Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This blog began innocently enough, but turned out to be one of the most difficult I’ve ever written.  I’ve said before that cancer affects you in ways you just don’t see coming.  Remission is very similar.  When your cancer is active, it completely takes over your life.  It directs your every thought – waking and sleeping.  It fills your weekly planner with labs, treatments, Dr. appointments, scans.  It even dictates your outlook on life – on a minute to minute basis. Your daily activities revolve around how your weakened body feels that day – do I have an appetite? do I have any energy to do anything?
Then one day, suddenly and thankfully, you find yourself with nowhere that you have to be. Your clean, blank calendar stretches out before you – no scheduled labs for a month, a returning appetite, returning hair, a slowly rising energy level, very few restrictions, and you honestly don’t know what to do with yourself.  I know, it sounds absolutely ludicrous.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I thank God every minute of every day that I made it to remission, but I still feel sort of lost.  I’ve actually made it into remission three times now, so you would think I’d be used to it. I have gotten better at handling it – but now I think I’ve gone overboard.  I’ve started a few lengthy, involved projects that were probably better left alone.  Now I’m stressful and overwhelmed every time I look at the pile of “stuff” I’m not getting done.  But that’s another story for another day!

While I was thinking about my feelings and about putting them down on paper, I decided to look up the word remission.  “Remission” is classified as a “period of time when the cancer is responding to treatment or is under control. In a complete cancer remission, all the signs and symptoms of the disease disappear.”  As a rule, remission does not mean “cure.”  It can, but it usually doesn’t.  A cancer cannot be cured without a remission; however, a remission does not always ensure that the cancer has been totally eliminated.  

I went a little further onto some other websites that looked reliable.  I thought I’d do a little research on how others handle it.  BIG MISTAKE!  Remember how I warned you a few months ago about using caution and common sense when reading about medical issues online.  You don’t always know where the information is coming from – possibly from someone’s warped sense of humor or from a person trying to further his/her absurd agenda.  I came across an article that looked promising.  I printed 8 pages and sat down with a glass of wine to read them.  Honest to God, I was depressed for 3 days over what I read.  No joke!  I finally had to shake myself and remind my distressed psyche that this was only one person’s opinion.  He/she definitely had an agenda – not to mention a huge chip on his/her shoulder, and probably a few ongoing litigations against Oncologists.

Since it’s not my goal to depress you or anyone, I’ll just give you a few lines from these 8 pages.  Be aware that the rest was much, much worse – but I think you’ll get the idea.
  • When a cancer patient is put into “remission” there is always the concern the cancer will come back.  This is called regression.  For some types of cancer, the regression rate for orthodox medicine is nearly 100%.  In fact, in most cases when the doctor says the patient is in remission, he or she knows they did not get it all and that the cancer will come back.  It is a business tactic to keep the patient loyal to their oncologist. 

  • Regardless of what causes a person to get cancer, orthodox cancer treatments proceed to totally dismantle any remaining remnant of the patient’s immune system.  The patient may have started with a weak immune system when they were diagnosed, but the more treatments they have, their immune system just gets weaker and weaker.  Thus, the cancer patient has virtually zero immune system by the time their doctors say they’re in “remission” and are sent home to die.
  • Not only does a cancer patient in remission have a vastly weakened immune system, but any cancer cells which form will automatically have no enemy to get rid of them.
  • The patient who is in “remission” is frequently told that they should stay on chemotherapy for life.  This is because chemo can never kill ALL the cancer cells and chemo can never restore the immune system.  What a highly profitable tactic!!  The ultimate goal of orthodox medicine is to have a world full of people who are on chemo for life.  This is exactly how to turn cancer into a chronic disease, in the rare cases where the cancer patient lived long enough to go into remission.  
The article ended by attempting to sell cancer patients – especially those lucky “few who actually make it to remission" – a product which promises to replace missing and damaged cells, rebuild the digestive tract, kill dangerous microbes in the bloodstream, and probably grow hair and cure nail fungus.  

I’m sure you’re wondering why I continued to read this drivel.  Because I’m an eternal optimist and I kept thinking something worthwhile would come out of it.  I actually did stop when they began to discuss “coffee enemas.”  Stupid, stupid me!  If you come across something like this, please don’t waste your time or upset yourself.  Learn from my mistakes and hit the delete button.  
This entire episode reminded me of the time I received a turquoise ribbon pin, representing support for Ovarian Cancer patients.  It was attached to a card with some statistics on the back.  I hadn’t really read the card until a few months after my diagnosis and surgery.  You have to remember that this was during the time when I couldn’t watch doctor shows, anything with blood or sickness, and I didn’t want to read anything about PPO – Primary Peritoneal Ovarian Cancer.  Imagine that – me, the Clinical Researcher – afraid to research my own disease.  So, this particular day I was feeling a little braver and more optimistic about my situation.  Things were going well, I was beginning to heal, the chemo drugs seemed to be working – and I read the card.  It informed me that “most women are diagnosed when the chance of survival for 5 years is about 30%.”  Even though I knew my odds, I really didn’t want to see it in black and white.  I’m currently into my 5th year and feeling wonderful.  I intend to beat these odds, too!

Even though I knew this article was written by a gypsy-born, snake oil salesman, it still hit that soft spot deep inside.  The one that knows we’re all going to die, but is afraid to leave the party first!    

