Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Situational Prepositional Dyslexia

December 18, 2012

I know what I should be doing right now, and it is not having another cup of coffee and lingering over the MacAir making fun of myself.  But who can resist?

Have you ever kept an eye out for people close to you to see if they are slipping?  (NOTE BENE:  this could be an invitation.)  Has Pops been really forgetful lately?  Did you remind Dearest to pick up the popcorn and peas you need at the market THREE TIMES and she still forgot?  

I can't easily recall Bible verses like so many of my southern evangelical sisters and brothers, so I had to look this one up.  The only reason I even thought to look it up was that Walter and I taught this verse as part of our coverage of Matthew less than ten days ago (what IS the shelf life for remembering something you taught?  I was hoping longer than ten days.  Even milk last longer than that.).

Matthew 7:3

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

Anyway, there is a log in my eye and it's called Situational Prepositional Dyslexia.*   And it explains why I accidentally drove to Houston and back last night.  

For those unfamiliar to central Texas geography, the trip took four hours.  I drove.  I returned.  I didn't stop.  I never left the car.  And this is important:  no one joined me in the car.

All this happened because when I read the email from my friends asking me to pick them up at the airport, my brain moved the preposition "from" and the noun it was claused with "Houston" around in the sentence.  Its placement in the phrase ". . . pick us up on the flight from Houston . . ." somehow jumped on the screen where the writer placed into ". . . pick us up [from Houston] on the flight. . ."  

I realized my mistake about three minutes before my friends' flight arrived (at the airport four miles from my house, but considerably further when calculating from my current position) thanks mainly to Davis's efforts to track down flight information for me over the phone, so I could park at the correct terminal.  After he discovered I was going to be two hours late (or more, depending on rush hour traffic leaving Houston at 6:15) picking up my friends, I quick phoned my mom to do the local pick up.  I also had to rely on another friend for phone number help, and of course Walter (and Davis, who asked me to edit the original and include his worrying skills to his computer search expertise to his credits) to keep the worry-o-meter going so I would make it home without an accident (beyond the one I had already been party to).

As someone once said, "It takes a village."  I might add to that . . . "to get the village idiot home safely."  

*Situational Prepositional Dyslexia--for those of you out of the know, this is a made up medical condition where from time to time the sufferer moves key prepositional phrases around in a sentence, leading to accidental and often harmful misinterpretation of written meaning.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


November 29, 2012

The end of the semester raises tension and anxiety and also burnishes students' efforts to find relief from said tension and anxiety, and that Mr. Gump, provides further evidence that life is a very varied box of chocolates.  Evidence?

This is a photo I shot this morning.  I found this illustration of the dating life cycle (and associated costs) on white board at the end of the hall on my floor that usually holds accounting help desk info:    

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


November 20, 2012

If you think that I am about to write a pre-finals entry reflecting on my students' study habits, you would be wrong.

I haven't had a Hostess product since October 1976.  

Therefore, you cannot count me among those who are bemoaning its possible shut down, those who are scouring store shelves and internet sites searching for extra boxes of Ho Hos and Twinkies, or those who are penning lyrics to "The Day the Ding Dong Died."  I hold no animus though.  It's not like I ran out and bought a huge position in Little Debbies six months ago when I noticed that Hostess was not solving the myriad problems that had plagued it into bankruptcy. 

Still, everyone else seems to be amped up about the on again, off again closure, so I thought I would tell you a little story and make a suggestion about how Hostess might consider expanding its product line and diversifying to create a more stable brand and higher cash flow.

I had Mrs. Josey for Western Thought as an 11th grader at Alvin High School--no more than a dozen students for that remarkable elective.  We did the totally hip thing of circling our desks when we had those heavy philosophical discussions about justice, truth, and beauty (not that it made the discussions livelier, but we totally grooved the idea that we didn't have to sit in ROWS, and we might accidentally get placed in the circle next to someone awesome).  

One Friday, I had a prime seat next to a varsity football player.  His Friday afternoon "Pep" bag was delivered by a perky cheerleader right near the beginning of class.  Remarkably, after scouring through it, he put the peanuts and banana back in the bag and offered the Hostess cupcake around the circle.  Since I was sitting right next to him, I claimed it first.  Use your imagination here:  this was both a Hostess cupcake (the food of the Gods) and a gift from a god.

Mrs. Josey told me to save it for after class.  Actually, she said something more like,"Vickie Luquette do NOT EVEN THINK about eating that cupcake in my classroom."

