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How much does stress contribute to the onset of cancer?

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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So yesterday my husband and I were talking about the latest cancer hoax to come down the pike (the Notre Dame football player with the "girlfriend" who died of cancer right before the big game), and the following was said:

Me:  Yeah, when someone's story is full of drama, especially involving cancer, you really have to be suspicious.

DH:  Given that criteria, your whole life must be a hoax.

And you know, he's right, especially looking back at the last ten years or so.  In that time period my family's experiences have included...

a BIL dying from suicide,

a sister who died from cancer at the age of 44, only a year after dx,

my dad developing horrible health problems for two difficult, stressful years until he died,

my oldest daughter developing bipolar disorder, leading to another two years of suicide attempts, delusional thinking, and one call to 911 (you haven't really lived until you've watched your skinny 14 year old get tackled by a couple of burly Seattle cops)

my middle daughter struggling with ADD

my unplanned third child being born when I was almost 40 (that was actually a bright spot in the midst of all the craziness)

and finally, my own cancer diagnosis in '09, which of course had to be some wierd, rare, almost unheard-of form of colon cancer that the doctors had no idea how to treat.

All kind of sounds like a poorly plotted soap opera, but it's not..it's my real, actual life.

So it got me to thinking...what role does stress play in triggering cancer?  I had a freakin' boatload of stress going on, especially in the three years prior to my diagnosis, and I can't help but wonder if this played a role in the development of my cancer.  What about the rest of you?  Did you experience a period of unusually high stress before your diagnosis?  It's just my idle curiosity going here...I realize that there is very little to be done to completely avoid this kind of stress in life.

Ann Alexandria

PS Title edited to make some sense...

 

scared99
Posts: 73
Joined: Jun 2012

I think it has a huge part in cancer.   Prior to my moms diagnosis she was the care taker for both my grandparents for 10 years.  They both suffered from numerous ailments and died.   She was under a great deal of stress over this.  2 years earlier her sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and she was the one running her to all her appointments, cooking and cleaning and taking care of her.   When all the stress finally eased up... Both grandparents passed away and her sister finished her chemo she was diagnosed with cancer.  When she was first diagnosed my friend of mine put me in touch with a woman from asia who seemed very knowledgable about cancer.  She said before I even told her that my mom had to have been under a period of stress that lasted years.  She said this is often the case and from being under such prolonged chronic stress your body burns inself out and you develope a weakness in your immune system which lets the cancer develope.  

 

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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and imo, caregiving is one of the hardest things folks face in life.  When my mom was in the hospital in November, one of my sisters stayed overnight with her in the ER.  Mom was in terrible pain that wasn't responsive to opiates, so it was pretty horrible.  My sister has been having nightmares involving the hopsital (only it's her baby granddaughter in the dream, not our mom).  I think she may have some PTSD as a result of the trauma.  This can't be good for her immune system and overall health.  I'm sure that your mom was impacted in a similar fashion.

 

Sundanceh's picture
Sundanceh
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I'll let you know in March:)

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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so I'm betting those scanas are going to come out looking good!

manwithnoname
Posts: 390
Joined: Jun 2012

We lived in Spain and while my wife and kids were at the beach a phone call changed everything, my wifes dad died and we were on a plane to Israel that night, after the funeral we moved to my wifes kibbutz which started getting rockets from Hamas, Gaza is 4km away, our eldest son started wetting the bed, few months later he had a brain tumour.

Taken from his friends and home, grandads death and put in a war zone, and his Dad leaving to Spain to sort things out,  all that in a month. More stress than a 6yr old needs.

Im also looking at the relationship between anti depressents and increased survival, does depression cause a brain tumour or does a brain tumour cause depression? funny that SSRIs double lifespan in brain tumour patients, (seretonin/typtophan,  T-reg, IDO-1 connection), haven't got the details worked out yet but there is something there.

janie1
Posts: 753
Joined: Apr 2011

Thought about this a lot.  Had no deaths or sickness in immediate family. For being a happy person, I was pretty unhappy since back in elementary school.  It was all situational. Kids were mean.  Even so-called friends in high school were not loyal.  Just always had non-stop moderate stress in all phases of life.  But then doesn't everyone?  Just curious if at some point people have a break from too much stress, and that is sort of the tipping point, to where they don't get sick vs. the ones who stay stressed and develope illness.  I compare peoples lives, and my conclusion is that stress is the culprit, of course with some people, other factors contribute (i.e. genetics), but unresolved stress, can't sustain a healthy bod forever.

What makes me angry, is that I think our generation didn't have the resources to manage stress.  No one talked about it.  

What's harmful to the younger generations, is really poor diet, the even more toxic environment, nasty pollution.  All that electromagnetic field stuff.  Geeezzzzz.  If I didn't have cancer and had to be close to healthcare, I would go live out in the woods somewhere. 

Good topic, AA.   ( now I hope I don't get reprimanded for one thing or another)

manwithnoname
Posts: 390
Joined: Jun 2012

"All that electromagnetic field stuff"  very good point, there is a  study around that shows location of mobile masts increases cancer incidence, also read about schools that removed their WiFi because of problems with attention and learning that were not there before WiFi.

The generation of kids today eat terrible food and are lazy, they use screens where we used balls, if not cancer it will be diabetes or something that hits them.

 

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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here in Seattle and ended up with three generations of brain cancer.  It deos make you wonder.  And there's a cancer cluster where I grew up, a little town where mining was big business (although according to the scientists who looked at it, it's not really a cluster, but tell that to all the people in my high school who have cancer).

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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my own son has gone from a very happy 2nd grader to a miserable 3rd grader because he has a negative, unkind teacher this year.  It's kind of scary to think how the stress from our childhood may linger to haunt us, and maybe even make us ill, as adults.  I read a book a while back that had interviews with grown women talking about their social experiences as young people, and it was so sad how many still were affected in a negative way by bullying.  How I wish everyone could just stop judging and start being kind to each other.  It would be a much healthier way to live for all of us!  Hugs~AA 

luvinlife2
Posts: 172
Joined: Jul 2012

While I don't have links to any studies of this, I believe a lot of oncs agree that stress and cancer go hand in hand.  My surgeons, onc, nurses always go out of their way to create less stress for their patients.  I'm a total believer that stress brings on disease by weakening the immune system.  I'm  remembering (as I write this) a power point study that I came across a couple of years ago which showed the connection.  I'll try to find it and post the link.

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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so if you find the link and can post it, thanks!

manwithnoname
Posts: 390
Joined: Jun 2012

  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19926547

  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17334812

  If you look hard enough you will find the opposite is true...

  This is a hard thing to test, it's subjective.  I also know that shift workers have a higher cancer rate. (melatonin)

  Someone should do a study on buddist monks vs .....anyone.

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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the Japanese one was especially interesting to me, in the way that it slid out of the realm of what I consider "hard" science into something approaching the social sciences.  Some interesting cultural stuff going on there was well.

barbebarb's picture
barbebarb
Posts: 464
Joined: Oct 2011

This post certainly brings out reflective thinking.
Poor relationship with mother - realize now it wasn't me. My whole life. Cancer made me realize this and her non -emotion
Worked two part -time jobs after firstborn (have 21 and 23 year old) and I gave up a lot physically and pay potential so my ex -husband could start his architecture firm. (Currently difficult and huge mortgage on building "we " invested in which was an excellent opportunity...we failed -no tenants /construction down- he prob hid $ from me/non - communicative/he had an affair in 1999-too broke to divorce then....sure he has his gripes about me but couldn't get to the bottom of anything. Kids very active - but problems with daughter, more so. Had to call cops a couple times due to outbursts and tantrums.
Divorced in 08
Diagnosed in fall 07 w / MS
Diagnosed I colon cancer at local hospital - Feb 08 when in fact it was rectal cancer.
Stage IV - Fall 2011. Rectal cancer. Shock of course....
Have lots of different cancers on my mom's side of family - they are deceased
Could go on and on - more stress then fun - what the heck was I thinking all these years..
Yes, extreme financial stress and poor relationship with ex -husband.
Need a reiki treatment now....

