Tuesday, January 31, 2012

HOPE is alive and well in a town called Stowe!

It doesn't matter where you live.  It doesn't matter what kind of cancer you have.  This tip is for every cancer survivor who can get themselves to Stowe, VT.  My #1 favorite tip for cancer survivors and their loved ones is:  The Stowe Weekend of Hope (SWOH).

Once a year, on the first weekend in May, the residents of Stowe VT open their arms (and hearts!) to welcome cancer survivors and their families from around the country.  They offer healthy doses of  healing,  knowledge, inspiration, fun, peacefulness and acceptance.  They offer all of this in the beautiful mountain setting of Stowe (approximately 3 hours north of Boston). 

If you are a cancer survivor and a first time attendee, The SWOH will provide you with 2 nights FREE lodging at local hotels  (they do ask if you would like to donate your registration fee back to SWOH as that helps to keep the program going, but you don't have to if you really can't afford it).  

You can bring members of your family or friends.  These are the people who have helped you on your cancer journey, so they deserve to relax too.  If you are a returnee, the hotel rooms are significantly discounted.  There are some limited scholarships for those who cannot afford the room fees.

SWOH offers 3 days of workshops, classes and events aimed at providing information and coping strategies to those in attendance.  Many friendships have been formed here and survivors return year after year.  It's kind of like a big old summer camp for adults, only it's for adults with cancer.  Here, there is total acceptance.

In real life, you may feel self conscious about losing a breast, or having a long incision on your neck or because you are bald due to chemo.  Not here!!!  Everyone at SWOH knows how you feel.  For those who look totally healthy and recovered?  Nothing makes someone going through treatment feel more hopeful than to meet others who have "graduated" and finished treatment...and looking fabulous!!!  It is a beautiful thing to watch someone who is doing well give encouragement and advice to someone just starting out.  It is an incredible connection.

Some events are yearly staples:  the opening ceremonies, the chicken pie supper, the stunningly beautiful memorial service with luminaria, the saturday night dance party, the closing ceremonies.  We look forward to them all. 

Here's what I love the most:  if you don't have the energy to attend the workshops?  They don't care!  If  you just want to relax and sit by a hotel pool all weekend, they are fine with that!! Want to go hiking all day instead?  Enjoy!! Their whole philosophy is to honor you as a cancer survivor.  They recognize that your road has been rough.  They want you to relax, enjoy your weekend and feel special.

The townspeople are so welcoming and friendly.  The businesses that display the big green ribbon out front either donate funds to help sponsor the SWOH or they offer discounts to cancer survivors attending.

Can't get there?  How about this?  My hospital's  "Cancer Cares Through the Arts" Support Group, consists of cancer survivors who make beautiful handcrafted items at their monthly meetings.  Twice a year they have a sale.  They raise enough money to rent a big bus that brings 50 cancer survivors from our medical center to Stowe.  

Our patients love every minute of their very special weekend.  In 2011, between the bus and those who drove, our hospital had approximately 80 cancer survivors in attendance.

I think that every hospital's cancer program should provide a bus for their cancer survivors to attend this awesome event.   I think it is really sad that some of our major cancer centers are not promoting this event to their survivors or helping to provide transportation to this incredible weekend.  Hey....hold a few bake sales people!! Get your cancer survivors to this great event!!! 

This year's SWOH weekend:  May 4-6, 2012.  It's always the first weekend in May.

REGISTRATION STARTS ON FEBRUARY 29, 2012.  As you can imagine, hotel rooms are limited.  Last year I think they provided 600 hotel rooms for survivors and their families.  SO...REGISTER EARLY!!  We start helping our patients register (a lot of them don't have computers) the minute we come into work on registration day.

Get more information here:   http://www.stowehope.org/

See you in Stowe!!!!

Below is The Stowe Weekend of Hope Video of the Fabulous Anne and Dick Tonachel.   Anne is an ovarian cancer survivor and is a much loved and valued member of our support group.  Dick is her wonderful husband, who was her true champion during treatment (and beyond!!).  They are both pretty spectacular people.  This video reflects what the true meaning of SWOH is.  What it means for the people it is intended to honor:  cancer survivors and their loved ones.

