Man Is Touching A Steamed Old Mirror

Mohamed Rahouma, MD, is a post-doctoral cardiothoracic research fellow and surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical College/New York Presbyterian Hospital. He and colleague Dr. Jeffrey Port co-authored the study, “Among All Cancers, Lung Cancer Appears to Put Patients at Greatest Suicide Risk.”

In September 2016, we sought to investigate the role stressful events had after someone received a cancer diagnosis, and we choose suicide as the dismal outcome. We went through a large American database called SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results) that included detailed information about cancer patients for over four decades (1973-2013).

We learned the following from our work:

Patients with cancer are really at risk.

Among 3,640,229 patients in the database, we looked at suicide deaths for lung, prostate, breast and colorectal cancers individually, as those are the most common four cancer types in the U.S. Over the four decades, there were 6,661 suicides among cancer patients. 

We found any kind of cancer patient was 60 percent higher than the general U.S. population to die by suicide.

Which type of cancer put the patient at the highest risk?

When we divided the data by cancer types, dramatic differences existed in suicide rates. We discovered suicide rates were 40 percent higher than average among colorectal cancer patients, and 20 percent higher among those diagnosed with breast cancer or prostate cancer.

The highest risk was noted to be among lung cancer patients — 420 percent higher.

Why does lung cancer have a higher suicide rate?

It is well-known lung cancer is an aggressive disease with a poor overall and disease-free survival rate, unless it is discovered at an early stage to prompt a cure with proper treatment.

Which lung cancer patients are at a higher suicide risk?

Asians have a more than 13-fold risk of suicide, and men a nearly 9-fold increase in suicide. Other factors that increased suicide risk were being older, being widowed, refusing surgical treatment and having a difficult-to-treat (metastatic) type of lung cancer.

Good news and final advice.

We noted over the 40-year study period, suicide rates decreased, most notably for lung cancer when compared to the other three most common cancers. This may be attributed to better screening and discovery of cancer at an early stage — hence, higher cure rate and better hope.

Patients may feel anxiety, depression or hopelessness after hearing stories from their family members or friends who knew someone with the disease, so doctors need to reassure their patients every case is unique and there are good treatments for early-stage patients.

In our practice in the clinics, we see patients with their families and friends seem less stressed than those who come alone. Loneliness in itself is a big killer, so try to incorporate yourself among your loved ones and avoid isolation.

Your health and emotional well-being are the most important thing in the world, so try to share any suicidal thoughts with your physician.

Live today brilliantly because tomorrow is not promised.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by cirano83


Editor’s note: This post contains graphic post-operative photos.

When you first look at photos of 26-year-old Sarah Anderson, you immediately notice her gorgeous smile, and then you get a sense of her confidence and positive spirit. You would never guess that just seven years ago, the Chicago resident was diagnosed with head and neck cancer.

In December 2009, when she was 18 years old, and six months pregnant, Anderson started experiencing what she thought was a toothache that wouldn’t go away. After going to the doctor, she was told she had stage 4 invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the lower right jaw and neck.

Sarah Anderson 1

Doctors immediately had to induce Anderson for an early birth, and just days later, she started her first of many surgeries.

“My first surgery, which was 23 and a half hours long, was the most major one,” Anderson told The Mighty. “In this surgery, everything was done all at once.”

By all at once, Anderson means the cancer was removed from her face and neck, the floor of her mouth, lower teeth on the right side of her mouth, lower jaw bone and back of her tongue. She also had seven lymph nodes removed from her neck to be tested for cancer.

Sarah Anderson 2

Sarah Anderson 3

Sarah Anderson cancer removal

Two of those lymph nodes came back positive, which resulted in her having to undergo chemo and radiation therapy. She also had reconstructive surgery done. To recreate her face, doctors broke the fibula bone in her leg and used her bone, skin, tissue and veins for the procedure.

“My leg is now a part of my face,” Anderson explained.

Sarah Anderson leg surgery scar

And that was just the first surgery. Six other surgeries followed after that, including replacement of the port in the life side of her chest and insertion of a feeding tube.

Sarah Anderson post surgery

Sarah Anderson after surgery holding baby

It was in surgery number four that all of the teeth that were left, as well as a screw that had been implanted in her chin, were removed. She then had six upper dental implants placed in her mouth, and after six months of healing, she finally saw the results.

Sarah Anderson teeth removal 2

Sarah Anderson teeth removal 1

Those remarkable results can be seen and heard every Friday at 6 p.m. on her Facebook page. That’s where Sarah “CancerSurvivor” Anderson goes live on video to talk about her journey, give messages of hope and inspire thousands of listeners to beat cancer – or whatever they are going through.

Sarah Anderson selfie

Going through my journey, I didn’t have the pleasure of speaking or hearing from a person who had similar symptoms or a diagnosis as me,” she said. “I wanted to be able to give someone else what I didn’t have while going through my own diagnosis. I wanted to create a platform for those who needed some type of encouragement and strength to glean from.”

Sarah Anderson beauty shot

Today, when she’s not spending time with her now 7-year-old daughter, singing, cooking, going to church or volunteering at the hospital that treated her as a patient, she’s enjoying being cancer-free.

Yes, Anderson is officially cancer-free, and that is what inspires her to continue spreading her message of hope as a motivational speaker. She also takes pride in being an advocate for anyone going through difficult situations like cancer and depression.

Her current motto in life is: “Keep the faith to survive, no matter what.”

