Casey’s Story: Learning she has cancer for a second time

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I have always considered myself a normal girl with a fairly normal life.  Married to a great guy. I am healthy and active with 3 kids and a precious granddaughter who, along with my husband, are the loves of my life.   We have lived in Knoxville for the past 18 years and feel blessed to have found this great part of East Tennessee to work, raise our kids and find wonderful friends.  I have been working at Provision for two years now as a Care Coordinator, a position that I feel very comfortable with since I am a breast cancer survivor and can easily empathize with the patients. Recently, after two years at this job I love, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer.  Although I have never blogged a day in my life, when presented with the opportunity to share my journey and my point of view from both sides of treatment, I thought it would be another way to help others facing cancer and radiation therapy – and for that reason, I was all in.

In 2012, while busy raising my then young teenagers, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. My particular diagnosis required a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, and subsequent  chemotherapy and immunotherapy.  Relatively straightforward and at times challenging, but doable.

As a Care Coordinator, we are often the first person an individual who has been newly diagnosed with cancer or a concerned family member or friend speaks with when they call Provision CARES Proton Therapy for information.  Almost always, this person is anxious, scared and uninformed about their illness.  We do our very best here at Provision to provide a compassionate ear while collecting patient records and facilitating a consult date so that our radiation oncologists, clinical nursing and radiation therapy teams can address the patient’s treatment needs in a timely manner.

To hear for the second time in 6 years, “you have breast cancer” is enough to rock anyone’s world.  I heard this news in the fall of 2018. Now, this mom of 3 children and one beautiful 6-year-old grandchild, was full of shock, fear and dread of what was in my immediate future: a whole lot of treatment that would NOT BE FUN and would cause me to again, lose my hair and my energy.  And then maybe eventually… my life.  We knew nothing at this point only that here we were AGAIN.  It was a very dark time for my family.  And for me.

Once the shock wore off, the Care Coordinator part of me began to surface. I knew immediately what I had to do to combat this disease for the second time.  After a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction in 2012, along with chemotherapy, I realized that radiation therapy would be in my immediate future.  Recurrent breast cancer requires and arsenal of incredibly bright practitioners, along with state-of-the-art drugs and treatment.  I knew right away that with left sided breast cancer, Proton Therapy is the recommended treatment in order to spare the heart and lungs from unnecessary radiation exposure.  I knew that we (Provision) had a brilliant clinical team and a caring and conscientious support staff, state of the art technology and extensively trained radiation therapists.

This was not going to be a sprint…. but more of a marathon.  As a former triathlete of 30+ years, I tend to think of things in segments or parts.  Chemotherapy was the swim portion of the race.  I hated getting in the pool, but knew I had to put the time in.  Biking is fast and deliberate, and I related that to my surgery.  Let the surgery be seamless and without complications  (no bike wrecks).  Get that cancer outta there!   The last part of a triathlon is the running segment and I compare that to my upcoming radiation treatments.  At this point you are tired and simply want a cold drink and some shade. But one must push on at this point and finish strong.  Just like you surround yourself with training partners you trust and who make you feel good about your efforts, the same is true for your radiation treatment team.

I knew, without a doubt, that I would be well taken care of at Provision from start to finish.  With all of this in mind, I also feel that everyone’s cancer journey is different.  In this series of blogs, I’m sharing a little peek into my journey which I hope will give you or a loved one faced with a cancer diagnosis some peace of mind and maybe a smile along the way.

To continue to follow my journey and read updated blog posts, please follow Provision on Facebook.

 

Breast Cancer Fighting Nutrients and Where to Find Them

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Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. However, with today’s knowledge and resources, cancer diagnoses are gradually becoming fewer and fewer.

While cancer is not preventable, today’s nutritional science shows that a strategic diet can be one of the biggest factors in minimizing the risk of breast cancer. That’s right — research has repeatedly shown that certain foods can act as preventative medicines. In fact, changing what you eat and how you exercise can prevent up to 30% of breast cancer diagnoses.

No food item can prohibit cancerous cells from developing, but there are a few that can significantly lower the risks of developing cancer. Foods high in fiber, like beans, nuts, and whole wheat bread can help lower amounts of estrogen, reducing the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, foods like salmon, walnuts, and oysters can help produce Omega-3s, essential fatty acids that aren’t produced naturally in the body. These fatty acids help with inflammation, which can easily damage healthy tissue. Sulforaphane, found in arugula, cabbage, and broccoli, and carotenoids, found in carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, have both been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer in increased levels.

While no one cancer case is the same, those who have increased intakes of these types of foods and nutrients have been shown to have an overall lower risk of developing breast cancer. A well-balanced diet and exercise routine is important for a lot of things: physical strength, heart and organ health, and mental health.

This goes to show that the food you choose to eat and how you treat your body has more of an impact than people may originally think. Continue reading to learn more about what specific foods and nutrients can help thwart a breast cancer diagnosis.

breast cancer fighting nutrients

how to reduce radiation-induced heart disease

The Heart of the Matter: Proton Therapy Can Prevent Radiation-Induced Heart Disease

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Content and information provided by Rebecca Bergeron, RN, BSN, OCN Director of Clinical Services for Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville

February is American Heart Month, and it is the perfect time to talk about preventing unnecessary radiation dose to the heart, often times causing radiation-induced heart disease. When people begin their fight against cancer, they are most likely not thinking about reducing their future risk of heart disease; however, this is certainly something we are thinking about at Provision CARES Proton Therapy.  (more…)

Remembering caregivers

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When someone is diagnosed with a disease such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, they do not suffer alone.

In fact, 39.8 million caregivers provide unpaid care to an adult with a disability or illness—or 16.6 percent of Americans—according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. For those who live with the one they’re caring for, the responsibilities become a fulltime job, with spouses or children or partners averaging more than 44 hours per week in meeting a wide-ranging set of needs. These can including everything from feeding and dressing to shopping and paying the bills. (more…)

National particle therapy conference boosts proton therapy’s profile

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Proton therapy got positive billing at the recent Particle Therapy Cooperative Group, as researchers from across the country presented findings that showed proton therapy reduced potentially life-altering side effects and improved survival rates for cancer patients.

The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) released a summary of the results, which included the findings of studies focused on esophageal, prostate and breast cancer. (more…)

Breast cancer awareness—know your options

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Sometimes people just get the genetic short end of the stick, but you’d never know Tammy Coleman was one of those people.

Her upbeat personality and contagious enthusiasm belie two heart attacks, a stroke, congestive heart failure and complications related to high blood pressure. And that was all before she was diagnosed with breast cancer—something that ran in her family.

Genetic testing revealed her as the recipient of a genetic mutation that made it highly probable she would develop ovarian cancer too, so within one day Coleman received a double mastectomy and complete hysterectomy.

She had to do chemo, and doctors recommended radiation as well. Because of her existing health problems, particularly related to her heart condition, specialists recommended proton therapy. The targeted nature of protons allow for the benefit of radiation therapy without the collateral damage to surrounding healthy tissue in heart and lungs. (more…)

Local program combines PSA testing with blood donation

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This year Eddie Check is doing the same thing it’s been doing for the past 14 years: providing prostate cancer screenings and blood donations to the people of East Tennessee.

This year’s event kicks off Thursday, Sept. 14, and will be hosted at 12 sites throughout the Knoxville region on Thursday and Friday. The event offers free PSA screenings to men over 40 years old—blood donations encouraged but not required. (more…)