Research Corner

Research Corner

Beginning (Again) After the Battle: A Look at Survivorship

          June is Survivorship Month! We will take a look at what survivorship is, and what some current methods for it are. Normally, Research Corner focuses on new research for cancer treatment, but survivorship is a bit different. Survivorship is relatively new idea, historically speaking. The fact that we have more cancer survivors than ever before is only part of it—the other part stems from a new push in medicine to treat the whole person rather than just the disease.

      Mom, You are the Strongest Woman I Know              In a lot of different countries, this Sunday is dedicated to celebrating all the amazing mothers from many walks of life. We chose to highlight this day because Mother's Day will forever be a special day for LiveSmyle. As many of you know, LiveSmyle was created after the passing of Dr. Tulay Kent in 2014 from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. An aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. Hakan, her son, founded LiveSmyle in hopes to raise cancer awareness and to provide support to cancer patients and their families. Hakan turned his grief while facing the unbearable experience of losing a mother into something positive. The lessons and values that Hakan learned from his mother are deeply rooted in him, and that is something that I constantly get to see as we combine our efforts to make LiveSmyle an organization that can provide a meaningful impact on cancer patients and their families.             My mother, on the other hand, is currently living with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer. After what my mother and the rest of my family experienced, I knew that I wanted to provide support to other cancer patients and their families, just like Hakan. Our experiences with cancer are very different, but as you'll get to learn throughout the years, these experiences have led us to a similar path.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Dr. Tulay Kent enjoying her 50th birthday party with friends and family.  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


                 Hakan shares his story on our blog, about the journey his family went through as they navigate cancer treatment with Dr. Kent. As you read through the post there is an unintentional ongoing theme, which is the theme of Strength. The beginning of Dr. Kent's cancer story is marked when she receives a phone call at work from the hospital after having several tests and scans done. That phone call confirms the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Kent took the news with strength and went on to receive her treatment with grace, while still fulfilling the role of being a mother, a wife, and a professional. The initial treatment consisted of chemotherapy followed by major surgery to remove several internal organs. One of the dreaded side effects of chemo is the increased levels of fatigue since chemotherapy also attacks a lot of the healthy cells in the body, as well as increased levels of pain. That surgery ultimately caused her to make certain changes to her lifestyle. Despite all of what her body was enduring, Dr. Kent never failed to show strength, even if perhaps she may have felt the complete opposite on the inside. Up until her very last breath, it is clear that Dr. Kent fought hard to beat her cancer. It is truly an inspiring journey.               I'm not sure what it is, but I'm pretty sure that once a woman becomes a mother, one of the superpowers that gets activated is being able to fully mask any sign of fatigue with a huge and beautiful smile. My mother is no exception to this. All the mothers I know are like that. It must be a power gene that is turned on immediately after giving birth to a child.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              Carmen during one of physical therapy sessions before her bone marrow transplant in 2015.  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


                 I also had the opportunity to share my family's story on our blog. This is the first time that I am going back through the post, and wow! That was difficult. As I re-read the post, I can also see the ongoing theme of Strength written all over my mother's story. I am lucky that I still get to witness her strength and eagerness to beat the myeloma today. It is something so inspiring and truly beautiful to see. My siblings and I always talk about how grateful we are to have momma Carmen as our very own. I know I may be biased, but my mother truly is a gift sent to me from heaven. After going through a bone marrow transplant back in 2015, reaching the stage of remission for a few years, learning that her cancer had returned again towards the end of 2018, and beginning a new target therapy earlier this year, she has never lost the strength to push through the new and unknown. There is a lot of unknown territory and uncertainty when watching a family member go through cancer. One thing I know is that she remains strong, calm, and always takes everything with a smile on her face; that beautiful smile that will always light up a room. My mother's strength is really what fills me daily and that is what pushes me to reach my fullest potential. Despite the pain that my mother feels due to the myeloma, her strength is very evident as she attempts to get out of the house more and enjoy time with friends and family.                 A huge parallel between my story and Hakan's story is the day we both received the news of the cancer diagnosis of our mothers. The diagnosis of our mothers both occurred on completely different dates, and they were both diagnosed with completely different types of cancers, yet, the day that we both learned the diagnosis of our mothers, without a surprise, had the same ending. I had just flown in from Peru and Hakan was asked to fly home for a weekend while he was attending college in LA. We both felt an unusual vibe in our homes, and we knew that something was different. From the onset of the situation, we both tried to stay positive and take whatever was coming at us. When we both had finally heard the diagnosis of our mothers, we both sobbed uncontrollably to our mothers, while our mothers held us in their arms and comforted us. The unconditional love and comfort of a mother are unlike anything I have experienced before. I know Hakan resonates with this statement as he states in our blog, "showing this kind of unconditional love is the most precious gift she left me."      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                 I can proudly say that the backbone and mitochondria (leave it to a science major to say something like this) of LiveSmyle is Strength. No doubt. I will admit we've had some days where Hakan and I have felt discouraged. Luckily, there has always been something to help us bounce back and help us work towards our mission. The strength that our mothers are constantly giving us is one of our main sources of motivation, which makes it easier for us continue to grow as an organization.               Hakan and I are almost coming up on our one-year anniversary of working together. In the short amount of time that we began this partnership, we have made a lot of progress! We have even added two more members to the leadership team of LiveSmyle: Eric Juhos and Becky Gold, who have been exceptional and wonderful additions to the team. Our most recent donation of $4,500 to the Ronald McDonald House, which is a housing facility for pediatric patients and their families, marked a huge milestone for LiveSmyle. These are just some of the things that we are excited to share with all of you on this special day.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              First official Skype meeting with the new members of LiveSmyle!  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


                 This mission does not stop there. Eventually, we want to financially support cancer patients with the cost of cancer treatment, which many of us know how much of a financial burden that can be. Hakan and I have also talked about creating a scholarship fund for students entering careers in the STEM field and being able to donate grants towards the advancement of cancer research. I believe we are only scratching the tip of the iceberg here and there is a lot more we’ll all get to see through LiveSmyle. Hakan and I always talk and joke about giving a Ted Talk, but I believe with our mother's strength you will be seeing us on a Ted stage sooner than we all think.               Now, I am not saying that our stories are unique and deserve the highest level of recognition. Not at all. The sad truth is that millions and millions of people worldwide go through similar or worse situations when dealing with cancer. These stories, however, are important and special to Hakan and I. Our individual experiences with cancer have shaped and fashioned who we are today. We took the sadness, fear, anger and the unknown that comes with watching a loved one battle through cancer and losing a loved one, and we turned that into strength, determination, love, and courage. We have taken these stories and experiences to create something bigger than us, but most importantly to honor the most important women in our lives. The point here is to be able to find something or someone that gives you strength. I know with all of the challenges and pressure we face in our society today, that is much easier said than done. I encourage you, however, to find that spark that will give you the strength to keep pushing forward. A question to reflect on is how do you move forward in the face of adversity? The answer is not so simple, but it is up to You.    Happy Mother's Day!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
                      Dr. Tulay Kent and Carmen Mendoza-Chavez, the Strong women of LiveSmyle.

Mom, You are the Strongest Woman I Know

In a lot of different countries, this Sunday is dedicated to celebrating all the amazing mothers from many walks of life. We chose to highlight this day because Mother's Day will forever be a special day for LiveSmyle. As many of you know, LiveSmyle was created after the passing of Dr. Tulay Kent in 2014 from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. An aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. Hakan, her son, founded LiveSmyle in hopes to raise cancer awareness and to provide support to cancer patients and their families. Hakan turned his grief while facing the unbearable experience of losing a mother into something positive. The lessons and values that Hakan learned from his mother are deeply rooted in him, and that is something that I constantly get to see as we combine our efforts to make LiveSmyle an organization that can provide a meaningful impact on cancer patients and their families.

Research Corner

Research Corner

Using The Immune System to Target Brain Cancer: Are We There Yet?

          In honor of brain cancer awareness month, this post will discuss a recent study published in Frontiers in Immunology, entitled “Genetically Engineered T-Cells for Malignant Glioma: Overcoming the Barriers to Effective Immunotherapy.” Here is the article and some related content. In the last decade, there have been several public figures with gliomas such as Senator John McCain, Senator Ed Kennedy, and the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Beau Biden. Recently, there has been greater attention focused on finding novel therapies by using the immune system to improve or bolster the current standard of care. One of the ideas surmised in recent years of research is that combination therapies targeting the complex biology of cancer will give us the greatest chance of successful treatment.

Research Corner

Research Corner

Recurrence Detection of Pediatric Germ Cell Tumors: A World Beyond CT

          April is testicular cancer awareness month! While there is some amazing work being done specifically in the field of testicular cancer, we decided to expand the umbrella a bit and look at a paper that focuses on pediatric germ cell tumors (while germ cell tumors are a subset of testicular tumors, they are also a subset of ovarian tumors). 

      How Multiple Myeloma Changed My Family                          Cancer is a word that surrounds us daily. We are constantly flooded with warnings that everything is potentially cancerous. News articles continuously tell us of a constant flood of daily products, foods, household appliances, and so much more that increase our risks of different types of cancer.  Studying biochemistry in college, I learned and studied cancer in great detail. Never did I imagine, however, that one day, it would be so intimately a part of my everyday life.               During the spring of 2014, as a Junior at Seattle Pacific University, I was lucky enough to travel to Peru to learn more about the dental field and work with Peruvian dentists to serve rural communities. It was my first big trip, and I was more excited than I had ever been in a long time. The trip itself was incredible. I experienced a completely different culture, and yet, the places I explored seemed at once very familiar to me, conjuring up memories of my hometown in Mexico. Although I loved the trip, I was excited to come home. I could not wait to share my experiences with my family. More than anything, I could not wait to hug them.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     I remember coming home to the States hardly able to contain my joy to see my family, but instantly I realized something was different. I walked in and my mom’s friend was in the kitchen doing dishes, which seemed extremely odd; my mother would never let anyone do dishes or be in “her” kitchen. My mother was sitting on the couch, greeting me with the most beautiful smile, but I noticed she was also wearing a black back brace. Very odd.  I knelt in front of her and held her hands in mine. There was something really strange and deeply unsettling about seeing my mother sitting on the couch in her back brace, instead of walking around in her usual high heels. Despite what my brain was telling me, I managed to remain calm, hoping there was a reasonable explanation for the weirdness I was feeling.               My brother was in the living room, and he came over and hugged me. He told me in Spanish, “We have to be strong for Mom.” In that instant, I could no longer hold it together, and I started crying. We have all been in situations where we know we are about to receive bad news, and our minds immediately jump to the worst-case scenario. Most of the time, though, it never is as bad as it seems. My first thought was, “Mom has cancer.” At the same time, I was also hoping deep down, and had almost convinced myself, that whatever my brother was going to tell me was not as bad as cancer. My brother stuttered and said, “Mom has cancer.” In that moment, I could not do anything but sob uncontrollably. I felt the worst heartache I have ever experienced. My first thought was that my mom probably had breast cancer. I reasoned with myself, “It will be okay, based on what I know many women with breast cancer live for a very long time.” When I was finally able to choke some words out, I asked my brother what type of cancer she was diagnosed with. He told me she had “multiple myeloma.”  “Multiple what?!” I went back to hug my mom and just be with her in that moment. Although she was the one who had just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, there she was holding me, loving me, and comforting me, like the incredibly strong and loving mother she is.               Today, I still remember that day as the worst day of my life. I went on to finish my Junior year of college. It was an extremely difficult year for me. I am very thankful, however, for my friends who made sure that I was okay at all times and kept me company. To this day, my closest friends continue to be one of my many sources of strength.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                 Immediately, my mother began her aggressive treatment to attack the myeloma, which included radiation therapy and intense chemotherapy. We began the dreaded weekly visits to the oncology center in Vancouver, WA.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                 The next couple of months after her diagnosis my mom and all of us were getting ready for the biggest day of our lives, her much anticipated bone marrow transplant. Luckily, she did not need a donor as her transplant was autologous, which means that her own stem cells would be cultivated and given right back to her. My mother is so strong; her own body saved herself and gave her another chance at life. After many rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and physical therapy, as well as unexpected hospital visits, the big day had arrived:  March 27th, 2015.  The bone marrow transplant occurred at the Oregon Health & Science University oncology center in Portland, Oregon.  My sister had flown in from Mexico to be here with all of us. By now, it had been a whole year since her diagnosis, and I was now a senior in college getting ready to graduate.              College graduation finally arrived. I became the first person in my immediate and extended family to graduate from an American university. This was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life, right? Although, I was extremely proud of myself, it was a bittersweet moment since my mother could not attend my graduation, as she was still recovering from her recent bone marrow transplant. My dad also could not be present as he was at home taking care of his beautiful wife. I knew that my parents were both cheering me on from Vancouver, WA, or as I like to call it “The ‘Couve”. My brother, his wife Adriana, and my uncle had traveled to Seattle to see me graduate. After the graduation ceremony I asked them to drive me to Vancouver so that I could be with my mother the same day of my college graduation. After the longest three hour car ride ever, I walked home with my cap and gown to share this moment with my parents. The recovery of her bone marrow transplant was very successful, but of course, came along with all side effects of a bone marrow transplant. The physical toll the transplant had taken on my mother did not shadow her inner strength and beauty. She is my biggest inspiration and daily I aspire to be like her.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                 Fast forward to this past spring 2018, and my family and I celebrated her third year of remission. My mother is one of the strongest women I have ever met. This past year has been even more exciting to see her physical strength slowly come back to her. This summer, she attended two weddings and left the house a little more for family dinners. She has even contemplated making a trip to Seattle with my dad to visit me, which is huge for her to say! I am currently working on my master’s degree and when I go home to visit, she will still make me tea to make sure that I am focused during my studies.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                 I admit that it has been an extremely difficult journey for my family and I, but there was something about this ugly and life-threatening disease that unexpectedly brought us closer together as a family. Throughout this entire process, my family and I have received so much support from other family and friends, and even hospital staff. The oncology nurses at the hospital are some of my favorite people to this day, and the doctors that I have met have been wonderful. Slowly they have become an extended part of our families. For some time, I have been wanting to return the favor and help other families who are in a similar situation as me. It is a challenging and dreaded journey, but the support makes it a bearable experience.               Joining the LiveSymile Foundation was something that happened unexpectedly and quickly. I am a big believer that when the right opportunity arises, you have to reach out and take it. The LiveSymile Foundation was one of those right and perfect opportunities for me.               I met Hakan Gem, the founder of LiveSymile, in the winter of 2018, while he was a fourth-year dental student at UW and I was working at a community health center where Hakan was assigned to do one of his clinical rotations. When the rotation ended, we friended each other on social media. A few months after, I noticed a personal post about Hakan’s mother and I was immediately touched by his extraordinary story. I also learned that he was starting a foundation to support cancer patients and their families. I wanted to learn how I could get involved and do something to represent and honor the journey my mother has been on. Hakan and I agreed to meet to go over a few of the logistics of a non-profit and how to get started. At that meeting, we both shared our stories about how cancer had influenced our families. I had to fight hard to hold back the tears when listening to his story and while sharing my own experiences. We both were on the same page; we wanted to create something beautiful to honor our mothers, in the midst of unthinkable pain.  Never did I imagine that I would walk away from that meeting with an offer to jump on board as one of the co-founders. I slept on it, thinking about the opportunity for several days. I wanted to ensure that I was the right fit to support and bring to life the visions and the values of the LiveSmyle Foundation. After mulling it over seriously, I accepted  to join LIveSmyle, and it has been the most exciting journey thus far. Hakan is a very motivated individual, and I am super excited to help bring his vision to life, while at the same time incorporating my own passion and infusing my own experience into LiveSmyle. I am beyond excited to be a part of such an amazing organization with Hakan, both of us inspired and driven to honor two amazing women who happen to be our mothers.

How Multiple Myeloma Changed My Family

            Cancer is a word that surrounds us daily. We are constantly flooded with warnings that everything is potentially cancerous. News articles continuously tell us of a constant flood of daily products, foods, household appliances, and so much more that increase our risks of different types of cancer.  Studying biochemistry in college, I learned and studied cancer in great detail. Never did I imagine, however, that one day, it would be so intimately a part of my everyday life.

      On Community Building in the Era of Division               It’s admittedly difficult to maintain an outlook of positivity if you keep up with today’s news cycle. From high profile court cases of sexual assault to the endless coverage of a narcissist president, we are inundated with news meant to provoke divisiveness and outrage.               Scroll through anyone’s Facebook feed and you can just feel the visceral disgust emanating off our screens. I’m tempted, as I’m sure you have been as well, to delete my social media accounts and turn away from this world of negativity and conflict.                But is that really the solution to this problem?               Perhaps it is. I have a number of friends who’ve happily deleted their accounts and pay little attention to the war of ideas being fought over the internet.               But perhaps it isn’t. Because doing so would close the door on one of the greatest opportunities we’ve created to build something special: online communities with the power to make positive and lasting impact on the world.               Right now, I want to press pause on the outrage machine that dominates our news feeds and tell you a story of how one such community is slowly coming together.                Back in July, as a beautiful summer was finally taking hold in Seattle, I received a Facebook message from an unlikely source.      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                  The sender was Yarenni Mendoza, a colleague whom I’d met in dental school whose story shared many parallels with mine - a family stricken by cancer and a desire to do something about it.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                  Yarenni and I met after work one day, and it immediately became clear that a synergy was afoot. For the past few months, I had been establishing the legal foundation for a non-profit organization, and I was eager to find a partner who could help me develop it. Yarenni, on the other hand, was doing everything she could to support her family as they rode the turbulent rollercoaster of cancer care. But after having experienced the instability of that ride firsthand, she wanted to find a way to help make it smoother for others.                After sharing our stories with one another, it only made sense that we combine our efforts in the arena cancer awareness and support. And just like that, the core team of LiveSmyle grew from one to two.               But two people don’t exactly constitute a thriving community. So we got to work.               The first step was to establish a donor base who would support our vision of helping families undergoing cancer treatment. And my goodness, what a treat it was when over 15 family and friends agreed to become regular donors for the LiveSmyle Foundation.                The agreement was simple: each donor would pledge $1 for every social media engagement our Facebook page generated. And in three short months, this wonderfully generous group collectively raised over $6,500!               The next step was to find a meaningful recipient for these funds. And we did exactly that when we heard the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance needed help refurbishing components of their patient housing facility in South Lake Union.                In particular, patient beds had not been replaced in quite some time, so we  purchased and donated 4 complete bed sets to the housing facility. And with gracious acceptance from the team at SCCA, our community grew just a little bigger that day.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              From left to right: Yarenni Mendoza (LiveSmyle), Zara Crump (SCCA), Hakan Gem (LiveSmyle), Debbie Fraley (SCCA)  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


                  And we’re not stopping there. We are hopeful that our next contribution will provide SCCA patients and their loved ones with fun experiences and positive memories as they visit Seattle for treatment. Two tickets to a Sounders FC match and two more tickets to the Cirque Du Soleil show “Volta” are to be raffled off in the coming days. We won’t know who will win them, but we will know that on the nights of October 8th and October 12th, four individuals whose worlds have been upended by cancer will find respite from their conditions, even if for just a couple hours.      



 
   
    
      

        

        
          
            
                  
            
          
          
        

        

      

        

        
          
            
                  
            
          
          
        

        

      
    
   

  
     
    
      
         
            
            
         
      
    
       
  

 






  
  

                  There is one more pillar in this emerging community that I haven’t yet mentioned. And that pillar is you, reading this right now. Ultimately, it’s the online engagement from people like you that fuels this entire operation. Not only do you help raise cancer awareness with each like, comment, and/or share, but you also help us raise the funds which our donors have agreed to pledge with each engagement.                And for that we want to say thank you. Moving forward, we will keep a running tally of those who remain the most engaged with our Facebook page and reward them with small gift cards to various cafes, restaurants, and retailers. Don’t expect too much! But it’s our way of showing how much we appreciate you helping us achieve our mission.                Make no mistake, I’m well aware that the LiveSmyle Foundation is but the smallest of fishes in a vast ocean of clickbait headlines and political/social dramas vying for your attention. Maybe it’s naive of me to think that we can leverage social media for something other than powering the outrage machine.               But if you see the same potential for positive impact that I see, and feel the same pull toward a world of compassion and inclusivity that I feel, then join us.               Join us simply by liking our page or by sharing our posts. Join us by telling your friends and family about us. Join us by becoming a donor. Join us if you feel like you can share your own skills and expertise with our team of two. Someday soon, I have no doubt that our team will inevitably grow to three. And then four. How big can this get? And who will those people be?               If you have been affected by cancer in any capacity, I offer you this opportunity to channel your loss, your anger, your frustration, your grief, whatever it may be, into a vehicle for good. If you fall into this camp, you have a community ready to accept you and implement your ideas for what constitutes a better life for cancer patients and their families.                Beyond the scope of cancer awareness, I want to leave you with my final and perhaps most important request. Aspire to use the tools at your disposal (the internet, social media, etc.) not to drum up controversy or maliciously spotlight those with whom you disagree. Rather, aspire to use these tools to build communities that will withstand this era of division. It may in fact be the most effective, if not only way we leave this era behind.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          
           
              The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in front of Mount Rainier. South Lake Union, Seattle, WA..

On Community Building in the Era of Division

             It’s admittedly difficult to maintain an outlook of positivity if you keep up with today’s news cycle. From high profile court cases of sexual assault to the endless coverage of a narcissist president, we are inundated with news meant to provoke divisiveness and outrage.

      A Bittersweet Time: The LiveSmyle Foundation               With graduation in the rear view mirror, I'm elated to have shared such a moment with my fantastic peers and all of our friends and families. I'm relieved that this long and difficult chapter is finally over. And I'm eager to tackle what lies ahead. But before embarking on the next journey, I have to take a moment and reflect on why this moment means so much to me.     


  

  


 
   
    
      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      
    
   

  
     
    
      
         
            
            
         
      
    
       
  

 


  

     
      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      
     

  





                  21 years ago, as a 5 year old boy, I watched my mom as she walked across the stage of the University of San Antonio School of Dentistry and earned her dental degree.     


  

  


 
   
    
      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      
    
   

  
     
    
      
         
            
            
         
      
    
       
  

 


  

     
      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      
     

  





                  That day only exists in my memory as a collection of a few, brief flashes, but I do remember feeling awestruck. I was definitely too young to understand what it all meant, but according to my grandmother whom I was sitting next to in the audience, I turned to her and said, "I'm going to be a dentist like her someday."               Of course I had no idea what I was talking about. I had no understanding of the countless hours of studying, preparation, and practice that it takes to become a dentist. And even now after having completed dental school, I still have no understanding of the added challenge that accompanies raising a young boy at the same time. Yet she believed she could do it, so she did. She was determined, independent, and fearless - qualities that I admired in her and appreciate more and more every day.               Words can't describe how deeply I miss her. At times, it's paralyzing to realize that I'll never see or speak to her again.  I wish so strongly that I could thank her for being the role model I try to emulate on a daily basis. But life often has little regard for our wishes, so what do we do? If I want to stay true to her character, there's only one thing I can do: channel the adversity of losing her as fuel to move forward and build a better world.               Today, LiveSmyle is having a graduation of its own. What was once a simple social media page is now the  LiveSmyle Foundation .                So what does that mean?                LiveSmyle will operate as it always has. I'll continue making weekly posts about important cancer news, facts, stats, historical figures, etc. But starting today, every time a post receives an engagement (like, comment, or share), a wonderfully generous group of donors will each put forth $1 in support of the foundation.                Where will the money go?                LiveSmyle is partnering with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to bring some light into the lives of cancer patients. Many patients of the SCCA fly from all over the region to receive their treatment here, and for many of those folks, Seattle will only be the place where they got chemo, radiation, and/or surgery.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                  The LiveSmyle Foundation is going to change that. Donations will be used to purchase tickets to events and experiences around Seattle at the request of patients and their families. Whether it's visiting popular tourist sites, attending sporting events, visiting a museum, enjoying a nice dinner at a local restaurant, or anything that we can make happen, patients of the SCCA will be given the opportunity to enjoy Seattle before, during, or after their treatments.               Let's use social media to do something good. Every like, comment, and share of LiveSmyle's content will not only raise cancer awareness, but it will also raise funds to help patients and their families through tough times.  With your help, we'll make it happen!

A Bittersweet Time: The LiveSmyle Foundation

With graduation in the rear view mirror, I'm elated to have shared this moment with my fantastic peers and all of our friends and families. I'm relieved that this long and difficult chapter is finally over. And I'm eager to tackle what lies ahead. But before embarking on the next journey, I have to take a moment and reflect on why this moment means so much to me.

      Why the War on Cancer is Wrong               "She battled cancer for about three and a half years and lost her fight in June, 2015." When I first heard myself say these words in response to how long my mother had been "fighting" cancer, it just didn't feel right. But throughout the entire process, from diagnosis to death, this was the metaphor surrounding her illness. Our friends, family, doctors, and researchers -  literally everyone  was engaged in a battle for the ages. But how did we come to think of cancer in this way? And is it possible that it's actually doing more harm than good?  1943, the War Begins               On the heals of World War II, the war on cancer escalated quickly and quietly. A self-made, powerful businesswoman by the name Mary Woodard Lasker was a rising socialite in the bustling scene of New York City. Prior to the 40s, Lasker had been a wildly successful saleswoman and entrepreneur who would eventually be described as having "legendary social and political energy."     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                  Following the death of her mother who had brushes with both cancer and heart disease, Lasker redirected her professional efforts from the business world to public health activism. Her first step was to get a pulse on the landscape of cancer research, so she visited the American Cancer Society (then called the American Society for the Control of Cancer) in 1943, and what she found was disappointing.               "The visit left her cold. The society, a professional organization of doctors and scientists, was self-contained and moribund, an ossifying Manhattan social club. Of its small annual budget of about $250,000, it spent an even smaller smattering on research programs (Emperor of All Maladies)."                So Lasker got to work, upending the entire system in her signature way.               In four short years, she and her team transformed the fledging society by replacing the leadership, rewriting the bylaws and constitution, and fundraising an incredible twelve million dollars - a near 5000% boost to their budget.               How did she do it?               By deploying one of the most powerful metaphors that we have at our disposal: war. She shaped the public's perception of cancer from a disease that people were too frightened to talk about, to an enemy that needed ruthless and systematic eradication. She not only rallied doctors and scientists, but also celebrities and philanthropists. She took to the radio waves and magazines and newspapers to raise awareness around this silent and devious enemy. This was a war she couldn't fight alone, and her previous experience as a businesswoman gave her all the skills she needed to rally everyone to her cause.               Most people would agree that we are an innately tribalistic species, and if we detect a threat to our people, we have an extraordinary capacity to collectively neutralize that threat. And herein lies the troublesome double-edged sword of "fighting" cancer. There's no doubting the immensely positive impact that Lasker had on cancer awareness, advocacy, and research by appealing to this side of humanity. Her efforts would culminate in the signing of the 1971 National Cancer Act, which would pledge more money and resources toward cancer research and treatment than ever before. And the progress that we have made as a result is unbelievable.     


  

  


 
   
    
      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      

        
          
             
              
                    
              

              
                
              
                
             
          
          
        

        

        

      
    
   

  
     
    
      
         
            
            
         
      
    
       
  

 


  

     
      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      

        
           
        

        

      
     

  





                  But what was the tradeoff that we made when we decided to go to war? And how can we detect when the impact of this mentality is no longer beneficial?                By listening to the "soldiers" we send into battle.  The Price for Glory               Everybody loves an underdog who wins. Whether it's David toppling Goliath, or the proverbial Cinderella team dancing their way through the March Madness tournament. You see where I'm going with this - we all want to view our friends and family who are diagnosed with cancer in the same light. We want them to embody the spirit of a warrior who will fight against and beat all odds. I know, because this is how I wanted to view my mother as she went through treatment.                But it was a mistake and in hindsight, I wish I hadn't. Because the reality that we must face is that we're not all warriors.  And having cancer is not a battle that we should force people to fight.                Why?               Because "fighting" cancer shifts the burden of victory, or worse, the guilt of loss, squarely on the shoulders of the patient. Consider what is implicated when the cancer is out of control and can no longer be treated.  Would it have been possible to win if only the patient fought harder?  And while at first the metaphor may be inspiring, it falls apart in the throes of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.               Today's standard for cancer therapy is a much crueler world than many of us want to acknowledge. Sure, we all have an abstract sense of its physical challenges - the nausea, the hair loss, the energy drain, etc. But what most of us lack is a fundamental understanding of how it erodes our psyche - the isolation, the depression, the bitter confrontation with one's own mortality.                In the midst of this physical and mental trial, our loved ones are urged to remain strong, to never give up, to keep fighting. Making these suggestions is a blatant, and often completely unintentional disregard for the enormity of the existential task that is surviving cancer.                So does this mean we should preach the opposite message? To give up immediately in the face of a terminal diagnosis?                Absolutely not.  A New Framework               What I am advocating for is a collective shift in how we talk about cancer. If we move past this metaphorical war and begin to understand how cancer actually impacts the human condition, not only will we be more successful in how we support our loved ones as they go through treatment, but we will be more successful in how we treat cancer itself.                Let me explain.               When we replace words like "battle" and "fight" with "diagnosis" and "treatment," we paint a more realistic picture of the disease. And it creates a more approachable environment for those having to deal with it. So rather than asking, "how long have you been battling cancer?" a better question might be, "how long ago were you diagnosed?" And if you want to show your support to a friend or a loved one, saying "I'm here for you through your treatment," might be a better option than "keep on fighting, I know you can win." Take a look at cancer survivor and writer  Xeni Jardin's opinion  on this.               Changing our rhetoric also forces us to understand cancer in its truest form. What does it mean to be diagnosed? For starters, cancer is the term we use to describes a set of diseases that share the common characteristic of abnormal cellular growth. Diagnosis is confirmed under a microscope when cells exhibit very distinct patterns that suggest cancerous transformation. So why do the current treatments have such devastating side effects? Cancer cells grow rapidly and have the potential to spread and invade to other parts of the body. Our classical chemotherapeutics target all rapidly dividing cells including those found in your hair follicles and digestive tract, hence the dramatic hair loss and nausea.               From here, we can ask more nuanced questions: how does the next generation of therapy promise better efficacy with fewer side effects? Right now, there is a colossal effort in the research community to find out exactly how cancer cells differ from healthy cells  at the molecular level . Given that there are probably more molecules in a single cell than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy, you can appreciate the grand scale of this challenge. But with technological advancements in areas such as immunology, big data, and even machine learning, the problem is slowly being solved. And your ability to recognize which efforts are the most promising is a direct function of your understanding of cancer. Which is why you shouldn't resort to metaphorical thinking, but stick to more accurate descriptors that force you to comprehend what this disease really is. This gives you the added benefit of knowing how to best prevent cancer in your own body.        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"                      Today marks the beginning of a new year and an opportunity for all of us to start something new. Let 2018 be the year you transform your thinking about cancer. Challenge yourself to use more accurate, non-metaphorical words when referring to this disease. And with this new framework, let us enhance our support and progress toward a world free of cancer.  Further Reading    Illness as Metaphor - Susan Sontag    Emperor of All Maladies - Siddhartha Mukherjee

Why the War on Cancer is Wrong

             "She battled cancer for about three and a half years and lost her fight in June, 2015." When I first heard myself say these words in response to how long my mother had been "fighting" cancer, it just didn't feel right. But throughout the entire process, from diagnosis to death, this was the metaphor surrounding her illness. Our friends, family, doctors, and researchers - literally everyone was engaged in a battle for the ages. But how did we come to think of cancer in this way? And is it possible that it's actually doing more harm than good?