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Whether you say guy code or bro code, every man knows the rules of being a guy.
You always try to stand one urinal away, you can never cry in public, always have a friend’s back in a fight, and many more. As men, we feel we belong to this special group of Spartans who can never show pain or any weakness.
This includes not going to the doctors and just dealing with pain or symptoms quietly, but are these codes of manhood affecting our health more than we think?
I interviewed 25 men and 25 women of different ages, marital statuses, and education levels. I asked them a number of questions about how they see doctors versus friends and to what levels they feel comfortable talking to each group and why.
To be honest, the results were very surprising to me, but after I took a second look, it started making a lot of sense.
During my research, women did tend to talk to their girlfriends about what medical issues they have, they also told doctors about something if they were worried, and would tend to prefer their doctor to be a woman. It felt like a strong sisterhood that is supportive and extends as far as the medical profession.
When it came to the men, it got a lot more interesting — the biggest variable I found was age. Men who were around 45 and up definitely felt part of the “bro code” or “guy code” involved not bothering anyone with your issues. This lead to a lot of answers like “I haven’t seen a doctor in a few years” or “I’ve waited over a year or two with a symptom before i told a doctor.”
In this case, I would say it seems this “code of man” seems to have a negative effect on society. In at least one case, it lead to someone needing surgery because they waited so long to tell a doctor about heart pain they felt.
The second biggest group was guys between 21 and 36; these guys had a very interesting viewpoint. When we think of a “bro code,” we think of all of these silly rules that show guys how to be guys. It’s a “how to be a man for dummies” that every guy seems to learn.
What was so interesting was that younger men seemed to see the “bro code” differently than older men. This “young man’s bro code” seemed to be more of a guide to friendship, a set of rules of how to be friends with other guys and what that all entails.
Most of the younger guys I spoke to said they often talk to other male friends about medical, psychological and even emotional issues.
It’s seen as a “man-to-man” conversation or a safe place. It’s almost like a vacuum universe that does not exist in our normal universe; it’s one where men are allowed to be open about themselves.
The weird thing is when it came to going to the doctor, almost all of the older men said they don’t go to the doctors often at all and won’t tell them about a symptom until it’s almost too late.
Also most of the older men said that they like their doctor and enjoy how they are spoken to, but because of this relationship, it makes the doctor seem like a friend, so they feel the older “bro code” rules still apply — one where you don’t bother others with problems.
When it came to younger people, they also said they don’t go to the doctor a lot, but will if friends advise them to or if no one knows anything about the symptom. They are basically saying they want to make sure they are OK, but also that they didn’t like talking to their doctor.
It seems younger men tend to think they don’t feel comfortable with how their doctor acts or speaks to them and it doesn’t feel like a place to be completely open unless they absolutely need to.
So is the guy code turning us into “code blue” situations? Well, yes and no. It seems to be for older men and somewhat for younger men, but in general, seems to be a lot less of a big deal than previously assumed.
Young men still don’t feel comfortable seeing the doctor and this maybe comes from doctors using a bedside manner that worked well with a different generation but nowadays doesn’t fit as well in the male paradigm. If doctors and younger guys can meet in the middle with how they both communicate and if guys can keep their safe zones with fellow bros, then this major issue might not be such an issue at all.
Meanwhile, we all just need to remember to talk to friends about what is bothering us, and to go to a doctor if a symptom is persistent or causing us any distress. The No. 1 rule is never Google a symptom because neither you nor Google, nor WebMD, is a real doctor.
‘Zebras’ are often the target of sports enthusiasts’ scorn
By Barbara Pierce
“I love this part!” my granddaughter Crystal exclaimed to me with a big smile, then gave a loud blast on her whistle. “Out of bounds!” she called to the volleyball players, with a confidence in her voice that I had never heard.
High school senior Crystal is taking a sports officiating class. She invited me to watch a volleyball game where she would be the student referee.
As I watched, I was happy to see a side of her emerging that I had never seen. Normally shy and hanging back, now she was out there, making the calls, her coach by her side, encouraging her. It seems that wearing the uniform and being expected to act in a certain way was working for her.
She is learning so much more than how to call fouls and the rules of the gain. Learning much more than gaining confidence. She is learning valuable life lessons both on the court or field and off.
“Life lessons can be found in the oddest places, like the well-manicured soccer fields that are my domain most weekends,” says an unnamed youth coach referee online. “It’s a shame the behavior of the parents, coaches, and players who populate these fields aren’t as well-manicured. More often than not, the opposite is true.
“They are conditioned to dislike me. But that’s precisely the reason I’ve learned lessons that will help me in all facets of life. Some are obvious: teamwork, leadership, nerve, certitude and daring. It taught me the value of hard work, responsibility, grit, and, most of all, standing firm when I’m all alone.”
