August 2022 Community Voices

Moral of the Story, Us Too Florence, Closing the Loop

August 24, 2022 — (Editor’s Note: Viewpoint submissions on these and other topics are always welcome as part of our goal to encourage community discussion and exchange of perspectives.)

The Moral of the Story — Car Chase

By Karen Nichols

Florence Author & Artist


On “America’s Funniest Home Videos” last night, I watched a person chase their runaway car. I flashed back to when I experienced that same panic.

It was early one morning as I loaded into my car, ready to go to my teaching job. Dressed in a chic suit and high heels, I slid in behind the wheel of our Chrysler. I started it up, then realized I had left my briefcase on the hood. Exasperated, I got out for a brief moment. Suddenly, the car shot out of the garage rear-end first.

As my mouth dropped open, I stared at the driverless car rolling into the street. I started hollering, “Help! Help!” hoping Ralph could hear me. You have to picture me, a 45-year-old woman chasing after the car in my high heels and business suit, waving my arms and screaming.

Why was it going so fast?

The car started circling in a tight circle — at first. Just as I neared, the vehicle sped up and circled progressively, swooping in a wider and wider circle.

 In southern California neighborhoods, the dwellings sat close together. Panting and trying to catch up, at that point, it was clear. If I didn’t stop the car, it would soon smash into one of our neighbor’s homes.

Could they still be sleeping with all my screeching going on? Even if they awoke, would the children in the front bedrooms wake before the car plowed through their house? Would someone die before this was over? No one appeared to help me.

My heart nearly beat out of my chest. Sweat poured from my brow. My ankles and heels twisted, trying to collapse as I chased the runaway vehicle. I almost touched the door handle when the car sped ahead — me stumbling behind. Was it an hour I’d been on this chase?

I am not sure how, but suddenly I gripped the handle, and the door flew open. As I dragged behind, I grabbed the steering wheel and pulled myself inside. Without even time to close the door, I slammed on the brakes. The car came to a halt just a few feet away from my neighbor’s house.

Strangely, I didn’t fear for my safety until I slumped back in the seat, gasping for breath, feeling my pounding heart — then I realized what might have happened.

I still don’t know what caused the car to take on a mind of its own. I couldn’t imagine that I put it in reverse and got out of the vehicle with the engine running. It wasn’t until later that we discovered there was something wrong with the gear shift, and it probably popped out of neutral. But why did the car speed up?

When prayers are answered, you just have to accept the small miracle.

The Moral of the Story: If you leave the car running, it may be you doing the running.




Us TOO Florence – Behind the Headlines — The Dreaded Words – “You Have Cancer!”

You’ve Got Cancer — A Real Life Fairy Tale

By Roger Straus,

Prostate Cancer Survivor

Once upon a time on the Oregon Coast, I heard the words “You’ve got cancer.” Those are among the worst words anyone can hear. When I heard those words, I was devastated. At age 64, I thought “I am too young to die of cancer.” What would you have thought?

Well, obviously I didn’t die from my cancer or I wouldn’t be writing to you today. Ten years later I can report that I have been cancer free for that period. So let’s connect the dots and see what I did to be here today from a diagnosis of cancer.

There is a long story, but the short story is two doctors made the situation possible. The first doctor was my primary care physician (PCP) who insisted I get PSA tests every couple of years starting when I was about 55. Though my PSA was not astronomically high, it was following an ascending pattern. She sent me to get an exam and ultimately a biopsy. After the biopsy came the dreaded words.

The second doctor told me to come see him, “Things aren’t so bad.”

I saw him and he explained that my cancer was caught at a very early stage and there are multiple treatments to solve the problem. I chose a course that he recommended. Since that procedure, I have been prostate cancer free for 10 years.

Men are born missing a critical gene that women have. The women know they need to get mammograms every year or so. Men don’t have that “let me get checked” gene. Ignoring this testing protocol can lead to bad outcomes. Prostate cancer caught early is very treatable with many protocols that have very high success rates.

So now the comes the “ask.” Any male over 50 should get themselves a PSA test. Simple blood test, nothing to fear. Get a test every couple of years to get a baseline of your number. Your PCP will know when urologist intervention is necessary. The urologist can discuss all kinds of procedures, surgery, radiation, drugs, to solve the issue.

The words “You’ve got cancer” are a starting point and there can be a happy ending. Get tested and live happily ever after.



“You Have Cancer”

By Christopher Schwarz,

Prostate Cancer Survivor

I first heard those words just a little over 10 years ago. I was 62 years old. I had just been assigned a new PCP and he decided, after seeing my first-ever PSA blood test, that I should go see a local urologist.

The urologist performed a DRE and took a biopsy. I didn’t hear from him for over two weeks. I figured I was in the clear. When I did get an appointment, it was on a Friday afternoon. I was to be his last patient of the day. I walked in full of confidence that everything was hunky dory. “No,” he said, “you have cancer.”

To tell the truth, I didn’t hear much else of what he said. The blood was pounding in my ears so loudly. Like when I would lose a pet or my father died. He did give me an excellent book to read and told me he could refer me out for a second opinion.

Frankly, I have no recollection of my 45-minute drive home after my appointment or anything for the next couple of days. I also don’t know how long it was before I told family or friends about my diagnosis.

I chose Dr. Bryan Mehlhaff, and, after prostatectomy surgery, salvage radiation, spot radiation, cancer meds and treatments, I’m still alive 10 years later. He did run out of treatments last year and referred me to a local oncologist. I have had nine chemo treatments and my PSA is darn near undetectable.

What would I do differently? Have a PCP that is up-to-date on PSA blood tests and I would have started much earlier with the blood tests than I did.

I am here to be able to write about my first reaction to hearing those effing words.

Life is good. My wife has been with me the whole journey.



Closing The Loop – Alternative Packaging

By Britte Kirsch

Lane County Master Recycler

Each summer, people make an effort to reduce plastic consumption and possibly start some new plastic free habits.

In our pursuits to purge plastic packaging from our lives, we are finding there are more and more alternatives to choose from. So this article will help you decide what options might be the best for the environment and for you. Remember, all types of packaging have environmental downsides, there is no perfect material.

So let’s take a deeper look at the pros and cons of each type compared to plastic utilizing a Life Cycle Comparison Guide to understand the ecological footprint of each material. When considering a type of packaging, consider the following:

  •  Source Materials: are they renewable, recyclable and sustainable?
  •  Manufacturing: energy, resources and pollution impacts
  •  Use and end of life: ability to properly dispose and recycle or reuse



Pros: Lightweight, easy to transport (= less energy/lower carbon footprint). Can be reused if properly recycled (although plastic recycling rates in the US are very poor).

Cons: Made from fossil fuels from processing plants located in disproportionately low income and minority communities, lots of ocean and waterway pollution and energy intensive production. Microplastics are produced when plastic breaks down.



Pros: If made from sustainable, responsibly managed sources or recycled, it is a great option. It decomposes readily and can be used as compost. It is also easy to be recycled back into paper/cardboard. New eco-friendly technologies are being developed to make paper from more recycled material.

Cons: Takes a lot of energy, chemicals and water to manufacture, produces waste and air pollution. Making paper from trees is very dirty work from an environmental point of view. Not using sustainable sources means destruction of ecosystems.



Pros: Can be recycled and reused forever. Great option when used with the Oregon Bottle Drop program - reusing glass is the key. Hygienic, inert, nontoxic.

Cons: It’s heavy and it breaks. Glass processing, transport and recycling requires lots of time, energy and resources. Ecosystems destroyed from extraction of silica sand, dolomite and soda ash, and glass recycling in the U.S. is surprisingly low.



Pros: Can be recycled indefinitely, lightweight, most resources are readily available (bauxite for aluminum) and reuse programs (bottle drops) are effective. Durable product. Since it is easily and effectively reused, less energy is used for processing.

Cons: Poor chemical stability so needs other toxic materials as coatings and protection. If using raw materials, high energy use is required and the processes create a lot of solid waste disposal.


Biobased Products (Mushroom, Seaweed, Corn, Etc.)

Pros: Derived from biological renewable sources not petrochemicals. Consumers tend to feel less “guilty” about disposal since these claim to be biodegradable. Less energy intensive.

Cons: Agricultural production requires fossil fuels and by-products (nutrient loading in waterways, pesticides, etc.) impact environments. Not always compostable and not marine biodegradable. Not a reliable way to decrease environmental impacts.


Compostable Products

Pros: Less toxic when landfilled. Consumers feel better about this packaging. Requires less energy to produce.

Cons: Composting facilities are not able to fully break down many of the compostable options. Creates more contamination and garbage thus has higher environmental impacts. Too many different options cause confusion for consumers, businesses and municipalities trying to design composting facilities.


Here are the key takeaways when determining the best packaging for the environment:

  •  Choose reusable as often as possible.
  •  Packaging that has higher recycled content is a good thing.
  •  Pick the lightest package option so long as the product can be recycled or disposed of properly in the landfill.
  •  Refuse unnecessary food service items like utensils, straws and containers.
  •  Produce less waste in the first place! Buy durable items instead.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas with me (send them to [email protected]). And to learn more about Master Recyclers go to Have questions about your recycling efforts? Visit Waste Wise Lane County.