I love to travel but I hate to fly so I tend to plan trips that involve few flights but tons of territory. My most recent trip was to Southeast Asia, beginning in Indonesia and ending in Cambodia. It began with a land tour of Bali before I hopped a small ship owned by Voyages to Antiquity to travel to Java, Indonesia, Singapore, Malasia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. The trip took all of February 2015 including flights to and fro.

After a 20 some hour flight to Denpasar, Bali, I was escorted to my hotel, the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, on the southern peninsula of the island. The hotel was absolutely stunning and only a 15 minute trip from the International airport, which was such a relief after the long flights. Bali, which lies just south of the equator, typically has hot and sunny days with beautiful beaches and plenty to see.

Gate into the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel Bali, Indonesia

Gate into the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel
Bali, Indonesia

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By Sayer Ji • Originally published on GreenMedInfo.com

A new study reveals ginger contains a pungent compound that could be up to 10,000 times more effective than conventional chemotherapy in targeting the cancer stem cells at the root of cancer malignancy.

A new study published in PLoS reveals a pungent component within ginger known as 6-shogaol is superior to conventional chemotherapy in targeting the root cause of breast cancer malignancy: namely, the breast cancer stem cells.

As we have discussed in greater detail in a previous article titled, “Cancer Stem Cells: The Key To Curing Cancer,” cancer stem cells are at the root of a wide range of cancers, not just breast cancer, and are sometimes referred to as “mother cells” because they are responsible for producing all the different “daughter” cell types that makeup the tumor colony. While cancer stem cells only constitute between .2 and 1% of the cells within any given tumor, they have the seeming “immortal” ability to self renew, are capable of continuous differentiation, are resistant to conventional chemotherapeutic agents, and are tumorigenic, i.e. are capable of “splitting off” to create new tumor colonies. Clearly, the cancer stem cells within a tumor must be destroyed if cancer treatment is to affect a lasting cure.
The new study titled, “6-Shogaol Inhibits Breast Cancer Cells and Stem Cell-Like Spheroids by Modulation of Notch Signaling Pathway and Induction of Autophagic Cell Death,” identified powerful anti-cancer stem cell activity in 6-shogaol, a pungent constituent of ginger produced when the root is either dried or cooked. The study also found that the cancer-destroying effects occurred at concentrations that were non-toxic to non-cancerous cells – a crucial difference from conventional cancer treatments that do not exhibit this kind of selective cytotoxicity and therefore can do great harm to the patient.

The authors of the study further affirm these points:

“Cancer stem cells pose serious obstacle to cancer therapy as they can be responsible for poor prognosis and tumour relapse. To add into the misery, very few chemotherapeutic compounds show promise to kill these cells. Several researchers have shown that cancer stem cells are resistant to paclitaxel, doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil, and platinum drugs [8, 16]. CSCs are thus an almost unreachable population in tumours for chemotherapy. Therefore any compound, that shows promise towards cancer stem cells, is a highly desirable step towards cancer treatment and should be followed up for further development.”

The researchers identified a variety of ways by which 6-shagoal targets breast cancer:

It reduces the expression of CD44/CD24 cancer stem cell surface markers in breast cancer spheroids (3-dimensional cultures of cells modeling stem cell like cancer)
It significantly affects the cell cycle, resulting in increased cancer cell death
It induces programmed cell death primarily through the induction of autophagy, with apoptosis a secondary inducer
It inhibits breast cancer spheroid formation by altering Notch signaling pathway through γ-secretase inhibition.
It exhibits cytotoxicity (cell killing properties) against monolayer (1-dimensional cancer model) and spheroid cells (3-dimensional cancer model)
It was in evaluating the last mode of 6-shagoal’s chemotherapeutic activity and comparing it to the activity of the conventional chemotherapeutic agent taxol that the researchers discovered an astounding difference. Whereas taxol exhibited clear cytotoxicity in the one-dimensional (flat) monolayer experimental model, it had virtually no effect on the spheroid model, which is a more “real world” model reflecting the 3-dimensionality of tumors and their stem cell subpopulations. Amazingly, this held true even when the concentration of taxol was increased by four orders of magnitude:

“In contrast [to 6-shagoal], taxol, even though was highly active in monolayer cells, did not show activity against the spheroids even at 10000 fold higher concentration compared to 6-shogoal.”

This is a highly significant finding, as it affirms a common theme in cancer research that acknowledges the primarily role of cancer stem cells: namely, while conventional techniques like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are effective at reducing a tumor’s size, sometimes to the point where it is “debulked,” burned,” or “poisoned” out of the body even below the threshold of re-detection, the appearance of “winning the battle” often comes at a steep price, as ultimately the cancer stem cell population regrows the tumors, now with increased vengeance and metastastic invasiveness, resulting in the cancer “winning the war.”

The monolayer model, which does not account for the complex immunity of actual cancer stem-cell based tumors against chemoagents like taxol, represents the old preclinical model of testing cancer treatments. The spheroid model, on the other hand, clearly shows that even 10,000 times higher concentrations of taxol are not capable of beating this ginger component at selectively targeting the root cause of the tumor malignancy.

