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Showing posts from 2012

The Battle for Movember

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Why Movember? Because in 2010 there were over 40,000 UK men diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and over 10,000 men died of prostate cancer. Thats more UK fathers husbands sons and brothers than have been killed in action since the second world war. Why Movember? Because we need to unite behind a memorable and distinctive cause to help raise awareness of issues around Men's Health.

Growing a moustache is hard to miss and kicks off many helpful chats about mens health - especially if people are used to you being clean shaven!

Men are not the best at proactive approach to men's health and neither is the human race - on average around 70% of cancer research funding is used towards breast cancer research - now awareness is high and most of us know know breast cancer is a killer disease with good prognosis if caught early.

Prostate and testicular cancer can also be treated successfully if identified early and dealt with appropriately. But still we don't have a good diagnostic test …

Exercising in the cold

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The temperature is dropping as we are into autumn and approaching winter. This can have a massive effect on ability to exercise and perform under more challenging conditions.

I discovered this the hard way cycling last January and found myself cramping and seizing up at the halfway point.  Knowing I had a further 15 miles cycling to get home I was fortunate to be with a buddy to slipstream and managed to painfully limp home at a snails pace in what became known as "the winter ride of death"!

A few factors contributed to my painful demise on this ride - I was inadequately dressed without windproof leggings and inappropriate base layering up top. I also had not eaten that morning and had no food or energy source with me; I found myself to be in poor fitness and my metabolic rate was low after some time avoiding cycling in bad weather and I became cold after sweating up a steep hill and cooling down while resting too long at the top. All this conspired against me to produce a …

Future Goal Setting = Sprint Triathlon 2013

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I went to see my friends complete the Castle Howard Triathlon on Sunday morning.

When I got the all clear I vowed to myself to complete this challenge to give myself a goal to work towards and prove to myself that I was better.

So after 4 months of recuperation after surgery and complications of scar burst, infection and then a lumbar disc prolapse I am starting to plan my year of training to complete the Triathlon.

As a sprint distance it involves a 400m swim then a 23km cycle followed by a 5km run.  I have been able to achieve each of these individually in the past, but to achieve a reasonable time and the fitness level to do all three at full pace will require a gradual build up in endurance, a change in my usual diet, fitness activity and a focus on endurance training which may (hopefully) change my body shape and composition in the process!

After 4 months of relative inactivity my weight and fat levels are not good so this is the ideal time to make a change.

To kick off the change…

Slow Climb out of the Cancer Hole

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I had surgery for malignant melanoma on April 18th 2012. I don't normally remember dates but as this was the first general anaesthetic and the first time I had ever had significant surgery I remember the day and the events leading up to it very clearly.

I spent the next 8 weeks off work willing my leg wound to close up and heal which it has now done and all the bizzare nerve jolts and tingling sensations have ended. This is a relief as a jolting leg can be quite embarrassing and disruptive when you're trying to work or talking to a client!

My leg finally healed leaving an impressive war wound for which I have invented many stories in case I don't want to go into the "you survived cancer, i'm so proud of you have a medal" conversation.

After the op everyone kept telling me how well I looked, to which I replied that I had only had a lump of dodgy flesh removed from my leg and groin, it was not an illness but disease prevention for the future and that I was gett…

UK DOCTORS ON STRIKE!

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Surely there is a level of moral gratitude left in our culture to value those who tirelessly serve the needs of others?  Media and government spin has devalued the NHS and healthcare professions so far that many have lost the self esteem to take industrial action in the first place; but in reality this action is a safe way we can send the government a message of displeasure with their U turns and savage attack on those who save the NHS the most and who pay the highest personal cost.

Here in the UK we have an interesting situation brewing. Doctors across the country are striking over the government tearing up a pension agreement made in 2008. The 2008 negotiations already forced docs to work longer (thus allowing the govt to pay out less in the long run as we either die young or claim less pension years and contribute longer) and now they want to attack this arrangement made in the depths of the financial crisis, by adding extra contributions and years of work asking us to contribute 1…

The All Clear

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I happened to be at home this lunchtime when Mr Dewar rang from the Leeds General Infirmary.
The call made me sit up from my post-prandial slump and he sounded positive. I had a follow up appointment in June as I couldn't make the usual 4 week check up. He informed me that the node biopsy was all clear with no sign of spread as was the skin excision margin!

This is excellent news and I intend to celebrate with my wife tonight over a bottle of Graham Beck bubbly we purchased in Franshoek for just such an occasion!

With faith I had been hoping that the results were all clear, that I had acted fast and caught the cancer before it spread and that I would be all clear to claim a longer life but it's a great feeling to have that confirmed!

I ran up the stairs to write a blog post immediately, reminding myself how well my leg is now healing! The scar still feels tight and is healing from the bottom of the split upwards but apart from that I feel like I am back on track.

I have gaine…

No Pain No Gain

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It's ten days since I had surgery for malignant melanoma on my left thigh.  So what has been happening?

