Where Does the Madness End? Do We Start Cutting Away Our Body Parts Out of Fear?

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First of all, what I’m about to say is not any sort of anti-Angelina Jolie diatribe, don’t know the woman personally. Nor is it a biting, hard-hitting treatise on celebrity worship by society and the media. There are elements in the blog, but they’re there to make a point about common sense and allowing fear to get the best of you. So here we go….

I have definite opinions on what Angelina Jolie decided to do about the fact that she found out she was at a high risk of contracting breast as well as ovarian cancer. Though I’m not quite in agreement with the choices she made, I absolutely feel she had the right to do what she thought was best for her and her family. That being said, what is more troubling is the idea that we can somehow get these genetic tests, consult with doctors, have the surgeries (provided you can afford the entire process, including reconstruction) and all will be well in your life forever. Somehow, you’ve become cancer-proof.

WRONG! Angelina Jolie has the means to consult with the best doctors in the world. She can take off from her acting, recuperate and then get breast reconstruction. But what people fail to realize is that reconstruction is considered by most insurance companies as a cosmetic procedure and they are hard-pressed to pay for it. Then there’s the invincibility factor–have the surgery and you’ll never have to worry about cancer again. Never-mind that there are many other forms of cancer you can still be diagnosed with. And some, you may not have a family history of.

This sets many women up to have a false sense of security. And where does it end? Melissa Etheridge, who is a breast cancer survivor said on People.com and The Huffington Post that she felt (and I’m paraphrasing) Angelina’s decision was made in fear. She also felt that maybe she should have just waited for a while because she doesn’t have cancer. Innocent statement…well not to Angelina fanatics. They’ve ripped into Etheridge as if she stole something. How dare she say anything against their goddess because well, it’s Angelina Jolie.

Many of us have been personally affected by cancer, either ourselves battling the disease, a colleague, a friend or family member. Yes cancer is an extremely scary disease. Yes it does kill thousands and thousands of people everyday somewhere in the world. But there are some cancers, if caught in their early stages, that are curable and you can go on to live a long happy life. Even in the worst case scenario and you’re diagnosed with one of the hard to treat ones in its advanced stages, I am a firm believer that if it’s not your time, you’re not going anywhere.

The celebrity of Jolie has set a terrible precedence and this is why. Most people can’t afford those procedures nor do they have insurance. Nothing in life makes any one of us immune to disease, not even some high-profile celebrity. And, with all the genetic testing that is at our fingertips and some out there on the horizon, are we heading in the direction of being a society that believes in unnecessary, major surgical procedures instead of just taking a wait and see attitude if you don’t have the disease yet? What Jolie went through was indeed major surgery. Yes I understand that her mother and aunt died of the disease. I also understand that she wants to live to see her six children become adults. But what Ms. Jolie  and many of those who are contemplating  having the procedure is completely glossing over, is that at any given time, a person can leave their home and get hit by a bus, a car, have some freak accident, die of some undiagnosed illness they didn’t know they had or just simply die of natural causes. We are not designed  to live forever and no matter what you do, we have a definitive amount of time on our life clocks and when that time is up, we move on.

I am by no means saying that people don’t have a right to do with their bodies what they will, but what is extraordinarily disturbing is when women look to these celebrities, pop doctors and various other health gurus as their beacons of extended or eternal life. That misguided mindset could have them feeling as if they’re little bullet-proof superwomen, which in my opinion, is more dangerous than the diseases they’re trying to prevent.

Melissa Etheridge Calls Angelina Jolie’s Double Mastectomy A ‘Fearful’ Choice

Posted: 06/18/2013 8:48 am EDT  |  Updated: 06/18/2013 12:01 pm EDT

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Melissa Etheridge Angelina Jolie

Singer Melissa Etheridge called Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy a “fearful” choice.

At least one person doesn’t agree with Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy earlier this year. Melissa Etheridge, who beat breast cancer in 2005, told the Washington Blade newspaper that Jolie — whose doctors warned her of an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer — acted out of fear rather than bravery.

