W&I Social Work for the win

Consistently, Women and Infant’s hospital in Providence, RI always knows what I need before I need it. I have been a bit disconnected from the hospital lately being that I only need to go in once every 3 months. I think that I have transitioned well into survivorship but there are definitely times where I feel that I still find an identity in cancer. No one makes me feel like that other than myself. It can be part of me but it cannot be my identity.

On October 8th I am going to try out a new group at W&I called Transition into Survivorship. It is an educational/support group for people transitioning from active to post treatment. It is run by my social worker Allison so I am looking forward to what her and her colleague have planned. I hope to report only good news about my experience.

(p.s. this is my 50TH blog post!!!!)


Genetic Testing- The results are in!

This is news that should have been delivered last week. My apologies again as I have been a busy little lady (not that it’s a bad problem to have!)

Last month my family and I met with the genetic counselor to discuss genetic testing. Though I have very little family history of cancer on my Dad’s side and none on my Mom’s side, the likelihood that the cause of my cancer is genetic is very slim. Regardless, it is something that we can rule out.  To do so I provided a DNA sample to send out to a lab out west for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 test.

Why these genes? BRCA genes basically produce proteins that repairs damaged DNA. They have been described to me as “tumor suppressors”. If you have a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation, your body may not produce that specific protein or enough of it to protect the cell.

My BRCA testing came back negative for any mutations. Although the BRCA 1/2 tests are pretty comprehensive, it doesn’t account for all mutations therefore further testing is possible. Since this test came back negative, my insurance company will cover the BRCAnalysis Rearrangement Test, otherwise known as BART. This tests for genes that the BRCA 1/2 does not. My genetic counselor and I tend to think that it will also come back negative. There are tests out there beyond the BART that could look for other mutations but they are so new that they could only speculate what those mutations would mean. That being said, if the BART comes back negative I think I am going to pump the breaks on the testing.

Since (as far as we know) there are no BRCA mutations, the likelihood that my cancer was genetic is again slim. This means that my chances of developing breast cancer are not quite as high as they would be if I carried this genetic mutation. This is very good news.

So who knows why I developed cancer but at least we can cross one reason off the list.

In lighter news, I am running my first 5k since getting sick! I’ll be doing my second Color Me Rad race this coming Saturday in Seekonk. I may or may not have purchased pink sequined shorts and knee socks for the event. Though my endurance is pretty terrible after all of those months of ick, I know mentally that my body is capable of running 3.1 miles. Believing you can is half the battle.

Pictures to come!

L’shana Tova

I love this blog. It has become such an extension of myself but lately I feel as if I have been neglecting it the more normal my life becomes. I talked to my mom a bit about this yesterday and she said “you’re not ignoring your writing, you’re living life”. That put a nice spin on the situation. Although I have been super busy living life, I think I can spare a few to jot down some thoughts.

I cannot believe that my one year cancer diagnosis-aversary is just around the corner! Thanksgiving will be here before I know it. Apparently people all across the United States are cooking turkeys and mashed potatoes in my honor! Oh what’s that? It’s actually an established holiday? That’s okay too. I know that I have a lot to be thankful for.

This past weekend my family and I celebrated one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. For those of you Goyim out there, Yom Kippur is the one day a year that our faith asks us to reflect on our wrongdoing from the year before and make an effort to do better the next year. It’s very simple. I would call myself a spiritual person more than a religious person. Although a day of repentance sounds like a huge downer I think it serves a great opportunity to look inward and think about how you can be a slightly better person than you were yesterday.

The rabbi’s sermon involved a story about a woman and a man that did not know each other but attended the same temple. The woman prayed and believed that God had told her to make 12 loaves of challah and leave them in the ark of the synagogue (the ark is more or less a cabinet where the Torah, our “bible” is kept). In an effort to feel more connected to her faith and region she baked 12 loaves of challah as an offering to God and left them in the ark. A man that worked at the synagogue cleaning up after everyone had left was very poor and could not feed his family and prayed to God for a miracle to keep his children’s belly’s full. After praying he opened the ark and found the 12 loaves of bread. The man thought it was a miracle and a sign that God had heard his plea. When the woman returned and saw that the bread was gone she also thought a miracle had occurred. She believed that God took her offering. For years she would bake bread and the man would take the bread. Again, they both thought that God was performing a miracle. Finally, the rabbi realized what was happening and exposed the whole operation to both parties. Both the man and woman were crushed as they realized that it was not actually a miracle. The rabbi then pointed out that although it wasn’t a magic act of God, it was an ongoing act of selfless kindness between two people and that in itself was a miracle.

This story resonated with me on a human level more than a religious level. Over the past year a miracle happened, I was dying and I got better. Advancements in medical science healed my body but it was the collective kindness of others that healed my spirit (which is more than half the battle). I don’t think it was a huge act of God that made me better. It was a community coming together in a multitude of ways to inspire and facilitate healing.

For me personally, I owe the world a great deal of kindness in return for all of the love I have received in my time of need and beyond. In the upcoming year I will try to be more cognizant of the opportunities I have to spread support and love to others. Like any normal human being, I am a flawed person and I will not always say or do the right thing but I will try to pay more attention to the smaller but more significant acts, my “loaf of challah”.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness

2013 statistics about ovarian cancer

Ovarian Cancer research is sadly underfunded despite being the number one cause of gynecological cancer deaths. In the future I hope to see the day when research can bring about modes of early detection. There is a serious need for better ways to screen for this disease as reliable preventative measures are lacking. Think of the fatalities that could be avoided if OC was caught in stage 1 versus the more common stage 3 or 4.

This month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. I am proud to say that some of my friends have joined the TEAL walk/run tomorrow in NYC to raise money for Ovarian Cancer research. Please visit their page and if you are able to, please make a small donation. If you are unable to donate, no worries! Support this team by leaving a comment on my blog post to cheer these ladies on!  Thank you again Jac, Lisa, Ali and everyone else involved!