“As a soccer referee, it’s been an adventure in learning,” says George Gately online at Referee.com. “What began as a way to get exercise and earn extra dollars has been a virtual advanced degree in human relations. It’s benefited every area of my life. Lessons on the exercise of authority, handling mistakes, teamwork, human nature and life goals have been the unanticipated perquisites of refereeing.”
Serving as a referee means learning many things — most apply not just to sports, but also to life. From Gately and others, here are some of the life lessons that Crystal will be learning:
— Be flexible. A good referee needs to adapt to the day’s game. Remain flexible and embrace change. You can’t control the unexpected. Be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Deal with own mistakes
— Sometimes you’re wrong. Mistakes happen; handle them quickly. Every referee notches a few in every game. Be happy if you walk away with few and minor mistakes. Major mistakes haunt good referees for weeks. Big or small, mistakes are the vehicles that can carry you to the next level.
— Be accountable, evaluate, decide and move on. Own up to your mistakes.
— Evaluate the error quickly. Don’t become fixated on it and don’t allow it to contaminate the game. Answer the questions, “What happened?” and “Why did it happen?” Decide on a simple strategy to avoid repeating the same mistake and move on.
Everyone else wants to put it behind them. Don’t be the one who keeps it alive. Whatever you do, don’t try to “even the score” by a misguided make-up call.
— Don’t dwell on any mistake. That leads to more, and greater, errors.
— Not everybody will like what you decide. You can’t please everybody, and in a game, somebody is going to be angry at your decision. Parents, coaches, or players often disagree with calls.
Some of them can get quite nasty and irate. Was it offside or not? Was it a foul or not? Despite others’ “perspectives” on important referee tasks like foul recognition, player management, game flow and conflict management, the game must go on.
— Remember that it’s not about you. Few of us enjoy being screamed and cursed at. However, such is the fate of sports officials. Not to please everyone, or to make others happy, or to justify every decision, but to ensure a safe, fair, enjoyable game is the referee’s job. Enforcing the rules is the best method available to that end.
Just because people are screaming, criticizing or calling into question your native intelligence does not mean you are doing poorly. In fact, it may mean just the opposite.
— Expect disagreement from time to time, but don’t look for it. Try to get comfortable with the discomfort, realizing it’s a necessary part of being in charge of the game.
— Find a way to have fun. Take what you do seriously, but never take yourself seriously. There is very little that is worth doing if you’re not having fun. Having fun needs to be an important part of your life.
• Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Map out lifestyle of sound diet, plentiful exercise and sleep
By Deb Dittner
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be devastating.
No one wants to hear those three words: “You’ve got cancer,” producing an overwhelming feeling.
So many questions arise.
If you or a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, there are many steps you can take to make the going a bit easier. Enlist the help of either a family member or close friend to be by your side and for the extra pair of ears, for support, for company during tough times.
Sure there are times you will want to be alone to think things through for yourself, but that extra hug is so much needed.
The first and most important step to take at this time is to simply take a deep breath, and then another and another.
Breathing is effective in reducing stress and calming down the central nervous system. There are a number of techniques for you to choose from, but I find this 4-7-8 breathing technique from Andrew Weil to be one of the best. The technique is simple and easy to learn:
— Inhale through your nose to the count of four.
— Hold the breath to the count of seven.
— Exhale loudly through the mouth to the count of eight.
— Repeat for a total of four rounds.
Incorporate this into your daily routine in the morning on awakening, before bed as it aids in sleep, and any other time you feel the need.
Build a team. You will want to search out the best oncologist for your specific type of cancer. You need to ask how much experience they have, do they keep up with current research, and do they have colleagues to discuss your situation.
Integrative and functional medicine practitioners treat the whole body and not just the symptoms by incorporating supplements, intravenous therapy, stress management, and more.
To create a team that is just right for you, network by interviewing your primary care provider, family, friends, and support groups.
— Decrease inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, low glycemic fruits, nuts and seeds need to become your friends.
Reduce to eliminate processed white food-like products especially sugar (as this feeds cancer), hormone-laden dairy, and animal products.
A plant-based diet (preferably organic) needs to make up the main portion of your daily meals. Juicing — especially celery juice of late provides nutrients and hydration and can be considered medicinal.
Processed foods a ‘no-no’
Stay away from store-bought processed juices, as they are sugar-laden. Smoothies — especially green smoothies — are an easy way to get three servings of vegetables and one serving of fruit into your day.
Reducing environmental toxins by cleaning up your personal care products and home cleaning products will decrease the amount of hazardous chemicals causing long-term health consequences.
You are exposed to these toxins on a daily basis, so it’s best to search out products with a minimal amount of chemical exposure.
Make sure you move. Rest is important but living a sedentary lifestyle causes muscles to waste, decreases endurance and immunity, and actually causes increased fatigue.
Physical movement keeps your muscles strong and flexible, and reduces inflammation. Exercise on a daily basis for at least 10 to 30 minutes (work up to 60 minutes) can consist of walking, yoga or chair yoga, light weights, dance, or whatever types of movement you like.
