Monthly Archives: September 2009

Labour Day Week

…has been busy. I’d say for the first time in 12 years I have successfully worked the scheduling system at work and gotten the best schedule ever. Sure, it’s on our new sh***y 757 to Europe; however, I am working 3 day on – 4 days off, same days every week (regularity, wow!) and I get to finally go see my friends in Brussels. Considering that I am the only person under 20 years seniority on the flight, I clearly got an enviable schedule. So it’s just as shocking that I got my 2nd choice of work position on the plane. It hardly gets any better! I can only assume that I held this schedule because it touched Labour Day weekend, but I was (for once) clever enough to request a week’s leave in advance for that weekend, so I didn’t have to work that trip. It all makes it worth working that awful plane. (Then again, ask me at the end of the month!)

For said Labour Day weekend, my family all went up to the Finger Lakes, where my grandparents had a farm for my whole childhood. This is perhaps the most sacred place to me in the world, and one of my vacation favorites – right up there with Istanbul and Montreal. We had to sell the farm in 1996 and the only other time we’ve been up there is in 2004 to take my grandparents’ ashes to their graves. So – this was a really special treat of a Labour Day and I think we’ve reignited a tradition, complete with the owner of our old farm being hospitable enough to welcome us when we descend on his property hoping to have a nostalgic look around, taking photos of every little corner that reminds us of our many summers there. (He even offered – several times – for us to stay in the guest house next year when we return. How nice!) I feel very lucky that we sold it to a hospitable and empathetic man who is also a seeming restoration enthusiast (so, although he’s making changes, he’s taking loving care of the place). As usual, I’ll get around to putting some photos of Flickr later this week.

I also learned about the advantages of tennis shoes (or trainers, as the Brits call them, which really is a more sensible name for once). I have a new favorite workout, and that is the Masala Bhangra class at my gym. You know, Indian style dance…it’s a ton of fun and an intense workout (at least arranged as an aerobic class routine as this is). This weekend I went barefoot. Just to try it. I’ve seen the instructor do it, and after all, real Masala Bhangra is done barefoot. And going barefoot is in general supposed to be so good for you. So there I went, slipping of my flip-flops in the gym, noticing that 4 of 5 other girls followed my lead and removed their own trainers about 10 minutes into the class. But I wonder if they also regret it, as do I.

I loved it during the workout, but 1) the floors aren’t that clean, which is uncomfortable if you get a gathering of dust from the hardwood floor on the ball of your foot and 2) the class routine involves lots of superfast (double time), jumping-jack style jumps both side-to-side and back-and-forth. This is, I can tell you, rather hard on your little tootsies as they get your weight and the friction on the floor necessary for stopping your movement on the contact end of each jump. I now have bruises on many toes, most notably the ball of my big toes-a big deep yucky bruise that makes it necessary to walk the house in both socks and slippers to cushion the area. I didn’t even know that was possible. It’s very hard to bruise the bottom of your toe! And thank goodness because it’s really uncomfortable. So – I’ve done it for you. You don’t have to. Wear gym shoes to the gym – that’s the moral.

Back in a few days to share about Del’s birthday and the surprise “party” that Del helped me plan for himself.

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Let’s Censor the President! (warning: ranting outburst ahead)

If you read my blog you know that I try to stay away from politics. I’m not here to offend anyone. But if you read my blog, then you also know that I occasionally fail in that endeavor – and today is going to be one of those days. I am in such disbelief that I just have to vent. Feel free to disagree, but here I go.

I am absolutely speechless over the “controversy” of Obama’s upcoming back-to-school speech. Some Righties – actual government representatives! – are going along with and repeating the hysterical claim that his speech is going to “foment socialism”.

Now, at first I thought this was kind of humorous. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t heard that line again and again about everything Obama does for 8 months now. You’d think the man ran on a platform of mandatory toilet paper rationing and eating small children, so evil do they think he is (some loved ones included). But today I happened to watch the evening news to see that 6 states’ schools are actually refusing to air the speech based on that fear – and  some have come up with the brilliant “compromise” that they will tape the speech, see what it says and then determine whether or not to allow it to be shown!

I. Uh. Ahem. Wow. My breath is taken away. Umm, I can get if people are tired of hearing him speak. As my sister pointed out, Obama does make a heck of a lot of speeches and ask for a lot of airtime. I get that. I haven’t listened to him speak for ages myself. I like the guy and all, but I’m not wild about political speeches and I don’t like him in the way that makes me want to stare at him with a goofy smile and clap all the time. However, no one is saying, “we’re tired of hearing him speak.” No one is saying “we have important lesson plans to get to” or whatever. They’re saying he is going to say inappropriate things! What the…? Besides the fact that he’s not the first Prez to do this (controversy-free), do people realize they are talking about censoring the President?!

Let me say that again: they’re talking about censoring the President cause they don’t like his ideas.

