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Month: December 2014

The year that was 2014

The year that was 2014

With the close of the year 2014, I sit with a mixed bag of feelings. 2014 is a year that will remain in my mind for years to come. A year I feel changes -positive ones. Yes and I feel it from within. A growth of positive thoughts, a growth of better understanding, and a growth of a sense of calmness.

I have always been a person filled with anxieties, fears and insecurities. You could blame it on multiple factors. The environment I grew up in, upbringing and influences of school. It did get better after I got married though. “A ” has been an awesome husband and extremely supportive of me. Yet my conflicts within have resulted in several other relationships of mine turning sour. Over the years I lost friendships and the care some dear friends would have for me.

But now as I stand on the threshold of 2014, I leave all these behind. I feel better.

2014 a year I lost my dad to Colon cancer. He had a long drawn fight and each one of us would pep him up and pushed him to fight till the end. Yet he succumbed to the deadly diseases on OCtober 17. I’ll never forget his last few days. If fighting the disease was painful the end was even worse. And more painful for us the care givers, to see a man, who was once so majestic, in pain. Will miss him always.

” A” was out for most parts of the year leaving me with the girls. Though it was difficult without “A”, I managed to hold fort managing them. I am glad in a way to get that time as it helped me introspect. I picked up reading and of course blogging.

I don’t know what the year ahead holds for me. Life would go on and the normal routine would continue past the date of 1st Jan 2015. But its a thought that I would carry with me that I am maturing and probably becoming a better person.

Does your report say " Lesion" or " Tumor"?

Does your report say " Lesion" or " Tumor"?

Cancer patients often here medical practitioners, radiologists and doctors, use terms such as Lesions and tumors. Sometimes they are used interchangeably. However they are not the same and have different medical implications.

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Lets understand the terms so that a diagnosis and its implications are clear to patients.

A “Lesion” is an abnormal change in a tissue or organ of any kind. It could be due to an injury, disease, an inflammation almost any abnormal change involving any tissue or organ due to disease or injury. So typically it is any abnormality. They range from purely harmless ones to some serious ones.

Cells_2011A Tumor on the other hand is a benign or malignant growth of tissue with no specific physiological function, with uncontrolled cellular activity and proliferation. So a tumor is a lesion and a lesion may not be a tumor.

In a  CT scan typically both look like a “mass”. But it is for the doctor to evaluate further and assess the potential risk from it.

A Cancer Patient's Caregiver – A support, a pillar and a strong fighter

A Cancer Patient's Caregiver – A support, a pillar and a strong fighter

When we hear of cancer diagnosis, the first thing that comes to almost all minds is the patient going through cycles of chemotherapy, battling out and getting tired. But have we every stopped and thought for a while, what a cancer diagnosis means to the care giver of the patient? A cancer patients immediate caregiver, goes through as much trauma, strain-both physically as well as mentally, anxiety, sadness etc… The caregiver is the biggest pillar of support to help a cancer patient in his fight against the disease.

Senior couple in love walking at the beach holding hands in a ro

Dad’s diagnosis of colorectal cancer way back in March 2010, came as a shocker to all of us. But for one person it was more than a shocking news. It was the beginning of a battle, a fight, and a journey to provide the best care to him.

Mother has never really had it easy in life. A tough mother-in-law and a short-tempered husband dominated her early years of marriage. And when things had just started looking better in the later years, her only brother passed away, leaving her to take over the responsibility of her 90 year old mother. So with dads diagnosis, she was all alone taking care of him as well as my aging granny.

A cancer patients nightmare is chemotherapy. The side effects of these sessions are aplenty. Fatigue, loss of appetite irritability, are a few of them. Mom handled each and every one of these side effects dad was going through. She worked out a diet plan for him. High protein, fruits for energy and alternative herbal remedies to reduce fatigue.

And if chemo is a nightmare, adjuvant therapies such as Avastin and Erbitux are horror shows. Erbitux especially caused skin problems and rashes. He used to cry in pain, of his face being on fire. So severe were his side effects that his irritation was directly aimed at mom. And hats off to this lady. She endured it all.

Dad sure fought cancer well for almost 5 years. And a strong factor in his being able to wage this war was because of Mom’s constant support and care. She fought with him. She was his armour. Towards the end of his life, I could clearly see him getting tired of fighting, slipping away and knowing clearly he was losing out. She probably felt the same. And just prayed his end come peaceful.

It sure did. Cause the pain commonly experienced by most cancer patients towards the end, lasted in him for only a day or so. Mom felt relived. She may have lost the battle, but she’s come out of it a stronger person.

The Genetics of Cancer- Is There a Test?

The Genetics of Cancer- Is There a Test?

Source:National Cancer Institute
Source:National Cancer Institute

When Dad was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, a thought that came to my mind was if cancer was genetic. Is it possible that it lies in my family? I tried tracing back to up to 3-4 generations on how they passed away, yet could come to no definitive conclusion. The Onco at Manipal hospital clarified to me that it is possible to inherit certain kind of cancer such as breast , ovarian cervical and probably colorectal cancer. But – cancer as such is not a heridity disease. A stronger player is lifestyle and the environment we live in which is to be blamed. Nevertheless I did read up on the subject.

Mutation et all..

Changes in  ones  genes  which is known as mutation, play a vital role in development of cancer. sometimes gene mutations go wrong causing an uncontrolled growth of cells, causing cancer. This kind of gene may be inherited or may have just developed during the course of one’s life. The percentage of cancers inherited though are only about 5% to 10% of all cancers put together. The changes which the mutation may experience apart from inheritance, could be due to lifestyle and environmental factors or just a unexpmained random cause.

Getting a test

A genetic test identifies mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. It is changes in these two genes that are responsible for the risk of breast, ovarian and other associate cancers such as prostate or colon. The test is recommended if:

  • You have had an immediate family member diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45 or younger;
  • a personal history of breast cancer at age 45 or younger;
  • a family member diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age;
  • a family history of both breast and ovarian cancers on the same side of the family;
  • a personal or family history of male breast cancer
  •  a personal or family history of bilateral breast cancer

When is the risk high?

The risk is high of inheriting cancer if  you have more than one  close relatives with cancer. Look out for pointers such as cancer at a young age and  similar kinds  of cancers in the family.

With genetic testing gaining popularity, many oncologists often prescribe it as a prevention mechanism. Yet the option is still not exercised to its fullest. We still have a certain mount of stigma associated with the dreadful disease- cancer. We tend to handle it only when it strikes. And by then it is way too late.

A visit, a carnival and ….

A visit, a carnival and ….

Oh what a weekend !!! Ofcourse it’s just Saturday night and already an action packed weekend.

CP_RENOVATION_5051f

Yesterday being Friday, I visited an aunt of mine at CP (Connaught Place) with my two girls. CP- what a place. A walk on Janpath and a visit to Shankar Market, two musts if you are in Connaught Place. Shankar Market probably houses any kind of material you can even think of. Great bargains, loads of kurtis, salwars, stoles and dupattas. Coulorful apparels that would make your eyes pop out. Loved every bit of it. And Janpath- the Tibetan shops are good, but you sure have to bargain and haggle a bit. Nevertheless a must visit.

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Dont forget the famous Saravana Bhavan in CP. On a weekend, ensure you reach there early, or you’d have to wait outside for a minimum of an hour. The crowd is maddening and the food…. is awesoooooomme. You simply shouldn’t give it a miss when in CP.

Had a lazy Saturday morning start. My elder ones school had a Christmas Carnival. Kids had a blast. They love these silly trinkets and junk toys( i call them so) with light and cute little snowman.  With the winter setting in Delhi this is the best time of the year in Delhi,

WP_20141213_025 Tomorrow is the Sunday when “A” would be back from Russia after a two week trip. The girls are already super excited that Dad would be back. Happy to have hubby home, and it would be such a lovely sight to see the girls dig into his baggage for gifts and jumping all over him. These are life’s simple pleasures I love to experience. I don’t want these kind of moments to skip away. Want to hold them on and cling on to them….

But I know time will slowly pass by.

Cherish the moment- time will fly away

Cherish the moment- time will fly away

source:someecards
source:someecards

“A” has been away for the last two weeks leaving me to manage the two girls all on my own. Of course I cribbed and sulked and may have really said some nasty things to him. I was upset that here he was going away to Russia and I was all by myself here in Delhi to manage the girls. I needed a break from doing the daily chores. Waking up early, getting the elder one ready for school and putting up with all the tantrums of my little one. Phew!!! being a mother is a whole lot of responsibilities. I sure needed a rejuvenating break.

But as I sat last evening, spending time and making a Christmas bugle for the elder one, a craft requirement from her schools, I realised something. Something that calmed me down and made me look within. I stopped to notice that my 6-year-old was growing big, and started taking small decisions on her own. She swiftly moved her hands on the glitter decorating her craft work. The sequins all stuck in place with perfect precision. All that she actually required I realised, was my time – not my expertise. My 6-year-old wanted to do things her way, yet looked up to me for small approvals.

As the years are passing by, and I get stuck cribbing about my daily tough routine managing the girls, I am failing to see that my kids are growing up into fine young people preparing to make small decisions on their own. And like good parents I must be there with them not spoon-feeding them , but a shoulder in support.

Because when we are caught in the nitty gritty of life, we stop to notice our children, We fail to cherish their growing process. And spending such fun times daily with them are a sure rejuvenation in their own way.

Wish sometimes I could hold on to time…

Life has its own way of giving you one tight slap!!!

Life has its own way of giving you one tight slap!!!

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Life has its own unique and strange ways. And many a times it acts as a leveler. An important lesson I have learnt in all these years is that “LIfe sure has its own way of giving you one tight slap.

A certain Mr K I know, often harped about having a grandson. He was very confident about his son producing one as it was of utmost importance 1) to continue the family name and 2) to do the last rites of his son, when the situation occurs. I of course found this ridiculous. Nevertheless, I kept nodding my head when these conversations go on in front of me. So confident was he of having a grandson that in his arrogance he spoke ill of those couples blessed with daughters. And guess what…. his son was blessed with two daughters. Of course the two angels are simply adorable and his son and daughter in law are in 7th heaven. Poor Mr. K could only sulk!!!!

Listen to the next one.. a certain Mrs A was a very proud mother. A toughie and arrogant lady, she was sure nothing could go wrong in hers and her sons lives. When she would hear of other people having issues with health, family or finances, her arrogant comment would be,” oh they are the sinned souls, so let them suffer”. In the years to follow, a son of hers lost all his hard-earned money, along with being in heavy debt. Another son was diagnosed with a dreadful disease that almost wiped his savings. Mrs. A unable to bear her sons suffering succumb to cancer herself.

The point I am trying to make here is that each and every one of us in life have issues or problems. In a phase when things are fine for us, it doesn’t really mean we look down upon these in misery , because tomorrow we may be in a similar situation.

So let the arrogance go. Being humble is important. Place yourself at the same place as others, not above them.

Green Tea- Answer to Cancer Cure?

Green Tea- Answer to Cancer Cure?

Cancer sure is a deadly disease. Most often its prognosis not really being good. But do you know whats the deadliest aspect of this disease? – ” Metastasis”

Metastasis or Mets as it is often called is the ability of cancer to spread to other distant organs. So for example if you have a primary tumor in your colon, you are said to have metastatic disease when the cancer has spread to your liver or lungs. Prognosis of a metastatic disease is generally quite poor.

So let me get back to the big question does green tea really have a solution to cure this kind of disease? I have been trying to read up on this topic on the internet and found some interesting facts.

1) Green tea is different from black tea: To begin with, green tea and black tea differ in a great big way.  Where green tea is made from  steamed and dried leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant, black tea is also made from leaves that have been fermented. Fermentation may reduce the levels of antioxidants in the tea.

2) Antioxidants and its role: Green tea has polyphenol compounds such as catechins (which are antioxidants), in substantial amounts which are relevant to cancer prevention.

3) The Evidence aspect : Well not sure on this, but there has been evidence of tumors shrinking in laboratory studies. Green tea during lab studies have shown to act against cancer cells in cell cultures. Test tube studies have shown a reduction in  new blood vessels from forming, thereby cutting off the supply of blood to cancer cells.

As per medicalnewstoday.com :”Reported in the journal Metabolomics, the study explores the effect of epigallocatechin gallate or “EGCG,” an active biological agent of green tea. It shows that EGCG changes the metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells by suppressing the expression of lactate dehydrogenase A or LDHA, a critical enzyme in cancer metabolism.”

My point of view: we often come across many reasearch and studies pointing towards a possible cure for cancer and its prevention with the use of natural methods. Nature probably has a cure to this dreadful disease. I wonder then why does it remain only as a study and not taken to the next step, of actually helping people get better.

Does anyone have an answer?

Have anyone of you’ll encountered or know anybody who have got better with the use of any natural remedy for cancer? Please share your story with me. Would be glad to feature it on my blog.

A PET Scan- Hmmm not really your pet isnt it?

A PET Scan- Hmmm not really your pet isnt it?

