Tag Archives: cancer

Cancer Coming To Your Backyard! Soon!

Please read and if you agree, sign the petition to ban the large scale use of 2-4-D and it’s cousin, Agent Orange in the production of corn and soy beans!  This use is being considered, despite scientific evidence that 2-4-D and cancer and reproductive problems go hand-in-hand.

As a child, my 4 siblings and I were regularly exposed to 2-4-D and 2-4-5-T – two ingredients in Agent Orange.  All of us were charged with killing weeds, every week during the summer – bare feet and bare hands.

Both of my brothers died of brain tumors in their 67th year.  My older sister almost died 2 years ago of complications brought on by a massive ovarian tumor and she is still fighting kidney cancer.  She was 65.  At the age of 65, I have just been diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma on my hip.

Poisoning weeds means poisoning the soil, the water and, ultimately, the people exposed to the chemicals.  Increasing the sheer volume of poison simply means increasing the numbers of people who will die from the slow, sure and silent intrusion of 2-4-D into their food, into their lives and into their backyards, their families, their children. 

And there is absolutely no way to describe the vast and long-term devastation that the use of this substance will do to the life of all other inhabitants (animals, birds, fish, insects) and the overall ecology of this earth – our home.

Has everyone forgotten Silent Spring ? Rachel Carson?

STOP big business; STOP the use of 2-4-D. START using common sense, common courtesy and some of the inordinate amounts of money currently being poured into chemical and genetic modification of foods to understand how to live and work WITH our fellow inhabitants and WITH the environment, not in spite of them.

Visit the Food Revolution Network blog; click on the link and register your thoughts and feelings with the Federal Government.

Please.

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Filed under Gardening, Healthcare, Life & Death, Politics, Uncategorized, World Changing Ideas

What’s So Special About A Horse?

I went for a ride on my horse, today.   It was my first ride since shoulder surgery on February 7th.

In the scheme of all the things that have happened in my life in the last few years, few months and few weeks, taking a spin on your horse doesn’t seem to be all that important especially when you consider that:

  1. I’ve been unemployed since January of 2010.
  2. My husband is waging an ongoing battle with infections arising from his cancer surgery that have landed him in the hospital 37 times in 10 years.
  3. I lost my younger brother and my best friend to a brain tumor in May of 2010 and still, I miss him.
  4. In February of this year, my husband had malignant melanoma misdiagnosed by a dermatologist (who will remain nameless) as “…an age spot.”  Three surgeries down and three to go – that’s the status of this battle.
  5. Last week, he has learned he is being laid off, too.

The weight of all of these blows has seemed almost insurmountable.  I try hard not to feel stressed, anxious and sometimes angry but I failed my Mahatma Ghandi test a long time ago.  So life, our lives, have been hard to handle.

But today, I took a ride on my horse, Buzz.  Grooming him, talking to him as I tacked him up, slipping into the saddle and taking the first walk around the riding ring filled me with so much joy and love that I sit here, 6 hours later and I’m still filled with both.

Buzz and I don’t do anything special in the ring, no cantering, no jumps.  But we do so enjoy the early morning sun, the soft breeze across the fields of the farms that surround our barn and those moments when the rest of the world narrows to just the two of us and the feeling of knowing each other, understanding each other, enjoying each other.

Buzz is 20 years old.  He was an $850 rescue who I brought home 7 years ago, sad, lonely, neglected.  Some people might look at him and say, “What’s so special?”   But people who know horses, my farrier, the equine dentist, the nutritionist I work with at Stoltzfus, other riders in the barn know.  To a person they have said, “What a kind eye he has.”

And a kind and gentle heart that reminds me of just how wonderful this world is no matter what else is happening, no matter what is breaking, moving, changing, leaving.  As long is Buzz is along for the ride, I know I will be able to face anything.

Thank you, Buzz.

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Filed under Life & Death, Love and Marriage

Life As We Know It Is Over

What makes me strong?  What keeps me from breaking under the load we all call life?

I have been asking that question for a dozen years.  My husband has been hospitalized more than 30 times since 2001.  He had bladder cancer.  He just kept growing tumors and finally they had to take his bladder out and put in a conduit to the ostomy that we now call Fred.

Then he had infections – and more infections and yet again, infections.  Over the last 10 years we have spent our vacations in the most expensive resort in the country – the hospital.  A jail cell really but it’s mostly white with nice subdued drapes and wardens dressed as nurses in navy  blue.

Recently, my husband did hand to hand combat with  melanoma which made a difference in how we spend our time, our money, our personal currency.

Now, he is being laid off.  He will be 60 when the axe finally falls.  He will be too old to employ – too young for social security or medicare.  And he will still be sick, still be in the hospital 2 or 3 times a year and still be the man I love with all my heart.

I am a master’s prepared, professional who is applying for jobs as a receptionist, an administrative assistant., a dog walker, anything to get a job that will help bridge the gap between his layoff and his 65th birthday.

But I can’t get a job.  We can’t sell our house.  And we cannot stop the layoff that is rolling toward us at the speed of light.

How did this happen?  When did we become part of the fringe that cannot sustain itself in this country  – the land of the brave, the land of the free?

Welcome to America – 2012.  Welcome to our country where people work and do a good job and pay their taxes and still get screwed.  This is the land where the rich once again get richer and the rest of us pay for their privilege.

We”ll keep fighting.  We will stay together.  We will find a way, smaller, narrower but still together.  But is this what is supposed to happen to people who have lived a good life?  Worked hard?  Helped out our families?

Who knows? All I know is that this is our lot.  And this we will face together — until death do us part.

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Filed under Budgeting, Life & Death, Love and Marriage, Politics, Saving Money

A Good Marriage Is Easy To Spot

How do you know your marriage is good?

Passionately and deeply in love?  Want to spend all your waking and sleeping hours with that one person?  Enjoying today, together  but planning for tomorrow?  Moving in, setting up a joint bank account and sharing the day-to-day tasks of living?

Every one of these could indicate a strong relationship, a good marriage.  Anyone of them could also be just a symptom of what looks like a good marriage.

The first time one of you makes a bad decision, you’ll get a look at what underpins your marriage.  Lose the savings account on a bad investment and watch the argument rip from money to control and back again.  Or make a bad choice morally – just once and it didn’t really mean anything.  But your partner may not be able to bridge the gap between the before and the after.

The truth is anyone can have a “good” marriage when things are going well.  The acid test only happens when things go badly.

Sometimes, bad choices can make or break your marriage depending on how you and your beloved handle it.  But what happens when no one makes a choice but both of you have to live with the consequences?

What happens when one of you gets sick?  I don’t mean a head cold or the flu.  I mean sick unto death.  In our case, it was cancer.  Will you run or will you stay?

It has been 10 years since our journey began, 10 years of chemo therapy, surgery, hospitalization after hospitalization.  Sitting here, reading my journal from the days when I thought, we both thought, that treatment would be fast, surgery would finish it, tears are streaming down my face.  What happened to my husband, to us, still cuts to the bone.  Our loss runs deep and wide.  Our sorrow is endless.

But our marriage not only survived, it got stronger with every treatment, every surgery, every hospitalization.

Since he was diagnosed with cancer, my husband and I have spent every vacation, every year, in that very expensive resort with very small rooms, a single bed and terrible food.  Hitting 34 hospitalizations in this, the 10th anniversary of our relationship with cancer, we are closer together than ever, enjoy each others company over that of almost anyone we know and wish only for one thing, at least another 10 year of whatever life has to throw at us.

It seems ours is a good marriage.

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Filed under Healthcare, Life & Death, Love and Marriage

A Magic Marriage

My husband and I have been married for 27 years.  We still hold hands.  We still surprise each other with small presents on days that are only special because we make them so.  I cook his favorite dishes; he fixes everything from broken earrings to my John Deere rototiller.  We love each other more today than we did all those years ago when we said, “I do.”

So, how did we know our marriage would last, would be magical?  We didn’t.

My motto in 1983 was, “I could spend my own money and make myself miserable; why would I need a man?”

There was no place in my life for someone to love other than my daughter.  So Pat was a complete surprise.  I met him in October but thought he was coming to the television station to visit his girlfriend.  I didn’t really notice that he spent a lot of time in the newsroom, talking with me.

When he asked me out in early November, he says I said “No” and kept on typing. He was so surprised that he asked me why.  I told him I didn’t date other women’s boyfriends.  He made the hapless woman come into the news room and tell me they were not dating.

Since I had made a complete fool out of myself, I agreed to date him but decided I was going to show him the full me – no fencing or ploys – all of who I was right down to what I liked and didn’t like.

We went to dinner. It was December 3rd, 1983.  I remember that we talked the entire time we were in the restaurant.  We talked and walked along the Delaware River afterward then went back to my condo to talk some more.  After he left, I knew I was in trouble.  I could love him but didn’t want to.

We went out on two more dates then started spending every waking and sleeping moment that we could, together.  In February, he called the television station and asked me to marry him. I said yes.  We were married on 8/4/84 – just 8 months after our first date.

Were we crazy?  Yes. Was it a leap of faith?  Yes.   Has it been easy?  No.  In fact, the first year was so tough both of us had second thoughts.

Like all couples, we were and are two, totally different people with totally different baggage, interests and drives.  I love the country, write in my spare time, have a horse, garden for food and raise chickens. He is a city boy at heart, likes to watch sports TV to excess and only has one outside interest – cars.

So how have we made it this far?

There are two elements that I think have helped us to live and love through 27 years together.  The first is the fact that our values are the same.  Way down at the core of our beings, we believe in the same things and will fight for those beliefs.

