Tuesday, January 29, 2013

C is for Cancer

The ABC Wednesday Meme is a great way to see some great blogs. This week the letter is "C".  C is for Cancer.

A couple of weeks ago, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  All of a sudden, the work that I have done with Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society came sharply into focus.  It became even more personal.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.  It is the top non-profit fundraising event in the world with over 5,200 events in the U.S. and with events in countries around the world.

I have been involved in Relay For Life since 2007. The number one reason I became involved is because my wife is passionate about Relay. She has such a passion for Relay For Life that it rubs off on those around her. Her passion stems from her family history. Her mother died of cancer when Gina was just 21 years old. Her father had colon cancer, and all three of her sisters have had breast cancer. She is the only person in her immediate family that is cancer free.  To read her story click here.

Several years ago, Gina's sister Roberta got involved with Relay For Life in Enumclaw, Washington. For a number of years, Gina would travel to Enumclaw to be a part of Relay For Life there. Six years ago, we learned that Polk County was going to have a Relay. We got involved in the 2007 Relay, and have been involved ever since.

My uncle, Delbert Lawry, died from cancer a few of years ago. I lost not only an uncle, but a friend and someone who was willing to help anytime. Since then my sister-in-law Lenora lost her long battle with cancer.  I have come to realize the importance of the work that the American Cancer Society does. It is involved in research, prevention, and helping those who are dealing with cancer.

Now with my Mom's diagnosis, I have even more reasons to work hard in my positions with my local Relay For Life of Polk County, Arkansas and on the Arkansas State Relay For Life Leadership Council.  The procedure that she is having done has only been available for a few years.  For me it is just one more proof that funding cancer research is so vitally important!

Just about everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or another. Relay For Life is a fun way to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. There is probably no other cause that a person can support that touches more lives. Relay celebrates those who have battled cancer, it remembers those who have fallen, and it provides a way to fight back. That is why I am proud to be a part of Relay For Life. I hope that you will be a part of Relay For Life too. You can go to the Relay For Life website and search for an event near you.

For more cancer info be sure to check out cancer.org and the Polk County Relay For Life blog.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Coping With Cancer

On thing that I have never done on this blog is to re-post articles written by others.  This post is the exception to the rule.  Recently my Mom had a CT scan.  Although the doctor didn't find what he was looking for, the CT scan showed a large tumor on one of her kidneys.  She was immediately sent to a specialist who referred her to another specialist, and less than a week after the CT scan, she was scheduled for surgery.

All of a sudden, the work that I have done with Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society came sharply into focus.  It became even more personal.  One of the things that I was concerned about was how she would be treated.  Everyone seems to have an opinion about cancer.  In my work with the American Cancer Society one of the things that I have seen over and over again is a distrust of "standard treatments" and doctors in general.

Mom was hesitant to tell people that she had cancer because she had witnessed previously the unsolicited advice and alternative cures pressed on friends who were diagnosed with cancer.  She wanted for me to ask for prayers in church, but wanted me to stress that her treatment was set and that she didn't want unsolicited advice.  I was trying to figure out a tactful way to do that, when she brought me an article from the January 24, 2013 Adventist Review.  I was able to use a couple of quotes from the article to get my message across.  I so appreciated this article that I am re-posting it here.

The article is titled "Coping With Cancer" and subtitled "How To Support A Friend Or Family Member Dealing With Cancer".  It was written by Allan R. Handysides, who is a board -certified gynecologist and is the Director of the Health Ministries Department of the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists.

By Allen R. Handysides

Cancer is not a single disease entity. Rather, it includes a spectrum of disorders that share a common mechanism. Advances in diagnostic capabilities and the use of population-screening techniques have resulted in cancers being detected in their very early stages-even in "precancerous" stages. It's this capacity to diagnose early cancer that may have softened its image in the minds of many; but cancer is still a malignant and often lethal condition. On the other hand, fear often induces denial or paralysis.

