3 ways to avoid skin cancer this summer

As published on Kitchener Today

You can protect yourself from the harmful effects of heat and ultraviolet radiation – including skin cancer. Health Canada has tips on being proactive this summer.

1. Choose the right sunscreen

• Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

• Look for “water resistant” or “sport” on the sunscreen label. “Water resistant” or “sport” sunscreens have been formulated to stay on better if you are in the water or sweating. These sunscreen products still need to be reapplied after you get out of the water or after sweating heavily.

• Look for lip balms with SPF.

2. Proper use of sunscreen

• Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside and at least every 2 hours while you are outside. Apply it generously to any areas that are not covered by clothing, a hat, or sunglasses. Don’t forget your ears, the backs of your hands, and your scalp, if you have very short hair or are bald.

• Use sunscreen when UV index is 3 or higher (usually April to September).

• To get the full benefit from your sunscreen, it is important to use the recommended amount. For example, an adult should use about 7 teaspoons (35mL) of sunscreen to cover all areas of exposed skin (1 teaspoon for each arm, 1 teaspoon for each leg, 1 teaspoon for your front, 1 teaspoon for your back, and 1 teaspoon for your face and neck).

• Sunscreen and insect repellents can be used safely together. Apply the sunscreen first, wait 20 minutes, then the insect repellent.

3. Practice moderation

• The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 11 am and 3 pm – be mindful of your time outdoors during these hours.

• Wear a hat, sunglasses, protective clothing

• Find shade

• Protect yourself and your family even on cloudy days and in the winter, since snow is also a strong reflector of UV rays

• Keep babies out of the sun and heat as much as possible. They are much more sensitive to the sun than adults. If you are outside, keep your baby in the shade whenever possible and have them wear wide-brimmed sun hats, and light, loose-fitting clothing that covers their skin. Ask your health professional about using sunscreens on babies who are under 6 months old.

Sunburn Treatment

• Cool shower or cold compress

• Aloe gel

• Drink fluids

• ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain

Skin Cancer in Waterloo Region

According to A Population Health Status Report 2014, Melanoma was the sixth leading cancer diagnosed in Waterloo Region from 1986 to 2009. Incidence rates in both Waterloo Region and Ontario showed a steady increase during this period, with rates in Waterloo Region slightly higher than those in Ontario. Melanoma is most frequently found on men’s backs and on women’s backs and legs. It is the least common, but most serious, type of skin cancer. The mortality rate remained below 4.0 deaths per 100,000 people, with rates consistently higher among males than females. Skin cancer usually appears in adulthood, but can be caused by excessive sun exposure and sunburns in childhood. You can help prevent skin cancer by protecting your skin and your children’s skin from the harmful rays of the sun.

Waterloo Region Public Health and Emergency Services General Inquiries: 519-575-4400

Grand River Hospital’s POGO Satellite Clinic: a place of healing for local children battling cancer.

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Beyond the revolving doors, past the wheelchairs, resides the entrance to the POGO Satellite Clinic. Like a parent’s bedside after a bad dream, it’s a place where children go to feel safe. These children are battling cancer. The clinic is one of eight in Ontario.

Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) offers financial assistance to families to help ease some of the burdens associated with a childhood cancer diagnosis. POGO Satellite Clinics bring care closer to home for these families, also easing the burden of travel.

POGO Satellite Clinic Coordinator, and Resource Nurse for Children’s Outpatient Clinic, Cristina Peter has been with Grand River Hospital for eight years, “this was always where I wanted to be, in pediatric oncology.” She describes the best part of the job as “seeing the kids coming in looking well – able to receive their treatment, leave, and return to school.”

“Kids go through this and it’s the hardest journey of their lives, but many times they’re happy, singing, dancing and playing. It’s just amazing.”

The GRH POGO Satellite Clinic is the only hospital that sees children from all three tertiary centers; The Hospital for Sick Children, London Health Sciences and McMaster Children’s Hospital. Kids come to the clinic for anything from bloodwork, to chemotherapy. Clinic staff remain in communication with pediatric oncologists from the referral hospital.

Peter says all of the children are special to her, although; the ones that are diagnosed in the clinic hold an extra emotional connection. “Jonathan (J.T.) is one of the many families in our area that came in with symptoms and was diagnosed in our clinic. So, we were there when he had his first bloodwork done and results come in. Watching the family go through a cancer diagnosis is heartbreaking, but at the same time when you see them coming back feeling well and happy then it just helps us deal with the grief as well.”

Leanne Kukla, J.T.’s mom, recalls their cancer journey, “J.T. hadn’t been well for months but we didn’t know what it was.” Eventually they were referred to Sick Kids. On January 31, 2018 Jonathan’s family received a cancer diagnosis; non-Hodgkins’s T cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, stage 3. He was 10.

