12 Dec 2012

Happy Birthday 2012

Happy Birthday Two us!  Yes, we're very proud to say that the SunflowerSisters website is two years old this month. 

We've just finished a major re-vamp of the information contained within the tab Coping with Chemo as well as updated Hope & Healing.  There's still lots to do so please bear with us - we're aware that certain information is dated.  That's good news isn't it?  No, it's not good news, it's great  knowing that things have changed and improved so much in one short year.  We're also adding new tabs so that critical information isn't overlooked...stay tuned!

Many thanks to our readers who have made suggestions and comments.  Special thanks go to my dear friend aka "Happy Turtle" who has read, proof-read and made valuable contributions to our site.

So, how are we doing?  We've had an audience of 6,300 readers from 34 countries of which 4,300 were unique visitors viewing 17,000 pages...on average, each visitor read 3-4 pages.  While that doesn't quite compare with Facebook's stats - we're very pleased with the progress we're making in reaching you.

Many, many thanks to my real Sunflower Sister and mega-cybermaster Lisa, for all her hard work in producing, editing and reining in the author (moi!).  And above all to you, my fellow journeyers, your families and friends - this is for you!



30 Nov 2012

Febrile Neutropenia

Some of you may recall that my hypersensitivity to front line drugs causes me to receive desensitisation infusions - i.e. very long, very slow chemo in hospital with one-to-one nursing.   I am at high risk of adverse reactions and so they take extraordinary precautions.

I jokingly call these infusions my "spa chemos" - as they are a relaxing (just kidding) two-day event, meals served in bed, highly attentive nurses, mind-numbing drugs and no problems recovering afterwards - until recently - when my husband picked me up after my hospital stay and was suffering with what was obviously a very bad cold.

If a chemo patient can't remember anything else - they must remember the cardinal rule to take their temperature regularly.  WHY?  Elevated temperature is an indication of infection.

 The rule is 38.3C or 101.5F - get to the hospital!

After three days of monitoring a low-grade fever, my temp hit 38.9C (102F) - I'd gotten the cold.  It was a Sunday morning, so off we went to the hospital emergency room

In the ER, dear hubby was sent in one direction and me in another.  He was diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia and given a prescription for antibiotics.   I was told that I had a common cold/sinus infection, go home, continue monitoring my fever, take Tylenol, rest...antibiotics?  No.  We don't do that.  Hmmmmmmmmmm.  I made it clear to the doctor that it was day three after chemo...sure, all blood work was still within the normal range but I had a fever...no antibiotics?...nadir just days around the corner...husband with bronchial pneumonia...a recipe for disaster!

Nadir is the point at which your blood cells - red and white - reach their lowest levels as the chemo wrecks it's most savage attack.  Translation - you have a severely compromised immune system with zero ability to fight infection.

At home, day 6 - nadir - my fever topped 40.2C - an alarming level even for a healthy person, let alone someone trying to recover from chemo.  I was once again off to the hospital.  But no, common sense or delirium must have prevailed, because I had the foresight to call the Cancer Clinic and alert them to the situation before once again leaving my life's decisions in the hands of a fresh-faced ER doc who doesn't "do" antibiotics.  I was told by my oncology nurse to come to the Cancer Clinic immediately - do not pass GO - do NOT go to the ER.

My oncologist was waiting and shocked at my condition. I was immediately admitted to hospital.  Diagnosis - febrile neutropenia - a fever of over 38.3C and neutrophil count of 500 or less.  My white blood count was actually .1 at admission and my neutrophil count 300... barely registering. (normal ranges can be from 4-11 for WBC and 1,500-9,000 ANC)

Death by the common cold was exactly what I was facing.  Antibiotic IV's were hung, mega doses of acetaminophen, bone marrow stimulants, pain meds, anti-blood clot shots to the tummy (ouch!) all bombarded me.  I couldn't breath - was coughing out blood - had laryngitis - was literally looking over the edge and wondering if this was it?

Four days and four nights later I was discharged.  Two courses of antibiotics later, all was well. But what an incredibly difficult series of lessons to be learnt.  Yes, take your temperature frequently when you're undergoing chemotherapy.  Yes, go the the ER with a fever if your cancer clinic isn't open.  No, don't take "no antibiotics" for an answer.  No, don't trust that when the ER personnel say that they'll notify your oncologist that they actually do. 

Yes, understand that while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, you can actually die from the common cold.










12 Sep 2012

September 2012

September is the most important month in my personal calendar.  It is a time for celebration marking both our 15th Wedding Anniversary and my 5th "Cancer-versary". 

Celebration is indeed in order when you reflect on the "in sickness and in health" part of our wedding vows realising that 1/3 of our marriage has been spent with a sinister intruder - ovarian cancer - in our lives.  We haven't waited for today to celebrate however,  we've celebrated every breath as a victory, ever day a milestone.  Every moment that we didn't have to talk or think about cancer has been a blessing.  Every treatment, every checkup, every new development has been a mutual challenge in seeking acceptance and understanding - always and ever, the daily requirement for a new normal. 

Ovarian cancer is not a "silent killer" - a phrase most often used in association with this disease - but one with sceamingly loud symptoms which are rarely taken seriously.  Study after study says that increased screening does not lead to increased survival but take a step back and really listen to your body.  Most of the Sunflower Sisters who I know personally, were very symptomatic before diagnosis and had gone through test after unrelated test until the disease was so advanced as to be irreversible.  All of the Sunflower Sisters, who I know personally, have had children, live an active, healthy life and none are BRCA1/2 positive.  All of these ladies confound "conventional wisdom".

As did I.  Some of you know my story of detection - the clean ultrasound 5 weeks earlier - and then the "infamous" tennis shot which combined with doing the splits - caused what I thought was a hernia.  Twelve days later, I underwent a 7 1/2 hour surgery to remove a 22cm malignant tumour.  Thank heavens for tennis. 

Today marks five years from that date -  I have so much to be grateful for.  There are so many people to be grateful to - an extremely loving, supportive family and network of friends, competent, caring doctors, nurses and as time goes on, the discovery of many, many unsung heroes.   

Five years ago, I was told that I had 42% chance of 5 year survival.  At the time, my husband said "You'll make it 43%"!  He was right - I didn't though, we did!
Happy Anniversary, Darling!

27 Aug 2012

Angels Are For Real

As a result of the extensive readership of our website, I have made friends and connections all over the world.  In some cases, I've been able to put two followers together to help each other.  However, in what I am about to relate, I needed help...what transpired was full of what could only be described as a series of incredible co-incidences and acts of human kindness.

