Friday, August 24, 2007

Thanks Lynn Johnston

Non-medical today but, in a way, writing related.

My favourite comic strip of all time is Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse. I’ve been reading her strip since it began and laughed – and cried – with the Patterson family. When the main character, Elly, was pregnant with her third child, April, I was pregnant with my third. The thoughts and ideas she presented were so true to what I was experiencing. I’ll never forget sitting in my OB’s office, waiting for him, and noticing one of the FBorFW strips on his bulletin board. It had Elly, very pregnant, thinking to herself that she had everything ready and then she looked at her belly and said something like “and so, what about you?” How true.

The CBC has published this wonderful interview with Lynn Johnston as her strip is winding down. For those of you who don’t know the strip, Lynn drew it in real life. The characters grew up and characters died. The strip provoked much controversy when a gay teen-aged character came out and when the Patterson’s family dog died.

As much as it is/was a strip about an imaginary family, it hit home a lot. When my golden retriever, Rox, died in January 2004, I printed out an old strip that ran after the Patterson’s dog, Farley, died. It has Elizabeth, the daughter, talking to her friend and telling her that she sometimes hears Farley – and in the last box, you do see Farley following them. I kept that strip up next to my desk for many months; I found it very comforting.

I knew that Lynn was retiring and I knew it was in September 2007, but it’s only this morning that I realized that this is within a few weeks. Our daily paper has a whole page of comic strips, but there are only four that I read. For Better or For Worse is the first one I read and the only one I make sure I read. I’ll miss it.

Thank you Lynn.

News for Today:
Surgery for severe obesity saves lives
Even a little exercise has health benefits: study

New safety measures for nurses
Pap smears are first line of defence

FDA Approves Risperdal for Two Psychiatric Conditions in Children and Adolescents

Thursday, August 23, 2007

working night shift

The story about no link between working the night shift and increased cancer risk caught my eye. As someone who preferred to work nights over any other shift, this gave me reason to pause.

I always preferred night shift – not because the work was easier (often it’s not) but because there was something about the shift that appealed to me. When I worked in intensive care, the work we had during the night was exactly the same as during the day, but there were fewer people coming and going, fewer tests being run, fewer visitors, and so on. It allowed us to do our work and spend time with our patients.

When I worked in palliative care, I liked being able to talk to the patients who couldn’t sleep, speak with family members who stayed over night but they couldn’t sleep, giving support and an understanding ear whenever needed.

Of course, in certain situations, working nights is somewhat easier than days or evenings. At night, we didn’t have a lot of the daily routines, but what a lot of people forget is that also when working nights, our bodies are doing something that isn’t natural. While there are night owls out there, many of the night nurses are not true night owls. Trying to get a good quality sleep during the day is not the easiest thing in the world and the sleep deprivation builds up.

I remember once working in a situation where the day nurses were extremely critical of what the night nurses did and didn’t do. It finally reached a boiling point and until we could get them to work a good slew of nights – not just a few here or there – they wouldn’t understand. That caused hard feelings between the shifts – and that shouldn’t happen.

There are so many people who work night shifts, from nurses to firefighters to bus drivers and so many more. The interesting thing is that a huge proportion of these night workers have incredible responsibilities, often holding the safety of fellow humans in their hands.

So, I guess this ramble was a bit about how I liked to work nights, how I wish people would be more understanding of those who worked nights (even coworkers!), and I just felt like writing about it. :-)

News for today:
Study Finds No Link Between Working The Night Shift And An Increased Risk Of Cancer
Gastric bypass reduces mortality risk in severely obese patients
Half of Canadians physically inactive, StatsCan says
Diabetes control a must before heart surgery
Results of Lasik not always clear

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back to school!

Back to school

September is my New Year – more so than January. It’s the time of year when we advanced a grade, moved up another level, and started with new resolutions about doing homework or studying harder. As we advanced through the school system, we got to study new subjects and we met new people. When I became a parent, this was reinforced. My kids always seemed a bit older come the beginning of the new school year.

These days, back to school also means a concern about mumps in Canadian colleges and universities. In January of this year, there was an outbreak of mumps in the Maritimes. As the students returned home for the holidays, they took the virus with them and there have been several outbreaks across the country.

It turns out that college and university aged students and young adults are the most vulnerable to mumps these days. Those born before the 1970s were exposed to the virus itself and younger children received the double-dose MMR vaccine as part of the routine vaccinations, but that only started in the early 1990s. Since the illness is spread through saliva (sneezing, coughing, kissing, sharing cigarettes and glasses, for example), it can spread rapidly in a college or university environment. As well, you can have the virus – and spread it – for up to 7 days before you show any symptoms. There is a call now for students to get re-vaccinated to reduce their risk of contracting mumps. It’s estimated that the vaccine will prevent mumps in 90% of cases.

Why prevent the mumps? I survived them, as did many others my age, that’s true. But, like many seemingly benign childhood diseases, mumps can cause serious complications as well. They include:

-Orchitis (inflammation of the testicle(s))
-Male sterility
-Oophorotis (inflammation of the ovary/ies)
-Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
-Meningitis (inflammation of the meninges)
-Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
-Hearing loss
-Miscarriage in pregnant women

Symptoms of mumps include:

-Swelling and pain in the salivary glands between the ear and the jaw
-Sore throat
-Aching joints
-Poor appetite

It’s a childhood disease that’s miserable to have as a child – and much more so to have as an adult. So, it’s time to discuss this with my kids, who are 20, 18 and just shy of 16 years old.

