Still living in Chicago at the time, a business trip brought me to New York that fateful day. This could be causing referred pain in my left lower rib area as well as the changes in skin sensation (numbness, pain, etc.). My journey has been a winding one. The struggle between my desire for freedom versus the safety of both Humphrey and Lorie was quite real. With a budding interest in photography, I attempted to capture the 9-11 Memorial at sunset in July 2012. In this regard, hospice stresses patient “care” over “cure”. In the meantime, I found it unusual that oral NSAIDs and even narcotics like oxycodone failed to address my growing pain. But over the past nearly three years, I’ve heard from so many of you who have been following my blog and leaving comments after my articles. Initially, I envisioned having a good quality of life for a few months during the treatment break before cancer came roaring back and then succumbing to the disease in approximately six months. So, just for the sake of clarity, my prognosis is unchanged. Taxol alone isn’t cutting it; a change in course is recommended. In early 2011, I was in good physical shape, about 30 pounds overweight, eating healthy and exercising regularly. Aloha To Cancer. With Pancreatic Cancer. COVID – surges. I’m sure others feel the same. Due to the immediate numbing effects of the local anesthetic, I was relatively pain-free after the nerve block procedure. Bone is the third most common site for the spread of cancer, with half or more of patients diagnosed with cancer experiencing bone pain. Lastly, I addressed the increased depression referenced in my prior post. The SBRT session was quick and painless. ?” Continue reading →, Many of us are still experiencing the loss of Chadwick Boseman, who most of us were shocked to hear, was on a journey with colon cancer for the past four years. The company had developed and commercialized Quadramet®—an injectable radiopharmaceutical used to treat bone pain associated with cancer. The following is based on my experience as a hospice volunteer, and caregiver to my mom at her end of life. I haven’t been able to take our pup Humphrey for a walk in quite some time, so bringing him along was a must. For example, there was some moderate growth in the lesion on my spleen, but nothing that seemed to support the level of discomfort I experienced. A decision so complex that it couldn’t be adequately addressed in a blog post. An article from the American Family Physician suggests a 2-week trial of antibiotics and then referring the patient for a biopsy if no resolution. I’m thrilled to be learning the tools that helped my family and I survive cancer with grace, and authenticity. His commentary should not be construed as recommendations, endorsements, or medical advice. My father-in-law used to say that any day he could wake up and tie his own shoelaces was a good day. Would I choose to do it again? Our local community was hit hard, with the loss of 18 souls from Bucks County. My wife came to visit me by surprise! And three hours of sitting on the train was not what I needed. It also helps control my bone pain, although I still require a walking cane to be safe. That same day, I also received an intravenous infusion of Zometa® (zoledronic acid). Blog. “There are only two days with fewer than 24 hours in each lifetime, sitting like bookmarks astride our lives: one is celebrated every year, yet it is the other that makes us see living as precious,” writes Kathryn Mannix in her book, With the End in Mind. Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear a peep. Friday's, day of the week that everyone feels great. Later that afternoon, members of the hospice team arrived to answer questions and ensure that I had all of my medications. Around 9:10 pm, MSKCC called my cell phone for a status update and estimated time of my arrival. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, a German philosopher, was quoted saying, “To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly. Yesterday, Lorie and I reviewed the CT scan results with my oncologist at MSKCC, Dr. David Pfister, and Nicole Leonhart, ANP, RN. Sure enough, about 4 am ET Thursday morning I could not keep warm in bed despite layering several blankets (and a 90-pound golden retriever). At Penn Station, Lorie (aka—momma bear) ran ahead to grab a cab as I hobbled behind with my cane. It is difficult from these data to separate out whether the effects seen were because of the combination or from SBRT alone. The result of sitting for hours on the train and now being flat on my back for 45-minutes. I was concerned that the pain could be a late gastrointestinal (GI) toxicity from radiotherapy that I received in November 2018 to shrink the lesion on my spleen. The same article continued with guidance that “in the absence of overt signs of infection, a lateral neck mass is metastatic squamous cell carcinoma or lymphoma until proved otherwise.” The results made me nervous enough to reach for the phone and call our family physician for an appointment that day. Most days start with a coughing fit that lasts several minutes. We talk a lot about power at The Cancer Journey Institute. The incidence of cervical cancer plummeted from 21.6 