Friday, August 31, 2012

Eating healthy

Us cancer people need to eat healthy. For some reason with a cancer diagnosis, many people feel the urge to ditch the processed food in their life and eat organic. They turn over a new leaf (no pun intended) on their eating habits. Everyone seems to find their own way to eat healthy, but now the people over at Environmental Working Group have released a list of Good Food on a Budget that makes it easier. Down load a  pdf here.

It is actually full of lots of practical advice and helps you take good intentions and turn them into a menu and grocery list. I think that's the most important part. We all have good intentions and then don't cross the bridge from idea to grocery list very well. But now we have help.

Well that's it for today. My brain is not inspired. Blah. My cold still rules.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Allow me to be whiney

Its my blog so I can be whiney if I want. If you don't like whininess then just go away for the day. I am going to be whiney today because I still have a cold. Back on March 20, 2008, I blogged about Cancer Vs. The Common Cold and indicated that I was waiting for a cure for cancer and a cure for the common cold. That's plenty of time. I am on day 7 of another evil cold here and I still feel like crap. This is not fair. I am sick of being sick.

I DEMAND a cure for both the common cold and cancer. I am going to be a demanding, whiney brat about this. Its time. Plenty of money has been spent on research for both of them and I do not believe there is an evil conspiracy by the pharmaceutical companies to hide any cures they have because they make so much money on the medications and treatments for both.

I am not being a good patient at this point. I am living on tylenol (no aspirin products for me because I am on anti inflammatories for my back), no decongestants (because between being allergic to decongestants and no thyroid - I can't take anything that says don't take if you have a thyroid disease), herbal tea with lemon and honey, cough medicine, and whininess.

I can't even whine to the cat because he is vacationing at my parents house - not yet returned after our vacation last week. I am whining to my husband but he makes fun of my squeaky voice.

I know if I go to the doctor she will just tell me to drink plenty of fluids, take tylenol, and wait it out. Whine, whine, whine, grr.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Common Sense Has Left the Building"

This quote is from an article on the weird world of medical purchasing. A cloth sling can be purchased on line for $7 or your insurance company can pay $83 and give it to you with a $25 co-pay. Do we see the logic or lack of logic here?

In case you missed it there has been a lot of hoo-hah recently on high medical costs, most of which has focused on the costs of prescriptions, tests and other medical adventures. But a big area that has been overlooked is that of 'durable medical goods, orthotics, prosthetics and supplies'.

The way I understand it (with my tiny chemo brain) is that insurance companies negotiate prices for these with medical suppliers which include all kinds of middlemen each wanting their cut. Patients haven't really cared because most of the time these were covered by insurance and they only had to pay their co-pay, if anything.

Along came the internet and hard financial times and people start shopping around and online for things paying a new found interest in the price of an item. So that sling that the insurance company paid $83 can now be had for a mere $7 online. This makes me think of the proverbial government purchase of a toilet for $2000 or a box of paperclips for $50.

Methinks its time for insurance companies to renegotiate those deals as part of their plans to cut costs. They might also want to look for their missing common sense.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Doctor burnout

Another study (because we need more studies - keep those researchers on their toes) says that more and more doctors are subject to burn out. Doctors are working harder and harder, spending less time with patients, and being pressured by increasing requirements. Hence burnout begins.

I don't think doctors are alone in experiencing burnout. Most professions have a level of burnout.But when its doctors who are burnt out, patient care and their health may suffer.

Now its my turn to play doctor and help with their burn out. My prescription for doctors who are burnt out:
  • Go on vacation and cut the ties to your office. Find someone else to cover your patients.Do not contact your office - everything will be waiting for you when you return.
  • Forget your watch and let your phone battery go dead (this is what we did and it was very relaxing).  You will quickly lose all sense of time.
  • Ignore all work related things, unless someone is bleeding in front of you do not admit you are a doctor.
  • Do the things you enjoy but never have time for - whether hiking in the wilderness, bungee jumping, or sitting on a beach with a cocktail topped with a little umbrella, or better  yet a tropical flower.
  • Spend time with the people you care about and never have time for. 
  • Repeat annually.

Once you return from your vacation, give yourself a break every week where you can take a step back and do something you enjoy with the people you care about that is not related to work. If you don't know how to do this, maybe find a life coach to help  you learn to adjust or just ask your spouse, kids, or friends how do this. I am sure they will have plenty of advice. If you do not have a spouse, kids or friends, join a club that will take you on a weekly adventure - hiking club, dinner club, wine tasting club, etc. Get a pet that you can't easily kill by ignoring it during long working hours. Make plans to relax. That is key. If you dont plan down time into your busy life, it will never happen.

See I can prescribe things to doctors. They prescribe things to me all the time. I know all about stress. Tell someone they have cancer and watch their stress level rise. Its payback time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Its all about the buddy system

Remember the buddy system? You went places in twos to help keep track of each other. The military started the buddy system but it works in the medical world as well. You take a buddy with you to your 'big' doctor appointments so you can be the patient and they can write down the doctor's answers to your questions.

The buddy system is also important as a cancer patient - with the icky diagnosis the best thing you can hear is from some one who has been through it - and made it through the same treatment you are facing and is there to talk to you about it.

If you join a support group, you might end up with a bigger group of buddies but if you aren't interested in support groups or they aren't available to you. But you still need a buddy. Sometimes you can't find one yourself which is where organizations like Immerman's Angels come in.

I had heard about them before - they pair cancer patients with someone who has been through it - but  never really knew that much. There was an article on CNN last week and I learned a little more. They are primarily focused on younger adults - under 40 - but are open to all ages. I signed up this morning to volunteer as a mentor.

I am unique in that my first diagnosis was at 19 so I think I can help younger adults cope with life after cancer. Or I hope I can be a buddy to someone who needs a buddy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Being an inspiration

Some people have said I am an inspiration to them. I have never really figured out why. Maybe its the two cancer thing. I don't get it. The only inspirations I ever have are how to be more lazy and take a nap. I have not saved the world, raised millions for cancer research or anything so profound. I can be whiney at the drop of a hat (ask my husband for proof).

I am also not someone who celebrates cancerversaries. I dont think they are worthy of notice. But every so often we run into events which are worth noting - like birthdays - they always deserve notice.

However here is a woman who is an inspiration. Jill over at Dancing With Cancer: Living With Mets just celebrated ten years of metastases. Many people when they first think of metastases that this is the end. However we have Jill as living proof that metastases are not the end. If you don't read her blog, you should. She is a normal person dancing with cancer, living with mets.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fall out

Earlier this year we watched the Komen foundation's fall out as the result of the poorly handled 'foot-in-mouth' PR disaster with Planned Parenthood. It has had some deep running, not yet concluded effects on the organization.

This week we saw Lance Armstrong being stripped of his awards for more than 10 years of cycling fame. He has chosen to stop fighting what he called a 'one sided' battle and as a result the conclusion has been drawn that he was using performance enhancing drugs to help bring him to fame and fortune. I am not trying to debate whether he did or did not or why he chose to end his fight.

Regardless of what he did or did not do for cycling, he did do one thing we cannot dispute. He created an amazing foundation to help people coping with cancer. That is his legacy and no matter what the cycling federations say, it can not be taken away from him.

The first statements attest that the foundation is going strong with support from fans all over. We should not watch the organization be destroyed no matter what the press and the cycling word things about Mr. Armstrong.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Further proof of chemo brain

A study (because we needed another study to keep all those researchers busy) shows that an EEG can detect chemo brain in women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. So will people now really start to believe chemo brain, or cognitive deprivation, exists? For some reason, this reminds me of when doctors told women their cramps were imaginary.

If I think about the research and clinical trials put into development of chemotherapy and other drugs, when was chemobrain determined to be a 'non-issue'? It is a true side effect of chemotherapy for patients. If its temporary its one thing but for some women it really never goes away. So why was its impact determined not to be of importance?

So pretend if it it was not impact on your brain but on your heart or lungs which could be measured medically through tests quite easily and left the patient with a permanent impairment which interfered with their daily living and ability to hold a job. Would it be considered then to be a caution or warning when prescribing?

Chemotherapy drug doses are estimated based on patient weight and a few other factors so there is not really an exact dose to give everyone. It appears to me (and I am not a doctor) that the patient's first dose is a guess based on their weight and a few other factors, and then based on their reactions to it, they alter the dose for future rounds. Would lower doses still be effective but with fewer side effects such as chemo brain? I think we already know the answer - more research is needed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dealing with test results

We all have medical tests and adventures that provide little insights into our health. Gone are the days where we are at the doctor's mercy for our results. But now with changes in legislation, both current and future, patients will be able to directly access their results.

