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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An Update from Karen Shirer

Dear Colleagues,

Trish Olson asked that I give you an update on what is happening with me. Many of you have been asking how I have been doing with the cancer treatments.

First, some details on the cancer treatment. The cancer that I have is large B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma and my specific one is a “double-hit” lymphoma. It is a very aggressive form of cancer and was spreading rapidly through my lymph node system before I began treatment. To date, I have had four rounds of chemotherapy. Each round is five days long and completed in the hospital. The chemo goes by the acronym R-EPOCH, which describes the type being used. You can find out more at this website: nhlcyberfamily.org.

The chemo rounds have been rigorous, but I have been able to control the nausea with medication. Fatigue has been a problem because of the intensity of the chemo, but I am managing that much better with rest.

Many of you also know that I sustained a pathological fracture of my left femur in late September that put me in the hospital for seven days. A titanium rod was put in the femur, and the healing in the leg has been amazing. I am now able to put full weight on the leg when I walk, and I will be doing physical therapy to strengthen the leg and get me back to regular physical activity. If I can do it, you can also do physical activity.

This journey with cancer has been an interesting one with many gracious and helpful caregivers who have eased my pain and discomfort. Being off work has given me an opportunity to reconnect with family members that a busy career and raising two active daughters did not allow me. My daughter, Allie, complained that it is too bad that I have cancer and cannot spend as much time with baby Lulu. I reminded her that I probably have had more time than if I had been working full time.


A cancer diagnosis is a scary thing, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the treatments have gone. I shared with Trish that these past few months have been "the best of times and the worst of times."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Turnip for Technology

Dear colleagues,

My 15 year-old daughter is hardly the poster child for a healthy lifestyle. She’ll often watch me (not offering to help) unpack grocery bags and put items away in the refrigerator and cupboards, and as the last item finds a spot, she’ll say, “Why didn’t you buy any real food?” She means salty food, sugary food, or fatty food, or, preferably, all three combined.

Yet, she was the one who first showed me Michelle Obama’s latest health promotion initiative.


Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign has strategically and carefully focused attention toward healthy eating and active living for children and families. The First Lady has used a variety of technologies and platforms to reach out to target groups. She’s been on Sesame Street, the Disney Channel, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and countless talk and news shows. But perhaps the most fascinating and most viewed, the viral “Turnip for What?” clip* on the Vine video-sharing app, has all of us in the healthy-eating-active-living-obesity-prevention world reeling.

Six seconds.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Dear colleagues,

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. This day of remembrance started after World War I to commemorate an armistice — a temporary cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany. This truce went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, and effectively ended “the war to end all wars.”

November 11 is an official holiday in the United States and coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other parts of the world. The United States originally observed Armistice Day, but Congress expanded its scope in 1954 and changed the name to Veterans Day to honor all veterans and promote the cause of world peace.

In London this year, artists have created a beautiful remembrance to help commemorate this day: they have “planted” 888,246 individually crafted, ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. Since July, over 19,000 volunteers have worked to create the display called, "Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red."
Each poppy represents the life of a British or colonial soldier who died fighting in the Great War, which began 100 years ago.This morning in London, the last poppy was planted.

In addition to the powerful imagery commemorating the fallen soldiers, I see the impact of 19,000 volunteers all following a grand plan. Without a plan, this exhibit could have looked more like ponds or streams and not a sea. I think, how might Family Development make an even larger impact if we collectively worked on joint projects across our areas of expertise? Something to consider as we enter planning for 2015.
Trish Olson, Interim Associate Dean
[Editor's note: The source of the installation's title is a poem written by an unknown WWI solider. Read more here.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

'If not me, then who? If not now, then when?'

Dear Colleagues,

The Community Fund Drive has been extended to November 7. This effort is the University of Minnesota's annual charitable giving campaign that provides an easy way for employees to donate to nonprofits that enrich the community. The Community Fund Drive was started by President James Morrill during the Great Depression in 1931. Since 1995, the Community Fund Drive has raised $17.8 million. In 2013, 36 percent of employees on the Twin Cities campus donated more than $1.3 million to the community.

Faculty and staff can donate online or via a paper form, and make either a one-time gift or have their donation taken out of their paycheck each pay period. Gifts can be made to a federation, an agency/agencies within a federation, an external charity, or a combination of all of three.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How Can One Person Make a Difference?

Dear colleagues, 

How can one person make a difference? This is the question the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is posing next month (November 10) as they engage in a discussion about the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks with the author Rebecca Skloot.


As described on the CEHD website, "The featured book... tells the story of Henrietta Lacks (known by scientists as HeLa). Lacks grew up in a poor tobacco farming community in Clover, Virginia. In 1951 doctors at Johns Hopkins took cancerous cells from her body without her knowledge. HeLa cells have played a major role in important scientific and medical advancements. Henrietta Lacks died at the age of 31 and her family has received no compensation despite the billions of dollars that the HeLa cells have generated in the medical industry. Skloot's book raises critical questions about race, ethics and scientific discovery."
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