I can’t say enough about proper sleep. Restful sleep for seven to nine hours nightly will allow your body to heal and respond to treatments of all sorts, such as surgery, chemo, radiation, acupuncture, and massage. Your bedroom should be kept cool and dark.
Avoid using technology (iPads, iPhones, computer, TV, etc.) for a minimum of one hour before sleep as these are considered stimulators affecting sleep. Take an Epsom salt bath with therapeutic grade essential oils such as lavender. Read a book. Avoid caffeine after noon.
Reduce stress. There are many ways to manage stress. One way is by using the breathing technique mentioned above.
Also consider meditation (there are a number of free apps that work wonders), yoga, hiking, massage, and hobbies. Whatever you need to do to bring peace into your day will help manage the sense of being overwhelmed.
To help you find information, I have included a few sites and apps for you to research.
Also consider researching the following: American Cancer Society, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, American College for Advancement in Medicine, and American Association for Naturopathic Physicians.
— https://www.ewg.org/: Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen
— https://kriscarr.com/: Kris Carr was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and has written many books, meditation guides and more providing information for mind, body and soul.
— https://www.ultrawellnesscenter.com/: Located in Lenox, Mass., the providers look to identify the root cause of illness.
— https://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/: Chris Wark was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. He is a published author and has created a coaching program for cancer patients and caregivers.
— https://hippocratesinst.org/: Hippocrates Health Institute located in West Palm Beach, Fla.
— CALM: Meditation app
— Simple Habit: Meditation app
• Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.
For many, physical fitness staves off anxiety, depression
By David L. Podos
Rich D’Accurzio displays the first-place medal he won in the over-50 age group at the Delta Lake Half-Marathon.
A lot has changed in the world of physical fitness.
Physical fitness has evolved with new technologies and a better understanding of the human system.
Fitness machines in gyms today can look like futuristic space-age gadgets, but it’s all about keeping us in the best shape and health as possible.
Good trainers know how to work with each machine and each individual person, tailoring for him or her a specific fitness regime to achieve personal goals.
Even if you don’t have a membership to a local gym, many people will opt to purchase a mini gym or workout machine that can be placed in their homes.
The Mayo Clinic has some advice when it comes to getting healthy through a physical fitness program. It suggests the following:
— Cardio: Also known as endurance activity, it is the cornerstone of most fitness training programs. Aerobic activity or exercise causes you to breathe faster and more deeply, which maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your heart will beat faster, which increases blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs.
— Strength training: Muscular fitness is another key component of a fitness-training program. Strength training can help you increase bone strength and muscular fitness, and it can help you manage or lose weight.
— Core exercises: The muscles in your abdomen, lower back and pelvis — known as your core muscles — help protect your back and connect upper and lower body movements. Core strength is a key element of a well-rounded fitness-training program.
— Balance training: Balance exercises can help you maintain your balance at any age. It’s generally a good idea for older adults in particular to include exercises to maintain or improve balance in their routine exercises.
This is important because balance tends to deteriorate with age, which can lead to falls and fractures.
— Flexibility and stretching: Flexibility is an important aspect of physical fitness, and it’s a good idea to include stretching and flexibility activities in a fitness program. Stretching exercises can help increase flexibility, which can make it easier for you to do many everyday activities.
Good for the head
There are also a host of emotional and psychological health benefits from a regular schedule of working out as well. According to Daniel M. Landers of Arizona State University, “Regular exercise reduces both anxiety and depression. Both conditions improve after nine to 10 weeks of regular aerobic activity, and exercise may have a greater positive impact on those that are very anxious or very depressed than in those with mild forms of these disorders.”
HelpGuide.org explains that exercise raises levels of serotonin, endorphins and other chemicals that have a calming, anti-depressive effect.
Landers said when you feel better physically, you are more likely to feel better emotionally as well.
“Regular exercise can help you to sleep better, may give you more energy and can help you to tighten and tone various areas of your body, causing you to look better in your clothing. All of these can make you feel more alert and may raise your self-esteem. The endorphins that boost your mood can also boost your concentration skills.”
Jay Cohen, a local Utica resident and member of Planet Fitness in New Hartford, has been stating this for the past 10 years regarding physical fitness: “Working out makes me more relaxed. It’s also a great incentive to getting my day jump-started.
“Physically as well as mentally, I am feeling better, especially during the winter months. Socially, you meet some really nice people at the gym and share common interests.”
Cohen’s advice to others: “Get into a workout program, check local gyms to see what feels right for you, and make sure they have personal trainers on their staff to assist you.”
Rich D’accurzio of Utica has been a Planet Fitness member for many years.
Like Cohen, he feels that working out has been great for both his physical as well as his mental health.
“My weight is maintained, which helps in keeping me limber. Emotionally, it gives me a good and positive frame of mind,” he said.
