Saturday, February 28, 2009

Huge Losses: My Family's Struggle with Colorectal Cancer

Erika's story of survival with colorectal cancer (CRC) is a wonderful one to share with everyone. She is proof that screening can save you. My personal experiences with CRC underscore the same message, although with a less happy ending.

I have lost two family members to CRC, my father and one of my brothers. You can be sure I am a huge proponent of screenings and prevention. In fact, I am up for my own again this year. I am on a five-year plan given my family history.

When I was five, I lost my father to CRC. This was in the 50s when diagnosis of disease, while light years ahead of earlier generations, did not have all the incredible tools available today. Finally diagnosed in 1954, my father (a man in his early 40s) had suffered digestive problems for a year or two prior. When he finally went to the family doctor for the first time, the likely culprit suspected was ulcers. Over time as his symptoms worsened, doctors ultimately decided to do surgery to take a look around, a more common practice then. Once they did, they saw just how serious things were. He lived for nearly three years, all of them difficult. With each surgery they attempted to reroute his digestive track to allow him to eat and function normally. Each attempt worked for a short while until the cancer grew and caused another obstruction. In the end he was unable to eat or do anything of substance. It ravaged him. My mother spoke often of him as a stubborn and determined man, which served him well until he became ill. That stubbornness and the inability to properly diagnose him early enough led to such an early death.

Over the years, I learned more about the causes of his death and took them to heart. I began CRC screenings in my late 20s. I urged members of my family to do the same, although as the youngest by a lot of years, my voice was often heard with love, but not much action. Nearly 12 years ago, one of my brothers became ill. At 57 and always healthy, he was treated initially for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It became quickly apparent that something else was going on. He reluctantly admitted to have some digestive problems for the previous year that he did not pay much attention to. One series of tests led to another until cancer was detected in his liver. As he spoke with the surgeon who would operate and try to eliminate it, the story expanded. His surgeon was not satisfied that the liver was the host of the original cancer. And sure enough, upon doing more testing, the doctor discovered a blockage. The cancer had begun in the colon and rectum, but had spread to the liver. My brother was in stage IV of this disease. When he awoke from surgery with a colostomy, he could barely face that fact. While initially severely depressed by his fate, and angry at himself for never having heeded the messages from me and the health care community about the high incidences of heredity involved with CRC, he did embark upon a rigorous chemotherapy treatment. While it provided some shrinkage, especially of the tumors in his liver, his disease had progressed too dramatically for an optimistic prognosis. He died six months later with all of us at his side.

As I said, you can bet that I am a champion for CRC screenings. My family's story tells of the other side of this disease, the side riddled with losses and sorrow. Who knows how differently this story could have turned out if, in my dad's case, he had spoken up sooner and had more advanced technology been available. In my brother's case, it is maddeningly clear that had he undergone routine screenings the cancer might never have formed, or if it had, the doctors would have identified and treated it sooner, before it metastasized. Sometimes I feel angry all over again when I think about my intelligent and wonderful brother living with his head in the sand. Other times, I wish people like Erika had been in our lives to remind everyone just how important it is to have regular screenings. Mostly, I miss him like crazy and hope that everyone else in the family takes it to heart.

Please, please, have a CRC screening. You don't need one every year. Depending on what they see when you have yours, you may not need another one for 5 or 10 years. Get over your reluctance to have a colonoscopy, or get used to the fact that you could be one of the 50,000 who die each year from this very preventable disease.

Get more details from Please post your thoughts and comments to this blog below.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Guest Blogger: Erika Brown as Just One in a Million

This month we are thrilled that Erika H. Brown, a Denver entrepreneur and health activist, shares her own story of surviving colon cancer. Erika is founder of Stellar Health Connections and "The Passionate Prevention Promoter," as she is known around town. March is colon cancer awareness month and Erika has a personal and professional commitment to improve the quality of life of others by promoting the prevention of colorectal cancer (CRC). CRC is among the most treatable of cancers. It is also one of the most deadly because individuals do not want put colonoscopies high on their list. The disease silently takes root without dramatic symptoms, at least initially. Among her many gifts, Erika offers herself in her blog to anyone who would like to learn more, talk more about the disease and treatments, and find additional resources for themselves or family members. You can contact Erika at 303-780-9111.

Just One in a Million by Erika H. Brown

Approximately 150,000 people this year will get the same type of grim news that I got in August 2002: “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that you will not need to wear a bag”. (My orange-sized tumor was located in the ascending colon.) Many folks will get the news that they will be facing the colostomy experience, and this news will not be easy to hear.

On August 26, 2002, I became one of those 150,000 people to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC). This was the day I had my second diagnostic colonoscopy and was given the news that evidence of “some disease” had been found, that my next steps to take were to have a CT scan (the next day), and to meet with my surgeon the following day. This was a second procedure because the first one had been “inconclusive;" the GI specialist had not been able to effectively see “around the bend” into my ascending colon and had, therefore, missed the tumor. He ruled out chances of there being tumor, based upon the fact that he had seen no polyps in my colon wall. And, despite the fact that I had more and more visits with my doctors in attempting to find out what my ailment was, subsequent tests seemed to rule out anything of a cancerous nature - until that fateful day in August.

