Friday, November 1, 2013

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

It's been awhile since I've written...Quite frankly, I've lacked motivation and just couldn't bring myself to do it...but now it's November, Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and it's too important to remain silent. 

On July 25th I lost a dear friend and nurse colleague to the dreaded disease just four months shy of her 50th birthday; nearly a year following the horrific diagnosis. Determined  to beat the odds, she learned everything she could about the latest treatments, remained positive, and trudged ahead full force.

She knew the future was bleak, but she was determined to beat the odds. She didn't outlive other survivors, she didn't beat the odds, but she lived each day to the fullest, and won the battle by fighting the deadly disease on her terms with dignity and grace.  

More than 45,000 Americans will  be faced with the diagnosis of pancreatic this year; only 23% of those people will survive 1 year...only 4% will survive five years.

Understanding pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer commonly develops in the ducts of the pancreas or less often in the cells that produce hormones. It can invade other tissues, shed cancer cells into the abdomen and spread to other organs. Risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Obesity

Many other possible risk factors are under active study. For example, researchers are studying whether a diet high in fat (especially animal fat) or heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. Another area of active research is whether certain genes increase the risk of disease.

Silent killer

In the early stages, pancreatic cancer doesn't cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, the patient may notice one or more of the following:
  • Dark urine, pale stools, and yellow skin and eyes
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Pain the the middle of the back that doesn't go away with a change in position
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stools that float in the toilet
Advanced cancer may cause weakness, tiredness, loss of appetite or feelings of fullness, and unexplained weight loss. People who experience these symptoms should seek medical care.

Pancreatic cancer is often overlooked; it doesn't get the same attention as breast , colon, and prostate cancer; but its a deadly disease that needs attention.  During this month of pancreatic awareness, I challenge you to become informed and help spread the word so this deadly disease gets the attention and funding its victims so desperately need!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Twas the night before Christmas...the spirit was stirring!

It continues..working, shopping, cooking, up at 03:00 trying to make publishing deadlines... trying to enjoy the Christmas season...

Christmas eve's eve

Finally, time to make the family fruit cake...

Ready for the oven...


And then the my holiday frenzy, I forgot to take the fruit cake to our family Christmas celebration...thankfully my dad and son bailed me out...the tradition lives on...everyone went home with their Christmas fruit cake.

Christmas eve

Up at 03:00 working...a day past my deadline...last-minute shopping, wrapping, cleaning, food prepping...broken dishwasher...EXHAUSTED! DEPRESSED! What happened to the Christmas's gone for another year. 

Then 16:30 rolled around.., time for Christmas eve service...time to celebrate the birth of Christ...finally a visit from the Christmas spirit!

And the perfect end to a beautiful celebration...SNOW!

For unto you is born this day in the city of 

David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, is the story of Edmond Dantes, a young Frenchman who seemingly has it all...that is until the jealousy of "friends" brings forth an accusation of treason...followed by his subsequent wedding-day arrest for the alleged crimes.

Dantes is sentenced to life in the infamous Chateau d'lf prison, where the most dangerous political prisoners are imprisoned. During his imprisonment, Dantes meets Abbe Faria, an Italian priest who was jailed for his political views. While imprisoned together, Faria educates Dantes teaching him languages, philosophy, science, and history...As their friendship grows, Faria tells Dantes of a great treasure he has hidden on the island of Monte Cristo...he explains its where-abouts and leaves it to Dantes should he ever escape Chateau d'lf...

Don't be intimidated by the more than 1,400 pages...the constant adventure will keep you engaged won't want to put it down...if you love classics, the Count of Monte Cristo is a must-read!

Baaaah Humbug!

And then it was December...the thankfulness of the Thanksgiving season, gone! 

Christmas is  right around the corner... house to clean and decorate, weekly travel, publishing deadlines, gifts to buy, cookies and fruit cake to bake, menus to plan, food to buy, parties to attend..This used to be my favorite time of the year...what's happened?...where has the Christmas spirit gone? 

I sit at my computer frantically working...if I listen to Christmas carols, I'm sure to catch the spirit...If I go shopping after work, I'll catch it by experiencing the hustle and bustle...if I set out one more Christmas decoration...if I attend just one more Christmas concert...NOTHING! 

Sound familiar?

Then I less person at our house this Christmas; the first Christmas without my grandmother...then, we received the news of the senseless tragedy involving the children and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT...and then today, the sudden death of a long-time family friend, how can there possibly be  joy and Christmas spirit this Christmas...

As I reflect on Christmases past, the true source of joy has been the reason for the season and time spent with family and friends....not gifts, decorations, or food. 

So this year, I've resolved to enjoy the special time we have together, the laughs, the thrown wrapping paper, the over-used cheesy lines, and the simple traditions...because every day we spend together is a special that can't be wrapped and tossed under a tree, only to be soon forgotten.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New drug: New hope

This week, 3 months ahead of schedule, the Food and Drug Administration put their stamp of approval on the new drug ponatinib (Iclusig). Indicated for treatment of adults with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that were resistant or intolerant to previous tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy, ponatinib blocks an abnormal protein that stimulates the development of these two types of leukemia. This medication is important because it gives hope to those with CML and ALL who aren't responding to other medications. Prior to the approval of Iclusig, there wasn't a satisfactory alternative treatment for these two rare leukemias.

Black box warning

Iclusig was released with a Black box warning because of the associated risk for arterial thrombosis (blood clots) and hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity).

Arterial thrombosis

Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular thrombosis, including myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke have occurred in patients receiving the medication. In fact, during clinical trials arterial thrombosis occurred in 8% of those patients treated with the medication. If thrombosis occurs, therapy should be interrupted, and possibly discontinued.


Hepatotoxicity, liver failure, and death have also occurred in patients receiving treatment with the drug. Liver function should be monitored before and during therapy. If signs of hepatoxicity occur, the dose should be reduced or discontinued depending on the extent of toxicity.

Recommended dose

The recommended dose is 45 mg taken orally, once daily; it should be continued as long as the patient shows no signs of disease progression or serious toxicity. Iclusig tablets should be swallowed whole and may be taken with or without food. Dose modifications are necessary with myelosuppression and nonhematologic adverse reactions.

Common adverse reactions

Common adverse reactions experienced during clinical trials include:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Arterial ischemia
  • Arthralgia
  • Back pain
  • Bone pain
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Extremity pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Hypertension
  • Leukopenia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Myalgia
  • Nausea
  • Neutropenia
  • Oral mucositis
  • Peripheral edema
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Pyrexia
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Upper respiratory tract infection

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sister act!

This weekend was a double-shot weekend...filled with proud musical are some highlights.

Sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella meet the philosopher

Saturday night was spent watching my daughter perform in Penn State University's production of Mozarts's  Cosi Fan amazing performance.

The opera is a story of two sisters, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, who are engaged to two young gentlemen Giglielmo and Ferrando.  

A philosopher, Don Alfonso, challenges the men to place a wager that their fiancee's won't remain faithful if persuaded to go astray...because cosi fan tutte (women are like that).

He convinces the gentlemen to pretend to go off to war, and then return disguised as Albanians...they then seduce the other man's woman...

And then Sunday, we traveled to Mansfield University to enjoy my other daughter's performance with the Mansfield University Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jeff Jacobson. 

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival, Overture on Liturgical Themes 

Alexandra Pakhmutova's Concerto for trumpet and Orchestra.

A beautiful, festive, music-filled weekend that speaks to the importance of the arts in our schools!

What holiday festivities did you enjoy this weekend?