Sonny and Linda Salsbury are of a certain age. The age before anybody knew just how harmful the sun’s rays could be.
“We’re both from L.A.,” Sonny says. “We went to the beach constantly and covered ourselves with baby oil and got as dark as we could.
“And, you know what? When I told my dermatologist that he said that he did the same thing!”
If only we had known then what we know now.
“I’ve had one bad melanoma and three other lesser melanomas over the years,” says Sonny, who’s 80. “I’ve also had basal cell and squamous cell (carcinoma).”
After years of back-and-forth between Southern California and Yakima, Sonny, a youth minister, and Linda recently returned to Yakima for good. “We’re back here in our house, a big, old Victorian built in 1904, and it’s our favorite house of all the places we’ve ever lived.”
Sonny figures he has thousands of kids, two of their own and the rest from his years of ministering to young people, some of those years spent at Yakima’s First Presbyterian Church. “Some of my kids even showed up (from both Yakima and California) to help us settle back into our home!”
And he is grateful. Not just for the help settling in, but for the care he’s gotten from Dr. Naseer Ahmad and the staff at Virginia Mason Memorial’s North Star Lodge. “Doctors found a small spot on my liver in fall 2017, and now I get an infusion of Keytruda every three weeks. It’s been great: I’ve had no side effects. In fact I’m going down to Emerald Cove Day Camp in San Juan Capistrano this summer to be the camp granddaddy: lead singing, take the kids on hikes, tell them stories.”
Washington ranks among the top 10 states for the highest rates of new cases of melanoma of the skin. So, what would Sonny like all of his kids and the rest of us to know about the sun and its effects on skin?
“Wear that sunscreen,” he says. “Get out of the tanning beds. And if you’ve ever had skin cancer, don’t miss your checkups: Get your moles checked.”
And finally, he says quietly, “It’s more important to be alive and be the color God made you.”
Angel Perez and Macayla Smith work out at the gym. They try to eat a low-carb diet. They have two cars, a nice apartment and enjoy spending their weekends with the kids.
Just another typical Yakima Valley family, right? Not even close.
“It’s so awesome getting up and not chasing the dragon,” says Angel.
The dragon was heroin.
“We were very active in the drug scene,” Angel says. “I was in gangs. I’ve been in prison twice. Macayla and I were on the streets; We were homeless. We used everything from heroin to methamphetamines to alcohol, but heroin was our drug of choice.”
That was almost three years ago, when the couple began their long journey to get off the streets and out of addiction.
“We’d hit rock bottom; I was done,” Angel says. “Ever since they took my little boy it kinda woke me up and opened my eyes. I told Macayla, ‘No, the streets ain’t nothing for us. Our son is our little angel, and we’re going to get him back.”
Angel and Macayla got themselves into out-patient treatment; they go to classes, see counselors. As Angel says, “Whatever it takes, we did it and we did it as a couple. We set some goals and . . .”
“We met them one by one,” says Macayla, finishing Angel’s sentence, holding his hand.
One of those goals included dealing with Hepatitis C. Angel long knew he had Hep C, but “I was kinda scared, and when you’re using you don’t care.”
His doctor referred him to Virginia Mason Memorial’s Liver Clinic, and now the couple can add being Hep C free to their list of accomplishments.
“In the beginning it was hard,” says Macayla of their transformation from homelessness and addiction to being the parents of three with playdates and jobs.
How did they do it? “Well, we fell in love, that’s for sure!” she says, laughing. “We’ve had each other’s backs ever since.”
“We go to Planet Fitness,” says Angel. “I go five days a week. It gets your body back. I feel so good to be getting my health back, you know what I mean? Now, instead of smoking, I get ready for the gym.
“We did an awesome thing. We showed them. We tell other people, you got this, you can do this, too. We got rid of our old friends, but whenever they see us they say ‘Good job!’ ”
Yakima resident Maury Riker has been a lot of things during his years spent in the working world: paramedic, facilities manager, recycling specialist, company owner, billing expert. But in retirement, he’s got an entirely new gig: healthy lifestyle crusader for Virginia Mason Memorial’s Diabetic Prevention Program.
“My wife’s doctor suggested the program to her. We decided, why not? Let’s go to the orientation.
“I was skeptical, but we went anyway. There was a class starting the very next night.”
That was about three years — and more than 200 pounds — ago. That’s when the Riker family—Maury, Patsy and son Michael — joined Virginia Mason Memorial’s year-long Diabetes Prevention Program and began attending classes, tracking the food they ate, weighing in and adding exercise to their lives. Maury also discovered that he was prediabetic.
And this is Maury Riker now — down from 307 pounds to 218: “All I’ve ever done to lose weight is walk. Now I’m up to 1.5 to 2 hours every day walking at the YMCA, seven days a week except on Sundays in the summer when they’re closed. When I started, I was really lucky if I could walk around the block, but three months into the class I was no longer prediabetic.
“I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve gotten into the program from the Y. A lot of guys have gone through it. One of them was a guy sitting on a couch in the locker room. He was saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’ I took his hand and he said, ‘My name is Dave, and I’ve already a heart attack and the doctor says I have to change my life dramatically.’ I told him this program would do that. That’s a big step for me, putting myself out there. But he walked up to me at the Y the first part of October, grabbed my hand and said, ‘Maury, you saved my life.’ “
Maury tells anyone who will listen about the Diabetes Prevention Program. In fact, Lori Gibbons, the program’s coordinator, made up cards to hand out especially for him.
“I go to every orientation,” says Maury. “They show a video of me, and then I walk into the room to show them that this is not some clown from New York City or Hollywood, it’s me right here in Yakima. I tell them that it’s actually fun to go through the program. It’s easy once you get the hang of it.”
Maury’s a big fan of the program, but he’s also human. He, and the program, allow for that.
“Life is not a level playing field, there are ups and downs,” he says. “For me, the tracking was a pain in the behind having to write it all down. But I track on an app now and it’s great; I know how many calories I’ve eaten and what I have left for dinner.”
Is there room for any guilty pleasures in the Rikers’ lives? “I have a couple,” says Maury. “Cheezit crackers and peanut butter, and we’ve discovered frozen yogurt instead of ice cream!”
Patsy says simply, “The program has changed our lives.”
Do you have an 11-15 year old at home that is looking to start babysitting? Are you 11-15 and want to start babysitting but aren’t sure about how to begin or if you’re ready for the responsibility? Come join us at Lakeview Pavilion for one of our new Child and Babysitter Safety (CABS) Classes. Our ASHI certified instructors will educate you in the basics of first aid, in responsible supervision, in handling emergency situations, and in building your babysitting business. Classes are just $40 and registration is just one click away. Grab a parent and go to https://yakimamemorial.org/medical-services-com-nutrition-and-fitness.asp#safe to sign up today!
Hep C Facts:
- Chronic (lasting a long time) hepatitis C (Hep C) is a virus that affects the liver. It is the most common blood-borne infection and affects about 3.5 million people in the US
- Most people do not have symptoms of Hep C for years or even decades, which is why it is commonly called a silent disease
- If left untreated, Hep C can cause liver damage and even lead to liver cancer
DO ANY OF THESE RISK FACTORS APPLY TO YOU?
- Baby Boomer (born 1945 – 1965)
- Received blood transfusion, an organ transplant, or kidney dialysis before 1992
- Tattoos or body piercings iwht unsterilized tools
- Sharing needles or straws for recreational use (even just one time)
- Accidental needle sticks (most common with healthcare professionals)
- Vietnam-era veteran
- Being born to a mother with Hep C
- The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends all Baby Boomers (born 1945 – 1965) get tested for Hep C
- Ask your healthcare provider to test you for Hep C – this simple blood test is not part of routine blood work
HEP C CAN BE CURED
Cure means the Hep C virus is not detected in the blood when measured 3 months after treatment is completed.
Have questions about Hep C? Contact The Liver Clinic at Memorial Cornerstone Medicine at 509-573 3819.
Happy New Year! Still in need of a resolution? Consider these for 2018:
- Follow the Healthy Eating Plate to create balanced and nutritious meals (and eat less red meat). Check out the Plant Based Menu items in the Café.
- Fly and drive less: Use a telecommuting service; and walk, bike or opt for public transportation. Employee indoor bike rack and showers coming in the Spring!
- Power down and cut your screen time: Commit to putting away your devices two hours before bed to reduce your exposure to blue light (and remember to unplug your chargers when not in use)
- Prioritize reusable and toxic-free products (some chemicals added to products do not break down in the environment), and reduce your own exposure to harmful chemicals
- Get active! Get outside to enjoy the great outdoors or join a gym. Consider 10 minute walking breaks, 3x a day for your 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise.