Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Toronto project to track genetic origins of cancer

Decade-long study may lead to new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease

Apr 29, 2008 08:00 AM
Megan Ogilvie
Health Reporter
Toronto Star

Cancer researchers from around the world banded together today to announce the launch of a massive international effort - headquartered in Toronto – to map the genetic origins of cancer.

The International Cancer Genome Consortium, one of the largest global research endeavours since scientists cracked the human genome, plans to catalogue the genetic changes found in 50 of the most common cancers within the next decade.

Experts say the project will help researchers uncover the genetic roots of cancers, a feat which will likely lead to new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease.

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), located in Toronto, will host the international consortium’s secretariat and will house its data coordination centre.

Ontario, which has already committed $30 million to the consortium, gave the project another boost today with an additional $10 million.

John Wilkinson, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, said the consortium is a textbook example of how the province, through strategic investments in research, can be a global innovation leader.

“It’s clear the ability to solve global problems is through collaboration,” he said. “Researchers from around the world have decided to join together to crack the genomics of the 50 most common cancers that plague mankind.”

The consortium has an open invitation for any research organization to participate and already has project commitments from nearly 10 countries, including China, France, India and the United States.

Each project will tackle a specific type of cancer and must agree to the consortium’s policies and contribute at least $20 million to sequence 500 unique samples.

Dr. Tom Hudson, scientific director and president of the institute and an executive member of the consortium’s interim executive committee, said cataloguing the genetic mutations involved in 50 types of cancer is too large a project to be undertaken by one country alone.

The consortium’s goal to map 50 cancer genomes is 25,000 times larger than the output of the Human Genome Project, he said.

Ontario researchers, coordinated by OICR, plan to map the genetic mutations involved in pancreatic cancer. Hudson said the decision to analyze pancreatic cancer was influenced by both Ontario’s critical mass of top-notch researchers in the area and the need to find answers for a deadly cancer.

“We wanted to go after a very tough cancer,” he said. “It has had improved the least in its survival rates in the last 20 years and the mortality rate is very high.”

Dr. Lincoln Stein, a world leader in genome informatics, was recruited to the OICR from the U.S. and will lead the consortium's data coordination centre, which is predicted to be the largest health informatics database in the world.

Studying cancer genomes will help scientists understand the complex biological mechanisms that cause cancers to grow and spread throughout the body.

Hudson said the project may also help pinpoint environmental factors, including viruses, that contribute to different cancers.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Review of "Am I Next In Line" by Monique Achtman

Once I started Monique's book, I couldn't put it down. This is a definite must read for anyone facing the BRCA cancer gene, or for those with family or friends facing the BRCA cancer risk.

I felt a flood of emotions as I read this; happy because I didn’t feel so alone in my fears; sad because it brought back the all-too-raw memories of losing my mom to ovarian cancer; worried that I might be next; relieved that my sister and my niece won't need to feel the stress and emotional turmoil I'm going through; and a strong feeling of déjà vu with many of her experiences paralleling my own.

I hope that this book will help other women who are as frightened as little girls when they ask, Am I next…?, it certainly gave me tremendous hope.

Am I Next In Line can be ordered here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Alternative eco-friendly die-cast cookware

The following excerpt is taken from the Canadian Cancer Society website

"Teflon™ and non-stick cookware and cancer risk
Non-stick cookware has raised concerns among the public about its possible association with increased risk of cancer. One concern is that cooking with non-stick products may increase cancer risk. Another concern is that potential cancer-causing chemicals used to make non-stick products are released into the environment during manufacturing."

The jury is still out on the health effects of Teflon™ and other chemically created non-stick cooking surfaces, but I tend to err on the safe side. Of course manufacturers deny any health risks associated with their product, but other investigations and studies have shown otherwise. I use stainless steel pots and pans, however I still like using non-stick frying pans...maybe that is saying something about my cooking skills! LOL Ok, it's more for the ease of cleanup, and the fact you don't need to use much cooking oil to keep foods from sticking.

