November is Lung, Pancreatic, Stomach and Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Month. The ribbons that are shown represent each individual cancer. Please honor those loved ones who have passed and support those who are continuing their fight. Look to your local communities to find out how you can help in the fight against cancer. Or visit one of the links below to find out more information. Anything, no matter how big or small, can help make a difference.
Last October I began my monthly posts about cancer awareness. When I sat down to write this month’s entry, I decided that for the next year I would do something different. If you want to read about October being Breast and Liver Awareness Month, click on the link here and it will take you to the post from last year. Or you can click on the archives for October 2015 and it will take you there as well. For the next year, I am going to highlight different cancer organizations that are making great strides in research and how you might help if you are interested. Look for those in the middle of the each month.
I have been working in the cancer field for the last five years and during that time, I have observed things that have filled me with hope and others that have made me sad. I decided to share some of them here:
Cancer does not care if you have been a vegetarian, eaten only organic since birth or exercise everyday. I have seen patients that have lived a healthy lifestyle every day of their life and yet when it comes to cancer, they are fighting just as hard as someone less healthy.
Attitude truly seems to make a difference. I have seen patients that have the most positive, happy attitude deal with their treatment in such a way that they inspire others. To them, this is just another hill to climb. And they seem to make it through with a smile and a hug and they just don’t let it bring them down.
I have heard patients say that they threw away their cancer medication that costs upwards of $150,000 because they don’t want to get treatment anymore, while other patients struggle to come up with money to cover their co-payments for their medication. Often deciding against a certain medication because they just can’t afford it.
I’ve heard of patients who ask the doctor for more pain medication, despite being given a 30 day supply just a few days before, because their grown child or grandchildren have stolen their pain medication. I’ve witnessed a 50 year old son scream at a doctor who wouldn’t prescribe more medication for his mother after he had taken hers and either used it himself or sold it. As for the patients, they deny everything because they don’t want to get their family member in trouble.
I’ve seen insurance companies deny treatment because the plan “isn’t a cure for cancer.” Newsflash, there isn’t a cure for cancer. I’ve watched my doctors argue with the insurance doctors to get authorization and it seems that it is just a big game to the companies. I’ve watched U.S. Veterans wait weeks for the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve their tests or treatment.
But I’ve also seen amazing results in patients who come back for their follow-ups and tell us how wonderful they feel or show off their hair after it has grown back. There are those who bring back vacation pictures to share with us after they had told us during their treatment that once done they were taking the trip they always dreamed of.
And there are those patients who truly are an inspiration, who talk to other patients and help them along their journey despite what they are going through themselves. Should I ever get the diagnosis of cancer I hope that I can be as brave as they are.
The month of September places the focus on many different types of cancer. Included are Childhood, Gynecological, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Ovarian, Thyroid and Prostate cancers.
Childhood Cancer is represented by a gold ribbon. According to CureSearch.org 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day. Twelve percent of those diagnosed will not survive. Many organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation raise money that goes towards children’s cancer research. New treatment options are being developed thanks to the money raised.
Gynecological cancers is represented by a purple ribbon. Included in gynecological cancers is uterine, endometrial, cervical vulva and vaginal and each individual cancer has their own ribbon as well. To see those, click here. Each year 80,000 women are diagnosed with one of the cancers above and 25,000 will lose their battle.
The orchid ribbon represents Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This type of cancer affects your immune system and is found in the lymph nodes throughout your body. Due to improvements in the treatment options, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma had a high rate of survival
The orange ribbon brings awareness to Leukemia, which is a type of cancer that is often found in the blood and bone marrow. Symptoms may include weight loss, bruising and fatigue. Chemotherapy is one of the main forms of treatment.
Lymphoma is represented by a bright green ribbon. It is a disease that starts in the lymph nodes, especially in the neck and under the arms. It also affect your immune system. The survival rate for people who have had lymphoma for 10 years is 59%. Treatment options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and in rare cases stem-cell transplants.
Ovarian cancer is one that does not have many symptoms. Instead, women may have pain in their pelvic area. Fewer that 200,000 cases are diagnosed each year. The main treatment for ovarian cancer is surgery and chemotherapy.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men, but it also has one of the highest success rates and is often considered to be curable. Treatment of prostate cancer is usually done through a combination of surgery and radiation therapy.
For more information on any of the cancers above or if you would like to know how you can show your support, click on the links below:
The month of July brings awareness to Sarcoma Cancer. Do you know where that type of cancer develops? Most people have heard of sarcoma, but have no idea what type of cancer it is. Sarcoma is a cancer that is usually found in tissue, such as muscle, fat, hands and bones. Unusual swelling or soreness in one of these areas can be one of the symptoms of sarcoma. To learn more about sarcoma, click on the links below:
Did you ever have one of those “Ah Ha Moments?” Working with cancer patients, you would think that we would be all about testing to make sure that we are healthy, but as with most of us, we would prefer to bury our heads in the sand and hope that the day never comes where we have to deal with cancer ourselves. At work last week, the hospital set up a table outside of the cafeteria where employees could see if their skin has been damaged by the sun. There was a machine on the table where you placed your face inside and the special lights showed where your face has damage from the sun. They also had brochures that tell your risk for sun damage based upon your hair color, eye color and whether you have freckles or not. And they were giving away free packs of sunscreen, so it was all good. Until you put your face into the machine. And that is when the “Ah Ha” turned into “Oh S@#t!!”
As I was waiting for my turn, I was listening to the nurse describe the damage of the people ahead of me. Several of the men work both inside and outside the buildings, so they were asked if they wear sunscreen when they are outside and none of them said they did when working. They admitted to using sunscreen when boating or fishing. The guy who was blond, had blue eyes and freckles was told that he was at the top of the list for damage from the sun. Listening, I realized that I had two out of three, those being blue eyes and freckles. My brown hair brought me down one notch. I am someone who burns easily and for the past several years, I have been on a medication that has a side effect that makes me susceptible to sun and heat. I turn very red and break out in a hive-like rash, so I limit my time in the sun and try to stay indoors when it is hot out.
I thought I’d be good to go. Nope. I put my face in the machine and she asked if I see the areas in purple around my face. Yes, I did. And then she said that those were the areas that were showing the damage from the sun. I was stunned. It showed areas of purple on my forehead, cheeks, nose, chin and area around my eyes. She said that I should wear a moisturizer with sunscreen every day. Later, reading over the brochures she gave us, I learned that most of the sun damage to our skin happens before age 20. I didn’t even vacation in Mexico until I was 25 and I went to the tanning salon for a week prior to my trip so I didn’t burn. That was the last time I went to a beach. Looking back at the pictures, I had a great tan, but now, years later, a machine showed what damage had been done up to this point. I also learned that if you work inside, if there is a window that lets sun in, you are still being exposed to sun and should protect yourself from exposure.
The good news is that it isn’t too late to start protecting your skin. I tried a sunscreen made specifically for the face, but after two days, my skin was drying out, so I will switch to a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or 30. Any sunscreen that you choose should have Broad Spectrum in its name, which means it protects from UVA and UVB rays. I also bought a hat and I’m not a hat person, but if it means I’ll be protected a little more, I don’t care how goofy I look.
If you would like to learn more, you can visit one of the sites below. And if you don’t use a sunscreen everyday, it’s not too late to start.
The month of May brings awareness to Brain, Bladder and Melanoma and Skin Cancer.
A grey ribbon is used to symbolize Brain cancer. Each year in the United States an estimated 26,000 people are diagnosed with some type of brain cancer, both children and adults and 16,000 people die of the disease each year. Many advances in the treatment of brain cancer have been made in recent years, especially in the area of childhood brain tumors.
A tri-colored ribbon of yellow, blue and purple is used to symbolize bladder cancer. In 2016, more than 77,000 people will be diagnosed with bladder cancer in the U.S. More than 77% of those will survive more than 5 years. While most people think that smoking causes lung cancer, it can also lead to bladder cancer.
Melanoma and skin cancer awareness is depicted by a black ribbon. In the U.S. alone, more than 5.4 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. The majority of those cases will be the non-melanoma type and the main cause will be from exposure to the sun. While most skin cancers are easily treated, melanoma is more dangerous and can spread to other areas and lead to death. It is important to watch for changes in your skin. It is just as important to do a yearly skin check with a dermatologist as it is to have a yearly physical with your doctor.
For more information, please visit the sites below:
Colorectal cancer is represented by a dark blue ribbon. According to the CDC, more that 134,000 people are diagnosed in the United States each year and it is split almost evenly between men and women.
The orange ribbon represents Kidney cancer Awareness. In the United States, 62,000 people will be diagnosed this year. Of that number, 62% will be men.
Multiple myeloma is represented by the burgundy ribbon. Many people have no signs or symptoms before being diagnosed with this cancer, which is considered to be rare, affecting about 30,000 people each year.
For more information, please visit the following links:
Every once in a while you come across something on the web that touches your heart. Recently I learned about Love Your Melon, which is an organization that provides children with cancer with hats to keep their heads warm. The organization was started several years ago by two college students from Minnesota. The website sells items with the Love Your Melon logo, such as knit caps, scarfs, baseball caps, t-shirts and coffee mugs. When you purchase an item, you are donating money to provide hats to children. The hats are then presented to the children by Super Heroes, which are usually local college students in full costumes. The children have a blast and so do the heroes that deliver the hats. If you know of a child that is undergoing cancer treatment, you can request a hat for them from the site as well.
If you get a chance, stop by the website to see pictures of hats being presented to children around the country. You can also see what else the organization is doing for the children. They also donate a portion of each item purchased to the Pinky Swear Foundation and Cure Search for Children’s Cancer. When you purchase an item, it asks you to select the crew that you would like to receive your donation. There are crews around the country, so chances are you can find one near you. Items on the site sell out quickly, so you may see a countdown display to let you know when the next batch of items will be released. Spread the word and tell your friends to “Love Your Melon.”