What is “Brain Fog” and why does it happen?


“Brain Fog” is one of the terms given to an array of neurocognitive deficits which are often reported by cancer patients and survivors following cancer chemotherapy and/or other cancer treatments. Cognitive dysfunction can include the loss of ability to remember certain things, learn new skills, or complete certain tasks.

Cognitive changes are real – not imagined – and can cause problems in everyday life, such as short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, losing train of thought mid-sentence, mixing-up metaphors, or making up words. It is important to differentiate “brain fog” from reduced brain function caused by sleep deprivation, fatigue, and worry, which can occur even BEFORE chemotherapy or other treatments for cancer begin.

The causes of cognitive impairment are not entirely clear; many factors combine to produce symptoms. Possible factors or contributors are: 1) the cancer itself, particularly cancers of the brain, 2) cancer treatments, 3) complications of cancer treatment, 4) emotional reactions to cancer diagnoses and treatment (stress is a medical condition which can affect brain  physiology).

Please join us to gain a deeper understanding of this condition and learn how to better manage it – there are many tips and tools available. Seating is limited, so take this opportunity to connect to others who are also facing this syndrome by registering for our free workshop here. 

“By becoming an active participant in your fight for recovery, along with your healthcare team, you’ll have a better quality of life.”                                                                                                     Michael Sieverts (10-year cancer survivor and patient advocate).


Holding Courage Retreat


Over the weekend we visited the Ghost Ranch to experience some of the awe-inspiring spiritual geology where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted in her lifetime. While there we discovered an incredible resource at Ghost Ranch specifically for cancer survivors – “Holding Courage Retreats,” which are designated as a week-long haven for women who are experiencing cancer.  Their goal is for women to “spend time in a positive process that melds inner reflection and creativity with spirituality through group discussion and sharing, guided mediation, massage, yoga, body and breath work, and art and music therapy.”  The program ends each day with a refreshing, star-filled sky of earned sleep within the majestic canyons and mesas which surround the Ghost Ranch.  For more information, please see Ghost Ranch Holding Courage Retreats or contact Deena and Maureen at HoldingCourageRetreats@gmail.com. The next retreat is August 21-August 27th 2016, and they will hold two more retreats in November of 2016.

What a wonderful gift to share with survivors in our region! Thanks Maureen and Deena for all your work to provide this wonderful experience for cancer survivors.



Tools for Resilience

TONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | JAN 30 2016B&W Couple shutterstock_135636785 (2)

Wendy Harpham, M.D. is a 25-year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and a fierce advocate and mentor for helping patients become healthy survivors. She is a writer, and a national keynote speaker for cancer survivorship (I was privileged to listen to her speak at a Survivorship Conference in Minnesota.) She has written a wonderful book on resilience along the cancer realm titled Happiness in a Storm.  Along her journey of trying to become a “healthy survivor” she built upon the ‘Serenity Prayer’ or ‘Courage Prayer’ to help her face the challenges treatment and long-term survivorship represent. She credits this to Niebuhr’s work and a Talmudic proverb. This is her beautiful prayer that helped her heal: Read More


Surviving Cancer

Autumn country - woman walk dog in meadowSUSIE YOUNG, R.D.  |  OCTOBER 1, 2014

The word “cancer” experienced during a doctor visit is frightening, and the subsequent treatment truly changes a person forever. As a registered dietitian, I have patients ask me if specific diets or supplements “will cure their cancer.”  Below, I will list three common traits that are consistent among cancer patients who seem to do the best during treatment and who recover quickly once treatment has finished.

The most successful survivors I have seen follow three lifestyle patterns. Their success does not depend on the type of cancer, gender, stage of disease, or age – but rather the consistent pattern of these three things; decreasing stress, expanding diet variety and increasing fruits and vegetables, and exercising on a daily basis

1.  Decreasing stress – Successful patients will do two things to decrease stress; surround themselves with loving and supportive people and practice meditation and/or relaxation. This does not mean patients become dependent on others. Instead, they spend time with friends and family members who offer support, love, and respect. They also find time to relax and decompress every day. This mindfulness may just be 5 minutes of watching the birds out of your kitchen window: the key is to find the time to stop – and focus – on what is right in front of you.

2.  Increase variety of diet and eat more fruits and vegetables – The most successful patients eat a minimum of 5 vegetables and 2 fruits per day. There is always an ongoing debate about juicing or eating only vegetables and avoiding fruit due to its sugar content. The argument for either diet plan is unproven and can cause nutrient deficiencies and stress (see point #1). A far better way to eat is to include variety – eat broccoli, mushrooms, onions, berries, bananas, apples, melons, cabbage, Swiss chard, beets, potatoes – yeah, you get the picture. Eat it all, and if you want to become obsessive focus on adding variety. This rule is true for protein sources, dairy products, and whole grains. Eat it all and don’t feel guilty or create more stress.

3.  Complete some type of exercise on a daily basis, even if the exercise lasts 5 or 10 minutes. Exercise boosts the immune system, stabilizes blood sugars, maintains muscle mass, provides a social outing, decreases constipation, improves sleep patterns, decreases stress (see point #1), and improves overall mood and outlook.

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It’s True – It’s Really Not About the Bike


We just returned from a highly sought visit to Austin where we were honored to explore the LIVESTRONG Navigation Center and LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION.  The LIVESTRONG Navigation Center has been a much aligned program model for our rural version, Blueprints of Hope.  Sarah Gomez, Navigation Outreach Coordinator, sweetly accommodated us with a preview of the navigation services LIVESTRONG delivers.  The Navigation facility was eye-opening.  They are providing many services Blueprints of Hope provides, but on a much larger scale than for our clients in Southwestern Colorado.  The navigation team, who are mainly licensed social workers – along with the in-house Patient Advocate Foundation representative, assist with the practicalities of negotiating the intricacies cancer presents, and enable the program to have an additional layer which addresses the emotional issues related to cancer. Since partnering with the NavigateCancer Foundation, they are better equipped to offer clinical guidance relating to diagnosis and treatment, as this segment is provided by certified oncology nurses.  Navigation services are provided via telephone, e-mail or in person.  Our communities are one and the same, facing similar barriers – such as those related to accessing care.

Brian Myers, who is the Grassroots Marketing Director, then treated us to a tour of the green-built Foundation building.  Some of us know Brian by his involvement through LIVESTRONG’s presence and association with the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic over the past few years. The Foundation is down-to-earth, possessing cubicles for all (including President & CEO, Doug Ulman) – and a community space that is shared with other like-minded nonprofits.  The Tribute Wall is covered with permanent ceramic replicas of race bibs dedicated in honor or memory of someone who is “fighting” or has “fought the fight.”  There are ribbon-signs of yellow with black lettering throughout, and a wall with the moving invocation of the entire LIVESTRONG Manifesto:

“We believe in Life. Your Life. We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being.  . . .”

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A bird’s-eye view …

bicycle on green meadow


We are fortunate in Southwest Colorado to have a wonderful cancer care community with an accredited cancer program that works to provide cancer treatment and supportive care throughout treatment and beyond. Our medical community does what they are able to for those experiencing cancer, but as with cancer care everywhere, there are not enough hours in the day to do it all.

The concept for Blueprints of Hope developed when we recognized that once individuals who were experiencing cancer left the comfort and care of their cancer-care providers, many needs remained unmet. This wasn’t because the cancer care they received wasn’t great, but that there are so many needs to be addressed within the cancer care realm. It’s a systemic problem, and happens across the spectrum of cancer care everywhere.

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