Advance Directives: documents that can speak for you, when you are unable to

advance directivesIf you have been to a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office in the last few years, chances are you’ve been asked if you have an advance directive or durable power of attorney for health care.

You may even have made a mental note to get that taken care of. You might even have completed an advanced directive in the past but have not reviewed it in years and may want to revise.

An advance directive is a thoughtful – as well as legal – document explaining your wishes in case you can’t speak for yourself about medical treatment you may receive in the future. It’s understandable that people put off thinking about Continue reading

War as a metaphor for cancer can be relieved of duty

Betsy de Parry

Betsy de Parry

Call me a conscientious objector, but I’d like to demilitarize cancer.

Popular culture has long used war as a metaphor to describe the human experience of cancer. We are attacked by an enemy (cancer), unwillingly conscripted, and expected to fight with the help of generals (doctors) and allies (other medical personnel) who counterattack with an arsenal of weapons.

I don’t think so. Cancer begins with a single mistake within our bodies, so why would I want to think of my body as an enemy when, for the most part, it has served me well? I wasn’t about to go to war with myself even when my body made a mistake. Continue reading

Don’t let compassion fatigue rob you of the ability to care

compassion fatigueCompassion fatigue is a physical, mental and emotional drain suffered by those who care for others. Caregivers develop compassion fatigue by internalizing the suffering or trauma of those they care for. While the term compassion fatigue originated in the field of nursing in the early 90s, it applies broadly to anyone who is in a helping profession or is a caregiver.

Anyone can over use their compassion and empathy skills just as athletes can overuse their muscles and need to take a break from competition. Compassion fatigue isn’t the same as burnout, says the American Institute of Stress. Compassion fatigue can take months to years to develop and often the person affected does not immediately realize it. Co-workers or family members may notice some of these common symptoms: Continue reading

Spiritual care for patients and families, whenever it is needed

spiritual care for patients

Deacon Wayne Charlton, Cancer Center Chaplain

Never are spiritual concerns more present or more urgent than during a serious illness or at the end of life. The University of Michigan Health System’s Department of Spiritual Care chaplains walk that journey with patients and families all day, every day.

“We’re here to meet them wherever they are on their journey. We’re trained and we have the skills to do so in a caring, empathetic way,” says Rev. Lindsay Bona, the clinical coordinator for the Spiritual Care Department.

The chaplains represent a wide variety of religions and faith traditions. If there is not a chaplain of your faith currently on staff, the department has strong connections with local congregations and faith resources, and they can arrange a visit from a religious leader of your choosing.

“No matter what time of the day or night, there’s always someone available,” says Bona.

In addition to providing ritual support such as prayers, communion, anointing, baptism, blessing and reconciliation, they also provide worship services and bereavement consultations. Continue reading

Stop leftover fatigue: cooking healthy for one or two

cooking healthyThere are many life events that may result in having to cook for fewer people than you are used to. If you do not adjust your recipes you could end up eating leftovers three or four times in a row. Others might find themselves eating out more often or choosing more convenience foods as an alternative. But these convenience foods tend to be high in fat, sodium and sugar and don’t typically include enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have been proven to reduce cancer risk, as well as the risk of other chronic diseases.

Following are tips for easy meals that don’t leave you with days of leftovers or mountains of dishes to clean up.

Supplement with fruits, vegetables and whole grains

When using prepared foods, don’t take them as they are, but add the healthful ingredients that may be missing:

  • Canned soup: Add sautéed vegetables, frozen mixed vegetables, or canned, rinsed beans to increase the anti-cancer rich ingredients.
  • Boxed pasta or pasta sauce: Add sautéed or frozen vegetables to decrease the fat and calories per serving. Add canned beans, chicken or tuna, or frozen, thawed shrimp for added protein without additional effort.
  • Deli items: Add canned tuna and chopped vegetables to pasta salad or add vegetables or beans to other sides such as potato salad, coleslaw or rice dishes.
  • Baked chicken: complement with a salad and baked potato cooked quickly in the microwave. Top with low-fat cheese for a complete meal.
  • Frozen pizza: make it gourmet by adding several different sautéed or roasted vegetables, or canned pineapple.
  • Rice, barley, quinoa or other whole grains: After cooking, add pine nuts, dried fruit, grated or chopped vegetables, seeds or herbs to bring it from average to superb.
  • Canned beans: Just fill a tortilla with drained or fat-free refried beans, vegetables and salsa for an easy, no cook burrito.
  • Salad mix: top with nuts, seeds or hardboiled egg whites, dried or fresh fruit, and chopped or grated vegetables for a meal that packs a protein, nutrient and fiber-rich punch.

Enlist friends

Consider shopping and cooking with friends. A whole cabbage may be too much for you to eat in a week but perfect when split with a friend. Or you can take turns cooking or share leftovers for more variety and less effort.

Consider snacking

A few healthful snacks can substitute for a bigger meal. Focus on whole fruit or cut-up vegetables with nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, low-fat cheese, or whole grain bread or crackers with hummus dip or peanut butter.

Lastly, don’t discount making bigger batches of foods that will freeze well such as soups, casseroles and breads. These can be frozen in single or double serving portions to use on busy or low-energy days, instead of resorting to takeout or pre-packaged food that is higher in sodium and fat.

Take the next step:

  • Spruce up your menus with these delicious, healthful recipes from our cancer nutritionists.

Continue reading about healthy eating and cancer prevention:

U-M CCC dietitians NEWRegistered dietitians who are specially trained in the field of oncology nutrition provide cancer nutrition services at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. They focus on assessing the individual dietary and nutrition needs of each patient and providing practical, scientifically sound assistance.



Cancer-center-informal-vertical-sig-150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.

Sexual function after prostate cancer treatment: don’t be afraid to ask!

sexual function after prostate cancerWhether patients undergo surgery, hormonal therapy, or radiation therapy as active treatment of prostate cancer, all can have treatment-related sexual side effects. As many as 20% to 80% of men can expect to experience some disruptions to their usual sexual function after prostate cancer treatment, which can include changes in sex drive, erections or orgasms.

The good news is these changes to a man’s sex life, while common, can be managed with the appropriate education and resources. Men should expect that their sexual function will be affected. They will have to make some accommodations in their sexual experiences and relationships but no one has to give up their sex life as a condition of managing prostate cancer. Continue reading