Monday, February 28, 2011

I'm moving my butt in March to save yours.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. 

There is a strong family history of colon cancer in my family.

My grandmother.

My fraternal aunt.

My father.

My big brother.

And my other big brother had radical surgery to treat ulcerative colitis.

After all those incidences, and because family history is such a strong indicator for cancer, my sister and I elected to have early screening. Both of us have had precancerous polyps removed.

We both have regular follow-up tests, every 3 - 5 years.

My father knew something was wrong but nobody talked about colon cancer back then, just like nobody used to talk about breast cancer. We are still squeamish about the language, still uncomfortable discussing body functions. My father's colon cancer was found only after he had suffered a stroke that changed his life fundamentally and forever -- and it was blood clots thrown off by the cancer that had grown large in his left transverse colon that triggered the stroke.  He battled through surgery, nearly died during chemotherapy, but is a survivor still. 

Same story for my brother (minus the stroke, thank God).  I will never forget the moment his surgery was over, and Dr. McRae coming out to the waiting room where we all were, and telling my sister and me to get ourselves screened immediately.  It was not what we wanted to hear, but we both heeded his advice, and we are both grateful.

I cannot stress this enough: a colonoscopy is not only the best way to detect tumors in the colon when they are not yet life-threatening, the physician performing the test is able to easily remove an entire unwelcome growth for biopsy, and if caught early enough there may well be no need for any further procedure.

The good news is that great strides are being made in getting the word out that early detection saves lives, but the bad news is that colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. 

Did you hear that?

Colon Cancer is Number Two.

(I'll wait for the giggling to stop.)

So -- during the month of March I ask you to consider supporting me in a very casual wog-a-thon to raise money to fight colorectal cancer.  I'm not asking for money directly. I'm not asking you to pledge a certain amount. I'm not even getting involved with the donation process at all.  I know what it feels like to be put on the spot, and I don't wish to do that.  ("Wogging" is a combination of walking and jogging. Some folks call this interval training. I think wogging sounds more fun.)

Here's how this will work (or not work):

I "wog" most days when the weather cooperates. I log my miles on two websites: MapMyWalk (which does so automatically through my GPS; my username is eleanor49) and MyDailyMile  (search for me using my e-mail address).  I usually also post my miles to Facebook (and I know some of you have turned off the feed for that, which is perfectly fine).  Of course, if you aren't interested in following my progress daily I will post updates here throughout the month. 

You decide whether or even when to donate, and to what organization.

Here are two I recommend, though:

The Montgomery Cancer Wellness Foundation is located here, and while they are not involved in research or anything, they provide tons of services free of charge to those undergoing treatment. There may be a similar program in your community if you aren't from here -- and that would be great to support, too.

Additionally, there is the Colon Cancer Alliance which is a great awareness organization, and of course, if you want to contribute directly to research for treatment and cure of colorectal cancer I am sure you can do so through any research facility in the country.

But what I really want you to do in response to this blog post is this:


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In which lettuce plays a role...

This afternoon I filled my car up with $3.12 per gallon gasoline.  I hoped to grab a newspaper at the station, but it appeared they were out. I didn't feel like fighting traffic to get back across the street to Super Foods so I just came on home. After I'd been here awhile I decided I really did want to go to the store for lettuce, but gee whiz -- that $3.12 per gallon thing was weighing so heavily on my mind.

Then I realized that the weather was so nice, and heck, we live within walking distance from the grocery, and all I needed was that newspaper and a head of lettuce, so off I went.

I am pleased to report that it was a successful journey, one on which I had another one of my little ah-ha! moments.

Why don't I do that more often? Why don't we all who live within walking distance of the places to which we need to get for just a handful of something put on our shoes and walk to get there?

I honestly don't believe laziness is the whole story. I think we just forget that we have that option sometimes. I think we're afraid people will wonder what's wrong with us. I think most of our neighborhoods are not particularly pedestrian friendly -- and you should not take off on foot if yours isn't -- and I also think that this is at least part of the reason we feel so disconnected from the people with whom we share our personal geography.

Walking to Super Foods I spoke to a woman sitting at the bus stop, who had a smile as big as the moon. We didn't engage in a discussion -- just the neighborly, "Hi - how are you? Isn't it pretty out here today?"

In those few seconds, we became real to each other. That doesn't happen when you're passing someone at 35 miles per hour down Carter Hill Road.

I wondered if she was mentally rehearsing what she was going to fix for supper like I was; if she was eager to get home to watch her favorite TV show; if she had a story from her day she couldn't wait to share.

On the way back from the grocery, lettuce and newspaper in hand, I spoke to a young man with a head full of dreadlocks and a Bama jersey on. He and I made eye contact, I said "Roll Tide," he smiled, offered me one in return, and we became real to each other.

I think a whole lot of what's gone wrong here in my town -- and maybe in yours, too -- is that we've forgotten what it is to connect with people we really don't have to connect with.

A whole lot of what can begin to go right again begins with a short stroll, a nod, and a smile. And all that takes, sometimes, is leaving the car at home, and taking a short walk to where you need to go.

Maybe this $3.12 per gallon thing won't be such a bad thing, after all.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bad Times and Good Food

Even those people who love me the most will tell you that I should be a candidate for this, one of our favorite shows on Food Network. (Saving for a later date my suitability for What Not To Wear, of course.)

I would not argue with them one iota. When our younger son, Thomas, was about 4 or 5, he looked up from his dinner plate and said, "Mama? This is the best food you ever made."

It was Hamburger Helper.

My dear husband, Henry, is the person with the cooking genes around here. He grew up eating those wonderful country spreads that his Mama laid out all the time, and when I was a young bride with woefully inadequate kitchen skills my sweet mother-in-law told me not to bother with learning because "Lin* loves to do it, and he's good at it." I am not much of one for taking advice, but I heeded hers.

I will tell you that I have nearly perfected my Mama's Amazing Potato Salad recipe, and am now the family keeper of that responsibility. I am not a total lost cause, people.

This season of unemployment through which we are traveling means that we are making our food dollars stretch as far as we possibly can. Historically, we have always eaten out or ordered take-out at least once a week, but so far in 2011 we have done that only 3 times: once on a gift certificate a sweet friend sent for our anniversary; once on a gift certificate that one of Henry's customers had given him one Christmas; and we caved and got $12 in Chinese take-out this weekend. Wild, I know.

Anyway....  we had stocked up on pork chops recently when Winn-Dixie had them deeply reduced, so I knew we were having those for supper tonight. But what to go with?

We had bought a bag of apples at the grocery last week that had a wonderful flavor but were a little mealier than I like. We also had 6 small potatoes that were a little less than wonderfully firm. In ordinary times all of these things would have found their way into the compost pile, but tonight?

I chopped those suckers up with some white onion and carrots, tossed them in olive oil and some seasonings, and popped them in the oven to roast.  Roasting vegetables/fruits that are on the questionable end of the scale is the culinary equivalent of wearing a black muu muu: a multitude of sins can be covered quite nicely.

I am here to report that this combination was out of this world!

While we were knocking each other down for seconds I couldn't help but recall that so many of our classic Southern dishes were born of a time when folks couldn't afford to let one little thing go to waste, and I am learning that with a little heat and a little seasoning, you can put a pretty fine meal on the table from lots of lost causes. 

How fun is THAT??

* Lin is what Henry's family calls him. His old friends call him Blue or Bluejohn. I call him Cap. His granddaughter calls him Pop. The poor man will answer to anything.