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Does Someone Need Your Help to Heal?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved.

This is my little man, Sam. If you look closely, you'll see fur peeking out from between his toes, a sure sign he's a house puppy, which is fine with me. Being an indoor dog makes it easier for me to give him hugs, rub his soft silky ears and tell him how much he’s loved and adored. Sam is the only one of my four-legged family members who gets to do pretty much whatever he wants, and because he's nearly perfect, he has rarely heard the word "no."

Sam captured our hearts the second we saw him. James said Sam was the only dog he knew who’d read and memorized the “Puppy Handbook.” He oozes cute and knows all the ways to make you say, “Oh... Isn’t he adorable?”<PREVIEWEND>

When James first found him on our property, Sam was emaciated and had a severe case of heart worms. Even so, he smiled big; wagged his tail and pawed at the air as he danced around on his hind legs. The vet was amazed Sam had mustered that much energy and was hesitant to say if Sam would make it through the next few days, much less survive heart worm treatment. However, he was adamant that Sam wouldn’t have survived another two or three days without us. While there are those who might say, “he’s just a dog,” I haven’t met another living creature, man included, who’s consistently as loyal and nonjudgemental as a dog.

For the last four weeks, Goldie’s been restricted to the bathroom except for when I take her outside on a leash. The vet said she has spinal stenosis, a type of arthritis in dogs that causes the joints in the vertebrae to swell, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves and causes acute pain. With lots of luck and quiet time, she may heal. If not, I can’t allow her to suffer in pain. Recently I’ve let her outside alone, but since her mission seems to be singularly focused on chasing deer, I’ve resumed taking her out on a leash. The good news is, she’s no longer imprisoned in the bathroom, and she seems to be pain free.

During the weeks she’s lived in the bathroom, my little man, Sam, repeatedly pawed at the bathroom door. The first time I let him in to see her, he walked over to Goldie, leaned his head down until their noses touched and then placed his paw on top of hers. Goldie perked up and wagged her tail, and with that, Sam laid down in the shower and stayed there for the next few days.

We all value friendship and loyalty, but did you know that love and friendship is one of the most important components of healing? To have a friend, you must first be a friend, which means you must sometimes make the first move. Like Sam, sometimes all you have to do is just be there so your friend knows you care. It’s really a small gesture, but it means the world to the one in need. Last night my friend, Elaine, in North Carolina, called to check on me. She made me feel loved and valued. Thank you, sweet friend:)

Is there someone you should reach out to; a person who could benefit from knowing that someone cares and thinks about them? So what if it’s “their turn” to call you? Send them an email or a Facebook message. Better yet, pick up the phone and call them.

... and thank you, God, for sending us Sam. He needed a good family, and we needed a great dog.

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What Were You Wearing?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Isn’t it funny, the things we remember after a crisis, like what we were wearing?
At the end of my junior year in high school, the girls’ PE teacher and sponsor of the Brahamadoras, a varsity dance group, called me into her office. While the rest of the school was gathering in the auditorium to learn who’d been selected as next year’s cheerleaders and Brahamadoras, my PE teacher was telling me she hadn’t selected me for a second year as a Brahamadora. She told me she didn’t like me because I didn’t suck up to her like the other girls did, and I should be grateful she’d given me this advance notice so I would be spared the embarrassment of sitting in the auditorium when my name wasn’t called.

I’ll never forget the look on her face: It was cruel and smug; a smirk befitting a little dictator. Never in a million years had I seen this coming. In fact, some of my friends were speculating I would be named head Brahmadora. Instead, there I stood, in my new blue dress, speechless, trying to process the fact that I’d just been socially banished.<PREVIEWEND>

That was the first and last time I wore that dress. I’d won it in a raffle at a local department store fashion show. It was very “mod,” something Twiggy would have worn on the cover of a magazine: a navy blue, sleeveless miniskirt, with a white Peter Pan collar.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” my PE teacher asked. She stood up and smiled, “I have an assembly to attend. I suggest you go home.”

I don’t remember what happened next, but my friend, Gayle, says I went to her homeroom and told her. The only thing I remember is literally running to Lee’s house, my other best friend, to the comforting arms of her mother.

