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The Weight Loss Motivation Bible: How To Program Your Mind For Sustainable Fat Loss

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kellyjacobsbooks: HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE Let’s say it&#8…

kellyjacobsbooks: HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE Let’s say it’s 6.15pm and you’re going home (alone of course), after an unusually hard day on the job. You’re really tired, upset and frustrated. Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far. You have been trained in CPR, but the guy…

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Feeling Fit? Here's How to Challenge Yourself More in 2017

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Motivating-Fitness-Resolutions-42851946

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I am a planner and I like setting goals. In fact, I need them. Especially when it comes to my fitness life, specific goals keep me motivated and active. Finding new challenges to keep your workouts feeling fresh can be difficult when you’re already pretty fit. Nothing beats the beginner’s mind when it come to tackling a new fitness goal. I remember when I started running, building up to the 5K mark was beyond motivating; when I hit that distance, I was left with the question of what’s next? But you guys, the fitness world is so large — you can always find new challenges. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to consider as you turn your thoughts toward all the possibilities 2017 has to offer.

Running

Up your distance. If you finished a 5K sign up for a 10K. Just conquered a half-marathon? Train for a marathon, with the emphasis on train. Increasing your mileage should always come with a plan that slowly builds to ensure you don’t try to conquer too much too quickly and sideline yourself with an overuse injury, like runner’s knee or shin splints.
Try a tri. Mix up your training and sign up for a sprint-distance triathlon and really dedicate yourself to cross-training by adding swimming and biking into your weekly routine. If you’re intimidated by swimming, sign up for a class or find a group that does open-water swims.
Race with a relay team. Round up your like-minded friends and create a team for a long-distance relay, where 12-person teams cover 195+ miles over a 24-hour time period, like Oregon’s Hood to Coast or a Ragnar Relay. These races mix the sleep-deprivation silliness of a slumber party with teamwork and distance running. Trust me, it’s a great combo.

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In the Gym

Go heavy with power lifting. Lifting heavy weights is a great full-body workout. Find a gym that offers courses on power lifting and learn the differences between snatch, clean, and jerk as you heave barbells loaded with weight to your chest and above your head.
Master the pull-up. Leave the weights behind and finally master the pull-up. This ultimate bodyweight exercise feels elusive to many women, well at least me, and pulling off five pull-ups is an excellent challenge to work toward. Yeah, this is on my list for 2017.
Push your push-ups and conquer the burpee. You don’t need to leave the comfort of your home to get stronger when you focus on push-ups — here’s a 30-day challenge to work up to 50 push-ups. If burpees are your nemesis, try this burpee challenge that builds to 100 reps.
Get classy. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and try a new group fitness class, preferably a workout that is out of your comfort zone — the activities we tend to avoid are often really beneficial. Hip-hop aerobics, yoga, indoor cycling, Pilates, Megaformer, boxing — the options are endless especially if you add some studio fitness classes into the mix. Heck, push yourself to try a new class once a month. You just might find your new jam.
Certify your passion. Do you love yoga? Do you go to SoulCycle almost daily? Take your passion and get certified to train other people and inspire them to love what you love.

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Take It On the Road

Take a hike; a long, long hike. Backpacking might not be considered a sport, but hiking for days and carrying all you need to survive is a physical challenge. And one that can take you to some amazing places. Spending time in nature is great for your mental health, too. Check out the John Muir Trail in California, the 2000 miles Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine, or shorter trails in our beautiful National Parks.
Ride a bike — anywhere. Hop on your bike weekly to run your weekend errands, sign up for century ride (yeah, that’s 100 miles), or a fund-raising stage ride like AIDS/LifeCyle Ride.
Start a community. Gather your like-minded friends and create a group dedicated to the activity you love, be it running, hiking, or cycling. Non-competitive clubs can be equal parts social and sport, and are great way to get your sweat on with a group.

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This New Patch Can Monitor Patient’s Vital Signs With High Accuracy

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Hospital patients could have their vital signs tracked without cumbersome wires and complex monitors once a new startup’s wearable monitoring patch hits the market.