Surgery took place right after Labor Day. My entire colon was “redesigned” with the removal of the tumor, my spleen, and 12 lymph nodes. My surgeon disclosed that my disease was staged at III, 8 of the 12 nodes were “positive”, the spleen had not been affected by the cancer but was gone, and that my “margins” were clean. He felt that I must have the gold standard of chemo and, if I did that, I just might “make it," that I might become “one in a million”.

I got the message. After I recuperated from surgery, I was started on a regimen of 6 months of chemo – a cocktail that gave me no pleasure but provided me with more insurance that I might be able to beat Stage III disease. And I do believe that that chemo insurance paid off – grueling as it was.

Six and ½ years later I am NED (no evidence of disease). I’m one of the lucky few who’ve made it through stage III disease and who have not experienced any progression of the disease. (Too many stage III’ers of CRC experience progression within the first couple of years of their initial diagnosis and treatment. Many – but not all – succumb to the disease within that 3 year window.) NED: these three lovely letters make up a word that cancer folks love. Meaning “no evidence of disease," those of us who use the term, use it sparingly, especially around other cancer folks. We know full well that so many are not able to describe themselves in this way, and that feelings are understandably very sensitive and mixed. Somehow the designation of NED puts us into a slightly different category; we no longer belong in the cancer world in the same “old way”. We often wonder what we can do to be of service to that world to which we used to belong (and could rejoin!)

I’ve decided that most important thing I personally can do with the rest of the life that I’ve been given is to both provide support for current cancer patients and to raise awareness about prevention. To that end, I do two specific things to help with the cancer matter:

1. I make myself available to anyone diagnosed with colorectal cancer to talk with, meet with, accompany to screenings, etc. Some very kind people did that for me when I was weak and sick, and I’m happy to be there in the very same way for the “new” crowd. Call me: 303.780.9111.
2. I’m getting more deeply involved in the topic of prevention of CRC, the area upon which I choose to focus. Too many people are not getting the message that CRC IS PREVENTABLE!! In other words, were those 150,000 people to be screened, colorectal cancer could be caught and so much of the misery and death possibly prevented. I’m declaring myself to be “a Passionate Prevention Promoter”, and I’ll soon have business cards upon which my own CRC signs and symptoms are printed. **

The death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years. There are a number of likely reasons for this. One is that polyps are being found by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers. Screening is also allowing more colorectal cancers to be found earlier when the disease is easier to cure. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last several years. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.

You, too, dear folks, may just be one of these lucky “millionaires” if you take very seriously the message of PREVENTION THROUGH SCREENING. I hope you do!

Read more at the American Cancer Society’s website: (
** Symptoms to Watch For….
Unexplained weight loss
Gastric distress
Blood in stool
Chronic constipation
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Unexplained Abdominal Pain

If you have a CRC story to tell, please email us or post it now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Featured Event: Tea Tasting

This is not your mother's tea party! Capabilities and The Teaspot, our supplier partner headquartered in Boulder, host our annual tea tasting event on March 12. Sip on a variety of black, white and green tea combinations while learning about the healthful effects of tea. Register at the event to win a unique Steepware cup. This event is always packed, so RSVP now. See our Events page for more details.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happiness, Freedom, Peace of Mind

“There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else.” General Peyton Conway March, Army Chief of Staff (late nineteenth century)

Those of you who know me also know that I am not one to quote generals with any frequency. I was so struck enough by this quote that arrived attached to an email of an acquaintance that I made note of it. Then, as I was searching for something quotable about the month of March for this newsletter, my Google search brought up this very quote again. It felt like fate that I would come upon it again so quickly. Here's what noteworthy to me:

First, he was a General in the Spanish-American war in the late 1800s. I looked for context of this quotation, but could not find any. What on earth was going on at that moment that caused him to say this? While I am sure most of his writings and words had to do with battle and all things military, this gem reveals someone who translated his particular experiences into something much more universal. A learning, perhaps, for all of us, to look beyond our own search for happines, freedom and peach of mind -- especially right now as fear and anxiety grip so many individuals and institutions.

Next, the very idea that when we give we get is so simple and universal a truth that churns around and around in spite of time, culture or opportunity. Is it the human condition that we must learn it over and over again because on its face it seems quite illogical?

We and our staff will let this quotation guide us as we continue in our search to provide relevant and appropriate solutions for you and your families as you search for some happiness, freedom and peace of mind. One of the new services we are introducing to help you attain some of what you need during these challenging times is a focus on pre-owned, slightly used equipment. While our collection is still growing and our selection still modest, be sure to contact us if you have specific needs, or if you have a power wheelchair, hospital patient bed, reclining lift chair, video reader or any other major piece of equipment that you think is in great shape and would like to see it in the hands of someone else.

