Monday, May 25, 2009

Mona Mathis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Mona Mathis passed away in June of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her husband of 45 years, William Mathis, is grieving, but he'd like to do more.

Mr. Mathis is contacting lots of folks, from Oprah Winfrey to his little neighborhood Shoppe Talk, trying to get the word out about the disease and to interest as many people as he can in supporting research for better ways to diagnose it.

"Mona turned 65 March 24 this year. She was a wonderful person, very outgoing. She always had a smile for everybody," Bill said. "I've lived in Hillcrest since 1971. I pick up Shoppe Talk in the Buice Drug Store. My voice is not very big, b
ut if we could get other people interested, maybe we could get early detection. If we could save just one person, she'd like that.

"Dr. Sneed, an oncologist, when she was in St. Vincent Hospital, he looked at the chart, and he said, I feel Mrs. Mathis has probably had this for 10 or 15 years.

"Mona had 10 different physicals, two back surgeries, and two knee replacements. All the time, it was lying there dormant. Every year, Mona went and had a physical and a mamm
ogram. She had a colonoscopy, part of the process after you get 50 years old.

"I'm not mad at nobody, but why can't we get some early detection for this deadly disease?"

Dr. Thomas Sneed, a medical oncologist who saw Mona at rounds at the hospital, said the stumbling block for early detection is that non-Hod
gkin's lymphoma is not one disease, but many.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is cancer that arises in the lymph system and includes many t
ypes of lymphomas with different characteristics.

"It is 30 or 40 different diseases," Dr. Sneed said in a telephone interview. "There are about 36 kinds of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Some are slow-growing. Some are aggressive. Since there are approximately 36 kinds of lymphoma, it's not the sort of thing you screen for.

"It is absolutely treatable, one of the most treatable cancers."

Bill said that Dr. Sneed explained that the type of cancer Mona had could be put into remission, but could not be cured. "Dr. Sneed is a fine person. He
would come up to Mona's room, sit on the side of the bed and talk with her at length and explain everything in detail. He was very courteous, very kind."

Dr. Sneed said Mona had follicular lymphoma, an "indolent," slow-growing lymphoma. This is one of the kinds of lymphomas that are generally not curable. On the other hand, aggressive large-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are "quite curable" with radiation or chemotherapy, with long-term survival depending on age, the stage of the disease, and how far it has spread.

"Indolent is usually discovered accidentally, with (an) abnormality in the blood count, or the platelets are low."

Dr. Sneed said he didn't know how long Mona had follicular lymphoma. "Typically, people live for many years with it. This was apparently the case with Mrs. Mathis."

Mona was diagnosed September 2005 by Dr. Joseph Beck, a board-certified oncologist who has practiced in Little Rock for 20 years.

"He told us it was a low-grade, slow-growing
, non-Hodgkin's form of lymphoma," Bill said. Her course of treatment began with a milder form of chemotherapy that she underwent until January. "Then they scanned her. He said this stuff has gone crazy ... and they had to use a hard, aggressive chemo. It was really hard on her. She got worse."

Dr. Beck said follicular lymphoma has "gotten more common over the years. We're not sure why. It is more common in people who are older.

"It's hard to diagnose," he said.

Lymphomas are easier to detect when they are the type that cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the underarms or the neck, he said. "Deep in the body like hers was, then it's harder
to find."

Right now, the only way to diagnose the cancer is by biopsy - a painful, invasive procedure physicians would not recommend unless symptoms or tests suggest a necessity.

Dr. Beck said symptoms of non-Hodgkins lymphoma may include unexplained fever, weight loss or night sweats.

"Night sweats is not just the back of the neck being damp. You soak bedclothes and have to get up and change clothes. If you'd been through menopause 10 years ago and everything is fine and all of the sudden you're having these night sweats, that would be something to check out."

In addition, "any kind of swelling out of the ordinary should be investigated. Pay attention to your body, and pay attention to things that are different."

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are options for aggressive lymphomas.
"If it is very slow-growing, if a person is elderly, we might just observe a person. It's possible to have and live years and years and years."

Bill said Mona never really noticed any symptoms of disease.

"She didn't have a whole lot of energy. But
she had been anemic all of her life. She went to get some shots of B12. She tried to change her diet and eat some food with more nutrition, to give her a boost. She'd lost some weight, but she'd gotten so depressed. She was scared.

"She never complained about it really, and she didn't know anything was wrong."

Information from medical sites on the Web urges individuals to see a phy
sician if they have unexplained fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, constant fatigue, or itchy or red patches on the skin. These are the symptoms of many ailments, but check with your physician to be sure. Do not wait to feel pain, because early non-Hodgkin's lymphoma may not cause pain.

In addition, the incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has nearly doubled over the last 55 years, they said. Dr. Beck said it is uncertain if this is a
true increase, or the result of better reporting.

It is the fifth or sixth most common type of cancer, depending on your source of information.

A number of websites said risk factors associated with the disease are age, sex (more common in men), a weakened immune system, viruses (Epstein-Barr, for example), and exposure to environmental toxins, such as pesticides, solvents and fertilizers. Some studies point to specific ingredients in herbicides and pesticides, such as organochlorine, organophosphate, and phenoxyacid compounds. Often there is simply no explanation for its occurrence.

If your doctor suspects non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, he may order blood tests or internal scans, such as x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, lymphangiograms, or a gallium metal scan.

Although no special tests are available today that can find non-Hodgkin's lymphoma early, Bill hopes that will change when more people become interested in the disease.

"Mona was a lovely person. She fought this with everything she had, but it was just too big. I just want to make people aware."

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the September 2006 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Mathis Spearheads State's First Lymphoma Research Foundation Chapter

Shoppe Talk readers may recall a story that
ran last September about Mona Mathis, who passed away in June of 2006 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was the beloved wife of 45 years of Bill Mathis, who wanted to do something to honor her, to help other Arkansans diagnosed with these types of cancers, and to fund research to improve early detection.

After months of what Janet Breen called "putting his grief into action," Mr. Mathis succeeded in the establishment of the first chapter in Arka
nsas of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Mrs. Breen was one of the folks who attended the first meeting that led to the chapter's founding.

Other founding members are her husband, John
Breen, Earlene McDonald, Emma Ward, Mary Ann and Milton Foerste, Julie Kerr, Sandy Grayson, and, of course, Bill. Also in attendance were: Harold Dean, a clinical social worker for the Arkansas Cancer Research Center; Suzanne Bliss of New York City, president of the Lymphoma Research Foundation; Sally Fleming of Atlanta, director of chapter services for the foundation; and Bobbi Nesbitt, publisher of Shoppe Talk. The meeting room and refreshments were provided by ACRC.

"Bill, a real thank you," Ms. Bliss said. "It really does take one person in a community to get something organized."

"I'd like to say a big thank you to Bill too," Ms. McDonald said. "I am a lymphoma survivor. When I was first diagnosed, I didn't know where to turn. It's an experience you don't want to go through alone. To everyone here, I'm glad to be here."

Mr. Foerste said he had been diagnosed in 2004, had completed his treatments and is in remission. Milton said searching the Internet for information had been depressing. One of the services the foundation offers is a support system, where people can be paired w
ith a "buddy" in their area.

Ms. Ward said she and her husband see Bill every day. (Bill said they'd "kind of adopted" him.) "We knew and loved Mona. Mona was a lovely person. We want to be here to support him as well," Emma said.

At the founding meeting: Suzanne Bliss, Bill Mathis, Julie Kerr, Sandy Grayson, Sally Fleming, Janet Breen, John Breen, Earlene McDonald, Mary Ann Foerste, Milton Foreste, Harold Dean, and (not pictured) Emma Ward. Photo By Bobbi Nesbitt

Suzanne explained that the foundation is relatively new, having
been established in 2001 by the merger of the Cure for Lymphoma Foundation and the Lymphoma Research Foundation of America. LRFA was founded in Los Angeles in 1991 by Ellen Glesby Cohen, who died of lymphoma in 2000. CFL was founded in New York City in 1994 by Jerry Freundlich, a 14-year survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and his wife, Barbara.

Suzanne said the foundation has funded 34.7 million in research so far. Out of every dollar raised, 85 cents goes into research and education, she said. The foundation has the highest rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management. It has a 45-member volunteer scientific advisory board that meets twice a year.

Ms. Fleming said the foundation has more than 20 active chapters that distribute literature to local doctors' offices and raise money for research and education.

Part of that money funds an 800 number for patient services that people can call as often as they choose.

The Arkansas group has had two more meetings since that initial one at ACRC. Bill was elected president of the chapter, and Ms. Kerr was elected recording secretary.

Bill is very pleased with the progress in establishing the chapter.

"I feel good about it," he said. "I'm just surprised someone hadn't done this before. I'm certain a lot of people in the state of Arkansas have died of lymphoma."

Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer and the third most common cancer of childhood. Mona died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of which there are about 36 different types, each a different disease, which makes research challenging. Some of the cancers are slow growing, some agressive; some are curable, some are not; some are easily detected, others, not.

The incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has nearly doubled over the last 55 years. It is the fifth or sixth most common type of cancer, depending on your source of information.

Risk factors that have been associated with it include age, sex (more common in men), a weakened immune system, viruses (Epstein-Barr, for example), and exposure to en
vironmental toxins, such as pesticides, solvents, and fertilizers. Some studies point to specific ingredients in herbicides and pesticides, such as organochlorine, organophosphate, and phenoxyacid compounds. Often there is simply no explaination for its occurrence.

Bill had been shocked when one of Mona's physicians told himn she may have had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for 10 to 15 years. That is one of the reasons he wants to help raise money for research.

"I'm going to raise some money to get research to find an earlier way to
detect this."

And for education. "When Mona got so bad, there was no one to talk with about this. There were no brochures."
The Arkansas Chapter of the foundation will remedy that, he said.

Bill said that in trying to form the chapter, he'd encountered people all along the way who encouraged him. "Everybody has wanted to help and do what they can do."

Do what you can do. If you would like to attend monthly chapter meetings, which are held at Second Presbyterian Church in Pleasant Valley, call Bill at 501-580-8932.

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and ran in the June 2007 edition of Shoppe Talk. On February 29, 2008, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe proclaimed March 24, Mona's birthday, to be Eradicate Lymphoma Day In Arkansas.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fabrics Etc

Deborah Henry is "the textile lady." She grew up around fabrics, worked at her parents upholstery supply company, dreamed of designing fabrics, and started her own fabric store 24 years ago.

Ms. Henry's parents, Stan and Jean Rushin, own Rushin Upholstery and Supply Co., where a 10-year-old Deb started out cutting fabric samples and later learned just about all there is to know about textiles.

"So I grew up in this business. I have been taught by the best as far a running a business. I learned a lot from both of them," Deb said. "They'd put out books for the upholsterers. I'd help choose the fabrics. I was able to work in every aspect of their business, which made it easier to start my own."

That's Fabrics Etc, 11121 North Rodney Parham in The Market Place Shopping Center, where she offers thousands of fine fabrics, custom upholstery, draperies, bedspreads, wood blinds, and shutters.

Fabrics Etc first opened on Big Oak in Southwest Little Rock in 1982 as a discount fabric shop offering overruns and bargain fabrics in a building Deb had purchased previously as an investment.

"That worked for a while, but the customers were wanting the more up-to-date materials, and I wanted to do more than just sell fabrics. I wanted to do custom drapery. Alice Barrentine, a seamstress, educated me on drapery." Next came upholstery. "I loved to do antiques and bring them back to life."

Deb decided to move her shop to West Little Rock on Shackelford and began selling first quality fabrics and offering custom work for upholstery, drapes, and bedding. Finally, in 1989, she moved Fabrics Etc to The Market Place.

"I like it over here. I am one of the oldest tenents in The Market Place now."

Her shop is a great place to find just what you need for everything from material for one chair cushion to fabrics to make over every room of your home.

"My shop offers fabrics, trims, tassels, custom drapery, custom upholstery, and custom bedding. It offers hard window treatments, such as blinds and shutters, and we have a line of rugs at really good prices."

But the best thing it offers is Deb's eye for color and putting fabrics together. She has an uncanny ability to put fabrics together in a pleasing way. This gift was on display the day Shoppe Talk came to take a photograph to accompany this story.

Edna Edick came into the shop looking for material to cover a lamp shade. She was gracious enough to allow Shoppe Talk to follow her and Deb through the process of finding just the right fabric. Next the bolts of trim and tassels came out. The process took less than 15 minutes, and Mrs. Edick, a first-time customer at the shop, was very happy with the result: a floral linen for the lamp shade, a looped chenille fringe for the bottom, and a small decorative cord to trim the top.

"I love to do something like that," Deb said. "I love doing something as simple as a lamp shade or as complex as a whole bedroom. We try to give the best customer service for everything. She was pleased. It was perfect. It just worked."

Sometimes customers come in with their carpet and paint samples and just kind of camp out. It's that kind of laid-back atmosphere. "It's friendly, and that's the way I want it to be. Sometimes people just sit on the floor and spread out their projects. Our customers come in and tell us how comfortable they feel."

Sometimes customers come in with their decorators, and those professionals make their selections from Deb's stock. There's a large variety of cloth on bolts - silks, chenilles, linens, Jacquards - from all the leading mills. And the shop offers a large library of fabric books as well as fabric samples arranged by color along one wall.

You'll find bold colors, fun geometrics, embroidered silks. "One of my dreams was to go to design school in New York. I wanted to design fabric. It just wasn't possible (for financial reasons). But now I get to pick all the designers I like.

"We carry a nice run of children's fabrics, from the whimsical to the sophisticated. The cornice board is sophisticated," she said, referring to a custom baby ensemble. "The cornice board is red faux suede with (ivory) embroidered initials. The bumper pads are done in ivory diamond quilted and red faux suede and piped in a read and black small check. The ties and cording are in the small check, and we did a plaid silk dust ruffle, in ivory, black, and red plaid."

Amanda Pannell, who works in the shop, designed the gorgeous ensemble, and Deb's wonderful seamstress did the work.

"My seamstress does all the drapery and bedding. She has been with me for 18 years, and I think she is one of the best. And I have two people who upholster." (And the names of all three are a closely guarded secret.)

Several women work in the shop, including Renee Rushin and Lois Moffatt, and all are available for consultation to help choose fabrics. Or Deb will go to your home to work with you there. Her residential customer list reads like a Who's Who of Little Rock, and textiles from Fabrics Etc may be found in business around the city too.

Whether you want to spend a lot or just a little, Deb wants to please you. "I can cover just about any budget. My customers tell me I have the best prices in town." Fabrics are prices from as low as $6 a yard in the "bargain barrel" to $200 a yard and every cost in between. "We've got a lot of good fabrics in the bargain barrel, and we always have a bargain barrel. And I have impromptu sales."

Deb has a lot of repeat customers. One, for example, has had her do six houses over the years, and now Deb is working on selecting fabrics for her seventh home.

"This year, we're seeing an influx of customers from about 10 years ago. The styles have changed, and they're ready for a new look.

Getting to know Deb Henry

Where were you born? Little Rock.

Do you have children? I have a daughter, Shera Henry. She is the light of my life. She lives in New Orleans. She survived the hurricane. Shera came to work in the store (in Little Rock) for two or three months. She has a natural talent; she was great at it. She has an anthropology degree and is looking for work (in New Orleans). The place where she was working is still closed.

Do you have pets? I have a cat named Chuck who is a female. She is the most loving animal I've ever had. I adopted Chuck from one of my daughter's college friends. When Chuck was named, they thought she was a he. And I have Oscar, a weenie dog.

What's your favorite restaurant? Lilly's.

What's your favorite book? The Bible. Right now, I'm reading The Wind Is My Mother written by Bear Heart with Molly Larkin.

Favorite writer? Charles Stanley.

Movie? Dancing with Wolves.

City? Eureka Springs and New Orleans.

What do you do in your spare time? I like to go trout fishing. I love the Little Red River. My parents have a cabin on the Little Red. Every chance I have, I escape to there.

Is there anything you'd like to learn how to do? I would like to learn stained glass and pottery.

What would you do if you won the lottery? I would probably build a shelter for the homeless. I have this great need in my heart to help people. I would pay off my daughter's student loans and then reach out and spread the wealth among the less fortunate.

Is there anything you'd like to see Little Rock do differently? I'd like to see Little Rock stop cutting down our trees and taking away the natural part of the state. There's too much concrete. ... Senior citizens need to be taken care of. When they have to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine, attention needs to be paid to that. (Deb described an elderly woman she helped through St. Francis House.) They've worked all their lives and have to choose between food and medicine. I paid her pharmacy bill. All she wanted was someone to pay her pharmacy bill.

Is there anything you'd like to see the nation do differently? I'd like them to stop the war and take care of our own. ... 'Love' is a big word, but I think we need more love. People were reaching out, helping the Katrina victims. I think that showed a lot of compassion. I was impressed.

If you could have a dream dinner party and invite any three people, past or present, who would you ask? Einstein. John Kennedy. George Washington and Abe Lincoln. That's four. That's okay. And John Lennon.

(This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and appeared in the March 2006 edition of Shoppe Talk.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cantrell Gallery, Where a Lot of Great Artists Hang Around

For almost three decades, hundreds of artists in Arkansas and the Mid-South have benefited from their association with Cantrell Gallery, the spacious gallery at 8206 Cantrell R

Almost any time you visit, you'll find the works of about 40 artists exhibited ther
e - oils, watercolors, sculpture, photography, pottery, stained glass, scratch board, hand-blown and fused glass, and jewelry. It's an impressive eclectic collection. In an adjacent room of the gallery, one-person and group shows are held on average eight times a year.

