Remembering Joani Gudeman (1964-2014)

July 27, 2014
Joani was a wonderful advocate; she's shown here participating in a 2013 video

Joani was a wonderful advocate; she’s shown here participating in a 2013 video

We are sorry to share that our friend and fellow board member Joani Gudeman died Friday, July 25, 2014 at age 50.  There will be a memorial service for Joani at Chicago Sinai Congregation, 15 W Delaware Place, Chicago on Friday, August 15 at 10 a.m. All are invited.

 

Joani told her story as the one of the patient introducers at MBCN’s 2013 conference in Houston. “I’m Joani,” she said. “I’m a wife, mother of two teenage boys, a dog lover, mystery reader, a vegetarian, trained listener, board member of MBCN and a person with metastatic breast cancer.”

 

In those few sentences, Joani set out her priorities: family first and cancer last. It is also telling that, with typical modesty, Joani referred to herself as a trained listener. Until recently, Joani was a practicing psychotherapist.

 

Originally from the Northeast, Joani came to the Midwest to attend Lawrence University in Wisconsin. From there, she went on to Chicago to attend the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Professional Psychology.

 

Although her official capacity with MBCN was Chair of Outreach and Volunteers, she also served in an unofficial capacity as a diplomat, consensus builder and in-house counselor. She patiently assessed and addressed the issue at hand. If the solution meant extra work for her—such as painstakingly reviewing and revising a lengthy and technical patient publication, she neither complained nor sought the accolades she deserved. She just did it.

 

“Our work together has helped me in so many ways,” Joani told us a few weeks ago. “Not only have I learned so much from each of your incredible talents and skills, I have been touched by your passion, love and commitment.  Working with you all gave me purpose, provided needed distraction and pushed me to expand myself in new ways.”

 

Joani touched us all in so many ways. In one of my last email exchanges with her, I told Joani I was thinking of her as I wrestled with some outreach tasks she previously handled. As I dealt with one particularly challenging call, I had to contain my impatience. I told Joani I needed a WWJD bracelet: What Would Joani Do?

 

That is a question we will be asking ourselves often in the weeks and months to come. Our heartfelt condolences to David, Jacob and Samuel and all of Joani’s family and friends.

 

–Katherine O’Brien
Secretary
MBCN

 

Interment will be private. A public service celebrating Joani’s  life will be held shortly. We will  share the information when we receive it.

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What makes a cancer a cancer? The hallmarks of cancer.

July 18, 2014

Good overview of cancer basics.

Antisense Science

Cancer – the ‘C word’ in far too many of our lives. Wherever you are, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to avoid the news reports and personal stories about people fighting against cancer. Understanding how the disease occurs and how it takes hold over the body is key for developing effective new treatments and managing patients in the clinic, and so huge amounts of money are invested in cancer research every year. But what actually is cancer and how does it develop?

Many people often think of cancer as unwanted growth – which is exactly right. Cancer is a disease of cell growth and division, where cells continue to grow and divide in an uncontrolled and indefinite manner. In solid tumours, the growing mass can be seen or felt as lumps and masses, whereas with non-solid cancers like leukaemia the cells aren’t in a single mass but are instead spread…

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Sheila’s Journey to Fight Metastasized Breast Cancer

July 2, 2014

Editor’s note: We are pleased to post this guest blog by Sheila Ghosh from the Netherlands, who wrote in response to an email from MBCN president, Shirley Mertz.  Sheila reminds us that mbc affects women around the world. We tend to get US-centric, but Sheila’s experience resonates with all of us. You can follow her blog at http://sheilaghosh.com/ or on twitter: @sheilaghosh.


Dear Shirley,
Thank you so much for your e-mail asking for people who wish to share their story. I would very much like to share my story with others.

ImageFirst of all, I am living in Europe, in The Netherlands to be exact. I went to college in the US and lived in the US for 11 years, although I’m a Dutch citizen.

I don’t know if you would want a story from Europe, but I follow MBCN and would like to have a chapter or network like MBCN here in Europe.

My story is one of hope and my recovery feels like a miracle to me.
I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in July of 2012, at the first diagnosis, when I was 42. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. Also, I didn’t feel anything in my breast because I was checking for lumps, whereas this tumor felt like my breast bone (upper part of right breast.)

The metastases were spread all throughout my liver, so that it was one and a half times as big, like a deflated soccer ball. My liver was in such bad shape that hormone treatment wasn’t an option because it takes 6 to 8 weeks to start working and my liver was barely working (bilirubin at 50). After the first 10 weeks of weekly chemo’s (AC) didn’t work well enough, I got very sick from infections due to neutropenia. I could not eat or talk because of the mucositis and stomatitis. Meanwhile, my oncologist thought the cancer was growing and didn’t have much hope. I did not think I would live till Christmas of 2012.

Fortunately, I was transferred in October to the National Cancer hospital where I was given Mitomycin-C locally in the liver. Two treatments and two months later the results were so good that much of the cancer in the liver was replaced by scar tissue. The liver stabilized and I could eat and talk again. From January 2013 I took Xeloda which reduced the cancer in the breast and since May 2013 I’ve been on hormone therapy (Letrozole). I’ve been in menopause due to the cancer, not the chemo.

I’ve gone back to work – I work as a IT architect contracting for the government – and have been getting back in shape by exercising and eating healthy. Most of the time I feel great. I look good again and can function almost as before. My message to others is that there is life after hearing you have metastatic cancer, and with the right treatment and frame of mind and support more is possible than you would expect. I’m not cured – the cancer is there but inactive – so as long as the hormone therapy works I’m fine.

I also am part of a social network of other women with mets here, because there are very few resources for people like us. What bothers me especially is that patients with mets often don’t seem to count. The images and fundraising campaigns in the media suggest that either you can be cured (stages 1-3) or else you face imminent death (stage 4) and this frightens people. Research results and treatments for metastasized breast cancer are not easy to find here and there’s a big gap in knowledge between oncologists and hospitals. The many regulations slow down research projects and make the drugs exorbitantly expensive. Still, I am extremely grateful for this second chance I’ve been given and it has made me value my husband, family, nature, friends and my life so much more, I’ve taken up windsurfing and writing and work less.

That’s my story. I’ve been writing about my experiences at http://www.sheilaghosh.com in case you’re interested. This is a public site so feel free to use anything that you find interesting, with a citation/ reference. I hope you don’t mind but I am publishing this letter on my blog so others can follow. If you do mind, let me know and I will remove it.

Please let me know if I can help in any way.

Kind regards,
Sheila Ghosh
The Netherlands

Energy and persistence conquer all things

Editor’s Note: If you enjoyed Sheila’s story, please consider sharing yours. Email your story (500 to 800 words, max) to us at mbcn@mbcn.org. Include your name and phone number–and don’t forget the photo!