Isabella de la Houssaye — Lung Cancer Role Model

Stage-four lung cancer patient goes full throttle with children.

Today and tomorrow, we highlight two truly inspirational role modelss. One is 55 years old and battling lung cancer. The other is 21 years old with long-term heart issues. Neither has let their health problems slow them down. Bravo!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Isabella de la Houssaye — Lung Cancer Role Model

Isabella de la Houssaye is a stage-four lung cancer survivor who chooses to live life every day. And then some!! She makes the rest of us look like slackers for not doing what we set out to achieve. LOL.

Here are the highlights of her story, as reported by Rebecca Byerly for the New York Times:

“Isabella de la Houssaye raised her five children on adventure. Then came a brutal diagnosis, and a burning desire for a final journey with each one. For two decades, Isabella, 55, an outdoors enthusiast, longtime mountain climber, veteran marathoner, and triathlete, and her husband, David Crane, a top financier in the energy industry, have raised their five children, who all use the surname Crane, on adventure. These excursions, like riding horses from Siberia to the Gobi Desert, often with no one but their mother, led them to extraordinary athletic feats.”

“When Isabella’s lung cancer was diagnosed, in January 2018, she was not sure if she had months or even weeks to live. Bedridden and in excruciating pain with tumors in her pelvis, spine and brain, she qualified for a trial treatment and was prescribed two anticancer drugs that alleviated the pain and blocked the spread of cancer cells. The treatment is usually effective for 18 months, then the patient often deteriorates.”

“As her strength returned last year, she made plans to go on adventures — maybe the final ones — with each of her children, ages 16 to 25. There were lessons she wanted to share with her children about grit, persistence and mindfulness. In April 2018, she hiked more than 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route in Spain, with Oliver. Then, last June, she ran a marathon in Alaska with Cason. In September, she, her husband and three of their children finished an 80-mile ultramarathon in Kazakhstan. A week later, she and her son David completed a full Ironman — a triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run — in South Korea.”

In January, she and Bella, her third child and only daughter, traveled to Argentina to conquer Aconcagua. Technically, Aconcagua is a relatively easy mountain because it doesn’t require ropes, ice axes, or climbing skills. But it is a two-week climb that requires sleeping in freezing tents while withstanding subzero temperatures and brutal winds. Isabella, significantly weakened by chemotherapy and weighing less than 100 pounds, knew this mountain was going to inflict its pain and push her and her daughter to the edge. That was the point. This trek was an attempt to deliver a few essential lessons to her daughter while she still could, including the acceptance not only of life’s triumphs, but its woes — ‘joy and suffering alike,’ she said.”

Click the image to read more about this AMAZING woman. She is the epitome of the human spirit — and what we can accomplish if we push ourselves.

Isabella de la Houssaye -- Lung Cancer Role Model
Photograph by Max Whittaker

 

Bettering Your Immune System

Treat your immune system well!

According to the National Institutes of Health:

“The overall function of the immune system is to prevent or limit infection. An example of this principle is found in immune-compromised people, including those with genetic immune disorders, immune-debilitating infections like HIV, and even pregnant women, who are susceptible to a range of microbes that typically do not cause infection in healthy individuals.”

“The immune system can distinguish between normal, healthy cells and unhealthy cells by recognizing a variety of ‘danger’ cues called danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Cells may be unhealthy because of infection or because of cellular damage caused by non-infectious agents like sunburn or cancer. Infectious microbes such as viruses and bacteria release another set of signals recognized by the immune system called pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).”

“When the immune system first recognizes these signals, it responds to address the problem. If an immune response cannot be activated when there is sufficient need, problems arise, like infection. On the other hand, when an immune response is activated without a real threat or is not turned off once the danger passes, different problems arise, such as allergic reactions and autoimmune disease.”

“The immune system is complex and pervasive. There are numerous cell types that either circulate throughout the body or reside in a particular tissue. Each cell type plays a unique role, with different ways of recognizing problems, communicating with other cells, and performing their functions. By understanding all the details behind this network, researchers may optimize immune responses to confront specific issues, ranging from infections to cancer.”

The Mayo Clinic notes the following:

“Primary immunodeficiency disorders — also called primary immune disorders or primary immunodeficiency — weaken the immune system, allowing infections and other health problems to occur more easily. Many people with primary immunodeficiency are born missing some of the body’s immune defenses or with the immune system not working properly, which leaves them more susceptible to germs that can cause infections. Some forms of primary immunodeficiency are so mild they can go unnoticed for years. Other types are severe enough that they’re discovered soon after an affected baby is born. Treatments can boost the immune system in many types of primary immunodeficiency disorders. Research is ongoing, leading to improved treatments and enhanced quality of life for people with the condition.”

