On advocating for early cancer detection — no matter what your trusted doctor says. SPEAK. UP.

I was just thinking about all the people in the last year, all of these loved ones who died very shortly after abrupt end-stage cancer diagnoses. It has been awful. Not a single cancer was a so-called “lifestyle cancer” (like lung, which too often is NOT from smoking).

But many might have been treatable with earlier diagnosis.

I was thinking about this, not entirely because of my recent losses, but for the losses of others in my world, the recent losses others have suffered.

I don’t know what the answer is, but please, please, advocate for early detection, and PLEASE question your doctors, who are often awfully hogtied by insurance regulations and have to always treat the simplest symptoms rather than testing for the horrible thing they suspect.

When she was just three, my oldest child went for almost two weeks with undiagnosed pneumonia. Her only symptom was a fever. That’s it. No coughing, no sore throat, no stuffy nose, no rash, no nothing. For days — days, and then weeks — the well-meaning but rule-following doctors put us off for lack of other symptoms. Wait and see, they said. It’s just a virus, they said. Hydrate. Give Tylenol. Eventually, the (way overdue) chest x-ray told a different story. After two weeks, by the time they figured out what was going on, her chest — not just her lungs, but her ACTUAL CHEST CAVITY — was filled with fluid. She needed surgical intervention to save her life, to drain the fluid and repair the damage, and spent more than 10 days in a hospital. (Incidentally, this event may or may not have triggered the years-later onset of Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder which many experts believe is directly related to an emergent viral or bacterial onslaught, such as was her pneumonia.) Had anyone done the chest x-ray earlier, just days or a week earlier, perhaps the outcome would’ve been different. On many levels.

But insurance companies — and because of that, well-paid and well-intentioned doctors — don’t approve anything at first. When it could count. Err on the side of statistics is the motto.

After all, most fevers are not chest-cavity-filling pneumonia. I get that. But an x-ray after, say, day four? Maybe justified. Maybe more than justified.

And then there is this.

My dad died of end-stage, too-late-undiagnosed liver cancer, but his doctors for many, many months treated his symptoms with prescriptions aimed at relief of reflux and related stomach issues, never once scanning for something else — despite his prior cancer history.

My mother-in-law is battling for her life. She conquered cancer twice before, yet despite that documented history, no doctor was able to effectively test early on based on her new complaints. The protocol was just not approved, based on a checklist which had nothing to do with any apparent rational thought. She bested cancer twice before and might lose the war now simply because nothing was done sooner. Because steps could not be skipped.

It’s not entirely the fault of the medical practitioners.

As patients, we are routinely assessed by medical professionals and treated for the simplest diagnosis. Because that is the rules of the insurance chart. You can’t move up the chart unless all the other steps are checked. There are rules for tests, depending on age, medical history, cancer statistics, etc. Days, weeks, months pass. And all the while, disease marches on, destroying everything in its wake.

I had a mammogram today. Not because it’s on the medical charts as “necessary” (I think I might be younger than the recommended age, but these days only just?) but because 7 years ago I had a lump.

It was a scary time, that lump and all the lumpy-related scans and biopsies and nights cuddling with four kids under the age of five and reading Good Night, Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where The Wild Things Are and wondering when someone would give me an answer and whether or not I would be alive to see my four tiny kids be potty-trained, never mind being alive to see them get married and have babies of their own so I could know they read Good Night, Moon or the story of Max  — or all the stories yet to be written — to those yet-c0nceived babies I absolutely would spoil in the way only grandmas can.

I wondered whether or not I would be alive to see my babies get to third grade.

It was a scary time, and thankfully, that ended okay. So now I get an annual test. It’s not the best way to spend part of the day, but the clear scans make the boob-smushing worth it.

Yet many women of my age (mid-40s) don’t have this exam. (Insert gratitude here for my lovies who survived even worse than I went through.)

Even more of us don’t get colonoscopies.

Insurance companies are even starting to question the funding of routine pap smears for anyone younger than, oh, 80 or something?

And almost no medical practice authorizes the regular chest screenings of patients who smoke (choose to smoke? Are addicted to nicotine? Maybe that’s why they don’t authorize tests? Because dirty smokers deserve to die?)

Almost none of us are screened for heart disease, other than through lifestyle questions.

I am in awe of the medical tests we have available to us in this lifetime. It is STUNNING to think of what doctors can see, can visualize, can touch and fix with all this technology! What we can do healthwise — what illnesses we can stop, what awful we can fix — it is amazing to consider.

