Skin Cancer is Serious: Vigilance is Key

As Skin Cancer Awareness month is in its last week, it is far from stopping the stories. My story continues. The two “bullet hole”-like areas on my scalp where I had Squamous Cell Carcinoma removed are healing well. They still look like bullet holes, but will slowly fade. The SCC area on my forehead removed in November is barely noticeable. The bad news is that there are several more growths that have appeared on my scalp and are growing. I have an appointment on July 2. More to come.

Here is a story of a woman’s skin cancer experience with SCC, the type I am diagnosed with, as well as Basal Cell Carcinoma. “After my diagnosis, the strangest coincidence happened. I took a cab home, and the driver shared that his mother had died from squamous cell carcinoma. He was devastated. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Really, I thought, people die from this? Yes, while the statistics on nonmelanoma skin cancers are estimates, as many as 15,000 people in the U.S. die from advanced SCC every year.”

Skin cancer is serious. It can kill. I will remain vigilant. I hope others take my advice and do the same.

A Hole in My Head

 

Pets: Forever Enriching Our Lives

 

This week we helped the most beloved member of our household move on to her next life. She epitomized the word “cuddle” and was always full of kisses. She traveled to the desert and mountains with us and clear across the country to visit our family. For the entire 13 years of her life, she never complained and always showed nothing but love. There was not a mean cell in her soul. There is a void now in our family household, but she is at peace now. Dearest sweet June, faithful companion, never complaining, full of love and vigor for 13 years until blindness, deafness and arthritis took hold over the last year and in the past few days she just wore out. Up to the very end she was loving, even in her weakened state. Our lives are so enriched by her presence. Her passing was peaceful. I could just envision our pets that had passed on before June, all who had lived with June – Star, Sokrateez and Simba –  waiting for June as she passed into their realm, tails wagging. 

Thank you our lovely June for everything you were and are to us over these years.

June Carter-Cash Pope
April 17, 2006 – May 23, 2019

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month: For some, it’s awareness every day

This  month is Skin Cancer Awareness month; a month dedicated to educating people about skin cancer, how to incorporate regular skin checks into your wellness regime, stories, and other prevention strategies. For some, this may be a yearly reminder of skin cancer and how to be aware. For many, the awareness is an every day reality. I have a friend who is suffering from the effects of stage 4 Melanoma.  My father has had many instances of skin cancer in his life, and one of my earliest childhood memories is of his  head wrapped from a skin cancer surgery. In his older age he has had to have a skin graft to his ear for treatment of a malignancy.

Even with my relative awareness of the dangers of skin cancer, I find myself new to the daily awareness reality and the journey that is to potentially take me through the rest of my life.

November 27, 2018: I received a notice on my phone that my biopsy test results, from a spot on my forehead, had been posted in my online chart.  I opened it and while skimming through it, stopped at the words “Squamous Cell Carcinoma, in situ”. I showed it to my husband and we both froze on those words for a few minutes. The next day I set up an appointment to have the area treated with an “ED&C” (Electrodesiccation and Curettage) procedure, to remove any remaining cancer cells.  Due to my schedule and doctor’s availability, I had to wait until January 2, 2019. During that time I did a lot of reading and research and found out that in situ means the cancer cells had not spread.

January 2, 2019: I had the ED&C done which took only about 10 minutes.  Several days earlier I had noticed some small growths on my scalp, areas which had been treated in November with Cryosurgery (using liquid nitrogen) to remove suspect spots. I made an appointment for July, 6 months out from the ED&C treatment to have a follow-up and head to toe exam.

April 25, 2019: The growths on my scalp had grown exponentially and I sent photos to my doc comparing January to April.  I  was asked to come in immediately, First the area on my forehead that that been previously treated was examined.  Looking good!

Then my scalp was examined. There were three growths.  One was treated with cryosurgery and other two biopsied. My doctor told me it was good that I came in now instead of waiting until July. I had a massive headache the rest of the day and off and on head pain for the next 6 days.

May 1, 2019 – First day of Skin Cancer Awareness month, six days after the the biopsy. The test results came in:  Squamous Cell Carcinoma, *at least* in situ, possibly more deep since the margins were affected. Fortunately I was able to get this treated the very next day after the results had been posted. The two areas on my scalp s were treated via ED&C, with three passes and confidence that remaining cancer cells were eradicated.  I have been cautioned to look for any appearance of scaly areas around the treated areas and to come in immediately if that is noticed.  We all chuckled over my comment that I could now be called a “numb-skull” due to the anesthesia that numbed by scalp.

