Self-discovery, Spiritual growth

June 15th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

I’ve known Steve Purich for a decade and a half, but I never really knew him until last Friday afternoon. Steve’s Father, an Orthodox priest, was forced to flee the Eastern Block in the mid-40s when the Communists took over. Consequently, Steve and his sister spent the next 12 years living first in tiny shacks and finally in a one-bedroom house that was home to about a dozen other family members. Every one of these kids ended up as successful professionals: physicians, attorneys, dentists, and business people. And that’s where this story begins.

Steve, too, was a successful businessman who, although Johnstown-based, was an international traveler. As it turns out, he was a student of world philosophies and ideologies, too. During his travels, he became exceptionally curious about ruins and, more importantly, their back stories. He wanted to know what worked in each civilization. He was inquisitive about the beliefs that helped these societies forge their way through each level of intellectual development and growth. This journey led him to create Tranquility Gardens.

It’s a retreat center unlike any other: a center for self-discovery, spiritual growth, and character building that, once experienced, provides a very clear message. That message is HOPE–hope for mankind and hope for the future.

In order to visualize this special place, just think of a location where there are butterfly and dragonfly habitats, a labyrinth, meandering walking trails filled with both authentic and replicated ruins from ancient civilizations, and a collection of life-altering learning and educational opportunities all tucked into nearly 10 acres of beauty, boulders, and bountiful Nature. And that’s just the beginning.

You’ll also find the philosophies and beliefs of many of the greatest thinkers in world history presented to you in succinct carvings on understated stone tablets or on breathtaking, multi-colored mosaics in various meditation areas. The street to this hidden yet very public treasure requires you to turn left off Rockwood Lane in Upper Yoder Township onto a short gravel and dirt road. Returning to pavement you’ll see the water running freely through the streams filling small reflecting ponds and creating little waterfalls. Less than 100 yards away are inexplicably large rock formations to be appreciated in their magnificent splendor.

Now, add a glimpse into the similarities subtly displayed among the practices and beliefs of people from all cultures–India, Asia, the Roman Empire, Africa, Western Europe, the United States, the Middle East, the Native Americans–and you quickly see unifying threads of sanity spoken by all civilizations that have helped us survive to date.

You will see that it’s a non-violent, education-based journey into peaceful places to explore the words of Socrates, Martin Luther King, Aristotle, Confucius, and a myriad of other brilliant people who said things like, “Enlightenment, happiness, peace, and beauty come from within.” It’s not a message of narcissism, but one of strength through knowledge, through perseverance, through education, and through practices of mind-calming and focus.

Steve doesn’t restrict access to his personal garden because he truly wants to donate it to an organization that “gets it,” an organization that will embrace the transformational opportunities presented to each person who walks these grounds. I’m anxious to see who actually does get it because it’s difficult to be recognized as a genius in your home area, but Steve is a genius who has planted plenty of those proverbial diamonds in his own backyard.

When you wrap all of this in a rags to riches story that ends in extreme generosity and caring for the future of mankind, it’s critical to realize that Steve’s primary messages at this self-constructed slice of Pennsylvania paradise is simple … if I did it, so can you.

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What a WEEK! It’s All About Customer Service

June 9th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

What a week and a half it’s been. My family and I have been subjected to a level of callousness that seems to be more the norm than the exception now. While preparing for a business trip to Seattle, my son and I attempted to find an alternate flight that did not take nine hours and fly us through storms in Texas. He reached an agent who abruptly told us there were no good alternatives, and if we did take a flight that would save us a few minutes, it would cost us an additional combined $778. We are both top tier frequent fliers. He’s logged the most flights and I’m not far behind, but that just didn’t matter. My son hung up, looked at me and said, “Customer service?” No legroom, no arm room, and little butt room in middle seats, between two fat guys. I had an unbelievable urge to move the entire trip.

The trip home was a lot worse. We sat for 50 minutes past our designated departure time with no access to restrooms and no explanations as to why life had been placed on hold. Mechanical difficulties?

That departure interruption put us practically in the eye of a major tornado heading from Iowa to Chicago. We flew in circles for another hour. We had been seat bound for an equivalent flight to Istanbul, Turkey. When we finally landed, we were told that our next flight, the last flight to Pittsburgh, had been cancelled.

As we deplaned, we were given a pink slip and told that we would get a deal on a room if, in fact, there were any rooms left anywhere. No one answered that number, ever, and the airline service lines looked like admission queues to the Beyoncé concert. Because it was 11:30 p.m., and we had to be back at the airport at  5a.m., and the TSA lines were averaging three hours, it made no sense to leave, sleep for a few hours, and return to stand in line. So, we sat on hard seats under sunshine bright artificial lights with arbitrary TSA announcements from the overhead speakers blaring all night long.

Then over the holiday weekend we were all scheduled to take a family boat ride. The weather was predicted to be 70 percent good, and all of the weather apps showed clear skies ahead. We checked with the appropriate authorities too, and then headed out onto the Ohio River. Five minutes later with six children and five adults on board, we were in the middle of “The Perfect Storm.” There was violent lightning, blinding rain, floating trees, and high waves rocking us like a cork in a bathtub. So much for dependable weather predicting from the authorities.

In a parallel world, another family member was placed in that circle of medical care hell that I wrote about in my book, “Taking the Hell Out of Healthcare,” where a week and a half of waiting for a diagnosis turned into an eternity. When the definitive, long-awaited appointment arrived, the receptionist said, “Your appointment was earlier today, and we can’t take you now.” There was no explanation, no apology, no excuses, no flexibility, and no attempt to ease any of the stress caused from waiting for what might have been a life-defining diagnosis. (Things eventually turned out okay.)

Too big to fail? Too dumb to care? Too insensitive to at least make an attempt to be helpful? Too arrogant to explain? Too stressed to realize that their jobs were directly tied to our collective experiences?

This seems to be the norm in a service-reliant country that is no longer service-oriented. These inconveniences may seem minuscule, and as my old business partner used to say, “No one died today,” but once we stop delivering service, we will be replaced with E-Z Passes, ATMs and automated everything as we sit at home and cry in our too-big-to-fail tasteless beer.

We’re people who need people . . . or not?

Where’s my driverless Google cab?

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The End of And Era – Error?

June 6th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

I’m sure that you’ve all heard the news about the latest killer bug that was discovered in Pennsylvania last week, but I’m not sure if everyone completely understands the potential ramifications of this obtuse announcement.

My life began just about the time that antibiotics started to catch on in this country. Yes, penicillin was discovered back in 1928, but just like everything science related in medicine, it took about 20 years for its use to become widely accepted.

As a kid my earaches, my bronchitis, and just about everything else that was infection related resulted in either a visit from or a visit to Dr. Colvin. He would perform his medical diagnostics, pick up what, as a small child, looked like a horse-sized hypodermic with its reusable needle, wipe it with a little alcohol, plunge it into the rubber topped medicine bottle, and draw the white antibiotic into the body of the instrument.  He would squirt out any air and then plunge the dull needle into either my butt or my little arm.

I cried the first 50 or so times that this ritual took place, but by the time I was 10, the shots happened less often, and I had begun to toughen up a little.  The injection pain was the same, but the reaction was limited because of the knowledge that I’d be feeling better soon from whatever was making me sick.  It was magic.

Remember, I’m not a scientist or a physician, but close your eyes and imagine that it’s 1927.  Imagine that your earache cannot be touched by Dr. Colvin’s magic needle.  Worse than that, imagine that there are no antis that can touch your biotics.  That, my friends, is no simple problem.

So, if there are now certifiably untouchable infections, we are potentially beginning a new reality of humankind where the actual thinning of the herd could begin. Doomsday can come in many forms: having government leaders who believe that the nuclear alternative is a viable option; total ignorance and denial of global warming leading to the lack of potable water and a limited food supply and starvation; or an asteroid.  What, however, if the most common day-to-day paper cut or respiratory infection might put us or our loved ones in real peril?

Why am I writing this very disturbing column? I’m writing it because we truly have created a perilous and uncertain scenario for ourselves.  Some of this has been because of what my friend Tony refers to as savage capitalism, in which the companies that produce soap products preyed on our ignorance and fears and made everything antibacterial thus creating more resistance in pathogens.

Then there were our kind-hearted or over-stressed medical professionals who simply said yes to every worried patient or parent’s request for antibiotics, even when an antibiotic was clearly not called for.

And finally, there were political decisions that have been made in the last several decades that have led to lost opportunity costs in not only education and infrastructure, but also in science and medicine.  When we make decisions to be at war continuously, we immediately give up opportunities to direct more funds into future health and science cures.

Are there new antibiotics to be discovered out there in the rainforests, in the deep seas, and in remote caves? No doubt there are.  But when we continue to dedicate more and more money to war or other forms of corporate greed, we limit our opportunities in other areas.  We’ve seen serious cuts in research funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and even military health defense. Creating war without funding war means that our bridges will fail, our schools will underperform, and we won’t have antibiotics. Every action has a reaction.

Please cover your mouth when you sneeze.

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Touch a TRUCK

May 26th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

 

Last weekend a friend sent me a text from the Heinz Museum, and we met to discuss the day that she and her husband had just experienced. You see, their daughter-in-law was in charge of a major event that, had I been more observant, would quite possibly have been the most awesome experience of my youngest grandson’s life.  Yeah, he’s only 19 months old, but Pete’s primary obsession can only be described as all encompassing. He is completely obsessed with vehicles: buses, cars, lawn mowers, ambulances, but most of all trucks.  Let’s face it, he’s probably not unique in his love of these things, but, compared to the other five kids, he’s the most attached, the most enthralled, the most enamored by them.

If you give him a choice of fifteen different types of toys, he makes a beeline directly to the cars and trucks. He insists that I let him sit on my lap in the car so that he can pretend to drive and then he proceeds to jack up every dial and control in the entire car.  He hears a vehicle and screams tru or ka-r.  He runs to the window every time a vehicle comes near, and when he’s strapped in his child seat, a.k.a. restraint cage, he tries to rip out the seat belts if he sees a school bus or a big truck. This kid should be in someone’s automobile ads. I guarantee you he’d sell more vehicles than any 12 screaming old men or sexy young ladies.

So, back to the event that I missed.  It was called something like “Touch a Truck.”  The Junior League of Pittsburgh sponsors activities like American Girl Fashion Shows and Touch a Truck.  They should describe them as Heaven on Earth for little kids.  Seriously, Pete would have had to have two diapers if I had known about this earlier and taken him there.

These wonderful folks bring every type of vehicle they can get their hands on to Smallman Street in Pittsburgh, and then they let the kids literally have at it. There were ambulances, fire trucks, cement trucks, dump trucks, front loaders, you name it. All I could think about was “Why should the kids in Pittsburgh be the only ones to enjoy American Girl fashion shows and Touch a Truck events?”

I don’t want to wait until next year for Pete and all of my American Girl-owning granddaughters to get to experience the joys of childhood in such a great way.

It’s funny, however, when you suggest something like this as a fundraiser.  Even at $15 a person, this would seem to be a serious money maker, but everyone I’ve mentioned it to has scattered like roaches when the Orkin guy enters the room.  I expected to see every nonprofit in need of funds to look like dogs waiting at the door with their ears perked up every time they hear a sound.  This lack of enthusiasm is probably because they have been burned too many times by too many ideas that the presenter thinks is the greatest idea in the world.  Can a friend raiser really be a good fundraiser?

We all know that when our kids and grandkids are concerned, there are no barriers to entry. People practically mortgage their homes to take their kids to Disneyworld, why not a truck touching, doll fashion show day? Every little boy wants to drive a truck and every girl between the ages of five and 10 would gladly dress up their prize dolls for an event like this.

Come on.  Twenty phone calls and a volunteer group of 15 people could pull either or both of these events off with ease.  It only takes some creativity, a little donated space, a heck of a lot of liability insurance and, of course, some alcohol.  (Hopefully, the alcohol would be for after the event.)

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Changing Tides

May 13th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

As I sat in a circle with my six grand kids and listened to them talk about their lives, their friends, their toys, their challenges and their joys, I couldn’t help but contemplate what their futures might hold. They could easily live to be 100 or more years old, and what will the quality of their lives be for the next nine or more decades?

Hopefully, they will all have an opportunity to get an education, and they’ll probably have a lot more intelligent advice along the way than was available to me in the 60s. But what about the rest? What else will be resolved, improved, repaired, destroyed, invented, or resurrected?

Will the climate continue to deteriorate? Will food become less plentiful as the world population zooms to 10 billion people? As I dug deeply into the past decades of my life, the single most dramatic technological change that has occurred (to the point of seemingly attaching itself to our bodies) is the smartphone. It’s still a little difficult to comprehend the power of this device and the impact that it’s had on our lives already, but there’s no more dramatic technological advance to pedestal-ize than that minicomputer.

“What percent of fat, proteins, or carbs should I consume, Siri?” “Let me check on that,” she politely answers. “How many angels can fit on the head of a pin, Siri?” “An infinite number of angels can fit on a pin, Nick,” she replies.

We have our clocks, our schedules, our email accounts, our message systems, our phone directories and contact lists, our weather reports, our bank and credit card accounts, our word processors, and that’s truly just the beginning because everything that has ever been recorded in human history can be searched via the web on our smartphones.

But these amazing devices have also both increased and simultaneously marginalized our ability to communicate directly with each other. Supposedly, 85 percent of what we do in face-to-face communication is lost in emails and texts.

Any time there are teenagers at a family gathering, they are, for the most part, non-communicative. It’s as if they are lost in space, and unless you accost them directly by standing in front of them and peppering them with questions, they can be completely removed from the room. On the other side of that coin, however, is FaceTime and Zoom and a half a dozen other face-to-face software programs. Wow, what a difference that can make toalonely grandfather staying in some remote part of the world without his family.

We’re already seeing the use of nano particles and chips implanted in our pets to identify them and nano healing delivery systems, space travel, driverless cars, and talk of a colony on Mars. Will my grandkids enjoy the amazing products of science and engineering in a Brave New World of wonder and beauty, or will they be subjected to the continuation of the tribal mentality that is currently sweeping the world?

Will we eventually eliminate prejudice? Will we ever control our greed enough for them to know world peace for even a decade or two? Will we ever embrace a philosophy that cares enough for our fellow man to ensure that we can all have a decent life?

I’m hoping that we find new antibiotics through the discovery of the benefits of microbes, that we continue to make discoveries in mental health, cancer and heart disease, and that we restore our overall commitment to education and the arts in this country.

The good news is that I’ll be a memory. The rest of the news is, while I’m here, I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that every one of these good things at least has a chance to become reality. Purpose Driven Lives…learn those words. Let’s focus on making things better.

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Intrigued by Secret Stuff

May 5th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Let me be the first to admit that I have an obsession. It’s not a secret obsession,
its trap doors and stealthy rooms, and sliding panels. It all started when I was very little.
My dad’s father took me into an underground tunnel that connected the servants’ quarters
to the mansion of a coal baron’s house, and from that day forward, I was hooked.

We lived with my mom’s mom, and her house, like so many houses built in the early 1900s, had accompanying sheds that were constructed at the same time, from the same materials, with the similar siding, and paint jobs. There was a tool shed by the one-acre garden, a play house that had once stored coal, and a wash house. The play house had a front door and a wooden side window. This was the place where my brother and I could, as little kids, go
hang out and play for hours at a time.

In this one story 250-squarefoot house, my 9-year-old self decided that it would be mportant to have secret compartments. The sad truth was that neither my brother nor I had anything to hide. We were incredibly transparent kids, and we felt no need to keep anything from our parents. Nevertheless, I had installed an old Pennsylvania license
plate with concealed hinges that lifted up to reveal a hiding place in the wall. In this
playhouse I also meticulously sawed through the floorboards and created a trap door that
literally went nowhere, but if I ever needed to, I could hide a strong box.

Later, my brother and I graduated from the little kid playhouse to the much bigger wash
house. This wash house had been built to accommodate the tubs and indoor clothes lines
that helped keep the laundry clean for the eight children and two adults who had lived there
when my mom was a kid. The secret in this place was the second floor. Dad helped us
build a trap door that he connected to pulleys at the top of a ladder leading to the attic.
When you pulled on the rope two times with just the exact rhythm and swing to it, the secret trap door would fall open. That was the only clandestine device in that building, and,
for that matter, it was my last secret place until I became an adult.

When my son was about 12, I had a revolving bookcase built in his room. It was like
the Young Frankenstein bookcase, but that was not enough. I also had a secret room built in
the adjacent chamber. He would invite his friends into his bedroom, turn off the lights and
disappear completely. They’d go crazy trying to find him, but he had escaped through the bookcase and was secretly tucked away in his safe room.

Move the clock ahead about 25 years, and my son showed me the secret room that he had had built under the steps for his two daughters. Yes, the tradition continues. Shortly after that I had hush hush compartments built in my apartment, and someday, I’m sure that my grandkids will be building secret places and they’ll be wondering why. It’s funny how family traditions come about and get passed on from generation to generation.

I’ve never built my own home, but if I ever had, you better believe that there would have been undisclosed staircases, rooms, bookcases that revolved, and hiding places for my grandfather’s watch, or for whatever else I could think of to hide. I’d have hollow books, special, desks with invisible doors, hollow broom sticks for hiding money, and vodka.
I’m pretty sure I’d have a safe room, too. You know, like that room where Jodie Foster hid.

So, if I disappear, don’t worry. I’m probably under the trap door connected to the coffee table.

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The Elections

April 28th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Onward to the general election The fall election is getting closer and closer, but for many of us, this pain cannot end soon enough. In fact, it would be more comfortable walking barefoot on hot ingots than listening to one more broadcaster pontificate about the flaws of each candidate. I’m concerned that the recently reported increase in suicides may not actually be suicides but instead may be the result of people’s heads exploding from all of the campaign ads about Lying Ted, Donald Drumpf Trump, Hillary – emails, Bernie’s Socialism, Kasich’s Zzzzzzzzz, and locally “The man who should separate his romantic life from his political life.” (Like that’s ever happened in American history.)

This election cycle has been even more mind numbing than usual on several levels. The most disconcerting part of all of this is, after having had more than 20 people from whom to choose in both parties, we’ve ended up with five candidates that are unacceptable to droves of us in different camps for myriad reasons. That fact is a little more worrisome than usual. So far, not one of the candidates has ripped off his or her glasses and shirt and to reveal an S on their chest. No super human has emerged to save the free world. There are plenty of flaws to go around, and on most days, those flaws seem to outweigh the total combined talent of this flock of politicos.

To me, the trust factor is the funniest measurement in this election. When you hear the talking heads proclaim that the front runners are battling each other for the lowest trust ratings ever recorded in human history, you have to wonder what kind of ratification of their candidacy that discloses. It has been interesting to see the split between the states on the Cruz-Trump journey and how much further from center Hillary has had to slide in order to appeal to the droves of Bernie supporters.

In some ways it was refreshing to hear a few of the candidates speak the honest to goodness truth about the dysfunctionality of our system, but in other ways, it makes us wonder if things may truly be hopeless. Taking apart the big banks, changing the campaign funding rules, altering the disparities that exist between the wealthy and everyone else, and stopping Putin, ISIS, and North Korea from screwing up the world all seem like pretty big challenges. Add to that the challenge of who gets to go through the day inacloud of doobie smoke and where you can pee if you’re Kaitlyn Jenner, and you’ve got an even higher stack of trials.

As things got more and more complicated over the years, some of the truly cerebral folks who may have had super powers decided to stay at home, crack a beer, and say, “Who needs this?” When folks like Elizabeth Warren, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Joe Biden, decided not to run, it just seemed like, the more realistic they were, the more they realized it wasn’t worth the exacerbation, aggravation, or pain.

Don’t take this wrong. I’m a patriot, and I do believe that these people are potentially doing a disservice to our country by not sacrificing their lives to run, but, having had the modest by comparison job of being a hospital CEO, I can tell you that my hair turned gray and fell out, and my heart clogged up like George W.’s and Bill Clinton’s, and I was just dealing with the day to day pressures of a little gig in comparison. Can you imagine going through everything that it takes to become president to change the world and then finding out that you really don’t have much power.

The cynical part of me believes that the money people are the puppeteers and the presidential candidates know they’ll end up wealthier when they’re done than they were when they started. Hope you voted.

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It Will Be His Spring

April 6th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

The air is definitely smelling like spring, and spring has always and forever been my favorite time of the year. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a special relationship with this season. It may be because I was a spring baby, or maybe it was because my grandfather was a professional gardener.

Every spring he carefully and meticulously transferred his tiny flowers that had often times been grown from seeds over the winter from greenhouse to soil. He tenderly covered his employer’s world with the beauty, the smells and the love that only these magnificent works of nature could manifest.

He created amazing sculpted formal gardens like the ones that in London and Paris. They were formal, carefully groomed, and patterned, featuring dozens of floral combinations, manicured hedges, and plants. His work was natural art that, in hindsight, could never be fully embraced by the mind of a kid.

Maybe I love spring because, like the maple trees that lined Maple Street where I played as a young boy, I’m just a little sappy. I was actually a substitute Maple King back in the 1980’s in Meyersdale, PA, when the chosen king, Congressman Jack Murtha, had to cancel at the last minute. Nothing says spring like the Meyersdale Maple Festival.

Another spring fill-in day was when I was called on at 11:30 a.m. to speak at noon to the Somerset Rotary Club in place of Chuck Noll’s assistant coach, George Perles, who had canceled at the last minute. My speech to 120 men who came to hear the Pittsburgh Steelers assistant football coach was “The Value of the Arts in Our Lives.” Yeah, really?

In spring, there is new life, new hope, new love, and new dreams. All of these things have been consistent for me during this season of hope and rebirth. I’m definitely not alone in my feelings about spring. All one needs to do is sit and watch the extremely amorous birds chasing each other around the trees and bushes. Nature really gets it, too.

Spring is most probably the reason that I have chosen not to move to places like Arizona or Florida. Vive la difference. To me those almost single-season places are a little like cream of wheat on a white plate. Don’t get me wrong, they have plenty of good attributes when we’re freezing to death, and at least Florida has plenty of drama, but the absolute beauty of slipping from the heavy winter coat to the polo shirt and tennies is completely unmatched.

Feeling the warm sun embrace you like an old friend and smelling the sweet air of fresh blossoms is like a child opening a long anticipated present on Christmas morning. Seeing the grass come back to life (and knowing that you will not be the one to have to cut it) is completely special, too.

This is my first spring without my brother. It’s been a long nine months since he left us, and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that he hasn’t been in my heart and mind. You see, he too loved spring, but unlike me, he loved working in the soil and loved working with his wife to help make plants and flowers and trees and special bushes grow.

He went to our childhood home before it was sold and then to our grandparent’s home, and he captured, nurtured, and raised the very same plants that surrounded us in our youth. He found the flowers and shrubs, and filled his yard with those thriving, living memories. The smells and colors of our childhood are captured in the middle of a backyard in the city.

He was spring on so many levels, and this year, this spring, whenever spring really comes, it will be his spring.

We never really die, we just transition. This year is his year.

 

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Flexible Ethics

March 23rd, 2016 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

On Sunday I was driving three of my grandchildren home, and the youngest suggested that we play a game that they had often played on long, boring drives.  The rules of the game seemed simple.  Select a specific paint job for a car, i.e., navy blue, beige, grey, etc., and when you see a car with that particular color, you’re out.  Kind of a last person standing theme.  When my choice was made, they suggested that I change it to a color that would be more obscure so that I could last longer.  They selected, for example, periwinkle, pink, and yellow. So, with that in mind, I selected mint green, and was knocked out within a few minutes.  When my oldest granddaughter was eliminated, she contested the decision because the car that had her color was parked–an arbitrary rule change.

As the game progressed, the rules changed quickly and fervently.  “No, Poppa, that car was lime green, not mint green,” one said.  “That brown was not the brown that I meant,” said another. And on it went as we drove back to their home.  It was during this trip that it dawned on me that this pattern of game changing has played a huge part in my adult life.  Just when I thought I was playing by the rules, they changed dramatically.

For example, after having been insured for about 20 years by the same company, our basement flooded. When we made a claim, they very cautiously explained that we indeed had flood insurance, but we didn’t have drain backup insurance, and the water had rushed into the basement because the drain was backed up. (They had also discovered that if you didn’t pay claims, their stock holders would make more money.)

How about the greencard-holding immigrants who are encouraged to join the military and fight for our country because they can become citizens?  Then, after they get out, they find out that they are indeed not citizens, and the path to get there is just as arduous as before, and then they are deported. This represents the not-so-fine print of life.

I remember that in philosophy class we learned about something called relative ethics. We were taught about a very flexible way of looking at life in which the ethical decisions depend on the particular circumstances.  In other words, it was a very real example of the wiggle, or the weasel, theory. Time after time we hear our politicians carefully select each word as they position themselves to weasel out of whatever they are promising. The Cambridge dictionary says that to weasel out is to ?avoid doing something that you have ?agreed to do, ?especially by being ?dishonest. But then, that’s all relative.

My very favorite examples are those disclaimers that the drug companies are forced by the FDA  to post in their advertisements for their cure-all drugs. They’ll start out by saying, “This drug will help you lose weight, give you a tan, and make you sexy.”  Then the disclaimer:  “This drug may cause your eyebrows to fall out, your skin to turn orange, and your heart to stop forever. Contact your doctor if you fingernails turn black, you hear fire engine sirens in your ears all night long, and your teeth begin to have a fluorescent glow.”

It’s sad that we have become so used to being deceived on so many levels. Used car salesmen sometimes take a bad rap for this behavior, but several movies this year have portrayed the real villains and criminals in our lives:  “The Big Short,” which is about the greed of Wall Street, big government, and too-big-to-fail banks, and “Spotlight,” about the Archdiocese of Boston. These are examples of relative ethics. “It’s just the way things were.”

 

 

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Carpet Bombing and New Cancer Care

February 10th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

In the presidential debates we’ve recently been re-exposed to the phrase “carpet bombing.” This phrase typically means saturation bombing, which indicates large in-flight bombing done in an advanced manner that is intended to inflict maximum damage in every part of a selected area. It’s kind of like covering the floor with a carpet, but with much different results. This type of bombing was done periodically in World War II and the Vietnam conflict, and the results were as you might expect.  Unless humans were tucked away in a bomb shelter or were exceptionally lucky, they were annihilated in these bombing runs.

Now, let’s take a look a cancer treatment. I’ve been listening to and working with individual physicians and researchers who have decided that carpet bombing their patients may not be the best course of treatment anymore. For example, it wasn’t that many years ago that the typical treatment of breast cancer was a complete mastectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation, a very real form of medical carpet bombing.

The new movement in medicine is heavily tilted toward personalizing each patient’s care plan to their individual make-up. For example, one genetic test, called pharmacogenomics, can indicate the patient’s ability to metabolize certain medicines. That way, if you’re that one in one thousand person who shouldn’t have a specific type of medication, you’ll know in advance, and that knowledge might keep you from not experiencing sickening side effects to something that is critical to saving your life.

Although these tests have been available for quite some time, their use has been limited because of a lack of training for physicians, a lack of techs to run the equipment, and a complete lack of interpretive skills after the test is administered. All of those areas of concern are being aggressively addressed and will result in these tests becoming available  within a very short time.

The really interesting news is that genetic testing of tumors is driving personalized medicine in radiation oncology, too. A recent study that used a genetic test to assess radiation sensitivity of primary tumors and metastases suggests potential for genetic testing to help guide radiation therapy, too.

We know that patients have different clinical responses to radiation, but the way we treat them doesn’t acknowledge that difference. Researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, are focusing on integrating genetic measures into radiation oncology so as to begin to understand the mechanisms of how to treat patients more effectively.

So, if we take that example of carpet bombing the disease but apply stereotactic breast biopsy, lumpectomy, and genetic testing to determine what type of drug will not only be tolerated but will also be the best treatment for the patient, and add similar genetic testing to determine radiation efficacy, we will begin to make real personalized progress.

Here’s some even more radical information, however.  Your circadian rhythm can impact the effectiveness of your chemotherapy.  Dr. Kevin Block has found that the actual time of day that the chemo is administered can impact curative rates up to as much as 25 percent more positively.  So, let’s add the following integrative approaches as well:

  • Comprehensive Integrative Assessment for Individualizing Treatment & Care – addressing patient profiles and treatment plans
  • Therapeutic Nutrition Program with Exchange System and Individualizing to Disease, Clinical, Drug and Laboratory Parameters
  • Personalized Physical Care Plan including fitness, manual therapy, acupuncture/acupressure/hyperthermia/cryotherapy
  • Personalized Biobehavioral Care Plan
  • Optimization of Circadian Health

Now we’re talking about personalized cancer care that should be available to everyone, but based on the speed of science compared to the speed of acceptance, we’re still probably years away, and that is my frustration. Science should be translational, and unless or until we can speed up the marriage of science and medicine, many of our loved ones will suffer unnecessarily.

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