My mom’s story…

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mother needs to write her life story. She is an amazing woman. She has been through so many things that seem to me to be ‘the stuff they make movies about’. She doesn’t see these things individually as extremely dramatic, but I think that is because she has grown so strong in dealing with these things that she looks back and perhaps believes they were simply a ‘part of life’. Even though she may say this to herself, she certainly made SURE I never experienced some of those ‘life experiences’ (that I could control) and for that I am forever blessed and thankful.

I remember sitting on the back porch with my husband drinking a little red wine with mom one night about two or three years ago. I asked her to share some of her life stories with my husband… and taking a deep sigh, she did so.  She shared some wonderful, sweet things from her childhood, her dreams as a young adult, and then some of her experiences that I consider ‘nightmarish, unfair, and tragic’ – of which she spoke about almost in the third person (probably to get through explaining it). I wish I would have recorded those few hours of her talking. She would smile as she shared the good things, but you could tell that the bad things were difficult to express, to remember, and to relive. Although she obviously couldn’t share everything that night, my husband immediately begged her to write her life story. Since then, we have both begged, bugged, and reminded her to do this. Trust me, she has a biography that would win an Oscar.  It will help someone. It will uplift someone. It will most probably save someone’s life.

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t as if her entire life has been some awful, horrible horror story. Not at all! In fact, I can tell you personally (as I was with her since she was 19) that even when things were bad, she always brought ‘magic’ into our lives as children. We didn’t have much money, but I honestly never knew that until I was an adult. Birthdays and holidays were the sweetest days in our lives and in our home she would simply NOT tolerate anything but happiness on those days. My childhood was bittersweet, and the sweet part… was because of my mom. She had good moments throughout her life as we all do, and her life is probably the sweetest now than it has ever been.

If you met my mother today and got to know her.. You would find a woman who is loving, kind, giving, loyal and one that tries to enjoy the small pleasures in life. You would also find a woman who is strong-willed, a woman who is absolutely fierce when it comes to something she passionately believes in, a savvy business woman, and a woman who when attacked (by people, life or circumstance).. is a FIGHTER.

IT IS FOR THESE VERY REASONS, because of the beautiful soul she is today, that she needs to write her story. People need to see HOW to see the good things while going through horrible things. People need to see HOW bad things can often turn us into amazing, strong, yet also kind and loving people. People need to know that even if life is difficult at times, that you can change your circumstances, your outlook, and give your children an entirely different perspective for their own lives. People need to know that playing ‘victim’ is easy. Overcoming obstacles and living your life out loud is not – but clearly worth the effort. This is what my mom’s story will do for so many people.

So a few weeks ago, she sent me about three pages of her life story. I’m happy she started it. She has a long way to go though. Time to get back on it now, mom…

I set up a blog post for her through WordPress sometime in March… and I’m happy to say she is using it! She is not only an amazing woman… but also an AMAZING writer. Her blog posts hit various topics.. They range from posts about relationships – to funny off-beat commentaries – to the serious issues of health, life and death.

The following post is her latest (written yesterday) and is regarding her health issues and the nightmare she has gone through concerning her kidney cancer from the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Before reading it, see the PRELUDE story below the link to catch up (if you don’t yet know the history of her recent health issue).

http://wp.me/p2hrZc-3e

(link above is her article “Waiting to Exhale” on her ‘Linsey Speaks’ blog)

PRELUDE TO HER POST:

Two years ago mom was diagnosed with kidney (renal cancer) and had a radical nephrectomy. We discovered this was caused from the water contamination in Camp Lejeune while we were stationed there when I was a child.

Linsey (my mom) and me on our mother’s day cruise last month, May 2012

My father also had kidney cancer six years ago! Kidney cancer is very rare in itself (only about 2% of all cancers) and the chemicals that were in the contaminated water (PCE, TCE, and Benzine) specifically cause kidney cancer along with male breast cancer, leukemia, and birth defects. These chemicals can lay dormant for 10 to 50 years. Uggh… What a nightmare.

We knew instantly this was not a mere coincidence – yet the government continues to deny any responsibility. It is only until recently that a Bill was presented to congress to cover the Vets (AND THEIR FAMILIES) that lived in Camp Lejeune (from 1957 to 1987) for these health issues. Unfortunately this Bill continues to sit in Congress, stonewalled for how long… we still wonder.  Fortunately for my dad, he had VA Healthcare for his nephrectomy six years ago. My mother however, had and continues to have NO health insurance. The VA will not allow her to apply for health benefits because she is not a VET. They are only just now quietly beginning to award benefits to the vets themselves related to this (kidney cancer included), but they publicly deny any correlation despite the proven studies, reports and tests on that water and those chemicals found within it.

Just recently CBS did a documentary that is available on Netflix via online streaming called, “Semper Fi. Always Faithful”. PLEASE WATCH IT. You can do it right from your computer or smart phone. It is fascinating and horrific, and oh so very important.

To continue.. Over three months ago, during her routine annual exams, there were four nodules found in her lungs. We were told this was most likely renal (kidney) cancer metastases (as is the case 90% of the time when lung nodules appear within 2 years of a kidney cancer nephrectomy). We were also told it was possible it was primary lung cancer (as her mother and two brothers – my grandmother and two uncles) all passed away from this. They couldn’t diagnose it either way however, without getting a cell sample to definitively figure out exactly what kind of tumor cells they were. We were told the chances of it NOT being cancer was very, very small. In fact, the oncologist literally said, “Look, it really ‘can’t’ be anything but cancer, but we can’t treat it without knowing exactly what kind of cell it is.”. When we asked why he couldn’t just operate and remove them (or even one) it was only then he told us, “Well, because that is very invasive and with even a small chance of it being a benign tumor or granuloma, we wouldn’t do that without a diagnosis.” Ahh.. so there was at leas a ‘chance’ of something other than cancer… but honestly the chances were so slim that everyone assumed it was cancer, so we simply waited test after test to determine what KIND it was in order to figure out the next step.

My mother was so brave and positive through all of this. Our family was scared and ready to face to obvious, but I think every one of us held on to that small chance of hope that there was an escape. We tried to forget about it and live our lives daily, but the black cloud hung there… every single day.

She went through two lung needle biopsies, pulling three cell samples in all. All three tissue samples contained only necrotic (dead) cells. No… that is not a good thing (as we initially thought) because cancer tumors, especially renal cancer tumors are HIGHLY necrotic. It just made it more probable that it was cancer. Nevertheless we all held onto that glimmer of hope for that slight chance of it being non-cancerous.

Mom didn’t want to know the details until she had to. She wanted to live her life as much as possible without knowing the statistics, the trials, the chances. She didn’t even want the doctors to talk to her regarding these things. She was ready to face the facts when they were available, but until then she told them to talk to me about what was ‘probable’, what was ‘suspicious’, etc., etc. I’m glad she chose that. It helped me as much as her perhaps because I was able to keep myself busy (I was able to DO something at least). I read all the trial studies. I knew the percentages of this and the chances of that. I wrote it down and waited with my mom for the results. First this test (nothing). Then that scan (nothing). Then a second needle biopsy (nothing). Then another CT scan… Uggh. We have been waiting since March for someone to tell us WHAT this is, so we could start some kind of treatment, schedule a surgery, something.. anything.

Without a diagnosis of the type of tumor cells however, the doctors could not begin treatment (as each cancer cell type responds to each treatment entirely differently than another).

Finally… yesterday, the clinic called me regarding her latest biopsy results. Over the telephone, the Nurse Practitioner read the pathology report from the procedure she had undergone last week (using a Super-Dimensional GPS-like laser bronchoscopy machine to get the biopsy tissue sample). I was stunned.

WE FINALLY GOT VIABLE CELL TISSUE SAMPLE.

A DIAGNOSIS HAS FINALLY MADE.

Mom’s blog regarding her experience yesterday is here… This is her story to tell

http://wp.me/p2hrZc-3e

Linsey

Former marine finally awarded VA benefits for Kidney Cancer related to Camp LeJeune water contamination

United States Marine Corps seal

United States Marine Corps seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another former marine has been awarded benefits for his KIDNEY CANCER related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. (Thank you, Jerry Osuna for the link to this from the CBS newscast that I missed last night).

My family was statione…d at Camp Lejeune during the mid 70’s. Six years ago my father got kidney cancer. Two years ago, my mother got the same kidney cancer. Although I am THRILLED the VA finally awarded benefits for kidney cancer for this marine.. the fact is that this problem goes much further than just our marines. My father at least had healthcare through the VA for his nephrectomy. My MOTHER however has NO HEALTHCARE. Two years ago she had a radical nephrectomy (without insurance). Now we have discovered the renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) has spread. She is undergoing tests, scans, etc., all without health insurance, much less disability income. My mother is not a vet per se, but she along with my brother and I certainly DID serve our country indirectly by living on that base and supporting our marine. The government denying benefits to the marines themselves is horrible… but at the very least they need to offer healthcare to them along with ANYONE that lived on that base.
It’s horrifying that so many service members and family don’t even know they have been poisoned!
If you or anyone you know was stationed at Camp Lejeune anytime from 1957 through 1987 – please, please, please pass this on. Please become aware and pass on awareness.
I was sitting on the airplane heading to Florida and was talking to the gentleman next to me…. I explained I was traveling to visit my mother who was undergoing some tests for cancer related to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. His look of shock told me he never heard of it (as most haven’t). He then told me he was on that base for five years around the same time we were there. I told him the contaminates were causing leukemia, birth defects, male breast cancer, and kidney cancer (my mom and dad BOTH have kidney cancer as a result of this).
When I told this man this information, he stood up, unbuttoned his shirt and showed me his mastectomy of his left breast – right there on the airplane! Poor guy was never even notified.
We need to continue to spread awareness. The government MUST award healthcare not only to the vets – but also to the spouses, ex-spouses, and children that were stationed there that have these diseases that are directly related to the poisons.
CBS has done a documentary on this that was aired last month. The documentary is available via Netflix streaming and is titled “Semper Fi – Always Faithful”. A trailer from YouTube can found at:
More information can be found at the website “The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten” at:
Please share if you can.

 

Taxing the Rich, Paying the Poor – Just this CPA’s opinion (probably not what you would expect)

Flag of the United States of America

Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America is based on our freedom to express ourselves and our opinions (at least for now… hehehe). The following is nothing more than MY opinion. I’m sure there are MANY that will agree, disagree, and fall somewhere in between. I love a good healthy debate (without personal attacks, please) so if you would like to add your own comments, I promise to post them wholeheartedly as long as there is not cursing, racism, or personal attacks. (Sorry.. my blog, my freedom of choice – but I promise to be completely unbiased on any comments otherwise) – Girl Scouts Honor.In my opinion, TAXING THE RICH is like penalizing the people in our country for making something of themselves – while rewarding many (not all) that do not. I believe our country was founded upon the ability to make choices and if we choose to work hard, we have the opportunity to become as successful as we want. In our country, there are no limits (or there isn’t supposed to be) on what we can do. Instead however, we are moving more and more toward a society that rewards those that do not work hard, that do not have the motivations of our forefathers, and often (not always) take advantage of the already excessive social programs we now have in place. First, let’s discuss taxes, then just a quick point on the other social programs I am mentioning here.

Taxing the RICH more and the POOR less is a very popular topic right now (and actually has been since our complicated tax laws and social programs really took off after the Great Depression). For simplicity, let’s compare someone making $300k (most would consider this in the ‘RICH’ category) versus someone making 20k (some would consider this in the ‘POOR’ category) per year.  Now suppose instead of this complicated tax law that we currently have, that each paid 10% of their gross income (not net income, no more loopholes, etc.) in TAXES. This is NOT taxing the ‘RICH’ MORE, correct? Even so, the ‘RICH’ person would pay $30,000 in taxes compared to $3,000 from the ‘POOR’ person. See? The ‘RICH’ would already be (and in our current system already IS paying) MORE TAXES.

Taxes

Taxes (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

In my opinion, our system is already unfair in increasing tax rates based upon your income. WHY should someone who works hard and is successful pay 30% compared to 5% or 0%. Don’t we all live in the same society with basically the same opportunities? Every single person in this country could start their own business or any child can go to college if it were their choice. I was very poor growing up (although my mother never let me realize that because of her love and rearing of me)… and I simply got student loans and went to college and have started numerous businesses. More importantly, I was given nothing by my parents (other than love and encouragement) and certainly nothing by our government to do this. It was my choice. Others have the same choice – why should either be penalized or rewarded because of their choices in a country that is supposed to be about freedom of choice?

On the other side (to be fair), I will say that the ‘RICH’ perhaps have the money to pay CPAs (or Tax Gurus) to find loopholes for tax avoidance where the ‘POOR’ do not have that luxury. This is a valid point and unfair truth based on our current tax system that I admit wholeheartedly. We all know that Big Corporations, Banks, Politician, etc., do exactly this and often pay NO tax whatsoever.  The only fair solution to me is to completely re-vamp our tax system altogether.

I would absolutely LOVE to see a FLAT TAX based on gross income (not net income, not after various loopholes, mind you) for everyone. GASP!!!  I say this and I am a CPA myself? Yes… because I would much rather spend my time on helping my clients grow their business, plan their future, train them on accounting, and reach their goals (i.e., counseling) than  I would working our complicated tax laws to ensure they take this deductions, get that credit, use this exemption, etc.  I know my clients would love it as well. Who likes dealing with taxes anyway, especially with our 5000 pages of tax law that comprise our current system!

The other point people often make is that the ‘RICH’ still only pay 2% of all taxes in our country while the ‘POOR’ pay the remaining 98%.  Okay… but that is misleading! If instead you look at it based on the individual instead of the group, almost every individual in the ‘RICH’ category already pays WAY more than any individual in the ‘POOR’ category – and this includes our gradual step-up of tax rates relative to income rising. The whole statement  is misleading because those in the ‘RICH’ group only make up a small percentage of our society – so of course OVERALL they pay less (as a group) than all the rest of our country’s population.

The problem with all of this lies in our POLITICAL system, of course. All of the special interest groups have their hands out influencing our politicians. In order for the politician to gain support and money for their campaigns to be elected (or re-elected) they have no choice but to pick certain groups, follow the crowd, and do what is in that group’s best interest, rather than the PEOPLE. It’s called bribery and it is thought of as simply normal in our society. I think our forefathers would shoot us all if they saw what we’ve done to our country in this area.

On a personal note – I am not a staunch follower of any particular political party for those very reasons. There are valid issues and points that I believe strongly in on both sides.  Ultimately I suppose I would be considered a Libertarian or Independent because my VERY strongest belief overall is that the government should STAY OUT of our personal lives and making laws that should be individual choices. Period. Period. Period. We are not a socialist, communist, or dictator-lead country. We are supposed to a country that enables its people to make their own choices, follow their own free will, and enjoy the land of opportunity.  I believe strongly the main purpose of government is to do the following and THIS is what our taxes should be spent upon before ANY solitary other thing:

1)      Protect OUR PEOPLE here in this country – protection for us in our streets domestically and certainly internationally, but only when it is clearly warranted. I understand humanitarian efforts are needed in other countries, but until we get our own country in order we simply need to help all those here first. It’s sad, but it is necessary. There are people starving in our own country – and yet we spend $5 million on grass boats in some other country? Really? This is a Republican view, until I stated that I disagree in going abroad. A Libertarian view is one that believes we need to take care of ourselves. Selfish? Perhaps. But we should be helping one another HERE in our country, not just ourselves as a person. If we do that, then perhaps we can use our extra resources to help others abroad. Until then, we need help here now… RIGHT NOW.

2)      Take care of our Children, our Elderly and our Disabled. This is more of a Democratic viewpoint, but it is absolutely critical and even a Libertarian would agree that each community (or State) should take care of its own people (rather than having the Federal government do this. The way to the means does NOT matter to me honestly  – but spending $3 million dollars to save the whales when our children, elderly, and disabled are homeless, starving, or worse in incomprehensible to me.

