Archive for 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unexpected Moments of Joy and Hope

GUEST POST BY JENNIFER LEE EDMONDSON

I consider my experience with breast cancer more of a forced march than a journey.  “Journey” seems too kind and gentle a cancer hope candlesword for describing what breast cancer patients have to go through.  My breast cancer was discovered in early 2011, fourteen months after my 2010 mammogram.  I had had annual mammograms for the past 10 years, all normal.  Not this year’s.

So began my forced march into BC land.  No longer was I in control of my life or my body.  I opted for an aggressive approach, and obediently did as I was told through genetic testing, surgery, aggressive chemotherapy, and radiation.  When I was told to jump, my only response was “How high?”   For lack of better words, it was hell.

During my travels through hell, however, I was lifted by unexpected moments of joy and hope.  A young woman I have never met, but have corresponded with via email regarding business, sent me cute little cards containing messages of hope and encouragement.  Another woman, who lives in my city, whom I also had never met, had heard about my plight from a mutual friend, and began delivering meals to my door step and offering sage advice – she was a BC survivor herself.

Finding Relief from Radiation Side Effects

Another moment of joy and hope was when I discovered Jean’s Cream.  I first heard about Jean’s Cream during my interview of a radiation oncologist.  I had asked her what she recommended for skin care during radiation, and she mentioned Jean’s Cream, among other products.

Well before my radiation treatments started, I ordered my first tube of Jean’s Cream, and found it to be much lighter than the usual product used by radiation patients, and, Jean’s Cream absorbed into the skin much quicker.  I used it three times a day during the weeks I underwent radiation.  Jean’s Cream is, in a word, FANTASTIC.

Jean’s Cream was and still is a source of joy and hope for me, and I share that joy and hope with others.  Even though radiation has ended for me, I continue to use Jean’s Cream.   I have since ordered Jean’s Cream for my mom, who experienced residual pain from shingles many years after the rash was gone.  Jean’s Cream has helped to alleviate her pain.  I also ordered a tube for my little nephew, who gets eczema in the wintertime, and I have also shared the “tubes of joy and hope” with other women undergoing radiation therapy.

I am thankful for Jean’s Cream, and Jean, the person who made it all possible.

Jennifer Lee Edmondson lives with her family in Wisconsin.  She and her husband practice law together, representing people who are injured or disabled, through their law firm, Edmondson Law Office.  Jennifer also writes as a community columnist for The Post Crescent.  Her most recent column, which encourages individuals to have annual health screenings, regardless of what recent studies recommend, can be found here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cancer Patients Receive Top Care at Keesler Air Force Base

Cancer patients who visit Keesler Air Force’s new Radiation Oncology Center (the first was wiped out in 2005 by Keesler Radiation OncologyHurricane Katrina) in Biloxi, Mississippi, receive outstanding care, including treatment with high-dose rate brachytherapy, a state-of-the-art linear accelerator and complimentary tubes of Jeans Cream to help soothe and heal skin from radiation side effects. Patients’ treatment protocol is closely monitored by Dr. James D. Mitchell, Dr. Patrick Jewell, and Margo Loe, R.N. The team also includes two government civilian administrative assistants provided by the Biloxi Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and eight contract members: two physicists, a dosimetrist, three radiation therapists, and a chief radiation therapist. The facility treats between 30-35 patient per day and finds that it’s the head and neck cancer patients as well as those being irradiated for cancers of the breast who need Jeans Cream the most.

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About the Medical Center, Keesler’s 81st Medical Group:
Keesler’s 81st Medical Group operates one of the largest Air Force medical facilities in the Air Force. Its primary mission is to maintain medical readiness for worldwide contingencies by providing quality, cost-effective health care for more than 27,000 enrollees, including almost 7,500 active-duty military personnel and/or family members. In addition, the 81st MDG commander oversees five military medical treatment facilities from Mobile, Ala., to New Orleans, coordinating care for 110,000 eligible beneficiaries along the Gulf Coast.