This is good and bad. Yes there is a bad side to it. Go read this article on it and the one below it. I am all for patients getting their test results promptly. But the problem is understanding and coping with them.
Its fine to get results promptly when they are what is expected. Normal blood counts, benign biopsies, and the like. But what about when they are vague or are not as expected? And how to decipher the doctor shorthand?

This is the balance that we need to decode. When I use the word 'we' I am referring to both the patients and the medical profession. The doctor can not be expected to be able to access and review all test results and get back to the patients promptly. They would end up being buried in paperwork.

However a system needs to be developed where speed of response is included and deciphering of results made available. Part of this is the patient's responsibility. Before a test, ask the doctor and the technician when and how the results will be made available. Make sure you understand what they are trying to find out and what the options are for good and bad results.

If its your standard annual blood tests, maybe you are comfortable with not asking many questions. Or you get sent for a blood test for a possible new condition - what does a negative result mean vs. a positive result? If you have the ailment what is next? If you don't have the ailment, well great they ruled that out so what is next?

As a cancer patient, you get all sorts of wonderful medical adventures with complicated results. We need to know what they mean but we are not waiting for our results. Our cancer diagnoses gives us a special pass for speedy results. But we still need to have our little plan of action for each one. \

Speed here is essential but channels of communication need to be there so that the information can be digested and processed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Planning ahead

For a mere $20 you can purchase an ObitKit and write your own obituary. Its the latest thing in the American rate race, keeping up with the Jones's. I mean why not? Your funeral is the biggest party of your life and you don't get to attend. If you write your own obituary you can advertise yourself and establish your brand for eternity (sorry my inner marketing person kicked in). You won't need to be the family member who brought the disgusting fruit cake to Christmas dinner for 20 years, you can become the family member who went on exotic vacations and lived life to the fullest.

It actually makes sense. What do you want people to remember you by? What they can remember or what you can remember? My family is a bunch of planners. My grandmother prepaid for her funeral (and got a really good deal because she didn't need it for 20 years), drafted her death notice, and planned many details. It was much easier on the rest of us. And we knew what she wanted in the paper.

Think about it, if you died tomorrow (not that you are but its the principle here - work with me), what would your family write about you? That you didn't go grocery shopping with reusable bags or were always the one who left the iron plugged in when you went on vacation? Or had really bad dandruff (okay I'm stretching here). But this is your chance to leave things your way.

I think of it as a logical extension of your medical proxy, next comes the funeral and the death notice. Start planning. Make it all about you. Just make sure the wake is held while you still can attend.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Law, religion, and medical care

This story saddened me. A 16 year old girl who was 13 weeks pregnant died from complications from leukemia in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic constitution forbids abortion which I believe is within their rights to decide as a country. This is probably due to the main religion of the country - Catholicism. Her doctors were concerned that chemotherapy would induce an abortion. It took 20 days to reach the decision that she could receive chemotherapy. At that point she miscarried, had a cardiac arrest and could not be revived.

While I am certainly not going to get into a discussion on the Catholic church's opinion of abortion or the Dominican Republic's Constitution, nor discuss the subject of teen pregnancy, I do feel that the purpose of the Hippocratic Oath was to do no harm. To me this means taking care of the patient first. Where was the sense of urgency in making this decision to let her receive chemotherapy? Why wasn't the concern for the life of the mother taken into consideration?

It is just very sad that politics and religion interfere needlessly with medical care in this day and age.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy

I have never been a late night person. 10pm is late for me. I was always the child who willingly went to bed early. Maybe because I used to ice skate for a couple of hours before school that helped me with going to bed. But I have never lost the habit. When I met my husband I was pleasantly surprised that he is on the same schedule.

Our cat is the 5am kitty. For some reason he has decided its his breakfast time. We do not really appreciate that part. He has a little internal alarm clock that is consistent every day, including weekends. (When he visits my parents when we are away, they say he doesn't bother them until much later.)

I am a morning person as well. I have also had the problem of waking up at 3 am regularly and usually get back to sleep with in a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes I am up for a few hours. Then I would get up in the morning a little cranky but okay.

But last spring I changed some of my prescriptions and one of them makes me tired. I'm not sure which one for sure but I think I can narrow it down. Anyway, I don't feel as tired in the evening and go to bed at my normal time. But I can't wake up in the morning.

Today was no different. I went to bed at my normal time last night. Woke up at 230 and was up for a bit. Then I slept through the alarm and three snooze alarms. Finally I woke up and realized 'crap, now I'm late'. But at least I got my 8 hours in.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Attitudes can be slow to change

I had a conversation with an older friend the other day. When I say older, I mean she is probably ten years older than I, which isn't that much as far as I am concerned. But what was interesting is we were discussing another friend who's spouse has just been diagnosed with a late stage cancer. They are still learning the details of the diagnosis and establishing a treatment plan so its very early in the process.

What made me think was the first friend's attitude to cancer. She still views it as a death sentence. She said something along the lines of 'when I hear cancer, I just know it won't be good'. I tried to tell her that I know numerous people who have lived with a cancer diagnosis for decades. She was pretty set in her opinion. I don't think it is related to her age.

I really thought the world had changed in respect to cancer and that people no longer see it as an immediate death sentence. I guess that is what I found so disturbing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stressed? Depressed?

Is there anyone who can claim they are either not stressed or not depressed? No. Especially cancer patients. Cancer patients are (I think) 25-30% more likely to suffer from depression and a cancer diagnosis is a tiny bit stressful.

There was a new study (because we needed a new study to keep all those researchers busy) that shows that stress and depression '...primes the bone environment for breast cancer cell metastasis.' Well, how do I become unstressed and undepressed about a cancer diagnosis? If they can't cure cancer, why can't they at least fix the stress and depression?

We could be happy and relaxed cancer patients instead of stressed and depressed cancer patients and help prevent breast cell colonization of bone - another fancy term from the article. 

The goal of cancer treatment is to prevent metastases so this is another area to focus on.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cutting the last support

When you are diagnosed with cancer, your doctors want to know everything about you - every sneeze it seems like - as you go through treatment with them. Then as you get through the surgery and then chemo and then radiation they stop following you. With breast cancer, many women get five years of hormonal treatment on top of everything else. At each stage where you move on through treatment, it seems there is always another doctor there to hold your hand and be on top of potential r-words (which is our biggest fear).

At the end of active treatment - after surgery, chemo, and radiation - many cancer patients emotionally start to fall apart because their doctors who have been there checking on every sneeze for months, tell them 'that's it you will see other doctors from then on'. That sudden lack of daily interactions leaves a cancer patient feeling they are abandoned and out on their own.

I got through that stage because I planned for it. I had heard this and wanted to make sure I wasn't without support. I made sure I had a therapist to help me deal with the transition. But I also had my medical oncologist who I saw regularly as I was on Tamoxifen and then Femara. I always had another appointment where I would check in and we would talk about potential 'r-word' issues.

Yesterday I saw my oncologist and she talked about taking me off Femara in January. She said there is no known added benefit to extending it but some people do if they want. It has been pretty hard on my bones and I have osteoporosis as a result. We talked about potential 'r-words' but she seems pretty confident on that. There is some hope my bones will get better once I am off it.

So I left and then I started thinking. That's it! No more cancer treatment. The last support is being cut.

But the 'r-word' always lurks in the mind of the cancer patient. On the positive side, I give credit to my oncologist for bringing it up and giving me five months to digest that. I am happy to stop taking a pill. But its the evil little thoughts in the middle of the night. I do see my therapist monthly so I am sure this will be a topic of conversation in the coming months.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blah, blah, blah, exercise...

Cancer people are special. You can't just categorize us and tell us to get out and exercise. We need more than that. We need a bit of hand holding and direction. We have concerns about what we are capable of and may have new limitations that we are unsure about.

Several new studies (of course they were needed to keep researchers busy) were announced at ASCO earlier this summer. The conclusions were:
  • Clear benefits were shown in several studies of exercise during and after treatment help decrease side effects and reduce the risk of recurrence. 
  • Cancer patients need a bit more direction than 'just go exercise' they need help with what time of exercise to do -  whether newly starting or adding to an existing exercise regimen.
I took part in the Pink Program which was a collaboration between the local YMCA and funded by a grant. The Pink Program was a sixteen week exercise program which incorporated lots of stretching and gentle exercise. I felt the benefits quickly of more flexibility and it led me to join a real gym and go there regularly.

My feeling is that exercise is good and it relieves a lot of stress and prevents many diseases (this is from the person who spent most of yesterday on the living room couch). But after surgeries where I had lymphedema issues and my back started to go bad, getting started in a regular exercise program was harder than I thought. I have many limitations that prevent me from doing basic things - no treadmill, no twisting my back, no jumping up and down, and more.

