Men Get Breast Cancer, Too

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Photo: Howdy, I'm H. Michael Karshis, Flickr / Peter Criss, far right

Original KISS drummer Peter Criss is speaking out, sharing that men can get breast cancer, too. He knows, because he’s had it.

Criss found a lump in his breast after a workout in 2007, and went on to find out it was cancerous. He caught it early, had it removed, and now, the 63-year-old is apparently doing just fine. He reports that he is cancer-free.

Indeed, men are at risk for the disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2009 an estimated 1,910 men in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 440 will die. Not as scary as for women — in the same year, about 192,370 women will receive a diagnosis, and 40,170 will die. Still, the risk is real, and so men should follow up on anything suspicious they feel in their breasts.

“Don’t sit around playing Mr. Tough Guy,” says Criss. “Don’t say ‘It’s going to go away.’ It might not and you might not see life anymore and how beautiful that is.”

Right on!

Grateful Girl

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pink ribbon preparation

Just because I am totally and completely honored that so many people (57, to be exact) have donated to my Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Run, I’m listing each and every generous person right here. All these names will also appear on pink ribbons tied on my body as bracelets and anklets on the day of the race (Saturday, October 24).

I am a grateful girl, that’s for sure.

Aimee Piglia-Perry
Aunt Gay
8 Donaldson G Kids
Allison Lemon
Annie Frierson
Billy + Chris Donovan
Bobbi Nicol
Carmen Elliott
Cheryl Jorgenson
Dave, Lisa, Maggie, Jack + Annie Berrow
Dawn + Bill Breehl
Dr. Lynch
Dr. Copeland
Ericha Fryfogle-Joy
Freymann Family
Gainesville Family Eyecare
Gretchen
Hyundai, Lincoln, Mercury of Gainesville
J. Chokel
J. Hissem
Jen Weeks
Jim + Shannon Donaldson
Jordan + Tori
Julian Rosado
Karla Carrington
Kim Stigler + Family
Kristen Seymour
Louis Garcia
Lynn + Dave Broadway
Michelle Margolies Tran
Mike Clary
Millhopper Pediatric Dentistry
Nick + Lori Cheronis
Nick M.
Nicole Kotlan
Pat Nicol
Scott + Rachael Donaldson
Sean + Sarah Limon
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Steph + Sierra
Sue + John Herr
Susan Edmonds
Thaler + Townsend, P.A.
The Dampier Family
The Ernst Family
The Galione Family
The Grant Family
The Herring Family
The Hines Family
The Mori Family
The Otis Family
The Sklar Family
The Spiegler Family
Tracey Reeves
Urban Meyer Family
Vicki
Walker Family

License to Survive

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JD -- that's me!

I’m on a license plate. That’s me, the JD. HS is another breast cancer survivor girl, and the “5” refers to five years of survival — we both will celebrate our cancerversaries very soon.

This is the doing of a friend of mine, who decided to honor us, and I am totally flattered that someone would do this for me. I feel kind of famous, too, you know, my initials driving around town on a fancy new Honda Accord. So cool.

Dear Doctor

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Waiting, 10.5.09

Dear Dr. Lynch,

You don’t know this, but tears fill my eyes every time I drive to see you. It happens as I head east on Archer Road, right as that big Shands hospital comes into sight and just before I plant my feet in your waiting room and begin contemplating the reason you and I know each other. These are not sad tears, though. They are “Gosh, I am so glad I fell into your hands” tears. They are simply my body’s way of conveying what words cannot.

Thank you, my friend, for rescuing me from the doctor who told me to toughen up when my blood counts numbered 700, for telling me Taxol was not the drug for me (I knew it wasn’t!), for signing me up for the hopefully-life-saving Herceptin, for fielding my endless questions and worries, for helping fund my run (your name on a pink ribbon, October 24), for giving me another clean bill of health today and for so much more.

See, words just can’t sum it all up.

It’s happening again.

Tears.

In good health (yours and mine),

Jacki

Doctors, Doctors, All the Time

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Photo: meddygarnet, Flickr

It seems like I just went for a cancer follow-up, and here I go again, this morning, at 8 o’clock. There are just so many doctors and procedures. I have a radiation oncologist (she’s the one I saw five weeks ago), a medical oncologist (seeing him today), and I go for mammograms and ultrasounds, and MRI scans, too. All these appointments are scattered around my calendar, along with my annual physical, my OB/GYN check-up, dental appointments, eye appointments, skin cancer screenings, whew! Seems if ever anything is about to go wrong with my body, someone — one of these qualified docs — is going to nip it in the bud. That’s my hope, anyway — that this constant monitoring is prevention at its best, or at the very least, will lead to nothing more than early detection.

It makes me feel safe to weave myself through the maze of needle sticks and blue gowns. And safe I’ve been for almost five years now (November is the big remission mark). I think I won’t change a thing. Well, maybe just the long waits and never-ending co-pays.

LIVESTRONG Day is Tomorrow

I hope you’re living strong every day, but if not, make tomorrow the day you go for it. Friday, October 2 is LIVESTRONG Day, after all. Know what that means? LIVESTRONG Day is the one-day initiative of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, intended to unite people affected by cancer by raising awareness on a global level and in communities across the country.

Now, there are all kinds of official things you could have done leading up to this day (and if you did, good for you!), and there might be events and activities taking place right where you live, but you don’t even need to put a whole lot of effort into it. Keep it simple — wear that rubbery yellow bracelet, donate a few dollars to a good cause, make a meal for a neighbor you know is going through cancer treatment. Gosh, even ask someone who is surviving the disease how everything is going.

Here are some ideas for celebrating at work. And if you want to eat out, why not head to Buca di Beppo, where 20 percent of your bill will be donated to the cause. If you really want to be inspired, check out what these clever folks have done.

Patrick Swayze Dies of Cancer, Maura Tierney Has Surgery for It

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Photo: amazon.com

I should be working — editing nine posts for That’s Fit so they can publish tomorrow — but I’m too sad at the moment, because I just heard that 57-year-old Patrick Swayze has died of pancreatic cancer. He battled the disease for 20 months, which is a lot longer than many folks get (the survival rate for this type of cancer is just 4 or 5 percent for five years), but still, 20 months is not good enough. And so my mind is scattered by the news of his death, and the realization (again) that cancer is a nasty and evil opponent. And while I’m lucky that my chance of surviving breast cancer is 93 percent (November 2009 = five years), I feel more vulnerable right now than I do on most days.

Doesn’t help that I also just read that former “ER” actress Maura Tierney just had surgery for breast cancer and has dropped out of NBC’s new show “Parenthood.” The star’s spokesperson says that 44-year-old is “deeply disappointed” not to be participating in the show, and that “Ms. Tierney and her doctors remain confident that the outcome of her treatments will be positive.”

I’m confident too, because really, my hope is a lot stronger than my fear, and so I just need a bit to recover from the sadness. Then I can get to work.

Every Scar Tells a Story

Every scar tells a story. Here’s Angi’s:

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Angi Navarro

I got my first port in April 2005.  I was told I should probably get a port prior to chemo (for breast cancer), so I found a general surgeon who could perform the surgery ASAP.  I only had to do four rounds of chemo, but I didn’t want to take any chances with ruining my veins.  As it is, I only have one arm which can be used since I had lymph nodes removed on the other side.  After I completed my chemotherapy, I went ahead and set a date to have it removed, since it was pretty much useless as far as using it instead of an IV for surgery and such. My general surgeon didn’t find it necessary to take me back into the OR to remove my port. Instead she did it right in her office, claiming it wouldn’t hurt.  At the time I had it removed, only three months had passed. So when she took a scalpel and sliced through the original incision, she was cutting through a healing wound — and it hurt. The site never healed correctly after that. Scar tissue formed on top of scar tissue. But still, it wasn’t all bad.

In 2008, when my cancer returned, it was thought that I would have to endure chemo again. So when the breast surgeon went in to remove bits of my chest wall, she placed a port so I wouldn’t need another surgical procedure. It wound up unnecessary, as I underwent radiation instead. The port sat unused until April of this year. I was undergoing breast reconstruction surgery, so my plastic surgeon removed it. Not long after, as it was healing, I noticed some areas that hurt when I touched it. Upon closer inspection, I found that I had very small bits of nylon surgical sutures poking out of the scar. I couldn’t pull them out or cut them any closer to the skin. These stitches sticking out, along with scar tissue on top of scar tissue, made for a pretty uncomfortable area. When I found out that I would be having revisions made to one of my breast implants, I asked my surgeon if he could make it a little less sightly. He agreed to revise the scar for me as part of my procedure on Monday. I’m looking forward to being able to wear my seat belt and bra straps comfortably again.

There’s a lot more to Angi’s cancer story than this. You can read all about it on Cancer is NOT a Death Sentence.

If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please leave a comment, and I’ll be in touch.

