Unsafe Disposal of Medications Affects You, Me, and Our Environment

TONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | APRIL 28 2018

Throughout my oncology career I have felt a bit unsettled knowing the multitude of medications our patients receive. Many of these medications may go unused for a number of reasons – either the medication stopped working or was no longer tolerated or needed, the treatment regimen was changed, or symptoms were abated. Under most circumstances, unused medication cannot be returned to a local pharmacy – a two-fold issue, as we are responsible for keeping them from getting into the wrong hands, and disposing of them in an environmentally sound manner.

Because most individuals are not aware of how to properly dispose of medications, – billions are  flushed down toilets, drains, and dumped into landfills. Improperly disposing of pharmaceuticals is worrisome, because by default they are designed to alter normal biological processes. Epidemiologists, endocrinologists, and other scientists do not yet understand the full effects of the collective exposure of these medications on humans, and to top that, the sheer volume of medications – including over-the-counter herbs, vitamins and minerals – continues to be increasingly consumed and excreted by Americans every day.

It is most concerning that studies are showing evidence of antibiotics in our sewage, which is contributing to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Other common medications found in our sewage are anti-depressants, hormone medications, birth control pills, and other endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that can mimic hormones and interfere with the hormone system in mammals. Some of these can contribute to the growth of cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Because it is so costly to upgrade wastewater and sewage treatment techniques to a system that removes these chemicals, many municipalities do not have them. What we can do to minimize the effects of prescription medications is take personal responsibility to follow accepted standards for the disposal of our own unused medications now. Here’s how: 

  1. Talk to your Pharmacist. Research shows that pharmacists are some of the most accessible healthcare professionals. As medication experts, pharmacists are available to guide you on how to properly dispose of your unused medications.
  2. Never flush medications down the drain or toilet. There are several other methods to properly dispose of medications on your own. Please link to the resources below.
  3. Chemotherapy medications must be treated as bio-hazardous waste. Contact the Specialty Pharmacy that dispensed or mailed you the medication for complete instructions regarding proper disposal. You may also call the pharmacist at the clinic or hospital that prescribed the medication.

Take-Back programs are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to dispose of prescription medications, preventing both misuse and abuse.

In Durango, Colorado, we are fortunate to have a year-round local Take-Back program, which is sponsored by the Durango Police Department. The disposal bin is located at 990 E. 2nd Ave., Durango, Colorado, with a detailed list of medications that will be accepted on Monday-Friday, 8 am-4:30 pm. Take-Back programs DO NOT accept any form of chemotherapy medications.

Where do the medications go from there? Currently the most common way of rendering medications and controlled substances as unusable is through incineration, which is a process that ensures the medication does not get into the wrong hands, or end-up in our community water system.

Please remember that most of our municipal wastewater treatment plants are not designed to treat water for the removal of all prescription and over-the-counter medications and cannot remove most of the chemicals and compounds in medications that are being released directly into our waterways. It is imperative that we all do our part to dispose of medications in the recommended ways to ensure that others and our streams, lakes, and rivers stay healthy! 

Safe Storage and Disposal of Medications (Cancer.Net)
AWaRXe Safe Disposal Site Locator
FDA’s Safe Disposal of Medications – or call 888-463-6332

 

 

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Holding Courage Retreat for Women with Recent Cancer

TONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | JULY 17 2017
Ghost Ranch is once again holding its “Holding Courage Retreat for Women with Recent Cancer.” Ghost Ranch is a beautiful spiritually-drawn sanctuary where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted in her lifetime. This retreat is a four day event which begins on Monday, August 28th and continues through Friday, September 1, 2017.  The 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.  Holding Courage Retreats’ guest fees are based on income. The charges range from $30 to $375 for a four-day residential retreat that includes the program, accommodations, and all meals. For more information, please see Ghost Ranch Holding Courage Retreats or contact Deena and Maureen at HoldingCourageRetreats@gmail.com.

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

 

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Group Support for Parents with Children Facing Cancer

TONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | MARCH 8 2017
Childhood cancer represents many incredible and ongoing challenges for the children and their families. Most childhood cancers in our region are treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and the need for psychosocial support for parents whose children are facing cancer in our rural communities is paramount. If you, or someone you love, is in need of support that encompasses others who are going through this journey, register through Summit Psychology at 970-382-2680. The group size is limited and begins at Summit Psychology on Wednesday, March 8th thru Wednesday, May 3rd, from 11-12:30 pm. Our thanks to Tiffany Rose, Summit Psychology, and Jesse Hutt, MD, for helping to meet the need for this parental support! We are so excited to have this therapy available to our community.

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Casting for Recovery Retreats

TONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | MARCH 1 2017
As with Blueprints of Hope’s vision of taking individuals experiencing cancer into nature, the Colorado program for Casting for Recovery was started as a way to take women away from the clinical setting. It is here is where they can relax and share their cancer experience with others who have had the same experience, and also learn the therapeutic and healing sport of fly fishing. The retreats also offer counseling, education and are provided at no cost to participants. In 2017 there are three Colorado retreats being offered. All are at the North Fork Ranch in Shawnee: June 2-4, September 8-10, and one on October 6-8 which is specifically for those with Stage IV Metastatic breast cancer. What a wonderful gift to our communities. Coming from a Montana Girl, there’s nothing more meditative and healing than fly fishing on the river. These retreats fill-up quickly. If you are interested, please register soon at Casting for Recovery.

