Entries for the ‘Health identities’ Category

Bono and me…my orange lenses are not a fashion statement

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

May 1, 2016

117_1726A new identity. One with which I share something in common with Bono, tho it would take years before I would realize that. After more medical tests than I could keep track of, and literally pictures of my eyes that looked like perhaps all that testing was making them bleed, the ophthalmologists finally did the medical equivalent–figuratively speaking–of throwing up their hands and diagnosed the cause of my sudden loss of sight and my dead optic nerve as “idiopathic.” Then the head of the team that had been leaing the poking and prodding said, “I am scheduling an appointment for you with our low vision specialist.” “What?” “Well, yes, there is kind of a whole industry–she can explain it to you.” And he was off with a trail of others in his wake. And I was left to wonder what more tests were coming my way. And to think, ‘like my experience over these past weeks hasn’t been part of…a whole industry…to use his phrase?’

117_1731My first appointment with the low vision specialist took hours. There truly are many devices and many many many questions and some, yes, eye exams that go along with figuring out what ‘aids’ might be offered to assist those of us with low vision. On that particular first day, the real life-changing event came when I was handed a large ‘key chain’ like collection of lenses of many colors. The specialist asked me to look through the one that I jokingly said, “Oh, you want me to look through rose-colored glasses?” Get it? At any rate, when I did and looked again at the laminated card she handed me, there was nothing. “Anything?” she asked. “Not really.” Silence. “Well, how about it you take the pile and go ahead and look through them.” So I did. And…what to my wondering eyes did appear but a sharper image when I held up the brightly colored hunter orange lens… Yeah. Auburn hair and bright orange…there is a color combination you want to recommend. Sigh.

All I can say when people ask me to describe it is to compare it to putting on the glasses you wear–if you do–to deal with bright sun glaring off the snow to go sledding or skiing. Those of you who use such glasses know what I mean. And that is really the closest thing I can think of to share what happens when I put on glasses that have been tinted that delightful orange color corrected to my prescription. No, It does nothing for the dead optic nerve. But somehow, for that central vision in the right eye, it makes the contrast sharper…

And so, when I read that Bono finally revealed–after 20 years [see, I am not taking that long to share…] that he wears orange specs due to his glaucoma [http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/oct/17/bono-glaucoma-20-years-u2-dark-glasses], I felt some real kinship. And when he says, ” “You’re not going to get this out of your head now and you will be saying, ‘Ah, poor old blind Bono’”–I felt particularly connected to him and his experiences…


I’m back… Living with low vision

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

April 30, 2016


It has been awhile…. I gave posting a low priority as I learned to deal more and more with a diagnosis of low vision. Never heard of it? Me either. Until I was diagnosed with it. Over the coming months, I will share how asking questions, ranging from my human resources’ representative at work to all kinds of eye doctors and finally a low vision specialist, attending low vision training with a representative from the Pennsylvania Office for the Blind, and coping with endless internal debates regarding my identity and life goals unfolded. For today, I will recall the first conversation with human resources. It came about because I asked for some accommodations at work. What I really wanted was to have my teaching assignments be in the same building that my office was in. Because winters are mostly quite snowy and icy in Pennsylvania, walking across campus under the best of circumstances can be challenging. When you can only see out of the central part of one eye…no vision in the other eye and no peripheral vision in the eye you are now depending on–it is downright scary. If I could not have classrooms to teach in located in my own building–which would be a challenge since the semester was underway–I wanted to pay a graduate student escort to assist me. That meaning having approval for resources. At any rate, I found myself making an appointment to see my human resources representative. I asked my husband to go with me. We appeared at the office and explained our reason for being there. We were told, “I have never dealt with this before… I have had some faculty–mostly elderly men–have trouble hearing in the classroom. More often than not, however, students rather than faculty made me aware of the situation…” Uh, how does this relate to me? I thought. I looked at John and he looked at me. “Do you have long term disability insurance?” the representative asked. I nodded. “Well, you might want to think about” and this is where things are a bit fuzzy–I don’t know if she said resigning, retiring, quitting–but some word that meant ‘ending my career’–“and go on disability insurance.”121_0526

Yeah. Not so much. First, I did not feel ‘disabled.’ I felt that so many things about my health were above par and surely there would be ways to assist me with what had become a challenge. I guess I was shaking my head ‘no’ or something because the representative was saying, “OK, well let me look into this….”

So many questions flooded into my frame of being that day. How many people are drawing disability because someone could not think outside the box in working with them? I would be interested in hearing from you



An inspirational picture of my granddaughter

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

November 20, 2013

grace climbs rock wall 2013



How do different metaphors to define genes relate to understanding?

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

November 14, 2013

rox and rose oct 2013.jpgphotoMany of the important messages about health include information about the role of genes for health. Genes matter. Behavior matters. Environments matter. The problem is how to communicate that genes do not absolutely determine health. This will be an important part of health communication for many decades to come.

Professor Celeste Condit wrote about how genes have been defined in her book, “The meanings of the gene” [http://www.amazon.com/The-Meanings-Gene-Heredity-Rhetoric/dp/0299163644].

Efforts to define genes often depend on the use of metaphor, explaining what a gene is in terms of something else that an audience is assumed to already understand. Many of these metaphors use “instruction” as a key component. Professor Rachel Smith and I decided to evaluate two of these instruction metaphors, one that defined genes as “a blueprint of our possibilities” and the other that defined genes in terms of “instructions” more generally. The abstract of the article to be published in February in the journal, Health Communication, appears at:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10410236.2012.729181#.UtLxv1OFeSo. The online article is at: DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2012.729181

Participants received a message about the role of genes for health for which the introduction varied the definition of a gene, and all other content was the same. Participants who read a message with the blueprint metaphor were more likely to believe that genes absolutely determine health and that genetic therapies are the effective means to address the role of genes for health. The instruction metaphor related to participants having stronger beliefs that genes make one more susceptible to disease but do not absolutely determine the onset of disease, and beliefs that we have some personal control over the role that genes have for our health.

These results support the importance of the metaphors used to define health and scientific terms. Just one exposure to a message that defines genes in different ways can have powerful effects on our attitudes about genes and health.







Happy birthday to my little sister–her story has inspired so many

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

August 28, 2013

IMG_1202[1](1)One of the fun things about writing a book like ‘Talking about health’ is that readers tell me that they are inspired by the family stories included in the book. My youngest sister includes her story about a long road to conceiving her daughter–both pictured here with popsicle stick in hand.

I have read many of the stories in my book to my undergraduates and they, like some readers who have told me what they like about the book, love my sister’s story.  Perhaps  many can relate because they know someone who has gone through something similar [see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/fertile.htm for CDC statistics about just how many].

Today is my sister’s birthday. I wish we lived closer so that we could have shared a cup of peach green tea. ‘Happy Birthday, Sis!’


Sunday, August 18th, 2013

10 Potentially Devastating Public Health Threats
Source: Best Public Health Schools


How does the bandwagon effect relate to selecting a physician for care?

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

August 14, 2013

IMG_3157Selecting a doctor is sometimes a difficult process. There may be several choices for our care. Doctors don’t generally advertise in the U.S., making it difficult to know what any doctor considers to be her or his best points for care. Education? Experience?

For most of us, one factor will be whether a doctor will be reimbursed by our health care insurance. But even after considering that constraint, we often have choices.

Online searches for information may help us sort out some of the characteristics of each person on our list. Input the physician’s name and you will be likely to find information about their education and experience. You often will also find comments from current or former patients. And you may even find rating systems, such as the use of one to five stars to rate the doctor–much like consumers rate products from cars to shoes.

Using the rating system as one piece of information to make a decision follows a long-established pattern of influence. The bandwagon effect acknowledges that what others think and do may help us make a decision about what to think or do. Those five stars give us a shortcut to having others tell us what they think and why. Sometimes, there are only two reviewers providing an assessment. Other times, there are hundreds and even more. If we see ourselves in some of their experiences, it just might save us some time and trouble.


What to drink on a hot day to get your antioxidants?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

August 12, 2013

 IMG_3164I love cold water to quench my thirst on a hot summer’s day. But I also like to get some antioxidants in my beverage. In the summer, when I am in the park or on the water, brewing my own tea is seldom an option. I wondered whether the bottled teas had much of the good antioxidant factor left in them and found a research article that revealed — probably not. It looks like if I want a beverage from the store to stick in my cooler or pick up along the way, it might be a good choice to have pomegranate or Concord grape juice over ice.

Here is the ranking of beverages in one research study that looked at their antioxidant content: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf073035s


Uncertainty, mammograms, and iodine–what do these things have in common?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

August 10, 2013

IMG_3213As I looked at my grandson splashing about in the lake, I thought about the upcoming annual mammogram appointment. Last year, I had to go back for follow-up. That turned out to be an ultrasound and the ‘all clear’. More than ten years ago, I had a follow-up that required a needle biopsy but also worked its way to the ‘all clear’ signal. Because it had been so long ago, I wouldn’t say that I took my screening outcome for granted, but I didn’t feel uncertain about it the way that I did this year because of last year’s ‘call-back’.

I did a little research to settle my uncertainty while the days passed and I waited for my appointment. I searched for published science about what causes breast cysts. In one word, I came upon research linking iodine deficiency to breast cysts and a whole lot of other issues summarized by a physician in this Psychology Today article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/complementary-medicine/201108/iodine-deficiency-old-epidemic-is-back

Here is an example of one of the published research studies related to iodine deficiency and breast cysts: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1008925301459#page-1 

I will be asking my primary care physician this week if I have iodine deficiency. In the meantime, while the technician took an additional x-ray picture at the screening, I did not get a call-back, and I did get a letter from the mammography site giving me the ‘all clear’ based on the screening.

It is interesting to ponder if this is a case of unintended consequences associated with communicating about the danger of consuming salt, which has been iodized to compensate for iodine deficiences noted in the 20th century.


Low vision and the Affordable Care Act [ACA]

Friday, July 12th, 2013

July 11, 2013

Cosmos_largeI had my six month low vision doctor’s appointment this week. What is low vision? Well, it is impaired vision that cannot be corrected by eye glasses or surgery or medication, and interferes with daily living. I am not completely blind. But I cannot drive due to my impaired vision. I require some accommodations to assist me in my work. I hate stairs painted or carpeted all in one color. Movie theaters may as well be black holes.

I have been living with low vision since 2007. And it has been, excuse the pun, eye-opening. The tales I could now tell about disability and living with a disability, but that will be for another day. Today, I want to comment on ACA and low vision.

I asked my low vision doctor what ACA does for those with low vision. My doctor is fabulously upbeat. She said, “Well, it is a good news, bad news story. There are provisions for children’s eye care that we’ve never had before. On the other hand, there are NO provisions for assistance to people with low vision. According to the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health, there are millions of people in the US living with low vision and about 135 million world wide [http://www.nei.nih.gov/lowvision/content/faq.asp]. That is a lot of people to ignore or put on the shelf, so to speak, because they cannot get assistance with work and daily living due to impaired vision. It seems that one of the biggest gaps in the ACA is outlining concrete strategies to address care for people living with disabilities. That is a very big oversight and one that has not perhaps gained the public’s attention as much as it should.

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