prepping for awareness…

“Earth’s crammed with heaven…
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And you thought I was going to be talking about prepping and not about
that kind of prepping…
but prepping is indeed prepping…as in getting prepared…
for something…and today, I am prepping….

We should note that March is National Colorectal Awareness Month.

That is why it is August and I’m just now getting around to being aware.

Also…

I think most of us know that when we reach a certain age, our doctors
always start recommending certain tests and screenings.
They hit you with that…
“you know…now that you’re over 50…”

That’s why at 57 I’m suppose to be having a colonoscopy every 5 years…
and yet here it is well past 7 years and I’m just now getting around to doing such.

I would rather volunteer to have a root canal in North Korea before I’d volunteer
for a colonoscopy….just saying.

It’s not so much the actual procedure, that part is a piece of cake…
cause you’re asleep…good sleep too…just saying…

It’s rather what all is involved in the prep for this type procedure that is so….
in a word,
awful.

We can send men to the moon, with talk of Mars being next, and yet we’ve yet to come
up with a people friendly colonoscopy prep.

I have seen those commercials…
you know the ones…
the ones with the little blue and white box that talks to us
explaining that “it’s as easy as get, go, gone.”
No prep there.
But that’s a test for those age 50 at an average to minimal risk for colorectal cancer.

I’m not average.

If you’ve never had to go through such a prep just know that it seems to be a
challenge for any and all who participate. Even my doctor’s PA,
who I really love by the way, shared with me that she simply stayed in her
bathtub throughout her perp.

Really?

Her own little horror story followed with the very next breath telling me
that the prep has gotten so much easier than it use to be.

Really?
You’re in a bathtub and you’re telling me it’s now easy…
yeah…right.

After reading through the prep procedure papers the only thing different that
I can see is that I can start the misery at 9 AM verses say noonish…
That way the misery lasts all day long verses afternoon and night.

During the last prep seven years ago, I lost 6 pounds—
which mind you is a great thing, but what I endured while losing 6 pounds left
an indelible mark on my psyche.

Laying on the bathroom floor, trying to simply sleep,
wrapped in only a beach towel, can be a bit traumatizing.

For whatever reason,
this body of mine simply doesn’t handle invasive trauma very well.
My mind does okay…tough as nails….
the body however is entirely a different story.

As you may recall, I’m adopted.

Whenever any of us goes to a doctor, they always ask if we or a family member has
a history of___________
filling in the blank with anything from heart disease to cancer…

Being adopted I can’t answer because I have no clue.

I have however always battled a lifetime of IBS, or what my pediatrician would
tell my mom, “she has a nervous stomach”…later in college they called
it a spastic colon.
Nowadays it’s known as IBS…
I simply call it a lifetime of angry and unappreciable guts.

Plus I’ve had my fair share of misery with a peptic ulcer.

So colonoscopies, for me, have been long before age 50.
In fact in college I felt more like a lab rat at the University’s Health
Center than I did a student seeking medicine.

So I know procedures and I know preps.
It’s just that I dread each one like a hole in the head.

There is a childhood memory however, that I carry with me to this day…
a memory that cuts right through my attempted humor over “prepping”….
a memory that reminds me that prepping and screening for cancer, any sort of cancer,
is a very serious matter that can mean the difference between life and death.

When I was a little girl my mom had a dear friend.
The two moms use to always get us kids together and we always had
such fun…there was a daughter my age and we always played at one another’s
houses— going to birthday parties together, trick or treating together,
the circus together…we did everything together as families.

Mom’s friend however had a condition that I did not know about.
I’m pretty certain the adults knew about it but back in those days, of the
very early 1960’s, not much was really known about treating ileitis colitis…
or what we know today as Chron’s Disease.
Such being that trying to “control” it through diet was about the only option.

And granted Chron’s is not cancer, it is however a disease that can be
screened for, treated and watched, lest it become overwhelmingly too late.

I didn’t know about her condition until late one afternoon when our phone rang.

My mom had gotten a phone call and I can still vividly see my mom breaking down
while on the phone, crying.
I had never seen my mom cry until that afternoon.

Her friend had had an “attack” during the day while her husband was at work and
her kids at school. She died a very awful death only to be found by her son,
in the bathroom, once they’d gotten home from school.
Mom’s friend was only in her early 30’s leaving behind a young husband
and two young children.

