Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss @cindyweiss
Mayo Clinic Public Affairs; two-time cancer survivor, advocate and storyteller.
Activity by Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss @cindyweiss
The holiday season is much brighter this year for Laura Floeckhler, 45, from Orlando, Florida. Laura was diagnosed last Christmas with pulmonary hypertension, a rare disorder of the lungs affecting about 30 in every one million people. [...]
An avid runner, Judi Zitiello, 66, was forced into a six-week hiatus when she developed a meniscus tear in early 2014. The retired financial executive was always active – exercising, hosting dinner parties, and volunteering to run the JT Townsend Foundation, a Jacksonville, Florida, philanthropic organization.
Judi wasn’t too concerned about the downtime at first. She knew her body would take time to heal. But the pain lingered. Then Judi began losing weight and her energy waned.
Every year, Katie Ford, who works at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, can be found with a plastic jar and a stack of donation envelopes, encouraging colleagues to support the activities of the American Heart Association. In particular, she urges them to sign up for the annual First Coast Heart Walk, which Mayo Clinic sponsors.
Heart disease runs in Ford’s family, which is why she’s so passionate about supporting the cause and spreading the word about cardiovascular health.
Although he was 74-years-old, Ford’s father hadn’t been to a doctor’s office his entire adult life. When her mother was able to convince him it was time for a checkup, his doctors immediately identified issues.
“The doctor found he was 75 percent blocked and said he was a ticking time bomb for a heart attack,” Katie says. Her dad received a stent, and all was well for a number of years. However, his condition progressed, and he had a pacemaker and defibrillator installed in August 2014. [...]
Three years had passed since Hollis Youngner, 34, had been diagnosed and treated for HER2+ breast cancer. So in late 2014, when the mother of one was "just feeling yucky, tired, nauseous," she says cancer wasn't even on her mind. "I was secretly excited, thinking of ways to tell everyone I was pregnant," she says.
Unfortunately, a chest X-ray, prompted by a complaint of being short of breath, set in motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in a diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, a 45-minute CPR session, and questions about whether the young mom would even survive. [...]
But for people living with chronic pain, a daily, multi-week program is compelling if it can help them return to a more active lifestyle.
Established in 2011, the Pain Rehabilitation Center at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus offers a robust and integrated three-week outpatient program for adults affected by chronic pain and symptoms. [...]
When Virgil Jernigan came to Mayo Clinic for foot surgery, he was in for a lifesaving surprise. During an exam before his surgery, he mentioned to his nurse practitioner that he had been feeling fatigued and short of breath. So she ordered cardiac testing. Virgil was shocked to learn he had a leaking mitral valve – a potentially life-threatening heart condition. [...]
At age 42, Donnie DeWitt was the picture of health. A former Marine, he loved to run, surf and was an avid cyclist. But three years ago, while on a bike ride near his home in St. Augustine, Florida, Donnie collapsed. He’d suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that led to a stroke.
He was brought to Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center in Jacksonville, where physicians said the damage was so extensive that Donnie had less than a five percent chance of survival.
“We didn’t know if he was going to live, what the outcome would be,” says Belinda, Donnie’s wife. [...]
Editor's Note: This guest post is written by Amy Edmunds, founder of YoungStroke.
In 2002, I was a daily commuter to Capitol Hill who worked in sales management. Never did I think I would someday return to testify as a patient advocate at Congressional hearings on behalf of young stroke survivors. But then again, never did I expect to be a stroke survivor at age 45.
On Jan. 11, 2002, with no identified risk factors and no family history, I had an ischemic stroke. Initially, my mother observed my repeating phrases during conversation. Next, she witnessed my temporary blindness. Today, I have no recollection of these events. And my resulting deficit remains some long-term memory loss.
Like many, I mistakenly assumed stroke was an affliction of the elderly. As I attempted to learn more about my own experience, I learned approximately 30 percent of people who suffer a stroke each year are under age 65. And women are at an increased risk for stroke. So, too, are African American individuals – many of whom have significant aftereffects. [...]
Alvaro Gomez knows people in several continents and has access to health care in the U.S., Chile and Europe. When the Central Florida resident faced a prostate cancer diagnosis, he polled his acquaintances and doctors near and far and came up with one answer: Mayo Clinic.
“I was fortunate that after taking into account the advice from friends and doctors, I came to the conclusion that the best place to go was Mayo Clinic, only an hour-and-a-half from my house,” Gomez says.
Gomez leads a busy life as a violinist, music instructor and orchestra conductor in Florida, Chile, Brazil and Italy. Now, just outside busy Orlando, Fla., he directs his own music academy, conducts the Florida Young Artists Orchestra, and teaches music at Trinity Prep in Winter Park. Internationally, he leads the annual Luis Sigall Music Competition in Viña del Mar, in his native Chile. He also conducts a chamber orchestra at Festival Villa-Lobos in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and each summer conducts at L’Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy.
In part due to his busy schedule, Gomez took time for a routine health checkup. Although he felt fine at the time, a routine blood test at age 56 turned up high PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels. His family doctor recommended a biopsy, which revealed cancer cells, and put him on a quest to find the best place to receive treatment.
June 1 is designated National Cancer Survivor Day – a time to celebrate those living with cancer. It seems ironic, though, for one day to be called out as cancer survivor’s day. Let's be honest – once you receive a diagnosis of cancer, regardless of what kind, every day is essentially survivor’s day.
As a two-time ovarian cancer patient, I know this. But the word "survivor" brings some dilemma. Exactly who is a survivor? What defines a survivor? Are you a survivor after you've completed a six-month chemo regime? Finished weeks of radiation? Lived for x-number of years cancer-free? The question or definition of a survivor is something I and others have grappled with for years.
“Survivor” is a strong and powerful word. According to one definition, a survivor is one “who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.” Sounds like every cancer patient I've ever known. But it’s also a label I’d apply to family members and friends. It takes a village to raise a child, they say. So, too, I believe to fight cancer. By that definition, aren't we all survivors?
“His prognosis was grim,” neurosurgeon Rabih Tawk, M.D., recalls. “We used every technology available to help him.”
Despite complications and issues, which required him to be induced into a medical coma, Bretz made an almost full recovery.
“I realize I was lucky and recovered pretty well. A lot of other people who have this type of stroke do not,” says Bretz, who attributes his success to the large team at Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.
Written by Lesia Mooney, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Mayo Clinic's Advanced Primary Stroke Center in Florida.
That's the number of people annually in the United States who have a stroke.
That's the number of Americans who die each year due to stroke.
That’s the cost of stroke annually, which includes the cost of health care services, medications and missed days of work related to stroke.
The numbers are staggering, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stroke is a major health care issue, but yet I'm still surprised by the lack of awareness surrounding stroke.
There are many misconceptions about stroke, including that it’s an older person’s issue. In reality, stroke can happen to anyone, including children. I've seen patients as young as 18 and as old as 103.
Many people experience a warning prior to a stroke. But often it goes unnoticed, especially when you’re young and otherwise healthy, like Lorena Rivera, 44.
A nurse educator at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, Rivera was the picture of good health. She didn’t drink or smoke, had good blood pressure, and ate a healthful diet. She was also physically active. So when the mom of three experienced headaches and numbing in one arm, she wasn’t too concerned. However, when she temporarily lost vision while doing errands one day, she became more frightened.
Rivera, it turns out, had been experiencing a TIA – a transient ischemic attack – which produces similar symptoms as a stroke but usually lasts only a few minutes and causes no permanent damage. Often called a mini stroke, a TIA is a warning. About 1 in 3 people who have a transient ischemic attack eventually has a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after the first episode. [...]
Lung transplant brings unexpected answers to 27-year-old
Ileana Hernandez was born with two holes in her heart. But for 27 years, no one knew.
Hernandez, a computer systems engineer, worked long hours at her job with Bank of America in Jacksonville, Fla. She had transferred from her native Mexico because of her particular set of skills. Things were going fine until she started to notice shortness of breath when she climbed to her upstairs apartment.
“I had an explanation for everything -- it was the long hours, or the weekend-long computer installations, or the fact that I hadn’t slept in two days,” Hernandez recalls. As the youngest of three children growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, she had led a normal life, did weight training in high school, participated in folkloric dancing -- including some parades -- and had no problem getting through college.
“Exhaustion was my justification [for the symptoms],” Hernandez says. But one evening, as she climbed the steps to her apartment with two bags of groceries, she ran out of breath and had to hold on to the rail. She felt pain in her chest. She composed herself and still went to work to do an evening computer systems installation thinking that the chest pain would go away. It didn’t, and by the next day she knew it was time to find a doctor. [...]
“You have to go to know.”
George Roberts will tell you he’s a busy man — too busy to worry about a physical.
As vice president of a Florida-based road construction and contracting company and chair of two industry groups, he’s got a lot to oversee. Taking time for a doctor’s visit wasn’t on his schedule.
However, Roberts refused to be absent when his wife, Stephanie, was scheduled for a preventive surgical procedure at Mayo Clinic earlier this summer. With her urging, he agreed to schedule a checkup at the same time. His wife’s insistence and that physical exam probably saved his life.
Roberts, then 46, was eligible to participate in Mayo Clinic’s Executive Health Program, best described as a comprehensive physical taking place over one to three days. The specialized program has served busy executives for more than 30 years and offers an efficient, cost-effective way to proactively manage health.
At age 30, Anna Webster was a busy single mom juggling work and caring for her 11-year-old daughter. She didn’t have time to be sick. But after passing out one evening in the spring of 2009, she spent three days in a Jacksonville, Fla., emergency room while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong. Her potassium level was extremely low and her kidneys were having issues. Then a CT scan found a mass on her liver.
Dorylee Baez lives fearlessly.
Whether flying down a zip line or organizing a pancreatic cancer patient group in Puerto Rico, she plunges into life with zest.
The 31-year-old academic advisor at Universidad del Este in Carolina, Puerto Rico, is known as someone who is tenacious, overcoming whatever obstacles get in her way to achieve and achieve her goals.
For instance, Baez attended college while simultaneously working and caring for her ailing mother who was suffering from lupus. After her mother died, Baez pressed on to honor her memory and completed a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in college-level education administration. But then, at 29, Baez learned she had a large tumor in her pancreas. Not the diagnosis she was expecting when she went to the doctor.
The phrase “soccer mom” might be a cliché, but for Jessica Cook of Jacksonville, Fla., it was apropos. The mom of three boys (ages 6, 10 and 13) spent hours in the car each week driving her sons from one field to another for their weekly soccer practices and games.
With a family history of migraines, headaches were not uncommon for Cook, 33. So when she awoke on the morning of Sept. 24, 2011, she dismissed the growing ache to ensure the boys got to the soccer field on time. But as the hours went on, Cook’s pain worsened. She began to feel nauseous, too. Thinking the heat and humidity were contributing to her symptoms, Cook headed for her car, hoping air conditioning might help.
But then she fell down.
So I wonder if anyone else spent part of Tuesday, May 14, 2013, pondering what they would do.
Would they take the test to learn if they were at increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer? What if it came back positive? What decision would they make – to keep their breasts and uterus or remove them? [...]
Sue Willingham remembers the May 2010 day well. She was getting ready to take her two children to school. But before leaving the house, she did what any mom might – use the restroom.
But then she noticed she’d lightly soiled her undergarments. Only she didn’t remember it happening.
At 45, Willingham was the picture of health. She ate well, exercised and stayed up on doctor visits. But in that moment, something changed. She called her husband. “I remember telling him I’m scared,” she says.
But then Willingham, who describes herself as someone who is not easily rattled, tried to rationalize the accident, chalking it up to the six fiber pills she’d taken the day before to combat constipation.
“Being one that does not jump to conclusions or get upset or scared of anything easily, I said this is ridiculous, crazy, there is nothing wrong with me. I have no cancer in my family. I have no anything…” But today she admits, “Maybe subconsciously I had been aware of what he had gone through the year before.”