D’accurzio is also a seasoned runner, completing over 20 Boilermaker road races.
Some years back, after he finished one of the races, he was not feeling well.
“I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t walk right, and had trouble speaking,” he said.
D’accurzio lost consciousness and passed out. He was diagnosed with severe dehydration. However, when he passed out, he hit his head on pavement and the fall caused a brain hematoma that landed him in surgery.
It took almost a year for him to fully recover, but he credits his years of working out to saving his life.
“I eventually started to run again, and within six months, I was back to my normal running and workout schedule,” he said.
In an ancient battlefield, a small shepherd boy killed a giant warrior, using only a pebble and sling.
Ever since then, the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. The victory of the boy David was miraculous. He shouldn’t have won.
The lesson we’ve been taught is: “You may be small and weak like David, but if you’re righteous, you can defeat the giants in your life.”
Yes, very motivational.
But have we learned the wrong lesson from this story?
Almost everything is wrong about it, says Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.”
What we think we know about David and Goliath isn’t really how it went down, Gladwell says. In this book, he challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, and offers his interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, suffer from a disability, work under a bad boss, lose a parent, or endure any number of other apparent setbacks.
The story of David and Goliath is one of his examples.
I like to think that if I’m in the right, I can slay all the giants in my life. However, maybe it’s not the way we learned the story of David and Goliath, but I believe we can learn much about overcoming our own giants from the way Gladwell describes why David was victorious.
Make use of what you have, not what you’re lacking: It’s because of, and not despite, David’s small size and unorthodox choice of weapon that he is able to slay the giant, says Gladwell. “We have a big, lumbering guy weighed down with armor up against a kid running at him with a devastating weapon. David’s sling is a one of the most feared weapons in the ancient world. The stone that comes from his sling has the stopping power equivalent to a bullet from a .45 caliber pistol. It’s a serious weapon. David has a ton of advantages in that battle; they’re just not obvious.”
In battling your giant, the things you do have on your side may not be readily apparent — look for them and use them. Capitalize on your strengths. Forget about the things you think you’re lacking.
What we think of as an advantage or a disadvantage is not always what it seems. The powerful and the strong are not always what they seem — Giants have weaknesses; look for their weakness.
Knowledge is power
Many experts now believe the giant had a medical condition that caused his gigantism; poor vision is a side effect of this condition. David realized the giant couldn’t see well as he needed an attendant to lead him to the battlefield. David used this knowledge to run in quickly and thus became a winner.
We need to do a better job of looking at what our advantages are. “The underdog has to be a student of the nuance,” says Gladwell. He needs to outsmart his opponent. The very same thing that appears to make a giant so formidable may be his stumbling blocks, where nimbleness, flexibility and adaptability are better attributes.
Be willing to consider different ways to attack your giant. Be open to new ideas and new solutions. Sometimes it helps to begin by thinking about what doesn’t work, as this can be important information that can lead you to think of alternatives that might be successful.
Believe it’s possible. This is probably the biggest factor in whether we succeed. Without a strong belief that you will succeed, you’ll fail.
That’s because our brain often works against us — it’s a technique of self-preservation when we come up with all kinds of reasons why we shouldn’t risk this battle. Therefore, to conquer challenges, we have to put aside our fears and self doubts.
David didn’t stand around thinking about whether he could kill the giant and exploring his ambiguity. He eagerly volunteered and ran rapidly toward the giant, picking up pebbles on the way.
Sometimes effort is the route available to the underdog. Gladwell makes this point with a chapter about a recent Indian immigrant to the United States who coaches his 12-year-old daughter’s basketball team.
Though the girls are sadly without talent — they can’t dribble, pass or shoot well — he takes them all the way to the national championships. He does that by inspiring everyone on the team to expend maximum effort every minute of the game, running themselves ragged and not letting up.
Sometimes that’s what it takes to move the obstacles in your path — expending maximum effort and not giving up.
• Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at email@example.com.
That belly fat you are wearing can actually kill you
By Barbara Pierce
Besides being pretty unsexy, belly fat can be more of a health risk than you think, cautioned Joe Martin.
Belly fat is that unattractive, puffed-out bulge around our middle that seems to grow as we age. It is also known as a “beer gut.”
That stubborn fat just doesn’t go away, even when we lose weight. And, if you knew how it looks, you’d throw up.
The fat we can’t see is the nasty stuff. This hidden fat matters, Martin said.
Martin is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist, founder and CEO of Function Better Physical Therapy, with locations in Clinton, Herkimer, New Hartford, Oneida, Rome, Utica and Yorkville.
For some of us, this hidden fat matters very much indeed. It may be killing us.
“What’s really scary is that many people don’t realize it’s not the belly fat that we see that’s deadly. Under the fat that we can see is the deadly fat, which is called adipose tissue (or visceral fat), and it surrounds our organs,” said Martin.
