Saturday, January 30, 2016

Art stems from 1 in 8 women getting the disease

Torso project shows how breast cancer survivors turn suffering into display of healing, courage

I've long believed in the concept of turning a negative into a positive.

So I admire the breast cancer survivors who — with help from families and friends —  plaster-cast their bodies into an art project.  

As one artist, the uni-named Matuschka, says in a foreword to the book, "1 in 8: The Torso Project," many of the artworks "show the face of female suffering and fragility" yet "demand a response from the viewer, as if the women are saying…'Deal with our losses, with our vulnerability, and fears, yes, but also with our beauty, strength, and courage.'"

The figures in the title refer to the horrifically real odds that 1 in every 8 women in the United States will get breast cancer.

Symbolically, the first "torsoettes," as the women who participate in the art project are called, numbered eight.

The project promotes exhibits of casts made and decorated by survivors in Western Massachusetts. It was originated by Pam Roberts, the book's editor, a woman who opted not to have reconstruction or use a protheses and has made at least half a dozen torsos to show her scars.

Her purpose? "To help her "excise and exorcise the fear of breast cancer and transform it into an expression of courage and love," she says in her book.
"An Once of Prevention"

The paperback includes a color photo of "An Once of Prevention," a piece by Betsy Corner that used limbs and leaves to represent "the lush green of our hills and valleys, the trees which breathe for us" — and, at the same time, to act as a warning about the "chemical toxins that permeate our soil, food, water, and air.

Also, as a rallying cry to "use our purchasing power to change corporate practices" that put those chemicals "in everything from laundry products to lethal herbicides and pesticides."                                                
The project has gone beyond its small-town origins and has now been the center of multiple free, torso-creating workshops in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

It occurs to me that its motto might be, "Have torso, will travel."
Amy Wasserman and her art.
The torso project is one of a dozen resources listed in the playbill for a new play, "Breastless," by Laurel Turk, that addresses the fact that "there are very few voices expressing outrage at the breast cancer epidemic that continues on."

A friend who's seen it tells me that enthusiastic audiences have been packed with breast cancer survivors.

I, Woody Weingarten, celebrate breast cancer survivors — especially my wife, Nancy Fox — in my book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," which is aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Are researchers, discoveries being cloistered?

Biden urges end to 'cancer politics' but more teamwork among docs, scientists, donors

Vice President Joseph Biden

It's a presidential election year so, naturally, there's lots of disturbing politics (no matter where you're positioned on the bell curve).

Perhaps none more upsetting, however, than the politics of the cancer world that, according to Vice President Joseph Biden, is the greatest obstacle to curing the disease.

According to a recent Associated Press story by Josh Lederman, Biden — who lost his 46-year-old son, Beau, to brain cancer last May — is now asking Americans to demand that scientists collaborate to overcome "cancer politics" and, thereby, find a cure.

His rallying cry came a month after he announced he wouldn't run for president.

Biden delivered his plea in Houston at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose Moon Shots program is aimed at finding an end to the massive killer.

The story says the vice president's found, after meeting with almost 200 oncologists, scientists and benefactors in the cancer community, an excess of "competition, territorialism and resistance to information-sharing."

The result, they apparently indicated to him, is that "researchers and their discoveries [have been left] cloistered in their own corners."

Biden plans not only to seek more funding but to encourage increased data-sharing.

It's been half a century since President Nixon declared war on cancer. Clearly, the war has not been won (despite survival rates having been improved, the American Cancer Society has predicted, according to the AP story, "1.7 million new cancer cases this year and nearly 600,000 deaths").

In a follow-up to his initial announcement, Biden softened his personal "moon shot" from facilitating a cure to a more realistic goal of doubling the rate of progress (meaning researchers would accomplish in five years what normally would take 10).

It's been unclear, however, exactly what "cure" Biden seeks — considering that cancer is hardly monolithic.

To learn more about that, and how researchers keep changing their minds and findings, check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed especially at male caregivers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Book for male caregivers available everywhere

Stores re-stocking book aimed at male caregivers of breast cancer patients, 'Rollercoaster'

Help available at any age.
Is finding a copy of "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer" like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack?

No, not really.

Whyte's Booksmith, the independent shop in my adopted hometown of San Anselmo, just re-stocked it.

Other shops around the country are doing likewise.

But you can order a copy from virtually any bookstore in the United States even if it doesn't keep one on its health, medical, self-help or general non-fiction shelves. Just tell your favorite place to get it from Ingram, the biggest distributor of books in America.

Or you can purchase it from Amazon.

"Rollercoaster," not incidentally, is available in hardcover, paperback (the biggest seller) or ebook format.