Thank You, Nicole

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Me, thankful for my doctor, October 2008

I love that I inspired my friend Nicole in Ohio to write names all over her body in black permanent marker. Why did she do it? Well, because she did a breast cancer walk and wanted to honor those who donated to the cause by displaying their names on her arms, legs and other parts. She took her cue from me — I’ve done this marker thing twice now (here and here), and it makes me proud that she followed my lead, and is planning to do it all over again next year. I am also flattered that Nicole wrote about me in a recent email to all her contributors. Here’s what she said:

Hi. I am so excited to share with you that I received notification today from Komen of Columbus that I made the honor roll (top 100 fundraisers)!   I placed 26th with a total donation of just under $2,400.  Total raised by all for the event via donations was just over $500,000!

Did you know every $150 raised helped one uninsured woman get a mammogram!

They asked me to share why I did it and I shared about my mom and my friend Jacki!  I also shared with them that the idea of writing names on myself came from my friend Jacki and her efforts to raise money in Florida!  Jacki is a good friend from Kent State and SURVIVOR!  If you have time check out her blog: www.cancerspot.org

Thanks again for your donations and coming along with me!  I can’t wait until next year!

Thank you, Nicole, for all your hard work in the fight against breast cancer. I am so happy to have you on my side.

Happy Mother’s Day!

the power of songHere I sit in a chemo chair in February 2005, getting dosed with the toxic drugs that are hopefully saving my life, while my mom sits nearby, holding my baby niece Jordan. This lovely man toured the infusion center on this Friday, singing a personalized song to each patient in my similar predicament. He sang about me, my mom and Jordan — the two girls who sat with me for every chemo session. Click on the photo to start video.

Thanks, mom.
I love you.
Happy Mother’s Day.

Bald

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I haven’t been watching much of “Grey’s Anatomy” lately, but I do know that Katerine Hiegl’s character Izzie Stevens has cancer, so when I caught tonight’s episode, I was somewhat prepared for the storyline. What I wasn’t prepared for was my reaction to the end of the show, when Izzie pulls fistfuls of hair from her head.

She cried.

I cried.

I cried big, sobbing tears, because even though I am almost five years removed from that same helpless, hopeless feeling, it was still there, right in the pit of my stomach, waiting to be called up.

My cancer memories are vivid. Every one of them. But nothing is as vivid as the feeling that suffocated me the day my hair started falling out, when it washed from my head in the shower and gathered in the drain, and wound around my brush, and then covered my pillowcase when I woke up the next morning.

“That was the worst,” I told my husband as “Grey’s Anatomy” ended tonight and Izzie sat in a hospital bed with a completely bald head. “You survived it,” John said. Yes, I did. But I’ll never forget it.

The Breast Gifts – Books and Socks

A friend asked me the other day what I suggest she buy her neighbor who is in the midst of breast cancer treatment. I gave her three ideas. First, I suggested this inspirational book by Dr. Bernie Siegel. It’s all about exceptional patients, and it will convince you that the right attitude really does heal.

Then I recommended this book by Dr. Susan Love. I was once told it’s the bible on breast cancer, and now that I’ve consulted it for my every breast cancer question, worry and freak-out, I know that every breast cancer girl should have this book by her bedside. Dr. Love knows her stuff, and she explains it like she’s a trusted friend with all the answers.

And then there are socks — comfy, cozy, fuzzy socks. I got yellow ones in the mail (Thanks, Ginger!) when I was knee deep in chemotherapy, and they really saved the day. There’s nothing like feeling all warm and toasty when the world is crashing down around you.

Hannah has breast cancer

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I’ve never heard anything like it and apparently, not many people have, because the parents of this sweet little girl are at a crossroads over how to treat their 10-year-old daughter, who was just recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Hannah Powell has invasive ductal carcinoma, Stage IIA.

Here’s the dilemma: What type of treatment should a child with an adult disease receive? Hospitals that deal with breast cancer usually do not treat children, and children’s hospital do not have facilities for treating breast cancer. Hannah’s family posts on their website, “We have two options at this point; (A) Hannah goes to a breast center that does not have the experience in children or (B) she goes to a hospital that has more pediatric care but not so much in the breast cancer area.”

Hannah’s family is searching for answers, and if you have any information that might help them, please stop by their website and let them know. Do you know of any very young breast cancer patients? Do you know of any doctors who have treated very young breast cancer patients? Even if you don’t know how to specifically guide this family, I know your well wishes would help. So pay them a visit when you can.

Fine

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At 8 a.m. this morning, I arrived at the oncology clinic at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL for a six-month breast cancer follow-up. I sat in a nearly empty waiting room for a short time, then was moved to an exam room, where I had my blood drawn (ouch!), my weight checked (good news), my blood pressure taken (low, but good) and my temperature taken (98.3). Then met with my lovely Dr. who checked my boobs, my lymph nodes, my belly and my breathing.

Everything was just fine.

And then I drove away. And it’s been a glorious day ever since.