Posts Tagged ‘health’

Lung cancer cell division

Lung cancer cell division

 

A couple of dear friends have recently been struck low by the Big C, one of them terminally, and Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink recently had a skin cancer removed (a near-universal affliction in Australia if you hang around here long enough), so having come across this information on the Web we thought we’d share it.

HYPOCHONDRIAC ALERT

Many of the symptoms listed here can be caused by a dozen other things, other than cancer. So the message we are sending out is “if you experience these symptoms, don’t soldier on, don’t go into denial, go and see a medical professional and get checked”. With the advances in treatment for almost all kinds of cancer, early diagnosis saves lives. Maybe yours, or a loved one’s.

There are too many medical terms and descriptions in these signs for us to explain all of them. Google is your friend here.

THE COMMON SYMPTOMS OF CANCER

1. Losing weight at a rapid rate (among people not being on a diet): gasses, discomfort, digestive disorders, anorexia, recurring diarrhoea, constipation are the symptoms occurring most frequently in case of lung, stomach, kidney and large intestine cancer. If accompanied by a feeling of weakness, it can be a sign of blood loss or lack of proper elements building it.

2. Pain of unknown cause long-lasting stomach-ache can be the symptom of large intestine cancer, lumbalgia can be the sign of kidney cancer, pain in the chest can result from lung cancer. Bone aches can be caused by metastasis.

3. Haemoptysis, long-lasting hoarseness (over 3 weeks), persistent cough or change of its character can be caused by lung or larynx cancer.

4. Change in colour of moles and warts, ulceration and itching, ulceration of open wounds, burns and scalds can be the signs of skin cancer.

5. Excessive production of urine, backlog of urine, painful urinating, slow, time-consuming flow of urine, lumbago as well as backache can be the signs of prostate cancer.

6. Pain, vertigo, nausea, sight distortions (oversensitized sight, astigmatism), hearing impediment, upset balance and mental disorders can result from brain cancer.

7. Swallowing difficulties can be a symptom of throat, larynx, oesophagus and stomach cancer.

8. Feeling of fullness in epigastrium, aches and digestive disorders may be due to stomach cancer and other kinds of alimentary canal cancer, sometimes ovary cancer.

9. Blood in feces, black feces, alternating diarrhoea and constipation, mucus in feces, narrow (pencil-like) feces  are the symptoms of alimentary canal cancer, especially of large intestine and rectum.

10. Blood in urine (without the symptoms of urinary tracks inflammation), dysuria (compulsive urination, difficulties in urination) can accompany the urinary tracks cancer.

11. Improper bleeding from the genital tracks, pink or dark-red vaginal discharges, hypogastrium and lower limbs ache can be the signs of vagina, uterine cervix and uterus cancer.

12. Marks on skin and mucosus membrane (lips, oral cavity, genitals): not healing ulceration, change in marks appearance, occurrence of new skin marks of some specific features (irregular distribution of pigment, vague line between the mark and healthy skin, quick growth of the marks, bleeding, dripping).

13. Breast tumour (by approximately 15% – 25% can be impalpable), ulceration, the retraction of nipple, asymmetrical nipples, change of size or the shape of a nipple, its swelling and the marks around it, enlargement of lymphatic glands in the armpit, extension of veins in the breast skin, ulceration of breast skin, shoulder swelling, flat efflorescene in case of the so called advanced inflammation nipple cancer are often the symptoms of breast cancer.

14. Fever, tiredness, bones and joints ache, inclination to temporary anaemia and bleeding, impalpable tumour of abdominal cavity, as a result of spleen enlargement, that can be detected in gastro-bowel test.

15. You start feeling exhausted and notice aches in weird places on your body.

Remember, far better to suffer the momentary embarrassment of hearing your quack say “you silly old thing, that’s nothing, take an aspirin and a day off” than to hear them say a few weeks or months later, “I’m terribly sorry, it’s cancer, and it’s advanced”.

FiscalCliffAvery2Here is a quick selection of some Cancer Charities you may wish to consider helping, listed by country (those countries that provide our largest readership. There are hundreds more, this is just to get you started if you would like to make a donation or need advice or help. You might like also to consider remembering them in your Will. Even small donations can make a real difference, or as our old Mum used to say, “Many a mickle makes a muckle.”

AUSTRALIA

www.canteen.org.au – helping youth suffering from cancer
www.kidswithcancer.org.au – supporting children with cancer and the hospitals treating them
acrf.com.au - peak cancer research body
www.nbcf.org.au – National Breast Cancer Foundation in Australia
http://canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-support-organisations – a government website pointing to hundreds of cancer charities and support organisations, with links to organisations in every state

AMERICA

https://donate.cancer.org/index – American Cancer Society, direct link to their donation page
http://cancerrecovery.org/ – Cancer Recovery, links a number of charities together, in the US and overseas
http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/ – National Breast Cancer Foundation, probably the most respected organisation of its type

UK

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/ – Cancer Research UK
http://www.braintumouruk.org.uk/ – Brain Tumour UK, specifically providing for research into brain cancer, and cash support for those suffering from the illness.
www.leukaemiacare.org.uk - provides financial assistance for those suffering from leukaemia and related blood disorders
http://www.breakthrough.org.uk/ - leading breast charity research and support group

WORLDWIDE

http://www.wcrf.org/ - worldwide research and advocacy group dedicated to cancer prevention.

Looks good. Doesn't necessarily do you good.

Looks good. Doesn’t necessarily do you good.

There are a vast number of online ads currently pushing the Garcinia Cambogia diet, claiming it to be a wonder for weight loss, because it contains HCA, a kind of citric acid, which is claimed in a million breathless online ads (and elsewhere) to produce weight loss.

Sadly, before you part with your $49.95, be aware that the brouhahaha is just that – a load of marketing froth and bubble.

And it could even harm you.

Here’s the relevant Wikipedia extracts:

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a derivative of citric acid that is found in a variety of tropical plants including Garcinia cambogia and Hibiscus subdariffa.

Biological effects

Laboratory and animal studies of HCA have produced results that indicate a potential for modulation of lipid metabolism. However, a clinical study has demonstrated that HCA has no effect in terms of weight loss or reduction of fat mass. A 1998 randomised controlled trial looked at the effects of hydroxycitric acid, the purported active component in Garcinia gummi-gutta, as a potential anti-obesity agent in 135 people. The conclusion from this trial was that “Garcinia cambogia failed to produce significant weight loss and fat mass loss beyond that observed with placebo”.

And a meta-analysis published in 2010 revealed that gastrointestinal adverse effects were twice as likely for users of hydroxycitric acid.

One HCA product had to be withdrawn because of liver toxicity.

In a study in Zucker rats, which are genetically predisposed to obesity, Garcinia cambogia extract containing HCA showed that high doses led to significant suppression of epididymal fat accumulation, but also had high testicular toxicity. However, this study has been criticised because of possible contamination of the HCA used and various design flaws.

Like all things, peeps, there IS no short cut to weight loss. The solution? Walk more, eat less. Er, that’s it.

Read, mark learn and inwardly digest. Or don't, if you see what we mean.

Read, mark learn and inwardly digest. Or don’t, if you see what we mean.

 

Many, many moons ago, years ago now, the Wellthisiswhatithink household decided to stop eating margarine, especially polyunsaturated margarine, and to resume eating butter.

We stopped using soybean oil (like Canola) for cooking, and starting using fat-saturated coconut oil or monounsaturated olive oil instead.

In the case of the writer, Dear Reader, one’s cholesterol level and blood pressure fell. Our cholesterol level fell substantially, actually.

With the passion of the newly-converted we told everyone we knew that polyunsaturated oil turns into trans-fatty acids at body temperature – let alone when cooked -healing-miracles-coconut-oil-third-edition-bruce-fife-paperback-cover-art and that trans-fatty acids were deadly to humans.

We also told them repeatedly of the healing miracle that is coconut oil, which we discovered quite by chance when we were employed to write the marketing letter to get people to buy the book, which we devoured almost as enthusiastically as we did the product.

We recommend the book. A must read if you’d like to avoid a bunch of nasty modern illnesses.

Anyhow, within the last few months, scientists have caught up. Suddenly researchers all over the world are on the bandwagon for butter.

Well, we hesitate to say we told you so, but, we told you so.

Ponder this:

Alternatively, use butter. The manufacturing process essentially amounts to "Milk cow, churn milk."

 

Alternatively, use butter. The manufacturing process essentially amounts to “Milk cow, churn milk.”

ImageMany mental illnesses are as bad for you as smoking, research has suggested.

Life expectancy for people with mental health problems is less than for heavy smokers, experts have found.

Serious mental illness can reduce a person’s life expectancy by 10 to 20 years, when the average reduction in life expectancy for heavy smokers is eight to 10 years, according to researchers from Oxford University.

But critically, mental health has not been the same public health priority as smoking, they said.

The study, published in the journal World Psychiatry, analysed previous research on mortality risk for a whole range of problems – mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, dementia, autistic spectrum disorders, learning disability and childhood behavioural disorders.

The authors examined 20 papers looking at 1.7 million people and over 250,000 deaths. They found that the average reduction in life expectancy for people with bipolar disorder was between nine and 20 years, it was 10 to 20 years for schizophrenia, between nine and 24 years for drug and alcohol abuse, and around seven to 11 years for recurrent depression.

The loss of years among heavy smokers was eight to 10 years.

“We found that many mental health diagnoses are associated with a drop in life expectancy as great as that associated with smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day,” Dr Seena Fazel of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University said.

“There are likely to be many reasons for this. High-risk behaviours are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide.

The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren’t treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor.

Many causes of mental health problems also have physical consequences and mental illness worsen the prognosis of a range of physical illnesses, especially heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Smoking is recognised as a huge public health problem.

There are effective ways to target smoking, and with political will and funding, rates of smoking-related deaths have started to decline.

We now need a similar effort in mental health.”

Dr John Williams, head of neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust, which funded the study, added: “People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in society.

This work emphasises how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate healthcare and advice, which is not always the case.

We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking.”

At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, like most people, we have had a few run ins with mental illness in the family and friends coterie. Thankfully, the stigmas associated with mental illness is reducing – albeit achingly slowly. Especially as it is increasingly understood that mental illness does not betoken “weakness” or “badness” but rather chemical imbalances in the brain that are no more the sufferer’s “fault” than, say, diabetes.

We warmly welcome this research finding and trust it is widely studied at government level. A heap of misery can be lifted off the shoulders of sufferers and their families through early intervention, prompt care and adequate treatment with “talking therapy” and medication.

Assuming Government now longer feels itself morally bound to take action (it seems simple need is the least strong motivator for many Governments worldwide now, sadly, as you can see below) then what about this thought?

mental-illness-not-contagiousJust imagine the hurricane of productivity and wealth that would be released if mentally ill people became weller, faster, and more thoroughly well, and lived that way longer.

Yes, that’s something we’d like to see in our shiny new hard-headed neo-con austere world.

Meanwhile, here’s some additional reading on how Government in rich “advanced” countries consistently fails the mentally ill:

UK: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/cuts-send-rates-of-mental-health-disorders-among-young-soaring-9392996.html

UK: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/12/risks-deep-cuts-mental-health

Australia: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/mental-health-funding-cuts-spark-fears-of-social-mess-20140518-38hz9.html

Australia: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/these-two-budget-charts-show-how-much-money-joe-hockey-is-cutting-from-hospitals-and-schools-2014-5

USA (four stories): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/mental-health-budget-cuts/

USA: http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/10/10/mental-health-loses-funding-as-government-continues-shutdown/

A Mayo Clinic trial has made a breakthrough in the fight against cancer, with more trials to come.

A dose of 100 billion units of measles – enough to inoculate 10 million people – has successfully knocked widespread blood cancer into remission, says a groundbreaking new test from the Mayo Clinic.Having been through chemotherapy treatments and two stem cell transplants, 50-year-old Stacy Erholtz was running out options in her battle against myeloma, a blood cancer that affects bone marrow, when scans showed she had tumours growing throughout her body.

As part of a radically new two-patient clinical trial, doctors at the Mayo Clinic injected Erholtz with the measles vaccine, with an immediate reaction.

 

Are we on the verge of a new treatment for cancer?

Are we on the verge of an exciting new treatment for cancer?

 

Five minutes into the hour-long process, Erholtz got a terrible headache. Two hours later, she started shaking and vomiting. Her temperature hit 41 degrees, Stephen Russell, the lead researcher on the case, told The Washington Post.

Evan – the name given to the tumour on Erholtz’s forehead by her children – began to shrink within 36 hours. Over several weeks, the tumour – and the accompanying tumours spreading throughout her body – disappeared. Evan was no more.

The viruses succeeded by binding to cancer cells and using them to replicate. The process destroys the cells, and the body’s immune system attacks what’s left since it’s marked as viral material. This test also gave doctors a benchmark for the virus dose needed to reduce cancer in patients — 100 billion infectious units instead of the standard 10,000 units.

Although Erholtz has been completely cleared of the disease, there are still potential hurdles to overcome. Now that her immune system has experience fighting the measles virus, the treatment wouldn’t be as effective a second time ; the body would attack the virus before it could take over the cancer cells.

The treatment wasn’t successful in the second patient. While Erholtz’s tumours were mostly in her bone marrow, the other patient’s tumours were mainly in her leg muscles, the Star-Tribune reported. Russell said more research is needed to know how the nature of the tumour affects the virus.

The next step for this method is another clinical trial, which is expected to launch by September, to see if the massive measles dose works on a large number of patients.

As for Erholtz, her next step is an annual checkup next month, but she’s optimistic.

“We don’t let the cancer cloud hang over our house, let’s put it that way, or we would have lived in the dark the last 10 years,” Erholtz told the Star Tribune.

Wellthisiswhatithink says: Let’s hope that this might be a major step forward in our understanding of how to treat this illness which strikes terror into so many. Humankind has beaten killer illnesses before, and there’s no fundamental reason why we can’t beat cancer … Alzheimer’s … HIV.
Let us also salute those patients who have the courage to accept experimental treatment from scientists and medicos, with no guarantee of success. It’s too easy for us to dismiss the role they play with “well, what else are they going to do?”: the answer is, they could choose a less disruptive and more peaceful route towards the end of their lives. In undergoing what can be disturbing and distressing treatment with no certainty of success they demonstrate not only their own personal determination, but they also blaze a course for the rest of us. We owe them our gratitude.
(Yahoo Health and Others)

In a warning that will strike fear into the hearts of all thinking people, the World Health Organisation warns of catastrophic effects of antibiotic overuse that they say are here now, not at some vague point in the future.

This is E.coli. Currently it’s an annoyance, but could it very easily become a killer again?

A global report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that in the very near future if not right now we should perhaps worry at least as much about grazing our knees or developing a tummy bug or UTI than dying of AIDS or cancer

The over-prescription of antibiotics, says WHO, has led to bacteria evolving and developing resistance to which current therapeutics have no answer.

Experts warn that minor cuts, grazes, diarrhoea and flu could soon become fatal as antibiotics lose their power to fight minor infections.

The WHO highlighted seven species of bacteria that are showing higher levels of antibiotic resistence. They are: E.coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphyococcus aureus (MRSA), Streptococcus pneumoniae, Nontyphoidal Salmonella, Shigella species and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

If some of those sound familiar, it’s because they are: they all cause common illnesses like urinary tract infections, sore throats, pneumonia, diarrhoea and even gonorrhea. And this risk compounds for those with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing treatment for cancer.

Dr Fukuda

Dr Fukuda

Dr Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director for health security, said: ‘Without urgent, co-ordinated action, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections, and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.

We should anticipate many more deaths. We are going to see people who have untreatable infections.”

The WHO recommended the public take basic precautions such as such as washing hands to prevent bacteria from spreading.

The surgeon and former UK health minister, Lord Darzi, wrote in the Telegraph: “The world is entering an era where a child’s scratched knee could kill, where patients entering hospital gamble with their lives and routine operations are too dangerous to carry out. Every antibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless. The age of safe medicine is ending.”

Professor Laura Piddock, Director of Antibiotic Action and Professor of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham said: “The world needs to respond as it did to the AIDS crisis of the Eighties.”

Which is all very cheerful, isn’t it?

When we are asked “What is humankind’s greatest discovery?” ( a common dinner-table topic when sex and politics has been exhausted) we eschew the obvious ones: the microchip, space travel, intensive farming, TV, etc, because in our opinion, it’s antibiotics.

In the last 70 years or so, billions of people have lived long, productive lives who within living memory would have died. We are old enough to have known people in our family who died of of infections that today would be cured in a a couple of days, and often without feeling especially unwell.

We need to act now on this warning. And we need to get these thoughts very very clear in our head, people.

ALWAYS wash your hands after using the lavatory, without fail, every time. ALWAYS was your hands before eating. ALWAYS wash your hands after visiting someone in hospital. ALWAYS wash your hands after changing the baby’s diaper.

Minimum. Hot soap and water is good. Some studies show it to me more effective than disinfectants. Now that’s not so hard, is it?

This is a bacterial infection called Cellulitis. It is cured by antibiotics. Without antibiotics, it can turn to septicaemia and be deadly.

This is a bacterial infection called Cellulitis. It is cured by antibiotics. Without antibiotics, it can turn to septicaemia and be deadly.

Remember: ONLY bacterial infections are cured by antibiotics.

Antibiotics do NOT cure colds and flu and other viruses.

Don’t buy them for a simple cold, don’t beg your GP for them, just suffer like the rest of us. You’re going to anyway.

If you get sick, and before you rush off to a pharmacy with the script your doctor has wearily written out without thinking, just ask your doctor whether your body might do a fine job of curing itself BEFORE you automatically guzzle a packet of penicillin.

No, no-one wants you to become very ill – just maybe, having taken his or her advice, monitor the situation for a day or two, with your GP aware of how you’re doing, before resorting to antibiotics. There are also plenty of foodstuffs around with antibiotic properties. Google them, and eat them.

And most of all, NEVER EVER EVER eat only half the packet of antibiotics thinking you are better and you don’t need them anymore. You might be, but you are risking leaving a bunch of germs inside you that manage to survive the antibiotics, which you can then pass on to someone else. If you get the damn pills, eat the damn pills. All of them. Every time.

That is all.

 

The Australian public is agog at the news today that the Abbott Government has placed an A$12.5 billion order for the F-35 strike fighter. That’s a lot of money for a nation with 22 million people. The Labor Opposition (who started this macho nonsense) needless to say agrees with the decision.

F 35 fighter

Wheeeeeeeee!

Which is interesting, because the troubled F-35 programme has its limitations.

It’s been plagued with developmental problems, not least of which the plane is extremely noisy and annoys local residents wherever it is based, so the good burghers of Newcastle in New South Wales may find themselves less than enthusiastic about their soon-to-be top gun neighbours than they might have thought.