May 5, 2019: My scalp looks like it has two bullet holes in it.  The next 3 weeks will be spent attending to the areas as instructed to ensure proper healing.  I’m not sure if the damaged hair will grow back, and frankly I don’t care.  I am resigned to covering my head as needed and appropriate.

Three  diagnosed skin cancers in 5 months.  I’d like to think this is the end, however I thought that with the first one. “Hindsight is 20/20,” “It’s just skin cancer,”  “Be thankful it’s not melanoma,”  are all phrases I keep hearing.  My self-education and awareness, however, have led me to the realization that all skin cancer is serious, and not to be taken lightly. All one has to do is just read the stories of those diagnosed.  If that doesn’t help one’s awareness, a personal diagnosis of skin cancer for sure will shock you into awareness.

Vigilance will be my companion from here on out.  Advocacy, education, setting the example, checking myself, photographing suspicious spots ( I have files in folders on my computer now), wearing protective clothing, daily thoughts of living with skin cancer on my mind….all that and more are part of my daily existence now.

I say “part” because my existence is filled with so many good and positive aspects that help direct my focus and for which I am thankful.  And so my vigilance is the measure I must take to continue living  my life in those positive and fulfilling ways.

The photos throughout this post are representative of me in my life, often outdoors without protection.  I have always been a happy person and plan to continue my happiness, despite any obstacles I encounter or changes to be made as a result of those challenges.

 

 

What it Takes to Build Movements

I find it interesting to hear the sentiment that one person built or builds a movement.  I see it differently.

Throughout history there have been movements for numerous causes.  They have usually grown out of the concepts, ideas and inspiration of a collection of individuals or one individual who dedicated their lives/life to ending injustice. The ideas blossom into inspiration which in turn creates a domino effect of various forms of the ideas into movements. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between movements and organizations, so we have to dig a little deeper to discover the inspiration behind the creation of the organization.

Here are a some examples of movements that have grown out of concepts, ideas and inspiration, with links provided to read more details.

Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs was born out of the concept  of feeding people, not war. FNB started after the May 24, 1980 protest to stop the Seabrook Nuclear power station north of Boston in New Hampshire in the United States. The people that started Food Not Bombs shared their first full meal outside the Federal Reserve Bank on March 26, 1981 during the stock holders meeting of the Bank of Boston to protest the exploitation of capitalism and investment in the nuclear industry.” Today there are Food Not Bombs groups all over the world.

Boycott Movements

Boycotting, Divesting and Sanctions are concepts that have long histories in a variety of forms,such as Fossil Fuel Divestment, the British Anti-Apartheid Movement / InternalResistance to Apartheid .  The original “Boycott Movement” was founded in London in 1959 at a meeting of South African exiles and their supporters. Members included Peter Koinange, Claudia Jones, Steve Naidoo and Ros Ainslie. The Boycott/Divestment/Sanction (BDS) movement was organized in 2005 by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

Green New Deal

Green New Deal is a concept that was given prominence by journalist Thomas L. Friedman. Green New Deal has taken on a variety of platforms by numerous groups and individuals, inlcuding Van Jones, Jill Stein, Colin Hines (Green New Deal Group),The Green Party of the United States and The European Green Party.

Non-Violence

Mahatma Ghandi is credited for the inspiration that ended the colonial occupation of India. He gained notoriety due to his British education and ability to articulate to the issue of non-compliance with the demands of the colonizers.  His vision and bravery inspired a movement of actions by the people that ultimately resulted the end of British rule. His influence is the catalyst for many peace and justice organizations today.

Civil Rights

Civil Rights Movements are numerous throughout history. An example is the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is largely credited for leading the civil rights movement from 1954 until his death in 1968. His visibility and outspokenness influenced and resulted in a mass movement of non-violent direct action by millions. Dr. King’s vision is carried on by numerous organizations and individuals promoting the concept of non-violence in activism.

Dr. King also organized the Poor People’s Campaign  which is an economic justice and  human rights campaign for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds, spurring a movement that has grown and continues today.

The list is endless. There is the Occupy Movement , Black Lives Matter, Human Rights Movement, Animal Rights Movement,  Victory Gardens, etc. Again these are just a few examples, for the purposes of invoking thoughts on what it takes to “build a movement”.   Not one person for sure.

