Saturday, November 7, 2015

In Memory of Faith Sand

The Athenaeum, Cal Tech, Pasadena

Beautiful memorial service today for Faith Annette Sand, whose cancer began with melanoma on her leg in 1998 or 1999.  She had surgery in 2002.

In December 2013, she had back pain and learned that her melanoma had metastasized.

Although it was then stage 4, she survived nearly another 1 1/2 years, dying on August 5, 2015.

I visited her for the last time on May 1, 2015, when she took me to lunch with her husband and step-son at The Athenaeum, the faculty dining room of California Institute of Technology, not far from her home in Pasadena.

Born in Minneapolis in 1939, Faith graduated from Wheaton College in 1961 and did mission work in Brazil for fifteen years.

Faith founded a publishing house, Hope Publishing, and in 1994 she published my book, Abortion--My Choice, God's Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories.

The public memorial service was held November 7, 2015, at St. Athanasius Episcopal Church, part of the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles.

Her daughter Heidi Pidcoke read the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila and said Faith like St. Teresa was a rebel, writer and mystic. 

"Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing away, God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices."  --Teresa of Avila

Faith and her husband Albert Cohen had donated a stained glass window portrait of Teresa of Avila to St. Athanasius.

See also the post in my feminist blog,

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ovarian CA Treatment Underused

The cancers that don't announce themselves are the hardest to treat, usually found in stage 2 or 3.

Here's an article about a new and effective treatment that some doctors don't know much about and some patients never hear about.

It involves giving the chemotherapy not into the vein but as a wash in the body cavity containing the organs.  This makes sense to apply it directly to areas where the cancer is most likely to have metastasized.  

Thank you to Denise Grady of the New York Times for this report.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

BRCA 1 & 2 Testing

A new test for the BRCA 1 and 2 genes that is easier and cheaper--and more accurate--was announced this week.

I'm glad to hear this.  I tested negative for the genes, as did my sister, but we were worried because three paternal aunts had breast cancer, and one died of ovarian cancer.

Geneticist Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington has called for this test to be available to all US women over 30 yrs. of age.

Friday, April 17, 2015

When Cancer Is Not a Dance

Sometimes cancer is not a dance.

Instead of calling you to a long, slow waltz, it assaults you--a knock-out punch to the head.

You stumble back to your feet, but it grabs you from behind, spins you, throws you across the room.

You hit the wall and collapse.

You find yourself in the hospital, not receiving care but lying with bony hands around your throat, unable to swallow, finally unable to breathe.

                                                  --in memory of a friend who died April 17, 2015.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rest in Peace: Laurie Becklund

After the lumpectomy, after the radiation, we are told to take an anti-estrogen pill daily for five years, and then we are pronounced "five-year survivors."

"Have a nice life," Laurie Becklund's doctors told her at that point.

The part they don't stress is that one in ten of us still has micro-metastases after our treatment and will develop problems with cancer later.

Laurie died of metastasized breast cancer on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015, exactly two weeks ago.  Her breast cancer had returned 13 years after her first diagnosis in 1996, and she lived almost six years after it returned.  

Today her family and friends put on a five-star memorial service, which my husband attended.  (I choose to attend my usual monthly Women-Church liturgy.)  She was an award-winning reporter for the Los Angeles Times and had written several books.

Here's the final piece Laurie wrote, "As I Lay Dying," which appeared on a full page of the op-ed pages today in the Los Angeles Times.

William Faulkner never imagined that his novel, As I Lay Dying, would bear such strange fruit.

Laurie was born in 1948, as was I.  

She applied to be part of Stanford University's freshman class of 1966, but she was turned down.  The foolish selection committee still goes for students who have 1) achieved in sports, 2) held offices in high school government or edited high school newspapers or yearbooks, 3) achieved in music or the arts --in addition to having 4.0 grades.  

Instead of Laurie, the committee chose me and my neighbor Shelley Surpin, now an entertainment lawyer; neither of us did anything particularly noticeable with our talents, unlike Laurie.  Perhaps they chose me because they needed a few from Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley.  Laurie came from the San Diego area, where there were many qualified applicants.  

Note about The Ratio: one-third of the entering students were female.  Two-thirds of the seats in the class went to males.  If Stanford had not been such a sexist place, as well as sports-ist, Laurie would have entered the class.

Instead Laurie earned her BA from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, run by a group of nuns who took the Vatican II direction to heart and soon shed their habits and their subservience.  Cardinal McIntyre tried to squelch them by shutting down donations to the college, which had to close.

Pat Reif was among them, an activist for civil rights, against nuclear weapons, and for peace.  She later founded a master's degree program in feminist spirituality at Immaculate Heart College.

In this environment, Laurie flourished.  She learned activism and advocacy for women.  It's not surprising that she went much further than the sweetie-pies who went to Stanford in 1966 and married a classmate, as did I.

Laurie went to Columbia School of Journalism and did important work for the LA Times.  She didn't marry until age 32.  

Her reporting exposed the government death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.

Laurie, the trajectory of your life and that of mine crossed in several ways.  Our husbands both worked at the LA Times--and you too were among those talented journalists.   

Our lives both were touched by the Immaculate Heart sisters.

You had one daughter (wise in just one), while I had three.

Breast cancer entered your life in 1996 but waited until 2014 to enter mine.

You wrote several books as I edited just one (the reverse of our daughter totals).  You were a much better reporter than I.

You died this month from metastasized breast cancer; I still live.

Cancer may get me in a few years, or maybe my end will be with Alzheimer's disease.

The important thing is that we were each created and loved by God and did our best to serve our Maker.

We both strove to answer the question posed by Evelyn Underhill in her book The Spiritual Life:

...what function must this life fulfill in the great and secret economy of God?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Checkpoint Inhibitors

I didn't realize that my own body has ways of fighting cancer.

T-cells attack and kill many invading cells, including cancer cells, but some cancers have a way of telling T-cells to go away.  

Doctors at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere have developed a way to block the chemical reaction that sends the T-cells away.

Listen to this report today on NPR News: