Thursday, September 29, 2011

[Guest Post] Fighting Cancer With Physical Fitness

By: David Haas

Most people are aware of the health benefits of physical activity. Exercise controls weight, fights disease, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes sleep, sparks sex life, and is often just plain fun. Despite all this, exercise -- even going for a short walk -- is usually the last thing someone with cancer wants to do, whether they have a common and very treatable cancer like skin cancer or a rare disease like mesothelioma exercise can help.

Coping with an initial cancer diagnosis -- followed by the harsh treatment of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy -- can destroy a person’s sense of control. The physical, psychological, and emotional barriers of cancer can overwhelm patients. Cancer fitness programs aim to break the barriers for cancer survivors, giving them back a sense of control. And the research on fitness for cancer survivors is promising.

Current Research

One Canadian organization, the Alberta Heritage Foundation For Medical Research (AHFMR) has funded research on the effects of exercise on cancer survivors. Led by Dr. Nicole Culos-Reed, the study centers on patients who have completed their last cancer treatment but remain on long-term hormone therapy.

Culos-Reed’s study, which examines patients with breast and prostate cancers, focuses on the relationship between exercise and emotional factors like stress, depression, and personal control, as well as physical factors like bone density. The primary goal is to change the cancer survivors’ lifestyle and improve their quality of life.

Past Research

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), extensive studies have been conducted on the relationship between exercise and various types of cancer. Colorectal, breast, endometrial, lung, and prostate cancers are just a few examples. The research suggests that exercise has a protective effect, reducing the risk of certain cancer types. Physical activity has also been shown to positively affect metabolism, inflammation, immunity, and other factors. Generally speaking, exercise enhances a patient’s sense of overall health and well-being and improves quality of life.

Fitness Benefits

Exercise offers many of the same benefits for cancer patients as for the general population. And it does not matter whether someone is facing highly treatable skin cancer or mid-stage mesothelioma treatment. Mild or moderate activity is possible for just about anyone, and it can help patients better cope with treatment or after-care.

Along with weight and diet, physical activity is a key component of energy balance. It can greatly influence a cancer patient’s ability to fight the disease and treatment side effects. Doctor-approved fitness activities, from cancer treatment center programs to personal exercise plans, can go a long way in giving them back a sense of control and well-being.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tribute blog - Erich Zeeb!

I've been roaming around,
I was looking down at all I see
Painted faces fill the places I can't reach
You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you and all you know and how you speak

Kings of Leon, Use Somebody, Only by the Night 2008

My tribute is to Erich Zeeb, a super star mAss kicker who is almost twice my age with half of my maturity ;). Erich was diagnosed with a thalamic astrocytoma on July 5, 2008 and thrived through chemo and gamma knife surgery. He has taught me to never take anything too seriously or worry about what might happen. He currently lives in Colorado Springs where he trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for the Modern Pentathlon (Fencing, Swimming, Equestrian Jumping, Shooting, and Running). Erich has promised me numerous times that he’ll send me tickets to watch him in London at the 2012 Olympics hehe and I’m going to hold him to it. Sometimes he calls me his inspiration, but he is the real inspiration for getting back on track to participate in the Olympic Games after treatment and kicking mAss.

A life changed for no known reason,
A plan that had to be altered because of the season;
The season of cancer,
A time for the man to let the leaves fall.

The man received chemo and gamma knife,
The improvement was alright;
The man's doctors rocked,
Unfortunately, the treatments almost cleaned his clock.

Could the man handle this season of his life?
Could the man handle why he was faced with such adversity for no reason?
Could the man accept that the nurse helped his mother pick out the hearse?
Could the man fight against the temptation to ask his mother tosmuggle a gun inside the hospital within her purse?

Autumn ended just as fast as his life tried to dial one last call.
As he went to press the button to say goodbye, someone picked up; someone better than us all.
The call was to a friend from above,
Someone who knew that this man was full of love.

