In yesterday's New York Times, actress Angelina Jolie revealed she recently had a prophylactic double mastectomy after learning she was at high risk of developing breast cancer after undergoing genetic testing. Angelina penned her story in a published op-ed piece that discussed the genetic mutation that increased her risk of breast cancer and how she came to the decision to have such a drastic surgery. The 37 year old actress publicly disclosed her medical history and decisions so other women may "benefit from her experience". Her words deliver an empowering message that maintains its focus on breast cancer. Never does the piece veer from her mission to educate and encourage women; it never turned into a celebrity biopic that we commonly see when some celebrities are diagnosed with a disease or have a medical scare. I commend Jolie for such a well-written piece and using this experience in a positive way. Read the op-ed here.
Recently, I received an email from a reader who is in a financial dilemma because of the cost of cancer treatment. She is currently employed and on medical leave. Her leave is about to expire, but isn't quite ready to return to work as she is still undergoing treatment. If she does not return to work, she will likely lose her job and benefits.
Unfortunately, this reader's struggle is not uncommon. So many people are in the same situation and are forced between work and health insurance benefits versus taking time to rest and heal. Cancer treatment is no walk in the park and your body needs much more rest and relaxation than normal to properly recover. Work can add undue physical and emotional stress that only adds to the mounting stress and frustration caused by being diagnosed with a serious disease and being treated for it.
Please read my advice to this reader. Perhaps you are going through the same situation or know someone who may benefit from the information. Have you experienced a similar situation? Please tell us your story and if you have any tips or advice in the 'Comments' section below!
There are some people, though they have no medical training, like to lend medical advice to others. When you have cancer, it seems to bring out the "inner-physician" in some people, prompting unwanted medical advice to be given. Though they may mean well, it surely can become annoying!
How do you handle unwanted medical advice? Share how you deal with people who give you unwanted advice.
I have a love/hate relationship with my health insurance provider. When they cover my medications and tests, I am thrilled. But, when I get a letter saying they do not cover a procedure, medication, or test that my doctor believes I need, I feel deflated. Every day, cancer patients receive these denial of coverage letters and phone calls -- even for vital medications like chemotherapy drugs. So, what's a cancer patient to do? What to do when you insurance won't pay...
For some people, losing weight during chemotherapy can be a welcomed side effect. I have heard newly diagnosed patients joke countless times that chemo may be just the answer to shed those unwanted pounds. Their humor in spite of the diagnosis is encouraging, but it diminishes quickly when they learn that they may actually gain weight during treatment. Of course this varies based on treatment plan and the medications included in it and other factors. Read more about who is likely to gain lose weight during treatment.
We are all familiar with side effects of chemotherapy like hair loss and stomach upset, but did you know that taste changes are also a common side effect? Almost half of people who undergo chemotherapy experience a change in their sense of taste. From too sweet to too bitter, chemotherapy can affect how things taste to us. Learn how to cope with taste changes.
It is not uncommon for people to even lose their sense of taste after chemotherapy. Eventually it returns, but it can certainly affect your quality of life when you can't taste. Have some tips of your own? How did you cope with losing your sense of taste? Share your tips and advice here.
In the public eye, all cancers are not judged equally. For that reason, it may be difficult for some cancer patients to talk about their disease, even to the point of not tell friends and family. Recently, I received an email from a reader who is battling anal cancer is feeling shame and embarrassment because of it. Her feelings of shame have been so strong that it has prevented her from adequately coping with the diagnosis.
Cancer shame is not uncommon, especially for people with cancer that affect parts of the body that we normally don't hold conversations about with friends and family. Those suffering from colon, anal, rectal, and other types of cancer may feel embarrassed about their cancer, but shouldn't. Read more about how to cope with cancer shame....
Just the thought of losing your hair to chemo can be devastating for men and women. After all, hair is our "crown and glory" and shapes our facial features. The truth is that thousands of people lose their hair to chemotherapy every single day. Today, someone will wake up to find hair on their pillow or have clumps hovering the drain in the shower. While there is nothing we can do to prevent this from happening, there is something we can do: give support.
We can support fellow cancer patients by sharing our own stories of chemotherapy induced hair loss to let them know they are not alone. If you have lost your hair to chemotherapy, I welcome you to share your story and how you coped with it. You can also read fellow reader stories about their hair loss during chemotherapy. Share your story about chemotherapy related hair loss.
Most people expect certain side effects of chemotherapy like hair loss and nausea, but they are usually surprised when it affects a very personal part of their life -- their sex life. The sexual side effects of chemotherapy are plenty, but what you experience and the severity greatly depends on what chemotherapy drug(s) you are taking and at what dose. From the loss of sexual desire to male impotence, chemotherapy's sexual side effects can pose unique challenges in the bedroom. The good news is that the side effects are usually temporary and can often be relieved with OTC medications and products and in some cases, through prescription medication. Learn more about the sexual side effects of chemotherapy.
A common question that people undergoing chemotherapy often ask is about using condoms during chemotherapy. Using condoms during intercourse while undergoing chemo isn't just about preventing pregnancy, its about preventing the exposure of chemo toxins to your partner in the days following chemotherapy. Read more about condom use and chemotherapy.
Have you experienced sexual side effects of cancer treatment? We want to hear your story! Leave your thoughts in the 'Comments' section below.
When Sofia Vergara appeared on a Stand Up 2 Cancer special last year, I was surprised when she announced that she was a cancer survivor. I didn't recall reading about a diagnosis in the past, but after a quick Google search, I learned she is a thyroid cancer survivor! According to several interviews and media report, the actress was diagnosed in 2000. While it has been over a decade since she was diagnosed, I think its fantastic that she is now an advocate. Read more about Vergara's battle with thyroid cancer...