May 06, 2010 - 10:56 pm
We had the 32nd Annual Living With Cancer Conference here in Augusta, Maine, yesterday. I gather it is the oldest in the country... I guess we got something going up here! See if your local chapter of ACS has one near you. Ours is a wonderful thing which I discovered two months after the end of my treatment and been to each year - this being my third conference.
The conference starts with a keynote speaker, has a morning workshop, lunch, a bit of entertainment, a patient panel, an afternoon workshop during all of which there is a book table, art show, art activities (Design your own mandela this year), a spa which offers short massages and waxings and many exhibits. There is a range of workshop choices and I always want to attend multiples of them. Many survivors come with friends and/or caregivers. Admission for us is free - lunch is $10. It is all just beautiful. And we get to take some kind of plant home.
My workshop choices this year were "The Long Term Effects of Radiation Therapy" (which I had requested they do) and "Treasures on Earth: Spiritual Resources for Living with Cancer". I want to share some of the first with you.
The speaker was my radiation oncologist... an awesome doc if I say so myself. He gave us a good run down of radiation as a treatment and I am glad that most of us had our treatments in the last few years because we likely had much less damage than before that. That said, he told us that vascular damage is inevitable. The good news is that 95% of us will heal from this quite adequately. However, 5% of us will not fare so well. After recovering from the burns, people will have side effects in anywhere from 2 months to 3 years. These include all the skin and colorectal problems we discuss on this board all the time and others - like neuropathy or organ damage. The potential for organ damage for us is less than in other forms of cancer than ours but this is why they try not to irradiate more than the tumor site than they have to. Most of us will know how well we rebound after about 2 years. Treatment for these injuries often is only able to address the symptoms.
They are looking for genetic keys to better tailor treatment to the patient. For instance, they want to be able to identify people whose genetic makeup resists treatment by radiation to spare them. They also want to identify those who cannot repair radiation injury. He spent a bit of time describing what genetics they expect will help and I cannot do that all here. But genetics in this manner was new to me... I only thought of genetics meaning some of us may be more prone to the disease itself. This is looking at genetics involved in responses to treatment modalities.
Anyway, I think there is good news and bad news in this - as with so much of everything. Meantime, I wanna give a shout out to Joanne- I hope you are finding the strength to "just peddle the bike" as Winnipeg's story went. Last year's keynote speaker was a survivor whose first cancer was found in 1985 at which time his prognosis was really poor but he beat it then and has been beating each one that has come along. He said he and his family have really learned to enjoy planning for just the immediate future and that, after umptedy ump bouts, he was NED last year! I hope your story will be positive in a much shorter time frame!
Am feeling pretty good tonight- waves of good spirit to you all!