For Caregivers, Sensitivity Is Key

I thought "Both Sides Now" [Nov. 22] was very insightful. There is a difference between caregiver and care receiver, and the thoughts and feelings of both always need to be considered if the relationship is going to work. Kathleen Neal obviously understands that and because of her own cancer brings a special sensitivity to the role of family caregiver. Thanks for running this article.

Suzanne Mintz

President/Co-founder

National Family Caregivers Association

Kensington

My wife and I discovered her lump 18 months ago when she visited me when I was on a deployment to Kosovo. The doctor said it was only a cyst. It was not. Six months later she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The book that I found most helpful was written by an admittedly clueless guy, Marc Silver, who is an editor for the U.S. News and World Report. "Breast Cancer Husband" opened my eyes to what not to say (though at times I really don't need to say anything) and what to say.

Influenced by his wisdom, I wrote a story of my journey as co-survivor for the www.komen.org site (co-survivor stories). More important to me than Komen's having it on their site, my mother-in-law has it on her refrigerator. The support of family and friends was/is amazing.

What I have learned through the mastectomy, chemo, radiation, infection of the expander, another surgery and lymphedema is that the most important thing for me to do is to simply hold her hand and listen. Prayer, as you have also learned, is part of the treatment plan.

Bob Rorke

Edina, Minn.

Don't Dismiss Supplements' Power

Your Nov. 22 headline ("Joint Dispute: Early Results of Arthritis Trial Show Little Benefit for Glucosamine. But the Industry Is Already Spinning.") indicated that there was little benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin, yet the article stated that these supplements were helpful for moderate to severe arthritis. Conventional physicians, and studies, often mistakenly criticize vitamins and nutritional supplements as having little or no proof, even though there are many previous studies that indicate benefits -- this in itself can make "their" assessment very unscientific!

Aspirin (used for almost 100 years) only recently has had some scientific evidence behind it, and aspirin-related deaths number more than 1,000 each year (which does not include the many side effects). In addition, medical literature tells us that anesthetics and some antibiotics lack scientific proof as to "just how" they work.

June Russell

Charlottesville

The sidebar "Glucosamine/Chondroitin: Lessons From the Study" [Nov. 22] covers the admirable studies done on these supplements, which found that among more than 1,500 people tested with mild arthritis, those who took the supplements on average reported no decrease in pain as compared to a placebo. She concludes, therefore, that those who suffer from this condition "are unlikely to benefit . . . there's no need to try it for this condition."

But this argument fails a test of basic logic. These supplements clearly helped some people in the study, as they have me. People's responses vary enormously, and it would be well worth a sufferer from "mild" arthritis pain, particularly the stoics, to try them for eight weeks (and if you are paying more than $25 per month, you aren't looking).

There is a decent chance that this apparently heuristic supplement will, aside from the anti-inflammatory properties of some of the standard remedies, give considerable relief. The study was done on people over 40, but for anyone with moderate osteoarthritis pain, I would say give it a try.

Geoffrey Cavanagh

Washington