But perhaps most relevant for the Australian public is that without in-air refuelling (and Australia has just five in-air refuelling units, by the way, to service what will eventually be a collection of 72 sooper-dooper shiny fighters, so presumably now we’re going to have to invest in a lot more of the refuelling planes, too) the new fighter jet has a maximum range of 2,200 kms, out and back.

Which logically means that the residents of Queensland should probably leave off looking for mud crabs and start building air-raid shelters, as they won’t reach anywhere else. Big place, Australia.

Meanwhile, the Abbott Government is saying it is so worried about Australia’s budget position that they are flagging we will have to pay an extra $6 to visit the GP, on top of the money we already contribute to Medicare via our taxes, and we will eventually be allowed to retire and claim our pension (which we have paid into all our lives) when we are about 82 or some such nonsense.

Forgive me for being naive, but I am reasonably sure that I remember that what we spend our public money on used to be a choice? In which case, I vote for fewer toys for the boys, a health system free at the point of use, and to be allowed to retire when I was originally promised I could.

To be more serious for a moment. The only time these planes would ever be used in anger would be if America or perhaps the EU asked us to join them in some military adventure in some far-flung region, and offered us base space over there so we could help out. Just as we did in Afghanistan, flying from a base in Kyrgyzstan.

But does the Australian public have much of an appetite for such efforts, still? After the pain endured in Afghanistan and the wanton idiocies of Iraq, (and we are still waiting to see Messrs Howard, Bush and Blair arraigned as war criminals), we doubt it. And that’s really what should be being debated over this purchase. Just where, exactly, Dear Prime Minister, do you intend to be using these aircraft, and why?

Lockheed Martin and the American government will no doubt consider this a wonderful decision, but we consider this an egregious and excessive use of our tax dollars that concretes us in even more tightly in lockstep with America at exactly the time that our growing engagement with Asia, and especially China, suggests that a slightly more neutral posture would be a wise and measured stance.

Do you agree?

Not in coma, awake

A Belgian man who doctors thought was in a coma for 23 years was conscious all along, it has been revealed. A brain scan finally revealed Rom Houben was conscious

Medical staff believed Houben had sunk irretrievably into a coma after he was injured in a car crash in 1983.

The University of Liege doctor who discovered in 2006 that, although Mr Houben was paralysed, his brain was working, said the case was not unique.

Mr Houben said that at first he felt angry at his powerlessness, but eventually learned to live with it.

“Other people had an opinion of me,” Mr Houben, now 46, told the BBC.

“I knew what I could do and what I was capable of but other people had a rather pathetic image of me. I had to learn to be patient and now finally we are on an equal footing.”

‘He’s an optimist’

It was only in 2006 that a scan revealed Mr Houben’s brain was in fact almost entirely functioning.

He now communicates by using a special keyboard attached to his wheelchair.

His mother, Fina Houben, told the BBC that she always believed her son could communicate.

“He is not depressed, he is an optimist,” she said. “He wants to get out of life what he can.”

The case raises the issue of how many other people believed to be in comas are actually trapped inside their bodies, desperate to communicate. Mr Houben’s story was revealed in a paper written by Steven Laureys, a doctor at Liege University. In it, Mr Laureys said that in about 40% of cases in which people were classified as being in a vegetative state, closer inspection revealed signs of consciousness.

This is the just the latest of what seems like a stream of such cases. We can hardly imagine a more awful fate. Death would be a merciful release. We trust further studies will advance our knowledge of vegetative states so we can care better for those concerned, and their families.

(BBC)

Plea to parents over schoolgirl s peanut allergy
An allergic reaction has ruined a Victorian girl’s first day of prep school.

Little Amelie had a very severe allergic reaction after playing with another child who had been in contact with nuts.

The little girl developed a terribly swollen and puffy face – a common symptom of nut allergies – and was sent home early on her first day of school.

A photo of Amelie’s reaction has been shared more than 20,000 times on Facebook. The pic is above.

Natalie Giorgio

13 year old Natalie Giorgio died after eat a Rice cookie made with peanut butter

Amelie’s mother has urged parents to stop packing nuts in lunch-boxes amid fears a child will die. It is a call we are glad to back, for reasons that will become clear. Her mum said;

“Amelie is anaphylactic to peanuts and although she didn’t eat her fellow students peanuts, simply played with another child who had snacked on peanuts during lunch,” she said in a warning to parents on Facebook.

“Peanut oil stays on the skin and is easily rubbed into the eyes or mouth. A simple sharing of pencils or a game of ring-a-rosy is all you need to pass on the nut oil. I sympathise with parents of children who are allergy free, that it’s difficult to remember not to pack nut-based snacks for school. But please, this message is from one of those annoying parents of a child with anaphylaxis, because I don’t want my child to die. Like Amelie, who loves to eat all nuts / tree nuts (just not peanuts) perhaps this very nutritious snack of nuts is better left for home.”

Amelie has since, thankfully, made a full recovery. But it could have been terrifyingly worse.

Cameron Groezinger-Fitzpatrick

Just half a cookie made with peanut oil killed 19-year-old Cameron Groezinger-Fitzpatrick

As you can see from the cases quoted here, allergies can be murderous at any age. As our family knows all too well.

In the Wellthisiswhatithink world, Ms Wellthisiswhatithink Jnr was born 1,000 times more allergic to egg than the average human being. For her entire life thus far, at least until the allergy started ebbing away somewhat thanks to the attention of a naturopath – read that amazing story here – her mother and I – and her, herself, of course – have had to exercise rigorous vigilance to prevent her ingesting even tiny amounts of egg that could kill her.

She goes everywhere, even to this day, with an Epi-pen to deal with any anaphylactic attack.

But that wouldn’t be too hard, would it, avoiding egg?

Cookies, breads, scones, wine that’s been clarified with egg white, cakes, cake topping, fudge, pies, ice cream, protein drinks, pastries, pancakes, custard, crackers, mayonnaise, sauces, fried rice, egg noodles … I could (and nearly did) go on, but you get the point …

(And try explaining it to an “ethnic” non-English speaking restaurant’s waiting staff, just quietly … we got quite skilled at that.)

The dangers of eating peanuts in takeaway meals was highlighted two years ago by the tragic death of student Emma Egerton. The 18-year-old from Sale, Greater Manchester, who had a severe nut allergy, ordered a chicken tikka korma through a website, unaware that it contained peanuts. She suffered a severe allergic reaction after one mouthful, was unconscious by the time paramedics arrived and died later that night.

The dangers of eating peanuts in takeaway meals was highlighted by the tragic death of student Emma Egerton. The 18-year-old from Manchester, who had a severe nut allergy, ordered a chicken tikka korma through a website, unaware that it contained peanuts. She suffered a severe allergic reaction after one mouthful, was unconscious by the time paramedics arrived and died later that night.

Nut allergies are more common than egg, especially peanuts. It really seems very sensible for schools to ask parents to avoid putting them in kids’ lunch boxes. it’s a tiny dietary imposition which could well save lives.

If you agree that nuts should be kept out of lunch boxes, may I suggest you write to your local school? And if you’ve got kids at school, just adopt the restriction yourself, of course? Sure, it’s mildly annoying, but not as annoying as a dead kid.

Amelie, and many others, will thank you.

If ordering take away food, be damn sure you state “no peanuts” explicitly if you need to. Research shows they are often substituted for other, more expensive nuts, such as almonds. And if someone passes you a snack, just politely refuse unless you can read the packet.

Meanwhile, here’s an excellent resource for parents: http://www.allergyfacts.org.au/

psychology

There’s a name for everything nowadays. Everybody thinks they know what you mean when you say you’re happy or sad. But what about all those emotional states you don’t really have words for? Here are ten feelings you may have experienced, but never knew how to explain.

1. Dysphoria

Often used to describe depression in psychological disorders, dysphoria is general state of sadness that includes restlessness, lack of energy, anxiety, and vague irritation. It is the opposite of euphoria, and is different from typical sadness because it often includes a kind of jumpiness and some anger. You have probably experienced it when coming down from a stimulant like chocolate, coffee, or something stronger. Or you may have felt it in response to a distressing situation, extreme boredom, or depression. This is not to be confused with Dysmorphia, which is when people have a compelling view of their own body which is not born out by logic – for example, a skinny eating-disorder affected individual thinking they are fat.

2. Enthrallment

Psychology professor W. Gerrod Parrott has broken down human emotions into subcategories, which themselves have their own subcategories. Most of the emotions he identifies, like joy and anger, are pretty recognisable. But one subset of joy, “enthrallment,” you may not have heard of before. Unlike the perkier subcategories of joy like cheerfulness, zest, and relief, enthrallment is a state of intense rapture. It is not the same as love or lust. You might experience it when you see an incredible spectacle — a concert, a movie, a rocket taking off — that captures all your attention and elevates your mood to tremendous heights. For the Wellthisiswhatithink crew, it is anytime we see Southampton FC beat one or all of Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or Tottenham.

3. Normopathy

Psychiatric theorist Christopher Bollas invented the idea of normopathy to describe people who are so focused on blending in and conforming to social norms that it becomes a kind of mania. A person who is normotic is often unhealthily fixated on having no personality at all, and only doing exactly what is expected by society. Extreme normopathy is punctuated by breaks from the norm, where normotic person cracks under the pressure of conforming and becomes violent or does something very dangerous. Many people experience mild normopathy at different times in their lives, especially when trying to fit into a new social situation, or when trying to hide behaviors they believe other people would condemn. What we want to know at Wellthisiswhatithink is what compulsive on-going un-Normopathy is called, because we frankly think we “suffer” from it.

4. Abjection

Julia Kristeva

Julia Kristeva

There are a few ways to define abjection, but French philosopher Julia Kristeva (literally) wrote the book on what it means to experience abjection.

She suggests that every human goes through a period of abjection as tiny children when we first realize that our bodies are separate from our parents’ bodies.

This sense of separation causes a feeling of extreme horror we carry with us throughout our lives.

That feeling of abjection then gets re-activated when we experience events that, however briefly, cause us to question the boundaries of our sense of self.

Often, abjection is what you are feeling when you witness or experience something so horrific that it causes you to throw up. A classic example is seeing a corpse, but abjection can also be caused by seeing faeces or open wounds. These visions all remind us, at some level, that our selfhood is contained in what Star Trek aliens would call “ugly bags of mostly water.” The only thing separating you from being a dead body is, well, almost nothing. When you feel the full weight of that sentence, or are confronted by its reality in the form of a corpse, the resulting nausea is “abjection”.

This one really interested us, Dear Reader, because we clearly remember an isolated incident in our early childhood where total despair overwhelmed us and we simply sobbed in utter existential horror for an hour. Since then, the incident has recurred very rarely, always at night, and always when fast asleep, and with no apparent specific stimuli. The depth of distress is simply inexplicable, and quite impossible to put into words – it is total loss and unassuageable grief. We have always assumed it related to a traumatic death in the family when we were two, but maybe it goes even earlier than that? It doesn’t happen all that often, (thank Goodness) so we are minded to ignore it. Then again, the idea of death also, if we are to be frank, distresses us unreasonably, so who knows …?

5. Sublimation

English: Sigmund Freud

Here’s looking at you, kid.

If you’ve ever taken a class where you learned about Sigmund Freud’s theories about sex, you probably have heard of sublimation. Freud believed that human emotions were sort of like a steam engine, and sexual desire was the steam. If you blocked the steam from coming out of one valve, pressure would build up and force it out of another. Sublimation is the process of redirecting your steamy desires from having naughty sex, to doing something socially productive like writing an article about psychology or fixing the lawnmower or developing a software program. (This is the theory behind the vast amounts of sport played at boarding schools, of course. Ed.)

Anyhow, if you’ve ever gotten your frustrations out by building something, or gotten a weirdly intense pleasure from creating an art project, you’re sublimating.

Other psychiatrists have refined the idea of sublimation, however. Following French theorist Jacques Lacan, they say that sublimation doesn’t have to mean converting sexual desire into another activity like building a house. It could just mean transferring sexual desire from one object to another — moving your affections from your boyfriend to your neighbour, for example.

6. Repetition compulsion

Ah, Freud. You gave us so many new feelings and psychological states to explore! The repetition compulsion is a bit more complicated than Freud’s famous definition — “the desire to return to an earlier state of things.” On the surface, a repetition compulsion is something you experience fairly often. It’s the urge to do something again and again. Maybe you feel compelled to always order the same thing at your favourite restaurant, or always take the same route home, even though there are other yummy foods and other easy ways to get home. Maybe your repetition compulsion is a bit more sinister, and you always feel the urge to date people who treat you like crap, over and over, even though you know in advance it will turn out badly (just like the last ten times).

Tagliatelle Carbonara is not sinister, Sigmund. It is an entirely rational and calm decision, made in light of all available evidence.

Tagliatelle Carbonara is not sinister, Sigmund. It is an entirely rational and calm decision, made in the light of all available evidence.

Freud was fascinated by this sinister side of the repetition compulsion, which is why he ultimately decided that the cause of our urge to repeat was directly linked to what he called “the death drive,” or the urge to cease existing. After all, he reasoned, the ultimate “earlier state of things” is a state of non-existence before we were born.

With each repetition, we act out our desire to go back to a pre-living state. Maybe that’s why so many people have the urge to repeat actions that are destructive, or unproductive.

Speaking personally, in the Wellthisiswhatithink sweatshop we do not wish to cease to exist.

Then again, we do find it difficult to ever order anything other than Tagliatelle Carbonara at Pacinos. However we think it is because that particular offering is, without question, the best pasta dish in the world.

7. Repressive de-sublimation

Political theorist Herbert Marcuse was a big fan of Freud and lived through the social upheavals of the 1960s. He wanted to explain how societies could go through periods of social liberation, like the countercultures and revolutions of the mid-twentieth century, and yet still remain under the (often strict) control of governments and corporations. How could the U.S. have gone through all those protests in the 60s but never actually overthrown the government? The answer, he decided, was a peculiar emotional state known as “repressive de-sublimation.” Remember, Freud said sublimation is when you route your sexual energies into something non-sexual.

Marcuse: whose best ever quote has to be "Free election of Masters does not abolish either the Masters or the Slaves".

Marcuse: whose best ever quote has to be “Free election of Masters does not abolish either the Masters or the Slaves”.

But Marcuse lived during a time when people were very much routing their sexual energies into sex — it was the sexual liberation era, when free love reigned.

People were busily de-sublimating. And yet they continued to be repressed by many other social strictures, coming from corporate life, the military, and the government.

Marcuse suggested that de-sublimation can actually help to solidify repression by acting as an escape valve for our desires so that we don’t attempt to liberate ourselves from other social restrictions.

A good example of repressive de-sublimation is the intense partying that takes place in college. Often, people in college do a lot of drinking, drugging and hooking up — while at the same time studying very hard and trying to get ready for jobs. Instead of questioning why we have to pay tons of money to engage in rote learning and get corporate jobs, we just obey the rules and have crazy drunken sex every weekend. Repressive de-sublimation!

Or as we like to put it when we are in table thumping mood about what is wrong with society, “Bread and circuses, sheeple, bread and circuses! It’s all bloody bread and circuses!” Er …. nurse, our pills please. The little pink and white ones.

8. Aporia

You know that feeling of crazy emptiness you get when you realise that something you believed isn’t actually true? And then things feel even more weird when you realise that actually, the thing you believed might be true and might not — and you’ll never really know? That’s aporia. The term comes from ancient Greek, but is also beloved of post-structuralist theorists like Jacques Derrida and Gayatri Spivak. The reason modern theorists love the idea of aporia is that it helps to describe the feeling people have in a world of information overload, where you are often bombarded with contradictory messages that seem equally true.

In other words, what, if anything, are we supposed to believe, any more? Quite.

9. Compersion

We’ve gotten into some pretty philosophical territory, so now it’s time to return to some good, old-fashioned internet memes. The word compersion was popularised by people in online communities devoted to polyamory and open relationships, in order to describe the opposite of feeling jealous when your partner dates somebody else. Though a monogamous person would feel jealous seeing their partner kiss another person, a non-monogamous person could feel compersion, a sense of joy in seeing their partner happy with another person. But monogamous people can feel compersion, too, if we extend the definition out to mean any situation where you feel the opposite of jealous. If a friend wins an award you hoped to win, you can still feel compersion (though you might be a little jealous too).

10. Group feelings

Some psychologists argue that there are some feelings we can only have as members of a group — these are called intergroup and intragroup feelings. Often you notice them when they are in contradiction with your personal feelings. For example, many people feel intergroup pride and guilt for things that their countries have done, even if they weren’t born when their countries did those things. Though you did not fight in a war, and are therefore not personally responsible for what happened, you share in an intergroup feeling of pride or guilt. Group feelings often cause painful contradictions. A person may have an intragroup feeling (from one group to another) that homosexuality is morally wrong. But that person may personally have homosexual feelings. Likewise, a person may have an intragroup feeling that certain races or religions are inferior to those of their group. And yet they may personally know very honourable, good people from those races and religions whom they consider friends. A group feeling can only come about through membership in a group, and isn’t something that you would ever have on your own. But that doesn’t mean group feelings are any less powerful than personal ones.

Anyway, hope you found all that fascinating and even helpful. We did.

(Much of this content – the intelligent stuff – was originally published on iO9.com)

Stephen Yolland writes:

family

My beloved mother, (seen here just after I was born, with my brother and father), who had been an independent, forceful and capable personality all her life, from early childhood to her late 80s, finally developed Alzheimers, and once it set in it progressed rapidly.

Although we were unsure of the extent of the “loss” or “deficit” in her mental capacity, we knew something was seriously wrong with Mum in her last holiday with us, not least when she flew home to the UK and pestered the cabin staff to arrange a cab at the airport for her. Needless to say, a cab had already been organised, and, yes, she had a big note telling her the same. But she didn’t find the note, and couldn’t remember the arrangement. Still, kudos to the old girl. Getting the pilot of a 747 to radio ahead and ensure her private lift home was waiting was no mean achievement at 88. Mind you, if you knew her when she had her dander up, you wouldn’t have argued either.

Amusing though it might have been, this was the beginning of our realisation that she could no longer cope alone, a view that was reinforced over the next few weeks, until we went and got her and brought her to live with us in Australia to await the inevitable. We cared for Mum at home for a good long while, and there were some good times, to be sure, until we finally had to confront the fact that she was getting beyond our ability to look after, and arranged (with some difficulty) permanent in-patient care for her, where she lingered for some time before quietly passing away.

It is an experience that many, many people in middle age now face with their elderly parents, and unless we find a cure for Alzheimer’s – and rather horrifyingly – it is an experience many of us will face in due course, as our physical health outstrips our mental infirmity.

I know for one I shall be leaving very clear instructions for my daughter ensuring she does not feel guilty when it comes time for her to find me some residential care. Except in the case of mild Alzheimer’s, which is moving slowly, the burden on a family is simply too great to be borne for very long. Dementia patients need skilled care. I may even find my own accommodation and eventual nursing facility well ahead of time, while I can still think straight. But that isn’t the core of today’s musings.

