Saturday, 30 December 2006

dLife Makes Room for 2007

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One of the many shining stars of dLife, and a father of a type 1 diabetic, Tom Karlya, shares his reflections on 2006 through a satirical piece where he personifies 2006 and pays respect to the accomplishments of the diabetic community.

Reflections include the Team Type 1 fundraising event. The mission of Team Type 1 is to increase the general public's awareness of diabetes as a disease that can be managed effectively - allowing those with this condition to continue active, healthy lives and permitting them to perform well in athletic events. Another monumental accomplishment this year was a DVD created for the Public Health Foundation. The DVD addresses a topic most people consider unspeakable. You have to watch the video teaser online to get the picture. Last but certainly not least, Tom mentions the controversial but promising cure research of Dr. Denise Faustman.

Tom makes a great point when he says, "Same actions will never yield different results. .. Show me something that was not a biomedical finding funded by private industry." Take a minute to indulge in the victorious ending of 2006. Ring in the New Year with an optimistic smile of what's to come in the days ahead.

Low GI carbs may help with weight loss

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The carb craze, just when will it end? Years ago, carbs were an essential part of a well-balanced, if athletic, diet. Olympic gold medal runners would eat massive pasta dinners the night before a big road race, swimmers would carbo-load before meets, and everyday people went as far as taking carb-rich nutritional supplements to get them through a workout or two. BUT, then came along diets with strange names, like Zone and Atkins, all claiming that carbs will cause you to gain weight. Soon, people were avoiding carbs like the plague and instead opti ng for extra sides of bacon. The madness ensued for quite some time, until the masses finally came around to the concept of "good" carbs and "bad" carbs, something that people with diabetes have long since been aware of.

But, there's some new evidence to suggest that not only are "good" carbs (i.e. carbs that are not high on the glycemic index) easier on blood sugar, but they may also lead to weight loss. The prevailing thought behind this assertion is actually quite simple: It takes longer to digest low GI foods, which therefore causes you to feel more full for a longer period of time, and also requires the burning of more calories to complete the digestion process.

In a related study, now published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 129 overweight and obese people followed one of four reduced-calorie diets for 12 weeks. Two of the diets were high in carbs and two were high in protein, and of each of these two groups, one followed a low GI carb diet. The results? All groups lost weight (chalked up to the reduced-calorie diet itself), but the low GI diets lost nearly two times as much body fat.

Ideas for Innovative Drugs Running on Empty

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It hasn't gone unnoticed - the cost of healthcare is rising, diabetes diagnoses are rising, the pharmaceutical industry has dramatically increased its investment in research and development -- but that has not translated into more new treatments.

Between 1993 and 2004, funding for new drug applications submitted to the FDA increased almost a 150%. However, the number of new drug applications increased only 38%. Of those applications, only 7% were for innovative drugs with new ingredients. The Government Accountability Office (yes there is such a thing) says the reason for unimpressive returns on medical research funding dollars is due to the difficulty of developing new treatments, combined with marketplace pressure to produce blockbuster new drugs.

The phenomenon known as "me too" drugs (where companies produce drugs similar to drugs already on the market) has also become much more common. These drugs offer little in the way of innovation. However, despite the economic challenges of bringing new and innovative drugs to market, the pace of scientific discovery has increased substantially in the past 10 years - 56 diabetes drugs in development, alone. As the cost of discovering new medicines rises, it becomes more difficult for drug companies to recover these costs. It seems the research dollars are plentiful but ideas for new drugs can't compete with all the profit-decaying hurdles along the way. It's not a problem of interest until it's your own. I wouldn't wish diabetes on anybody-- even those who care more about the profit margin versus the quality of life of the person taking the pill.

Diabetes Education in Session Across America

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The National Changing Diabetes(SM) Program (NCDP) brings together innovators in diabetes education, treatment and policy to improve the lives of people with diabetes. Their intention is to create change in the US healthcare system to dramatically improve the prevention and care of diabetes.

NCDP is a program of Novo Nordisk, a visionary healthcare company with an 80 year history of innovation and achievement in diabetes care. NovoNordisk's business is driven by the Triple Bottom Line: a commitment to economic success, environmental soundness and social responsibility to employees and customers. offers a diverse collection of promising initiatives from across America, submitted by the diabetes community, healthcare providers, employers and government agencies. Programs and initiatives focus on a variety of areas such as telemedicine, coaching, health information technology and more. This program answers the need for change in diabetes care. Knowledge is power and goodness knows a disease like diabetes needs all the power it can get!

Spend New Year's Day with the Penguins

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With 2007 only a day away, there is little time left to come up with some New Year's resolutions if you haven't already. For many, January 1st represents a new beginning of sorts, an opportunity to start their lives off fresh all over again. For others, it simply represents a hangover and a pounding headache. But, for a very rare breed, it means swimming in 45 degree water, this year in efforts to raise money for diabetes research and education.

Held by the Atlantic General Hospital in Ocean City, Maryland, this year marks the 13th time 400-500 people take the plunge for this annual fundraiser. Last year alone, about $60,000 was raised for AGH, and over $750,000 has been raised since the inception of the Annual Penguin Swim. People of all ages participate in this event, and many more watch comfortably from the shore. Much like charity road races, individual swimmers and teams of swimmers receive sponsorship for their efforts from friends and colleagues.

The event this year will again take place on the beach side of the Princess Royale hotel on 91st Street in Ocean City, MD. Registration begins at noon, and swimmers are in the water by 1pm. So, if you happen to be in the area, and are feeling a little crazy/compassionate, maybe this can be your way of starting off the New Year right.

Black people may experience higher nighttime blood pressure

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According to information published in the December 19th issue of of Circulation, black people living in the United States may be at greater risk of nighttime blood pressure than other ethnic groups.

Starting as early as the age of 10, some black children experience less of a dip in their nighttime blood pressure than do white children. During the night, blood pressure should naturally drop, since the body is at rest. However, the researchers from MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute found that this drop is not as significant in some black people. And, as these children grew older, it was found that the gap between the blood pressure measurements of white and black people widens.

The researchers suggest that one possible cause could be that black people naturally tend to retain more sodium than do white people. As a result, there is an increase in fluid volume in their bodies and blood pressure. Doing due diligence, the researchers also ruled out most external factors in arriving at their data. However, it was also discovered that people of African descent who were living outside of the US show normal nighttime blood pressure.

An interesting discovery, no doubt about that. But, even by the researchers' own admissions, more studies must be conducted before any link between race and nighttime blood pressure can truly be made.

Harvard creates new food pyramid

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Healthy Eating: A Guide to the New Nutrition. That's what our friends over at Harvard Medical School titled their latest publication, focusing in large part on information suggesting that there is such a thing as a heart-healthy high-protein diet.

Contrary to popular belief, high-protein diets can actually lower harmful LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. In the past -- that is, just after the collapse of the Atkins diet phenomenon -- a great deal of information pointed at high-protein/high-fat diets as the cause of cardiovascular problems. But, this new information separates myth from fact, basically by reminding people that a high-protein diet doesn't have to mean steak and eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Protein can be sourced not only from lean meats, poultry and dairy, but also from nuts, beans, and whole grains. It also highlights the difference between good fats and bad fats, and how they too play a role in cholesterol levels.

Healthy Eating is a 48-page report that includes an in-depth look at some of the latest advancements in nutrition, to the point where a new Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid was created. You probably won't find a copy of the report next to People Magazine the next time you're in line at the grocery store, so if you have any interest in reading it, you can shell out $16 and get it from Harvard Health Publications ( ) or by calling 1-877-649-9457.

Younger smokers not using proven methods to quit

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Smoking is not an easy habit to break, and of the many methods tried, only a handful seem to work. Of the methods that do seem to work -- nicotine-replacement products; bupropion drugs; counseling; classes; calling a helpline or talking to a health professional -- younger smokers between the ages of 16 and 24 years who smoke and try to quit only use one of the recommended methods of help by talking to a professional. Because of this, younger smokers are less likely to be successful in quitting, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During the 2003 National Youth Smoking Cessation Survey, the CDC found that younger smokers most often tried to quit smoking by cutting back on the number of cigarettes they smoked each day; not buying cigarettes; exercising; using the buddy system and trying to quit with a friend; telling others they were quitting and changing to a lighter brand of cigarette, switching to chewing tobacco, snuff, or other tobacco products. None of th ese methods are recommended by the US Public Health Service.

According to the National Youth Smoking Cessation Survey, 77 percent of younger smokers have tried to quit at least once without success. Over a third have tried to quit smoking numerous times without success. Researchers suggest that many younger smokers may need help with other high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking; depression or ADD/ADHD.

If you are a younger smoker who is trying to quit, the CDC encourages you to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or talk to your physician about methods that might lead to more success. The 2-page summary of the National Youth Smoking Cessation Survey is available as a pdf document.

Sharon Stone: dad survived cancer by playing golf

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Sexy. Seductive. Super-intelligent. All aptly describe Sharon Stone. Another is sportswoman, as Stone is an avid golfer. During a recent interview with Golf for Women, she shared a story about her father, also an avid golfer, surviving esophageal cancer by playing golf.

Given three months to live, her father was able to play through his chemo therapy and radiation treatments because of specially-built clubs designed by the golf equipment company Callaway. A feeding tube inserted after surgery prevented him from being able to bend. Without the new clubs, he would not have been able to continue in a much-loved positive activity.

Around the same time, Rob Lowe's father was being treated for cancer with a new targeted drug therapy, Avastin, and they helped Stone obtain the same drug for her father. She attributes the game of golf and the help of her friend Lowe with saving her father's life.

Twenty-two operations later, when Stone's father had successfully beaten cancer, she called the Callaway company to let them know how much a part she believed the company had in her father's recovery. The woman who took the call began to cry because it was the one year anniversary of her own mother's death from cancer and Stone's call lifted her spirits that something the company had done might have helped someone survive cancer.

For many golfers, golf is more than a sport. "Golf teaches you about life, about humanity, about things that will make you a better person," explains Stone. At the end of the article, Stone offers this advice, "Your life is a book; every page you write, you carry with you. You don't get to tear the pages out and throw them away. So write wisely. It doesn't matter what others write, ever, ever, ever. They don't know you at all. But what you write is indelible." Spirited. Insightful. Centered. All Sharon Stone.

Sharon Shakes It Up, Hollywood's A-list femme fatale has strong opinions about everything--including golf, is the Golf for Women cover story in the January/February 2007 issue. The interview has been published online here.

Horticulture therapy: the power of plants and flowers to heal

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From houseplants to raised beds, to plant a seed, tend the soil, and watch a plant grow is one of the most inspiringly hopeful of activities. In hopefulness is found a kind of healing. According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, horticulture therapy is defined as "a process utilizing plants and horticultural activities to improve social, educational, psychological and physical adjustment of persons thus improving their body, mind, and spirit." The American Cancer Society offers a list of some of horticulture therapy benefits one can expect from gardening that include:
  • Feelings of hope.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Social interaction.
  • Pain relief.
  • Improved muscle tone, flexibility, and cardiopulmonary capability.
  • Creativity and self-expression.
  • Enhanced self-esteem and improved mood.
  • Motor skill development.
As the New Year arrives, so do the gardening catalogs in the mail. Interested in receiving gardening catalogs but not certain where to start? Cyndi's Catalog of Garden Catalogs lists over 2,000 mail-order gardening catalogs for the home gardener.

Two of my favorite gardening websites and online catalogs are found at Seeds of Change and Seed Savers Exchange.

At Seeds of Change, you can find garden seeds, seed collections, cover crops, seedlings, fruit trees, garden tools, kitchen items, and a bookstore. All organic. In addition, Seeds of Change publishes a newsletter.

Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares heirloom seeds. According to Seed Savers Exchange, "Our organization is savi ng the world's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity."

But, wherever you start, once you catch the gardening bug, you will understand why horticulture therapy is becoming an integrated part in healing programs adopted at some of the medical centers across the country.
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Cancer specialist starts smoking in stupidity protest

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New Zealand Christchurch Hospital radiation therapists are in a dispute over pay and have threatened to stage a strike beginning the first week of January. According to the hospital's clinical director of radiation oncologist Dr. Chris Wynne, the amount of money being argued over is so small that the other doctors have offered to pitch in and make up the difference to end the dispute and avert a strike that would affect 250 cancer patients.

Because Dr. Wynne has not received a response from the District Health Board or the radiologists regarding the monetary offer made by the doctors, he has decided to bring attention to the dispute by doing something even he admits is stupid -- he has started smoking. That's right. He is standing outside the hospital smoking cigarettes in a play for media attention. Obviously, it is working, as the story has been picked up around the globe.

But surely, was this the only way he could think to bring attention to the dispute? Who knows -- you and I might have chosen a different course of action -- but Dr. Wynne thinks it is the only thing left to do to bring attention to the innocent victims who will be affected by the strike -- the cancer patients who will have to go without timely treatment. Dr. Wynne says he will continue doing a stupid thing by smoking for a s long as it takes until the stupidity of the entire situation ends.

Breast cancer drugs Tykerb, Xeloda don't extend life

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The combination of breast cancer drugs Tykerb and Xeloda are effective at slowing the progression of metastatic breast cancer after the drug Herceptin fails -- but the drug duo is only effective at extending the lives of patients for a few months, according to the results of a recent international clinical trial.

The trial, led by Charles E. Geyer, M.D., of Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh and published in the December 28 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, focused on 324 women whose breast cancer had spread to other organ s. The women had already been treated with Herceptin for a median of 42-44 weeks -- and then half received Xeloda chemotherapy and half received both Xeloda and Tykerb.

Women who received the drug combination had more than a 50 percent delay in disease progression. Their cancer spread after a median 8.4 months, compared to 4.4 months for women who received only Xeloda.

Targeted drugs Herceptin and Tykerb are major advances in the fight against breast cancer -- for the 20 percent of diagnosed women with the aggressive HER2 positive disease -- and they are also quite expensive. While some say they are worth every penny if they offer a cure, others question the cost if they only delay the disease progression for a few months. Such was the case in this study.

Perhaps the greatest potential for these agents is for use before breast cancer spreads, when they may improve the chance for a cure.

Cervical cancer vaccine discount pursued for poor nations

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United States drug company Merck hopes to offer the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil to developing countries at much lower prices -- within months, if possible.

Currently, the three-dose vaccine is not affordable in the developing world -- where 80 percent of cervical cancer deaths occur and 95 percent of females have never had a Pap test . And while the exact discounted price has not yet been determined, Merck professionals report they are committed to slashing t he price of Gardasil for these women.

Merck also aims to help developing countries receive drugs sooner. Right now, there is a time lag of 15 to 20 years between the approval of drugs in the West and the time they reach these countries.

International health experts are pushing for rapid worldwide access to Gardasil, the vaccine that protects women against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes most cases of the disease.

At this time, the vaccine is available in the United States and in 13 European Union countries.

New Zealand trust funds Herceptin treatment

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Catherine Jones has breast cancer. And she needs Herceptin in order to fight for her life. But Herceptin, a targeted drug used to treat HER2 positive breast cancer, is very expensive -- and for some time, Jones was not sure how she could possibly pay for this potentially life-saving therapy.

Jones, 49 and a resident of New Plymouth, New Zealand, decided to ask for help. So she set up the Herceptin for Catherine Trust to raise the $80,000 needed for the treatment. In less than four weeks, she received $64,600 in donations.

Jone s is overwhelmed by the support and says she will continue to use the trust to raise funds -- not just for herself, but for other women in need.

The New Zealand government and its drug-buying agency Pharmac does not fund Herceptin. So most breast cancer patients who medically qualify for the treatment have no means of receiving it.

Jones, who is about to receive her third of 17 Herceptin doses, thinks she can help. She is surely off to a great start.

Housework ranked better exercise than playing sports

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Over the years, here is an on-going conversation I have with my family physician:

Doctor: What kind of exercise are you doing?

My reply: I have three kids and a house to keep clean. I think that is all the exercise I need.

Doctor then rolls his eyes.

End of conversation.

I am 5-foot, 7-inches, weigh 120 pounds and am on the go from 5:30 AM to about 10 PM each night. Aside from work as an artist and writer, which requires that I sit at a drafting table or in front of the computer (which is not prolonged sitting -- I am up and down, up and down -- because as every parent knows, somebody always needs something or something needs to be done) I am in movement.

I am physically able to climb down riverbanks and over river boulders when we go fishing, and I can hike up any hill with the best of them. I do not worry that I am out of shape. I know I am not physically inactive. You can bet I will be taking a copy of this latest research with me to my next visit to see the doctor. He asks the same exercise question each time, only this time, I have data to back up my claim that I am indeed getting a very good form of exercise.

According to researchers, when it comes to the best workout, cleaning the house outranks playing a sport as a better form of exercise and "far more cancer protective." They state "that mode rate forms of physical activity, such as housework, may be more important than less frequent but more intense recreational physical activity in reducing breast cancer risk."

The women in the study spent an average of 16 to 17 hours a week cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry, and the researchers found housework cut breast cancer risk by 30 percent among the pre-menopausal women and 20 percent among the post-menopausal women. The study focused on women and breast cancer, but there is no reason to believe that these findings will not translate into cancer prevention for all cancers, and for men as well, as exercise is known to offer protection against the development of cancer. And in weighing in for the guys, men do housework too.

