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4th of July and Remembering

Posted 7/4/2013

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     Happy 4th of July. This most American of all holidays is a universal favorite: no need to buy gifts, decorate only by hanging a flag, eat delicious summer foods that can usually be grilled or tossed raw with olive oil and require no careful measuring or baking. Since I am  a sap by nature and since I live in Concord, one of the most historic and connected to the Revolution of all towns, in a house built in 1763, I always think about what was happening and being discussed in these same rooms when the word came from Philadelphia that the Declaration had been signed. I suspect that Amos and Dorothy Wood were both thrilled and scared of what this meant for the future. Someone at the Boston Globe shares my patriotic nostalgia as the full document is always printed on the editorial page on this day. Read it and thank those brave men (sadly, no women) who wrote and signed it

  Some of those brave women, home with the farms and the children, were struggling with breast cancer. If you saw the wonderful TV series about John Adams a few years ago, I am sure you remember the episode in which his daughter had a mastectomy.  She came into the parlor, fully dressed, and was greeted by several men, in suits and hats, who would perform the surgery. Can you even imagine sitting down in a chair, opening your dress and baring your breast to be cut off--without anesthesia. She survived the operation but died a year or so later anyway.

  If you are interested in a bit more history about breast cancer in the 18th century and want more reasons to be grateful we live when we do, here is a quote from a site that will teach you more, followed by the link.

  Among the hundreds of thousands of women who lost the battle with breast cancer throughout history, we can include Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV of France; Mary Washington, the mother of George Washington; and Abigail “Nabby” Adams, the daughter of John and Abigail Adams.

Many medical historians believe that breast cancer may be one of the oldest known forms of malignant tumors in humans, and has been referenced in almost every period of recorded history. Ancient Egyptians were the first known to write about the cancer in approximately 1600 B.C. with what are now known as the “Edwin Smith Papyrus.” This writing describes eight cases of tumors of the breast and how they were tried to be treated by cauterizing the tissues around the tumors. The author of the papyrus gravely noted “there is no treatment.”

Up through the 17th-century, most physicians and scientists adhered to the “humoral theory” of breast cancer as laid out by Hippocrates and Galen in 460 B.C. Greece. This stated that the build-up of “black bile” in the system caused the tumors. Surgery to remove the tumors was not considered an option.


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  • Patricia Hogan said:
    7/5/2013 12:22 PM

    No only do they print the Declaration in the Globe, but my husband used to take our young sons (over their vehement protests) down to the Old State House to hear it read each year at 10 in the morning! Now they seem to recall it fondly:)