From peer pressure to peer support

Easing the burden of hereditary colorectal cancer

colorectal cancer

Members of the Myers family share a hereditary high risk for colorectal cancer.

Learning to fit in and conform with other children is a rite of passage for most of us, but when someone is living with a genetic disorder and the life-long threat of cancer, those formative years can be fairly tough. Just ask Kevin Myers. He has an inherited genetic disorder that results in a very high risk for colorectal cancer. It is called familial adenomatous polyposis, or FAP.

“I was seven or eight years old when I became aware that my dad’s mom and brother had died from this cancer, and my dad was frequently having pre-cancerous polyps scraped out of his Continue reading

Prostate cancer doesn’t stop couple from enjoying retirement

Woods Brown driviing a boat

Woods Brown pilots his boat around the lake at his northern Michigan home

Woods Brown has stage 4 prostate cancer, which may account for why he gets tired sooner than he used to. Maybe.

“I do wear out faster, but heck I’m 73 years old,” he says. “I can do pretty much what I want. We have a wood burning stove and I have a load of wood I can burn so we keep warm in the winter. I had some trees down from the latest storm so I moved that. We live on a lake and I go fishing.” Continue reading

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

For one prostate cancer survivor, it’s all about conversation, personal connections

Francis Hafler, surrounded by his daughter Tiffany, son Gabriel and granddaughter Chloe, 12

Francis Hafler, surrounded by his daughter Tiffany, son Gabriel and granddaughter Chloe, 12

“I’m a conversationalist. I just walk up to people and start talking to them,” says Francis Hafler of Detroit.

He starts at the beginning. “I was born in the south in 1950.”

Hafler grew up about two blocks from the water in Pensacola, Fla., where the sand is pure white and the water is emerald green. He was No. 8 of 10 kids – seven boys, three girls. His mother did domestic work and his father worked on a fishing boat and as an ice man. Every Tuesday and Wednesday you could see the Blue Angels from the nearby naval base soaring through the sky.

In 1969, Hafler moved to Michigan to live with a friend. He found work at Ford Motor Co. on the ore carrying ships at the Rouge Factory. He got married and had six kids.

And then cancer hit.

Continue reading

Early onset prostate cancer brings out a fighter

Prostate cancer patient Peter Rich holds his granddaughter Sage

Peter Rich with his granddaughter, Sage

When Peter Rich was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer at age 59, he asked a tough question for one very distinct reason.

“I said, ‘Doc, am I going to die from this?’ When she said yes, I asked how long. I want to talk in terms of that so I can prove you wrong,” Rich says.

He has. Despite the 30-month average survival time for metastatic prostate cancer, he’s now been living with cancer for six years.

Rich has been through a number of different treatments – radiation, chemotherapy, abiraterone, PARP inhibitor, and numerous clinical trials, all under the care of Kathleen Cooney, M.D., his oncologist at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. He currently takes Xtandi (enzalutamide), which is designed to interfere with the hormone androgen. It’s four pills a day, and it makes him tired so he takes two naps each day.

Continue reading