Cancer Connections December Meeting

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Please join us Wednesday December 14th, noon to 1 at Hope Lodge,  for our last meeting of 2011.  We will have a short presentation by Matthew Tenney about the new Kids Kicking Cancer program (, which meets on Mondays at the Dragon Rises College of Oriental Medicine.  The rest of the hour will be spent in a "Meet and Greet" format. This will give cancer-related care and service providers an opportunity to meet fellow healthcare professionals from this area, and to share information.  Please bring any informational brochures, business cards, fliers, coupons, etc. that you would like others to take with them for future reference. As always, we welcome cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.  This is a good opportunity for you to learn about the services available to you, including support groups.

Please be sure to pass on this invitation to anyone who might like to join us.
RSVP if possible, please, by 5 p.m.  Monday, December 12th. Email:

Spreading the Word

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Coming off stage after my speech at the Hilton Hotel March 2010
After giving up teaching in April 2008 I was left in a void, struggling without something meaningful to do. Cancer charity Tenovus phoned me up one day and asked whether I’d be interested in speaking briefly on the radio about the effects of heating bills and the impact upon cancer patients. I had never done anything like this before so I thought it would be a great idea to get the message across to a wider audience. The radio interview very quickly became a TV interview with BBC Wales and that’s how my new role as Tenovus Ambassador started.

With Jackie and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen
I’ve never had a problem talking about my cancer. I know some cancer patients do which I fully appreciate, but I've always felt there are so many barriers which remain between the public’s perception of cancer and the reality. In my own small way I've tried to dispel some of the myths surrounding the treatment and given advice on how to overcome some of the many pitfalls that people encounter during the course of their illness.

Over the last four years I have spoken on Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Wales, S4C, BBC Wales, ITV Wales and at quite a few public events. I get very tense and nervous beforehand but I always feel fine once I start. I don’t know why, it’s just the way I am.

The BBC Wales documentary following the Sing for Life choir was a very uplifting experience,  not just for myself but for all concerned. Even being on stage at the Hilton in Cardiff in front of 200 people, and being filmed by the BBC delivering a speech alongside Jackie and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen didn’t worry me too much. I felt it important to convey, not just my feelings, but the feelings of others I had known who were in a similar situation at the time.

Speaking with Claudia McVie at the Senedd.
I felt very strongly about my question and answer session with Tenovus Chief Executive Claudia McVie at the Senedd (the National Assembly building) this year when speaking in front of the First Minister Carwyn Jones and Health Minister Lesley Griffiths. Those were the ideal times to tell people how I felt and had benefitted from the wonderful work that cancer charities like Tenovus do.

It was a great privilege and honour to speak at the Tenovus St. David’s Day Dinner at Sophia Gardens this year. My nerves were literally shredded before I took to the stage in front of 500 people but my talk went down very well. I just hope the small amount I say will touch someone and make them feel that all the good work people do in the field of cancer research really does help.

It’s been a privilege to meet some wonderful celebrities over the years who have given their time freely to help further this cause and I hope I will carry on doing this for as long as I possibly can.

Having dinner with Rory Bremner. Tenovus St David's Day Dinner, Swalec Stadium, March 2011
The last time I was in hospital having an operation was November 2nd 2011. Even whilst lying wide awake on an operating table with my neck open to the world my consultant told me how important it was to talk as openly as possible about cancer and it’s many effects. He told me this as he felt it would also break down the barrier between people like himself and the first time cancer patient bravely taking that first step into the unknown.

Cancer is an awful thing to have but I feel it deeply important that people who want to discuss it can do so without the stigma felt by the mere word itself. Understanding palliates the paralysis that the word cancer causes. As many have said before me, ‘Cancer is a word, not a sentence’.