There has been an overwhelming supportive response from friends and an encouraging 2000+ blog visitors from all over the world who have seen advice on signs of concerning skin changes and self checks.

My scar has been healing slowly and I have been able to do more in the last few days looked after my wife who has been a star.

However as a doctor I have not been a patient patient!  I was keen to get up and around early despite advice from the anaesthetist to take it easy; in the first few days I crashed and burned both times when I went out too soon!

Extra time has been a bonus. Lying on the sofa with my leg up I have become more geeky searching for parts to repair my mountain bike and tweeting more on mens health and health advice topics.

Yesterday I felt increased tingling pains in my leg and found that my stitches had come apart in the middle of the scar where it had been ver…

Fighting For The Assurance of Things Hoped For

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I am two days post op for malignant melanoma with a large scar in my leg and a tender groin where nodes were removed: now the real work begins in working out my faith and moving forward. (Take a look at my previous blog posts for more on what has happened in the last few days)

Faith is not a passive slumbering thing, it is real and active, coming alive even more in challenging or life threatening circumstances.  Some would say faith is blind (in the past psychologists and atheists described accepting Christian faith as a blind leap) but currently for me it helps clarify what life is all about.

Staring mortality in the face is not a popular past-time in modern culture; we are all busy, trying to get comfortable and are constantly reassured by advertising that "we are worth it" and told that we are in control. However it doesn't take much to get a glimpse of the reality lying just beneath the polished veneer of our fragile existence: a near miss on the roads, a friend has …

How to self check your skin - IF IT CHANGES GET IT CHECKED

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So here's the practical science bit, which should help you understand how to reduce your risk and how to get in there early if something changes with your skin. (skin lesion = an area of changed skin)


Background
These days with the thinning of the ozone layer, more harmful rays get through our atmosphere even on overcast days. Longer lives of exposure to the sun means we all have a higher risk of developing sun damage and skin cancers.


It's not all to do with sun exposure, but if you are fair skinned, burn easily and have many moles you are more at risk of developing skin cancer.  People who have been badly sunburnt in the past, work outdoors or have spent time in tropical countries or areas where the ozone layer is thin or the sun is strong have increased risk. If you have already had a skin cancer or have family members who have had one you are more at risk.


There are different forms of skin cancer - some spread, some tend to just sit on the skin - all need urgent  assessmen…

My Melanoma Scar Story

Amazingly I am now back in the comfort of my own home, sitting on the sofa and watching "In the night garden" with my daughter.

 Mr Dewar the surgeon just called to check everything was going OK and to explain what happened while I was asleep - they took 2 nodes from the groin and he put in 3 layers of stitches into the leg wound and a lot of local anaesthetic. A call at home from the surgeon - that's what I call service!

After the anaesthetic I awoke feeling remarkably refreshed, like when you've had the perfect amount sleep in the afternoon.

My surgeon did a fantastic job of blending the scar into the normal tension lines of my leg skin, so that when I move it doesn't pull or stretch the internal stitches.  This is however not the finished product and he explained that a large leg scar can be uncomfortable to carry with movement and tightening over the years.

Because I am very fair skinned the scar is likely to end up rather purple, so I have to come up with …

I'm glowing in the dark

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So just had 4 radioactive isotope injections around the mole excised and then lots of pics of the fallout all over my body.

It's a wierd feeling as the dye goes in it feels like being stung by a bee but fades quickly, then on screen your vessels and lymph pathways light up like a Christmas tree.

Check out the pics

Surgical check in

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So we were up early to get over to Leeds General Infirmary for 07:30 start. Met the surgical reg and the anaesthestist who were very relaxed and pleasant chatting through what would happen today.

First I have radioactive dye injected into my leg where the cancer was then they take a picture of the groin to see which lymph nodes take up the dye. These are marked to be taken out later.

Then we go into theatre for anaesthetic and the skin excision of the leg akin in an elliptical shape across my thigh toward the knee which will eventually leave a battle scar 10 cm long.

Almost forgot not to eat this morning but remembered as I was about tuck into an apple that I couldn't!

I was betrayed by a mole

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I have recently been diagnosed with an aggressive skin cancer called malignant melanoma.

For as long as I can remember I have had a large, dark, thick, oval mole in the center of my back; I asked my wife to regularly check on it because it was hard for me to see in the mirror. Ironically this one was not the problem.

Just before Christmas I noticed a freckle on my left thigh above the knee. It was itching and then became more prominent; In the past there was a light coloured freckle in this location but now it had a darker area within the old freckle that looked an odd shape. It stopped itching and I almost let it ride; but somehow this one seemed different.

I promote self checking for new or changing skin lesions in my mens health clinic, so I took my own advice and decided after noting this change to see the doc.

I made an appointment 2 weeks after it changed. Just before heading off for Christmas, I saw a GP who was very helpful and agreed that this new changing freckle should be …

What is in energy drinks?

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So you are getting tired in the middle of the day and you reach for an energy drink...but do you really know what you're drinking and what the effects are?

find out here - these little time-bombs are best left well alone...


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Funding squeeze forces practices to axe salaried GPs and staff - Pulse

Why give something up for Lent?

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Here in the UK many still practise the Christian tradition of Lent: the discipline of giving something up to consider living simply, frequently a food item and for health benefit.

The idea is to mimic the 40 day fast undertaken by Jesus in the wilderness, when he was tested by the devil and tempted to prove he was ready to start his mission.

In England we start by making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday - to use up the sweet stuff in the larder so we are not tempted to eat it again for the duration of lent and to fuel the fast.

Today the focus may be more about the challenge of reining in appetite or curbing bad habits like smoking or eating treats to excess and less about Christs' 40 days and nights in the desert being stalked by satan.

Interestingly most ancient traditions held in them the concept of feasts: I.E. celebrating a particular event or time of year with a party and food. This meant eating special luxuries or taking pleasure in rarer foods or harvest times -it also meant e…

BMI: a bad measure of health?

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So Womens magazines and health insurance are always going on about your BMI as a measure of a healthy weight.

This calculation uses your height and weight to group results, saying you're on track, under or more likely overweight.

However BMI was developed when the average man was 5"9 and 70 kg.

With modern nutrition we are certainly getting bigger all round. This is illustrated by my gramps who was one of the heaviest forwards in the Scotland international rugby squad pre and post ww2 (see my first blog post). As a flanker he was 6 ft and a lean 14 stone at his peak. I am the same size but (no-where near his lean ability) certainly not in the national rugby team.

Healthy men who lift weights may be mislabelled by BMI as unhealthy and obese or overweight.

My advice is to go by abdominal circumference or the widest measure of your tummy at rest breathing out.

You don't see active bodybuilders with large overhanging bellies, so this is a better measure of trunkal obesity…

Flintoff Beats Depression: speaking out

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I saw Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff on the BBC breakfast this morning ( I never watch TV over breakfast) but I am between jobs, doing some temporary work from home and enjoying my baby girl growing up.

Flintoff revealed that even star sportsmen and hardmen like Vinnie Jones suffer from depression and mental health problems and around 1 in 10 admit to this. See his recent Sun article here

In reality around 1 in 4 of the general population - myself included - suffer from some form of mental problems, ranging from mild seasonal depression to anxiety or more extreme psychoses and psychological phobias which can seriously affect performance.

My family has a long history of bipolar disorder or manic depression/mania which is inherited through my Grandfathers line on my fathers side.  Everyone in subsequent generations after him have been affected to a greater or lesser extent and have both highs and lows but also moments of brilliance. In every generation since my grandfather someone…

Prepare to achieve your goals

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Physical preparation for sustainable exercise activity is key to maintaining and improving your physical health.
True fitness is a good balance combining stability, power, stamina/cardio, flexibility and strength.

Your exercise goals should include elements of all these areas to keep you on track. If you miss out on one key area its not long before you come unstuck or injured.

See the rest of the Guardian article on physical prep and take a look at my previous post on how to make a start with achievable steps in physical goals.

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Funding squeeze forces practices to axe salaried GPs and staff - Pulse

Mental Preparation for The Year Ahead

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Athletes have practised mindfulness for some time now in preparation for successful performance in the field.

When I started running,  I happened to chat to a friend who had been a top class track athlete. I had been talking about running for some time and had longed to be free to take exercise whenever and wherever I wanted; but had not actually started running yet.  He asked me how much time I had spent thinking about running; I answered that I was not sure; but I had really only spent time practically preparing for it (new trainers, shorts etc).

Funny then that one day when I was driving to the gym after this conversation I stopped the car and like Forrest Gump "I just started running"!  I had been looking at a map of our area. I knew that near my route was a moor that gave onto a racecourse with woods where I could run to my hearts content - away from the roads and in natural setting within the citty limits.

I had been imagining running these woods for some time before…

Enhance your New Years Fitness Resolutions!

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Most of us will have made some health related New Years Resolutions, but how many will flop come the end of the month?

I have resolved to start training for my first Triathlon which I will enter this July at Castle Howard.
I have been preparing mentally and practically for some time and now I can bite the bullet.
 Last year I started running for the first time in 15 years (I gave up after a knee injury skiing) and have been slowly pushing the distance - now around 3 miles.
This year I need to concentrate on getting up to 10k and add in swimming.
When the clocks go forward I will start more cycling in the evenings as well as to work in the daytime.

 I have told my friends about my resolution to increase my likelihood of success. I have written my goal and broken it down into smaller steps. I have chosen small achievable milestones over a reasonable time period to increase reward. My ultimate goals is well suited as I love strenuous exercise in beautiful natural surroundings - where be…

Do you want sweetener with that?

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Do you use artificial sweeteners?

Did you start this because you felt they would help you maintain or lose weight?

Long term evidence is pointing towards links between sweetener use and causation of obesity and Diabetes - two major man killers!

Read this article from Harvard Medical School for more information and I suggest you just go for real sugar next time - just get used to using less and burn off what you use.



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