Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What a Great Boyfriend!

When Sheryl was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2007, her boyfriend Martin Laver was there to stand by her side. He cared for her into recovery, and a few months later she her cancer went into remission. Then they got married, but Martin didn't stop there.

He organized a 900-mile bicycle ride with three of his friends. The trip took ten days to complete and they covered the entire stretch of the British Isles. Cumulatively, they "helped raise £14,000 for Cancer Research and the Lymphoma Trust Fund at City Hospital," the hospital where Sheryl received care.

To find out more about the group Martin founded, or to donate to the cause, click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stem Cells Help One Man Battle NHL

Paul Baits has been diagnosed with NHL not once, not twice, but three times. The 52-year-old engineering manager lives an otherwise healthy life, filling his free time with volleyball and hiking. During his first battle with NHL in 2003, Paul turned to chemo. When he relapsed in 2004, he tried radiation. When the third round of NHL set in, Paul decided to try something new.

Paul received a stem cell transplant. "Now, Baits’ own bone marrow produces blood cells to keep the disease in check." Stem cell treatments are still relatively new compared to the more traditional methods of chemotherapy and radiation, and Paul's success story is giving others hope for this new approach. To read the full story, click here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Toxins Found in Umbilical Cords - Part 2

As promised, here's part two of this video series. Ken Cook discusses the risk of even low doses of chemicals, the rise of related medical conditions and some final thoughts on what can be done to reverse all of this. Enjoy:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Industrial Toxins Found in Umbilical Cord!

According to a recent article in Science in the Triangle, researchers have tested human umbilical cord blood and found a disturbing amount of industrial toxins! The chemicals included:

  • 287 toxins and chemical pollutants, 200 on average per sample.

  • 28 waste products, such as dioxins and furans, chemicals that come out of smoke stacks.

  • 47 consumer product ingredients, such as flame retardants from furniture and clothing, teflon chemicals and pesticides.

  • 212 industrial chemicals and breakdown products from pesticides that have been banned for 30 years or longer.

Source: click here

The identified contaminants included PCBs, DDT and Mercury! This means that "the placenta doesn’t filter out industrial toxins and environmental pollutants" and humans are being exposed to harmful chemicals during the most critical developmental stage. Watch this video below, where Ken Cook, co-founder and president of the Environmental Working Group, explains this study in greater detail:

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will post tomorrow...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Protect Yourself From PCBs

Here's a short video on PCBs:

I find it pretty crazy that PCBs have been found great distances from their original source. Although they haven't been manufactured for over 30 years, they've contaminated the entire globe. Some damage is impossible to reverse, which is all the more reason for strict safety regulation to prevent such destruction before it's too late.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Actor Diagnosed with NHL

Star of the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Andy Whitfield has just announced that he's been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to LA Late News. He will be leaving the show to attend to treatments. According to this article, Whitfield recently released a statement saying:

"It’s with a deep sense of disappointment that I must step aside from such an exceptional project as Spartacus and all the wonderful people involved. It seems that it is time for myself and my family to embark on another extraordinary journey. Thank you sincerely for the support so far."

Our hearts are with you Andy! You can do it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cancer Survival Rates are Improving!

A recent story from The Hamilton Spectator says cancer survival rates are going up. The explanation for this improvement, according to radiation oncologist Dr. Raimond Wong, is "an increase in early detection and improved treatments."

Below is a list of the five-year recovery rates for various cancers, from 1992-94 and then 2004-06. You can see the dramatic headway medicine is making in the battle against cancer

Cancer1992-1994 Five-Year Recovery Rate2004-2006 Five-Year Recovery Rate
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma51%63%
Liver cancer9%17%
Prostate cancer86%95%
Breast cancer82%88%

Exciting stuff! To read the rest of this article, click here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One Step Closer to Declaring September Blood Cancer Awareness Month

According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 100 congressmen have stepped forward to co-sponsor the resolution to declare September as Blood Cancer Awareness Month! Now that we've hit the magic number, the resolution will go "before the House Energy and Commerce Committee for approval before being sent to the House floor" (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Action Alert, September 20 2010). I'm not the most knowledgeable on federal government infrastructure, but I know this is a step in the right direction!

Thanks to everyone who signed the petition. Good work!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cancer Stigma

I've watched my sister Lucy go through a roller coaster of emotions over the past few months as she's battled NHL. Dealing with the physical complications of chemo and contemplating mortality are only two of the many issues she's faced. One area of struggle that I never expected for her is the social dynamics that accompany being a cancer victim. People often don't know what to say to Luce, or how to treat her. Friends sometimes feel uncomfortable and stop calling to chat.

The Mayo Clinic just published a short guide for cancer patients dealing with the cancer stigma. Here it is:

  • As you choose to share information with others; give them the facts and then let them know what might help you at the moment. For example, you might say: "I was just diagnosed with stage II breast cancer and will be having surgery next week. What would really help me is if you could do my grocery shopping for me for a few weeks while I recover."

  • Keep doing the things you love to do. For example, an exercise routine (modified if needed), relaxing hobbies and time with friends. The more you are open to others, the more support you will find.

  • Seek out support and resources for your cancer type. This could be through a support group, online blog or other resource. Surround yourself with positive people.

  • Be well informed. Ask questions about your treatment, side effects, long term effects and prognosis. Be honest with those around you if they have questions. It is usually a good idea to give information to those who love you. In this manner, they can know what to expect and how to give you support along the way.

To see the entire article, click here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Natural Sunlight - Is it good or bad?

There seems to be some controversy over the role of natural sunlight in the development of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Traditionally, doctors have advised patients to avoid direct sunlight. This logic stems from the fact that UV radiation from the sun can be harmful. However, some medical experts now say that exposure to natural sunlight may actually prevent NHL.

Natural sunlight enables Vitamin D production in the body. Vitamin D protects against bone loss, osteoporosis, schizophrenia and cancer. With regards to NHL, Australian researchers recently found that the benefits of sunlight outweighed the risk. Read more here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fighting Cancer at the BBQ

I never knew grilling food could be so dangerous, but the effects of charring, grilling or blackening food can produce cancerous chemicals. Here are 5 simple things you can do at the next grill out to cut down on the production of harmful chemicals:

  1. Cook at Lower Temperatures

  2. Avoid Char-Grilling or Blackening Your Meat

  3. Prevent Flaring

  4. Use Grass-Fed Meat Sources

  5. Marinate the Meat in Anti-Oxidant Rich sources: lemon/lime, red wine, apple cider vinegar & herbs

To read about this in more detail, click here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

PCBs May Impair Children's Vaccine Response

A new study suggests that PCB exposure hinders kids' responses to tetanus and diphtheria vaccines. The study sample consisted of "587 children born between 1999 and 2001 on the Faroe Islands, located in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland." This area has been noted for high PCB concentrations in the environment. The study revealed,
"higher PCB concentrations, particularly in children at 18 months, were associated with lower concentrations of diphtheria and tetanus antibodies at ages 5 and 7."

This is some pretty scary stuff! Essentially, PCBs could be unraveling the benefits of decades of medicine. Even scarier, these effects are being noticed in children. This means that we will have to observe PCB impacts for years before we fully understand the effects of early-age exposure.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Vocab Time

Lately I've been realizing that there is medical lingo pertaining to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma out there that people should be more aware of. Today, I'm going to outline a few of the key phrases that seem to mystify people when I talk about my sister, Lucy's condition.

  • Hematology: the field of medicine that studies blood and blood diseases

  • Hematological Malignancies: cancers of the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes (This include non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.)

  • Lymphocyte: a type of white blood cell

  • Lymphatic System: the system of tubes and glands in the body which filters body fluid and fights infection. Made up of the lymph glands, lymphatic vessels and the spleen.

  • Remission: the state of absence of disease activity in patients with known chronic illness that cannot be cured. For cancer, you are never really "cured" because it could always come back; instead, you say that the cancer "went into remission."

There! Now you can sound a little bit more informed when discussing these issues!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

9-11 and Blood Cancer

When you think of 9-11, a lot of terrible memories may come to mind, including the death and destruction resulting from the plane crashes. However, you may not have considered the toxic dust cloud that resulted from the collapse of the Twin Towers.

8,500 recovery workers have experienced various illnesses resulting from exposure to the dust clouds, including respiratory diseases and cancers. Of the 8,500 suffering citizen, 75 have been diagnosed with various blood cancers, such as as NHL. All of these individuals are now involved in a joint-action lawsuit filed against New York City.

When the plastic, cement, insulation, glass and computers within the World Trade Center were pulverized, the resulting dust plume contained a number of carcinogenic chemicals, including asbestos, dioxin and PCBs. Read more here.