Laughter as Medicine For Breast Cancer Recovery

Friday, November 18, 2011

Laughter as Medicine 
For Breast Cancer Recovery
By: Diana Ross, E-RYT 500
Physical & Emotional Health 
I want to share my feelings on laughter and joy as part of the healing cycle of breast cancer recovery, and for that fact many other conditions. I know that laughter has a real beneficial effect on our physical, and emotional health. Laughter will literally melts stress away, so why aren’t we laughing more to relieve all the stress and improve our health? It may be a bit of a challenge to get out of our own way. To often we take life, and our circumstances to seriously and it really doesn’t serve us to do so.  I know for myself when I stop and watch anything funny I focus only on “funny”.  
Medical Research on Laughter 
Studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, March 7, 2005 has one of the most ground breaking results in terms of laughter’s role in the health of the mind and body.  There is a strong connection between blood vessel expansion (vasodilation) through laughter. Improvement to the blood flow after laughter is equal to a 15-30 minute workout. Researchers believe laughing causes the body to release beneficial chemicals called endorphins, or “natural pain killers.” The release of endorphins contribute to a sense of well-being and will counter act the effects of stress hormones, and cause the dilation of the blood vessels. Even anticipating laughter can increase endorphin levels, and help boost the immune system. All which will reduce inflammation in the body. 
Laughter for Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy
When going through chemotherapy or radiation laughing can only help. The best part of laughing is that it puts us in a positive state of mind, and that is exactly what’s needed to bring us through the physical and emotional roller coaster ride of breast cancer. Another key feature of laughter is that it moves lymph fluid around the body at a biophysical level.  Just by “over laughing”; that robust, gut explosive laughter is healing. Our immune system function is stimulated by laughter, it literally clears out old, dead waste and toxins from our organs and muscle tissue. It is important that we understand that our lymph system doesn’t have it’s own pump; we need to move around (and breath deeply) in order to properly circulate lymph. Laughter supports this function.
Important to Stay Positive and Laugh
The more we laugh the happy we will become and through the laughter we will develop a positive attitude towards everything. Even if there are times where we don’t feel it, we need to fake it. It has been shown that even when manipulated to smile people in truth feel happier. Laughter stops depression right in its tracks and boosts our immunity.
Use Laughter as Our Medicine?
We know now is the time to pull out all the stops and help ourselves get better. We need to reduce our levels of chronic stress (our journey with cancer may have just begun), we need to boost our immune system function, protect our nervous system, and my God our sanity. Well, “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” 

I cannot say enough about laughing, right down to the fact that the people around us will enjoy our company which will support our well being.  Go check out funny videos; YouTube is full of funny.  Rent funny movies. I guarantee a lot of laughter.

Breast Cancer Yoga Pose "Reclined Arm Lifts"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Breast Cancer Yoga!/BreastYoga

* Facilitates lymphatic drainage of breasts 
* Promotes deep breathing by widening the chest

VISIT our family website for more information on a complementary holistic approach to breast health and breast cancer recovery. Breast Cancer Yoga includes specific restorative yoga poses, supportive yoga props, a blend of aromatherapy oils, healing herbal teas and medicinal massage oils.

Ligth the Night Walk

Light the Night walk is THIS Thursday (November 17, 2011) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium/North Lawn on the University of Florida. Each survivor will get an illuminated balloon and T-shirt for participating in the walk. All other walkers will be named “Champion for Cures” if they raise $100 and will get a balloon, T-shirt, and refreshments. Hope you all can make this wonderful event as we raise money for LLS!

Florida Cancer Specialists

Support Group Facilitator Needed

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Community Cancer Center of North Florida is looking for someone to facilitate a general cancer support group at their clinic in Lake City the second Thursday of the month from 11 am to 1 pm. The day and time may be negotiable.

If interested, or for more information, please contact Sarah Gillespie at 720-982-7727 or

Cancer Connections has its own Facebook page

Thanks to Kathy Travis of Dragon Rises College of Oriental Medicine,
Cancer Connections now has its own facebook page!