The story begins this past Friday...upon arriving home from my latest chemo treatment, I received an email informing me that a Sunflower Sister, who has been in communication with me for months, had just been given devastating news of disease progression.  17 months ago she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, then recently breast cancer, and on Friday, her CT scan revealed multiple brain metastases.  This sister (we'll call her Bella) is on a work contract in Ireland - single, no family or social network - and is now dying...alone in a strange country.

The news was sent to me by a teal sister from Georgia, USA.  Shocked and heartbroken by Bella's circumstances, I immediately put out an SOS for help, advice, suggestions.  Here is what happened:

A dear friend from Michigan, USA responded that she has a cousin in Ireland - she then phoned her.  It turned out that her cousin knows of a 74 year old nun who spent her career in the hospice care field - this cousin contacted the nun who very happily said she will visit Bella.  That same cousin then called her aunt, who is a retired palliative care nurse in the city where Bella is hospitalised - she too will visit.

My friend texted Bella directly, introduced herself and offered introductions to specialists in the oncology department at the University of Michigan who are open to distance consultations.
 
My brother-in-law is a doctor in Canada - born in Ireland - I called him about this tragedy - I was halfway through recounting the details when he interrupted me saying that he actually, personally, knows Bella's doctor!  They are going to put their heads together to see what kind of support is available and initiate it immediately. Serendipitously, his best friend is a breast oncologist in Bella's town - he too, has agreed to call.

I then received an email from my sister-in-law who lives in England.  She informed me that one of her very best friends (who lives in the south of France) has spent her life as a counsellor to the terminally ill - this friend has offered to Skype Bella.

The next day - Saturday - our family celebrated my father's 90th birthday by hosting a surprise party for him.  Having had chemo the day before, I didn't know if I could attend (physically) and, given a totally compromised immune system, whether I should attend.  The decision was easy though,  I wouldn't have missed it for the world!  I got a few sympathetic looks when I arrived.  (I think) I looked awful - had really puffy eyes.  What they couldn't possibly know was that the puffy eyes weren't from chemo but resulted from so many tears on Friday night - tears of joy - over the outpouring of love and compassion by complete strangers to "Bella" for "Bella" - and knowing now, that no matter what, because of their efforts, she will not die alone.





11 Jul 2012

Pink Ones

It's time to re-visit the subject of the Pink Ones - the ones with breast cancer, the ones who are possibly at risk of developing breast cancer - what that means to us - Teal Sisters, and equally, if not more importantly, to our families.

My mother died of breast cancer - what kind of breast cancer, we don't know.  I have ovarian cancer.  This combination automatically qualified me for genetic testing - a search for the two common breast cancer genetic defects BRCA1 and/or BRCA2.   These two defects are just the more notable ones - there are many others.  The results of my tests concluded that  I do not carry these two well-known defects.   The geneticist was so incredulous of the results that he ran the tests twice - causing me to stew for six months.  My husband came along to the final consultation as there wasn't a doubt in my mind that if the genetic testing had come back positively, I would have opted for an immediate prophylactic double  mastectomy.  I was counselled that just because I didn't carry the classic faults, didn't mean I didn't carry ANY breast cancer genetic defects.  Because of my mother's death from breast cancer, what was emphasized was that my results did not preclude any of my siblings - male or female - or their children from being carriers of the BRCA1/2 or any other breast-related genetic defect.

I know, it's heavy stuff - but ignoring it isn't a good idea either.  I had my annual breast examination last Thursday and sat in the waiting room beside a fifteen year old boy filling out his forms - yes, boy breast cancer. 

When I lived in Montreal, I was a patient at the Montreal Breast Clinic - specialists in breast cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.  Because of my mother's history, I was considered "high-risk" even though I did not have ovarian cancer at the time.  Each visit included three things - a mammogram, a breast ultrasound and an infra-red/thermographic imaging test.  "What's that?" you say.  Here's the info on it - the first I've seen it in print in years even though the test has been around for decades:
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/07/08/gaea-powell-on-thermography.aspx?e_cid=20120708_SNL_Art_1
It saves lives - it is harmless - it's non-invasive - it penetrates dense breast tissue and provides very early detection.  My breast oncologist is one of this country's strongest advocates in adding thermography to every checkup and has reams of evidence of it's capability of pre-cancerous diagnostics.

Why am I bringing this up on an OVCA site?  As I said, just because I don't carry the classic breast cancer genetic defects, doesn't mean I'm not at risk of developing breast cancer.  I'm hearing about so many women with ovarian cancer who are now also dealing with breast cancer.   And no, it's not a "two for one special" where the same chemo can take care of both things.  It is loaded with it's own traumas - surgeries, tubes, chemos, radiation and possibly reconstructions - to name a few.    

A breast MRI is the closest thing to infallibility in detection but is not available on demand. It is expensive, uncomfortable and obviously carries a powerful whack of radiation.  We OVCA girls are over-dosed on radiation as it is when you consider the number of CT/PET scans we go through on an annual basis - coupled with the odd ER X-Ray and layer on a breast MRI?  The combination can potentially cause spontaneous lymphoma.

To my Teal sisters and all women - why not approach your PCP or oncologist and discuss the addition of thermography to your annual routine?  For families with a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, genetic testing is a start, heightened surveillance is a definite must. 

And to you guys - just to provide further impetus for getting yourselves checked - the risk of prostate cancer is 2x higher with a family history of breast cancer.

5 Jul 2012

Be-Attitudes

The Beatitudes are defined as the 8 blessings made by Christ during his "Sermon on the Mount".  They are the rules of appropriate behaviour which supposedly gain you entrance into heaven.  They all begin "Blessed are..." and then are followed with an instruction. 

The Beatitudes are a good guideline, but how about coupling them with the The Be-Attitudes - forgetting all that business about peacemakers, the meek and the mild?  The Be-Attitudes should read much like the Declaration of Independence and be an automatic entitlement to all cancer patients, their family and friends, giving them the right to rant and rave in the face of so many failures - failure to detect, failure to treat, failure to cure. 

There were two new posts on Inspire.com this week from family members who are trying to cope with a relative dying from ovarian cancer.  It isn't pretty - it isn't a Disney scene - it's how we pass.  Be-Attitude.  Don't try to cope.  It's OK to rail against sporadic disease and it's more than OK to cry.  Be-Attitude.  Bravery is often a cheap facade masquerading fear - it isn't courage that is needed - it's the relief of honesty.  Be-Attitudes are a necessary step for all of us in finding acceptance.

True to my own convictions, I had one of "those" sessions with my oncologist last week.  It was a very hot day - he was wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt.  Before leaving, he put his arm around my shoulder, smiled and said "these sleeves may be short, but I've still got plenty of tricks up them!" 

Be-Attitude - for you shall be rewarded...in this case, with a reassuring message and a comforting hug.

 Liberty







22 Jun 2012

Ethical Will

Ethical Wills are not new  - apparently, they have existed verbally for millenia and are even mentioned in the Bible.  I was unaware of the concept however, and find the idea novel and thought-provoking.

An Ethical Will is not a binding, legal document but rather one that is written by you, to your family and friends, as a legacy of what you want them to know and remember about you.  Its contents can be summarized by the following questions (familiar to some as the prologue to meditation):
  1. Who were you?
  2. What did you truly want?
  3. What was your purpose?
An Ethical Will is based on your values, not possessions.  According to the legal society, it is a more treasured inheritance than any material gift.  It may take the form of a letter, a book, a voice recording, a video, favourite music, pictures, crafts - a combination of all of these - in essence, your memoires as you have experienced them.  Many of us have attended "Celebrations of Life" - post funeral gatherings - where family members have amassed some of the foregoing and leave its interpretation to the viewer.  An Ethical Will is you, writing about your life, your view of how you want to be remembered - your "bequeathed comments" made to specific individuals.

Why do it?  An Ethical Will is an extension of who you are - a form of continuity, perpetuity.  It explains.  It gives you the ability to say things you may have left unsaid.  It's introspective and passes on your hopes and wishes for others.  In a sense, it's a way of controlling your outcome.

http://www.survivorship.org/ lists some topics you may want to consider:
  • What would I not want left unsaid if I died tomorrow
  • My definition of true success
  • The lessons I've learned in life
  • Why I love you and why I will miss you
  • What I appreciate the most
  • What I've learned from mistakes
  • What I've learned from other members of my family/friends
  • What spirituality means to me
  • My happiest/saddest/funniest moments
  • My wishes for you/my husband/my children etc.
I'm not sure that this is the appropriate forum for bringing up old grudges or complaints - but who knows?  Maybe it is - you certainly will have the last word!  That is, until Aunt So-and-So dies, her Ethical Will is read and she denies everything! 

Preparation of an Ethical Will is a soul-searching process - it's a special inventory of your aspirations, hopes, principles - your life's work.  Open a file - add to it when you think of something that says "you".  Keep this information in the same safe place as your other legal documents.  Here's a free template: http://www.ethicalwill.com/







18 Jun 2012

Weighing In

We've all felt the shock (and fear) of seeing an extremely emaciated person at the cancer treatment centre.  With ovarian cancer, there are many reasons for severe weight loss including complications from surgery, intestinal blockage, ascites, disease encroachment, chemotherapy side effects, pain and depression.  Our tabs on Advanced Disease and Advanced Disease Dietary Help give an in depth description of the more notable causes.

Putting on weight during illness is as daunting as dieting and is equally frustrating for the patient and their families.  A "healthy" appetite is viewed as just that - healthy. Oncologists have reported that some of the most stressful times in a patient's journey is when their spouse or loved ones interpret their lack of appetite as giving up - an unwillingness to live. 

Whether you're being weaned off TPN or recovering from a bowel obstruction, knowing that you must put weight back on is challenging, a bit scary and requires diligent work.  Not regaining  weight weakens your immune system, puts you at added risk for osteoporosis, causes nutrient deficiencies and will ultimately lead to disease progression. 

Theoretically, one needs to add 500 calories a day in order to gain one pound per week. 32 years ago, when my mother was originally diagnosed with breast cancer, she was told by her doctor to eat everything and anything she wanted.  He told her to choose cream over milk, butter over margarine.  Today, we think we're a little wiser (maybe not!)... remember being taught the difference between good and bad calories?  Also be reminded that cancer thrives in an acidic environment so try to choose the majority of your foods accordingly.  Here's a chart outlining foods which are alkaline and those which are acidic:
http://www.rense.com/1.mpicons/acidalka.htm 

Normally, a patient's healthcare provider should guide them as to what form of food is appropriate - i.e. if you're post-bowel blockage or surgery, you would be encouraged to start with juicing and purees rather than raw foods.

Here are some basic suggestions for regaining weight:
  1. Plan and count your calories.  Make every mouthful count.  Livestrong has a neat calorie counter app for either wanting to gain or lose weight.  It will calculate your ideal weight, let you search their library to see the caloric benefit of millions of individual foods and help you track your progress.  http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/  Check out the site before preparing your shopping list.
  2. Start slowly and eat/snack six times a day.  Overwhelming yourself with large meals can be harmful and discouraging.  Additionally, carefully planning scent and taste can make a significant difference in stimulating your appetite.  I remember my own emancipation from the "feed bag" - having been nourished with a completely balanced liquid (TPN) for ten days following surgery - then with the flick of a switch returning to solid foods - was very confusing and more than a bit frightening. 
  3. Add healthy fats such as nut butters, avocado, omega 3 oils.
  4. Make liquid calories count - choose 100% fruit drinks.  Wine is a fruit drink and an appetite stimulant!  Don't be afraid to revert to a food supplement drink in lieu of a snack.  Freeze it in a popsicle container for variety.
  5. Be consistent - keep a journal - write down what you've consumed and add it up each day.
  6. Include exercise...it builds muscle, increases your appetite, helps with chemo fatigue and improves your mood.
  7. Go easy on yourself...leave a little room for a treat!
Educating caregivers is essential in supporting patients with weight loss "whiplashes".  The speed of the decline can be alarming and the recovery can take time.  In cases of very advanced disease, recovery is not always possible - this too, requires special understanding.


28 May 2012

Survivor

Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a brilliant essay called Welcome to Cancerland  for Harper's Bazaar in 2001 http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/cancerland.htm in which she says:
"Does anyone else have trouble with the term 'survivor'?' I ask, and, surprisingly, two or three speak up. It could be "unlucky," one tells me; it "tempts fate," says another, shuddering slightly. After all, the cancer can recur at any time, either in the breast or in some more strategic site. No one brings up my own objection to the term, though: that the mindless triumphalism of "survivorhood" denigrates the dead and the dying. Did we who live "fight" harder than those who've died?" 

 
By definition, everyone is a survivor...one that survives...to remain alive, to continue to function.  Society however, celebrates most cancer survivors - bestowing upon them a rarefied status as if we'd come through a great battle - blazing with glory.  Some survivors would agree, others would take the stance that cancer is a man made disease, supported by the continuing abuses of man made products and then chemoed to near-death by man made pharmaceuticals.  These are the "mad as hell" variety of survivor - the type that are more comfortable using the word victim.

 
Wikipedia makes this highly interesting comment on the definition of a cancer survivor:
"The ideal survivor, like a superwoman who simultaneously manages her home, family, and career, struggles valiantly to prevent cancer from affecting loved ones by appearing, behaving, and working as much as possible. Once the immediate crisis is past, the person may feel strongly pressured to donate time, money, and energy to cancer-related organisations. Above all, the ideal survivor does not die of cancer. People who publicly conform to this ideal are given social status and respect." 

 
Good grief!  "Social status and respect" - for conforming and not dying (publicly) from cancer!  I'll certainly try not to!


I think if we were arguing the semantics of the word "survivor", we could come up with any number of alternatives but what is really at odds here is society's head-in-the-sand approach to the realities of cancer survivorship - ignoring the ongoing physical dramas, psychological scars, relationship struggles and financial worries.
 
On June 3rd, National Cancer Survivors Day http://www.ncsdf.org/ - a day for all survivors wherever they are on their journey - I will celebrate being alive - continuing to live.  I welcome this opportunity to educate and increase awareness (with or without the promise of social status) - and hopefully earn society's respect by working hard for answers for those who have gone before us as well as for ourselves.



There is an excellent website called Survivorship A-Z http://www.survivorshipatoz.org/ which includes topics which are extremely practical without the sugar-coating. 
As well, http://www.livestrong.org/  was formed for survivorship and the challenges which a survivor faces in the real world.  They have a national network of Centers of Excellence in Survivorship which provides support of all types.

16 May 2012

Run Report

Sunday, May 13th marked the 10th Annual Run for Ovarian Cancer, London, Ontario.  Sunflower Sisters put together a team of 25 runners, walkers and "strollers" and at last count, raised over $11,400.  We're still a bit fuzzy about the grand total due to the Run Treasurer's need to manually handle and post personal cheques and cash.  The overall event goal was $160,000 and they announced a (sub)total of $180,000!!

Sunflower Sisters Team 2012
The day started out ominously.  I was awakened at 5:20am by two things - firstly, the sound of slashing rain on the skylight and secondly, by my darling husband moaning with a sore tummy and flu-like symptoms.  Oh boy...

As for the weather, my Dad claims a direct connection - a hot line to the Almighty - and told us not to worry.  Not to worry?  Hours later, we arrived at the Run grounds and it was still pouring - with all of us standing around in rain gear and umbrellas or simply getting soaked.  Hubby perked up (not sure if that was true) with the help of Gravol and tea - he refused to be left at home.

We assembled in the soggy parking lot - handed out t-shirts and caps - worked our way down to the rallying area and miraculously, on cue, the rain stopped and the sun made a valiant attempt at peaking out.  Thanks Dad!

Our brother-in-law - now claiming bragging rights for years to come, after recently running and (more importantly) finishing the Boston Marathon - led the men to the starting line - those who would actually run the 5km.  Nice to have a ringer!  His wife, our own webmaster and Team Leader, Lisa, also a running enthusiast, led the women.  Not only did they run, but they doubled back and joined up with the rest of us so we could all cross the finish line together!  And cross the line we did - in style - everyone jogging and pretending that we'd done that all the way!  We had a great walk, lots of good chatter and laughs and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful venue.  The running/walking path follows the Thames River - lined with wildflowers, old arboreal forest and teaming with birds and ducks...and yes, everything in London, Ontario is named after everything in London, England!

I was profoundly moved by the arrival of my departed teal sister's husband, two sons and daughter-in-law who joined us for the walk.  They were overcome with emotion from the flood of memories and our hugs.  We can only hope that it was a giant step in their healing.  Another Sunflower Brother, a friend who'd lost his wife to this disease two years ago, joined us as well - it too was cathartic for him.

We entertained about 30 people after the event - the house was abuzz with chatter and conviviality for hours.  We wished all of you could have been with us for the celebration.

I'll end this Run Report by saying how extremely humbled I am by the overwhelming enthusiasm, love and support that was given for a cause that united us as none other could - in the combined hope that the efforts made and funds raised, will make a difference.

Thank you!

10 May 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Sunday, May 13th is Mother's Day in North America but for some reason we've gotten our dates mixed up with our families in the UK.  They celebrate "Mothering Sunday" on the fourth Sunday of Lent - so this year, it was on March 18th.  

No one really knows how Mothering Sunday/Mother's Day began other than the fact that it has been celebrated since the 16th century. The day was possibly conceived as a celebration of Cybele, the Roman Mother Goddess.  Other theories include the fact that it is simply the mid-point of Lent. 

It was an extremely important day for boys and girls, men and women "in service"  i.e. maids, butlers, serfs etc., as it was declared the only day they had off - yes, in the year!  The holiday was given to go and visit their families and was considered quite a privilege.

Traditionally, these reunions included the baking of a Simnel Cake - a fruit cake with marzipan - but as it was Lent, it was saved for Easter.  Just for fun, here is a recipe for Simnel Cake:  http://projectbritain.com/easter/simnelrecipe.html

Some customs migrated easily across the sea - as one friend recounted, "It was in the '50's and I would buy a bunch of violets for my mum - they cost 6p - I remember - it was the same price as a chocolate bar."

A lot of families, both near and far, will be without the centre of their family this Mother's Day.  Many of us, myself included,  have lost our mothers prematurely to the dreaded disease which we now find ourselves facing.  Many of us however, have been given the legacy of a compassionate and caring role model.  We have seen first hand, how to live, love and die well.  My mother looked after her family first and foremost.  She doted upon all of us until she couldn't - was hospitalised and died peacefully the next day.

To all of my Sunflower Sisters - may you be given the gift of wisdom to know that the steps that you take along this path are being carefully recorded in the hearts of those who love you - to be brought out in times of need and as a constant reminder of what is important.

Happy Mother's Day to All!


P.S. For those who have forgotten, it's not too late to encourage our team in the 2012 Run for Ovarian Cancer on Sunday:

http://runforovariancancer.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1003000&lis=1&kntae1003000=4693CBB0DC2D487B8D34408FA371D52D&team=4984407

Many, many thanks to all of you who have so kindly and generously supported us!  I'll report fully next week with pictures!

7 May 2012

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

May is melanoma awareness month and with that comes the reminder of sun safety, tanning bed safety and the ABC's of melanoma detection.  For those of us who have forgotten, when you discover a mole or something that you think looks like a mole, here's the watch list:

A = asymmetry - one half is unlike the other
B = border being irregular
C = colour - varied from one area to another
D = diameter - greater than the size of a pencil eraser, itches or bleeds
E = evolves - changes over a period of time

Melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers but has a 95% cure rate with early detection.  It is often unrelated to sun exposure as it can be sporadic or genetic.
   
A story about one of the more interesting Awareness Campaigns was told to me by my hairdresser.  Volunteers with the Skin Cancer Foundation visited hundreds of salons reminding their operators to look carefully at their clients' scalps.  It is one of the most notorious hiding spots for moles/melanoma and difficult for any individual to detect or follow. 
  
Melanoma can strike at any age and occur anywhere on the body but is more prevalent in adults.  It doesn't discriminate between male and female.  There are actually 3 types of skin cancers of which melanoma is only one.  The three types are treated similarly and are stage dependant.  This is an excellent website for further information:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/melanoma/Patient/page1

Great controversy continues over the use of tanning salons - the type of light bulbs they use - and the amount of time one spends in them.  Vermont and California are currently the only two States in the US which prohibit minors from using tanning salons.  A very prominent media campaign is being staged by an 18 year old Canadian girl - who is believed to have melanoma caused from habitual tanning salon use - hoping that we adopt similar laws.  "There exists significant scientific evidence that indoor tanning is linked to increased risk of developing melanoma..." says the American Academy of Dermatology.  UV light occurring both naturally and artificially is a known carcinogen.

I have had two friends die from melanoma - both male - both quickly - as a result of their moles having been unseen - one had his occur on his lower back and the other on the back of his arm.  Here is a step-by-step guide for self-examination:
http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/early-detection/step-by-step-self-examination

Finally, here's the lowdown on sunscreens per Dr. Joseph Mercola - with him saying that many of the popular brands contain even more harmful ingredients than the sun:
http://lewrockwell.com/mercola/mercola127.html
If you can't be bothered to read it, the bottom line is that he recommends the best sunscreen to be covering up - wear a hat and long sleeves.



1 May 2012

May Day

Today is May 1st - the halfway point between Spring Solstice and Summer Solstice.  Today is also known as Beltane in Celtic mythology.  It is the celebration of the rebirth of Mother Earth - a time of welcoming the warming of the soil, of new growth and a period of abundance symbolised by green everywhere.  It's a period of planning, planting and supporting.

Spring is hope - everything in nature is putting out an incredible effort to be - to reproduce - to ensure continuity.  It's not a period of reflection but one of action - of making an effort - of discovery.  Having just recently moved, I find myself staring at the flowerbeds wondering what's in there - what will those tiny shoots become?

I too am metamorphising from the dark days (of chemo toxicity) to a crisper awareness of light and energy surrounding me.  At today's yoga, we were reminded of where we are in our individual practice and how we can move forward...imbalance is needed to achieve balance. 

Some of my fellow practitioners and Sunflower Sisters are in deep physical peril from their disease but they have found the middle ground - the place of serenity and calm - and continue to nurture us through their example.

The expression May Day is a cry for help in Morse parlance.  I hear May Day as the trumpeter playing Reveille - a signal that it's time to wake up, get the rake out and sweep up winter's debris.

25 Apr 2012

First do no harm...

"First do no harm" is the foundation of the Hippocratic oath.  It is no doubt what springs to mind when my medical professionals see me coming armed with the latest research and endless questions on drugs and treatments outside of conventional ovarian cancer regimes.

To back-track, I completed 7 rounds of topotecan at the end of the first week of April.  The first six rounds were the best chemo experiences I've had to date...no side effects to mention and a life!  The 7th round was the straw that broke the camel's back . The dosage was increased throughout the period and the last infusion seemingly saved up all that was possible. The result was toxic.  I've been asked by two doctors and several nurses to explain what happened and the best I could come up with was "like being in a black hole with no ability mentally or physically to surface".  A friend described a similar circumstance as the feeling of having her soul leave her body and being left with the shell.  So, this was not a near-death experience with all the welcoming lights and tunnels - just a death experience.  Perhaps hell.

This description, coupled with the word toxic, caused my oncologist to take me off chemo for the time being in order to give my body a chance to rebuild and recover.
 
The mind is so fickle however, it has no ability to remember actual discomfort or pain - only the knowledge that it happened.  So, not being daunted by a mere  black hole, I am now pursuing other treatments that could be helpful during this break.  Two drugs come to mind - metformin and tamoxifen.
 
Metformin is a drug which is typically used in the treatment and regulation of type II diabetes.  Several papers have been published recently about it's potential use in ovarian cancer progression, survival and chemosensitivity.  An article in the Journal of Diabetes - published in February 2011 by Donghui Li, states that "...there is increasing evidence from epidemiological investigations, laboratory studies and translational research that metformin may have a broad activity against cancer."  Armed with this and several more recent papers, I prevailed upon my medical oncologist, my general practitioner and my brother-in-law (who is a neuphrologist) to see if it isn't worth trying.  The theory is that glucose - which is what the body produces as fuel to live - is also the primary fuel of cancer.  If that fuel can be limited and modified the cancer cells will starve or eat each other.  Metformin has been recommended for use alone or in combination with cisplatin http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3084625/ by the Mayo Clinic.  The possible side effects include weight loss and diarrhoea.  The three-way verdict is that there is no compelling reason NOT to use metformin.

Secondly, even though my tumour assays have shown that I am not BRCA1 or 2 positive nor HER positive, there is a body of evidence that shows that the hormone suppressing drug tamoxifen can be effective as a maintenance drug in between chemo cycles.  The female body continues to produce estrogen even after a total hysterectomy, in the liver, adrenal glands, breasts and fat cells.  The possible side effects of tamoxifen include hot flashes, muscle pain and constipation - to name a few.  Again, the doctors have agreed to the "no reason why not" theory.

My GP told me an interesting story about how the medical world was ultimately able to respond to HIV/AIDS - turning it into a very treatable, maintainable disease - she said that "they threw everything at it - not just one drug at a time".  I too see no reason "why not" - I'm going for it.




15 Apr 2012

"This is a marathon, not a race"

These words were spoken to me in reply to a barrage of questions I posed during my very first visit with my new medical oncologist in May 2009.  I had been referred to him by my surgeon after a 17 month remission, as it was clear that I was in the throws of my first recurrence and would need a chemo specialist.  The words were pointedly meant for me to rearrange my attitude and to leave him to figure out the medicine.
Those words are echoing in my head these days.  A marathon - 42.195 kilometres or 26.22 miles or in my case, four years, 7 months and 3 days.
In the OvCa marathon, staying in the game is no different than training for Boston.  Once you're through surgery, it's about nutrition, mindset, chemo endurance and plenty of physical and psychological coaching.  We both become imbalanced, exhausted and hit the wall.  We both feel the agony of defeat - if not from CA125 psychosis - then from the "elites*" whose name underlines the fact that you didn't stand a chance to win to begin with.   And it wasn't about winning anyway.
I'm extremely proud to say that my brother-in-law - our webmaster's husband, John - will be wearing bib number 13147 in Monday's 2012 Boston Marathon.  John has been on a journey culminating in this event for years.  Other than the day he married my beloved sister, it is probably one of the highlights of his life.  The barriers to entry were high - not having been a life-long runner - but having enough drive, motivation and focus - to put it on his "over 50" bucket list.  I wish John's father had lived to see this day - maybe he'll be there at the finish line.  His mother won't ask how it went - she who couldn't think of a second name for her second son.
Well, we care lots.  We, who upon discovering that he didn't have a second name, christened him John Elton - after his favourite singer/performer - we care that he runs his heart out - that he feels the rush of the hundreds of thousands of spectators cheering him on - that amongst that throng of voices he'll hear ours sending him wings under his feet - that he feels the thrill of achievement and sweet victory when he finally crosses the finish line. 
It's interesting to reflect on the the doctor's cliche manifesting itself in real time in our family.  Life is a beautiful metaphor.
GO JOHN ELTON GO!!!


*elites = world class, high performance, highest speed/lowest time runners

4 Apr 2012

Cutting Edge

The Inspire.com discussion groups are abuzz with an emerging treatment for difficult-to-reach ovarian cancer tumours called CyberKnife.  Contrary to what its name conjures up, it is a robotic radiosurgery system - a non-invasive alternative to conventional surgery.  It delivers pinpoint beams of high-dose radiation to tumours with remarkable accuracy.  It purports to offer a pain-free option to patients with inoperable or surgically complex tumours with quick recovery time.  All of this seems to indicate a better quality of treatment and perhaps lower cost overall.

Many ovarian cancer patients have their disease recur in lymph nodes which are often buried in the abdominal cavity.  Disturbing the bowel system to remove lymph nodes by conventional means is rarely done after initial surgery.  The usual secondary treatment involves serial chemotherapy.
 
This alternative offers new hope with no invasion.  Removing the source of the cancer - i.e. active nodes - offers potential remission without chemo.  Another favourite recurrence site is the liver - the Cyberknife.com site states that "these treatments are usually performed on an outpatient basis in one to five days.  Most patients experience minimal to no side effects...".  Wow.

This treatment could also be appropriate for patients whose health would not permit conventional surgery - no anaesthesia is involved and it eliminates the risk of hemorrhage and infection.  It could also be an option for patients who refuse surgery.   Of course, this technique is not a panacea for deeply embedded or inaccessible tumours.

CyberKnife has been around for years but is only recently being offered more aggressively to ovarian cancer patients.
 
A similar but different technique is called Gamma Knife - http://www.gamma-knife-surgery.com/.  According to their website, this treatment is recommended for brain lesions which do exist in ovarian cancer patient metastases, however, rarely.
 
Recent news has also covered successes of cryoblation - a technique of freezing cancerous tumours through injection.  This procedure has migrated from other types of cancer treatment such as prostate cancer.  It is now being offered as an alternative and/or adjunctive treatment to chemotherapy for recurrent OvCa in accessible tumours.

A great number of mainline chemotherapies for ovarian cancer originated after successes with the more prevalent cancers.  It's interesting to note that non-invasive treatment techniques are heading in the same direction.

2 Apr 2012

"Light It Up Blue" for Autism Awareness

April is autism awareness month and today is the 5th annual World Autism Awareness day.  The theme is "Light It Up Blue" to shine a light on the subject and all over the world, events are occurring today with a blue light theme.

Autism is symbolised by a puzzle piece - very appropriate for a condition - or more accurately - a spectrum of conditions which have no known cause and no cure.  Furthermore, autism is considered an epidemic in the United States as it has increased tenfold in the last forty years.  Now, one in 88 children is affected somewhere on the spectrum of the disorder from high-functioning to non-verbal with severe physical complications.  Strangely it effects 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls.  The prevalence among boys remains a mystery.

I read an article in the NY Times on the weekend which said that autism can now be diagnosed in infants as early as 6 months old with a CT scan.  The changes in the brain have been studied and are now identifiable.  Early detection is obviously a help in providing parents and caregivers with the knowledge and tools to cope.  Autism isn't a sentence - there are many, many things that can be done to help children learn and function well into adulthood. 
Extreme controversy remains about the role of certain childhood vaccinations in triggering autism.

A high-functioning PhD with Asperger Syndrome (another developmental disorder on the spectrum) claims that autism - no matter where you are on the spectrum - is not a disease, just different.

For more information on the subject, here are some great web links:

31 Mar 2012

Creating Your Own Spa

Chemotherapy not only creates havoc internally but is really punishing to your skin.  Being the largest organ of your body, it stands to reason that it too would suffer.  The problems include dehydration, discolouration, sensitivity to sunlight, infections, difficulty healing and rashes to name a few.

Some people suffer from chronic skin conditions which chemotherapy often exacerbates.  Sadly and painfully, due to adverse reactions and complications, these patients are usually denied any skin condition meds while undergoing chemo.

There now exist spas which have specially trained clinicians to treat cancer patients.  This is truly remarkable however, there is a lot a patient can do at home to create their own spa experience and improve their overall skin condition.

A spa considers most of the senses starting with pristinely clean linens, scent and soft music.  In choosing the scent - or aromatherapy - try sweet orange or grapefruit - they are known to reduce nausea.  Put one drop of either essential oil in enough warm water to soak ten facecloths.

Cleansing is the first step to babying your skin.  Set up a comfy chair in your bathroom and begin placing the warm scented cloths on your face, neck and chest, changing them as they cool.  Use half of them for this stage.

Step two usually involves exfoliation.  Depending on how tender or damaged your skin is, you should exercise extreme care.  One of nature's greatest, most natural exfoliants is raw honey.  It is not only a topical antiseptic, it has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities. It's packed full of antioxidants and has been shown to reduce inflammation.  A perfect food.

Gently massage the honey all over your face, neck and chest area - if you have a port, take care not to come near it with products.

Remove the honey with the remaining set of impeccably clean, warm facecloths.

This leads to an interesting step - pat the entire area with warm, diluted green tea - use a ratio of about 10:1.  Yes tea.  It's a powerful antioxidant and the skin is extremely porous and absorbent. 
As a final step, moisturise with a Vitamin C serum.

Ahhhhhhhhhh, nice.
But you're not finished...

Put yourself to bed for a half hour - but prepare it first.  Use lots of pillows to raise your legs above your heart level, dot the pillows with a scent which will soothe and restore.  The smell receptors in your nose are said to trigger chemical messages along nerve pathways to the brain's limbic system which affects your moods and emotions. Tried and true essential oils include: chamomile, geranium, lavender, tea tree, bergamot and cedarwood.  Turn on some relaxing music.  You may also want to place a warm, tea-soaked cloth over your eyes.

A word to women experiencing menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, substitute "cool" for "warm" throughout the treatment.

Enjoy...
 

25 Mar 2012

Smarty Pants

Just when you confidently think you have enough experience to go through another CT scan with ease, they throw you a curve.
At 10:00am this past Thursday, I had what was probably my 12th CT scan in four years.  I was told to fast beforehand - that's nothing new - but what makes that instruction difficult is that I am an early riser and always hungry in the morning.  Never mind, it was only for a few hours.
Upon arriving at the hospital, they gave me contrast liquid to drink - a litre plus of foul tasting fluid that they flavour with crystals of some sort.  Having had the orange and peach flavour on previous occasions, I boldly asked that no flavouring be put in it - just give me the old-fashioned chemical tasting cocktail.  Surprised, they accommodated my request and it went down a lot easier than the flavoured versions...albeit still nauseatingly bad.
After an hour of sipping, they inserted an IV into my arm which transports the dye into your veins, which in turn illuminates the contrast liquid now efficiently flowing throughout your entire body.
Next I was placed comfortably on a gurney which is attached to the CT scanner.  This gurney can go up, down, in and out of the machine by remote control.  The machine instructs you to "breathe" and "hold your breath" while it takes the pictures.  You must be calm.  You must be still.  So, as the technician was setting me up, I was letting my meditation mantra float through my mind and was perfectly at peace.  She left the room and the machine took over.
Then, unexpectedly, the technician reappeared and said she had a surprise for me.  Disturbed from my serene state, I opened my eyes and there she was with a cup and a spoon in her hand telling me that I was now - after all of that putrid contrast fluid - going to be asked to ingest a cup of "barium pudding"!  What??  Barium pudding.  O.M.G.  OK.  It is a new offering supposed to light up the inside of your esophagal/stomach area.  The only thing I knew about barium was when it was injected in the "other end".  She said - you've never had a CT scan at this hospital before and as we're part of the University, a teaching hospital, we're more thorough. 
So gaggingly, I got it down.  As for taste, imagine a chemical-tasting chalk mixed with a cheap, commercial vanilla pudding.  Needless to say, the mantra had to be switched into high gear as I concentrated on not up-chucking the paste.
The CT scan got done.  I await the results next week. I've been reminded that when you least expect it, life throws you a curve.  Just desserts.

15 Mar 2012

UK Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in the UK.  Their OvCa patient treatment problems are very similar to ours on this side of the pond.  They struggle with drug shortages, entry into clinical trials and much like the US, a two-tiered health system.  They have universal health care, but also have a fast-track elite system for those with private medical insurance.
 
The care seems to differ from one "country" to another within the UK.  Scotland's system differs from Wales and Wales from Northern Ireland and England.  My parents-in-law live in Scotland.  In that part of the world, they try in every way to keep people with illnesses in their own homes rather than institutionalising them.  As an example, my mother-in-law now requires constant oxygen and nebulisers, my father-in-law has gained the status of "care-giver" and is entitled to an additional stipend because of it!

Initial ovarian cancer treatment follows international protocols with surgery and chemo followup but the UK system is increasingly reluctant to offer novel treatments, adjunctive care and homoeopathy - all budget related no doubt.  We've recently read of "sisters" who are going to other countries within the EU to try to get the latest surgical techniques - HIVAC - heated chemo - and integrative care.  Thank heavens for international forums like http://www.inspire.com/ where women from all over the world can share treatment options, regimes and where to find them.
 
Last month, I read a post from a girl in England who was having great difficulties getting her mother's ovca case dealt with.  Through a previous contact, I was able to connect her with another "sister" who lives within walking distance of the poster's place of work.  Such a small world.  The two girls are now hot on the trail of seeing that the mother gets proper care.

There should be no quality of care issues ever, anywhere - as it is said, so you treat the least of your people is how you shall be judged.

13 Mar 2012

The Gift MD Sponsors Run for Ovarian Cancer!

Republished on behalf of The Gift MD:



This year, Sunday May 13 marks the 10th anniversary of the Run for Ovarian Cancer in London, Ontario.

All funds raised during this event are dedicated to research focused on advanced disease and to discovering a cure for ovarian cancer, going directly toward the Translational Ovarian Cancer Research Program at the London Health Sciences Centre. Since 2003, this run generates the largest amount of funding for LHSC of any non-profit organization in London with only a one-day event!

Once again, our sister site, SunflowerSisters.ca, has entered a team of family and friends to participate in this event and we are committed to not only meeting, but to surpassing last year's fundraising efforts.

To show support for this worthy cause The Gift MD is pleased to announce that:

We will donate 100% of ALL royalties earned on ALL sales in our Zazzle store through TheGiftMD.com for the next 2 months! 

You read that right! From March 13 until May 13, 2012 (run day), ALL royalties earned on purchases of The Gift MD awareness products will go directly to sponsor Team Sunflower Sisters in the Run for Ovarian Cancer.

Please pass this good news on to family, friends, co-workers.... and to complete strangers for that matter! Raise awareness for your favourite cause while supporting research for a cure for ovarian cancer - the deadliest of all gynaecological cancers.

If you are in the area and wish to join our team, or if you would like to make a cash donation towards this cause, please visit the Sunflower Sisters Team Page.

Remember, if US$ is not your home currency, visit TheGiftMD.com and click on the links to any of our international sites. Royalties earned at our international sites will also count towards this campaign.


Thank you for your support!
The Gift MD



5 Mar 2012

Closing The Door

Last Wednesday, we closed the door on a chapter in our lives.  We moved.  We've always maintained that moving is for the better, for an improved quality of life, and exciting.  We don't feel stressed about packing things up - it's a new beginning.  The stress is the realisation of one's excesses - the collections, the curios and the colossal piles of junk.  It's a shock to count the number of sets of pyjamas one has - how many pairs of shoes - how many cake pans - how many kitchen gadgets - how many cords one keeps to equipment that was obsolete 20 years ago.
There were three piles made upon unpacking - keep, cottage and goodwill.  Which one do you think won?  Imagine paying all that money to have things moved only to put it in the trunk of the car and give it away!  It's a relief though, clutter is chaotic, minimising is freedom.
Just a few weeks earlier, my brother-in-law had the same but opposite problem.  He closed the door on a 24 year old business location which was jammed to the rafters, only to re-open in a much bigger, nicer and more  convenient building. Hooray!  In his case, expansion was the order of the day - relief from a dysfunctional setup.
Ultimately, we both ended up in the same position though, someone had to put the key in the door for the final time.  It was my sister who ended up locking the door of her husband's building.  In my case, I was the last one there and had quite a lump in my throat.  We had moved to that location because of my illness, lost two of our beloved dogs there and savoured every panoramic sunrise and sunset. 
We're now on terra firma complete with a back yard for our puppy to enjoy and for me to launch an earth garden as opposed to the garden-in-the-sky that I had previously constructed. 
It makes you really think...closing the door and coming back down to earth...two truly profound and fitting metaphors.



21 Feb 2012

Countdown to May 13th, 2012

Hear ye!  Hear ye!!  Save the date!  Calling all family and friends near and far, to walk, run and gather supporters for the 10th Annual Run for Ovarian Cancer.
 
This fund raising effort is unlike any other.  It is not for awareness, detection or prevention - the Run is raising money for the Translational Research Centre here in London.  Every dollar goes toward the work of discovering a cure for advanced ovarian cancer.   See our blog Lauds and Labs (November 4, 2011).

Follow this link to join or sponsor our team, Sunflower Sisters, led by our own webmaster, Lisa :
London Run for Ovarian Cancer - 2012

We are going to make an all-out effort to have every person we know whose lives have been touched by this disease, directly or indirectly, help us in our quest to support this most worthy endeavour.

14 Feb 2012

9 Feb 2012

Mirror, mirror...

Yours truly is a member of the online Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Support community - Team Inspire - where members share with each other information, personal experiences, trials and tribulations and the highs and lows of living with ovarian cancer.  It's not all doom and gloom however, there are lots of very funny postings.  A recent string started out with a member who wrote about the devastating experience of seeing herself - really seeing herself - in the mirror.  She thought that after having received so much chemo, she now looked like her husband's mother instead of his wife.  Another wrote of the places one least expects hair regrowth and the remarkable quantity of it following certain chemos.  Someone then joined in by offering helpful hints as to how to get rid of those nasties and swore it wouldn't cause the hair to grow in thicker than ever!

My giggle today was reading Dr. Mercola's column - always and ever chasing the fountain of youth - entitled "Swallow this to Help reduce the Appearance of Wrinkles" (my italics).  He is promoting a supplement called Astaxanthin - oh, and be sure to get the natural, organic type.  This is a powerful antioxidant that "potentially" reverses wrinkles and age spots.  It is the ingredient that causes baby flamingos to turn pink from their white birth state.  I lost count after the fifth time he used of the word "phenomenal".

http://products.mercola.com/astaxanthin/?e_cid=20120209_DNL_art_1&source=nl

I guess I better get some...I wonder if they offer volume discounts?

8 Feb 2012

February Focus

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in Australia and New Zealand - a big hello to our Sunflower Sisters "down under"!  Concurrently, one of their pre-eminent biotech companies announced the launch of a 22 country, 800 patient clinical trial for an OvCa vaccine.  Lets hope for success all round.

February 1st is "Imbolc" in the Celtic calendar - the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox - what a welcoming thought.  February 2nd is Groundhog Day - and according to the experts, he's seen his shadow and it will be an early spring.  It was also our very own web master's (and my Sunflower Sister's) birthday - a Very Happy Teal Hug from all of us!

And importantly, February is Heart and Stroke month.  I had the opportunity to have an in depth discussion with an Oncology Nutritionist last week on the subject of chemotherapy as it relates to possible long-term effects on the heart.  Happily, she said that it was well down the list of common side effects but that certain adjunctive drugs e.g. Avastin, can cause severe hypertension.  She said cessation of the drug will regulate this issue.  So, if I understand correctly, Avastin is a drug that prolongs progression-free survival, but taking it may cost you your life.  What a miserable conundrum.

Upon reflection, I believe that the Nutritionist was literally correct in saying that there are few correlations between chemotherapeutic drugs and heart disease, but figuratively incorrect.  Chemotherapy can and does cause all manner of heart-related problems namely anxiety, stress, worry, fear and depression.  So here we find ourselves not only with a rare and often incurable disease, but also potentially part of the biggest health issue in North America.
What is the answer?  In the words of the late Dr. David Simon "Release what doesn't serve you".  It's an expression that needs to become part of your daily existence - making present moment wise choices - letting go of things and people that are harmful - being conscious of every thought manifesting as a physical reality - concentrating on things and people that keep you safe, happy, healthy and peaceful.  Letting go is difficult but it does bring freedom.  February's focus on heart, stroke and ovarian cancer highlites the necessity to live in the present moment, forgive the past and trust the future.

31 Jan 2012

Remembering David Simon, MD

It was a great honour and priviledge to have studied with this man, a great physician, gifted healer and above all spiritual teacher who changed my path forever.  Thank you, Davidji.
You've more than earned your wings.
remembering-david

Dear Chopra Center Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you today the news that Dr. David Simon has passed away. David has been my friend, partner, teacher,
trusted colleague, and younger brother for more than twenty years. He has touched my heart, influenced the way I think, and expanded my spirit. David approached life from a place of pure potentiality and unlimited possibilities. His wisdom, courage, and love will continue to inspire all of us for decades to come.

In his books and workshops, David loved to share poems from spiritual masters who lived many centuries ago yet whose beautiful insights into love and our eternal nature continue to resonate with so many people today. David's favorite poems were reminders that while we appear to be separate, limited individuals, we are all expressions of an infinite divinity. Here are a few beautiful lines from the poet David called "my beloved Hafiz":

The Sun Never Says

Even
after
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."
Look
what happens
with a love like that -
It lights the whole world.

As a talented physician and author, loving father, husband, and dear friend, David shared his unique gifts with the world. Through his dedication and authenticity, he helped so many people go beyond their limited perspective of themselves and reconnect to the love, joy, and peace of their true selves.

I have felt privileged to work closely with David for many years, and I am grateful that we have had the opportunity to develop seminars, retreats, and programs on mind-body healing and spirituality. While David, as he would put it, has now let go of his temporary human disguise to merge again with the unbounded ocean of consciousness, the gifts that he gave so freely during his life will continue to benefit and inspire everyone he touched through his words, wisdom, and heart.

If you would like to share your thoughts, prayers, and intentions for David's family, please visit lovefordavid.com.

Love, Deepak
Deepak Chopra, M.D.


29 Jan 2012

Dancing With N.E.D.

N.E.D. means no evidence of disease - the sweetest words any cancer patient could ever hear.  N.E.D. is also a band - a rock band composed of six gynaecological oncology surgeons who got together in 2008 for a one-time gig playing for other surgeons. 

Dancing With N.E.D. is the title of a documentary film which follows the band from operating theatres to concert stages in their work to raise awareness nationwide of gynaecological cancers. You can read about it here: http://dancingwithned.com/

Dancing With N.E.D. is also about women living with gynaecological cancer - their real life traumas, heart-wrenching journeys and joys. 

The band, N.E.D., continues to perform across the USA bringing attention to the cause, spreading healing through music and hopefully raising badly needed research dollars.

Some months ago, I contacted the producers of the documentary requesting their permission to use the expression Dancing With N.E.D.  We received a warm and overwhelming "Yes" to our efforts to continue the awareness campaign.

We have linked our creation of N.E.D. with their website - he's pretty darn cute, don't you think?