Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Chemo Diaries: Year One Retrospective

It has been slightly over one year since my diagnosis, and I am in my twelfth month of chemotherapy infusions. I find it fitting that this timing coincides with Lung Cancer Awareness Month. To celebrate, or honor, or whatever you do for these types of anniversaries or milestones, I have decided to take a look at the previous year in pictures. This isn’t so much a vanity issue, though you will notice that the pictures are basically just of me, usually smiling and trying to look presentable; the greater point of the images is to watch the progression (or, occasionally, lack of it) in my appearance from infusion to infusion.

In November of 2014, I received my diagnosis after several months of feeling ill (for mostly unrelated issues) and having little or no energy or stamina. Ironically, when the testing and scanning began in earnest in September, I had begun to incrementally improve. Every time I was irradiated for a glance within, I left the imaging center feeling better. My breath had been quiet short in August and September, but by October I was noticing an improvement — a small improvement, but enough of one to give me the notion that I was “getting better” from whatever was ailing me. Still, I wasn’t in the best of shape, and I had been spending the previous months worrying progressively more about just what could be going on in my lungs. I had spent more time doing research on the Internet than I probably spent in the college library system during my entire four-year stretch. (Okay, not just probably; I did not take advantage of the old stacks the way I should have, and that remains one of my biggest regrets about those college years — funny the things we grow nostalgic for as we “mature.”)
Continue reading The Chemo Diaries: Year One Retrospective

Advocacy and Enlightenment on Lung Cancer

Shine a Light on Lung Cancer — Event Recap

I just returned from seeing the folks in my lung cancer support group, where we were treated to a recap of the Shine a Light event from this past weekend. I got to see my speech all the way through for the first time, projected on a big screen in the conference room where we meet, and I’ll admit that I made myself tear up a bit there. It’s like I was speaking directly to me. And it made me realize how much I could have benefited from an actual stylist, but I suppose that is another story.

Shine a Light on Lung Cancer at Huntington Memorial Hospital
Let’s play “Who’s Doing Chemo?” among these three gentlemen… Here’s a hint, left to right we have: Robbin Cohen, MD, medical director for the thoracic oncology program, Jorge Nieva, MD (my esteemed oncologist), myself (the lung cancer patient)  and Christine Conti, RN, nurse navigator for the Huntington Hospital lung cancer program, who brought my medical team together. If you guessed “the guy with the hair,” you’d be winning big prizes right now. If there were prizes. Sorry, no prizes. But thank you for playing.

There were 147 people in attendance for this lovely event; next year I am hoping that we can inspire something new, like a walk organized through Downtown Los Angeles with 1,000 or more people participating. High hopes, perhaps, for an often stigmatized illness. But this is about changing perception and bringing the narrative into the 21st Century.

In the meantime, please consider supporting this petition for increasing research funding, and please share it with your friends and social networks. Nothing progresses without sharing — it is the only way to truly increase awareness. There needs to be a greater discussion around lung cancer, and around cancer in general, so that people can begin to understand what this condition truly is and how it can be safely and effectively lived with when treated early enough and with proper medical care.

Too many people are still living with a fear-based paradigm about cancer, rooted in outdated treatments and late detection. Hollywood is still making movies about what cancer was like decades ago and the scientific journals are too dense or obtuse for laypeople to easily digest. TV personalities like Dr. Oz are still offering false hopes and pseudoscientific claptrap for easy ratings by promoting dietary cures and other nonsense rather than speaking truth about the rise of medical science. In fact, Dr. Oz and his guest Dr. William Li play fairly fast and loose with the notion that the foods they recommend can actually prevent or treat cancer. The sheer volume of food that would have to be consumed to even come close to the results they imply would be difficult to tolerate at best. Continue reading Advocacy and Enlightenment on Lung Cancer

Worried That Your Sandwich Will Cause Cancer?

The World Health Organization recently released an important report about the cancer risks associated with eating processed meat in general and red meat in particular. The report itself, as I have commented, is quite valid and important when we discuss how overall health and dietary habits impact both the healthy population and cancer patients, alike. But does this mean our lunch is going to give us cancer? If we eat a meat sandwich to get us through the day, are we causing irreparable harm? As with most nutritional issues, we need to look at this from a less simplistic point of view and a focus on moderation.

