Until her Stage I triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis, Susan Webb, 65, had never heard of TNBC. She immediately began self-educating. She first learned about Patient Resource publications when her husband, Allan, was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer the year before. She had seen the guides in her husband’s doctor’s office and what she learned then drove her to ask important questions of her own doctors after her diagnosis. Through her research, she discovered the TNBC Foundation.
Right from the start, Susan approached her treatment head-on with complete confidence in her medical team. As the mother of three daughters, she was relieved to learn she didn’t possess the BRCA gene. She attempted to participate in a clinical trial but wasn’t a fit because of her age. However, she participated in a very brief trial that evaluated the blood differences in people with breast cancer. After that, she began an aggressive course of treatment.
Susan had surgery to remove the small tumor and the sentinel lymph node, along with two additional nodes.
“I had four cycles of chemotherapy that included docetaxel (Taxotere) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan). I laugh about it now, and I tried to then, too, but I had quite a time. I passed out once when they took blood at my treatments and felt faint the other times, so they gave me a port. Overall, I did okay with the chemotherapy. I cut and lost some of my hair, and dyed it ‘Cotton Candy’ pink when it grew back. I didn’t have nausea, but I did have terrible diarrhea. And instead of losing weight, I managed to gain weight!”
She had a shot of pegfilgrastim (Neulasta) to increase her white blood cell count after each chemotherapy treatment which resulted in high fevers, several hospital stays and a blood transfusion. Once that was under control, Susan began 33 days of radiation therapy.
“Radiation made my breast very dry, but I used a hypoallergenic cream to protect and moisturize my skin that really helped.” She continues to manage lymphedema, a side effect from the node removal.
“I wear a sleeve, but I lucked out with my physical therapist. He taught me massage techniques and exercises that help.”
Susan received emotional support from her family and friends and, in return, she always tries to give back. But when it came to physical support, she and Allan managed themselves. Allan called it payback for the care Susan gave him during his initial treatment in his cancer battle.
“My husband was extremely loving and supportive. We had offers to help, but I didn’t want to depend on anyone else. I wanted to feel like I could take care of myself.”
Susan believes a positive outlook helped her fight her disease.
“We’ve had good life experiences. Having cancer was another experience, and this one taught me not to be so serious. When you let something like that take you down, that’s when you start getting sick again.”
With Susan cancer-free and Allan still receiving treatments, they just celebrated their 46th anniversary. And Susan still has pink hair.
“I’m a 17-year-old stuck in a 66-year-old body. My niece helped me find a vegan-based hair color, so now I keep it short and pink. It fits my personality.”
Congratulations to Corey Schlaitzer, the 2015 Patient Resource Reader Survey Winner!
During his battle with lymphoma, Corey used several Patient Resource publications to help him understand the disease and learn what to expect during treatment and recovery.
After taking a few minutes to fill out the survey, Corey’s name was drawn at random from all of the completed surveys, and he has selected the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as the recipient of the $500 donation that Patient Resource will contribute in his honor.
Corey’s battle with cancer began when a nagging cough prompted him to see the doctor.
“He looked at my chest X-ray and said, ‘I hope it’s just pneumonia,’” Corey said, remembering that he shared the same hope.
But instead of pneumonia, Corey was diagnosed with Stage I lymphoma at the age of 34. A fist-sized lump was found next to his heart, and after invasive surgery, two months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation therapy, he’s happy to report that he’s now cancer-free, a year and a half since his diagnosis.
Besides doing his own research to prepare himself for treatment, Corey says he got amazing support from some very important people in his life who kept his spirits up when they could and let him cry when they couldn’t.
Corey felt extremely lucky to be surrounded by such thoughtful co-workers and helpful friends, and he advises others to seek the same kind of support.
“I had a hard time with chemo and don’t feel like the doctors prepared me for the pain that came with that aggressive of a treatment,” he said.
Besides extreme tiredness, he also experienced intense bone and joint pain, mouth sores that made drinking water difficult, and constant nausea he just learned to live with. The mental and emotional battles were also draining and still resurface from time to time.