Symptoms

“One of the most common signs of primary immunodeficiency is having infections that are more frequent, longer lasting, or harder to treat than are the infections of someone with a normal immune system. You may also get infections that a person with a healthy immune system likely wouldn’t get (opportunistic infections). Signs and symptoms differ depending on the type of primary immunodeficiency disorder, and they vary from person to person.”

“Signs and symptoms of primary immunodeficiency can include: Frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis or skin infections. Inflammation and infection of internal organs. Blood disorders, such as low platelet counts or anemia. Digestive problems, such as cramping, loss of appetite, nausea ,and diarrhea. Delayed growth and development. Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes.”

Prevention

“Because primary immune disorders are caused by genetic defects, there’s no way to prevent them. But when you or your child has a weakened immune system, you can take steps to prevent infections:

        • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with mild soap after using the toilet and before eating.
        • Take care of your teeth. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
        • Eat right. A healthy, balanced diet can help prevent infections.
        • Be physically active. Staying fit is important to your overall health. Ask your doctor what activities are appropriate for you.
        • Get enough sleep. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time daily, and get the same number of hours of sleep every night.
        • Manage stress. Some studies suggest that stress can hamper your immune system. Keep stress in check with massage, meditation, yoga, biofeedback or hobbies. Find what works for you.
        • Avoid exposure. Stay away from people with colds or other infections and avoid crowds.
        • Ask your doctor about vaccinations. Find out which ones you should have.”

Other Immunity System Resources from the New York Times

To access the immunity system resources below, either click the image OR click the link of an individual resource.

Bettering Your Immune System
ILLUSTRATION BY SUPER FREAK

 

Surprising Bad Habits and Cancer

Please be good. 🙂

In prior posts we looked at: Sometimes Overlooked Cancer Causes. Can We Outsmart Cancer? And Cancer Health. Today, we examine surprising bad habits and cancer.

As Beth Ward writes for Sharecare:

“While quitting smoking and eating right are certainly important to your health, they aren’t the only habits to consider. There are many seemingly harmless things you do every day that could be bad for you—so bad that they could up your cancer risk.”

Click the image below for a short Sharecare slideshow and see  what habits you may want to rethink to stay as healthy as possible.

Surprising Bad Habits and Cancer

 

Living Better and Being Happier

I am thankful each and every day to celebrate the blessing of life.

As those of you who follow this blog know, I am a VERY lucky survivor of pancreatic cancer. On February 12, 2019, it will be four years since I had my successful Whipple surgery. My longevity is related to my embracing life and choosing happiness.

Today, I want to share a few FREE resources I have developed and tell my personal story. Why? To provide hope and serenity for anyone with a serious disease and their loved ones. We must never forget that our caregivers suffer and endure along with us.

Resources for Better Embracing Life and Choosing Happiness

After recovering from my surgery and follow-up chemotherapy, I view my life’s mission as assisting others with a terrible illness. To me, this is a responsibility that I welcome as one of the relatively few long-term pancreatic cancer survivors. In my mind and heart, I MUST give  back.

So, please take a look at these resources.

Surviving Cancer and Embracing Life: My Personal Journey

With this book, I want to share my personal cancer journey with you. I want to offer hope and support to those dealing with a terrible disease and their families. Why? To quote the late NY Yankee star Lou Gehrig when he was honored at Yankee Stadium while dying from ALS: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

The book is a hopeful, but realistic, view of my journey from diagnosis through treatment through return to work and my being able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. It has some humor and many quotes to ease the reading.

Click the book cover to download a FREE copy of the book. Then, share it with someone you love.

Embracing Life and Choosing Happiness

Living Well While Surviving Cancer

During the summer, I started a new blog to share health-related information and inspirational stories. It features infographics, videos, articles, and more. And despite the title, it relates to a wide range of health issues.

Click the image to visit the blog. Then, PLEASE sign up to follow us.

Embracing Life and Choosing Happiness

Other Resources

Finally, check out these new resources. Welcome aboard!

My Story: Live Life Every Day

In early 2015, my wonderful endocrinologist Dr. Joseph Terrana ran a routine blood test (part of my three-month testing as a diabetic). And he did not like the results. So, he sent me for an immediate CT-scan. It showed a lump in my pancreas. Soon after, I underwent 9-hour Whipple surgery by Dr. Gene Coppa of Northwell and the Hofstra Medical School. The tumor was malignant, but removed in full. After a short recuperation, I underwent six months of chemotherapy and other treatments under the supervision of Dr. Jeffrey Vacirca and his right-hand person Diana Youngs, nurse-practitioner, of NSHOA (now New York Cancer & Blood Specialists).

Why do I consider myself so lucky?

