Saturday, March 29, 2008A Doctor's Journey with Cancer
A Doctor’s Journey with Cancer
Saturday 29 March 2008
By Rusty Wright
When you suddenly learn you might have only 18 months to live, it’s a good time to sort out what really matters in life.
Last December, Yang Chen, MD, dismissed an aching pain under his shoulder as muscle strain. Five weeks later, as the pain persisted, a chest x-ray brought shocking results: possible lung cancer that might have spread.
A highly acclaimed specialist and medical professor at the University of Colorado Denver, Yang knew the average survival rate for his condition could be under 18 months. He didn’t smoke and had no family history of cancer. He was stunned. His life changed in an instant.
“I wondered how I would break the news to my unsuspecting wife and three young children,” he recalls. “Who would take care of my family if I died?”
Swirling Vortex of Uncertainty
When I heard his story, I felt a jab of recognition. In 1996, my doctor said I might have cancer. That word sent me into a swirling vortex of uncertainty. But I was fortunate; within a month, I learned my condition was benign.
Yang did not get such good news. He now knows he has an inoperable tumor. He’s undergoing chemotherapy. It’s uncertain whether radiation will help. Yet through it all, he seems remarkably calm and positive. At a time when one might understandably focus on oneself, he’s even assisting other cancer patients and their families to cope with their own challenges. What’s his secret?
I learned about Yang’s personal inner resources when we first met in the 1980s. He worked at the Mayo Clinic and brought me to Rochester, Minnesota, to present a seminar for Mayo and IBM professionals on a less ponderous theme, “Love, Sex and the Single Lifestyle.” With the audience, we laughed and explored relationship mysteries. He felt it was essential that people consider the spiritual aspect of relationships, as well as the psychological and physical.
Later he founded a global network to train medical professionals how to interact with patients on spiritual matters. Many seriously ill patients want their doctors to discuss spiritual needs and the profession is taking note.
Now a patient himself, Yang exhibits strength drawn from the faith that has enriched his life. He has established a website – http://www.adoctorsjourneywithcancer.net/ – to chronicle his journey and “offer hope and encouragement to others.” The site presents a compelling real-life drama as it happens.
As a follower of Jesus, Yang notes biblical references to God’s “light shining in our hearts” and people of faith being “like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” He sees himself as a “broken clay jar” through which God’s light can shine to point others who suffer to comfort and faith.
As he draws on divine strength, he reflects on Paul, a first-century believer who wrote, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”
A dedicated scientist, Yang is convinced that what he believes about God is true and includes information about evidences for faith. He’s also got plenty to help the hurting and the curious navigate through their pain, cope with emotional turmoil, and find answers to life’s perplexing questions about death, dying, the afterlife, handling anxiety, and more.
With perhaps less than 18 months to live, Yang Chen knows what’s most important in his life. He invites web surfers to “walk with me for part, or all, of my journey.” If I’m ever in his position, I hope I can blend suffering with service while displaying the serenity and trust I observe in him. Visit his website and you’ll see what I mean.
© Assist News
Posted by Henry (Calem's Opa) :: 10:21 PM :: 1 people are more aware ---------------------------------------
Friday, March 28, 2008Radon: The Silent Home Invader That Can Kill
By Dennis Thompson
Friday, March 28, 2008; 12:00 AM
FRIDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- You can't see, smell or taste radon.
The gas emanates naturally from the soil, seeping up into homes that rest on the ground. The only way to avoid it, really, is to have a house on stilts.
But the radioactive gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers in America, as well as the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It claims about 21,000 lives annually.
"It is a health risk you can't see," said Kristy Miller, spokeswoman for the EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air. "You can't touch it, you can't feel it. It is an inert gas. It's in your home for a long time, leaving no trail of evidence. It's only your proactive interest and testing that's going to prevent this health risk."
Radon is a global problem -- the World Health Organization says radon causes up to 15 percent of lung cancers worldwide.
About one of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have a dangerous radon level, which the EPA defines as more than 4 picocuries per liter of air.
Radon is produced from the natural decay of uranium, an element found in nearly all soils. "The earth is always emitting radon at some level," Miller said. "It's always a part of the outdoor ambient air, in trace amounts."
The gas typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. The home then traps radon inside.
"A home over the soil can act as a holding tank, allowing radon to accumulate to high levels," Miller said.
When inhaled, radon can damage the lungs by continuing to emit tiny bursts of alpha radiation, she said.
"The alpha emitters can actually damage the DNA of the lung tissue," Miller said. "The lung is extremely sensitive, compared with the skin."
Any amount of radon exposure is bad, the EPA says, but the cancer risk increases over time, as exposure is prolonged.
Because a house's radon level depends on many variables -- the composition of the soil, the construction of the house -- experts warn that any house might have high levels of the gas.
"Even if you have a new home, you might have high radon," said Bruce Snead, an extension specialist at Kansas State University specializing in radiation and indoor air quality. "The only way to know is to test."
The EPA recommends that any homeowner should conduct a radon test. The tests are easy to obtain. They're sold at hardware stores, and some local health departments and extension services offer to sell them at cost to homeowners, Snead said.
"People can test a home on their own," he said. "All they have to do is purchase a test kit, and read and follow the instructions."
The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended that people test their homes for radon every two years, and retest any time they move, make structural changes to the home or occupy a previously unused level of a house.
Homeowners also can hire a radon expert to come in and test levels, an action that some states require as part of a home sale, Snead said. About 20 states have laws requiring notification of radon levels in real estate transactions, and more are considering it, he said.
"Just as lead is a required notification, should the same thing happen with radon?" Snead said.
If high levels of radon are discovered, a relatively low-cost home repair can alleviate the problem, Snead said. The EPA recommends hiring a qualified radon mitigation contractor to do the work, because lowering high radon levels requires specific technical knowledge and special skills.
The most common method of radon reduction is called soil suction. It prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the house and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the house where it is quickly diluted, Snead said.
"The pipe discharges above the roof line, so this well-known carcinogen will dissipate into the atmosphere," he said. The pipes can work either passively, or with a fan used to pull air from the soil.
The average cost of a radon reduction system is about $1,200, according to the EPA. The cost generally ranges from $800 to $2,500, depending on the characteristics of the house and choice of radon-reduction methods.
Some homes now are being built to be radon-resistant, with gas-resistant foundations and sub-slab fill materials that allow gases to move easily away, Snead said.
Snead recommends that everyone, homeowner or renter, be proactive in dealing with the radon that could be building up in their homes.
"We save lives by having tests done and performing mitigation, and by building houses that are radon-resistant," he said.
To learn more, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
SOURCES: Kristy Miller, spokeswoman, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air; Bruce Snead, extension specialist, Kansas State University, Manhattan
Posted by Henry (Calem's Opa) :: 11:53 PM :: 1 people are more aware ---------------------------------------