Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Around the Web

Here's what caught my (and my friend Kathryn's) attention this week.

Remember my swimsuit post? And then there are these.

I love the idea of a few of these in theory. Some I call a big bluff on; that last one is not so much a swimsuit as an ice-dancing competition costume inspired by "Mad Max." Either way, I'm pretty sure I would never be brave enough to carry off any of these looks in public. (Also, depending on your office, some of these might be considered NSFW. Just so you're prepared.)

Could the solution to breast cancer really be so simple?

"We believe that it might be possible to treat breast cancer — the leading cause of female death — with a drug that can already be found in nearly every medicine cabinet in the world: Aspirin.

In 2010, we published an observational study in The Journal of Clinical Oncology showing that women with breast cancer who took aspirin at least once a week for various reasons were 50 percent less likely to die of breast cancer."

Stocking my medicine cabinet with Bayer tomorrow.

And not one, but TWO possible new breakthroughs for treating Her-2+ breast cancer.

Thanks to the lovely Kathryn for the second article. These studies are so promising. As the Facebook page says, "I fucking love science."

I fall into the "I just wanted them to match" category.

If I had it to do over, though, knowing what I know now (mostly regarding numbness and phantom itching), I might have kept my healthy breast.
{photo credit}
"The number of women getting double mastectomies after a breast cancer diagnosis has been rising in the past 10 years, even though most of them don't face a higher risk of getting cancer in the other breast."

Now if researchers could just translate these findings to solid-tumor cancers like breast and lung cancer, I know a whole lot of people who would be thrilled.

And thanks, Kathryn, for this one, too. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thirty-Nine Point Three

As you may or may not know, I'm walking in my third Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in San Francisco this July. It is a grueling and exhilarating two-day, thirty-nine-point-three-mile walk through the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and up the hills of Marin County (seriously, they never seem to go down).
{photo credit}
When I did my first Avon walk in Santa Barbara in 2012, I was about halfway through six months of high-dose, intense, ugly ugly ugly chemo. I signed up for that walk at the last minute, giving myself just over five weeks to train and raise the $1,800 minimum. I was shocked as the donations poured in and topped out at more than $12,000. Avon took notice and asked me to be the survivor speaker at the closing ceremony that year. I even got to meet Fergie (that's me in the stranglehold in the lower left photo).
I signed up for walk number two almost as soon as I limped across the finish line that year. Last September, I walked San Francisco with eight friends and family. I'd been on my current drug Kadcyla for four months then; I'd just received news it was working, but there were still signs of cancer. I was once again a top ten individual fundraiser, and I vowed I'd keep walking and raising money and awareness for as long as I'm able. I am so lucky I'm still able.

Every year, I have this little seed of hesitation at the back of my mind, wondering whether I should sign up again, whether I'll be around in twelve months or healthy enough to walk. And then I say, "Fuck it," and sign up again, optimistic and hopeful and willing myself to keep doing this year after year, mile after mile, lost toenail after lost toenail.

I walk because I can. Because I believe we are on the precipice of monumental medical innovations and breakthroughs, and I want to do every little thing in my power to help drive that forward. Because Avon gives back to local communities to help under-served women get access to healthcare, gives to charities that support people as they're going through chemo (and I know firsthand how life-changing that is, to have someone else bring your family a meal when you're too sick to manage it), and funds cutting edge research -- the type that is bringing me smart-bomb medicine and ever-so-slowly shifting the tide in our collective fight against cancer.

If you'd like to contribute, you can visit our team page here: Team Booby and the Beast. Every dollar helps. Thank you for your kindness, your unwavering support of me and my family over the years (years!), and for walking with me -- in person and in spirit.

Next year, I'm setting my sights on Washington, DC. Who's with me?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Around the Web

Here's what caught my attention this week.

{In honor of sleep}

What do you think of Right to Try laws?

I think patients who have no other alternatives, when working with their doctors, are probably best equipped to decide whether a drug is too risky or not. But I'd love to hear your take.

