Be A Survivor: Breast Cancer | Colorectal Cancer

Let's take back

the power

we've given to

the word cancer.

Say the word.

Just because you don’t have cancer doesn’t mean you’re not living with it.

Nearly everyone knows and cares about someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, but most of us still feel powerless to talk about it. It is a word that is loaded with fear, anxiety, and ignorance. We need a place where we can set those things aside, learn, and better understand what it means to live with cancer.

We can take back the power we’ve given the word “cancer.” We can start by not being afraid to say it.

Learn how

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Learn About Leukemia and Lymphoma

RachaelWhen Rachael Fjeldheim found herself sleeping more than 12 hours a night, the 22-year-old cosmetologist thought she was just suffering another onset of mononucleosis, a virus she had as a teen.

Rachael had recently moved to Rapid City, S.D., where she was striking out on her own, across the state from her hometown of Aberdeen, S.D. When she told her mom about her tiredness and swollen lymph glands, she followed her mom’s advice to see a doctor and have blood work done to make sure it was truly mono.

It wasn’t.

“When they called me to come in, I got the feeling right away that it was something serious. They said, ‘you have leukemia. You need to go to Sioux Falls today.’ It didn’t seem real,” Rachael said.

Free Educational Event

Leukemia and lymphoma are malignant conditions, or cancer, of the blood and lymphatic system, respectively. You can learn about both these conditions, as well as treatment options at a Leukemia and Lymphoma Education event on Friday, July 29, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Benedictine and Presentation rooms at the Prairie Center. Both lunch and breakfast will be served at this free event. To register, go to or call 1-877-AT-AVERA (1-877-282-8372).

Rachael soon found herself under the care of Ahmed Galal, MD, hematologist at the Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls. She would stay at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center for five weeks, while she underwent four rounds of chemotherapy. Her first round hit the cancer head on, while follow-up rounds ensured that cancer cells weren’t lurking elsewhere in her body.

Rachael responded well to treatment and is in remission – a remission her doctor hopes is long term with no future relapses. If Rachael does experience a relapse, she would likely be treated in the future with bone marrow transplant.

For now, she’s happy to move on with her life. She relocated to Sioux Falls to be closer to her doctors and family, and is back to work as a cosmetologist.

Learning about her diagnosis and treatment was a huge part of the process for Rachael and her parents, who were with her virtually every day throughout her hospital stay, from the time she woke up until the time she was ready to go to sleep.

Positive Thoughts and Prevention

For Rachael, keeping a positive attitude made a huge difference. “I always realized that things could be worse,” she said. “Knowing that this would not be my situation forever also helped.”

As she continues on in recovery, Rachael and her family are aware of the importance of a preventive diet and practices. “I always wear sunscreen, and I’m definitely more careful and aware of what I put into and onto my body,” Rachael said. For example, you’re unlikely to find her eating processed foods, seasoning mixes and junk food snacks.

Galal says that leukemia and lymphoma are different from other common cancers, for example, of the breast or prostate. Depending on the type of disease, it can progress slowly over time, or within weeks or even days.

“Cancer is a very difficult word and weighs very heavily on the shoulders of patients and their families,” Galal said. Yet today’s treatment options present a great deal of hope.

The July 29 event is recommended for anyone facing a diagnosis of leukemia or lymphoma, and their family members or loved ones. “It’s important that people know what to expect in terms of treatment and side events, and also the nature and mechanisms of the disease,” Galal said.

“The progress that has happened in cancer treatment is amazing. Our greater understanding of these diseases has led to better treatment, including targeted treatment and immunotherapy, which enhances the body’s immune response to cancer cells,” Galal added.



Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk for Cancer

woman on scaleAmong the myriad benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, it may also reduce your risk of several types of cancer.

Research has shown for awhile that obesity lowers life expectancy by contributing to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. More recently, ties between obesity and cancer have become evident.

“There is a well established link between obesity and an increased risk of cancer, especially certain cancer types including esophageal, breast, pancreas, colorectal, endometrial, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder,” said David Basel, MD, Avera Medical Group Vice President of Clinical Quality.

Obesity can increase risk as much as 30 to 40 percent for some cancers, Basel said. “The strongest is esophageal and endometrial,” Basel said.

With more than one-third of Americans being overweight, the obesity epidemic across the U.S. is only getting worse.

One of the leading theories on why obesity leads to increased cancer is because individuals who are overweight have higher levels of hormones in their bloodstream, because fat cells produce estrogen.

“Another reason we think that obesity leads to cancer is that there are higher insulin levels in obese individuals,” Basel said. Higher insulin levels can cause inflammation and also prevent cancer cells from dying.

The connection between obesity and breast cancer is particularly striking, says Amy Krie, MD, oncologist with Avera Medical Group Oncology & Hematology. Research shows:

  • Obese women are 30 to 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women of a healthy weight.
  • Women who walk 30 minutes per day lower their rate of breast cancer by 20 percent.
  • Women who gain 20 to 30 pounds after age 18 are 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those women who stay within five pounds. Women who gain 70 pounds double their risk of breast cancer.

Research shows that breast cancer survivors who do not gain weight after their diagnosis and maintain a healthy weight are less likely to have a recurrence of breast cancer.

“Certainly, the connection between obesity and cancer is one we’re still unraveling,” Krie said. “In order for a cancer cell to grow, it needs to have the right microenvironment. If your microenvironment is healthy, it is harder for cancer cells to set up shop.”

For weight loss to last, it needs to be a lifestyle change. “Commit to a lifestyle change of healthier eating habits, increasing fruits and vegetables and decreasing carbohydrates. Exercise is the No. 1 key. That in itself can have an effect on decreasing your cancer risk separate from obesity,” Basel said.

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week, which are the recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you can fit in more, that’s even better.

“Exercise lowers estrogen and insulin levels, decreases inflammation, relieves stress and improves your immune system,” Krie said. “Exercise is the single most important thing a woman can do to modify her risk.”


Exercise Recommendations

Adults need at least:

30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity (such as walking quickly or riding a bike) five times a week for a total of 150 minutes per week, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (such as running) or an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity


Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Therapy Can Help Cancer Patients Face Challenges

Nurse with Cancer PatientPatients with a diagnosis of cancer face many challenges. They are able to cope with some on their own, but with others, many need a little assistance. Physical, occupational and speech therapies can help with those things that just continue to drag on or even start getting worse. This could be weakness, trouble doing your daily activities or even eating.

Therapy is here to help define what is problematic and assist in getting the patient back on the road to recovery and independence.

Weakness is often seen after many types of cancer. There are chemical, physical and psychological items that go with treatment of cancer that cause the body to slow and not function as well as it once did. The therapists can help find the areas that are weak and in need of a boost. With exercises, coping strategies and education, many patients are able to return to more functional lifestyles.

Here are 11 questions you can ask yourself to see if therapy may be something that would help you.

  1. Do I have pain?
  2. Am I noticing any swelling in the arms, torso or legs?
  3. Am I having fatigue?
  4. Can I move my arms and legs to do all the activities I perform daily? If not, is it because  you can’t lift them or because you feel tightness that limits the activity?
  5. Are you noticing problems with your balance or have you fallen?
  6. Is it hard to get in and out of a chair, bed or a vehicle?
  7. Are you having any pelvic pain or incontinence issues?
  8. Are you having any difficulties with daily activities or personal care items such as:
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Getting in and out of a tub or shower
  • Toilet use
  • Household chores
  • Activity tolerance
  1. Are you having any difficulties swallowing?
  2. Do you feel like memory issues are limiting your daily function?
  3. Are you having difficulty communicating?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, talk to your doctor about it. See if they agree that some therapy may be beneficial to help get back on track. There are eight Avera Therapy locations in Sioux Falls and Brandon, or you can call 605-322-5123 to find the location nearest you.


Learning to live with cancer will not give you cancer.

Picture life with cancer.

Share pictures of life with cancer using the photo-sharing app Instagram on your smartphone. Just tag your photo with #PictureCancer.

We've discovered the cure for fear.

Say The Word in 140 characters.

We're taking back the power we've given the word cancer by curing fear through knowledge and support. Share your fears and send your support using hashtag #CureFear.

Avera Marshall @AveraMarshall

Deb Baumann talks about the potential for the new Avera Cancer Institute Marshall.

Cure Fear @CureFear

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Cure Fear @CureFear

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Avera McKennan @AveraMcKennan

Lung cancer isn't the easiest disease to find in early stages, but CT scans have proven the most effective.

Cure Fear @CureFear

Lung cancer accounts for about 14% of all new cancers.