Fear and Loathing

Am I afraid of getting old?  Hell yes! You might ask why it is, then, that I spend time working with the elderly and their caregivers and focusing on aging by writing many articles that deal with aging.    I work with the elderly because I want to try and change the dire landscape that exists today for the elderly.  What might that landscape be?  One where the “old” person is left to vegetate in a corner, where derogatory comments are made about getting old, where services are constantly being cut and tax monies are used for the young, in spite of the fact that the young make up a smaller percentage than the ever-growing older population.

As boomers, we really do not want to focus on the fact that we are aging, that we are moving into a period in our lives when we will be more vulnerable and needing to depend on others for our care (if death does not find us before then).  We were the generation that grew up with the Peter Pan song: “I won’t grow up.”  We could just as well sing it, “I won’t grow old.”  We do not want to confront our aging process and so we don’t.  By not acknowledging it, we believe it will go away.  We insist that by acknowledging it, we will somehow help it, affirm it in its manifestation.

Two years ago, I had a friend who truly believed that aging was an attitude.  This past year, she is noting changes in her capabilities and attributing it to age.  Yes, folks, it does happen.  The hardware does start to wear down, break, fall apart.

The reason I am afraid of getting old in this society is that we are not humane towards our elderly.  This might have something to do with the fact that we live in a mobile, youth oriented society that does not respect its elderly population.  Also, I happen to fit into the statistic of being a single, certain-aged female with no children or grandchildren.  I have to admit that the idea of finding myself in a nursing home being taken care of or ignored by poorly paid staff scares me.

We live in times where the technological developments of hospitals and the advancements in medication allow us to live longer.  But what has been overlooked is the quality of life our living longer affords us.  Is it really a great thing to live to be 90 years old but have no mind to speak of?  Or have only the choice of living in a potential hell hole wherein one lives a semi-comatose existence in some dark hallway by being fed psychotropic drugs to keep us quiet?

I would rather depart from this life in my ’70’s, when I still have some life in me than be kept alive with absolutely no life to speak of.  (A friend of mine who is in her ’70’s has told me that when I reach that age, I will probably have a different outlook.  I don’t doubt her wisdom on the matter, but I am also a firm believer that life should be lived fully and since we are all going to go at some point…..what is it the comedians say, “Leave them laughing”)  I also do not doubt that I will probably have what I call a “clutch” to life as I confront the fact that I will be departing it.  Ironically, part of what sustains the medical establishment’s focus on keeping individuals alive is something that I believe is a natural part of dying: the clutch to life.

Now maybe this topic seems morbid to those of you reading it, but the fact of the matter is, if we do not confront our aging process and our eventual demise, we will do nothing to change what happens to us as we age and we might find ourselves far outliving our usefulness in a state that we would never wish on anyone let alone ourselves.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013



Changing One’s Living Situation

When it was clear that my father could no longer live alone, I found myself, by virtue of being the child who lived closest to him, in the position of having to  encourage him to consider living in a retirement facility.  At first he was resistant.  He did not want to live with a bunch of strangers, eating in an institutional dining room.  The way I talked him into considering it was to compare it to living in a college dorm. “Dad, you did this when you were attending college.  It is the same concept.”

Just recently, I read an article about a new trend among aging single women.  Four or five ban together à la Golden Girls in a group house.  More than any previous generation, boomers are single, either because they never married, they are divorced, they are part of the LGBT grouping, or they are widowed.  A larger number of aging people are women (57 percent make up the grouping 65 and older and 67 percent make up the group of 85 and older).

I know several women who share a home.  It is not always as easy as it may seem.  My friends told me that when they first moved in together, they all went about their own business.  They did not even sit down to dinner together.  But then one of the women needed to take care of her father and the household opted to allow him to move in with her.  This decision made their house become a home, as they all found themselves pitching in to help.  Although the father has since passed away, the pattern of doing things together within the household has remained.  And the women are very happy about this.

One structure that makes a marriage a marriage and a family a family is sharing meals.  Another structure is that everyone in the household pitches in to maintain the home.  Having and/or developing mutual interests also makes up a structure of a family.  These factors would seem important in the formation of a group home.

