Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Your MRI - A Hidden Danger



The FDA recently announced that it was requiring new warnings about the use of gadolinium contrast agents (dyes) used in MRI scans. Gadolinium has been conclusively connected with a rare, potentially fatal kidney condition called NSF (Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis). The named contrast agents most often linked to NSF are: Magnevist, Omniscan, and Optimark.

NSF is a progressive thickening of the skin's connective tissue: it can eventually affect the joints, eyes, and, most seriously, the internal organs. Patients experience tightening and hardening of the skin, with dark or reddened patches. The disease can lead to joint contracture, preventing normal movement; if it affects the internal organs, it can be fatal.

Breast cancer patients routinely undergo yearly breast MRIs in addition to our regular screening mammograms. The MRI visualizes the breast tissue without using radiation, and it can detect abnormalities which a mammography cannot. Using both of these methods provides a more comprehensive evaluation.

The MRI consists of 2 phases: a non-contrast phase, which happens first; then, the contrast phase, where an IV of saline mixed with gadolinium is administered; this provides an enhanced level of imaging.

Following the MRI, patients are advised to drink a large amount of water in order to flush the gadolinium out of their body. The added fluid lessens the chemical's impact on the kidneys, as gadolinium is a toxic substance.

Patients who have kidney disease or who are at risk for reduced kidney function should have only a non-contrast MRI, or have their physician explore non-contrast-based imaging options, due to their high risk of developing NSF.

Any patient who is experiencing a lessened ability to eliminate drugs from their system should have their kidney function evaluated prior to having a MRI using contrast.

Most patients needing a contrast MRI will have the capacity to eliminate the gadolinium from their system rapidly by drinking more water for a day or so. But, if there is any question of impaired kidney function, patients should consult with their physician before undergoing this type of imaging.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

This Friday, STAND UP!!



On Friday, September 10th, at 8PM Eastern Time, Stand Up To Cancer will hold a multi-network 1-hour simulcast to raise funds for cancer research.


Celebrity actors, musicians, athletes, journalists, and others will all appear during the telecast; several were also cancer patients themselves, and have successfully journeyed through treatment to recovery.


There isn't a single person alive whose life hasn't been touched directly or indirectly by cancer. Before I became a patient, I had already lost my Father, Aunt, Uncle, and a dear childhood playmate to this dread disease. Right now, my wonderful Stepmother and a co-worker are also in treatment.


The mission of Stand Up To Cancer is to raise funds which go entirely and directly to cutting-edge cancer research, accelerating this process so that current and future cancer patients can get the greatest benefit in the shortest possible timeframe. It also celebrates the 12 million cancer survivors living every day in defiance of the disease, which gives hope to others should they ever be faced with a cancer diagnosis.


I have been a member of SUTC since the first telecast in the Fall of 2008. I donated without hesitation, and was energized by this innovative approach to funding research. At the time, I also dedicated a star in the cancer "constellation" in memory of my Father; this is a wonderful way of memorializing a loved one whose life has been taken by the disease.


SUTC invites us as cancer patients to create a profile and also make a statement about how we personally "stand up to cancer"; my Profile is available at the following Link, but I will also post it below:

http://su2c.standup2cancer.org/custom/?c=profile&a=index&id=17595



It has now been 3 years since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I am now a "Survivor"... Most days, I don't even think about cancer; even though I can clearly remember how it overwhelmed every aspect of my life for weeks and months. My life is forever changed, and some changes are for the better.

Cancer has put everything else in my life in perspective. Finding joy in each day is the most important thing to me. I now realize that life is all about "the little things". Living in the "now", and truly experiencing what is all around you, makes you feel that you are not wasting any precious minutes of your life. This attitude is one that enhances life for all of us, not just cancer patients.

Cancer has helped me realize that I am an extremely strong person. I write about my experiences on my website, in the hope that it might help others going through their journey back to health: http://trurogirl.blogspot.com

Cancer has robbed us of far too many friends, loved ones, and family. We must work together to make it a thing of the past. Stand up, everyone!!

me to never allow cancer to claim my spirit or take away my smile

Please watch the telecast Friday; it will touch your heart, and it will also inspire you. Donate to SUTC so that together, we will be able to make cancer "history".



Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Most Costly Disease In The World



If an interviewer asked "people on the street" what they thought was the greatest threat to worldwide health, the answers would most likely be "AIDS", "Malaria", "Flu", or another infectious disease. I would have given a similar response.

Surprisingly, the answer is - "cancer".

At a global cancer conference being held in China this week, the American Cancer Society presented new findings about cancer: not about treatments, cure rates, or research, but that cancer is now the world's leading cause of death, and literally costs more than any other disease in terms of disability and years of life lost.

A staggering $895 billion was attributed to cancer's economic cost for 2008 - this is roughly 1.5% of the entire world's GDP (gross domestic product). And, this is only the figure linked to disability and life-years lost to the disease. The costs of treatment, which are not included here, are also astronomical, and will only increase in the coming years.

The World Health Organization has estimated that cancer would replace heart disease as the leading cause of death this year. In 2008, 7.6 million people worldwide died of cancer, and each year, 12.4 million new cases are diagnosed.

This is an impending world health crisis of unimaginable proportions. Some are now comparing it to the global crisis leading to increased spending on AIDS in the early 1990s. The current 3% of public and private funding dedicated to global health must be greatly increased if we are to have any hope in turning the tide against cancer.



Many Women Not Informed of Reconstruction Options


Last Sunday, New York signed a new State Law requiring hospitals and physicians to discuss breast reconstruction options with patients prior to performing cancer surgery.

Sadly, although breast reconstruction following cancer surgery has been a Federally mandated covered benefit since 1998, the rate of post-mastectomy reconstructions is far lower for poor and minority women. I know that this is the case.

I had personally been asked to research this issue a while ago, and I was completely taken aback to see the incredibly low rate of reconstructions vs. mastectomies in the Bronx. It did not ring true that 80% or more of these women would actively choose to live the rest of their lives this way, when the law says that they are entitled to reconstructive surgery. Not all women are medically eligible for reconstruction, but this could not possibly account for the disparity. Were these women not aware that reconstruction is indeed a covered benefit? Could something be done to raise awareness of the situation, and help these women to be "whole" again, following the devastation which cancer had caused them?

A major factor is that women undergoing mastectomies at hospitals which do not offer breast reconstruction were not informed of their right to have this procedure performed at another hospital equipped to offer this service. From now on, if the hospital where the mastectomy was done does not offer breast reconstruction, it is mandated that the patient be referred to a facility where the procedure is available. In the NYC area, breast cancer patients at academic medical centers, which have breast plastic surgeons on staff, are far more likely to be informed of, and to undergo, breast reconstruction. The new legislation will ensure referrals to these institutions for post-mastectomy patients.

I was fortunate enough to undergo surgery and treatment at a facility of my choice. This legislation means that other women will have access to the same level of care and treatment options, no matter where they are initially treated for their breast cancer.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers - Angels Everywhere


Last Wednesday, I traveled into Manhattan to attend an all-day conference in Midtown. After leaving the conference, I was walking to meet my husband at his office, when I tripped over an electrical cord which was taped to the sidewalk. The cord was not flat the entire width of the pavement, and as I stepped around to avoid it, my left foot was caught in the space between the sidewalk and the light pole where the cord originated (!). I fell hard into the street, right next to a man who was hailing a cab.

He immediately stopped what he was doing, grabbed both my hands, and lifted me back up onto the sidewalk. He asked me if I was OK, and said that if I needed to, he would use the cab to get me to the nearest hospital.

I said that I thought that I could still walk, but that I had hurt my left knee, elbow, and ribs, as I landed on my left side when I fell. I thanked him several times for his kindness, and he said that he would not leave me until I was sure that I was OK. He was a sweetheart. I told him that he was going straight to Heaven for being so kind to me. He was very modest, and said that he was only doing what anyone else would do in a similar situation. I really was somewhat in shock at the time; I was still trying to process what had happened to me.

While this was going on, a very petite Asian woman was silently brushing the dirt from my pant leg with her hands, and she patted me on the shoulder. I couldn't believe that she was doing this - it was so sweet. I thanked her, and she just smiled - I don't think that she spoke English. Several other people stopped and offered their help as I tried to get myself back together after falling. They were being kind to a total stranger in one of the busiest cities in the world, a city with an underserved reputation for having cold, unfeeling citizens.

I can say this because I was met with similar acts of kindness and generosity when I was run over by a van 15 years ago in Manhattan. People were absolutely wonderful to me, and I actually made friends as a result of that experience.

So, even though I'm writing this while I'm still in pain, recovering from my brush with the "mean streets", the truth is that there were caring, kind people who stopped what they were doing to give aid and comfort to someone they didn't even know.

I feel very grateful for that, and I do believe that there are "angels" everywhere, in the form of people who will stop and help a total stranger who has been hurt.

The drawing accompanying this post was done by a little girl who was dying of the cancer which ultimately claimed her young life. Even though she knew that she was dying, she still saw herself as being watched over by angels.

Right now, I am thinking the very same thing. These people were my "angels", and I wasn't alone.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

When You Look In The Mirror



What do you see when you look in the mirror? And, how do you want others to see you?

I know how very difficult it is when you are diagnosed, undergoing surgery and treatment, to see the person in your mirror as anything else but a "cancer patient".

Your entire waking existence revolves around office visits, x-rays, scans, lab testing, blood drawing, taking meds, and trying to cope mentally, emotionally, and physically with your new unwanted identity. Cancer has erased the person whom you used to be prior to your diagnosis; you will never be the same.

Most of us are forced to lose part of our body to cancer; but, you don't have to relinquish your identity to it as well. You may even decide to see this as a kind of "rebirth" of the rest of your life. Now, as someone facing your own mortality, what is truly important is very clear; and the person whom you see in the mirror is indeed still you, after everything which you have experienced.

As more and more people living with cancer (over 12 million, at last count) finish treatment and enter their survivorship stage, they will be redefining their own lives. As survivors, we also have a real opportunity to empower and help others; both our fellow cancer patients, and those who might someday also face the disease. This is the reason why I am writing here about my experiences, and sharing them with you. I'm almost 3 years from diagnosis, and there are days when I don't even think about cancer.

It's unfortunate that cancer patients are continually bombarded with the "warrior" and "fighter" personas which are automatically bestowed on us. I believe that the very best way to diminish cancer's power over us is to be true to ourselves, and to define our own lives. Remember, you are not defined by your disease; or by what image society attributes to someone in our situation.

There are many times, even now, when I don't particularly feel like a "warrior" as I deal with my daily symptoms. I don't feel particularly strong or empowered when I'm overcome, literally, by the severe hot flashes caused by my anti-estrogen meds. This happens at least a dozen times a day, and during the night: besides any normal activity, it can be set off by things like standing too close to the toaster, drying my hair, ironing clothes...but I have chosen to laugh it off, and say to myself, "Only 2 and a half more years of taking this drug - I'm almost halfway through!" And, I was the person who was always cold...!

When people describe me, I think that they would most likely say, "She's an upbeat, funny, short woman with blonde hair, who always has a smile for everyone. She loves reading, sci-fi, architecture, history, gardening, pugs; she loves Hawai'i, and plans to move to Maui in retirement. She also happens to be a person who had breast cancer." Cancer is far from the first thing people associate with me, and that's exactly the way I want to be seen, because that's how I see myself.

I have vowed that even though cancer could take my life, I will never allow it to claim my smile, or change the essence of my personality: then, it will have "won" in another way. That, to me, would be even more tragic than dying.

When you feel overwhelmed by fear and worry, think about this: no one knows how much time they have left in this world. And, have you ever considered that you may die from something other than your cancer?

Put your life in perspective, and focus on your present and your future. Be as "you" as you can be; this is the best advice that I could possibly give to the person you see in the mirror.


Friday, June 18, 2010

32 Years!!


On June 17, 1978, two very young people in love got married outside in a wooded setting, by a little pond with ducks, on the grounds of a historic New England restaurant. We had been engaged for four years, the entire time I was attending college. Our wedding day was a little over a year after I graduated from college and my groom graduated from art school.

As we stood there and said our vows, to remain together "...for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, 'til death do we part", our entire history together was yet to be made. There is something brave and touching about seeing any two people get married: so much love and hope for the future is present on that special day.