My One-Night Stand With Cancer: a Jewish lesbian's memoir

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Two-time breast cancer survivor Tania Katan was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 21, and then again ten years later. With gutsy humor in an outlandishly candid expose, she faced cancer twice, dealt with a "supportive but neurotic family," swore off toxic girlfriends, wrote about her experiences in a book and performed a one-woman play, both called My One-Night Stand With Cancer.

Katan, who underwent a mastectomy each time she was diagnosed with br east cancer, and who appears naked above the waist in her back-of-the-book photo, ran a race to raise breast cancer awareness in the best form she thought possible -- topless. "People were racing for something very specific, to cure breast cancer, but they didn't want to see what breast cancer looks like."

On the Amazon webpage for her book, the description of My One-Night Stand With Cancer

Grain and berry phytoestrogens and cancer risk

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Phytoestrogens are chemicals produced by plants that act like estrogens. These chemicals mimic and supplement the action of the bodies own hormones.

Lignans are one of the two major classes of phytoestrogens, they are naturally found in grains, berries and vegetables. Research has shown that lignans affect the estrogen signaling system. Estrogens play an important role in the development and progression of breast cancer.

Since the research shows that lignans affect the estrogen signaling system, they may therefore have a potential to affect breast cancer risk.

The lignan antioxidants can be found in flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, rye, soybeans, broccoli, beans, and some berries.

This research will hopefully contribute to the development of further studies on the effects of phytoestrogens on cancer.

Eye cancer and risk of metastasis

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Researchers have pioneered the first technique to biopsy tissue from the living eye in order to predict what tumors possess a high chance of spreading to other parts of the body.

If the eye cancer metastasizes the patient will usually not survive the disease. Ocular melanoma attacks the pigment cells in the retina. Earlier studies discovered that patients who are missing one copy of chromosome 3 in their tumor tissue are more likely to have highly aggressive cancers.

This new procedure could offer huge medical and psychological benefits to the patients. Dr. Tara Young, assistant professor of ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute and a Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher, said "Identifying patients at high risk for metastasis is an important first step toward reducing the death rate of this cancer, which kills nearly half of its patients."

The technique of fine needle aspiration for collecting cancer cells from the living eye has been the standard of care at the Jules Stein Eye Institute since 2004, but adopted by only a handful of other ophthalmic centers in the nation.

Ocular melanoma is the most common eye cancer to strike adults. Some 2,000 cases are newly diagnosed every year in the United States and Canada.

Patients want to know about their prognosis. The patients that have a low chance of metastasis can breathe a sigh of relief and the high risk group can plan arrangements for their family and finances. The high risk group might also want to have more aggressive treatment and join a clinical trial to find better treatments to treat metastatic eye cancer.

Playwright and screenwriter John Bishop dies of cancer

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On December 20, founder of L.A.'s Circle West theater company and member of the off-Broadway Circle Repertory Company in New York, playwright and screenwriter John Bishop passed away from cancer during his stay at a clinic in Bad Heilbrunn, Germany.

Marshall W. Mason, founding artistic director of the Circle Repertory Company is quoted as saying, "John was one of our major writers. I think next to Lanford Wilson, he was our most prominent writer; he wrote many plays for us. Bishop had a remarkable insight into the dark side of human nature, which he saw in both a comic and satiric way. All this served him very well whe n he came to Hollywood because of that sardonic view, and also he was very into action. He made a good screenwriter as a result."

Bishop's credits are many, both as a playwright and screenwriter. Plays produced on Broadway included The Trip Back Down, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, Elmer Gantry, Borderlines, The Great Grandson of Jedediah Kohler, Winter Signs and The Harvesting. He directed The Beaver Coat, El Salvador, Florida Crackers, and Empty Hearts. His screen credits included Drop Zone, The Package, Sliver and Beverly Hills Cops III. Described by the New Yorker as "one of our best dramatists," Bishop was 77.

Timing of treatment works for and against us

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My new breast cancer friend recently sat through her second infusion of Adriamycin and Cytoxan -- the long-time traditional chemotherapy combination for breast cancer -- and all the while, listened to another breast cancer survivor share her thoughts on these two drugs.

This woman told my friend she opted to stray from these chemotherapy agents because of their toxic s ide effects, because of their combined potential for causing other cancers, like leukemia. She instead took another drug route and was happy for her decision. My friend, however, was scared.

My friend returned home from her treatment and found herself reading a Cancer Blog post reporting that Adriamycin and Cytoxan may no longer be the gold standard treatment for breast cancer, that Taxotere and Cytoxan may become the preferred, safer option.

Fear and panic set in, and my friend e-mailed me, in search of perspective from a recipient of the drugs she was starting to believe are both ineffective and cancer-causing.

I am not a doctor. I am not an expert. I am not qualified in any way to represent the facts about medical research. But I am surviving breast cancer. And I did spend eight difficult weeks under the influence of Adr iamycin and Cytoxan, given every two weeks in a dose-dense fashion. So I have an opinion about these drugs -- and about most things breast cancer related.

I shared my opinion with my friend, who has since decided to proceed with her prescribed treatment plan. I told her that in rare cases, chemotherapy can cause a second cancer, like leukemia. But this is not common, and the unlikely risk does not outweigh the benefit of receiving chemotherapy to address the cancer at hand.

I also shared with my friend that we can only benefit from therapies that are available and effective at the time of our treatment. Studies prove that Adriamycin and Cytoxan work -- that's why so many women are treated with this accepted method. Drugs in the research pipeline may one day definitively replace what is available today. But we must be OK with what we receive - - because we have no control over what lies ahead. We must live in the here and now -- with the knowledge that should our cancers return, bigger and better options may await us.

Consider Herceptin. Once not even an option for women with aggressive HER2 positive breast cancer, this targeted drug may be the magic bullet in an attack against this disease. I received Herceptin. My friend will receive Herceptin. Timing was on our side for this medical breakthrough.

