Testing It Up » December 2011

Monthly Archives: December 2011

Early Disease Detection Pregnancy & Fertility

A Mother’s Sacrifice: Cancer-Stricken Teen Chooses Baby Over Treatment

Published by:

A teenager who had been diagnosed with a type of brain tumor made the ultimate sacrifice that a mother could do: choosing to stop undergoing treatments so that her baby may live.

The Associated Press shared the touching story of Jenni Lake of Pocatello, Idaho, and the price she paid to ensure that she is able to bring her son safely into the world. Twelve days after giving birth to her son, Chad Michael Lake Wittman, Jenni passed away in their home.

Jenni’s mother, Diana Phillips, shared that she learned that Jenni’s decision to stop treatments for the sake of her child would prove to be fatal a day after she gave birth on November 9, 2011. The cancer had grown to a point where nothing could be done.

Jenni had started having migraines when she was 16, and scans determined a mass on the right side of her brain.

Five days after undergoing a biopsy, in October 2010, Jenni was diagnosed with with stage three astrocytoma. She began to undergo aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and was told prior to the start of treatments that she may never have children.

A couple of weeks before her diagnosis, Jenni had begun dating Nathan Wittman, and despite their youth, their relationship withstood the test of cancer, as well as school gossip. Jenni’s pregnancy, however, came as a surprise, in part because they were told that the treatments may make her sterile.

After the pregnancy was confirmed, Jenni’s mom shared the options presented by Dr. David Ririe, Jenni’s oncologist: “He told us that if she’s pregnant, she can’t continue the treatments, so she would either have to terminate the pregnancy and continue the treatments, or stop the treatments, knowing that it could continue to grow again.”

Jenni, however, had always wanted to be a mother, so there was no question about what her decision would be. And even if she is no longer around, her legacy of sacrifice will live on. Phillips shared: “I want him to know everything about her, and what she did.”

Celebrity Substance Abuse Health & Wellness Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Blair Witch Actress Recounts Experience as Medical Marijuana Grower

Published by:

Heather Donahue, one of the stars in the indie horror film The Blair Witch Project, will be releasing a book, and it is not about the film that became one of the most popular horror flicks of all time.

A feature on the Daily Mail shares how Donahue eventually became disillusioned with Hollywood. She decided to switch careers, and eventually put her green thumb to use by growing medical marijuana. She recounts all these in the book GrowGirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went To Pot.

Donahue herself was prescribed with medical marijuana in 2007, for the treatment of PMS. In an interview in the Philadelphia Inquirer where she was asked whether she smoked marijuana a week out of a month, she said: “It’s a very flexible medicine.”

After the realization that as she grew older, better movie offers were not coming along, Donahue followed her boyfriend to Nuggettown, and grew pot for medical purposes. She made the transformation from a fast-paced life in Los Angeles to becoming a country girl. She has always been an avid gardener, however, so the adjustment was not that difficult.

After a friend was busted by federal authorities, she decided to stop growing pot and to write about her experience.

Despite having been a pot grower, she is, however, torn about the question of marijuana legalization. Donahue shared the following on her website: “Cannabis has been intertwined with human culture for thousands of years… It’s here to stay as medicine, as an industry, and as a component of the culture. The idea that such a hearty, useful plant could be legislated out of existence seems pretty foolish.”

Pregnancy & Fertility

Free Sperm Donor Gets Flak from FDA

Published by:

A man from the San Francisco Bay area, who has been donating sperm to women who would like to have children for free, has drawn criticism from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as from doctors.

36-year-old Trent Arsenault of Fremont has a website through which he meets women that he donates sperm to. He has since fathered 14 children, with four more on the way.

The FDA, however, has sent Arsenault a letter telling him to stop what he is doing, as he does not follow FDA requirements for getting tested for sexually-transmitted diseases prior to making a sperm donation. The FDA reportedly described, in that letter, the service that Arsenault provides as a business. Arsenault, however, begs to differ. “This is not a business or a clinic,” he said. “It’s just people partnering up to have a baby out of compassion.”

According to Arsenault, a minister’s son, his motivation for doing what he does is to be able to help people who would like to have children, but who cannot afford conventional sperm banks. Arsenault shared: “I always had known through people praying at church that there’s fertility issues… I thought it would just be a neat way of service to help the community.”

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania, however, said: “There’s a danger of accidental incest or inbreeding if you’re the father of 14 children and a habitual sperm donor… nobody should be involved as a sperm donor on that level. It’s not safe.”

Drug Testing Substance Abuse

Cocaine Use in United States Going Down

Published by:

For the most part, this piece of news is good news: use of cocaine in the United States is on a decline, so much so that drug cartels are allegedly trying to find new markets for the drug.

Based on the results of the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, use of cocaine in the United States went down by 37 percent – a significant figure. In addition, data from the major testing firm Quest Diagnostics Inc. indicated that positive results for cocaine in workplace drug testing went down by 65 percent in the same period.

Cocaine use among teens has also gone down to the lowest levels since the 1980s, according to the results of the “Monitoring the Future” survey. Use of crack (cocaine in rock crystal form, usually smoked) is also at levels that are far lower than levels in the 80s and 90s.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, shared that these figures “should be heralded as basically very good news about cocaine.” Dr. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment of the Department of Health and Human Services, on the other hand, gave the opinion that “the crack epidemic, as it was, appears to be over.”

The decline in cocaine use is being attributed to the fact that the price of cocaine has increased since 2007, but quality of the drug has gone down, according to data provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It also seems like drug education and prevention programs, which have been going on for decades, are slowly taking effect.

