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Monday, January 05, 2009

New evidence on third hand smoking toxicity

This is a fascinating and challenging article on new research which shows that the toxicity of cigarettes lingers on in the skin, hair and clothing of the smoker, creating hazards for all who come into contact.
Please do not wait any longer. Find the will and a way to stop now. The lives of those you love are at risk as long as you continue to smoke.
Hypnotherapy helps more people quit permanently than any other approach. There are many reputable therapists out there who specialise. Contact one.
Should you wish to try solo, contact me. I create individually crafted hypnotic recordings either as an mp3 download or cd with support material. Whatever you chose, do it now.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


In my January 1st post, I mentioned that I was waiting for the results of a biopsy. Well, I am still waiting, going about my daily life in my usual way, but with that frisson of something different, a ripple of disturbance in my usual calm, a background hum of dissonance.

My story is one common to many women and in other bodily areas to many men. Our bodies are running rogue programmes which we did not notice had slipped through our system's protective software. In my case, it started with an increase in the irregular menstrual bleeding which has continued all the way through peri-menopause and well into what should be menopause itself. The longest I have gone without any meaningful bleeding is 8 months. We have a history of late menopause in the family as my aunts were all in their mid to late fifties when they finally ceased bleeding, so I thought nothing of it.

Well that is not quite true. I smiled quietly to myself and thought that I was simply aging slowly. We are a youthful family with good skin that remains unwrinkled into our seventies, lots of energy and a good genetic track record. My mother is 80 and my father 86. With one exception my mother's siblings lived into their eighties and one who still teaches every day will be 90 next June. On Dad's side, his two aunts were in their 90s and working in the fields of their farm until near the end. We are generally a long lived and healthy breed. So I guess I was in a place of ignorant complacency about my health. Then there is the small matter of a life time of obesity; we all know the dangers in theory but right now they are very real.

When my mother had a stroke in June, the bleeding became heavier and very frequent, nothing alarming, just more in quantity and more often. I was also waking up in pain, feeling as though someone was boring a hole in my lower spine. Then there were the aches and pains in all my joints and a general weariness that alarmed me. Then again, Mum's stroke had been a terrible shock to all of us and I was living at the hospital during the day and spending every night with my father at home, listening for him falling over when he lost his balance. Stress plays havoc with all the body systems so I tried to ignore the symptoms and told myself that it would all settle down when Mum was out of hospital. It didn't. It got worse.

I am not the type to panic but I thought it was time to visit my doctor. First I arrange for a smear test just to rule out problems with my cervix. I thought it might have been a recurrence of a polyp which I had been treated for many years ago. Everything looked good during the examination and the results showed healthy cells. Polyp ruled out - cervical cancer ruled out. Breathe deeply and sigh with relief.

However, my blood test taken at the same time showed high levels of inflammation somewhere in my body, It's not a result doctors like to see as it can be anything from an infected tooth to arthritis, a sinus infection to cancer. I have plantar fasciitis in my left foot which I chose to believe accounted for this but my doctor very sensibly decided it needed further investigation and referred me for a scan of my ovaries and womb. The wheels of the NHS ground exceeding slow but eventually my appointment arrived just after my doctor gave me the results of my latest blood tests. Bad news: inflammatory levels even higher. Good news: the test for ovarian cancer markers were negative. Huge sigh of relief because it had crossed my mind that my symptoms might indicate this.

Up to the hospital for the scan - dozens of women waiting, bladders bursting from the litres of water we had to consume to ensure a good scan. One poor woman was absolutely frantic. We waited for almost an hour before someone told us that they were down a radiographer and they were waiting for a consultant to finish rounds to come down to help.I offered up a silent prayer that I would get the consultant because that would mean he would give me the results straight away. As they sent other women down to various radiographers, they called my name and two others to another part of the department. Then the consultant arrived and my prayer was answered. He was amazing. He described everything he saw. Ovaries - all normal, no cause for concern. Womb looked good. Endometrium showing some thickening. Where was I in my cycle? "Havn't a clue." So apart from that he said that everything looked good and we had a short conversation about our sons who had both started university this year.

So here I am, six months down the line, one cervical smear, one pelvic scan and two endometrial biopsies later (the first one was clear but with insufficient tissue) still waiting. The likelihood is that it is a hormonal imbalance brought on by a combination of stress and too much oestrogen in my system produced by all these happy little fat cells. A course of progesterone should restore the balance and stop the carcinogenic influence of the excess oestrogen. Fingers and toes are crossed. Hopefully my results will be in early next week and I can start on the progesterone.

So that is the saga so far with much of the emotional roller coaster omitted. Ladies, do not ignore the symptoms I blithely took to be perfectly normal. If a shadow of a doubt crosses your mind about pains or bleeding, see your physician. Life is precious. Don't throw it away. The same is true of any other physical symptom which is out of the ordinary. Let your doctor judge if it is significant. Gentlemen, if any of you are reading, don't let embarassment kill you if you have prostate or bowel problems.

I am not afraid of death. I am just not yet prepared for the dying bit. Come back and see me when I am in my 90s and then I will reconsider.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Quiet Day

After all the busy preparations and excitement of the Festive Season, it feels so good to sit quietly and just be still for a while.
A simple bowl of cereal for breakfast provided a welcome antidote to the excesses of consumption of the last few day. Home made vegetable soup with wholemeal bread for lunch and a simple organic chicken roasted with onions, parsnips and carrots seved with a fresh salad for dinner will go a long way to settling a system unused to such richness. We had been invited out to dinner tonight but the thought of eating another bite which was anything other than home cooked and utterly plain was just too much for us, so we rearranged for next Saturday. Thanks be for understanding friends.
Speaking of friends, a true friend is someone who allows you to be exactly who you are, without feeling the need to "fix" or "improve" you. As a therapist and a coach, I see the destructive downside of that need to alter others. Too many people wander into relationships of all kinds with the primary thought of "what a lovely person, if only..." They then make it their mission to bring about that "if only" whether the object of their affection wishes it or not. At least in my profession, I wait here politely until I am asked to interfere or was that intervene?
The way I look at it is that either you love them as they are, accept them for all their foibles and deficits, or just leave them the hell alone! That does not mean that you have to stand by and allow self-destructive or even plain aggravating behaviour without clearly expressing your concerns, or be completely supportive of their own desire to change. (NB. THEIR desire, not YOUR desire) However if that was the way it was from the beginning, then tough luck; you bought it having read the big print warnings that rose up to bite your nose, so why should you feel aggrieved when those character flaws devoured you whole, burped politely and wondered why you were giving them chronic indigestion with your complaining?
So in the interests of peace amongst all beings, take the enormous beam out of your own eye before you try to extract the tiny mote from your significant other's. (For those not familiar with archaic biblical language, it translates as remove that huge tree trunk from your eye before you even think of helping another with their tiny little speck of dust) Clarity of vision requires taking a good look at our own little and no so little personal quirks and behavioural deficits before we have a go at sorting those of others we profess to care about.. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.
What, not takers?
Thought not.
So there.
Quirkily and inperfectly yours,

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

In the year now leaving the cosmic train station, my own mortality reached out and brushed its cold breath upon my soul.

Like so many others I am waiting. Will my biopsy take me from this limbo back into the world of the living or will it bring that cold breath closer and deeper? I am one of many waiting in that place of unknowing. I have no answer, no prescient glimpse of what the outcome will be. I wait, sometimes with quiet stoicism and sometimes I am swept up in storms of intense emotion.

Death is theoretical until it comes whispering at your door. We all know that it is the one great certainty in life and yet do we truly live our lives in the real knowing of its imminent ending? How would we live it differently if we were truly aware of its transient nature, immersed in the reality and not the theory?

This is our big chance, our day in the sun, our place centre stage. This day. This hour. This moment. Wrap it around you lovingly. Live it fully. Feel the truth of the gift that is life flowing in every cell. Embrace it as a lover. Give it all of you and suck the marrow from the bones of being.

This day, this hour, this moment. This is truth. This is life. Live it.