Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Capitalizing on Hope

Pink Ribbons, Inc. looks at the pervasive impact of breast cancer fundraising.
Every year, millions of dollars are raised, but where does all the money go, and what is actually achieved? This NFB film offers a completely different take on the pink ribbon “success” story that has overtaken North America, with insight from leading doctors, activists and social critics, as well as women diagnosed with breast cancer.
View the trailer at www.nfb.ca/pink  
“Pink Ribbons, Inc. resoundingly pops the shiny pink balloon of the breast cancer movement.” – Variety
“a powerful film… fascinating and thoughtful.” – Montreal Gazette.
Directed by Léa Pool
Produced by Ravida Din
Written by Patricia Kearns & Nancy Guerin and Léa Pool
Inspired by the book Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy by Samantha King

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Remembering Kim Tempest, 1961-2011

Kim passed away at Lions Gate Hospital, Vancouver, BC in the early hours of December 16th, 2011, after a courageous battle with metastatic breast cancer.

Many of you who attended the national conferences for young women living with breast cancer will remember Kim's wicked sense of humour, her willingness to pitch in to get things done, her intelligence, her love for family and friends and especially for her 13-year-old daughter and her two step children. Kim was also involved in many breast cancer organizations, especially those for young women with breast cancer. She participated on advisory panels, wrote articles, and was a speaker and media spokesperson on breast cancer.
    We miss you...

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Prayers of the People and the Year of the Dragon

All this month of January 2012 I have been saying the Prayers of the People at St Martin's Anglican Church here in Ottawa. I was asked if I would say the prayers back in November, and when I arrived back from Lunenburg on January 2, I went to visit Father Richard, who gave me some important tips about how to be a good intercessor.

Today was my third Sunday saying the Prayers of the People. Every Sunday I realize how important these prayers are: we pray for the world, the church, the queen, our country, our diocese, our parish, those who are in need, those who have died. It is up to me to make these Prayers significant and meaningful to everyone and I find this a large if not an onerous responsibility.

The more I do the Prayers, the more I realize that there is a rhythm to them. The rhythm of praying for people we know and the people we don't; for a parish in Canada or one on the other side of the world; for poor and rich, for Christian or not, for family or stranger, for those alive and those who have died.

Life and death. Renewal. Our New Year, and the Chinese New Year.

To quote from IBTIMES, Chinese New Year begins tomorrow, January 23. 2012, as the Year of the Dragon,.The Dragon is anything but a formidable foe in Chinese culture. Unlike the demon that gets slayed in Western literature, the Dragon is a symbol of good fortune and intense power in Eastern culture. In Chinese tradition, the Dragon is regarded as a divine beast.

According to Sung dynasty manuscripts, the Dragon is described as having the "head of an ox or donkey, eyes of a shrimp, horns of a deer, body of a serpent covered with fish scales, and a feet of a phoenix," and it usually clutches a pearl, meant to symbolize its supernatural powers.

The Year of the Dragon is one of the most revered years of the Chinese New Year calendar, and those born under the sign are regarded as innovative, passionate people who are colourful, confident and fearless.

For me, 2012 is very much a new year and a new beginning. I am glad to have had the opportunity to meditate about prayers to share with my fellow parishoners at St. Martins Anglican Church and also to meditate about and to feel the reverence of my inner dragon.

Would I continue to be innvoative and passionate and fearless in the days and years to come.

The Year of radiotherapy

Did you know that 2011 was the Year of Radiotherapy, marking 100 years since Marie Curie won her second Nobel Prize for her work on radium?

A study of 2,000 members of the public released in January 2011 showed that serious misconceptions about radiotherapy persisted, despite the fact that it contributes significantly to the cure of cancer. While 47% of those asked thought targeted cancer drugs, like Herceptin, were modern, only 9% appreciated that radiotherapy is also a modern, cutting-edge treatment. What's more, 40% described the procedure as "frightening."

While the statistics listed above and the National radiotherapy awareness initiative was designed to help improve public understanding and increase awareness of the value of radiotherapy in Great Britain, one could imagine that much the same attitude about radiation exists in Canada.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

My reaction to Picard's Globe and Mail column Are breast implants a form of mutilation?

