Patient’s Corner

Gastrointestinal Cancer

Cancer No Longer Scares Me

Denise Leprine, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 25, 2020

Cancer was a disease I feared until 3 years ago, when I was diagnosed with gastric cancer. After receiving the diagnosis, I knew I didn’t have any time to indulge in fear; I had to take action if I was going to survive. In hindsight, symptoms of the cancer, including some fatigue and indigestion, st...

Multiple Myeloma

My Dream Is That Multiple Myeloma Will One Day Be in My Past and No Longer a Part of My Future

Jenny Ahlstrom as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 25, 2019

A year before my diagnosis of multiple myeloma, in 2010, my husband Paul and I moved with our six children to Monterrey, Mexico, where Paul was helping to create a venture capital industry. We were so busy settling into a new country and getting our children integrated into school that when I star...

Breast Cancer

Having Cancer Should Not Make You Homeless

Molly MacDonald as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 10, 2019

In the spring of 2005, I was launching a new career as a sales consultant for a startup graphics company and wanted to cross off a few essential things on my to-do list, including getting my annual mammogram and physical, before I started my new job. Although I was surprised when I got a call from...

Multiple Myeloma

A Diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma Taught Me to Live in the Moment

Richard Hite, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 25, 2019

I was just 39 in 2015 when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I have a wife and three young children whom I love, a challenging and fulfilling career, and I wasn’t ready to die. When I was first diagnosed, I met with a medical oncologist who had little experience treating this type of cancer. Sh...

Head and Neck Cancer

Remembering Craig Alguire

The ASCO Post Staff  / November 10, 2019

It is with great sadness that we report Craig Alguire, MD, 42, died on October 11, 2019, at his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme in 2015, Dr. Alguire chronicled the effects the cancer was having on his life in his Patient’s Corner column, published in th...


A Clinical Trial Was the Right Choice for Me

Cheryl Krafft, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 25, 2019

Nothing prepared me for a diagnosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) in the fall of 2016. I had none of the typical symptoms of the cancer, such as night sweats, enlarged lymph nodes, or fatigue. In fact, my energy level was as high as ever, as I traveled around the country for business, a...

Prostate Cancer

Cancer Taught Me What It Means to Be a Man

Bin McLaurin, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 10, 2019

Let’s face it, men don’t go to the doctor as often as we should. At least that has been my experience. I felt compelled to finally make an appointment with my primary care physician after I began working as a research assistant at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in 2014, as it felt hypocri...

Gynecologic Cancers

Finding a New Focus After Cancer

Cynthia Hayes, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 25, 2019

In the early fall of 2015, my daughter and I were on our way to our favorite nail salon to get picture-perfect ready for a gala later that evening at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, when I got a call from my gynecologist saying I had “flunked my Pap test.” The Pap smear showed at...


Having Cancer as a Teenager Derailed My Life Course

Hernan Barangan, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 10, 2019

In 1994, I was a normal, active 15-year-old, who loved cars, sports, and rock music, especially songs from my favorite group, The Clash. In fact, it was while jubilantly dancing alone in my room to one of their tunes that I vomited into my hands, an early symptom of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). I h...

Hematologic Malignancies

A Clinical Trial Was the Right Choice for Me

Tina Marin, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 25, 2019

I found my cancer quite accidentally. In March 2018, as I was taking a shower, my hand casually brushed against my right mastoid bone, and I noticed the area sounded hollow. Around the same time, I realized I had developed a sense of fullness in that ear as well. I had been feeling tired, but that w...

Solid Tumors
Head and Neck Cancer

Remembering Michael D. Becker

Jo Cavallo  / August 10, 2019

The staff of The ASCO Post were sad to learn of the passing of Michael D. Becker on July 9, 2019. When Michael was diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV)-related oropharyngeal cancer in 2015, he made the decision to go public with his diagnosis to raise awareness of the importance of having every...

Colorectal Cancer

Becoming Acquainted With Cancer

Patrick Beauregard as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 25, 2019

Just weeks after my wedding in late summer of 2017, I had a sudden bout of abdominal pain so severe that it sent me to the emergency room. I was just 29 years old and in great physical shape. In the emergency room, a physician examined me and was about to release me with a prescription for a laxativ...

Hematologic Malignancies

Transitioning From Healthy Physician to Patient With Cancer

Anthony Perre, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 25, 2019

As you probably already know, physicians do not make the best patients. When I began experiencing the early signs of Hodgkin lymphoma, in 2007, including a persistent cough, unusual fatigue, and pruritus, I self-diagnosed allergic rhinitis and began treatment with intranasal corticosteroids. Altho...

CNS Cancers

As My Outside World Became Smaller, My Family Focus Became Larger

Craig Alguire, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 10, 2019

As I write this, I think I’m making sense but am not 100% sure. My brain is a little scrambled after nearly 4 years of treatment for grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme, but I think the essence of my humor and humanity is still intact. When I experienced my first partial seizure while riding my exercis...

AYA Survivors Should Be Allowed to Participate in Adult Clinical Trials

Ann Ramer, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 25, 2019

When strangers ask me how many children I have, I’m not quite sure how to respond. Do I still have four children even though one has died? A year and a half after my son Brent’s death, at the age of 18, from complications of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), I’m still struggling with knowing the correct...

Solid Tumors
Kidney Cancer

Hope and Fear Are Two Constants in the Lives of Patients With Cancer

Adam P. Stern, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 10, 2019

A year and a half ago, when I was 33, the thought of having a life-threatening disease was unimaginable. In hindsight, the weight loss I began experiencing in the fall of 2017 should have raised concern because I’ve always had to be mindful of my diet if I wanted to lose weight. But denial can be a ...

Lung Cancer

Young People Get Lung Cancer, Too

Taylor Bell Duck, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 25, 2019

I’ve been in excellent physical shape my whole life. Growing up, it was my dream to play Division 1 soccer in college, and I trained hard throughout high school to achieve that goal. My dream came true, in 2005, when I was invited to play soccer at East Carolina University. I was eager to bond wit...

Head and Neck Cancer

I Was Not Prepared for the Emotional Toll of Cancer

Dale Maloney, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 10, 2019

In 1996, an excruciating sore throat sent me first to my primary care physician and then to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, after a suspicious mass was found on the right side of my throat. A biopsy determined that the tumor was squamous cell neck cancer, and additional tests of my neck, resp...

Breast Cancer

Restarting My Life After Terminal Cancer

Judy Perkins as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 25, 2019

At the end of 2015, I was dying. I was just 50 years old and a wife and mother of 2 teenage boys. Twelve years earlier, I had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ in my left breast. Despite a modified radical mastectomy and removal of nearly all of the lymph nodes in my left underarm—which...

Breast Cancer

We Need Better Screening Methods for Detecting Breast Cancer

Hilary Gan, MA, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 10, 2019

MY BREAST CANCER was probably a decade in the making, although I only became aware that there might be a problem in 2014, when I noticed some slight pain in my left breast. A routine mammogram and ultrasound found benign cysts in my dense breasts, which most likely explained the pain, I was told, bu...

Hematologic Malignancies
Multiple Myeloma

Cancer Has Given Me the Life I Was Meant to Live

Jeri A. Dyson, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 25, 2019

The first symptom of my multiple myeloma appeared 6 months before I received the official diagnosis. I began having some discomfort, not pain exactly, in my right hip, and developed a pronounced limp. I had recently left my medical practice to launch Global Girls Global Women, a nonprofit humanitari...


Living My Best Life

Richard A. Grenell, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 10, 2019

Five years ago, I was living my dream life. I was under contract as a commentator on Fox News, which necessitated commuting weekly from my home in Los Angeles to New York, and was building a new home in Palm Springs with my partner, Matt Lashey. Not only was my career and personal life going well, a...

Hematologic Malignancies

Remnants of Cancer Remain, but Demons Are Now Gone

Patrick Eck as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 25, 2019

In the summer of 2002, I was a physically active 17-year-old boy on the cusp of adulthood. I was about to enter my senior year in high school, and like other teens my age, I was excited about college and the promise of the undreamed-of opportunities that lay ahead. At first, the lethargy I was feeli...

Multiple Myeloma

I Welcome Being the Face of Multiple Myeloma

Thomas Goode, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 25, 2018

Thirteen years ago, at age 34, I was healthy and enjoying life. I went to the gym almost daily, and when I wasn’t at the gym, I was shooting hoops with my friends. During a gym workout while on a family vacation, I suddenly felt excruciating pain in my left shoulder and thought I must have strained ...

Breast Cancer
Solid Tumors
Lung Cancer

A Diagnosis of Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Has Focused My Life Direction

Shekinah Nefreteri Elmore, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 10, 2018

Despite the fact that I had to have open heart surgery at age 7 to fix a congenital heart defect and then more surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to treat a diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma a year later, I never felt like I was a sick kid. Children don’t have the existential worries about lif...


A Single CAR T Cell Cured My Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Walter Styer as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 25, 2018

The combination of symptoms I began experiencing in the spring of 2007, including night sweats so severe they woke me from a sound sleep and midline chest wall swelling so extreme I needed a larger shirt size, drove me to seek immediate medical attention. A series of imaging and blood tests confirme...

Hematologic Malignancies

Without Genomic Sequencing, I Would Not Be Alive Today

Lukas Wartman, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 10, 2018

The extreme fatigue I experienced during the winter of my fourth year in medical school, in 2003, was easily attributable to the rigors of my medical training and the lack of sleep that comes from trying to keep up with an intensely busy schedule. I was looking forward to resting and recuperating ...

I’m Not Dying of Cancer: I’m Living With Cancer

James R. Hillard, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 25, 2018

I’m a psychiatrist, so I don’t say this lightly: receiving a diagnosis of stage IV gastric adenocarcinoma made me insane. I had remembered the horrible deaths due to abdominal cancer I had seen during my medical training and was terrified that would be my fate as well. I knew from looking at the Sur...

Breast Cancer

Living a Purposeful Life Is My Revenge on Cancer

Beth Fairchild, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 10, 2018

There is a lot of breast cancer in my family history. My mother was diagnosed with the disease at 44, and my paternal grandmother died of breast cancer when she was just 33, so I’ve always been diligent about performing breast self-exams— often weekly—to ensure that if I did get breast cancer, it wo...

Lung Cancer

Cancer Doesn’t Frighten Me

Matt Ellefson, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 25, 2018

In the fall of 2009, I suddenly went from being a healthy, physically active 47-year-old to a patient with stage IV non–small lung cancer (NSCLC), with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%. A never-smoker, I had attributed a persistent cough I’d been having to the change in the season. And why wou...

Solid Tumors
Head and Neck Cancer

Every Day Is a Bonus

Kim Leary, RN as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 10, 2018

I have always been plagued with nagging headaches, so when they intensified in late 2010, I wasn’t too concerned. But when my eyes began involuntarily moving rapidly back and forth as I was writing Christmas cards, I knew the symptoms were a sign of something serious. A magnetic resonance imaging (M...

Breast Cancer

I Am Too Young for Breast Cancer

Christina Best, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 25, 2018

Two years ago, when I began having pain and bloody discharge in my left breast, I thought it was the return of a solitary intraductal papilloma I had had in that breast when I was a college student 6 years earlier, so the symptoms didn’t initially alarm me. It wasn’t until I noticed that the mass ...

Lung Cancer

My Incidentally Discovered Cancer

Laura Greco, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 10, 2018

In February 2015, there was no indication that my life was about to radically change. I was a practicing attorney and happily raising two young children with my husband. At 40 years old, I was healthy—or so I thought—and had no physical symptoms to alert me to the devastating news that was about to ...

Lung Cancer

Immunotherapy Gave Me Back My Life

Donna Fernandez, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 25, 2018

Despite the fact that my father was a smoker and I watched him die a horrible death from lung cancer in the 1970s, until 4 years before my own lung cancer diagnosis in 2012, I, too, was a heavy smoker for most of my adult life. Still, cancer was the farthest thing from my mind when I made an appoi...

Issues in Oncology
Cost of Care

Expensive Cancer Drugs Don’t Work if Patients Can’t Afford Them

David Mitchell, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 10, 2018

Eight years ago, I was having a series of colds I couldn’t shake and pain that radiated throughout my back. Still, my symptoms weren’t concerning until, on Halloween morning in 2010, I stepped out of bed and fell to the floor in excruciating pain, unable to move. A visit to the emergency room and a ...


I’m Proud to Have Contributed to the FDA Approval of CAR T-Cell Therapy

Emily Dumler, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 25, 2018

When I was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) in 2013, I used to joke that if I had to get cancer, this wasn’t a bad one to have. At just 32, I was otherwise healthy, and my prognosis for a cure was good, according to my oncologist. So I felt confident that once I underwent treatme...

Solid Tumors
Gynecologic Cancers

HPV Vaccine Could Have Prevented My Cancer

Holly Lawson as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 10, 2018

In the fall of 2015, I was feeling great. At age 37, I had just completed running my fourth half-marathon and regularly hiked trails near my home in Arlington, Texas, to stay fit in-between races. The only symptom that foretold what was in my future was some light watery discharge I was experienci...

Lung Cancer

Stage IV Lung Cancer Did Not Stop Me From Climbing Mera Peak

Andy Lindsay, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 25, 2018

A veteran mountain climber and skier, I’ve been healthy for most of my 61 years, so it was especially shocking to experience a bout of shortness of breath during a moderately intense mountain bike ride with my wife, Jan, in the spring of 2014. A never-smoker, I was used to climbing up high mountain ...

Solid Tumors
Head and Neck Cancer

HPV-Related Cancers Like Mine Are Avoidable, So Why Aren’t More Kids Being Vaccinated?

Michael D. Becker as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 10, 2018

The latest news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about vaccination rates in the United States for human papillomavirus (HPV) is disappointing. It shows that in 2016, just 43.4% of adolescents (49.5% of females and 37.5% of males) were up-to-date with the recommended 3-dose HPV vac...

Solid Tumors


Scott Hamilton as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 10, 2018

I’m sure every cancer survivor feels this way, but my diagnosis, in 1997, of stage III germ cell testicular cancer couldn’t have come at a worse time in my life. I was nearing the end of a 60-city tour with my figure skating show Stars on Ice, when a nagging pain in my abdomen became so severe I c...

CNS Cancers

We Need to Fill the Gap Between Pediatric and Adult Oncology Care

Sarah Stream, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 25, 2018

When I was 15, and just 6 weeks into my sophomore year in high school, I heard a loud sound similar to a gunshot in my head and minutes later I was engulfed in a grand mal seizure, now called tonic-clonic seizure, and rushed to the hospital. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan found a small (abo...

Hematologic Malignancies

Proud to Be a Pioneer in CAR T-Cell Therapy

Dimas Padilla as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 10, 2018

  Six years ago, I was 38 years old and, like many young people, took life for granted. I had two young daughters, ages 7 years and 4 months, and a wife I adored. And, except for a nagging pain on the left side of my abdomen, I was blessed with good health. Then, suddenly, the pain became so unbear...

Solid Tumors
Breast Cancer

I’m Not a Victim of Cancer

Beverly Vuckovich, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 10, 2018

What I thought after feeling a large, hard lump—similar to the feel of a granola bar—in my left breast was that I probably pulled a muscle while playing with my two young children, ages 7 and 5. Cancer never entered my mind until I asked my husband to feel the lump, and he immediately said, with som...


Against All Odds

Tom Whitehead, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 25, 2018

The days leading up to our daughter Emily’s diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on May 28, 2010, when she was just 5, offered few clues about the terrifying, life-and-death months and years we were about to experience. She was happy and seemingly healthy, literally until the day before h...

Giving Back After Cancer

Lauren Bendesky as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 25, 2017

My diagnosis of neuroblastoma when I was 14 happened rather accidentally. I was a competitive dancer and very active in sports my first year in high school and had no symptoms of cancer or any illness. It wasn’t until my mother, who is a nurse, came into my room one morning to wake me fo...

Solid Tumors
Lung Cancer

Living a Full Life With Stage IV Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

Melissa Crouse as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 10, 2017

The discovery of my non–small cell lung cancer (NCSLC) in 2005 was serendipitous and completely unexpected. A never smoker and physically active my whole life, the only hint something might be amiss was a slight tickle in my throat, which I’m not even sure was related to my cancer diagnosis. In fact...

Solid Tumors
Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Has Changed Me, But the Change Has Been Positive

Sherri Rosenthal as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 25, 2017

I’ve always had dense breasts and avoided doing breast self-exams because I couldn’t tell if the lumpiness I was feeling was something serious or merely normal fibrous tissue. Instead I relied on my yearly mammogram to spot any early signs of cancer. Four years ago, I was once again relieved to lear...

Solid Tumors
Breast Cancer

Cancer Has Plagued My Family

Harriet P. Gross as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 10, 2017

My father, who was a physician, taught me at an early age to pay attention to any changes in my body. His advice has stood me in good stead for more than 83 years and probably saved my life more than once. In 1984, just before I turned 50, something was bothering me about my right breast. I could f...

I Don’t Feel Like I Have Incurable Cancer

Greta Stifel, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 25, 2017

A series of medical mishaps has led me to a diagnosis of stage IV carcinoid neuroendocrine cancer and a shortened lifespan. This never should have happened. For months in early 2015, I was plagued with all the signs of a serious illness, including chronic stomach, bowel, and digestive is...

Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer Has Robbed Me of a Life I Loved

Tommy Donbavand, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 10, 2017

I always knew cancer was a real possibility for me. Both my mother and father died of the disease—my mother of lung cancer and my father of bone cancer—so when I started having chronic throat and chest infections, I was diligent about seeking immediate medical attention and felt relieved each time...

Prostate Cancer

On My Way to Hospice Care, Immunotherapy Saved My Life

David Kensler, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 25, 2017

Two years ago, I was on my way to hospice care after numerous treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy failed to stop the progression of my stage IV castration-resistant prostate cancer. A last-minute call from my oncologist about a phase I trial of combination ...

Breast Cancer

I Live My Life in 3- to 6-Month Increments

Roger G. Lawrence as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 10, 2017

I first noticed a lump in my left breast in 2001 while taking a shower and shrugged it off. After all, men don’t get breast cancer. To assuage my wife’s concern that I at least have the lump examined, I consented to see our family physician, who agreed that men don’t get breast cancer because, he ex...

Multiple Myeloma

Living With Cancer Survivorship Guilt

Phil Falkowitz, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 25, 2017

Although I was officially diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1997, the first sign of the cancer was evident 2 years earlier, when a single lesion (a plasmacytoma) was found in a bone in my lower back. The bone was replaced with two thin stainless steel rods, and after a course of radiation therapy, ...

Prostate Cancer

I Reject the Notion I’m on a Cancer Journey

Robert Harrison, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 10, 2017

I was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer in 2002. I had no idea the disease and its treatment would cause me to gain more than 50 pounds and nearly cripple me with pain. I had a transurethral resection of the prostate following my diagnosis and have had multiple testosterone-suppression medicat...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Gave Me the Impetus to Lose Weight

Karen Cochrane, MSN, RN, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 25, 2017

Fifteen years ago, my internist advised me to lose weight. But after seeing the yo-yo effects of dieting on friends and colleagues, I knew I would find the process of losing weight and gaining it back frustrating, so I ignored my physician’s advice. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed late t...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Has Made Me a Better Person

Fabiana Passoni, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 10, 2017

Eight years ago, I was on top of the world. I had moved to Los Angeles, California, in 2007, from my home in Poços de Caldas, Brazil, to pursue my dream of launching a singing career in the United States, and was finally making progress. I had just completed composing songs for my debut album and ha...

Lung Cancer

Precision Medicine and My Own Activism Are Keeping Me Alive

Don Stranathan, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 25, 2017

In 2009, I was living my dream. My work as a business development manager for a technology company was thriving; I had a satisfying social life; I was active in sports, especially hiking and biking; and I was involved in social justice causes as a volunteer at San Quentin State Prison, helping inmat...

Breast Cancer
Symptom Management

Saving My Hair Changed My Perception of Having Cancer

Deanna King, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 10, 2017

Getting a callback after a routine screening mammogram in 2013 did not set off any alarm bells. Having dense breasts has almost guaranteed receiving the dreaded callback ever since I started getting annual screenings. But when I got a second callback after additional images of a suspicio...

Breast Cancer

Fear Has Become a Big Part of My Survivorship

Dana Stewart, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 25, 2017

Just 32 when I first felt a lump in the top of my left breast, I never expected it to be cancer or my life would irrevocably change in that instant. With no history of breast cancer in my family, I initially shook off any thoughts that I could have a serious disease and instead consoled ...

Solid Tumors

Coping With an Uncommon Cancer

Shanta Boles, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 25, 2017

In April 2014, I was so sick with uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea and severe abdominal and chest pain that I had to be hospitalized for 5 days. As I was in my late 20s and in otherwise good health, there was no easy explanation for my symptoms. After I was released from the hospital...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Has Aged Me

Pati Schembari, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 10, 2017

The news that I had breast cancer came at an especially difficult time in my life and was quite shocking to hear. My father had died of lung cancer just 1 month before my diagnosis, and I was still grieving his death when I suddenly had to confront my own mortality. In retrospect, the di...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Has Made Me the Person I Am

Debbie Davis, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 25, 2017

My breast cancer diagnosis in 1993, at age 34, came at the happiest moment in my life. I had gotten married just 10 months earlier and was looking forward to the future and children. But instead of celebrating my first wedding anniversary with my husband over a romantic dinner, we were a...

Multiple Myeloma

I Plan to Live Long Enough to Be Cured of Multiple Myeloma

Rich Rubenstein, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 10, 2017

Like many other patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, I didn’t know I had the cancer until I broke a bone. I had felt a twinge of pain on my left side when I hoisted a bucket of baseballs over my left shoulder after participating in a baseball tournament in the spring of 2011, but th...


I’m Learning to Live With Chronic Cancer

Amanda Blair, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 25, 2017

I was feeling a bit more tired than usual as the Christmas holidays approached in December 2012, but I chocked it up to the frenetic pace of the season and keeping up with caring for my two young children, ages 4 and 12. I had none of the other typical warning signs of chronic myeloid le...


Treating the Whole Person

Shirley Grandahl, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 25, 2016

Twenty-five years ago, I was a physically fit woman of 45 in training to run a marathon, which had been a lifelong goal. I was feeling fine and had no hint of the illness that would nearly take my life and has forever changed it. While ramping up to go the 26.2-mile distance, I decided t...

Overcoming the Physical, Emotional, and Financial Effects of Cancer

Donna Piunt, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 10, 2016

Although my diagnosis of stage IIIB melanoma 5 years ago came as a shock, in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been so surprising. I had noticed a small freckle-like lesion on my upper left thigh that had become itchy and occasionally bled, but it didn’t fit the ABCDE (Asymmetry, Border irreg...


Gleevec Is Saving My Life but at a Cost

Jim Turner, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 25, 2016

Like many patients in the chronic phase of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), my cancer was discovered during a routine physical, when an off-the-chart white blood cell count signaled a serious problem that my primary care physician attributed to unspecified internal bleeding. Fortunately f...

Breast Cancer

Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer Is Like Walking a Tightrope

Anne Jacobs, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 10, 2016

I’ve always had fibrocystic breasts and was steadfast in performing monthly breast self-exams, so I could become familiar with the terrain of my breasts and spot any subtle changes. So, in November 2002, when I felt something in my left breast that seemed different from my usual lumps, I...

Multiple Myeloma

My Catch-22 Predicament

David Neises, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 25, 2016

In the spring of 2011, I was feeling so fatigued I needed to rest after walking just a few steps to the kitchen and not doing anything more strenuous than making a cup of coffee. Fortunately, I have a wonderful primary care physician who takes me seriously when I have a complaint about m...

Breast Cancer
Issues in Oncology

The Medical Profession Has to Become Culturally Sensitive to the Needs of LGBT Cancer Survivors

Janet Weinberg, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 10, 2016

Despite my breast cancer diagnosis 4 years ago, I feel really lucky. My cancer was detected relatively early, stage IIB, during a routine mammogram screening—a test that many of my lesbian friends skip because they don’t want to deal with a medical system steeped in a heterosexual cultur...

Kidney Cancer
Breast Cancer

I’ve Survived Cancer for Over 71 Years

Linda McDonald, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 25, 2016

Even though I was just 3 years old when my symptoms first appeared, the memory is still fresh in my mind to this day, 71 years later. I had just come home from a friend’s birthday party and was sitting on the front patio steps immobilized by severe stomach pain. My parents said I was fee...

Thyroid Cancer

I’ve Survived Two Cancers

Mary Longhini, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 10, 2016

In 2012, my husband, Robert, and I were looking forward to starting the next phase of our lives and were feeling excited about the future. Although only in our 50s, we had decided to retire early from our full-time careers, move to our cabin in Hayward, Wisconsin, and find less stressful...

Lung Cancer

My Oncologists Make Me Feel Safe Even While Living With Terminal Cancer

Linnea Olson, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 25, 2016

Looking back, I’m haunted by what might have been if my advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) had been caught in its earliest stage, when perhaps a cure was possible. I certainly presented my physicians with enough clues—shortness of breath, coughing, and some body weakness—to have warranted a...

Gynecologic Cancers

I’m the Luckiest Person in the World

Karen Merlino, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 10, 2016

July 2009 was the start of the worst 5-year period of my life, and I’m just grateful I am still here to tell you about it. I was preparing for brain surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma on the right side of my brain when I noticed a lump on my left thigh. Thinking I had pulled a muscle while exerci...


My Commitment to Helping Other Survivors of Childhood Cancers

Brett Wilson, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 25, 2016

When I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) at the age of 2 in 1974, not much was known about the cancer or the side effects of its treatment. Too young to understand what was happening to me, the burden fell to my parents and older sibling to protect and care for me. For ...

Colorectal Cancer

Thriving With Cancer

Meredith Baker, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 10, 2016

Seven years ago, at age 44, I was the picture of health. I played tennis every day, went bike riding and lifted weights several times a week, and made sure I ate a healthy diet. The closest I had ever come to cancer was caring for my mother during her 2-year illness with esophageal cance...

I Was Not Shown Compassion by My Medical Team

Nancy Unfried, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 25, 2016

At my last screening mammogram in 2015, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The technician took the usual four x-rays of my breasts, and I was told I could leave. So it was especially shocking to get a phone call from the radiologist a week later telling me that I had to come back for an additional ...

The Importance of Listening to Patients

Sheila Mulcahy, RN, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 10, 2016

My experience with cancer, or more accurately, cancers, is complicated. In 2002, after returning from a medical mission to Honduras, I noticed a bean-sized lymph node above my left clavicle. As an oncology-certified nurse, I knew not to ignore any unusual nodules that pop up on the body and asked th...

Cancer Stole My Identity

Sharon Berenfeld, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 10, 2016

In 1997, just 6 weeks after giving birth to my second child, I started having fevers and night sweats and my lymph nodes were swollen. I’m a physician, so I knew something was wrong and that my symptoms were unrelated to having just given birth. I had a blood test, and a biopsy was performed on one ...

Thyroid Cancer

Raising Awareness of Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma

Bill McClain, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 25, 2016

I’m used to having bumps and cysts pop up on my body, so when I felt a lump on the front of my throat, just below my Adam’s apple, I brushed it off. But when it was still there 6 months later, I became concerned and decided to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist. He performed a fine-needle aspi...

Breast Cancer

I Never Forget I Have Cancer

Janice Kennedy, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 25, 2016

I have a history of fibrocystic breasts, which required biopsies to make certain the cysts were benign, and for years they were. But in 2009, my mammogram screening picked up a suspicious lump in my right breast, which turned out to be stage III estrogen receptor–positive/progesterone receptor–posit...

Breast Cancer

Men Get Breast Cancer Too

Darrell Skaggs, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 25, 2016

Like many men, it never occurred to me that I could get breast cancer. But it turns out it is more common—and deadly—than I thought, with about 2,600 men diagnosed each year with invasive breast cancer and nearly 440 dying of the disease.1 In 2010, I became one of those men, and the diagnosis was so...

CNS Cancers

A Brain Tumor Diagnosis Has Taken My Life in New Directions

Jeannine Walston, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 10, 2016

The first sign that I could have a life-threatening illness was a bout of severe dizziness, which sent me first to a general practitioner for a physical examination and then to an ear specialist for more tests. At just 24 and in excellent health, the sudden onset of dizziness didn’t initially set of...

Colorectal Cancer

I Am Not Afraid of Cancer

Carol Veio, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 25, 2016

At age 73, I’m no shrinking violet and I don’t run to the doctor at the first sign of a problem. I practice naturopathy and can usually ward off potential health issues by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. When I began experiencing some mild discomfort in my rectum 2½ years ago, I was convin...

Multiple Myeloma

Hoping for a Cure

Roger Rawlings, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 25, 2015

Unless you have a type of cancer that can be surgically removed or blasted into oblivion with chemotherapy or radiation therapy rendering a cure, having a chronic cancer like multiple myeloma robs you of a normal life. Learning to accept that fact is an adjustment. I was diagnosed with multiple mye...


Starting Over

Sally Teahan, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 10, 2015

My diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma early in 2015 couldn’t have been more surprising. In one day, I went from being a healthy, vibrant woman with a busy career and the excitement of launching a promising new business venture to a woman facing the greatest challenge of her life. The fact that my onl...

Multiple Myeloma

CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy Saved My Life

Lori Alf, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 25, 2015

I have always prided myself on being healthy and fit, so when I started experiencing a chronic cough, difficulty breathing, and pain in my ribs and back, I thought they were the inevitable symptoms of a severe cold. At 42 and the mother of three children, it was inconceivable to me that I could have...

Breast Cancer

Shadowed by Cancer

Linette Atwood, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 10, 2015

Although genetic testing has not turned up any inherited mutations that might explain the number of cancers that have plagued my immediate family, over the past 15 years, I have lost my father, aunt, and sister to the disease. In 2001, my husband, Wayne, died of acute promyelocytic leukemia, and the...

Breast Cancer

The Race of My Life

Louise Cooper, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 25, 2015

I've lived my adult life by three guiding principles I learned as an adventure racer: to set goals, to determine how to achieve them, and to persevere in the face of adversity. Those standards helped me complete more than 70 marathons and 7 Ironman competitions, and they helped me conquer breast can...

Kidney Cancer

My Positive Attitude Is Keeping Me Alive

Robert Bonney, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 25, 2015

Until I was diagnosed with stage III renal cell carcinoma in early 2008, I had no firsthand experience with cancer. To my knowledge, there is no history of cancer in my immediate family, and despite a smoking habit I picked up when I was young, I had been in relatively good health in the 56 years le...

Breast Cancer

I’m Living a Full and Happy Life With Stage IV Breast Cancer

Janet Klein, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 10, 2015

After coping with breast cancer for more than a decade, it is difficult for me to put into words exactly how grateful I am to all the doctors, nurses, and researchers whose efforts have kept me alive for all these years. And not just alive, but thriving. A routine mammogram had discovered two small...

Breast Cancer

My Faith Helped Me Choose a Way Forward With Cancer

Lisa Arzola, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 25, 2015

I've been fortunate to be strong and healthy for most of my life. In fact, there is no history of any serious illness in my family, which is why I was so unprepared to hear the words “You have breast cancer” 5 years ago. Not only was the diagnosis foreign to me, I had no idea what chemotherapy and r...

Breast Cancer

Building and Adjusting to My Life After Cancer

Jennifer Titche, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 10, 2015

I had been watching a lump in my left breast for signs of cancer for 10 years, from around the time I was 21. Screening tests had failed to find any tissue abnormality, and my doctor said I was too young to have cancer, so I wasn’t overly concerned. But when I noticed the lump getting bigger in 2010...


Carpe Diem

Amir Steinberg, MD, FACP  / June 25, 2015

My life as a cancer survivor and an oncologist has taught me the importance of living every day to the fullest. Sometimes we all need a little reminding to appreciate life to the fullest. When I think of my former patient, Marc, that is what comes to mind. When I was a senior in high school, I was ...

Thyroid Cancer
Gastroesophageal Cancer

Cancer Will Always Be Part of My Life

Colleen Sullivan, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 10, 2015

My first experience with cancer was when I was just 9 years old, and a lump the size of an egg popped out on the right side of my neck. A biopsy of the tumor found that it was Hodgkin lymphoma, and I was given huge doses of external-beam radiotherapy applied to my neck, chest, and underarm lymph nod...

Solid Tumors

Living With a Rare Cancer—My Dr. Seuss World

Josh Mailman  / May 25, 2015

No one ever expects to hear the words “you have cancer,” but over the course of the day, over 5,000 people in the United States are given that news.1 I first heard those words in the summer of 2007 and have been living with cancer ever since. At the time of my diagnosis, I knew this would forever ch...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Has Left an Indelible Mark on Me

Barb Young, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 10, 2015

Even though today I’m cancer-free, the experience of getting a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment leaves an indelible mark on your psyche—as well as your body—that time doesn’t erase. Once you have cancer, you become a cancer survivor, and that status doesn’t change. I’ve known many people...

Gastroesophageal Cancer

Too Young to Have Cancer

Anne Kimha, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 25, 2015

The first inkling I had that something could be seriously wrong occurred just over a year ago, when I was suddenly inflicted with such severe heartburn it kept me awake at night. Prescriptions from my doctor for ranitidine (Zantac) and meloxicam (Mobic) not only failed to tamp down the fiery pain, I...

Lung Cancer

I Refuse to Capitulate to Cancer

Paul Kalanithi, MD, as was told to Jo Cavallo  / April 10, 2015

Editor’s note: We regret to announce that Paul Kalanithi, MD, passed away on March 9, 2015. Dr. Kalanithi was Chief Resident in Neurological Surgery at Stanford University when he shared his story, reprinted here, with The ASCO Post just over 1 year ago, in March 2014. Click here for a memorial trib...

CNS Cancers

Having Cancer So Early in Life Gave Me Purpose

Sheri Sobrato Brisson, MA, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 25, 2015

I had every classic brain tumor symptom in the book—severe headaches, dizziness, morning nausea—which plagued me for 16 years, starting when I was 8. In college, if I allowed myself to sleep more than 4 hours a night, the morning headaches, which were centered on the top of my head, were so severe, ...

Gynecologic Cancers

Cancer Was My Wake-Up Call to a Healthier Life

Teresa Pedersen, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 10, 2015

I come from strong physical stock and inherited a sort of “tough it out mentality” when it comes to coping with the usual aches and pains that creep up as you age. So by the time I realized that my legs had become so swollen and my breathing so labored it was difficult for me to walk, I could barely...

Breast Cancer
Colorectal Cancer
Hepatobiliary Cancer
Lung Cancer

Twenty Years After a Diagnosis …  and Counting

Margaret G. Werts, PhD  / February 25, 2015

In 1995, I was diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer and given little chance to live. The dire diagnosis came years after being assured by several physicians that the problem I was having with rectal bleeding and anemia was nothing more than the result of an internal hemorrhoid. Busy raising two...

Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer Has Given Me More Than It Has Taken Away

Doug Bradley, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 10, 2015

In the fall of 2010, I developed a sore throat and tonsillitis while on a hike in North Carolina. Although it was not uncommon for me to have sore throats accompanied by some swelling on my tonsils, this time much of the inflammation and swelling were centered on just my left tonsil. After 7 days of...

Gynecologic Cancers

Ovarian Cancer Has Taught Me to Be Fearless

Valisia LeKae, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 25, 2015

In 2013, I was at the top of my professional game. I was a lead performer in the hit Broadway show Motown: The Musical, playing singing legend Diana Ross, which earned me a Tony Award nomination. Performing eight shows a week is exhausting, but I had no problem meeting the physical demands of the sh...

