Cancer and Blood Disorders

All Articles in the Category ‘Cancer and Blood Disorders’

Conquering Childhood Cancer: An Inside Look at Seattle Children’s Cancer Care Unit

In the video above, take an inside look at Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Cancer Care Unit and meet the individuals at Seattle Children’s dedicated to helping children and teens conquer childhood cancer, the second leading cause of death in children ages 5-14.

Tour the country’s first adolescent and young adult cancer unit thanks to a guide who knows the unit all too well, a former patient. See first-hand the cutting-edge research that is saving and enhancing the lives of children and adolescents – from using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer to a relatively new form of radiation therapy that offers hope to children with recurrent neuroblastoma. Read full post »

Clinical Research: What Would You Do if it Were Your Child?

Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the medical leader of Seattle Children's Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program

Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the medical leader of Seattle Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program

After a child has been diagnosed with cancer, one of the first conversations we have with families is about clinical research. In fact, almost all children with cancer have the opportunity to participate in research, and many parents are asked to make decisions about enrollment early in their child’s cancer experience. The question we as researchers have to ask ourselves: Is this unfair? Parents are already struggling with the nearly impossible tasks of accepting their child’s cancer, assimilating huge amounts of new (perhaps confusing) medical information, and uprooting their lives to meet the demands of illness. Can they also make educated decisions about enrolling their child in clinical research?

Many ask, “What would you do if it were your child?” The question is not surprising; parents often make cancer-treatment decisions by “trusting staff.”1 Unfortunately, the answer is often, “I don’t know.” And that answer is true.

We don’t know how it feels to walk in your shoes, with your family’s values, perspectives and relationships. We also come from a different perspective, one where research is embedded in our training and guides almost all of our medical decision-making. We believe in research, but we don’t want to bias you with that belief. (As an aside, I’m pretty sure that all of my training and perspective would be forgotten if it were my own child, and I would ask the very same question of my medical providers. Like you, my single goal would be to do the right thing for my child.)

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New Radiation Therapy Gives Hope to Children with Neuroblastoma

Rene Soto Taylor has done his best, and has put in his all to overcome cancer. At only 8 years old, he’s been through countless treatments to try to rid his body of the most common and most difficult type of solid tumor to treat in children – neuroblastoma. Today, Rene is hoping doctors have finally found the treatment that will conquer his disease: I-131-MIBG therapy.

A relatively new form of therapy, I-131-MIBG therapy delivers radiation directly to tumors, killing the cancer cells. This type of therapy concentrates the radiation at the site of the cancer, which means fewer long-term risks for patients. Read full post »

Teen Preserves Dreams of Motherhood After Cancer Relapse

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Shannon Keating, 16, before cancer diagnosis.

Shannon Keating always imagined that she would be a mom some day, but she didn’t expect she’d be treated at a fertility clinic at age 17. Shannon was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma as a high school sophomore, was successfully treated and then relapsed nine months later. As she prepared to fight for her life a second time, experts at Seattle Children’s Hospital helped her preserve her dream of being a parent one day.

A devastating diagnosis

Shannon was first diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in March 2013, after she discovered a lump on her neck. The treatment was six months of less-aggressive chemotherapy that oncologists did not believe would affect her fertility.

“I was relived that this therapy was less toxic, but when it was finished I didn’t feel like I was done,” Shannon said. “I had this feeling hanging over my head. I believed my cancer would come back.”

Unfortunately, Shannon was right. That December, her cancer relapsed. Facing a life-threatening illness once again, she learned her second round of treatment would be more aggressive and could cause infertility. Doctors offered her the opportunity to freeze her eggs so that she might later become pregnant using in-vitro fertilization, but Shannon was initially overwhelmed. Read full post »

How Cancer Shaped Heather Into Who She is Today

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, 26-year-old Heather Wick talks about having cancer at the age of 18 and how the experience influenced who she is today.

Heather Wick with her son Daniel

Heather Wick with her son, Daniel

Until beginning to write this post, I had never really thought about how generic introductions are. Name, age, job title, where you live, whose wife or mom you are…how much do you share to tell a person who you are? My introduction is fairly typical, Heather Wick, 26 years old, nanny, lives in Monroe, Alan’s wife and Danny’s mom…oh and CANCER SURVIVOR.

At this point in exchanging pleasantries I often get, “Oh my gosh… you had cancer?! You’re so young!” and then I begin to walk my curious new friend through my journey. Why don’t I just leave out the cancer survivor bit and make things quick and simple you ask? Well because I am proud to be a cancer survivor. That title is as much a part of me as my name is. So, new friends, I invite you to walk through a shortened and condensed version of my journey here, on the blog for the hospital that saved my life.

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Transplant Saves First ‘Bubble Boy’ in Wash. State Detected with Newborn Screening

This is a special guest post from JoNel Aleccia, staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. See the original article and photos here.

Rachel Dixon holds her son Ezra, who was born with severe combined immunodeficiency. SCID affects about 1 in every 50,000 babies born in the U.S. Nearly two months after having a life-saving bone marrow transplant from his brother, Judah, he's doing well. Photo courtesy of  Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Rachel Dixon holds her son Ezra, who was born with SCID. Nearly two months after having a life-saving bone marrow transplant from his brother, he’s doing well. Photo courtesy of Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Ezra Dixon was born April 7, four months after the state of Washington first starting screening newborns for the disorder commonly known as “bubble boy disease,” which leaves its patients at the mercy of common germs.

