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Didja Know — Cancer Basics 101

Welcome to this episode of Didja Know – Cancer Basics 101 where contestants are challenged to see who can separate the most interesting random bits of information about cancer and various types of cancer treatments from complete nonesense. Now, heeeeere’s our host……. SASSEM Sassy Sloth!

Direct from the hospital room and health adventures of Story-Seeker, Jill Emmelhainz!

Didja Know — cancer tumors are alien invaders from outer space! Crazy Truth? Or Nonsense??

Cancer frequently gathers in clumps much larger than single cells. So, yes it does form tumors. AND the tumors commonly invade the patient’s organs, bones or abdominal spaces so, yes, it could be considered an invader. However, this statement is (mostly) NONSENSE! Cancer is not alien to our own bodies and it certainly does not come from outer space. It’s eerie enough to think of alien blobs trying to harm me. It is much more freaky to think that my own cells have turned against me and have gone incognito in their mutations!

Normal cells have two processes which prevent the runaway growth of cells: there is a typical life span for each type of cell with cellular death occurring at the proper time. And cells have built-in super-hero processes which immediately eliminate any cell which has mutated from the original blueprint. Unfortunately, when either or both of these protection mechanisms fail, unstoppable cell growth can produce tumors. Eventually the energy and growth demands of the tumors will kill their host. (Wait! That’s ME—arrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!)

alien cancer tumors

Didja Know — cancer warfare includes shooting high energy beams into the patient’s body! Crazy Truth? Or Nonsense??

Every single day throughout our entire country, the medical establishment experiments with a particularly menacing form of warfare. It straps the patient onto a narrow table, often with a very personalized body mold to precisely position the patient. It then lines up the machine on the small target(s) which are tattooed onto the patient’s skin and Zaaaapppp! Shoots them with focused high energy beams! What? You think this is dystopian sci-fi nonsense?? Guess again! This is CRAZY TRUTH! Perhaps you better recognize it as “radiation treatment” for cancer patients… Does it make you feel better to know that this is a recognized, effective treatment for certain types of cancer/tumors?

Didja Know — fighting cancer can be extremely personal—changing the patient’s dna itself! Crazy Truth? Or Nonsense??

Arguments break out about genetically modified grains or meat or other foods. Are they safe? Might they cause cancer? But we do not hear many arguments about genetically modifying either cancer cells themselves or the treatments used against runaway cancer growth! Scientists are beginning to unlock many different aspects of dna, how it controls specific cellular functions, and how it might lead to more effective medical treatments. As mentioned above, cancer itself is a breakdown of the usual, expected cellular and dna controls. In my case, it was determined that the tumors I have contain two different dna mutations (not recognized and thus not destroyed by my own body systems.) On one side, the cells no longer have a stop sign signaling when to shut down that cell. On the other side, the cells no longer have super-heroes recognizing mutations which tell it to replicate faster and faster. The first treatment regimen I tried this winter was a clinical trial of a medication which attacks and slows down any cells replicating too quickly. This drug is showing strong promise and will be going on to trials to gain FDA approval. It is CRAZY TRUTH that targeting and/or modifying specific dna mutations is a cutting-edge form of cancer treatment today!  But, for me personally, the drug unfortunately did nothing at all, allowing tumors to continue to grow unchecked. So I’ve moved on to other treatment regimens.

Didja Know — medieval torture by poison still happens today! Top cancer centers use an obscured name for it to allow it to continue… Crazy Truth? Or Nonsense??

This is a frightening possibility! Hospitals and oncologists call it a seemingly harmless “chemotherapy,” but is it really torture by poison? I guess it all comes down to how you define “torture.” In this case, the patient voluntarily goes to the treatment center, sits in a chair (or lounges in a bed—my preferred choice), allows the personnel to stick a needle into a vein in the arm (or into a “port”), then sits quietly or even dozes while poison drips into their body for an hour or more each visit. When the patient is that complacent it certainly does not look like torture.

On the other hand, the cancer centers ARE using extremely toxic poisons to kill all fast-growing cells in the patient’s body. (Cancer cells are obviously fast growing. But so are cells in hair and in the GI tract, leading to the most common side effects of complete hair loss and nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.) Some of these chemical agents require personnel to wear extra protective gear to prevent any splashes or drips touching their skin by mistake, require extra observation of the patient to make sure they do not have a life-threatening reaction to the poison, and/or require the patient to take extra precautions at home when using the toilet so that no family members will be exposed to the toxins.

Because this does not appear to be torture and because it is not given in medieval ways, we claim this statement is NONSENSE (but is more Crazy Truth than any of us want to believe!) (This was an observation made by a fellow homeschooling mom who hadn’t really understood before just how many similarities there were between medieval forms of torture and various cancer treatments! Thanks, Kerri for always asking good questions!)

Didja Know — there are already cyborgs walking among us, disguised as cancer patients! Crazy Truth? Or Nonsense??

The nerds among us enjoy imagining a world in which human/machine combinations are an active part of society. Usually, these people have a few cyber enhancements which give super-hero type powers to the human. During my second week of chemo-therapy, the nurse installed a small metal/plastic device onto my upper arm which gave me a shot of medicine to increase my white blood cell count 27 hours after finishing the toxin-drip which incidentally also depleted those white blood cells. This auto-injector certainly felt high-tech as it tick-tick-ticked the hours until deployment. And just a few days ago, I had a “double lumen power port” installed in the upper right side of my chest. I have another post started to explain in more detail what is involved in getting a port. For now, the simplest explanation is that they put a two-sided collector button under my skin, connected to a double tube that delivers medicine directly to my heart! They will no longer need to stick me multiple times to find a vein to collect blood for labs or to give me meds. HALLELUJAH! I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a cyborg – but on the other hand, there are many of us with medical devices implanted to enhance our lives! So this statement is CRAZY TRUTH!

companion sloth, cancer patient

If you still aren’t sure about this, take a look at a few of the many articles I found when I did an online search about this topic: Elon Musk and other innovators talk about merging humans with software HERE ; Read about real-life humans who rely on machine augmentation in daily life HERE : and even a reputable organization such as the Brookings Institute has chimed in about policy and law considerations. Read about it HERE .

Didja Know — cancer joins war, natural disasters, and assault as known triggers for PTSD Crazy Truth? Or Nonsense??

Does this sound overly dramatic? Perhaps. But I suspect most folks who have walked through a cancer health adventure would agree that many aspects of cancer and treatments bring up strong emotions and cause various forms of trauma. There are distinctive smells, sounds, tastes, feelings, pains, weaknesses which many cancer patients share. (Many develop a dark sense of humor—take a listen when cancer patients start talking with each other!) Similar to survivors of other traumatic occurrences, cancer patients did not get to this place voluntarily, do not feel like they have much control over the situation or its impacts, are dealing with a situation of often extended duration, with potential for recurrence, and with varying rates of life-prognosis. So, Yes, this statement is CRAZY TRUTH and is recognized as such by psychiatrists and other doctors.

I think it must be extra hard for one partner to have had cancer and then many years later become the main support system for the other partner to fight cancer. There have been many times when my current experiences trigger stress or difficult feelings for my hubby who fought his own cancer 14 years ago. Even just walking into the building the other day where I was meeting my pain/palliative/side effects team was hard for him—that was the building he walked into every day for 4 weeks to receive his form of chemo treatments.

Didja Know — Science says I am One in A Million! Crazy Truth? Or Nonsense??

This one is a bit of a “gimme” if you have been reading my blog regularly since I started this current health adventure! I wrote an entire post about it (HERE in case you missed it!) The short answer is that it is CRAZY TRUTH that I am indeed one in a million simply in regard to the cancer that I am currently dealing with. (annually <200 patients are diagnosed with LeioMyoSarcoma plus the specific DNA mutations in my tumor cells out of a US population of 328 million+ people)

SASSEM the Sassy Sloth says a big thank you to everyone who joined us for this edition of Didja Know – Cancer 101. How did you do with these 7 headlines? Did you guess right as to if these statements were Crazy Truth or Nonsense?

sloth companion covid compliant

Even more importantly, PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN DIDJA KNOW STATEMENTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! This post came out of questions asked by a friend who was trying to better understand what really happens for cancer patients. I’m guessing that many of you have more questions that make today’s medical care sound totally crazy!

Since I am an active cancer patient yet again, I decided to add a “health adventures” tab to my website. You can follow my current cancer journey in a couple of ways:

  • click HERE to see frequent mini updates plus links to the pages below.
  • click HERE to see a compilation of all the mini updates archived in one place: and
  • click HERE to see photos and read blog stories about the ups and downs of this stressful journey plus posts from past health challenges.
  • Feel free to poke around the site and check out other Big Epic Adventures I have documented in the past—backpacking and other outdoor fun, becoming a certified Nature and Forest Guide, trip reports, and other daily activities.

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If you hate to miss the latest reports from my Cancer Journey, you can bookmark this intro page to read frequent mini-updates OR you can scroll to the bottom of any page and sign up to receive an email notification whenever I make a new full-length blog post (not just an update to the intro page) which will include stories, photos, explanations, and a weekly summary of mini updates.

(THANK YOU for following with me on this cancer journey! I appreciate every comment, encouragement, prayer, good wishes, little gifties and other types of support. I can’t imagine doing this alone…)

5 Comments

  1. You are truly creative, Jill. Thanks for sharing your life. Still sending many hugs and prayers.

  2. Gregory C Topp

    May 17, 2021 at 7:22 am

    THANKS FOR SHARING. ALWAYS A WORTHWHILE READ. AND PRAYERS CONTINUE.

  3. Wow Jill! You can teach, you can hike, you can ski, and you can certainly write! Thank you for sharing! ❤️❤️❤️

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