Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Four Cancer-Treatment Developments Worth Celebrating

Findings shared at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting bring hope of tackling cancer at earlier stages, with better treatments and at lower cost. 

When it comes to health breakthroughs, Covid-19 vaccines have received the lion’s share of recent attention – and rightly so, as they are key to ending a global pandemic that has killed millions and disrupted the lives of almost everyone on the planet. But there have also been big advancements in the field of cancer treatments. The American Society of Clinical Oncology held its annual meeting earlier this month, giving drugmakers and researchers the chance to share their findings on the latest developments in cancer research and drug research. There was much to celebrate. Here are four particularly promising takeaways: . . . (Read article)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Local hospitals offer COVID-19 vaccinations

St. Luke is now offering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination for anyone 18 years of age and older. Those interested in getting the vaccine can register on our website ( or call our COVID-10 vaccine scheduling line at  582-5331. Since this line is not staffed 25/7, please leave a message and one of our friendly staff members will get back to you.

If we continue at the current vaccination rate, we expect that 50 percent of Lake County Residents will be vaccinated by mid-May! And, to date, over 160, 000 Montanans have been vaccinated!

Visitation is still limited at this time. Visit our  for the latest visitation policy updates.

As of April 1, St. Joseph Medical Center is offering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination to anyone 18 years of age and older. Please call 406-883-8400 to register for an appointment to receive a vaccine. 

The number of active COVID cases continues to decline.  Mass immunization clinics are being held for all Montana residents on Saturdays in April at the Salish Kootenai College Gymnasium.  Sign up for vaccinations at or call 745-3525.

Update: Cancer Support Group & Cheerful Touch

Coy Theobalt and Charlie Davis, Cancer Support Group organizers, are currently out of town until May. Their plan is to restart the Support Group in June depending on case numbers remaining low and if participants are fully vaccinated.

Cheerful Touch was established in 2012 to help cancer patients with hair loss and skin problems. Renee, owner of Salon Envy in Polson, has worked hard to give back and help patients feel better with a hair cut and style, wig styling, skin care and new make up. Renee will help patients with head coverings of all kinds.

Massage therapists joined the program to offer massages either in their business or in-home.  To take advantage of Cheerful Touch  services, which are subsidized by Cheerful Heart, call 883-3070 with questions or to make an appointment.

Cheerful Heart volunteers return to clinic

 Cheerful Heart volunteers have returned to work at St. Joseph’s Oncology Clinic.  Due to the pandemic, in March 2020, non-essential volunteers were not allowed into the hospitals.  Today the hospital requires that volunteers be fully vaccinated and at least two weeks from the second shot. The St. Luke Oncology Clinic has yet to open for volunteers.

Established in 2002, Cheerful Heart volunteers began assisting at the Polson clinic when it was located in the Grandview Clinic Building just west of the hospital. In 2005 the Oncology Clinic moved to the third floor of St. Joseph Medical Center. In 2009-2010 the space was remodeled and became the Otto G. Klein Memorial Cancer Center.  The St. Luke Oncology Clinic was established in October 2017.

* * * * * * * *

Betty Bjork signed up to volunteer at the Polson Clinic on April 6. Betty has given her love and care to oncology patients for 19 years. Betty is a survivor and thriver of ovarian cancer first diagnosed in 1996. Betty’s husband, Marshall served on the Cheerful Heart Board of Directors for 17 years and as chair for many of those  years. Marshall retired from the board in April 2019.

Monday, September 21, 2020

COVID-19 -- Oncology clinic info


Providence St. Joseph Medical Center participates in a bi-weekly Incident Command Center meeting.

The Incident Command is composed of Physicians, Nurses and Administrative Leaders who refer to CDC and other medical data to set the guidelines and directives for our Providence facilities.

There is not a firm date known at this time as to when it will be safe for volunteers and visitors to return to our hospitals and clinics.

We are here to serve patients in the safest manner possible throughout this pandemic – and that can take many different forms.

Cancer patients are currently being seen and treatments administered.

We do need to limit volunteers and visitors so that we can maintain social distancing for our immunocompromised patients and the caregivers who serve them.

We really miss the Cheerful Heart Volunteers, but do not know right now when they will be able to return to our hospital to help us.

Thanks for doing your part in masking and continuing to support cancer patients through this difficult time.

Kristy Beck-Nelson, Montana Cancer Center

Times may be challenging, but St. Luke Community Healthcare continues to serve the Mission Valley and meet our patients healthcare needs. Our Oncology Infusion Center remains open with ample safety measures in place, meaning patients who need chemotherapy or other infusion treatments will not experience a disruption in care. 

Those who need to see Dr. Goodman have the option of visiting with him via telehealth, which is a virtual appointment that allows patients to see their physician from the comfort of their own home, or from the Oncology Center in Ronan, avoiding out-of-town travel.

