DiversityNursing Blog

Kayla Montgomery: Young Runner's Brave Battle With MS

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 02:18 PM

 Gary Morley and Lisa Cohen

www.cnn.com 

150514175906 h2h kayla4 exlarge 169 resized 600Kayla Montgomery is a runner unlike any other.

Every time she competes in a race, she knows she'll collapse in a sobbing heap at the finish line.

Unable to feel her legs, she'll crumple into the arms of her athletics coaches. Ice-cold water will be applied to calm the misfiring nerve fibers blazing beneath her numb skin.

The teenager has gone through this post-race trauma for the past five years since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

"Every day that I run, it might be my last day -- I could easily wake up tomorrow and not be able to move," the 19-year-old American tells CNN's Human to Hero series. 

"My initial MS attack caused lesions and scarring on my brain and my spine that affects the areas that are in control of how I feel my legs. So when I am overheated the symptoms reappear because my neurones start misfiring more.

"You can never really get used to the lack of feeling and the change of sensation, no matter how long you go through it. Every time it is still a bit of a shock and it's scary -- it freaks me out a little bit."

After five to 10 minutes she's able to get back on her feet again and start walking around, albeit a little stiffly as feeling slowly returns to her lower body.

It sounds like a nightmare ordeal that would put anyone off an athletics career, but Montgomery is determined to pursue her running dream.

She's actually faster now than before her diagnosis -- which, she says, was a painfully long and uncertain process following an accident playing soccer, falling hard on her neck and tailbone.

"It was really scary. I was so young. Most people with MS aren't diagnosed until their mid to late 20s, 30s. There wasn't anybody my age to relate to and understand what I was going through," she recalls. 

"It took so long to get back results and we were ruling things out and leaving MS as the last option. For a while they thought maybe it was cancer."

When the diagnosis finally came, it sent Montgomery into a spiral of anger, depression and denial.

She avoided confronting the issue with her parents -- Keith, a salesman, and mom Alysia, recently qualified as a nurse -- and younger sister Courtney.

"I tried to pretend I wasn't sick or anything -- I wanted to go on with life as normal as possible," Kayla says.

"Nobody at school knew, and we were not allowed to talk about it at home. I just avoided it at all costs, and that actually made it a lot harder. 

"The first couple of years after my diagnosis were impossibly hard -- I was so alone and still really scared. It was definitely a darker time in my life."

Running has proved to be her salvation. After a short break, in which she received treatment that made the numbness temporary, Montgomery decided she was going to make use of her legs while she still could -- despite knowing that exertion would bring back the symptoms.

"I wasn't amazing by any means but I was eighth on the team, so if somebody got hurt then I was there! And I wanted to be there if they needed me, so I trained so hard all the time and that definitely helped to deal with the things I wouldn't talk about," she says.

Montgomery's determination to succeed won her the North Carolina high school state title in the 3,200 meters last year, as she ran the 21st fastest time in the U.S.

She was team captain at Mount Tabor High School, setting several age-group records, and also excelled off the track in cross-country.

Now a freshman on an athletics scholarship at Nashville's Lipscomb University, she is studying molecular biology and has dreams of becoming a forensic scientist.

But before a career in CSI beckons, Montgomery is making the most of her chance to run for the college team.

"Racing is one of the greatest feelings in the world. I love it," she says. 

"Long-distance running is my favorite ... you have to have so much stamina, strength and determination. I like to push myself to my limits for as long as I can."

One of the big challenges is staying on her feet during a race. If she gets knocked over or falls, which sometimes happens, then it's difficult to get up again -- especially in the later stages.

"If it is a track meet you can't grab on to something, whereas cross country there might be a tree close by that you can pull yourself up on," Montgomery explains.

"It all depends on when I fall as to how it will affect the outcome of my race."

Montgomery trains three hours a day, six days a week, covering 60-75 miles.

Without being able to judge pace through her legs, she has learned a new way to run, by focusing on the movement of her arms.

The hard work is paying off. Lipscomb is a Division One university in NCAA competitions, giving her an elite platform on which to impress.

It's a long way from those early high-school days when she asked her coach, mentor and "second father" Patrick Cromwell about her chances of running at college level.

"He said, 'I don't know, you might be lucky if you can be a walk-on.' I was like, 'Well I'll show you, I'm going to run in college and not only that I'm going to run for a D1 school.' And I am! 

"Lipscomb is one of the best, it's really awesome to achieve that once really far-fetched dream."

Montgomery was actively recruited by Lipscomb, the first school to contact her -- others also rang "but a lot of them never called back" after she explained her condition.

"They made me feel so welcome," she says of her first visit to Lipscomb's campus. "They all knew my situation and it didn't bother them, and they didn't acknowledge it or ignore it either. It was exactly what I was looking for."

Her debut collegiate cross-country season was a steep learning curve, but Montgomery helped Lipscomb win a fourth successive conference championship in November, placing 13th overall and seventh in her team in the 5 km race.

On the track, she was sixth in the 10,000 meters last weekend as Lipscomb's women's team finished third at the Atlantic Sun championships in Florida, its best result at the event -- and a continuation of its rapid improvement since Bill Taylor, who recruited Montgomery, took over the athletics program in 2007.

She says the coach has given her the confidence to keep pushing herself, having taken a chance on her even though he realizes she may not be able to fulfill the four years of her scholarship if her condition gets worse.

"I keep running because it makes me happy," Montgomery says. "It makes me feel whole and safe, just because I know as long as I am running and still moving, I am still OK."

Topics: diagnosis, health, healthcare, nurse, nurses, doctors, medical, hospital, patient, treatment, college, MS, runner, multiple sclerosis

Dogs Could Be 'Noninvasive, Inexpensive' Diagnosis Aids For Thyroid Cancer

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 01:24 PM

german shepherd resized 600Honor Whiteman

Dogs are often referred to as "man's best friend," and a new study brings further strength to this term after revealing how a rescue dog called Frankie was able to detect the presence of thyroid cancer in human urine samples with almost 90% accuracy.

According to the research team, from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, Frankie - a male German Shepherd-mix - is the first dog that has been trained to differentiate benign thyroid disease and thyroid cancer by sniffing human urine samples.

Thyroid cancer is a cancer that begins in the thyroid gland, situated just below the thyroid cartilage in the front of the neck. Approximately 62,450 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the US this year, and around 1,950 Americans will die from the disease.

Unlike most other cancers, thyroid cancer is more common among younger adults, with almost 2 in 3 cases diagnosed in people under the age of 55.

Diagnostic techniques for thyroid cancer include fine-needle aspiration biopsy, which involves the patient having a thin needle inserted into the thyroid gland in order to obtain a tissue sample.

Senior investigator Dr. Donald Bodenner, chief of endocrine oncology at UAMS, says the diagnostic accuracy of canine scent detection is almost on par with that of fine-needle aspiration biopsy, but it would be an inexpensive and noninvasive alternative.

What is more, he notes many current methods for diagnosing thyroid cancer can be inaccurate, causing some patients to undergo needless surgery.

"Scent-trained canines could be used by physicians to detect the presence of thyroid cancer at an early stage and to avoid surgery when unwarranted," he adds.

Frankie trained to sniff out cancer in human urine samples

For their study, recently presented at The Endocrine Society's 97th Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA, Dr. Bodenner and colleagues obtained urine samples from 34 patients who attended the UAMS thyroid clinic.

All patients showed abnormalities in their thyroid nodules and went on to have biopsies and diagnostic surgery. Thyroid cancer was identified in 15 patients while 19 had benign thyroid disease.

Frankie - who the researchers say had been previously trained to recognize the smell of cancer in human thyroid tissue - was presented with the urine samples to sniff one at a time by a gloved dog handler.

While humans have around 5 million smell receptors, or olfactory cells, dogs possess around 200 million, making their sense of smell around a thousand times stronger than that of humans. 

Frankie alerted the handler to a cancer-positive urine sample by lying down, while turning away from the urine sample alerted the handler to a benign status. 

The authors note that the cancer status of each urine sample was unknown to both the dog handler and the study coordinator.

The handler also presented Frankie with urine samples with a known cancer status in between the study samples so the dog could be rewarded for achieving a correct answer.

30 out of 34 samples correctly identified with canine scent detection

On comparing Frankie's results with those of the final surgical pathology report for the samples, the team found the dog correctly identified the status of 30 out of 34 samples.

The sensitivity, or true-positive rate, of the canine scent detection came in at 86.7%, while specificity, or true-negative rate, was 89.5%. This means Frankie correctly identified a benign sample almost 9 in every 10 times.

The team notes that canine scent detection led to two false-negative and two false-positive results. The researchers now plan to expand their research by teaming up with Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, AL, who have agreed to assign two of its bomb-sniffing dogs to thyroid cancer detection training.

This is not the first time Medical News Today have reported on the cancer-detection talent of dogs. In May 2014, a study by Italian researchers revealed how specially trained dogs were able to detect prostate cancer in urine samples with 98% accuracy.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: study, dog, diagnosis, noninvasive, health, health care, medical, cancer, medicine, treatment

Clinical Signs For Impending Death In Cancer Patients Identified

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Feb 09, 2015 @ 01:05 PM

Written by James McIntosh

empty hospital bed resized 600

While many would rather not think about when someone might die, knowing how much longer a seriously ill person has left to live can be very useful for managing how they spend their final days. Researchers have now revealed eight signs in patients with advanced cancer associated with death within 3 days.

Diagnosis of an impending death can help clinicians, patients and their friends and family to make important decisions. Doctors can spare time and resources by stopping daily bloodwork and medication that will not make a short-term difference. Families will know if they still have time to visit their relatives.

"This study shows that simple bedside observations can potentially help us to recognize if a patient has entered the final days of life," says study author Dr. David Hui.

"Upon further confirmation of the usefulness of these 'tell-tale' signs, we will be able to help doctors, nurses, and families to better recognize the dying process, and in turn, to provide better care for the patients in the final days of life."

The study, published in Cancer, follows on from the Investigating the Process of Dying Study - a longitudinal observational study that documented the clinical signs of patients admitted to an acute palliative care unit (APCU). During the study, the researchers identified five signs that were highly predictive of an impending death within 3 days.

For the new study, the researchers again observed the physical changes in cancer patients admitted to two APCUs - at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, and the Barretos Cancer Hospital in Brazil.

Eight highly-specific physical signs were identified

A total of 357 cancer patients participated in the study. The researchers observed them and documented 52 physical signs every 12 hours following their admission to the APCUs. The patients were observed until they died or were discharged from the hospitals, with 57% dying during the study.

The researchers found eight highly-specific physical signs identifiable at the bedside that strongly suggested that a patient would die within the following 3 days if they were present. The signs identified were:

  • Decreased response to verbal stimuli
  • Decreased response to visual stimuli
  • Drooping of "smile lines"
  • Grunting of vocal cords
  • Hyperextension of neck
  • Inability to close eyelids
  • Non-reactive pupils
  • Upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

With the exception of upper gastrointestinal bleeding, all of these signs are related to deterioration in neurocognitive and neuromuscular function.

Neurological decline strongly associated with death

"The high specificity suggests that few patients who did not die within 3 days were observed to have these signs," the authors write. "These signs were commonly observed in the last 3 days of life with a frequency in patients between 38% and 78%. Our findings highlight that the progressive decline in neurological function is associated with the dying process."

As the study is limited by only examining cancer patients admitted to APCUs, it is not known whether these findings will apply to patients with different types of illness. The findings are currently being evaluated in other clinical settings such as inpatient hospices.

On account of the relatively small number of patients observed for this study, the authors also suggest that their findings should be regarded as preliminary until validated by further research.

In the meantime, the authors of the study are working to develop a diagnostic tool to assist clinical decision-making and educational materials for both health care professionals and patients' families.

"Upon further validation, the presence of these telltale signs would suggest that patients [...] are actively dying," they conclude. "Taken together with the five physical signs identified earlier, these objective bedside signs may assist clinicians, family members, and researchers in recognizing when the patient has entered the final days of life."

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: signs, diagnosis, ill, clinicians, health, research, nurses, doctors, health care, cancer, patients, death, treatment, clinical

How This Terminally Ill 'Super Fan' Scored Front-Row Patriots Tickets

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Jan 21, 2015 @ 10:54 AM

By LIZ NEPORENT

ht cathy nichols patriots 2 js 150120 16x9 992 resized 600

Cathy Nichols and son Jason were front and center at the National Football League playoff game last Sunday to witness her beloved New England Patriots clinch a spot in this year’s Super Bowl.

The Fayette, Maine, resident, 59, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just two days before the big game. She said it was the support of a close-knit community, and the generosity of the Patriots, that brought her to what she believed will be the last football game she will attend.

“My son and I are super fans and when I got the diagnosis, I told him we probably weren’t going to get to go to many more games,” Nichols told ABC News today. “Now, not only did I get to see them play, but I was at a playoff game; it was just unbelievable.”

Nichols’ worship of Tom Brady and all things Patriots is well known at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, Maine, where she works as a special education teacher. So when she confided in several work friends about her illness, they immediately contacted a local sportscaster, who, in turn, reached out to the Patriots.

By Friday night, a team representative had called Nichols to offer her two tickets in the owner’s box to the playoff game.

Despite her rollercoaster of a week, Nichols said she was touched by the outpouring from friends and strangers alike.

“It isn't just the tickets, they’re doing fund-raisers and I’m getting calls from students and athletes I coached more than 25 years ago,” the former cheerleader coach said.

At Sunday’s game she not only had the best seats in the house, she was given field passes so she could watch the pregame warm-ups. Team owner Robert Kraft even called down to the field to make sure she was having a good time, before she returned to the box.

Nichols said she knows an invite to the Super Bowl was in the works but she put a stop to it. Doctors believe the disease may have already spread from her pancreases to her liver, she said, and she may only have six months to live. She doesn't feel strong enough to make the trip to Arizona for the February game.

But Nichols said she isn't bitter. Far from it.

“I am a very fortunate woman to have all this support and it makes me determined to be here as long as I can,” she said. “But I've lived a good life and I want to focus on quality of life over quantity.”

Source: http://abcnews.go.com

Topics: diagnosis, teacher, football, Patriots, playoffs, Super Bowl, health, healthcare, health care, medical, terminally ill, patient, treatment

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