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Testicular Cancer Series: A caregiver’s perspective

by Jenna Jackson, Caregiver

Sadly, there is no manual or guidebook for when your husband receives a testicular cancer diagnosis.  Did you even know what testicular cancer was? Did you know that it preys on men ages 15-34 years old?  Your world is suddenly flipped upside down and there is not a darn thing you can do about it.  You feel completely and utterly helpless.  Maybe you cry yourself to sleep, maybe you are in shock, or maybe you keep everything to yourself. You never imagined yourself in this role – you were just married and enjoying life as a newlywed, but now he has cancer and everything is different.   The days to come are filled with uncertainties.  But, you are absolutely certain of one thing: you will do everything in your power to provide unrelenting love, support, and grace to ensure that your partner, a newly deemed cancer patient, is comfortable and taken care of.

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Breast Cancer Is Serious. Pink Is Not.

by Theresa Brown

This article originally appeared in the NY Times.

PITTSBURGH — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I have breast cancer. The country is fully pinked out in support of breast cancer screening and research, and though I know all the pink is meant to make me feel good, to tell me that the entire country has my back, I actually find it profoundly alienating. Pink is not a serious color, though cancer is a very serious disease. Pink is about femininity; cancer is about staying alive.

I am lucky, if one can say that, within the context of possible cancer diagnoses. My breast cancer is small, has the tumor markers most favorable for treatment (estrogen- and progesterone-positive, HER2-negative) and is very slow-growing. A friend of mine, a doctor, trying to allay his anxiety and mine, joked that based on these results, I didn’t really even have breast cancer.

But breast cancer, even when one has a good prognosis, always raises the possibility of mastectomy, a surgery that removes the patient’s disease but is also said to disfigure her in a way that can compromise her femininity. The question that looms, reinforced by the ubiquitous pink, is whether a woman who has lost her breasts to mastectomy will still be a whole woman.

I have to say, speaking as a breast cancer patient, that the question never crossed my mind. I am not worried about losing my femininity to breast cancer surgery; I’m worried about losing my future to the disease. The real worry with breast cancer is metastasis: spread. And even though my present prognosis is good, there are reasons prophylactic double mastectomy would not be an unreasonable choice for me. However, after genetic testing and an M.R.I., I chose lumpectomy, with radiation, instead of mastectomy. Avoiding major surgery made the most sense in my specific situation; that mastectomy would threaten my womanliness did not factor in.

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Related Content

Pink Ribbons, Inc by Samantha King

Do We Need to Clean up the Pink Washing of October?  by Terri Coutee

“Breast Cancer Connections: My personal relationship with the month of October”  by Lorna Larson

“Hey, Pink Ribbons: You Missed This One!” by Deborah Cornwall

 


 

Patient Critical: A Non-profit for the Patient Voice

by Dr. Robin McGee, CKN Editor, Survivor, Advocate

 

 

A car accident changed PJ Mierau’s life.   When their car was forcefully rear-ended, his wife suffered significant traumatic brain injury.  A fit active physiotherapist, she was left with crippling difficulties with energy, memory, and concentration.  She could not work.  The couple were catapulted into the labyrinth of poor healthcare:  denied insurance claims, conflicting opinions, avoidant doctors, and sloppy records.

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What is the International Consensus on Screening for Heart Problems in Childhood Cancer Survivors?

GregoryAuneby Gregory Aune, MD, PhD, CKN Editor

 

Childhood Cancer Survivors have their own unique set of issues that often go unaddressed by health care professionals once treatment has ended and the child enters adulthood.  Although the last 20 years have seen growth in survivorship research, this research is rarely filtered down to the people who need it most – the survivors and their families.  Dr. Gregory Aune, Pediatric Oncologist, researcher, childhood cancer survivor and advocate, has taken on the position of CKN Editor, Knowledge Translation – Childhood Cancer Survivorship.  His goal is simple:  to help empower childhood cancer survivors to start a dialogue with their doctors by publishing short, easy-to-read research study summaries, like this one.

 


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Disassociating Death from the Grim Reaper

by Nadine Persaud, BSW, MSW, RSW, PhD Candidate

We live in a society where death is very taboo and it usually is a topic of discussion that only occurs when you are faced with death itself. I personally have been working in the Palliative Care field for 11 years and whenever I am asked what I do for a living, there is usually a long awkward pause after I say that I work with the dying. I am either looked at as if I have a halo over my head or as the grim reaper. Many people do not understand why anyone would ever want to work with someone who is dying. When I explain how rewarding it is to meet a complete stranger at the most vulnerable time in their life and be a part of their end-of-life journey, many respond by saying “I could never do that”. That often makes me think why not. We all live in a world where death is inevitable and we will all face this journey whether we like it or not.

