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Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

It sometimes seems that cancer treatments are very harsh, and cause ongoing health problems (see my last post), so could there really be help for cancer from the humble pomegranate?

New research published this month has shown that compounds found in pomegranates act to slow tumour growth in breast cancers which are hormone dependant. This is research done in a laboratory (published by the American Association for Cancer Research), but the implication is that this could translate into a real help in people with the disease – or even help with prevention.

If you take this research and put it together with previous studies, which showed that drinking pomegranate juice slowed the progression of prostate cancer (another hormone dependant cancer) it does look as though this could really help some people. (Reported in 2006)

What are your thoughts?

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Even after cancer recovery, ongoing health problems may not be properly addressed, MacMillan Cancer support reported today. These health problems may include physical symptoms caused by either the cancer or the treatment, or mental/emotional issues such as memory loss, depression or anxiety (see this news item at the BBC). Cancer survivorship is not the end of the story. (more…)

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How many people have wished you a Happy New Year? How many have awkwardly avoided the subject, if they know your family is in an unhappy time, facing illness and challenge?

At this time of the year, when a friend or family member is facing cancer (or you have lost someone), the traditional New Year celebrations and resolutions may seem hollow. Who cares if you lose weight or get fit when someone’s life hangs in the balance? Everyone else may seem to be looking ahead with the excitement of unwrapping a final present – a whole fresh year in which anything is possible. Perhaps you just can’t think that far ahead.

But of course there’s no rule that says you have to join in. It’s perfectly fine to have no New Year Resolutions at all. If you want to mark 2010 in some way, you could declare it ‘the year of family’, or ‘emotional regrouping’.

If you do want to set some resolutions, here are a few ideas that might be a bit more helpful:

  • Resolve to look after your own health by eating properly and making time for moderate exercise.
  • Resolve to accept that everyone is under stress and forgive any mistakes or harsh words (yours or other peoples).
  • Resolve to make time for yourself, even if only a little, to do things you enjoy.
  • Resolve to let go of any past disagreements that are still festering.
  • Resolve to find something to laugh about, a new friendship or a sense of peace in the year ahead.

Do any of these resolutions appeal to you? What are your suggestions? Please add them as a reply below.

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The first Christmas after losing someone dear to you, is always hard. Those around you are celebrating, spending happy times with family – or moaning about how stressful it all is.
How can you deal with this time of year when there is such a gap in your life? It’s not too late to jump off the merry-go-round if you feel it is all becoming too much for you this year. Here are a few points to consider.

  • Don’t pretend that nothing has changed – it would be false to pretend that there isn’t a gap in your family. Even children want the loss to be recognised.
  • Consider abandoning the traditional celebrations. If you have lost someone dear to you this year, you don’t owe it to anyone to fake cheerfulness if you’re not ready for it. You may get invitations from well-meaning people to spend time with them because they hate the idea of you being alone. Only accept if it’s what you want.
  • Express how you feel. You may be terrified of opening up your heart because of your grief. But expressing that grief to someone else, or in writing, is the best way to heal it.
  • Make a special memory of your loved one. This could be something you create yourself, such as writing a poem. It could simply be drinking a toast in their memory. Or you could light a candle each day for a few minutes of recognition and remembrance.
  • Appreciate what you do still have. However much you miss this person, there are others who are still here. Write a list of everybody you appreciate having in your life. Taking the time to count your blessings is a step towards the future.

There is no rule which says you have to behave in a certain way at this time of year in order to make others more comfortable. However, if you can let the holiday spirit in just a little, perhaps that will also help you move forward into the year ahead.

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Last week I went to be interviewed on Hope FM radio, and was talking about how there are many people who find it hard to join in with the general happy mood of Christmas because of a variety of challenges. One of these is facing cancer in your family, another is Christmas without a loved one who has died in the last year (or last several years).

I wanted to share with you this video about facing Christmas, and how you can help others even if you are not in this situation yourself. I recorded it last year, but think it is just as relevant now.

Next time, I’ll share some coping strategies which may make a difference. I hope to be able to also share the interview with you next week.

