Thought for the Day

“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

~Etienne de Grellet (1773-1855)


‘Smart Bomb’ Drug Attacks Breast Cancer

Doctors have successfully dropped the first “smart bomb” on breast cancer, using a drug to deliver a toxic payload to tumor cells while leaving healthy ones alone. In a key test involving nearly 1,000 women with very advanced disease, the experimental treatment extended by several months the time women lived without their cancer getting worse.

A warning to hopeful patients: the drug is still experimental, so not available yet. Its backers hope it can reach the market within a year. The treatment builds on Herceptin, the first gene-targeted therapy for breast cancer. It is used for about 20 percent of patients whose tumors overproduce a certain protein. Researchers combined Herceptin with a chemotherapy so toxic that it can’t be given by itself, plus a chemical to keep the two linked until they reach a cancer cell where the poison can be released to kill it.

This double weapon, called T-DM1, is called the “smart bomb.” Doctors tested T-DM1 in 991 women with widely spread breast cancer that was getting worse despite treatment with chemotherapy and ordinary Herceptin and found that T-DM1 caused fewer side effects than the other drugs did. “People don’t lose their hair, they don’t throw up. They don’t need nausea medicines, they don’t need transfusions,” said Blackwell, who has consulted in the past for Genentech, the study’s sponsor.

“The data are pretty compelling,” said Dr. Michael Link, a pediatric cancer specialist at Stanford University who is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the group hosting the Chicago conference where the results were being presented. “It’s sort of a smart bomb kind of therapy, a poison delivered to the tumor … and not a lot of other collateral damage to other organs,” he said. Dr. Louis Weiner, director of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the results strongly suggest T-DM1 improves survival. It delivers more drug directly to tumors with less side effects, “a clear advance,” he said.


Dog Hero in Ghana Rescues Newborn Baby

Felix Omondi, an 11-year-old student with his dog, now named Mkombozi (Saviour), in a compound on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Felix Omondi, an 11-year-old student with his dog, now named Mkombozi (Saviour), in a compound on the outskirts of Nairobi.

This week, a farm dog in the west African country of Ghana is being praised as a hero hound after saving the life of an abandoned two-week-old baby. Madam Rosemary Azure, a regional director of health in Ghana, told the Ghana News Agency that the dog apparently found the baby under a bridge in the northern part of the country near the regional capital of Bolgatana. Rather than abandon, or hurt the vulnerable tot, the dog curled up next to him for the night, refusing to leave his side.

A search party found the duo the next morning. The dog’s owner had become worried that the pooch hadn’t returned home, and had gotten a group together to look for the pup through the nearby woods and fields. They spotted the dog under the bridge, and then saw that a baby was nuzzling into its fur.

There have been other doggy heroes in Africa. Perhaps most famous is the Kenyan stray now known as Mkombozi, who was foraging for food in 2005 when she found an abandoned infant girl.  Mkombozi (which means “liberator” in Swahili) carried the baby back to her own litter of puppies – across busy roads, through a barbed wire fence and into one of the impoverished neighborhoods of Nairobi. The dog became a national hero after residents heard the baby’s cries and found Mkombozi protecting her.


Father Forgets by W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor. At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road, I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boy friends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive – and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped. You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding – this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years. And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed! It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow, I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing buy a boy – a little boy!” I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.


Beating the Odds, Teen Going from Homeless to Harvard

Dawn Loggins returned from a prestigious academic camp last summer and discovered her parents had abandoned her. So she did the only thing she knew, she adjusted. She went to live with a friend’s mother. She took a part-time job as the custodian at her school, starting work at 6 a.m., two hours before classes began at Burns High. She carried toothpaste, toothbrush, shower soap and shampoo in her bag, because taking a shower was a matter of opportunity.

Federal studies estimate 1.4 million students in the United States are homeless. Officials at Burns High say about a half-dozen of their 1,100 students are without a home. Studies show many homeless students drop out, sometimes turning to crime. A few make it to college. Dawn Loggins however is going to Harvard.

“There were a lot of things outside Dawn’s control,” says Robyn Putnam, a counselor at Burns High and one of many people who have tried to fill the gap left by parents who weren’t there. “But Dawn learned that succeeding in school was something she could control.” With nothing less than an A-minus, Loggins, 18, has beaten the odds and graduated with the other 300-plus seniors from her northern Cleveland County, N.C., high school. Loggins says, “It’s not the end for me – just another step.”

Loggins has reached this point despite having to study by candlelight, by wearing an overcoat on nights when the power had been turned off at her family’s home, dealing with the embarrassment of wearing the same dress to school several days in a row in middle school, going days without a shower, walking with her older brother to the town park with buckets to get water from the public spigots and moving from house to house, from school to school, frequently adjusting to new surroundings and classmates.

When Loggins’ stepfather lost his job it started a cycle of problems, as the family moved from house to house, dealing with the utilities being cut off for non-payment, and then the evictions. She and her brother Shane missed several months of the 2009-10 academic year, before her mother finally enrolled her at Burns High in March 2010. “She was behind, academically,” Putnam says. “She had to take classes online, but she caught up.” Those online courses prevented Loggins from enrolling in Advanced Placement classes and earning extra academic points. It’s the reason she ranks about 10th in her senior class, despite having straight A’s.

During that sophomore year, the family’s personal belongings were auctioned off. That cost Loggins many of her childhood belongings, she says. But her junior year was one of achievement, capped by an appointment to Governor’s School last summer in Raleigh, N.C. Putnam drove Loggins to the camp and brought her back home when it was finished. Loggins says she tried calling her parents near the end of camp, but their phone service had been cut off. “When she returned,” Putnam says, her “parents were gone.”

Loggins says she later learned her parents had moved to Tennessee. Initially, she stayed at friends’ houses, sleeping on their couches. But with the help of Putnam and others, Loggins found a temporary home with a friend’s mother, Sheryl Kolton, custodian at Burns Middle School. “Sheryl gave me stability,” Loggins says. “Because of her, I could stay at Burns. There wasn’t the drama of another school change.” Cornerstone Dental Office in Shelby, N.C., supplied Loggins with a lot of personal belongings, and others in the community stepped in.

Loggins was accepted at UNC Chapel Hill. But Carol Rose, a volunteer who had helped Loggins fill out college applications, asked her, “Why not aim high?” Rose told her to try for Harvard. The acceptance letter arrived about two months ago. Loggins will have grants and will get an on-campus job to pay her tuition, books, room and board. She says she isn’t worried about taking the step from an 1,100-student school about 15 miles north of Shelby, N.C., to an academic powerhouse in the shadows of Boston. “I’ve had to work to get where I am,” she says. “I think everything that happened to me was preparing me for what’s to come.”

“In my family, I saw people taking advantage of one another,” she says. “I don’t want to take advantage of anyone. I just want a chance to succeed. And I’ll have that at Harvard.” Loggins’ brother Shane moved in with friends in Hickory, N.C., and will graduate this week from high school as well, having received a college scholarship himself.



Thought for the Day

When we are compassionate toward our suffering, the pleasures of kindness, connectedness, and mindfulness quickly become blended with our painful feelings. The resulting flavor can be surprisingly satisfying — a little like dark chocolate. Without any pain, the pleasure of life would be too sugary, without any depth or complexity. On the other hand, pain without pleasure would be too bitter, like unsweetened cocoa. But when pain and pleasure are combined, when both are embraced with an open heart, you start to feel whole, full, complete. So next time you’re having  a hard time, try remembering the words dark chocolate. It might just be the inspiration you need to wrap your bitter pain in the sweet, loving folds of compassion.” -Kristin Neff

Ithaca Mayor Turns His Personal Parking Space Into a Mini-Park

After Svante Myrick, 25, became the youngest-ever mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., he gave us his car to join the estimated 15 percent of his city’s residents who walk to work. As mayor, however, Myrick has a prime downtown parking spot reserved for his exclusive use. So instead of letting it stand empty, last week he began to, as he put it, “turn the Mayor’s parking space into a park space.”

Myrick hasn’t given up driving entirely; he belongs to the local Ithaca Carshare and told the Ithaca Times, “I love driving … I miss my car.” But he’s also working to enhance Ithaca’s transportation options. On his campaign website, he wrote, “The answer to too many cars is not necessarily more parking spaces … We can change traffic patterns and parking behaviors by providing alternative methods of transportation which are more affordable, reliable and convenient.” Svante Myrick just might be their favorite prodigy mayor ever.


Stray Dog Follows Bikers for 1,000 Miles & Gets Heartwarming Surprise at the Finish Line

They say dogs are man’s best friend, and that certainly is the case with little stray pooch Xiao Sa, who liked man so much that she ran after a bunch of them cycling their way across China. The pup first took an interest in the pack of bikers after one fed her. As anyone who has fed a stray knows, that’s it. You’ve basically adopted it. But not one of the cyclists expected the small white and beige pup to keep up with them for over 1,000 miles of tough China terrain.

Astonished by the dog’s ability to run at least 37 miles a day and uphill over 10 mountains, the group named her Xiao Sa, or Little Sa, and began to blog about her. Others took to calling her “Forrest Gump.” The pooch also helped keep the biker’s spirit’s up during their trip. One participant said, “We did more than 40 miles uphill and at the end I had to get off and push my bike instead. But the dog ran ahead of me and stopped at a crossroads. She waited for a while, but got bored because I took so long, so ran back, put her paws on my calves, and started licking me. I could see she cared about me.”

Out of the thousands who began the race, only four finished. And one of them was a dog. Another finisher, 22-year-old Xiao Yong, is going to adopt the canine marathoner. There’s no doubt the pup will be able to keep up with whatever biking adventures Yong embarks on in the future.

What an amazing, little dog!


Maternal Deaths Drop by Nearly Half Worldwide Over 20 Years; Greater Progress Still Needed, U.N. Reports

The number of women dying of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in 20 years, according to new estimates released by the United Nations, which stressed that greater progress is still needed in significantly reducing maternal deaths. The report from the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank said about 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing nations, and most are preventable. The decline is attributable to increases in contraception and in antiretroviral drugs for mothers with AIDS, and to greater numbers of births attended by nurses, doctors or midwives with medical training. “We know exactly what to do to prevent maternal deaths: improve access to voluntary family planning, invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund.


Thought for the Day

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.  ~E.E. Cummings

Teen Wins National Prize for Creating Pancreatic Cancer Test

There has been a breakthrough in the fight against pancreatic cancer, and it’s all thanks to a 15-year-old teen and his mom, who drove him to Johns Hopkins University every night after school to test his theory in a lab. North County High School freshman Jack Andraka won what is considered the Olympics of science fairs with a diagnostic breakthrough in cancer treatment. The Crownsville 15-year-old won a $75,000 grand prize in this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his new way to test for early-stage pancreatic cancer.

Andraka said the inspiration came from an uncle who died of the disease. He said the idea came to him in biology class. “That’s what’s really cool about science to me — you can affect other people’s lives. You can basically do anything with science,” the teen winner said. Based on the model of diabetic testing paper, Andraka created a dipstick sensor that tests blood or urine and detects pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. He said he did his work in the Johns Hopkins lab of Dr. Anirban Maitra, who said yes to Andraka after 200 other researchers had turned him down. “This is, without question, one of the most lethal malignancies known to mankind, and very, very few people who get it survive. So, when there is a 15-year-old who writes with that much passion about making an early-detection test for pancreatic cancer, there is no way you cannot hit the reply button,” Maitra told 11 News.

Andraka’s paper sensor boasts more than 90 percent accuracy and is 28 times faster, 28 times cheaper, and more than 100 times more sensitive than current tests for the disease, 11 News reporter Kate Amara said. “It can detect pancreatic cancer for about 3 cents in five minutes,” Andraka said. The teen’s mom said she raised her kids to be inquisitive and look for answers. “If they were curious about something, I wouldn’t answer their question. I’d say, ‘Find it out. Do an experiment. Test your hypothesis,'” Jane Andraka said.