I love this photo of Mum and Caitlin, taken in her garden when Mum was about 80: to me it captures the joy of the span of a family

I love this photo of Mum and Caitlin, taken in her garden when Mum was 80: to me it captures the joy of the span of a family

The thing which I found most difficult about Mum’s condition, and which I residually still feel guilt over, that can keep me awake at night years later, was not knowing the best way to “handle” her.

Simply not knowing how to talk to her, or how to try and gain her understanding and agreement. I had yet to come to terms with the fact that the latter might be impossible.

Her memory loss, conjoined to an innate deeply stubborn personality, not to mention uncharacteristic outbursts of anger and frustration, led to tension within the household.

There were occasions – too many, and I regret it bitterly – when I lost my cool, out of sadness and fear and confusion more than any real anger.

At one point, for example, after an awful fall that left her with a very nasty bump on the head and copious amounts of blood everywhere, we tried to use an old kiddie-gate at the top of the stairs to restrict her to the upper storey of our home on the very rare occasions that no one could be at home to care for her. (Usually a maximum of half an hour, and as infrequently as practical.)

Needless to say, during these periods, she was supplied with an easy to use “thermos” of tea, a pile of her favourite biscuits, (she could have happily lived on tea and biscuits), pre-tuned radio, TV, comfy chair etc. etc. Yes, she knew where the loo was. Yes, she knew someone would be back in a few minutes. Yes, she was quite happy, thank you.

All the preparation in the world made no difference. As if possessed of a vital and urgent purpose, as we left the house she would go to the staircase and fiddle with the kiddie-gate until she worked it out (no mean achievement in itself, I could never get it open other than by wrenching it physically off the wall) and we would come home to find her pottering in the kitchen, making tea and looking for biscuits.

“Hello, dears!” she cheerfully smiled, and became utterly confused when we duly grumbled (in our anxiety) that she wasn’t even supposed to be downstairs let alone using the kettle. Needless to say, she didn’t remember fernagling her way through the gate, let alone having previously swallow-dived head first from the top of the staircase to the slate floor below.

When we showed her the gate, and asked her why she had opened it, she first of all didn’t remember opening it, and then not unreasonably asked why a grown adult would have to be kept upstairs, no matter for how short a period of time. At that moment, she felt in control and no different from the way she’d felt for decades.

Lacking any guidance, we wailed: “Mum, you’re 90, with Alzheimer’s, you’ve already fallen and nearly killed yourself once, we’ve been over this.” Seemingly incapable of sharing our concern, Mum simply ignored our protestations and look at us with a twinkle in her eye. “90, am I? Gee, I did well, didn’t I?”

We were also completely uncertain as to how to deal with her inevitable depression and sadness as the loss of her faculties became clear to her.

A little hug goes a long way

A little hug goes a long way

I well remember one day coming into her room to say cheerio before I headed off to work, to find her staring miserably at her breakfast tray, which the living saint otherwise known as Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink had put together for her, with her favourite toast and orange marmalade (an addiction she has passed to me), a cup of tea going cold, and her tablets.

A little note was on the tray, as it was every day. “Good morning Mum! You are living in Australia with Jenie and Stephen and Caitlin – everything is OK! Here’s your breakfast, enjoy it, and don’t forget to take your pills! I am just downstairs. Love, your friend, Jenie.”

She stared with rheumy blue eyes at the note, then at the tray, and then back at the note, then at me, then back at the note. She pushed things around on the tray, uncertainly. I sat on the bed next to her, uncertain whether I should jolly her along, or just be quietly “there”. She was obviously experiencing real difficulty understanding where she was, and what she was meant to do next.

After a few more moments, she turned to me, and suddenly she had a flash of absolute clarity – a flash of accurate perception – that side of her personality which had stoically survived the Depression, a World War, the premature loss of a husband and two much loved sons – and much more – had kicked in.

She looked me in the eyes, and quietly murmured, “This is a rum do, isn’t it, Son?”

People with dementia lose many things: they never lose the need for simple affection

People with dementia lose many things: but they never lose the need for simple affection

Her use of the ridiculously antiquated English phrase simply served to emphasise the heart-breaking emotion of the moment.

I really had no idea what to say.

Here was the person I had looked up to all my life, confronting the obvious fact that her mind, for so long a steel trap, was deserting her, and she was turning to me, affectionately, suddenly vulnerable, and asking for me to explain. But no words to explain her situation to her came to me naturally, and anyway, she and I, although very close in many ways, had always communicated with little half-suggestions, little implications of topics, little hints. She was from an era long before the whole world wore its heart on its sleeve, with us all busily expressing ourselves for all we are worth. We were simply not the type of Mother and Son that would converse deeply on this and that, although we could, in extremis, if we had to. Dwelling on problems was simply not her way.

I just put my arm round her, and hugged her close, and said “Well, yes it is a bit, Mum, really, but Jenie and I and Caitlin will look after you, so try not to worry too much. All you’ve got to do right now is enjoy your breakfast. Here, let me help you with your pills.”

She looked at me for a few more seconds. Then she suddenly smiled.

“Jenie”, she said, “she’s my friend.” She said it proudly, as if having a friend was a fine achievement. “Yes, Mum”, I replied, “she surely is.”

“She’s my friend,” she repeated to herself. And then she said it for a third time. The thought seemed to comfort her, and she compliantly swallowed her pills with her glass of juice, and started on her cup of tea. “Oooh. Lovely cup of tea,” she murmured appreciatively, which I had heard her say every time she had started on a cup of tea for fifty years, no matter whether it was as strong as Thames mud or as weak as dishwater, scaldingly hot or tepid. “Lovely cup of tea.”

She smiled at me encouragingly, as if noticing me for the first time. “You look nice, dear. Off to work?”

I left the room choked with emotion, and was unsure then, as now, whether I had handled the moment as well as I might. And there were hundreds of such moments, if not thousands, as Mum’s mind simply flew away, bit by bit, and left her as essentially helpless as a newborn child.

Which is why I am here reproducing two articles. The first is from Kay Bransford, a follower of this blog, who writes about Alzheimers movingly and practically at her blog MemoryBanc, at dealingwithdementia.wordpress.com, and her advice is heart-warming and commonsensical. The second, to save people clicking her link, is the article to which she refers, “10 Top Tips for visiting a friend with Alzheimers.”

This is my point: when our family was coping with this problem, no one told us this stuff. But you have to – HAVE TO – know it, if you are facing this situation. And you also have to know you are not alone – to be encouraged to reach out for help, and keeping shouting and asking for help until you get it. Demand the help you need.

Meanwhile, let’s all send another ten bucks to the Alzheimer’s research charity near us, and hope like hell they crack dementia before it’s our turn.

Incidentally, if you have a minute and a half instead of ten minutes to keep reading, this little video on Kay’s site is also simple and instructive.

Kay’s article begins:

Managing a Visit with Someone Who Has Dementia

Dementia changes people in different ways, but there are a few things I found that will make a visit with an old friend easier to manage. My Dad was quieter, but my Mom is feistier.

Research has confirmed that dementia doesn’t magnify traits, but in general can create wholesale personality changes. Don’t be surprised to find the person you are visiting is different than you remember. I hope you will continue to visit, dementia is isolating to those suffering from this disease.

DOs

  1. Begin with introductions. With a warm smile and relaxed posture, share a personal connection you share. Some suggestions that are helpful: “Hi FRIEND, It’s good to see you. You were one of the first people to welcome me into this community and it’s been a while since I’ve seen you”  or “Hi FRIEND. It’s a pleasure to see you today. I was thinking about all the fun we had when we lived in Germany together — that was over 40 years ago! Our children played together so well.”
  2. Bring pictures. It will help your friend understand your connection better if you can share pictures of you together.
  3. Speak slowly, simply and pause to allow them to talk. Some individuals will feed off of your energy so focus on being relaxed and calm. Eye contact and direct interest is important.

DON’Ts

  1. Ask what they are up to or any short-term memory questions.  Short-term memory is the first to go and can set off emotions from frustration to anger and sadness if they are unable to answer the question.
  2. Expect them to “remember”. Be prepared to carry on a one-sided conversation.
  3. Correct jumbled memories. Allow your friend to share. Feel free to share how you remembered something, but don’t try to correct or debate facts.
  4. Show up with an agenda of what you are going to accomplish. Most people are lonely and want to enjoy the company and some conversation. Trying to get agreement or push on a topic can often lead to stress in the person with dementia.

The last don’t has been a new item for me. With my father gone, the normal routine we had has also left and now my Mom prefers to spend our time together reviewing her calendar or burial plans. We will discuss the day of the week over and over for a half hour, move onto the burial date and then go right back into the day of the week. I arrive knowing there is no agenda, and can easily sit with her with a smile on my face and calmly answer the same questions over and over until she feels more comfortable. This too will pass. Relaxed. 

Here is a post that made me consider this topic. I’m frustrated that more people don’t use the umbrella term of “dementia” but it includes some good information in a longer format that you may find useful.

TOP TEN TIPS, from Huffpost

Tom and his wife, Nancy, were going to visit George, one of Tom’s previous colleagues at the University of Cincinnati. This was their first visit to George at his long-term care facility and they were quite nervous.

They didn’t know precisely what condition George was in, and they had no idea how to interact with him. What they knew for sure, however, was that they couldn’t visit the way they always had when the three got together.

Family members or other very close loved ones who are accustomed to visiting may have a set routine and may have learned some or all of the tips below. But if you’re a friend visiting for the first time, or if you don’t visit the person very often, you may feel awkward and not know what to do.

