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Expected to die decades ago, Kate Vines is still living with cancer over 26 years later

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

An oncologist at the Royal North Shore Hospital told Kate Vines she should ensure her affairs were in order as her life was coming to an end. She was suffering from medullary thyroid cancer.

Auckland-born Vines was 33 years old, living in Sydney with her husband and their five-year-old son. She had been diagnosed 18 months earlier and had her thyroid removed, but the surgeon found the cancer had already metastasised into her lymph nodes and spread into her chest. Six weeks later, she had a thoracotomy – her breast bone was cut in half – and the doctors again sliced away as many of the tumours as they could find, but they knew there were others, unreachable and undiscovered, that would kill her.

Vines’ GP, the first person she had consulted, had never seen a patient with medullary thyroid cancer. In fact, he had never heard of the condition. He did not believe she could be cured.

“Basically, I was left with pretty much no treatment options whatsoever,” says Vines.

Twenty-six years after she was first diagnosed, Vines is sitting at an outdoor table at Georges Mediterranean Bar and Grill on a warm afternoon in Darling Harbour, smiling and chatting and acting considerably more alive than I generally feel before lunch.

But she still has cancer.

“I’ve never been in remission,” she says. “I’ve always had evidence of cancer. Once it’s metastasised, the molecular structure of the cancer changes, and that makes it much more difficult to treat. I have a lot of ‘secondaries’ in my bones. I have miliary disease in my lungs, which is a whole lot of tiny little tumours. I do have a couple in my liver. I’ve got one lesion in my brain, and a number of other soft-tissue tumours. It’s called ‘indolent’, it’s quite slow growing, and the doctors say that at some point it will take off again. Every now and then it raises its little hand and I have a little spurt and I have to look at treatment options. But it’s almost like my body’s learned to live with it.”

Today, Vines is the head of patient care at Rare Cancers Australia, a charity she founded after more than two decades of surviving her sickness. She describes herself back then as “a young, fairly fit, I thought fairly healthy mum, who had a great life and everything at my feet”. Her son, Paul, was her “absolute pride and joy”, and almost a miracle as Vines had suffered from endometriosis and been told she probably could not have children. Her then-husband, Ray, was her best friend. They worked together in a panel-beaters’ supply business, and travelled the world.

Vines’ diagnosis changed everything but, she says, Ray constantly reinforced to her that she had to be there for Paul’s 21st birthday – and that long-term goal perhaps helped to keep her alive. However, she was becoming sicker and sicker. She tried alternative therapies at the Gerson Clinic in Mexico – with lots of carrot juice, a vegan diet and coffee enemas – but says she would never recommend that to anyone. “I turned bright orange from all the carotene and I lost about 15 kilos in weight and I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed,” she says.

Next, she went to the Gawler Cancer Foundation in Victoria, which promotes a “holistic” approach to wellbeing, stressing diet, meditation and positive life changes. She says Gawler was really helpful but, “during this time, my marriage broke up. With all the pressure I was under with my health, I felt that I would do better if I was on my own with Paul. So Ray moved out.”

She lived with her son for a year, but when he was about eight years old she felt she was not coping with being a single mother while also having multiple surgeries to remove cancerous lymph nodes from her neck. So she asked Ray if he would take Paul, which he did.

“That was the most difficult decision I’ve had to make,” she says. “It was absolutely devastating. But I felt it was better for him to have a part-time mother than no mother at all. I knew that if I had time just for me, I could do the meditations and all the things that I thought were necessary for me to get well.”

Eventually, she left the city for a 25-acre farm in Kangaroo Valley, where she felt healthier than she had for years. She moved to Melbourne, where she was under the care of a Victorian oncologist who suggested cytotoxic chemotherapy for the secondary cancers in her bones.

She had been experiencing severe chest pains, but they disappeared with the first round of chemo – which was, she says, “quite an amazing thing; they didn’t expect it”. However, after three further rounds she’d lost all her hair and lots of weight, and was sick again. She said no more.

In Melbourne, she met her husband, Richard, who had worked for several non-profit organisations, and her oncologist suggested she and Richard should set up an organisation to advocate for rare-cancer patients. Although 42,000 Australians are diagnosed with a rare cancer every year, their conditions are difficult to research. Many rare cancers are very aggressive, so there are rarely large patient populations to study and it can be impossible to set up full-scale clinical trials for potentially helpful drugs.

Since drugs cannot be approved by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme without the necessary trials, there are few treatments for rare cancers available under the PBS. Therefore, rare-cancer patients might need to spend $10,000 a month on a new immunotherapy, for example, and be forced to sell their homes to stay alive.

Luckier patients might benefit from compassionate-access programs from pharmaceutical companies, but drugs manufacturers are not allowed to advertise these programs.

“It’s just a really unfair thing that if you happen to be unlucky enough to be diagnosed with a rare cancer, you’re almost penalised,” says Vines. “There are treatments out there that aren’t listed.”

