Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Care Giving for a Cancer Patient

Care Giving is a very important subject that we all face when a loved one has cancer.  Below is a post from one of my readers.


It is unbelievable how quickly your happiness can be ripped from your life. What should have been the happiest time of my life ended up being the one of the worst. Three months after giving birth to our daughter Lily, my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She cried at the diagnosis, and I did my very best not to. I wondered how we would survive this.

Immediately following Heather’s diagnosis, my to-do list got very long. The stress of having to work, take care of my wife, take care of my daughter, care for our home and our pets and everything else in our lives was overwhelming and I snapped. I cursed at the people at church. I cursed at the people in our community. I cursed at everyone. I knew I had to stop, but it was hard. Eventually, however, I was able to get control of my emotions. I knew we had a lot of difficult decisions to make, and they’d be made through a lot of emotions, but anger couldn’t be one of them. I had to be strong for my family.

My wife has no idea how hard this time was for me. We talked about it once, but she still has no idea how difficult it was for me to be her caregiver and to do all that needed doing. The only thing that got me through this overwhelming time was learning that I couldn’t do it all myself. I had to accept the help that our loved ones and friends so graciously offered. It was vital that I swallow my pride and accept their help to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed with all that required my attention. I was still overwhelmed, but their help was invaluable.

Possibly the worst time in my life was the two months after my wife’s surgery. Heather flew from Boston to South Dakota to be with her parents and our daughter while she recovered from her extrapleural pneumonectomy. I couldn’t take the time off of work to care for my wife if I wanted to keep my family’s finances in order. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I don’t regret those two months away from my family. I missed them terribly, but I considered myself so fortunate to have in-laws willing to put their lives on hold to take care of my wife and daughter during my wife’s recovery so that I could take care of them financially. Two months is a long time without the people you love.

I saw them once. One Friday after work, I got in the car and drove to South Dakota. There was an awful snowstorm and I had to stop to rest and wait for the roads to be cleared before I could move on. I made it, exhausted, to South Dakota on Saturday morning and spent the day with Heather and Lily. I spent a little time with them on Sunday morning, but I had to be back at work on Monday morning, which meant I had to make the 11 hour drive home that day. It was hard, but seeing them made it worth it.

The most important lesson I learned at this time was to accept the help offered to us. It can be hard for many people to admit that they can’t handle a situation on their own, but when you are a caregiver for a cancer patient, there is no room for pride. You have to accept all the help you can get for both yourself and your loved one. I for one couldn’t have done this without it.

Thank you for this Guest Post by Cameron Von St. James

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Still Kickin'

Just a quick update.....both mother and daughter have just had their yearly check ups and we are happy to announce that we are both 'still kickin'.  This is 6 years for mom and 4 years for daughter!!  Thank you everyone for all your well wishes and positive thoughts....and a big shout out and thank you to answered our prayers!!!

We wanted everyone to know that even though we don't post on the blog as often as we used too, we are still active in cancer awareness and seeking cures for all cancers.  IBC and breast cancer are what we know and what we fought, but we also realize that there are many other kinds of cancer and we will continue to fight for a cure.

Julie walking in the Relay for Life and raising awareness and money for ACS!
We lost another dear friend to colon cancer this the fight goes on until there is a cure!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mesothelioma Symptoms and Treatment

Guest Post by Tim Povtak

Mesothelioma is a rare and highly aggressive cancer that usually strikes late in life, and its symptoms are so much like other illnesses that diagnosing it is tricky, which makes treating it even tougher.
It can take anywhere from 10 to 50 years after a person is first exposed to toxic asbestos fibers before he receives a diagnosis of mesothelioma. And that is a big part of the problem with treating the disease. By the time it is typically diagnosed, cancer has usually spread through the thin lining surrounding the lungs or abdomen, leaving most patients with a grim long-term outlook.

By far the most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs. Early symptoms are shortness of breath, pain in the rib area, a persistent cough, weight loss and sometimes abdominal swelling and pain.

Because mesothelioma is so rare – only about 3,000 cases are diagnosed a year in the United States – is not the first illness that can come to a doctor's mind. And if, say, the patient who complains of these symptoms also has a history of smoking, that can lead to another path of potential diagnoses.

