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Love on borrowed time: Cancer patients find romance despite terminal prognosis

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It could have been a meet-cute in a romantic comedy between a man and a “mutant.”

After weeks of online flirting, Patrick Bardos met Anne Marie Cerato for their first date at a coffee shop in downtown Toronto.

“You’re short,” Bardos blurted out. “But I’m short too. And that’s not what I meant.”

Bardos must have said something to redeem himself, because the two kept talking until the coffee shop closed. 

As smitten as Cerato, then 33, was with Bardos, she knew she didn’t have time to waste on a dead-end relationship. So on their second date, she decided to drop “the bomb.”

Knowing Bardos was a comic book fan, Cerato tried to soften the blow by appealing to his superhero sensibilities. “I’m not an alien,” she said, “but I am a mutant.”

She made me a better person, very quickly, just by being herself.– Patrick  Bardos

To Bardos’s disappointment, Cerato admitted she wasn’t a member of the X-Men. However, she had been exposed to her fair share of radiation in treating a form of lung cancer driven by a genetic mutation.

After two years in remission, Cerato had recently learned her cancer had spread, and chances were, she wouldn’t be around in five years.

This was Bardos’s chance to run for the hills, Cerato said. Bardos took a moment to consider his dilemma: how does one fall in love knowing loss is imminent?

When facing a disease with life-or-death stakes, matters of the heart may seem like a secondary concern. But cancer can serve as a “litmus test” for a relationship — and many fail, said Dr. Robert Rutledge, a Halifax radiation oncologist.

He said it’s not uncommon for people to sever ties, even marriages, with partners rather than confront the prospect of losing a loved one to cancer, and by proxy, face their own mortality.

But while some couples collapse under the strain of sickness, Rutledge said, for others, it can heighten emotional connections. The people who stand by their partners when the end seems near tend to be the ones who are worth the time patients have left, he said.

At 40, Cerato, left, said she has defied survival statistics thanks to recent developments in targeted-gene therapy. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

Finite time ‘a gift’

Sitting across from the “mutant” he was falling for, Bardos resolved to be that kind of partner for Cerato.

That was in fall 2011. Seven years later, Bardos and Cerato are married, own a house, have travelled the world and even celebrated their “25th anniversary,” adjusting their romantic milestones for love on a condensed timeline.

Before he met Cerato, Bardos said he would waver between ruminating about the past, and fretting about the future. Now, Bardos said he’s able to immerse himself in the moment, so he can spend it with her.

“She made me a better person, very quickly, just by being herself,” he said.

At 40, Cerato said she has defied survival statistics thanks to recent developments in targeted-gene therapy. But knowing her time is finite, she was forced to decide what she could live without and whom she could not.

“I feel like, in a way, it’s a gift that I was able to realize that at 30 and not at 60.”

A Tinder match

For Morgan McNeely in Edmonton, this realization came a month before she turned 25 when she found out she had terminal stage-4 colon cancer.

After her diagnosis in 2015, McNeely found herself without her studies, her scientific research and her restaurant job, and short a few relationships she thought she could count on.

She suddenly had a lot of free time on her hands, so she and a friend decided to amuse themselves by swiping through Tinder.

McNeely turned down a number of propositions, including one lothario who offered to assist her in crossing items off her “sexual bucket list.”

She was expressly not looking for love — the last guy she had dated split because of her “cancer drama” — but one of her Tinder matches proved persistent, and they started dating.

I feel lucky every day, because of him. I’m not happy I have cancer, but I’m still thankful for what it’s brought me.– Morgan  McNeely

Having lost so much, McNeely was afraid to let her guard down. But he told her, “I see you beyond cancer.” And soon, he helped McNeely see that too.

“I feel lucky every day, because of him,” she said. “I’m not happy I have cancer, but I’m still thankful for what it’s brought me.”

Still, McNeely said disease can complicate a relationship. When she and her boyfriend got a cat together, McNeely said they had to consider whether he could take care of the pet without her. When they discuss the prospect of marriage, she worries about whether debts related to her illness would transfer to him after she dies.

This is the case for many terminal cancer patients: Their greatest concern is not their own death, but the impact it will have on loved ones they leave behind.

A ‘normal’ couple

Julie Easley is all too familiar with this tension, not only as a social scientist whose research has focused on young people with cancer, but as a survivor who has suffered loss herself.

When Easley met Randy Cable at a bar in Fredericton in 2004, she felt an instant jolt of recognition. At 28, Easley’s life had recently been handed back to her after beating stage-2 Hodgkin lymphoma. Cable, then 29, had been diagnosed with colon cancer and told he had three months to live — that day, the clock had run out.

From then on, it was love on borrowed time.

Easley knew the isolation that can come with fighting cancer. She was doing research at the hospital where Cable was being treated, so she started visiting him after work.

One night, Cable was too afraid to fall asleep, having been told he could go into cardiac arrest at any moment. Easley offered to stay over to monitor his breathing. She crawled into bed with him and put her hand over his chest, feeling it rise and fall as they both drifted off. After that, she slept over more often than not, holding hands throughout the night.

At times, it almost felt like they were a “normal” couple. To entertain themselves, they would pretend the reflection in the TV screen revealed another room in their imaginary apartment.

“There’s something about seeing that strength of character and that beauty of the human spirit when you’re stripped down to your most vulnerable state,” she said. “I fell in love with that.”

If you ever truly want to know the value of life, you spend time with someone who’s fighting for every scrap of it. I knew it would end. The part I didn’t know is the unexpected beauty that happened within that.– Julie Easley

Easley said it took Cable some time to realize she was more than just the “girl he was sleeping with.” When Easley first told Cable she loved him, he fell silent. He had told his mother that his biggest regret was that he had never been in love, according to Easley, but she had proved him wrong. “I love you too,” he said, eyes welling up with tears.

In fall 2005, little more than a year after they met, it became clear the end was near. Cable’s friends and relatives gathered around his bed, and he asked Easley to climb in with him. This time, instead of her holding him, he cradled her in his arms as he died at 31.

Thirteen years later, Easley continues to honour Cable’s memory through her work in the young adult cancer community, and feels grateful for the memories he gave her.

“If you ever truly want to know the value of life, you spend time with someone who’s fighting for every scrap of it,” said Easley. “I knew it would end. The part I didn’t know is the unexpected beauty that happened within that.” 

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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