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New Year, New Blog

January 21, 2010

Oh, I just LOVE the opportunity to start anew.  Each time the calendar changes from December 31st to January 1st I try to think of the year ahead as a blank canvas, full of promise. 

In 2009, I chose to write my blog like a newspaper column on a variety of topics.  I want to THANK YOU for reading my musings, and for responding to my entries with your insightful comments.    Many of you asked if I would share more of my personal stories and family happenings through the blog, so in 2010, that’s what I will do!  The blog entries will be shorter, but more frequent, and will hopefully become a springboard for discussion and sharing ideas! 

And please:  if you have ideas for topics, please email me anytime at cpeterson@wtol.com.

Stay tuned…

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Breast Screening Blunder

November 20, 2009

She is 39 years old, a wife, a daughter, mother to three beautiful children.  She is also a breast cancer survivor.  Debbie found the lump herself, doing a routine breast self-exam–something she had been practicing for only a few months.   She had a mastectomy and is now 7 years cancer-free. 

Ilene was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42.  A mammogram found a tumor the size of a golf ball in her right breast.  It was so deep, she had never even felt it.  It was Ilene’s first mammogram–something she only scheduled after two years of  prompting from her doctor.     After aggressive treatment, Ilene is alive and well–a 12 year breast cancer survivor. 

As a breast cancer awareness, prevention and screening advocate for nearly 20 years, I could give you dozens more stories just like those, which is why a recent report by the US Preventive Services Task Force is so upsetting.    This panel suggests changing the screening guidelines for breast cancer that have been so effective in saving women’s lives.  The standard guidelines from the American Cancer Society call for yearly mammograms starting at age 40.  The panel believes screening mammograms should start at age 50, and then only be done every other year.  The reason they give?   While some 15 percent of women in their 40s detect breast cancer through mammography, other women experience false positives, anxiety, and unnecessary biopsies as a result of the test.

WHAT?!?!  

You want to take away the most effective screening tool for 15 percent of all women in their 40’s so other women don’t have anxiety?!?   Ilene can’t believe it:  “I know I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t had that mammogram.  Anxiety doesn’t kill you.  Breast cancer can if it’s not caught early enough.”

The panel further suggests that breast self-exam is unnecessary and women shouldn’t be taught to do it…but statistics show 80% of cancerous breast lumps are found by women themselves.  Women like Debbie:  “I wasn’t always faithful about doing my breast self-exams.  I shudder to think what might have happened to me…to my children…if I hadn’t found that lump.”

Some medical experts contend the panel’s report is strictly based on cost-effectiveness:  “With its new recommendations, the [task force] is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives; just not enough of them,”  said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the  American Cancer Society. 

According to The Society of Breast Imaging, “Since 1990, the breast cancer death rate in the US that had been unchanged in the preceding 50 years, has decreased by 30%, primarily due to screening mammography.”  The group also disagrees with the panel’s recommendation to screen only women who are at high risk:    “Only 10-25% of breast cancers occur in high risk women.  Not screening the others would miss 75-90% of breast cancers.” 

Women like Jane, who kept putting off her mammogram, even when she had a lump so large and so sore she couldn’t raise her arm.  When her co-workers finally dragged her to the doctor, it was too late.   When she was dying, she said to me, “Chrys, promise me you will tell my story to other women.  Tell them not to be stupid like me so they don’t end up dead like me.” 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the United States. This year, nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.  The medical community and the American Cancer Society agree we should stick with the current guidelines: monthly breast self-exam, and yearly mammograms starting at age 40.    Because of those screenings, more women are catching breast cancer early, and more women are surviving the disease.   

Just ask Debbie or Ilene.  I wish the members of the task force had listened to their stories and met their families before they decided their lives weren’t worth the cost nor anxiety of a yearly mammogram or breast self-exam.

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It takes a village

November 10, 2009

I was the guest speaker this week for the Henry County Retired Teachers and met a fabulous group of former educators.   Since I truly believe “It takes a village to raise a child,” I thanked them for their years of service to young people and I began to think about all the teachers in my life who helped shape me into the human being I am today.     

I wondered whatever happened to my first grade teacher, Mrs. Trebilcock?  For many of us, our first grade teachers are special.  They set the tone for the next dozen or more years of our learning.  Mrs. Trebilcock was special.  She was just the right mix of strict and fun, challenging us to do our best but always available with a hug if we needed one.   When the prized music box I brought for show and tell fell off the desk and shattered on the floor, it was Mrs. Trebilcock who helped pick up the pieces of glass, and my heart. 

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Canny was special too.  I was in an accelerated learning program that year and Mrs. Canny made learning fun, teaching us to use our critical thinking skills by playing bridge and taking us on field trips to art museums and historical sites. 

Junior High offered me an incredible science teacher, Mr. Bogger (pronounced bo-jer), whose enthusiasm for chemistry literally bubbled over like our test-tube experiments gone wrong.   Even kids who didn’t get good grades in any other subject tried their hardest to impress Mr. Bogger.  Mr. Gregory was the history teacher who made the mission of the “Enola Gay” come to life for me, and Ms. Holzer was the Home Economics teacher who was determined to teach me how to thread the bobbin on the sewing machine.   My projects weren’t blue-ribbon material, but her encouragement helped me feel great about my accomplishments, and gave me the courage to try new things. 

In high school, my English teachers Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Mathews instilled in me a love for reading and writing that I treasure still.  Mrs. Susan helped me navigate the world of algebra, trigonometry and functions.  “Killer” Hiller assigned me history projects that sent me into the streets of Old Town Alexandria and Washington DC mapping the city and looking for examples of federalist architecture.  I learned how to write an exceptional research paper in his class.   Mr. Aiken, my choral director, pushed me to develop my vocal talent, and encouraged me to perform in numerous shows and state competitions, sometimes driving me there himself if I needed a ride. 

Those teachers, and so many others I didn’t name here, helped me not only to learn facts and figures, but to apply that knowledge to help solve real-world problems.  They helped me develop my confidence, courage, and self-esteem.  They used their talents to develop me into a better person.   I’m so thankful they were part of my village.

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News Anchor Nightmares

October 26, 2009

We all have them: those recurring nightmares that haunt us at night.  Many of us have specific nightmares–dreams that speak to our deepest fears.   Have you ever had that dream where you’re back in high school and you can’t find your class?  Or you can’t remember the combination to your locker?  Maybe the nightmare pertains to being a parent:  the one where the children sprout wings and fly away, or the one where the newborn baby starts talking like he’s Einstein.   Maybe it’s something more realistic like someone snatching your child from her crib or stroller?  That one will make you wake up in a sweat. 

Some of us have recurring nightmares about our jobs.  When you work in TV news the nightmare may be that you’re out on a live shot and you can’t speak or you don’t have any information.  I’ve also had the recurring dream that it’s minutes before news time and I’m in still in the car driving to the station, trying to make it there in time.  One time I dreamed I was coming back to the station from picking up food on the east side, and on my way back driving over the Martin Luther King Bridge it collapsed and I was floating around in my car in the Maumee, calling the station on my cell phone for help, and telling them I could do a live shot from the water.  Weird, huh?

But by far the most frequent dream I have is the one where I’m sitting on the set waiting for the newscast to begin and I realize I’m not dressed, or don’t have any makeup on.  Last week, that one was a nightmare come true.

For those of you who have wondered if we have professional hair and makeup people at the station who get us ready each night: we don’t.   We all do our own.  Because TV makeup is applied more heavily than regular makeup, there are some days when I come in to work with no makeup and apply it there.  If I don’t have anywhere to be earlier in the day, I just give my skin a break and wait ’til I get to the station to do it.  

Admittedly, Chrys without makeup is not a pretty sight.  My coworkers are kind about it because they love me but like many women, I feel I look much better with makeup on.   So at 4:40 last Thursday when I went back to the makeup room to put on my “face” imagine my horror to discover I had left my makeup bag at home!!!   “Oh no…my nightmare’s coming true,” I panicked.   I had 15 minutes until the 5 PM news and my house was 25 minutes away.   “You’re beautiful without makeup,” Jerry Anderson consoled.  “No one will even notice,” my co-worker Jim said. 

Right. 

So I did what any self-respecting anchor would do:  I found Melissa Voetsch, our 5:30 PM anchor and told her I needed her to fill in for me at 5.  She was gracious and stepped in with 5 minutes to go.   (This is just one of the many reasons I love my coworkers.)  I called my husband to bring my makeup, and had it on in time to do the 6 PM news.  

But what if Mel and Jerry hadn’t been at work that day?  What if my husband hadn’t been home to bring my makeup bag to me?  What if I had no choice but to go on the air with no makeup for all of Northwest Ohio to see?   What a nightmare!

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Major League Disappointment

October 6, 2009

miguel-cabreraMiguel Cabrera:  you’re a couple of wins away from clinching the American League Central Division, what are you gonna do?  Apparently, go home, rest up and come in prepared to win on Saturday and Sunday was not the answer.    Instead, the Detroit Tigers’ slugger went out partying Friday night with his buddies from the OPPOSING TEAM, the Chicago White Sox.    But that was only part of the story. 

Here are the facts according to the Birmingham Police Chief:   1.  Cabrera’s wife Rosangel called 9-1-1 Saturday morning at 6.  2.  When police arrived, they found the Cabreras had been fighting and each had visible facial scratches.  3.  Miguel Cabrera had a Blood alcohol Content almost 3 times the legal limit.  4.  Rosangel Cabrera told police she wanted Miguel out of the house, so they took him down to the police department where  Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski picked him up about 7:30 AM.     Cabrera dragged himself into the clubhouse Saturday afternoon and pretended he was prepared to suit up and take the field with his teammates. 

Excuse me?  

You’re getting a club record $141 million dollars over 7 years to play baseball for a living and you’re going to go out on a drinking binge with your friends, then get hauled down to the police station before one of the biggest games of the season?    Maybe he thought he could handle it?   Maybe it’s not unusual for Cabrera to stay out partying all night before a game and then step to the plate and deliver?   Problem is, he didn’t deliver this time.  Cabrera was 0 for 4, stranded 6 men and the Tigers lost 5-1. 

It was disrespectful behavior that may have cost his team a playoff spot.  Not just because he didn’t perform.  Because other guys who were prepared to contribute didn’t get to play.   What about them?  What about the coaches who plan their strategy around physically and mentally sound players?  And what about the fans who buy tickets to help pay that $141 million dollars?  Don’t they deserve better?  

Admittedly, players have bad days where the bat doesn’t find the ball or the ball doesn’t find the glove.   But to set yourself up for failure by drinking too much the night before is bush-league behavior…and a major league disappointment.

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Racing for a Cure

September 25, 2009
Click here to hear Kathy Thompson's amazing story of survival

Click here to hear Kathy Thompson's amazing story of survival

On Sunday morning, downtown Toledo will become a battleground.  The enemy: breast cancer.  The warriors: 18,000-plus men, women and children.  The weapon: their feet!  

Many of the warriors already have battle scars: those wearing pink shirts and pink caps are breast cancer survivors.  This year, there will be more than 1,200 of them: some running, some walking, some being pushed in wheelchairs or riding on the trolley because they’re going through treatment and are simply too weak to take the steps.  If you watch the crowd, you’ll see people patting them on the back, cheering them on, and giving them hugs; complete strangers in some cases offering encouragement and thanks to those who continue to fight.  

And it’s not just ladies wearing those pink shirts.  At least three men who are survivors will be wearing pink too.  Surprised?  The only criteria for developing breast cancer is having breasts and that includes women and men.     

Some in the crowd have already lost loved ones to the enemy.   Leslie Droll’s family members will be there remembering their wife, mom and grandma.   The emotion is still raw for the Drolls.  Leslie just lost her battle a year ago after fighting breast cancer for 14 years.   She walked in the Race every year after her diagnosis, proudly wearing her pink shirt.   This year’s Race for the Cure is in Memory of Leslie Droll. 

Click here to hear Leslie Droll's inspirational story

Click here to hear Leslie Droll's inspirational story

Looking around in the crowd, it’s not hard to see why so many people participate.   People walk with names and pictures on their backs celebrating loved ones who are breast cancer survivors, and remembering loved ones who have died from the disease.   

As honorary chairperson for the NW Ohio/Komen Race for the Cure for the past 15 years, I’ve witnessed many incredible and inspirational stories:  high school friends reunited 20 years later on the race route, both wearing pink survivor shirts; a high school football team pushing a mom in a wheelchair; a 24 year old woman who’d shaved her head the night before the race because her hair was falling out from her chemo treatment. 

I’ve been completely inspired by so many scenes, but the one that always sticks with me happened a few years ago.  I was watching the first runners cross the finish line and I saw a woman in a pink shirt running toward me.  When she got about a block from the finish line, a man in the crowd pushed a little girl into the street.  She looked to be about 3 or 4 years old.  The runner in the pink shirt took her daughter’s hand and they finished the race together.  Tears were streaming down my face as I realized this is why we do this every year: so that little girl doesn’t have to lose her mom, and so that little girl doesn’t have to worry about being diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Since the first NW Ohio/Komen Race for the Cure in 1994, we’ve raised millions of dollars to help provide breast cancer screening, education and treatment to women right here in Northwest Ohio.  75% of the money stays in our community. Last year, more than 5,000 women in our area received mammograms, treatment, and support services through funds raised at the Race for the Cure.   The other 25% of the money raised goes to the national Komen for the Cure organization for breast cancer research.    Charity Navigator ranks Komen for the Cure as a 4-star charity, the highest ranking available.  That means your money is well-spent when you give to Komen. 

If you haven’t registered for this year’s Race for the Cure, what are you waiting for?

Think about those pink shirts.  Think about that little girl.  Then arm yourself with a pair of sneakers, and come prepared for battle Sunday, September 27th at 9 AM.  

I promise it will be an inspirational experience you’ll never forget.

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Where are your Manners?

September 12, 2009

I can hear it as clear as a bell in my mind: “Chryssie…where are your manners?”  It was something my mom said to me when I would shovel food in my mouth at the dinner table or when I would accidentally burp out loud after drinking a coke.   She didn’t yell about it, just playfully scolded so I would remember next time to behave more mannerly.   Teaching good manners is something I’ve always tried to be conscious of as I’m raising my daughter.    We are not born knowing how to use a napkin at the table or to chew with our mouths closed.  Gentlemen have to be taught to open a door for a lady, it’s not some innate law of nature knitted deep into the Y chromosome.  

So Wednesday night when President Obama was heckled on national television by a member of Congress during a speech on health care reform I thought,  “That man’s mother obviously didn’t teach him any manners.”   When I learned the heckler was Republican Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina, I was shocked.  Southern mothers ALWAYS teach their sons manners.  I can say this with certainty because my family is from the South.  It’s as much a rite of passage as lathering up for their first shave or buying their first corsage for a prom date.   

Click here to hear Joe Wilson's outburst

Click here to hear Joe Wilson's outburst

What could have possibly possessed this man who was elected by the good mannerly people of South Carolina to cast aside all rules of decorum and shout “You lie!” at the President of the United States in the middle of his nationally televised speech?  It’s a rhetorical question; I don’t have an answer but it’s been bothering me since it happened.  

We occasionally run video of lawmakers in other countries who settle their differences by throwing punches or slapping each other.  One time I even saw a man pull off another man’s toupee in frustration.  Whenever I see that I always think “Thank goodness that would never happen in the U.S. Congress.”   That’s why the outburst cut me to the core.  There was something so uncivilized about it.  Something so unmannerly.  Something so un-American.

Congressman Wilson has apologized to the President, and the President has accepted his apology.    But I’ll bet the congressman is dreading going home to see his mama.  You know the first question she’ll ask him: “Son, where are your manners?”

Click here to see Kanye's bad manners at the MTV Awards

Click here to see Kanye's bad manners at the MTV Awards

Serena Williams at the US Open

Serena Williams at the US Open

POSTSCRIPT:  Over the weekend, there were two other horrible examples of bad behavior/bad manners on national television.  Serena Williams at the US Open, and Kanye West at the MTV Video Awards.  I’ll bet their mothers are ashamed too!