprising Risk of Sepsis for Pregnant Women, New Moms and Newborns – What You Need to Know

The Surprising Risk of Sepsis for Pregnant Women, New Moms and Newborns – What You Need to Know

As an infectious disease pharmacist and member of Bryan’s Sepsis Committee, I have seen many cases of infections and sepsis in many different patients. I specialize in getting the right antibiotics to patients with severe infections like sepsis, and work mostly with adult patients.

Now that I’m a father and we are expecting again very soon, I started looking deeper into the risk of sepsis for pregnant women and newborns. And, I was surprised at what I found.

Infections are a Serious Risk for Pregnant Women and Newborns

Thanks to improved prenatal care, most pregnancies and deliveries happen without complications. However, infections are still a serious risk for pregnant women, new moms and newborns. In fact, recent data shows an increase in sepsis-related deaths for pregnant women in the United States.

Newborn sepsis remains a leading cause of death among infants. There are two times sepsis can occur in infants:

  • Before a baby is 72 hours old, called early-onset sepsis. This is usually the result of viruses or microorganisms passed from the mom to the baby in-utero or during delivery. The incidence of this type of sepsis has decreased considerably since the 1990s due to new health screenings for pregnant women
  • After a baby is 72 hours old, called late-onset sepsis. This is usually the result of viruses or microorganisms acquired in the environment or through invasive procedures

What Exactly is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. Basically, it’s when your body “over-reacts” to an infection. This can cause your organs (i.e. heart, kidney, liver, lungs, etc.) to fail, and can lead to death. Sepsis can be thought of as the sickest a person can get from an infection. Lots of people get infections, but not everyone develops sepsis. Some people are at a higher risk of developing sepsis than others.

What Can Increase Your Risk of Pregnancy-Related Sepsis?

Many of the risks are associated with the individual person and the type of pregnancy, such as:

  • Have never delivered a baby before (called nulliparity)
  • Currently pregnant with or recently delivered twins, triplets, etc. (called multiple gestations)
  • African American race

Others are associated with the type of delivery or medical therapies, such as:

  • Cesarean-section delivery (i.e., C-section)
  • Assisted reproductive technologies (i.e., artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, etc.)

What Can Increase the Risk of Sepsis in Newborns?

Some are associated with mom:

  • A common bacteria called Group B Streptococcus (GBS), most of the time this is not harmful but it can cause a severe infection in some newborns
  • Inflammation of membranes surrounding the baby due to bacterial infection (this is called chorioamnionitis)
  • Currently pregnant with or recently delivered twins, triplets, etc. (called multiple gestations)

Some are associated with the birth:

  • Prelabor rupture of membranes (occurs when the amniotic sac breaks before labor begins)
  • Prolonged rupture of membranes (over 18 hours)
  • Preterm birth (defined as a birth before 37 weeks)
  • Low birth weight

Some are associated with procedures after birth:

  • Invasive procedures such as a cervical stitch
  • Prolonged use of antibiotics
  • Prolonged use of a catheter inside the baby’s body
  • Ventilator associated pneumonia

What are the Warning Signs of Sepsis?

The signs and symptoms are different for moms and babies. It’s important to know the warning signs and seek care immediately. The sooner you or your loved one receives care, the better the chance for a full recovery.

Sepsis symptoms in pregnant women or new moms:

  • Shivering, fevers, shakes or very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort (feel the “worst you have ever felt”)
  • Pale or discolored, or clammy/sweaty skin
  • Sleepy, difficulty waking up, confused
  • “I feel like I might die”
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased urination

Sepsis symptoms in newborns:

  • “Just not looking right”
  • Unusually sleepy, lethargic or difficult to wake up
  • Unusually irritable, inconsolable
  • Not feeding or eating normally, vomiting
  • Less than three wet diapers or stools in a day
  • Fever or hypothermia (low temperature)
  • Shivering, shaking or poor muscle tone
  • Respiratory distress (not breathing right)
  • Abdominal distention or bloating
  • Bulging fontanel (soft spot on a baby’s head)
  • Unexplained jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Blood in stools

Take Action

If you see a combination of the above symptoms and suspect sepsis, or just feel like something isn’t right, call your doctor or go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY. It’s important to say “I’m concerned about sepsis”. The sooner treatment is started, the better chance you or your loved one has of surviving and making a full recovery.

When caught early, immediate administration of IV antibiotics and fluids can be all you need to make a full recovery. The longer someone delays getting treatment for sepsis, the greater the likelihood that the person will have severe complications such as kidney failure requiring dialysis or problems taking care of themselves (such as walking by yourself, bathing, brushing your teeth, etc.). It can even lead to death.

Be Informed, Tell Others – Let’s Raise Awareness and Save Lives

As an infectious disease pharmacist, treating sepsis and letting others know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sepsis is my job. As a new father and husband, it’s my passion.

Sepsis is always a serious condition. The sooner signs and symptoms are recognized and treatment is sought, the better chance to save a life. Every patient is somebody’s loved one, and now that I’ve got two little ones depending on me, I feel even more responsibility to make sure people understand how serious and common sepsis actually is.