“I buried a lot of my feelings, and I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m dealing with them all now,” Corey said, remembering how he would always say he was doing fine when others asked, no matter how he felt, because he didn’t want to burden anyone with his true feelings.
“I was scared a lot, too, but your magazines really helped me with that in so many ways,” he said, adding that he would leave the guides at the doctor’s office when he was done reading them in the hopes that others would find them helpful as well.
Corey selected the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org) to receive his donation because of how attentive they are to the needs of others.
“They’ll connect you with a cancer survivor who will call you personally to be of support,” he said. The group also offers regular support groups and financial assistance, he said, and provides a great newsletter and events that connect cancer patients and survivors near and far.
“I was surprised and grateful that even though it’s a large organization, they are still able to connect with each individual,” he said.
2014 Reader Survey Winner Selects the Lymphoma Research Foundation as Award Recipient
Congratulations to Christine St. Onge, the 2014 Patient Resource Reader Survey Winner! Christine used the Patient Resource Cancer Guide to gather information about her cancer and took a few minutes to fill out the survey. In February, her name was drawn at random from all of the completed surveys, and she has selected the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) as the recipient of the donation Patient Resource will contribute in her honor.
Christine has been with her partner, Frank, for eight years. They live in New York with their 3-year-old daughter, Nicole, their dog, Rocky, and their cat, Oliver. Christine works as a pharmacist and enjoys skiing, sewing, baking and gardening.
At the age of 43 and just a few months after having her daughter, Christine was diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Before her diagnosis, she began feeling almost constantly exhausted; however, she credited her fatigue to caring for her infant daughter. When lymph nodes behind her ears and in one of her salivary glands began to swell, however, she decided to see a doctor. A biopsy revealed the cancer.
“I was shocked, but I realized right away that a positive attitude would go a long way,” Christine said. “I knew I had a battle in front of me and would do all I could to win.”
After implementing a watch-and-wait approach for six months, Christine began treatment with the chemotherapy drug rituximab (Rituxan). At that point, the cancer had infiltrated her eyes and her right kidney, and in spite of the rituximab, the lymphoma continued to spread. Her treatment team added seven cycles of the chemotherapy regimen R-CHOP. Thankfully, after that and two additional years of rituximab maintenance therapy, the treatment was considered a success.
Christine now goes in for blood work, a CT scan and a medical checkup every three months, and so far, the results remain normal. She has some residual neuropathy in her toes and can no longer be as active as she once was, but she does her best to go on walks as often as she feels up to it.
“I’m a hopeful person, and that helps me deal with the challenges I face,” she said. “I also have a lot of love from my family and friends, and I appreciate every day with them. I feel like I’m getting stronger each day, both physically and emotionally.”
Christine selected LRF (www.lymphoma.org) for the donation because of its devotion to funding innovative lymphoma research and providing up-to-date information about this type of cancer. The foundation offers support and services to people with lymphoma, their families and their caregivers, and hopes to one day eradicate lymphoma.
Christine encourages others to be brave, to never give up hope and to live life with positivity and valiance.
2013 Reader Survey Winner Selects CAN Cancer as Award Recipient
Congratulations to Lori Dickey, the 2013 Patient Resource Reader Survey Winner! Lori discovered the Patient Resource Cancer Guide in her quest for helpful cancer information and took a few minutes to fill out the survey. In February, her name was drawn at random and she has selected the CAN Cancer Foundation as the recipient of the donation Patient Resource will donate in her honor.
Lori and her husband have been married for 35 years. They have two sons, ages 23 and 33, and they live in Bend, Ore., with their three dogs. Before her cancer diagnosis, Lori worked as a caregiver. She now enjoys gardening, swimming, riding ATVs and spending time with her family.
In 2009, at the age of 49, Lori was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. She had visited the doctor for stomach pain, but a CT scan not only revealed the colon cancer but also the spread of the cancer to her ovaries—and it was continuing to spread throughout her body. Her doctor told her she likely had just two to four years to live. “I was in shock,” Lori said. “I didn’t know how I was going to tell my boys.”
Lori underwent a total hysterectomy, which included the removal of her entire uterus and cervix. She then began seven months of FOLFOX chemotherapy, a combination regimen that included the drugs fluorouracil (5-FU), leucovorin (Wellcovorin) and oxaliplatin (Eloxatin). Thankfully, the treatment was successful. She now goes for blood work and a CT scan every six months, and so far, the results remain normal. Lori continues to deal with neuropathy and muscle spasms, but she does her best to keep moving and is learning to live with it.
“During treatment, there were times I was so sick I did not think I would make it, but I did,” she said. “I am stronger than I knew I was, and with my family and the Lord on my side, I will beat this. My family is all I think about and I don’t want to leave them. I’m looking forward to life and grandchildren.”
Lori and her friend Janey, also a colon cancer survivor, started a faith-based support group together, and Lori also volunteers with the American Cancer Society. “Helping other patients is my joy,” she said. “If this hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have been helping cancer patients or even thinking about cancer. But all of this has sent me in a different direction in life. Now it is my goal to do as much as I can to help other cancer patients.”
Lori selected the CAN Cancer Foundation (www.cancancer.org) for the donation because of its impressive commitment to providing community assistance to cover nonmedical living expenses for those in central Oregon fighting all forms of cancer. All funds raised are used to directly benefit families affected by cancer by helping pay for living expenses, such as fuel, travel and food costs not covered by insurance or other programs. “This money will help a lot of cancer patients get rides to their appointments and other services they might need.”
2012 Reader Survey Winner Selects International Myeloma Foundation as Award Recipient
Congratulations to Danny Scott who is the 2012 Reader Survey Winner! Danny discovered the Patient Resource Cancer Guides in his quest for helpful cancer information and took a few minutes to fill out the survey. In February, his name was drawn at random and he has selected the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) as the recipient of the donation Patient Resource will donate in his honor.
Danny lives with Maggie, his wife of 18 years, in Tampa, Florida. Originally from Brooklyn, he moved to Florida in 1996. He is a senior project manager for KHS&S Contractors and has overseen the building of casinos, hotels and theme parks. Between he and Maggie, they have four grown, married children and six grandchildren.
Always an active man, Danny has danced, sang, stage managed, produced, designed lights, sound and built sets in more than 90 community theater shows throughout his amateur thespian career. Maggie has also produced more than 150 community theater shows.
In 2006, Danny’s life changed dramatically when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Initially he was given the prognosis of having one or two years to live – if he did nothing. “It was devastating. Maggie and I looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do?’” he explained. Danny embarked on his cancer treatment journey at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, where Maggie is employed. After seeking a second opinion in New York, he returned to Moffitt and his next year and a half was filled with bone marrow biopsies, radiation targeted at a lesion on his spine to stop tumor growth and chemotherapy in preparation for an autologous stem cell transplant (utilizing his own stem cells). There were also two back surgeries to help repair damage from the cancer. At one point, his 5’7” frame was bent so badly from the pain, he was only 5’2”. Fortunately, his surgeries successfully restored all but one inch of his height and eliminated his pain.
Two and a half years after his initial diagnosis, Danny was in complete remission. He then became even more serious about his health by losing 50 pounds and begining an exercise regimen. He is now celebrating his six-year anniversary, enjoys a healthy and happy life with his family, regularly attends IMF and other myeloma seminars and has joined a support group. He continues to closely monitor his cancer markers with his oncologist.
“I was very lucky to have been diagnosed early because myeloma often does not have out-right symptoms. I also have had a great deal of encouraging information from my doctor and other doctors at the seminars, and from talking to patients. I’ve learned the value of support groups. It has confirmed to me that you are often your own best medicine and I have to take care of myself,” Danny said.
He selected the International Myeloma Foundation (www.myeloma.org) for his donation because of its impressive commitment to research, patient support and informative seminars as well. “I know the money is being used for education and research. It will hopefully help other patients and me where there is no cure – but there is at least a stopgap that can happen.”
