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April 6th, 2010
06:15 PM ET

The Challenge: Reflections on progress

By Angie Brouhard
CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge Participant

There are certain times of the year that I tend to reflect on the past and think about the future. These days include my birthday, the first day of the school year and, of course, New Year’s Day. This year, I have a new reflection day. The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My journey with breast cancer began last April after a routine mammogram showed a suspicious area.

Angie is making great progress as she trains for the triathlon.

Angie is making great progress as she trains for the triathlon.

It is hard to believe that it has been a year already. I have a lot to reflect on when I look back over the past year. I could think about the fear and uncertainty my family and I felt. I could contemplate the struggle my husband and I went through making decisions – decisions that you never think you should have to make. I could remember the pain from the surgery and the sickness from the chemotherapy. I could consider my feelings of awkwardness when grocery shopping with a ball cap covering my baldness.

I am a pretty positive person. I have a fairly optimistic view of life, so as I think about the past year, I don’t dwell on those feelings of fear, pain, and awkwardness. Instead, I thankfully remember all those friends and coworkers who brought my family dinner. I think about the many prayers offered on my behalf. I remember the cards and gifts people sent – even perfect strangers who heard about my diagnosis from a friend. I recall my husband taking care of my every need. I remember talking with other cancer survivors, sharing stories of encouragement. I consider the trips I took last summer – one family trip to Kentucky just before the chemo began, and another to our favorite Tennessee lake in between treatments – the lake we visited every year when I was growing up.

I can say without a doubt that I am in much better shape than I was a year ago before my diagnosis! Since the beginning of my training in January, I have made remarkable progress physically. I can run 6 miles, bike 20 miles and swim 1,400 yards. I have toned my body, shed a few pounds, and made healthy food choices. I have encouraged family and friends to join me in this fit lifestyle. My friend meets me at the local YMCA three mornings a week to swim. Another friend jogs with me, and my husband bikes alongside me. I hope I can encourage others to move toward a healthier lifestyle, too. Call a friend to meet you to walk a couple of times a week. Ask your spouse or your son or daughter to ride bikes with you. Having a partner in your physical fitness routine will keep you motivated and accountable! You can’t shut off the alarm and skip your workout if you know someone is waiting for you!

I am looking forward to this next year and can’t wait to see what it brings! You don’t have to wait until a birthday, New Year’s, or a significant life event to improve yourself mentally and physically. You can start today!

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


April 6th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Report: Hospitalizations spike for prescription drug poisonings

By Ann J. Curley
CNN Medical News Assignment Manager

Recent celebrity deaths from prescription drug overdoses – including actors Corey Haim, Brittany Murphy, and Heath Ledger- have created headlines but the problem is widespread, according to a new study out Tuesday. Unintentional poisoning deaths are second only to motor vehicle deaths for unintentional injury in the U.S. and that number has been rising since 1992, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new study, published in the May edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, finds that U.S. hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives and tranquilizers have jumped 65 percent from 1999 to 2006. That number is almost twice the increase in hospitalizations for poisonings by all other drugs and medicinal substances. “People are seeing headlines...and thinking 'it's sad and tragic but maybe it's just Hollywood,’ said lead author Jeffrey H. Coben, M.D., a professor and director of the Injury Control Research Center at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. “It's widespread throughout the U.S. and involves serious hospitalizations and is escalating at a rapid pace."

"The public needs to understand that prescription medications are just as dangerous as street drugs like heroin and cocaine, and they shouldn't have a false sense of security just because they are taking prescription drugs,” Coben said. “It's important to use those drugs exactly as prescribed and not in combination with other drugs."

The authors examined records of hospitalizations for poisonings, using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the largest all-payer inpatient care database in the U.S. The NIS contains data on more than 7 million hospital stays from approximately 1,000 hospitals and is often used for developing national and regional estimates for hospitalization trends. Estimated hospitalizations for poisoning by prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers increased a total of 65 percent from 1999 to 2006. For comparison, hospitalizations for poisonings by other drugs, and substances increased only 33 percent. Intentional poisonings from prescription opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers rose by 130 percent compared with intentional poisonings from other substances during the same period. And the most dramatic increase in poisoning hospitalizations during the seven-year period was for methadone, which increased 400 percent.

Some of the increase in opioid prescription use can be explained by initiatives introduced in 1997 by medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Association, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which promoted better pain management for chronic pain patients, including cancer patients, Coben said. But "the prescriptions for pain medications are often diverted and used for recreational purposes," he said.

Coben says that treating patients for prescription drug poisonings opens a door for caregivers. "One opportunity is to work more directly with people being seen in hospital emergency rooms for prescription drug poisonings. We don't know for sure that they are at increased risk for death, but they should be treated as a high-risk group and we need to learn a lot more about the factors that contributed to the overdoses and engage those patients in substance abuse treatment, if needed, to reduce any-long term risks."

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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