Our cancer center thank you to SWOH in 2010 Stowe Reporter

Some of the great people of Stowe who make this weekend a reality (below).   Thank you for your many kindnesses!!

The Fabulous Green Mountain Transit Agency Shuttle Folks, Thank You!!!!

SWOH President Susan Rousselle and the fabulous Anne Tonachel of our Ovarian Cancer Support Group

The kind staff of Commodores Inn

This is the woman who baked the AMAZING  BISCUIT you see below!!!! 
Thank you Lillian Ricketson!!!

Look at the size of this thing!!!  It was SO delicious!!

Chicken Pie Supper Central.....Thank you Andersons and Chefs Extraordinaire!!

The very fabulous Leslie Anderson!!

Qi Gong on the lawn at Trapp Family Lodge

Many thanks to the town of Stowe, VT for your amazing hospitality!!!!

Thank you to the Green Ribbon Businesses that sponsor the SWOH.  Thank you to the following Stowe businesses for your many kindnesses during our 6 years coming to Stowe Weekend of Hope:

Commodores Inn
Golden Eagle Resort
Trapp Family Lodge
Mountain Road Resort
Stoweflake Hotel
Pie in the Sky Pizza
Depot Street Malt Shop
The Bagel
Green Mountain Transit Agency

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Best Gifts to Give Cancer Patients

Q:  Is there anything worse than the hospital bed?
A:  Yes, the hospital pillow.  Which is only trumped by the #1 universal answer of all times:  hospital food.  Here's what I know with absolute certainty.   If every country on the planet was on the brink of war, I could walk into the United Nations Building, stroll up to the podium and I could command immediate universal agreement with the following phrase:  "Is there anything worse than hospital food?".  There would not be one ounce of dissent in the room.  Everyone would agree.  There would be complete harmony in the room for 1 golden minute,  and then they could all get back to chatting about the need for world peace.  BUT I DIGRESS.

If you have asked any patient who has been in the hospital,  the only thing worse than hospital food, is those 3 dreaded letters....NPO, which means in medical speak "nothing by mouth".  No food, no water, and you have to beg and plead your nurse just to give you an ice chip stuck to a spongestick to suck on.  But this is a discussion for another day.

Bottom line:  it sucks to be a patient in the hospital....and the longer you are in the hospital, the harder it is.

No one ever knows what to bring as a gift to cancer patients in the hospital.  Flowers and potted plants are out.  The reason? They can contain bacteria and a lot of cancer patients have compromised immune systems and low white blood cell counts.  This makes them more susceptible to getting an infection (more on this another day).  Just know that no plants or flowers are allowed on most inpatient cancer units.

They may not have any appetite or they may have mouth sores which makes it painful to eat.  So, yes it is sometimes hard to know what to bring them for a gift.

So here are a few suggestions to bring to your loved one with cancer whether they are in or out of the hospital. Perhaps make a basket up and put them all in it!!  Keep in mind that space is REALLY limited in the patient's room, so try not to bring in things that take up a lot of space.

The Royal Velvet Pillow (or any comfortable pillow).  Anything beats the hospital pillow.

Update 12/27/13:  Some hospitals have policies in place now in regards to preventing the transmission of MRSA-methicillin resistant staph aureus (a type of community and hospital acquired infection) where they won't allow pillows or blankets brought in from home. 

My advice is to:   1) check with nursing staff for the hospital policy on this, and/or 2) bring in the new pillow in it's original packaging so the hospital staff knows it is new and safe for patient and hospital both.  I wouldn't go top of the line cost on the pillow, as you may have to jettison the pillow when the patient goes home.  You don't want to bring any other type of hospital "bugs" home with the patient.  Also, wash anything you bring home from the hospital well.

Elizabeth Grady Sensitivity Protection Cream

Aquaphor Ointment (can be used to slather on feet mixed with lotion, as a lip balm, for chapped skin....is the best!!).  Can be pricey, but they also have cheaper generic versions that are pretty good too.   Here's Walgreen's brand.