About midway through class, the P.A. system squawked on and Mrs. Josey was summoned to the office.  She left, and I seized the opportunity to open the tarty little cupcake sitting on my desktop that had been winking and flexing at me (metaphorically, of course) for almost half an hour.  The cellophane crinkled at me seductively as I unwrapped it.  Just as I was about to take a bite, the door opened and Mrs. Josey returned, waaaayy before I expected her.

I had no choice but to shove the entire cupcake into my mouth, close my lips over my teeth, and adopt a forced smile.

Do you know what happens when you hold a Hostess cupcake in your mouth for the final eighteen minutes of class?  The first thing is there is no room to maneuver the big wad of sugar and transfats around into a better position so you might have a chance to swallow it.  More importantly, even if you did have room, it wouldn't move, because the icing sticks to the roof of your mouth INFINITELY MORE FIRMLY THAN POLIGRIP.

I'm thinking that if Hostess had recognized the adhesive quality to its icing, it could have launched a variety of new product lines over the last thirty or forty years, and its cash flow nightmare would have never emerged. . . despite me never buying or eating a Hostess product again the rest of my life.

Friday, November 16, 2012


November 16, 2012

I think the last time I mentioned the dogs, I bemoaned the interruption to my usual early morning routine.  Things have improved a bit.

The little stinker got over her back pain in a matter of days and rejoined Wille and me on the adventures around the lake.  I can't actually do anything about the forced leash situation (you know, the one caused by the unspeakable badness that Willie accidentally performed on the first of October, leaving him with a life sentence on the leash with no chance for parole).  If I walk far enough away from civilization, I can give him a short, free run, but no more romping about with his weimaraner girlfriend in the 'hood.

We had a splendid walk on Thursday--brisk temperatures (finally), a clear sky, and best of all the first liberated morning that I didn't wake up with grading hanging over my head in six solid weeks.  We decided on the long route, all the way down Charlotte Lane to the Stasney Ranch fence line.  This itinerary takes us past the Brick House Dogs:  Buster and Boo (two dogs who I suspect have clandestine lives where humans wager on their ability throw down on their buddies and put the smack down on other pooches) and their basset sister, Chloe.

Chloe likes to bark us up, but generally stay on her throne near the garage.  Buster likes Willie and always swaggers out (though now with a significant limp and a few more facial scars than he used to have) to exchange bootie sniffs in the middle of the road.  Boo rushes forward down the driveway, barking until we come into sight, then retreats like Sir Robin when Willie stands his ground and ends under a nearby truck to finish his barkfest.  

On Thursday, they all (even Chloe) rushed down the driveway when we approach to do their very best:  sniff, bark, challenge, retreat.  Except.

Except there was a fourth dog.  No Name.  Catahoula/Beagle Mix.  Maybe?  Not a fighter.  Not the beloved princess of the family.  

He followed us home.  Another mile.  Down the fence line.  Through the picnic area.  Across the dam.  Around the pond.  Through the wilderness.  Past the neighbors.  Home.

He played with Willie (on the leash and off).  He tried to play with Teddy, who would have none of it.

He sat on the back porch after we went in, shivering from the crisp air or the unfamiliarity or his surroundings or perhaps from the confusion of being truly lost.  After breakfast, Walter used a Milkbone and a leash to befriend then capture Willie's new young friend and walked him home.

We really hope that New Dog will become a lover, not a fighter.

Monday, November 12, 2012


November 12, 2012

Some of you complained in the run up to last week's election:  about the ads, about your favorite shows being preempted by the debates, about the robocalls.  Some of you got mad at your friends for their partisan facebook posts.  Since the election, some of you have been smug and happy; others livid and checking the options for moving.  There is a general relief that it is behind us.

Through it all try to remember that you live in America.  We are not promised full-time harmony or delight in all the candidates or outcomes or process.  What we have, however, is a system that allows for power sharing and peaceful transitions as leadership structures change.  If you travel around the world, you'll notice that not everyone lives that way (think coups, bloody rebellions, and oppression).

Here's a story to help you remember that voting--no matter how infuriating a process--is something you should cherish:

On October 22, my sister was riding her bike to work in Dallas.  A car hit her.  The crash broke both her arms.  She doesn't drive and with casted arms, she can't steer her bike.

On election day, she called her county party headquarters to see if she could get a ride to go vote.  She got the voice mail and left a message, but no one called her back.

So she walked the two miles to her polling place.  When she got there she couldn't open the door to get in there.  She waited several minutes and watched several people go in and out before the door finally stayed open long enough for her to slip inside.

She voted.  Then she walked home.  

Some of her candidates won.  Some of her candidates lost.  She was proud to vote.  

And I'm proud of her.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


November 6, 2012

Favorite Election Day tweets:  

Nate Silver theme:

 Nate Silver, what is the probability that God could make a rock so heavy that he couldn't move it? 

Answer to Hangman game is, of course, Nate Silver--as he is the answer to all things.

 BREAKING :: nate silver admits to using performance enhancing drugs! thousands discard venn diagram bracelets! Seen as win for Rasmussen! 

  Romney could still win this if too many Dems accidentally write-in "Nate Silver" with little hearts around it. 

I wonder if political journalists fretting about Nate Silver feel a bit like factory workers seeing an industrial robot for the first time. 

Ohio theme:

 Biden in Ohio. Will speak until polls close. Speech starts in 15 minutes. 

 I'm not comfortable leaving the fate of our country in Ohio's hands. I mean these are people not smart enough to realize they live in Ohio

 BREAKING: 'The Onion' Calls Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania For John Edwards.

Voting/Election theme:

If you waited three hours in line to go see "The Avengers," you can wait 30 minutes to vote. 

The rare rush of realizing that in a city of 8 mil (+tourists), I'm in a room filled only with my neighbors.

Estonia gets to vote online. Why can’t America?

Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.

America is a country which produces citizens who will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won’t cross the street to vote.

If Obama wins, I will leave the country. If Romney wins, I will leave the country. This is not a political joke, I just want to travel.

Florida theme:

It's important to remember all the countries that can't democratically elect their own leaders like Syria, and North Korea, and Florida

Jerry: “My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that's the law.”  

Monday, October 29, 2012


October 29, 2012 

I spent a good part of the day yesterday traveling home from Philadelphia, and I haven't been around quite as many (understandably) excitable people in a very long time.  I am thinking of all my friend and colleagues in the northeast.  It is impossible to list everyone I am concerned about.  I have found myself spending a bit too much time refreshing my and tabs to make sure I'm not missing anything.

I little while ago, I found this time lapsed webcam on Weather Underground.  It is located oceanside in Ocean City, MD.  This is a "current" video, showing the last 24 hours from this moment. I have embedded it into this webpage, and it will always show the last 24 hours from the current time.  It is definitely getting rainier and choppier over the last 24, not to mention much higher tide.  I'm not sure why I find this live video of the coming storm so compelling.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Workout (or not)

October 25, 2012

What does it say about someone when she struggles to wrap up her workday, crossing every t and dotting every i, rushes to the gym to beat the 5:00 traffic and fit the workout in between work and dinner prep, strips down to skivvies, and opens her gym bag to find her socks, shoes, and gym book, but no workout clothes?

It is a very sad feeling to put your clothes back on without breaking a sweat and return your still-folded towel to the young towel jockey.

On my way to Philadelphia tomorrow and hoping that the perfect storm of Hurricane Sandy combined with the winter front moving down from Canada doesn't block my way home on Sunday as effectively as I blocked my own attempt to workout this afternoon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


October 11, 2012

Really, who can resist posting if the date is 10/11/12?

And while we are at it, what IS the point of dog ownership?

I have three dogs.  They were never completely free-range dogs, but for many years they enjoyed various forms of freedom--sniffing the bushes while their human companion stood to the side pondering  her own thoughts and dreams, snoozing in the sun-dappled spaces of the back yard while she pulled weeds, loping across the dam and through the uninhabited parts of the lake property knowing that she was trailing in their wake.  I've (mostly) enjoyed freewheeling with them on their adventures.

That has all changed.

I still have three dogs.  I would still enjoy a little roving.  That option is currently off the table,

Uma has been under hospice watch since May.  She doesn't wander much because she can barely walk.  She is on a massive twice daily dose of diuretic to help with her congestive heart failure and the fluid build up from her hemangiosarcoma, which means she drinks like a sailor and pees like a fire hose.  Consequently, she spends a lot of time alone in the bathroom where her leakiness does less harm.

Willie did something unspeakably bad in the neighborhood last week and is under strict house arrest and can only venture outside with a guard and shackles (leash).

Teddy injured her back on Monday or Tuesday.  Her vet insists on crate confinement until she heals.

So, if you can't stride across the landscape in October with your dogs darting about and bringing you back news of fragrant bunnies and loamy adventure possibilities, what is the point of dog ownership?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


October 7, 2012

When was the last time you heard someone tell a joke?  Think before you answer.

I'm not talking about someone forwarding you something funny on email, or posting a gag or pithy meme on FB, or about re-telling something they saw on YouTube or The Daily Show.  I mean, when was the last time someone at a party or in the break room or at dinner actually told a joke that required a set up and that ended in a punchline?

A little over a month ago, I ask myself this question and started listening for the answer.  I'm pretty sure I haven't heard a single one in all that time.  How about you?

I know that not everyone likes to tell tell jokes, or frankly, are even capable of it.  I can't do regional (except the one I was born into, which qualifies me to tell Honey Boo Boo Child jokes, but not much else) or ethnic accents, so a whole range of potential jokes are pretty much off limits to me.  There is really nothing worse than setting up a joke that depends on you re-creating a French accent and when you tell it you sound Russian.

Some people don't tell jokes because they can't remember them.  Walter falls in that category.  He appreciates a good joke, but has not set aside any brain space to store and later access joke.  Once upon a time he had two jokes he could remember and tell:  one was about economists and the other was about politics (aren't academics fun?).  He doesn't tell them any more.

I can remember first thinking about humor.  As an early reader, first grade maybe, I would follow my mom around the house reading from my Bennett Cerf riddle book.  It had the added value of being a pop up book, so I had to lift a flap or turn a wheel, or otherwise manipulate the page to reveal the answer.  I think I was in heaven.  Anyway, you can't tell me she didn't get positively sick and tired of hearing little Vickie read:  "What happens when a duck flies backwards?  He probably has a nasty quack up." and "What do you give an 800 pound gorilla?  Anything he wants." 

[NOTE BENE:  I later paid handsomely for torturing my mother by giving birth to a child who delighted in the same habit.  Unfortunately for me, Erin had a riddle God-father who bought every one of Bennett Cerf's riddle books plus several others, so for those early elementary years, she was NEVER at a loss for a good riddle or pun.]

I still remember some jokes I learned in junior high, including a couple that I didn't understand on first (or later) hearing, which did not keep me from telling them over and over again.  Other people obviously understood the (probably) raunchy punchlines better than me as evidenced by their loud and long laugh.

In high school, I happened on Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor, which had the multiple bonuses of having 640 jokes, instructions on how to tell them, plus a fairly lengthy exposition on the theory of humor.  Wow, did that ever feed my habit!

We've made it pretty deep into the 21st century.  We have a whole network on television devoted to comedy, several satellite radio stations with joke telling twenty-four hours a day, and stand up comedians of every stripe.  More jokes come across my facebook feed in a day than I used to hear in a month (year?).  I laugh at something I read or hear or watch every day. I heard Pete Dominic interviewing a professor on the radio yesterday.  She was Dr. Alison Dagnes, and she was talking about her new book A Conservative Walks into a Bar which goes Asimov one better, exploring the history of satire, the comedy profession, and the nature of satire itself to examine why there is an ideological imbalance in political humor and it explores the consequences of this disparity.

Despite the proliferation of comedy, humor, and joke opportunities, I'm starting to feel sad.  Jokes have become something best left to the professional.  It's almost like "Here's a good one, but Don't try this at home!"

I miss the amateur jokesters.  Will someone tell me a joke?

Friday, October 5, 2012


October 5, 2012

The lanyard party when Nico and fam were in town from Australia was not the largest workshop I have ever done (that would be the National Charity League Bead-aThon two or three years ago).  It wasn't the largest workshop I ever had in my own home (that would be the one on July 4, 2009 where somehow over fifty folks crowded into my modest three bedroom casa).  In fact, it wasn't even the largest workshop I did in the last ten days (since I ran over to MacArthur High in Aldine after school last Monday to help 60+ teens make a difference in the lives of children with neuroblastoma).

That said, Nico and all his friends (combined with his mom and my friends) overran the house weekend before last.  It's not so much that they had overwhelming numbers (although there were a lot of them), but they just took up so much more space than they did as younger kids.

I gave them a camera and ask them to do a little photo journalism of the evening:

They were pretty serious about getting the lanyards done.

And used whatever space they could find.

Rowan and Nico finished early, leaving their hands free.  Can you tell Nico has some keyboard-compatible hands?  And can you believe that Rowan, one of Erin's sixth grade classmates, is graduating this year?  He's on the expedited plan!

Andy always seems happy where ever he is.  He and Erin agreed about almost everything, except politics.

Precious Toni makes the most beautiful, delicate lanyards.  She and Erin have been friends since Day 2 (birthdays two days apart!)

Nico was sure we had shrunk everything in Erin's room since he moved.  It all seemed much smaller now that he is so tall.

Samantha and Erin had so much in common:  soccer, brains, and most notably, confidence.

Jackson was always much bigger than Erin, and the trend shows no sign of slacking off.

Most of the adults were slackers, preferring to eat and chat rather than work.  This includes me. 

It was my birthday, so I took the evening off.  That means I'm still working on finishing some of the lanyards the kids made, plus the tray full I have from the MacArthur workshop and the one at the new College Station High School last Saturday morning.

Teddy wasn't really all that impressed with having a house full of teens.

Not only did Erin and Nico's friends overflow their allotted space (plus the kitchen, plus the lake, plus my bedroom where I keep the Wii), they overflowed the love in my heart.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Too Important!

September 26, 2012

I fully well know that I owe you a post with all the news of the recovering Philip the Handsome and the even lengthier news of the visit from the Tjoelkers, and when I turn back the set of papers I'm working on that have a hard-stop deadline tomorrow morning, I will fill you in.  In the meantime, I have blatantly, but I think with blessings, stolen this post from my friend Bob at PAC2.

I am well aware that I am asking you to read about childhood cancer statistics, but if it weren't INCREDIBLY important, I wouldn't ask you to do it.  If you need any incentive, here's the punchline that's at the bottom:

The world tends to grab hold of the much publicized statistic that we "cure" 80 % of kids diagnosed with cancer (that dark red slice of the pie).  That statistic might be true in the literal sense, but you all know that Erin always counted as one of the 80% because she live more than five years after her initial diagnosis.  Don't look away and don't skip this entry because if has both hard truths and arithmetic.  Read all the way to the bottom and decide what needs to happen.  

 I'm thinking we need to turn the circle green.


Childhood Cancer - Current Long-Term Outcomes

Dear PAC2,
Childhood cancer statistics can be confusing. Any statistics can hide or distort the truth, and even the statistics we trust may only tell part of the story.
This article delves into some familiar childhood cancer statistics and attempts to determine the projected lifelong outcomes for a child diagnosed with childhood cancer in the United States today. By lifelong outcomes, we mean what may happen over that child’s entire life--not just today or in five years, but 10, 20 or 30 years from now (which is as far as the data will let us project).

Why do this?
Children have their whole lives ahead of them, so life-long outcomes carry more weight and meaning than the commonly tracked and quoted “80%” that only represents the subgroup of children who live for 5-years after diagnosis. Children who die as a result of their cancer beyond the 5-year milestone or who experience the impact of chronic health conditions caused by their cancer treatments are not considered in the "80%".
But we all want to plan for our child’s future. College. Marriage. Having kids of their own. We need to ensure our children live to 70, 90, 110! We can’t just be satisfied that a child diagnosed at age 2 lives to age 7!  Our goal can ONLY be that any child diagnosed with cancer lives a normal lifespan not struck short by premature death from being “cured” or hampered by chronic health conditions.
This article will estimate the likelihood of these four outcomes for a child diagnosed with cancer:
Outcome #1 - A child lives at least 30 years after diagnosis without chronic health conditions
Outcome #2 - A child lives at least 30 years but faces mild to moderate chronic health conditions
Outcome #3 - A child lives at least 30 years but faces life-threatening or disabling chronic health conditions
Outcome #4 - A child dies

Data Set for Childhood Cancer - Current Outcomes
This section will identify the key statistics used in the analysis and the source of the statistics. The first data set is provided by the Children's Oncology Group. The remaining data come from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS). The CCSS is the largest, nationwide project to track and evaluate the outcomes for childhood cancer survivors. About the CCSS: “The CCSS is a component of the Long Term Follow Up Study, began in 1994 and is a collaborative, multi-institutional study funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health and funds from ALSAC, St. Jude fundraising organization. The CCSS is composed of individuals who survived five or more years after diagnosis for cancer, leukemia, tumor, or similar illness diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. The CCSS, which includes all participants in the Long Term Follow Up Study with a confirmed diagnosis of cancer, is a retrospectively ascertained cohort of 20,346 childhood cancer survivors diagnosed between 1970 and 1986. It also includes approximately 4,000 siblings of survivors who serve as the comparison group for the study.”
Data Set #1 – Number of diagnosis and the average 5-year childhood cancer survival rate
The first set of data is provided by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). The data includes the number of children under age 20 diagnosed annually in the US (13,500) and the percentage of those children that will survive at least 5 years (80%). Note that 80% is not representative of any specific type of childhood cancer; but instead represents the average result for 100% of the children diagnosed every year in the US. The data can be viewed here: Childhood Cancer Facts and Statistics.
Data Set #2 – Number of children that suffer chronic health condition
The second data set is from Chronic Health Conditions in Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer: The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (N Engl J Med 2006; 355:1572-1582 October 12, 2006)
The study reviewed the health status of 10,397 adults who received a childhood cancer diagnosis between 1970 and 1986. The survivors range in age from 18 to 48, with an average age of 27 years old. The time from the initial diagnosis to participation in the study ranged from 6 to 31 years and averaged 18 years. The study compared the health status of the survivors to that of siblings.
The primary cancer diagnosis for the study participants included; leukemia (30%), Hodgkin’s disease (18%),central nervous system tumor (13%), bone tumors (11%), sarcoma (10%), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (9%), Wilm’s tumor (7%), and neuroblastoma (4%). Treatments included chemotherapy (67%), radiation (62%), unknown treatment (15%) and no treatment (6%).
Survivors reported chronic health conditions including; vision, hearing and/or speech problems, infertility, psycho-social issues, cardiovascular, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, renal, musculoskeletal, neurological, and/or endocrine conditions, and/or secondary cancers.
Conditions were assigned a Grade, or severity level, relating to specific conditions, as shown below:
Grade One - Mild (night blindness, hearing loss, hypertension, shortness of breath, kidney stones, diabetes)
Grade Two - Moderate (cataracts, cardiomyopathy, hepatitis, seizure disorders)
Grade Three - Severe (blind, deaf, emphysema, major joint replacement/amputation, infertility)
Grade Four - Life-threatening or disabling (heart transplant, cardiac arrest, paralysis, respiratory arrest, kidney transplant, cognitive deficit)
Grade Five - Death
It should be noted that for deceased survivors, the maximum Grade condition reported before death was used.
Key conclusions from the report include:
  1. Survivors of childhood cancer have a high rate of illness owing to chronic health conditions.
  2. Among survivors, the cumulative incidence of a chronic health condition reached 73.4% 30 years after the cancer diagnosis.
  3. Among survivors, the cumulative incidence for severe, disabling, or life-threatening conditions or death due to a chronic condition is 42.4% 30 years after cancer diagnosis.
  4. Thus, by subtraction, the cumulative incidence of mild to moderate conditions 30 years after diagnosis is 31% (73.4%-42.4%).
To read more on chronic health conditions of childhood cancer survivors visit the PAC2 Library.

