Archive for prostate cancer

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Cancer


Meet GUEST BLOGGER Ram Meyyappan. Ram is the senior editor and manager of the Social Security Disability Help website.  Social Security Disability Help contains information on how to apply for disability with over 400 conditions, helpful tips, FAQs along with an extensive disability glossary.


If you are a parent suffering from any type of cancer, the condition or the effects of the treatments you are undergoing may make it difficult to take care of your kids, let alone returning to work. In such cases, financial assistance may be available through one of the two Social Security Disability programs. There are two disability programs available to those who qualify under the SSA’s disability criteria. These include the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) program and the SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) program.


SSI is a needs-based program. In order to be eligible, you must be deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration and you must meet certain financial criteria. As of 2013, to qualify for SSI, you must not earn more than $710 as an individual or $1,060 as a couple. You must also not have assets that exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple.


Unlike SSI, SSDI is not a needs-based program. There are no financial criteria to meet. You must, however, have earned enough work credits through your previous work history. In order to have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you must have worked five of the past ten years. If you are not old enough to have worked five of the past ten years, you need to have worked half of the time you were able to do so.

Cancer and Meeting the Medical Requirements

The SSA uses a manual called “the blue book” to evaluate whether or not a condition qualifies for disability benefits. Cancer is covered in Section 13 of the SSA’s blue book under Malignant Neoplastic Diseases. Just being diagnosed with cancer alone does not mean that you will qualify for benefits unless it is a type of cancer that is listed in the compassionate allowances program. In most cases, the cancer has to be inoperable, have distant metastases (has spread), or be recurrent after surgical procedures or irradiation.

You will need to prove through your medical records and work history that your cancer prevents you from working at the job at which you were previously working or any other job for which you are qualified.

Qualifying Under the Compassionate Allowances Program

Certain types of cancer can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits in less than two weeks under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances program. Under this program, individuals who are suffering from very severe conditions can bypass the standard disability claim process and be approved for benefits a lot faster. You will need a physician’s opinion stating that the cancer is not operable or an operative note stating that the cancer was not completely resected in order to qualify under this program. If an operative note is not available, a pathology report indicating positive margins can be used. When applying for benefits, make sure you include this medical documentation and make it clear how you qualify for benefits under the Compassionate Allowances guidelines.

There are numerous cancers that are listed in the compassionate allowance program. For a complete list of all compassionate allowances conditions, please visit:

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online or in person at your local Social Security office. Make sure that you have all of the medical evidence that you will need at the time of your application. While the SSA will have you fill out forms that allow them to request copies of your medical records, it is always best to submit medical records on your own as a part of your application to ensure that the SSA receives complete documentation that supports your disability claim.

FREE Kit to Help Manage Side Effects from Chemotherapy

A sample of an Adult Comfort Kit

A sample of an Adult Comfort Kit

We all need a little love once in a while… and if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are receiving chemotherapy, you deserve a little extra lovin’. That’s what Peppermint & Ginger Comfort Kits are all about…


Peppermint & Ginger Comfort Kits are FREE kits created to help provide comfort and help alleviate some of the more common side effects caused by chemotherapy.  An “Adult Kit” contains peppermint and ginger teas (which can help ease nausea), a soft bristle toothbrush, alcohol free mouth wash and toothpaste and lip balm (to help ease oral side effects experienced as a result of treatment), warm socks and a relaxation CD.  When possible, P&G adds in other goodies as well.  Their “Pediatric Kit” contains hot chocolate instead of teas and it’s contents will vary depending on the age of the patient.


If you know of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy or if you yourself are a patient and would like one of these comforting kits, please click HERE to request one.

FREE Wigs for Cancer Patients Living in Des Moines, Iowa


If you live in Des Moines, Iowa and have lost your hair as a result of cancer treatments, check out Strands of Strength.  Strands of Strength provides FREE quality wigs to cancer patients- men, women or children- regardless of age or type of cancer – who live in Des Moines, Iowa and who could not otherwise afford a wig.


Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…  

Strands of Strength works closely with medical professionals at Iowa HealthBlank Children’s Hospital and Mercy Hospital.   These hospitals will provide patients in need a voucher slip for a free wig.  

Patients can then choose any wig they like from any Strands of Strength-approved wig shop.  The voucher represents payment to the shop.  It’s as simple as that.

For more information, visit or contact Deb at or via phone at (515) 240-5843.


Reliable, Relevant Cancer Info Delivered Straight to Your Inbox


When first diagnosed with cancer, most people turn to the internet in hopes of finding information to better understand their diagnosis and research options for treatment. But finding reliable, relevant information is no easy task. And when you do find such information, it is often challenging and confusing to understand unless you have a medical degree or PhD.


If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer, colon cancer or prostate cancer (or a few other health conditions like diabetes), check out Medivizor. Medivizor offers personalized information and updates for people with serious medical conditions. It’s like a google alert but much better. They will be adding more conditions soon- melanoma will soon be launched.

Here’s how it works….

1. Go to to sign up- all you need is an email address and a diagnosis. BTW, any personal information you provide is not shared without your explicit permission. If you like, even your actual identity does not need to be shared.

2. Because Medivizor recently launched, they only support a limited number of conditions (breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes + a few others).  So at this point in time, after you sign up, Medivizor will confirm with you via email whether they support your condition of interest.

3. If they support your condition, you will then be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire. The more information you provide, the more specific and relevant their findings will be.

4. Next you will begin receiving notifications every few days via email on cutting-edge research, possible treatments, clinical trials and more relevant to your specific condition.  BTW, you can list more than one condition if you like.  You can also rate each notification or article in terms of it’s relevance to you.  The Medivizor search engine is smart and will tailor it’s findings based on your feedback.

5. And here’s my favorite part… the information you receive has been re-written in plain English. No medical degree or PhD required to comprehend the articles.  Medivizor even bottomline’s the information for you… literally.  See a sample article format below.  Also included is a link to the actual study which you can print out and bring to your doctor.

6. Lastly, Medivizor‘s personalized information updates is free of charge although over time, they may introduce additional services with associated costs.  Got questions? Contact Medivizor @


Do elderly or younger patients with stage II colon cancer benefit from adding Oxaliplatin to adjuvant chemotherapy?

In a nutshell
This study tested whether chemotherapy after surgery (‘adjuvant chemotherapy’) including Oxaliplatin and FL (altogether called FOLFOX4) has any benefits in stage II and in elderly patients with colon cancer (CC). The main finding was that the addition of Oxaliplatin to FL as adjuvant chemotherapy did not provide any survival benefit in stage II CC and elderly patients

Some background
Stage II colon cancer (cancer in the large intestine) is confined to the digestive tract. It is usually treated with surgery (removal of the cancer). Adjuvant chemotherapy with Fluorouracil(FU)/Leucovorin(LV) (FL)  or Capecitabine alone is standard treatment for stage III CC (cancer that has spread from the colon to the lymph nodes). Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) is a new FDA approved drug for the treatment of advanced colon cancer. Whether adjuvant chemotherapy has any benefits in stage II and in elderly CC patients remains inconclusive.

Methods & findings
899 patients with stage II CC participated in this study. 315 of them were ages 70-75 years. 569 were regarded as ‘high-risk’ (their tumors had certain features suggesting aggressiveness) whereas 330 were considered as ‘low-risk’. After complete removal of the cancer patients were randomly given either FL or FOLFOX4. Patients were followed-up for 5-7 years. The effect of Oxaliplatin-fortified adjuvant chemotherapy on the following indices was evaluated: Cancer-free survival (the percentage of patients alive without signs and symptoms of the cancer after a specified duration of time); Time to recurrence (time interval until the cancer reappears); Overall survival (the percentage of patients alive with or without the disease).
The addition of Oxaliplatin to adjuvant chemotherapy resulted in higher Cancer-free survival rates and lengthened Time to recurrence in all patients with stage II CC, and particularly in high-risk ones (28% and 38% rise, respectively). The advantage was minor in elderly patients. Either way, the benefit was not statistically significant. Overall survival rate did not improve at all under FOLFOX4 treatment.

The bottom line
In conclusion, the authors did not find a significant benefit from adding Oxaliplatin to FL as adjuvant chemotherapy in stage II CC and elderly patients.


My bottom line… The more knowledgeable a patient, the easier it is to advocate, and patients who advocate for themselves tend to have better outcomes.  Medivizor can help make you even MORE knowledgeable about your cancer.  So check it out and tell me what YOU think of this FREE service.  I can’t wait till they add sarcoma to their list of conditions. ;-)

Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder



Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the immune system’s fighting defenses to help the body destroy cancer cells.  Many clinical trials testing new and potentially promising “immunotherapies” are currently enrolling cancer patients in the United States and abroad.  To learn more about immunotherapy clinical trials or to find a trial that might be right for you, check out The Cancer Research Institute’s Clinical Trial Finder.  Here’s how it works:


  1. Select a cancer type.*
  2. Fill out CRI’s simple request form.
  3. Within 3 business days, you will be emailed a list of trials that you may be eligible for.
  4. Take the results to your doctor to discuss; contact the clinical trial sites/research teams directly; and/or contact the Clinical Trial Institute at for more information or for help interpreting your results.

* Current cancer types include:  Brain CancerBreast CancerCervical and HPV-Related CancersColorectal CancerLeukemiaLiver CancerLung CancerLymphomaMelanomaMyelomaOvarian CancerPancreatic CancerProstate CancerSarcoma and Bone CancersStomach Cancer.

If your cancer type is not listed, send an email to with information about your cancer type, stage and treatment history, as well as your location.  They see if there are any matches.

5 Reasons Why I LOVE Champions Oncology

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the organizations I write about in this blog; others I wish I had known about during our “cancer journey”; and still others, although not relevant to Alan’s cancer are fantastic resources that can help others in their fight against cancer.


Champions Oncology is one of the organizations that we were lucky to find.  Their co-founder Dr. David Sidransky is one of the smartest and most dedicated cancer warriors I know.  They are doing great work to help fight cancer… one person at a time.  Watch the YouTube video above and read what I’ve written below to see why I’m a huge fan of Champions… Below are my Top 5 Reasons…


5.  Personalized Oncology is the future of cancer care.  Two people with the exact same cancer can and do respond differently to the exact same treatment regimen.  I wish I had understood this at the beginning of our cancer journey. Read this article from the NY TIMES on how Champions is the ultimate in personalized medicine.


4.   Champions organized a “panel” of 13 sarcoma experts (doctors, surgeons & researchers too).   The Panel met, discussed & debated Alan for over two hours.  They built consensus and came up with a plan of action… a plan that we could never have otherwise obtained, even if have if we had visited each of the professionals individually.  BTW, the plan they came up is the only one that actually slowed the growth of Alan’s cancer.  See Reason #2.


3.  No Dr. Schmucks Allowed!  Doctors are people, just like you and me.  And at the end of the day, you have to trust your doctor.  But here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)… Not all doctors are created equal.  And finding the GOOD ones is not always easy.  Alan and I met and worked with quite a few Dr. Schmucks during our cancer journey and some of them were the “Chief of This & That” at major hospitals.  But I can honestly say that every single medical professional that we worked with through Champions Oncology was brilliant and compassionate and they got “it”… as long as there is life, there is hope.  No giving up allowed.


2.  Tumorgrafts REALLY WORK… no ifs, ands or buts about it…  Champions implants your tumor into genetically-stripped mice and then they test different drugs and drug combinations to see what works.  If a treatment works in the mice, it can work in your body.  It’s like your own personal clinical trial.


1.  They gave us realistic hope.  By the time we found Champions, we were running out of time.  They were both honest and cautiously optimistic with us. If they could find a drug regimen that would slow down or better yet, kill this cancer (which they have been able to successfully accomplish in other patients), we’d have more time together and maybe, just maybe, live happily ever after.  Although our story did not have the happy ending we dreamed of, I know that we did everything humanly possible to save Alan.  And because of this knowledge, my family and I sleep at night knowing we left no stone unturned.




Questions EVERY Cancer Patient Should Ask Their Doctor…

Most people have heard the terms “molecular profiling”, “biomarkers” and “personalized medicine”.  But what exactly do these terms mean and how can they affect a specific person’s cancer treatment?

One of the best resources I’ve found to explain these concepts is  It was created specifically for cancer patients and their caregivers by Caris Life Sciences® and Caris Target Now.  Check it out! 

Another important feature on the website is the list of questions that EVERY cancer patient should ask their doctor.  Why?  Because taking a personalized approach to treating each person’s cancer is the best shot we have at successfully treating each cancer.  So please… Print it out… Pass it on to anyone you know who has cancer.  Knowledge is power… Share the power! – Questions to Ask Your Doctor

What’s the Dealio with The Cancer Treatment Centers of America?

Patients ring this bell to signify the completion of their radiation treatments.


I’ve learned that for better or worse, when it comes to cancer, things rarely are as they appear to be.  After all, cancer is tricky.  And each person’s cancer is unique to them.  The treatment regimen that works for one person may or may not work for another person.  Test results (again for better or worse) often times come back differently than expected.  That’s just the nature of cancer.


But there is something in the world of cancer that truly IS what it appears to be… The Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).  CTCA practices personalized cancer care with an integrative team approach, and they do anything they can to make the journey a little easier and a little lighter, with the hope of making the end result more successful.  I have to say that I was really impressed (a feat not easily accomplished might I add) after spending 2 days at their Phoenix Center.


Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…

A couple of MAJOR things really impressed me:

CTCAwill fly the patient & caregiver out to one of their 4 (soon to be 5) facilities for an initial consultation FREE of charge.  And CTCA arranges & pays for all travel expenses for the patient for all subsequent treatments & appointments.


*  Every patient at CTCA gets a team of at least 5 professionals assigned to care for them including a medical oncologist, clinic nurse, registered dietitian, naturopathic clinician and nurse care manager.  Of course, surgical specialists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, etc. will also become part of the team if their areas of expertise are required.  And get this, they all talk to each other and create a joint plan of action together.  Each doctor and specialist comes to your waiting room.


CTCA takes a personalized approach to treating cancer.  They will run genetic and biomarker testing on tumors when needed.  They will prescribe off-label drug treatments (drugs that are not part of the standard protocol) if the standard of care is not doing the job.  Of course, there needs to be evidence supporting it’s use though.


*  Anyone who has undergone any sort of cancer treatment knows that finding satisfying foods that nourish the body can be a huge challenge.  According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 20% of cancer patients die from malnutrition.  CTCA chefs & nutritionists work with patients to make sure they stay nourished with made-to-order smoothies (Detox Delicious is my favorite GREEN smoothie) and healthy meals made from 100% organic ingredients that rival some of the finest restaurants. (It ain’t typical “hospital food” that’s for sure).  Plus special dietary needs will be accommodated.  Oh, there’s Starbucks coffee too.


* CTCA accepts most insurances (not medicare or medicaid though).  All costs are pre-determined so there will be no surprise charges.  Acupuncture, reiki, chiropractic and other mind-body work are included, even if these services are not covered by your insurance carrier.


* CTCA offers cutting edge, treatment options and state-of-the-art technology (Cyberknife, TomoTherapy®, Cord Blood Transplants, Calypso® 4D Localization System™/GPS for the Body® genetic & molecular profiling & much more).


* Then there’s tons of other super nice amenities offered including:  on-site pharmacy; on-site boutique specializing in wigs, head shavings, head coverings & mastectomy products- all sold at 30% below retail; on-the-premises spa;  visiting hours are 24×7; really nice hospital rooms that are ICU-capable and nearby subsidized hotel rooms for approximately $40 a night; massage & pampering for caregivers; only green products are used to clean the center; all medical records & results are 100% digital; really nice infusion bays; pet therapy dogs, free laundry services; the list goes on and on.

* Once active treatment is complete, CTCA Survivorship Program lends support to survivors as they get back into the swing of things.

THE BOTTOMLINE:  CTCA treats every patient as a person, not a number.  They take personalized cancer care to a new level…

p.s.  The President & CEO of CTCA Phoenix is an 8 year sarcoma survivor… how fabulous is THAT!

Fertility & Cancer…

I have met quite a few parents whose children are cancer survivors.  And their journey’s have some major similarities.  First, their child was suddenly diagnosed with cancer and literally started chemotherapy the very next day.  Secondly, in each instance, the oncologists never discussed the longer term affects that cancer treatments can have on fertility.  And third, once the families realized the impact, they wished they had understood this before starting treatment because there are options to help avoid the possibility of losing the ability to have children due to cancer treatments.


Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…

Infertility is often a complication for adolescent and young adults who receive cancer therapy.  And while parenthood may not be top-of-mind for many teens or young adults (understandably), the possibility of losing the ability to have children due to cancer treatments is concerning to many families.  But there are options….


First, if you know of an adolescent or young adult who has been diagnosed with cancer, let the appropriate people know that this is a topic they should discuss with their doctor.  Even if they have already begun treatment, there may still be options for sperm banking or egg freezing.


Second, to get the low down on infertility & cancer, check out Fertile HopeFertile Hope helps patients get the information they need to make educated decisions before and after cancer treatments- from understanding their fertility risks to fertility preservation techniques (sperm banking, egg & embryo freezing) to understanding what parenthood options exist after cancer.


Now these options can very quite expensive.  Fertile Hope also assists patients financially in these endeavors through their Sharing Hope Financial Assistance Program.  Additionally, through their website, you can access link for information on adoption assistance, insurance coverage and other programs that can provide assistance with fertility treatments.  Fertile Hope is a GREAT resource to help navigate the fertility aspect of cancer.  Check it out….

WTF is Curcumin?

a tablespoon of curcumin

Curcumin (n)  “A compound present in the spice turmeric, frequently used in Indian food. Its chemical makeup is responsible for the yellow coloring of turmeric, and is often used specifically to give color to foods. However, it may serve a more important purpose to humans. Medical researchers are fascinated by curcumin because it has been shown to have several properties that may fight specific forms of cancer.”  (Wisegeek)

Curcumin has been used for centuries in India and other parts of Southeast Asia as both a cooking spice and a medicine to treat arthritis and gastrointestinal upset.  In Ayurvedic medicine, curcumin is known as a “cleanser of the body.”
A number of studies have also shown promising results for using curcumin in the fight against cancer.


Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says) on curcumin & cancer… Curcumin contains compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory properties and is high in antioxidants.  Laboratory research suggests that curcumin may slow down the growth of and even kill cancer cells in triple negative breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and ovarian cancer.  Additional research suggests that curcumin helps make certain tumors more sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, thereby helping to increase the effectiveness of these treatments.


One of the drawbacks to curcumin is that it is poorly absorbed even at high doses. In addition, at high doses, it can cause stomach discomfort.  However, new and improved curcumin supplements are now available that are more completely digested and easier to tolerate.  Keep in mind that although a number of studies have shown positive impact of curcumin on cancer, more definitive research still needs to be done.


Alan took curcumin 3x a day as prescribed by my very favorite oncological nutritionist, Dr. Glen Luepnitz.  Our doctors were supportive of our decision to use curcumin- however, there were certain times where our doctors asked us not to take it, like the few days before and after surgery.


THE BOTTOMLINE:  The jury is still out on whether curcumin has real anti-cancer potential.  However, if you decide that this is something you want to investigate taking, make sure of a few things…

* Discuss the use of curcumin or any herbal supplement with your own doctors prior to taking.  Some supplements can actually have negative reactions with certain types of chemotherapy and radiation.

*  Not all herbal supplements are created equal so make sure to buy any supplements from a reputable nutritionist.

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