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Rx for chemo brain: birds, plants and trees 3 times a week.


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From the August, 2003, issue of Cancer Nursing, authored by Cimprich, Bernadine PhD, RN, FAAN; Ronis, David L. PhD.

Earlier research indicated that attentional fatigue with reduced capacity to direct attention in women treated for breast cancer may be ameliorated by a theoretically based intervention involving regular exposure to the natural environment. This study tested the efficacy of a natural environment intervention aimed at restoring attention in 157 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer. Capacity to direct attention was assessed with a brief battery of objective measures at two time points: approximately 17 days before surgery (time 1) and 19 days after surgery (time 2). A randomly assigned intervention protocol was initiated after the first assessment and before any treatment. The intervention comprised a home-based program involving 120 minutes of exposure to the natural environment per week. The intervention group (n = 83) showed greater recovery of capacity to direct attention from the pretreatment (time 1) to the preadjuvant therapy period (time 2), as compared with the nonintervention group (n = 74). A significant effect of the natural environment intervention was observed even after control was used for the effects of age, education, attention scores at time 1, other health problems, symptom distress, and extent of surgery. The findings suggest therapeutic benefits for capacity to direct attention from early intervention aimed at restoring attention in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.

Here's the intervention as described to subjects:

There are certain activities that a person can do during the day that may help to rest and restore concentration and mental energy. These activities are called restorative experiences. An activity needs to have special qualities to rest and restore the ability to concentrate. A restorative activity should:

• catch your interest very easily,

• involve a change from daily routines or concerns,

• not be boring, and

• be enjoyable or at least pleasing.

Identifying and Choosing Preferred Activities

Activities thought to be especially helpful in resting and restoring the ability to concentrate involve experiencing NATURE in some way. These may include:

• visiting a scenic spot (observing, sitting, strolling)

• sitting by a window with a natural view (trees, garden)

• watching birds or wildlife

• listening to birds, sounds of nature

• watching a beautiful sunset, clouds

• tending plants or gardens

Importance of an Action Plan

Sometimes we unknowingly overuse our ability to concentrate. This can result in mental fatigue or tiredness. Regular restorative activity is needed to maintain ability to concentrate especially during demanding times. Restorative activity needs to be done at least 120 minutes per week. You may choose the activity and the day. It’s a good idea to space the time and activities over the week. Try 30 minutes four times a week.

Neat, huh? No drugs required - Mother Nature does the healing! Florence Nightingale said nursing was all about putting the patient in the best condition to permit nature to proceed with healing. It seems Flo was right (again.)

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Well I walk my dog at the park and in the woods twice a day every day, rain , shine or snow. Does raking leaves up count as gardening? Been doing a lot of that lately. We have bird feeders outside the living room window, am always glancing out to see the cardinal or chickadee etc. Thank God I have never had breast cancer too. Kidding aside my husband has always said that I needed the walks with the dog more than the dog did. Donna G

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I put up window feeders in my classroom, and when the birds didn't return in September, I was starting to get anxious. They are back now, and I always teach with one eye on the window. Always wondered why I was so attached to those birds . . Thought I was just a crazy lady.

Last week the third graders saw a redheaded woodpecker.


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I live in a log home set on 20 acres of woods. My wife and I have owned this land for 23 years and we love our wooded property. I don't get out into the woods as much as I used to, as our property is on the side of a hill and there is about a 300 foot difference in elevation. I tried walking the woods once this summer, but got too winded (that was when I was on chemo, so that was probably a factor). Very shortly, I will have about 15 acres selective logged. A logging crew is coming in and will be cutting oak, with a 16 inch or greater diameter, and hickory. I had the land logged, in the same fashion, 20 years again. It is actually good forest management, as it allows the younger trees more space to grow. Selective logging is also good for the wildlife. One of neighbors, when he heard that I was going to log, got upset, because he heard that I was going to "clear cut", which I would never do.

We've had deer graze in our yard, bald eagles circle overhead, and all kinds of birds in our yard. I enjoy going out at night, as coyotes will usually be howling in the distance. We do have to put up with the disadvantages of living in the woods, mice getting in our house, and racoons getting into the garbage. Also, we have insects that get in the house as well, which is one of the disadvantages of living in a log house.

We woudn't give all this up for all the money in the world. I have had several offers to buy my land, but have turned each and everyone down.

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