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Mercy Medical Center Program Offers Cancer Patients Exercise, Social Support

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, while dealing with a cancer diagnosis, can be difficult, and often lonely.

To help people throughout their cancer journey, Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh offers PEACE (People Exercising After Cancer Enters), a free exercise and relaxation program for people who have cancer or are cancer survivors. Participants meet from 1-3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Based in group exercise, the program includes stretching, range of motion, strengthening, balance and cardio. Each participant also receives an individual strength program that is modified as needed.

PEACE bob and mike

PEACE participants: Bob Jakubowski and Mike Van Mun

Long-term participants in the program report improved mobility and endurance. However, the program’s greatest strength is the healing exchange that comes through socialization and group support.

“PEACE provides support not only as medical staff, but as friends,” said Lori Christianson, physical therapist assistant at Mercy Medical Center. “A cancer diagnosis is a difficult time in our patients’ lives, but with involvement in PEACE they are able to find community and support in facing it together.”

peace steve

PEACE participant: Steve Moon

Each session starts with 30 minutes of stretching, flexibility and balance. Then participants follow their individualized training regimen. Every session ends with group time for healing and relaxation, using guided imagery, music or visualization technique in a calm, quiet low-lit area. Special presentations on acupuncture, nutrition and massage are also offered, and emphasize the connection between mind, body and spirit.

“Most people who come into the PEACE program have never used workout equipment,” Christianson said. “However, we encourage each person to try something. Our goal is to help participants find the piece of equipment that works best for them.”

peace irene

PEACE participant: Irene Garbe

PEACE complements the Outpatient Oncology Rehab services at the Mercy Oakwood Outpatient Department and the Michael D. Wachtel Cancer Center. Started in 2011, PEACE is fully funded by the Mercy Health Foundation.

For information or to register, contact lori.christianson@ascension.org or call 920-223-0568.

Project SEARCH Kicks Off in Oshkosh


project SEARCH internsProject SEARCH is a collaborative employment program between the Oshkosh Area High Schools, Mercy Medical Center, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Goodwill Industries.  This program works on improving skills, reaching career goals, and being able to implement these goals in the work field.

The Project SEARCH interns started their first job rotations at Mercy Medical Center and Franciscan Courts this fall. There are 12 interns in the program this year. Interns are assisting in the areas of PCU 1, PCU 2, Birthplace, Outpatient Behavioral Health, the Health Foundation, Environmental Services and Food and Nutrition Services at Mercy. At Franciscan Courts they are helping in the areas of Nursing, Environmental Services, and Maintenance.

The interns complete three work rotations within the internship gaining opportunities to explore different types of job skills in a variety of areas. At the start of their day they learn skills in a classroom setting led by an Oshkosh Public School teacher, and then they work in their assigned area learning and completing specific tasks.

“The interns are fortunate because they see how the working world works,” Dana said.  At the end of the day they come together and discuss how their day went.

This program has been successful at Mercy Medical Center. The employees of the hospital are very welcoming of the interns and have even expressed interest in hiring them. Scott Schuld, Manager of Food and Nutrition, raved about how well his interns were doing, “Angel and Cooper are great workers. Angel is always smiling and always wants to be helping out.”

The interns seem to be enjoying what they are doing at the hospital. Deanna, one of the interns, mentioned that she wanted to work with people who have special needs. Working alongside the patients and talking with them has given her experience that she can use in her future career. “I just go right in and talk with them,” she said. “It’s just easy to do.”

Heroin Use is Spiking – Is Your Loved One At Risk?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration heroin use has increased 80 percent among teenagers and deaths from overdose in young people between 15 and 24 years has increased by 38 percent nationwide.

In Wisconsin, the number of known heroin cases has spiked from 648 in 2012 to 1,141 in 2015. In that time, 888 Milwaukee County residents have died from heroin or opiate overdoses.

But heroin has left urban streets and has made its way to more rural communities to wreak havoc in the lives of teenagers from middle- and upper-class families.

Even Door and Kewanee counties, which have had only three heroin-related instances in the last 5 years, acknowledge this dangerous trend and have preemptively published billboards declaring heroin “a weapon of mass destruction.”

What leads to heroin addiction?

The trend toward heroin abuse may start in the family medicine cabinet. With the rise in opiate pain reliever prescriptions in recent years, also came a rise in prescription medication abuse by young people. The euphoric and very addictive high created by the non-medical use of Vicodin, Oxycodone, Percocet and other opiate drugs has become the gateway to increased heroin use.

Rarely does a teen set out to become a heroin addict. Yet, one in eight high school students will choose to “try” one of these “gateway” drugs when introduced to them by a friend.

Many students erroneously believe that because a drug is a prescription it must be a “safe” high. This faulty thought process along with the previous experiences of feeling high may lead many teens to use prescription drugs repeatedly until they are hooked.

As a teen’s dependency on these prescription drugs increases and the cost of purchasing the pills rises, using prescription medication quickly becomes too expensive. At this point, some students will do something that they would have never imagined – they buy heroin on the street for as little as $10 a hit to get the same high. New users usually start smoking or snorting the drug, but often within weeks or months, many will start shooting up.

With the increased prevalence of heroin use in rural communities, it is important that parents, grandparents and friends be aware and become involved if they suspect drug abuse.

Learn how to recognize drug abuse or addiction

There are several common behavioral signs that a person abusing drugs may exhibit. The following tips may help you assess whether your loved one may be in danger. If you answer yes to several of the questions below, don’t wait – get specialized help from a drug counselor.

  1. Are there any major changes in behavior, mood, character or energy level?
  2. Does the person want more alone time?
  3. Is there a reluctance to introduce you to new friends?
  4. Is there poor performance at work or school?
  5. Are you missing money or other valuable items from the house?
  6. Is there a change in eating habits?
  7. Is there a lack of motivation?
  8. Is there a drastic change in finances – either no money or unexplained money?
  9. Have you found evidence of drug paraphernalia in the laundry, under the bed or near study or work areas?

In addition to the behavioral signs of drug abuse, there are also physical signs of drug use that you should know. These symptoms will vary based on the type of drug that has been used.

Opiates – Heroin / Oxycotin

  • Pinpointed / constricted pupils
  • Scratching
  • Needle marks
  • Lethargy (nodding off during conversations)
  • Hyperactivity

Cocaine / speed

  • Glassy eyes
  • Very large pupils (may wear sunglasses)
  • Erratic behavior
  • Irritability
  • Aggressiveness
  • Nervousness
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Thirst

Benzodiazepine / Xanax

  • Sedation / drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Unusual excitement
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Poor judgment
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • (Withdrawal from Xanax can be life-threatening)


  • Red eyes
  • Dazed appearance
  • Fits of laughter
  • Strong pungent odor
  • Paraphernalia may include rolling papers, blunts, pipes, baggies, lighters

Get help and find support

If you believe that your loved one may be abusing drugs, get help. There are professionals available to help you work through this problem. For more information on behavioral health services in the Ministry Health Care service area, click here.

There are also several online support sites that have been created to help family and friends deal with a loved one’s abuse or addiction.

Time to Act a site from drugfree.org guides parents through the investigative process and gives them an understanding of why a teen would abuse drugs. The site provides detailed information about the symptoms and causes of abuse.

Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization provides information and support for people who are dealing with the heroin addiction of a loved one. The site lists a variety of resources that people can use to help the abuser as well as themselves. An article entitled, 7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn, poignantly describes the facts that parents must come to realize when their child becomes addicted to heroin. Understanding these facts helps parents offer the best support to help their child.

Time to Get Help from drugfree.org is a support site for parents dealing with the alcohol or drug abuse of their child. It offers many tools and resources to help parents address the problem of their child’s addiction and many resources to support parents who find themselves facing this heart-rending situation.

Recovering addicts often say that it was the unconditional love and care that helped them get through the difficult rehabilitation process. A professional drug counselor can help you identify your role and help you work through your own feelings as they relate to a loved one’s addictive behavior.

If you suspect drug abuse, don’t wait. Talk to a drug counselor; it is the first step in the healing process for you and the first step that you can take toward helping your loved one.

For more information on local resources, click here to find a provider near you.

How to Stay Healthy at Any Age

cardiovascular health

Your Checklist for Health

The most important things adults can do to stay healthy are:

  • Get regular checkups and recommended screening tests
  • Be tobacco free
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation

Screening tests can find diseases early when they are easier to treat. Talk to your health care provider about which guidelines are right for you.

Breast Cancer Screening

Consider starting at age 40 or earlier. The greatest overall benefit is seen with mammograms every 2 years between age 50 and 74. Talk with your health care provider about when mammograms are right for you.

Cervical Cancer Screening

Women ages 21-65 years old should have a pap smear every 3 years.

Colorectal Cancer

Have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Your health care provider can help you decide which test is right for you. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to be tested earlier.


Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. If you have felt “down,” sad, or hopeless over the last 2 weeks or have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things, you may be depressed. Talk to your health care provider about being screened for depression.


Have your body mass index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity. (BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.)

High Blood Pressure

Have your blood pressure checked at least every year. Ideal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower, and high blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.

High Cholesterol

Men should have their cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 35. If you are a younger man, or a woman, talk to your health care provider about whether to have cholesterol checked if:

  • You have diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Heart disease runs in your family
  • You smoke


Talk with your doctor to make sure you’re up to date on your immunizations.

Osteoporosis Tests

Women 65 years and older (younger if high risk) should have a bone density test.

Prevent Falls

If you’re 65 years or older and have fallen or are worried about falling, talk with your health care provider about how exercise and Vitamin D supplements might reduce your risk.

Silent Infections

Adults born between 1945 and 1965 should be checked for Hepatitis C, and all adults should be checked for HIV (AIDS virus).

Vision & Hearing Checks

After 65 years of age, men and women should report any hearing or vision problems.

Don’t Forget Regular Check Ups

It’s important to stay up-to-date and be assessed regularly for special high risk factors and the need for additional tests. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, find one at Ministry or Affinity.

Safety Tips to Prevent Slips, Trips & Falls

Woman running in winterEvery winter we venture outside and endure the snow, slush and ice—putting ourselves at risk of slipping, tripping and falling. Whether it’s walking to the bus stop or a couple steps out the door to pick up the mail, we’ve all experienced that heart-stopping moment as our feet try to stabilize on a slippery surface.

Help keep you and your family safe this winter by following these fall prevention and winter walking tips:

Fall Prevention

  • Wear proper foot gear.
  • Take smaller steps when walking.
  • Keep both hands free for balance rather than in your pockets.
  • Use handrails from start to finish.
  • Avoid carrying loads.
  • Keep your eyes on where you are going.
  • Test potentially slick areas by tapping your foot on them.
  • Step – don’t jump from vehicles or equipment.
  • Keep walkways clear of debris, water, ice and slippery materials.

Safe Winter Walking

The benefits of taking an outdoor winter walk are enormous, both mentally and physically! But winter walking also requires a certain amount of preparation and precaution. Follow these tips before heading outside:

  • Plan ahead – give yourself sufficient time and plan your route
  • Wear shoes that provide traction on snow or ice – rubber and neoprene composite Avoid plastic or leather soles
  • Walk in designated walkways as much as possible
  • If a walkway completely iced over, try to travel along its edge for traction on snow or grass

When given no choice but to walk on ice, consider the following:

  • Take short steps or shuffle for stability
  • Bend slightly, walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over the feet as much as possible
  • When entering buildings, remove snow and water from footwear to prevent wet slippery conditions indoors
  • If you fall:
    • fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip and shoulder to avoid using your arms to protect against breakage
    • roll with the fall; try to twist and roll backwards rather than falling forward
    • relax as much as possible when you begin to fall
    • bend your back and head forward so you won’t slam your head on the pavement as your feet shoot out from under you
    • toss the load you are carrying to protect yourself instead of the objects being carried

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.