My name is Jason, and DNA sequencing is helping my family Block Out Cancer

Jason and Amelie StrzalkowskiWhen our youngest daughter, Amelie, was 22 months in the fall of 2012, we noticed that she started to have balance problems. She went from zooming around the house to being less steady, and then one Sunday, she stood up and simply fell over. That set off warning bells for me and my wife, Shelley.

We scheduled an appointment with our pediatrician for that Wednesday. From there, our pediatrician sent us to the ER at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Thursday morning she had an MRI where they discovered a brain tumor. Amelie was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a kind of fast-growing tumor. On Friday, she had a 13-hour surgery to have as much of the tumor removed as possible. The team at Mott took tissue samples from the tumor to study them further.

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Fertility options for men with cancer

fertility optionsWhile the focus of this blog is on fertility for men with cancer, I have not forgotten about women. Female fertility options will be addressed next month, so ladies please stay tuned.

Infertility, or not being able to conceive or bear children, affects about 10% of the population. While that seems like a small percentage, infertility can disproportionally affect both men and women undergoing cancer treatments. Many of our standard therapies for treating cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy can damage the Continue reading


After heart surgery: Answers to patients’ frequent questions

taste 320x320Many patients come to me with questions about what they should expect in the days and months following heart surgery. Overall, no two heart patient experiences will be the same, but there is general information you should be aware of when recovering from surgery.

“I’ve noticed a loss or change in my sense of taste after heart surgery. Is this normal?”

This is likely due to a combination of factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Length of the bypass procedure
  • Tubing used for the bypass machines
  • Your response to the anesthesia
  • Your response to the cardiac medications, many of which may be new to you

The good news is that if you’ve experienced a loss or change in your sense of taste after heart surgery, it usually resolves itself within several weeks. It is rare for this to occur and be a permanent issue.

Remember, it is important for heart patients to maintain a nutritional food plan following surgery as their body heals. Food should be low in sodium and low to moderate in fat. It’s also important to eat enough protein to heal after surgery. Foods that are high in protein and low in salt, saturated fat and trans fats include fresh skinless chicken (not injected with salt or broth), fresh or frozen fish, lean beef, pork or lamb, skim milk and fat-free yogurt. Cultured foods like yogurt also contain “probiotics,” which help restart your digestive tract after your operation. Continue reading


My Name is Katie and I’m fighting Ewing’s Sarcoma in my battle to Block Out Cancer

Katie Shaver - Block Out CancerI just started my senior year at Marlette High School, but my teen years have been a pretty different experience than most other girls my age. When I was in eighth grade, I had pain in my hip for a few months. I went to a chiropractor who thought it was arthritis. When the pain did not go away, I had X-rays that showed a grapefruit-sized mass attached to my hip. I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that is most often found in bones or nearby tissue.

I was referred to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for care. Because the tumor was in my hip, my first experiences at Mott were with the oncology clinic and Dr. Biermann, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in orthopedic oncology. With Dr. Biermann, I underwent surgery to remove the tumor and my ilium (the large bone in your pelvis) on November 30th. I also had 13 rounds of chemo stretching from August through April. The chemo was not fun! I lost my hair and felt sick. I missed volleyball season that year.

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Understanding a tumor board

tumor boardWhen I joined the Cancer Center team as editor of Thrive a few years ago, one of my first questions was, ‘What the heck is a tumor board?’ It was a term I had never heard before and one I figured many patients didn’t know either, at least before their diagnosis.

I quickly learned: a tumor board is a room full of specialists talking about challenging patient cases. I attended a liver tumor board meeting and immediately saw the value of everyone sharing information and offering solutions. Continue reading


My name is Jordan and I’m helping Block Out Cancer with strikeouts

mott blog - jordan taylor boc When I played on the U-M softball team, I got involved in a program for student-athletes called Michigan From the Heart. In that program, U-M student-athletes met at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital every Thursday evening to visit patients and their families. It’s a big deal for the U-M sports teams, and we often rushed from practice on Thursdays so we could go.

We’d divide up so each group of student-athletes included a good mixture of athletes from different sports, and then we’d spread out around the hospital. It was an amazing experience and really opened my eyes to the struggles and the courage of these children and their families. My father died of cancer at the start of my junior year of college, after being in remission for 5 years, so cancer has also made a mark on my personal life.

After graduation, I was drafted to the USSSA Pride National Pro Fastpitch softball team. I wanted to continue to help Mott and raise funds, so I combined my love of softball with my passion for Mott and created FIGHT. We held our first “So You Think You Can Hit” event in 2012. I’m a fastpitch softball pitcher and over the years, I’ve heard many of my male friends brag how they could hit one of my pitches. I had them step up to the plate, make a donation and give it a shot.

For a minimum donation of $25, anyone can face me in the batter’s box. They get five pitches or three strikes. My pitches are the equivalent of a MLB pitch of 95 to 105 mph — so hitting them is not easy. To date, no one has been able to get a legitimate hit — even the most macho guys who stride up to the plate with all the confidence in the world. During my first event, we raised more than $1,000 in an hour. I quickly realized that So You Think You Can Hit is a great opportunity to raise money for Mott.

Jordan Taylor "Fight"Now, I try to do the event as often as possible, usually in conjunction with one of my USSSA Pride games. My pitching teammates join in on the fun and face potential batters. During the events, we also sell FIGHT t-shirts and bracelets. If anyone ever gets a hit during a So You Think You Can Hit event, they’ll get a free t-shirt.

All the money we raise goes directly to the pediatric cancer unit at Mott Children’s Hospital. The floor manager decides what the unit needs to make the experience more comfortable for the patients and the families. There’s a teen activity room there that I’m hoping to help fix up to make it feel a little more like home.

I realize that I’m not a Desmond Howard who can donate millions of dollars to Mott, but I can do something to help make a difference. All of us can. Every penny we can raise makes a difference.

Take the next steps:

Jordan Taylor, USSSAJordan Taylor graduated from the University of Michigan in 2011 with a degree Literature, Science and the Arts. While at U-M, she was named Big 10 Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and set records in shutouts, strikeouts, saves and no hitters. A native of California, Taylor now plays for the USSSA Pride softball team and is a softball coach for Boston University.



mott blog - BOC thumbBlock Out Cancer is a rallying cry for people from all walks of life to come together to support the fight against children’s cancers.  Everyone has a role to play.  Learn more about how you can help Block Out Cancer.


best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” in 2014, and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine in 2013. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.