This is a guest post by Cameron Von St. James, husband of mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James:

My wife and I will never forget November 21, 2005. This was the day we learned that my wife was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, and the day that I became her caregiver. I was unprepared for the responsibility, but I had to be there for my wife. Three months prior to my wife’s diagnosis, we had our first daughter, Lily. At a time when I thought we should be celebrating her first holiday in the world, we were talking with Heather’s family about cancer treatments.

There were three different options for Heather’s treatment, but she was so in shock that she couldn’t decide which was best for her. I knew that she needed help. I selected a specialist, Dr. David Sugarbaker, instead of a local university hospital and a regional hospital for treatment, as I thought it would give Heather the best chance to beat this terrible disease. It would be the first of many difficult decisions we’d be asked to make in the coming months.

After she was diagnosed, Heather could not work, and I could only work part time. We were living in a chaotic state, and I had so many responsibilities. I had to take care of my daughter, make a doctor’s appointments, and make travel arrangements. I was overwhelmed with responsibility and under an enormous amount of stress. My thoughts raced, and I wondered if my wife was going to die, and leave me a broke, widowed single father raising a daughter who would never really know her mother. Some days I sobbed like a baby, crumbling under the stress and pressure, but I always tried to remain strong in Heather’s presence. I knew that the last thing she needed was to see my fears.

Based on my experience, coping with cancer alone is not recommended. Support of friends, family, and strangers are needed. I received this type of help in the form of everything from comforting words to desperately needed financial assistance. We were grateful for any help we received, and we recommend that everyone accept any help offered to them by others. I had to learn this the hard way; it took me a while to let go of my pride and accept this help, but once I did a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I can never thank everyone who reached out to us enough.

Being a caregiver is never easy. It’s not a job that you can quite or walk away from. I knew that I had to use my resources to cope with the situation and remain sane. If you are in a similar situation, take these lessons from me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are always people to go to, whether you see them or not. Allow yourself to have bad days, these are inevitable and even necessary at times. Above all else, never, ever give up hope for a better tomorrow.

Heather underwent months of mesothelioma chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Against all odds, she beat this terrible disease and has been cancer-free for seven years. We now hope that by sharing our story of success, we can help inspire others currently going through a similar situation today.

 

A short video by Thomas P. Sterry, MD, a plastic surgeon, describing scar revision of a facial scar followed by dermabrasion.

According to the most recent statistics by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) chin augmentation is the fastest growing plastic surgery, a trend which appears, in part, to be sparked by increased usage of video chat technology, an aging baby boomer population and a desire for success in the workplace.

“The chin and jawline are among the first areas to show signs of aging. People are considering chin augmentation as a way to restore their youthful look just like a facelift or eyelid surgery,” said ASPS President Malcolm Z. Roth, MD. “We also know that as more people see themselves on video chat technology, they may notice that their jawline is not as sharp as they want it to be. Chin implants can make a dramatic difference.”

Factors like wanting a competitive advantage in the workforce may lead people to consider a variety of cosmetic facial procedures. The following are additional cosmetic procedures that saw an increase in popularity in 2011:

  • Lip augmentation: 49% increase
  • Cheek implant: 47% increase
  • Laser skin resurfacing: 9% increase
  • Soft tissue fillers: 7% increase
  • Facelift: 5% increase

 

Biomedical engineers at Johns Hopkins have developed a new liquid material that in early experiments in rats and humans shows promise in restoring damaged soft tissue relatively safely and durably. The material, a composite of biological and synthetic molecules, is injected under the skin, then “set” using light to form a more solid structure, like using cold to set gelatin in a mold. The researchers say the product one day could be used to reconstruct soldiers’ faces marred by blast injuries.

The researchers created their composite material from hyaluronic acid (HA), a natural component in skin of young people that confers elasticity, and polyethylene glycol (PEG), a synthetic molecule used successfully as surgical glue in operations and known not to cause severe immune reactions.

Jennifer Elisseeff, Ph.D. said the team has especially high hopes for the composite’s use in people with facial deformities, who endure social and psychological trauma. When rebuilding soft tissue, recreating natural shape often requires multiple surgeries and can result in scarring. “Many of the skin fillers available on the market consisting of HA-like materials used for face lifts are only temporarily effective, and are limited in their ability to resculpt entire areas of the face. Our hope is to develop a more effective product for people, like our war veterans, who need extensive facial reconstruction.”

More information from Johns Hopkins.

Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pre...

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An interesting blog post by Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway discussing skin changes during pregnancy.

She discusses stretch marks (striae gravidarum), pregnancy related itching (pruritus gravidarum), skin lesions called spider angiomatas, red palms (palma erythema), rash that is associated with pregnancy, called PUPPPs (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy), and the most serious skin disorder in pregnancy called Pemphigoid Gestationis which is a rare, autoimmune disease.

According to Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway, skin rashes during pregnancy should not be ignored or self-treated. At least three skin disorders that are associated with pregnancy can have an adverse effect on the fetus.

 

A Chihuahua protecting its bone. Photographer'...

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We’ve dealt with dog bites and dog bite scars before.

Now, four organizations have joined forces to raise awareness during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 15-21. It’s estimated that 4. 7 million people are bitten by dogs every year. Yet most dog bites are entirely preventable through training, proper control of dogs, and education.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), and the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS) are concerned about dog bite injuries among patients of all ages. Children are the most common victims, followed by seniors and mail carriers. Every year about 600,000 children require medical attention for dog bites.

“Half of all children will be bitten by a dog by the time they are high school seniors,” said John Fraser, MD, FAAP, an injury prevention specialist who will represent the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics at the Houston event. “Every year about 600,000 children require medical attention for dog bites. As a pediatrician who has treated some of these kids, I want to do everything I can to prevent these injuries.”

Plastic surgeons, including reconstructive microsurgeons and maxillofacial surgeons, often treat victims of dog attacks and see firsthand how devastating these injuries can be. According to ASPS statistics, nearly 33,000 reconstructive procedures on dog bites were performed in 2010, up eight percent from 2009.

For more information and a brochure on dog bite prevention visit American Veterinary Medical Association web site.

An informative article on the subject of post-laser wound care was recently published on Plastic Surgery Practice web site.

The author, Joseph Niamtu III, DMD, FAACS, discusses recent trends in laser treatments and focuses on post-treatment care:

Inducing an intentional and controlled second-degree facial burn removes the entire epithelium and part of the dermis. This is obviously a giant insult to the normally intact integument. Patients who undergo fully ablative, high-fluence, high-density, multipass CO2 laser resurfacing have to understand in the preop period that this treatment will be their hobby for 4 to 6 weeks. I am very blunt with my patients who are considering this type of laser treatment, and I do not sugarcoat the recovery.

Read more of his discussion here.

Stratpharma AG, Swiss based specialty pharmaceutical company has developed Stratamed, the first silicone-based scar management product that may be applied to open wounds and compromised skin after procedures discussed in Dr Niamtu’s article, such as laser skin resurfacing. The new product helps with rapid epithelialization, reduces down-time, and is the only silicone gel treatment that improves the outcome of scarring by up to 78%.

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