Wednesday, February 25, 2015

“Happify” – Lumosity for Your Smile

As I talk to brain tumor and stroke victims and their caretakers, I wrestle with how the whole idea of “positivity.” It’s one thing to be positive in your daily life if you only have to juggle a demanding boss, several kids, a crushing mortgage/rent payment and an uncertain economy.

It’s another thing to do all that with a brain tumor, stroke or similarly horrifying brain injury or illness.

Somehow telling the brain tumor victim I met with last week, who still isn’t out of the hospital after a ten (10!) hour operation, that everything is going to be just ducky makes it sound like I'm the one on heavy meds (actually I am on meds, just not his supper-strong meds).

This is where “Happify” comes in:  As best I can tell, “Happify” is to improving your positive feelings as Lumosity is to improving brain power. 

More specifically, “Happify” is a software program designed to make you happier, primarily (as best I can tell) by making your remember the happy moments in your everyday life and reminding you to savor them a bit. Of course this is a gross exaggeration and probably grossly inaccurate.

The Happify site, just like the Lumosity site, explains how all this is based on real science that they’ve transformed into a learning tool. For example, Happify explains that “Happify's S.T.A.G.E. framework helps you build five key happiness skills: Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give, and Empathize.”

Happily, you can access the basic program for free. And, of course, there’s also an upgraded more powerful/penetrating/happier (?) version which costs buckaroos.

I like the idea, the little I know about the science and what I've read. So I’ve signed up and have started to do the daily exercises with the same tenacity that I tackle Lumosity.

I’ll give you updates.


PS – Is there an app for this? Of course! And here’s a link to the NY Times review of their app:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Childhood Brain Tumors: A.J. Peterson & Kadeen Alansari

I don’t know if I have selective vision or there are more kids with brain tumors, but here are two recent, upsetting stories of kids with brain tumors. 

A.G. Peterson

The headline for this first story about A.G. Peterson says “7-year-old son of former Bear dies after battle with cancer” -
The article talks about a fund raiser “…to help defray the medical bills for AJ, who was diagnosed last June with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a brainstem tumor that occurs almost exclusively in children.” 

I found the well-written article by reporter Brian Bonato to be particularly disheartening when I learned that “AJ was diagnosed in June. Occurrences are rare, with roughly 200-300 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, the median survival rate for children diagnosed with a DIPG is less than one year.

The nature of DIPGs makes surgical removal impossible, and there are virtually no prospects for long-term survival.”

Kadeen Alansari

This story, by Community Contributor Bill Smith, Harper College Hawks Sports Information, tells about The Harper College men's basketball team partnered with Friends of Jaclyn Foundation once again to welcome seven-year-old Kadeen Alansari as an honorary team member for the second straight year:

They do this because Kadeen suffers from a nasty brain tumor known as Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma.

The reactions of the team were telling, e.g. "He meant the world to me. He had joy and energy, and he just inspired me," said freshman point guard Marcus Gatlin (Chicago, Ill./Curie), who scored a career-best 16 points in the game. "I broke down. Some people take life for granted, and he's not doing that."

If these stories bother you, and they should, please consider donating to the CERN Foundation – - or the American Brain Tumor Association – - so we can start doing a better job of saving young, defenseless children from these unrelenting, horrible diseases.