The two-time Grammy winner, 52, said she suffered from the same gene mutation that Jolie claimed to have, but that she would have reacted differently. An excerpt from her interview is below:

“I wouldn’t call it the brave choice. I actually think it’s the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer. My belief is that cancer comes from inside you and so much of it has to do with the environment of your body. It’s the stress that will turn that gene on or not. Plenty of people have the gene mutation and everything but it never comes to cancer so I would say to anybody faced with that, that choice is way down the line on the spectrum of what you can do and to really consider the advancements we’ve made in things like nutrition and stress levels. I’ve been cancer free for nine years now and looking back, I completely understand why I got cancer. There was so much acidity in everything.”

The comments are similar to ones that Etheridge made to Shape magazine about being cancer-free. “Once I overcame breast cancer, I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore. I now have a different relationship with fear. There are only two things in our reality, love and fear. I try to make choices out of love,” she said.

When asked about Etheridge’s comments Monday while promoting his new movie, “World War Z,” Jolie’s husband, Brad Pitt, said he hadn’t yet formulated his thoughts. “I don’t know. Somebody just said that,” he told Us Weekly. “Melissa’s an old friend of mine. I’m sure we’ll talk over the phone. I don’t know what it is.”

Jolie, 38, announced her decision to undergo surgery in a candid op-ed piece for the New York Times in May. Less than two weeks later, Jolie’s aunt, Debbie Martin, died of breast cancer at age 61.

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Another Level of Stupid…Pregnancy and Babies are Not Novelties

Yes I’m on my soapbox this morning. Is there no end to the stupidity of some people? In the article below, a father starts a business of throwing sonogram parties. Allow me to remind people that sonograms are medical procedures and should be done only in a medical facility by licensed medical professionals and a doctor should be the one ordering them.

Babies are real live human beings and should not be there just for their parent’s amusement. Why on earth would a parent subject themselves, their baby and their family and friends to an unnecessary medical procedure just because it’s the newest fad and they think it’s cool ? What if that sonogram shows a problem with the baby that they didn’t know about? Then what?

I guess that little detail wasn’t necessarily thought out was it!?!? Pregnancy and babies can be a beautiful things but far too many people only like the good side of it; presents, attention, oooohing and awwwwwing, the decorating of the baby’s room, the pretty clothes, etc., but what they sometimes forget is that said baby, is not a toy or a novelty. You don’t just get to play with the kid (before birth) by rubbing your belly a million times a day and after – patting them on the head and parading them around like the newest pair of shoes or handbag.

I thought that “babymoons and push presents” were some of the most nonsensical fads surrounding expectant parenthood, but this one takes the top prize. I cannot stress enough, that this IS a medical procedure and the medical community does not recommend it. Most doctors will only order one, maybe two during the pregnancy. I’m beginning to think for some people, that having a baby is just another way to feed their malignantly narcissistic personalities.

Fla. Father’s Miracle Baby Inspires Sonogram Parties

By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES | Good Morning America – Thu, Jan 3, 2013 6:39 PM EST

  • Fla. Father's Miracle Baby Inspires Sonogram Parties (ABC News)

    Good Morning America – Fla. Father’s Miracle Baby Inspires Sonogram Parties (ABC News)

Chad Berry and his wife Camie of Fort Meyers, Fla., know from personal experience that having a baby is a miracle — their own daughter is living proof. Madisyn, now 14, was born after they lost five, two to ectopic pregnancies and three in miscarriages.

So today they offer a “glimpse of your little miracle” in a low-cost ultrasound to couples who want to celebrate the joy of pregnancy in their own homes or at celebratory venues.

Camie Berry, 38, is a certified sonographer and her husband, who used to work as a lab technician, runs the business side of Miracles Imaging. The couple is tapping into one of the latest trends in pregnancy, one that has been growing in popularity over the last several years — sonogram parties.

“We’ll get a call that someone is having a baby shower and ask if we can come,” said Chad Berry, 37. “In two weeks, Alex and Kara are having a package with us. They are renting a real nice room at a country club. We set up and bring the massage table and the screen set up for them so everyone at the baby shower can see.”

Women who opt to get a 3-D image of their child at 23 weeks, moving and showing facial expressions, say they are a fun way to share the excitement of pregnancy.

As finger food and drinks are passed around the room, the mother-to-be stretches out on an examining table while the technician moves a wand across her belly. Imaging equipment is hooked up to a TV screen or computer monitor for all the room to see.

Berry said that the services he and his wife offer should never replace routine medical care, but it can be a more affordable way to see a 3-D image not taken during a routine prenatal exam.