It's scary to think about, but there will likely be PCBs floating around NYC for years to come as a result of 9-11.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Seafood and PCBs

Eating seafood can be dangerous because all too often they swim, eat and breed in water that's been contaminated. Recently, dangerously high levels of PCBs have been found in certain seafood. Obviously, avoiding these species is a good idea, as PCBs can lead to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other deadly diseases.

Below is a list of seafood contaminated with PCBs according to
  1. American eel

  2. Atlantic and farmed salmon

  3. Atlantic bluefin tuna

Man, this is going to make going out for sushi difficult!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mr. T kicked cancer's butt

Mr. T, the actor made famous by such hits as The A-Team and Rocky III, was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in 1995. He is presently in remission. He was never very public about his battle with cancer but I managed to find a video interview with the famous mohawked actor. Click here to check it out.

No need to pity that fool! Congrats Mr. T.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brave Kid Battles NHL

Autin is only 14 years old. He's battling NHL, and losing his hair to chemo. But that's not stopping him from staying optimistic about recovery. His love of basketball seems to really be helping him pull through. I'm trying to get Lucy's nerve up to write this guy. Wish me luck and check out this video:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Michael Douglas tries chemo

Michael Douglas recently announced that he's trying chemo to treat his throat cancer. His cancer has developed to stage 4, which means it's advanced. He just completed his first week of an 8-week chemo program.

Michael was on David Letterman's "Late Show" to promote his up and coming movie, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," where he openly discussed his cancer. He says he expects the chance of recovery to be as high as 80%. Hearing about other people struggle with chemo, but remain optimistic, has been really theraputic for Lucy. Good luck Mikey!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Living with Chemo

So I haven't posted much about Lucy lately because, to be honest, she's not doing too well. She's been through a couple rounds of chemo over the past few months, and her hair is finally starting to go. She's very self-conscious about the changes in her appearance, and she's terrified of the idea of going to the mall to find hats, wigs, etc.

SO, as her big sis, I'm doing that work for her. Fall is quickly approaching, so hat season is upon us. I just ordered Luce these two rad hats:

Now I just need to find her some wigs, but that may have to come later because the idea of a wig still freaks Lucy out a little bit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Brave Kid with NHL gets a Lift

In May, 2009, 8-year-old Jonathan Volpe was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He's been slowly battling the cancer with chemo and radiation ever since. This past month, a few great organizations decided to lift Jonathan's spirits in their own way.

MetLife and the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation sponsored Jonathan's ride in a blimp ride over Readington, New Jersey. Check out the video of this brave little guy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Governor Beat NHL and Went on to Triathlons

Former South Dakota Governor Frank Farrar was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1992. He was told he had two months to live. Instead of giving up, he committed to triathlon training. Today, he is 81 years old and still competing.

This past Labor Day weekend marked the third annual Triple V Triathlon in South Dakota. The triathlon consists of 1/4-mile swim, a 14.2-mile bike route and a 3.1-mile run. For the second year in a row, Ferrar was the oldest competitor and this year he completed the event in 1:59:56.

Ferrar cites his triathlon training as the reason he defeated NHL. What an inspiring story. Rock on Ferrar!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fighting Cancer with your Diet

I'm learning that there's a lot of minor dietary adjustments that can help prevent cancers. Today, I want to review 10 of the more interesting suggestions I've uncovered. Although diet is just one of many factors that can contribute to the likelihood of cancer, it is one that is easy to control.

1) Eat sauerkraut: "A Finnish study found that the fermentation process involved in making sauerkraut produces several other cancer-fighting compounds, including ITCs, indoles, and sulforaphane. To reduce the sodium content, rinse canned or jarred sauerkraut before eating" (

2) Eat brocolli raw or steamed, not microwaved: Microwaving brocolli kills the cancer-fighting flavonoids.

3) Add garlic to everything! Garlic has been shown stimulate the immune system and is very powerful for combating cancer.

4) Eat cantaloupe: They're a great source of carotenoids.

5) Eat blueberries: They are powerful antioxidants.

6) Smother barbecue food with a thick layer of sauce: "Grilling meat can create a variety of cancer-causing chemicals. But researchers from the American Institute for Cancer Research found that coating the meat with a thick marinade and thereby preventing direct contact with the charring flames reduced the amount of such chemicals created. Another tip: Precook your meat in the oven and then throw it on the grill to finish" (

7) Drink lots of water

8) Eat kiwis: They are a powerhouse of vitamins and antioxidants.

9) Cut fat and high-fat protein out of your diet

10) Eat artichokes: They are a great source of antioxidants.

When Lucy finally kicks NHL, I think we'll both be sure to follow these dietary suggestions in our daily lives!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NHL Symptoms

According to, the symptoms for NHL include:

•Enlarged liver
•Enlarged spleen
•Night sweats
•Unexplained fever
•Itchy skin
•Flu-like symptoms
•Unexplained weight loss
•Itchy skin
•Red skin patches
•Shortness of breath

This is crazy to me, because most of these are relatively common things to experience every day. Although I have no idea what an enlarged spleen would feel like, I am almost always tired! One of Lucy's first warning signs were fatigue too. But she was so tired that she couldn't make it to soccer practice for several weeks. Clearly, something was wrong!

When we took her in to the doctors, one of the first things they did was check her lymph nodes on her neck. Swollen lymph nodes is apparently a tell-tale sign of NHL. This, too, is confusing because any number of infections, including a common cold, can cause inflammation of the lymph nodes.

The more I learn about NHL, the harder it is not to be paranoid!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Anniston, Alabama - my heart is with you

For nearly four decades, Monsanto Company dumped toxic waste into the local environment of Anniston, Alabama. PCBs were manufactured at this plant, and found their way into local landfills and waterways.

Monsanto engaged in many cover up activities. They bought their 70-acre plant in Anniston in 1935, and documents dating back to the mid-1930s reveal that company officials were aware of the devestating health effects caused by PCBs. Then, in 1966, a biologist hired by Monsanto placed bluegill fish along a creek in Anniston. All of the fish died within 3 1/2 minutes. The descriptions of the fish's death is pretty gruesome:

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," said Mack Finley, another former Ferguson grad student, now an aquatic biologist at Austin Peay State University. "Their skin would literally slough off, like a blood blister on the bottom of your foot."

But Monsanto stayed quiet for decades, amassing an unfathomable wealth, until the official PCB ban went into effect in the late 1970s.

Today, Anniston is a ghost town. Many residents got sick with various illnesses, and some left. To date, Monsanto still has not been forced to clean up the poisonous mess it left in this small town.

This sounds like a terrible, horror movie, but its real. Now, innocent people like Lucy are suffering because of it. It's a sad day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Childhood NHL

Typically the distinction between childhood and adult non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is made around 15 years of age. Lucy, being 15, is on the cusp. She certainly doesn't like to be referred to as a child, so as her big sis, I find the need to call her that constantly.
I decided to look into childhood NHL a little more, and I learned that there are four main types:
1) B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma
2) Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
3) Lymphoblastic lymphoma
4) Anaplastic large cell lymphoma
What a mouth full! Other, less prevalent form of childhood NHL exist too, such as lymphoproliferative disease. The difference between these categories is the way the cell looks under a microscopic.
I forget which kind Lucy has, but now I can sound smart the next time I take her to the hospital and ask her doctor.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Monsanto made PCBs

So PCBs, the toxic group of chemicals that have been shown to cause NHL, were once manufactured by Monsanto, the world wide conglomerate that has also been responsible for a number of ethically questionable products. Before production of PCBs was banned in 1977, Monsanto not only synthesized these toxins, but dumped them in the environment and people everywhere are suffering the consequences. I found this picture online, and it pretty much sums it all up:

Image from

Friday, September 3, 2010

September = National Blood Cancer Awareness Month

Well, almost. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) are urging the national government to officially declare September as the National Blood Cancer Awareness Month. We need We need 100 U.S. representatives to co-sponsor the resolution to gain consideration by the House. The ideas is to bring attention to this family of cancers, aid funding and gain awareness.

To take action, sign the LLS's advocacy letter here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Willy Wonka and NHL

How cool is this? Lucy and I love the old movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Gene Wilder, the actor who played Willy Wonka, was diagnosed with NHL and beat it! In this video, he talks about his recovery process:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fish Oil Supplements with PCBs

OK, now I am totally freaked out. Lucy hasn't been eating much due to the chemo treatments and, as some of you know, I've been looking into ways to help her maintain her weight. One good strategy is high-nutrient, vitamin supplements. I have been reading a lot about fish oils, and thought they would be a beneficial thing to include in her diet.

But now, I've just stumbled across an article revealing that PCBs have been detected in fish oil supplements! This makes sense, because fish are prime targets for PCB bioaccumulation. Nature Made, Twinlab, Now Foods, Solgar and GNC are among the fish oil brands tested in this case.

Read more on this here. Now I'm even scared of vitamins! This is not good.