The Mask Trend

I fly a lot. I mean, A LOOOOOOT.

Every week, I’m on a plane to travel for work. Every. Single. Week.

Planes are really just expensive busses with wings. Passengers are herded everywhere like cattle. I’m constantly surrounded by stressed out people in a rush, many of whom don’t know the ‘rules’ of traveling or how to make traveling easier on themselves.

Traveling for work is not nearly as glamorous as many people make it out to be. Remember that pic of Louis Linton getting off of a government plane all decked out in high fashion?

Credit to TMZ

Yup. DEFINITELY not traveling for work in real life.

Instead, imagine masses of stressed-out people forced to endure small spaces at exorbitant prices.

So much for glamour.

And now enter flu season, stage left.

JOY.

I know this flu season is especially tough. I feel like every week, there are more reports of healthy people dying of the virus. People are on high alert, and rightfully so.

But have we taken it too far?? How DO you prevent yourself from catching the flu on a plane?

Well…lots of people are creating their own prevention methods. Just last week, I flew from Burlington, VT to Florida. There were three people on the flight with surgical masks. The flight was a small one – maybe 50 people on board – so this was an UNUSUALLY high number of masked faces.

My seat neighbor was one of these masked travelers. She also wiped down the surface of the tray table and arm rests as soon as she sat down, clearly trying to sanitize her area to prevent infection. (Side note – she did not seem to be sick or going through any kind of cancer treatment. She may very well have been, so I’m not knocking her for this!)

Her area was very well sanitized – she couldn’t POSSIBLY get the flu with all this sanitization, could she?

Absolutely.

Masks aren’t proven to filter the air like many people think. According to the FDA, “While a facemask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a facemask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes or certain medical procedures.”

https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/GeneralHospitalDevicesandSupplies/PersonalProtectiveEquipment/ucm055977.htm

This is largely due to the fact that no mask (accept for a gas mask) creates an air-tight seal. Masks droop and have gaps around the sides of the face and nose. They are very good at preventing direct splashes to the face, but not very great at filtering the air that you breathe.

Filter much? I don’t think so!

Putting on a mask ultimately helps protect the OTHER people you’re around rather than yourself. If you cough or sneeze, the mask prevents those disease-carrying droplets from spraying everywhere like an invisible fire hose of sickness.

Also, strangely enough, she never used hand sanitizer. Washing your hands is the #1 way to prevent the spread of disease. She covered her face with a mask, sanitized everything around her, but never ‘washed’ her hands.

So, ultimately, as she’s wiping everything down, she’s also spreading whatever is on her hands BACK onto the very things she just cleaned.

See the irony there?

If you want to travel but also don’t want to get sick, please wash your hands. I highly doubt that the airport and the airplanes get a deep clean every day, so everything you touch has been touched by thousands of other people. My hand sanitizer travels with me everywhere.

And my number one FAVORITE way to prevent getting sick? It has nothing to do with what’s around you. Instead, focus on what you already have going on INSIDE you.

Did you guess it yet? Give up?

It’s to boost your own immune system! What better way to prevent getting sick than let your body do the disease fighting for you?! This is the entire reason a vaccine was created for the flu. (PS – GET YOUR FLU SHOT!)

Giving your body a fighting chance is always the best policy. I try and boost my intake of probiotics, kombucha, and vitamins this time of year for this very reason. Emergen-C travel packs also have a spot in my travel bags.

Also, you can easily get more immune-boosting power from certain foods. Foods in the citrus and cabbage family, leafy greens, and garlic are all good things to include when you’re trying to boost your immune system. You can find a list of immune system boosting foods here.

So the next time you go to reach for your handy airplane mask, please realize it won’t help you as much as you think it will. IF you have a weakened immune system, then by all means, rock that mask! But for you healthy folks out there…leave the mask at home and grab some hand sanitizer and a probiotic instead.

 

 

 

Birthday Blessings

Today is my birthday. Another year of health and happiness. Another year to enjoy life, to travel, and to be with my family and friends.

I am truly blessed to make it this far. When I was diagnosed, I had less than a 24% chance of living 5 years. It has now been 3 years – I’m not out of the woods yet – but I feel great and my scans are CLEAR!

YES, you read that right!! I met my oncologist today and my 6 month scan is ‘squeaky clean’ as he likes to say. I’ve now had clean scans for a year and a half. Woohoo!! It was the BEST birthday present a girl could ask for!!

I told my doc today that I can’t wait to get fired from his practice – that would be the best day of my life. Even if I get to walk away from my oncologist and live without fear of a recurrence, I still have the scars to remind me of what I went through. I still have the memories and I’m a different person because of what I went though.

Happy Day of Birth to Me!

Cancer may have changed me, but it will never break me. Like a tree in a storm, I will bend and sway with the wind. Some of my branches may break, but I will grow new branches. My bark will grow around the scars and become stronger. I will endure the rain and soak up the sun.

No matter what, I will always be.

The funny thing about life is that we always want what we can’t have. After having cancer, I understand the true meaning of a birthday. Another year to LIVE. Another year to LOVE. Another year to make a difference in the world! THIS is what life is all about. Don’t ever get blind sighted by what society thinks – focus on how you feel. And don’t take the little things for granted.

Most women I know DREAD hitting a birthday. They want to reclaim their youth and don’t want to divulge their age. Yet, I can’t wait to hit the big milestone of 50. It would be against the odds and the biggest blessing I could ever ask from the world. I would be BEYOND excited! Like, going to the bar and buying a round of tequila shots for EVERYONE excited!

So raise your tequila glasses, everyone. Here’s to health, happiness, and another year of life ahead!

Finances vs Health

Cancer is a beast. It comes at you from all angles. It’s like the Muhammad Ali of illnesses. There’s lots of dancing (aka doctor’s visits, blood tests, scans, infusions) and then WHAM. You get the insurance bills.

And ‘lights out’ to your finances.

Muhammad Ali drops Sonny Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on 25 May, 1965, their second bout. Photograph: John Rooney/Associated Press

Cancer hits you where and when you least expect it. I was 31 when I was diagnosed with cancer, and I had literally JUST moved to Florida for a new job. We used up most of our immediate savings on the move and I didn’t have the best insurance. Then after researching oncologists, we decided we needed to move back home…BACK cross country…to New England for treatment.

That decision was really tough. When I decided to quit my new job, ultimately ending a career that I had worked so hard for, I bawled. So much time, energy, and money had just gone down the toilet. I felt so guilty for upending our life TWICE in one year.

You can’t plan for something you can’t see coming. And our finances got stung big time.

I HATED that feeling. That feeling of squeaking by on one paycheck. Every bill was another stab wound to my heart and my wallet. I vowed that when I went back to work, we’d do things differently. I wasn’t going to leave my husband with a huge medical bill and no savings a second time around.

So while I was on the couch during my many months of treatment, I read everything I could on finances. I read Dave Ramsey. I read Tony Robbins. I read Ramit Sethi. I read Suze Orman. I read up on real estate, 401(k)s, IRAs, index funds, bonds, I read it all.

I became a sponge for finances.

At the same time, I changed my thinking about what’s important. I no longer needed ‘things’ as much as I once did. I stopped caring about shoes and purses and STUFF. Now I care about health, food, and retirement.

Yes…I’m 33 and I care about retirement. My husband is quite a bit older than I am. The one thing I want more than anything is to be able to join him in living life without work in the way.

We never know when we will leave this world. I could get hit by a truck tomorrow. But I love my husband too much to leave him in financial ruin.

So what did we do? We took a little advice from every source. We cut back on spending. Saved a couple months of a safety net. Paid off the cars and we’re working on paying off the house and my grad school loans.

We’re also maxing out my husband’s 401(k). Our latest adventure in finances includes buying a multifamily rental property and (eeeek) we’re looking at buying another!

Our humble rental property

Why why WHY did we decide to invest in real estate? Based on my calculations, we will get over 15% return on investment in cash. Every year. Forever. PLUS the tenants are paying off the mortgage, so we get to add that value to our wallets.

The best thing of all, though, is that we get to provide housing for some seriously hardworking locals. Our local area has a shortage of apartment rentals and many of the ones available are run by the kind of people who give landlords a bad name.

TRUST me – real estate is not for everyone. My husband and I agree, though, that it’s something that benefits both of us. We can see it, touch it, smell it (not that I suggest doing that 😉 ) and if something happens to either one of us, the other can handle the challenge.

Cancer taught me many things and I’m still using it as a learning opportunity. My health was the most expensive thing I’ve ever unwillingly purchased – and you can’t put a price tag on it. I hope to be prepared financially if melanoma ever rears its ugly head again. I gotta make the ‘return on investment’ worth every penny!

How has your health changed your mind on finances? Tell me in the comments!

3 Ways to De-Stress this Holiday Season

I have a million things on my to-do list. Work is absolutely bonkers with Q4 deadlines. I’m still dealing with my herniated disc and trying to find time to do physical therapy. Holiday parties and social obligations are peppered all over my calendar, and to top everything off, one of our tenants moved out and my husband and I are renovating the apartment.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I KNOW I’m not the only one in this pickle. The holidays bring out the best and the worst in us. Everyday stressors pile on top of holiday celebrations and it becomes chaos. Rather than living in the spirit of giving, it becomes survival of the fittest.

So how do you survive and actually ENJOY the holidays? Prevent the stress from building up with these three tips:

Just say ‘NO’

Remember the ‘Just Say No’ drug campaign from the 80s and 90s? The idea was that you don’t have to give an explanation for why you don’t want drugs. Just say no and move on.

Our obligations to friends, family, and coworkers often peak around this time of year. We worry about office gift-giving, holiday parties, baking picture-perfect cookies, and coordinating our presents with Santa’s always-perfect timing.

It’s so easy to say ‘yes’ to all the holiday festivities. Who wants to decline a party?! Food, drinks, merrymaking, who can possibly say NO? It’s like saying you don’t want to enjoy the holidays if you say no!

But the day comes and you forgot the present and the cookies burned and you have to make frantic runs to the store to get everything. In the process, you spend more money and time doing things that stress you out rather than just politely declining in the first place.

If you feel stretched out…if you feel burned out…if you feel too stressed, just say no. This particular party will NOT be the only gathering this year. Use the other 11 months of the year to get together with family and friends – on YOUR timeline – and make some great memories.

 

Keep Mindfulness in Mind

If you absolutely, positively CANNOT get out of participating in festivities that stress you out, use mindfulness to your advantage.

One way I do this in stressful environments is I change my inner dialogue. Instead of telling myself I HAVE to go to this party, I change one simple thing. I change the word ‘HAVE’ with the word ‘GET’ and it changes everything.

I GET to go to this gathering. I GET to spend time with friends and family (and that one person who is always annoying). I GET to go shopping with the crowds at the mall. I GET to bring my awesome cookies to the bake sale.

Because you know what? We are ALL lucky to be here. And I’m REDICULOUSLY lucky to be here. My doctors gave me a pretty poor prognosis with my cancer, but here I am 2 years later and I’m kicking butt.

We never know when we will leave this world. It may be tomorrow. This may be your last office Christmas party. So enjoy every last second you are standing here on this earth.

Drink in the gratitude with a small change in your inner dialogue. It will help you get through the stressful times and actually enjoy them.

A cup of tea, a couch, and some belly rubs with this guy help me to de-stress

Enjoy a Warm Beverage

When all else fails, have a cup of tea.

There’s something about a warm beverage that helps me calm down. Soak in the warmth. Let go of the stress. It shuts down my brain, warms my heart, and releases my stress.

It’s like holding that mug opens my pores and lets out the angst or something. After a long, stressful day, a cup of tea and a soft blanket on the couch helps me to let it all go.

And by all means, it doesn’t have to be a cup of tea. Try some hot cocoa. Or a warm spiced (or spiked) cider. Whatever warm beverage floats your boat. Take that 5 minutes of your day and truly enjoy something as simple as a warm beverage. Add in a fuzzy friend and it all melts away!

 

What do YOU do to de-stess during the holidays? Let me know in the comments below!  

Anesthetist on a Plane!

If you’ve been following me via my blog, you know that I travel quite a bit. As in, I’m on a plane every week. Traveling as a healthcare professional has its difficulties, but the amazing people I meet on my travels always surprise me.

And this week was a surprise indeed.

On my flight from Chicago to Boston, there was a sudden announcement over the speakers asking for anyone in the medical field to please press the attendant’s button. Someone on the plane needed medical assistance.

Oh shit.

Oh shit.

I waited a second to hear if anyone else was pressing the button as I was going through my CPR training in my head. After a few seconds went by, I quickly reached up and pressed the button. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a code, but dog gone it, here we go.

I was escorted back to a wonderful older married couple and was explained the situation. She had a seizure that lasted a few seconds, followed by another shorter seizure. I was relieved and concerned at the same time. No CPR today, but a seizure can be a very serious sign of something wrong.

What is a seizure? Find out here: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics/what-seizure

 

First and foremost, I needed a little background. Any history of seizures? Any history of recent falls? Any funny feelings or nausea? When did you last eat? She was answering all my questions and seemed very mentally aware. Nothing was out of place.

Diagnosing what caused the seizure was way above my pay grade. The next best thing I could do was keep her comfortable and safe.

I explained to them that a seizure can be a sign of something serious and that they should get it checked out pronto. (As in head to the ER as soon as we land.) I told them about the possible tests – an MRI and an EEG.

After the medical talk, I eased up. Cracked a few jokes. I told them I’d like to sit with them for the rest of the flight to keep an eye on her and they agreed. I really wanted to be there in case she had another seizure – keeping things cool and calm became the name of the game.

So we chatted for a bit about her grandkids and where they lived. It’s amazing how human we all become when you just talk with a person. I could tell she was a wonderful lady and by the end of our conversation, I felt like adopting her as a second mother. (She gives great hugs and I’m sure she’s an awesome cook! I got a vibe of love-filled casseroles from her 🙂 )

I gave them a list of don’ts and directions shortly before landing – she should take a wheelchair out of the airport, she shouldn’t drive, and she shouldn’t be hauling any luggage. No need to put herself in harm’s way.

Traveling leads to journeys big and small

Once we landed, I helped them off the plane and to baggage claim. I had given them my name and number in case they needed anything, and I truly hope they reach out.

Medical emergencies can be scary, especially when you’re trapped on a plane. I could only hope that someone is willing to help if the same situation happens to myself or my family.

So for all travelers out there, love your neighbors. Everyone has their own bubbles and travel tends to challenge those bubbles. But please remember that outside of that bubble is a person sitting beside you. A person with a family and grandkids and problems just like you and me.

Be kind to your neighbor and pay it forward. You may need their help one day.