Trained to screen patients for colon cancer, nurse finds a genetic link to this disease in her own family

Lynch syndrome

The Sylvest family tree includes Lynch syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause cancer.

Lisa Sylvest is a cancer survivor who never met her father Karl’s parents. They lived in Denmark with their other son and daughter. Growing up, Lisa simply knew that her grandmother died at age 54 of a ‘female’ cancer. When Lisa was in high school, Karl’s brother died of brain cancer, also at age 54. Time passed, Lisa entered nursing school and her father’s sister developed endometrial cancer. Lisa traveled to Denmark to meet her relatives face-to-face for the first time.

When her father was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer at age 68, Lisa was a U-M Health System nurse working in gastroenterology, which deals with stomach and intestinal disorders. Her Continue reading

Fertility options for men with cancer

fertility optionsWhile the focus of this blog is on fertility for men with cancer, I have not forgotten about women. Female fertility options will be addressed next month, so ladies please stay tuned.

Infertility, or not being able to conceive or bear children, affects about 10% of the population. While that seems like a small percentage, infertility can disproportionally affect both men and women undergoing cancer treatments. Many of our standard therapies for treating cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy can damage the Continue reading

Understanding a tumor board

tumor boardWhen I joined the Cancer Center team as editor of Thrive a few years ago, one of my first questions was, ‘What the heck is a tumor board?’ It was a term I had never heard before and one I figured many patients didn’t know either, at least before their diagnosis.

I quickly learned: a tumor board is a room full of specialists talking about challenging patient cases. I attended a liver tumor board meeting and immediately saw the value of everyone sharing information and offering solutions. Continue reading

Eight ways to take care of yourself and your cancer

take care of yourselfNutrition plays a pivotal role during treatment and recovery of cancer but maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge. Here are eight ways to take care of yourself and your cancer.

1. Try to have small, frequent and easy-to-eat meals and snacks throughout the day such as yogurt with fruit or banana with nuts/nut butter.

2. If meats are difficult to eat or don’t taste good, try chopped or ground meats mixed with a sauce in a casserole, stew or pot pie. Continue reading

Body image matters for cancer patients

cancer patient

Patient Sherry Hansen with her daughter Allie.

Cancer treatment is hard on your body and, in some cases, changes are permanent. Sometimes cancer patients become so focused on getting rid of their cancer, they don’t bring up body image issues with their oncologists. In writing Body Image Matters, a patient story in Thrive, I learned they should.

Sherry Hansen is a breast cancer survivor, 14 years and counting. She had surgery to remove her breast, but didn’t have time to think about reconstructive surgery at the time of her diagnosis. She had a 3-year-old daughter to take care of. Sherry described to me in detail the way she felt the first time she looked in the mirror when her bandages were removed. No one had prepared her for the change in her body. No one was there when she saw it for the first time.

This should never happen to a patient and, were Sherry diagnosed at the U-M Cancer Center, perhaps her emotional response would have been different. By the time she came to U-M, depression had set in. She’s doing great now, but it was a long road to recovery. Continue reading

When a hospital-based fitness studio works best

hospital-based fitness studio

Trilby Taylor Kinzey

When retired academic librarian Trilby Taylor Kinzey moved from New Jersey to Ann Arbor, Michigan, nine years ago to live close to one of her daughters, she looked for a fitness studio to help keep her healthy. She found U-M’s Transitions Studio and never left.

mCancerPartner: What originally brought you to U-M’s Transitions Studio?

Kinzey: I was involved in a hospital-based exercise program in New Jersey and I loved it. It helped me lose weight and kept me healthy. I wanted a non-commercial exercise program, something that wasn’t a chain or a Continue reading