Black History month: the immortal life and legacy of Henrietta Lacks

As it's Black History month, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to one incredible black woman who, unknowingly, played a hugely significant role in the advances of modern medicine.

Mammalian cell culture is something we take for granted these days, and plays a critical role in modern research and therapeutic development, but without the life (and ultimately death) of Henrietta Lacks, much of what we know about cancer, and many other medical advances, wouldn’t have been possible.

When a biopsy is taken from a patient, it is placed in a culture dish with some specialist growth medium. This could be a selection of cells, such as cervical epithelial cells as in the case of Henrietta Lacks (HeLa cells), or it could be a chunk of tissue, from which cells can be “explanted” – i.e grown out. Cells cultured in this way create what is known as a primary cell line.

When these cells are then “split” into two dishes (also known as...

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Facing terminal cancer with grace and courage

Don’t forget to download the free guide that accompanies this month’s articles. In it, I show you three simple steps to help your patients choose to live well with cancer. You can grab your free copy here.

Also, exciting news….next week I am delivering some brand new, totally FREE live workshops! You can reserve your seat here, but don’t wait too long to sign up because spaces are limited.

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“Do not go gentle into that good night, raging against the dying of the light” - Dylan Thomas

 

Human beings have an innate desire to hang on - we are hard-wired to fight for survival, so when a person living with cancer hears the prognosis, “There’s nothing more we can do,” it’s understandably hard to comprehend and process.

However, as the disease advances, “fighting for life” can begin to cause undue suffering, and “letting go” may...

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Reflecting forwards: important lessons from your future self

patient engagement Jan 23, 2019

Don’t forget to download the free guide that accompanies this month’s articles. In it, I show you three simple steps to help your patients choose to live well with cancer. You can grab your free copy here.

 

I’d like you to cast your mind back to your very first day in your very first job - and I mean your first “proper” job, not your first paper round or something like that!

Perhaps you had just finished college or university. Can you picture it?

How did you feel? Were you nervous? Excited? Anxious? Fearful?

How did that first day go? Was it as you expected?

What did you learn about yourself?

Now, I want you to pause and think about this next question carefully.

Answering as you are today, what ONE piece of advice would you give to yourself as you were starting out?

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Here are 10 common threads I’ve noticed in the conversations I’ve had with various cancer...

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Stories can conquer fear: using storytelling for patient engagement

patient engagement Jan 17, 2019

Don’t forget to download the free guide that accompanies this month’s articles. In it, I show you three simple steps to help your patients choose to live well with cancer. You can grab your free copy here.

 

A couple of summers ago, we holidayed in the beautiful Scottish Isles of Orkney with my whole family. We were staying on the Mainland just outside Kirkwall in a quaint little converted church, and to say the landscape on the Orkney Isles is captivating is an understatement. There is a very rich history dating right back to prehistoric times, with standing stone circles and neolithic settlements, and more recent wartime history with the Churchill barriers and the Italian chapel that was built by prisoners of war. It’s plain to see this history is owned proudly by the people on this little archipelago.

On the last night of our stay, we took a drive out to a remote cottage, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, for a local storytelling of Orcadian folklore*....

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Please don’t say that! What NOT to say to your cancer patients

patient engagement Jan 11, 2019
 

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on this video I made last summer.

You know, there are the three little words that everyone longs to hear:

“I love you”

And then there are the three little words that no one wants to hear:

“You’ve got cancer”

But sometimes this is the harsh reality. And this has been brought into sharp focus for me when someone I know recently announced their painful news of their own cancer diagnosis.

Breaking bad news is never comfortable - for the giver or the receiver - but there are certain things to bear in mind that can make the delivery of bad news a little easier, and there are some definite no-nos that should absolutely be avoided!

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when discussing cancer with their patients (and how to avoid them):

1. Over-complicating matters

I’m sure we’ve all been there: you ask someone a simple question and get a three-act opera in response. I know someone (who shall...

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What would make this year EPIC for you?

news Jan 05, 2019

Well, hello there, 2019! It’s so good to see you ;-)

I hope you have ALL enjoyed a good break over this festive period, and are raring to go, ready to make 2019 an EPIC year.

