Thursday, October 30, 2008


Several times over the past couple of years I have been asked where I source information about cancer... actually I go to the Public Health Agency of Canada web site where there is a Surveillance and Risk Assessment Division web site for which I have left a link below on this post. Today I want to focus attention on an interesting trend in Canada, that is probably duplicated in the USA...


With the exception of the Inuit population in the Nunavut Region, Nova Scotia has the highest rate of all cancer in the country. This trend is true when you look at the rates of cancer for all age groups, and especially for those from 60 thru 64 who understand this situation very deeply...


We think we know that cancer depends on the genetic make up of the individual... but also, in a significant way, the environment in which the individual lives makes an enormous difference. If this is the case, and we know that the prevailing wind across the country is from west to east, isn't there a large question that needs to be asked... its like the 800 pound gorilla in our province!

Why are we accepting the high levels of pollution and carcinogens in our air from the west without question?

The map below demonstrates the trend to higher cancer incidence rates from west to east. If you want a better view of the map, just click on it, and it will enlarge for you... to reverse back to the blog, just hit the back arrow in the top left of your screen.

For those of you not familiar with our geography, and our provincial layout, the boot-shaped, dark brown province on the east coast is Nova Scotia. We are directly east of the state of Maine, and the city of Boston is just an hour by plane from Halifax.

The chart below is the source of the map data above. The provinces are listed from east to west, and here Nova Scotia is listed with 436 cancer patients per 100,000 population. Please understand that none of these data include skin cancer. Again, click on the chart to see it clearly:

The thrust of my comments so far probably argue toward the issue of environmental pollution including carcinogens as being the culprit in the high rate of cancer in the east. There is also the heritage factor... most Nova Scotians are descendants of Northern Europeans, particularly the fair skinned Irish and Scotish immigrants prevalent in the 1800s. But that would lead one to skin cancers... which are not part of the data. So, I suspect that we are back to the pollution, since we are all eating food that is thoroughly checked for carcinogens. While I understand that this is a simplistic way to look at it... I believe that being too deep in data has not gotten us anywhere. And we all know the Einstein Theory on Insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

Of course, I don't have answers to all these questions, but as I find them, I am likely to post them here. I have been pointing out in past posts that the people running for election in Canada and the USA don't ever seem to have a position on Cancer... is it perhaps because this is a Pandora's box? Could we find out that the environmental problems we have due to the unfettered industrialization of the globe are much deeper than simply global warming? Would be have to be more aggressive with the approval process of the foods we put in our body... why is it that we only investigate the impact of drugs or objects we put in our bodies... generally, why do we have more cancer in Nova Sc0tia than anywhere else in Canada, and perhaps North America... you know what I mean...

Here in Nova Scotia, we are facing one hell of a time with our health care system. Mostly, in my opinion we are capable of excellent health care in the Halifax area today... the system is working well, with emergent and critical care being very strong. This is because the population density enables the efficient use of medical services up-to-and-including very high tech solutions, some of which are unavailable in many areas of North America.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in the province's areas that are sparcly populated, which in my book includes all areas of Nova Scotia outside what is called HRM, when considering critical mass needs for good quality health care. Also, I believe that the future will put more pressure on the system both in and outside HRM, as our population ages, and is not replaced by more vibrant population that is footing the bill through their taxes. Nova Scotia is getting older, fast!

The risk of cancer goes up with age... 45% of all Canadian men will be challenged by a cancer in their life time. The data is similar for women. If we extend this to the population in Nova Scotia, it is probable that our expectation rate is higher! So what are we doing about it?

We are treating the symptoms, at best. We have a state-of-the-art PET/CT scanner in Halifax now. We will soon need a cyclotron (at a cost of around $6million) to give us a stable source of radio-isotopes so the PET can have uninterrupted use... and so we can use proton emission cancer treatments some day. We have a couple of MRIs and several CTs and Scanners; and Nuclear Cameras that are used in diagnosis of cancer (among other ailments). We have very capable physicians that are capable of utilizing all of these systems along with the radiation treatment planning computers and treatment sources. We have several chemo therapy centers... like Yarmouth, Truro and Sydney. All of this is admirable, but it is not getting at the front end of the cancer diseases... prevention!

