Cancer, Revisited

Earlier this week,  I attended the first annual Kay Johnson Memorial Lecture. Kay was a Hampshire faculty member who died in 2019. I knew her really well because our sons were best friends from birth to the age of 5.

Kay died from metastatic breast cancer. In honor of Kay, I am reposting a piece from 2009.  At that time, my Uncle Norm had a diagnosis of lung cancer. He died a few weeks later. 12 years later, we have still not made enough progress in the fight against cancer. Hopefully once President Biden gets COVID and the economy under control, he can turn his attention to defeating cancer.

Cancer  12/16/2009

As part of my research for my new book, I have been reading short stories from various eras of Harper’s Magazine. One written in 1949, “The Lady Walks,” by Jean Powell, deals with a faculty wife who has breast cancer. Although my original interest in the story was because of the faculty wife character, Ravita, as a nurse I found the description of the cancer treatment clinic she goes to unsettling. The description did not seem that different from clinics I have worked at various times in the past fifteen years.

After reading the story, I have concluded that things have not changed as much as we might think or like in the area of treatment of cancer. Today I participated in a Cancer Care teleconference, “The Latest Developments Reported at the 32nd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.”  It was very interesting; there are new drugs that might prevent bone loss in cancer patients as well possibly prevent the re-ocurrence of cancer.  However, treatment for certain kinds of breast cancer is a five-year process, which seems extraordinary long.

Around Thanksgiving, I read a story in the New York Times about a recreational lounge for cancer patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a hospital in New York City. One of the patients is Seun Adebiyi, a young Nigerian immigrant and a Yale Law School graduate. He has lymphoblastic lymphoma and stem-cell leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. He is also trying to be the first Nigerian to compete in the Winter Olympics in skeleton. His goal is 2014. I have participated in a bone marrow drive but I have never received a call to donate.

I have had friends who have died from ovarian cancer and relatives who have experienced lung cancer. Although we may not have made as much progress in the last sixty years as we would have liked, let us hope that we can make significant progress against cancer in the coming days.

 

Busy Week

This past week I was very busy. As I wrote last week, Saturday was the first night of Passover. We had  a great time with my sons and daughter-in-law. Next year I hope we can have even more family attend our seder.

Passover is one of my favorite holidays ,but eating just matzah for a week is tough. The change in diet gave me some minor health issues, primarily the stomach kind. Regularity begets regularity, if you get what I mean.

Because at the end of last week, I was getting ready for Passover, I fell behind on some routine tasks, such as mail, email (the bane of my existence) and bills. This week I had to play catch up.

As a result, I spent most of the week not actually writing anything. I did finish reading and taking notes on two books that had to go back to the library.  Although I didn’t write much, I had writing experiences due to the two groups I am involved with.

This was week was the first meeting of a new ten week session from Nerissa Nields’ Writing It Up in the Garden. I switched from her group that meets Wednesday evenings back to the group I was in last year, Tuesday midday. I like the people and I got good feedback on some pages I read from the chapter I am currently working on.

One of the people in the group read something about ALS, which was hard for me to listen to. I have known several people, including my brother Fred, who have died from that terrible disease and my first cousin, Lowell, is living with it.

The other writing  experience involved the year long Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop Creative Nonfiction Group that I am participating in. The first meeting was at the beginning of last month. One part of the program is having a different accountability buddy each month. I really enjoyed my first buddy, Jennifer. We have a lot in common and are working on similar topics. It was great to talk about my book to a fellow historian.

Although the week had hard parts and was busy, I did do some enjoyable things. Last week  was the World Figure Skating Championships. I couldn’t watch them in real time so, starting this past Monday, I watched repeats of all the events. It ended last night with the ice dancing. It was a pleasure to watch the superb skating of all the athletes. I love skating and, in fact, I am going skating today. The week is ending on a good note.

 

 

 

Writing

This coming weekend I am going to be involved in two activities that concern writing.  Both are from the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop (PVWW). On Saturday, I  will be attending the workshop, Marketing Your Book Online! The presenter is Fungai Tichawangana.

I wanted to attend this session because, eventually, I will be done with my book and need to market it. I did almost all the marketing for Brewing Battles. That was almost fourteen years ago so I am sure things have changed.

The other event I am attending is on Sunday. It is the orientation for the year long manuscript group. As you may recall, I thought I was going to participate in that the last year, but I decided not to. This year’s group, which I will be part of, is nonfiction, non memoir. I think there will be people in the group who are writing things that are similar to what I am writing.

I am really hoping that the monthly meeting with the whole group as well as accountability buddies that you have during the month will  provide sufficient structure, motivation, and focus so that I can complete my manuscript. It is a big commitment, but I think it will be worth it.

2021 Goals and Resolutions

As I mentioned last week, my main goal for 2020 was to finish my book and I did not achieve that. Completion of the book remains my main goal for  2021. I have been working on the sixth chapter since the fall. When I finish that, I will have four left. I am really going to try to complete it this year.

My goals for 2020 did not include anything about losing weight but i did lose 20 pounds  last year. I know many people gained the COVID 15, but I am glad I went in the other direction. At the beginning of 2020 I tried intermittent fasting which I did for a while. The big change came in June when I joined Noom. Noom is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  and uses artificial intelligence (AI) in its work with clients.

Although I did not count my calories every day, as the program suggests you do, I did watch my calories and weigh myself everyday.  The other part of Noom is reading articles, answering quizzes and interacting with both a group coach and an individual coach. I am not sure if either of these are real people. They may be bots. I have gained insights about my behavior, eating and otherwise, from Noom.

My resolution for 2021 is to lose the remaining three pounds I have to  lose to get to my original weight goal and to not gain the weight back. I have lost weight before but I have always gained it back. I hope that the lessons I have learned from Noom stay with me even when I am no longer paying for the program.

I plan to continue to tweet every day and post on this site every week. Between politics, the pandemic, beer, and other topics, I am fairly confident I will have plenty to say. Today will be the last Wednesday that I post a blog. I am going to return to Friday as the day I post.  I am hoping this will create a better writing schedule.

See you January 22nd.

Bye Bye 2020

As everyone knows, 2020 was a unique and often terrible year. Like most people, I was glad to see it go. I am very grateful that my family has been safe and not had Covid.

Looking back, my  main goal for 2020 was to finish my book. I didn’t achieve that but I did finish my fifth chapter. I am currently working on the sixth. For most of the year, I attended one of Nerissa Nields writing groups. The group was very helpful with finishing the  fifth chapter.

The best part of the year was my younger son’s wedding. I am so glad that I was able to attend the ceremony despite COVID. Many of my other plans were upended by the pandemic. I did not skate for  five months, we didn’t go to JazzFest in New Orleans,  and I last saw my older son in August at the wedding.

I haven’t really been anywhere since last February.  This could be one of the reasons that I blogged more frequently this year. There were 53 weeks in 2020 and I posted 51 times. I tweeted 594 times which is the same pace as last year.

Beside my writing, my other goal for 2020 was defeating Donald Trump. Along with thousands of other people, I achieved that. Defeating fascism feels really good.

It seems likely that both Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphel Warnock will become Senators. This will give Democrats  a slim margin. I have great hope that people will soon receive $2000 relief checks, unemployment benefits will be extended and there will be an effective and efficient distribution system for the COVID-19 vaccine.

As I am about to post this, insurrectionists have stormed and breached the U.S. Capitol. I will try to write about these events in another post. Let’s pray for a better year with our country being safe, strong and free.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Human Rights Shabbat D’Var Torah – Part 1

This is the first of three parts of the talk I gave on Saturday at the Jewish Community of Amherst.

Shabbat Shalom,

Today is Human Rights Shabbat. Every year, Tru’ah, which used to be called Rabbis for Human Rights invites congregations to celebrate the 1948 UN signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year Tru’ah is focusing on Article 21 which states, unfortunately in patriarchal language, :

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

In 1948, when these very inspiring words were adopted, African Americans living in Jim Crow South did not have access to any of these rights.  In 1920, almost 2,000 blacks lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. Only 30 voted in the 1920 presidential election.

Today’s parsha begins the Joseph story. In preparing for this D’Var, I read the whole tale which spans four Shabbats. Looking at the arc of the story, it can be read as Joseph’s journey from Slave to Citizen. Co-incidentally, that is the title of a book by Frank Tannenbaum which Branch Rickey read when he was contemplating choosing Jackie Robinson to break the color line in professional baseball.

