Real Superheroes: A Teen Talks about What Happens When Both Parents Have Cancer

superhero tearing off his clothes -cool skin_SMALL

By E.R. Seventeen-year-old E.R. reflects on both parents’ battles with cancer. For this post, E.R. and the family wished to remain anonymous.  Simply put, the role of a parent is to take on more roles. From lab coat supermodel and expert peanut-butter-and-jelly chef to personal shopper and bodyguard; parents do whatever it takes to provide for (and entertain) their children. This is why, to children, moms and dads are the real superheroes. Whether they’re flying in to save the city or magically appearing on your bad days, they swoop in just in time, every time. But every superhero has their …

Continue reading

Post-Traumatic Stress and Cancer

Many associate post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, with veterans returning home from war, or those involved in similarly violent scenarios. But PTSD can occur after any life-threatening traumatic event – including a serious illness like cancer. “It’s common for cancer patients, even if they don’t have full-blown PTSD, to have some of the symptoms of it,” says Fremonta Meyer, MD, of Dana-Farber’s department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, who notes PTSD rates among cancer survivors are slightly higher than the general population. Symptoms of PTSD include re-experiencing the traumatic event, usually in the form of flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance; …

Continue reading

Five Tips for Managing Stress During Cancer Treatment

Eric Zhou, PhD- SMALL

Everyone faces stress from time to time, but a cancer diagnosis can be particularly challenging for both the patient and the family members. “For many of our patients and survivors, they experience a great deal of stress related to their diagnosis, treatment, or fears of recurrence,” says Eric Zhou, PhD, clinical psychology fellow at Dana-Farber’s Perini Family Survivors’ Center. “But they also have general life stresses on top of that, like family, finances, and work, that don’t go away just because they’re battling cancer.” Zhou, who leads Dana-Farber’s Survivor Stress Management and Relaxation Training (SMART) workshops, provides some tips on …

Continue reading

How Exercise Can Help Neuropathy

Staff portrait of Nancy CampbellSMALL

For many patients treated with chemotherapy, peripheral neuropathy can be an uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effect. The condition, which includes tingling or loss of sensation in the arms or legs, can increase risk for falls and fall-related injuries. To help prevent and ease these problems, Dana-Farber exercise physiologist Nancy Campbell, MS, recommends patients use low-impact exercise routines like finger taps, calf stretches, and ankle rolls. These exercises help increase blood flow to the peripheral nerves, restoring feeling in the extremities. The routines also build strength and improve balance, which can lead to fewer falls. View Campbell’s presentation below for …

Continue reading

The ‘ATEs’: What Helps Me Get Through Treatment Days

SmilesforNiles189-2934174158-O.jpg

By Alex Niles Alex Niles was diagnosed with Stage IV gastric cancer in fall 2013, at age 30. He holds an undergraduate degree from Drexel University, where he was a Division 1 scholarship athlete, and a graduate degree from Fordham University. He writes about his cancer experience on his blog, Smiles for Niles and his work has been featured in the NY Times and Huffington Post. He lives and thrives in New York City. As I get closer to treatment day, I’m filled with a mixed bag of emotions; I’m excited to go into battle and beat this illness down, …

Continue reading

ASCO: New Advances in Ovarian, Prostate, Lung and Melanoma Treatment

SOG_5604_10SMALL

“Science and Society” was the theme of this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 50th annual meeting. The meeting showcased  cancer research from around the world. Some new findings from Dana-Farber researchers included: Joyce Liu, MD, MPH, of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers reported that, in a phase 2 clinical trial, a combination of olaparib (a drug that blocks DNA repair in cancer cells) and cediranib (which blocks blood vessel growth in tumors) was considerably more effective in women with recurrent ovarian cancer than olaparib alone.. Progression-free survival – the length of time after treatment when …

Continue reading

How One Teacher Shared a Cancer Diagnosis with Her Students

Abby MorganSMALL

By Abby Morgan May 2013 was an exciting time for my husband and me.  We were in the process of buying our first house and thinking about starting a family. But, when a visit to the doctor to investigate pain in my right knee revealed a large mass, our excitement was quickly replaced with concern. After a series of tests, I was diagnosed with metastatic synovial sarcoma, a soft tissue cancer that had spread to my lungs. We were floored.  I had been healthy my entire life and had no other symptoms, but there I was, diagnosed at the age …

Continue reading

Cancer Between the Lines

SOG_0828_14SMALL

Young adults often have their sights set on the future, anticipating college, working at their dream job, or traveling. One place they don’t plan to be is in an infusion chair undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer disrupts everyone, but especially adults age 18-34 who are growing into adulthood and starting careers and families. The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber works to help combat these unique challenges by providing emotional support from professionals, and by creating a special community. This resource also helps patients interact with their peers for support. One challenge young adults face is communicating what they are going through …

Continue reading

Creative Coping Through Photographs

kat-caverly-101713

By Kat Caverly In the book “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient” Norman Cousins explains that creativity is an effective therapy. I devoured this book during one of my three-hour chemotherapy infusions of Taxol. I was filled with such hope. I knew then I would be fine. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. As my mind struggled on what to do with this cancer diagnosis, I instinctively reached for my camera. But instead of looking through the lens at a subject or scenery, I turned it on myself. In addition to keeping a daily written …

Continue reading

Is Chemo Working If I Don’t Lose My Hair?

patient-receiving-infusion-small

It’s well known that many chemotherapy medications used to treat cancer can bring undesirable side effects, such as hair loss, lack of appetite, and fatigue. But experiencing such symptoms is not an indication of whether cancer treatment is working. Chemotherapy interferes with a cell’s ability to grow and divide, so it tends to kill rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. However, some normal cells in our body also divide rapidly, such as hair cells and cells that create the stomach lining. Whether or not you will have side effects during cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors, including …

Continue reading