• Bailey Flowers, Sophomore

Cancer Awareness Months

There are many types of cancer so I'm gonna help people understand how ways you can cause and prevent cancer. I know you can't always prevent it but signs of these cancers can help you. Remember to always go to the doctor at least once a year for a check up to make sure your healthy. Im even going to add some cancer survivor stories.

January:

Cervical Cancer- is cancer in your cervix. Cervical cancer is most common in females over the age of 18. Survival rates: The 10-year survival rate is 64% the 5-year survival rate is 92%

Survivor story of Tamika Feilder

Diagnosed at 25; stage 2b; Now 38

Tamika was a novice reporter and TV producer when she was diagnosed with cancer. "I was less than a year into the field and didn't know what to do. I ended up taking time off for my surgery, but I worked during chemotherapy, and sometimes I'm like, 'What was I thinking?' I didn't know my rights as a cancer patient, and I knew I couldn't afford to lose my health insurance."

Looking back, Tamika credits her job with helping her through it all. "It ended up being the best thing that happened to me, because it made me stronger. I had to get myself up and have my crackers packed so that I could go to work, and then drive myself to radiation treatment and back home without throwing up."-survivorstories.com

February:

National Cancer Prevention: Month National Cancer Prevention Month is a health event for increasing awareness of the different ways to prevent cancer. This is an important event because studies show that about one out of three Americans will develop cancer during their lifetime. About half a million people die every year from cancer in the United States alone. It is the firm belief of experts that about one-third of these deaths from cancer could be prevented by making lifestyle changes and following particular cancer screening recommendations.-Consumerhealthdigest.com

March:

Colorectal (Colon) Cancer: Is cancer in your colon caused by HNPCC (Nonpolyposis). Colon cancer is most common in Males over the age of 50.

Survival rates: Stage I 80-90% Stage II 64% Stage III 40% Stage IV 10%

Survivor story of Steven bennett

Diagnosed at 53; Stage III; Now 56

"I was diagnosed with aggressive rectal cancer on September 15, 2014. I underwent chemo and radiation for 6 weeks, then had surgery to remove tumor January 8, 2015 and ended up with a temporary ileostomy bag for 10 months. I had clean up chemo for 8 weeks. I was supposed to have 16 weeks, but my kidneys and liver started to shut down, so treatment was abruptly stopped. I healed for several months, and then in September 2015, I had my reversal surgery. Recovery has been challenging, as my body has not yet regulated itself, and I have many ” clustering” days, along with rectal spasms, but I am here to say that I am alive, and learning to live with my new normal. Life is good."-survivorstories.com

April:

Esophageal cancer: Cancers that start in the esophagus are much more common in men than in women. Many of these cancers are linked to tobacco or alcohol use, or to excess body weight.

Survival rate:The 5-year survival rate for people with esophageal cancer is 18%.The 5-year survival rate of people with cancer located only in the esophagus is 40%.

Survivor story of Robert Gibson

Diagnosed at 45; Stage IV; Now 52

"The short version of the story is that I had been sick for over a year. My primary doctor had been chasing my symptoms trying to figure out what was wrong. At one point we thought I had a persistent ulcer. When the symptoms still didn’t resolve themselves my doctor performed an endoscopy. That’s when we discovered the tumor. I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in May of 2009 "-survivorstories.com

May:

Brain Cancer: Cancers that start in the brain it may or may not have symptoms. It's usually spread to brain or even as a tumor but 90% of the time it is spread there. There is no general gender that has brain cancer than the other, but the most common age that gets brain cancer increases by age.

Survival rate: stage I 45%, Stage II 25%,Stage III 12%, Stage IV less than 5%

Survivor story of Liam Ryan

Diagnosed at 63; Stage IV; Was 75; R.I.P

"This is a true story of an ordinary man named Liam Ryan who beat huge odds against stage 4 brain cancer. Not only does he have one of the most astonishing and heart lifting survival stories, but he has abundant determination, resilience and spirited generosity. Liam is undeniably the most inspirational man I’ve ever known.

In 2002, Liam was diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer. A massive and very aggressive stage 4 tumor was discovered in the middle of his head. It ran from his sinus pocket, around his eye and was backed up against his brain stem. One consultant told him that it would be more accurately classified as stage 44.

The doctors counseled him saying it was the second worst head & neck cancer tumors they had ever seen. The worst case they had seen was dead in a month. He was given very little chance of survival and, most likely, only weeks to live. There were very few hospitals in the world that offered any hope to a case like this. Liam found a team of surgeons willing to perform the operation in Liverpool, England.

