Tag Archives: cancer

Cancer-ravaged bone can be ‘tricked’ into regenerating

When I was a student at Yale University School of Medicine in the early 2000s, one of my professor-mentors introduced me to the concept of bone regeneration. I hadn’t known it was possible for the body to heal and regenerate itself to such an extent, and I found it absolutely fascinating!

An idea struck. What if we could tap into the body’s ability to regenerate bone to help cancer patients? It was a novel concept … or so I thought.

High-grade bone cancers used to be a death sentence. If a person was lucky, he would get a limb amputated and live a few more years. Then chemotherapy came along and suddenly 70 percent of younger patients with these aggressive bone cancers were surviving.

Doctors could now treat the cancer with chemo, remove the tumors, and replace the bone defect with metal implants. However, metal things tend to break and wear out. As people got older, they needed multiple surgical interventions to fix or replace the implants. That meant hospital stays, risk of complications, sometimes infection.

Instead of medical implants, what if we could use the body’s natural ability to regenerate bone?I couldn’t wait to tell my mentor.

“It is a great idea,” he said. “But not a new idea.”

Turns out a professor in Japan had been exploring this idea for 25 years already. Still, my mentor assured me, it was a good idea and there was room to explore and expand on it.

I was fortunate in 2014 to be recruited onto the team at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and we began to explore the possibilities of bone regeneration. I’m excited to say the research and clinic trials we are doing are game-changing, especially for younger people with bone cancer.

Essentially, we are helping the patient’s body heal itself. We trick the body into thinking there’s a fracture, and we can slowly but surely use the fracture healing response to make new bone to seal the gap where the tumor was removed. In this way we can avoid the need for metal implants and help people grow back their own bone. And—most importantly— we can set up a young person for a much better quality of life for a longer period of time than ever before. As of now, Memorial Sloan Kettering is the only place in the U.S. using this limb-lengthening technique, but I hope it won’t be long before others follow suit.

In 2018, I was honored with a Service Excellence Award from Healthnetwork Foundation to support research in the field of bone regeneration in patients affected by bone cancers. Our research focus is to better understand the process of distraction osteogenesis to optimize bone healing for each individual. Those who support Healthnetwork should know this kind of funding is important in getting a project like this started. We often use such funding to hire researchers or grad students, helping launch a project in the early stages; then, we can turn it into much bigger things.

DANIEL E. PRINCE, MD, MPH is a surgeon specializing in orthopedics and musculoskeletal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He created their bone regeneration team which focuses on limb- and joint-sparing reconstructive techniques to optimize patients’ function and quality of life.

Recipe for skin cancer: 15 sunny steps

1. Believe, “skin cancer can’t happen to me. I won’t be one of the 10,000 Americans diagnosed daily with skin cancer.” If you apply sunscreen, use the lowest number you can find and apply it like a typical American who puts it on so thin that they achieve only a quarter to half the protection listed on the sunscreen bottle.

2. Remove as much clothing, hats, and glasses as possible when in the sun.

3. Marinate in the sun for your vitamin D, even though half of Hawaiian surfers who spent 29 hours/week in the sun year-round were vitamin D deficient

4. Ignore non-healing sores lasting more than a month – especially on the face.

5. If you wear a hat, use a visor or baseball hat, and stay away from hats with a 2” or wider circumferential brim.

6. Win the ‘lobster-man’ or ‘lobster-woman’ award for the best ‘grimace-inducing sunburn’ at your local Yacht Club – as many years running as possible.

7. Choose parents who will give you fair skin, for as a red-headed, fair-skinned Irish priest patient once said, “The Irish are God’s gift to dermatology.”

8. Repeat, “Skin cancer can’t happen to me. I won’t be in the one-third of Americans who will grow one by the age of 70.”

9. Braise in a tanning bed to acquire the mythical ‘base tan’ that requires killing skin cells to alert other skin cells to make a tan – that provides as much protection as SPF 3 (three!) sunscreen – and don’t forget, the tanning bed rays accelerate skin wrinkles compared to the sun. Wrinkles give your face character.

10. Bake exposed skin in the sun as close to the equator – and to mid-day – as possible.

11. Fertilize and cultivate your garden in the middle of the day. Not only does the sun feed your fruits, vegetables, and flowers, but nothing motivates a skin cancer like sunlight!

12. Appreciate those multi-colored, growing “moles” – after all, they’re just ‘beauty marks,’ and they can’t kill anyone (except 7,200 other people annually in America).

13. Avoid websites like www.skincancer. org that could help you prevent skin cancer or get it diagnosed early.

14. Contribute monthly (and don’t forget to fill out your company matching-gift form) to “MakeAmericaTanAgain.Com.”

If you have already had a skin cancer, follow all of these instructions, because doing these things will reduce your number of future cancers.

15. Stew slowly with the thought, “Skin cancer can’t happen to me”, and believe, ”Skin cancer isn’t a big deal, even if I get it, because Hugh Jackman and Melanie Griffith have proven that you can still be attractive with cancer surgery scars on your nose.”

Put your dermatologist on speed-dial; he/she will want to admire the results of your efforts.

TOM MCGOVERN is a Legate who practices Mohs Surgery full-time at Fort Wayne Dermatology Consultants in Fort Wayne, IN. He co-hosts the Doctor, Doctor radio shows/podcasts for the Catholic Medical Association.

Imploring Our Mother’s healing touch – and mediation

Nancy Foytik of Reedsville, WI, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, and it had metastasized into both lungs. Doctors gave her a grim prognosis. After one round of chemotherapy, Foytik and her family decided to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in the town of Champion, not far from Green Bay, in 2012.

“We didn’t have any hope. We went there for guidance,” she wept while telling her story on NBC’s Today last year. Yet after praying to the Virgin Mary there, “We just knew when I walked out of the chapel that day I was going to be cured… I can’t explain it other than that. I didn’t hear the words, but I felt them, that said ‘you’re going to be okay.’”

Surgeons removed a softball-sized tumor from her colon and smaller tumors from her right lung. When they performed a third surgery, they found the tumors in her left lung had disappeared. Foytik has been cancer-free ever since.

“I was an active Catholic,” she said. “I prayed, but I never prayed to Mary as much as I did to God. Mary was just the one I needed to go to at that time.”

What makes a miracle?

Foytik said she and her family never used the word “miracle” to describe her experience. Many Catholics, however, claim that their healings — whether physical, emotional, or spiritual — occurred through Mary’s intercession.

Often these healings are associated with Marian pilgrimage sites such as Our Lady of Good Help, the only Church-approved apparition site in the United States. Healings and conversions have been reported from there dating nearly to the time the Virgin Mary first appeared to young Adele Brise in 1859.

Perhaps the best-known of these shrines is Our Lady of Lourdes in France, where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858, one year prior to the Wisconsin apparition. Although more than 7,000 healings have been claimed at Lourdes, the Church has officially recognized just 70 of them. That’s largely because such miracles, like the miraculous healings investigated in causes for canonization, undergo painstaking scrutiny to ensure there is no natural explanation.

“For a cure to be considered a true miracle at Lourdes or at the Consulta Romana in the Vatican’s examination of intercessory miracles to be used for sainthood causes, it must pass the very old and strict ‘Lambertini criteria’ named for Prospero Lambertini, an Italian cardinal who later became Pope Benedict XIV, who was born in 1675,” explained Michael O’Neill, author of the 2015 book Exploring the Miraculous and host of “The Miracle Hunter” program on Relevant Radio. “The healing must be of a serious condition not liable to go away on its own, instantaneous, complete, and lasting — normally at least 10 years.

“Most difficult of all in our modern age,” he added, “there can be no medical treatment that relates to the cure.”

In 2018, the Church officially recognized the 70th miracle of healing to have taken place at Lourdes. It involved Sister Bernadette Moriau, a French nun who visited there in 2008. For 28 years she had suffered spinal complications that caused disabilities requiring use of a wheelchair. She regularly took prescription morphine to ease her pain.

After receiving a blessing for the sick at the shrine, Sister Moriau felt a warm, relaxing surge of well-being throughout her body. “I returned to my room and there, a voice told me to ‘take off your braces,’” she later recalled.

Not only could she move, but she immediately was able to walk away from her wheelchair, leg braces, and painkillers — and felt so good she took a three-mile walk the next day

As with many credible healing claims at the shrine, Sister Moriau’s case was referred to the International Medical Committee of Lourdes. Their painstaking research found no scientific explanation. After approval from the bishop of Sister Moriau’s home diocese, the healing received official recognition. It was the first miracle declared there since 2013.

 To Jesus through Mary

Healings are also commonly reported at sites of alleged apparitions that lack official sanction, including Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herezegovina, where Mary is said to been appearing to visionaries since 1981.

In 1999, Artie Boyle of Hingham, MA, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. Not long after undergoing surgery to remove his diseased kidney, Boyle was told the cancer had metastasized aggressively to his lungs. “Renal cell carcinoma was definitely going to kill me,” he writes in his book, Six Months to Live.

The following year, Boyle traveled to Medjugorje with two close friends. There on Cross Mountain, rosary in hand, he felt an intense pain in his lung. Convinced he had been healed, he called his wife and asked her to make an appointment for a CT scan before his scheduled surgery to remove one of his diseased lungs. Upon returning home, the scan revealed his cancer was gone. Not only that, he and his friends had each experienced profound spiritual healings in Medjugorje.

 “The graces received, the prayers answered, and the miracles witnessed are vivid proof to us of [Mary’s] intervention and of the generous response of her Son,” writes Boyle, now a development officer for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Sometimes the apparent healings do not happen by way of pilgrimage, but when Mary answers prayers of intercessions — or simply touches someone’s spirit out of the blue.

Leo de Bondt was raised a Protestant in the Netherlands. At 25, he married into the Catholic Church, but he lost all faith in God after his three-year-old daughter died of leukemia in 1972.

Fifteen years later, he saw a photo depicting Our Lady of the Miracle, a painting in the Basilica of St. Andrea delle Fratte in Rome. It depicts a 19th-century apparition of Mary to a virulently anti- Catholic Jewish man which brought about his immediate conversion. De Bondt was deeply moved by the image and the story behind it.

“It was from that moment that my life changed completely,” he remembered. The Virgin Mary “brought me back to Christ. It was she who called this man who had lived as an atheist for 15 years. I became Catholic again, but this time as I had never been, while discovering the wonder of the Catholic faith.”

De Bondt, who has founded a website dedicated to spreading devotion to the Blessed Mother, says of his reversion to Catholicism: “I hated the Church until Mary called me.”

Power of the Rosary

Catholic evangelist and author Kathleen Beckman tells of how Mary’s intercession turned her son’s life around.

The younger of her two boys was going through a rough time. “I could see the spirit of the world trying to pull him away from our family and take him into a dark world,” Beckman related in a blog post. She began to pray the rosary daily “for our son to be delivered away from all the bad influences and temptations that were pulling him down. I prayed the Glorious Mysteries because I was interceding for my son’s resurrection.”

She continued for a year with no visible results. When her older son returned home from study in Europe, however, things changed unexpectedly. The big brother assessed the situation, wrote his troubled sibling a long and affirming letter, and read it to him. The transformation in the younger son was dramatic and immediate.

“At the end of that day, our son was healed and delivered,” said Beckman. “It was the power of a brother’s love that overcame the power of evil that had a grip on our son…. [But] I have no doubt my son’s healing and deliverance was the fruit of the one-year novena of the Holy Rosary.”

Mark Miravalle, the Saint John Paul II Chair of Mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, believes Mary always stands ready to strengthen and heal us.

“Where there is suffering and sickness, there is the Mother, hovering in wait to mediate graces of consolation, healing, and courage, all in conformity to the perfect and generous will of the Heavenly Father,” Miravalle said. “She waits only for our fiat in faith, to be freely welcomed into our homes, into our hearts … to bring to each one of us extraordinary healing graces of the Crucified Christ.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

In God’s Hands: Living Through Illness with Faith

Maureen A. Cummings
Our Sunday Visitor, 115 pages

As a cancer survivor, Maureen Cummings knows a thing or two about the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges that accompany a person who must endure serious illness, as well as the difficulty for their loved ones. In this concise paperback, she provides succinct guidance and encouragement for those facing similar circumstances. Acceptance, prayer, trust in God, courage, dealing with inevitable changes, and preparation for the battle as well as for death itself are covered in simple and comforting fashion. Catholics know suffering can be redemptive, and this little book is crafted to help them make the most of it.

Order: Amazon

Averting breast cancer risk supports Catholic credo

Not only is breast cancer the most common female cancer, expected to affect 1 in 8, and increasing alarmingly at 3.5 percent annually, but it afflicts more women under 50 with more aggressive and more difficult-to-treat forms of the cancer. Only 10 percent of breast cancer is hereditary (genetic); therefore environmental causes have great effect and can be modified by habits and decisions. When detected early, breast cancer has an excellent prognosis.

Risk factors, prevention

Environmental risk factors include smoking, obesity, excess alcohol consumption, and possibly toxins ingested by girls during breast development. As lifetime estrogen exposure increases, so does breast cancer risk, and women in modern Western cultures start menses at younger ages than in developing countries. This partially explains the cancer’s higher incidence in wealthier countries.

Artificial hormones increase its risk, particularly oral contraceptives. A recent whole-country prospective study of the 1.8 million women of reproductive age in Denmark demonstrated an average 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer with contraceptive use. This risk was lower (under 10 percent) with one-year use, but increases to just under 40 percent with 10 years of use. An estimated 140 million women worldwide take hormonal contraceptives including 15 percent of women between 15 and 49 years old.

Many are shocked to learn the link between abortion and breast cancer. To date, around 30 of 40 studies have shown that abortion is a significant risk – and potentially causative factor for breast cancer, particularly if it occurs before the first full-term pregnancy. In this circumstance, there is up to 50 percent increased risk of breast cancer and this risk increases with multiple abortions (references available on www.polycarp.org ).

Habits that decrease risk

Healthy eating and exercise provide multiple health benefits and decrease the risk of breast cancer. Eating a healthy diet rich in natural vegetables and fruits as well as getting good nightly sleep are protective.

Alcohol is a known toxin associated with breast cancer. Women should limit alcohol consumption, since more than 1 or 2 daily alcoholic drinks routinely increases the risk of breast cancer.

Artificial hormones use should be avoided or reduced.

Full-term pregnancies and lactation decrease the risk of breast cancer as well as providing benefits to the newborn.

Routine annual mammography is still the primary method of secondary prevention (early detection). For women without a strong family history, annual mammography starting at age 40 is recommended.

Modern culture, science and faith

Today’s culture promotes patient autonomy and providing more information for making health-care decisions. This trend supports giving patients information on abortion and contraception risks. Many aren’t duly informed of these grave dangers. A recent documentary Hush is available and discusses them. In a culture that values patient autonomy and shared decision making, such serious risks should be included in informed consent.

Recent studies are encouraging since they lend scientific support to the Catholic viewpoint. Contrary to the myth, faith and science are not necessarily in conflict since ultimately truth cannot contradict truth.

DAVID J. HILGER M.D. is a diagnostic radiologist practicing in Omaha, Nebraska, with an expertise in women’s imaging and breast cancer detection. He is on the national board of the Catholic Medical Association and is a member of Legatus, having served previously as president of the Omaha Chapter.

Jesus’ mission to reveal the Father

If you polled Christians, asking the reason for Jesus’ incarnation, most would say he came to redeem humanity — to open heaven so we could one day be with him forever in heaven as adopted sons and daughters.

novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

True. But Jesus also came to reveal the Father, who is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). The invisible nature of God became visible in and through Jesus’ actions.

The Catechism teaches that “it pleased God … to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature” (#51).

Sadly, with so many young people (and grown adults) with no concept of a loving father, how does the Church communicate the love of God the Father, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ?

The crisis of fatherhood is epic, and the statistics are alarming. The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that nearly half of children (43%) are being raised without a dad at home, and 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The youth suicide rate is five times higher for kids without a dad.

There is no easy answer, but we are all called in our own particular way to mirror God the Father’s love to our own children and be surrogate fathers to people who are lacking that example.

The first time I ever saw my dad cry was at his father’s funeral. I was six years old, and the image of my father tearing up when he said his last goodbye will stay with me forever. He loved his father deeply.

George Novecosky with his six sons in May 2012

George Novecosky with his six sons in May 2012

Now it’s my turn. My father — George Novecosky — has cancer and I’m faced with the prospect of saying goodbye to him. Fortunately, he’s making it easy for us with his refreshing good humor. In a documentary I made on my parents’ spiritual legacy a few years ago, he quipped, “I’m not afraid to die, but I’m in no hurry!”

In his encyclical Rich in Mercy, Pope St. John Paul II taught that “the truth, revealed in Christ, about God the ‘Father of mercies,’ enables us to see him as particularly close to man especially when man is suffering” (#2).

My father’s spiritual legacy will live on in his nine children and 17 grandchildren. He taught us to live well, to love well and to remember that our end is to live forever in the Father’s House.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

EDITOR’S NOTE: George Novecosky was received into the arms of Our Lord on July 30, 2016.

Providing peace of mind

Miami member Cristina Poo found great peace by connecting with Healthnetwork Foundation . . .

Ramon and Cristina Poo

Ramon and Cristina Poo

Cristina Poo was packed and ready to go on a much-anticipated trip to the Holy Land. Right before she was to leave, she received an unexpected phone call from her sister who explained that her cancer had spread.

“She was in the middle of chemotherapy for her esophageal cancer when she received the devastating news that it had metastasized in her liver,” explained Poo, a member of Legatus’ Miami Chapter. “Her physician indicated that her liver was compromised and further treatment would do no good.”

Poo was distraught. Two years earlier her sister was extremely helpful when Poo herself battled cancer, so she desperately wanted to return the favor. But she was in Miami, and her sister was in California. Thinking back to the Legatus Summits she had attended over the years, Poo remembered receiving information from Healthnetwork Foundation.

“I found my contact information for Healthnetwork and called immediately,” she said. “I was upset and crying when I called; I don’t know how the medical coordinator made sense of what I was saying. Somehow she knew exactly what to do. Within 15-20 minutes, I received a call asking if we had access to all of her medical records and if my sister go to the hospital the next day for an appointment.”

Poo’s sister was quickly connected with the liaison at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. There she met with medical oncologist Edward Wolin, MD. He agreed with the initial prognosis about her liver, but he also gave her the peace of mind that she had done everything she could.

“My sister passed within three weeks of that visit,” Poo said. “While at her funeral, I mentioned to a friend how we connected with Dr. Wolin for a second opinion. The friend told me that he was the best cancer doctor in the area and we were lucky to get in to see him. This made me feel so much better. I never would have been able to make this happen on my own. Even across the country, I was able to reach out to Healthnetwork to provide her with a connection that gave her peace in a time of great struggle.

“I truly wanted to help support the foundation that did so much for our family,” she added. “I want others to benefit as we did, so we continue to support the foundation through the Healthnetwork GOLD program.

“People are often quick to point out when something goes wrong, but I believe in sharing when something goes right. I’m speaking out now because my experience with Healthnetwork could not have been better.”

Kate Hannibal is Healthnetwork’s marketing manager.

Healthnetwork is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. To learn how this can work for you, call (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. E-mail: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org