Monday, March 28, 2011

Full Body Scanners, a Good Idea?

I have some thoughts on the recent press on full-body scanners.  I can appreciate the opinions of David Brenner and David Schauer.  I believe they are likely correct that the amount of radiation one is exposed to during one scan is relatively low and well worth the enhanced level of security.  However, the point is well made that this risk escalates for children and frequent fliers; but what the risk for pregnant women, and people who for medical reasons have already been exposed to a heavy dose of radiation?    It is also a good point that “In the present context, if a billion X-ray backscatter scans were performed each year, one might anticipate 100 cancers each year resulting from this activity.”  One hundred cancers are too many, despite the fact that he suggests this could be the result of a billion scans.  On the flip side, are 100 cancers worth the risk to our National Security?  One of the victims might not agree; not to mention the other “victims”, those who are humiliated from being asked to stand in an embarrassing pose while someone views their naked body.  
“Schauer advocates for stronger government regulation of the use of backscatter X-ray scanners to be certain that passengers are not exposed unnecessarily or to unsafe levels of radiation.” Schauer also suggests that “When a government concludes that security screening of people with backscatter X-rays is justified, then regulatory control should be implemented.” By installing these scanners, one would think they have concluded that our safety is more important than our health or mental health, and if they are not in control, who is? Further, how is one to know the truth in the Government’s risk assessment? How much is too much?  Radiation exposures from the tragic events in Japan really highlight this issue.  I have to agree with Mike Adams that we cannot always assume the government knows best.  After all, weren’t they the same folks who declared the air at Ground Zero “safe” after 9/11?  So, while I appreciate the reassuring words of David Brenner and David Schauer, and agree that the risk is not excessive, we all need to understand that the risk is still real, as real as the threats to our security.  Believe me, I get it, I was downtown for 9/11 and I very much appreciate all that has been done to avoid another such incident.  They added these scanners to protect us, the citizens, but maybe, just maybe, they need to come up with a safer alternative.  
Elyn Jacobs

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CAM Conference Offers Hope and Inspiration

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Annie Appleseed CAM conference.  The conference was loaded with information about complimentary cancer therapies.   The wellness side of the conference highlighted the mind-body connection and we learned there is much we can do to support ourselves both during and after treatment.  One thing I will never forget; the amazing stories.  I met a man who had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer at age 21.  He was told there was no treatment and facing three good months. He decided he did not want his sister to get his room, and went on a healing mission.  Today, 35 years later, he is very much alive and well, sorry sis.  Marissa Harris was diagnosed in 1998 with stage IV pancreatic cancer.  18 doctors told her there was no hope, no treatment and that she would die in three months.  The 19th doctor told her those other doctors don’t know when they are going to die, so how can they know when she will. He offered her hope and a treatment plan.  I had breakfast with her Saturday, and not only is she alive, she runs marathons!  What was her cure? She changed her conceptual framework.  She learned how to manage stress, and how to handle fear.  Diet, exercise, acupuncture, and self-love were part of her treatment.  She spoke of the anger when her oncologist recommended Chemotherapy.  She said her hair was her most cherished asset. The doctor told her that sometimes you have to lose what you think is most important.  Amazing woman, and yes, the hair grew back just fine.
I also came away from the conference sad.  For all the progress that has been made finding cures and preventive measures, what do you say to the father of a nine year old boy who has just finished treatment for pancreatic cancer?  Do you suggest a better diet, more exercise?  No, that is surely not the cause for his cancer.  It means that we as a community must be vigilant in protecting our children and our environment; we must reduce the toxic load, stop dumping chemicals into our drinking water, stop the overuse of pesticides and learn more about the effects of toxins.  We will never know the cause of this boy’s cancer, but hopefully we can help prevent others from developing this terrible disease.
Elyn Jacobs

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Loving Our Bald Selves

Today I am excited to share a special guest post by Susan Beausang, President of and designer of the newly patented BeauBeauR head scarf, a fashionable scarf specifically designed for women and girls with medical hair loss. Susan Beausang is a true warrior for women and a godsend for women with medical hair loss.'s mission is to help women and girls cope with the emotional upheaval of medical hair loss with dignity and confidence and to advocate for greater understanding of the emotional impacts of medical hair loss among medical professionals and the public.

Loving Our Bald Selves
If we can face life’s challenges feeling good about ourselves, we can often meet those challenges with more clarity, more determination, and more understanding.  At no time is such love of self more important than when fighting cancer.  And yet many women find their love of self to be compromised by the emotions stirred when they find a bald, “sick-looking” person staring back at them in the mirror.  Even women who rise above self-deflating thoughts must guard against the public stares, looks of pity and unsolicited comments that remind them that they visually represent cancer simply because they lack hair. 
As our awareness of the relationship between emotional well-being and physical healing grows, cancer care is gradually expanding to include emotional and appearance support.  Nonetheless, there is still very little real understanding of the emotional impacts of medical hair loss.  Without hair, many women feel stripped of their identity and femininity, making it even more difficult to maintain the sense of positive optimism that is so important for healing.  Those women need to know that hiding is neither the only nor the best option.  Women who lose their hair during chemo want to continue living, not just coping.
Among those women who lose their hair due to chemotherapy, some consider it to be the least of their worries, insignificant or even liberating.  Women's responses are as diverse as women.  There are women who find it to be one of or even the most difficult aspect of cancer.  Those women find few or no resources to acknowledge or assist them with the emotions triggered by hair loss, and they have little time and energy to seek out those resources or support.  Well-meaning friends and family may minimize or dismiss their feelings, wrongly assuming that it is a somehow separate and less traumatic issue than the cancer itself.  As a result, women can suffer in isolation, made to feel vain, guilty, or out-of-touch with what matters most if they express or show their true grief.  Up until a woman loses her hair to chemotherapy, she will often put most of her energy into maintaining a sense of normalcy for the benefit of loved ones, especially children.  Many women find that it is their hair loss that pushes their parents, partners, and children over the edge with fear. 
Rather than face the emotional side of chemo-induced hair loss alone, women need more understanding, more resources, and more options for coping with the drastic assault on their self-esteem that often accompanies hair loss.   In addition to greater awareness, women need more fashionable, more comfortable, more stylish options for headwear so that they can maintain their sense of dignity and self esteem in the face of cancer.  There is a common misconception that when facing something as terrible as cancer, women will settle for any head cover and are unwilling to spend money on their appearance.  While this may be true of some, there are many, many women who desperately want to feel normal and beautiful despite cancer.  Wigs allow many women to face cancer without advertising their health status to co-workers or to the general public.  For many others, wigs feel extremely unnatural and tend to magnify the negative emotions that come with their hair loss.  "Cancer turbans" not only sound like disease accessories but often make women feel older and less fashionable. 
Women need options for maintaining their sense of self-esteem, normalcy and vitality during cancer treatments so that their love of self is never compromised.  Because there is no “one size fits all” means of addressing women’s emotions, the first step is to acknowledge the fact that hair loss can be of deep emotional and healing significance to women.  When women find emotional understanding and support to be as comprehensive as diagnosis and treatment, the healing journey will be that much easier.

 Resources and Support
General Emotional Support
Cancercare -
Body Image
Hair Loss Support
CancerCare's Reading Room "Coping With Hair Loss"  -
"Breast Cancer Treatment Coping With Hair Loss" -
"Addressing the Emotional Side of Medical Hair Loss" -