Breaking News
January 19, 2019 - Newly identified subset of immune cells may be key to fighting chronic inflammation
January 19, 2019 - New immune response regulators discovered
January 18, 2019 - Poor blood oxygenation during sleep predicts chance of heart-related death
January 18, 2019 - First international consensus on the diagnosis and management of fibromuscular dysplasia
January 18, 2019 - Rapid resistance gene sequencing technology can hasten identification of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop artificial enzymatic pathway for synthesizing isoprenoids in E. coli
January 18, 2019 - Scientists advise caution in immunotherapy research
January 18, 2019 - How children across the world develop language
January 18, 2019 - Columbia Medical Student Receives McDonogh Scholarship
January 18, 2019 - Secretive ‘Rebate Trap’ Keeps Generic Drugs For Diabetes And Other Ills Out Of Reach
January 18, 2019 - Plant based diet could be the best option for the planet says commission
January 18, 2019 - New conservation practice could reduce nitrogen from agricultural drainage, study shows
January 18, 2019 - UIC researchers receive $1.7 million NCI grant to study Southeast Asian fruit
January 18, 2019 - New study determines the fate of DNA derived from genetically modified food
January 18, 2019 - Scientists develop new gene therapy that prevents axon destruction in mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds critically low HPV vaccination rates among younger adolescents in the U.S.
January 18, 2019 - Brain cells involved in memory play key role in reducing future eating behavior
January 18, 2019 - Risk for Conversion of MS Varies With Different Therapies
January 18, 2019 - Investigational cream may help patients with inflammatory skin disease
January 18, 2019 - Medical school news office receives six writing awards | News Center
January 18, 2019 - County By County, Researchers Link Opioid Deaths To Drugmakers’ Marketing
January 18, 2019 - Research reveals risk for developing more than one mental health disorder
January 18, 2019 - Scientists discover a dramatic pattern of bone growth in female mice
January 18, 2019 - Study finds link between lengthy periods of undisturbed maternal sleep and stillbirths
January 18, 2019 - New nuclear medicine method could improve detection of primary and metastatic melanoma
January 18, 2019 - Combination therapy shows high efficacy in treating people with leishmaniasis and HIV
January 18, 2019 - Health Tip: Don’t Ignore Changes in Skin Color
January 18, 2019 - Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
January 18, 2019 - Eliminating the latent reservoir of HIV
January 18, 2019 - Pain From The Government Shutdown Spreads. This Time It’s Food Stamps
January 18, 2019 - Newly discovered regulatory mechanism helps control fat metabolism
January 18, 2019 - New rapid blood tests could speed up TB diagnosis, save the NHS money
January 18, 2019 - Researchers develop intelligent system for ‘tuning’ powered prosthetic knees
January 18, 2019 - Monoclonal antibody pembrolizumab prolongs survival in patients with squamous cell carcinoma
January 18, 2019 - New research detects mosquito known to transmit malaria for the first time in Ethiopia
January 18, 2019 - Lumex Instruments’ RA-915AM monitor installed at Hg treatment plant in Almadén, Spain
January 18, 2019 - ACCC survey finds multiple threats to growth of cancer programs
January 18, 2019 - Meeting the challenge of engaging men in HIV prevention and treatment
January 18, 2019 - Furloughed Feds’ Health Coverage Intact, But Shutdown Still Complicates Things
January 18, 2019 - Experts discuss various aspects on health risks posed by fumigated containers
January 18, 2019 - Researchers use gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to limit impact of parasitic diseases
January 18, 2019 - Alpha neurofeedback training could be a means of enhancing learning success
January 18, 2019 - Innovative ‘light’ method demonstrates positive results in fight against malignant tumors
January 18, 2019 - The cytoskeleton of neurons found to play role in Alzheimer’s disease
January 18, 2019 - New resource-based approach to improve HIV care in low- and middle-income countries
January 18, 2019 - Bedfont appoints Dr Jafar Jafari as first member of the Gastrolyzer Medical Advisory Board
January 18, 2019 - New study shows link between secondhand smoke and cardiac arrhythmia
January 18, 2019 - DZIF scientists reveal problems with available diagnostics for Zika and chikungunya virus
January 18, 2019 - Breast cancers more likely to metastasize in young women within 10 years of giving birth
January 18, 2019 - Over 5.6 million Americans exposed to high nitrate levels in drinking water
January 18, 2019 - Blood vessels can now be created perfectly in a petri dish
January 18, 2019 - Study identifies prominent socioeconomic and racial disparities in health behavior in Indiana
January 18, 2019 - Young-Onset Type 2 Diabetes Tied to Increased Hospitalization Risk
January 18, 2019 - For-profit nursing schools associated with lower performance on nurse licensure test
January 18, 2019 - Considering the culture of consent in medicine
January 18, 2019 - Researchers identify comprehensive guidelines for managing severe atopic dermatitis
January 18, 2019 - Analyzing proteins in blister fluid may classify burn severity more accurately
January 18, 2019 - Study finds higher suicide rates among youth who were Medicaid enrollees
January 18, 2019 - Opioid drugs often overprescribed to children for pain relief, say CHOP surgeons
January 18, 2019 - New biodegradable wound dressing material accelerates healing
January 18, 2019 - Life in Space May Take Toll on Spinal Muscles
January 18, 2019 - Bulldogs’ screw tails linked to human genetic disease
January 18, 2019 - Immunotherapy target identified for pediatric cancers
January 18, 2019 - Financial stress may increase heart disease risk in African Americans
January 18, 2019 - Scientists solve another piece of Ebola virus puzzle
January 18, 2019 - New project finds how endocrine disruptors interfere with thyroid functions
January 18, 2019 - Research finds decline in ketone body utilization when coronary circulation is reduced
January 18, 2019 - Let’s map our DNA and save billions each year in health costs
January 18, 2019 - AI demonstrates potential to identify irregular heart rhythms as well as humans
January 17, 2019 - Study shows link between air pollution and increased risk of sleep apnea
January 17, 2019 - Neck-strengthening exercises can protect athletes from concussions
January 17, 2019 - Computer model shows how to better control MRSA outbreaks
January 17, 2019 - Pain is unpleasant, and now scientists have identified the set of responsible neurons
January 17, 2019 - CUIMC Celebrates 2018-2019
January 17, 2019 - Study reveals potential pathway for endothelial cells to avoid apoptosis
January 17, 2019 - Hamilton Storage launches LabElite DeCapper SL to expand LabElite product family
January 17, 2019 - Location of epigenetic changes co-locate with genetic signal causing psychartric disorder
January 17, 2019 - Researchers awarded 6.1 million euros to address female fertility problems
January 17, 2019 - Counseling appointments fail to reduce weight gain during pregnancy, shows study
January 17, 2019 - Contraceptive patch that could provide 6 months of contraception within seconds
A stage IV cancer patient discusses what it means to live well with serious illness

A stage IV cancer patient discusses what it means to live well with serious illness

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

The first time I saw Amy Berman, RN, speak she was standing on a glacier telling her Twitter friends (via video selfie) how “absolutely beautiful” Iceland was. She was snowmobiling and wished everyone could join her there. Genuine joy radiated from her face and a broad smile touched her cheeks made rosy by the cold.

“Can you believe I’m living well with stage IV breast cancer?” she asked.

Honestly, I couldn’t — I’d lost a parent and two best friends to cancer, and snowmobiling on a glacier at stage IV just didn’t line up with my experience of the disease. Then I heard Berman share her story at the recent Jonathan King Lecture series, and I began to understand.

Palliative care expert Stephanie Harman, MD, welcomed guests to the event sponsored by Stanford’s Center for Biomedical Ethics. She explained that King, a computer scientist “with a deep concern for the dignity of all individuals” gave the first lecture 28 years ago before dying of cancer at age 41 so others could know the choices that patients and families face near death.

“I’m going to put you into the perspective of someone who has a serious illness to discuss what matters most,” Berman said. “It may or may not be what you think.”

“People often view palliative care as ‘turning off’ care for a patient, when in reality it may be the thing that helps keep them going,” she said before sharing:

About eight years ago, I had a red spot appear on my right breast. It was a very funny-looking spot. It looked like the skin of an orange.

The spot was a cardinal sign of inflammatory breast cancer, a serious and rare form of the disease. Berman got a mammogram, a biopsy and a diagnosis the next day.

She described sitting outside the radiology room next to an “elegant woman in pearls,” both of them wearing white waffle weave robes. We looked like “we were set up to get mani-pedis” instead of waiting for radiographs, Berman said.

Suddenly all of the fellows were called into the radiology room, Berman recalled:

The very elegant woman in pearls looked like she was gonna throw up. You could just tell that she thought it was her, but in my heart of hearts I knew that it was me.

I said, ‘I’m Amy Berman, are those my images?’

The woman asked everybody to leave the room and invited me in. She said, ‘Would you like to meet the enemy?’

And that’s how I found out that I had cancer.

Others may not wish to learn they had cancer in this way, Berman acknowledged, but she was grateful. “I’m sure that it was against every single protocol for this woman to tell me,” Berman said. “I’ll never forget her kindness.”

The first oncologist Berman met with asked what was important to her. At the time, she had no noticeable symptoms other than the red spot and a little pain on the breast.

“I want the Niagara Falls trajectory,” Berman said, “I want to feel good, good, good and then drop off the cliff.” This oncologist said she could make a treatment plan that would keep Berman feeling well as long as she could.

The second oncologist Berman saw reconfirmed her diagnosis, but didn’t ask what kind of care she wanted. Instead, he told Berman, “this is what we are going to do.” She’d get the most intense chemotherapy her body could handle, a mastectomy and another round of intense chemotherapy.

“I’m stage IV,” Berman said to the audience. “The cat’s out of the bag.” The cancer was already in her lower spine and bloodstream. Berman chose the first oncologist.

“If I went with the other clinician I would have dropped off a cliff at the beginning and gone out to the same end point,” Berman said.

Berman chose not to pursue aggressive therapy, but she does receive therapy and confers with her oncologist and palliative care team to identify treatments that help her stay active and control her pain.

She receives infusions to keep her bones strong and received single fraction radiation, a therapy her palliative care providers recommended, to reduce the sharp pain caused by cancer advancing up her spine. Palliative care, she said, is “the best friend of the seriously ill.”

“What do people want most when living with serious illness?” Berman asked at one point, displaying a photo of her standing alongside a surfboard. With a twinkle in her eye she said, “as a surfer, I can say that I want to live well.”

Photo of Amy Berman (left) and Ms. King (right) by Kelly Cox-Gonzalez

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles