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GMC-Augusta\’s Sylvia Ramsey Coordinates Event to Honor Women

By Quandra F. Collins

In honor of Women\’s History Month, members of the Columbia County Literary Guild are sponsoring a panel discussion about female authors.

The event is called Women Using Literature to Promote a Cause and will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Gibbs Library, at 326 N. Belair Road. It is free.

\”Its purpose is twofold,\” said Lucinda Clark, a poet and founding member of the guild. \”Its first purpose is to recognize women authors and to showcase how women authors have taken what they have written and used it to promote a cause.\”

The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Nahla Sweden, the coordinator of the Humanities Division of Georgia Military College in Augusta and will feature guild members Lynette Samuels, a children\’s author, and Sylvia Ramsey, a poet, as guest panelists.

\”Each presenter will get a chance to talk about what she does with her literature, and then there will be some sharing with what they\’ve written,\” Clark said.

Ramsey, who also is a founding member of the group, said she will use her poetry to spread a message about a life-threatening illness.

\”I\’m trying to bring about public advocacy about bladder cancer,\” she said. \”This year\’s prediction is that about 700,000 people in the United States will either be living with bladder cancer, be diagnosed with bladder cancer or have survived bladder cancer.\” On March 18, Ramsey was the guest speaker in Washinton D C for the White House Communications Agency\’s observance of Women\’s History Month.

Clark said a second purpose of Thursday\’s panel discussion is to celebrate Small Press Month, during which independent publishers are recognized for their efforts.

For more information about the discussion, call Sherryl James at the Gibbs Library at 863-1946.

__________________________

Sylvia Ramsey reads poetry during the Women Using Literature to Promote a Cause program for Women\’s History Month at the Gibbs Library in Martinez. Mrs. Ramsey is a bladder cancer survivor.

New test can help prevent misdiagnosis of bladder disease
By Kamille Bostick | Staff Writer

Nine years ago, Sylvia Ramsey, of Martinez, found out she had bladder cancer. It was a double blow when her husband, Charles, was diagnosed with prostate cancer that same year.

Though they both successfully underwent cancer treatment, what she discovered was that getting information and insight into her disease was much more difficult.

\”There was no support,\” she said. \”There was not a lot of information telling me how I was going to survive it.\”

Even today, Mrs. Ramsey said, awareness about bladder cancer, which is the fourth-most-common cancer in men and the 10th most common in women, hasn\’t improved.

Michael O\’Donnell, the director of urologic oncology at the University of Iowa School of Medicine, said the disease, which affects more than a half-million people, with 63,000 new cases a year, is in a peculiar position.

\”It\’s a funny disease in the sense that a lot of people have not written about it or know about it in the public eye or even most general physicians,\” he said. \”They spend 50 times more money per patient with prostate cancer than with bladder cancer.\”

\”It\’s a self-defeating circle,\” Dr. O\’Donnell said, explaining that because a lot of people don\’t know about the disease, there\’s not a push to properly fund research or promote wider public knowledge.

\”There\’s a stigma to it,\” he said. \”People shun away from them (the patients), thinking bladder cancer means they\’re soiling themselves all the time with urine, but that couldn\’t be further from the truth.\”

What is true is that bladder cancer is a very treatable disease, but it often hits people who might not even know they are at risk.

Links have been made between the disease and smoking – about three-quarters of men and one-half of women who have the disease were smokers – but those who work around industrial chemicals also can develop bladder cancer.

\”There are environmental factors, too,\” Dr. O\’Donnell said. \”Truck drivers and those exposed to gasoline or other chemicals; hair dressers and women who dye hair more than once a month. Even those people in parts of the country with water contaminated with arsenic can get it.\”

Despite such a varied patient population and treatment options, the biggest challenge with bladder cancer is preventing its recurrence.

\”Unlike most cancers where you catch them when they\’re late, 75 percent of the time we catch bladder cancers early,\” Dr. O\’Donnell said. \”The problem is that it recurs with a lot of patients. It\’s a disease that has a lot of issues affecting quality of life because it is so persistent. It\’s debilitating but not deadly.\”

Bladder cancer also can be easy to misdiagnose, especially in women.