That episode left a lasting impression on me.

We tried to carry on together as families, but the husband eventually remarried,
moved away and stated a new life…

Knowing that I too had a troublesome gut, even as a child,
this one incident scared me.
I was determined from then on to be vigilant and proactive.
Mother’s pain over this sudden and tragic loss, made a deep impression.

Are we not always reminded in some sort of poignant way or another that we
are to take nothing for granted….

The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that we should always be proactive
when it comes to our health.
I’ve known many a woman who, for whatever reason, was unwilling to have a mammogram,
or to have one regularly.
I had many a female high school student who I knew were sexually active yet
refused to visit a Gynecologist.
I had a brother-n-law who would never have a colonoscopy and eventually died
from colon cancer.

So as far as our health is concerned, ignorance is not always bliss.

Yet that’s not to say that all screenings catch things early or in time.
But I honestly believe that by trying to stay on top of things we are better off
in the long run…

So….once again, I’m biting the bullet, or actually
more like drinking the full 64 ounce Miralx laced Gatorade, one more time…
while I go locate my beach towels…
wish me luck.

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

revolving

“A man who overindulges lives in a dream. He becomes conceited.
He thinks the whole world revolves around him; and it usually does.”

W. C. Fields

“There are ultimately only two possible adjustments to life;
one is to suit our lives to principles; the other is to suit principles to our lives.
If we do not live as we think, we soon begin to think as we live.
The method of adjusting moral principles to the way men live is
just a perversion of the order of things.”

Fulton J. Sheen

sun_planets
(image courtesy the web)

The gravitational pull is strong.
Yet science purports that it is not actually a force…

“Gravity is most accurately described by the general theory of relativity
(proposed by Albert Einstein in 1915) which describes gravity not as a force,
but as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime caused by
the uneven distribution of mass/energy.
The most extreme example of this curvature of spacetime is a black hole,
from which nothing can escape once past its event horizon, not even light.[1]

Wikipedia

Yet it is by this most assumed force, or consequence,
that we are grounded and anchored to our planet.
For without such a force, or consequence as it were,
there would be nothing to keep us in place….
As we and everything else would be floating around willy nilly,
with nothing solid underneath our feet.

And even our very planet, which holds us each in place,
is locked in its own gravitational orbit…
continually circling around and around a central orb.
Held in the same track and pattern day in and day out, year in and year out…
for nary the slightest deviation would spell complete and utter devastation.

And thus within this solar continuum, man finds himself orbiting…
yet not as a part of the obvious, as atop his own planet…
but orbiting rather, on his very own.
Orbiting and revolving around not so much a sun,
but rather his own sense of self.

Yet what man, in his endless self revolving orbit, has failed to grasp
is that the unevenness of self absorption will lead to an extreme curvature
of awareness,
a deeply flawed and skewed awareness,
thus leading to the formation of a gaping black hole…
A relentless and all consuming blackness resulting in the unequal distribution of
man’s self orbit filled by both ego and pride.
A black hole that will consume man, obliterating his very life’s orbit,
A black hole that will eventually not even permit man’s light of hope to escape…
because by that time, it will be all too late…

the resulting hell of the egocentric…

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable,
slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless,
swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Avoid such people

2 Timothy 3:1-5

what constitutes genocide?

If it’s April, it must be “Never Again” time once more. You hear this solemn pledge a lot every April, since the month commemorates not only Holocaust Remembrance Day but the official anniversaries of both the Armenian and Rwandan genocides. Leaders at every level seem to love hearing themselves declare “Never Again.” But those who mean it have no power and those with power never mean it. The record speaks for itself.
Gerald Caplan, Samuel Totten and Amanda Grzyb
The Globe and Mail 2013

DSCN2518
(remnants of desecrated monuments / Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook /2016)

Genocide–a noun–the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

What does it take for mass murder, the systematic killing of one group of people, to be recognized by world powers, in particular the Obama administration, as genocide?

How many people have to die a brutal death, before one more death, becomes one too many?

Why do we have to have committees, writing up and comprising dossiers, detailing the numbers and events of the egresses brutalities, the murders, in hopes that the powers that be, in this case Secretary of State John Kerry, will finally publicly agree that the systematic mass murders are to be recognized as genocide?

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/pressure-mounts-on-obama-to-call-islamic-state-163109049.html

Also… this second link is to a story about a man living in Raqqa who has kept a diary reflecting life lived under the rigid arm of ISIS—his story secretly shared with BBC reporters

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35728424

Today’s awareness

“If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
― Leo Tolstoy

IMG_0955
(image courtesy Phyllis Snipes, Ohau, Hawaii/ 2014)

Today is Friday, Sepember 26, 2014.
Just another ol day for so many of us on this planet.
Yet. . .
for others, today is a day of great significance and importance.
Perhaps it is a birthday, a wedding day, a new job day, a new move day, a new relationship day. Perhaps it is a day offering new joy, a day of wonder, a day of homecomings, a day of expectations, a day of anticipation. . .
or. . .
for some. . .perhaps it is a day of loss, of sadness, of goodbye’s, of grave diagnosis. . .

Today, a day for those who suffer, have suffered or will suffer from the ravages of cancer, in particular mesothelioma, today is a day of Awareness.

September 26, 2014 is the 10th anniversary of Mesothelioma Awareness Day.
And why, you wonder, is Cookie showcasing this day. . .

Flashback two weeks ago.

Imagine my surprise when I received a request on my blog from a certain Cameron Von St. James asking if I would please e-mail him as he had a question. I thought that request a bit unusual as I usually don’t receive the asking of questions as folks typically just comment, reply or like whatever is going on in cookieland.
Curious, I emailed Cameron.

Cameron responded with an introduction.
He is a husband and a father who wanted to ask if I could help him with a particular quest he was / is currently waging.
His wife Heather is a mesothelioma survivor.
He was asking if I could help highlight this vicious cancer by offering some information, etc. with a post on my blog, hopefully coinciding with the official awareness day.
Having lost my mom to lung cancer 28 years ago, I am always more than happy to help bring awareness to the continuing battle we wage against all forms of Cancer.

My first introduction to Mesothelioma came in a rather round about way many years ago when I just was a new young teacher. I was teaching in a school that had already seen a good bit of wear and tear as it had been built around 1963. It was not uncommon for buildings and even houses, which were built early to mid century, to be insulated with asbestos. Asbestos was a desirable building material because it was a natural occurring mineral mined in abundance, it was cheap, it was a super insulator as well as sound barrier plus it stood up to the damaging effects which could be caused by fire, electrical mishaps and or water.

My classroom’s ceiling was coated in asbestos, as were several other classrooms, as well as the school’s cafeteria ceiling. One summer, about my 3rd year at the school, we saw some major work done by the State to rid the school of any and all asbestos as its potential for health concerns had become paramount.

It seems that there is even documentation that the ancient Romans had raised health concerns over the use of asbestos. Even our own scientific and medical communities began raising red flags back in the 1920’s and 30’s. Finally here it was the early 1980’s and the Government was just getting around to ridding schools, buildings and homes of this potential health hazard. Alas the Government has never been known for speed.

That summer long ago, the men in the little white hazmat suits and hoods invaded our school. My classroom, as well as other areas of the building, were sealed and cordoned off complete with warning tape, plastic sheeting and signs with grave health warnings.
It was that big a deal.
Here were these men walking around fully incased in special suits as the teachers, on the other-hand, were milling about in average clothing. A twilight moment of the surreal to be sure.

We were assured however that as long as the asbestos material, in our case the sprayed layer coating our ceiling, was not “disturbed”– scratched, rubbed or agitated to create dust particles, we were fine.
Whenever the Government tells me “I’m fine”—that’s when I worry.

I didn’t think much else about that summer or asbestos again until my mom died of lung cancer several years later. If you’ve ever watched a loved one fight and die battling cancer, you, the survivor somehow develop a deep seceded paranoia. Even though I am adopted, watching my mom suffer, I had that whole transference thing going on. I felt doomed to her fate. She was young when she died, 53. Would I ever live past her age?
Stupid, silly and unfounded, but yet very real.
If she was robbed of happiness and of her life, why should I be afforded anything different or better?
That sadly was my mind set.
It was also my dad’s— as throughout the 28 years since her death, any ache or pain, he’s been convinced it’s cancer.

That’s what cancer does—it not only robs those who actually develop cancer of joy and life, it robs the living as well.

When Cameron contacted me, asking for my help, I began to rack my brain on what I knew about Mesothelioma.
I knew it was a cancer that was somehow connected to the exposure of asbestos.
I had seen the commercials concerning the legal rights of it’s victims on television.
The victims seemed to be older men who were somehow connected to having served in the military or did construction work.
Why that was, was still a mystery to me.
I then tried to figure out a correlation between what I knew and how a young woman who was a wife and a mother up in Roseville, Minnesota could somehow contract such a cancer.

Cameron was kind enough to provide a link about Heather and her battle.

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/awareness/#.VCWnod6qBUQ

Eight years ago Heather was diagnosed with the cancer and given 15 months to live.
Mesothelioma is a rather rare cancer affecting roughly 3000 victims yearly. It also comes with a very grime prognosis as there is no cure.

When Heather was diagnosed it was shortly after she and Cameron had welcomed their daughter Lily into the world. I can only imagine the tremendous roller coaster of emotions of going from the joy of becoming new young parents, to being handed an out of the blue death sentence of maybe 15 months to live. My mom was given 6 months yet barely survived 6 weeks. Guessing games with life expectancy is never reassuring nor encouraging.

Yet I was curious.
How in the world did a vibrant young wife and mother contract a cancer that was / is more common in those who are older as well as effecting those who have been either members of the military or those who worked in the construction field?

It seems that after watching Heather’s short video, I learned it was from her dad, who was a construction worker who had spent a lifetime working with sheetrock, otherwise known as drywall, that Heather had been exposed. Heather’s dad would spend his days sanding asbestos ladened drywall, only to come home each evening covered, unbeknownst to him, with a potentially lethal fine white powder. Heather, each evening greeting her dad, welcoming him home after a hard day’s work, was exposed to millions of deadly dust particles which in turn insidiously invaded her young body. Heather’s was a type of second hand exposure. She was not the one doing the initial sanding but yet it was from the residual dust that she was effected. Why it affects some and yet bypasses others remains a mystery.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that the damage done to the lungs and pulmonary system can sit for years in one’s body without warning signs or symptoms–as was the case with Heather—she was 36 when she became symptomatic and was eventually diagnosed, yet she had been exposed many years prior.

Heather was sent to Boston for treatment from one of the leading facilities in the Country which works with Mesothelioma patients. She underwent grueling treatments, with the loss of one lung being a big part of her treatment. She was unable to care for her young daughter as Cameron, who had to remain back home much of the time in order to work, was unable to be by the side of his ill wife nor could he be with his young daughter who now was staying with Heather’s family in South Dakota. Cancer does not care whether families get to stay together or not. Nor does it care whether families can financially absorb the catastrophic costs to wage such a battle.

This is in part why days like today are so important. They help raise our awareness, concern, and hopefully the necessary funding to help better fight this stealthy enemy and help work toward a cure.

There is more information available out there on the internet regarding the particulars of Mesothelioma, which I won’t repeat here as it is not my desire to parrot clinical history or statistics but rather it is my desire to bring attention to this cancer and to the faces of those who it effects.

heather-family
(a recent picture of Heather, Cameron and Lily)

In this case the cancer not only effected Heather, it effected Cameron and their daughter Lily as well as both of their families. . .Just as it continues to affect countless numbers of other unsuspecting individuals and families. That is why, a day such as today, Friday September 26th, is important. This is a day which hopefully will bring more and more awareness to Mesothelioma and of it’s devastating smothering blanket it casts indiscriminately.

May you use today, this day of national awareness, to do a little investigating of your own. May we use today as a day to learn, to teach, to help, to pray and to work toward bringing more focus on this cancer and its gravity- – – so that little girls like Lily may always enjoy living life with their beautiful moms like Heather.

Lessons from a garden

The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon

IMG_0733
(the remnants of a strong gusty wind and thunderstorm–blown over corn stalks / Julie Cook / 2014)

Calamity!
Or so it appeared.
Just when I thought I had successfully, yet wearily, finished one apparent battle, vanquishing the hidden foes; I am suddenly blindsided by a more ominous battle unleashed by Mother Nature.
No rest for the weary. . .