In their concluding remarks, the authors point out a hugely important distinction between natural anti-cancer agents and conventional ones that have only been introduced in the past half century or so, namely, “Dietary compounds are welcome options for human diseases due to their time-tested acceptability by human bodies.”

Unlike modern synthetically produced and patented chemicals, ginger, curcumin, green tea, and hundreds of other compounds naturally found in the human diet, have been “time-tested” as acceptable to the human body in the largest and longest running “clinical trials” known: the tens of thousands of years of direct human experience, spanning thousands of different cultures from around the world, that constitute human prehistory. These experientially-based “trials” are validated not by RCTs, or a peer-reviewed publication process, but by the fact that we all made it through this incalculably vast span of time to be alive here today. Consider also that if our ancestors made the wrong dietary choice by simply mistaking an edible berry for a poisonous one, the consequences could be deadly. This places even greater emphasis on how the “time testing” of dietary compounds was not an academic but a life-death affair, and by implication, how the information contained within various cultural traditions as “recipes” passed down from generation to generation are “epigenetic inheritance systems” no less important to our health and optimal gene expression as the DNA in our own bodies.

Ultimately, this new study adds to a growing body of research indicating that cancer stem cell targeting approaches using natural substances present in the human diet for thousands of years are far superior chemotherapy and radiation, both of which actually increase the relative populations of cancer stem cells versus non-tumorigenic ones. For further reading on ginger’s anti-cancer properties, consult our Ginger Research database. Also, you can use our Cancer Research Health Guide for thousands of studies and articles about natural healing approaches for cancer.

This Blog has been established as a way to showcase creative writing projects, mine and others, and to provide insight into the research and ideas behind these projects. If you wish to have a short subject displayed on the site, please forward it to me and a decision will be made about placing it online.

Todays blog entry:

Since I was the primary caretaker for my husband, a cancer patient, the Big C was a Big Part of my life, personal and creative. So, I’d like to share a couple of projects I developed during this time of trauma, discouragement, hope and disappointment. It wasn’t an easy time and one way I coped with the ups and downs of the disease was to write. I only hope these entries effect and alter you in a way this disease has affected and altered me.

Gotcha!

by J.S. Winn

Scene One

Characters:
Mark, age 64, a struggling cancer patient.
Mr. C, a mucinex character look-alike, who’s decked out in a worn suit, puffs on a cigar and speaks like a character in a 40s gangster film.
Doc “O”, a 40 year old Oncologist, dressed in white jacket, who is trying to save Mark’s life.
Sharon, age 63, Mark’s wife and support-system.

At Rise: Spotlight on Sharon standing center stage.

Sharon
If I had known this was in the script, I never would have taken the part. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. After all those years of working and sweating and saving. Mark and I had planned on enjoying our lives. We had things we wanted to do. Travel. Play. Get to know one another anew. I’d do anything to change what has happened. Now what do we have…

(Lt down on Sharon, up on Mark to side of stage where there hangs a Men’s Room Sign by or on curtain, signifying there is a bathroom just off-stage. Mr. C. enters from opposite side of stage and takes a place besides Mark at end of line. Mark shifts from one foot to the other as though uncomfortable.)

Mr. C
Hey, Youz gotta go?

Mark
I’m not standing here for my health.

Mr. C
That’s for sure. Looks like youz gotta go bad.

Mark
If what you want is to go first, I’d let you, but I don’t think I can wait.

Mr. C
Yeah, I sees. Youz know, I got to go bad a lot too. Never had so many problems before with having to pee. I don’t know what’s going on.

Mark
(Shifting again) Yeah…I’m familiar with that one.

Mr. C
And it seems like sometimes I gotta go so bad, but when I get to the John nothin’ happens. Youz know.

Mark
Yeah, I know.

Mr. C
And sometimes I even have see blood spots after I go and I wonder what the hell is goin’ on heres.

Mark
(Looking uncomfortable) Look, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.

Mr. C
Whys not? I mean, we have somethin’ in common…

(Sound of toilet flushing and then a door opens and closes. One of actors walks onto stage and crosses it.

Mr. C
Looks like your cue.

Mark
Look, if you’re still here when I’m through, do me a favor and keep your problems to yourself. I don’t need to hear about your troubles. I have enough of my own.

Mr. C
Hey, youz don’t have to get so mad. I was only tryin to help. How come everyone always picks on me? I don’t get it. Youz knows it really hurts me…

Mark
Yeah…well…do me a favor and mind your own business.

(Mark walks off-stage. We hear a door close and a short time later a toilet flush. Sound of door closing and Mark walks onto stage and past Mr. C.

Mr. C.
Any blood that time, buddy?

Mark
It’s really none of your business.

Mr C.
(Laughing) Youz wrong. It is my business.

Mark
(Turning toward him with an attitude) I don’t know who you are or what you want with me, but leave me alone.

Mr. C
Yeah, that’s what they all sez…

(Mark walks off stage shaking his head)

(Lights up on rear of stage where there is a living room with a sofa and coffee table. Sharon is sitting next to Mark on the sofa. Mr. C. stands stage front watching them)

Sharon
So here’s what I’ve been thinking. Since we’ve both been working hard lately and I for one really need a break (she pulls out a travel magazine and puts a picture under Mark’s nose) why not take a trip to the rainforest in Costa Rica for our anniversary.

Mark
(Mark takes the magazine and studies the picture) Wow, those photos sure looks great and I’d love to go, but under the circumstances how do you suggest we pull that one off?

Sharon
How about we just do it. If we keep putting everything ahead of ourselves, we won’t have ourselves to put anything ahead of. It’s been all work and no play lately. I need a vacation, no matter the cost. (She holds out 2 airline tickets)

Mark
(He laughs and takes the tickets from her) I don’t believe this…You’ve been holding out on me. What can I say.Your spontaneity is only part of the reason I love you so much. (He pokes her in the ribs playfully) Besides being fun.

Sharon
I figured we needed to give ourselves a holiday gift. You’ve been so serious lately, I wanted to put a big grin back on that mug of yours.

Mark
(Smiling) See (Points at his face) It’s already working. (Hesitates) Okay, I was going to wait until our anniversary to give you this, but since you showed me yours, I’m going to show you mine. (He pulls a box out of a bag by the sofa and hands it to her) Here. Open it.

Sharon
(She opens box and removes a necklace.) Oh my god, It’s beautiful Mark. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Mark
That’s because it’s like you…a rare find…one of a kind. Here, let me put it on you. (He clasps necklace onto her.)

Sharon
(She reaches up and touches it) This is so thoughtful of you. (She turns toward him and a tender moment of smiling at him, she reaches over and tickles him to lighten the mood) You’re still my favorite playmate.

Max
You’re mine, too. (They embrace.)

Mr. C.
Ain’t that sweet. (Makes a gagging sound and shoves finger into mouth)

(Lights down on back of stage, up on front center stage where Mark enters and slips into hospital gown. Sharon moves up alongside him and ties the strings on back. Doc enters stage left. Mr C is still watching from front side, but now dons white jacket, pretending to be a nurse)

Doc O
The results have come back from your Colonoscopy and I’m afraid we’ve found evidence of a mass.

Mark
A mass? What kind of mass? What does that mean?

Doc O
It’s too early to say definitely before the biopsy comes back, but from my experience, I believe you have cancer.

(Sharon gasps…covers her mouth.)

Mr. C
(Mr. C. beams at audience and struts his stuff) You rang?

Mark
(Stares at Mr. C. opened mouth) Cancer? You think I have cancer? I don’t believe it. What can I do?

Doc O
As soon as we know for a fact, I’m sending you to a surgeon to discuss your options. Since the mass is low-lying in your rectum, it may mean you’ll have to have your sphincter muscle removed and they’ll be giving you a colostomy, but let’s wait for the final word before we speculate.

Mr. C
Sounds good to me Doc!

Doc O
Find him the surgeon’s number in case he needs to make an appointment, Nurse.

Mr. C
(Salutes Doc) Will doz.

Mark
Lose my rectum? You mean they’ll be giving me a bag? But that will change everything, won’t it doc?

Mr. C
(Snickering) Sure wills.

Doc O
Don’t worry, Mark, even if you require a colostomy, plenty of people live long, productive lives with a bag. Why I saw a woman just today who had a colostomy 10 years ago and she seems to be functioning all right.

Mark
All right. What’s all right about having a sack of shit on your gut? What will it mean for my life. I’m not an old man, doc. I want to live life. This will change everything.

Sharon
Not everything. I’ll still be there.

Mark
(He pats her hand) I’m glad, honey, but I can’t believe this is happening to me. What did I do to deserve it?
Sharon
You don’t need to blame yourself. These things happen.

Mark
But why is it happening to me?

Mr. C
(Laughing) It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Mark
Are there any alternatives?

Doc O
There’s transanal resection if you qualify.

Sharon
What’s that?

Mr. C
Let’s see if Iz can explain, Doc. See it’s kinda a new thing where they shrink down youz tumor using chemotherapy and radiation before going in through the ass, (clears his throat) I mean the anus to remove the mass. That way youz don’t need to lose your ass, so to speak.

Dr. O
Thank you nurse, that’s it in a nutshell. But I have to warn you the procedure isn’t always successful. If it’s offered to you, you’ll have to decide whether to take the risk.

Mark
(Laughs a dry laugh) Decide? I’ve already decided. I’d do just about anything to avoid a colostomy. Listen Doc, all I want is to live a normal, active life. Once they start removing organs and rerouting my intestines, my life will be anything but normal. I can see into the future and it isn’t a pretty picture. I’m a contractor, doc. I need to stay in shape to do my job. Let’s just say I like having an ass hole and I’m willing to do whatever I can to keep it.