Today we took GeeGee on a shopping trip to Zellers and WalMart. Since I was in the need of some new frying pans, I took a look to see what was available...and look what I found! I was thrilled, I didn't know these existed. I found these at WalMart at a fairly decent price. The 28cm one was $42.99, and the 24cm one was "rolled back" to $19.99 from $36.99. I couldn't resist and bought both sizes.
  • Alternative eco-friendly die-cast cookware
  • Cerem-ECO non-stick surface
  • from 100% natural ceramic powder
  • CHEMICAL FREE - Easy to clean
  • Made of 99% recycled aluminum
  • Even heat distribution
  • Extra thick base never warps, buckles or bends
  • Integrated induction base is for use on all stovetops including induction

There's lots of information out there. Be your own advocate and keep informed and up-to-date on new research and new healthier choices in products that are available. Some good information about different types of cookware can be found at the following link:

It's Your Health - The Safe Use of Cookware from Health Canada

Monday, April 21, 2008

Stemming the Tumorous Tide

Apr 17th 2008 SAN DIEGO
From The Economist print edition

Cancers grow from stem cells. That discovery should translate into better treatment for tumours of all types

STEM cells have a controversial reputation, but in truth they are what makes human life possible. Each tissue in the body grows from a particular sort of stem cell. When it divides, one of its daughters remains a stem cell while the other eventually turns into whatever tissue its mother was designed to produce—be it blood, muscle, nerve or whatever. That is how healthy tissues are renewed, and it is now looking likely that it is how unhealthy tissues are renewed, too. Indeed, many researchers think that the underlying cause of cancer is the brakes coming off the regulatory system that stops normal stem cells from reproducing too much. For one of the most important medical discoveries made in recent years is that cancers, too, have stem cells and that these appear to be the source of the rest of the tumour.

This helps to explain why cancers are so hard to deal with. Treatments that kill the bulk of a tumour, but leave the stem cells alive, are only buying time. On the other hand, if all of a tumour's stem cells could be killed then it would torpedo the old wisdom that no patient is ever cured of cancer, but merely goes into remission. True cures for cancer would be possible.

The cancer-stem-cell theory, though plausible, was based on animal experiments and its relevance to humans was untested. But a series of studies reported this week at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in San Diego, has changed that. They suggest both that cancer stem cells are very relevant indeed to survival, and that going after them is an excellent idea.

The relevance of cancer stem cells to survival was shown by William Matsui of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Centre in Baltimore. He looked at samples from 268 people with pancreatic cancer and found that the pattern of stem cells in their tumours predicted how long they would live. Those whose tumours had stem cells at their edges (the “invasive margin” in the militaristic jargon of the cancer-warriors) lived on for an average of 14 months. Those who did not lived an average of 18 months. Not a huge difference, but confirmation that cancer stem cells have an impact on the outcome of disease.

Bombs away
Such stem cells, then, are as bad as theory suggests they should be. The question is, can they be eradicated?

Animal tests suggest this is hard. For reasons as yet unknown, stem cells are resistant to standard cancer chemotherapies. With this in mind, Jeffrey Rosen and his colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, compared samples from breast-cancer patients taken before and after 12 weeks of chemotherapy. They reasoned that if stem cells were resistant in people as well as mice, then the proportion of stem cells within a tumour would increase as more vulnerable cells were killed off in disproportionate numbers.

And that is exactly what happened. Among women treated with old-fashioned chemotherapy, the share of stem cells within their tumours rose from 5% before treatment to 14% afterwards. Dr Rosen, however, went further. In a parallel experiment he looked at a group of women being treated with a new drug called lapatinib. In these people, the proportion of cancer stem cells decreased from 10% before therapy to 7.5% after they were treated.

Lapatinib is a product of the growing field of molecular medicine—the design of drugs to attack specific protein molecules associated with particular diseases. In this case the protein attacked is HER2, a molecule often found on the surface of breast-tumour cells. Ironically, however, it was not lapatinib's effect on HER2 that made it potent against stem cells. Lapatinib, it turns out, also inhibits the activity of a protein called the epidermal growth factor receptor, which has been found to be important for stem-cell proliferation. When its activity is blocked, a stem cell's daughters both lack stem-cell qualities and the chain of “stem-cellness” that the system depends on is broken. Hence the proportion of stem cells in the tumour falls.

It is too early to tell if Dr Rosen's discovery is a life-prolonging one. But Dr Matsui and his colleague, Carol Ann Huff, are thinking along similar lines.

Alongside Dr Matsui's pancreatic-cancer work, they have been looking at treating multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, with a combination of heavy artillery and guided missiles: high-dose cytotoxic chemotherapy to kill the bulk of the cancer cells and antibodies called rituximab. These bind to a protein called CD20 that sits on the surface of cancer stem cells. It was expected to kill them.

Not every experiment works, and this one did not. As expected, patients left with the fewest cancer stem cells after the therapy lived longest. But this was the luck of the draw, for the rituximab failed to kill the cancer stem cells. Indeed, Dr Huff and Dr Matsui could see stem cells coated with the antibodies alive and well in their samples.

The next step, Dr Huff and Dr Matsui agree, is to bring in even more powerful missiles. Another proprietary antibody that binds to CD20, called tositumomab, is radioactively labelled. If this coats the myeloma stem cells in the way that rituximab does, the radiation should kill them.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, where tositumomab was developed, have already begun such an experiment. Andrzej Jakubowiak, who is leading the trial, says four patients have been on the treatment long enough to be evaluated, and three of them have already been taken off other drugs and appear clinically stable—which for advanced myeloma is an unusually good success rate. The laboratory data also look promising. The radiological bombs seem to be destroying the cancerous stem cells in exactly the predicted manner—although Dr Jakubowiak rightly cautions that too few patients have been treated to allow firm conclusions.

The upshot of all this is that the stem-cell hypothesis of cancer growth looks a good one. It explains a lot of things, and allows biologists to look at tumours in a new way—almost akin to developing organs, albeit ones with no function and growth that is out of control. That insight, and a better understanding of stem-cell biology, may be the chink in cancer's armour that people have long been searching for. And that is a truly optimistic thought.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The fashion accessory every girl should have!!!

Get your's today!

Click here to order your Canadian Cancer Society Thingamaboob.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I have the best sister in the world!!!

Please read my sister's blog entry for today...


I am so blessed to have Tracey. Not only is she my sister, but she's my best friend. I don't think I could handle this journey without her.

I love you so much!!! Thank you Tracey. xoxo

Friday, April 18, 2008


Health Canada
April 18, 2008
For immediate release

Government of Canada Takes Action on Another Chemical of Concern: Bisphenol A

OTTAWA - The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, and the Honourable John Baird, Minister of the Environment, today announced that the Government is taking action to protect the health of Canadians and the environment from another chemical of concern.

Canada is the first country in the world to complete a risk assessment of bisphenol A in consultation with industry and other stakeholders, and to initiate a 60 day public comment period on whether to ban the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles which contain bisphenol A.

The comment period will begin on April 19, 2008, once the Government publishes a summary notice of its assessment findings in Canada Gazette, Part 1.

"Canada has been the first country in the world to conduct risk assessments on a number of chemicals of concern, as a result of a new initiative announced by the Prime Minister on December 8, 2006 known as the Chemicals Management Plan," said Minister Clement. "We have immediately taken action on bisphenol A, because we believe it is our responsibility to ensure families, Canadians and our environment are not exposed to a potentially harmful chemical."

Health Canada's screening assessment of bisphenol A primarily focused on its impacts on newborns and infants up to 18 months of age, however health risks for Canadians of all ages were considered in the screening.

