Friday, October 2, 2015

Hilton Head Island pitcher overcame cancer, other obstacles on his way to The Show

A good non-goopy article about a Thyroid Cancer survivor.


To anyone else, it looked like a routine spring training appearance. A quick inning of work on one of dozens of indistinguishable Grapefruit League afternoons.
For Ryan Kelly, it was the biggest game of his life, because as far as he knew, it might be his last.
Three days later, Kelly had surgery to remove his cancerous thyroid, an ailment that was discovered during a routine physical just days earlier.
Kelly thought it might be the end of his long journey through professional baseball, but it turned into a beginning of a new, more fruitful quest that culminated with his long-awaited arrival in the big leagues.


When Kelly reported to spring training with the Atlanta Braves in February 2014, he did so with realistic hopes it was his time to reach the big leagues. The former Hilton Head Island High School star had pitched well at Triple-A Tucson in the San Diego Padres organization the previous season and signed a free-agent contract with the Braves in the offseason.
A month later, he was more concerned with his health than the status of his baseball career. He learned that March that he had thyroid cancer, and the road to the majors suddenly looked longer and more treacherous than ever.
There were complications during surgery, followed by weeks of radioactive iodine treatments. Kelly missed two months, an eternity for someone who can’t stand being on the disabled list, and began his season at Single-A Lynchburg, a long way from the majors. It took the full season for him to get back to full strength, and he was assigned to play in the Puerto Rican Winter League for the first time in his career to get in some of the work he missed.
“People think I’m crazy when I say it, but it was one of the best things that ever happened for me in my life,” Kelly says, noting the thyroid cancer had been the source of his difficulty staying at his optimum weight and maintaining his stamina.
More than that, though, it offered a dose of perspective. The notion that his baseball career might be over — as frustrating as it had sometimes been — provided added motivation.
“This is all I know,” Kelly said. “For there to be a chance for me to have that taken away, it hit me pretty deep. I wasn’t ready to give up playing. It completely changed that side of it. It made the game easier, because I had a lot less to worry about.
“It became fun again.”


That winter in Puerto Rico wound up being pivotal to Kelly’s development. He experimented with “pitching backward” — starting at-bats with off-speed pitches to keep hitters guessing and disrupt their timing — and learned to pitch inside more. The lessons he picked up carried over to the next spring.
Kelly began the 2015 season at Double-A Mississippi and was dominant. In his first 17 appearances, he posted a 0.48 ERA and 10 saves while holding opponents to a .197 batting average, earning a promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. He was nearly as dominant there, going 1-1 with five saves and a 2.13 ERA in 10 outings.
“What got me that far was God-given talent — I was lucky enough to be able to throw hard and had good stuff, and that kind of carried me through,” Kelly said. “When I finally learned how to pitch, which probably took me longer than I’d care to admit, that’s when I really started to have success.”


On June 27, 2015, more than nine years after the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in 26th round of the 2006 MLB Draft, Kelly got the call. He was going to The Show. The next afternoon, Kelly was in the Atlanta Braves’ bullpen — in Pittsburgh, oddly enough — eager for his big-league debut.
After an arduous nine-year trek to the bigs, Kelly had to wait two more days for his moment. With a group of family and friends cheering from the stands, Kelly ran in from the Turner Field bullpen on June 30 to face the heart of the Washington Nationals’ lineup.
Yunel Escobar greeted Kelly with a seeing-eye single through the middle, and then came his welcome-to-the-big-leagues moment. Bryce Harper, one of the brightest young stars in the game, roped a first-pitch single into right field. Kelly recovered nicely, getting a double-play grounder and a swinging strikeout to escape with only one run and elicit a celebration among his cheering section.
In hindsight, Kelly didn’t relish the moment as much as he would have liked.
“I was trying to keep my cool so much that I think I kind of brought myself down further than I would like to be,” Kelly said. “I didn’t want to let the bright lights and the fans and everything get involved with my outing. I didn’t really get to soak in everything.”
For the journey that led him so many places — from Hilton Head to Walters State Community College in Tennessee, to minor-league stops in Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Myrtle Beach, Arizona, San Antonio, Oregon, Virginia, Mississippi and Puerto Rico — to wind up in Atlanta, where so many friends and family could make the short trip to see it in person, made it all the more rewarding.
“When I first got the call, I was overwhelmed with joy,” Kelly said. “Not just for myself, but my family, everyone that’s been on the journey with me. It’s been just as tough a road for them as it has been for me.
“It was definitely everything that I thought it would be.”

What It’s Really Like to Have Thyroid Cancer

September 30, 2015
About a little over a year ago, I found myself reclined in an exam chair about to have a big needle jabbed into my neck.
“Big pinch,” the doctor said, as he gave me the local anesthetic. I just stared at the ceiling, trying to remain calm despite the fear and the burning bee sting sensation.
I spent the previous evening drinking wine and Googling, “cancer in your neck,” “biopsy needle,” “lump in neck,” and “thyroid cancer death”—while my six-year-old son, Jack, and our brand new Golden Retriever puppy, Lucia, slept peacefully unaware that their single mom had a very suspicious 4-centimeter lump on her thyroid gland. Two weeks prior, my regular doctor had discovered the lump during a routine physical. An ultrasound and CT scan later, this needle was to determine whether it was cancer.
But it didn’t.
That’s the first thing I learned about having cancer: it can take an awfully long time to confirm that you actually have it.

Saying goodbye to my gland
At my next appointment, my doctor, Erik Cohen, MD, of Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, explained that my biopsy was “inconclusive,” yet “suspicious.” Surgery was scheduled.
On the day of, I pushed through the revolving glass door and before I knew it, the anesthesiologist said, “I’m going to give you something to relax.” A happy feeling took over, and then total, peaceful blackness. When I woke up, my throat was sore from the breathing tube, there was a drain in my neck, an IV in my arm, blood pressure cuffs on my legs, and wires everywhere.
“Did you take out my whole thyroid?” I struggled to ask when I saw Dr. Cohen. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that powers your metabolism. It also plays a role in regulating body temperature and mood. I really wanted to keep as much of mine as I could.
Dr. Cohen explained he removed the tumor and right side, and that the tests in the OR presented mixed reviews—again. He needed more pathology tests. Still, the left part of my gland remained. A small win, I thought.
The big bad reveal
There are approximately 60,000 new cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed each year, with women accounting for 75% of cases. At my post-op appointment, I knew immediately that I was one of those some-60,000 by the way Dr. Cohen looked at my chart. “So, as it turns out…” he began.
My official diagnosis: follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (FVPTC). Sitting on the exam table, I was having trouble reconciling this information with the other facts of my life. But I’m only 33, I thought to myself. I’ve never smoked a cigarette a day in my life. I drink green juice and exercise. And the most important: I can’t be sick. I’m Jack’s mom.
Some more facts I was learning: thyroid cancer has a survival rate of nearly 97% after five years. These facts asserted that “in general” my kind of cancer is “good.” But what about that other 3%? And oh yeah, Dr. Cohen explained, I now needed another surgery.  The rest of my thyroid had to go, and I probably also needed radioactive iodine therapy, a type of radiation treatment also known as “RAI.”
This was not the first time life had thrown me a curveball, so I tried to remain calm, telling myself I always find a way to work things out, or at least find an inch of silver lining. But I did not convince myself at all.
A new normal
After my second surgery rendered me completely thyroid-less, I was started on 100 mg of Synthroid, a standard drug that replaces the hormones the thyroid gland naturally produces.
I am so thankful my cancer was treatable, and that medication exists to replace what my vital gland once did. But let me tell you, life without a thyroid is not a piece of cake. I was perpetually tired and depressed, but also anxious and constantly obsessing about my weight and diet. I was cold when it was warm outside, and sweating when the AC was on.
On top of all that, I still had RAI treatment to look forward to.
Normally, the thyroid gland absorbs iodine in your body. So when thyroid cancer patients take radioactive iodine in pill or capsule form, the radiation concentrates in any leftover thyroid cells and destroys them, without affecting the rest of the body.
To prep for this, I was put on a low-iodine diet (no iodized salt, dairy, eggs, pizza, cheese or seafood for me!), and given thyrogen injections to rapidly raise my thyroid hormone levels to make the radiation effective at killing as many lingering cancer cells as possible.
When I showed up in the Nuclear Medicine department in the basement of the hospital, the radiologist entered in a mask, lead apron, and gloves to protect himself from the thing he wanted me to swallow. I signed the papers saying I would isolate myself from others for 5 days and not get pregnant for a year. Scared and fascinated at the same time, I swallowed the pill and left the hospital with enough radiation to set off alarms at airports.
I felt like I had the flu, and because I could still set off a Geiger counter, I had to sweat it out alone. I had weepy moments but I got through it, and a few short days later my son and my dog got to come home. Jack busted through the door like a ball of energy and Lucia jumped on me, so excited she peed right there. Having Jack back in my arms, his cookie crumbs on the couch, and new drawings on the fridge made my home whole again. Since I could eat again we celebrated with pizza—extra cheese—and frozen yogurt. And I knew a year of hell was worth being healthy for him.
One year later
Now I see an endocrinologist every few months, and I’m still struggling to find a good balance.
Every “thyca” survivor I’ve befriended has gone down this same endo rabbit hole, trying to find a doctor that understands. I need more than a pill; I need energy, a healthy weight, happiness. My meds have been adjusted four times this year in an effort to achieve this, and I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I might never be symptom-free. That’s why I bristle when I hear people say thyroid cancer is a “good” cancer—there’s just no such thing.
But on September 10 I celebrated one year in remission, and that does feel good. It was the hardest year of my life but I got so much out of it. Being part of the “Big C club” is scary but it reminds me every day how amazing life is.
If I could tell one person to check their neck today and they listened, this article will have done its job. You can examine your own thyroid by feeling just above the collarbone on either side of the trachea with your fingertips—something I never did. Look out for any swelling or lumps. Don’t wait to see your doctor if you feel anything strange.

15 thyroid cancer facts everyone should know

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New campaign emphasizes support for people with thyroid cancer
September 19, 2015

An interactive, educational campaign designed to help dispel myths that thyroid cancer is a “good cancer,” was recently launched by The Light of Life Foundation, ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association Inc. and Eisai Inc., according to a press release.  

“As a thyroid cancer survivor, I urge people to stop referring to thyroid cancer as the ‘good cancer,’ as I believe it downplays patients’ experiences,” Joan Shey, founder of the Light of Life Foundation, said in the release. “I hear time and time again from patients how difficult their diagnosis and treatment were and that their scars are more than skin deep. My hope is that this campaign can educate about the many types of thyroid cancer and change the thyroid cancer conversation.”
The campaign, “Myths and Truths About Thyroid Cancer,” is aimed at informing people about the realities of thyroid cancer. Most thyroid cancers can be successfully treated and many falsely believe that this makes thyroid cancer “a good cancer.”

“Being part of a community of survivors is very important for people coping with thyroid cancer,” Gary Bloom, thyroid cancer survivor and cofounder and execuative director of ThyCa, said in the release. “ThyCa takes this to the heart, which is why we are proud to provide support and resources to the thyroid cancer community. We also know more needs to be done to elevate awareness of thyroid cancer and what patients need in terms of support for the rest of our lives.”

People diagnosed with thyroid cancer may often feel misunderstood by their family and friends, but the campaign emphasizes the need for support and resources specific to their thyroid cancer experience, even after their diagnosis.

“I see patients with advanced forms of thyroid cancer, which can be aggressive, difficult to treat and often require the involvement of an integrated health care team,” Marcia Brose, MD, PhD, associate professor and director of Rare Cancers and Personalized Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center, said in the release. “Not all thyroid cancers are the same, and it is important that people diagnosed with and treated for thyroid cancer understand their treatment. In addition, if initial treatment does not eradicate their disease, they should find a medical oncologist with experience in the treatment of advanced thyroid cancer.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email Share on print More Sharing Services 1 Tight Control of Type 2 Diabetes May Help Prevent Dementia

Tight Control of Type 2 Diabetes May Help Prevent Dementia

Conversely, poor blood sugar control appears to increase risk of brain troubles, study finds

TUESDAY, Sept. 15, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Keeping blood sugar levels in check may have a protective effect against dementia in people who have type 2 diabetes, new Swedish research suggests.
"The positiv
e association between [average blood sugar levels] and risk of dementia in fairly young patients with type 2 diabetes indicates a potential for prevention of dementia with improved blood sugar control," study author Dr. Aidin Rawshani, from the National Diabetes Register and Institute of Medicine in Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues wrote.

However, the study wasn't able to definitively prove a cause-and-effect relationship between blood sugar levels and dementia; it was only able to show an association between these factors.
The study included almost 350,000 people with type 2 diabetes. They were all registered in the Swedish National Diabetes Registry between January 2004 and December 2012. They had no history of dementia when they were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The mean age was 67 years when the study began.

Study volunteers were tracked until the study ended in 2012 or they were hospitalized for dementia or died. Using a computer model, the researchers calculated the link between average blood sugar levels and dementia. Average blood sugar levels were based on the results of hemoglobin A1C tests (HbA1C). This test provides doctors with a several-month average of blood sugar levels, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The ADA generally recommends an HbA1C level of 7 percent or less for people with diabetes.

Slightly more than 3 percent of those in the study -- 11,035 people -- were admitted to the hospital with dementia during the nearly five-year follow-up period.

After taking other variables into account, the study found that those with HbA1c levels of 10.5 percent or higher were 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia compared to people with HbA1c levels of 6.5 percent or less.

Study volunteers who'd had a previous stroke were 40 percent more likely to have declines in memory and thinking abilities, the researchers said.

The study's findings were to be presented Sept. 14 at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, in Stockholm, Sweden. Findings presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information
The American Diabetes Association has more on blood sugar management for people with type 2 diabetes.
SOURCE: European Association for the Study of Diabetes, news release, Sept. 14, 2015
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