It all began in 1970 when Helen Scott, owner of Cantrell Gallery, opened Art Fair with her husband, Norman, on West 7th Street downtown.

"We both worked other jobs. Within a year, we started doing custom framing, and Norman resigned from his position with the state. I quit teaching and joined the business full time," Mrs. Scott said.

Art Fair moved to a second location on 7th Street, but soon Helen and Norman learned they they would have to move again.

"We got up one morning and learned in the paper that the city had bought the block," she said. It was to become the site for the new Central Fire Station. Facing what might have been considered a setback, the Scotts used this as an opportunity to grow and opened two locations, at 3408 South University and 1118 West 3rd Street.

In 1976 they added their location on Cantrell Road, becoming one of the first tenants buy signing up for space soon after ground was broken for the Cantrell Heights Shopping Center, and also kept open the 3rd Street site.

"We kept the location on 3rd Street for a long time. But we decided we'd like to both be together at the same location."

So they closed it, and together, they remodeled the new space to look more like a gallery and renamed it Cantrell Gallery. There, in 1980, they held their first one-person show. It featured famed Arkansas artist Warren Criswell.

In 1990, their daughter, Cindy Scott-Huisman, and son-in-law, Clarke Huisman, joined the team. This enabled them to expand into the space next door, which more than doubled their gallery space.

The Scotts had hoped the two would join the business, but they had to wait until the young people had a go at the theater. Mrs. Scott-Huisman was graduated from Hendrix College after majoring in humanities and theater.

"She took a job at The Rep, and that's where she met Clarke," Helen said. "After that year was over, she told us, 'I'm ready to join the business.' We said, 'Yea!"

Meanwhile, Mr. Huisman went to California to work with the Berkeley Reperatory Theater. When he returned to Arkansas, he and Cindy were married, and Clarke joined the business too.

"It's just been a wonderful family business," Helen said. "When they joined the business, we were able to take over the next space. (That meant) we could really concentrate on art shows.

"Our first one-person show when we remodeled in 1980 featured Warren Criswell. In 1990, when we expanded into the new space, Warren did our first one-person show. He's just extremely talented. We have enjoyed a long relationship with him."

A large part of Cantrell Gallery's business is made up of their custom framing, which they do for artists and for the public. Acid-free materials, UV protection glass, and other quality framing methods are employed. "We've tried to keep up with the newest and best ways to frame," Helen said.

Cantrell Gallery has enjoyed a long relationship with the Arkansas Arts Center, which can make for some thrilling experiences.

"It's exciting when you realize, oh, this is a Chagall watercolor I hold in my hands. We have framed a lot of art in their permanent collection."

That is the work of Clarke and Cindy. Clarke does the framing, and Cindy handles the finishing details. She is also director of exhibits for the gallery.

"Clark is just fantastic. He is so mediculous in all things. Perfection is in everthing he does. Cindy does what we call 'fitting,' and that's the last thing. She finishes it out. They are really a great team."

Having a family business and spending each day with the folks you love best has been a wonderful experience, Helen said.

"Even with being together all the time like we are, they are just my most favorite people to go out and eat with, to spend time with. We really enjoy one another. I think having that business and doing that every day is the most fun thing in the world."

And the gallery is a place of peace and beauty.

"There's beautiful art work. Classical music is playing. (There are) wonderful clients. What more could you want?"

Since 1980, a lot of great artists have "hung around." Recent works include those by painter/sculptor/ cartoonist John Deering, watercolorist Barry Lindley, impressionist Sandy Hubler, scratch board artist Sally Maxwell, Patricia Wilkes, who does oils, pastels, and commissioned portraits, and Ovita Goolsby, who works in oils, mixed media, and does commissioned portraits.

The gallery has had its share of whimsical exhibits, including art by Mary the elephant. When folks at an elephant sanctuary in Greenbrier first called about their elephant who could paint, Helen said she thought it was a joke.

But the cause was good - to raise money for the sanctuary - so Helen said yes, and one Sunday afternoon Mary was stationed on the sidewalk outside the gallery in one of Little Rock's posher neighborhoods where she did indeed "paint" for onlookers and startled passersby on Cantrell Road.

"She sat on the sidewalk and painted. Willie Oates (Little Rock's legendary 'hat lady') brought her a beret. It was a Sunday afternoon. People were driving by on Cantrell. They were saying, 'That's an elephant!'"

You may enjoy the wonderful art at Cantrell Gallery 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

This story was written by Bobbi Nesbitt and first appeared in the August 2005 edition of Shoppe Talk.