When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you cancer…

Maaran Cohen, CEO, Hello Doctor

Maayan Cohen, CEO, Hello Doctor

Today’s guest blogger is Maayan Cohen, CEO and Founder of Hello Doctor™, a free mobile app that empowers people to control their health and organize their own medical records. Below is Maayan’s story that tells how she and the Hello Doctor team are revolutionizing and simplifying the patient experience.  

4 years ago, my former boyfriend started having bad headaches. They usually started around the evening time, until one day he woke up with a headache — that’s when I knew that something was seriously wrong. I dragged him to the emergency room and 3 hours later, the sky fell on us. A scan revealed he had a brain tumor and must undergo immediate surgery. That morning marked the beginning of 2 excruciating years of fighting cancer that included surgeries, chemotherapy, lab tests, radiations, second opinions and countless visits to doctors who are part of disparate medical networks whose technology systems don’t talk with each other.

HD_LogoEach doctor we saw gave us a net of about 10 minutes face time. Beyond the uncertainty and fear, the worst part of these meetings was trying to explain his medical condition by pulling out the relevant Medical Records that the doctor wanted to see out of my “medical binder”. I knew that if I could not find the right document at the right time it would affect his treatment and in this case — it can even cost us his life.

This story has a couple of happy endings. First, my former boyfriend went into permanent remission, he is doing great today and we are still good friends. The second is Hello Doctor. The frustrations of my experience with the health care system inspired me to quit my job and start Hello Doctor, which is intended to help millions of people who are dealing with the same frustration that I had to deal with. Today, Hello Doctor’s team has 5 members — all went through a similar experience with different medical conditions — bowel disease, breast cancer, ALS and pregnancy monitoring. We have all been there, and we decided to devote our career to helping people feel less confused and more in control when talking to their doctors.

Hello Doctor stores your medical records on your tablet or smartphone

Hello Doctor stores your medical records on your tablet or smartphone

Hello Doctor is a free mobile app that empowers people to control their health. We started with an iPad app that helps people to manage and understand their medical records. It allows you to easily aggregate all of your medical records (paper or digital) on your tablet and get to any one of them in literally just 2 taps. It allows you to share your medical records with your doctor and take notes on the medical records themselves — so that you won’t forget what bothered you and resolve it in time. It’s that simple and it’s that useful, especially in real time — when you are facing your doctor.

Download Hello Doctor to your smartphone or tablet today!

Download Hello Doctor to your smartphone or tablet today!

A few weeks ago we found out that we are already helping people. Ilene, a 60 year old cancer survivor sent us an amazing thank you letter. “A simple flu shot meant that I have to take my 2 medical binders with me to the doctor as he doesn’t have access to all of my records. Your app is invaluable”. This is exactly what we dreamed of when we started this project and we need your help in spreading the word about Hello Doctor. You can start by downloading and trying it yourself — take control over your health now. Manage your medical records with Hello Doctor.

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Exercising for wellness

Carol Michaels is a fitness industry leader

Carol Michaels is a fitness industry leader

Staying active when you are living with cancer can be a challenge. Fortunately, healthy physical activity does not have to be intense and strenuous. To help us dive into this topic, this week’s guest blogger is Carol Michaels, a cancer exercise specialist with more than 18 years of experience as a certified fitness trainer, and founder of Recovery Fitness. Visit her blog here.

Studies have shown that physically active cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrences and improved survival compared with those who are inactive. But how exactly do you begin exercising?

Participants enjoying an exercise program at CSC Greater Philadelphia

Participants enjoying an exercise program at CSC Greater Philadelphia

What often gets in the way between survivors knowing they “should” exercise and actually doing it is an incorrect assumption. I have observed that many people assume that exercise has to be intense and high impact (e.g. running). An effective exercise program for cancer survivors, however, will start gently with slow progression. A good exercise program should take into account:

  • What exercises you already do
  • Your limits
  • What you can do now
  • Your interest and needs
Participants enjoying a yoga class at Gilda's Club Chicago

Participants enjoying a yoga class at Gilda’s Club Chicago

Starting an exercise program is difficult, but so rewarding. All types of moderate exercise are beneficial. Think about the activities or sports that you enjoy and do them. Do you like to walk, ride a bicycle or dance? If so, you can build your exercise program around the activity you find enjoyable.

How can you stick with your exercise program? It is a good idea to set goals.  Some people derive great satisfaction in setting and then achieving goals. This can be done with charts and graphs charts to record your progress and reward achievements. Cancer survivors can show tremendous progress when participating in a consistent well-designed exercise program. You should keep in mind that just like everyone else, you will have good and bad days, so you should be able to adapt. Keep as active as possible, be safe and have fun.

Be sure to consult with your health care team before beginning any exercise program.

Posted in Living with Cancer | 1 Comment

Meet Broadway Star and Cancer Support Community Supporter, Stephanie J. Block

Stephanie J. BlockHave you ever wanted to see Broadway star Stephanie J. Block perform? Stephanie J. Block, star of such productions as Wicked and Anything Goes, will be performing at the Cancer Support Community’s Spring Celebration on April 24th in New York City, and we want to make sure you have a ticket!

CSC recently had the chance to interview Stephanie about her upcoming performance and connection to cancer and the Cancer Support Community.

What is your connection to cancer?

The effects of cancer have touched me in profound ways. The most recent was a dear family friend who had fought her first battle with breast cancer with so much grace, humor and strength. When the cancer returned last year, the battle took her life. She was a strong, vibrant and impressive woman… a wife, a mother, a new grandmother and a teacher who was loved by so many, including me and my husband. Again, this is just the most recent account of a life taken too soon.

I want to mention an incredible man and a master costume designer, Mr. Martin Pakledinaz. It was brain cancer that took Marty. He created and designed and inspired until the last moments of his life. I miss him deeply.

I, myself, had a scare with cervical cancer. Back in 2004 a severe case of cervical dysplasia led my doctors to use the word “cancer”. I was terrified. But because of very early detection and wonderfully proactive physicians and specialists, I was clean after the first surgery. After years of doctor visits and check-ups and multiple cervical scrapings (more than I care to count), I was deemed “unextraordinary”. I found such relief in a word that seemed so derogatory before that experience.

Sadly, I could continue with other names, stories, cherished lives of loved ones taken by this pestilence, but instead I will remember them fondly and continue to work/pray for a cure.

How and when did you become involved with the Cancer Support Community?

I have only become aware of Cancer Support Community these last few months. The services they provide and the care and understanding with which they provide it, it’s a true gift. As they so beautifully and simply put it…”so that no one faces cancer alone”.

Tell us more about your upcoming performance for the Cancer Support Community.

I am so honored to have been included in the Cancer Support Community Spring Celebration. There is something that shifts in me when I am able to sing for an extraordinary event… an extraordinary purpose such as this. The songs take on new meaning. The storytelling becomes a bit more personal. And in this time of spring, I will perform songs of celebrating life, love and hope.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by those who give of themselves hoping to create a better world. I have always found that when it’s being reported that “things” are at their darkest, you turn to find a loving gesture, a giving hand, a motivated spirit, an unexpected and generous act. People are good at heart. When I pay attention and recognize that truth… I am inspired.

Posted in CSC News, Inspirational Stories | Leave a comment

Volunteer for a better community and a better you: National Health Care Volunteer Week challenge

This week (April 6-12) is National Health Care Volunteer Week.. It was established by President Nixon in 1974 as a way to show appreciation and raise awareness for volunteers and the valuable services they provide. Volunteer work is an integral part of the operation of many social and civic groups, including the Cancer Support Community.

Data collected by the National Conference on Citizenship in 2012 estimates that service hours nationwide make a contribution equivalent to $175 billion. As part of this great movement, National Health Care Volunteer Week emphasizes the significant impact that volunteers have in the health care field and highlights the meaningful support they provide to patients, families and the larger community.

There are health benefits to volunteering, a 2013 Carnegie Mellon University study determined. An experimental group that volunteered for 200 hours a year saw a 40% decrease in their risk for high blood pressure. The emotional benefits are countless as well. If you or a loved one are affected by an illness, such as cancer, volunteering with a local hospital or non-profit organization if you are able to provides an opportunity for you to help and share your experience with others who are going through a similar situation. Volunteers enjoy a sense of accomplishment as they give back to their community and acquire new skills.

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available worldwide. Most involve just a few hours a week or just one day a week; there are even opportunities to volunteer from the comfort of your own home. If you’re a cancer survivor, you can give back to others by joining the Cancer Experience Registry, where you can help researchers learn more about the full cancer journey by answering a questionnaire. There are also often volunteer opportunities available at CSC affiliates. These vary from administrative tasks, fundraising initiatives, outreach and hands-on involvement with cancer patients, caregivers and their families. Any amount of time that you can dedicate makes a difference.

Outside of CSC, you can find addtional service projects that best suit your needs and your interests, at www.volunteermatch.org.

Throughout this week we challenge you to become involved in service. Let us know in the comment section how you will celebrate this inspiring week!

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Veronica’s story

Today’s guest blogger is Veronica Backes, a 20 year cancer survivor who shared her inspirational story with the Cancer Support Community through the website. If you would like to share your own story or experience, click here. Read Veronica’s story below.

I just celebrated my 20th anniversary of being cancer free! I want to share my story because when I was in treatment I wanted to know someone who had survived cancer for a long time. Five years is an earmark, but twenty is amazing.

I was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer and had 19 malignant nodes. At the time, my prognosis was very poor with an 80 percent chance of recurrence in a year, even with treatment. I was 48 years old with a ten year old daughter still at home, so death was not an option for me. My husband and I aggressively sought treatment. I called the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington D.C. to ask about experimental programs for my cancer, and they referred me to Moffitt Cancer Center near my home in Tampa, FL. My current doctor would not refer me to the program as he thought it was too dangerous. I made the appointment myself, and when I went to see Dr. Goldstein at the bone marrow clinic he said no one had ever done that. I was only two weeks post mastectomy—the earliest patient he ever had.

I was accepted into the program and had four months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation. Then I entered into a high dose chemo treatment for five days that nearly killed all the cells in my body, causing me to require an adult stem cell transplant. I was in isolation for seven weeks and suffered a complication which caused a brain bleed. I made it through that after spending a month near the hospital until I was able to return home. Then, I had shingles the month after going home, requiring an IV of anti-viral medication.

Ever since then, I have been cancer free! I have not had any late term effects, and am very grateful I had the chance to cheat death.

My advice to anyone seeking treatment for cancer is to find a cancer center specializing in your specific cancer. Seek the most aggressive treatment you can. And most of all, stay positive. I was lucky to have a lot of emotional support from my husband, family and friends, as well as a deep spiritual belief in prayers.

I feel I beat cancer despite knowing I am still a candidate for recurrence. I have had a “live for the day” life for 20 years. I have gotten the chance to see my five children grow up, get married and give me nine grandchildren—something I thought I would be deprived of seeing. I am so grateful for that gift.

Posted in Inspirational Stories | 1 Comment