Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

It's the last day of the year, and I was going to avoid being all introspective and reflective (that will come in a couple of weeks), but then I saw this post written a couple of days ago from the blog CrazySexyLife. The blog is written by Kris Carr, author of a number of books under the "CrazySexyCancer" label, though the post itself is written by Dr. Lissa Rankin.

The post is called "10 Things I Learned from People Who Survived Cancer," and it's a nice way to end the year, I think. It's not too long a piece, so even though you have the link above, I'm going to reprint it here:

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When I interviewed women who had survived breast cancer for my art project The Woman Inside, I noticed that they all had one remarkable thing in common.
They had all faced down death and decided to live every day like it might be their last. And then they all beat cancer.
The more interviews I did, the more I noticed that these women were living differently than most of the people I knew who had not been diagnosed with cancer. Here’s what I learned from those survivor women. Learning these lessons changed my life, and I hope they’ll change yours.
1. Be unapologetically YOU. People who survive cancer get feisty. They walk around bald in shopping malls and roll their eyes if people look at them funny. They say what they think. They laugh often. They don’t make excuses. They wear purple muumuus when they want to.
2. Don’t take shit from people. People who survive cancer stop trying to please everybody. They give up caring what everybody else thinks. If you might die in a year anyway (and every single one of us could), who gives a flip if your great aunt Gertrude is going to cut you out of her will unless you kiss her ass?
3. Learn to say no. People with cancer say no when they don’t feel like going to the gala. They avoid gatherings when they’d prefer to be alone. They don’t let themselves get pressured into doing things they really don’t want to do.
4. Get angry. Then get over it. People who survive cancer get in your face. They question you. They feel their anger. They refuse to be doormats. They demand respect. They feel it. Then they forgive. They let go. They surrender. They don’t stay pissed. They release resentment.
5. Don’t obsess about beauty. People who survive cancer no longer worry about whether they have perfect hair, whether their makeup looks spotless, or whether their boobs are perky enough. They’re happy just to have boobs (if they still do). They’re happy to be alive in their skin, even if it’s wrinkled.
6. Do it now. Stop deferring happiness. People who survive cancer realize that you can’t wait until you kick the bucket to do what you’re dying to do. Quit that soul-sucking job now. Leave that deadbeat husband. Prioritize joy. They live like they mean it.
7. Say “I love you” often. People who survive cancer leave no words left unspoken. You never know when your time is up. Don’t risk having someone you love not know it.
8. Take care of your body. People who survive cancer have a whole new appreciation for health. Those who haven’t been there may take it for granted. So stop smoking. Eat healthy. Drink in moderation. Maintain a healthy weight. Avoid putting toxic poisons in your God pod. Get enough sleep.
9. Prioritize freedom. People who survive cancer know that being a workaholic isn’t the answer. Money can’t buy health. Security doesn’t matter if you’re six feet under. Sixteen hours a day of being a stress monster is only going to make you sick. As Tim Ferriss writes in “The 4-Hour Workweek,” “Gold is getting old. The New Rich are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility.”
10. Take risks. People who survive cancer have faced their fear and told it to go to hell. They know life is for living. Fear is powerless. And joy lies in taking risks. So go skydiving if you want. Bungee jump. Hang glide. Spend your savings. Live like you might die tomorrow.
Are you doing these things? Or are you waiting for cancer to test out how much you want to live?
Don’t wait for cancer, my love. Don’t tempt the universe that way.
Be brave enough to live now.
For more on how to optimize your life, visit owningpink.com.

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I like to think I do a lot of these things already (though that whole "taking care of your body" thing needs work -- that's a New Year's Resolution, I guess), but mostly it's a nice reminder for all of us, cancer patients and non-patients alike -- to live life with a purpose.

I hope you had a good 2011, and I hope your 2012 is even better, happier, healthier, and more purposeful. And if you suspect it might not be, start thinking now about how you might change that.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

ASH Wrap-Up

This isn't anything new -- just a kind of wrap-up of some of the significant stuff from the ASH conference earlier this month. The link features a video interview between two Lymphoma Rock Stars, Dr. Bruce Cheson, head of Hematology at Georgetown University Hospital, and Dr. John Leonard from Weil Cornell Medical College in New York.

Cheson and Leonard discuss some of the significant trends to come out of the ASH conference this year. Two of their discussions are relevant for Follicular NHL, and I discussed both of them earlier this month. The first has to do with Rituxan, and the role of Rituxan Maintenance. The significant study to come out of ASH questioned the necessity for Maintenance therapy (giving Rituxan every 6 months for two years after treatment), suggesting that a treat-as-necessary strategy would yield similar results, but without the expense, time, and discomfort of receiving it every six months.

