Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Support For Survivors: Four Practical Ways to Support Your Loved One’s Struggle Against Cancer

 Another guest blogger.  Enjoy
A cancer diagnosis can be a very isolating experience. In hopes of sparing themselves the grief of a drawn-out “goodbye”, friends and family have theunfortunate tendency to distance themselves from their afflicted loved one.  Others distance themselves because they simply don’t know what to do to help.  Here are four ways for family and friends to support their loved one, and to lend a helping hand when it’s needed the most:

1. Volunteer to perform a simple, helpful, task and follow through.

Something as simple as providing one home cooked meal a week can make a huge difference in the lives of a cancer-stricken patient and their immediate family. Make sure to ask what would make their day-to-day life easier. Some families, for instance, might benefit more from having childcare two hours a week than from having a meal delivered. Use your imagination and feedback from the family to determine how to best contribute.

2. Coordinate efforts to obtain community financial assistance.
Cancer has a way of draining family finances, whether through an interrupted work schedule or due to insufficient medical coverage. There are numerous local and national organizations that provide money and services to individuals who have cancer. Some will even help cover the cost of car payments, rent, and other

3. Suggest support groups for cancer patients and their families.
Your loved one isn’t the only one fighting cancer. Some people take comfort inknowing that others have  fought cancer and won. Others simply don’t want tofeel like they’re the only ones targeted by the disease. Family members will find these resources useful, as the role of caretaker can often be thankless and tiring.

4. No matter how dire the situation might become, don’t disappear.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t end your relationship with your friend or family member. No matter how powerless you might feel to change the situation, it will only be made that much worse if you contribute to the isolation that commonly results from a cancer diagnosis. Having a friend who doesn’t always know what to say or what to do to help is better than having no friend at all.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at
In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and
avoiding her laptop.

Monday, July 26, 2010

WENG-AM Tampa Morning Magazine interview with Richard Spedaliere 7/21/10

Radio interview on WENG -AM Tampa on the Morning Magazine with Richard Spedaliere.  Talking about all things Cancer Warrior!

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on available on demand now and also available on Itunes

Interview on KSPI-FM Stillwater Radio Oklahoma 7/19/10

Interviewed by Chris Greenert of Stillwater Radio on 7/19/10 talking about all things Cancer Warrior!!

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on available on demand now and also available on Itunes

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Empowerment Rally Wrap up..

WOW.  So I still can't believe that I was asked to be a part of a panel for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America on social media and how to be an empowered patient.  Even when I was there I was almost expecting a knock on the door from someone saying whoops, er, ah,we didn't mean to invite you, we made a mistake...

It was such an amazing experience to be a part of a panel, and humbling to be asked.  I spent the day with four other survivors, Joe Bacal, Lani Horn, Jody Schoeger and Matt Zachary.  This was the first time I had met these survivors in real life, otherwise we have just communicated via the virtual world, texting or by phone.  Matt Zachary I have known the longest.  I started blogging on his stupid cancer blog and owe him a lot because of that.  Meeting everyone and listening to their experiences was just so awesome.

We met the pr group to go over the ins and outs of the rally, toured the hospital, which didn't feel like a hospital, learned about how the hospital was founded, and went on what they called "Hope Rounds" before the rally.

Hope rounds were my favorite.  That is where we walked around the hospital and met other survivors going through treatment, for most CTCA is their last resort, most have already been told you have 6 months to live (so they are stage 3 & 4 survivors), get your affairs in order, or have been misdiagnosed.  Meeting these people and having them share their stories was incredible. Telling them about my story gave them a little more hope, at least that is what I think.  I do hope I made an impact on at least one of the people I shared my story with.

The rally lasted an hour, all 5 of us were asked various questions pertaining to our treatment, doctors, survivorship etc.  It could have lasted all day.  We each have so much to share, so much to teach, so much to learn. 

I posted pictures on facebook of the rally and tweeted  about it.  Several people called me a hero, and said they were proud of what I do.  That makes me a little uncomfortable.

I don't consider myself a hero.  I just do what needs to be done. 

Mel is the producer/co~host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen live 10am-noon Monday-Friday on wmktthetalkstation.

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on available on demand now and also available on itunes. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Difference between Curing and Healing

Another guest blogger

The Origins of Pain
I saw a patient today who inspired me- let’s call her Sally. She suffers from a host of medical conditions that
threaten to rob you of your mojo- fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic pelvic pain. When this young woman walked into my office, she looked like crap. Before looking at her chart, I thought she had cancer. Gaunt and pale, her skin hung on her skeleton like she was in the last grip of life. During the first half hour, she didn’t smile once. I felt the anxious tug we doctors feel when we see people like this, the one that says “I’m not going to be able to help this person,” which triggers insecurities and, often, judgments, in our own minds. It becomes about us, rather than being about them. We have a tendency to turn off because we don’t want to fail. But I vowed not to do this.Sitting in her presence, I was determined to be present for Sally and sit with whatever is true, rather than letting my own stuff get in the way.

