Monday, August 26, 2019

'Gaping hole' is found in U.S. health system

N.Y. Times article exposes major economic hardships that some cancer caregivers are facing

America's health system is badly flawed because it's making caregivers of patients with cancer and other diseases work much too hard to negotiate it — especially economically.

Aaron E. Carroll
That's the basic conclusion of a recent The New York Times article by Aaron E. Carroll, a professor at Indiana University School of Medicine.

In the piece, Carroll says his friend, international fraternity CEO Jim Fleischer's story about a rare cancer taught him about the problem in our health system.

Despite his friend having "great insurance" and "enough money" and getting "excellent care," he discovered the "impossibility and hardship faced by…friends and family members who are caregivers."

The situation, Carroll writes, is "hugely disrupting and expensive. There's no system for it. It's a gaping hole." 

The writer cites as an example that following his surgery and chemotherapy, his friend's wife, mother-in-law, friends and co-workers needed to take lots of time off to care for him and take him to appointments.

Carroll also suggests that "if it was this hard for [Jim], it's probably unbearable for many others with fewer resources. People can be financially ruined by illness — and health insurance won't fix that."

Last year, the Times piece notes, "it's estimated that more than 1.7 million people faced a cancer diagnosis. The year before, America spent more than $147 billion caring for people with cancer. But that doesn't include the costs outside of health care."

This year, the article continues, "the National Cancer Institute will spend more than $5.7 billion on cancer research. Almost none of that will investigate how to support the families of those who have the disease."

Researchers in the past have estimated the "economic burden for caregivers for patients with lung and colorectal cancer," Carroll says. "They reported that the average cost to a caregiver in the initial phase of treatment was more than $7,000," with an additional $20,000 spent after treatment on so-called continuing care.

Another study cited caregiving costs for breast cancer at $38,000, lung cancer at $72,000, for ovarian cancer $66,000, for lymphoma $59,000.

Carroll concludes that it's crucial to recognize "that the efforts of caregivers are probably just as important to health as the drugs and procedures the medical system provides."

More details about the issues that helpmates have can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

'Seismic shift' about fragility hits food industry

Female chefs in San Francisco fight restaurant industry taboo, speak out about having breast cancer

Several female chefs have had to fight the macho atmosphere of Michelin-rated San Francisco Bay Area restaurants when they contracted breast cancer.

According to a story by Mary Ladd in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, those chefs had to break a long-standing taboo in the $800 billion industry against talking openly about the disease. 

"Stress, long hours and pressure have historically been constant" in the restaurant world, an environment in which "even taking time off for illness has been a no-no," the story notes.

Pim Techamuanvivit
That, Ladd explains, fuses with "the old macho chef mentality that you shouldn't talk about mental and physical health."

But the story details what may be a "seismic shift" in attitude happening.

It cites as an example Pim Techamuanvivit, a Michelin star-recipient who attended an award story in a wheelchair "because she was recovering from her third breast cancer surgery" — an event she wouldn't miss "even if she was…in pain."

Techamuanvivit found support from Kin Khao employees who changed shifts to be there when she couldn't. She reported, too, that "managers who had already left to help open other restaurants would come back to take over a few nights a week."

The Chronicle piece also quotes pastry chef/cancer patient Carolyn Nugent, who'd worked  in five three-star kitchens, as saying that she doesn't think there specifically "is a stigma of having cancer in the culinary world [but] there is a stigma of having any sort of weakness in the culinary world."

And she elaborates: "You learn to push through the pain. In the kitchen, anything that is not related to the job is a distraction — and when you lose your focus on the job, unpleasant things happen."

Dominique Crenn, the story indicates, posted photos on Instagram with her hair gone as a result of chemotherapy — and several of her co-workers at her three-star Michelan restaurant Atelier Crenn also "posted photos of their own shaved heads as a sign of support."

Much more information about attitudes regarding the disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Pair to get $87 million for Roundup lymphoma

An Alameda County judge blames Monsanto for cancer-causing agent despite cutting $2 billion award 

Even as a judge sliced an award against Monsanto from $2 billion, she reaffirmed the jury's conclusion that the company's weedkiller was "a substantial factor" in causing cancer.

Judge Winifred Smith
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith recently reduced the verdict to $87 million in the lawsuit brought by Alva and Alberta Pilliod after, having used Roundup for three decades, the couple contracted non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

But the judge also asserted, according to an Associated Press story, that evidence "supported the finding that Monsanto knew the herbicide's active ingredient, glyphosate, could be dangerous and failed to warn the couple from Livermore, California."

It marked the third time a judge had reduced an award over the disputed chemical.

Smith cut the punitive damages from $1 billion each to $70 million for the pair, and awarded the Pilliods $17 million for future pain and suffering.

The lawyer for the couple, Brent Wisner, called the overall ruling "a major victory."

But Monsanto's corporate parent, the German pharmaceutical firm Bayer AG, intends to appeal.

The three California trials were the first involving an estimated 13,000 plaintiffs with pending suits again the agribusiness, the AP story indicates.

Monsanto will face its first non-California trial at a courthouse in St. Louis this month.

Information about other trials of manufacturers whose products cause disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I,
Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.