health & wellness
Karmanos' "Friends Like Me" program
lets kids express feelings about cancer
Elizabeth A. Katz
Special to the Jewish News
Know the Signs of Colorectal
Cancer and Get Tested
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness
Month, and St. Joseph Mercy Oakland (SJMO)
encourages you to know the signs and
symptoms and get tested.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading
cause of cancer-related death in the United
States, claiming nearly 50,000 lives each year.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates
Ghalib Y. Talia,
that 136,830 new cases of colorectal cancer
will be diagnosed in 2014, resulting in about
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
• A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea,
constipation, or narrowing of the stool that
lasts for more than a few days
• A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
• Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
• Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
• Weakness and fatigue
• Unintended weight loss
• Pelvic pain, which occurs at later stages of the disease
Both men and women are at risk for developing colorectal cancer, with individuals age
50 and over at greater risk of contracting the disease. A family history of colorectal cancer
or colorectal polyps also increases the risk. Others at higher risk include those with a
history of a bowel disease, such as colitis or Crohn's, and those who are African American.
The disease is diagnosed via colonoscopy and, if necessary, a biopsy.
Physicians treat colorectal cancer with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and
Although the exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, it may be preventable.
Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful methods for preventing
colorectal cancer because screening helps detect polyps, which can be found and removed
before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Screening also can help find colorectal
cancer early when it is small and more likely to be cured, says the ACS.
According to SJMO colorectal surgeon Ghalib Y. Talia, MD, you can reduce your risk by
including fiber, calcium and omega-3 food items in your diet, and by taking aspirin as
prescribed by your physician.
St. Joe's Cancer Center offers a multidisciplinary continuum of advanced cancer
treatment, from acute inpatient care to outpatient services, cutting-edge diagnostic and
surgical options and award-winning palliative care. SJMO's program accreditation with
commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer demonstrates
that the hospital meets the highest quality care standards. SJMO's cancer program is a
member of the Mercy Cancer Network.
Dr. Talia advises that everyone should have a colonoscopy every 10 years, starting at age
50. "If you have a first-degree family history of colon cancer or a history of polyps in the
colon, then have a colonoscopy every three to five years.
"The best way to prevent colon cancer is to see your primary care physician who will
direct you" on how you can prevent the disease, adds Dr. Talia.
By Jack Weiner,
President and CEO
St. Joseph Mercy
March 27 • 2014
he late Shelley Littman's life was
in large part defined by her love
of and work with children.
She was known for her work as a spe-
cial education teacher in Farmington Hills
for 13 years. After the birth of her son,
Andrew, she opened
her own nursery school,
Directions School, in
After Andrew "gradu-
ated" from the school,
she sold the business
and opened Adventures
in Toys, also in
Birmingham. There, she
was often able to recom-
mend toys that would fit the needs and
interests of a child.
Although she succumbed to brain can-
cer in 2004 at age 64, the legacy Shelley
left continues to engage kids in fun and
learning through Friends Like Me, a
program that combines art therapy and
counseling for children ages 5-18 who
have a family member with cancer.
The free program is held at the
Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute's
Lawrence and Idell Weisberg Cancer
Treatment Center in Farmington Hills and
is open to all children, not just those with
loved ones being treated at Karmanos.
It is funded through the Shelley Littman
Endowment Fund for Children at
Karmanos as well as community grants
and individual donors.
"After Shelley passed away, I decided
to do something in her memory," said
Robert Littman, Shelley's husband who
lives in Birmingham. "The program per-
petuates her memory in a meaningful
way, consistent with her lifetime focus on
Helping Kids Cope
The endowment was established shortly
after Shelley's death in 2004, but the
Friends Like Me program has picked
up momentum in the last several years.
Kathleen Hardy, oncology social worker
at Karmanos, estimates that the program
helps about 100 children a year.
"Art therapy is fun, energizing, relaxing
and a great way for children to express
themselves:' Hardy said. "They don't have
to hold everything inside so as to not
Robert Littman and oncology social
worker Kathleen Hardy hold up art
created by children in the Friends Like
Me program at Karmanos' Weisberg
Center in Farmington Hills.
upset the family, but can express their
feelings in a safe way.
"Children are often forgotten after a
loved one's diagnosis with cancer. They
grieve differently than adults when there
is cancer in the family, so we are often
not aware of their concerns. Rather than
seeing the cancer center as a scary place,
children begin to see it as a fun place
where the adults care about them and
what they are going through as well. They
feel more a part of the family's journey
Heather Ziegenmeyer, a counseling and
art therapy intern at Karmanos, is respon-
sible for engaging the children in different
art projects, which include painting, clay
work and drawing, among other projects.
"The kids are special because they have
so much energy and light:' Ziegenmeyer
said. "Art is a natural language with kids.
"The goal of the project is to facilitate
emotional expression of the children
through artwork. Kids take away the fact
that they can express their feelings and
create something out of those feelings:'
The program right now is facilitated
on an individual basis where children
and their families can engage in artwork
together. Ziegenmeyer envisions more
group work with multiple children work-
ing together during the summer months
when kids are out of school and available
to attend the art therapy sessions.
Hardy says parents or grandparents can
feel free to leave their children to work
on art while they meet with her for a
one-on-one counseling session or attend
one of the many support groups at the
Farmington Hills center.