Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss (@cindyweiss)
Mayo Clinic Public Affairs; two-time cancer survivor, advocate and storyteller.
Activity by Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss
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.