Prevention of pregnancy-related and newborn sepsis starts with good prenatal care, good hygiene and frequent handwashing. Bacteria and viruses are naturally found on surfaces and easily spread by unwashed hands.

I urge you to tell everyone you know about the signs and symptoms of sepsis as well as the ways to prevent it. With your help, we can increase awareness of sepsis so people will seek treatment sooner, and lives will be saved.

Learn More About Sepsis

To learn more about sepsis, listen to our Bryan Health podcast. Bill Johnson, MD, Nebraska Pulmonary Specialties, tells you how to spot sepsis, and how early diagnosis and treatment can be lifesaving.

Kevin Sponsel

Kevin Sponsel

Infectious Disease Pharmacist

Kevin Sponsel is an infectious disease pharmacist and a member of Bryan Health’s Sepsis Committee.

Blow Us All Away

Blow Us All Away

It’s no secret that the Broadway show Hamilton played in Omaha during September. I first became interested in the show when it won every Tony Award in 2016. My enthusiasm grew even more when a graduate of Lincoln North Star had a role in the Hamilton touring company in Chicago.

Traveling and seeing the show in Chicago was not in our budget, so I had to experience her performance vicariously through friends. When I learned Hamilton was coming to Omaha, I was thrilled and knew we had to attend.

A Night Out at the Theater

The fun began when I told our grandkids we were planning on attending Hamilton. Wouldn’t it be thrilling if all four of the grandkids could go with us? Immediately, our grandson opted out for sports. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised. The three remaining kids were thrilled and wanted to join us.

Unfortunately, two of them are in college and would not be able to return to Lincoln for the show. The final granddaughter was excited. The bonus was this particular granddaughter was about to have a birthday, so a night on the town was the perfect gift. My sister learned of our plans and wanted to join us as well, which meant four were now going. We were giddy with anticipation as we began making plans to enjoy a pre-show meal and the show. The date was agreed upon and tickets were bought.

Prepping By Getting to Know the Music

Weeks before attending the show, we all agreed to take turns listening to the CD to better understand the lyrics. But our granddaughter had been listening to the sound track on her phone for over a year. She also encouraged us to listen and even gave us a synopsis of the Alexander Hamilton story. We all agreed and it was indeed helpful.

We watched the show in awe of the dancing, silently singing each of the songs, and basically, the entire story. It truly was everything we had anticipated and more. After the show, the four of us talked about our favorite songs, favorite characters and favorite scenes. We each had different favorites, but all agreed the show was perfect.

We also loved the idea of combining so any different music genres into one show. I remarked I had never had rap as my “go to” music genre. Our granddaughter gently suggested to me the reason I’ve never liked rap was because I never knew what words were being rapped. She was right, of course!

Similarities to Today’s Politics

Our discussion moved beyond sharing our favorites. We started talking about how much of the story had never been taught in school. We never really knew the politicians in Hamilton were so backstabbing, aggressive, didn’t listen to other opinions and believed the party agenda should always be first. Our granddaughter commented on the similarities to what’s happening in Washington, DC today, and it seemed to her we haven’t learned many lessons from our country’s early history.

The show was the highlight, but an equally rare highlight was rapping with our granddaughter. I doubt she would call what I was doing as rapping. She even let me cheat by reading the lyrics. Not sure when we’ll have a rapping duet again, so I’ll cherish the memories we created that night. Or maybe I need to create rapping as a new holiday tradition!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

The Senior Year To-Do List

The Senior Year To-Do List

Some combination of the following statement is often said over and over, “Don’t blink. Your children grow up way too fast, before you know it they will be a _______ (fill in the blank.)”

Here we are with a senior daughter. She did grow up way too fast. I realized I need to fasten my seatbelt because this year is flying by faster than any other year. While my husband and I are trying to be still and soak up every minute at every activity of hers, the days left until graduation keep diminishing quicker and quicker.

Preparing for Graduation Starts Now

I know we still have eight months until graduation and life beyond high school, but we will need to start checking things off of our to-do list, as I like to be prepared and our daughter takes her time in making decisions. And while our daughter is enjoying her senior year and stressing out about her dual credit classes, I pretty much need a few lessons from the book “First Time Senior Parents: How to Survive.”

I quickly remind myself of all of those rule-following, first-time parent things I messed up on the first time around, such as when to introduce fruits and vegetables or even when to allow her to jump in mud puddles. I have decided to stay away from all of those first-time senior parent books, websites and articles. We are creating our own family “graduation to-do” list with the help of our high school senior daughter.

The Graduation To-Do List

For those first-time senior parents out there, if you have no idea when this or that need to be completed, I am sharing our to-do list with you. The items listed include both to-dos for us as parents and our daughter to complete. This list is continually being added to, however, it is a great start for those of us who are graduating our first born.

In October

  • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form

By November

  • Visit final colleges one last time
  • Set a budget for the graduation celebration
  • Make senior picture final decisions
  • Finalize graduation invite list
  • Create and have graduation invites printed
  • Start filling out scholarships

By January

  • Plan decorations and table centerpieces
  • Purchase all paper products
  • Continue filling out scholarships

By February

  • Determine foods that will be served
  • Continue filling out scholarships
  • Create graduation video

During March

  • Order desserts
  • Mail out invites
  • Print out pictures that will be displayed at the graduation celebration
  • Plan out help for the day
  • Finish applying for scholarships

During April

  • Finalize foods to be served
  • Prepare grocery list
  • Finalize college choice (if our daughter has not made her decision)
  • Create picture timeline display and keep it simple
  • Determine how guests will sign in and leave an encouraging message

May

  • Thoroughly clean our house and manicure our landscape
  • With the help of Grandma Jo and others, set up for the graduation celebration
  • Celebrate our daughter’s graduation from high school

Two months into the school year, here I am with the to-do list on my devices and my seatbelt fastened. Yet, the most important to-do list that I make sure I check off daily is the written note: be still and enjoy.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

Developmental Milestones for Your Baby & Toddler: When to Relax and When to Seek Help

Developmental Milestones for Your Baby & Toddler: When to Relax and When to Seek Help

A child’s first words and first steps are memorable events – and most parents want their children to reach these and other developmental milestones ‘on time’ or to achieve them early. So it’s natural to be concerned if your little one isn’t, in your view, keeping up with these milestones. But how do you know if it’s time to truly worry?

Children don’t always meet milestones at the same time or at the age range expected. That’s okay! It’s not a big deal to miss one or two developmental milestones. These milestones should be looked at as a range for developing skills.

Preemies are a special case. Babies who are born prematurely usually will not meet milestones on time. As an example, if your baby was born two months early, he may reach four-month milestones at six months. We generally adjust milestones for premature babies until they reach age two.

That said, when children who are not preemies miss most of the milestones in their age range, it’s worth talking with your child’s doctor.

Here are some milestones and red flags that will help you know if and when to take action.

Two to Four Months Old

Motor Skills: Holding items in the hand. Pushing the upper body with support of the arms when he’s on his tummy. Pushing down on his legs when his feet are on the floor, like when he’s placed in a walker.

Cognitive Skills: Responding to voices. Following movement with his eyes and watching faces. Making some eye contact. He can give a social smile when he interacts with his caregivers.

Language Skills: He should gurgle and coo. There may be some different inflection in his vocalizations.

Red Flags: Not responding to loud noises, interacting with caregivers or visually following movement.

Six to Eight Months Old

Motor Skills: Sitting unsupported for short periods of time. Passing objects from one hand to another. Grasping at things with her whole hand. She can probably roll over.

Cognitive Skills: She has gotten better at watching things. Her eyes track side-to-side, up and down, and in circular motions. Reaching for things that are in her field of vision.

Language Skills: Responding to sounds by “talking” back. Turning toward sound sources. She may repeat syllables, like “ma-ma,” “da-da” or “ba-ba”. She’s interested in social play—a fan of peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake.

Red Flags: Stiff or tight muscles. Sloppy or ragdoll-like movement patterns. Showing no affection for caregivers. Eyes turning inward or outward. Not responding to sounds.

One Year Old

Motor Skills: Crawling. Pulling himself up to standing with the support of furniture. Taking steps with help or support. Ability to grasp finger foods. Using both hands together to pick things up. Pinching things, poking things. Shaking, banging, throwing and dropping toys. Waving and clapping.

Cognitive Skills: Imitates gestures. More engagement in social play. Extending an arm or leg to help get dressed. May show some anxiety with strangers.

Language Skills: Speaking more. Maybe using noises as names, like “mama” or “dada”. Responding to “no”. Understanding simple verbal requests

Red Flags: Dragging one side of the body while crawling. Inability to stand with support. No words. Not seeking out a caregiver when upset.

Toddlers

Motor Skills: Younger toddlers should be mobile and walking, perhaps pulling toys along. Fine motor skills like scribbling and stacking blocks.

Cognitive Skills: Identifying body parts. Pretending. Starting to categorize things.

Language Skills: Using pronouns (I, me, he, she, for example.) Naming colors and objects. Listening to short stories. Creating simple sentences.

Red Flags: Extreme clumsiness. Inability to sit still for long periods of time. Not walking yet. Oversensitivity to light, sound or movement.

Tracking Milestones and Treatment

  • Many milestone checklists are available with a simple online search
  • Make note as your child attains new skills
  • Talk to your child’s doctor if multiple milestones are missed or you notice developmental red flags

If your child is missing milestones, your child’s doctor can evaluate his or her development and guide treatment as needed. Physical therapy can help with muscle tone, while occupational therapy can help your child develop fine motor skills. Speech therapy treats language development. If you are concerned about your child’s development, talk to your child’s doctor about potential needs for a therapy specialist.

More on Child Development

Want to learn more? Listen to a 10-minute podcast with Stacey Anderson, a pediatric occupational therapist at Bryan Health:

Stacey Anderson

Stacey Anderson

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Stacey Anderson is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with Bryan Health!

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