Timing may not have been on our side should a new gold-standard drug treatment emerge and replace Adriamycin and Cytoxan. But we can still trust these two drugs will do their jobs, will prevent a recurrence of a disease that is so much more treatable today than it was years ago. Lucky for us.
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Couple collects 32 million pennies for cancer care center

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How many of us value the worth of a penny?

Twenty years ago, Peter and Bette Pickstock, from a village in Sturdivant near Cheltenham, England, thought pennies might one day add up to make a difference and thus began the collection of pennies.

Two decades later, and 32 million pennies total (nearly $700,000 dollars), the couple recently do nated the money to the Cobalt Appeal Fund in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, a cancer care center.

The Queen of England was impressed, as Peter and Bette Pickstock were invited to Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Although the couple could not have known this twenty years ago when they decided to do something good for others in the simple act of collecting pennies, two years ago Mrs. Pickstock was diagnosed with breast cancer and learned firsthand how much a cancer care center can help cancer patients. They said they plan to continue collecting pennies.

Ovulation disorders cut breask cancer risk

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Women with ovulation disorders -- and related infertility problems -- have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study of more than 116,000 women.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston studied data from the Nurses' Health Study II and evaluated female nurses aged 25 to 42, tracking them every two years beginning in 1989 and ending in 2001.

Results of the study, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, revealed 1,357 diagnosed cases of invasive breast cancer. Overall, women with ov ulation disorders had a 25 percent less chance of developing this disease than those without the disorder.

Also detected was an even lower risk of breast cancer for women who experienced induced ovulation for treatment of infertility. This is potentially great news -- pending more research, of course -- for women worried about breast cancer implications of infertility treatment.

Ovarian cancer survivor shares lessons learned from cancer

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Lance Armstrong has a commercial airing in which he stares into the camera and says, "Remember me cancer? You made me who I am today." Jane Younce, who writes a community column for The Noblesville Ledger, has shared some of the lessons she has learned as an ovarian cancer survivor.

As she reflects on the last year, and looks forward to the new one, Younce writes:
  • I've learned in the last year that bald is beautiful and people love you with or without hair.
  • I've learned that my illness brought out so many friends I didn't even know I had.
  • I've learned that there are no "do-overs" in life, so you should make the most of every day.
  • I've learned that my best friends don't have to say a word about my illness; they just have to be there and hold your hand through the tough times.
  • I've learned that real love, not the stuff you see in movies or on soap operas, is my husband telling me I look beautiful while I am bald and vomiting.
  • I've learned how to make a hospital gown glamorous.
  • But the most important thing I learned in 2006, is that prayer changes everything!
  • Remember me, cancer? My friends kicked your butt with prayer.
Losing all my hair from chemotherapy treatment did give me a new perspective to all the times I groused about having a bad hair day, and I gained the wisdom to realize beauty was never physical. I knew I was loved, but never as much or so much, as after my cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, I never learned how to make a hospital gown look anything but unflattering. Prayer can indeed carry us through the darkest moments in life.

Cancer does change us, in ways we could not have anticipated or predicted ahead of time. Some times it reminds us what is important, other times it helps up to clarify the need to follow dreams we put aside for a better more opportune time. We realize there is no better time than now. If you are a cancer survivor, what would you add to the list of Remember me cancer? You made me who I am today.

Value of missed cancer diagnosis: $16.66 per day

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For 18 months, New Zealand resident Heather Kubiak lived with undiagnosed breast cancer. It was no fault of her own that her disease was left undetected for all this time. It was the fault of the hospital staff who lost her file -- marked urgent -- and thus failed to communicate with her about the cancer living in her body.

In December 2003, Kubiak had both breasts removed because her cancer had spread. And so began the battle for her life -- and the battle against a system that admittedly botched up her medical care due to organizational failure.

It took years to resolve her claim but earlier this year, Kub iak, a wife and mother of four, received a lump-sum compensation of -- $9,000. That's $16.66 per day for every day of the 18 months her undiagnosed breast cancer continued to spread.

It was important for Kubiak to see her hospital held accountable -- and while $9,000 hardly makes up for what she has lost -- she is happy the legal ordeal is over. And she hopes her experience will motivate others to actively pursue their own medical misadventures.

"I do worry for people who aren't articulate enough or strong enough to fight the system because you have to keep on and on," she says.

Protein linked to thyroid cancer discovered

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Using a three-dimensional model, Queen's University researchers were able to watch how a mutated RET protein linked to thyroid cancer worked, which might result in the development of drugs to treat and prevent inherited and non-inherited thyroid cancer.

The researchers discovered that the protein was ten times more active than normal in cells associated with an inherited cancer syndrome, Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia 2B (MEN 2B).

"We now know why this gene causes these tumors and can start looking at how best to target the mutant proteins so that the cells expressing them can be killed or stopped from growing," says Lois Mulligan, professor of pathology and molecular medicine with the Division of Cancer Biology and Genetics of the Queen's Cancer Research Institute.

According to Medline Plus, thyroid cancer affects one in 1,000 people. Those who had radiation therapy to the neck -- therapy was commonly used in the 1950s to treat enlarged thymus glands, adenoids, tonsils and skin disorders -- are at an increased risk of thyroid cancer. Additional risk factors include chronic goiter and a family history of the disease.

Symptoms of thyroid cancer can be:
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland
  • Neck swelling
  • A thyroid nodule
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Cough or cough with bleeding
  • Difficulty swallowing
To read more about thyroid cancer, visit The Cancer Blog's thyroid cancer-related posts.

Hospice allows pet to stay with owner

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A poodle named Lucy refuses to leave her owners side and has become very popular with the nurses and visitors. The patient Maggie Bellamy is staying at the hospice while she is undergoing cancer treatments.

Lucy likes to snuggle up on the rug near Maggie's bed and goes for short walks around the grounds. Ms. Bellamy said "I thought it was incredible when I was told that Lucy could come and stay with me in the hospice. She frets over me, but is very well behaved and everyone fell in love with her. She is good therapy for other patients too."

Lucy is the only dog you will see at this hospice. Dogs belonging to Pets as Therapy also pop in with their owners to visit patients.

Fraser Meek, manager of the hospice in-patient unit, said "We are happy to welcome a patient's pet to be bought along either for a visit, or to stay in the room where possible. Visits from gentle pets help the patients relax and add to the homely atmosphere of the hospice".

What a nice story!

Top ten health news 2006

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As complied by Forbe's HealthDay, half of the top ten health news of 2006 feature issues of interest to cancer patients and the cancer community in regard to cancer research, treatment and prevention. The top health story involves the concern over cost of medical care among those with health insurance and the continually growing numbers of uninsured. A recent study shows that one in six, or 50 million people, are struggling to afford medical treatment as they now spend more than ten percent of their income on medical expenses.

After much controversy regarding ethics and morality, this year saw the approval of the first cervical cancer vaccine. The federal government recommends that girls as young as nine-years-old be given the vaccine. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) re-approved the use of silicone breast implants. Although banned in 1992 because of concerns that silicone leakage might be linked to cancer, silicone implants were still offered to women undergoing breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery. Supposedly the implants are now safe for all women. Some consumer advocacy groups still strongly disapprove of the FDA decision.

Another controversial issue being debated based on ethics and morality is stem cell research. According to Forbes, the majority of Americans are in favor of stem cell research and the promise it holds in the cure of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, a nd many other diseases.

Lastly, scandals swept throught the research community as fake research and researchers were exposed, as was conflict of interest over questionable financial ties in the research community.

Other health news stories that made Forbe's HealthDay top ten list included: Tainted-Food Scares Rattle Public; Drug-Eluting Stents May Stay; 'Morning-After' Pill Goes OTC; Antidepressants' Link to Suicide Debated; and More Progress Against Alzheimer's Disease. You can read the Forbe's top ten list in its entirety here.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Motivate, Monitor and Measure

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In 2005, Omron Healthcare presented the Motivate, Monitor and Measure session at the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. At the conference, specialists spoke about weight management as it relates to diabetes, hypertension and overall wellness. Omron wanted to focus on the importance of motivating to increase activity, monitoring the response and measuring the outcomes.

People with diabetes are faced with a greater risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. Omron's commitment to raising awareness about blood pressure, weight and exercise programs is evidenced by the engineering that makes their products among the best in the market for their ease of use and accuracy.

Omron Healthcare's products were used during the presentation to show how patients can motivate themselves and monitor their walking with the HJ-112 Premium Pedometer, as well as monitor and measure their blood pressure with the HEM-780 Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor, equipped with the ComFit Cuff, which fits arms 9 to 17 inches, the only cuff which is applicable to 97% of the US adult population and proven to be accurate for obese individuals and the HEM-637 Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor outfitted with Automatic Positioning Sensor (A.P.S.), which detects the position of the wrist and guides it to the heart level by sound and dis play on the monitor. The product lineup has all the whistles and bells a person needs to be motivated to monitor and measure. After all - it's your health we're talking about!

Insulin suppresses appetite

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Looks like a patriotic liver, doesn't it? Well that picture is an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of fat in our bodies. We'll get to it later. What I'd like to do now is dispel a rumor about insulin. Contrary to popular belief, insulin acts as an appetite suppressant when it reaches the brain. A study i dentifies that diabetics have a lack of insulin receptors, which result in a failure to adequately suppress the appetite. In addition, diabetics have a lack of lipase (patriotic liver picture), affecting their ability to metabolize fat for energy. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

The endocrine system and the nervous system work together in regulating our appetite. Insulin notifies the brain when the body needs the liver to release glucose for energy. The efficiency of this hormonal pathway is impaired in diabetics, go figure. Leptin is the way that your fat stores speak to your brain to let your brain know how much energy is available and, very importantly, what to do with it. There is a defining correlation between leptin and insulin levels when it comes to diabetes and obesity. Hunger leads to higher sugars ultimately leading to weight gain. Obviously this resulting weight gain is based on how you react to the leading indicator of hunger. Sounds like a vicious cycle because it is!

Although I have not found an acceptable answer to this atrocious hormonal imbalance, I gained an inkling of appreciation for learning a little about the problem. I would like to thank my dad, CJ Bizzle, MD for the translation of the cryptic medical lingo in the study. Anybody else reading with questions or objections to the above content - send them on. I've been wrong before. I would really like to be wrong about this.

Mind your Business

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In light of the fact that the number of diabetics in America has grown 80 percent in the past 10 years, the New York Times has published an article about diabetics in the workplace.

The article cited a few cases of discrimination where diabetics felt they were being blocked from the near-normal lives they can conceivably live, according to their doctors. Of course the near-normal life is contingent upon the level of control they can achieve throughout their day, 9 to 5 included. Companies are unsure about whether diabetes is a legitimate disability posing concern for liabilities, both financially and professionally. The irony of the situation is the better a person does in managing his or her diabetes, the less likely that person is to be protected from discrimination under the American's with Disabilities Act 1990.

I have firsthand knowledge of how difficult things can become in the workplace if your employer insists on becoming too involved in your diabetes affairs. To avoid any confusion on the issue, the American Diabetes Association has prepared guidelines on employment discrimination. Hindsight is 20/20 but foresight is immeasurable.

The Crystal Ball of Diabetes Drugs in 2007

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In the $20 billion diabetes market, when drugs make their way onto the scene, it's a head-turning event. So far, one drug is gaining ground and two of them are raising interest.

Januvia, manufactured by Merck, was recently approved for the treatment of diabetes. Januvia is used with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. Januvia lowers blood sugar when blood sugar is high, especially after a meal. It also lowers blood sugar between meals and helps to improve the levels of insulin produced by your own body after a meal. The drug is unlikely to cause your blood sugar to be lowered to a dangerous level because it does not work when your blood sugar is low. Januvia faces potential competition from an experimental drug, Galvus. The drugs are similar in many respects, including their status as once-a-day pills, and their ability to lower blood-sugar levels in diabetics while helping them to lose weight, or at least to avoid gaining it. The FDA delayed its decision on Galvus, so we may be waiting till the first half of 2007 to see it in action.

Acomplia, manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, is in hot pursuit of FDA approval. Acomplia is primarily a treatment for diabetics, but the drug is unusually multi-faceted. It was created to help people quit smoking and lose fat by blocking circuitry in the brain that gives the body cravings. The drug works by blocking the same circuitry in the brain that gives pot-smokers the munchies. The drug is expected to receive FDA approval in the first half of 2007.

All Natural Sugar to help prevent Diabetes

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Horizon Science has developed an all natural sugar with less effect on raising blood sugar. The discovery was made over a three-year period at a sugar mill in Australia.

The glycemic index is based on how much blood glucose rises after consuming a particular food over a 2-hour period. This is compared to a "reference" food. White sugar has a GI rating of 65, whereas the GI rating of this sugar is 51, nearly 25 percent lower. In essence, this means that the lower GI sugar will raise your blood sugar 25 percent less than white sugar. The low GI sugar has higher amounts of polyphenols, which have been shown to reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass. A number of studies suggest that a low GI and slowly digestible carbohydrates can contribute to the prevention of obesity and diabetes.

The new ingredient can be used in cooking and baking like ordinary sugar, whereas artificial sweeteners can become carcinogenic when heated. Don't preheat the oven just yet -- you'll have to wait a little while for the sweet victory of lower GI sugar. The product will not be on the market until 2008.

Kidney transplant triples risk of cancer

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Kidney transplants can save lives. They can also increase the risk of developing a variety of cancers, according to Australian researchers who report a risk 300 percent higher than in the general population.

Most cancers developed in kidney transplant patients have a known or suspected viral origin, suggesting the weakened immune systems in these patients limit protection against cancer.

"The immunosuppressive drugs transplant patients take lower their ability to fight off infections that can trigger malignancy", the lead researcher said. "We believe the increased incidence of infection leads to the infection that results in ca ncer." She also notes there is probably an even greater risk of cancer among heart and lung transplant patients because these patients receive more powerful immunosuppressive drugs.

Researchers gathered their findings by comparing the incidence of cancer in 29,000 patients with end-stage kidney disease who received kidney transplants. Data was collected beginning five years prior to transplantation, during dialysis, and after transplantation. Researchers then consulted an Australian registry to identify cancers occurring between the years of 1982-2003. They compared the statistics with the number of cancers seen among transplant patients.

These cancers included melanoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, leukemia and cancers of the lip, tongue, mouth, salivary gland, esophagus, stomach, colon, anus, liver, gallbladder, lung, connective and other soft tissue, vulva, cervix, penis, eye and thyroid. There was also an increase in nasal cavity and vaginal cancers.

This study has important implications for future immosuppression. Patients should give considerable thought to quality-of-life transplants -- such as face transplants and hand transplants -- and should carefully weigh the risks of weakened immunity. On a brighter note, this study might help prompt research on medication that can selectively target the part of the body responsible for rejecting a transplant. Because right now, medications affect the entire immune system -- and this is what makes patients more prone to developing cancer.

Cancer always lurking in shadows for Leroy Sievers

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Leroy Sievers has many titles. He's a journalist and a commentator and even a blogger. He's a cancer patient too. And while he accepts cancer patient as one of his working titles, he never would have said this title dominates all others in his life. He is, after all, more than cancer.

On his December 4 NPR podcast and My Cancer blog entry, Sievers reports about a host on a radio call-in show who recently asked him if cancer overshadows everything else in his life .

"No," he answered, recalling the first time he had cancer. He was treated with surgery and moved on. Cancer didn't overshadow anything. But that cancer was different than the cancer now invading his lungs, spine, and brain. And after a bit of thought, Sievers thinks he may have been too quick with his radio response.

This cancer is not a drive-by-disease, he says. It's grabbed him -- and is holding on. It has changed his entire life. He can no longer do everything he once did. And not a day goes by without a reminder of cancer. The treatment, the nausea, the tingling in his hands. Cancer is with him all the time, lurking in the shadows.

Whether he gets the pleasure of remission or the disappointment of a set-back, Sievers realizes he will always be a cancer patient. He realizes that cancer does in fact overshadow everything else in his life.

Previous posts about the cancer journey of Leroy Sievers are as follows:

Journalist Leroy Sievers adjusts to newfound hope
War journalist now witnessing his own cancer death
NPR Leroy Sievers blogs My Cancer
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Ozzy Osbourne terrified by wife Sharon's cancer diagnosis

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Rock legend Black Sabbath Ozzy Osbourne spoke about his wife Sharon's colon cancer diagnosis during a recent interview with Hello! magazine, in which he is quoted as saying, "When I found out it was like someone had got a slab of concrete and hit me with a big dose of reality. I thought cancer plus patient equals death. The thought of losing her was more than I could bear."

In 2002, the entire Osbourne family appeared in a MTV reality show The Osbournes. During the taping, Sharon was diagnosed with colon cancer. Rather than cancel the show, she agreed to share the experience of chemotherapy and cancer survivorship with the viewers to help raise awareness for cancer.

Osbourne said that while he is always happy for the professional success his wife enjoys with such shows as the U.K. talent show X Factor and The Sharon Osbourne Show, he misses the time away from her.

Ozzy has designed a limited-edition signature series t-shirt for the Hard Rock Cafe, with profits from the sale of the t-shirts to benefit the Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program. The cancer charity offers colonoscopies and screenings to people without medical insurance, as well as those with minimal coverage, transportation to chemotherapy for patients and nursing consultation to those in need of assistance with their aftercare.

Now a four-year colon cancer survivor, Sharon's life philosophy is simple: "live everyday to the fullest, and don't save for tomorrow what you can do today." Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are featured on the cover of the February 2007 issue of Hello! magazine.

Hyperthermia therapy: heat that kills cancer cells

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Hyperthermia therapy with radiation have been added to the 2007 National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for Breast Cancer as an approved treatment for recurrent breast cancer and other localized cancer recurrences.

According to an explanation by the BSD Medical Treat with Heat website, hyperthermia therapy uses heat, which has been shown to kill cancer cells, in the treatment o f cancerous tumors. Hyperthermia therapy also appears to make radiation therapy more effective. "While it has been known for hundreds of years that fevers can kill cancer, only recently has technology been developed that can control and focus heat specifically on tumors. This technology is found in the BSD-500 Hyperthermia System."

The BSD-500 Hyperthermia System is already used in the treatment of skin cancers that are progressive or recurrent despite conventional therapy. To learn more about hyperthermia therapy, request a free information kit, learn treatment options, find a physician, or speak to a patient advisor, visit the Treat with Heat website.

Debate over value of animal research

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In an analysis of animal research used to understand and treat human diseases, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers found that using animals, such as mice, had limited value. Only half of the research done using animals translated into the same outcome for humans.

In a BBC News report over the controversy that rages regarding the wisdom of using animals in research, Professor Ian Roberts is quoted as saying, "The debate over this issue is really quite hysterical. At the moment, there is too much emotion and not much science. Anti-vivisectionists say animal testing is of no use at all, and those who do them say we would have no safe and effective treatments if we didn't." Lead researcher Roberts believes animal studies should be used, but not in all cases of research.

The value of animal research was catapulted to front page news headlines earlier this year when six men experienced tragic life-threatening side-effects as they participated in a human clinical trial of the drug TGN1412, which had previously been shown safe and effective during animal studies.

Last March, six healthy young men volunteered at Northwick Park Hospital in London as participants in a clinical trial for a drug called TGN1412, designed to treat leukemia, autoimmune and inflammatory dis eases. According to the men, they were told by doctors there would be no serious short-term or long-term side effects. They were each paid £2,000. Within hours, the worst that could happen did, and the men were plunged into a nightmare beyond anything they could have imagined.

The headaches began, followed by convulsions, bloating, organ failure and comas. The men came to be known as the Elephant Men because of the swollen faces and chests they suffered. One of the men suffered gangrene -- all his toes and three of his fingers were amputated. He also suffered heart failure, kidney failure, pneumonia, septicaemia and liver failure. Recently, another participant was told he might be developing cancer as a result of the drug trial. All have been told to expect early death.

Do you feel that animal research used to test drugs and medical proced ures meant to treat human ailments and diseases, are credible enough to continue, or do you believe that research using animals should be abandoned?

Kylie Minogue: voted most inspirational for young women

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By popular vote, Australia's beloved pop diva and breast cancer survivor has been chosen as the most inspirational celebrity of 2006. Sugar magazine teen readers indicated that Minogue represents their first choice as an inspirational role model for young women.

From the beginning of her breast cancer diagnosis, Minogue has shared her very personal battle with breast cancer in a very public way, raising awareness for the disease among a younger ge neration of women whose attention to breast health might not have been as focused otherwise.

Earlier this month, Minogue was named the Gold Choice Celebrity of the Year in the Sydney Confidential People's Choice Awards by Australia's Daily Telegraph readers.

For a retrospective of Kylie Minogue's breast cancer journey:

Adam Sandler, student, and a PS3 help brother and sister with cancer

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It is the truest spirit of giving in a story told the day after the most celebrated day of giving in a season of giving, where lives intersect in unexpected ways that remind us of the best in who we are as human beings.

A brother and sister, 15-year-old Stephanie and 18-year-old Kevin Hudon, are both facing cancer. Stephanie's bone can cer has spread to her lungs and her brother is currently undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

A teacher at the high school both Stephanie and Kevin attend, Christine Monahan, had been spearheading a fundraiser to financially help the family through this overwhelming time. Last month, Nathan Burditt, a student who attends the same high school, spent 34 hours in line to buy the coveted and hard-to-come-by PlayStation 3. Monahan said she was kidding when she suggested to Burditt that he donate the newly-acquired gaming system to a raffle to help the Hudon family.

But Burditt took her seriously and donated the popular PlayStation 3. The PlayStation 3, one of the it gaming systems this year, attracted $21,000 dollars in raffle ticket sales. Before the PlayStation 3, Monahan had expected to raise $500 dollars during the raffle. Ticket buyers to the raffle, knowing of Burditt's unselfish act of compassionate charity, wrote his name, not their own, on the raffle tickets they bought. Because of this, Burditt won back the PlayStation 3 he had donated.

The simple acts of kindness for a brother and sister struggling to survive cancer made national news. Enter comedic actor Adam Sandler. Upon hearing about Stephanie and Kevin, Sandler sent a PlayStation 3 loaded with games, signed DVDs, jerseys and an autographed Longest Yard poster to them to help make their Christmas a little more joyful.

Meanwhile, Burditt, who has won the PlayStation 3 in the raffle he donated it to, wanted to turn around and sell it to make even more money for the Hudon family. Everyone is telling the young man he has done so much more than an yone ever expected from any one person that he should keep it now. The raffle ticket buyers wanted him to own it after he so willingly gave it up to help someone he did not even know. It is reported that Monahan is keeping the gaming system boxed at her house until Burditt makes a decision on whether he will accept it for himself, or to what purpose he intends on using it to help again.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, I believe each of us holds the secret wish that we could make the cancer go away. But we know we cannot, and yet we want to do everything we can do for them. Easing the journey, with a donation of time or money is one way, as is filling the life of a cancer patient with as much joy and laughter as possible, and if it distracts them from the current reality, all the better. Burditt, Monahan and Sandler did just that for Stephanie and Kevin Hudon of Manchester.