Svetlana was a young Russian physician, newly arrived in Canada with her two delightful children. She was studying for Canadian exams that would permit her a medical residency slot. Her engineer husband supported them financially. She came to see me for routine Pap smears. To my surprise, the report came back indicating "abnormal cells of unknown derivation." The pathologist I used was a proven expert, and I took the report extremely seriously. Colposcopy, endocervical curettage, and endometrial biopsy were all noncontributory to a diagnosis, so I performed a laparoscopic exam.

Upon first viewing the peritoneal cavity, it appeared pristine and healthy, just like its 34-year-old owner. Closer inspection, however, revealed a gelatinous,pale,blueberry-sized lesion on the left ovary. I carefully biopsied it, and then turned my scope to visualize the rest of the cavity. Aided by the magnifying capacity of the laparoscope, I found the peritoneum to be dotted with tiny salt- grain-sized flecks, also of a clear, pale, jelly-type nature. These, too, I biopsied.

A few days later the reports came back, indicating "ovarian/peritoneal cancer." It was clearly widespread and at a late stage, although of very recent onset. She had a particularly virulent form of cancer, and despite the full panoply of therapies, she was dead within five years; as would be 84 percent of people with such widespread cancer.

I recount this story to emphasize the lethal nature of some cancers. I could equally tell of astounding recoveries that, even to a seasoned, skeptical clinician such as I, appear miraculous. I have experienced 50 years of mind-boggling advances in medicine and seen dogged, relentless physicians battle this disease; and yet, I've also witnessed a mysterious groundswell against "standard treatments" that seems to mirror a postmodern mind-set of there being no absolutes, only what we as individuals personally believe. In such a milieu the repeated call for an evidence-based rationale for therapy often goes unheeded.

Alternative Therapies

Many people decide to use what they erroneously term "alternative therapies." An alternative route would take you to the same destination; in the case of cancer, an alternative therapy should provide equal or nearly equal chances of cure. People often do not realize that once a therapy has been shown to be an "alternative" with supporting evidence, it becomes a part of the "standard therapy"-although possibly rated as a second or third alternative.

In Adventist circles  lifestyle elements that have been shown to possibly reduce risk of contracting cancer are often promoted as cures. An illustration of the difference between prevention and cure is that of behaviors that lower the risk of a broken leg and the measures required to promote its healing. Prevention and cure are totally different "animals," and while we strongly recommend lifestyle measures for prevention, it's dishonest, negligent, and frankly dangerous to suggest that such measures are curative"

There is absolutely no reliable statistical basis to suggest that diet can cure cancer. In the community of church members are those who sometimes choose to interfere with the treatments being recommended by health professionals. Such self-appointed "experts" may hold a degree in some different field, but without trepidation opine about another person's best course of action. Some go so far as to indicate that a person taking standardized therapy must lack faith. What can one know about another's level of spirituality or faith? No wonder the Lord commands us to "judge not." Does this mean lifestyle measures are useless for treatment? No, but the evidence isn't there.  It's not "illogical" to suggest lifestyle might be a good "adjuvant" approach, but not an "alternative."

Undergoing Tests

Many hesitate to undergo all the tests their doctors suggest they take. Indeed, there are doctors who order more tests than are necessary, often from a mind-set of covering every base and protecting themselves against claims of negligence. In situations of cancer, however, exact staging of the disease strongly influences the selection of treatment, so full exploration permits a more appropriate selection.

Finding a Doctor

A question some ask is "How can I find a suitable doctor to treat my cancer?" Experiences recounted online are not always reliable. One rule of thumb is if a primary-care physician is routinely careful, thoughtful, and gives you full attention, you can safely trust that they will use the same concern in finding you a specialist.

Good doctors encourage second opinions. Very often physicians associated with a teaching institution are more knowledgeable, while the doctor running a high-volume practice might be more "technically skilled." Never feel awkward about asking for a second opinion, but keep in mind that it's "bad form" to switch doctors without including the referring physician in the decision. Perfect honesty with your physician will be appreciated, and may actually teach the caregiver about patients' perceptions.

