Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hair-raising Conversations

post_chemo hair
Hair growth, nearly
2 years post chemo

"Wow, look at your hair!"
"Are you trying to grow your hair longer?"
"I liked your hair shorter."
"What happen to your curly hair?"

My hair is the focus of most conversations lately and I’m completely fine with that. Talking about my hair is a refreshing change from talking about cancer.  I understand it’s hard to relate to someone who has gone through cancer treatments; there’s a fear of asking the wrong question or you may be unsure of the battles they might still be facing. Talking about hair growth is a “safe” topic of conversation with a former chemo patient because it focuses on recovery, but it doesn’t need to be the center of every conversation.

The next time you cross paths with a survivor consider the following:
  • Be honest. Let the person know you don’t know what to say. It’s okay to share your awkwardness, they will understand! Let the survivor guide the conversation and decide the topics to discuss. No matter what direction the conversation takes, just acknowledging the person and saying hello means a lot.
  • Ask questions. Asking questions shows you care. If the survivor is willing to discuss details, they will; often sharing the experience can be therapeutic. However, you may find the survivor reluctant to talk about their treatments. A vague response like “I'm just glad to have it all behind me now", would be a cue to switch gears and move on to another topic.
  • Don’t let cancer dominate the conversation. Cancer fighters are hungry for a sense of normalcy. Feel free to continue conversations that took place before diagnosis. This doesn’t mean you should ignore they had an illness, but know they are grateful to have conversations on other subjects. Most importantly, the survivor will recognize that you still see them as a friend and not just a cancer patient.
  • Congratulate them on feeling better and for fighting. Avoid using phrases that include “you’re cured” or “glad you beat this”; survivors are not cured of cancer, they are simply in remission; meaning there are no signs or symptoms of cancer currently present.  Alternatively, you could say “I’m so glad you fought” or “Congratulations, you must be happy to have chemo behind you!”
  • Show positivity. The best compliment I received after treatment was “You handle the entire situation with grace.” If you find the survivor’s fight to be inspiring, say it! Every fighter has overcome physical and personal struggles to be here and would love to know that you recognize their efforts.

Regardless of the topic or the amount of words exchanged, know that survivors are grateful for the friends, and acquaintances that continue to be a part of their journey.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

7 Essential Microsoft Word Tips For Educators

Microsoft Word contains many time saving features to assist educators with document creation and formatting.

The 7 tips I've assembled here aim to increase productivity and efficiency. I'm confident once you learn these steps you will find they come in handy!

1. Generate Sample Text

Microsoft Word lets you quickly insert sample text into a document. This is a helpful function to showcase formatting or editing functions to students after opening a new document.
  1. Type =rand() in the document where you want the text to appear, and then press ENTER. 
  2. You can control how many paragraphs and lines appear by adding numbers inside the parentheses of the rand() function. 
The following are examples that show how the parameters work:
  • =rand(1) inserts one paragraph with three lines of text in the paragraph.
  • =rand(10,10) inserts 10 paragraphs with 10 lines of text in each paragraph. 

2. Insert a Line

There are several keyboard shortcuts, enabled by Word's built-in AutoCorrect function, that allow users to insert horizontal lines instantly into a document. Aside from adding a decorative touch, these lines are also useful for creating notes or test questions.

Use the following keyboard shortcuts to enter a horizontal line into your document:
  • Type 3 hyphens and press ENTER for a solid line.
  • Type 3 asterisks + ENTER for a dotted line.
  • Type 3 tildes + ENTER for a wavy line.
  • Type 3 equal signs  + ENTER for a double line.

3. Clear Formatting 

Use the Clear Formatting command to quickly remove formatting from text. Applying this function to text will reapply the default "Normal" style.  This function is particularly useful after copying and pasting text from external sources, such as webpages.
Clear Formatting
  1. Select the text (or cell) that has formatting applied.
  2. Click the Clear Formatting command found in the Font group on the Home tab.