3)      Provide Healthcare to All American Citizens.  If there is one thing I strongly believe on the democratic side of viewpoints it is this. It is an absolute abomination that our Citizens (not illegal aliens – I’m not going to even touch that topic in this post) do not have healthcare. I’m not talking about affordable healthcare – I’m talking about pure healthcare for every single person in our country – regardless of their status, income, ethnicity, etc. I do not agree with private insurance at all. The wealthiest can afford the best care while the poorest receive nothing. I know… this is the opposite of my view on the tax system – but my reasons here are moral and ethical. Having good health is NOT a choice and an opportunity that everyone in our country currently has (which is different than becoming successful in our country and being penalized or rewarded for it by the tax rate you pay). This issue hits directly to my heart in these days as my mother is currently not cared for by any health program. She worked all her life, but was laid off several years ago. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and needed surgery – but had not insurance or governmental assistance. The ONLY thing she had from her entire life of working was a small (very, very small) IRA left to live on, and her home that she had worked to finally pay off. In order to receive Medicaid, the government will insist on putting liens on that home. In order to have payment arrangements with the hospital (which we felt fortunate to have found one that would even do this), every bit of that small IRA will need to be exhausted. The question is… Where will she live and how will she eat once they take this from her?  The infuriating part (other than this being caused by the Camp Lejeune Marine Base Water Contamination – which I have posted on before) is that had she actually done NOTHING responsible such as saving to own her home and putting a little money away for her retirement… HAD SHE DONE THAT INSTEAD, she would have Carte Blanche and all the state and federal help she needs to for her healthcare. But because she worked and was responsible, she receives NOTHING. Really?!?! Darn, had she only taken advantage of the system, spent all her money, never saved a dime, she could get on welfare, Medicaid, and have her local state grant programs. Hmmm… what are we teaching our citizens here, folks?

4)      Education for our Children – If our tax dollars are spent on anything, our children’s education needs to be included. Again this is a democratic viewpoint I suppose, but they are our future and without providing them this, our country’s entire future could be at risk. There is no excuse for a country like ours to not educate our children beyond the low state standards that our set. This goes hand in hand with paying our teachers a fair salary (as well as holding them accountable for their performance) and teaching our children about the opportunities for higher education, college loans, and the opportunities available to them – regardless of where they come from and to teach them that saying the ‘cycle of poverty, bad education, and crime’ is no longer true – it truly is a choice in this day and age.

In my opinion, other than the main issues mentioned above, I think just about every other social program should disappear, except under extreme circumstances that are reviewed and approved on a case by case basis.

  • Welfare is the most widely abused social program I know of.  If it didn’t exist people WOULD get jobs, even if it meant finding jobs where childcare is provided or childcare swapping groups would be formed.  Again there are extreme cases, but they should be reviewed case-by-case and approved only when absolutely necessary for a limited time while the person is being taught how to get back on track.
  • Unemployment is also abused. Although certainly needed by so many today, it is ABUSED by 80% of its recipients and the people who pay for this program are those that pay taxes (i.e., those that are working). How can someone be on unemployment for 18 months (now reduced to six months recently) and still own luxurious assets and go on vacation? Is anyone really verifying they are trying to find work? Again, this is another social program that is overly abused and should be monitored much more extensively and provided under certain circumstances and guidelines to be awarded.

Overall, I believe, the Federal government should pretty much STAY OUT of our personal lives. Why do so many groups out there insist on trying to pass laws that are personal and of moral and ethical basis? In my opinion, the government should NOT be able to tell me that guns are illegal, that marijuana is illegal (although I personally wouldn’t smoke it if you paid me to), and that religion is not allowed in schools, that abortion is legal or illegal. These are all personal choices and every time the government tells us or passes a law involving moral and ethical issues, we take one step closer to being a Socialistic society and one step away from living in the Land of the Free.

Thanks to Leslie for inspiring this topic this morning. Although her views on this are different from mine, I love that even more – because in our country, we do have freedom of speech (at least for now).