I like the idea.  I sit here in a house that has become too large for me — too empty.  I like the socialization that comes with sitting around a dinner table.  I always enjoyed doing things with my husband.  Presently, upkeep of home keeps me fairly busy.  It would be nice to share those tasks with someone else. Although I keep busy with many different projects and have an active social life,  coming home to someone has a very different feel.

Of course, one does have to consider that illness may settle on one or two or maybe even three of the housemates and then what happens?  Another thing to reflect on is that different people have different approaches to or definitions of cleanliness.  When in college, one’s sense of cleanliness may have been a little less stringent.  One might be a little more impatient with someone else’s habits when in their ’50’s or ’60’s than they were at eighteen or twenty-one.

However,  I do like the creative way that boomers are looking at the question of housing and how they want to spend their older years and I look forward to reading more about these innovative approaches towards aging.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

Boomers, The Plastic Fantastic Generation

As a boomer, I am part of the generation that implemented the “turn on, tune in, drop out” approach to life.  There seemed to be a major rejection of what existed before.  In fact, there was a social revolution of sorts, and not just in the United States, but on a global level.  We believed we were a turning point in the way things were done.  We were the future and the future was not going to look anything like the past.  Yet it turns out that most of us did not end up changing anything at all, at least in one area that we had purported to reject: consumerism.  In fact, our generation has done more to increase the strength of the consumer society than any previous generation before us.


….baby boomers are the wealthiest generation in U.S. history, both earning and consuming more than any other age group.12• Baby boomers have amassed $3.7 trillion in total earnings, as compared to the $1.6 trillion generated by the preceding generation.

How can that be?  Weren’t we the ones who recognized that materialism could not give us the true nourishment of spiritual and emotional needs?  Yet, our generation has been the most workaholic generation ever.  We have seen more wars fought during our existence than there ever have been fought before.  We have watched as the use of automobiles and the means by which they operate, fossil fuels, have increased to an amount unimaginable forty years ago.  It has been during our lifetime that the concept of time has narrowed into practical non-existence.  And, although our energy levels seem higher than those of previous generations, our health may not necessarily be better.  In the end, it has been during our lifetime that materialism has become so ensconced that we take for granted running to a store to purchase something we need, two or three times a day, having electricity at the click of a switch, and pretty much anything we want secured through paper money or a plastic card.

Now I am not advocating that our childish approach to rejecting the previous generation’s world was to be commended.  But there were some good things that did come out of “the movement.”  And since there are always two sides to a coin, let’s look at those.  The advancements that have occurred in this period of time have catapulted us into a world our great-grandparents would not be able to recognize.  Social sensitivities and environmental sensitivities increased.  Discrimination decreased.  But again because there are two sides to the coin of life, it seems as though the tolls that our advancements have taken on the environment are unprecedented.  Communication abilities are at a level we could not have imagined twenty years ago and our ties around the world make cultures that once were considered foreign, our neighbors.  Advancements in Science continue apace.  We are re-defining the aging process, or at least pushing it back by a good dozen years.  And hopefully, we will come up with a way to maintain our earth and all her gifts to us before we destroy her and thereby ourselves.

But with regard to consumerism, I still don’t understand how we ended up taking a left turn instead of the right turn we thought we were taking…..


Abraxane™ The New Marketable Cancer Cure

The parent of someone close to me was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer last fall.  At first, the parent, citing her age, determined that she would not do chemotherapy.  Her husband, older than she, became very upset.  So she agreed to see an Oncologist.  The Oncologist, a young, energetic, positive individual suggested that the parent do chemotherapy to shrink the cancer and when it was small enough, surgery could be done and the cancer removed.

Thus, the parent entered the medical system.  She was to do chemotherapy for five months and then be scheduled to have surgery.  Fortunately, side effects to the chemo were not so intense that she could not continue to maintain her day to day activities.  She did loose her hair.

Somewhere along the way, those she was relying on for medical care, decided they would not try to do surgery, yet.  Instead, they suggested that she add a new drug, Abraxane ™,  to the chemo regimen.  This is a new drug that claims to improve the chances of survival for a person with Pancreatic Cancer.

According to an article in MNT (Medical News Today):

Results from the study revealed that 35% people on the combination of Abraxane™ and chemotherapy were alive at the end of the first year compared to only 22% who just underwent chemotherapy. This translates into a 59% increase in one-year survival as well as double the rate of survival in two years for the patients on Abraxane™ versus those who only received the chemotherapy. Those who were solely on chemotherapy survived for only 6.7 months compared to a median of 8.5 months among those who also took Abraxane™.

