Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monsanto documentary

There’s an interesting documentary from Germany about a Canadian farmer who’s in a legal battle with Monsanto. Neighboring farms were using Monsanto-patented seeds, some of which were carried by the wind into his crops. Now Monsanto is suing him for patent infringement.

The pink-cheeked, plainspoken Schmeiser tells how he first discovered that genetically modified canola seeds were infiltrating his crop — only to get sued by the seeds' designer, Monsanto, for patent infringement. Sounds crazy, yes, but it gets a zillion times worse: Monsanto actually won a $400,000 judgment against Schmeiser, and, when the farmer refused to give up the fight, the company sued him again, this time demanding $1 million. Schmeiser was forced to fight all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court, and even then, his victory was Pyrrhic at best: Monsanto's canola seeds have taken over North America.

It’s not available on Netflix, but there are speeches and other bits about him on youtube and vimeo. You can also get the movie off of his website.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad news and good news

Milk that contains recombinant bovine growth hormone (rGBH) has been shown to cause an increase in carcinogenic hormones. This kind of milk has been banned throughout Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The US is one of very few countries that allow it. The state of Ohio took it a step further and had a ban on labels that identified milk produced without the use of bovine growth hormones, thanks to the work of Monsanto, the company that created these genetically engineered hormones.

I want to repeat that because it’s the opposite of what you would expect of our government: the law that was passed doesn’t keep dangerous hormones from being put into cows that produce the milk we drink. The law deliberately keeps us uninformed about whether or not there are dangerous hormones in the milk we drink.

So the good news: Last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals . This is good not only because now people in Ohio can know whether or not they’re getting milk with dangerous hormones in it; it also “a legal opinion based on scientific evidence submitted for the Court’s consideration that confirms what many of us have long suspected: milk from hormone-treated cows is in fact not only a different product than milk from untreated cows, but it is also potentially damaging to our health.”

And if you’re worried about whether your milk has rBGH, just follow the steps listed in the post I linked above:

Buy milk from local farmers whose names you know and whose kids go to school with yours, or buy milk produced by authentic organic dairies.

Every time you go into the grocery store, and milk is on your list, find a manager and ask, “Was this milk produced with rBGH or rBST?” If the answer is “I don’t know” or “yes,” tell the manager you refuse to buy it and that you’ve asked your friends not to buy it either.

Milk has a short shelf life. If we don’t buy it, the people who produce and sell it lose money. Once they start losing money, we’ve got their attention. Only then will they begin to listen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some inspiration from the field

I’m not the biggest football fan, but I came across this really uplifting article about a former NFL player that had non-hodgkin’s.

Merril Hoge played for the Steelers, and has a new book about his experiences in the NFL.

“From a young age, Merril knew it would be up to him to act on his dreams. He suffered abuse at the hand of his father, lost his mother at age 19, and was considered “too small and too slow” to play professional football.

He proved his critics wrong. Merril played eight seasons in the NFL before retiring in 1995 after a series of concussions. But in 2003, he faced his biggest challenge of all: cancer. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Merril took on chemotherapy with the same tenacity that got him to the NFL.”

Now Hoge is a commentator on ESPN. It’s really heartening to hear success stories about people suffering with this kind of cancer. I’m thinking about putting together a list of people who have or had non-Hodgkin’s. If you know of anyone famous, feel free to let me know.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Contaminated Schools

Last week I posted about schools in Alaska that were contaminated with PCBs. Today I came across a story about a television show that is going to follow “students, teachers and the community working together to renovate aging and broken public schools.” The article in question makes much of the fact that construction can release contaminants into the air and generally make it unsafe for habitation.

While I don’t think the show covers any of that subject, it did make me realize that this isn’t just a problem for Alaska schools. When I think back to my elementary days, I remember the school buildings seeming old even then. They were probably filled with PCBs and other contaminants. It’s a wonder really, that there aren’t more of us suffering like my sister.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chemo Fog is a Serious Bummer

Chemo fog aka chemo brain aka cognitive dysfunction aka post-chemotherapy cognitive impairment ...

Whatever you call it, it sucks. Chemo fog refers to the memory problems cancer survivors experience after chemotherapy treatments. Approximately 20-30% of chemo patients end up with chemo fog. According to Mayo Clinic, very little is understood about this bizarre condition. According to chemofog.net, scientists have attributed the following cognitive changes to chemo treatments:
  • Word finding. You might find yourself reaching for the right word in conversation.
  • Memory. You might experience short-term memory lapses, such as not remembering where you put your keys or what you were supposed to buy at the store.
  • Multitasking. Many jobs require you to manage multiple tasks during the day. Multitasking is important at work as well as at home — for example, talking with your kids and making dinner at the same time. Chemotherapy may affect how well you’re able to perform multiple tasks at once.
  • Learning. It might take longer to learn new things. For example, you might find you need to read paragraphs over a few times before you get the meaning.
  • Processing speed. It might take you longer to do tasks that were once quick and easy for you.
If you are close to someone who is going through chemo, or recovering from treatments, be sensitive to this issue. They are most likely aware that something's not up to snuff, but for the time being, they are relatively helpless over it. Ginkgo biloba is a natural memory enhancer, and may be a useful dietary supplement for those suffering the dreaded chemo fog.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Laughter as Medicine

Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.

It seems that people have always intuitively understood the therapeutic effects of laughter, and more recently science has been able to explain some of these benefits. The act of laughing increases oxygen flow and circulation while lowering blood pressure. Laughter also balances our emotions. The Mayo Clinic suggests that daily laughter can go a long way in helping cancer patients cope with their illness. Here are a few tips they recommend:
  • Watch a funny movie and laugh out loud.
  • Laugh with friends — go for coffee together, talk a walk, go window shopping.
  • Take time to read the comic section of the paper every day.
  • Play games such as Pictionary, Bingo, Charades, Bowling ... anything that puts you in a situation of humor and fun.
While helping my sister battle non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, I've found that laughter also provides a diversion. It serves as a temporary escape from the rather frightening reality of cancer. I had never really thought of laughter as medicine, but it makes perfect sense. I think I sense a Marx Brothers marathon in our near future...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Haunted Party Raises Money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Carol Woods is no stranger to the horrors of cancer. She lost her uncle and brother to the disease. Her 53-year-old brother-in-law is currently battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Frustrated by the devastation brought on by cancer, Carol decided to begin a fund-raising operation for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Instead of organizing a marathon or a bake sale, Carol decided to go for something a little bit spookier: a haunted costume party. On October 23, she held the 5th annual haunted costume ball for cancer research, complete with a costume contest, raffles and live music. Now that's celebrating the Halloween season with a healthy dose of activism! To view photos of this event, click here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Intoducing Chemo Babe, the Larger Than Life Super Heroine Combating Villainous Cancer

Chemo Babe is not your ordinary cancer patient. She's bold. She's bald. She'll don a corset and whip to fulfull her identity as a malignancy-fighting super heroine! This larger than life persona belongs to a breast cancer patient who considers herself a social scientist, intrigued by the complex relationships cancer victims develop with their environments as they battle their disease. According to Chemo Babe's website,

I needed a symbol for my fight, and pink ribbons evoke images of playing dress up or wrapping gifts to me. They do not rev me up for another round of mortal combat.

So I created ChemoBabe, a persona who keeps me fighting. She has enough spunk and edge to get smacked down by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and stand back up ready to fight some more. A persona who the cancer could not touch. Somebody who could say that cancer is horrible and talk back bluntly to the euphemistic ways people skirt that horror in everyday conversations.

Chemo Babe is a regular blogger, sharing her fiery insights as she progresses on her journey. To learn more about her, click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

You can't leave the table till you finish those veggies!

I can remember these words coming from my Mother's mouth as if it were yesterday. At the time, I found her insistence on eating my greens infuriating. Today, I'm more thankful than ever.

Research from the University of Illinois shows that broccoli contains "sulforaphane, the powerful cancer-fighting agent" (EurekAlert). This compound is released by beneficial bacteria in the digestive track, and our bodies then absorb it, helping us to stay cancer-free. Other veggies high in sulforaphane include carrots, collard greens and cabbage.

It isn't just a form of cruel and unusual torture; insisting on veggies is an important thing for every parent to do!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

School kids are playing in toxic waste!

In Alaska, old government programs left toxic waste on site 50 years ago. Now, these areas are saturated with polychloriated biphenyls (PCBs), and some of them are being used as school buildings! Kids are literally playing with abandoned drums of hazardous materials. Check out this video to hear more of this outrageous story:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cancer and PCBs are in love

Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been linked to cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Check out this video where The Non-Hodgkin's Project explains this magical relationship between this poisonous group of chemicals and NHL:

The Non-Hodgkin's Project is all about exposing this link, as well as forcing Monsanto to acknowledge responsibility for this issue. According to The Non-Hodgkin's site, Monsanto "the controversial biotechnology company, manufactured 99 percent of all the PCBs produced in the United States." If you would like to sign a petition telling Monsanto just this, click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mortality Maps Reveal Rise in Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Today, I would like to discuss two maps of the United States. These are not your typical maps with street names and parks. Instead, these maps show the mortality rate for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and they were published by the National Cancer Institute. Mortality rate refers to the "death rate," or the percentage of people who die from a given cause. Morbid, yes, but bear with me because these maps reveal some interesting stuff.

The first map displays data from 1950-1969:

The second shows data from 1970-1994:

The first thing you probably notice is that there's a whole lot more red on the second map. This means that more people are suffering from NHL. Several sources have noted a dramatic increase in NHL over the past few decades:
  • "Research has documented a steady increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma over the past several decades." (ScienceDaily)
  • "Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is one of the fastest rising cancers in the developing countries. In many countries, including the US and Canada, the number of new cases diagnosed each year have almost doubled in the past 30 years." (lymphoma.about.com)
  • "Between 1973 and 1991, the 73 percent increase in the incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was one of the largest among the major cancer sites in the United States." (rex.nci.hih.gov)
What's to blame for this substantial rise in NHL? Some say the rise in HIV is responsible, as immune deficiency is a risk factor. Others say we simply have better detection methods. Your guess is as good as mine, but one thing's for sure: NHL is becoming a more prevalent problem and deserves greater attention, funding and research.

*Note that these two maps compare NHL mortality rates for white women. To see the maps for other demographics, click here.