Data Set #3 – Number of Children that die after surviving five years
The third data set is also from the CCSS: Cause-Specific Late Mortality Among 5-Year Survivors of Childhood Cancer: The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2008) 100 (19): 1368-1379. doi: 10.1093/jn...).
The term “Late,” or "Excess Mortality" refers to a child dying as the result of recurrence of the original cancer, secondary cancer, or other health effect resulting from the toxicity of treatment, such as chemo or radiation.
This study included 20,483 five-year survivors of childhood cancer that were diagnosed between 1970 and 1986. The study group was searched in the National Death Index for deaths occurring between 1979 and 2002.
The study concludes that for a 5-years survivor the estimated probability of survival 30 years from diagnosis is 82%. Probabilities were 94% at 10 years and 88% at 20 years. Put another way, the projected probability of a 5-year survivor dying within 30 years of diagnosis due to a cancer related cause is 18%.
Highest excess mortality was observed in non-ALL, non-AML, medulloblastoma or PNET, other CNS malignancy and Ewing sarcoma. Excess mortality resulted from recurrent disease (58%), secondary cancers (19%), circulatory disease (7%) and respiratory disease (3%).
Data Set #2 states that the cumulative incidence is 42.4% 30 years after diagnosis for severe, disabling, or life-threatening conditions or death due to a chronic condition. The 18% of 5-year survivors that die from years 6 to 30 should be included in that 42.4%. Thus, the likelihood that a 5-year survivor of will suffer severe, disabling or life-threatening condition, but not death is 42.4% - 18.0% = 24.4%.

Calculation of Childhood Cancer – Current Outcomes
This data is then used to calculate the potential, long-term outcomes. The calculations are shown in the table below.
Calculations: Childhood Cancer – Projected Outcomes
Estimated number of children under 20 diagnosed annually in the US
Estimated number of children that will die within 5 years
13,500 x 20% = 2,700
Estimated number of children that will survive 5 years
13,500 x 80% = 10,800
What are the projected outcomes for the 10,800 5-year survivors?
Estimate of the number of 5 year survivors that don’t suffer chronic health conditions?
10,800 x 27% = 2,916
Estimate of the number of 5 year survivors that suffer
chronic health conditions, including death?
10,800 x 73% = 7,884
What are the projected outcomes for the 73% of 5-year survivors that experience chronic health conditions, including death?
Estimate of the number of 5 year survivors that die from chronic
health conditions from year 6 to year 30
10,800 x 18% = 1,944
Estimate of the number of 5 year survivors that suffer life-threatening or disabling chronic health conditions
from year 6 to year 30
10,800 x 24% = 2,592
Estimate of the number of 5 year survivors that suffer mild to moderate health conditions but live at least 30 years
10,800 x 31% = 3,348

Integrating the analysis produces the following summary table of projected outcomes for the 13, 500 children diagnosed annually in the US.
Childhood Cancer - Projected Outcomes

Child dies within 5 years of diagnosis
Child dies within 30 years of diagnosis
Child lives 30 years but experiences severe, life threatening
or disabling heath conditions
Child lives 30 years but experiences mild or moderate health conditions
Child lives 30 years and experiences no chronic health conditions

The chart below summarizes the projected outcomes for children diagnosed with cancer.

These are the projected results for the four outcomes:
Outcome #1 - About 1 in 5 live at least 30 years after diagnosis without chronic health conditions
Outcome #2 - About 1 in 4 live at least 30 years but face mild to moderate chronic health conditions
Outcome #3 - About 1 in 5 live at least 30 years but face life-threatening or disabling chronic health conditions
Outcome #4 - About 1 in 3 die

Only #1 is acceptable!!!

Visit the PAC2 September 2012 Childhood Cancer Event Calendar to make #1 the outcome for all kids through raising awareness and funding childhood cancer research in your area during September, National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.


Note: Thanks to all contributors and reviewers. Projections are based on PAC2's evaluation of the data sets. Please excuse all rounding errors. While we present raw, cold, hard data, the article was created by raw emotion. If you identify an issue please contact us at

Sunday, September 16, 2012


September 16, 2012

Luckily, I got used to various pastimes over the summer and can probably articulate a larger-than-average list of things to do for and with someone with limited mobility.

Figuring prominently on any such list would be doing necessary chores that are currently out of the range of possibilities for the crutch-y person.  I'm not saying that Philip the Handsome was unable to attach his new license plates to his car, just that it was way easier fro me to carry them and the socket set to the car and do the switch out.  Given the brilliant early fall day in Columbus, I might have volunteered to go down the line in the parking lot switching out license plates for Philip's apartment neighbors, had they asked.

Philip the Handsome was somewhat loath to give up his old license plates despite the State's insistence that it was time.    The old ones (up top) were still in relatively good shape AND relatively clean.  They also had the added bonus and whimsy (for those of you unfamiliar with Texas license plates) to sport both a cowboy on horseback (below in the center) and the profile of the space shuttle (top left).  

I kind of like the retro-plain model now in production as reminiscent of my childhood, when I believed that state prisoners who made license plates sat with a little hammer, beating out the letters and numbers, rather than using fairly sophisticated metal stamping equipment.  The new plates may still be made by those serving time, but they are now smooth as well as uber-plain.

We also have taken some time for leisure:

We stormed through this 1000-piece puzzle, starting it Friday evening and finishing it Saturday afternoon.  We piddled around after we finished, enjoying the afternoon listening to football and topped off the day with a nice mom-cooked meal.  By 8:40 we were in the car, making a beat-the-clock run to Barnes and Noble for another puzzle (why did this feel like those runs to the liquor store that sat inches beyond the county line of the "dry" Texas county I grew up in?).

Philip the Handsome is not languishing.  More like biding his time, until he is once again cleared for action.  The light's not great in the hall, but I think this shot gives you an idea about his mindset.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rise and Shine

September 10, 2012

Sometimes Mondays don't seem that bad.

This is what Willie, Teddy, and I witnessed as we rounded the bend through the picnic area and climbed to the top of the dam this morning.  I knew there was an up side to getting a bit of a late start this morning (you know, in addition to that extra half and hour in the sack).

Walter is headed towards the airport to start his journey home from Ohio.  Philip the Handsome is going to have to make it on his own for a couple of days (though I think Walter is laid in a reasonable stock of provisions to make sure he doesn't starve or run out of toilet paper).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rest and Recover

September 6, 2012

Philip the Handsome [There.  I have picked the cool name.  There were two "big" Maximillians:  one from the Holy Roman Empire, who had a son named Philip the Handsome and one from the Mexican Empire who had two sons, Augustin and Salvador.  As much as I would have like to pick Augustin (which is a variant of what I would have been named had I been born a boy) or Salvador (which has such lovely Godfather overtones), I stuck with Philip the Handsome.  Because really, Walter is so much more of a Holy Roman Emperor than a Mexican Emperor, and Davis really deserves a name that ends in "the Handsome."] is safely home from surgery.

Like any surgery, it was probably a bigger deal than we counted on before it started.  And like any surgery, the recovery and rehabilitation is probably a much bigger deal than the surgery itself.  You can email him your warm wishes at or text him at 979.820.1049.  I think he has to be zero weight bearing for four weeks.

Walter took some photos with his phone.  Here's the lovely leg wear all the cool guys are sporting this fall:

Here's Davis trying to look comfortable and busy. 

