I have a daughter and I care what she reads. From her earliest days, books have been an important part of her life. She’s ten now and I still read to her regularly, though she reads voraciously on her own (and far more than I ever was able as a child, since she reads like lightning when left to her own device-free devices). That kid can devour stories, though lately has taken to being very choosy with her time. If a book doesn’t hook her, it goes back to the library unfinished. She wants to be sucked in; once she is engaged she absolutely must finish. Because it matters, I am always concerned with the messages in the stories she finds most enticing.
When she chooses her books, her mother and I try to be aware of the content and whether there is an underlying theme of “what’s wrong with me?” running through the pages. More and more, it seems easy to identify this theme almost as its own genre in children’s and specifically girls’ literature. The seeds of necessary therapy are sown implicitly between the lines as books for these young readers guide them to feeling less than adequate, training them for a life of unnecessarily pursuing products to fix themselves. This is a predictable byproduct of corporate America, where publishing is largely controlled by conglomerates that feed revenue streams in any way possible. Branding and downstream profits are the backbone of our consumer culture. But feeding this beast is optional. Continue reading Girls Literature and the Culture of What’s Wrong With Me?→
I’ll admit that I was a little perplexed this morning when I received a pair of (presumably) unrelated negative responses on one of my older blog posts, The Myth of the Wellness Warrior. Although I wrote that post about eight months ago, it continues to bring in a fair amount of traffic, including about 150 views today that appear to be mostly sourced off of Facebook and a few Google searches. While I expected that piece to illicit some reactions, I felt that the information I presented spoke for itself fairly well, and irrefutably so. I only criticized claims that are demonstrably false and I included links to vetted sources to support my statements. Still, I am no stranger to quasi-anonymous Internet attacks.
For a long time, I moderated a political forum that had civility as one of its prime directives. My job, in no small part, was to ensure that conversations stayed focused and did not degenerate into name calling or worse. One way that we ensured this possibility was to remove anonymity as much as we could through a registration process. The other way was through constant moderation and guidance. Because of that experience, I had initially required specific site registration here in order for anyone to comment. The system in place, however, was not entirely functional and several people let me know that they could not log in to leave comments. At the behest of a friend, I relaxed the comment restrictions and readied myself for an onslaught of SPAM and Internet Trolls. Continue reading Negative Comments, Positive Response→
I’ll admit that there are some days when I feel like stuff is pretty bad. As with most people, I imagine, it can be easy to focus on how stressed out I am over finances, health issues, car trouble, marital concerns, whatever it is that is going on with my kid, deadlines on projects I don’t really want to be doing, deadlines on projects I reallydon’t want to be doing, some bullshit, that other thing, whatever… But before I go moping off into my self-aggrandized pit of misery, something usually stops me. More and more often in recent years, it has been essentially the same thing: the reminder, through everyday tragedies experienced by people I care about, that life is fragile, tenuous and entirely worth not wasting on feeling sorry for myself.
Tragedy teaches us
As much as these are lessons I would rather not have learned, it is an inescapable fact that every tragic occurrence teaches something. The lesson might seem small, even devastatingly pointless, but that is part of the theme; the overarching message life gives us is that we are all relatively inconsequential, except to each other. Our value is created by our contribution, our loss felt more deeply for a future deprived.
More than that, however, life teaches us that we — any one of us, at any time — can simply be removed from the social equation. That includes everyone we love, everything we hold dear. Our closest friends. Our parents. Our children.
There are lots of practical causes for things that turn tragic. Some of these we can do something about. Better gun regulations, better mental health services, better education. Sometimes we just get lucky and hit the brakes while turning the wheel at precisely the right moment. Continue reading Everyday Tragedy→
The common saying is that “they come in threes.” We’re talking about celebrity deaths, of course, and although this is typically the sort of nonsense that can be justified simply by shifting the period of inclusion so it always appears to be accurate, there is something eerily unique about this past week. Within nine days, we have had three prominent people of the same age whose deaths are blamed on cancer.
