cancer treatment

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Living With (Not Fighting) Terminal Cancer

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in the health AGEnda blog. On the day the FDA revoked its approval of Avastin, Ms. Berman’s perspective is particularly insightful.

Amy Berman

Amy Berman

I have been celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness month. This isn’t just because I had the good fortune to celebrate my birthday in October, but because one year after being diagnosed with a terminal illness and choosing to treat it non-aggressively, I feel great. I have less pain than I did one year ago. The shooting pains I often felt last year in my right breast have almost entirely vanished, thanks to my hormone-suppressing drugs. My lower spine—the site of metastasis—aches only occasionally, and only when I overdo it. If I get plenty of rest and fluids, eat right, and avoid standing for long periods or lifting heavy objects, I remain pain free. Although I may take a few more breaks than I used to or find myself more tired at night, I can still fill each day with meaningful activities, just as I always have.

I can honestly say that this has been the best year of my life, both personally and professionally.
I have been able to spend quality time with my family, while taking advantage of numerous opportunities to speak and write about the importance of individuals being involved in decisions about their own health care, in addition to my ongoing work as senior program officer for the John A. Hartford Foundation. I have been more loving, more accepting of love, and I believe more effective personally and professionally than at any other point in my life.  And I feel good.

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Steve Jobs “Think Different” Philosophy Included Approach to Cancer Treatment

Steve Jobs announces the availability of iTunes for PC computers in October, 2003. He was diagnosed with cancer the same month. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Steve Jobs announces the availability of iTunes for PC computers in October, 2003. He was diagnosed with cancer the same month. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This post originally appeared on KQED’s NewsFix on October 7, 2011

Since Steve Jobs’ resignation as Apple CEO in August, many of the basic facts of his disease have been widely written about. Jobs had a rare form of pancreatic cancer, Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors. The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post both feature solid pieces with additional detail about this disease.

The American Cancer Society’s five-year survival rates for the more frequently diagnosed type of Pancreatic Cancer are bleak.  But for those afflicted with the rare type of this cancer Jobs had, survival rates are much higher.

For a moving obituary, the American Cancer Society’s Dr. Len Lichtenfeld had a surprising approach. He writes about Steve Jobs as a survivor.

 …his greatness is amplified by what he accomplished under the most difficult of circumstances. For here was a man who had an uncommon cancer that recurred and required a liver transplant. Here was a man who was failing in his health, yet had the fortitude to face every day as a new challenge, to do what he wanted to do, to accomplish successes that had never been accomplished before. Here was a man who embodied the drive and the spirit that so many cancer survivors possess every day of their lives, even when facing the ultimate moment as Steve Jobs faced today.

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