The Year in Review, Part 3: “Our Cancer Year”

The title of today’s post comes from the graphic novel Our Cancer Year written by Cleveland comic book legend Harvey Pekar who wrote about his 1990 diagnosis and treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Mr. Pekar passed away this year, not long after being diagnosed with prostate cancer (although his death was caused by an accidental combination overdose of two antidepressants, Prozac and Wellbutrin).

Many of our stories this year dealt with celebrities with cancer, these include throat cancer for Michael Douglas (pictured right below), Hodgkin’s Disease for Dexter’s Michael C. Hall and cancer of the esophagus for author/journalist Christopher Hitchens.  Actress Kim Novak and tennis great Martina Navratilova were both diagnosed with breast cancer. Aretha Franklin recently found out that she has cancer of the pancreas.

Other stories told of treatment successes: Survivor: Africa winner Ethan Zohn had a recurrence of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but underwent a stem cell transplant and has remained cancer-free for the past year. Bryant Gumbel is also cancer-free a year after his diagnosis of lung cancer.

We also told the remarkable story of “e-patient” Dave who has survived advanced kidney cancer for nearly 4 years when, back in 2007, the textbooks said he only had 6 months to live.  He wrote about his experiences as an “empowered-patient” in a book entitled Laugh, Sing, and Eat Like a Pig, which chronicles his sickness and recovery and contains lessons for us all about how to become well-informed partners with our doctors in managing our health.

A number of celebrities “stood up to cancer” in a September telethon sponsored by the Entertainment Industry Foundation.  We wrote about how when celebrities “stand up to cancer,” the results can be mixed — sometimes uninformed celebrity opinions can cause more confusion than enlightenment.

In one of our most popular stories of the year, Keith Richard’s wife, model Patti Hansen, gave an interview to Vogue magazine to help remove the stigma of bladder cancer in women:  “It’s not something people talk about,” she says. “When I found out that I had it, I thought, Oh, my God, this is an old man’s disease… And all the information I was getting … was for men. They have really got to move this forward for women, because now they are seeing more and more women with bladder cancer. ” This story got more comments than any other story we have written, many from women who themselves have battled the disease.

Finally, we remember the public figures, below, who passed away from cancer this past year.

In Memorium
Jill Clayburgh Leukemia
Elizabeth Edwards Breast Cancer
Lynn Redgrave Breast Cancer
Patricia Neal Lung Cancer
Merlin Olsen Mesothelioma
Jean Simmons Lung Cancer
Denise Borino-Quinn
Liver Cancer
Rich Cronin Leukemia
Dixie Carter Endometrial Cancer
John Forsythe Colon Cancer
Jaime Escalante Bladder Cancer
Kate McGarrigle Clear Cell Sarcoma
Teddy Pendergrass Colon Cancer
Pernell Roberts Pancreatic Cancer
Dennis Hopper Prostate Cancer
“Daddy” Milan Bladder Cancer
Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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