“Positron Emission Tomography”- Thats what the PET scan stands for. For almost all cancer patients, the term PET scan becomes part and parcel of life. For some it may be a carrier of positive news, and for a few others not so great a news.

Before the scan- What should you do?

PET Scan uses radioactive tracers in a special dye called contrast commonly. Medical specialists require you to do a blood test and only on satisfaction is the dye injected. More specifically, your serum creatinine a kidney count. You would also require to fast for at least 4 hours before the procedure is done.

How is it done ?

The contrast is injected into a vein in your arm. When this is highlighted  under a PET scanner,  it shows any diseases in organs and tissues within the body. Where a PET scan gives a Macro view of the complete body, a CT could give finer details of individual organs or regions. The injective radioactive substance may take around 30-60 minutes to reach your tissues. SO you may be asked to lie or sit with limited movement. You may also be given the contrast for the CT scan orally(depending on the organ to be scanned).

Scans are done as outpatient procedures and do not require hospitalization. Post the procedure you may go home. However there may be a certain degree of tiredness. Plus it is recommended to drink water after the procedure to wash out the radioactive contrast within you.

Risks in the scan

This is how a scan machine looks like

There is a certain element of risk as the test exposes you to radiation. But as most docs say,  the  benefits of the test outweigh the risks and for cancer patients it helps assess the situation.

The test

You would be placed on an examination table outside the PET-CT scanner. You would be required to lie either on your back, side or your stomach, depending on the organ or area to be scanned. A technician trained for the same would monitor the test images  through a video screen placed in a nearby control room. Dont worry you would be able to communicate with hin in case of any issues or concerns.

Images are generally given within 24 hours. Docs would seek both the image and the written report/diagnosis of the scan.

If your doc suspects cancer a PET/CT is require

  • To locate the exact site and size of the primary tumor
  • Differentiate between benign and malignant growth
  • Discover metastatic activity or if the cancer has spread
  • Check if past treatment has reduced spread of cancer
  • To check for any recurrent tumors

 

 

CEA- The KIller Count

CEA- The KIller Count

CEA is the tumor marker used in certain types of cancers especially for colo rectal cancer. An abbreviation for ” Carcino Embryonic Anigen, it is nothing but a reflection of a “certain antigen produced by these cancers”. So typically if you have a raised CEA, it is generally synonymous with a cancer thriving inside you.

Getting CEA measured

A very simple procedure, CEA is measured by doing a blood test. Of course it could also be done by testing body fluids or  biopsy tissue. But the most common method prescribed is a blood test. you wouldn’t need to really prepare your body for doing the test.

Normal Range of CEA

For a normal adult CEA should generally be around 2.5 ng/ml and for a smoker 5.0 ng/ml. Anything way above this isn’t really a good sign.

Readings and more of CEA

CEA count is used as a tumor marker. In simpler words it is used to detect the presence of malignancy. Generally levels>20 ng/ml before any form of treatment or surgery is an indication of a metastatic disease(diseases that has spread to other organs/parts of the body). Docs use this value as a base line at the time of beginning treatment and see if values drop in response to the treatment.

In general a high reading means:

  • There is cancer in colon, lung, pancreas, breast, or ovary.
  • If after chemo or radiation, there is an increase it means cancer may not be responding to treatment.
  • For those with a steady rise in readings after chemo or treatment, it means, the cancer has come back.

How accurate is a CEA reading?

Many docs often look at CEA with a pinch of salt. It isn’t often looked at as an effective screening test. This is because, hidden or occult cancers or those in early stages do not show up any significant elevation in the blood. Also many a times a temporary elevation may be seen during chemotherapy or radiation. This is because of increased activity seen at the spot of cancer cells, with the death of the cells and, release of CEA into the blood. Many a times, benign tumors may not show n increase. Benign tumors may turn malignant at a future date. It is for this reason a scan is recommended by most docs.

Why Has Your Doc Asked You to Do One?

Your doctor :

  • May have suspected cancer of the colon, rectum or other specific cancer.
  • Wanted to check recurrent tumors/malignant cells
  • Check for your response to treatment

Finally.. Its not About the Value Honey

With my experience during Dad’s treatment, I have learnt that its not about value alone thats a concern. The main wory is when, there is a steady increase in CEA, which does not reduce even after a cycle of chemo or radiation. It shows the cancers negative response to treatment and increasing metastatic activity.

This is a clear sign that the cancer is showing activity and spreading.