Cancer Connections November Meeting

Please join us on Wednesday November 16 at noon at Hope Lodge for a presentation by Susan Swirlbul of Caretenders Home Health Care.  Susan will be talking about Caretenders' unique palliative care program for "homebound" geriatric patients.  This program is ideal for patients experiencing a life threatening or life limiting illness.  This is care that focuses on patient/family quality of life, pain and symptom relief, health care choices and the "whole" patient experience.  Caretenders'  palliative care program is not Hospice care, but could be an appropriate precursor.

We ask that you RVSP to Barb Thomas,,  no later than Monday November 14th.  This helps to ensure that we will have enough food on hand for everyone attending.

Do Complementary Therapies Work? – Ask the expert about herbs, acupuncture, and other complementary therapies

CancerConnect Live Web Chat with Dr. Barrie Cassileth, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Cassileth is a world-renowned authority in integrative medicine. She is a researcher, educator, and planner who has worked in complementary (integrative) medicine and the psychosocial aspects of cancer care for more than 25 years.  She has just released a new book, The Complete Guide to Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care. MSKCC’s Integrative Medicine Service’s Web site, , offers evidence-based information about herbs, vitamins, and unproved cancer treatments at no charge to professionals and the public.

On Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 6:00 PM EST you’ll have the opportunity to hear a brief presentation and to ask the expert, Dr. Barrie Cassileth, about helpful, evidence-based complementary therapies. You’ll learn how to recognize bogus “treatments” you will want to avoid.

To submit questions and register, visit:

Mini Ops - The minors between the majors to keep me on my toes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

April 28th 2008
Breathe Easy Campaign - SMD Number One
After neck surgery my nose felt continually blocked up - very uncomfortable when you have a cold, a nightmare when you can’t breathe at all for months on end. Nasal drops helped but the long term damage is severe so I had to find a surgical solution. I was told that an SMD would be the next step in my ‘breathe easy’ campaign. SMD stands for Submucosal Diathermy. Enlargement of the Turbinates leads to obstruction of the nose, Submucosal Diathermy to the Inferior Turbinates aims to shrink these soft tissue linings of the nose. Another general anaesthetic and another stay on the ward would be necessary.
The impending operation seemed like a walk in the park after my recent Neck Dissection. It wasn’t all easy though, my nose was blocked completely from the operation. It was a combination of swelling and blood, but was assured that it would die down after a week or so. Well I must admit it certainly seemed to work. A few weeks after the op and my nose was much clearer. Nothing like it was originally mind, but at least I felt I could breathe a little easier now. I felt that operation was worth it in the end and was quite pleased with the outcome.
I knew I would have this operation again at some point in the future but for now it had done the trick.

November 19th 2008
Collagen Injection
This is a procedure that sees collagen injected into the atrophied vocal cord to ‘thicken’ it, thereby closing the gap between the cords and subsequently improving the strength of the voice and making it less breathy. It turned out to be quite a distressing operation as I was awake throughout the whole process.
I had to have my airway anaesthetised and, guided by a camera put up my nose and down my throat, a series of injections were carefully placed in the paralysed vocal cord. Being awake was important as they could carefully balance the amount of collagen needed and test my voice out each time to see how strong it was getting.
Once the correct amount was reached, it took three hours without food or water and then a few days of rest to recover. The good news was that it worked very well. Unfortunately it was only a temporary procedure as, over time, the collagen would filter slowly back into the body.
The most important reason for doing it was to hear the improvement in my voice and it certainly worked. At some point in the future a more permanent procedure would hopefully be found for me.

February 9th 2009
SMD No.2 (See SMD No.1 above)

August 4th 2010
Well, the SMD operations I had done were successful for a short period but I needed something a bit more permanent, therefore another consultant was consulted, and this time I was having a procedure to straighten the septum in my nose. Although it hadn’t caused me any problems in the past it was now, so this was the next step for me.
Back in the familiar surroundings of the anaesthetic room, I chatted to everyone who I knew quite well by now, went out like a light and awoke in the recovery room feeling ok. Someone offered me a cup of tea which I thought was very nice of them. Big mistake. I took a few sips and a waterfall of blood erupted out of my nose. ‘You shouldn’t drink warm drinks after a Septoplasty’ I was told. Great I thought, wish someone could have told me that before my cuppa. The bleeding didn’t stop and a couple of hours later an ENT Registrar came down and sorted me out. That involved putting a tube with a suction thing on the end and sucking all the blood and gunk out. Mess everywhere including my nice new PJs. At least it solved the problem of my nose bleed so I was happy. 

