There is always another play.

There is always another play.

In April, I asked parents of these teams if they wanted join me in a donation system to give some deeper meaning to the girls’ season after my mom, Patty Thorne, had passed away from breast cancer on January 6th of this year. We have all had people we know affected by cancer and several families joined in from each team. For the 8U team I set up $1 for every run scored, $5 for every homerun and $5 for every win. For the 10U team, same thing but also adding $1 for every strikeout recorded by one of our pitchers.  The girls did us proud and played hard all season long. With us we have 2 pitchers that recorded over 200 strikeouts just themselves and a handful of players who hit a number of homeruns, not to mention all the runs scored and wins recorded. The 8U team finished with a record of 20-3 and the 10U team recorded 18 wins against just 9 loses. Both teams won multiple tournaments with many top 3 finishes. Outstanding seasons by both teams, we are very proud of them and their efforts made this possible.  

When we lose someone we love, whether it is to cancer or any other reason, the reality is that the world around us goes on and barely skips a beat.  But to those closest to that loss, we know that is not the case. There are many random moments when we are left feeling, man, I wish they were here to share this moment with us.  Or we tell our kids things like, Grandma or Grandpa would have been so proud of you. We are faithful people so we know that the person missing is in their true home with the Lord, but let’s be honest, we would sacrifice a lot for even one more moment to hug our loved one. 

In a busy world that stops for no one, our loved ones remain alive with us in our hearts as we remember them and thinking about all the things that we shared with them. We as coaches always like to think that the games we teach are metaphors for life. Some parents may think we are a little crazy, but I do believe that the lessons we learn in sports, especially as our kids are growing into teenagers and then young adults, are lessons that they can carry with them all of their life.  Working hard for something you love, being a great teammate, carrying a positive attitude, and learning how to gracefully win and lose are all things we teach among many other things. These are all lessons those that passed on before us would want us to know and remember as we navigate this life without them.

Personally, I teach my players that “There is always another play.” This means, for example, that after the out is recorded at first base, the players on the field need to be ready to perhaps throw the baserunner out at third or watch for a play at home.  In other words, we can’t be content with just that one out. From when open gyms started in December to just a couple weeks ago, that was our play to first. We got that out. Now, today, this is the other play. This is the part of a being a teammate that carries off the field and into the community. We have the ability to impact those around us, often times its people we won’t ever know or the smallest gesture like a friendly hello that can change a person’s entire day or more. Your actions and attitude matter more than you’ll ever know, so just keep that in mind on and off the field.  A positive attitude and a giving heart have the ability to literally change the world.  

With that the girls of Denmark Softball, would like to present these funds, in the total amount of $3,237, to the cancer center to help those currently battling this terrible disease.  We hope that they know that even though we don’t know them individually, that there are people out there thinking and caring about, and praying for their successful recovery.

You voted us “Best.” We call it “nothing less than you deserve.”

You voted us “Best.” We call it “nothing less than you deserve.”

Biggest. Boldest. “Best.”

From the day we opened 43 years ago, Green Bay Oncology has had only one focus, one guiding star for every decision: what is best for our patients? And now, we are deeply honored and humbled to have been recognized for that dedication—by you, our patients, families, and friends.

Thanks to you, through the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Appleton Post Crescent and Oshkosh Northwestern, we’ve been voted the 2019 “Best Cancer Care Team” in each category throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

The awards include:

  • BEST OF THE BAY – Green Bay Oncology
  • BEST OF THE VALLEY – Green Bay Oncology at Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital Cancer Center
  • BEST OF WINNEBAGO COUNTY – Green Bay Oncology at Ascension Michael D. Wachtel Cancer Center

We’ve always believed where you live shouldn’t impact your access to ground-breaking cancer care and research. In fact, we know being close to home can help with healing and make some tough treatment options a little more comfortable. It’s why we’ve reinvented how our doctors collaborate, making sure that no stone goes unturned in finding the right therapies for our patients. And it’s why we commit to treating the complex cases others won’t.

Because cancer won’t give up until we force it. It’s something we’re relentless about.

Green Bay Oncology
Relentless

Bladder Cancer Awareness

Bladder Cancer Awareness

Though the treatment of cancer of the urinary bladder is complex and evolving, it isn’t necessary to travel to a distant medical center for this problem.

At Ascension, we have the specialty expertise you need to treat you close to home.

What we commonly call bladder cancer can actually arise from any part of the urinary system: the bladder, the tubes that connect the bladder to the kidneys (called ureters), or even the collecting pouch within the kidney itself (called the renal pelvis). Wherever they start, these cancers of the inner lining of the urinary tract (or urothelial cancers) tend to look the same under the microscope, and share a tendency for aggressive growth and early spread.

As these cancers develop, patients may experience frequent or burning urination, a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying, and sometimes pain in the side or the back. But the most common symptom is bloody urine – and the more blood there is and the more often it occurs, the more likely it’s signaling a cancer.

Because urothelial cancer isn’t particularly common and because the symptoms closely mimic a bladder infection or kidney stone, most people don’t think to alert their doctors until the signs have been there a long time – which often delays diagnosis, and far too often gives the cancer time to spread.

Surgery remains a crucial part of treatment, and we’re fortunate to have talented urologists at Ascension with extensive bladder cancer experience. When we’re fortunate enough to find a cancer while it’s still small, it can often be removed while leaving the rest of the bladder intact. Larger, more invasive tumors often require removal of the whole bladder, with construction of an artificial urine collection pouch made from a small piece of intestine that opens from a surgically-created hole in the abdomen (called an ileostomy). In some cases, using chemotherapy and radiation before surgery can shrink a tumor enough to allow for a more limited surgery – and allow patients to avoid having their entire bladder removed.

Because urothelial cancers often “seed” the bloodstream while they’re still small – a process called micrometastasis – tumors can appear throughout the body months or years after an attempt at surgical cure.  This is another reason why chemotherapy can be crucial before or after the primary tumor is removed, depending on the extent of disease and the estimated risk of recurrence. The medical oncologists of Green Bay Oncology who serve Ascension have almost a century of accumulated training and experience, and can customize the treatment approach based on individual needs and preferences.

Even with treatment, far too many patients experience recurrence and ultimately die of widespread disease. But there is some good news: new classes of molecular inhibitors and immune checkpoint inhibitors are highly effective for patients whose tumors harbor specific gene expression profiles, and are helping improve and prolong the lives of patients with incurable bladder cancer – but without the typical side effects of chemotherapy.

Urothelial cancers pose significant challenges to afflicted patients and can significantly impair their quality and length of life. At Ascension, we take this challenge seriously and are dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of our patients, right here at home.

Cynthia’s Scholarship Story

Cynthia’s Scholarship Story

Dr. Jules Blank actually treated my mother when she had leukemia. She passed away very young and I was just 12 years old at the time.

I never would have imagined that I would come full circle and be receiving a scholarship in Dr. Blank’s name to continue my education in healthcare. They didn’t know it then, but my mother’s nurses had a huge impact on me.

When a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, there is often little positivity in their lives at that time. As a registered nurse, it means a lot to me to be a small ray of hope in the lives of my patients and the lives of their families. Losing my mother to cancer gives me a unique perspective and a drive to be a source of strength for my patients.

One of the core values of Green Bay Oncology is to embrace the difficult. My patients have taught me so much about what this means. Seeing the strength it takes to endure what our patients go through gives me a different perspective on life. It shows me what is truly important and that often when we are pushed to our limits, there is still more to give.

I have always been driven to learn, and I am grateful for the support from Green Bay Oncology to pursue my dream of becoming a Nurse Practitioner.

Recently, I became a first-time mom. And while being in graduate school is not conducive to this, the support I have received from Green Bay Oncology and the JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP while going back to school will never be forgotten.

Jessica’s Scholarship Story

Jessica’s Scholarship Story

Healthcare can be challenging but the satisfaction I feel from changing peoples lives for the better is what has made me passionate about this field.

When I was given the opportunity to work in the Green Bay Oncology clinic at OSF I was excited to learn a new nursing specialty but I didn’t anticipate how special the bond with oncology patients would be. I look forward to building caring relationships with our patients that are scared or nervous at the beginning of their treatment journey. Providing relief from unnecessary worry and helping patients feel as comfortable as possible is a top priority.

I was driven to pursue a BSN degree to increase my nursing knowledge and provide high quality care for the patients I care for as well as possibly open doors for professional advancement down the road.

At the time I was awarded the JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP, my next course was scheduled to start in a couple weeks and I was a month away from going on maternity leave. I was reluctantly considering taking the upcoming semester off due to changes in family finances that the baby would bring. The gift of the oncology scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. I was able to continue furthering my education and move closer to completing my degree with much less stress.

Thank you again to Dr. Jules Blank and Green Bay Oncology for the scholarship award!

Jess’ Scholarship Story

Jess’ Scholarship Story

As a little girl my dream was not to be a ballerina or a princess but to be a heart surgeon.

For Christmas gifts I received microscope sets and heart models, and in high school I took every science class I could get my hands on!

My Grandma who I was very close with passed away from Leukemia the week of my nursing school graduation. She was one of the most important people in my life. Her cancer diagnosis impacted my decision to pursue oncology. I think of her often when caring for patients here at Green Bay Oncology.

One of my favorite things about Green Bay Oncology is our clinics strive not only to give our patients the best care, but treat them like family. I think all of our values are important to the care we provide our patients. Pursue Empathetic, Caring Relationships is my favorite value, but close seconds are Embrace the Difficult and Be Better. I truly value the relationships I have built with my patients and their family members.

I have always enjoyed being a student and learning and by obtaining my BSN I will be able to provide the best care for our patients and become an even better nurse.

The JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP has reduced the cost of schooling and I’m able to focus more on my school work and less on paying for it. As a working mom it’s already a struggle to manage work and kids and life outside of work. I’m thankful to be a recipient of the JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP.

Kristy’s Scholarship Story

Kristy’s Scholarship Story

I have always known that I wanted to do something to help people, although it took me a while to figure out what that meant.

When I was younger, I always thought I would be a veterinarian. I then shifted my focus to helping people as I grew older. When I was sixteen, my mother was diagnosed with ALL, and all of the hours I spent on the ninth floor of St. Vincent Hospital helped turn me to nursing. I actually never thought I’d be able to work in oncology; I once had to float on ninth floor and absolutely dreaded returning back to that place. However, the way it made me feel to be able to help these patients and provide a sense of security for them completely changed my life. It was shortly after that experience that I saw an opening at Green Bay Oncology and felt compelled to apply.

My favorite Green Bay Oncology value is “Embrace the Difficult.” We are so quick to tell others to “focus on the positives” but tend to forget that the negatives are not going away. By doing so, they are only being pushed aside to build up and come back later. By embracing the difficult situations, we can help to solve these problems and make them into learning experiences. 

I look forward to being able to make my patients’ cancer journeys easier in any way I can. Until you’ve lived through it, it’s hard to truly know how easy it is to get lost in the diagnosis. I especially look forward to being able to help the families of my patients in any way possible, as they often need support and guidance as well.

I am driven to pursue further education because it’s in my nature. I always want to excel and improve; I tend to compete with myself. I am recently completing my second bachelor’s degree and have now been in college as many years as I spent in grade school and high school combined. I may take a semester off here and there, but I don’t know if I ever see myself really being “done” with school.

The JULES BLANK Oncology Knowledge SCHOLARSHIP allowed me to focus on school, work, and my family, while easing the stress of tuition and book costs greatly.  It’s always an added stressor when you suddenly add thousands of dollars to your bills, and it honestly can be such a deterrent from taking classes at all. Because of this scholarship, I was able to take classes each semester and now am only a few weeks away from graduation.

Paddleton: Being There is Everything

Paddleton: Being There is Everything

“I’M the dying guy!” Mark Duplass’ character screams at his best friend, played by Ray Romano.

“I’m the OTHER guy!” Romano’s character screams back.

Paddleton, a low-budget independent movie about a middle-aged loner facing down a terminal cancer diagnosis with his upstairs neighbor, debuted on Netflix on February 22nd, 2019. While most such movies focus on the patient’s experience, Paddleton is about cancer as a shared journey and a testament to the healing power of human companionship.

FAIR WARNING: if you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to avoid spoilers, stop reading now!

The film opens with Andy (Ray Romano) accompanying his friend Michael (Mark Duplass) to the doctor. There’s a tumor in Michael’s stomach and it’s already spread to his liver. The doctor’s recommending referral to an oncologist but won’t answer questions about prognosis.

Andy isn’t satisfied and pushes the issue on behalf of his friend. “How about this? How ‘bout I’m gonna make a statement, and if it’s a true statement you don’t have to correct me?” he asks the doctor, who’s obviously annoyed.

“Is what Michael has…incurable?”

“Dude, that’s a question. It has to be a statement,” deadpans Michael.

And that’s how it goes with the two of them. They take their liquor straight, and with a wry smile.

They’re an awkward but endearing couple – though they’re absotively posolutely not that kind of couple (as clearly spelled out in two awkward and hilarious scenes). They’re just neighbors. They just happen to have adjoining apartments…and spend most of their free time together, heating up frozen pizzas, watching Kung Fu movies, and playing a homegrown paddle-ball variant (which they call paddleton) in their every spare minute.

They’re something much more important.

Their relationship is uncomplicated and placid, because neither really likes to talk all that much. They don’t trouble each other with messy emotions. Michael is aloof about his cancer diagnosis -“It’s just meh” he says. He’s determined to maintain their normal routine as long as he can, and opt for physician-assisted suicide when he can’t.

It’s impossible not to love them, because they ask for very little and demand even less. We sense they both took a hard look at life a long time ago and came to terms with it in their own peculiar way.

The movie doesn’t condescend to them, or to us. There’re no epiphanies or dramatic gestures, nor is there a last-minute miracle. The end goes down just as Michael planned it. The story is simple, bordering on predictable. But yet we can’t stop watching these two oddballs fighting through the day as best they can.

The suspense comes from wondering how these two emotionally stunted people will handle something as devastating as death. And this is where Ray Romano really shines.

It’s beautifully painful to watch Romano’s face. He’s agonized to be there, watching his friend fade. It’s agonizing for him to bear witness. But he knows that not being there would be much worse. There’s never a moment of suspense about whether he’ll see his friendship through to the end. The suspense is in wondering what it’ll cost him.

Watching him, I couldn’t help wondering about what being involved in caring for the dying does – and maybe should – cost me.

Medical professionals involved in end-of-life care are often urged to “maintain healthy boundaries”. We’re not supposed to make the patient’s suffering our own, or mistake their family’s grief for our own – though in a very real way we never can. The patient is never our spouse/parent/sibling/child. The pain of losing a patient can never approach that level of personal loss no matter how much affection we’ve developed during our professional relationship. But yet we’re counseled to keep emotional distance.

It’s for our own mental health, we’re told.

And we cannot realistically sit 24/7 vigil with the dying. There simply isn’t the time. We have much work to do. And we cannot presume to take the seats of those whose grief takes primacy over our own.

But Paddleton reminded me how absolutely critical it is to stay with people emotionally at such times – no matter the cost.

Dying is sacred. There’s ritual and ceremony to it. And whatever the faith tradition, there’s a chalice brimming with grief that patients and their loved ones take turns drinking from. The cup is deep, and they need help getting to the bottom of it.

And I think we, as medical professionals, have to be willing to take a sip ourselves from time to time.

 

Clinical Trial Award

However, only one in five U.S. oncologists participates in the NCORP – the National Cancer Institute’s pipeline that delivers clinical trials from the academic centers to the community cancer clinics – and it’s easy to understand why: it’s lot of grant-writing, administrative work, and staying informed enough to match patients to trials that might help them.

But if you’re dedicated, you make time for the important things – and Green Bay Oncology physicians are dedicated to clinical research.

Though only a minority of NCORP physicians get recognized (81 physicians) for excellence in patient enrollments, this year FOUR Green Bay Oncology physicians received this honor:

●  Dr. Anthony Jaslowski – Gold Certificate

●  Dr. Brian Burnette – Silver Certificate

●  Dr. Sigurdur Bodvarsson – Silver Certificate

●  Dr. Matthew Ryan – Silver Certificate

    

Recognition is nice, but doing the right thing for people facing cancer is even better – and that’s why our physicians keep at it.

It’s the right thing to do.

Less Chemo for Breast Cancer?

Less Chemo for Breast Cancer?

Nobody likes chemotherapy: not patients, and not oncologists.

We’d all rather avoid it if we can – and now we’ve identified another group of women who can safely do without it.  

Some early-stage breast cancers can spread throughout the body before the tumor is removed surgically– even before the cancer is diagnosed. Those small, spreading cells (called micrometastases) aren’t detectable by current technology. But micrometastases can seed tumors that show up a few years later in the bones, liver, or brain – and ultimately cause death.  

If we give chemotherapy to patients who have micrometastases, we can kill off those little seeds before they take root and improve the chances of cure. But it’s only worth it if the risk of having micrometastases in the first place is sufficiently high – usually around 18% or more. That’s why accurately predicting risk is so critical in treating early stage breast cancer. 

So for people at high risk of having micrometastases (e.g. those with lymph node involvement, or high-risk mutations on the Oncotype test), we recommend chemotherapy.  

For people at low risk of micrometastasis, we don’t. 

So what’s the news flash?  

The Oncotype test reports a patient’s risk of micrometastasis as low, intermediate, or high. We’ve always known what to do with the low and high risk patients, but we’ve been less certain about the intermediate risk group.  

But the largest trial of its kind was just reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, and it looks like we can safely skip chemotherapy in Oncotype-intermediate patients. 

Bottom line: 

  • Women with early-stage breast cancer only seem to benefit from chemotherapy if they have lymph node involvement, or if the Oncotype test indicates they’re at high risk for micrometastases.