  • I was diagnosed REALLY early and had surgery shortly after. And pancreatic cancer can be a real killer because eighty percent are diagnosed too late for surgery.
  • My family and friends have been terrific every day. And I have bonded with other cancer survivors.
  • My medical team has been extraordinary. Besides being excellent professionals, they are caring and devoted. They are dedicated to making our lives as comfortable as possible.
  • I work in a profession I love. I’ve been at Hofstra University for 43 years. Except for sitting out the spring 2015 semester, I have not missed one class since since then.
  • I have a drive that encourages me to be upbeat about dealing with life’s events. Thus, I have two mantras: “Live life every day” and “Happiness is a choice.”
  • On February 12, 2019, I celebrate FOUR years since surgery. After finishing chemo in August 2015, my CT-scans have all been clean. My plan is to be around for many more years. 🙂

My personal advice:

  1. Do not avoid the doctor because you are afraid of what he/she may find.
  2. Early detection is the best way to mitigate your health problems. Have regular checkups and blood tests.
  3. Listen to the medical professionals!
  4. Surround yourself with family and friends who are supportive.
  5. Be upbeat; getting down is counter productive. [(a) When diagnosed, I set two goals: to dance at my daughter’s October 2015 wedding and to deliver a toast. Mission accomplished. I never thought these things wouldn’t happen. (b) People don’t believe me when I remark that I never said “why me”? Instead I say, “boy was I lucky to be diagnosed so early.”]
  6. Seek out your friends/acquaintances who have also dealt with cancer. They can be a wonderful resource and sounding board (when you don’t want to further burden your family).
  7. Be active. [I went to the gym while undergoing chemotherapy.]
  8. Live for tomorrow and the time thereafter. 

Pancreatic Cancer Infographic

November marks Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

As a pancreatic cancer survivor, November is a special month for me.

Pancreatic Cancer Action puts it this way:

“November marks Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, a time when people across the world come together to fight back against, and raise the profile of, pancreatic cancer! It is a time of the year when we have the most voices speaking out the disease, raising funds for early diagnosis research and raising awareness in their local communities.”

Learn more about PC by reviewing this infographic from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Pancreatic Cancer Infographic
 

Interesting Cancer Facts

Let’s look at lesser-known cancer facts.

There’s still a lot that we do not know about cancer. Today, we look at several “surprising” cancer facts. As 24/7 Wall St. notes:

“No place is immune to cancer. And nearly everyone is familiar with the disease in one form or another. We have learned much about cancer. Yet there is much more still to learn.”

“To identify the most surprising facts about cancer, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed recent reports released by the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Cancer Atlas, and World Health Organization. We opted for generally less well-known facts.”

These are among the 20 facts cited:

  • “What many may not know is that there are more than 100 different kinds of cancer, many of which the typical American has never heard of. The name of each type of cancer typically includes the organ or tissues where the cancer developed. In some cases, the cancer is named for the type of cell that forms it.”
  • “Age is the largest risk factor for cancer. According to the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program, the median age of cancer diagnosis is 66 years. The American Cancer Society reports that 87% of cancer cases in the United States are diagnosed in people 50 years and over.”
  • “According to the NCI, about 38.4% of men and women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. The most commonly diagnosed cancers so far in 2018 have been breast, lung and bronchus, prostate, colon and rectum, and melanoma of the skin cancers.”
  • “The World Health Organization estimates that 447,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2018. Most of the new cancer cases will occur in Western countries, the country with the highest cancer rate is Australia. In Australia, an estimated 468 people out of every 100,000 people will get cancer. New Zealand has the second highest cancer rate at roughly 438 new cases annually per 100,000 people.” 
  • “Scientists believe cancer is not caused by just one single cause but by the interaction of many factors. Still, there are several factors known to significantly increase the risk of cancer. According to the ACS Cancer Atlas, between one-third and one-half of all cancer cases worldwide are preventable. Lifestyle factors such as smoking regularly, eating a high-fat diet, and working with toxic chemicals are top risk factors. Other factors include obesity, vaccine-preventable infections, and pollution.

Click the image to read more.

Interesting Cancer Facts
Source: Motortion / iStock

 

In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Learn more about breast cancer!!

As we know, October is a very important time for for spreading breast cancer awareness. Thus, this post is in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Let us start with one important resource, the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Click the image to access the site.

In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

 

Now, we turn to the breast cancer section of the American Cancer Society:

“Whether you or a loved one are worried about developing breast cancer, have just been diagnosed, are going through breast cancer treatment, or are trying to stay well after treatment, this detailed information can help you find the answers you need.”

Click on the image below to learn more about the actual facts of breast cancer, instead of the

Disproven or Controversial Breast Cancer Risk Factors. There are many factors that research has shown are not linked to breast cancer. You may see information online or hear about these disproven or controversial risk factors, but it’s important to learn the facts.”

In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month