Archive for April, 2009

Great news re cancer treatment!

April 28, 2009

Research at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto by Dr. Pamela Ohashi and Dr. Tak Mak has produced a technique which may eliminate the need for chemotherapy. In essence they “combined a vaccine with a naturally occurring substance in the body called interleukin-7 (IL-7), a protein that helps white blood cells ward off disease.”

See the article “Study finds way to boost immune response to cancer” by Hayley Mick in the Globe and Mail April 27, 2009 or ”the findings, published online yesterday in the journal Nature Medicine”.

When I was being treated for 3 types of cancer in 1986 and 1987, I was encouraged to use guided imagery and visualization to boost my immune system, and to help my body get rid of cancer cells. I attended groups, read books, and visualized my white cells killing cancer cells several times a day.

All through the course in chemotherapy my white cell count was high; at one point I had to be tested for leukemia because the white count was so high. I have continued to use this visualization and have remained cancer free for 22 years.

I don’t think visualization alone has kept me healthy, but it has helped. I’ve improved my lifestyle with regard to diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, and stress management; all of these factors affect the immune system.

I believe that a strong immune system is the key to good health. The research to discover an immune booster for cancer patients is welcome news for sure!

Breast self-exam as accurate as MRI for young, high-risk women

April 27, 2009

Breast self-exam as accurate as MRI for young, high-risk women: study
(Medscape) UPDATED 2009-04-26
A small new study suggests that breast self-exams may be as accurate as mammograms and MRI when it comes to detecting tumors in young, at-risk women. Previous studies have led experts to stop recommending monthly breast self-exams for all women, but a study of 147 women at Duke University found they had some merit. After three years, the number of masses found that turned out to be cancerous was approximately the same for women who had found them by self-exam and those found by technological methods.

The full article is available online at: http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/news-288316-98.html

Breast Self Exam (BSE) is a confusing issue for women and one that needs attention. As a mammographer, I talk to many women who don’t know what to do about BSE; this in itself creates anxiety. Health care providers claim that if women do BSE, they create anxiety for themselves if they think they have a lump, and create unnecessary workups which overload the health care system. It’s my understanding that most breast cancers are initially found by women themselves, so why not teach them how to do BSE properly.

The article above includes this statement:

Breast self-exam should be emphasized and well taught to high-risk women.

I think the idea of BSE being well taught to all women is the key to good breast health. If we would teach girls in high school to do BSE, and do it properly, then we would avoid many issues that cause controversy. Young girls hear about breast cancer and develop fears they don’t know how to handle. By teaching women of all ages how to do a proper BSE, we would eliminate many fears and reduce false negative and false positive exams.

It doesn’t cost anything to do BSE and it could save many health care dollars by adding to the prevention and early detection of breast cancer.

Visualization works to improve your health

April 22, 2009

If you want to reach your best possible state of health, you can do it with the help of visualization; the trick is to know exactly how well you want to be and to stay focused even after you get there.

The technique for visualization requires total concentration, which isn’t easy when you’re facing something like cancer as I was in 1987. The thing is that if it works for cancer, it will work for whatever else is going on. I can often get rid of colds, aches, and pains just by visualizing myself as well as I can possibly be.

In 1987, I had the surgery and chemotherapy that was recommended by my doctors, and I also took advantage of the weekly support group at the cancer center which introduced me to meditation and guided imagery. At home, I couldn’t focus by myself and used tapes which walked me through a guided imagery as well.

I am convinced that doing visualization helped me to regain my health. It got so that I was visualizing when going about my daily routines. When I was walking I saw cancer cells being wiped out with every step I took. When I was sitting somewhere or waiting in line I would play out the scenario of my white cells killing cancer cells.

A few months before I was diagnosed there was an article showing the destruction of cancer cells by white cells in the National Geographic magazine; it was June of 1986 to be exact.

There was a picture of cancer cells looking big and healthy with white cells around them getting ready to do battle with the diseased cells. The next picture showed how the white cells distorted themselves as they broke down the cell membrane of the cancer cell. The third picture showed the cancer cell reduced to a skeleton of its former shape and a white cell beside it ready to cart it away for the body to get rid of it.

These pictures helped me to keep my mind working through the process of eliminating cancer from my body long after my treatment had ended. To this day if anything makes me think I may have a recurrence I visualize myself in a healthy state as I go through the steps of seeing the doctor and having medical tests.

Visualization helps me to feel as if I am taking charge of my health which is a very important part of being healthy. I do whatever I can to be as well as possible from this day forward; I start from here and go forward one day at a time.

Re Article: University, a career – and chemo: Cancer rates rising among young adults

April 19, 2009

University, a career – and chemo: Cancer rates rising among young adults
Researchers say there is ‘lack of appreciation’ in health community for challenges young cancer patients face in getting proper support
ANDRÉ PICARD AND JOE FRIESEN
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
April 17, 2009 at 3:52 AM EDT
PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTER
Excerpts from the article:
“The number of teenagers and young adults developing cancer is on the rise, and they face tough challenges getting proper diagnosis and treatment, according to a new report.
There are often delays in diagnosis – largely because doctors rarely consider that young adults could have cancer, the report says.”
Re the Canadian Cancer Society: “The society’s report – Cancer Statistics 2009 – says about 2,075 young people aged 15 to 29 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. About 325 cancer deaths are expected in this age group, which represents 1.5 per cent of total cancer deaths.
But the relatively small number of deaths doesn’t reflect the huge impact the disease has on the young patients, their families and society, said Loraine Marrett, a senior scientist at Cancer Care Ontario and chair of the statistics steering committee at the cancer society.”
“The overall incidence of cancer among young people has risen slowly but steadily over the past decade. That is due, in part, to better detection, but scientists simply do not know why testicular and thyroid cancer rates are climbing, said Heather Logan, senior director of cancer control policy at the Canadian Cancer Society.
The silver lining is that the death rate has declined: The five-year survival rate for young adults is 85 per cent, better than the rate for children (82 per cent) and older adults (62 per cent). Ms. Logan said young people need to be more aware of their bodies and take cancer prevention seriously. In particular, young men should be conscious of changes in their testicles that could be indicative of cancer, and young women should get regular Pap tests, consider getting the HPV vaccine and be aware of lumps in their breasts.
More generally, young people should make lifestyle choices to reduce their future cancer risk, including avoiding overexposure to the sun and tanning beds, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, eating a healthy diet, being active, maintaining a healthy body weight and not engaging in risky sexual activity, she said.”

These are the comments I submitted to the Globe and Mail online:
Every time I read about young people with cancer I wonder how long it will take the health care system to see the need for change. Cancer is supposed to be a disease of aging which is bad enough, but when it strikes young people it can be devastating.

There is a bright light though – if we catch cancer early, it can be treated as a wake up call and not a death sentence; cancer can make people change their lives for the better. Prevention and early detection are crucial. How much better would it be to spend health care dollars on prevention and early detection?

Until things change I think we each have to listen to our body; if we have a gut instinct that something is seriously wrong, then do whatever it takes to get it checked out. Do not take no for an answer. This is not easy, especially for a young person and it helps to have someone in your corner to stand beside you and push you to check it out.

A big issue for me is the stress factor. Stress is unavoidable, but if it is managed properly it will not ruin your health. If stress is not managed properly there are hormones and chemicals produced, in a body under constant stress, which cause it to break down.

That’s why positive thinking works because the chemical soup in the body changes to one which is supportive instead of destructive. I am a 22 year cancer survivor; cancer turned my life around. I honestly believe I would not have enjoyed those 22 years in good health if I hadn’t done the work I did to manage my emotions and my stress level.

Cancer affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It’s time for all of us to pay attention to the big picture and take good care of ourselves in all of these areas.

Are you in denial?

April 14, 2009

Denial is the most common coping skill; it protects us from the pain of whatever is too hard to face. One style of management is to ignore things so they will either go away or be resolved without the manager having to intervene. But what if the issue doesn’t go away? The problem is if we don’t face it, it may just stay there and drag us down or get worse as time goes by.

I know when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I used denial to hide from the truth; my brain couldn’t accept the fact that it had happened to me. So I protected myself from the truth, but in hindsight I wasn’t doing myself any favors. Denial kept me from taking action.

After doing some work with a psychologist, I learned to face cancer. By facing up to myself as a person with cancer, I was able to decide what to do about it. I was able to do the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical work to get myself on the road to recovery.

If you’re in denial about something as big as cancer, I encourage you to stop and take a look at it. You can look at yourself in the mirror and check out how you’re feeling. Think about what you can do to face the issue so you can figure out what action will help you resolve it. With something like cancer, it’s important to start sooner than later as the chance of resolution is so much better in the early stages.

It’s a really good idea to enlist all the help you can get from family, friends, support groups, church, hospice, community groups, and coaches. Having someone to coach you through tough times is like having a lifeline. If you’re in denial and you need help – please reach out to others who will walk beside you on your path. You may be surprised at how well you cope once you face the issue head on.

Early detection saves lives!

April 13, 2009

There seem to be mixed messages about the early detection of cancer:
• Finding cancer early will give you more treatment options and increase your chance of becoming cancer free
• Finding cancer early will increase the time you live after a diagnosis, but it won’t increase your life span

I think the important point is that finding cancer early can be a wake up call not a death sentence. If cancer is diagnosed early, there are more treatment options; people usually require less treatment and the outcomes are usually better than if the cancer is advanced.

If cancer is diagnosed early it can make us more aware of taking care of ourselves and choosing to live a healthy lifestyle so we raise our quality of life.

I know because I had Stage II breast cancer in 1986 when at the age of 41 I was not ready to die. I decided to do everything I could to stay alive and healthy so I changed my lifestyle in a number of ways.

There are no guarantees, but there’s increasing evidence that cancer or a recurrence of cancer can be prevented:
‘Hey, you’ve dodged a bullet this time, here’s an opportunity for you to live a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of a second cancer or another co-morbid condition and also improve your quality of life.’ ”

Kevin Stein, Ph.D., director, Quality of Life Research, Behavioral Research Center, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Jay Brooks, M.D., chairman of hematology/oncology, Ochsner Health System, Baton Rouge, La.; May 2008, Journal of Clinical Oncology

Are you dissatisfied with your job?

April 9, 2009

If you’re overly stressed at work and it’s getting you down, do you think it’s time to look at what’s going on and change your thoughts? You may need to change your job, but since times are tough, you can be more satisfied right now if you’re able to look at things in a different light.

According to an article I read years ago, job dissatisfaction is the greatest source of stress and stress is a major contributor to poor health. Since I had cancer at the time, I decided to pay attention. Before you get to that end result, please consider making the downward spiral stop, and turn it around so the spiral is moving up to a better state of mental, physical, and emotional health.

I recently spoke to someone who used to be calm and outwardly content when she spoke of her job. She’s now finding it’s stressful; when I asked what kind of stress, she said it’s caused by different personalities at work. I can relate to that having worked in a hospital for years and witnessed many power struggles. Does this kind of stress help us to get work done? No – it drains energy for no good reason!

Some forms of stress are good if we’re energized and able to move forward with projects, timelines, etc. The energy that comes from good stress can help us plow through work effectively and efficiently, so we’re satisfied with what we’ve accomplished.

Power struggles don’t work much after we’re 2 years old; even if we win, we’ve lost, because it costs us big time in emotional energy. Personality conflicts and power struggles will always exist at some level because no two people think alike all the time.

What can I do to save myself from the grief of job dissatisfaction caused by personality differences? I can choose my thoughts to help me see things another way. Everyone has a unique perspective on life, and a right to be heard. If I see a power struggle starting, it helps me to take a step back and get to a place where I can be objective. These things happen fast so I have to act fast; doesn’t always work, but it gets easier with practice.

No matter what, the time and energy we put in to being objective is always worth the effort to reduce unnecessary stress. It helps if we’re able to come from a place of love not fear. If our thoughts change, and we’re able to view things in a more loving framework, our perception of job satisfaction will be more positive and supportive, and we’ll feel better about ourselves.

Love vs. fear

April 8, 2009

I’ve learned a lot about how to live with love for myself and for others, and that living with love reduces fear because love and fear cannot co-exist. I’ve learned about the value of living in the moment and loving life however it presents itself. Having cancer has taught me many things; my life after cancer has been far richer than it was before the days when I had to face my mortality.

However, I learned at a workshop this weekend that no matter how many times I think I’ve faced my ego, things keep coming up so I have to face it again and again. At least now that I’ve practiced this so many times, I can move more quickly through the stages of fear to acceptance, forgiveness, and love.

There are so many sayings about love being all there is and I get that. It feels so much better to love others than to fear them. Once I forgive myself for feeling negative thoughts about a situation, it takes a lot less energy to love than it does to fear. In fact, having love for my self and for others creates energy. That energy is put to good use in helping my body to heal itself on a daily basis, and to stay as healthy as I possibly can.

If you could use more love in your life, start now to list all the things you appreciate and love about yourself. This is not about self indulgence, self-importance or arrogance; it’s about warmth and caring for yourself, and gratitude for all the blessings you have brought into your life.

Economic pressures

April 2, 2009

When my husband lost his job, I thought the world would come to an end. The world as I knew it had come to an end, but since this happened in 1985 and we’re still here, my thinking was out of line. I see many people going through this situation now and even though it’s widespread and not a personal embarrassment, it’s a huge challenge to figure out what to do next.

The one thing that has helped me the most is to reach out to other people, and to talk to others about my feelings and thoughts. I was unable to do this at first, and it wasn’t until a year later when I was diagnosed with cancer that I realized I’d been in denial when I thought I was coping.

I’m glad to hear that the crisis lines are busy now because it means that people are reaching out for help. Talking through the pressures of life is a release and it really does help to put things into perspective. Being supported by someone else doesn’t mean I’m weak, it means I’m human; besides, when I allow someone to support me I know they feel supported by me as well.

My life has improved so much with the lessons I’ve learned from the crises of unemployment and cancer. There are many ways for people to get help in moving forward and it’s an individual process to figure it out. One of the common threads many people use in surviving cancer is to reach out to others; they build a strong support system which gives them something to hang on to as they make their way through the swamp.

If you don’t have a good network, just take a look around and be open to connecting with the people who cross your path. I am a wellness coach, and I know it’s easier to do anything you want to do when you have someone beside you to cheer you on and provide encouragement when you need it.