Tag Archives: Cancers

Where Am I?

The question isn’t is this embarrassing. No, the question is one of degree.

Just how embarrassing is it to get lost in your own “hometown?”

Even worse, this isn’t the first time it’s happened to me. I’m beginning to think I might have a problem.

The first time was when I was in junior high school. (For those of you unfamiliar, that was the school between elementary [k-6] and high school [10-12].)

We had some friends come in from out of town. They wanted to go to Six Flags over Texas, which was just outside of the small suburb of Dallas where I grew up.

We managed to make it there all right, with only a few minimal disruptions. The problem came when we headed home and there weren’t any more signs leading us to our destination. This was (way, way, way) before cell phones or the like, so we were on our own. The older kids from out of town didn’t know which way to go and they looked to me for answers.

I turned around to see who they were looking at behind me. I had a vague notion of the direction to go, but it wasn’t all that good of a vague notion. I was asked — repeatedly and forcefully — how I could live in a town and not know my way around it. Mostly it was because I wasn’t driving yet and spent most of my car time with my nose buried in an actual paper book.

We didn’t starve to death. We eventually found our way home (hours and hours after curfew, but the parents had been too busy partying to really worry) and all was good.

Until the last weekend when I got that horrible flashback feeling. My friend, Pitt (who I’ve known since high school and who recently moved here from Pittsburgh) and I were headed to a fundraiser put on by the P Strong Foundation to raise money to support research into rare cancers.

I was in the driving seat, a position with which I was intimately familiar considering I’d been driving for more than three decades. I thought I knew my way around Charlotte. Turns out, I was wrong.

Pitt, who’s been here less than two years, knew where the event was. It was Pitt who knew where to park and how to get from the parking garage to the Bal Masque Gala at the Marriott City Center.

The first one I can blame on youth. The second time? I’m still going to blame that one on youth. Not my own, of course, but my young dudes. See, I’ve been so busy rearing the young dudes since I came to Charlotte fifteen years ago that I never got a chance to really know my way around the city. Unless you counted the areas around the Chuck E Cheese and other young-dude attractions.

That counts, right? You dudes are buying that, yeah? Right?

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Summer Safety Begins Here

Take it slow, dudes. Take it slow.

Really that’s the best advice I’ve got for you right now. And it all has to do with summer being so very close to us here in the United States.

Sure it’s still early May and, for most of us, it’s still relatively cool, not yet kicking up the sweat-soaked, walking in a warm pool of wet air feeling of summer, but that weather is coming. And we’re getting the first breakthrough bits of it right here and right now.

To get ready, you’re going to have to take it easy.

By that, I mean you’re going to need to move slowly as you reacquire habits that, at the end of summer last year, were second nature and very, very easy.

For instance, by the end of last summer, I surely remembered every day to wear a hat when I went out of the house. Not to keep off the rain, but to keep off the sun. Being bald, I have no hair to shade my poor, helpless scalp. If I didn’t wear a hat, I’d get sunburned badly. Again.

Sure I remembered at the end of summer, but at the start? Not a chance. I remember one summer, probably in late April, I went to one of Sarcasmo’s soccer games outside. It wasn’t that warm. I didn’t wear a hat. I got so sunburned, I couldn’t sleep on a pillow that night. I felt like I was burning up. And then, after the pain finally went away, the itching began. Horrible.

All because I hadn’t yet returned to the habit of wearing a hat outdoors.

It’s the same thing with, for instance, shorts. By the time summer took its leave last year, you were used to wearing shorts outside, had a sufficient tan that you didn’t need to slather on the sunblock every single time you went outside for more than 10 minutes?

Now, though? With those pasty white legs? Even that darker skin isn’t going to protect you as good as it did after a summer’s worth of sun. Start slow. Put on a lot of sunscreen when you wear shorts. Make sure to put it on the back of your knees, work it up under the end of the shorts so you don’t expose untreated skin when you sit down. Wear sunscreen on your arms, on your face and head.

Nobody wants skin cancer, but getting a sunburn a couple of times a year is a good way to get a nice crop of cancers started. It’s not a good thing, dudes. To avoid a lot of the risk, just be covered — either in sunscreen or UVA-blocking clothing.

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Forget The Apple, Take An Aspirin A Day

I’ve probably already spoiled the reveal here, dudes, with that lousy headline, but there’s this 2,000-year-old wonder drug that can help keep you alive when you’re having a heart attack, or even help you prevent a heart attack in the first place.

Yeah, it’s called aspirin. You get no dude points for guessing that one, considering I not only used it in the title, but in the preceding paragraph. Sorry.

Look, dudes, let’s just get into the story and I’ll stop messing around about the guessing games. Sound good? All right.

Developed in 1897 by the German chemist Felix Hoffmann, aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, has long proved its value as an analgesic. Two millenniums before that, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used its active ingredient — which he extracted from the bark and leaves of the willow tree — to help alleviate pain and fevers.

Since then, we’ve gained insight into both the biological mechanism and the effects of this chemical compound. Many high-quality research studies have confirmed that the use of aspirin substantially reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, the evidence for this is so abundant and clear that, in 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force strongly recommended that men ages 45 to 79, and women ages 55 to 79, take a low-dose aspirin pill daily, with the exception for those who are already at higher risk for gastrointestinal bleeding or who have certain other health issues. (As an anticoagulant, aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding — a serious and potentially deadly issue for some people.)

I had a heart attack in 2004 and, since then, I’ve been on some sort of anticoagulant or other. For the past couple of years, my cardiologist has had me on two baby (81 mg) aspirin a day, which is taking the place of the prescription drug that I used to be taking. It’s much less expensive, works just as well and I certainly feel better for that.

Not only can aspirin help against heart attacks, it’s also been shown to significantly reduce your chances of dying from cancer. Taking at least 75 mg of aspirin daily over five years has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from some common cancers by 21 percent. And that’s not all.

In March, The Lancet published two more papers bolstering the case for this ancient drug. The first, reviewing five long-term studies involving more than 17,000 patients, found that a daily low-dose aspirin lowered the risk of getting adenocarcinomas — common malignant cancers that develop in the lungs, colon and prostate — by an average of 46 percent.

In the second, researchers at Oxford and other centers compared patients who took aspirin with those who didn’t in 51 different studies. Investigators found that the risk of dying from cancer was 37 percent lower among those taking aspirin for at least five years. In a subsection of the study group, three years of daily aspirin use reduced the risk of developing cancer by almost 25 percent when compared with the aspirin-free control group.

So what are you dudes waiting on? Go out, talk to your doctor and then get some aspirin. Seriously.

— Richard


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