A hospital-based ultrasound might cost up to $800 or more locally, according to Berry. “We can do it 70 percent off because we run a small clinic.”

“The most touching one we ever did was for a couple in their 40s trying to have a baby,” he said. “She finally got pregnant and they planned a dinner at home but didn’t tell the parents. One of the grandparents was crying hysterically the whole time.”

The man had been diagnosed with cancer and told he likely would not live long enough to see the baby. “He could watch it in his own home,” said Berry. “This was the most rewarding experience to provide that to someone.”

But medical experts caution against the experience. The American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Food and Drug Administration, strongly discourage having ultrasounds purely for entertainment and not for a medical reason.

An ultrasound provides reassurance and some useful information for doctors on fetal development — to confirm dates, detect a heartbeat and to check for certain genetic defects.

According to Austin, Texas, pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown, there is no “requirement” to have an ultrasound during a normal pregnancy and is up to a practitioner to determine if the woman is at high risk — usually carrying multiples or a history of pre-term labor or diabetes.

“Some doctors don’t do any,” she said.

“Yes, it is pretty cool to see your baby that way, but not necessary,” said Brown, the author of“Expecting 411.”

“In our book, we discourage couples from going to the mall and getting glamour-shots style ultrasounds,” she said. “There is no certainty of the technician’s training or if the machine is properly maintained. And, some of these photo shoots last three to four hours. It is not worth the risk of exposing your unborn baby to several hours of sound waves and excess heat.”

Technician Lisa Dixon, who is just starting up Peek a View ultrasound services in Santa Monica, Calif., confirms that the trend is growing. “‘Viewing parties’ is what they are called,” she told ABCNews.com.

She charges $375 and up for her parties, depending on location. Like Berry, she provides 3-D images and a DVD with the deal.

Miracle Images provides a “gender reveal” package for $179 anywhere between 15 or 32 weeks. For $198, a client can buy, “Watch Your Baby Grow” with a classic sonogram session during each trimester.

With the deluxe “Shower Package” for $249, Miracles Images will go to a reception hall or a home and provide a 4-D film of the fetus moving in the womb that can be Skyped to absent family or friends.

LeAnn Flippen of Lehigh, Fla., surprised her 33-week pregnant sister-in-law with a sonogram at ababy shower because the family couldn’t afford a 3-D image through their own doctor. (Insurance only pays for 2-D images, unless there are medical complications.)

“My brother was trying to be frugal because with a baby on the way, he didn’t want to spend the money,” said Flippen. “She is a dental hygienist and doesn’t get maternity leave.”

“With 3-D you see the entire face and the pudgy cheeks and nose and eyes,” said Flippen, 30.

“We ate as soon as we got there and played a game while they were setting up,” she said. “We had her chair at the front door so everyone was in front of her and she was the center of attention…. She was so excited.”

Flippen, who has two boys, is now 23 weeks pregnant with a girl. At 15 weeks, she went to Miracle Images to find out the gender in 3-D. Back in 2007, she went to another ultrasound company and had a 3-D image of her son and paid three times as much.

Viviana Aguilera, a 25-year-old teacher from Cape Coral, Fla., held her own sonogram party in her home. Friends attended in person and family from Miami watched the 4-D image of the 29-week fetus moving in her womb via Facetime on her iPad.

“It was awesome,” said Aguilera, who got a discount because her husband is in law enforcement. “The house was packed.”

Sonogram Parties Are the Rage

At first the baby wasn’t “cooperating,” she said of her daughter, who is now 2 months old. “So they made me do certain exercises and I was eating brownies and drinking Coke, trying to wake her up.”

Afterward, she received a DVD and photos. “I would definitely do it again.”

But medical experts say that even though sonograms are considered “safe,” they do not recommend them for “entertainment.”

“Ultrasound should only be performed for medical purposes with a prescription from a licensed professional so people won’t do it just for the fun of it,” said Dr. Deborah Levine of Harvard University Medical School, who is chair of the American College of Radiology Commission on Ultrasound.

Certified technicians are also not supposed to practice independently, without a “physician behind them,” she said. “If a sonographer goes out to the house, you don’t know how it is calibrated, who is operating it and you don’t have the normal quality assurances as in a medical practice. You don’t have the normal checks and balances.”

But Berry of Miracles Images said no research has determined that ultrasounds are unsafe.