VitalConnect is building a lightweight, disposable patch that can be affixed to a patient’s chest and wirelessly sends vital signs including heart rate, ECG read out and rate of breathing to a mobile app. The patch has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and provides clinical grade accuracy in monitoring, the company said.

“It is very small, comfortable and fully disposable,” Dr. Nersi Nazari, VitalConnect’s CEO, said on Wednesday during a demonstration at the Fortune Brainstorm Health conference. One patch can be worn for four to five days and can survive getting wet in the shower, he noted.

The patch, which could also be worn by patients at home, has the ability to detect if the wearer has fallen down. If a fall is detected, the patch can wirelessly notify a doctor or other party.

VitalConnect is also developing a cloud-based service to analyze the health data collected by the patches. The software ultimately could help physicians decide how to treat a patient or decide when the patient is ready to be discharged from the hospital, Nazari said.

For more about medical wearables, see: Can a Wearable Fitness Device Predict Your Heart Attack?

“The data is sliced and diced and analyzed to the condition that the doctor is looking at,” Nazari explained. “We do not want to bombard doctors with so much data that it’s just not useful.”

VitalConnect, founded in 2011, is seeking to combine expertise in bioengineering and data analytics. Nazari previously worked on semiconductor chip design at Marvell Semiconductor. Joseph Roberson, the company’s chief medical officer, was formerly chief of otology-neurotology-skull base surgery at Stanford University.

 

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

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What To Know About the ‘Flesh-Eating Bacteria’ That Killed a Man in Maryland

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Headlines this week about a man who died after contracting a “flesh-eating bacteria” in Ocean City, Maryland, may have you spooked to go near the water, or even near seafood. Michael Funk, 67, began to feel ill within hours of cleaning out crab pots at his beach home, and died just four days later.

Doctors say that a cut on Funk’s leg was exposed to a strand of Vibrio bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus, which lives in warm, coastal waters like Ocean City’s Assawoman Bay. He was diagnosed at the hospital with the infection caused by Vibrio, called vibriosis, and had infected skin removed from around the wound. But the bacteria had already entered his bloodstream. Despite having his leg amputated, Funk did not survive.

His wife told local newspaper The Daily Times that the experience was “like something out of a horror movie,” expressing concern that there had been no warning from Ocean City officials about the bacteria or their risks. (The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is investigating the incident. A public advisory has not been issued, although information about Vibrio can be found on the official state website.)

While tourist season on the Maryland coast is over, there are still plenty of places in the United States where people swim, boat, and catch seafood year-round. So Health spoke with Gabby Barbarite, PhD, a Vibrio researcher at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, to find out how much of a risk these bacteria pose to the average person. Here’s what you should know, and how to keep yourself safe.

Vibrio bacteria aren't new

There are about 12 Vibrio species that make people sick, and they've been around for many years. This is likely not the first time you’ve read about them in the news, either. In Florida, at least two people died last year (and at least seven died in 2014) as a result of vibriosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vibriosis causes an estimated 100 deaths in the U.S. each year. It also causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses—52,000 of which are from eating contaminated seafood like raw oysters.

Vibrio bacteria live in coastal bodies of salt water or brackish water. They’re found year-round in warm climates like Florida; further north, their levels peak in late summer and early fall, when water is warmest.

“People often ask why we don’t just get rid of the bacteria,” says Barbarite, “but in reality, we’re never going to get rid of it all. What we can do is teach people how they can safely handle seafood and safely spend time in the water.”

RELATED: 12 Germs That Cause Food Poisoning

In most cases, it’s not as scary as it sounds

Vibrio has been dubbed a type of flesh-eating bacteria, thanks to the blistering skin lesions that can spread quickly across the body if an infection isn’t treated. But Barbarite says that term isn’t quite right.

“The words flesh-eating might make you think that if you touch it, it will degrade your skin on contact, and that’s not true,” she says. “You have to have a pre-existing cut—or you have to eat raw, contaminated seafood or chug a whole lot of contaminated water—for it to get into your bloodstream; it can’t break down healthy, intact skin.”

Men over 50 are at higher risk

Almost every case of serious illness or fatality from vibriosis occurs in men over 50, says Barbarite, and most are people with compromised immune systems because of a condition like liver disease, heart disease, or diabetes. (Healthy immune systems are usually able to fight off infections before they become life-threatening. News reports have not identified whether Funk had any pre-existing health conditions.)

“Studies have shown that estrogen can actually combat infections, so that’s why we see it more in males than in females,” says Barbarite. Men also tend to have higher levels of iron, she adds, which the bacteria need to thrive.

Contact with contaminated fish and shellfish is also a risk factor, and crabs are known to carry Vibrio bacteria on their shells. “If that bacteria gets into a cut, it can get into your bloodstream and progress very rapidly,” says Barbarite. “Within 12 hours it could be fatal.”

RELATED: What You Really Need to Know About Brain-Eating Amoebas

Prompt attention is vital

Healthy people don’t need to avoid the water or stay away from seafood, says Barbarite. Still, it's important to keep open wounds away from seawater and raw seafood. If you do get cut in or around a marine environment, wash the area thoroughly, and as soon as possible, with soap and clean water.

“People need to know that if they get cut, to clean it out right away and to seek medical attention within four to five hours if they see redness or swelling,” says Barbarite. Fever and nausea are also red flags that the vibriosis infection has spread to the bloodstream. If caught early enough, treatment with antibiotics can be life-saving.

Climate change may mean more infections

In August, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that warmer ocean temperatures may be fueling the growth of dangerous bacteria—including Vibrio—in northern seas. This could explain an increase in the number of people in Europe (where the study was conducted) getting sick from swimming or eating tainted seafood, say the study authors, and it could make infections more likely in other warm climates as well.  

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7 Health Truths We Wish We Knew in Our 20s

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Your 20s aren’t exactly a breeze. Most quarter-lifers are just starting to live on their own, figure out a career path, and look for a life partner, all at the same time. As a result, good-for-you habits don't always feel like a top priority—but some really do matter. That’s why we tapped our editors over 30 to share the health truths they wish they’d known in their younger years. Read on if you still think instant ramen is a well-balanced meal…

RELATED: How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis and Find Your True Purpose

Make friends with fat

"Fat is not the enemy. It's an essential nutrient, important for so many major functions in the body, and essential for brain health. Eat more fat!" —Beth Lipton, food director 

Listen to your body

"I wish I had known to take better care of my joints and not to ignore the signs something was wrong. I never thought about the importance of mobility exercises, stretching, foam rolling, or recovery, because I could easily go running or do CrossFit classes without feeling much pain or discomfort. It never occurred to me that maybe someday I wouldn’t be so invincible. Then, at the ripe old age of 28, everything started to hurt all the time—especially my right hip. To make a long story short, I now have permanent damage to that joint because I had ignored a lot of warning signs that I was injured. These days, I am much more diligent about foam rolling before and after every workout, warming up and cooling down properly, and generally just treating my body in a way that will ensure I’ll be able to stay active and fit for the rest of my life." —Christine Mattheis, deputy editor 

Lather up 

"Wear sunscreen every day. Seriously, every day. I apply SPF on my face and neck and whatever’s left over, I put on the back of my hands. Also, self tanner is your bff." —Tomoko Takeda, acting beauty director

RELATED: What You Can Do in Your 20s and 30s to Prevent Physical Decline in Your 50s and 60s

Eat right

"One big thing I have learned since my 20s concerns nutrition/diet and basic eating sense. I had very little nutritional literacy in my 20s, very little idea about what made up a balanced, healthy diet, and very little consciousness about how food choices affected energy levels, mindset, and a general sense of well being. I might get a bad night's sleep, then eat a Big Mac or a giant Italian hoagie for lunch the next day, each loaded with refined carbs, and then be mystified about why I would hit a carb crash and slip into a food coma for the next two hours. It wasn’t until years later (and in part by starting to work at Health!) that I picked up some basics about nutrition, cooking, creating balanced meals that gave me energy. Now my number one prerogative when I eat lunch is what will keep me feeling as energized and alert as possible, and I know the ingredients to put into the meal that will help me do this." —Michael Gollust, research editor

Strengthen, strengthen, strengthen

"I wish I had done more strength training in my 20s! I was all cardio, all the time, not realizing that you can strengthen your bones up to age 30, but after that it tends to decline. You might say I wished I stashed more in my 'bone bank' when I was younger. It's not impossible to 'save up' after age 30, but it's harder." —Theresa Tamkins, editor-in-chief, Health.com

Just do you

"Stick to what feels right for you, regardless of what a friend or a significant other is doing. At times I gave into eating or drinking in ways that didn't feel right for me because I didn't want to be different from friends, or to go along with what my partner wanted to do. You know, that social eating/drinking pressure. As I got older I realized that wasn't necessary. I can be with a friend and have a water during happy hour if I don't feel like drinking, or say no if my hubby wants to split an order of fries. It's not at all about depriving myself (in fact, looking back I felt like I was depriving myself of feeling good when I gave in); it's about knowing and honoring what feels right for you in that moment. Splurging sometimes is great, even important, but do so on your own terms." —Cynthia Sass, contributing nutrition editor

Love yourself

"This isn’t really a health truth, but more a life truth: I wish every woman in her 20s knew how beautiful she was! I look at pictures of myself in my 20s, when I often felt gawky and unsure, and wish I’d realized that I was actually so lovely—not because I think I’m such hot stuff, but because there’s this vibrant energy that you have when you’re that age that’s really wonderful and attractive. Everyone has it! Women in your 20s, own it!" —Jeannie Kim, executive deputy editor

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The 5 Steps to Quitting Anything Gracefully

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Volunteering in a pediatric playroom at a cancer hospital is a pretty good thing to do, right? So I felt downright evil for wanting to quit. I was in my 20s; I had gotten a job with long hours, which meant I sometimes ended up stuck at work and had to bail on my 6 p.m. volunteer shift. Being unreliable wasn’t fair to those kids, but I still couldn’t bring myself to resign.

A lot of us delay quitting anything—jobs, activities, relationships, fitness routines, and even bland books—because we think we should have the grit to see it through, women warriors that we are. Extreme endurance is a virtue, if not an essential for succeeding in today’s competitive work and Match.com market. Besides, most of us have been brought up to believe that winners never quit. We can do it! Even if it makes us miserable!

Quitting can be scary, but it’s vital for overall satisfaction, not to mention joy. "Life is too short to waste time and energy on things you find unrewarding or unproductive," says James E. Maddux, PhD, senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "Replace your source of dissatisfaction with something more fulfilling and you’ll find more happiness."

RELATED: The Best Advice From the Healthiest People on the Planet

So what makes us stay the course when we’re disgruntled or uninspired? It’s human nature to adapt to circumstances, as frustrating, stressful, or just plain annoying as they may be. "It’s like having a bad knee—you learn to live with it, paying attention only when it really hurts," notes Maddux. Of course, you don’t have to tough out that tempestuous neighborhood association or tepid hot yoga class. Time is not infinite, and by ending something punitive, you make room for something pleasant.

There are even health payoffs to knowing when to throw in the towel. Research has shown that people who are better at bailing on unattainable goals have lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and fewer headaches than those who have a harder time. In one pivotal study, University of British Columbia psychologists tracked teenage girls for a year. The ones who more easily stopped pursuing hard-to-reach goals had declining levels of a protein that indicates bodily inflammation, linked to heart disease.

These are the simple steps for giving the heave-ho to what’s not working and getting to a better, happier place. It’s mainly a mind shift—you focus as much on what you hope to gain as what you plan to lose from your life.

RELATED: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

1. Quit calling yourself a quitter

The word quitter is associated with failure, notes Maddux, and feeling like a loser is dispiriting, so reframe your perspective. Try this financial analogy: "Think, 'I am going to divest from this and reinvest my energy and efforts in something that will have a better payoff,'" he suggests. "Once you stop seeing yourself as a quitter, it’s easier to disengage."

2. Get real about your misery

Sometimes it’s hard to admit just how fed up or overwhelmed you are, especially if you’re the Little Engine That Could type. "Stoicism is first cousins with masochism," says Alan Bernstein, a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City and coauthor of Quitting. Whether you’re assessing how you feel about your job, your marathon training or a biography you’re slooowly reading, it helps to consider if you have "flow"—when you get so absorbed in what you’re doing that you lose a sense of time. It’s one of the purest forms of contentment around, and if it’s lacking, you’re missing out.

RELATED: Eat Your Way to Health and Happiness

3. Ask yourself one little thing

A question to ponder: Who, exactly, are you doing this for? That’s the advice from Molly Mogren Katt, 33, of Minneapolis, who left her position as a communications director for a celebrity chef—which her friends considered the coolest job—to become a writer, one she finds to be the coolest. Now she regularly interviews accomplished quitters on her blog, Hey, Eleanor! It’s named after Eleanor Roosevelt, who famously said, "Do one thing every day that scares you." "People I speak with often say they were doing things they didn’t love because they felt people or society expected them to," says Katt. "One of my favorite stories is about a makeup artist who put in so much effort to look younger. Then she quit coloring her hair at 49—and landed a job as a model for Dolce & Gabbana. Once she embraced who she was, she got a great gig."

4. See the future

The more you focus on what you’re going to do with that extra free time, the easier quitting is. "Writing down what you want next is motivating, empowering and invigorating," says Bernstein. So if you want out of a relationship, say, mull over the essential qualities you’re looking for in a future partner. True, it’s not like you can order a boyfriend off Amazon (even via drone), but you’ll feel more inspired to make it happen. As for times when there is no "next," like when you just feel like ditching your role as PTA treasurer because you’re overbooked, picture the benefits of life without it: Hello, more free time with your kids (not to mention your Hulu queue).

5. Rehearse your exit

Thinking ahead to what you’ll tell a boss or your weekend tennis partner when you end things can quell paralyzing anxiety. "Couch it in an empathic way: 'Although it may not be convenient for you…,'" advises Bernstein. "The point is to connect to the other person’s needs as well as yours." No matter how much you dread telling someone that you’re bailing, the reality may surprise you. There’s a chance that if you’re feeling it, others are, too, as I discovered the day I finally told the coordinator I had to stop volunteering. She said she knew I was headed in that direction. And then she offered to let me volunteer on holidays, which I did for years to come. Proof that I’m a quitter? Hardly—I’d call that a win-win.

Permission to quit, granted

Watch only the good seasons of Orange Is the New Black/House of Cards/Luther.
Unfriend people on Facebook who regularly post "meh" updates. Who cares if she’s powerwashing her deck?
Accept that you’ll never do a triathlon. Not now. Not next year. Not ever.
Give up making smoothies so healthy you have to hold your nose to drink them.
Forget about getting the kids to make their beds. The neat police will not descend on your home.
Quit forcing yourself to read the entire Sunday paper.
Leave your hairdresser. She will survive.
Abandon the hope of putting all your family photos into albums—iCloud for the win!

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I Tried Thinx ‘Period-Proof’ Underwear and It Was a Total Disaster

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Ever since my very first period, I've preferred to use pads over tampons. So when I first started noticing the controversial ads for Thinx plastered all over New York City's subway system, I felt a surge of hope for my tampon-free lifestyle. “Underwear for women with periods." Oh hey, that’s me. But, I wondered: Are they just … stylish diapers? Will I feel like a 19th century woman on the rag? Feeling skeptically optimistic, I decided to put this promising-sounding product to the test.

It turns out Thinx underwear come in six styles, each with a level of absorbency measured in tampons (seriously): from hiphuggers ("two tampons' worth of fluid") to a thong (half a tampon's worth). But there is one key point that must be made clear: Thinx doesn't claim to replace your feminine hygiene product of choice. The company's site explains that their super-wicking undies are meant to serve as a backup, although depending on your flow, you may choose to rely solely on Thinx—which is what I bravely attempted to do for 48 hours.

