Mesothelioma Cancer – A personal tale

I first learned about mesothelioma cancer two years ago when Heather Von St. James, a mesothelioma cancer survivor, emailed with a request to share her story as a guest blogger.

If you aren’t familiar with mesothelioma cancer, it’s also known as asbestos cancer. Every year doctors diagnose an estimated 3,000 cases of mesothelioma in the United States because mesothelioma can take from 20 to 50 years after asbestos exposure before symptoms appear.

That’s what happened to Virgil Anderson, my guest blogger for today. This is his mesothelioma story.

Virgil Anderson – A Personal Tale of Asbestos and Mesothelioma

You can find a lot of statistics and facts online about the dangers of asbestos and the poor outcomes of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. What I hope to offer is a more personal story that may serve as a warning to others.

Asbestos is not used as often as it once was, but it is still out there in older buildings, in cars, in industrial settings, and other locations. I only hope my story will help protect others from the same fate.

My story begins in my hometown of Williamson, West Virginia. I was born and raised in this small town and my prospects for college or a career were limited. I took the initiative and started working and earning as early as I could.

Starting in high school, I worked in demolition. I helped to tear down old buildings, sometimes with machinery and other times with my bare hands. I did this back-breaking work in a swirl of dust and debris.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that dust contained toxic asbestos fibers and without protection, I was inhaling them.

From demolition I moved on to more skilled and specialized work that was not nearly as physically demanding. I started working with cars. One of my early jobs was removing the hood liners from older cars.

Again, what I didn’t know was that these hood liners had asbestos in them to insulate against heat and protect against fire.

Later, I moved on to working as a mechanic, which included dismantling and replacing brakes and clutches, and you probably guessed it by now: these too contained asbestos.

As happens with many other people who work around asbestos without knowing of the risks, I received my diagnosis of mesothelioma many years later. This terrible type of cancer sits latent in the body, showing no signs and causing no symptoms for decades.

By the time, I knew something was wrong it was too late. I was diagnosed with advanced pleural mesothelioma.

I am over 50 years old and living with symptoms like shortness of breath, a terrible cough, and pain in my chest when I breathe. I can’t move much anymore and although I am not that old, I am severely limited in what I can do. Just getting out of bed is now difficult for me.

My treatment options are limited because of the advance stage of the disease. I am not a good candidate for surgery, but I have been able to receive chemotherapy. It helps, but it is not enough to cure me or to extend my life by much. I need help just doing normal, everyday activities, but I am still glad to be alive.

I am most glad to be alive so that I can share my story with others. If describing what I have been through helps just one person to be screened early for mesothelioma or take steps at work to be protected from asbestos, I feel that I have done some good.

As Virgil says, we share his story to encourage others to be tested and aware of the dangers of mesothelioma.

More Chicken Gifts

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

So far, I am having a really great year.  I continue to receive gifts in honor of the Year of the Rooster.

One Friday there was a chicken in my mailbox at school.

Since there was no note attached I walked around holding up my pencil and asking “Did you put a chicken in my box?”

This garnered me some strange looks.  It turned out to be the same friend who found the chicken sweater for me.

I love her!

Then Beekeeper Brian went to a Psychology convention and brought back this for me:

One of the vendors was giving them away.  I call it a “ducken.”  It sits on my piano and entertains my students. It also makes me smile.

I can’t wait to see what March brings.

February Love Quotes

Three Presidential Love Story Quotes

It’s President’s Day. I thought it might be fun to look at love stories/quotes of presidents. In my day, we had holidays for Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and George Washington’s birthday (February 22) instead of the singular day to honor all presidents. For that reason, I begin with Lincoln and Washington.

Teddy Roosevelt’s story touched my romance writer’s heart so I had to share it too.

~~Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd, the daughter of a successful merchant and politician, attracted the attention of up-and-coming politician and lawyer Abraham Lincoln. Her family did not approve of the match, but Mary and Abraham shared a love of politics and literature and a deep love for each other. When Lincoln won his Congressional seat in 1846, Mary joined him in Washington. Something unheard of at the time.

“My wife was as handsome as when she was a girl,” Lincoln once told a reporter. “And I, poor nobody then, fell in love with her, and what is more, have never fallen out.”

~~George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis Washington

The romance of George and Martha was hardly a wild passionate romance by today’s standards. By the time their engagement was determined, they liked each other a great deal. Eight months after their marriage, George Washington wrote to his agent in England.“I am now I beleive fixd at this Seat with an agreable Consort for Life and hope to find more happiness in retirement than I ever experienced amidst a wide and busthng World.”

 Eighteenth century marriages were formed for ease of living. George and Martha chose wisely, perhaps more than they realized at the time. According to historians, they shared forty years together during which they grew to love each other with true devotion.

~~ Theodore Roosevelt and Alice Hathaway Lee RooseveltAlice was Teddy Roosevelt’s first wife. He wrote of her: “Sweetest little wife, I think all the time of my little laughing, teazing beauty, and how pretty she is, and how she goes to sleep in my arms, and I could almost cry I love you so.”

Unfortunately, their love was short lived. On Valentine’s Day in 1884, Roosevelt suffered a double loss. His mother died of typhus and his beloved Alice in childbirth. His  diary entry for the day is shown above. Later, he penned this private tribute for his sweetest little wife.

She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving, tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her—then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart’s dearest died, the light went from my life forever.

How does your love story compare to these presidential love story and quotes?

February Love Quotes

Tips for Collecting Valentines

Vintage valentines can be very valuable, especially Victorian era pop-up honeycomb ones. Values vary and can range into the hundreds of dollars up to thousands. Check Kovels Valentine’s Day collectibles Pinterest board for examples and values.

I am a valentine card collector. If you think you might be interested in becoming a collector, here are some tips on how to start.

What should you look for?
  1. Valentines that relate to the news of the day
  2. Valentines signed by someone significant
  3. Older homemade cards
  4. Victorian three-dimensional valentines
  5. Postcard valentines
  6. Die-cut school-type valentines from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s
  7. Mechanical valentines with moving parts from the 1950s

Hairstyles, clothes, cars, or trains pictured in older valentines will help date the card.

Where should you look?
  1. Old scrapbooks
  2. Keepsake boxes for letters are stored for sentimental reasons
  3. Old heart shaped candy boxes
  4. Flea markets or ephemera shows
  5. House sales, garage/tag sales and thrift shops
Are contemporary valentines worth collecting?

The simply answer is yes if  you look for certain characteristics according to Terry Kovel of Kovel’s Antiques, Inc.

  1. Cards should reflect current news, pop culture, and/or historical events.
  2. Cards depicting characters from Disney, children’s’ books, cartoons, movies, and television shows.
  3. Be cautious about new technology cards. Those record-your-own-voice cards will stop talking as they age.

Learn more about valentine collecting from these sites: National Valentine Collectors Association or The Ephemera Society

Here are examples from my personal collection. Ilove displaying them each February.









Lost and Found

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

We interrupt our regularly scheduled chicken blog to report a totally random “feel good” story.

Sunday morning I was playing keys on the Praise Team at church.  That’s the new way of saying I was playing the piano.  It was going to be a challenge because I was also singing into a microphone which I do not usually do.

Then I had to transpose one of the songs.  For non-music people, this means I was not playing what was written on the page.  This meant I had to concentrate extra hard.

To complicate things even more, as I sat down at the keyboard, I looked down and discovered my engagement ring was missing the stone.

Not only had the center diamond disappeared, but the whole setting was gone.

It took all my self-control not to scream.

I took a deep breath and concentrated on playing the right notes and singing the right words.

As soon as we were done, I began retracing my steps all the way back to my truck.  I talked to the worship leader who announced at the end of the service that there may be a diamond lying around somewhere and if anyone found it to please give it to me.

I called Beekeeper Brian, who was on his way to a conference in Dallas.  He was not too disturbed and suggested perhaps it had gotten caught on something.

This made more sense to me than thinking I had hit my hand hard enough to knock the setting off and not realized it.

I looked in the truck. There was no diamond. 

I remembered getting a business card out of my purse right before I went up on stage so I decided to look in my purse and sure enough, there was my diamond!

I was thrilled.

Fortunately, I have a plain gold band I can wear until we can get the ring fixed. I’m just glad we are not replacing a diamond.