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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this week!  Just bought one of those online coupons for reiki and massage.  I'm looking forward to it.  I think I read that it's Japanese in origin, and it seems like that culture often comes up with things that really help the body, so I'm hopeful.  Got to try something to deal with all my joint/muscle pain, as pain meds aren't cutting it.  It does sound like you had extra stress in your life before dx, and having cancer in the family (as do I) doesn't help.  One of my docs said "your genetics are the gun, and your environment pulls the trigger".

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Lovekitties
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While I beleive that stress can be a contributing factor, I don't see it as the actual culprit, at least in my case.  If it were, I would have had cancer 30 years earlier when my marriage was a disaster, I was left with 2 very small children to support alone and had zero assets or resources.  There were some very tough years to follow trying to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had been retired for 5 years, owned my own home and was living a pleasant and relatively uneventful life.  That is not to say there were no stressors, but none to compare with earlier life.

There are so many things in our lives which can contribute to getting cancer, but not everyone with the same conditions gets cancer.  If they ever figure out what makes that difference, maybe there will be a cure.

Marie who loves kitties

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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and there so many other factors (genetics, physical environment, aging cells, etc) that can come into play.  It's complicated stuff, that's for sure.  I wonder if getting cancer at a relatively young age, which is more unusual, has a higher correlation with stress?  Probably will never be any definite answers to all of this, but I find it interesting to think about.  I wish cancer wouldn't have reared its ugly head and messed up your pleasant life of retirement!

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pete43lost_at_sea
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was it the 10 weeks of german therapies or the peace and quiet and love i found in germany. it was stress free and positive.

stress is one of the biggest factors i feel, i posted the meditation series many months ago, that went down like a ton of bricks.

meditation and yoga and exercise help to reduce stress.

we need our immune systems firing, its an essential part of the puzzle. so many studies, but in my heart i know this is essential for me.

how we cope with challenges, ie scan results, being positive and in control and not dwelling on the things we cannot control.

in particular we can control or reaction to emotions and events, we can control our stress, we can directly support our immune system by peace of mind.

that means specifically you can change the nature and function of your immune system. visualise NK cells eating tumors. it works for me everyday.

i have gotten rid of stressful people and situations to protect my healing.

great post ann.

hugs,

Pete

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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Learning stress management techniques is so important.  I was doing qi gong for a bit, then got a recurrence and never made it back.  Need to thing about trying it again.  Right now, I rely too much on my anti-anxiety meds when stress gets bad, and that's probably not the healthiest possible approach.  And getting rid of "stressful people and situations"...so hard to do, but you're right.  Sometimes you have to take steps to protect yourself, if it is at all possible (for me it would mean disinheriting about half my family...).

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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which suggests that stress causes physical damage to our DNA, actually making the telomeres (nucleotides that cap our chromosomes, and protect them from decay) shorter.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC534658/?rendertype=abstract, 

title-

Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress

Not sure how to make that link clickable...

manwithnoname
Posts: 390
Joined: Jun 2012

i posted a link a while back that shows increased stress is better for breast cancer survival, and increased telomere length means more agressive cancer doesn't it? too late here but will look into this...

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lilacbrroller
Posts: 278
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I don't know. I have a real knee jerk "No" reaction to anything that says or implies that getting cancer is someone's own fault.  Citing stress as a cause kind of creeps over to that side.. I've read articles about "the cancer personality" which claims that being a nice accomodating, self correcting person makes one more likely to be afflicted (I don't think Steve Jobs or Hugo Chavez would fall into this category.)  I definitely believe genetics is a strong driver, and environmental factors to which we are genetically succeptble.  Stress?  I"m researching immunotherapy and want to know more about how our own immune system should be attacking the tumors and associated cancer cells. Maybe there is a connection, if stress reduces our immune response. 

I was diagnosed in June and was actually pretty content. Had a lot of stress in my 20s, but at 46 am beyond that now. No stress near to what some of you have been going through - yikes!  I would say you all are pretty hardy folks, to deal with everything you mentioned and cancer. Wow!