Getting the right diagnosis from a doctor while the cancer is in an early stage also affects the treatment of the disease.

Standard treatments for mesothelioma are the same as for many other cancers – surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and often a combination of the three (called multimodal therapy).

The stage of the cancer can dictate much of the treatment plan. Early stage cancer patients generally are in better health and can tolerate more aggressive treatments, starting with surgery followed by chemotherapy.

Later stage patients often have more limited options. Doctors will qualify patients before taking them into surgery. Not everyone is eligible.

And the less healthy a patient is, the less they can tolerate aggressive treatment or even withstand the rigors of chemotherapy.

Someone who receives a late-stage mesothelioma diagnosis does not have the option of potentially curative treatment. Instead, the treatment plan is focused on prolonging a quality of life and on pain management.

However, there also are a number of emerging new treatment options that can be combined with traditional ones. There is immunotherapy, which focuses on strengthening a body's own immune system to the point where it can fight off the mesothelioma. There also is gene therapy, which involves destroying the defective genes that are leading to cancerous changes.

Bio: Tim Povtak is a senior writer for The Mesothelioma Center. He is a former award-winning journalist at a major metropolitan newspaper.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kick Cancer's Ass with Exercise

Guest Post by Liz Davies

Cancer is incredibly debilitating in itself, and treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, can cause severe fatigue;

Anemia – This is a condition where there aren’t enough red blood cells in the body, so the body has to work much harder to supply oxygen to organs and tissues. This in turn causes severe fatigue. Some cancers of the blood and bone cause anemia, as do treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Nausea and diet – many cancers, as well as their treatments, can cause nausea, weight loss and a lack of appetite. If someone isn’t eating well, they will automatically feel more tired, particularly if the body is already fighting illness.

Less active – the less active someone is, the less likely they are to feel like exercising yet, paradoxically, the effect of exercise on the body makes someone feel less tired.

How exercise can help prevent cancer.

Much research has been undertaken into how exercise can help not only those suffering from cancer, but also in the prevention of some cancers

Accurate studies have shown convincing evidence between physical activity and a lower risk of two of the most common cancers, colon cancer and breast cancer, as well as several other cancers including endometrial cancer (womb lining), prostate cancer, and mesothelioma cancer. In fact, the link between exercise and colon cancer is one of the most greatly researched across the world, with the findings that adults who increase their physical activity reduce their risk of colon cancer by a huge thirty percent.

Similarly, extensive research has looked at the link between physical activity and breast cancer. Although a link has been established, it’s not as definitive as that between colon cancer and exercise, with benefits varying from a 20 percent reduced risk to 80 percent reduced risk.

How exercise can benefit people with cancer? Often, people with cancer are encouraged by family and friends to ‘take it easy’. However, exercise has shown to be of great benefit for the following reasons:
  • Pain relief through the release of endorphins
  • Increases energy and strength, lifts mood and promotes better sleep
  • Increases illness fighting white blood cells
  • Boosts immune system
  • Reduces time spent in hospital
The National Cancer Institute is undertaking further research to prove initial findings that physical activity also improves survival of cancer after promising studies showed less incidences of reoccurrence in people who remained active.

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She wants to make a difference in people’s lives because she sees how cancer has devastated so many people in this world. Liz also likes running, playing lacrosse, reading and playing with her dog, April.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Information on IBC....You Can Never Get Enough

When a Red Breast Means Cancer by Patrick Maguire MD


There are several reasons why a person can develop acute (fairly sudden onset of) breast redness. Infection and inflammation are the two most common causes. Both of these conditions need to be treated in a timely fashion in order to improve health & minimize pain. They usually resolve over a week or two. However, there is one cause of breast redness that is always life-threatening: inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).

Warning Signs IBC is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. Among every 100 patients diagnosed with breast cancer, about 2 - 5 will have IBC. It’s more commonly diagnosed in younger women and the redness can come on literally over a few days. While most people who develop a red breast will NOT have IBC, both patients and their primary doctors need to be aware of the possibility. This diagnosis should be particularly suspected in patients who still have a red breast after treatment with antibiotics or anti-inflammatories for a presumed infection or inflammation. The classic description of the appearance of IBC is peau d’orange (orange peel) skin.

Diagnosis & Staging The diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy of the breast skin, usually by a breast surgeon or radiologist. Pathologists, the specially trained doctors who look at the biopsy tissue under the microscope, will usually describe tumor cells in the lymphatic channels of the breast tissue and breast skin. The blockage of these channels is usually the cause of the breast redness in IBC. Often there is no specific mass or lump in the breast, only diffuse red, thickened breast skin. Evaluation of the breast itself should include mammogram, often ultrasound (if a mass is felt), and sometimes MRI. All patients with IBC are considered to have aggressive disease. In that regard, unless the patient is in very poor condition and would not tolerate treatment, staging studies should be performed to assess whether the cancer has visibly spread elsewhere. These scans would include PET/CT or CT of chest and abdomen and bone scan. Patients with symptoms such as severe headache, nausea, and vomiting should also have MRI of the brain.

Treatment & Outcome

As with all breast cancers, the treatment for IBC can be broken down into two categories: locoregional (breast and lymph nodes) and systemic (throughout the body). A common mistake that a surgeon can make is to recommend a mastectomy (removal of the breast) first. Patients who are in reasonable medical condition should almost always have chemotherapy first, then mastectomy, then radiation therapy to the chestwall and regional lymph nodes. Hormonal and targeted therapies (such as Herceptin) may be recommended also, depending on the specific tumor biology. Among patients who have no evidence of metastasis (disease spread to distant areas in the body) at the time of diagnosis and are potentially curable, 40-50% are alive 5 years later. Awareness about this particularly aggressive form of breast cancer and its treatment is critical to ensure the best chance for cure.

You can LIKE Dr. on Facebook by clicking here. His blog is also a wealth of information on all types of cancer. A special thank you to Dr. Maquire for helping us get the word out on this!!! Our hope is that it will save many please pass this on to all your friends and family. Living life to the fullest, Jan & Julie

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When Cancer Hits Home

When Cancer Hits Home by Dr. Patrick Maguire is a perfect read for anyone who is scared of getting cancer or is dealing with family or friends who have cancer. Dr. Maguire opens the book with his very own personal story of his family decimated by cancer in a very short period of time.

Like Dr. Maguire, our family has endured too much cancer and we have lost too many friends and family members to this monster. Anything we can do to educated and eradicate this disease we will do.

We all know someone who has cancer or has lost some one to cancer. This manual for cancer prevention and treatment is a must read for everyone.

Thank you Dr. Maguire for writing this book and thank for emailing me and telling me about it. You can get this book on Amazon

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

IBC Survivorship....It's a Good Thing

Here is a blog I thought you would like to read and add to your favorites.....Elizabeth is another IBC survivor!!! She is a great writer and tells the story of her journey through this hell we call Inflammatory Breast Cancer well.

It is so good to hear happy stories like this and we want to share as many as we can!!! Pass this on to everyone you know so that everyone can be a survivor.
Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your story with us!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Still Kicking Cancer in the Butt

It has been awhile since our last post....things have been crazy in our world and although that is not an excuse for dropping the ball....we thought you would just all want to know that we are still here....and still Kickin' Cancer's Ass!!

Julie had her reconstruction surgery in September with great success. It is amazing what they can do now to help bring a woman who has had a mastectomy back to 'normal' (whatever normal is). That being said, it was a long 11 hour surgery, with lots of pain and lots of suffering, and our poor patient had about 4 feet of incisions. It was hard on her and it was hard on all of us to see her like that...but being the trooper she is, she is healing fast and starting to get back into the swing of things. She is happy with her new boobies and her new flat tummy, and that is what counts. And she is alive!!

All of her doctors and nurses have been amazing forces in her fight and recovery from this monster, and for them we are all very thankful. We are hearing more and more stories of breast cancer surviviors, especially of those with IBC, and that makes our hearts very happy.