More broadly, Joseph’s life was also the story of a foreigner and his descendants achieving great success in a foreign land. This immigrant story, read on its own as a novella, is resonant with the success of Jews in America. Joseph was able to move from having been bought and sold to becoming the chief economic advisor to the Pharaoh. The number of Jews in President-elect Biden’s cabinet reminds us of Joseph’s success.

For Joseph, slavery was not a permanent status or mark. For African Americans, brought in chains to this land, beginning in 1619, slavery was a permanent condition. The Civil War ended this inhumane institution and the brief equalitarian period of Reconstruction brought constitutional amendments which enshrined citizenship for all people and voting rights for all men, black and white.

The 13th amendment abolished slavery and the 14th and 15th established birthright citizenship and granted black men the right to vote. The 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870; at that time Federal troop still occupied wide swaths of the former Confederate States. Once federal troops were withdrawn, following the 1876 election, jurisdiction over voting returned to the individual states. By the late 19th century, most Southern blacks had effectively lost their voting rights. Since citizenship and voting, in a democracy, are inextricably linked, the disenfranchisement of blacks was complete.

Next week I will post the second of the three parts of this talk.

Fall

Tomorrow  will be the first day of October. We have been living with the pandemic for almost seven months. Time is moving both slowly and quickly. Looking back at my post, Goals, from the beginning of this year, I want today’s post to reflect some updates and changes.

The biggest deviation from my stated plans in January is that I did not participate in the year long non- fiction writing group that the Pioneer Valley  Writers’ Workshop offers. I felt that I would be a fish out of water in a sea of memoirists with emotionally challenging life stories. My gut told me not to do it. I have not regretted my decision.

I did two rounds of Nerissa NIelds’ Writing It Up in the Garden. It was really helpful for finishing the fifth chapter of my book. The chapter focuses on the Angell family and its’ many academics. A particular focus is Constance McLaughlin Green, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian

In January, my goals included being part of an adult group number at the Skating Club of Amherst’s annual show. Of course Corona prevented the show from happening. I have only skated five times since March 11th and none of them were at the Mullins Ice Rink.

In January, I said finishing my book was imperative and would require keeping my schedule light. I have had mixed results with that endeavor. As October begins, I am still trying to finish the sixth chapter which deals with two  white middle class, middle aged women who were social justice activists in the 1950s and 60s.

Right now, I am writing about Sarah Patton Boyle, a faculty wife from Charlottesville Virginia who became an early white ally of Martin Luther King, Jr. Her attempts to dismantle  Jim Crow and help American society achieve racial equality have been  very inspiring to me as I have tried, since the murder of George Floyd, to become a more actively anti-racist person.

There are three months left to the year. I hope to finish this chapter, get my skating back to a pre-pandemic level and defeat Donald Trump. What are your plans and goals for the remainder of the year?

 

Book Review: Such A Fun Age

I recently read Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. The reason I read it is because I had seen an excerpt of a review of the book by JoJo Moyes which said “An amazing debut…A sort of modern Austen-esque take on racism and modern liberal sensibilities…except that description makes it sound far more serious and less clever than it is. [Kiley Reid] has a forensic eye.” 

Because I am a sucker for anything to do with Jane Austen, I decided to read the book. The joke was on me because Such a Fun Age has nothing to do with Jane Austen, neither the style of writing nor the topic of the book.

Such A Fun Age is, on one level, the story of a clash between a 35-year-old white woman, Alix, and a 25-year-old  black woman, Emira. Alix is an influencer, although the writer doesn’t use that word about her, while Emira is, to some extent, the stereotypical aimless college graduate. Emira works for Alix as a babysitter.

The author portrays the differences between the two women as stemming from class and race. Alix is established in her career, with a book deal, a husband, a home and two children. Emira has no idea what she wants to do and is worried about losing her health insurance when she turns 26.

One evening while Emira is at a party, Alix calls her to take her older daughter out of the house because there has been an incident and the police are coming. Emira and a friend go and get the child and bring her to a local convenience store. A white woman, a Karen, thinks it is odd that Emira, all dressed up, is with a white child and alerts security.

A confrontation ensues, a bystander is filming it and it is only resolved when the child’s father, Peter, appears and vouches for Emira. This is the beginning of the book and it is certainly a timely scene.

Once Alix heards of this incident she is determined to show Emira that she is a good person. She does not articulate to herself that she wants it proven that she is not a racist. Alix becomes almost obsessive about Emira.

Emira, on the other hand is disinterested in Alix and her life. She doesn’t even google Alix to find out about her. Peter is a local tv news anchor but Emira seems unaware of this as well. She is not savvy about social media or the internet. This seemed implausible, given her age.

Although the book had nothing to do with Austen, I enjoyed reading it, especially in these fraught times. For me, the book reveals how problematic transactional relations in intimate settings can be, especially when there is disparity between the two parties involving race and class.

 

 

Florence Nightingale, Part 2

This is part two of my three part post of a paper I wrote in 1994 while in nursing school. You can read part one here. Nightingale’s advice on sanitary practices, especially frequent hand washing, seems very relevant.

Amy Mittelman ©2020,                                                                                   Professional Nursing I, Fall 1994

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE

In Nightingale’s view the environment was also nature centered and physically based; it was the nurse’s responsibility to manipulate it to provide sanitary conditions. Her emphasis was one of prevention. “True nursing ignores infection, except to prevent it.  Cleanliness and fresh air from open windows, with unremitting attentions to the patient, are the only defense a true nurse either asks or needs”[1] Giger, Davidhizar and Miller have found Nightingale’s focus on the environment to be similar to Sister Callista Roy’s adaptation nursing theory.[2]

In 1860 the germ theory of disease was not a part of scientific discourse.  As it became prevalent, Nightingale refused to believe it.[3] Because Nightingale believed that disease was a reparative process, external forces such as dirt, odors, and poor diet had to cause it. She would not accept that a person could get sick in sanitary conditions.  Nightingale did not believe that medicine was a “curative process . . . nature alone cures.”[4] Health was a state of nature; illness was a response to a disruption in that state.

Although Nightingale rejected the germ theory of disease which is a cornerstone of modern medicine and nursing, many of her opinions on sanitary practices are still appropriate. She emphasized frequent hand washing, the value of fresh air, the evils of dirty carpets, the importance of modulating the stimulus a patient receives, and the importance of maintaining a patient’s spirits. These all remain critical aspects of caring for a patient and effecting recovery.

Nightingale believed that the same guidelines of sanitation applied to the healthy as well as the sick. The person was a subject of nature and had the responsibility to observe nature’s law in such a manner (sanitary) as to avoid infection and illness.  Again, the emphasis was prevention.[5]

To Nightingale, the nurse’s role in the reparative process was “to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him” She felt that nursing should “signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet and the proper administration of diet – all at the least expense of vital power to the patient.”[6]

Nightingale advocated a patient centered nursing. She stressed the importance of “sound observation” for “the sake of saving life and increasing health and comfort.” Although Nightingale emphasized the high level of attention that the nurse must undertake, she also pointed out the importance of delegating responsibility as a way of knowing that “what you do when you are there, shall be done when you are not there.”[7]

 

[1] Nightingale, Florence. 1860. Notes on nursing. New York: D. Appleton and Company, p. 34.

[2] Giger, Joyce N., Ruth Davidhizar, and Scott Wilson Miller. 1990. Nightingale and Roy: A comparison of nursing models. Today’s OR Nurse (April): 25-30.

[3] Vicinus, Martha, and Bea Nergaard. 1990. Ever yours, Florence Nightingale. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

[4] Nightingale, Notes, p.133.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Nightingale, Notes, p. 133, 8.

[7] Nightingale, Notes, p. 125, 35

Living with Corona

I date my life under pandemic as beginning on March 13 which is the last time I skated. It has been over seven weeks and I can not say the end is in sight. Time seems to simultaneously being going very slowly and very quickly. There are some days when the montonoy is overwhelming.

I have been trying to get outside every day except of course when it is raining which has happened a lot this spring. I am also trying to do two to three days of strength training every week. Although it has been lovely to see spring unfolding with the beautiful pale yellow and greens of the season, I would like to find different places to walk which is not that easy.

Like many other people, we are cooking more  since we eat at home every day.  Sunday night I made swedish meatball with mashed potatoes and roasted fiddlehead ferns. I used considerably more butter than I usually do. It was a throwback to a time when I was less weight and health conscious. It tasted very good.

We try to have regular zoom “meetings’ with our family.  If I had gone these seven weeks without seeing the faces of my children that would have been very hard and caused me to have greater anxiety.

I realize that I am very privileged because I have a home to live in  and money to spend while  in quarantine. My heart goes out to people who do not have those resources during this difficult time.

I hope everyone stays safe and well.