Dealing with Grief

Dealing with Grief

The Coronavirus Pandemic has affected our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We have come to terms with a “new normal” that has consisted of things like the need for social distancing (ie. maintaining at least 6 feet apart), the wearing of face masks and gloves in public, government stay-at-home orders, limiting gatherings of people, distance/remote learning, and working from home.

Probably the most unfortunate effects of this virus has been loss of many lives. The rate at which COVID-19 took our loved ones is very saddening. It has been reported that world-wide there have been more than 400,000 deaths with over 100,000 in the US alone. It is very devastating loosing almost half a million people in such a very short period of time, with those numbers expected to rise in the coming months. And these figures don’t include the deaths that were not related to the coronavirus. The amount of pain and grief that folks are experiencing is more than anyone could have expected.

I have experienced a number of friends and colleagues who have lost their loved ones, friends and colleagues during this difficult time. I have also had the unpleasant experience of losing my mom to natural causes back in May of 2020. The pain caused by grief can disrupt our physical wellbeing making it difficult to eat, sleep or even think straight. Because of my loss and the loss of those around me, it has led me down a journey about self-care when dealing with grief.

So what are some ways to grief during a global pandemic? Here are a few things that I have been doing to help me in my time of loss and grief:

  • Crying: This is one way of acknowledging and releasing the pain. It doesn’t matter how loud, ugly or long I need.
  • Speaking to a therapist: Being able to speak about what am feeling to a neutral party has been really helpful in navigating and unpacking different emotions.
  • Having moments of creativity: As a dancer I personally find enjoyment in arts. I have been crocheting, painting and coloring in adult coloring books.
  • Connecting to a grief support group: Finding a group of folks who can relate to your loss and how you feel is really great. Friends mean well, but maybe able to understand if they have never gone through what you are going through. I found a number of grief groups on Facebook.
  • Enjoy nature. Take your time to enjoy nature; I have slowed down to feel nature like the way the sun feels on my skin, the whispers in the wind, and the calming sound of water.

Remember there is no right or wrong way of grieving, but there are healthy ways to cope with loss and grieving process. I hope what I have been doing can help you during this difficult time.

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Sickle Cell Awareness

Sickle Cell Awareness

In addition to June 19th celebrating Juneteenth, it also recognized World Sickle Cell Awareness Day. It is an international campaign observed with the goal of increasing public knowledge and understanding of sickle cell disease and the unique challenges faced by patients, their families and their caregivers. This year is particularly special as 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of celebrating World Sickle Cell Awareness! So what is sickle cell anemia?

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder (meaning it passed from parents to children and cannot be transmitted from other people). Normally the red blood cells (RBC) are a rounded shape like disc. This gives them the ability and flexibility to transport blood and oxygen even through the smallest blood vessels. Sickle cell happens when these RBCs contort into sickle shape (like a crescent moon). Because of its “sickled shape”, the cells have ridged edges that can get stuck in the blood vessels which can block the flow of blood throughout the body. When this happens, the stiffen cells die early leaving very few healthy red blood cells to carry the necessary amounts of oxygen the body needs.

This lack of flow of blood may result in very severe pain causing a “crisis.” A sickle cell crisis is when there are repetitive episodes of these pains. Some common symptom include:

  • Anemia- not having enough healthy red blood cells.
  • Episodes of pains
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Increased susceptibility to infections such as pneumonia
  • Jaundice- yellowing of the white parts of the eye.
  • Patients are also at high risk of getting stroke, chest syndrome and even blindness

Sickle cell is the result of mutation in genes from both the mother and the farther. The disease itself is inherited from both parents passed down to the children, while the trait is only passed from one parent unto the children. Trait means that you have one normal gene and one sickle cell gene. The trait is not a disease and a person with a trait does not portray symptoms of the sickle cell disease. However, they can pass it down to their children. A simple blood test can indicate whether you have the sickle cell disease or the trait. This becomes important when one is trying to have children. There are approximately 90,000 persons have sickle cell anemia in the United States- most commonly affecting African Americans.

There is no cure for this disease. Current treatments are focused on managing and relieving the episodes of pains and preventing complications. This can include medication, blood transfusions and/or a stem cell transplant. In some rare cases a bone-marrow transplant may be done.

Other ways to help manage complications include:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercising regularly

As someone who has had family members with this disease, increasing awareness about sickle cell anemia is very close to my heart. Please join me in the efforts to improve research methods to help us learn more and find a cure!

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Alzheimer’s Awareness

Alzheimer’s Awareness

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder that destroys the memory and other mental functions of the brain. It is said to be caused by the abnormal build-up of protein around brain cells. The main two types of proteins involved are: amyloid- which is responsible for build-up of plaque around brain cells; the other is tau- which forms tangles within brain cells. Now is a great time to show support to the millions of people struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is a global crisis and now is the time to educate the public of its effects on both patients and their loved ones.

Dementia is a term for conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and thinking skills that prohibit a person’s ability to perform the everyday activities. The decline in cognitive functions is a result of abnormal brain changes and loss of brain functions due to a series of small strokes. Some common symptoms of dementia can include:

  • Becoming forgetful of names or events
  • Unable to recall information about themselves such as their address, phone number, school attended, etc.
  • Confusion
  • Trouble controlling bladder and bowel movements
  • Anger/aggression
  • Agitation
  • Depression and isolation

Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia that specifically causes problems with memory that develops slowly and gradually, and it gets worse with time. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently 44 million people living with Alzheimer’s Disease world-wide with over 5 million in the US alone. Amongst the leading causes of deaths in the Unites States, Alzheimer’s Disiease has been ranked the 6th (that’s 1 in 3 adults). According to the statistics from 2008-2018; there was a 146% increase in the number of Alzheimer’s and Dementia-related deaths. This number is projected to increase by 2050 to nearly 14 million deaths.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can affect people in different individual ways. Some may develop the symptoms slowly, while others develop all the symptoms at once. While there is no cure, there are some treatments available such as medication can slow its progression. Because of limited knowledge about Alzheimer’s Disease, there is a growing need for more research to gain a better understanding of its causes, treatments, prevention and cure.

Some common risk factors of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease include:

  • Age (the risk increases as we get older)
  • Family history
  • Poor lifestyle choices (i.e. smoking, excessive alcohol intake, limited physical activities)
  • Ethnicity (African and Latino Americans have a higher risk)

Research has shown that exercise can prevent/help manage symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease because it can help improve memory, provide opportunities for social interaction, and improve strength and balance.

Want to show your support for this cause? Join me by wearing the color purple with your purple ribbon- the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement.

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Men’s Health Week

Men’s Health Week

The month of June marks Men’s Health Month while the week of June 10-16 is Men’s Health Week. It is a time to bring awareness of preventable health conditions that are common in men. Men commonly have a tendency in which they do not talk out loud about what may be bothering them even about their health. This is a time to encourage the men in our lives to speak up and take care of themselves.

Many illnesses can be treated if detected. There are more options available when a health condition is detected in an early stage of its development. Thus, this is why we (and especially men) are encouraged to regularly stay on top of their health. When we prolong seeking support from a medical professional, it leads to a lack of proper awareness, contributing to an increase in the number of health issues in men and probably more death. Some of health concerns that more commonly affect men include:

  • Heart disease. More men suffer from heart disease compared to women.
  • Lung cancer: A higher percentage of men are smokers than women- a leading cause of lung cancer.
  • Depression and suicide. It is estimated that approximately 6 million men suffer from depressive disorders this of which includes suicidal thoughts.
  • Parkinson’s disease. This is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects the body movement. When it is progressive it meaning it worsens directly with time increase. It affects 50% more men than women.

Most of the above mentioned chronic diseases affect our men more. During men’s health awareness month, this is a time to encourage the men in our lives to choose healthier lifestyles, go for checkups and to live longer. The men in our lives matter and we need to encourage them get general health screening such as:

  • Colonoscopy: screening done to detect any abnormalities or changes in the colon and the rectum.
  • Blood pressure

Vitamins/medications or getting vaccines for:

  • Flu
  • Shingles
  • Pneumonia

When it comes to nutrition, having a diet that includes:

  • Calcium
  • Fiber
  • Potassium

Most importantly is physical activity- it is recommended to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.

It is key for all people to have a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle includes eating a nutrient-dense diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and excess alcohol. This can help prevent most chronic diseases and helps to ensure we liv a healthy life as we age.

During this time you can show support by wearing blue.

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Scoliosis Awareness

Scoliosis Awareness

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. Like most awareness periods, it is a time to highlighting the dire need for education, early detection and spread the awareness of the disease. It is also a time where people and their families living with scoliosis can come together for support and community to talk about its effects. But what really is scoliosis?

A spine comprises of small vertebrate bones placed on top of one another. A normal or a healthy spine should have a natural curve which is normally straight that allows rotation and bending. Scoliosis will occur when the spine curves side-ways forming an “S” shape. This will in turn make the ribs to look uneven because it is attached to the spine. The spine tends to twist the ribs. A scoliosis patient may also have:

  • One shoulder higher than the other
  • One hip higher than the other
  • Head may not be centered over the pelvis
  • Back pain, and chest may also appear uneven, (in case of when scoliosis becomes severe)
  • Arms may not hang proportionally by the body side
  • Pushed out ribs

The diagnosis of scoliosis is confirmed by doing an x-ray of the spine. Measurement of the spine that is more than 10 degrees confirms scoliosis. Scoliosis can affect people from all walks of life from kids to adults, men and women. There is no cure for scoliosis, but some form of treatment can be administered to help manage pain. The type of treatment will depend on your age or gender, and the severity of one’s condition. Your doctor will recommend either surgical or non-surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatments may include:

  • Back braces: it helps reduce the curve with time. This would be in a case of adolescents whose body has not fully grown. The time span of wearing the brace will depend on the type of scoliosis.
  • Exercise (ie. yoga)
  • Physical therapy- with a program that is specially designed for scoliosis.

Any treatment for scoliosis or another health condition, should be done in consultation with your doctor/medical professional. Surgical treatment is done in severe cases for curves that are more than 50 degrees. The process will help to restructure the spine. The cause of scoliosis is not known. Mild cases may not need treatment but can have a non-surgical treatment recommended. Scoliosis may not be curable but remember that it can be controlled and the spine restored to its normal position and functionality.

As a way to show your support for scoliosis awareness, wear the color green or a green ribbon. It is a great conversation starter!

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