It was determined that the main source of exposure for newborns and infants is through the use of polycarbonate baby bottles when they are exposed to high temperatures and the migration of bisphenol A from cans into infant formula. The scientists concluded in this assessment that bisphenol A exposure to newborns and infants is below levels that may pose a risk, however, the gap between exposure and effect is not large enough.

To be prudent, the Government of Canada is proposing to reduce bisphenol A exposure in infants and newborns by proposing a number of actions: to ban polycarbonate baby bottles; to develop stringent migration targets for bisphenol A in infant formula cans; to work with industry to develop alternative food packaging and develop a code of practice; and to list bisphenol A under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Environment Canada scientists also found that at low levels, bisphenol A can harm fish and aquatic organisms over time. Studies indicate that it can currently be found in wastewater and sludge treatment plants.

"When it comes to Canada's environment, you can't put a price on safety," said Minister Baird. "Not only are we finding out about the health impacts of bisphenol A, but the environmental impacts as well. That's why our Government will be moving forward and will work with the provinces and stakeholders to keep bisphenol A out of our environment, and take the necessary measures to ensure its safe use and disposal."

For more information, please visit the Chemical's Management Web site (http://www.chemicalsubstanceschimiques.gc.ca/)
or call 1-866-891-4542.

Media Enquiries:
Laryssa Waler
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Health
(613) 957-0200

Health Canada Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

Eric Richer
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of the Environment
(819) 997-1441

Environment Canada Media Relations
(819) 934-8008

What Exactly is Bisphenol-A?

Bisphenol-A (BPA), is a chemical that mimics the action of the human hormone estrogen.

BPA has been found to stimulate prostate cancer cells and causes breast tissue changes in mice that resemble early stages of breast cancer in both mice and humans. One study found an association between ovarian dysfunction and higher levels of BPA in urine.

BPA is primarily used to make polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers, plastic food wrap, and epoxy resins that are used to line metal cans for food, such as cans of soup. Polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers that contain BPA will be labeled recycling #7.

What do those recycling symbols mean anyway?

Poly(ethylene terephthalate): Soda bottles, water bottles, vinegar bottles, medicine containers, backing for photography film.

High-density Polyethylene: Containers for: laundry/dish detergent, fabric softeners, bleach, milk, shampoo, conditioner, motor oil. Newer bullet proof vests, various toys.

Poly(vinyl chloride): Pipes, shower curtains, meat wraps, cooking oil bottles, baby bottle nipples, shrink wrap, clear medical tubing, vinyl dashboards and seat covers, coffee containers.

Low-density Polyethylene: Wrapping films, grocery bags, sandwich bags.

Polypropylene: Tupperware®, syrup bottles, yogurt tubs, diapers, outdoor carpet.

Polystyrene: Coffee cups, disposable cutlery and cups (clear and colored), bakery shells, meat trays, "cheap" hubcaps, packing peanuts, styrofoam insulation.

The hotdog of plastics! Products labeled as "other" are made of any combination of 1-6 or another, less commonly used plastic.

Safe plastics recycling guide:

Some important recent studies of Bisphenol-A

Smart Plastics Guide Healthier Food Uses of Plastics

In the News

April 18, 2008

April 17, 2008

April 15, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Making a Statement

2 t-shirts I ordered arrived yesterday.

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pretty is What Changes

This book was just released on April 1, 2008. Written by Jessica Queller after being tested positive for the dreaded gene. I ordered it this morning.

About The Book

A timely, affecting memoir from the front lines of medical science: When genetics can predict how we may die, how then do we decide how to live?

Eleven months after her mother succumbs to cancer, Jessica Queller has herself tested for the BRCA “breast cancer” gene mutation. The results come back positive, putting her at a terrifyingly elevated risk of developing breast cancer before the age of fifty and ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Thirty-four, unattached, and yearning for marriage and a family of her own, Queller faces an agonizing choice: a lifetime of vigilant screenings and a commitment to fight the disease when caught, or its radical alternative—a prophylactic double mastectomy that would effectively restore life to her, even as it would challenge her most closely held beliefs about body image, identity, and sexuality.

Superbly informed and armed with surprising wit and style, Queller takes us on an odyssey from the frontiers of science to the private interiors of a woman’s life. Pretty Is What Changes is an absorbing account of how she reaches her courageous decision and its physical, emotional, and philosophical consequences. It is also an incredibly moving story of what we inherit from our parents and how we fashion it into the stuff of our own lives, of mothers and daughters and sisters, and of the sisterhood that forms when women are united in battle against a common enemy.

Without flinching, Jessica Queller answers a question we may one day face for ourselves: If genes can map our fates and their dark knowledge is offered to us, will we willingly trade innocence for the information that could save our lives?

About the Author

Jessica Queller has written for numerous television shows, including Gossip Girl, Gilmore Girls, Felicity, and One Tree Hill. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Everything you ever wanted to know about BRCA2 but were afraid to ask!

My genetic mutation according to the report I received from Cancer Genetics at the London Regional Cancer Program. The testing was done by Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory of the London Health Sciences Centre.

Genotype: BRCA2:EX19del
Comments: aka BRCA2: c.8332-?_8488+?19

I have a deletion of Exon 19 on my BRCA2 gene, which means there's a tiny bit "missing" for lack of a better term. This throws off the genetic sequencing and the functionality of the gene.

Those of you who know me, know I'm a bit or a "researcher". I hunt and hunt until I find the information I'm looking for. In high school, I was also a bit of a wiz in biology, and especially genetics. This has helped me greatly trying to understand what being BRCA2 positive actually means. Below you will find some information that I hope will make sense...it certainly helped me understand everything. Some of it is pretty scientific, but after doing my researching, it's all fallen into place and I kind of understand it now.

Happy reading!!!

What is the BRCA2 gene?

The official name of this gene is “breast cancer 2, early onset.” BRCA2 is the gene's official symbol.

The BRCA2 gene belongs to a class of genes known as tumor suppressor genes. Like many other tumor suppressors, the protein produced from the BRCA2 gene helps prevent cells from growing and dividing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled way.

The BRCA2 gene provides instructions for making a protein that is directly involved in the repair of damaged DNA. In the nucleus of many types of normal cells, the BRCA2 protein interacts with several other proteins, including the proteins produced from the RAD51 and PALB2 genes, to mend breaks in DNA. These breaks can be caused by natural and medical radiation or other environmental exposures, and also occur when chromosomes exchange genetic material in preparation for cell division. By helping repair DNA, BRCA2 plays a role in maintaining the stability of a cell's genetic information.

Where is the BRCA2 gene located?
The BRCA2 gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 13 at position 12.3. More precisely, the BRCA2 gene is located from base pair 31,787,616 to base pair 31,871,804 on chromosome 13. The BRCA2 gene's location is indicated by the yellow arrow.

How are changes in the BRCA2 gene related to health conditions?
breast cancer - increased risk from variations of the BRCA2 gene

Researchers have identified more than 800 mutations in the BRCA2 gene, many of which are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Many BRCA2 mutations insert or delete a small number of DNA building blocks (nucleotides) in the gene. Most of these genetic changes disrupt protein production from one copy of the gene in each cell, resulting in an abnormally small, nonfunctional version of the BRCA2 protein. Researchers believe that the defective BRCA2 protein is unable to help repair damaged DNA or fix mutations that occur in other genes. As these defects accumulate, they can allow cells to grow and divide uncontrollably and form a tumor.

other cancers - increased risk from variations of the BRCA2 gene

In addition to female breast cancer, mutations in one copy of the BRCA2 gene can lead to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, fallopian tube cancer, male breast cancer, and an aggressive form of skin cancer called melanoma. Mutations in the central part of the gene have been associated with a higher risk of ovarian cancer and a lower risk of prostate cancer than mutations in other parts of the gene.

What is Chromosome 13?
Humans normally have 46 chromosomes in each cell, divided into 23 pairs. Two copies of chromosome 13, one copy inherited from each parent, form one of the pairs. Chromosome 13 spans about 114 million base pairs (the building blocks of DNA) and represents between 3.5 percent and 4 percent of the total DNA in cells.

Identifying genes on each chromosome is an active area of genetic research. Because researchers use different approaches to predict the number of genes on each chromosome, the estimated number of genes varies. Chromosome 13 likely contains between 300 and 700 genes. Genes on chromosome 13 are among the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 total genes in the human genome.

Exon(s) Definition
Coding sequence of DNA present in mature messenger RNA; DNA initially transcribed to messenger RNA consists of coding sequences (exons) and non-coding sequences (introns or "junk DNA"). Introns are spliced out of the messenger RNA prior to translation, leaving only the exons to ultimately encode the amino acid product. Introns have no apparent function.

BRCA2 has 27 Exons. I am missing Exon 19, which is somewhere central on the gene. I wasn't too thrilled to learn that mutations in the central part of the gene have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Deletion Definition
A mutation in which one or more (sequential) nucleotides is lost by the genome. If the number lost is not divisible by 3 and is in a coding region, the result is a frameshift mutation. A frameshift mutation is a genetic mutation where part of the genetic code is removed from a chromosome and lost forever. This affects the overall genetic sequence, and the result can range from insignificant to fatal. This is what I have.

How my Exon 19 deletion would look:

Wild-type in genetics refers to typical or normal and Mutant means differing from the Wild-type; a mutation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Talk about making a girl cry!!!

My husband left a comment on my blog today. Some of you may not read the comments, so I've posted it here so you could read it...talk about make a girl cry! I love you Wayne. You are my rock!


Hi All

This is a very difficult and emotional situation for me. However, as Shari's husband it is my role to support her and carry her through this. I cannot imagine what she is going through but I can see what the stress of this situation is doing to her. I must find a way to be strong when I want to cry with her. I do not care what has to be done but what ever changes she must make physically, lifestyle and otherwise; I will love and support her no matter what. She will always be the woman of my dreams and I made a vow in front of God and the world that I would love her in sickness and in health and I will continue to uphold that vow no matter what.

I love you Shari, forever

Received My Referrals!!!

I've finally received both my referrals to the specialists in London. They both have fabulous reputations. Dr. Jung of Cancer Genetics said he was going to refer me to two of the best...looks like he did! Thank you Dr. Jung!!!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Dr. Stephen Power
City-wide Chief-Gynaecologist
Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
London Health Sciences Centre

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Dr. Muriel Brackstone
Surgical Oncologist and Head of Breast Multidisciplinary Team
Assistant Professor, Victoria Hospital
Department of Surgery
London Health Sciences Centre

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"The Cure"

This is Nigerian singer/songwriter, KUKU, and the song is called "The Cure". This song speaks about iniquity of life using cancer as it's symbolism. I had never heard of this artist, but it's such a beautiful song, I had to share it.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My MRI results...how much can a girl take??? or, come on...keep piling it on...I can take it! NOT!!!!

Well, I really don't know where to start...I'm shell shocked right now. My family doctor received my MRI results from yesterday already and she called me at work this afternoon.

and the results are...

"There is a small 6 x 7 x 5 mm ring enhancing lesion at approximatly 11:30 o'clock position in the left breast close to the chest wall, approximately 5 cm from the nipple. This is too small to accurately characterize, and has a Type I enhancement curvature, with slight plateau at 7 minutes post contrast. There are other small areas of enhancement, and this may simply be a small enhancing region of parenchyma. The right breast is unremarkable without any enhancing areas of significance."

I have no freakin' clue what this all means.