Heart Shaped Stickey Post-it Notes.  You can't put tape all over the walls of the hospital or the nurses will get pissed (it takes the paint off the walls).  I use these whenever one of my patients is admitted.  Just hang them up or cover the wall in them.  Friends, family and staff can write encouraging messages on them.  For $2 this is a great way to brighten their day!

Print out copies of pictures of family, friends and pets on regular paper to hang in the patient's room.
Use these post it flags instead of tape to put them on wall.  These can be easily removed when the patient goes home.  Make sure you get the fat kind as the thin ones don't hold.

  If the patient is at home and not in the hospital, give actual prints of photos in frames or books.

Offer to give the cancer patient a mini-pedicure (no real exfoliation or pumice stone if they are in the hospital).  Even just applying  a nice soft cream to their feet and perhaps a little polish (one that doesn't have a strong smell) might give them a little boost and it will feel great.  2 good creams:

Elizabeth Grady Feet First Cream


Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Cream 

Battery Operated Tea Lights.  Placed inside a little luminary or any small votive candle holder (that you would normally use for a real votive candle), can make the hospital room more "homey".  Acts as a nice little nightlight.  Maybe just enough light so the nurse doesn't need to turn on one of the harsher lights, which usually awakens the patient.  This would be more for the patient who has a lengthy (stem cell transplant) stay planned.


Hard candies (Lemonheads are a fave) or Starbursts (sometimes helps with the metal taste patients get from chemo).  Lemon hard candies are the ones of choice in our chemo clinic to help with the taste and to keep the mouth moist.

Lemonheads are AWESOME for dry mouth!

Biotene mouthwash or toothpaste products. Cancer patients have delicate gums and linings of the mouth.  Some of them get mouth sores.  Most mouthwashes have alcohol in them which is drying to the mouth (what you don't want).  Some mouthwashes can sting or hurt the mouth.  Biotene is the brand that is most suggested to cancer patients.  Most Biotene mouthwashes do not contain alcohol.

Soft and Comfy Chenille Slipper Socks.  If patient is in the hospital or they have ceramic tile or hardwood floors at home, make sure you get the kind with the treads on the bottom so they don't slip.  Hospitals usually have the terry cloth kind, but chenille is softer.  

Something to listen to music on.  Music (with headphones so it doesn't disturb other patients) are great to help the cancer patient relax.  Some use them when they come in for their weekly chemo.  They sit in the chemo chairs and put their music on and it takes them away to someplace better.  Inpatient:  music can help drown out the sounds of the nurses' station, the beeping of the IV pump.  Whether it be CD or iPod Shuffle with their favorite songs loaded on it, it makes a great gift.  If in the hospital, be mindful that things get ripped off or lost, so don't bring in the top of the line or most expensive version.

Something to communicate with to the outside world:  iPad, Kindle Fire, smart phone...anything that can let them get email, games, something to read.  Be mindful that hospitals have firewalls that may keep the patient from using their laptops or iPads, so always check with the patient or nurses' station first to see if the patient can use one.  See info above about theft/loss in hospital. 

Magazines and a paperback (hardcovers are too bulky and take up too much space if the patient is in the hospital).   The daily newspaper.  Something to drink.  Soft scarves for the head (not usually silk as it tends to slip on a bald head), some type of soft cotton fabric that will absorb perspiration and stay put.  A soft hat.  A soft throw. 


A big thanks to Mill Shires and his beautiful sister for this great idea below!!  It's a fleece shawl with pockets.  Something brightly colored, soft, warm and easy to pack in a tote bag for the chemo clinic or hospital.  It has no sleeves so IV bags and tubing are not an issue.  In the $20 range and it looks like it would be easy for talented seamstresses to make!

And the number one gift for cancer patients?????  A "voucher" or "coupon" offering your services.  No not THOSE services.  "This coupon good for one ride to the chemo clinic on the date of your choice".  "This coupon good for one grocery shopping trip" (either to drive the patient or to do the shopping yourself if they need it).  "This coupon good for one day where I will do all of your laundry, or clean your house, or mow your lawn".  The house cleaning is huge.  Helps the family too. 

