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Go Bag/Thoughts on a Commercial

ejourneys's picture

Happy New Year, everyone!

1. Go Bag

Thanks to the need to reach a minimum purchase on a good sale to get free shipping last month, I ordered a decent-sized fanny pack. I have tasked that fanny pack with being my hospital emergency go-bag.

Fanny packs and I go way back. My regular one is my "purse," and it has prompted more people than I can count to ask me, "Are you going camping?" Let's just say I carry a lot of stuff on a daily basis, including but not limited to my journal notebook, e-reader, mp3 player, first aid kit, and dumbphone with charger. Its side pockets hold my hanky and water bottle. (My wallet, also no slouch, lives in my pants.)

Compared to that one, the new fanny pack is a pipsqueak. But the new pack is on a different mission.

A search for "hospital go bag checklist" yields all manner of lists for pregnant women about to deliver. These lists include things like comfortable shoes and nightwear, a camera, items to help pass the time, etc. The one item on the list that I already carry with me (not just for emergencies, but all the time) is my health insurance card. That doesn't need to be in my go bag because it lives permanently in my wallet.

A search for "emergency go bag checklist" takes me into natural disaster territory: weather radio, extra food, batteries, flashlights. Not what I had in mind if I had to suddenly go to the ER.

I had better luck with my search for "emergency room go bag," which brought me to this excellent checklist. This list comes closest to the bag I have prepared.

Here's what mine holds so far:

1. Paper copy of my Power of Attorney.
2. Paper copy of my Health Care Proxy.
3. Paper copy of this filled-out form from Vial of Life. These can be printed out and completed by hand. I keep mine on computer and update it electronically. As a belt-and-suspenders move, I have also inserted a scanned image of my health insurance card.
4. Paper copy of my list of emergency contacts and other useful info. This includes some redundancies with the previous item, like health insurance info and contact info for my PCP and oncologist, along with medication list and allergy. It also includes my auto insurance info and contact info for my attorney. (I see no need to have auto insurance info in the ER, but I also carry this list in my regular fanny pack for general emergency use.)
5. Paper copy of my Bard Power Port card; the original lives in my wallet.
6. Small pad and pens.
7. Earplugs. (Trust me, these can come in handy.)
8. My business cards, which are a quick way to share my contact info.
9. Extra pair of magnifying reading glasses.
10. Toothbrush and toothpaste.
11. Comb.
12. Flash drive with the following files:
a. Items (1), (2), and (3) -- because I'm a belt and suspenders kinda gal.
b. My most recent blood work readout.
c. My most recent scans: bone scan, mammogram, MUGA scan, PET scan.
The flash drive is labeled and is in a small plastic bag along with a printed list of its contents.
13. Three anastrazole pills in their original bottle. I plan to swap this out whenever I get down to the last three pills in each successive bottle. (I may do the same with the vitamins I take, along with OTC analgesics.)

On my To Do list: ask someone at my hospital whether it's also a good idea to provide more than the most recent blood work and scan info, to give a historical perspective. I'd like to provide that option, but not at the cost of confusing anyone.

Years ago I had set up a go bag for my partner and included a bottle of liquid vitamins. During my partner's hospitalization from long before we met, her ex had brought liquid vitamins to be administered through an NG tube, when eating solid food had not been possible. I thought that was a brilliant move.

When I prepared for my lumpectomy I pre-packed a bag of clothes "just in case," even though I was scheduled for outpatient surgery. One never knows whether an outpatient procedure will suddenly develop complications requiring hospitalization. That bag is still packed with sleepwear, warm socks, and underwear. It sits at the foot of my bed, ready to be grabbed if need be. I also keep energy bars handy as a matter of course.

My regular fanny pack and my bag of clothes focus on comfort. More than anything else, my fanny pack Go Bag is geared for ready access to crucial health, insurance, and legal information -- designed to get data where it counts, when it counts.

2. Thoughts on a Commercial

Recently I was watching a show online and saw this ad from an organization called Hope for Depression. It shows a young woman, bald and with penciled-in eyebrows, being scolded by the people around her. They're tired of hearing about her cancer and she should just "get over it" and "stop with the pity party," there are people worse off than she is, etc.

Only at the end of the ad do you learn that the woman is actually an analogy. "You'd never talk like this to someone with cancer," the text on the screen reads. "Don't talk like this to someone with depression. Depression is real. Serious. Life threatening."

It's a valid and important message. Here's the thing, though: Until the end of the ad, I was thinking, "Hey, this is good -- someone is addressing the way a lot of cancer patients are treated."

That line, "You'd never talk like this to someone with cancer"? It happens. It has not happened to me personally, and for that I am grateful. But it not only happens to people undergoing cancer treatment, it happens especially once treatment has ended, the hair grows back, and the person looks better but still deals with many hidden side effects and aftereffects. Here are just a few examples. (Each word is a separate link.)

Another mistake with the commercial's analogy is that cancer patients often also experience depression (again, each word is a separate link) and other psychological ailments, like PTSD, which hits almost a quarter of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Depression can be pre-existing when cancer hits (it doesn't inoculate one against cancer). It can be iatrogenic, caused (chemically and otherwise) as a result of cancer treatment. It can arise as a result of the disease itself, brought on by physical pain and other bodily changes. It can arise through chronic, cancer-associated stresses, like financial toxicity.

This is not an either-or proposition. One doesn't pit cancer against depression. Many people are dealing with both, and cancer patients face the same insensitivity that depression patients face. The ad's message is important and needed, but it introduces a false narrative (and, in doing so, a false dichotomy) that does not accurately reflect what life for many cancer patients is like.

I've been lucky. Exercise and healthy eating help me. I find work-arounds to deal with my new limitations. Art and journal writing count among my coping mechanisms. But first and foremost, my brain chemistry is merciful. Throw that out of whack and all bets are off.

Large size

Lately I've been playing around with public domain art courtesy of Project Gutenberg. The bird, snail, empty shell, and caterpillar come from several volumes of Zoological Illustrations by William Swainson. The sun, bottom trim, and background pattern are stencils made from illustrations in Batik and Other Pattern Dyeing by Ida Strawn Baker and Walter Davis Baker. The flowers are stencils made from illustrations in issues of The Botanical Magazine by William Curtis.

Large size

This piece uses Notre Dame gargoyle and Duomo Campanile from The Brochure Series of Architectural Illustration, vol. 06, No. 6, June 1900; cityscape from Collins' Illustrated Guide to London and Neighbourhood; flying insects from Illustrations of Exotic Entomology, Vol. 2 by Dru Drury; and filigree from The History, Theory, and Practice of Illuminating by Sir M. Digby Wyatt. Some images were left mainly intact or were significantly tweaked; others were turned into stencils.

Large size

My breast cancer support group's December cookie exchange included this napkin, which I scanned and manipulated. This piece also includes my photo of a clouded, near-full moon on Christmas Eve and a tree branch stencil.

I've still got my chemo curls. They're especially pronounced right after my shower and make me want to sing "On the Good Ship Lollipop." I think they're a hoot and am having fun watching them grow wild.

May 2016 be kinder to us all.

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