There does not seem to be a government or societal effort to reduce the environmental sources of cancer. It took years, for example to do something with the Sydney Tar Ponds... and we can't be certain it will be effective in reducing cancer clusters in that area. What about the fact that in Nova Scotia we have to have our hand on the fuel nozzle while we pump gas into our cars, keeping our breathing apparatus close to the aerosol pollution backing up from the car's tank... There does not seem to be an adequate or effective plan to reduce cancer through education. I lifted this two paragraph statement from the same source as the above maps...

If you take the time to look at this two paragraph statement that comes from our federal government, you will read that approximately 45% of cancers occurring in Canada could be eliminated.

Go ahead, read it... all you need to do is click on the paragraph and it will grow to the point where you can read it. I actually suspect that the leaders of the government don't want you to, because it would then draw into question all of the other things that they seem to focus on when they campaign for office. If we elect them to reduce cancer, even by 10%... imagine the impact. Not only will there be less funerals... the cost of health care will go down substantially!

In North America it is estimated that 50% of all health care costs go toward the care of people in the last year of life! In Canada, cancer is the second most prevalent cause of death... if we could reduce that death rate by 10 to 45%, imagine the impact on health care costs. Health care is over 9% of the GDP... 50% is spent in the last year of people's lives! That is a lot of money that could be spent on education, infrastructure and so on.

But we are not even asking the questions about cancer... and how to diagnose it; treat it; live with it; and perhaps prevent it!

It is the prevention that I want to come back to now... remember the map up above. Remember that the cancer rates increase from west to east. That points a large finger at pollution, particularly the pollution that is air born and contains carcinogens. Shouldn't we be pointing at those sources and trying to have them controlled, shut down or cause them to pay for our cancer!

Much of this material was sourced from the following web address. You can click on the link, and get to this and much more information.

It is my opinion that we have to change the way that we are approaching many issues that are societal in nature. Clearly, there are issues that impact the whole population, but are driven by a relatively small portion of it. We should respect people's rights, unless they are impinging on the rights of everyone else. There are issues for which we have been trying the socially and politically correct solutions... clearly they are not working. It is time perhaps to find leadership that will have the intestinal fortitude to take on carcinogen type sources of pollution, smoking, obesity, and other clear causes of cancer and other health care costs.

I look forward to your thoughts...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Hi there everyone, I really appreciate that there are so many folks who take the time to read my posts and occasionally give me some feedback. I find that my free time is best spent looking for ways to make life better... without doing damage to the others that share it with us, or that will in the future.

As you probably know, I have gone through a hard battle with cancer, and am still only 2.5 years removed from my chemo and radiation treatments which followed a total of 16 hours of surgery. Amazingly, that was nothing compared to what my Mother went through prior to her recent passing... she lost a leg with a high thigh amputation and subsequent radiation for a sarcoma about ten years ago which left her with a prosthesis, but unable to walk without the aid of two canes. She then had surgery for colon cancer about two years ago... and subsequently had recurrent colon cancer which ultimately took her life. These are just two examples of everyday Canadians and North Americans who have had to battle this disease, who led otherwise healthy lives. As we all know, there are many, too many stories like this.

Following her Celebration of Life service I committed to myself that some how I would start becoming better at advocating for cancer survival, as I have in the past for Cardiovascular Disease. This post is a continuation of that commitment, and the two images above display a source of lots of information that we can utilize to forward the opportunity for a cure... or at least survivability of the disease.

I am more than supportive of the Canadian Cancer Society, and will continue to be. As well, I support the various Palliative Care Foundations. But I am bringing forward the Lance Armstrong Foundation as an additional source of inspiration for all of us. I remember well the day I was having an eleven hour surgical procedure on my neck to remove about fifty-three nodes, some of which were cancerous... the anesthesiologist came to my bedside in the hall outside the operating room, to check me out prior to the surgery. He and the surgeon explained all of the risks... one of which was infection. Then they asked me to remove my blue coral necklace, my wedding band and my LIVESTRONG yellow bracelet. I agreed to the first two, but I asked to leave the bracelet on... it was by that time my anchor... I had been wearing it for about a year prior to having been diagnosed... mostly because it was the image of Lance Armstrong and my love of cycling that I needed to keep foremost in my mind in order to rationalize beating cancer... all cancer!

They agreed! I had my surgery with my yellow bracelet in place... and I didn't have an infection... we made certain it was cleaned with alcohol prior to entering the sterile field in the OR.

These yellow bracelets are not just a fashion statement! They stand for the fellowship we have with one another as survivors. They also stand for the support that we get from family, friends and contributors. And they also stand for the incredible effort that Lance Armstrong and his teams are putting forward to coordinate an extra attack on cancer.

With all this background, I suggest to you that there is a lot to be gained by visiting the website that is centered on this scourge on humanity... just click on this link to visit the really cool site

Please take a look, join the newsletter, the advocacy team and so on. I have been shopping on the website... some deals, and lots of yellow and black stuff...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chain of Command Question

I have been thinking about the period of our life when we were living in Colorado Springs. Lynnda and I were lucky enough to have a home on a ridge in the 80906 zip code... an area just below Cheyene Mountain where NORAD is headquartered. Many of the folks living in this relatively expensive area were and are retired military leaders and executives. We often had the opportunity to socialize with them, and by the time we moved away we believed we were friends with many.

This was also the period following 9/11; the attempts to find, capture and/or kill the perpetrators had started in Afghanistan; and the congress had approved President George W. Bush's attack on Iraq... none of which was going well. By late 2004 the election campaign was well under way, and Bush had re-enlisted for another election against John Kerry.

I had several opportunities to interface with the retired military guys and sought their advice on how to look at the situation... it was clear that I did not think Afghanistan was going well, and I clearly believed that Iraq was a very bad decision. Many arguments ensued. Invariably these
retired leaders of men in the military sided with George Bush. While I was not moved by the positions taken, I always backed away carefully because these guys could be very challenging.

I was fairly certain that each was smart enough to know as I did, that the engagements overseas were not going well... and likely Iraq wasn't even warranted. So why were they so emphatic about re-electing Bush? It came down to "chain of command". These military guys seemed to be unable to separate their active duty from their retired duty... one is to be obedient to the wishes of the Commander in Chief... the other is to be a curious voter and to vote their conscience.

Any way... we all know that George Bush won, and what occurred in the three following years has been a debacle! Well, now we are in a situation where these same men, and many of their wives are making the same arguments in support of John McCain in the present 2008 election campaign... with one twist... this time they have turned nasty! They have tried to hurt anyone who supports Barack Obama. They have been adamant that he not be allowed to win the election... and they are using the same old arguments...

But this time, they are attacking friends and acting like little boys who have not only been wrong... badly wrong... about George Bush; they have been very wrong about Barack Obama. And for some unknown reason, they are being very negative to friends... of ours, and by association... us. So I have decided to turn it around... I am not going to back down this time... here's my question of you leaders of military men... If Barack Obama wins, will they follow the same chain of command that they have with "W"?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eulogy For Edith

The photos above are from the 'Celebration of Life' Service for Harold's and my Mother, that was held on October 23rd in Truro, Nova Scotia. The top three were the flat screen panels announcing the details, inside the funeral home. There is a picture of the table with family flowers and one from a company that Harold (my brother) works with in Saskatchewan, Western Canada. The last pic is of the cousins we share here in the east, following the services.

