Category Archives: Living with Cancer

Blog Posts about Living with Cancer


This is my final A to Z Challenge post, and it is perhaps, my most difficult. What can I write about that starts with Z? I decided to take an actual term, Z Factor, and slap a new meaning on it, all while sharing what has given us peace of mind throughout my husband’s cancer journey. So here it is…The Z Factor of Living with Cancer.Survival RatesThere are many things that go into survival rates for people living with cancer. Often how well a person is doing on their treatment seems to defy logic. We’ve seen some patients who are wonderful people with every reason to live, pass away.As well, we’ve seen patients who do very well and exceed all expectations, despite a dire, initial prognosis.We’ve heard many reasons for this:She’s a fighter.He has such a positive attitude.She’s hanging on for the kids.He’s determined to outlive us all.She has faith.I think there is something to be said for the power of will. There’s even more that can be said about the power of God. This is a power that transcends survival.We have seen believers and unbelievers, alike, die.We’ve also seen both outlive their doctor’s predictions. From the beginning of my Read more…


X-RayAn X-ray is the most commonly used imaging scan for most people since it is simple, safe, and low cost. Doctors use x-ray to diagnose injury and lung issues, from bronchitis to lung cancer.An x-ray uses radiation in small quantities. The radiation (or x-ray) passes through the body, capturing an image. The rays are blocked by dense tissue, bone, and objects in the body. Radiologists look at the x-ray picture and send a report of their findings to the doctor.CT ScansCT stands for Computed Tomography. It’s a painless scan that combines the power of x-ray with computers to make images. The images are 360-degreecross-sectionall views of your body.Doctors often use CT scans when they want to see bone, soft tissue and blood vessels at the same time. It’s also okay for a patient who has metal in their body to have a CT. Because of this capability, it is a common scan for a cancer patient to have.CT scans often involve oral and/or intravenous contrast. This clear, tasteless liquid helps radiologists see certain things in the scan, such as lymph nodes, better. During the scan, you lay on a scanner table. The table will move you through the scanner, while Read more…


One thing all cancer patients do is wait. From the waiting room, on, waiting becomes a huge part of life when you’re living with cancer,Waiting roomMy husband and I had monthly visits to the cancer center for 5 years prior to his diagnosis with stage IV lung cancer. I received infusions for rheumatoid arthritis there. The day we went to the cancer center for his first oncology appointment, the waiting room became a whole new word for us. We saw the other patients who were waiting, in a whole new light. For the first time, we knew their fears. They all had experience in what we were about to go through.Over the years, the waiting room has also become a place of comradery. We exchange stories. We root for one another. Now, Dan is the patient with the experience, having been there nearly 5 years.Waiting for your diagnosisThis may have been the most anxiety filled time of Dan’s cancer experience. We knew something was wrong. But, what? Countless tests filled our days for two weeks, before we had a complete picture of what we were facing. And, that was fast. Most people wait a lot longer for their diagnosis. It Read more…


This post about visiting someone who’s ill is from chapter 3 of my book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer,Here’s what Jesus had to say about it:“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Matthew 25: 34b-361 (New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson)Why Visiting someone who’s ill is so importantWhen someone is ill, especially with cancer, it is easy for them to become isolated and withdrawn. Because they lack energy and are often immune suppressed and/or in pain, they often stay home far more than they used to. That coupled with often insensitive reactions to their illness can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. This can be even more intensified around the holidays.Visiting someone who’s ill or their caregiver can make a big impact on the family’s quality of life. It can Read more…


Undifferentiated, A Definition (1)A term used to describe cells or tissues that do not have specialized (“mature”) structures or functions. Undifferentiated cancer cells often grow and spread quickly.This is a somewhat scientific post. Keep reading because it’s very interesting.Tumor grade is different than cancer stage.After the doctor biopsies, suspicious tissue, he or she sends it to a pathologist. The pathologist then determines whether the tissue is malignant. Furthermore, they can tell what kind of cancer it is, as well as what the tumor’s stage is. Your doctor may also ask the pathologist to also check for specific mutations which can be treated using targeted treatments.When a pathologist looks at the cancerous tissue under a microscope, they assign a tumor grade. This is based on how similar the tumor cells and the tissue are to normal, healthy cells. They call tumor cells that are more like healthy cells, “well differentiated.” They call more abnormal the cells, “undifferentiated.” This is important because, in undifferentiated cancer, the cells are immature. In addition, undifferentiated tumors are likely to grow and spread quickly.Making the GradeThere are several ways to grade tumors, This is a popular method. Pathologists give tumors a grade of 1, 2, 3, or 4. Read more…


