Day 10: My Soul to Take, 2010

Wes Craven is often credited as helping push horror into the mainstream as a sort of pop novelty. Let’s face it, with icons like Freddy Krueger and Ghostface as part of his legacy, he definitely deserves a reputable spot in the horror hall of fame.

However, his latest project, My Soul to Take, falls pretty far from the tree (unlike the eviscerated body of Drew Barrymore that he forged into our minds almost 15 years ago).

It starts with a pretty good premise and a wonderful opening sequence, but the film never really leaves the starting gate as the rest of the film is generic and socially irrelevant.

The scariest thing about the film is this is the first movie Wes Craven has written and directed since 1994′s New Nightmare which makes it an ultimate disappointment for Craven fans (much like myself). In the end, however, the script compliments the film’s sequences: for every terrible line of dialogue (“Wake up and smell the Starbucks” was my favorite), there is a bland and virginal death scene where you feel no urgency for the character’s life.

In a dead teenager flick, the teenagers should be disposable, but you should always have some qualms about their end; in My Soul to Take, there is no such thing. Also, the fact that this film is rated ‘R’ appalls me as the violence is chaste, the death scenes so quick, and the blood is essentially all CGI. Is this a ‘PG-13′ masked as an ‘R’? Looks like someone made a boo-boo.

Despite it’s shortcomings, there is a highlight in the deepest, darkest corner of the film. The twist, which involves the importance of a certain bird and a certain person and a collection of souls, was implemented very well in a way that threw me way off track.

So much happened at the end of the movie that it left me in a state of coma, something that hasn’t happened to me in a long time. It may confuse a few people, but it only takes some time to think about which is why this film is worth a gander. It makes you think.

As a movie, it’s pretty forgetful and it’s very disappointing that this is Wes Craven’s supposed comeback into the realm of horror as a writer/director. In the grand scheme of things, however, Craven has proven time and time again that for every ‘ok’ movie he’s made has led to better things (the original The Hills Have Eyes led to A Nightmare of Elm Street). Therefore, My Soul to Take can be seen, but only if it can have your soul on Netflix.

Rating: 2.5/5

Bike Shop to Terrify Pedestrians No Longer?

The Terrified Pedestrian Bike Shop’s financial hardships could threaten its ability to remain open. (Photo by Steve Rees)
The Terrified Pedestrian Bike Shop’s financial hardships could threaten its ability to remain open. (Photo by Steve Rees)
Despite ample business and a dedicated staff, a complete funding cut to the on-campus Bike Shop threatens to derail the project for good.

The Terrified Pedestrian Bike Shop was created by Mike Benjamin, ‘09, in the fall of 2008 after the discontinuation of the FreeRide program, a bike-sharing program from two years prior which failed when students took bikes and neglected to bring them back, or seriously damaged them.

Since its creation, the Bike Shop has dealt with a move from Queen Anne Hall to the Waring Commons common room and, according to Bike Shop employee senior Paul Parzynski, threatened funding loss last year as a result of college funding cut-backs.

This year, however, Parzynski and other members of the Bike Shop were informed by Assistant Vice President of Campus Operations Derek Thornton, who manages the shop through the Physical Plant, that there was no money in the budget.

Thornton said that the Physical Plant currently pays Parzynski, along with current employees junior Roger Ding, senior Aaron French, and junior Mike Adashek, through a contingency plan “until [future] funding is identified.”

However, Parzynski said that until that occurs there is no budget to hire or pay any other employees, an issue considering the large number of people who have shown interest in working for the shop.

He added that until funding is found, the bike shop cannot expand its services to include bike sharing or improve its organization through a potential manager position.

Parzynski said that funding for the shop has always been ambiguous, but until recently it had received more money than needed. Parzynski further theorized that since the bike shop has come in significantly under budget the past few years, this may have been seen by administrators as a lack of activity.

Thornton said that the funding cut related to confusion regarding what services the bike shop should provide, and how its services should fit into the larger picture of the campus community. Assistant Vice President of Finance Christopher True was unavailable for comment.

Despite the Bike Shop’s budget gap, Parzynski said that since the beginning of this year alone around 70 bikes have been logged as being fixed, coming to around $3500 of directly recorded repairs.

He added that this number included only bikes which could not be fixed on-the-spot, and probably accounted for only around 40 percent of the bike shop’s business.

According to Parzynski, the reason the bike shop came under budget was that they “ran more efficiently” than administrators expected.

The employees of the shop, Thornton, and Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall are currently working on preparing a case for the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Oct. 1. Parzynski said, “our goal is to become [a financial] entity like SafeRide.”

Thornton said that he is currently meeting with the Office of Student Affairs to identify possible future funding sources.

President Joseph Urgo has also expressed interest in seeing the bike shop continue its existence, and although no decisions have been made, he said, “It would be nice to have that…[we want to] encourage bike riding on campus.”

Parzynski noted that, despite these possibilities, the bike shop as it stands now is in dire condition, and said, “I can’t imagine this place will remain open without funding.”

Video by Chris Paige, Video Editor

Board Meeting Marks Several Firsts

There was a lot of love for President Joe Urgo at this year’s first Board of Trustees general session. The meeting, held on the Saturday during fall break, was Molly Mahoney Matthews’s first as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and also marked the first held with President Joe Urgo at the head of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“We have a new beginning with Dr. Urgo at the helm of the institution, and with Molly chairing the board,” said Dean of Students Laura Bayless.

The Board of Trustees is comprised of people selected by the Board itself and appointed by the Governor to shape and implement governing policies for the College.

The Trustees, who work on a volunteer basis, meet in committees to shape these policies and then meet in general session in order to vote and implement any changes.

Revisions to the College’s mission, the operating budget, and to other monetary matters were all approved at this past meeting.

Matthews called the Board to order with a speech claiming that the Board’s commitment to students, faculty, and staff has been “stronger in the previous few months than ever” and that a new President heading the institution is the mark of a new era.

She thanked Tom Botzman, Vice President for Business & Finance, for handling the effects of having “finances constrained” due to the economic downturn but also addressed that the pay freeze is having an impact on employee morale.

Urgo’s address to the Board introduced “four guiding principles” for discussions held throughout the year, asking that the Board renew the College’s mission, “reaffirm the foundations” by constantly asking what is best for students, “ensure the public trust” by maintaining a community with “core principles of access, inclusiveness, meritocracy, and sustainability,” and “sustain the monument school” by becoming “a monument to the highest standards of public endeavor and educational practices.”

Many reports to the Board, including Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall’s, ‘11, and Alumni Council Chair Paul Schultheis’s, ‘98, addressed excitement towards President Urgo’s start at St. Mary’s, with Faculty Senate President Bob Paul saying that “we [the faculty] like Joe Urgo a lot.”

Despite the pay freeze Board Chair Matthews addressed earlier, Paul mentioned that the faculty “believe they are being heard at all levels” and that they are confident “in their ability to effect change.”

Ruthenberg-Marshall, in his first report to the Board as the Student Trustee, reported on many student concerns such as the Bike Shop’s loss of funding, with 90% of students responding to him that they were upset with the possibility of its services no longer being available.

He also addressed the restrictions placed on academic work due to the slow internet service on campus, but acknowledged that discussions on the issue will only be likely to effect significant change in the coming years.

Neil Irwin, ‘00, reported for the Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee and announced that Aaron Williams, the current Director of the Peace Corps, has been selected as the Commencement speaker for 2011.

Williams will still need to be confirmed, but he was one of the people suggested by the Class of 2011 last spring.

With a new President at the school and with Matthews being the new Chair for the Board, there are likely to be changes in the Board’s vision for the College. Dean Bayless pointed out the increased focus on fundraising consistently mentioned throughout the meeting as evidence of this new direction. However, Ruthenberg-Marshall claims that, despite the new Chair, there seem to have been few changes to how the Board operates.

Only four students attended the open General Session, including the Student Trustee, which is not unusual according to Dean. “In the 13 Board meetings I have attended, I don’t recall a student just attending because it is an interesting open meeting,” said Bayless, acknowledging that the students present are usually the Student Trustee, Student-trustee-in-training and a Point News reporter, with the President of the Student Government Association occasionally attending.

Students are allowed to attend the General Sessions, which are open to the public, and while the public is not allowed to participate in the discussions within the meeting itself, many Trustees are open to speaking with students before and after the session is adjourned.

Despite the lack of students attending such meetings, both Bayless and Ruthenberg-Marshall believe that the Board is in tune with student concerns. Ruthenberg-Marshall believes that the position of the “student member does contribute to that” understanding, but he also thinks it is a “product of how in tune [the] administration is” with student opinions.

Bayless hopes that student awareness of the Board’s work will increase, with Matthews and Irwin scheduled to appear at one of the Neighborhood Chats she and President Urgo will hold throughout the year.

However, she believes that Ruthenberg-Marshall “is doing a good job of being visible as the Student Trustee, which helps students know more about the work of the Board.”

The next General Session will be held Saturday, Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C., though the time and location are to be determined. The next session held on campus will be Saturday, Feb. 26th in the Glendenning Annex.

Peace and Love, Say the SMCM Six

Students peacefully protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. (Photo submitted by Madeline Montgomery)
Students peacefully protest against the Westboro Baptist Church. (Photo submitted by Madeline Montgomery)
On Oct. 6, six St. Mary’s students traveled to the Supreme Court to rally for peace and love to counter the message of hate espoused by the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC).

Senior Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, senior Allison Yancone, senior Allison Shapiro-Davis, junior Madeline Montgomery, sophomore Josh Santangelo, and sophomore Garrett Zopfi traveled to D.C. to offer a counter message to the WBC’s.

Shapiro-Davis said their goal was “counteracting the hate,” and Ruthenberg-Marshall said it was “all about support for WBC’s victims…not to fight the WBC…the WBC feeds off of hate. The only thing they don’t understand is peace and love.”

Ruthenberg-Marshall had been following the WBC and gathered a small group of like-minded individuals through a Facebook status. Together they made signs expressing their peaceful message and headed to D.C.

When they arrived at the courthouse, they were applauded and thanked by people who had lined up to view the court proceedings. There was only one other individual at the courthouse with a sign supporting peace and love.

Members of the WBC were there with signs proclaiming, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “Fags Doom Nations,” among others.

Montgomery said it was very difficult to see small children, between five and eight years old, holding up signs for the WBC, as well as being confronted by the message that the church proclaimed. She said, “some signs shocked me…I literally felt nauseated.”

The WBC is a fundamentalist Christian church known for their protests and belief that God kills soldiers and causes disasters for America’s tolerance of sin, specifically homosexuality.

This organization was picketing at the Supreme Court because of the case Snyder v. Phelps. This case was brought to the Supreme Court because the WBC picketed the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, a Marine killed in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

Albert Snyder (his father) filed a lawsuit against founder and head of the WBC Fred Phelps and the WBC for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case concerns the conflict between free speech and privacy.

While showing their support for anti-WBC ideas, the St. Mary’s six were approached by numerous reporters and television crews. Santangelo said, “I was surprised by amount of press attention we got.”

“We definitely had crowd support and press support,” Zopfi said.

The St. Mary’s students chose to avoid confrontation with the members of the WBC even though they disagreed with them. Yancone said, “we had a lot of opportunity to get into it with other people [but] it was our decision not to get involved.”

Montgomery said that they were approached by a member of the WBC. “We knew getting into a conversation would…help them achieve their goal,” said Shapiro-Davis.

At the time of this writing, the outcome of the case had not been decided.

Townhouse Mold On Retreat

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Houses in the Crescents and Greens were cleaned last weekend by maintenance and outside contractors. (Photo by Ryan Gugerty)
Houses in the Crescents and Greens were cleaned last weekend by maintenance and outside contractors. (Photo by Ryan Gugerty)
The campus mold problem, once only the result of what seemed to be isolated problems, has become endemic on the Townhouse Greens, with ten separate townhouses being evacuated for extensive remediation.

The mold issue started at the beginning of the academic year when the residents of Geneva Boone 4 moved in. Senior Julie Bernstein, a resident of Boone 4, said, “We moved in and there was a huge stain on our carpet…[when] we had our first rain the carpet flooded.”

Bernstein and the other residents of Boone 4 put in a work order to get the flooding checked out by maintenance, but according to Bernstein it was an “on-and-off uphill battle to get it taken care of properly.”

Eventually, and after parents of the residents of Boone 4 got involved, Maintenance came in to take a look; what they found was a leaking roof and dangerous levels of mold. Bernstein said, “you could feel all the moisture in the air, and we all had cold-like symptoms.”

The initial cleaning of Boone 4, perhaps as a result of it being the first house to have the issue, took three and a half weeks, during which residents of Boone 4 either took replacement housing provided by Residence Life or couch-surfed. However, Bernstein pointed out that “it didn’t really feel that bad” and that she was very happy with the compensations Residence Life provided.

After Boone 4, Maintenance teams led by Assistant Vice President of Campus Operations Derek Thornton and Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator Polly Miller expanded the scope of their search for mold to other townhouses on the Greens.

These teams discovered that a large number of houses on the Greens had some amount of mold, and ten houses had severe enough levels of mold that students had to be evacuated over the Reading Days weekend.

Margaret Wing Dodge Houses 3 and 7, Homer L. Dodge Houses 1, 3, 4, and 8, Bernard C. Trueschler Houses 1 and 6, and Elanor Diggs Harrington House 3 were all evacuated. As of this writing, mold has also been found in four houses in the South Crescent Townhouses, though in amounts small enough to be taken care of by housekeeping.

Miller said, “I was disappointed with what I found.” Thornton, agreed, and said he was “very surprised” by the amounts of mold.

In order to prepare students and answer questions about the issue, a meeting was held on Oct. 7 between representatives of the college and those soon to be displaced. At the meeting, students were told about the different species of mold found, the health effects of mold, and the plans for remediation of the townhouses.

Students were also provided compensation for their displacement, alternate housing, and vouchers for free meals. In a message sent out to a Facebook group created for residents of the Greens and their supporters after the meeting, Senior Laura Mateczun said, “We feel that the school, while undoubtedly [having] screwed up previous housing inspections over the last two or more years, is taking this situation very seriously and attempting [as] quick a response as possible.”

In order to clean up the mold, a third-party remediation team was brought in, which allowed a significantly faster turnover; instead of taking three weeks, townhouses were completely remediated by Oct. 12. Miller said, “they did a lot of extra stuff…they were excellent.”

Despite the college’s recent and extensive efforts to combat the mold problem, the whole fiasco may be indicative of a more pervasive negligence in cleanliness. Thornton said, “[It is] expected as we prepare these units…that a thorough job of cleaning is done.”

He added that members of the maintenance staff, before the beginning of the academic year, are supposed to clean coils in the electrical closets (the primary place mold has been found) and change air filters.

However, the pervasive presence of mold seems to belie this, and Thornton said that it’s “something I’m looking into…I have to review those processes to see where the problem lies.”

Miller also said that she was planning on conducting a root cause analysis of the problem to see if the issue has been the result of “insufficient training, someone doing the job who is unqualified, or a general system failure.” She added, “I dropped everything to give this 100 percent of my efforts.”

Student Response Prompts Removal of Montgomery Hall’s Naturalized Area

The overgrown grassy area located along the path of Montgomery Hall was removed in response to students’ petition in the beginning of this semester as quickly as it had sprouted up.

“The wild growth area between Montgomery Hall and the bell tower is a place where students used to sit to enjoy nice weather, and frankly, it interrupts the aesthetic appeal of the rest of that area,” said Junior Madeline Montgomery, which was what a majority of the student population felt.

These grassy areas, also known as the naturalized areas or meadows, have several benefits for the environment. They can be found by Mattapany Road, the Library, St. John’s Pond, and in several other areas.

According to Superintendent of Grounds and Maintenance, Kevin Mercer, they serve to reduce water shedding, carbon foot-printing, budget and labor cost while protecting and nourishing the wildlife.

They were created simply by let the grass grow out and just as easily cut down. Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, in collaboration with the Sustainability Committee, Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities, Chip Jackson, and Mercer were responsible for the removal of Monty’s meadow. Faculty, staff, and alumni thoughts were also included in the decision.

According to Ruthenberg-Marshall, Monty’s meadow only accounted for less than two percent out of the total meadows on campus. Ruthenberg-Marshall presented the students’ complaints and petitions to get it removed during a sustainability committee meeting. He said, “I heard from a lot of students that it was an eye sore, and that it was getting in the way of people walking across the hill by Monty.”

After Jackson and Mercer were notified of this issue, they took immediate action. When Mercer was asked what prompted the quick response, he said, “We wanted to move on it quickly since there was no wildlife nested in this area and wanted to show the SMCM students that their voices were heard.”