\”The reason we think symptoms in women are often ignored,\” Dr. O\’Donnell said, \”is that they\’re attributed to other causes.\”

Bladder cancer often presents many of the same symptoms, such as blood in the urine, as bladder infections and other urinary-tract ailments.

Mrs. Ramsey said that before her diagnosis, she was treated extensively for bladder infections.

\”I had been going to the gynecologist, and he kept treating me for bladder infections and treating me for bladder infections. Then finally I had a urinalysis where another doctor told me I should go see a urologist,\” she said.

A few months later, after undergoing the series of tests, examinations and radiological imaging that detect bladder cancer, she was diagnosed with Stage III invasive cancer.

As part of her treatment, Mrs. Ramsey had to have her bladder removed and another constructed.

Today, a new urine test is making it easier to diagnose bladder cancer. The development has been big news for patients, survivors and physicians.

\”We\’re making quite a lot of advances with treating and diagnosing,\” Dr. O\’Donnell said. \”There are new chemotherapy methods, new improved instruments to examine the bladder and relatively innovative surgery to build new bladders for those that have to have them taken out.\”

Dr. O\’Donnell said the next crucial step is to get people to make the connection and ask for screenings or the new urine test.

\”We\’ve got to have them thinking about sending out for the test,\” he said. \”The hardest point is to get patients and doctors to think of the disease when they see the symptoms.\”

Mrs. Ramsey is hoping to drive the issue home with a crusade she has undertaken to make people knowledgeable about the symptoms, the disease and the need for funding and support.

Through speaking to groups and deferring portions of the proceeds from her poetry book, Pulse Points of a Woman\’s World, Mrs. Ramsey is reaching people to tell them about their options and risks.

\”When I was going to the doctor all those months, I didn\’t think to ask about bladder cancer,\” she said. \”I can have empathy for someone going through it now.

\”But we should all be as knowledgeable about bladder cancer as we are about breast cancer and prostate cancer.\”

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.

WHO\’S AT RISK
Smokers: People who smoke are at least twice as likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer as nonsmokers.

Possible high-risk industries involve: Textiles, rubber, leather, painting, printing, dye (aromatic amines known as benzidine and beta-naphthylamine)

People in their late 60s: The risk of bladder cancer increases as people grow older. (The National Cancer Institute says fewer than 1 percent of bladder cancer cases occur among people under age 40.)

Men and women, but men more commonly: Men are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than women. That\’s probably related to workforce exposure and smoking patterns in the past.

People with chronic bladder inflammation: Frequent irritations of the bladder might have some connection to bladder cancer, but that does not necessarily mean they cause bladder cancer. Those conditions include: urinary infections; kidney and bladder stones; other causes of chronic bladder irritation; indwelling catheters (such as those used by paraplegics); schistosomiasis or bilharziasis – infection by a parasitic worm in Egyptchemotherapy patients: High doses of the chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) and ifosfamide can increase the risk of bladder cancer. The drug mesna is used with these drugs to protect the bladder from irritation and decrease cancer risk.

People exposed to arsenic: Arsenic in drinking water has been associated with a higher risk of bladder cancer, but risk depends on water system standards.Whites, more than members of other races: Whites are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer than blacks or Hispanics. Asians have the lowest incidence of bladder cancer. family history: Family members of bladder cancer patients are at an increased risk for developing the disease.

Children with rare birth defects: Two rare birth defects increase bladder cancer risk.

Source: The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

SYMPTOMS:

Bladder cancer symptoms are similar to other urinary ailments. Only a physician can diagnose the disease. – Blood in the urine (this can be both visible and microscopic) – Frequent urination – Pain during urination

ONLINE

Resources: www.blcwebcafe.orgwww.urologyhealth.org

THE BLADDER

The bladder is a hollow, balloon-shape organ that stores urine. The urine is produced in the kidneys. It flows through tubes called ureters into the bladder and is discharged through the urethra during urination. The bladder muscle aids urination by contracting to help force out the urine.

Source: American Urological Association

–From the Tuesday, March 29, 2005 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle