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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

I’m Marc’s Prostate

Like more than 200,000 American men annually I was diagnosed recently with prostate cancer. Next to skin cancer, prostate cancer in the most commonly occurring cancer among American men. The disease claimed more than 28,000 lives in 2009, the last year for which we have the most complete figures. There is almost truth to the line I’ve heard and now use myself – “if you live long enough, I’ll get prostate cancer.” Prostate cancer is indeed widespread and it takes a particular gruesome toll among African-American men. My case – special to me, for sure – nonetheless seems fairly typical in many ways/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Report. More here.

Question: A neighbor is recuperating at home for prostate surgery. Do you know anyone who is being treated for prostate cancer?

Travel: Five Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Nothing takes the shine off a travel adventure like finding yourself sick away from home.  Even the healthiest of us can fall—Colds happen. Germs find us. Stomachs revolt—so it pays to think ahead and pack for those unexpected headaches, troubled tummies and painful blisters. Here are five tips for staying healthy on the road:

Clean hands. Pack hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes and use often. I wish airports would take a tip from cruise ships and provide hand sanitizer stations at the entrance to all terminals and jetways. Everyone picking up a bin at the security checkpoint or boarding a plane should get a dollop. It couldn’t hurt, right? It’s not just germy handrails or contaminated food. Unexpected surfaces such as the airplane seatback tray or even your purse can—according to some sources—be as dirty as the bathroom floor.

Plan ahead. No travel first aid kit should be without the basics: Pain reliever, cold medicines (decongestant, antihistamine, cough suppressant, etc.) and anti-diarrhea medication can make the difference between an inconvenience and an unpleasant medical situation. Band-Aids and travel-sized antibiotic ointment are a given. If you’re going to more exotic locations make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist for the necessary shots and preventative medication. Don’t forget your vitamins.
Note: Keep prescription medications in the original container to avoid confiscation and to make it easier to get a refill on the road.

Write it down: If you have specific allergies— food or medicine— make sure your travel companions and tour operator are aware. Note: Carry the name and number of your physician in case of emergency and have a copy of your insurance card with you.

All things in moderation: Overeating, drinking too much, lack of sleep and jet lag can wreak havoc on your body and weaken the immune system. Some say the best way to beat jet lag is to start preparing days before a trip. Eat less, drink less and sleep more. Skip the inflight cocktail and opt for water or juice instead. While traveling, resist the temptation to abuse the all-you-can-eat buffet on the cruise ship and stay hydrated.

Exercise: Don’t forget to get up and move on long flights and don’t drop the workout routine when you arrive. Many hotels offer at least a basic fitness room. Even if there is excellent public transportation at the destination you’re visiting, hit the cobblestones whenever possible. Take the stairs when you can. Note: There are specific hotel room-friendly workout routines designed for travelers.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Shopping: This One’s For the Girls

Life can be cruel. Erin Broughton Hughes and her mother, Claire, are both undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer. Erin, a single mother of two young boys, has a heart condition as do both of her sons.

As you can imagine, medical costs and bills are already piling up, so a group of local vintage vendors is putting together a tag sale tomorrow at the Bigelow Gulch Grange, north of Spokane.

Donations have poured in and the organizers have been busy gathering and pricing hundreds of items that will be for sale. In addition to gently used and household goods, toys, furniture, accessories and vintage items, raffle baskets will also be available.

By all accounts, tomorrow is going to be cold. But the sale, spearheaded by Unexpected Necessities' Jennifer Walker, offers a chance to do something that will leave you feeling a warmer and at the same time do some real good.

 

Note: If you are not able to make the sale, please consider making a donation to the Erin Broughton Hughes Benefit Fund. Drop by any Spokane Teachers Credit Union location and ask to donate money to the Erin or send a check to Kim Leighty at 3228 W Alice, Spokane WA 99205. Make the checks out to the “Erin Broughton Hughes Benefit fund.”

Details:

Where: Bigelow Gulch Grange, 7001 E. Bigelow Gulch.

When:  Saturday, (Tomorrow) Nov. 10 9am-4pm

 

Miners, conservationists work to protect Idaho trout

RIVERS — Two conservation groups and three phosphate mining companies in eastern Idaho have formed a partnership intended to improve water quality in the Blackfoot River in eastern Idaho.

