Tag Archives: poison

Endurance and Payoff

I have friends who are long distance runners and I have watched them struggle through their pain to achieve their goals. Although I used to train for both cross country and track way back in middle-school, I can no longer run. But I do understand a thing or two about the process. And I appreciate what it means to endure hardships in search of a personal reward.

Beginning a Clinical Trial

After lung biopsy, lying in bed for the removal of pneumothorax ventilation tube.
Pneumothorax Ventilation Tube

At the end of May, I began participating in a clinical trial for Poziotinib, a new targeted therapy that works on mutations in the EGFR and HER categories. Naturally, within days of my May 23rd start, I had already begun exhibiting side-effects from the new medication. The resulting rash has persisted and spread, morphing into a completely new experience for me. I thought at the time that the minor ordeal I had in preparing for the clinical trial would have been the biggest challenge of the trial itself: first I went in for a “simple” needle biopsy procedure, then I had to stay to deal with the effects when things did not go exactly according to plan. The experience even inspired an opinion piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer.  But I passed over that (still relatively minor)  road bump and ran headlong into the clinical trial and resulting crash back into Rashville.

Having a rash does not sound all that bad in the grand scope of things. A little salve, a dollop of willpower, and it should be easy to weather. Itching too much? Slip on some gloves or spray it with lidocaine. Rashes pass. At least it is not nausea or debilitating pain or sleeplessness. Well, at least it is not nausea. Continue reading Endurance and Payoff

Radon Gas, The Invisible Cause of Lung Cancer

I recently received a kind email about my blog from Jessica Morgan, who works with a radon testing and mitigation company based in the United Kingdom. Outside of smoking, radon gas exposure is one of the more common known factors for increasing the risk of lung cancer. In the message, she asked if I would be interested in an infographic her company had created called The Dangers of Radon and its Health Effects. According to their website, radon gas exposure is responsible for approximately 1,100 to 2,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the UK. Estimates for the US suggest between 15,000 and 22,000 deaths occur annually due to lung cancers related to radon gas exposure. Clearly, this is a serious and persistent issue.


Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about radon gas outside of having researched to see if it was a probable cause for my cancer diagnosis. The types of structures I have lived in and the locations of my previous homes indicated that there was no likely connection between my personal lung cancer and radon gas exposure. However, it is a subject that  I think is highly relevant to the greater lung cancer discussion and is an essential part of understanding that lung cancer is not simply a smoker’s disease.


Because radon gas is not one of the areas of my own specialty, I asked Jessica for some information that I could share. The following information comes directly from PropertEco Ltd, and was supplied to me by request as educational material based on their expertise in the field.

Continue reading Radon Gas, The Invisible Cause of Lung Cancer

Time to End the Anti-GMO Fearmongering

Here’s a thought that needs to be considered. Since the United States is not doing its part to fight global climate change, nature will not be able to keep up. This REQUIRES us to be open-minded about the advantages science offers to help our species adapt. Science-denial is one of the biggest reasons we are in this mess, but science can help mitigate the damage if it is embraced and supported in a reasonable, methodical and pro-active manner. One of the areas that must be re-evaluated by many is the use of GMO crops.

GMO vs Non-GMO corn crops.
Sometimes a little modification goes a long way.

There is overwhelming evidence from unbiased sources that show the safety of these crops, many of which are modified explicitly to be able to grow under hotter and drier conditions, or in soil that would not otherwise support proper plant development. Already, without the use of GMO crops, it would be difficult to keep up with the food production needs of the planet. Within the next decade, there is little doubt left that human food will be largely reliant upon GMO crops for minimum sustainability. I propose that it is time to look at the science objectively and stop reacting to fear-based marketing that mostly just serves alternative health websites and their advertisers or overpriced processed food manufacturers.

Continue reading Time to End the Anti-GMO Fearmongering

The Truth About the Truth About Cancer – Myth of the Wellness Warrior Part 3

The following post is the third in the ongoing Myth of the Wellness Warrior series. The previous posts were The Myth of the Wellness Warrior and Myth of the Wellness Warrior, Part 2: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem.

How do you know who to trust?

One of the great wedges used by the anti-medical and anti-science proponents of these alternative treatments is the suggestion that the mainstream medical community cannot be trusted because they are all about the profits and not about actually curing disease. The suggestion is that Big Pharma is something of a shadow organization, bribing doctors and hospitals in order to maximize their corporate wealth — and there is just enough truth to that for it to be believable. The conspiracy generally lumps in a wide range of health practitioners, insinuating that MDs are systemically part of the problem and that anyone who speaks out against potentially deadly alternatives is automatically a shill for pharmaceutical companies. I get that one leveled at me from time to time, in spite of the fact that I advocate for a well-rounded and well-researched approach to personal care.

As the alternative crowd is fond of saying, if you want to know who to trust, you should follow the money. See what any particular site has to gain for spreading its message and, when possible, look at personal motivations from the authors. I have been fairly transparent in this regard, but perhaps I could go farther with my history. I am no “True Believer” in the medical establishment, at least not insofar as I put blind faith in doctors to automatically do what is right and best for every patient. I do think that most doctors genuinely try and that they believe they offer the best solutions. But I have also witnessed patients being treated like cattle, given no real consideration, and pushed toward drugs or treatments they probably neither needed not benefited from. And I fervently believe that my own father was pushed toward an early death by being overly and improperly medicated by too many “specialists” who failed to communicate with one another or fully attempt an understanding of what was going on with his health. Continue reading The Truth About the Truth About Cancer – Myth of the Wellness Warrior Part 3

Parabens, Fear and Junk Science

I was going to title this post “Why I Love Parabens.” I had been reading up on them lately for a number of reasons, mostly surrounding a largely unfounded controversy surrounding a type of lip balm my daughter had been using. In the case of the lip balm, the “paraben-free” product was being accused of harboring mold with the implication being that this was a manufacturing defect. Examination of the claims revealed, however, that the mold was most likely the result of misuse or poor storage of the product which, due to the lack of effective preservatives, would be expected to mold if it was exposed to moisture and kept in the dark. This does, however, beg the question as to why a lip balm, of all things, would be sold without effective preservatives to protect against mold.

The answer, of course, is the unwarranted vilification of parabens. The natural cosmetics industry, and perhaps more accurately the Environmental Working Group and other activist organizations have been disseminating information about parabens for over a decade now, describing how they are endocrine disruptors and probably cause cancer. And this is where we get to the point of where science is occluded by hype, to the detriment of the consumer, the patient, the regular person on the street… Continue reading Parabens, Fear and Junk Science

Myth of the Wellness Warrior, Part 2: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem

I’ve heard a lot lately about fears that a conspiracy is being perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry and the government to keep natural cancer cures (and natural or holistic care in general) away from patients. It makes for a dramatic story with lots of Hollywood appeal, but examining the accusations leads down a more insidious path. To get there and understand the full extent of the problem, we need to step back and look at a range of sub-industries within the healthcare umbrella, what they provide and how they intertwine. We also need to understand some basics about statistics and probability that will clarify what some of the facts surrounding this conspiracy really mean. [And when you are done reading this, please continue on with the next chapter in this ongoing series.]

Supplementing the Truth

To begin with, let’s examine the hugely profitable supplements industry (mentioned in Forbes’ SportsMoney column as one of the fastest growing industries in the world). “Natural health” advocates and self-proclaimed gurus often have their own supplement brands which they sell as part of  treatment plans pushed on their web sites, or they have affiliate arrangements with a brand that they offer as being somehow superior to other brands. The supplement industry has grown from the notion that manufactured (or synthetic) vitamins could be used to supplement areas in the diet where a person was not able to consume adequate quantities to be healthy. In an indirect way, it can be traced back hundreds of years to the discovery that citrus fruit — particularly lemons — could prevent sailors from getting scurvy. It turned out that scurvy was a disease caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. By “supplementing” this vitamin, the disease could be avoided. Continue reading Myth of the Wellness Warrior, Part 2: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem

The Chemo Diaries: The Worst Day

With chemotherapy, there is one thing that is certain from cycle to cycle: there is always a dance between the predictable and the unpredictable. Which is to say, much of what a patient goes through can be anticipated, but there is always the possibility of a subtle or surprising change. We plan out our schedule as best we can based on previous experience, but sometimes — perhaps every time — we need to roll with how our bodies react.

Breakfast at my desk
Breakfast at my desk

I had my infusion on Monday (as is my preference). For the past year, it has been safe to say that Thursday (today) would be my “worst” day. I should be feeling the effects in my head and my gut right now, full force; I should be tired, irritable, woozy, even slightly sick to my stomach. I should be curled up on the couch or wanting very much to be there. But I’m eating a bagel at my desk and typing this and ruminating on going out for a burger. And I’m doing the household laundry, a whole week’s worth, but that’s another story.

My last chemo cycle was pretty close to normal, but I started feeling crappy a day early and finished feeling crappy a day early, all more or less. It improved that weekend, because I was more active and felt better by Saturday. I like that as a trend and hope that this weekend is quickly cleared up — especially because the weekend after my next infusion has a camping trip clearly written on the calendar. This is a precedent I can get behind. Yesterday, however, rather than having me feeling crappy a day early, I barely felt crappy at all. It is certainly enough to give me pause. But there may be a very obvious reason for why I’m feeling better (or at least less ill) this time around. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries: The Worst Day

My Frenemy, Dexamethasone

When initially discussing chemotherapy treatments, most people begin with the thought that it is the chemo drugs themselves, those infamously toxic concoctions, that the patient would complain about most, or fear, or suffer from. And chemo does suck, what with the potential for nausea and fatigue and that notorious chemo brain. But do you know what really sucks, dear Reader? Steroids.

I recognize the importance of the Dexamethasone pills I take for three days at the start of each infusion cycle. And I appreciate that I am not taking Prednisone, which some of my friends have been saddled with for lengthy periods of time and which I had seen turn my father’s final years into a much less pleasant time than they should have been. I owe a debt to Prednisone, without which I would not have gotten ill enough to eventually lead to my cancer diagnosis, but I will never take it again. Dexamethasone, on the other hand, I can deal with. I don’t like it, but I understand the need to make my peace with the sleepless nights and mild dizzy spells and increased irritability, the hoarseness and seemingly endless peeing. Continue reading My Frenemy, Dexamethasone

The Chemo Diaries: More Summer Fun

Aside from my ever diminishing veins, the infusions during maintenance continue to be easy and relaxing. I guess I am lucky in that way — I know people who have different cocktails that they have various reactions to, from rash to fever to nausea on one end and flat out groggy sleep on the other. During these Alimta cycles, I am in and out fairly quickly and my biggest complaint is not having enough time here with the heated massage chair and my morning coffee to, uh, get any real work done…

finally time for my cup of morning joe


Two infusions ago this chemo drug appeared to really mess with my digestive system, but it cleared up just in time for my scheduled CT scan and did not recur with the following round. The assumption now is that I simply caught a stomach bug that lingered for a couple weeks. The whole repressed immunity thing has been on my mind lately, and not just because what probably should have been a 24 hour virus took me 14 times longer to purge from my system.

Although the ensuing three weeks were relatively symptom-free (steroids make me irritable, mess up my sleep for three or four days and make me an emotional raw nerve; the chemotherapy wreaks havoc with my joyous time travel into the land of teenage acne, but even these things seemed to lessen somewhat), the issue of immunity and, more specifically herd immunity, was thrust back front and center when we brought a new kitten home from the pound. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries: More Summer Fun

Scanning the Options

Today I had the pleasure of going in for a CT scan, which I mean literally, as in I enjoy the experience. It is a brief scan, takes less than fifteen minutes in the actual room, but for some reason I always find it quite relaxing. The parts leading up to the scan aren’t quite as comfortable. Like choking down the solution that will make me light up from the inside…

Drinking a barium solution
Getting Radioactive

Drinking barium sulfate has become somewhat less disgusting since they introduced the mochaccino flavor, it’s true. One of the ladies in reception noticed my second bottle of the morning during my check-in and mentioned that she heard it was “pretty good.” I told her that “more palatable” was a better description, but it is admitedly a huge leap over the nasty flavors offered just a few months ago. Just one additional way in which science is continuing to earn that motto, “better living through chemistry.”

And the fasting; I hate the fasting. Not that I can really complain about four hours between 6:30 and 10:30 in the morning — since these are my usual hours between breakfast and my late-morning snack, I got off easy today. My scans are usually a bit earlier and I can’t sneak a meal in, but today I got lucky.  That’s why, I suppose, I was in an especially good mood upon arrival. Continue reading Scanning the Options