Fast forward 20 years:
I’m standing in the doorway of an emergency room in Washington, DC, wearing a pale blue dress, as ambulance attendants are shouting, “If we move him, we’ll lose him.” I’d ridden in the front seat of the ambulance as the same attendants had worked frantically to save my first husband. I could see everything they were doing as they hooked him up to bags of IV fluids and gave him multiple injections. The floor of the ambulance was littered with tape, discarded syringes, little glass bottles and rubber tubing.

A nurse took my elbow and guided me away from the ambulance to a small, private waiting room and closed the door. Ten minutes later, a doctor came in and said, “I’m sorry, but we lost him.”

“Lost him... “ I remember thinking, what a strange term to describe the death of someone. We lose things like sunglasses and socks, but my husband wasn’t “lost.” He was down the hall in the first room on the left.

A nurse asked if I was bleeding. She pointed to the cushion I’d been sitting on. It was covered in bright red blood. She looked at the back of my dress, and it, too, had a bright red bloom that was spreading like a Rorschach test across the pale blue of my dress. “Do you need a tampon?” she asked.

In a blink, the conversation had switched from “we lost him,” to a dissertation on how shock can trigger a woman’s menstrual cycle. In that moment, I was as speechless as I was in my PE teacher’s office, only I had no nearby home to run to; no best girlfriends; no mother to comfort me, just a freshly packaged tampon and a white sheet to wrap around my waist. A white sheet like the one they’d wrapped my husband in.

It’s strange how we remember what we were wearing during the traumatic times in our lives. If only we could “lose” some of those memories along with the clothes.

Do you remember what you were wearing during a time you’d rather forget?

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How You Can Stand Up to Cancer!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

This coming Friday, September 7th at 8-9pm EST, Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) will hold it’s third, live, primetime television fundraiser to underwrite new ways to develop cancer breakthroughs. ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and several cable channels will donate one hour of simultaneous, commercial-free television that includes a phone bank that will allows callers to interact with the biggest A-list celebrities in entertainment.

Started in 2008 by a group of visionary women, including the late film producer, Laura Ziskin, who died of metastatic breast cancer; Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, and advertising executives Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz, SU2C hopes to accelerate collaborative and innovative research by bringing together the best and the brightest cancer scientists.<PREVIEWEND>

Instead of competing with one another for cancer research dollars, the SU2C “Dream Teams,” made up of scientists, clinicians, bioengineers, molecular biologists and other experts, are working together to move research from the lab to the patient in record time. Some of the areas the SU2C Dream Teams are working on are:

More effective, less toxic therapies for three major breast cancer subtypes
• Identifying predictive biomarkers & effective drug combinations to treat breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer
• Precision therapy for advanced prostate cancer
• Personalized target/therapy identification in patients with BRAFwt metastatic melanoma
• Cutting off the fuel supply to pancreatic cancer

One of the areas that interests me is spearheaded by the Epigenetics Dream Team. They are concentrating on self-renewing cancer cells, commonly known as cancer stem cells. These cells often escape, evade and become resistant to cancer treatment. Researchers believe that by developing therapies that can target and strike cancer stem cells, they may “silence” key genes that permit cancer to exist and flourish.

Another Dream Team is working on a Circulating Tumor Cell Chip (CTC-Chip). Cancers typically develop in an organ but spread, or metastasize, through the bloodstream. These circulating tumor cells that spread from the primary tumor are extraordinarily rare. By developing a CTC-Chip the size of a business card and containing 78,000 microscopic columns, each coated with a special material, researchers hope they can “catch” a circulating tumor cell, while allowing normal blood cells to flow through unimpeded. By using something like the CTC-Chip, the Dream Team hopes to be able to detect primary and metastatic cancers earlier and less invasively, as well as determine whether a tumor is responding to treatment.

Unlike the Susan G. Komen Foundation, 100% of SU2C publicly raised funds goes directly into research grants. Since Stand Up to Cancer was founded in 2008, they have granted over $109M to seven Dream Teams, along with 26 high-risk, high-reward Innovative Research Grants. SU2C’s administrative expenses and overhead is paid for by a portion of funds raised from major donations and third-party fundraising.

The Stand Up to Cancer Dream Teams believe they are at a pivotal moment when scientists have the knowledge and the technology to make the breakthroughs that are critical in the fight against cancer. From everything I know, other than the Love/Avon Army of Women, the continued funding of Stand Up to Cancer is one of the most important things you can do with your donation dollars. I hope you’ll consider taking out your checkbook and joining them this Friday, September 7, to Stand Up to Cancer!

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