Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labors of Love

Labor Day ... marks the unofficial end of summer (but no excuse to stop using your sunscreen!) and the welcoming of the Fall season. Not only is it celebrated with cookouts and a 3-day holiday but tons of sales, sales, and more sales! According to Wikipedia, Labor Day "is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers."

Okay, so we have a holiday to pay tribute to the American workforce and economic achievement, and don't get me wrong, working for a wage and being financially stable is important ... but does everything have to be about making a buck? What about a long weekend designated to celebrate  "labors of love"?

I define labors of love as meaningful actions that you do with no financial compensation, and we could come up with a long list of those. Giving birth (the true meaning of LABOR), raising a family, being a loving and patient caregiver to an elderly parent or a loved one with illness, adopting a pet, volunteering ... all extremely important although none makes us wealthy.

We have probably all performed many labors of love throughout our lives, but there is still time to do so much more ... and so much more is needed.

There are small labors of love that are simply random acts of kindness that we all should remember to do ... smile at a stranger, say thank you to a store clerk, call or send a card to someone who would be cheered by just knowing you are thinking of them, take a meal to someone who is sick or grieving, hand a cold bottle of water (in summer heat) or a cup of hot chocolate (in winter cold) to your mailman, make a donation to your favorite charity. The possibilities are endless, and they truly make a difference to someone's day!

But I'm really thinking of larger labors of love that take more effort and time and commitment ... plan or participate in a fundraiser, donate blood, volunteer at a nursing home or hospital or school or animal shelter, become a coach for a kid's sports team or a leader for a scout troop, teach a Sunday school class. Get the idea?

I've always been a little (okay, a lot) obsessive about volunteering ... so much so that my efforts were acknowledged with the Volunteer of the Year award in my community of Plano, TX, many years ago. I didn't set out to be so involved in our schools and community; there's just so many wonderful projects that need (wo)manpower that I couldn't resist. Volunteering can be addictive!

When my only daughter Jaime died from melanoma 7 years ago, that following week I did what I swore I would never, ever do. I became a melanoma advocate and the indoor tanning industry's worst nightmare. Watching her struggle with this evil disease, I had thought that once her fight was over, I never wanted to hear the word melanoma again. But over the 9 years of her journey with this cancer, it is what I had come to know and experience, and what I had come to hate ... and something I didn't want other families to have in their lives.

So melanoma advocacy has been my constant labor of love since my last labor of love as Jaime's caregiver ended. I didn't choose it; it chose me. Some think I do this to heal ... but if you have ever lost a child, you know that you can never heal, no matter what actions you take or don't take!

To be honest, I don't even particularly enjoy this labor of love that has attached itself to me, especially as I shed tears watching wonderful people die (too often young adults) and friends and families suffer on what seems like a daily basis. I question why I do what I do when I hear the lies and deception that comes out of the indoor tanning industry and sun worshipers. I scream when I hear the false reasoning of many state legislators regarding the protection of their youth from tanning bed use. I beat my head against the wall when I hear the excuses coming from schools about why the kids can't bring sunscreen to school or wear hats when outside. But this is MY labor of love so I keep doing it, hoping to make a small difference, ... and I will continue to do so until I am no longer able or until melanoma no longer exists.

But you have lots and lots of choices for your own labor of love. Don't worry about "what's in it for me," because what you get out of your labor of love will be so much greater than what you put in ... even if you can't take it to the bank.
Just pick something already, something you are passionate about or have a curiosity to learn more about. Maybe even step out of your comfort zone and try something challenging. You can't fail and many can benefit. Don't wait for a designated holiday ... make the effort to participate in a labor of love as often as you can!

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bzzzing for a Cancer Cure

Lately, we have been reading about a lot of bizarre "possible" cures for cancer. Most recently I have written blogs about the miraculous cure possibilities of smelling farts (Pull My Finger...Save a Life) and then came the amazing potential of cat poop (From Litterbox to Laboratory) as THE cure. And now today, part 3 of this suspenseful trilogy just streamed into my newsfeed.

It seems everyone is buzzing about the discovery that the venom from bees, scorpions, and snakes may offer the promise of a future cure (Bee, Scorpion, and Snake Venom May Hold Cancer Cure) using nanotechnology. It's all very ssssslick ssssscience, and here is another article about the role of nanoparticles in curing cancer (Nanoparticles -- The Next Cure for Cancer), but,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

(Side note: Speaking of venom, where you aware that the male duck-billed platypus, which carries venom inside ankle spurs, is one of the few venomous mammals? Consider your life enriched with this piece of trivia!)

But back to the bees, scorpions, and snakes (Ugh ... gives me the creeps but it's for the common good!!). Actually, the idea of venom-based cures from fangs and stingers is not new. There is history of their use as far back as 67 BC. And the Brazilian pit viper venom has led to development of ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure. So perhaps this line of research isn't quite as bizarre as it might first appear, but,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

When my daughter Jaime was fighting cancer, there was talk about birch tree bark and mushrooms as a cure for her melanoma. NCI wanted to inject her with the herpes virus for their research. Some of her fellow melanoma patients were getting jolts of electricity. It's good that scientists are reaching ... really reaching and thinking outside the box ... to find a possible cure for cancer, but,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

Over the years, so many "encouraging" possibilities as cures for cancer have been suggested -- red wine, coffee, pine bark, peanut butter, blueberries, antioxidants (and then not antioxidants), vitamin C (or maybe vitamin C makes cancer worse), and even tanning beds according to the indoor tanning industry (but NOT to be believed). Just do a Google search for cancer cures -- cannabis oil, zebrafish, gold, cow urine, aspirin, frankincense, sloths. What the heck is a sloth anyway??? So it doesn't seem like I am asking too much when I plead,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

Now, I admit that I am not a patient person. But billions of dollars have been donated to cancer research over the many years of our "War on Cancer," and sadly, as you read this, way too many cancer patients are clinging to life, hoping and praying for a cure. It is too late for my forever-29-year-old Jaime and our family, but a cancer cure could make a huge difference in the lives of millions of others. So please keep these warriors and their families in mind when you experiment with cat poop parasites and odiferous gases and "nanobees," and maybe, just maybe,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)