Tuesday, November 12, 2013
One of the reasons I began writing this blog was to create awareness of Ovarian Cancer – its symptoms, its treatments, the amazing breakthroughs that have been made over the past few years, and the incredible need for so much more research – until we find the cure! And a cure will be found. I truly believe that. Maybe not in my lifetime, but soon – a cure for ALL cancer. But in the meantime, there is so much to be done. Today I would like to touch on two cancers that are being reflected on this month.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. We all know someone who is fighting this battle or someone who fought the valiant fight. I’m not sure if we all know that Mesothelioma is a very specific type of lung cancer – a completely preventable type. Mesothelioma is caused only by asbestos exposure. Knowing more about the disease and its risk factors truly does make a difference. By raising more awareness and rallying support, hopefully one day we can get asbestos banned once and for all.
I have a very personal connection to Mesothelioma – or at least the cause of it. My husband was a fireman for 20 years. He worked 24-hour tours in firehouses with asbestos ceilings. He spent most of his 20 years running into burning tenement buildings built in the era when entire heating systems and boiler rooms were coated in asbestos. In the 1970s the town he worked for made a very vocal political statement by cleaning all the asbestos out of the school buildings. Meanwhile, the firemen in the town who were sleeping and eating and living in firehouses with asbestos flaking off the ceilings in the dormitories were being totally ignored when they brought up the danger. Fortunately, he does not have Mesothelioma however he does have banding on his lungs and definite damage from the asbestos. He is monitored constantly for any signs of cancer.
Despite the fact that asbestos exposure is still the Number One cause of occupational cancer in the US, it is still not banned. Roughly 30 million pounds are still used each year. It can still be found in many homes, schools, and commercial or industrial buildings. It was once used in more than 3,000 consumer products including household items such as toasters and hair dryers – some of which may still be in use. Asbestos fibers are invisible to the naked eye and NO AMOUNT of exposure is safe. Navy veterans are at the greatest risk to develop Mesothelioma as asbestos was widely used in naval ships and shipyards. But, as with firefighters, many occupations are also at risk.
My goal is not to frighten anyone, but just to make you aware. Asbestos is everywhere and it needs to be banned. The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance has put together a fantastic website with tons of information about the disease - www.mesothelioma.com. I encourage you to check it out. Emily Walsh, Community Outreach Director for the Alliance has put together a fact sheet that answers a lot of questions and gives us all a lot to think about: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/emily/8-things-you-should-know-about-mesothelioma.htm – and, for my firefighters out there, please check out http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/occupations/firefighters.htm. We want you all to be safe.
November is also Movember! Not familiar with Movember? The month-long campaign hopes to be to prostate cancer what October is to breast cancer -- with charities, retailers and survivors around the world using this page of the calendar to raise awareness and money, money, money.
In the past decade, those fighting the second-deadliest cancer for men have increasingly claimed the 11th month for their cause. Started in 2003 in Australia by two guys having a beer, "Movember" began as a moustache-growing challenge -- plunk down $10 for the "privilege" of growing a 'stache’ for the month. The proceeds would go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
By 2012, 21 nations were participating in various moustache-sporting and shaving events -- including the United States -- enlisting the support of more than 1.1 million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas and raising $147 million.
I’m a daily Today Show viewer and I’m loving the fact that none of the guys are shaving this month. I also loved the fact that they had prostate exams live (behind walls) on the show to prove how quick and painless the process is. I especially love the entire awareness program because my husband is a prostate cancer survivor. Yes, he’s been through an awful lot – but he just keeps on ticking! Amazing, brave, courageous, tough, fearless – that’s my Lieutenant Grandpa! He’s a number 1 prime example that, caught early, prostate cancer can be cured. He had his annual PSA for years and, when it began to climb, his doctor performed the appropriate biopsies. They were positive, but in a relatively early stage. Hormone shots and radiation were completed and he has been cancer free now for over two years. His PSA is barely readable and he feels great.
He’s not growing a “stache” or even a beard but he’s a healthy, walking poster boy for Prostate awareness and early detection.
With Thanksgiving also in the month of November, it brings me to think of all the things I’m grateful for – like my wonderful husband. I know that I actually feel physically better when I’m reminded how truly grateful I am for something. Studies have shown that if we just take the time to appreciate the good things in our lives, smell the roses, count our blessings – whatever you want to call it – our sense of wellbeing expands exponentially.
If something triggers my “be thankful” button – and it can be anything from a magnificent sunrise to what my friend calls a “God Almighty” sunset to the “making a difference” stories I hear on the news – I “lean into it.” (I stole that phrase from a magazine article I read recently. It so reverberated in my soul, I just had to use it. Rosemary Ellis, please forgive me.) Leaning into a really touching “be thankful” moment makes me think of all the things and people I’m grateful for. We spend our days barreling through the days – we need more “lean into” moments.
Whether it’s the ocean breeze blowing on my face, or my husband’s offer to help with dinner, or the funny photos and videos my kids send me, or the hilarious stories my friends forward to me, or each and every one of you who have always been there for me, or my little birds who make such a mess of the birdseed on my balcony – they all cause me to “lean in” and take a rest stop. Remember, in life it's not happiness that makes us grateful, it's gratefulness that makes us happy! Try it today. It will be the best moment of your day! God bless you all!