From The Desk of Vanessa – July

Written by: Vanessa De Aquino, RPN, 3rd year Nursing BScN student at Trent University

July 17th: Glioblastoma Awareness Day

July 17th marked a very important day that brings awareness about the most common and complex type of brain cancer: glioblastoma. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, it was estimated that 3,200 Canadians were diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancer last year (1). Having said that, let’s talk about brain function as well as some current statistics about brain cancer in Canada. 

Brain Function

Have you ever heard anyone say that the brain is like a computer? Or some one-of-a-kind masterpiece? Well, the brain is part of a highly specialized system called the nervous system which is then, subdivided into two, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The brain and the spinal cord are parts of the CNS which is responsible for carrying and transmitting information such as pain, vibration, temperature, movement and pressure. Other functions include movement, coordination, vision, hearing, language expression and comprehension, and so many more. The PNS includes all other structures outside the CNS, such as the spinal and cranial nerves. This system is responsible for sending information to the CNS but also other very important functions such as regulating blood pressure, heart rate and digestion. With that being said, how to ensure that your brain is healthy? What if a tumour starts to grow? Do you know someone with brain cancer? How can you help? Let’s learn some facts about brain tumours in Canada.  

Did You Know?

According to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada:

What to Do?

If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumour, it is important to find ways to help you relieve some of the anxiety and stress you may be experiencing. If you feel comfortable, talk to your family, call a friend, or find a support group. There are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programs that teach emotional skills such as self-compassion in addition to understanding the importance of living in the moment and the “power of now”. Your mental health is just as important. Take a breath and put your one-of-a-kind masterpiece computer in a relaxed mode! Speak with your healthcare team to find some coping strategies that can work for you.

Know someone who has a brain tumour and would like to help? Offer a car ride to their medical appointments. Have you thought about how much this person may pay in parking the 52 times they may need to go to a hospital during the first year of treatment? It can be very costly and it can add a lot of stress not only for the patient alone but for the whole family. Babysit, cook a meal, get groceries, offer to clean the house. Any help is a big help. 

Nutrition

The National Cancer Institute has issued a booklet, Eating Hints: Before, during, and after Cancer Treatment (3) which has great tools to manage eating problems due to medications, chemotherapy and radiation. Alternatively, talk to a dietician to help you choose foods that are nutritious and meet your caloric needs.

Bon Appetite!

Recipe to help with weight loss 

Overnight Oats

Yield:  1 serving 

Serving size:  1 1/4 cups 

Ingredients

Directions:

  1. Combine oats, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, cinnamon, and maple syrup in a sealable container (such as a Mason jar or Tupperware) and stir with a spoon until combined.
  2. Place the lid on the container and put it in the fridge overnight (or for 8 to 10 hours). 
  3. Remove from fridge and remove the lid. Top overnight oats with fruit and chopped nuts.

Brain Exercises

Since the brain is being tackled this month, let’s talk about brain exercises. There are some activities one can do to help with cognition, memory and creativity levels. It is known that additional stimuli to the brain can help with neural plasticity which simply means the ability of the brain to capture and understand new information and change its way of doing things according to these stimuli. This ability helps the brain to learn new skills but also to re-learn skills that were once lost such as walking or moving an affected limb after a stroke, cancer or head trauma, for example. Practicing a new language or an instrument, playing a board game or jigsaw puzzles and sudokus can stimulate your brain while helping you to take your mind off the disease process. Improve your cognition by doing some memory games, or by drawing a map of your city. Have your tried chess? Crosswords? Mahjong? How about painting or writing? 

Put your brain back into gear!

Videos

References

  1. Canadian Cancer Society (2022). Brain and spinal cord cancer statisticshttps://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-types/brain-and-spinal-cord/statistics

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