Jackson’s birthday gift: Donation of blood from newborn’s umbilical cord could save a life, treat a disorder, aid medical research


Jackson Hunter Moore, above, was born Feb. 2 to Mark and Nicole Moore of Auburn. Blood extracted from Jackson’s umbilical cord was the first donation to the new Upstate Cord Blood Bank. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)


Mark and Nicole Moore’s first act as new parents, as a family, was to give back.

After dad cut Jackson Hunter Moore’s umbilical cord and while mom cuddled the newborn in her arms, one of the labor and delivery caregivers turned attention to the remaining length of umbilical cord. Using a needle, blood was extracted from the cord and placed into a sterile bag about the size of a credit card.

That 3 to 5 ounces of stem cell-rich cord blood has the potential to save the life of someone with leukemia or lymphoma. Or it may be used in the treatment of a wide range of other cancers, blood disorders and genetic diseases. Or, it could be used to research new treatments for a variety of diseases.

The umbilical cord connects a developing baby to the placenta, the organ that grows within the uterus during pregnancy. After birth, the cord is severed and clamped, its tip becoming the baby’s belly button.

The Upstate Cord Blood Bank, on Upstate University Hospital’s Community campus, is one of 32 such banks in the United States and one of two in New York state. There is no charge to make a donation of cord blood. Families will pay a collection and storage fee if they want their baby’s cord blood stored for their own future use.

The remaining length of umbilical cord has been discarded as medical waste, but new parents are now being asked to donate their baby’s cord blood to the Upstate Cord Blood Bank, which opened in February. Such blood is rich with young stem cells, which are valuable because they can develop into many different types of cells or be used to repair many types of tissue.

When a stem cell divides, each new cell can either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell or a brain cell. Under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, stem cells may be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. Stem cells offer new potential for treating diabetes, heart disease and other diseases because of their unique regenerative ability.

“We understood it has the potential to help,” Mark Moore said as he cradled Jackson during the bank’s ribbon-cutting event. That’s why he and his wife were eager to make the donation, the bank’s first. “Even if it’s not used for a patient,” Nicole Moore said, “they can still use it for research.”

Each donation is tested, processed and stored at the bank, a 20,000-square foot building on Upstate University Hospital’s Community campus. They are kept in liquid nitrogen tanks at minus 196 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each donation becomes part of a database and could be used for transplant locally, nationally or internationally. There is no cost to donate.

Families soon will have the option of storing their babies’ cord blood at the bank for a fee. The blood would then be available for transplants or stem cell therapy for family members or others, as determined by the family. This may appeal to families who are prone to certain conditions.

Contact the bank at 315-464-6746.


This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine.


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Upstate news you may have missed

Kelli Maher (left) donated one of her kidneys in September to help someone in need, but she did not know whose life she saved until two days before Christmas. That’s when she met Cecilia Brown, 8, a girl from Ilion who suffered from double renal failure. Their transplant was one of the 109 performed by surgeons at Upstate in 2016, more than triple the number of transplants that took place in 2010. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Researcher seeks drug to fight painful condition

An Upstate researcher is testing drugs to treat shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Jennifer Moffat, PhD, is working with a Connecticut company called NanoViricides to find an antiviral drug that’s safe and effective for clinical trials. “Using nanoparticles to target viruses is an innovative approach, and we’re eager to collaborate on this project,” said Moffat, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology.

For a podcast/radio interview with Moffat about shingles and her work, click here.

Total knee replacement has robotic assistance

Robert Sherman, MD, performed the region’s first total knee replacement using the Mako robotic-assisted surgery system, in February. His patient was discharged to home rehabilitation two days after surgery. The surgeon-controlled robotic-arm system allows for more precise alignment and positioning of implants to achieve greater accuracy than through conventional surgery. “More precise alignment of the implant means less wear and tear, less initial pain and greater lifespan of the implant,” Sherman said. Upstate has used the Mako system for partial knee and hip replacements since late 2014, but the Food and Drug Administration only recently approved the system for total knee replacements.

Upstate recognized by 2 national organizations

— The national ALS Association and its Upstate New York chapter certified Upstate’s ALS Research and Treatment Center as a Treatment Center of Excellence. This signifies that the center exhibits the highest levels of established national standards of care in the management of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In addition, the national association and local chapter both awarded separate grants of $25,000 each to benefit patient care. Upstate treats nearly 185 patients with ALS from throughout Central New York.

— Upstate was named a National Pancreas Foundation Center for Care and Treatment of Pancreas Disease, one of only 37 medical institutions nationwide and the only one in New York outside of New York City.

State awards HIV grant

The state Department of Health awarded Upstate a five-year $1 million grant to support Upstate’s newly created program to keep vulnerable populations free of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Charity run makes donation to fight childhood cancer

Chris Arnold, Ellen Yeomans and members of the Paige’s Butterfly Run Committee presented a check early this year for $232,000, money raised from the 2016 run named in honor of their daughter, Paige Yeomans Arnold.

Paige’s Butterfly Run has raised more than $2.5 million in 20 years to support pediatric cancer research and patient and family services at the Waters Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Upstate Cancer Center and Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.   The money goes into a permanent endowment established with the Upstate Foundation.

This year’s run is June 3 in downtown Syracuse. Learn more about it here.

This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine

Posted in bones/joints/orthopedics, brain/neurology, cancer, health care, infectious disease, kidney/renal/nephrology, organ donation/transplant, research, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital/pediatrics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why you must come to Upstate for trauma care

Upstate University Hospital offers the only Level I trauma center in Central New York, The staff has the training and facilities needed to handle anything from minor to major traumatic injuries, 24 hours a day. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

If you’re seriously hurt in a car wreck, a lawn mower mishap or knife fight, your chances of survival are higher if you quickly get to a Level I trauma center.

Upstate University Hospital is the only Level I trauma center within the 14 counties of Central New York. Paramedics know this, so if your injury is severe and renders you unconscious, the ambulance likely will bring you to Upstate. If you are not near Upstate, you may first be stabilized at an outlying hospital and then transferred to Upstate.

Trauma centers didn’t exist until physicians began studying the survival of trauma patients in the late 1960s. They discovered people who would have lived if they had not bled to death and others who would have lived if they had been able to breathe. That led to the concept of the “golden hour,” the time within which trauma patients need definitive care for the best odds of survival.

Upstate has separate emergency rooms for adults and children. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)

Officials from the American College of Surgeons visit Upstate every three years for an extensive evaluation that ensures that staff are capable of providing the highest level of medical care for adults and children 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Trauma patients receive prompt attention when they arrive at Upstate University Hospital.

— Imaging scans that are needed are obtained immediately, most in a suite in the emergency department.

— A surgeon with expertise in trauma and critical care can be at the bedside of the most severely injured patients within 15 minutes. Since most traumatic injuries are unique, having a doctor with a wide range of experience caring for trauma patients is valuable.

— An operating room is always available for immediate surgery if necessary.

— Specialty doctors, such as orthopedic surgeons or plastic surgeons, are available within a half hour.

Upstate also maintains an intensive care unit staffed by trauma surgeons trained in critical care and a burn unit staffed by physicians with expertise in burn care, plus a rehabilitation unit if the injuries require extensive recovery.

Staff at a Level I trauma center care for people with severe injuries, but they apply that same expertise to those with minor traumatic injuries — making the trauma center the best place to go for treatment of any trauma.

This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast about the trauma center with Upstate surgeon William Marx, DO, chief of trauma, critical care and burns; and nurse Jolene Kittle, trauma program manager.


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Up Close images: Raising awareness about cancer


Light-filled luminarias greeted visitors to the Upstate Cancer Center for the annual Lung Cancer Vigil on a crisp autumn evening in November. Indoors, the Rev. Terry Culbertson asked visitors to set their cellphones to flashlight mode as she read from a poem: “Faith is the bird that feels the light and still sings when the dawn is dark.”

Not counting skin cancer, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in women (behind breast cancer) and men (behind prostate cancer) but it is the deadliest. More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.

The vigil at Upstate celebrates survivors and memorializes the departed, as illustrated by sentiments on the luminarias. “Keep the faith, Sis,” read one. Another said simply, “Hope. Peace. Love.”

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in cancer, community, death/dying, health care, lung/pulmonary, spiritual care | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Recipe: Fudge Pudding Cake With Ice Cream

Dessert can be an important part of a meal for cancer patients because it often provides plenty of calories per bite. If the patient feels too full to eat this dessert after a meal, he or she can try eating it as a snack between meals. It’s a good source of calcium and fiber.


1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened (baking) cocoa

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup unsweetened (baking) cocoa

1¾ cups boiling water

4½ cups vanilla ice cream 


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In ungreased 9-inch square pan, mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, the baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, oil and vanilla extract with fork until smooth. Stir in nuts. Spread evenly in pan.
  2. In small bowl, mix brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa; sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over batter.
  3. Bake 40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes. Spoon cake and sauce into individual dishes. Top each with ice cream.

Microwave directions

In 2-quart microwavable casserole, mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, the baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, oil and vanilla. Stir in nuts. Spread evenly in casserole. In small bowl, mix brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa; sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over batter. Microwave uncovered on medium (50 percent) for 9 minutes. Rotate casserole a half turn; microwave uncovered on high 5 to 7 minutes longer or until top is almost dry.

Nutritional information

This recipe makes 9 servings. Each contains:

490 calories

20 grams total fat (6 grams saturated fat; no trans fats)

30 milligrams cholesterol

240 milligrams sodium

310 milligrams potassium

71 grams carbohydrates

3 grams dietary fiber

7 grams protein

— Source: “Betty Crocker Living With Cancer Cookbook”

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in cancer, health care, recipe | Leave a comment

Oneida High School student learns to live with brain cancer


Breonna Popluhar is a junior at Oneida High School. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)


A run of severe headaches over a couple of weeks in 2015 led to an Oneida teen’s diagnosis of brain cancer.

“I would throw up a lot and couldn’t eat. It hurt really bad,” describes Breonna Popluhar, 17, a junior at Oneida High School.

A computerized tomography scan at an urgent care center led to an ambulance ride to Upstate, where further tests revealed a cancerous tumor that had likely been present since birth. It was causing headaches because it had no more room to grow, she said.

Surgery two days later revealed the growth to be oligodendroglioma (see below). Further surgeries followed in August and October 2015.

“Breonna has a type of infiltrating brain tumor that is not amenable to total surgical removal without causing significant deficits,” explains Zulma Tovar-Spinoza, MD, Upstate’s director of pediatric neurosurgery, who performed the surgery.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Zulma Tovar-Spinoza, MD. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

“While most of her tumor was successfully removed, surgery is only one part of the treatment,” Tovar-Spinoza notes. She and the other specialists on Popluhar’s multidisciplinary team at Upstate recommended chemotherapy as the next step to stop the tumor’s growth. Popluhar would take a monthly pill and be monitored every three months with a magnetic resonance imaging scan.

Chemotherapy left her tired, less motivated and often nauseated. She got her first break from chemo in late 2016 and began to feel better in the weeks that followed.

“We want to wait and see right now what the tumor will do off of chemo,” Popluhar says.

She continues to attend school full time. Many of her fellow students are not aware she has cancer, “because my hair is OK, and I don’t talk about it a lot,” she says. She also works part-time washing dishes and takes weekly dance classes – although she can’t do upside-down moves at the moment and sometimes has to write down new dance steps because of poor short-term memory.

She knows the rest of her life will include medical appointments, and she knows she may face more surgery.

In the meantime, she and her family want to spread awareness of childhood brain cancer, a disease not always visible to others and that does not receive the attention some other cancers do.

Popular with her oncologist, Melanie Comito, MD. Upstate offers cancer services for adults in Oneida, but children and teens like Popular are treated at the main Upstate campus in Syracuse. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

Her pediatric oncologist agrees. “The public should know that brain tumors are the second most common cancer in children (after leukemia) and are now the No. 1 cause of cancer-related death in children,” says Melanie Comito, MD, Upstate’s chief of pediatric hematology and oncology.

“Despite this fact, the prognosis for brain cancer in children is, overall, good and very different from the prognosis for adults with brain cancer. This is due to the fact that the types of brain cancers in children are quite different that those found in adults,” Comito adds.

Popluhar’s mother, Dawn Heffron, describes the emotions the family has gone through, from initial shock to obsessively seeking information to maintaining optimism and patience while constantly awaiting test results.

Meanwhile, as Popluhar thinks about college options and her future, she doesn’t focus on brain cancer.

A cancer with a long, strange name

The brain cancer called oligodendroglioma develops from oligodendrocytes, one of the types of cells that make up the supportive, or glial, tissue of the brain.

This cancer is relatively rare in adults and even rarer in children, and often is “silent” — growing slowly and gradually, says Melanie Comito, MD, Upstate’s chief of pediatric hematology and oncology.

Treatment generally involves surgical removal, if possible, along with radiation and/or chemotherapy, then monitoring for recurrence with MRI scans.

Comito notes that headaches are common in both children and adults and rarely mean a brain tumor. Headaches that persist and get more frequent and severe are a concern if associated with other complaints, such as seizures, changes in personality, vomiting, changes in walking or vision or decreased school performance.

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast with Comito in which she describes some childhood cancers of the brain and spine.

Posted in adolescents, brain/spine/neurosurgery, cancer, health care, HealthLink on Air, medical imaging/radiology, patient story, surgery, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital/pediatrics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preserving future fatherhood This service helps boys and men with cancer maintain their ability to father children.

Kazim Chohan, PhD (seated), leads Upstate’s Male Fertility Preservation Program, which came about through the efforts of Chohan and colleagues including pediatric oncologist Jody Sima, MD (standing); (and, not pictured) urologist JC Trussell, MD; oncologist Rahul Seth, DO; and pathology chair Robert Corona Jr., DO. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)


Some cancers, and some cancer treatments, can cause male reproductive damage. But a variety of techniques available through Upstate’s Male Fertility Preservation Program can help men with a cancer diagnosis or temporary or permanent infertility issue.

“Survival is the first thing on their mind. Not fertility,” says Kazim Chohan, PhD, director of Upstate’s andrology department, where the program is housed. “That’s precisely why this should be offered.” He says physicians should tell their patients about fertility preservation as soon as a cancer diagnosis is made. Some health insurers will pay for the service.

Males of almost any age who hope to one day father a child may be candidates for fertility preservation. This includes boys who have not yet reached puberty, whose parents must make the decision for him. Weekend appointments are available for patients undergoing emergency chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Chohan comes from a family that has made careers studying reproduction in both humans and animals. His father was an expert in artificial insemination of livestock in Pakistan, and one of Chohan’s sons is studying reproductive matters. Chohan himself has worked on aspects of reproduction in humans and in mammals ranging from mice to water buffalo.

Frozen sperm cells should remain viable for several decades, he says, noting there is no scientific consensus on the time limit, but a sample frozen in 1971 was used in 2011 and resulted in a healthy baby. Freezing techniques have progressed to the point where he does not see a limit on the length of time a sample could be kept frozen.

Success rates for frozen sperm samples are comparable to those of fresh samples, he says, and there are no known risks of birth defects from using frozen sperm.

The samples are stored in sealed vials that prevent cross-contamination and can be shipped to fertility centers elsewhere, even overseas, in special canisters that stay cold for up to two weeks.

Using testicular tissue samples from young boys is a relatively new procedure that has so far only been used to produce animal offspring. Chohan believes the science is advancing rapidly enough that it will be a normal practice for humans within a decade. The testicular tissue, like the sperm samples, is frozen and stored in the andrology lab.

For fertility preservation questions, contact the andrology department at 315-464-6550.

Techniques available

Here’s what andrologist Kazim Chohan, PhD, and his staff offer at Upstate:

  • Sperm banking: Collecting and freezing semen in liquid nitrogen (cryopreservation) for future use is the standard and least expensive procedure to preserve male fertility. A basic semen analysis will evaluate the sperm to determine future options for assisted reproduction. Generally, three to five samples are needed for the best chance of achieving pregnancy.
  • Testicular sperm extraction: Men with no sperm in their semen due to blockage or other conditions can have sperm extracted directly from their testicles with a brief surgical procedure. The sample is then frozen.
  • Testicular tissue freezing: Still an experimental process, this involves surgically removing and freezing tissue from the testicles of boys not yet old enough to produce sperm. The hope is that this tissue could be used in the future, once the boys have matured, to either restore fertility or produce sperm.

Female options

Fertility preservation for women, including egg and embryo freezing, is also offered by Upstate in partnership with Boston IVF. Call 315-703-3050 for more information.

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast with Chohan and Sima about how male fertility preservation works.

Posted in adolescents, cancer, health care, HealthLink on Air, men's health, sexuality, technology, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital/pediatrics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Removing a hidden cancer: Surgeon avoided nerves when he removed prostate; patient – and wife – are thankful

Patrick Young wears a necklace in memory of his mother, who died at age 59 from lung cancer. She taught him to hunt. The necklace is made from antlers of the first deer Young shot, plus wooden and brass beads and a Buffalo nickel pendant carved by a master gunsmith. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)


Prostate cancer usually grows slowly.

Unfortunately, Patrick Young’s cancer was aggressive, and furtive. It hid itself around the top side of his prostate, in the back, where a biopsy needle would be unlikely to reach.

Fortunately, Patrick Young’s wife, a research scientist, found an expert urologic oncologist just 90 minutes from their home in rural Chenango County. Young became a patient of Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, who chairs the department of urology at Upstate and who specializes in cancers of the kidney, bladder and prostate.

“My wife and I both love how passionate he is about what he does,” says Young, who grows organic vegetables and raises free range hens in Guilford. He was 54 when he developed trouble keeping an erection.

Young and his wife, Rebecca Armstrong Young, PhD. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

His primary care provider began monitoring his level of prostate specific antigen, or PSA, an enzyme found in high concentrations in the blood of men who have prostate cancer. PSA levels can also be affected by inflammation or enlargement of the prostate. Young also underwent a biopsy before his wife, Rebecca Armstrong Young, PhD, sought an experienced urologist to take over his care.

Bratslavsky began closely monitoring Young’s PSA level.

When the level rose, Bratslavsky scheduled a magnetic resonance imaging scan and biopsy done with a powerful 3-tesla MRI system that uses technology similar to global positioning navigation to locate hard-to-find cancers of the prostate.

This painting was made by Young’s wife about five months after his surgery. She took a photo of him when he came inside after working outdoors all morning. “I remember seeing him and thinking how grateful I was that he was well enough to be active again,” she explains. “To me, he was looking more alive than he had been in almost two years. I wanted to capture that moment.”

Upstate became the first provider in Central New York to offer the Philips UroNav Fusion Biopsy System in October 2013. Since then, about 300 precision-guided fusion biopsies have been done with as many as 25 percent revealing aggressive cancers that otherwise would have been missed. Many of the men found to have less-aggressive cancers were spared unnecessary treatment because the fusion biopsy provided reassurance that they were not harboring more aggressive cancers.

Young’s images and biopsy were done on Christmas Eve 2015. They revealed cancer had corkscrewed out from the prostate and attached itself to his bladder. Surgery was Young’s only option, since he has ulcerative colitis. In order to give his body time to heal from the biopsy, surgery was scheduled for Feb. 29.

“I was scared, and I’m not normally a scared type of person,” Young admits. “Lung cancer killed my mother, and my baby brother had testicular cancer 12 years ago. Thankfully, he has gotten through it.”

Bratslavsky’s plan was to remove Young’s prostate, delicately avoiding the nerves around the gland. That’s not always possible, Young knew, but he was hopeful.

The surgery was a success.

At a follow up appointment, Young kissed Bratslavsky on the cheek. “I love what you’ve done for Becky and me.”


Upstate urologist Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, meets with Young. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.











Posted in cancer, health care, men's health, patient story, sexuality, surgery, technology, urology | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Cancer patient as a child, now a cancer nurse


Nurse manager Nellie Diez. (PHOTO BY KATHLEEN PAICE FROIO)


Nellie Diez remembers being startled by her mother, whose first name she shares, as a 12-year-old in treatment for cancer.

For four weeks, mother and daughter had been at a children’s hospital two hours from their home in Puerto Rico. Diez was diagnosed on admission with non-Hodgkin lymphoma on Nov. 23, 1988. Now it was Christmas Eve, and Nellie Santiago was told to enjoy what would likely be her daughter’s last year of life.

Santiago gave terse instructions to Diez: “Get dressed. We’re leaving.”

They were off to find more aggressive care, a move Diez today says saved her life.

Diez’s parents were divorced. Her father lived in New York City. He helped get her an appointment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and she and her mother traveled to New York. Diez was a patient there for five months. She underwent 10 radiation treatments, plus chemotherapy.

“I had a lot of chemo. A lot,” she recalls. Her heart and lungs were affected by the cancer and its treatment.

She returned to Puerto Rico when she was discharged, coming back to the cancer center every two months for follow-up appointments. Her final treatment was in April 1991.

Her experience is a story she’s wiling to share with patients of Upstate University Hospital, where Diez, 40, is a nurse manager of the 27-bed adult oncology unit. Some patients appreciate hearing from someone who has gone through what they face.

Diez began charting a future in nursing as a patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering. One of her physicians pointed her to Syracuse University, which at the time had a college of nursing. Diez wound up attending SU and doing her student nursing internship at the same cancer center where she had been a patient.

Today she works at Upstate, an academic medical center just blocks from where she attended college.

When she graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she intended to work in pediatric oncology – but there were no job openings. “So I convinced myself that we are all kids at heart” and applied for a position in adult oncology. That was 16 years ago.

She married in 2008. A few years later, she and her husband, José Diez, learned that because of her heart trouble, a pregnancy would be considered high risk – if she was even able to conceive. She got pregnant. And she felt her life come full circle when she learned her due date was Nov. 23, the same date of her cancer diagnosis 23 years before. Her son, Leonidas, was born by a scheduled cesarean section Nov. 23. He’s 4½ now. Her daughter, Livia, is 18 months old. José Diez is a stay-at-home dad.

With the benefit of 30 years’ hindsight, and motherhood, Diez is able to appreciate that her mother was looking out for her when they made their abrupt departure from the hospital in Puerto Rico. It was the action of someone looking out for a loved one with cancer.

Diez gets it.

She’s on the other side of the bedside now, with a unique ability to relate to the fear and uncertainty that accompany cancer. As a nurse and cancer survivor caring for someone with cancer, Diez sees her role as sacred. “I have the honor of taking care of people in very vulnerable conditions.”

What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, part of the body’s immune system. This type of cancer accounts for about 5 percent of all childhood cancers, and about 500 children age 14 and younger are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States each year. Its cause is unknown.

An array of imaging scans, blood tests and biopsy analyses may be used in diagnosing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Chemotherapy is the main treatment for children with this cancer. Surgery, radiation and stem cell transplants may also play a role in treatment. — American Cancer Society

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in cancer, health careers, nursing | Tagged | 1 Comment

World traveler … and grateful lung cancer patient

Upstate oncologist Ajeet Gajra, MD, and his patient Patricia Kranbuhl.


Nearly three years ago, Patricia Kranbuhl was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. After participating in a clinical trial at the Upstate Cancer Center, she is symptom free and is now back to doing the things she loves, including traveling the world.

In April 2014, Kranbuhl was excited to be taking her granddaughters on their first trip to New York City to see a Broadway show. “At that time, I had a nagging breathing issue, which I thought was probably asthma,” she said.

Her asthma concern turned out to be a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. Kranbuhl was immediately referred to Upstate’s Ajeet Gajra, MD. Gajra explained to Kranbuhl that there was a malignant tumor on her lung, but as the cancer was also in her lymph nodes and blood, surgery was not an option. However, he noted that Upstate was conducting a clinical trial for which she would be a perfect candidate.

For the treatment, Kranbuhl had a port inserted into her chest wall.  “Dr. Gajra asked if I wanted to start an IV infusion treatment that day, and I said yes. I wanted to stop the tumor from growing as soon as possible and do whatever I could to eliminate it,” Kranbuhl said. “It took two days to do the first treatment, one afternoon followed by treatment the next morning.”

She credits the staff at the Upstate Cancer Center with helping her with the healing process. “They stayed with me, as they do with all their patients, every step of the way. They were compassionate beyond words. I could not be more grateful for the care that I continue to receive to this day,” she said.

When Kranbuhl received a letter from the Upstate Foundation as part of its annual Doctors’ Day celebration, she wrote a tribute and made a donation in honor of Dr. Gajra and the research that she says extended her life.

While she continues maintenance treatment once a month, Kranbuhl’s love for travel is back on track. “I worked all my life. When I retired, I decided I would take a big trip every year to see the world.”

She enjoys meeting people, experiencing their cultures and learning their histories. Since her diagnosis, Kranbuhl has cruised the Mediterranean on a small boat and visited Cuba and India. Her favorite destination, however, remains her 2014 trip to Africa. “Waking up in the Serengeti was beyond spectacular,” she said.

Both Gajra and Kranbuhl say they are pleased with her progress. Her tumor is undetectable and all tests are stable. Kranbuhl adds: “I listen to Dr. Gajra because I trust him with my life, and I have a lot more traveling yet to do.”

To donate to Friends of Upstate Cancer Center, click here or contact the Upstate Foundation at 315-464-4416.

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Posted in cancer, drugs/medications/pharmacy, health care, lung/pulmonary