Friday, February 26, 2010

Snowy Days Means Time to Catch Up on Ovarian Cancer News

For the past two days we have had yet another snowstorm in the northeast. I've been doing lots of chores around the house including shoveling the white stuff, projects for the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation and catching up on news regarding ovarian cancer.

  • Genentech sent out a press release regarding its Phase III trial with the drug Avastin. GOG 0218 has shown women who received maintenance Avastin after receiving chemo (carbo and taxol) and avastin had an increase in progression free survival time. The study will be presented at the next ASCO meeting in June.
  • News from Australia: An article in The Age ( Radical Ovarian Cancer Treatment Offers Hope ) reports that a study by researchers from the Royal Women's Hospital and Monash University shows promising results for "immune modulation" which works on a theory that the immune system has a 10 to 14-day cycle, during which it emits ''inhibitor cells'' that stop the body from fighting cancer so they deliver drugs at the opportune time during that cycle.
  • There has been lots of talk about low dose aspirin and the reduction in a the recurrence of breast cancer in relationship to COX inhibitors and inflammation. I found this article from MD Andersen, Aspirin : Can Such A Commonly Used Drug Have An Impact On Cancer , that made mention of other epidemiological studies with cancer of the ovary. I will most certainly be asking my gyn-onc about this when I see her next week.
  • This last bit of news relates to Johanna's Law ,a three year national ovarian cancer awareness campaign, which was passed in 2007. Well the three years are up and it is time to ask your representative to vote to reauthorize the Law. Click here to reach the OCNA site which will allow you to send an e-mail to your state's representative.


Every Day is a Blessing! I have been blessed with the time indoors to catch up on lots of things.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The BEAT Campaign

A friend, fellow survivor and blogger Sandhy wrote on her blog about the OVACOME campaign- BEAT. OVACOME is a UK-wide support network providing information for those affected by ovarian cancer. Their site offers lots of info and support for healthcare providers, caregivers and survivors in the UK. (By the way - Ovarian cancer Awareness month in the UK is next month - March.).
Sandhy mentioned a friend's auction to raise funds for OVACOME and the BEAT campaign to help women recognize the signs of ovarian cancer. The info below is taken directly from her site.


B is for BLOATING - persistent, and doesn't come and go

E is for EATING - difficult eating, and feeling full more quickly

A is for ABDOMINAL - abdominal and pelvic pain felt most days

T is for TALK - to your doctor

This is definitely an easy acronym to remember - especially for those of us with chemo-brain when words sometimes escape us. Thanks to our TEAL sisters across the Atlantic for coming up with neat way of remembering symptoms.

Every Day is a Blessing!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jenny Allen's- I Got Sick Then I Got Better

Today at the Princeton Arts Center I saw a performance of Jenny Allen in her one women show I Got Sick Then I Got Better. The show was presented by the Arts Center and the Teal Tea Foundation as a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer research.

Jenny Allen is an ovarian cancer survivor, writer and stand-up comedian. She shared her journey with the disease in a way that made the audience laugh (wearing paper gowns for exams makes one feel like they are part of an origami exhibit) , shake our head in agreement ( neuropathy makes your legs feel like they have been frozen and are slowly, painfully defrosting) and tear-up ( worrying about our daughters risk for the disease) .

I was sitting with the wonderful ladies from the Gynecological Cancer Support Group at CINJ. During Jenny's monologue we often turned and looked at each other knowing we had discussed what she was mentioning or had the same emotions. She had a wonderful way of describing the anxiety of waiting and the fear of a recurrence. We laughed with her when she went through peoples reaction to how she looked during chemotherapy and her raw food experience. At the end of the show we all said how she should attend our group - we are like her show - we share our thoughts and feelings and laugh- a lot. We also will think of her the next time we roll our doctor's stool around the examining room. Which, believe it or not, we have all done - at least once already.

After the show we went to The Alchemist and Barrister for lunch. It is right down the street from the Arts Center. As we ate we kept coming up with more funny lines from the show.

I highly recommend you get tickets to see Jenny Allen if she is performing in your area.


Every Day is a blessing! I am blessed by the friendship of the women in my support group.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No News Was In Fact Good News

Got a call earlier this afternoon from my gynecological oncologist. My six month CT scan was clean.

Every Day is a Blessing! I am blessed to be disease free.

FDA Safety Announcement - Anti-Anemia drugs

When I was in chemotherapy back in 2005-2006 there were weeks I had low red blood counts. My doctor prescribed Procrit. Procrit is known as a Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agent. (Heck of a name ~ er -ith- row-poi - ee- sis. ) It stimulated the bone marrow to make more red blood cells. It did its job since the next time I had blood work my red count would return to normal. At the time I never wanted to run the risk of low blood counts and then not receive my scheduled chemo.

Since then studies have shown that patients who receive these Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents ( Epogen, Procrit, and Aranesp) are at increased risk of tumor growth, blood clots, heart attack and even death. The FDA reviewed the practices of prescribing this class of drug and earlier this week issued a Drug Safety Communication:Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents (ESAs) :Procrit, Epogen, Aranesp

The FDA is requiring that these drugs be prescribed under a risk management program where patients receive a medication guide with the risk and benefits,and the drug manufacturer, Amgen , will develop a oncology training program for doctors who prescribe the drugs. Only doctors and hospitals who have enrolled and finished the training programs will be allowed to prescribe the drugs. Amgen will be required to monitor the hospitals/ providers for compliance. Further information can be found on the FDA site.

This is just one more area in which cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, as well as kidney failure patients and HIV patients, must become knowledgeable. Another topic to speak to our oncologists about. I know during my first rounds of chemotherapy I was still pretty dazed with all the information about ovarian cancer,the side effects of the carbo/taxol, the benefit of selenium, I'm not sure if I would have been able to get my head around another area of risk.
Hopefully I won't need to consider using these drugs any time soon.


Every day is a Blessing! I have been blessed with time - time to spend with my daughter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life is Good-LHJ article

Yesterday I read a very interesting article in the Ladies Home Journal March 2010 issue. It was called Life is Good ...Don't Miss it. The article spoke about mindfulness- the practice of keeping focus on the present moment. Women especially are used to multi-tasking so that they tend to miss things that are going on in the present moment. A clinical psychologist mentioned in the article that multi-tasking may actually not make things go faster but make things more confusing.Recommendations in the article include:
  • Taking a deep breath( yoga, mediation, slow breathing)
  • Unplug your gadgets ( Do you really need to answer your cell phone while out at dinner? Do you really need to update your facebook status or twitter so many times?
  • Take time out of the busyness of your day and take a mental break
  • Let yourself be happy- (What are you grateful for?)

I find that lately I can not multi-task like I used too. There are scientifically documented effects from chemotherapy known as chemo-brain. I know I experience this. I laugh about it some times and I am happy when my family can fill in the lost words but it does get frustrating to not be able to communicate as well as I used to. So in a way treatment has forced me to take it slower. Concentrate on one thing at a time. Appreciate the day as it is actually happening.

A few nights ago my daughter and I were out walking her dog. It is very dark in the area and it was a clear, cold night. The stars were so bright that I said aloud, " Look at those stars!". I knew they were the same constellations I can see in NJ but somehow they were different - brighter, more distinct. If I hadn't bundled up and decided to take that short walk I would have missed the beauty of the night sky.

Check out the article if you get a chance. And take a minute tonight to look up at the sky.


Every Day is a Blessing! I am blessed by my faith.

(Photo courtesy of the Bridgewater State College Outdoor Adventurers club. )

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feeling Comfortable Away from Home

I was smiling to myself today as I got in my son-in-law's car to drive home from the Hy-Vee store. Smiling because I felt comfortable enough to venture out to the store by myself without a Garmin providing directions. I enjoy getting to know places I visit. Since 2000 I have gotten to know four very different places- thanks to my children and their educational or work pursuits.

Carlisle, Pennsylvania is the county seat of Montgomery County, PA and home of Dickinson College. During the four years my daughter attended college there we would drive the 3 hours from our home in NJ to visit or drop her off for a new semester. I loved the downtown with its antique shops and Market Cross Pub which had the best chili cheese fries around.