As family members planned a funeral,
The man sacrificed Heaven for just one more chance at being a juvenile!
A man with a brain tumor,
A man who rallied against a stormy season of his life and inspired me to fight for a cause.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Inaugural FD First Wave Camp 2011

This past week was amazing!  I had the privilege of participating in the inaugural First Descents Surf camp (First Wave) in Santa Barbara last week.  2 years ago, I participated in my first White Water Kayaking Camp in Glacier National Park, Montana.  I was hesitant to participate in another First Descents camp because I was afraid of tarnishing the memories of my first FD experience.  I was completely wrong.  New memories and adventures were created with a new group of friends in a new exciting adventure.

Before my surgery in 2005, I was just starting to get into a new hobby, surfing, in a new city with new friends.  I'd wake up early to go surfing before work, and found myself so relaxed the whole day.  A few months after I established my routine, I was diagnosed with a golf-ball sized brain tumor between the brain stem and cerebellum.  The new hobby that I was just learning to love was suddenly taken away!  Within a month I had:
  1. an eight hour brain surgery,
  2. an eight day visit to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit with 5 days in a medically induced coma,
  3. a six week stay in the rehab unit at the hospital I used to work,
  4. brain radiation treatments five days a week for eight weeks, and
  5. physical, occupational, and speech therapy with my former coworkers.
Since then, my life has taken a completely new direction from the plan I had since graduating from Physical Therapy school eight  years ago.   I'm very grateful for the new direction my life is taking me, but I sometimes wonder how things might have turned out if didn't need to take this new direction.  I have surprised many people (myself included) with some of the things I have been able to accomplish.  Publishing articles/books, going on national book tours, public speaking at universities/colleges/hospitals, and starting a nonprofit organization were never in my wildest imagination.  The brain tumor hit me pretty hard, but it didn't knock me out!  (It's my turn to counter punch through MKF!)   I hate to admit it, but the brain tumor was the spark that ignited a new fire in me.  I've also learned to appreciate all the little things in life!

I still miss the old activities I use to do.  The tumor took away so much.  Surfing is one of the few things that connects me to the "old" me.  I have met so many amazing people on this journey, but the people who inspire me the most are the survivors I have met on all my travels!  Every person I've met that has attended a First Descent camp (campers, staff, and volunteers) has a unique energy about them.  It's an attitude that is hard to describe, but easy to recognize.  I have met so many amazing survivors in these camps!  I have heard so many incredible stories of triumph that it is humbling being there to witness a fellow survivor's own personal triumphs.  To see it on their faces is an incredible feeling.  I unfortunately could not paddle out to the lineup myself, but the experience of being out there has given me something to shoot for.  Just knowing the journeys my fellow campers had to endure and watching them catch their first waves was so inspiring to me.  Watching someone do something they didn't think they could do is incredible.  Seeing the smiles on their faces coming out of the water with a look of confidence reminded me of my own experiences catching my first wave.  The feeling of riding a wave is nothing short of incredible.  The speed, the freedom, the fact that you are being propelled by pure energy that no human created is pretty cool when you think about it.  It made me smirk seeing the "awe yeah, I did that" look on everyone's face as they confidently walked back to our spot on the beach. I'm still improving physically, but it's taking much longer than I expected.  I look forward to the day that to will be able to paddle out to the lineup and catch my first wave on my own.  Give me some time to figure out how to do it... I can't wait to join my new friends on a wave.  ;P
originally published on on 9/20/11

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month: A Survivor's Story

In the United States every hour a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer and every 2.5 hours a woman dies from this preventable disease. Cervical cancer was once the number-one cause of death from cancer in women. Thanks to the Pap test, which can screen for this cancer, the number of women in the United States with cervical cancer has decreased but there is still a lot of work to do.