But with guidance from trainers, I have learned what I can and can't do. It has been  a learning experience but for the first time in my life I have stomach and arm muscles.

So before more researchers get rich deciding what cancer people need for exercise, talk to your doctor about limitations and then find a trainer who can work with you to figure out what you can do.

I chickened out

I didn't go bathing suit shopping. It quickly lost its appeal. I may go this week but I lost my motivation. I did productive things at home instead. I worked and got caught up on the DVR.

Maybe its time to return to plan A which is lose 20 lbs and then buy lots of new clothes. In order for that to work, I need to curtain my intake of flab producing calories. That would be a diet. I hate dieting. Dieting means you don't get to eat yummy things and the weight comes back when you stop dieting and return to normal eating patterns.

The way I see it is to change eating habits on a semi permanent basis. This would require examination of my current eating habits and decoding what is wrong with them. I do eat lots of healthy things but evidently I eat some less than healthy things as well. The things to get rid of will include chocolate and things from the snack box at work, the corn chips my husband insists on buying, red wine, and ice cream. Damn.

I can't exercise more because my body is ready to protest if I do anything more than 3 or 4 days a week. I have limitations there. Damn. I will have to decode my eating habits. I hate that. But then I can go clothes shopping.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do I dare?

We all have our fears and our nemeses in life. Some of them we avoid - no ladders, black cats, spiders, crawly things, etc. Or hold our breath through - Friday the 13th for example. But some are unavoidable and must finally be faced. I can deal with the scale but bathing suit shopping? Egad!

I have a couple of bathing suits I (still) fit into but they are getting old to the point that I am concerned about the durability of the elastic which could potentially result in severe public embarrassment.

I can see in my near future several bathing suit opportunities which means it is time to bite the bullet and take my flabdomen bathing suit shopping. My husband even bought a new bathing suit this week. He has only owned one in the 11 years that I have know him. My bathing suits might be older than that. I am the slacker here. I need to motivate.

I have been avoiding this. The scale was supposed to go in the right direction for longer before I had to face this day. It has been amazingly uncooperative recently. Since treatment, it has become harder and harder to lose weight. Grr... I will take that dare and head out later.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The wheels on the cancer bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.

The wheels on the cancer bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the cancer bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the cancer bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the cancer bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.

I am not looking forward to this week. I have a dentist appointment - which I never appreciate - and then things go down hill from there. I'll report on the results later when I am ready - it depends on what I hear when I will report.

But at the end of the week we are off for fun adventures so I have things to look forward to.

Work has been crazy busy. Both jobs have been crazy busy. I have too much to do and not enough time. Well I have enough time but not enough oomph to do everything. And the house needs some serious cleaning, even by my standards. The dust bunnies were encroaching. Last night I was bad (for my back) and vacuumed the living room. I usually leave that for my husband.

This morning, my husband who currently is on antibiotics said to me 'I hate taking so many pills'. I said 'welcome to my world.'

Otherwise I'm fine. I'm going out to breakfast and then off to the gym. Yes it sounds kind of backwards - should be gym then breakfast but that's the way my schedule goes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why do we wait at the doctor's office?

On to a new topic this week, why do we wait at the doctor's office anyway? Back in the 80's I had a doctor who had a little sign on her office door which said 'no patient should wait more than 15 minutes' to remind herself to keep on time. I appreciated that. I hate to be kept waiting. I expect that if I am scheduled for an appointment or a dinner reservation or whatever they should be on time. Its not right to keep people waiting. You need to do what you promised. Its the same way I feel about anyone who keeps me waiting.

But the problem comes in when people don't behave as expected - they do things like order a second round of after dinner coffee or an emergency occurs at the doctor's office. That messes up schedules.

In the old days, the doctors didn't seem to care if they kept patients waiting while they drank their coffee. Now that way of thinking is gone and waits have shortened.

