No one used to talk about cancer. It was the C-word, and social restrictions limited discussions to doctors and patients, and patients only with their closest family members. But—and fortunately—times have changed, and now with the world online, news and conversations about cancer are everywhere. The problem today is information overload, and Ciao, Cancer! is going to start filtering it for you, pulling out the gems in a weekly post called, “The Cancer Beat”.
Last week I learned from my cardiologist that there are two ways elevated cholesterol levels can kill me. The first is by increasing the likelihood of a heart attack. The second is at the hands of my doctor, should I continue to refuse to follow his advice. In his two-year battle to put me on a statin drug, the heart attack argument never worked, but his demonstrated aggravation in our Wednesday morning appointment went the distance toward securing his victory. As I walked to the pharmacy to drop off my prescription, I asked myself why this doctor is so doggedly committed to ensuring my good health—especially given my resistance to following his advice—and pondered over whether we as patients can actually affect the quality of care we receive. After cogitating on this over the weekend, I came to a conclusion—an emphatic yes—and identified things we can do to ensure first-class treatment.
I spent last week on the Cape with some great friends from Italy, their three sons, and Netsai, whom some of you know about from earlier posts one and two on dating post-cancer. While the kids—aged 3, 5, and 7—drove me crazy on more than one occasion, I did think about how much I’d like to have children of my own. The question for me, after more than a year-and-a-half of chemo, is whether it’s even possible.
Premiering on SHOWTIME Monday, August 16th at 10:30pm ET/PT is “The Big C”, a series about a woman whose world is turned upside down after receiving a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. The role of Cathy Jamison, “a reserved, stifled Minneapolis schoolteacher”, is played by none other than Laura Linney, a formidable actress with extensive stage, television, and film credits. She’s supported in the series by Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, who received an Academy Award nomination for best actress for her role in Precious, and Oliver Platt, known for his roles in The Three Musketeers, A Time To Kill, and the television series, Huff. I believe The Big C is the first U.S. television show whose storyline is premised on the lead actor having a cancer diagnosis. [Click on continue reading to see a trailer of the show, interviews with Laura Linney, Gabby Sidibe, and Oliver Platt, and a scene featuring Gabby Sidibe as Cathy's student, Andrea]
I love public service announcements, especially when they’re for causes closest to my heart. Here you can watch girls swoon over Zac Efron as he steps into an elevator. This happens to me all the time.
One of the first things people want to know when they learn I had cancer is how it was discovered. There’s an element of personal concern in this question that’s perfectly natural—if I get cancer, will I know right away?—and I think what folks are hoping to hear is that all cancers in their earliest stages present clear, distinguishable symptoms that will prompt them to follow up with a medical professional. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many cancers, and all people, especially those at higher risk due to things like long-term exposure to carcinogens (tobacco, for example), a family history of cancer, or age (cancer risk naturally increases as we get older), should take a proactive approach to cancer detection and prevention.
Most of the folks who visit Ciao, Cancer! have either had cancer, are currently in treatment, or have friends or loved ones battling the disease. Given the number of people newly diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States, this is probably true of most Americans–and most likely applies globally as well. When we’re confronted with the disease, we need one thing more than any other, and that’s quality information. The website of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is one place you’ll find it.