Wednesday November 27, 2013
Image © Julie Wilkinson
It's the morning of Thanksgiving and all through the house...you can hear a shout of frustration as I realize my bird is still frozen solid. Handling, thawing and cooking your poultry safely is very important -- unless you want to give Uncle Ralph diarrhea or make Aunt Bee nauseous from a foodborne illness.
Bacteria such as campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella can grow on raw poultry. These bacteria can and will make you very sick unless you thaw, cook and handle your turkey safely. If you or someone in your family is undergoing treatment for colon cancer, is it especially important to keep any bacteria out of your holiday meal. If the immune system is already fighting cancer and dealing with treatments such as chemotherapy, the addition of a foodborne illness can make you very sick.
Bacteria begins to multiply rapidly if you do not thaw your bird correctly. Never thaw turkey (or any meat) at room air temperature. Your turkey can be safely thawed in the fridge or by a cold water soak. I've also heard it can be done in the microwave, but personally never tried that method and won't be starting this year. If you choose the cold water soaking method be sure to keep the bird in its wrapper and completely submerge it with cold water. Change the water every 1/2 hour while it soaks, or as directed by your turkey brand label.
Turkeys are juicy birds. Every year I'm surprised at the amount of blood and drippings that cover my counter after getting a turkey ready for the roasting pan. Make sure to clean all surfaces that the bird or any raw juices have touched -- including your hands -- before beginning to prepare any other foods in the same area. A simple wipe-down with a dishcloth won't cut it; use an antibacterial cleanser and paper towels.
Cooking the Right Way
Depending on how you plan to cook your turkey (pan roasting, oven bag, grill, smoker...the possibilities are endless) make sure that it is thoroughly cooked before serving it to your family. Cooked poultry should reach 165 degrees on your food thermometer and if you stuffed your bird, the stuffing should also reach 165 degrees.
No Picking at Countertop Leftovers
It's tempting to leave the dishes on the counter and pick away at the bird while watching the ball game. However, cooked foods grow bacteria pretty rapidly. Make sure all leftovers are put in sealed containers and in the refrigerator within two hours of pulling them from the oven.
Could I Have Food Poisoning?
Most of us will be eating all kinds of rich, delightful foods tomorrow including things that we probably do not enjoy the remainder of the year (sweet potato casserole, anyone?). Gorging on these delights is sure to cause some bloating and sleepiness from being satiated. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest contacting your doctor right away if you suspect a foodborne illness and have:
- A high fever
- Vomiting that does not stop
- Diarrhea for more than three days or are becoming dehydrated
Be safe and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Monday November 25, 2013
Image @ Nyull/Dreamstime.com
I recently came across a study published by the National Coalition on Health Care. Frighteningly, the poll states as many as 15% to 28% of people are misdiagnosed in identifying their cancer. Based on 400 cancer specialists' opinions in a poll, the types of cancer most commonly associated with misdiagnosis include lymphoma, breast, and sarcomas. Colon cancer is on the list as well, but ranks pretty far down.
Ugly statistics aside, the poll was aimed at finding the root cause of this problem and obtaining suggestions to improve the occurrence of misinterpretation and misdiagnosis of cancer. Believe it or not, you are a part of this process. Participating in your health care decisions and treatment means that you actively advocate for yourself. If you don't believe what you've been told, there's no harm in obtaining a second opinion to back up these findings.
If you are looking to find a new doctor or a second opinion, About.com's Patient Advocate Expert Trisha Torrey provides some excellent guidance that can be found in the following articles:
I didn't write this to frighten you. I did write it to remind you that you are the leader of your healthcare team. If you are not receiving answers to your questions or getting the care you deserve it is within your rights to look elsewhere.
Tuesday November 19, 2013
Image © Julie Wilkinson
If caught and treated early, colon cancer survival rates are excellent. However in life there is an exception to everything. I recently lost a good friend to the disease and she had done everything "right". She got routine screening exams, kept all of her wellness appointments, exercised daily and didn't eat or drink to excess. It's very easy in a scenario such as hers to feel sadness, anger, and a desire to yell the question, "Why her?"
Although it is a very sad story to lose someone in the prime of their life, I learned an invaluable lesson from this extraordinary lady. She did something that I've rarely seen -- she died with grace. She knew her death was unavoidable and so she starting planning. After her memorial services I learned that the song choices, scripture, her dress, and even her casket were all hand picked by her, therefore lessening the burden on her family in making so many choices following the death of a loved one.
My dear friend gave her family and loved ones another exceptional gift: She took time to say her goodbyes, offered forgiveness where needed, and was transparent about her lack of treatment success and impending decline. Along with her family's support, she decided to forgo any further treatment for her colon cancer. This sounds like the opposite of what some people might do in the name of "protecting their loved ones from the disease", but in actuality it helped them start grieving.
She told me countless times that she "fought a good fight" and was ready to go "meet the Maker". Sure, she had moments of tears and self-pity, but she also had a few wonderful months on hospice care at home with her loved ones. I hope that when my time comes I can display this strength, dignity and grace, and give these final gifts to my family as well.
Tuesday November 12, 2013
Image © Julie Wilkinson
What do Dr. Oz and President Barrack Obama have in common? They both underwent colonoscopies -- the screening exam for colon cancer. I could add hundreds of famous people to this list -- but there's a chance it still wouldn't convince some people to make that appointment.
Most frequently I hear three recurring reasons why people avoid this simple screening exam:
- "I don't have health insurance and cannot afford it."
- "I don't have any symptoms -- there's nothing wrong with me."
- "No way am I doing that bowel prep. I've heard it's horrible!"
Since I am a huge fan of dissecting things, let's look at the first excuse. Actually, many people who are uninsured or underinsured can still obtain low cost or completely free screening and wellness exams. This is an important part of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Second excuse is a popular one for many people in their early fifties. The purpose of the colonoscopy is to catch polyps or cancer before they get so large that it starts to cause symptoms. Rectal bleeding, weight loss and fatigue are usually late -- as in the cancer's been there for awhile -- signs.
The third -- and probably the silliest (oops yes I did say that) -- excuse for avoiding a colonoscopy is for fear of cleaning out the bowels, which is known as the dreaded bowel prep. Sure, you'll spend a lot of time on the toilet. Yes, you have to take pills or drink fluids to flush out your colon. However, the effects are not permanent and the prep usually only takes a day or two.
It might be a matter of opinion, but if I know that this test might just save my life, you can bet I'll be signing up for it -- bowel prep or not.