Daily Archives: December 15, 2009

The meanings beyond a coincidence

Well, I finally got that H1N1 vaccination yesterday.  Ten days from now I will be able to breathe easier, although I have to wonder if this virus that my family and I have been fighting might have been the swine flu.  It is now thought that one in six people in the United States have already contracted the H1N1 flu, so obviously a lot of those cases have been relatively mild.

David and Pete brought home a Christmas tree yesterday.  I always counsel that maybe smaller would be better, but yet another nine foot tree has taken up residence in our living room.  Tonight we will put on the holiday tunes and hang the ornaments.

I also acquired a new pen pal.  There is another Linnea Duff in the world; I have seen her name before when googling myself.  She found me via facebook and took the initiative to contact me.  It turns out we have much more in common than our names.  She is actually the second Linnea to reach out to me, and now I have two friends who share my name (which I think is great fun).  It is just one of the many positive attributes of the internet:  the ease with which we can connect with others.

Coincidences and happy accidents are sources of great delight for me.  I view them as evidence that for all the seeming randomness in life, there are certain threads that connect events and people to each other.  I suppose some would attribute this to intelligent design.  I’m not sure if I believe that, but I do take comfort and even sometimes read meaning into coincidental events.  Just another yes in the universe.

I have been reading Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.  I just came across this paragraph:  “At the Kabul Medical Institute, the country’s most prestigious training center for physicians, they stopped to donate medical books that an American CAI donor had asked Mortenson to carry to Kabul.  Kim Trudell, from Marblehead, Massachusetts, had lost her husband, Frederick Rimmile, when, on his way to a medical conference in California on September 11, his flight, United Airlines 175, vaporized in a cloud of jet fuel against the south tower of the World Trade Center.  Trudell asked Mortenson to carry her husband’s medical books to Kabul, believing education was the key to resolving the crisis with militant Islam.”

Frederick Rimmile was my physician, and in my post in regards to my misdiagnosis, he is the doctor whom I’m certain would have made a proper and more timely diagnosis if he had not perished on September 11. In reading these words I felt momentarily stricken, but then so amazed by the gracious and meaningful donation that his wife Kim made.  There must have been a time when she was paralyzed by remorse and anger, but it was obvious she had moved beyond those emotions and was now seeking to be part of a solution to the very problems that lay behind her husband’s horrific and untimely death.  I was, and am, so moved.

Bad things happen.  I am here, as are most of you who are reading this, because our lives have been touched (touched seems too gentle) by cancer.  Just as I would love to rewind those horrible images of the twin towers; to divert those airplanes and the hatred and anger of those who were using them as missiles, I wish we could all return to a life without fear and illness.  What’s that quote, “If wishes were horses, than beggars would ride.”  In the end, I can only hope to be part of the solution, to help bring my own version of awareness to lung cancer.

According to WHO, cancer will be the leading cause of death in the world in 2010, and the vast majority of those cancer deaths will be from lung cancer.  This is one war with an undisputed common enemy, and I would love to see the world join forces to defeat it.

Just as Greg Mortenson and Kim Trudell realized that education was an effective method to combat terrorism, so too is education necessary in the war on lung cancer.  And I think it’s time for that education to move beyond the evils of tobacco.  I mean, we get it, right?  Smoking cigarettes is bad for your health (make that our health, as second hand smoke is a big part of the problem). However, as much as I wish it wasn’t so, Big Tobacco is going to keep selling their deadly product to no shortage of consumers.  People are going to keep getting lung cancer.  And as the number of never-smokers with lung cancer rises, we’ve got to start looking more closely at all the other carcinogens in our environment that may be contributing to this trend.

It is time to make people understand that lung cancer is not just a problem for smokers, it is everyone’s problem.  We need to get the word out about the necessity for more effective screening and for  a greater number of treatments that actually work.  More time, more focus, more money needs to be channeled into lung cancer research and less to smoking cessation because frankly, that’s a no-brainer.

It’s no coincidence that greater progress has been made against the diseases that receive more attention and far better funding, breast cancer for instance.  Let’s all do what we can to bring lung cancer to the forefront.  There are simply too many of us with this disease to remain invisible.