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

Coy Theobalt, of Goat Peak Ranch Retreat for cancer patients, is now the Cheerful Heart Cancer Support Group leader. Coy and partner Charlie Davis work together to organize and lead the group that 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 406-578-8078. 

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

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.