Tag Archives: Health

Lung Cancer: Guide to Signs and Symptoms

When my father was rushed to the best cardiac hospital in Las Vegas, NV following an episode of chest pains and shortness of breath while he was at work, we all just sort of knew that it wasn’t a heart attack. Just like we knew that it wasn’t the Tuberculosis or chest infection that they originally thought it might be after ruling out a heart attack. And when he was sent home with medications to treat the Staph infection that the doctors all agreed was causing his symptoms, we watched him closely.

Six months went by and his cough only worsened. He lost weight. He had no energy. And he just looked ‘sick’. When he went back this time, the doctors had an answer – cancer.

The amount of misdiagnosed cases of lung cancer in the United States is staggering. Sometimes the misdiagnoses don’t affect the outcome. My dad’s lung cancer was terminal even before he was rushed to the hospital with the possible symptoms of a heart attack. Had he been diagnosed with the cancer he had, any treatment they could’ve given him would’ve only prolonged his life by a few more months.But in other cases, had a patient been diagnosed correctly and gotten the proper treatment the first time, a life could’ve been saved, or at least prolonged enough to make a positive difference in that person’s life, and the lives of their friends and family.

But to look at it another way, had my father gone to a doctor about his worsening cough instead of just passing it off as his “Smoker’s Cough” getting worse as he got older, that doctor may have found the cancer before it became terminal and took his life. Looking back, there were many symptoms that even those around him noticed that pointed to cancer long before the seriousness of his illness hit our family full force. Hindsight is always perfect. But at the time those symptoms seemed benign and were easy to brush off as something that wasn’t so serious a thought as the idea of cancer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, lung cancer does not usually show many symptoms in the early stages. Because of this, you’ll want to go for regular check-ups. Sticking with the same doctor can help someone to get to know you, as well as your body, so that they notice small changes in your health and can check for problems such as cancer should it be warranted. This is especially true if you are at risk for lung cancer because you smoke, have been around smokers, there is a family history of lung cancer or you have been exposed to radon gas, asbestos or other carcinogens during your lifetime (especially prolonged exposure).

When the signs and symptoms of lung cancer do start to show themselves, they can be varied in type and also in intensity. How you feel may lead you to think you are coming down with a cold, or it could send you to the Emergency Room. Often times the milder symptoms are overlooked or passed off as something else until there’s no overlooking the fact that you’re sick, and the idea that it might be cancer.

Cancer in general usually leads to some basic symptoms once it has spread to a certain point or is attacking the body. Unexplained weight loss should be monitored and should be looked at by a doctor if not controlled. Many signs resemble the common flu with fever and fatigue. Depending on where the cancer is, it can lead to pain in those areas – the pain can be mild or severe. The skin can also be an indicator of cancer if it becomes darker, yellow, reddened, itchy, or if you experience more hair growth than normal.

Most of those symptoms are not something that you would rush in to see a doctor about until they became excessive or started to interfere with your daily life.

Lung cancer itself can have some very distinctive signs, though. When most people think about lung cancer they think of the coughing that is usually associated with it. Coughing up blood, even just a tinge of red, can be an indicator of many respiratory illnesses and should be looked at, even if just to rule out cancer. Related to that, a steady or chronic cough is common among early lung cancer patients. If you’ve smoked for awhile, you may have what is known as “Smoker’s Cough” and if this worsens over a short period of time you’ll want to get yourself checked out. Even if your symptoms are not pointing to lung cancer, they may be pointing to another respiratory illness such as emphysema or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) that will need treatment to keep from worsening.

Once the cancer has progressed, more definite signs of lung cancer are wheezing, hoarseness when talking, and shortness of breath. This is caused by the body being unable to get enough oxygen through the increasingly damaged lungs. Chest pain may lead many to think they are having a heart attack, especially when experienced with the shortness of breath, as in my father’s case.

What this comes down to is this… If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, it may be because of a respiratory illness, an infection, or even a chest cold. But if you are at risk for lung cancer, and you don’t feel right, you’re coughing, losing some weight, or especially if you are feeling chest pain, then get to a doctor and get yourself looked at. If caught early, lung cancer can be treated in most cases, but you’ll need to undergo a battery of tests that can include X-rays, CT scans, or even a biopsy to determine what the best treatment plan for you would be. Your doctor will give you options, and it is up to you to weigh the outcomes.

Knowing your body, taking care of it with a healthy diet and exercise, and being conscious of your risks for lung cancer can go a long way to keeping yourself healthy, happy, and productive for a long time to come.

Sources

Lung cancer

Mayo Clinic

Signs & Symptoms of Cancer

American Cancer Society

Lung Cancer Symptoms

LungCancer.Org

Massagers For Health – Everything You Need To Know Before Buying One

Nothing compares with a relaxing massage, after a long day, so we invite you to discover the benefits that you can have from using a massager for health. The industry is still relatively new, but the increasing demand convinced more companies to manufacture these devices even for accessible prices. Today, a massager for health is not a luxury anymore, being even recommended by some medics to treat body inflammations and for improving blood circulation.

Massagers are not only used by people at their home. You definitely saw them in malls or shops, and you probably wondered about the prices. Even if the quality models are not exactly cheap, you will save money on the long term. It is why a massage chair for health must be considered as an investment on the long term, not as an expense.

If you and your family members would use it only 15 minutes a day, this means money saved on one hour at a massage chairs in the mall. Plus, you get to use your massage chair while reading, watching TV, or simply to relax before bed and to make it easier to fall asleep.

Advantages of a massager for health at home

Massage chairs and armchairs have a strong influence on your general state of mind. They will give you a good mood by eliminating the stress and by offering total relaxation. By using those, you will improve your blood circulation, observing progresses in terms of flexibility in reducing spasm and tension.

Many people using massage chairs at home say they suffer less of back and neck pains, while the relaxation increases the level of endorphins.  Using the chair every day will help you improve your body posture and the way you sit at a desk on the long term.

The most efficient programs of massages for health

If you are confronting with health problems in the back area, or other problems that come with the long hours of sitting at a desk in front of a computer, the massagers for health are a solution that you can have at home.

Modern chairs of this kind come with 3D technology for a profound massage. Advanced ones have scanning features allowing them to identify the most tensed parts of the body, and to apply acupuncture techniques. The infrared massage warms the body, leaving it with a pleasant sensation long after the session is finished.

 

The air pressure chairs are equipped with silenced elements allowing complete massage without disturbing you while watching TV. The 3D technology offers a personalized massage for users, allowing the adjusting of rolls so you can choose the intensity of the massage based on your preferences and goals.

The advanced massage chairs can replace not only your masseur, but also your acupuncture specialist. These devices can actually scan and identify the spots in need of special massage, applying puncture pressure on these spots.

Of course, those models are a little more expensive, but many users see it as an investment and they are willing to spend more at the moment, but to save money and time in the long term.

What to Eat After Cancer

One thing that helps prevent cancer and helps prevent the re-occurrence of cancer is the way we eat. Once we have been given the clean bill of health, we need to watch what we eat. How we eat makes a big difference in our health and our energy levels. Sometimes after surviving cancer or being told we have cancer we need to change our eating habits. There are dangers within many of the common things that we eat daily. Cancer makes us take a more active role in paying attention to the things we cook, and even what we eat when we eat out.

MEAT

A staple in any meal is meat of any sort. Beef has many different dangers, raw or medium rare meats can be the most dangerous thing for our health. According to E. coli: Dangers of eating raw or uncooked foods, the bacteria exists in many animals, most commonly cattle. If beef has the bacteria and isn’t properly cooked it could be passed on to us. Beef also contains other bacteria that could be very dangerous for us and cause us to get sick. One of the things my doctors told me was to never eat rare or medium rare beef.

While there are dangers of eating uncooked beef, there are benefits to eating fully cooked beef such as the proteins and other minerals it contains. Fully cooked beef and other meats could help provide the daily requirement for iron, which is something we all need. According to Benefits of beef article a research study done at Purdue University found “that that CLA (polyunsaturated fats) slows or reverses skin, breast, and stomach cancers in laboratory rats and mice at all three stages of tumor development. That study is interesting and holds a lot of importance for those of us with cancer.

VEGGIES

Fresh fruits and vegetables hold many benefits for us. They all hold different nutrients and vitamins that we all need to remain healthy. Many articles have stated that vegetables have different antioxidants that help stop certain cancers from forming in the body. That is something we all need to pay attention too. We don’t want cancer to reoccur so why not try eating more vegetables. The vitamin C in vegetables can help reduce stress and repair the body after long bouts with stress.

Vegetables have high fiber contents which help make the digestive system more healthier and toned. Vegetables also have proteins that meats do as well as amino acids that our bodies need to survive. When we have cancer, our bodies need various different amino acids, fibers, antioxidants and more to help keep our energy levels high and they can help keep us from getting very sick during chemotherapy treatments.

SUGAR

Ah sugar. We all love sugar in all forms, but sugar can be really dangerous for us especially if we have cancer. It has been found that cancer feeds off of sugar, so while going through treatments and eating after treatments we need to cut out as much sugar as we possible can. That doesn’t mean we can’t have sweeteners like honey or splenda, but we should really cut down on them. We need to learn how to control glucose levels through how we eat, exercise, supplements and if needed prescription medication.

Some things we can substitute for white sugar would be honey, splenda, sweet and low. I prefer honey because of the taste and that it is more natural than other sweeteners, but you really need to do research in order to cook with honey and make the right substitutes. It works best in teas like green tea, adds to the taste and really sweetens it better than sugar.

A great recipe to cook of Autumn Greens And Apple Salad. I know it sounds different and it is a different kind of salad than many of us are used to, but isn’t that the point to try new things? Here is the recipe for it:

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
½ shallot finely shopped
3 rib celery, thinly sliced on an angle
2 crisp Gala apples thinly sliced
1 small head red leaf lettuce torn into pieces
½ small head green leaf lettuce
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (toasted)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds

In a large salad bowl, whisk together the evoo, vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper then add the celery and apples then toss. Add the lettuce and toss again. Top it off with the seeds.

You can easily add some nicely grilled chicken sliced or even fully cooked steak sliced for a variation of the recipe. You can try different apples or different kinds of seeds or even granola to top it off. The main point is try and take some things out of our diet and replace them with more healthy things. We need to pay close attention to what we are putting into our bodies, especially after having cancer.

Turmeric: The Miracle Cancer Inhibitor

The deep yellow-ochre color that Asian foods are rich in is because of the addition of the versatile Asian spice Turmeric. Turmeric is a root akin to ginger with brown skin and a deep orange flesh inside. This form of turmeric is rarely used in everyday cooking but the powder form of Turmeric which is a fine yellow color is used in many Asian dishes and virtually all Indian curries and gravies.

It has a slight peppery, bitter taste when consumed as is but when mixed into the food it blends in beautifully and also adds a warm pleasant flavor not to mention the rich color to the dish. Turmeric is a miracle nature cure for many health concerns like digestive problems, bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis and is also used as a powerful anti inflammatory. But this article is about how curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric, can be a cancer preventer and there are hardly any preventive natural foods available that works so powerfully against cancer.

Research has proven that a consistent intake of turmeric can lower the rates of colon, lung, prostrate, oral and breast cancer. A research study conducted by the University of Texas on mice suggests that turmeric actually slows down the spreading of breast cancer to the lungs! The study was made possible by injecting human breast cancer cells into mice to grow tumors that were subsequently removed to simulate mastectomy.

How does curcumin work? According to researcher Bharat Aggarwal, our genes have what is called transcription factors and these regulate the formation of tumors. When the transcription factors are turned off, some of the genes responsible for the growth and onslaught of cancer cells are shut down. Curcumin works against the transcription factors and renders them useless to regulate the formation of these cancerous tumors. In the instance of lung cancer, Curcumin is believed to suppress and arrest cancer cell multiplication and causes cells to kill themselves. Curcumin in the turmeric is also suggested to have chemopreventive properties against myeloma and pancreatic cancer.

When turmeric is added to onions the combination helps in reducing the size and the number of precancerous lesions in the intestinal tract. Similarly a combination of turmeric with cauliflower is especially effective to stop prostrate cancer. Prostrate cancer is a leading cause of death in American men but is extremely rare in Asian men due to their diet which is rich in curcumin combined with a variety of vegetables.

While curcumin and vegetables like cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi etc helped in slowing the growth of human prostrate cancer cells, combining turmeric with these vegetables proved to be a potent fighter against the growth of tumors and the spread of the cancer cells. Make sure that when you cut cauliflower or other vegetable mentioned above you let them sit for about 5-20minutes to encourage the formation of phenethyl isothiocyantes which stop when they are heated. While sautéing add turmeric and other spices you’d like. This not only tastes good but is a great prostrate cancer prevention technique.

Research also suggests that eating food flavored with turmeric can reduce the risk of childhood leukemia. This is a heartbreaking disease, mainly in children under the age of five, that has increased in incidence by over 50% from the year 1950 mostly due to environmental and lifestyle factors like exposure to prenatal or postnatal radiation, pollutants, benzene etc and studies show that turmeric can actually help in inhibiting the effects of some of these risk factors.

The good news is that turmeric is not a strong Asian flavor that cannot be used in other types of cuisine. It can safely be added to most gravies, sauces and soups without fear of altering the taste radically. Try adding it to your pasta sauces, chili, dips and even your marinades for your meat and chicken. You can add it to you barbecue sauces too or just sprinkle some on to steamed vegetables while stir frying or sauteing. But do make sure you find turmeric that is of a reputed brand so that it is pure and free of any kind of adulteration. And remember to keep it away from your carpets and clothes unless you are planning on dyeing them!

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78

Great Places to Find Breast Cancer Awareness Merchandise Online

Breast Cancer Awareness month (October) is just around the corner. To find the right breast cancer awareness merchandise for your company, check out these five online resources for breast cancer merchandise. These websites offer a variety of items in all different price ranges, so think pink and find your perfect breast cancer awareness items online.

Motivators Promotional Products has been in business since 1979. An excellent website for breast cancer awareness merchandise, they have over 130 breast cancer awareness products to choose from. Pricing depends on quantity ordered. There are 45 breast cancer awareness products on sale until October 02.

A large variety of breast cancer awareness products at all prices which can be used as freebies to promote breast cancer awareness or for a fund raising campaign. Custom printing is available for promotion of your organization. Some of the many breast cancer awareness items available include: Pens; key chains; cookie cutters; beach balls; jelly beans; pretzels; chocolate covered sunflower seeds; sugarless gum; coffee mugs; pedometers, umbrellas, water jugs, watch, and folding chair with carrying bag.

Purchasing your breast cancer awareness items here will also benefit cancer research. Motivators Promotional Products will donate 10% of every breast cancer awareness order to The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Funds. http://www.motivators.com

Positive Promotions offers 441 breast cancer awareness products. Many of these are educational items geared towards health care organizations: A breast self exam guide for the shower; breast care diary; know your numbers health test; a breast cancer awareness display baskets with 500 breast cancer awareness freebies for patients and a breast cancer awareness pack that includes 650 items. A raffle pack includes raffle tickets and prizes. Some of the prizes are a long sleeved T-shirt and a double pocket tote.