per 100,000 women in 1969 to 10.4 per 100,000 in 1990. This past week is the first time that I can recall being forced into the basement to seek shelter from a tornado warning. As mentioned in my prior post, bone pain and radiation pneumonitis that emerged in late 2018 remain my biggest challenge. I was exhausted, as I had little if any break in treatment since January 2016. I quickly came across one medical journal article that contained a startling statistic: More than 75% of lateral (side) neck masses in patients older than 40 years are caused by malignant tumors. I always found myself feeling sad or blue as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder. I wanted so badly to help. It was hoped that the SBRT would decrease the size of targeted tumors in the lungs enough to alleviate a nagging cough that I developed. It was all I could think about (rightfully so, as it turned out). Most studies have identified attention, memory, and information processing as the most common cognitive domains impacted by cancer and cancer-related treatments. A patient may have trouble getting into the holiday spirit because of physical illness or fatigue. Since the beginning, Dr. Pfister and Nicole have been terrific about customizing treatments based on the concerns I expressed. Other than post-traumatic stress from going through the radiation procedure again, along with some mild fatigue, I haven’t experienced any significant side effects from SBRT. Did the initial chemoradiation treatment work? The spinal cord nerves branch out through openings between your 24 vertebrae and connect to internal organs, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and other areas and parts of the body (see Figure 1). One example is costochondritis, an inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs join with the cartilage that holds them to the breastbone. Wherever you are on your journey as a patient or a caregiver, you will be exposed to or the subject of some sort of medical scan. Meanwhile, after completing oral steroids, two weeks of physical therapy, a steroid injection, and walking with a cane, my resting pain level slightly improved. Many patients should also avoid being treated by courses of antibiotics for weeks or months, as this causes a delay in referral to secondary care, generally to an ENT specialist. Results of the study showed an abscopal response defined by 30% reduction in any single non-irradiated measurable lesion was present in 27% of patients, but only 13% of patients when defined by a 30% reduction in aggregate diameter of non-irradiated measurable lesions. Aside from managing my pain, I have two more weekly chemotherapy infusions before the next CT scan around mid-March. But a diagnosis of pneumonitis does increase the risk of developing subsequent pulmonary complications, including fibrosis, a permanent scarring of the lungs. If so, where did it spread and how fast was it growing? It was like nothing I’ve experienced before. In this regard, I look forward to my role as keynote speaker at BioNJ’s upcoming Third Annual Patient Advocacy Summit being held on December 13, 2018, at Celgene Corporation (click here for details). Participating in the event was a fantastic experience, although I underestimated the emotional impact and fought back the tears during most of my speech titled “It’s Time to Talk About Dying.” A video replay of the seven-minute talk is available below: My last dose of systemic (versus local) cancer treatment was in March 2018 after completing nine months of a chemotherapy doublet (carboplatin and paclitaxel). Many Americans recall precisely what they were doing the morning of September 11, 2001. I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge how important all of the happy birthday calls, texts, gifts, and social media posts were to me. I hoped that the antibiotic would work and I’d be feeling somewhat better by then. The Journey is not quite over yet and I will continue to share what I find to be useful information. What replaced cervical cancer as the most common cancer associated with HPV infection in the United States? If it was going to be more than an hour, however, MSKCC suggested rescheduling. The same schedule was used the following week for my right lung. Figure 2: Michael Becker’s radiation tattoos shown in small, solid red circles. Figure 1: Still untouched birthday ice cream cake, During the following week, all of the symptoms persisted. At my worst in the summer of 2017, Lorie and I were convinced that I’d never even see my 49th birthday. Sitting is among the most uncomfortable positions for my back at the moment. The radiofrequency power delivered to tissue during an MRI examination results in heating of patient tissues, but MRI scanners have power limits that keep the radiofrequency power deposition to levels that are safe for most patients. Despite what I know, I harbored a fantasy that I would sail through treatment and go back to my life – looking and feeling great. Late at night, the trains don’t run express. For reasons still unclear, questions remain regarding the use of SBRT to also target the lesion on my spleen. I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in December 2019. As Confucius