Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life is just one adventure after another

I have been very busy the past couple of weeks, living life. Our university has geared up for another year of important instruction for our future health care professionals - it is a real honor to be serving the students and the faculty with their information needs, as they go about their business of saving lives. The homelife has also been busy - number one daughter returned from her summer in Turkey, and began her Freshman year at the state university. Number one son has lost a room mate, so will be moving home for economical reasons until he can save up enough money to change his own future. Dear husband just celebrated his last 4oth birthday, and really liked the Crystal Skull I gave him (figure one of us should still drink alcohol). I haven't been doing much in the evenings, just recuperating from the job each day - guess that means I have reached middle age, huh. Here's to everyone living their lives as they see fit and to each their own abilities.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pain as a predictor of head/neck cancer survivorship

After Cancer Now What has a post about a recent research article in the August issue of Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery : The Role of Pain in Head and Neck Cancer Recurrence and Survivorship http://archotol.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/135/8/789 .
This longitudinal study followed 339 patients with head/neck cancer at the University of Iowa between Feb 28, 1998 and Nov 30, 2001. Self-reporting surveys were filled out by the patients, indicating their level of pain. From the abstract: "Pain was associated with age, general physical and mental health conditions, depressive symptoms, survival rate, and recurrence within the first year. The 5-year survival rate was 81.8% for patients with low posttreatment pain and 65.1% for those with high pain."
Note: I have not read the full text of this article, just the abstract. After Cancer Now What mentions more, possibly from a press release about the article. You can request the full-text from your local library, or from one listed in this directory: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/libraries.html
If you are experiencing pain, tell your doctor. If attention isn't given to figuring out what is causing your pain, tell another health care provider. Keep telling. Pain is a biggy - a red flag symptom - and it should be monitored and managed, just as your other symptoms. My health care team has addressed my various pains quickly each time I have experienced them - the headaches, which turned out to be the benign "whatever" growing between the layers in my skull; the chest and abdomen pains, both of which resulted in extensive scanning that didn't turn up cancer, thank goodness, but I can now attest that scans do not reduce pains (figure they are just due to old age, and I live with them). I run around with a headache most days that ranks about a 4 on the pain scale - other days, just like before cancer, I have stronger headaches, but nothing like when that thing was growing in my skull, or the original tumor that caused me pain for 3 years. Pay attention to pain, and let your health professionals know if you are experiencing "the usual", or something more.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cancer - becoming another chronic illness?

There is a report out in the August 15th issue of Cancer Research that cancer deaths are decreasing, which leads one to expect more of us to be living longer with the disease and treatment after-effects:
Cancer Deaths Declining, Especially Among Young
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-08-14-cancer-rates_N.htm

You can read the original article's abstract at the Cancer Research journal's site - you will have to go through your local public or medical library to get a copy of the full-text article (interlibrary loan fees may apply):
The Decline in U.S. Cancer Mortality in People Born Since 1925
http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/short/69/16/6500

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Soul Seat - gotta get one

If you are sitting at your computer all uncomfortable, have I got the cure for you.
I happen to know the creator of the Soul Seat - a chair designed by Pack Mathews, in Columbia, Missouri: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2009/08/14/local-man-fixing-problems-chairs-one-soul-seat-time/
One of these wonderful seats may be heading to Omaha real soon - I need to get something else to use when working on the computer, and this looks as if it will do the trick. At $350, it is a bargain, especially if it helps me be more productive! Congratulations, Pack!
If you are looking to add a Soul Seat or two to your household, you can contact him through the Soul Seat website http://mysoulseat.com/home.html .
I need to start a blog roll on the right side for the creative folks that I now know: Jeanne Sather's beautiful Charmed Bracelets http://charmedbracelets.net/, Korean Cuisine's wonderful cooking blog http://korean-cuisine.blogspot.com/, and Pack Mathews' website http://mysoulseat.com/home.html that he has for his great Soul Seat. If you hear of anyone else creating things, just let me know - I will post them here!

Still casting a shadow

Lots of things have been happening around me as I continue to cast a shadow. Son was recently robbed at cocked gunpoint at work (he is doing ok); daughter is entering her freshman year at college (and asking for more money); family are all doing their things as they generally do; and Lucky the dog is practicing to be a cranky elder while remaining a two-year old at heart. Sending out end of summer good wishes to all - we will be knee-deep in snow before we know it.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma research article

Just saw this article again, published April 1, 2009, and thought you might want to know about it:
Volker, H; Scheich, M; Berndt, A; et al. Expression of p-AKT characterizes adenoid cystic carcinomas of head and neck with a higher risk for tumor relapse. Diagnostic Pathology 2009, 4:18 http://www.diagnosticpathology.org/content/4/1/18 .
This is an open access journal, so you can read the full text. The scientists in Wurzburg, Germany studied tumor specimens from 29 patients to do this research. I like this understated sentence in the Background section: "The identification of tumors with a higher relapse risk seems to be interesting." Ya think?! Guess that is the 'distancing language' of the scientists, who must find it hard to work on such tough stuff day after day.
It would be nice to be able to know if my tumor was one that tested high for relapse, local or distant, but how useful is the knowledge? Not sure what they would do with that knowledge at this time, since it can take years for the cancer to grow back locally or in some distant region.
The collection of references on this article could be additional sources of reading for you or your health professional. This review article might be a good place to start for your family physician if they are not up on treatment of salivary gland cancers, for example: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18402531. Remember that you can order full-text articles for a fee through most libraries listed at this directory in MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/libraries.html

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Uneventful head/neck visit - now on yearly schedule

I visited the head/neck surgeon that has been following me since the fall of 2006 after my initial surgery and radiation, and he proclaimed me ready for annual visits from now on. Yay! (I have been seeing them every 4 months.) Nothing much going on in the head; the places that are sensitive, are still so; the places that hurt like crap, still do; and he wasn't concerned with the voice since that was first followed by the ENT down the hall, but did give me sympathy about how long it is taking to heal. His resident gave me a right going over, exam-wise. I figure the most good that can come out of all this crap - cancer, treatment, changing of one's life habits - is to educate others on it, so I pretty much demand that residents and students are to be present and participate, if they are on that particular rotation. They need to see first-hand the weirdness of an ear canal that doesn't produce regular cerumen (ear wax, if I spelled it correctly). They need to manipulate neck muscles that have been radiated and operated on, as they try to determine the status of lymph nodes that may or may not exist in that general area. They need to hear first-hand from a patient a bit about how they are coping and doing since the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Learning by doing is about the best thing we have going for the health care profession, and I haven't seen a simulated patient yet that can offer what this cheeky librarian can. Looking forward to my visit next August!
 
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