Chemo Day 16: The Eagle Has Landed

Yes, we have arrived in Austin, TX. Today will be our first full day, starting with a bike ride with Mellow Johnny’s ending with a private party for Ride for the Roses Fundraisers for the Lance Armstrong Foundation at a “super secret location.” More later…






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Survivor Story: Arnold Roufa of Nyack

Peter D. Kramer wrote this inspiring profile of Arnold Roufa for the Sunday Life section of Oct. 9, 2011:

If you’ve been to Nyack recently, you’ve likely seen Arnold Rou­fa’s panoramic photo of the village adorning the “Welcome to Nyack” banner.

The retired ob/gyn — who goes by the name “Roufa,” not Dr. Roufa or Arnold Roufa — has had three wives and three lives, one of them touched deeply by breast cancer.

First, he was married with children. That marriage ended in divorce.

Then came his marriage to Myrna March, a R&B-pop singer-songwriter whose talent still causes him to speak in hushed tones. For 22 of their 24 years of marriage, March battled cancer, in one breast, then the other, succumbing to lung cancer in 1998.

The next year, Roufa married Arlene Levine, his high-school sweetheart from New Orleans. They live on the Hudson in Nyack, where he pursues a passion that drives his third life: photography.

Here’s the wrinkle, though: In that middle life, 20 years ago — as he watched March battle cancer, Roufa himself was diagnosed with breast cancer, a diagnosis that is extremely rare in men. Fewer than 1 percent of breast-cancer cases each year are in men.

By the time of his 1991 surgery — on stage 1 cancer in his right breast — Roufa had lived with March’s cancer for 17 years.

His surgeon found the cancer after operating on Roufa for gynecomastia, a painful swelling of his breasts that was a side effect of ulcer medication he was taking. The surgery was on a Friday. The following Monday, the surgeon asked Roufa to come to the office.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he recalls. “It was horrible. He told me I had cancer. I was not thinking cancer, although I had been living cancer since 1974 with my wife. It hit me.”

As a gynecologist, Roufa had examined thousands of women, urging his patients to be proactive about breast cancer.

Doctor became patient. He had his right breast removed and chemotherapy.

Being a man with a disease that primarily affects women didn’t affect his ego.

“Men have breasts,” Rou­fa says.

What took its toll was watching March endure years of doctors, diagnoses and more doctors.

There were dark times.

“As Myrna was going through more things, I would take her tranquilizers. I would take my tranquilizers and sneak liquor. To me, it killed the pain. But it didn’t kill the pain of what she was going through.”

There were also laugh-out-loud times.

After her first mastectomy, March insisted on going to a hospital affair, wearing a prosthesis. When a brash man at the bar complimented her breasts, “she took out her prosthesis and threw it at him,” Roufa says with a laugh. “That’s how she was.”

Twenty years later, long retired, Roufa shared 10 things he took away from his battle with cancer. Read them, after the jump.

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Upcoming Stories and Chats in The Journal News This Month

We had enlightening and informative live chat today with Dr. Andrew Ashikari, a surgical oncologist affiliated with the Ashikari Breast Center in the Dobbs Ferry Pavilion of St. John’s Riverside Hospital and the Ashikari Breast Center at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor. Click here to see a link of the archive of the Q&A.

We’ll be doing two more chats this month:

Oct. 16: Young women and breast cancer: Local women, all diagnosed under age 40, talk about the unique challenges that they faced during their illness.

Oct. 23: What to do — and what not to do — when a loved one gets cancer: Survivors give their best advice on how to help.

We’ll have links to them from this blog and our homepage at LoHud.com. Don’t miss them!

Survivor Story: Geri Moran of Elmsford

Heather Salerno has this story about Geri Moran of Elmsford from Sunday’s Journal News:

Though some might not see having breast cancer as lucky, Elmsford’s Geri Moran, a 23-year survivor, knows exactly how much good fortune she’s had throughout her journey with the illness.

Her luck started when she went to her doctor in 1988 to investigate a shooting pain in her right breast. The doctor was convinced that the cause was a benign cyst, but he insisted that she go for a mammogram just to be sure. He was right about the cyst, but the mammogram also picked up a tiny tumor in the other breast.

“It was in a small space, in a duct, that made it more dangerous,” says Moran, who was a 40-year-old single mother when she was first diagnosed. “By the time I would have felt it, I would have been dead.”

Photos by Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News

Instead, her cancer was detected at Stage 1, early enough that it hadn’t spread. She had a mastectomy to remove the tumor, but she and her oncologist decided that she didn’t need further treatment like chemotherapy, radiation or other cancer-fighting drugs. Since then, she’s needed no additional therapies —nor has she had a recurrence of the disease.

“I always say I’m the luckiest person in the world,” says Moran.

So she found a way to give back, creating small cloth dolls called “Wish and Worry Angels.” They’re designed to bring comfort to those in need — the idea is to let the angel take care of your troubles — and Moran has given away hundreds over the years.

Many have gone to patients seeking help at Support Connection, the Yorktown Heights-based organization that offers services to those with breast and ovarian cancer. (She also sells them at the online marketplace Etsy.com, with a portion of the proceeds going to Support Connection and Operation Smile, a charity that provides free surgeries to children around the world with facial deformities.)

“Every time I sit down and say, ‘I’m not doing these angels anymore, nobody needs them,’ someone calls and says they want one for someone they know that’s sick,” she says.

There are plenty of other ways that breast cancer changed Geri Moran’s life. After the jump, here are 10 more examples of how the disease has impacted her:

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Battling Breast Cancer: Conversation with Dr. Andrew Ashikari

Dr. Andrew Ashikari, a surgical oncologist affiliated with the Ashikari Breast Center at Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt and the Ashikari Breast Center in the Dobbs Ferry Pavilion of St. John’s Riverside Hospital, will discuss some common misconceptions about breast cancer, prevention and treatment today at noon.

Join the conversation via CoverItLive:

<iframe src=”http://www.coveritlive.com/index2.php/option=com_altcaster/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=0bae486a44/height=550/width=470″ scrolling=”no” height=”550px” width=”470px” frameBorder=”0″ allowTransparency=”true” ><a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=0bae486a44″ >Conversation with Dr. Andrew Ashikari</a></iframe>

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Purchase this Sunday, October 16

Ten years ago, I helped to organize a corporate team for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. I did it as a volunteer for my company as a fun, charitable event. It’s taken me 10 years to realize the significance of the day. It only takes a couple of hours to walk in the sun with dozens of survivors, caretakers, loved ones and supporters. I encourage you all to take part.

– Rica Mendes

Thousands of walkers including breast cancer survivors, volunteers, businesses and community members will unite to fight breast cancer and save lives at the American Cancer Society¹s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk – a noncompetitive, inspirational walk that raises awareness and funds to fight breast cancer and provide hope to all people facing the disease.

Westchester County’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk is one of more than 250 walks being held across the country this year.

WHERE:
Manhattanville College
2900 Purchase Street
Purchase, NY 10577-2132

WHEN:

Sunday, October 16, 2011
Registration starts at 8am.
The walk begins at 10am

WHY: More pink for your green. The generosity of Westchester residents means a whole lot of pink ­ the next big breast cancer research breakthrough; free lodging for breast cancer patients when treatment is far from home; free rides to and from treatment for cancer patients needing a lift; and most importantly, more pink means 2.5 million breast cancer survivors who will celebrate another birthday this year.

IMAGINE: Thousands of walkers hugging, rejoicing, crying and walking to support area survivors in the fight against breast cancer. Interviews will be available with cancer survivors (look for pink T-shirts with “survivor” on the back), Making Strides Against Breast Cancer participants and local American Cancer Society staff and volunteers.

CONTACT: For more information about the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, visit
www.cancer.org/stridesonline or call 1.800.227.2345

My Story Part III: There’s no such thing as a free lunch

It was as though I were floating in space as soon as the word, “Cancer,” filtered through my ear drum. All senses suspend. Appendages go numb. Lips feel fuzzy. Time stops.






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