I had a well-earned rest over the holidays and an almost accidental social media fast for a few days too. I wasn’t intending to, it just kinda happened, but it also meant I could spend some quality time connecting with my family and I made excellent progress with the new online training program that I’m launching soon.

I also spent a lot of time reflecting back on 2018, what happened, what was successful, what wasn’t so successful, and what I want to improve on this year in 2019.

Looking in the rear-view mirror

As the month of December rumbled on, I started listening to Michael Hyatt’s “Your Best Year Ever” on audiobook for the second time (first time was back in January 2018), but I was finding it hard to take action on it because I couldn’t see it in front of...

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Have you heard the one about the wise men, the first Christmas presents and cancer?

research Dec 23, 2018

Christmas has snuck up on me this year rather more quickly than I was prepared for! I’ve had my head buried in course-creation (and I’m very nearly there with all the recording – on track to finish by December 31st!!) and I’m only just now beginning to turn my attention to 2019 and all that it holds for Essential Cancer Education, but I’ll tell you more about that next week.

This week, however, I want to reflect on something that only really occurred to me recently as I was writing the content for the lesson on complementary and alternative medicine for the program. And that’s the idea that perhaps the wise men knew more than we realise about the power of the gifts they brought to the new-born king.

We all know the story of the wise men – or Magi – who travelled from the east to visit the new-born baby Jesus, the Son of God, in Bethlehem. Incidentally, there is no mention of how many Magi there were, but tradition assumes there were...

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Why I’m not going 100% vegan (and the November cancer research round-up)

Uncategorized Dec 03, 2018

I can’t quite believe we’re entering the last month of 2018. This year has been a whirlwind! Before I get stuck into the November cancer research round-up, I wanted to start by reflecting on the month of November, and specifically, on my experience of going vegetarian.

I am a carnivore through-and-through…or so I thought! But I have to admit, I haven’t really missed meat all that much. In fact, I have really enjoyed cooking with lots of new vegetables that I wouldn’t ordinarily try. My favourite new recipe was vegetable chilli with homemade guacamole – which we put on vegetable tortilla chips with a sprinkling of cheese – it was YUM!

 

Then for the last week of November, I decided I’d try going vegan…that wasn’t quite so successful! I am a real tea-Jenny, and I like a lot of milk in my tea (when someone asks how I take it, I say, “Add enough milk so it’s the same colour as my skin…in...

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How radical listening can transform patients’ thinking: facing cancer with courage and grace

skills Nov 24, 2018

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thinking about thinking. And the quality of our thoughts. And how our thoughts dictate our emotions, our actions, and ultimately, our connections with one another.

I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to you to hear that I’ve been reading a book about the topic too (did I mention I’m an avid reader?!) In fact, quite ridiculously, I’ve currently got about 6 different books on the go, so perhaps the quality of my thoughts is somewhat fractured! But hey, sometimes I like to let my butterfly brain flit wherever its whim and fancy takes me – it makes for an interesting life anyway ;-)

 

So, the book I’ve been reading is called “Time to think” by Nancy Kline. I actually downloaded it a few years ago on Kindle, but then about a month ago my husband was given a copy as a gift from a colleague and so I picked it up and start flicking through it again. I’d forgotten just how...

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Life needn’t be a chore. Be kind to yourself

Uncategorized Nov 15, 2018
 

This week, I have found myself completely floored by a nasty bout of tonsillitis. I barely moved off the sofa for four whole days. For those of you who know me well, you’ll know this is a feat in and of itself!

I don’t do lazy.

I don’t often stop.

I squeeze as much as I can into this one little life because there is so much to achieve and so much to learn and so much of this big beautiful world to see…and this week, my world did stop spinning just for a time so that my body had a chance to rest and catch up.

So, it’s been a time of reflection.

I received a gift through the post from a friend – a book by Austin Kleon called “Show your work” and I read it in less than a day. The last time I read a whole book in one day was when I bought Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (and incidentally, I was off sick then too!).

This time and space to think and reflect has been interesting to observe. So many thoughts and feelings of guilt have...

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