They recommend a follow-up MRI in 6 months. I don't know if I want to wait that long...it may be nothing, but I want to know NOW instead of all this waiting...it's driving me nuts!

The report was forwarded to the breast specialist I am being referred to, so I guess I just wait until I get my appointment with her and see what she says.

I am so scared right now.

Monday, April 7, 2008

MRI Day...and do tattoos really hurt during one???

Today I headed to Victoria Hospital in London for a breast MRI.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive, usually painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

MR imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed pictures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor or printed. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (x-rays).

Detailed MR images allow physicians to better evaluate parts of the body and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods such as x-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scanning).

MRI of the breast offers valuable information about many breast conditions that cannot be obtained by other imaging modalities, such as mammography or ultrasound.

Image of a breast MRI
(not my breast! LOL)

Preparing for today was fun! I spent almost an hour Sunday night removing all my piercings (I have 30). Even though piercing jewelry is surgical stainless steel and non-magnetic, they will not scan anyone with any piercings in so I undertook the job of removing them all. Some were more difficult to remove than others, but it was more psychological than physical. I've had these a long time and they sort of defined me.

Now, the scan itself...

I was pretty anxious all morning. My wonderful friend Sharron came along to London with me for moral support. We got to Victoria Hosptial in oodles of time, which was nice. I had to fill out the necessary paperwork and they called me in after only about a 5 minutes wait. The technicians were wonderful (and one was really cute!). The cute one gave me my IV...OUCH! It hurt as I have small veins. He tried to keep my mind off of it by chatting to me about my tattoos. The MRI was a little intimidating to start, I was lying in what they call a "breast coil" on my stomach and went into the machine feet first. There was an intercom in the scanner, so the technologists could hear me if I needed anything at all...and they spoke to me a few times during the process. I wore headphones playing some pretty heavy music to protect my ears from the noice of the machine...it's REALLY loud. About half-way through, a machine injected the gadolinium into my IV...it was a weird sensation. It felt really cold. The whole process took about 35 minutes or so. The most unpleasant part was laying still for that length of time. To be honest, I almost fell asleep in there!

...and for the record, no, my tattoos didn't feel a thing although the technicians asked me to let them know if I did...they are tracking tattooed peoples' responses. Apparently red ink has been known to show up on imaging although it doesn't actually hurt the tattoo. Older inks from 25+ years ago, has been known to give 3rd degree burns because the old ink had iron in it...OUCH! Glad that didn't happen to me.

Guess I'll be spending tonight trying to put my piercings back in!!!

I feel much better now that it's over. Now the waiting for results begins...stay tuned...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

It's all in the......skin!

In November and December of 2006, I had two tattoos done on my inside forearms representing my parents. Both are gorgeous fairies paired with their birth flowers; honeysuckles for mom (June) and snow drops for dad (January). After mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I added a teal ovarian cancer ribbon to her tattoo and a purple general cancer awareness ribbon to my dad tattoo. Dad is a survivor of two cancers.

After finding out I'm BRCA2 positive, I only thought it fitting, to add my own ribbon (any excuse for another bit of ink!), so on Saturday, April 5, 2008, I had the teal and pink ribbon, representing genetic ovarian and breast cancer, added next to my mom's teal ribbon.

Artwork by Scott Duncan of Sugar Shack Tattoo in Kincardine.
Thank you Scott!!! xo

Friday, April 4, 2008

Going Green

I've made the decision to go as green as I can. Perhaps subconsciously I knew this was coming, but about 2 months ago, I made the decision to stop using regular commercial household cleaners, cosmetics and health care items. I don't need all those extra chemicals around me so I've switched over to naturals and minerals.

Skincare: The Scented Blossom a wonderful woman I found on eBay who makes fabulous handmade skincare products

Shampoo & Bath Products: LUSH Cosmetics I only use their solid shampoo bars, bath bombs and bath melts...they still are putting those nasty parabens in their liquid products

Makeup: Bare Escentuals 100% pure mineral makeup

Household Cleaners: Method naturally-derived, biodegradable products...I found these at Canadian Tire!!!

Well, at least it's a start!

It's all in the Genes...or, Genetic Counseling…it’s all so confusing!

It is quite ironic that I find myself creating this blog and posting just after the 1-year anniversary of loosing mom to a brief but brave battle with Ovarian cancer.

About a year ago, my sister, Tracey, and I started on the path of genetic counselling. We were offered genetic testing because of our family history:
  • Mom - ovarian
  • Mom's father - pancreatic developed at a very young age (51). The average age for the development of this cancer is 72
  • Mom's paternal grandmother - ovarian
  • Mom's paternal great aunts (all 8 of them!) - breast

On March 28th, 2008, Tracey and I had an appointment with Dr. Jack Jung, a Geneticist at the London Regional Cancer Centre, to receive our test results. Much to our shock, I was told I have a mutation with my BRCA2 gene. We were really expecting we'd both get a negative result. Perhaps a bit of denial, plus because of the fact mom was 65 when she was diagnosed, so we thought perhaps it was just a random cancer. The Exon 19 is missing from one of my BRCA2 genes. It’s confusing and I won’t even attempt to get into the science of it all, but it means that my BRCA2 genes may not function if needed. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are tumour suppressors. Tracey tested fine. She has no genetic mutations. I am glad that if it had to be one of us, it was me...I have no children and won't pass on the mutation to anyone and because my sister is negative, we won't have to worry about my niece.

Dr. Jung said mom’s ovarian cancer was more than likely genetic although we never had the chance to test her so will never know 100%. Poor mom never had a chance. She had no symptoms whatsoever and her tumour was found "by accident" while undergoing testing for another illness.

Dr. Jung was an incredible man and he let us receive our results together. They even let DH sit in with us. The other Geneticist in London will only see people individually. I’m glad we were allowed to be together to receive the results because I don’t think I could have handled it on my own. Of course I cried and screamed, and let’s just say, I’m still numb. And I had been so excited about a shopping trip in London, but after our appointment, I didn’t even feel like doing that!

This does not mean that I will definitely develop ovarian or breast cancer, but I have a much greater chance…up to 40% for ovarian and 85% for breast. Dr. Jung is strongly recommending I have a prophylatic oophorectomy which is the surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. I can have a complete hysterectomy if there are uterine problems, but is not necessary if there are none. He says it is a very simple surgery with one small incision. They do it with laparoscopy. He says it’s an even easier surgery than gall bladder surgery with likely only one night in the hospital. Having the surgery can reduce my chances of developing breast cancer by 80% and ovarian cancer by 94%. Dr. Jung is referring me to a gynaecological specialist in London in this field as there only a few in Ontario. He is also referring me to a breast oncologist / specialist. I am having a breast MRI on April 7th, which he says is a fabulous thing and I will likely need to undergo one yearly for early detection.

With having the prophylatic oophorectomy, I will of course hit instant menopause. I am already in the early stages…very infrequent periods, crazy night sweats, etc., etc., so this will just speed up the process some. Time is of the essence because for this surgery to do its thing, I need to have it done before the age of 45 or before full-blown menopause, whichever comes first! He says that although this will make me hit instant menopause, there is a benefit because of the reduced oestrogen, it will significantly reduce my risk of breast cancer. They DO NOT recommend hormone replacement therapy (I can’t take hormones anyway because of a previous medical condition). He says HRT is a double-edged sword and they never recommend it to anymore, especially where cancers are involved. There are naturals out there I’m sure I can use to help with the process.

As my brother-in-law said, "Not that it’s a good thing that mom died, but at least because of it, mom has given me a gift and I now have a head’s up and can do things to protect myself." I know she’s watching over me right now...she is my angel.

That’s about it. I’m still digesting all of this. Good thing spring is upon us…at least all this spring cleaning will keep my mind off of things! :-)