The day after my Goretex Thyroplasty op.  My neck dissection and radiotherapy scars are also clearly visible.

November 2nd 2011 
Goretex Thyroplasty
Was really looking forward to this one. NOT! It was an hour’s operation in theatre under local anaesthetic. The surgeon was planning to insert a piece of goretex ribbon into my vocal cord. A difficult procedure as my neck was shot to pieces from my surgery four years ago, was full of scar tissue and my skin was like rice paper after radiotherapy. There was a 50/50 chance it could be done. After loads of of local anaesthetic my throat was sliced open and slowly but surely this incredible guy made his way towards my voice box. Things were looking good and suddenly he was there. He managed to place the ribbon in my voice box and as soon as I made a sound you could hear the difference straight away. It was incredible.
My wife was in theatre to support me as I was wide awake throughout the procedure, and she could hear the difference in my voice straight away. The thought of being awake during the procedure horrified me at first and I was very nervous beforehand but I have to admit it was so worth it. Having your voice back improves your quality of life no end.
I was very sore and swollen for the first night but the improvement was worth it. Not only has the thyroplasty helped me with speaking but also with swallowing and breathing so my quality of life has improved immeasurably. It was great to have my wife there as well. She has been so strong for me throughout every procedure I’ve been through these last four and a half years, and this occasion was no exception.

Backbend Yoga Poses for Breast Cancer Recovery

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Well Breast Cancer Awareness month is now behind us however, the importance of recovery remains steadfast.  We want to share the benefits of doing backbends and how they can bring about wellness. Typically in yoga there are offered in three stages, simple, medium and advanced, and it is recommended that they be practiced in this in order. This will allow for the back to adapt to the bend.  Please educate your muscles step-by-step.

These are Some of the Benefits of Backbends
  • Stretches spine and opens chest for increased mobility 
  • Increased shoulder’s ROM, which decreases stiffness or lessen Frozen Shoulder
  • Stretches breast tissues
  • Increases cervical and axillary lymphatic drainage, especially while consciously breathing deeply
  • Stretches lower body for increased flexibility of rib cage and thoracic spine
  • Post surgical benefits of reducing fibrous adhesions and scar tissue 
  • Great for strengthening lungs by way of opening the chest
Backbends and Yoga Props
For greatest relaxation and stress reduction, a restorative practice of backbends is commonly done in which props are used in many innovative ways.  Yoga props allow the pose to bring the body (here it would be the back spine) into proper alignment which create the subtle adjustments to assist in improving blood flow. The breath expands greatly when the chest is open, thus benefiting correct oxygen exchange and ridding the lungs of their residual stale air volume. 
Backbends and Breathing
A conscious and deep breath will physically bring increased circulation and lymphatic drainage to the breast area, moreover the breath has mental and emotional benefits of decreasing anxiety, fear, and depression, etc.
The best way to feel these benefits of breathing is to take time and try them.  It may take several tries over a period of time but the rewards are so worth the effort.  Breast Cancer Yoga has just released 5 easy to learn breaths for wellness.

Diana Ross, E-RYT 500
Breast Cancer Yoga

Follow Us: Breast Yoga

D-Day: March 29th 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011


My Oncology Clinic was at 2.30pm in The Royal Glamorgan Hospital. It was the longest day of my life. This would be the day when I found out if the radiotherapy had worked or not. Even though I had resigned myself to the terminal diagnosis I had received the previous August, I couldn’t help feeling that if it worked as well as the chemo; my tumours might have disappeared and would be miraculously cured. It’s very easy when facing one’s own mortality to cling to any vestige of hope, no matter how slim that may be.

I waited with baited breath when walking slowly to the room. My whole future lay on the first sentences my Oncologist would utter. ‘Well, the tumours appear to be stable’, he said. Those words crushed me completely. I knew that that was it. They’d done as much as they could and it appeared I’d reached the end of the line. To most people, those words might have sounded hopeful. The tumours hadn’t grown and were the same as they’d been post-chemo. Why was I feeling so down? Probably because I felt that those words drove the final nail in my coffin. I had always secretly clung on to the belief that there’d be a ‘cure’ for me down the line.

After a short time I felt a surge of relief at the thought of not undergoing any more radical treatment. I had been through so much that knowing there would be no more treatment at least gave me a more positive outlook on whatever life lay ahead. I could start making plans to do a few things without having to cancel them at the last minute. I had missed out on three holidays during the last four years and dreaded the thought of having to cancel another. The only mention of chemo at the meeting was on a Palliative Care basis. I was happy with that because the chances of me going through chemo again are virtually nil.

All this has left me with choices I need to make to ensure my quality of life is as good as possible. I’m under a Palliative Pain management clinic which has worked out quite well. My body is dosed up on Morphine all the time on a slow release basis, amongst other drugs to keep the pain at a tolerable level. It’s a fine line but at the moment it seems to be working.

I have received a long lasting steroid injection to help with my swallowing and will shortly be going in for a Gore-Tex Thyroplasty to help my breathy voice after my vocal cord was paralysed four years ago. This is ‘quality of life’ in my world. I wish I could say it’s a couple of glasses of wine and a good meal every night but eating and drinking have taken a back seat in all this. I enjoy talking and that is the most important thing for me to hang on to at the moment.

Now my blog posts are up to date with the present day, I hope to keep everyone updated on a weekly basis on all things in my life, good or bad. The last four years have been tough but I’ve done some amazing things, which I hope to share when I get round to it!


The day of the radiotherapy results arrived almost four years exactly to the day when we first heard the news Hywel had cancer. The doctors had seemed so excited by how well Hywel’s tumours responded to the chemo that we were both really hoping there’d be more of a reduction following the radiotherapy and that maybe, just maybe, the cancer had been blitzed completely. I was also terrified we might be told there’d the cancer had spread further. Neither of us managed to get much sleep in the days leading up to the results. The journey so far has been full of ups and downs so I always try to stay hopeful, trying to prepare for the worst and always hoping for the best. Unfortunately the scan showed that there was no further shrinkage in the tumours. They had stayed the same, so Hywel’s cancer was now classified as stable. This was a real blow as we had been hoping for more. Hywel didn’t want any additional radical treatment as the chemo had been so tough, so the only way forward was to have regular review clinics and a scan now and then to keep a check on things.

We tried to be positive about the fact the chemotherapy had finished in September and it was now the end of March, so there had been no growth for six months. We’d be able to go away to Perranporth with Elliott over the Easter holidays as planned, and Hywel’s consultant was happy for him to travel abroad so we would try to book a week away. Hywel was also given the OK to stop injecting himself with Clexane every day at this clinic. 

We would be able to look forward to having a bit more ‘normality’ in our lives with no planned treatment and the next clinic three months away. We planned to spend some quality time together now that I was ‘retired’ and Hywel was starting to recover from the gruelling treatment regime.

Breast Cancer Yoga Prep for Rochelle Rollback Pose

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Breast Cancer Yoga!/BreastYoga

* Facilitates lymphatic drainage of breasts 
* Promotes deep breathing by widening the chest 
* Stretches groin 
* Deep opening of thighs and hip flexors

VISIT our family website for more information on a complementary holistic approach to breast health and breast cancer recovery. Breast Cancer Yoga includes specific restorative yoga poses, supportive yoga props, a blend of aromatherapy oils, healing herbal teas and medicinal massage oils.

Breast Cancer Yoga Prep For Rochelle Roll Back Pose

Tuesday, November 1, 2011