 

When I think about World Hospice Palliative Care Day and the theme of “Universal Health Coverage and Palliative Care-Don’t leave those suffering behind”, it brings immense pride to me knowing that there is a focus on universal palliative care. One of the aims of this day is to raise awareness and understanding of the four domains upon which palliative care is built, the medical, psychosocial, practical and spiritual. When I think of one word that ties all of these domains together, I think of the four-letter word, HOPE. There have been a few times when I have spoken about maintaining hope during an end-of-life journey and have been asked, how can you have hope when someone is dying. I have contemplated this question often and at times, my own hope has wavered. However, when I think about all of the unique individuals and their families that I have had the honour of supporting, I respond by saying, hope changes. Your hope for your loved one may be different than the hope that you have for them tomorrow. I supported a three year old who was living with an inoperable glioblastoma. When first diagnosed, his mother’s hope was that one of the clinical trials would work and her son would go into remission. A few months after, we realized these trails were not working and her hope changed. Her hope was now that her son would be able to eat and enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without experiencing nausea. That young boy died at home, surrounded by his family and spent his last days playing his favorite video game. I tell this story because I believe that it perfectly illustrates the multidimensional aspects of the word hope and how important it is to understand hope is forever evolving at the end-of-life. When we understand hope, we are able to better address such concepts as anticipatory grief and as this story demonstrates, a move towards acceptance.  Yes, the people that we work with are dying but no they do not have to lose hope. There is such beauty in the word and the individuality of what hope truly means.

 

I was recently asked to define palliative care in one short sentence, and I very quickly responded by saying; palliative care supports individuals with life-limiting illnesses to live well until they die. I strongly believe that living and dying go hand-in-hand. When we are able to view death in this way, we are able to grieve and better celebrate lives. The depiction of death in the media is mostly associated with fictional characters such as the grim-reaper. I often look at these depictions and wonder, when will this change. When will our death-denying society make a shift to becoming more accepting of the one journey that we all have in common. When will we live in a society where the death process is celebrated the same way we celebrate birth. When will we live in a society where words such as loss, gone and passed away are replaced with the word died.

 

When I think of palliative care, I think of hope. I think of meaning. I think of purpose. I think of resilience. And most importantly, I think of life. We all have a duty and that duty is to help breakdown all of the myths associated with death. We all have the opportunity to improve the provision of palliative care not only within our society but also around the world. We have exceptional palliative care services in parts of the world and not so much in other parts of the world. Our job is to band together and create a world where there is equity within our palliative care system. I challenge as many people as possible to use their voices as their biggest asset and speak out about palliative care and about hospice care and what we can do as a collaborate group to change the way in which death is viewed. Death is difficult, death is hard, death is permanent but death is also a legacy of a life lived. It is our job to celebrate that life and carry on the legacy of those we love and care for.

 

 


 

Nadine Persaud is currently the Director of Client Services at the Kensington Health Centre. Nadine has been working in the palliative care field for the past 11 years and specializes in both hospice and palliative care. Nadine is also a trainer for the Core Concepts Hospice Palliative Training for three of the hospices in Toronto and has been a facilitator at the University of Toronto Centre for Interprofessional Education in Palliative Care. She also sits on the Accreditation review panel for Hospice Palliative Care Ontario. Nadine received her Bachelor of Social Work and minor in Psychology at Ryerson University, a Master of Social Work at York University and is currently completing her PhD in Palliative Care through Lancaster University in England. Her research interests include the concept of resilience in palliative, the methods in which the provision of palliative care can be improved at a community, provincial and national level and the supports that are available to adolescents and young adults living with advanced cancer at the end-of-life.

 


Chemotherapy Exposure and EKG Changes: What Do They Mean?

GregoryAuneby Gregory Aune, MD, PhD, CKN Editor

 

Childhood Cancer Survivors have their own unique set of issues that often go unaddressed by health care professionals once treatment has ended and the child enters adulthood.  Although the last 20 years have seen growth in survivorship research, this research is rarely filtered down to the people who need it most – the survivors and their families.  Dr. Gregory Aune, Pediatric Oncologist, researcher, childhood cancer survivor and advocate, has taken on the position of CKN Editor, Knowledge Translation – Childhood Cancer Survivorship.  His goal is simple:  to help empower childhood cancer survivors to start a dialogue with their doctors by publishing short, easy-to-read research study summaries, like this one.

 


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