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September 26th, 2008
02:05 PM ET

Ovarian cancer: the Treatment room

By Karen Bonsignore
Executive Producer, CNN Entertainment News

If it’s Tuesday it must be chemo! There are seven chairs in my oncologist’s treatment room and most of the time they’re all filled. There’s an instant camaraderie between patients as we’re all battling the same beast. We mostly know each other by our first names and the kind of cancer we have. “Hi I’m Karen. I had ovarian cancer. What are you being treated for?” Lung, colon, and liver cancers dot the room on any given day but breast cancer seems to always dominate.

The “old-timers,” those who are at or near the end of their treatments, try to reassure newcomers and give them an idea of what to expect. “The first one won’t be so bad.” “Your hair will fall out after the second or third week.” “Make sure you ask your doctor for good drugs to help fight nausea.” Most everyone has a “port” through which the chemotherapy is administered and with our IVs connected and our blue “napkins” tucked into our shirt collars we look like adults gathered around the children’s table waiting for dinner.

For me, each treatment has been filled with an assortment of side effects ranging from nausea and neuropathy to extreme fatigue. When I completed my third treatment, out of a total of six, my personal cheerleaders reminded me, “You’re halfway there!” or “It’s downhill from here!” While I acknowledged their encouragement, I could only think to myself that I wanted to quit after round two. How the heck am I going to make it through three more?

At this writing I’ve just completed my last treatment. After four months of chemo I am finally done.

The nurses gave me a mini-cupcake with a candle in it and sang “Happy Last Chemo” to me. I looked into the faces of my acquaintances as they left. We exchanged wishes for good luck on the way out the door and I wondered how long these new friends would live. I wondered about my own condition.

One of my doctors told me that it’s not uncommon for people who have completed chemotherapy to become depressed. While going through treatment it feels like we’re taking an active step to kill whatever cancer cells remain. When it’s done, all you can do is wait.

I can’t go back to a time before my cancer was diagnosed, and so my life will never be the same again. The threat of recurrence is real and its presence has changed my life forever. While I’m wary of this phantom, worrying each day that I’ll be marked for another marathon dance is paralyzing. I now totally and completely understand that I have only the moment I’m in.

Having cancer has taught me to be more compassionate, more patient with others and myself, and to live my life more fearlessly. It has allowed me time to be with myself and to truly embrace my feelings. It has given me a chance to say “thank you” hundreds of times. As I write I am filled with love and gratitude for all of the support given to me by my extraordinary family, friends and co-workers, for all of the wonderful doctors and nurses who have taken care of me, and for all the others who have simply cared enough to stop and ask how I was doing.

I leave this place now with a brave and open heart, and with a little rest I’ll be ready again to deal with whatever comes next.

Have you faced down a disease? What was the biggest thing it taught you?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


September 26th, 2008
10:47 AM ET

The importance of play

By Darell Hammond
CEO, KaBOOM!

If I were to list the names of all the individuals who’ve told me that I have the best job in the world, I could fill a book. What do I do, you ask? I build playgrounds.

In 1995, I founded KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that empowers communities across the nation to build great places to play. We work to provide play spaces for children because we understand the great impact that play can have on a child's life.

Play is on the decline in America. While this statement may not at first seem alarming, it reflects a very negative trend in childhood development. As recess continues to be removed from our nation’s schools and as more parents turn to indoor activities for their children’s pastimes, today’s children are not given the time nor the space that they need to learn and grow as independent, creative and thoughtful individuals. More often than not, they are restrained by structured indoor activities that keep them from developing the skills necessary to succeed as an adult. As our children’s lives become more hectic and overscheduled, they also become filled with stress and anxiety – leading to more serious conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, obesity, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

A recent study conducted by the Tulane University Prevention Research Center noted that the existence of play spaces – playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks – help to curb these negative trends. According to the study, the number of children observed outdoors and physically active on the playground and in the surrounding neighborhood was 84 percent higher than in a neighborhood with no play space. By giving children a safe and fun place to play, it seems we also give them increased access to healthy physical, emotional and intellectual development.

Do you remember those happy, heady days out on the playground or in the playing field with all of your friends? Do you remember the exhilaration and excitement that came from breaking boundaries that you never thought were possible? Do you remember how you felt as you swung higher and higher into the air, hoping that you might reach the sky?

Many of today’s children will never be able to build these memories because of lack of time and space to play.

By providing today’s children with great places to play, we hope to provide brighter, happier and stronger futures for generations of children to come.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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