Thursday, March 28, 2013

Where Have all the Liberals Gone?

What has happened to politics?

When I got started in politics, in the 60's, the groups I joined existed to change the world for the better. Get out of Vietnam and Cambodia, Civil Rights for All, Consumer Safety, Legalize Abortion.  The issues haven’t changed much.  Different wars. Different needs for civil rights. Different needs for consumer safety. And Keep Abortion Legal.

But last night I went to a meeting of my local Democratic activist group: Organizing for America (formerly Obama for America – we got to keep the same initials).  Nobody was happy with the political situation, particularly the gun safety issue, and the lack of a public option in Obamacare. But nobody talked about fighting for causes.  The only cause was Elect Democrats.  Even Democrats in Name Only (DINO).  Just to get the scary Republicans out of office.

I went home questioning my involvement in politics.   I hate opening my door to strangers who want to sell me a political or religious cause.  But during the last election I knocked on doors – asking if people needed a ride to the polls, or needed an absentee ballot.  I did something to others that I don’t want others to do to me.

And now, since that technique worked – Obama was re-elected – OFA expects me to continue knocking on doors.   Yes, I get it – Obama can do more of what I want if we give him a congress of Democrats.  I want progressive and liberal Democrats. There seems to be a shortage of my kind of candidate, of people who support my issues, even at the neighborhood level.

What happened? Are the Republicans so scary in their extreme views that my side has forgotten what matters? Or put another way – have we forgotten our extreme views.  Because, yes, the Republicans are terrified of our views.  Raise the minimum wage. Health care for all. Women should make their own health decisions. Automatic weapons do not belong in private hands. People who love each other should be allowed to marry.

It looks as if the Republican Party has a very successful tactic.  They threaten to take away rights we already have, and we stop fighting for more freedom. It’s as if you could stop people from reading by raising library fines.  It shouldn’t work. 

I learned a long time ago that there is no reason to give in to a child when s/he has a temper tantrum in public.  Don’t buy a child something to silence the screaming. Don’t indulge a child’s superstitions. It’s okay to step on cracks in the sidewalk.  Politics is an adult activity. Let’s act like adults and fight for what we believe in.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Another Rant

It’s my blog, and I’ll rant if I want to.

Here’s how I want to be treated when I go for a medical appointment.  I’ll state up front, that it takes more time to do medicine my way, but I think it’s worth it.

If a doctor wants to do a test, I want to know the reasons.  How likely is it that the test will find anything, given my general health? Will it hurt? Are there risks?  The choice is mine – not the doctor’s.  When I went for a stress test, the young doc who ran it wanted to run a camera inside my heart.  I’m in better shape than he is.  I’m more than twice his age, and I’m sure I could beat him in a bike or swimming race.  Some random anomaly is no reason to run invasive tests.

If a doctor wants to prescribe a pill, I want to know about the side effects. I want to know about the success rate. It’s my choice if the possible benefits outweigh the risks.  My cancer surgeon wanted me to take aromatase inhibitors for 5 years.  She said they reduce the chance of getting cancer in my other breast by 50%.  She didn’t tell me that the chance of getting cancer in my other breast during a 5 year period is 3% and the pill cuts it to 1.5%.  I do not consider that to be a significant advantage.  She said the pill is well tolerated.  According to what I read on the web, side effects are common and so horrific that many women quit the pill long before the 5 years.  The side effects include hot spells worse than menopause, short term memory loss, painful joints, brittle bones, and migraine headaches.  In my opinion, for my health care, the benefits alone aren’t worth taking a pill, even if there were no side effects.  The bottom line is that getting cancer in one breast does not make me more likely to get cancer in the other one than someone who has never had cancer.  And taking the pill has no effect on my anticipated longevity. This is the type of information I want my doctor to tell me.

If a doctor wants to recommend surgery, I want to know the details.  My breast surgeon wanted to do reconstruction.  She recommended inserting a bag of salt water.  She said it was just one more surgery after the mastectomy.  That’s simply not true.  The bag must be replaced every 10 years.  So, given my longevity expectations, that means 4 more surgeries.  I looked for consumer satisfaction reports on the web.  Nobody who has posted seems happy with the feel of a bag of salt water under her skin.  I don’t like the idea of something artificial under my skin.  I agreed to the hip replacement because I couldn’t ride my bike with the worn-out one.  I can’t think of a single thing I could do with a bag of salt water.  Plus, reports say that the plastic insert that stretches the chest muscles to make room for it hurts. And this kind of reconstruction interferes with doing yoga.  I love doing yoga.  That seals it.  No insert for me.  My doctor didn’t mention any of this.

If a doctor wants to recommend stretches or exercises, I want these stretches or exercises demonstrated.  I want lessons in how to do them.  If appropriate, I want a physical therapist to work with me.  “You need to stretch,” doesn’t mean anything to me.  I probably stretch more than anybody else I know.  But if there is a specific stretch that would help, I’ll add it to my regimen. I just need the details.

Finally, I don’t see any reason to see specialists if I don’t need special services.  I see no reason to visit a surgeon to get my remaining breast checked every year.  As I said, I’m no more likely to get cancer in that breast than a woman who still has two breasts.  And if a general practitioner can detect cancer in a woman with two breasts s/he could detect it in my one.  Specialists are harder to schedule. They cost more. And they don’t have time to talk to me.

If doctors don’t have time to talk to me, then set up a system of nurse practitioners who do.  I’m not a car. I have pain sensors and decision making abilities. I want to be treated as a whole person.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Year Ago I Had Cancer

A year ago, I had cancer.
The big scary word.
A small lump in my breast.
Needle biopsy.
Blood tests.
PET scan.
After all those tests, my surgeon recommended lumpectomy.
Lumpectomy didn’t get it all.
It’s out-patient surgery.  
The lab report says this time they did get it all. Yay! 
From the time I found the lump, my immediate thought was get this out of me!
I cannot understand my friend who put off surgery for years until it was too late. What was she thinking?
Arguments with the surgeon – No I don’t want reconstruction surgery.
I can’t think of a single thing I could do with a bag of salt water stuffed under my chest muscles. It would just get in the way of my yoga.
No, I don’t want to take pills that will give me painful joints, brittle bones and short term memory loss – all for a 1.5% reduction in my chance of getting cancer in the other breast, an no increase in longevity likelihood.
Getting cancer in one breast doesn’t make me any more likely to get cancer in the other one than someone who has never had cancer.
The health system now treats me like I’m high risk, but I’m not.
Medicare will now buy 4 bras a year for me with pockets for my prosthetic.
They will buy a silicone prosthetic every 2 years.   I prefer the knitted ones from eBay.
A year ago cancer was a scary word.
Now, I know it’s a whole range of words. Cancer means different things at different times in different people. Cancer can getting a part chopped off.  “If thine eye offend thee...” Cancer can mean you’re dying, like my friend the chiropractor. Cancer can mean you need many rounds of chemo and surgery every few years (a search-and-destroy-mission lifestyle). Most of all cancer means choices – choices that must be made in a hurry – and doctors don’t have the time to give all the advice needed – so it’s off to the internet!  Hurray for the internet!!!!!
I was lucky.  I didn’t need radiation or chemo. They got it all with the mastectomy. I’ve got my life back, minus one breast. Cancer can change lives. I just have extra exercises and stretches for the chest area.
Some people get great ephemeral insights and discover new meaning in their lives. I got left out on that one – unless the new meaning is that no matter how well I take care of myself, I can still be zapped by the randomness of the universe – but it doesn’t really matter – life goes on. 
I had to change my self-image – I was a lucky person who doesn’t even catch the flu.   Now I’m a lucky person who had cancer and it’s gone.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Quitting Sugar

All my life, I’ve known people who quit sugar – not forever, in most cases, but they were going to try.  They wanted to lose weight.   They wanted to get rid of pimples.  But I didn’t want to lose weight and I didn’t care about my pimples. I thought I had a free pass on sugar. I could have dessert any night I wanted. I could make cookies whenever I wanted.

About 4 years ago, I noticed my knuckles bulging.  But they didn’t hurt. They just looked funny. I didn’t think it mattered.  About 4 months ago, they started hurting.  I bought cat’s claw and drank some every morning.  And again during the day if my knuckles stabbed me.

About 1 month ago, I read my AARP email newsletter. In it an article said that most of arthritis pain is from sugar inflammation.  The article said it would take 6 weeks of no sugar to notice an effect.  I immediately quit sugar, honey, agave, anything except fresh fruit that tasted at all sweet. Within 2 weeks, I was in less pain.  At 3 weeks my hands felt almost normal.  I was still taking one dose of cat’s claw every morning, but never during the day or evening.

A few days ago, I didn’t read the label. I used an old jar of pad thai sauce.  Pad Thai doesn’t taste sweet to me. I didn’t think it could have sugar in it.  Within 2 hours, my hands were in pain.  I drank a glass of water with 18 drops cat’s claw extract.  My hands calmed down.  The label said this sauce was 38% sugar.  Yipes!  I only put a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the pad thai. I had made enough for 4 people.  So half a spoonful of a sauce that is 38% sugar is enough to cause pain.

Years ago, I went through all my cookie recipes and removed 1/3 of the sugar.  My husband wanted some gingerbread cookies.  I cut the sugar in half again, and substituted honey for the sugar.  Honey is not sucrose.  It’s a combination of glucose and fructose.  I used my small cookie cutters. I ate one cookie.  The pain was minor.  Honey is not sugar.  I used to eat two cookies. I used to use the big cookie cutters – the mermaid, the two-headed gingerbread man, the big rabbit.  Now one small cookie with 1/3 the original amount of sweetening is pushing my limits. It’s not something I’d eat every day, or even every week.

But I have discovered that fruit smoothies fill my urge for something sweet. I make those every day. I don’t crave cookies or other desserts.  They are no longer part of my regular diet.  My husband, the alien, has taken to buying extra candy bars for himself.  I can look at them in the fridge and not want even a nibble.  It’s not the fear of pain – it’s that they truly don’t appeal to me any more.   

I thought quitting sugar would be hard.  Thanks to fruit smoothies, it feels like I’m eating what I crave.  Yay for my blender!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Reading History

My grand daughters have been reading fiction for years.  They have just started reading history books. They have learned not to spoil a book for each other by talking about the characters and their problems at the dinner table.  They want to preserve the mystery.

Last week, one grand daughter started talking about Aaron Burr at the dinner table.  Her sister piped up, “Don’t ruin it!”

I’d never thought about history as a plot to be protected by book covers, only to be discovered anew by each diligent reader.  History was a subject of debate at my childhood and parenthood dinner tables.  What was Aaron Burr thinking? Why did he think his actions were for the good of himself and / or the country?  And what was Alexander Hamilton thinking when he wrote those angry newspaper articles about Burr?  And why did either man think a duel was the way to solve their problems?

And did they know that hundreds of years later, my grand daughters would nearly come to a duel when one tried to talk about their story before the other one had read it?