Elissa Bantug

Elissa Bantug

Five weeks into radiation, I decided that the hair on my legs had become so long that an intervention was necessary.  Going somewhere to have my legs waxed was too overwhelming in my current state, and cutting myself while shaving seemed like a small risk, as I’d internalized my doctors’ advice about the compromised nature of my immune system.  I enlisted my sister to help; although neither of us had ever done anything like this before, we decided the best thing would be an at-home waxing party…This very quickly became one of those situations where the task at hand seemed like a good idea in principle but turned out to be a very, very bad idea.  The wax was either too hot or not hot enough, we put the strips on backwards, and we had only minimal results.  Wax went everywhere; we made a huge mess; and ended up in nothing but our t-shirts in fits of hysterical laughter on the kitchen floor.  We managed to sort-of passably wax a small piece of my shin before I had to throw in the towel and retreat to my room for a nap. 

My fatigue hit an all time low towards the last week of treatment.  During this time, I had one burst of energy—a precious state of mind and body that had felt on hiatus for many weeks—and I decided that I needed to go grocery shopping. 

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It’s the time of year when we think about New Year’s resolutions…typical ones might include losing weight, spending more time with family, quit smoking.   But our Cancer Center nurses have given new meaning to the New Year’s theme – their recent trip to Guatemala to give their time and talents to help people build a new life, is something we can all admire.

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The Top Ten of 10

As we look ahead to a 2011 filled with new cancer discoveries, let’s take a moment to revisit the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center’s top advances of 2010:

#1:  Personalized Cancer Medicine Becomes a Reality

World renowned investigator Bert Vogelstein, M.D., and team pioneered the science that has led to personalized therapies for cancer patients. Within the next few years all cancer patients at the Kimmel Cancer Center will have their tumors analyzed to reveal a unique genetic “fingerprint” that represents the combination of genetic and epigenetic alterations specific to their cancer.  Targeting these alterations, say the scientists, will improve treatments outcomes, thwart cancers before they develop, and speed new cancer drug discoveries.

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Three stories top the list of major developments in cancer research during the past month.  Listen to these topics discussed in the most recent Cancer News Review podcast.

First, to treat or not to treat is the question for low-risk prostate cancer.  Whether to give aggressive treatments for low-risk cancer contained within the prostate is a controversy that many experts in the field still debate. Prostate cancer expert and Kimmel Cancer Center director William Nelson reviews a study analyzing how treatment decisions for these cancers are made and how quality of life expectations are communicated.  He says the current problem is that screening, which has helped decrease mortality from prostate cancer, has identified some men who could live their entire lives with prostate cancer but die of other causes.  He believes there are certain groups of men who should consider active surveillance programs to carefully monitor low-risk, organ-confined prostate cancer.

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I got into this business 25 years ago, when my husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.  I was a newlywed, and at 22-years-old, I faced the prospect of being a widow.  The evening we learned the shocking news, I remember leaving the hospital to return home. I was numb with fear.  I went into our bedroom and picked up the T-shirt he had casually dropped on the bed before we left for what we believed would be a brief doctor’s visit.  I didn’t expect to be returning to our home alone. I pressed the shirt to my face and breathed in his scent and sobbed uncontrollably.

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Louise Knight

Louise Knight, MSW, LCSW-C, OSW-C

You may be confused by the list of letters after the word Medicare.  A, B, C, D...  Who can keep them straight?  There is a web page that can give the answers.  It is www.medicare.gov.

Let's Talk D:  Let me give you the important Medicare D news for 2011.    I am going to start with the letter D and the reason is:  the deadline to apply ends soon.

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What makes an outstanding cancer center?  How can patients and referring physicians determine which is best?

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In Kimmel Cancer Center director Bill Nelson's podcast, top stories included studies on pancreatic, colon and kidney cancer.

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As an avid runner, I participate in many races each year.  I enter these for many reasons. I love to run, it’s a challenge, and sometimes it’s for a good cause. At the beginning of each race, I like to look around at the starting line at the wide range of people running the event.  Each participant is running for a different reason. For some, it’s a personal goal, a hobby, or even a response to a challenge.  For many, the race has a special meaning -- it could be in honor or memory of a loved one, in support of a friend or family member, or to simply celebrate life.

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When you are facing potentially life-changing treatment or surgery for cancer, you may want to have several opinions from the best surgeons, the most experienced oncologists, and top experts in radiation therapy, right?  Well, there's another expert whose double-checking may be worth your while -- the pathologist. 

Continue reading “Know Thy Pathologist” »

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