"The Right to Try bills aim to provide a streamlined alternative to the FDA process. Instead of having to fill out lengthy and complex paperwork, patients would only need to get an okay from a drug company and a simple prescription or “recommendation” from a doctor to access an unapproved treatment. The drugs involved also must have successfully completed an initial safety trial and moved to the next phase of development."

Thank you, Under Armour.

I can't help it. This kind of news makes me giddy.

"Under Armour Inc. has made a $10 million contribution to the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center to fund breast cancer and breast health support programs and a women's wellness center."

Go the #@%! to Sleep, Okay?

"Dr Akhilesh Reddy, from the University of Cambridge, said the body clock influences every biological process in the human body and the health consequences of living against the clock were "pretty clear cut", particularly in breast cancer."

Have I mentioned how awesome scientists are?

Fighting deadly illness with deadly illness. Brilliant.

"In a proof of principle clinical trial, Mayo Clinic researchers have demonstrated that virotherapy — destroying cancer with a virus that infects and kills cancer cells but spares normal tissues — can be effective against the deadly cancer multiple myeloma."

Reason #439 to adopt a dog.

"With 220 million olfactory cells in a canine snout, compared with 50 million for humans, dogs have long helped on search-and-rescue. Now, a growing body of evidence supports the possible use of canines by clinicians. The largest study ever done on cancer-sniffing dogs found they can detect prostate cancer by smelling urine samples with 98 percent accuracy. At least one application is in the works seeking U.S. approval of a kit using breath samples to find breast cancer."

And then, take that dog for a walk.

"One study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found dropping a few pounds could lower a woman's likelihood for developing the disease. In the study of 439 obese women aged 50 to 75, those who dieted, exercised and lost significant weight also reduced their levels of the hormones commonly associated with breast cancer. That study found even a 5 percent weight loss decreased one's breast cancer risk by as much as 22 percent."

Well, this isn't good news.

"Black women are nearly twice as likely as white women to be diagnosed with a hard-to-treat breast cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer, a new study says.

That dramatic difference was found no matter what their socioeconomic level was, the researchers added."

So I'll end on this note.

"Pfizer said on Friday that the Food and Drug Administration would let it apply for approval of its heavily promoted experimental breast cancer medicine based on midstage patient testing results. . . Midstage test results showed that by combining palbociclib with letrozole, patients on average survived 20.2 months before their tumors worsened. That was about twice as long as the benefit for women in a comparison group who received only letrozole."

Monday, May 19, 2014

I May Have Found the Antidote to Chemo's Side Effects

When I showed up for chemo this morning, I still had a slight headache from this weekend. I drank too much wine on Saturday, yes (enough that our group landed at a Waffle House at one in the morning to nosh on cheese-smothered hash browns; alas, they did not prevent our hangovers as much as we had hoped), but I also cried a lot and was sleep-deprived from the outset of the weekend. I had taken the redeye to North Carolina to watch one of my best friends, Leslie, get married. As it turns out, I cannot recover from overnight flights or red wine like I used to.

There is nothing like a weekend of indulgence in fried chicken and pulled pork nachos and staying up too late (and maybe one shot of bourbon) to set you up for a successful round of chemo. Ahem.

I should note: this is a fairly rare thing for me, to drink excessively anymore. I know it's not recommended. I know moderation is what's best for staving off breast cancer (although I'm honestly not sure if they've studied it for cases of advanced disease like mine). I know my liver is doing lots of work as it is. I know, I know, I know. These reasons are why I am typically a one-glass-with-dinner-once-in-awhile type of girl. But it was a wedding.

I had a dear friend's marriage and a clean scan to celebrate. And then I had chemo this morning. Next week I might be on a juice cleanse, no joke.