A huge variety of other breast cancer awareness products available include: Breast cancer awareness stickers, bracelets, desk items, lunch bags, various styles of T-shirts, a baseball cap, scrub top, football jersey, fleece cap. Excellent items for giveaways or fund raising. Positive Promotions will donate a portion of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. http://www.positivepromotions.com

Looking for something a little different in breast cancer awareness products? Check out The Pink Ribbon Shop. The Pink Ribbon Shop was started by a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to help promote breast cancer awareness. As the name implies, all items are pink ribbon related. Just a few of the many unique breast cancer awareness items found here are: Various temporary pink ribbon tattoos, flip-flops, golf bags, ladies golf clubs, tennis balls, dog and cat collars, adorable purr for the cure cat T-shirts and a dog T-shirt; ornaments and scrap booking supplies. The Pink Ribbon Shop also carries some New Balance and Isotoner brands. Check out all this great breast cancer awareness merchandise at: http://www.pinkribbonshop.com

Check out breast cancer merchandise at Cancersociety.com Store. All proceeds from merchandise orders go to charity. Breast cancer awareness items available include pink ribbon jewelry (Charm bracelets, ankle bracelets, genuine Austrian crystal breast cancer pin, necklace and earring sets, crystal Angel pin with breast cancer pink ribbon); stuff bears, pill boxes, key chains; and a very inspirational T-shirt with the phrase “Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. We’re in this together” and h pink ribbons. A very unique gift for gardeners is a breast cancer awareness garden, which is a decorated metal bucket for growing pink Cosmos flowers. Seeds, potting soil and vermiculite for growing the flowers are inside the bucket. You can find these items and more breast cancer awareness merchandise at: http://www.cancersocietystore.com

Breast cancer awareness.the.shoppe.com has many breast cancer awareness items for decorating. There are different decorating kits that include tablecloths, balloons, banners and everything needed for a Breast Cancer Awareness Month event. Other breast cancer awareness merchandise available are: Canvas tote bags, jar openers, seed packets, rubber stamps, pink ribbon gift packs, pink ribbon enamel pins, watches, rings, zipper pulls and more. For more breast cancer awareness merchandise, check them out at: http://breastcancerawareness.theshoppe.com

What Not to Say to the Parent of a Child with Cancer

My son was diagnosed with brain cancer in April 2006, just a month after his tenth birthday. Even though he was flown from San Antonio to Houston, TX – to MD Anderson Cancer Center no less – it took me a couple of days to get it through my head that my child had cancer. I kept thinking, “It’s going to be a benign
‘growth’ . . . nothing malignant.” Seriously, how could my perfectly healthy son have cancer, right?

Wrong. Keeghan’s tumor was malignant. But after two surgeries, six weeks of radiation, and a year (so far) of chemotherapy, he is tumor free. It will be my daily – hourly? – wish, for the rest of my life, that he stays that way.

One of the hardest things to deal with when your child has cancer is the way in which other people react when you tell them, and the things that they say. It has been proven to me time after time that most people really don’t think before they open their mouths. They’ll say things like, “Oh, I knew someone that had the “c” word. She died.”

The “c” word. I’ve heard cancer referred to that way numerous times, as though actually saying it would cause a person to get it. It’s not contagious people!

At the grocery store one day, with Keeghan standing by my side, the cashier asks me, “Did he have an accident?”

Keeghan has a very large scar on the side of his head. It’s a nice scar as far as scars go. It’s perfectly symmetrical – four inches up on one side, five inches across, and another four inches down on the other side. It’s so perfect that my husband used to joke and say that it looked like a trap door. He’d tease Keeghan by telling people that that was where he kept his wallet.

So to be asked if he had an accident seemed pretty ludicrous. “Yes, he fell out of a tree and landed on a cookie cutter. Hence the perfect scar.”

I wish I had replied that way, but alas, I didn’t. “He had a brain tumor,” I say instead.

“Oh . . . is he going to be okay?” she then whispers.

Keeghan is ten years old. He has cancer. But he’s not deaf, nor is he a complete idiot! And he’s standing right next to me! Don’t talk about him like he’s not there or can’t understand you. He can. In fact, if you talk directly to him, he can answer any questions you might have about his story quite well. Luckily for me Keeghan replied to the woman’s question with a very ten-year-old appropriate, “Yep, I am.”

After the first three months of Keeghan’s treatment was finished, and before he started his year-long consolidation chemotherapy regimen, we moved from Texas to Washington, DC. Not long after we moved into our house, we got new neighbors. The kids and I were leaving the house to head to the hospital for chemo on the day I met the new neighbor Bob. He noticed that Keeghan had no hair, and that he wasn’t looking very happy. Keeghan never looks thrilled when he’s heading for chemo. Go figure.

I am of the opinion that it is better to just tell people up front that he has cancer rather than leave them trying to figure out how to ask. So I told Bob, “He has cancer – we’re on our way to the hospital now for his chemo treatment so he’s not in a very good mood.” 
Bob asks, “What kind of cancer?” I reply that it is brain cancer.

“Oh, wow. My old boss just died of that.”

I can only imagine what the look on my face was. Incredulous I’m sure. I was so glad that the kids were in the car by that time.

Are you completely stupid?” is what I should have asked the guy.

“Well, we’re hoping that isn’t going to happen to Keeghan,” was what I actually said. I’ve come to learn in the few months that we’ve now been neighbors that Bob never thinks before opening his mouth, so it wasn’t just that one incident. But that is the one that sticks in my mind.

What’s really funny to me, however, is how other parents of children with cancer are just as bad when it comes to the things they say. Soon after Keeghan was diagnosed, I ran into a woman at the clinic that I had known at a past assignment of ours, but hadn’t seen in a couple of years. Ironically, her daughter was the same age as Keeghan and had been diagnosed with leukemia a few months before Keeghan’s diagnosis. As we stood in the clinic talking, she asked me, “So what’s his prognosis? Haley’s is 30%. If we hadn’t gotten her diagnosed when we did, she would have died.”

All of that was said very quickly, in a tone of voice that was sort of like, “I’ll bet my kid is sicker than your kid.” Like this was a competition!

“Lady, if this is a contest to you, I hope that you win!”

You’re right, I didn’t actually say that. But I should have.

“I refuse to let the doctors put a number on Keeghan like that, and I don’t want Keeghan feeling like he doesn’t have a good chance to beat this. So I honestly don’t know what his prognosis is. In my mind, it will always be 100%.”

Even though I didn’t say what I should have said, I think what I did say got my point across. But she’s not the only one that has done that. Maybe it makes parents somehow feel better to play comparison, whose-child-is-more-sick, games like that. I can’t do it though. I want them ALL to be well.

Maybe there should be an awareness ribbon for foot-in-mouth disease. What color would it be – flesh? I don’t think that color is taken yet. Or perhaps someday I’ll write a book and call it “What Not to Say to the Parent of a Child With Cancer.” I doubt anyone would buy it though. Everyone thinks they know the right thing to say all the time.

So maybe I should title it, “Hey YOU! Don’t Be Stupid!” That might at least get someone to pick it up and read the back cover.

Maybe there’s no hope at all and people will continue forever to put their feet in their mouths. But perhaps a little awareness can turn the tide of stupidity.

Donice Mitchell – Life and Coping with Breast Cancer

When I take my hair off, my head looks like an egg, said Donice chuckling softly. She then lifted her wig and showed her completely baldhead, which was smooth and did resemble the top of a brown egg.

The tall, medium brown skinned women explained how after her first or second treatment of chemotherapy her hair just seemed to fall out in her hands, making it even more difficult to attempt to comb it. Thinning hair runs in her family, so she started wearing wigs years ago. It doesn’t bother her much not having hair, “I never had much hair anyway,” she admitted.

Losing hair was something that you had to prepare for according to her. She keeps her wigs brushed and curled, so we both laughed as she described some of the ratty, wild, and matted looking wigs she saw some of the women wearing while waiting for her chemotherapy.

Donice Glenda Evans was born the second eldest child to parents Violet and Isador Evans on February 23, 1955 in French Camp, CA. Her father was a preacher, so her family moved a lot when she was growing up, which to her meant constantly learning and adapting to new people and places. Her family settled in San Jose, CA in 1971, when her father became the pastor of the San Jose Ephesus Church.

Donice describes herself as shy, which may be because of the sheltered existence she had growing up. Her father was strict and held tightly to Christian values. She was not allowed to wear pants, at home or at the Seventh-day Adventist Christian schools she attended. Her dresses and skirts were required to be below her knees, she wore no jewelry, and was not allowed to go many places outside of church or school. She had never been one to rebel, so she kept her focus on school.

The rules she was subject to also caused her to be more cautious in all areas of life. Whenever her two brothers and two sisters would attempt to plan something mischievous she was always the voice of reason. They called her sister E.G. comparing her with a prophet of the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ellen G. White who has written numerous books on Christian etiquette, health, beliefs, etc.

Donice attended Oakwood College in Alabama for two years before deciding to finish her degree in communications at Loma Linda University. She was a junior in college when her father died from a massive heart attack. His death was traumatic for her family, especially her mother. Her family felt as if they had been outcast from the group of pastors and their families. Special events that they had become accustomed to attending, they were no longer invited to.

Although her father’s death saddened her deeply, she also felt a since of relief, because all the rules he had enforced for so many years were no longer in place. Though, now her faith in God is still strong, she tends to prefer a more relaxed approach to life and believes some things should be done in moderation.

What many would consider a late bloomer, she lived in her parent’s home until she was married. Donice met Donald Mitchell at the age of 25. The two dated for a while and both friends and family wondered if they would ever get married. After dating for five years the couple said their vows.

Donice confessed that she had always wanted five boys, but after trying several times to get pregnant and having five miscarriages she finally gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Donique.

Donique, now 10 years old hugged her mother tight around the neck before going to the next room to study with her tutor. The brown skinned little girl, wears big frame glasses, and her hair is braided in several ponytails. Although she has special needs she does well in school and takes classes specified for her learning needs. “I just want to do good and help my daughter,” Donice explains.

Now, a technical writer for Juniper Networks, Donice’s career was always very important to her. While her husband flunked out of the two-year respiratory therapy program at Ohlone, she was excelling in her profession. After he decided to go to another respiratory therapy program, which was more expensive, and he had to quit his job to attend, she became the sole provider for the family. She worked hard and put a lot of time into her job. “I had put all my effort into my career and because of my husband’s sickness I hit a plateau.”

In 1999, after her husband had been working in the field of respiratory therapy for three months he became sick after treating a patient with hemophilus influenzae. Donice came home one evening and her husband was wrapped up in bed shaking and he wasn’t breathing well. After trying to get him to the hospital on her own with no success she called the ambulance and he was taken to Kaiser Hospital. At Kaiser he was given an antibiotic that he took orally, and after a few hours he was sent back home. In the middle of the night he was once again having trouble breathing, so she called the ambulance, which transported him to Washington Hospital in Fremont. During the ambulance ride from their Newark home to the hospital he suffered from a loss of oxygen to the brain, which severely affected his vision and motor skills, also causing him occasional seizures. Later, the cause was found to be acute epiglottitis, which is an infection caused by the bacteria hemophilus infuenzae. It causes inflammation of the throat and can lead to abrupt blockage of the airway and death.

She doesn’t go too many places these days because of her husband’s seizures and after he suffered from a stroke that paralyzed his left side he takes a lot of medications. But she says having gone through so much with her husband has prepared her for her own struggles.

In 2003 around Christmas time she discovered a lump in her breast while performing a self-exam in the shower. She sat on her bed and told her daughter she had found a lump in her breast. The doctor did a mammogram and located the mass in her breast, and then a biopsy was done to determine if it was cancerous. While she was at work one day she received a call from the doctor telling her that the lump was indeed cancer. It took her a while to gain her composure to finish out her day at work. “I thought…I don’t want this load,” she whispered.

She showed me her darkened fingers and fingernails, which were another result of the chemo. She has one more treatment of chemotherapy, which she does for three days and follows up with medication. It makes her feel sick and weak, but she says, “to be able to continue on and to make it despite…you have to thank God for the ability to go on.”

After finishing chemo she will undergo six weeks of radiation. She is grateful to have friends and other breast cancer survivors she can talk to for support. Professional counseling has also been instrumental in helping her cope.

“The new mountain is that now, right in the midst of my chemotherapy, my marriage is breaking up. I helped my husband through all this, but when I’m down, poof…”

She tries not to focus on negative things. She has poured her extra energy into writing poetry, singing with her church choir, and photography. Taking pictures is her secret passion, she showed me over a dozen pictures of brightly colored flowers in bloom and birds perched together. She confessed that she hoped to take a photography class soon so that she can learn more techniques.

“Once I get behind the lens everything is gone, every trial, every tribulation, every worry, every care.”

Lawn Cancer

It’s been two years since I’ve thought about my Uncle John and his lawn. After his death in 07′ my mind it seems, had closed the door on the terrible events of that day in September, locking the memories up like a murderer with a life sentence. But how long could I really keep them stashed away there? After all, they weren’t buried so deep. All it took was one phone call to throw the door wide open, and as I sit here on the couch in my tidy little apartment in Bridgeton, I’m finding that I remember it all as if it had happened yesterday rather than over two years ago. The mind has a disturbing way of putting the bad stuff to sleep I’ve discovered, sorting through it like a postal worker at the Dead Letter Office. But it’s still there, and all it needs is a nice jolt to wake it up and get it talking.

Before I fill you in on just what happened that day, for now I feel that I must, there is something you should know. My Uncle John was not crazy, and neither was he senile. And although his last days were spent in a tremendous amount of pain, not once did he slip into that drug induced stupor that always seems to befall the sufferers of a terminal sickness in it’s final stages. The last time I saw him alive he was still possessed of all his faculties despite the cancer that was ravaging his body and I still believe he was quite sane right up until the time of his death. Just as long as you know this, I can begin my story.

It was hardly a gentle September day. The temperature, which had been on a steady rise all week, had made it to ninety-three degrees by noon. The heat wave that had smothered much of Southeast New England for the past eight days was nearing its peak and we were all praying for that final break when the temperature shifts gears and autumn comes along to usher in some kind of relief. I had decided to wait until mid afternoon to go to Uncle John’s in the hope that maybe the temperature would drop a little, sparing me the torture of cutting his grass in such unbearable heat. By the time I arrived at his house around three, the old Coca-Cola thermometer tacked to the porch in the back of his house had peaked at ninety-seven degrees. I remember exiting the cool interior of my Pontiac and being assaulted by the heat, the thick humidity clinging to my body like a wet, itchy sweater.

Uncle John was already waiting for me on the porch, sitting in an aluminum lawn chair and holding a can of ginger ale. He wasn’t even sweating, I noticed, as beads of perspiration collected at my temples and began to run down the sides of my face. He didn’t look so good, but that was no longer a shock to me. The pain had been getting worse for him lately and the Morphine tablets he took several times a day seemed to be no help. Even standing for an extended period of time had become difficult for him and he certainly wasn’t in any condition to push a mower around the expanse of his lawn for two hours. As stubborn as he was, when he realized he couldn’t open his garage door without help, he wasted no time calling me. When it came to his lawn, even pride did not stand in the way of having it tended to.

The process was the same each Saturday. After a few words of greeting, (there were less and less of these words, I noticed, as the Saturdays came and went,) Uncle John would follow me across the back yard to the shed, ambling behind me in a slow, determined gait. I had taken to slowing my own pace so he could keep up, but it did little to lessen the guilt I felt for being young and in good health. I wondered how many more Saturdays would pass before he wouldn’t be able to make it out of the house, much less the thirty feet to the shed. I knew where everything was, of course, and I knew exactly how he wanted me to cut his lawn. Still he insisted on coming with me, relaying the same explicit instructions each week. It was the closest he could come to doing it himself, I figured, so I didn’t mind the supervision as long as he was up to it.

I lifted the door to the shed and the heat hit me along with the mingled smells of oil and gasoline and the faint odor of dry grass. Every item in the shed was in perfect order, rakes and shovels and various gardening tools hung in their respective places, lining the walls of the shed like well-trained soldiers ready for battle. I dragged the mower out first; a huge Bessal Lawnmate that had once been painted in gleaming red enamel and was now covered in a thick layer of oil and dirt. Uncle John had owned the machine since as long as I could remember and as a boy the thing had seemed evil and monstrous, a nasty conglomeration of steel and moving parts that devoured grass and spat out smoke and fumes as if angry with its purpose in life. Over the years the paint had begun to chip away on the front rim forming a grinning mouth of sinister, hungry looking teeth. I couldn’t help but feel a little silly that the thing still gave me the creeps after so many years.

Once the mower was out I got the gas can, a seventy five yard length of garden hose and the sprayer that I used the to water the lawn. Uncle John walked to the rear of the shed and came back with three jugs of chemicals that he used to fertilize the lawn. I never knew what was in those plastic jugs, but according to him it was better than any Miracle Grow or Scotts Turf Builder. He had to order it special from a company in Ohio and it cost him a small fortune, but it kept his lawn green nearly eight months out of the year.

The shed was located to the right of the house on the opposite side of the driveway. There was a small spot of lawn in the back of the house, no more than ten or fifteen square yards of dry dirt spotted here and there with struggling patches of crabgrass. After a condo development went up nearby the back four acres had been reduced to a swampy woodland dotted with a few ailing pear trees that were losing their battle against the steady onslaught of encroaching vines.

It was the front lawn that really mattered to Uncle John. If you stood at the corner near the road and walked to the opposite end you would have traveled almost a hundred yards. Follow the side down to the house and you’d have gone another fifty. The lawn was completely flat; no rocks, no trees, not even a sidewalk leading up to the concrete steps at the front door. Nothing but green, beautiful grass.

The lawn was the only thing Uncle John had ever taken a sharp interest in. This interest had grown into something of an obsession after retiring from the textile mill he had worked at for almost forty years. The rest of the house could have fallen into complete disrepair and the lawn would always remain full and green. Even though I had been taking care of it over the past few months, Uncle John would still be sitting there on the front steps, watching me carefully, making sure I did everything right. As I look back, maybe he was keeping an eye on me for my own good, the way someone would spot a pipe worker at the bottom of a deep ditch, watching for signs of a possible cave in. The fact was, he wanted to be a part of his lawn right up until the end. And as it turned out, he was.

Looking back I think that he knew his lawn was dying. I remember clearly the day he had told me the doctors had found a tumor in his stomach. We were sitting out on the front steps just before dusk, drinking from cans of Coors and looking out at the lawn. As I sat there, mulling over the revelation of my uncle’s illness, I noticed the brown patch of grass, perfectly round, right in the middle of the lawn. I said nothing about it. I could tell by the hollow look in Uncle John’s eyes, the way he stared at the lawn with a look of hopelessness, that he knew his lawn was dying with him.

In the weeks that followed more and more of the brown circles began to appear. Some were the size of dinner plates, others were as big as those kiddy pools they sell at the local Wal-Mart. Uncle John’s cancer was growing progressively worse; new tumors were popping up throughout his body and the doctors pronounced his condition as terminal. They urged him to stay in the hospital and undergo treatment, otherwise he could begin a regimen of pain medication and try to stay as comfortable as possible for the next three to four months. He opted for the pills, left the hospital and never returned. After that he would only leave the house on Saturday when I came to cut the lawn. Sometimes I would stop by his house during the week. I would let myself in and find him in the living room, sitting there stoically, his old Lay-Z-Boy turned away from the TV and towards the bay window that looked out front, his gaze fixated on his failing lawn.

‘This must be the last time,’ I thought as I pushed the Bessal up the driveway to the front yard. I knew the lawn would never grow again after this cut. The dead grass, in their oddly circular shapes, had spread quickly over the past week. They were now covering nearly half the lawn. ‘The lawns dying,’ I thought with a sickening dread, my head spinning in the heat. ‘It’s terminal.’ Uncle John followed me up front and waited at the mower while I got the rest of the things from out back.

“Looks like this is it Tommy,” he said upon my return. His voice sounded strained and tired and somehow complacent. “Won’t be no more after today.” 
He looked at me then, his face thin and skeletal, the flesh hanging from his cheeks like a loose fitting mask. His eyes were yellow and bloodshot, floating in their sockets like solitary vegetables in two tiny bowls of pink broth. Those eyes, which had looked out over the lawn so many times when it was at it’s greatest; they looked at me, actually met my own for the first time in weeks. They were trying to tell me something. They were telling me to run.

“Go ahead and give her a cut,” he said, looking away from me and down at the mower. “Do it low this time Tommy, as low as you can get it. Then we’ll talk while you mix those bastardly chemicals.”

I positioned the mower at the corner of the lawn and pulled the cord. It started on the first try, coughing out thick blue smoke that hung in the still summer air like oily fog. I began the straight line down the front of the house, going over tufts of lush green grass that were spotted here and there with those odd patches of brown. The heat seemed to intensify ten-fold as I pushed the aging mower over what was left of Uncle John’s lawn. The humidity and the fumes from the mower permeated the air, encompassing me in a sickening atmosphere of carbon infused heat. About halfway through the lawn, I looked down at the grass and what I saw nearly stopped my heart.

The grass was moving. As I pushed the Bessal towards one of the brown patches color would suddenly rush back in, turning a dying piece of turf back into a thriving spot of lawn. The brown seemed to crawl out of the mower’s path as I went over it and I watched, horrified, as the individual blades actually began to stiffen and stand up as green flowed back into them. As I trudged across the lawn in a terrified daze I looked back and saw the brown wash in and gradually take up residence, bringing the section of lawn back to it’s withered dying state.

I continued up and down the lawn, thinking I might be suffering from the early stages of heat stroke, or that I was quite possibly losing my mind. As I overlapped the paths I saw the same thing. The patches of brown would retreat from the mower’s path just as I was about to hit them and then return after I had passed by. I suddenly felt as if I was being watched. Actually, targeted, is a better word. I was almost sure there was something following me, waiting for the perfect moment to rear up and pull me under the dying grass. I cast a nervous glance at Uncle John but he seemed not to notice. In fact, he wasn’t looking at me at all. He sat on the steps, looking thin and fragile, staring at his lawn like a sailor watching his homeport disappear under the horizon.

Suddenly I didn’t want to be on the lawn anymore and I began to push the mower faster. I realized that I hadn’t even refueled the thing and I knew that if I had to stop now there would be no way that I’d finish. The feeling of being watched, that something terrible and sinister was lurking just behind my back was stronger than ever. I concentrated on the driveway and I pushed. If I were to look back over my shoulder I was certain that whatever was out there would surely be waiting, ready to grab me and pull me under. I sprinted over the remaining few yards of lawn, not caring if it got a proper cut or not. When I reached the driveway relief washed over me as I stood there drenched in sweat, my breath coming in short, uneven hitches. I let go of the safety catch on the mower and it shut down with a choking shudder.

I looked at the lawn. There was no movement, no sign that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. All I could see was a once impeccably maintained lawn in the final stages of death. Uncle John was standing now and I watched in horror as he stepped onto the lawn. I could feel the terror rising up, a scream about to escape from my mouth. But nothing happened. Uncle John crossed the stretch of lawn to the driveway in a slow, casual stride. He approached me, quiet and solemn, his skeletal frame looking like a stick figure under clothes that were now too big on him.

“Gotta mix them chemicals,” he said looking down at the Bessel. “May be our only chance.”

I wanted to tell him no. I wanted to tell him what I had seen out on the lawn. I wanted to tell him that there was something going on here that was scaring the shit out of me and that it might be better just to leave it alone and call it quits for the day. There were a thousand things that I wanted to tell him as he stood there staring down at the Bessal, his eyes drooping with a combination of sadness and defeat. But I could not bring myself to utter a word. After a moment Uncle John turned and began his painful shuffle towards the shed and the awaiting chemicals. I followed obediently, throwing an apprehensive glance over my shoulder at the lawn.

I knelt down in the driveway and unscrewed the cap on the first jug. The word XENAL was printed on its label in huge block letters. I poured the viscous, ivory-yellow liquid into the sprayer’s reservoir up to the first mark. A tart, acrid odor wafted up into my face, singeing my nostrils and causing my eyes to water.

“This used to be your Grandpa’s house Tommy,” Uncle John began suddenly. “Of course, you’re to young to remember him. And before that it belonged to his Dad, my Grandpa. And before he built the house back in ’23 that lawn out there was one great big green field that spread out over a road that wasn’t there yet, stretching right up to a thicket of oaks that hadn’t been cut down and replaced with tract housing. From the time he built this house my Grandpa always had the best lawn on the street, in the whole town for that matter. And it’s stayed that way ever since I was old enough to remember.

“When Grandpa died in ’57 Grandma was already two years in the grave. There was really no one around to take the house so my Dad got it by default. We moved in right after the funeral, Mom and Dad and me, your Mom and our baby brother, your Uncle George. Your Grandpa, well he was just as obsessed with the lawn as his Dad and he kept it nice and green right from the day we moved in.

“Years went by and your Mom took off with your Daddy,” he chuckled slightly at this memory, the first time I’d heard him come close to laughing in months. “Boy didn’t that raise a stink in the family, and your Uncle George joined the Navy when he was eighteen and got stationed out in San Diego. Your Grandma died a few years later, Angina, the doctors said. And after forty years of smoking your Grandpa joined her soon after. Lung cancer.”

Uncle John paused now to catch his breath, which came out in a raspy, labored rhythm, and I suppose, to sneak a quick glance at his lawn. I started on the second jug as he continued.

“I was the only one left in town so the house became mine the same way my Dad got it. I could’ve sold the place and moved over to Hopedale and be closer to the mill but I didn’t. I felt an obligation to stay, to look after things. To look after the lawn.”

I looked up from the sprayer and Uncle John was glaring down at me. “It was still the best lawn in town, Tommy,” he said, his eyes fixed and serious. “And it was my job to make sure it stayed that way.”

He drew in a deep, rattling breath, coughed a bit, and spat out a wad of pink phlegm. He turned and looked at the lawn. “But now…now I just don’t know if we can save it.”

“The lawn is kinda like your body,” he said dryly, his weakening breath scraping over sandpaper. “If you neglect it it’ll turn on you. And it can get mean.”

I tore myself from his haunted gaze and poured the contents of the final jug into the sprayer. I thought of the grass and how it had changed color, how it seemed to move and shudder as I ran the mower over it. I thought of Uncle John’s Father and Grandfather. Of them maintaining the lawn over the generations with near religious zeal, battling the weather and the seasons and some malevolent force that existed beneath those once green and flourishing blades of grass. I wondered who would be taking care of the lawn after Uncle John died and realized with dread that the only one left was myself.

The sudden, sharp odor from the third jug snapped me into reality like a dose of ammonia salts and I had to crane my head back painfully in order to avoid the fumes rising from the sprayer. When it mixed with the other chemicals in the reservoir the liquid coalesced into a dark crimson that looked all too much like blood. My mind filled with images of mosquitoes and leaches and thirsty looking vampires.

“Screw the hose on and drench that lawn Tommy,” Uncle John said as I finished pouring. “A treatment might actually save it for Christ’s sake.” He turned and walked across the lawn to the front door.

“Pain’s getting’ bad,” he said, making his way gingerly up the steps. “Gonna take a pill and hit the sack.” He opened the door, stopping just inside the threshold to look back at me, his face a grim portrait of concentration fighting through worlds of pain. “Be careful,” was all he said before disappearing inside.

I stood at the edge of the lawn; my feet were planted safely on the paved surface of the driveway, the sprayer gripped in my hand like some alien ray gun. The garden hose trailed out behind me, long and green and snakelike. I squeezed the lever and water rushed out of the nozzle in a fine maroon mist, drenching the dead grass at my feet. I watched closely and waited, not knowing exactly what I was expecting to happen. I didn’t have to wait long.

When the water hit the grass the lawn shuddered then heaved up as if reacting painfully to the chemicals. Green replaced brown and the blades shot straight up, reaching towards the cascading water. I swung the sprayer back and forth and watched as the brown color raced beyond the range of the stream. The green patches in the lawn, untouched by the fertilizer, began to wilt and fade to a pale yellow, as if the sickness in the grass had opted to retreat to a safer location. But in a distant part of my mind I knew it wasn’t on the run. I knew it was searching. Searching for the source of its pain.

Without thinking I stepped onto the lawn. The moist grass was thick and spongy beneath the soles of my sneakers. With each pass of the sprayer new life poured into the grass in front of me. My head was slowly filling with a subtle electric static that clouded my thoughts like bad radio reception. Spotted images of my great Grandfather, a man whom I’ve never seen even in a photograph, flashed in my mind with lucid clarity. I saw a sea of grass, bright and green and thriving, flowing into the horizon. I watched as it rose and dipped lazily in huge oceanic swells. I could hear no birds chirping, no barking dogs; not even the sound of a passing car. Uncle John’s house was no more than a hollow phantom, replaced by a limitless emerald pasture that stretched into eternity.

The sprayer jerked suddenly in my hand and I turned, horrified to see that the hose was actually being pulled under the lawn. Not much time now, I thought, this lawn is getting mean. I ran the length of the hose, spraying the grass in front of me with the strange chemical solution. The lawn coughed it up like wad of tubercular mucous. I pressed further across the lawn spraying wildly to my left and right. The brown patches were now confined to the far right corner. Could I be winning this terrible battle with the lawn cancer? I had the mad idea that by ridding the lawn of this ferocious disease I could simultaneously cure my Uncle John of his illness.

I closed in on the remaining portion of lawn. Looking at the sprayer I noticed the once opaque liquid in the reservoir was turning a pale pink as the water diluted the chemicals. As I aimed the stream at the dying grass a terrible screech arose in my head, blotting out the world around me and sending an electric shiver down my backbone. The sound was distinctly animal, primal and stupid and full of frustrated agony like a wolf caught in a leg trap with nothing to lose but its life and its mind. It filled the air with a sharp, rending vibration that blurred my vision. Through the haze of my invaded mind I could see two children across the street playing on their front lawn. Surely they could hear this awful screaming, could feel the caustic energy that was surging up out of the ground in endless, nauseating waves. They did not seemed to notice though, carrying on as if the grass beneath them was no more dangerous than a passing wind.

The vibrations grew in intensity as I struggled to keep the stream trained on the last bit of grass. My legs were weak and the sprayer felt like a concrete block in my right hand. The pink hue of the thinning chemicals was fading to the sparkling silver color of pure tap water. I prayed there was enough left to finish the battle.

Without warning the grass in front of me rippled violently then surged up in one last, desperate heave as something beneath the surface struggled to get out. I stepped back as two tendrils of blackened lawn snaked out and whipped towards me. I doused them with the sprayer and they recoiled back into the lawn in painful, stuttering movements. The grass began to deflate, sinking slowly into the ground until suddenly I was standing over an abyss that reached not into the earth but into a world that seemed to exist just beyond my thinning plane of reality. A small trace of yellow light appeared in the abrupt blackness and began to rise toward me. As it neared I could see it was an eye, strange and horrible and unblinking, racing up through the ground as the sun reflected off of its gleaming, solitary cornea. It was yards from the top, then feet, then inches. The scream in my head grew to a fevered, kettle-whistle pitch. The fiendish eye crested the mouth of the pit. There was a sudden, piercing snap and the world around me was drowned in green.

I opened my eyes to a clear summer sky that glared down at me with crystalline brilliance. The placid blue held me, flooding my mind with it’s subtle, cleansing radiance. The dull throbbing in my head faded quickly as I gazed skyward in complete rapture. I felt as if I could lay there forever, letting the tranquil beauty of that sky inundate my exhausted body and mind with absolute serenity. Then I remembered the lawn.

Instantly I was on my feet, the feeling of calm obliterated by sheer terror. The sprayer was still in my hand and I held it to my chest like some enchanted talisman. I looked all around me, expecting to be surrounded by a horde of Lovecraftian beasts intent on dragging me under the grass and devouring me alive. But I was alone, standing on a once ravaged lawn that was now an exquisite landscape of green, healthy grass. I scrutinized every inch of the lawn, keeping a wary eye out for any sign of those peculiar brown patches. As far as I could see there was nothing, no brown grass, no unearthly movement, not even so much as a wilted blade. I lowered the sprayer with cautious reluctance, the fear inside of me fading like the residual images of a terrible dream. I inhaled deeply, taking in the humid air along with an overwhelming sense victorious accomplishment. The battle was over. I had won.

As I made my way to the front steps I noticed a plate-sized circle of brown grass about ten yards to my right. It had not been there a moment ago, of this I was positive, and the sight of it froze me in my tracks. I stared at the circle with a dreadful sort of fascination as it began to move across the lawn in my direction, leaving a trail of scorched grass in its wake. I raised the sprayer instinctively and squeezed the lever. The diluted chemicals had little effect but to slow the things progress and it inched towards me with steady determination. More circles began to appear all over the lawn, taking shape with frightening speed and making their way in my direction. I dropped the useless sprayer and sprinted for the front steps, cursing myself for being so stupid.

You cannot cure terminal cancer. Denial and ignorance had blinded me to this fact, making me believe I could save the lawn and rescue my Uncle John from a painful, undignified death. But cancer in its progressive stages, especially one so widespread, is impossible to treat. I know this now. I also know that sometimes, when all seems well and you think you have it beat, there is always the chance of remission.

I reached the house just in time. The discoloration washed up to the concrete steps and I felt them shift slightly under my feet as the menacing force within the lawn tried in desperation to reach me. The entire lawn had turned a sickly, pale-brown with not a single blade of green to be found. I watched as the sprayer was pulled under the lawn. There was a sharp, metallic PLINK as the hose snapped from the spigot on the far side of the house and was sucked into the grass like a long, green piece of spaghetti. Sheer exhaustion assaulted my body and my legs began to tremble, threatening collapse. I nearly sat down right there but suddenly even the steps didn’t feel safe anymore. I opened the front door and stepped inside.

The first thing to hit me was the heat. Even in the ninety plus heat the air from within the house felt like a blast from a furnace. I recoiled back a step or two but I did not go outside, knowing full well what my fate would be if I set foot on the lawn. A repulsive odor of mold and stale urine invaded my nostrils and I gagged involuntarily. Every shade in the living room was drawn and as far as I could see so were the ones in the kitchen. I heard the central air running and checked the thermostat, stunned to see that it was set at ninety-five degrees.

‘How long had it been like this?’ I wondered in horror. ‘How hadn’t I known?’ But it was surely possible. I could not recall going into the house last Saturday or the weekend before that. Live snakes of guilt slithered in the pit of my stomach.

I tiptoed cautiously across the living room floor, taking a shocked assessment of the room around me. An oily, gray fungus was growing on the fabric of the couch and most of the furniture. The wallpaper had faded and was peeling in places and the finish on the hardwood floors had flaked off right down to the wood. Gauzy curtains of cobwebs hung from the corners of the ceiling. The entire room had an aura of great age and abandonment. It was hard to believe that Uncle John or anyone for that matter had ever lived here.

Uncle John’s bedroom was at the extreme end of a long, narrow hallway. I made my way down the corridor, the tight proximity of the walls augmenting my fear as I struggled to take in air the consistency molasses. I approached the bedroom, noting how the door was rotted through in places and sagging on its hinges. A new odor came to me as I stood there, overwhelming the lingering scent of age and advanced decay. It was a familiar smell, sharp and pungent, and I struggled to put my finger on it. Grasping the tarnished brass doorknob, I covered my mouth and nose with the collar of my shirt and gently eased the door open.

The temperature inside the bedroom had to be well over one hundred degrees. It was a miracle that a fire hadn’t started. A clear plastic pitcher sat on the nightstand slumping to one side, melted by the intense heat. Two empty candlesticks stood on the dresser, liquid wax pooled at their bases. The Panasonic television in the corner of the room had a huge zigzagging crack running through the middle of its screen. A thick canvas blanket covered the window, tacked to the molding with industrial sized staples. Uncle John, or what was left of him, was lying in the bed.

He was dead, there was no doubt about it. He had stripped down to his underwear before lying down; his skin was pale and gray, like a thin leather sheet that had been draped over a pile of crudely laid bones. His eyelids were sunken in, his lips pulled back over his dentures in a morbid grin. Clutched in the gnarled fingers of his left hand was a plastic jug with the word XENAL on its label. The floor next to his bed was littered with perhaps a dozen empty jugs and I realized in horror why that tart, biting odor was so familiar. He’d been drinking the very chemicals I had used to treat the lawn.

My head began to spin and I felt a bubble of nausea rise in my stomach. I stumbled out of the bedroom, barely making it through the back door before my breakfast came spilling out of my mouth. Over an hour went by before I could work up the stamina to go back into the house to call the paramedics. I waited for them in the driveway, far away from the lawn.

The ambulance came. So did the police. They asked the usual questions and I answered them with forthright honesty. They asked me when last time was that I had talked to my Uncle John and I told them this morning. They said that was impossible because the body looked like it had been there for days, maybe even a week. They asked me if I was positive about the last time I had seen him and I told them I was. They looked at each other, then at me, then they closed their little notepads and left. As they walked up the driveway to their squad car I heard the younger of the two officers say, “Shitty lawn, huh.”

And that was it, up until now of course. After talking with my doctor earlier today I’ve been thinking about what he had to tell me. That he would like me to come down to his office tomorrow and discuss the results of my exam in person rather than over the phone. But mostly I’ve been thinking about Uncle John and his lawn, and the strange and terrible burden that seems to have been passed down over the years.

He left me the house in his will, you see, and by doing so I guess I’ve inherited a whole lot more than just a three-bedroom ranch style on four and a half acres. I drove by the place after work today, something I haven’t done in so long. The lawn is there, dead and quiet but still menacing after all these years. As I passed slowly by it looked to me like a rusted, forgotten trap waiting for someone to come along and place an unsuspecting foot into. The For Sale sign, placed by the realtor almost two years ago, had sunk into the lawn up to it’s lettering. I know that even though I haven’t set foot on the property since the day Uncle John died, the house and the lawn are still mine and always will be. I also know that it wasn’t only Uncle John who lost the battle with the lawn cancer that day. It was me as well.

Breast and Uterine Cancer

The Politics of Medicine


There are over 211,000 new cases of breast cancer that occurs each year in the United States. Over 40,000 women die of this disease each year as well if it is not caught early enough. Unfortunately, the risk of surviving breast cancer today is the same as it was over 50 years ago. Why have we not advanced enough in breast cancer treatment and other types of cancer in the past 50 plus years? The politics of medicine in the health care industry itself has a faint reality to what needs to be accomplished in the direction of advanced treatment of cancer on a whole. The only two main options for breast cancer treatment is a mastectomy which is the removal of the entire breast and a lumpectomy in which part of the breast is removed. With a lumpectomy, there is a 40% chance of the breast cancer returning even with radiation treatment. Many women who opt for a lumpectomy receive radiation treatment. They must remember though there is that 40% chance the breast cancer can return with a lumpectomy along with the radiation treatment .The radiation itself can cause the cancer to return. I don’t understand why this treatment option is even offered because more than half of the breast is deformed and the danger of radiation can be significant if given in high doses. However, each breast cancer patient has a right to their own preference of treatment upon their doctor’s diagnosis of treatment.

Over half of all women diagnosed with breast cancer opt for a mastectomy over a lumpectomy. Why? Well, there are many reasons. However, this is a personal decision each breast cancer patient must make for themselves along with their doctor according to the advancement, outcome of their disease as each treatment is different for each breast cancer patient. In other words, it’s all a matter of personal choice when given a choice between a mastectomy and a lumpectomy upon the doctor’s diagnosis of treatment. A mammogram is recommended each year for women 40 years of age and over. If there is breast cancer in the family it should be done earlier as recommended by a family physician.

Breast Cancer Treatment

In addition to radiation for breast cancer treatment, there is also chemotherapy and medication prescribed to each breast cancer patient according to the advancement of their disease. Some women may have one or two of these treatments or all three combined together depending on the advancement of this disease. For medication, there is tamoxifen which is routinely prescribed for most breast cancer patients after surgery. Doctors view this drug as a extremely peculiar drug. Why? It blocks estrogen, but in other organs of the body. It acts like an estrogen which is linked to uterine cancer. About 3% of breast cancer patients who have used tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment have developed uterine cancer as a result of this drug. This is hotly debated among doctors. However, doctors have now slowly moved away from this drug. They now only prescribe tamoxifen for extreme, advanced cases of breast cancer. There is also what is called, aromatase inhibitors, introduced in the early 1990’s for breast cancer treatment. Aromatase inhibitors involves three separate drugs, Arimidex, Aromasin and Femara. Aromatase inhibitors is classified as the enzyme found in the adrenal glands which is fat and muscle that converts testosterone as well as androste-estrogen in pre-menopausal women. While the side effects of aromatase inhibitors seem far less invasive than tamoxifen, there is still a dim reality towards the effectiveness of these drugs. Although, the aromatase inhibitors are far more effective than tamoxifen in breast cancer treatment, there is still the faint reality of its effectiveness that silently lingers with most doctors in the back of their mind, overall. One of the main side effects of these drugs is bone pain. Women taking these drugs should have their bone density closely monitored by their doctor.

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer includes both the cervical cancer and endometrial cancer of the uterus. There are two main cancers of the cervix, the first one is located in the lower part of the uterus. This is called the Squamous cell carcinoma which makes up 85-90% of these cancers. The second one is called the Adencarcinoma which makes up 10-15% of these cancers. The symptoms of uterine cancer can include watery vaginal discharge and painless bleeding. Over time though, the bleeding becomes heavier and most frequent, therefore, the pain becomes more noticeable. We must remember, most cervical cancers increase slowly and may not give any visible symptoms in the early stages. About 49,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with uterine cancer each year. The good news is the five year survival rate is 71 percent. And if this disease is caught early enough, the survival rate is increased at 91 percent. The single most risk factor is infection, thus known as the papiloma,(HPV) virus. However, other factors include sexual partners before the age of 18, having many sexual partners and cigarette smoking.

Alternative and European Treatments for (Breast) Cancer

Edited by Dr. Thomas Moss, MD Only Amer. Dr. “Full Member/ National Herbalist Assoc. Of Australia”


Some prefer to call it ‘Nutritional Healing’ for the body. However, there are specific vitamins and herbs which have proven to be successful or at the very least helpful in the treatment of all cancers.

As an example, researchers have found that patients with cancer of the breast, lung, bladder, colon, and skin have levels of vitamin A that are lower than normal. So, start by taking your ‘Vitamin A’. 


The Latest Information on Immune Support:

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine ‘Astragalus’ supports the body’s defensive energy, and modern scientific study is beginning to bear this out. While Astragalus is gentle enough to take daily, it can help normalize the immune systems of cancer patients after chemotherapy. This is very important! ! !

Astragalus is recommended for abnormally low white blood cell counts, which usually follow treatment with anticancer drugs or steroid medications.

Breast cancer patients taking Astragalus and the immune-enhancing plant ligustrum (L. lucidum) during radiation treatments experienced a statistically significant higher survival rate. 

“The active ingredient in Astragalus resembles the chemical structure of Echinacea and larch,” explains Robert Roundtree, MD, a complementary medical expert in Boulder, CO.

Your Personal Program for Recovery and Healing

Everyone of us is unique, so we each need to work out our own program for recovery and healing. Included is my personal diet and vitamin regimen to give you some ideas. Please for your own sake, find a reputable homeopathic doctor in your area if your medical doctor does not use alternative treatments. The majority of doctors don’t, since they are given only one-half hour on nutrition in medical school. How do I know this? My nephew is a famous doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Begin by Detoxifying! 

The first thing to do is to try to cleanse your system. I started with capsules of the herb, ‘Burdock’*. There is also an herbal tea, ‘Flor-Essence’ that contains Burdock for further cleansing. Continue using for two weeks. The original version of this tea is ‘Essiac-Tea’ popularized by Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse as early as the 1920’s. There are several very similar teas such as ‘Prairie-Tea’, a much weaker version and ‘Vitali-Tea’ sold through individuals.

*Burdock Root is one of the finest blood purifiers in the herbal kingdom. It helps the kidneys quickly filter impurities from the blood. It soothes the kidneys and relieves the lymphatics. It is soothing to all mucous membranes. A big help in cleansing the system.

After the cleansing one will start to use ‘Milk Thistle’ daily to help cleanse the liver of all the chemicals we are putting in our bodies. Take one 1,000mg capsule with each meal.

Daily: 

A Good Multiple with Lutein for the eyes, but without iron. Try Wal-Mart for good but lower priced vitamins. 
I use one and a half vitamins. (One-half with each meal.)

‘L-Lysine’ or an amino acid complex. 500mgs Taken before each meal. Helps absorb calcium and controls canker sores, or as they call them, mouth sores. (3 x’s a day)

Vitamin A, or Beta-Carotene 25,000IU As an anti-oxidant to combat infection, also helps your eyes.

Vitamin E As an anti-oxidant and also thins the blood.

MSM taken with breakfast. For relief from joint pain and to keep it from getting worse. Esp. for women who have been taken off hormones.

Quercitin an anti-oxidant that binds to type II EBS receptors better than Tamoxifen. It has been shown to block cancer cell growth in Ovarian Cancer as well. (Take one am & pm, 20 min. before meals.)

Calcium & Magnesium Citrate w/Vit.D For nails and bones. One can only absorb 600mgs at a time, so take when you are not having dairy products with your meal.

Milk Thistle! Just a reminder to take it with your meals. This is most important!

Melatonin: There have been 8 studies in Italy which have proven that Melatonin is as beneficial as many of the treatments for breast cancer. Take 5 tablets, of 3mgs of it at bedtime (15mgs) and it is said that you will sleep better and feel better as well as help you ward of any additional cancer according to those who ran the studies.

My Personal Diet & Recommendations: 

Drink Only Bottled Water 
Distilled preferably. In Europe they have stopped putting fluoride in the water. They found that it causes cancer.

Drink herb teas. Eliminate coffee. 
Coffee is hard on the system. The acid and caffeine are detrimental to one’s health, even if you don’t have cancer.

Try to eliminate all beverages with caffeine from your diet. Do this slowly or you may develop headaches. Have you tried Postum, a beverage made from grains that is similar to coffee.

Eliminate ‘Red’ meat. An interesting bit of information came to light. Only 13% of vegetarians get cancer. In the United States, all meat is full of hormones and antibiotics unless otherwise specified. If you prefer to eat meat, find a place that sells range free chicken and range free beef. (free to roam, not in a cage) Fish is good and comes in many different varieties.

Eat Salads Everyday. If you are not a salad person, start now. Combining fresh fruits and nuts in a romaine salad with a citrus dressing and sprinkles with Feta cheese is delicious. You will find many interesting combinations including those with beans and rice, thus giving you more than enough protein.

Eat a minimum of three fruits, and four vegetables daily. You will feel better and your health should gradually improve.

Stay away from white foods. This is the hardest one for me. I’m working on a great oatmeal cookie recipe. White foods are bread, white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes. White sugar & white flour are included as they have no real nutritional value.

Incorporate whole grains in your diet. All nutmeats contain protein. Did you know that even ‘oatmeal’ has a small amount of protein in it. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber will be beneficial whether or not you have cancer.

*** This is a strange one! Apple Seeds. Eat three apple ‘seeds’ two times a week. They contain the same laetrile that you get from apricot pits – only a lot easier to come by. Laetrile has been thought to help fight cancer for years. There are also small amounts of laetrile in almonds and apricots.

Dairy products. ‘Yogurt’ is good for you if it has Acidophilus in it. ‘Eggs’ are high in protein, but if you have a cholesterol problem, use egg-whites. A moderate amount of cheese is fine. Avoid the over processed kind.

Avoid Fat. Try to use only olive oil or canola oil.

Why are we doing this? 

We are trying to regain and maintain ‘optimum health’ so that cancer does not return. I consider my vitamins part of my food. I carry them in a pill case when I go out. After a while it becomes automatic.

If you decide to use vitamin therapy you will find a system that works best for you.

Ultimately: This may seem like a lot of work to began with; but, I have known people how were stricken with cancer that completely turned their lives around using nutritional therapy, along with creative visualization and meditation. They were either cured or their lives improved dramatically.

It takes time, but it is interesting how adaptable to change we human beings really are.

The most important thing for you, is to not loose hope. As long as you can keep the spirit of hope alive, it will help you accomplish just about anything you set out to do.

Remember, you are not alone.

To the Reader,

This book was written to try to help you on your journey. I am a breast cancer patient whose cancer metastasized to my spine. That was three and a half years ago, and I am still alive! Therefore, “I know what you are going through.” 
If you would like more information from my book please send an email and I will try to answer your questions.

With Love & Understanding,

JoAnne Gullickson