To begin with, let us discuss the sandwich model by creating the model sandwich.

Image of a sandwhich layered with vegetables rather than a pile of meat.
One thin slice of processed lunchmeat tops a stack of arugula, avocado, tomato and hidden chili peppers. And one extra thin slice of cheese, folded to fit.

We get some insight from the WHO report about the populations that are most adversely affected by processed and red meat consumption. It has long been know that eating habits hold a lot of sway when it comes to healthy issues, cancer among them. And one of the most important places we see increases in disease is among the obese. There is a strong correlation between obesity and a high consumption of processed foods, including inexpensive meats such as hot dogs, lunch meat, salami, etc. What there is not a frequent correlation to, however, is an equal intake of vegetables and fruit, fresh or otherwise. Fiber plays a strong role in our digestive system, without which we are much more prone to a range of maladies. And fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritionally dense compared to processed foods, offering vitamins and minerals that are necessary for bodies to function properly, maintain good immune support and otherwise keep us in good health.  Continue reading Worried That Your Sandwich Will Cause Cancer?

Shine a Light on Lung Cancer November 8, 2015

I was asked to speak at the Shine a Light event at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, CA. Below the video is a transcript, for those of you who like to read. The event certainly was not about me, and I will link to more info on the ceremony when it is posted and available, but in the meantime here is a small portion for your viewing enjoyment.

One year ago yesterday, I wrote my first blog post about lung cancer. I had just been diagnosed with inoperable metastatic stage 4 adenocarcinoma. That was a pretty long name for an ominous sounding condition that I knew relatively little about. People all around me — and it seemed everywhere across the Internet — were ready to express what a dire situation I was in. But I’m here to tell you that I feel great. Today is a fabulous day. Tomorrow I am going in for another infusion, a little bit of what I like to consider my “me time.” Granted I’m on maintenance therapy now and I kind of miss the longer treatment that I used to have, because it allowed me to get some work done on the blog or do some quality reading or catch up on my email. These days, my infusion happens too quickly to get much accomplished. But… I really can’t complain about that. Continue reading Shine a Light on Lung Cancer November 8, 2015

Lung Cancer Answers and Awareness Support

As a frequent contributor to, a website for asking questions and getting answers from people who are knowledgable about the subject, I have naturally offered input on issues related to lung cancer. After all, one of the first rules for authors is to “write what you know.” Here, in honor of lung cancer awareness month, I am collecting links to some of the answers I have supplied on Quora.

  • Read on below the links for more on Lung Cancer Awareness

Some of these questions have many answers and mine might be somewhere down the list, but generally all of them make for interesting reading and good perspectives. Popular ones may have been “upvoted” quite extensively (this could also be the case for older answers while newer answers with more merit may have few upvotes simply because fewer people have viewed them). Also, a lot of the answers are quite brief. Occasionally I do get a bit long-winded, but my contribution to the discussion could be just a few sentences or paragraphs. Overall, however, I think that these questions and answers make for good reading in a format more like a town hall meeting than a typical blog. Continue reading Lung Cancer Answers and Awareness Support

November Is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

I love autumn. My favorite season is marked by the changing colors of leaves, the cooler breezes and the fun of Hallowe’en. October has traditionally been my favorite month, marking the real onset of autumn. October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the advocates for this have done a tremendous job over the past decades, leading toward huge increases in funding for research and also leaps forward in treatment. The popularity of this movement, however, overshadows Lung Cancer Awareness Month, right on its heels in November. While the movement for Lung Cancer Awareness might not be as popular, the disease itself is equally entrenched and far more deadly. But the greater public has yet to rally for this affliction with anywhere near the fervor of other causes, in spite of an overall very small piece of the research pie.

“The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2015 are:

  • About 221,200 new cases of lung cancer (115,610 in men and 105,590 in women)
  • An estimated 158,040 deaths from lung cancer (86,380 in men and 71,660 among women).

Lung cancer accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.” (From
Continue reading November Is Lung Cancer Awareness Month