I've mentioned before how wonderful my friends are. The wedding this weekend was between one of my friends who'd cut off her hair for me and a man she met while working in Jordan. Leslie and Bill are the type of people who make you want to be a better person, and I don't say that lightly. They have devoted their lives to helping others and to service in a way I can't say of too many people. Their collective resume (which I'm sure they don't have, but if they did) includes the AmeriCorps, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Army, nursing school, jumping out of airplanes, traveling the world, and just generally making it a better, safer, healthier place to live.

Leslie and her new husband are downright incredible people, so I shouldn't have been surprised at the gesture they made at their wedding, the gift they gave me and so many others. I had already been crying at the mother/son and father/daughter dances because let's face it. I am a sap.

And then Leslie announced that in lieu of gifts, they'd asked for guests to donate to a couple of charities close to their hearts, and that they would also be making contributions to The Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Play for Pink, which donates 100% of its funds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I knew they'd been planning this, and it still caught me off-guard, still had me bawling into my napkin and hoping the wedding photographer wasn't getting that particular moment on camera. I'm not exaggerating when I say my friends (and family, too) are helping to save my life.

My heart is so filled with love after this weekend that it will be the thing that gets me through the chemo side effects this week. It will be my antidote. And then I'll do that juice cleanse. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Around the Web

Here's what caught my attention this week.

These women are my new heroes.

"The film shows the parallel stories of Annie, who lost both her mother and sister to breast cancer before developing it herself and Marie-Claire King, the brilliant geneticist who after fifteen years of research discovered the genetic link to certain types of breast and ovarian cancer, considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th Century."
{photo credit}

Another chink in cancer's armor? (This is so cool.)

"Researchers at the National Cancer Institute sequenced the genome of her cancer and identified cells from her immune system that attacked a specific mutation in the malignant cells. Then they grew those immune cells in the laboratory and infused billions of them back into her bloodstream. The tumors began “melting away,” said Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg..."

This will break your heart, but it's worth the read.

Actually, I don't know if it's worth the read. You decide. It's gut-wrenching. I knew it would be, and I read it anyway. 

"Ruth started to go online to find stories of women who had miraculous recoveries; she often spoke of one who was reportedly into her 14th year, and counting, with metastatic breast cancer...This 14-years-and-counting woman was Ruth’s phantom rival, and mine. Our hope and our enemy."

The Avon Foundation funds some scary research. (I'm going to walk for them anyway.)

""Every woman in America has been exposed to chemicals that may increase her risk of getting breast cancer," said co-author Julia Brody."

You're Taller than You Think, Mom

One boy's touching tribute to his mom, a survivor.

"I wanted to throw up, I hate throwing up. I wanted to be angry but there was nothing to be angry at, cancer is not a person."

And again, have something you think I should link here? Please email me (jen dot campisano at gmail) or leave a note in the comments.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Six Months

I wanted to write this post before my meeting with my oncologist Friday, thought about how I'd construct it, whether it would include a photo of clinking champagne glasses (or, possibly, God forbid, a slew of obscenities), but I didn't want to jinx myself. I mean, sure, I felt great, but what if he came into the exam room and told me it was time to change chemo? After all, he'd done it before. Spoiler alert: this time he didn't.

What if I'd written--in black and white, where things become real--a whole scene of how I wanted the day to unfold, only to have my heart broken? So I held off on writing until I was certain, until I'd heard the words straight from my doctor's mouth: "No cancer." At which point, I hugged the poor man.

My scan was clean! My scan was clean! My scan was clean! 
Also, no destructive bone lesions, which is good.
Then I had a celebratory lunch with my dear friend Sandi who went with me to my appointment (because Chris couldn't make it this time) and tried to will my frazzled nerves to calm the heck down. I think it took about six hours until I didn't still feel like I was going to vomit from the stress of this appointment. Mental note: I have got to figure out a way to not do this panicked, angst-y routine every three months. If you have suggestions that go beyond Xanax, please let me know.

Nothing changes in my routine: I'll still go in for blood work every week, still have infusions of this chemo every three weeks, indefinitely. I've been on Kadcyla a year now; my blood counts look relatively normal and the other side effects are mostly manageable. And my oncologist is of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" camp. As much as I'd love to not have to have chemo interrupting my life every third week, it is huge safety net for me. Which is a good thing to have when you're walking a cancer tightrope. 

