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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Cancer Between the Lines

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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 …

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Creative Coping Through Photographs

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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 …

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

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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 …

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‘Chemobrain’ Added to Cancer Survivorship Guidelines

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Cognitive dysfunction is a common and frustrating side effect for many patients who undergo chemotherapy. The condition – also called “chemobrain” – can create problems with memory, attention and concentration, information processing, and mental skills used for organizing and scheduling. For many years, medical professionals were skeptical that these cognitive issues were a real side effect of treatment, leaving patients frustrated by the lack of information and suggested remedies. However, numerous cognitive testing and brain imaging studies have demonstrated that cancer and its treatments do have a significant effect on cognition. As a result, physicians now recognize it as a widespread issue, …

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Living Life

By Jack Coates In May 2001, I was diagnosed with medullablastoma. I was 19 years old and had just finished my freshman year at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Medullablastoma is a cancer that affects the brain and the spine. I had three surgeries, 52 weeks of chemo, and six weeks of radiation. I spent a year and two months in the hospital and went from 217 pounds to 97. I was scared. I was asking God: “Why?  Why did it have to happen to me?” It was shocking. Many things went through my mind.

How to Prevent and Manage Lymphedema

Following radiation treatment or surgery to remove lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy), patients can develop lymphedema, a condition that involves abnormal swelling, usually in the arms or the legs, due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluids. This fluid buildup is caused by blockage or removal of lymph nodes or lymph vessels. Lymphedema is often associated with breast cancer patients, but can result from treatment of other cancers, such as melanoma, prostate, or advanced gynecological cancer. In addition to discomfort, lymphedema can also lead to infection, as the fluid buildup can increase bacteria growth. Pay attention to signs of infection, including pain, heat, …

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New Study: Nuts Linked to Reduced Risk of Pancreatic and Other Cancers

An analysis of data from the decades-long Nurses’ Health Study revealed that women who ate a one-ounce serving of nuts – any kind of nuts – two or more times a week had a 35 percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer than women who abstained from them. That’s a significant and encouraging piece of news for a field that has had far too little.

Questions to Ask When Your Child Finishes Cancer Treatment

By Julia Pettengill Our daughter Sophie was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2½, and received two years of care at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. While I felt tremendous joy and relief when she completed treatment, I also found the experience traumatic.