If the patient is at home, bring a meal to be frozen with instructions on how to cook it.  One patient told me that all of her friends gave the family $500 in gift certificates for take-out from all of the local eating establishments.  She had teenaged sons who were picky eaters, so this way the whole family got fed, they got the chance to pick their favorite foods, and it still saved the cancer patient and her family members from having to cook. She never got over how thoughtful her friends were.  This was her favorite gift. 

Most of all, cancer patients need your love, patience and understanding.  So keep it coming!! 

Oh yes, and the food.  Individually wrapped non perishable treats that can be stored in their bedside table or nightstand.  More on food in another post..

Just a few suggestions.  Hope this helps! 

If you are a cancer survivor, please let me know what YOUR favorite gifts to receive were and I will add them here. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

All About Eyebrows!!

No one likes to lose their hair during chemotherapy.  It stinks.  But don't forget....it will come back!!!

Obviously it is traumatic to lose your hair.  Your hair is part of your identity and all of a sudden it is gone. Many of my patients say that they were prepared to lose the hair on their head.  They were dreading it, but they knew it would happen.   But most say that it was even more of a shock when they realized how different they looked when they lost their eyebrows.  They say that is the "neon sign" that announces to the world that they are getting chemotherapy.  It "outs them" as a cancer patient and makes them feel more self conscious out in public.

It  is true that with some of the great wigs, ball caps and scarves that they have now, you can mask the hair loss on your head, but when your brows and lashes take a temporary hiatus, the way it alters your appearance can be startling (even when you think you are prepared for it).

We have all seen a few senior citizens that have drawn an eyebrow on with a pencil with less than spectacular results.  Since I need a magnifying glass to put on mascara in the morning, who am I to talk???

There is also the Marlene Dietrich look.  This looks like someone drew a brow on with a felt tip pen.

Instead of using a skinny little pencil, another option to try (for a temporary fix) is an eyebrow stencil.

Basically you hold the stencil (see photo below) up to your brow line and fill in by brushing on brow powder.  After you are done you "set it" with something called brow wax to adhere it, so it doesn't flake off easily.  As my best friend Roberta likes to point out, I am lacking in fine motor skills, so I might find the stenciling process challenging.  But some of my best dressed patients assure me that once you get the hang of it, it gives them a real confidence boost.  Depending on the degree of skill, they can look really good!!!  Are they just as good as your own brows?  Okay, no.  But they are a good temporary fix until your own brows grow back.

Everyone online raves about the Anastasia brand that can be purchased at amazon.com, sephora etc.  It seems that there are different brands, but apparently the shape/arch of these are the most realistic.  The kit is kind of pricey at $38, but maybe this would be a nice gift to give if you are the friend of a cancer patient and don't know how to help.  A brow stencil kit, some gentle skin care products (Elizabeth Grady Sensitivity Protection Creme is AWESOME), a tube of Aquaphor and some soft chenille or cotton footies in a little basket will always be appreciated by a cancer patient.  Remember, no heavy smelling perfumes or scented lotions, as this can sometimes trigger nausea in patients undergoing chemo.  Also sometimes their taste and sense of smell is altered by the chemo and strong odors can really bother them.

Anyway...apparently this Anastasia (not the missing Romanov!!) is the Queen of brow waxing in Beverly Hills.  Here is the link. www.anastasiabeverlyhills.com

You can also find their products on Amazon. You can get stencil kits that have the brow stencils, instructions, brow powder and brow wax to seal it.

I first saw an eyebrow stencil kit at the DFCI Friends Boutique for $25 (which is pretty pricey) and got incensed that they were ripping off cancer patients.  So I bought one and then I headed to CVS and Walgreen's to see if I could duplicate the contents (aka rip off their idea!) for my patients.  Since then, a friend of mine (who is the world's greatest volunteer at DFCI) has informed me that all the proceeds from the DFCI Friends Boutique go back into patient programs so maybe I will cut them a little slack.

For about $15 total at Walgreen's you can buy the stencils and powder separately.  This brand is Ardell.
Honestly, I don't know if you can buy the brow wax separately but the main ingredient in the brow wax in the Anastasia kit lists it as "beeswax".  So  maybe a little swipe of Bert's Bee's will do it for you.  If you find one sold separately, let me know and I will post it here.


This lady is a little fond of looking at herself in the mirror, but she actually does a great job of showing you how to how to work the stencil in the tutorial below.  Good luck and send me photos of your brows when done!!!  Remember, your hair will come back!!!

If you are a cancer survivor and you master the eyebrow stenciling technique and you want to show the world (or basically me and a couple of my friends since I don't have any followers yet!!!), send me a video showing me how you do it.  If you are the first one to send it in, I will post it here and I will send you an Anastasia brow kit!

Hope this helps!!

UPDATE 2024: Since this post there has been great work on eyebrows with gels which seem to work better than some of the old powder brow stencil kits. 

www.thrivecosmetics.com  has:

 Instant Brow Fix™ Semi-Permanent Eyebrow Gel. Let me know if you have tried it and if it works!!


Love this idea of a brow "stamp" where you just blot on the color with a stencil, thus avoiding the powder mess.  I have just ordered one and will get back to you on how it works!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I See My Doctor's Mouth Moving, But I Have No Clue What He is Yapping About.

The Best Informational Website for Breast Cancer (Breast Cancer 101).

Is your doctor talking and you can't figure out a word he/she says?????  Do your eyes snap back into your head every time a doctor tries to explain your pathology report???  Estrogen Receptors, Progesterone Receptors, Her 2 neu, FISH testing??????  Not to worry!!!  This is the best informational website if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I always suggest it to my patients, especially those who have been recently diagnosed.

This Komen slideshow or module covers everything from the anatomy of the breast to what all of those hieroglyphics mean on your pathology report.  You can cover one topic at a time or sit down for awhile and do the whole module all at once.  Easy to repeat.  Easy to find your way back to the topic you were on.  Good diagrams. Interactive.  Very helpful.

The link above brings you right to Breast Cancer 101.  But if you click on the "M" (menu) button at the top of the screen, it will give you a choice of topics to pick from.

Hope it helps!!


Extreme Good that Grew out of Bad

Sometimes when you hear or read about patient assistance programs, they sound totally awesome in theory.  In reality you often find out that your patient had to fill out 400 forms, give all of their tax records, and jump through a ton of hoops only to be told that they don’t qualify for assistance. 

I hate this!!!  It is a big tease.  Cancer patients have to preserve their energy.  When you make them jump through all these hoops for nothing, you expend their energy and you dash their hopes that they can get some help.  This makes me crazy!!!  Don’t screw with cancer patients!!!

But I digress.  Now, I’m going to tell you about a FABULOUS “tried and true” resource.  It is for women with breast cancer who live in Massachusetts who are undergoing treatment for their cancer.  It is the EXTREMELY AWESOME  ELLIE FUND!!!

The backstory on The Ellie Fund……It came to be because 2 brothers wanted to honor their mother’s love and spirit.  Their mother (Ellie!) fought breast cancer for 9 years, and during that time they found out firsthand the toll that fighting cancer can take on a family.  In 1995, Jeff and Eliot Popkin started the Ellie Fund to assist women with breast cancer and their families.   I’ve never met them, but I love them.  What a great way to honor their mother’s legacy!!

Someone else I love from The Ellie Fund who I actually have met????  The executive director:  Julie Nations.  She ROCKS!!!  In the early days, she was a one woman operation.  She took the applications for assistance and approved them, distributed the assistance AND was the fundraising person for The Ellie Fund.  The fund grew, and now she has a team to assist her, and a lot of dedicated volunteers to help .  Anyway, she is a total doll and a genuinely kind and caring person!!!

Bottom Line, here is how it works:
 If you are a breast cancer patient receiving treatment in Massachusetts, a health professional has to apply for you.   So, hunt down your patient navigator, nurse or social worker and ask them to pursue this for you.  They can download a simple application and will ask you a few questions.   They submit the application and around the 25th of the month, the applications are reviewed and assistance is given out the next week.

Here are the services that The Ellie Fund offers:
1) Assistance with Transportation to Medical Appointments  (cab vouchers, pre-paid gas cards, reimbursement for gas or parking at the hospital, car service).
2) Reimbursement for Licensed Childcare
3) Nutrition (Grocery Cards or Prepared Meals)
4) Light Housekeeping

Their assistance does not go on forever.  It may be for a month or a couple of months, it all depends on how many applicants they have that month, what type of assistance has been applied for, and how much has been donated to the fund that month.  But no matter the length of time, it is an AWESOME and AMAZING resource that our patients REALLY appreciate. 

Many of our patients have been helped by this fund.  Several have said that they were on their very last nerve and just knowing that someone cared about them, and the assistance provided was enough to “get them over the hump”.


If you are not a cancer patient and you are reading this….The Ellie Fund is always looking for good volunteers and donors.  Are you looking for an organization that will REALLY help someone?  This is it. 

You know how sometimes when you make a donation to an organization you aren’t entirely sure how much of your donation is actually going to the person in need?
This foundation is true and real and the women with breast cancer are definitely getting helped.  I can say that for sure.

They have a lot of fun fundraisers throughout the year, but their biggest event is their Oscar Gala in February, so buy a ticket if you can!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"The Nurse Stalker" and My Favorite Cancer Related Book

Between Me and the River: A Memoir
2 Great Ladies:  Author Carrie Host and the fabulous president of the SWOH, Susan Rousselle 

A few years ago my boss got a couple of books in the mail.  She took a copy and gave me a copy to read to see if it was any good.  It was a book written by a carcinoid cancer survivor.  I took it to my summer cottage in Maine to read over the weekend.  

Now just because I love my job and love my patients and am usually always interested in reading about cancer related things, on my weekends sometimes I just want to read a good trashy book!!  So on Saturday I spent the day in my hammock and read a trashy book.  On Sunday afternoon I went to my hammock and said (without a lot of enthusiasm), "okay I guess I had better check this out".  A few hours later I had devoured what would become my favorite "cancer related book".  This book just hit me and grabbed my heart and I could not stop thinking about it on my entire 2 hr drive back to MA.

When I got home around 11 p.m.,  I plunked myself down and wrote an email to some PR contact person at Harlequin Books whose name was on the back cover (uh-oh, yes I know what you are thinking, but it is not like that!!) telling her how much the book had touched me and what an important book I thought it was for cancer patients and their families.  My eyeballs were still stinging from weeping uncontrollably in the hammock earlier in the day.  

By the time I reached work the next morning, I had received a perfunctory email from the Harlequin rep thanking me for my email. About 2 minutes later I received an email from the author telling me that my email had made HER weep because she could tell that I "got it" and that she was thrilled that her words had made such an impact on me.

That author is Carrie Host and she is one amazing lady and such a talented writer.  I have met her a few times and became her "nurse stalker"; sending her suggestions about where she should advertise this book to cancer survivors yada yada yada.

My fabulous Ovarian Cancer Support Group members and I started posting about her book on the CURE magazine website, and their editor wrote to us and told us that based on our comments she had read the book and planned to review it in CURE magazine which she did.

A few years have passed and Carrie has graciously come to the hospital where I work to speak with our cancer survivors.  Our group also met up with her and her great husband when she was the keynote speaker at The Stowe Weekend of Hope.

I haven't emailed Carrie in awhile now (a big relief for her I'm sure!!) but whenever I get the chance I suggest this amazing book to patients who I think can handle it.  Some newly diagnosed folks should not read it at the beginning of the journey because Carrie gets pretty sick in the book and it could be too scary.

My recommendation?  Family members and friends should read this book first.  It will help them empathize with the cancer patient and they may be a better gauge of whether the patient is ready to read it or not. 

Here's a brief excerpt followed by the review I wrote about it a few years ago for Amazon.com.

"Cancer is like that.  It takes us down to our final moments, then lets us come back, to look at our lives again.  Our will to live is what we have. That will to live is ours to hold on to, so hold on.  Hold on tight.  Cancer develops character in us, the type of character which cannot be had by ease and good fortune.  We learn that love is stronger than fear.  We learn, once again, that we have to be torn down before we can be rebuilt".

