Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cringing Curmudgeon

To others, I have expressed my desire to one day be labeled a curmudgeon. Not so much in the miserly definition, but the surly one. Some (primarily those who have known me the longest) have responded, "You don't have to wait. You already are." Some (who haven't known me that long) have responded. "You are too young and too nice."

However, today I am feeling a bit curmudgeonly, especially when I read the news about a certain member of the media associated with a major network morning show. I wish her well and am sure she is a very nice person. I respect her for bringing her situation to light. I would like to respond to some comments I have read in the online CNN article (which appear in green type below).

" I've always been a fighter, and with all of your prayers and support, a winner," Roberts said in an online message Monday."  - Nice comment from her. She is correct about the significance of prayer and support.

"Then a few weeks ago, during a rather unpleasant procedure to extract bone marrow for testing, I received word that I would interview President Obama the next day," Roberts said. "The combination of landing the biggest interview of my career and having a drill in my back.." - This is the kind of dramatic statement that can hinder others from wanting to undergo a bone marrow biopsy. While it isn't the most pleasant of experiences, it isn't the worst thing that can happen in life (I've had 7 since November 2008 and am scheduled for 3 more between now and July 2014) and is a very critical diagnostic procedure to determine the extent of the disease. There is a drilling process involved, but it does not require an industrial 20 volt variable speed reversing drill with impact driving capabilities. Trust me, it's no walk in the park for the person who had to administer it. They understand that it can be uncomfortable, and they do all they can to make sure the patient is comfortable throughout the procedure. As for me, I do not experience prolonged discomfort throughout the procedure, but rather, a few times of discomfort  that are equivalent in discomfort to hitting your funny bone. For myself, prior to my first bone marrow biopsy, the worst part was imagining what was going to happen vs. what actually happened.

It can be brought on by chemotherapy and radiation, treatments that Roberts underwent after her breast cancer diagnosis. "Sometimes the treatment for cancer can cause other serious medical problems," She said - Note the second word in the statement, "can." It is likely that her previous treatments could have lead to her current condition, but I would like her to state, if knowing what she knows now and she had to do it all over again, what direction would she take with her treatment? I know that the possibility exists that I may face some "benefits" from my treatments down the road. However, at the time of my diagnosis, I felt so lousy, I was willing to do whatever it took to feel better. In an ideal world, chemotherapy and radiation treatments would not exist. The immune system would attack and end cancer in the body. Making broad statements that, yet again could steer someone away from adding quality time to their life is borderline irresponsible for someone in a position of responsibility to report facts to the public. I understand the emotion involved when someone is diagnosed with a catastrophic illness. However, when you are in a position that your statements can be distributed to the masses, measure your words carefully or keep them entirely in the bucket.

While information found online about MDS can be "some scary stuff," Roberts said her doctors told her it doesn't apply to her. "They say I'm younger and fitter than most people who confront this disease and will be cured." - Geez already. You work for a news organization and you went online? Don't you have medical talking heads on staff? Please tell me you went to legitimate sources. And the whole "younger and fitter" stuff is good news for you, but what about older folks? What would be your recommendation for them?

That search is conducted largely through the National Marrow Donor Program, which maintains a registry of bone-marrow donors. Sally-Ann Roberts said her sister is hoping to draw attention to the registry and encourage people to join."It's very simple to be part of the registry," she said. "I just had a swab, a cheek swab, and they test that and that's how they determine that." - Thank you. Something good can come out of all this if you say these kind of things. And just to help you out, the legitimate web site to learn more about marrow donations is: www.marrow.org

I will never minimize the impact of a medical diagnosis on someone else, no matter whether the diagnosis is a common cold or life threatening illness. However, as someone who enjoys live theater, I choose to experience drama while gazing at a stage.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Was It Just Me That Heard That?

Tonight, I saw a commercial on TV for a cancer treatment center that I will not name here. I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable of what they speak. I wonder how much of what they present in their commercial is lost on the general public. I would suspect that due to the saturation of their commercials, should someone be diagnosed with a form of cancer, if that particular facility is not available in their area, they may consider that facility for a second opinion.

However, one part of their commercial jumped out at me, causing me to follow up. They mention that on their website, you can find survival rates for various cancers. I checked it out. Some are listed on their website (and that part of their website is not necessarily easy to find) and a large amount of them are not. Mine was not. I did peruse the stomach cancer link and noted that the statistics are only of their patients and the time period is from 2000-2005.

That doesn't work for me. That is a period of 7-12 years ago. Too much has happened in cancer research since then.

I recently spoke to someone who was about to begin chemotherapy and radiation treatments for throat cancer. I advised him to 1) stay off the internet except for sites recommended by his doctor; 2) do not read published material that has a copyright date of more than 2-3 years in the past as things are changing that quickly; 3) do not concern yourself about how someone else reacted to treatments that may be similar to yours as the treatment process may not be personalized to the individual, but since there are enough variables in physical makeup between each patient, "portion sizes" and reactions will vary by patient.

I was once annoyed (and still am) by what cancer does to the individual. But what troubles me even more these days is what individuals, who listen to erroneous information, allow cancer to do themselves.

"We're just knocked out. 
We heard about the sell out. 
You gotta get an album out. 
You owe it to the people. 
We're so happy we can hardly count. 
Everybody else is just green, 
Have you seen the chart? 
It's a helluva start, 
It could be made into a monster 
If we all pull together as a team. 
And did we tell you the name of the game, boy, 
We call it 'riding the gravy train' " - Roger Waters