However the biggest culprit for delays for appointments are .... [insert drum roll] ... us, the patients. Why?
  1. We are late. Occasional lateness is acceptable for everyone. We all get flat tires, stuck in traffic, reluctant children, etc. But when a doctor's office is dealing with many people every day, I am sure they run into multiple late patients. Never mind the people in this world who are chronically late for everything. What is the right time to arrive at your doctor's office? About 10 minutes before you are scheduled. The time  you are scheduled is usually the time the doctor will actually see you. Before that you need to check in, have vitals taken by a nurse maybe. 
  2. Emergencies still happen. That is why  they are doctor's to deal with the emergencies and the patients end up being delayed. We have to accept this.
  3. At the end of an appointment when everything has been discussed, the patient add 'oh and my stomach has been hurting for months now' and the doctor has to start over refocusing on this new ailment. Note to patients all over - bring a list of questions and ask the doctor them all at the beginning.
Of all of these, I am least tolerant of is #1 - late patients. I have been known to give nasty looks to people who show up at 10am and say they are checking in for their 930 appointment.

So everyone get your act together and be on time if you don't want a nasty look.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More Komen hoop-lah

Komen for the Cure has announced that their founder and president, Nancy Brinker, and another key executive are stepping down. Its about time. While I laud Komen for what they have done over the years to raise awareness for breast cancer. I do not appreciate the pinkification, the ensuing frivolization of breast cancer with the collateral save the ta-tas and other silly names, and all the funds spent on legal defense of 'for the cure' and bad PR agencies.

I hope this leads to change in the organization where perhaps they can return to the original roots of raising money for research. This is a good idea. But it can be done with more seriousness and less pink.

By pinkifying everything and making breast cancer 'fun' and 'cute', creating legions of teams to save the ta-tas or jugs or second base or whatever they want to call them. Why do we allow people to use these terms to describe women's anatomy? Would you let your child use those terms? Probably not as they are slang and derogatory.

Breast cancer is a serious disease and we must not let us paint it pink and pretend its not.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fat or fit

What's the worst thing about any doctor appointment? They weigh you. What's the nastiest machine at the gym? The scale - especially when it goes in the wrong direction. Has any doctor never said 'stop exercising and eating right'? No, never. They always say eat right, get plenty of exercise, and maintain a healthy weight - which to most of us means 'lose weight'. There is a problem between the 'get plenty of exercise' vs the 'maintain a healthy weight'. Muscle is denser than flab.

My husband used to be in the Army Reserves where he had a regular battle with the weight requirements which are based on a version of BMI. Being a heavy boned guy, he was always on the upper end and stressed. But the military requires physically fit soldiers so he would continually fight his own battle of the bulge. Someone at one point had pointed out that entire NFL teams, while being very fit, would not make the military requirements either.

Now at the Olympics some are calling the women athletes fat. Look at Misty May Treanor of beach volleyball fame. I looked up  her BMI. She's at 23.4 which is topping out the normal range. Does she look fat? No! She looks amazingly fit and on the edge of skinny. Some of the teams are calling the one's who beat them fat. Hello! You need many muscles to be that athletic and they are doing what they need to do to break Olympic and World records.

And why is it the media's business about what people weigh anyway? And why is it such a societal issue that women are supposed to be a size 4? Name calling never got anyone anywhere.

I do know I have a spare 20+ lbs to give to anyone who wants it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

23 Best Breast Cancer Blogs of 2012

Healthline just announced their top 23 breast cancer blogs of 2012 and for some reason included me. I am very honored. You can read what they wrote about me here. Apparently I have opinions.

"Caroline has her own list of aches, pains, and the cancer bug, but she’s not letting it stop her. This survivor has a few bones to pick with the medical community, though, and she’s not letting anything slide. Advocate, blogger, and awareness junkie extraordinaire, Caroline has big plans for cancer: its end.

Caroline’s Breast Cancer Blog has no shortage of provocative, detailed discussion about what’s new in breast cancer treatments, diagnosis, and everything else she feels motivated to scrutinize. Cancer should know by now that Caroline does what she wants – and does it well!"

I'm glad they like me. Someone likes me. I guess I do have opinions.

But now I have 22 more blogs to follow. I probably already follow at least five of the others listed but I am going to start following the others. I suggest you all go look at all the others and maybe start following them as well.

Today I am off to the back pain doctor to talk about my back pain. Grr. I want a miracle.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fired for breast cancer

It appears that Kathleen Mason worked for the most unreasonable and insensitive bunch of people around. She was the CEO of Tuesday Morning, a Dallas based retailer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and February and was fired over the phone (over the phone - really?) three months later even though she had insisted that her diagnosis and treatment would not interfere with her ability to do her job.

Now I don't know all the facts of her diagnosis and treatment - what protocol she had - surgery, chemo, radiation or what. It is clearly her decision on being able to cope with treatment and her job at the same time. Many women work through treatment.

She also had the job for 12 years and the excuse was that sales have been down for recent years. If sales were down maybe they could have asked her for a plan of action to correct that but you don't fire a 12 year executive with out advance warning over the phone. Stupid and discriminatory.

And they want to keep her as a consultant for the next 10 years - meaning they still value her opinion - so why did they fire her? Did the word cancer scare them? Or were they just stupid as now they have lost a good employee, destroyed their reputation (I would boycott them if they were local), and opened themselves up to a lawsuit. Maybe not stupid, just chicken. And dumb.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I didn't blog yesterday

I meant to. I started a post but wasn't inspired or inspiring so I gave up said I shall have a blogless day.

Today I am up early (thanks to the cat once again) and have a lot to do - after I read the Sunday paper. I have to get some work done because I didnt yesterday and tomorrow I go to my other job, have a meeting, and then a phone call.

We have big plans for this afternoon. We have expensive tickets to the Boston Red Sox. Expensive meaning I would never pay that much but I won them in a raffle so they were free. They are Pavilion Box which means they are way up high, in the bright 90 degree sun but we are hoping for a breeze. Then after the game we have a birthday party to go to.

I like having a normal life sometimes where my medical crap doesn't take center stage and prevent me from doing fun things. Sometimes I realize I don't have much of a normal life when I stay home because something hurts or I am not happy about medical news. It can be a constant drain.

But my goal today is to be a normal person, have fun, and see old friends.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Spinning Statistics

Of all the nerve, two professors have dared to criticize the Komen Foundation for the Cure for spinning mammography statistics in a campaign last October. David takes on Goliath and Goliath (a/k/a Komen for the Cure) replies with screening saves lives. Well yes we can't dispute that but we can disupute this which is taken from their ad last fall:

"early detection saves lives. The five-year survival rate for breast cancer when caught early is 98%. When it's not? 23%."

So somewhere in breast cancer statistics I am sure there is a 23% survival rate but just because you don't have regular screening doesn't mean  your cancer won't be caught until its stage IV and you get that 23% survival rate. But let's not spin the numbers here. Are they trying to scare women  into having mammograms instead of educating them?

Part of marketing is taking the features and benefits and writing about them. The feature here is regular mammograms can catch cancers earlier. The benefit is better odds for survival.

I write marketing stuff for a living. My copy writing skills might be slightly impinged by the early hour but I think I can do better than them and not mislead anyone. Perhaps they should have said something like:

Early stage breast cancer has a five year survival rate of 98% and late stage breast cancer can have a five year survival rate of 23%. Regular mammograms will help any cancer to be caught early.

Hmmm... Kudos to the professors. A big thumbs down to Komen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stem cells

Stem cells have been a highly debated issue for many years now - and not just due to the fetal stem cell issue - because of the possiblity of cancer stem cells. They have been lauded as the next best thing since sliced bread in the fight against cancer and other diseases. But what if there were cancer stem cells which were resistant to treatment and regrew tumor cells? This is the latest theory meaning that even aftrer treaqtment they will regrow.

So maybe the thoughts on cancer treatment need to focus not on the tumor but on the cancer stem cells to prevent regrowth? This would be a whole new area of focus in cancer research and treatment. Hmmm... More studies (of course) will be needed (we need to keep the researchers busy) but we need to realize that this also shows us that with all the progress we have made in treating cancer, we still have a long way to go.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Equality and preventative care

So the benefits from the new health care act are starting to kick in. Starting today, insurance companies need to provide women with contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies and screenings for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence, as well as routine check-ups for breast and pelvic exams, Pap tests and prenatal care. Well many insurance companies will. Some are still grandfathered in but as their plans are forced to change in the future they will lose their grandfather status.

If you read this article over on and the comments that follow, its interesting how many men are against this because they feel its not fair. (Allow me to be a bit sexist on this.) Oh, the poor things, they have nothing to do with making babies, sexually transmitted diseases, and domestic violence. They are claiming its unequal. Well pooh to them. They get their Viagra paid for.

And to those who say free means everyone else pays for it the point of preventative care as these mostly are is to catch things early before they are discovered too late and the treatment costs are exorbitant and often result in death. That's a really big expense.

I Started a New Blog

I started this blog when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Blogging really helped me cope with my cancer and its treatment. Howe...