Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Back to the sixties!

Two recent weekends reminded me of the good old days. Back to the Sixties! I attended college from 1968-1972, which still ranks among the most controversial campus years -- with Vietnam demonstrations, black student protests and radical organizations staging sit-ins in administration buildings. It's interesting to speculate on how that has shaped my world view and political opinions.

Anne, Ginny, Roseanne.  Where's Barbara?
This past weekend I had a mini reunion with 3 of my college roommates. One legacy of a late 60's college education is a continued and acute interest in social and political issues. We covered most of them, along with a little reminiscing and catching up on the present -- kids, grandkids, husbands, careers and retirement. On Sunday, Gary remarked: I can't believe you are still talking!" "Not just talking," I said, "fixing the problems of the world!" 

If only it were so easy. I suppose now we have a more measured view of what can be accomplished and perhaps even a more cynical one. How have our life choices supported our early views and how much have they instead reflected the pressures of conforming and being successful? Racial discrimination and a permanent underclass seem as bad as ever. How have we helped solve that problem?  But I do love how we easily slipped back into our college roles. We sat around on deck chairs sipping mimosas, but could have easily been sprawled out on each other's narrow twin beds in Mary Donlon Hall, as we did 40 years ago.

A few weeks before, I attended the Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference in Philly, sponsored by an organization called Living Beyond Breast Cancer. They do a great job presenting topics of interest to patients with mbc and their caregivers. One new aspect of the conference this year was Hear My Voice Advocacy training held on Friday before the sessions started. The program presented factual information on mbc's biology, treatment and research as well as the needs of the mbc community as presented in the 2014 Landscape Report of the MBC Alliance. There were many young women attending and they were inspired to action. Some cited Metastatic Breast Cancer Network's President Shirley Mertz who spoke and compared the mbc statistics to those of the early days of the AIDS movement. Shirley cited the figure that 108 people die every day from breast cancer and asked why no one was making the media stand up and take notice.

108 die today and everyday from metastatic breast cancer
So the young advocates decided to stage a "Die-In" in the lobby of the Philadelphia Loew's Hotel. 108 women would lie down on the floor, while a eulogy was read to emphasize the lack of progress in this part of the breast cancer campaign. Yes, there are more treatments and early detection, but the fact remains that 40,000 women and men still die every year from mbc--breast cancer that has spread or metastasized to other parts of the body--and this number has not changed in the last two decades. No one knows what causes breast cancer or what causes it to spread.

I was just claiming my car from the parking garage, planning to detour to the shore before coming home, when I got the text from Shirley. Whoa! Back to the 60's! If there was a protest march on an issue I firmly believe in, I was all in. The die-in was moved to the third floor hallways where the conference was being held, but it was moving and emotional.

I was pumped."Back to the sixties!" I yelled and then realized that I was surrounded by some who had not even been born then. One young woman next to me said she had protested when she was in college, too. They were raising the drinking age from 18 to 21! "Oh," was all I could muster.  We may not have accomplished much, but at least my generation aimed higher.

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