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August 2005

More Surgery!"

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Monday, 29 August 2005
More Surgery!
Topic: Health Issues
Last Friday was my appointment to see the consultant at Worthing Hospital and to have my stitches removed. I was actually looking forward to that - another step on the way to recovery, especially as the stitches were beginning to pull a little. We arrived on time and sat down to wait. Eventually, my name was called. "Would your husband like to come in, too?" Yes, he would. "There are quite a few people in the room". There were about five and the consultant had a serious expression on his face, "We need to discuss your options.", he said gently. My heart sank down to my boots and I felt a lump rising in my throat.

There had been an unexpected result. It seems that the slice of tissue they removed and tested post-operation had more 'invisible' problems than they thought. At least 39.6 mm (about 1½ inches) of pre-cancerous cells continuing right to the edge of the sample. This despite the fact that my operation had entailed a "wide excision", well beyond the area of microcalcification marked by the "localisation wire" they had inserted prior to the operation. Consequently, the consultant did not believe they had succeeded in removing all the pre-cancer cells. "This type of cell can't be detected on an x-ray and will not show up later. Do you understand what I am trying to say?", he said, gently. I did. I put it into words, "A mastectomy.", I said, trying hard to be brave. "Yes, that is what we advise".

I reached out for my husband's knee and he put his hand on mine reassuringly. The consultant stressed that all these cells were pre-cancerous and did not pose an immediate threat. However, eventually they would turn into an invasive full-blown cancer, which would be much more difficult to treat. When this might happen could not be foreseen, I could take a gamble and ignore it but there would always be that nagging worry. My brain tried to keep up - all this just as I was so pleased with my free "breast reduction" - it was difficult to take it all in. I cracked a feeble joke about possibly taking up archery again. I explained that I had done archery as a teenager and that 'a large left bosom' got slightly in the way! [I remember a somewhat buxom lady at the archery club. She had had a mastectomy but didn't let that deter her and obviously thought it was all to her advantage!]

I looked at my husband - his eyes looked slightly watery but he squeezed my hand. We both agreed that the sensible thing was to go ahead with a mastectomy. My stitches having been removed, the consultant went on to say that I could have reconstructive surgery, which could be done at the same time as the mastectomy or at a later date. "It does involve a six-hour operation and we take muscle from your back", he explained in reply to my question. More scars, more pain. Why go through all that at my age? "No", I said, "I don't think I want that". I was told that I could always change my mind later, should I have second thoughts.

So, I signed the consent form and was given an admission date of Thursday, 22nd September. I would be in hospital for three nights this time. The specialist cancer nurse led us out of the room and explained more about the operation. She showed us the type of breast prostheses available - a soft one to start with and then a plastic gel-filled one which fits into a pocket inside special 'mastectomy bras'. She was very kind and supportive and I can ring her any time if I have any more questions. We walked out slightly dazed and subdued by all we had heard. My mind dwelling on the ancient tales of Amazons, one of those fabled tribes of warrior women...

We soon realised that we were hungry, so our thoughts turned to the hospital canteen. Apart from their cakes, they do an excellent choice of sandwiches. (Yes, I did have another doughnut!!). Leaving the hospital, we wondered whether to go straight home, look round Worthing again or go somewhere else. We opted for the latter and decided to visit the Marks and Spencer super-store in Shoreham. I wanted a new dressing gown, which I found, together with a skirt, a blouse, and a leather jacket! Oh, dear, I managed to spend a small fortune.

Saturday, I woke up with a slight sore throat and a headache, which would not go away. Also, my breast was extra painful and quite swollen. Sunday morning, it was still swollen and painful but slightly less tight and I could see a lovely shade of yellow suffusing my skin. I suddenly realised what had caused all the swelling — driving! I probably should have kept to a steady, low speed and enjoyed observing other road users cursing behind me! I certainly recall feeling very uncomfortable every time the car jolted over all the little uneven bumps I had never noticed before! I also remembered driving away at my usual reckless speed on coming out of the 40 mph restriction near Arundel mainly because a chap in a white van seemed to be right on my tail. He flashed his lights as if to say, get out of my way. Later, it occurred to me that he probably thought I wasn't wearing my seat belt! Well, I was, only I had pushed it under my arm instead of over my shoulder. Not sure if that is legal but I felt I had a good excuse. Will be very careful how I drive for the next three weeks and will keep to short and necessary journeys for the time being!