Mother’s Eulogy Notes

First, thank you for being a part of Mother’s life, and for the support you have given Harold and me, as well as our families, over the years. Your being here today and last evening is testament to the decision Mother made a long time ago, to stay here in Truro where she came in the early 1950s.

This is a great place to call home, and I have said more than once that where ever Lynnda and I live, it is nothing more than our home-away-from-home. Mom knew this and decided to never leave. She developed loving relationships here in what became Her Hometown.

Mother was successful in so many ways… as a golfer and youth golf coach; as nurse, and later as a palliative caregiver; as a bridge player and as a friend to many people. She had an influence on many folks, and the stories we have heard since her passing bear witness to this.

Her life successes were normally achieved with a level of modesty and stoicism that is rare… in the closing days of her life on earth, she seldom complained or asked for pain medication when it was obvious that things were very painful. I spent a lot of time with Mother through those five months since she was diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer… it was a real learning experience, although it was her stoicism that I learned the most from...

This stoicism is not what Harold and I remember from early in our lives… I remember one hockey night in Truro, Harold and I were both kicked out of a Bearcat game… we went to our dressing room… Harold showered and said he was going out to watch the rest of the game… next thing I know is that he had gone to the other team’s dressing room where he continued a fight that had originated in the penalty box… I got there and three guys were whaling on Harold… I got to one of them and had him pinned up on a wall; I was about to start pounding on him and suddenly a face popped up in between the guy and me… it was Mom… she said a few words meant to ensure I didn’t hit the guy, they had the desired impact, and probably saved us from further pain from someone bigger than her.

Have you heard the ‘Brick in the Purse’ story? It is worth repeating, one last time… Harold was playing for the Bearcats in the East Hants Arena, against the Penguins… it was a playoff game with a full house. Mother, along with some brave Bearcat fans were in the stands when some East Hants fans were hounding Harold along the boards in front of them… Mother whacked one of them with her purse… the guy wheeled around with his fist cocked to hit whom ever had whacked him… this is when the Bearcat fans stepped in, and Robbie Cook’s Father said “Edie, this is where the men take over!” a melee ensued, police were called and it spilled onto the ice… no charges laid.

Fast forward to the next game in the playoffs a few days later… apparently Mother didn’t hit the guy hard enough, because the Bearcat fans presented her with a brick to go in her purse for the next game… the fans were much more respectful!

There is the ‘Dora’ Story as well. Mother always signed her name Edith “H” MacLane… she just didn’t like here middle name. In fact, until she died, I doubt anyone in Truro knew her middle name other than her maiden Hyndman. A few years back, Lynnda and I were looking for a place in Florida where we could retire one day… we came upon the beautiful village of Mount Dora. It is all of 148 feet above sea level, but in Florida that is the equivalent of a mountain, I guess. Anyway, we went to a t-shirt shop and bought one that had “I CLIMBED MOUNT DORA” emblazoned on the breast… we presented it to Mother… she wasn’t all that amused, but wore it at least once… but not outside!

Golf was at the center of Mother’s life… whether it was her playing; her young friends learning; Arnie or Tiger on the TV, or reminiscing about the many trips to Florida or fine courses she played with her friends here in Nova Scotia or the Maritimes. Her Hole in One in Florida was a significant highlight… on a par three with her three wood… never a long hitter, but always in the fairway, and great around the greens. She was most proud to be a member of the Truro Golf Club and volunteering as score-keeper for the club championships or other tournaments. She was women’s club president, and president of the Nova Scotia Ladies Golf Association… I remember how worried she was taking on those responsibilities… but as usual, she mastered them, and truly enjoyed those periods of her life.

Mother was also a traditionalist when it came to nursing. She was very proud of having graduated from the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. She wore that nursing pin on her uniform all the way through her nursing career… yes, I said uniform… she wore crisp whites, starched and hand ironed to perfection until she retired, and she was just as formal about every aspect of nursing… except for the patient’s emotional needs… she really cared about her patients. And she really cared about her fellow nurses on 3rd North. Countless times she came home from work exhausted, but excited about this patient or that co-worker who was getting or doing better. In the last five months, when Mother was in the hospital, and we were here in Truro with her, we heard many testimonials to this central part of her career and life.