Likewise, Jackson was asked about his thoughts concerning the removal of the meadows. He described the planning process as something that ideally would have been perfect, but unfortunately there were a few mistakes along the way.

When Jackson was asked how he felt about feedback about the meadows and in general he said, “I’m open to criticism whether negative or positive.” Jackson can be contacted at ccjackson@smcm.edu by anyone interested in giving contrusctive criticism.

Repurposed Land to Improve Pollution Control

Some of you may have seen what appears to be the mulched pond outside of the Campus Center and wondered what exactly it was, or what purpose it was serving. And now, there is an explanation: it’s a rain garden.

Professor Jackie Takacs, of the Environmental Science program, is heading this project. She explains that a rain garden is “a shallow depression that captures stormwater runoff, and filters out sediments and nutrients that would otherwise end up in our waterways and pollute them.” Thus, it will help out the St. Mary’s River, Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay.

The area where the rain garden is being started was chosen because the space was designated to hold water, so the depression was already made. The garden itself is low-maintenance, requiring “minor seasonal deadheading and weeding” according to Takacs.

Takacs decided to make the rain garden project a part of her ENST-450 class (Environmental Science for the K-8 Classroom) because they are “great outdoor projects that teachers and students can do together.”

Students in Takacs’ class are also very excited about becoming a part of this project. Amanda DeLand, a senior, is really enjoying the experience. “I like choosing the plants and things that are to be planted in the garden,” she says. “There’s a lot that goes into choosing which plants to put where, but I like choosing and planning out the native species to go into the garden.”

DeLand agrees that the rain garden will be beneficial in many ways to St. Mary’s, both environmentally and cosmetically. She explains, “The rain garden will definitely make the campus more attractive. The mulch pond [that it used to be] was just so pointless and out of place. It’ll give visitors a better impression of us.”

I ♥ Female Orgasm Entertains, Educates on How to Get Off

Jocelyn Benson co-led the program that presented clear, positive messages about female orgasm and sexuality. Part of the program focused on media messages about female orgasm. (Photo by Katie Henry)
Jocelyn Benson co-led the program that presented clear, positive messages about female orgasm and sexuality. Part of the program focused on media messages about female orgasm. (Photo by Katie Henry)
Crowds of excited, chattering students crowed together to fill in corners, aisles, laps, and arms of chairs on Oct. 14 to learn about the beliefs concerning, different types of, and ways to have a female orgasm for the program I ♥ Female Orgasm.

The program was led by Marshall Miller and Jocelyn Benson, who travel around the country giving presentations on sexual health. Their goal is to make sure people have access to good health information, so that if someone chooses to engage in sexual activity it can be a positive and fulfilling experience.

Benson and Miller were very open in speaking about sexuality and the female orgasm.

Benson began with a personal anecdote about her early sexual experiences and how they were unfulfilling because she had trouble finding clear information on how to have sex.

The presenters discussed how popular magazines have some information about orgasms and sex, but can create distorted ideas about sex, such as how your face looks while you orgasm or the importance of simultaneous orgasms.

They said that magazines were a little better than sex education in schools in providing usable information about sex. Miller gave the example that in sex-ed you learn about fallopian tubes but you “don’t learn about how sex works.”

These programs also leave out important information about female anatomy, most clearly visible in the dearth of information on the clitoris.

Benson and Miller then said that another problem is people’s views on physical appearance and the ‘right’ way to have sex and that mainstream porn has a lot to do with it.

People get ideas about how their body should look; Benson said, “if your va-jay-jay has a little personality, there is nothing abnormal about you.”

The program continued by touching on what students had learned about masturbation; in order to counter these mostly negative views on female orgasm, they covered the merits of orgasms and masturbation for women.

It can help relieve menstrual cramps, relieve stress and headaches, and help you fall asleep.Then, with diagrams and instructions, the audience learned how women can have an orgasm.

The arousal cycle was discussed, covering how many women reach the plateau stage of arousal, which can last a long time. However, that “is not a sign that you’re broken,” said Benson.

Marshall said, “By age fifteen, only about half of women have had an orgasm,” but most men have had an orgasm by the same age.

Jocelyn said, “When you ask women their fastest and easiest way to orgasm, the most common answer is masturbation … [but] if you ask about their favorite way, the most common answer is oral sex.”

This led into a discussion of women having orgasms with partners. Marshall said “only about 30% of women can have an orgasm from intercourse alone.” They stated that women can and like to touch themselves or have their partners touch them during intercourse.

One important aspect of having orgasms is dialogue with a partner and finding out what feels good.

Close to the end of the program, Benson and Miller broached the mystery of the G-spot. They said it is a bundle of nerves, 2-3 inches inside the vagina on the side closest to the navel and is more sensitive in some women.

In order to stimulate the G-spot, Benson said fingers can be used, specific G-spot sex toys, or even curved vegetables (though be sure to wash and put a condom on them).

Women can also ejaculate by stimulating the G-spot. It presses on the urethral sponge, which produces a fluid (that is not urine) that can be released during orgasm.
The sensation before orgasm may feel like a strong urge to urinate.

After a review of all these different types of orgasms, Benson said, “each orgasm is unique, like a snowflake.” Practicing Kegels was also covered as a way to have stronger orgasms and for men to have multiple orgasms.

One can strengthen the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle by flexing the muscle that one uses to stop the flow of urine midstream; this muscle can be flexed while not peeing also. Miller said, “You can do Kegels in math class!”

The program ended with tips to help women have and improve their orgasms. Benson said that women should start by trying to have orgasms through masturbation. “Befriend your body,… befriend your vulva,…touch yourself experimentally and keep touching,” try using vibrators and fantasies. She said if women kept trying they would be “like the little engine that could have orgasms.”

Student attendees said they enjoyed the program. Senior Hillary Powell said, “It was helpful and useful and a lot of good advice.” Junior Lex Consenze, said it gave “a lot of good resources. It was a good way to get to know about the stuff without it being awkward.”

The Co-Presidents of Feminists United for Sexual Equality (FUSE) also were very pleased with the event. Junior Johanna Galat said, “Way more people came than I expected.”

Senior Sarah Shipley was also pleased by the wide variety of students and said that the resource sheets handed out at the event were available in the Womyn’s Center, located in the basement of Queen Anne Hall near the laundry room, where FUSE meets every Monday at 9 p.m.

JAG’s Battle With Cancer: We Are Going to Fight This Together

I went to work that morning, believing that everything would be alright.

Based on the research I had done on two reputable sites (http://ww5.komen.org/IWasDiagnosed/IveBeenDiagnosedwithBreastCancer.html?itc=emoentpnt:1 and www.cancer.org), I knew that 80% of biopsies are negative for cancer.

Since I am in pretty good shape for a 50-year old; I eat right, I exercise, my weight is good, and I have no family history for breast cancer, surely I would be in that 80% group.

I was surprised by the number of women I talked with in a short period of time who had either had lumpectomies that were negative or knew of relatives or friends who had one that was negative. These were good signs.

The outpatient surgery went well. I even came to campus on Tuesday morning to teach my sign language class (after all, I didn’t want the students in my two classes to suffer because of some stupid lump).

I left campus after class and returned to work full-time on Wednesday. I was sore, but felt pretty good.

My life is divided between BC and AC. September 6 and before are Before Cancer (BC) and September 7 and afterwards are After Cancer (AC). I taught my classes on the morning of Sep. 7 and then my husband and I went to visit with Dr. Fritz.

She checked her surgical handiwork, told me I was healing nicely, and then dropped the bomb that has changed my life.

For the record, I have infiltrating, moderately differentiated, ductal carcinoma in association with ductal carcinoma in situ. (In layperson’s terms, that means that the cancer spread beyond my milk ducts and into the surrounding breast tissue.)

She talked at us for what I think was about 20 or 25 minutes. I was so numb, I couldn’t even cry (which is totally unlike me!).

I remember sending an e-mail to colleagues in Res. Life and the Dean’s office letting them know that the news was not what I wanted to hear; that I did, in fact, have cancer and I was not coming back to work that afternoon.

I remember telling my brothers (who were uncharacteristically shocked into silence) and my sisters-in-law (who took the news with lots of questions). I remember telling my 85-year old father that afternoon and hearing him cry softly on the phone.

I remember calling my stepsons in Wisconsin and North Carolina and telling my third stepson when he came home from his first day of classes at CSM.