JR Simplot Company, Monsanto and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have joined with the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited to form the Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation.

The announcement came after a study revealed mutated trout in Idaho streams, possibly related to mining pollution.  The study had been highligted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (above) as well as the New York Times, as featured in this blog post.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit, by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

In the latest story, the Idaho Statesman reports the conservation initiative group had compiled data on fish populations throughout the Upper Blackfoot and completed an assessment of fish passage obstacles and habitat conditions in February.

Monsanto, Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have mines in the so-called phosphate patch near the Idaho-Wyoming border.

Environmental groups have been concerned about selenium pollution from phosphate mining that’s killed livestock and aquatic life in eastern Idaho waterways.

Daily Show sets hook on Simplot connection with two-headed fish in Idaho

FISHERIES — Maybe there's no connection with the two-headed trout being found in Idaho streams and the six selenium mines operated by the J.R.Simplot Co

I mean, who would believe anything in the New York Times.

Maybe there's no involvement with the giant agribusiness and the silence on the research by Idaho politicians who've married into the Simplot family.

But this special video report by Jon Stewart's reporter Aasif Mandvi on The Daily Show last night sure makes an angler think about the possibilities, and have a good laugh about how things operate.

Mutated fish:  another good reason for catch-and-release.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit,  by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

Consequences, still

Our Boomer lifestyle choices, discontinued decades ago, may still influence our health.  A report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention  reveals  the “number of baby boomers dying from a ‘silent epidemic’ of hepatitis C infections is increasing so rapidly that federal officials are planning a new nationwide push for widespread testing.”

Many Boomers contracted the virus decades ago – through injection drugs or blood transfusions, before blood screening was improved, during the time of AIDS.

New medications are available for the suppression of the virus. The meds are not cheap and they do come with side effects, but may be more appealing than a liver transplant or the agony of treatment for liver cancer.

Watch for a recommendation later this year from the CDC for routine testing  for Hep C of people born between 1945 and 1965.

Yes, no, good, bad…what to eat, drink?

Coffee, alcohol, dark chocolate…you name the substance and there is a study which indicates that substance’s health-enhancing properties or its contribution to your demise.

In Dr. Alisa Hideg's column today, Dr. Hideg advises readers how to dig into these various studies and their claims.  She tells us to read the fine print, not the drive-by headlines and take time to ask who are the subjects of a study? The effects of caffeine on a Petri dish subject are most likely different than how caffeine impacts a middle-age woman.

Take time to read her good advice – and then dig into the latest study on your favorite food or drink.

(S-R archives photo: Coffee berries grow on a tree in the highlands of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.)

October: The Power of Pink, The Power of Community

Each October I honor my grandmother, a breast cancer survivor, by re-posting this 2006 column.  She was, and will always be, an inspiration and a guiding force in my life. CAM

 

 

The Home Planet: Community potent weapon against breast cancer

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Staff writer
Oct 30., 2006

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I’m sure you’ve noticed – next to the orange and black Halloween and harvest decorations – the pink ribbons, pink tools, pink kitchen gadgets, all being sold guaranteeing part of the profit will go to work for a cure for breast cancer.

Thanks to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, pink is the other color of October.

Now pink is the signature color of breast cancer awareness, the color of breast cancer research and, for some, the color of hope and success.

Pink is also the color of community. And that might just be one of the most powerful weapon in the arsenal against breast cancer

When I was a small child I went with my younger sister and infant brother to live with my grandparents. Our young mother was simply unable to care for us.

Two years later, in 1963, my grandmother – a woman who had just turned 50 – found a lump in her breast. After her surgery, the surgeon walked into the waiting room, put his hand on my grandfather’s shoulder and gave him the bad news. It was cancer. And it was very serious. She might not make it.

Both of my grandmother’s breasts were removed and she started her treatment. I don’t really know what was done to fight her cancer, beyond the surgery and radiation treatments, but I know she lost her hair.

During this time my brother, sister and I were aware that our grandmother was ill; I have a vague memory of her being in the hospital, of my grandfather brushing my hair, something my grandmother usually did. I remember the strangeness of finding him in the kitchen cooking hot cereal. I remember her wearing a wig.

