The 5k Walk and The Colors of Cancer
Walk for General Cancer Awareness
I am not a medical professional nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently but my own research has resulted in the little I do know about cancer. Typically, you do not research cancer without a cause and it is this reason that I write this hub.
Malignant Neoplasm is the scientific term given to cancer, in general. The process involves uncontrolled cell division and includes an invasion of adjacent tissues which spreads the cells to other parts of the body via lymph nodes or blood flow.
To truly understand the depth of this disease is to understand the medical terminology associated with it. A benign tumor is one that lacks the ability to reproduce itself such as a mole. This does not mean that if you have a mole you are cancer free but it does greatly reduce the probability. A malignant tumor is the counter of benign in that it does have the capability to reproduce itself and invade tissue.
Neoplasm is the abnormal mass of tissue or new growth of abnormal cells. The neoplasm piece of the term usually means tumor or lump.
Symptoms of Cancer - Causes of Cancer
As if having cancer is not bad enough, it is further broken down into three groups (local symptoms, spreading symptoms and global symptoms). This means that the Doctor can explain, in great detail, how cancer is effecting your body. Most probably it gives the medical professionals an idea of how bad the cancer is and the locations where it resides. Naturally there are numerous tests which provide a more accurate diagnosis but these symptoms may prove a starting point for early treatment.
Local symptoms are identified by lumps or swelling as we now know mean tumors. This means that there is a specific area of the body and is probably the origin of the cancer.
Spreading symptoms are identified by the growth of the lymph nodes and may include a cough and some pain. This is an indication of the spreading of the cancer.
Global symptoms are identified by weight loss, little appetite and fatigue. This means the entire body is reacting to cancer.
Wikipedia indicates that 90-95% of the reported cases are due to environmental issues while 5-10% of the reported cases are hereditary. After losing my parents to different types of cancer I cannot comment on these statistics but I suppose each type of cancer has to be categorized somewhere. The point of origin and the output of the many tests performed will provide the detail necessary to categorize the cancer itself.
Wikipedia also indicates that the environmental issues that cause cancer are as follows:
- obesity represents 30-35% of cases
- tobacco 25-30% (this could be first hand smoke by smoking or second hand smoke by breathing in smoke from someone else)
- infections 15-20%
- radiation, no physical activity and pollutants make up the rest.
As cancer symptoms go, they usually are diagnosed as something else initially and after many tests can be diagnosed correctly. This is what happened to my sister. In August of 2010 my sister complained about a sore throat and went to the doctor accordingly. She was treated for a cold, streptococcal sore throat (strep) and virus but the throat pain kept coming back. Eventually she was checked into a community hospital, after she found a small lump on her throat, where she was told she had some sort of throat cancer. After the initial diagnosis, the hospital released her and scheduled additional tests for the following week.
When we learned of the news it was the week of labor day and we drove from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, on Labor Day weekend, to talk to her. While she was able to talk to us about the events that lead up to the diagnosis she was tired so we spent the afternoon with her and her kids then drove back home.
After she went back into the community hospital and additional tests were taken, it was discovered that she had a rare type of thyroid cancer (Ana-plastic Thyroid Cancer) so they suggested going to the University of Pennsylvania for additional treatment.
Cancer Treatment (radiation and chemotherapy)
Since we do not live far from the University of Pennsylvania we were able to visit my sister almost every weekend (up to her release) to help keep her positive, spend time with her and support her during this time. We did not know how to help my sister in any other way so we kept doing what we felt was best for my sister and her family. I cannot even begin to discuss how difficult it is to perform day to day tasks knowing that a family member is fighting for their life.
While at hospital my sister had radiation twice a day and a special liquid form of chemotherapy. We teased he her saying that she had her own shake made especially for her and even teased her on requesting special flavors of chemo. This form of chemo was directed at her throat since that was the origin of the cancer in her body.
After about eight weeks of chemo and radiation treatments, the Doctors felt as though it was time to release her after shrinking most of the tumors and recommended a more generic type of chemo to keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of her body. University of Pennsylvania set her up at home with a bed and supplies and scheduled regular visits to the community hospital.
During the first week my sister was released from University of Pennsylvania she experienced trouble breathing and went to the community hospital where she learned of a throat infection she had acquired since leaving University of Pennsylvania. Because of the infection, the community hospital was unable to continue the generic chemo and all the tumors re-appeared. This time the tumors brought friends and began spreading through her body making it impossible to speak without an operation to insert a throat breathing device (tracheotomy).
Living Will and Power of Attorney
Because of a newly installed breathing device in her throat, my sister was not able to communicate, by voice, so she began writing things down. Her daughter (the power of attorney and executor of the will) was now able to effectively communicate with the hospital staff and the family on my sister's thoughts. As the throat infection treatment continued, the cancer began spreading through my sister's body and it became inevitable that she was not going to survive this aggressive, rare cancer.
In the midst of all this sadness and turmoil, my sister's boyfriend was trying to force a marriage between my sister and himself which would give him the control of decisions and finances (in the event my sister did not survive). Since my sister was unable to communicate herself, aside from nodding yes or no to questions, my niece relied on earlier conversations with my sister which did not indicate a marriage to her boyfriend (in health or in sickness). With that said, my niece and my nephews (with much help from a local family attorney) ensured that a marriage would not take place by engaging a security guard to sit outside my sister's room to prevent a justice of the piece from entering. This took enormous courage by these kids, especially at a time like this. By this time, my sister had been moved to the intensive care unit and my sister's boyfriend attempted to proceed with a marriage. It is times like this where the true colors of people shine through the window of clarity. It was apparent to us, and my sister's children, that the boyfriends color was not filled with love for my sister or the kids but rather love of control. Not only did the kids help prevent an unlikely marriage but they also prevented the boyfriend from future visits the the hospital.
This enabled the kids to concentrate on the health of their mother and also allowed time to make some very difficult decisions regarding life support and the aftermath.
The Colors of Cancer
We have seen the colors of a boyfriend attempting to marry a person dying of cancer for his own benefit and we have seen the spectrum of light of love that my sister's kids demonstrated as they prepared to deal with the pain of losing their mother. The color maroon was picked as the color of the wrist band I once wore as It is this color that will be forever embedded in my mind as it is associated with the type of throat (thyroid) cancer that took my sister's life on December 19th, 2010. Maroon is a bright and positive color which will forever remind me of the strength my sister's kids found in themselves to honor all my sisters wishes with integrity, respect and the knowledge that they made all the right decisions. The color purple is commonly used as a general cancer awareness.
Even more than one year later, none of this is easy to write but I felt as though this tragic event needed to be brought to surface to show how the colors of people show themselves in different situations. Everyone deals with tragedy in different ways but we saw the true intentions of a person that should be cast away far from my sister's kids. To deal with tragedy, some cry and need emotional support, some stare off into the distance in disbelief, some shutdown from family and society to heal, some show enormous strength to continue and then there is me. I know this is now a memory and a special place in history but I also know that there are meaningful colors yet to be seen in all the people who supported the kids and myself.
Whenever we can, my family and I will continue to support every aspect of the kids lives, we will donate every penny from this hub to the American Cancer Society, we will donate blood whenever possible, we will make sure that the kids and their cousins all stay in touch with each other and most importantly we will never forget the life that my sister had and the memories she left with us.
Livestrong and The Walk for Cancer
Beginning August in 2012 we took a team to participate (I walked and my family ran) a 5k, in memory or my sister, followed by a Guinness celebration gathering in the Man Cave (sorry no pictures). Guinness beer was the favorite beverage of my sister and we celebrated her life.
Thanks to my wife for building the team Karma that completed the Livestrong 5k on August 18th, 2012. All of the 15 team members completed the race and the video above is me filming as I walked across the finish line.
Philly Livestrong Runs or Walks For a Cause
Race, Run or Walk
2012 Philly Livestrong
walk - 3.1 miles (5k)
58 min 32 sec
2013 Philly Livestrong
walk - 3.1 miles (5k)
53 min 33 sec
© 2012 mts1098