From My Window… Avoid the flu; Looking at life with terminal cancer

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes the old window gets a little foggy, and stories, columns and features that show up do more justice to journalism than I ever could. Below are two health-related columns. The first is written by Margie Joy, the development and community relations manager at Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker on how to take care of yourselves and your loved ones during this flu season. The second is by national columnist Ginny Grimsley, who tells us about a special woman with a terminal diagnosis and the personal joy she finds every day.

Stay Healthy This Flu Season

MEEKER I Taking care of yourself and getting the flu vaccine is the best defense against the flu.
“Our best protection against any strain of influenza is common-sense practices,” says Laura Cogswell, RN, and Pioneers Medical Center infection control officer. “Hand washing continues to be the best prevention to spreading germs. Additionally, those who are sick should avoid work or school for 24 hours after the fever is gone.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing a mask for three to five days while one is still coughing.
Pioneers Medical Center has had confirmed cases of influenza. So far, confirmed cases at PMC are slightly above average. Additionally, on the state level, confirmed cases are above average. Research shows low humidity climates areas are at higher risk for flu exposure. Also it is important to note that February is traditionally the highest month for the flu.
Pioneers Medical Center encourages everyone to:
♦ Get vaccinated. Continue to get your yearly flu shot. If you did not get a flu shot it is not too late. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three seasonal flu viruses that research suggests will be the most common.
Flu vaccines are very important for young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes), and people over the age of 65 years and older.
While the flu vaccine cannot guarantee you will not get the flu, it will minimize your risk of contracting the flu. Additionally, it takes two weeks for the vaccine to activate in your system from the time you receive your flu shot.
♦ Take care every day. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue away after you use it.
Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after sneezing or coughing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective if used properly.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Stay home when you are sick. It is recommended to stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. (Your fever should be gone without the aid of a fever-reducing medicine.)
♦ Take antiviral medication as prescribed. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pill, liquid or inhaled powder) that fight against flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. Be sure to use the proper dosage and complete the doctor-recommended regimen.
What are the signs and symptoms of influenza?
Fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, chills, headache, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.
If you are experiencing at least two of these symptoms, call your doctor for an appointment.
For more information about flu please call the Meeker Family Health Center at 970-878-4014.

By Margie Joy
Pioneers Medical Center, Meeker

Would your holidays be different if you knew you had a terminal illness?

RBC I Jane Schwartzberg cringes when she hears someone say that a terrible accident or frightening medical diagnosis made them realize what’s important in life.
“In some ways, I do wish everyone could experience a taste of terminal, if that’s what it takes to make them appreciate the intangible gifts we receive not just during the holidays, but all year,” says Schwartzberg, co-author with Marcy Tolkoff Levy of “Naked Jane Bares All,”, a new book that shares Jane’s story with candor and humor.
“But I wish they’d known all along, and I hate the thought of goodness coming at the expense of so much suffering.”
Schwartzberg says she was clear about what’s most important before she was diagnosed with stage four incurable breast cancer.
As a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend, she knew that all that really matters is how much love we give and receive.
The holidays are a wonderful opportunity for people to remember that and to focus on who they love, Schwartzberg said. But, too often, they become a source of anxiety, stress and tension.
Financial concerns, having too much to do and missing loved ones were among the top causes of holiday stress, according to a recent Mental Health America survey.
“Although I won’t attribute any revelations about what’s most important in life to my illness, I can say that there are a few things that I am trying to do better since getting sick,” Schwartzberg says.
“The holidays are a great time to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and to refocus on the things that are most meaningful.”
For Schwartzberg, those include:
♦ Showing up. If you’re worried about yesterday or always planning for tomorrow, you’re missing the present moment and any wonderful experiences it may hold.
“Although my clock ticks louder than others, I know we are all here for a short time,” Schwartzberg says. “I am determined to find joy in every single day. It may come from the simplest of things: a view from my window, a great conversation or a hot cup of coffee. But I know I need to be always present and available, with an open mind and open heart, to experience any of it.”
♦ Riding her love train. We all have people in our lives who care about us, and it’s important to let them know how much we appreciate them. Schwartzberg’s “love train” is a metaphor for all of the people she chooses to share her life with.
“They are rooting me on and giving my family and me love and support,” she says. “I try to be as meticulous and thoughtful as I possibly can be with those on board, and that means making sure they know how much I love and value them.”
♦ Knowing my place in the world. There is a Jewish teaching that says everyone should carry with them two pieces of paper, each in a separate pocket. One paper should say, “I am but dust and ashes.” The other, “The world was created for me.”
“I constantly remind myself that both statements are true,” Schwartzberg said. “I am capable of incredible things to improve the world, and I am just a tiny speck in the universe. Powerfulness and humility can, and do, exist for me side by side.”
As the holidays have now passed, keep in mind that the best gift you can give in the time ahead — or receive — is love.
“It’s not a table full of food or gadgets you can’t afford,” she says. “As this holiday season is over, act as if it could be your last, and you’ll probably find much more to revel in than to stress about.”

About Jane Schwartzberg: Jane Schwartzberg, 45, is the co-author of the newly released book, “Naked Jane Bares All,” the many-layered story — told with humor and candor — of how she learned to embrace life when she was down for the count. Jane is a financial services executive and founder and former CEO of a start-up technology company.

By Ginney Grimsley
National Print Campaign Mgr.
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