Over the years, Lynnda and I lived most of our lives together in the USA and Europe. When we came home, Mother liked to go for drives around the town, to experience the subtle changes that were occurring. And she really enjoyed the Palliser, but liked the less notable places where the staff was always helpful… the Wooden Hog, the Emporium, and Murphy’s Fish and Chips. But it was the Chinese food that she loved the most… we had a feast of it on her birthday a month ago.

I want to thank the many people who have communicated to us in various ways this past couple of days. You have validated Mother’s belief that Truro and its people are wonderful. Mother was incredibly appreciative of the care she got at the hospitals in which she was a patient… the nurses, LPNs, and other caregivers… Thank you! To the physicians and their staff, all a part of a very caring healthcare team here in the province… Thank you! To the friends from The Windsor Way Apartments who didn’t stop caring and calling right to the end… Thank you! To the staff and friends at Parkland, where Mother spent the last years of her life, and where she called home, thank you! There were more people than imaginable who kept in touch, and we appreciate it… and to Harold and our family… thank you for being there, and here… Mother appreciated it.

It would be inappropriate to close without mentioning the impact that the First United Church, and especially its ministers have had on Mother’ spiritual and intellectual life. Names like McQueen, Mumford, McNaughton and McLean have been interspersed in our conversations through every crisis Mother had… health or family. Mother believed deeply in God, and in the here and the after of her religion. She didn’t wear it on her sleeve, but it was in her heart. Thank you to the church, the elders who keep it going and the ministers who help us understand this life, and this death

Thank you all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cancer... Starting to understand and attack it from the street


I have, in the past, commented that if CANCER was named 9/11 we would have spent colossal amounts of money finding the cause and cure... yet we have not done it. We know that the President of the United States can go to war for lesser reasons than the data above... why hasn't he. We know that the election in the USA is coming in just a few days, but no candidate has made a point of discussing the second greatest killer of Americans on an annual basis. Are we asking the right questions of the candidates?

It is estimated that there will be more than 12 million new cancer cases in 2007 worldwide, of which 5.4 million will occur in economically developed countries and 6.7 million in economically developing countries. The corresponding estimates for total cancer deaths in 2007 are 7.6 million (about 20,000 cancer deaths a day), 2.9 million in economically developed countries and 4.7
million in economically developing countries. By 2050, the global burden is expected to grow to 27 million new cancer cases and 17.5 million cancer deaths... I want to acknowledge that this paragraph is lifted directly from a report by the American Cancer Society. I have quoted it directly because the numbers are so stunning, and we couldn't write it better.

In Canada there will be 73,000 cancer deaths; and an estimated 166,000 new cases diagnosed. It should be recognized that 45% of all Canadian men will need treatment for cancer in their life time. Given my personal experience, it behooves all of us to try and find ways to detect it, treat it, live with it, and ultimately prevent it. But this is not a personal issue, even with the recent death of my Mother from colon cancer.

Could it be that the president and the candidates don't understand the numbers? I suspect not, since they are very available. Could it be that it would not help get a candidate elected if they committed to attacking cancer, instead of a country? I think not, since all of us have lost a loved one to cancer, and we are all targets of this disease. Could it be that we don't hold our leaders feet to the fire on issues that are critical, rather than issues that are inconsequential? Now this has some promise!

Why would we not hold their feet to the fire... partly because we can't get close to the feet most of the time... in between elections. Partly because there are lobby groups who's best interests would not be served by a real fix to cancer. Could I be that cynical... no! It is more likely that the lobbyists are just taking up so much of the time of our leaders that they just don't get a chance to read the data; sense the angst of the population; divine the productivity issues are a result of cancer; and so on.

So, if you are reading this, what is your reason for not holding someone's feet to the fire?

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!