Yesterday marked our 32nd wedding anniversary; we have walked through all of life's experiences together, no matter what. We have seen beloved parents and family become ill and then be taken from us; we moved from our hometown, left everything and everyone we knew, and started a new life together 20 years ago in "the Big City". We have traveled halfway around the world together, knowing that we truly are at home wherever we can simply be in each other's presence.

We have had our share of problems, as all couples do; but our commitment to each other and to our marriage has been a constant force in our lives. Most of all, we have gone through my cancer experience as a team every step of the way, and it has brought us even closer together. I will never forget the look in my husband's eyes as I was being prepared for my cancer surgery; no words were needed to let me know how much I mean to him, and how much he wanted to have me in his life for many years to come.

I cannot believe that we have been fortunate enough to be best friends who have been married to each other for 32 years. The day after our anniversary, I said to my husband, "Today is the first day of the next 32 years of our marriage!" We both would be very happy to walk through life, holding hands, for as long as Fate gives to us.

Every single day that I have him in my life is a gift. He is the one person I can trust, the person who can make everything all right, whose love is truly unconditional. He loves and accepts me exactly as I am; and I feel the same way about him. We have found a "home" in each other.

My dream is to continue growing old with him: that is what life and love means to me.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Another National Cancer Survivors Day



Tomorrow, June 6th, is National Cancer Survivors Day: this is traditionally observed on the first Sunday in June.


It is a day for cancer survivors, their loved ones, and their caregivers to all celebrate life. Today, there are 11 million cancer survivors in the US, and I am very grateful to be one of them. I owe my life to my wonderful surgeon, radiation oncologist, oncologists, radiologists, and their support staffs: I am forever in their debt.


I was diagnosed almost 35 months ago; that day now seems very far in the past. As I have written elsewhere, the diagnosis of cancer is no longer a death sentence, as it truly was earlier in my lifetime. By living, we have robbed cancer of its power to overcome us, and each day is a victory.


The fact that National Cancer Survivors Day even exists is testimony to the tireless efforts of researchers and caregivers to find new ways to improve and prolong the lives of those who have been diagnosed with cancer. And, it is also a testament to those who have invented and improved methods for detecting cancers in their earliest stages (my cancer was Stage I, could not be felt, and was only visible as a cluster of microcalcifications on my mammogram).


The day is also intended to demonstrate that cancer survivors everywhere can lead active, productive lives; in most cases, much like those in their community who are living without cancer. I am still amazed that during my entire cancer treatment, including 2 surgeries, that I never spent one night in a hospital, and that I didn't have to take any work-related disability leave. I was able to work throughout my treatment.


All of us who are living with cancer face varying survivorship issues, but the important thing is that we are alive: that is what tomorrow is all about!


Take one day at a time; find joy in each day, and with those close to you. Do not allow worrying about your future to cloud your present!


Below are some links from the "Coping With Cancer" website:


More information on cancer and cancer survivorship:
National Cancer Survivors Day: www.ncsd.org
National Cancer Institute: www.cancer.gov
American Society of Clinical Oncology: www.cancer.net
American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures:
http://www.cancer.org/docroot/STT/STT_0.asp
American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org




Sunday, May 23, 2010

I Got My Wish!!








I haven't posted anything for a while, but I had a very good reason: I just came back from MAUI!!!

My husband had read my January post about how much I missed Maui, and so, on my birthday, my surprise present from him was - 10 days in Maui!! My greatest gift in life is having him in it; but this is a gift I will always hold most dear.

It meant so much to me psychologically to be able to go there again after my illness; it is the farthest that I have ever traveled, and I'm happy to say that the trip was amazing. Just to have the chance to be there again was restorative, and soothed my soul.

Emerson wrote: "Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air" - this is exactly what we did there. To me, Maui is a most spiritual place, even though I am not a religious person. Just being there, I feel tremendously at peace; it's difficult to put into words.

I know in my heart that I will return there; hopefully one day to spend the rest of my life in my beloved Maui. Maui, you will always have my aloha...!






Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cancer Patients - Another Battlefront


Tuesday's Wall Street Journal had an unsettling article about cancer patients who are financially overwhelmed by the costs associated with their treatment.

Surprisingly, the vast majority of cancer patients under age 65 (70%) do indeed have private health insurance coverage. However, policies with lifetime caps on benefit payouts and sizable out-of-pocket costs can wreak financial devastation on a cancer patient and his/her family. Adding to this is the fact that cancer patients' income is reduced, or eliminated, during their time away from work; this sets up a scenario for financial ruin.

This seems terribly unfair, as dealing with your diagnosis and getting through treatment is challenging enough. And, the added emotional stress of being financially overwhelmed is certainly counterproductive to getting well.

Patients who are insured usually believe that they would not qualify for any type of financial assistance with their treatment costs. So, they are forced to dip into their savings, if they have any, in order to pay their expenses not covered by insurance. Otherwise, difficult choices have to be made, such as between the basic necessities of life and the costs of their daily cancer medications.

When we hear the words "cancer support", naturally we think of peer groups, counseling, and other resources dedicated to helping the patient deal emotionally with diagnosis and the treatment path. Now, programs are being developed to support patients as they face overwhelming financial challenges while simultaneously having to confront a life-threatening illness.

Although this is a positive sign, many patients are still totally unaware of these financial assistance resources; as they are not in the usual "care package" of support contacts normally shared with cancer patients. This has to change!

I was extremely fortunate that I was able to work from home during my surgeries and treatment. I didn't have to be on medical disability, so my normal income wasn't affected. However, if my cancer recurs, more extensive treatment would be needed. Then, I could find myself in a similar financial dilemma, even though I have excellent medical insurance.

Below are the names and website addresses of the agencies listed in the WSJ article: I'm hoping that we will never need them, but I also know that cancer plays no favorites. Having knowledge about our treatment options, and about how to deal with potential financial issues is empowering.

Patient Access Network | panfoundation.org

CancerCare | cancercare.org

Patient Advocate Foundation | patientadvocate.org

Partnership for Prescription Assistance | pparx.org

Cancer Support Community | cancersupportcommunity.org




Saturday, April 3, 2010

Finding True Happiness With Someone



How many of us are fortunate enough to find true happiness just being in our partner's presence?

This is exactly how I feel whenever I am near my husband.

Next Tuesday is the 37th anniversary of the day that we met.

He has stayed by my side through the darkest of times, and
every obstacle that we have faced only serves to strengthen
our bond.

One of my favorite Irish proverbs is: "There is no love like
the love an old man has for his old wife." As we grow old
together, I see the truth and wisdom of this statement.

He is the treasure and the joy of my life.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Official: Material Things Aren't the Source of Happiness

A study published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded that spending your money on experiences (trips, concerts, movies, dining out) brings more happiness than purchasing material things.

The study, which combined results from eight separate studies, found that people had more anxiety over making the right material purchase; were more likely to compare their material purchase with those of others; were envious of others who had made a superior purchase of a similar object; and, perhaps most important, their initial satisfaction with their purchase diminished over time.

To me, this really isn't very surprising. Our entire culture encourages competing with others on a material level, which is both wasteful and mentally unhealthy. For example, when we bought our house, we didn't replace any of the existing major appliances: they all worked very well, so we continued to use them. Some of them are over 20 years old now, still attractive, and still working!

About 25 years ago, I saw a magnet in a shop on Cape Cod which perfectly expressed my thoughts. It says, "The most precious things in life aren't things."

Unfortunately, some people never realize this, and they are constantly disappointed when the material things which they surround themselves with don't bring them the happiness that they imagined.

As I have written here, cancer patients are frequently given a very precious gift; the realization that living in the "now", and finding beauty and joy in the many little experiences which happen from moment to moment, are what truly feeds our souls. I knew this long before being diagnosed, and I continue to live my life this way.

Experiences can be held in your heart for the rest of your life. And, you can have meaningful and enjoyable ones each day that don't cost you a cent! It's simply a matter of changing your mindset. We would all be healthier if we adopted this way of seeing the world.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aspirin reducing breast cancer deaths?


Last Tuesday, The Journal of Clinical Oncology published the results of a study showing that aspirin appears to have a dual benefit: it reduces both the risk of cancer death and the risk of early-stage breast cancer spreading to other body sites.

The study involved over 4,000 nurses who have been participating in the Nurses Health Study since 1976. Early-stage breast cancer survivors who took aspirin 2 - 5 days a week reduced their risk of death by 71%, and their risk of their cancer spreading by 60%. Interestingly, taking aspirin 6 to 7 times a week reduced death risk by 64% and spread risk by 43%, so more frequent dosing did not increase the protective effect of the drug.

How aspirin and other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen work to stop tumors from spreading and recurring is not yet known. Study researchers think that tumor growth may be fueled by inflammation; NSAIDs interfere with this process, depriving cancer cells of a favorable environment in which to grow and thrive.

Both estrogen-positive and non-hormone dependent tumors were adversely affected; so this finding could potentially benefit virtually all breast cancer patients.

At the moment, no one should start taking aspirin or other NSAIDs in the hope of preventing future cancers; patients on radiation or chemotherapy should NOT take these drugs due to their potential side effects. Also, NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation and bleeding; so consult with your oncologist first before adding any other drug to your cancer regimen.

Interesting news, though! Perhaps aspirin really is a "wonder drug" in an entirely new way.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's My Birthday - Time To Look Fabulous!!





Today is my Birthday, the third one I've been able to celebrate since being diagnosed! I'm not a girl who enjoys getting dressed up and going out; I'd rather relax at home. But, I can "dress up" and give myself a new look via the magic of the Internet. In the spirit of my friends at Fight Pink, I now have pink hair - without using any harmful chemicals!

Thanks to RuPaul's "dragulator" website http://www.dragulator.com , I can channel my inner fabulousness! Try it, it's really fun and great for a laugh!

This is my alter ego, "Cinnamon Lakewood"...you'll see how I got this name if you visit the website.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Breast Cancer Isn't the #1 Killer of Women

With all of the constant publicity about breast cancer, you might be tempted to believe that it is the #1 killer of women. Breast cancer is so much in the public eye that it's easy to have the impression that most women die from it than any other medical cause. This is NOT the case; there is another disease which claims ONE of EVERY THREE WOMEN, and we all need to remember this fact (even myself, a breast cancer patient!).

Heart Disease claims the lives of more women than any other disease, even breast cancer! To raise awareness of this sobering fact, today has been designated as "National Wear Red Day" by the American Heart Association. Women wear red today to spread the message that Heart Disease claims far too many women (and men), and leads to years of disability and diminished quality of life for others.

My Mother had debilitating congestive heart failure for years; she was a heavy smoker for decades, and could never manage to quit. She had to sleep sitting up, could barely walk even a few steps without becoming exhausted, and she died at age 59 from a heart attack. My goal even before I lost her 22 years ago was to adopt a healthy lifestyle so that this would not happen to me. Until I was diagnosed with cancer, I led a model life in terms of heart health. I'm struggling to get back to my former weight and level of activity, because I know this is vital to my survival.

Do you know the risk factors for heart disease? Having even one of these doubles your risk of developing heart disease:

Smoking
Diabetes
Overweight/obese
Physically inactive
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Age (55 and older for women)
Family history of coronary disease

Visit the Go Red for Women website for valuable information and assistance in improving your heart health: http://www.goredforwomen.org/index.aspx

Do what you can to improve your risk factors and to lead a long, healthy life. We all can agree on this!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Dreams of Maui

Here, a cold rain is falling, but 6,000 miles away, the air is fragrant and warm...




You look up and see the green slopes of Haleakala above you, rising to the cloudline...





Turn around, and the warm water and powdery beach sand are there for your relaxation; there is always an island in sight:




You are in paradise, and there is nowhere else that you would rather be...






Maui, you live in my heart...


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pomegranates May Fight Breast Cancer in 2 Ways

A recent study found that a specific group of chemicals found in pomegranates successfully inhibited the cell growth of estrogen-positive breast cancer tumors; and, these compounds also suppressed aromatase from being used by the body to produce estrogen. So, these chemicals both prevent or slow the growth of actual cancer cells, and, they simultaneously create an environment detrimental to the creation of estrogen-positive tumor cells. Right now, one specific compound called urolithin B was found to have the greatest significant effect upon inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells.

Because pomegranates have a high antioxidant content, they have gotten attention in recent years. You can easily find pomegranate juice and juice drinks containing pomegranate in supermarkets these days. I myself have been drinking a cranberry-pomegranate juice combination for well over a year now, because it's not soda (!) and I enjoy the taste.

Being 2 years into a 5-year course of an aromatase inhibitor (Arimidex), I know that many women discontinue these drugs due to severe joint pain, increase of fractures, and uncontrollable flushing/sweating. I haven't experienced joint pain, I take Fosamax weekly (which is thought to also prevent against cancer spreading to the bones), and daily meds for the increased flushing events. I will continue to take Arimidex faithfully until the end of my 5 years.

It would be extremely beneficial to patients who can't tolerate the aromatase inhibitors if eating pomegranates or drinking pomegranate juice could equal the drugs' proven results. One question is, how much pomegranate would have to be consumed, and how often, in order for the phytochemicals to be effective? Also, the results can be markedly different in a laboratory environment versus being tested on actual patients. What works in a petri dish, sadly, does not always work in the bloodstream.

I am hopeful about this news, and until then, it certainly couldn't hurt for estrogen-positive breast cancer patients to add pomegranate products to their diet. Aromatase inhibitors are still the most effective treatment for hormone-positive cancer, and we should keep this in mind.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Showtime Picks Up Linney Cancer Comedy

I just saw this headline, and I have to say that I find the expression "cancer comedy" offensive and disturbing. I'd wager that other cancer patients will feel the same way. As a person who has lost a parent, aunt, and uncle to cancer, it's troubling; never mind the fact that I'm a cancer patient myself! This strikes me as a little too casual, and disrespectful. Basis for the show: "A suburban wife and mother finds out that she has cancer" - hilarious! No, it's not humorous: it's devastating. Ask anyone who has been in this situation.

Of course, there are going to be comedic moments as part of the cancer experience: the very day that I was diagnosed, my OBG said on the phone, "I'm going to prescribe an anti-depressant for you right now." My response was, "Okay, thanks; I guess that I might become a little depressed about getting this news." I was being ironic, but she was prescribing the drug for my hot flashes and night sweats, not for depression! The point is, I could decide to joke about this at the time of my diagnosis; but cancer is no joke to those who have to deal with it each day.

If you want to see a TV series which truly depicts what goes through the mind of a person who is diagnosed with cancer, watch "Breaking Bad" on AMC. Bryan Cranston is nothing short of brilliant in his portrayal. His entire world, and most notably, his moral compass, are changed by his will to live long enough to provide financially for the family he will be leaving behind. He ably portrays the shock, numbness, grief, anger, and conflicting emotions which a cancer patient goes through. Ultimately, he leads a double life in his quest to ensure that his wife, physically challenged teenage son, and newborn daughter will not live in poverty when he dies.

Correctly, this show does not take a comedic approach to a man and his terminal disease. It shows the sheer desperation and urgency he feels in the face of impending death, and what he chooses to do with the time he has left.

I still have my sense of humor, and I joke about various aspects of my cancer experience: being a "radiation and imaging supermodel", my many medications, my wicking t-shirts and PJs, not needing to give up my "pre-cancer lifestyle" because I'm so boring, etc.

But, I still find treating cancer in a comedic light unsettling. Perhaps I'm being too sensitive?


Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year!

Today is the first day of 2010; the entire year is spread out before us right now, full of possibilities and opportunities. It is a time to celebrate, because we have been given another chance, another "blank slate", in which to improve our lives.

I don't believe in resolutions; they are too easily broken, but I do believe in positive thinking and working towards a goal. Whatever motivates you is the key to success. And, keeping your goals attainable and your expectations reasonable will provide much more fulfillment on a personal level. "Baby steps, baby steps!"

Here's what I would like to focus on in 2010:
  • letting my precious husband know every day how much he is loved
  • treasuring the life that I have been given, and never taking it for granted
  • maintaining healthy exercise and eating habits
  • slowly getting back to my pre-cancer weight for my continued health
  • seeing the beauty in the tiniest things all around us
  • not giving up my dream of retiring to Maui (and hoping to be back there very soon!)
  • keeping my heart open to others and the joy that this gives back to me
  • being thankful for my wonderful job, my friends, my home
Happy New Year, Everyone! May we all have health and happiness in 2010.