Can you tell from the first two photos what the mainstay of his recovery is, so far?   Legos!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Unstinting (excuse my adjective instead of a verb)

September 5, 2012

The NY Giants kick off against the Dallas Cowboys tonight, their coach Tom Coughlin could wear a gold ribbon on his chest.

In case you missed it, the small, but mighty childhood cancer community is unstinting in its determination to get the nation's attention and focus it on children and teens with cancer.  More walks, more lemonade, more cookies, more kickball, more shaved heads, more garage sales, more beaded lanyards.

That doesn't obligate me to write about childhood cancer, but with Davis heading to surgery in the morning, my mind is on him, and on Erin tonight.

This blurry (artsy?) photo is my phone screensaver.  I look at it every day.  Raising strong-willed, bright kids nine years apart in age was never going to be a picnic, and having one with cancer added a degree of difficulty that I hadn't anticipated.

I have often heard or read notes from moms and dads whose child died about how respond to when someone asks them how many children they have.  Most people work out their own personal answer.  What I hadn't reckoned on was what Davis encounters on a parallel, but completely different track.

As a single guy he has had his share of first dates.  You remember those?  The jitters.  What to wear?  Where to go?  What to talk about?  What NOT to talk about?

Anybody who reads magazine pieces or blog entries about "safe" first date conversational topics, places to go, or other ways to quell the nerves, will recognize that asking your new acquaintance about their major is sort of de rigeur.  That is, unless your major is theoretical mathematics.  That's a certain conversation stopper which leaves the new acquaintance searching for safer, more settled territory, like "Do you have any brother or sisters?"  Asking about siblings is considered VERY SAFE.

Except when your sister who you loved very much died of cancer.  No matter how you answer, it's likely to de-rail the date.  You either tell the truth and wait for the awkward silence to quit roaring in your ears or you dodge the question and feel like you've betrayed your sister's memory.  Even if you explain the circumstances and the new acquaintance responds sympathetically, it changes the dynamics and the trajectory of the first date, which is already a very risk-filled proposition.

So my wish today in memory of Erin and in honor of childhood cancer awareness month is saving all the children so that their brothers and sisters don't have to figure out what it means to live without them.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


September 2, 2012

I took stock of my life the other day.  With a birthday coming along in a few weeks and a long summer behind me, I thought it worth the effort.  As I looked around, I noticed my yard had gone feral.  My house provides natural habitats for a majority of the spiders found in Texas, if the number and variety of cobwebs inside my house provides any evidence.  I've added a couple of pounds since graduation.  I'm teaching two sections of a course I haven't taught since the semester Davis was born, and I have an iron or two (or a dozen) in the fire of what Walter calls my unpaid work.

I took the mulling time offered by my morning dog walk to consider what to do with my life going forward.  I had three big thoughts:

  1. Work harder to separate work from leisure.  For me that means, focusing and not getting distracted when I'm working (pretty easy) AND turning work off at the end of the day and focusing just as hard and just as intentionally on downtime.
  2. Work on simplifying and adopting routines that I can sustain.  This means, for example, that I attempt to up my trips to the gym from twice a week to thrice a week NOT to promise myself I'll workout every day.
  3. Work on a balanced life.  I started doing the math here.  
    • First and most importantly, 8 (or even 9) hours of sleep each night.
    • Then no more than 8 hours of work (except if I have a grading deadline) each day.
    • Followed by 8 hours of health-and-home maintenance and upkeep (weeding, dusting, organizing, cooking healthy, and so on) each day.
    • Topped off by 8 hours of personal leisure and self and relationship enhancement.
I'm not sure what I was thinking with #3, but by the time I got home I was really happy and confident about how easy it was going to be to get everything important done and maintain a balanced life.  I was also wondering, just a little, what I had been doing to waste so much time these last thirty years (and by the way, I know what I was doing to waste time the first 21). 

Anyway, a woman doesn't give birth to a PhD student in mathematics without having some facility with numbers, so as you have already guessed, I figured out that I had either made an arithmetic error or a scientific one (imagining that I lived on planet Umbrathos, that has a 32 hour day).  This discovery led me to two more important thoughts.  I should:

  1. Get my friends and family to buy me longer days for my upcoming birthday.  I wonder if you can get gift cards with extra hours? or
  2. I should have grabbed the magic wish fish when I had the chance.  As Walter rowed up to dock the boat yesterday, a bass as big as Teddy hopped right in the rowboat and flopped fin-slappingly around.  Walter, always the poised boatsman, shipped his oars, stood up (I know, you're thinking "Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!", grabbed the fish in both hands, and tossed it back in the lake.  If I had only had the presence of mind to have him ask for his three wishes before the rescue. . .