Sarah Anderson keep the faith

Catch Anderson live on Facebook every Friday at 6 p.m.

For more stories like this, like Cancer on The Mighty on Facebook.

All photos courtesy of Sarah Anderson

Jo Dee Messina, who dominated the country charts in the late 90s with songs like “I’m Alright” and “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” and was the first female country artist to top the charts with three No. 1 songs from one album, announced Wednesday that she has cancer.

The 47-year-old did not reveal the type of cancer, but her team did share an emotional and heartfelt message to her fans, which began, “Over the years, Jo Dee has built a close relationship with her fans, so those of us at Team JDM wanted to be the first to let you know that she was recently diagnosed with cancer.”

You can read the entire statement below:

Producer Seth Mosely, who recently worked with Messina and Mia Fieldes to write the song “Here,” said watching Jo Dee record the song after she was told the diagnosis was “One of the most powerful moments I’ve had in my entire studio career.”

Messina’s fans reacted to the news on Twitter with an outpouring of support:

Messina plans to play four more concerts, the last being October 7, in Harrington, Delaware, before postponing the rest of her tour. She will begin cancer treatment this fall.

Photo from Jo Dee Messina Facebook page

Sometimes life gives you special moments that take your breath away, like the first time you’re reunited with your high school love or when you find a photo of your wife in a wedding dress you never got to see her in. Both of these moments happened to John Polo, a 33-year-old widower from Illinois whose wife passed away from proximal-type epithelioid sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer.

After dating in high school and then going their separate ways, Polo was reunited with Michelle eight years later. He proposed a year into their relationship, but a year later they got the devastating news: Michelle had proximal-type epithelioid sarcoma — a cancer so rare her specialist said only one person in the world gets it per year.

John and Michelle

Four days after her diagnosis, they rushed to the courthouse and were married in July 2013. Five days later, they removed Michelle’s kidney. She underwent chemo and radiation and appeared clear for a while, but then the cancer came back, and by 2016 it had spread to her liver, ovary, tailbone and lung. At this point, it was terminal.

“It was a cancer battle from hell,” Polo tells The Mighty.

After having the tumor in her lung and ovary removed, and a failed attempt at an immune therapy clinical trial, the two decided to plan a real wedding. The date was set for February 6, 2016, but Michelle passed away on January 22, 2016.

A week after Michelle passed away, Polo found the picture of his wife on her phone, but he didn’t share it on Facebook until August 31 of this year. He was waiting until the time seemed right to share it with the world.

Michelle wedding dress

The post reads, “She loved that dress so much. While at hospice, she would talk to people about how great the wedding was going to be. She wasn’t coherent enough to realize that she wasn’t going to make it to there. Michelle died without me ever seeing her in that dream dress.”

But Polo did eventually see Michelle in that dream dress, and so did the world. In just a few days the post has gone viral and has garnered thousands of heartwarming comments.

Polo is channeling that support through his personal blog, Better Not Bitter Widower, which he started a month after Michelle passed away, and has sparked a deep passion for writing and speaking about love, loss, grief and healing.

John and Michelle 2

His first book, “Widowed. Rants, Raves and Randoms,” comes out in about two weeks, and he’s even started speaking and hosting workshops on grief to help others.

“I want to change the way society looks at grief. I want to help others find healing. I want to make something good come out of an unspeakable tragedy.”

Polo’s life has been filled with memorable moments, both good and bad, and these moments have given him a new purpose in life as an author, blogger, speaker and life coach.

Black and white John and Michelle

“I know there will be times in which you don’t think you can make it through a profound loss, but I am proof that you can. Not only can you make it through, but in time, you can actually learn to live again.”

Follow Polo’s Better Not Bitter Widower journey on Facebook

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

When someone says they’re in ‘recovery’ for cancer, this is what they really mean.

Read the full transcript:

I’m in recovery for cancer.

But that doesn’t mean I’m better.  

What Being in Recovery For Cancer Really Means

Recovery means the ‘what if’s.’

What if I hadn’t gotten cancer?

What if the cancer comes back?

What if I’m not really ‘better?’     

What if my body is beyond repair?

What if people treat me differently?

It means unintentionally feeding a mental illness that fills up with terrible thoughts.

Maybe I deserved to get cancer.

Maybe next time I won’t be so lucky.

Maybe someone I love will get cancer.

Maybe I’m not as strong as I thought I was.

Maybe I’ll never get my shit together.

It means feeling guilty for surviving when others have not.

It means forever having emotional and physical scars.

It means constant checkups and accepting a new ‘normal.’

It means anxiously awaiting unknown test results.    

It means being prepared for what could happen again.

I may be in recovery for cancer,

But there is so much more going on.

Sometimes I need a helping hand to remind me of my strength

And that I can face whatever comes my way.

A woman diagnosed with breast cancer shares 10 powerful and amazing life lessons she learned from her cancer diagnosis.

Read the full version of 10 Really Powerful and Amazing Things Cancer Taught Me.

Read the full transcript:

10 Really Powerful and Amazing Things Cancer Taught Me

You can’t live scared.

Surrender to life.

School doesn’t teach you the game of life.

I could change my story at any time.

It’s OK to fall apart.

From the day we are born, we are dying.

There was beauty in my brokenness.

I could never again forget to stay in communication with my soul.

I’m not waiting to die to get my wings.

Cancer didn’t make me a survivor — I always was.

Written By Maimah Karmo

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