Monday, March 31, 2014

Cure for Cancer?

I was reading the news yesterday, slowly perusing the headlines of a dozen different on-line newspapers and news outlets, when a particular item caught my eye.  Normally, unless there is a new story or breaking news, I skim over the headlines because I am already up-to-date on older posts.

But this story immediately grabbed me.  The headline referred to a possible cure for cancer.  Why, I wondered, had other news agencies not reported this?  Or, if they had, why had I not seen it?

Upon reading the article (printed in both the New York Post and on Fox News on-line), it seemed to be too good to be true.  So, I did some research and found that indeed, research at Stanford University, going back over a year, has devised a remarkable approach in attacking and eliminating virtually all types of cancers in the body.

Trials in mice have gone very well and human trials are scheduled for this year.  Let's all pray this pans out as the silver bullet we need to eradicate this horrible affliction.

To read more on this developing story, Google Stanford University Cancer Cure CD47.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Love and Terror at the Bird Feeder.......

           Cindy Got This Shot of a Red-Tailed Hawk Yesterday

This is a tale of beauty and nature and joy and life and death.  This, I think, is very existential.  It cannot be escaped.  Life must be lived to the fullest because one never knows when one will be face to face with death, whether it comes with a crawl or comes with a pounce.

               Our Goldfinches Love the Thistle in our Feeders

Such are my thoughts today after observing up close and personal the antics around our bird feeders on our back deck.  Over the past 18 months or so, since we put our first feeder up, we have accumulated quite a following in the avian community.  We attract birds of every hue and feather---cardinals, goldfinches, wrens, sparrows, grackles, hummingbirds, doves, cowbirds, catbirds, hairy woodpeckers, red-wing blackbirds, mockingbirds, robins, brown thrashers, etc, etc.  We have even occasionally played host to a crow or two.  The deck teems with birds as they feed.  I get the best seed I can find and they seem to appreciate a gourmet meal several times a day.

   We Love our Hummingbirds.  They Say My Nectar is the Best 

I have often thought that the hundreds of birds we attract live the perfect life.  I mean, they are fed the best food by a doting old man who is dependable in his servings and they are highly protected from predators because they all nest in a dense shrub hedge about 30 feet from their food source.  Plus, we live in a neighborhood that has few---if any---cats.  Oh, I have thought, how I would love to be a bird in this environment!

      Our Red-Tailed Hawk.  He Looks Like He Means Business

Once, about a month or so ago, I was shocked to see a red-tailed hawk sitting on our railing.  Quite a majestic and powerful bird of prey he is, and I noticed that there were no other birds around as he sat there---and for good reason, too, because red-tailed hawks will kill and eat other birds.


When the hawk departed, the other birds came out to play again. 

I did not see the hawk again until yesterday.  He was again sitting on the railing---with no other birds in sight.  As he sat, looking for any movement in our yard that would signal a food source, Cindy quietly moved to the window not 8 feet from the hawk.  She was able to get probably a hundred pictures of this regal creature.

Mr hawk left the railing when he spotted a bird flying about 100 yards away.  I can't describe to you the power and speed he displayed as he took flight.  I would never have believed a bird that big would be so fast going from a sitting position.  I was unable to see whether the hawk caught his intended prey.

Later in the day, several hours after this event, I was sitting in my den when I heard an enormous commotion out back.  I looked out to see scores of birds that were feeding on the deck now airborn with a panicked beating of wings.  Just  then, a huge flash of feathers and talons streaked by the window as the hawk returned.  By some lucky stroke, he came up empty.  He sat on the rail alone and dinnerless. 

I got to thinking about all this later.  Funny, you know, how I thought these birds live the perfect life, with plenty of good food and no worries.  But, I was wrong.  Their lives can be snuffed out in a flash of feathers and talons at any time.  They have worries just like we humans do.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Our Incredibly Terrific and Terrible Medical System

Ten weeks ago or thereabouts I rolled over in bed  at 3 AM and felt a sharp pain in my right leg.  My lightning-quick mind (Ha) immediately diagnosed the pain as a cramp in my calf.  It was briefly painful but the hurt subsided in short order and I went back to sleep.