I called other friends and family and started to get comfortable with the phrase, “I have breast cancer.” I was still thinking however, “OH MY GOD!!! THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!!!”

Fast forward to September 8. I decided to go to work because the world does not stop simply because another woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I needed to get out of the house and keep my mind busy.

I gave details to the Res. Life staff and my boss, and then started telling colleagues and friends. I believe in the power of positive thinking, so I shared the bad news and the good news. The good news is that I AM GOING TO BE A SURVIVOR!

I needed those around me to believe this as much as I did. And they came through for me.

The messages of support that I received from students, faculty, and staff on campus, and from family, friends, and colleagues from the around the world have given me tremendous strength and hope. I truly believe that my cancer is not only treatable, it is BEATABLE!

In the last two weeks, I have gone through a bone scan, a PET scan, and an MRI (which all show that the cancer has not spread to my bones or major organs). I have had contrasting dye and radioactive material injected into me. I have had blood work done.

I had a second surgery on Sep. 24 to remove some additional tissue (in order to get a “clear margin” which means a cancer-free area around where the original tumor was located) and to check my lymph nodes (so far, there is no cancer in my lymph nodes).

Because I opted for breast-saving surgery (the lumpectomy) rather than a mastectomy, I have to have radiation.

I will also need to take hormonal therapy (medication) for five to 10 years to help reduce the likelihood of recurrence.

My medical team now includes a surgeon, a medical oncologist, and a radiation oncologist.

I’m meeting with the radiation oncologist on Sep. 29 and hope to find out when I can start my treatment, which will consist of radiation Mondays through Fridays for six weeks.

The surgeon will remove the staples under my arm (from the removal of a lymph node) on Oct. 1. I’ll meet with the medical oncologist on Oct. 11 and will hopefully be told at that time whether or not I will have to go through chemotherapy.

I hope I don’t have to get chemo, but if I do, I’m going to get some outstanding wigs! My life is a whirlwind of medical appointments. Thank goodness I have lots of sick leave.

I remember when Leon and I were alone in the surgeon’s office after being told the news. He told me that there must be some reason why someone as healthy as I am could have gotten cancer.

He said that somewhere, in the cosmos, someone really wanted and needed an outspoken person to educate our campus community on cancer and taking care of yourself, and who better than a feisty, New Yorker like me?

I am in good company. As noted by Lillie Shockney in the book, “Navigating Breast Cancer” (2007), I am joining over 2 million women in the US who have survived breast cancer. “Seventy percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors for getting the disease and approximately 12% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.”

Generally speaking, a tumor that has grown to 1 cm has likely been there for several years. Are you aware that you cannot “catch” cancer from touching or hugging someone (so don’t be afraid to hug me on my right side!)?

Did you know that men can and do get breast cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society Web site (http://www.cancer.org), while women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer, 1,970 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. The lifetime risk for men to get breast cancer is 1 in 1000.

Many people get radiation and chemo confused. According to “Your Guide to Breast Cancer Treatment” (www.breastcancer.org), radiation does not typically cause a person to lose their hair, feel nauseous, or be at a higher risk for breast cancer in the other breast.

Some of the side effects of radiation include feeling tired, skin irritation, and soreness and swelling in the breast and chest area.

These side effects typically go away weeks or months after treatment ends. “Radiation is done in case some of the cancer cells are still there after surgery.”

Chemo is a systemic treatment rather than a local treatment (radiation is a local treatment). “Chemotherapy attacks all the cells in your body that are fast-growing. Cancer cells tend to grow fast.”

Some of the side effects of chemo include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, tiredness, hair loss, taste and smell changes, aches and discomforts, and higher risk of infection.

However, thanks to research and development, medication is available to take away or reduce many of the side effects (www.breastcancer.org).

I am participating in the BSU/Bon Appétit Breast Cancer Awareness Day on October 29 (as part of Breast Awareness Month) and in our campus Relay for Life on February 26, 2011. I believe it is important to pay it forward.

People before me donated time and money to help make it possible for me to fight this disease and have a better chance of surviving, so I will do the same so that perhaps others yet to come can have an even easier time fighting it or maybe they won’t have to fight it at all! I hope you will join me!

I am being very open about what is happening to me because I want to help others.

This in turn, is helping me. Part of my initial fear was of the unknown. Knowledge is power and sharing knowledge is education.

At the heart of it, I am an educator and I want to help all members of our community to be comfortable with their bodies. Get to know and listen to your body. Be an active participant with your doctors. If something does not feel or look right, get it checked!

If you smoke, please try to quit. Exercise and eating right are important to your long-term health. Staying positive, having a good sense of humor, and a strong support system of family, friends, and colleagues really help in times of crisis.

For anyone facing the fear of cancer, please know that I am here to provide you with assistance.

I cannot begin to thank my family, friends, and the students, faculty, and staff at SMCM for being part of my support system.

While I wish I didn’t have cancer, I am truly amazed and deeply humbled by the outpouring of love and good will that I am getting.
As my husband told me, “The cancer is inside of you, but this is a ‘we’ effort. We are going to fight this together.”

I am expanding the “we” to include many of you. You are truly making a difference in my life and I will be forever grateful to you.

“Hay Fever” Opens to Great Reviews and a Good Time

Photo Submitted by Dave Wayne.
Photo Submitted by Dave Wayne.
In the Bliss household, reality is very rarely real. Judith, a recently retired actress, her husband David, and her two children, Sorel and Simon, love to cause, propagate, and react to drama, whether real or not.

When they all inadvertently invite houseguests down for the same weekend, the boxer, the flapper, the diplomat, and the sophisticate are in for quite an eventful weekend. In Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, which opened in the Bruce Davis Theater on October 14, the cast and crew produced a hilarious version of this 1920s comedy of words.

Briana Manente (Judith Bliss) was fabulous as the larger-than-life matriarch. Although she rushed a little towards the beginning, she quickly fell into a fast-paced and witty pace.

Her over-emoting, polished upper class dialect, and impeccable use of exaggerated hand gestures, perfectly portrayed the stereotypical dramatic (even in “reality”) actress.

Lisa M. Davidson was engaging as the bouncy, pouty, and flighty Sorel Bliss. Her skipping conveyed youth and excitement, as did her sudden outbursts at her mother and brother.

Simon too, played by Maxwell Heaton, had excellent comedic timing with dry delivery and a lazy, mildly apathetic physicality and intonation. Tobias Franzen as David Bliss was not upstaged by his dramatic wife or his unique children; instead he held his own with his alternating apparent disinterest and startling, commanding yelling.

The Bliss family together had excellent chemistry as they interacted in their own, self-important world. When they seamlessly slide into a dramatic scene from one of Judith’s plays from their own real argument, the effect is hilarious.

The ensemble in its various forms provided an excellent view into the characters, whether watching Sorel and Judith read a newspaper and giggle together, or Simon and Sorel bickering in the beginning over Sorel’s invited guest.

Rapid witty banter with few pauses in the speech is thoroughly enjoyable and leaves little time for the audience to try to find a deep meaning.

Nick Huber (Sandy Tyrell), Emily Moore (Myra Arundel), Jonathan Wagner (Richard Greatham), and Naomi Garcia (Jackie Coryton) as the four guests, and Suzanna Sample as Clara were all also thoroughly entertaining.

Huber’s puppy-dog innocence and sincerity was endearing and contrasted well with the intensity and drama of the Blisses.

Wagner’s sweetness in dealing with the insanity surrounding him was refreshing, and the shy and simple character of Jackie was demurely played by Garcia. Arundel was highly enjoyable with a constantly sour face and haughty tone.

And Sample captured the character of Judith’s dresser-turned-housekeeper with her clever remarks and knowing responses.

The set reflected the opulence and extravagance of the Bliss family, but did create a few, albeit minor, problems. A grand staircase that twists and flares at the bottom perfectly captures the drama the Bliss family clearly prefers, as did carpets, couches, and a footstool in vibrant patterns.

However, the carpet did trip up the actors a few times and got caught on the bottom of the couches, kinks that didn’t remotely affect the overall performance but could have been slightly annoying to a perfectionist.

Additionally, the hanging backdrop that represented the garden moved as each actor walked by, and slamming doors occasionally shook walls, but except for slightly breaking the realism, the effect was minimal.

Hay Fever will be performing Oct. 21 through 23 at 8 p.m. and 24 at 2 p.m.