It’s stored around a number of important internal organs, such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. It can be suffocating these organs and interfering with how they function.
The best way to tell if you have too much of it is to check your waistline. “The belly fat that you can see in the mirror — that fat, subcutaneous fat — is OK. It’s normal to have a little of it,” explained Martin. “But it’s the fat you can’t see that’s the issue. It’s a manufacturing center for a whole host of diseases and early death.”
It raises the risk for diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, even Alzheimer’s. It’s nasty stuff, this visceral fat.
Also, abdominal obesity is one of the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. When these occur together, it increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
So getting rid of your belly bulge is important for more than just vanity’s sake. “This information is straight from the medical journals,” Martin added.
Bane of aging
As we age, our body changes how it gains and loses weight. Both men and women experience a declining metabolic rate, or the number of calories the body needs to function normally. Hormone levels for both men and women slow down. This shift in hormones causes us to hold onto weight in our bellies.
The good news: You can fight this process, but not with sit-ups or abdominal crunches, said Martin. This is a popular myth. By performing sit-ups or crunches, you are helping to strengthen and firm up the muscles commonly known as the “six-pack.”
But crunches will do nothing to reduce your belly fat. “They don’t do anything as they’re not getting at the heart of the problem of middle-aged fat,” said Martin.
“Belly fat accumulates because the person is inactive, and eating food that is not optimal for the body,” explained Martin. This includes processed food, sugar, and restaurant food. Restaurant food is designed to taste good and to keep people satisfied.
It contains tons of salt, meat that was raised with hormones and antibiotics, and fish that is farm raised not wild caught.
“Our bodies are not designed to eat the large portions that are served at restaurants,” Martin added. “When you drink alcohol in addition to all the food, you’re taking in up to 6,000 calories.”
It’s true: You are what you eat.
The accumulation of belly fat is there because of excessive calorie consumption and lack of exercise, Martin said.
“There are three things to consider to get rid of belly fat,” added Martin. “Consistently do aerobic exercise, at least three or four days a week.
Exercise like running or jogging, swimming, cycling or walking briskly.”
“Couple exercise with reasonable caloric intake, eat more fruits and vegetables and choose good quality protein. Maximize what you prepare at home,” Martin recommended.
The key is consistency, he said.
“You have to let your body know you’re in it for the long haul. The problem with humans is that they don’t stick to things,” he said.
Jason Robinson of Westmoreland defies expectations as wheelchair competitor
By Patricia J. Malin
While many eyes were on elite runners during the Utica Boilermaker road race, the local crowd anxiously awaited 15-year-old wheelchair sensation Jason Robinson of Westmoreland.
If competing in a 9.3-mile race in a wheelchair isn’t daunting enough, Robinson literally had to travel thousands of miles to get here. He had just spent a week in Ireland at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation World Junior Games, where he won five medals (four bronze and a silver) in track and field.
The IWAS Youth World Games are a biennial event for young athletes with a physical disability. This year’s event drew 165 athletes from 15 countries.
He captured bronze medals in the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter runs and silver in the 1,500-meter run, all in the under-17 age division.
Robinson returned home less than 48 hours before the Boilermaker, obviously one of his favorite races. Despite his fatigue, he put on a good show and finished 13th overall in 38:26 against a field of older adults and many professionals.
“I took 17 minutes off (my personal best),” exclaimed Robinson.
“I must say I was speechless when I saw Jason approaching the finish line,” commented Marc DePerno, director of the Sitrin Stars program, which sponsors and organizes the wheelchair division. “While I expected a fast time, 38:26 was an incredible blistering pace.”
Robinson was diagnosed with spinal segmental dysgenesis at birth. “My brain doesn’t send signals to my legs,” he explained.
He recalled his parents, James and Erin, taking him and his siblings to the Boilermaker races as a young child and his thrill at seeing a wheelchair athlete for the first time.
“Throughout my life, I have been introduced into many adaptive sports,” Robinson said. “I was first introduced to wheelchair basketball and I enjoyed it, but found another sport in wheelchair racing, which I grew to love.”
He made his Boilermaker debut in 2013 at age 10, the youngest ever in the wheelchair division. He finished the 15K under the two-hour limit and qualified for a racing wheelchair courtesy of Sitrin Rehabilitation Center of New Hartford.
“It has been so enjoyable watching Jason’s growth over the past seven years,” DePerno added. “In the beginning, he participated in wheelchair basketball. At the age of 8, he was unable to reach the rim with the ball, but clearly had the drive to keep trying. Now he’s a force in everything that he does.”
Four years ago, Robinson learned about a wheelchair track and field team in New Jersey. The North Jersey Navigators have introduced him to a much larger world of wheelchair racing. He has competed in the 5th Avenue Mile (he won the junior division in 2017), the Junior Nationals, and now international competitions.
