It seems like the cancers that get the most attention get months assigned to them.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness month and this Friday is "Wear Blue Day" according to the Colon Cancer Alliance.
I guess I'm kind of partial to colon cancer since it is the disease that took Leroy's life. He was actually being pro-active when he went to the doctor to get his colonoscopy. His mom and his mom's mom had colon cancer battles in their life times. They both lived long, full lives in spite of those findings. Cancer eventually took their lives too.
So I've had a front row seat to what colon cancer can do to a body. Even when they say "we got it all," and the lymph nodes come back clean after surgery, some nasty wild colon cancer cells have already escaped and are on the hunt to find new, rich soil to set-up shop and cause problems. It might not happen for months or maybe years, but in my experience, they can reappear when you least expect it.
And the fight begins again.
Colonoscopy has proven to be colon cancer's nemesis. Early detection can made a world of difference and lives have been saved when it's been found in its early stages. Science and research have also moved light years in treating colon cancer too. Many survivors treat their colon cancer like a chronic disease now, pushing it back with new protocols on many occasions.
So if you can, wear blue a lot this month. It might not kill any colon cancers but it is the acknowledgement that you are saluting those who have fought the good fight against a cancer that the American Cancer Society predicts will add over 93, 000 new cases in 2015.
But here's a statistic we can all hold onto: There are over ONE MILLION survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
Everyone looks good in blue.
I don't know why today is different.
I don't know why today I miss him more than yesterday or last month or two years ago.
Maybe it's because I heard a song today that said something about 'never looking into those eyes again' and I've been bothered by that all day.
I don't know.
On days like this, and there have been a few in the past 61/2 years, I just give in to the missing because I can't do anything about it.
In fact, I'm playing his music on his IPod right now and it just feels right.
We all handle a cancer diagnosis differently. Do we share in this experience or do we keep our doors closed and make it a private affair?
Leroy made the choice to share his daily life while living with cancer because he truly believed he could help others who were going through the ups and downs of the disease. His blog not only talked about treatment and care but how he felt his life was impacted after his diagnosis.
His was a public account of a terminal diagnosis and it was open and honest and at times, even heartbreaking.
Then there are those who don't talk about their cancer. If they're lucky enough to survive their disease, that's when they sometimes step out of the shadows to make a difference.
I've met so many cancer survivors at the Kimmel Cancer Center who have taken their experience and turned it into a crusade to help others. Some help other patients who are currently going through treatment. Who better to take the hand of a patient than some one who has walked that path?
Other survivors raise money for research. They have an appreciation for all the hard work that went into the time spent at the lab bench: the work ultimately turning into new and aggressive treatments that may have saved their lives. Fundraising is the way they give back.
And sometimes it's left to the care givers to give back. We walk, we run, we swim, and we ride bikes to fund raise. We talk to newly appointed caregivers who never expected to become care givers in the first place, just so they know we were in that spot once too.
What we have here is another piece of the complicated world of cancer; Always challenging who we were, who we are and who we'll become.
Breathing is important when you're living in cancer world.
I know that sounds crazy, but there are days when breathing is interrupted. Those are the days when you find yourself sitting in an exam room waiting for the door to open. The doctor walks in, and in an instant, you try to read what's in his eyes. Is he smiling? Is he nervous? Is there small talk ahead of what you really want to hear; what did the scan show?
Nan and her husband just went through this with good results so their breathing returned to normal; inhale and exhale.
I remember those days so well.
I'm reading a small, local neighborhood newspaper today and there's a column written by a young man and he's writing about his day with his oncologist. Same scene; a post scan appointment that didn't go so well. His doctor told him the scan has revealed something "fluffy" in his left lung. It's not well defined, so the diagnosis is not complete. It could be a new tumor or it could turn out to be a pneumonia, they just don't know yet.
So this young man has decided to take the high road with the information and as he said "rationalize it, understand it and ultimately deal with it."
When he heard the words "You have cancer" his prognosis was 13 months to 2-years.
That was back in 2009, in fact, Friday is the 6th anniversary of hearing those words.
It really is all about the breathing....
I have no idea what the specific details were , but I can tell you, the news wasn't good.
She sat in the concourse, alone, where most of the crowd sat in groups and ate lunch and talked and took a break from cancer world.
She had a lot on her mind this afternoon. Part of the time, she held her head in her hands. Her face was covered and then it wasn't.
She played with her cell phone and it looked like she was texting some of the time. Some times it's easier to type the news instead of tell the news.
The one thing that kept her company at the table was her big bag of chips. She was eating chips at a record pace. Her best friend in this time of crisis was her
bag of chips.
They didn't talk back, they didn't give an opinion, they just filled a need.
This was a day when a big bag of chips is so much more than that.
An announcement that a powerful chemo cocktail that can extend life for an estimated 16 months for women with HER-2 positive breast cancer is rippling through the cancer community.
This is a very bad cancer. It's aggressive and it kills, so this breakthrough is worth the attention it's getting.