What is true for Sally is that she has spent the last decade plagued by pain, fatigue, and a body that is betraying her.She has been to universities, fancy alternative medical clinics, and specialists. Someone told her that her condition is “incurable,” and somewhere, a while back, she decided to believe them. But she never gave up trying to be well. When she came to see me for a gynecologic complaint, I heard her words, but what I saw in front of me told me that her condition was deeper than what her words betrayed. This was not about
a pain in her pelvis, this was about a core wound. I listened while she talked about her pelvis, but I focused more energy on watching her, feeling her, being with her in the moment. What rang out loud and clear was this message: “I am not well.” And yet, I could see this glowing, radiant energy beneath the surface, a vision of a vibrant, vital being, leaping in the air and spinning with glee.

Unbidden, she began to tell me about her favorite place, a remote town near Santa Fe, where she owns a vacation house. She fantasizes about quitting her job, living there full time, and spending time with animals in some way.  Currently, she owns her own business, selling software to help people maintain their gardens. She works until 2am many nights, finishing projects and meeting deadlines. A team of people bow to her leadership. Years ago, she gave birth to her company from a place of passion, but lately, she dreads everything about it. It has become her ball and chain, and she suspects it is related to her illness.

The Power to Heal
Last year, fed up with being sick, she considered quitting her job. She went as far as selling her primary residence, with the intention that she would live full time near Santa Fe. With money in the bank to help support her, she settled into a new life. And miraculously, her symptoms disappeared. For two whole months, she felt like a vibrant twenty year old, brimming with energy and vitality. She hiked every day, ate wholesome food, wrote in her journal, and meditated. “I did everything right,” she said. And her body rewarded her with new life.

Then her mother had a heart attack, and she left Santa Fe to return to California, where she is now caretaking her family. Because she is back in the area, she has resurrected her business. Within days of returning to her old life, her symptoms reappeared. She has been coming to our integrative medicine center almost weekly ever since. Her thick chart belies a series of supplements, laboratory tests, and referral letters that conclude, “There is nothing we can do.”

Yet, to me, seeing Sally for the first time, the answer is obvious. Her body has already told her what it needs to be healed. She needs to release the expectation she has placed on herself to care for her family. She needs to let go of her business. And she needs to move back to that small village near Santa Fe, where her body knows how to heal itself. Only I can’t say this to her. It is not my place to give advice. Advice implies that someone is broken- and nobody is broken.

Instead, I ask her, “What does your body need in order to get better?”

She says, “I need to find care for my mother, let go of my business, and move back to Santa Fe.”


When she says this, I see, for the first time of our visit, a faint smile. I ask her what she will do when she is there. She says, “Hike, ski, paint, play with my dog. Maybe start a new business, something related to animals.” Her smile widens. She begins to talk about the steps she would need to take in order to put this plan in place. Some steps she has already begun, as she has known intuitively what she needs to do. Within moments, she is grinning. I ask her how her pain feels in this present moment- right here, right now, and she says, “It’s gone.”

Then something shifts. A dark cloud wafts across her. She curls her shoulders inward. Her smile disappears. Her brow furrows. Sally says, “I can’t do this. And what’s the point? My doctor said there was no cure for my condition.”

Healed Versus Cured

I can’t help telling her the story of my father. Dad was diagnosed with a gigantic goomba of a brain tumor when I was 7 months pregnant. A body scan revealed that there was cancer everywhere. A biopsy confirmed metastatic melanoma, which comes with a near certain death sentence. My father, a physician who did his senior thesis on melanoma, knew the facts about his prognosis. So when he called me one morning at 4am to say that he had a vision and that God had come to him to tell him he had been healed, I groaned. “Oh no,” I thought. “The brain tumor is growing. He’s delusional. And he’s in denial.” I nodded and told Dad I was thrilled that he was healed, but I dreaded the repeat body scan that would tell him the truth. When the body scan showed that the tumors were growing, Dad got quiet. He didn’t speak of his vision again. My heart ached.

A month later, Dad failed to experience any of the expected symptoms of a gigantic brain tumor. He had no
headaches, no seizures, no vomiting, no dementia. He was plain old Dad, only with a bald head from the whole brain radiation they gave him. So when Siena was born and Dad said, “Can I go now?” I wasn’t prepared. What did he mean, “go?” What exactly did he plan to do? Dad said he was going to quit eating and die a peaceful death. Hewanted our permission. Reluctantly, we gave it.

Dad kissed us goodbye, and when I asked whether he was scared, Dad said, “I’m not scared. I’m joyful.” He kissed way our tears, closed his eyes, and died peacefully 48 hours later.

