23 Nov 2011

L-Theanine, Topotecan and Turkey Trot

Synchronistic things seem to happen to me - by chance or for a reason - almost every day.
For instance yesterday, my step-mother said that she'd had very a good response to a new supplement called L-theanine.  She too, suffers from sleeplessness and is always on the lookout for something natural that works.  She, like me, has been through the whole gambit of potions and lotions largely without success until now.  She said - do your research - look it up and see if it is suitable for you.

I Googled L-theanine and what was the first thing to appear?  "L-Theanine Chemotherapy and Side-Effects".  A publication known as Cancer Letters and Toxicology Letters reported that l-theanine enhances the effects of doxorubicin - which is a common chemotherapeudic used in ovarian cancer treatment and other cancers.  It appears to increase the amount of drug getting into the cancer cells without harming healthy ones.  L-theanine is an amino acid derived from green tea - which, we know, has a multitude of other health benefits.
Several human studies have been performed using name-brand l-theanine products with positive results.  Dr. Daniel Armstrong, Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State Universtity said that " the only material that proved to be pure L-theanine was the Suntheanine® brand, produced via biofermentation, which had more than 99.95 per cent L-theanine, our current detection limit."

Read more at Suite101: GABA, Insomnia, and L-Theanine: An Amino Acid Aids Sleep Without Side Effects or Next Day Fatigue | Suite101.com  and  http://laura-owens.suite101.com/ltheanine-improves-sleep-and-a65390#ixzz1eXOQjp40
So ladies - a two for one!  Sleep and chemo enhancer.

Speaking of chemo, my latest foray is into the world of Topotecan.  It's a brand new chemo drug for me with an onerous delivery schedule - 5 days of a 1/2 hour infusion followed by two weeks off.  Today is day 3 of the first of the 5 day cycles and I can report to you that I know that I've had chemo - meaning that when you have experienced side effects in the past,  you have a heightened sense of awareness of what to look for.  I have nothing overt to comment on thus far...I'm just mildly "aware".  The metronomic schedule is meant to be less toxic and have the drug remain in your system longer.

And finally - I bet you thought I'd forget - Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Sunflower Sisters south of the border!  Our very own webmaster is participating in the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day along with her husband and my brother-in-law.  My southern sister and her daughter will be ambling along in either the 5K Turkey Trot, or the Mashed Potato Mile and Gravy Gallop!  I kind of like the name of that last event and only hope that their noses don't land in it afterwards (family joke)!!  Good luck to all!  
N.B. our readership needs pictures!!

9 Nov 2011

Remembrance Day and Veterans Day

I remember Dawn.  My first Sunflower Sister.  Dawn and I shared a hospital room in 2007 while I received a two-day chemo infusion.  Dawn was in for blood transfusions...last ditch life-extending blood transfusions. After repeated complaints and tests for everything from Crohn's disease to irritable bowel syndrome over a two year period of time, she had ultimately been diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer .  That night she and I talked until the wee hours of the morning.  She had asked her doctor what the next steps would be and he said there weren't very many options "You're a Stage 4 after all!", he said.  I was furious.  I couldn't digest no hope.   She said things to me that night that she hadn't told another living soul and I will cherish those moments forever and keep her stories safe.  Dawn died a very short time afterwards.

I remember Anita.  My first cancer sister.  I shared a hospital room with her on two different occasions and visited her for months until her death.  She too had been through almost two years of back-and-forthing with various doctors until an accurate diagnosis was made.  She had a very obscure form of cancer and if you read our website page on Hope, you will recognise the words - overheard by me - spoken to Anita by a palliative care nurse - "There is always hope, it just comes in different forms".   Anita was an extremely elegant octogenarian - yes, above all, a true lady... and she taught me how to live until you die.

I remember Ingrid.  A stunningly beautiful, thirty-one year old mother of an infant and a two year old.  Ingrid had triple negative, stage four breast cancer discovered while she was pregnant with her little boy.  I met Ingrid during the summer of 2010 when I was hospitalized for a possible bowel obstruction.  She was on the other side of the curtain sobbing.  I asked if she wanted a visitor and she said yes.  I approached her and asked what I could do for her and she said nothing - she said she was crying for me.  Me?  She said yes, she had heard the surgeon say that I was inoperable and that where he came from they don't even feed (intravenously) terminal patients anymore.  Happily for me, her interpretation was out of context and she was so glad.  She went home that day and we emailed twice a week until she stopped responding. Weeks later, I learned that she had passed away just before Christmas.

I remember Wendy.  This one is really tough...Wendy was not only a Sunflower Sister but like a true sister to me and as well, a catalyst for the inception of this website.  I miss her.  Wendy would say that she wasn't courageous - she just wanted to live.  She would laugh when the oncologist offered her a new treatment or procedure saying - "I guess he thinks I'm going to live or he wouldn't be investing this kind of money in me".  Wendy asked me to bring her a funny little leather flip flop ornament key chain back from Cuba in January of this year.  I never got to give it to her or a chance say goodbye.

November 11th is Veterans Day in the USA and Remembrance Day in Canada.  These four women are true examples of cancer veterans, my sisters, and most worthy of remembrance.

4 Nov 2011

Lauds and Labs

Last night, I was very proud to stand beside one of my real sisters as she went up to the podium to receive a commendation for raising funds for ovarian cancer research.  The evening celebration was in honour of those who had organized and led teams of runners and walkers in the annual London Run for Ovarian Cancer. I was also beaming with pride when the announcer mentioned how wonderful they thought our Sunflower Sisters website is.  My webmaster sister should have been there to receive that accolade too, so I blushed for her.

A very moving speech was made by a survivor. She was diagnosed 2 years ago being BRCA positive, has gone through two clinical trials and has had three recurrences.  Has she still got hope?  You bet.

The Run/Walk is unique in that they are not raising funds for a national charity but for a local, highly sophisticated ovarian cancer research team.  The team's focus is advanced ovarian cancer.  Not prevention.  Not detection.  The are no awareness committees nor excess administration. 

The highlight of the evening came when we were invited to tour the research facilities with one of the chief scientists.  When you picture researchers - you envision scientists holed up in some dark basement doing wild and wonderful experiments.  To the contrary, these scientists work in a very bright, professional environment and perform what is known as translational research - meaning working in close relationship with gynecological oncologists, gyn/onc surgeons and medical oncologists.  An example of this "live" interaction is OvCa tumour material being sent directly from the operating theatre to their labs for analysis to test and determine what kind of chemo would be most effective for that patient.  This is revolutionary.  It wasn't available four years ago.  Co-operative effort is the key to progress - not isolation.

Although you needed a dictionary to follow what was being said, the gist of it was that cancer treatment needs to evolve to a personalized basis - tumour by tumour - gene by gene. Clearly no two patients are alike.  It was extremely fascinating - complex - powerful.

We took his message to heart with re-newed enthusiasm to activate everyone we can reach to help with this extremely worthwhile work.

Save the date for this coming year's event:
Sunday, May 13th, 2012
Run, walk or just send money.  We'll be onto you!