CDC Symptom Diary Card

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brain Scans Reveal Chemo Brain is Real

This is groundbreaking news because so many of us undergoing chemotherapy experience unusual and unexpected problems because of the poison's effect on our brains.  This validates that we are not crazy and that we are not overstating our problems.  It is just ridiculously difficult to explain this phenomenon.

Thankfully I am not experiencing the same level of "dead head" that I had the first time I went through chemo.  I used to say that chemo steals the soul.  

This new research will help many patients, families, coworkers and caregivers better cope with the many unusual cognitive and behavioral changes that are not only associated with chemo brain, but  with receiving a diagnosis of cancer.  

So grateful for this research!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

'Chemo Brain' a Real Thing

CHICAGO -- The phenomenon known as "chemo brain" appears to correlate with reductions in glucose metabolism in brain regions tied to cognition, researchers said here.
In a single-center study of breast cancer patients who had undergone chemotherapy, there were significant changes in metabolism in the superior medial frontal gyrus and the temporal operculum as measured on PET-CT (P=0.025 and P=0.036, respectively), Rachel Lagos, DO, of the University of West Virginia, and colleagues reported during a press briefing at the Radiological Society of North America meeting here.
"The good news is that we are seeing evidence on PET-CT that is diagnostic for this phenomenon," Lagos said during the briefing. "Having diagnostic criteria is going to be one of our first steps to providing relief to people receiving chemotherapy."
Chemotherapy has long been associated with cognitive decline, including loss of memory and concentration that can cause trouble with activities of daily living. Yet the exact etiology of chemo brain is difficult to determine, and some have questioned whether the phenomenon is indeed real.
So Lagos and colleagues took a retrospective look at 115 patients who had undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer at their facility. None had disease that had metastasized to the brain.
They used PET-CT to assess changes in brain function and calculated z-scores for changes in brain metabolism in certain regions, with patients serving as their own controls.
Overall, they found significant decreases in glucose metabolism in brain regions closely associated with symptoms of chemo brain:
  • Superior medial frontal gyrus: associated with mental agility and decision making (P=0.025)
  • Superior medial frontal gyrus, left to right difference: problem solving and sequencing (P=0.023)
  • Temporal operculum: long term memory (P=0.036)
"This corresponds to anecdotal evidence we're hearing from patients about how their life is being affected by chemotherapy," Lagos said.
Although the researchers did not calculate an average value for the change in z-scores of glucose metabolism pre- and post-chemotherapy, Lagos said values ranged from a decline of 2.5 to 8 points.
She said the findings reinforce that chemo brain "is a disease. It is a side effect. It is real. You're not crazy."
The exact mechanisms are still unclear, but the effect could be mediated through a cytokine response or may have something to do with nerve demyelination.
Max Wintermark, MD, chief of neuroradiology for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who moderated the session during which the findings were presented, told MedPage Today the metabolism changes may also have something to do with the stress and anxiety of going through chemotherapy.
"It could have something to do with those changes, but more research is needed," Wintermark said, adding that the finding is reassuring for women who experience cognitive symptoms during chemotherapy.
"Instead of those symptoms being dismissed, we can see there is a substrate for them," he said. "Just to know they are not inventing those symptoms, I think that will help them go through this difficult experience."
Lagos added that acknowledging the fact that chemo brain exists is the first step toward helping patients cope with the disease, and that psychosocial therapies can be tailored to their needs, such as providing them with lists to get through their daily activities.
She added that it should be comforting for women to know that chemo brain tends to resolve once treatment is finished.
The researchers reported no conflicts of interest.
Primary source: Radiological Society of North America meeting
Source reference:
Lagos R, et al "Towards diagnostic imaging of ChemoBrain phenomenon" RSNA 2012; Abstract LL-MIS-TU2A.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Dog's Nose Knows Cancer

