‘Tis the season to serve others

uring the holidays, it is easy to get absorbed in expensive gift giving and lose sight of the true meaning of the season: giving back. This year, instead of investing your time and money in retail stores, consider investing in a charitable organization or a family in need.

Here at Houston Methodist, employees shape the greater Houston community through the
I CARE in Action program by volunteering their time and providing their expertise and passion to assist others at organizations like the Houston Food Bank, Houston’s Children’s Charity and the Houston SPCA. This year-round program demonstrates Houston Methodist’s I CARE values of Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect and Excellence.

These local organizations support Houston families throughout the year and need your support this holiday season.

1. Houston Children’s Charity: Every year, Houston Children’s Charity receives thousands of applicants seeking adoption at Christmas and each year individuals and corporations throughout the city step up to the plate and adopt families of varying sizes. Sign up with a group of friends, family members or co-workers and sponsor a local family in need. (Volunteer opportunities available for Houston Methodist employees through the I CARE in Action program.) 

2. Houston Food Bank: Many Houston-area children eat one meal a day – their school lunch. During the holidays, many families struggle to pay bills and put food on the table for children who normally eat at school. Fortunately, organizations like the Houston Food Bank are able to provide support for these families in need. Last holiday season, with the help of many generous Houstonians, the Houston Food Bank was able to provide 1,627,115 nutritious meals for children, adults and seniors who struggle with hunger. Join them in the fight against hunger this holiday season and throughout the year. Volunteers are essential to the mission of the Houston Food Bank so they are always in need of more volunteers, but will also accept monetary or non-perishable food items donations. (Volunteer opportunities available for Houston Methodist employees through the I CARE in Action program.)

3. Michael E. DeBakey Houston Veterans Administration Hospital: Houston’s DeBakey VA Hospital brings greatly needed programs and services to thousands of military veterans in our community. Help them lift the spirits of America’s heroes this holiday season by donating an item from their wish list to ensure that every in-patient veteran receives a gift.

4. Eileen Murphree McMillin Blood Center: The Eileen Murphree McMillin Blood Center at Houston Methodist transfuses more than 50,000 components each year to support the needs of patients with cancer, blood disorders, and a host of other conditions, as well as those undergoing surgical procedures. This holiday season, share the gift of life by making a donation at the Eileen Murphree McMillin Blood Center. When you make one blood donation, you can save up to three lives.

5. Houston SPCA: The Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s mission is to promote commitment to and respect for all animals and free them from suffering, abuse and exploitation. Help them continue to carry out their mission by donating items such as newspapers, towels, pet food and pet toys. If you want to add to your family this holiday season, consider fostering or adopting a pet. (Volunteer opportunities available for Houston Methodist employees through the I CARE in Action program.)

The time volunteers spent giving back in 2013 was worth an estimated $163 billion Click To Tweet

“It is great to volunteer during the holidays, but it is more important to give your time throughout the year,” said Ryane Jackson, community benefits manager at Houston Methodist, who oversees the Houston Methodist I CARE in Action Program. “Unfortunately, people’s needs are not confined to a single season. There are so many different ways to give back – people just have to take the time to find where their passion lies. Whether it’s helping children, the homeless, cancer survivors or abandoned animals – the possibilities are endless, and there are plenty of people in need of support.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the time volunteers spent giving back in 2013 was worth an estimated $163 billion. Additionally, the value of volunteer time combined with private giving accounted for just under half a trillion dollars. Whether you decide to donate time or money, you will be making a huge difference in someone’s life.

Lung cancer: myths vs. facts

s a part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, we spend November recognizing all those whose lives have been impacted by this disease and educating ourselves about the risks, prevention, and treatment of this fatal disease.  

According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer is the deadliest cancer for men and women in the United States. In fact, more people die from lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Despite being so prevalent, there are many misunderstandings about the disease. I talked to Dr. Eric Bernicker, thoracic oncologist at Houston Methodist Cancer Center, to debunk a few common lung cancer myths. 

Myth:  If you’ve smoked for years, the damage is done.

Fact: It’s never too late to quit smoking. It will take many years, but smokers can decrease their lung cancer risk to the normal level by quitting now. According to the American Cancer Society, within five years of quitting smoking, the lung cancer death rate for the average former pack-a-day smoker decreases by almost half.

One of the simplest, most effective things you can do to reduce lung cancer risk is to quit smoking Click To Tweet

Myth: Low-tar or light cigarettes are safer.

Fact: There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Smoking low-tar or light cigarettes bring the same lung cancer risks as “normal” cigarettes.

Myth: Only smokers are at risk of getting lung cancer.

Fact: While the risk is higher for smokers, there is still a possibility that non-smokers will develop lung cancer. “At least ten percent of lung cancers arise in non-smokers through mechanisms that we have not yet figured out,” explained Dr. Bernicker. If you are a non-smoker and you develop a persistent and unexplained cough, he recommends seeing your primary care physician to rule out lung cancer.

Myth: The new e-cigarettes are risk-free and don’t cause cancer.

Fact: Because the risks associated with the inhalation of vaporized chemicals are unknown, there is not enough information to support the claim that e-cigarettes are risk free. Most oncologists do not feel that e-cigs are a safe alternative to smoking or should be used to help a smoker quit. 

Myth: Being diagnosed with lung cancer is a death sentence.

Fact: While it is true that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality, early detection is the key to treating lung cancer. “We hope that an expanding use of CT screening will allow the detection of lung cancer at an early stage and make an improvement in lung cancer mortality. They also hope that advances in understanding the molecular biology and immunology of cancer will lead to significant improvements in treating advanced lung disease,” said Dr. Bernicker.  

Get more information on lung cancer via the Houston Methodist Cancer Center and check out our Lung Cancer Awareness Pinterest board.

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