Breaking this paragraph down, I see a claim that somehow the percentage of people alive at the end of the first year who were taking a combination of Abraxane™ and chemotherapy was 35% as compared to only 22% of people alive after a year of taking just chemotherapy.  Those percentages are not very high.  But through the magic of playing around with numbers, this 13% differential “translates into a 59% increase in one-year survival”  Sounds phenomenal!  But is it really?  Not only that, but if we take these numbers, as the researchers have done (there is no indication that there were any tests done to actually prove this to be fact), this doubles the survival rate in two years.  Hunh?

The last line in the paragraph totally contradicts the claims above it by stating that (without qualifiers) those using solely chemotherapy “only survived 6.7 months” and those who did chemo in combination with Abraxane™ survived “a median of 8.5 months.”  Hard to imagine all those individuals who had Pancreatic Cancer and were solely doing chemotherapy keeling over at 6.7 months from start of chemo regimen.  Even if this were the case, the claims that adding Abraxane™ to the chemotherapy increases survival rates by an amount that is exciting seem a bit exaggerated if the median survival rate with this addition is only 8.5 months.

I would not be so offended by all of this if it in fact reflected an industry desperately wanting to find a cure for cancer and dedicating all their waking hours to that end.  BUT, unfortunately, the facts do not demonstrate this.  What the facts demonstrate is that this new drug,  a bit short on its healing claims, is doing incredibly well in the area of generating income.  From the same article:

Abraxane™ made sales of close to $386 million in 2011 for it’s use as breast cancer treatment. It is expected to generate close to $2.1 billion as a treatment for pancreatic cancer. Abraxis BioScience was the original company to develop the drug, they were bought out by Celegene in 2010 for $2.9 billion. Celegene can expect to see good sales of the drug [emphasis by author], although it might see strong competition from the drug Folfirinox™ which was found to similarly improve survival among pancreatic cancer patients.

In the meanwhile, debilitating side effects have increased quite a bit in our 89 year old patient since the incorporation of Abraxane™ into her chemotherapy regimen.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013






Really, when you think about it, life is a series of transitions.  They can be regular transitions, like seasons, in which we can expect certain things to occur.  For example, when Spring begins, certain activities that I don’t normally undertake, ie, gardening, (cleaning up vegetable and flower beds, planting, planting, planting,  more active interactions with the honey bees, splitting hives, etc. of a sudden take front and center stage in the hours that I will call my uncommitted hours.  I use the term loosely because I should consider my blog a commitment and it has certainly suffered since those demands of Spring have come about.)

On a larger scale, I am in a life transition.  It has been slightly over a year since my husband died.  I have learned that it takes at least a year to get back on one’s feet.   In my case, several other occurrences clearly demonstrated the turning of a page into a new chapter.  A part of me feels that I am being disloyal to my husband by thinking in this way.  A new chapter that does not include him?  He was such a wonderful addition to my life.   I can’t, for example,  imagine creating a life with somebody else, even though people keep asking me whether I am considering this.  I suppose many widows and widowers go through the same dilemma.

But I do need to make decisions and move into a direction that creates a clear path for me.  This is something I have never, ever been good at, ever!  And here I am, of a certain age.  It is not as if the years rolling out in front of me will be nearly as long as the years that have rolled up behind me.  And I do have to confront the realities of diminished stamina and physical strength as I begin to move into my elder years.

My sister keeps reminding me that I have to make decisions.  Actually, everyone is gently suggesting that I make some decisions.  Everyone seems to be saying that I need to move out of the home I shared with my husband.  Instead, I end up planting another vegetable garden.  And this house was only supposed to be a weekend getaway and/or temporary until we built our “dream” house.  Instead, we ended up making this our dream house or as close as a temporary home can be to being one’s dream house.  I suppose at some point, though, I will need to face moving out of it to something more my size

Yet my life feels very full and satisfying to me.  I am the sort of person who is always busy.  Even if I wake up without a fixed schedule, I will immediately find things to fill the day.

But I still have to make some decisions about my tomorrows.  I watch Spring unfold, as it always does, each year a little bit differently, but always clearly waking up to a new tomorrow that moves it ever forward into the cycle that is its nature.  The question that I have to contemplate is whether nature is the example I need to reflect on and recognize as the example to follow or whether, because we have been given consciousness, it is contingent on me to take active responsibility and seek a direction?  I have a whole world in front of me.  How ever the next stage of my journey unfolds, I pray that I do not waste this precious opportunity.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013


Chow Down

“Americans are sick.  Over 130 million [author’s emphasis] are suffering from chronic disease.” So begins the documentary, Chow Down** a film by Julia Grayer and Gage Johnston, The film is tightly put together and does an excellent job of presenting a sobering view of the state of eating in our country. It focuses on the eating habits of Americans today, the influences which direct those eating habits, and more specifically, on the lives of three individuals who were told that unless they radically changed their approach to eating, they would die.  Grayer and Johnston do not gloss over the fact that it is not so easy to change one’s eating habits even if it means potentially saving one’s life.

Charles, a man “who has it all,” including heart disease, has a very supportive wife and because of this, the whole family has changed their eating habits.  Charles speaks about how as an Italian, whose grandfather owned a meat shop, large meals with lots of meat were a big part of life’s enjoyment.  Yet he and his family have made the adjustment, to the point of bringing their own food when they take trips.  (May Charles live to watch his grandchildren grow up and may he and his wife grow old together).

Two other individuals who are also working at changing their diets were interviewed.  One interviewee lamented that he missed his Kentucky Fried Chicken™  The other spoke about how difficult it was to maintain a more plant-based diet when the rest of her family was not.

And yet the medical profession does not focus on nutrition and diet when interacting with patients, but rather pills and surgery.  Dr. Esselstyn, a former heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and one of the interviewees in both Forks Over Knives and Chow Down, learned through his practice that there was a direct relationship between diet and heart disease.  He says that surgery does not prevent the disease.  He states that the medical industry is “… selling sickness right now.  We are selling sickness as a profession.  You don’t get health out of a bottle of pills.  You don’t get health out of a bunch of operative procedures.  I know that as a former surgeon.”

Another interviewee in Chow Down, Neal Barnard, MD, shares that ” the most popular pill on the market today is Lipitor ™ ….a pill created to curb the effects of dietary excess.”

According to the www.chowdownmovie.com home page,

…. three factors …. fatally impact our country’s health: the medical community’s allegiance to the status quo, the government’s allegiance to the food industry, and Americans’ allegiance to cheap, convenient food.

Grayner and Johnson, through very tight interviews with key players in the medical industry, the food industry, and the government demonstrate how, at least at this stage in time, we, as consumers, are controlled by the relationship between the food industries, the government and the medical community.

Dr. Barnard points out that the USDA has two mandates.  One is to promote health and the other is to promote American agricultural products.  This could certainly become a potential conflict of interest, particularly since the Federal Government participates in creating generic advertising for certain products (Got Milk? for example) from a fund that they administer but which is provided by the food industry.  In fact, the federal government even has worked with the fast food industry to help them advertise foods that include cheese, not because the foods are healthier but to promote the dairy industry.

Even the food pyramid, which has undergone many changes in recent years, is influenced by the needs of the Agro-business.  One outcome is that we have come to believe that certain foods are more important than others, ie, meat rather than lentils, both sources of protein.  Yet studies have shown that a primarily meat based diet can be harmful to one’s health.  [Whether it is the meat itself or whether it is all the additives that farmers put into their livestock is a topic for further research and another article].

At one point in the documentary, Grayer and Johnson interview Louise Light, a nutritionist who was hired by the USDA in the late ’70’s to come up with a food pyramid.  She and a team of experts had concluded that fruits and vegetables were the most important foods to eat, but when their pyramid came back from the Secretary’s office, it had been revised, emphasizing grains as the most important food.  Apparently, when the meat industry heard about this, they put the pressure on for meats to be better represented. [Recently the food pyramid has undergone a further transformation to MyPlate].

During her tenure at the USDA, Ms. Light had created a nutrition course for the Red Cross.  In the course, she cited several foods that had direct links to cancer.  She states that she was approached by a representative from one of those food industries who offered her $60,000 to drop the word cancer from her coursework.

