Thursday, May 15, 2008
One of the hardest things to treat is denial

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

This marks the 500th article that I have written for the Star. I can't believe it has been that many. I guess I am in denial. Denial is a powerful player in medical care. There are many types of denial that we see. The usual result is that they interfere with an individual getting good medical care. One form of denial is to deny that a disease is present. The classic example is the alcoholic. The first step to treating alcoholism is for the individual to admit that there is a problem. The same thing is true for other types of addiction. A similar thing can be found in people with chest pain. The rule is that chest pain in adults should result in a visit to the ER. However, many individuals try to talk themselves into it being something else. I once stopped at the side of the road. There was a man lying there. He was having a heart attack. There was a bottle of antacid in his hand. When my father died of his heart attack, he was complaining that he had indigestion. Another form of denial is to think that medication will not help a medical condition. It is true that there are a lot of illnesses that will get better on their own. They do not really need to be treated with medication. However, most chronic conditions will only get worse without medication. I see this frequently when I treat children with ADHD. Parents want to do something other than medication. For children with mild ADHD, that might work. However, some children will not be able to learn in school without medication. Some people fear the side effects of medication. They may attribute the effects of the disease to the medication. For example, high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney failure. Medications that treat high blood pressure can affect the kidneys in very rare instances. Someone in denial will try to blame the kidney problems on the medication. It is really due to the blood pressure. If they stop the medication, it will only get worse. Once that happens, it will be too late for the medication to prevent it. Another type of denial is one that might harm others. There is a requirement in the Delaware Medical Practices Act that people who frequently lose consciousness should not be driving. They might have seizures. They might have other neurological problems. They might have a heart condition. It is an inconvenience to not have a driver's license. Many of these individuals try to convince their physician to allow them to drive before their condition is under control. That puts other people in danger. They are denying that they will pass out while driving. They are not in the best position to know that. There are many other forms of denial that interfere with good medical care. Most of them result in patients who do not follow their treatment as prescribed. Denial is a natural human reaction. However, the purpose of it should not be something that causes more harm than good. Hopefully, my 500 articles have helped eliminate some of that denial.

Nanticoke celebrates National Cancer Survivors Day, June 1 Join Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on National Cancer Survivors Day, Sunday, June 1, to give voice to the millions of people who have been touched by cancer. National Cancer Survivors Day is an annual, worldwide celebration of life. This is the 21st annual National Cancer Survivors Day, the world's largest cancer survivor event. Cancer survivors, caregivers, family members, friends, and healthcare professionals will unite in this symbolic event to show the world that there is life after a cancer diagnosis. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Care Center is hosting a Celebration Of Life from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 1, in the Riverside Food Court at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. Everyone is invited to attend. The featured speaker will be Mr. Lon Keiffer, a nationally known Motivational Speaker. The celebration will also feature local musical entertainment and refreshments. Door prizes will be drawn throughout the event and all survivors will receive a gift. "This event will lift your spirit because you can learn how surviving cancer is an attitude about life and living each day to the fullest," says Terri Clifton, National Cancer Survivors Day Coordinator for Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. A cancer survivor is defined as anyone living with a history of cancer - from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. Approximately 10.5 million Americans are now living with and beyond a diagnosis of cancer. In the United States, almost half of all men and one third of all women are expected to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. We need to learn as much as possible about this disease because many forms of cancer can be prevented and most cured if detected early. Major advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment have resulted in longer survival, and therefore, a growing number of cancer survivors. However, a cancer diagnosis can leave a host of problems in its wake. Physical, financial, and emotional hardships often persist after diagnosis and treatment. "Despite the adversities they face, cancer survivors continue to show resilience by living active, productive lives," says Clifton. "They face each day with courage and dignity in their fight against cancer and serve as an inspiration to all of us." For more information about National Cancer Survivors Day at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital contact Clifton at 629-6611, ext. 2577.

Skin cancer screenings offered As the summer season approaches, Beebe Medical Center's Community Health Program, in conjunction with the Tunnell Cancer Center, reminds the community about the importance of preventing the most common cancer, that which affects the largest organ of the body - the skin. Beebe will offer free skin cancer screenings from 5 to 8 p.m. on Monday, May 19, and Tuesday, May 20, at the Tunnell Cancer Center at the Beebe Health Campus, John J. Williams Highway, Rehoboth Beach. Beebe physicians volunteer to do the screenings by appointment only. To make an appointment, call Linda Roberts at 302-645-3100, ext. 2724.

Stroke support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer free monthly Stroke Support Group meetings designed for individuals who have survived a stroke and their families and caregivers. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. The meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and networking. Refreshments will be provided. Sheila Brant and Joan Burditt, occupational therapists at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, will facilitate the support group meetings. Pre-registration not required. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 5121.

Depression support group The Mental health Association in Delaware will be sponsoring a Depression Support Group in Laurel on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. The meetings begin at 7 p.m. The MHA encourages anyone dealing with a depressive disorder to attend. Register in advance by calling 1-800-287-6423. Peer support groups sponsored by Mental Health Association of Delaware are not intended to replace professional mental health treatment. MHA does not publish support group locations; locations are provided with registration.

Blood Bank announces challenge Strange but true: saving a life costs less than filling a tank. Much less. That is the message companies across the Delmarva Peninsula are hearing as the Blood Bank of Delmarva is getting ready to kick off the 6th Annual Summer Blood Challenge, which begins May 19. The competition, open through Aug. 30, features more than 100 organizations. Each is hoping to be named "Top Lifesaving Employer." With gas at $4 or more a gallon - nearly $50 for an average fill-up - the $5 Blood Bank of Delmarva membership fee can seem like quite a bargain. In exchange for filling a unit of blood every 18-24 months, members receive blood replacement insurance for themselves and their dependents, nationwide. But donors do not need to be BBD members to score points for their companies. Donating blood or platelets, joining the Blood Bank and running in the 5K on July 19 all score points for the team. To underscore the message that blood is life's fuel, the BBD is giving away fuel-related incentives to winners each week: free gas. Two participants selected randomly each week will receive $50 gas cards. And winners at the end of the competition can win an array of prizes - including a cruise. Starting May 19 until Aug. 30, businesses and organizations will compete to recruit the most new Blood Bank members and blood donors. One will be named the "Top Lifesaving Employer" on Delmarva. Prizes include a cruise and gas gift cards from $25 to $500. All participating employers will be highlighted in a full page ad in area newspapers in May. All top winners in each size category will be credited in a full page ad in the same publications again in September. Employers that would like to be involved in the 2008 Summer Blood Challenge can call Blood Bank of Delmarva at 302-737-8405 ext. 887 or e-mail Lisa Gravely at For more information, visit or call 1-888-8-BLOOD-8.