Lung Cancer

Beating the Odds

Richard Heimler, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 1, 2014

I know it sounds odd, but the past 10 years spent living with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have been very productive, wonderful years. It is not the life I had before my diagnosis, but it is the life I remember most clearly, and knowing how deadly this cancer is, I’m grateful for every day of ...


Lessons From Cancer

Kelly Traw, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 1, 2014

For a year before I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in December 2011, I had what I thought were the lingering remnants of a bad case of bronchitis. My breathing was labored, I had a chronic cough, and occasionally my voice would give out. Every time I saw my pulmonologist, I would te...


Social Media Is Helping Me Cope With Cancer

Larry Slavens, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 15, 2014

Despite a diagnosis in August 2013 of stage III high-grade spindle cell sarcoma and subsequent disease recurrence, I’m mindful of how fortunate I am that my cancer was found before widespread metastases could take hold, making treatment futile. It was just happenstance, 2 months before, on a long dr...

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Has Led Me to Careers in Activism and Filmmaking

Barbara Masry, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 15, 2014

The last thing I expected to find when I returned home after a summer vacation celebrating my 50th birthday was a letter from my gynecologist saying the routine mammogram I had before I left found suspicious-looking calcifications in my right breast and that I should see a surgeon right away. Being ...


Cancer Has Given Me Courage

Lori Piggott, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 1, 2014

In 1986, I was pregnant with my third child and excited to be interviewing for a job on the assembly line at a General Motors plant near my home in Brodhead, Wisconsin. Hiring requirements included a physical examination and a chest x-ray, which was done by my obstetrician to avoid any radiation har...

Facing Cancer Together

Dan Shapiro, PhD  / August 15, 2014

David sits at his desk, tapping angrily. He’s tired of his abusive, ignorant boss, the VP for regional sales. The man’s sales targets are absurdly high, he’s impossible to reach on the phone, his “motivational” speeches evoke the stress of Glengarry Glen Ross, and even his fake all-light-brown hair ...


Taking Charge of Your Care

Dawn Gill, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 15, 2014

The first sign I had that something might be wrong was an uncontrollable itch all over my body. Although I had never had anything like that before, the problem was easy to initially dismiss. I’m a respiratory therapist and visit patients in their homes daily, so I chalked up the itchiness to an alle...

Breast Cancer

Coping With the Aftermath of Cancer

Marie Krejci, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 25, 2014

Editor’s note: In the July 10 issue of The ASCO Post, this article by Marie Krejci as told to Jo Cavallo was published; however, the published version was incomplete in that it did not reflect important updates made by Ms. Krejci. We apologize to Ms. Krejci for this error and to our readers for any ...

Breast Cancer

Coping With the Aftermath of Cancer

Marie Krejci, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 10, 2014

Even now, 3 years after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I’m still struggling with how it is possible to have a normal mammogram and 6 months later be confronted with stage II estrogen/progesterone–positive, HER2-positive breast cancer. The news was especially devastating to hear because it arriv...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Has Robbed Me of My Physical Beauty but Not My Inner Strength

Mandy McCown, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 10, 2014

I’ve been plagued with various ailments all my life. Physically and emotionally abused by my stepfather as a child, over the years I’ve developed severe psychological issues including depression and anxiety disorder. I am also in constant physical pain from cervical degenerative disc disease, osteoa...

Pancreatic Cancer

Learning to Live in the Moment

Laurie MacCaskill, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 15, 2014

I’ve been health conscious all my life. I have never smoked, I eat a healthy diet, and I have maintained a near-daily exercise routine since I was 20. I’m also steadfast about keeping yearly medical checkups and screenings. So when I felt a sharp, lightning-bolt of pain that went from the top of my ...

Multiple Myeloma

The CoMMpass Trial in Multiple Myeloma

Traver Hutchins, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 15, 2014

When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2008, at just 47, I was lucky. I was asymptomatic, my cancer was detected through a routine blood test, and I had the smoldering type, so I didn’t need immediate treatment. Plus, I knew that recent advances in more effective therapies were making it poss...

Gynecologic Cancers

Cancer Has Allowed Me to Put My Goals First

Sharon Timins, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 15, 2014

Despite my family history of cancer—my father had colorectal cancer, his father had gallbladder cancer, and my father’s mother died of what was believed to be uterine cancer—when I complained to my gynecologist about postmenopausal bleeding in the spring of 2011, I was told not to worry about it. By...

Colorectal Cancer
Gynecologic Cancers
Issues in Oncology

Nothing Prepared Me for Cancer

Suzann Vera, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 15, 2014

Fourteen years ago, when I was just 29, I was feeling weak and fatigued and had severe pain in my abdomen. I’d had these symptoms for about a year, but none of the several doctors I saw or any of the tests they performed could find the source of my problems. I even had one nurse practitioner tell me...

Global Cancer Care

UN Agency Issues World Cancer Report 2014

The ASCO Post  / February 15, 2014

A new global cancer report1 compiled by the United Nations’ International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) shows, as a single entity cancer is the biggest cause of mortality worldwide, and there were an estimated 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2012. The report also noted that global cancer in...

Breast Cancer
Gynecologic Cancers
Issues in Oncology

Cancer Is in My Soul

Annie Parker, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 15, 2014

The threat of getting cancer began for me before I was born. In 1950, when my mother was pregnant with me, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and refused treatment until after she gave birth, so I have always felt that cancer was woven into my soul. For the first year of my life, I was raised by m...

Kidney Cancer

Cancer Has Given Me a Greater Appreciation for Life

Ed Giampietro, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 15, 2013

I’ve been blessed with good health for most of my life, and I was careful to keep it that way. I don’t smoke, I eat a healthy diet, and I maintain a healthy weight. I also was fortunate to be born with pretty good genes and have no family history of cancer. In fact, except for an occasional flare-up...

Head and Neck Cancer

It Sounds Crazy, but Cancer Has Made Me a Better Chef

Grant Achatz, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 1, 2013

I was diagnosed with stage IVB squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue in 2007, when I was just 33 years old, but the cancer had started to show itself long before then. I first noticed a white dot on the left side of my tongue in 2002, and as time went on, the sore became annoying and hurt when it ru...

Bladder Cancer

Having Bladder Cancer Has Taught Me Important Life Lessons

Fred Wright, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 15, 2013

I think one of the most frightening—and embarrassing—things that can happen to an adult is losing control of your bladder and wetting the bed. When that happened to me in the spring of 2012 while I was on a camping trip with my wife Kimberly and our two teenage daughters, I knew something was very w...

Breast Cancer

Having Breast Cancer Has Actually Been a Positive Experience 

Jodi Harris, LPN, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 1, 2013

I know it sounds strange, but being diagnosed with cancer was one of the best things to have happened to me. I don’t mean to diminish the traumatic experience of hearing the words, “You have breast cancer.” That was over 11 years ago, and I’m still reeling from the diagnosis and its aftereffects. I’...


Cancer Does Not Discriminate 

David Plotkin, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 15, 2013

Looking back, my son Max’s fall as he was running after another little boy while playing baseball was such a blessing. Although he landed on his right arm, the fall didn’t seem severe enough to cause him to cry out in such excruciating pain. But after several hours of icing the bruise failed to reli...


Celebrating 2 Decades as a Cancer Survivor 

Jim Taulman, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 15, 2013

This past June, I celebrated 20 years of being a cancer survivor by throwing myself a party. It was an interesting experience because I learned that many of the 100 guests I invited were also cancer survivors or were family members of cancer survivors, and so we celebrated their lives as well. Our p...


I'm Not the Person I Was Before Cancer 

Cindy Johnson, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 1, 2013

I’ve been the caretaker for my husband Will since he suffered three strokes in March 2011, followed by a diagnosis of leukemia a few months later. Now, our roles have reversed, and Will is taking care of me as I go through treatment for stage III follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It’s been a di...

Gynecologic Cancers

I Overcame Cervical Cancer but Not Its Long-term Effects 

Carol Goodrich, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 15, 2013

In 1979, when I was just 35 years old, I started experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding and lower back pain. When a Pap test came back normal, the gynecologist I saw said not to worry about anything, that I was fine. But I wasn’t fine. My symptoms quickly escalated, and I sought the opinion of anoth...

Pancreatic Cancer

I Have No Fear 

Margaret O’Donnell, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 25, 2013

I found out that I had stage III pancreatic cancer on Valentine’s Day in 2011, but I think the disease may have been brewing for a long time. For 19 years, I had experienced intermittent pain in the right upper quadrant of my abdomen. I had gallbladder surgery to relieve a bile duct obstruction, whi...

Breast Cancer
Gynecologic Cancers

Despite a Recurrence, I'm Not Surrendering My Life to Cancer

Selma R. Schimmel, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 10, 2013

This is the first time I’m going public with the fact that I have advanced ovarian cancer. I thought I could avoid the fate of my mother and her mother, both of whom died of ovarian cancer in their 50s, and live well past my 60s and even 70s. But at 58, I’ve had to accept that that is not likely. I ...

Gynecologic Cancers

Driven by the Past 

Hope Haefner, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 10, 2013

When I was 9 years old, a bout of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain sent me to the emergency room. The physicians diagnosed appendicitis and rushed me to the operating room. But what the surgeon found instead was a 10-cm-wide, grade 2, immature teratoma. In 1968, treatment for malignant ovarian t...

Colorectal Cancer

Living Without Fear 

Patrick Yaklin, as told to Jo Cavallo  / June 25, 2013

Even before I had a colonoscopy to determine the cause of abdominal pains I had been having, I instinctively knew that the news wouldn’t be good. A colonoscopy and subsequent pathology report confirmed stage IIIC colorectal cancer. Because I was just 47 years old at the time of my diagnosis and had ...

Breast Cancer

Living with the Fear of Cancer 

Annette Soto, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 15, 2013

After a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, I became so worried it would happen to me, I decided to perform regular breast self-exams so I could familiarize myself with the normal feel of my breasts, and quickly spot any changes. My friend’s diagnosis scared me, and that fear probably saved my ...

Gynecologic Cancers

It Takes a Village to Survive Ovarian Cancer 

Dee Sparacio, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 15, 2013

My odyssey with ovarian cancer started in May 2005, when I saw my gynecologist for an annual exam and mentioned an odd twinge I had been experiencing on my left side. A subsequent pelvic ultrasound followed by an MRI showed that my ovaries were enlarged, and my doctor warned me that the problem coul...

Colorectal Cancer

Cancer Has Made Me A Better Doctor

David Posner, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 15, 2013

After six recurrences of colorectal cancer, the chances it will recur again are high. But if I concentrate on that, I couldn’t live my life. In retrospect, I should have paid attention sooner to the abdominal pain I was experiencing and not dismiss it as a simple case of gas. But at age 47 and with...

Breast Cancer

My Life Will Never Be Normal 

Susan Zager, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 15, 2013

After being diagnosed with stage II invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast in 2004, I did an Internet search to learn more about my treatment options so I could be prepared when I met with my oncologist to discuss my treatment plan. I was especially interested in therapies that would be effect...


Solving a 30-year Mystery

Carol Kuehnert, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 1, 2013

When I began experiencing severe neck and back pain about 9 years ago, I had no idea it could be a late side effect from the radiation therapy I had received 31 years ago to treat my Hodgkin lymphoma. And none of the doctors I’ve seen over the past decade have been able to make the connection either...

Breast Cancer

Betting Against the Odds 

Sharon K. Barger, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 15, 2013

I knew the two tumors in my left breast were cancerous even before I got the pathology results back on my biopsy. I could clearly see the tumors on the digital mammogram my doctor ordered, and when the radiologist pointed out that they had spikes radiating from the edges and that he was scheduling a...

Kidney Cancer

Social Media Is Helping My Brother Fight Kidney Cancer 

Annie Howell, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 1, 2013

My brother, Rick Thomas, is a great guy. I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother. He’s funny, warm, and kind to everyone he meets. He became a commercial airline pilot for American Airlines after flying C-5s in the Air Force for 12 years and has always been a responsible person and a dilige...

Breast Cancer

I’m Not the Same Person I Was before Cancer

Tracey Aiello, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 15, 2013

It’s not clear to me—and my doctors can’t say with any certainty—whether taking birth control pills for many years had anything to do with my getting breast cancer 3 years ago, at age 44. But the cancer growing in my left breast was diagnosed as stage I, estrogen receptor–positive. Although I never ...

Solid Tumors

I Am Not a Victim

Margo Chevers, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 15, 2012

Six years ago, at age 62, I was feeling in great shape. The year before, I had taken over custody of my 2- and 3-year-old great-grandchildren and decided to change the course of my career from motivational speaker to motivational coach to be home more often with the kids. It was during one of our pl...

Breast Cancer

Surrounded by Breast Cancer

Norma E. Roth, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 15, 2012

Nine women on my mother’s side of the family have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and nearly half have died from their disease, including my mother. With odds like these, I was determined to do what I could to stay ahead of this dreaded monster I thought was surely coming for me. First Tests Neg...

Pancreatic Cancer

A Series of Medical Missteps

Debi Rutkowski, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 1, 2012

Since the beginning of my symptoms—occasional pain on the upper left side of my abdomen, accompanied at times by nausea—which started nearly 20 years ago, my condition, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, either remained undetected or was completely misdiagnosed until just recently. A series of diagnos...

Breast Cancer

Starting Over after Cancer Treatment

Paula Tamboli, as told to Jo Cavallo  / October 15, 2012

When bloody discharge started oozing from the nipple on my left breast, I knew instinctively that it was serious. Although I was just 43, having lost two aunts to breast cancer, I knew my family history increased my risk for developing the disease. So when I saw my gynecologist for an exam, I was sh...

Breast Cancer

Being Well Informed Helped Me Cope with Breast Cancer

Kate Callahan, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 15, 2012

I had been putting off getting a screening mammogram for a few years. When I finally made an appointment in March 2011 and was told that I needed a follow-up sonogram because the test had picked up a suspicious-looking mass in my right breast, I knew I was in trouble. A biopsy of the tumor showed th...

Hepatobiliary Cancer

Coping with Liver Cancer

Margaret Brandt, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 1, 2012

From the moment I had a partial hysterectomy in 2010, I started having unexplained bouts of nausea. My surgeon and even my primary care physician chalked it up to everything from the difficult 6-hour surgery I had just had to anxiety over a move I’d recently made from Connecticut to North Carolina. ...

Breast Cancer

Living with the Aftermath of Breast Cancer

Sherry Cohen, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 15, 2012

My battle with breast cancer began 10 years ago, but the aftereffects of the disease and the treatment will be with me for the rest of my life. As a professional woman who has had several diverse careers, including one as a corporate controller and another as an art teacher, I’m driven to want to su...

Breast Cancer

My Breast Cancer Had Been Coming for Years

Sheri Kay, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 15, 2012

I’ve never had a normal mammogram screening. There was always something suspicious the test picked up: macrocalcifications in one breast 1 year and a cyst in the other breast the next year. Over a period of 3 years, I had six tissue biopsies, all benign for cancer. So when I flunked another mammogra...

Symptom Management

Surviving the Aftermath of Cancer

Sheila Leatherwood  / June 15, 2012

With medical information now just a click away, it’s difficult to imagine a time before the Internet existed, when finding answers to questions about serious diseases was nearly impossible. When I was diagnosed with liposarcoma 33 years ago, there was only one oncologist in my hometown of Tyler, Tex...

Head and Neck Cancer

I Refuse to Let Cancer Win

Joe Alvey, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 15, 2012

My battle with cancer started with a simple sore throat in June 2005. Despite two rounds of an antibiotic to clear up the problem, within 2 months my throat hurt so much I couldn’t swallow, and a mysterious lump had suddenly appeared on my tongue. By the end of August, I was diagnosed with stage III...

Colorectal Cancer

Quality of Life Is What’s Most Important to Me

Connie Thoelen, as told to Jo Cavallo  / May 1, 2012

For me, getting a cancer diagnosis has been more annoying than frightening. Mainly, I’m annoyed at myself for not taking care of an anal skin tag sooner. (I’d had it since birth.) The growth hadn’t been a problem until I got pregnant with my first child and it became temporarily engorged with blood....

Colorectal Cancer

Cancer Does Not Have to Be a Death Sentence

Marsha Axler, as told to Jo Cavallo  / April 15, 2012

When I found a large amount of blood on my toilet tissue just before Thanksgiving in 2010, I wasn’t too concerned. At just 45 years old, I was in excellent health, and other than the bloody stool I had no other symptoms signaling that something was seriously wrong. My primary care physician thought ...

Breast Cancer

Surviving Cancer Means Making Many Difficult Decisions

AnneMarie Ciccarella, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 15, 2012

The best advice I received after getting a diagnosis of stage I invasive lobular carcinoma in my left breast was from my radiologist, who told me, “Remember, be your own best advocate.” Those words have stayed with me through my 6-year struggle with breast cancer and its aftermath. Extraordinary St...

Breast Cancer

Facing the Future without Fear of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Sonia Ray, as told to Jo Cavallo  / March 1, 2012

A year ago, I was living my dream. Married to a wonderful man, Danny, and with two young children to raise, Karl, 7, and Marcus, 4, I had given up a career in accounting to be a stay-at-home mom. At age 34, I was enjoying life, helping my children with their homework and going to their soccer and ba...

Lung Cancer

I Never Expected to Get Lung Cancer

Meryl L. Bralower, as told to Jo Cavallo  / February 15, 2012

When intermittent chest pains sent me to the emergency room nearly a decade ago, I worried that I was having some kind of cardiac event. The ER doctor wanted to make sure that I didn’t have a pulmonary embolism, so in addition to ordering a complete cardiac workup, she also ordered a chest x-ray to ...

CNS Cancers

Don’t Take Away Our Hope

Patrick Lacey, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 15, 2012

After experiencing the loss of my wife Dina’s first pregnancy during her second trimester, we naturally worried that something would go wrong when she became pregnant again. But when our son Will was delivered at full term, we thought we could finally relax. Born at a whopping 10 lb, Will seemed ...

Colorectal Cancer

Humor Is Helping Me Survive Cancer

Myles Beskind, as told to Jo Cavallo  / January 1, 2012

Despite a strong family history of colon cancer—all five of my mother’s siblings had colon cancer, and my mother died of the disease 10 years ago—when some flecks of blood started showing up on my toilet tissue in early 2005, I figured it was from hemorrhoids. At 38, I was a marathon runner and in g...

Head and Neck Cancer

My Cancer Is Incurable, but My Future Is Limitless

Veronica Cappalonga, as told to Jo Cavallo  / December 15, 2011

Cancer has nearly always been part of my life. When I was 6 years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The doctors told my parents that unless I was treated immediately, I wouldn’t live longer than a month. Over the next 3 years, I underwent intensive courses of chemotherapy and h...

Gynecologic Cancers

Fighting to Get Back Control

Mary Van Vlyman, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 15, 2011

I’ve had raging hormones since I was 18, when I was diagnosed with a benign pituitary adenoma. The tumor caused unpredictable menstrual cycles that remained constant throughout my life, even after it had been successfully treated. So 2 years ago, when I turned 40 and started having sudden bouts of h...

Colorectal Cancer

Fear of the Unknown: Cancer Treatment Can Be Scarier than the Disease Itself

Diane Tavegia, as told to Jo Cavallo  / November 1, 2011

Two years ago, I was feeling fine except for a nagging problem with severe constipation. I believed this was caused by some loperamide I had taken to quell the episodes of diarrhea I experienced following dinner at a local barbecue restaurant. When the symptoms persisted for a couple of months, I de...

Breast Cancer

Giving Women a Fighting Chance When They Have Breast Cancer

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz  / October 15, 2011

I knew there was a chance I could get breast cancer, I just never thought it would really happen to me. I am one of 2.5 million breast cancer survivors living in our country today. Just weeks after getting a clean mammogram and my 41st birthday, I felt a lump in my breast. As a young and otherwise ...

Prostate Cancer

Keeping a Positive Attitude

Rich Longtin, as told to Jo Cavallo  / September 15, 2011

I’ve been in alcohol and drug recovery for 20 years, and my wife of nearly 50 years, Arlene, and I have been through a lot together during that time. So 2 years ago, when my doctor told us that I had stage III prostate cancer and a Gleason score of 8, we both looked at him and asked if we could stil...

Breast Cancer

Acting on Fear

Deb Stewart, BSN, RN, CBCN, BPNC-IC, as told to Jo Cavallo  / August 15, 2011

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979 there was no global movement to raise awareness of the disease, there were no pink ribbon pins to show support, and there was no Internet with which to search for information. My doctor gave me the news on a Friday night, and the following Monday...

Breast Cancer

Stalked by Cancer: One Woman’s Story

Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 15, 2011

Cancer has been stalking me all my life. My mother’s mother had died of breast cancer at a relatively young age. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1960s, when she was 35 and I was just 5 years old. Although she was told that she probably wouldn’t live more than 2 years, she sur...

Gynecologic Cancers

Cancer Diagnosis Can Spark Worry over Numerous Health Concerns

Cate Dolan, as told to Jo Cavallo  / July 1, 2011

The early discovery of my endometrial cancer is a prime example of the health rewards you can reap if you are lucky enough to have good medical care and a dogged physician. Long past menopause, I wasn’t experiencing any of the typical warning signs of the disease—vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain—when...