Not that long ago, cancer treatments were synonymous with losing your hair and suffering from nausea and vomiting. Now with the advancements in cancer research, it’s not uncommon for patients to go complete a treatment regimen without either of these issues.  One of these advancements is targeted therapy, also called targeted treatments. Targeted treatments “target” specific genes or proteins found in cancer cells These genes and proteins are related to cancer growth.Many different types of cells make up the tissues in your body, from your bones to your skin. Cancer cells are created when specific genes in healthy cells mutate or change. To learn more about how cancer cells are made, check out my post, C is for Cancer Cells.What is a Targeted Treatment?Your genes tell your cells how to make the proteins that keep your cells working. What happens if your genes change, or mutate? The proteins will change, too. This is when you get cancer cells growing and spreading out of control. Like zombies, they don’t know when to die.Targeted treatments “target” the mutations like a zombie killer. They try to normalize the cell growth by turning off signals that tell the cancer cell to grow or divide. Read more…


Doctors stage a patient’s cancer at the time of diagnosis. Doctors determine the extent of your cancer, such as how large the tumor is, and if it has spread, using x-rays, lab tests, and other tests or procedures .  This is called the “stage” of your cancer. By staging the cancer, your doctor can determine among other things, how aggressive the cancer is and how aggressive the treatment will have to be.Most staging systems include information about (1):Where the tumor is located in the bodyThe cell type (such as adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma)The size of the tumorWhether cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodesWhether cancer has spread to a different part of the bodyTumor grade, which refers to how abnormal the cancer cells look and how likely the tumor is to grow and spreadThe most commonly used system of staging is the TNM System.The most common place to see this is on a pathology report.What is the TNM System?T stands for tumor. Numbers (and sometimes the letter X) accompany the T.X means the main tumor can’t be measured. O means that it can’t be found. Numbers 1-4 indicate the size and extent of the primary tumor. The higher the number, Read more…


The Roller Coaster of RecurrenceCancer can feel like a roller coaster from the moment you suspect there’s a problem. And, it’s not a fun roller coaster. Instead, it’s a beast that keeps going up and down, causing your stomach to lurch with each plunge. Children have far less information than adults do, and depend on them for everything, including cues as to how to respond to these peaks and valleys. The first thing you can do to help your children through a recurrence of your cancer is to assess how you’re handling things.Bad NewsGetting a scan report of recurrence can feel very much like the first time the doctor told you that you or your loved one had cancer. If your condition had been stable, it probably seemed like life was going along pretty smoothly. Then, all of a sudden the rug is pulled out from under your feet. You feel off balance. Everything you held in your hands is now up in the air and the room is spinning.You have the same fears and questions as when cancer first came in your life, except now, you’re more physically beaten up from various treatments. You may also be running out Read more…


When someone is being treated for cancer, they will work with a team of medical professionals in the oncology department. This team approach ensures you get the best medical care possible. Who are some of the people on a care team?Receptionist/Appointment SpecialistThis will be the first person you talk to at the cancer center. They take your insurance information as well as your co-pay. When your appointment is done, they will make upcoming appointments that your doctor has ordered. These may include lab work, imaging, and future oncology appointments.Lab TechnicianThe lab technician will take your blood, or urine and run any necessary tests on it.  If they are taking blood, they may access your port to do this. The results let your oncologist know a lot about your health. They can see whether you have signs of being immunocompromised. They can detect anemia and other issues such as low protein or magnesium levels. From this information, your doctor can make recommendations, including whether you will receive your treatment that day.Care Coordinator/Patient NavigatorThis may be a nurse, a social worker, or even a volunteer. He or she will be your “go-to” person. They will likely be one of the first people Read more…


Today’s blog is about metastasis in cancer.We learned in C is for Cancer Cells that one of the reasons that cancer is such a deadly disease is its ability to metastasize, or spread from one part of the body to another. Depending on what kind of cancer the patient has, this, most serious form of cancer is known as “metastatic,” or “stage IV.”How Cancer MetastasizesThe place where cancer first develops is called the primary tumor site.From there, cancer spreads locally, invading nearby healthy tissue.If too much time passes between the emergence of the primary tumor and treatment or treatment is unsuccessful, cancer cells will break away from the primary tumor site.They then move through the walls of nearby lymph nodes or blood vessels.Cancer cells proceed to travel through the patient’s bloodstream or lymphatic system.They can get lodged in small blood vessels in distant locations, lymph nodes, or other organs. Like when they initially began growing, the cells invade the blood vessel walls and surrounding tissue. New blood vessels to form, providing an abundant blood supply to nourish the tumor as it grows.After that, they can continue to spread to more distant parts of the body. Most of these cancer cells Read more…

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