Friday, October 7, 2011
Author, Survivor, Lorna J. Brunelle
To battle this dragon, Lorna donned armor of self-determination, a shield of self-reliance, and wielded a sword of life yet to be lived. In her novel "Dirty Bomb Shell: From Thyroid Cancer Back to Fabulous," Lorna's message is clear: Never give up, never stop fighting. Dragons can be slain. Furthermore, she is adamant about providing a shoulder, ear, or whatever we have to offer those in the battle for their lives against the many diseases preying upon young and old. For no one is too young, too active, too careful to fall victim.
Lorna practices what she preaches. Today she advocates support for numerous organizations such as the Children's Miracle Network, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The bottom line is those afflicted need our help and support.
"Dirty Bomb Shell" is a tale of survival told with wit, charm, honesty, and most of all… heart.
Q) The obvious question we'd all like answered is, how are you doing today?
A) I have been clean of cancer for the past six and a half years. (Can I get an Amen?) Plus I have recently lost over thirty pounds being a member of the new Reality TV series Wicked Fit on STYLE Network airing in October 2011. I feel FABULOUS!
Q) You're an actor, director, performer, almost any role within the arts and helping people to gain the confidence and skills to pursue their dreams. To what do you credit your intense dedication to the arts and people?
A) Music is literally in my blood. My great grandmother Jovanina Gandolfo sang opera in Boston. My mother Wanda sang in night clubs in Boston. My uncle Wayne sang in a rock band. We always had music playing in our home. I remember holding a hair brush and belting out Debbie Boone’s version of YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE when I was four years old. My happiest memories involve music.
The connection between my love of music/art and my passion for giving back occured in 1989. A few hours after my high school graduation, I realized that I was the recipient of the Louisa Burt Wood Pratt Scholarship. Louisa was a talented artist who began teaching voice, piano and cello in my hometown during the 1920's. Upon her death in 1973, a scholarship was founded in her name for students pursuing music studies. The scholarship enabled me to attend The Boston Conservatory. As a girl praying to find the money to study at a state school, an education at the prestiquious top ranked conservatory was a dream come true. Years after I graduated from The Boston Conservatory I opened The Burt Wood School of Performing Arts in honor of Louisa. I have been paying it forward ever since.
Q) You sang the National Anthem at Fenway Park. I have to ask, how did that feel?
A) I walked onto home plate at Fenway Park nine months after September 11, 2001. The despicable attack on America was ever present in my mind when I opened my mouth to sing. The roar of the over 34,000 fans cheering and applauding to the lyrics of our great country’s anthem is a sound that I will never forget. Within four minutes the song was over but the overwhelming pride I felt that day is tattooed on my heart forever.
A) It is without question that the medical technology (and equipment) used for thyroid cancer screening and testing has improved over the past twenty years. An ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration biopsy is a very successful way to determine thyroid cancer.
During my research I was shocked to learn of the link between exposure to radiation and the environment to thyroid cancer. The radiation from something as simple as a dental exam can put people at risk. I encourage everyone to ask for a thyroid protection extension bib during their next dental X-ray. If your dental office doesn't have an extension bib please pull the lead blanket up over your thyroid during the X-ray.
I grew up in a thyroid “hot spot” section of southeastern, Massachusetts. There are several cases of thyroid disease and disorder in a cluster of communities surrounding my hometown Middleboro, Massachusetts. For years Middleboro was known as the Cranberry Capital of the World. Pesticides have been linked to cancer and were used on the bogs to protect the berries. I lived near bogs and swam in lakes that served as a water supply for bogs. A large nuclear power plant was very close to my home. I swam in water near the plant. Toxic chemicals such as Perchlorate (released from rockets and jets) have been known to spike thyroid dysfunction. I spent a lot of time on Cape Cod near an air force base. My father was in the army when I was a child. I spent many weekends on a military base. Military training grounds are known to have high radiation levels. Cell phones, microwaves and even granite counter tops emit low levels of radiation. The labels on most of the prepared foods we buy are filled with preservatives and chemical additives that we have a hard time pronouncing. Cancer causing agents are all around us. We need to listen to our bodies and have our necks checked annually.
Q) Obviously, family support is critical. What did you and your family do together to prepare for the coming battle against cancer?
A) We laughed every day. Occasionally our cancer humor offended a few "old school" people who think it is taboo to joke about disease. Cancer comedy saved my sanity and soul! If you had to choose between laughing or crying with the people who love you, which would you prefer? Immediately following my surgery I needed a lot of support. I was unable to drive and cleaning the house was out of the question. My family pitched in and kept my life in order. My mother and husband drenched me in daily doses of "You look great", "Keep up the good work", "You can do this", and "Cancer is going to regret messing with you!"
Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?
A) The morning after I found out I had cancer I left the house without making our bed. It was the first time since high school that I didn't take the time to make the bed. During my recovery that spring weeds popped up and were left to flourish in our flower beds. Pre-cancer little things like messy beds bothered the hell out of me. Cancer made me realize that our time here is both precious and limited. We need to be devoted to the things that bring us joy and nurture our spirit. Life is short. I wish you long laugher filled days, weeds in your garden and lazy mornings lounging around in messy beds.