On his Facebook page, Robinson asked for $2,500 in donations for his overseas competition. “Since I am a junior wheelchair athlete competing for my country, this trip is self-funded,” he said.
He surpassed it, receiving $2,600 as of July 9. “The support means a lot to me,” he said. “Thank you again for helping me chase my goals and dreams!”
Wheelchair sports sanctioned
Robinson is entering his sophomore year at Westmoreland Central School. He has carved out his own niche in scholastic sports not only in Section 3, which covers the greater Syracuse-Utica region, but is paving the way for other student wheelchair athletes throughout New York State.
He competed for Westmoreland on the modified track team for two seasons and made it to the varsity level in his freshman year. Even though he runs solely against the clock, rather than against able-bodied runners, he continues to achieve remarkable times.
In March 2017, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association approved a pilot program to allow wheelchair athletes the opportunity to compete in track and field.
Before the 2017-18 school year started, Robinson said he and his mother met with state officials to discuss the rules for his competitions. Last September, he was given permission to compete in the Section 3 state qualifier.
Robinson made headlines by clocking a U.S. record in the 3,200 meters (8:23.3) and second best in the nation in the 1,600 meters at 3:59.71.
Sports ‘N Spokes magazine reported on Robinson’s success and named him Junior Athlete of the Year.
Last spring, NYSPHSAA officially approved a wheelchair division in track and field that would carry over into the state championships. Only two other states in the U.S. include wheelchair athletes in high school sports.
Robinson, although racing alone, did compete in 10 meets for Westmoreland last season and earned official points for the team. He also stayed true to form in the state championships. He won the 3,200-meter event in 8:25.38 and the following day took the 1,600 in 4:00.98.
“I hope we’ll see more wheelchair athletes in the future,” he said. “I want parents to see that if they have a kid in a wheelchair that they’ll have a chance to play sports.”
Success breeds success and produces repeat winners at the Utica Boilermaker road race.
Back-to-back-to-back titles were the norm at the 41st annual Boilermaker in several divisions of the 15-kilometer race, which was contested under ideal conditions recently.
Mary Wacera of Kenya won her fourth women’s open division title with a time of 50:01 minutes, tying her with another Kenyan, Catherine Ndereba, as the winningest female open runner in Boilermaker history.
Post-traumatic stress disorder awareness day was recognized on June 27.
Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs and organizations across the United States raise awareness about PTSD.
Here are some startling statistics from The National Center for PTSD, based upon the population of the United States.
About eight out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives. Almost 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year, and about 10 percent of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared to 4 percent of men.
The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event, either experiencing it or witnessing it. Some examples of such events are sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person’s life.
— The cost to people who have PTSD and to society as a whole is quite dramatic. Consider the following information from the National Institute of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Sidran Institute.
The annual cost to society is estimated at $42.3 billion often due to misdiagnosis and under-treatment. This includes psychiatric and non-psychiatric medical treatment costs, indirect workplace costs, mortality costs, and prescription drug costs.
— People with PTSD have among the highest rates of health care service use.
— Almost 50 percent of all mental health outpatients have PTSD.
— According to veterans’ affairs’ experts, estimates are that up to 20 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, up to 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, and up to 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD symptoms.
Of course, this does not preclude the real human suffering that people with PTSD experience.
From MayoClinic.org, here are some of the more common symptoms people who have PTSD experience.
— Recurrent and unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event, upsetting dreams or nightmares, and severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds them of the traumatic event
— Other symptoms can include negative thoughts about oneself, hopelessness about the future, memory problems, difficulty maintaining close relationships, feeling detached from family and friends, and feeling emotionally numb. Symptoms do not always show up right after the event has been experienced, but certainly can. In many cases, symptoms occur weeks, months or even years later.
Other situations and events also cause PTSD. From a post on Sunrise House, an addiction treatment center located in Sussex County. N.J., natural disasters can and do cause PTSD.
Natural disasters are an obvious source of trauma for a lot of people. Even with plenty of advance warning, the sheer power unleashed by natural forces is hard to comprehend, let alone survive.
In the aftermath of an event like Hurricane Sandy, survivors are left without homes, jobs and oftentimes family members or close friends. The loss of a childhood home or items of sentimental value can be a source of deep pain as such mementos can never be replaced.
A study also suggested that kids with clinical anxiety may be more likely to develop PTSD by being exposed to images and videos of the devastation caused by Sandy. This confirms the findings of previous research that found a connection between watching distressing events on TV and later showing symptoms consistent with those of PTSD.
The psychological and emotional vulnerability of children was discussed in a Psychology Today article that talked about the long-term traumatic effects in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
The study by the University of Miami looked at 384 children who experienced Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 hurricane that slammed into Florida in 2004. Thirty-five people died as a result of the hurricane, and the damage expense went as high as $16.3 billion. Of the 384 children involved in the study, 35 percent of them showed signs of moderate to very severe PTSD nine months after the event, and 29 percent reported having comparable levels of PTSD 21 months after the event.
People suffering from PTSD can better cope with their condition and even recover by seeking professional help.
Most common treatments
From the National Center for PTSD, the following are treatments with the most medical support.
• Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended type of treatment for PTSD. “Trauma-focused” means that the treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning. These treatments use different techniques to help the patient process the traumatic experience.
Some involve visualizing, talking or thinking about the traumatic memory.
• Prolonged exposure teaches a patient how to gain control by facing negative feelings. It involves talking about one’s trauma with a provider and doing some of the things that have been avoided since the trauma.
• Cognitive processing therapy teaches a patient to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma. It involves talking with a provider about negative thoughts and doing short writing assignments.
• Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing helps one process and make sense of trauma. It involves calling the trauma to mind while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound, like a finger waving side to side, a light or a tone.
• Medications that have been shown to be helpful in treating PTSD symptoms are some of the same medications also used for symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here are four antidepressant medications that are recommended for PTSD: Sertraline (Zoloft), Paroxetine (Paxil), Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Venlafaxine (Effexor).
Dealing with PTSD
Prakash Masand, a psychiatrist and founder of Centers of Psychiatric Excellence, offers 10 tips for dealing with PTSD:
— Set realistic goals for yourself. Remember there is no overnight fix, and patience is required to address the recovery.
— Talk it over. Talk about your PTSD and triggers to help educate others, and find a trusted friend to help in your recovery.
— Research and become familiar with the topic. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the better you feel.
— Seek professional help through a doctor or therapist.
— Integrate new methods in daily life. The techniques and therapies introduced are only helpful if you put them into use.
Stricken by devastating blood disease, Frankfort native stays in fight for his life
By Patricia J. Malin
James Thorp has battled disease his entire life, but you won’t hear him complaining. In fact, he is more than anxious to get the word out there about his survival.
The Frankfort native began suffering from Langerhans cell histiocytosis — a rare blood disease — from the time he was eight months old.
“I had my first round of chemo when I was 2 years old,” he said in an interview at his parents’ home in Frankfort.
Now 34 years old, he has undergone countless operations, radiation and chemotherapy treatments — including five brain surgeries. Ever since the beginning, he has gone to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse on both an in-patient and outpatient basis.
LCH is related to other forms of blood diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. WebMD explains that LCH — which was discovered by 19th century German biologist-pathologist Paul Langerhans, is identified by an accumulation of a specific type of white blood cell in the various tissues and organs of the body.
Thorp thought the disease was pretty rare. “One in a million people are diagnosed with this,” he said. However, it is more common than that.
As Wikipedia noted, “Among children under the age of 10, yearly incidence is thought to be 1 in 200,000; and in adults even rarer, in about 1 in 560,000.”
LCH usually affects children between 1 and 15 years old, with a peak incidence between 5 and 10 years of age, and affects males twice as often as females. “I am the oldest person living with the rarest blood disease in the world — 95 percent of the time it’s fatal,” he said.
The disease is related to other cancers. “My body makes too many white blood cells,” he explained. “In return, they grow mutant and attack my body in the forms of tumors and lesions.”
Thorp said the majority of children diagnosed with LCH are not expected to live more than 10 years, but he has more than defied those odds.
“At the time (he was born), they didn’t know much about the disease,” he said. His parents — Dennis and Marie — took him to St. Luke’s Hospital in Utica and he was later sent to specialists at Upstate Medical in Syracuse.
To this day, he travels to Upstate several times a month to be treated and tested by a team of oncologists, neurologists and pulmonologists.
He has undergone, by his count, 14 surgeries plus radiation therapy. He has suffered two strokes, the first one when he was 10, which left him in a wheelchair for 18 months.
His parents photographed him during that particularly difficult stay in the intensive care unit at Upstate in July 1993, which fell on his 10th birthday. Although saddened to be in the hospital, some of his birthday wishes came true.
“At that time, we thought I only had one year left to live,” he recalled. Through the Syracuse chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he received get-well wishes and autographs from actors Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffiths and Don Johnson.
Draws global attention
Back home in Frankfort, Thorp’s courageous fight drew the attention of the men’s lacrosse team at Herkimer County Community College. He became an unofficial mascot and was pampered by attention from the players and their coach, Ray Lenarcic. Word of the team’s devotion to the sickly boy even drew a mention in Sports Illustrated For Kids in 1995, according to Thorp’s scrapbook.
“Everyone around the world was praying for me,” he said. He insists the prayers made a difference. “I got lots of get-well cards in the mail. God helped me. I know it was a miracle.”
In 1999, Make-A-Wish assisted the ailing teenager once more and treated him and his family, including his brother, Dennis, and two sisters, Dianne and Denise, to an all-expenses-paid trip to the grand opening of Planet Hollywood in Chicago.
