November 25, 2013

Do you give thanks for your illness?

I dug into the archives of my own blog for this post. The first time I posted it, on Thanksgiving four years ago, I received a lot of comments. I thought it might ring true with some of you this year as well:

Before diving into their turkey, most families take time to go around the table and say what they are thankful for.  Not my family.  We are all about the food in the Rosenthal household and we always have been.

This doesn’t bother me.  I come from a very demonstrative family.  We express our gratitude on a regular basis, when it hits us in the moment.  We don’t store it all up for a once a year gratitude fest.

I do have a ton that I am grateful for in my life.  But cancer is not one of these things.  Cancer has lead me to become a less judgmental person.  I listen to others now in a way that I didn’t before.  It has also turned me into a writer.  But I feel pretty confident that I’ve always had the capacity to become a less judgmental person and a writer.  If it didn’t come out through cancer, it would have come out through another, hopefully less painful route.

A lot of survivors say that if given the choice they would chose to have cancer because they are grateful for the changes it has brought to their life.  In my book Everything Changes, I wrote about this issue at the end of my conversation with Greg, a young adult cancer patient in Alabama:

“Had good things come from my own cancer? Yes, talking to Greg in his truck was one of many, but I believed that I was a pretty decent and self-aware person who did not need this horrific experience to make me appreciate the world around me or my role in it. If people needed pain through which to learn life lessons (and I debated whether that was even true), opportunities to open oneself up to suffering abound, and it saddened me that most people do not make themselves vulnerable in this way until they have no other choice.”

My dog, my husband, my mom and dad, my father-in-law, my friends, my health insurance, and a roof over my head are on my list of things that I’m grateful for on a regular basis.  Cancer is not one of them.

What about you?  Is cancer on the list of things for which you give thanks?

To read other perspectives about cancer and gratitude, check out my book Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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November 12, 2013

Flu shots 101 and why YOU need one

I think everyone should get a flu shot, and if you haven’t had one yet now is the time.  The more people are vaccinated, the fewer chances everybody has of contracting the flu and passing it along to somebody who has a compromised immune system.  If you know and love a young adult cancer patient, get a flu shot.  If you don’t know one of us, do it for your elderly grandma, your infant nephew, or just because you care about the well being of a stranger.  Flu shots are not just about protecting yourself, they are about helping to protect your community.

Lots of myths about flu shots prevent people from getting them.  Educate yourself so you can make informed decisions about whether or not to get a flu shot.  Here are some authoritative, reliable resources for learning more about flu shots.

Misconceptions about flu season and flu vaccines 

This CDC article answers questions about whether the flu shot can actually give you the flu, tells more about nasal spray flu vaccines, answers how often you need a flu shot, and much more.

Cancer, The Flu, and You: What cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers should know about the flu

Did you know that if you have had cancer you are at higher risk for contracting the flu?  Learn more about this and other cancer and flu specific FAQs on this CDC page.  Also see the American Cancer Society’s flu shot recommendations for cancer patients and survivors here.

Quadrivalent Flu Vaccine

I was thrilled to learn this is the first year a flu shot is being offered that protects against four strains of the flu instead of just three.  I went out of my way to get a quadrivalent shot because cancer has made me never want to be sick again!  Learn more from the CDC about the quadrivalent flu vaccine.

Where can I get a flu shot?

This great website allows you to enter your zip code and select the specific kind of vaccine you are looking for from a flu drop down menu.  (I used this to find the pharmacies in my area that had the quadrivalent.)

How can I get a free or reduced cost flu shot?

If you have insurance you are in luck because The Affordable Care Act requires most private insurers to cover your flu shot for free.  But what if you don’t have insurance?  Your best bet is to call a low-cost health clinic near you and ask if they offer flu shots for free or on a sliding scale.  If they don’t, they can usually point you to another place that does.  The link above will help you find clinics in your area that receive federal funding, and you can also use this site to find contact info for your state’s department of public health.

For more practical tips on how to make smart healthcare choices, check out my book Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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