Survivor Uses Reiki and ‘Button Therapy’ to Help Others Facing Cancer

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As a girl, Paula Kaufman loved playing with the buttons that her grandmother, a seamstress, had in abundance. Later, while in treatment for stage III colorectal cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Kaufman – then a mother of three in her late 30s – gained strength from a jar of buttons her grandmother bequeathed to her. “When you have cancer, you feel like you’re hanging by a thread,” Kaufman explains. “The connections you make with other people are the buttons that pull you through.” Kaufman’s caregivers, family, and friends served as her buttons, and she drew further comfort from Reiki, a …

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How to Manage Family Life When Your Child Has Cancer

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By Valerie Graf When our daughter, Ruby, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at one and a half years old, my husband and I were immediately transformed from working parents with two young children, to parental caregivers for a child with cancer. Between hospital stays, medications and appointments, there was so much to keep track of. It can be overwhelming at times, but there are ways to manage life after your child is diagnosed with cancer. Settle into to this new normal. It can be easy to stay in crisis mode when something like a cancer diagnosis interrupts your …

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New Therapy for ‘Bubble Boy’ Disease Gives Chilean Boy a Chance for a Healthy Life

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Gabriel Solis is a typical 3-year-old. He likes puzzles and swimming and singing. He shakes off colds like other children. Gabriel, however, is not like other children. He has a functioning immune system thanks to an international gene therapy trial for “bubble boy” disease whose early success was reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). When Gabriel was 4½ months old, no longer protected by his mother’s immunity, he came down with a fever and pneumonia that landed him in the intensive care unit of the local hospital in the family’s hometown of La Serena, Chile. A …

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Room Makeovers Help Young Patients Feel at Home

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Ana Karen Ventura may be a long way from home, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Ventura, 11, is an inpatient at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, but her hospital room at Boston Children’s Hospital looks more like the bedroom of any tween girl. There are posters of flowers and her favorite celebrities, paper butterflies hanging from the ceiling, and blue and purple lights strung around her window, door, and mirror. A colorful bedspread matches the shade of her new lamp, and a portable dresser has the credo “Bald Girls Rock!” highlighted on its top. She just …

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How a Navy SEAL Veteran Helps Kids with Cancer

Adam LaReau has seen courage. The 34-year-old Navy SEAL combat veteran spent 11 years serving his country, and has seen courage in the actions of his fellow SEALS and through the children of fallen comrades who must learn to grow up without their fathers. Now living in Boston, LaReau has found a way to channel these two examples of bravery. Through a nonprofit program he started called One Summit, he is pairing up SEALS with young cancer patients from Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and other hospitals for a day of indoor rock climbing activities in which confidence …

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Should Cancer Patients Get the Flu Shot?

Flu shot clinic 2014. Raphael Ceccaldi, Ph.D. getting his flu shot.

The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and those around you. But will cancer patients benefit from the flu shot given their immunity and treatment status? It is safe for patients who have not had a stem cell transplant to get the flu shot, and are highly encouraged to ask their providers about their vaccination options. However, those who have had, or who are currently undergoing a stem cell transplant, should take extra precautions. During a transplant, a patient’s immune system is extremely weak. Therefore, each patient has a specific timeframe for when it is best to …

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Shifting from Pediatric to Adult Care: Advice from a Survivor

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By Catherine MacLean The health care transition from pediatric to adult practitioners is an important process for any young adult, but it is especially critical for cancer survivors. Typically, this transition takes place sometime between ages 16 and 21. I was diagnosed with aplastic anemia at age 4 and had a bone marrow transplant at age 10. My shift to adult health care began around the time I was 17 and was completed at about age 21. I am now 23 and in full control of my own health care. From my personal experience, here are some critical pieces of …

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Brain Tumor Survivor Shares Her Tips on the College Transition

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By Frannie Palmer As a kid, I stumbled on my feet quite a bit. I had to use two hands on the railing while going down stairs. My parents thought I was just a little clumsy. The truth was, a brain tumor was creating pressure on my cerebellum and causing my incoordination. I was 6-years-old when I had surgery to remove the non-cancerous tumor. It wasn’t until I began applying for early decision admission to Wheaton College that I fully grasped how much it had affected me. After the surgery, I had to re-learn how to walk and talk. My …

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Advice from Mother and Son on Facing Cancer Together

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Hearing the words “you have cancer” can be hard enough, but what is it like to hear them echoed for a loved one? Having two cancer patients in one family calls for extra strength from everyone involved. Karen Perry was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer when she and her husband Brian learned that their son Owen, then 11, had leukemia. He was hospitalized for five months at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “My knees buckled when I heard the news,” recalls Perry. “Learning Owen had cancer was harder than learning I had it.” The Perrys offer the following …

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Months After Transplant, Teen Hits the Soccer Field

Some 100 days after receiving a stem cell transplant to cure his severe aplastic anemia, 13-year-old Behaylu Barry still couldn’t invite friends into his home. He can’t return to school until January, when his immune system will finally be strong enough to fight the pathogens present in indoor spaces. Yet  Behaylu was doing so well that he was cleared to play soccer – outdoors, of course — for the first time since February, when he was diagnosed with the life-threatening blood disorder. On August 23, Behaylu walked onto the field with the Exeter (N.H.) Hawks for a two-game pre-season tournament. …

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