4.  Insert a Manual Line Break

A manual line break (aka "soft return") ends the current line and continues the text on the next line. Unlike using the ENTER key, a manual line break does not include extra spacing between lines.  This function is helpful when creating test questions, outlines or typing an address in a document.

The following example illustrates the difference between using the ENTER key at the end of each line compared to using Shift+ ENTER:

  1. Click where you want to break a line of text.
  2. Press Shift + Enter keys. 

5. Selecting Text

Selecting text is one of the most common tasks for users; every formatting task begins by selecting something.  The common click and drag method to select text is cumbersome and often frustrating.
The list below includes effective methods to select text:
  • Double-click to select a word.
  • Ctrl + click to select a sentence.
  • Triple click to select a paragraph.
  • Ctrl + A to select the entire document

6. Repeat Function

When working in Word, you can repeat the last command or keystroke you just did by pressing the F4 button. This function is helpful when changing fonts, colors, or attributes of text (such as line spacing) repeatedly in a document.
  1. Complete the formatting operation once.
  2. Select the next text selection.
  3. Press the F4 key.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 as many times as needed.

7. Format Painter

Use the Format Painter tool to copy formatting from one item to another.  For example, if you created a heading with a specific font, color and size, you can copy that formatting to another section of your document by using the Format Painter tool to recreate the look instantly.

  1. Select the text or drawing object that contains the formatting you want to copy.
  2. Choose the Format Painter command, found in the Clipboard group on the Home tab.
    • Tip: To apply formatting to more than one item double-click the Format Painter.
  3.  Click on the destination text or graphic that you want to format.
    • If you apply formatting to more than one block of text or graphic, continue to select each item, one at a time.  Press the Esc key to deactivate the Format Painter at any time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chemo Survival Kit

My first chemo: Nov 2012
When I was diagnosed with cancer I was hopeful that my treatment would be limited to surgery and radiation only. But as my test results were revealed, it became evident that chemotherapy was a necessity in order to win my fight.  I spent a year in the infusion center, visiting every 3 weeks, and during that time I discovered some tips from patients and nurses that made the experience slightly more manageable.

Chemotherapy affects everyone differently, however, there are common side effects that can be treated to make the journey a little brighter. If you or someone you know is facing chemotherapy treatments, the following items will be helpful to have on hand:

  • Soft Bristle Toothbrushes- Oral hygiene is important during chemo due to the increased chance of mouth sores. Visit your dentist prior to your first chemo treatment if you are able, as dental cleanings are not recommended once chemo begins due to risk of infection. Brush your teeth and tongue after every meal using a non-whitening toothpaste. Colgate Wisp (single use toothbrushes) are great to have on hand too.
  • Alcohol Free Mouthwash- Mouthwash that contains alcohol can contribute to dryness and irritation in the mouth. Biotene is a popular choice for many chemo patients to eliminate dry mouth and fight infection. Rinse several times a day and consider purchasing 2 bottles-one for home and another to keep at work.
  • Baking Soda- If you are unable to locate an alcohol free mouthwash or perhaps you are traveling, you can create a mouth rinse using 1/2 tsp baking soda and 8oz warm water.  This is a natural and cost-effective way to fight infection. 
  • Flexible Drinking Straws- Drinking water is vital when undergoing chemotherapy. Water reduces fatigue and protects the kidneys from the toxins of the drugs. It can be difficult to force yourself to drink water, but drinking slowly through a straw is often more tolerable than drinking from a cup. Drinking from a straw is also helpful if smells from certain beverages trigger nausea.
  • Digital Thermometer- Chemo patients must monitor their temperatures throughout the day. An easy to use digital thermometer is a necessity.
  • Plastic Flatware- Using plastic utensils during meals helps offset a metallic taste which may form in the mouth.  Several friends also shared that they limited meal preparation to ceramic and glass cookware. Tip: Sucking on ice chips during chemo infusions reduces the metallic taste after each treatment.
  • Saline Nasal Spray- Nosebleeds can be a common side effect of certain treatments which lower your platelet count. Using a saline spray, like Ocean Saline Nasal Spray, will help moisten the membranes of the nose and reduce the amount of nose bleeds. 
  • Tissues- Due to the increased risk of nosebleeds during chemo, buy several boxes of tissues and keep a pack with you at all times! My first nose bleed happened spontaneously in the car two weeks after my first chemo and I had no tissues with me. My quick thinking daughter tossed me a tampon to stop the bleeding-True Story!
  • Eye Drops- Over time chemo dries out eyes, and as a result your tear ducts may overcompensate by developing an excessive amount of  tears.  Use a lubricating eye drop, like Refresh or Natural Tears to combat watery eyes. Watery eyes usually occur after several chemo treatments. My eyes watered constantly after my fifth infusion, often inhibiting me from driving. Be proactive and use the drops-don't wait!
  • Aquaphor- Dry irritated skin is common during chemotherapy. Aquaphor is a petroleum-jelly product that helps ease irritation and protect the skin. Keeping your hands and nail area moisturized helps prevent cuts that could lead to infection, especially if you've had underarm lymph node dissection. This product is also helpful to apply to your treatment area during radiation. If cost is not a factor, many patient friends also recommend Lindi Skin products.
  • Claritin- This tip was shared with me by my oncology nurse: Taking Claritin once a day for 5 days starting with chemo day, reduces bone aches often associated with Taxotere and Neulasta. It really works!
  • Tea Tree Oil- Many people experience changes in their nails during chemo. You may notice indentations or lines (known as ‘Beau's lines’) developing in your nail bed after each treatment cycle, or your nails may lift off entirely. Applying Tea Tree Oil to the nail is an effective way to fight nail damage and prevent fungal infections frequently caused by chemo.  Apply a thin amount to the nail twice a day.
  • Mberry- Taste alteration is one of the most common side effects of chemo treatment. This amazing tablet fools your taste buds by blocking sour and bitter receptors for up to a half hour, allowing chemo patients to temporarily regain their sense of taste. Unfortunately, I learned about Mberry too late and wasn't able to try it personally, but several friends found it really made a difference.

 For More Tips Follow My Chemo Board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

8 Essential Conference Items

Thanks to social media sites, like Twitter, anyone can instantly connect with other professionals in their field to discover trends, share resources and network. But even in our fast paced digital world, nothing compares to the good old fashioned face to face interaction of attending a conference. Professional conferences are essential to expanding your knowledge, building partnerships, and establishing expertise in your field. Plus, conferences are fun-- I always leave feeling re-energized and eager to implement new ideas.

With a little preparation, you can be sure to get the most out of your conference experience. You won't find me without the following essential conference items:

  1. Conference App-Most conferences offer an app that allows you to view sessions and build your personal schedule. Knowing which sessions you plan to attend and mapping out room locations prior to the start of the conference will allow you to have more time to interact and network with attendees during the event.  Tip: When attending a conference with a co-worker, plan to "divide and conquer"-- avoid attending the same sessions, as this limits the amount of information you can benefit from!
  2. Business Cards - Business cards still matter. Don't miss an opportunity to quickly share your information and most importantly, promote your institution. In addition to exchanging cards, I also take time to write down a note on the back of the recipient's card to remind myself why we connected, such as "contact for website resources" or "met at poster session." After the conference, I scan each card into my mobile device using an app like WorldCard Mobile, which instantly adds the information into my Outlook contacts.
  3. Twitter- Conferences attract a lot Twitter activity. Know the correct hashtag for your conference event, which is often posted on the conference website or materials. Even before the conference begins, follow the conference's Twitter stream (just enter the hashtag in Twitter's search tool) . By doing so, you will not only become more informed about conference happenings, you can instantly connect with other attendees. During the conference, I use hashtags to  monitor what’s happening in sessions other than the one I am in--I've even switched sessions midway after viewing other attendee's tweets.
  4. Grid It- Essential organization item, to hold and transport electronic peripherals. Grid It's elastic weave grid ensures that all cords, devices are within reach when needed. Offered in various sizes and colors to compliment backpacks, totes and briefcases.
  5. Portable Battery- Your mobile devices will drain quickly from extensive use during a conference. Throw one of these handy charging devices into your purse or pocket and never find yourself powerless or stuck at a charging station. (Side note: Related to this, check out Samsung's recent commercial entitled "Wall Hugger." Yup, we've all been there!)
  6. Evernote- Go paperless with this ultimate note taking tool!  Use your smartphone or tablet to capture images of handouts, PPT slides, record audio or simply type notes during sessions. Notes are organized in notebook format, searchable and instantly synced across your devices. Tip: I type notes on my iPad and when needed, use my iPhone to snap photos of the speaker's slides. The photo from my phone inserts into my Evernote notebook directly with my notes. (Evernote is FREE for basic use)
  7. Travel Mug- Breaks between sessions often include coffee stations and snacks. Aside from being environmentally friendly, carrying your own travel mug allows you to swiftly refill your beverage and move forward to your next session confidently in a spill-proof manner.
  8. Mints- Networking is a major benefit of attending a conference. You will be talking with others and often collaborating during sessions. With that said, fresh breath is essential. Have mints, not gum, handy so you can hold a conversation professionally without chewing a wad of gum.
  9. Power Strip- Between your laptop, phone, portable battery, and tablet, you will need an efficient way to charge all your devices simultaneously nightly. Having your own power strip eliminates the need to hunt for power outlets in your hotel room. Many power strips and wall chargers now include USB connections to make powering up more streamlined.
Attending a conference is one of the most engaging, accessible opportunities for recharging your career. Plan ahead so you can focus on getting the most out of the event.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Smart APProach to Cancer


Last year I presented A Smart APProach to Cancer during the inaugural Ignite Carroll event, showcasing apps that I used during my treatment. As a supplement to my presentation, I wanted to share an expanded list of useful apps for cancer care and beyond. Whether you are a caregiver or patient, apps are a perfect tool for managing your medical information and personal well-being.

Organization and Management


Chemo Calendar Use this app during chemotherapy treatments to track blood cell counts, symptoms and medications. Chemo Calendar captures and organizes all your information and tracks your symptoms. Reports can be emailed directly to your doctor. Free iPhone only

My Medical A comprehensive record keeping app for yourself or family members. You can track as many health records as you need in a single purchase. Use as a digital file cabinet to store lab work, x-rays and important documents. This app will remind you of doctor’s appointments, prescription dosage and upcoming lab tests. $3.99 iPhone/ $1.99 Android

MedHelper Pro Useful app for tracking prescriptions. Set alarms to remind you when medications need to be taken, and receive notifications of upcoming doctor appointments and prescription refills. $3.99 iPhone/Android

Evernote This easy to use app helps you remember everything! Evernote is a cloud based service that stores documents, notes, health records and to do lists. Scan items (using your phone’s camera), import PDFs, store receipts and record audio during doctor visits. Items are searchable and organized by notebooks and tags. Evernote syncs across multiple devices (PC, tablet, phone), allowing quick access to important information anytime, anyplace. Free iPhone/Android

Premium service available $5.00/month


Hello Doctor A simple and secure app, that helps people manage their medical records. Allows you to easily aggregate your paper and digital medical records on your mobile device, and add notes when meeting with your doctor. Free
iPhone/iPad only

WorldCard Mobile Scanning application that uses OCR (text recognition) to instantly transfer information from business cards to your phone’s contacts. With a click of your  phone's camera, you no longer have to manually input contact information from business cards. $2.99 iPhone only
Free trial available

Note: Your insurance and medical flex spending companies are likely to have apps to assist you with managing co-pays, claims and reimbursements. You can use your phone to quickly receive reimbursements for medical expenses by taking pictures of receipts and then electronically submitting information to your FSA.

Relaxation and Wellness


Music Therapy: Oncology Therapeutic music playlist designed specifically for patients in an oncology setting to help you relax during treatment. $2.99/month iPhone only

Free trial available

Songza A music streaming service that offers a playlist based on your selected activity or time of day. Select the relaxation playlist during treatment days. Free iPhone/Android

Relax Melodies: Sleep Zen Sounds Select soothing sounds and melodies to help you relax during treatments or fall asleep. Includes timers and alarms if needed. Free for basic

$2.99 for upgrade

Relax with Andrew Johnson Lite Do you have difficulty relaxing on your own? Let clinical hypnotherapist, Andrew Johnson help ease your tension by narrating you through a series of relaxation techniques. Free for basic

$2.99 for upgrade

Health and Fitness


Fooducate Do you know what you are really eating? Scan or manually search food and drink items to reveal a nutritional grade from A to D. Fooducate’s grading scale is based on an algorithm using the ingredients list. The grading system is developed by scientists and dietitians. Includes an "alternatives" item list to help you shop healthier! Free for basic use. iPhone/Android

$9.99 lifetime subscription available

Waterlogged Drinking water is critical to good health, but especially important during chemotherapy treatments. This app tracks your water intake in fun visual way. Free for basic use.
 iPhone only

MyFitnessPal The fastest and easiest calorie counter! Includes the largest food database and convenient barcode scanning input. MyFitnessPal also includes an exercise tracker to monitor the amount of calories worked off through the day. Connect with friends option. Free

RunKeeper Track your runs, walks, bike rides and more using the GPS in your phone. Provides encouragement and coaching during your exercise. Listen to music, capture photos and post your activities and achievements with others. Free for basic use

Various upgrades available from $9.99-$19.99

  Tips for finding apps:  

  • Search for apps in a browser rather than in the App Store/Google Play 
    • Try Quixey: a search engine designed specifically for apps
  • Review the Ratings and Reviews- a good way to find better apps is to sort by the ratings given by customers. Remember to look at both the rating and how many times the app has been rated.
  • Review the Version History- this indicates how consistently the developer does updates to improve the app (look for current updates).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sharing your Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer_conversation"It's been several weeks now, just pick up the phone and call... you NEED to know", my boss said to me in a concerned tone. Sensing my hesitation, she refused to budge from my desk until I reached for my cell phone.  I nervously flipped through my contacts and searched for my surgeon's number. In my mind I already knew the results of the biopsy, I just didn't want to hear the words. I was relieved when after several rings,  my call was directed to the office voicemail. "Good. I have more time," I thought, and I left a brief message. Within ten minutes my surgeon called back.  "Mrs. Harrington,..." the tone of his voice immediately indicated that something was not right. The only words I recall hearing after his greeting were: "'s cancer." We made arrangements to meet the following week, and I hung up. Mindlessly, I wrote the word cancer on the notepad in front of me, a million thoughts rushed through my mind: What next? How do I  tell my family I have cancer? Who should know?

Facing a cancer diagnosis was overwhelming, and I struggled with telling others about my condition. Initially, I was more private, only a handful of my close friends and family were made aware of  my diagnosis. I was uncertain about going public, until one day a friend said to me "Why are you being so quiet about this? You need to share your story...others will benefit from your positive attitude and approach."  What a perspective! I didn't realize that sharing my journey could help others. I also discovered that talking openly about my diagnosis turned out to be rather therapeutic, both for my family and myself.  Along the way, I was also fortunate to connect with other survivors, who offered solid advice and insight that no one else was able too.  Most importantly,  I learned that people want to help, and letting others know about my treatment enabled my family to receive much needed support and relief.