This scan is my third clean one in a row (holy smokes!) and marks six months of no evidence of disease  (NED) for me. I was asked the other day how long I'd been in remission, and I didn't really know how to answer. Based on the National Cancer Institute's definition, I'd say NED equals remission, so the answer is six months, although nobody in my cancer world seems to use the term remission anymore. Is that unique to me? To breast cancer? Either way, I'll take it. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pins and Needles

I've learned my lesson: never again will I schedule my follow-up appointment with my oncologist a decade after my actual scan. Oh? A decade hasn't passed since Monday morning? Could have fooled my nerves. I meet with my doctor tomorrow morning to get my results. I'm taking it as good news that he hasn't called to schedule a biopsy of anything. Clearly, I am grasping at straws here.

To prevent me from jumping out of my skin, I've tried to stay busy this week. My laundry, for once, is all folded and put away. I am just about caught up on emails. Quinn and I baked cookies yesterday afternoon. Today, I think we're building a trellis for the cucumber plants in our garden. Anything to keep me busy, because you know what they say about an idle mind. It hops on the fast bus to the loony bin, that's what.

It was cool in Phoenix yesterday, so I hiked Camelback's Echo Canyon trail. It's a steep, tough, boulder-hopping climb, but it's worth it because it's hard to feel like cancer could ever have the upper hand when you're at the top of a mountain shaped like a camel.

Top of Camelback - 2,704 ft
I'm on pins and needles this week, and I appreciate your support and love and all-around good juju so much. Thank you for holding my hand--virtual and otherwise--for reminding me to breathe, for sending out good thoughts in my direction and upwards, too. I promise I'll let you know as soon as this damn decade week is up and I have some news. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Around the Web

{Hey, I never said this was a fashion blog}
I've been thinking of doing this for awhile, providing links here to news that gets me excited about the latest in cancer research or blog entries that move me or basically anything that catches my attention and I think you might enjoy, too. I had my scan today, so this post is also serving to take my mind off of that a little. I hope you find it informative and interesting, too.

Here are a few of the most fascinating cancer-related things I've seen around the web the last couple of weeks.

Researchers at Purdue University may have found a way to speed up cancer death.

Researchers are awesome.

"Hall said understanding Cdc14's role in DNA repair and how the enzyme binds to its substrates could be used to develop more effective chemotherapeutic weapons against cancer. Many chemotherapeutic drugs work by producing such extensive DNA damage in cancer cells that they kill themselves. Designing a chemical that mimics the features of a Cdc14 substrate would help block Cdc14 from repairing damaged DNA in cancer cells, speeding their death."

Chemo wreaks havoc on more than just cancer, sadly.

"The findings suggest that even though women want to get back to work as soon as they can, chemo may be changing their lives more than they think."

A former DWTS co-host was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In the article I read in People Magazine (don't judge), Samantha Harris said she opted for the double mastectomy (versus a lumpectomy) even though she wouldn't be able to hold her children afterward, to which I say: dear woman, I wish you the best, and you will be able to hold your kids again, sooner than you might think.

Cool things continue to happen in Seattle, naturally.

"In a new study published in Cell Reports, scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center demonstrate that mice lacking one copy of a gene called CTCF have abnormal DNA methylation and are markedly predisposed to cancer. CTCF is a very well-studied DNA binding protein that exerts a major influence on the architecture of the human genome, but had not been previously linked to cancer."

And Johns Hopkins is pretty full of awesome, too.

“In our experiments, our nanoparticles successfully delivered a test gene to brain cancer cells in mice, where it was then turned on,” says Jordan Green, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We now have evidence that these tiny Trojan horses will also be able to carry genes that selectively induce death in cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells healthy."

Have some exciting news you think I should link here? Please email me (jen dot campisano at gmail) or leave a note in the comments.