The second significant trend that they point out has to do with the "love fest" surrounding GA-101, a monoclonal antibody that could be a replacement for Rituxan. I found this to be the more interesting of the discussions, given how the two doctors probe the ASH presentations. They question how comparable the GA-101 studies are to earlier Rituxan studies: they express some reservations about how successful the studies really were; but they also do point out that GA-101 holds some promise (and that it is one of about 10 anti-CD20 antibodies currently in development, which is good news if we're looking to improve on Rituxan).

Chasen and Leonard also discuss trends in research in some other lymphomas, but obviously, it's these two that stand out for me.

The link also has a written transcript of the video (which I read much quicker than the 15 minutes the video would have taken).

I think this pretty much wraps up this year's ASH conference. It was nice to see some of my own assessments backed up, at least in part, by these two men.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post-Christmas

We had a nice Christmas Eve and Day, spending time with family. Some highlights:
  • After Christmas Eve mass, my musician children gravitated toward the trumpter who had been playing with the choir. Turned out he, too, is a Boston University graduate. He and I reminisced about West Campus and hockey games, talked about all the changes to the campus, and then he revealed that his old roommate at BU had been Jason Alexander, best known as George on Seinfeld, but also known as Albert in Bye Bye Birdie (which meant more to John, being a Birdie alum himself).
  • After church, as we were driving home, we pulled over to the side of the road as we saw a fire truck coming at us, its light blazing and spinning. We realized soon that it was moving very slowly, and then realized that it was carrying Santa through the neighborhood. As the truck approached us, Catherine slid open the van door, just in time for Santa to wish her a Merry Christmas, and then to fire a handful of mini candy canes at her. Unprepared, she suffered a small candy-cane-induced concussion. But, with a sticky smile, she reported that it was worth it.
  • Christmas morning, after the gifts were opened, Isabel checked on the turkey to make sure it was completely thawed. Instead she found that while it was thawed, it was...well, we can skip the details. But we clearly needed a new turkey. Fortunately, our heroes made to the grocery store before they closed early, and bought a fresh turkey for half the price they'd paid for the original frozen one. A Christmas miracle, and a delicious turkey when all was said and done.
We're at a time in our lives when we no longer have the Christmas morning frustration of trying to remove dozens of twist ties to pry toys out of the packages. Our crisis this year was Peter dropping the mini SD card from his new cell phone and having to take a wing chair half apart to retrieve it.

Time chnages things. But so it goes. It was a happy time for all. Hope yours was as enjoyingly eventful as ours.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas Eve, and I've been saving some videos for just this occasion.

The first video features John and Catherine and their school band, playing "Believe" from the movie Polar Express. The two of them are easy to spot -- both are wearing Santa hats, John on oboe and Catherine on trumpet.



The second video features Peter's high school Jazz ensemble doing a big-band-inspired version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Again, Peter's easy to spot -- front row, alto sax.



We're very proud of our musician children. They do truly bring us joy during this joyous season.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Obinutuzumab

A real quickie today, because I know I'm behind on posting:

Cornell's excellent blog, New Developments in Lymphoma, has a new post on Obinutuzumab, also known as GA101 -- a "new generation Rituximab." (I've seen it called both a second-generation and third-generation monoclonal antibody; they were wise to just avoid that issue altogether.)

As the post explains, results from several studies have been in the news lately touting GA101's success. I' a big fan of Rituxan (closing in on two years since I had it successfully), but I'm all for improvements to it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cannoli and Cancer

The New Haven Register ran a nice article this morning about the good folks at Meriano’s Bake Shoppe in Guilford, called "Guilford Bakery Owners Want You to Have a Cannoli; It Might Help Cure Cancer."

The Meriano siblings sell t-shirts and donate the money to cancer research at Smilow Cancer Hospital, particularly to a researcher there who was kind and helpful to their father when he was a cancer patient.

The t-shirts are great; they say "Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli" -- a classic line from the classic film, The Godfather. (The line is the ending to a longer, more gruesome scene. I'll link to the 7 second version -- just enough to hear the line being said, without everything that builds up to it.)

The important thing is, the Merianos are doing great things. And I have one of their shirts, which a bought two summers ago at a farmer's market (along with a chocolate chip cannoli). So, for you folks in the New Haven area, I recommend both the pastries and the clothing. Either or both would make a great Christmas present for the Godfather fan in your life. And, of course, you'll be doing some good for cancer patients, too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Talk about Cancer

Salon magazine ran two articles this week dealing with cancer, both written by Mary Elizabeth Williams, an excellent writer, and a stage 4 melanoma patient.

The first article is called "How to Talk to Someone with Cancer," and deals with a subject I have written about many times: the sometimes dumb things that people say or do to cancer patients, and how to avoid said dumb things.  I won't get into it, because, as I said, it's a fairly frequent topic for me. I will only say that Williams' overall advice, basically to keep the focus on the person with cancer and not on yourself, is  excellent.

I will also say that I, along with several people who posted comments to the piece, thought that Salon's choice of a photo to illustrate Williams' article was fascinatingly weird: