The anti-tumour vs anti-viral immune response and how exercise can help protect us: what does it mean for COVID-19

education Jul 03, 2020

For those of you on my mailing list, you’ll already know my colleagues at Loughborough University have organised a series of free COVID-19 Lifestyle Education sessions for GPs and allied healthcare professionals, which are also fully accessible to the general public. If you’ve not checked out the programme of events, then you can do so here and get yourself signed up to attend.

Last week, we kicked off with an excellent introduction to the immune system by Dr Martin Lindley, Senior Lecturer and Programme Director of the Biosciences programmes. Don’t worry if you missed it, you can catch the replay here

This week we had a trio of talks on immune function. First up, was my friend and mentor Professor Lettie Bishop who gave us an introduction to exercise and immune function. Next up was Dr Tom Clifford who spoke about the importance of diet in immune function. Finally, I closed the session with a rundown of the role that exercise plays in preventing cancer,...

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The heart-warming story of how Anthea Kolitsas created Project Happy Note - a unique and beautiful cancer gift subscription service


As we continue with our inspiring line up of people doing incredible things in this world with their gifts and talents, all because of their experience with cancer, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce Anthea Kolitsas of Project Happy Note - a unique and beautiful cancer gift subscription service.

In our interview, Anthea talks of how her mum’s diagnosis with a rare sinus cancer and the 5000+ km distance between them led her to an idea that would blossom into a beautiful business.

Project Happy Note is a unique 3-month gift subscription service designed to help you and your loved one connect and communicate during difficult times, such as following a cancer diagnosis.

Listen to our interview now by clicking on the video at the top of the page, and hear how Anthea was inspired by the idea of her gifts shifting the focus away from her mum’s cancer and instead onto the fun and excitement of what gift she was going to receive next and what they were going to do that day.

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Avril Chester - the IT genius behind Cancer Central - on her inspiration to create a one-stop shop for cancer services


For this month of September, I have some real treats lined up for you here! 

It’s been a real pleasure to interview a range of different people who are all doing incredible things in this world with their gifts, and all because of their experience with cancer - either their own or that of a family member. 

Get ready to be inspired…

First up, we have the amazing Avril Chester from Cancer Central - a groundbreaking and award-winning new digital platform providing a central source of information for those affected by cancer and those who care for them. If you have a question, or want to find local services, Cancer Central is THE place to go. 

Ave (the AI bot who answers your questions) is constantly learning and evolving - with every question she is asked, she learns and develops better search capabilities, so every day Cancer Central becomes a more and more powerful resource.

Founder and creator, Avril Chester, tells us about how it all began, her biggest...

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Complementary and alternative medicine in cancer - how to find credible websites

To wrap up this mini-series on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in cancer, a helpful place to end is showing you how I “separate the wheat from the chaff” (so to speak) when reading about this therapy or that treatment.

In Scotland, there used to be a comedy sketch show called “Chewin’ the Fat” (if you’ve never watched it, it’s worth a Google - there are some classic skits, albeit a bit old now). Anyway, one of the main characters (played by Karen Dunbar) was an old woman who could “sniff out” when someone was lying to her.

As a qualified scientist, with years of experience in the field of cancer research specifically, I’ve developed a bit of a nose for “sh*te” science, pseudoscience and downright utter nonsense (although I do still like to read about some seemingly weird phenomenon that have been widely debunked by the scientific community, just with a critical eye, you know?!).

When it...

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Complementary and alternative cancer therapies you can live without

Last week we looked at three types of complementary therapy that are worth including in your patient’s and client’s cancer treatment plan, and this week we’re going to look at three complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for which there is little or no scientific evidence to support their use in cancer treatment.

Let’s start with one for which there is literally NO scientific evidence whatsoever.


Carctol is a herbal mixture that was originally designed by Dr Nandlal Tiwari, an Ayurvedic practitioner from India, who has been promoting it as a treatment for a wide range of different conditions. 

More recently, it caught the attention of the media as an “alternative cancer cure”. In fact, there was almost a whole page spread featured in The Telegraph about it! Here’s an opinion piece that breaks down the whole story. 

