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Posts from February 2013

A Long Journey down the Runway
It was such a pleasure to take part once again in the Pink Elegance Fashion Show in Scranton this past Sunday.  The Komen for the Cure in NEPA event always gets a huge turnout. It seemed like only yesterday when I first walked the runway in a fabulous outfit from Nada & Company.  I believe my first year was in 2009, about a year and a half past my breast cancer diagnosis.

My hair was really short then.  I lost it all due to the chemotherapy and it took some time to grow back in.  The story goes that many women end up with curly hair after chemo, but despite my wishes, mine grew back as poker straight as ever.

I skipped a year as a model at the show because I had gone through a grueling 10 hour reconstructive surgery that had me hospitalized for 7 days, and in recovery for weeks.  I spent a number of those weeks doing daily hyperbaric treatments.  If you’re claustrophobic like me, that takes a little getting used to.  You get put into a coffin like capsule where it takes 7 to 10 minutes to change the pressure.  The good news is it’s all glass you can see through.  The bad news is if you freak out and want out, you have to wait those 7 to 10 minutes for the pressure to normalize or you’ll end up with the bends.
It was a long journey for me to get to where I am physically today.  Aside from the quest for good health, breast cancer survivors struggle with the need to look normal again.  For some, a breast prosthesis is the right choice.  For others, reconstruction is necessary.  As someone who had a double mastectomy complicated by radiation, it was pretty challenging.  The skin on the radiated side was so damaged that the usual expansion process failed.  After months and months of ‘expansion’- where the Dr. slowly fills an implant and stretches the skin, I was horrified one morning to see the skin torn and implant exposed.  It had to be removed and I swore I would not go through another surgery.

After almost 6 months I decided to call Dr. Eric Blomain in Scranton.  He said that I would need to undergo a dorsal flap procedure.  Basically a muscle from the back is moved to the front along with skin from your back that replaces the radiation damaged skin.  After weeks of healing, the expansion process begins.  It was really difficult, but I am so happy I was able to get through it.

I tell you this because before my health scare, I had no understanding of breast cancer, let alone reconstruction.  There are many people who assume that reconstruction is like getting a ‘boob job’.  It is really very, very different.

There were many survivors at the Fashion Show, and it’s always good to hear how well they are doing, and see how beautiful they look.  Dr. Blomain was there as an escort and told me how happy he is for me, and how great the surgery has turned out.  I gave him a hug and thanked him. What else can you do or say for someone who has given you something that allows you to look into a mirror and not always see that terrible thing that happened to you?

Hats off to the wonderful women at Studio RD who unselfishly gave of their time and services making all of us pretty.  Thank you to Suburban Casuals for the awesome dress, I loved it so much I bought it.
 (3) Comments
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People: Eric Blomain

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Don't Get Fooled Again You Dirty Girls

I’m hearing a lot of friends talking about the upcoming Dirty Girl Mud Run in Scranton.  Last year there was quite the controversy concerning how much money the event raised, and how little money went to breast cancer.  Now if you want to get all dirty and get some exercise, and are willing to fork over $75 to go at it, have fun.  Just don’t expect that you’re really doing very much in helping fight this awful disease.  That’s because this capitalistic venture (nothing wrong with that) is only giving 2.5% of the money raised to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a mere $1.88.

Last year, there were individuals and teams that participated in honor of survivors, and those that died from breast cancer.  Volunteers gave time in helping to set up the event, only to find out that it really was to essentially make money for the organizers, with a crumb thrown to cancer funding. They still have the volunteer link up on the site.  Yes, you too can set up a for-profit venture and not get paid a dime.  Wow.   It’s really important to be discerning about companies, products, and events that shroud themselves in pink and say they are raising money for breast cancer.  The emotional tug for people is so strong and the betrayal can leave a bad taste in the mouth that lingers for a long time.

If I really want to be picky, I can point out that alcohol is implicated as a contributor to cancer.  Why is it being served at the Dirty Girl Run?  Why is it being served at an athletic event that claims to help fight against breast cancer.  Oh right, to make money.  By the way, only the small percentage of the registration fee goes to the NBCF, not the proceeds on the adult beverages and unhealthy food they sell. 

I realize that many of you may enjoy the camaraderie, the challenge, the bonding that the Mud Run brings.  Just make sure you’re doing it with your eyes wide open.  In my opinion, the best way to honor someone you lost to breast cancer is to give directly to the fight against it. 
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Sympathizing with a Psychopath
There was a time when I was obsessed with reading about serial killers.  I always wanted to know what makes them tick.  When something horrible happens, we’d like to think that it is explainable.  Unfortunately, when it comes to psychopaths, it’s hard to get an answer.

