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.