I Claudia: These survivors don't run from a challenge

  • Written by Claudia Parker


Claudia Mug Shot-ColorThrough Advocate Children’s Hospital Oak Lawn, I’ve been privileged to meet many pediatric cancer survivors who are taking part in the Pediatric Oncology Survivorship Transition Challenge.

The POST Challenge supplies pediatric survivors with a running mentor, like me, and training gear to help ensure their successful completion of the 8th Annual Running for Hope 5K run/walk in Oak Lawn, Saturday, June 7.

     There’s a myth that says the laws of aerodynamics prove the bumblebee should be incapable of flying; apparently its wing size is too small to hold the weight of its body. While these scientific calculations may be accurate, they don’t coincide with reality, defying the odds, they fly.  

Heather Worden, 34, of Joliet is also a testament to defying odds. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with AML Leukemia with a 10 percent chance to survive.

Worden said her diagnosis came in January, 1993, and she started chemotherapy right away. By May, she had a full bone marrow transplant.

“I was my own donor, which was radical at the time,’’ she said. “They removed my bone marrow, treated it with chemo and put it back in me.”

     Some people fear death after being diagnosed with cancer. But not Worden, she said, “I never thought I was going to die.”

The Leukemia was detected following a visit to her pediatrician.

“I had flu like symptoms,” Worden said. “I went to the doctor after passing out in the shower. My doctor was concerned about how pale I was and ordered a blood test.”

Worden said the power of prayer from her friends, family, and church are the reason she’s here today.

“My attitude was always, ‘What do I need to do to go home?’ I wasn’t told until many years later that I had a 10 percent survival rate. Had I known that number, I don’t know if I would have had such a positive attitude.”

June 21st will mark her 22nd year cancer free!

Worden and her husband Terry, have one son named Max. He turned three, May 8th.

“I didn’t think I’d have children because chemo ruined my eggs but God worked miraculous, not only to save my life but to allow me to have a son,” said Worden. “With the help of my sister, Heidi Stachulak-Varela and Chicago IVF, I was able to give birth to a beautiful baby boy. My sister made a big sacrifice and became my egg donor. She gave me and Terry a very special gift.”

I’d say! Let’s break out the sister-of-the-year award for Varela, who lives in Round Lake Beach with her husband, Joel. And that support continued, Varela participated in the POST Challenge with Worden the first time she ran the Running for Hope race. “She trained with me and my mentor, Marie Fuesel,” said Worden.

Fuesel lives in Orland Park and has been paired with Worden again. “This time, Terry is taking the challenge with us.” Worden said. “Terry and I are also training for a 10-mile race, at the end of this month.”

Worden’s life story has played out like a touching Hallmark movie. She describes herself as a happily married mom, teaching 6th grade at Bentley Elementary in New Lenox, who lives in an old Victorian house in nearby Joliet. 

She and Terry celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary July 24th.


Nawal Hasan, 26, was born and raised in Oak Lawn until 15 years ago when she and her family moved to Orland Park.

Her cancer was discovered during a basketball game that her parents told her NOT to play in.

Talk about having a good excuse for being disobedient!

“I had been having pain in my knee for several months. But, I was playing sports; my parents thought it was just growing pains.” Hasan said. “To be sure, they sent me for an X-ray. Nothing was found.”

That X-ray might have given Hasan peace of mind but her parents, Al and Dina, were alarmed.

“I had a basketball game the following day, my parents told me to stay out of the game,’’ she said “I didn't listen. During the game, I got hit in the knee and a lump popped out. The next day, an MRI and biopsy confirmed a cancerous tumor.”

She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a bone cancer most prevalent in children and young adults.

But, Hasan is still in the game, she’s got the rebound and she’s playing to win.

“I've been cancer-free for 12 strong, long, healthy years. Thank God!” Hasan said, “I was in a wheelchair for a few years after treatment so it was very rewarding. It took me a while but when I crossed that finish line (at last year’s POST race), it was the best feeling ever.”

