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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Every hug was a victory dance... A goodbye story

I am an oncology nurse. Saying goodbye and grief comes with the job. However, no matter how accustomed I am to this, it is never easy. And no matter how experienced I get with this there are patients who will always leave such a mark on my life that saying goodbye to them will be like losing a part of myself. Today, I said goodbye to one of those patients.

**details have been changed and left out to respect the identity of this patient**

I first met this patient last summer. She was coming to us with her second primary cancer. She is a young mom. She was well versed in the cancer and chemo world already. She is gracious, compassionate, has a beautiful smile, is one of the fiercest fighters I have ever met, and has taught me so much in the last months I have gotten to spend with her. Even if I could share all the details of this patient, I could not clearly put into words what an amazing woman she is.

This patient is one of the ones who hasn't handled chemo well at all, in fact, she is absolutely miserable with chemo. We had every medication on board possible and every alternative treatment we could come up with, but no matter what the nausea came like clockwork. Despite the nausea though, we together as a team would battle through the chemo with one goal in sight... to give her just a little more time with her children.  And just a few months ago when she had a clear scan, we danced and hugged and celebrated together.

The type of cancer she has though is one where over 60% of patients with this cancer die within a year of diagnosis... and patients diagnosed when this cancer had already metastasized (spread to other parts of the body) are normally given only a max of 6 months. This disease is awful. But this brave patient stared it straight in the face and lived beyond that 6 months. Unfortunately though, because her disease is so bad that clean scan didn't last long...

Last week I saw her for what I now know will be the last time. In my head I knew it would probably be the last time I would see her.. there is a 6th sense you develop after walking with so many people in their last days.. but there is always that twinge of hope... that maybe just maybe things will turn around. But they haven't and chances are they won't.

Today her mom called into the clinic stating they wanted to give an update. A few minute later before I could realize what was going on there were 3 of us on speaker phone with her as we said our goodbyes. Her body is shutting down and the cancer is winning. And this woman that has taught me so much in the last few months will soon leave this earthly home for her eternal home. I am so beyond thankful for the absolute amazing opportunity to walk with her through her cancer battle. I am so incredibly thankful for the things she has taught me about life. I said it to her and I mean it, I will remember her for the rest of my life. And some of her final words to me will stick with me forever... "Erica every time you gave me a hug at the end of each chemo it was like our victory dance... we did it... we made it through another one..." And as she said those words... I realized just how much a simple hug can mean to someone.

It is for this reason  and these moments that I will grieve. I will walk through these awful emotions that go with letting go of someone who has been a part of your life. It is for this that I will allow myself room to heal. It is for moments like this that I will continue to be the best nurse I can... even on the worst of days... even on days where I feel burnt out. I will put my every effort into giving them my all even when, especially when I feel like I have nothing left to give.

I will march through every little victory I can with my patients. Because I am their chemo nurse and I want them to know they don't have to walk this battle alone.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

My first septic patient-awareness of UTIs

I'm a cancer nurse... which means I can sense sepsis coming from miles away and can smell an infection long before the signs and symptoms occur. I can't remember all my patients who have gone septic, but I can remember my first one and always will.

I was in my final weeks of nursing school and enjoying my last few times of just being a quick train ride away from NYC. I was about 5 minutes away from walking out my door to the train station just a few blocks away to ride into NYC for a party when I got the phone call. My best friend from high school had been battling a UTI. She had started an antibiotic but things were not proving... and when she called she sounded like death. I changed clothes, hopped in my car and drove what felt like an eternity (really only 15 minutes) to get to her apartment. I ran up the stairs flew through the door and ripped the covers off when I saw her pulsating stomach and felt her extremely high heart rate. I called a friend because I wasn't even sure I could get Adel down the stairs. It took a while but I got her to the car and our friend Rachel met us at the entrance to the emergency department. 

I quickly parked the car and ran back in. When I saw her vitals it was in that moment that I wished I didn't know what all the numbers meant. She was quickly rushed back and an IV thrown in her as the fluids started going. 3 liters in and her blood pressure was still well below the low range of normal and her heart rate was super elevated. She wasn't able to pee and we sat waiting. Friends were cycling in and out and I was keeping her family posted on what was going on as her mom was on her way from a few hours away. It was in this situation I learned the value of hiding my emotions. I didn't want Adel to know just how critical her situation was.

After 3 liters of fluid and no new signs of improvement the doctors started to talk ICU. It was at this moment that Adel realized the severity of the situation. Thankfully, just a few minutes later she was able to pee and her vital signs started to stabilize a bit. She was admitted and stayed in the hospital for a few days receiving antibiotics and IV fluids.

She was my first septic patient, but I've seen many since then. I write this blog to educate others on the fact that even healthy, vibrant people are susceptible to severe infections. Don't take any infection or signs of infection too lightly and if something isn't getting better when you are on an antibiotic let your physician know because the bacteria may very well be resistant to the antibiotic your on. Your life is important :-).

Thankfully, in just a few weeks I get to stand by Adel's side as she marries the man of her dreams and I'm so beyond thankful that she does have this opportunity :-).

**This story was shared with permission from Adel**

Friday, April 25, 2014

5 Easy Ways to Break Apart a Work Day

Hello Worker Bee's everywhere!

I think everyone has been at point with their job or career where they have a hard time doing it.  It doesn't mean they love it any less, but it might mean they need a resurge to help them when you are having a hard time focusing.

With my primary job, I feel like I float around a lot.  It makes me feel very much like I have A.D.D. When I am in the office, I could be doing a number of different tasks.  Whether it is order processing, returning calls and emails, researching new prospects, coordinating projects, completing check-ins or just getting out to purchase office supplies OR being at the Salon and doing my thing there--we all need little breaks to help us keep our focus and keep us on track.  I have found that any one of these 5 very silly, but affective measure can be used to keep me fresh and productive during any given work day.  You don't believe me, ehh?  Try one I dare you!

1. Form an "Air Guitar Band" with your friends.  Yes, you read correctly.  This is a real thing.  We meet where ever we are at 9AM and jam.  Usually we pick songs for one another and we have at it.  We all are in our offices (which are all different locations from one another) and at 9AM let the strumming begin!  We do have aspirations to add a drummer to the mix.  We aren't quite there yet.  Don't be ashamed if someone sees you....they will be oh so jealous...

2. Send someone a quick note of encouragement.  This could be achieved via text, post-it-note, email or even a hand written letter.  Never underestimate how it could make a person feel knowing someone is there encouraging them!

3.  Water your lawn.  This is something so important.  Have you heard of the dance move "The Sprinkler"?  Here is a tutorial:  Stand up where ever you are and make sure that lawn is going to STAY GREEN!  Sound effects are optional.

4. Work on your fitness.  Sometimes when my day is beginning to drag and I know my attention span is ready for launch into space, I like to stand up and stretch.  Reach my hands up in the air, lean to my right and then to my left.  If I am sleepy, I do a few light jumping jacks or take a brisk walk around the plant.  It helps me huge to get my blood flow going and get my body rejuvenated!  

5. Draw a picture.  NO JOKE.  My best friend Blair would always tell me if I was having a bad day, draw a hand turkey.  Well my hand turkey evolved into other things....
This was around Christmas time...

Yep this was definitely a more "creative" starving artist moment....(tummy grumble...)
Whatever it is you do to break apart your work day, make it fun.  I am pretty sure the most productive days I have are the ones where I can step away from a project to be silly and shake looking at it for a while, and then get a fresh set of eyes on the task.  I tend to complete it quicker too.  It is amazing what a few random additions to a day can bring!

