Childhood Cancer Survivor Uses Her Experience to Help Others as an Oncology Nurse


The average child will get six to 10 colds every year, which can really put a damper on things. However, many children endure much worse. Children are diagnosed with cancer at alarming rates. Every day, approximately 43 children begin fighting for their lives after doctors discover that they have cancer.

While there have been advances in the treatments of childhood cancers over the years — there is a much higher survival rate for these children than there was half a century ago — the number of childhood cancer diagnoses has not dropped in the last 20 years.

A Western Michigan native, Candie Ritsema, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, when she was 12 years old and was treated with six months of chemotherapy, followed by a bone marrow transplant.

Ritsema beat her cancer, and went on to become an oncology nurse in order to help children like her.

“…I’m kind of glad I didn’t know what to expect,” Ritsema said. “When I look back, if I would’ve known how bad things were I think I would’ve mentally broke down.”

She now works in Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, where she meets with patients like Carter Piglowski, a five-year-old boy who has acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He has spinal taps every three months and regular rounds of chemotherapy.

Unlike Ritsema, Carter knows exactly what is going on.

“Immediately after he got diagnosed…we started talking to him about it,” said Amanda Piglowski, Carter’s mother. “We told him that he’s going to beat this he knows he will.”

The advanced treatments available today make Carter’s fight much more promising than her own, which she took on over 20 years ago. She had to travel to a different hospital for her bone marrow transplant, but Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has all the equipment that kids like Carter need to receive the best possible care.

Ritsema’s desire to take her own unfortunate situation and apply it to helping others has given her great joy and fulfillment, and the empathy she has towards children in the oncology unit has helped many find the strength to keep fighting.

Michigan Glampers Bring a Whole New Spin to Camping

In 2014, campers in the U.S. spent more than $1.5 billion dollars on camping equipment, including backpacks and sleeping bags. Now, those in Northern Michigan are spending their camping budgets on something a little bit different.
Motorhomes at Norwegian campsite
Called “glampers,” Michigan campers are heading on the road in a unique way. A new Pinterest-worthy camping trend is popping up all over the state, taking those old tin can campers from days past and making them into something new and different.

In light of the large RVs that are reminiscent of moving mansions, these creative little tin can campers bring camping aficionados to simpler times. These little guys come with all the necessities and not much else.

The idea behind them is that a camper won’t need much to enjoy their time on the road.

“It’s so simple. It is what it is. You don’t take a lot of stuff because you don’t have room. It’s easy. You just hook it up and go,” Deb Viele, owner of a glamper explained to the Detroit Free Press. “You can basically leave it ready to go and jump on the road.”

But these glampers are a little bit different. They boast retro fittings to make a temporary home much more exciting than the typical RVs one can find on the market. Think turquoise ovens, lemon yellow cabinetry, olive green tables, and hula girls swaying in the windows.

These glampers are around 13-feet-long, and can easily be pulled by any vehicle with a towing hitch. Glampers can range between $700 to $20,000 depending on their quality, size, and interior furnishings.

There is even a resort open in Northern Michigan that will help glampers come together. The 229-acre Bella Solviva resort, located near East Jordan and Traverse City, has been open since April and is open for anyone and everyone who enjoys camping with a glamorous twist.

Don’t have a glamper but would like to enjoy the experience? No worries. Bella Sloviva resort boasts 320 campsites that allow guests to stay in safari tents, tree houses, glampers, and converted airliners. Included in the price is a concierge service and full catered meals.

Glamping? Sign us up.

Trump Makes Surprise Campaign Stop in Grand Rapids

Image: Michael Vadon

Image: Michael Vadon

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a surprise stop in Grand Rapids on Friday while campaigning through various parts of Michigan. He and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani paid a visit to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum before attending a luncheon with donors at the J.W. Marriott hotel downtown.

The Ford Museum was already experiencing higher than average traffic due to visitors attending the ArtPrize exhibition. Trump’s unanticipated arrival caused both excitement and delays among the crowd.

“That was pretty cool,” said Jeff Hearth, a banker from Clarksville who supports Trump. “To me, it just seems scary that people get embedded with the corruption in Washington, and Donald Trump is not part of that.”