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Last week a news item was reported saying that a person’s chance of surviving a year from a cancer diagnosis in the UK varies depending on where they live. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘postcode lottery’. You can read more on this news item here.
These statistics are certainly cause for concern. Where you live should not determine the quality of your care. But is the issue really as clear cut as that? Are the differences a result of the care that is given, or the screening in the area – or are there cultural factors at play, with people in one geographical are more likely to go to the doctor with worrying symptoms than others?
The parliamentary group has suggested that targets for one-year survival which do not take account of age be put into place across the whole of the NHS. It is claimed that this would benefit over-75s in particular. But benefit them in what way?
Unfortunately, I fear that what would actually happen is that, given such a target, there would be an emphasis on prolonging peoples’ lives beyond the one year measure. This could be at the expense of that natural death I was supporting in my last post. Prolonging life can be an expensive business. In our already stretched health service, I would hate to see the focus being put on causing suffering to the dying by extending their lives to meet a target at the expense of helping them die well, or even worse at the expense of other treatments.
Surely a better focus would be to reach the underlying reasons for the geographical differences – which may not be the same in each area. Sure, ask health services to improve their practices where they are not up to scratch – but also make sure that the money does not need to be spent on education for doctors to recognize symptoms, or outreach to communities as to what symptoms require investigation (as in iVan which I mentioned in an earlier post).

How do you think this information can best be used? Do you like the idea of targets? Let me know your thoughts in the replies below, and let’s join the debate.

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It was recently reported that morphine may encourage the spread of cancer – and yet this a drug which can be given to those who have the disease. See BBC News Article As a person who is not medically qualified, I do not have sufficient knowledge to determine how relevant this information is to people who have cancer in general, or any specific person’s cancer. And yet this kind of information is now available to me and every person searching desperately for anything to help themselves or a family member survive cancer and thrive in the future.
But what is the quality of the information? How can you judge? This is a study of whether morphine causes cancer to progress, and the results indicate that it could indeed do so. And yet those commenting on the results say both that further testing will be needed before clinical decisions change, and that there is a drug which could be given in addition to suppress the action. Once upon a time, not very long ago, this kind of information would be available to a few people who were qualified to understand the research and what it meant – and of course they would probably have their own differing opinions and viewpoints. Now such information is all too easy to get through the internet, though unless we have experience of medical language we will probably have to trust others to interpret it for us.
As a family member or supporter, what are you to do with this information if you come across it? Should you speak to the person who has cancer, counselling them to avoid morphine at all costs? (If I was working on getting better from cancer, I think I might find such advice a little wearing after a while, however well-intentioned.) Should you contact their doctors demanding to know whether the person has been given morphine and if so what will change now? Or possibly just throw up your hands and despair of ever understanding all the complicated information?
I think that the right approach is to make the most of the information available by following some research guidelines:

  1. As a friend or family member, only do research if the person who has cancer wants you to do so. Offer, but never insist or send information without permission.
  2. Preferably only one person should do (or at least co-ordinate) the research, and then feed back their findings to the person who has cancer. The person who has cancer can then decide what to ask the medical staff. If this is not possible, the person who has done the research should attend hospital appointments in order to ask any necessary questions. For instance it would be acceptable to ask if there are any alternatives if morphine is suggested.
  3. Question the source of information carefully. Is it unbiased? Who paid for studies, for instance? Was the research well designed (if you cannot tell, see what is being said about it by other parties)?
  4. Limit questions to the medical staff as much as possible to those which are relevant to the person’s current situation and treatment.
  5. Limit time spent researching and/or rely on a small number of trusted sources (the good ones will report on everything significant). Those trusted sources could include ones which are specific to the type and stage of cancer your friend or family member has.
  6. Remember that you can’t be expected to understand everything. As you do more research your level of understanding will probably grow.
  7. Look for positive stories as well as negative or worrisome information. It’s always good to have some hope.

You can find a short list of trusted cancer information websites by visiting Families Facing Cancer.

Please share your stories and feedback below. Has the internet provided information which helped (or didn’t help) your family? Does researching on the internet depress you, or help you feel more in control? Share these or any other thoughts by typing into the comment box. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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