Day 1

I'm not gonna lie, even my pad-accustomed self was nervous about going solo with just these pretty panties for protection. Seeing how cute they were in person made me all the more dubious. How can this modestly thick fabric with lacy trim actually control bleeding?

All morning long I found myself making paranoid trips to the bathroom. But all I could see was a relatively harmless-looking damp spot in my black cheeky undies. Once I felt confident that I wasn’t going to spring a leak, I let myself have a normal Monday, which happens to be the day I take a kickboxing class at the gym. Exercising in the cheeky style was actually pretty cool. Every woman on team maxi knows the risk involved in exercising on your period (*cough* diaper rash). As someone who once ran 14 miles with a pad on (go ahead, cry for me), this felt revolutionary. Immediately after my workout though, I couldn't wait to change into a fresh pair. (To clean my Thinx, I followed the instructions and hand-washed with soap and cold water, then hung them to dry.)

RELATED: 9 Best Workouts to Do When You Have Your Period

Day 2

For the heaviest day of my cycle, I whipped out the big guns—the hip huggers. These have about the same thickness as the cheeky cut, but a lot more booty coverage. By now, I was feeling confident that Thinx could handle my flow.

I put them on at around 8:00 am. But by 10:00 am, I felt like I was wearing a wet bathing suit. The underwear seemed to have stopped absorbing any moisture at all, as if they were filled to capacity, if that's even possible for underwear.

Like on day one, I was making regular trips to the bathroom, but this time I wasn't being overly cautious. Each time I blotted the fabric with gobs of toilet paper. Totally gross, I know. And then it got worse.

Around 3:00 pm, the unthinkable happened. I was typing away at my desk when I felt moisture between my thighs (cue middle school flashbacks). The undies had given up, well before I was ready to.  To avoid the ultimate nightmare of visible leakage, I kept up my toilet paper blotting and by some miracle, it worked.

RELATED: 6 Things You Should Know About Having Sex During Your Period

Usually on Tuesdays I make a mad dash from work to the gym, to avoid the "sorry I'm late" tiptoe into my favorite strength training class. I’m a creature of habit so I wasn’t about to let a pair of malfunctioning panties stand in the way of my routine.

But in retrospect I should have because it turned out wetness wasn't my biggest problem. Three plié squats in and it occurred to me that my Thinx REEKED, which meant that I reeked. Pads must have been doing me a solid all these years, masking odor and sparing me the humiliation. I had no idea what unfiltered period stench actually smelled like.

In the end, yes, wearing Thinx underwear on a heavy day made me feel a lot like a 19th century woman on the rag. But I can definitely recommend sporting a pair on lighter days. Even after my personal hygiene nightmare, I didn't toss my hip huggers. After all, they were by no means ruined. They were made to survive leaks—which, all criticism aside, is pretty cool for a pair of period underwear.

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Will Immunotherapy Be the End of Cancer?

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In September of 2011, I did the worst Google search of my life. A year after a seemingly manageable melanoma diagnosis and surgery, I learned that my cancer had appeared again, this time moving aggressively into my lungs and soft tissue. Naturally, the first thing I did was open my laptop and type "stage 4 melanoma life expectancy." Then I cried. The results were terrifying. 

On the website of MD Anderson, one of the most prestigious cancer centers in the world, I found a January 2011 article on metastatic melanoma. There was a telling quote from Michael Davies, MD, of the center’s Melanoma Medical Oncology Department: "The average survival for patients with stage 4 metastatic melanoma is 6 to 10 months, and this hasn’t changed for 30 years."

I still get chills when I recall my prognosis not so very long ago, a prognosis that looked likely to wipe my presence from my two young daughters’ childhoods. Yet a month after my diagnosis, I became one of the first dozen patients in a new clinical trial at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, receiving a type of treatment known as immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. Three months later, I was declared cancer-free, and I have been ever since. I had not only been granted a future—I had seen a glimpse of it. Welcome to the next era of medicine. 

WATCH THE VIDEO: "I Survived Stage IV Melanoma"

Outsmarting cancer

Our bodies are incredible machines. We are born with an internal defense system designed to fight off invaders like infection and disease. At the heart of that system are T cells, microscopic killers that recognize and destroy abnormalities. But cancer is a potent—and sneaky—foe. "For reasons we are just beginning to understand, your T cells don’t see the cancer cells," explains Naiyer Rizvi, MD, professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and a leading specialist in immunotherapy for lung cancer. And the immune system can’t fight an enemy it doesn’t even recognize.

In the fight against cancer, the trinity of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—known by the assertive nickname "slash, burn, and poison"—has long been the weapon of choice. By going directly after cancer cells (almost always with collateral damage to otherwise healthy parts of the body), the method at least has an understandable logic: Scorch the area, then cross your fingers that the disease doesn’t come back.

Immunotherapy approaches the problem differently, stimulating the patient’s own body to kill the cancer. But reprogramming the immune system to, as Dr. Rizvi says, "break the hypnosis effect" that cancer cells have on our T cells has been hard to achieve, and immunotherapy languished for decades as a fringe field of research. I just happened to be lucky enough to be diagnosed with my typically fatal—and historically chemo-resistant—form of cancer at the right time for a breakthrough.

In the spring of 2011, the FDA approved the immunotherapy treatment ipilimumab, known by the brand name Yervoy. It was the first drug proven to extend the lives of patients with metastatic melanoma. That fall, when I needed a Hail Mary pass the most, I joined a clinical trial in which I would be given regular infusions of Yervoy with a new drug, nivolumab. (That drug would be approved under the brand name Opdivo in 2014.)

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Cancer cells slip past the immune system by appearing invisible to it. The job of immunotherapy is to activate the system to recognize the enemy. "I tell people, 'This is not a cancer drug; it doesn't kill tumor cells. This is an immune system drug,'" says James P. Allison, PhD, chair of the department of immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In my case, the hope was that the two drugs would work together to override the breaks holding back my own defenses, flipping the switch on my T cells to go find and kill my cancer.

And my T cells quickly did just that, like Pac-Man devouring pellets. After my very first treatment, a visible tumor under the skin on my back began to shrink. By my first set of scans—only 12 weeks into the trial—all my cancer was gone. And I was not an isolated success case; other patients were showing marked improvement, too. 

As the trial expanded, nearly 58 percent of patients had “significant reduction in tumor size,” an achievement my doctor, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Chief of Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service Jedd Wolchok, MD, noted at the time by saying, "Just five years ago, many of these patients would have been expected to live for only seven months following diagnosis." In September of 2015, the one-two punch that saved my life became the first immunotherapy combination treatment to gain FDA approval.

But what makes a story like mine even more mind-blowing is not just that the cancer went away. It’s that four years after I was declared cancer-free and two years after I completely ended treatment, it has not come back. In much the same way that once you’ve been vaccinated, your body recognizes and fends off formidable diseases, the hope of immunotherapy is that when your body has learned to identify your form of cancer, it remains vigilant against it. That’s why some of the currently approved courses of immunotherapy span only a few doses over a relatively short period: The idea is that as soon as the body learns, it remembers.

A life without the constant worry that I’ll get sick again has been the second greatest gift of my treatment. It puts me in a privileged population—a 2013 German study of recent cancer survivors found that more than 67 percent expressed a fear of recurrence. Of course, as one of immunotherapy's relatively recent successes, I know that things could change. But I also know that the early two- and four-year studies on the growing number of people who have had progression-free survival suggest that our responses have been generally durable. As blogger T.J. Sharpe—who, after a stage 4 melanoma diagnosis, has been thriving for three years in a trial of the immunotherapy drug Keytruda—puts it, "The truth is the drug isn’t beating cancer; my immune system is."

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The new hope

With encouraging results like mine, it’s little wonder that in just the past few years, immunotherapy—alone and in combination with traditional methods—has been touted as the next big thing not only for melanoma but for cancer itself. Though other forms of the treatment take different approaches, like modifying and transferring T cells, they have the same goal: lighting up the individual’s own system. Since 2010, the FDA has approved immunotherapy treatments for prostate, kidney and lung cancers.

