It is that time of the month again—the Letter From the Editor is (over)due at CAHO Central, and my idea well is dry. It is not that there isn’t a lot going on; an extraordinary Tour de France is now over. We have worldwide attention focused on the Olympics (Go Phelps!!). The Syrian situation doesn’t seem to be heading towards resolution in a reasonable time frame. The pile of journals that arrived in my absence is still cellophane-wrapped. It is that I just have not been around much lately, and my jet-lagged mind is still catching up. I first attended the now semi-annual Pan Pacific Lymphoma Conference in Maui and arrived home on Saturday morning on the red-eye, only to leave for France the next day. Thus, I guess I could write about my jet lag (see N Engl J Med. 2010;362:440-447, for an extensive review of the condition). To quote the author, Dr. Sack, I have a “temporary misalignment between the circadian clock and local time. The circadian clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, is normally synchronized to the solar light-dark cycle and promotes alertness during the day and sleep at night. The clock is slow to reset, so that after time zones have been crossed, the endogenous signals for sleep and wakefulness do not match the local light-dark and social schedules.” In other words, I have no idea where I am or when it is!!
What is foremost in my addled mind at the moment is the reason I went to France—my splendid cycling vacation in Brittany and Normandy from whence I have just returned. My wife and I and three of our friends joined 13 others from around the U.S. to pedal about the countryside and the beaches of D-Day, including Pointe du Hoc, Omaha, and Juno. The others referred to us as “The Five,” not only because we were 5 and cycled and spent a lot of time together, but because we all rode in our Lymphoma Research Ride shirts—advertising the 6th annual event (September 30). Visiting Normandy is an awe-inspiring experience, viewing the beaches where the soldiers who landed were picked off by the Germans by the thousands like clay pigeons, the cliffs the Rangers had to scale with ropes and ladders, attempting to destroy the Nazi bunkers and provide an opening for the Allied troops to generate an offense. We saw the remains of the Atlantic Wall that Field Marshal Rommel viewed as the first line of defense against an invasion, to the point where a concrete production plant was even installed on the beaches to facilitate construction. Many of the structures still stand, several with the cannons in place and pointing out to what was once a horizon filled with thousands of ships and planes, now peaceful miles of sand and sea. At Mulberry Beach are the remnants of a harbor commanded by Churchill to be built, and built it was in but 12 hours. The German and American cemeteries were a striking contrast, from dour and dark for the former, to white marble, uplifting statues, and a beautiful chapel in the latter. Our trip was capped off in the town of Caen, where there is a wonderful WWII museum, and we were honored to have an hour-and-a-half presentation by delightful, 92-year-old Andre Heintz, who had been a member of the French Resistance and survived to tell us his story. In his 20s, he lived a life of spy dramas, involving false IDs hidden in the back of an upright piano and clandestine photographs of the German military build-up that he took for the Allies. He acted as an interpreter as the Allies moved through France. As a reward for his services, he was brought to the UK, where he spent 2 years teaching French in Edinburgh. He returned to a town rendered by the bombing to a pile of rubble. Admittedly, I had but a limited idea of what transpired on and around June 6, 1944. But, as I read Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day and experienced the Normandy beaches, I became very grateful to those whose sacrifices made it possible for all that we now take for granted. It also confirms the wastefulness of war.
Hopefully, my clock will be reset by next month (let’s see, with a day per time zone, I should be adjusted only 24 days from now) . . . .
Bruce D. Cheson