Sunday, March 27, 2011

Make an Educated Decision About the HPV Vaccine

Once upon a time there was a state governor who thought that he was doing his state a favor by making the HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls, the same way that other childhood vaccines are required by law. But the state was up in arms about the entire thing and made such a big deal about it that the governor took back the mandate and said that parents could opt out. However, this is what he had to say about the matter in his official press release.

(Genome organization of human papillomavirus type 16, one of the subtypes known to cause cervical cancer.- Wikipedia)

“Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity anymore than providing the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use. If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?"

One of the main reasons that parents were against the vaccination had more to do with sex than any other thing. People argued that giving the girls the vaccine in their pre-teen years would encourage them to become sexually promiscuous. I was perplexed. I knew little about HPV, or so I thought. I wanted to know why parents were saying this, so I did the research.

What I found out was that I was already acquainted with the consequences of HPV. When we were in our  twenties one of my good friends was diagnosed with abnormal pre-cancerous cells on her cervix. Our OBGYN, an older very experienced doctor, was extremely pro-active and aggressive with her treatment. He first froze the cells and when that didn't work he went in to cut them off. He was always very honest along the way and told her about her options and the possible consequences. Even cutting the cervix could affect her future fertility. Thank goodness my friend was cured and she went on to have a child in her thirties.

After that scare I never skipped a well-woman exam. I had witnessed first hand what can happen from one pap smear one year to the next. What if my friend had skipped her well woman exam that year? What could have happened? 

I don't know for sure if it was an HPV virus that caused my friend's pre-cancerous cells on her cervix, but it very well could have been, because as I did the research now that I'm older I found that this was one of the most common results from the human papillomavirus. As I talked to other friends I found out that HPV was more common than I knew and they too had been affected in some way.

I also learned that "70% of infections are gone in 1 year and 90% in 2 years. However, when the infection persists—in 5% to 10% of infected women—there is high risk of developing precancerous lesions of the cervix, which can progress to invasive cervical cancer." And here is the part that is really significant when we think of young girls. "This process usually takes 15–20 years, providing many opportunities for detection and treatment of the pre-cancerous lesion." This is the reason why it's important to vaccinate girls, and now we are learning boys, before they start having sexual contact.

I also read an article in The Houston Chronicle that a study found that throat cancer was added to list of diseases caused by HPV. I read another article (that I can't find now) about men who were fighting mouth cancer caused by HPV. One man interviewed in the article was not ashamed to talk about it. He said that he wished he had known more about HPV when he was younger.

Think about it this way. You have your children vaccinated for polio, even if there is no chance that your child will ever come in contact with polio in their life. You also have them vaccinated when they are babies so the medication is already in their system and they are protected. You do the same thing for Hepatitis B, even though this is a common disease of drug users.

What about sex then? Even though we don't want to imagine that our kids will grow up and have sex one day the truth is they will. Even if the abstain from sex and don't have it until they get married they will eventually do it. Can you predict that they are going to marry someone who has never had sex before?

Why are we even saying that it will encourage kids to become promiscuous? That just seems completely irrelevant to me. When I have my kids vaccinated I won't explain it to them any more that I explain their other vaccinations. They are getting a vaccine to protect them from a form of cancer in the future and that's all.

Governor Perry also said this, "The HPV vaccine does not promote sex, it protects women’s health. In the past, young women who have abstained from sex until marriage have contracted HPV from their husbands and faced the difficult task of defeating cervical cancer. This vaccine prevents that from happening."

HPV is real and it's out there. Many of us have had HPV and we may not even know it. I personally want to protect my children from having cancer in the future and I want to have them vaccinated. Others argue that Gardasil only protects them from four of the 200 known types of HPV so why do it. Well, if I can protect them from four of the most common known types then that is better than not protecting them at all.

If you have doubts about HPV and the vaccine I encourage you all to do the research. Read all that you can on HPV. Don't make your decisions based on what I say or what the media says. Talk to your doctor, read scientific articles about it, read the research, and then make an educated decision.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rape is Rape and an Eleven Year Old is an Eleven Year Old

It's made national news. An eleven year old little girl was raped by eighteen men in an abandoned trailer in Cleveland, Texas last November and it was caught on video and photos.  The news appalled me, but not more than the news that followed. Headlines like this one, "Some in Texas town blaming young girl in assault,"  sickened me. I could not believe that even a New York Times article insinuated that it was the young girl's fault that she was gang raped.

Image from

The comments from people who saw the young girl around the Quarters, the neighborhood where the rape occurred, were that the young girl dressed older than her years, wore make-up and had been hanging out talking to boys. They also blamed the young girl's mother and asked where she was when her daughter was out.

Whatever the reason as to why the parents of this girl let her dress older or let her hang around with teenage boys, or in this neighborhood, none of this gave these men permission to rape her.

Cleveland is only forty miles from Houston and it surprised me when I heard that a local activist was traveling there to meet with the families of the young men who were arrested. It actually wasn't until then that I realized that the men being accused of the rape were African American and that the young girl was Hispanic. It was never about race in my book. It's about common human decency.

The activist argued that there wasn't any hard evidence against the young men. "What about the video tapes and photos?" I asked. I don't care if the videos and photos didn't show them raping the young girl. Just the fact that they are there in the pictures, present when a crime was being committed against a child, is enough for me. What about the law that says that knowing about a crime and not reporting it is just as serious as committing the crime?

Then the zinger came when the attorney representing some of the young men actually admitted that the men knew the girl was only eleven.  Amazing. So these men knew they were raping an eleven year old little girl. Sorry, but last time someone checked having sex with a minor is still against the law, whether you knew how old she was or not. The fact that they knew makes it even worse.

So once again, rape is rape and an eleven year old is an eleven year old, no matter how much make-up she has on or how she's dressed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Controversy About Magnet Schools in Houston

I've been somewhat following all the talk in the news about the magnet school recommendation. The one that the HISD superintendent decided to hold off on until the 2012-2013 school year. I must admit, I didn't attend the meeting with Houston Independent School District that many parents attended to voice their concern over the cuts and changes. But then I read a Houston Chronicle article about the whole situation and I was appalled by the comments that I read from our readers. I wondered how many of them had actually attended, or had children attending, a magnet school.

Image by

I've written about magnet schools before and I will talk about it again. I didn't attend the town hall meeting regarding the changes but I will write about magnet schools all day long because I totally believe in the program. A magnet school saved my life.

When I was a little girl in elementary school my parents sent me to my home school like so many parents do in this city, especially Hispanic parents that don't know any better. I quickly excelled in school with high reading and vocabulary scores. I was always at the top of my class and struggled very little. Math wasn't my strength, but I really think that was psychological because now that I use math as much as I do in my adult life I do okay.

When I was in 5th grade we had a new principal who took an interest in all of the kids with high test scores and I was one of them. My friend and I were writing and drawing a comic strip about two young single girls and I showed it to her. She was very impressed and she asked my teacher about me. My teacher shared my test scores with her and she recommended me and a group of other students to take the Vanguard test for middle school. And that is where my life changed.

I went to a Vanguard middle school that fell under the Magnet program in HISD. This is where it gets interesting. When I went to Hamilton Middle School I found out how little I really knew. I had always been the smartest kid in my class and now I knew why. I wasn't learning anything!

That is why I know that these schools in the lower income neighborhoods aren't always the best. The kids that had gone to Vanguard or other Magnet elementary schools knew way more than I did. I was perplexed that I never really learned where the equator, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were. All these other kids knew these things and I didn't. I was embarrassed and I had to work twice as hard than most of my friends. I survived middle school as a B-C student, but it was a great learning experience. On my very last semester of 8th grade I finally made the honor roll. I felt so proud because it took me so long to get there.

This is why when my daughter was getting ready to go to Kindergarten five years ago I planned to send her to a Vanguard elementary school. I wanted for her to have a head start in elementary school and I'm so glad that I did. My daughter is learning things in elementary school that I learned in middle and high school. (I attended an International Baccalaureate high school)

When I was reading the comments from different Chronicle readers I read some from people who obviously didn't have first hand experience with the Magnet program. Some of them said that Magnet schools were for rich white people. That isn't exactly accurate. I wasn't a rich white kid. I was a poor Hispanic kid and I knew a lot of other poor minority kids who were in Vanguard. Magnet programs are for everyone, but they can also be a lifesaver for poor minority kids who wouldn't have had an opportunity to have such a great educational experience otherwise.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Spring Break is Around the Corner!

I'm starting to get excited. My next vacation is just around the corner. Spring Break! I took the week off this year and I'm planning activities for the children. So far this is the plan.

Galveston Photo from

Friday Night, Saturday & half of Sunday- Mine. My sister's in town so we are going to hang out together and go to dinner, drinks, etc..

Monday- Houston Museum of Natural Science
Tuesday- Beach
Wednesday- Relax at home, the park, and go see the Waugh bats at dusk
Thursday- Zoo
Friday- Children's Museum

This schedule is flexible. We don't have to do each activity exactly on that date, but I'll be watching the weather because I want to go to the beach on the warmest day. Last weekend we'll play it by ear or we'll use it to do anything we didn't get done during the week. I'm looking forward to being off. I need the vacation.

I need to include running in the schedule each day too. I've been running a lot and I'm on a roll. I have a goal of losing 7 lbs by March 31. I have my mind set on it and I need to make it happen. It's Goal #1 and then I move on to Goal #2 of another 5 lbs. A little at a time to make it happen. Maybe being active on my vacation will help me. Whenever I stay busy I eat a lot less. I just need to concentrate on the exercise too.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Thoughts on Writing

My daughter is taking the TAKS writing test today at school and all the parents wrote little notes of encouragement for them and the teacher hung these on the wall outside their classroom. 

As usual, I lagged behind the other parents, especially the stay-at-home moms who get to be cute and creative. (No, I'm not hating!) I knew about it on Friday, the 18th and I had that weekend to work on it. I didn't. I forgot. I didn't remember until the teacher reminded me when I took my daughter to Literacy Night at the school on Thursday, the 24th.

On Thursday night when I got home I went blank and I felt pressured to finish it so I didn't do it. I told my daughter I would do it over the weekend for her to take it on Monday. So what happened? Yep, you guessed it. Another weekend went by and I forgot again. On Monday morning I screamed, "ARGH!" as I drove away from the house and I realized that I'd forgotten again. (Yeah, I suck!)

Yesterday I got home from the gym and that was the first thing I sat down to do after dinner. I already knew one quote I wanted to write, but I came across another quote by Anaïs Nin and Miranda really liked the second one more. I also added a note of encouragement from me, her father and her brother. Then cute stickers of a ruler, pencil, pen, crayon and some really cute button type of "cutie" stickers.

So here they are in order with her favorite first. I had room for one more short quote and I liked that one by Joan Didion.

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." "We write to taste life twice, in the moment & in retrospection."  Both by Anaïs Nin and "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." - Joan Didion

She was happy and she carried it off to school today to encourage her along in her writing. And I was happy to finally get it done. :-P
All this talk about writing really got me to thinking about my own writing. Lately I've been going through such a range of emotions that my creativity has been sparked. I have a new idea for a novel. or maybe just a short story, brewing inside my head. I'm itching to get it down on paper. I already started a short outline with the idea. Now to write it! Maybe that will be the next short story that I submit somewhere.
In my search for quotes on writing I came across this one. "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." ~Henry David Thoreau. Beautiful and so true.