GPSolo Magazine - January/February 2006

Chairs' Corner

Thoughts for the New Year

Welcome to 2006 and the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division’s first publication of the New Year—and a nifty publication it is, with a plethora of invaluable information about cyber-law. But, even though this is a legal publication, this is not a column about the law or about the practice of law. This is a column about death. And this is a column about life.

Michele Connell McLennan, Ph.D., wife of GP|Solo’s Vice-Chair, Keith McLennan, died early last fall, October 10, 2005.

Michele’s life ended far too soon. She lived but 46 years and one week until a silent but deadly illness stole her away from those who loved her. Michele’s life was taken by ovarian cancer. The large crowd that filled St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, for the celebration of Michele’s funeral mass was a very clear testament to a life well lived and to the fact that many, many people cherished their relationships with her as wife, mother, sister, friend, professor, volunteer, and advocate. Although distance precluded me from having the privilege of knowing know Michele well, I know and observed while attending the celebration of her funeral mass that her death leaves a tremendous void in the lives of many people.

After her diagnosis, Michele and Keith of course learned a great deal about ovarian cancer. Michele spent the end of her life seeking to educate others of the perils of this deadly cancer. She wanted to share the following information with as many as possible, and I encourage you to carefully consider the following, to act on it if you’re a woman, and—man or woman—to share it with the women in your life.

It Whispers—So Listen

All women should have a pelvic examination every year to check for ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancer. Ovarian cancer is the fourth-leading cause of death among women in the United States and most deadly of the gynecologic cancers. One out of 55 women will get ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose because symptoms may be subtle and easily confused with other diseases. Symptoms include:

  • pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort;
  • vague, but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, and indigestion;
  • frequency and/or urgency of urination in absence of an infection;
  • unexplained weight gain or weight loss;
  • pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating, and/or feeling of fullness;
  • ongoing unusual fatigue; and
  • unexplained changes in bowel habits.

With early detection, before the cancer spreads beyond the ovaries, more than 90 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive longer than five years. But only 20 percent of women are diagnosed in the early stages. When diagnosis is made in advanced stages, the chances of five-year survival are 30 to 40 percent.

Risk factors include personal or family history of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer and/or genetic predisposition. All women should be extra vigilant in watching for early symptoms, because early detection increases survival rate. A pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and a CA125 blood test are recommended. A Pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer. Women should see a gynecological oncologist for evaluation. More information is available at www.ovarian.org or www.sandyovarian.org or www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/ovary.

Embrace Life

I’m sure that all of you, just like me, have attended other funerals, which always cause me to reflect on the fleeting and precious nature of this life. At such times, we vow to take better care of ourselves, to better savor each moment, to be more appreciative of those we love. But then—human nature being what it is—we all seem to just go on living like tomorrow will never come and we have some special guarantee that we’re going to be here forever.

Even though New Year’s Day has passed, please allow me to add the following resolutions for you to consider adding to your list. I recently read an outstanding USA Weekend article by Lydia Strohl and Jim Thornton, “Ten High-Impact Ways to Live Longer” (originally published June 27, 1999), highlighting ten ways to “target life’s biggest dangers.” Because I’d like for each of you to be happily reading GPSolo magazine, defending liberty, pursuing justice, and representing your clients for many years to come, I’d like to share them with you.

1. Wear a seat belt. More than 43,000 of us will die this year in automobile crashes. If you buckle up, you reduce your risk of fatality in an accident by 45 percent, and your risk of serious injuries by 50 percent.

2. Quit smoking. According to a 2004 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tobacco is the leading cause of death in the United States. Quit smoking, and you will have made the single most effective change to improve your health.

3. Sleep soundly. Quality sleep lowers stress and increases mental focus.

4. Use condoms as appropriate. Condoms have been shown to be effective against AIDS and also help prevent other sexually transmitted diseases.

5. Eat fruits, vegetables, and (yes) fat. OK, mom told you about fruits and vegetables. Research shows they may help prevent heart disease, asthma, and other illnesses. And now the experts tell us that 30 percent of our daily calories should come from “good” (mono-unsaturated) fats, such as peanut, canola, and olive oils.

6. Exercise routinely. Even modest effort can help you control your weight, improve blood pressure and mood, and cut your risk for heart disease. As one lawyer colleague recently reminded me, one Rxfor better health is pretty simple: Move more, eat less.

7. Take a daily aspirin. Men over 40 and women over 50 should consider taking a quarter of a regular-strength tablet every day. (You can now buy 80 mg tablets for this very use.) Aspirin has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and cut your risk for heart attack.

8. Get a checkup. Women over 18 should get an annual Pap smear, and men over 50 should get an annual rectal exam and a PSA blood test for prostate cancer. Women, don’t forget the CA125 blood test.

9. Turn off the TV. Most lawyers I know don’t watch a lot of television, but it’s a fact that people who do are more sedentary, snack more, and have higher rates of obesity.

10. Laugh. No doubt you’ve heard all your life that “laughter is the best medicine.” There’s a significant body of empirical data to prove it. Laughing reduces stress, staves off disease, and increases the body’s production of natural painkillers.

This column is written in honor of all of the Division’s members who’ve lost loved ones this past year—but especially for Keith McLennan and his daughters, Kali and Madalyn, and it is dedicated to the memory of Michele. I hope you’ll find something here that will help you live a longer, happier, and more productive life. Best wishes for a productive, happy, and healthy 2006.

 

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