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Irene Maher, Times Staff Writer

Irene Maher

Irene Maher has reported on health for more than 25 years, mostly for WFLA-Ch. 8 in Tampa. She now writes about personal health and wellness for the Tampa Bay Times. She and her husband live in Tampa.

Phone: (813) 226-3416


  1. New drug combination can boost survival chances for some breast cancer patients


    Michelle King found her breast cancer during a self-exam last December. A month later, after further testing, the mother of two, 43 at the time, learned it was an aggressive form of the disease HER2-positive.

    But the timing couldn't have been better. A new drug had just hit the market that was improving survival rates and, in some patients, wiping out the cancer completely when found and treated in its earliest stages. ...

    Michelle King, 44, of Clearwater participates in a Gentle Yoga class on Wednesday at the Yoga Room in Clearwater. She was diagnosed at age 43 with HER2-positive breast cancer.
  2. Breast cancer a rarity in men, but 'it can happen'


    Dennis Coyle was holding his granddaughter in 2013 when he felt something unusual.

    "She banged up against my chest," he remembers, "and it felt funny."

    He checked the area on his left chest and discovered a hard growth, smaller than a pea. Coyle, now 68, thought it was a harmless cyst and brought it up during a regular skin checkup with his dermatologist. A biopsy revealed a surprising result: He had breast cancer. ...

    Dennis Coyle of Lithia was diagnosed in July 2013 with breast cancer. He had a mastectomy in August 2013 and required no further treatment.
  3. Study underlines hazards of Southern diet, but there are ways to cut back


    Southern food tastes good. But what it may do to your heart can be bad.

    Really bad.

    New research from the American Heart Association provides more proof that a steady diet of Southern favorites could kill you, or might give you a heart attack or stroke.

    What's so bad about Southern food? All the fried and high fat foods, processed and organ meats, eggs and egg dishes and sugary drinks. ...

    Pork Chops With Balsamic-Peach Glaze, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli 

These dishes have been adapted from the American Heart Association?s Simple Cooking With Heart Program, 2015:

credit: American Heart Association
  4. Walk of Hope designed to raise awareness of infertility


    Jessica O'Connor and her husband have been trying to have a child for almost five years.

    Last year, she decided a change in attitude might succeed where specialists, medications and high-tech treatments had failed. Rather than focusing on herself, she decided to focus on helping other couples in the same situation.

    O'Connor began organizing the first Resolve Walk of Hope in Florida, a fundraiser sponsored by the National Infertility Association to increase awareness of fertility issues, treatment and support programs. ...

    Dr. Timothy Yeko is a medical director at the Reproductive Medicine Group.
  5. For the start of school, and the rest of the year too, pay attention to 'sleep hygiene'


    As families prepare for the start of another school year, we're reminded of a critical activity that's often overlooked: getting children, even high school aged teens, back to an earlier sleep-wake schedule.

    All summer long many kids enjoyed staying up later and sleeping in the next morning, sometimes shifting their normal sleep-wake schedule by several hours. Now, it's time to shift back and lots of parents and kids are wondering: How do we do it?...

    Dr. John Prpich is pediatric pulmonologist at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and medical director of the pediatric respiratory therapy department.
  6. Fab 50 for Women on the Run takes members from couch to race course


    Barbara Hawkins knew she had to make a change in order to enjoy an active, healthy retirement. The 58-year-old elementary school assistant principal plans to retire in 2016 and has watched her parents, siblings and extended family members struggle for years with weight problems, cancer, bad knees and hips, an unhealthy diet and a lack of meaningful exercise. She wanted a different future but wasn't sure how to get there. ...

    Betsy Van Tilburg, also know as “Battle Ax,” trains with the Fab 50 Women on the Run, on the Pinellas Trail on July 11 in Largo.
  7. Depression common after serious illness or medical treatments, and should be treated


    You expect pain after surgery. Nausea with chemotherapy. Weight gain when taking certain medications. But few people see it coming when depression creeps in as a side effect of major illness or its treatment.

    "I was crying all the time. All I wanted to do was sleep to escape from it," recalls Sandra Knightley of Lake Wales, who was about seven months into a year of chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer when depression descended and wouldn't lift. It took months to convince her oncologist that she was depressed and get a referral for a psychological evaluation and counseling....

    Michele Tomas, a pancreatic cancer patient at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, often feels a wave of sadness when a particular chemotherapy drug is pumped into her body. Her doctor put her on antidepressants early on as a preventive measure. The meds had to be tweaked.
  8. Officials warn of bacterium in saltwater — but be careful what you call it


    Health officials are working to convince tourists and residents that Florida beaches are safe after their recent warning about a summertime bacterium generated overblown headlines.