Being open with your diagnosis is a personal decision and may invite a lot of attention you may not be prepared to handle. You may decide it's simpler to keep the news of your diagnosis confined to your immediate family. Regardless of how many people you decide to tell, it's helpful to have a plan. Below are a few suggestions, based on my experience, to help you talk about your cancer diagnosis:
  1. Decide who should know- Create a list of people you want to tell personally, either by phone, email or face to face.  You may find it helpful to have a secondary list that a family member or close friend can contact on your behalf.
  2. Develop a script- Decide how much you wish to share with others. People will want to know your cancer type, your treatment plan and prognosis. Detailing your diagnosis over and over again can be exhausting, so you may find it easier to share more detailed information through email, which can include links to resources to help others understand your prognosis.
  3. Set the tone- Wait until you have processed the news fully before talking with others, this will help you maintain composure. Assure your family and friends that you are going to do your best to fight. People often don't know what to say and your outlook and conversational tone will foster openness.
  4. Plan a response- Upon hearing about your diagnosis, people will want to help. Allow yourself to receive help and support. Be prepared to respond with ideas that are comfortable to you. Assistance could include meal preparation, cleaning, driving to appointments, childcare, prescription pick up, or grocery shopping.
  5. Develop a communication plan- During treatment you may find that sharing your experience with others provides an outlet and helps ease your anxiety. But detailing your journey can be time consuming. Consider appointing a spokesperson to communicate with your friends and family periodically. Updates can be posted through a blog, social media or using web resources like CaringBridge, which includes privacy controls. 
  6. Don't get discouraged-Friends and family who are uncomfortable with your news may be unsure of how to talk to you. There will be people who seem to slip away from your life. Recognize that this has nothing to do with you- these people are dealing with there own personal conflicts and fears. (This was the hardest part for me to realize) A positive side of having cancer is you will discover who your true friends are and make many new lifelong connections during your treatments.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Gifts for your Geeky Gal

With all the attention on the snowfall this month, it's seems Valentine's Day is quietly sneaking up on us! With just a few days to go, I thought I would share my selection of gifts for the tech savvy woman in your life. These geeky gifts are sure to last longer than a bouquet of roses or box of chocolates!

Fitbit flex
Fitbit Flex
A functional accessory for your Valentine! Now available in violet, pink and lime, the Fitbit Flex is a stylish activity tracker. This colorful wristband tracks steps, monitors sleep patterns, and provides daily motivation for an active lifestyle. Activity reports are synched instantly to your smartphone or a web browser. The Fitbit Flex allows your Valentine to stay stylish with interchange color bands and a new Tory Burch collection coming soon!
The EverPurse will ensure you can always stay in touch with your Valentine. These fashionable purses contain a charging pocket to keep phones powered throughout the day. The purse itself charges on an inductive charging mat. Many colors and styles available.

Capture moments with your Valentine using this fun iPhone accessory. Olloclip lenses are small enough to fit in your pocket, but provide big results when clipped to an iPhone. Olloclip offers telephoto + circular polarizing and 4-in-1 lens options to help you capture extraordinary photos with your phone.

Shower Speaker
Bluetooth Shower Speaker
Set the stage for a romantic evening with a warm bath, candles and some music! Compatible with any Bluetooth enabled device, this waterproof speaker provides all playback controls (forward/back/pause/play), accepts Siri commands and allows you to answer calls (or not) using the built in microphone. The suction cup backing makes set up easy. Available in a variety of colors to match your decor.
Link to item

USB Cassette
USB Cassette Mix Tape

Cassettes may be a thing of the past, but the novelty of creating a mix tape for your loved one is still just as meaningful as it was in the 80's. Simply drag and drop songs from your music library to instantly create a unique music compilation for your Valentine. Retro case included!

Instant Poetry App
The most meaningful gift is expressing your love through a letter or poem. If you lack creativity, the Instant Poetry app is the perfect tool to help you find the right words. Choose the "love" theme and then arrange the randomly displayed words to form a verse. Add a custom background and share your poem with your loved one through email or social media.

Happy Valentine's Day!