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Holding Courage Retreats at the Ghost Ranch

ghost-ranch

TONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | OCTOBER 12, 2016

The Holding Courage retreats are designed for women who have had or who are currently experiencing cancer. They are offered so women can “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.” Each day ends with a refreshing, star-filled sky of earned sleep within the majestic canyons and mesas which surround the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The upcoming five-day retreats are November 9th through 13th, and November 18th through 22nd, 2016.

What a wonderful gift to share with survivors in our region! Thanks Maureen and Deena for all your efforts to provide this exceptional experience for cancer survivors. For more information, please contact them at HoldingCourageRetreats@gmail.com.

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How Does Alcohol Cause Cancer?

160209-alcohol-acetaldehyde-update

Infographic credit Cancer Research UK.

TONI ABBEY | September 15, 2016

(Reprinted with permission from the Dana-Farber Blog)

In a cabinet in London’s British Museum nestles a 5,300 year-old wedged-shaped tablet called a cuneiform. On its surface is scrawled one of the earliest forms of written language in the world.

And it’s a record of Mesopotamian workers’ beer rations.

Clearly, humanity’s relationship with alcohol stretches back thousands of years, but a long relationship doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy one.

We know that alcohol is damaging to our health in a number of ways – including an impact on cancer risk.

There’s concrete evidence that it causes cancer and that drinking less reduces your risk of developing the disease.

But we haven’t yet explored the science behind how alcohol affects and damages our cells, and how this can cause the cells in our bodies to develop into cancer. Read More

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Breast Cancer Treatment Navigation Handbooks

TONI ABBEY | AUGUST 17, 2016Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook

Through a grant from the Colorado Cancer Fund, we have been afforded the opportunity to offer this comprehensive patient navigation guide to individuals who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer in Southwest Colorado. Judy Kneece’s Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook includes 242 pages of critical information, with explicit illustrations, teaching step-by-step all things related to breast cancer, including pathology reports and treatment options. The navigation guide also provides worksheets to help organize thoughts and questions to help prepare for care visits with the oncology and surgery teams. All information is presented in a format to assist patients in making informed decisions about their surgery and other breast cancer treatment options.

Our goal is to increase the quality of life for those who are experiencing a breast cancer diagnosis. We have distributed treatment handbooks to many of the surgeons who work with breast cancer patients in Southwest Colorado. If you live locally, please contact us if you or someone you love could use one — we are so happy to share!

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Moved to Tears by Taxes: My Emotional Life Post-Cancer

STEPHANIE HARRIS, D.C. | FEBRUARY 22 2016

From-The-Hip-Photo-0024There’s no going back to what your life was before a cancer diagnosis. I know this. Yet I struggle at times to find my place in this “new normal.” My young daughter was diagnosed a year ago January and thankfully is now in remission and thriving. My life post-cancer is equal parts enriching and depressing. I used to love snowy days, but now a snowstorm carries with it a subtle yet palpable undercurrent of gloom, given that she was diagnosed in the wintertime. By contrast, after what my family has been through, a customary dinner out together, in our beloved hometown, feels like a privilege and an extraordinary blessing.

This week last year, 7 year-old Chloe had just completed her first round of chemotherapy in a hospital 350 miles from home, and her hair had begun to fall out. I know this was our precise experience one year ago to date because my smartphone sends me photographic reminders almost daily. “Rediscover this day,” my photo app says. Today, her hair has grown back in, but my family is still in the fallout from having been derailed by cancer. Read More

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Sugar: An Essential Macronutrient

Blueberries in a blue cupSUSIE YOUNG, R.D. | JULY 3 2015

“Does sugar feed cancer cells?” This is the most common question cancer patients ask me, my colleagues, and my peers. Sugar or glucose is an essential macronutrient and is the main energy source for every cell in our body. The brain, central nervous system, red blood cells, and muscle tissue depend on glucose to function properly. Despite all of the benefits of glucose, it continues to receive an image of being “the bad guy.” As Andrew Weil, MD states in a recent article, “I think there is a tendency to demonize whole groups of foods and macronutrients, such as carbs, grains and sugar. I don’t think that is a good trend.” The human body can break down a protein or a fat into glucose if glycogen levels run low. So what is the best dietary approach cancer survivors can adopt? To return to a healthy eating pattern and reduce undue stress, consider following these five steps:

1. Eat fruits and vegetables. Avoiding fruit or limiting vegetables because of the sugar content misses the point of a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and other cancer fighting compounds which is exactly what the body needs to fight off disease. This fear and restriction may increase stress, which in turn can increase blood sugar levels and decrease immunity.  Judith Payne, PhD RN, AOCN FAAN, from the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison published an article in the September 2014 Oncology Nursing Forum connecting stress and inflammation to cancer development and progression. Obsessing over the sugar content found in a potato or in an apple has the potential to increase glucose levels, increase inflammation, which in turn may increase the risk of some cancers. Read More

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Holy S _ _ _, You’ve Got Cancer: A Quick-Start Guide

A quick start guideTONI ABBEY | ONCOLOGY NURSE NAVIGATOR | JUNE 18 2015

Elana Miller, who is a physician, psychiatrist and writer was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic T-Cell Lymhoma. In her blog she writes about the integration of Western medicine, Eastern philosophy and holistic approaches to “help people live happier and fuller lives.” Through her experience, she has written a Quick-Start Guide for individuals whereby she shares her best material from her blog, and suggestions to find the tools to help cope with the challenges a new cancer diagnosis presents. Included in the e-book are two Tip Sheets:  “44 Ways to Make the Day of A Cancer Patient,” and, “11 Ways NOT to Help a Cancer Patient.”  To follow Elana’s blog and download a free copy of her “Quick-Start Guide” go to ZenPsychiatry.com.

 

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