Monday, October 15, 2012

On Deck For The Cure: Holland America Line Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. I thought of that the other day when I received an email from Holland America Line reminding me that my cruise departure is coming up soon. In addition to packing and heading to the embarkation port, I plan to set aside some funds in order to participate in the On Deck For The Cure event during my cruise. In partnership with the Susan G Komen for the Cure organization, Holland America makes it possible to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research.

Like me, you probably know women who've kicked this insidious disease. I'm fortunate that my friends were all diagnosed in time to be successfully treated and all are alive today.

You've also probably seen pink ribbons displayed this month around town and particularly at local medical facilities—they are the symbol of breast cancer awareness—and when I chose the color for the cast on my broken leg (pictured above) I selected what the physician's assistant called "breast cancer pink"—a special color available in October of the year I broke my leg.

As I was to discover, there was a life threatening disease hiding beneath that pink cast—Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism. Complications resulting from it kills more people annually than automobile accidents, AIDS, and breast cancer combined. Yet not enough people are aware of its symptoms. Why am I mentioning this now? To help spread the word. Nearly half of all DVT cases have no symptoms and nearly three-quarters of adults are unaware of DVT or its dangers. After my recovery, two of my friends had similar experiences. Neither of them suspected DVT either until they were as incapacitated as I was.

A First-Hand Look At Deep Vein Thrombosis
Pretty cast, right? Who knew the danger that lurked beneath its feminine pink surface? Certainly, not me. After breaking my leg and taking a flight home from Florida afterwards, I spent my days in a wheeled chair. Unknown and unnoticed until I experienced excruciating chest pains and could barely breathe, I had developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

In my case, DVT was nearly fatal. The blood clot in my leg threw off smaller clots that lodged in my lungs, a condition called pulmonary embolism. After three days in Intensive Care and a series of painful heparin shots at home, I was on a regimen of anti-clotting medication (warfarin) for a year. For me, monthly trips to the clinic to monitor medication levels in my bloodstream finally ended, but I have a lifetime of concern ahead of me.

I was fortunate that a family friend, the late Dr. George Cue—who was on staff at the Medical College of Georgia—recognized my symptoms and Mel got me to the Trauma Center there in time. I had twenty minutes to live when my treatment began and I will be forever grateful to Dr. Cue and the Medical College staff for the care I received. Sadly, most cases of pulmonary embolism as severe as mine are diagnosed in the morgue. The entire story, including how to take preventative measures is at The Plane Truth About Your Veins, What You Should Know About Travel and Deep Vein Thrombosis.

To learn more, visit The Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis

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