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.


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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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A Letter To Cancer

The following letter is something I hope all of us will read, understand, and pass on to anyone and everyone you know who has just been diagnosed with cancer, is currently fighting cancer and receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation, as well as those who are considered cancer survivors. This wonderful lady, Marla, recently spent a weekend in Vegas with her friend who has been battling cancer for four years. She has had over 60 chemo treatments and still keeps fighting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Dear Cancer, thanks you for the wonderful weekend with Marcie. Her bald head almost made her think twice about enjoying herself at the pool. Her numb feet gave her trouble and her pain at times unmanageable. The fatigue you cause her made her feel guilty that somehow she was slowing me down from having a good time. The sadness she felt when she realized that me pushing her in a wheelchair was the only way she could get around.

“Are you wondering why I’m even thanking you cancer? Well, you remind me to cherish today. That tomorrow is not promised. That I should say to others that I love them more and want less. You remind me that memories are a gift I can give to others. Cancer you truly are evil and rob people of their lives, but somehow you give this tiny but very important gift of reality. You let people say goodbye. You allow people to be warned. You remind us to be thankful for our health. Cancer, I hate you so much, but I thank you for this trip to Vegas and for the reminder not to think I’ve always ‘got tomorrow’ or ‘next time.’

“I love you, Marcie. I’m happy we’ve been friends for over 25 years. I’m glad cancer hasn’t taken you from me yet. I’m not ready. Keep fighting my friend. Kick cancer’s ass. I’ve got your back. Love, Marla.”

Marcie is very lucky to have Marla as part of her support group. But even when we have a good support group while battling cancer, there are times when it gets too much for us to handle. So if you have family and friends with cancer, even if you are not as close as Marla and Marcie, please make the effort to visit, talk, or communicate in some way with them. I promise it will make a difference in their life.

Thanks Marla for the kindness, compassion and love you are showing Marcie. And thank you Marcie for never giving up. Never, ever, quit.

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Cancer and Radon

This is an interesting story from a man I’ll call John.

“I have stage 4 lung cancer diagnosed at a local hospital. They gave me 3 to 6 months to live, and would only provide palliative care because I was a life-long smoker. The staff had this attitude of not treating people who brought it on themselves and demonizing them for their situation.

“A week later I went to another hospital in the same area for a different condition and told my story as I didn’t want to bother with treatment if I was going to die anyway. The doctor I saw referred me to one of their oncologists.

“This oncologist took the time to review my tests, and while not discounting my smoking history, implied that he saw my form of cancer more often in radon induced cancers. The EPA guidelines for Radon has an action point of 4.0 ppm, and after my home was inspected it tested at 32.0 ppm. My son had a Radon mitigation system installed to protect me and my family from further harm. Had the oncologist not given me a heads-up on radon I would not have had my home tested and my non-smoking family members would have been exposed to this insidious disease.

“The oncologist didn’t put me on palliative care only, but actively treated my condition and refused to put an expiration date on me. Did my oncologist blame me? No. Did he want me to quit smoking? Yes. But he didn’t give up on me, demonize me, or deny me treatment or hope. That was FIVE years ago.”

When I read this story, there were positive and negative responses. The following is one that reflects the majority of views.

“If you have lung cancer and never smoked, or smoked for a couple of years as a kid and quit, you have my deepest sympathy. If you smoked for 30 years and have lung cancer, you knew exactly what you were doing the whole time. You may have been addicted, that’s difficult, but it’s possible to quit. If you continue smoking you’re saying this is worth more to me than living. That’s it, period.”

Quite a difference in opinion, but this story about John is why I keep pushing the “never, ever, quit” and “never, ever, give up” attitude. It has given him at least five extra years with his family, something he most likely cherishes after being told he had only three to six months to live. And as we grow older, time with our loved ones is very precious. And by the way, John did quit smoking.

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National Cancer Survivors Day

Sunday, June 7th 2015, is National Cancer Survivors Day. Congratulations to everyone who can make the claim to have survived this dreaded disease. It doesn’t matter if you are a five year survivor or not (the length of time most oncologists refer to as sufficient time passed after the last treatment to be awarded the title of “survivor”). Surviving surgery, deadly chemotherapy and/or radiation, and living with the side effects and “chemo days” makes you a survivor.

No matter how we celebrate today let’s not forget those we know and love who survived for years and then lost their battle. They were just as courageous as those of us today who have been treated with more advanced surgical instruments and techniques, more precise radiation and chemicals for pinpointing targets.

Just because we are considered survivors does not mean that we can just sit back and relax, continue our old eating habits that include known carcinogens, return to being a sun worshiper for that awesome tan, put your liver through daily attacks of alcohol or continue to smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco. More than anything I want to continue to be a survivor.

But more than continuing to be a survivor, I think with the title of “survivor” there is a responsibility to help others. The knowledge of what we’ve been through with the unknowns associated with surgery, recovery, chemo and/or radiation can and will be beneficial to someone who is recently diagnosed. I realize cancer is not a hot topic to discuss until we or someone we know is diagnosed, but most of us know someone with cancer. Help them. Share your knowledge and experience and make a difference in someone’s life.

And on this day we should celebrate the caregivers who stood by us through the most difficult of times. Without them many of us would not have survived. So I think it is only right to recognize them as part of our survival unit. Thank you, Debbie. What you did for me goes above and beyond our marriage vows. You are an incredible woman.

God bless the U.S.A.

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