This year she’ll be crossing that line with her mentor, Noora Diab of Chicago.

Hasan said she feels her life is meant to bring awareness to the impact of cancer.

“Cancer effects all ages, genders and races. It’s a challenge to overcome. It’s okay to be sad, scared, and confused,” said Hasan.  

Hasan’s love for sports hasn’t waned. She’s unable to play hoops due to the titanium rod in her knee but she’s living vicariously through the kids she coaches in junior high basketball and youth sport camps.

“I live a normal life,’’ she said. “I’m a college graduate, a substitute teacher and an investor in a pharmaceutical company. “I thank God for the blessing of having a second chance at life.”

More POST Clinic Challengers have agreed to share their stories. Stay tuned. You can read all of them through my social media, visit and click the Facebook and/or Twitter links. 

For information on registration or volunteerism visit



The cause of the Civil War

  • Written by Don C. White

History-Don-White-logoCivil War was the last possible means to resolve the slavery issue.
It came down to what Lincoln told the people of Illinois in 1858 which was basically that the nation could not remain half free and half slave; it had to become one or the other.
All options had been exhausted: the Kansas – Nebraska bill of 1854, the Dred Scott case in 1857 and John Brown’s raid in 1859 were the final pieces of the puzzle.
By the time of the presidential election of 1860, each side was stronger in their beliefs and some on each side were willing to act upon them.
The question in my mind, as well as in many others who have studied the Civil War period, is why didn’t we follow England’s course and abolish slavery thirty or forty years before the war came? One reason was because the country did not have a William Wilberforce in its midst. He spent his lifetime working to rid England of slavery.
It is seems clear today that the South was not going to do anything to end slavery.
As the presidential election of 1860 drew near, and if Abraham Lincoln were elected, some of the southern states were ready to secede. He was elected and South Carolina on December 20, 1860 voted to secede.
In the 1790’s slavery was losing ground in America. In his book, “Meet General Grant,” W. E. Woodward strongly suggests that without Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin slavery would not have survived as long as it did. In my reading of the Civil War and its causes I believe that Mr. Woodward is correct in how important the cotton gin was and how it saved slavery from an early demise.
Another quote from Mr. Woodward’s book, “Slavery was concentrated in the warm, damp lands of the seacoast, where the chief crops were rice, indigo and tobacco.
In the cultivation of these products animal drudgery was worth more than intelligence.”
As we know, cotton became king and slavery was perpetuated in the South and was spreading westward. Any talk of gradual emancipation soon died off.
Mr. Woodward also states that “Whitney’s invention was the most momentous achievement of a single individual that has ever occurred on the American continent.”
Of course he wrote this in the 1920’s and at that point in our history it may have been true. What the cotton gin did to perpetuate slavery into the 1850’s and bring about the
Civil War that cost the lives of 620,000 plus Americans is both monumental and horrendous in the effect it had on our country.
Slavery was the cause of the American Civil War. Any attempt to change history only takes away from what Lincoln and those that survived the war and those that died for the cause – both North and South – did. They answered the question; should slavery be continued and expanded or should it be abolished? Some historians are still debating this question yet today.
I believe Lincoln did what he could to solve the question of slavery. He was one of the first, if not the first president to welcome Negroes in the front door of the White House. Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and others visited him in the People’s House. Although on Douglass’s last visit on the occasion of a reception for the second inauguration, he was stopped twice before being allowed in. When he finally got in and Lincoln saw him, he said for all to hear, “Here comes my friend Douglass.”
When Sojourner Truth came to visit Lincoln he signed her autograph book to “Aunty Sojourner Truth.” There is a picture of her with Lincoln on her visit but it is a composite.
Few Negroes ever saw Lincoln and fewer still would have talked to him. He was well thought of by them throughout the land and the following will illustrate just how much they thought of him.
“The [black] people of Baltimore, to show their appreciation … of President
Lincoln in the cause of human freedom, contributed $580.75 to have a copy of the Bible bound in purple velvet, mounted in gold and engraved with a representation of Lincoln striking the shackles from a slave, . . .”
The Bible was given to Lincoln at the White House in September of 1864.
Don C. White is a historian from Palos Hills who has written a book on the Civil War

A boomer’s filter-less thoughts about Diet Coke, Johnny Carson and some‘eye prunes’

  • Written by Ray Hanania

Hanania-GrapevineHanania-GrapevineI was reading the lament of another journalist who insisted that although life is easier and healthier in our generation compared to our parents, 60 is not the new 40.
Maybe. But the truth is that I am 62 and I may look 62. But I don’t feel 62. When I think of my father, who died at the age of 69 of emphysema – he smoked two packs of Camel filter-less cigarettes a day for 60 of those 69 years – I don’t recall him being as energetic as I feel today.
But my dad, George, was one tough Palestinian American. We both served in the military and we both love this country, too.
I go to the health club almost every morning around 6 a.m. and workout on the treadmill walking and running three miles and then doing some weight exercises for the arms.
I clear my brain by never missing a chance to admire the hot looking women. It was easier to enjoy the “eye candy” when I was at LifeTime Fitness. But LifeTime Fitness didn’t treat me so well, so I left and signed up with Palos Fitness. LifeTime is for a younger set. The medium age at Palos Fitness is much higher, more my generation. So instead of enjoying “eye candy” views, I spend a lot of time avoiding a lot of “eye prunes.”
I spend a lot of time on my computer, not just writing but reading. Maybe I’ve gotten lazy, because I listen to a lot of audio books in my car going to and from work.
I prefer non-fiction. One of my favorites is about other baby boomers, like “Life” by Rolling Stones drug king, Keith Richards. Now, I’m listening to “Blood Cold,” the story of Robert Blake’s crazy life with Bonnie Lee Bakely, who he was accused of murdering. He was acquitted, but convicted in a civil case (a la O.J. Simpson).
Knowing what I know about Bakely, I probably would have killed her, too.
The other day, I actually sat down on the couch and watched, from start to finish, the last movie that Humphrey Bogart made before his death, “The Harder They Fall.” The story of a longtime newspaper columnist who lost his job when his newspaper folded, and he had to take a job working for a racketeer (Rod Steiger) who rigged, with Bogart’s help, professional boxing matches.
What a great movie.
 I don’t recall my dad ever waxing longingly about any movies he watched. And, I don’t remember my dad reading any books, although he was a pretty smart dude who worked hard.
I can’t wait until the new Jurassic Park movie comes out, or the new Star Wars film. I’ll be front row for both. Of course, I do go to see practically every new movie that is made. My dad loved Jack Paar, Mitch Miller and Ed Sullivan. 
Truth be told, I miss Johnny Carson. He had class that today’s talk show hosts just lack.
Is 60 the new 40? Will we baby boomers live forever like we think, or hope?
I know one thing. I pay more attention to the foods I eat, although for a long time I was addicted – and I mean addicted – to Diet Coke. It was a 40-year love affair and 10 cans of Diet Coke a day, which I only gave up recently when a news report claimed the dietary ingredient was the cause of my growing gut.
Is Diet Coke my generation’s cigarettes? Or do baby boomers just love to make excuses?
Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and media consultant. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

At least one Blago didn’t show arrogance, cockiness and stupidity

  • Written by Ray Hanania

Hanania-GrapevineRobert Blagojevich is the brother of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois Governor whose loud-mouth and arrogant style pretty much guaranteed his conviction and one of the most outrageously long and unjustified prison sentences ever handed down in an Illinois political case.
But the real tragedy is how the U.S. Government, backed by the bullying of a cabal of politicians and news media who hated the governor, persecuted his brother Robert hoping to beat him up so badly he would testify against the Governor.
Robert Blagojevich, a former decorated military veteran who lives in Nashville, was targeted by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald with no real evidence and dragged before one of the most unfair, but media-loved Illinois judges, James Zagel.
It was sneaky. Robert Blagojevich details it all in his riveting new book that just came out called “Fundraiser A: My Fight for Freedom and Justice.”
You need to buy it and read it.
It’s that good.
Bill Cellini was being prosecuted before Zagel, who has been criticized as being pro-prosecution. Fitzgerald had the Blagojevich brothers added to the Cellini case, not because they were related. Cellini petitioned to be removed and that’s how the Blagojevich’s ended up before Zagel, one of the most politically driven and biased judges on the bench.
I listened to Robert Blagojevich as he detailed the government corruption he faced during a dinner hosted in honor of the 149th Founders Day Anniversary of the Theta Chi Fraternity.  Both Blagojevich brothers were Theta Chis. I was there too.
I was shocked.
The Blagojevich prosecution is one of the great injustices in Illinois politics, driven not by facts but by persecution, emotion and political rivalry.
But while Rod Blagojevich conducted one of the most idiotic and ineffective publicity campaigns I have ever seen in 40 years of journalism and media consulting, Robert took the advice of his capable Palos Heights attorney, Michael Ettinger.
 Ettinger told him not to speak to the Justice Department.
Keep your mouth shut.
I am amazed how suspects in criminal reality shows so willingly bury themselves with arrogance, cockiness and stupidity. When you tell something to the Justice Department but later change or correct it, you can be charged with perjury.
Fitzgerald had to go after Rod and Robert Blagojevich twice because in the first trial the jury deadlocked on Robert (9 to 3) and found Rod guilty of only one charge of “making false statements,” or perjury.
Fitzgerald tried another trick to convince Robert to separate himself from the Governor in a retrial, so the governor’s impending conviction would weigh heavily on the second trial of Robert. But Ettinger and Robert Blagojevich refused, insisting that the two be tried together, again.
Eventually, Robert Blagojevich’s refusal to take a deal or be tried separately forced Fitzgerald to back down and drop all charges against Robert. But not before the U.S. Attorney destroyed his life.
The trial cost Robert Blagojevich more than $1 million, and two years of anguish. It was brutal.
He never got an apology from Fitzgerald that he deserves, or compensation from the government or Judge Zagel for the injustice they perpetrated.
The book is the only way Robert Blagojevich can really get justice. You can help him get justice by buying the book and learning about where the real corruption is in Illinois.

 Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and media consultant. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Despite a bout with polio, Roosevelt was able to walk the walk as president

  • Written by Don C. White


Editor’s note: Last week, Palos Hills historian Don C. White looked at Abraham Lincoln, whose death occurred 150 years ago this month. This week, he looks at Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died 70 years ago this month.

Let’s turn now to our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He came from a much different back ground than Abraham Lincoln our 16th president.
Roosevelt graduated from Harvard,then studied law at Columbia University. He did not finish his studies at Columbia, but did pass the bar and worked for a while at a law firm in New York City.
He became interested in politics and ran for the state senate in upstate New York and won.
In 1912, FDR won re-election to the state senate, but did not serve out his term. He was asked to serve as assistant secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration and accepted.
Then in 1920 the Democratic Party tapped him to run as a vice presidential candidate with James Cox. They lost to Republican Warren Harding. FDR then took a job in the private sector as vice president of Fidelity and Deposit Company. During the summer of 1921 while on a family vacation at Campobello Island, Roosevelt came down with poliomyelitis – polio -- which in the 1920’s was a terrifying and rampant disease.
Roosevelt never fully recovered the full use of his legs and spent much of the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He never gave up hope and through years of painful rehabilitation he did regain some of his lost mobility. He learned to walk by using his hips to swing his atrophied legs forward. For the remaining 24 years of his life he would need the assistance of canes, leg braces, wheelchairs, his family and aides.
Throughout the rest of his life he never lost his zest for life or his confidence. He was back in politics by 1922 aiding fellow Democrat Alfred Smith, first with his campaign for governor of New York, then in his bid for president in 1924 and 1928. With Smith’s encouragement, Roosevelt ran for governor of New York and was elected in 1928 and again in 1930.