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My Cancer Story


From Parents’ Magazine, November 1977


I am Andy Carstairs.  Okay, I’m not.  But that was the name given to me for an article that was written in 1977 about childhood leukemia.  I knew this article existed–I saw it growing up, but only recently did I try to find a copy.  Thanks to the good people at Parents Magazine, I now have a scanned copy.  (And no, that’s not me in the picture below.)

It’s interesting to read about my story so many years after my diagnosis with acute lymphocytic Leukemia (now more commonly referred to as acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL).  From my diagnosis in 1972 at age three to when I stopped taking my chemo pills at age seven, I never knew the pharmaceuticals I was taking.  I only knew I had two white pills to take on Monday, one long one on Tuesday, six little yellow ones on Wednesday, etc.  I now know what I received, and I can compare that to what the standard therapy is today.  We’ve come a long way, baby!  The article mentions, and I certainly remember (WAY too many) bone marrow aspirations and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) or two (or three or a dozen).  The article even said I had intrathecal injections!  I don’t remember those, but hey, while they were drawing fluid out, they probably put some drugs back in without even telling me.

The article states some statistics, which are pretty scary looking back.  I was lucky to have been enrolled in the clinical study for which much attention was paid to the treatment and outcomes. In fact, the article says that due to successful results in one arm of the study (not my arm), the patients in the other arm were retrospectively given additional treatment.  It’s for this reason that I was given radiation treatment at age six.  I didn’t question the additional treatment.  I knew I had Leukemia, so I took the medicine (treatment) my doctor and mother told me to.  Now I know why I needed radiation therapy.  I accepted it unconditionally.  Although, the permanent marker lines on my face that were used to line up the x-ray machine for each session, to avoid nuking certain critical parts of my head, were a drag.  I was called “Indian” on more than one occasion that year.  That hurt.

The relationship between me and my doctor was also explored in this article.  From my perspective, the role Dr. Dvorak played was very much understated in print.  Dr. D. was the most valuable member of my support team, second only to my mother.  I will forever be grateful to Dr. D. (and to Mom, Sara, and Pasty & Dick).  The role of a support group for a cancer patient, of any age, cannot be minimized.  The patient’s team is critical.

Forty-four years after my diagnosis, I’m very thankful to have this personalized summary of my treatment.


If you are interested in reading the article in full, please send me a message through the Contact Me page and I’ll share a PDF copy with you.


Leukemia Breakthrough Page_1a




Little Brother v. Big Brother


I just re-read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.  It was my third reading.


Although published in 2008, intended (I believe) to look back on the heightened security and information-gathering by the Department of Homeland Security, the book is becoming more applicable to the current administration.  Every day a new order is passed or legislation proposed that limits the freedoms of at least one segment of the population: women, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT people, etc.  Every day we read another example of the current administration trying to subvert the Constitution.

Before the recent presidential election, I thought of DHS as a bloated, ineffective, bureaucratic agency.  Yes, DHS, or Big Brother if you will, is watching but not an imminent threat.  In my Sue series, I use DHS as the overseers of the clones.  Ted Stevens is the level-headed DHS Director with the best interest of clones in mind; he releases the clones and protects their individual liberties.  Whereas the special DHS committee is the xenophobic “protector” of American citizens against the “aliens” and their “conspirators”.  Of course civil liberty wins in my books as Ted fights for the clones. To me, it was obvious.  Up until now, I didn’t think the opposite was plausible this day in American society, with as much transparency as the internet offers.

But now I’m not so sure.  Every day we learn of violations and abuse of power, which gets us back to Little Brother.  As I read the book this past week, I didn’t think back to 9/11, I thought about current events in American politics.  How long will it be before DHS starts invading the freedoms of Americans?  As long as the administration finds a reason to marginalize a segment of society, there’s no telling what the DHS, Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, etc. will do.  Look at what has already been attempted or floated in barely two months!  Proposing to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, repeal of parts or all of Roe v. Wade, eliminating pregnancy care from Trumpcare, building “The Wall”, mass deportation of “illegals”, prohibiting suspected Muslims from entering the country, and repealing LGBT equality laws are just some of the few ideas/legislation already being discussed.  What is going on?  Are we going to allow this to occur?

At the end of Little Brother, Marcus makes a video to show the imprisonment and torture he experienced at the hand of DHS and, more importantly, he gives advice.  His advice is completely applicable to right now.  “We elected these people.  We pay their salaries.  They’re supposed to be on our side.  They’re supposed to defend our freedoms.  But these people betrayed our trust.  …Find five of your neighbors—five people who’ve given up on voting because their choice is ‘none of the above.’  Talk to your neighbors.  Make them promise to vote.  Make them promise to take the country back from the torturers and thugs.  Make them promise to talk to their neighbors.  Most of us choose none of the above.  It’s not working.  You have to choose—choose freedom.”

One last thing; open this tweet and look at the books assembled on the table at this bookstore.  It’s a commentary on the times.

It’s Not Just a Presidential Election


I watched Bernie Sanders with Chris Matthews tonight.


Bernie was challenged by Chris and tried to connect his ability to enact his agenda with the youth vote movement.  I understood his message, but he, Bernie, isn’t delivering that message effectively. Chris Matthews asked him how Mitch McConnell would allow a vote on Bernie’s agenda.  Bernie replied by saying that congress will see the revolution and will react accordingly.  Chris challenged him, asking Bernie where is the revolution when voter turnout in the primaries so far are below those from 2008.  Bernie stumbled.  I was disappointed.

So I’m going to lay out what, in my mind, should be Bernie’s message.  Maybe his staff will actually read this and help Bernie change his delivery.  So, here goes…

The revolution must impact more than just the presidency.  It MUST impact congress.

Unless I’m mistaken, every House of Representative seat is up for election.  EVERY SEAT!  That’s 435 representatives.  And in 2016, 34 Senate seats, one-third of the seats in the Senate are up for election.  Now, the only way Bernie Sanders will be elected President is if massive numbers of young adults vote.  If Bernie can get out that voting demographic, those voters will be voting for candidates with a progressive agenda.  Okay, so here’s where I connect the dots.  If Bernie is elected President, he’ll have a democratic congress, or at least a more progressive congress than the current congress.

So Bernie, you need to say this: “Young people, get out and vote.  Get.  Out.  And.  Vote.  And when you vote, make sure you vote for progressive House candidates and Senate candidates (where applicable).  If we vote in more progressive legislators, along with me, Bernie Sanders, we will bring about the revolution to reform the government, fix income inequality, etc…”  Draw the connection between the presidential election and the congressional election.  Tell the youth of America to vote for you, but also to vote for progressive House and Senate candidates.  You, Bernie, cannot get elected without the youth vote and you cannot get elected unless those same voters elect a progressive congress.  Get the youth voters to demand change not only for president, but for all levels and branches of government.

That’s what I think.

Winners of November Indie Cover Art Poll


Congratulations to Jennifer from Can’t Put It Down book reviews!

She was the winning voter in the November Indie Cover Art Poll!  She will win a copy of each of the 16 books from the indie authors who’s covers were in the poll.

Unfortunately, Sue’s Fingerprint was not the winning book cover. 🙁

However, give a cheer for Micheal Rivers!  His book, Moonlight on the Nantahala was the winning cover!

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