She and Richard moved to Bowral and set up Rare Cancers Australia in June 2012. They have set up a crowd-funding platform on their website, a patient-treatment fund with an individual page for each patient, and they have raised almost $2 million and helped more than 50 patients since October 2014. Vines deals with patients every day, matching them with clinicians who know about particular rare cancers.

The charity helps them find cancer centres and clinical trials, and offers one-on-one support. Vines remembers how frightened and alone she felt when she was told to put her affairs in order, and says other rare-cancer patients are given the same advice every day.

So what does all this mean for our lunch? Well, since her diagnosis, Vines has been a vegan then a vegetarian, then she allowed herself to eat fish, now she eats “everything”.

At Georges, I order the satisfying mezze plate – which is literally everything – and Vines chooses the barramundi special – she judges it “beautiful, wonderful”. After some hesitation, she opts for vegetables over chips on the side, but she stresses that she does eat chips and she enjoys the occasional glass of wine.

After all, when you think about it, life’s too short.

Henry Sapiecha

ARE OUR BONES GETTING OLDER WITH DISEASE THAN THEY SHOULD @ 26years

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

SO WE NEED TO DO THESE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS TO AVOID BONE DISEASES

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One in three women over the age of 50 is likely to find herself gritting what’s left of her teeth, in a bid to stoically bear with bones screaming in pain. 50 is far away, you think, as you head out post sunset for some sumptuous food with an undetermined nutritional quotient and cocktails that will leave you high on life but a little low on bone mass. 50 or not, osteoporosis may be closer than you think; Dr Pawan Nath, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Seven Hills Hospital reports, “a rising incidence of osteoporosis in women as young as 26.”

With most studies using a Caucasian database as the benchmark of peak bone mass and the DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan being a little too expensive for a lot of  Indian women, there’s not much evidence to support this observation. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the average person gains bone mass until the age of 20-25; the bone mass level then remains stable until 45-50. Osteoporosis in younger people is rare, but can occur due to secondary factors such as malabsorption diseases, steroid use, anorexia and so on. In addition, today’s sedentary lifestyles (insufficient exercise, inadequate exposure to sunlight, improper nutrition, etc) are affecting the building of bone mass in young people, which could be detrimental to their future bone health.

Mumbai-based orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Bhupal Deokar, suggests that it’s more likely that younger women are suffering from osteomalacia, bone softening due to insufficient mineralization and osteopenia, lower than normal bone mass density (BMD). But that does not detract from the fact that the calcium and vitamin D deficiencies associated with these could blow up into osteoporosis if not attended to.

According to data provided by Dr Ambrish Mithal, of Medanta Hospital, New Delhi, who is board member and lead author of a soon-to-be-published International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) Asia-Audit, 2013, sources estimate that 50 million people in India are either osteoporotic or have low bone mass. There is no evidence that the age of onset of osteoporosis in dropping.

Nonetheless, with approximately 80% of the urban Indian population estimated to have vitamin D deficiencies, osteoporosis remains a major concern. A multi-centre study carried out by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has confirmed data from smaller, single centre studies, revealing that Indians have lower BMD than their North American counterparts. The lower BMD in Indians is attributed to nutritional deficiencies as well as genetic and skeletal size differences.

Now, while we can’t control our genetic predispositions, we can control what we eat and how we live. Dr Sushil Sharma, Chairman of the Arthritis Foundation of India, advises adopting a banking approach to bone development by investing as much nutrition (calcium and vitamin D, in particular) and weight-bearing exercise (running, playing field sports, etc) in our bones before the age of 30. “After this you can only withdraw”, he warns.

The sun remains the single largest source of Vitamin D, and catching some sun between the hours of 11.00 and 3.00 is highly recommended. Yes, you read right! The noon time sun is good for you. Another thing you may want to note is that sunscreens hamper Vitamin D absorption. And while the milk debate may rage on till kingdom come, the truth is that for the Indian population, milk remains the most available and affordable source of calcium. Physician recommended doses of elemental calcium and Vitamin D have proved effective; however, going beyond the prescribed doses of Vitamin D can cause toxicity. Drugs such as bisphosphonates and teriparatides are not exactly side-effect free.

Our bones build strength and density up to the age of 30, maybe 35, based on our metabolism. Post this, the natural ageing process means you’ll lose bone mass faster than you can build it.
And once menopause kicks in and estrogen goes missing in action, it will become really difficult to replenish bone. Our life expectancy is rising and with career opportunities opening up across the board, that gender-tinted glass ceiling may well be museum-worthy one day, but the fact remains that if you’re 25 and you’d rather not have a dowager’s hump a quarter of a century down the line, the time to bone up on Vitamin D and minerals is NOW.

AAA

Henry Sapiecha

rainbow line

WOMEN WHO WORK LONGER LIVE LONGER IT IS SUGGESTED

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

ARE YOU A WOMAN & WANT TO LIVE LONGER, THEN WORK LONGER

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(Reuters Health) – Postmenopausal women who work tend be in better health than their unemployed counterparts, according to a new study from South Korea.

Researchers found that employed postmenopausal women were about 34 percent less likely to have so-called metabolic syndrome – a collection of obesity-related conditions that raise heart disease risk – compared to unemployed women of the same age.

