Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pet Therapy

After three trips to the veterinarian and shelling out almost $1,700.00, my cat Mango is back to eating and acting like he owns the place again. For more than a week it was a roller-coaster ride trying to figure out what was wrong with him. When I brought him back the third time because he quit eating and vomited constantly, they took an x-ray and saw a foreign object in his intestines, which the vet thought was a sewing needle. He rushed him into surgery only to discover he couldn't find anything. They decided maybe it wasn't a needle after all. Since he was eating again, I got to take him home despite the mystery. Now my vet wants me to bring him in again for an x-ray to see if the object passed through his system.

I hope to do that this week, but for now all is well. At one point I thought Mango had cancer, which brought back horrid memories of my beloved cat Macavity that died of cancer back in 2000. When you decide to let a pet into your life, you must be prepared for the angst when they go missing or get sick. Yet as I weigh in on the benefits--the daily comfort they give me, the companionship--I would have to say its worth it.

My mother doesn't understand that. All she sees is hair that collects on furniture, chairs shredded beyond repair and the added expense of cat food, litter and vet bills. When she hears me crying over the phone because of my fear of losing Mango, she becomes all the more confounded as to why I would want the hassle of pets at all.

The daily emotional comfort my cats give me is an elusive concept to her that she just can't quite grasp. I watched the film Marley & Me the other night, and it felt good knowing there was a vast community out there that was just like me. The movie's message was clear to anyone who has ever owned a pet. The amount of destruction a pet causes is a meager price to pay when you are getting so much unconditional love every day. You can replace things, but you can never replace the personality of a pet that shows how much he cares in his own unique way.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lifestyle Changes Can Prevent Breast Cancer

I am in the process of getting all the tests, paperwork, etc. done to participate in the HOPE (hormones and exercise study) Yale Medical School program, which analyzes how exercise and diet can alleviate the side effects of aromatose inhibitor medication. This article relates to what the Yale Study is aiming to prove.

FRIDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, drinking less alcohol and getting more exercise could lead to a substantial reduction in breast cancer cases across an entire population, according to a new model that estimates the impact of these modifiable risk factors.

Although such models are often used to estimate breast cancer risk, they are usually based on things that women can't change, such as a family history of breast cancer. Up to now, there have been few models based on ways women could reduce their risk through changes in their lifestyle.

U.S. National Cancer Institute researchers created the model using data from an Italian study that included more than 5,000 women. The model included three modifiable risk factors (alcohol consumption, physical activity and body mass index) and five risk factors that are difficult or impossible to modify (family history, education, job activity, reproductive characteristics, and biopsy history).

Benchmarks for some lifestyle factors included getting at least 2 hours of exercise a week (for women 30-39) and having a body mass index (BMI) under 25 (in women 50 and older).

The model predicted that improvements in modifiable risk factors would result in a 1.6 percent reduction in the average 20-year absolute risk in a general population of women aged 65; a 3.2 percent reduction among women with a positive family history of breast cancer; and a 4.1 percent reduction among women with the most non-modifiable risk factors.

The authors pointed out that the predicted changes in lifestyle to achieve these goals -- such as former and current drinkers becoming non-drinkers -- might be overly optimistic.

But, the findings may help in designing programs meant to encourage women to make lifestyle changes, according to the researchers. For example, a 1.6 percent absolute risk reduction in a general population of one million women amounts to 16,000 fewer cases of cancer.

The study appears online June 24 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, where the author of an accompanying editorial applauded the research.

The findings provide "extremely important information relevant to counseling women on how much risk reduction they can expect by changing behaviors, and also highlights the basic public health concept that small changes in individual risk can translate into a meaningful reduction in disease in a large population," Dr. Kathy J. Helzlsouer, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, wrote in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer risk.

Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Participating In Yale Medical School Breast Cancer Study

My oncologist, Dr. Neil Fischbach, gave a recommendation to Yale Medical School for me to participate in a 12-month study on how exercise helps alleviate the side effects of medications that estrogen-positive breast cancer survivors must take for at least 5 years. I am honored to participate in this study since I have complained numerous times in this blog how much I hate taking Arimidex. The joint pain and hot flashes drive me nuts. This study is an attempt to show show how doing weight training at least twice a week and engaging in at least 90 minutes of aerobic exercise once a week will help and encourage women to keep taking their medications because the negative side effects will be less prevalent.

I spent an hour and a half filling out paper work today. Starting tomorrow for seven days I have to wear a pedometer to track my activity level. Next week, I undergo blood tests, a DEXA bone scan and tread mill test. If I pass all this screening I will get a personal trainer twice a week and nutritionist to help me improve my physical endurance and overall health.

I am psyched! Who said breast cancer doesn't have its perks!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mango Sick

I know a lot people don't understand the angst and pain I feel when one of my cats goes missing or becomes ill. "They're not people, they're just animals!," my mother will say sarcastically when I go into tizzy. But I can't help it. These cats are the babies I never had. So when my eldest cat fell ill a few days ago, spent the night at the vet only to come back home still ill, it's easier for me just to keep to myself about how upset I feel right now. That's when I start to feel like one of those eccentric cat ladies that every one finds so pathetic.

Although his fevery subsided and there is no vomitting Mango is not eating and shrinking by the day. He's listless. The vet said if he doesn't eat by tomorrow morning he has to go back into the hospital for the weekend. This is how it all started with my beloved Macavity. He stopped eating. They found a cancerous tumor in his stomach. And stupidly I chose to keep him alive by feeding him through a tube in neck for four months while he wasted away. This is my worst fear.

Dear God, please help Mango get better.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Breast Cancer Rates No Longer Declining

After a sharp decline in breast cancer rates between 2002 and 2003 among non-Hispanic white women in the US, overall breast cancer rates did not change significantly between 2003 and 2007. These results were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention.

Between 2002 and 2003, breast cancer rates in non-Hispanic white women in the US dropped by 7%. The decrease was most apparent among women between the ages of 50 and 69 and for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women did not experience a large decrease in breast cancer rates during this same time period.

Some of the decline in breast cancer rates among non-Hispanic white women was thought to be due to decreasing use of postmenopausal hormones after results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) were published in 2002. The WHI reported that use of combined estrogen plus progestin was linked with an increased risk of breast cancer.

To explore trends in breast cancer rates after 2003, researchers collected information from a large US cancer registry (the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program). Another database (from the National Health Interview Survey) was used to evaluate trends in postmenopausal hormone use.

•Between 2003 and 2007, overall breast cancer rates did not change significantly among non-Hispanic white women, non-Hispanic black women, or Hispanic women.
•Use of postmenopausal hormones continued to decrease from 2005 to 2008, but to a lesser extent than it did between 2000 and 2005.
In summary, the decline in overall breast cancer rates that occurred among non-Hispanic white women between 2002 and 2003 did not continue after 2003. Overall breast cancer rates remained fairly stable between 2003 and 2007.

Reference: DeSantis C, Howlader N, Cronin KA et al. Breast cancer incidence rates in US women are no longer declining. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention. Early online publication February 28, 2011.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Golden Friendships

"Make new friends but keep the old! One is silver and the other's gold!"--Girl Scout Song

Today I had the pleasure of seeing a dear old friend that I hadn't seen since 1996! Plenty has happened in both our lives during all those years we lost touch. There's been divorces, financial challenges, cancer battles, parental deaths, boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, as well as a remarriage. We will both share the joyful occasion of her daughter's wedding coming this fall. Whew, did we have alot to talk about! And even though two hours wasn't nearly enough, it's a start to renewing a wonderful friendship that I realize I missed so much.

My dear friend Allison has grown even more beautiful with time. It was such a treat to see how the ups and downs of life have made her more gracious and poised as she has matured. Old friends are like blood relatives. They remember who you were way back in the day. You don't need to put on airs, you don't need to explain. Having an old friend around is like sitting cuddled on the couch watching your favorite TV show while eating comfort food. Pure contentment.

For those of you who have lost touch with an old friend, find them. Search on Facebook. Do whatever it takes. Because once you do, you will find out picking up where you left off is as easy as slipping into an old shoe. You will remember why that person became your best friend in the first place. And it will be so much fun to laugh, reminisce and shed a tear together. There's nothing like the joy of reconnecting with an old friend. That's why Allison and I made a promise to each other that we will never lose touch again.