Friday, April 27, 2012

The latest coolest thing I've learned at Mayo Clinic

It's been a one heck of week at work. One co-workers is on his way to a Mt Everest base camp. Mayo Clinic is doing research on climbers that will eventually help cardiac failure patients and Joel is in charge of sharing with the rest of the world all of the happenings.

The rest of us were able to hang out with the Dalai Lama (yep, that Dalai Lama). Maybe hanging with the Dalai Lama is an overstatement, but he spoke to many of our employees at a special event.

On Wednesday, I attended a research gathering by the new Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.  I heard about all the different work they are doing involving the humane genome, but one in particular caught my attention. It's call the BEAUTY project and it could make a huge difference in how breast cancer is treated in the future. It will allow physicians to tailor their chemotherapy treatment based on the genomes from the patient and from the tumor. 

Now, I gotta say they were stretching it just a bit (okay, really quite a bit) to get this acronym. BEAUTY stands for the Breast Cancer Genome Guided Therapy Study, but I'll let that pass for now.

We're all different inside and various medications and treatments may cause a bad reaction in one person and then nothing at all in another. But the true coolness of individualized medicine is it would look at who I am and my body chemistry or genetics and provide what would work for me. 

For the BEAUTY project, when a woman is diagnosed with a high-risk cancer, she would be asked if she would like to participate in the study. Before she starts chemotherapy, Mayo Clinic would take some of her healthy cells as well as tumor cells and then sequence the respective genomes. After the patient has gone through chemotherapy, and during surgery to remove the remaining tumor mass, the tumor cells will be sequenced again to evaluate how they've mutated and adapted to chemotherapy.

From the information gathered, researchers hope to be able to predict how one treatment would work better for an breast cancer over a different. In the future, before a patient would begin chemotherapy, the physician would be able to look at the patient's and the tumor's genome and determine what protocol will work best for that patient.

The BEAUTY project won't change how today's patient is treated, but it could change breast cancer treatment in a few years. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Training for the Crane

I'm pretty sure I'm borderline certifiable. And I'm pretty sure most of my co-workers are thinking I've crossed that border.

One of my more recent work assignments is the communications plan around the many construction projects happening at Saint Marys Hospital.  At one of the first meetings, the conversation turned to construction cranes since Benike Construction would be erecting two cranes to help with the projects.

Somehow, I'm sure without fully engaging my brain in the conversation, I perked-up and volunteered to do a video on the cranes, including going up in one.

I don't have a fear of heights, so I didn't think it would be that big of deal. Everyone at the meeting kept asking, "are you sure?" (Actually, they are still asking the question)

At a later meeting, while we were outside by the cranes, I realized that there isn't an elevator that will take me up to the top of the crane. In order to get to the top, I will need to CLIMB the crane.  I'm not sure of the exact height, but it clears the 10th floor of Mary Brigh by about 10/15 feet. Let's just say, it's about 12 stories tall.

Now, it's not about the height, but about the climb up. I'm not in shape to do this. To climb up, you're inside the crane structure and you climb a ladder then it comes to a landing and then you climb another ladder and so on.  In other words, it's both upper and lower body strength. And you have to climb down, too.

I wouldn't be alone. The safety director from Benike would be climbing right behind me. I jokingly said, "to catch me when I fall?"

"No, to talk you down when you freeze half-way up."

"Okay. That makes sense, I guess." 

Last week, the Rochester Fire Department did a training exercise on one of the cranes and I went to watch them. They climbed the tower in teams of two and it took them about 15 minutes to get to the top. I would guess that same climb will take me about 30 minutes, or 45 minutes if I add in time for the panic attacks.

Right now, I'm planning on sometime in June to do the climb. I may back out and I know that no one would think less of me if I do. But it's sort of a challenge, too. And I like challenges.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Today's helpful hint

Never one to keep valuable information to myself, I've decided to start sharing small, and perhaps ironic, helpful hints. Just short little bursts of information.

#1 - If you live by yourself and are recovering from a cold, don't select the McDonald's drive-thru as the first place you use your voice that day.

I am currently experiencing my THIRD cold this year. Usually, I get one cold and that's it. This third one has been brutal including a fever of 102 degrees, a cough that sounds like Como Zoo's Sparky the Seal, and, on top of it all, I lost my voice.

Honestly, I haven't completely lost my voice, but I've been told that I sound like either Jessica Rabbit, Kathleen Turner or Harvey Fierstein. 

Somehow, this past Saturday, I didn't even talk to myself at home to realize that I didn't have a voice. (Yes, single people talk to themselves much more than we admit) Nothing like leaning out your car window, opening your mouth to talk and only having a squeak of a sound come out. Half the time at drive-thru's, you have to shout anyway. Shouting when you have little to no voice is stupid and pretty pathetic. 

And their malt machine was broken. So, it was just a failure all around.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why the church is breaking my heart

On a recent episode of Mike and Molly (a CBS comedy), a Catholic priest tells the couple that they can't get married in the church because Molly isn't a practicing Catholic. She responds, "I'm a practicing Catholic, I've just missed a lot of practices."

I've been tempted to use that as my excuse for my poor Mass attendance since moving to Rochester. The truth is that for the last 18 months, I've been pretty fed up with the politics of the Catholic Church.

First, it was the Archbishop in the Twin Cities who spent donor dollars to mail anti-gay propaganda to all registered Catholics. After which, I made sure I was no longer registered anywhere. Then the Bishop of the Winona diocese started the same anti-gay campaign in my new diocese.  I will never, ever, believe that Christ would approve of treating people like this. And for the church to lead the charge is heart-breaking.

My first exposure to a gay couple was actually in my home parish growing up. These two wonderful, selfless women, who have volunteered unmeasurable hours to help the parish, are now being told that their church doesn't believe they should have the same rights as others. Not that either of them would speak out against the church. So I guess it's up to me.

I think about them every time the church's opposition is brought up. They're older now and for one, her health is poor. Just as with a heterosexual couple, the healthier person is caring for the other. But what rights will she have if the other is hospitalized? Have they had to set up lots of legal contracts to make sure that nothing stands in their way? As if their love was a business arrangement?

Recently, I read about a Catholic priest and two Catholic laypeople speaking at a mandatory student assembly where they compared homesexuality to bestiality. The same trio, according to one student, also said that children adopted by single parents were "sociologically unstable."  I was very proud to learn that many of the student wouldn't stand for such junk and argued back. Unfortunately, the damage was done and many students left school very upset.

I'm not sure if I'll officially join another Catholic parish. That's sad for me because I've always thought of my Catholic faith as part of my heritage - not just Catholic, but Irish Catholic.  One saving part for me is that I've always considered my "faith" and "the church" as two separate and unrelated things.

P.S. If you know of any of the Catholic Churches in Rochester that are rejecting the Bishop's stand, let me know by sending me an email at MEHarty at

No flowers, please.

I think sending flowers for a funeral is a dumb idea. If you didn't send flowers when they were alive, why are you doing it now?  I can hear the skeptics saying, "But the flowers are for the living."

Really? You are sending something that will wither and die in a few days to someone who has just lost someone. Is that supposed to cheer them up?

I believe in our shallow parts, we think the number of bouquets of flowers that show up at the funeral home represents how important or beloved or connected our loved one was. Maybe we need that physical reminder because our grieving minds cannot hear the word of sympathy and love that are being spoken.

I'm not saying don't send something, but think about sending a plant instead. When my dad passed away 18 years ago (yesterday), several friends sent plants instead of flowers. Each of us kids took one or two home. When you walk through the front door of my sister Sue's house, you'll see a very healthy, 18-year-old spider plant hanging in the entry way. My plant was a peace plant that lasted about five years. (People with ADD are generally not good with plants or candles - tend to forget about them)

It's also important to remember that a $100 funeral bouquet in the big city (Minneapolis/St. Paul) turns into a very large funeral bouquet when ordered from a small town florist (Albert Lea). When my dad passed away in 1994, I was working for Fairview Health System in the Cities and my brother Dennis was working for SciMed (Now Boston Scientific). Both of our employers sent flowers for Dad's funeral in Albert Lea. You couldn't miss them at Bonnerup's (the funeral home), they were huge.

Now that I've convinced you that shouldn't send flowers when I die (I won't send flowers to your funeral if you won't send them to mine...), I just want to leave you with one more instruction. (at least for now, I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, so the list might expand) Please, please, please do not use my 1979 high school graduation picture for the obit. I don't want people to think I died with Farrah hair.