Thursday, September 26, 2019

Carcinogens Have Infiltrated the Generic Drug Supply in the U.S.

The chemical N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, is a yellow liquid that dissolves in water. It doesn’t have an odor or much of a taste. It’s known to cause cancer in animals and is classified as a probable carcinogen in humans—it’s most toxic to the liver. A single dose of less than a milligram can mutate mice cells and stimulate tumors, and 2 grams can kill a person in days. An Oklahoma man poisoned the family of an ex-girlfriend in 1978 by pouring a small vial of NDMA into a pitcher of lemonade. In 2018 a graduate student in Canada sickened a colleague by injecting the chemical into his apple pie.

NDMA no longer has industrial uses—it was once added to rocket fuel—but it can form during industrial processes at tanneries and foundries as well as at pesticide, dye, and tire makers. It can be found in drinking water disinfected with chloramine. It’s in tobacco smoke, which is one reason secondhand smoke is dangerous, and it’s what makes eating a lot of cured and grilled meat potentially risky. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it’s reasonably safe to consume as much as one microgram—one millionth of a gram—of NDMA a day. read more

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

3-D Mammography Advantages ~ Breast Tomosynthesis

by Dr. Robin Hape, General Surgeon, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, Polson, MT 

Editor’s note: I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in-situ in my right breast after a 3-D mammogram detected an early-stage cancer in February 2019. I was called back for a second screening. When I told the medical technician that I could not feel anything, she laughed and responded “it is like trying to feel a grain of sand in a bowl of jello.” Since February I’ve had a lumpectomy and the sentinel node removed plus five days of high-dose radiation. I was finished by June 5. I am totally SOLD on 3-D mammography. I asked Dr. Robin Hape, general surgeon at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, who performed my lumpectomy,  to talk about his experience with 3-D Mammography.      Valerie Lindstrom


There are several advantages to Breast Tomosynthesis or more commonly referred to as 3-D Mammography.  We have had this technology in Polson for a little over a year.

Earlier detection of breast cancer.  It is not uncommon for us to find breast cancers very very early now.  Several of the new breast cancer patients I have cared for in the last year have cancers in the range of 3 – 4 mm.  That is much better than the old machine
Fewer call-backs.   With the old technology it was not uncommon for women to be called back for additional views.  Skin folds or dense breast tissue was harder to see through with the old machine resulting in call backs for compression views which were uncomfortable for women.  Call backs are about 40 percent less with the Tomosynthesis machine.  That reduces cost, pain and anxiety.

Works better for women with dense breast.  Standard mammograms have trouble “seeing through” dense breast tissue. This is common in younger women and about 30 percent of all women.  It is possible for a breast cancer to “hide” in these women and women with very dense breasts are also about 1.5X higher risk for developing breast cancer.  Tomosynthesis does a much better job for younger women and women with dense breasts.

Radiation exposure.  The radiation exposure, time for the exam and compression are about the same for Tomosynthesis as for a standard mammogram.  The tomosynthesis machine has heated paddles so it is a little more comfortable.  The amount of radiation from a mammogram is minimal.

Breast cancer screening recommendations for women

There is a lot of confusion about the standard breast cancer screening recommendations.  Here are the recommendations made by almost every reputable medical society in America.

  • Average risk women should get their first mammogram at age 40 and annually as long as they are healthy.
  • If a women has a strong family history of breast cancer they should start getting mammograms 10 years before the age of their youngest relative’s diagnosis.  For example, if a patient’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45, the patient should start getting mammograms at age 35. 
  • Considering all risk factors a physician may recommend more aggressive screening such as mammograms twice per year or breast MRI’s.

Cancer Support Group update ~ Thanks to Linda and Sheila for leadership

Linda Roberts and Sheila Connor have spearheaded the Cancer Support Group for several years. Both women have moved on and Cheerful Heart thanks them for their time, energy and dedication leading the group. Leadership is now in several hands. John Payne, Chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center, Marcy Rice, cancer patient with a deep background in healthcare training and Coy Theobalt and Charlie Davis of Goat Peak Ranch Retreat for cancer patients also with many years of experience leading groups, will help keep the group healthy.

The group meets at noon on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at the First United Methodist Church located at 301 16th Ave. E. in Polson.  Participants can bring a brown-bag lunch.
The group welcomes those recently diagnosed, those undergoing treatment, cancer survivors, and/or family members. The aim is to provide a safe place for members to share, learn, support, and encourage members after a cancer diagnosis; and, to conquer the fear in themselves and others.

Confidentiality is practiced, anything spoken in group stays with the group. Gatherings are informal allowing folks to drop-in when schedules and life permits.

Kristi Gough maintains a list of folks who have attended and sends a reminder text to cell phones before each gathering.

To be added to the reminder list or if you have questions, leave a message at 883-3070.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Cheerful Heart Volunteer Appreciation Social & Supper

Betty Bjork has served soup and written
Cheerful Heart thank-you notes
 for 17 years.

5 to 7 p.m.
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Mission Bay Clubhouse 
312 Montana Landing, Polson
RSVP by Oct. 6 
Spouses or partners are invited !
**Honoring our retiring 
board members & volunteers

Marshall Bjork using his signature
hand-gesture pitch to make a sale at
Cheerful Heart's 2007
Treasurefest Garage Sale.
Chip Kurzenbaum served on the
Cheerful Heart Board of Directors
for 17 years.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

How tumors hide from chemotherapy

For cancer patients and their doctors, the scenario is all too agonizingly familiar: A course of chemotherapy appears to eradicate the tumor completely, but then it reemerges months later. Somewhere, somehow, a few cancer cells survive the therapy, dashing hopes of a cure.  Read more

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Goat Peak Ranch Retreat

Coy Theobalt and Charlie Davis moved to Montana in 2017. They developed Goat Peak Ranch on 10 acres at the base of the Mission Mountains north of Ronan. The ranch provides a retreat space for past and present male cancer patients and their families to allow them to spend quality family time away from the hospital, cancer center, chemo center, etc. Coy and Charlie  provide a place to relax, heal and connect with each other and their families on a deeper level, and allow them to take a mental break from their condition by providing accommodations and outdoor recreation activities. Cancer patients and survivors and their families can stay at the ranch up to three days free.

Coy has facilitated over 70 retreats for men with cancer and worked as a psychotherapist for 25 years. He is the co-founder of Reel Recovery, a program offering fly fishing retreats for male cancer survivors. For more information contact Coy at 303-618-1265.  PASS THE WORD !!!

Cheerful Heart Board of Directors 2019

Marshall Bjork (top left) and Chip Kurzenbaum (bottom left) have served on the Cheerful Heart Board of Directors for 17 years. Their dedication, hard work and support helped build and sustain Cheerful Heart, Inc. We say THANK YOU and good luck to Marshall and Chip as we welcome three new members. 

Leah Emerson, Sarah Teaff and Rich Forbis have joined the Cheerful Heart Board of Directors. They join current board members Jeanne Doepke,  Valerie Lindstrom, Barbara Morin and Teri Warford. 

Leah has deep roots in Ronan as an employee of St. Luke Community Hospital for the past 45 years!  The first 19 years as a charge nurse, 25 years as the Nursing Director and since December, 2017, in a part-time capacity mostly teaching classes.  Leah has a home-based quilting  business and stays busy being involved in the activities of five grandchildren.

In Leah’s words: “As a nurse, of course, I have cared for countless individuals and their families who have battled cancer.  Like so many others I have also been personally impacted when cancer has touched many of the ones I love the most.  My youngest sister was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer at the age of 25 and I walked beside her for the next nearly 13 years as she underwent surgery, chemo-therapy and a stem cell transplant.  She died at the age of 37.  A cousin I was close to suffered with and died from pancreatic cancer.  My mom was        diagnosed with ductal breast cancer and was thankfully able to be fully treated with a mastectomy.  Most recently my husband and life partner of 45 years was diagnosed with lung cancer two weeks after my retirement from my full time position at the hospital.  His disease advanced very quickly and he died in less than two months.

Sarah Teaff is the Chief Operating Officer at St. Luke Community Healthcare in Ronan.  Sarah served as the Associate Administrator for a Critical Access Hospital in Sonora, Texas, before moving to Ronan two and a half years ago.  Sarah is married to husband, Robert, and they have two children; Aiden is a senior in high school and Carlynn, a freshman.

In Sarah’s words: “Cancer has been in my life as long as I can remember. My maternal grandmother died of liver cancer  in 1988. Six months later my paternal grandmother died of colon cancer. My father was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 55; he died at the age of 63.

Rich Forbis was born and raised in Western Montana. He attended the University of Montana, receiving a B.A. in Radio and Television. Rich moved to Polson in 1986. He worked for Anderson Radio Broadcasting until 2015. He currently is the Community Outreach Coordinator and Public Relations Director at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. Rich is the tournament director for the Flathead Lake 3-on-3 basketball tournament held on the streets of downtown Polson each July. Rich has served on the Polson Chamber of Commerce board on three separate occasions.

" Seeing what Cheerful Heart does every Tuesday during Oncology day at St. Joe's is very touching. From greeting cancer patients, to making sure they have items to eat or puzzles for families and friends to work while waiting, is truly a blessing."

The current Cheerful Heart                                  Rich Forbis                                     Sarah Teaff
Board of Directors  is pictured 
above. From front left: Barbara 
Morin, Volunteer Coordinator 
and Leah Emerson, new board 
member. Back from left Valerie 
Lindstrom, Jeanne Doepke and 
Teri Warford, board chair.  

Saturday, November 3, 2018

My Support Group by Pat Salmon


Trying not to be too excited, I enter quietly, just listening.
But soon there is an energy one cannot ignore.
We gather as a force to reckon with.
Out of the tragedies comes a place to heal.

One by one we reach for an explanation.
The momentum gathers as we share our stories.
A peaceful calm replaces fear and anxiety.
Together we are strong, resilient and hopeful.

Bringing new meaning to the term, “safety in numbers.”
A smile, a hug and the love is felt.
Cancer is a very lonesome ordeal.
Remove the isolation and we are empowered.

Trying not to be too excited, soon I am drawn in.
The time flies by and we are saying good bye.
Our meeting has allowed us to let go of the trauma.
Gentle bonding has created a magical release.

Pat Salmon wrote this poem in July 2018 after attending the Cheerful Heart Support Group. See her story below…

Pat Salmon worked with Cheerful Heart for a year in 2006. She took photos and talked with cancer patients during that time. She says that she did not really understand what it meant to be a cancer patient until her daughter, a California resident, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma more than one year ago.

“I was on the phone with Laura every day,” she says. “I did not know how to talk with her. I didn’t know what to say to help her, or how to help myself. I felt vulnerable. … It is so different when in happens to you.”

Pat searched for help and knew about the Cheerful Heart Cancer Support Group. She  hoped they could help her understand what her daughter was experiencing.  “One thing that I feel is important about the cancer support group,” she says,  “is how well I was received. Although I myself did not have cancer, they treated me with as much care as if I was in treatment. Almost everyone is affected by this horrible disease and I didn’t know if my needs would be addressed. They are a courageous group of survivors and patients using all their strength, love and experience to bring new meaning to the term, ‘strength in numbers.’  It was very touching to me to know that a small group of people in Montana could so impact my daughter in California. I hope the next time Laura comes to town she will be able to attend a meeting.”

Laura responded well to treatment and is now in remission. Pat says she has only missed two group meetings during the past year and plans to continue attending.

                                      Cheerful Touch

Cancer survivor and cosmetologist, Renee Bassett, in concert with Cheerful Heart created Cheerful Touch in 2012. Renee and other cosmetologists worked to help cancer patients with their hair, skin and nails. The program grew in 2013 to include three local massage therapists to work with cancer patients.

The program continues today to offer hair and skin care and massage therapy. Renee Bassett is on a year-long sabbatical traveling the country but in her place a new volunteer has stepped forward. Read on . .

           Cheerful Touch update ~ a serendipitous moment

Jolene Casey, a Butte native, moved to Seattle where she owned and operated a hair salon for 30+ years. A year ago she sold her business, and with her husband, moved back to Montana settling on the east shore of Flathead Lake between Blue and Yellow bays.

She had created a wig room she named, Pursuit of Victory, hoping to make a difference for women with hair loss. Jolene was trained by the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program. The ACS program trains hairdressers to help women and men with hair loss by providing expert wig advice and free makeup and instruction.

The person who purchased Jolene’s salon was not interested in carrying on with the wig room, and for the past year the wigs and hats sat in boxes in her garage.

After Jolene’s husband had knee surgery she was at St. Joseph Medical Center recently to see the surgeon who had performed the operation. The front desk sent Jolene to the third floor of the hospital where she did not find the doctor’s office, but she did walk past the Cheerful Heart Resource Room where she saw wigs being displayed. The light bulb went off in her head !!

A serendipitous moment…she did not find the doctor’s office on that floor BUT she did find a place where she could donate her stash of wigs and turbans. The front desk person apologized by saying “sorry I sent you to the wrong place” but Jolene thought “oh, you didn’t send me to the wrong place.”

Jolene connected with Cheerful Heart and donated 24 wigs and 27 turbans from her Pursuit of Victory room. The wigs are a high quality product that look very natural.

Jolene is now a part of Cheerful Touch. She will volunteer her services to trim wigs and work with a patient who is losing hair. She

Monday, July 9, 2018

Epigenetics, cancer prevention and you

An interview with Dr. Ajay Goel

Just over two years ago, Good Health Lifestyles had the honor of interviewing Dr. Ajay Goel, a Professor and Director of the Center for Translational Genomics and Oncology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Since then, we’ve had an outpouring of requests from readers asking for more information from Dr. Goel on the promising effects that natural botanicals have on cancer prevention. GHL recently sat down for a second time with Dr. Goel to discuss his current research and learn about why we should all be paying attention to a branch of science called epigenetics. We hope you enjoy the update!

GHL: Dr. Goel, the majority of your work is based on cancer research. In your opinion, what’s the most important thing people should know about preventing the disease?  Read entire interview...

National Institutes of Health: Diet, Epigenetic, and cancer prevention

Disruption of the epigenome has been a hallmark of human cancers and has been linked with tumor pathogenesis and progression. Since epigenetic changes can be reversed in principle, studies have been carried out to identify modifiable (such as diet and lifestyle) factors, which possess epigenetic property, in hope for developing epigenetically based prevention/intervention strategies. The goal is to achieve some degree of epigenetic reprogramming, which would maintain normal gene expression status and reverse tumorigenesis through chemoprevention or lifestyle intervention such as diet modification. The ability of dietary compounds to act epigenetically in cancer cells has been studied and evidence continues to surface for constituents in food and dietary supplements to influence the epigenome and ultimately individual's risk of developing cancer.  Read more ...

Epigenetic mechanisms in anti-cancer actions in bioactive food components--the implications in cancer prevention

The hallmarks of carcinogenesis are aberrations in gene expression and protein function caused by both genetic and epigenetic modifications. Epigenetics refers to the changes in gene expression programming that alter the phenotype in the absence of a change in DNA sequence. Read more ...

How Epigenetics Could Improve Your Cancer Treatment

The human genome is often touted as the blueprint for the body. It's what helps make you, you. Many may also say that genomic understanding has provided the blueprint for modern cancer research. Yet, while genetic mutations can drive cancer development or increase your risk for malignancy, they are only one of the many factors at play. Today, how genes are stored in cells is swiftly gaining the attention of more and more cancer researchers. Subtle differences in cells affect how they switch genes on and off.  Read more...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Good News for Women With Breast Cancer: Many Don’t Need Chemo

Many women with early-stage forms of the disease
 can forego chemo, based on a test that measures the
 activity of genes involved in breast cancer recurrence.

Many women with early-stage breast cancer who would receive chemotherapy under current standards do not actually need it, according to a major international study that is expected to quickly change medical treatment.

“We can spare thousands and thousands of women from getting toxic treatment that really wouldn’t benefit them,” said Dr. Ingrid A. Mayer, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, an author of the study. “This is very powerful. It really changes the standard of care.”

The study found that gene tests on tumor samples were able to identify women who could safely skip chemotherapy and take only a drug that blocks the hormone estrogen or stops the body from making it. The hormone-blocking drug tamoxifen and related medicines, called endocrine therapy, have become an essential part of treatment for most women because they lower the risks of recurrence, new breast tumors and death from the disease. Read more.

Many women with breast cancer may not need chemo, study finds

Genetic test can help determine treatment for patients with smaller-sized tumors that have not spread to the lymph nodes

Most women with early-stage breast cancer may be able to avoid chemotherapy, a new study finds.
Researchers determined that patients with smaller-sized tumors that had not spread to the lymph nodes did just as well without chemo as those who got the treatment, according to the study presented Sunday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Experts cautioned, however, that the findings may not apply to those who have larger tumors or those with cancer that has started to spread, or metastasize. More studies are needed to look at those groups of women, they said. Read more.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Open Jam for Charity Raises funds for Cheerful Heart

Burgers and music are on the menu the last Wednesday of each month at the Mission Valley Elks Club in Polson. Local musicians are invited to an open mike Jam for Charity that begins at 7:30 and ends whenever. Open Jam began in February 2018 when funds were raised for SAFE Harbor and on March 28 Cheerful Heart was selected to receive donations totaling $335. The general public is invited to enjoy the evening, burgers are served from 5-7 pm followed by music and dancing.

Out with the old and in with the new . . .

The Wigs, Hats & Scarves Program now includes hats, turbans, Knitted Knockers and ComfyChemo shirts. All inventory is new and available to any cancer patient without charge. Cheerful Heart works with Merle Norman if a patient is looking for a wig.

“ComfyChemo was created in 2011 by an incredible and loving oncology nurse . She had patients constantly complaining that on treatment day they had a difficult time knowing what to wear because they had to pull down the shirt collar or pull up their shirt to gain port access.  She went home one night and began work on a shirt for one of her patients . After the patients in her treatment center saw it they all wanted one. Eventually she knew that she could help patients around the country so she started

"It hasn't been an easy journey without many obstacles. But with a lot of determination and belief ComfyChemo is now recognized by making cancer treatment centers across the United States for not only the wonderful shirts be also for the love behind each one, all because of one nurse.”    ComfortChemo Team

“Knitted Knockers are special handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast. Traditional breast prosthetics are usually expensive, heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable. They typically require special bras or camisoles with pockets and can’t be worn for weeks after surgery. Knitted Knockers on the other hand are soft, comfortable, beautiful and when placed in a regular bra they take the shape and feel of a real breast. Our special volunteer knitters provide these free to those requesting them. Knitted knockers can be adjusted to fill the gap for breasts that are uneven and easily adapted for those going through reconstruction by simply removing some of the stuffing.”

Locally, Knit Wits, a Big Arm knitting group, supplies Cheerful Heart with Knitted Knockers.

Wigs, Hat & Scarves Program changes

Cheerful Heart’s Wigs, Hats & Scarves Program must change to meet St. Joseph Medical Center guidelines. The Hospital Accreditation Agency’s enhanced infection control stipulates that only new items can be distributed at the hospital. To meet sanitary guidelines all used items have been removed from Cheerful Heart’s Resource Room.

The Joint Commission Accreditation On-site Survey (JCOM) visits hospitals every three years to be sure specific standards are met for proper patient care.

Anne Hoppie, Clinical Manager for Montana Cancer Center, visited the Polson Oncology Clinic on March 20. Anne credited quick work by Barbara Morin and Jane Holland, CH volunteers, for removing all used items. New items that did not arrive in packaging were put into plastic bags.

Current inventory of items available to cancer patients from the Resource Room include Knitted Knockers, hats and Comfy Chemo shirts. New wigs are also available through Cheerful Heart. Anyone interested in a wig should contact Barbara Morin, 883-3070.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Support for College Students with Cancer

Cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care about age, race, religion or anything else— and it certainly doesn’t care if you’re a college student. In fact, many of the 72,000 individuals between the ages of 15 and 39 diagnosed with cancer every year are students; today, it’s estimated that one of every 100 college students is a cancer survivor. The good news is that college students facing cancer can find a wealth of support, from understanding teachers to accommodations and support groups. This guide is for those trying to pursue their dream of higher education— despite their battle with the Big C. Read more . . .

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

St. Luke Community Healthcare Oncology Infusion Center

Dave and Susan Vaneek, St. Luke nurse.
Dave walked into the sparkling new the St. Luke Community Healthcare (SLCH) Oncology Infusion Center on Oct. 24 as its first cancer patient. Stunning views of the Mission Mountains fill the large northeast facing windows. Oncologist Dr. Michael Goodman, Glacier Oncology in Kalispell, travels to Ronan on Tuesdays. Currently Dr. Goodman is seeing about four patients per week. The space will accommodate six patients at one time, but the number of patients served relies on Dr. Goodman and his preferred patient load.

“We are pleased with the response to the Oncology Infusion Center,” says Sarah Teaff, St. Luke’s Chief Operating Officer, “Demand is growing, and we are considering additional operating hours in anticipation of growing demand.”

Front Desk.
The oncology center was built in response to the high prevalence of cancer in Lake County, the need to reduce the travel burden for community members, and was in response to the 2013 and 2016 Community Health Needs Assessments, which surveyed residents from seven communities in the Mission Valley. Cancer services ranked second for desired local healthcare services in the survey. A copy of St. Luke’s Community Health Needs Assessments can be found on the hospital’s website.

“Our goal was not a monetary one,” Sarah says, “we wanted to provide an important service which was lacking. Patients undergoing
Treatment Room.
chemotherapy treatment often times have to travel to Kalispell or Missoula, which requires a day off work for the patient and caregiver as well as travel costs; not to mention the discomfort of a drive home after chemotherapy. Our hope was to reduce this burden for people in our community.”

Cheerful Heart now provides SLCH infusion center with volunteer services that have been provided to St. Joseph Community Medical Center’s Oncology Clinic since 2002. Cheerful Heart’s services, in addition to the soup and snack service at the infusion center on Tuesdays, includes transportation, running errands, walking the dog, meal preparation, etc. All Cheerful Heart services are provided without charge to Lake County cancer patients currently in treatment. Cheerful Touch is another available service to patients and includes massage, hair, skin and nail care. To reach Cheerful Heart call 883-3070. The latest cancer information can be found on the Cheerful Heart web site

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Flu Shot 101 – What You Need to Know

Flu season is here again, and besides a fever and runny nose, it can bring about the longtime controversy surrounding vaccines. In order to protect more human lives this year and to clarify some of the most common misconceptions surrounding the flu vaccine, the team at met with Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt Medical University. Below are answers to some of the most common queries surrounding the flu vaccine.

How is the Flu Vaccine Created?
Contrary to popular belief, the flu vaccine you receive this year is not the same vaccine that you received last year. The flu, also known as influenza, is a respiratory virus that is able to mutate and evolve over time. According to Dr. Schaffner, the virus can “change sometimes from year to year, perhaps every 2-3 years.” Therefore, the vaccine needs to change and evolve as well to keep people protected every year.
Because parts of the world experience flu season at the opposite time that we do, there are actually two vaccines developed every year – one for the northern hemisphere and one for the southern hemisphere. Each vaccine is developed nine months prior to flu season in a collaborative effort between the World Health Organization (WHO), the FDA, and the CDC. Based on WHO’s year-round global surveillance and influenza sampling, expert committees can “make recommendations about the creation of the vaccine” for each half of the world.

Who Needs the Flu Vaccine?
Everyone is at risk for the flu, and therefore with a few exceptions, everyone is recommended to get vaccinated. According to the CDC, everyone six months or older should receive an annual flu shot. Contrary to popular belief, this recommendation includes pregnant women, seniors, and children. It’s also important to note that not only is it safe for pregnant women, but the mother’s vaccine will actually protect the infant for six months after its birth. more

Cancer's Newest Miracle Cure

With the usual mix of anticipation and apprehension, Kaitlyn Johnson is getting ready to go to her first summer camp. She’s looking forward to meeting new friends and being able to ride horses, swim and host tea parties. She’s also a little nervous and a little scared, like any 7-year-old facing her first sleepaway camp.
But the wonder is that Kaitlyn is leaving the house for anything but a medical facility. Diagnosed with leukemia when she was 18 months old, her life has been consumed with cancer treatments, doctors’ visits and hospital stays.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common cancer among young children, accounting for a quarter of all cancer cases in kids, and it has no cure. For about 85% to 90% of children, the leukemia can, however, be effectively treated through chemotherapy.
If it is not eliminated and comes back, it is, more often than not, fatal. Rounds of chemotherapy can buy patients time, but as the disease progresses, the periods of remission get shorter and shorter. “The options for these patients are not very good at all,” says Dr. Theodore Laetsch, a pediatrician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. ... read more

Friday, September 1, 2017

FDA Approves First Gene Therapy For Leukemia

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced what the agency calls a "historic action" — the first approval of a cell-based gene therapy in the United States.

The FDA approved Kymriah, which scientists refer to as a "living drug" because it involves using genetically modified immune cells from patients to attack their cancer.

The drug was approved to treat children and young adults up to age 25 suffering from a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia who do not respond to standard treatment or have suffered relapses.

The disease is a cancer of blood and bone marrow that is the most common childhood cancer in the United States. About 3,100 patients who are 20 and younger are diagnosed with ALL each year.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017


The energy, belief and passion of the first Cheerful Heart board members have carried the non-profit  for over 13 years. Linda Graven, one of the first board members, epitomized the “heart” in Cheerful Heart. Her compassion was delivered with humor and sarcasm. She lightened any room she walked into. Folks enjoyed being in her company.

Linda and Valerie Lindstrom met Cheerful Heart founder, Judy Kinsel, while working on the Relay For Life in 2001. Judy asked both to join her, along with Mac Binger, on the Cheerful Heart Board of Directors.

Judy and husband Mitch moved to Polson in 1999 after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Judy struggled to care for Mitch and the household. Being new to the community, they had not developed a group of friends who could help walk the dogs, grocery shop, or take care of other daily chores while trying to cope with cancer treatments. Mitch and Judy talked about creating an organization that could help cancer patients and their families, and the idea of Cheerful Heart was born. Mitch died Nov. 9, 2001, and Judy followed through to create a non-medical assistance group for cancer patients and their families. Cheerful Heart may sound like a service for heart patients, but instead the name came from Proverbs 17:22,  “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

When developing the Cheerful Heart Board of Directors, Judy knew that Linda brought great skills and deep business experience to the organization. Linda had moved to Polson in 1995 after retiring from Lockheed Missiles and Space Company where she’d worked since 1974. She started at an entry level administrative position and progressed through various administrative positions. She retired as Administrative Manager of the Space Systems Division. Linda was the first female to hold that position.

In those early days the Polson Oncology Clinic was in the Grandview Clinic Building just west of St. Joseph Medical Center. Linda started several Cheerful Heart services. Not only did she volunteer for Cheerful Heart every week at the clinic; she was also a hospital volunteer.

Linda said the best thing about working at the clinic was seeing the smiles on the patients’ faces.  She saw a need at the clinic for head coverings, and developed the Wigs, Hats and Scarves Program. She donated a substantial inventory from her closet. She had a knack for making things look good, so displays were appealing. In 2006 she established the Super Soup Tuesday. The hospital kitchen prepared a soup to be served to patients and their caregivers. In addition to serving soup during the one-day a week clinic, brown bags containing a bowl of soup and crackers were prepared for take-home. A volunteer base was established, but Linda was passionate in giving her time and energy to do whatever was requested. She also maintained the volunteer list and was first in line to respond to requests. She worked hard to fulfill needs immediately.

Linda enlisted Valerie’s help for one of the more unusual tasks. A case worker with a social service organization had told Linda that a cancer patient, who was confined to a wheelchair, needed help cleaning his kitchen. They worked for one full day scrubbing, scraping and cleaning. One of Linda’s character traits was to take on any task and do it well !!!

Raising funds for Cheerful Heart was all consuming. Linda worked hard to bring in operating monies. In 2003 the first Treasure Fest Garage Sale was held. Linda cajoled and pushed board members to pick up items during the year so that sale inventory was in-hand and ready for the sale. Good-natured ribbing was her signature style. When she saw value in an item, and others questioned whether anyone would buy such a thing, she was always right. The sale ran six years and raised more than $25,000.

Linda and husband Dick moved to North Carolina in 2006 to be closer to family. Linda had Stage 3 malignant melanoma in her leg in 1984 and yearly checks showed that it was in remission. After moving, she experienced pars planitis, an inflammation caused when her immune system attacked her eyes. She began taking an immuno-suppressant drug to keep her eyesight. In 2008 she was diagnosed with rectal cancer and Celiac disease. Eight years later her melanoma was back, this time Stage 4. In addition, she was also diagnosed with lymphoma.  Considering her future, Linda elected to save her eyesight and continue with the immuno-suppressant drug.

She and husband Dick had down-sized to a two-bedroom townhouse, with space for a caregiver, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Family members, who live close by, lovingly cared for Linda and Dick.

Cheerful Heart, Inc. continues with its mission to serve cancer patients, in part because of Linda’s substantial energy and work. After leaving Polson, Linda continued her support for Cheerful Heart.

Editor's Note: Valerie interviewed Linda in June 2017 for this feature. She passed away June 29, 2017. Linda’s support continues.  She chose Cheerful Heart to receive memorials in her name. Thank you, Linda !!! God speed my friend !!

Grandson Ryan wrote Linda's obituary.

Linda with Marie Osmond, February 2016, when she took 23 kids, grandkids and spouses to Las Vegas for a long weekend. Donny and Marie Osmond were Linda’s favorite celebrities.