Who is a school principal (or whomever) to judge that the President is going to say something inappropriate for kids to hear? We live in a de-mo-cra-cy. He was e-lec-ted. Elected, people. He didn’t conquer his way to the throne with guns and pestilence to force a take over. We put him there. This man has our nuclear codes – but now some of you think that he can’t be trusted to make a public speech to children? Give me a flipping break.

No really, please. Give me a break. At what point can we call a paranoia hysteria psychosis spade a spade? The right says, “But…but…there was a school plan where kids were supposed to write about what they could do to help the President”. Oh, horror! The President has the audacity to act like we are all invested in his success! That we should want to support the man to whom we’ve asked to run the country for the next 3+ years! How evil is he?!

Since when is acting as if constituents wish for a successful representative akin to some evil plot? Did I miss the part where the famous phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” was a Communist motto? I’ve heard that phrase a lot, but never in a way that indicated it was “socialist propaganda” or anything like. I guess I missed the memo.

Now, I know a little something about disliking the President. But I’m pretty sure talk of censoring Bush for claims he would “try to spread Conservative ideals” (or, a truer comparison to the socialism claim, that he would “foment Fashism” or something of the like) would have led to cries of “Unpatriotic” and worse. You don’t have to like Obama. Really. It’s your right and it doesn’t matter to me personally. But can we at least aim for some semblance of mature debate? That’s all I’m asking. I think there are solid reasons to dislike Obama and some of his proposals, and I am open to them. But so far I’m mostly hearing hyperbole and conspiracy theories. At this point I am at a complete loss to see a line in the sand at which the country would collectively say “now that’s just silly”. Cause at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be one.

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Negativity (Genetic Testing Pt. 2)

So, it’s official – I’m negative. After a second range of the most exhaustive gene testing available, I still came up negative for BRCA 1/2. It seems crazy, but it’s true. Yes of course I am happy, but I agree with the “consensus of the genetic team”: that there is most surely some genetic connection to my breast cancer, but it’s something that we’ve yet to discover. Even though there are no more tests we can do now (except for some rare genes that also carry other obvious physical markers which I clearly don’t have), I have left some extra blood behind and signed a bunch of papers giving permission for my blood to be used in future studies should something appropriate come up. Perhaps I will help discover a future mutation after all, even if I don’t know it.

What I didn’t get back here to explain yet was what I learned in the meeting about BRCA 1/2. Of main interest is the fact that, because we use the language “I tested negative for BRCA 1/2” (and phrases like that), I always thought that BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are the names of two mutations which cause breast cancer. But that is not so. BRCA 1 & 2 are the names of two regular ol’ genes that we all have, genes whose job it is to defend against cancer (and it seems breast cancer in particular).  So if you “have BRCA 1” that means you have a mutation in the BRCA 1 gene which makes it less successful in its quest to ward off bad breast cells. It is because of these 2 genes’ general cancer fighting job that there are other cancers that are liked with BRCA 1/2. This also clarifies why the two genes each have a unique set of other illnesses that they indicate a predisposal to.

This understanding has made me realize that having a BRCA mutation may well be likened (in my own mind) to alcoholism. I didn’t get how the risk factors of my job and a family history worked together – I thought they were opposing possibilities to why I got cancer. But in fact, they would have worked together, just like a person with alcoholism in the family may or may not become an alcoholic. Put them in the right conditions and they are very likely to do so, while someone else subjected to those conditions (without alcoholism in the family) is less likely to become an alcoholic – but they still could anyway if the conditions are strong enough. For me, this is very insightful.

So, we all have BRCA 1 and 2 genes – it’s just a question of whether or not they’re “normal”. Put into context, the repeated gene testing reveals that I have no malignant “misspellings” in my BRCA 1/2 genes. But the suspicion is that there is a mutation on another gene that we haven’t yet mapped or perhaps have not yet identified as cancer-involved. While this could be seen as good or bad news, I choose to see it as good. The best of both worlds perhaps, since my female family members are motivated to be extra vigilant (and their insurances have a convincing case history to support that), yet there are no other particular cancers or illnesses associated with whatever that may be for us to be panicked about. Of course there is always the slight possibility that I just hit some statistical lottery with my cancer. Even if I didn’t win a desired prize, I will choose to consider myself lucky.

Side note: The concert ticket mystery is solved. A European friend needed an American address to where he could order tickets, as he is coming over for the concert. I didn’t realize the tickets would be coming from a random-seeming private address and had no idea just what kind of tickets he was ordering. I didn’t even know he was coming over for a concert! So hadn’t put 2 + 2 + x together. Which is fine, because – although I’m almost embarrassed to admit it – there wasn’t actually anyone playing at the concert whom I particularly cared to see. I know I should want to see Earth, Wind & Fire or Eric Clapton…but I don’t really. So it’s all good – enjoy the concert, friend!

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