 While St. Luke is currently limiting visitors to essential caregivers or one parent, chemotherapy patients are encouraged to contact the Center ahead of time, to make an appointment and inform our staff if you would like to bring a support person with you. We do request that patients and accompanying support persons bring a mask and wear it at all times when in the hospital.

 If you have any questions or need to schedule an appointment, please call our Oncology team directly at (406) 528-5641. You can also learn more at:

Sarah Teaff
PhD, FACHE,  Chief Operating Officer
St. Luke Community Healthcare 

Colorectal Cancer Takes the Life of Far Too Many People and Black Men are Disproportionately Affected

Following the devastating news of the death of the world's beloved Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, from colorectal cancer, many were left asking why – and how. What most don't know is that Chadwick Boseman sat at the intersection of where colorectal cancer rates are among the highest and rising the fastest. He was a young man. And he was a Black man.

Colorectal cancer affects far too many in this country and disproportionately impacts the Black community, with among the highest rates of colorectal cancer of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S.  African Americans are 20 percent more likely to get colorectal cancer and 40 percent more likely to die from it than other groups. Black men have the highest incidence rate.

"Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the country," said Durado Brooks, M.D. vice president of prevention and early detection at the American Cancer Society. "This disease is ravaging the Black community and it is as important as ever that everyone has access to and is receiving the recommended screenings. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, necessary screening tests remain available to prevent the disease or find it at an early, more treatable stage."  Read more. American Cancer Society 

Flu Vaccination Urged During COVID-19 Pandemic

As the US heads into influenza season with the novel coronavirus pandemic still raging, public health authorities stress that it’s more important than ever for people to get their flu shot. 

Although influenza’s disease burden varies from year to year, evidence clearly shows that vaccination can reduce flu severity and prevent hospitalizations—critical considerations at a time when the health care system is burdened by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Read more.  Journal of American Medical Association. 

Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Information Specialists are available to answer questions about coronavirus and cancer Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. ET. Read more.

Caring for scars and scar tissue that form after breast surgery or radiation

Scar tissue forms as part of the healing process after the skin is cut. A scar is fibrous tissue made of collagen that replaces the injured skin.  Breast cancer surgery or radiation therapy can cause scar tissue to form. Scar tissue can form around nerves causing nerve pain or numbness.
A lump of scar tissue forms in the hole left after breast tissue is removed. If scar tissue forms around a stitch from surgery it's called a suture granuloma and can feel like a lump. Scar tissue and fluid retention can change the breast appearance making breast tissue appear a little firmer or rounder than before surgery and/or radiation. If scar tissue is causing stiffness, pressure or pain, ask your doctor if physical therapy could help. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove scar tissue that is very painful or stiff. 

Creams, ointments, or gels can help fade or lighten scars. These can be purchased over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor. Some complementary and holistic medicine techniques have been shown to ease pain associated with scars,  One Cheerful Heart volunteer, who has had breast surgery twice, uses the pulp of wheatgrass and keeps it on the skin by using press and seal. She says it works like magic, even on old scars. She picks up the wheatgrass pulp from a juicing bar and stores it in a baggie; or she grows  the wheatgrass and juices it herself.  She waits until the incision is healed, then presses the pulp onto the scar for a couple of months or until the scar disappears. She will watch television or read a couple of hours each night with the pulp on her skin.  She suggests wearing an old T-shirt because of staining.  Doctors are amazed at her results.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Cancer deaths are declining because fewer Americans are smoking

Five decades after the U.S. surgeon general first warned Americans against smoking cigarettes, the nation finally is starting to reap the health benefits of fewer people smoking, according to a report out this week.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society found that between 2016 and 2017, cancer deaths declined 2.2 percent, the largest single-year drop on record.

Nevertheless, experts predict 1.8 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and more than 606,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer, the American Cancer Society reported. And smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

These projections come as younger generations of Americans increasingly vape — and become sick from — e-cigarettes, a trend that has sparked a public outcry. Read more.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Volunteer Appreciation Supper and Social

Marshall and Betty Bjork and Chip Kurzenbaum were honored, on Oct. 13, at a Cheerful Heart Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. Each has volunteered for Cheerful Heart for 17 years caring for cancer patients in Lake County. Betty continues serving soup at Polson Oncology Clinic.

Cheerful Heart has 20 current volunteers. On Tuesdays volunteers serve soup at the oncology clinics in Polson and Ronan. They provide transportation and often are a second set of ears at a doctor’s appointment. Patient needs vary and the Cheerful Heart Volunteer Coordinator, Barbara Morin, connects with volunteers who can provide the service requested. Services can include meal preparation, running errands, walking the dog, etc. A Polson Beta group, Xi Alpha Gamma, is currently offering to provide housecleaning for cancer patients.

To volunteer contact Barbara Morin at 883-3070 and leave a message with the best time to reach you.

Board members from left: Leah Emerson, Valerie Lindstrom, Sarah Teaff,
Rich Forbis, Jeanne Doepke, Barbara Morin, Teri Warford

Targeted vs standard chemotherapy

Sources: National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Science Daily, Web MD

Targeted cancer therapies are drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer. 

Targeted therapies differ from standard chemotherapy  in several ways:
  • Targeted therapies act on specific molecular targets that are associated with cancer, whereas most standard chemotherapies act on all rapidly dividing normal and cancerous cells.
  • Targeted therapies are deliberately chosen or designed to interact with their target, whereas many standard chemotherapies were identified because they kill cells. 
  • Targeted therapies often block tumor growth, whereas standard chemotherapy agents kill tumor cells.

Targeted therapies are currently the focus of much anticancer drug development. They are a cornerstone of precision medicine, a form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes and proteins to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease.

Many targeted cancer therapies have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat specific types of cancer. Others are being studied in clinical trials (research studies with people), and many more are in preclinical testing (research studies with animals). Read more.

History of Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy was first used in the 1940s when iodine was used to kill thyroid cancer cells. Tamoxifen, first developed in 1970s as a contraceptive,  was found to bind to estrogen receptors in breast tissue. Some breast cancer cells require estrogen to grow and  tamoxifen can prevent recurrence of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer for pre- and post-menopausal women. 

In the past two decades, the discovery of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, and the completion of human genome sequencing fueled some major advances in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms leading to cancer. Subsequently, such newly emerging biological and genetic information rapidly prompted the introduction of a large number of new targeted cancer therapies.

Types of Targeted Therapies:                                      
There are two main types of targeted therapies: small molecule medicines and monoclonal antibodies.

Small molecule medicines are small enough to slip inside cancer cells and destroy them. Small molecule meds treat cancer by blocking signals that tell tumor cells to grow and are usually administered in pill form.

Monoclonal antibodies are too big to get into cells. Instead, they attack targets on the outside of cells or right around them. Sometimes they're used to launch chemo and radiation straight into tumors. They are usually administered through an IV in a vein in the arm at a hospital or clinic. Sometimes they are given as a shot.

Scientists have come up with many small molecule meds and monoclonal antibodies that make use of different targets to treat cancer in different ways. Varieties of therapies include: hormone therapies, signal transduction inhibitors, gene expression modulators, apoptosis (natural cell death) inducers, angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels feeding tumors) inhibitors and immunotherapies. Read more.

Latest targeted therapy news . . .

More targeted, less toxic:. The golden future of cancer treatment: New synthetic molecules are up to 24 times more effective at killing cancer cells than a widely-used cancer drug and they're built with resistance-fighting features to keep them effective over time, unlike current chemotherapies. Pre-clinical studies show the molecules are promising candidates for development into a new class of gold-based drugs that can wipe out the cancer without destroying healthy cells. Read more. 

Clues to improve cancer immunotherapy revealed.
Helper T cells appear vital to more robust anti-tumor response. Cancer immunotherapy drugs trigger the body's immune system to attack tumors and have revolutionized the treatment of certain cancers, such as lymphoma, lung cancer and melanoma. Yet, while some patients respond well to the drugs, others don't respond at all. Cancer immunologists want to change that.

A new study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates a way for cancer immunotherapy to spur a more robust immune response. Such knowledge could lead to the development of better cancer vaccines and more effective immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. The study is published Oct. 23 in the journal Nature. Read more.

Cancer Support Group

Coy and Charlie

Cheerful Heart Cancer Support Group has not met since mid March. Coy Theobalt and Charlie Davis want to talk with folks who attend the group to get an idea of comfort level for gathering again. Coy and Charlie will contact their current group list and anyone who would like to be included should call them at 303-618-1265 or 501-701-8283.


Coy, Cheerful Heart Cancer Support Group leader, and partner Charlie work together to organize and lead the group that normally 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. 

Coy began his career as a therapist after finishing graduate school in Denver. He maintained a private practice for 17 years as well as managing an inpatient men’s program at a treatment facility in Tucson, Arizona. In 2003 he co-founded a non-profit organization for men battling cancer. They provided three-day all-expense paid fly fishing trips to men with any stage and type of cancer. You can read more about it at

Charlie spent all of her 35-year career working for Weyerhaeuser, mostly in the information technology world, working her way up from an accounting clerk to the Southern Timberlands Information Technology Manager and Senior Project Manager. Her passion for helping cancer survivors and their caregivers began when her father was diagnosed with lung cancer. 

The support 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. Attendees are urged to bring a brown-bag lunch. A list is maintained and Charlie will send reminder texts to cell phones before each gathering. To be added to the list or if you have questions, leave a message at 303-618-1265 or 501-701-8283. 

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.

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

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.