The Paediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s app is bringing imaginary friends to life in hospitals and cancer treatment centers.
A three-eared rabbit stands on Bridgette Czarnecki’s hospital bed. He playfully wiggles his ear and adjusts his yellow bow tie.
“You’re stronger than you know,” he tells the 8-year-old. “I wish I was that strong.”
A flying pink-haired cow swoops in, pirouetting in the air. “Believe in yourself,” she says in a gentle voice. “I sure do.”
Nearby a friendly green monster smiles and waves. “Never give up, kid. Never give up.”
They’re all part of the Imaginary Friend Society, and they are exactly as billed: a figment of the imagination. For Czarnecki, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November 2017, they were a welcome distraction from the stress and anxiety of MRIs and chemotherapy while she was treated at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles through February.
Czarnecki summoned the characters from a touchscreen above her hospital bed and the Imaginary Friend Society app developed by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. The app uses augmented reality, which overlays digital images on top of what you’re seeing in the real world.
“It makes me feel happy,” Czarnecki tells me.
A smartphone app that includes artificial intelligence elements may be able to reduce the effects of cancer-related pain, according to recent research presented at the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium.
The app, named ePAL, was designed and studied as part of a collaboration between Partners HealthCare Pivot Labs, the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Palliative Care, and the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.
“There is a significant shortage of palliative care providers, which will only worsen in the future as our population ages,” lead study author Mihir M. Kamdar, M.D., associate director of the Division of Palliative Care and an interventional pain physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a statement. “This is one of the reasons why technology solutions to help manage palliative care challenges, such as cancer pain, are so important.”
Interventional radiology offers a set of minimally invasive procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care for certain diseases, such as cancer.
This subspecialty in interventional radiology is also known as interventional oncology.
These procedures can be alternative options to open biopsies and surgeries, and are typically shorter, relatively less risky and associated with faster recovery.
Interventional oncology uses image-guided tools much like the GPS system to target the tumour area and perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in patients through the use of catheters, needles, and tiny probes (tiny instruments inserted into small incisions or natural body openings).
The basic principles of a plant-based diet (PBD) are that it focuses on whole, minimally processed foods – whole grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts should make up the majority of what you eat – and limits animal products. A PBD also excludes refined foods, like added sugars, white flour, and processed oils.
A plant-based diet is rooted in food quality, promoting locally sourced, organic food whenever possible.
A healthy diet and lifestyle help in the fight against cancer — whether treating it or in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.
Various studies on the mental health of people on a prolonged vegan or plant-based diet have found something fantastic – it really helps with anxiety, mood swings, and stress levels, all of which is really good news for someone fighting cancer.
A 2018 study published in American Family Physician noted, “Recommending an eating style can help patients make positive change. Dietary patterns that support health … have benefits that include prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and obesity.”
Spending the day outside in nature is wonderful; tiring perhaps, but also deeply satisfying. Our relationship to nature is primal – we thrive on it!
Urbanisation is taking a toll on our brain function and mental health. City dwellers have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, mood disorders and schizophrenia compared to those who live in rural areas.
In order to counteract this, all you need do is spend some time in nature. This can include many different natural environments, such as city parks, farms, beaches, wilderness areas or even just in your home garden. The most important thing is to find somewhere with as many living things and as little evidence of human presence as possible.
Spending time in green spaces is absolutely crucial to human wellness, and modern doctors are finally starting to realise how powerful nature can be – especially when it comes to those with chronic health issues.
Eventually though, the lump doubled in size, prompting surgery to remove it, but the subsequent phone call from the doctor stunned Kim – Connor had been diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma, a slow-growing soft-tissue cancer.
After a month of tests and scans, Connor underwent a full resection of the tumour plus a bit of surrounding tissue to prevent recurrence and regained full use of his thumb. Later CT and MRI scans show no evidence of disease (NED).
This has, however, not put his mother at ease, as epithelioid sarcoma has a very ugly secret…
Kids Kicking Cancer is an initiative that was started in America in 1999 by
Founding Director, Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg (Rabbi G), and began providing classes in several public hospitals in South Africa earlier this year.
Last Tuesday was the Official Johannesburg launch and Wednesday was the Official Cape Town launch, which I was privileged to attend, and hear firsthand about what the program offers as well as meet Rabbi G, Professor Alan Davidson, Head of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Chairperson Dr Richard Friedland, and other Board Members; the two wonderful people working with our little fighters, Ilze van der Merwe in Cape Town and Moses Sebopa in Johannesburg, and of course, our Little Heroes from Cape Town; Hayden, Monalisa and Ferdi.
We think this is a FANTASTIC program that will benefit our Little Fighters greatly, and we encourage all parents of Children with Cancer to get their little fighters registered on the program.
Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer that affects around 100 children the UK annually.
Neuroblastoma is also one of the most common childhood cancers in South Africa, and it can be very aggressive and hard to treat.
In early 2017, Luke Bell from Darlington began falling asleep in his school lessons, prompting his worried parents to rush him to the doctor.
Mark and Becky Bell thought their son may have had anaemia but it never crossed their minds that he would be diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma – a rare form of cancer – just days later.
The shock diagnosis which left the family devastated marked the beginning of a year of extended hospital stays and gruelling treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.
At the end of April, Luke was in the final stages of treatment and enduring what was believed to be his last round of immunotherapy when the Bells were given the devastating news that their little boy had relapsed, with scans showing a progression of his illness.
The Little Fighters Cancer Trust would like to extend a massive, heartfelt thanks to Alba Equestrian Centre for hosting the very first (to our knowledge) “Jump for Cancer” in South Africa (perhaps even the world) to raise Childhood Cancer Awareness as well as to raise much-needed funds for LFCT.
We were contacted via our Facebook Page on 2 August by a lady named Carla du Plessis, whom we assumed was the owner, regarding a “Jump for Cancer” show-jumping show that they wanted to hold on 23 September in aid of LFCT, and of course we jumped at the opportunity.
As the weeks went by, Carla regularly updated us as to all the wonderful people who were coming on board to partake as well as all the great sponsors and we got just as excited as she was at every new announcement…. it is always such a pleasure when a partner includes us in all the arrangements and shares all the exciting news with us because that we also get excited and can update all our supporters and potential donors/entrants with the latest news 😀
Every year LFCT, with the help of all our volunteer Christmas Elves, collects and distributes toys and good cheer to over 2 000 Children with Cancer in Paediatric Oncology Wards and Day Clinics across South Africa. For many of these children, it is the only Christmas present that they will receive.
Each of these Little Fighters will receive an age and gender-appropriate gift (total value around R150-R200) as well as a snack-pack, Santa hat and Christmas cracker.
Apart from delivering gifts to the Paediatric Oncology Wards & Day Clinics, LFCT also gifts each of our Families with presents for the Child with Cancer as well as all siblings under 18 and also sends the Family a Festive Season Care Package, which consists of basic groceries, cleaning materials and personal hygiene products as well as some treats so that they too can enjoy the Festive Season without worrying about where their next meal will come from.