An example in my own life is an annual event that I help organize, inspired by a similar event in another part of the county – our Annual Community Coat Exchange – the day after Thanksgiving, which (strategically) is also Buy Nothing Day (another movement that inspired the Coat Exchange nationwide). We have been doing this each year for 13 years.  If we all do our part – our small part – in the larger scheme of things, we are inspiring ever increasing social justice movements globally. It takes many people to build and idea into a movement.

What are you doing these days in your part of movement-building?

Aging: A Continuum of Growth, Part 1

My growing up culture involved living and working around the elderly. My grandmother, a nurse, administrated a county nursing home for the low income elderly and before that she administrated a home for the indigent aged. I have beautiful memories of accompanying her on her rounds and I loved conversing with the residents. Through my grandmother’s actions I learned to appreciate the stories, passion and general companionship of my aged friends. Most of all I learned respect for people of all ages. My mother, also a nurse, upheld and modeled this culture as I grew up. I actually ended up working my way through college as a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home. Even for the most non-functional bed-ridden patients, I would treat them with respect as I cared for them, including talking to them even if they could not talk back. I would often volunteer to work holidays in double shifts so that my colleagues with children could have some time off – and I loved the work and being with the residents during those holidays when their families did not show up to visit.
In my first 20 years of life, I experienced life, love, compassion, energy, illness, dementia and death. Most of all I experienced the model of intergenerational relations that influenced my continued growth.

Fast forward to my adulthood where I have spent all of my career working with youth, the other end of the spectrum. Through my experiences, I have learned to love and respect the energy, passion, love, creativeness, inquisitiveness and yes the rebellion – along with the challenges they face – of my students (many of them are grown up now and have children – in some cases adult children!). I have loved teaching them, providing housing and food for some of them who were abandoned, playing with them, getting to know their families, helping them apply for college and find jobs and becoming their friends as adults and watching them continue to grow.

Early in my activism life, I came to know and respect Indigenous Elders. Within the community of my Indigenous friends, I have experienced a wealth of knowledge and passion for the life that is given to us from our Mother. I have witnessed the culture of appreciation, community and respect between the generations.

I am blessed. I have a rich repertoire of memories and experiences that span the age spectrum that continue to shape me as a person. As I grow into elder-hood, I appreciate the lenses I have been afforded through my experiences. One of the most important things I have learned, and have vastly improved upon but still struggle with sometimes in moments of my own heated emotions, is the art of listening, even when I don’t agree. And not just to listen, but to sit back and reflect on what I have heard. Often It is not easy to do this.

My hopes and desires regarding the figurative passing of the torch is that we all – of all ages – work together and harness the collective love, passion, energy, wisdom, caring, ideas and fortitude to continue the work to protect life on our planet.

73 Years of Nuclear Attack Remembrances: Still Threatened by Nuclear War.

Each year at this time I write about two historical events in 1945 that will never be forgotten – Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9).  Hiroshima today recognized The 73rd anniversary of the the nuclear attack on its city with the annual minute of silence and Peace Declaration speech by Mayor Kazumi Matsui. It is unfathomable that the world must continue to add to its ceremonial remembrances, year after year, pleas to the world’s leaders to abolish nuclear weapons once and for all. Despite all the events, photos, survivor and families of survivors stories, and health impacts we are still a world that lives in fear of nuclear war. The threat has not been reduced.  It may likely be more of a threat than ever.

Mayor Matsui in his speech painted a picture of devastation by referencing theTrump administration and its increasing “self-centered nationalism” around the world, as well as the 14,000 nuclear warheads remaining across the globe.  “The likelihood is growing that what we saw in Hiroshima after the explosion will return, by intent or accident, plunging people into agony.”

“What occurred in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 cannot and must not ever happen again. The future of our children and of our children’s children depends upon it.” ~ Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui

 

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was passed in July 2017, in a measure to work towards eliminating nuclear weapons. The agreement is legally binding to those signed on to it.

[The Treaty] prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities.

A nation that possesses nuclear weapons may join the treaty, so long as it agrees to destroy them in accordance with a legally binding, time-bound plan. Similarly, a nation that hosts another nation’s nuclear weapons on its territory may join, so long as it agrees to remove them by a specified deadline.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

The Treaty will replace the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), therefore becoming international law, once 50 nation-states have signed on and ratified it. To date, 60 nations have signed the treaty but only 14 have ratified. Despite the June summit talks between the United States and  North Korea, which resulted in a joint statement agreeing to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and eventual withdrawal of troops stationed in South Korea,  among other measures, the United States has not signed on to or ratified the Treaty.  And following a statement from Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Japan will not join the nuclear ban treaty because “its approach is different from the Japanese government’s’, Atomic Bombs survivors groups are demanding that Japan sign on and ratify.

One year ago I wrote about Trump’s “Fire and Fury” with North Korea. I referred to statistics where1 in 5 people supported Trump’s  threats of nuclear action against North Korea.

Part of the justification is over the belief that U.S. troops were in Japan two weeks following the horrific events of 1945 without suffering the effects of fallout. Therefore we would be “safe” from the effects of any military action involving nuclear weapons.

Questioning the intelligence of Trump supporters,  I wrote that anyone who even has a cursory knowledge of the effects of nuclear fallout, including on those who were exposed during testing efforts at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site (which was renamed “Nevada National Security Site”) and downwind of the test site, not to mention the survivors of the devastation in 1945, are well aware of the effects of nuclear fallout.

Nuclear Devastation=World Health Crisis=Planetary Destruction.

I continue to say this: Nuclear weapons and nuclear war will always be a threat as long as there are nations that consider their arsenal necessary for national security. We must hold our leaders accountable to putting their words into actions.  We as global citizens must do whatever it takes to make this happen.  What are we doing in our daily lives to work towards that goal?

We must not let this happen again.

 

 

Ch..ch…changes

I like to think of myself and my family as responsible shoppers and users of products.  After all, we make our own laundry and bath soap.  We grow a lot of our own food.  We shop at thrift stores.  We hang our clothes out to dry on the line in warm weather instead of using the dryer.  We do not drive to work. We recently invested on solar panels. We do not use pesticides or herbicides in our yard. We do not shop at Walmart and seek to patronize locally owned businesses. The list goes on.

But it’s not enough. Still, changes need to be made.

I have been an online customer of Amazon since 2003.  That’s 15 years of online shopping.  From the convenience of my home I have ordered books (I love my Kindle), gifts, household and personal items at great prices and with Prime membership I’ve save a lot on shipping costs.  If I need to return something I have been very satisfied with the easy process of doing that.  This way of shopping has suited my schedule as I can shop at any time of the day without driving.   A win-win.

Or is it?

Over the last few years I have become increasingly aware of some things about Amazon that have created a bad taste in my mouth.  I learned about a year ago that Amazon will build a facility in Salt Lake City.  What an economic advantage!  More jobs, right?  Right, except…..the jobs are 30 hours a week at 10 dollars an hour.  Sound familiar?  What other huge corporation does this?

I have also learned the Amazon recently bought Whole Foods.  I have read that Amazon is quickly becoming an equal competitor of Walmart in the acquisition of grocery stores and other companies.  Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, is the richest person on the planet, with a worth of $100 Billion. Recent predictions are that there will be around 500,000 employees by the end of the year.  If you take just half of the wealth of Bezos and divide it between 500,000 employees (future number predicted), that comes to roughly 100,000 dollars in wealth per employee in wealth. Imagine if Bezos gave that half of his wealth to his employees….

An August 2017 article in USA today describes the job growth that Amazon is creating.  But….

The breakneck growth of Amazon is “upending” the retail industry, which accounts for one out of every eight jobs in the USA, says Stacy Mitchell, co-author of a recent report that concluded Amazon eliminated about 149,000 more jobs in retail than it has created in its warehouses.

“Amazon pays its warehouse employees 15% less on average than the prevailing wage of other warehouse workers in the same region, and it is experimenting widely with ways, such as temporary and on-demand employment, to erode job security,” Mitchell says.

The article also describes the troubled history Amazon has with the labor force, resulting in labor disputes.

Amazon is also creating its own shipping business, which will have a significant negative impact on the US Postal Service, which has been a contracted delivery service for Amazon.

The increasing information that is exposed about Amazon’s continued expansion in taking over the retail world at the expense of human beings and their ability to support themselves has resulted in my decision that I will not longer support Amazon beginning NOW (actually a few days ago….). So, I have made a personal significant change for 2018 and hopefully forever in my shopping habits.

I have unsubscribed from my Prime membership. I have deleted my payment method.   I have made sure that all my ebooks (most which I got for free) for my Kindle have been downloaded to multiple devices, including on the hard drives on two computers. I will no longer purchase anything from Amazon. I will be deleting my account once I am sure there are no lingering things that need to be resolved.

I have been investigating and have found socially responsible book stores that have ebooks available for my devices, including open source and activist bookstores.

While I still have work to do to change some of my habits overall that affect the planet, I feel good about no longer patronizing a retail giant that has no interest in the planet or all its life.

Goodbye Amazon.