While Andre Picard’s January 17, 2012 article about cosmetic surgery to increase breast size is well thought out and sensible, the title of the article – Are breast implants a form of mutilation? – is sensationalist and ignores the tens of thousands of women around the world who have reconstructive surgery after having had a mastectomy as part of breast cancer treatment.
Many (but not all) women who lose one or both breasts to cancer view this loss as a form of mutilation and reconstructive surgery as one way of regaining their femininity. I therefore believe that articles like Mr. Picard’s, which rightfully point out our society’s obsession with large breasts and the dangers involved in cosmetic surgery solely to increase the size of women’s breasts, should at minimum mention the difference between purely unnecessary cosmetic breast enhancement and breast reconstructive surgery.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Breast Cancer Screening

I wrote this OPED piece in response to an article in the Globe and Mail earlier this year; it wasn't printed, but I want to share it with the community because screening is under attack for both breast and prostate cancer.
We have been told repeatedly and clinicians and researchers agree that early detection of breast cancer is key to positive outcomes. The new guidelines proposed by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (Screening for Breast Cancer, Summary of recommendations for clinicians and policy-makers, 2011) are a step in the wrong direction. The Task Force should be part of the solution of finding a better mass screening tool for the early detection of breast cancer rather than attempting to cut costs on the health of women.
Approximately one quarter of the 23,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Canada are under 50 (CCS). By declaring that women 40 to 49 should not be included in provincial and territorial breast screening programs unless they are at high risk because of familial or genetic factors, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care and the Public Health Agency of Canada in which it is housed, has decided that about 5,000 women under 49 diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Canada don’t matter. It seems too that columnist Andre Picard and the Editorial Board of the Globe and Mail have written them off as well.
It is clear that reality for the clinicians, scientists, academics and researchers who sit on the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care is not the same reality of women diagnosed and living with breast cancer, and unfortunately, there are no trained cancer survivors on the Task Force to bring that reality to the table.
The reality is that mammography is the only mass screening program we have in Canada and although I agree with Margaret Wente that the “test is lousy” (Cure for cancer at any cost, G&M, November 26, 2011), there is no alternative available and in use today. So, do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? 
Women of all ages with no known risk factors are diagnosed through mammography. What will happen if provincial and territorial breast screening programs across the country offer women between 50 and 74 mammograms every three years instead of the current two and drop women 40-49 from their programs? How many women’s tumours will go undetected for longer periods of time, be diagnosed at later stages and thus require more invasive, longer and more painful treatments and possibly have poorer outcomes?
Breast self-examination is no longer being recommended or taught in Canada, but many women of all ages with no known risk factors find their own tumours by doing regular breast self-exam. Most if not all breast cancer survivors know other women who have done the same.  Critics of breast self-exam state that women find non-cancerous lumps that then must be screened and sometimes biopsied to determine whether they are cancerous or not, and that these medical interventions are both stressful and costly. And yet I do not know one woman who would not go through these diagnostic procedures to discover whether a lump is cancerous: it’s our lives at risk, after all!
Canadian women are being encouraged by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care to discuss breast care and breast cancer screening with their family doctors, conveniently ignoring the fact that 4.4 million Canadians are without a family doctor (Canadian Community Health Survey 2010).
 Women know that what used to be considered the triad of breast care – regular mammograms, clinical breast exams and breast self-exam – was not perfect. With mammography, tumours are missed or occur between mammograms; there are a lot of false positives (but thankfully, not false negatives); mammograms are not as effective on very large breasts or dense breasts. These facts are not a secret; women know they can happen. But we also know that there are no other screening options in Canada today.
Until something better is found, efforts must be made to make the diagnostic tools we already have as effective as possible.

Welcome to my Cancer Blog

I am a healthcare consultant, a cancer care advocate, someone who has worked for over a decade in the cancer community.

I started in the breast cancer community, working with patients and survivors, and met many women and men and their families who had their lives changed by breast cancer.

I worked with young women, who told me that "nothing fit me."

I worked with rural women, who told me that they chose mastectomy over lumpectomy because they couldn't afford to travel to the city for radiation.

I worked with women with metastatic breast cancer who told me that they felt left out of October, that breast cancer awareness month did not raise awareness of the approximately 30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer who went on to become metastatic.

Now I feel the same passion about all cancers, about men and women and children who get cancer when they are young, who live in rural regions, who are diagnosed or become metastatic.

Please join me here, where we can work together to make a difference.