Category Archives: Profiles & Interviews

Hypnosis Can Help. And George Kappas From HMI

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Einstein’s definition of insanity has often been quoted: “Trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  As many people who may engage in that exercise in futility, there are many others who simply give up.  Of course a third option is to try something new.  Something different that you may have been closed off to at some point, or was not aware of.

There are a myriad of symptoms and conditions, physical and mental, which may accompany cancer, and treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  In addition, caregivers are also under a tremendous amount of stress as well.

Power - Golden Key.

(c) tashatuvango/bigstockphoto.com

Hypnosis is a non-invasive, non-medicinal way to effectively resolve or manage many of these symptoms.  It can be completely complimentary and doesn’t have to interfere with any other form of treatment. 

My view of hypnosis is that it is a form of guided meditation. In this “meditation”, you can intentionally access a different area of the mind in a relaxed state.  Examples of specific intentions while “under” hypnosis include: quitting smoking, pain reduction, or simply relaxing.

I think of this different area of the mind as the kitchen.  If you want to change the way food turns out, it would be harder to change it from the living room no matter how hard you “willed” it.  You need to be where the best tools are.

Another way to look at it is to think of this different area of the mind, the subconscious, as your control center. From the day you are born messages that you can’t always control, from family, friends, advertisers, the media, etc., get in to your control center and affect the way you think, feel, and react.  With hypnosis you intentionally access your control center and take control.  Decisions made here, by you while under hypnosis, can make change happen faster and feel more natural.   

hmi-buildingMy first exposure to hypnosis came when I was a child in summer camp.  A camp counselor taught a few others and myself.  It wasn’t until many years later that I picked it up again and began serious study at the nationally accredited Hypnosis Motivation Institute (HMI) in Tarzana, CA.

I really enjoyed and learned from the program and saw example after example of it working first hand.  Hypnosis is a great tool.  One that I would suggest you adding to your tool box especially if you’ve been trying the same thing over and over again and are not getting results, or are ready to give up.  Whether you want help with pain, anxiety, diet, quitting smoking, any fear or phobia, there are many ways hypnosis can potentially help.

Of course you don’t have to have cancer to reap the benefits of hypnosis.

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George Kappas at an HMI graduation with one his Students.

I reached out to George Kappas, the Director of HMI College of Hypnotherapy and the Producer of the new Television Series, “HYPNOTIZED” to ask him some questions you might be interested in.  At the end of the interview, I include some more links of interest for the use of hypnosis.

Jeff: I recall being in a lecture with you where you were talking about how people with issues will see their doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, astrologer, anyone and everyone, and then, when all else fails, they would see a hypnotherapist.  Why do think there is such resistance to hypnosis when it can be so effective?

George: For the vast majority, the only exposure we have had to hypnosis is how the media has portrayed it in film. From Svengali forward it has not been an accurate or flattering portrayal. 

I even consulted on a very popular movie last year called Trance, when the lead actor met with me to learn how to portray a hypnotherapist.  When she relayed the storyline I told her, listen that’s not how hypnosis really works.  But there was nothing I could do, the story wouldn’t be exciting enough if they were to use accurate information.  So the result is we get intriguing story lines but a fearful view of hypnosis.

Jeff: Okay than, so what are the three biggest myths associated with hypnosis?

George:

  1. Loss of control
  2. Uncontrolled revealing of secrets
  3. Amnesia

Jeff: So people should not worry about losing control, revealing things they do not want to or forgetting what happened while they were “in a trance?”

George: These are common misconceptions that make people reluctant to try hypnotherapy.  The fact is no one losses control or reveals anything they don’t want to and any mild amnesia is no different than not remembering the last few exits on the freeway when your driving while tired.

Editors note, while the phrase, “deep sleep” is often used in hypnosis; this does not refer to literal sleep, you are very relaxed but aware while in trance.

Jeff: For someone who has tried other methods to quit smoking or make diet changes how can hypnosis succeed where other methods have failed?

George: Hypnotherapy is not going to “make” you quit smoking, you have to really be motivated to achieve the goal.  Hypnotherapy is going to help you overcome the belief that you “can’t quit.”  Once you come to believe it is very possible to be successful and to do so without being completely miserable, you will find it was not as hard as you thought.

Jeff: When it is successful, how many sessions does it normally take to quit smoking or to make diet changes?

George: The number of sessions it takes to achieve any goal varies from individual to individual.  The one session “cures” are another misconception about hypnotherapy.  If you have had a certain habit or conditioning for 30 years you need to be realistic about the appropriate amount of time that should be invested to really change your beliefs and habits surrounding that conditioning.  That’s the long answer.  The short answer is that I recommend 4 to 8 weeks and then evaluate your progress.

Jeff: Is there such a thing as a good or bad candidate for hypnosis?

George: A good candidate is a person who really wants to change and is willing to listen, learn and do the homework.  A bad candidate is someone who is dragged into therapy by someone else or really wants the therapy to fail so they can say, “see I told you so.”

Jeff: Is there anyone who can’t be hypnotized?  OR, can you briefly talk about the HMI method of factoring in suggestability and why that is important?

George: Everyone can be hypnotized, it is a naturally occurring state that we all experience every night as we transition from wakefulness to sleep. Just as each person has a unique personality, each person has a unique suggestibility pattern and responses to language and suggestions in a unique way.

Selecting a graduate from a quality hypnotherapy school and internship program help assures that your hypnotherapist will be able to account for those differences.

We have heard so many times from new subjects that “they saw a hypnotist before and they could not be hypnotized.” This is more a reflection of the Hypnotherapist than the subject.  The Hypnotherapist either did not account for individual personality differences or did not dispel common myths and expectations, like amnesia or loss of control.

If you define the experience of “hypnosis” by the occurrence of amnesia or loss of control, then “no, you can’t be hypnotized.”

Jeff: Right because if a person comes out of trance and says “hey I remember everything and I wasn’t asleep” they may incorrectly assume they weren’t hypnotized if that is all they are basing it on.

Talking about cancer now George.  Someone undergoing cancer treatment may experience a lot of side effects that are physically based, such as: pain, nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite. What are realistic expectations with hypnosis as far as helping to alleviate symptoms as much as possible?

George: We created a great little documentary called www.HypnosisAndCancer.com

The cancer patients really did a great job of sharing their experiences and how hypnotherapy was helping them.

Jeff: Can’t wait to watch it.  Can it help with anxiety or depression?

George: Yes.  This is an area that the Hypnotherapist and client need a referral from their Physician or Psychotherapist.  Keep in mind that those are vague words that can range from feeling mildly blue to having a crippling disorder.  Hypnotherapy is going to have a greater impact on the lighter sides of the spectrum.

Jeff: Can a person effectively learn to do self-hypnosis to help themselves in these areas?

George: Sometimes yes, again for the lighter ranges of the spectrum.  Like learning mediation, it is often helpful to be trained on the process.

Jeff:  In the lead up to this interview I also mention there can also be issues for caregivers. Any recommendations for them?

George: The American Hypnosis Association has a training course called “Caring for the Caregiver”, because boy do they deserve some care too.

Jeff: I’ve read some who think hypnosis, the mind itself, can actually cure cancer.  I do not believe there is scientific evidence to support this.  Do you have any thoughts on this?

George: What the mind is capable of is a difficult thing to fully comprehend.  I would be very cautious suggesting that to someone out of concern that they would be encouraged not to follow medical advice.  I think a nice balanced approach between Western and Alternative medicine is a good strategy.

Jeff:  Why do you think the mind/ collective consciousness latches on to certain forms of death or crisis, (like flying and guns versus driving and cancer) and doesn’t seem to see or grasp the extent of others?

George: Media coverage!

Jeff: Fair enough… Western and alternative medicines don’t agree on a lot of things.  One thing they do agree on is the importance of diet.  We know this and yet despite our survival instinct many refuse to eat their fruits and veggies.  It is as simple as we like our comfort food? 

What is the hypnotist’s answer to why we do too many things that are bad for us, and not enough that are good?

George: Culture and lack of information has a lot to do with it.  Culture is how we were raised.  That’s a pretty big thing.  Most people lack proper information about diet and health.  Then even when you do receive the information you need the encouragement of your friends and family to help with the motivation to take advantage of the information.  If all our friends, family and role models starting wearing and praising red shoes, we might find ourselves attracted to red shoes as well.

Jeff: You refer to the subconscious as a powerful resource one that you can, “help get working for us on a daily basis”.  Why isn’t it currently working for us and how do you get it to do so?

George: We have habits and beliefs that often work against our health, happiness and prosperity.  Hypnotherapy is a wonderful tool for addressing when our habits and/or automatic behaviors are in conflict with our conscious desires.

Jeff: Well put!  What should a person look for in finding a good hypnotherapist?

George: I of course would recommend someone who invested the most time and money into their education to become a Hypnotherapist and graduated from an accredited school. You can find them at www.HMIgrads.com

I want to thank George for answering my questions and echo the importance of working with someone who graduated from an accredited school like HMI, or comes referred to you by someone you trust. Regulations for hypnosis vary by state.  For a summary of these state laws, click here.

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Here is an online abstract about hypnosis from the Wiley Online Library: Hypnosis for Cancer Care.

From the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Decreasing Cancer-Related Symptoms With Hypnosis.

From The Mayo Clinic reported on CNN Health: Alternative Cancer Treatments: 11 Options to Consider.

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You can screen Kappas’ new TV show for free @  http://hypnosis.edu/Hypnotized

hypnotism-manual

Written by George’s father and HMI founder Dr. John Kappas.

For people in the Los Angeles area, HMI offers free classes to help you get acquainted with hypnosis and the school.  They offer some free on-line classes as well. For more information on the school, classes and their bookstore you can go to http://www.hypnosis.edu

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Both Sides Now – A True Story of Love, Loss and Bold Living. Nancy Sharp Interview.

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Death is something many of us are in denial about.  When we’re young we don’t think it will happen it us. As we age, we still don’t want to think about it, much less talk about it.  We’re told it can happen to our loved ones, or to us, at any time.  Intellectually we nod in agreement but on an emotional level many of us do not get it. Until someone we love is taken from us… and than we do.  How do we react when this traumatic reality pierces our veil of denial?

There are any number of reactions to a crisis or traumatic event.  Most of which are valid.  While far from the solution to every problem, preparation can offer a better chance to overcome and or be emotionally prepared.

A diagnosis of cancer presents a crisis first and foremost to the person receiving the diagnosis, but also to that person’s loved ones.

There can be so many levels to this. In the case when cancer is fatal, there is the process of dying before death.  Focusing on the loves being left behind:

  • How do they identify themselves in the absence of this person?
  • How do they go through it?
  • How do they recover?
  • How do they move on?

These are emotional questions.  There are also logistical questions to be answered as the roles played by the lost spouse have to be filled.

9In her memoir, Both Sides Now, Nancy Sharp strikes a great balance writing with eloquence and heart, as she logistically lays out the step by step journey that she, her husband Brett, and their children went through.

  • From Brett’s initial diagnosis of cancer.
  • To the decision to have a child.
  • The ups and downs of thinking the cancer is behind them.
  • To excepting the diagnosis, and eventual passing.
  • How Nancy and her family honored, and remembered Brett, and moved on.

I recently lost my mother to cancer and was able to relate too much of Nancy’s internal turmoil, emotions, and stages of grief that she went through. 

In addition to what a cancer patient and family may go through from the disease aspect of things, the book has many messages that include: appreciation of life and the importance of going forward for anyone who has lost anyone…  Regardless of the cause.

I think the book is also a good and worthwhile read as a cautionary tale for those in denial and think something like this can never happen to them.

You never know if, when, and how preparation can make a difference.

Here is my interview with Nancy:

Jeff: Can you describe the emotions you felt writing Both Sides Now?  Was it cathartic?  Overly emotional?  Were certain parts more challenging to write than others?

Nancy: Writing Both Sides Now was definitely not cathartic! I get asked that question often. Yes, parts of it were downright painful, particularly those sections about my children in the days leading up to Brett’s death, and in those that follow. I lived with so much ongoing trauma – nearly a decade of care-giving and mourning. It was only after the book was finished that I came to see how the writing allowed me to integrate the whole of my experience in a way that I hadn’t before. In this way, it was healing. 

Jeff: That’s a great perspective for someone to keep in mind whether they want to write a book or just journal their feelings. 

On page 45 you wrote,”We had no knowledge of this future when we learned of your diagnosis…” This is in reference to not knowing Brett would have to relearn how walk and other side effects.  Could Brett, and you, have been better prepared for possible side effects by the doctors?  And would that have affected the treatment choices or recovery in any way?

Nancy: I’m not sure. No one case is the same. Besides, telling a family about possible side effects and living them are altogether different. It’s akin to waiting for someone to die. You think that you know what to expect but nothing really prepares you for the finality of death.

Jeff: Good point.  But I do see cautionary value here for people to really take in all the possibilities their health  team spells out to them. 

When things are going bad talk about the important role having hopefulness in your life outside of illness played.  Such as planning to have children… And what it meant to you and Brett.

Nancy: “The only proof of cure is life.” This is the first line of the book and one that held profound meaning for me. The thing is: life happens all around you. Life does not stop just because your husband has cancer. You have to find ways to affirm that, and for Brett and me, that was the decision to have children in the wake of his cancer. 

Jeff: Wonderful. On page 73 you write:”I put myself in new situations to tip the scales in my favor”.  Why was this important to your healing process?

Nancy:  You can’t wait for life to happen. You have to make life happen.

Jeff: How did your Uncle Harvey (also a doctor) influence Brett’s care?  What treatment did Brett receive that he might not have otherwise, and did it make any sort of difference?

Nancy: Such terrible irony that Harvey is a pediatric oncologist since Brett’s tumor, a medulloblastoma, typically affects children ages five and under.

How lucky we were to have him at the forefront of Brett’s care. He was the first person we called upon receiving Brett’s diagnosis, and we didn’t make a move without him the entire duration of Brett’s illness.

Harvey was a sounding board –- an unbelievably good and patient listener. He made phone calls. He came to important meetings. He did the research. And never once did he try to paint an unrealistic picture; he wanted Brett to live as much as any of us.

Jeff: Once you and Brett were told his odds were 5% did you consider any alternative or complimentary forms of treatment?

Nancy: No. Dr. Jonathan Finlay, who was then at the Hassenfeld Clinic at New York University, outlined a treatment plan combining drugs he thought might keep the cancer at bay even though the odds were against us.

Brett did in fact go into remission thereafter, but not long. I believe that Dr. Finlay helped to prolong Brett’s life.

Jeff: How important was play therapy in your twin children’s processing of what was going on?  Was this something you initiated or had to be convinced was the right way to include or explain things to them? 

brettnancytwins4021Nancy: The play therapy was vital for all of us. It was hard enough for me to process all that was happening let alone having to do this for the twins.

The play therapy came through a child psychiatrist who specialized in working with grieving children, and later, through a brilliant social worker who drew simple line drawings:

  • here is Daddy getting his medicine (chemo);
  • here is Daddy resting in bed because he’s very tired.

Eventually, she would draw: “When someone dies their body stops working. They don’t eat or walk or talk anymore.”

I learned that you must be very concrete with young children.

Jeff: Did a doctor explain how Brett could have clean MRI scan after clean MRI scan, and then have the scan that has everybody saying there is nothing we can do… Brett’s options have run out…(P137 and 145) Is it just a limitation of western medicine?  Or could something else screening or preventative wise been done?

Nancy: This is a very interesting question to ponder. While no one ever said, “he is cured,” naturally we clung to such hope. Which meant that any setback, unclear as it was – leftover radiation schmutz or new signs of cancer? – set us on a roller-coaster ride.

The very hardest stretch for me were the six months prior to Brett’s big seizure in November 2003. I sensed that Brett was changing before my eyes. He was very forgetful, confused, and absent-minded even though his MRI scans remained clean. This was when Dr. Stuart Fleishman, MD, at Beth Israel Cancer Center in New York, told me that the Brett I knew before cancer would never be back.

He was trying to convey how a person’s functional capacity diminishes even though their cancer is in remission.  

Jeff: Between family, friends, social workers, doctors, Rabbi’s and support groups, it seemed like you both had a great support network.  How important was it for Brett, you and your children to have that verses going it alone?  How hard or easy was it to access support groups and social workers?

Nancy: No one should have to go through a cancer diagnosis alone. Brett’s cancer pre-dated the rise of the internet. Today, there is MyLifeline.org, which offers free resources and websites for cancer patients and their families.

Jeff: What resources required money and what were free or very low cost?  What help did cancercare.org or groups like LiveStrong.org provide?

Nancy: I went to CancerCare.org. They offer social service support. There are many national and local cancer resources available today that can be easily accessed via the Internet and the social workers at local hospital settings.

Jeff: On page 227 you said, “Taking care of little things gives a sense of order”…”disorder in your home, disorder in your soul.” “This is no myth”.  How did this work or play out for you in terms of any disorder you may have felt, and little things you did to help you feel a sense of order?

Nancy: Living with the reality of my husband’s cancer made me feel that my life was out of control. Ordering my home in very small, tactical ways allowed me to regain some measure of control.

Jeff: That has worked for me as well.

It is natural for people to subconsciously carry unresolved issues from one relationship into the next… When dating Steve he called you on what your therapist would later phrase as you feeling as if “separation isn’t survivable… but you will learn that with Steve that it is”. How long did it take for you to learn this and for it to sink in on an emotional level?

Nancy: The whole process of mourning is so layered. I can’t really answer “how long.” Years! Seeing takes time. Healing takes time. These are my words from the book and they couldn’t more applicable here. Ultimately, I had to find ways to bring my past with me, to make it a part of my present relationship with Steve, just not the whole part. The same was true for him.

Jeff: And those are wise words, but I think you left out one very important detail in your book that I’m hoping you’ll answer here… When you took Brett to Philadelphia, what kind of cheesesteak sandwiches did you guys get??

Nancy: Just cheesesteaks! Plain and simple without all the adornments.

Jeff: Works for me!  Nancy, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing your story with the world.  Health and happiness to you and your family.

Nancy: Thank you so much for the privilege of sharing my experience. To life!

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0855 _Nancy_Sharp_13March2012For more information on Nancy, you can go to NancySharp.net.  Both Sides Now is available for purchase on Amazon.com

And for those interested, the book offers 10 questions for individuals or book discussion groups to consider and talk about. Nancy makes herself available to participate and discuss the work.  You may contact Nancy at NSharp@nancysharp.net   

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James Seneca & Cops Fighting Cancer

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Understandably, no one plans on getting cancer.  Many times we never see it coming.  It can derail the life of the person in hits, and the lives of those that love him or her.  There is no question it is devastating blow.  Each person’s response and journey will take on a life of its own based on a great many factors.

For many, survival becomes the fight of their life.  Some lose, through no fault of their own.  Some win and become inspired, and are forever changed by the experience.

One such person is Officer James Seneca.  When James was just 26 (in 1987) he was diagnosed with Leukemia.  James would beat the thirty percent odds he was given and not allow it to derail a path he had been just two weeks into upon his diagnosis.  Young James was taking part in police training at the Buffalo Police Academy.

Though undeterred from an existing goal, becoming a police officer (Now in Aurora Colorado) a new perspective and a new mission came from his illness and recovery:

“It’s just simple compassion. I was spared so I could help these families.”

2012-10-02[2]The seed was planted and eventually Cops Fighting Cancer was born. 

In these tough economic times it may not be difficult to imagine someone, or a family, having financial issues, such as paying rent, or for food.  Try imagining having those concerns and having to deal with cancer.  Having to deal with major surgery, radiation, and or chemotherapy. Or maybe a person can’t afford their treatment.

CFC does what it can to support, in any way possible, Colorado families coping with cancer.  I had the privilege to interview James.  Please give it a read and visit the CFC website. Consider making a donation or buying a cookbook or cool t-shirt!  I just bought mine!

Jeff: Between family, being a police office, and Cops Fighting Cancer, how do you balance them all? 

James: I pretty much live and die helping families with cancer and if anyone needs help then I drop everything and contact them and see what their greatest need might be.  But I do have some great people and staff that help me so it’s not just me anymore running CFC.

I have three great kids who live in San Antonio, Texas with their mother.  When I go visit with my children in Texas or when they are here with me for the summer that is when I relax.

Jeff: Where is CFC now in terms of size, dollars raised and number of people helped?

James: We have helped well over 200 families from throughout the state and visited with over 7,000 patients at our annual Children’s hospital event. We have raised close to $750,000 over the years and it’s quite competitive with these other non profits, which number close to 20,000 in the state of Colorado.

Jeff: That’s great James.  Go back to the beginning… What were the biggest challenges or obstacles in growing CFC?  And was there ever a point where you almost stopped?  If so, what kept you going?  How did you overcome the challenges?

James: It was like pushing a loco motive by yourself and it slowly started moving and here we are almost 13 years later. The biggest challenge was getting people to believe in what we were trying to accomplish in the community.

But our idea was unique because I was a survivor and could relate to these families who had cancer.

Raising money is always a challenge and finding the time and trying to juggle all these things in my life.

Yes I have almost stopped a number of times because of the heartache of building relationships with some of these special people than unfortunately they pass away.  It is especially hard when they involve children. What keeps me strong and moving forward is GOD, because I know this is my calling.  So I rely on him for my strength.

