Coldwater Creek Contamination | St. Louis, Missouri

I grew up, for the most part, in north St. Louis county very near Coldwater Creek. News of radioactive waste having made its way into this creek is not new. However, every time this news surfaces, it seems to be swept under a rug and all but forgotten for several years before making headlines again. Perhaps this time, with the popularity of social networking sites and ever growing technology keeping social media alive, it won’t just be swept under a rug again.

Here’s the story about the known radioactive contamination of Coldwater Creek and the high numbers of cancers and auto-immune diseases in the area. You can read about it and watch a video of the news segment. I would have embedded the video, but that option wasn’t available. The statistics are staggering. The numbers may seem small, but these are only the known cases. My dad lived in the house at point A in the photo below far longer than I did. Was the cancer that took his life so early only linked to smoking, or could this have had any impact at all? We’ll never know, but it does make me wonder a little.

Here’s part 2 of the story aired the next night. This segment covers the West Lake Landfill.

Here’s a map of my neck of the woods growing up:

Coldwater Creek in Florissant, Missouri - North County St. Louis

Hazelwood Central is seen briefly in the news segment linked above and is also a short walking distance away from the creek.

Here’s a closer image showing the distance from the house I lived in from age 7 to 14 to part of Coldwater Creek:

Coldwater Creek in Florissant, Missouri - North County St. LouisThe Florissant Valley of Flowers Festival is held on the banks of Coldwater Creek in that open space you see to the right of point B. When I was young and living in the house at point A, I’m pretty sure we went to that festival every year. We shopped in that shopping center that backs up to it. I played outside almost daily. I know! That’s practically a foreign concept to kids in this day and age, huh?

Granted, I didn’t play in the creek and didn’t live closer to the source of the contamination. That was only about four miles away, though. It’s all very bizarre to hear about now.

I would say I’m glad we moved to Colorado when our kids were little, but the Denver area is not without its own dumping grounds. :O Humans are pretty disgusting creatures and make the worst messes of the planet than any other living creature on it. There really is no escaping it.

Childhood Cancer Awareness

Pink ribbons. Race for the cure. Breast cancer gets so much attention. That’s great! However, other cancers are pushed to the back of the bus – like childhood cancers. Watch this video. Share this video! Make this a VIRAL VIDEO! If Kony 2012 can do it, so can we!

You may think childhood cancers get plenty of awareness through St. Jude’s, but the funds they raise directly are distributed for research for other catastrophic childhood illnesses as well as cancer. Invisible children can be found in more places than just Uganda. Cancer continues to kill so many children because of inadequate funding to support adequate and timely research.

There are so many things that deserve more awareness – deserve to go viral. Lung cancer is another! Kudos to those with the enthusiasm to take up a cause and run with it far enough to get that much attention (good or bad).

This wasn’t meant to be a thoroughly researched post. It’s simply something that came to my mind and I let spill onto a post. It’s not meant to cause a debate, and I’m not diminishing the importance of any one cause in favor of another. Equal awareness opportunity to everyone! :D

Cancer Awareness | Breast, Prostate, Skin, Colon, but Where is Lung?

I want to let you know upfront that I am about to express my strong opinion in this post. If you are easily offended or quick to send a defensive retort, then it’s probably best that you close this page now and don’t look back.

Breast cancer awareness dominates the airways. Public Service Announcements abound. Races for the cure happen all over the place. It is the #1 cancer found in women. There are even PSAs for Prostate cancer – the #1 cancer found in men. I’ve seen and heard spots on colon (colorectal) and even skin cancer. However there is very little going on to raise awareness of lung cancer, which is the #2 cancer found in both men and women. I want to see this killer get equal face time right up there with breast cancer. Pink, pink, pink – I see pink ribbons, shirts, and hats all over the place. I have family members who’ve battled this and, fortunately, have won! There are many more with lung cancer that don’t win their battles, though.

Early detection is a huge reason for breast cancer survival, and we are reminded all the time how important breast self exams (BSEs) are in early detection. We need to support such research for early detection of lung cancer. Detection at earlier stages greatly increases the chances or survival or, at the very least, to survive longer than a year or less as is often the case with late-stage detection. My dad lived only five months after detection, and he had a lot of “what if” and “should have” thoughts.

Even before detection needs to be a thought in your head, prevention is more important! For those who don’t have time or wouldn’t give a thought to clicking that link, here’s some interesting information from that page:

When Smokers Quit – What Are the Benefits Over Time?

20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.

12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.

5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.

10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease.

15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.

~ from American Cancer Society

I smoked on and off (more on than off) for a total of about 13 years. I quit cold turkey when I was 27 (that’s 17 years ago). Even before I started smoking, I had been exposed to second-hand smoke my entire life. That’s more than half my life so far exposed to smoke daily. {Please note that I am not trying to make anyone feel badly here.} So hopefully, everything in that list above now applies to me! If you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or beyond, don’t think it’s too late to make any difference. Don’t think that if you’ve made it this long, you may as well die enjoying your death sticks. As early as one month after quitting, you can feel a big difference and have more energy. That alone would be worth it to me!

Why not add yet another tax to packs of cigarettes (1$ per pack) that is designated to fund lung cancer research? I like that idea! Do you want to see something interesting? I’m going to show you anyway! I found a breakdown of the price of cigarettes by state. The average price, all states considered, is $5.51 per pack. Smokers in New York pay $8.97 per pack! :O That is freakin’ INSANE! Think about it… if the average smoker smokes one pack per day, that’s about $270 per month! On average, using the same numbers, smokers are spending about $165 every month (that’s damn near $2000 per year) to smoke one pack per day. Why?! I just don’t get it! You can’t tell me, “You’re not a smoker; you don’t know.” I was a smoker; I do know! When I smoked, I thought it was relaxing. At the same time, if I smoked too much, I felt jittery. Contradiction!

OK – That’s all I have time for. It wasn’t as strong as I thought it would be so let me add a strong statement to close the post. How dare you smokers who feel it’s your right in this “free” country to smoke in restaurants and expose non-smokers to the carcinogens you are placing in the air we breathe! Just as we don’t understand why you continue to smoke knowing the risks (and a great number of you have seen the results first hand), you don’t understand how sad it makes us to be reminded of loved ones lost to this terrible killer every time we smell your smoke. Have a heart and show compassion before getting defensive.

Stepping off soapbox … for now.


CaringBridge.com

I thought I’d start a site on CaringBridge.com to keep track of my dad’s upcoming battle with the C-Monster.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rzachritz

Today, we found out it’s not small-cell lung cancer. It’s definitely lung cancer, though.

I also added a new page to include a video of a year in a child’s life with cancer. Kennedy is a member of our church, and she’s on her second to last chemo for bone cancer. She just started it today. Go Kennedy! So check out the Princess Warrior page to watch her video.

There Are No Words … Yet I Found Many

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How can I even put into words the range of emotions I’ve experienced over the past two weeks?  Everyone in the family is experiencing their own emotions, and though they may be similar, we all have our own unique feelings.

My first feeling was shock followed immediately by an intense sadness.  Then crept in some anger for many different reasons.

The fact that anyone smokes (and that I once smoked myself) wasn’t the least of those reasons.  They say former smokers are the worst critics.  They got that wrong.  Former smokers losing, or who have lost, someone because they smoked are even worse.  I thought I hated the fact that people smoked before.  Now it pisses me off more than I can express.  I remember when I smoked, I didn’t smell it in my house.  I thought smoking by the exhaust vent in a bathroom or kitchen would eliminate the odor and smoke in the house.  HA!  So wrong!  Smoking in the basement?  Forget about it.  The only solution is to just quit.  Don’t tell me it was easier for me because I didn’t smoke for as many years.  Bullshit!  I don’t deny for one second that it’s hard.  But it has to be done.  One more cigarette … one more pack … one more carton … wait until we find out … wait until chemo’s over … wait until the hard part’s over … wait … wait … wait …  If you wait until the perfect time or even just a better time, you’re never going to do it.

Now that I got that off my chest, I can settle back into the biggest emotion hanging around: Sadness.  I’m almost disappointed in myself for hiding my emotions in front of my dad.  I believe I should have had a day to just let it out in front of him.  What good did it do to suck it up and “be strong” for him.  Why can’t we just be honest?  I’m not saying we should walk around moping and crying all the time, but I also don’t think it’s healthy to hold it inside.  We can be hopeful and positive, but we can also cry when necessary.  And damn it!  Right now I want to cry!  I want to just fall into a heaving mess and CRY!

I’m not necessarily afraid this will throw me into a depression.  I’m pretty sure I have a handle on that one, but we can never say never.  Right?  There can be a fine line between depression and sadness.  It’s wrong to shelter those who suffer from (or have suffered from) depression from sad things in life.  We all have to deal.  My sadness makes me a little numb.  I want to withdraw and just exist in my own little world.  I get lost in my own head.  I walk through the store unaware of people around me – just wanting to be invisible so no one will talk to me.

Then a game of ping-pong begins.  Laughter still happens!  Yes, I can still laugh!  It’s okay to be happy even though something so sad is happening.  Obviously, I’m not happy that the sad thing is happening.  I’m still capable of feeling joy.

And then, just as fast, I’m angry again.  I’m angry that it’s taking so long to get an answer!

Tired…..

Cancer

I’ve done pretty well figuring out what God wanted me to learn from a lot of things in life, but this one’s tough to figure out.  Cancer.  My dad has cancer.  No official word from pathology yet, but lesions showing on lung x-rays, large spot on his liver, tumors around leg, hip, and shoulder bones all point to cancer.  Those are all places which small cell lung cancer commonly spread to.  Yes, I hit the internet finally, and I don’t like what I read, but I don’t want to write about it yet.  I wish the damn doctor would just call already!