Side by side. Every step of the way.

A Tai Chi Experience

Posted on January 10th, 2011

by Gail Hamm, program director

I just had to share an experience I had last week as I took part in our new Tai Chi class. I had an idea of what it would be like, but I did not anticipate that I would like it so much.

First, you have to know that I do not like to exercise. I get bored, as well as challenged by shortness of breath. What I found was that I could actually follow the instructor, Susan Swardenski, and do the moves she demonstrated. They are soft and slow and designed to not strain the body. I did know I was getting a workout, however, because I had to remove my jacket when I became too warm. And breathing deeply at times caused a bit of lightheadedness. My body was probably shocked that it was finally getting the oxygen it needed!

Susan explained that Tai Chi is rooted in the martial arts. The moves are designed to keep the body balanced and promote increased body awareness by engaging the mind as well as the body. It’s not like other exercise I am familiar with, in that it is not about building muscle mass. It’s about promoting better health through movement, no matter what your abilities may be. It tends to decrease tension and can increase one’s ability to manage fatigue and pain.

There were 14 of us….. people with cancer, caregivers, and staff. Only a few had previously been in a Tai Chi class. We were of all ages and our abilities varied considerably…from people who moved fairly easily to those who chose to do all the exercises in a seated position.

I can’t wait for the next session of Tai Chi. By participating in this class, I hope to gain better balance, an increased lung capacity, and overall better health. Now it’s time to practice the home work we were given last week: …breathe slowly…in….and …. out …..in….and….out….in….and….out…..

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Caregivers and Patients

Posted on August 23rd, 2010

by Gail Hamm, Program Director

The caregiver is the unsung hero in the medical journey. Caregivers provide hands-on care and encouragement. They may provide care as an act of love, from a sense of duty, or out of feelings of guilt. Whether caring for a loved one at home or in a nursing facility, the truth is that nothing is the same as it was before the illness.

Schedules revolve around the needs of the patient. Hard choices abound: Is my loved one safe alone while I am at work? While I run to the store? While I head to the mailbox? There are frustrations over added laundry, money worries, lack of help. Many find it extremely difficult to ask for help and therefore create even more challenges for themselves.

As the caregiver becomes more fatigued and frustrated, feelings of resentment may arise. Previous relationship problems only complicate matters. Will I care for this person who has caused me so much pain in the past? Am I not justified in walking away? Guilt feelings abound, sometimes paralyzing the caregiver into inaction.

Additional problems arise when the patient’s needs are greater than the caregiver’s ability to provide that care. If the caregiving lasts so long that there appears to be no end to the journey, the caregiver may become overwhelmed and feel ready to give up.

Conversely, caregiving can be a most rewarding experience. It is an act of love that can draw people closer together and deepen love and understanding.

No one has to “go it alone.” There is help available if both the patient and caregiver are willing to be open to other options. Call a Cancer Services advocate for assistance. Nothing is the same as it was before the illness, but it can be good.

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