From the looks of it, former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner was a psychopath.  He wasn’t a serial killer; he’s what’s known as a spree killer.  Psychopath and sociopath are sometimes intertwined and there’s disagreement as to what differentiates the two.  Having read Dorner’s so called manifesto, I find him to be the classical case of psychopathy.  Mary Ellen O’Toole was an FBI profiler who specialized in this.  She talked about “injustice collectors”.  These are people who hold on to things that happened to them that they believe to be unjust. They usually make a mountain out of a mole hill.    Dorner’s manifesto was filled with these.  He also thought of himself in a grandiose fashion.  He lashed out at the lack of empathy from the leader of the NRA for the school kids in Newtown, while showing no empathy for the innocent couple he killed because the woman was the daughter of a man he felt ‘wronged him’.
As disturbing as Dorner is, I find it incredibly unbelievable that there are people who sympathize with him.  Psychopaths are imitators.  They don’t feel for anyone.  They mimic emotions.  They are charming; they tell you what you want to hear.  Christopher Dorner was not a nice, normal guy who went nuts after something happened to him.  He was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.  If it wasn’t the LAPD, something else would have triggered his murderous rage.
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Locations: Newtown
People: Christopher DornerMary Ellen

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Abuse of Power
I live in a rural school district.  Susquehanna County is home to probably more livestock than people.  Our students come from decent, hardworking families.  You know that farmer ad everyone raved about during the Superbowl?  That’s the Mountain View School District. 

We don’t have a lot of money.  Sadly, many of our kids live below the poverty line.  Our grade point averages don’t stack up very well across the state.  In fact, I believe we are near the bottom.

I’m not going to say we don’t have drugs, but we don’t have a lot of the drug and violence problems you see in more populated areas.  We don’t have football, and some sports we barely field a team.

I tell you all of this because it goes to show just how amazing it was for our Mountain View High School Eagles soccer team to win the State Championship.  The final two playoff games were against two private schools from wealthy areas.  Our boys won.  They won because of their skill, and the extraordinary coaching of Roger Thomas.

You may have read the story in the paper last fall, about how Coach Thomas was suspended after a high scoring game against Old Forge.  Perhaps when you saw it, your first reaction was that he deserved it.  Like every story, you need to get the full picture before you make a decision.  I don’t claim to have the answer, or evidence that changes your mind.  I still struggle with whether I would have allowed the score to get that high.  However, I’ve never coached a team.

As I learned more about the details behind the situation, I’ve been disturbed by a few facts.  The soccer team was placed in a division where it was obvious they would be overwhelming their opponents.  There were concerns that the players would not get the necessary competition to hone their skills for future playoff games.   There were concerns that opposing teams who could not play up to the level might be overly aggressive and injure our players.  That has happened in the recent past.  Those concerns fell on deaf ears.

During the entire season, the Eagles outscored their opponents 104-4.  In the final two games to the State Championship they won each by only 1. I’d say the evidence shows that the team and the school was right to argue for a different division.

Let’s fast forward to the game against Old Forge.  As reported by Coach Roger Thomas, the opposing coach stated at the beginning of the game that his team was playing for fun.   Coach Thomas had upcoming playoffs to consider and wanted to make sure the team was prepared.  Here’s where you and I and others can argue about whether he should have allowed the score to get to 24-1.

What I have a real problem with is how this situation was handled.  At the game, the School Board President took it upon himself to walk over to the Principal to tell the coach to stop the scoring.  If you don’t know, a school board member has no power outside of the board room. In fact, they are supposed to stay out of issues that could come before them, so they are as unbiased as possible.  As relayed in the board meeting last night, the Principal then goes to the coach and tells him there will be repercussions if he doesn’t stop.  You may wonder why a school board member would get involved.  This one has a player on the team, a player who is not a starter.
The Superintendent later decides to implement a suspension against Coach Thomas.  The board is only notified of her decision after the fact.  Remember, she answers to the board, a board who’s President was the one who instigated the issue.  

We are now hearing that the League may be taking action of its own.  A large group of parents and taxpayers attended the School Board meeting Monday night.  They believe that the Board should be supporting Coach Roger Thomas and want reassurance that they are, and that they will have him on again as coach for the coming season.  The Board President actually said he was not in favor of rehiring the coach.  Imagine that, a man who takes your school’s team to the State Championship, tossed aside due to petty mean-spiritedness.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe education is the top priority of a school board.  That is why this is so perplexing to me.  Roger Thomas is an excellent teacher, and he inspires the kids in his class and on his team.  His soccer team is ranked #5 in the nation.  Some of his players will get scholarships they sorely need to further their education.  At a time when most schools, and school boards, would be bursting with pride, the Mountain View board is doing everything it can to throw the team and the coach under the school bus.  It’s a real shame.
 (14) Comments
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Topics: Sports
Locations: Susquehanna County
People: Roger Thomas

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