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Lesson in How to Value Life and a Beautiful Love StoryJuly 22, 2009
This review is from: Between Me and the River (Hardcover)
I am an oncology nurse and this is simply the best book about surviving, coping and recovering from cancer that I have ever read. 

This book is so beautifully written and so amazingly accurate and insightful. I wept throughout the whole thing. It covers so many of the emotions that my patients have expressed to me over the years, and it is exactly how I know I would feel if I were in the author's shoes. It is outstanding. 

I have read so many cancer books with the hope of finding the perfect book to give to my patients, but always find them lacking something. This book is perfect. I loved the "summary" of the lesson learned at the end of most of the chapters. I have read excerpts from this book to two of my support groups this week to promote discussion and it has already touched the cancer survivors in those groups. 

I can only imagine the impact that this book will not only have on cancer survivors and their families, but also on oncology nurses and doctors who read it. This is a must read for any oncology nurse who truly wants to empathize with his/her patients, and all medical students need to be forced to read it to remind them of the emotional toll the cancer journey takes on someone, and to remind them that they are dealing with human beings and not just a cancer "diagnosis". 

This book truly touched me. The part where she describes looking in on her children while they slept before she heads to The Mayo Clinic, not knowing if she would see them again, made me sob. The way she wrote about her baby, her amazing husband, sisters...unbelievably beautiful and loving. The part about her mother wishing she could take her daughter's cancer from her and the whole mother daughter bond....heart wrenching. So perfectly accurate the way she describes the friends who stay and the friends who don't. I can't tell you how many times I have heard this and have seen this when working with cancer patients/survivors. A perfect description of the overwhelming fatigue that cancer survivors feel. 

I have no doubt that this book will be hugely successful and if Oprah doesn't pick it for her book club she is insane. But the most important legacy that it will have is with the thousands of cancer survivors who will totally be able to identify with it and will feel less alone after reading it. 

This is a beautiful book and an amazing lesson in how to value life. Cancer survivors know what is truly important in life and are so much wiser and more powerful than we mere mortals without cancer. This book captures that perfectly. 

For those without cancer in their lives, I also suggest this book, as there is a truly beautiful love story woven into the pages between the author and her husband. Not a romance novel love story, but a story of a true and strong love that is tested through the worst of times and not only survives but is victorious. 

I would like to thank the author for sharing this stunning book with us and wish her many years of "NED" ("no evidence of disease"), good health and happiness. 


I have been inspired by my young and happening friend Natalie to start a blog.  She is a burgeoning fashionista and her blog is delightfully entertaining:  http://itstheperfecttimeofday.blogspot.com/.

Natalie is a former co-worker of mine, is presently a research administrator at Tufts Medical Center, and one day she will rule the world.  Thank you Natalia for the inspiration!!

My posts will not be as entertaining as Natalie's, but should anyone with cancer ever read this blog, maybe it will help them.

First resource item every cancer survivor and/or their families should get their hands on:  CURE Magazine.


CURE Magazine is all about cancer.  Okay, okay, okay....I know what you are thinking.  Why would anyone want to subscribe to a magazine solely cancer related?  Well, it is hugely informative.  It is packed with  everything from resources for retreats to help you cope with cancer, clinical trials, latest research results,  books, what's new in cancer and it gives you updates on what is happening at all of the big MD conferences related to cancer.   But most importantly it has great articles about real cancer survivors.  It is filled with HOPE.  Definitely not a downer.  It is about LIVING with Cancer.

The subscription is FREE.  That's right....FREE.  You can also read it online at www.curetoday.com, but that is a little choppy for me.  I still like the good old paper magazine version.  You might have picked up a copy in your chemo or radiation clinic or doctor's office.  Did I mention that it is FREE????  It comes out quarterly.  I guarantee that you will find something helpful in every issue.

That's it.  My first recommendation on my very first day of blogging.  Hope it helps!  Oh yeah, and it's
FREE  : )