However, rather worryingly, in an article written in 2009 the author declared his inability...

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Which complementary therapies are worth including in a cancer treatment plan?

Last week we looked at what CAM therapy is, and this week we’re going to explore three types of therapies that are worth including in your patient’s or client’s treatment regime, and we’ll take a closer look at the evidence available to support their use in cancer.

Let’s start with the safest types of CAM therapy - those that involve no drugs, no needles and no drastic dietary changes.

Complementary therapies that promote emotional wellbeing

This first category of complementary therapies includes journaling, mindfulness and (quite possibly my favourite!) nature immersion.

Journaling is a practice that has grown in popularity in recent years, perhaps fuelled (or even fed!) by the explosion of beautiful stationery available on the market. Both my 8-year old daughter and I are self-professed stationery-addicts - we can’t walk past a Paperchase store without being drawn in by all that glitters…!

I’ve been journaling myself for about 2.5...

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What is CAM therapy for cancer?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended a “superconsciousness” workshop called Supergenius Life with the hilarious Ryan Pinnick. This guy has arguably struck the perfect blend between humour and self-help - one minute sharing heartbreaking stories, the next having the audience in stitches, but all the while bringing it back to practical, applicable principles you can use to get over your own barriers to growth and experience the best version of your own reality possible.

During the workshop, we spent some time working on our own personal life vision. What I found really interesting about this exercise was that, unlike every other time I’ve sat down to do some “visioning work” and I start with my career and business goals, this time I started with my family life. It came to me so naturally that I couldn’t help but write about my hopes and dreams for my family.

And when the time came to move onto work and business, the words flowed from the tip...

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Trew Fields festival 2019 - reflections on an inspiring weekend

It was probably about a year ago that I first heard of Sophie Trew. It was a patient on a Facebook group (Sarcoma Patients Exploring Integrative Medicine) who told me about Trew Fields Festival and recommended I connect with Sophie, and earlier this year I interviewed her for this blog (see our interview in May here).

This weekend past was Trew Fields season #3 and I went along to learn and connect and soak up the atmosphere, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the big shifts I’d have personally. More about that later.

But first, I want to give you a quick rundown of the major highlights for me, along with the key insights and lessons learned.

Keto - fad, fake or breakthrough?

The first speaker on the cancer awareness stage was Rob Verkerk of Alliance for National Health, speaking about keto - not “the ketogenic diet” (although that was part of it), but rather, the notion that we as a society don’t activate ketosis nearly enough these days.

In Western...

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Talaya Dendy - on how to find a healthy and happy life after cancer


Life can seem so unfair at times.

Why is it that some of the most beautiful, kind and big-hearted people are the ones who get cancer?

I used to think like this - in fact, I used to be quite one-dimensional in my thoughts about suffering in this world.

That is, until I met a family who flipped this notion on its head. This family taught me what it truly meant to rejoice in all circumstances, even through suffering.

And since then, I’ve had the honour of getting to know many different people whose attitude to sickness, suffering and life’s big disappointments have totally blown me away.

Including the guest on this week’s interview.

It is my absolute pleasure to share with you an interview with the lovely Talaya Dendy of On The Other Side.

Talaya was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and has spent a lot of time reflecting on how her mindset has impacted her healing journey. This year sees her celebrating her 8th cancer-free anniversary, and here she...

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Cancer professionals as coaches: how to help your patients develop a strong mindset

In recent weeks, a number of people have asked me what I think about mindset and cancer, and this has got me thinking about the impact mindset may have on a patient’s prognosis.

I’m not much of a Twitter-er, to be very honest with you. I think it’s a confusing social media platform (IMHO!) and I just find it all a bit overwhelming. But now and again, I receive a notification that someone who I may have previously interacted with has tweeted something.

Sometimes I’m drawn in to take a closer look, and on one occasion very recently this was the case.

Somebody living with terminal cancer had read an article in which the author’s turn of phrase really upset her. The author of the article had written something about having “beautifully navigated” cancer and survived.

The author of the Tweet, however, had felt that the phrase inferred that if you were terminal, you somehow hadn’t “beautifully navigated” your cancer experience....

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