Carol Duran was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2008. “The first thought was, ‘I’m going to lose my life, and leave my kids without a mom,’” Duran recently recalled.
The Alhambra, Calif., resident received much of her treatment as an outpatient at City of Hope, returning home most nights to her children. “It was nice to be able to come home even though I wasn’t feeling that great. At least my boys could climb into my bed or I could sit on the floor and play with them or read to them. I was with them a lot, which was important to me. In case something happened, I wanted them to remember me.”
Today, Duran is healthy, back to work, and sharing new parenting adventures with her husband, Jaime.
We recently asked Duran to look back at the time of her diagnosis and ask herself, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? What wisdom, soothing words or practical tips would you give your newly diagnosed self? In a previous article, she reflected on how cancer patients can improve their care and their personal health.
Here, she offers guidance on parenting, relationships and daily life.
Tell your children what they need to know. Because they were only 3, my boys only knew that I was sick, but didn’t understand what I was going through. I was bald and afraid of scaring them, but they just saw me as Mom. They just thought, “She changed her hairdo; she’s wearing a scarf.” Through the years, they have asked more questions. One of my sons is more intuitive, and when I go for follow-up appointments, he’ll ask, “You’re fine, right? The cancer didn’t come back, did it?” They have seen me do interviews for City of Hope and know about cancer and that people can die from it. I never wanted City of Hope to be a scary place for them and it hasn’t been. Children often get their cues on how to react by seeing how their parents handle situations. They weren’t scared because they saw me enjoying myself. » Continue Reading
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Brand-name drugs are more expensive than generic drugs, that much is clear. What’s also clear, finds the independent, nonprofit newsroom ProPublica, is that a small percentage of doctors nationwide are prescribing what seems to be more than their share of the pricey versions – and Medicare is footing the bill.
“Just 913 internists, family medicine and general practice physicians cost taxpayers an extra $300 million in 2011 alone by disproportionately choosing name-brand drugs,” read the story “Medicare’s Failure to Track Doctors Wastes Billions on Name-Brand Drugs.” “These doctors each wrote at least 5,000 prescriptions that year, including refills, and ranked among the program’s most prolific prescribers.”
California doctors were among the top prescribers of such drugs, the Los Angeles Daily News points out. “Almost 65 million Medicare Part D claims totalling $7.5 billion were filed by internal medicine, family medicine and general practice physicians from the Golden State for their patients,” the newspaper reported.
Such headlines beg the question: Why would doctors prescribe more expensive drugs when clearly cheaper alternatives are available? The answer can be complex, as Cy A. Stein, M.D., Ph.D., the Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology at City of Hope, explains. » Continue Reading
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Even people not treated at City of Hope feel a connection to us and to our float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. This soon-to-be float decorator from Colorado writes:
“My parents went to the Rose Bowl parade years ago before they had children – over 53 years. It made such an impression on them and for years I heard them talk about how wonderful it smelled and how beautiful the floats were. It created in me a desire to go – ‘someday.’ So, as I am now 50 and have children of my own, I have for the past 20 years gathered my family together to watch the parade as one of our must do holiday traditions. Every year they hear me say, ‘Someday, we will go. Ohhh, I want to go!”
Well, in January 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage 3. Thankfully, God allowed the treatment to work and I am nearly two years treatment-free. In January 2013, some friends offered to have our family stay with them at their beach house, so we have planned our trip around the time to get to attend the Rose Bowl parade and fulfill a dream for me at the same time. So here we come from Colorado!
The theme this year is especially meaningful to us for so many reasons and we knew we wanted to work on your float more than any other.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to continue making memories through your efforts in cancer research and to work on your float as a family. It is a privilege to get to see Dreams Come True.
Blessings to you,
To make your own float-decorating dreams come true, visit our Rose Parade float site http://www.cityofhope.org/roseparadefloat and sign up. It’s that easy.
You can also support the dreams of our float riders – all former cancer patients treated at City of Hope – by making a donation to support the float construction itself. And please, share your own story, dream or City of Hope connection below.
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City of Hope | Antelope Valley officially opened the doors of its new clinic Nov. 18, expanding patient access to the state-of-the-art technology and top-level care for which City of Hope is known. Now, even fewer patients will have to endure a long drive to be treated by City of Hope physicians.
“We cannot sit in Duarte and expect everyone to come to the main campus for care,” said Vijay Trisal, M.D., medical director of City of Hope’s community practices in the video above. “We have to take oncology care out . . . so that everybody knows there is a cancer center here and that world-class care can be delivered right here in the community.”
City of Hope has long had a clinic in Antelope Valley, but the new two-story facility dramatically expands the offerings. It can provide cancer patients with a complete range of diagnostic and treatment services, with spaces for screening, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The building also houses office space for physicians and support staff, a conference center and a 172-seat auditorium.
Trisal also talked about the expertise available at City of Hope | Antelope Valley, such as surgeons who are experienced in minimally invasive, robotically assisted procedures. Further, patients there can also enroll in clinical trials for promising new therapies.
“City of Hope is proud to provide access to our uniquely compassionate, patient-centered care within the community of Lancaster and Antelope Valley,” said City of Hope President Robert Stone in a press release. “With more people than ever impacted by cancer, both patients and their families will benefit from receiving high-quality treatment close to home.”
In the videos below, several staff members and patients shared their thoughts on the impact of City of Hope | Antelope Valley’s opening.
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Cancer survivors often say they’re thankful – for a second chance, for more time with their families, for lessons learned. But sometimes that thankfulness focuses on a specific person. For cancer survivor Hannah Komai, that person is pediatric oncology nurse Molly Lambert.
Hannah Komai came to City of Hope in 2010 at the age of 20 with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer most often diagnosed in teenagers.
Her normal life, as she says, “was put on pause.” Instead of entering Pacific Lutheran College on a scholarship, she would be spending her summer – and foreseeable future – undergoing difficult and intense treatment to save her life.
Komai endured 15 weeks of intense chemotherapy as well as surgery to remove six inches of her right femur, knee and a tibia and replace them with stainless steel. After months, Komai finally went into remission. Then came the grueling physical therapy. She spent her 21st birthday learning how to use a walker.
During her treatment and recovery, Komai found support and strength in Lambert, a nurse very close to her own age. Lambert would come spend time with Komai at the end of her day, making tough moments less lonely and tough days more bearable.
Lambert is the primary inspiration behind Komai’s decision to enroll in nursing school to become a pediatric oncology nurse herself. For Lambert, the bond is mutual.
As written by Hannah Komai
Molly has been a great person to look up to throughout my journey. She not only inspired me to continue on while I was in treatment, but continues to do so while going through nursing school.
I find that we have similar personalities, and I can really see a part of me in her. I hope to one day be as amazing a nurse as she is. She would fight to be able to take care of me when I was in the hospital. If she didn’t get to take care of me, she always was sure to stop in and spend some time with me.
It was nice having a relationship with someone of a similar age as me. She really understood what I was missing out on, but was able to guide me to stay positive.
I will never forget, it was during a time when I was truly struggling. It was in the middle of treatment, and just felt like it was never-ending. I was having a day of tears, and losing all hope. She came in, and just chatted with me. I can’t recall exactly our exchange in words, but I always knew I could just cry to her if I needed.
When I think about the kind of nurse I want to be, I picture Molly. I want to have her upbeat personality. I want to have relationships with not only the patients, but with their families as well.
As written by Molly Lambert
I have lots of patient stories, but Hannah is very special to me.
Hannah came to us as a teenager and needed a lot of encouragement as she was physically changing. She was losing her hair, having side effects from steroids and getting used to a new scar on her leg. She had difficulty and pain doing the things she would normally do. She was trying to be independent and grow as a teenage girl when she received a diagnosis where you get little choice.
I tried to encourage her as the beautiful girl that she is, spent lots of time with her giving her education about her treatment, listening to her stories, and giving her as many choices as possible. I would draw her pictures to describe her treatment and would have other members of our team (like the pharmacist) come in to do mini lectures for her. She loved to learn and I loved to teach her.
She has a heart of gold and is going to make an amazing nurse someday.
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Even the best Thanksgiving meal can benefit from the addition of cancer-fighting superfoods.
Superfoods contain compounds with the ability to fight and prevent cancer. The foods are healthful on their own, but incorporating them into favorite dishes and meals reminds us how powerful nature can be in keeping us healthy.
Mushrooms and pomegranates contain substances that help block the hormones that make breast cancer grow and spread. They also may help fight prostate cancer. Blueberries can inhibit the growth and spread of triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive types of the disease. And cinnamon extract can interfere with a tumor’s ability to grow by blocking the tumor from forming blood vessels to feed it.
Here are some recipe ideas that pack these superfoods into a classic Thanksgiving meal. We’ve got you covered for the whole feast – from appetizers to dessert. So cook, eat and know that good food is powerful in many ways.
All these recipes are available at cityofhope.org/superfoods.
Wild Blueberry Peppercorn Chutney
When hungry guests arrive, greet them with baked bread and this tasty spread.
Sweet Potato Salad with Pomegranates
The sweetness of this salad is great for anyone who’s reluctant to eat their “greens.”
THE MAIN EVENT:
Serve your turkey with Cranberry Pomegranate Relish
The pomegranates will add a nice texture to your sauce, yet their taste is subtle.
Also – add sliced pomegranate halves to your turkey platter for a beautiful and bright garnish.
Sage and Mushroom Stuffing
This hearty stuffing hits the spot. It’s also a great base for other ingredients such as meat, celery and onions should you want to dress it up.
Glazed Yams with Cinnamon and Nutmeg
The cinnamon helps counteract the sweetness of this dish, just don’t go overboard with it.
Apple Blueberry Crumble
Pies and variations of them can be healthier than you think when made with minimal sugar.
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Despite its cute moniker, a muffin-top could be a legitimate concern for good reason. Hint: That reason isn’t about the size of your jeans.
Belly fat, even in those who otherwise fall into a healthy weight range, is linked with health problems of more serious concern than cosmetics, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
“Abdominal obesity is associated with high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and other problems. These go hand-in-hand with type 2 diabetes and increased risk of heart disease and stroke,” said Raynald Samoa, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism. “Sometimes, the presence of belly fat could indicate a patient also has visceral fat, which is often invisible to the eye by surrounds the internal organs.”
In his research and clinic, Samoa is committed to fighting fat and its associated diseases. He is particularly interested in studying how the body sends and maintains appetite signals that keep some people eating and gaining weight – even though they don’t need to.
Visceral fat poses greater health risks than overall weight, but don’t fall for diets that claim they can spot-reduce belly fat. Only a comprehensive approach to weight loss will do the trick: calorie restriction, exercise and adopting these healthy habits for the long-term.
That won’t lead to an immediate reduction in visceral fat, but over time, weight and its associated risks can be managed.
Manage that muffin-top by starting with a few simple changes:
- Stop drinking your calories. Eliminate sodas, and embrace water.
- If you bite it, write it. Study upon study shows that keeping food records is a consistent habit of those who lose weight and keep it off.
- Plan ahead. Know what you’re going to eat before you get hungry.
- Add some spice. Hot sauce, salsa and other spicy seasonings pack a lot of flavor without fat and with only a few calories.
- Move more. Don’t feel you need to start training for a marathon, but 30 minutes of exercise a day – even broken up into smaller segments of time – is a good place to start.
“Make changes a few at a time,” Samoa said. “Be patient with yourself, and be aware that reducing your weight even by 10 percent is a good step toward better health and reducing the risk of disease.”
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“If there are indeed angels who have lived amongst us, then I believe that they have come to us as nurses, and none graced our lives more than Angela in her life and career. And for that I am forever grateful to her.”
– Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope
– In a letter read at Walk for Hope 2013 about Angela Calvanico, R.N.
Even during the last weeks of her life in May, when Angela Calvanico, R.N., was fighting breast cancer, she asked to be put on the schedule, confident she’d be able to work her usual shifts as a nurse in the 3C infusion unit at City of Hope.
“She was just about one of the best nurses we ever had,” recalled Debra Varsier-Thomas, R.N., clinical nurse III, who knew Calvanico for 11 years. “She never let her disease get in her way of taking care of patients.”
Like other City of Hope nurses, Calvanico embodied the institution’s core values of scientific knowledge, technical acumen and boundless compassion. But Calvanico also had a special empathy for City of Hope patients. She was one of them. And as both a nurse and a patient, she understood better than anyone what patients need. Doctors and nurses at City of Hope have taken those lessons to heart. » Continue Reading
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