I applaud Ms. Grayner and Ms. Johnson’s superb documentary.  As more and more information comes out about how our eating habits greatly influence our health, we might just be able to change the course that the food industry has taken in our country.

(As I was “going to press” I came across this link, which I think reflects how the movement for eating right is starting to take off http://www.upworthy.com/i-m-sick-of-rich-people-telling-me-how-to-spend-my-money-but-i-think-this-guy-is?c=ufb1

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

** Following my write up on the documentary Forks Over Knives, I received an e-mail from Julia Grayer, a filmmaker, who along with Gage Johnston, wrote, directed, and produced Chow Down.



Anorexia Hits Older Women

A title to a news article caught my eye the other day.  It stated: Rise in Middle-aged Women with Eating Disorders.  Having known women with eating disorders while in my teens and early ’20’s, I wanted to learn more about the fact that it seemed that eating disorders were not just found in those years when women feel very self-conscious about what they look like: Their teen years and early ’20’s, but in older women as well.

…. a smattering of data from around the world suggests the behaviors associated with bulimia and anorexia may be more common in mid-life than previously believed.

The most recent evidence comes from a survey of 1,849 women age 50 and up, the results of which were published last week in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

With our society’s focus on Thin being In, it may not be surprising that anorexia and bulimia would be found across the spectrum of age.  But according to these studies, stress is a key contributor.

Experts say that major transitions in the lives of middle-aged women across America – including failed marriages, job loss, children and financial difficulties – can rekindle eating disorders that begun years before or even bring them on for the first time, though this is a rarity.

Douglas Bunnell, vice president and director of out-patient clinical services at The Renfrew Center, told MSNBC: ‘It’s rare that an eating disorder shows up completely out of the blue in mid-life. The more common scenario is the resurgence of a life-long problem’

As to how prevalent eating disorders are among older women, that is a hard question to gauge because it is not a topic easily admitted by those caught in the cycle of eating and purging or starving themselves.

Despite the growing attention, experts say the problem is likely underreported, partly because adult women disguise behaviors such as purging, and partly because eating disorders typically aren’t on the radar screen of doctors who care for this age group.

“Eating disorders are still in the closet to a large extent, especially for adult women,” says Margo Maine, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Hartford, Connecticut, who specializes in treating the disorders. “Adult women have such shame about admitting it.”

Body image looms large in most women’s lives.  It may not be surprising that with the onset of menopause and the weight gain that is associated with that period of time, women start to feel less secure about how they project to the larger society.

According to Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D, Director of the eating disorder program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,

The changes associated with menopause are perfectly natural, but they aren’t always easy to reconcile with catchphrases like “30 is the new 50” or the day-to-day demands of modern life.

Many middle-aged women are juggling child rearing and work responsibilities, or caring for aging parents. That can leave little time for planning healthy meals or exercising, at a stage of life when the amount of exercise needed to maintain one’s weight — let alone drop a few pounds — goes up.

“As a culture, we live in a very, very stressful time, and for women this is even more so, because our roles have changed so dramatically,” says Maine, coauthor of “The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to be Perfect.

This is also a period of time when a divorce can be devastating and a woman in her ’50’s may not feel as good about the way she looks as she did in her ’20’s.  Her belief in finding a new mate may be eroded merely by her age.  Or the stress of losing her partner to death may undermine her sense of her place in life and, in turn, her sense of self-esteem.  It may be that the woman was never satisfied with the way she looked and wants to and always has wanted to just disappear.  Whatever may be the cause, eating disorders are still a problem.

The standard treatment for disordered eating typically includes psychotherapy, as well as counseling about nutrition and eating habits. Women need to be proactive about seeking care, Maine says, since doctors — and especially primary care physicians — often overlook problematic eating behaviors in older women.

And although it was totally acceptable among the wealthy class of Ancient Rome to purge one’s food after a major food binge,  we are not Ancient Rome and our lifestyles are nothing like that of Ancient Rome.  Maybe these are the warning signs to re-think how we choose to spend our time and what is acceptable as a lifestyle.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013




Our Expensive Health Care System

The other day, I was reading an entry by Ronni Bennett in her blog posts in which she reviews an article entitled:  Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us,  a report written by Steve Brill, the founder of Court TV and American Lawyer.  Shortly after reading her review of the article, I came across several other reviews of the same article.  I am very happy that this topic is beginning to be looked at.  I have written on the topic of expensive health care.

Although Ms.Bennett had some issues with Mr. Brill, she states:

Nevertheless, “Bitter Pill” is the best damned report about the sorry state of the U.S. Health care industry I’ve ever seen (and I read a LOT about health care).

What makes it so good is its clarity. It is filled with case and interview details, comparisons among costs, charges and profits, and written not for lawyers, doctors or policy wonks with the intention to obfuscate, but for you and me, the average reader.

Plus, it reads like a good novel in the sense that you can’t wait to get to the next paragraph, the next page. By the end, Brill shows what we old folks already know – that in health care delivery and in cost control, Medicare beats private coverage every time.

Brill’s conclusions about what to do to rein in health care costs appear to me to be weak but I want to spend more time considering them. What’s important, however, is that he gives us plenty of information to use as a basis for an honest, public conversation about how to change American health care.

Not that I’m holding my breath given the power of the medical industry lobby.

from the article, Ms. Bennett shares some interesting statistics.  According to Mr. Brill:

we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia.

We may be shocked at the $60 billion price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We spent almost that much last week on health care.

Medicare pays $11.02 for a CBC [complete blood count] in Connecticut. Hospital finance people argue vehemently that Medicare doesn’t pay enough and that they lose as much as 10% on an average Medicare patient…..But even if the Medicare price should be, say, 10% higher, it’s a long way from $11.02 plus 10% to $157.61.” [which the hospital charges for the same test.]

In 2008, Gregory Demske, an assistant inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, told a Senate committee that ‘physicians routinely receive substantial compensation from medical-device companies through stock options, royalty agreements, consulting agreements, research grants and fellowships.’”

MD Anderson’s charge of $7 each for “ALCOHOL PREP PAD.” This is a little square of cotton used to apply alcohol to an injection. A box of 200 can be bought online for $1.91.”

”More than $280 billion will be spent this year on prescription drugs in the U.S. If we paid what other countries did for the same products, we would save about $94 billion a year.”

Ms. Bennett concludes:

Brill’s report reinforces more vividly what others before him have shown many times over – that what is wrong with our health care system is not Medicare, it’s the private sector.

When I googled Steve Brill’s article, there were pages and pages of respondents from around the United States.  Most seemed to support the contents of Mr. Brill’s article.  Although I have as yet to read it myself, I do look forward to it.   I quote Ms. Bennett’s response to the article because in reading her reflections on Mr. Brill’s article, they  reflected my concerns about our healthcare system.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013



“Forks Over Knives”

The other day, my yoga teacher invited several of her students to share in a potluck lunch and to watch a documentary called, “Forks Over Knives.”  The setting was beautiful, the company delightful and invigorating, and the documentary educational.  The movie

examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering ….. researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Dr. Campbell, a nutritional Biochemist at Cornell University had embarked on a research project in the late 1960’s to help bring high quality meat protein to the undernourished of the third world.  In the Philippines, he made a life altering discovery:  Children who lived on a meat based diet were more likely to develop cancer than children who lived on a plant based diet.

Dr. Esselstyn, a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, on his part, started to observe that many of the diseases he routinely treated were rarely found in countries where animal-based diets were not the norm.

Their separate but mutual discoveries brought them together and they have conducted many studies since.  One of the most comprehensive was conducted in China.  the 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford Project, led by Dr. Campbell, found that most degenerative disease can be reversed by changing one’s diet.  Remove the meat, the sugars, the dairy and you remove the tendency towards many cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Through media, we have learned that we are at pandemic levels with cancers, diabetes, obesity and heart disease in our country.  Yet over the years, we have been taught that meat is the best source of protein and milk is the best source of calcium.  This belief system is so ingrained in us that many people are unwilling to change their diets.  Not only that, but many nutritionists still insist that meat and dairy are primary sources of protein and calcium.  Add to this the fact that fast food restaurants still dominate in our very busy world and empty calories (ie snacks, sugar filled cereals, and soda pop) continue to be a mainstay in most people’s daily lives, the truth of the matter becomes that we are all willingly poisoning ourselves.

the film [Forks Over Knives] advocates a whole foods, plant-based (vegan) diet as a means of combating a number of diseases. It suggests that “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

When my husband was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (and by the time they “uncovered” what was ailing him, it had already spread to his liver), we were told to go home and try and make him as confortable as possible.  But our friends rallied and we learned of a clinic in Chicago, The Block Center on Integrative Cancer Care.  I believe that going there and completely changing our diet had a lot to do with the fact that my husband came back from death’s door to live another year, most of that year with good quality of life.  Had we foregone the chemotherapy, would he still be alive today?  Clearly, there is no way of answering that question.  His cancer was at a very advanced stage when found and he was at an age where the first two oncologists we saw basically gave the thumbs down.  Our choices were very limited by that point.

BUT there is no question in my mind that a whole foods, plant based diet is healthier than a fast-food, meat/sugar/dairy based diet is and there is no question in my mind that the chronic diseases that are so prevalent in our society are caused by the foods we choose to eat.  Unfortunately, the lower income citizens of our country have much less choice as to what is available for them to eat, and by turn, we see much chronic illness and obesity in that population.

Our country has a lot of work to do to turn this situation around.  It may take years, but we have to start somewhere.

With regard to sugar, which is found in most processed foods,  many of the symptoms related to withdrawal from other “drugs” are similarly experienced by individuals who remove sugar from their diet.  it takes two weeks for withdrawal of sugar from the system.  An individual can experience agitation, ill-temper, lethargy, headaches, a sense of depression.  But these really are just withdrawal symptoms.  If one recognizes this, one can control those symptoms and know that they will go away with a little time.  No need to get pills from your doctor!

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013



Scams Everywhere

Over the past few years, it seems that every time you turn around, you are reading about how the elderly are being taken advantage of or, at the very least, how the elderly should be aware that they could be taken advantage of.  I tend to get annoyed by all the trumpeting about scam artists and how the elderly need to protect themselves against these predators.  I have, in the past, looked on this as a bit of fear mongering and making the elderly feel more vulnerable.

However, just recently, I found myself the victim of a situation that could have been avoided and in which I was taken advantage, thus helping me to recognize that scamming can happen to anyone at any time.  This is what happened to me.

I needed to have some trees cut: they were too tall and too close to the house and winds have started to become much stronger in our area.

I looked at the newspaper and called a couple of numbers.  One person answered.  He came over to give me an estimate.  He had his nephew with him and he seemed like an okay guy, so we agreed that he would do the work.

The day he came over, he came with another individual, his brother, he told me.  This man had a wild look in his eyes.  He also brought a different kid.  So it was the two men and a kid.  As I recount this story, I am aware that the outcome is just as much my fault as anything they may have done.  But the element that allowed the outcome was that I felt intimidated by their numbers and by the wild look in the “brother’s” eyes.

They cut down some trees — did not cut down the tree that had originally been the reason to call a tree cutter.  But, and again, this is on me, when we had originally talked about that tree, we had spoken about cutting it down.  On reflection, what with the fact that it was a hardwood tree and actually acted as a block should any of the pine trees behind it be blown down, I decided that I only wanted to top it off.  They claimed that they did not have the equipment to do that.  The main fellow offered to bring me real firewood when they came back to finish the job and then charged me an exorbitant price for the work done.  I really do not know why I did not negotiate, but in part it was because this kid was in our faces and the the wild “brother” standing a few feet away.  Oh, and the fact that they would ask questions like: “So do you live here all alone?” and had spent ALL day hanging around the house doing their “work.”  All of that added up to my writing a check for an amount that I did not feel I should be paying for the work done.

They claimed they would come back the following week to finish the job, but, of course, I have not seen hide nor tail of them.  And, I just gave them the money.  I have called every single day, leaving various messages of anger, guilt-riding, threats, but to no avail.  I will give their names to the Better Business Bureau.

What did I learn from this?  Yes, one can be taken advantage of if one is feeling vulnerable.  What can be done to avoid this?

1) Do not call someone cold turkey.  Get a reference from a friend or a neighbor.

2) When you call, tell them they were referred by the person who referred them.

3) if  possible, ask someone else to be there when the person comes to give an estimate and when you are ready to pay for the work.

At least this is what I learned from my very expensive lesson.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013