Saturday, May 24, 2008

Living (off topic, but not really)

I am not a traditionally religious person at all, but this story of a street preacher in Oakland just blows me away. One thing that cancer taught me was the importance of living fully and authentically, with courage, following the deepest part of your soul. I also feel that there must be some meaning, some way that we build something that will outlive us--whether through creative works, or academic articles (me), or through the impacts we can have on others. Well, this guy is like the poster child. I just find it very moving.

Then there's this piece from the NY Times, which also moved me on several levels. First, it's an echo of The Wire, my favorite TV show, which depicts the complexities and heartbreaking realities of the life of a modern city. The show and the article both focus on Baltimore, on inner-city kids who don't have much of a future to hope for and about whom most of the world doesn't really care. The article, which is about a lottery for inner-city kids to get into a new prep school, reminded me also of cancer--of that lottery of luck in which your wheel spins agonizingly and stops, the black ball dropping into that slot and a year of surgery and chemo and radiation and weakness and hair loss becoming your prize. Such random fates distinguish the blessed from the forgotten. I got cancer, and lost that particular lottery; generally, in life, I'm quite blessed, and have the kinds of fortune that others might dream about. There's nothing at all fair about any of it, and nothing understandable.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ted Kennedy = attention to cancer

I was of course very sad to hear about Ted Kennedy's diagnosis of brain cancer. But it is prompting some useful attention to cancer issues. Given that there's been a major oncology conference happening in the past week also, there's been lots of useful cancer news. Here's my favorite one for today:

From CNN, a terrific piece on "what to do when you're diagnosed with cancer." It is a terrific road map for the steps that need to be followed in those first, crazy, terrified days.

Next, be sure to check the comments section from my last post, where a kind reader posted the web address for an article on how vitamin D helps with breast cancer treatment.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In the news

I have certainly been reticent lately. (That's reticent, not reluctant!) The blessing and the curse of being back to "normal life" is that I am mired in the quotidian tasks of work and errands. The good news is, we will be going on vacation in a couple of weeks, to Northern Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. I am very excited. It'll be a 3-week trip, hitting lots of lovely places (Alps, Venice, seaside Istrian resorts...). And our house and dog won't be lonely, since there will be visitors throughout our time away, enjoying the beach life in our absence.

But I'm here for business, so let me get to it. The other day, NPR had a very interesting story about a new study (published in JAMA if you want to go get the actual study; full paper here, subscription required; the NPR audio is here) regarding diagnostic technologies. Apparently mammography plus ultrasound found 28% more tumors in women with dense breast tissue (like me!) than did mammography alone. That's a rather whopping increase, I think. The procedure was recommended (by the authors) primarily for women at high risk, rather than those undergoing routine screening. As someone who's already had breast cancer, some sources say that I am at high risk, so I will be talking to my doctor before my next annual mammogram!

And a second important story. Now people--does anyone out there really still not get it that we need to exercise? That we really, really need to? That all the rationalizations and justifications in the world do not prevent breast cancer, but that moving our butts even a little bit will start to help, and moving them a lot will really help? (Plus all those other benefits, like fitting into jeans.)

Anyway, now I hope that everyone with a daughter starts to make it a priority to be sure that she does not sit on her own butt, become a couch potato, shun PE (as I did!!), or otherwise grow up without learning that physical activity is a really fantastic part of life. If you can't do this for her enjoyment, then do it for her life. Another new study published this week found that adult breast cancer risk was substantially cut for women who had exercised as girls and teenagers. That's right--it's not enough to turn women loose to discover exercise once they're grown. We need to start them early, so that the next generation can have a better shot at avoiding induction into the Breast Cancer Club.

I hope all my friends, family, and kind readers will take this to heart for the young women-to-be whom they love!