Thursday, January 25, 2007Cancer Stories: Sheelaugh's Dad
This is an email I received from Sheelaugh, who last her dad in September. She gave me permission to post this and share her dad's story with you.~oOo~
Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. I have just learned of it today.
My father passed away on Sept. 26, 2006 (aged 67) after a 2 year battle with Lung cancer. While he was a smoker, he was also a millwright and shipwright. As a youth, he worked in coal mines, factories with tire black, and a number of other heavy industry related positions long before face masks and safety equipment were the norm. While it is most likely that his smoking caused his cancer, the doctors could never rule out his past work history as a strong contributing factor.
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 7:53 AM :: 1 people are more aware ---------------------------------------
Thursday, January 18, 2007Cancer Stories: Christa and her Mom
Christa from Awful Souls is sharing the story of both her mom and herself.
She sent this in a few days ago, but I have had a bit of a cold and didn't post it until today, so I want to say sorry to her. If you have a story to share, please feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org for submission. - Lynda~oOo~A lot of people know about cancer, but a lot of them are too scared to actually talk about it. There's even grown up people out there who believe it's contagious, which is crazy. So there's still a lot of ignorance going on.
My story is long and spans over two generations. First out was my mom.
She was one of these happy creatures that could spread a smile in a wink. She always had something good to say about everyone and she was not a smoker either. However, she was a passive smoker. Dad was puffing away around us all for as long as I can remember.
Anyway...my mom's cancer began with breast cancer. They thought they found it in an early stage and she went through both surgery, chemo and radiation. This was between 1975 and 1977, but I believe that the odds are about the same today when it comes to survival. She was doing good after the surgery and the treatment was done and over with, and we all took a deep breath and we were glad it was over.
Then, about a year later, in 1976, she got this stubborn cold that wouldn't go. Her cough was getting worse and worse, and she was complaining about a pain in her right side, just under the ribcage. Dad finally got her to the docs again when the cough was so dry and so intense that she could barely breathe. And it didn't take long before she was diagnosed with bone cancer.
I didn't see her at all during the last 3 months. Dad wanted us to remember her the way she was, which is something I'm very thankful for today. She passed away on August 16, 1977. The autopsy later showed that her whole body was full of tumors and that her cancer had started in her brain. So the breast cancer wasn't the first physical place where it settled down, even if that was the place where it showed first.
That was my first experience with cancer and I was 13 years old when we lost her.
All the way throughout my teens I was scared to death to get cancer myself, but by the time I was in the end of my 20's and had my own family since years back, I'd forgotten all about it.
So when I had what seemed to be a stomache flu, it didn't bother me more than it done before. It really didn't ring a bell anywhere. I ended up at the ER with my flu however, and that was my lucky star I guess. The stomache ache I had made them set up an emergency appointment with the gynecologist since it was impossible to say what was really wrong.
The day after I was up in that horrible chair and they did an ultrasound scan. What they found was a simple inflamation in the tubes, but bad enough to require surgery. I already had a son, so the loss of the tubes was not a big deal at the time. That it would literally save my life, I had no idea about at the time.
So I went in to take the tubes away. It was a laparoscopic procedure and I was back home and back to work within a couple of days. And everything went just fine.
A couple of days after I arrived home, I had a message on my answering machine when I came from work late on night. It was the surgeon who took out both my tubes that wanted me to call back no matter how late it was. Just that in itself scared the poop out of me, but I had to make that phonecall.
When I talked to him, he told me that they've done some tests when they took out the tubes. The tests were routine and nothing strange at all. It was just that mine were not good. So while I was still catching my breath, watching my 13 year old son sitting in front of the TV set, this guy told me over the phone that I had an aggressive form of cervical cancer and that they wanted me to show up on Friday to discuss this. A bed at the ward was already available for me and I was planned on getting admitted the following Monday.
This was Wednesday and after that phonecall I was completely numb for days.
I had my best friend coming with me to that meeting on Friday, and I got the picture pretty clear of what was going to happen and why. The tumor was located very close to the back of my spine and it was growing very fast. They would do a radical hysterectomy, which in practise meant that they would remove the cervix, uterus and also the upper part of the vagina and the tissues around the cervix. The pelvic lymph glands was to be removed since the cancer could spread to these glands. It was a big surgery that took nearly 8 hours and 2 teams of 4 surgeons each to do. And it became a bit bigger than expected. They removed more glands than they first thought they would and the appendix went as well...but they left the ovaries since they were not affected at all. The ovaries were moved up in level with the hipbones however, just for the sake of eventual radiation later.
I never had to go through any chemo or radiation. And I was damn lucky. Just before the hysterectomy, I asked the doc how long he would give me if I didn't go through with it, and he gave me a qualified guess that limited the rest of my life to about 2 weeks. That time frame and how close it had been didn't hit me until months later while I was still in remission.
There is a lot of emotional bits and pieces in surviving cancer that is very difficult to both explain and handle at the time. I guess you could say that it's changes a lot. Especially the view on life around us. And that is something that most cancer survivors have in common. I was trying to find a reason why I was still alive and not my mom. Silly things like that. Didn't feel guilty for surviving, but a purpose for still being here would've been nice at the time.
The cancer that I had you can get a shot for today, which is amazing. I just hope that it will save some lives in the future.
I was young when this hit me, only 31. This spring I will be 43 and so far so good. I will be in the same age as my mom was when she passed away in about a year, and for some reason that bugs me. I just hope I will pass that limit in time without any more incidents like this.
The side effects from this hysterectomy have panned out in a chronical pain syndrom on my behalf. I had a lot of nerve damage at the time and later it showed it's ugly face in a burning pain. In the beginning it was skin deep, but today, 12 years later, it's a deep roaring pain that can hit from nowhere. Morphine will take it out, but I'm trying to stay away from it if I can. The hallucinations are too icky to handle on a daily bases. My nervous system is confused and indicates injury even if there isn't anything wrong.
But no matter the pain that followed this, I'm still very happy to be alive. And I'm aware of how darn lucky I was back then.
What I would like to change in awareness around cancer is the fear. Yes, it can be scary as hell...and yes, sometimes it goes very wrong. And cancer usually don't see the difference between people and people, what age you're in or how much money you have. We're playing Russian Roulette every day when we leave for work, or sometimes just by leaving bed. I find life very precious these days, but death doesn't scare me either. I've made peace with both of them.
And maybe most important of all - I don't take life for granted anymore. And no one should. Enjoy it while you can. The amount of control we have over our own lives is nothing but an illusion.
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 11:51 AM :: 2 people are more aware ---------------------------------------
Thursday, January 11, 2007Cancer Stories: Miki's Husband
Tonight's story is from Miki, at Thoughts of a Rambling Miki. I read Miki's blog quite a bit when her husband was going through treatment, and I am happy that he is doing well now. Please read and give your her your support. If you have a story, please send to email@example.com.~oOo~I thought I would give you my story about cancer, not lung cancer, but cancer, Multiple Myeloma in fact.
First let me say that the past year and a half has been a learning experience for my
family. My husband and myself know more about chemo drugs, stem cell transplants etc. than we have ever wanted to know in our lifetime. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. It affects bone marrow, and is incurable. If caught, it is treatable, but at present, there is no cure.
My husband was diagnosed on August 9, 2005. His bone marrow was 90% compromised with Myeloma cells. He was 39 years old. The doctor that we were refered to by our family doctor was aggressive and caring. He started treatment that day, with a medication called Zometa. Zometa's function is to keep the calcium in the bones, not to let it leach into the bloodstream. The following day, he started Chemotherapy. Some of the drugs used were Velcade, Dioxin, Cytoxin, with some Benedryl for allergies, normal saline, and a few others that I just can't remember without referencing my spiral notebook. The Doctor's staff, he has a chemo lab right in both of his offices, are wonderful people. They were caring, would talk to you as a human, efficient, and always took care of him in a timely fashion. He was referred to St. Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, in Manhattan, NY, by the hematologist here, at home. We live in the middle of Long Island, NY, so to get to NYC it wasn't too much of a stretch. OH, wait, I digress...It was discovered that my husband had lesions(tumors) sticking out of two places in his spine, the hope was that the chemo would kill these, and make them shrink, along with the cancer cells in his marrow. He also had a lesion that had eaten a hole in his left hip.
