Brandeis Bardin needs to be transparent about contamination


This column was revised after an investigative report by NBC4 aired on Nov. 9.

Three years ago, the Jewish Journal looked into whether the nuclear contamination from Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory posed continuing health concerns at Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BBI) in Simi Valley. The investigation was prompted by the release of a new study that showed increased rates of cancer in neighborhoods close to the Simi Valley site.

The yearlong process turned into one of the more frustrating experiences I’ve had in my years at the Jewish Journal.  

Wait — scratch that — the most frustrating experience.

The story was one I had long wanted to explore, ever since serving on the board of the Los Angeles Press Club with Michael Collins, a journalist who relentlessly investigated the area.

Beginning in the 1950s, Rocketdyne and other corporations used the 2,800-acre Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) to research and test nuclear reactors, advanced rocket systems and futuristic weapons. Gross contamination resulted from the release of the operation’s toxic and radioactive materials, including a leak that resulted from a partial meltdown on July 13, 1959.

Concerns over the lab’s health and the environmental impacts continue, including concerns over Brandeis-Bardin, the nearly 3,000-acre Los Angeles Jewish campus near the lab. Hundreds of children and staffers spend summers each year at BBI’s Camp Alonim. Thousands of people enjoy BBI programs year-round.   

A contributing reporter came to us willing to investigate a story on contamination at BBI, and I believed we had a team of editors in place to finally make it happen.

American Jewish University (AJU) took over responsibility for BBI after a 2007 merger. AJU paid its lawyers to review our questions, and it devoted considerable staff time to our inquiries. But AJU officials, who let it be known they felt our reporter had an ax to grind against BBI, pushed back as the questions explored all potential facets of the story.

I knew that the story would upset many people by raising issues of toxicity that some felt had been resolved long ago. But that’s the challenge of community journalism. The process of journalism — asking hard questions, bringing to light facts and issues some people would rather not — can be inherently antagonistic. But the process also stands in for the rest of the community, who need those answers. I’ve found that if you do journalism right — and are willing to suffer the anger — you have the opportunity to help the people and institutions you admire.  

When we had a late draft of the story, we asked an independent, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist — a non-Jewish writer with no connection to Brandeis — to review it. He sent it back with a slew of red lines, pushbacks and questions that still needed answers. 

At that point, I decided we didn’t have enough new information to justify the article. We were unable to verify independently whether there remains contamination on BBI grounds, or of any harm attributable to contamination in the past or present. We heard from one couple, the Sokols, who asserted that their struggle with cancer was due to exposure at BBI, but we were unable to find others. We found scientists who were concerned about the Rocketdyne disaster, as anybody should be, but could not speak authoritatively about the BBI situation itself. But I was keenly aware that just raising these issues again without pushing the story forward could do more harm than good.

The story of the story we didn’t end up printing circulated in our Jewish Mayberry. Because Peter Lowy, the board chairman of the Journal’s parent company, TRIBE Media Corp., was once chairman of the board at AJU, the going assumption was that he killed it. He didn’t. The only pressure we received from our board was the same pressure we apply to ourselves: Get the story right. I didn’t think we had.

I didn’t devote enough resources, time and outside expertise to the story. The ramifications of the Rocketdyne lab are among the great environmental catastrophes in modern American history. The investigation into whatever lasting impact the disaster has had on BBI needed far more time, money and expertise than we were able to devote.

This fall, Joel Grover, producer Matthew Glasser and the investigative team at KNBC news took a crack at it, following in the footsteps of reporters like Collins, Warren Olney, Kevin Roderick and others. Part 1 of their report, “L.A.’s Nuclear Secret,” aired in late September. 

The second of their multipart, yearlong investigation aired Monday night, Nov. 9, and focused on BBI. It was titled “Camp Coverup.” KNBC unearthed new information about the impact of SSFL activities on Brandeis, including a previously unreleased 1997 report by a Brandeis-hired scientist, Joel Cehn, that raises deep concerns. Whether the report or KNBC’s other evidence proves conclusively there is a current danger to campers is less clear. But it does prove one thing: This story is not going away. There must be an even fuller accounting.  

For that to happen, here’s what we need: transparency. In 1997, BBI’s attorneys reached a settlement with Rocketdyne over the contamination. A condition of that settlement was that it remain confidential, and even most BBI board members at the time were not allowed to read it — though they had to sign off on it.

In response to Grover’s investigation, AJU belatedly has begun to make public the results of testing on BBI property. A small portion of them is posted at the aju.edu website, and numerous other documents are at nbclosangeles.com. AJU’s response to KNBC, with KNBC’s comments, is at jewishjournal.com.

There once may have been some very good reasons for not releasing all the information AJU has on BBI, but AJU’s lack of transparency is hurting, rather than helping, the community.

Last August, I spent a magical Friday night at BBI, celebrating with hundreds of young Alonim campers clad in white, singing under a spreading oak. Brandeis-Bardin was an integral part of Los Angeles’ Jewish past, and it will play a crucial role in its Jewish future. It just has to come completely clean — in the present. 


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Radiate this


In the category of: Too little knowledge can be a dangerous thing

On the subject of: Radiation 

As in: Chernobyl, Fukushima, cell phones and peanut butter

Directly from: The bone marrow and leukemia specialist who has spent 30 years organizing the global medical response to nuclear and radiation accidents, the news is a lot better than you think. 

I learned this the hard way, last week at a PEN event for a new book by Robert Peter Gale and Eric Lax. “Radiation: What It Is, What You Need to Know” isn’t the kind of title that would normally draw me out of the house and down Benedict Canyon at the peak of rush hour, but I’m a proud PEN member and an admirer of Eric Lax’s other books, and — I can’t lie to you — the signing was at the Hotel Bel-Air, which beats the hell out of your venue. So, I told myself, I’ll go and buy the book, listen to the authors count the 10,000 ways in which I’m giving myself cancer at that very moment; maybe it will motivate me to go home and write, finish my novel before illness and death set in. 

The hotel, of course, is designed to make you feel you’re already dead and about to meet your maker once and for all. The valets in the front are all white, blond, young and cherubic. They take your car and whisper, “It’s $14 on the way out,” with such grace and elegance, you feel like you’re getting a deal and should be grateful. Then there’s the little bridge overlooking the ravine and the garden, the narrow pathway past the very empty reception area, a woman you’ve never met who nevertheless knows your name and just where you should be headed. There are enough sweets and berries and gleaming silver coffee urns in the foyer of the lounge to make any last supper an occasion to look forward to; a life-sized portrait of a very young, very healthy-looking Steve Jobs smiling at you from above the first Apple computer; and a group of good-looking, stylish men and women sitting quietly in a dimly lit room. The walls display giant, black-and-white portraits of famous people who don’t get old or die — not ever; not even in a nuclear meltdown: Cher, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger. 

And there, next to the enormous marble fireplace, is a tall, gray-haired white man talking about those dental X-rays you took last week. 

I had walked in halfway through the authors’ presentation, not because I was late, but because they had started on time. I imagine they skipped the social portion of the event because everyone in the room was eager to hear the experts, and find out what else was going to give them cancer. The gray-haired white man was Eric Lax. Dr. Gale, the radiation expert, was slim and trim and permanently tanned. By the time I sat down, he had already covered some (I came to know this later) crucial points about the nature and function of radiation, and was in the thick of explaining that: 

a. Even without being subject to harmful radiation, every man in that room had a nearly 45 percent chance of getting cancer at least once during his lifetime; every woman had a nearly 40 percent chance; and

b. Every person and thing in that room, including the Art Deco chair I was sitting on, the porcelain cup I had just drunk coffee from and the harmless-looking waiter offering me muffins and (antioxidant) berries was, at that very moment, emitting radiation. 

That’s what I mean by too little knowledge being a dangerous thing. 

I bought a couple of books — one for myself, another for my group of natural-everything friends who keep sinking inordinate amounts of money into the bank accounts of every chiropractor, osteopath, faith healer or detox expert called Dr. Khalsa — and went home to write my obituary. To that end, I thought I should read the book to find out which radioactive element — my husband, who slept in the same bed with me, or my latest mammogram — had caused my untimely demise, and maybe have it inscribed on my headstone as a warning to posterity. That was at 11 in the morning, and, granted, I had very low expectations. Still, I’m glad to report, things took a happier turn from there on. 

Dr. Gale’s dedication page mentions “esteemed colleagues” as well as “the many heroes, some of whom we were fortunate to save, others not, who battled and/or were victims of” radiation accidents in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Brazil, Japan, China “and elsewhere.” I could just see my own name featured among the heroes’ in future editions of the book. Eric Lax, on the other hand, just thanks his editor, “who improves writing and friendship.” 

I took this to mean one of two things: Either Eric has already thanked and bid farewell to everyone he really cares about or, having learned enough about radiation, he doesn’t think he’s going anywhere any time soon.  

I’m scientifically illiterate, so I had no idea, until page 16 of the book, that everything and everyone on this planet is radioactive, but that not all radioactivity is harmful. About half the radiation we receive comes from natural sources; the other half is man-made. Of the man-made kind, about 20 percent is from things like smoke detectors, computer screens, heart pacemakers and porcelain teeth; these aren’t especially lethal. The remaining 80 percent is caused mostly by medical procedures like X-rays, CT scans and mammograms — these are as bad for you as a Fukushima-type meltdown. 

Fukushima, in fact, “may cause only a slight, probably undetectable, increase in cancer risk in the exposed population over the next several decades” (p.21). That risk is about as great as being exposed to 80 or so X-rays over a lifetime. 

In other words, you don’t have to kick your significant other out of the bedroom just because he’s alive and breathing and irradiating you in the process. You do, however, have a much greater chance of being put to sleep at the hands of your friendly neighborhood physician than you do of a nuclear accident. 

So where, you ask, is the good news? 

The good news is that much of the cancer-and-birth-defect-and-genetic-disease-causing radiation can be avoided without significant sacrifice; you just have to know what they are. A few other seemingly deadly elements, such as irradiated food, aren’t nearly as bad for you as you might think. You need about 100 millisieverts of radiation to have a slightly higher-than-usual chance of getting cancer; that’s the equivalent of eating 12,500 cups of peanut butter. As for cell phones …

I would tell you, but I think everyone needs to read this book; it’s compact, easy to understand, rife with interesting revelations, and it cuts through a great deal of the noise surrounding the subject. 

Gina Nahai is an author and a professor of creative writing at USC. Her latest novel is “Caspian Rain.” Her column appears monthly in the Journal.

Japan braces for potential radiation catastrophe as 140,000 could be affected


Japan faced a potential catastrophe Tuesday after a quake-crippled nuclear power plant exploded and sent low levels of radiation floating toward Tokyo, prompting some people to flee the capital and others to stock up on essential supplies.

The crisis appeared to escalate late in the day when the operators of the facility said that one of two blasts had blown a hole in the building housing a reactor, which meant spent nuclear fuel was exposed to the atmosphere.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km (18 miles) of the facility—a population of 140,000—to remain indoors amid the world’s most serious nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

Read more at Haaretz.com.

Cancer gives musician a new song


This time, Charlie Lustman hadn’t come to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for medical tests or to endure another round of chemotherapy. Despite having lost three-quarters of his jawbone, Lustman had come to celebrate, to inspire — and to sing.

Lustman was at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute’s Cancer Survivors Day program to officially launch “Made Me Nuclear,” the album he wrote, arranged, produced and performed. The 12-song compilation chronicles his cancer odyssey, from receiving the diagnosis to experiencing chemotherapy-induced forgetfulness to feeling grateful to those who supported him along the way. The songs range from poignant ballads contemplating mortality to the humorous title song about being injected with a radioactive substance for a diagnostic imaging procedure: “Yes they put me through the scans/Now I’m a subatomic man/I’m a human mobile phone….”

“This is the first ever pop album about cancer,” said Lustman, 43, who decided to create “Made Me Nuclear” a year to the day after receiving his diagnosis. “There is no other album which directly speaks to the cancer experience.”

Lustman completed the album on March 1 — exactly two years after being diagnosed. Next month, he will begin performing a theatrical adaptation of “Made Me Nuclear” at the Santa Monica Playhouse. The one-man show combines songs with dramatizations of Lustman’s experience. He hopes to tour nationally beginning next year.