“We have quite a few ob/gyn doctors here that we refer women to,” he said. “Insurance covers on one or two, and especially for those on Medicaid, there is little chance for them to have them done.”

He offers discounts to active military, firefighters, first responders and police officers.

Miracle Images requires that their clients have their own doctor to provide prescribed medical sonograms and to oversee their prenatal care.

Berry insists his is no “fly-by-night” operation and has a medical director on call if ultrasound reveals medical problems. “When we find a baby with no heartbeat, we know the physician to call.”

Even LeAnn Flippen, who is now 23 weeks pregnant with her own child, doesn’t seem to worry that an ultrasound could reveal a deformity before a horrified group at a sonogram shower.

“It’s always a concern,” she said. “I guess I leave it up to God. There’s nothing I can do.”

Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Trees down causing a taxi to crash in Manhattan.

Flooding in Ocean City Maryland.

Flooding near the Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River.

Flooding in the train station in New York.

View of the flooding down 20th Avenue in New York.

Car is submerged in flood waters flowing down 20th Avenue in New York.

Flooding in Battery Park – New York.

Rising water under the Brooklyn Bridge – New York.

Hurricane Sandy is a Beast!

Pounding Atlantic City.

Along the Coast.

An apartment building decimated by Sandy.

As last reported by AP, the storm has knocked out power to 1.5 million people along the Eastern Seaboard. Be careful and stay safe if you’re in the path of Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy is Taking Aim at the East Coast

From the Live Weather Cam, this image looks like a scene from the film, Day After Tomorrow. It’s surreal and I would suggest that people heed the warnings to evacuate.

6th Avenue in New York looks stark and desolate. Service for the buses and subways have been suspended. Businesses and schools are closed. People please, don’t think you’re invincible, use common sense and seek safety. Remember, you aren’t just putting your life in danger but also that of the First Responders, family and friends who may try to rescue you if necessary.

NYC Braces for Wall of Water from Superstorm

City faces a seawater surge that could reach 11 feet

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated Monday, Oct. 29, 11:33 a.m.

A woman takes a picture as water washes over the sea wall near high tide at Battery Park in New York on Monday. (AP) 

NEW YORK (AP) – Waves splashed over the sea walls at the southern tip of Manhattan, already at Hurricane Irene levels Monday hours before the worst of a mammoth storm was to hit the nation’s largest city with a wall of water that could reach 11 feet.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed two key tunnels to downtown Manhattan after the city shut its mass transit system, stock exchanges, schools and Broadway and ordered hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge. While light rain fell steadily and New Yorkers still bustled on the streets, Cuomo warned residents to get out of the way.

“Don’t be fooled, don’t look out the window and say, it doesn’t look so bad,” Cuomo said. “The worst is still coming.”

Cuomo said emergency boats were being moved downstate and the Brooklyn Battery and Holland Tunnels, both prone to flooding, would close at 2 p.m. The floor of the New York Stock Exchange was deserted in its first unplanned shutdown since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. More than 20,000 customers, mostly in Long Island, has lost power in the area by Monday morning, utility officials. Most of the city’s 3,600 outages were in Brooklyn, officials said.

PHOTOS ON SKYE: Waters Rise as Superstorm Threatens Coast
On Monday, crowds gathered along the South Street Seaport, until police shooed them away. In Battery Park City, a complex of high-rise offices and apartment buildings erected on a landfill in lower Manhattan, holdouts watched as the Hudson rose and began to breach sections of scenic walkways along the river.

Many people were still out jogging, walking their dogs and even taking infants out in strollers amid gusts of wind.

Mark Vial pushed a stroller holding his 2-year-old daughter Maziyar toward the door of a building where they live on 15th floor.

“We’re high up enough, so I’m not worried about flooding,” he said. “There’s plenty of food. We’ll be ok.”

Vial, 35, said his building had several holdouts. “The laundry room was packed last night,” he said.

Some New Yorkers packed grocery stores for water and food and scrambled to get out of flood zones, while others insisted they weren’t going anywhere.

Others heeded warnings. Clutching a white pillow in her left hand and two computers in another, Alyssa Marks rushed to get to the subway before it stopped running Sunday evening. She’d gotten cash but had no time to get toiletries and water.

RELATED ON SKYE: Mapping the Megastorm – Track it Live

“I’m nervous, but I’m also excited,” she said as she left her apartment in a lower Manhattan evacuation zone for a friend’s place on higher ground.

Warnings about the superstorm – a predicted combination of Sandy, a wintry system moving in from the West and cold air streaming down from the Arctic – took on a much more ominous tone Sunday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s environmental protection chief, Louis Uccellini, called the projected storm surge “the worst-case scenario” for New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey.

It threatened to swamp parts of lower Manhattan, flood subway tunnels and knock out the underground network of power, phone and high-speed Internet lines that are the lifeblood of America’s financial capital.

The major American stock exchanges closed for the day, the first unplanned shutdown since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. The floor of the NYSE, typically bustling with traders on a Monday morning, fell within the city’s mandatory evacuation zone. The United Nations canceled all meetings at its New York headquarters. New York called off school for the city’s 1.1 million students.

RELATED ON SKYE: Tips on Preparing for the Megastorm

The NYSE’s parent company said late Sunday that the shutdown might be extended through Tuesday “pending confirmation,” according to exchange operator NYSE Euronext.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday announced a mandatory evacuation affecting 375,000 people in low-lying areas from the beaches of Queens to Battery Park City. Subways and buses were shut down Sunday night, leaving more than 5 million mostly carless daily riders on their own to get to higher ground.

Cuomo deployed National Guard troops to the city and Long Island. Consolidated Edison weighed the possibility of shutting down power in parts of lower Manhattan to protect equipment. Broadway shows were canceled for Sunday and Monday. One small hospital was being evacuated, while several others were moving patients to higher floors.

It marked the second time in 14 months that New York City has faced a scenario forecasters have long feared: a big hurricane hitting the city or a bit south, such that the cyclone’s counterclockwise winds drive water into miles of densely populated shoreline.

Hurricane Irene ultimately came ashore as a tropical storm in Coney Island, with a 4-foot storm surge that washed over parts of the southern tip of Manhattan but didn’t wreak the havoc that officials had feared, although it caused tremendous damage elsewhere. Some experts have said that a surge 3 feet higher could have caused huge damage.

PHOTOS ON SKYE: Waters Rise as Superstorm Threatens Coast

The Endeavour: What a Sight to Behold and an End of an Era.

I remember as a kid, being in complete awe of space travel. I often wondered what it would be like to travel into space. I even entertained the idea of becoming an astronaut. Though that’s not the career I pursued, but my brother Richie did in a way. He worked for NASA as an engineer. I would visit him at the Johnson Space Center as well as  Cape Canaveral, and the sheer splendor of being inside  the center itself and walking past command central was dizzying, exhilarating and breathtaking. All the years of seeing those men on TV (it was only men then) instructing and guiding the crafts on their journey into space and now I was there, it was a real WOW moment for me. Though I couldn’t go into the super classified areas, I did get a chance to experience the zero gravity room. Can I tell you…it was AWESOME!

So when I see the Shuttle Endeavour making its way to the California Science Center through the streets of Los Angeles, it both excites and saddens me because I know it’s the end of an era in conventional space exploration. Yes Richard Branson is putting mega bucks into private space travel, but let’s face it, the majority of people won’t be able to afford the cost. With NASA, you knew, though it was a long-shot, that you at least HAD that shot to become one of the astronauts chosen for the space program.

From a fiscal standpoint, I understand why the shuttles were decommissioned, but there’s still a bit of that young girl inside me that wants to see the lift-offs and landings…sitting around the TV as a family with all eyes glued to the magnificence of it all and it’s a shame that my 11 month old god-daughter will never have that opportunity.

So here’s hoping that future generations will have even more awe-inspiring moments about space…maybe they will actually be able to visit and live on other planets and that will truly be the legacy of the space program. But for now, Space Shuttle Endeavour and all the other shuttles, capsules and those lucky astronauts that were able to live their dreams of space exploration, I bid you a fond farewell and thank you for all the great memories.

In the words of President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962 – Houston, Texas:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

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The Endeavor Sighting! How Cool!!!

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I acted like a kid today when I saw the Space Shuttle Endeavor circling over my neighborhood in Los Angeles. Then I saw it again as I was on my way to a meeting. What an amazing sight! I understand that all things must change, but knowing that this is an end of an era makes me sad. I long for the days when a nation could be glued to the TV and look in complete awe at the possibility of space travel.

Those were the days!

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