Saturday, 23 December 2017

Happy Christmas everyone

Happy Christmas and a very Happy New Year

Let's try and make 2018 another year where we reach out and help people everywhere

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The State of Cancer

I received this e-mail from Healthline (USA) who have been tremendously supportive of my blog over the past 3 years.

I am happy to share their recently published report on 'the state of cancer' and I'm sure you'll find it very beneficial reading, whether for yourself, a friend or family member.....

Dear Daniel,

As a major source of inspiration, information, and support for cancer patients and those who love them, Prostate Cancer - Our Journey is changing the way individuals relate to their cancer. 

Healthline understands this because we recently published a report on the State of Cancer, an in-depth research report and thorough survey complete with clear statistics and infographics. Prostate Cancer - Our Journey helps by:

  • Providing answers and support: 74% of newly diagnosed individuals went online to find answers within one week of diagnosis. Many of those people searching for answers and support found you.
  • Breaking through the “doctor speak”: several patients interviewed noted that they felt more anxious about their condition after talking to their doctors, and turned to the internet to find understanding.
  • Building long-term community: 59% of millennials & 51% of Gen Xers stay engaged in groups after remission.

When individuals get diagnosed, they turn to you for information. The more information you can provide, the stronger a resource you can be for those who look to you. With this end in mind, would you consider sharing our State of Cancer report with your readers?

Healthline wants to thank you for participating in the sharing of information and empathy. We hope we can continue to work together to make the world a stronger, healthier place. 

In health,

Shelby Drabot
Outreach Coordinator

Monday, 11 December 2017

My wonderful Christmases in the 60s

Christmas back then didn't start in September, as it does now; it started just a few weeks before, which made it oh so much more special. Can you imagine, Christmas when only one person in the street owned a car, everybody was employed, and nobody had a telephone? Writing letters was the way to keep in touch, and if you had to call, there was the big red phone-box at the end of the street; and I was still trying to work out buttons A and B because now I could reach them.

The TV was becoming affordable, but even so, very few had one where we lived. It would soon arrive though, firstly in black and white, with blissfully just two channels, and we'd all pack into Daphne's house when she shouted, "Lone Ranger's on!" Her husband, Dobin, worked in the Army stores, so they were almost middle class! She also predicted that TV was an evil that would destroy future generations of children, but it also brought me Robin Hood and William Tell, so I wasn't listening.

My Grandmother would send a chicken (dead), all the way from Ireland! Yes, it smelt pretty bad when it arrived, the postman would always hold his handkerchief over his nose and mouth, but it tasted delicious once cooked. You had to use the vegetables from your own garden, everybody did, and being Irish we were good at growing potatoes, which we swapped with the neighbors who were good at sprouts, making everyone happy. My parents were very poor, but I have to say they always made Christmas feel like a magical time. Along with my teachers, they planted and cultivated an imagination that lived and grew with me to this day. In fact, only Disney films could compare with what went on in my mind back then and often still does!

Christmas Cards were essential and not getting a card was like being 'unfriended' on Facebook. You sent and received cards from everyone you knew and cared about, and they often had their latest address on so you could be sure to know where to send their card. If you were lucky, there would be a 10/- note or even a £1, but as soon as my Grandmother's card arrived, it would always contain a British £5 note; which wasn't that easy for an old lady living on a small farm in the Republic of Ireland.  
Putting things into perspective, my father was earning £15 a week; my pocket money was one shilling (there were 20 in a pound), and a new car cost around £950. We never did afford one, but it didn't seem to matter, our legs, a bicycle or the bus would take us everywhere.

There was always loads of snow from around December to February and no better site than looking out the window on a cold winter evening, with the coal fire at your back, and seeing giant snowflakes starting to fall gently in front of the yellow street lights. The following morning we would go out to a carpet of new crunchy white snow, often up to my waist, then we'd build massive snowmen and have snowball fights until our hands went blue. Some of the ice slides we made must have been the length of the street, and we'd play for hours, regardless of falls, cuts and bruises.
It usually ended with some miserable old person pouring boiling water and throwing sand over our ‘work of art', and as that older person now, I can, at last, understand why!