Four years later my son was off to Blacksburg, Virginia home of Virginia Tech. Blacksburg is in Montgomery County, Virginia. ( I wonder how many Montgomery counties there are in the US?) I really like the eight hour drive to Blacksburg. Most people would cringe at the thought of driving 8 hours anywhere but not Nick and I. We think "Road Trip"! We take Rt 78 to Route 81 which takes you through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The colors and mountain scenes you can see during the drive are incredibly beautiful. We have our favorite stops along the way like exit 298 with a pet friendly McDonalds. Sometimes on the way home we stop in Carlisle for a bite to eat. Blacksburg ( BB) is a wonderful college town. In the six years that my son has been in Blacksburg ( 4 years undergrad / 2 years grad school) I can easily find my way around campus , downtown and neighboring Christiansburg .We have some favorite hotels-Hawthorn Suites and Holiday Inn with their free breakfasts- and restaurants- Bulls and Bones, El Rods, & Outback. I love being a Hokie Mom and cheering on the football team.

When I was in remission the first time and halfway through my son's undergrad program, my daughter attended the University of South Carolina for her masters. USC is located in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina and is a twelve hour drive from our home in NJ. Outside of the NY/NJ metropolitan area this has been the largest city we've gotten to know so well. Terry lived about 4 blocks from the Capital Building, one block from campus and an easy walk from the Vista area and Five Points. My favorite side trips included the historical homes in Columbia and the Riverbank Zoo. St. Patty's Day in Five Points is a lots of fun. I always felt that southern hospitality when we would visit.

Seems like my kids keep moving farther and farther away. Today's excursion was around Manhattan, Kansas where my son-in-law and daughter live. This is part of Riley County in the Flint Hills of Kansas and not far from Fort Riley, on of the largest US Army bases. It is a long road trip to Manhattan from NJ. Twenty-two hours driving time but 2 days with a much needed overnight stop. This trip I flew from Newark to Kansas City. KC is a two hour drive from Manhattan on Interstate 70. There is a small airport in Manhattan but there are limited flights from KC or Dallas. Manhattan,fondly called the Little Apple, is another nice college town, home to Kansas State University and the Wildcats. This mid-western town is such a friendly place and St Thomas More Church is especially welcoming. Even a trip to the food store makes you feel welcome. When I walked down the aisle of the HY-Vee in search of tea the store manager stopped and said hello and the young lady at the check out took the time to chat.

From the farms of Pennsylvania, to the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia to the prairies of Kansas - what a beautiful country we live in. It is wonderful to be able to visit different towns and really get to know the people and the area. I like to go off the beaten path.

Every Day is a Blessing! I have been blessed these past five years since diagnosis to visit and get to know so many different places.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Teal Wings Of Hope - A New NJ Foundation

Today I learned about a new Ovarian Cancer Foundation in NJ. In August 2009, Teal Wings of Hope was founded by Karen Nuels and Jim Baldinger. Both Karen and Jim lost their loved ones to Ovarian Cancer.
The mission of Teal Wings of Hope is "... to educate and promote awareness of Ovarian Cancer and provide support for all people touched by the disease."

For Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in NJ (February) the foundation is having a fundraiser:
February 20, 2010
at the
At the German-American Society
215 Uncle Pete's Road
Trenton, NJ 08691-3733

Ticket cost is $25
For tickets: Karen Neuls 609-213-9508 or Krystal Gadsby 609-571-5012
Check out their website for auction items.

I am pleased that the are more NJ residents raising awareness of Ovarian Cancer. Thanks Karen and Jim.

Every Day is a Blessing!

Friday, February 12, 2010


Today was CT day. I drank the ReadiCAT ( Barium is a key ingredient) last night around 8 pm and then again at 7:45 this morning. Then it was off to URG for my scan.

My doctor had ordered a chest, abdomen and pelvic CT scan. I was called in right on time. (That is one of the reasons I like the Metuchen location so much.) Next, I signed the consent form for the iodine contrast. Iodine can cause some serious allergic reactions but is used to help better show up the organs during the scan. Then it was drink a bit more of the ReadiCAT.

After laying down on the table and telling the nurse that my veins were not good, she went to work. She checked both arms, she did the tap- tap on my arm, swabbed the area and hit the vein in my left arm on the first shot. Here technique was perfect with just a bit of a sting. Then the scans began. This machine had a very ordinary sounding gentleman who told me to "Take a deep breath. And hold......Continue breathing". I do miss the machine with the instructions said with a British accent. The table I was laying on moved slowly through the machine. The first scans were done without the contrast. Then the nurse came out and set the contrast to be injected. As it is being injected the first thing you notice is an odd taste in your mouth then an interesting warm feeling occurs. When the injection is complete , the second set of scans. I waited about two minutes in the waiting area and then I was called up to get the CD containing my scan images. My doctor with get the radiologist report early next week. The image above is not the actual machine I used but the one I used was similar.