The latest Michigan polls show Trump trailing Democratic party nominee Hillary Clinton by an eight-point margin. In West Michigan, however, Trump leads Clinton with 41.2% of support compared to her to 23.6%.

The GOP presidential hopeful has roused controversy within his own party by refusing to release detailed information about his tax returns or personal health. Clinton, too, has had to dispel rumors about her health after a bout of pneumonia put her off the campaign trail for a few days earlier this month. Trump, aged 70, and Clinton, 68, both belong to the Baby Boomer generation — 60% of whom will be managing chronic health conditions by the year 2030.

Trump and Mayor Giuliani offered flowers at the grave sites of former President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, outside of the Grand Rapids museum, though not all locals were pleased with the gesture.

“Gerald R. Ford was a Grand Rapids man of sterling character and humble demeanor who would have no truck for Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump,” Tweeted resident Christian Bell.

As Trump continues his tour through Michigan, Clinton is campaigning in Florida this weekend. Her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, will appear at an organizing event in Traverse City on Friday.

Grand Rapids Man Invents Energy Efficient Window Coatings That Are Changing the Way People See Windows

Even though replacing standard windows with those that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations will lower your energy bills by up to 15%, one Grand Rapids company has found a way to cut costs while keeping your windows exactly where they are.

John Slagter, president of Grand Rapid’s Mackinac Technology Co., was trying to focus on concernWindow with curtainss his customers had over rising energy costs in their home. He was previously focused on developing a vacuum insulation panel that would be installed in walls, when his attention shifted to windows.

This was five years ago. Now Slagter is on his way to commercialize a new energy efficient product that can be easily installed on top of existing windows. These window covering panels are made from a durable polymer pane that feels like a plastic but bends to the touch, and can be custom fit onto any size window frame.

There are even multi-pane units that can increase insulation value and energy savings even more.

How it works is simple. As described in Midwestern Energy News, the transparent polymer panes are resistant to discoloration, and they reflect ultraviolet light entering a home from outdoors. They also have a high R-value, which is a value given to a material based on how well it holds warm and cool air within a building.

To put this in perspective, an R-value of styrofoam is five, and a thick six inches of fiberglass has an R-value of 13. One thin, single pane of Slagter’s invention can have an R-level of as high as 13.

Not only is this window pane becoming increasingly popular in both the residential and commercial construction sectors, the U.S. military is showing interest. Earlier this month, Slagter signed a $1 million dollar contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center to develop a product for the U.S. Department of Defense’s facilities.

Michigan Representatives Involved in Sex Scandal Sue State Over Defamation

As established by the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. is made up of 435 members elected every two years from among the 50 states. On the state level, Michigan has 110 members in their House of Representatives, but after a scandal last year, there are only 108.

Photo: Michigan Attorney General

Photo: Michigan Attorney General

Former Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat were involved in a sex scandal last year, after reports of the pair having an affair went viral. These accusations generated two separate lawsuits and multiple criminal charges for the couple.

The affair came to light after Courser sent an anonymous email to lawmakers across Michigan claiming Gamrat was a “sexual deviant”, who paid for sex with men outside gay bars in Lansing, The Detroit Free Press reports.

The email was allegedly used by Courser as a way to portray Gamrat as a victim of a horrid sex scandal, which would then cause the affair between the two to pale in comparison if news of it ever was released.

Courser was then arrested for perjury and misconduct in office and is accused of lying to a legislative committee and forcing officials to forge his signature on false documents. The charges against Gamrat were dropped.

Gamrat was expelled from office on September 11, 2015. He resigned that same morning.

However, the pair, who are Tea Party Republicans, have now filed lawsuits against the state under the claim of defamation and dirty politics. Courser’s lawsuit is 182-pages long requesting $10 million in damages, and claims he was treated as a criminal throughout the entire process.

Gamrat filed a simple 10-page complaint asking for at least $25,000, and cites she suffered from severe anxiety, depression, humiliation, and emotional distress.

Both have specifically named governmental officials who were behind their expulsions from office.

