Renal Cell Live!

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Incurable Disease"

Emma at restYes, both Saint H and I have fallen victim to an insidious disease: tractor sickness. You may recall that last year I found, and bought, a Ferguson disc and a 3-point post auger at an auction, for use with our beloved Emma. We went further, then, and joined Ferguson Enthusiasts of North America and dutifully read the "Ferguson Furrows" newsletter. We generally look at the articles and check the events schedule, realizing dimly that this illness is managed only by occasionally seeing other patients and the inoculant, the tractors themselves. The newest issue had a terrible effect on us: several Ferguson items for sale in Mansfield, Ohio, just a short drive away.

Ferguson hay rakeWe called. We drove. We drooled. We wrote a check. We added a Ferguson side delivery hay rake, a Ferguson 2-bottom plow, a Ferguson cultivator, a Ferguson tractor jack, and a Ferguson belt pulley to the collection. As we drove home, Saint H said only, "I'm stunned to find all that in one place." Amazing to think that, once we get it home, it will all be in our place.

This is the type of illness I can enjoy!

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Boy and His Cat

Dad's helperWell, we must be heading into spring at last. The snow is nearly melted, though we have a lake in the pasture for the moment. The bluebirds are courting, so Saint H spent this morning cleaning out the nest boxes. Jezebel merrily accompanied him on his rounds, making sure that he got everything done. I guess since we don't have a dog yet, she's happy to stand in. Next weekend we'll probably put the martin gourds back up - here's hoping this is the year they decide to move in.

Tomorrow I will call Dr. SC's office to schedule a C/T scan and a bone scan, on Dr. G's recommendation. I've been having intermittent twinges under the right side of my ribcage, rather like muscle spasms. These were occurring only when I bent into certain positions (putting on shoes, for one); in the past couple of weeks it's been a more general ache. When I finally made it to my appointment with Dr. SC last week, I mentioned this; his nurse suggested I might have a hernia along the track of the abscess that developed after my liver resection. Dr. G decided that I should have it checked out now, even though I'm due to see him in a couple of weeks. It's not terrible and it's probably nothing to worry about, but I'd much rather know what's going on than not. Oh well, I've already met my deductible for the year ...

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bright White

Sunday morning, 9 a.m.Well, we've come through another storm, this time replete with 20" of snow and winds. This is our porch at 9:00 this morning, following Friday and Saturday snowstorms - good thing we weren't planning to go anywhere! The storm finally blew itself out about 5:00 yesterday afternoon, and we're expecting a little more snow overnight.

out, please?The snow brought flocks of snow buntings, horned larks, and juncos to our feeders. Cola spent two days parked in front of the living room window watching those yummy plump morsels bounding about in the snow. Now that the sun's out, the show's over. Saint H went out walking this morning; some drifts along the lane were up to his waist (he's 5'11".) He was able to break a path up and down the lane on the tractor, so the fellow who plowed us out had an easier time of it this year than last.

One winter, during my high school years, we had several bad storms that shut down our roads. One of our neighbors was then in the process of dying from advanced breast cancer. At the height of one fierce storm, Ann's condition worsened and she was evacuated to a hospital 20 miles away by snowmobile. Don't think that doesn't cross my mind when the weather rages now.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Snake Oil by Chanel

Last week a well-meaning friend sent me a "Johns Hopkins Cancer Update". As the email requested, she sent it to everyone in her address book. It sounds good: a clear-cut enumerated list of statements about cancer that identifies what causes it, and states definitively how to combat it. The only problem is that it's not true - it's an urban legend, and never came from Johns Hopkins to start with.

My first thought was to just hit the delete button; then I thought, no, I'd better give a response because it's not good to spread this stuff further. Before I could do so, though, I got another message from her: One of her correspondents is a physician, who repudiated the content. My friend sent out a message to everyone apologizing and quoting his comments, "The information in the email is irresponsible and innacurate [sic] and may well cause harm or even death to those who choose to ignore appropriate medical advice. I do not suggest passing this email on to others."

Since my diagnosis, I've gotten lots of suggestions for cures and treatments from friends. Some constitute advice about dealing with side effects (fatigue, generally); others are claims for nutritional cures; still others advocate alternative medicines. Some of these suggestions are reasonable, sound advice, while others are way outside the fringes of reality.

There may be a grain of truth behind all of these suggestions, but I'm pretty skeptical. There are many distinct types of cancer, but most of the "cures" talk in general terms of "cancer" as if all cancer cells behave identically, and that what will work for one will work for another. Yet accepted wisdom says that renal cell almost never responds to radiation or standard chemotheraphy, so these methods of treatment are almost never tried. Likewise, every person responds differently to medications - I need look no further than myself for the truth behind that. What works for one person may not work for the next.

People want to believe that there's a solution to cancer, and that this solution can be codified and passed along to someone they care about. And it can be a great comfort to see a list, or a diet, or another scheme, headed up with a recognizable name - would you rather get advice from an unnamed source, or from, say, Mother Teresa?

I really have a problem with these indiscriminate, false attributions - as a former librarian, I know how to track things down and can evaluate sources pretty easily. But others may not know where to go to validate a statement, and sometimes taking these things on face value can be risky.

Perhaps Alan Alda puts it best, in his recent book Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself. He discusses the mythical but comforting "wear sunscreen" address supposedly delivered to MIT graduates by Kurt Vonnegut. Alda writes,

"It's a delightful piece of writing. But if it's presented as if it were by someone other than the person who wrote it, it steals that person's good name and gives a certain credibility before it has a chance to earn it honestly. So, as good as it is, it's a cheat. At least in the way it's offered to us."

I hope we can think critically about what's presented us in all arenas, but there's so much at stake in terms of one's health - it's doubly important to be careful.

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