Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kickin' Cancer's Butt

I'm getting tired of these cancer stories.

Here's another one that, no matter how badly you feel life has treated you, will remind you that someone else has it worse.  Or at least a different variation of really bad.

Max's mom was in treatment in Sonora at the same time Ray was receiving chemotherapy.  Max's dad used to come into the infusion center (where outpatient chemotherapy is given) wearing a big, bright button declaring, "We're Kickin' Cancer's Butt".  You knew they were fighting.  One after another, the family continues to fight.

If you're anywhere near Sonora on December 11, the Party for Max  is going to be something special.  They have so many bands participating that they are holding two parties the fairgrounds.  One is dubbed "old people's music", the acoustical stuff.  The other is loud, raucous, and geared to the younger folk.  For those who are not familiar with the Tuolumne Co. Fairgrounds, there are only 4 buildings -- not including the barns and the offices.   Town will be hoppin' that night.

This is Tuolumne Co. at its best, the part of country living I miss most.  The community is so small that if you don't know someone directly, if your kids haven't gone to school together, if you don't go to church together, or work together, if you don't cross paths at the hospital or the pharmacy or in Wal-Mart or walking down Main Street, someone you know does or has.  "You know him."  a friend will tell you, and then proceed to remind you of your links.  When someone needs, really needs, the community is there.  Cooking spaghetti or chili, donating to a raffle or auction, working a rummage sale, making music, spreading the word, lending support.  Praying.

There have been lots of needs this year.  Nicole, Megan, Sarah's grandpa, now Max.  Those who have lost their homes, or their jobs, a family member or a friend.  

Give thanks for those unsung heroes who fight cancer in laboratories and research hospitals all around the world.

Don't forget to pray .....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pray for Al

Al waited for over a year for a new liver.  Towards the end of the wait, his kidneys shut down.  He went on dialysis and was added to the list for a new kidney.

An appropriate liver turned up early this week.  So did an appropriate kidney.  His family was told that his surgery was "textbook classic".   That's good news.

Pray for Al's successful recovery.  Pray for his caretaker wife, Pat.  Pray for all recent transplant patients.

Give thanks for those who register as organ donors. 

A Rant on Garbage

I always assumed Hawaii was an environmentally friendly state.  After all, it's a miniscule land mass surrounded by a very large ocean.  Both land and water are to be respected, protected, honored.  That's the Hawaiian way.  It's apparently not the way of non-Hawaiian decision-makers who live in Hawaii.

I worked in a position where I got up close and personal with sewage treatment facilities.  Even the little kit-built plants we operated on the Hetchy treated at least to the secondary level, some to the tertiary level.  Statewide, the large plants all treat to the tertiary level -- discharging water that is not drinkable, but appropriate for golf course and other non-food irrigation.  Some treated solid waste is used as fertilizer.

Officials in Honolulu are outraged that the EPA is demanding the City upgrades to secondary treatment. That means they can no longer discharge water back into the environment after  skimming off the floaty stuff, then settling out 50% of the solids and 25-40% of something called biochemical oxygen demand.

My father left an assortment of prescription drugs, which he hated taking.  My parents shared a primary care physician, who prescribed most of those drugs.  He has told my mom that she can take one of them as needed.  There are a bunch of other drugs we need to get rid of.

The Honolulu garbage disposal website, opala.org, says that liquid medications should be poured down the drain.   Pills go into the regular garbage.  Taped closed to discourage children from opening the containers.

I cringe.  Anything that goes down the drain ends up in the sewer.  Wreaks havoc in the treatment plants.  But not in Honolulu.  Those beasties sensitive to chemicals in the system are used in secondary treatment.  They don't do secondary treatment here.

One medication in particular is a testosterone-based gel.  It comes in little foil packets.  A man can overdose by using too many packets in one day.  The package label and the package insert warn in several places that this product should NOT be handled by females.

The box is now in the garbage can, securely taped and double bagged.  Vicoden, methodone, and other pills popular in illegal drug circles go into the same garbage can.  There is no option.

Someone in California suggested that pill containers should be opened and the contents poured into plastic bags filled with used kitty litter!   Puppy poop would be equally effective.

Give thanks for those who think before disposing of potentially hazardous materials, from lei string and  those plastic things that hold together cans and bottles in the market, to fluorescent light tubes and used batteries and disposable diapers.

Don't forget to pray ....

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Tribute to a Waterman

I gulped as the canoes gathered.

I knew the Malia was coming.  The Malia, 60+ year old koa canoe, the first Waikiki Surf Club canoe to make the annual 41-mile race across the Ka'iwi Channel between Moloka'i and Oahu, the club's pride, the beauty who seldom now is used because she so precious. Just having the Malia present was a special honor.

 I didn't know that there would be four canoes, three with a full complement of club paddlers, three club paddlers on the Malia and seats for those who would carry and spread the ashes. They were magnificent, those canoes in the red and gold of the club my dad was instrumental in founding, setting off the distinctive koa hull of the Malia, trimmed in red, paddlers in their team shirts of gold and red.

I knew that the NaDu K2, the 27-foot fishing boat my dad owned for 40 years, would be one of the escorts, courtesy of the Waikiki Yacht Club.  I knew that the Waikiki Surft Club would bring their own escort boat.  I didn't know that Pat, who often fished with my dad, would be there with his own boat, the True Grit, and several other men who fished with them over the years.

The little fleet of a dozen or so tiny sailboats in the harbor the channel may or may not have been a planned part of the parade, but they waited as we passed, led by the Malia, then joined us out through the channel, beyond the surfing lanes, where the canoes formed a circle.  The rest circled around the canoes.

Both my children, my parents' only grandchildren, were here to honor their grandfather.  They were in the Malia, as was our half-sister, Jackie.  Together they shared the task of spreading the ashes.  Then came the flowers.  So many flowers in so many colors, all loose to protect the ocean environment and to honor a man who loved this ocean.  The canoes made one more pass, then headed back to shore.  The power boats circled twice, then followed the canoes back to the harbor.

There must have been about 40 folk in addition to the paddlers who came to honor and bid farewell to this man who had touched their lives.  There were neighbors, past and present.  There were fishing buddies and business associates.  Dennis flew in from Southern California for the day.  Christie came from Seattle, also for the day.  There were a handful of surfing legends present, folk who and worked with my dad in building the Waikiki Surf Club.  Mark, the surfing historian and surf board collector, came.  So did Sandy, the writer, who came to know my dad as she was writing a biography of Duke Kahanamoku.  Cousins from my mother's side of the family were there.  So were close friends of my brother and sister-in-law, and some of my own friends from Daughters of Hawaii.  There was a generous buffet table and beverages courtesy of the Waikiki Yacht Club, and an open bar.

When my father went into nursing care, he transitioned over to an MD who routinely visits the nursing homes in Honolulu.  As it happens, he lives next door to one of my co-volunteers at Daughters of Hawaii.  I've occasionally laughed and said to Pili, "If I have trouble reaching the doc, I'll just ask you to go next door and leave a note on his front door!"   I was touched when Pili offered a box of flowers from her own garden.  "The orchids are courtesy of Dr. Johnson's garden." her note told us.  I had to smile.

One more time.  Good-bye, Daddy.  Be at peace.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Not my granddaughter Meghan, who is a delightful and bright young woman in her own right.  As is her big sister Katie.

This Megan is the daughter of one of Tuolumne County's judges.  I knew her parents "way back when" in another lifetime.  Visited with her dad occasionally when I was working in Sonora and in and out of the courthouse on a regular basis.  Haven't seen her mom in many years.  Both Megan's parents are the kind of people who hang around in the recesses of memory, people who have (or will) touch your life in some significant way. 

Megan passed away early this morning.  She had acute myeloid anemia.  It was diagnosed as she was delivering her first child.  Her daughter is just 4 months old. 

I learned about Megan's diagnosis through a Facebook post by a mutual friend.  Hundreds of others must have learned about Megan a similar way -- through word of mouth and from social networking by friends and friends of friends.  Today, there are literally thousands of voices all over the world lifted in continuing prayers for Megan and her family.  Her short life, her struggles, her bravery, the love of the family members for each other, their commitment to their faith and the commitment of their friends, are all powerfully present in the many postings on Facebook and through the blog maintained by Megan's husband.   

If, after reading or hearing Megan's story, you are inspired to reach out in faith, to pray, to invest some time in social action or interaction, to hug someone, then Megan has touched your life.  She continues to make a difference, one life at a time.  She continues to live in the hearts of those she touches.  

Give thanks for Megan's life.  Pray for Ryan, Rylee, Megan's parents and for her siblings.  Go into the world. Make a difference in someone else's life.  For you.  For Megan.