Johns Hopkins, Cancer – Bad Luck

Here is an interesting study from Johns Hopkins regarding cancer and its “causes.”

Johns Hopkins – Bad Luck of Random Mutations


The high schooler who invented a test for pancreatic cancer: A Q&A with ‘teenage optimist’ Jack Andraka


Science is everywhere and cures are in the minds of those who pursue … here is an incredible young man…

Originally posted on TED Blog:


Jack Andraka is not your typical teenager. The high schooler spends his free time in the science lab concocting better, cheaper ways to spot disease. One such project — a test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer — won Andraka first place in the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

As Andraka explains in his talk, his “teenage optimism” played a big role in this accomplishment. [ted_talkteaser id=1787]At age 13, after losing a close family friend to pancreatic cancer, Andraka began researching the disease to better understand what had happened. Andraka was shocked to find that 85 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed late, when a patient has less than a 2 percent chance of survival. Alarmed at the lack of affordable and accurate tests to detect this cancer at its earliest stages — when treatments can actually work — he pored over a list…

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Battling Cancer or Fighting for Life

When people refer to persons who have cancer, the universal language regularly refers to, “battling,” or “beat cancer,” or “lost their battle with cancer.”

When I hear those words of warfare, I immediately envision soldiers, like the ones who are in military combat, as one of my sons was, for many years. I also envision video game characters, like the monsters in “Heroes of Might and Magic,” or the popular game “World of Warcraft.”

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew what my choice of action/remedy would be – to have cancer cut out of me along with the other breast because of the high incidence of various cancers in my maternal and paternal families’ histories. Does having cancer cut out of me mean I “battled” breast cancer?

In my mind, I didn’t battle anything or anyone. I didn’t pick up arms and start shooting or bombing cancer. I placed my body and life into the care of my breast surgeon who did the “battle” against cancer with a scalpel by cutting it out of my body. My only contribution was to follow instructions and heal. I don’t feel like a warrior, I don’t feel like I battled anything.

My disease was caught early. Had it been diagnosed at a later time, I might better understand the verbiage used when people are “battling” cancer, but I still would disagree with the semantics, and here’s why.

As you know, I have been staying with my son and his family, flying to Calgary as soon as I learned the news of his having metastatic pancreatic cancer. I am not at a point of being able to write about this experience other than the experiences which brought me to the topic of this post.

To me, there is a difference between “battling” cancer and “fighting” for life, which is how I see my son living these days. He is living. He is fighting for his life. The doctors and all of their medications and chemo are the ones to whom my son has entrusted his life, they are the ones who will implement the medicinal armaments of scientific studies to “battle” the pancreatic cancer. BelieveAchieveMy son fights to endure the treatments, take his meds, attend all medical appointments, rest, eat and hope – hope that these efforts of his may increase his lifespan with some quality of life moments. What I see, through a mother’s eyes, is my son fighting for life. He is a valiant opponent.

Maybe it is just semantics, maybe through someone else’s eyes, they might not interpret this experience as I have. Maybe it’s just a personal preference. I choose to use the language, “fighting for life.”

Somehow, even in these dark times, it seems more positive to be fighting for something rather than against an evil foe, which I believe all cancers are.

We do not remember days, we remember moments.

Threshold Pharmaceuticals’ Partner Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Receives FDA Fast Track Designation for Evofosfamide for the Treatment of Patients Living With Advanced Pancreatic Cancer

More trouble with the NET


Important information regarding “miracle” cures through alternative courses of action targeted at the most desperate cancer patients. During my son’s course of life with pancreatic cancer, many suggestions have been offered by well-intented friends.

Originally posted on Ronny Allan - Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer:

“But it works… I read it in the news!” “But it works… I read it in the news!”

You may remember my blog entitled The trouble with the NET which was a light-hearted but still serious discussion about the dangers of self-treatment on the internet. Linked to that blog was a very popular article written by the scientists at Cancer Research UK debunking some cancer myths which seem to regularly patrol the NET and social media.