We HAVE to become a society that not only expects, but demands our trusted doctors (not the faceless robots that answer our button-pushing insurance phone calls) to err on the side of caution. We HAVE to insist on something more than the wait-and-see. We deserve more than the lowest-common-denominator health care.

We have to insist on early testing. By doctors — not the paid lobbyists. We have to insist that doctors be allowed to save lives, and not just the lives of 3 year olds whose moms write poignant essays on social media, or the lives of all people who shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and somehow proved something about their commitment to quality of life and are subsequently more deserving than everyone else, especially those who eat hot dogs. Or Cheetos.

We have to insist that everyone deserves proactive health care, that no one should be denied appropriate care because some chart dictated otherwise.

Babies, moms, dads, drummers, cashiers, homeless, lawyers, teachers, taxi drivers, florists, waiters, mail carriers, the owner of the yarn shop in the town square.

Everyone deserves more than the lowest-common-denominator health care.


Even the dirty smokers.




Happy World Read Aloud Day!!

Yay, World Read Aloud Day is here! Before I share with you some video the kids made to celebrate this day, I wanted to direct you to this awesome post

by the amazing writer, KateMessner. In it, she reminds us of why, no matter how old a child is, reading aloud to him or her is one of the most powerful things you can do.

On my home front, in the interest of not adding one more thing to our already busy school mornings, I recorded the kids reading aloud last night (except for Ellie, because the memory card filled up before it was her turn, so she went this morning before school).

The kids all picked books they love, books they remembered from when they were much younger, the kinds of books they begged to hear over and over and over again.  And it was so fun to hear those words come out of their mouths, not mine, and I could almost picture them reading to their own future children.

Okay, without further ado: our read-alouds for World Read Aloud Day!

First, my dad’s annual contribution (with a little help from Max, my parents’ adorable dachsaund). I love my dad!

Here are the kids:


Will you be reading out loud today? Share your stories!

Celebrate reading and support global literacy

If you are visiting A Mom’s World, you are either a) one of my parents, b) following me on Facebook or Twitter, or c) someone who was searching for information about Pillow Pets (that old post sure gets a lot of hits!). But no matter who you are, one thing is true: you can read.

Have you ever thought about how awesome that is? That every day your eyes scan over squiggly symbols and you know what they mean? Those squiggles — on street signs and storefronts, in print and online newspapers and magazines, in books — give you information, teach you new things, open up new worlds, transport you to other galaxies. Think about it. Awesome.

We often take our literacy for granted, but worldwide over 793 million people cannot read.

This Wednesday is World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by LitWorld, an international organization with the goal of promoting literacy for all children around the globe. For the past two years, World Read Aloud Day has shared this message through thousands of participants joining in many activities. This year, LitWorld hopes to have one million participants — I’m pleased to say that I’m one of them.

What happens on WRAD? Well, reading. Out loud. To your own kids, to a classroom of kids — many brilliant authors will by sharing their words with children via Skype visits, but you could Skype a story to your nephew across the country.

LitWorld’s website has free downloads of worksheets and suggestions for how you can participate in your own piece of the world.

In A Mom’s World, the kids and I are going to make some videos to share. But until then, here is what my father did last year to celebrate World Read Aloud Day:


Are you participating? I’d love to hear about your plans!

Why kids won’t get to see “Bully”, why they should, and what you can do about it

Sometimes, I am absolutely, completely, mind-blowingly befuddled by the total insanity of well-meaning parents.

At the end of March, a documentary will be released to select theaters around the country, a film that could contribute tremendously to the fight to end the epidemic of bullying in our society.

Unfortunately, the people who most need to see it — kids in upper elementary and middle school — won’t get to.

Recently, the MPAA slapped an R rating on the acclaimed movie, “Bully,” because of language concerns.

Filmed over the course of one year, the documentary follows five families suffering the pain, violence and, for not one, but two families, the tragic results of bullying — the suicide of each of their sons. The film shows students at school and on the bus tormenting each other with words and fists; kids tell their stories and how they feel; and adults are presented in both the best and worst light.

I imagine that a few f-bombs might get dropped here and there, especially in the scenes where kids are whaling on and screaming at their victims. But apparently such language is inappropriate for kids to see. (Since the rating was limited to language only, I guess the brutality of the bullying is less disturbing than some cursing. Who knew?)

MPAA ratings are determined by what amounts to a focus group of typical American parents, culled from communities around the country, who decide how most people will feel about images. They are not connected to the film industry. According to the MPAA site, “Their job is to rate each film as they believe a majority of American parents would rate it, considering relevant themes and content.”

A quick scan of the ratings of last year’s R-rated titles shows that almost all of the ratings were given for reasons such as “strong sexual content,” “extreme violence,” “bloody violence,” “disturbing images,” “drug use,” “graphic nudity.”  Hardly any movies are given the dreaded rating for language only — other than “Bully,” some of last year’s big language offenders included “Carnage,” “Evil Things,” and “House Arrest.”


The MPAA ought to reconsider the decision, and give the movie a PG-13 designation. The R rating virtually ensures that most parents will not even consider showing it to their kids, and no school in America could get approval to use it as a worthy teaching tool in their classrooms.

CARA defines PG-13 as: PARENTS ARE URGED TO BE  CAUTIOUS.  SOME MATERIAL MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR PRE-TEENAGERS. Films such as “Batman,” “Captain America” “Cowboys and Aliens” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” have garnered that somewhat more family-friendly PG-13 ratings, making them more appealing to parents.

Surely there are things more terrible than hearing a bullied 12-year-old drop a few F-bombs after he’s been brutalized on the bus for the 30th morning in a row?

On the other hand, a tortured 12-year-old is a pretty terrible image. Sadly, it’s one that a lot of kids see each day.

(I’m pretty sure a few of them have also heard an F-bomb or two. I mean, we hear “Moves Like Jagger” nine hundred times on the radio every day, and it’s pretty clear that all my kids know what that bleeped out word is, even if they don’t understand what it means or why it’s naughty.)

Okay, we all want our kids to NOT swear. I don’t curse in front of my kids, and they know better to even think about letting one slip out of their own mouths. But in the context of the bigger message of this movie, I could overlook a few inappropriate words.

Because, in the end, it’s about who should see this movie. Grownups can benefit from it, sure, especially those who shrug off bullying with phrases like “kids will be kids,” and “I was bullied and I survived, whatever, suck it up.” Others, who would do anything to stop the torture, will weep for these children — as we do whenever we read the newspaper or when our own children come home in pain — and perhaps become doubly inspired to effect change in their communities.

But the real audience for “Bully” is kids — those who will identify with all the players, from the victims to the bullies to the onlookers who ignore what’s happening.

Kids know who in their world is bullied. Maybe a movie like this would show them they are not alone, that they can make change, that what they experience is not a solitary, inescapable existence. That it doesn’t have to be like this. That the next time they walk past a bully terrorizing another kid, they should do something other than look the other way.

This movie won’t eradicate bullying, any more than having an entire elementary school student body hold hands and sing Kumbaya will. But a movie like this can start an honest conversation between kids and the adults in their lives;  witnessing real people in aching, and sometimes all-too familiar situations, can empower kids far more effectively than a study guide or once a month health class can.

A concerned teen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has drafted a petition to ask the MPAA to reduce the rating from R to PG-13, so that more kids will be able to see it. When I signed it, over 130,000 people had also added their support.

Check out my links and see if you agree — if you do, why not sign the petition?

I appreciate the MPAA parent group who act as watchdogs for our families. But this time, they would do better to care more about our children’s bodies and souls than about the effects of swearing on their tender ears.

Boycott of Girl Scout cookies? Only if you support intolerance…

When she was in first grade, I signed up Mitzi for Girl Scouts. She was interested and had friends in the program; I had nice memories of my (short) time as a Girl Scout and knew it was a fun experience. I also volunteered to be a troop leader, knowing that few parents do, and I wanted to make sure all girls who wanted to participate would be able to do so.

This is our third year, and while it’s not the easiest volunteering gig in the world, the girls seem to be having a fun time with it. Whatever my frustrations might be with the overall structure of the actual program (currently in a transition that aims to have a sharper focus on skills rather than badges), I do believe in the basic ideology and goals of the program: to help develop girls to be strong leaders, have self-confidence, and become interested in contributing in a positive way to our world and the people in it.

So when I saw this video last night, I was horrified:

This girl (identified as Taylor, from California) has put together a nicely edited, well-articulated presentation calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies, the sales of which are going on now all around the country. Why? Because, last fall, a Colorado Girl Scout council allowed a 7-year-old transgendered child to enroll in a local troop.

Apparently, Taylor (and others, including three troops in Louisiana that disbanded in protest last December) believes that inclusion of transgendered youth presents a real and present danger to all Girl Scouts.


I’m happy that GSUSA has taken the right stand on this issue: Spokespeople for both the Colorado council and the national council have said that as long as a child lives as a girl, presents herself as a girl, and identifies as a girl, she can be a Scout.

What bothers me the most about this video is Taylor’s teenaged demanor, so calm and rational and mature —  completely, awfully at odds with the hatred and intolerance and bigotry that is behind the words she so sweetly utters.

Ironically, she also seems to have learned well from her time as a Girl Scout — she clearly has self-confidence, and sees herself as a both leader and as someone with a mission to effect change in the world. It’s just too bad the change she wants is one of bias and exclusion. Where her beliefs came from, I can’t say for sure, though I suspect it comes from the people who helped raise her to the girl she is now.

Taylor uses the three goals of Girl Scout goals to present her case: Discover, Connect and Take Action. Discover = identify a problem or need. Connect = to yourself and others. Take Action = finding/implementing a solution. All this is supposed to add up to leadership.

Except, for Taylor, it doesn’t. It adds up to a point of view I would be ashamed to discover in my own daughter.

As a Girl Scout leader, I feel okay about using the GSUSA program goals here, as I reflect on this astounding situation: 

Discover = Hey! Living and breathing in our Girl Scout community, are people of hate, bigotry, intolerance and exclusion.

Connect = Makes my skin crawl.

Take Action = Write this blog post. Encourage others to speak out, too.

And boycott the boycott —  buy as many Girl Scout cookies as you can.

A day of reading AND for a good cause!

A friend of mine drew my attention to this super wonderful international event:  World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by LitWorld, a global literacy organization based in New York City.  On March 9th, thousands of readers around the world will join forces to show support for the 774 million people who cannot read or write.

Imagine yourself as someone without words in your life.  Imagine never experiencing the power of language, the way a story can change your world and the way you see it.   Imagine not being able to harness that power and express yourself.  (Imagine not being able to read this very awesome blog!)

Everyone has a right to literacy.  If you agree, visit LitWorld’s website and commit to helping them achieve their goal of global reading on March 9th — 774 minutes, one for every person in the world who can’t read or write.  Donate, if you can, and help support their very admirable mission of bringing literacy to those who need it most.

A day of reading out loud, for a good cause?  You betcha.

Donating more than hair

I believe that everyone is born with the instinct to help other people.

Some of us outgrow it, some of us don’t.  All kids struggle with sharing, but if you watch closely, you’ll see that more often than not, a child will hug another who is crying, will demand a bandage for a friend’s boo-boo, and decide to give up a beloved toy for someone else who might need it.

Sometimes, kids decide to give a piece of themselves.  Literally.

Today, Mitzi joined the community of thousands of children who donate their hair to worthy organizations.  She chose Wigs for Kids to be the recipient of her 12 inches of wavy locks — hair she’s been growing for nearly two years for just this purpose.

I’m all glowy with pride.  I hope that whatever instinct my 8-year-old daughter has for giving remains intact.  Ray and I try to model such behavior, in church offerings, in my participation in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, in Ray’s pro bono legal work in Boston and the surrounding communities.   Sometimes, we wonder what actually rubs off on the kids.  For now, it’s heartening to see that they have noticed what we do for other people — not much, but giving what we can.




she is,









It’s not easy for a child to change her entire outward appearance — when the stylist cut the ponytail off, Mitzi had a frozen, horrified look on her face.  For so long — a good chunk of her life — she’s had long hair.  To chop it off suddenly, well, it was a little shocking for us both.  I reminded us that it’s just hair — it can grow back.  Once the stylist had done her job, the worry was gone — what a cute ‘do!  Mitzi couldn’t stop admiring herself….

And somewhere, some day, some child undergoing medical treatment for cancer or another disease, or a child born with no ability to grow hair, somewhere, some child will wear my daughter’s hair and will feel good, healthy, normal.

Mitzi will never know who gets her hair — in fact, she may not really remember much of this experience.  But I will.  Forever I will remember that my baby gave what she could so that somebody else could smile.  A piece of herself will travel to another part of the country, and help someone have a better day — maybe even a better life.

How can you not smile?