These videos tell the story of one young family’s fight with cancer. Mom of the family had cancer, and she was pregnant when she was diagnosed, but the entire family fought the disease, which is how it has to be. Nobody fights cancer alone. God bless husbands and wives who go through this journey with their spouses. They are doing eternity work.
Cancer is one of those dread diseases that euthanasia salesmen use to convince people that the compassionate thing to do for people is to kill them. Then, they buttress this cold-blooded thought salad of an argument with claims that people are begging for the opportunity to be killed.
These arguments are based on ignorance and myth. It isn’t necessary for anyone in the Western world to die shivering and shrieking in pain. We can manage pain just fine. What is necessary is caring and love. True compassion walks the last mile with the dying and sees them home in love.
That takes work, and it can cost money. So, some folks have hatched up this death with dignity story to justify putting other people down like they were animals. But real death with dignity is to die in peace with the people you love who have walked the hard road to departure alongside you.
Here’s part of what I said about all this:
My friend Kate O’Hare recently wrote a post here at Catholic Vote discussing the question of cancer and euthanasia.
I am living with breast cancer right now, as I type. This evil movement to legalize medical murder is more pertinent to me now than ever before.
Euthanasia pushers tout medical murder as an act of “mercy,” when it is in fact the ultimate act of uncaring. I have cancer. I also am caring for my 90-year-old mother who has dementia.
I googled “undergoing cancer treatment while caring for elderly parent with dementia.” I did not get one hit. This particular combination of responsibilities doesn’t fit in “Ten Things to Do When You Have Cancer” blog posts. The only neat solutions to problems like these are evil solutions. Caregiving and dread disease are messy and complicated. They ask of a lot of us.
My situation seems ready-made for the purveyors of death and their murderous solutions for the burdens of life and love. My mother, in their bleak understanding of life, has “lived too long.” As for me, I’m good for a few rounds of treatment. But if that fails, I need to green light somebody to knock me stone dead and put the world out of my misery
This could be huge news.
United States’ scientists have succeeded in turning cancer cells back into normal cells. So far, they have only done this with cells in a laboratory. But if they can turn cancer cells back into normal cells in the human body, the life-saving potential is enormous.
From The Telegraph:
Cancer cells have been programmed back to normal by scientists in a breakthrough which could lead to new treatments and even reverse tumour growth.
For the first time aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, US, said it was like applying the brakes to a speeding car.
So far it has only been tested on human cells in the lab, but the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day be used to target tumours so that cancer could be ‘switched off’ without the need for harsh chemotherapy or surgery.
“We should be able to re-establish the brakes and restore normal cell function,” said Profesor Panos Anastasiadis, of the Department for Cancer Biology.
“Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising.
“It represents an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer.”
To join the conversation about The Thorny Grace of It or to order a copy, go here.
“You’ve gotta have a horse to ride.” That’s a saying from politics, meaning you have to have a candidate who can run the race and win. It comes from horse racing, where the meaning is obvious: Horse races are won astride strong, fast horses.
You’ve gotta have a horse to ride.
That is equally true with books, blogs, essays, poetry and such. In this case, the “horse” you must ride is the writer’s ability to string words together in a compelling fashion.
By that criteria, The Thorny Grace of It has a fine horse to ride. Brian Doyle, the author of this book, can write. His book, which is an anthology of essays he’s published previously in various magazines, hangs together on the power of his writing.
There is no single issue or idea in this book. It is not a book of argumentation. There is nothing didactic or issue-oriented about it.
It is, rather, a series of reflections on living life Catholic that are given to us in lyrical prose that can, at times, almost cross over into poetry. As such, the book moves your emotions first, long before it touches your mind. The essays, which range from a beautiful thought poem about a handmade rosary, to a hilarious description of an older brother tutoring his much younger brother (the author) in how to approach his first confession, are glimpses through a window into another person’s life of faith, family and love.
The author comes from a large Catholic family and has lived his life as a Catholic. His essays reflect that cradle Catholic, generational Catholic reality. The book talks about life as a Catholic schoolboy and life as a mature man who faces the loss of a brother to cancer. Much of the book is centered on the mass in a highly personal first-person stream-of-conciousness narrative of experiencing the mass from the pew at the back of the room.
Mr Doyle’s power of description paints word pictures that translate into visual pictures in your mind as you read through these essays. You “see” the light coming through sanctuary windows that land as bars of butter on the church floor. You feel the lesson of the waspy priest who hides his blindness, and you experience the poignance of taking a drive with a dying brother.
I wish I could write like Mr Doyle.
But I can’t.
What I can do is tell you that if you love beautiful writing about living life Catholic, then this small book of essays is for you.
I just can’t face writing about Christian persecution today, even though that’s my usual Friday practice. I’m going to delay it until tomorrow.
I want to talk about Cardinal George, instead.
Cardinal George’s cancer recurred late last summer. I read in February of this year that he had been given a clean bill of health and was cancer-free.
I have no idea why, but just out of the blue I’ve been getting this impulse to pray for him. It’s like a soft little dinging in the back of my mind.
I don’t know if it has anything to do with his health. All I can say is that I almost never think about Cardinal George. Because it’s so odd for me to suddenly feel that I should pray for him, I am assuming that for reasons I don’t know and may never know, he probably needs a little extra prayer.
I’m passing this along to the rest of you so that you can join me in saying a Hail Mary for the Cardinal now and again.
In the video below, he is discussing the HHS Mandate.
At one point he talks about the “definition” being so narrow. I believe that he is referring to the definition of religious institutions as it is used in the HHS Mandate, and not the First Amendment. Among other things, the Obama administration has been trying to narrow the meaning of “religious freedom” to only include the freedom to attend services in “places of worship” and behind the closed doors of our homes.
This should be anathema to any freedom-loving American, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack of belief.
Here is Cardinal George:
Judge Twyla Gray sat opposite me twirling her fork in the salad on her plate.
She had just told me that she was going to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. Twyla, who was a cancer survivor, had learned that she carried the brca gene. This gene predisposed her to breast cancer.
It had been decades since Twyla went through a lumpectomy, chemo and then radiation to treat a small cancer doctors found in one of her breasts. At the time she was diagnosed, Twyla put her considerable wits to researching her cancer and interviewing treatment specialists all around the country. She had a small child and she wanted to live.
I remember quite clearly her husband reading the summary of a pathologist’s report concerning that cancer to me. It was an aggressive form of the disease, and the pathologist’s advice was that she needed aggressive treatment. Afterwards, I talked to a doctor friend of mine who told me that based on her experience with patients, a cancer of that type would eventually come back, no matter what Twyla did.
More than 20 years later, Twyla seemed to have proven the experts wrong. Test after test, check-up after check-up, she was cancer free. Her child grew up to be a fine person. Her marriage thrived. Her career took off and she ended up a district judge.
Everything was looking good for Twyla.
Then she had genetic testing and learned she had the brca gene. She would always be vulnerable to this type of cancer, which is what led her to make the appointment for what she had dreaded for a long, long time: Mutilating surgery.
I asked her how she was a few weeks later and learned that she had backed out of the surgery. Then, a few months after that, the cancer recurred. She beat it back.
Another year passed, and it recurred.
There was no beating it back this time. She would die of this disease. The docs gave her three months, but she fought and won a small, though costly, reprieve. Twyla lived another year after she got the three month prognosis. Some of that time was good time. But she earned those good days by enduring horrible treatments.
I have wondered if it would have made any difference if she had gone ahead with that surgery. In truth, I do not know. But part of me doubts it. I think that the time bomb had been ticking away in the form of an occult cancer cell hiding in a corner of her body for all those years she was “cancer free.”
That’s the purgatory of cancer. No matter how many times a cancer survivor gets a clean scan, they know, and everyone who loves them knows, that it may not be entirely true. The cancer may be playing its little waiting game before it comes charging back.
Angelina Jolie’s Appearance is Critical to Her Career
I read week before last about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. From what I read, it sounds as if Ms Jolie has the same gene my friend had. She has not had cancer, so maybe, just maybe, the surgery will save her.
All I know is that I am grateful to her for coming forward with the revelation that she has gone through this surgery. That can’t have been easy for a woman whose appearance and body are critiqued mercilessly every time she puts her foot outside her door.
Ms Jolie makes her living at least partly on the fantasies her audience has about her and her appearance. Prophylactic double mastectomies don’t quite fit with the sexy macho woman she plays in film. That kind of reality is part of our vulnerable human condition, not the cartoon character perfection of the characters she often plays.
It was a risk for her to share this. But it may encourage some other person (men can die of breast cancer, too, especially if they carry the brca gene) who gets the frightening news that they carry this gene the push they need to go under the knife for what can only be described as terrible surgery.
I want to add that the genetic testing to uncover this gene is expensive. Because of that, most people will not take the test. But if you have a history of cancer in your family, as Twyla did, especially if you have a history of breast cancer, it might be worth looking into.
Containing health care costs is a little bit like trying to stuff an elephant into an old-fashioned telephone booth.
You push one part in, and another part comes busting back out.
The Affordable Health Care Act was supposed to control health care costs and make health coverage available to all Americans. It was also supposed to provide conscience exemptions and to not fund abortions.
So far, things are working out too well.
The HHS Mandate, which is a government regulation designed to implement the Affordable Health Care Act puts the promises of protecting conscience to the lie. Massive block grants for “sex education,” i.e., indoctrination in sexual disorders, to Planned Parenthood put the promises about not funding abortion to the lie.
We’re down to the “affordable” part of the Affordable Health Care Act, and it’s not looking so good, either.
The main problem, (surprise!) is profiteering by drug companies and how elected officials in the various states respond to this.
Let me give you a hint: If the drug companies can buy the FDA and the United States Congress, do you seriously think they can’t also buy the various state legislatures?
If other legislatures are like the one here in Oklahoma, all they really need to flat-out buy is three people: The Speaker of the House, the Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Governor. They can then spread a little money around (in the form of legal campaign donations and dinners) to all the munchkin/puppet legislators sitting behind desks on the floor and the deal is done and done.
They win. The people — or at least those who get cancer — are bankrupt.
Oklahoma is a state where the House leadership adjourned the legislative session for several days a couple of years ago, so the leadership and a few hand-picked legislators could go on a junket. Rumor has it that the Senate has done the same thing not so very long ago.
So …. you fill in the dots about where the people stand in all this.
The Affordable Health Care Act may not turn out to be all that affordable for little guys who are trying to chug a serious illness. It has already proven to be a dreadnought that is blasting away at freedom of conscience with the full force of the federal government. As for not funding abortions, if Planned Parenthood was speaking candidly, all they would say is, ka-ching, ka-ching.
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Cancer patients could face high costs for medications under President Barack Obama’s health care law, industry analysts and advocates warn.
Where you live could make a huge difference in what you’ll pay.
To try to keep premiums low, some states are allowing insurers to charge patients a hefty share of the cost for expensive medications used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other life-altering chronic diseases.
Such “specialty drugs” can cost thousands of dollars a month, and in California, patients would pay up to 30 percent of the cost. For one widely used cancer drug, Gleevec, the patient could pay more than $2,000 for a month’s supply, says the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
New York is taking a different approach, setting flat dollar copayments for medications. The highest is $70, and it would apply to specialty drugs as well.
Critics fear most states will follow California’s lead, and that could defeat the purpose of Obama’s overhaul, because some of the sickest patients may be unable to afford their prescriptions.
“It’s important that the benefit design not discriminate against people with chronic illness, and high copays do that,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a data analysis firm catering to the health care industry and government.
Avalere’s research shows that 1 in 4 cancer patients walks away from the pharmacy counter empty-handed when facing a copay of $500 or more for a newly prescribed drug.
“You have to worry about a world where if you happen to contract cancer or multiple sclerosis, you are stuck with a really big bill,” Mendelson said. “It’s going to be very important for states to take a long, hard look at their benefit design.”
Although the money for covering uninsured Americans is coming from Washington, the heath care law gives states broad leeway to tailor benefits, and the local approach can also allow disparities to emerge.
A spokesman for Covered California said state officials are trying to balance between two conflicting priorities: comprehensive coverage and affordable premiums.
“We are trying to keep the insurance affordable across the board,” said Dana Howard, the group’s spokesman. “This is just part of trying to manage the overall risk of the pool.” Covered California is one of the new state marketplaces where people who don’t get coverage on the job will be able to shop for private insurance starting this fall. Coverage takes effect Jan. 1.
Insurers are forecasting double-digit premium increases for individual policies, as people with health problems flock to buy coverage previously denied them. The Obama administration says the industry warnings are overblown, and that for many consumers, premium increases will be offset by tax credits to help buy insurance. And officials say it’s important to realize that the law sets overall limits on patients’ liability, even if those seem high to some people. Still, a full picture of costs and benefits isn’t likely to come into focus until the fall.
Howard said California officials are aware of the concerns about drug costs and are trying to make medications more affordable.
Meanwhile, he said consumers will be protected because the law limits total out-of-pocket costs — the deductibles and copayments that policy holders are responsible for, apart from monthly premiums. In California, the annual out-of-pocket limit for an individual is $6,400, although it can be as low as $2,250 for low-income people. Once that limit is reached, insurance pays 100 percent.
That’s still a lot of money, and such reassurances haven’t dispelled the concerns. (Read the rest here.)
