Emotions, Stress and Disease

I will soon be attending a professional seminar. As a nurse, I am often invited to various seminars, but none intrigue me enough to pay the cash. But recently I was invited to a seminar that truly intrigues me; Emotions, Stress and Disease.

As a member of the cancer community, I have become truly intrigued by the emotional turmoil cancer creates in us. Unlike other illnesses where you are treated, recover and move on, cancer is different. It does not just cause physical turmoil, but emotional turmoil as well…and I’ve come to learn that often the physical recovery is much easier than the emotional recovery, the living with fear and uncertainty after physical healing.

I also believe that biology plays a big part in our emotional well-being. Brain chemistry changes bring on many mental illnesses. I worked for a bit on a psych unit and was blown away by the changes in patients who were put on the right meds. For some, it wasn’t counseling that cured them; it was the effect of medication on their brain chemistry. I’d taken care of schizophrenics who were talking to imaginary people and who were totally “out of it” who a week later on the right medications seemed totally normal. The same with many bipolar patients. Childhood and life stresses and circumstances play a part for many with mental illness, but I came to learn biology and chemistry are also involved.

Those of us with cancer get a double whammy…we are subject to terrifying life circumstances, but I’m sure our brain chemistry is also affected by the many physical stressors we face; surgery, chemo, dietary changes, activity changes etc. We have overwhelming physical and psychological stressors all at once. Most of us women who have appendiceal cancer also lose our ovaries and are thrust into surgical menopause, our hormonal balance changes drastically overnight.

The seminar I will be attending addresses both the physical and emotional components of stress and its effects on our brain chemistry and biology, also how our body chemistry and biology play into our emotions. It will deal with the neurology of emotions, neurotransmitters and stress hormones including adrenalin, cortisol and ACTH.

I think it will be really interesting…will keep you posted with what I learn at the June 10th seminar!

Back again!

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted! I got really busy! We moved into a house that was built in 1917 20 years ago, and it’s been an ongoing home improvement project since then…and we’ve even gotten to the point where the first rooms we redid are in need of redoing AGAIN in addition to the rooms we never tackled.

For whatever reason, I’ve made it my mission to have the whole house done at once with no more impending projects…so I’ve knocked out 4 walls of plaster and lathe and primed and painted the new drywall in the kitchen, removed the old wallpaper in our bathroom (we didn’t know when we put it up you are supposed to use “sizing” first, so it took me three 8 hour days to get it down). I’ve since repainted and redecorated the bathroom, had the tub refinished, painted my living room and dining room, re-painted and redecorated my kid’s room and tomorrow will start painting and staining our deck. I need to repaint and re-floor my office too as we knocked out and re-did a wall there that’s now in need of priming and painting. I want to redo our gardens too. I also stained and finished a door and all of the woodwork for the kitchen, the new cabinets to be installed next week!

I’ve also been looking for another job as my agency hours dried up (good thing as I had the time for the home improvement stuff, though!) and have also retrieved my kids and all of their belonging from college for the summer. Road trips and loading and unloading truckloads of their things!

I did find a new job, something different for me, but something I’ve done before for short time years ago and loved. I will be working at an inpatient facility for troubled teens. Teens who are struggling with drugs and alcohol and behaviors that have had bad consequences. Most are admitted for a 90 day rehab. I think being in the cancer community for so long has made me truly appreciate the effect that emotions and emotional struggles have on our lives. I struggled greatly and made bad decisions as a teen and had horrible self-esteem then, so I feel I will be able to relate to these kids and hopefully help them. Kind of a nice change of pace from hospital ICUs and IMCUs.

I’ve also been taking a statistics class (just took the final) and applying to grad schools. I was recently accepted into a graduate program at Loyola University in Chicago to work on my graduate oncology certificate and plan to start full time on my master’s degree as a clinical nurse specialist beginning next spring at Purdue University. I hope to work on both degrees simultaneously. Kind of fun, my daughter and I will hopefully be attending the same college next year! Maybe we’ll be able to have lunch between classes!

So…that’s my excuse for not posting in awhile…but it’s great to be so forward thinking now, to be able to contemplate a future, even if I no longer take it for granted. On May 16th I will officially be 9 years cancer-free…the limbo of life after cancer has lessened.