Childhood cancer affects the entire family. During critical stages of his treatment, J.T. and his mom lived at the Ronald McDonald House, in Toronto – separated from his dad and sister; Amber. Once he was in the intermittence phase, he was referred to the GRH POGO Satellite Clinic.

Again, they found themselves facing fear of change, “we were comfortable with the team in Toronto. We didn’t know what to expect or who we’d be working with.”

During their first visit they met Cristina. Leanne knew it was going to be ok when J.T. turned to her and said, “you know I think it’s going to be nice here.”

With treatment now 15 minutes from home, J.T. can attend school and sleeps soundly in his own bed – under the same roof as his mom, dad and sister.

“I can do anything, pretty much. I play hockey, I have a tournament this weekend, I’m excited for that.”

The Kukla family has also accessed POGO’s financial support – including meals and accommodations. “It’s not something you expect to have to spend, you have to and you don’t think twice about it but having the extra support, it’s been helpful.”

J.T. is in treatment until June 2020.

Find out more about POGO here.

KW Run for POGO happens early fall, find out more here.

Leanne Kukla, J.T. and Cristina Peter (left to right)

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Eating Disorder Awareness week resides in early February, but Ontario remains one of the only provinces that doesn’t actually recognize it. In December, Bill 61 2018: An Act to proclaim Eating Disorders Awareness Week was introduced by NDP MPP Jill Andrew to rectify this.

Eating disorders are defined as insufficient or extreme food consumption which can lead to the destruction of personal well-being. Common forms include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.

“Many people who start with a diet go on to develop an eating disorder. They affect people of all size, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background and age. Eating disorders are considered a mental illness – there is a biological component and even a genetic component – they can be influenced by one’s environment and socio-cultural influences,” says Suzanne Dietrich, who refers to herself as a non-diet Dietitian.

Anorexia is a condition driven by an intense fear of gaining weight, and an unhealthy perception of personal body image. A person with Anorexia will limit their food intake, lose drastic amounts of weight, but still see themselves as overweight. The risks, including death, are highest with this form of the disease.

Bulimia involves ingesting large amounts of food, followed by remorseful behaviour: vomiting, obsessive exercise, and use of laxatives – at times, a combination of these. Repercussions of the secretive behaviour include digestive problems, dehydration, and heart issues.

Binge Eating Disorder, in contrast to bulimia, includes over-eating without the purging. As a result, people who suffer from BED may become obese increasing health risks including heart disease, breathing issues and diabetes, among others.

There aren’t any definitive numbers on how many people in Waterloo Region suffer from the disease. Dietrich, who is also a member of the Waterloo Wellington Eating Disorder Coalition, says “that is one thing they are advocating for; research to look into and collect this data.”

It is important to remember eating disorders can be treated. Local supports include CMHA, an outpatient support group. In-patient treatment can be found at Homewood, in Guelph. There are also local private practitioners who specialize in eating disorders. Dietrich adds, “Ideally, an individual needs a full team to support them which includes a physician, potentially a psychiatrist, psychologist and/or social worker, and a dietitian. They also need support from family and friends. NEDIC offers a 1-800 call line which is also helpful.”

According to Dietrich, if you suspect a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, there are two important steps to consider:

1. Be aware of the signs & symptoms

  • Change in eating patterns – be it quantity, type of food, anxiety around eating, clean eating, following social media for biggest fat diets or eating alone.
  • Change in behaviour – pre-occupation with weight or body image, binging, purging symptoms, use of laxatives, withdrawn socially.
  • Change in activity levels: obsession with exercise
  • Change in weight, but not always. Eating disorders can occur in all shapes and sizes

2. Approach the person with concern and kindness

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness
  • Express concern
  • If they reject your expression of concern, they might not have defined their behaviour as a problem and may not feel ready – this may appear as denial, and anger. It is important to be persistent

According to National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED), a Southern Ontario study of 1739 teens concluded only 4% of the girls who reported current binge eating and 6% of girls who were purging had ever received any assessment or treatment for these problems.

You can find a list of local services at Waterloo Wellington Eating Disorder Coalition

Why I chose to reinvent myself.

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After 15 years of working in different facets of broadcasting, it was time for a change. I love media, so I needed to find a way to make a fresh start – while staying true to my first love. A colleague suggested a career counselor. During months of evaluation, I found my calling.

I enrolled in Public Relations.

My kids thought it was hilarious, and my friends questioned my sanity.

I guess being the oldest ‘kid’ in class has some benefits; my decision was based on years of experience. I know what I want…and what I don’t want. Most importantly, though, I have three daughters watching.

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Why do I love PR?

That’s easy.

It’s an opportunity to reinvent yourself through communication.

This industry is full of possibility, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

Reinvent yourself