Monthly Archives: March 2011


Overseas cancer organisations

This is a list of cancer organisations in countries outside the UK, provided by Cancer Research UK, and other organisations.

I haven’t contacted ALL of these organisations, so please check!

I use this list frequently –

  • when I receive a press release about some research carried out in another country, I go through to relevant organisation and ask if they have any info.
  • when a reader asks about something happening in another country;  recently I probably saved one reader over £4,000 – he had had official-looking  and reassuring correspondence with someone – who, thanks to contacts with cancer society in their country, turned out to be a complete charlatan.
  • you can check with the relevant society if you want more information, and verify if it is accurate

Organisations very enormously in size, so if you ask for help take this into account.  Smaller organisations might be a one-person office supervised by an unpaid volunteer, so don’t ask for a huge amount of information that could take a long time to answer.

Unsure of where to go?  Start with                                                                          This is an international organsation of major cancer information services from around the world.
The Cancer Council Australia
Provides telephone, email and online information in English for people with cancer.                                                          website:
Phone: (02) 8063 4100
Helpline: 13 11 20 (Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.00pm – local rate)

The Barbados Cancer Society
Provides counselling to patients and their relatives, and has a hospice outreach program to support patients at their homes. Also provides information on early detection and prevention of cancer.                                                                  Phone: (246) 436 8888 or 427 9005


Fondation Contre le Cancer (Foundation Against Cancer)
Provides support to people with cancer in French.                                                                                                                               Website:
Phone: 0800 15 801 (Monday 9am – 7pm, Tuesday to Friday 9am to 1pm)

The Canadian Cancer Society
Provides telephone, email and online information in French and English for people with cancer.                                  Website:
Phone: 1 888 939 3333 or (416) 961 7223

The Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society
Provides comprehensive online information in Chinese for cancer patients and their caregivers.

Phone: (852) 3921 3821

The Cyprus Anti-Cancer Society
Provides support and care for people with cancer at their homes. Information provided in Greek and English. The website includes local contact telephone numbers.

Czech Republic
Liga Proti Rakovine Praha (League Against Cancer Prague)
Provides information to cancer patients in Czech.

Phone: 224 919 732 or 224 920 935
Kræftens Bekæmpelse (Danish Cancer Society)
Provides information for cancer patients in Danish.

Phone: 80 30 10 30

Eesti Vähiliit (Estonian Cancer Society)
Provides information and support for people with cancer. Information on their website is in Estonian, Russian and English.

Phone: 0 800 2233 (Mon-Fri, 10.00am-12.00; 6.00-8.00pm)

Syöpäjärjestöt Finnish Cancer Organisations / Cancer Society of Finland
Provides information and support for people with cancer in Finnish, Swedish and English.

Phone: 0800 19414 or (358) 9 135 331

Fédération Nationale des Centres de Lutte Contre Le Cancer (FNCLCC)
(The National Federation of French Cancer Centres)
Provides online information for people with cancer in French.


Ligue Nationale contre le Cancer (National League Against Cancer)
Provides information for people with cancer in French.

Phone: 0810 111 101 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm)

Cancer Support France
Provides support in English to people in France.

Phone: 05 45 893005 (10.00 to 12.30. They also have an answer phone and aim to return calls within 24 hours)

Deutsche Krebshilfe (German Cancer Aid)
Provides advice and information for people with cancer in German, including booklets that you can download from the website.


The Hellenic Cancer Society
Provides information and support for cancer patients. The information on their website is in Greek and English.

Open Telephone Line: (210) 64 01 200 (8.00am – 8.00pm, for cancer information)

Krabbameinsfélagið (The Icelandic Cancer Society)
Provides information and support to people with cancer. The information on their website is in Icelandic.

Phone: (354) 540 1900
Cancer Patients Aid Association
Provides information and support to people with cancer. Has branches in several cities; website has local contact details. Information on their website is in English.

The Indian Cancer Society
The society provides food, medicines, transport, prostheses and counselling to cancer patients. It has branches and affiliated groups in many towns and cities. Information on their website is in English.

Phone: 91-22-2202 9941 / 2202 9942

The Irish Cancer Society
Provides support and information in English to patients with cancer.

Helpline: 1 800 200 700 (Mon-Thurs 9.00am-7.00pm; Fri 9.00am-5.00pm)
Israel Cancer Association
Funds research and provides information and support to cancer patients. Information is provided in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian.

Phone: 1 800 599 995 or (972) 3 5721616

Associazione Italiana Malati di Cancro (AIMaC)
Provides information in Italian and support to cancer patients, their families and friends.

Phone: 840 503579 (free)

Jamaican Cancer Society
Provides information and support for people with cancer.

King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC)
A cancer treatment centre that also provides online information in English about common types of cancer. Most of the information on their website comes from links to the US National Cancer Institute website.

Hotline (free): 0800 22 66 2 (8am to 5pm, Saturday to Wednesday)

Lebanese Cancer Society
A professional and volunteer organisation that has a website in English. Cancer information on the website is provided via links to other organisations, mostly in English and French.

Phone: (961) 1 217342

Majlis Kanser Nasional (MAKNA) (National Cancer Council)
Provides support and information for people with cancer. They also have some cancer information in English on their website.

Email :
Phone: (60) 3 2162 9178
Persatuan Kebangsaan Kanser Malaysia (National Cancer Society of Malaysia)
Provides an email, telephone and drop-in service for people with cancer in Bahasa, Melayu, English, Chinese and Tamil. Also runs support groups, and offers medical services.

Phone: (60) 3 2698 7300

Cancer Association of Namibia
Provides information and support for people with cancer including care at home and financial advice. Also provides information through email and telephone. The information on their website is in English.

Phone: (264) 61 237 740 or (264) 61 237 741

Cancer Society Nepal
Provides information and support for people with cancer

Telephone: 977 016 22 5663
KWF Kankerbestrijding (The Dutch Cancer Society)
Provide online and telephone information in Dutch for people with cancer. There is also some information about the organisation in English on the website.

Phone: 0800 022 66 22

New Zealand
Cancer Society of New Zealand
Provides funding for research into the causes and treatment of cancer. They provide information in English and support for people with cancer and their families. They also have an online chat forum.

Phone: 0800 CANCER (0800 226 237)

Kreftforeningen (Norwegian Cancer Society)
Provide support and information for cancer patients in Norwegian.

Email: or
Cancer Helpline: (47) 800 48 210 (Monday to Wednesday, 9am to 8pm, Thursday and Friday, 9am to 3pm)

Liga Portuguesa Contra o Cancro (The Portuguese Cancer League)
Provides information and support to people with cancer. All information in Portuguese.

Email: or
Phone: 351 217 221 810 or 808 255 255

Liga Româna de Cancer (The Romanian Cancer League)
Provide online information about cancer in Romanian and English.

Phone: 40 21 314 69 33
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Cancer Society
Provides information and support for people with cancer. Information on their website is in Arabic and English.

Phone: (966) 1 440 2006 or (966) 1 440 1771

Serbian Society for Fight against Cancer
Provides information about the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Phone: +381 11/2656-386

Singapore Cancer Society
Provides free public cancer screening services, financial assistance, rehabilitation, support and hospice home care for cancer patients. Information on the website is in English.

Telephone: 65 6221 0133

Liga Proti Rakovine (League Against Cancer in Slovakia)
Provides support and information in Slovakian.

Phone: 421 02/52 96 51 48 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm & 2pm to 4pm)

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA)
Provides support and information services in English for people with cancer.

Helpline (free) : 0800 22 66 22 (Mon-Fri 8.00am-4.30pm)

Spain Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (AECC)
Provides online and telephone information in Spanish for people with cancer.

Phone: 900 100 036 (cancer information)

José Carreras Leukaemia Foundation

Provides information and support for leukaemia patients. The website is available in English and also in Spanish and Catalan.
Cancerfonden (The Swedish Cancer Society)
Provides information and support in Swedish.

Email: or
Phone: 020 59 59 59 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm)

Krebsliga Schweiz (Swiss Cancer League)
Provides online and telephone information in German, French and Italian.

Phone: 0800 11 88 11 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm)

National Cancer Institute of Thailand
Provides information for people with cancer. The information on the website is in Thai.

American Cancer Society
Provides online, email and telephone information for people with cancer in English and Spanish.                                Website: Help line: 1 800 227 2345

National Cancer Institute
Coordinates, conducts and supports cancer research. They also provide online, email and telephone information in English and Spanish. – a very friendly-looking website where you can link up with people with same interests.  They have a large section of support links for Breast Cancer survivors.   There are also details of interesting articles for cancer survivors.                                                                                                                                                                                                Website:

Phone: 1 800 4 CANCER (1 800 422 6237) Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Cancer Association of Zimbabwe
Provides information and support for people with cancer

Phone: 263 (0)4-705522 or 707444 or 707673

Other international cancer organisations

Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
UICC is the world’s largest independent, non profit, non governmental association of cancer organisations. It is based in Switzerland. UICC brings together a wide range of organisations, including voluntary cancer societies, research and treatment centres, public health authorities, patient support networks and advocacy groups. The website is in English.

Phone: (+41) 22 809 1811

Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL)
ECL was created in 1980 and consists of 27 members. The objectives of the association are to improve communication and to foster collaborative activities between European cancer leagues and organisations that are members of the ECL. The website is in English.

Phone: (+32) 2 256 2000
Nordic Cancer Union

The Nordic Cancer Union is a collaboration of five countries to improve cancer control in Scandinavia. Members include Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Their website is in English.

Email: or
Phone: +46 8 677 10 00 or +47 815 70 477

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How dare researchers say cancer patients worry too much

heredity and cancer, breast cancer, inherited ...

Image via Wikipedia

Medical arrogance

makes this cancer

patient fume


Recently, medical publishers Wiley produced an article that made me furious.

If you are happy with your medical team, are being well treated, and don’t worry about the future – please don’t read on.

But if you are worried – the article stated:

Certain Breast Cancer Patients Worry Excessively About Recurrence.

Published in the online medical journal CANCER, the report was written by medical people – of course.   

And went on to say that “worrying about cancer recurrence can compromise patients’ medical care and quality of life”.

I don’t know about you, but this made me fume.  We have every right to worry.  Admittedly, most of us are strong enough to try and put these worries at the back of our mind – but they are always there:  a small black cloud hovering.

Any tiny chance of us having to go through the same horrible treatment again, wrapped in an impenetrable fog of medical arrogance that tells us nothing when we try to find answers, is enough to worry anyone.

Many doctors don’t seem to realise most of us are realists;  we try to face what happens to us with fortitude.  But if we might have to have surgery, chemo and radiotherapy again, carried out with the same level of unfeeling arrogance with which we had to go through the production line experience the first time – WE HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO BE ANXIOUS.

Why we worry

As patients, we struggle to get on with life.  We do what we are told, but often we are given sparse or no information, particularly about possible side effects from the drugs we are prescribed. 

When I went blind in one eye from ‘my’ drugs, my unfeeling Oncologist dismissed my concern with, “I’ve never seen this before”, couldn’t suggest what I could do, and left me crying in the Ladies, trying to think where I could find out what I could do to find the cause, and if I were ever to get my sight back again in that eye.  (I did, but it took French medical care to sort it out).

Shortly after, painful, bloody skin lesions all over my body were dismissed by one of his colleagues with a shrug, and “it’s your age”, as he swept out of the room, leaving me to deal with the blood and pain on my own.

We can be treated as though we have no brain, that we should ‘put up with embarrassing incidences of hot flushes, incontinence, vomitting, etc. without a murmur, and when we get tired and anxious, no-one has any time for our concerns, or even any help to offer.

However much we try to remain positive, the sheer impossibility of getting information and helpful answers out of the ‘Team’ who are supposed to be looking after us, but are always in ‘meetings’ when we want to talk, can be frightening.

When it happens to them

Surprise, surprise – doctors and nurses who experience breast cancer themselves are often the most vehement in condemning the appallingly arrogance with which medics treat us.  One doctor I know wrote me a very accurate and feeling diatribe against the medical establishment;  every word she wrote found an echo in experiences recounted to me by non-medical patients.  If it could happen to her, we are not alone.

Those lucky enough to be treated by caring, feeling professionals, can feel smug.  There are some wonderful, professional medics out there who really reassure and comfort patients.  But so many hide behind the pompous attitude that says we are lucky to have been treated, and we really shouldn’t worry our little heads about a small chance of recurrence.

What the report said

According to the article, “most women who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer have a low risk for cancer recurrence. Despite an optimistic future, many of these women report that they worry that their cancer will come back. While some worry about cancer recurrence is understandable, for some women these worries can be so strong that they have an impact on what treatments women choose, how often they seek care, and their quality of life as cancer survivors.

All of us know of fellow patients who didn’t come under the ‘most’ category – but their cancer returned.  And when you know what has happened to a friend, it can’t help but cast doubts in your mind.

To a pompous medic, ‘low risk’ can be 5% chance of return.  To a cancer patient that can mean “one in 20 of us will have cancer come back”, and for many that is TOO BIG a chance.  If cancer is going to return for some – what are the professionals doing to reassure us that it won’t be us?  Apparently my blindness only happens to one in 500.  Well, it happened to me – ,statistics didn’t help.

Why isn’t there a trained doctor or nurse to whom we can go when we get worrying symptoms?  All we can do is look these symptoms up on the Internet.  Often the best websites will note that symptoms we are  experiencing should be “checked out by your Doctor”.  And how many doctors then dismiss our concerns?

We never expected to get cancer in the first place.  Many of us had to fight to get doctors to take our symptoms seriously, so we would expect that they would listen to us more sympathetically next time, but ’tain’t so.

Who wrote the report?

Nancy Janz, PhD, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and her team, found that women who had greater ease in understanding clinical information that was presented to them, who experienced fewer symptoms, and who received more co-ordinated care, reported less worry about recurrence.  Er – yes.  So why don’t we all get the same level of care?

We would all love to have medics who gave us more information, answered our questions promptly and informatively, and helped with strange and uncomfortable side effects.  Give us the time and answer our fears, and we will be happy. But apparently cancer patients were vulnerable to high levels of worry…… when we were “younger, being employed, experiencing more pain and fatigue, and undergoing radiation treatment”.

“How much women worry about recurrence is often not aligned with their actual risk for cancer recurrence,” says Dr. Janz. “We need to better understand the factors that increase the likelihood that women will worry, and develop strategies and appropriate referrals to help women with excessive worry”.  Dr. Janz noted that programs to assist women must be culturally sensitive and tailored to patients’ differences in communication style, social support, and coping strategies. She also stressed the importance of appropriately presenting risk information to women with breast cancer so that they can understand their risk and effectively participate in treatment decisions.

It’s not rocket science

A few weeks ago I had been sent a report on research undertaken at one of the top American cancer research  centres.  It seemed to highlight the concerns I was having about symptoms that were occuring in my body – so I email it to my Oncologist and asked if we could discuss this at my next appointment.

I wasn’t too happy when I turned up and mentioned my email, to have this dismissed with “I have about a 100 emails I haven’t replied to”.  He was busy,  wanted to get the next patient in, so I try not to worry.

For the future

The charity Breast Cancer Care realises that secondary, returning cancers are a big worry, and last Autumn saw the birth of a very effective campaign on this issue.  See more info on

They understand how we feel.  They offer practical solutions and support, especially on their helpline – so I have ditched the report in CANCER – and thank heavens for Helplines run by BCC, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Cancer Research UK, etc.

And perhaps, if Conferences, reports, meetings etc. involved genuine patients, rather than just professional medics, we might get some more helpful and useful information out of these reports.  We are the patients – we know what is happening – we need to be told accurately what medics find out about our bodies.

Further reading:

Another Wiley report might give readers more hope that there are medics that understand our fears:

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Treats for tired legs

Prettier colours for support tights

Sitting at the bottom of my tights drawer are pairs of grungy-grey support tights.  The colour, reminding me of very old ladies woollen tights dating from the War, is enough to put me off ever wearing them, however, much the nurses say I must.

So when Pretty Polly and Elbeo announced they were making support tights, I was first in the queue to see if they had anything remotely fashionable and wearable.

And they do!

What’s more, the prices are much more reasonable than support tights.

Will they work?

NO – if you have severe oedema you will have to stick with the NHS 1,2 or 3 strengths.

But if, like me, you have had MLD treatment, and are looking for something a little ‘lighter’, these  tights are made in support ‘strengths’ from 6 – 12, or as they say Light (Factor6) up to Extra firm (Factor 12).

Or if you are a nurse, on your feet all day. these could be very useful.

Others, on their feet all day such as airline cabin crew, will also benefit from this type of support.

I am not a doctor or a nurse, so have no idea if the support is what should be required.  All I can say is that when I wear them they give ME support, and as I was having big problems with wearing the NHS-type as my skin is so dry, dry, dry and itchy – this has to be an improvement.  But ask you nurse.

Extra Strength – I wear these when I need support all day.  They are made of a clever honeycomb weave, which lets air in so you don’t have that awful itch when wearing the old type, but are strong enough to give me adequate support.

Knee Highs – these are going to be bliss in the summer.  I am wearing a pair now, and can feel the support, but it’s not intrusive, and as they only go as far as the knee they will be ideal when the weather gets hotter.

Knee Highs with silver – Pretty Polly say ‘silver has been used as a powerful anti-microbial agent for many centuries’.  The socks are treated with silver which they claim ‘controls the development of foot nasties, bacteria and fungus’.

Colours – this is where I fall in love with the tights.  Elbeo’s Café Creme is a lovely colour, and the tights look just like the smartest, most expensive ones you can buy.  Pretty Polly has Sherry – another lovely colour that looks like tan colour tights.  Then they have Barely Black – a smart sheer stocking, and a rich deep brown for opaque tights – very trendy.

No-one would think they were support tights, and the looks varies from the sheerest 15 denier-type, up to a fashionable opaque.

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Hooked on dog sled racing? How to get going

Boeing 747-400 displaying the post-1997 Speedm...

Image via Wikipedia

Dog sledding is excellent exercise

Here’s how to get going


Every weekend enthusiasts all over the world get out with their dogs – and if you are like 50% of my readers and live in Britain,  here is info about getting started here.

But Beware! This article should come with a stark WARNING!

Once you have tried it – you will be hooked!

All the photos with dogs here were taken by Alan Bowering, a stalwart of the dog sledding scene in  Britain, and show the wheeled rigs that are generally used in UK because of lack of snow.

His partner is Penny Evans (another stalwart), and it is thanks to her and her ex-partner, John Evans, that Europe’s biggest dog sled rally, Aviemore Dog Sled Rally – takes place with over 200 entrants every year, making it Europe’s biggest.

I have asked Alan and Penny, who are certainly hooked, to help with low-down.  They are keen supporters of dog sledding in Britain, have visited Alaska to see the big races, and are off there again shortly.

Photo shows Penny’s Veteran Crufts Champion Siberian Husky, Penkhala’s Nikarah – Nik for short.

Where can you do this?

Go to for a list of rallies taking place all over Britain.   If you live near East Anglia see below; or ask the local Forestry Commission office, as they lend land for the rallies at most of their properties.

In summer, contact the club to find out if enthusiasts are running – if weather is cold enough they will gather, but dogs don’t like too hot temperatures.  During the summer there are shows, and whilst most of these dogs would curl a lip if asked to ‘show’, some, like Penny, do occasionally enter – then make others jealous by producing dogs like Nik who walk away with the prize.  And asking around at a show will always produce dog sled enthusiasts who can tell you where to find the sport.

Alan’s photos show dogs pulling wheeled rigs on British forest trails.  Teams are smaller in UK, as they don’t have to run so far as they do in the Iditarod.  The object of events in Britain is to give enthusiasts a fun day out – not trek for a thousand miles!

The rigs are very much like tricycles, and don’t take long to master.  However, the dogs are just as eager to run as Iditarod veterans, so no need to worry about how fast they go – just how to hang on for dearlife as they get going.

Sledding in East Anglia

Apart from the Siberian Husky Club, I asked another very keen friend if she could tell me where one could go to learn to ‘mush’.  She wrote back to say, “the people I wanted to check with are Forstal Huskies – Sally Leich and Ali Koops – and they are happy for you to put their details up.  Their website is – which seems to say it all really!

Where else?

British Siberian Husky Racing Association                                                                        They organise a championship series of races every season, all over the country, so there should be one or more within easy reach of most parts of UK

And if you are really keen to see what goes on, take a trip to Aviemore in Scotland for last-but-one weekend every January, when the town hosts Europe’s largest dog sled rally: well over 200 teams compete every year.

British Airways flies to Inverness (for Aviemore).  As you fly north take a look out of plane windows and you very often see a procession of ‘white vans’ carrying dogs, heading north.  They’ll have wheeled rigs – and for the optimists a pulka (snow sled) – on the roof.  If you are going for the tourist experience, don’t forget Aviemore is very near Speyside, where the river is lined with whisky distilleries of every kind;  most welcome visitors.

During the rally one of the major distilleries hosts a Malt Whisky tasting at Aviemore.  This is definitely not a booze up, but a serious and enjoyable learning experience.  Dog sledders know their malts, and many of them are partial to Lagavulin – so much so that the town had run out of it during one rally; but I understand this has been rectified!

Tip – if you like eating well, book restaurant reservations EARLY.  Dog sledders may look like the scruffiest people you have ever seen when racing, but they know their food and fine dining, so come evening they are off into the town to eat the gourmet-ish food they can find.

Hotels – once, when Aviemore was booked out, we stayed at Craigellachie Hotel (about an hour away).  And landed in clover.  Any hotel that can provide smiling, helpful staff, a bar with 700 Malts (has anyone ever drunk even half?), gourmet food with a local twist, luxurious bedrooms and yellow ducks to float in your bath (no, you haven’t had too much to drink – they really are there as the Manager considers every bath MUST have a duck floating in it) has got my vote as one of my favourites.  And the prices are reasonable – unlike the over-glitzed tourist traps further south.

What to wear

Very warm boots.  Lots of thermal layers plus old cashmere sweaters (as one does). Warm trousers – not jeans. And warm gloves.  If you are going to be helping/working, wear inner silk glove linings (buy them in sports shops £8);  they are excellent to wear when you need your hands, but want some protection when you have to take off thick gloves.

Then, some tricks of the trade that will give your skin an extra layer of protection. 

Use plenty of skin moisturiser, both on your body, as winds can cut through and give you wind burn even through layers, and on your face.  And keep a spare jar of cream in your pocket, plus plenty of lip balm.  The sun may be shining, but our skins are extremely vulnerable in cold conditions – trust me!

Currently I am using Living Nature products, and they have coped brilliantly with this incredible cold, snowy winter we have had, plus the cold winds that do more damage to skin than anything.  Their Living Nature Lip Balm is a godsend;  a deeply nourish balm, I keep it in my pocket whenever I go outdoors, especially watching sledding, and use it every hour at least. 

Before going out I will put on their leave-on Ultra Nourishing Mask.  My tip is to leave this on – don’t bother to wipe off – after your shower, then before you go out slap on their Rich Day Cream over the top; together the two layers will give you added protection, and  deeply nourish parched dry skin.  Finally, at night put on their Radiance Night Oil underneath your night cream, which gives an extra boost whilst you are sleeping.  This is a delicate blend of rosehips and herbs to help retain and restore a skin’s vitality.  

Incidentally their eco-friendly packaging has flat backs so it doesn’t take up much room in the suitcase.

 Currently I  am using Flexitol on my feet –  they provide creams for Rachel Scidoris (the incredible blind musher) AND her dogs ( sled dogs are really spoilt)  – so what helps Rachel win races is good enough for me. 

So you want to go abroad

All over the Alps and in Scandinavia there are dog sledding kennels that offer rides – either training you to mush or run behind the dogs in charge of a team, or you can sit in a sled (pulka) and be towed behind a team with someone else doing the mushing.

Ask the local tourist board of any ski resort to give you a list of local kennels offering this

Look on and I have written up a few health spa resorts where you can take part.

The big one – going to Alaska

Have already had enquiries from readers – “how do we get there?  and when is best time to go?”

Answer is almost any time.  There is a big tourism trade in the summer, with outdoor enthusiasts going to see the wildlife, go kayaking, etc.

And of course if you want to go dog sledding, the season is right throughout the winter, and you could even take out dogs from kennels that will be competing in the Iditarod.

Throughout the winter there are various dog sled races most weeks, and being a spectator is the friendliest way of meeting the ‘natives’, and as Penny and Alan found, as visitors from Britain you are warmly welcomed, and often get to be introduced to the champion mushers.  As Penny said, they were introduced to Lance Mackey as “your biggests fans from Europe”, which she says wasn’t too difficult as they were the only ones.

But she treasures a boot from one of Lance’s champion sled dogs.  As she says, it may be old and worn out – but one of Lance’s – that was something else.

Alaskans are very hospitable, but being stuck out on the furthest peninsula away from UK, the journey needs planning.

Hotels: There is a huge variety in Anchorage,  quite a lot in Nome – but they can be sparse on the trail in between.

Away from these cities, it might be best to go look for the Iditarod recommended B & Bs.  Advantage is that the owners know the trail, they are involved in the running of the race, so have lots of stories to tell, and can advise you on the best way to get somewhere – by tiny plane, by sea or by 4 x 4.

Friends who have booked in to B & Bs are delighted that most owners also have something to do with the Iditarod – so have become firm friends talking it over.

British Airways offer daily connections from Heathrow to Anchorage, Alaska via Seattle (onwards on Alaska Airlines) and also in the summer via Dallas Fort Worth (from 01May, onwards on American Airlines) and via Chicago (from 09 Jun, onwards on American Airlines).

Each of these options has a connection from Manchester to Heathrow.

In addition, for the Chicago option it would be possible to use the AA-operated codeshare flight direct from Manchester to Chicago to connect onto the onward flight.

BA say there are a number of options for lead-in fares, and to give a couple of examples:

Return (including taxes/fees/charges) fares in June from Manchester via Chicago start from £891.20;

Return from Heathrow via Seattle or Dallas in May starts from £881.53.

To book visit or call 0844 4930787

If you have become hooked – don’t forget this sport is excellent exercise post cancer;  you can take it at your own pace, just walking around and helping at the start, or running behind a dog team to give you fantastic fun.  Either way you are in the open air, it is fun (even in pouring rain!) as the dogs spread their enthusiasm around, and mushers are very nice people!

And if you love the sport as much as I do, please click through with a small donation to Breakthrough:


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And Finally –

If you have any ideas of getting a husky puppy and starting racing, take a look on the Siberian Husky Club website under ‘Damage’.  These are genuuine photos of what these dogs can do to the inside of a home.  As pack animals, they get bored very easily if they don’t get enough exercise, and much prefer to live outdoors than inside centrally-heated homes.

This says it all!

NHS logo

Image via Wikipedia

Proposed cuts to the National Health Service

 Sent in by a reader:

The British Medical Association has weighed in on Prime Minister David Cameron’s Health Care Proposals.

The Allergists voted to scratch it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.

The Gastroenterologists had a sort of a gut feeling about it, but the Neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve.

The Obstetricians felt they were all labouring under a misconception.

Ophthalmologists considered the idea short-sighted.

Pathologists yelled, “Over my dead body!” while the  Paediatricians said, “Oh, Grow up!”

The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists could see right through it.

The Surgeons were fed up with the cuts and decided to wash their hands of the whole thing.

The ENT specialists smelt “a rat”, didn’t swallow it, and just wouldn’t hear of it.

The Pharmacologists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the Plastic Surgeons said, “This puts a whole new face on the  matter….”

The Podiatrists thought it was a step forward, but the Urologists were pissed off at the whole idea.

The Anaesthetists thought the whole idea was a gas, but the  Cardiologists didn’t have the heart to say no.

In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the arseholes in London!

(With many apologies for the obscenity, but I feel so strongly about the way that the NHS is being mucked around, I couldn’t think of a more polite word).

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Survivorship – American style

And how Lobbying is paying off


The American Cancer Society (ACS) is currently telling the story of Dave Rose -Brigham Young University men’s basketball team coach, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

As Erin O’Neill, spokesperson of ACS says, “Rose would discover the path to recovery was paved by thousands of volunteers who pushed Congress for years to
support cancer research.

Now fully recovered, Coach Rose is back to coaching, leading BYU to
its best record ever this season and reaching the NCAA Tournament for
the fourth consecutive year. More importantly, he is one of the nearly
12 million cancer survivors alive in the U.S. today.

Coach Rose’s experience showed him the importance of cancer research.
That’s why, a few months ago, he stood side-by-side with ACS CAN
volunteers in Washington, D.C., urging lawmakers to increase funding
for cancer research.

This video shows what he and other top coaches are doing to ensure congress makes cancer a national priority.

As ACS say, it was yesterday’s cancer research that helped Coach Rose and so
many others find hope. And it is tomorrow’s research that will
lead to future breakthroughs and new hope for future generations.

Then, with a plea to keep up the lobbying:

  • That’s why we can’t let Congress pull back on the fight against cancer.
    It’s why they must continue strong funding for cancer research.
    And it’s why we must continue to make them aware of its lifesaving benefits.

If you live in another country, remember research goes on worldwide, and it is up to us survivors to keep on lobbying to get more funding for research, to keep up the good work and ensure survivor numbers keep on going up!


Good News for Breast Cancer survivors

pink ribbon

Image via Wikipedia

Latest Research shows older women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer can expect to live just as long

as their peers who have never had breast cancer – says a new study.

According to the story posted by Reuters news agency, by “consulting a register of cancer diagnoses in Medicare patients, the authors, led by Dr. Mara Schonberg of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, were able to identify almost 65,000 older women who were diagnosed with breast cancer of any stage between 1992 and 2003.

For comparison, they collected information for a group of about 170,000 women of similar age, also on Medicare, who were not diagnosed with breast cancer”.

Research involved tracking women in both groups through 2006 (close to 8 years of follow-up on average), to determine how many of them died, and from what cause.

Good News

Women diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – the earliest stage of breast cancer – and stage I cancer were just as likely to survive through the end of the study period, as women who were never diagnosed with cancer.

Apparently, if you were under 80 and diagnosed with DCIS, you were actually slightly more likely to survive for at least 5 years than women who were not diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers believe that could be because of the “healthy user effect;” women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to have been screened for cancer than women who aren’t diagnosed, and may also be more health-conscious in other ways.

The findings, the authors say, suggest that doctors should be talking with older women about the risks and benefits of being screened for breast cancer. Screening might pick up an early stage cancer that is advancing – in which case treatment could prevent the cancer from becoming worse.

In some cases, however, screening might pick up cancers that would not end up cutting a woman’s life short, especially if she was at risk of dying from another condition, such as heart disease. In that sense, a woman is at risk of being treated with invasive procedures unnecessarily since they would not extend her expected lifespan.

“I suspect that a lot of these cancers are cancers that never would have affected someone’s life expectancy” had they not been caught, Schonberg told Reuters Health. However, she said, it’s very hard to know which cancers are going to progress and which are not likely to cause a woman’s death.

“This is the fundamental problem in screening for cancer in general,” Elkin added. She said that each woman’s decision about whether or not to get screened should depend on how much she would benefit from doctors catching an early-stage cancer. Every older woman “should not just get a mammogram routinely, but have a discussion with her doctor,” she said.

The main message is that “screening can be effective even in older women,” Elkin said. “What’s important is not necessarily a woman’s age but her general health and her life expectancy … and that’s true for any age.”

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Oncology, online March 14, 2011.
Copyright © 2011, Reuters

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NHS denying patients DXE scans

The principle of dual energy X-ray absorptiometry

Principle of dual energy X-ray absorptiometry Wikipedia

Osteoporosis diagnosis can be difficult to arrange

You need a DXA scan to confirm if you have Osteoporosis

Today, patients whose parents developed Osteoporosis, or have other conditions such as cancer, etc. often find it hard to obtain a DXA scan that would show if they had this disease.

if you are on aromatase inhibitors, you MUST have a DXA scan – or ask the reason why.

The latest issue of Osteoporosis News shows some readers  paying for a private scan, to confirm if they have the condition, as their NHS doctor would not authorise the procedure. 

With cuts that are already happening, doctors are going to be less willing to authorise scans, but before you go down the pathways of paying privately, or writing to your MP and demanding this,  one doctor highlights that the “current lack of standards related to the condition in the GP contract means that it is difficult to ensure the condition is given the priority it deserves”.

So in other words it can be ignorance – and sometimes it can be easier to pay up and have things done privately. But, before you decide to do this, are you going abroad in the near future?  You could save yourself the cost of the air fare by having the procedure carried out on holiday.


Staying in Italy, my friend knew I had Osteoporosis, and said did I want to come with her whilst she had her regular DXA scan;  this cost her around £40.  Done in an excellent hospital;  clean, efficient, and the results given to her whilst she waited.

I decided not to go with her, as I had been told that one needed to have scans done on the same machine, as there could be variations (don’t know if this is true – but thought it better to go back to have this done on same machine).  When I returned, I phoned my insurance company to ask how much the NHS charged them for one scan.

They told me Insurance companies are charged between £60 per DXA scan (outside London) to £120 (in London at my local NHS hospital).

Who is overcharging?

Someone is making money somewhere – and in this case it looks like the NHS is making money from insurance companies.  So not only do we have to pay for NHS with our taxes, but instead of getting treatment, then paying a top-up for private room, named Consultant, etc. as one does in Europe (often making private health much cheaper), we have to pay the complete cost with no benefit from money we pay in to NHS.

And now I find that the NHS is rooking the insurance companies.  Which makes our insurance more expensive.

This is stupid and becoming counter-productive.  Recently our LINk had a deputation of SIX people from a local NHS  hospital’s marketing department, to ask – no plead – with us to recommend their hospital.  Private patients were falling off and they were losing money.

Well, if they go on milking insurance companies, patients will go over completely to private hospitals, or decide to ‘go NHS’, putting more of a burden on the health service, and the NHS will lose the cash cow.

National Osteoporosis Society

P.S  Am writing this sitting on my balcony in the Hotel Lamm in Seefeld.  This is a medical resort, and have just had a fascinating talk with their Dr. Dirnberger, an Orthopaedic surgeon who practices in Innsbruck.  She has a lot to say and do with treating Osteoporosis, so watch this space – I am starting on their progamme tomorrow!  Well, somone has to do this!

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How to burn 12,000 calories a day

Coast Guard sponsored Iditarod musher Ken Ande...

Image by U.S. Coast Guard via Flickr

Sorry – you have to be a sled dog racing in the Iditarod

To do this run, these elite canine athletes burn up an incredible 12,000 calories a day, whilst they race across Alaska in the annual Iditarod dog sled dog race.

Mind you , their mushers don’t do too badly – they probably burn around 6,000 calories per person per day. 

If you are serious about losing weight, going mushing locally might be an option.
Racing in long distance races in North America, such as the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest, or in Europe on La Grande Oddysée, the dogs’ diet has increased for this year’s racing.  About five years ago it was normal to give dogs around 10,000 calories per day.  But times have got faster, helped by scientifically-planned nutrition, and now, for the Iditarod,  they get an extra 2,000 calories to keep them running around 7 – 9 hours a day, around 14 hours a day, over the 1100 mile course.

Even a sled dog kept in a European kennels, running fewer hours a day taking visitors on rides, can burn up 6,000 miles a day – and humans who go dog sledding can certainly find this sport makes a very effective slimming regime.

So if you want to get fit, enjoy outdoor sport and love dogs – going dog sledding could be a way of shedding the pounds.

And this is easy to do, all over the world.  Even in Britain, without much snow, enthusiasts have adapted sleds to run on wheels, and every weekend during the winter sees events happening up and down the United Kingdom.

What do the dogs eat?

Their bodies require protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre, with fat being the most calorie-dense. To cover their caloric needs, more fat may be temporarily added to their diet, especially when temperatures are most bitter. This is done gradually over several days as too much fat added suddenly can cause diarrhea.  Often these dogs run at night, when the temperature drops to a dog-friendly minus 30 – 60 degrees (yes, the colder the better they like to run), but this increases their calorie consumption – and the musher’s as well.

Each musher calculates his/her own dog food diet but most feed a premium power-packed dog food with added options of lamb trimmings, poultry skins, hamburger, moose or salmon steaks, occasionally corn oil, and for some, seal oil or mink mixture, in addition to vitamin, mineral, and probiotic supplements. The musher aims for a food that is about 2500 calories per pound. Water is important too, and although the food is usually fed frozen and raw, snow may be melted for making a stew.

After their rest and sleep, the musher will mix up their first meal of their day, and this will probably be a sloppy mixture of the packs of food they give normally, plus lots of water or liquid.  This the dogs must take on board, as it helps to keep them dehydrated – you can’t pour water out of bottles for them at minus 30 degrees.

Originally when dog sledding was in its heyday, mushers would carry all the dog food in their sleds, or else expect to pick it up at homesteads along the way.  But now, with 60 – 70 teams of 16 dogs descending on the small villages along the way,the food is ready-packed before the race, and dropped by small planes at each checkpoint.

What do mushers eat?

Everything and anything that keeps out the cold and keeps you going.  They all carry their favourite snacks in little packs that they can grab as they are running along, and these will contain anything they like.  If they run out of human food, it hasn’t been unknown for them to grab a handful of doggie snacks.  Yes, the dogs get snacks along the way too.

But you burn up so many calories that no-one worries too much about calories;  it’s energy you need and your food is providing this – you hope!

So I want to lose weight – how to I start if I live somethere like Britain?

First, go see.  If you go onto the Siberian Husky Club website  (there will be similar ones all over Europe for local clubs), and look for Events, forthcoming races, etc. there will be a list of what’s happening in the next months.  Turn up in warm clothes and boots you can run in, and if you offer to help – stewarding, recording, etc. you will be welcomed with open arms.

Just watching can be fun, but if you are involved with ‘holding’ on to the dogs whilst they are waiting to run – you burn up the calories.  Those dogs are powerful and they don’t want to wait for anyone – just get running.

The picture on the left was taken by noted dog sledder Alan Bowering, and shows just what strength is needed to get these dogs harnessed up.

Then, once you are hooked, ask to go on a run.  Many of those running will offer runs to enthusiasts, for a fee, and you start with a couple of dogs – to see if you like it.

Kennels are all over Britain, mostly from Watford north up to the tip of Scotland, so you are bound to find an enthusiast near you.  Again, if you can’t find anyone go to the club website to find contacts.


If you want to learn more about sled dogs, a book written by an amateur takes you through the history of sled dogs, and gives background information about these incredible hard-working canines.  999 and Other Working Dogs – published by WSN.  Buy it off Amazon or Police Dog Equipment site

Has a long chapter giving basic history, details of different husky breeds, and anecdotes about famous sled dogs and their exploits.

AND IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, go back to HOME page and click on Iditarod for more about the race, its incredible history, and some of the mushers who have overcome cancer to finish this 1100 mile race.

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Iditarod – facts behind the story of the Last Great Race on Earth

First native Alaskan to win Iditarod

As he powered towards the famous buried arch finishing line at Nome, John Baker was cheered on by fellow Inupiats.

They were delighted that at last a true native Alaskan had won the race, and their  drums welcomed him in to a deafening beat.

And there was another cause for pride:  John and ‘ Team Baker’  as he calls his dogs, (see picture right – looks like Velvet and Snickers leading) had done this in the fastest time ever:  8 days 18 hrs. 46mins.39 secs, beating previous record time set by Martin Buser in 2002 of 8 days 22 hrs. 46 mins 2 secs.

Second in was Ramey Smyth, who also beat the record with a run of 8 days 19 hrs 50 mins 59 secs.  As well as running so well, Ramey had been spreading the message to help cancer patients – don’t smoke – and don’t drink – all the way along the trail.

The 39th Iditarod was the fastest for overall time taken by leaders, and there will be double celebrating along the Alaska coastline and interior tonight  one of their own has at last bought the Iditarod trophy home.  Incidentally, there are always two trails, that alternate each year, to give every tiny Alaskan community along the way the chance to be part of this race.  This year it was the turn of the Southern route, which is generally regarded as taking longer, as it is slightly more miles.

Current finishers

3rd  Hans Gatt

4th Dallas Seavey  (having won the Yukon Quest earlier last month, this youngster from a famous mushing family is      going to have to wait for the ultimate prize

5th  Hugh Neff

6th German-born Sebastian Schnuelle

7th Ray Redington

8th Peter Kaiser

9th Ken Anderson

then came three women,

10th Jessie Royer

11th Allie Zirkle

12th – feisty DeeDee Jonrowe, the battling mastectomy survivor with pink-booted team

and Lance Mackey, fellow cancer survivor, has made it to Nome in 16th place.  Followed by previous winner Martin Buser.

Conditions must have altered somewhere on the trail, as veterans are still to appear in Nome.  No doubt it will come out, but Lance, being Lance, isn’t blaming anyone for his lower placing than he hoped after his last four Iditarods when he came in first.  That’s life!

Scotsman Wattie McDonald, strong supporter of children’s cancer charities, arrived in in 36th position, up on his placing in the 40s last year.  But this time he only had 12 dogs, and for someone who carefully nurses his dogs, rather than pushing on and dropping those that don’t keep up – this shows that conditions must have been tough this year.

The rest of the field of 48 teams (originally there were 61 starters) are still strung out behind, and it will probably be another 2 days before the last one in gains the Red Lantern prize.

But the first Rookie (first time runner) has made it in, at a very creditable 28th position.  French-born Nicolas Petit got into the race by a fluke, when the kennel owner for whom he worked, Jim Lanier, had to scratch as he needed an urgent hip operation.  So Nicolas stepped in, and Jim must be delighted at how well he did with his team.

Dream come true

Baker, seen here at the bib number draw before the race)  had his dream come true at last.

He has been in Top Ten finishers 12 times since he first raced in the Iditarod in 1996; and this race win must be even sweeter, when he reflects back that he so nearly won it before.

He had been leading, when the trail became obliterated;  he thought he had gone off course and wasted precious time getting back – when he was on the right trail all the time.  But sadly this cost him his lead that year.



Three of Baker’s dogs

Left:  Lead dogs Velvet and Snickers

Very fast, mixed types

 Right:  Rambo

Typical husky type – with plenty of power


Size of teams – 16 seems a lot of dog to handle, particularly when running through forests and across rough, cut-up terrain, but in the old days when dog sleds provided the transport across Northern America, it was not unusual to have teams of up to 60 dogs to haul freight – and these freight ‘trains’ would have been using Malamutes, the largest of the huskies.

Some people today, particularly in Britain where the traditions of dog sledding, rather than going flat out to win, still prevail, there are some teams that will use Greenlands.  They are slightly smaller than Malamutes, but still big dogs.  Raol Amudsen loved them, and probably won over Scott in the race to the South Pole because Scott relied on mechanical transport or ponies – Amundsen put his faith in his dogs.

Dogs here are Greenlands, belonging in musher Jim Ryder’s team.  As you see they are powerful and very attractive dogs – real powerhouses in a team.

After Amundsen’s South Pole triumph, the Swiss company building the Jungfrau mountain railway ran in to snags.  The terrain was too steep for mules to transport the building materials, so they asked Amudsen for help, and he bought in a team of Greenlands.  These endeared themselves to the workmen and the locals, so that when the railway was finished, and the Directors made murmurs about what should they do with the dogs (with possible solution copying Inuit tradition and destroying them), there was an outcry.  So the Greenlands stayed, had superb kennels built half way up the mountain, and every day go to work on the Jungfrau train in their own carriage, either up to the top in summer, or down to the valley in winter, giving dog sled rides to tourists.


999 and Other Working Dogs – published by WSN.  Buy it off Amazon or Police Dog Equipment site

Has a long chapter giving basic history, details of different husky breeds, and anecdotes about famous sled dogs and their exploits.

If you are hooked

Have already have had enquiries from readers – “how do we get there?  and when is best time to go?” 

Alaskans are very hospitable, but being stuck out on the furthest peninsula away from UK, the journey needs planning.

When you get there, the Iditarod office or tourist board are people to contact as there aren’t many hotels outside the cities.  But local Alaskans are very hospitable, and friends who have booked in to B & Bs are delighted that most owners also have something to do with the Iditarod – so have become firm friends talking it over.

British Airways offer daily connections from Heathrow to Anchorage, Alaska via Seattle (onwards on Alaska Airlines) and also in the summer via Dallas Fort Worth (from 01May, onwards on American Airlines) and via Chicago (from 09 Jun, onwards on American Airlines).

Each of these options has a connection from Manchester to Heathrow.
In addition, for the Chicago option it would be possible to use the AA-operated codeshare flight direct from Manchester to Chicago to connect onto the onward flight.

To surmise, this gives a number of options for ‘lead-in’ fares.
To give a couple of examples (return including taxes/fees/charges) fares in June from Manchester via Chicago start from £891.20;
from Heathrow via Seattle or Dallas in May starts from £881.53.

 To book visit or call 0844 4930787

If you have become hooked – and love the sport as much as I do, please click through with a small donation to Breakthrough:


Don’t forget Ramey Smyth is running with a powerful message, one ably supported

by Breakthrough – DON’T SMOKE.  He feels passionately about this, with having

experienced cancer in the family.

For latest finishers and other info:

John Baker

Ramey Smyth

Hans Gatt

Dallas Seavey

Hugh Neff

Lance Mackey  www.mackeyscomebackkennel.