From Ashley Monroe’s blood cancer diagnosis to a CrossFit athlete’s inspiring cancer journey, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.
Ashley Monroe, a Grammy-nominated country singer from the band Pistol Annies, shared on social media this week that she was diagnosed with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Monroe, 34, wrote about her cancer diagnosis in an Instagram post with various photos of her friends and family.
“A few months ago, my (doctor) was doing some routine lab work and found that I was anemic,” she wrote. “I was like, FINE, I’ll just double up on cheeseburger patties, take some extra vitamins and call it a day. Well my red blood count just kept falling, and they found out my iron/b12/folic acid numbers were actually fine. Short story long, they did a bone marrow biopsy, (ouch), and VOILA… a rare kind of blood c word called ‘Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.’”
She added that the disease has begun to make her body anemic and that she would be starting chemotherapy the following day. “Seems like such a negative thing to say. Until I flip that doom feeling on its head and think, wow, I’m thankful I have an illness that is VERY live with-able.”
Monroe thanked her loved ones for support and expressed that she has “amazing” doctors with whom she’s weighed every option.
Michelle Ritter, a CrossFit-trained athlete who recently began competing in Olympic weightlifting, has undergone much more than just a grueling training process: she is a two-time cancer survivor who also underwent a double mastectomy and full hysterectomy.
Ritter, 49, was initially diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2013. She was declared cancer-free several months later, but not without a difficult treatment process. She went through eight rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and full hysterectomy. The hysterectomy was done due to the fact that her mother died from ovarian cancer.
“When I was diagnosed, I was in the best shape I had been in since I had my children, and maybe even better than before, and I didn’t want to lose that,” Ritter told the Morning Chalk Up. “So my goal when I started chemo was just to keep moving as long as I could.”
Ritter, who had been training at CrossFit in Salt Lake City in Utah, the same year as her diagnosis, continued to train during treatment.
She explained how the CrossFit community continuously supported her. “I remember going to the gym and doing a (work out of the day) with double-unders, and it was right when my hair started falling out, and there was hair everywhere on the ground when I was done,” she said. “After the workout, one of the coaches just quietly got a broom and swept it up without saying anything.”
Two years later, in June 2015, Ritter’s cancer returned in the form of stage 4 triple-negative metastatic breast cancer in her lymph nodes and pelvic bone. She underwent seven more rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation, ultimately being declared cancer-free in January of 2016.
Since then, she has achieved nine state records for her age and weight class in weightlifting competitions and is training for the National Championships.
Meyer Mixdorf, a 5-year-old receiving treatment for cancer at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, began writing notes on his hospital room window with the help of his family.
Mixdorf, who has a brain tumor and was receiving treatment at the hospital for six weeks, was in a room facing the Truman Medical Center/University Health. After he and his family began making art out of Post-It Notes on the window, they noticed someone in a window on the opposite building had been reciprocating with notes of their own.
"Just doing something fun," Johnna Schindbeck, a Truman Medical Center/University Health employee, told KMBC news.
The nursing staff in Truman Medical Center began continually updating their notes, noticing that Mixdorf would jump out of bed to look at the artwork as soon as someone switched it.
"I know there are children over there and I don't know what they're going through, and if I can make them smile a little bit, that's all that mattered," said Cheryl Grey, a Truman Medical Center/University Health employee.
The Mixdorf family finally met the Truman Medical Center staff who had been leaving the notes after they checked out and left one that read, “C U later. Thanks.” Mixdorf received his final scans this week. The family hopes to see cancer-free results as they return home to Arkansas.
Dr. Nik Korgaonkar, a surgical oncologist at WellSpan Thoracic Surgery, understands the impact of a cancer diagnosis on a patient, and decided to take action to help create more personalized care.
Korgaonkar and his wife, Sonal, contributed $25,000 to the WellSpan York Cancer Center Capital Campaign, which has raised more than $5.7 million for a newly renovated facility. The new facility will include state-of-the-art cancer treatment and supportive services for patients, as well as a wellness center that offers holistic treatments – massages, meditation, spiritual care, palliative care and bra/wig fittings.
“I think of this as community taking care of community, and we wanted to support WellSpan’s vision of advancing cancer care locally,” Korgaonkar told WellSpan news. “I feel that way at WellSpan more than I have at any other institution that I have ever been at.”
The new facility will open on July 19.
“Often times when we think about cancer, we think about the treatment and the testing, but depending on the stage of cancer, that patient may need financial counseling, ancillary services, social work, palliative care or even massage services,” Korgaonkar said. “We now have that at one central location which cuts down on the wait and extra appointments for patients.”
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