Diagnosed With Cancer? Order A Bag It!

If you or someone you care about has been newly diagnosed with cancer, there is a non-profit corporation in Arizona that wants to provide you with organizational tools for managing your care plan and up-to-date treatment options. Bag It was founded in 2003 by survivors for survivors. The bag costs $35.00 and it includes a comprehensive patient navigation binder with numerous publications on coping, treatment options and care plan, current research and a calendar for appointments. Also included in the bag is a Fight the Fear USB wristband that is pre-loaded with 4 GB of storage capacity that contains helpful publications along with the ability for you to store your medical records and communications with medical providers. The company encourages donations and volunteers to help with their efforts. This is a very supportive and encouraging gift for someone recently diagnosed. For more information, check out their web site at


Melanoma Monday – Free Skin Cancer Screenings

Monday, May 2 is Melanoma Monday and it is the start of free skin cancer screenings throughout the month of May. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It not only can be found on your skin, but also inside your mouth, nose and eyes.

Know the ABCDE’s of skin cancer.

A = Asymmetry – One half is unlike the other half.

B = Border – An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

C = Color – Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red or blue.

D = Diameter – Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.

E = Evolving – A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

During the month of May in Colorado, you can receive free SPOTme Skin Cancer Screenings with these medical providers.

May 7 – Peak Vista Health Center in Colorado Springs. Call 719-632-5700

May 7 – Lutheran Medical Center Campus in Wheat Ridge. Call 303-403-3608

May 11 – Mountain Dermatology Specialists in Edwards. Call 970-926-1800

May 16 – Dorcy Cancer Center/St. Mary Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo. Call 719-557-4548


Watch Ken Burns Film On Cancer

Ken Burns, an award-winning director/producer of documentary films, has completed a three-part, six hour film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer”. It will air on PBS starting on March 30. Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist/researcher at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, published the book in 2010. Ken Burns was deeply affected by cancer at a very young age when his mother died from the disease.

The first of the three segments will take viewers back through history explaining the initial appearances of the disease through the 1960’s. Part Two will begin with President Nixon’s ‘war on cancer’ and the research funding that followed which eventually helped to increase cancer survival rates. Part Three will discuss the advancements and successes in the 21st century with new treatments and therapies as well as the future pipeline for cancer treatments.

Immunotherapy, a treatment that uses a patient’s own immune system to target and attack the cancer cells, will be discussed in the film. If you are interested in learning about the different types of immunotherapy currently available or participating in a clinical trial, visit

Liver and Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month as well as Liver Cancer Awareness Month. It may not be a coincidence that Joan Lunden, journalist and TV host, courageously posed on the cover of this week’s People magazine showing her head without any hair. She has publicly shared her journey treating Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer on her personal web site.

Breast cancer is not lacking in awareness. Breast cancer receives the most research funding of all cancers. Latest documented figures show that in 2012, $602 million was allocated from the National Institute of Health (NIH) for breast cancer research. Breast cancer supposedly kills 40,000 a year in the U.S. On the other hand, lung cancer only received $314 million in research and approximately 159,000 die annually. Similarly, colon/rectal cancer received $256 million from the NIH and 50,000 deaths are expected annually.

Most types of cancer have charity organizations that also provide money for research to find a cure. For example, the Susan G. Komen organization has raised approximately $800 million for breast cancer research worldwide. This amount adds to the NIH arsenal of funding for research. They also provide financial/social grants to families affected by breast cancer. No doubt, they are a wonderful resource for individuals dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis.

October is also Liver Cancer Awareness Month. It will be interesting to see how much we hear about this specific cancer during the month of October. Unfortunately, the press on liver cancer may get drowned out by the press on breast cancer. The NIH allocated $64 million toward liver cancer research in 2012. There are approximately 23,000 deaths from liver cancer annually in the U.S. That is half of the breast cancer mortality rate but only about 1/10 of breast cancer NIH funding. If you are living with liver cancer in Colorado, you have access to the University of Colorado Health (formally University of Colorado Hospital). This is the location of the first liver transplant performed in the world in 1963. It is also the only National Cancer Institute designated center in the state. If you are unable to travel to UCH they provide a remote second opinion program that allows you to share results and treatment options with your local physician.





Cancer Treatment in Colorado

The current August 5280 Denver magazine highlights the latest cancer treatment and research news available from Colorado experts. Many of the articles featured in this section are worth reading. However, one article specifically had relevance to me. Right Place, Right Time is about a 41-year-old Colorado resident who discovered she had Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer. Only 3.9% of late-state lung cancer patients live five more years. She is now on her 2nd year and hoping that she is one of the elite 3.9%.  Fortunately for her, she was at the right place at the right time under the care of Dr. Ross Camidge. Read a Q&A blog entry with Dr. Camidge from 2010.

Sadly, someone that I know in California passed away this week from Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer. She entered the hospital last week and received her cancer diagnosis. She passed away the same week. Unfortunately, the Right Place, Right Time was not a reality for her. A majority of our healthcare outcomes are based on attentive prevention and managing risk factors. However, even then, some of us are unlucky with the cards that we draw. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is necessary for survival. My mother also received a lung cancer diagnosis when it was discovered at Stage 2. We had 3 years to cope with this diagnosis and attempt to stay a step ahead of the disease. I hope professional advocates like me will strive to assist individuals to get in front of the best providers at the right place and right time.

Click the link below for the full article entitled Chipping Away; A blow-by-blow look at how Colorado doctors and researchers are taking the fight to cancer right now.




Acceptance of Integrative Medicine is Rising

Fortunately, for Colorado residents and many non-residents who travel to Metro Denver for exceptional health care, we have access to the many specialists who are a part of University of Colorado Health. Since 2001, under the leadership of Dr. Lisa Corbin, The Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Colorado Health provides physician-managed care that specializes in combining complementary therapies with current conventional treatments to help manage disease symptoms as well as side effects from medical treatments. Physicians are becoming more accepting and encouraging of complementary therapies to improve a patient’s quality of life as well as one’s overall prognosis.

The primary categories of complementary therapies are:

Biologic-based (nutrition, supplements), Mind/Body Techniques (meditation, guided imagery), Manipulative and Body-based Practices (exercise, massage), Energy Therapies (Reiki, Healing Touch), Ancient Medical Systems (Acupuncture, Chinese medicine).

The Center for Integrative Medicine at University of Colorado Health has providers that can help patients who are dealing with nearly any medical condition. Below is a list of some conditions they treat:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Arthritis
  • Back and neck pain
  • Cancer and cancer prevention
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain and fibromyalgia
  • Headaches and migraines
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Infertility
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep disorders
  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight management

Oncologists and cancer patients have been one of the earlier adopters to embrace complementary therapies with conventional cancer treatment. More recently, other specialists for various health conditions have come on-board since experiencing success with their patients. Fortunately, more insurance companies are covering some complementary therapies and/or providing discounts to their members.

Click the link below to read highlights on current research that is proving why many medical centers across the country are improving access to patients for integrative medicine.

Private Patient Advocates Are On The Rise

The second annual Private Professional Patient Advocates Week is March 11-17th, 2012. Private or independent patient advocates are filling a critical need in our healthcare system that families are embracing. Patient advocates help families to professionally manage the care process. Private patient advocates do not work for hospitals, insurance companies or other health organizations. They are hired directly by an individual or family member to work solely on your behalf.   

Some services provided by patient advocates include,

  • Help you prepare for and participate with you during a doctor’s appointment
  • Provide care coordination between your multiple health providers during your illness
  • Assist in researching top physicians, Centers of Excellence, and treatment options for your illness
  • Ensure that you are receiving health care and financial assistance benefits as well as support services that you are eligible to receive
  • Improve communication with your medical providers and family members to ensure that appropriate actions are being taken in a timely manner

Ken Schueler, who was considered the Father of Private Patient Advocacy, once said that cancer is like entering a foreign land. I agree with Ken that cancer, as well as other life-threatening diseases, is unfamiliar territory with its own language and protocols. As an advocate, it is my role to make the journey less intimidating and empower individuals and their families to take control instead of allowing a serious health condition to control them. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to utilize my strengths in helping people navigate to a better place. 

Click below to find more information about Private Professional Patient Advocates Week




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