I met Jennifer Larmon, a cervical cancer survivor, at the NYC Walk to Beat the Clock last year, but it wasn't until we did the Revlon walk against women's cancers representing Tamika and Friends, Inc. back in April, that I really got to know her and her family. She is a beautiful young women who stands strong and with determination. She shares her story in the hopes to make a difference and bring awareness about cervical cancer. Jen is a strong believer that we can eradicate cervical cancer and is determined to help to do just that.

I was amazed to see her family's enormous support, but the one that caught my attention and moved my heart was her little girl, and I must admit, I fell in love with Alyssa.

Ally is such a sweet little girl and immediately became my little friend, so now, I want to pay honor to her mommy. Here is Jen's story.

1. How old were you when you got diagnosed and what was your official diagnosis?

On August 11, 2009 I was diagnosed with Stage IBI Adenocarcinoma Cervical Cancer, I was 30 years old.

2. Can you take us back to when your doctor told you had cancer and what went through your mind?

I found out I had cancer from my caller ID, not my doctor. My phone rang and on the caller ID it said, “Cancer Center. I answered the phone and on the other end was a woman telling me I need to come in for a consultation. “A consultation, for what?” I responded. I knew at that point, but needed to hear it to be 100% sure.

She then asked me if my doctor had called me. My doctor never called. I was then told, “Oh Jennifer, you better call your doctor.” I called my mother who works an hour away from my house and asked her to please come home something is wrong and I don’t know what exactly.

I then called my doctor and told her what had happened and she asked me to come in to talk with her. At this point I knew something was wrong, so I asked her to please just tell me over the phone. She did not want to, but after begging her to tell me…she said, “you have cervical cancer. I started shaking uncontrollably. After a minute or so I asked her what had to be done. She told me I needed a radical hysterectomy.

Upon hearing this news I screamed at the top of my lungs and starting saying “why?” over and over again. Hearing you have cancer and that you will never be able to have another child in the same conversation is horrifying.

How can this all be happening? Just a couple of months ago I was pregnant and so happy. I was pregnant with our second child and miscarried during my third month on June 23, 2009. The only thing that was comforting me during the time after my miscarriage, was that I would be able to try again for a child. And now…that would never happen.

After all of the phone calls and meeting with my doctor and going back and forth to the doctor’s office to pick up copies of my records, my slides from my colposcopy and anything else I needed, I scheduled an appointment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. After various visits to Memorial Sloan Kettering to have another biopsy, I met with the doctor to discuss everything, and get everything in order, I was told that my cancer was Stage 1B1.

3. What kind of treatments did you get and did it worked?

August 31, 2009, I had a radical hysterectomy. I hated leaving my daughter that morning…in fear that I would never see her again. Walking down the hallway away from my husband and my mother on my way to the operating room was so scary to me.

Watching my husband put his arm around my mother to comfort her will never leave my mind. The operation lasted 6 hours. The last thing I remember is looking at the clock that was above the operating table. It was 11:15am, the next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room at 8:15 pm.

The physical pain that I felt in the next few days was excruciating. After spending 4 days in the hospital I then returned home to recover. A week or so later I received the phone call from my Gynecologic Oncologist that I was waiting for.

My pathology results were good! I was cancer free…no radiation…no chemotherapy needed. Shortly after that I had my catheter taken out.

At one of my first follow up exams I was diagnosed with a right ovarian blood clot (detected through a CT Scan). I was treated for the blood clot with 6 months of Coumadin and 3 months of Warfarin injections (because my INR was not in the range they would have liked it to be in).

4. Do you feel yourself now?

During the 3 to 4 months after my surgery I was in pain almost every day. The past two years have been so hard for me. I often sit and wonder why did this happen. I thank God every day that I am alive and cancer free. But I will never forget all of the physical and emotional pain that this has caused me.

Just one month ago I had my 2 year follow up…Cancer free and blood clot free!

5. If you can give any advice to women what would you say?

If I could give advice to a woman going through this, I would tell them to take each moment at a time. Just because you hear those dreaded words, “you have cancer,” it does not mean your life is over.

Surround yourself with people that will be there for you to support you in a positive, loving way. Educate yourself on what is going on inside you. Make a list of questions and any fears you might have to ask your oncologist.

All the answers and information you need about your specific case will come from your doctor. Don’t do too much reading on the internet about it. Yes, educate yourself…but don’t make yourself crazy with information on other cervical cancer cases that have nothing to do with you, because each case is different.

Do not leave any question you have unanswered. Know all of your options and ask questions regarding fertility. I found comfort in knowing that I was not alone in this battle when I found Tamika and Friends. You are never alone....

6. Can you tell us about your family?

I have the best family anyone could ask for. I am an only child to a single mother, Jean, she is my heart. I could not survive without her.

I have been with my husband, Sean, for almost 14 years. We have been married for 6 years and have a beautiful little girl, Alyssa.

Sean is the strongest person I know. and Alyssa…is my life. I am so blessed to have her. My family is my life and I feel so lucky to have them by my side.

7. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

I see myself in 5 years leading a life just like I live today. Cancer free, healthy, happy and enjoying every moment. As much pain as this past 2 years has brought me, it has brought me so much happiness! I feel like this is a new life for me. There is nothing better than hearing, “you are cancer free.” You feel like you can do anything!

I am so happy that there is now a vaccine for cervical cancer. This vaccine will prevent others from developing cancer and preserve fertility. Without the love and support of my family I don’t know how I would have gotten through all of this. I fought this cancer for my baby girl, Alyssa. Mommy loves you and thanks you for being my inspiration to live. I thank God everyday that I have you. I still hope one day to have another child.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top 10 Positive's of "That Damn Freckle"

It's amazing how a cancer diagnosis changes you... regardless of the outcome, it changes you. Now that I've shared the tough part of my cancer story, it's time to change my tune & focus on the good that's come from this crazy journey. Here are the top 10 positive's "That Damn Freckle" has brought to my life:

10) KNOWLEDGE... Cancer has opened my mind to learning. I have gained so much valuable knowledge since my diagnosis, not just about cancer but about coping, prevention, awareness, supporting, fundraising, research, networking, etc. I read more, I pay attention more to the news & current events & I confidently initiate conversations about cancer-related topics with friends & strangers. I have also become more aware of my own body which I hope & pray will allow me to maintain a cancer-free life. I believe I am smarter because of cancer!
9) APPRECIATION... I've always been grateful for my family, my friends, my abilities, my experiences, etc. But, since my melanoma, I have taken on a whole new appreciation, not just for all those wonderful things but for my life as a whole. The saying "take time to smell the roses" really comes to life for me now... I appreciate the little things so much more & I appreciate how they've made me who I am. When I can see the beauty in the everyday things such as a smile or song lyrics, it makes me appreciate the big things like my amazing family & friends that much more!
8) PATIENCE... Patience is a virtue, or so the theory goes. We live in a world of instant gratification with texting, facebook, etc & we have come to expect instant results. With cancer, there is no such thing. Waiting for oncology lab results, waiting for your next doctor's appointment, waiting for your friend's next cancer update... all of this waiting tests your nerves, your mood & your patience. I have learned that no matter how much I wish for these things to be resolved quickly, it's out of my hands & I still have to live my life in the meantime. This has forced me to enjoy the now & develop more patience in my everyday life, which is definitely a virtue!
7) COMPASSION... compassion (n): a feeling of deep sympathy & sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. When I got my diagnosis, the compassion I received from family, friends & total strangers was immense... it made me feel loved, protected & hopeful. That compassion has continued over the last 3 years, as I have been supported in my personal efforts to remain cancer-free, to fight cancer & raise money for Relay for Life & to spread awareness & support in the cancer community. That compassion has also increased my ability to be compassionate. I am surrounded by people I care about who are going through their own cancer battles & my heart is even more open & supportive than it's ever been. Compassion spreads like wildfire... it feels awesome to give & receive it!
6) THE ABILITY TO INSPIRE... Sure, I always hoped I would make an impact on the world at some point in my life, but I never realized that I could. Recently I received one of the most heartfelt emails from a family friend. She heard my melanoma story from my mom & told family & friends... as a result, her husband & many others became more aware of their skin, had it checked & were able to catch their skin cancer early. She said, "Because of you & your Mom I know that there have been many "ripples" of outreach... friends & family telling friends & family... lots of people have ended up getting checked, & lives have been saved. You are a true inspiration and I thank you for all that you do!!" That's one of many messages like that I've received... to make an impact on people from simply telling my story is very humbling & very rewarding!
5) INSPIRATION... Receiving a cancer diagnosis stopped me in my tracks... it made me feel scared, helpless, angry & weak. Even after I was pronounced "ok" by the doctor I still had trouble moving forward. Fortunately, through the last 3 years of cancer experience I have reached out, met new friends, joined support groups & been lucky enough to be around some of the most inspiring people... ever. I have watched friends go through much more difficult cancer experiences than mine & still come out on top. I have seen them shed light on even the most incredibly negative situations. Their positive attitudes, undying determination & utter strength have inspired me to discover those qualities within myself. Being around them & even just thinking about them throughout my day makes me work harder, smile more & even run farther... I'm up to 6 miles now! It's amazing what all that positive energy can do!
4) RELAY FOR LIFE... August '10 was my 2-year cancer-versary & I wanted to "do something" to help the cause. Relay for Life would be one of the most life-changing experiences I'd ever have. I bonded with friends & met new friends, celebrated my cancer victory & gained a sense of where I fit into the cancer world. I met the friends that would become my fellow Committee members this year... I had the opportunity to be the 2011 Relay Committee Survivor Co-Chair & it was such an honor working closely with our 100+ Survivors to help make their Relay experience special & unique. I am also incredibly proud to say I was a top 10 fundraiser, raising over $1,900 & I led my team "SPF SHRINK!" to a top 10 finish, raising over $8,000! And, to top that off, our Relay raised over $241,000, making us #1 in Southern California out of 91 Relays & #16 in California out of 427 Relays!
3) NEW FRIENDS... If it wasn't for this journey, I wouldn't have met some of the most kickass people that I am now proud to call dear friends... Survivors, cancer fighters, advocates, supporters & volunteers. What's even more amazing is that some of them I've only met in the virtual cancer world of Facebook, yet I still feel a closeness to them that's indescribable! Through their continuous drive, spirit & dedication, this strong, brave, honest, generous, loving, inspiring group of people has motivated me to be a stronger, more positive person. Through their friendship, companionship & support they have given me a new perspective on life, love, friendship & hope that has changed not only how I think about cancer but also how I manage my own survivorship & fight back against the disease. These amazing friends have touched my life more than words can say & they will forever be in my heart... you guys know who you are!
2) PASSION... I always thought I had passion, for family, friends, art, music, sports & life in general. Cancer forced me to look inside myself & redefine the meaning of passion in my life. I still have passion for these things, but the last 3 years have made me realize that cancer is also my passion... sharing my story, bonding with fellow Survivors, raising money for cancer research, increasing awareness for cancer & cancer prevention, being an active member of cancer support groups like Stupid Cancer & mAss Kickers Foundation, volunteering for cancer charities like Relay for Life & last but not least, becoming part of a worldwide cancer community that is millions strong & fighting this fight together. This passion & self discovery has fueled a fire inside me that I didn't even know was there... I feel more alive now than ever & I am so excited to continue this momentum & see where it takes me!
1) I AM A SURVIVOR... Relay '10 was the first time I was ever referred to as a "Survivor"... wearing that SURVIVOR shirt among so many other Survivors was a very powerful feeling. I had always downplayed my experience because it was stage 1 cancer & I never had to have chemo or radiation like many of my friends. But, being celebrated as a Survivor & congratulated by total strangers made me realize I have something in common with everyone who's ever had cancer, a bond so special that it will connect me with these people for the rest of my life... regardless of our diagnosis, age, health or life story, we have all heard the words "You have cancer" at some point in our lives & it changed our lives & the lives of those we love forever. Cheers to all the Survivors out there... those whose fight is over, those who are still fighting & those whose fight has yet to begin. We are all Survivors. We share the same fears, the same hopes & the same spirit... we ARE in this fight together!!

THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SUPPORTED ME, INSPIRED ME, LISTENED TO ME, LAUGHED WITH ME, CRIED WITH ME & LOVED ME THROUGHOUT MY CANCER JOURNEY... Having you in my life helped make this Top 10 possible...... Mom, Dad, Steph, Scott, Maddie, Abby, Grandma, Jim, Aummie, Poppie, DeAnn, Steve, Jessica, Lauren, Julie, Cheryl, Dick, Angie, Kay, Mike, Patty, Erica, Liz, Grace, Melissa, Amy, Charissa, Ligaya, Jenn, Heather, Amanda, Kyle, Eric, Amanda, Kevin, Arilda, Kat, Michelle, Zac, Christine, Rachael, Amanda, Gary, Rachel, Becky, Patti, Rebecca, Kelsey, John, Catherine, Gayle, Kari, Chris, Jenise, Kara, Blake, Liz, Amy, Jered, Cheryl, Mo, Willow, Tari, Tracy, Jocelyn, Kat, Emily, Michelle, Sue, Cortney, Aly, Julia, Banda, Katy, Rick, Andrew, Chuck, Bonnie, Will, Kim, Jessica, Matty, Biggs, Jason, Mikey, Bran, Dave, Otis, Mark, Scott, Tony, Heather, Matthew, Kenny, Stacey, Stacy, Rachel, Amanda, Kate, Arun, Brad, Karina, Klarissa, David, Mary, Angie, Kirstie, Frankie, Clint, Kristen, Jamie, Lindsay, Marina, Emily, Kristy, Kim, Nick, Gary, Mark, Cass, Rob, Benjamin, John, Kristi, Kelsey, Josh, Christine, Megan, Jen, Rachel, Colleen, Jessica, Jackie, Jeffery, Pilar, Avelyn, Larry, Kimmy, Brandon, JB, Betty, Marnie, Anne, Kathy, Maureen, Sara, Stella, Dick, MaryAnn, Mike, Nancy, Ginny, Lisa, Cathy, Karen Lee, Carl, Lois, Jan, Billie, Sue, Tom, Mike, Kenny, Sharon & anyone else I may have missed!! XOXO

Monday, September 5, 2011

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know that 1 in 6 men gets diagnosed with prostate cancer. Men over 40 need to get checked!

Men's Cancer awareness is not highlighted enough. Check out this video of ESPN anchor and Dancing with the Stars contestant, Erin Andrews talking about Prostate Cancer Awareness.

Check out this interview with Voices Of Survivors Foundation (VOSF) founder and prostate cancer survivor Lynn Lane before he started VOSF!

We already know that prostate cancer has a higher incidence and a greater mortality rate among African Americans than among any other ethnic group in the US. Historically Hispanics have had an incidence and a mortality rate closer to those seen in the Caucasian ethnic groups, but whether this will continue to be the case is going to become an important question over the next 30 years or so. (source: Cancer research and America’s minority populations)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are you Ready to be a mAss Kicker?

We think ALL Tumors Suck! We believe a stronger community needs to be formed to more efficiently fight these diseases. JOIN THE MASS KICKERS ARMY! Content here will be provided by real people who have been affected by tumors/cancer. Any one can be a "mAss Kicker". When facing a new intimidating diagnosis it is easy to loose confidence. We've found that the "Right ATTITUDE" will help get you through a difficult time! Are you ready to be a "mAss Kicker?"