New Implantation Device Could Slow Progression of Breast Cancer

By Think-pink (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Think-pink (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of people participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Grand Rapids earlier this month. Despite the rain, participants walked and ran in honor of those who have lost their lives to breast cancer, and in celebration of those who have survived. Proceeds from the race are used to fund lifesaving programs and research in Michigan.

Meanwhile, about two hours away in Ann Arbor, a study was published by the University of Michigan, reporting on the early success of a new device that can improve breast cancer survival by catching the cancer cells before they spread.

This small “scaffold” device, which is implanted under the skin, slows down the development of metastatic tumors, buying time for surgery and other therapies to intervene.

“This study shows that in the metastatic setting, early detection combined with a therapeutic intervention can improve outcomes,” said study author Lonnie D. Shea, Ph.D.

The scaffold, which was tested on mice, is made of FDA-approved biodegradable material commonly used for wound dressings. It is designed to mimic the environment found in organs before the cancer cells spread there. The scaffold works by attracting immune cells, which draw in the cancer cells.

“Typically, immune cells initially colonize a metastatic site and then pave the way for cancer cells to spread to that organ. Our results suggest that bringing immune cells into the scaffold limits the ability of those immune cells to prepare metastatic sites for the cancer cells,” said Shea.

In the mice, five days after tumor initiation, researchers discovered a significant percentage of tumor cells in the scaffold, but none in the lung, liver, or brain. After 15 days, they found 75% fewer cancer cells in the brains of the mice with scaffolds compared to those without the implantation. Ultimately, the study revealed that the presence of the scaffold slowed down the progression of the disease.

Authors of the study emphasized that the device is not a cure, but rather, an early detection and treatment method. About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, and researchers hope to use the device to monitor for cancer in these women who are at high risk because of genetics.

New U.S. Import Regulations Shines Positive Light on Steel Industry

Thanks to a new import tariff, steel companies around the U.S. are flourishing.

The new regulations are designed to punish companies for unlawful dumping, unfair price reductions, and/or selling cheap steel to join in on the U.S. market share.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, the U.S. Department of Commerce passed the regulations for U.S. imports and imposed the same responsibilities to seven other countries, including China, which received the largest set of regulations.

“China has been overproducing steel for years,” said Kevin Dempsey, senior vice president of public policy and general counsel for the American Iron and Steel Institute. “Way too much for their own market and even the global market. They run steel mills to maintain employment and are subsidized by their government.”

The steel industry has come a long way over the years. Now, steel parts are up to 30% stronger than they were a few years ago and are much more dent resistant as a result. It’s also become increasingly easier to mass produce steel, and in China’s case, overproduce.

The World Steel Association reports that by the end of 2014, China’s steel production increased from 200 million metric tons to more than 900 million metric tons, which was equivalent to half of the entire global supply at that time. Because of the overproduction and cheap gas prices, importing steel was cheaper than it’d been in decades.

“It was the perfect storm,” said Michael Barnett, vice president of Grand Steel.

Grand Rapids’ steel producer, Mill Steel Co., which is one of the U.S.’s largest steel distributors, has been in the news recently as well.

PR Newswire reports that Marc Rabitoy has been announced as the new chief financial officer for Mill Steel.

“Marc was highly recommended from several of Mill Steel’s trusted business partners and we are very excited to have him join us,” said David Shamrock, CEO and Chairman of Mill Steel. “I’m certain he will complement our leadership team and transition seamlessly into our people first culture.”

Another Case of Legionnaires’ Disease Diagnosed in Michigan In Wake of Flint Water Crisis

Young woman physician with stethoscope prescribing treatmentYour HVAC system’s filter keeps dirt, debris, and allergens out of the air in your home, so experts recommend changing them every three months. If these dirty filters stay in place for too long, they can start to accumulate water, which can lead to a host of health problems.

In fact, city officials in Flint have confirmed the seventh case of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County this year, which could have potentially been from a contaminated air conditioner.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia that has already killed 12 people since the Flint water crisis in 2014. The risk for this disease grows as temperature rises, and considering the fact this county only has about nine cases a year of this disease, officials are growing increasingly concerned.

