Tackling College, Marathons, and Multiple Myeloma


By Ethan Hawes “Having cancer in college doesn’t seem real.” That was my first thought when I received what would become life-changing news at the age of 22 as a senior at the University of Maine (Orono). My body went numb and tears started to form when my doctor told me I had multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer predominately found in people over the age of 65. [Less than one percent of multiple myeloma cases are diagnosed in people younger than 35.] On that infamous July day in 2013, I went from a normal college student to …

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From Cancer Patient to Personal Trainer


In April 2014, John Barrett, a 71-year-old Dana-Farber patient achieved a long-standing goal. He officially became a certified personal trainer. The lifelong exercise enthusiast set out to help cancer patients with their own fitness goals, and after his certification, began an internship with Nancy Campbell, MS, an exercise physiologist in Dana-Farber’s Adult Survivorship Program. He now shadows Campbell on Monday afternoons during patient consultations “It’s really great for patients to hear from John and get his first-hand experience,” she explains. “He helps them stay motivated and consistent.” Barrett always made exercise a mandatory part of his life. Time for running …

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

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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 …

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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; …

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Five Tips for Managing Stress During Cancer Treatment

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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 …

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How Exercise Can Help Neuropathy

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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 …

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


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, …

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


“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 …

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How One Teacher Shared a Cancer Diagnosis with Her Students

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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 …

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