Tag Archives: Cancer

Government is not promoting good health

I know, this sounds like a conspiracy. Well, I believe it is.

I have just started a petition at http://www.whitehouse.gov asking the administration to instruct the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to write the National Dietary Guidelines, not the USDA (Department of Agriculture).

Please review the petition here, sign, it and spread the word.

As top executives at the Department of Agriculture have traditionally had long-standing ties with big agribusiness, and as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are at epidemic rates, and as diet is largely responsible for our health, I believe the fox is minding the hen house when it comes to the health of the American public.

The pharmaceutical, beef, chicken, egg, dairy industries and their ilk do not have the best interests of the public at heart. Their best interests are in profits. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, profits from the sicknesses and diseases that the high fat, high cholesterol Standard American Diet from the USDA guidelines. The sicker the American people get, the more money the pharmaceutical industry makes. For the USDA to promote artery-clogging meat, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, chicken, and pork as a hefty portion of the Standard American Diet is irresponsible to the extreme, and causes hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths every year.

If we want to reduce the top health hazards of Americans (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.), and thereby drastically reduce the amount of money spent on health care every year, these dietary guidelines must come more in line with the guidelines proven to prevent and sometimes even reverse the ravages of disease caused by poor diet. The government organization most likely to do the independent research required to conceive a healthy dietary guideline is The Centers for Disease Control.

I refer to Dr. Neal Barnard’s The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Dr. Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyne’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Program, Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies, and others.

If you’re not familiar with these ground-breaking studies, it would be good for your health and the health of your family and the health of the planet if you looked into it. Start with these websites, read these doctors’ books.

And if you like what you find, please sign the petition.

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Meat and Cancer

Yesterday the World Health Organization released a study that said that processed meat is a carcinogen. They base this not-so-startling finding on over 800 studies.

Of course PETA was ecstatic, and the meat industry dismissive. But what confounds me is the reaction of my friends.

One says 800 studies are not enough. We need more. In other words, you can have my bacon when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. In fact, another friend actually said that.

Another said, since she was already smoking, she might as well pile on the sausage. I have another friend who said that every one she knows who has quit smoking has died of cancer, so she is not quitting.

I am astonished and dismayed by this very small, simple, unscientific survey of those I interact with on Facebook.

Those who have had cancer know that it isn’t funny, it isn’t something to be taken lightly. It takes a terrible toll on general health, finances, and families. It burdens our health care systems and makes our health insurance premiums go up. It causes excruciating pain, and horrific treatments that can be worse than the actual disease. Just listen to the drug commercials on the nightly news. Listen to the side effects they’re required to list.

And you think it’s fine to risk all of that because you want bacon? Are you insane? Have you ever talked with someone who has endured the treatments for colo-rectal cancer? Being so dismissive of this finding is an insult to everyone who has ever battled cancer.

So next to the “pray for Jennifer’s healing” post with a photo of a bald teenager fighting to graduate high school, and a call for a congressional inquiry into crumb rubber on soccer fields, is a friend of mine posting photos of plates of bacon and saying “yumm…”

We’ve all done stupid things in our lives, things that we should have known better to do. I baked myself in the sun in my teens and twenties, and am reaping the melanoma harvest of those stupid decisions. They say that God looks out for drunks and fools, and I think that’s true. But once you know that what you’re doing is likely to turn out horribly wrong for you ten, twenty years down the line, don’t you think you might forfeit a little sympathy when that time comes?

You risk not seeing your kids grow up. Never meeting your grandchildren or great grandchildren. We all die, but we don’t have to welcome the early onset of a horrible disease. For ham.

I am shocked and saddened.

If you don’t like the WHO’s 800 studies, do your own research. There is plenty of information out there.

Don’t be a fool. Make the right decision for your health, for your family, for the environment.

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Clean and Sober

Today I reach a milestone: I have been clean and sober for 35 years. I have lived more than half my life with a spiritual program that keeps me without drugs or alcohol—one day at a time.

I find it inconceivable that it has been 35 years since I had a beer or smoked a joint. Inconceivable!  (And yes, I know what that means.)

It is easier for me to believe that I got drunk last week and have been lying about it.

But it’s true. 35 years.

These have been monumental years. Years of amazing accomplishments, personal and spiritual growth.

As with everyone my age, big events have taken place. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, creative accolades, cancers. Huge events. Emotional events. Certainly events worth drinking over, either in grief or in celebration.

truth and loveLife is not easy. But sobriety is its own reward.

All of these major life events are the stuff of the human experience, and I have been fortunate enough to be present and clear-headed for it all.

I think that’s our reason for being: to experience the human condition in all its intricacies.  Booze and drugs gloss over those intricacies, dull those edges, flatten out those highs and lows, fill in the cracks wherein we might mine for the gold placed precisely there for precisely us.

Drinking and drugging is a waste of time, a waste of money, and a waste of personality.

I am beyond fortunate. I am one of the very fortunate ones who have been able to get sober and stay sober. God willing, I will die sober. But I am in the minority. Drug and alcohol addiction is so sneaky, so calmly patient and doggedly persistent, that when we falter, it is there, waiting with a “fix” to whatever transient problem catches us at a weak moment.

But those aren’t fixes. They’re insulators. They’re a horror show in a bottle. They’re death by slow torture, and they take all our loved ones down with us.

I may be 35 years clean and sober, but I am only one drink away from disaster, and I think about that every single day.

Today I will go to a meeting and share my experience, strength and hope: If I can do it, you can do it. And that is absolutely true.

And then I will go about my life, living in gratitude. I am not only grateful for everything that I’ve been given in life, but grateful for every mind-altering substance I ingested that brought me to my knees and introduced me to the spiritual program that gives me solid tools for living.

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Evan Engstrom – 1942-2010

Heaven is richer today for the presence of my former husband and one of my best friends of all time. Evan Emil Engstrom died yesterday after a 26-year battle with cancer. The man was a warrior. 

I first met Evan when we were both struggling to get sober. I knew his sister and she was everything I wanted to be. Shortly thereafter, I met his mom and his kids, and knew this was the family for me. We married, I adopted his two wonderful children, and we set out to have a full life together. Evan was incredibly smart, the master of the one-line zingers, handy and clever, but most of all, he cared. Deeply. About everything, all the time. He wanted to do the right thing in all situations. My honorary Uncle Paul told me to marry “a man I could live up to.” Evan was just such a man, and he provided a moral compass for me from the moment we met, as well as everyone with whom he came into contact.

It wasn’t long after we married that Evan’s dentist found a small lump under his tongue. The surgery to eradicate this squamous cell carcinoma took the floor of his mouth, all the lymph nodes and big muscle on the left side of his neck, and required a skin graft from his thigh. The doctor told me: “The chances of his being here in two years are slim and none.” Well, they didn’t know Evan.

We moved from Maui to Oregon to provide a broader perspective of life for the kids, began to eat organically, raising most of our own food, and for a long time life was good. Eventually, however, we began to see that while we were really good friends, we did not make good mates. We discussed the fact that friendship is eternal while marriages are likely not, and we were in danger of losing our friendship as we toiled to maintain a broken marriage. So we separated, and eventually divorced, still committed to one another, still connected to one another via the heart, forever, in this world and throughout the next.

When I married Al, Evan came to our wedding. His classic comment: “I’ll come to all of your weddings, Liz, if there’s a meal in it for me.” Al had to know that my commitment to Evan was part of my family unit. And when Evan and Sharon discovered each other in a new way, we all became one big happy weird family, impossible to describe, but precious in every way.

Evan’s cancer came back. Again. And again. And yet again. He never gave up the fight against it, not after all the rest of us thought it might be a good idea that he just let go and let God. But he wanted to see his kids grow up. He wanted to see his grandkids grow up. And for the most part, he did. He leaves his two wonderful children, Nicole and Eron, and five grandsons, Luke, age 19, Joey, 17, Edison, 8 and Dean and Davison, both 3.

Evan left us too early. I particularly grieve that he and Sharon had such limited time together to explore their new relationship, to travel the world in happy retirement. But it is what it is, and we are all richer for knowing and loving him for as long as he was on loan to us.

Congratulations on your graduation, Evan. We all look forward to seeing you on the other side.

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Filed under Aging, Cancer, Death, Dying, family, Graduation, Marriage, relationships

Farrah’s Story

I just heard that Part 2 of Farrah’s Story is in the works.

For those who didn’t watch the 2-hour documentary on NBC last Sunday night, it chronicled Farrah Fawcett’s two-year battle with cancer. She said that the purpose of filming and screening her horrendously painful treatments was to educate, but what did we learn?

Not much. We learned that Farrah is a fighter, to an astonishing degree.  The cringe factor in her treatments was extreme.

But we didn’t learn much else. We only learned the type of cancer almost as an aside (squamous cell carcinoma). We didn’t learn anything about squamous, how it grows or spreads. We didn’t learn how she discovered this tumor. We didn’t learn anything about her treatment options or why she chose the ones she did. Instead, we learned about her iconic hair, and how the doctors tried to perserve it. Good grief.

So, Ryan, if you’re not out to exploit the pain and suffering of the woman you love, use this platform to do some serious education. We all know that chemo makes people puke. That’s not the type of learning we’re after. We want to know the medical stuff of treatment. We want to know what trials are being done. There’s not a one of us who hasn’t been personally affected by cancer, and we’re after answers. Show us her scans. Have a doctor explain them. Show us alternative treatments and experimental treatments and how they work, and why they didn’t.

We all know and love Farrah, but her story has so much more potential to save lives and educate people than what we endured by watching her incredible suffering on Sunday night.

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Filed under Cancer, Dying, Honesty, Memoir, Spirituality

Thinking about prayer…

Prayer is an interesting thing.

In my spiritual program, we’re told to pray only for knowledge of God’s will in our lives and the power to carry that out. That has served me well all these years. I try not to petition for things, as I believe we all have our paths, we all have a different journey, and there’s no way I know what your journey is, so it would be impudent for me to make requests.

And yet…

My sweet ex-husband, Evan, one of my favorite people on the planet and still one of my closest and dearest friends, had devastating surgery yesterday. I found myself asking everybody to pray for him. This is his third disfiguring, life-threatening battle with cancer, and nobody expected him to be around come 1985, much less 2008. He knows he’s been living on borrowed time and that has given him a great sense of humor about it all and a fragrance of gratitude that is pleasant to be around.

Evan and I raised two stellar kids together. We were not good mates, but we are great friends. When our marriage began to crumble back in 1990, we decided to jettison the marriage before it ruined our friendship. That was a good call. We’ve both moved on to excellent relationships, and remain close with each other and our kids and grandkids. The thought of losing him makes me crazy.

And yet how much more can we expect him to endure?

So when I ask you to pray for him today, I’m asking you to pray so he has knowledge of God’s will in his life and the power to carry that out.

That’s all.

That’s enough.

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Filed under Cancer, family, Marriage, Prayer