75% of the bone was gone and it could have shattered in no time at all.
He was lucky with that one. The doc refered him to an orthapeadist here
on the island, within a month of diagnosis. The doc here wanted all
chemo and steroid treatment to stop immediately so that the hip could be
operated on, that wasn't the plan that the hematologist had in mind, and we
told the doc that. He refered us to someone at NYU whom he went to
school with, what a great thing he did there. This doc at NYU was an
orthopeadic oncologist. His nurse practicioner has LYmphoma, which
closely mirrors MM. This doc sent my husband to have a brace made, so
that he had an outer shell to protect the hip. At the time he was using
crutches, and had to continue to use them along with the brace. He wanted the
MM semi controlled before we would do an operation. Durring all of this
mess, my husband was refered to a DR Jagganath, at St Vincent's. Dr J is
world renowned in MM research, and in some circles is known as "The King" of
Myeloma. He had bbeen on board the whole time, our doc was
checking the treatment plan with him all along.
We went to see him in September, and continued treatment at home. By Feb. my husband was ready to "harvest" stem cells. By March, he went into the hospital to have a stem cell transplant, using cells harvested from him. By July, we had the results, he was in a partial remission. His marrow was 15% compromised, but that meant that the transplant, as far as the National Transplant Registry, was a failure. The good thing here was that the doctors didn't really consider it a failure. The gave us 4 more options to bring the counts down further:
1. do nothing and see how it goes2. go on maintenence meds to keep it stable
3. a donor transplant
4. another (tandem) transplant using my husband's cells
We opted for the 4th choice. The 3rd choice would have been a "cure" but the risk to him would have been too much. He needed a relative who would match him, he had a 20% mortality rate, that is him, not the donor, and his recovery and immunity would be compromised for a longer period of time.
He had the tandem transplant in October. He came home from the hospital on a monday and went back to work on a wednesday. So far, he had a head cold, and that cough that is going around. He is tired when he gets home from work, but he feels good.
We go at the end of the month for his evaluation, to see if the transplant "worked."
The doctors will be happy if the myeloma count is down to 10% or lower, and he will still have to go on maintenence meds, probably for life. But, if it means that the disease stays in remission for another 10 years with no chemo or anything worse, then we will take the meds, pay the astronomical cost and live.
These are the symptoms of MM:
My husband would not have known that he had MM if he didn't have to take a physical for his job that involved blood work. Get physicals often, get blood work often, that is my advice. If caught early, you can LIVE with MM.
- Bone pain (which my husband didn't have)
- pain is usually extreme, to the point that it never goes away.
- high calcium levels in the blood
It affects men and women. It is twice as likely to affect African American men, and at an earlier age. My husband is caucasin(I know that is spelled wrong) but he was affected at 39.
Just get routine blood work.
It has no known cause, it isn't yet determined that it is absolutely heriditary. So it can affect one or more members of the same family, who knows??
There is a research foundation for it and many new advances have been made in the area of MM.
Their websiteis: http://www.multiplemyeloma.org/
thanks for letting me share my story, it helps to get it out there!
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 7:26 PM :: 2 people are more aware ---------------------------------------
Wednesday, January 10, 2007Cancer Stories: Zed's Sister, Carole
Today's story is from Zed at The World According to Zed. I am not sure how I found Zed's blog, (in fact, I think she found me) but I know we immediately shared our connection of how we lost our sisters to cancer.~oOo~I lost my sister Carole, a photographer, artist, sculptor, author, and international traveler in August 2004 to breast cancer. She was a long-time survivor, but in January 2004 NOTHING worked to lengthened her life any longer, and we began the long, slow march toward her death.
Doctors insisted she still try various treatments, thinking perhaps something would suddenly work. But nothing did and she just became sicker and sicker. At a birthday party I threw for her in early 2004, she looked terribly ill and ashen, and she could barely stay awake.
By May she courageously refused any further treatment and choose to spend of the rest of her life without any form of chemotherapy or radiation. She wanted to try to maintain a certain quality of life with dignity and grace.
In the next two months, literally hundreds of friends and family came to say goodbye to her, and she always had a smile for everyone who came to visit. In the first days of August she weakened considerably; before she slipped into a coma, she squeezed my hand, gave me a slight wave, and said "I love you." Then she lost consciousness forever, and died the next morning at 6. My strong, loving older sister and rock was gone. She was such a good friend to me ...
The lack of a cure after all these years and all the billions and billions of dollars that have been donated is frustrating and makes me very angry. Carole should have not have died of cancer. NO ONE should have to die of cancer. It needs to stop now.
I pray a cure comes quickly.
The World According to Zed
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 7:42 PM :: 0 people are more aware ---------------------------------------
Tuesday, January 09, 2007Cancer Stories: Sudiegirl's Dad
Our first post is from Sudiegirl at Musings of a Chick. Please visit her website for the live version of Joe Jackson's "Cancer". Thank you for sharing, Sudiegirl!~oOo~
Original Post Title: Today's Moment of Dad: "Dad's trip to Cancer World"Today's Moment of Dad entry is entitled "Dad's Trip to Cancer World".
If you hit play on the MP3 player posted above, I've selected the live version of Joe Jackson's "Cancer". It is a rather macabre selection, but sometimes gallows humor is what gets you through the day. I think Dad would have agreed with me if he'd gotten a chance to read the lyrics.
Dad was no stranger to infirmity. He saw his father work his way through heart problems. One of his nephews succumbed to cystic fibrosis. My sister's asthma, my mother's miscarriages, my bipolar disorder, and many other things in addition to the usual aches and pains - he dealt with it the best he could. We never felt we lacked for support...he wasn't squeamish about illness.
He had his own problems too...Graves' Disease, back problems, plus the usual cold/flu stuff.
In late November/early December of 1998, Ed H. and I were snug in our beds, snoozing away with our cat Scotchie draped over both of us. At 4 AM on a Saturday morning, Mom called. We lived in a security building, so she had to call us through the speaker phone outside and then we let her in.
Mom looked rumpled and weary. She said that Dad went into the emergency room with breathing problems, and the county hospital did x-rays and saw a collapsed lung. They rushed him to Mercy Hospital in Iowa City (where I lived), which was more equipped to deal with this kind of thing. Could she take a nap on our couch?
We said, "Oh, my...wow...oh wow...yes, of course you can nap here."
Mom crashed and Ed and I went to bed with greater worries than the first time we entered slumber.
The next day, Ed and I went to see Dad, and even though he was in bed with the hospital gown and everything, he was talkative and happy to see us. The doctors couldn't really run any tests until Monday, but Dad's GP came in to talk to him about what to expect. (BTW, I also had a stress fracture, and had to wear a monster Frankenstein-type cast for about 6 - 8 weeks. Attractive, no?)
I was in training at GEICO back then, and was in the classroom for the second round of it. After work on Monday, I went to the hospital to see Dad. Ed went on ahead of me because we were both anxious for updates.
I arrived at the hospital, and my aunt Martha was there too in addition to Ed. Your favorite bipolar redhead said to herself, "Oh, this can't be good."
And it wasn't.
Right away, Ed came up to me and said, "Your dad's been diagnosed with lung cancer. The doctor isn't sure how long your dad has."
I was...stunned? Oh yeah...that's the right word.
Martha hugged me...I asked if Ruthi already knew and they said yes. I think she had to get home to the kids...I don't remember how everything played out. I remember hugging Mom. I remember calling Ed's mom and telling her the news, and she was sad right along with us. (Ed H., if you're reading this, let me know if there are any details I missed.)
The tears didn't come full force until the next day, in the middle of training. Then they flowed like Niagara. My trainer was so helpful...she and I went to a service supervisor and got permission to leave for the day, so long as I was back tomorrow.
I got to the hospital, and this time Ruthi was there with her three kids. As I've mentioned, those three kids loved John-Grandpa, and John-Grandpa loved them right back. At one point, the nurses came in and found the three C's (as we called them) in bed with Dad, watching TV. It was touching...I don't know if there were pictures taken of that, but if there were, I am going to find a copy come hell or high water. This is my quest...ANYWAY...
Dad started chemo right away (while in the hospital), and got home in time for Christmas. They were renting a house in town on a temporary basis while their home in the country was being rebuilt (it was blown down by a windstorm in the summer of 1998). There is a picture of all of us grouped around Dad, and even though he looked tired, he also looked happy.
Chemo kept on going for Dad through the winter of 1999, and he lost his hair, his appetite, and occasionally, his lunch. (Sad, but true, folks.) The first time I saw him after Christmas was in February of '99. Ed and I were fighting colds, and didn't want Dad to get sick. However, one day, Dad needed us for help because he was unsteady on his feet and Mom was on the mail route and couldn't come home.
When Ed and I stepped into the "town house" to see Dad, it was a shocker. He was thinner (and he didn't have much weight to lose), and he had no hair. He was pale. He looked so small. Even though my dad wasn't a tall guy, he always looked pretty healthy. Not that day...he was still in his pajamas, and looked so weary.
I kept my chin up and did my best, but I did have to leave the room for a few minutes to regroup. I was very thankful that Ed understood the shock I was going through, and he held me for a minute while I cried. Then we went in, fixed Dad some soup, and helped him around the house. I also remember folding laundry for Mom so she wouldn't have to mess with hit when she got home.
Dad only went through one round of chemo, and got checked out by the doctors on a regular basis. He and Mom moved back in to their house in the country, and life continued. He complained about being bald...he even asked Ed H. how he could stand to shave his head? "My head gets cold!" was Dad's complaint.
Many things changed, though. Dad wasn't as impervious as he seemed to be when we were kids, but he kept a good attitude. He didn't hide the fact that he had cancer from people, but he didn't play the sympathy card either. He did the best he could. He was more susceptible to respiratory stuff than the average bear, and when things got too bad, he had his lung drained.
In the summer of 2005, things got bad. He went in for routine surgery to have a drainage tube put in his thoracic cavity. They sent him home earlier than I would have thought they should, but what did I know? I wasn't there. Then things spiraled...staph infection, pneumonia, complications with his heart, etc. I asked Mom if I should come home, and she said "no" because she didn't want Dad to worry. He was in the University Hospital for quite sometime, and he was finally transferred down to Washington County Hospital in August.
After three weeks at the Washington hospital, Dad came home in late August. He had an oxygen tank and he tired easily, but I remember calling him most every day just to say hi and talk to him about stuff and nonsense.
The last time I talked to my father was October 21st, 2005 (a Saturday, I believe...I don't remember the date but I remember the day). He was giving me a description of Mom's Halloween costume...she was dressed up as a bedside table and called herself a "one-night stand". Classic stuff. Doug and I had moved into our new place, and Dad was looking forward to coming to DC for our wedding. We laughed and talked, and we said "I love you" to each other.
By that Tuesday, he went into the hospital for what would be the last time. Mom and Dad knew that things were declining, and were preparing for hospice care. I had just started my job, and was very apprehensive about asking for time off so soon but knew I would need it. Luckily, when I mentioned it, my bosses were most supportive. I had planned to go home on Veterans Day weekend.
However, things moved a little bit more quickly than anticipated. By Thursday, Dad was heavily sedated and made comfortable so nature could take its course. It's what he and Mom wanted, and my sister and I never fought their decision. People came and went to say their last goodbyes. A group of kids that were friends with "the three C's" came to the hospital to say goodbye as well, some with their Halloween costumes on. Family members came as quickly as they could.
Dad passed at 4:45 AM on Friday, October 28, 2005. I missed the initial phone call because we didn't have a cordless phone or a phone in our bedroom, but Ruth left a message to call the hospital right away, so I did. I got Mom that time, and she told me when it happened.
My regret that I couldn't get home in time to see him is something that I will not repeat with my mother, and something that will haunt me to the end of my own life.
I hope Dad knew how much I loved him, even though I couldn't get there to say goodbye. I hope he knows right now.
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 7:50 PM :: 0 people are more aware ---------------------------------------
Monday, January 08, 2007Joel Roux-Neville: Wife of singing legend Aaron Neville dies after battle with cancer
Wife of singing legend Aaron Neville dies after battle with cancer
Jan 5, 2007 09:44 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Joel (joh-EL') Roux-Neville, the wife of R&B singing legend Aaron Neville, died today at her home south of Nashville.
She was 66. Roux-Neville was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and at that time was given three months to live.
She died surrounded by family members.
The high school sweethearts would have celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary on Wednesday.
Aaron Neville issued this statement: "Joel was the love of my life and she had a tremendous courage and spirit. I'm sure God will reward her for her loyalty, good heart and sense of family."
While she never performed with her husband's family, she was a fixture in the New Orleans music scene for decades.
Aaron Neville had returned home shortly before Christmas to be with his wife following a nationwide concert tour.
The couple moved to the Nashville area in 2005 shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated their hometown of New Orleans.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 7:55 PM :: 0 people are more aware ---------------------------------------
LUNGevity Foundation Co-Founder Melissa Zagon: 1967 - 2007
Melissa Zagon: 1967 - 2007
Fought lung cancer on all fronts
After diagnosis, lawyer started group to raise funds, educate
By Trevor Jensen
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 5, 2007
After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Melissa Zagon helped start a group to fund research for a cure and spread awareness that the disease also strikes non-smokers.
The Harvard-educated lawyer died Tuesday, Jan. 2, at Evanston Hospital, her husband said.
Mrs. Zagon, 39, was chairman of the Lungevity Foundation, a group dedicated to funding lung cancer research. While she gamely served as the group's front-woman--a non-smoking young suburban mother fighting a deadly disease--her work also had an understandably self-serving motive.
"She was really looking to find a cure for herself," said her husband, Glenn. "She said that cancer will not get her. She did not want to be a statistic."
Following a summer of headaches, Mrs. Zagon was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2000. She had just started a job at True North Communications after eight years of working in law firms. Her daughter, Hannah, was 2 years old at the time.
Within weeks, she got together with another north suburban woman with lung cancer, Gayle Levy, and with five others launched Lungevity. Levy died in September 2001.
Mrs. Zagon was the group's president through January 2005. As the group's public face, she gave countless speeches and interviews to make people aware of lung cancer's reach, said Jill Feldman, Lungevity's vice president.
"We got media attention because of what she was--a young professional, a mother," Feldman said.
The mission was to let people know that more people die of lung cancer than any other type of cancer and that smoking isn't always the cause. Lungevity has raised more than $3.4 million since its founding, Feldman said. The group works with a number of other fundraising and research organizations, including the American Lung Association.
"She gave face to the issue that anyone can develop lung cancer. You don't have to be a smoker," said Kevin Tynan, deputy executive director of the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago. "She had such a compelling story and was such an eloquent spokesperson."
Born Melissa Lumberg, she grew up in Southfield, Mich., and earned a degree in economics from the University of Michigan in 1989 and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1992, her husband said.
She moved to Chicago and worked for Jenner & Block and then Goldberg Kohn, where she made partner status in 1999. She had taken a job as counsel at True North in the summer of 2000 in an effort to make more time for her family, her husband said.
While smoking is a major cause of lung cancer, Mrs. Zagon wanted to remove the disease's stigma of blame and always told people that it wasn't that important what the underlying causes were. "You just get cancer," Feldman said.
"Everyone always asked her if she smoked," Glenn Zagon said. "The thing that annoyed her was that they assumed she smoked."
In 2001, Mrs. Zagon told the Tribune that "nobody, regardless of whether they smoked, deserves to suffer through lung cancer."
In private moments, she showed the same resolve in battling the disease that she did while stumping for Lungevity, her husband said.
"She never complained about it ... and said `Why me?'" her husband said. "She just fought it."
Mrs. Zagon also is survived by her daughter, Hannah; her parents, Edward and Sherri Lumberg; and a brother, Michael.
Posted by Lynda (Laurianne's Sister) :: 7:36 PM :: 0 people are more aware ---------------------------------------