Friday, January 4, 2013

Great students

I have great students.

Now, I must also note that one of the things that is most rewarding and most frustrating about working in education is students. In part because they are still young and so very focused on ME.

But, this past semester I have worked with a great group of students and have even gotten a few emails this week from students thanking me for helping them work to study abroad!  That is so nice to get that thank you!

In our work, we really try to make everything great for students and we know when things are not right and when the student has helped or not done something.  And often, when something goes wrong, it's not our fault or the student's fault, but something in the chain of multiple people we work with.  (ex, if I need to confirm a class at a university abroad, they need to go through their chain of people, plus we need to account for time differences- so it may take a few days in the end to get a reply)

So, thank you for the thank yous and always let us know what help you need because (even when it's very frustrating to you and me) we are here to help and REALLY want to help!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Time to promote my Alma mater & my profession!  Today, Nov 28th, 2012, I will be tweeting my day for @MUCareerInADay!

Marymount Alumni live-tweet their workday to give current students and other alumni a sense of what a day in the life is like in their particular career field

Alma mater: Marymount University

Bachelors of Art: History, Politics minor
Graduation: May 2002

Coursework in MBA program

Study abroad at MU: London internship program.  Did internship at War on Want, focusing on the Tobin Tax campaign.

My background:
From Northern California

Married with a 2 1/2 year old and another on the way

Have traveled to: Japan, UK, Bahamas, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, France, Italy, Spain, Egypt, Jordan, UAE (Dubai), China, Canada.

Work background
In high school and while at MU, I did lots of different internships with political offices and NGOs.  This was great in getting involved with my community and, when doing the internships in the DC area, to see how different offices function.  Doing my internship abroad was great in experiencing the difference in how NGOs work in the USA and how they function- and market- abroad.

My senior year, I worked in the Study Abroad office at MU where I actually started the first international photo contest we had!  For pictures of our photo contest this year, please see this link.

After graduation in 2002 I did some temporary jobs in the DC area until I got a position at ISEP- International Student Exchange Program.  From 2003-2006 I went from Program Assistant to Program Officer for Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Iceland, Finland and Malta and in addition to those duties, I also worked on the J-1 visa process for all of our incoming students to the U.S.  This was a great organization to really learn about international education from an administration point of view as well as to very quickly learn the MANY issues that can arise in International Education! :)

In September of 2006, I came back to Marymount University as a Study Abroad Coordinator in the Center for Global Education.  It's very nice to be back on a university campus where I get to work with students at all parts of the study abroad process- initial advising, pre-departure information, after they return- I get to work with other advisers and I get to work with great faculty and staff here!

Also, while at MU, I have been able to travel to many different locations for site visits or with our students and professors when they go abroad for a class!

So, please follow me today and enjoy seeing what I do! :)

Friday, October 19, 2012


I came across this quote today and wanted to share it:

Narrated by Anas bin Malik: 

Allah's Apostle said, "Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, "O Allah's Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?" The Prophet said, "By preventing him from oppressing others." 

Sahih Bukhari, Volume:3, Book :43 (Oppressions), Hadith Number :624

This reminds me of so many books and speeches I have heard from people from the UN High Commission of Refugees. It is the norm for people who come from an oppressed background (or who were victims of violence and acts of genocide) to then act in a similar way once they are out of harms way. It's an ongoing problem at this large level, but is something you also hear social workers talk about on a
 lower level- think abused families and the trends that come from that.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Studying Abroad

It's that time of the year where I now know (well, mostly know) who is going abroad at my university for Spring 2013!!  Yea and super yay because we are totally up in numbers and also where people are going!!

I have students going to:

  • Florence, Italy
  • Rome, Italy
  • Paris, France
  • London, UK
  • Granada, Spain
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Gaborone, Botswana
  • Amman, Jordan
We got ears- super cheers!!!  

... I watch too much Mickey Mouse Clubhouse now...


When you study abroad, it is very important to know that there is not a 'set' study abroad experience   I have had people go to the same location, stayed in the same housing, taken the EXACT same classes and come back with COMPLETELY different experiences.  


Because, we are all individuals.  While I deal with mostly with students who have always lived in the U.S.A. and therefore the same culture, we all have very different life experiences.  You may have grown up in a part of the country that is different from someone else.  You may practice a religion that is different from others.  You may have been raised by your mom and dad, mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, guardian, etc. All of those things make you unique and give you a unique view of the world and how to look at things!

Also, everyone has different expectations for what a semester abroad may bring.  And- often- the expectations are not reflective of what will happen.  Yes, you will go abroad and travel and meet new people and see new things, but what does that MEAN to YOU?

When I advise people about studying abroad, I try to get them think about what they want to get at the end of a study abroad experience.  Do you just want to have a list of places you have been?  Do you want to take classes you can't at home?  Do you want to learn a language?  Do you want to gain some insight into your host culture?

Everything that you may list is perfectly valid.  (Party?  There's places for that)  But, it's important when you are talking with your study abroad adviser to be honest about what you want.  That way, we can help you find a program that meets your needs and overall exceptions.

But, think more about the end goal.  When you are abroad, it is often very hard to see everything that you have accomplished by going abroad and living abroad.  It's helpful to list what you'd like to do/what your goals are.  It's helpful to write how you view yourself and then when you are abroad (and when you come home), write about how you view yourself now.  Sometimes you may not feel a change- other times, the change is big.

Studying abroad requires the ability to ADAPT.  People won't necessarily feel 'shock' when going abroad.  But, you still will adapt.  Your entire way of living a day will change.  Maybe not in what you do, but HOW you do it.
Now, at the same time, I FULLY expect that students will put themselves out there and learn about their host culture and RECOGNIZE that they are leaving their home.  When you travel abroad NEVER assume something.

For example?  Gestures:

Other things that people assume will be the same is politeness (I'm talking about not IF people are polite, but HOW they are polite.  Many people think a culture is impolite, when it's really about the HOW), when and how you eat, how you shop, how you order food, how to get on public transportation, timing for meetings, how you discuss/argue, etc.

Studying abroad is one of the best things that a student can do!  I'm so proud of everyone that does a study abroad program and I encourage everyone to take advantage, if you can.

(Note: studying abroad is often cheaper than you think if you are flexible about where you go.  Australia, New Zeland, Ireland and the UK- with France close behind are  the most expensive usually, but pretty much everywhere else is quite reasonable. the same as a normal semester costs you or even cheaper!  Plus, many programs offer scholarships and the U.S. Government offers the Gilman Scholarship to those students who get a Pell Grant)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: Divergent

I love dystopian novels!  And so I have been enjoying this insurgence of dystopian books into the world as of late.  I find it also interesting that they are young adult novels; the themes are so different from that of the older generation dystopians.  (less sex certainly, but also the point of view is so different it seems)

I read the Hunger Games awhile back and found it ok.  I had some issues with the characters through the story.  (ok, it's young adult, but considering you are pretty graphically describing them killing each other, I think some things could have been better developed)  Having said that, the other two books were significantly better and I in particular loved the third book.

This review is on another book- Divergent.  Divergent takes place in a future focused on the people living in the Chicago area.  We know that society has basically broken down at one point and it was decided that to maintain peace, everyone chooses a particular lifestyle- or faction- in which to live in.  Each faction values certain things: Candor- honesty, Abnegation- selflessness, Dauntless- bravery, Amity- peace, and Erudite- intelligence.

Until they are around 16 years old, all of the children of the faction learn together.  Then, they go through an exam of sorts so that they can see what faction they truly belong in.  After that, they can choose to either go to the faction the test says they belong in or stay with their family (sometimes there is no change from the test).  If they leave for a new faction, they effectively cut off all ties with their family and the old faction.

Our heroine's conflict comes when she tests into no faction.  She is not faction-less (a fate seen almost worst than death , but she is told it's very dangerous.  She chooses a new faction and starts their initiation process- knowing the process may kill her or have her end up faction-less.

At the same time, we see that there is a larger plot at work, although nothing is clear for quite awhile and even by the end, you are eager for the next book (Insurgent) because we still don't have the answers!

I love this book so much- mostly because the characters are developed so well.  That may be because we are allowed to look at the individuals much more before we get into the larger conspiracy, but I'm glad because it let's us experience this in 'real time' with the characters and connect to them much more.

I also love the different factions- sort of a la Brave New World (although that is class, maybe I need a better parallel example!)- I like the 'role' factor of dystopian novels and think this one does that well while still preserving individual characters.  It's a great way that Veronica develops the characters and then society and the overall plot.

The author, Veronica Roth, also seems great.  And she is so young for having such a successful book!  She is currently 24 years old!!  I'm so jealous in my thirties I haven't done something like this ;)  I highly recommend that you check out her blog- she has some great posts there!

So, I HIGHLY recommend this book and I can't wait to read the next one!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book review: Our Last Best Chance

As I have probably mentioned before, my husband is originally a Jordanian citizen.  (of course, it's more complicated than that, but I'll go into that if I ever talk about national identity)  We try to get to Jordan about every other year to visit family and I love to explore the country.  Jordan is a wonderful country to visit- and a rather new one (in the modern sense), which people sometimes forget.  It's capital, Amman, just celebrated it's 100th birthday last year- yay!! (for more information about Jordan, check our their tourism page and my page here)

King Abdullah II is the King of Jordan and the head of the Hashemites- the family who rules over Jordan.  Remember Lawrence of Arabia?  That's ALL about the Hashemites!  And, if you remember the story, they are from Arabia, the Mecca region (called the Hejaz).  Which, bring us more or less back to how Jordan is a rather new country... (and how national identity is very interesting)

So, King Abdullah II has written an autobiography of his first 10 years as King of Jordan.  His father, King Hussein, wrote a similar book after he was king for 10 years (Uneasy Lies the Head), which was the inspiration for this book.  (I'm reading that now)  King Abdullah's book, Our Last Best Chance, is like two books - an autobiography and the King's thoughts on foreign policy in the region (specifically the Palestinians).

Now, I'm all for learning about both of those topics, but in one book, it didn't mesh well.  I loved the first part of the book- it was interesting, entertaining and made you really feel close to the King as both a leader and individual.  It was interesting to hear him talk about his family's history from a personal point of view and also to share stories of many difficult times he had as the son of the King, a boarding student and military training.  I felt like we got this inside view in how things worked and the personal impact of policies and this governmental structure. So, love, love, LOVE this first part.

Then, he became King and almost straight away the style of writing changed to a more formal and political format.  Granted, I understand this.  He is in power- he can't really piss off everyone that he works with on a daily basis.  But, it was too bad because so much of the pleasure of reading the book was lost due to the new, formal format.

So, in the second part of the book, things are more formal.  THEN, he starts talking about issues... but they are not really about Jordan!  I mean, they are about Jordan, but they are also about Palestine and Israel and Iraq and Syria, etc, etc, etc.  He starts with those things closer to Jordan- security over the Iraq war and following mess; security over the drug trade; security over the attacks on the hotels (THAT was shocking, I must tell you.  We open the Washington Post and my husband's friend and family are on the front page...).  He talks about the economy and what he has done.  But, the closer we get to the second part of the 2000s, the more the focus changes.

Certainly you see how the region is so interconnected- particularly a country like Jordan with rather limited resources and a dependency on others for things like water- and you see how much an issue Palestine is to the Hashemites- as direct decedents of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)- and to protect the Holy Sites, but these are not issues so specific to Jordan that they deserve the last third of this book!  I wish most of this part was edited down to perhaps 2 chapters- at the MOST.  They are very important- just not to this book.  If he wants to talk about this more, I think it could be it's own book and certainly an interesting one given his family's life long involvement and defense of the Holy Sites and help with the refugees.