Some 22,610 babies were tested before him and more than 28,000 have been tested since, all negative, health records show. But Ezra is different.

The bald, blue-eyed boy is the only child in the state so far diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, detected through the program.

When staff at the Washington State Department of Health Newborn Screening Lab analyzed the drop of blood pricked from his heel shortly after birth, they found none of the T-cells that protect the body from infection, a certain sign of the rare disorder.

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Remembering Daniel and the Legacy He Left Behind

Daniel Mar

Daniel Mar

In my last post about “The Fault in Our Stars,” I made a comment about how most patients live, if not thrive after their cancers. I am deeply grateful for the readers who correctly commented that some patients also die.

There are no words to express how tragic, painful, or unjust, the death of a young person from cancer can be. I particularly appreciated these comments because they came a day after the death of one of my own, and very beloved, patients. I wrote this memoir the day he died. With his parents’ permission, I am sharing a few pieces of his story, his legacy, with you.

Remembering Daniel

Daniel Mar died early this morning at the age of 20. He was one of my first patients as an independent oncologist. For that alone, I could say he will not be forgotten. Daniel was a “patient” simply because he happened to have cancer; terrible cancer that ultimately took his life. But beyond that, he was so much more. He was an advocate. A son. A brother. A devoted friend. To me, he was my muse. My teacher. And, through it all, my friend.

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The Fault in “The Fault in Our Stars”

I loved “The Fault in Our Stars.” Both the book and the movie. I read the book a few years ago during a flight. I cried so hard that I’m sure the other passengers were alarmed, if not downright uncomfortable sitting near me. This summer, I saw the movie with a girlfriend. Same thing – I went through a whole pack of tissues and left red-faced, swollen and physically dehydrated.

As we walked out of the theater, my girlfriend (also a pediatrician) turned to me and said skeptically, “I don’t get it, Abby. Why are you so emotional? Isn’t this what you DO for a living?”

The answer is yes. Taking care of teens and young adults with cancer is what I do. And, perhaps, that is why this book/movie hit me so hard. For one thing, we oncologists are often so busy thinking about chemotherapy and side effects, we don’t see the other side of cancer. We get to know our patients and families, but we see them in the contrived settings of clinic and the hospital – not at home, amongst their friends or on a trip to Amsterdam. We aren’t always privy to their witty internal monologues or their poignant observations about the injustices of life, the things that really matter to them, or the life lessons they’ve learned during their arduous journey with cancer.

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Study Helps Teens Cope with Stress of Cancer, Diabetes

blogpic1The teen years can be difficult– you’re fighting for your independence but still trying to develop an identity. And your 20s come with their own obstacles, like going to college, starting a career and living on your own. Can you imagine facing those developmental milestones while injecting yourself with insulin or enduring chemotherapy?

Dr. Abby Rosenberg, medical leader for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program and researcher in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research, and Dr. Joyce Yi-Frazier, research health psychologist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, have seen teens with cancer and type 1 diabetes struggle physically and psychosocially. Adolescents and young adults with cancer are less likely to achieve social milestones like college, marriage, and employment and more likely to suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Likewise, teens with type 1 diabetes struggle to control their blood sugar levels and are more likely to be depressed.

“The teen and young adult years are a critical time of transition for anyone,” Rosenberg said. “When you add a serious illness to the mix, you are asking patients to do extraordinarily hard things. We want to help them integrate the experience into their identity so they are not only surviving, but thriving.”

An intervention model

To help patients, Rosenberg and Yi-Frazier worked together on the Promoting Resilience in Stress Management (PRISM) study. PRISM is an intervention model designed to teach patients resilience – the ability to maintain psychological and physical well-being in the face of stress – to buffer the impact of serious illness. Read full post »

New AYA Cancer Leader Helps Teens and Young Adults Balance Life with Cancer

Dr. Abby Rosenberg recently assumed a leadership role in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She is also a researcher in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Dr. Rosenberg happens to love to write, so she’ll be contributing to On the Pulse from time to time. Below, she talks about her own experiences as a teen, and what it’s like for teens with cancer to balance those struggles while battling a serious illness.

Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the new medical leader of Seattle Children's Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program

Dr. Abby Rosenberg is the new medical leader of Seattle Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program

It is with excitement and some nervousness that I begin my role as the new medical leader of our Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Why am I nervous? I love working with teens and young adults. But, I also remember my own adolescence and young adulthood. It wasn’t easy. I was socially awkward. Painfully insecure. A little bit lonely. I was a good student, a decent soccer player, and (unfortunately) an inconsistent friend. I wanted desperately to fit in, but never quite did. I believed that each boyfriend was “the one”…until suddenly he wasn’t. I fought with my mother constantly; I wanted her to be my friend and never would have admitted that I really needed her to be my mom. I couldn’t wait to move out, to be independent, to prove to the world that I was somebody.

Adolescence and young adulthood is a period of life that is supposed to be characterized by struggle. Maybe that sounds melodramatic, but I think it’s true. It is the time when we develop our self-identities. Our independence. We navigate peer relationships. Romantic relationships. Family and community roles. We begin to set our educational, vocational, and other life goals. We take on real responsibilities. Put bluntly, we grow up.

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