An entire book could be written about this topic. I’m going to list some of the most important things to do (and not to do) when you visit a friend with dementia either in their home or in a facility of some sort.

I have compiled these tips based on four sources: an article of mine published here on the Huffington Post, an article published by Carole Larkin on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, and personal communications from Teepa Snow (05.30.13) and Tom and Karen Brenner(10.03.13)

When I reviewed the sources I discovered that several tips were found in two or more of them. I discovered that the total of 25 items could be distilled down into 10:

1. Start off by looking friendly, making eye contact, offering a handshake and introducing yourself. (Snow, Larkin)

2. Be at their level physically — bend down if necessary — for example, if they are in a wheelchair. (Larkin)

3. Talk about the old times more than recent information. (Snow)

4. Don’t ask if they remember something. (Marley; Larkin)

5. Speak calmly, slowly and in short sentences. (Larkin, Snow)

6. Ask only one question at the time and pause between thoughts or ideas to give them a chance to answer. (Larkin, Snow)

7. Don’t correct them or argue with them. (Marley, Larkin, Snow)

8. Keep memories positive. Don’t bring up topics that could upset them. Turn negatives into positives. (Marley, Snow, Larkin)

9. Do something with the person rather than just talking to them. Bring pictures, CDs of music the person used to enjoy, or other “props” (such as items related to one of the person’s special interests), to bring up old memories. (Snow, Brenners)

10. Tell them what you are going to do before you do it – especially if you are going to touch them. (Larkin)

Following these tips should make you feel more at ease and make your visit more enjoyable.

Does anyone have any additional tips for visiting a friend with Alzheimer’s?

You may also care to read my other musings on dementia:

What do you do when the person you’ve loved for a lifetime just isn’t there any more?

Alzhemier’s – get involved. Before you can’t.

Related articles

A post on a FB friend of a friend’s page encouraged us to try and discover “What is Fragile X Syndrome?”

assnThis information is from Fragilex.org.au, which has a bunch of resources talking about this genetic problem, and how to find out more about the illness and get support.

Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is a genetic condition causing intellectual disability, behavioural and learning challenges and various physical characteristics.

It is also the most common single gene cause of autism worldwide.

It appears in people of all ethnic, racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

autism awarenessThough FXS occurs in both genders, males are generally affected with greater severity.

Every week in Australia, for example, one child is born who is fully affected and 20 children are born who are carriers.

It is estimated that 5 per cent of people with a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum disorder also have Fragile X.

Although there is currently no cure, early intervention by health and educational professionals can assist people living with Fragile X to reach their full potential.

Fragile X Association of Australia is a non-profit organisation that provides support for families living with Fragile X and works to increase the awareness of the condition.

FXTAS

Male carriers over the age of 50 have a 20-40% chance of developing Fragile X Tremor Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS). This  is a neurological condition similar to Parkinsons Disease, and may involve unsteadiness (ataxia), intention tremor (shaking) and memory problems.

Female carriers may also suffer from FXTAS, but is it less common.

Initial signs of the disorder may include difficulty writing, using utensils, pouring and walking. The symptoms progress over years or decades until many daily tasks become very difficult.

There may be a short term memory loss, anxiety, decreased sensation to touch in the lower extremities and rigidity in movement.

It is common to find these carriers mis-diagnosed as having Parkinsons disease, senile dementia or Alzheimers disease. More information on FXTAS on the NFXFsite.

FXPOI

Female carriers may suffer from Fragile X Associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), a problem which can lead to infertility and early menopause in some female premutation carriers.

Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) is a condition in which the ovaries stop functioning normally in a woman younger than age 40. Common symptoms of POI include absent or irregular periods and infertility.

POI is not menopause, even though women with POI may develop symptoms similar to those of menopause, such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. POI differs from menopause in some important ways:

  • Women with POI can still get pregnant in some cases because their ovaries may function irregularly to release viable eggs where as women who have completed menopause can not fall pregnant because their ovaries no longer release eggs.
  • Women with POI can experience a return of/or irregular periods, however, women who have completed menopause will not have menstrual periods again.

Studies show that women who have POI of unknown cause have a 1/50 chance of being a carrier of Fragile X therefore the testing of women experiencing either POI or early menopause like symptoms is recommended.

Studies show that approximately 1 in 4 women carriers experience FXPOI and another 1 in 4 experience early menopause. It is thought that all women with premutation status have some decrease in ovarian function. However many women with the Fragile X premutation are able to conceive and family planning options are recommended. More information on FXPOI at the NFXF site.

dnaAnyhow: we note one can donate over at fragiulex.org.au, so we shall probably flick them a tenner.

As we roamed the interweb for information, one thing that stands out very strongly is the need for everyone to understand a whole bunch of autism spectrum disorders not as illnesses, but as a different kind of reality, with their own strengths and weaknesses. That strikes us as a very positive thought.

If we could stop seeing one style of life as “normal” and others as “abnormal”, and instead just see all of us as human beings, but with different normalities and realities, how much better the world would become.

For the same reason, we hate the term “disabled”. It inevitably implies a loss of ability, a “less-ness” when viewed against more common states of being. We much prefer “differently abled”, a term we heard from a warm-hearted man some years ago and immediately adopted.

When one sees what “differently abled” people can achieve – Stephen Hawking, anyone? – the point becomes clear.

don quixote Meanwhile, whilst we are on health matters, our continuing quixotic battle to overcome the effects of perfectly normal ageing continues unabated. Yesterday we found to our deep consternation that we could not remember the word “egalitarianism”.

It wasn’t just on the tip of our tongue, it was enveloping the whole of the front of our mouth, but we could not vomit it out for love nor money. No amount of forehead-knotted willpower would bring the bloody word to mind.

So alarmed did we become at the obvious gradual collapse of our mental faculties, that we rang the talkback guest who was on the wireless talking about Alzheimers.

She was very reassuring. Apparently middle aged people do simply find it harder to bring words to mind: it doesn’t mean we’re all headed to terminal mental decline the day after tomorrow. The brain just gradually gets slower: just like the rest of the body. Boo, we say. Boo, and bugger it. We may have to rediscover the joys of a dictionary and a Thesaurus, Dear Reader, instead of, as for the last thirty years, wandering around pretending to be one.

And we are taking up crosswords again, although we suspect it will be an unhappy experience, at least initially. Then again, we did remember “quixotic” a moment ago, so all is perhaps not yet quite lost.

Neil Hilborn

Neil Hilborn’s brave and impassioned poem may do more for the recognition and acceptance of the suffering of people with OCD than a thousand documentaries or text books. Well done, that man.

Poet Neil Hilborn has become an internet sensation in the last 24 hours.

His massively impressive two-minute performance-style, life as art, baring of his soul poem about his love for his girlfriend, written through the window of his OCD, is simply astonishing.

 

 

As someone who has suffered from OCD in the past, a brutal multi-layered, multifaceted illness that makes its sufferer’s lives a misery, may I just say that I find the last two lines of the poem among the most moving I have ever heard in all my life.

Listen, weep, laugh, marvel at the courage – enjoy.

orgasms good for you


(From Huffpost)

Hard on the heels of breakthrough research that drinking champagne is good for heading off Alzheimers, we all know that doing crossword puzzles is good for your brain – but not as good as having orgasms, apparently.

Rutgers researchers Barry Komisaruk and Nan Wise, who study human pleasure, recruited female subjects (why only women? Ed.) willing to bring themselves to orgasm while lying in an MRI machine that measured blood flow to different parts of the brain. These experiments showed that orgasms increase blood flow to all parts of the brain – bringing nutrients and oxygenation along, too.

“Mental exercises increase brain activity but only in relatively localized regions,” Komisaruk told Will Pavia for the Times Of London. “Orgasm activates the whole.”

As well as keeping your brain sharp, orgasms are thought to decrease stress, ease depression and increase longevity. Komisaruk is also spearheading research on how orgasms can block pain.

In November 2011, writer Kayt Sukel volunteered as a subject for Komisaruk’s research. In an article about her experience for The Guardian, Sukel explained that the most difficult part of the experience was remaining still enough during the scan to keep the data viable, and explaining to her friends what she was up to.

“If you ever want to make even the most cosmopolitan of your friends speechless, telling them you have volunteered to travel to Newark, New Jersey, so you can masturbate to orgasm in an fMRI is a great way to start,” Sukel quipped in a blog post for the Huffington Post.

Komisaruk, who has been involved in this field of study since 1982, claims that his research is well-received by the academic community.

“We are desensitizing people,” he told the Times. “They used to be very squeamish about it and we’re very straightforward about it. They don’t make fun of it, we don’t make fun of it. A lot of people take it very seriously.”

Count his research as another good reason to keep having fun in bed.

Meanwhile, your fearless reporter has only one burning question to ask you, Dear Reader:

Would the fact that the research was conducted in New Jersey make it more or less likely that you would volunteer?

Anyway, we will be asking Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink to the boudoir in due course to glug a bottle of Bolly and, er “complete a crossword”. All in the interests of a healthy brain, naturally.

Do not turn the page. Read this article.

Do not turn the page. Read this article.

Could you to identify three symptoms of diabetes? In  yourself, or someone you love?

Chances are you probably can’t.

But also, chances are you’re probably not alone. New research has revealed that 97 per cent of us don’t know much about diabetes; we don’t know what the risk factors are, we don’t know how many types there are and most worryingly even if we were suffering we wouldn’t know the symptoms.

And that’s scary when you know that as many as 3.6 million Australians have diabetes or pre diabetes, and the percentages are similar in most “advanced”  countries.

This week is National Diabetes Week in Australia. So it’s important we all know what diabetes is and how we can reduce our chances of getting it, or managing it if we have it.

So here we go. There are three types of diabetes out there – Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin (the body needs insulin to turn sugar into energy). Type 1 affects around 10 – 15 per cent of diabetics. We don’t know a lot about the cause of Type 1, but it’s thought to be related to an auto immune problem, where the body’s own immune system attacks itself. There’s no cure for Type 1 and sufferers need to inject themselves with insulin every day. For my cousin, that’s four times a day – at breakfast, lunch, dinner and just before bed.

Gestational diabetes occurs in around five to eight per cent of pregnancies and usually commences in the 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancies. Women are at a greater risk of gestational diabetes when they’re over the age of thirty, have a family history of Type 2 diabetes and/or are overweight. It’s usually managed with eating plans and exercise. Some women with gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 later.

Then there’s Type 2. And that’s probably the one we all need to make some noise about right now. That’s because diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in western societies and around 85 per cent of diabetics suffer from Type 2.

And while there is no cure, it can be totally preventable depending on lifestyle, or managed effectively using a variety of lifestyle adaptions and medication.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include things like poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity. Unlike Type 1, the symptoms for Type 2 can be more general and include feeling run down or fatigued.

Indeed, research shows that improved diet and increased exercise are the best ways to reduce the development of Type 2 diabetes. In fact, it can reduce it by almost 71 per cent.

The other thing to note is that many people who have Type 2 diabetes don’t even know that they have it, either because they aren’t aware of the symptoms, or the risk factors, or of the importance of being tested. And that’s concerning because undiagnosed, diabetes can lead to serious health complications like strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease and blindness.

Type 2 diabetes is no respecter of age or ethnic background. According to Diabetes Australia symptoms of diabetes include:

• Being excessively thirsty

• Passing more urine

• Feeling tired and lethargic

• Always feeling hungry

• Having cuts that heal slowly

• Itching, skin infections

• Blurred vision

• Gradually putting on weight

• Mood swings

• Headaches

• Feeling dizzy

• Leg cramps

Anyone who’s experiencing those symptoms, should talk to an expert and seek professional advice.

Testing for diabetes is quick, and accurate.

Treatment is well understood and very often effective.

There’s no point burying your head in the sand – much better to start working on it now, if you have it, than find out later on, when symptoms become impossible to ignore, and the damage to your body may be deeply significant and irreversible.

And switching your diet so there are more Low GI foods in it can make a major difference to your chances of developing diabetes, or surviving it. Low GI foods are just as delicious as High GI foods, you just need to know which are which so you can choose wisely. Unfortunately product packaging is rarely helpful, and many foods we think are healthy and good for us actually aren’t.

(Muesli bars and boxes of cereal are the ones that drive me nuts. They’re often High GI, and packed full of sugar, even while making other health claims.)

So can you identify the differences between Low GI foods and others? Indeed, do you even know what I am talking about?

And now let me ask you that first question again: if I asked you to identify three symptoms of diabetes, could you do it?

I have mild diabetes, which is pretty well managed at the moment. It was a hell of a shock when I found out, and for a while I was in denial. Now I am very glad I found out when I did, and can work on staying healthy.

How about you?

Includes original material in part from mamamia.com, Medibank Private, and others as well as my own comments.

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Oh. Great news.

http://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/news/fish-oil-and-prostate-cancer-risk

Then again:

http://m.qt.com.au/news/prostate-warning-a-little-fishy-says-prof/1946326/

It is only a matter of time, I am telling you, until they announce that cholesterol was good for us all along …

The utterly charming Ms Waterland

The utterly charming Ms Waterland. More power to her elbow, as we used to say.

This article (the link is at the end) is beautiful.

The person who wrote this article is beautiful.

Read this article if you’re fat.

Better still, read it if you’re not.

Well said, that man.

Well said, that man.

Definitely read it if you’re a woman.

I know that’s at least half of you lot out there, so I expect lots of people to click on the link below.

I have always been in awe of Dustin Hoffman – he strikes me as one of my top ten dinner party guests.

I have now added Rosie Waterland to that list.

Read her blog. Seriously.

Do yourself a favour. This sort of writing deserves the widest possible audience.

Dustin Hoffman made me cry today.

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‘United States neuroscientists have shown that they can block compulsive behaviour in mice.’

By JOHN ELDER in The Age

For those caught in the hell of compulsive hand-washing, checking the locks of doors, and hoarding – some of the behaviours associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – half a million of them in Australia – relief may be on the way in the form of deep brain stimulation, involving a pacemaker implanted in the brain.

According to a paper published in Science on Friday, US neuroscientists have shown that they can block compulsive behaviour in mice by activating a brain circuit that controls compulsive behaviour.

They did so by using two groups of mice. In one they knocked out a gene called Sapap3 that inhibits compulsive grooming behaviour, the equivalent of human hand-washing. The other group of mice were not tinkered with.

Both groups were put through Pavlovian-style conditioning where a musical tone sounded a few seconds before a drop of water plonked them on the nose, triggering grooming behaviour. If this sounds harsh, some therapies with OCD patients involve this kind of conditioning.

After several hundred drops of water on the nose, the normal mice wised up and ignored the musical tone, waiting for the water to fall before grooming. This type of behaviour is called optimisation, which basically means conserving energy.

The genetically deficient mice, however, continued to groom whenever they heard the tone, suggesting they had become hostage to compulsive behaviour.

The researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believed these compulsions were caused by failed communication between the striatum – a part of the brain responsible for addiction, repetitive behavioural problems, and decision-making – and the neocortex, which controls motor commands (stop picking your nose), conscious thought and language.

The mice were then further fiddled with – where cells in the neocortex and the striatum were made sensitive to light.

When the cells were stimulated with light signals, the mice stopped their compulsive behaviour. When the gene-modified mice were light-stimulated during their regular grooming, the behaviour dropped away.

Senior study author, Ann Graybiel, an institute professor at MIT, and member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, said: ”You don’t have to stimulate all the time. You can do it in a very nuanced way.”

This therapy is a new technique known as an optogenetic intervention, a therapy that has not yet been developed for human consumption.

Eventually, a pacemaker could be developed to send light signals that would quell compulsive hand-washing.

That means OCD sufferers would have to be reminded to keep themselves nice, like everyone else.

Until such time as the brain pacemaker is available, sufferers would be advised to order a copy of “Brain Lock”, widely considered the best advice on using the power odour own minds to defeat this awful “trick” that our brains can play on us.

Above all, do not give in to the anxious hell that is OCD – never despair that you will not get well – the illness can – and is – defeated by thousands of people every day.

For reasons which elude us, Dear Reader, the irony of a bunch of women burning their bras while, er, wearing bras, was lost on this group of 1970s women. Oh, the humanity of it all.

For reasons which elude us, Dear Reader, the irony of a bunch of women burning their bras while, er, wearing bras, was lost on this group of 1970s women. Oh, the humanity of it all.

A study involving 330 women aged 18 to 35 has concluded that, “medically, physiologically, and anatomically,” breasts are not benefiting from the near-constant wearing of bras. That’s to say that, according to this study, women who didn’t wear a bra regularly actually experienced less “sagging” over time, greater comfort, and less back pain. Wait, what?

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez takes the campaign to the streets, suitably protected.

As you’ve probably noticed, this story is causing quite a stir on the internet, with many people not buying the research.

Here to add to the debate is Dr. Stafford Broumand, a plastic surgeon at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Says Broumand: “On the surface, this claim seems plausible. For younger women, not wearing a bra will lead to increased collagen production and elasticity, which improves lift in a developing breast.

Also, tension on the connective tissue and ligaments supporting the breast can be beneficial to prevent sagging.”

But, according to Dr. Broumand, the same is not true of older or pregnant women because that collagen and supportive tissue is going away no matter what — a bra provides the necessary support that your bust has lost with age.

As blog Refinery 29 notes: “We all love our bras — and while you might have originally signed on because your mom politely suggested things were getting, er, out of hand, chances are now you’re in it for the lace, the frills, the fancy patterns, and colors that look great under your favorite sheer blouse. But did you ever consider what your lovely lingerie is doing to your health? No? Well, that’s what science is for.

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan demonstrates that contrary to scurrilous assertions to the contrary, she cares very much about her health.

A study involving 330 women aged 18 to 35 has concluded that, “medically, physiologically, and anatomically,” breasts are not benefiting from the near-constant wearing of bras. That’s to say that, according to this study, women who didn’t wear a bra regularly actually experienced less “sagging” over time, greater comfort, and less back pain. Wait, what?

“If a woman begins wearing a bra from the moment breasts appear, the suspension muscles don’t work correctly, and tissues slacken,” explains a Mr. Rouillon, who oversaw the study.

So, it’s essentially an issue of dependence, in his view.

But, he notes, this is still a very preliminary study and not representative of women in general.

Women have ditched their bras in the past in the name of liberation, (see above), but will the trend now come back around under the guise of health and beauty? Frankly, we’re not so sure a bra is going to make a huge difference either way when it comes to your aged bosom, and certainly many women start wearing bras specifically to avoid back pain.

Well, for now, Refinery 29 is healthily sceptical. But I suspect, especially for young women, there may be some wise knowledge in this.

After all, if breasts are supported daily from the moment of their appearance, then it makes sense that the body doesn’t bother holding the breasts up for itself.

What Wellthisiswhatithink wants now is a study to see if women who discarded their bras (at least for a while) in the 70s have, er, less gravitational impact than women who wore them all the way through. They wouldn’t have been involved in this study, and frankly, we think the people should be told.

Meanwhile, we stress that our interest in seeing young women spending periods not wearing a bra is, er, purely out of an unselfish interest in their long-term health outcomes. Honest.

And don’t shoot the messenger. Our role is merely to report fearlessly.

Meanwhile, in related news, apparently smoking can make your nipples fall off – this is the astonishing claim by Dr Anthony Youn, one of American’s top plastic surgeons.

The practitioner from Detroit, Michigan, was quick to point out this applied to patients who underwent breast lifts to perk up their chests. He said the nicotine and carbon monoxide taken in during smoking can disrupt blood flow to different parts of the body and so disrupts the healing process following surgery.

The toxins can act as a ‘virtual tourniquet’ and effectively kill a body part by stopping blood from reaching it.

nipple bra

The perfect solution if you smoked after your breast implant. Sadly the product came and went in the 70s. In those days, presumably, it was so you could join your sistahs in demonstrating bra-less freedom while, er, still wearing a bra. Honestly, who knows? Anyone remember?

Speaking to CNN Health, Dr Youn said: ‘I cringe every time I see a patient for a breast lift who is a smoker.

‘I’m deathly afraid that despite my warnings, she will smoke before or after surgery and cause her nipples to turn black and fall off.

‘I’ve seen it before,’ he claimed.

Dr Youn said he treated one female smoker whose nipples had turned purple after smoking caused the tiny veins in the breast to fail, leading to a backup of old blood. Left untreated they could have turned black and fallen off.

He had to resort to using leeches over several days to suck out the old blood and so restore the woman’s nipples to a healthy pink.

He told CNN he now made sure all of his patients understood the dire outcomes that could result from smoking following a cosmetic operation.

‘If you are having a breast lift or reduction and you smoke, your nipples could turn black and fall off. If you are having a tummy tuck and you smoke, you may get an infection resulting in a big gross open wound that will take three months to heal.”

Crikey. Ladies, you have been warned.

Meanwhile, Wellthisiswhatithink has a courteous word of advice for all women.

Remember, 99% of men (or women so inclined) will love your breasts whether they are big, small, somewhere in between, pointy, point-less, looking up, looking down, sideways, inwards, outwards, one bigger than another … etc. etc.

It’s always a privilege if we get to see them, and we will be happy. There’s a reason that in moments of brazen cheeriness people have been known to call them “fun bags”. Please, relax. Just do what works for you. We are content.

But don’t smoke. That’s horrid.

As someone for whom the words “mid life crisis” have become a daily reality, I read this guest blog from Helen Downing nodding at the shared insights and whistling through my teeth at the apposite and blazingly honest way she encapsulates the middle years of our lives and the search for meaning, especially in the face of profound changes and grief.

I am very proud and grateful to publish her words … and I shall be buying the book! I recommend you read on.

Helen, or her protagonist, confronts a few age old issues.

Helen, or her protagonist, confronts a few age old issues.

Helen writes …

When I was very young, I remember my maternal grandmother telling me that my grandfather had such a hard time when he turned 35 that it became a bit of legend in the small town of Seaford, DE where they lived.

Everyone knew that “Pop-Pop” had just had a big birthday and his reaction to it was pretty foul. Pop-Pop was one of my most favorite people ever. I didn’t get to know him until he was much older, and to me he was bigger than life. Self-confident to the point of being a bit of a bastard, a caustic wit that some found to be borderline insulting but always had me rolling on the floor, and he was the only member of my immediate family who was a businessman instead of clergy. (My interest always lied in business. The clergy seemed entirely too full of poverty and humility for my taste.)

He was my hero, and the thought of him having a hard time turning a particular age was so foreign to me I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Now of course, I know. Each of us have a number in our head that will make us freak out when that number becomes our age. It probably lies between 30 and 50. But regardless, it’s somewhere in the middle. Once we reach “middle-aged” by whatever standard we’ve set, the words “Happy Birthday” becomes much more ominous, at least for that one year. Middle age is not for the weak of heart. In fact, middle age sucks.

My 40th year was the worst of my life. Not turning 40, that was fine in itself. But that year I found my self-esteem and identity truly tested.

It is not that my life, as every other person’s on the planet, did not have plenty of tragedy, trial, and tribulation, previously. I had failed relationships, sickness and death around me, a few times when I was so broke I considered selling blood for cigarette money, and lots of other things that just come with being a breathing entity on the planet.

But when things happened to me or around me, I would react based on who I thought I was, which had always been a strong, independent, intelligent woman who can talk her way through a keyhole and who could fall into a pile of shit and come up with an ice cream cone. That version of me could handle anything that comes down the pike.

Until I reached what I considered “middle-age”, I was invincible. In the year that I was 40 I had a bunch of firsts.

My daughter, who was my first-born and will always be my baby was grown up and moving out to live on her own.

I was laid off from the non-profit that I worked for due to a bad economy, and my husband of 10 years left me for another woman.

I had spent my entire career being the young executive who came in and opened up new revenue streams or developed innovative ideas to save money. Now I was the 40 year old who was put out to pasture.

In my 20s I was the ingénue who made married women nervous and hold on tight to their husbands. Now I was a 40 year old with mascara tears running down my face while knocking on my best friend’s door with an overnight bag and an old, old story.

My little girl, instead of being set free to experience the excitement of being on her own, was in fact being set adrift, all alone, while the foundation that was supposed to support her and be her safety net was crumbling behind her.

I wanted to bounce back. I wanted to be strong and independent and all of that stuff. I wanted to just overcome and be victorious. But my heart was shattered and my brain could not process what was happening to me. These things just didn’t happen to the version of me that I had built in my own head. And then my demons came out to play.

They sat on my bed at night and discussed my fate while I was lying there sleepless and sobbing. “Maybe she’s done” they’d say. “Maybe this is who she’s been all along. A loser, with no job and no prospects, unloved and alone.”  On top of that, I also felt horrible guilt, as though somehow all of this was not only warranted but deserved.  Maybe I was paying back all the bad karma I had incurred back when I thought that life was not preordained, and that I could be anything? As though dreaming of a greater destiny in my youth was somehow a sin? That is, of course, ridiculous. But guilt and regret became my constant companions.

Meanwhile, my mother who has been battling cancer off and on my entire life, had a relapse.

My father and I decided that I would come home to help him take care of Mom.

Back in the cone of unconditional love that I have enjoyed by having the parents I was blessed to receive, I began to heal. However, I also now had to face aging parents, one of whom had been deemed terminally ill. Now my life was filled with things like “living wills” and “pre-arranged funerals”.

So, fast forward. Several years have gone by now. My mom is still with us and some days I believe that she will outlive me. My children are happy and settled. I have a job that I love and I have renewed dreams and inspirations. Turns out that middle-age doesn’t suck as much as I originally thought.

However, this is what I think I’ve learned through this experience.

Being in the middle of life means literally being caught in between two very powerful influences.

Many of us are dealing with aging parents or parental figures. We also have children, whether they are our own or those of someone else that we feel close to. When we see those younger than us setting out to conquer the world, and making the same stupid mistakes we made, feeling the same sense of invincibility that youthful arrogance affords them, we begin to take stock of our lives. Even those who are ushered into their late 30’s to early 50’s with much less drama than I just described still take a moment to reflect on what they  could have done better or not done at all. Each of us have burdens of regret that we are forced to carry to the top of the proverbial hill right before we establish that we are “over” it.

Being “over the hill” also means that we now go to more funerals than weddings – we have to plan to lose those people that we consider grown-ups – and we have to prepare to become matriarchs and patriarchs of our family units. When you mix regret and death, you have a cocktail for an epic identity crisis that can result in anything from clinical depression to simply having a bummer birthday.

The good news is that mid-life hands us as many fabulous lessons as puberty does.

At this time, we get to experience forgiveness on a whole new level. Especially how to forgive ourselves.

We also learn to let go, letting go of the past, letting go of old dreams to make room for new ones, or actually letting go of people. Whether that means letting go of children who are now adults and will start their own adventures or letting go of those who brought us to this point and are now transitioning themselves.

We learn to see ourselves in many different roles. Many of us don’t find our groove professionally until we get to this age, as well as becoming grandparents, or being caregivers.

We start to realize that having 40 or so years under your belt can inspire all kinds of things like creative pursuits, an entrepreneurial spirit, or a renewed relationship to a higher power.

We deal with relationships differently, from the married couple now having to deal with empty nest syndrome learning to rekindle their romance, to single folks like me figuring out how to be happy with or without someone else. This is a time to take stock of our lives, but not with regret. Instead we should honor our past with tremendous reverence and gratitude. Then quietly unpack our baggage and leave it at the top of the hill.

That way, instead of trudging down the other side weighted with heavy hearts, we can spread our arms out wide and fly, soaring into our own old age with grace and beauty.

Taking this one on my hols with me …

I wrote “Awake In Hell”, a book about a middle-aged woman who dies and finds herself damned for eternity.

It uses humor, foul language, and a unique vision of Hell to illustrate how I felt about reaching mid-life.

When my protagonist finds herself in a temp agency along with its enigmatic staff, she discovers the most amazing thing – redemption.

I hope you enjoy the second half of your life as much as I am enjoying mine.

I hope that my story gives you something to think about, or comforts you, or at least makes you think “there but for the grace of God” – and I offer it to you with a renewed heart full of conviction and thankfulness.

Helen Downing

Author, Awake In Hell

Find my book here: http://amzn.to/WYOwYv

Find my blog here: http://bit.ly/124uGCR

Like me on Facebook here: http://on.fb.me/Xuf1MO

Follow me on Twitter here: @imtellinhelen