November 28, 2014

Iowan among those lobbying to make cancer a priority for Congress

An Iowa man was among of group of people from across the country who traveled to Washington, D.C. Tuesday to lobby Congress to make the fight against cancer a national priority. Gary Streit from Cedar Rapids is part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network which he says wants to keep the focus on the effort.

“Everyone agrees in Congress that they should do something about cancer, but they’re often challenged to convert wishes to action,” Streit says. Streit says those pushing the issue have three main priorities, beginning with more money for research. “Right now we are on an inflation-adjusted basis 22 percent below what we were 10 years ago in terms of funding for the Natational Cancer Institute (NCI), and that is a huge driver of innovation in cancer research and treatment across the country,” Streit says.

He says they are also focusing on correcting a glitch in the Affordable Care Act that impacts the funding of treatment after a colonoscopy.

“If they go in for a colonoscopy screening, and the doctor finds a precancerous polyp and removes it, for some reason those procedures are subject to coinsurance that could cost the patient upwards of four to five hundred dollars. And that is a huge barrier to people getting the kind of colonoscopy screening that they should,” according to Streit.

The third issue involves an initiative of the American Cancer Society for what’s called “palliative care.” He says it’s the ability to provide coordinated treatment to people, to provide them with pain relief, and to provide education for professionals and the public.

Streit says they are optimistic their trip to the nation’s capital will pay dividends. “Two years ago there was a $2 billion cut to the NCI funding, and last year, shortly after this determined group of volunteers from across the country had our lobby day here in Washington, Congress restored $1 billion of that $2 billion cut to the NCI budget,” according to Streit.

Streit says cancer continues to kill 1,600 people every day in the U.S. and it is important that Congress address these issues to keep up the fight against the disease.


State senator from Davenport diagnosed with brain tumor

Joe Seng

Joe Seng

A state senator from eastern Iowa who is seeking reelection has announced he has a brain tumor.

State Senator Joe Seng of Davenport released a statement saying the tumor was discovered in tests last week and confirmed on Thursday. Seng, who is a veterinarian, says the tumor is located in his left lobe — “at the top of my head.” He plans to meet with doctors and set up a treatment plan which could include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Mike Gronstal, the Democratic leader in the state senate, spoke by phone with Seng. Gronstal said in a written statement that Seng is “tough as nails” and he’s “betting on Joe Seng to win this battle and return to the Iowa Senate for the opening gavel in January.”

Seng, who is 67 years old, is seeking a fourth term in the Iowa Senate. He does not face an opponent on November’s ballot. His senate district has an overwhelming Democratic voter registration edge.

Seng served on the Davenport City Council before he was elected to the state legislature. He owns and operates a veterinary hospital in Davenport, a bed and breakfast in Renwick, a restaurant in Davenport and a senior housing facility in his hometown of Lost Nation, Iowa.

Group uses big boar to raise funds in friend’s memory



A giant pig, raised by a group of Iowa State University graduates in honor of a fallen friend, is the winner of the Iowa State Fair’s Big Boar contest.

“Peabody” weighed in at 1,273 pounds. Peabody was also the nickname for Brad Peyton, who recently died of pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

His friend, David Schaefer, said Peyton grew up showing pigs at the State Fair and longed to win the Big Boar contest. “Two years ago, we had another boar that was presented and finished second to a boar from Indiana,” Schaefer said.

Peyton’s pig in 2012 was named “Fred Hoiboar” and was presented by Iowa State men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg.

The team that raised Peabody sold T-shirts, raising $3,000 for the Shining City Foundation, a nonprofit organization that Peyton helped found that builds medical clinics and other projects in remote, underserved areas of China, Africa, and other countries.

Big Daddy

Big Daddy

“He was an incredible guy,” Schaefer said of Peyton.”He had a lot of passion for people who don’t have a lot.”

Peabody will be on display for the remainder of the Iowa State Fair, which ends on August 17. The five-year-old boar beat out “Big Mac” who weighed in at 1,142 pounds.

This year’s winner of the State Fair’s “Super Bull” contest is “Big Daddy.” The bull, raised on Stalcup Farms in Prescott, tipped the scales at 3,012 pounds.



Woman released from life prison term to hospice dies

An Iowa woman who was recently released from prison has died. Kristina Fetters was 15 years old at the time she was convicted in the beating and stabbing death of her great aunt, 73-year-old Arlene Klehm, in Des Moines. She was just 14 at the time of the murder. Fetters was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1995, but a Polk County judge altered the sentence and the Iowa Board of Parole granted her release to a hospice facility last year.

Fetters was diagnosed with Stage 4 inoperable breast cancer last September. Fetters’ aunt, Darcy Olson of Des Moines, was the only person to speak on Fetters’ behalf at the parole board hearing back in December. “No one can alter the past. It is what it is, this happened to our family and it’s now time for my family to have closure,” Olson said. “Kristina’s impending death cannot be denied and while there have been negative comments, we believe, as the victims, our family has suffered enough and we ask the parole board to grant our request.”

Following the parole board’s decision to grant Fetters’ release, Olson told reporters there was little cause for celebration. “It’s just so bitter sweet,” Olson said. “This has been a 19 year old tragedy for my family. This will bring closure for my whole family and help us all cope just a little bit better with the situation.”

Fetters died on Sunday in a Des Moines hospice facility. She was 34. Fetters’ case was the first in Iowa to be reconsidered after a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision banned sentences of life without parole for those convicted of crimes as juveniles.


Cornell student runs to raise money to help cancer patients

A college student in eastern Iowa is putting himself through a grueling workout in an effort to help cancer patients. Jacob Fields is running a mile for every dollar he collects from donations. So far, he’s raised over $550 and has been running about 25 miles a day since late last month. It’s hard work, but Fields says his family provides motivation.

Both his mother and grandmother have been diagnosed with different types of cancer. “It’s definitely a lot (of pain), but compared what my mom went through and what my grandmother is going through now, it’s nothing,” Fields said. The senior at Cornell College in Mount Vernon has set a goal of running 1,000 miles and raising $1,000.

The money will go to the American Cancer Society for cancer research. “My friends have given me 10 dollars here, a dollar here,” Field said. “They’re like, ‘here’s five bucks, go run five miles.'” Fields started late last month and has lost more than 10 pounds, worn through a pair of shoes, and used up five tubes of lip balm. Fields is running in conjunction with Cornell’s Relay for Life, which starts Saturday, April 26.

(Reporting by Forest Saunders, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids)

Bill seeks survey to find out about radon in school buildings

The Iowa Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill that calls for a survey of Iowa schools to see if buildings are being tested for radon contamination. Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says Iowa has the highest concentration of the cancer-causing gas of any state in the nation.

“Data indicates that five out of seven homes have elevated radon levels in Iowa, so we’re leading the nation in levels of unsafe radon gas in our homes,” McCoy says. “It stands to reason that our school buildings are in the same kind of condition as our homes.”

McCoy has been pressing for legislation that would require schools to test for radon and take steps to rid buildings of any unsafe levels of the gas, but House Republicans balked, citing the costs districts would face if tests found unacceptably high levels of radon in school buildings.

“We’re going to be back working on this issue next year and hopefully next year we’ll be able to do the right thing,” McCoy says.

The bill calling for a survey of school districts to find out which have tested buildings for radon now goes to the governor for his approval or veto.

Gronstal says House panel guilty of ‘stunning dereliction of duty’ on radon-related bill

Senator Mike Gronstal.

Senator Mike Gronstal.

The top Democrat in the legislature is blasting a group of Republicans for abandoning an effort to get Iowa school buildings tested for radon.

Last week the Iowa Senate passed a bill that required districts to have school buildings tested by 2025, but a House committee this week changed the bill so it only requires the Department of Education to survey schools to find out if radon tests are being done.  Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs calls that a “disappointing” development.

“Radon is from bedrock. Iowa as a state, just by luck of the draw (with) deep soil depths, is a perfect place to collect radon in basements,” Gronstal says. “That’s just a reality of nature and putting our head in the sand about it and saying, ‘We’re not even going to look to see if there’s a problem,’ I think is a stunning dereliction of duty.”

School officials say there’s no room in school budgets for the equipment needed to rid schools of radon if tests show there are unacceptably high levels. House Republicans working on the issue side with the schools and argue the new survey would find out if schools need more money from the state to buy the equipment that reduces radon levels. Senator Gronstal says schools should “at least” test for radon.

“This state is the worst in the country, just by the luck of the draw, in terms of the amount of radon that leaks into buildings,” Gronstal says. “If you’re going to be responsible, you should test, then deal with the problems that test reveals, but putting your head in the sand just means more people will die of lung cancer.”

Gronstal says the radon-related bill, although altered, at least survived the legislature’s deadline this week for policy-related bills, so discussions on the issue can continue. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha, the legislature’s top Republicans, told reporters today he doesn’t know what debate the House committee had about the issue.