Supporting Someone With Cancer

Perhaps an important area to explore is how to be supportive of that friend, church member, or family member who has been diagnosed with cancer. Unsolicited opinions are probably about as welcome as insistence of your favorite color scheme or sofa for your friend's new family room. Unless you are a qualified expert, you would be wise to keep your opinion to yourself; indeed, if you are an expert, your advice will probably be to listen to the patient's own similarly qualified experts.

Support should be given in a general-not a specific-way. Hope is the greatest gift you can give a patient with cancer. Despite dreadful statistics, there are always those who defy the odds.  Hope can positively influence outcomes.  Hope builds faith, so build the patient's hope and faith.

You want the patient to feel uplifted by your contact, and you transmit support more fully with loving, prayerful interaction rather than prescriptive, dogmatic talk. A hug and a touch often do far more than your favorite lecture on the benefits of pomegranate juice.

When an individual chooses a course of action, especially if it has been based upon expert advice, the wisest course of action for a friend is to affirm such a choice. If you feel compelled to share your "cherished beliefs," do so as an addition, not a replacement, of the chosen therapy. It's often forgotten that the good Lord gave us all freedom of choice. If He is so gracious, shouldn't we be gracious too?

Messengers of Hope

Everyone who contracts cancer or has a family member with cancer is barraged with advice. In the Adventist community there are "guilt trippers," who assert the condition is a direct consequence of some neglected lifestyle imperative, as well as some "extremists," who insist their particular concoction is a "surefire" cure. The advice to all of us would best be to "lay off" of such gratuitous, often ill-founded advice. Be kind,loving, hopeful, reassuring, optimistic, and pleasant. Take the person out for a nice meal or other happy diversion. Pray with them, but don't be too sanctimonious. Rejoice in the gospel message, but don't paint a dark picture  of sin and it's effects.

Ask yourself, "How does my interaction buoy this dear soul's spirit?" If you can't make the patient cheerful, at least don't contribute to depression.  The gospel is good news, so let's be messengers of hope!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Steel Wheels

The Steel Wheels Poster
Last weekend we drove to Conroe, Texas to see my son and daughter-in-law.  While we were there we went to see The Steel Wheels at The Dosey Doe Music Cafe.  Dosey Doe's is a great music venue along with an award winning restaurant.  We arrived early and got a table a few feet from the stage.  After a great meal, with the best fried green tomatoes I have eaten, we were ready to see the Steel Wheels.

The Steel Wheels
The Steel Wheels are based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  They blend old-time musical traditions with their own innovative sound.  They often cluster tightly around a single microphone and add to Trent Wagler’s unmistakable tenor with bell-clear four-part harmonies inspired by their shared Mennonite heritage. Add to this Eric Brubaker’s lively and evocative fiddle, Brian Dickel’s grounded yet buoyant upright bass, and Jay Lapp’s signature mandolin style, and you have The Steel Wheels.

The Steel Wheels

The small venue and the intimacy of the concert made it feel like your friends were singing for you in your living room.  The musicianship was absolutely top notch.  Every song was tight, and the harmonies were amazing. I was close enough to be able get some video.  The song "Rain In The Valley" is an acapella song that defies description; it is sparse and dense all at once.  

The song Lay Down Lay Low is the title track from their latest album.  It is much more representative of their sound.  The song is very poignant after hearing the story behind it.  A friend of Trent's walked to a tall bridge with the intention of ending his life.  He didn't go through with it, but his experience was captured in the song.

As I stand on the river bridge, Silent on this thirsty ridge
No more birds will sing for me on this desperate day
I’ve walked far to make it here, I know my path is plain and clear
I will take to rest a final time on that clay.

Lay down, lay low, They say it’s quiet there
Lay down, lay low, I want to finally fall down, fall down

The concert was one of the most enjoyable that I have ever attended, and I highly recommend The Steel Wheels to anyone who likes Americana, Folk, Acoustic, Bluegrass or Vocal Harmonies. A line from one of their songs seems to say it all, "Going to that place where the song sings you".

