Monday, December 17, 2012

Reality Check -- Am I Really Getting Better & Stronger?

First, I want to thank you (my readers) for your continued support. I have not had much opportunity to write my blog. I lost total Internet connection for nearly six months. During that time, however, I focused my energy on my book, “High Maintenance.” I am very proud to say that it was time well spent. I have done a great deal of work on the book and at this point, I am nearing what I feel is the actual completion of my story. I am writing in the present and looking towards the future. I have also done a great deal of editing. I will keep all of you informed of my progress.

Meanwhile, I am thrilled to say that my health has been getting better and stronger. That has been my goal all along. As I look at where I am now compared to where I was even a couple of years ago, there has been tremendous improvements. 

My cardiologist is pleased with my test results. All areas show up as “mild.” Compare that to results from previous tests where I was dealing with “severe” areas of concern. And, I might add, that it is due in part to my regular exercise program. He keeps telling me “to continue doing what I’m doing.” I need to “keep doing that Zumba thing,” he says. 

My oncologist gave me the results of my PET scan in late November. No sign of cancer! It has been 12 years since my initial diagnosis. It has been seven years since it last metastasized. It feels great hearing those words -- “no indication of cancer.” It also feels great knowing that I am getting better with each passing day. 

A trip to the dermatologist provided further proof that all is well. While I needed to have a minor procedure done (there was this tiny spot on my right upper arm) it was nothing that caused alarm. The results were benign. My skin health was good.

I also met a new pulmonary physician. My other doctor went into retirement and referred me to this other practice. My new doctor wants to run some tests. Turns out, he believes I may no longer have certain conditions I was originally diagnosed with. I may no longer have sleep apnea, COPD or asthma. Am I jumping to conclusions? During the coming month, I will undergo some testing and after all the results are in, who knows what may happen? I could get rid of the oxygen concentrator. I may no longer need a daily inhaler. I can certainly imagine a better day ahead.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Introducing Two Cancer-Related Resources

I'm always learning about new resources that can help me and others throughout our cancer journeys. I am amazed how many organizations exist today that are dedicated to various aspects of cancer -- everything from research to financial and from providing support and if needed, grief counseling. This blog will hopefully introduce you to a couple of new resources that may help you, a family member or friend.

The first organization I recently discovered is the Animal Cancer Foundation. My daughter's mother-in-law contacted me about a tragic situation. One of her dogs became extremely ill on Thanksgiving Day. The dog was taken to an emergency vet clinic where after hours of exams and testing, five-year-old Ellie was given a blood transfusion followed by surgery to remove her pancreas. However, the news was not good. While the surgery went well, there were remaining tumors on her liver as well as one near a major blood vessel that could not be removed. Ellie still needed another blood transfusion that night. Her tumors were malignant -- the dog had terminal cancer.

The request I received was to try and find an organization or resource that could help the family with some of the financial burdens they had already faced and would be facing as a result of Ellie's diagnosis. I immediately called the American Cancer Society at its toll-free number: 1-800-ACS-2345. This number is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In turn, ACS gave me the number for the Animal Cancer Foundation. (1-877-448-3223 or I spoke with the organization's Executive Director, Barbara Cohen. After hearing what was needed, Barbara later emailed me a list of approximately 10 organizations that provide various resources. While each group or organization may offer specific services,  it would be necessary to read through the information given and determine if help was possible. But, at least, Ellie's family would be able to have resources to check out -- there was, at least, some hope that assistance may be offered.

In a different direction, for those who may need assistance paying medical expenses or who cannot afford items such as a wig (when undergoing chemo and losing one's hair) there is MedGift, a non-profit organization founded by Diem Brown. She was only 23-years-old when diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This reality TV personality and currently a freelance AP reporter, discovered the need for an organization that could help others with "gifts." When registering at, one can ask for help with such things as hospital bills, childcare or wigs.  Besides the aforementioned items, those signing onto MedGift can also ask for more personal, non-monetary gifts such as prayers or visits. Brown calls her program "the first ever patient gift registry" and it is set up like a bridal or baby shower registry. She continues her fight with cancer, just having started chemotherapy and was a participant in this past September's Stand Up to Cancer Telethon.

As I noted above, I had direct contact with ACF and was extremely impressed with the quick turn-around my request was given. Although I have not utilized MedGift, I read about it in a recent issue of Living with Cancer and found the premise to be interesting while also offering great possibilities.

Cancer survivors and caregivers are always seeking out new resources. It is my hope that, if necessary, you will find help via one of the above groups or any other other organizations / resources listed on Marilyn's Byline.