Keesler Medical CenterThe hospital offers almost 60 services and education programs with a staff of more than 1,600 military and civilian members and partnerships with Tricare, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the VA Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System medical center and Gulfport Memorial Hospital. The hospital has seven newly-renovated surgery suites and a myriad of improvements throughout the ground floor including flood barriers on external doors and a re-alignment of high-dollar assets to floors above the basement level. Construction of their new $50+ million inpatient tower began in late 2009 and the new $10 million Radiation Oncology Center was completed in October 2009 and began treating patients in March 2010.

Friday, November 18, 2011

3 Simple Ways To Calm Your Fear

It’s amazing how much fear can come up when our physical health is challenged. We may entertain all the worst-case scenarios, calm seaworry how our illness will affect the ones we love, or suddenly find ourselves ill at ease in the world. While a certain amount of fear is healthy and can motivate us to create needed lifestyle changes or go after the medical care we need, a lot of it is not helpful and can actually stress our bodies further.

So, here are 3 simple ways you can get some leverage on the fear and restore yourself to calm:

1. Get a Leg Up. You don’t need to wait for the fear to become overwhelming. Plan to take 3, 5, 10, or 20-minute breaks every couple of hours for the purpose of calming your mind and centering your heart. You can take several deep breaths, meditate, walk outside, or listen to your favorite song. These short intermissions from your life will help you stay connected to yourself and make it less likely for you to spin out in fear. You may wish to set a few alarms in advance to help you remember.

2. Avoid Fear Inducers. If you’re with someone who starts telling you negative stories about how bad someone else’s similar situation turned out, or if they look at you with pitying eyes and speak with an implied “poor you” in their voice, WALK AWAY – FAST. Do not force yourself to hear them out just to be polite. You have enough on your plate without having to make someone else feel better about their negativity. Instead, engage with people who remind you of your strength, your great support system, and the possibility of Grace filling your life.

3. Take Control. Health challenges can have us feeling panicked with a lost sense of control. So what can you still control, even now? It may be the doctors and specialists you go to, or the people you choose to spend time with, what to focus your mind on, or even little things like how you are cleaning your house or cooking your food. If you can put yourself in the driver’s seat in some areas, it can decrease feelings of helplessness.

And here’s a bonus tip that no one really wants to hear, but it’s so important: Lay Off the Sugar, Caffeine and Junk Food! As hard as it is, these things tax the system and will keep you in a cycle of highs and lows. Unfortunately, these are usually the easiest things to grab when you don’t feel liking eating or cooking healthy meals for yourself. But see if you can reach for something a bit healthier next time. It really will help you stay more in charge of yourself and your ability to manage fear.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Radiating Hope Brings Our Healing Cream to Panama

Panama

Panama City

Radiating Hope is an inspiring nonprofit organization founded by radiation oncologists and mountain climbers that provides and updates radiation equipment to developing countries. Last spring, they embarked on their first ever resident-organized international mission. A team of five residents, Luqman Dad, Brandon Fisher, Arthur Iglesias, Robert Mutter, and Jeff Olsen went on a self-funded visit to Panama City, Panama. We were honored to participate by donating tubes of Jeans Cream to help cancer patients there.

Brandon, the Founder and President of Radiating Hope, recently sent us the following letter about their trip and the situation regarding cancer treatment in Panama:

We visited the Instituto Oncologico Nacional (ION), the largest cancer facility in Panama and one of only two radiation sites in the country. ION is an essential hospital for cancer care in Panama, and the only one where people without social security or from rural parts of Panama can go for cancer treatment. The hospital is underfunded and doctors are overworked. Cancer patients often have to wait months for care, and supplies to combat side effects are limited. Panama faces an imminent crisis similar to that which exists for cancer care in many developing countries. Panama has a recorded cancer incidence of 4,600 cases per year and the mortality rate from cancer is 2,982 per year. Cancer currently kills more people than any other disease in Panama.

Jeans Cream at ION

ION andamp; Radiating Hope staff with donated tubes of Jeans Cream

Radiating Hope, with the help of Jeans Cream, was able to donate and deliver medical supplies, such as brachytherapy equipment and skin care products. Jeans Cream donated many tubes of skin products which were received with wide open arms and much appreciation.

All the best,

Brandon

President Radiating Hope

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Help for Radiation Side Effects Available at Hurley Medical Center

Cancer patients at the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan can now conveniently purchase Jeans Cream at the Lobby Gift Shop to help their skin cope with radiation side effects. At Hurley Medical CenterHurley, they combine state-of-the-art treatment efforts with educational and support services to achieve faster recovery rates and positive long-term outcomes. Their team of trained oncology specialists is involved in every aspect of screening, diagnosis, treatment, recovery and rehabilitation. Their board-certified physicians and nurses certified by the Oncology Nursing Society develop individual, comprehensive treatment plans for each patient.

Hurley’s cancer program has received continuous approval from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons (ACoS) since 1956 and meets the qualifications for a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program. This means that Hurley accessions over 650 newly diagnosed cancer cases each year and in addition to having board-certified experts on staff, the Center provides a full range of diagnostic and treatment services that are available on site or by referral. The Center is also required to participate in clinical research.

From helping patients receive the best treatments for their situation, to helping them cope with chemotherapy and radiation side effects, Hurley makes cancer care a priority.  Visit the Hurley Medical Center on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

E’s Giuliana Rancic To Cope with Radiation Side Effects

E! News anchor, Giuliana Rancic Giuliana Rancicwill be going through what so many of us have experienced: radiation side effects. She recently learned that she has Stage I breast cancer thanks to a mandatory screening prior to undergoing IVF treatment.

Treatment for breast cancer is determined according to a number of different factors, including tumor size, cancer type, the speed with which the cancer is growing, how far it’s spread, the woman’s age and general health, whether she’s had breast cancer before, etc. In Giuliana’s case, her doctors and health care team have determined that her treatment protocol will involve surgery and radiotherapy.

Most people who undergo a lumpectomy will experience a recovery time ranging from one day to two weeks. In most cases, radiation therapy causes radiation side effects such as skin redness and burning, fatigue, and nausea. Giuliana can support her skin by using a good cream, avoiding irritating clothing, and staying out of the sun.

Another thing that can help women recover from a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is a good support system. Fortunately for Giuliana, her husband Bill Rancic has been extremely supportive.

“Bill is unbelievable,” Giuliana said. “He lets me cry when I want to cry, he doesn’t say, ‘Hey, look at that person who’s worse off than you are.’ He just lets me feel what I’m feeling.”

So with a few months of medical care, including surgery and radiation side effects, ahead of her, how does Giuliana feel about continuing her IVF treatment?

She has said, “I’m not gonna give up, I want that baby. And what’s amazing is that baby will have saved my life…Now I truly believe that God was looking out for me. Had I gotten pregnant [earlier], a few years down the line I could be a lot sicker.”

We are grateful to see that another woman has caught breast cancer early and are reminded of how important it is for all of us as adult women to be proactive about our health. Staying on top of diagnostic testing is so important in being able to nip cancer as early as possible so that we can live our lives to the fullest for many years to come.

Our prayers go out to Giuliana and Bill, and to every other woman who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. May your journey be grace-filled and may you have all the support and resources you need.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sean Swarner: The First Cancer Survivor To Climb the Highest Peaks of All Seven Continents

Sean Swarner did more than beat cancer. At age 13, he was diagnosed in what is generally the final stage of Hodgkin’s Sean Swarnerdisease, and doctors gave him three months to live. Sean overcame his illness only to be diagnosed with cancer a second time when a golf ball-sized tumor was found in his right lung. After the Askin’s tumor was removed, Sean was expected to live for less than two weeks. BUT a decade later, with only partial use of his lungs, Sean became famous for being the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest.

Here is his story:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Enter Our FREE Giveaway of Queasy Pops for Radiation Side Effects!

One of the most common chemotherapy or radiation side effects is nausea, and everyone discovers what works best for queasy popshelping them to ease theirs. Many experts recommend that patients suck on hard candy, which is why Queasy Pops and Queasy Drops are such a great way to find relief. Developed by healthcare professionals, Queasy Pops are all natural, drug free, and use a special formulation of essential oils and aromatherapy to stimulate the trigeminal nerve, a cranial nerve associated with nausea relief. They are also wonderful for helping with dry mouth and can give a nice energy boost.Queasy Pops come in seven flavors: peppermint, cinnamon, sour lemon, papaya, ginger, sour raspberry and green tea with lemon.

Lucky for us! As a special for the Jeans Cream community, Three Lollies, the maker of Queasy Pops, is offering two free boxes of Queasy Pops to two winners of our giveaway. Just leave a comment by 6pm on Wednesday, September 28 and tell us why you (or one of your friends) would love to try Queasy Pops, and we’ll enter you in the drawing to win.


Some technical details…
1. Only one entry will count.
2. Giveaway is open to legal residents of the continental United States who are at least 18 years of age.
3. The winner will be selected at random and notified via email.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mom’s Cancer Comic Strip by Brian Fies

When Brian Fies’ mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, he created a comic strip about their experience. Here is one of our favorite vignettes:

Superpowers by Brian Fies

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why It’s Not Just Hair

GUEST POST BY MICHELLE YOUNG FROM 4WOMEN.COM

Susan Beausang

Susan Beausang, Founder 4Women.com andamp; the BeauBeau

It’s on the calendar – date, time and place, an appointment you never imagined yourself having to keep, an appointment you never wanted, an appointment you wouldn’t dare miss.  It will be your first chemo treatment.  It is still a couple weeks away, which means you have plenty of time to imagine what it will be.  If you are at all like me, you might find yourself imagining every shade of worst-case scenario.  While we may not have much choice about keeping that appointment on the calendar, we do have choices when it comes to the thoughts we choose and the actions we take.  Ideally, our goal is to not just cope with the reality of cancer, but to turn our anticipation, reluctance, and fear into a determination to imagine and create our own best-case scenarios.

Cancer throws us into the “present tense of crisis”1 in the same way that a hurricane or tornado does.  Just as anticipation of a hurricane stirs us to take actions to protect ourselves from the worst forces of the storm, so can anticipation of cancer treatment and its potential side effects propel us into actions intended to empower us to not just cope, but to thrive.  A positive self-image coupled with a strong sense of self-love help fuel our motivation to seek out that which feeds and nourishes our bodies and our souls.  A cancer diagnosis can catapult our relationship with our bodies and with ourselves into the wind as we suddenly feel like an entirely different person from the person we were pre-diagnosis.  We want desperately to hold onto our self-identity and our sense of “normal,” but the sometimes drastic changes in our physical bodies and appearance that result from cancer treatment can leave us feeling robbed of ourselves and utterly disempowered.

We are not vain for caring.  Appearance changes can significantly impact our perceived quality of life during cancer treatment.  Some women find that though they feel generally well, one glance in the mirror sends a sharp reminder that they are “sick,” posing a major visual obstacle to self-identifying as “well.”  In the words of one respondent to a 4Women.com survey, “Hair loss branded me as a cancer patient and ‘different’ when I desperately wanted to hold on to the normal parts of my life.”

That is why it is not just hair.  Without hair, we feel stripped of our identity and in the context of cancer, it often feels like we are systematically being stripped of ourselves.  We have every right to want to feel good about ourselves because at no time is such love of self more important than when fighting cancer.

The BeauBeau

Woman wearing the BeauBeau

By taking proactive steps to determine our appearance without hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, we can boost our self-confidence and reduce that sense of “present tense crisis.”  By regaining even a small sense of control over those factors we can control (such as outward appearance), our burden lightens and we gain both strength and motivation to take other day-to-day actions aimed at improving our overall quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

For specific tips for turning your hair loss anxiety into self-empowerment and creating your own best-case scenarios, visit 4Women.com’s blog.  The tips appearing there were all provided by women who anonymously responded to 4Women.com’s survey exploring anticipatory coping strategies among women who lose or are likely to lose their hair during chemotherapy treatment.  Their tips remind us that we are not alone on this path.

1Chemobabe blog 6/24/11 post titled “Shifting Time”

4women.com is a wonderful resource for those going through hair loss due to chemotherapy side effects and other conditions. They have a community blog with tips and stories of others experiencing Alopecia, and they sell the popular BeauBeau, a fun, stylish, comfortable head scarf that comes in more than 350 different fabrics (featured in the photos above). Click here to visit their site!