Monday, August 27, 2007
Where Does Your Candidate Stand?
The Lance Armstrong Foundation is once again bringing the fight against cancer to the forefront of our national conscience. The Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum will take place today and tomorrow (broadcast on MSNBC). For the first time in history, presidential hopefuls will come together to discuss their plans for a national cancer policy. The debate will be moderated by Lance Armstrong and Hardball's Chris Matthews.

Let's face it, we are still more than a year away from the election and it already feels like there have been a number of forums/debates; however, I believe this forum is important for many reasons. As I have gone through the various stages of cancer treatment and recovery, I have learned quite clearly just how political an issue it is. Everything from what drugs are available to what is covered under Medicaid or what your insurance company is required to provide for you are government funded or government mandated. Our government has made medical decisions on my behalf so it is important for me to fully understand the candidates' positions prior to casting my vote.

If you had the chance, what questions would you ask the candidates? You can explore questions posed by a panel of experts at Go on, visit them and post your comments to their questions. And don't forget to tune in to MSNBC on television or webcast at 10:00 a.m. CT for the Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum. For some background on each of the participating candidates, you can check out this article I wrote for

Congratulations to the Lance Armstrong Foundation for all their efforts in creating this historic event.

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
3 chimed in

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
An Open Letter to Rosie O’Donnell
Dear Rosie,

Over the last few years a conversation you had with a friend continues to resurface and each time it does, it feels as though I've been stabbed in the heart.

During your lawsuit over your magazine, it was reported that you stated to someone who had been recently diagnosed with cancer that she was a liar and that people who lie get cancer. Since that time you have clarified that statement as follows (taken from your blog):

“I had a conversation
with a friend/co worker
about how the physical and
spiritual r connected

that the darkness is where disease

all humans lie”

“but to choose darkness
is to invite illness
i believe”
It sounds reasonable on the surface on some new-age level. In fact, I may have agreed with you . . . before I myself was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39.

I don’t claim to have never veered to the dark side, but I disagree with your interpretation of the mind-body-spirit you-reap-what-you-sow connection in relationship to illness. I believe the connection may lie in your respect for yourself, which manifests itself in your respect for your body (diet, exercise, meditation, etc.). Honestly, if it were as simple as you claim, why isn’t every murderer on death row and every child molester writhing in pain from the most torturous cancer known to man?

I understand that it seems you are saying that in some metaphysical way, illness lives in the darkness and that by inviting more darkness into our lives through our actions we are creating a greater dwelling for illness. Howver, there is still a randomness in this theory that seems to effect some (those who seemingly invite little darkness -- Dana Reeves?) and don't effect others (those who seemingly dwell in tremendous darkness -- murderers et al.).

Let’s not forget genetic predisposition either. If I test positive for a cancer gene, something I was born with, at what point did I invite darkness or is it a result of my ancestors’ darkness? There are fatal gaps in your logic, Rosie.

You have great influence, Rosie, and you do many good things for many people. However, for those of us who have had to face cancer, suffer tremendously from the treatments, undergo multiple surgical procedures, and, if we are lucky enough, forever live under the threat of it returning, you have judged us harshly. You have told us that we brought it on ourselves. How do you know this? What science or research supports this? Can I be absolved of my sins and my cancer at the same time? Sadly, the people whom you influence will perpetuate this flawed belief of yours.

I do not believe you would have told that to your mother. Nor do I believe that in the unfortunate situation that someone else close to you is diagnosed with cancer, a sister, brother, childhood friend, wife, or child, that you would say it to them. I do not even believe you would use this unfortunate rationalization on yourself if you were faced with this dreaded disease.

Sadly, you chose the people who were already suffering, going through a living hell, facing their own mortality and announced that they did it to themselves; that their cancer was their own fault. I believe you have offended anyone who has ever had cancer and the people who love them.

Best Regards,

(Somewhat) Enlightened Cancer Survivor

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
4 chimed in

Chestnut Trees and Cycles of Life
Many years ago when my family first moved to California, one of our relatives mailed my father a chestnut. While in transit, the chestnut sprouted. Never one to waste a thing, my father planted the little sprout in the front yard. The dry, hot California climate may not have been the best home for a chestnut tree; however, it's growth over the years has been a symbol of its indomitable spirit as well as a symbol of family history. We kept a piece of tradition and home with us as we emigrated to the US and eventually came to California. For me, a California native, it has been a link to family history that extended generations and across continents.

We have since enjoyed many picnics, celebrations, and bocce tournaments in the shade of this tree. With the many memories and emotions attached to the chestnut tree, imagine our sadness when a disease almost killed this tree a few years ago. We brought in the experts who removed the diseased portions and saved the tree. It's years may be numbered, but it still has years of life left.

Every time see this tree it forces me to recall the cycle of life. Even something that stands with such grandeur and strength must succumb to the cycle of life and give way to new life. Though while it is here it serves its purpose providing shade, security, and shelter in addition to its harvest. Eventually, it seems the disease will return, spread, and the tree will be gone.

I can't express how clearly I relate to this tree in regard to my own life cycle. When you think about it, we are the same really. All living things are part of a cycle of life and all that it implies. In recent weeks I have experienced the loss of three people to cancer, young and old alike. It seems the daily news headlines rarely skip a day without mentioning another cancer loss. I have begun to believe that perhaps cancer is a natural part of this process. Perhaps cancer was intended to be the end of the life cycle.

For centuries we've sought the Fountain of Youth, so it is no surprise we search even harder for a cure for cancer. Sometimes I have to wonder if by not allowing cancer to end my life cycle, by cheating death, is there some purpose to my days and by not tuning in to that purpose am I selfishly consuming this time? I feel like I am either about to discover or completely miss the grand message of enlightenment from my cancer experience.
For the last three years I have been determined to convince the world (and thus myself) that cancer doesn't change us. This is not true. Every experience we have changes us in some way and while I feel my life is very different now internally, I feel the the external is very much the same. The person you see in the community, my role in my family, my job, everyhting is the same. I am starting to feel as though the conflict is growing too great between the internal and the external and something is about to change. All I can hope for is that the change brings a goodness and peace and hope that carries me through the turbulence of change.

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Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
3 chimed in

Monday, August 06, 2007
Rolling Stones
The latest addition to my collection looks like a hair under 5mm. Do you know how big 5mm is? Not much if you are measuring chocolate or gold, but kidney stones? That is huge! Huge, I tell you! In case you are wondering what that looks like, follow this link (though it is a bit fuzzy). I would post the picture directly, but isn't that a bit obnoxious? It's like, "Hey! Look what I made!"

Now if I can just figure out a way to ingest lots and lots of carbon, I can start making diamond kidney stones.


Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
8 chimed in

Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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