 

Still reading!  Let me know what you find out. I will too.

Karin

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pete43lost_at_sea
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for 17 million trained cells, get another hit in 3 weeks. this medicine is the future. see my blog.

its here now, don't wait as it cannot handle large tumour burdens.

the stress response was the first factor i asked about in my after vaccine therapy.

doc N said its important, he could not say to what exent. but his statement helped me, keep peace of mind as my number one therapy goal.

i accept i was responsible for my health before cancer, my life style contributed to it. now my life style contributes to my remission. just my opinion,  i respect your view, its different to mine and felt the same way earlier when i was 137kg. 

hugs,

Pete

 

ps this is a great post

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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to the whole "just have a positive attitude and you won't get cancer" kind of thinking.  Personally I'm a very optimistic, happy person...even when I was under tons of stress I never felt especially unhappy.  I was always able to see the positive side of things.  But what I'm getting at is more the physiological impact of stress, regardless of attitude.  That article I linked to mentions that caregivers of people with long-term illnesses lose something like 5 years of life to DNA damage, which they are assuming is caused by stress.  I think this isomething that happens to all of us, regardless of attitude.  But you're right that there are also many other factors involved in the onset of cancer...stress is just one many.  AA

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pete43lost_at_sea
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a one two punch, i made self directed change based on science like this everyday lmost in the journey.

its scary how much contrl and responsibility we have over our health and environment. thats why holistic medicine is so unpopular, its not people don't believe it that in itse;f we are called to make big changes. ie loose weight, loose wives to save lives. alas survival in our society is hardwork, cancer show this so clearly.

thanks for the study, evidence based life style is the only way to go, its like evidence based medicine. so ironic. just opinions. the last thing we want any friends here is feeling guilt or stress. relax and enjoy your days, 

my tip

next time something or someone gets you really upset, just think to your self about your life, your survival and smile and laugh. they cannot touch your heart and peace of mind if you let them.

my father in law, told me i was a useless peice of shite, that the 120,000K on german treatments a waste, that i was no good at all, he is 84 and almost dead.

its was the most disappointing things i had heard, this was in front of my mum and who was visiting. even in front of my kids. i was rattled, i did not argue back, i was respectful, said well your entitled to your opinion. we started to discussion about what would happen after he passed to his old and very ill ( mentally)) wife. he said the way i wasted money i would never be allowed to put a foot inside his house. it was hurtful. so the old mother in law is off to old peoples home at some point soon. we could not care for her, well my wife could not cope anyway.

that the beauty of life, always bringing us chsallenges, when we least expect it.

my reaction is all we control, my cortisol levels are so good, i will keeep them low. my success so far is now like a massive snowball, i know holistic works, i actually felt it while doing qigong. 

Ann go bak to qigong dearest, it might save your butt, but really do the shite, do it properly with an intensity. i will do an hour in the bathroom, like i did in the black forest.

dont just go to classes, like me, daily practice is the key,, do it at home everyday, thats my challenge, the net, csn or qigong. qigong wins each time, it shoukld but it does not.

qigong is the ultimate anti stress tool, you got it already, maybe the meds will not be necessary. they screw your brain. ok lots of brain hormones upset with meds, ie dhea, cortisol. short term may help, longer term maybe harmful. as always ask your doctor and oncologistic. its good to get opinions.

I did my brain hormone profile, it was worth the $170 euro.

watch the video "the marketing of madness", its confronting , it maybe sensational , if 5% of it is true , it scary, more than 5% and its tragic.

coloCan
Posts: 1846
Joined: Oct 2009

http:/medicalxpress.com/news/2013-01-loneliness-chronic-stress-taxes-immune.html

 

if inflammation is considered as a form of stress, that can contribute to cancer as well

 

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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Joined: Oct 2011

It's kind of fascinating how many things can affect our health, not just the obvious things like exercise and diet.  Hopefully, this board helps to alleviate the loneliness of having cancer that no doubt many of us feel.

manwithnoname
Posts: 390
Joined: Jun 2012

Very relavant for me, cytomegalovirus is found in 100% of Gioblastoma brain tumors, none is found in healthy brain tissue, there are even trials targeting this virus in anti-cancer. 

