Monthly Archives: June 2010

How to have fabulous massage without paying the earth

Image representing Wahanda as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Massage is good for you post cancer

In Europe, massage is accepted as part of the deal to help you recover from cancer.  In some countries you can even get treatments on their health service, and every oncologist expects you to have this included as part of your recovery programme, for as long as you are on hormonal drugs.

Even in Britain, where the parsimonious NHS wouldn’t dream of advocating anything so nice as part of a medical recovery programme, a Macmillan survey proved that massage is good for you.

If you are lucky you can get some massages for free offered by charities – then you are on your own, and have to pay from £50 – £90 each time you want a treatment.

Once you have realised the benefits of massage – helping you relax, possibly sleep better, and definitely improve  ‘drug-stressed’ skin, most of us just coudn’t face the cost, even though we knew the benefits.  Until along came Wahanda.

Wahanda is like a free club, whose members gain benefits with low-cost treatments.  Once you sign up, you receive almost daily emails with the latest offers, known as MobDeals, which range from massage to spa breaks, and all at a much lower price than if you walked in off the street.  And these aren’t only in London – they have deals all over the UK:  Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, etc.  See for more deals.

What’s it like to have a MobDeal?

Into my Inbox popped the Wahanda Newsletter with a deal for £20.  If I paid Wahanda this by credit card, I would get a massage, hair treatment for my horrible dry hair, manicure and pedicure.  This seemed too good to be true, but I paid up, printed out the voucher that came back, and made an appointment with Kuno Tierra Boutique Urban Spa.  They have two spas, one in Mayfair, but I chose the one in King’s Road, Chelsea.

Stepping inside the salon, I was greated by Laureen, French – and professional to her finger-tips  She showed me into a treatment room, and proceeded to give me a fantastic Back, Neck and Shoulder massage.  Whenever I have a good massage, this helps restore my energy levels – and boy, I have been zinging around ever since.  Laureen was incredibly relaxing yet thorough, and at no time did I feel I was getting something on the cheap – all the time I was pampered and cosseted.  Bliss.

Eventually I had to snap out of my trance, and Laureen then gave me an excellent pedicure, and a manicure.  Well, my split ‘druggie’ nails are a sore test of any manicure – but with this one the polish stayed on my finger nails for six days – twice as long as normal.

After my hair treatment, I was offered a wash and blow dry for £25 – and I would have done anything to stay around in the atmosphere, so I went upstairs to Lockonego, the sister hairdressers, and Sophie gave me a fantastic hair-do.

I knew I would be back, and found that once a customer, you get offered fantastijiuuc deals:  the current one is for three Express treatments from the menu of Facial, Manicure, Pedicure, Nourishing Hand and Feet Treatment, the massage I had – and beauty treatments including Spray Tanning and Body Polish.  Cost for three treatments is £60.

Tel: 020 7795-1798

And if you sign up to Wahanda’s newsletter, telling you about MoibDeals, they have kindly said if you buy anything, you can have £5 off your first purchase.

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Working after Cancer

Cancer Woman’s Business

Sustained By Home Working

Jacqui Burke, who runs Flourishing People from her home/office in West Wratting in Cambridgeshire, has entered the BT Home Business category of the 2010 Remote Worker Awards, in association with BT Business, and hopes to achieve national recognition if they win.

Flourishing People, an HR and training consultancy business which has been trading since 2001, has faced huge challenges recently, when Jacqui Burke, Managing Director of Flourishing People, was diagnosed with breast cancer and faced many months of grueling treatment.

Recently, Macmillan has been engaged in trying to ensure that anyone with cancer doesn’t find difficulties if they want to return to full-time work.  Having seen the proposals, they are excellent as far as the patient’s needs, but sadly the charity haven’t taken on board that the majority of companies in the UK are small businesses – and however much they want to be helpful, the capital often isn’t there to fund someone who isn’t able to work full time.  Added to which, there is a limit to co-workers’ goodwill when they constantly have to cover for someone who can’t give 100%.  Harsh, but in these days of credit crunch this has to be faced.

Jacqui’s way of working – Remote or Home Working – although it might not work for everyone, is an inspiration to anyone faced with health problems, who has wondered if they can cope.

Yes, you can.  and as Jacqui says, “I was determined to continue working throughout my treatment on the days when I felt well enough to do so, not just for financial reasons but also for my own sanity. Being home based enabled me to do this. On days when I felt ok I could come into my office and do just a couple of hours work and then go and rest when I felt tired, with no need to try to cover up how lousy I looked and don the horrible wig!”

Entering for the BT Home Business Award helps to raise awareness of how  home working arrangements can benefit workers who face health and other personal challenges, such as caring responsibilities.

These people might otherwise be unable to work if they have to travel to   an employer’s premises every day.

Flourishing People work with businesses to advise them on how best to support their staff, and how using flexible working practices such as home working can be hugely beneficial to employers as well as to their staff.

Jacqui acknowledges,  “I strongly believe that Flourishing People would not have survived if we hadn’t been home based. The likelihood is that I would have had to shut up shop completely whilst undergoing treatment and then try to reignite the business again from scratch.”

Flourishing People provide HR and people development support to businesses throughout the East of England. For more information please contact:  0845 0945 400

The Remote Worker Awards highlight how remote and home working benefits the environment, business productivity and employees’ quality of work life.  0844 800 8355

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Blame chemo-brain

American Cancer Society Logo
Image via Wikipedia

American Cancer Society says Chemo-brain does exist

Good news is it really happens.

Bad news is we can’t go on blaming forgetfullness on this condition;  American Cancer Society says we recover within one to two years.

For years, many cancer survivors have worried, joked about, and been frustrated by the mental cloudiness they experience during and after chemotherapy. This side effect has come to be called “chemo brain.”

According to the American Cancer Society, until recently evidence of this condition was largely anecdotal, and many patients felt like they were “going crazy” or that “it was all in their heads.” On the contrary, chemo brain is very real. It can now even be seen in imaging studies.

One of the biggest hurdles in solving the chemo brain puzzle has been overcome: The scientific and medical communities now recognize chemo brain as a side effect of cancer treatment. This recognition came in large part from imaging studies of the brains of people who had complained of chemo brain. These studies showed smaller brain size in the areas of the brain that are part of memory, planning, putting thoughts into action, monitoring thought processes and behavior, and inhibition.

The picture is clear: Although the brain usually recovers over time, it can be impacted by chemotherapy, proving that the condition known as chemo brain is very real.

What is chemo brain?

As many as 25% to 30% of patients have chemo brain that is not a byproduct of other chemotherapy side effects such as anaemia and fatigue.

According to scientists who research it, chemo brain is a cognitive dysfunction or impairment. Patients cite the following as examples of chemo brain:

* Memory lapses: forgetting things they usually have no trouble recalling
* Trouble concentrating: finding they can’t focus on the task at hand and their minds wander
* Trouble remembering: difficulties remembering small details like names and dates
* Inability to multi-task: difficulty doing more than one thing at a time, like answering the phone while cooking, without losing track of what they were doing
* Taking longer to finish tasks because of slower thinking and processing
* Trouble remembering common words: difficulty finishing sentences because they can’t find the right words
* Inability to learn new skills

So tell you doctor if you have any of the above symptoms.  And if they don’t believe you, print out this information which has been sent direct from the American Cancer Society.

What causes chemo brain?

Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society says  what causes chemo brain is not known – at least not entirely. What is known is that most people with chemo brain have it as a byproduct of other chemotherapy side effects such as anaemia, fatigue, and depression. In other words, all of these side effects have the potential for causing the side effect of chemo brain. The good news about this is that side effects like anaemia, fatigue, amd depression are treatable.

What is not yet known is how to treat those patients whose chemo brain isn’t caused by one of the above factors. It’s believed that as many as 25% to 30% of patients, both men and women, fall into this category.

To make things even more confusing, some people with cancer are found to have these kinds of cognitive problems before their cancer is treated. Even in these people, the problems tend to improve over time after cancer treatment.

A word of caution

The American Cancer Society says it’s important to remember that most people do eventually recover fully from the effects of chemotherapy, usually a year or two after the end of therapy. Because of this and because chemo brain is usually mild, you should not change your treatment plan just to try to prevent chemo brain.

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Toni and Guy get out scissors to help cancer survivors

39/365: New Hair Cut!
Image by jpre86 via Flickr

Strength and Style

Macmillan have teemed up with Toni and Guy hair salons to help people with cancer affected by hair loss.

Together, they have developed a programme called Strength in Style, to give patients the chance to get expert support in their hair salons.

There, you will receive top tips on hair care, together with wig cutting, and styling from specially-trained consultants;  Macmilllan will have been involved in the training.

As Tony Mascolo, CEO of Toni and Guy says, “providing expert care for people undergoing cancer treatment is something the entire company is passionate about supporting”.

Their salons are spread around the world, from Aberdeen to Amman, in Jordan.

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The BNF tells you about drugs you are prescribed

The dictionary that lists major medicines – and their possible effects


Anyone visiting their doctor in Britain will notice that, after they have discussed your symptoms, they will tell you they are going to prescribe something – then they will often reach for a thick book that’s always lying on their desk.

This is the British National Formulary – or BNF for short.

The BNF is a joint publication of the British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. It is published biannually under the authority of a Joint Formulary Committee which comprises representatives of the two professional bodies and of the UK Health Departments.  Various official medical bodies also advise on content.  And the doctor is looking up possible side effects, and contra-indications.

The NHS supplies this volume to its staff, but if you are a patient you can buy a copy direct from the publishers.  When it arrives, it may look daunting, but  go to pages x – xv first.  These tell you how to use this book – and are well worth reading first, to give you some idea of how to find what you need to know.

Then off you go – with a warning!  This book is addictive!  Once you have found your way around, you will keep on finding excuses to consult it and its incredible amount of useful information.

The the BNF aims to provide prescribers, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals with sound up-to-date information about the use of medicines.  After dipping into the BNF, I wish that I had had a copy when I started out with cancer;  then I wouldn’t have had nasty surprises with side effects, but would have been told of these, in sensible, non-sensational language.  There, under Tamoxifen, are listed the side effects I had, which my oncologists told me they had never seen these before, or were due to my age.

I would have waved the BNF at them – and asked if they hadn’t known of side effects, why hadn’t they read up what was written there?

The BNF includes key information on the selection, prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines. Medicines generally prescribed in the UK are covered and those considered less suitable for prescribing are clearly identified. Little or no information is included on medicines promoted for purchase by the public.  So if it’s not mentioned, and hasn’t been prescribed by your doctor, prescribing nurse, consultant or other qualified medical practictioner – be very, very careful.

It’s not for everyone – if you have confidence in your medical team they will consult this book, and then read out anything they think you need to know.  But if you are worried – then this book, hopefully, will set your mind at rest, or at least give you enough facts to keep you informed.

The price of the printed BNF is £29.99 (see for more details). However, it can be accessed online, free of charge to UK residents, at

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Minister of Health talks to patients' representatives, before health professionals

Andrew Lansley
Image by conservativeparty via Flickr

Secretary State for Health’s first speech is to patients’ representatives

To emphasise his promise of putting patients first, Andrew Lansley chose to make his first official speech to an audience composed of representatives of The Patients’ Association and National Voices.

And he spoke at The Bromley-by-Bow Centre, not an NHS hospital.

The Patients’ Association welcomed the promise of the Secretary of State to focus every element of the National Health Service on the patient.  As Director Katherine Murphy commented, “By hosting the meeting, the Patients Association is bringing to the table the views of the thousands of patients who ….  feel they are viewed as no more than a token add-on”.

Lansley first speech set him head-to-head with one of Lord Darzi’s (previous Government Minister) favourite projects  – to get patients discharged from hospital more quickly.

Ever since the previous Government tried to cut costs by speeding up patients’ discharge from hospital, critics have warned that this was building up problems.  Now, if patients are discharged too early and have to return for treatment of the original condition within one month, the hospital will be ‘fined’:  Lansley threatening they won’t get paid.

In theory this a good idea, but someone is going to have to pay for the medical attention, bed space, food and drugs that patients will use – details are hazy on who will pay – and how.  In reality the NHS will pick up the bill however it is charged – but it is good to know that you won’t be kicked out because your bed is needed.

Lansley promised

  • To put patient safety first
  • Unleash ‘meaningful information to patients’
  • Focuss on quality, innovation, productivity and safety required to improve patient outcomes
  • Hospitals are resposible for patients’ care for 30 days after they are discharged
  • Set NHS professionals free from targets and the bureaucratic system “that compromises patient care”
  • To assure patients “No decision is made about me, without me”

and said, “my ambition is for health outcomes and health services to be as good as any in the world”.

He then went on to show that he had obviously taken on board lessons learnt whilst he was Shadow Health Minister for six years,” the previous government’s bureaucratic approach of perpetual interference… has failed patients, and left us lagging behind our European counterparts on outcomes that matter to patients, such as how long they will survive after a cancer diagnosis”.

It remains to be seen if he is able to change the bureaucratic system that is in place today.  I have just phoned the local PCT to see if they can tell me if approval has been granted for Lymphoedema treatment, only to be told as the patient I am not entitled to be told – I have to wait until the doctor returns from holiday.

Secretary of State, get your skates on!  You have a mountain of bureaucracy to challenge and alter, but good luck to you if you manage to change even one tenth of this.

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Getting money out of friends for charity

Geek & Graphic T-Shirts
Image by Nicosmos via Flickr

There are ways and means!

So you have this burning desire to make money for your favourite charity.

And you want to come up with something that is going to make it worthwhile.

Generally, the public are generous;  I have stood on more street corners than most members of the oldest profession, shaking a tin in aid of Lifeboats, Red Cross, Cancer, SSAFA, hospices, Help for Heroes  – you name it, if I thought it worthwhile I was there.  As a policeman told me one day, “take advantage of today – it’s the only day in the year I allow soliciting on my beat”.

Probably my most memorable day (night) was a fantastic campaign I helped with for the Red Cross, when we went out one evening to collect around the strip clubs of Soho.  We did have very nice (and strong) drivers, supplied by a taxi firm, and off we went into these dens.  Most profitable strip club venue was Raymond’s Revue Bar, where Paul Raymond stood by the steps and wouldn’t let any customer in – or out – unless they had contributed notes.

But charity collecting moves on.  Latest wheeze was to gather sponsorship to do something amazing;  climb Kilimanjaro, walk the Great Wall of China, cycle across the Sahara – the more strenuous the challenge, the more people were encouraged to contribute.

But – signs are that the great British public now looks on many of these feats of endurance as a rather eneregetic holiday, and aren’t being so generous.  They say that where America leads, Britain follows, and in the US reports show this type of sponsorship is drying up.

So what’s taking its place?  Races where people wear cheeky slogans on the T-shirts!  I kid you not – in the States some charities are reporting large sums for what’s known as T-shirt therapy.  The nearer the knuckle the slogan, the more fund-raisers seem to raise.  And people are using these slogans to head their campaign to raise money, then running or walking in an event – with friends all sporting the T-shirt.

Events for breast cancer seem to gather a lot of this type of humour:

  • “Yes they’re fake,” declared one T-shirt, referring to the breasts of the wearer. “My real ones tried to kill me.”
  • “Operation Support 2nd Base,” said another
  • I gave them my breasts, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt
  • Fight like a girl

Funny, inspiring, heartbreaking and sometimes bawdy, the T-shirts on display at a recent Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure (against cancer) showed how many people cope with breast cancer – with humour (sorry, humor!).

The shirts are becoming a core element of the race, now in its 21st year, which has raised more than $25 million since its inception. About 40,000 people ran or walked during this year’s event.

  • “Save the Tatas”
  • “These Boobs Were Made for Walking”
  • “Taking Care of the Girls”
  • “Check Your Bumps for Lumps”

were all used to spearhead donations, sold on T-shirts as fund-raisers, and worn during the race.  “It’s an expression of their personalities,” said race spokesman Sean Tuffnell, “and how they’re positioning themselves in their fight.”

Two sisters decided on “”Walkers for Knockers”  and within two months, they had sold 700 Walkers for Knockers T-shirts, part of a pre-race fundraising drive that collected $10,900 and counting.

“We figured that we needed to do it with humor,” Mrs. Harrington said before the race. “Because…this team name gives me a smile.”

So when you are looking for innovative ways to raise money – it’s all down to the slogan to get awareness – and contributions flowing in.

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Polo is easy and fun to watch, wherever you are

Polo Players
Image via Wikipedia


It can be boring sitting at home at the weekend, particularly if you have no interest in football, tennis or whatever.  When  you need fresh air – and feel in need of some adrenalin-pumping spectating, go to a polo match.

You don’t have to be a celeb or rich to watch – clubs all over Britain welcome family groups, and an afternoon watching polo is a fantastic way of having fun.  As a spectator you can get so excited you really feel part of the match.  You are sitting down (well, most of the time) so theoretically it is relaxing, but you are out in the fresh air which has to be better than sitting on the TV couch.

The thrill of a ball being hit at full gallop right up the 300 yard long ground (three times the length of a football pitch), or hearing the ‘comments’ as players try to ride each other off – perfectly legimitately – is a guaranteed way of getting away from boredom.

There are matches being played from now until the end of summer, and spectators are welcomed at grounds all over Britain.  Go to, and click on clubs to find a ground near you.

And go – but you will need  seat belts to keep you in your seat;  the game may be user-friendly, but hasn’t lost any of its licence to thrill, or amuse.

Where to go

THE polo club is Cowdray, in Sussex, near Midhurst.  Once the home of the legendary Lord Cowdray, who lost an arm in World War II, but that didn’t stop him from playing.  He loved the sport, and helped revive it in a time when austerity was rife.

Now, thanks to his dedication, the Cowdray Gold Cup Tournament, started by him, is the seccond most important polo tournament in the world  (most important is the Argentine Open).  Forget about ‘celebs’ propping up bar tents and teetering along in Jimmy Choos at other clubs, lovers of the game all head to Cowdray to see the most exciting matches.

Matches are played most days, and all basic information is on the Cowdray Park Polo Club website –

The bar is Members Only as is the grandstand.  Grandstand seats may be purchased for the Final of the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup. There is a snack truck on site at weekends accessible to public.  At the main grounds at Lawns and Ambersham there are permanent loos.

Entry cost for everything other than international day, Semi Final and Final of Gold Cup is £10 per car – includes 2 adults and any children under 12, otherwise £5 for each extra adult. Public may bring picnics and enjoy everything that the sport and the wonderful scenery offer.  BBQs are not permitted.

And there is also a commentator, who explains what is happening – so there was no excuse for my neighbour remarking, “I think you could call me Confused Dot Com”.  But by the end she was saying she will be back next year.

All over Britain, Matches are played throughout the summer, generally at weekends, although the larger clubs have games on most days except Mondays .  Look up on the HPA website. Go to Clubs and click on the one near you;  it will have details, such as a website, with more details.  Generally costs are low – and you pay per car, not per person

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The NHS can deliver a world class service

Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan of a head
Image via Wikipedia

Charing Cross Hospital MRI department shows how

Equipment in an imaging department is mega-expensive – so it seems incredible that UK hospitals can allow machinery to lie idle for  from Friday afternoon until Monday morning.  What is that doing to the balance sheet ?

As a US technician said, “we work our machines 24/7 – we need to get the benefit for the millions we spend”.

So when I needed an MRI scan to find my brain (well, Professor Guiloff phrased it more tactfully) I expected a long, long wait.  But Sue phoned from Charing Cross Hospital, a couple of days later, to ask could I come in Saturday week?  For such a fast turn-around, of course I could.

Imaging departments are havens of peace on a Saturday afternoon, although I expect it would be much busier a few hours later when pubs are in full swing – but this was heaven; clean, spotless and sparkling.  But there was no time to admire the view or read a magazine;  as I came through the door into the MRI section,  Dominic Holleran came out to give me a form to fill in, and we were rolling.

We talked about my polio, and it was lovely to be told “would you like cushions, etc? without having to ask, beg or plead.  When I mentioned it would be more help if I could have two cushions on the table, Amy went off to ‘borrow’ one from another machine without a murmur.   Then I have a Bovine valve in my heart;  off Dominic went to check if this was OK.  When he came back he noticed I had ticked that I suffered from cold, so off he went again to return with an armful of blankets.

All of this was incredible;  normally we post polio people have to explain and explain what we need, and then are left feeling battered and “a nuisance”.  But with Dominic and Amy they bent over backwards to help, and consequently I was on the table far quicker than it normally takes with all the explanations and explanations.  We know what we need.  But it was lovely to be acknowledged as a person, rather than a ‘service user’, and our needs listened to and carried out.

Explanations of the procedure were excellent, and both of them told me what they were doing before they fitted on the bits of equipment.  They even gave me ear plugs, so that ‘noises off were deadened.

The NHS talks of providing a  ‘world class service’.  This time it genuinely was.  Let’s hope that the new Government will be ensuring that this happens all the time, and we don’t have to wait weeks or even months for an MRI scan.  And let  Dominic write the manual on “how to acknowledge patients have got a brain, and listen to what they want and need”.

And it would be interesting to look at Charing Cross’s balance sheet, and see how much extra it is costing with paying staff overtime, against patient satisfaction, and – even more important – the overall cost benefit of maximum utilisation of capital equipment during its lifetime.

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Breast Beating – a new type of book on breast cancer

Hurrah for a change from the usual ‘type’ of cancer books

Not many people  can advocate a new treatment – then years later, after reviewing evidence – change their mind.

This takes courage, and Michael Baum has it in spades.  He showed this when he dared to challenge Prince Charles, and stood up to the scorn poured on him by the world’s alternative medicine practictioners.

In his fascinating and inspiring book, Breast Beating, he tells the story behind the hype.  And, as he says, it is “A personal odyssey in the quest for an understanding of breast cancer, the meaning of life and other easy questions”.  Just a simple book then.

Er, actually no.  He takes you behind the scenes into the fascinating world of cutting edge medicine, in his quest to give his patients a better quality of life.  Questioning, talking and observing, Michael never stops in his desire to do the best for his patients, and advance our knowledge of breast cancer.  He sometimes comes up with theories, which he admits are challenging,  but is open about what he is hoping to achieve, and never too humble to learn from others – even non-medics.

He pokes fun himself when describing the ‘Golden Finger’ award.  Originally this was a joke presentation to him from his students at the end of a course.  With Michael around, you had to be careful, and he had the bright idea of gilding the plaster hand with its outstretched finger (classic rectal examination pose), mounting it on a plaque, and presenting this for a student competition.  This grew, became more important, and one day when he had moved on he was surprised to see a student’s CV listed  The Golden Finger Award.

Sometimes he mixed in more exalted circles, and describes how Diana, Princess of Wales visited one of his wards to find a patient had just returned from an operation. “HRH stretched forward to hold the old dear’s gnarled hand at which the old dear woke with a start and without missing a beat smiled from ear to ear and said “Allo Lady Di watchyer adoing ‘ere then?'”

There is lots more, especially on his work on the ATAC trials (Arimidex, Tamoxifen Alone or Combined).  Although I wasn’t his patient, I happened to mention that I had had very strong and horrid side effects from both these drugs – whereupon he spent hours sending off emails to see if he could help me.  But that is typical of him.  He was instrumental in developing Art Therapy, and movingly describes its effect on both his patients and himself – I am told that he used his own money to get the first programme up and running, so not only his patients, but many across the world have benefited.

Laughter can be a powerful medicine, and Michael gives us this in buckets.  On returning from the launch of Breast Beating, I thought I would just dip into the book.  3 am came,  I decided I really should go to bed;  what medical book does that normally?  But I was laughing out loud at his quirky observations, and feeling so much better as a patient (although sadly not one of Michael’s).

So enjoy reading a bit of history, a part-medical textbook and a description of Michael Baum’s theories about life.

Published by Anshan Publishing ISBN 978-1848290426 £30.

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