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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The horrors lurking in our "natural foods"

foodstuffs Nov 09, 2018

In researching a my recent post on diet and cancer risk, I read an excellent book called “Radical Remission” by Kelly Turner. The author outlines 9 key factors common to patients who undergo radical remission, which she defines as statistically unexpected survival against all odds. 


However, in reading this book I also discovered a rather disturbing fact, and this led me to write this post for the Loughborough University News Blog. Did you know that “natural” raspberry flavouring is derived from the secretions of a beaver’s anal glands?! This flavouring is called castoreum and is often used to flavour ice cream, jam and sweets. Since discovering this surprising little fact, I have paid much closer attention to the labelling on my food shopping!

This led me down a bit of a “research rabbit hole” looking into all the different things that supposedly “natural” foods actually contain. In a world that seems...

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October research round-up

research Nov 01, 2018

One of the things I love about my job as a university lecturer is being able to indulge my curiosity and geek out on the latest advances in the field of cancer research.

At the beginning of October, I set up a new alert on my PubMed account for “cancer” and “cancer and exercise”. Over the course of this one month alone there have been 8,342 new articles published! That’s a staggering number of papers, and obviously I’ve not read all of them (!), but I did have a skim through the first few hundred titles each week and picked out a handful that caught my eye.

I thought I’d give you a little summary here, but caveat that with the fact that this is completely biased according to what find interesting, and is not necessarily the best of the new research to have come out!

You can download the audio here:

Ibuprofen and a mouse model of post-partum breast cancer

In the first week of October, I was drawn to an article that...

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Anti-cancer micronutrients: what are they and where to find them?

micronutrients Oct 19, 2018

Given the interest that my post on diet and cancer seemed to generate, I decided I’d go into a little more detail about the micronutrients in our foods and how they might reduce cancer risk. I use the word “might” because although the studies show a probable risk reduction, we still can’t confidently say “yes, it is THIS specific compound that makes this food lower cancer risk”. Apart from anything else, each food contains a complex myriad of different elements, which may all play their own part in risk reduction, either on their own or working together.

You can listen to the audio version here:


These are fat-soluble red/orange pigments, including beta-carotene and lycopene that I talked about recently here, that are important for our bodies in making vitamin A. There are more than 600 different carotenoids, but only 50 or so that we consume in our diets. And only around half of them can be absorbed.

Dietary carotenoids come from...

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Cancer-causing dietary supplements: what you need to know

basics Oct 12, 2018

After writing last week’s post about diet and cancer, I was a little alarmed at the idea that vitamin and mineral supplements may actually increase cancer risk, and so I decided to dig a little deeper on this issue.

You can listen to the audio version here:

Before I start, let me just say this: it’s complex, it’s not clear-cut, and it’s a bit of a minefield, but here’s what I’ve come up with… 

The current state-of-play

Many cancer patients take one or more supplements every day because they believe them to be “anti-cancer” or “anti-toxicity”, yet they perhaps don’t realise that “anti-toxicity” may be a bad thing because it might actually interfere with their treatment.

In a study involving breast cancer patients [1], nearly half of the patients interviewed were taking multivitamins, a fifth were taking vitamins C, D and Omega-3 oils; 15% were taking vitamin E, B6 and folic acid, and just...

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The good, the bad and the unicorns: diet and cancer

basics Oct 04, 2018

For today’s post, I’ve decided to try something a little different. I’ve recorded an audio version of this blog post (I guess this is technically a podcast then, right?! And there was me saying I’d probably never ever do a podcast…hmmmm).

I wanted to trial this as I think it might make your life a little easier. With the best will in the world, we don’t have time to read lengthy blog posts, and I couldn’t cut this one down any more.

So, ever the scientist, I’ll experiment with recording an audio version for a few weeks or months and I’ll see what the response is like. If it proves popular, then I guess I’ll have to start podcasting in the new year…!

You can access the audio here – download it to your phone and listen on the go:


Something I’m always being asked about is diet and cancer. It seems that hardly a day goes by without there being some bold claim in the media about this food...

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Exercise and cancer: what's REALLY going on inside the body?

exercise Sep 27, 2018

In the previous post, I talked about how we human beings have evolved to move. Historically, the more athletic we were, the more likely we would be to survive (you know, outrun a bear, hunt our own food, etc. etc.).

And really this is largely why we find athletic bodies so attractive. Yes, this is driven somewhat by our powerful media obsession with perfect looks, but it goes back thousands of years to ancient Greece and the first Olympics (at least!). In fact, I heard someone tell me once that if you weren’t up to par and didn’t maintain a certain level of fitness, you’d be booted out of Greece and could no longer claim citizenship! I haven’t validated that with research myself, but I did think it was interesting…!

However, although we may not have necessarily been aware of the fact that athleticism = survival, as our bodies adapted and evolved to become more physical, our cells also adapted and that is what I want to focus on today.

Last week I read...

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Born to run: evolved for movement, not inertia

I love a bit of stand-up comedy. Recently I watched an old episode of Live at the Apollo which showcased the Irish comedienne, Aisling (“Ashleen”) Bea. Here she is telling the audience why she can’t do any exercise….

Aisling Bea

I used to have that very same condition. We call it “idleitis”! Now and again it flares up. It’s a terrible thing really…. ;-)

But then about 18 months ago I moved jobs to work at Loughborough University. For those of you unfamiliar with the academic realm, Loughborough is THE place to go for sport in the UK. In fact, at the time of writing, they are extremely proud to be named number one in the world for sport-related subjects.

I, however, am NOT naturally gifted in sports. In fact, when I was 15 I used to play hockey (field hockey, not ice hockey – goodness, no! I’m not that brave!). I played for the school team and I played for a local team.


But I sucked at it.

No really, I truly...

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Thriving, not just surviving: choosing to live well with cancer

thriving Sep 01, 2018

What do you do when you’ve been told you have cancer? Have you ever wondered what it feels like? Perhaps you already know? Or perhaps you have experienced it second hand through a family member, friend, or through patients you’ve encountered.

Those three little words – “you’ve got cancer” – can evoke a whole range of emotions, from fear and shock, confusion and anger, to sadness and disappointment. It can be devastating.

My story

Just over 10 years ago, I went for an MRI scan to determine whether or not I had a pituitary tumor (I do, but it’s benign and doesn’t cause me any problems now – something I thank God for!). I still remember the feelings I had when disappearing into the MRI tunnel and the “thunk, thunk, thunk” noise that the machine makes. It was unnerving to say the least! But it was painfully waiting for results that caused me most anxiety.

At that time, I remember receiving a vase of tulips from an...

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