Monday, November 23, 2015

As Thanksgiving Day 2015 approaches…

We're grateful, decades later, for being cancer-free, in decent health — and still in love

Black Friday's right around the corner but I couldn't care less.

Indeed, I, Woody Weingarten, may be the world's worst consumer/shopper.

Woody Weingarten and Nancy Fox — still in love.
Necessities are what I purchase. Luxuries are what I tend to leave for everyone else to buy.

That's because I have virtually everything I truly need (the Bentley I've always fantasized about notwithstanding to the contrary).

With Thanksgiving Day also staring me in the face once again, though, I can't help but ponder what heads the list of hundreds of things I'm grateful for — with the answer coming quickly: 

My wife, Nancy Fox, and I — despite having entered our geezerhoods — are cancer-free, comparatively healthy, still "an item" and still in love after nearly 30 years together.

In recent public appearances, I ended both short and long speeches with two brief excerpts from my VitalityPress book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer." The book is aimed specifically at male caregivers but its messages clearly apply to both genders.

And the fragments act as reminders to both Nancy and me what we endured when she was diagnosed more than 20 years ago with breast cancer.

And that we've survived.

And thrived.

The initial excerpt is something I borrowed from my wife's diary. It was written after she'd been declared cured of the disease:

"I have considered what I want in my life. Peace, love harmony, an end to war throughout the world. Those desires have not changed. But now I want to pay more attention to Woody, be a better mother and daughter.

"I have allowed myself to befriend visualizations, crystals, vitamins, hands-on healing. I have prayed.

"I want this entry in my diary to be profound. I want to remember all the important things, to put them down for me and Woody and whoever to see. But I don't feel profound. I simply feel relieved, so glad it's over."

My excerpt is no less emotional. In fact, my eyes seem to water each time I read it:

"We can now offer greater understanding and kindness to each other — and to virtually everyone who touches our lives. We can now recognize it's not crucial what gender or age someone with a life-threatening disease is, and that both designated patient and anointed caregiver require nurturing.

"We can more regularly keep our priorities in order, strive for balance, unblock our spirituality and divert the million potential intrusions on our lives each week.

"The day we wed, I read [this] to my wife-to-be:

"Through all the nows and yet-to-comes, I pledge only this: to love you without reservations, as fully as the human condition will allow; to nurture our creative talents, so our individual and collective light may brighten a few shadowy corners of this dimension; and to cherish and retain, always, my glorious vision of us as soulmates…"

And then I inevitably add:

"Almost 30 years later, I haven't changed my mind — or my intent."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Family parades together for To Celebrate Life

Husband, wife and daughter model with other breast cancer survivors to raise money 

It was a family affair, what President John F. Kennedy might have called a combination profile in courage.

It involved Thomas R. Mautner; his wife, Cheryl Rose Mautner; and their daughter. Victoria Mautner Zemrak.

All three participated in a recent San Rafael "evening of enchantment" that marked the 20th anniversary of the Marin County nonprofit, the To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation.

The trio "stepped out" by modeling on the runway of the organization's annual fundraising fashion show of breast cancer survivors.

They were among the 31 who paraded at the event, which also included live and silent auctions, entertainment and dancing.

Tom Mautner
Tom Mautner was the only male to model this year.

He'd had a mastectomy on Feb. 14, 2002 — "a terrible way to spend Valentine's Day," he was quoted in the event's program — after being diagnosed and informed he was part of the 1 percent of breast cancer patients that are male.

Two years later, Victoria was diagnosed at age 34.
Victoria Mautner Zemrak

The mother of five was found to have two types of breast cancer (and a cyst) in her right breast. She underwent a lumpectomy, followed by a mastectomy when more cancer was found in the margins. Reconstructive surgery came last year after treatments of chemotherapy, Herceptin and tamoxifen.

"God, family and friends were my solid rock through all the hard times," she's said. "I couldn't have made it without them."

Cheryl last year had radiation after her surgery
Cheryl Mautner

The mother of three, grandmother of 10 and great-grandmother of three gratefully noted in the program that "My husband…was and is always by my side."

The Sebastopol couple has been married 47 years.

The motto of To Celebrate Life, whose mission is to "raise funds and grant financial assistance to nonprofit organizations [in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area] that provide services and support to people living with breast cancer," is succinct:

"No one should face breast cancer alone. With your help, no one will."

Since its inception, To Celebrate Life has given more than $4 million to fund emergency and direct services for breast cancer patients.

So far.

To learn where to contact agencies and organizations like To Celebrate Life that can help breast cancer patients, their partners and families, I, Woody Weingarten, urge you to check out my book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," which is aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Woody Weingarten gets out his upbeat message

'Rollercoaster' author to do hourlong talk-radio interview, then speak at caregiver confab

November's key phrase for me is "getting out the message."


Because I, Woody Weingarten, will be on the VoiceAmerica talk radio network in a live interview from 2 to 3 p.m. Nov. 11, and then I'll be the main speaker at the 8th annual Healings in Motion caregivers conference at 1 p.m. three days later, Nov. 14, in Stockton.