First, we had Ellen Stovall, age 69 and president of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. Technically, she died from complications related to cardiac disease, but the cause of her heart trouble is traced back to treatments she underwent 45 years ago for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to her obituary in the New York Times, she had a recurrence of the lymphoma in the 80s and then also discovered that she had breast cancer — about this time she also discovered a pamphlet from the organization she would later be president of, which introduced her to the term “survivor” as a replacement for the word that had been commonly used to describe cancer patients: victim. This subtle adjustment of language helped to give her drive and focus and to become a force in the next wave of cancer awareness. She died on January 5th.
Next came the news on January 10th that David Jones, better known as David Bowie, had died after an 18 month “battle” with an undisclosed cancer just two days after his 69th birthday. While his family declined to offer details, it was reported by the New York Times that the director of Lazarus, Bowie’s Broadway collaboration, mentioned liver cancer in an interview with Danish media. Whether this meant the cancer originated in the liver or had merely settled in that organ is not clear, keeping in tune with the varied enigmatic personas the performer was known for. However, not knowing the type of cancer adds not just to the mystique of David Bowie, but the general fear and uncertainty that the word “cancer” conjures on its own.Continue reading Death in Threes and the Power of Words→
The holiday season is upon us. Traditionally this is a time for reflection on our values, both our personal values and those shared by society at large. We are also in the midst of a heated political campaign season, made divisive largely through a fearful shift throughout our culture. Because these holidays, pretty universally across religious boundaries, are focused on peace, it seems like a good time to consider some of the foundational concepts that have created the divisiveness we are experiencing. By addressing some of these, perhaps the peace we aspire to will be easier to grasp for all of us.
The topics of gun control, national security and terrorism, taxes, healthcare and climate change are issues we all agree are important to our society. Ideological divides often prevent productive conversations on these issues, largely because we, as a society, are quite uninformed about the facts underlying each issue. And our politicians frequently do not help this situation, preferring to fan the fires of discontent rather than address issues in an open and honest fashion. We, however, as cognizant and inquisitive humans, have the ability to sidestep the easy rhetoric and parroting of sound bytes in order to debate issues in a civil manner not currently reflected by many high-profile politicians and certainly not reflected by most pundits in the media. Continue reading Truth, Peace and Holiday Values→
I almost never reblog another writer’s work, but I think that this one is worth sharing with a wider audience (partly because I don’t have the time to write my own riff on the topic today). I have written many times about the importance of critical thinking, and I believe it is not being well taught in our schools much of the time. It seems to me that too many adults in these here United States are under-practiced in basic critical thinking skills, so it is difficult to merely fault the students or their teachers. This is a problem that should start and end at home, with school being a place to practice and develop an existing skill, rather than create one from scratch.
I recently read an article in which the author, a professor of science, deplored the pitfalls of teaching students critical thinking skills: eventually, the students begin to doubt everything, even the teacher’s knowledge and experiences. When I read the title of the article, my thoughts snapped out of “Mom in her PJs Drinking Coffee” to my alter ego, “Defender of Teaching Our Students Conscious Choices and Critical Thinking.”
I’m working on the name. But this persona is really tall, she wears super cool boots and can run really fast. In her boots, even. Not that she needs to run. She spends a lot of time standing in front of schools and ranting about how we teach our students in this country. Or don’t, as the case may be. She wears sharp fitted business suits and her hair always looks fabulous. Plus, her children are standing beside her in support and awe of her, not telling her “the hamburgers taste funny” or “you forgot to put money on my lunch card” or “by the way, the dog peed on the carpet awhile ago but it’s not my turn to clean it up.”
You see the difference.
The Defender wanted to write a rant-y response to this article on Facebook RIGHT. THEN. She’s rather impetuous. Instead, I advised that we actually read the entire article first, because that would be really funny, if we went and ranted about another author criticizing teaching critical thinking skills when we never actually read what was written. Get it?