Only in retrospect did I learn a very important lesson- one that has fundamentally changed the way I practice
medicine. I realized that, in spite of my skepticism, Dad had been healed- that there is difference between
healing and curing. I always thought they were the same. Now, I realize that you can healed without being cured, and you can be cured without being healed. I spent 12 years of medical education learning how to cure people, but no one once spoke to me about healing. In fact, we don’t even use the term “Healing” in reference to patients. We might talk about a healing wound, but a healing patient? Nah. Too woo-woo.

The Whole Picture

So when that doctor told Sally that she would never be cured, he failed to look at the whole picture. Yes, there may not be a drug she can take to rid herself of symptoms permanently. But I absolutely believe that she can be healed. Her body has already proven it to her. The power to heal lies within us all, if only we tap into it.
What about you Pinkies? What needs to be healed in your body, your soul, your heart, your life? What would it take to feel better? What steps might you take to put a healing plan into place? How can we support you?

Committed to helping you (and me) heal,

  About the guest blogger: 

Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, founder of Owning Pink,   and author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There: Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bike 4 Breast cancer event

This is why I do what I do

Mel is the host of The Cancer Warrior on  Available on Demand and also available on Itunes.
Mel is  also the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen live Monday-Friday 10am-noon on

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Team

ESPN had an hour special on about where Lebron James was going to play.  An hour.   I didn't watch it but I posted on facebook and twitter about how great it would be if ESPN would donate an hour to Mandi Schwartz, about her plight, and her need to find a donor.  I got responses on facebook that I wasn't expecting. Some people seemed upset about it.  Uh its only one hour, and dude, Lebron decided around 4pm that day where he was going.  They said ESPN is a sports channel (wow now THERE'S breaking news)  That ESPN donates millions of dollars to cancer research through the Jimmy V foundation, which is totally awesome and I applaud them for that.

60 minutes was all I was saying the sports channel could donate to help Mandi, or even 30, in the mere scope of things it isn't that long.  That is about as long as we wait for the doctor, not even including the actual appointment.  It would be cool if any channel would donate an hour or even a half hour to Mandi, but I get it if you donate for one person, should you donate time for all? It could be a slippery slope.

Mandi is a hockey player, like me.  She plays at a collegiate level, ok so not like me.  I would love to share the ice with her and skate with her team, even though I would get seriously schooled by the Yale Women's Hockey team, it would totally rock.

Well now Mandi is on another team.  A team that I joined in Sept 2007 when I was diagnosed with cancer. 

A team I really didn't want to join.

But here I am.

On this team.

I hope Mandi reads this, so she knows she has people like me on her team.  There are people who were on this team before me, and unfortunately will be after me.

Since hockey is a great analogy for fighting cancer, I have just one thing to say to Mandi, and, to anyone on my team, who is on the ice,skating hard, or  battling...

I will drop the gloves for you.

For more info about Mandi:

Mel is the producer of The Vic McCarty Show. Listen Live Monday~Friday 10am-noon on

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on available on demand now and also available on Itunes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hit me baby one more time....

So my docs office called me on Saturday morning.  Yes you read that right Saturday morning. At 8:30 to give me the results of a bone scan.  Now anyone who knows me knows that if you call me that early and I answer chances are I wont have a clue of what we talked about.  I am more of a night owl, or insomniac, whichever you want to call it.  So she mentioned something about osteopenia and the scan I had a while ago.

So I fall back to sleep and when I wake up I am thinking osteopenia?  What the hell is that?  Sounds like some country in Europe, between Luxemborg and Lithuania, I was never really good at geography so I guess it could have been.

Of course I look up osteopenia. I am a internet junkie, of course I am going to look it up.  It is defined on Web MD as: Osteopenia refers to bone mineral density BMD  that is lower than normal peak BMD but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis.

So let me get this straight. I finished up the shitty part of my treatment in mid 2008.  I get a bone scan and find out that I have another side effect.


While I know that this was a possibility, once again going back to the "menu" of side effects that the docs give you while you are going through treatment I didn't expect it. I expected to be finished.  Done with side effects.  I still have lingering neuropathy that shows up every once and a while like an unwanted house guest and sometimes stays like one too.

Getting another side effect is like getting punched in the face without expecting it. Except, with that the black eye you may get will go away. Osteopenia  however stays with you.  Yes I will take more pills (oh goody just what I wanted to do spend more fucking money on meds and take more fucking pills) and do weight bearing exercises (walking, which I find extremely boring and tedious, and no there will be no running, not with these knees)  to help offset the osteopenia.

Sometimes I wonder why my body hates me so much. I have been pretty good to it, (well we wont talk about those college days, that is just to be expected, and what happens in the dorms stays in the dorms)  It attacks me with cancer (overproduction of cells)  My immune system attacks me (hypothyroidism) I have vitamin d deficiency, I have no clue how I got that besides I am not outside enough?    My mind attacks me with depression.

It is very frustrating to think you are out of the woods only to look up and see more trees.

Like I always say:

Cancer, its the gift that keeps on giving

Mel is the co~host/producer of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen live 10am-noon eastern time on 

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on Available on demand and also available on itunes.