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May 29, 2014 7:18 am

AMEND CORNER: Loving those opinions and ideas

Written by Don Amend

I’ve been perusing newspapers for as long as I can remember.

I began “reading” them in my pre-literate days, when all I could do was look at the pictures and ask my Dad to tell me why he was getting such a big laugh out of  “Pogo,” his favorite comic strip, or what Li’l Abner was saying to Daisy Mae.

Once my formal education started, I moved beyond the funnies. As an American male, I naturally took an interest in sports news and learned to figure out why the Brooklyn Dodgers lost to the Boston Braves by analyzing the box score in the paper.

You can tell from that last paragraph I have been reading and enjoying newspapers for a long time, and over that time, my approach to the daily paper has changed. I have developed a special fondness for one particular section of the newspaper.

You are reading that section right now.

A recent Opinion page published by the Tribune, particularly one column on that page, illustrates why I am drawn to that page. Among the four items on the page was the editorial, written by Managing Editor Tom Lawrence to convey the opinion of the Tribune on an issue.

The second item on the page was by Doug Blough, who contributes a column regularly. Like all such columns, including the one you are reading, it expresses the writer’s viewpoint alone. In Doug’s case, his column aims mainly at entertaining the reader, although he sometimes slips in a serious point.

Next was a syndicated editorial cartoon. Like Doug’s column, it expresses the opinion of the person who created it, not necessarily the Tribune’s opinion.

Finally, the page included a column by Carly Jo Klein, a PHS student who was working as an intern at the Tribune. This column — and columns like it — are the reason I enjoy the Opinion page.

This column caught my attention, in part, because I’m an antique high school English teacher and I spent a third of a century reading papers by young people like Carly. Consequently, I approached it as a teacher grading an assignment, and would have given it a high mark for the thought that went into it.

The column has a rather significant flaw, however, and while it would not have lowered her grade, would have drawn a comment.

Carly began by expressing her distaste for a practice that is common place in our wired-in world, posting something trivial on Facebook and acting as though it represents some important contribution to society. In this case, she spoke of individuals who post photographs of themselves without makeup to demonstrate their awareness of breast cancer.

In Carly’s opinion — and mine as well — posting such pictures is merely a bid for attention. Such actions do nothing to raise awareness or provide any kind of support for those suffering from cancer.

Carly then goes on to describe something she believes will raise awareness of cancer and provide information to those battling the disease. She cites research she did for an English paper in support of the use of green tea in avoiding cancer or making treatment of cancer more effective.

That’s where the flaw is, in her paper.

There has been considerable study of green tea and cancer, and some of those studies seem to indicate green tea might be useful. Other studies, though, have been inconclusive, and the jury is still out on just how helpful it is.

More seriously, some cancer patients should not consume green tea, and it happens that I am one of them.

When I was told that I had multiple myeloma, the hematologist at the Mayo Clinic told me not to drink green tea. In fact, “No green tea” was the very first thing he told me.

It ranked right up there with “Don’t clean the cat’s litter box or the bird’s cage,” and, along with abstaining from alcohol, it was the only dietary restriction I was given. The doctor said regular tea is OK, as is coffee in moderation, but green tea interferes with the chemotherapy regimen being used to fight the disease.

Carly’s omission of this restriction on green tea is understandable. The name cancer is applied to many conditions, and what works with one of them doesn’t work with others. Even within one type of cancer, results will vary from one patient to another.

In fact, a couple of doctors have told me that all treatment of cancer is experimental.  In addition, conclusions drawn from one study are often contradicted by other studies.

Carly could have fixed the problem by qualifying her statement to account for the reality of cancer treatment. Had she noted that any patient should listen carefully to the doctor and follow his directions, I couldn’t have found any fault in her paper.

Columns such as Carly’s are what make the Opinion page my favorite part of the paper. Her column gave us insight into a bright young mind that we might not have had otherwise. The same advantage can be gained through letters to the editor written by ordinary people who have something valuable to say to all of us.

Make sure you don’t skip this page the next time you read a newspaper.

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