Life Health

Kogos: Cancer treatment advances amazing

By Bonnie Kogos, Special to Sudbury Star

Holistic energy practitioner Patty Oser is from Manitoulin Island.

Holistic energy practitioner Patty Oser is from Manitoulin Island.

While October is Breast Cancer Month, 22 years ago, I had a mammogram, actually during October in NYC. I had just broken up with my man from Manitoulin, and had returned to living in NYC.

Was I lucky? Diagnosed at the onset. "No, doctor, "I said adamantly, "This can't be breast cancer. I have a broken heart."

"Bonnie, do you know how lucky you are?" the doctor replied softly. "We can take care of this."

I moved through my breast cancer challenge, writing about choices, choosing courses of action and sharing much with others going through the same journey. We certainly helped each other.

After I was declared healthy, again, and was writing for The Sudbury Star at the time, I was actually asked to give a talk in Sudbury. Which I did.

I'm grateful to feel healthy and writing in the Window Seat.

This week, in NYC, Dr. Larry Norton, the renowned medical director of the Evelyn Lauder Breast Cancer Center at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and scientific director of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, was giving a local talk. I instantly signed up. Dr. Norton has dedicated his life to the eradication of cancer by activities in medical care, laboratory and clinical research, advocacy, and government. He was a U.S. Presidential appointee to the National Cancer Advisory Board.

I declare I am not a medical writer, but I am a careful writer. For more than 40 years on many topics; as a senior travel agent, author and newspaper columnist, and about this, breast cancer.

When Dr. Norton came on stage, there was enthusiastic applause from 200 women in the audience. I listened and took cautious notes from his talk.

He began.

"There have been so many advances in our understanding of breast cancer screening. This is always an issue. What age do we start screening? Today the consensus is that screening at the age of 40. Now we have something called risk-adjusted screening, which means determining how often an individual might need a mammogram, based on risk. This depends on your family history.

"Frankly," Dr. Norton said, pausing, "It relates to sex."

Nobody in the audience laughed. But Dr. Norton did. "Usually, this gets a big laugh. What this means in that when mammals mate, and we are mammals, there is a huge gene pool. Our DNA gives us a gene mix that promotes vitality. It's part of being human.

"We've begun to see a real transformation of what cancer is. Cancer cells move around and grow in a micro-environment. They intertwine with red and white blood cells and like to travel in the body where they feel comfortable.

"Everybody's got the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes that are inherited in our DNA structure. Due to the diversity of our gene pools, there is a risk of breast cancer depending on your predisposed DNA structure. Some of the issues in question are whether we might test everybody. Should we do a population testing as a way of collecting genetic information and finding abnormal issues?"

Dr. Norton stopped, thinking.

"But who'll pay for this? There is no federal budget and the question is, should this be a private matter up to the individual?"

I sat in the audience, wondering if we have a right to force people to be tested. American children get vaccinations. Should we, could we do the same for breast cancer screening?

My darling Manitoulin friend, holistic energy practitioner Patty Oser had just written me.

"We are living through times of rapid change; in technology, the economy, politics and society -- forcing every organization to adapt. Each change brings with it psychological, physical, mental and emotional transitions. Some changes are small; others are life changing? How do we control these rapid changes?"

Sitting in the audience, I wondered: so what can we control?

Dr. Norton, on the stage, read my mind.

"We can each take care of ourselves. A common cause of breast cancer is obesity. Don't be fat. Eat a more vegetable-based diet, a much better way of controlling body fat. It is mind blowing how important exercise is, to maintain your overall health. Raise your pulse. Work real exercise into your life. Try to walk a few miles a day. Get more sleep."

He stopped, then declared: "There has never been cancer in a plant."

Dr. Norton continued.

"It is possible to see the beginning of cancer cells, even though they have not formed yet."

I drop my pen. Did I hear this right?

"We have developed something called 'zero cancer diagnosis.' This is one of the revolutionary advances of our current time to examine DNA in great depth. This will ultimately unlock new discoveries to advance our knowledge of cancer initiation. So that specific changes underlying cancer can be defined and provide new targets for drugs. That women who allow this treatment called zero diagnosis can do something, like having mastectomies early."

Are women able, who get such an early diagnosis before cancer cells actually develop, able to do something about this? Like an early mastectomy?

I'm not medical. But I remember my friend, Susan, in NYC had an exam in 2006 and was told she had 'zero cancer." It was a marker. While she did not have cancer, she had a proclivity to develop cancer. In 2012, she was diagnosed with the beginning of invasive breast cancer.

"Having this marker enabled my doctors to keep an eye on me," she said. "I chose to have a lumpectomy and radiation for seven weeks, and was healed. I could have decided to have a total mastectomy, early on, but am glad I didn't."

Later at home, I searched for more information about the Memorial Sloan Kettering team and learn they are analyzing DNA from tumours, including those from patients with metastatic breast cancers, to determine molecular mechanisms of resistance as to improve breast cancer outcomes.

One of my fabulous Sudbury pals, fit as a fiddle and ever so proud, asserts, loudly: "Years ago, people died from heart disease. It's the packaged food with chemicals and preservatives in boxes and plastic bags that most people eat. We don't eat fresh natural foods like people did years ago. In the past, everyone ate local. Not food shipped in from all over the world.

"Look at the ingredients in a box that I bought that was shipped from Spain, loaded with salt, sugar and chemicals to keep it tasty as long as possible."

Can we transition to a fresher, more natural diet?

I put down my pen and went to find a fresh orange.

-- Our Bonnie, in the Window Seat, prays she listened well to Dr. Norton, and was able to get this written correctly. She thanks all of her Sudbury breast cancer thrivers and survivors who have been wonderful. To find her, please go to BonnieKogos@gmail.com.

 



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