Thorp posed for photos there with a number of celebrities, such as Arnold Schwarznegger, Tom Arnold and his wife, Roseanne Barr, Patrick Swayze and Cindy Crawford. “My mom liked Patrick Swayze,” said Thorp. “I thought Cindy Crawford was so beautiful and she kissed me on the cheek.”
He managed to get his high school diploma at Frankfort-Schuyler Central School despite missing a lot of classes due to his hospitalizations. From that point on, he struggled to prepare himself to transition to life as an adult, if one were possible.
“I flunked out of Herkimer after one year, and then I dropped out of Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica after two years,” he said.
He traveled to the west coast on his own, but ended up meeting the wrong people. He said he got into trouble and became more aware of temptations. In the end, though, it helped him rediscover his faith. “I prayed and meditated a lot,” he said. “I talked to God and listened to God.”
He said no one should blame God for the maladies that afflict humans. “God doesn’t give (us) cancer. Everyone has a choice, a path to happiness. He doesn’t promise you all sunshine.”
Four years ago, while living in Phoenix, Ariz., he suffered another stroke and became partially paralyzed following surgery. When he left the hospital, Thorp had no choice but to return home and get care from his family.
Since then, he has focused on improving his health through nutrition. He lost 85 pounds in two years, mostly through a 53-day fast and healthy diet.
He also attended the Utica School of Commerce, then successfully passed a set of New York state exams and qualified for the insurance business. He worked briefly for a national insurance chain. He recently started his own business, The Alpha & the Omega, at Emmanuel Insurance and Financial Services.
June is Men’s Health Month: Recognize the most common forms of cancer in males
By Rachel Evans
June marks not only Father’s Day, but Men’s Health Month as well.
It’s a time to take care of the father, husband, brother, son, or friend in our life. Men’s Health Month is a time for us to make sure all the men in our life are taking a step in the right direction toward a healthier lifestyle. Encourage all men in your life to take better care of themselves by eating healthy, exercising and staying up-to-date on screenings.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the three most commonly diagnosed cancers among males are prostate, lung and colorectal cancer. All of these can be prevented or detected early with screening.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among males in the United States. The following risk factors increase a male’s chance of getting prostate cancer:
— The older a man gets, the higher his risk for getting prostate cancer.
— Males with a family history of prostate cancer are at increased risk.
— Prostate cancer is more common in African American men.
Screening tests are available to potentially detect prostate cancer, but you should consult with your doctor on whether they are right for you. There are two screening tests for prostate cancer, including a digital rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen test. A DRE involves a doctor inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the size of the prostate and check for lumps and abnormalities.
A PSA test is a blood test done to check for prostate-specific antigen that is a substance produced by the prostate. A high level of PSA in the blood may indicate prostate cancer.
Other health conditions can cause an increased level of PSA in the blood as well. If prostate cancer is suspected, a doctor would likely perform a biopsy.
Between 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases are attributed to cigarette smoking or use of other tobacco products.
Smoking occasionally or even a small amount puts a person at increased risk for lung cancer. Quitting smoking at any age will lower the risk for lung cancer, as well as other illnesses.
Secondhand smoke can also cause lung cancer. About 7,300 people who have never smoked die from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke each year. Radon, a naturally occurring gas, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer with 20,000 cases of lung cancer detected each year.
According to the CDC, lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography is recommended only for adults who are at high risk for developing lung cancer, including people between the ages of 55-80.
These include individuals who have a history of heavy smoking, is a current smoker or quit in the past 15 years.
A person’s risk for getting colorectal cancer increases as they age — greater than 90 percent of colorectal cancer occurs in people 50 years of age and older.
The following risk factors increase the likelihood for colorectal cancer:
— Those with inflammatory bowl disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
— A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
— A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)
— Lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity; diet low in fruit and vegetables; low fiber or high-fat diet; overweight and obesity; alcohol consumption and tobacco use
Adults aged 50-75 should be screened for colorectal cancer. Screening can detect precancerous polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum). Polyps can be removed before they turn cancerous. Those at increased risk for colorectal cancer should be screened prior to age 50. Screening is extremely important for early detection of colorectal cancer.
There are several types of screening tests for colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor about which test is right for you.
— Stool tests: There are several forms of stool tests available from a doctor. A stool test looks for blood or altered DNA in stool. A guaiac-based fecal occult blood test and a fecal immunochemical test both use a brush to obtain a small sample of stool. This is then sent back to the doctor or a lab for analysis.
Both tests are done yearly at home. A FIT-DNA test is another stool test that looks for altered DNA in the stool. An entire bowel movement is sent to a lab to check for cancer cells. A FIT-DNA test is done usually once every one to three years.
— Flexible sigmoidoscopy: A short, thin tube is inserted into the rectum. A doctor checks for potentially cancerous polyps inside the rectum and lower part of the colon.