Monthly Archives: August 2012

Sign petition to stop discrimination for those claiming Disability allowances

Campaigners organise petition

We saw a lot of very enterprising, gutsy disabled people at the Paraolympic Games.

But some of those who rightly claim disability allowances and benefits, are finding their benefits are being cut.

Recently some sick and disabled people have been singled out and made to go through further tests and interviews to qualify for the benefits they need to live.  Some have been allowed to continue receiving benefits they have been awarded;  whilst others have been told to fill in massive forms – again.

“Proving” you have a disability has become a long drawn-out process, that can make life harder, not easier, for disabled people.  And for those who have already filled out the long and intensive pages of questionnaires, it is cruel to ask them to go through this again.

To make matters worse, this week found the government’s new approach to “testing” people isn’t working. The campaigning organisation 38 Degrees say “As many as 100,000 people could have been denied the money they needed, and put under pressure to work when they can’t.”

Mistakes galore

As 38 Degrees say, Atos, the multi-million pound private company that delivers these tests for the government, has been getting away with making big mistakes. 38 Degrees reckons their errors may mean around 100,000 people were deemed “fit to work”, when they weren’t. Yet despite this terrible performance, Atos have hardly paid a penny in fines. In fact, they’ve made enough profit to sponsor the Paralympics next week.

So as politicians get ready to stand on the sidelines and applaud Britain’s Paralympians, let’s send them a powerful message: don’t forget your responsibility to the rest of the UK’s disabled people – start making Atos pay for its mistakes.

38 Degrees are asking readers to sign the petition now to tell Iain Duncan Smith, Minister for Work and Pensions, to stand up to Atos and sort out disability benefit tests:

Don’t ignore disabled people’s contributions

The Paralympics are one reminder of the value that disabled people add to life in the UK. But for many disabled people, finding work is impossible. Sometimes that’s because of the nature of their disability, and sometimes its because workplaces don’t try hard enough to include them.

When someone has a disability that prevents them from working, they deserve proper support they can rely on. That support shouldn’t be taken away at a moment’s notice because of inaccurate tests. As politicians get ready to support Team GB’s Paralympians over the next fortnight, let’s make sure they start treating the rest of the disabled people living in the UK with the respect they deserve.

The government has the power to hit Atos where it hurts: financially. They can stop awarding contracts, set higher targets and fine them for poor performance. If enough of us sign the petition demanding this happens, then the government will be forced to hold them to account.

Welsh Disability Forum

On their website the Welsh Disability Forum makes it very clear what Welsh members think of Atos – and goes on to say that another contract for assessing disabilities has been awarded to Capita.

Some of you may shiver when you hear that name – long associated with other NHS contracts.  Private Eye has written frequently about this company, but places an R after the initial C – showing what they think of them!

Should you have a Mammogram?

Cancer Screening – have your say


English: SAN DIEGO (Sept. 22, 2008) Lead Mammo...


There is heated debate in some quarters over benefits or problems caused by Mammograms, with experts taking opposing views.  Recently I attended one debate where world-renowned experts were one step away from an Olympics-style boxing match – it became so heated.

There is an increasing recognition that people should be provided with what they need to make an informed choice themselves about cancer screening, including balanced information about benefits and harms.

Currently, Professor Amanda J Ramirez, National Cancer Action Team  is leading a  review, engaging clinicians, academics and charities, who have helped us develop a proposed approach.  This has been published on

Ramirez is keen to engage YOU in the debate over the coming months. The website will give members of the public an opportunity to have their say about the approach, the type of information that should be available and how it should be presented.  It is well worth taking this survey, which should take about ten minutes, as the answers will be noted and form  help the Team get the views of the public on the approach.


More and more research is showing breast screening can possibly cause harm as well as benefit.  Ever since the pan-European cancer charity Europa Donna held a fascinating debate in London on screening pros and cons, people have been asking questions.  And major organisations have typically stood back and offered platitudes rather than action.

Dept. of Health, NHS, Breast Cancer Charities, cancer hospitals, professionals, etc. have done what they do best – sat on the fence.

Brave souls, from cancer patient Mitzi Blennerhasset,  to one of world’s leading breast cancer surgeons, Prof. Michael Baum, have been calling and calling for an investigation – for more information – for the truth to come out – but finally Richards, the ‘Cancer Czar’,  has been goaded in to action, come off his comfy fence, and ordered a review.

Meanwhile Mitzi has posted a string of information on her website,

The debate was aired here first

It takes guts for a pioneer, lauded for his work, to go on looking at facts – then come out and say further research says “do the opposite”.

Basically, this was what Michael Baum has done. 

Over two years ago, on a night when there was thick snow,  enough interested people managed to fight through the drifts to hear a fascinating debate, put on by Europa Donna.

The debate was between various luminaries of the breast cancer world – and got so heated that the snows were well on their way to be melted.  Michael was there to explain why, having set up the NHS Breast Screening programme, he now advocated caution – and was telling people that the programme should provide much more information, and to urge further investigation into the results.

Of course, if the NHS ‘approves’ something, woe betide anyone who sensibly points out that once a programme is rolling, it might throw up anomalies.  The NHS has approved – so you don’t questions this.  Well, not if you don’t want the medical establishment to close ranks.

Michael doesn’t care; his position in the surgical oncology world is so eminent he doesn’t need to worry.  But it took guts for Mitzi to question the medical establishment, and demand better treatment for cancer patients.

It should be OUR personal choice if we want a mammogram, or not.  Not dependent on fighting the system or paying to go privately.  But to make this choice we should be given the facts, and let’s hope Mike Richards pulls his finger out and gets on with the review.

Here is an extract of Mitzi’s research, up on

*COCHRANE LEAFLET: screening for breast cancer with mammography


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Being sensible with Herbal remedies


Careful taking herbal remedies


BELEM, BRAZIL - JUNE 07: Amazonian herbal reme...

BELEM, BRAZIL – JUNE 07: Avoid Street displays like this



Sadly, many of the most efficient cancer drugs aren’t  very nice to take – so we end up either being resentful as we dutifully swallow our prescribed drugs – but not very willingly.

Or, ditching drugs altogether and going for old-fashioned alternatives.

But before we take alternatives, we should ensure that these medicines are not going to give us as many problems.

Some herbs can be very, very powerful, and even kill us if we mis-use them.

What’s best for us

Sadly, as a medical writer I get numerous claims of XXXXX herbs that can cure cancer.  They can’t.

Believe me, if there was a real Herbal cure for cancer, even though the drug companies might not like this, Governments are spending too much money on cancer treatment to ignore this.  But as so often happens, yet another claim of a ‘miracle’ plant bites the dust, and the world goes back to searching again.

But many people believe that herbal remedies can help mitigate the side effects of drugs, so if you want to take these:

a)  take your Oncologist’s advi ce

b) then ask the advi ce of a Pharmacist who understands the power of herbal medicine.

Better still, after you have taken sensible advice, go for products grown and supplied by one of the traditional companies that has a good reputation in this field – not one that has come on the scene from some country with a supposed reputation for medicine – but no actual backing or basis for their prescribing.

  •  Has it a good record?  Some companies have been going for 200 years
  •  Has it has an advisory committee overseeing products?
  •  Is it is proud of its traditions, guarding these jealously?
  • So look for a herbal company that has a good track record, as is sold in a specialist pharmacy such as Lloyds or Boots.
  • One such firm is the 200 year old firm of Potters Herbals, whose products are stocked in major specialist pharmacies, where the pharmacists understand herbal medicines.

Recently I saw a copy of their report Health of the Nation, which is a fascinating account of different major problems that affect our health – from coughs to lack of sleep.

Plants can be powerful!

  • Don’t let Foxgloves fool you;  like many plants and herbs, they are very pretty.  (see left).

Herbs gathered from plants are powerful:  aspirin is made from white willow;  morphine and codeine are made from the opium poppy – and the favourite for medieaval poisoners was the attractive foxglove (digitalis).

But  company such as Potters has a reputation to safeguard.  For many major worres today, from digestive problems to stress, they have an old-fashioned herbal remedy.  Our ancestors seemed to do well on these, and prescribed by someone who understands their interaction with anything else you can take, they may well provide a gentler solution than taking a drug.

Sometimes drugs are necessary – but have a look through this report and see if there is a solution that makes sense.  As they rightly say, “routinely popping pills isn’t necessarily the answer to safeguarding everyone’s health.  Natural ingredients can play a powerful contribution to health by working effectively, and generally they also have fewer side effects.

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Skincare is so important for cancer survivors

Especially in this appalling Winter

Cyclamen flowers

Cyclamen flowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rain – Rain – Rain.  And then snow.  All designed to make our ‘drug prone’ skin break out in rashes, scaly patches, rough bits and other horrors. Doesn’t it make you cross!  But I have been treating myself to retail therapy and using some ‘old’ favourites, but this time slapping them on twice or three times a day.

One encouraging sign

The recent reports (by Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan, etc) identified that there 500,000 survivors with MAJOR side effects from cancer drugs, and gave hope to those of us who have been trying to get doctors to acknowledg that we suffer from appalling skin problems, thanks to these drugs.

Macmillan called its report CURED – BUT AT WHAT COST? And when you read this you find many of our problems are finally acknowledged.  But in true British fashion – none of the charities involved seemed concerned to do anything to help us.

So it is left to us to get on with the fall-out – and this can cost.  Anyway here are some of the staples that I turn to to hep me with skin problems from side effects – NOT FOR SKIN CANCER – that’s a different subject.


I haven’t put in prices of many of the products, BECAUSE – in case you haven’t noticed – there is a credit squeeze on.  Products that are best for our ‘druggie’ skin tend to contain expensive ingredients (that’s why they work well), and can be very expensive.  A lot of the cost goes into paying for research, and whilst there isn’t the money around, companies often offer good deals to enable us to buy their products, hoping that when money is more available they can recoup research costs – and start doing more research!

So go on-line, or ask your favourite skincare assistant what good deals are available.

Elemis Body Cream

I love Elemis – not least because I am a dedicated patriot, and Elemis are a British company.  Since the Jubilee I have come out of the closet and admitted that I search out British-made products whenever I can.  So the British company Elemis are always top of  my list.

My skin is suffering from ‘winter-season’ blues.  The change from summer bought out Brillo pad skin, so went off and treated myself to a tube of Elemis’s Tranquil Touch Body Cream.  It has calmed down the rough patches, and restored my soft skin of which I am so proud.

At the same time I thought I should do something about lines under my eyes, so treated myself to the Elemis Pro-collagen Eye Treatment, and lines are less noticeable.  It’s a lightweight texture so it doesn’t drag on the sensitive skin under the eyes , and defense against nasties such as pollution.

Then I thought I really deserved a treat, so added a jar of their Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream;  this really is one of the best face creams, and works wonders on my ‘druggie’ skin and the rough patches.  It’s only a few days, but already I can feel the skin is much softer.


Their Even Better makeup is a dermatologist-developed makeup that helps restore uneven skin tone.  Gently patting this on my face evens out the variations, and I end up with really good looking skin, although I never know what to make of comments like, “you do look well”.  It helps when you are in despair because drugs cause your skin to break out in blotches! But what do I look like normally!

There must be an Even Better Make-up colour for you, as they offer 25 different shades in the range, reckoning to cover a wide range of tones.  It also has an SPF of 15;  which although not strong enough for bright sunlight, is adequate for outdoor wear on most days.  And like most Clinique products, it is very competively priced at £23

 Neom Organic Bath Oil

I have been staying with cousins, and they kept on coming into the room sniffing and saying “something smells good”.  It was my Neom products, which made life very easy for all the birthdays that happened at the same time!

I have been rubbing this onto my skin as a counter for the side effects of some new drug that is leaching out the moisture from my skin.  I was scratching myself all over, as the new pills were so draining, but a few days rubbing in Neom oil and my skin is blissfully free of itching.

My favourite scent is Moroccan Blush Rose, but if anyone wants to give me a present (hint hint to those I http://www.neomorganics.comam staying with!) I am happy with any of the scents.  They are all based on natural plant extracts etc. and contain things such as Lavender and Rose which were used for antiseptics.

Living Nature gentle make-up remover

Travelling as I am doing at the moment, I do like the Living Nature products in their flat-backed eco-friendly bottles.  They slip into a corner of my bag, and are easy to pack.  Another thing in their favour is that this make-up remover is also good for removing eye make-up – in fact it won an award as best remover from The Green Bible.

Gentle Makeup Remover is a highly effective but extra-gentle cleanser to instantly soften and remove makeup. It’s non-drying and skin-calming formulation is soothing – an  infusion of cleansing Kumerahou, hydrating Harakeke Flax Gel, and nourishing Active Manuka Honey. It also contains Eyebright and Witchhazel extracts (natural anti-inflammatories and skin conditioners), to soothe the skin.

Of course it is  fragrance and allergen free, making it suitable for sensitive skin.

To use: Apply to warm damp cotton pad and gently wipe away all traces of makeup.

For all skin types, especially sensitive skin.

This weird summer we are having is making everything topsy-turvey.  Once we put away lip salve when Spring came;  now I use this all year long.  New Zealand is producing excellent products for cancer ‘hit’ skin, and the latest is Kiwiherb’s Calendula Ointment for lips.

And I can hardly believe it – but the sun is peeping out!  What more could I want?  !!!

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Will there be an Olympics Legacy?


Ennis calls

for sports



Fresh from winning an Olympic gold medal for the Heptathlon, and keen to build on Team GB’s success in the London Olympics.

Jessica Ennis calls on the UK to provide lasting sports facilities for everyone.  I take this to mean older people, as well as youngsters.

But once there is more Government committment to ‘doing well’ at our own Olympics, will Cameron’s, Clegg’s, Gove’s and Uncle Tom Cobley’s passionate pleas be allowed to fade quietly away – and we follow Australia?  As a country they made a fantastic success of the 2000 Olympics, yet 12 years later they are struggling to win any gold medals.

Exercise is good for you

We are constantly being told that exercise helps overcome cancer, from fatigue to treatment side effects.  Yet if we try and get help with this, how often are we given facilities?  Not very often.

Yet when I produced scans and letters showing that exercise had helped reverse osteoporosis (caused as a side effect of cancer drugs), my hospital just shrugged their shoulders, and said they didn’t offer any help.

Private v. State

There has been criticism of the number of privately educated members of Team GB who won medals – but often their training was supervised by teachers in the private sector who are passionate about sport, and encouraged by their school to help their pupils on a voluntary basis.

One of the outstanding features of London’s Olympics has shown the incredible helpfullness of the volunteers.  We could harness this.

At the last Olympics I belonged to a local Health Club, who ran a competition for its members based on Olympic gold medals.  The team of trainers devised ten ‘sports’ based on what we could do, ranging from swimming X amount of pool lengths per visit, to running to and from our homes to the Club.  There was a giant scoreboard in the Reception, on which we could mark which sports we were entering, and then watch as our counters moved across the board.

Watching these counters was incredibly motivating;  it didn’t matter how good or bad we were, we could feel a sense of achievement – and at the end of the Olympics we are all that much fitter.

If Physios would volunteer to set the the ‘Games’ and a scoreboard, and supervise sessions in hospital gyms, this idea could be adapted to encourage patients to get fitter.

Very often private schools encourage their teachers to go that bit further, and volunteer.  And as the Opening Ceremony showed, there were 600 NHS nurses keen to give up an enormous amount of time for rehearsals.

So lets devise properly structured exercise, using volunteers if necessary, and  leave a lasting legacy from London’s Olympics.

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Sunflowers make patients happy

Cancer Patients grow Sunflowers


Sunflowers for my mother

Happy Sunflowers  (yksin)

Patients at Ealing Hospital in West London have taken to raising Sunflowers, and selling them in aid of funds.


Last time they did this they sold out all their sunflower plants on a group awareness, breast awareness day.

Selling at the main entrance of Ealing Hospital, they raised £82 and sold 50-60 plants.  Patients had planted and looked after these  since May at the West London Mental Health Horticultural Centre,  near the hospital.

Christina Papadopoulou, Macmillan BCN at Ealing Hospital says, “Mental health patients very kindly looked after and watered our plants, and if it wasn`t for the weather we could have done much better!”

Support from Macmillan

This is such a marvellous idea, and Christina says if other patients wish to copy this innovative scheme, the group was granted £500 from Macmillan which will help towards covering the expenses of many of the activities. Macmillan will support this initiative and will help the group access grants, training, advice and information to help it grow and develop to meet the diverse needs of patients in the area.

The group in Ealing has decided that the sunflower will be its logo. “This is because these flowers turn their heads to the sun and with a sense of brightness and warmth that sunflowers naturally impart they generate sentiments of cheerfulness, optimism and get well thoughts.”

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