Saturday afternoon a rather nasty little thunderstorm blew up. Strong gusty winds swept in from the Northwest as the sky overhead darkened to an ominous heavy grey.
We received about a 30 minute gushing rain, which I was happy to receive, as the yard and garden were all in need of some ample watering. It wasn’t until Sunday morning, when I actually realized how the strong winds of Saturday had ushered in a near catastrophe on Sunday.

My corn stalks had proved to be no match for the wind.
When they were just young tender shoots, I had spent a full day hand packing dirt up around their bases. . . all for this very reason–all in preparation for the tempests of summer.
Yet my best laid plans were simply no match for Mother Nature.

I spent the better part of the day, this hot Sunday, trying to salvage the stalks– propping them back up and repacking bases. Hoping for the best–that my bent and blown stalks will straighten back up and will not have suffered too terribly.

Moments such as these, as I spend hours in 90 degree heat, bent over, scrapping up fresh soil to pack around the bases of a multitude of corn stalks, gives me great pause.
A humbling pause.

I am reminded of the fragility of life and strangely of my simple place in this massive universe we call home.

I am reminded of those individuals, living in the heartland of this Nation, who are currently recovering from the deadly destructive and ferocious winds of tornados from this past week. Imagine those midwestern corn fields if a mere afternoon thunderstorm could lay waste to my own corn stalks! Not to mention the homes and business now totally destroyed or even gone. . .

I am reminded of the hardships of those first settles who originally claimed this Nation of ours as a new home. The sweat and toiled labor of clearing land, building communities from the ground up with only simple tools and determination, growing food for basic survival. . .
They did not have the luxury of, if the home garden failed, of running to the Farmer’s Market or grocery store to supplement disaster and failure. Their’s was truly a feast or famine existence.

I am reminded of a time in this Nation when the word “dustbowl” was one of the most frightening and destructive words known to a farmer. Faded black and white images capture a snapshot in time of the barren wasteland known as the Midwest– as the Nation fell into a grave time of hardship. Collapse of crops coupled with the collapse of financial institutions delivered a one two punch to the entire Country. How ignorantly smug we’ve grown today with our technology, global resources and imagined infallibility. Do we think we are immune to widespread disaster?

I am made most mindful of the small, yet important, lessons rendered from time spent working and reworking in a garden. Not merely from the reaping of the literal fruits of one’s labors but more importantly the reaping of the more intrinsic fruits of a life lived with reflection and intent.

1. Patience—as in “have they sprouted yet, bloomed yet, turned the right color yet?
Are they ready yet??!?
The answer for the longest time will be NO—
not until suddenly, on one single day, it’s all ready at once.

2. Perseverance—as in when the varmints sneak in when no one is looking,
and in one single dinning experience, can wipe out months of work and tending.

3. Awareness—as in if it looks cute, pretty, or odd it is either poisonous,
hungry or both. Don’t touch.

4. Preparedness—as in if you walk through the tall clover and grass
before the yard is cut wearing chacos (sandals),
a bee will sting you or fire ants will attack you.

5. Sharing—as in “we can’t eat all of this, who wants some or needs some??”

6. Timeliness, as well as, “there is no time like the present”–
as in it’s too bad if it’s hot, if it’s wet, if the bugs are out–
one must may hay while the sun shines–
as in get busy now!

7. Establishing and maintaining the importance of a good Work ethic–
as in working with ones’ hands, as in dirty manual labor is not beneath anyone
and is good for the soul—
plus you’ve got to “get at it” despite soreness, heat, and not feeling like it. . .

8. Life is cyclical—as in things wither and die, but in turn things sprout and grow

9. Frugality, Innovation, Thankfulness—as in “do not be wasteful and that water is essential to life”—be prepared to preserve and care for the bigger picture of our environment–as this is critical because nothing is guaranteed to last forever–make use of what you have and sometimes you must be innovative

10.Mystery and Awe—as in life, as well as death, there remains awe and mystery. As I am always reminded every day that I am the created and not the Creator. I am a steward of what has been given to me–I must care for it as the precious gift that it is and be thankful for the small as well as the large blessings helping those who may be hurting now, as we will all need help at some point in our lives.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
John 12:24