said, “By three methods may we learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is the noblest; second, by imitation, which is the easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter”. So far, the remaining pain is mostly managed with oxycodone and prednisone. Three years later, cancer spread to my spine. Lying down on my right side made the pain better, but sitting or climbing stairs was unbearable. A 3.0T MRI provides higher clarity and better detail because the magnetic field is twice as strong as 1.5T. So, I grilled some steaks Lorie got from the store, and we had a delicious homecooked meal that everyone seemed to enjoy. The holidays can be an especially difficult time for cancer patients and their tribe. I used to think that my purpose in life was to develop new medicines and bring them to patients who need them. Continue reading →, by Shariann Tom and Keri Lehmann, Master Cancer Coaches; In the beginning, I often wondered if anyone was even reading my material. They can also exhibit abnormal redness of the surrounding skin and feel warm to the touch. Keri 2.0. As a result, I was prescribed an initial two-week supply of another steroid (prednisone). October 2, 3, 4, 2020 (beginning weekend) – with Weekly Teleseminars until closing weekend. Unfortunately, there was no change in the size of my lymph node and subsequent testing confirmed the diagnosis of advanced oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). Posts about Cancer journey written by miguelgavar. I’ll update the blog with any significant updates on my SBRT experience. The best option is to complete the remaining ~15-minutes of the MRI with the contrast agent, which hopefully I’ll be able to manage today (Sunday) without issue. However, new data makes it alarmingly clear why both boys and girls should receive this critical cancer-preventing vaccination. I still remember typing the inaugural post on November 25, 2015. Continue reading →, When someone in your life is diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to know what to say or do. Of the two drugs, it was carboplatin that I really disliked. As always, I hope that taking the time to tell my story will help raise awareness about HPV-related cancers and the importance of vaccinating both young women and men to prevent certain cancers. The latest new issue to surface is a sharp, stabbing pain near the inferior border of my left lung (Figure 2). Click to enlarge. Pricing. Most cases are either asymptomatic or manageable, with the reported rates of symptomatic radiation pneumonitis after SBRT range from 9% to 28%. A short elevator ride, as it is conveniently located in the same building. During my stay at urgent care, an x-ray of my pelvis showed no evidence of fracture. This medication was added to my opioid pain treatment arsenal and appears to be helping already. Follow My Blog Get new content delivered directly to your inbox. It is likely the steroid meant to address potential bone pain flare issues was also treating the radiation pneumonitis. Her advocacy efforts focus on empowering and educating women to take care of their health. Ta-da! Nonetheless, my bizarre experience during Saturday’s initial attempt still left me a bit apprehensive. The feeling is short-lived and not as severe as what I experienced in the MRI. My only therapy has consisted of externally targeted radiation to several painful metastatic sites on my spine and a bisphosphonate infusion to help strengthen my bones. Besides, gadolinium-based contrast agents are used during an MRI procedure, not iodine-based agents. Figure 1: Adapted from CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) / August 24, 2018 / 67(33);918–924. Their correct response—”just get here safely, we’ll be waiting.”. You see it all over the media – both mass and social – trying so hard to earn our worth, we put each other down right and left. As referenced in my prior post, I’m not a big “birthday” person, but I was looking forward to celebrating my 50th milestone this past Monday. I was told pain relief could take a few days, for which I anxiously awaited. Or the pain, numbness, and swelling could be late effects from prior radiation to the spleen. My Battle With a Low-Grade Brain Tumor, Oligodendroglioma. The decline in cervical cancer from 1999 to 2015 is the continuation of a favorable trend since the 1960s when cervical-vaginal screening increased significantly as Americans endorsed the Pap test. Receive email notifications of new posts. However, towards the end of the radiation session, my pain level was increasing. Trying to buy me at least another day of not knowing just how rapidly I’m going bald again. More Information. All that I wanted was to be home and hug my family. A 36 year old woman's blog, sharing her journey with mouth and neck cancer, to share my expierence and hopefully being a support for other young women. Figure 2: MRI images showing the location of cancer spread to the spine (dark areas near arrows). (Disclaimer: Both 5-FU and cetuximab are approved agents with established efficacy and roles in cancer treatment. Palliative treatment might prolong my life to some degree and minimize discomfort. 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