And yes, thank you, I am feeling much better about the whole thing now. I am not alone and I will be joining a privileged group of women lucky enough to have been diagnosed early and to be spared the ravages of malignant breast cancer, possible metastasis and the unpleasant after effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Posted by Noviomagus at 01:21 BST Post Comment | View Comments (11) | Permalink

Friday, 19 August 2005
I'm Recovering Well
Topic: Health Issues
I'm not suffering too much post-operation - just had my nose buried in a book! One of those you definitely don't want to put down and just HAVE to continue reading for as long as possible to find out what happens next. Now I've finished it, I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms, especially as I have discovered it was the first of a trilogy - must get the other two as soon as possible! When I ordered the book over the Internet, I did wonder if it was suitable for a grandmother of my age; perhaps, it was a child's book? Well, if it was, than I definitely have a child’s mind! I lapped up every word and stretched my imagination until I felt I was a part of the story; a spellbound onlooker marvelling at each magic trick, full of concern at every evil setback and tense with sympathy during every battle. I'm worn out! Oh, yes! The book is called, "Eragon", the tale of a boy and his dragon. I recommend it to anyone with a child's heart and imagination! [You were right, Joanna!].

I have been neglecting my computer! I have checked emails and surfed a bit except for Wednesday, when the computer never even got switched it! That's one of my problems - I can't section my day off into 'do this' and 'do that' periods. When I'm doing this or that, it’s impossible to stop until it's finished, apart from necessary things like eating and sleeping, of course! I did come across a brilliant new blog whilst searching for something else on Google, second time I've done that. It's called, "The Loom" and is written by Carl Zimmer, an American journalist who writes for The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic, to name but two. He is an author of several science books as well. Reading his early August posts, I was amused to see that President Bush has been making a fool of himself again with various ill-advised comments on bringing 'intelligent design' to the classroom - he obviously disapproves of the theory of evolution! I particularly enjoyed reading the copy of the letter to the Whitehouse from the President of The American Astronomical Society, And Now A Word From the Astronomers.... However, I rather doubt that Mr. Bush will listen.

So, I have had a few very lazy days recovering from my operation and enjoying being waited on and pampered. For the first four days, I was taking it easy doing very little, reading a while and relaxing in the garden on the garden lounger and sleeping with my sun hat pulled over my face. Sunday, a noise woke me and I held out my hand thinking hubby had opened the back door. Then, the noise again - a loud rattling trill. I removed my hat and there was a tiny brown bundle of feathers hopping about on the fence about 6 feet away; a plump little wren with its little tail stuck up in the air. It trilled a few times more watching me disapprovingly and then flew away. There have been far more birds in the garden since our old neighbours moved away and took their cat with them! I had my first shower on Sunday, too - the nurse had told me to wait 48 hours after getting home. The incision is about three* inches long and I have four horrible large green stitches holding my skin pinched together like pursed lips with the scar in the centre. I will have to put up with them for another week until I see the consultant again on Friday, 26th August. I'm glad it was the left side that had to be done because, in common with many women, I was rather lop-sided! At least a cup size larger on the left - probably two! Now I seem to be virtually even on both sides so, you see, I have had a free breast reduction! One little side effect to cheer me up.

Wednesday, we went to the supermarket to do some necessary shopping - the first time I had driven since the operation. I tucked the seat belt under my arm with a small cushion and started off rather gingerly. I was taken aback at how weak I was! Even turning the steering wheel was an effort. I crawled round the store with hubby darting back and forth filling the trolley and that small effort of walking around made me burst out into a hot sweat. I was glad to get home. Thursday, I felt stronger. We went out again early in the evening to shop at Marks and Spencer and I managed much better. I have been coping well with a few easy chores, filling up the washing machine, cooking something simple and washing up. Now, as usual, I am staying up much too late - nearly 1:15 am Friday morning already. Another of my bad habits!
[Amended Friday, 19 August 2005 at 10:40 BST]


Update 24 August 2005

* As usual, I exaggerated! Got Hubby to measure the scar properly this morning and it is only 21/8 inches long.

Posted by Noviomagus at 01:17 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Friday, 12 August 2005
Well, I'm Glad That's Over!
Topic: Health Issues
Came home from hospital this afternoon - I must say, it's good to be back in familiar surroundings although I was looked after very well by the doctors and nurses! I feel a little uncomfortable, bruised and swollen; it pulls if I bend down and I haven't been able to turn over in bed but I'm not in any real pain at the moment. Everyone who noticed the purple mess on my right arm commented,'you bruise easily', but earlier today I had some more blood taken from the left arm and not a sign of a bruise there.

The night before the operation I went to bed after our evening meal (hubby washed up) feeling absolutely whacked out after dusting, hoovering, and flying about all day but, four and half-hours later, I felt totally refreshed and renewed. Amazing what a short sleep can do. My first job was sewing up the trouser bottoms of my new pyjamas, which were much too long! The rest of the night passed very quickly; I had a shower and washed my hair, cleaned the shelves in the bathroom, programmed the video recorder, washed the kitchen floor and sent an email to my sister in Spain. Rang the hospital as per my instructions to check that a bed was still available - it was, but in a different ward. Left a note of the new extension number. At twenty past six, I was ready to leave.   [Ughhh! Just found a small fly in my drink of Horlicks!]

Got into the car and found a small 'Good Luck' teddy bear sitting on the steering wheel. Hubby, dear man, standing there in his pyjamas like a lost soul waving goodbye and surreptitiously wiping his eyes! It's at times like these that he wishes he had learnt to drive a car. I arrived at Worthing Hospital just after seven, got my bag out of the boot and realised that the button and zip of my jeans were undone! I thought only men forgot to do their zips up! Joined another couple in the lift going to the same ward.

After being checked in and changing into the horrible hospital gown, I had to wait quite a while before another lady and myself were chaperoned down to the Breast Care Centre for more mammograms. Hers was very quick then it was my turn for the 'left needle localisation'. One mammogram to check they were in the right area. Then, OUCH! It felt as I imagine it would feel to be stabbed with a fine knitting needle! Another mammogram - then, to my enormous relief, I heard the doctor say, "Amazing, I have got it in exactly the right place first go!" Someone must have been watching over me. Back to the ward for some more waiting before 'Sam' came to wheel my bed down the corridor to the lift and up to the second floor, where there was a minor traffic jam, my bed coming out of the lift and another bed going in!

Canula in, injections and then the big one - the large clock on the wall said 10.25 am. I remember going through the double doors into a large room with several beds and feeling surprised that it wasn't the operating theatre. Two men in pale blue gowns and blue caps reading their notes. "Good Morning", one said, smiling at me. The next thing I remember was being woken up and offered some water via a straw. Before long, I had woken up enough to have some lunch. Someone gave me a pain-killing tablet in the afternoon. A couple of hours later, I closed my eyes. Woke with a start to find hubby, daughter and grandchildren all round my bed around 7 pm. They had spent several minutes trying to wake me! So pleased to see them all.

It was around 1.20 pm today before I was discharged and then I waited in the discharge lounge for my daughter to collect me. The nurses were very firm, 'You mustn't drive for 48 hours after a general anaesthetic and also your insurance is invalid for that time!' Sister was obviously displeased that I had been advised differently - 'I will tell them in the Breast Care Centre'. The charge for the hospital car park from just after 7 am yesterday to just before 3 pm today was £12.20 - much cheaper than a taxi would have been.

Took one of the Co-Codamol tablets, (paracetamol with codein), I was prescribed around six this evening. About two hours later, (they seem to take about two hours to kick in), I was feeling very woozy - they are pretty strong! Hubby cooked our supper and washed up. He is being very solicitous, bless him. I can remove my foam padding dressing to shower after which I must replace it - haven't looked yet to see the damage - and I have to wear a bra 24 hours until I go back to see the Consultant in two weeks' time.

Many thanks to all my kind cyber friends for all their good wishes, which were greatly appreciated! Off to bed now. Goodnight!
--------------------------------

P.S. Woke up this morning and realised that it wasn't lunch I had on the day of my operation, it was supper! Spaghetti Bolognese served up at 5 pm. I've had better and missed my salt! Had a very good hospital lunch on Friday - fish and chips with tiny peas, diced carrots, a slice of lemon and some sauce.

    [Updated, Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 08:52 BST]

Posted by Noviomagus at 23:51 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Monday, 1 August 2005
Surgical Pre-Assessment
Topic: Health Issues
It was just after twenty to nine this morning when I set off this morning for my 10 am appointment at the Surgical Pre-Assessment Clinic at Worthing Hospital. A clear run from Chichester with no traffic hold-ups so, of course, I arrived in the hospital car park at twenty past nine, forty minutes early! As I had missed breakfast, I briefly considered getting a cup of coffee but decided not to in case I might need the loo at an inconvenient moment! That is always a worry for me as I have a bit of a problem with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and my letter had said to "allow 3 hours for this visit". Settled in the waiting area at half-past nine with my crossword puzzle book - a good way to take my mind off things. Especially as there was a TV fixed on the wall showing one of those awful talk shows - thank goodness the volume was low! Nine forty-five, my name is called; just as well I was early then!

The nurse went through the form I had filled in with details of current medication and medical history whilst she took my blood pressure. Then round the corner to be weighed and measured before going in to see another nurse. She asked me to sign a 'Disclaimer' advising me not to bring valuables into the hospital and then I had to lie on the couch for an electrocardiogram (an electrical recording of the heart used in the investigation of heart disease). All normal she said. Back to the waiting area for another few minutes before I was called in another room to see a young doctor. She listened to my chest and back, told me to take deep breaths and pronounced everything fine. It's good to know I am still alive! She noted that I had had anaesthetics before as I had had a tonsillectomy when I was about three-years-old. She looked amazed when I said that I had had Chloroform! (I never needed that operation! My parents had it done as a precaution because one of my much older sisters had had to have hers removed at nineteen and had a very bad time).

The doctor gave me an information sheet about my admission and reminded me that I have to ring the ward before I leave home on the day of the operation to check that a bed is still available! I asked her if I would be able to drive immediately afterwards as I was planning to drive myself in on the day (I have to check in at 07:30 am) and then drive myself home the next day. She thought it would be okay but advised me to have a back-up plan just in case! And that was that - all over by a quarter to eleven.

Made my usual beeline for the hospital refreshment area for a coffee and, 'oh goodie, they have some' - a jam doughnut! I love jam doughnuts and that was probably the first one I have had this year (although I did have an iced doughnut last time I was in the hospital).

Will speak to my daughter about possible 'back-up' transport after my discharge. She had offered to drive me in but that would have meant her leaving home around six in the morning to come and collect me, drive to Worthing and then drive back to her office in Littlehampton. The only problem I can foresee is will I be able to use the seat belt? Must raise the car seat a bit, I think.

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:20 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Tuesday, 26 July 2005
Getting Enough Sleep?
Topic: Health Issues
My daughter sent me a link the other day to this BBC Interactive Game, Sheep Dash, part of the BBC's section on Sleep. The game is designed to test your reaction time and see how alert you are. Five sheep will leave the flock and dash for freedom and you have to hit them with a tranquilliser dart! You are then rated as a Sluggish Snail, an Ambling Armadillo, a Bobbing Bobcat, a Rocketing Rabbit or a Turbo-charged Cheetah! If you make a mistake, you get a 3-second penalty. Well, I've had several goes at different times of the day. Mostly, I score as an "Ambling Armadillo" although a couple of times, I did reach "Bobbing Bobcat" - and a couple of times I was a "Sluggish Snail" because I got a penalty! So my reactions are slow and I am probably tired. Is it possible for anyone to score as a "Turbo-charged Cheetah"? To me it seems impossible but then I was never any good at Space Invaders either! Do let me know if you get there.