News for Today:
Hypertension appears to be frequently undiagnosed in children and adolescents
Minor strokes still have side-effects: researcher
Kids, susceptible adults need catch-up vaccination for mumps
Obesity predicts prostate cancer recurrence
Virgin olive oil may help keep blood clot-free

All time daily visitor record


Thanks to yesterdays, uh, controversial (??) topic, I had almost 400 page loads from 254 new visitors and 26 return visitors. Of course, thanks to tracking programs, I know that many of my new visitors were from the UV site. :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Responding to blogs

I seem to have, unknowingly, caused some people to be seriously angered (way out of proportion, in my opinion) by my post on skin cancer. Sadly, some people don't read thoroughly or properly before proceeding to jump on me and my comments. Please read the numbers properly. I stated the *Canadian* numbers, then the *US* numbers. I did not say that 900 people in North America will die of skin cancer as per one of my commenters. Read - and then comment. Don't comment on what you *think* you read.

I have had to delete some rather nasty comments, although I have chosen to keep the one that tells me how ugly I am. Don't know why - maybe because it showcases how some people are. I don't have time to go back constantly and see what is publishable (sorry, the so-called bad words, name calling, etc, are not publishable), so if there are any more like that, I shall put the comments as moderated.

As far as I'm concerned, I posted my opinion and it's one that makes sense in my world. The people who are dying of skin cancer did not have the SPF products that we have now, so blaming the products is, in my opinion, way off base. However, those of you who feel that way are more than entitled to say so, even in my blog comments. So, if you're respectful in your point of view, then it will be published. If you are not respectful, you will be deleted.

End of story.

Skin cancer in the news again

I know that the chances are pretty high that there are least a couple of readers who use tanning beds or who tan deeply in the sun – I like to think that most don’t. However, in a new study, there are still high school students who ignore all the messages and continue to use tanning beds. To me, tanning beds are akin to cigarettes. Both are terribly dangerous and can cause death.

In palliative care, I looked after people who were dying of skin cancer. I know people personally who died of skin cancer. I also know people who are at very high risk of it. The fact that my generation and higher is seeing a lot of skin cancer isn’t surprising to me. After all, we did go out in the sun as kids and, especially if you are fair like me, we got burned, burned, and burned again. I had burns so bad that they are treated in hospital emergencies if a kid gets them now. Huge blisters on my shoulders and nights and days of agony because I couldn’t lie down or move without being in a lot of pain. And the dehydration that went along with it. Miserable, it was so miserable.

But now that we know how dangerous it is, why is it that people don’t listen? It must be part of that it will never happen to me syndrome. People don’t step into the path of a truck that is barrelling down the street because the results are instant. But they don’t mind paying for the privilege of being under a light that will change the colour of their skin and increase their chances of developing skin cancer because it won’t happen for several years to come. Or, they take the free route and lie baking under the sun. According to Statistics Canada, there will be approximately 4600 new cases of melanoma in Canada in 2007; there will be 900 deaths of melanoma in Canada in 2007. According the National Cancer Institute of the US National Institutes of health, there will be approximately 59.940 new cases of melanoma in the US in 2007 and 8100 deaths from melanoma in that same time period.

I’m not against sunshine. A previous blog entry was about how I felt that we were going overboard by not going out in the sun. But going out for 20 or 30 minutes to get some sunshine and to get its benefits isn’t the same as lying in the sun for hours to get that perfect tan. There is no perfect tan.

News for Today:
Over-the-counter diet drug recalled
Looming obesity epidemic requires action: experts
Too fat? Common virus may be to blame: study
High alcohol consumption increases stroke risk, Tulane study says
Survey reveals disparities in skin cancer knowledge, protection among high school students
Americans Using Painkillers More Than Ever

Monday, August 20, 2007

Query blitz

I had a busy weekend. I didn’t get much of anything done this past week because of everything that went on, from Oscar’s death to the arrival of a foster greyhound*. So, in one way, it was good I didn’t have any assignments to work on. Of course, not having any assignments is also pretty stressful to me because – well, no assignments, no work = no pay. It’s a good thing that I had a very, very good month of July.

So, this weekend was spent querying my little heart out. I don’t know how many queries writers like to have out at any particular time, but let’s just say that I’m way up there. I used to say “but I have no ideas,” when asked why I wasn’t querying. I used to say, I’m a good writer if you tell me what to write about, just don’t ask me to come up with anything on my own. The funny thing? I do have a lot of ideas, I just didn’t know it.

Although I’m trying to break out of just health-related writing, it is my bread and butter, so that’s what most of the queries were about. It’s what I know; it’s what I’m good at. So along that vein, some of my ideas weren’t quite health related, but they were close enough in some aspects that being a nurse and a health writer helped with the pitch. Now let’s just see if that query blitz pays off.

On the bright side, sales of Oscar’s book are steady. It’s been on the market for less than two weeks, and I’ve sold about 30 or so copies. Considering it’s only available on lulu, com, I think that’s pretty good. If you haven’t had a look yet, you can see a preview of the book at my storefront, just click on the title. We were number 61 in sales last week.

*Chance, the foster is doing very well. He spent the first day just lying on his bed, quite depressed. The next day, he began to walk around a bit but with an air of “can I really do this?” He’s really not sure of what he can and can’t do. Every time he gets up off his bed, we encourage him to come to us, we go to him and we give him lots of ear scritches and what we call butt scratches (rubbing of the thigh muscles). He loves it. And then, on Saturday night, Chance got off his bed and came right to me for some loving. When I stopped rubbing his neck, he went over to my husband for some more. Then off to my daughter. I think we’re making progress. So, whoever gets this sweetie will be spending lots of time just laying on the loving. Now if I could just stop calling him Chase instead of Chance, I’d be happy.

News for Today:
Codeine dangerous for some nursing moms, infants: FDA
More Research Required In Pediatric Pain Relief And Palliative Care
Change Of Season, Flu Can Worsen Asthma In Children
Baby carrots could be contaminated: CFIA