Uxbridge Book Lovers’ Ball and Benefit Speech

Below is the speech I gave at the Uxbridge Book Lover’s Ball and Benefit Gala on April 14, 2012:

It’s really heartwarming to see so many book lovers here this evening in support of the Uxbridge Public Library. The book gala committee asked if I would speak a little bit about my family’s connection with Uxbridge. However, seeing so many familiar faces here tonight, I think most of you already know that Vi Tu and I come from a family of seven kids, and that our family fled Viet Nam as boat refugees. Most of you know that we were sponsored to Canada by a group of extraordinary people here in Uxbridge. A group led by Barb and Ted Murphy to whom we are forever indebted. We’ve been touched by many people like The Murphys and The Ball family who helped us stand on our own feet. I could be up here for hours telling you all about our angels in Uxbridge.

But today I only have five minutes, and I’d like to spend that time telling you about one individual, someone who’s had a profound influence on me personally and my family. Her name is Doris Muckle. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting her, you’ll understand how blessed I feel to have such a beautiful human being in my life. It’s because of Doris that I developed my own joy of reading. Every time we would visit her, without fail the first thing she would ask me is “What have you been reading lately?”. Just like some of my patients who floss right before their dental appointments (because they know I’m going to ask), I made sure I was always reading something before we saw her. I never wanted to disappoint her, so I kept reading. At first, it felt like a chore. But just as with flossing, I found that the more I read, the more I actually began to enjoy it. I have Doris to thank for my deep appreciation of books and reading.

However, Doris’ connection with my family started much earlier than that. When we first moved from Uxbridge into the city in 1981, we lived in government subsidized housing in an area called Jamestown – this is a neighbourhood where gangs and crime were all around, not exactly a place where any of us would choose to raise our kids. Even today, I would be nervous to walk in this neighbourhood in broad daylight. Yet, we lived there for three years because that was all we could afford. In 1984, my parents decided it was becoming too dangerous and we had to move out. So Ted Murphy drove my family around to see some homes and they found one that my parents thought would be perfect – a small 4 bedroom house that could accommodate the whole family. There was one minor problem though; my dad was making $4 per hour at the time and there was absolutely no way he could afford the $20000 down payment. But, just as our hopes and dreams of owning this house were escaping us, Ted Murphy told my dad that someone in Uxbridge had anonymously agreed to give us an interest-free loan for the full amount of the down payment. This was at a time when mortgage rates were 12%, my parents had no credit history, spoke very little English, and there was no guarantee we could ever repay this loan. Yet, somebody out there was willing to vouch for us. My dad accepted the money gratefully with one condition – that the donor’s identity be revealed. We found out it was none other than Doris Muckle.

It’s not often that a complete stranger touches your life like that, but when it happens you’ll never forget it. Money can always be repaid, but gifts of kindness can never be paid back. They can only be paid forward, which is what my family and I will be doing for the rest of our lives.

I went to visit Doris a couple of weeks ago. She just turned 92 this year. Her eyesight has deteriorated to the point where she can no longer read – the very thing she cherished so much and taught me to enjoy. Her body has become so weak that she is forced to spend most of her time in bed. Yet, despite all the challenges she has been going through personally, I was completely amazed to see that she is still putting others before herself. From her bed, Doris has organized the nurses in her retirement home to collect used stamps which are sold to raise money for The Leprosy Mission of Canada. Doris is living proof that the giving should never stop.

And just as I was leaving her that day, she asked me “What have you been reading lately?”

In honour of Doris Muckle and the Uxbridge Public Library, which she has enjoyed so much over the years, may you all never stop giving of yourselves and never stop asking “What have you been reading lately?”

– Dr. Michael Banh



April is Oral Health Month – Focus: Oral Cancer

Oral health is often considered the window to general health, thus the importance of having a healthy mouth cannot be stressed enough.  Certain diseases in the mouth can affect the rest of your body, and can even be fatal if left untreated.  One such disease is oral cancer.

Oral cancer is a disease that can affect your lips, oro-pharynx, throat, cheeks, palate, gums, salivary glands, and floor of the mouth.  Males over 40 are at higher risk, however both genders and people of all ages can be effected.

Signs and symptoms of Oral Cancer:

  • Lumps on the lips, tongue or neck
  • Prolonged sore throat or trouble swallowing
  • Ulcers in the mouth that don’t heal within two weeks
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained numbness in the tongue, lips, or jaw

The key to beating oral cancer is through early diagnosis.  A major component of regular dental visits is the oral cancer screening process where all the tissues of the head, neck, and mouth are examined for possible signs of the disease – dental exams are not only for the gums and teeth.  The chances of successful treatment are higher if a suspicious lesion is detected early enough during the oral cancer screening.  If it is not detected, the oral cancer can spread to other parts of the body.

How can I prevent Oral Cancer?

Some of the factors that raise the risk of oral cancer are smoking and excessive alcohol use.  Those who smoke or drink alcohol increase their risk of getting oral cancer.  Those who do both, are at even more risk.  Quitting both is ideal, but failing that a reduction in the amount of smoking and alcohol consumption will help to lower this risk.  However, it’s important to note that 25% of oral cancers are detected in people who neither smoke nor drink – so everyone is at risk and needs to be screened regularly.

Another way to prevent oral cancer may include practising safer-sex.  It has been shown that some forms of the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) which has been linked to cervical cancer can also cause oral cancer.

As with any sexually transmitted disease, reducing the number of sexual partners and the use of a condom may reduce the risk of trasmission of HPV.

For those who spend a lot of time outdoors (ie: construction workers or farmers), the use of lip balm with SPF is recommended to protect from the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Finally, eating more fruits and vegetables will help to reduce the risk of oral cancer – higher levels of vitamin C or carotene consumption have been associated with lower risks of oral cancer.

In light of April being declared Oral Health Month, if you haven’t seen your dentist in a while, or have a relative or friend who neglects his or her oral health, make an appointment to see a dentist for a checkup.  You could be saving a life, possibly your own.

– Dr. Michael Banh