Meanwhile, clinical trials and research continue to show that immunotherapy holds promise for devastating forms of cancer, including breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers and myeloma. "We’re recognizing that the lessons we learned studying the relationship between the immune system and melanoma are applicable to other types of cancer," says Dr. Wolchok. "We’re now engaged in trials spanning 5 to 10 other cancers." Adds Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, the CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute in New York City, "The ultimate potential is that immunotherapy could have an impact on all types of cancer." New research and treatments have also been gaining ground against the notorious immune system foe HIV.

The principles of immunotherapy are not only being used to fight disease; they’re also being applied to preventing it. You’re probably familiar with one example—in 2006, the FDA approved Gardasil, the first of three vaccines that prevent infection with the types of HPV that can cause cervical and anal cancers. Scientists are working on vaccines for breast cancer and lymphoma.

In his final State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama pledged to support Vice President Joe Biden’s "cancer moonshot," and vowed, "Let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all." While cancer has a wide variety of unique manifestations that may never have a single cure, the possibility of profound progress owes a large debt to the explosion of breakthroughs in the field of immunotherapy. 

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Facing the future

But while there’s plenty to be excited about, there are still significant downsides. The cost of an approved course of immunotherapy for a late-stage cancer patient can be astronomical; when my drug combo hit the market, it held a price tag of more than $250,000 a year. And though you won’t lose your hair like you might with chemo, immunotherapy is far from a guaranteed "get out of side effects free" card. My course of treatment went relatively smoothly, but the side effects for some—from fever to colitis—can be so severe that they’re unable to continue treatment.

The biggest reality check of all, however, is that the number of cancers immunotherapy has been proven effective for is still relatively small (though growing)—and it doesn’t work on every patient. The fact that more than half the patients on my drug combination, people with serious cancer and alarming odds, had their cancer shrink is incredible. But it’s not what you’d call a decisive victory in the war on cancer.

Last summer, 91-year-old former president and metastatic melanoma patient Jimmy Carter began a course of treatment that included Keytruda. By December, he was sharing the good news that a recent MRI "did not reveal any signs of the original cancer spots nor any new ones." (In March, he announced that he was able to stop treatment.) But two weeks before that, a friend of mine died. We’d both endured melanoma of the scalp and undergone surgery for it. We’d both had a recurrence that catapulted us into late-stage cancer. We had the same doctors. She had just started on the combo that saved my life. It did not save hers. She was 25.

Why did immunotherapy apparently work on Carter and not her? Why is it so effective on some of us and not others? Because cancer doesn’t play fair, and even the most promising treatments don’t work on everybody. T.J. Sharpe says that when he was initially diagnosed, "A doctor told me, ‘Don’t be surprised if you’re not here in two years.’ I know statistically he was right." Yet here he is. Here we are.

That’s the next great mystery. "What is it about the subsets of patients who respond that makes them different?" says Dr. Wolchok. "We are now at the beginning of the journey." Yet it’s one that has already come so far. One I can’t wait to spend my long, long life watching.

Every morning when I wake up, my eyes open to a print that leans against the wall opposite my bed. It reads, "When odds are one in a million, be that one." I have been. But how much more amazing it is, with every new breakthrough, to see myself becoming something else. Not so unique. Just another person who got cancer, and then got better. 

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What you need to know about melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing more than 10,000 people in the U.S. each year. And the disease is on the rise: The CDC reports that between 1982 and 2011, melanoma rates doubled. While at least part of the problem is environmental (blame decreasing ozone levels), the main risk for melanoma arises from individual predisposition and behavior.

In the hopes of reversing the trend, in 2015 the FDA proposed a nationwide ban on the use of tanning beds for individuals under the age of 18. In the meantime, follow the drill you've likely known ever since you were a kid: Wear sunscreen, ideally a broad-spectrum SPF 30. Reapply regularly. Stay out of the sun during peak midday hours. Wear a hat. You don't need to be obsessigve or avoid your regular activities, but you do need to make friends with common sense and consistency like your life depends on it. It does.

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