SURVIVAL TIP FOR TODAY:  Don’t waste your life reading depressing nonsense – there’s enough of that on the nightly news.  Put articles full of gibberish into the round file – that’s where mine went!

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I watched a show the other night called Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C).  It was carried on the four major networks, commercial free, so I’m sure a lot of you saw it also.  I know I’ve seen parts of other year’s shows, but I must not have paid much attention.  This time I did and became intrigued with their scope and mission.  They were founded May 27, 2008 - ironically within the same time frame as my PPO (primary peritoneal ovarian) cancer diagnosis.   This is the way their statistics are listed on their website:

Founded: May 27, 2008
Funds pledged since inception: $180 Million
Research grant commitments awarded to date: $109 Million for 33 grants
Number of scientists funded: 350
Number of institutions joining in SU2C's collaborative mission: 60
Number of people in the U.S. who were diagnosed with cancer today: 4,490
Time to fix the problem: now

Started by a group of women whose lives had all been affected by cancer in profound ways, they began working together to marshal the resources of the media and entertainment industries in the fight against this nightmare disease.  SU2C is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  Its primary goal is to raise funds to hasten the pace of groundbreaking translational research and accelerate the delivery of new therapies to patients by getting them from the “bench to the bedside” as quickly as possible.  SU2C brings together scientists from different disciplines across various institutions to work collaboratively, rather than competitively. 

The Executive Leadership Council as well as the Production staff is filled with household names such as Katie Couric and Gwyneth Paltrow, both of whom have very personal connections with this vile disease. 
“This recent program honored all those who’ve been lost to the disease, emboldened those brave survivors among us to continue fighting, and highlighted SU2C’s remarkable progress in cancer research.  The results are tangible, and the potential for breakthroughs in the coming years is very exciting.” Gwyneth Paltrow. 
“Stand Up To Cancer is a true force in advancing innovative cancer research, powered by the generosity and passion of millions of people who want to see this disease finally brought to its knees.  Together, we are helping some of the world’s best scientists make meaningful progress” Katie Couric. 

Watching so many big names from the entertainment community come out and rally around this cause was very moving to me.  I didn’t know that Major League Baseball is a founding donor of SU2C and, together with its thirty Clubs, has committed more than $30 million to the initiative to date.  I didn’t know that 100% of the public’s donations go directly to cancer research.  I’ve watched many telethons in my life, but this seemed more real, more personal, more critical – probably because I have more vested in the outcome.   The biggest stars of the show actually weren’t the Big Stars, as such, but rather the scientists who work so hard to defeat cancer and the brave patients who fight it every day. 

During the broadcast, patients shared their powerful stories and demonstrated the real impact of SU2C-funded research.  One former police officer spoke of multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and finally a clinical trial conducted by the SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team.  Epigenetic Therapy silences the bad genes in order to jump start the good ones, and produces a “priming effect,” enhancing the potential effectiveness of subsequent treatments.  His tumors shrank dramatically. 

Another gentleman had been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer which wasn’t responding to standard treatments.  He was concerned about participating in clinical trials – insurance coverage – lots of trips to the facility – possible serious side effects.  He eventually participated in several trials and was there to Stand Up To Cancer.  He said that he would like to think that, in his own small way, he’s helping to ensure that his children and their children’s children will live in a better, healthier world. 

Another mother wrote a Thank You Letter to the scientists who saved her son’s life.  He had been diagnosed with Nephroblastoma.  She said that she felt “privileged that God gave us the opportunity to see the world in a much different way.  Many people will never know how strong they really are, how deep their faith really is, or how much kindness and generosity surround them on a daily basis.  Our situation gave us that unique and beautiful perspective on life that is stronger and more powerful than any cancer or disease on earth.” 

Every day, cancer kills 1,600 Americans – one person every minute.  SU2C was founded on the belief that we are at a pivotal juncture with the potential for transformative progress in cancer research because of two trends: breakthroughs made in our understanding of the basic science of cancer, and technological advances that enable us to translate them into new treatments. 

Collectively, the research underway through the SU2C Dream Team projects has the potential to impact the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers in adults and children across ethnicities including pancreatic, breast, ovarian, skin, cervical, uterine, brain, lung, prostate, rectal and colon, melanoma, leukemia and lymphoma, all of which represent approximately two-thirds of all U.S. cancer deaths.  Currently, the following seven Dream Teams have been supported by SU2C funding: Epigenetics Dream Team, Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team, P13K Pathway Dream Team, Breast Cancer Dream Team, Circulating Tumor Cell Chip Dream Team, MRA Melanoma Dream Team, PCF Prostate Dream Team.   In addition to soon issuing the call for ideas for an SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Foundation joint Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, SU2C and the Cancer Research Institute will announce the selection of an SU2C-CRI Dream Team focused on cancer immunology in the near future.

This is like a Star Wars movie – and SU2C is the new Force!
Remember “Do Not Underestimate the Power of the Force”; and the classic “Use the Force for Good!”  May the Force find the cure for us all!

I’m excited about the goal, I’m fascinated about the science, I’m inspired by the survivors, and I’m hopeful – VERY HOPEFUL – for the future!  Please God we will see the end to this despicable, cowardly beast in our lifetime or at least in our children’s lifetime.  While we watch and wait and pray, I will thank God for people like these who use their God-given gifts to help others and be the hands and the voice for all of us who fight every day for our very lives.

SURVIVAL TIP FOR TODAY:  Pray for the scientists and the people working for a cure.  They are our hope!  May the Force be with them!