Mechalle’s Story of Survival

MechalleMyersMechalle Myers, who works for the Country Music Association in Nashville, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2016. “When I was diagnosed, I was paralyzed. When I got that call I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what was next.”

A friend recommended she call the T.J. Martell Foundation, whose work she was already very familiar with through our partnership with CMA and reputation in the music industry. The T.J. Martell Foundation provided quick referrals to specialists at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and a second opinion at Mount Sinai in New York City when needed. “They got me out of being paralyzed and moved me in the direction I needed to see the doctors I needed to see. I would have never been able to make these connections without the T.J. Martell Foundation. It would have been very stressful, and I can’t say enough great things about them. For someone to step in and say ‘it’s going to be okay – I’m going to help you’ is just amazing. They left me with no lag time to be sitting around dwelling on this news. They got me in to see the doctors I needed right away. I’m eternally grateful for the T.J. Martell Foundation and all their people for their love, support, direction, compassion and expertise. I will always do anything I can to help them.”

Join Drew Baldridge in Supporting Breast Cancer Research!

db_neon_pink_tee_dreIn support of October’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, country music artist Drew Baldridge has teamed with Super 8 to launch Rebound From Cancer, a month-long fundraising campaign.

During the month of October, Drew is selling limited-edition t-shirts online and at his concerts with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the T.J. Martell Foundation.

db_neon_pink_tee“This is something that’s dear to my heart,” says Drew to Nash Country Daily. “My grandma got diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago, and as an artist, I’ve always wanted to use what I’m doing for something bigger than myself. I’ve always wanted to give back. Now I feel like I’m starting to get to that platform where I can help.”

To learn more about Drew and his new single, “Rebound,” check out this article in Nash Country Daily. And be sure to buy your tee shirts today!

 

Q&A With Women Of Influence NY Honoree Sue Phillips

We had the pleasure of chatting with Sue Phillips, President & CEO of Scenterprises. Sue is one of seven outstanding women being honored at the New York Women of Influence Luncheon on May 13th.

What does it mean to you to be chosen as a Woman of Influence by the T.J. Martell Foundation?

Sue PhillipsIt is such an honor to be chosen by an organization that is so altruistic, and which raises funds for such a worthy cause. Tony Martell is now retired from the music industry, but it was through Music that gave him the impetus to keep a promise to his son to find a cure for cancer, and today the T.J. Martell Foundation has raised over $270 million for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research. Music is so fundamental to my wellbeing, too, as it is one of the joys of life and I grew up in South Africa, surrounded by music and art, inspired by mother.  Imagine a world without Music? Imagine a life without any of the Senses? That is why I am so honored to be chosen as a Woman of Influence because it is through the Senses that we can help people bring about positive change; bring HAPPINESS to those in need of it, and also to find a cure through the Senses for these terrible diseases. It is humbling to be honored and to be in the company of so many other remarkable women, and it only makes me want to work even more effectively and strategically to strive to make a greater difference.

What piece of advice would you give to young women today to inspire them to follow their dreams?

Sue_10As Adjunct Professor at LIM College, I try to motivate and inspire my students to believe in themselves, and to explore their surroundings, as they are living in one of the greatest cities of the world. I tell them that it’s important to fuel their passions and to open themselves to all kinds of opportunities. “You’re living in New York City. Avail yourself of everything that is here; the museums and galleries, lectures and parks. When you go from class to class; look around you, look up at the spectacular New York city views and architecture…keep your eyes open!” There’s so much that can help them in their future endeavors. Many of them are obsessed with reality shows, so I try and broaden their horizons and to inspire them to think exponentially. And, if they fail in their endeavors, my motto is to ‘never give up’ and to keep going! Hopefully they remember my words and dream big!

What steps do you take to make health and wellness a priority in your life?

Having been witness to so many people who have been afflicted with cancer, leukemia, AIDS and Alzheimer’s, I try and live my life in as healthy a way as possible. Exercise and a wholesome diet are important to me, but also incorporating beauty and the joy of Art, Music, Fragrance and other Senses, are ways to enjoy a ‘scentsory’ life, to completely ensure my wellbeing. I believe in the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest form of wellness!

Gillian’s Story of Survival

487635909.224532414I am blessed to be alive! In 2013, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, which had metastasized to other organs and bones in my body.  As I was being treated for pain management at a hospital in Westchester, NY the doctors and oncologist that evaluated my case said my days were numbered and recommended that my next stop was Hospice Care and beginning Chemotherapy treatments immediately, which did not align with my belief system.

This is where God stepped in with my sister finding out about Dr. James F. Holland from a colleague.  My prayers were answered in my first phone conversation with Dr. James F. Holland. He said, “Gillian, I am looking for someone who wants to live,” and I said, “you are speaking to that person.” In that same conversation Dr. Holland had already evaluated my case with a recommendation that saved my life, and the protocol did not involve Chemotherapy or Radiation.

I am filled with a tremendous amount of gratitude to report it’s been over two years and I am alive to share my story.  This is due to Dr. Holland’s expertise and support not just in the protocol he recommended, but his integrity and sincerity in supporting how I approached my healing process for my mind, body and spirit.

I was blessed to have the same amazing Oncologist that touched the life of T.J. Martell, and 40 years later he touched my life by his commitment to innovative cancer research.   I thank God for the T.J. Martell Foundation’s unwavering commitment to raising funds for innovative research to find treatments and cures for Leukemia, Cancer and Aids.  More importantly this funding enables more “Oncology Trailblazers” like Dr. James F. Holland to SAVE LIVES.

 

 

 

T.J. Martell Foundation on Today!


On Friday we celebrated our third annual Women of Influence New York. To kick off this exciting day, our host Robin Quivers, a cancer survivor herself, sat down with the team at the Today Show to tell them all about the event, which raised vital funds for breast cancer and ovarian cancer research. Here is the clip. Enjoy!

 

Guest Blog Post: Important Advice if You’re Considering Mastectomy

Ingrid Meszoely, M.D. is Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology and Clinical Director, Vanderbilt Breast Center at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Following the completion of several large studies in the late 1980s and early 1990s involving thousands of women, it was clearly determined that the number of years a woman lived following breast cancer surgery was exactly the same whether she underwent mastectomy (removing the whole breast) or lumpectomy (just removing the part  of the breast with the cancer). This was a big breakthrough for breast cancer treatment with the realization that more surgery doesn’t result in better outcomes.  Initially this resulted in a trend of women choosing lumpectomy over mastectomy in order to preserve their breasts.

However in recent years, as Dr. Kummerow and many other researchers have found, there is a nationwide trend in choosing mastectomy over lumpectomy despite there being no clear survival advantage.  In addition, many women choose to undergo mastectomy of the non -affected breast despite the fact that the risk of developing cancer in this breast is very low and that it does not have any effect on survival from their current breast cancer.

As a breast cancer surgeon, I see this same phenomenon in my own practice.  The choice of mastectomy on one or both sides is often driven by multiple factors including the fear of cancer coming back or a new cancer on the other side and the wish to do everything one can to prevent this.  This often provides some sense of control and peace of mind in the setting of an overwhelming diagnosis.

When a woman is diagnosed with early breast cancer and given the choice of mastectomy or lumpectomy because she is a candidate for either procedure, the options should be considered carefully.

It should be clearly recognized that mastectomy does not provide 100 percent protection from cancers coming back. Cancers often come back at other sites outside of the breast before they return in the area of the removed breast tissue.  Because mammograms or other imaging studies are not routinely used after mastectomy, the finding of recurrences along the chest depends on continued routine self -exam and clinical exam by their doctor when the tumor is large enough to feel as opposed to being detected on mammogram when it is very small.

Mastectomy is also associated with increased complications compared to lumpectomy and these are often related to the reconstruction, which can be discouraging.  It is even more devastating when there are complications related to the unaffected breast when women choose mastectomies on both sides.

Lymph node surgery often is performed in the setting of mastectomy.  If just a single lymph node is found to be involved with breast cancer, removal of additional lymph nodes is recommended which can result in added complications. However if a lumpectomy is chosen, generally 3 or more lymph nodes need to be involved with cancer before more lymph nodes are removed.

When a woman presents with newly diagnosed early breast cancer and is put in the position of making a decision between lumpectomy and mastectomy, a thoughtful discussion should be initiated with her treating physicians.  Ultimately, the decision is very personal and she should choose the procedure that suits her lifestyle and provides her with the greatest sense of wellbeing.

 

PALB2 Gene Mutation Affects Breast Cancer Risk

Having a family history of breast cancer nearly doubles a woman’s risk of developing the disease and genetic factors are known to play a major role in the origin of breast cancer.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were identified as major breast cancer susceptibility genes nearly 30 years ago and it is estimated that these gene mutations explain about 50 percent of familial breast cancer cases.  BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation tests have been widely used in high risk women (e.g., women with a strong family history of breast cancer) for risk assessment and management which may include prophylactic surgical and drug therapy intervention.

However, a significant fraction of familial breast cancer cases remain unexplained. A recent study identified the PALB2 gene as another major breast cancer predisposition gene. The PALB2 (Partner and localizer of BRCA2) gene produces a protein that is crucial for key BRCA2 functions. Mutation carriers of this gene were found to have a 35 percent risk of developing breast cancer by the age of 70, triple the risk seen in the general population.  For breast cancer diagnosed before age 40, having PALB2 mutations was related to an 8 to 9-fold increased risk.  It is estimated the PALB2 mutations explain about 2 to 3 percent of familial breast cancer risk. This study expanded our knowledge of genetic contributions to the familial profile of breast cancer.

Currently, the benefit and risk of deploying preemptive measures like surgery or drug therapy based on PALB2 mutation status is unknown. While the utility of applying PALB2 mutation information for risk management of high risk populations needs to be further investigated, individuals with known mutations of this gene are encouraged to seek genetic counseling because PALB2 mutations are also known to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer and may increase the risk of ovarian cancers. Mutations in PALB2 are very rare in the general population. Thus, screening for PALB2 in the general population appears to be unnecessary.

Xiao Ou Shu, M.D., Ph.D., MPH
Ingram Professor of Cancer Research
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Today is National Cancer Prevention Day!

Everyday Ways to Prevent Cancer

By Leslie Vandever

February is National and World Cancer Month—observations meant to increase public awareness of cancer, cancer prevention, and cancer research. And Tuesday, Feb. 4 is National Cancer Prevention Day.

Even today, with the incredible scientific and medical advances that have taken place over the last hundred years, cancer remains one of the most frightening—and deadly—diseases we face. Fortunately, we’ve gotten much better at treating and even curing some types of cancer, some of the time. Unfortunately, a definitive cure for all cancers remains beyond our reach.

What is cancer?

Simply, “cancer” is the word for a group of diseases in which the cells—the body’s basic unit of life—develop abnormally and do not die when they should because of a mutation in their DNA. Instead, out of control, these “malignant” cells divide and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymph system.

Sometimes mutated cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor. It’s considered “benign” if it doesn’t spread to other parts of the body, can be removed, and doesn’t come back.

There are more than 100 different types of cancer. In many cases, what starts, or triggers, cells to mutate abnormally and spread is unknown. But scientists have been able to pinpoint some possible triggers for some forms of malignant cancer—and by avoiding or controlling those triggers, you can reduce your odds of contracting the disease.

What steps can you take toward cancer prevention?

  •  Don’t use tobacco. If you do, stop. Smoking has been linked to cancers of the lung, bladder and kidneys. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas.
  • Eat healthy. Choose a diet rich in plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes and whole grains. Limit fat, particularly fat from animal sources. Avoid sugar. Foods that are higher in fat and sugar (and calories) contribute to obesity, which can cause cancer.
  • Avoid becoming overweight or obese. Maintaining a healthy weight for your age, height and build might help to prevent cancer. Obesity has been linked to cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise helps to maintain overall health, helps to control your weight and might protect against breast and colon cancer.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Many types of skin cancer are linked to the harmful ultraviolet rays in the sun. Use sunscreen liberally and wear tightly woven, loose-fitting clothes in bright or dark colors to protect exposed skin. Try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. And avoid tanning beds and sunlamps—they’re just as damaging as natural sunlight.
  • Cancer screening. Mammograms, PAP smears, breast and skin exams, and colorectal screening can catch precancerous conditions early. By finding abnormal cells and treating or removing them, some cancers can be prevented. They include cervical cancer, breast cancer and some skin cancers.
  • Chemoprevention.  The vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV) and the hepatitis B vaccine can prevent certain types of cancer. There are also medications can treat some pre-cancerous conditions and keep them from developing into a malignant form.

Other steps you can take include limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, and avoiding risky behavior. HPV and HIV infections, which can make you more susceptible to liver, cervical and other cancers, can be prevented by never sharing needles and practicing safe sex: limiting the number of sexual partners you have, and using condoms. Finally, visit your doctor at least once a year for preventive screening and an overall health checkup.

For more information about cancer and other health issues, click here.

Leslie Vandever is a professional journalist and freelance writer. Under the pen-name “Wren,” she also writes a blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis called RheumaBlog (www.rheumablog.wordpress.com). In her spare time, Vandever enjoys cooking, reading and working on the Great American Novel.

References:

  •  What is Cancer? (2013, Feb. 8) National Cancer Institute. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved on January 26, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/

In honor of National Cancer Prevention Day, please consider making a donation to the T.J. Martell Foundation by clicking here. The Foundation funds cutting-edge research that will lead to clinical trials and drug discoveries that will help save lives!

 

Excerpt: Tackling a Racial Gap in Breast Cancer Survival

Every day in our work with cancer patients and research doctors, we are reminded of the importance of continuing to fund life-saving advancements and consistently renew our commitment to our foundation’s mission. A recent article in The New York Times states the eye-opening fact that black women are far more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, shining new light on the urgency of funding better treatments for every woman:

The cancer divide between black women and white women in the United States is as entrenched as it is startling. In the 1980s, breast cancer survival rates for the two were nearly identical. But since 1991, as improvements in screening and treatment came into use, the gap has widened, with no signs of abating. Although breast cancer is diagnosed in far more white women, black women are far more likely to die of the disease.

And Memphis is the deadliest major American city for African-American women with breast cancer. Black women with the disease here are more than twice as likely to die of it than white women.

“The big change in the 1990s was advances in care that were widely available in early detection and treatment,” said Steven Whitman, director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago. “White women gained access to those advances, and black women didn’t.”

Over all, black women with a breast cancer diagnosis will die three years sooner than their white counterparts. While nearly 70 percent of white women live at least five years after diagnosis, only 56 percent of black women do. And some research suggests that institutions providing mammograms mainly to black patients miss as many as half of breast cancers compared with the expected detection rates at academic hospitals.

To read the full article, please click here.