Friday, January 3, 2014

Time Flies, Invisible Killers

It seemed like yesterday when we bought our over hundred year old colonial house in 1993, not long after the house across the street from us was also bought and the new owner moved in. We were all raising our children at the same time.
     Our street is a short street that only people who live on the street come in and go out. Our backyard is not so big so the kids took over the street.  They played baseball, basketball, football, street hockey, kick the can, soccer or just rode their bikes up and down the street. Since most of the houses are colonial, there is a flight of stairs to the front door.  Mothers always sat on the front porch or stairs watching for cars to keep the kids safe. "Car, Car" one of us yelled, the kids got out off the street while the car slowed down, rolling down the window to talk to the kids.  It was usually someone's father coming home from work.
     My next door neighbor on the right had three boys too, but older. Their stay-at-home mom loved to make things at home; she made team flags for each one of her son's sports teams and hung them by the front door when they were playing. Her sister had two boys who lived across the street from her. The two sisters were born on the street, two of twelve children. When the kids grew up, the sisters moved away and the new next door neighbors were a young couple without any children, so they did not slow down when they came back from work and they yelled at children on the street. The housing price has doubled since we bought our house, so it was understandable for the young couple to worry that a ball would touch their house. Two fathers decided to knock on their door and encourage them to be watch out for the children and to be nicer to them. Maybe they got the message, since they sold their house soon after and moved away. But before they moved away, one of my car tires on their side of the driveway was slashed at night.  I ended up spending over $300 to replace it. We were the only ones nice to them and talked to them, so I do not think they did it. I guess the Chinese saying 失财免灾, which means losing money to avoid disaster applies here.  A young couple and their daughter moved in and fit right into the neighborhood.
     My next door neighbor on the left is an older couple whose children are already grown up and moved out; their grandchildren visit them sometimes. Across from them was another couple, also older with grandchildren. They told us the stories from the last generation. There used to be 96 children on the street. In another house, a mother who had twelve children lived there with three unmarried daughters till she died. The new owner of the house was a minister who had three children.  They lived there only two years because his church closed down and he lost his job. I was very sad because I did not think a minister had to find a job like the rest of us; his kids played so well on the street.  So I suggested that he should convert to Catholicism, since there is a severe shortage of priests. He refused my suggestion and moved back to his wife's parents house in the Midwest till he could find another church. A young couple with a baby bought the house and moved in.
     I skipped a year for my mammogram since a colleague of mine had breast cancer and she was wondering if the mammogram actually gave her cancer.  She had no history of cancer in her family and she ate healthy food and was in good heath for her yearly check-up. All of sudden, she had breast cancer and she could not figure out why.  My mother is over 80 years old and she had a mammogram only once or twice. The mammogram office called me after my normal check up, asking me to go to the Breast Cancer Center for the second check up because they found some abnormal growth. It was the first time for me go to the Breast Cancer Center, which was a 4 or 5 story building all by itself. The mammogram machine was on the fourth floor, which I wished would have been at the first floor entry.  The waiting area was beautifully decorated; there were two woman already sitting there when I arrived.  One looked older than me and one younger.  After I sat down next to them, I noticed the beautiful watercolor painting on my left.  The little plate under the painting made me shiver because it read "In Memory of  XXX".  Three of us were sitting there watching the TV in front of us. Although I was staring at the TV like the other two, I was not watching.  I felt the cancer above us made the three of us run around as in "musical chairs" and we were powerless. I was fortunate to leave first after they told me I was fine, but they reminded me to make sure I get a mammogram every year. They made me feel that if I skipped it, I would get cancer. I also felt bad for the other two as if I left them behind and I felt guilty.
     An Irish mother across the street from us came down with breast cancer a few years ago and she died from a second form of cancer. She was my age and her husband was my husband's age. We both had three kids. Her wish was to see her youngest son's high school graduation, but she did not even get that wish. Her next door neighbor also died from cancer a few years ago; she used to watch her niece's daughter and we used to push their kids in strollers, walking around.  I was trying to ask her to stop smoking as I told everyone I know who smokes. She joked with me that if she died from lung cancer, I should just give her a dozen carnations. A month later, two houses down from us, a father died from cancer. The houses behind, and on both sides of us all have family members fighting cancer.
     Right after Christmas, a co-worker of mine died unexpectedly from kidney failure. I still remember the last co-worker who was having a heart attack all day long and thought he had a stomach flu. A few days later, a co worker who used to work with my husband died in his hotel room while attending a meeting in Florida. They shared the same first name, same birthday, same birth year and also a German-like last name.
      It scared me at night before I fell to sleep, thinking about the invisible killers around us. Death around us. My heart felt heavy and I felt helpless.  To calm myself down, I prayed every way I knew, the Catholic way. the Buddhist way, and even the ghost chase way when I prayed for my grandmother.
      Life really only needs fresh air, fresh water, and simple, fresh food. The following is a good example of the way life should be.

China's Enclave of Centenarians
    Food is the most important factor for survival after fresh air and water. China had 80% of its people as small family farmers, and farming was the most important throughout Chinese 5000 year history. China had a very strong tradition of putting agriculture first. The official, after passing the most difficult test, was the highest class, the second class the farmer, the lowest class the merchant and businessman because they make a living from all the other people's work. After the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars, capitalism and greed took over the world. 3% of the population remained as farmers in Europe and the US. China lost 20% of its farmers (total population1.4 billion) during the last 30 years. Now, China is following Europe and America with only about 3% of the population as farmers. Food production became a mass-cloning operation for maximum industrial production and for maximum profit. Fast food took over the world. Monoculture crops and gene alterations took over natural diversity because profit rules. We bred crops in which no pest was interested, or lethal to pests as if we are different than pests.
     We create so much human-made material from industrial to household goods and altered the world in which we live. We polluted our air and water. Our body genes simply go crazy try to adapt, our poor body simply tries to adapt to every change in the world. To solve the problems that we created, there are more antidepressant drugs. A whole institution of scientists either re-educates children or re-educates the losers. Every now and then, some madness comes out of nowhere and the madmen basically wants to destroy the whole world.
     The most dangerous things are global pursuits of the same thing. If everyone lived like Americans, we would need over 4 Earths to sustain our lifestyle. Freedom is not free; nothing is free, someone has to pay for the freedom. We are part of nature, not above it and we are connected with everything around us. Everything we do or change will affect others (not just another human but everything around us). The others will always bounce back to reach the new equilibrium, which may or may not include our human race since Natural Rules. We have to decide how much is too much and where are we going as the human race?

Cancer: A global threat  
Vast Study Casts Doubts on Value of Mammograms