Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Before midnight on 31st December

We are due to reach this amazing figure sometime before midnight on 31st December 2015. (It stands at 99,580 now)
I remember 4 years ago, overwhelmed at reaching 10,000.
I would love to know who the 100,000'th hit is from. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2016? A dream to be had...

This time last year we were in Johannesburg, wondering what could possibly make 2016 a more exciting year than the past. We'd travelled to Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and visited every province of South Africa. We'd been shark cage diving, paid our respects at Rorke's Drift, zip wired the longest run in Africa, filmed up close in the Kruger National Park, stood where Stanley had at Victoria Falls, witnessed the country during the passing of Mandela, walked at the 'Cradle of Mankind', been robbed by the police, many times, once at gunpoint....I could fill the page and not touch the surface of that epic year. 
We met some exceptional people along the way who will be in our hearts forever.

As we approach 2016 what can we expect? 

"The only real failure is the failure to try. And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. We came here, and we tried. All of us, in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling we're too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all again? We get up every morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters. 
But, it's also true that the person who risks nothing, does nothing; has nothing. All we know about the future is that it will be different. But, perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So, we must celebrate the changes. Because, as someone once said "Everything will be all right in the end. And if it's not all right, then trust me, it's not yet the end."

(Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

From Thailand, a very Happy New Year.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Promising news from the 'Prostate Cancer Foundation'...

"When considering prostate cancer genomics, there is nothing more significant than identifying new vulnerabilities in the disease – targets that can be exploited with new drugs to put patients into lasting remissions. A team of researchers led by Karen Knudsen, PhD (Thomas Jefferson University) has done just that—their studies revealed that a single molecule called DNA-PK drives cancers from a slow growing, benign disease into a killer.
Under normal conditions, DNA-PK, along with half a dozen other molecules, helps to combat routine DNA damage. However, Dr. Knudsen’s team found that it also helps cancer cells evade many forms of treatment. In men with prostate cancer, they discovered, DNA-PK molecules are recruited by the androgen receptor (AR), which are responsible for feeding male hormones to tumor cells, allowing these mutated cells to survive. By identifying DNA-PK as a key mechanism of metastasis, the team’s research has enormous clinical implications with the potential to impact thousands of prostate cancer patients."

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

By: Jimmy Carter,  USA President  1977-81
I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
This view, that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.
In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.
The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.
It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.
I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.
The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: "The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."
We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Results of 'STAMPEDE' trial published

The much anticipated official results of the docetaxel arm of the STAMPEDE trial were published today in the Lancet, a leading medical journal. The trial reported an almost unprecedented survival benefit for men newly diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, when they were given docetaxel chemotherapy as a first line treatment alongside hormone therapy. 
On average, men receiving this treatment live 15 months longer than those on the traditional treatment pathway of hormone therapy followed by docetaxel chemotherapy once the hormone treatment stops working. 
This survival benefit, while still extremely impressive, is lower than the previously stated 22 months for men with metastatic disease. This is because in the time between the results being announced and being peer-reviewed and published, ten more men in each of the control and treatment arms of the study had died. When their data was incorporated, the average survival benefit had to be revised down to 15 months.
It’s been a long and frustrating wait for the 'official seal of approval' that publication in an internationally peer-reviewed journal represents. But now the final obstacle to universal access has been removed, we expect this drug to be made available to all the men who need it as soon as humanly possible – if not sooner. 

Peer review wait frustrating but necessary

Despite the wait, and the frustrations it’s unleashed, peer review is not a needlessly bureaucratic process that can be selectively dispensed with. It's an essential measure to ensure that scientific evidence is as valid and robust as it is presented to be. 
We’re delighted that NHS England has ensured an accelerated review of the evidence, and that we’ve been invited to support the development of a commissioning policy for upfront docetaxel. We urge everyone involved to maintain this speed and sense of urgency. This treatment will prolong men’s lives and every second really does count. 
Moreover, we strongly urge all local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) to make access to upfront docetaxel available for eligible men in the UK their top priority. Now that the results are published, and a commissioning policy near to completion, there is no acceptable excuse for CCGs to deny men this treatment any longer. 

We won't stand for delays because of bureaucracy

Angela Culhane, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK said: “Since the first results of STAMPEDE were announced we’ve been doing everything we can to convince decision makers that giving earlier access to docetaxel is a no-brainer which could provide unprecedented benefits for many men at minimal cost to the NHS. Whilst we respect NHS England’s need to check that the results stand up to scrutiny, there is absolutely no excuse for delay now that they are in the Lancet in black and white.
“Following our efforts, preparations are already well underway to get the commissioning policy revised. This is a positive result that means men will be accessing the treatment much sooner after publication than was originally going to be the case. However we will continue applying pressure until we know that men are actually receiving this treatment in the clinic and reaping the benefits. For every month that this drug isn‘t available, at least 500 men lose out on a potential extra year of life – it’s unacceptable to continue to deny men these benefits simply because of bureaucratic obstacles.”

Saturday, 19 December 2015


Analysis of 19 studies suggests surgery has an edge in survival, but experts say each case may be different

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 15, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Men with prostate cancer that's still confined to the organ are more likely to survive if they have surgery rather than radiation therapy, a new Canadian study suggests.

This type of "localized" prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease, accounting for about 80 percent of cases, said a team led by Dr. Robert Nam of the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto.
The most common treatments for localized prostate cancer are surgery and radiation therapy.
But which works best to keep the disease at bay?
To find out, Nam's team looked over data from 19 studies that included a total of nearly 119,000 men with localized prostate cancer. 
Findings from 15 of the studies showed that those who received radiation therapy were twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as those who had surgery.
Findings from 10 of the studies also showed that men who had radiation therapy were 50 percent more likely to die sooner of any cause, compared to those who had surgery.
The results of the analysis were published Dec. 14 in the journal European Urology.
"In the past, studies that have compared the success rates of surgery or radiation have been confusing because of their methods," Nam said in a journal news release. "We have evaluated all the good-quality data comparing surgery and radiotherapy, and the results are pretty conclusive; in general, surgery results in better mortality rates than radiotherapy."
But prostate cancer treatment is never a one-size-fits-all matter, he added.
"There are times when radiotherapy may be more appropriate than surgery, so it is important that a patient discusses treatment options with his clinician," Nam said.
He believes that "the important thing about this research is that it gives physicians and patients additional information to consider when making the decision about how to treat localized prostate cancer."
Two U.S. experts came to somewhat different conclusions about the results.
"The results of this study point not only to the efficacy of surgery as a principal mode of treatment and first line of defense against prostate cancer, but also as a way to extend the life of men affected by prostate cancer," said Dr. David Samadi, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
He said that surgical removal of the prostate "is the only option which removes the entire prostate, and therefore allows for more accurate staging and grading [of the tumor]. This means your doctor can create a better long-term plan of care for each individual patient."
And Samadi stressed that "radiation is still possible as a secondary treatment after surgery. So patients have yet another way of combating their cancer if necessary."
But another expert had some reservations about the study. Dr. Jonathan Haas is chief of radiation oncology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. He said that the Canadian review may not have accounted for recent improvements in radiation treatment that could boost outcomes for patients.
According to Haas, what's needed to answer the surgery-versus-radiation question is a "prospective randomized trial using state-of-the-art medicine."
"Only then can the best conclusion be made," he said. "Patients with this disease have many options including radiation, surgery, and possibly even surveillance. Only by individualizing a treatment plan for an individual patient with their specific information can the best outcomes be obtained."

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Hope for the future...

'Suicide' gene therapy kills prostate cancer cells

  • 8 hours ago
  • From the section Health
Prostate cancer cellImage copyrightScience Photo Library
Image captionThe therapy causes prostate cancer cells to self destruct
A new gene therapy technique is able to modify prostate cancer cells so that a patient's body attacks and kills them, US scientists have discovered.
The technique causes the tumour cells in the body to self-destruct, giving it the name 'suicide gene therapy'.
Their research found a 20% improvement in survival in patients with prostate cancer five years after treatment.
A cancer expert said more research was needed to judge its effectiveness.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK with more than 41,000 diagnosed each year.
The study, led by researchers from Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, appears to show that this 'suicide gene therapy', when combined with radiotherapy, could be a promising treatment for prostate cancer in the future.
The technique involves the cancer cells being genetically modified so that they signal a patient's immune system to attack them.
Usually, the body does not recognise cancer cells as the enemy because they have evolved from normal healthy cells.
Unlike an infection, which the body reacts against, the immune system does not react to kill off the offending cancer cells.
Using a virus to carry the gene therapy into the tumour cells, the result is that the cells self-destruct, alerting the patient's immune system that it is time to launch a massive attack.

Good survival

In two groups of 62 patients, one group received the gene therapy twice and the other group - who all had more aggressive prostate cancer - received the treatment three times.
Both groups also received radiotherapy.
Survival rates after five years were 97% and 94%. Although there was no control group in this study, the researchers said the results showed a five to 20% improvement on previous studies of prostate cancer treatment.
And cancer biopsy tests performed two years after the trial were found to be negative in 83% and 79% of the patients in the two groups.
Dr Brian Butler, from Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, said it could change the way that cancer is treated.
"We may be able to inject the agent straight into the tumour and let the body kill the cancer cells.
"Once the immune system has knowledge of the bad tumour cells, if they pop up again, the body will know to kill them."

'Next generation'

Kevin Harrington, professor of biological cancer therapies at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said the results were "very interesting" but more research was needed.
"We would need a randomised trial to tell if this treatment is better than radiotherapy alone.
"The viruses used in this study cannot reproduce. Next generation viral therapies for cancer can selectively replicate in cancer cells, something that can kill the cancer cell directly, and also help spread the virus to neighbouring cancer cells. 
"It would be interesting to see this approach used with viruses that could reproduce to see if it makes for a more effective treatment."

What's your favourite Christmas song?

I'd like to wish my friends everywhere, a very Happy Christmas and a better world in 2016. I'm thinking especially of those in Thailand, South Africa, Ireland and the UK, but also others in far off places, where I've been lucky enough to share precious moments. 

My favourite Christmas song still has to be Zoe Jackson, singing 'Oh Holy Night' Click here 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Do you still believe in true love?

Milly's boyfriend proposed to her, in a way that I thought time had forgotten. 
Well done Rob, you stole the show...

"One year ago, I got off the train in Malton to meet my boss’s cousin. I had no idea what to expect. 
From the brief chats we’d had online, I thought she seemed nice, but I didn’t know what would come of it.
I had no idea I would meet my soulmate.
She smiled at me, as I stood there with my phone in my hand, just about to check that she hadn't 
stood me up, I spotted her and my heart stopped. It was that smile - the kind that lights up the whole world. The kind that cuts away all the negativity that creeps its way into the mind - that smile could have knocked me out. I was so blown away by her beauty that I nearly couldn't speak. If I hadn't spent the whole journey there figuring out what to say, I would have been a big mess. She was unbelievably beautiful. She said hello, and I fell in love.
So deeply, so completely, I was hers from the first moment we spent together.
I spent that night getting to know her. Finding out just how amazing she was. Learning about all of the things that I would grow to adore over the coming year. I sat in awe of the woman across the table from me as the minutes raced by in the cruel way that time does when all you want is to stop in that moment and spend an eternity there. I missed the train I had planned to get if the date went wrong. Then I missed the train I had planned to get if everything went ok. Then I missed the train that I had planned to get if things went great. By the time the final train of the night came, I wished I could spend a million more hours with her.
I went for a walk in the forest the next day. I walked the path that I have walked a thousand times. The path that has held many memories, good and bad and unforgettable. I stood in the same spot that I have thought about everything and anything and decided then and there that if I were ever lucky enough to marry that beautiful woman that had turned my life into something magical, then it would be here.
One year on, and I stood there in that very spot, with the same woman beside me. I thought of all the magical memories that she blessed me with in just one short year and I asked her to give me a lifetime more, a
nd she said yes.
I love you Milly Armstrong. More than anything. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. You make me the happiest person alive, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to show you it."

Thursday, 3 December 2015

64? Is that old?

Middle aged?  
When I was 20 I thought that 50 was very old. Funny how, as we go along, we push the boundary ahead of us. One year to go and I'll be drawing my UK pension!
Never thought I'd see that day, especially 5 years ago.

You remember Mary Hopkin's song in the 60's, 'Those were the days my friend'? 

Have you ever taken time to read the lyrics…

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we could do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Those were the days my friend.....

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...
This song is not about lost love, it's about life; living and growing older. I think anyone can relate in time to these lyrics. The bravado of youth, it's endless possibilities tempered by life's realities, till one day we stop and look back with this heartfelt nostalgia and wonder how we got to this place in time. 

We don't stay there in that mind frame though, we recognise that hope springs eternal, we don't give up on our dreams, we are here, we live, we enjoy! That's what I'm doing now. My Father died over 20 years ago, and the rest of the family were wiped out in an 'explosion', shortly after the death of my Mother, on my birthday 3 years ago. But life goes on and it's an adventure full of wonderful people waiting to meet. 
I love my children and grandchildren, they are what's left one day, and that pleases me. 

I often say to my wife Beverley, "I see you Beverley". I'm telling her that I see the beautiful person who has always been there since they were a child, the person we all still feel we are, the one who has always been there, but others don't see.