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Study Links Smoking to Risk for Skin Cancer in Women

Published by:

Women smokers who would like to kick their tobacco habit may add the results of a new study to the list of reasons why they should quit smoking.

Smoking was linked to skin cancer in women, as the study indicated that women who suffered from squamous cell skin cancer were more likely to have smoked, when compared against women who did not have the disease. In addition, women who have been smoking for at least 20 years were found to be twice as likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer.

The study involved an analysis of data from 383 patients suffering from skin cancer, which were compared against those of 315 study participants who did not have the disease. The participants answered questions regarding how much they smoked, when their smoking habit began, and how long they have been smoking.

The results of the analysis showed that the more people smoked, the likelihood that they will develop skin cancer also increases.

The study authors also noted that men smokers had a modest risk for two types of non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer), although the results were not statistically significant. Dana Rollison, lead author of the study, shared that while both men and women get a lot of sun exposure, the main risk factor for skin cancer, they do not know why there was a difference between the risk of developing the disease among men and women.

The study was published online in the journal Cancer Causes Control.

Alcohol Testing Substance Abuse

Consumption of Too Much Alcohol Linked to Unsafe Sex

Published by:

The consumption of too much alcohol has been linked to a behavior that is also deemed as a health risk: unsafe sex, which is known to be the most common cause of HIV infection.

The study was led by Jurgen Rehm, director of social and epidemiological research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada. It indicated that the more alcohol is consumed by the study participants, the more willing they became to engage in unsafe sex.

It was found that for each 0.1 milligrams per milliliter increase in blood alcohol level, there was a corresponding 5 percent increase in one’s likelihood to engage in unsafe sex.

Rehm made the following comment in a journal news release: “Drinking has a causal effect on the likelihood to engage in unsafe sex, and thus should be included as a major factor in preventive efforts for HIV… This result also helps explain why people at risk often show this behavior despite better knowledge: Alcohol is influencing their decision processes.”

The study is published in the January issue of the journal Addiction.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Woman Busted for False Cancer Claims to Raise Money

Published by:

A 42-year-old mother of two has been arrested for falsely claiming to be suffering from cancer and raising money for her supposed treatments.

Martha Nicholas claimed to have been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer when she was still in her 20s. Because of her supposed conditions, several fundraisers have been held for her benefit, in order to help defray expenses associated with her treatments.

In July, she was said to have shared with a group of supporters that “each night, I wonder if it will be the last.” She also mentioned during an interview for a Relay for Life event last summer that she was able to raise over $10,000 selling necklaces and orange t-shirts with the slogan “Cancer Sucks.”

Nicholas, however, did not have cancer.

Capt. Michael J. Trice of the Hanover County Sheriff’s office shared: “Our investigation revealed no evidence of any cancer treatment at any medical facility that had been publicly identified by Martha Nicholas during her many public appearances and testimonials… Investigators also found evidence of individuals that had given money to Martha Nicholas due to her proclaimed medical condition.”

Nicholas was arrested on Thursday and charged with two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses.

A supporter was quoted as saying: “I refuse to believe it, because I think no one makes this up.” Nicholas’ two children, aged 10 and 13, also think that their mother actually had cancer.

Sam Simpson, attorney for Nicholas, denied that his client was swindling anyone. He told ABC News: “This was not a scam to rip people off… There is an illness. It’s a mental illness, and I can’t say more about this.”

Health & Wellness

How to Manage Your Cold From Home

Published by:

Are you or someone in your family dealing with a case of the sniffles? Relief may not be all that hard to find, as there are things in your pantry and your refrigerator that will help you address cold symptoms.

WebMD shares a few tips, among them the very basic recommendation to drink a lot of fluids. Drinking fluids helps break up congestion; water or juice will help keep the throat moist, and prevents dehydration. The following beverages are great to have when you are nursing a cold: water, sports drinks, herbal teas, fruit drinks, or ginger ale. A steaming, comforting bowl of chicken soup works well too!

Not all fluids, however, achieve the same effect. Steer clear caffeine-laden drinks, such as coffee and cola, as these may have the opposite result and cause dehydration.

Another way to break up congestion is to irrigate the nose with a salt water rinse. While there are commercial saline sprays available, the rinse can also be easily made at home. A popular recipe consists of mixing ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of warm water. Rinsing with salt water, aside from breaking up congestion, also helps remove virus particles and bacteria from the nose.

One may also think of a case of the colds as an opportunity to slow it down, so put all your work-related cares and worries on hold and focus on you, and on getting better, for a day or two. Keep yourself warm and rested; this will help your body direct its energy towards recuperating.

Health & Wellness

219-lb Boy Taken From Custody of Mother

Published by:

An 8-year-old boy who weighs 219 pounds has been removed from the custody of his mother, in a case that places a spotlight on incidents of extreme childhood obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17.5 percent, or 12.5 million children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years old, are obese and not just overweight. The CDC defines obesity in children as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and gender. Being overweight, on the other hand, is defined as having a BMI that is at or above the 85th percentile.

Dr. Garry Sigman, director of adolescent medicine and associate professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago, shared the following: “Not only do we have a higher percentage of kids who are obese but a higher percentage of children who are severely obese.”

In an article on childhood obesity published in July in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and co-authored by Harvard University child obesity expert Dr. David S. Ludwig, it was indicated that about 2 million children in the United States have a BMI that is at or above the 99th percentile.  The article became controversial as it also mentioned that removing a child in this situation from a home is justifiable in certain cases.

The boy’s mother petitioned an Ohio state court two weeks ago to retain custody of her son. The judge, however, agreed that the boy should not be returned home due to concerns regarding his health.