Doc O
We’ll do everything in our power to help you do that. I promise.

Mr. C.
(To audience) Youz will need all the help you can get. (Mumbling) 1 to 5 You’ll be alive. (Takes another puff) You’ve got 1 to 5. (coughs) You knowz I really shouldn’t be smoking this stuff. I might just get cancer.

(Doc O and Mr. C exit stage leaving Mark and Sharon center stage)

Mark
(Plugging in an IV) And that was only the beginning.

Sharon
Mark had radiation and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, followed by the Transanal surgery to remove it…and it worked…for 3 months. At his first follow-up biopsy, they found more cancer. Not only more cancer, but a more virulent form than the original cancer. It had come back with a vengeance. The surgeon told me she had never preformed a successful second transanal. That the sucker always returned. It was hidden, in waiting. Ready to pounce. She recommended a total colostomy. A month later Mark went into surgery. And, as he predicted, his whole life changed…and mine went along for the ride.

(Mark slips out of gown and walks back towards living room. Takes a seat on the sofa. Sharon standing nearby with a ladle in her hand.)

Sharon
So after your wheatgrass, we’ll be having veggie stew.

Mark
(Groans) Where’s the beef?

Sharon
(Raises the ladle and points it at him) You know better than that. No alcohol. No meat. No sugar.

Mark
I don’t want to eat that crap.

Sharon
I know, but it’s recommended to prevent a recurrence.

Mark
But it’s boring…and inedible.

Sharon
(Exasperated) I’m only trying to follow the doctor’s advice and help you out. If you refuse to work with me, I don’t know what I can do…You know Mark, I’m only doing this for your own good.

Mark
Good? It’s pure torture. What’s there left to live for?

Sharon
Do you mean to tell me the only thing you’re living for is fat and sweets?

Mark
A little sex might be nice too, that is if it works. Lately, it’s hit or miss with an emphasis on miss. (He goes over to Sharon and gives her a squeeze) Okay, I know when I’m licked. Bring on the veggies.

Sharon
I’m not fighting you…I’m joining you. It isn’t you against me. It’s us against this disease. Together we can do our best to keep up the spirit even though everything feels like it’s pulling us down.

(Lights down on living room) Mark and Sharon move to front of stage where Mark dons hospital gown and cap. Sharon stands by him. Lt up on Mark and and Sharon with Doc O)

Doc O
We followed the protocols. Chemotherapy with Folfox and 5 FU. Radiation. Surgery. Everything’s going as planned. It’s going so well that we can’t find any evidence of the original cancer.

Mark
That’s a huge relief.

Doc O
But you still need to follow through. Don’t forget to return for checkups every 3 months for the first year, every 6 months thereafter. You’re not considered cured until you’re cancer free for 5 years.

Sharon
(Speaking to audience) Well, I guess that’s that. End of story, right? Mark did as he was told and even though he had periodic “attacks” from a partial intestinal obstruction due to surgery combined with radiation, things started to look a little brighter. He adjusted as well as he could to his colostomy bag. His CEA, you know Carcinoma-Embryonic Antigen, or as it’s called around the hospital, cancer factors tests, came back within normal range. His CT scans showed no evidence of a tumor. He began to relax. The nightmare had ended. It was time to make big plans again. A trip to the Middle East. Visits with his kids in Florida.

Mark
A new house to build.

Sharon
And we even got to go on that trip to Costa Rica for our anniversary.

Mark
Thanks Doc. We’re so grateful. We’re ready to move on and put the experience behind us as much as we can.

(Spotlight up on Mr. C, without the white jacket, smoking and laughing)

Mr. C
So they think they’ve gotten rid of me that easily. (Takes puff of cigar) Well, don’t look now, but I’m Baaaack!

(Mark, Sharon and Doc O turn to look at him with shocked and horrified expressions)

Blackout

(Lights up on Living room at rear of stage. Mr. C is sprawled out on sofa. Sharon and Mark stand nearby watching him.

Mr. C.
(Patting sofa) One heck of a cushy place youz got here. I’m so glad I gots to move in. It’s sweet. (He smiles at them) Hey, youz want to join me on the couch? How ‘bout you cutie. There’s always room for more.

(Sharon and Mark stare of one another aghast)

Sharon
It’s our place. We want you to move out immediately.

Mr. C
Listen Sister…Don’t give me lip. You don’t know what I’m capable of.

Mark
Don’t talk to my wife that way.

Sharon
(Pulling Mark aside) I wouldn’t take him too seriously. He might not have the hold on us he thinks he does.

Mr. C.
Yeah…right!

Sharon
(Ignoring him) I’ve been researching your options. There has to be someway to beat this thing.

Mark
I sure hope you’re right…

Mr. C.
Man, are youz dreamin’…

Sharon
I found this alternative treatment.

Mark
What would Doc O say about that?

Sharon
That I’m nuts, but it shouldn’t stop us.

Mark
I don’t know…

Sharon
Please Mark. I’m not saying you should stop the aliopathic intervention. I’m only suggesting you add this alternative treatment to your protecal.

Mark
Okay…why not. I guess I have nothing to loss.

Sharon
I just want this nightmare to be over…

Mr. C
(Laughs) No, sweetheart, it’s far from over. It’s only the beginning for youz guys.

Sharon
I figured you’d say that, but what more damage can you do? Since you moved in, our lives have been spiraling downward at an accelerating rate.

Mr. C
What’s your gripe. It ain’t that terrible. Youz should see the pancreatic cancer I just left. And youz are complaining. Relax. We’re goin’ be spending a whole hell of a lot more time together.

Mark falters and Sharon places a hand under his arm to hold him up. Their eyes meet. (Lights down)

(Lights up on front of stage where Mark, in hospital gown, is on his side on a gurney. Behind him a large machine with Radiation painted on it, (possibly a painted box with a cone), is pressed into his back giving him a dose of radiation. Next to him two jars hang from a pole, if possible with colored, even roiling, liquid and tubes running to his arms. Both jars say Chemotherapy. Sharon stands next to him holding his hand. Dr. O. stands by to one side. Mr. C again puts on a white jacket, pretending to be a nurse, and takes his place at the opposite side of stage)

Dr. O.
Well, it’s been 4 months and this is the last of your chemo treatments. After this you get a 6 week break before the surgery to remove your tumor. I want you to prepare yourself for a tough surgery. It’s the largest we do at the cancer center.

Mark
(Groaning) I’m not sure how much more this body can take.

Mr. C
Youz is gonna have to prepare youzself for a little more than we originally planned. The tests still show a 9 cm tumor and the cancer may have invaded your bladder. We think we’re going to hafta remove your bladder and prostate, youz know, as a precautionary measure.

(Mark and Sharon again gape at one another)

Dr. O
Nurse, Could you turn up the IV?

Mr. C.
With pleasure (He turns a nob and stands back puffing his cigar and admiring his work) This is the good part.

Mark
Does that mean I’ll have to have another bag?

Dr. O
I’m afraid so, but don’t fret about it. Plenty of people live with 2 bags. Why just the other day I saw I man I operated on a couple of years ago and he’s doing fine.

Mark
What kind of fine is that? My life’s already been diminished by this disease. Now I’ll be guaranteed to be tied to the toilet for the remainder of my days.

Mr. C.
Hey, bitch and moan will youz. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if this thing has invaded your spine, you won’t have many days left anyways.

Sharon
Do you really think it might be in his spine?

Dr. O.
We won’t know for sure until we open him up.

Sharon
And if that’s the case?

Doc O
Then it’s too late to do anything more.

Mark
And what will that be like?

Dr. O
I’m afraid…

Mark
No, I’m afraid…

Mr. C
Whadda youz yella?

Dr. O.
You have every right to be in fear. If it’s in your spine, there’s no narcotic or other painkiller that will touch it. I’m afraid it will be a painful progression. Nurse, give him a shot.

Mr. C
Okay Doc. (He plunges a syringe into Mark’s arm and Mark jerks at the pain) What fun!

Mark
(He holds his arm and turns to Sharon) So what do you think of your alternative treatment now?

(Sharon stares at him in shock)

(Light down on stage front. Light up on living room. Sharon pacing the floor. Mr. C. sprawled on the sofa puffing on his cigar.)

Sharon
I wonder how much longer this surgery’s going to take. It’s been 8 hours already.

Mr. C.
(Pats sofa) Take a load off and come here, sweetheart. Nothing youz can do now. Come and join me. (Laughs in lascivious way)

(Light up on Dr. O. center stage)

Dr. O
I just left Mark and he’s doing as well as can be expected after 9 hours of surgery.

Sharon
What did you find, Doc?

Doc O
Much to our surprise, we didn’t find any cancer anywhere. There was no tumor and all our biopsies came back negative. I’m not saying there’s not some microscopic cells lurking somewhere, but we couldn’t find them.

Sharon
Oh my god, I don’t believe this. (She slides into a nearby chair)

Mr. C.
(Obviously unhappy) I don’t either, sweetheart…what do those damn doctors know…

Sharon
So what were you seeing on all of those tests?

Doc O
Most likely inflammation. Believe me there are still plenty of problems.

Mr. C.
(Looking excited) Go on…

Doc O
Mark’s intestines were literally tied up in knots from scar tissue caused by his original radiation treatments. They were so twisted and even strangulated that we had to remove a section of his small intestine. And his bowel had descended into his vacant cavity left by the colostomy. We had our work cut out for us. But there was no evidence of cancer. I feel cautiously optimistic Mark might be able to beat this thing.

Mr. C
Damn, Doc. Youz could have given us better news.

Sharon
Oh Doc, I don’t know what to say except Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. How soon do you think can I see Mark?

Doc O
Check with the recovery room in 30 minutes. He should be coming out of the anesthesia by then. (Lt down on Doc O)

Sharon
(Staring into space) My head is spinning. I can’t believe this is happening to me. Maybe the alternative treatment actually helped. Oh my god, this is unbelievable.

Mr. C.
Yeah…it sure is. I don’t understands. What the hell is that doctor talking about? I’m still here, ain’t I?

Sharon
(Looking at him) I know this is rare for you, but it looks like you didn’t get your way this time. This is such a relief. It’s almost beyond comprehension.

Mr. C
Yeah…I can barely believe it either…What a shame…It’s really too bad…

Sharon
(Springing to her feet and facing him) We’ve had enough of you. I know you’re used to winning this battle, but we’ve defeated you this time. So, get the hell out of here!

Mr. C
(Rising to face her) Don’t you think you’re being a little too hasty…

Sharon
I want you out now! We’ve had more than our share of you for one lifetime.

Mr. C
Don’t get any ideas, Sweetheart, the doctors were wrong once. Theys can be wrong another time. I ain’t going nowheres.

Sharon of
(Poking C in chest with her finger) Don’t you ever call me Sweetheart again. I’m no longer afraid of you. You can’t intimidate us. Not one of the biopsies came back positive for cancer. You’re finished here, We’re through with you—forever!

Mr. C
Don’t be so sure of that, sweet…I mean Sharon…I came back before…I can return again. Youz be sorry then.

Sharon
(She pushes him toward the side of stage.) Not this time. You’re done here, cancer. Through! Kaput! I’ve got a life to live without you. Get out of my house. (Gives him a shove)

Mr. C
(Brushing himself off) All right! All right. If that’s how youz gonna disrespect me…I don’t want to hang around anyway. (Faces audience) Youz hurt my feelings. I don’t like rejection anymore than the next guy.

Sharon
I’ve got no sympathy for you, C. Now Go!

Mr. C
Yeah, well don’t think youz the only one who will have me. Why there’s no limit to the number of people out there (Points around) on my list of potential hosts. There are millions of them who would welcome me in at any time. If youz and Mark won’t have me right now, somebody else wills… (He walks off stage disgruntled. Sharon watches him go, a smile plastered to her face)

The End Act One

EVERY New Year when the government publishes its Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, it is followed by a familiar lament. We are losing the war against cancer. Half a century ago, the story goes, a person was far more likely to die from heart disease. Now cancer is on the verge of overtaking it as the No. 1 cause of death. Troubling as this sounds, the comparison is unfair. Cancer is, by far, the harder problem — a condition deeply ingrained in the nature of evolution and multicellular life. Given that obstacle, cancer researchers are fighting and even winning smaller battles: reducing the death toll from childhood cancers and preventing — and sometimes curing — cancers that strike people in their prime. But when it comes to diseases of the elderly, there can be no decisive victory. This is, in the end, a zero-sum game. The rhetoric about the war on cancer implies that with enough money and determination, science might reduce cancer mortality as dramatically as it has with other leading killers — one more notch in medicine’s belt. But what, then, would we die from? Heart disease and cancer are primarily diseases of aging. Fewer people succumbing to one means more people living long enough to die from the other. The newest cancer report, which came out in mid-December, put the best possible face on things. If one accounts for the advancing age of the population — with the graying of the baby boomers, death itself is on the rise — cancer mortality has actually been decreasing bit by bit in recent decades. But the decline has been modest compared with other threats. A graph from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells the story. There are two lines representing the age-adjusted mortality rate from heart disease and from cancer. In 1958 when the diagram begins, the line for heart disease is decisively on top. But it plunges by 68 percent while cancer declines so slowly — by only about 10 percent — that the slope appears far less significant. Measuring from 1990, when tobacco had finished the worst of its damage and cancer deaths were peaking, the difference is somewhat less pronounced: a decline of 44 percent for heart disease and 20 percent for cancer. But as the collision course continues, cancer seems insistent on becoming the one left standing — death’s final resort.

Though not exactly consoling, the fact that we have reached this standoff is a kind of success. A century ago average life expectancy at birth was in the low to mid-50s. Now it is almost 79, and if you make it to 65 you’re likely to live into your mid-80s. The median age of cancer death is 72. We live long enough for it to get us. The diseases that once killed earlier in life — bubonic plague, smallpox, influenza, tuberculosis — were easier obstacles. For each there was a single infectious agent, a precise cause that could be confronted. Even AIDS is being managed more and more as a chronic condition. Continue reading the main story Progress against heart disease has been slower. But the toll has been steadily reduced, or pushed further into the future, with diet, exercise and medicines that help control blood pressure and cholesterol. When difficulties do arise they can often be treated as mechanical problems — clogged piping, worn-out valves — for which there may be a temporary fix. Because of these interventions, people between 55 and 84 are increasingly more likely to die from cancer than from heart disease. For those who live beyond that age, the tables reverse, with heart disease gaining the upper hand. But year by year, as more failing hearts can be repaired or replaced, cancer has been slowly closing the gap. For the oldest among us, the two killers are fighting to a draw. But there are reasons to believe that cancer will remain the most resistant. It is not so much a disease as a phenomenon, the result of a basic evolutionary compromise. As a body lives and grows, its cells are constantly dividing, copying their DNA — this vast genetic library — and bequeathing it to the daughter cells. They in turn pass it to their own progeny: copies of copies of copies. Along the way, errors inevitably occur. Some are caused by carcinogens but most are random misprints. Over the eons, cells have developed complex mechanisms that identify and correct many of the glitches. But the process is not perfect, nor can it ever be. Mutations are the engine of evolution. Without them we never would have evolved. The trade-off is that every so often a certain combination will give an individual cell too much power. It begins to evolve independently of the rest of the body. Like a new species thriving in an ecosystem, it grows into a cancerous tumor. For that there can be no easy fix. These microscopic rebellions have been happening for at least half a billion years, since the advent of complex multicellular life — collectives of cells that must work together, holding back, as best each can, the natural tendency to proliferate. Those that do not — the cancer cells — are doing, in a Darwinian sense, what they are supposed to do: mutating, evolving and increasing in fitness compared with their neighbors, the better behaved cells of the body. And these are left at a competitive disadvantage, shackled by a compulsion to obey the rules. Continue reading the main story RECENT COMMENTS St. Paulite 5 January 2014 Like some others, I think George Johnson ignores the elephant in the room – the toxic chemicals saturating and poisoning our environment. … Bill 5 January 2014 Where is the data that shows definitively that *everyone* will succumb to cancer? Some people live until 105, and die in their sleep. I fear… Corey 5 January 2014 60 years ago we may have read a similar article regarding polio. At another time tuberculosis was a heated topic. Today, of course,… SEE ALL COMMENTS As people age their cells amass more potentially cancerous mutations. Given a long enough life, cancer will eventually kill you — unless you die first of something else. That would be true even in a world free from carcinogens and equipped with the most powerful medical technology. Faced with this inevitability, there have been encouraging reductions in the death toll from childhood cancer, with mortality falling by more than half since 1975. For older people, some early-stage cancers — those that have not learned to colonize other parts of the body — can be cured with a combination of chemicals, radiation therapy and surgery. Others can be held in check for years, sometimes indefinitely. But the most virulent cancers have evolved such wily subterfuges (a survival instinct of their own) that they usually prevail. Progress is often measured in a few extra months of life. Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story OVER all, the most encouraging gains are coming from prevention. Worldwide, some 15 to 20 percent of cancers are believed to be caused by infectious agents. With improvements in refrigeration and public sanitation, stomach cancer, which is linked to Helicobacter pylori bacteria, has been significantly reduced, especially in more developed parts of the world. Vaccines against human papilloma virus have the potential of nearly eliminating cervical cancer. Where antismoking campaigns are successful, lung cancer, which has accounted for almost 30 percent of cancer deaths in the United States, is steadily diminishing. More progress can be made with improvements in screening and by reducing the incidence of obesity, a metabolic imbalance that, along with diabetes, gives cancer an edge. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of cancers have been traced to the thousands of synthetic chemicals that industry has added to the environment. As regulations are further tightened, cancer rates are being reduced a little more. Most of the progress has been in richer countries. With enough political will the effort can be taken to poorer parts of the world. In the United States, racial disparities in cancer rates must be addressed. But there is a long way to go. For most cancers the only identifiable cause is entropy, the random genetic mutations that are an inevitable part of multicellular life. Advances in the science will continue. For some cancers, new immune system therapies that bolster the body’s own defenses have shown glints of promise. Genomic scans determining a cancer’s precise genetic signature, nano robots that repair and reverse cellular damage — there are always new possibilities to explore. Maybe someday some of us will live to be 200. But barring an elixir for immortality, a body will come to a point where it has outwitted every peril life has thrown at it. And for each added year, more mutations will have accumulated. If the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer.

George Johnson is a former reporter and editor at The New York Times

Wonderful article on grief. It echoes my experience.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/the-secret-life-of-grief/281992/

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/01/surviving_anxiety/355741

It’s three and a half months since Max died and life is settling back into a routine. I still miss him every day, but I’m busy much of the time and distracted by all I have going on. When I think of him, I’m overcome with an intense sadness. It’s as if a chasm opens up inside, one that I am never able to fill. My son calls grieving the Jet Lag of the Soul. What an apt description. Like jet lag, it wears you down and comes in waves over many many days. I find myself tired most of the time now, my sleep often broken and incomplete. I haven’t had any dreams that I can recall lately, but I know I’m not sleeping deeply because I am often aroused by the train whistle.

But with all this, I know I’m healing. The pain hits me less often and less intensely.  I can focus on the task in front of me. I am willing to involve myself in creative pursuits and outside activities. So, this too will pass and I will be leaving the grief behind me. I feel a bit guilty for it, as though I’m betraying my best friend, but how much control do we really have over our feelings?  Only what we do with them. I try not to share them with others, I’ve shared them often enough. Now, it’s time for me to find the inner strength to carry on. To move forward.

And, gradually, I am.

Los GolendrinasWhen I was younger I lived in Santa Fe. It seems like eons ago, even though it really wasn’t that long…in geologic time.  In many ways, I have completed a full cycle and am back in Santa Fe part-time. To paraphrase T. S. Eliot: I shall not cease from exploration and the end of all my exploring will be to arrive where I started and to know the place for the first time.

I’d like to think that I’ve grown and changed over the many years away from Santa Fe, but, in some ways, I can be the same woman I was then. Life has beaten me into submission many a time, but I still can be willful, impulsive and inquisitive. I’m more loving, more open and more tolerant, but, on occasion I can be triggered to agitation and anger, although I now have tools to cope with these sudden bursts of overwhelming emotion. I’ve gained a different perspective; have faced more of the pain, the trauma, the joy life offers, but at moments I can expect too much of myself and others.  The main difference between now and then, beside the fact I rarely wear cowboy boots or turquoise jewelry, is an awareness that intrudes on my thoughts, feelings and actions, softening the edges and making me a little more capable of compassion and understanding.

I have walked a mile in your cowboy boots and I know how it feels.

I had another dream of the dome house leaking the other night. Leaks in dream symbolism represent the drain of emotional energy and damaged ceilings often point to a trickster in your life. It’s not surprising that I have had this dream twice in the last week considering my present situation. I am drained and am being bombarded by bad news on a daily basis.  Santa Fe has been my escape and my solace, but I leave tomorrow morning to return to Oceanside. And as lovely as my beach house is, it contains constant reminders of what I’ve lost, and what I am about to lose.  I can’t decide whether I’m happy to be going home or sad.  I guess, only time will tell.

Santa Fe House

All of us grieve from time to time. Grief isn’t limited to losing a person or pet. It can be losing a job, a possession or face. Loss is such an intricate part of our lives.

The most painful loss is someone particularly close to us, a child arguably the worst, but losing a spouse can be traumatic, too. And not only am I grieving the loss of Max: my husband, best friend, business partner, confident, handyman and humorist all rolled into one, but I’m also grieving loss related to our business dealings, as well as losing my sanity in another screwy transaction. It’s been one rough ride lately.

So, to cope, I’ve taken a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to be with my kids. Yes, getting away from the scene of the crime is helpful, but it also allows me the time and space to more fully process my grief, and to heal. I know my subconscious is working overtime because I’ve begun to recall my dreams in technicolor, something I haven’t done in years. The other night I dreamt I had returned to the dome house Max and I own in Pauma Valley, California to find the roof leaking in a number of places and drywall peeling off the dome ceiling. Two nights later I was traveling with Max and we became separated. Side-tracked I quickly lost my bearings, unable to find my home. I tried calling Max, and got through, but he couldn’t hear me, although I was able to overhear him making plans for the following day. I hung up, tried again, but this time I pressed the wrong button and found myself in cell phone hell, where I frantically moved from one wrong screen to another, layering them to the point of being lost, helpless and hysterical.  Both these dreams reflect my current state of anxiety and overwhelm.  Both are obvious attempts by my subconscious to help me express and process through this state of mind.

Grief. It’s such a multi-faceted experience. One minute I’m sad, the next anger, followed by anxious with a side of guilt. Yet, later, the same day, I may feel perfectly normal.  There is no easy way around all this, I guess I’ll have to move through it.

And continue to dream on.

I wanted to follow up on my blog entitled, What worked, What hurt, because I focused on the failures, rather than the successes. I would think that’s kind of natural given the final outcome. But there were some successes and they need to be mentioned. For one, chemo actually beat back Max’s cancer following the recurrence, and the surgeons couldn’t find any evidence of the disease during his surgery in early 2012. Unfortunately, they didn’t look hard enough because there was already problems with his bladder and a month post surgery, the tumor returned with a bloody (literally) roar. Had they undertaken a bladder biopsy, which should have been done since he was in the ER a week before surgery bleeding from the bladder and the sample failed to grow out any bacteria, they might have found and removed the tumor and at least given him a fighting chance at survival. As it turned out, they were negligent and left him to suffer and die a terrible death. But, that being said, the chemo was effective for a time and was a great pre-surgical tool.

The nutritional program helped him to build strength and put on weight, which is essential in combating cancer. I think the Cellect/Budwig diet is an effective weapon in the arsenal, not so much to cure cancer, but to give the body the resources and time needed to heal. Without a nutritional program, Max would have wasted away much sooner.

Finally, the GB4000 Mopa proved to be a terrific tool in combating infection. I was told the 4000 would destroy any microbe in the body. Before Max began using the 4000, he had one serious infection after another, which sent him into the hospital for close to 4 months.  Once he started on the machine, he only had two minor infections which were easily managed at home. I have read the literature online from Lyme disease suffers and many of them use and swear by the 4000. Whether the 4000 can actually destroy the microbes that are the engine behind cancer cell mitosis and replication is still a question in my mind, but the equipment definitely does have some powerful and useful applications.