Americans pay far too much for prescription drugs. Health insurance does not cover enough to keep you out of bankruptcy if you become seriously ill.
A few years ago, one of the secretaries at the Oklahoma House got breast cancer. She went through the usual harrowing treatments, and by the grace of God and good medicine, she is still with us today. However, even though she had health insurance, she and her husband had to declare bankruptcy because of the medical bills.
She was lucky in that she didn’t have to face bankruptcy under the revised bankruptcy laws that the Bush administration pushed through for the credit card companies. She didn’t have to worry about losing her house.
This is what government of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests gives us. Americans pay too much for prescription drugs because of the hammerlock the drug companies have on both our elected officials and the FDA. Other governments protect their citizens from drug overcharges. The drug companies make up their profits by charging Americans 200% or 300% more for the same drug as they do people in other parts of the world. Our government protects them in doing this.
I once authored a bill to allow drug reimportation in Oklahoma. What this means is that Oklahoma citizens would have been able to buy drugs in Canada legally. The bill included a web site which would verify that the Canadian pharmacy was legitimate. The name “drug reimportation” refers to the fact that what the bill did was allow citizens to buy American drugs outside our country and “reimport” them back — but at a fraction of the cost they would pay if they had bought them in Oklahoma.
The drug companies, with their hammerlock on the leadership, smashed the bill flat. The House leadership did this in such a way that everyone got to vote for the bill before they killed it in back rooms. The bill was backed by Oklahoma’s governor who was a Democrat. It was the Republican House leadership that killed it.
The Affordable Health Care Act, with all its faults, is the direct result of the control of our government by special interests. Many legislators who voted for it saw this legislation as a moral imperative. Special interests and their toady legislators created that situation.
Three prominent physicians, Dr Hagap Kantarjian, chair of the leukemia department of MD Anderson, Dr Leonard Zwelling, professor of medicine in MD Anderson’s department of experimental therapeutics, and Tito Fojo, head of the experimental therapeutics section of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post discussing these issues.
“Medical bills have become a major cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States,” they say, “which is not surprising, giving the amounts that even well-insured patients have to pay for drugs … can command a quarter to a third of some household’s annual income.”
Every solution these physicians call for is a common-sense remedy that has been voted down repeatedly by politicians who are in the back pocket of drug companies.
The irony, which is certainly not lost on me, is that many of the politicians who use the power of the people against the people in this way campaign for office based on their Christian faith. They make strong statements about how pro life they are.
What they really mean is that they are anti-abortion — and once they get elected, not so much even that. You can not be pro life and deliberately do things that cause people to die from cancer. You are not much of a Christian if you sell the power of your elected office to special interests.
There are all sorts of things you can call people who do this, but “follower of Christ” is not one of them.
From the Prophets to Revelations, “unjust judges” or public officials who use “unjust scales” and deny the human rights of the poor are condemned. When Jesus described Judgement Day, He made it clear that we will be judged on how we treat others, specifically, “the least of these.”
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Some of the politicians who flaunt their Christianity to get elected and then work for special interests need to remember that.
The Washington Post op-ed article by Doctors Kantarjian, Zwelling and Fojo says in part:
… The average monthly price of cancer drugs has doubled over the past 10 years, from about $5,000 to more than $10,000. Of the 12 new cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, 11 were priced above $100,000 annually. Yet only three were found to improve patient survival rates and, of these, two increased survival by less than two months.
… Is it fair that some U.S. drug prices are two to four times the price of the same product in other countries? U.S. drug manufacturers are also allowed to pay the makers of generic drugs to keep their cheaper versions off the market for some months. Known as “pay to delay,” this strategy greatly affects profits: Earlier introduction of generic drugs has reduced health-care spending by more than $1 trillion in the past 10 years, Ralph Neas, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, estimated last fall.
… And how do we reduce the price of cancer drugs? We can start by eliminating self-inflicted wounds: Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prices as the VA system does — and as Medicare was able to do before 2003 — and pay-for-delay strategies should be outlawed. Regulations on cancer research that add to costs without increasing patient safety should be curtailed. Regulators and investigators alike should demand that new drugs offer true clinical improvement over current drugs, measured by such standards as cost-efficacy ratios, prolonging of life in years or quality-adjusted life in years, not just efficacy, safety and other “me-too” criteria. (Read the rest here.)
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?
What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?
What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?
These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?
Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?
If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?
I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.
On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.
Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.
But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?
I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.
But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.
He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.
Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.
Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.
The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.
When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.
God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.
Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?
From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.
Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.
But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.
Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”
I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?
The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.
How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.
God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.
What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.
God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.