Agent Orange And Cancer

I recently met a man wearing a Vietnam veteran’s hat. He was about my age and served his country in the war from 1968 through 1969. A smile lit his face when he learned that I, too, had served in Vietnam a year earlier than he did. It was as though we had known one another all of our lives. I think the camaraderie between Vietnam vets will always be there, just as it is for those who fought in other wars.

As we talked I told him about my experience with Agent Orange, and then he told me his. He had been exposed to the deadly chemical dozens of times, but considered himself lucky to be home in one piece. He made it back to the states without a scratch, just as I did; no bullet wounds and no shrapnel from mortars or grenades. But a year after his service to his country ended he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

At that time, in the early 70s, the government did not associate or accept responsibility for Agent Orange exposure with any disease. My new friend, I’ll call him Sam, had to take care of his own medical needs and expenses. When he was diagnosed he had a good support unit from family and friends, but the emotional and financial strain were too much to save his marriage. Yet he persevered, and after ten years with cancer, chemotherapy, remission, a reoccurrence and another round of chemotherapy, he reached the end of the five-year survival date and was considered a cancer survivor.

The respect I had for Sam was immediate and unqualified. And the thing that excited me most about his story was that he had decided not to give up no matter how tough the battle. He has been cancer free for thirty years and still going strong. What I heard from him was Never, Ever, Quit! It’s the motto you’ll find in everything I write, and one I hope everyone will adopt.

To all of the veterans like Sam, thank you for what you did and are still doing for our country, and thank you for what you had to endure after your return. If you know a veteran, give him/her a kind word. Thank them for doing their part to keep us free.

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Letter To Oncologists

Dear Oncologists,

Many of us who have gone through chemotherapy do not understand why we can’t get more information from you regarding the possible side effects of the chemical you have designed for our treatment prior to our first chemo session. Is it because you don’t know how it will affect us? Is it because you don’t have enough time during our office visit? Or is it because we are just a number without a name? What is the reason?

Please educate us on what is about to happen to our bodies. Tell us what we can do to get this information from you. We would be grateful and more at ease facing the unknowns of chemotherapy.

Thanks you,

Chemotherapy Patients

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Living With Cancer

We’ve all heard that cancer is the number one killer in the world. We all know that cancer has caused havoc in many lives and can eventually take our physical body. And we all know that, despite the continued search for a cure and advances in research, cancer is alive and well. But the words I found recently on a plaque are simple, yet powerful, and perhaps can comfort us at our lowest moments.

Cancer cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit

Battling cancer is one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. I remember wanting to hide behind a wall so no one could see me. I didn’t want anyone to know. But when you have a Debbie in your life, there is no time for a pity party. No matter how long I continue to write, I can never adequately describe the importance of a support group headed by a loving, caring spouse, family member, or friend. It is that important.

The above words explain that we may have cancer, but cancer does not have us. There are many other areas in each of our lives that cancer cannot touch. What are they? Please share your thoughts so that others might understand and find strength in what you say.

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Happy Birthday America

Happy Birthday America!

Independence Day can mean different things to different people, but the freedom it represents cannot be mistaken. However, the freedoms intended by our forefathers are not always obtainable, such as choosing the oncologist of your choice when faced with cancer.

For those lucky enough to choose our physicians, let us be thankful and hope, or pray, that the opportunity is extended to every American regardless of race, religion, political choices or financial status. And while we’re at it, let’s hope, or pray, that this is the year a cure for cancer will be found.

For those currently experiencing cancer and/or chemotherapy, the celebration of July 4th is not always an option. For many, it is just another day of suffering. If you know someone with cancer, please include them in your celebration plans. It could give them a renewed reason to live, and your spirit will rejoice.

God Bless America!

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Life Is Precious

I reconnected with an old friend a few days ago after not seeing of talking to him in three to four years. He’s about my age and one of those rare individuals who always seems to find good in everything around him. His demeanor is calm, his expression thoughtful and his actions suggest the compassion he has for others, but on this day I could tell his spirit was troubled.

He was truly excited that I was writing and blogging again. He only wished that his nineteen-year-old grandson was still on this earth to read it. The young man died several months ago from a brain tumor. “There was no warning,” he said. “It just happened, and then in an instant he was gone.” My heart was broken for him and I was at a loss for words. And all I could do was hug him and tell him I was so sorry.

The fact that this nineteen-year-old young man had no warning and went so quickly should signal all of us that we should never take a given day for granted, especially those of us who have cancer, recovering from chemo and have survived this disease. Please, live each day to its fullest. Spread some kindness and make someone smile. Your spirit will rejoice.

But what do you say to someone you care about who has lost a close friend or loved one to cancer? What do you not say? This is definitely a tough question, but any of your answers could help others. Please comment.

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Chemo Cold Cap

Here is more information about chemotherapy and hair loss from a previous blog I did a few years ago. If you are unable to open the link below try copy and pasting in the search window of your computer. You can also read information by searching the Internet for chemo cold cap. If this is something you think you might be interested in for hair loss, please do as much research as you can, and then use it only under the supervision of your oncologist.

“As an advocate for lessening side effects for those going through chemotherapy, I was elated to hear that the “cold cap” (The cap is a head covering filled with frozen gel that essentially freezes hair follicles so they don’t absorb any of the chemotherapy and die) has been around since 2009, yet I am disappointed I had to find this information in a newspaper. Why aren’t we (those of us who are cancer sufferers and survivors) talking more amongst ourselves? All organizations have information, and all organizations claim they are helping others. But it appears that the smaller, local organizations in most cities share the information they have with local cancer sufferers and survivors. This is great, and I applaud all of these smaller organizations for caring. However, does anyone see the problem here?

“I realize it takes money to run any organization that provides information, but we’ve got to find a way to connect with those in need in other cities and states. How is the woman in Oklahoma City battling breast cancer going to know what is happening in Ventura County, California? And how does the man in Boston facing chemotherapy for prostate cancer find out this information? Each cancer organization is part of the whole needed to defeat cancer, but many do not realize that if we isolate our information to the select cancer suffers in our area, these organizations will never be able to add to the whole.

“It’s not just cancer organizations that need to talk among themselves, but we must include cancer research facilities and oncologists. If oncologists have known about the cold cap, have they made this available in the past? If losing your hair during chemotherapy is an important issue for you, please add this question to the list I hope you are already asking your oncologist. ‘Is there anything available that will keep me from losing my hair?’”

And please remember whether you lose you hair or not during chemotherapy treatments, you are beautiful.

(http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/nov/24/cold-caps-aim-to-preserve-hair-for-cancer/

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Cancer and Wigs

While everyone has their own idea of what cancer charities they want to be associated with and financially support, it appears that some of the larger organizations concentrate on raising money in relation to cancer sufferer’s needs that many don’t agree with. One of these needs is wigs for women who have lost their hair to chemotherapy.

As most of us know hair loss is a common side effect that accompanies most chemicals used for chemotherapy. I’m probably one of the lucky ones; I experienced minimal hair loss. About one third of my hair, mostly on top of my head, fell out gradually during showers. New hair did appear after my treatments ended. It returned black in my reddish-blond, graying hair. But the black and thickness soon faded, and then I was thinner on top than before the chemotherapy.

I’m not implying that women who have lost their hair should not wear a wig, as it is a personal choice, which I respect. But why is hair so important to us? Some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen have been bald. And yes, I knew when I saw them that they were recovering from cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. I immediately felt a connection that goes beyond hair and the physical appearance. I saw real beauty, a spirit that radiated through incredible smiles.

I’ve read many posts from cancer sufferers in response to a large cancer organizations request for donations for wigs. The one that touched me was from a woman who said “I’m battling cancer. I don’t need a wig. I need to put all of my energy into defeating this disease. And when I win the battle, my hair will grow back.” What I read in her post was determination, courage, and that never, ever, quit, attitude.

But for those who care about hair loss, have a discussion with your oncologist as to whether or not you will most likely lose hair, how much you could lose, whether or not it will grow back, where it will grow back and /or what it will look like. Perhaps it’s not really important, especially to those who have lost their hair, but for some it would be nice to know beforehand. For those of you experiencing hair loss from chemotherapy and/or radiation; you are beautiful. And when you can truly understand how beautiful you are, you will also understand the spiritual connectedness that is part of all of us, the part that proclaims who we really are.

Who among us have experienced hair loss? What did you choose to do? What could you tell others that will help them with their decision? Please share.

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