I would have LOVED to see King Abdullah talk about:

  • Water control/access in Jordan (and certainly that's an issue for the whole region and one that the U.S. in even involved in)
  • Tariffs on imported items (gas comes to mind right now, but other items like cars) (Granted- at the start of the King part he did talk about the economy a good amount, but then it seemed to lose out on focus to the other items.  But, he did a pretty good job of showing what he has done in regards to trade agreements and such)
  • Having such a large part of the citizens working abroad (Gulf and other places) (Ok, I just tried to find a stat and couldn't so maybe I just know so many like this...)
  • Having the population so diverse (Palestinians, Jordanians, Bedouins (Jordanians), Chechens, Iraqis, Armenians, Expats from Europe/US)  (again, he sort of address this, but not enough in the way I see it...)
  • Education and education reform 
  • Infrastructure (water, gas, heat-in schools, etc)
  • Technology (I see so many ads about this and how they are trying to bring it to Jordan- what is the long term goal?)
  • ANY comments on Parliament and the PMs!  There was almost NOTHING on this which is either a very telling comment on how the King views Parliament or is THAT much of a can of worms to discuss.  It NEEDS to be discussed
I highly recommend everyone to read Our Last Best Chance- it gives great insight into the King and I think helps you feel connected to him.  Just be aware of that second part of the book and take this as an opportunity to read up more about the things he discusses and those he DOESN'T discuss!  

(King Abdullah- let me work for you... Your people love you and just want to make Jordan a better country for everyone! :))

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bilingual Learning

My husband's first language is Arabic and mine is English.  My husband speaks English fluently (pretty amazing considering he really didn't have much formal learning!) and I speakVERY little Arabic.  [Although, thankfully colloquial- I think it would be worst if I only knew Modern Standard Arabic] We are trying to raise our daughter to be bilingual (and later tri-lingual).

I have another friend who recently posted on Facebook about some problems she sees about raising her daughter bilingual.  I have quite a few friends now who are trying to raise their kids to be bilingual and - as with all learning and dealing with individual kids- all the styles and kids' response are different.  I should note, all of these families have one person who was raised (until at least HS) outside the U.S. 

One of the things that seems to come up at this point- 18 month to 4 years- is wondering if the child is getting enough of X language.  I think it's always important to remember that kids are just learning language and how to communicate at this point- what they say may not make a whole lot of sense in one language or the other!  Yes, they may show preference, but I don't think this means that they are NOT learning another language.

The trick really seems to be keeping up language as they get older and as they get into more formal language learning settings.  (ie, school)  THAT's when I hear that kids will stick to one language (and forget the other) because it's what everyone else is saying.  That is the difficulty for language learning in the home- if you have more than one kid, they may speak to each other only in one language.  And that language may be the language of what's in the schools they are in.

So, what does that mean?  I think it means several things. 

1. Each child is different and they may always prefer one language to the other.  We can't expect that they will just combine languages when they talk (like they do as young children).

2. Encouraging the non-dominant language is very important.  The dominant language is usually whatever is spoken in the household until they start school; it may change if the dominant language in school is not that of home.  The key word in this statement is to encourage.  If learning the non-dominant language (since they don't get that in school- grammar, writing, reading, etc) becomes a chore, they may learn the words, but not the language and therefore their communicate may be a bit stiff.  Which, is fine, but probably not desirable.  (I think back to my own Spanish classes in HS about this!)

What a friend did, which I think is brilliant, is take her kids to her home country each summer and enroll them into a local summer program (ie, soccer).  The kids do something they like, PLUS they MUST speak the language of the other kids.  The language becomes more normal and not something forced or uncool.  Plus, they keep up with the changes to the language by being around the native speakers.

I thought this was a great image!
3. The child may NOT become fluent in X language.  While there is so many articles and studies that show how receptive kids are to learning a second language, there are a lot of factors.  How are they learning English?  What type of exposure do they have to X language?  TV? Movies? Family conversations? Lectures? Books? Language is as much a cultural skill as a communications one and it's hard to exactly duplicate it without going to X country with the native speakers from time to time. (which is not always possible- we struggle to go every other year)

I REALLY hope my daughter becomes bilingual. Her daycare lady is from Morocco and speaks Arabic to her.  We hope to send her to a immersion public school in Arabic.  We hope to go home every other year to Jordan.  And I talk to her mostly in Arabic.

BUT, my husband and I talk mostly in English to each other.  MY family (which actually lives across the country) doesn't know Arabic.  And my daughter (2 1/2 years) often translates what I say into English.  "Roo he shmel?" "Yea, let's go left!"