No one is sure exactly what there part is in cancer but they do alter the tumor microenviroment, and most people have this virus.

JC virus and SV40 are also found in tumor samples.

Il-6, TNF alpha , IL-1 beta are all target pathways for cancer.

I think Malcolm Gladwell wrote about a community/town in the US that has virtually no heart disease, they are very social.

 

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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it was the town Roseta, PA.  He decided that it was the social and communal nature of life in that town that led to the low rates of heart disease (although basically the whole town was populated by people who descended from one family in Italy, so I'm not sure if there's any way to disentangle the role of genetics from that of enivronment in this particular case).

janie1
Posts: 753
Joined: Apr 2011

"the whole town was populated by people who descended from one family"........

Now's there's a topic a TV series could be written about. :)

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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probably one of those reality ones that are so popular these days!

manwithnoname
Posts: 390
Joined: Jun 2012

Don't have the book at hand, gave it away, but I thought genetics had been ruled out, that the town and surrounding towns all came from the same area but Roseta was the most social. 

There is a Greek Island with a similar story http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20898379 check out the guys cancer story.

YoVita's picture
YoVita
Posts: 541
Joined: Mar 2010

Although I haven't had the stress as others have described, several years before my diagnosis, I had four or five years of extreme stress due to financial conditions which I had no control over.  I think it was the lack of control which created the stress for me.  Did my family history of cancer and that stress affect my immune system and have an impact on my diagnosis?  Maybe.  I do wonder about that.  Although my financial difficulties have been resolved, I do now try to find ways to avoid or limit stress in my life.   

bspangler47's picture
bspangler47
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Joined: Sep 2010

Hi Everyone,

Well everyone on 16 Jan 2012, I turned the big 50 and still in resmission from coloreactal CA.  So we celebrated alot on my birtthday.  I was reading some of the postings regarding stress.  I do believe it does cause alot of grief in our lives.  The type of cancer I had didnt run n my family both my Moms and Dads,  I was active duty Army, when I was about the cancer.  Yrs before that I was going thru a horrible divorce and custodu battle.  Which added more stress, had another child.  Communicated along distance betweeen work and home.  Not enough money to go around.  Then long trip rides to see family, which I was the only driver, drove from southern california to Northern Idaho.  Then PCS'd from Southern CA to El Paso Texas.  Then several trips to GA, to Northern Idaho thru New Mexcio etc.  Plus from Ft Bliss to Ft Hood several times.  That also added to my colorecation CA.  Plus being a single Mom.

 

Now I am trying to learn how not to stress out so much.  I have started to take antidepressants to see if that helps out.  Keep a positive outook

 

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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and I really admire you for going through all of this as a single mom.  My niece is raising her baby solo right now, and it's just so hard.  I have way more respect now for my own mom (parents split up when I was four), doing it all on her own.  It takes a special kind of strength to be a single parent.

jen2012
Posts: 1196
Joined: Aug 2012

Yeah not just cancer but all illness.  I don't think it's a coincidence that our son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just a couple of months after my husband's cancer diagnosis.   They say it's auto-immune and it would have come out eventually anyhow - I just think the stress made it come out now.  

And I know what you mean about the drama and being a hoax!  We have had so much happen from Sept 2011 to now that we don't even tell people any more, in fear that they think we are making things up!   It's ridiculous - I feel like we have a big ugly cloud hanging over our heads at times.  But like you Ann, one of those things being the greatest surprise of our lives....our little boy born last year when I was 43 - he's amazing and keeps us laughing! 

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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ours is now 8, and he's just the light of my life.  Never would have planned to get pregnant at 38, nine years after my last child, but it's really worked out for us.

Momof2plusteentwins's picture
Momof2plusteentwins
Posts: 446
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My surgeon told me that my tumor has been growing for years, so maybe the stress that people had years ago contributed to immune system being down and the start of a tumor.
My stress was from my first husband that I married at age 18 and met at age 15. He was 5 years older and was a cop. Our marriage was always rocky but still had 2 kids with him. He ended up having an affair for years and wanted both of us, family and mistress. I filed for divorce and he didnt like that, he stopped a women on I95 in Florida and rapping her and strangling her. I was left with a 6 year old and 3 year old and a husband with 25 years to life. Could be a book right? Well it is, Ann Rule wrote a book - "You belong to me". Enough about that, have been happily married for 19 years to a wonderful man and we have 15 year old twins.
Sandy:)

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
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Joined: Oct 2011

That is just horrible, Sandy!  What a terrible, traumatic thing for your family to have to go through.  How old are your kids from that marriage now?  Are they doing ok?  I thought my life sounded crazy, but this is a good reminder for all of us that things can be worse.  I'm just so sorry you had to expereince something like this (but am very glad it wasn't you that he murdered...as it so often is with this kind of situation).  Many hugs.

wawaju04976's picture
wawaju04976
Posts: 316
Joined: Dec 2012

Wow. I have read that book. I really like Ann Rule (sorry you had to be a subject in one of her books). I hope your older kids are doing ok.

Judy

wawaju04976's picture
wawaju04976
Posts: 316
Joined: Dec 2012

Wow. I have read that book. I really like Ann Rule (sorry you had to be a subject in one of her books). I hope your older kids are doing ok. If I remember right, I think I read it as a story in a book of some of her stories. 

Judy

Momof2plusteentwins's picture
Momof2plusteentwins
Posts: 446
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My children are doing great. I remarried when they were 10 and 7 and my husband is their only father. Tim jr is a Georgia Tech grad, a civil engineer and daughter is an accountant. Both married. I had night terrors for years, and he is up for parole next year. He could get out and I have cancer, go figure!
Sandy :)

wawaju04976's picture
wawaju04976
Posts: 316
Joined: Dec 2012

Very glad to hear your kids (all) and you are doing well!!! Keep it up...

Judy

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
Posts: 2225
Joined: Oct 2011

wanted to say I'm glad that your kids are doing well.  What a terrible, terrible thing for all of you to have to experience.  I hope your ex does NOT get parole!  A person who is capable of what he did really needs to be kept off the streets.  Hugs~AA

SharonVegas's picture
SharonVegas
Posts: 189
Joined: Feb 2012

Great topic Ann!  From my own personal experience, I'll vote yes, I think stress can be one of the factors that enables cancer cells to do thier dirty deed. Just prior to my developing pain/cancer, it was a very stressful time in my life both emotionally and financially.  Life is pretty good now........except for having cancer I mean :-)

Ron

coloCan
Posts: 1846
Joined: Oct 2009

personally disagree, pertains to job-related stress and (colon)cancer, just out this date

http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=673302

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
Posts: 2225
Joined: Oct 2011

I would like to see a similar study done in the United States.  Most of those countries have much better social systems than we do, providing more time off, job security, pensions, and most importantly, HEALTH CARE!  I have my suspicions that these numbers wouldn't necessarily hold up with a different population.  AA

herdizziness's picture
herdizziness
Posts: 3398
Joined: Apr 2010

Just did a study, and it concluded so far that stress in small amounts is necessary to keep your immune system healthy, that it sends off little spikes of something or another that is good for your body (read it in newspaper a couple of weeks ago) that LONG TERM stress was NOT good, but small amounts of stress were indeed helpful and BOOSTS your immune system.

http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/june/stress.html

Winter Marie

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
Posts: 2225
Joined: Oct 2011

like most things, best in moderation!  I have a friend whose husband worked at Microsoft as a project manager.  He was under constant stress for months at a time and had such bad anxiety that he was having fainting attacks in the bathroom at work.  That CAN"T be good for you.

Coloncancerblows's picture
Coloncancerblows
Posts: 296
Joined: Feb 2013

Stress wasn't a factor for me.  I'm 52, happily married, kids are good, parents in great health, have a great job, lots of friends....yada yada yada.  So.....when I had my first colonscopy in November, only because I had met my insurance deductible, I was completely floored when I found out I had colon cancer.  Doesn't even run in my family.  NOW I have stress!!  Kiss

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