Sean’s 10th Birthday

We celebrated Sean’s 10th Birthday at Petroglyph, a local paint-your-own pottery studio.  It was a fun afternoon for everyone, especially for Sean.  It was his first time painting ceramics.  He decided to paint an ice cream cone, his favorite dessert.  And as a gift, the staff at Petroglyph painted him a custom Angry Bird dinner plate.  Needless to say, he was thrilled when he saw the final products.  Judging by his smiles, it was a memorable and happy birthday!

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Sept 30, 2011

Today is my big sister Cheryl’s birthday.  She would be 46 years old if it weren’t for Cancer.  Last year, we went to the Afghani House (her favorite restaurant) for her birthday dinner.  She insisted on treating the meal, as if she knew.  Ironically, it’s a gift we won’t be able to reciprocate this year.  One week later, she learn of the fateful news that would change everything.

For a family that at times was too busy to make time for each other, birthday celebrations were that much more special.  It reminded us that we were a family, and it renewed the family bond  that at times was very fragile.  This year, we won’t be celebrating Cheryl’s birthday.  There’s an eerie feeling that permeates through out the family, but no one wants to talk about it.

Perhaps it’s superstition or simply inappropriate to celebrate the birthday of a love one who has passed away.  In any case, she is not forgotten and I just want let her know that we are still very much missing her.

Happy Birthday Cheryl!

Half Dome Postmortem

Eight years ago, a group of friends and I went hiking up to Half Dome (16 miles round trip).  It was a scorching hot Summer day (~90F degrees) for Yosemite.  We didn’t leave camp until around 7 AM.  By the time we reached the base of Half Dome, it was around 1:30 PM and we had run of out water.  Still, some of us managed to climb up to the top.  On the hike down, I borrowed a small bottle of water from another hiker.  Five of us shared it, taking small sips mindful that it was our only water supply.  By the time we returned to the Yosemite valley (6 hours later), we were dehydrated, hungry and exhausted.

Over the Labor Day weekend, some of us returned to Yosemite to go camping and to redeem ourselves on the slopes of Half Dome.  It was a similarly hot day (~85F degrees).  However, we were more mentally prepared for the challenges ahead.  Learning from our prior experience, we left camp by 5 AM.  We reached the base of Half Dome before Noon, and we started the hike down around 2 PM.  We brought ample water.  And we managed to avoid the congestion on the Half Dome cables and the extra strain of hiking/climbing up, under the blistering afternoon sun.  Overall, it was a very successful trip!

Eight years is a long time to recall everything, which is why I’m writing this blog.  This is a postmortem on what went well and how we might improve, should we decide to try again in 8 years.  If you are planning to hike up to Half Dome, I hope you can benefit from our lessons learned and the checklist below:

  • Half Dome PermitReserve in advance and bring a copy of the Half Dome permit for each person planning to climb up to the top of Half Dome.  When we were there, a ranger was at the base of Half Dome checking for permits.  Only about 400 permits are issued each day, although it’s possible to find people with extra permits along the trail or on the following website.  If you’re really desperate, you can try to beat the ranger to the top, since the ranger doesn’t live on Half Dome 🙂
  • Leave early – Start the hike early enough to beat the heat during the Summer and the crowd on the Half Dome cables, but not so early that you’re hiking in the dark on the treacherous part of the trail such as the Mist Trail (very slippery when the waterfall is pouring) right before Vernal Falls.  Bring a small flash light for the hike in the dark.  We left camp (Upper Pine campsite near the trail head) around 5 AM and reached the Mist Trail at the onset of the sunrise.  It was perfect timing.
  • Bring protection – Mosquito repellents and sun screen are essential when hiking in the Summer.  Always checkout the weather forecast before the hike and dress accordingly.  Dress in layers and wear a hat and shirt that offers UV protection.  I personally prefer the convertible pants that can double as shorts in hot weather.  On warm days, also wear shirts and socks that wick away the sweat.
  •  Stay hydrated – The NPS website recommends 1 Gallon of water per person if you are hiking up to Half Dome.  That seems fairly accurate.  My friend Eric actually packed a 1 Gallon water bottle in his backpack and drank all of it.  However, unless you have strong legs like Eric or you’re a descendant of the mule, I recommend that you pack less water and bring a water filter.  Be sure to pick up water at the river near the Little Yosemite campsite, since there are few water sources past that point.
  • Eat along the way – For maximum efficiency, you want to eat before you get too hungry.  Energy bars and gels, high in protein and vitamins, are compact and perfect for the hike.  Our friend who works at Clif Bar provided us with some samples that were quite tasty.  At the end of the trip, we tallied up and found that we consumed on the average 1,000+ calories per person.  Your needs will vary, but it doesn’t hurt to bring a little bit more and share.
  • Don’t forget the camera – Yosemite is one of the most beautiful place on Earth.  The John Muir trail and the hike up to Half Dome offers plenty of opportunities to take great pictures.  I brought my iPhone and it took some great pictures (see links to pictures below).  Unless you’re a serious photographer, leave the SLR at the camp.  There’s no need to be weighted down.
  • Wear a climbing harness – About 1/4 of the climbers on the slopes of Half Dome wore a climbing harness when we were there.  I really think it should be a mandate for everyone.  The harness allows you to clip yourself to the cables and prevents serious injuries or even death, should you loose your grip and fall off Half Dome.  We didn’t have the climbing harness, but noted it down as a “must have” for next time.
  • Muscles, shoes & gloves –  To reach the top, you need to pull yourself up the slopes of Half Dome (400 feet ascend at up to 45 degrees) with the help of two cables and wood planks that are laid approximately 10 to 15 feet apart.  You need to be physically fit, with strong legs and lots of upper body strength.  As the cables and the granite rock can be quite slippery, you also need to wear shoes and gloves that have great traction.  Our friends who wore tennis shoes this past weekend had no traction on the granite and had to abandon the climb 😦
  • Be Safe & repectfulRecent news of people falling off Half Dome and the waterfalls along the John Muir trail should serve as a reminder that Yosemite is not an amusement park.  There’s danger lurking everywhere.  If you ignore the warning signs or choose to act stupid, nature will take a bite out of you!  Despite the warnings and recent events, we still saw many people wadding in the water just about 15 – 20 feet from the edge of Vernal Falls.  Pity.

Below are some pictures that I took at Yosemite and along the hike up to Half Dome.  BTW, WordPress sucks for not supporting the Google Picasa slideshow widget, so you will need to click on the picture to see my web album.  Enjoy!

Yosemite, September 2011

Johns Hopkins Diet Recommendations

Someone forwarded me an email with the following dietary guidelines for staying healthy and reducing risk of Cancer.  I’m re-posting it as it seems very helpful.

My sister passed away from Cancer this year.  Learning from her experience, I believe these recommendations would  make the most impact if you embrace them asap, and not wait till you have Cancer.

Johns Hopkins Update –

AFTER YEARS OF TELLING PEOPLE CHEMOTHERAPY IS THE ONLY WAY TO TRY (‘TRY’, BEING THE KEY WORD) TO ELIMINATE CANCER, JOHNS HOPKINS IS FINALLY STARTING TO TELL YOU THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE WAY .

Cancer Update from Johns 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 lifetime.

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
nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic,
but also to environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing
diet to eat more adequately and healthy, 4-5 times/day
and by 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, gastrointestinal tract 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.

*CANCER CELLS FEED ON:

a. 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.

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the
gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting
off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk cancer
cells are being starved.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based
diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little other meat,
like chicken. Meat also contains livestock
antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all
harmful, especially to people with cancer.

d. 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).

e. 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 tap
water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of
digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the
intestines becomes putrefied 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 bodies 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 positive spirit will help the cancer warrior
be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put
the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to
have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy
life.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an 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.

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 cause 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 Corning Ware, Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food You get the same results, only without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen 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.
Please share this with your whole email list…………………….
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.

A Busy Summer

Wow, this Summer break flew by.  While the adults were busy packing and moving from our old home to our new home (pic), Sean attended summer school and participated in a number of activities including swimming, tennis, and field trips to local attractions.  In his spare time, he also enjoyed playing his iPad.

He will be starting 4th grade this week at a new elementary school.  It will be just 1 block walk from our house.  Although he is a bit nervous about his new teachers and school mates, he is looking forward to returning to school.

I hope everyone had a good summer.  Sean wanted to share the following with you:

This is what I did over the summer.

I went to swimming this summer.  I learned tennis.  I  went to summer school.  During summer school I went to watch Cars 2.  I went to Six Flags and a carnival.  I watched a fireworks show on Independence Day.  I went to see Uncle’s marathon finish.  I went to the Tech Museum and the Children’s Discovery Museum.  I moved to the new house and got my own room!  And finally I got a preview of my new school.

Overall it was a very interesting and busy summer.

Sean

Running For A Cause

Dear Friends,

On July 31st, I will be running in the San Francisco Marathon (26.2 miles) for a very personal cause; to raise awareness of cancer and to honor the memory of my sister whose life was cut short by it.  She was only 45 years old and full of life.

When I ran in my first San Francisco Half Marathon last July, my sister Cheryl and her son Sean were there to cheer me on.  Little did I know then that she would not be around to watch me run the full marathon this year.  She was diagnosed with late stage cancer last October.  Unfortunately, despite her strong will and advances in cancer treatment, my sister lost her fight to cancer in February of this year.

It has truly been a life changing event.  Over a short time span, I have experienced first hand the emotional and physical impact cancer can have on the patients, their families, and their friends.  From the initial diagnose and prognosis; through the numerous doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy sessions, visits to the hospital for blood work, and even a surgery to remove the cancer growth; to the final phase when her body (but never her spirit) succumbed to the cancer, all my family and I ever prayed for and hoped for was a cure or just a bit more time for my sister.

Cancer is a very nasty disease, and unfortunately too many people’s lives are changed forever or even lost because of it.  Cancer can affect people of  all ages, physical fitness, and health conditions.  Per the LIVESTRONG foundation, over 28 million people world wide are living and coping with cancer.  And this year in the U.S. alone, over 1.5 million people (new cases) will be diagnosed with cancer and over 1/2 million people will die from cancer according to the American Cancer Society.  It’s hard to imagine the impact of these statistics unless you have been personally affected by it.  But I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

I’m writing you and running to raise awareness, in the hope that one day there will be a cure not just for the common types of cancer that affects the larger population, but also the rare forms of cancer such the one that left my sister with little chance of survival.  While I do not fully understand the physiology and the medical research behind cancer, one thing I have learned from this experience is that early detection and access to the right treatment is absolutely key to survival and overcoming cancer.

This is a fight that can be won, but it needs to be a priority.  There are many great organizations and research institutions whose charter is to education people about cancer and to advance the research on cancer.  Until there is a cure, individuals like you and I need to be vigilant and be educated.  We can help the cause by learning about cancer and spreading the word among relatives and friends.  As I mentioned previously, early detection is key.  Who knows, your action may just save someone’s life one day.

Lastly, if you believe in the same cause, please also consider making a monetary donation to one of the many great cancer organizations.  I will be running in the San Francisco Marathon in 2 weeks and I hope to raise some funds for the American Cancer Society.  I would be extremely honored if you are able to contribute to my cause.  Any amount helps.  And knowing I have your support, I will be re-assured that I am not running alone in the fight to end cancer.  Thank you for your attention and support!