We knew she was sick but the seriousness of her illness was never mentioned. You just didn’t talk about that kind of thing. Especially with children.

As soon as she was well enough, my grandfather went back to work and so did she. She went back to keeping house, to cooking all of our meals and caring for three young children. Back to raising a second family.

Although, when we got older, we were told that my grandmother had had breast cancer, the full impact of what she had been through didn’t hit me until much later. Until the pink campaign.

In 1990, at the first Komen National Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C., pink ribbons were worn to signify status as a breast cancer survivor. The little badge took off and became a universal symbol. The simple pink ribbons worn that day have evolved into a potent marketing tool.

Now October has gone pink. I’ll admit that when I see pink kitchen mixers, pink umbrellas and pink vacuum cleaners, each promising to donate a portion of the profits from each sale to breast cancer research, I am vaguely irritated by all the hype. Enough already, I think. I get it.

But then I think about the monumental effort behind the campaign, and the work that has been done because of it, and I think about the world my grandmother lived in and changes that have come about. There’s a lot of power in that pink.

Just 40 years ago, we didn’t talk about cancer. You especially didn’t talk about breast cancer. Women like my grandmother had no choice but to soldier on taking care of homes and families, keeping what they endured to themselves, without the benefit of therapy or counseling. There were no support groups.

My grandmother was a relatively young woman to be raising grandchildren. She didn’t have a large circle of friends. She didn’t go to clubs or meetings. She didn’t meet other mothers for lunch downtown. She didn’t even drive. She was a true stay-at-home caregiver.

She battled cancer and the permanent effects of that battle, with only my grandfather to hold her hand. And she beat the odds. Despite a poor prognosis, she lived 20 years after her surgery before the disease reappeared. But what she didn’t have access to when she was so sick, and what I have to think would have been good medicine, was the support that only other fighters and survivors can offer.

She had sympathy but no empathy. She had no one to go to and complain, or cry, or shake her fist and scream about the pain and unfairness of what had happened to her.

That is a tool that, if today I was to find myself in her place, I would reach for immediately.

The scars after my grandmother’s surgery were disfiguring. But as I get older I wonder about the scars that were hidden. The scars no one ever saw.

There were no stitches or soothing salves for those wounds. She was left to care for them on her own.

The advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer; the advances in the search for a cause and a cure since my grandmother’s illness in 1963, have been huge.

Now, there are television commercials and magazine ads urging women to get mammograms and to make a pledge to remind one another to do regular breast self-exams.

Now, if a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer there is a community for her.

The disease is no longer shuttered and closeted. When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer she doesn’t just have the benefit of science and medicine behind her. She has the benefit of a corporate identity; a network of support groups, literature, advocacy and caring. That community is a big advance.

October only lasts 31 days, but the power of pink can last a lifetime.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is a contributing editor at Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

The Upside of Jet Lag

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)  

 

    The upside of jet lag, and I suppose it takes a certain kind of optimism to even search for an upside, is that you sometimes find yourself awake and alone deep in the night. Or, at least, that’s what happens to me. For days after a trip my internal clock is upended. While everyone else is tucked in and sound asleep, I am a ghost. I tiptoe through the house making tea and toast. With the muffled whine of jet engines still ringing in my ears and a stuffy head thanks to the combined coughs and colds of hundreds of passengers packed into a 10-hour flight, I wrap myself in blankets and sit on the chaise lounge by the window in my living room with wool socks on my feet and a box of tissues by my side. I am miserable.
    

    But, I have discovered, there is a gift. When you are awake - half-awake as the case may be - in the dark and quiet world, you are free to think. Wrapped in warm blankets watching the snow fall on the other side of the glass, a comforting mug of hot tea in your hands, you can plan, imagine and dream. Who cares if you have to struggle to remember dates and names? If you’re too sluggish to do more than fall back against the pillows. Under the influence of too much travel and too little sleep, one is free to play with memory and ambition like a puzzle. The pieces can be arranged in whatever way suits you best.    
    

    Back from a December trip to Germany, cruising down the Rhine River past castles and villages and light-studded Advent markets; after navigating snowstorms, airport closures, cancelled flights and last-minute schedule changes, arriving just in time for Christmas with my family, I spent the last days of the year in just that condition. Exhausted, congested, confused and restless at night and too sleepy to function well by day, I cocooned in thick blankets. I looked back over the previous months. I measured my progress against the plans I’d made. I was too tired to run from my mistakes so there, in the darkest hours of the night, I let them catch up with me. There was, as is usually the case, plenty to answer to.
    

    I looked at the year ahead. I lay there and thought about what I really want to achieve. Maybe it is my age, my place in life, but when I really considered it, I realized the list is surprisingly short. I want less now than I’ve ever wanted before. The important things still matter: good health and happiness for myself and my family, time to daydream and write, freedom to travel and explore. But I’m no longer inclined to tilt at windmills. Let them spin. I’ve learned to choose my battles.
    

    Although it didn’t feel that way at the time, those hours by the window, awake in a dark house illuminated by the moon shining down on a snowy world, were the best gift I received. I could see where I’ve been. And where I want to go. And, perhaps this is the most important thing of all, I made peace with where I am.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
       

  

Neighborhoods Matter meeting

The Spokane Regional Health District has selected the East Central Neighborhood - including South Perry Street - as a partner for the 2.5-year-long Neighborhoods Matter Program. The kickoff meeting is on Monday July 19 at East Central Community Center, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lunch is provided if you RSVP to (509) 625-6699.

 

OpenCDA Demands Health Disclosure

At OpenCDA.com, the inmates are in a lather re: transparency, believing that Mayor Sandi Bloem’s administration is withholding info re: the health of one of the City Council members. Intones one of them: “Elected officials are not entitled to certain levels of privacy expected from the general public. For example, if an elected official were to become ill, I believe it’s the government’s duty to inform the people.” Then, keyboard commando Dan Gookin speculates in error that City Hall has requested that the media sit on any info re: sick officials. And his fellow commenters in the echo chamber attack the individual council person who is suppose to be sick as “a dictator” and “an appalling human being.” Such caring people under that particular cyber rock. I have made a call re: this situation. And will provide info when I get it. Meanwhile, you can read the venom re: this subject on OpenCDA.com here.

Question: Is the ill health of elected officials at the local level a concern that should be made public?

Idaho Leads In Melanoma Deaths

Item: High skin cancer rates in Idaho, Wash. prompt warnings/Betsy Russell, SR

More Info: Idaho has the highest death rate from melanoma in the nation, and both Washington and Idaho are among the top 10 states for incidence of the deadly skin cancer, so health officials are urging folks to slap on the sunscreen and think about hats and shade as the sunny holiday weekend kicks off. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire highlighted the problem in 2008 when she declared Washington a “SunWise” state, launching an EPA-sponsored program to educate kids in schools about how to be “sun-safe.”

Question: Do you take the threat of skin cancer seriously? What precautions do you take when you’re out in the sun?

A Charity-a-Day: Health

American Cancer Society

The American Canccer Society is committed to  ”providing programs aimed at reducing the risk of cancer, detecting cancer as early as possible, ensuring proper treatment, and empowering people facing cancer to cope and maintain the highest possible quality of life.” according to the website, here.

The Relay For LIfe is the epitome of medical fundraising walks. The Relay for LIfe website, here, describes it as “Teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Relays are an overnight event, up to 24 hours in length.” I’ve heard it’s pretty much amazing.

Make A Wish Foundation

Make-A-Wish is an incredible foundation. It grants “wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions. The wishes fall from “I want a playhouse,” to “I want to meet Miley Cyrus and see her concert.” I personally have experience with Make A Wish, and I only have good things to say. Our “Wish Granter,” Mitch, was amazing. He came out to the airport to wish us goodbye. He lived way out in the country, and our flight left at 6 AM. He met us at abut 4:30 AM. Amazing.

However, if you want to volunteer, the Ways to Help page on the site is very informative.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation site, “Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide).”

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation holds various events throughout the year, but the one that’s most widely known is Great Strides, the fundraising walk. Spokane’s walk is held at the Jundt Art Museum on the Gonzaga campus. More information is here.

 

Hearing on sales-tax proposal…

I’m sitting in the House hearing on a proposed .3 percent sales tax hike, HB 2377.

The proposal, from Rep. Eric Pettigrew, would raise just over $1 billion in three years. Much of that money would be steered into health care: mental health services, hospitals, nursing homes, public health programs and the state’s Basic Health Plan, which provides coverage for thousands of low-income folks. To offset the hit to low-income families, it would also send millions of dollars in state tax rebates back to people who qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.

The plan would only take effect if voters approve it in November.

The crowded hearing room is full of health care providers, officials and lobbyists representing nurses, hospitals, adult day health programs, public health, etc. They all support the plan as a critical lifeline.

A hospital official said that if the bill passes, hospitals will still see a state budget cut of $110 million over the next two years. Without it, that will be $350 million.

Dianse Sosne, with SEIU 1199 NW, said that proposed budget cuts would tear the state’s health safety net apart. That means mothers, babies, and elderly people ending up in emergency rooms, she said, and more mental health patients ending up in jails, prisons, under bridges and on the streets.

“And ultimately those costs will fall on taxpayers,” she said.

Among the few voices opposing the plan: anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman.

Eyman blasted the proposal, saying that legislative budget writers are protecting non-essential state programs while asking voters to approve a billion-dollar tax hike to stave off cuts to people needing health care.

“Have you no shame?” he said.

“You are fooling no one,” he told lawmakers. “…The best thing you can do for the poor and the middle class is to stop taxing them to death.”

Pettigrew and many of the advocates will hold a press conference about the proposal later this morning.




Health District: Leave Fido Home

Item: Your dog’s not welcome here? Health District doesn’t think Fido should go to public events: Health Department votes to give food vendors signs that suggest you don’t bring Fido into public events/Idaho Statesman.

More Info: Boise may be a dog city, but leave your canine pal at home when going out for food. At least that’s what public health officials want you to do when attending public events where food is served. The board of the Central District Health Department voted unanimously Friday to give food venders signs when they apply for permits to serve food. One of two sample signs reads, “Attention! By recommendation of the Health Department and the safety of the patrons and yourself, refrain from bringing your dog(s) to this event.” The signs are suggestions. Vendors can post them, but the public isn’t required to obey them. The health department lacks authority to enforce such a ban.

Question: Should pet owners be banned from bringing their dogs to outdoor public events in which food is being served?

Spokane worker sparks change in organ-transplant law…

From the printed paper:

OLYMPIA – Fred Watley’s need for a liver is changing state law.

A year ago, the Spokane man nearly died while waiting for an insurance-law loophole to expire so he could get the liver transplant he desperately needed. His insurer finally relented.

On Thursday, Watley – with a new liver – urged state lawmakers to close the loophole so that people no longer have to risk their lives waiting.

The near-tragedy prompted newly elected state Rep. John Driscoll, D-Spokane, to sponsor House Bill 1308, which would reduce the wait in such cases.

“I wasn’t planning to make history. I just wanted to save his life for our 11-year-old son,” said Watley’s wife, LiAnne.

The change is backed by Watley’s health insurer, Group Health, and other major health insurers in the state.

“It’s a loophole that needed to be cleared,” said state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who said he was stunned to learn that when employers switch health plans it restarts the waiting period of at least six months allowed for organ transplants.

DeLeon: 8 Might Be More Than Enough

The reporters noted that these multiple births not only involve the potential for all kinds of health problems for mother and babies; they also “consume enormous financial resources for hospitals, health insurers and families.” Some people have strong opinions on this issue. On The Seattle Times website, a woman who identified herself as Bothell mom wrote: “This woman went into the hospital and had a ‘litter’ like an animal. This is going to cost society at some point. There is NO way you can convince me that this family is going to foot this bill on their own for the lives of these kids. Unless this family is pulling in A-List Hollywood paychecks, they’re going to end up being a drain on taxpayers. …”/Virginia de Leon, Are We There Yet? More here.

Question: Do couples have an obligation to society to avoid purposely having multiple births, unless they can afford to do so?

Study: Men Suppress Hunger Better

Study: Men better at suppressing their hunger/AP

More Info: Faced with their favorite foods, women are less able than men to suppress their hunger, a discovery that may help explain the higher obesity rate for females, a new study suggests. Researchers trying to understand the brain’s mechanisms for controlling food intake were surprised at the difference between the sexes in brain response.

Question: How much willpower do you have in suppressing hunger during diets?