CBS NEWS/ November 21, 2012, 2:55 PM

"Doctor dogs" being trained to sniff out ovarian cancer

Rescue dogs that were saved are now being trained to save other people's lives by sniffing out ovarian cancer.
Dina Zaphiris, a pet owner and dog trainer from West Hills, Calif., is working with researchers at the Pine Street Foundation to teach dogs how to detect ovarian cancer from a person's breath.
"These dogs would rather find the cancer sample than a steak," Zaphiris told CBS station KCBS in Los Angeles.
Zaphiris felt a personal connection to the project after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. Eventually, her mother died in 2010.
"Her struggle: She did not find it early," she explained.
Now, Zaphiris works four hours a day, four days a week training mixed-breed dogs how to use their noses to find cancer. First, healthy people and ovarian cancer patients are instructed to breath into sample jars that contain a piece of cloth. The samples are slotted into a specially made trough. Then, the dogs are allowed to sniff the samples. When they correctly detect cancer, they are given a reward.
Schatzi is a rescue dog being trained to sniff ovarian cancer on a person's breath.
One of the dogs, Schatzi, was about to be put down before she was enrolled in the study. Now, Zaphiris said the dog is one of the few who has never missed a cancer sample.
This new research is the first and only federally-funded study on using exhaled breath as a diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer, KCBS reported.
However, this isn't the first study that used dogs to detect cancer. In 2005, 60 Minutes looked at a study in England that was training dogs to sniff out bladder cancer using urine samples. On average, the dogs were 41 percent accurate, which is statistically significant according to Dr. Carolyn Willis, a research dermatologist who worked on the study.
Researchers had become discouraged when the dogs seemed to get held up on one "healthy" sample time and time again. They decided to double-check the diagnosis. It turned out that that person had kidney and bladder cancer that the lab had missed.
Other studies to look at dogs' cancer-sniffing abilities include one at the Schillerhoehe Hospital in Germany, which used dogs to smell out lung cancer using a person's breath. The dogs were able to accurately detect lung cancer in 71 percent of the cases and tell if a person was healthy in 93 percent of cases.
Another study in Japan showed that dogs could smell colorectal cancer in a sample of fecal matter 98 percent of the time.
Zaphiris worked on a previous cancer detection project using in 2003. She claimed her dogs were 98 to 99 percent.
Michael McCulloch, research partner on the current ovarian cancer study and director of the Pine Street Foundation, said to KCBS that breath has been used to detect diseases for centuries. Ideally, he hopes that dog detection can become a non-invasive way to diagnose cancer earlier than screenings or blood tests might.
"Who will win out in the end: Is the dog more accurate or is the laboratory more accurate? Is it the lab or the Lab?" he pondered.
To see the dogs in action, watch the video from KCBS below:
© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This is a fascinating study.  I fully entrust in the power of the "nose".  I recall prior to my diagnosis that I knew I had a different breath and body scent.  

I remember asking over and over to my doctor  in California if my breath was "bad".  A polite "no, of course not" combined with a repressed smile always followed.

I hope that this study finds roots in the cancer community 
because it could save thousands of lives.  

Very exciting study.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Thanksgiving With Mom

As I turned the corner around the edge of the market, I was shocked into real time with the overwhelmingly refreshing scent of pine today.  Just earlier my kitty cat looked somberly at me while I tried to eat cereal (sore throat) and I had to go get her some food.  I was so tired.  I brushed my teeth, threw on a coat and braved the Seattle windstorm to cross the parking lot for the store.

I was in a daze, feeling bad  and sluggish from having slept for 15 hours straight. I had intended to go visit mom today, but that was just not in the cards for me today.  It was better for me to stay away and not get my mom sick or anyone else sick.

I exited my building via a stairwell that opens directly onto a little shopping mall and almost walked straight into a giant silver star Christmas decoration.  I shook my head because I literally forgot that Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.  Fuzzy and feeling cold, walking with my head down, I dragged myself across the parking lot.  I was shocked again when I saw all the Christmas trees in front of the store.

It was sort of surreal because a few hours earlier a loud boom of thunder literally blasted me out of bed.  I had been sleeping like a rock.  Scared the be-jeebers out of me.  My sense of time is just "off".  I was not expecting trees, but am so glad they were there.  I had to stop for a moment and inhale the fresh scent and start imagining good times to come.  All I could think about was that I wanted to take a tree to mom's house.

Time is moving too fast.  I had wanted to savor this holiday season.  A little music here, a  "Halllmark" movie there, a new memory every day.  It's gonna go fast, I can tell.

Mom is slowly recovering from this last episode.  Inch by inch, minute by minute, drop by drop she clings to hope that she can return to the life she has enjoyed.  My sweet sister has lost so much time with her own family, but we are making it.  Together we are helping each other to help our mom reclaim her life.

Mom is so darn "lucky". I told her she had an angel.  She laughed and said  "not forever".  We literally almost lost her a few weeks ago.  It takes a lot of work to live, we find this out every day.  All the hustle and bustle, going here and going there, for what?  Each tender moment of happiness I relish right now.  I have lost my sense of time,  have no desire for mindless and irrelevant activities.

The photo above gives me comfort.  This is the mom I remember more than anything, sitting at the kitchen counter.  Upon this spot she would talk, write, sketch, paint, cook and raise us.  This was her home within the home.  It was just the best place in our house.  We could sit on the bar stools and look into the kitchen and talk with mom while she was doing whatever she was doing.  She liked to lean onto the counter and peek out into the living room. Sometimes I did my homework there and she would watch me.

This spot is where she had her quiet time, her reading time, her resting time.

The look on her face is a mixture of content and ever so slight irritation.  She does not like having her picture taken, ha.  I can't tell ya how many times she has hollered for me to 'put the camera away".  Makes me laugh.  She is so pretty..........

In two days we will be celebrating a day of Thanks, and it will not be the usual holiday for us.  Thanksgiving is mom's favorite holiday.  She loves it so much.  She used to throw one heck of a holiday bash I tell ya.

We had dozens of people over, she would make breads and stuffing and roast a fabulous turkey.  Relatives would bring over everything else.  Mom would even slow cook a pot roast, our mom's mom's favorite meal.

Us kids would play and laugh and have fun with the relatives.  I used to love to sit in the corner and just listen to the chatter. That is still one of my favorite things to do, listen to other people having fun.  Mom likes to do that too.

If you are celebrating a Thanksgiving with lot's of family and friends, not to tell ya what to do, but relish this time.  Savor it with all your heart because those moments may not come again.

We don't have those kinds of Thanksgivings anymore.   We are grown up, people live in different states and cities, and it's just not the same.  My thanks is that mom is here!

I am most grateful and give thanks to God for the gift of life, the LIFE of all those whom I love, my family and friends, and those who have been there all this time to help in a time of need.  I pray for those who are suffering, who have no home, no family, no person with whom to celebrate this holiday.  For maybe our celebration is different, but that is no loss.  For we have each other, we have shelter, we have food.  We are Blessed.

May you have a Blessed Thanksgiving Day.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Auction with Drs Goff and Muntz Dec 01, 2012 for Ovarian Cancer in Seattle Washington

Ovarian Cancer Awareness - Dinner & Auction

Fact Sheet ThumbnailSymptoms Card Thumbnail

Ovarian Cancwww

Welcome to the Ovarian & Breast Cancer Alliance Auction Website!

Please join us!
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Dinner & Auction
  Saturday, December 1, 2012, 5:00 PM
    The UW Center for Urban Horticulture
3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98195
$75 per person
Two Steps to Register:
Step 1:  Click on "Sign In" above and scroll down to "Create New Record" to fill in your information. 
Step 2:  Click here to Register  
We look forward to seeing you on December 1st!
To reach us:  CONTACT

Copyright 2003-2012 MaestroSoft, Inc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"One Tough Cookie"

As my mom lay there after her heart surgery, I told her that I had a new nick name for her, "One Tough cookie".  She says, "oh ya?  I like that one".  She then smiled and closed her eyes.

It has been a heck of a week.  Our family is deeply concerned for mom as she is in hospital, from a heart attack and complications from diabetes and kidney disease, among other things.  I had called her home one evening, no answer. I waited and called again, no answer.  I went over and heard her sort of talking and she did not respond to the knock on the door.  I went in and found her in need of urgent care.  This was so scary and I thank God for the whispers telling me to call her.

I was coming back from Gig Harbor after a visit with my friend Joe.  He invited me up for a daytime retreat, to honor Heidi, his sweet beloved Heidi.  He was so generous.  He took me on a nice kayak ride in the cove and a short little hike on Heidi's trail.  We talked about cancer, life, suffering and God.  It was a Sunday.  The previous day I was able to attend mass, and I was feeling so grateful for life, the breath of air, the ability to exist.

As I approached the Seattle area, and the exit to take to mom's house, I felt a strong pull to call her house.  I knew something was up, but not what.  I exited I-5, and called her.  I got lost, of course, and eventually found my way to her neighborhood.  I called again before knocking on the door, because it was already dark and did not want to scare her.  I was hoping that she would call out to me "is that you?"

No call out to me.  My mom has been through so much, it's just indescribable how much work she puts into living each day.  Every task requires an extensive amount of energy and dedication, and she does it.  She fights her way through each necessary task. She so wants to be free from all this suffering.

She has such an amazing core group of medical professionals, she really does.  When she is in the hospital though, because she has such a complicated body, someone from the family needs to be there.  My sister and I rotate shifts.

I had my chemo yesterday and cannot go today or tonight.  My sister has a family of her own.  Mom's family loves her so much, but there aren't enough of us here when these things happen.  My sister and I need to take care of ourselves too, so that we can do what is needed.

Mom has had such an amazing attitude, offering smiles and little laughs as she copes with the cascading consequences of this ordeal.  Her doctors are working to resolve all the issues so that she can get stabilized. She misses her home, her window to the neighborhood, her neighbors.

We spent election night together, in ICU.  I smiled and told her Obama won, and she said, "That's the right thing, good, good, good."

So now I am praying as much as possible for her recovery and for the well being of my sister.  For our loving neighbor who is helping with the house.  Mom has the best neighbors in the world.  She really does.

I will now get back to resting, per the strong recommendation from my sister.  I just wanted to share with you that we love our mom and hope that her courage and desire for life inspires you to keep on living a life of love.  Offer to your neighbor a strong smile, and you will receive the same.


PS.  My tumor markers are slowly improving, yay.  I am so fortunate that I will also receive an extra dose of IV emend later this week to address the extreme abdominal pain and nausea.  Last time I was totally incapacitated a week out from chemo, and had hellish nightmares.  Do not want a repeat of that, need to be there for mom and keep working too.  Love you.