Women's Health

A Tribute to My Mother

Today is May 11, 2014, Mother's Day. On February 20, 2014, I lost my beloved mother, and words cannot describe the emotions I am feeling at this moment. She had never been sick a day in her life, yet on December 3rd, at the age of 91, she was diagnosed with anemia. The doctor prescribed iron pills and folic acid. But unfortunately, she was losing weight at a steady pace; a pound a week. She always felt tired even before that diagnosis, but she carried on - always saying, "I'm fine." From December 3rd on, she kept losing weight. Her doctor thought she had a mass in her abdomen, but it was never confirmed because at her age, putting her through any kind of invasive tests would have been unwarranted and unkind. Moreover, we lived on the third floor of our apartment building, and she could no longer master the steps. This was clearly evident on our trip back from the doctor's office on December 3rd when at the next to last landing, my neighbors had to carry her up to her bed.

After the diagnosis, she seemed to be ok, but wanted to remain in bed. Occasionally she would get up and go to the kitchen and look out the window (her favorite thing to do). But then eventually, she couldn't walk to the bathroom or the kitchen, and so I took care of all her physical needs. Since her appetite was waning, I supplemented her meals with Ensure; and after awhile she could only take small bites of anything I gave her. Finally, she couldn't eat at all. And so I kept her hydrated as best I could and stayed with her 24/7; slept with her when I could; and promised her that I would always be there for her - which I was because I lived with her my entire life. There were times she would be quite lucid, and other times her weakness played with her mind. But always, always, she knew me, who she was, and where she was. She was never in any pain, nor complained about her condition. She only wanted to know why she was so tired.

Unfortunately, the last week of her life she couldn't speak at all. But I knew what she wanted from her hand gestures. On February 15th, we celebrated her 92nd birthday. But she slept most of the day and night. I brought in a small piece of cake with a pink candle and sang to her. I don't know if she heard me, but it was important to do as it was a ritual we had done for each other since I could remember.

Five days later, on February 20th, I slept with her as usual, but got up to get an hour's sleep in my own bed. I had set up a railing on the left side of her bed, laid it down flat, and put blankets and large pillows on the railing so she could lay across the bed and rest her feet on the pillows. This was her favorite position. But it didn't give me much room on the full size bed. At 3am I awoke suddenly and didn't here her breathing (which I could hear from any room in our apartment). I ran into her room and she was not breathing. I put my hand on her chest and felt her two last breaths. She was gone. To this day, these vivid pictures are still fresh in my mind. But, she is at peace now and I hope she knows how much I love her and miss her. I talk to her every day to tell her so.

The card I had made for the Mass is symbolic of my mother's life. It is a verse from Corinthians: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

It was a few days after the funeral that I found this very same verse on a card she had kept in her jewelry box. She was the epitome of this verse; as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, and friend. She was intelligent, witty, funny, and always loving and kind to anyone she met. This was one mother's love - my mother's love - and on this day, I just want to say: "I love you mom and miss you terribly," and want you to know you'll be in my heart forever and ever.

I'll be seeing you.....Your "bestest" daughter.....Lil

URGENT MESSAGE TO ALL WOMEN: Your Support of President Obama WILL Protect Women's Health

Regardless of whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, the continued support of President Obama will allow you to continue to make choices concerning your health. Let's be clear; since the 2010 elections wherein Tea Party Republicans were elected to Congress, there have been over 40 bills passed that directly relate to women's health issues. Most of them are centered around abortion rights. Moreover, Paul Ryan introduced the "personhood" bill (which Romney also supports) that is meant to give, immediately upon conception, 14th amendment rights to a fertilized egg. This means that if, for any reason, a woman chooses to have an abortion, this would be a criminal act. In addition, Congress has passed bills regarding contraception and the limitation thereof. The Republicans said they would defund Planned Parenthood (and they are beginning to); would choose a Supreme Court Justice that would overturn Roe vs. Wade; and would repeal The Affordable Care Act.

Do you really want to go back and re-litigate women's rights all over again?

Do you want a bunch of right wing Republican men telling you what you can or cannot do with your body?

Do you agree with the statement that: "pregnancy after rape is what God intended?"

Do you agree with the statement that there should be no exception to abortion to protect a woman's life because "science and technology have come so far that it wouldn't threaten the life of that woman?"

Do you agree with the statement that "rape has to be legitimate?"

All of these statements have been made by Republicans who are running for the Senate and Congress.

I urge you to continue to support President Obama for your health, for your daughers' health, for the health of all women. If we don't defend our rights, who will?

L.M. Varrassi

Dealing with Your Emotions after a Cancer Diagnosis

Some individuals believe that learning more about a new or disturbing situation makes it easier to cope up with the same. This is especially true in case you are dealing with a complex group of diseases such as cancer. Very often, people have a great fear of the uncertainty surrounding the future and the unknown changes that might occur. With the right knowledge, the fear of the unknown can be dealt with. You can learn a great deal about the specific type of cancer you have, the treatment options and your chances of making a recovery.

Learn to become your own advocate. While the diagnosis itself cannot be changed, cancer patients can make efforts to get reliable, up-to-date information and discuss their predicament with family members, friends and health care professionals. With the right support, it will become easier for cancer patients to make informed decisions and take control of their situation.

It is essential that you work on your feelings linked with cancer because what you think will affect your perceptions of yourself, your life and the decisions you make related to your treatment.

The tips below can help you make the most from your medical appointments:

• Prepare a list of questions that you need to ask to your health care team.
• Ask a family member or friend to accompany you to appointments. They will act as an additional pair of ears, help you in remembering critical aspects of the discussion in case you forget, and provide you with the required support.
• Ask permission to record important conversations.
• Jot down important points in a notepad. If someone used a word, phrase or technical term that you don’t understand, ask them to spell it for you and explain it as well.
• In case there is something you do not understand, ask your health care team to provide an explanation.

There are not many things that you will be able to change in your life. As such, you need to focus on what all you can change in order to gain a better sense of control over your specific situation.

Here are some other things that you can do to manage your emotions:

• Seek support from family members, close friends and other people you may know. Just having someone who cares about you and is ready to listen to you can help a great deal. If you are unable to get the required support from family members and friends, you need to look out for others who can provide you the needed support. Health care professionals (for instance psychologists, social workers, or other licensed health professionals) along with support groups can act as additional sources of support.
• You can seek spiritual support through meditation, prayer, or other types of practices that will allow you to feel more at peace. Also, you may seek the guidance of a pastor, rabbi, chaplain, or other religious leader.
• Make sure you do not ignore your physical needs such as rest, nutrition and other types of self-care measures.
• Try to find ways to express your feelings, for instance talking and writing your experiences in a journal.
• Make sure you give yourself space and private time.
• Walk or exercise. Before initiating a new activity or exercise regimen, it would be better if you discuss the same with your team of health care professionals.
• Seek information about what may have helped other cancer patients and their families to deal with cancer, and/or communicate with other individuals who may have been diagnosed with the same form of cancer.
• Carry out changes at home in order to create a healthier environment, and/or ask your doctor about how to make healthy lifestyle choices.

In case you are having trouble sleeping, feeling sad all the time, or continuously thinking about suicide, you need to get professional help as soon as possible. Treatment may also be necessary in case of other symptoms such as panic attacks, constant crying, or intense anxiety. Talk to your doctor in case you feel that you may require professional help.

Contributed by Ruby Cartagena