Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cancer, Freedom of Religion, Two Addendums to the Most Recent Posting plus "Hysteria"

In the last posting, I urged Democrats to start viewing Fox News, and I urged Republicans to start viewing MSNBC.  Watching "news" broadcasts that are "preaching to the choir" may be comforting, but it provides a narrow spectrum of views.  

So I've been spending some time on Fox News.  So far I have learned that despite the problems with our economy, the bloody repression going on in Syria, the severe monetary crisis involving Europe, the efforts of Iran to become a nuclear power, our attempts to curtail them and the collapsing of Egyptian's experiment with "democracy, the biggest story by far according to Fox News is Congressman Darryl Issa's attempt to censure Attorney General Holder in regard to the "Fast and Furious" operation (which the Republicans consider to be a scandal) in which arms shipments intended to provide information for a "sting" ended up in the wrong hands, those of Mexican gangsters and drug dealers.  I am getting an education as to what is really important news. 


Cancer, Chemotherapy and Myelodysplatic Syndrome (MDS)

My wife, who had been diagnosed as having a Neuroendocrine Carcinoma in 2005, and who passed away in 2010, did not die from that disease.  The killer to which she succumbed was a pre-leukemic condition known as Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) and which, in simple terms, destroys the ability of the bone marrow to produce mature blood cells.  This can result in  blood disorders including several types of anemia (insufficient red blood cells) and/or thrombocytopenia (reduced platelets).  While individuals can contract MDS in a variety of ways, some cancer patients end up with it as the result of treatment they receive for their malignancy.  In my wife’s case, the offending chemotherapy agents were probably Xeloda and Temodar, as well as a delayed reaction to the repeated radioisotope treatment she underwent in Europe in 2006.

I am bringing this up at this point because a friend recently passed away from cancer which had recurred several years after it was thought to have been arrested.  (No matter what any physician tells you, no cancer is ever “cured.”  It may be in a state of remission, which hopefully turns out to be permanent, but it is always there to some extent, at best in a dormant state.)  In any event, during my friend’s final months, I became aware that the problem her physicians were dealing with was one involving abnormal blood counts.  Because I knew one of her recent chemotherapy agents had been Xeloda, which my wife also had been taking, it seems to me that this might have been another instance of chemotherapy affecting the bone marrow.

The other day, it was announced that Robin Roberts, the ABC morning show anchor person, was suffering from MDS.  This was several years after she had survived an episode of breast cancer for which she had received chemotherapy.  Ms. Roberts is young enough to be a candidate for a bone marrow transplant, one of the approaches used in treating MDS, and I understand she has an acceptable donor in the person of her sister.

                                ABC's Robin Roberts                 A Chemotherapy Infusion                                       

The point of all of this is to make readers aware that measures taken to fight cancer, even if successful, carry a significant measure of risk with them.  In fighting a disease, where one’s goal is to maximize the survival period after treatment, the potential risk of the treatment itself shortening that period should not be ignored.  In most cases, however, that risk is one that is worth taking.  But it still is not an insignificant risk. In the final analysis, it is a matter of familiarizing oneself with whatever statistical evidence is available, weighing the alternatives and discussing them as dispassionately as possible with your oncologist.
Jack Lippman


More on Jobs:  Public vs. Private Sector

In the most recent posting's discussion of jobs, in explaining that some people chose not to work in the private sector opting instead for jobs in the public sector, I used the following language to express that thought: "Others, perhaps but not necessarily, less talented or ambitious, chose to take lower paying jobs in the public sector in fields such as education, police or firefighting, health care and government work."  

Well, some of my friends who had spent their careers in education objected to that suggestion which loosely implied that teachers may have lacked the talent or ambition needed in the private sector, and one even quoted Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler CEO on the subject.

                                                          Lee Iacocca

Iacocca had once written that "In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have."

Unfortunately, we do not live in Mr. Iacocca's "completely rational society." There are those out there who consider public spending for almost anything as part of a wasteful boondoggle and generalize in their negative perception of all public employees.


Of course, there are many, many talented, ambitious, dedicated and capable people in education as well as in other areas of public service, and the fact that they chose to make the financial sacrifice of choosing to serve there instead of in the private sector accrues greatly to their credit. 

