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Posts published in “Day: August 6, 2015”

Curing cancer?


In a legislative body it is called asking for suspension of the day’s business in order to make a personal point. Today, I rise in like manner and ask a reader’s indulgence to hear me out.

The “Big C,” as some call cancer, can strike any one any time in one’s life cycle and just about any part of one’s body. Because actual cause is hard to pinpoint, for many it is seen as a “death sentence,” a disease without a cure. Many fear hearing the word ever cross their doctor’s lips. The same cancer can effect people differently, and move aggressively in one while slowly in another. Only God knows why.

Because of research advances and various techniques involved with early intervention, one’s cancer can often be stalled. Some call it “remission,” but one doesn’t hear the word “cured” too often anymore. Used to be if one went five years without a recurrence they were pronounced “cured.”

Too many instances of the “cured patient” being struck again have occurred, however. Used to be also that when one contracted cancer, after a battery of tests, most doctors, if asked, would give one an estimate on how long they had before all the sand is through the top half of their hour glass. That just doesn’t happen anymore.

For example, in November of 2005 when I was diagnosed with Stage IV (meaning “almost gone”) of a rare form of a neuroendocrine cancer, I was told I had six months left. I’m obviously still here ten years later.

Like most folks, once one gets over the initial shock, my wife and I did our research. We discovered the world’s best hospital for treating this type of cancer was M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. I bundled up all my CT’s, all my MRI’s, my blood tests, my colonoscopies, shipped them off to this world-renowned hospital and asked for them to see me and to provide a second opinion.

A few weeks later I received their answer---“no.” I was bluntly told I was too far gone, that it was hopeless, and I should go home to prepare to die. I was stunned. I’d never heard of one being denied a second opinion.

I called the managing partner of a large, prestigious Houston law firm---Bracewell & Patterson. One of his major clients was the Texas Medical Association. Thus, a call went to the director of M.D. Anderson from the head of the major medical association in Texas. The director refused to over-rule his doctors.

Things happen for a reason, however. On the advice of two friends I turned to a relative new Cancer Center, The Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. I met with their team of doctors and we drew up an aggressive attack strategy which so far has worked for almost ten years.

I confess though I’ll never feel that M.D. Anderson is as good as they claim to be. Nor will I ever recommend them to anyone. When asked, I’ll suggest folks look into the Mayo Clinic or Huntsman.

This lament is prompted by a spate of ads currently running on major news channels like CNN in which MDA comes awfully close to claiming they can cure cancer. How else is one to interpret the last scene in which they strike through the word cancer following a succession of “talking heads” the last couple which say cancer has lost..

The field of cancer care is becoming increasingly competitive simply because there are vast profits to be made. This is no justification, however, for strongly implying that they have or will beat cancer.

I’ve had almost ten years of successively holding my always fatal form of cancer at bay. I’ve never claimed to have been cured nor in a state of remission, because I’m not. Like many others, it is a day to day, 24/7 battle. Some of us are lucky enough to keep fighting for a long time.

My experience suggests that unless and until doctors can alter one’s DNA before birth there will never be a cure for cancer. Why? Because I think all cancers are part and parcel of the natural dying process we all undergoe. We can stall, stymie, hold at bay for a long time in some cases, but in the end the Grim Reaper claims us all. In all candor people should understand cancer in that context. Acceptence of our mortality, strangely enough is one of the keys to enduring longer than predictions.

The folks at M.D. Anderson should be honest enough to say that.

First take

For 20 years, the top sector of the Oregon agricultural economy was nurseries - not something most people would have guessed, but there it is. This week, the state Department of Agriculture is reporting that order of finish has been upended, as cattle/livestock has moved into first place. This comes at a moment when a number of the state's larger cattle operations want to expand the head of cattle they can have. (The largest examples are in the Tillamook area, which is already is the state's biggest dairy center.) Here's some material from state Ag's statement on the economic order:

For the first time in 20 years, there’s a new leader among Oregon’s diverse agricultural commodities in terms of production value. Cattle and calves has regained the top spot with a record breaking year in 2014, overtaking greenhouse and nursery products. It was 1994 when greenhouse and nursery supplanted cattle and calves as number one.

Newly released statistics from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) provides a preliminary picture of last year’s crop and livestock value of production. The numbers indicate that Oregon agriculture continues to be a major economic contributor to the state. The overall estimate for total production value in 2014 is about $5.4 billion, which is roughly unchanged from the past couple of years. Some commodities have shown tremendous increases while others have declined. The successful ones rely on a formula of good production and high prices for what was sold.

With Oregon producing more than 220 commodities as part of its agriculture, there will always be some winners and some losers any given year. In general, the results of 2014 show more pluses than minuses. The value of agricultural production in Oregon last year includes a top ten list that reflects the new leader, but most of the names are familiar. ...

In addition to cattle and calves swapping places with greenhouse and nursery products from the previous year’s list, wine grapes cracked the top ten while onions dropped out. All top ten commodities showed an increase in production value from 2013 with the exception of wheat and potatoes. For the first time in history, Oregon had two commodities above the $800 million mark in production value and four commodities valued at more than a half billion dollars. Onions, Christmas trees, and blueberries just missed the top ten list yet still eclipsed $100 million in production value.

“It was generally a great year for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers,” says Kathryn Walker, special assistant to the director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “When you have so many commodities with a production value above $500 million, that’s impressive.”

By far, the most dramatic rise in production value in Oregon comes from cattle country– a nearly 38 percent increase from 2013 to 2014.

“That industry hasn’t been number one since the early 90s, so I’m sure it’s exciting to them to be a leader once again,” says Walker. “There have been some very strong cattle prices the last couple of years and that is reflected in the value of production for cattle and calves.”

The cattle and calves category is also approaching a status enjoyed only once by an Oregon agricultural commodity– the billion dollar club. Greenhouse and nursery products reached $1.039 billion in 2007. A year later, the economic recession took its toll specifically on nursery products and grass seed. Nonetheless, greenhouse and nursery is making its way back and recorded an increase of 11 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Commodities with other increases in production value in 2014 include milk (+23 percent), pears (+14 percent), hay (+11 percent), wine grapes (+10 percent), grass seed (+9 percent), and hazelnuts (+7 percent). Wheat (-22 percent) and potatoes (-3 percent) were the only commodities on the negative side of the ledger.

Some commodities outside the top ten recorded large increases in production value, including sweet corn (+29 percent) and blackberries (+18 percent). Blueberries, which occasionally reaches the top ten, saw a healthy increase (+8 percent) and continues to show strong gains each year.