Pneumonia vaccine: What is it, and why do I need it??

pneumonia vaccineThe numbers of pneumonia cases are on the increase. You can blame the weather, our aging population, or the fact that this is one of the more common side effects that can occur as a result of having chemo or radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment. No matter which factor you choose, pneumonia affects millions of people worldwide each year.

Pneumonia is a severe acute respiratory infection, a condition where fluids fill the lungs and disrupt how oxygen is absorbed. Breathing can become very difficult, along with several other key symptoms including: Continue reading

The right to be hopeful about cancer recurrence

Carolyn CIt was great to learn more about social work services at the Cancer Center, especially when I saw how they’ve helped our patient, Carolyn C., cope with the fear of cancer recurrence. Carolyn received a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Her cancer will return in the future, an idea that was almost impossible not to worry about in the beginning.

“Anyone who is recently diagnosed, you owe it to yourself to use the services,” she says. “Take charge and purge your fears in a therapeutic session. A fear is valid. She (social worker Jane Deering) gave me advice on how to handle legitimate fears and how to purge irrational fears.” Continue reading

New patients and their first visit:

Some useful things to know about the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

information for new patientsNewly diagnosed patients who choose their care at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center can feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions they and their family must make. I’m often asked by new patients how to get to Ann Arbor and where to park. Others have financial questions or wonder if their family can come to the appointment, too.

Given the complexities of health care and of large academic medical centers like ours, it seems only natural that we should provide our patients with some degree of orientation. Patients receive a virtual encyclopedia Continue reading

Joint pain: Is it just the weather??

joint painToo often people blame the winter weather and extreme temperatures for their new or increased joint pain and inflammation, also called arthralgia. If these same people are patients being treated with chemotherapy, the pain could be related to treatment. Joint pain can be debilitating, and can cause a decrease in daily functioning and quality of life.

Certain types of chemotherapy are known to cause increased amounts of joint pain:

  • Paclitaxel or the other taxanes
  • Bleomycin
  • Cladribine
  • L-asparaginase
  • Biologic response modifiers such as filgrastim, pegfilgrastim, and sargramostim.

There many other causes of this type of pain and these should be ruled out prior to treatment for this condition. A doctor’s evaluation can help determine the cause of joint pain. There are multiple tests that might be used to evaluate these symptoms including x-rays, bone scans, MRI and blood tests. Continue reading

What is palliative care?

palliative careWhat’s in a name? The term palliative care is confusing to many. Oftentimes people associate it with end-of-life care, or hospice care. A poll taken in 2011 revealed that more than 75% of the public lacked knowledge regarding this service.

Although hospice and palliative care overlap in their goals of reducing suffering and providing comfort, the main difference is hospice care is typically for patients who are terminal, or within six months of death, and palliative medicine can be received at any time, whether terminal or not.

Individuals in hospice have chosen to end curative or aggressive treatment, and focus on comfort measures and the dying process. Palliative care patients are often in the midst of active treatment, but need care for distressing side effects from treatment or disease.

Sometimes a referral to palliative care can cause fear in patients and their families because of misconceptions regarding the term. Because of this, some cancer centers have chosen to change Continue reading



Betsy de Parry

By nature an optimist, I rarely worry about things I can’t control, but I could always count on scans and checkups to trigger a bout with angst. And it never ceased to amaze me that ration and logic (I have no symptoms) shifted so easily to doubt (Will I dodge the bullet again?).

On scan day, I always took a good book but it never got read because my mind was too busy racing back to the dark place where cancer all started. I’d wonder if I’d get to keep living my life. Or if I would have to re-live the nightmare. Or if my daughter would want my mother’s silver.

And then I waited. For good news or bad. Either way, I just wanted to know. And until I did, life paused. It’s not that I stayed home wallowing in self-pity. On the contrary, I went about my daily routine and made myself busy – very busy.

Thankfully, I always got good news – and quickly. As my doctor delivered it, no one but me noticed that my stomach unknotted. My knees stopped wobbling. And a tsunami of relief washed over me.

Once again, I felt safe. Until the next scan triggered another bout of angst. Continue reading