Archive for the ‘Your Stories’ Category

MaryEllen’s Journey: Searching For Genetic Clues (Episode 4)

November 24, 2010

From the moment MaryEllen Sheppard was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, she wondered how she developed cancer.

Her ancestors, she said, tended to live long, healthy lives.

And other than a cousin, she wasn’t aware of anyone else in her family who had breast cancer.

As her battle against the disease began, MaryEllen’s thoughts also turned to her sisters, nieces, daughter and granddaughter who was on the way. Could they be at risk too?

In late March, MaryEllen and her sister Eileen met with Mayo Clinic’s genetic counselor Katherine Hunt to find out if genetics could have played a role in her diagnosis and get a better idea of how at risk her female relatives are.

The following video shows excerpts from MaryEllen’s actual counseling session with Katherine Hunt.

And watch the bonus footage of MaryEllen sharing her thoughts on her genetic counseling session and the procedure she needed to insert a port for her remaining chemotherapy sessions.

Missed an episode?

Please click on the following  to see MaryEllen’s journey from the beginning:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Dr Northfelt on Mayo Clinic’s Cancer Center team

MaryEllen on why she enrolled in a clinical trial

As always, please feel free to post a comment about the series or a message to MaryEllen after each episode.

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Celebrating a 5-year milestone after breast cancer diagnosis

October 12, 2010

Pansy Parker of Goodyear, Ariz., has been celebrating her cancer-free “five-year-mark” with a little partying and a lot of faith.

“I just thank God so much for the five-year benchmark,” said the ebullient 73-year-old, who threw a party and invited her Mayo treatment team to celebrate her five-year survivorship.

“For patients, the five-year mark is an important landmark,” said Dr. Richard J. Gray, a surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Associate Medical Director of the Breast Clinic. “The longer you go without any evidence of cancer, the better the prognosis.” 

In May 2005, a mammogram at another hospital detected a tumor in Pansy’s left breast. “I had been doing self-examinations. I don’t know how I missed it,” Pansy said. She sought a second opinion at Mayo with Dr. Donald Northfelt, an oncologist and co- Director of the Breast Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Pansy had “heard a lot of good talk” about Mayo, a reputation borne out by her subsequent experience even though, initially, the news was bad.

A tumor two inches in diameter was growing in her left breast. The exact diagnosis was infiltrating (invasive) ductal carcinoma. The cancer had spread to five lymph nodes in the left armpit.

“The unique or key thing about her cancer was that it overexpressed the HER-2 protein, that is a marker that indicates a very aggressive cancer,” Dr. Northfelt explained.

“She had a higher-risk cancer than the average patient,” Dr. Gray said. However, he added, “she’s an extraordinary woman and even facing this diagnosis and treatment, exuded faith and confidence and a positive attitude that was really remarkable.”

Dr. Gray and Pansy discussed her treatment options in mid-2005 and agreed that the tumor was too large for a lumpectomy. Chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor and then a lumpectomy, were considered. However, Pansy decided on a mastectomy. She would also undergo six weeks of radiation therapy and multiple-drug chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy included a year’s treatment with a relatively new drug, Trastuzumab, which Mayo had a hand in testing. Also known by the trade name, Herceptin, it “dramatically improves the outlook for women with this type of cancer,” Dr. Northfelt said.

Dr. Edith A. Perez of Mayo in Jacksonville, FL, had led a large nationwide study examining Herceptin. Dr. Perez “reported in 2005 that Herceptin with chemotherapy given to women like Pansy, could dramatically reduce her risk of relapse,” Dr. Northfelt said.

“At Mayo Clinic we remain constantly engaged in the search for better treatments through clinical trials,” Dr Northfelt  added.

Dr. Gray recalls how “positive she (Pansy) was through the whole process and how she really celebrated every step of her treatment and saw it as an accomplishment.”

Pansy expressed high praise for the Mayo team. “They have the best doctors. The care was right on time. I never had to sit around and wait for anything, including meals. They were right there to ask you what you needed.”

Reaching out to other women, as a presenter at seminars, has made her stronger.

“So many people have sickness, but it doesn’t take them out,” she says. “I don’t know whether or not it will return, but I have faith in God if it does return, I want to be prepared to accept it.”

Below is a video featuring Pansy Parker and her treatment at Mayo Clinic in Arizona

 Pansy’s story was written by freelance writer, Jim Merritt.

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Why am I a blood donor?

October 8, 2010

Berit is a high school student in Byron, MN who became a blood donor “because it is an easy way to give back to the community and people, and anyone can do it as long as you are willing to put the time into it.”

Berit initially created this video for a class, and she explains that
the teacher encouraged students to choose a subject that was near and dear to their hearts.

“We had to choose something that we had a strong feeling about and wanted other people to know about,” explains Berit. “I am hoping that each time people see it, they will become more comfortable and more willing to save lives by donating blood. Once you give blood, you feel great about it and you want to keep doing it.”

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Modifying your stroke risk

July 9, 2010

This post was written by Kristin Davies, a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

As a nurse who works with stroke patients and their families at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida, I am amazed by the control we can have over our bodies, despite their complexity. A stroke, in any form, can be a scary, debilitating prospect. However, basic awareness can offer a layer of protection that that many people are not aware of. While not all strokes can be prevented, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, limiting alcohol use, smoking cessation, and managing your stress level are all self-directed ways of protecting yourself from a stroke. Also, being aware of how your body feels and acts lets you know when something is not normal.

Whenever I have a patient who says they called 911 as soon as they realized something wasn’t right with their body, I just want to give that patient a prize – and a hug! Even if the patient didn’t know he/she was having a stroke, having the instinct to call 911 instead of saying “It will pass,” probably made the difference between a full recovery and a life-long debilitating condition.

I always tell my patients that they are the front line to their own medical care; if they aren’t aware of their body, then even the best doctor in the world can’t help fix their health problems.

Why I support cancer clinical research

July 6, 2010

This entry is written  by Brittney Head, 21, an intern at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida.

As a young woman in my early 20s, I have been consumed for the past few years with living in the moment and enjoying life to the fullest, without much thought to the future. But as a recent college graduate and a newly-married Air Force wife, I started thinking about the next chapter in my life (i.e., kids) – and with that came looking into my family health history.

My grandmother has hypothyroidism; my father has high blood pressure and I had an uncle with diabetes. (He passed away due to complications from the disease.) I know that these issues can be controlled and maintained with lifestyle changes or are treatable with the proper medications, but I knew it was important to stay on top of the risk factors.

In reviewing my family tree, I hadn’t thought about cancer until I heard an interview with George Kim, M.D., a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic. As an intern in the Public Affairs Department at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, I sat in on the interview Dr. Kim gave. I listened as he talked about the numbers of people who die every year from cancer. And I was amazed when he spoke about the more than 200 clinical research trials currently available at Mayo Clinic for cancer patients. These studies address new and innovative treatments and therapies, giving people with cancer hope and a chance to contribute to the fight against cancer.  His video is below.

As I listened to Dr. Kim speak, I thought about Jim – a man though not biologically related, who is like a grandfather to me. Jim was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008. Thankfully, his cancer was surgically treated and has not returned; but others are not as lucky.

While many people may be skeptical of clinical studies, it is through these high quality patient-oriented research trials that Mayo Clinic may one day find the cure for cancer. Research offers patients hope – hope for today and for future generations. As I look to the next chapter in my life, I know that although cancer doesn’t run in my family, I may not be immune from it. But I’m glad to know there are doctors like Dr. Kim, working on research, trying to help win the fight against cancer.

For more information about the clinical trials available at Mayo Clinic, please visit the Web.

Happy Holidays, Happy Heart

December 17, 2009

Ah, the holidays − a time when most people have added chaos in their lives. Between stressing over finances and the best gifts to buy, fighting traffic at the mall and packing the calendar with parties, it can be the complete opposite of comfort and joy. As a result, the holidays can take a toll on health problems, especially heart disease.

As an intern with Public Affairs, I recently helped organize an interview between one of Mayo Clinic’s Emergency Medicine physicians, Gretchen Lipke, M.D., and a local radio station. Dr. Lipke was sharing information about the rise in holiday-time heart attacks and stroke.  

This is a time of year when people tend to stray from daily routines. They delay exercise and go off their diets. Those with health problems may shy away from seeing a doctor because they don’t want to disrupt the festivities. But sometimes, the problems can’t be ignored.

Dr. Lipke mentioned several studies that report more people suffer from heart attacks and strokes during the holidays than any other time throughout the year. The biggest spikes are seen on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

With all of the holiday parties and family gatherings, people tend to have more alcoholic beverages than normal. This can lead to “Holiday Heart” − a condition that may result in atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm that can be spurred by binge drinking. Dr. Lipke told about a patient who was brought to Mayo Clinic’s Emergency Department with chest pain after drinking three glasses of wine at an office party.

After hearing Dr. Lipke speak of these issues, I began to think that I could unknowingly become a victim of holiday heart. Perhaps some lifestyle changes were necessary.

I have a family history of cardiovascular disease. My maternal grandfather died at age 47 from a heart attack. And I was diagnosed with a heart murmur a few years ago. Although I try to watch my diet and exercise regularly, I still indulge in a glass of wine (or two or three) on occasion. I admit to taking it easy with the dieting and exercising during the holidays, too.

After listening to Dr. Lipke, I know I need to remain conscious of my diet and cut back on the alcohol. I like Dr. Lipke, but I don’t want to ring in the New Year with her at the hospital.

♥ For more on heart attack signs and symptoms of stroke, visit www.mayoclinic.org.

♥ As Dr. Lipke advises, don’t hesitate to call 911 or get medical attention if you have chest pain, arm pain or trouble swallowing or seeing. It’s worth your life to interrupt the party.

The following was written by Cody DeSaulniers, an intern in the Public Affairs Department at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

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Walking in Rhythm

June 10, 2009

You often hear the old adage that nurses are caring and compassionate. It’s true, but what does it mean? How do you show it, how do you express it, and what defines compassion and caring? Transplant Services on Mayo 3 South on the Florida campus has a clear understanding of this terminology. (more…)