I just returned from seeing the folks in my lung cancer support group, where we were treated to a recap of the Shine a Light event from this past weekend. I got to see my speech all the way through for the first time, projected on a big screen in the conference room where we meet, and I’ll admit that I made myself tear up a bit there. It’s like I was speaking directly to me. And it made me realize how much I could have benefited from an actual stylist, but I suppose that is another story.
There were 147 people in attendance for this lovely event; next year I am hoping that we can inspire something new, like a walk organized through Downtown Los Angeles with 1,000 or more people participating. High hopes, perhaps, for an often stigmatized illness. But this is about changing perception and bringing the narrative into the 21st Century.
In the meantime, please consider supporting this petition for increasing research funding, and please share it with your friends and social networks. Nothing progresses without sharing — it is the only way to truly increase awareness. There needs to be a greater discussion around lung cancer, and around cancer in general, so that people can begin to understand what this condition truly is and how it can be safely and effectively lived with when treated early enough and with proper medical care.
Too many people are still living with a fear-based paradigm about cancer, rooted in outdated treatments and late detection. Hollywood is still making movies about what cancer was like decades ago and the scientific journals are too dense or obtuse for laypeople to easily digest. TV personalities like Dr. Oz are still offering false hopes and pseudoscientific claptrap for easy ratings by promoting dietary cures and other nonsense rather than speaking truth about the rise of medical science. In fact, Dr. Oz and his guest Dr. William Li play fairly fast and loose with the notion that the foods they recommend can actually prevent or treat cancer. The sheer volume of food that would have to be consumed to even come close to the results they imply would be difficult to tolerate at best. Continue reading Advocacy and Enlightenment on Lung Cancer→
As a frequent contributor to Quora.com, a website for asking questions and getting answers from people who are knowledgable about the subject, I have naturally offered input on issues related to lung cancer. After all, one of the first rules for authors is to “write what you know.” Here, in honor of lung cancer awareness month, I am collecting links to some of the answers I have supplied on Quora.
Read on below the links for more on Lung Cancer Awareness
Some of these questions have many answers and mine might be somewhere down the list, but generally all of them make for interesting reading and good perspectives. Popular ones may have been “upvoted” quite extensively (this could also be the case for older answers while newer answers with more merit may have few upvotes simply because fewer people have viewed them). Also, a lot of the answers are quite brief. Occasionally I do get a bit long-winded, but my contribution to the discussion could be just a few sentences or paragraphs. Overall, however, I think that these questions and answers make for good reading in a format more like a town hall meeting than a typical blog. Continue reading Lung Cancer Answers and Awareness Support→
I love autumn. My favorite season is marked by the changing colors of leaves, the cooler breezes and the fun of Hallowe’en. October has traditionally been my favorite month, marking the real onset of autumn. October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the advocates for this have done a tremendous job over the past decades, leading toward huge increases in funding for research and also leaps forward in treatment. The popularity of this movement, however, overshadows Lung Cancer Awareness Month, right on its heels in November. While the movement for Lung Cancer Awareness might not be as popular, the disease itself is equally entrenched and far more deadly. But the greater public has yet to rally for this affliction with anywhere near the fervor of other causes, in spite of an overall very small piece of the research pie.
Let’s put the Cannabis Cancer Cure into some perspective.
If we face the facts, anyone purveying hemp oil or cannabis as a cancer cure is either willfully ignorant of the facts or is delusional about its proven effects. While certain cannabinoids or other chemicals found in the cannabis certainly show promise for potential cancer treatments, thus far the only valid studies have occurred in Petri dishes or grafted animal tumors. And there is one insidious fact left out of the claims proliferating across the Inter Webs.
That’s right, the same chemical components that appear to kill or slow the progression of some cancer cells have also been shown to speed the growth of other cancer cells. There is a matter of dosing, too: some doses help reduce tumors while other doses will actually cause progression. And this is still in a highly controlled lab dish setting. Getting those doses correct through the filter of individual human metabolism could be a disaster, if it even works at all. Continue reading The Cannabis Cancer Cure Explained→