My message is that men can successfully be caregivers for their ailing partners, that they and their partners and their relationships can all survive, and that there can be light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

That combo message is also the main thrust of my VitalityPress book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," which is aimed at male caregivers. 
Cheryl Jones

The interview — to be conducted by Cheryl Jones, host of "Good Grief" — will be archived on the VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness Channel and on iTunes afterwards.

Jones says her program aims to "share how [interviewees] have walked through their own exquisite pain and what they have gained as a result." 

Her interviews, she adds, allow listeners to "come away ready to follow our own dreams to a deeper, more meaningful time on this beautiful earth!"
Mary Nicholson

The conference, which carries the theme "Inner Safari: A Joyful Day to Relax, Retool and Renew," is — according to the organization's website — "tailored to prevent burn-out, assist caregivers in developing skills and gaining the knowledge necessary to fulfill caregiving responsibilities."

It actually will encompass the hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m and will feature other speakers, workshops, body massages, improv comedy and vendor booths — at the Robert Cabral Center. 

Last  year's confab drew about 400 participants; it is hoped that this year's will be even larger.

Healings in Motion was founded by Mary Nicholson following a brain aneurysm, stroke and grand mal seizure — after she'd served as a caregiver for her husband, who'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Brad Pitt comforts his wife 'throughout ordeal'

Angelina Jolie fighting early menopause after prophylactic surgeries to prevent cancer

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
Actress Angelina Jolie, who recently had surgeries to ward off breast and ovarian cancer, is fighting early menopause as a result.

According to the Daily Dish, the 40-year-old told broadcaster Tom Brokaw that her 51-year-old husband, actor Brad Pitt, has comforted her "throughout the ordeal" and had made it clear "the surgeries wouldn't take anything away from the woman he fell in love with."

Jolie said he'd also indicated "that what he loved, and what was a woman to him, was somebody who was smart, and capable, and cared about her family. It's not about the physical body."

She knew throughout the surgeries, she elaborated, "that he was on my side and this wasn't something where I was gong to feel less of a woman — because my husband wasn't gonna let that happen."  

Jolie had her ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed in March, as a preventative measure, after doctors had found what might be early signs of ovarian cancer.

In 2013, the superstar had a prophylactic double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation that heightened her risk of developing breast cancer to about 87 percent. 

Her mom, Marcia Lynne "Marcheline" Bertrand, wife of actor Jon Voight, had died of ovarian cancer in 2007, at age 56, after an eight-year battle.

Rose Barlow, executive director of Zero Breast Cancer, a Marin County nonprofit dedicated "to prevention and finding the causes of breast cancer," has commented that "removing Fallopian tubes and ovaries not only significantly reduces the risk of those organs becoming diseased but also substantially reduces BRCA carriers' breast cancer rates."

Dish reported that Jolie told Brokaw in the joint interview on the "Today" show that "I knew the breast would be a bigger surgery and physically changing. The ovaries is more [about] your hormones changing and your emotions changing, but it's different — you feel different."

Pitt, praising his wife's lack of vanity, noted that the surgeries and aftermath together became "another one of those things in life that makes you tighter."

He added that "she was doing it for the kids, and she was doing it for her family, so [that] trumped everything and anything."

What's involved in being a male caregiver? "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer" provides a detailed study of the role's ups and downs.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Headlines wrongly equate meat risks to smoking

First news reports exaggerate causal links that processed and red meats have to cancers 

Despite "persuasive evidence that eating meat can cause cancer," the risks are "very small for most people," declares an editorial in The New York Times.

The scathing commentary came after a World Health Organization (WHO) adjunct, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, found that processed meats (especially bacon, ham, corned beef, sausages and hot dogs) may be linked to colon and stomach cancers.

The group, according to an earlier Times news article by Anahad O'Connor, the WHO arm had evaluated more than 900 environmental and lifestyle factors that may contribute to cancer — including coffee, sunlight and night-shift work. 

The agency's report, which was published in "The Lancet Oncology" and based on a review of 800 epidemiological studies from various nations with differing diets and ethnicities, also indicated that red meats (beef and pork) may be a probable cause of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers.

Initial news reports that the risks from eating those meats were as high as that of smoking were grossly exaggerated, however.

Dr. John Ioannidis
The Times editorial quoted Dr. John Ioannidis, chair of disease prevention at Stanford, as saying, "I think it's very important that we don't terrorize people into thinking that they should not eat any red meat at all."

Ioannidis, who wasn't involved in the WHO report, may be best known for causing an academic uproar when he published a paper in 2005 titled "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False."

To be fair, the Times news piece also quoted Susan Tapster, vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, as calling "the panel's conclusions 'an important step' in helping people make more healthful dietary choices."

Recent ACS guidelines suggest skipping both processed and red meat and substituting fish, poultry and beans.

Causes of breast and other cancers are discussed at length in the VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer."