November 20, 2009

Thankful for Medical Science

This is supposed to be my post for Thursday, even though it's now officially Friday since it's after midnight. However, I haven't gone to bed yet, so as far as my body and mind are concerned, it's still Thursday.

Today -- actually, this week -- I am very thankful for the advances in medicine that have taken place during my lifetime, especially in the last 20 years or so. Why? Because this week, two of my good friends had surgeries and came through them with flying colors. ML had a knee replacement on Tuesday. Imagine that! When I was in my 20's or so, I used to watch "The Bionic Man" on TV and think how silly it was for a human to have man-made parts "installed" in his body. If only I'd known then that it would someday be a reality... ML is the 4th or 5th person I know who's had this surgery. I understand it is quite painful and a long recovery, but everyone I know who's been through it has never regretted the surgery for one single moment! I wish ML well and a speedy recovery.

Another friend had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, very common these days. Yet, I remember not too long ago when all that could be done was exercises and physical therapy. The surgery wasn't always successful. Truth is, it still doesn't work 100% of the time, but the success rate has gotten much higher and the surgery is now done quickly and easily, sometimes using lasers instead of scalpels. She should be feeling much better in a day or two.

I think I've mentioned before that a dear friend (and my niece's partner) recently had surgery for breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and has to have radiation, but she also was told for sure yesterday that she will not need any chemotherapy! Hooray! The lump was found early enough that it was very small and self-contained. The amazing part is that the doctors were able to test the tumor to determine definitively what kind of cancer it was, what the chances are of it reoccurring, whether or not a course of Tamoxifen would help fight it off, and much more. These tests and medications have all come about within the last 10 years or so. My best friend is a breast cancer survivor (20+ years) and was part of the study that looked at lumpectomies vs. mastectomy. That's how relatively new this treatment is, yet it is now the treatment of choice. Just a little over 30 years ago, two of my cousins each contracted breast cancer while in their late 30's/early 40's; each had a radical mastectomy, but died just a few years later. Look how far medicine has come since then!

I also think of several friends I have who have battled colon cancer and won! Nobody likes to go through a colonoscopy, but it's such a great tool for early detection, why wouldn't you have one if your doctor thinks you should? My father died of colon cancer in 1973 at the age of 54. They didn't have anywhere near the diagnostic tools or treatments that are available today. Another wonderful advance in medicine.

These are just some of the reasons that I've always been a big supporter of the American Cancer Society and other organizations that fight this dreadful disease. The money I've raised for ACS has gone to help fund research to find cures, ways to prevent and diagnose cancer, as well as treatment programs. I've seen a lot change in my lifetime. Hopefully, by the time my grandchildren (when I have some) grow up, cancer will be a thing of the past, along with many other diseases.

So, today I am especially thankful for medical research and breakthroughs. We've come a long way, baby!

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