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Help Increase Services to Cancer Patients by Doing What You Already Do Everyday

Think of your favorite song of the moment. How does it make you feel; does it change your mood? Maybe the way your feeling impacts your “favorite” song right now. Both, actually.

Music is powerful. It has the influence to change our emotions, but it also has the capability to help us express ever-changing feelings. Music therapy for cancer patients is an evidence-based care strategy to reduce anxiety and even help improve pain management. Yet, it is often missing from oncology services. In ten years of oncology nursing, I have never had the opportunity to work in a clinic setting with music therapy services. I haven’t had the chance to actually see the difference music therapy can make for patients; that means literally thousands of patients haven’t had that service offered to them alongside their clinical care. That’s incredibly disappointing.

I want the chance to change that for the patients I currently help serve.

Will you please take literally two minutes to vote for my cancer center to receive the Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program via funding from LIVESTRONG? Voting ends Friday, April 11th, at 5 PM Eastern. Vote once and then follow the corresponding links to share via Facebook as well as Twitter to garner a total of 3 votes to help bring this amazing program.

With three days remaining to vote, I’d love your help to improve lives.


Since its formal inception in 2002, the Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program has become an essential component of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, a subsidiary of Morristown Medical Center’s integrative approach to caring for cancer patients. The Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program, one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the country, has demonstrated great success in serving the people of the communities where the program is currently offered. The program’s overarching goal is to facilitate relaxation, decrease anxiety and stress, enhance wellness, improve pain management and provide comfort and support for cancer patients and their caregivers.

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‘Cancer in Hispanics/Latinos’ Receives Nursing Education Attention

The Hispanic/Latino population is the fastest growing population in the U.S. The group, which actually consists of many sub-populations, has a common set of physical, emotional, and practical concerns related to cancer and healthcare that all nurses (and really all healthcare professionals) need to recognize and understand.

LIVESTRONG, the Nurse Oncology Education Program, and Alpheus Media joined forces to develop the new, free continuing nursing education (CNE) video activity Advancing Care: Cancer in Hispanic/Latino Populations. Thanks to the beautiful videography, compelling patient stories, and accompanied multidisciplinary professional education, this CNE will leave you wishing every continuing nursing education activity was so entertaining, intriguing, and informational.

Whether or not you work in an oncology setting, Advancing Care: Cancer in Hispanic/Latino Populations is appropriate for you. It was developed with nurses and other healthcare professionals in all fields of practice in mind. Try it for yourself, and share it with your colleagues. Leave a review on the course site, and let me know what you think about it, as well.

Full Disclosure: I had the privilege of working with the developing organizations on this project from inception to completion. I am a part of the CNE planning committee for this activity. I did not receive any remuneration for this blog post, which reflects my opinions only. 


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LIVESTRONG Matters to Healthcare Professionals and Our Patients

Living in Austin, Texas, global headquarters for LIVESTRONG, and working in the oncology care community, the recent events surrounding Lance Armstrong is big news. I honestly have not thought a lot about the controversy since news broke, but a 12-mile run at a local YMCA gave me plenty of time and visual fodder to think through the noise.

Headphones in, sweating away, and I see a dear and familiar face on the television screen in front of me. Jonny Imerman, a cancer survivor and founder of the amazing Imerman Angels, a nonprofit providing free, one-on-one cancer support to people all across the globe, was selected as a CNN Hero. There’s no one else more perfect for that title than Jonny, who has connected cancer survivors and patients in more than 65 countries. The television feature showed a few familiar photos of Jonny like the one where he attended the LIVESTRONG Global Summit three years ago, further spreading the vision of Imerman Angels. Not too long ago Imerman Angels became a formal partner with LIVESTRONG to connect patients with support services as they call the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center.

Oddly enough, the very next seconds on CNN were occupied with a discussion about Lance Armstrong banned from cycling with LIVESTRONG images catapulting from the screen.  The spot didn’t last long, and I caught myself laughing at the juxtaposition of the back-to-back features. I looked around. Yellow LIVESTRONG bands were everywhere. LIVESTRONG Austin Half-Marathon and Marathon runner and medical staff shirts bounced on the treadmills in front of me, and the LIVESTRONG at the Y program flyers encouraged participation on the wall behind me.

LIVESTRONG means many things to me as an oncology nurse. I have personally referred patients, friends, and family members to the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center, Imerman Angels, LIVESTRONG at the Y, and many other LIVESTRONG services and partners like Planet Cancer, Sharing Hope, and the Patient Advocate Foundation. I have witnessed the life-changing and life-saving impacts of each of these programs and services.

Am I biased? Absolutely. LIVESTRONG has poured time, effort, and money into me professionally as a nurse. They’ve done the same for you. I am not an employee of LIVESTRONG, but I am extremely proud of the work I’ve done with them and the Nurse Oncology Education Program to reach literally thousands of nurses and other healthcare professionals about adolescent and young adult cancer and now cancer in the Hispanic/Latino population, a new continuing nursing education video which will release soon. LIVESTRONG has done the same kind of education and resource-creation for physicians, educators, community leaders, and community health workers, as well.

LIVESTRONG cares about people impacted by cancer. That means they care about nurses and the millions of providers worldwide who care for the 28 million people globally living with cancer.

I have never personally met Lance even though I’ve seen him many times at events and in and around Austin, where he’s done incredible work for the city, local healthcare organizations, and cyclists as well as other health-conscious folks. As much as Lance Armstrong has done, LIVESTRONG is more than Lance Armstrong. It’s about life – your life, my life. With 1 in 3 Americans developing cancer in their lifetime and cancer as the leading cause of mortality with 7.6 million deaths worldwide, we all need an organization like LIVESTRONG, one that works alongside grassroots to global organizations to impact health in our communities and around the world. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for people impacted by cancer. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for healthcare professionals. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for our patients. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for you.

That won’t ever change. LIVESTRONG.

Full disclosure: I worked as the program director for the Nurse Oncology Education Program (NOEP) for almost five years in which I worked closely with LIVESTRONG to educate nurses in all fields of practice about their role in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship care. I continue to work with NOEP and LIVESTRONG on continuing nursing education activities, the most recent one scheduled to release on August 29, 2012. I did not receive remuneration to write this post. These are the opinions and thoughts of a masters-prepared oncology certified nurse in clinical practice and a person whose family is impacted by cancer. 

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Signs Of A Good Race

I’ve mentioned before how much I love seeing all the handmade encouragement signs along race routes. It’s really nice that absolute strangers come out to cheer everyone on in their run. Okay, maybe not everyone is a complete stranger to the sign holder, but 99.9% of runners likely are.

The 2012 LIVESTRONG Austin Half-Marathon had its own blend of creative sign makers. There were several “Run, Complete Stranger, Run” and “You’re all Kenyans in our eyes.” I laughed at all the Ryan Gosling memes like “Hey, Girl. I love how sweaty you are,” or “Hey, Girl: Keep running. I’ll be waiting for you ahead.” There’s always the cutie kids holding “This parade stinks,” or “You paid money for this, or “We can’t all be heroes; someone has to stand on the side and hold the sign!”

After physically and mentally pushing up a hill just a half mile or less from the finish line, you think your quadriceps might actually burst right out of your skin. It’s always nice to use what seems like your last oxygen reserves on a laugh as you read, “I love your stamina. Call me!”

Always a good sign.

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Hometown Run Makes the Journey Special


Sunday I competed in my fourth half-marathon – the LIVESTRONG Austin Half-Marathon. I still can’t believe that’s right – four half-marathons? I’ve come a long way, Baby. I set a new personal record, which was seven minutes faster than my last race in November.


Each race is special, but this one was different. There’s just something about running down the middle of closed streets – streets I typically drive on every day. It’s empowering in many ways. Of the four races I’ve run, this course was the best. It was the most challenging, with whispering inclines and screaming hills. And, it was the prettiest. The Dallas Rock & Roll Half-Marathon course is a close second, but Austin takes the number one spot. (Yes, I realize I may be am biased.) The race circled the Capitol, wove through downtown, and continued across South Congress bridge, and down eclectic and trendy SoCo past some Austin-original eateries and shops like Homeslice Pizza, Allen’s Boots, Hey Cupcake!, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds, and Big Top Candy Shop. We turned across the Highway 290 access road where folks from P. Terry’s Hamburger Stand (arguably one of the best burgers in Texas) handed out water in between the race mile marker water stations. Next time they should seriously consider teeny tiny versions of their amazing shakes. I’ll run for that! The course then turned onto South First Street. I never noticed Kreb Lane before, but I couldn’t help but laugh as I thought about the Krebs Cycle, mitochondria, and ATP. It was a nice mental distraction. The famous “Welcome to Austin” mural provided part of the visual inspiration. Color is everywhere on South First, and as I ran I wished I could stop at some of the street trailers. They were getting ready for lunch, and man, they smelled gooooood! The course crossed back over Lady Bird Lake, underneath MoPac Expressway, and back up 15th Street’s massive gargantuan hill, and circling back to the south side of the Capitol.

It was quite special. I’ll share a few more of the most meaningful race day moments this week. Needless to say, I will return to run this race again. Let me know if you’re planning to join in on the craziness fun. I’d love to see you there!


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Not Just Another Run

20120218-194519.jpgI am running as this post is published. Today is my fourth half-marathon. This race is different.

It is my first race in my hometown – beautiful Austin, Texas, which, if you didn’t know, has killer hills throughout historic downtown.

It is my first race to run “by myself,” without any family members joining in the hard work and finish-line fun.

It is my first race to run bearing the LIVESTRONG name, which is an organization based in Austin that provides numerous supportive care services for people impacted by cancer. They do much more than that, though, and I am proud to work for and with them on numerous efforts.

It is my first race to join the volunteer team, serving in the medical tent after I finish the race. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and now I have the chance.

Today is not just another run. Today is the day I’ve prepared for the past eight weeks.

I spend my long runs thinking about a lot of different things – usually people and how much they mean to me. Today – as I run 13.1 miles – I’ll be thinking about many people – friends, family members, some who’ve beat cancer, some who cancer took far too early, and the nurses and other healthcare professionals who work day after day to care, not only for cancer survivors, but for everyone everywhere.

No, today is not just another run.

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Break Cancer Video Update

Many helped with a Break Cancer world record attempt the first week of April. Well, I submitted the world record video to URDB who then changed the record title, denying the video. I am unsure why they did so and have not received any explanation.

Still, the effort was to raise awareness of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer, and that it did. World record or not, we still broke cancer, and we will continue to do so.

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Thanks for Breaking Cancer!

Thank you to everyone who blogged, commented, tweeted, etc. in support of the Break Cancer record on Sunday!

Including my two Sunday posts (with 3 participant comments), there were three additional blog posts from SusanEller62’s Blog, Dr. Dean at The Millionaire Nurse (with 3 participant comments), and Henrike Hirsch at Germany4LIVESTRONG (with 23 participant comments). Henrike went a step further and donated one dollar for every comment left on her blog. Rock on! So, that totals five blog posts and 29 comments. A success, indeed. I’ll submit the record to URDB this week, and it will take about a week for verification; I’ll post it as soon as it is available.

The fact is, survival rates have not improved for adolescents and young adults (ages 15-39) with cancer in nearly 30 years. We can change that.

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Missed: Cancer in Ages 15-39

Today marks the beginning of National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. Young adults? Cancer? Absolutely. It happens all the time, and we’re not doing enough to help the nearly 70,000 adolescents and young adults (AYA), those ages 15 to 39, diagnosed with cancer annually. Survival rates have not improved in this population in nearly three decades. That’s ludicrous.

Take a moment and check out two videos from LIVESTRONG, Missed and Fight Like Hell, that hit home the reality of cancer diagnoses in the AYA population.

You can make a difference in AYA cancer. If you are a healthcare provider of any sort, consider cancer in the differential diagnosis – don’t let cancer get missed on your watch. Refer AYAs to appropriate resources. Encourage clinical trial participation. Advocate for AYAs with cancer. And if you’re not a healthcare provider, you can still do much of the same.

Be the difference.

(This post is part of a Break Cancer world record, so leave a comment within the next 22 hours to Break Cancer with me! Oh, and don’t worry if you cannot see your comment as soon as you submit it. I’ll approve it for viewing as soon as possible.)

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Ready, Set, Go! Let’s Break the ‘WordPress Cancer’ World Record

It is time. The clock starts now. Consider this post WordPress event number one.

In honor of the start of National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week, let’s WordPress cancer! I know of several WordPress bloggers participating, and if you have a WordPress blog, there are still 24 hours to join in the world-record setting (until 7AM CST tomorrow). You can find information about the feat here, resources about adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer here, and even a participant blog badge here. Encourage people to leave a comment on your participating post. Every comment on a participating WordPress blog will add to the record. If you do participate, be sure to link back to this post or another AYA-related post on Nursetopia or leave a comment about your post so I can include it in the official count. And don’t forget to tell people about the world-record via your social networks, as well.

If you do not have a WordPress blog, no worries. You can still participate in the world record. Leave a comment on this blog or another participating blog. Comments can be general or a tribute, honoring either someone age 15 to 39 impacted by cancer or a healthcare professional, individual, or organization devoting time to caring for AYAs with cancer.

Here we go. It’s time to Break Cancer…yes, with WordPress.