Next morning I noticed my right calf was swollen about 20% larger than my left calf.  But, there was no pain---just a stupid looking swollen leg.  Sigh.

Cindy was alarmed when she saw it, but I quietly explained to her that I had had a leg cramp and the swelling was no doubt related to that fact; and besides, the swelling would recede quickly and all would be back to normal in short order.  She immediately called her sister, Patti, who is a nurse, and related my plight to her.  Patti said I should immediately go to the Emergency Room because the swelling could be the result of a blood clot in my leg, and this could actually be a life-threatening condition.  She said if it was a clot, it could "break loose" and travel to my heart or brain.  I refused to believe this sage advice because I felt no pain or discomfort in my leg.

Well, then Cindy started Googling and found out that in all probability I did have a clot.  That's when the nagging started.  I put it off for days, but the swelling in my leg would not recede.  Ten days went by before I went to the doctor.  I now admit I am a stupid man and I should listen to my wife.

Doc took one look at my leg and ordered an ultrasound on my leg that afternoon.  He said if it wasn't a clot (or Deep Vein Thrombosis---DVT), this would be the first time in his career he had seen a leg like mine that was not a clot.

I had the ultrasound and it was confirmed I had a clot behind my knee, causing the leg to swell.  I was sent straight to the ER.  I spent one hour in the ER where I was shown how to give myself two daily shots of Lovenox in my lower abdomen for a week.  I was given a prescription for Coumadin.  I had a five minute  tete-a-tete with the ER doc, who told me to rest and not do anything strainful because if the clot broke loose it could be a very bad problem.

Three days later I was back to see my doc, who changed the dosage of the Coumadin.  One week later I was sent to get an ultrasound of my liver, which turned out normal.  Once a week since then I have had to get blood drawn to monitor my blood - Coumadin level.

So far, my leg swelling has gone down by about half.  Still no pain.  Still taking Coumadin, and the doc says I may have to take it for the rest of my life.

Then I got sent to the Hematologist, who tested my blood for any possible genetic causes for my DVT.  All tests came back negative.  Bottom line is that they do not know what caused the clot.  Many times, a clot can be caused by a long trip in which the patient is unable to move around for long periods---like a plane trip to Europe or somewhere, but I did not have a long trip.  Or, sometimes it can be caused by a genetic change.  Or, sometimes it can be caused by a cancer in the body which causes the blood to clot easier than normal.  Anyway, in my case, they can find no definite cause. 

Jump Shift:  I went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned two weeks ago.  While the hygienist had me agape she asked me what that scaly growth was on my lower lip.  I told her I had had that for about a year.  Usually it was completely unnoticeable but sometimes it got bigger and then receded---nothing to worry about, I assured her.  She thought otherwise and the dentist informed me I needed to see the Oral Surgeon.  Sigh.

The Oral Surgeon was a nice man.  I would have liked to have had a conversation with him about the time we each spent in the army back in 1969, but he was unfortunately involved in cutting my lip open and sewing it back up with 4 stitches.  I no longer have the growth on my lip but I do have a frightful-looking scab in its place.  Sigh.

The biopsy came back as "pre-cancerous".  Doc says it's no longer a problem, that it was probably caused by too much sun exposure over the years.

Back to the dentist.  I was told I need a crown---one to replace an old crown that had developed a hole in it.  Got that done last Thursday.


1.  If your leg swells up, get to the ER.  Listen to your wife.
2.  My leg continues to improve but is still noticeably bigger than my left leg.  Getting rid of a clot can be a lengthy process.
3.  My medical treatment has been excellent.  Docs and nurses have been a delight.
4.  Medical treatment is insanely expensive.  I mean insanely expensive, as in bearing no relation to reality.
----  ER visit, 1 hour, two prescriptions = $3400
----  14 doses of injectable Lovenox = $850
----  Two doc visits, approx 10 minutes each = $400
----  Two ultrasounds, approx 15 minutes each = $900
----  Visit to Hematologist with blood testing = Not Yet Determined
----  Visit to Oral Surgeon, approx 30 minutes = $900
----  Dental Crown = $950

Even though my insurance paid a big chunk of these charges, I cannot help but see the out-of-control pricing of medical care.  This is a terrible issue for most Americans. 

Thank God I will probably be OK through all of this, but how can this insanity continue going forward?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remembering Life's Disappointments........

Funny, you know, how we humans share so much in common---no matter how different our individual backgrounds may be.

One such universal commonality occurred to me today as Cindy and I were talking about things that happened in our individual pasts.  She had been talking with her sister, who revealed to her a couple of stories from her early childhood in which she became deeply hurt.  These hurt feeling incidents have stayed with her all her life.

Cindy told me a story from her own childhood that has stayed with her all her life.  She was walking down the street one day as a 12 year old child and she passed a couple of teenage boys who stopped to look at her as she passed by them.  Now, understand that Cindy was quite thin at the time and was somewhat self-conscious about that fact.  One of the boys made the comment "Heck, she might BE something if she'd gain about 500 pounds".

Almost half a century later, the hurt from those words is remembered.

She mentioned a couple of other moments from her childhood in which her feelings were hurt and the memory remains.  Usually, the hurt came from something someone said.  We may forget important incidents from our past, but it seems we cannot shake those moments of deeply hurt feelings in our youth.  And, it is interesting that all of us can dredge up moments like these.

As for me, the first incident I recall (and I can recall a good many if I try) was from my ninth summer.  My grandma and grandpa, who I adored, took me with them on a fishing trip to Coldwater Lake in Michigan.  Oh, it was to be a glorious week-long adventure, with lots of fishing with grandpa!

Our first day there, I looked forward to being in the boat with gramps, speeding along the water toward the best fishing spots, feeling the tug of fish on hook, experiencing the joy of boating the fish and the pride in posing for pictures with the string of fish at day's end.

But alas, I could not find grampa---I walked down to the lake to see if he was getting the boat ready for our foray into the lake.  There, I found him---getting into the boat by himself, with his rod and tackle box.  I yelled out to him.  He looked at me and then turned and sped off alone across the lake to fish alone that day.  I was devastated.  And I never forgot the hurt.

As an adult, I look back on some of these incidents and smile.  In the case of my grandpa, the poor guy just wanted a little quiet time by himself.  He is more than forgiven.

But we don't forget those hurtful moments from our childhood, do we?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Honoring my 90 Year Old Mom on Mother's Day.......

                            My Mom at a recent Birthday Party

What a ride it has been!  Today is your day, mom!  Thanks for all the joys, tears, learning, and fun!  I love you so much!

                       Taken a Couple of Years Ago in Her Apartment

                                       Mom and Me, 2011

                               Mom and Dad, Circa 1944

  Mom Swimming With the Dolphin, "Picasso" in Florida, 2009

Mom Pouring, Circa 1956  L--R  Dad, Mom, Family Friend Horace.  Yes, Mom Has Always Been a Character.  Ha.

                  Mom, Senior Picture in Yearbook, Circa 1940

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!!!  And lots of love!!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Our Incredible, Wondrous, Dysfunctional American Government.......

It is a rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon in east Tennessee.  The liquid began falling around midnight and has not really stopped, except for a few minutes at a time.

I like rain.  I like the soothing drum of it as it pelts the roof and windows.  And I like the thunder that sometimes accompanies it.  It makes me relaxed and contemplative, and I like it when I am relaxed and contemplative.  My mind wanders more than usual and it makes me smile when my imagination is holding sway.

Well, thank God the media coverage of the Boston bombing has subsided.  In the 24/7 day-on-day coverage that continued with no letup in sight, North Korea successfully launched an ICBM; a number of barges collided on the Mississippi River, causing untold damage and blocking one of America's busiest avenues of transport; a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas killed 14, injured 150 and leveled five square blocks of the town of West, Texas.  One would never know any of that, however, amid the blanket coverage of the Boston Marathon terrorism. 

Someone I respect said that Boston got all the media attention because it was a case of wealthy people with $200 running shoes and big bank accounts sucking the coverage away from blue collar workers in middle America and the fact that no one cares if North Korea has a missile with a nuclear warhead attached until they actually take out the US west coast. 

I wonder how many hundreds of millions of dollars (billions?) was spent trying to locate the perpetrators of the Boston bombing.  The entire city of Boston was shut down for one entire day.  Thousands of military, police and fire personnel were activated for days.  Untold equipment was brought in---all to find two crazy guys. 

I especially liked it when the guvnah of Massachusetts announced to everyone after a long day of searching every property in the designated search area that it was now safe to come out. Ha.  Politicians are great, aren't they?  I mean...they are always wrong.  It was not ten minutes later that all hell broke loose in the 'hood with gunfire and helicopters and lions and tigers and bears until finally they had caught the second Muslim terrorist. 

Then it came to light that the Russians had warned us about these two guys.  The older perp was interviewed and nothing came of it.  Even when he left the country for 6 months to go to Chechnya for training, it raised no red flag with the FBI.  Kinda' reminds me of the events preceding 9-11, when our government was given all kinds of warnings and leads but chose to do nothing.  Remember how those who flew the planes into the Pentagon and the WTC only wanted to be trained on how to take off and not how to land the planes?  Duhhh. 

Nothing's changed.

Think I'll go back to looking at the rain.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Public School Journey.......

I know there are many others out there who, like me, made a complete schizophrenic, bipolar mess of their public education as a child/adolescent.  I have often reflected on my twelve year journey.  Frankly, after going through that emotional roller coaster that involved not only readin', writin' and 'rithmetic, but also teenage acne and hormones mixed with liberal doses of rebellion, it's a wonder I can think at all.

But as I have pondered over the years my passage through the alimentary canal known as elementary, middle and high schooling, I have come to realize that much of what I am was formed in those twelve years between ages 5 and 18.  I decided to draw a graph showing my education satisfaction and confidence development over those years, and man---what a trip.  When I look at the psychotic nature of my ride I realize it's no shock I turned out the way I did.  Sigh.

If I were a product of the present, I would have been diagnosed with ADHD and several other current maladies du jour.  But of course, back in the dark ages of the 1950s and '60s, the medical establishment was quite in the dark about these syndromes, so I (fortunately) did not have the questionable benefit of the pharmaceuticals of today used for such afflictions.

You can see by the chart that my journey started off pretty badly.  The first four years in school produced bad grades (in conduct as well as in the subjects studied), any number of whippings at home (my dad preferred a belt, and it was used every 6 weeks when the report cards were delivered), a zero sense of self-worth and a very (un)healthy symptom of acting out which made my parents crazy and resulted in an uncontrollable death spiral.

Then, in the fifth grade God put me under the tutelage of one Mrs Dot Shumake at Golfcrest Elementary school and Oh.  My.  God. 

I never knew such wonderful teaching and leadership.  She was an angel.  My grades excelled. I felt good about my self.  I got no more whippings.  I'll never forget her. 

But in the Seventh grade, I was in a new school---a Jr High, or Middle school---full of bullies and advanced math and teachers you couldn't BS.  I crashed.  Back to the bottom.  Bad self-confidence.  More acting out.  And, of course, my hormones were now a player and that alone is enough to cause bedlam with most teens.  Ha.  I can laugh now but it wasn't funny back then.

Slowly, my level of achievement and satisfaction rose.  Very slowly, my grades rose.  Very slowly, I began to find myself.  But it was an ordeal.  It was probably the most productive part of my "education".  I guess everyone goes through it, but I just didn't handle it very well.  After high school, it probably took another 15 years for me to truly "find" myself and settle down as a grounded and actualized individual, although I know now that no one ever stops growing or changing.  But, those early years were certainly a trip worth remembering and reflecting upon.

I bet every one of you could tell a similar story.