How are you bringing this sentiment to life? Tell us your story about happiness, freedom and peace of mind. We will select one to share with readers next time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Featured Product: Talking Scale

In keeping with our theme of low vision for the month of February, consider talking products. We love this talking scale for three reasons. First of all, the voice is crisp, clear and loud enough to hear while you are standing on the scale. It would defeat the purpose, of course, if you had to bend low to hear it, although some manufacturers have created products with that very flaw. Secondly, accuracy is terrific (to within .2 lbs.). Now, you might not like that if you were hoping to cheat a bit. One of our customers asked if he could program it to tell him the weight he wanted to hear! Thirdly, the voice can be turned off for those in the family who might not need the "talking" part. The display is large and easy to read for those not experiencing low vision.

Take a tour of this product and find out more details for yourself. Purchase it now for yourself or someone you care about.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Guest Blog: PTSD and You

We are delighted to present our guest blogger, John Garrett, a Vietnam vet who writes about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is a practitioner of EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique. He and, Inga Tomasino, a local psychotherapist and practitioner of EFT, will present a workshop on Thursday, March 5, repeating it on Saturday, March 7 at Capabilities. Please be sure to review details and RSVP at Events. John writes here about how PTSD can be a part of anyone's life. He also describes the hope everyone can have in addressing this challenging disorder. Many thanks to John and Inga for sharing their work with the Capabilities' community. Please contact Inga at 303.423.7903 and John at 303.884.3566 for questions and more detailed information about PTSD and EFT.

About 20 years ago, my wife was tossed by her horse, shattered her hand, and cracked her tailbone. Surgery fixed her hand and time healed her tailbone, but her mind was a different story. At the time we did not know enough to recognize that she had suffered a PTSD injury to her psyche that ended a promising show career, and created a never-ending cycle of frustration and mental anguish for this horse crazy woman.
There have been quite a few articles in the papers lately about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the numbers of military personnel who are so affected. But, not too much has been written about what PTSD is and who it affects.
PTSD is not primarily a military disorder. It can affect anyone who has experienced a mental or physical trauma, such as being embarrassed in a social, personal or professional situation, experiencing a series of bad personal relationships, having been involved in an accident, or the victim of an assault or criminal act, or in a life threatening situation in combat or other incident..

There are three types of PTSD:

Intrusive: Memories and emotions interfere with the normal interactions with other people. They can feel guilty for surviving. The flashbacks are visual and auditory and are triggered by stimuli that brings to mind an aspect of the event. Nightmares and night terrors are centered around the incident that is causing the PTSD.

Avoidance: When the person tries to avoid: emotions; relationships; taking responsibility for others; and situations similar to the traumatic event.

Hyper-arousal: When the person: Over-reacts to situations; has explosive outbursts; is irritable; is constantly on guard; panics; is easily startled; or has sleep disturbances.

People who suffer from PTSD often turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to numb themselves and reduce the effects of PTSD. They develop phobias, easily become anxious, depressed, suffer from guilt, low self-esteem, experience panic attacks, and withdraw into themselves.

There are many different traditional and alternative treatments for PTSD. One alternative that has been used all over the world is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT, which was developed by Gary Craig, and is derived from the Thought Field Therapy (TFT) process by Dr Roger Callahan. Both systems are based on the use of activating through tapping, the energy meridian points on the body, similar to those used in Acupressure and Acupuncture.
The basic idea is that when we experience a trauma, there is a disruption in the flow of energy in the body. This is the result of the Autonomic Response our bodies make when confronted with a perceived danger. Quite often, after a time, the disruption in the energy flow dissipates and the energy flows normally. However, there are occasions when that doesn't occur, and the individual will re-experience the emotional upset when faced with a similar set of circumstances. In other words, they relive the experience, mentally and physically.

Tapping on the meridian points, while concentrating on the upset, stimulates the energy pathways and clears the "blockage." It may take more than one "round" of tapping to complete the clearance. There may also be aspects of the incident that need clearing, as well. The beauty of the system is that it is easy to learn, easy to use, and, more importantly, is highly successful. Recently, Mr Craig and several other EFT Practitioners used EFT with several combat veterans from Vietnam, the Gulf War and Iraq. After one week, the veterans were completely cleared of their emotional attachments to their experiences. EFT and TFT are so effective that they are being used around the world, and in some cases are the first techniques tried.

I have successfully used this technique with equestrians, law enforcement personnel, and civilians who have suffered PTSD symptoms.

Oh... and my wife? Yes, she is back to riding, and loving it. She uses EFT whenever the vaguest imprint of her past injuries interfere with her equestrian pursuits. She is living proof that EFT is a powerful, effective tool.

Tell us about your experiences with PTSD, EFT or overcoming your life's challenges.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Featured Event: PTSD Information Workshop

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition with increasing visibility, primarily due to the public's attention on the war in Iraq that has been part of our Amercian story for many years. This workshop, led by Inga Tomasino and John Garrett, practitioners of EFT, an approach used successfully with PTSD and other conditions. Learn what PTSD is, how one "gets" it, which treatments are available, and what is being done for our combat veterans.
This FREE workshop is being given to provide you with lots of information so that you can make smart choices and know what your choices are. Also, if you are a Vet or know of one, there will be information at this class that could be extremely important to you. Read John's blog, featured as our Guest Blogger this week. See details and RSVP at Events.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ten Easy Exercises For Healthy Legs

Do your legs get tired and achy by the end of the day? Do you have swelling and redness on your feet and legs? Don't take leg pain lightly. It could be the sign of a serious condition so be sure to speak with your physician. Sometimes, though, these are signs that you need to get moving. Best of all, focusing on your leg health before something painful happens is the best route.

Here are ten simple exercises you can do just about anywhere and any time:

  1. While sitting, lift one foot of the floor and alternate flexing and pointing your toes. Repeat with the other foot. Do this 20 times or as many as are comfortable.
  2. With both feet on the floor, extend one leg out in front of you, hold and contract your thigh muscle. Return your foot to the floor. Repeat with the other leg. Do this 10 times at least.
  3. In a seated position, lift one foot and pull your heel back towards your buttocks. Hold and contract your hamstring muscle. Return foot to starting position. Repeat with other leg. Do this one at least 10 times.
  4. March in place while loosely swinging your arms. Lift your knees as high as possible. Try this one 20 times.
  5. Lift one foot and point your toes. Trace a figure eight in the air. Repeat with other leg. Do this 10 times.
  6. Put weight on the toes of one foot and simultaneously put weight on the heel of the other foot. Alternate position of the feet and repeat 20 times.
  7. Lying on the floor, raise both legs in the air. Alternate legs in a scissor motion 10 or 15 times.
  8. Stay on the floor and place your hands near your lower back for support. Move legs in a cycling motion in the air using short circular motions for 30 seconds. Repeat this for as long as you can.
  9. On the floor, place your hands near your lower back. With your knees slightly bent, raise and lower your one leg, then the other, repeating 10 times.
  10. While on the floor, raise one or both of your legs and rotate your feet in opposite directions, repeating 20 times.

Always consult your health care professional before beginning an exercise program of any kind. Many thanks to our supplier partner, Juzo, for providing information about leg health and an array of high quality compression garments.

Consider compression garments for swelling, fatigue and soreness in your legs or feet. Read our blog about about edema, the conditions that cause it and how you can help control symptoms.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What An Eye! Ideas for Low Vision

Monet had cataracts. Although he was not officially diagnosed until he was in his 70s, he experienced the effects of low vision years before. He railed against his fate. "I was forced to change my tune," he wrote a friend with despair. "My poor eyesight makes me see everything in a fog." And so in that fog, he painted anyway. Cezanne, called Monet "just an eye…Oh, but what an eye!" Do you know someone with a condition causing low vision?

If so, you are well aware of the frustration and, sometimes, despair, that comes along with diminishing vision. While not everyone has the talent of Monet, everyone with low vision can take a lesson from Monet, who in spite of feeling very negatively about his condition, kept moving forward. He would not stop painting, his passion fueling him and his imagination. He used the changing light, the mix of colors he could see and those he only remembered, and his fury to create some of the most exquisite paintings of all time. As I stood before one of his works in the Denver Art Museum the other day, I found myself awestruck, as always, with his painting, made all the more poignant by his battle.

What is your passion? When you are challenged with cataracts, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt's disease, or any other condition that causes low vision, you may face your own fury and the need to "change your tune." Monet finally had surgery in one eye (that did not go well) and finally was fitted with glasses that helped slightly. Nowadays, the array of tools available for low vision is extraordinary. Keeping up with "state-of-the-art" in this field is our job.

High quality magnifiers can make a world of difference. If you are already beyond what a handheld magnifier offers, consider electronic options from The Looky to the Acrobat. In the spirit of helping us all through this economy, we have a couple of video readers that either were pre-owned or demo models in our store that we are offering at reduced prices. See our write up on pre-owned products or contact us for more information. If you are ready to take a closer look at how you can continue to do the things you love, contact us. If you are in the Denver metro area, please come visit us and try out some of these extraordinary tools for yourself. They won't turn you into an artist (unless you are already one), but they might just give you that "eye" you need to be passionate again.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Washington Park Cares Sponsors Health Speaker

Integrative Medicine may be a new term for many of us. We are familiar with "traditional medicine" and the care model associated with it, but the new approach in medicine today is care that incorporates both Western and Eastern philosophies. The University of Colorado Hospital now has a center for Integrative Medicine, offering both conventional and alternative medicine.
Washington Park Cares (WPC) is honored to have Dr. Lisa Corbin from University of Colorado Hospital as a speaker this month. Not only is this a perfect time to learn more about Integrative Medicine, but it's a great opportunity for WPC members and their guests to share in new learning together. Mark your calendar now and be sure to join us.

DATE: Wed., Feb. 18TH
TIME : 9:30 a.m.
LOCATION: District 3 Police Station @ Iowa & University Blvd. (@ I-25)
For more information, contact Pam.

The mission of Washington Park Cares is to help neighborhood seniors connect with services and resources to continue life on their own terms, with dignity and independence, in their own homes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Featured Partner: Handyman Matters

We love working with this national franchise firm, headquartered in the Denver metro area. With 121 franchises across the country, Handyman Matters (HM) is a perfect partner for us. As we sell products that make a home safe and comfortable in every state, we have a national partner we can rely on for installations. This is an organization that values craftsmanship and recognizes the privilege of being invited into your home. They have an eye toward design so their work matches your needs and wants. As we share ideas about aging at home, for example, Handyman Matters craftspeople are also valuable consultants to you and your family, helping you determine what kinds of changes will help individuals stay independent and safe. Wherever you live, there is most likely a Handyman Matters operation nearby. Find one near you. And read our blog about our experience presenting at the national Handyman Matters convention last week.

Aging at Home: Our Alliance with Handyman Matters

Making home safe and sound is one of our driving passions at Capabilities. This focus also serves as one of the guides we use in partnering with other companies around town and the country. Our longstanding relationship with Handyman Matters (HM), a national franchise firm with 121 franchise operations around the U.S., is based on the vision they hold of adding value to your home through a satsifying experience as well as the high quality of work they do as craftspeople with a mission. Our work overlaps especially as each company reaches out to senior populations and to those with permanent or temporary disabilities.

We participated in the 7th Annual HM Convention this year bringing our focus on aging in place. The trend of individuals and families choosing to age at home or in a place they choose seems simple enough. However, there are countless people who struggle with the decisions regarding aging relatives. One of our missions is to help families look at options, including the many products available that can help make a home safe for aging right there. We also have many resources throughout communities who can help you decide if that is the right decision.

Here's a sampling of what we brought to the table last week at the HM business building sessions.

  1. Information about the aging at home phenomenon that is crossing the country right now as Boomers and their families face stiff economic realities AND the passionate desire of elders to stay in their homes.

  2. Resources of how to help families find some help funding major home renovations, such as bathroom remodels to ensure safety and ease.

  3. Easy to use tools, such as basic home evaluations, where the HM expert, along with family members, looks at potential safety hazards and suggests remedies. This type of process leads to a potential long view, allowing the family to plan for necessary repairs and renovations over a period of time.

  4. Product packages, such as bathroom safety kits, that the HM craftsperson can recommend to individuals and families, providing a "one-stop shopping" kind of convenience along with his or her expert installation. These kits might include basics such as a couple of grab bars, a raised toilet seat, a shower bench and a handheld shower. We can also customize to meet the specific needs and requirements of individuals.

We had great fun meeting the owners of HM franchises - nearly 100 of them - over the course of three days. We heard a great joke or two - as you might imagine! We also learned so much as we all shared experiences and perspectives. Our time together reinforced our already positive perspectives about HM. We can hardly wait to team up some more in the coming months as we all contribute to making successful aging in place stories.

Read one of our popular blogs on this topic of preparing for the changes that happen as we age, "I'm Not Waiting Until My House Is My Enemy."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Manage the Economy: Buy Pre-Owned Products

With our particular window on the world, we have been observing people's shopping habits. Because Capabilities offers many "must have" products, we still see robust activity in this category. However, we have seen more interest over the past few months in pre-owned, or used, products. The universe of used goods requires attention both as a merchant and a shopper. As a merchant, for example, we like to think about the mix of products in general, and specifically with pre-owned products, we spend significant time looking for exactly the "right" thing. Once we determine that the category matches what we believe our customers want, we examine the product closely. How old is it? How old does it look? What shape is it in? How much refurbishing do we have to do? What kind of warranties are still viable from the manufacturer? What kind of guarantees are we able to offer? And is the asking price feasible given our particular business model and goals? What kind of price can we then ask for?

We have another element to consider in our business - safety. When we look to buy pre-owned power wheelchairs, for example, we want to be absolutely sure that the vehicle will perform like new and not present any hazards to the individual. The same goes for reclining lift chairs and adjustable beds.

Right now, we are offering a great deal with this previously owned travel power vehicle, Pride Z-Chair, for $3000. It was owned and operated by an older woman for only 6 months. This chair typically retails for double that amount. Among its many incredible features are a programmable joy stick to ensure a speed that matches ability level, an easy to manage flip footrest, a small profile that turns in its own small footprint giving you easy maneuverability at home and on the road. This chair disassembles easily for travel and has easy to reach battery charging. We are offering a wonderful warranty on this product. It has the absolute seal of Capabilities' approval. Stop by for a test drive if you are in the Denver metro area, or contact us for more details if you live outside our area.

So, we dip our toes into these waters and expect to expand our collection of pre-owned merchandise over these coming months. Contact us if you are in the market for good quality, used mobility products. If you have a high quality product that is slightly used, let us know. We are very picky and cannot make any promises, but we are happy to have some discussion with you to learn more about what you have.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Featured Product: Telescoping Flashlight

February is low vision month. As we talk with folks living with low vision, we find new products based on everyday needs. This one was inspired by Bonnie, a vibrant woman in her 70s with macular degeneration who loves to play bridge a few nights a week at a local Elks Club. She solved some of the problems associated with this condition, but could not seem to get enough light to shine on her cards. She asked us to find a battery-powered, easy to carry light that she could pop into her purse and pull out for her card games. Here it is, Bonnie. This amazingly simple telescoping light doubles as a flashlight. Get yours today. Read our blog on low vision and lighting.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Guest Bloggers: Angela Cody-Rouget and Chanda Hinton

We are delighted to know these incredible women. One of the best parts of owning Capabilities is the opportunity to meet and work with amazing individuals everywhere. Angela Cody-Rouget, a professional organizer, owns Organized 4 Life, LLC. As someone who appreciates a neat desk, I really enjoyed hearing about Angela's experiences working with our friend and supporter, Chanda Hinton, who has written previously in this blog. Chanda does amazing work providing opportunities for those with disabilities to access alternative healing arts. Please be sure to support The Chanda Foundation. In this guest blog, Angela describes her process as she and Chanda try to make Chanda's office more accessible. And Chanda throws in her two cents, too, about how important it was to collaborate with Angela on this project. You can call Angela for a free assessment of your needs for an organized space at 303.991.5478. Please be sure to share your thoughts and reactions to their story of collaboration and organization by posting your comments at the end of their blog.

Guest Blog: Organizing Around Disabilities

Hello, I am Angela Cody-Rouget, Professional Organizer. My company name is Organized 4 Life, LLC. I recently had the amazing, life-changing opportunity to organize the office of Chanda Hinton, Executive Director & Founder of The Chanda Plan Foundation. (

Chanda functions with the aid of a service dog and wheelchair and has limited use of her hands. She has a pinch function with her right hand and can shove function with her left hand. I had never organized for an individual with a disability and I was very dedicated to ensure I presented her with solutions that would be long lasting and welcome.

I immediately started to search online for products that would give Chanda the greatest amount of independence and productivity. There is very little out there to help someone in times of temporary or permanent disabilities. Almost everything I did find was related to custom made furniture and it was very expensive. I did find a wonderful store called Capabilities and after talking to the owners I felt they may be the only ones out there that could guide me in my search for home office products for Chanda’s office.

My first appointment with Chanda was at her office and the main objective was to assess the current situation and to determine what her current and future needs would be for her office and her foundation. Chanda shared with me that she had a very limited budget and she also helped me understand that in order to get many tasks done she had to wait for an able bodied person to arrive. Chanda was not able to reach her fax machine, important files, books, etc. When I first started to work with Chanda, she had a huge wooden desk, an armoire and several small bookshelves. Everything she was using was not best suited for her needs. It would have been fine for an able bodied person, but not for Chanda.

During my initial assessment I measured Chanda’s reaching distance with both of her arms and I discovered that she was only able to utilize the first 12 inches of her desk. The other 2 feet of space ended up being a repository for things that got shoved back and became unreachable. I also measured her sitting height with the wheel chair and measured the height of the arms of her wheelchair. All these measurements became the basis for any future furniture and systems.

I left Chanda’s that day feeling very up for the challenge. I also left feeling very anxious. She had a very limited budget and I felt I may have led her to believe I could work miracles for $150. I spent the next few days researching and thinking about solutions for Chanda’s office. I then called Chanda and left her a message stating that I needed her to get rid of almost everything in her office! I told her to have her sister and boyfriend move out the desk and the armoire. I told her that we would have to find her a small desk and we would have to create a system that gave her much more autonomy.

The solution to her lack of autonomy seemed so obvious to me, but I was not sure if she would embrace a new way of thinking about office furniture and processes. During this job I really was made aware of my gift to find solutions that are outside of the box. I also had the opportunity to see how passionate I am about finding organizing solutions for people. I found myself up until 2am searching for solutions, advice and looking for other professionals that had already organized offices for wheelchair bound clients.

For any of you that know Chanda, you can probably guess that she did exactly as I asked her to do. When I showed up for the next appointment there were piles of papers everywhere and the desk and armoire were gone. Now Chanda and I put our heads together and measure walls and floor space and mapped out the flow of her new office. We headed to Home Depot in her van and purchased all the materials we would need to build her a desk and a shelf that ran the entire length of the wall.

We got back from Home Depot with about $150 worth of supplies and we proceeded (with the help of her sweet boyfriend) to hang the 8 foot long shelf at the perfect height that would allow her reach and grab papers, send a fax or change printer cartridges. We also designed and built a table together. Chanda and I made a great team—very resourceful and flexible! The table was far from perfect but God’s plan is always better than ours—her table is just a little wobbly and that actually makes it easy for her to get the cat off her desk! It was and still is a goal to Velcro down her pencil holder and office supply caddy.

Once her boyfriend installed the 8 foot long shelf to the right of her desk, we put the printer, fax and lots of stacker trays along it to organize all her supplies, forms and To Dos and Projects. In eight hours we were able to transform her office and dramatically increase her access to her files, papers, and other typical office supplies.

Chanda was a dream client. She expressed her concerns along the way and trusted the process. I look forward to going back to The Chanda Plan Foundation and making adjustments as needed.

Since working with Chanda I found myself wondering how many other people are out there that have very limited autonomy and have no idea that there are people like me, a professional organizer, that can create and design affordable work spaces customized for their needs. I found myself crying because I realized that I had never known a disabled person and never had any idea what kind of obstacles our society has placed in their way.

As a professional organizer, I want to help disabled persons find a better way to work and live. Chanda, thank you for hiring me and thank you for opening my eyes to your world.

Chanda Hinton's Response to Working with Angela.

My office was a mess! Prior to meeting Angela, I was very frustrated in my office for several reasons: (1) I could not get to about 3/4 of the items I needed to use on a daily basis for my work as an Executive Director of a foundation. (2) If I wasn’t able to reach a document or item, I couldn’t work on it. (3) I had to wait for my significant other, sister or caregiver to arrive before working on a project. And, the list goes on, but the biggest frustration was my lack of independence in my office, which resulted in me not fulfilling the tasks I need to do for the non-profit organization that I am very passionate about.

Independence is important to me, but changing this situation was overwhelming for me and I figured, “it is what it is and I’ll be okay if I keep it the way it is.” I was wrong.

After hearing Angela from Organized 4 Life speak at a luncheon, I was excited about what she had to say and knew I needed to work with her. With my determination and her expertise, I knew we could make an office that would be far more functional with my limited reach and allow me to reach anything I wanted to. And… We did.

I am more independent and I love my office! I also love what Angela brought to the process and I hope she gets to provide “office independence” for more individuals with disabilities. She is good at what she does and your goals are at her best interest. Nobody should hold stress and frustration when trying to make a difference in the world.

Thank you Angela!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Boards of Directors: Opportunities Abound

Rocky Mountain Stroke Association and Easter Seals Colorado are looking for you! Have you considered giving some of your time and talents to one of the many non-profit groups in Colorado? Please take a close look at these incredible non-profit organizations that make such a difference to so many in Denver and throughout the state. Pam serves on the Board of Directors for Rocky Mountain Stroke Association and Kathryn is on the Board of Easter Seals. Contact us for more information and an inside view of what it means to be part of these wonderfully important organizations. There is truly nothing like it! And, now it is tax time, please also consider donating. The good work the groups do can only happen through the generosity of others, especially in this challenging economy. Easter Seals Colorado is one of the tax check-off choices this year. Follow the links above to make a donation online. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Julie Newmar Lives With Charcot Marie Tooth

In July 2008, the N. Y. Daily News interviewed Batman icon Julie Newmar, the one and only Catwoman, who opened up publicly for the first time about having Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT). Heredity Neuropathy Foundation contacted her, and talked about everything from living with CMT to the power of her positive life style. We are sharing a summary of that interview provided to us by the CMT organization.

It turns out that in addition to a storied career as an actor and a dancer with killer, 33-inch-long gams once insured for $1 million by Lloyds of London, Ms. Newmar has built a fulfilling life as a world-class gardener, pianist, writer and business woman. We were intrigued and wanted to get to know her better. In November, HNF president Allison Moore flew out to Brentwood and stayed with Ms. Newmar in her gorgeous home. Moore was immediately struck by the beauty and spirit of the 5-foot-11 blonde star who, at age 75, maintains a certain poise despite a lessening ability to walk with ease. Moore said, "The moment I entered the home, I felt a sense of warmth and positive energy." Ms. Newmar first felt her symptoms in the year 2000, when it was suggested she had Spinal Muscular Atrophy. In 2007, a UCLA neurologist diagnosed her with CMT, putting a name to the disorder that was crimping her fluidity of movement. She told us, "I don't climb stairs and I had to stop running out in the garden because I would tumble in the tulips." So far, the adjustments in her life have been subtle. Before being diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease, she decided intuitively not to put a second story on the house she was rebuilding. “I prefer a bigger garden and smaller house anyway. I created paradise, and now, everything fits perfectly.” Moore reports, "I think she's an extraordinary person because she is a possibility thinker. She shows us that at 75 you can live with grace, still be beautiful though less mobile. She thinks and follows a healthy lifestyle. Every day she does an hour of exercise, beginning with a stretching routine—and you should see her legs! She eats a lot of fish and vegetables, rather than meat and pasta or dessert. She doesn't go in the sun without putting a big hat on. “I’ve learned to like what’s good for me, do the right thing.” No doubt it’s her faith that sustains her. When we asked Ms. Newmar how she lives with this disease, she says, "I have a big capacity for joy, plus a kind of supreme guidance. It would be difficult without this, it is important to have spiritual strength." When she's in a low mood, she listens to the recordings of Abraham- Hicks, who originated "The Law of Attraction." "I recommend these CDs,” she offers. "They lighten the load." Although she loves to travel and has visited many countries over the years, including the Middle East in 2008, Ms. Newmar recognizes that CMT will put a limit to the physical travel that she will be able to do in the future. With that in mind, she has created a beautiful garden that draws inspiration from the gorgeous gardens of Southern France, England, Bali and Hawaii. "When I walk through my gardens, I travel to all of these places." Ever putting a positive spin on things, Ms. Newmar says, “I think it is an opportunity for me to reach more people now." Moore believes that Ms. Newmar could serve as a positive role model. "Julie is inspirational in so many ways. I think people with CMT can look at her and say, 'I want to be as healthy and as positive as Julie Newmar in the face of my disease.'” Interestingly enough, her son John, 27, is deaf, has Down Syndrome, seizures, scoliosis. "He's my teacher," Ms. Newmar explains. "From him I have learned unconditional love, now I have to work it on myself." Ms. Newmar says, "Even though certain things are taken away from us, no matter what, we evolve. Although I’d like to be able to wear all the high heels and gorgeous clothes I have in my closet, many I can’t. I don't need fancy dresses and high heels to put the message across." What is the message? "Reach for the unique star that is you."