They have just produced a follow on blog about Alternative Therapies which is written in a similar vein.  I pay great attention to what these guys say.  I know from my association with their research capability, that they take an evidence based approach and do not publish these things lightly.

One bonus and very interesting aspect of their new blog is that they discuss the Steve Jobs issue, excellently making the point that he did not have Pancreatic Cancer  – but rather he had…

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Tell Them You Love Them

I’m still here. I feel lost on a sea of darkness. I do not know that I shall write about this horrid life-experience when it ends, but, writing has always been therapeutic, but never, ever in my life have I written nor experienced something that shatters my very soul.

I want to drown. I want to pour myself over the edge of this darkness, I pray for the gods to make a trade .. take me instead. But as the tree falls in the forest, if no one is there, who hears?

The greatest gift in life is to blessed with healthy children. The most unbearable pain is to lose your child to an evil disease.

Life isn’t fair.

Hug your children, no matter how old they are. Let them know how they enriched your life. I think that my son already knows this because I’m a “huggie, lovey” kind of person, but, I will forever have doubts that I let him know enough.

I know my son loves me and that I contribute to his pain in that he doesn’t want to see me hurt. I’m hiding my heartbreak, I cry in hidden corners. I cannot believe this is happening in my life. Doesn’t it always happen to someone else?


Courage Is…

As I prepare to fly to Canada to be with my son and his family, I hold in my heart the reality that pancreatic cancer, to date, can be manageable, affording the patient more time while research is being furiously studied. There is no cure….. yet.

I do have hope. I hope that somewhere in the diagnostics, they got it wrong. I hope that it is something weird that can be cured.

I hope that even at its worst, God gives my son time, because it is within time that a cure will someday be found. Why should I not have faith that that cure could be found within his life? Within my hope?

I confess that even though I was raised by a devout Roman Catholic mother, I believed as a child, with a child’s faith. As I grew into adulthood, I did attend church.

I stopped attending church many years ago because I do not like organized religion, I felt that the true purpose of “religion” was lost by power-seeking leaders and financial greed.

I pray, when others asked for prayers, I prayed deeply when any of my children needed help. Maybe that makes me a bad “child of God,” but, if one believes in a Higher Power, He knows all of my faults, like a parent knows their own child and His love is the ultimate unconditional love.

The update on my son is that he is in the care of one of the most incredibly respected physicians in this field. And, as I mentioned before, my son lives in Canada, Calgary. His doctor is Dr. Oliver Bathe who is committed to research in pancreatic cancer and has acquired over 10,000 samples of markers for pancreatic cancer genes.

Until now, I never paid attention to the study or advancements in pancreatic cancer. This study, with which Dr. Bathe is involved shines hope for my son.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine told me that her daughter had lung cancer. This was before I had breast cancer. I had the typical reaction, I thought, “Oh shit. Her daughter is dying. How is Frieda going to handle this? How would I handle this?”

There is no ONE answer to that query. We all answer the question of mortality in our own individual ways with whatever strengths we possess. I don’t know how Frieda handled it, I do know that she was with her daughter during the progression of the cancer. They lived within driving distance, unlike my son and I who are hundreds of miles apart.

Since my first writing, after I learned of Mikey’s diagnosis, I have emotionally and spiritually traveled from shock, deep denial and anger to where I am now. On drugs – not “those” kind of drugs, but I was already taking 75mg Effexor for depression since my breast cancer, now I am taking Xanax ER, instructed by my doctor to take daily. He also gave me another prescription for Xanax immediate release for “times when you will need it.”

I take, have been taking the Effexor for a few months already and the morning after learning of Mike’s diagnosis, I took one Xanax to stop my hyper-ventilating and constant gut-wrenching cries. Maybe I’m weak for needing to rely on medication to get through this, but, as I pack today and get ready for my flight out tomorrow morning, the most important thing I need to be is STRONG for my son, his wife and my innocent, 2 & 4 year old grandchildren.

I found the hope that resides in prayer.

In closing, I just remembered a quote which a farmer painted on the side of his barn which could be seen for a great distance. I think it is just what I need right now…