2011 Winner: Support Group’s Relay for Life Team Selected for PRP Donation
Invaluable Encouragement Provided to Survivors
This year we congratulated Lisa Shannon as the winner of our 2011 Reader’s Survey. Lisa lives in Anderson, IN, and is herself a cancer survivor. She discovered our guides while in the St. John’s Cancer Center, where she received her treatment and is an active volunteer as a Cancer Journey Companion for other breast cancer patients.
Lisa worked for 25 years for the Guide Corporation, which made headlights and tail lights for General Motors, until 2002 when she retired on disability. She is now an avid amateur genealogist who has traced lines of her family back to the 1400s. She is also the proud mother of a daughter and five teenage grandchildren.
In 2007, at the age of 53, Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early, and she was successfully treated with a lumpectomy and targeted radiation therapy. She has had no recurrence of disease since her treatment.
Lisa’s cancer diagnosis and treatment led her to join the St. John’s Hands and Hearts Breast Cancer Survivor group, and she has selected the group’s American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Hands and Hearts team to receive the donation Patient Resource will donate in her honor. Hands and Hearts’ Relay for Life team has a friendly fund-raising competition with other groups in the city, and Lisa is hopeful her donation will give them the winning edge.
Hands and Hearts provided Lisa with a group of women who could share her journey and she in turn supports her fellow survivors. The group meets monthly for fellowship, educational presentations and to raise funds for Relay for Life. She publishes a monthly newsletter for the group and is the Hands and Hearts historian.
“When I went into my cancer office for the last treatment, it felt like all of sudden, everything was over and I was getting sent out into the world and left on my own. I started crying in the doctor’s office and he immediately put me in touch with one of the nurses who started Hands and Hearts,” Lisa explained.
“It’s nice to have other people to talk to who are going through similar situations. If any of us gets into trouble — has a bad mammogram report or is even fighting cancer a second time — we like to be there for one another. We also can bring our caregivers with us. My grandkids like to go, and I had to start flipping a coin to see which one gets to come with Grandma! There are ups and downs for all of us in our group, but Hands and Hearts has helped me from day one!”
2010 Winner: Two Minutes Can Alter the Course of Another’s Cancer Journey
Denise Yoshihara took just a few minutes of her time and answered the Patient Resource Cancer Guide reader survey. We said “Congratulations, Denise!” and announced her as the winner of our 2010 Reader's Survey. In the 2009 Fall/Winter edition, we invited our readers to submit their suggestions and opinions about the Guide, and in exchange, Patient Resource Publishing (PRP) — the publisher of Cancer Guide -— would make a donation to a cancer organization of the winner’s choice. Her name was randomly selected as the winner from all submissions, and through her choice, she is making a difference in the lives of others.
Denise is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker/Supervisor in Oncology Services at the Virginia K Crosson Cancer Center at St. Jude’s Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. Denise provides psychosocial care for cancer patients and their families. Her responsibilities include counseling, crisis intervention, support groups, coordinating care by setting up home health, palliative care and hospice, as well as helping patients with insurance and financial issues.
Having worked at St. Jude’s for nearly 20 years, Denise is well acquainted with cancer organizations. Of these, she has selected Breast Cancer Angels as the recipient of the PRP donation. Breast Cancer Angels provides emergency and long-term financial assistance with practical needs that include groceries, utilities and housing for women and their families as they are going through breast cancer treatment. Denise said, “I like Breast Cancer Angels (breastcancerangels.org) because it is a grassroots organization, and I know that 100% of all donations go to women with breast cancer.”
Denise makes available the Cancer Guides to her patients, and recently she gave one to her sister who was diagnosed with breast cancer. “The guide is such a great resource. I like that I can give a guide to a patient, and he or she can find out about their specific cancer, treatments and side effects. Patients also can see what resources are available beyond our local services,” she said. “I really enjoy the survivor stories — that our patients can read about another survivor so they know they are not alone.”
“I like that I can give a guide to a patient, and he or she can find out about their specific cancer, treatments and side effects.”