Have a great weekend lovelies! 
Catie Manning

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts on Friendship

I'm not the type of person that takes a friendship lightly; I'm fiercely loyal to my friends. However, there comes a point in all new friendships were you must decide: will we remain friends for the foreseeable future or will our friendship crumble? Friendships that last have all come to the same conclusion: we can not change the other person. That annoying thing they do? Chances are, it isn't going away. So, whether we are in a new friendship or relationship, we must ask ourselves am I still getting all that I need from this friendship even with these annoyances? If the answer is no, then sadly you need to walk away from that friendship. If the answer is yes, then you need to accept the annoyances and move on. I have certain friends in my life who each serve a specific function. Like a Swiss Army Knife, each one, being created by God, is suited for different situations. I have my friend who is incredibly grounded in God's word, I have a friend who is incredibly optimistic, I have my friend who is easy going, yet can see me through anxiety, and I have a friend who is incredibly passionate about all things. I don't always take everything to all of them. There are certain topics that I don't take to certain people. There are certain things that just stay with me. I may get frustrated when my optimistic friend doesn't think critically enough about a decision I'm trying to make. But I have to remind myself that in doing so, I'm asking her to be fundamentally different from who she is. I love the movie The Sound of Music. In the film, Max is trying to convince Captain Von Trap to perform at the festival. Realizing he can't convince the Captain, Max seeks out Maria's help to which she responds, "Max I can not ask him to be less than he is". If our friend is too _____ (fill in with any negative or positive quality you wish) and you ask them to change, in a sense you are asking them to be less of who they are. There is a reason why friends walk in and out of our lives and it has to do with our being able, or in some cases when friendships don't last,unable, to look past their faults. It is unreasonable to place expectations onto our friends to be someone or something that they are not. So, if a friendship or relationship has you down, I say it's time to figure out if the friendship is worth it. If it is, try to celebrate each other more. If it isn't, part ways wishing each other the very best.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Modest is Hottest!

For those of you who don't know, I come from a largish family.  I am the oldest (and wisest) of course, yet I am the shortest.  For whatever reason, my gene pool didn't get the memo that I was supposed to have long legs!  I have legs, but they are definitely not as long as they were supposed to be...sigh!  It is OK.  I have come to terms with it and frankly I am alright with me appearing like I am standing in a hole, constantly.

Besides the usual short people problems one might usually incur, I also have "assets" if you know what I mean.  I am keenly aware that I cannot wear V-neck tops, low cut stylish tank tops or anything along the lines of push up.  Because guess what happens?  Anyone taller than me gets a free show!  Not exactly the attention I am going for...but regardless, I have to set a better example for my sisters and now niece about modesty.

Claire Rachel is my 16-year-old curvy beautiful blonde-haired country girl little sister.  She is my big little sister.  I am so thankful that she wears her cowgirl boots proudly and wants her curves to be covered.  She wants to be modest, but she too wants to dress feminine.  I am so proud of her.  She one day came home from youth group and she goes...."Catie, you KNOW modest is hottest!"  We had a good laugh, but she is so right!  Modest IS hottest.

Being in high-school, teenagers are given so many messages.  They are surrounded by celebrities, models, and unrealistic body images galore.  They are told they are supposed to dress one way and act another.  Aren't they supposed to be teenagers?  Why are we forcing these teens to deal with such issues so young?  It is driven and perpetuated by our retail environment then reinforced by Hollywood.  Or maybe in fact it is the other way around...regardless, these poor teenage girls will develop low self-esteem and begin to look for all the wrong attention if the message of modesty is not expressed.

I came across a really cool way a teenage girl by the name of Megan Grassell and her mother are promoting modesty among bras.  Have you ever gone through the bra section at any store for those who are developing?  There are push-up options, sequins and lace, patterns, and over all a lot of inappropriate seeds being planted.  Bras, last time I checked, were there for support not for drawing unnecessary attention at such a youthful age.  Megan and her mother are resisting these designs and immodest attempts to make our young girls sex symbols through the development of their company Yellowberry.

Yellowberry's mission is to create beautiful age appropriate bras for developing teenage girls.  They have beautiful colorful bras that are fun, supportive, and I think are pretty cool.  Please visit their website for more information:  You can also find them on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

You owe it to yourself to be modest, stylish and have necessary parts covered.  Self-respect is everything.  If you don't have respect for yourself then how could you possibly expect anyone else to respect you?  Just saying....

Catie Manning

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Take a Moment to Regroup

Growing up I remember people telling me that time flies but I never believed them; I thought I couldn't wait another MINUTE to be grown up and married with kids of my own. NEWS FLASH: I graduated high school 7 years ago, have been married for almost 4 years, a college graduate for 3 years, and had a baby 1 1/2 years ago. I think its safe to say that I believe them now.

With spring, comes a whirlwind of activities. Get togethers are scheduled, gardens are started, after school functions are planned, spring cleaning lists are written; every one seems to wake up and remember there are other humans out there when they see the buds starting to show. After a long winter, its no wonder that we feel the need to get out and socialize, but I would caution you to not fill up your calendar too quickly. Remember to take time for yourself and your family. If your friends are what they say they are, then they will understand if you turn down the invitation to hang out here and there. Amidst busy schedules, it is very important for you to take time to regroup and focus in on the the things that really matter in your life. For me, that is my family and God.

I have really been trying hard to focus on my daughter lately; give her my full attention when we are home together. Too often I find myself on Facebook or Pinterest multiple times a day "just checking on something REAL QUICK". My daughter is happy kid and I think that she and I have a good relationship but I want to cherish the moments I have with her at this stage in life. Her world is so big right now and she is exploring everything she sees; I want to be right there with her rediscovering things all over again. It is a difficult task to entertain a toddler all day, I admit, but nobody ever said that parenting was easy. I have "to do" lists started all over the house, including my "to do" list for the specific day's tasks, but I am trying to retrain my brain to not focus my day on the lists. When I focus on my lists, neither I nor my daughter have a good day because I just get frustrated when she doesn't want to help me clean the bathroom or make 3 dozen tortillas for an hour  (C'mon, isn't that what every 1 1/2 year old kid wants to do with their mom?) and she gets frustrated because mommy is distracted and not playing with her. So for now, the lists will be written, but I will be writing in activities to do with my daughter too so that I'm not left checking Pinterest throughout the day for play ideas appropriate for her.

Apparently April is National Stress Awareness Month, with tomorrow being National Stress Awareness Day. (Anyone feeling stressed today? Hope you got your taxes filed in time!) So maybe tomorrow is the perfect day to start taking some time for yourself. Get some exercise and get those endorphins going, read a good book, take a long shower or bubble bath, play games with loved ones, or go get a massage. Review your planner and weed out the fluff that is just there because you felt bad about saying no. Make a point each day to go over your priorities so that you see your day in the right light. It is amazing how different a day can feel when you are focused on the things you care about. 

*For more info about National Stress Awareness Month/Day, check out They also have a free e-book with ways to alleviate stress. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

I hate running.... wait I'm not supposed to say tha

I hate running...  wait, I'm a personal trainer I'm not supposed to say that....

Let's try this again...

I hate running... rather.. my body hates running. I'm a nurse so I'm going to write a blog that for some may be a little bit of TMI, but I have a reason to share this. I have exercise induced asthma, and the thing my asthma hates most is running. I can however get my asthma under control. The part of my body that hates running even more? My intestines. If I do not carefully monitor my food and my pace I will end up in a ball on the ground in completely pain from my intestines spasming. I can teach a whole boot camp for an hour and have every dripping in sweat and people yelling at me "you're a monster", but running has never been easy for me even when I am in the best shape.

Yet here I am again, attempting running... why? Because it helps me in many ways and when I can run even a mile without some part of my very difficult body rebelling, I know I'm in a good spot. But what is the biggest reason when spring rolls around that I go back to running? My spiritual health. There is something so soothing to my soul that as I pound the pavement I can finally process things. I don't run with music and I don't like to run where a lot of other people are present... I like it where my thoughts can scream as loud as they need with no other distraction.

So... why do I run? I run because at the end of the day it makes a healthier whole me. I will go years without running, using other forms of exercise, but every time I come back to it... I'm reminded that exercise in general helps me to be a healthier me.

I will still always much more enjoy other types of activity... and let me encourage you if you cannot stand running one bit that there are PLENTY of ways outside of running to be active. So what is the type of activity that always gets you moving? A class? a sport? Walking? I'd like to hear what it is that helps you to be a healthier you!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Young Adults with Cancer... the fiercest warriors I have ever met

Dear Young Adult Cancer Patient,

I can't pinpoint the exact moment, but you have captured my heart. Through my 2.5 years of nursing you have taught me far more than I could ever imagine. You have wisdom beyond your years and truly know what it means to live.

I remember the first time I saw an age younger than mine in the chart, it was a harsh reality. Despite being young, vibrant, and healthy you were still diagnosed with cancer. You weren't even a smoker and you had lung cancer that spread everywhere... they were completely uncertain of how you in your mid twenties had gotten lung cancer.

I remember admitting you for your first round of chemo. You and your husband just a few months prior were talking about starting a family. Now you were faced with the quick reality that you would probably lose your ability to conceive and while figuring out chemo, a stem cell transplant, and dealing with the fact that you have cancer, you had to make decision on preserving your ability to have children. Life really did change for you overnight, but with a brave face you took on this challenge with a smile.

I remember you, not just one of you but two of you, who found out you were pregnant and had cancer. One of you minutes apart, the other of you just a few months apart. You both had a choice... your life or your babies life. You both selflessly chose your child's life. You both amazed me.

I remember you, many of you, young moms. You faced each day with the determination to have more time with your children and many of you beat the statistics for each of your cancers. You would spend that time with your children. The incredible love between you and your husbands has shown me that true love really does still exist. All of you, are incredibly brave women that I am so beyond blessed to have been able to be your nurse.

The young fathers, how you loved your children and your wives. My heart still breaks thinking of saying goodbye to you as you were discharged to hospice.

And the young singles. You bravely have faced this battle with grace and dignity. I have nothing but utter respect for you as you have faced your battles. Some of you have chosen to face it alone only letting a few people walk with you, others of you let your family and friends rally around you... all of you have left me speechless by your ability to walk through this.

So to all young adult cancer patients and survivors, please know that I think you are incredibly brave, bold, and amazingly beautiful. I'm so beyond blessed to walk with some of you through your cancer battle and will continue fighting for you. Thank you for capturing my heart and allowing me the privilege to walk with you.

With sincere appreciation,

One of your nurses

I could continue writing, but the fact stands... young adults with cancer is a VERY real thing. And it isn't just one type of cancer, but a widespread variety cancer.  Many of the patients I have come in contact with felt healthy one day and not the next day. Each year 72,000 people ages 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer (1).  There is very little research that has been done on treating cancer in the 15-39 age range. In people 40 and older around 60% of them are in clinical trials while ages 15-39 only about 2% (2). This leaves little room for improvement in treatments.  Cancer is the 4th leading cause of people aged 20-39 only behind suicide, homicide, and accidents (3).

I could continue on with the statistics, but my main goals in writing this post are this.

1. If you have the incredible opportunity to meet a young adult cancer patient or survivor, I encourage you to sit and get to know them. They are pretty incredible.

2. Help the fight by donating specifically to places like Stupid Cancer that specifically go to researching and assisting this specific age group fight against cancer.

3. If you are in this age range, please don't think you are invincible. Here are the simple things I recommend to help keep an eye on your own health... get a yearly physical, get yearly blood work, get a year skin check... and if you think something is wrong please don't delay going to the doctor.


1. Stupid Cancer

2. National Cancer Institute

3. American Cancer Society

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm Doing OK!

Today is a beautiful and in contrast to yesterday; it is less stressful by miles.  The sun is bright and shining and I am welcoming this weather with open arms!

I am thankful for supportive friends, family, and coworkers who despite my crazy schedule love and help me get through!  This song came on the radio and it totally reminded me that I'm doing OK!!

Today is Friday.  It is also my Grandma Mary's birthday.  She is 82 years strong and I have just realized that our time is so limited with her.  Make the most of everything.  Make the most of each moment we have with her.  Life is so very short, but we are doing OK.

I have had a ton of stress in my life lately.  Everything is in perspective and for the first time in my life I am content in the direction I am being drawn and I'm doing OK not knowing for sure of the outcome.  I keep my faith.  I keep my mind fresh, positive and just keep on pressing forward with each challenge each day as they come.  Sometimes baby stepping....and sometimes running a 10 minute paced marathon.

I found this lovely reminder on Pinterest:

What beautiful motivation coming into the weekend!  Keep a smile on your face Catie-girl.  This stress won't live forever.  This period in your life of single girl too will not last forever.  Keep your heart in it!  Keep the faith that you are moving toward your destiny and never give up!  You leap over the hurdles as they come and if you crash and burn it's OK.  YOU are doing OK.

It is called life.  Life is funny in so many sorts.  It tries to throw you for a loop and cause you to bob and weave through it to survive.  If you can keep up, you too are doing OK!

Keep a smile on your face today friends despite whatever mood you are currently in and know we got your back.

Catie Manning

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