Jeff: And you are quite strong.  You’ve been fighting cancer for a long time; both as a survivor and by helping others through CFC…  What are one or two of the changes for the better over the years that you have noticed in cancer care?

James: Since my first diagnosis on August 17th 1987 (leukemia) my survivor rate was only 30 percent, today for my cancer its 80 percent. The survivor rates are much better but people and children are still dying!

Jeff: That’s one big reason why we have to keep fighting! But the improved survival rates are great and do offer hope…  What are the most common concerns or needs an individual or family might have when they come to you?

James: The most common concern is financial and emotional support and we try and provide both with their personal battle against cancer.

Jeff:I see you are pretty widespread throughout the state of Colorado… Are there similar Cops Fighting Cancer organizations in other states?

James: We are the only police related organization that does what we do but there are others that do other things for families. Our goal is to widen the opportunity for other agencies around the country someday.

Jeff: Sometimes there can be friction between law enforcement and local communities, has CFC helped to bond and show communities a different side to the police?  And vice versa, have officers gained any new perspectives on the communities they serve?

James: Yes it has created a better relationship between the community and the various local police departments because it shows the real compassionate side of police officers helping families in the community

Our officers love helping families with cancer and it puts things in perspective for them and some can relate from their own personal experience with cancer.

Jeff: There are some heartbreaking and heartwarming testimonials on your site about people whose lives you have helped… “Valerie” has outlived her stage 4 diagnoses.  How often do you find that happens and how important is the hope that the person has and the hope you assist people in having by your support in their journey?

James: Our mission statement is Hope, Support and Compassion and we believe that we give all three of these important things to these special families. We give people that glimmer of hope that they need sometimes when they are hanging on by a thread. There are so many amazing people out there and we are so blessed to have helped so many families over the years.

Jeff: I’m so sorry for her family and for you.  How long beyond what the doctors told her did she survive? 

James: Unfortunately Valerie passed away last year and left four young children at the age of 32.

(Editor’s note: CFC did make a big difference in Valerie’s fight, to hear/watch her testimonial, click here)

Jeff: Is there a story or accomplishment of CFC not on your site that sticks out to you

James: Wow, there are so many stories and people out there that changed my life. Every person and family that we have helped is so very special.

Like Justin Miller who fought his cancer like a roaring lion.

Breanna Martinez who loved GOD with all of her heart and confronted a Doctor who didn’t believe in GOD.

The Miguel Pedro story; where we fulfilled his dream of becoming an honorary police officer before he died.

The list could go on and on with so many amazing stories. I hope to write a book someday to share some of these amazing experiences about these unbelievable people and their courageous battles against cancer.

Jeff: You should write a book!  What changes, if any, have you made in your life as a result of your cancer?  (As far diet, exercise and perspective on life?)

James: I love to eat so it’s not my diet but moderation is the key. My FAITH is first and foremost in my life. I work out six days a week and currently in the best shape of my life.

You have to be in the best shape of your life in all aspects in order to help people. My perspective on life has definitely changed and has taught me not to take things for granted especially the health of my children and your own personal health. Every day is a blessing!

Jeff: Indeed James… If a friend asked you for your three best cancer-preventing tips… They would be?

James: Exercise, don’t smoke, and don’t drink… which I practice every day!

Jeff: As someone on the front lines in the fight, and as a survivor, what would you like to see more of being done?

James: More funding and grants to help families financially because they struggle terribly when fighting their battle and the bills keep coming in no matter what.

We helped two families in one month when they were ready to be evicted.  We stopped that process and gave them a check to stop the eviction. What a great feeling!

Jeff: That’s so great that CFC does that… Many times when people think of volunteering they think of the giving aspects of it, what are some of the benefits your volunteers get out of working with CFC?

James: Our volunteers get the opportunity to help with cancer patients and their families especially children, which is huge reward to our volunteers. It’s a very fulfilling experience to help these families and the sick children at Colorado Children’s hospital every year. It definitely puts things into perspective for them!

Jeff: So it sounds like they get direct and real hands on experience?

James: Yes they do in many ways!

Jeff: What are some simple ways someone reading this can make a difference in the fight against cancer?

James: The main ingredient is coming up with various fundraising ideas to help our families. Any donations or fundraising ideas would be greatly appreciated and any media interest would be great as well to get the word out. I was in People magazine in March 2007 called People Hero’s among us which gave us some great exposure.

Jeff: So if someone has an idea for a fundraiser who should they contact?  And whom should media inquiries be direct to?

James: All inquiries should be directed to me at 720-938-3810.

Jeff: What has been your best fundraiser?

James: Our best and greatest fundraiser was where we held a boxing event called Battle of the Badges. It was a huge success!

Jeff: Do you know what and when the next fundraiser will be?

James: We are hoping for a boxing event in the fall between police and fire. More to follow.

Here is James with CFC's 2013 Long Blue Line Ambassador, Justin Miller.

Here is James with CFC’s 2013 Long Blue Line Ambassador, Justin Miller.

Jeff: If someone wants to get involved with CFC, donate, volunteer, buy a cool t-shirt, or just learn more, your website is?

James: People can make donations on our website located on our donation page through pay pal and the web site is: copsfightingcancer.org

Jeff: And for someone in the Colorado area who may need your help, who do they contact?  How do they qualify?

James: People needing assistance can go to our website and go to our nomination page and fill out the information and our director Alice Jackson will get back to them.

Jeff: Any last thought you would like to share?

James: Our organization is so blessed to have had the opportunity to help so many families over the years and we will continue our mission until they find a cure for cancer.

Great… Keep up the great work you do with CFC and the police.  Stay safe and stay healthy!

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Difference Maker – Jack Andraka

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Wednesday March 19th, 2014 by Jeff Schubert

jack the maker 002It only takes one Jack Andraka to make me to now appreciate that schools force science on young students.  I’m 46 and I still don’t know the difference between meiosis and mitosis, but at age 14, Mr. Andraka responded to the loss of his uncle, to pancreatic cancer, by dedicating himself to being a difference maker.

Andraka had an idea for a new test that would screen for pancreatic cancer, better, faster, and cheaper than what currently exists.  Late detection is part of what makes pancreatic cancer so deadly.

One of the takeaways for me, from my back and forth below with Andraka, is that he never took his eyes off of his goal.  No set back, no amount of rejection was going to deter him.

Going forward, without guarantees takes courage, faith and discipline. We still don’t know the end result of Andraka’s efforts, (his work is still in the ‘proof of concept’ stage). However, his efforts have already been a big success in that they have sparked research, enthusiasm, awareness, and hope that would not have come to pass without it.  As it stands, his cancer detection method has earned him the the 2012 Gordon E. Moore award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  He received $75,000.  Further, he continues to research, speak out, and serve as a role model.

His story also inspired documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock  (Super Size Me) to write and direct the short film, You Don’t Know Jack.

If you are unfamiliar with Andraka’s award winning project, watch this clip and than read the answers to the questions he was kind enough to answer for me:

JS:  It is one thing to have an idea, but from an organizational perspective, what were the steps involved in going from point “A”, the idea, to point “B” your final execution?

JA: I knew I wanted to create a sensor to detect pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages, when people would have a much better chance at survival. Of course when I started I didn’t even know what a pancreas was, much less pancreatic cancer so I turned to the internet to learn more.

I spent a lot of time reading and learning and thinking and then while I was reading an article about single walled carbon nanotubes in high school biology class and listening to the teacher talk about antibodies I had an epiphany! What if I combined what I was reading about (nanotubes) and what I was listening to (antibodies) and created a way to detect cancer.

Of course I had a lot more learning to do to create an experimental design and then get into a lab and then learn lab techniques needed to make the sensor. I had a lot of setbacks but finally I created a paper sensor that can detect mesothelin, a protein thought to be over expressed in pancreatic cancer. Of course it is still a ‘proof of concept’ idea and has a lot more work to be done on it before it can go on to help people.

JS: It’s amazing that it has come this far.  You came up with the idea at age 14? What gave you the belief in yourself that you can do this?

JA: Teenagers are energetic and optimistic. Our knowledge is not ‘silo-ed’ and we don’t have a fear of failure. If something doesn’t work we can just try again. So armed with my teenage optimism, I thought that I would give my idea a try and see if it worked. 

JS: We’re all glad you did!  Did friends or family say you were nuts?  Or what was their reaction when you said, I’m going to invent a better, faster, and cheaper way to detect pancreatic cancer?

JA: My parents did not like my idea at all. I had previously worked on an environmental biosensor and they really thought that was more doable and age appropriate. I could do it at my house and not need a lab. I was just 14 and they thought this was a good idea but that I should wait a few years until I was 16 to try it.

Once they saw that I was determined to attempt the project they were very supportive and helped me emotionally through the many setbacks.

JS: That’s great…  I read in a Forbes interview that you were receiving a lot of rejection and one particular letter that pointed out why what you wanted to do was impossible.  You said you began to despair.  Rejection, an expert saying it’s impossible, and personal despair.  For a lot of people that is a recipe for giving up. How did you go on from this or any other moment of doubt?

I had spent a lot of time thinking about and designing my experiment and I really just wanted to see if it could work. The more time and effort I expended, the more I wanted to be able to give it a try, even if it didn’t turn out. I was just very curious.

In the meanwhile though, I was still going to school and having a social life like any teenager. I would just check my emails every day after school and after receiving rejections I would look up more email addresses and try again.

JS: Maintaining balance like that is important…  I also read that you lost a month’s worth of work when you had cell samples explode, at what stage of your research did this occur?  Was this your biggest obstacle? And how did you pick yourself up from this or any other physical setback?

JA: My setbacks came because of my inexperience. I had grown my cells and was ready to centrifuge them but put them in a centrifuge that was too small and the test tubes broke. There was nothing to do but go back and grow them again and be sure to pick a larger centrifuge!! I learned more from my mistakes than I could ever have done from reading about possible mistakes in a book.

JS: That’s very wise of you…  If time, money and resources were not an issue, what would you be doing or like to see someone else do to find a cure for cancer.

JA: I would like to design a machine that could detect diseases from a blood or urine sample, and then print out a personalized medicine on the spot!

JS: Is this doable?  How far away are we from this kind of breakthrough?

JA:  I by myself don’t have the time, resources, or knowledge to drive this project forward, which is why I’m talking with biotech companies who can. Also MIT just came out with a paper cancer sensor and they for sure have the time, resources and knowledge to bring this to market which is really what it’s all about – helping people as quickly as possible!

JS: Absolutely! …  What advice do you have for someone who may not have a scientific mind but wants to make a difference in the fight against cancer?

A great thing to do is to raise awareness of the cancer and the need for more funding. Wearing the shirts and pins and hats and talking about it on Facebook or other social media is a great way to let people know about advances, about personal stories or about ways to help raise money for research.

I know other people work as volunteers getting patients to treatment and supporting them and the families or using their musical talents to play to them. Every one has a talent whether it’s doing research, gardening, sewing, speaking, fundraising or j walking in a charity walk. There is room for everyone to contribute.

JS: Couldn’t agree more! …  What is open access?  And what is the current status of it?

Many scientific journal articles are locked behind paywalls meaning that to access this information a person as to pay to read the article. Since you can’t return the article and get your money back if it turns out not to be what you were hoping for it ends up being a real financial burden to kids and other citizen scientists or patients who want to learn. Much of the research taxpayers have paid for is locked behind these paywalls. The open access movement seeks to unlock these paywalls so people can read the articles themselves. Recently President Obama signed a mandate saying that federal agencies funding more than $100 million of research per year to make resulting papers freely available within 12 months of publication.

We still have a long way to go and even universities like Harvard have trouble affording their journal article subscriptions

JS: I heard you talking on The Colbert Report about a Star Trek / Borg nano technology thing you’re working on? Any update on that? 

JA: My team and I decided that we just have too many commitments to keep working on our project unfortunately.  One key member is starting college and is super busy so we had to withdraw. On a happier note, I’m working on a cool new medical diagnostic.

JS: What is this cool new medical diagnostic and what will it do?

JA: I’m working on a new medical diagnostic test this summer- just starting the work – a different and hopefully even easier way to detect diseases!

JS: What stage are you in with it? 

Just talking with labs – I can’t start until the summer when schoolwork will let up a bit and I can get to work.

JS: Good luck with it.  My fingers are crossed!  Since you’re so aware of cancer, what personal choices do you make as far as cancer prevention?  Do you have a special diet? Exercise? Etc.?

JA: I’ve made a point of leading a healthier lifestyle that’s for sure! After reading and listening to so many experts I cleaned up my bad teenage eating habits and surprise my mom by asking for fruits, vegetables and salmon and I exercise a lot more. I really feel better and more energetic.

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I want to thank Jack for being a difference maker and the first in the series! Keep up the great work!

If you would like to keep up with Jack Andraka, his website is: http://jackandraka.net/ or you can follow him on Twitter: @jackandraka or Facebook

 

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