The disease is caused by Legionella bacteria that thrives in warm, stagnant water. This bacteria can be found in cooling towers, hot tubs, air conditioning units, portable water systems, decorative fountains, and water heaters.

When the contaminated water is inhaled, it wreaks havoc on the body’s immune system and causes an especially violent form of pneumonia.

The most recent diagnosis occurred at McLaren Hospital, and was made public via the electronic database Michigan Disease Surveillance System. However, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has no information.

“MDHHS has no knowledge of any efforts by McLaren Hospital to appropriately assess, remediate and clear locations of patients with Legionnaires’ disease,” the MDHHS stated in an official press release.

MDHHS expressed that it was unable to acquire the full details of the case, as the department was barred by a judge’s order in August prohibiting the health department from interacting with the Genesee County Health Department on any medical diagnoses related to the Flint water crisis.

This protective order was brought to light by the Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Flint Water Investigative Team, which is bringing upon multiple felony charges against multiple city officials for the water supply switch back in 2014.

Grand Rapids Students Wave Trump and ‘Betsy Ross’ Flags During Football Game, Stir Up Controversy

stadiumGoogle is a powerful vehicle for information. On a search results page, 60% of all clicks go to the top three results. This past week, when you search for “Grand Rapids football” in the Google News section, every one of the top three results is a report about the Trump and “Besty Ross” flag controversy.

The incident took place at Houseman Field in the Grand Rapids inner city where Ottawa Hills was playing against Forest Hills Central on Friday, September 9.

A group of Forest Hills students stood in the stands, waving a Trump campaign flag and a “Betsy Ross” 13-star flag. Parents at the game said that the demonstration was inappropriate and could be intimidating or even offensive to students of Ottawa Hills, a school with a large minority student population. They said that the flags could be interpreted as symbols of white supremacy.

One parent, Matthew Patulski, remarked that for some, including himself, the “Betsy Ross” flag has become a symbol associated with white supremacy groups involved in what they call the “patriot movement.”

In an open letter to Forest Hills School officials, Patulski said that the flags and the chanting “left a lot of members of my community unsettled.”

Patulski wrote, “Your team, your coaches, your families were our guests, yet it seems many of your students are unaware of the negative impact these actions would have on members of our community in our home field.”

In response to the concern and outrage by parents, Forest Hills Schools Superintendent Dan Behm explained that the students were participating in a “red, white, and blue” theme night, which is held each year around the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“There was non ill will intended,” said Behm. “To the extent anyone felt harassed or intimidated, that was not the intent.”

Whether or not the students had an intended message, Behm has said that he is taking the matter seriously and that he hopes the students will discuss the issue during an upcoming senior retreat.

Grand Rapids Massage Therapist Enters Plea Agreement in Sexual Assault of Client

massage tableA Grand Rapids massage therapist entered a plea agreement on Monday to third-degree criminal sexual conduct for assaulting a client during a therapy session.

Per the agreement, John Timothy Ashby, 54, will not be tried for additional charges involving three more women who have come forward claiming that Ashby assaulted them at Massage Green Spa in Grand Rapids.

Ashby is the second massage therapist this year to be convicted of inappropriate conduct with clients at Massage Green Spa. In June, Lance Martinez was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual assault after admitting to touching a woman’s breast during a massage session. Just last month, Martinez was sentenced to three months in jail as well as three years of probation.

The massage parlor has since closed and a “for sale” sign can be spotted in the window at the Centerpointe Mall.

Like 60% of the U.S. jail population waiting in detention for the resolution of their trial, Ashby is currently being held in the Kent County Jail until sentencing on September 29. His bond has been set at $300,000.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the prosecutor will recommend a sentence of no more than one year behind bars; though, the judge will have the final say.

In Michigan, third-degree criminal sexual conduct is considered a felony and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison as well as mandatory sex offender registration. Needless to say, one year in prison would be a very light sentence.

Since fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct is punishable by Michigan state law with up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $500, it can also be said that Martinez’s plea agreement lets him off easy as well.