Unfortunately, however, this does not negate the fact that still, there are some on government payrolls to whom this does not apply, and who would never have survived in the private sector. Sadly, this gives ammunition to those who wish to cut government spending by reducing jobs in the public sector, and this includes  laying off teachers, policemen and firefighters as well as some jobholders who very well might deserve to receive pink slips.
Jack Lippman


Some Thoughts on Freedom of Religion

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution expressly prohibits the establishment of any religion.  Everyone agrees with that, but what they do not agree upon is whether laws, while not establishing a religion, but which happen to include provisions not in accordance with the tenets of a particular faith creating a conflict with those beliefs, amount to the same thing. 

While legislation requiring Catholic hospitals to provide birth control services for employees may be offensive to Roman Catholics and legislation in some states calling for more humane animal slaughter practices in providing meat for human consumption may be offensive to some Orthodox Jews, they do not serve to establish any religion, nor deny members of these faiths the right to practice their religion.  There is no attack on freedom of religion involved, even though the offended believers may feel that such laws discriminate against them.  If indeed they do, such discrimination is merely incidental to the intent of the law which is for the benefit of the entire population, regardless of religion.  

When government provides tax supported funds, however, to subsidize the operation of a religion’s activities including schools where religious doctrine is part of the curriculum, a line has been crossed and that is a step toward the establishment of a state religion.  This applies to all so-called “faith-based” activities funded by the government, no matter how desirable their objectives might be, and no matter how many "faiths" share in such funding.  If you disagree with me, let me know, please.

Ooops. We inadvertantly left off the final dozen verses of Sid Bolotin's last poem.  So we now return to that hard-working and homey New England farm.  The verses which were left out in the last posting appear below in green.

                          AAH, THE FARM
                             Sid Bolotin

During a seventeen day expedition criss-crossing New England
To celebrate graduations of four of our nine grandchildren
I yearned to spend time on number two son’s farm between treks

After the first graduation in New Hampshire
We returned to our base camp
At number one son’s home in Swampscott, MA

Number one daughter-in-law graciously shuttled me 90-minutes west
My son drove 90-minutes east from southeastern Vermont
To rendezvous in New Hampshire for supper

Upon our return to the farm in the dark
I wearily untangled myself from the cab of his pickup truck
And maneuvered gingerly along the pathway of sunken flat-topped boulders

Fondly fending off his four dogs…two adolescent Golden Retrievers, two ancient, large mutts
I gimped up the three flattish rocks leading onto the wrap-around porch
Arthritic knees strongly protesting the change from the flat terrain of Florida

Torturously climbing up a twenty-step staircase
I settled thankfully onto a mattress on the floor of my granddaughter’s room
Tucked under the window in the steeply slanted ceiling

Gratefully snuggled down for my first night, gazing wondrously at the star-infested sky
Serenaded by hundreds of male wood frogs croaking romantic intentions
Sounding like a grand orchestra of raspy, quacking ducks

Seemingly only moments later
Dawn’s 5:00 a.m. light flooded the room
Accompanied by the rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-doo”

Followed by excited clucking of twelve hens
Croaking of four guinea fowl
And a chorus of bleats from the sheep on the adjoining property

Holding tightly to the railing I negotiated the stairs downward
To greet my number two daughter-in-law rushing to go off to her teaching job
While my grandson sped through his breakfast to drive to school

After making myself some cereal
I eagerly went outside to join my son in his nursery
Of 6000 potted perennials

Spread out on twenty five, 4’ x 32’, mesh-topped frames on waist-high cement blocks  
And two 10’ x 50’ greenhouses
The overflow just sitting on the ground

Gingerly negotiating the uneven terrain past the ancient red barn and precariously leaning silo
Poor eyes and arthritic knees struggling to keep me upright
I found him potting up fresh plants by the out-buildings 

After two hours in the hot sun
Helping weed and water
I happily retired to the porch

Overlooking his pond, chicken coop, five bee hives, apple orchard, and vegetable garden
I read, I wrote
Did crossword puzzles and meditated

All the while lovingly fighting off the muddy dogs fresh from jaunts in the pond
Who insisted on leaning against me
Begging grandpa to pull the ball from their mouth and play catch

After a light lunch of yogurt and some chit-chat with my son
He returned to his unending labors
I fiddled with his almost comatose computer

Watched some TV
Made a potluck supper from whatever

Daughter-in-law home ‘round 9:00 p.m.
Making supper and chit-chatting  
Grandson heavily into homework

Leaving them to catch up with day’s events
I gimped up the stairs to bed
Happy ending to day one

Days two, three, and four were repeats
Fulfilling conversation with my son, late night chats with my daughter-in-law
Evenings of cribbage with my grandson

Late on day four, eager to spend ninety minutes of quality time
My Vermont daughter-in-law chose to ferry me to New Hampshire
Meeting my caring daughter-in-law from Swampscott for my return to her home



Sid, as some of us know, is more than just a poet and a family guy.  Here are his comments prompted by his seeing the current film hit "Hysteria" which you may or may not want to see after reading this expanded review.  Others who have seen the film have found it to be a highly amusing and demure treatment of the subject.  I haven't seen it yet.  If you want to review a film, or a book, for Jackspotpourri, please do so!

Hysteria, a Film  

Sid Bolotin

I decided to write this In the interest of science after seeing the movie “Hysteria.”  As a professional design engineer in the aerospace industry, I was intrigued by the inventiveness of the main character, Dr.  Granville, who invented an electric massager in the 1800’s to relieve the pain and suffering of his female patients; and to eliminate his own crippling physical pain when he applied treatments. From the wrist splint and ice water soaks shown in the movie I suspect he endured severe carpal tunnel syndrome…and we all have heard that necessity is the mother of invention.  Not being sure if the movie was based on factual history as the credits presented, I applied due diligence via trusty Google and am pleased to present my findings for those  who might be interested in such information…based on my observation of the devouring preoccupation with the national hysteria regarding “Fifty Shades of Gray”.

Scenes from "Hysteria"

From Wikipedia I discovered that hysteria was a valid medical diagnosis of the cause of women’s ailments going all the way back to Plato’s time:
 “The history of the notion of hysteria can be traced to ancient times; in ancient Greece it was described in the gynecological treatises of the Hippocratic corpus, which date from the 5th and 4th centuries BC.  Plato's dialogue Timaeus compares a woman's uterus to a living creature that wanders throughout a woman’s body, "blocking passages, obstructing breathing, and causing disease." 
Galen, a prominent physician from the 2nd century, wrote that hysteria was a disease caused by sexual deprivation in particularly passionate women: hysteria was noted quite often in virgins, nuns, widows and, occasionally, married women.  The prescription in medieval and renaissance medicine was intercourse if married, marriage if single, or pelvic massage by a midwife as a last recourse.”
As the movie depicts, doctors in the 1800’s made quite a lucrative living in their niche practice of manually massaging their suffering patients:

“Rachel P.  Maines (a technology historian) has observed that such cases were quite profitable for physicians, since the patients were at no risk of death, but needed constant treatment.  The only problem was that physicians did not enjoy the tedious task of pelvic massageThe technique was difficult for a physician to master and could take hours to achieve "hysterical paroxysm." Referral to midwives, which had been common practice, meant a loss of business for the physician. 
Invention of massage devices, which shortened treatment from hours to minutes, removed  the need for midwives, increasing a physician’s treatment capacity.  By 1870, a clockwork-driven massager was available for physicians.  In 1873, the first electromechanical vibrator was used at an asylum in France for the treatment of hysteria.”
I researched another movie credit given to (But be forewarned! This is for adults only!) for their images of ancient massagers on their site titled “Antique Vibrator Museum 1869-1920” (  And be sure to listen to the short, informative videos presented by their staff psychologist Dr. Carol Queen:
“Massagers were used exclusively by doctors up until around 1900.  The first of such devices was made in 1869, when American physician George Taylor patented the first steam-powered massage apparatus.  Unfortunately, their use was exclusive -- the units were costly to manufacture, difficult to move and marketed for use by spas and physicians only.  In 1880 the first battery-operated massager was designed by British physician Joseph Mortimer Granville and manufactured by the Weiss Company.  Like their present-day counterparts, these battery-operated devises were less expensive and easier to move and manipulate than their predecessors.  By 1900 more than a dozen manufacturers began producing both battery-powered massagers and models that operated from line electricity.  In the newly electrified home, women were avid consumers of electrical appliances.  First electrified was the sewing machine; the fan, the tea kettle, the toaster, and the massager came next.”



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