But one expert pointed out that it’s hard to know whether jobs make women healthy or if healthy women are just more likely to have jobs.

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“You wonder if healthy women get hired and less healthy women get fired. You just don’t know,” Dr. Melissa Wellons, who was not involved with the new research, told Reuters Health.

Previous studies have found that people who work tend to do financially better and are more physically active, and that may influence their risk of metabolic syndrome – which includes high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a large waistline and insulin resistance.

Together, the risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome are linked to a heightened risk of heart attack and stroke.

Menopause may also influence a woman’s risk for metabolic syndrome, because hormone changes make women susceptible to excessive weight gain, Yonsei University’s Dr. Hee-Taik Kang and colleagues write in the journal Menopause.

For the new study, the researchers used data from 2007 through 2009 on 3,141 premenopausal Korean women and 2,115 postmenopausal women to investigate the potential link between employment status and metabolic syndrome.

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Among postmenopausal women, whose average age was between 59 and 65 years old, about 55 percent of unemployed women met the criteria for having metabolic syndrome. That compared to about 42 percent of employed women.

There was a similar trend among premenopausal women, whose average age was about 35 years old.

About 15 percent of unemployed premenopausal women met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, compared to about 13 percent of employed women. That small difference, however, could have been due to chance.

“Several mechanisms could explain the significant relationships between employment status and (metabolic syndrome),” write the researchers.

One possible explanation, according to Kang and colleagues, is that employed postmenopausal women in their study were more active than the unemployed women.

But Wellons, an assistant professor of endocrinology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said it’s hard to know exactly why employed postmenopausal women are healthier and if the results would apply to women in the U.S.

“I’ve seen studies that show working women in America weigh less, but again, you just don’t know. Does work keep you busy, keep you from gaining weight, and do healthy women get hired more?” Wellons said.

“It’s an interesting observation and I hope it’s true because I’m working,” she said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/18vzm8h Menopause, online June 10, 2013

TXFGKH

Henry Sapiecha

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Archives of Internal Medicine looked at two statins — simvastatin (Zocor) and pravastatin (Pravachol)

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Statins can cause fatigue in 4 of 10 women
Natures Brands Natural Health & Beauty Products


Think it’s exhausting trying to keep up with all the warnings on cholesterol drugs? You should see what happens when you actually take the darned things — because the latest study finds statins can sap you of your energy faster than a weekend with the in-laws.

This isn’t some minor “maybe” side effect and it’s certainly not a rare one. New numbers show that up to 40 percent of women who take statins battle fatigue — and 10 percent of them feel like they’ve been hit by a truck.
Natures Brands Natural Health & Beauty Products

In a new study of more than 1,000 people, that 10 percent described their post-statin energy levels as “much worse” than they were before they started taking the meds.

The study in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at two statins — simvastatin (Zocor) and pravastatin (Pravachol) — and a placebo, and found fatigue hitting women who took either drug. But overall, the researchers say the effect was stronger in women who took simvastatin and that it was much less noticeable in men.

But if you’re a guy, I’ve got an even better reason for you to lay off these drugs: Statins could shut down your internal testosterone factory and kill your erections.

If you ask me, that’s the worst kind of “fatigue” a man could have.

And for men and women alike, the drugs have also been linked to serious and debilitating muscle pain, memory loss, cataracts, and diabetes — and that’s the short list of risks.

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Forget these meds, and forget worrying about cholesterol in the first place — you’ve got enough on your mind as it is. As long as your total cholesterol is between 200 and 300, you’re doing just fine.

The real problems begin when your cholesterol is TOO LOW — and the best cure for that is the most delicious class of “drugs” on the planet: steak, bacon, sausage, and eggs.

All that protein will also boost your energy, leaving you feeling like you could lift a truck — not like you’ve been hit by one.
Natures Brands Natural Health & Beauty Products

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

 

FLAXSEED OIL IS ONE OF THE GREATEST HEALERS.HOT FLUSHES.MOOD SWINGS….& MORE HERE

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
Hot flashes? Mood swings?

“Clearly superior to HRT,” say experts – and may
prevent cancer, heart disease & stroke!

When menopause makes you miserable,

modern medicine gives you 2 options…

Take hormones or stick your head in the freezer!

So I asked the experts what they recommend. “Easy,” they said…

Foods spiked with flaxseeds & or flaxseed oil

“Just let us explain,” they replied. “You see, our cookies and waffles are spiked with a secret super-food – flaxseed!”

Well, I checked with Bottom Line’s medical team and, as usual, they are right…

In fact, flaxseed may be the most miraculous food for females in history. Women used it in ancient Babylon nearly 5,000 years ago. The great Greek physician Hippocrates recommended it back in 400 B.C.

And researchers today say it really works! Our experts confirm this remedy is clearly superior to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). That’s because flaxseed contains compounds called lignans, that mimic hormones without the harmful side effects. In fact, these lignans may prevent both breast and colon cancer…

And ward off diabetes, hypertension and stroke!
Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha