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  • Herbal Supplements are Most Popular CAM

    Posted 4/22/2014 by hhill

      This probably isn't a surprise to anyone, but a recent study suggests both that most people going through cancer treatment use some kind of CAM (complementary/alternative medicine) treatment as well as the standard therapy. It also indicates that herbal supplements are the most popular. That is worrisome to me, as there is the constant question re what exactly is in some of those herbal supplements and might they interact in a negative way with chemotherapy or radiation therapy?

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  • Working Through Cancer

    Posted 4/21/2014 by hhill

      This is another workhorse (sorry, couldn't resist) topic. For many of us, the question about whether we can and should and want to work through treatment is complicated and compelling. Some of us are fortunate to have a choice, meaning that we have supportive work environments and colleagues and benefits that enable us to consider taking time away. Others feel that they have no choice; if they don't work, there is no income. And still others work somewhere that feels impossible while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 

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  • Thinking about Cancer

    Posted 4/21/2014 by hhill

      First, an apology. I did not write yesterday as the computer access from our cottage was totally impossible. After an hour struggling with the system, I gave up and promised myself, and you, that I would do two today after we got home. Should you be interested (and I can't imagine why you would be), the problem is that the best available internet connection is via satellite, and that is dicey at best and affected by weather. If there are lots of clouds, you can forget it. Then, once a connection is made, I still have to set up the remote access to my hospital computer and then get through two fire walls to access the blog. 

      Today's first offering is about thinking, musing, obsessing about cancer. All of us recall the first days when every thought, every moment, every sentence was about cancer. I remember my long-suffering husband saying one night at dinner: "Do we have to talk about cancer again?" And the answer was "yes", and, because he is a lovely man, he tolerated it. Supported it and me even.

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  • Stick on Nipples and Tattoos

    Posted 4/19/2014 by hhill

      Hoping that the title made you smile. I am writing from our Maine Cottage where the internet is working as well (read: very poorly) as ever, but I am so very happy to be here. We drove up yesterday and maintained the family tradition that plays out whenever we come. Upon crossing the the bridge from Trenton to the island (MDI), we roll down the car windows, take deep breaths  of the sea and pine-scented air, and yell "Hurray!". Even the dog perks up and wags her tail. We have spent the day stocking up on groceries and meeting with the wonderful caretaker and making a few minor repairs and eating fried clams. And now I am sufficiently replenished and relaxed to take on this painful internet connection.

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  • Follow up After Breast Cancer Treatment

    Posted 4/17/2014 by hhill

      This is a second (a bonus?) blog for today. Tomorrow we are traveling to Maine to open our beloved cottage for the season, and I know it will be hard to find time to make the daily entry. One real uncertainty is whether the internet will be working when we get there; it is never very good, but, after a long and hard winter, it is may be completely messed up. If that is the case, I will be back to a library visit to write the blog, and I know that won't happen tomorrow.

      This second topic today is follow up for women after adjuvant breast cancer treatment. Over the years of my employment, standard follow up has changed a great deal. Thirty years ago, women had annual bone scans and chest x-rays, in addition to a lot of blood work, after treatment ended. Perhaps five years later, the bone scans were stopped unless there was a specific concern; the annual chest x-rays continued until about fifteen years ago. Now, the ASCO recommendations are simple: annual mammograms (and perhaps annual breast MRIs for women at high risk) and an appointment with your doctor for a conversation and an exam. That's it. If you are interested in their guidelines: http://www.asco.org/quality-guidelines/breast-cancer-follow-and-management-after-primary-treatment-american-society

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About the Blogger

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C is the Manager of Oncology Social Work at BIDMC. For more than thirty years, her daily work at BIDMC has been primarily focused on supporting women with breast cancer. A nationally known writer and speaker, she was the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's first Hatcher Survivorship Professor. In 1993, and again in 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through the standard treatments of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormonal therapy. These experiences have given her great credibility with her patients and transformed her life's work to her life. Ms. Schnipper lives gratefully with her husband in an ancient farmhouse outside of Boston and spends as much time as possible in a water front cottage on Mt Desert Island. Between them, they have five adult children and seven grandchildren; she claims biological responsibility for two and three of them.