October was breast cancer awareness month and it reminded me to keep our blog in the forefront. Not everyone survives and we were reminded of that with the loss of our dear friend Selena. Selena was a 3x warrior of breast cancer and now that she is an angel in heaven we know she wants us to keep fighting the fight!!

As I approach my 5 year remission anniversary, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I also know that Julie is one of the lucky IBC survivors. We will do all we can to get the word out and help women (and men) who have been attacked by this monster!

Dear Breast Cancer,

We always knew you were out there.


Wreaking havoc in people’s lives.

But we didn’t travel in the same circles and we thought our family was safe from your poison.

How naive we were!

A typical bully, you came into our lives at our weakest point.

You thought we would be easy marks!

Well, the joke was on you!

We fought you!

We beat you!

You are out of our lives now.

Here’s a news flash for you:

We don’t miss you one bit!

You caught us off guard.

It won’t happen again.

Our new life’s mission is to ensure you can’t do the same to other women.

We will educate as many women as we can to eradicate you!

Watch your back, cancer! We are coming for you!

Jan & Julie

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gaga for Tatas...In Honor of Selena

Enjoy this video......October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this is perfect to get everyone's attention!!! Thanks to 2010 Komen Portland Race for the Cure. This is in honor of our young friend Selena who lost her battle fighting breast cancer on October 2, 2010.....we know she would want everyone to see this!! RIP Selena were an amazing warrior!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Calling All Divas - This One Is For You......

Aren't these just stinkin' cute!! If you have to wear an arm band because of lympedema....then

Lymphedivas is for you!!!

I love this website and just had to share!! They have tons of styles and colors - you could get one for every outfit!!

You have been through enough and there is no reason why you should suffer any more!! Life you life and seize the day!!

I hope you are enjoying a magical summer and are taking the time to smell the roses!!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Stop Tanning....NOW...and Go With Your Own Glow

Are you a tanner? I was for a few years....but no more....a landmark study confirming that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light (radiation from the sun or tanning machines) is the most common cause of melanoma and there are a host of reasons to give up tanning.

1. Studies Link UV Radiation to the Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer
Scientists have analyzed the genome (the complete DNA information) for melanoma, and, according to a definitive new study from The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, in Hinxton, England, the vast majority of mutations found in this potentially deadly disease are caused by ultraviolet radiation. For the first time, researchers have identified thousands of mutations that occur in melanoma genes. Above all, these mutations are caused by damage to the skin cells’ DNA by UV radiation. According to the Institute, “The melanoma genome contains more than 33,000 mutations, many of which bear the imprint of the most common cause of melanoma — exposure to ultraviolet light.” Additionally, in July the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) added radiation from UV-emitting tanning machines to its list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation — a list that includes the radioactive element plutonium as well as solar UV. Studies show that first exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.

2. Tanning Beds Increase the Risk of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers
Tanning bed users have 2.5 times the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times the risk of basal cell carcinoma. These nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC) are the two most common skin cancers, and both can be highly disfiguring if not caught and treated in a timely manner. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, affects over a million Americans annually. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can metastasize if not caught early; approximately 2,500 people in the US die every year from SCC. People with a history of NMSC face twice the risk of developing other malignancies, like lung, colon, and breast cancer.

3. UV Exposure Causes Skin Aging
Up to 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by UV exposure. The cellular damage to the skin’s DNA caused by UV radiation is cumulative and leads to fine wrinkles, deep grooves, blotchiness, sagging, and a leathery texture. People who accumulate a lot of UV exposure in their childhood and teen years may see signs of damage as early as in their twenties.

4. Tanning is Not Fashionable
Celebrities, models, and fashion insiders all know that tanning is no longer in style. Many actors and actresses are proud to be pale; they wouldn’t alter their natural beauty or risk damaging their skin by tanning.: A healthy glow does not mean a tan. A healthy glow means your natural skin tone, glowing. Skin that is not tan is gorgeous.

This is a trend you’d be smart to follow! Go with your own glow!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Inspirational Thoughts.......Believe

I am feeling blue today.....a friend is battling breast cancer for the third time.....this says it all!!!