Those of you who know me, know that the reason this blog has been on hiatus is that, shortly after my father's death, one of my closest friends, Al D. Rodriguez, was diagnosed with cancer. With the stress and sorrow of it all, it just didn't seem important to keep up this blog. But, I just got back from his memorial service, and someone there reminded me that Al loved this blog. So I am going to try to bring it back. On Wednesday, we'll have the typical Cara theater musings, but, for today, I am going to paste a note I sent to my email list a week after Al's death.
Note that since this email, the foundation has been established. The the Al D. Rodriguez Liver Foundation now exists. If you want to donate, you can make a check out to the foundation and send it to Carlos R. Ortiz / 166 East 35th Street apt. 11G / New York, New York 10016.
Here we go:
Those of you who know me well know that, with the losses of my grandfather and father, this has been an extremely tough year for me. Through all of it, my dear friend Al Rodriguez was there for me. He was one of the best people I ever knew. Last week at this time he took his last breath--less than six weeks after he was diagnosed with liver cancer. On our last night out, Al told me that, if he survived, he wanted to help educate people who did not have medical insurance, did not have a regular doctor and did not know that they could have a silent killer inside them. A foundation that will bear his name is being established with that aim. In the meantime, in his honor, I send this email:
Al never took a drink and was asymptomatic until right up until his diagnosis. His cancer was likely caused by Hepatitis B, a virus that can be prevented by vaccination. It is transmitted through contact with infectious blood, semen and other body fluids. Many of you may have gotten the vaccine in your infancy, but, if you have not, I urge you to look into it. In New York City, there is a way to get a vaccinated for free: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/std/std2.shtml . If you are suspicious of the vaccine--some believe it has bad side-effects--I recommend you at least get screened for the virus, so you know if you need to do frequent liver cancer checks. (There is no vaccination for Hepatitis C, which also causes cancer, but there is a screening test.)
I know this all seems like a "this will never happen to me" thing. If I had read it a few months ago, I think I would have hit delete. But, on this day, I urge you to take a minute to make sure you are being careful.
The major thing Al taught me was to take care of your friends--so many times this year I got caught up in stupid things and forgot to be there for him. He never held it against me, but I know I need to do better in the future. And this is how I'm starting. I think he would have wanted it that way. So, please head my advice and pass on the word in his memory.