Archive for November, 2009

My 44-year old friend Natalie looks great. She is half way through her radiation treatment for a malignant tumor found so far back in her breast no self-exam would have found it. Hopefully she’ll be able to avoid chemotherapy. She had no family history of cancer, no genetic or behavioral markers. It’s true there is no way of knowing whether this particular tumor would have killed her; some cancers are so slow-growing as to be almost non-threatening. Mammograms detect more thoroughly than ever any anomoly but even when something is found to be malignant, it’s not always possible to know whether it’s potentially fatal. Natalie doesn’t care and neither do her friends, frankly. At this level, the anxiety is more than worth it.

I understand the concept of “evidence-based science” as well as the next person. Reason demands evidence, at least when it comes to issuing absolutes. Too many people are inclined to make presumptive declarations — that is, declarations that presume knowledge. So yes, show me the evidence.

I also understand that our bodies are highly complex organisms with any number of uncertainties built right into them. There may be tumors and aneurysms, clogged veins and weakened livers, and even degenerative disks, none of which are necessarily going to harm us or even slow us down. Why find out if you’re caring a potentially threatening gene, some argue, the operative word being potentially? Life is about uncertainty; some things we can’t know; others we don’t need to.

But even though I get all that, even though I believe that we must all learn to live with uncertainty, even though I realize living involves risk and  many kinds of cancer aren’t life-threatening, I cannot wrap my mind around what not being tested might have meant for my friend Natalie.


My difficulty with the recommendations has nothing to do with the politicizing of the findings, which are, after all, reissues of earlier recommendations. Trying to tie these recommendations to the “threat” of managed care is another deliberate attempt at fear-mongering. But I find the “small risk” argument to be an unpersuasive one: except for chemo, most women will tell you mammograms, sonograms, biopsies, anxiety, and even radiation are worth undergoing. Yes, evidence shows that only one in more than 1900 women’s lives were saved by early testing. But that one may have been my friend Natalie.







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I’ve been sick with a head cold which a massive dose of “Emergen-C” has probably prevented from turning worse. To tell the truth, I’m still tired, stressed, and more than a little cranky. I’m also behind the curve in terms of current events commentary, so I’d thought I’d play catch-up by offering my unsolicited opinion on a range of news topics, albeit at a deeply discounted price, given the economy, my general mood, and the fact that the stuff is unsolicited (which makes me just like the other 80 million bloggers across the globe). Anyway:

imagesArmy doctor at Fort Hood kills twelve:  The shooter was commissioned, a loner, a psychiatrist (!) and a Muslim, in no particular order — or maybe the order matters. The location was a military base in Texas. The hero  was a local policewoman. So many stories, so much analysis, so few new angles. Once again, mainstream media is obsessing.

Health care legislation may not solve problem of rising costs: I admit that while championing a solution that would provide health care for the uninsured, I foolishly believed Congress and the White House might also be able to craft legislation that addressed the runaway cost of health care. Was I wrong? Tell me I was wrong. Otherwise, what the hell are we doing? Obama_health-care_Congress_Sept102009

Republican candidates win gubernatorial races in Virginia, New Jersey: First governorsof all, these victories do not represent an indictment of Obama; rather, the Democratic candidates represented an indictment of incompetancy. Second, New Jersey is exceptional; that is, exceptionally corrupt. If the virus is spreading, however, I have to rethink this whole third party thing.

Joe Jackson petitions son Michael’s estate for an allowance:  I have no idea what kind of a fatherJacksonJackson was, except probably a typically show-biz type — all swagger and gaga over the cash cow he produced. Still, he’s now eighty and he’s asking for approximately $180,000 a year, which is probably less than some of the Goldman-Sachs bonuses this year. Give it to him.

Andrea Agassi has “written” a book:  This autobiography apparently contains  shocking revelations about drug use (gasp), fake hairpieces (no) his antipathy for his first wife, AgassiBrookes Shields (oh dear) and his apparent dislike of tennis (oh please). Mostly, it’s noticeable for pull quotes, serialization potential, and the overtly earthly presence of its “ghost” writer. It’s sure to be a best-seller.

Now hand me the Kleenex and turn off the light on your way out.


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