I just changed my Primary Care Physician (PCP). I have nothing against my former PCP. I only switched because the prior PCP’s office location made it really inconvenient for me to take off time from work for appointments. This new PCP is a very short walk from my workplace.

As one does with a new PCP, I gave my new PCP and the staff my family medical history.

The new PCP said, “You said that your mother just passed away from breast cancer?”

I said, “No. She had LUNG cancer. And she never smoked.”

The PCP said, “Oh, I’m very sorry. Did your father smoke?”

“No,” I said.

My brand-new PCP seemed very surprised by this.

Neither of my parents smoked. Yet my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 63 and she passed away this past October, two days after her 64th birthday.

No judgment on people who DO smoke. I loved and respected my paternal grandmother very much. She smoked for decades. She smoked until the year that she passed away in her late 70’s with no cancer diagnosis. Several other family members DID pass away from lung cancer after they smoked for decades.

But here’s the thing: the narrative when I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was that we kids could get cancer IF we used tobacco products. My elementary school science teacher lit a cigarette and set it between fake cotton lungs so that we could watch the fake lungs darken.

My elementary, junior high, and high school health education was like a morality play: if you do A, then B will happen to you. If you do X, then Y will happen to you. This was the narrative.

Me watching my mom die “quickly” of lung cancer when she was in her early 60’s was NEVER part of this narrative.

Mom ate several servings of vegetables and dairy products each day. She watched her weight. She took vitamins. She rarely drank. She took walks. She didn’t have any of the unhealthy lifestyle habits that my “morality play” health education warned me against.

So when Mom died, I tried to shape this to fit into my narrative.

I blamed my paternal grandmother for smoking in front of our family. Even though my grandmother lived 60 miles away from us and we saw her about once a month. (To be clear, I no longer feel this way.)

I also blamed my older paternal family members for not “stepping up” and insisting that Grandma not smoke in front of the family. (Again, to be clear, I no longer feel this way.)

This is such an easy solution.

I mean, even my new doctor immediately asked me if I had a family member who DID smoke.

And yet – something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Nothing about the “official narrative” sits well with me.

After Mom got sick, I learned that lung cancer is actually really common among non-smokers and never-smokers.

Also, lung cancer receives a fraction of the research funding that other cancers receive.

I’m not going to regurgitate a bunch of statistics. However, I learned some of these stats from Lung Cancer’s Stigma Stymies Progress” by Bonnie Addario.

I posted today because the narrative with which I grew up is incomplete and dangerous.

I didn’t mention this yet, but Mom lived right in the City of Pittsburgh for the first two decades of her life. This was in the 50’s – 70’s. Before the steel industry collapsed. I member visiting her childhood home in the 80’s and smelling sulfur.

Did living in Pittsburgh actually give Mom cancer?

If so, is the Pittsburgh area truly a healthier place to live now?

I ask these questions, even though they don’t actually fit the narrative.

I don’t think that we fully understand the effects of the air around us. I’m frustrated that even now, people are trying to roll back the environmental protections that have made our air clean over the past few decades.

What can we do to help ensure that future generations breath cleaner air?

What can we do to help cancer research proceed without stigmas?

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Daughters of the Lake

by Jenny on 14 February 2019

I found a new beach read for people who like many of the same things that I do: the Great Lakes, ghost stories, Victorian mansions, mythology, romances, murder mysteries.

Here’s the book that I just discovered, and read: Daughters of the Lake, by Wendy Webb.

In the first chapter, a woman’s body washes up on a Lake Superior beach.

Kate, the woman whose family discovers this body, dreamed about this woman prior to the discovery. Kate tries to process the discovery. She drives to her family’s inherited Victorian mansion which her cousin turned into an inn and bar. This mansion also sits on a shore of Lake Superior. Evev better, this mansion is haunted.

We get to meet a lot of neat characters, such as Kate’s cousin Simon and his partner Jonathan. Also, Kate meets a hot cop whom the author compares to Idris Elba.

I discovered that this author also wrote several other books that also take place on the shores of Lake Superior. Potential beach reads for next summer’s trips to the Great Lakes? Sure.

I have posted above a photo that I took during one of my own trips to Lake Superior. Also, here’s another blog post that I wrote about Lake Superior.

What books have you discovered lately?


New Photos

by Jenny 13 January 2019 Uncategorized

Hi, this is Jenny. I consider this blog as our way of letting friends and family know what’s going on with us. I try to have at least one of us – either Jenny or Jonathan – post at least once a month in order to keep the content fresh. I just realized that I […]

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A New Home for Some Family Ornaments

by Jonathan 16 December 2018 House and Home

A number of years ago (I just asked Jenny, and we were married already, possibly our first married Christmas, but I really don’t know), my Mom was in Sam’s Club buying her usual industrial quantities of ingredients for Thanksgiving cooking, and she saw a display of artificial trees on sale. One of them in particular […]

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To My Aunts and Uncles On the Gift Season

by Jenny 10 November 2018 Uncategorized

So I spent the past few weeks picking out books for my nephews and niece while trying to take my mind off of my mom’s cancer prognosis. Mom passed away at the end of October. During the time that my mom was very ill, our family also celebrated several baptisms and child and adult birthdays. […]

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Cross-Post: My New Ken Haunted History Walk

by Jenny 14 October 2018 Uncategorized

  Here’s my newest post in my new blog, The Parnassus Pen: http://www.parnassuspen.com/2018/10/14/my-new-ken-haunted-history-walk/  

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by Jenny 4 October 2018 Western Pennsylvania

Here in the Pittsburgh area, several folks dress up their own automobiles for Halloween. They dress up their autos as Ecto-1, from the move Ghostbusters (1984). Here a photo that I took of one such auto. I took this in front of Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh in 2014.

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The Mystery Machine

by Jenny 21 September 2018 Podcasts

Hi, this is Jenny again. We saw the Mystery Machine on the Ohio Turnpike this summer. Well, we saw it in camping-trailer form, at least. The man who drove the auto attached to this Mystery Machine resembled Shaggy! Apparently this Mystery Machine is from Pennsylvania. I grabbed these photos when we stopped at the same […]

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