By Catherine MacLean “Why is this coming up now?” “It’s been 10 years. I should be over this already.” “Why is this happening to me? All of the other survivors I know seem fine.” These thoughts preoccupied me during the transition from high school to college. It had been 10 years since my successful bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia and my health was excellent.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We asked Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, to answer these important questions. What signs might lead a child’s pediatrician to suspect cancer? Cancer is very diverse, and diagnosis is further complicated because many signs and symptoms—like fever, bruising and headaches—are normal in healthy children.
Jack Robinson is a special kid. Diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 11, he tackled treatment if not with a smile on his face, then with a joke on his lips… or more accurately, on paper. The Massachusetts resident compiled and edited a joke book called, “Make ‘em Laugh” to help himself, and other kids who were sick. It was drafted from hundreds of jokes, riddles, and drawings submitted by Robinson and other kids cared for in the Jimmy Fund Clinic and the inpatient oncology floors at Boston Children’s Hospital.
By Saul Wisnia Rayquan “Ray” Fregeau’s smile lights up a room, even after five days of chemotherapy. His upbeat personality infuses his poetry, but until recently the 17-year-old patient at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center had trouble putting into words what he’s gone through since his February cancer diagnosis, especially when it came to telling friends about his experience.
By Melanie Graham During a child’s cancer therapy and recovery process, insomnia can often be viewed as only a side effect in the scope of treatment-related symptoms. However, there are many physical and psychological implications that develop when a child does not sleep well, says Eric Zhou, PhD, a clinical psychology fellow in Dana-Farber’s David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic. Zhou, who is also a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, has spent the last year studying treatments for insomnia in adolescent and young adult cancer survivors through Dana-Farber’s Swim Across America Fellowship.
By Lori Buswell, RN I recently returned from a three-month rotation as a nurse fellow at a comprehensive cancer center at Butaro Hospital in Rwanda, a tiny African country known as the “land of a thousand hills.” The hospital, built and operated by the Ministry of Health and Partners In Health, is located in a rural, mountainous area where most residents are farmers. Because most homes do not have running water, people fill up 5-gallon jugs at the local water spigot.
By Eric Schuller Palliative care is often misunderstood. People may associate it with end-of-life care or “giving up” – especially when facing a serious health challenge like cancer. But palliative care may not be what you think, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it. Here’s a closer look at what palliative care is – and isn’t.
Dana-Farber celebrates cancer survivorship in June with Living Proof, an annual series of events that includes workshops and programs as well as a keynote reception on June 20. The end of treatment is an important milestone for any cancer patient, but it can also be a time of anxiety. In fact, some new cancer survivors say leaving the routine of regular visits with their health care team can be downright scary. That’s why Dana-Farber and other leading cancer centers offer programs to help survivors transition from active treatment to living well beyond cancer.