The problem with this advanced diagnosis was that the complex treatment required gave him only a 5% chance of making it. If he made it through the 12 hour operation, he was likely to be without sight, speech, hearing, mobility and loss of brain function – or any combination of all five.

Liam miraculously recovered from the extensive surgery and 7 weeks of radical radiation and chemo-radiotherapy. In between he contacted bacterial meningitis twice and a deep vein thrombosis. These serious medical issues themselves nearly ended his life, but with his intense will to live and fighting spirit he maintained his positive mind-set and overcame."-survivorstories.com

June:

National Cancer Survivor Month: A cancer diagnosis can be an incredibly overwhelming, difficult, and emotional time in one’s life. The uncertainty of the future and the need to constantly make decisions can be a lot to handle, especially on top of surgeries, treatments, and oncology appointments. There is so much pressure that causes cancer patients to focus on the uncertainty of the future that it’s easy to forget to live in the present, and to focus on being a survivor. A person with cancer does not have to be in remission to be considered a cancer survivor every day of life means that they are a cancer survivor. People lives are at risk with cancer. This month is a month to remember and not forget. We will remember the ones we lost and the ones that survived. I lost my grandma and my Aunt to cancer and it was hard for me and this month we realized there are others that survived because the ones that survived with them being cured. We got a step closer to the cure for cancer.

July:

Sarcoma Awareness: Sarcoma is a tumor that occurs in the bones and soft tissues. Soft tissues include; tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, fat, synovial membranes, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. More common in Males and Teenagers during growth spurts and is more common in African Americans then whites.

Survival Rates:83% in Females and 51% males, 45%African Americans and 76% Whites

Survivor Justin Williams

Age 13 when diagnosed; now 16

"I was very active, a basketball player since age five. Oftentimes I would ask to play the entire game even when I was tired. My only passion was to play basketball, and I was known as "lil shaq" because I wasn't a little guy; I was pretty big for my age. They didn't realize how good I could play until this big kid went into action.

I started to feel pain in my left leg, and at first my mom thought it was growing pains. Suddenly the pain became a limp and I told my mom. She didn't believe me when I said I felt a tumor; I'm not sure how I could tell that but I did. A few weeks later the pain got worse and I asked her to check. She felt this lump on my femur, and off we went to the emergency room. It was 6am, and by 9am the counselors and the oncologist were walking into my room with their chairs and serious looks in their eyes. My mom was stunned, quiet and unable to process the words: "Your son has cancer." I am not sure how they were able to tell so quickly from just an MRI, but I remember feeling overwhelmed and not understanding what they were saying. I remember the feeling of confusion and the "why me" thoughts. I know that most of those first few days were difficult. The biopsy confirmed that it was osteoarthritis, and the next day I was admitted. I started chemo on the day of my 13th birthday. My parents tried to change the day, but the oncologist said another day would be another day of allowing it to grow or spread. So, we began my journey."-Sarcomahelp.org

September:

Thyroid Cancer:Thyroid cancer is an uncommon type of cancer. Most people who have it do very well, because the cancer is usually found early and the treatments work well. After it is treated, thyroid cancer may come back, sometimes many years after treatment. Experts don't know what causes thyroid cancer. But like other cancers, changes in the DNA of your cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that happen as you get older. People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid cancer.-cancerfacts.com

Survival Rates: Early stages, 80-90%, Advanced stages, 25-30% Stage IV, 7%

Survivor story of Julie Nancy

For as long as Julie Nance can remember, she had wanted to be a mother. “It’s what I was put on this Earth to do,” she says. So when she became pregnant with her first child, she was overjoyed.

Her thoughts and prayers were filled with hopes and dreams for the little girl growing inside her. As every expectant mother does, she imagined endless possibilities for the future. But she never could have imagined what was to come.

One day in May 2008, Julie, who was 6 months pregnant at the time, caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror at work. She was pleased to see she hadn’t gained too much weight from her pregnancy. When she turned her face to the side, she noticed something else: a lump on her neck.

Figuring this “misplaced Adam’s apple” was pregnancy-related – perhaps swollen glands or other hormonal changes – she made an appointment to see her obstetrician, who quickly referred Julie to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT.

At first, the ENT suspected it was a cyst. But an ultrasound revealed a solid mass, which prompted a biopsy. When Julie left the doctor’s office, she went home and started researching her symptoms online. She came across several websites on thyroid cancer.

On the Friday before Memorial Day, Julie was at work when she received the news. She was six months pregnant and had thyroid cancer.