The Steel Wheels

Trent Wagler

Brian Dickel

I shot all of the photos and videos in this post during the January 19, 2013 Steel Wheels concert at The Dosey Doe Music Cafe in Conroe, Texas.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ABC - B is for Belize

The ABC Wednesday Meme is a great way to see some great blogs.  This week the letter is B. My favorite place to visit is Belize. Belize is a small country in Central America. In February 2004, 17 members of my church raised 20,000 dollars and went to San Pedro, Belize in Central America to build a church. While we were there we made lots of friends. We were only in San Pedro for a short time, but by the time we left the walls of the church were finished. During the following months, the church members in San Pedro finished the church building. Below are photos of the completed church.

After Church

Woman In Red

New Horizon SDA School Classroom

During our stay in Belize we learned to love the people, the culture, and the natural beauty. We have returned three times since our first trip, and we have had friends from Belize come visit us in Arkansas. We have made so many friends while in San Pedro. You can read the story of our friendship with the Amaya family here.

San Pedro Angel

On our first trip to Belize, my wife and little Jeffery formed a special bond almost immediately. She held him through church. She played with him on the beach. Jeffery's Mom and Dad helped with the construction of the chapel, so we spent time together. Whenever Jeffery was where my wife was, he wanted to be with her.  We stay in touch with Jeffery and his family. We received a phone call from them just a couple of weeks ago. The story of little Jeffery is here.

Jeffery and Felicia 05

During our visits to San Pedro, we have become good friends with Rigoberto Roches and his wife Shirley. They are wonderful friends who have invited us into their home. During the summer of 2008 they came to visit us in Arkansas.

Visiting with Rigoberto

One of the friends that we made on our trip was Collet Montejo.  While we were in Santa Elena we toured La Loma Luz hospital where he was the administrator.  When we left for the airport, Collet loaned us the hospital van, and put all of our luggage in the back of his pickup.

I have kept in touch with Collet over the years .  He has come to Mena to visit us several times, and we returned to Belize to see him.

In 2012 Collet became a Senator of Belize.  There are 12 Senators in the Senate.  When he came to visit us last year I asked him if he was still a hospital administrator.  He said that he wasn't, and that he was now working for the government.  When I asked what he did for the government, he told me that he had just become a Senator. Collet is one of the most humble men I have ever met, and I am proud to call him my friend.

One of our favorite things to do when we visit Belize is to go snorkeling. Belize has the second longest barrier reef in the world. Inside the reef, the waters are shallow and calm, and the amount of wildlife is amazing. Besides many kinds of fish and coral, there are stingrays and sharks. One of the tour guides that we made friends with was Eddie. He likes to play with the sharks, and had my wife Gina help him bring this one to the surface for a photo opp.

Gina and Eddie hold a Shark

Belize is a beautiful and interesting place to visit. If you are a scuba diver, it is one of the premier diving locations in the world. I loved getting up every morning to photograph the sunrise. There just happened to be some fisherman out on the water as I was taking this shot. It is one of my favorite photos from Belize.

Fisherman Sunrise 2

Every morning I was in San Pedro I would walk through the town taking photos. Here is a slideshow of San Pedro coming to life set to the song "Good Mawnin Belize".

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sky Lanterns


Article published in the January 17, 2013 issue of The Mena Star

After being rained out in December, the Relay For Life Sky Lanterns event was held Tuesday evening outside Rich Mountain Community College.  The sky lanterns serve as both a fundraiser for Relay For Life, but also a special opportunity to honor friends, family, and loved  ones who have battled cancer.


On the evening, 51 sky lanterns were purchased and launched into the night sky, glowing as they rose and floated out of sight.  The evening also served as the 2013 Relay Kick-Off event.  The event raised over $1,200 for the Relay For Life Polk County organization.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pay It Forward Weekend

I have pledged to participate in the Pay It Forward Weekend. During the weekend of Friday Jan. 18 through Sunday Jan. 20, we are encouraging everyone to "Pay It Forward". We are asking everyone to do at least one random act of kindness (more than one is even better). All you have to do is do something for someone or some organization without expecting anything in return. Pay for a strangers meal, send someone a card, volunteer some time. The ideas are endless. All it takes is a spark to get a fire going. By taking part, you can make a difference and who knows, maybe change someone's life. Get on board, and let's see if we can change someone's world this weekend. Who knows, it might be your life that gets changed. Remember, it doesn't take people doing a lot, just a lot of people doing a little. WE CAN DO THIS!!!!!