I did a little better on the Face Memory test which assesses your ability to remember how long ago something happened - your 'temporal' memory. If you're tired you won't be as good at remembering when you saw or did something. The test is in three parts so you need about 20 minutes to complete it, as you have to take a break of five minutes between each part. In each of the first two parts, you are shown photographs of twelve faces. Then in the third part you are shown 48 photographs and asked to decide which you have seen before and whether in part one or part two. My 'Recognition' score was 100% - I recognised all 24 photos. However, I only matched 18 photos to the correct part - a 'Temporal' memory score of 75%. The average recognition score is 92% and the average temporal score is 68% so, considering my age, I didn't disgrace myself.

Apparently, recognition memory for faces is unaffected by sleep loss. However, the area of the brain that controls temporal memory can be affected by prolonged sleep loss and/or ageing. The BBC tells me; a healthy 65-year-old who sleeps normally would be able to perform this test similarly to a 20-year-old who has gone without sleep for 36 hours!

I probably average around 6½ hours sleep. Obviously not enough so, I off to bed right now. Goodnight!

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:35 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Sunday, 17 July 2005
Update on my Biopsy
Topic: Health Issues
My appointment for the result of my biopsy was at 10:30 am last Friday. This time, I was careful to allow a whole hour for the drive to Worthing and, of course, I arrived 15 minutes early. Then I had to wait until nearly 11 o'clock before I was called.

I knew the answer before I went in - something about the attitude of the nurse who called me and the compassionate look she gave me! I felt I was walking into the dock to be sentenced. Yes, the consultant stated without mincing words, the microcalcification is an early form of breast cancer called 'Ductal carcinoma in situ' (DCIS). Nobody knows when it could start changing to invasive DCIS so he explained that the area of microcalcification, plus the immediate surrounding area, would need to be removed - a lumpectomy. I would also need a localisation mammogram to pinpoint the area. "It usually entails spending just one night in hospital and you can go home the next day." He added, "We would like to do it here, although it would be possible to send all the notes and x-rays to St. Richard's in Chichester." I read between the lines - we are much more experienced in our specialist Breast Care Unit here than they would be in Chichester... "I can offer you Thursday, 11th August. Would that be okay?" I gulped - so soon! Well, no point putting it off, I suppose. Did I have any medical problems or was I on any medications? "We will need to send you another appointment for you to be assessed by the anaesthetist prior to surgery". I duly signed the consent form and left the room feeling slightly dazed to wait to see the Specialist Nurse.

She explained everything in greater detail. Because there is no lump, I will need to come down to the Breast Cancer Unit for a mammogram prior to surgery for a procedure called 'localisation'. This entails inserting a fine wire into the area of microcalcification to guide the surgeon to the right spot. Well, at least I don't have to worry about waking up and finding they have done the wrong side! However, I was taken aback when she explained that I would need to check into the hospital at 7:30 am on the day. Argh! 7.30 - I'm usually still fast asleep at that time! My first concern was how to get to the hospital. Would I be able to leave the car overnight in the hospital car park as my husband has never learnt to drive? She wasn't sure but told me to ask the car park attendant on my way out.

I adjourned to the canteen for a coffee and an iced doughnut. The caffeine and the sugar gave me a boost and I felt better. On the way out, I stopped at the Car Park Attendant's hut. Was it possible to leave the car in the car park overnight, I asked him. I was very relieved when he confirmed that it wasn't a problem. He explained that there would be plenty of spaces at that time of the morning and that my parking ticket would carry on for as long as necessary. Probably will be a lot cheaper than taking a taxi from Chichester.

Posted by Noviomagus at 02:04 BST Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink

Wednesday, 6 July 2005
My Biopsy
Topic: Health Issues
Microcalcification - that's what I was told I had when I was recalled for further mammograms nearly three weeks ago. The likelihood is that the condition is completely harmless but, and a big BUT, it could indicate a pre-cancerous condition. So, off I went early this morning (technically, yesterday morning as I see it is now past midnight) for my appointment at Worthing Hospital for a biopsy "under mammographic control". I can manage not to worry about something beforehand until the last minute - so, I didn't lose any sleep brooding about it. However, I did start worrying last night about getting up extra early (for me, that is) and arriving on time for my 9:15 appointment! I'm definitely a night owl and I've been getting worse recently and staying up until 2 or 2.30 as you will see from the time stamp on some of my posts!

The real anxiety kicked in this morning as I started having qualms about the whole thing. After all, it can't be very pleasant having hollow needles stuck into you removing bits of your flesh! To make matters worse, I had a bad weekend. Hubby wasn't at all himself and complained of feeling weak and dizzy and I felt a bit feverish too - a bug of some sort, I suppose. Then, Saturday evening, I got a very bad spasm in my back, more than once! Something to do with an injury I did to myself last year when I popped a vertebral tendon. Sunday, I had to resort to Ibuprofen, which definitely helped. No more cramps but it is still tender and I move with care!

Well, I was probably right to worry about arriving at the hospital on time! The traffic to Worthing was full of commuters on their way to work, with the inevitable delays leading up to the Arundel roundabouts and into Worthing itself. So, after finally succeeding in finding a parking place in the crowded hospital car park, I was already three minutes late. Oh dear! They had told me not to worry if I was a bit late but I puffed into the Breast Care Centre full of apologies. "Don't worry. I tell them you're here".   Just had time to visit the loo before I was called in.

The Radiologist and her assistant were charming and took a lot of trouble to put me at ease. I was invited to sit down on a very comfortable padded chair with wheels, which they pushed up to the x-ray equipment and then raised to the correct height. The thought crossed my mind that the chair was a precaution in case of a fainting episode - at least I wouldn't crash to the floor! A couple of x-rays later, just to make sure I was in the correct position, they prepared me for the local anaesthetic. "It will give you a slight burning sensation", she warned. I got two jabs in quick succession - then a wait for the anaesthetic to take effect. "Now we're ready to start", she said. "The biopsy needle will make a click and I will have to take two or three". About four clicks later, the senior Radiographer disappeared into a side room with the samples. "She has to check them under the microscope to make sure she has a sample of the microcalcification", explained her helper. Well, she didn't so more samples were needed. I think I counted ten clicks in all, each one giving a burning sensation. I was very relieved when she announced. "We are all done". The whole process had taken about half an hour.

I adjourned to the Hospital Canteen for a coffee and something to eat. Well, I had skipped breakfast and was beginning to feel in need of something. I saw one of the biggest Danish Pastries I have ever seen, at least five inches in diameter! Too big for one person, so I bought a small slice of fruit cake. I must say I was absolutely amazed at the price of my snack, at least half the cost of the same thing down the town.

Yes, it is a bit sore, still that burning sensation, but not too bad. I have got to keep the dressing on overnight and then I can replace it with one of those round 'spot' plasters. I must NOT get it wet until it has formed a scab. Now all I have to do is wait ten more days until my appointment to see the Consultant and get my results.

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:24 BST Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink

Friday, 17 June 2005
Microcalcification
Topic: Health Issues
Just over four weeks ago, I had to attend the mobile unit in the Festival Theatre Car Park in Chichester for a routine breast screening X-ray or mammogram. They look after you very well in West Sussex and call all women between the ages of 50 and 64 for screening every three years, a scheme which they are gradually changing to include women up to 70 years of age.

Then, last week the letter arrives, "Please would you attend Worthing Hospital Assessment Centre for further tests". So, off I went last Wednesday. It was the left side they were interested in - more squashing between glass plates from various angles! Then the radiographer had to change all the plates to take yet another X-ray with a magnified film of the area. "That's it, you can get dressed and we will call you in a few minutes to see the Doctor".