At least she UNDERSTANDS it, right?  (and to be fair, she will translate the other way around- usually around my mom.  I think she thinks it's funny)

So, I am trying to get my husband to ONLY talk to her in Arabic.  Unfortunately, right now that ends up be him quizzing her with words (which, thankfully, she knows).  So, I figure the best thing will be for me to up my language and for us to hope to go to Jordan frequently!

Wish us luck and good luck to everyone else out there!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cancer Notice (NOT) from Johns Hopkins- and why it's awesome :)

Today, I came across the following information.  Apparently, this was originally sent through email, although I found it through Facebook:  (It's long, so I have lines enclosing the email text)
After the break... why JH is awesome!

This e-mail is NOT from Johns Hopkins
August 11, 2008

A hoax e-mail on cancer has been circulating on the internet. Because this e-mail uses the Johns Hopkins name, we thought we would post a What's New to inform the users of our web page. The e-mail in question is pasted at the end of this Whats New. To learn more visit: and The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center News.
The hoax email in question:
Cancer Update from John Hopkins
  1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.
  2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person's life time
  3. When the person\'s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.
  4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.
  5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.
  6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinaltract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.
  7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.
  8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.
  9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.
  10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.
  11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.
  12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines become putrified and leads to more toxic buildup.
  13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body\'s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.
  14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body's own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body's normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.
  15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positivespirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to havea loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.
  16. Cancer cells cannot thrive inan oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.
Cancer Cells Feed On:
  1. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color. Better alternative is Bragg's aminos or sea salt.
  2. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinaltract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soya milk cancer cells are being starved.
  3. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, e specially to people with cancer.
  4. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts)and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
  5. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tapwater. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
  1. No plastic containers in micro.
  2. No water bottles in freezer.
  3. No plastic wrap in microwave.
Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in its newsletters. This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well.
Dioxin chemicals causes cancer, especially breast cancer.
Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies.
Don't freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins from the plastic.
Recently, Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital, was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us.. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers.
This especially applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, he recommends using glass, such as CorningWare, Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, only without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners, instant and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else.
Paper isn't bad but you don't know what is in the paper. It's just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons.
Also, he pointed out that plastic wrap, such as Saran, is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead.
This is an article that should be sent to anyone important in your life.

I think a lot of the information, in general, is good- eating healthy is always good! :)
What is even more awesome is that Johns Hopkins not only put this email on their page to deny it's tied to them (and to point out the misspelling), but they went further and actually addressed the different points FROM the email!  How awesome is Johns Hopkins!!!


Cancer Update Email -- It's a Hoax!

Updated April 2009
View Spanish Version of Statement


Information falsely attributed to Johns Hopkins called, "CANCER UPDATE FROM JOHN HOPKINS" describes properties of cancer cells and suggests ways of preventing cancer.  Johns Hopkins did not publish the information, which often is an email attachment, nor do we endorse its contents.  The email also contains an incorrect spelling of our institution as "John" Hopkins; whereas, the correct spelling is "Johns" Hopkins. For more information about cancer, please read the information on our web site or visit the National Cancer Institute's web site at  Please help combat the spread of this hoax by letting others know of this statement.
Another hoax email that has been circulating since 2004 regarding plastic containers, bottles, wrap claiming that heat releases dioxins which cause cancer also was not published by Johns Hopkins.  More information from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Mythbusters:  Please help curb the spread of this hoax by sending a link to this page to individuals that forward you this email.

The Truth about the "Cancer Update" Email

It has become such a problem, that the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and individual cancer centers like the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have posted warnings on their Web sites. Emails offering easy remedies for avoiding and curing cancer are the latest Web-influenced trend. To gain credibility, the anonymous authors falsely attribute their work to respected research institutions like Johns Hopkins. This is the case with the so-called “Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins.”
The gist of this viral email is that cancer therapies of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy do not work against the disease and people should instead choose a variety of dietary strategies.
Traditional therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, work. The evidence is the millions of cancer survivors in the United States today who are alive because of these therapies.   We recognize that treatments don’t work in every patient, or sometimes work for awhile and then stop working, and there are some cancers that are more difficult to cure than others. These problems are the focus of ongoing cancer research.
We’ll go through each statement in the email hoax and provide real responses from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center experts.

Email hoax contentions #1 and 2: Everyone Has Cancer Cells

Cancer is a genetic disease resulting from a variety of mutations and alterations either inherited from our parents or, more commonly, acquired over time due to environmental exposures and behaviors, such as smoking and poor diet. These alterations turn off important cell growth regulators allowing cells to continually divide unchecked, explains Luis Diaz, a clinician-scientist in Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics. This type of cell is called a malignant or cancer cell.  Among the trillions of cells in the human body, inevitably everyone has some abnormal or atypical cells that possess some of the characteristics of cancer cells, most resolve themselves and never result in cancer, says Diaz.
There is no single or standard test for cancer. There are ways to screen for certain cancers with tests such as colonoscopy for colon cancer, mammography for breast cancer, PSA for prostate cancer, and the Pap smear for cervical cancer, and these tests can detect cancers in a very early and curable stage.  For many cancers, there currently are no screening tests, and they are diagnosed when they begin to cause symptoms.
Diaz and other Kimmel Cancer Center researchers are working on new tests that detect abnormal DNA shed by cancer cells into blood and body fluids and have the ability to find cancers before they cause any symptoms.  Approaches like this could lead to a broad-based screening test for cancer.
Tests like these also are being used to detect cancer recurrences and malignant cells left behind following surgery, and can find cancers that are not detectable under the microscope or in x-rays.
Other researchers are studying cancer stem cells.  They are stealth cells that make up just a tiny fraction of a tumor.  While small in number, investigators believe they may be the cells that drive certain cancers and lead to cancer recurrence. Therapies that target these cells are now being tested in clinical trials.
A team of our breast cancer researchers has developed a method that could make it possible to detect breast cancer from the DNA contained in a single drop of blood.
But, while evasive cancer cells are a challenge and the focus of ongoing research, it does not mean, as the email contends, that all patients, even those treated successfully for cancer, have cancers-in-waiting—undetectable but still there.  People are treated and completely cured of cancer everyday.

Email hoax contention #3: A Strong Immune System Destroys Cancer

When it comes to cancer and the immune system, it is not a matter of strong or weak as the fictional report contends, but rather an issue of recognition.  "The immune system simply does not recognize cancer. In its complexity, the cancer cell has learned to disguise itself to the immune system as a normal, healthy cell.  Cells infected with viruses or bacteria send out danger signals setting the immune system in action.  But cancer cells do not, explains Elizabeth Jaffee, co-director of cancer immunology and leading expert on cancer and the immune system."   By deciphering the methods cancer cells use to make them invisible to the immune system, Jaffee and team have developed cancer vaccines that have successfully triggered immune reactions against prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, leukemia, and multiple myeloma.

Email hoax contention #4 and #5: Cancer is caused by Nutritional Deficiencies and Supplements Will Correct Them

Dietary habits and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, contribute to the development of many human cancers, says Kimmel Cancer Center director William Nelson. Our experts recommend a balanced diet (see response #11) as a way of reducing cancer risk.  In terms of supplements, Nelson points out that while they may help mediate vitamin deficiencies, taking doses above what the body needs provides no added benefit.

Email hoax contentions #6, 7, 8, 9, and 10: Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Harms Normal Cells. Surgery Causes Cancer to Spread

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy kills cancer cells with remarkable selectivity, says Nelson.  There are some temporary and reversible side effects common to cancer therapies, including hair loss and low blood counts.  Limiting and managing these side effects is an integral part of treatment.
Surgery is the first line of treatment for many types of cancer. It does not cause cancer to spread. Cancers spread to other tissues and organs as a tumor progresses and cancer cells break away from the original tumor and travel through the bloodstream to other body sites.

Email hoax contentions #11, 12, 13, and 14: Cancers Feed on Certain Foods

The premise is that cancer cells feed on certain foods, and if a person refrains from eating these foods, the cancer will die. According to our experts, a poor diet and obesity associated with a poor diet is a risk factor for the development of cancer.  However, there is no evidence that certain foods alter the environment of an existing cancer, at the cellular level, and cause it to either die or grow.
While there is such a thing as tumors that produce mucus, the mucus made by a tumor does not result from drinking milk.  And, eating less meat, while a good choice for cancer prevention, does not free up enzymes to attack cancer cells, explains cancer prevention and control expert Elizabeth Platz.
Moderation is key, says Platz. As part of a balanced diet, sugar, salt, milk, coffee, tea, meat, and chocolate—the foods the “Update” calls into question—are all safe choices, she says.  The real concern with many of these, particularly sugar, is that it adds calories to a diet and can lead to obesity, and obesity is a major risk factor for cancer. A balanced nutritious diet, healthy weight, physical activity, and avoiding alcoholic drinks may prevent as many as 1/3 of all cancers. Platz recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and limiting red and processed meats, like hot dogs.
Several Johns Hopkins experts participated in the World Cancer Research Fund - American Institute for Cancer Research report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, published in November 2007, which is considered by cancer prevention experts to be an authoritative source of information on diet, physical activity and cancer. Their recommendations for cancer prevention and for good health in general are:
  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fiber, or high in fat).
  4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
  5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
  8. Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.
Our experts recommend that people meet their nutritional needs through their food choices. While vitamin supplements can be helpful in people with nutritional deficiencies, evidence suggests that supplementation above what the body can use provides no added health benefit.

Email hoax contention #15: Cancer is a Disease of Mind, Body, and Spirit

Cancer is a disease caused by genetic alterations.  Many times, these alterations occur through our own behaviors—cigarette smoking, a poor and unbalanced diet, virus exposures, and sunburns, says cancer prevention and control expert John Groopman.
How stress, faith, and other factors influence this is largely unknown.  We would like people to be happy, loving, and stress free, simply because it is a nice way to live and can contribute to an overall feeling of well being, says Platz.  There is no evidence, however, that a person prevents or causes cancer based on his or her state of mind.
Still, we understand that a cancer diagnosis can make patients and families feel stressed and anxious, and these are not pleasant feelings.  So, we offer extensive patient and family services, including a cancer counseling center, pain and palliative care program, chaplain services and a meditation chapel, an image recovery center, and the Art of Healing art and music program.

Email hoax contention #16: Oxygen Kills Cancer Cells

Platz recommends regular exercise as a part of any healthy lifestyle, but says there is no evidence that breathing deeply or receiving oxygen therapy prevents cancer.
On its Web site, the American Cancer Society includes the following statement about oxygen therapy, “Available scientific evidence does not support claims that putting oxygen-releasing chemicals into a person's body is effective in treating cancer. It may even be dangerous. There have been reports of patient deaths from this method.”  Read more
Please pass this information on to family and friends.


Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center
Office of Public Affairs

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Laptop Lunches

Laptop Lunches- Bento boxes
So, this is a random post (I'm obviously trying to get behind on my work.... See the picture at the bottom of this page)...

I love bento boxes.  I'm not so good about MAKING them (damn $4 cafeteria lunches!), but I love the idea of them, the look of them, the nutrition of them, and the making of them.

You can buy traditional Asian bento boxes from places like H-Mart and other Asian markets, but I also like how we now have "American" counterparts.  Pottery Barn kids has one, but I really like the company Laptop Lunches.


1. Unlike Pottery Barn's boxes, you can move around and take in an out the compartments.  Even with traditional Asian boxes, I don't always find this (or I have to go to different sites and the like).

2. Their webpage and blog is AWESOME!  Besides having lots of cute products, Laptop Lunches' webpage has a ton of menus... and they are all flexible to Americans!  (yay!)  As in, they have menus with leftovers and vegetarian and for holidays and seasonal- it's great!!

So, random article and plug, but when I see a product I like, I like to share it!!

Ciao, ciao!

Oh- here's that picture I was talking about... to give you an idea of what I do :P

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Picture fun

Home, DC Auto Show