Hubert Lawrence | A victory over grief

first_img2016 has seen its fair share of big sporting moments. For Jamaicans. The Olympic sprint doubles by Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson probably top the charts with the twin triumphs by the West Indies at the World Twenty20 World Cup being the biggest accomplishments early in the year. Ranking right up there is a victory over grief. Just days after their son Dominic James collapsed during a Manning Cup game, his parents – David and Denese – came to watch last Friday’s match between St George’s College, which their son captained at the time of his death and Greater Portmore High School. To make their intent clear, they came wearing shirts their son wore during his time representing St George’s. It would have been easier to stay away but the James’ came forward to inspire their son’s team-mates. They wore light blue but their courage and dignity is an example for every Jamaican. I don’t know how many of us could do that. I know I couldn’t. In some ways, it’s even more of a shot in the arm than those famous triumphs by Bolt, Thompson and the West Indies. It is said that sport builds character. It tests character too and not just for those on the field of play. The West Indies’ double T20 triumphs showed that regional cricket, in the shortest form of that venerable game, had the potential to be the best in the world. In Rio de Janeiro at the Olympics, Bolt, Thompson and Omar McLeod showed our world class prowess in athletics. Last week Friday, James’ parents showed that there are times when Jamaicans are ‘tallawah’ off the field of play as well. It won’t be easy for Mr and Mrs James to get over the loss of their only son. Their memories will be bittersweet. Even though they too played on bravely, the St George’s Manning Cup players will need time to mend. Thankfully, all affected parties, led by James’ parents and their son’s team-mates, have faced the tragedy bravely. Together, they made Friday, September 23 one of the biggest days ever in sport. • Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.last_img read more

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Seeking wellness together

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WESTLAKE VILLAGE — This is a place where they welcome you with smiles and fresh-baked oatmeal cookies, but tell you they’re sorry you had to come at all. It’s a place where Molly Rutschman shares her excitement about the upcoming bloom of her roses, where Sam Grant describes with relish the taste of sushi after months of eating only bland food, where Ross Richardson finds joy in telling the latest news about his pregnant niece. And it’s a place where words like prognosis and incurable are spoken aloud, and where one word in particular binds them together. At The Wellness Community, the word isn’t cancer, but life. “Every morning I wake up, and I look up and say, Thank you,’” said 54-year-old Jeanne DiConti, who is living with intestinal cancer. “You take pleasure in the everyday, in the ordinary.” The high-profile announcements last week that Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow were fighting a recurrence of cancer refocused public attention on the fearsome disease — and the determined people fighting similar battles every day. Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, revealed she has an incurable form of cancer that has spread from her breast to her bones. Snow, President George W. Bush’s chief spokesman, said his colon cancer had spread to the liver and was also incurable. Among those who attend the weekly support groups at the Wellness Center, there is sorrow for Edwards and Snow, but also hope that their conditions will lead to more research and expanded treatment options. “There’s a lot of politics tied to drugs and treatment and I think that when people come out, it heightens the awareness and makes people focus that much more on developing new drugs,” said Nancy Colton, 48 and the mother of three sons, who was diagnosed with metatastic breast cancer. “My oncologist is always telling me I have to stay healthy,” she said. “New drugs are coming out all the time.” 25 years of service to area Over several decades, attitudes toward cancer have changed — from a societal stigma to what now oncologists with the American Cancer Society label as a chronic disease similar to diabetes. Some cancers cannot be cured, but they can be treated. “Twenty years ago, when I was in nursing school, I remember taking care of people with cancer who would see it as a death sentence,” said Marty Nason, a program director of the Valley/Ventura Chapter of the Wellness Community. The Wellness Community was founded 25 years ago in Santa Monica by Dr. Harold Benjamin. It has since blossomed to include 22 such facilities nationwide, where free support groups, information and exercise and nutrition classes are offered to cancer patients and their families. The services are offered by volunteers, and paid for through community and corporate donations, fundraisers and grants. Nason and oncology nurse Beth Kin opened the Westlake Village facility. “We knew there was a need for a program like this in our community,” Nason said. “It’s been pretty exciting and gratifying.” As for changing attitudes, Nason believes when stories about high-profile women like Edwards, comedian Gilda Radner and actress Shirley Temple Black go public with their battle, patients ask doctors more questions about available screening tests. “It’s so important to ask if something is available,” Nason said. “When you see the people in our support group, none of them said they had any pain before they were diagnosed. That’s what’s scary.” The openness among public figures gives the impression that there is more cancer than before, Nason said. A 2007 report from the California Department of Health Services found that overall cancer incidence rates have decreased by 10 percent between 1988 and 2003, while the cancer mortality rate has declined by 18 percent in that same period, the last year for which data was available. However, it is predicted that one out of every two Californians born in 2007 will develop cancer at some point in their lives. And one out of five will die of the disease. “Tony Snow’s announcement is particularly important, because his diagnosis was late and colon cancer can be stopped with regular screening,” said Katie Spangle, spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society, Los Angeles Region. “Both Snow and Edwards are doing an enormous public service by talking about it.” But others believe that openness comes with a sacrifice for people in the public eye. “My initial reaction is I’m sorry they have to do it so publicly, because it’s such an emotional thing,” said Dr. Bernard Lewinsky, a radiation oncologist based in West Hills who sits on the board for directors for the Wellness Community. “They are forced to mask their human fear, and that’s unfair.” Almost like Elizabeth But inside the Wellness Community, emotions are welcomed and transformed, into yoga positions offered by voluntary experts and through watercolor classes, which Patty McClanahan, 51, really likes. Like Edwards, McClanahan was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years back. She underwent chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. But the cancer was still there, and spread from breast to bone. Back in her hometown of Athens, Ohio, doctors shook their heads and told McClanahan there was nothing more they could do. “The doctors in Ohio pretty much gave up on me,” McClanahan said. “They advised me to check into a nursing home. I said no way. I’m too stubborn.” McClanahan’s older sister, who has fought three bouts of breast cancer, said it was time to head to California to UCLA, where McClanahan could get a second opinion. She’s been in Los Angeles since February, awaiting surgery and jumped at the chance to join the support group at the Wellness Community when she heard about it. But others in her group have had a more difficult time accepting the diagnosis. Nancy Colton was diagnosed in October 2005, but she didn’t start coming to the Wellness Center until February 2006. “It took Nancy that long to get her head wrapped around what was happening,” said Colton’s mother, Harriet Wasserman. Wasserman also attends a support group at the Wellness Center for loved ones of those with cancer. Wasserman, a Tarzana resident, said that after hearing her daughter’s diagnosis, she went home, locked herself into the bathroom and cried. “I remembering thinking, I want my old life back,” she said. Colton said she was simply in shock, unable to react until months later because of the flurry of appointments and surgeries that she had to schedule just after her diagnosis. Unlike Edwards, Colton has not had chemotherapy treatments because the cancer discovered in her breast already had spread. The hardest part about Edwards’ and Snow’s announcement is reading and hearing news reports about how those with incurable cancer have five to seven years to live, Wasserman said. The support group helps her cope. “For me, it’s being able to talk to somebody who is in the same situation, to relate to others in the same boat,” Wasserman said. “This place is the best kept secret.” And Colton said the statistics merely give her a different perspective. “I would like to live 20 or 30 years more, but I’m on a mini time plan,” she said. “In five years, my older son will have graduated from college, my middle son will have graduated from high school, and my youngest one will have his bar mitzvah. I’m looking at it as how much can I get out that time.”— Susan Abram, (818) 713-3664 susan.abram@dailynews.comlast_img read more

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