When a discovery like this is published the HOPE meter needle jumps to attention.
I heard a women speak tonight: she's been on this protocol and the best explanation she could give was that she's gone from a very poor diagnosis to the "HOPE" that she will live at least another year and by then, who knows what other treatments will be available to her.
I guess, along with the discovery and results of something as big as this, the best part of a new treatment is the HOPE that comes with it.
When they hand you an extra large bag of new HOPE, you can take the side effects. You can take the hard days of staying in bed, covers pulled over your head just waiting for the nausea
to pass. You can take just about anything, HOPING that you are going to finish your treatment and live again.
Success and Discovery is also spelled HOPE
I received a Dreamcatcher from a friend today.
Inside the package, the "Legend of the Dreamcatcher" is explained that these are" hung in the tipi or lodge and on a baby's cradle board."
According to the legend, "the good dreams pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. The bad dreams are trapped in the web, where they perish in the light of dawn."
For all of us who have lived in cancer world, here at OUR Cancer, I share this with all of you.
I only hope this magical little web is ready to go to work. There's some heavy "catching" in the air.
Cancer isn't just a bad dream, it's a nightmare.
The Washington Post does a health and science section every week and today it was called the " cancer special section."
So on the front page of that section is a big article with a headline reading "To protect against cancer, experts say, lifestyle-diet, weight control and exercise-
is what can make the difference."
There's some very good advice in this lead piece, breaking down the benefits of eating well, controlling your weight and keeping the body fit.
The article points out that because there are so many different kinds of cancer, there really isn't a "super food" that will knock out all the bad cells. As much as we'd like to believe that eating blueberries every day will keep us from hearing the words "YOU have cancer," that probably isn't going to happen. But by avoiding a high fat diet or skipping the French fries can only help reduce the risk of getting certain cancers.
So many experts agree that because cancer comes in so many shapes and sizes, there's no way to pin down one cause but they do say sticking to a balanced diet and healthy weight isn't quite enough.....couch potatoes beware: exercise is a key component in the 'avoid cancer equation.'
Patterns are part of what the experts in cancer world are looking at too. It's not enough to eat some broccoli tonight and figure you're covered for the next five years. Eating patterns may be a hook to meeting cancer head-on in later years.
It's clear science is looking at cancer and how it finds us in so many new ways.
Who knew that bottle of wine and great steak we had with friends would come back to haunt us 20 years later.
This is not a story about cancer tonight. It is a good-bye to one of the best storytellers in American journalism.
Bob Simon, the longtime CBS NEWS correspondent was killed last night in a car accident.
That in itself is ironic when you consider how many times Bob reported from some of the most dangerous war zones in the world. I'm sure he had many close calls along the way, but he always came home. But before he came home we, the viewers were lucky enough to listen and watch his reports from those places. We really listened more than anything, because as he reported, he told us a story. He had a unique way of seeing the world and that coupled with his incredible writing skills painted a picture that was hallway chatter the next day. "Did you see the Simon piece last night?" That's what happened many days in the halls of CBS NEWS and probably other places too. But I know it happened at CBS because I was part of the group who asked that question.
Bob Simon worked many places during his career at CBS, but he did his best work covering the Middle East. NO ONE had better knowledge of that region. His reporting, his storytelling was awesome.
I know he's being remembered for his work on "60 Minutes" that included polar bears, the Lost Boys of Sudan, the Monks of Mt. Athos and so many other gems, but don't forget his 30 years at CBS NEWS before he joined the "60" team.
I was lucky enough to work with Bob for a short time at the Seoul Olympics. I loved that he loved his job so much. He was a happy man at work and the product reflected that contentment.
They dim the lights on Broadway in New York City as the ultimate tribute to an actor who has died...could the "60 Minutes" stopwatch pause in a tribute to one of their best?
The reporting will still go on, but who is left to do the storytelling?
I bet the word PALLIATIVE is one of the most misunderstood words in cancer world.
A doctor can introduce the need for "palliative care" and so many of us jump to the conclusion that what the doctor really means is it's time for hospice care.
We jump to that place because for so many years that's exactly what it meant and the doctor just couldn't or didn't know how to face the patient to say there was nothing left for medicine to do, so hospice WAS the next step.
If there's been one big leap in cancer care over the years, it's been in the pain management part of caring for cancer patients.
It's a recent development and so overdue.
Cancer hurts. It's just that simple and medicine did not keep up with the pain part the way it did with the treatment part.
Did you know there are actually "palliative care specialists" now? Doctors who are experts in the field of PAIN and how to treat it.
We've gotten so good at facing our doctors and asking questions about care and cancer treatment and cancer clinical trials, why do we shrink into a corner when it comes to talking about pain? You know, when you're asked "on a scale from 1 to 10, how bad does it hurt?" We get all macho and pretend it's just an ache when it's really a pain.
Speak up....tell it like it is....there's a doctor who actually FEELS YOUR PAIN....and the best part is...they can do something about it now.