A New Life! Retirement at its Best 2020-25

Off Campus!

With the rising temperatures it is time to change our winter comforter for the summer one. Because we had used our beautiful floral Hawaiian comforter for so many years already, I looked online to see if I could find a replacement. After two hours I ordered one from Amazon and it came two days later. However, on our bed it looked quite different than in the pictures, and it was wrinkled. It was no-iron, so I would need a steamer, and I don’t have a steamer. We did not like it. So the next morning I packed it all up and sent a message to Amazon. They are so fantastic with returns. All I had to do was drop it off at a UPS store and take a picture of the return code with my cell phone to have scanned at the store.

Ah! Our house rules had just been changed to allow us off campus as long as we would stay in the car. So I had an idea. I called UPS and asked if someone would come out to the car to pick up my comforter for return to Amazon. The man said he would need to take my cell phone into the store to scan the return code; but I did not want him to handle my cell phone! So I printed the return code on a sheet of paper, put the box on the back seat, drove to the store, less than two miles away, and called from the curb. A well dressed, masked gentleman appeared with a dolly. With my mask on my face, I handed him the copy of the return code through the passenger side window, he opened the back door and took out the box, then asked me to wait for my receipt. I came home twenty minutes after I had left (everything is so close by here!) with the wonderful feeling to have been back into the real world, to have talked to a real person, and to have accomplished my goal. The only thing I had to do was sanitize the rear door handle. The same evening Amazon deposited the refund into my account. And I decided that there is no more beautiful comforter in the world than the summer comforter we have, so we will get it out of its storage and will hopefully be able to use it for many more years.

The Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) Study

In 1993, when we were living on the Big Island of Hawai’i, the University of Hawai’i’s Cancer Center, in conjunction with the Keck School of Medicine at USC in Los Angeles, started a study that was designed to provide prospective data on cancer and other chronic diseases. Stratified analyses were conducted by racial/ethnic groups and moving status (40% of participants moved = changed physical residence) during follow- up. Me included: we moved to Arizona and after that to North Carolina. The MEC Study has brought more than $150 million in federal research funding to the University of Hawaiʻi. It has been funded since 1993 by the National Cancer Institute. It sounded so fascinating that I was immediately interested. My little sister died of metastatic breast cancer and did not reveal that she was ill until ten days before she died, all alone in a hospital room in a town in the Netherlands. Her son was on a business trip and his wife did not want me to come. “What would be the good of that?” she said. Those are words that I shall never forget. I had bought a plane ticket the minute I heard Paula was in a hospital; I wanted to be with her. With my 6 years of patient-care hospice experience I was sure I could give her some relief, some mental support. I could hold her hand. We had been through so much as little girls in the Japanese camps – I felt close to her still, even though she lived in the Netherlands and I in Arizona.

The Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) is a prospective cohort study. To maximize the diversity of exposures the MEC targeted a range of ethnic groups spanning all socioeconomic levels. The MEC includes 215,251 men and women aged 45-75 at recruitment (I was 55 at that time), primarily from five different racial-ethnic groups (African Americans, Japanese Americans, Latinos, Native Hawaiians and Whites in Hawaii and California). The cohort was assembled in 1993-1996 by mailing a self-administered, 26-page questionnaire to persons identified primarily through the driver’s license files for the state of Hawaii and the county of Los Angeles in California, supplemented with other sources. I remember clearly, even so many years later, filling out this questionnaire, hoping to qualify for the study. The cohort encompasses a broad spectrum of persons from each of the ethnic groups sampled. The distributions of the cohort across educational levels and marital status are fairly similar to census data, suggesting that findings should be broadly generalizable to these populations. The baseline questionnaire obtained extensive information on demographics, medical and reproductive histories, medication use (including hormonal replacement therapy), family history of various cancers, physical activity and an extensive quantitative food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

In Year 5 of the follow-up, they sent a short questionnaire that updated information on medical conditions, family history of cancer and other diseases, screening tests for cancer and use of HRT and vitamin supplements. They are currently completing the updating of the dietary and other exposure data by re-administration of the full baseline questionnaire with funding by the parent MEC grant (CA 54281, Kolonel, PI). Receipt of a completed questionnaire was evidence of a desire to participate in the study and was taken as a formal indication of consent; the study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the University of Hawaii and University of Southern California. I have received their annual newsletter and brief follow-ups since 1993. Come to think, those participants who were in their late sixties and seventies at the time will no longer be alive.


And now, during the pandemic of Covid-19, since they have such a broad research base already, they have asked currently participating volunteers to join a study of Covid-19 cases along the same lines. Of course I agreed and signed up. It was too cumbersome to take their Covid App, but they have another way to participate. (They probably considered that all those people in their fifties were now 27 years older and not used to complicated Apps). I am receiving, every Thursday morning, an email inviting me to complete a short survey to update my information about any symptoms that I may experience whether I have Covid-19 or not. “Because you are part of the MEC, you have already provided a considerable amount of health information on past mailed questionnaires. We plan to combine new and past information, to better understand the course of COVID-19, and who gets sick and who does not. What we learn will be invaluable and could help our health care system to better manage this and future epidemics.” It is an ongoing commitment, but for a worthy cause.

We have been tested!

Last Friday, all residents of this retirement community, Independents, those in Assisted Living and in Memory Care, were officially tested. We had an appointed time, but they were running ahead of schedule, so we went when we were ready. The downstairs theatre was an ideal setup: in one door, out the other after testing. It was well organized. One by one, we sat down in a chair, and a trained volunteer in protective garb, with gloves and a mask inserted a long-stemmed cotton swab into our right nostril – deep, but not painful. That was it! We will hear the results next week. I am positive that we will test negative!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,



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