Monthly Archives: December 2009

How to understand what nurses say

Do you Triage your laundry?

Some nurses speak ‘medic-speak’.  You may not understand them.  But, as in all jobs, those that work in a sector have their own way of describing things.

But their ‘in-speak’ can have its own words – hence one nurse who told a colleague “I am Triaging the laundry” .

Translation:  she just meant she was sorting clothes to put in the washing machine:  this pile was urgent – this pile could wait.

There is a video clip by an inspirational nurse, Donna Cardillo, which gives a short insight into what nurses mean when they talk to each other.  Listen, you might learn some interesting phrases to mull over whilst you have those moments when you are actually left alone in your hospital bed, and can reflect on life, the universe and everything.

She says nurses don’t have colds, they have an U.R.I. – or Upper Respitatory Infection.  (See, I told you!).

Or she says nurses don’t cough, they ‘Aspirate’.

Understand these phrases, and you begin to understand what they are saying in ‘nurse speak’.

And if you are a nurse, Donna has written several books especially for nurses:

“Dear Donna” columnist for Nursing Spectrum & NurseWeek
Your First Year as a Nurse from Random House
Career Alternatives for Nurses®
The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses
A Daybook for Beginning Nurses

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Don't forget the men!

Fountain For The Cure
Image by Curtis McCormick via Flickr

Girls – it’s Cancertalk Week January 18-24th

Men are very bad at being practical.

They are 40% more likely to die of cancer

Simply because they are less likely to seek out information about health issues.

So kick your man out into the cold.

Steel you heart and tell him to go and get checked.

You could save his life.

More information 0808 808 00 00

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People Power triumphs!

SPAG & MP Rob Fello handing in seal protection...
Handing in Petition today    Flickr

I love it when people power gets something done!

Some time ago,  along with lots of other websites, I asked readers to click on to a Petition on the 10 Downing Street website – asking for the NHS to close down 084 numbers which cost us more than ‘normal’ ones.  It seemed cheeky that the NHS was going to get us to pay more when we used the phone to call them.

It asked you signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to “prevent local health centres and hospitals from using 08 numbers such as 0844, 0845 or 0870.”

Over 80, 000 of you clicked on to the Downing Street website – and, contrary to what people expect, Downing Street has taken note and these nasty expensive phone numbers are going to be phased out.

Today the Prime Minister’s Office has responded to that petition and you can view reply here:


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New way of using Herceptin when treating Breast Cancer

Mayo Clinic
Image via Wikipedia

New Breast Cancer Treatment Recommended at San Antonio

Every year, the world’s top Oncologists gather at the San Antonio symposium, in Texas.  This year, CancerCompass reports that Doctors at the  symposium have found a new protocol for treating breast cancer shows possibly paradigm-shifting results, they say.

Dr. Edith Perez, a breast cancer researcher at a Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Fla., presented findings showing that administering Herceptin with chemotherapy, instead of after, can result in a 25 percent reduction in cancer recurrence or death, according to a report in  Science Daily.

“The results of this trial have been eagerly awaited in the [United States]. and in many nations as this is the only trial developed to define the optimal way to incorporate Herceptin in the context of adjuvant chemotherapy,” Dr. Perez said. “The goal was to decrease the risk of cancer recurrence, and we have shown that concurrent use is the best way to achieve that.”

The study was conducted in collaboration with several cancer-research institutes, the Mayo Clinic said in a release. Perez indicated the results could shift the cancer treatment paradigm.

“This could mean that up to 10,000 women around the world each year may have a better outcome if Herceptin is used along with chemotherapy. Given that, I believe this study will lead to a global re-evaluation of how Herceptin is used,” she said.

So what does this mean for you, if you are receiving Herceptin?  First, discuss this with your Oncologist.  As background you might like to Google and delve into results from San Antonio – get onto Mayo websites, and ask the makers of Herceptin.  The treatment you are having may be the best for you and your circumstances – but it’s worth asking – because San Antonio has a reputation for introducing ground-breaking treatments – and is never ignored by top Oncologists.  Just this week New York papers carried an authoratative article by one of their top Cancer doctors, on “what I am changing in my practice after San Antonio this year”.

Copyright 2009

(According to Wikipedia, a Paradigm shift (or revolutionary science) is the term first used by Thomas Kuhn in his influential book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) to describe a change in basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science.  It is in contrast to his idea of normal science.

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Making Whoopee – without too many calories!

A glass of champagne

Champagne mixes with almost anything!  Wikipedia


Tis the season to be jolly – and all that.

But you can cheat (a little) and cut down on the calories – as well as the hangovers!

How?  By mixing soda water or fruit juices along with wine – preferably Champagne.

Some famous mixes:

Buck’s Fizz – THE thing the Bright Young Things drank in the Twenties – mixture of genuine Champagne and freshly squeezed orange juice.  Invented at Buck’s Club, one of the most famous gentlemen’s clubs in London.  Don’t even call it a Buck’s Fizz if you use anything else but champagne – it ISN’T  – what is mixed up is nice, but nothing like the genuine article.

Bellini – mixture of peach puree and Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine).  Invented by famed restauranteur Harry Cipriani of Harry’s Bar, in Venice.  He would have used peaches made in to puree, but you can use peach juice out of carton – if you have to!

Mimosa – the Ritz Hotel in Paris tried to copy Buck’s Fizz, but with slightly different amounts of orange juice and champagne – and called it a Mimosa from the frothy yellow colour.

Spritzer –  King Edward VII and his Court used to imagine they could help keep their weight down by mixing soda water with white wine, when they would go off to German medical spas to take the cure.  So the drink was almost always made with German white wine, often one with a slight sparkle.

Tap Water – is the new ‘designer’ water – except in Copenhagen, where recently the organisers have been trying to show off their ‘green’ credentials by only serving tap water – until delegates let the show down by making a rush for bottled water that had been served up by mistake.

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Chocolate has some benefits!

Jacques Torres chocolates...
Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who trawls through this website will soon suss out that I am a sucker for Chocolate.

Always regarding any ‘new’ drug or medicine with deepest suspicion – show me a bar of chocolate and I believe anything – true-blue scepticism goes out the window.

So I am indebted to Irene from the Darnton Drop-in Centre for the following –                she made my day!

3 New Health Benefits of Eating Chocolate

By RealAge

Chocolate has all but been elevated to superfood status. And the good news keeps rolling in.

So here are three more reasons why you may not want to be too quick to break that chocolate habit. (As long as you’re hitting the dark stuff.)

* Chocolate makes you smarter.  Research suggests that the flavonols in dark chocolate increase cerebral blood flow, which in turn may trigger the creation of new blood vessels and brain cells. And a new study showed that older adults performed better on cognitive tests after eating small portions of the sweet stuff. Talk about a nourished noggin! (Here’s why opting for semisweet or unsweetened chocolate may be even better for your brain.)
* Chocolate weakens heart attacks. Although more research is needed to confirm this one, a new study showed that regular chocolate eaters who had heart disease were less likely to die following a heart attack compared with the people who didn’t treat themselves to the dark and dreamy stuff. (Here’s more on chocolate’s heart-smart qualities.)
* Chocolate has a cavity-fighting compound. Okay, so you don’t necessarily want to trade in your toothbrush for a chocolate bar. But some interesting new research shows a compound in chocolate — theobromine — may be just as good as fluoride at hardening tooth enamel. So the compound could find its way into toothpastes and mouthwashes one day. Until then, keep in mind that most commercially prepared chocolate has lots of sugar in it.

Don’t Go Overboard

This is a bit of light-hearted fun, on the principle of a little of what you fancy does you good.  This is not an excuse to splurge on a whole box of chocolotes all by yourself – that’s greedy!

I am now going back to reading scientific evidence carefully before I take any more tablets or drugs – but if anyone else wants to send me information about the benefits of chocolate, I promise to read them!

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Christmas wishes and Season's Greetings

This comes with my best wishes, and a hope

that researchers around the world discover even better ways to treat cancer in 2010

The background to how our Christmas Turkey is reared

4 Thanksgiving Turkeys by Mother and Son!
Image by cobalt123 via Flickr


It’s Christmas time.  Season of goodwill to all men, etc. etc.  But not if you are the average Turkey, preparing to grace the festive table.

Reared in semi-darkness, crammed into a shed so that you can’t exercise and so lose body weight, if you are lucky you survive without breaking a leg.  What happens if you do, and your body is left for your mates to trample over, doesn’t bear thinking about.

Anyone who cares about food should read Peter McManners’ just-published book, “Victim of Success”.

He has a very matter-of-fact approach to global problems, particularly when it comes to the Chapter “No Compromise over Food”.  As he says, it is odd that industrial processes have been allowed to take over in an area that is so vital to human health, and for those of us who love food, our present Goverment’s attitude to farming can only mean we are going to have to fight even harder to stop commercial production ruining what we eat.

Every time I see whoever is the current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stomping around wearing welly boots and looking for a photo-opportunity to prove he is in ‘tune’ with the farmers, I just wonder what happened to the ‘old’ MAFF – Ministry of Agricultural, Fisheries and Food.

After the mess the Government made of things during the Foot and Mouth crisis, it was obvious the best thing to do was to bury this Ministry, along with the carcasses of millions of prime cattle.  It was then re-born as DEFRA – Dept. Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – the farmers were ignored.

Shortly after it was re-born,  I was at a dinner in Nobel House, the Ministry building, and had to sit next to one of the junior Ministers.  I still shudder at how little knowledge he had about farming and food production – and heaven knows, I live in the town now, although I was reared in the country.  But his ignorance showed how and why we find our food chain in such a mess.

Incidentally the current Secretary of State is ‘Veggie’ Benn – in case you wondered.

But back to McManners – someone who knows of what he writes, and would make an excellent Government Minister, if only politicians stopped thinking about their self-importance and actually promoted people who understood our food chain – and how to ensure that what we eat is fresh, wholesome and nutritious.  His explanation of how our food is reared, and the economics underpinning the production, makes a lot of sense.  It is up to us what we want to pay for, but he makes it easier to understand how and why certain foods are expensive.

And if you feel the Turkey that graces your table deserves a happy life, ask advice of a local butcher.  A good butcher will have gone into how these birds are reared;  you don’t have to pay the premium for organic birds, but there is nothing to stop you from discussing how the bird will have been reared, and choose one that was able to roam outside for most of its life.

And whilst you are about it, pop a pheasant or a partridge into the shopping bag too.  These can go in the freezer, and make a lovely dinner for two, with the carcass being being boiled up to make stock – for soup or to add to mince and other meats.

Victim of Success by Peter McManners.  Published by Susta Press

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In Europe, Cancer survival rates improve, whilst all our politicians can do is talk

The crowned portcullis
Image via Wikipedia


Britain Against Cancer, an initiative of the  All-Parliamentary Group on Cancer,  has become an annual event at
Westminster.  For the last ten years it has successfully brought together patients, health professionals and
policy-makers to look at the impact of public policy on cancer services and research. This year Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Health, was answering questions.

It seems sad when a major charity such as Macmillan has to ‘pussy-foot’ around politicians, but Ciaran Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, had to play the political card at the All-Parliamentary Group against Cancer’s annual Britain Against Cancer Conference, when he chaired the session on Survivorship.

Expecting a hard-hitting session with plenty of ideas of how to take a survivorship programme forward,a  packed room was eager to discuss this very important topic, particularly in the light of that morning’s front page article in the Daily  Telegraph.  Devoting half the front page to this topic, the Telegraph highlighted poor cancer survivorship outcomes in Britain, compared with Europe.

So the Survivorship session promised to be THE most interesting and important session of the day (given an airing at the morning and afternoon sessions).  But what we got was a rehash of all the points that have been discussed and discussed over the past years – no ACTION!  One gets the impression that there is no urgency amongst politicians; everyone waiting for the outcome of the next election, instead of getting on with it.  Eeven though our post-cancer survivor rates are consistently at the bottom of the pile,  the report isn’t scheduled to come out until 2012, and 2012 is when we are getting it – not a moment earlier.

Hand-outs repeated that “Assessment and care planning needs to be an active partnership between professionals, patients and carers”.  Is it rocket science to get some people around a table to discuss how this could be implemented, so that those undergoing treatment today start to see benefits, or is everyone expected to wait with baited breath for three years?

We were shown a Conceptual Framework of Health Related Quality of Life – whatever that means (hasn’t anyone heard of the Crystal clear English awards?).  The actual form seems a good start, but now those in the room wanted to get on with using this – seeing if it works – and tweaking.

Patients will be given a form to fill in highlighting practical problems/family problems/spiritual concerns/physical problems – which presumably we fill out and give to our GP.  But will the GP know what to do with this?  And will filling out the form produce any result for us?  I wonder.  If you are about to leave the tender mercies of hospital, you might ask for an End of Initial Treatment Record Summary Letter – which gives your GP an overview of your treatment, and where actions are needed.

But will GPs read these?  Or will the forms get overlooked if they don’t get QOFs for doing so?

What fills me with gloom is the statement on one of the forms, that this will be then be “out out to tender for pilot sites to test assessment framework”.  Gerry Robinson/Florence Nightingale/Matron – come back.  All is forgiven.  We need you to get something moving.  In this day of instant communication, why does it take so long to discuss and implement any new ideas?

As one of the delegates said, ” None of my questions got answered. I asked Norman Lamb why there is a lack of BME representation at senior level.  No response.

I asked a question on survivorship, which didn’t get answered. Great

When the conference gathered together so many articulate and intelligent cancer survivors, researchers and medics – one wonders why, in the immortal words of Winston Churchill, it was “all jaw jaw”.

There was a positive side to the conference, as there always is when you get an articulate group together under one roof.  Andy Burnham was asked about QOFs (Quality Outcomes Frameworks) and why cancer patients were given such unequal treatment by GPs in comparison with diabetes, asthma etc.  Rashly, in view of the forthcoming election, he promised that cancer services “will be up to international standards by 2012”.  Well, he could make that promise, knowing that politicians take no notice of what predecessors say in office.

In Q & A Burnham expressed his frustration, on behalf of a family member, of “navigating the breast cancer system”.  He was asked about Lymphoedema services, and he expressed an interest – so contact him!  There was also talk about the evils of alcohol, after smoking had been knocked on the head, so expect large labels and more taxes.

Ian Gibson drew applause when asked “is NICE fit for purpose?” and as Burnham left the platform, he did say “hospital services are going to need to change”.

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The Cancer Club

365 :: 29.9 - pink ribbon :: rosa sløyfe
Image by ~Merete via Flickr

Christine Clifford Beckwith decided to have fun during her cancer treatment, and wrote some very funny books.  She sends out a Newsletter each month with one of her cartoons:  latest this month shows two females (natch!) laden down with bags from exclusive boutiques.  One says to the other:




For more of Christine’s cartoons get her books from

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