My wife's cousin, Jerry Patton, spent 37 years as the second tenor of The King's Heralds Quartet, the oldest continuous gospel quartet in America.

One of my favorite songs that he sang was titled One Little Candle. The lyrics are great.

It's better to light just one little candle
Than to stumble in the dark
Better far that you light just one little candle
All you need's a tiny spark

If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free
The wonderful dawn of the new day we'll see
And if everyone lit just one little candle
What a bright world this would be

Will you pledge to participate in the Pay It Forward Weekend with me? We can light a candle and make the world a better place. If you are on Facebook please consider going to the "Pay It Forward" Weekend.  Over 2,000 people already have!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A is for ADRA

The ABC Wednesday Meme starts it's 12th round  this week.  Since it is the start of a new round, the letter this week is A.  I would like to spotlight the organization known as ADRA.  ADRA is one of the charities that I support on a regular basis.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, ADRA, was started by the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a way to follow Christ’s example of serving and caring for those in need. Put simply, ADRA improves the lives of people around the world. The agency searches out deprivation, social injustice, and need—then works to eliminate them.  ADRA has projects in more than 120 countries

ADRA is lowering the incidence of horrific diseases by promoting health and wellness. And by improving sanitation and access to clean water, ADRA helps prevent many of the common medical problems that plague communities.

One of the ways that ADRA raises money for these projects is through the ADRA Gift Catalog.  On the ADRA Gift Catalog website you can browse projects and donate to whatever projects you would like.

Because my daughter has started raising chickens, the last project that I chose to support from the gift catalog was #12, Give Chickens to Orphan Caregivers in Tanzania.  Many widows and grandmothers are caring for orphans, often several at a time. Feeding and educating these children is very difficult. ADRA will provide each household with 10 hens, one rooster, training in poultry production, and tools—everything needed to sell eggs and become self-sufficient.

By providing food and water and the ability for families to grow their own, ADRA gives people the nutrition they need to not just survive, but to thrive.

In the wake of emergencies such as famines, floods, or earthquakes there are often thousands of people needing basic necessities. ADRA works to get them back on their feet again by not only responding quickly, but following up with long-term support.

ADRA is currently one of the leading non-governmental relief organizations in the world. In 1997 the agency was granted General Consultative Status by the United Nations, a unique opportunity giving ADRA added voice in the international community. Last year ADRA assisted nearly 24 million people with more than US$159 million in aid. More than 4,000 ADRA staff members currently work in 125 countries. As new challenges and needs arise, ADRA continues to strive to realize its mission of reflecting God's love through compassionate acts of humanitarian service.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall


In 1962 Bob Dylan wrote one of his most famous protest songs, A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall.  A few lines of the song are;

I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded in hatred,
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

The song is full of dense imagery that suggests injustice, suffering, pollution and warfare.  Some have suggested that the refrain of the song refers to nuclear fallout, however Dylan said "No, it's not atomic rain, it's just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that's just gotta happen".


Yesterday this song came to mind as we were experiencing extremely heavy rain here in Mena, Arkansas.  We have lived in this house for almost twenty years now, and in all that time I have never seen as much water as I did yesterday.


The official rainfall totals were 3.5 inches, but most of it came in a short period of time.  Water was running across the yard in front of the house and along the side of the house.  The neighbors front yard and side yard were under water.  Fortunately our house is built up a couple of feet off of the ground.





When the heaviest rains had passed I drove around the neighborhood and took a few photos.





Fortunately the hard rains diminished before there was any lasting damage in our area.

And what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what'll you do now my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my songs well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.