“I sat there completely stunned at how my life had changed in that one moment,” Julie says. “All I wanted my whole life was to be a mom. To find out that this experience that is supposed to be so beautiful is getting a little tarnished…” She dabs her eyes with a tissue, and her voice trails off into tears as she thinks back to her diagnosis.

Though Julie had mentally prepared herself for the possibility of thyroid cancer, she didn’t know what that would mean for her unborn child. Would she have to be delivered early? Would Julie still be able to breastfeed? She didn’t want anything to spoil her daughter’s entrance into this world. She wanted her baby to grow as much as possible in her womb so that she could start life healthy and strong.

Serendipity brought Julie to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center where one of Julie’s close friends, another young mom, had been treated two years prior. When she started asking around for doctor referrals, she discovered that David Arnold, M.D., who grew up in the same neighborhood as her husband and was his childhood friend, was actually a renowned thyroid cancer specialist.

Dr. Arnold, director of the Jackson Memorial Hospital Otolaryngology Clinic and member of the Head and Neck Cancer Site Disease Group at Sylvester, reassured Julie that her baby would be fine and recommended that she postpone treatment until after her pregnancy. In the meantime, they would monitor the size of the tumors in her neck with ultrasounds.

“It was an interesting case for me because I had two lives in my hands instead of just one,” says Dr. Arnold.

He collaborated with her OB-GYN, Thomas Horst, M.D., a community physician based in South Miami. They discussed the treatment plan and worked together to manage the care of Julie and her unborn child.

When Julie was 36 weeks along, Dr. Arnold told her it was time. The tumors were getting larger and he needed to operate. On Aug. 4, 2008, Julie was induced and a healthy baby Piper was born. Just 10 days later, Dr. Arnold removed the cancerous tumors from her neck.

“I couldn’t imagine getting treated anywhere but Sylvester,” Julie says. “The moment I walked through the door, Dr. Arnold and his nurse Penny completely put all of my worries at ease. They sat with me and just made me feel like at the end of this whole process, I would be totally fine – mentally and physically – and I would get through it.”

The care she received and the accessibility of the hospital staff really made an impression on Julie.

“I always felt like I had a direct line to somebody if I needed them – even if it wasn’t my doctor, it was Penny or one of the other nurses. There was always someone around.”

Six weeks after her daughter was born, Julie returned to Sylvester for a radioactive iodine treatment, and as a result, she had to be kept in the hospital in isolation for three days. After she was released from the hospital, she still could not be around her newborn daughter, and so she went to stay with her in-laws for 17 days. It was the longest 2 ½ weeks of her life.

“The one thing that really got me through this entire ordeal was my daughter,” Julie says. Pictures of newborn Piper adorned the bedside table in her hospital room, keeping her company while she was isolated behind a lead wall and being monitored by Geiger counter.

After the radioactive iodine therapy was over, she was finally able to go home to her daughter and husband and forget about cancer for a while. She now returns to Sylvester every six months for a check up.

Julie’s experience inspired her to give back to the place that helped save her life. She joined the Young Philanthropists for Sylvester, a group that fundraises for cancer research.

“Julie has seen firsthand the importance of having an academic cancer center in her backyard,” says Liza Lesser, director of affiliate giving at Sylvester. “She is giving back to Sylvester by serving on various fundraising committees and inspiring Sylvester’s next generation of philanthropists.”

Two and a half years after her diagnosis, Julie is cancer free and a mother to two beautiful children. Piper, now a toddler, recently became a big sister to baby brother Pierce.

“We’re all happy and healthy. It’s a wonderful little family I’ve got for myself,” Julie says. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”-Sylvester.org

October:

Breast Cancer: Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancerous) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.-cancer.org Breast Cancer affects people of and any age and gender.

survival Rates-78%

Survivor Story of Shannon, diagnosed at 36

I was diagnosed with stage 3b Invasive Ductile Carcinoma (ER/PR +) in September of 2012 at the age of 36. At that time I had a 16 year old son and a 6 year old step-daughter; my husband and I had only been married for three months.

I was diagnosed after finding a small lump in my right breast while doing a self-breast exam in the bath tub one evening. Something inside me just knew it was cancer. The next day I made an appointment with my General Practitioner. Upon his exam, the doctor advised that I "wait and see" for one month since I was menstruating at the time. Three weeks later the lump was still there and had not changed so I scheduled an appointment with my Gynecologist.

The day I was examined by the Gynecologist he immediately sent me to the Breast Center to have a mammogram done; my first mammogram. After my mammogram I was asked to wait for the doctor to come and speak to me. When the doctor entered the room she informed me that she wanted to perform an ultrasound which was done immediately. After the ultrasound she told me we needed to do a biopsy. I was nervous and did not have my husband or a family member with me so we scheduled the biopsy for the next morning.

My husband went with me for the biopsy. I remember laying on the table and crying as I just knew what the outcome was going to be; I felt it in my heart - I had cancer. After the biopsy I returned to work and waited. Early that afternoon I received a call from my Gynecologists office and the nurse asked that I come in later that afternoon. With my husband and my sister by my side I was told the scariest three words a person can hear - you have cancer.

After a whirl wind of information, doctors’ appointments and scheduling I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, six months of chemotherapy (Taxol, Adryomiacin and Cytoxin) and thirty-five radiation treatments. That was followed by a latissimus dorsi flap and reconstruction. Then began Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen and I simply did not get along; therefore, I underwent a hysterectomy and began Arimidex.

This October 2015 I will be two years cancer free!!

There are many resources available to women diagnosed with breast cancer and YSC is the BEST for younger women diagnosed. I volunteer with YSC as a way to 'give back'. If you have been diagnosed know that you are not alone! Educate yourself on the type of cancer you have and reach out to others. You can beat this disease! You can survive!-youngsurvival.org

November:

Lung Cancer: Uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. These abnormal cells do not carry out the functions of normal lung cells and do not develop into healthy lung tissue. As they grow, the abnormal cells can form tumors and interfere with the functioning of the lung, which provides oxygen to the body via the blood. Most common in people who worked with alot of dust, working in coal mines and not wearing proper gear, and really common in smokers it can effect anyone at any age.

Survival Rates: early stages, live for about 5 years. Later stages,live for about 2 years

Survival Story of Nancy Kuhn, Diagnosed Oct. 16, 2011

I had several visits to doctors including an emergency room run because of the severe pain in my chest. At each of these occasions I was given a heart stress test and told “your heart is fine”.

At one point during that ER visit, I told the attending nurse. “ My chest hurts really bad right now. Is there anything going on with the monitors?”

“No, honey. Your heart is fine. Do you smoke?”

“No. I am continually asked that question. If I answered it differently, would you do something different?” She just stared at me. I got the feeling she thought I was a hypochondriac looking for attention. In fact, it was I who asked for a chest xray a month later from my primary care physician.

This brings to light the fact that the medical profession is geared toward lung cancer caused only by smoking. I’ve told this story to many, including those in the medical profession. Many are surprised to learn I have not pursued legal action. What’s that going to get me? The end for me is the same. Instead, I try to use my experience to educate others who ask me about my cancer about the dangers of radon gas in homes and how to get their home tested and mitigated.

The oncologist I saw here in Louisville told us the cancer was Stage 4 – mostly in the right lung, some in the lymph nodes and not curable. Surgery was not an option. He suggested that I go to a regional cancer center and try to get into a clinical trial. I was very fortunate that my timing was such that a clinical trial was opening up at Vanderbilt that included Avastin and Tarceva (or a placebo). After my first chemo treatment the lung tumor shrank more than 25%. I was ecstatic.

Less than one year into the Avastin study, in a routine eye exam, we found cancer in my left eye. Not knowing if it was there before the lung diagnosis or not, we could not be sure if it was “re-occurrence”. After several months of tracking the spot on my eye, we determined it was growing. I had to stop my treatment of Avastin and make arrangements to undergo radiation on my left eye for three weeks in Nashville.

I was really not surprised to learn that the drug I was taking on the Avastin study, was a placebo vs Tarceva. And that turned out to be a good thing, because now I was eligible to be in a study where Tarceva was paired with another experimental drug.

This new study, however, will require weekly infusions of the experimental drug. For another year and half I traveled to Nashville each Monday. Many here already know that Tarceva, is a mean little pill. It basically dries you out to the core and the fact that any and all food consumed moves through you like a freight train causes you to choose your foods very carefully. But these side effects are better than the alternative.

The next surprise comes one cold, January morning in 2010 when I try to speak and there is no voice. I didn’t feel ill, but it was as if I’d had a bad sore throat and lost my voice. After visiting a local ENT specialist I learned my vocal cord was paralyzed. Specialists at Vanderbilt explained to me that there is one central nerve that goes down from your brain into the chest cavity near the heart and lungs that controls the vocal cords. The lung tumor was pressing on this nerve.

The Vanderbilt voice specialist put me through a procedure that was basically an injection of saline to enlarge the paralyzed vocal cord so it could touch the other vocal cord and be productive in making sounds. It was nice to be able to speak and be heard after nearly 3 months of “laryngitis”.

A few more months go by and I am starting to experience some occasional pain in my left hip. I don’t pay that much attention until it becomes necessary to lift my left leg to get into a car. Bone scans confirmed the cancer was now in my left hip.

That was July 2010. My doctor would like to do another biopsy. She wants to test my tumor to see if it is positive for the ALK marker. If I have the marker, there is a study she’d like to get me in, but first we must do radiation on the hip. So I’m back in Nashville for a 16 day stay of radiation to my left hip and my chest so we can get that tumor off of my vocal cord nerve. After testing at two different labs, it is confirmed that I do in fact have the ALK marker. This is wonderful news. A very small % of people with my particular kind of lung cancer have this marker and there is a drug. However, at the time, the drug was only available through a clinical trial study. In every study there is a control side and an experimental side. I got the control side of the study once again. I must do chemo treatments every three weeks until there is progression on the lung tumor. That was last fall.

In January of this year, scans show that the tumor has “changed”. I am now eligible for the crizotnib, now also known as Xalfori, pill that is shown to be effective on patients with the ALK marker. Within a few short weeks, I find myself walking with more energy. I can tell the patches of baldness on my head are filling up with hair again. In the 9 months since I started the drug, I’ve been lucky enough to experience some shrinkage on my lung tumor, the bone scans are showing improvement and one of the three spots on my liver is no longer visible. In addition, the eye remains stable. I am so very grateful and feel very blessed to be able to say I made it 5 years. Now it’s up to my liver and kidneys to tolerate all the medicines they have filtered through my body for the last five years.

T

hat sums up the medical journey, let me share with you the people part of this journey.

Of course when friends and family first hear of your diagnosis, the cards and well wishes are overwhelming. It’s the endurance so many shown that you truly appreciate.

Through it all, my employer has allowed me to continue working. Working gives me the purpose and focus that I need to know that this cancer is only a nuisance, not a death sentence. I chose to think of it as a lifelong disease, such as diabetes.

Many of my co-workers have sponsored fund raisers for the last four years raising over $5000.

There are the total strangers who offer their support. For example, the clerk at my local Kroger during that first round of chemo leans over the counter to say, “Are you doing chemo? Hang in there, it gets better.”

My bunco friends of 30 plus years—who very cleverly threw a surprise birthday party on my 51st birthday.

Two years ago, a smaller group of them showed up at my house one day when we were not at home to pull weeds and trim the overgrown shrubs. I think our neighbors were just as grateful as we were.

Several friends and family have joined me on my trips to Nashville. Whether it’s overnight or several days in a row during my two radiation stints. People continue to say, when can I go to Nashville, I want to help. I think maybe they heard about some of the shopping excursions my daughters and I have enjoyed occasionally.

Others will randomly show up at our home with soup, cookies, and even full dinners.

Speaking of dinners…. My husband has made countless dinners and ladies, he cleans! He will randomly wake up early and scrub the kitchen floor. His support never fails.

And of course, my daughter and her co-worker, Rick, made sure I had the best looking hair piece in the city.

One close friend, after I admired her coat, went and bought me the same coat! She knew I really liked it and I was in need of a coat after some significant weight loss from Tarceva.

And even now, five years into this adventure, I receive cards like clock work from two aunts.

And then last year for my birthday as I was in the midst of some nasty chemo days, my entire family of brothers, sister, son and daughters and all the in laws, that come with them, along with sisters of sisters in laws – a crowd no less — met at a nearby parking lot waiting for my husband and I to leave town for another treatment. Once we were gone, this entourage converged on our home for two days to do projects we’d not had the time or energy for in the past four years. They cleaned and scrubbed, painted inside and outside. They removed tree limbs damaged in a windstorm, pulled weeds and trimmed hedges. My son even arranged to have the back door replaced that had been rotting allowing cold air and even the occasional rain inside for a couple of years.

I wouldn’t have fought this fight without the encouragement and support of family, friends, co-workers and total strangers. Two wonderful grandchildren help me continue that fight as well.

Thank you to all who have worked in and around the health care industry and the clean air industry so that we and future generations dealing with lung diseases can find some hope.

Meeting others who have gone through what I have and seeing that they live life to the fullest every day lives gave me immense hope.

I am but one face of lung cancer. There are many others.

I would like to ask other lung cancer survivors out there to join me and share the story of how you came to be a survivor. Please post a comment below and share your story.