Emergency Preparedness for People with Blood Cancer

Emergency situations such as a hurricane, earthquake, blizzard, flood, or blackout, are unpreventable and can drive a city into disarray in a matter of hours – but the more preemptive thinking and planning that people do prior to a catastrophic event, the better equipped they will be to respond. This is especially true for people with cancer, who must be particularly cautious during such times, as they are often more susceptible to infection or injury.

Debri in road during typhoon

Follow these 5 tips to help minimize the harm that a natural disaster or public emergency can cause to your personal health:

Travel with Caution
Since extreme weather can cause travel delays both on roads and throughout public transportation, be sure to allow extra time to make it to your appointment safely. You may also want to consider staying in a hotel near the hospital to avoid hazardous commuting conditions before and after your appointment, especially if you’ll be in and out of the facility more than once within a few days. Some programs, such as the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Manhattan and Extended Stay America’s Hotel Keys of Hope help to alleviate the financial burden of traveling away from home to receive treatment by offering guest rooms for people undergoing cancer care. If you are uncertain about travel conditions, call Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian’s (WCM/NYP) emergency hotline at 212-746-9262.

Stay in Touch
If you are due for an infusion or injection during an episode of severe weather or other emergency, contact your doctor to discuss the risks versus benefits of finding a safe way to get to WCM/NYP’s treatment center, finding an alternative temporary treatment center, or possibly delaying treatment. In case you do need to seek treatment at an alternative facility, reach out to your insurance provider for help, and bring your insurance card with you to any clinical visits.

Know Your Info
Be aware of your exact diagnosis and disease stage, as well as where you are in the chemotherapy or radiation treatment cycle (if applicable). If you are a participant in a clinical trial, know the trial number, principal investigator (PI), and treatments involved. Should you forget any details pertaining to your medical records, you can easily consult Weill Cornell Connect, WCM/NYP’s secure online health connection that allows you to communicate with your doctor, access test results, request prescription refills, and manage appointments – anywhere, anytime.

Power Through Outages
Power outages frequently accompany extreme weather conditions, and it is vital to prepare accordingly. In the event that you cannot charge your mobile devices or access the Internet, you will want to have physical backup of important medical information, so record the names and dosages of all the medications you take, and keep copies of prescription slips that contain your health care providers’ names and contact information. Also note that some medications that require refrigeration may lose potency in temperature variation. In the event of a blackout, they should be replaced as soon as possible.

Pack the Essentials
Keep a first aid kit including basic essentials like extra bandages and gauze compresses, antiseptic wipes and ointments, over-the-counter pain relief medicines, and 3-4 days’ supply of any oral medications you may be required to take. Medication in its original container may be subject to contamination if exposed to flood water and is best stored in a sealable bag (Ziploc, for example) ahead of a natural disaster. Look to replace any medication that does not appear dry.

In general, but especially after severe inclement weather, be sure to communicate with your cancer care team if anything out of the ordinary happened (such as running out of medication or receiving treatment at an alternative facility) during the emergency episode so that they can update your medical records.

All of the physician practices at WCM/NYP have coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but even in the rare event that the outpatient center is closed, the emergency department will likely be open. In the case of a medical emergency, dial 212-472-2222 or 911.

Wishing everyone a safe fall and winter season!

A Reflection on National Cancer Survivor Day: “I’m Cancer-Free, But I Don’t Like the Word ‘Survivor’”

By Katie DeMasi

Today, June 4th, is National Cancer Survivor Day. Personally, I’m not totally in love with the word “survivor.” Maybe it’s because I’m new to this whole thing. It’s only been a little less than two months since I was told I’m cancer free. When I think about survivors, I think about plane crashes or that show on TV. I think about luck. I didn’t beat cancer because I was lucky or because no one decided to vote me off the island. I beat cancer with the help of my healthcare team, especially everyone at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, modern day medicine, and positivity.

Here I am on my last day of chemotherapy.

This is all just my opinion, and maybe as I get older and time goes on, I will understand survivorship in the face of cancer. Nonetheless, today is a day to commemorate those who have won their battles and to remember those who aren’t with us. It is a day of not only celebration, but also reflection.

I often think about what my life was supposed to be before I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last August. I was supposed to be starting a job as a new nurse in New York City. I was supposed to move out of my childhood home. I was supposed to be living my life like any normal post-graduate. But to be honest, I’m kind of sick of talking about that. I’m more interested in what my life is and will be. I like to think about how my experience with cancer has changed me as a person. I think about what I have overcome and just how I did it.

I have learned the true meaning of the expression “YOLO” (You only live once.) and have included the word “yes” a lot more in my day-to-day life. And not just in the instances where it’s like, “Do you want to get ice cream?” or “Do you want to leave work early?” because those answers always have been and always will be “yes.”

I’m talking more about attitude and experiences. I can say with my whole heart that I have become a more positive person because of what I’ve been through, which might sound weird to some people. Why would something that was pretty awful cause me to have a better outlook on life? Well, it’s because I’m still here. Duh.

Chemo is bad. It is not fun. It is the enemy. But you know what they say: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” So instead of complaining about having to wake up early to sit in traffic just to get to the hospital, and then get chemo dumped into my body, and then feel like a zombie for the next couple of days, I said “yes.” Yes, I can do this. Yes, I can get through this. Yes, I will take that Ativan before I leave the hospital so I can sleep in the car on the way home.

And now that chemo is done and has left me with a taste aversion to cranberry turkey wraps (I know, specific, but I ate one while getting chemo once and just the thought of it is making me gag.), I have carried over my “yes” attitude into my every day life.

I love sitting on the couch in my sweatpants binge-watching Netflix as much as the next girl, but there is a lot to do and see in this world. In this life. I’m not saying I plan on never working again and travelling the world (even though if I won the lottery today, I would probably be on a plane to somewhere new tomorrow); I’m talking about taking advantage of a beautiful day. Spending it outside instead of being cooped up all day. Doing something I’ve never done before, like going to a music festival or paddle boarding. Trying a new menu item at a restaurant I’ve been to a million times. Trying a new restaurant all together. Meeting new people. Spending time with family and friends and really being present.

Here I am outside of NYP after I got my clear scan results, eating my first hot dog in six months. Again, it’s the little things.

It’s the little things that I am saying yes to now. Things that maybe I would have ignored or pushed off before. I have stopped thinking about what the plan for my life was and started to think about what the plan is. Life threw me lemons even though I planned on making orange juice. So what did I do? I took those lemons and made a lot of lemonade during chemo because it really seemed to help with the nausea.

I can wish I never had cancer all I want, but that’s not going to change the fact that I had it. So, I have changed my attitude and learned to appreciate what I have now, turkey wrap taste aversion, lemons, and all.

Light the Night 2016 Photo Album

In case you missed last week’s 2016 Manhattan Light the Night event, our friend’s at Weill Cornell Medicine posted a photo album of the event’s festivities.




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