    The Florida Department of Health sent out its annual warning May 29, saying the bacterium Vibrio vulnificus, found in raw oysters and warm saltwater, had caused two deaths this year and was "a potential health threat" that people should know about. It added that infections from the bacterium were rare. ...

    Vibrio vulnificus is shown in a colorized scanning electron micrograph.
  9. Testosterone therapy has rewards — and risks


    When middle-aged and older men feel fatigued, depressed, irritable, can't sleep and lose interest in sex, slick advertising suggests the cause may be low testosterone or low-T. The ads say the condition can be easily fixed with a testosterone patch, gel, injection or pill.

    But, now, there is some confusion over who should get the treatment and, furthermore, whether the therapy can lead to heart attacks and strokes....

    Dr. Justin Parker at USF Health says a warning on low-T therapy went too far.
  10. Skin cancer can surface in unusual places, so be vigilant in checking


    Conner Fenlon noticed he had a small bald spot on the back of his head, near the top, when he was in high school. He figured it was a sort of birthmark and never gave it much thought.

    Then, last year, Fenlon decided to participate in a fundraiser for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and agreed to have his head shaved. With the area no longer blocked by surrounding hair, friends noticed and commented that it was red and inflamed. ...

    Conner Fenlon, 25, had basal cell carcinoma on the top of his head. The discovery came after he had his head shaved for a Pediatric Cancer Foundation fundraiser.
  11. There's a reason why teenagers act the way they do


    If your loving, kind, considerate child has changed, seemingly overnight, into a not so lovable teenage stranger, the reason may be out of your — and your teen's — control. Take it from Dr. Frances Jensen, a neurologist, neuroscientist and single mom who went through it, having raised two boys and survived, but only after immersing herself in the scientific research on brain development in 13- to 25-year-olds....

    Dr. Frances Jensen, a neurologist, neuroscientist and mother, has co-written The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.
  12. Moffitt opens lounge for adolescent, young-adult cancer patients


    Lindsey Lucas looked around the waiting area of Moffitt Cancer Center and saw lots of senior citizens. Lucas was only 28 years old and had just been diagnosed with advanced colon cancer.

    Three years later, she recalls that "I was the youngest person in the GI clinic waiting area all the time. Not seeing others my age did affect me. I felt very isolated."

    Even worse, she said: "Not seeing others my age, I automatically assumed it was because they were all dead. I thought there was no one else like me and no hope." ...

    Lindsey Lucas, shown early during her treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center in December 2012, said she felt isolated at Moffitt when she didn’t see any other patients close to her age.
  13. Q&A with Parkinson's disease researcher


    Two major research milestones changed the course of Parkinson's disease, and Erica Mandelbaum of Tampa benefited from both. The mother of two was diagnosed when she was just 36. "I was furious," recalls Mandelbaum, who is now 58. "That lasted a couple years. Then I decided it was time to live."

    The most commonly prescribed medication, which replaces a chemical in the brain in short supply in Parkinson's patients, helped for many years. Then she developed uncontrollable physical symptoms: shaking, foot dragging and stooped posture. Enter deep brain stimulation, an implanted battery-operated device that stimulates areas of the brain that control movement and blocks abnormal signals to those areas. ...

    Erica Mandelbaum, here with her daughter Lia, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 36. She’s now 58 and able to stay active.
  14. Spring-cleaning is good for your well-being


    My stuff was really starting to annoy me.

    Clothing, shoes, purses, mixing bowls, serving platters, towels, bottles of once-used shampoo and conditioner, books, shopping bags, wrapping paper, boxes of pens. Things I didn't use, need or particularly like were choking closets, cupboards, drawers. How did I end up with 45 T-shirts, most faded, stained, too big or too small?

    I longed to see some open shelf space in my kitchen, to be able to take a shirt out of the closet and not have to iron it, to effortlessly pluck a pair of socks from a drawer....

    Nicole Crawford of Temple Terrace plays with her 3-year-old daughter, Safiya, in Safiya’s newly organized room. Crawford said she recently shopped at the Container Store to further organize some areas of her home.
  15. Q and A: Which hybrid workout is right for you?


    Spoxing, along with Piloxing, Barre Ride, Tread and ZenCore, are all examples of a hot trend known as fusion fitness or hybrid training.

    When you combine at least two different types of exercise in one fitness regimen — think weights and cardio, running and yoga — you're doing a fusion or hybrid workout. So why not a mashup of spinning and boxing?

    The exercise combinations are designed to challenge more body parts and physical skills. Another great example is YogAqua. Many of the standard yoga exercises and poses are performed on a standup paddleboard floating on the water. It taps into muscles you may not use when working out on the fixed floor of a yoga studio and challenges balance, strength and coordination....