This is my 11th scan in less than 5 years. Since my tumor marker( CA-125) remains normal even with cancer present, the best way to see if my cancer is back or not is to have a CT scan.Yeah, I know lots of radiation issues but unless a better screening test comes along this is the only best method available to me. I am hoping that when I get the report next week everything will be clear. I'll just need to keep busy between now and then.

Every Day is a Blessing! I am blessed by a husband who has been with me for each and every one of these scans.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Weather and angst about medical tests

For those of you not in the northeast right now we are experiencing the second snowstorm in a week. Central NJ is scheduled to get 12-15+ inches of snow - on top of the 3 inches that didn't melt from the last storm. Above is a photo of the Edison Township plow clearing our street at 3pm.

My day today was supposed to start with my 6 month CT scan. To prep for the scan I would need to drink "ReadiCat" a barium liquid the night before and again the morning of. This liquid is not too pleasant tasting and tends to clean out my system. The prep is the kind of thing I would not what to do and then not reap the benefits of - like getting the scan. So I was getting nervous about what to do. Not knowing what this storm - Blizzard is the term now used by the National Weather Service - would bring I called the radiology group. The woman at the Radiology group thought postponing was a "really good idea". My instincts and the Weather Channel report said she was right so I postponed my scan until Friday morning.

You would link I would be ecstatic- not really. I am still nervous and short tempered. I hate waiting. I had gotten myself all prepared for the test. My veins are bad and this group will not access my port for the contrast so I must get it through an IV. UGHHH.

The good thing is that I like snow. My backyard is beautiful. The trees are coated. And I love how warm and cozy it is inside. Still, Friday can't come soon enough.

Every Day is a Blessing! Today I am blessed to be in a nice warm home with pretty views of the snow fall.

Friday, February 5, 2010

NJ Raising Awareness - IMPACT newsletter

The NJ Office of Cancer Control and Prevention issues a quarterly newsletter with updates from the county coalitions. They are doing some interesting events and programs. I especially like the Get Moving Get Health NJ Point to Point school program on pages 3 & 4.

You can find the pdf file here


Every Day is a Blessing!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Valentines Day Weekend - Breast and Prostate Cancer Fundraiser

I recently got this e-mail from Dave,a friend & cancer survivor :

Here is an opportunity to take your SO to a nice Valentine dinner and serve a good cause.
All proceeds will be shared for research funding for both Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer.
Let me know if you are interested.
If so, send me a check payable to PCC-NJ. Address: 22 Tennis Terrace, Sparta, NJ 07871
We are hoping for a sell-out, so hurry if you are interested!
Date: February 13
Time: 6 PM to 10 PM
Place: Sport Club Portuguese - 55 Prospect St., Newark, NJ
$50 per person

A nice way to celebrate .... a way to make a difference.


Every Day is a Blessing!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Teal Heart

Here is a simple teal heart for all Women of Teal !


Every Day is a Blessing!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ovarian Cancer Month - Down Under and Right Here in NJ

February is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month in Australia. I ran across the Ovarian Cancer Australia site and wanted to share it. From their site-" Ovarian Cancer Australia is a national not-for-profit organization providing support and advocacy for people affected by ovarian cancer, and is the peak body for ovarian cancer awareness and prevention. " They run lots of wonderful 'health ,wealth and style' events, campaigns and activities during the month.

Last October the governor of NJ signed a bill proclaiming February Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in New Jersey. I wrote about the signing in this blog. At first I was annoyed that we had an awareness month that was different than September which is the National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. But four months later I am thinking why not? Why not raise awareness in February? Let's be like the Aussies. Granted here in NJ February brings the cold and snow so walks and Teal ribbons might be out of the question. But February also brings Valentines Day- hearts and chocolates.

Think Teal Hearts this month!
More to come...

Every Day is a Blessing!

Yale Stem Cell Study

Yale researchers have been looking for biomarkers for Ovarian Cancer quite some time. But they are also looking at cancer stem cells (CSC) in ovarian cancer tumors. The team at Yale found that if you suppress 2 proteins (lin28 and oat4) ovarian cancer cell growth is reduced. Click here for more information.


Every Day is a Blessing!