The second is that we made a commitment to each other and have honored it.  We are honest with each other to a fault – sometimes causing arguments but also clearing the air and once again, settling us into the same place with the same drives and desires.  We never forget to say please and thank you.  That sounds small but it reinforces the respect that must underpin any relationship.

Our marriage has been tested by the fires of illness and come through stronger than ever.  My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2001.  For the last decade, we both lived through more than 30 hospitalizations for surgeries, emergencies, and infections.

Weeks and months of our lives were wrapped around hospital rooms and prescriptions and one blow after another relative to his health.  Every time he would start to recover, bang – right back into the hospital with a new twist or turn ranging from another tumor to a blocked coronary artery.

This proud Italian man has paid a hefty price physically and emotionally.  He is alternately sad and angry and he tends to take both out on me because I am the only place he feels safe.  I have been left with no faith that he will live long enough for us to retire.  On bad days, I am tired and scared and sad.

I have seen other marriages crumble over far less than 10 years of fear and sorrow but not ours.  We treasure each and every day together.  We still enjoy each other’s company; we still love each other.  We have a deep and abiding love but like all love stories, ours is punctuated by extremes.  So there are those days when things have gone a bit wonky and like changes to a bit of dislike for each other.

But we work at marriage, every day.  We are bound together by joy and genuine caring.  We are facing our future, whatever that is, together.  On the good days, in the present moment that we try to live in, we are happy, content and enjoying ourselves.

And that’s why our marriage is magic.

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Filed under Life & Death

You Are What You Eat…Really!

I’ve been thinking about my brain a lot lately.  Why?

I lost both of my brothers to brain tumors, one of them just one year ago.  And I just got a chance to see Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuro anatomist, talk about her 8 year recovery from a massive stroke.

So, what’s been on my mind, literally, is how does this thing up there work and how can I keep from growing a brain tumor?

The answer that seems to rising to the surface these days is surprising.  You are what you eat and your food choices could be killing you.

Dr. William Li, President, Medical Director, and Co-founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation, works with other well-known scientists and physicians a unique approach to fighting and in some cases, preventing, some of the most debilitating diseases affecting men, women and children including cancer and stroke.

Angiogenesis, the growth of new capillary blood vessels, is a naturally occurring process in the human body.  But when capillary blood vessel growth is inhibited or stimulated, disease processes can begin.   Researchers at the Angiogenesis Foundation are successfully using drug therapies to treat cancer but despite tremendous successes, Dr. Li feels that instead of treating the disease, we should be preventing it.

One weapon we can use to try to restore balance to blood vessel growth is food.  In fact, over a year ago, during a TED talk, Dr. Li released a list of foods that might help in the fight against disease, foods that Dr. Li says, “…cut off the supply lines and beat cancer at its own game.”   His theory is that we can eat to starve cancer.

So, what’s on the doctor’s menu?

Blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries, red grapes, dark chocolate, olive oil, tuna, green tea and red wine, soy, kale, licorice, bok choy and grapefruit among other foods.  The point is that what we put in our mouths makes a difference not just in how we feel, how much we weigh, how much energy we have but in how our bodies stay healthy and fight disease.

So thanks to Dr. Li and the Angiogenesis Foundation and a tip of the hat to nutritionist Victor Lindlahr, who in 1942 published  You Are What You Eat: how to win and keep health with diet, who knew, 70 years ago that we really are what we eat.

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Filed under Healthcare, Life & Death

Finding Heroes In Hospitals

Six weeks in hell in a hospital with my sister has taught me many things but one of the most important is who really are the heroes.

Are they the surgeon? The cardiologists? The specialists who swoop in, make their cuts and move on?

In some cases, yes, but there are many more heroes who travel the halls of today’s hospitals, many of them unnoticed by administration or management but it is these heroes I want to say thank you to.

There was the housekeeper who found me collapsed, in tears, watching transport wheel my sister’s gurney off to the OR. Without a thought, she dropped her mop and wrapped her arms around me, held me, told me it would be okay. A hero, a human being who touched my soul for a few moments and gave me comfort.

There was the nurse who watched me watch you, who listened to me and started slowly, bravely and repeatedly pushing the Resident, asking for tests and finally telling him that my sister was in full renal failure. A man who risked his career for my sister, him I will not forget.

The housekeeper who stopped what she was doing and walked me to the cabinet to get a warm blanket, the nurse who pushed away from the computer and came down the hall with me to soothe my sister’s pain, the security guards who welcomed me, smiled and said good morning, the cashiers in the cafeteria who always asked how I was doing and how my sister was doing — all of them are heroes, the underpinnings of the hospital that make the work of the technicians – read doctors – possible.

These are my heroes, men and women who come to work every day and see sorrow, pain, loss, played out in every corridor and every room and still they reach out to touch, to help, to care.  These are people I will not soon forget and will never be able to thank.

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Filed under Life & Death, Medical Writing