Five minutes later, I am shown into the Consultant's room. All my X-rays are on a light board. He points at a tiny cluster of white dots; "These are tiny particles of calcium which we call Microcalcification", he said. He explained that these minute calcium deposits were, in all probability, harmless but, that they could represent a pre-cancerous condition known as Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). Despite the carcinoma tag, DCIS is non cancerous and cannot spread. However, if it is left, there is a chance that it could develop into a proper cancer eventually.

To determine whether DCIS is present, a sample is needed. That means, a stereo tactic core biopsy through a hollow needle. Sounds horrible but they give you a local anaesthetic and I was assured it would not be painful. "Are you needle phobic?" Well, I don't think so, after all I have donated blood over sixty times!

My appointment is on the 5th July and then I will have to return again to hear the result and find out if the microcalcification is benign, a very common condition requiring no treatment, or if they want to remove a chunk out of me! Will let you know how I get on.

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:39 BST Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink

Tuesday, 31 May 2005
World No Tobacco Day
Topic: Health Issues
No TobaccoWe are horrified when we hear of yet another death in Iraq; since the start of military operations, the total number of British troops killed has risen to 88. Eighty-eight young lives destroyed, eighty-eight families torn apart.

Yet, there is a greater killer in our midst. Did you know that smoking tobacco is the principal avoidable cause of premature death in the UK, killing more than 120,000 a year. Yes, one hundred and twenty thousand! That is a terrible and completely unnecessary waste of human life. In fact, tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. It is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2020. Half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people- will eventually be killed by tobacco. [World Health Organisation]

World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), observed globally on 31st May each year, is designed to inform people of the dangers of smoking and to tell them what they can do to stop. If you are a smoker, you know that you are endangering your own life - and risking the lives of the people around you who breathe in the smoke you exhale. TODAY is a good time to give up!

Many people try to say that they were seduced by tobacco advertising, that they were not told of the health dangers when they starting smoking thirty, forty or fifty years ago. This is utter nonsense; my husband was well aware of the dangers when he started his National Service in 1951. In fact, the medical fraternity has been aware of the dangerous side effects of smoking for over 120 years. This article is taken from The Boy's Own Paper, Issue No. 187 Vol. IV, for Saturday, August 12 1882.


What Smoking Does For Boys
A medical man, struck with the large number of boys under fifteen years of age he observed smoking, was led to inquire into the effect the habit had upon the general health. He took for his purpose, thirty-eight, aged from nine to fifteen, and carefully examined them. In twenty-seven he discovered injurious traces of the habit; in twenty-two there were various disorders of the circulation and digestion, palpitation of the heart and a more or less taste for strong drink. In twelve there were frequent bleedings of the nose, ten had disturbed sleep, and twelve had slight ulceration of the mucous membrane of the mouth, which disappeared on ceasing the use of tobacco for some days. — British Medical Monthly.

Yes, his survey was amongst boys of nine to fifteen years old. Shocking, isn't it - but children around that age are smoking today. There has also been a rise in drinking alcohol and drug taking amongst school children. Perhaps your child or your teenager is one of them! Is this what you want for your children? Teach them by example - stop NOW. So-called 'peer pressure' may start youngsters on this dangerous habit. Teach your children that it is NOT COOL to smoke or to drink. Tell them that it is the ones who do, who are the weak-willed, immature, foolish people, not the ones who refuse to join in.

Smoking and drinking alcohol at the same time increases the risk of cancers - cancer of the mouth, throat and larynx, stomach cancer, bowel cancer and kidney cancer. Although, a glass of wine a day may be good for the heart, smokers younger than 50 are five times more likely than non-smokers to die of coronary heart disease. Without doubt, smoking adversely affects the lungs, heart, vascular systems and brain tissue. If you become alcohol dependent and smoke, or know someone who is, be aware that smoking compounds alcohol-induced brain damage. Don't take the risk!

Posted by Noviomagus at 13:04 BST Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink

Saturday, 14 May 2005
Looking After Your Teeth
Topic: Health Issues
I see that a recent study by British researchers has found that only up to one-third of people diagnosed with gum disease, actually follow the advice given to them by their dentists. If only they knew the problems that could arise from poor dental hygiene - do you? How often do you brush your teeth and for how long? If you own an electric toothbrush, it should be one of those which has a two-minute timer. It is! Good - dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for at least two minutes at a time. But - when did you last buy a new head for your electric toothbrush, or a new toothbrush, if you don't have an electric one? Aaah, I thought so! What is it with us British? We will happily fork out loads of money for a meal out, for a theatre seat, for designer clothes, for a holiday, for music cds and countless other things, but not for that new toothbrush. A flattened toothbrush head, electric or otherwise, such as the one I saw in someone's bathroom recently, is COMPLETELY USELESS for cleaning in between your teeth!

Another thing, do you clean your teeth with an up and down motion or do you scrub horizontally like my grandchildren tend to do? If I leave them to it, the whole tooth-cleaning process takes just about 30 seconds with a quick scrub and one rinse - despite the advice of the Tooth Fairy! I reiterate the importance of cleaning teeth properly and try to brush their teeth for them. However, two minutes is completely impossible as they don't keep still for that long! Luckily, it is only once a week that Grandma has the job - I just hope my daughter does it better!

I remember seeing a television interview with the film star, Jim Carrey some while back. He was asked about his teeth and treated viewers to an enormous, dazzling, smile. His teeth are PERFECT - and all his own. He flosses. All Americans are more conscious of oral hygiene than we British, it seems. Flossing is very important as it helps to remove plaque, that sticky deposit which can harden into tartar (calculus) on the backs of our teeth and work its way down in between the teeth and the gums. Plaque is full of bacteria and toxins which irritate the gums and which, if left, will break down the tissue and the bone that supports your teeth. Eventually, your teeth can become so loose, they have to be removed.

If your gums tend to bleed a little when you brush your teeth, you probably have Gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease. Did you know that periodontal disease is now thought to be a contributing facture to complications in pregnancies, such as preeclampsia? It may also be a risk factor for low birth weight and premature births and also for cardiovascular disease. Although further studies are needed, it's just not worth taking the risk, is it?   So, do you floss? Do I floss?! Well, when I remember - but I am trying very hard to do it more often! Ideally, you should do it every day. I recently bought some of those floss sticks with a 'gum stimulator' at the other end, you know, the one's that look a bit like a miniature version of a child's y-shaped toy catapult. They are very easy to use - until I got one trapped in between one of my back teeth. "Oh, *bleep*!" - (I once pulled out part of a filling with some dental floss!) Thank goodness I had some small scissors in the bathroom cupboard!

When my mother was in her forties (I think) she was told by the dentist that her gums were diseased, "You have pyorrhoea" (periodontitis), was the diagnosis. "Your teeth will have to come out!", was the verdict. And come out they came, there and then, ALL of them, before she could even think about it! Whether it was severe inflammation or not, no treatment for the cause was suggested in those days, other than removal! (If you ever wondered as a child why so many elderly people seemed to have false teeth, now you know). A full plate of false teeth is not to be recommended! I remember something my poor old Dad once did; he had an uncomfortable top plate which he would put off wearing until meal times. One day, he caught the early train up to London; he was meeting someone for a business lunch. And, yes, he forgot to put his teeth in! I found them still sitting in a glass in the bathroom and my Mum confirmed they were indeed his! I don't think he enjoyed his meal very much despite trying to order the softest food on the menu!

These are the top tips for looking after your teeth. So, unless you really want to have false teeth and clean them over-night in a glass - ignore them at your peril:-
Using an antiseptic mouthwash each day can also to help prevent gum disease.

We often chew sugar-free gum after our evening meal. However, never give anyone with false teeth or a partial plate, chewing gum to chew! Out of politeness, I once offered a stick of gum to a visitor (my eldest sister, actually). Oh dear! I saw her nibble a bit off the end - she had never encountered chewing gum before. "It's not candy, you can't swallow it", I gasped. Well, to cut a long story short, the gum stuck all over her plate. It took her a good twenty minutes in the bathroom trying to remove it all! And, you know how chewing gum can stick to the fingers! — They should put a warning on chewing gum packets!

Posted by Noviomagus at 16:53 BST Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink

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