Don't miss the CMT meeting at Capabilities flagship store in Westminster, Colorado on February 28. Read more and RSVP in our Events section.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

You Can't Have A Light Without a Dark To Stick It In

Arlo Guthrie turned the idea of darkness on its head with that line. Coming upon this it again recently caused me to think about light and how critical it is, especially for those who have a physical condition that affects vision. As the focus on lighting and low vision becomes stronger through research and eye care practice, see for yourself how lighting can make a difference for you.

We need more light to see as we age, whether or not we also experience a physical condition affecting our vision. Some studies suggest we need six times the amount of light at age 60 to see what we could as a 20-year old. The bottom line is to increase the light and position it close to your project.

Not all light is equal. We are far from the days of candlelight and gaslight; incandescent light has more competition these days, too. The type of light you need depends on you and your condition. This summary of the types of lighting can guide you as you select an option to help you maneuver through the challenges of low vision.

Incandescent Lighting is artificial lighting, the invention of which is generally attributed to Thomas Edison. Some historians suggest there were at least twenty-two other inventors who contributed to the ultimate electric lighting system that Edison put together. Its output is located at the lower end of the light spectrum, the red/yellow spectrum. For this reason, incandescent light cannot be engineered to become full spectrum, in spite of the various coatings that manufacturers have used throughout the years to create the illusion of “brighter” light. With that said, however, incandescent, or yellow light, is sometimes just the right solution for some people.

Halogen Lighting uses the basic principles of incandescent lighting, although the effect is a stronger and more focused lighting solution. Halogen lighting creates less heat and more intensity. I have seen personally the positive reaction of some when they shift their lamp to halogen.

LED (light emitting diode) Lighting uses the blue and violet end of the light spectrum. Sometimes referred to as “blue” light, the effect is whiter and brighter when compared to incandescent and halogen lighting. Depending on the ambient lighting, LED light can seem to cut through the dimness and illuminate a surface more dramatically. For some, it might be too much, in fact.

Fluorescent Lighting is used most frequently in public places. The introduction of the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) is bringing fluorescent lighting to more homes, offices and businesses. In most cases, it emits a warm, bright light. CFLs eliminate two of the most inconvenient aspects of fluorescent lights, humming and flickering.

Full Spectrum Lighting is emerging today as a primary focus for lighting manufacturers. Modern technology uses the full spectrum of sunlight to create a lighting effect that washes the area with bright light that is not harsh. When you use a lamp emitting full spectrum light, you may notice more even light on the surface, although some report otherwise. Some research even points to additional health benefits from full spectrum lighting, suggesting that because it includes ultraviolet light which helps produce Vitamin D in the body, the use of this lighting can help with overall health. The key, however, is that the ultraviolet light must be in the same proportion as it is in sunshine. Be sure to discuss the use of full spectrum light with your eye care provider. The technology is still fairly new and research is still in progress.

The issue of glare is a big one for people with retinal diseases and other conditions that cause low vision. The ability to adjust the light is crucial. Use lamps that swivel or bend. Some other tips:

  • Try using solar filter lenses to help control glare with indoor lighting, and always use them when you are in daylight. Protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Remember to experiment with lighting. Bring a book or crafts with you when you shop for lighting to see how a familiar activity changes as you introduce different lighting options.
  • Make a tour around your home and look for opportunities to enhance lighting.

Bring the light and see more clearly! Share your ideas about lighting with us.