Lustman’s cancer odyssey began when he noticed a small bump on his gum. His dentist couldn’t identify it, nor could his periodontist, who ordered a biopsy just to be safe.

The bump turned out to be osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Lustman’s specific form of the disease is diagnosed in only about 30 people a year nationwide, according to Dr. Charles Forscher, Lustman’s oncologist and medical director of the Sarcoma Center at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.

“I’m an extremely lucky man. Statistically, I’m supposed to have won Super Lotto three times before getting this,” Lustman said. “I turned the statistic into something positive and realized that my whole purpose … was to make a difference in the world and help other people affected by this disease or other hardship. I just had to go through a two-year journey through cancer to come out on the other side.”

The journey included surgery at UCLA’s Head and Neck Institute, which entailed the removal of half of his jaw. After the surgery, Lustman and his wife, Ri, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child, had to wait 10 days for tests to reveal whether all the cancer had been eliminated. It hadn’t, so Lustman underwent a second surgery. The couple endured another 10-day waiting period, and this time the results were clear.

Lustman then returned to Cedars-Sinai for a year of supplemental chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. He had timed the chemo sessions around his wife’s due date, but the baby arrived five weeks early. So Lustman went from having chemo in the hospital’s basement to the third floor Labor and Delivery to witness the birth of his daughter, Gita.

After he completed chemotherapy, Lustman received a prosthetic mouth piece, which enables him to speak and sing.

A Santa Monica resident, Lustman grew up in Beverly Hills. He graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston with a degree in television and film scoring. After writing commercial music in New York, he spent multiyear stints in Denmark performing and writing songs for Scandinavian artists.

In 1998, Lustman purchased and renovated the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue, which he operated until 2006. He had begun work on “Shaya,” an album about his young son, and was planning to sell the theater in order to focus on his musical career. Cancer expedited the process.

“When you get that kind of diagnosis, you realize you might not have a lot of time on the planet,” he said.

The son of a Holocaust survivor, Lustman drew parallels between his own experience and his father’s.

“When I got my head shaved at the beginning, I felt my father in the camp,” he said. “And when I couldn’t eat anything solid for three months because they had removed most of my upper jaw … I felt what it was like to just have soup… All the pain and all the suffering that my family endured watching me suffer…. It was a very deep suffering that I had never experienced before.”

But here at the July 31st Cancer Survivors Day celebration, the suffering seems like a distant memory.

Dressed in white tennis shoes, white pants and a white shirt emblazoned with his album’s purple nucleus logo, Lustman addressed the audience gathered at Cedars-Sinai — some currently battling cancer and others who have completed treatment. “The [time] here has changed me into something different — something better.”

For more information about Charlie Lustman’s album or performances, visit www.mademenuclear.com

Life lessons from the trenches of cancer survival


On my neck there’s a large, upside-down L-shaped scar. One leg of the L runs from my right shoulder blade upward to just below my right ear; the other leg takes a 90-degree turn, following the jaw line to my chin. The right side of my neck — the inside of the L — looks as if it’s had glands, cartilage and muscle scooped out, leaving a tough, bumpy, uneven cavity. After the surgery, a friend joked that I should put Silly Putty on my neck.

No Silly Putty, no cosmetic surgery. My neck has remained exactly as it was after the operation. It’s a souvenir of squamous cell carcinoma — cancer — which started in the right tonsil and metastasized to the lymph nodes, diagnosed and treated 15 years ago.

The day I was told that I had throat cancer, I was furious. There was no logic to it. I’d never smoked, didn’t drink, hadn’t eaten red meat in more than 25 years. So why me?

There was only one way to deal with my fury. I went out and had a real hot dog with sauerkraut. Much better than those meat-free — and taste-free — soy dogs I’d eaten for so long. With each bite, I looked up at the heavens and shook my fist: There! Take that!

In fact, it’s that semidefiant attitude that helped me get through the punishing treatment: massive amounts of throat radiation followed by a radical neck dissection.

Bernie Siegel — the oncologist whose tapes I’d listen to in the car while going back and forth to the hospital — says that one should be a “good-bad patient”: question everything and demand honesty and clear explanations from health-care professionals.

But, Siegel stresses, once you decide on a treatment, stick with it.

Here’s something that helped me: Although I was optimistic, I didn’t see treatment as an attempt to “beat” cancer. Right from the beginning I thought of cancer as my teacher, an experience I was going to learn from.

What did I learn? For one thing, when you accept help from others — which was hard for me — it not only makes you feel better, it also makes the person helping you feel better. When I started treatment, my older son, Rafi, was just finishing his freshman year at an Ivy League school. He took a year off to help me. He didn’t think of it this way at the time, but when he looks back on it now, he says that he cherishes that year.

After I was diagnosed, I was called and visited by many well-meaning people who suggested alternative treatments: from special diets to fasting to massive doses of vitamins. I listened politely and then plunged full bore into the most up-to-date medical treatment available. Oh, I used some unconventional techniques to complement treatment, but not as a substitute for Western medicine.

While going through radiation treatment, I meditated every day. This involved breath control and visualization until I’d reach a state of self-hypnosis. While in a trance, I’d imagine a kind of Pac-Man figure entering my body and eating my cancer cells.

Did it help? Who knows? It felt good, and that’s what counts. Meditation — or prayer or yoga — certainly can’t hurt, so long as it’s not used in place of standard treatment.

While you’re going through treatment, be easy on yourself. If you want to be alone, then be alone. If you don’t want to talk to anyone, then don’t. Recognize your limits, and don’t let anyone talk you out of them. If, however, you want to interact with family and friends, then by all means do so. And when you’re tired, kick them out. Be strict about this.

The medical facility where I received treatment is one of the most prestigious in the world, but some staff members had a lousy bedside manner. One resident — I thought of him as Dr. Worst-Case-Scenario — would always give me his gloomiest predictions.

I never let it affect me. The way I look at it, the job of any medical facility is to provide the most skilled, cutting-edge treatment, and that’s it. But that’s more than enough. If you need happy talk and hand-holding, that’s what family and friends are for.

How can you find the right medical center for you? Ask others in your area who have gone through similar treatment. Talk to your family physician. Consult magazines that rate hospitals and treatment centers. One source is the annual issue of U.S. News & World Report that lists each medical specialty and ranks facilities throughout the country. You can access last year’s rankings via its Web site or at your local library.

Some years back, Norman Cousins wrote about the healing power of laughter. It worked for me. Forget subtle humor. You want the fall-on-the-floor-bust-a-gut-roaring kind: early Woody Allen movies or Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. There are times, though, when other types of movies work, too. During the worst moment of treatment, my pain was eased by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glide across the dance floor.

Make no mistake: Cancer — and its treatment — can be horrendous. I wasn’t able to eat, I had no energy. Every day I was faced with my own mortality. But that helped me put priorities in place: seize the day and all that.

Once I recuperated from treatment, I made my own bucket list. After having lived what I felt had been a self-indulgent life, I was now determined to try something different. So I worked for the Shoah Foundation, which assures that Holocaust survivors’ testimonies become a permanent record.

I joined groups that explore life; reconnected with friends and family; published many articles — and a book — on topics close to my heart; volunteered as a writing coach for inner-city kids. And I’ve been a mentor for others going through cancer treatment, sharing what I learned, trying to make a difficult journey a little easier.

Nowadays when I look at my neck — at the scar, bumps and cavities — I feel nothing but gratitude: It’s a reminder of the treatment that saved my life.

And it’s a reminder that having gotten cancer in the first place also saved my life.

Breast Cancer Tips Doctors Don’t Share


My mother recently called me with a request: One of the moms at the elementary school she works at was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Could I give her a call?

I immediately phoned Susan, a sweet, smart lady in her early 40s. She was weighing her options about surgery and doctors, and gathering information about her course of treatment. She was also terrified. I reassured her about the success of current cancer therapy, but what she really wanted to know were the little things, like does it hurt when your hair falls out? (No, but your scalp feels tingly, like someone pulled your ponytail too tight.) These are the questions that fall under “What you always wanted to know about having breast cancer but were too afraid to ask,” a category that is still too relevant.

This October marks the 20th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 217,440 people in the United States, almost all women, will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Despite growing awareness and funding for this disease, the incidence of breast cancer has continue to rise since the 1980s, and while detection methods have improved, there is still no foolproof prevention method.

So, for all those out there who are or will be new members of the Breast Cancer Sisterhood — the sorority no one chooses to join but is, especially in the Jewish community, very popular — here is a list of what to expect during treatment:

Surgery

There are many choices when it comes to breast cancer surgery: lumpectomy, simple mastectomy, bilateral mastectomy. If you decide to opt for the “extreme makeover,” take comfort in the fact that, at least, both sides will match.

The reconstruction process can be uncomfortable and it takes a long time. Be patient.

There are advantages to not having nipples. Clothes look better on you, it’s harder to tell if your breasts are uneven and no one knows when you are cold.

Hair

The best hair substitute for nighttime: ski caps.

The good news, for those of us who have had a close relationship with Gillette since the seventh grade: by the time your hair returns, you will actually miss shaving.

Be prepared for people, especially kids, wanting to touch your bald head.

Wigs are itchy, but if you buy one that fits your appearance, you will look and feel more normal.

Scarves and hats are a lot more comfortable, but they tend to draw attention to you, especially if you are young. However, I’ve noticed on the days when I am wearing a scarf, more people go out of their way to be nice to me — which is a big boost when you’re feeling unwell.

Not-So-Glorious Food

Although it might be tempting to eat your favorite meal the evening before or the day of chemo, don’t. The associations between food and nausea are so strong you might never want that meal to cross your palate again.

Along those lines, the best advice from my nutritionist, Rachel Beller, was to avoid eating good-for-you foods, like fish, around chemo days. Spicy foods and anything too hot or too cold should also be off the list.

Chemotherapy tends to make people anemic, so think Atkins.

You will crave strange things, or only be able to eat a certain food after one chemo session and a different one after the next. (For me, it was the Caesar salad from Sharky’s, alternated with, of all things, pea soup.) If it’s legal and you can eat it, go for it.

Speaking of legal: not only is it a bad idea to fast on the designated holidays when you are undergoing cancer treatment, several rabbis advised me you are not allowed to do so. God will understand.

Emotional Rollercoaster

PMS has nothing on cancer. You will be moody. Forgive yourself for it.

It may sound cliche, but cancer really does give you the opportunity to examine your life and your relationships and make the changes you have been putting off for years.

At least one friend will not be able to handle what you are going through.

Unexpected people will come out of the woodwork to support you. Outside of my family, my two best friends through this whole process have been Ronette K., who teaches at my mom’s school, and Linda C., my brother’s girlfriend’s mother. Ronette sent me funny get-well cards after every chemo (I had 10 courses) and kept me in mystery books during my recovery from surgery; Linda ended her chemotherapy the day I got my diagnosis and was my mentor through the whole treatment process. I wouldn’t have made it without either one of them.

All in the Family

Husbands/significant others are the greatest unsung heroes in this battle. Remind people to check on them instead of you every once in a while.

As with friends, some family members will handle your situation better than others.

Kids can be your greatest allies. For little ones, you don’t have to tell them much, just what they might need to know. Like that Mommy will be living in the bathroom for the next three days.

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Compared to chemo, radiation seems like a cakewalk. Some people do get exhausted from it, so while you may be feeling better, this is not the time to take up lacrosse.

Yes, you will be asked to get tattooed. If this freaks you out, there are alternatives, but a tattoo provides the best record for any possible future radiation. The tattoos are tiny, not the big, rosy “Mother” ones found on certain bikers. Your doctor can give you a note for the chevra kadisha (burial society) if you feel the need.

Know that, even if you do get the tattoos, the radiology staff will draw on you. With a big marker. In dark, purple ink. As if you needed one more thing to make you look strange.

Words to remember: body lotion. Some people swear by aloe vera; I like Aveeno with the colloidal oatmeal (which, by the way, doesn’t mean any kind of special oatmeal — it’s just minced up really fine so they can get it in the lotion).

The machinery used during radiation emits a loud, annoying whine that makes it difficult to lie still. Find a “theme song” you can run through your head to distract you. (Mine is the overture from “Star Wars.”)

Recovery

Just when you start getting good at dealing with the chemo and radiation, it’s over. Thank God.

Wendy J. Madnick was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2003. She awaits the return of her hair with growing anticipation.

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