Just as well I had all those outdoor activities because when it came to Christmas presents, there were very few. I had a clockwork fireman, I'd wind him up, and he'd climb to the top of the ladder and slide down again. How could that keep me occupied for hours? It did! Jigsaw puzzles were all the rage, and the more complex, the better; I even had one with just a cloudy sky! The only Christmas decorations were paper chains that you'd lick the ends and make yourself. I wish I'd thought of the wet sponge sooner as I found out the glue was made from old dead horses. I could never understand that, because when you touch a horse, it's not that sticky, is it?

Meccano was to change my life forever; I could now build machines, but my attempt to make my very own electric motor was a bridge too far resulting in my first electric shock; such a scary feeling. I engaged my younger brother in switching on future experiments; he was a willing victim.

As the 60s wore on we became a bit better off and Christmas saw my Mum switching from Emva Cream sherry to Harvey's Bristol Cream and my Dad choosing Castella cigars over his pipe. Soon, Blue Nun and Mateus Rose started washing down Vesta Chow Mein and spaghetti bolognaise as immigration, thankfully, began to change our diet in a way we couldn't have imagined.     

The postman delivered on Christmas Eve, right up to 4 pm and though he had the next day off, he was there bright and early on Boxing Day. But, even the milkman delivered on Christmas Day morning, and after a sherry at every house, I often wonder what his evenings were like!

My favourite Christmas hits of the 60's?

1962 Elvis Presley – Return to Sender
1963 The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand
1966 Tom Jones – The Green Grass of Home
1967 The Beatles – Hello Goodbye
1968 Scaffold – Lily the Pink

Did Father Christmas exist? That was the terrible question I had to deliberate one day and though I had no doubts, it did lead me onto the shameful path of trying to prove to other less faithful followers, that he was as real as them. I thought very logically about how this obese man could fit down our chimney, even though the coal fire was in full blaze, and carrying all those presents. Surely at the very least, he'd get utterly filthy? There had to be another explanation, and that could only be ‘magic.'
So having accepted that it was possible for this guy to park a sled and team of reindeer on our council house roof, and drop in with all those goodies, I'd have to catch him in the act. I'd tried all the usual stuff, leaving out the mince pies and the sherry, and sure enough, they had all gone in the morning, which proved what?  My parents filled the sherry glass, as usual, that night and along with the mince pies, left them by the fireplace. My mother was very ill that Christmas and my mind did not link that to the sherry I'd half emptied and topped up with bleach. Father Christmas was indeed a superman; even poison couldn't slow him down, he had proved himself beyond doubt.
That someone ate them? I wanted conclusive proof but was told that if Father Christmas heard me, he might vanish so quickly, perhaps even forgetting to leave presents. After years of failed attempts, in 1966, I came up with the perfect plan – I would make him sick enough to slow him down and that way I'd at least see him as he struggled onto the roof.

I was told that if I stopped believing in Father Christmas, he would stop coming, and that was a risk I wasn't prepared to take. Aged 12, I was still shouting down the doubters, like a preacher trying to uphold the word of God; nobody was going to convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

2017 – My year without alcohol!

That was the target I set myself back in December 2016. Why? Because I'd been drinking regularly since the age of 15, probably earlier, and at 65 I wanted to tweak a few things in my life, to see if things could be done differently. I guess the driving force was sort of a ‘bucket list’ item: I wanted to see what it felt like to be a non-drinker again, just one more time.

So, why not give up for a week, even a month, wouldn't that do it? Well, I tried that last year when I gave up for 90 days, and here's what happened. After 30 days you realise that you're starting to come out of a mental haze, a numbing cloud that's always there with you, but you’re never aware of when you're a regular drinker.

I had no idea how thick that cloud was, after all, I'd never tried walking out of it before!
After 60 days, the cloud was getting noticeably thinner, but I was still moving through it and felt that I hadn't yet reached the edge. This was even the case at 90 days, and because I'd reached my target, I had a bottle of wine that night to celebrate, and a few beers. If only I'd continued, would I have found the edge of that cloud? Would I have one day been able to look back at that fog, see it from a distance and say, "hell, I was trapped in there once." I concluded that 3 months was probably not enough time to know what it felt like to be a non-drinker. The answer lay further into the future, and I was determined to find it, but the time had to be right and I had to be ready.

My top tip: Don't try and stop drinking with willpower alone; it simply doesn't work.  
You'll be forever walking past bars full of ‘happy' people and couples sharing bottles of wine, and you'll be wishing you were sat right in there with them. That's not the way! You need to do what I did first and change the way you see alcohol and the role it plays in the lives of all who allow it to run their agenda. See how we are brainwashed almost from birth into thinking that this substance is our friend, used at every celebration, a reward for a hard days work and such a cool thing to do.

No better book taught me this than one written by Annie Grace, 'This Naked Mind.'
You need to turn that switch in your mind before embarking on this adventure; you have to change what you have always believed about this ‘nectar' and start to question the benefits that you get for the money you spend.

When you reach the 90-day mark, yes, it's a significant achievement and probably the hardest point to reach. Friends will try and steer you the other way, and there will be many, many times when you question your judgment. You'll be continuously reminded of what fun it is to drink, on films, advertising, almost everywhere you look. This is also the time when many people fail, but if you can crack the 90 days, there are huge rewards ahead.

It's somewhere after the six months point that you suddenly realise that you've ‘broken the habit.' You don't want a drink of alcohol anymore; you've replaced that habit with other types of drinks and activities. Maybe we’re all creatures of habit, rabbits that stick to the same runs, day in, day out, so if we do choose a habit, better to try and pick some good ones. There were physical and mental changes for me, some very unexpected. I lost over 10kg, which meant I had to buy more shirts and trousers, but hey, I was feeling healthier than I had for years. I'd started to dream again, that surprised me! I'm told it's because you sleep far deeper when there's no alcohol involved, even though it may take you slightly longer to get to sleep, and you sure do wake up feeling a hell of a lot better than after a skin-full the night before.
You can ignore the restraints that alcohol used to put on your life, such as what time you go shopping because it has to coincide with licensing hours, and when you can and can't take the car because now you can drive at any time. The money I save, although not the driving force was a massive bonus and I can now treat myself to things I used to view as extravagant. I drink more coffee than I used to and certainly eat a bit more chocolate, even the occasional cake, but on balance, I'm happy with my diet.

Did I ever like the taste of alcohol? I remember the first time a tasted whiskey, it was probably the worst thing I'd ever tasted and couldn't spit it out fast enough. Years later though, after absorbing enough adverts and cowboy films, I wanted to be that ‘wild west hero' who shot all the bad guys, pulled all the chicks and then hit the local saloon for a large Jack Daniels. I was hooked! I grew up with Guinness in Ireland, as much part of the culture as the Catholic Church and the second word I learned to spell.

The Guinness brewery in Dublin draws its water from the bogs that feed the River Liffey. As is tradition, my Grandfather and I stood at the edge one day and sent our joint waters into those marshes, knowing that we would both unite and become part of the Guinness forever; such is the tragic magic that weaves Irish folklore into the shareholder's dividends of this national brewery.

 Yes, I can look back now and see that cloud, and wow, it was far bigger than I could ever have imagined. I walked out of that mass without really knowing how far from the edge I was, or even if there was an edge. Was I an alcoholic? I don't think so. I didn't get the sweats or shakes when I stopped, or contract any mental health problems. Did I have a bad habit? That more fits the bill. Yes, I had a bad habit!

Will I drink alcohol again? I'm not setting any more targets, that’s a sure way to fail, but right now, I can't imagine going back into that cloud, not now that I can see the world again as it really is.

For support: Take a look at a fantastic UK based organisation run by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

New today (5th December) in Thailand. Big advance in detection of prostate cancer announced!

This sounds like an amazing advance in prostate cancer detection and the possibilities for its application across all cancers is mind-boggling.

This test is more accurate than anything ever imaginable a few years ago. But- I feel that I am 'cancer free' 7 years after surgery and I'm delighted with that. 
Having had a quick read I see only one drawback. If this test can detect tiny microscopic metastatic prostate cancer cells in my bones, that might never bother me in my lifetime, would I really want to know about that; also knowing that nothing could be done?

Bangkok, Thailand –  X-ZELL, a global biotech firm specialising in rare cell detection technology, is launching a revolutionary new prostate cancer test in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The test – aptly named X-ZELL Prostate™ – will be available FROM TODAY via Chularat 9 Hospital in Bangkok, conveniently located near Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
According to X-ZELL CEO, Dr Sebastian Chakrit Punyaratabandhu Bhakdi (pictured above), the launch on Thai Father’s Day not only demonstrates the company’s commitment to protecting men’s health, but also marks a historic milestone for the start-up, with Thailand becoming the first country worldwide to have access to the game-changing test, which is able to find a new type of cancer cell that has been considered undetectable until now.