Flirting with Cancer

Funny how life changes in the blink of an eye. Three weeks ago I was a bit neurotic about going to the dermatologist to check out a mole. This Friday I go for surgery…

Part I – Eating the Frog

Eating the frog!

A few years ago my thyroid blew. This meant that I was on chronic meds and had to go see the GP every 6 months to get my prescription renewed. The first time she saw my arm she freaked… “That has to go!”

I was a tad nonplussed because she’d just told me that I had to have a pap smear at the same time. Seriously – this Dr thing sucks. So I pitched up on the designated day – ready to have the mole on my arm obliterated as well as being checked out for cervical cancer.

By my GP took a second look at my arm and declared that it did not actually look so bad – and decided we should rather just keep an eye on it. I did not get away with the pap smear thing so lightly – but all was good.

This continued for a couple of years – each year she’d check out the mole and go hmmmm…. Looks okay.

This year she looked at the mole and freaked. OMG!!! When did that get so large?

Whaaaaatttt – I replied. It’s not so big. Think a few freckles joined hands – that’s all. But she persisted. It must go.

So take it out – I re-joined.

But no… it turned out that said mole was a tad too large for my GP to comfortably remove. A dermatologist was the order of the day. Or we could let her hubby loose on my arm – he’s a surgeon. But I figured that it was stupid hacking out the whole thing if it was not necessary – rather check it out first.

My GP looked at me sadly and said that their tame dermatologist dude had just died. They would have to find me somebody else. They did too. I was informed that I was really lucky- everybody else was fully booked until August but I had a date booked for the 24th April – a couple of weeks away. I smiled and nodded gratefully, muttering under my breath that I would not mind waiting until August.

So I ate the frog. Let it be known that there are other froggies that have hopped away… the mammogram, the bone density… like I said – I am not fond of this stuff. Let sleeping dogs snooze and all that.

Fast forward to the 24th April. I figured the dermatologist would refer to me to a surgeon if necessary. I was fully expecting to leave intact. I arrived at the place – breathless and a bit late because I had taken a few wrong turns – despite my lovely husband having shown me the way the previous Saturday.

The dermatologist was really awesome. Lovely, cool, calm and collected. She checked out my arm and recommended that we remove the middle section of the mark on my arm – the bit that had the dodgy looking mole. Swift and simple – she needle numbed the spot and removed it chop chop – deftly stitching it up thereafter. I was beyond impressed.

She also had fabulous art work on her walls that I, without my glasses, fondly imagined looked like a fairy tale tree. Turned out it was actually a picture of a follicle.

Fairytale tree… not!

Dr Carpenter (hahahah – my lovely husband pointed out the irony of this later) would send the bit of flesh off to be analysed and would call me if there was anything to worry about. Because there were a spate of public holidays approaching – she’d probably only get the results in just over a week. I was to have my 3 little stitches out in two weeks. If she had nothing to report I would get my results when I had them out.

D-Day arrived and I approached the day with butterflies fluttering around my tum. But no ominous calls were received, despite the fact I eyed out my phone carefully. No calls the next day. Nor the next…  Then it was weekend. On Monday I noticed that I missed a call from the dermatologists. Truly – I did not give it a second thought. They were calling to remind me about my appointment for the next day to have my stitches removed. I did not even bother to  return the call.

Shit gets real – time to face the music.

After lunch on Monday Dr Carpenter called and told me that the news was not that fabulous. A melanoma. But I should not panic or anything because we had caught it early and it was not deep. However – protocol demanded that a surgeon remove more of the said spot.

Feh! I brooded on the news for a couple of hours and then decided I needed to share. My lovely husband came dashing home. Was a bit of a blow to say the least. I had become complacent because I had not heard from Dr C in the designated time. So I assumed all was well.

Tootled off the following day to get my stitches out.. Turned out the lady who was supposed to do this task was not at work that day and Dr C herself took them out. Painless! She exclaimed that the scar she had given me was negligible… but sadly that was not going to last. She gave me letters for my GP and the potential surgeon.

I admit to procrastinating on the way to deliver those letters.

A few hours later my GP called me back – commiserating on the shitty outcome. We agreed that she would get her receptionist to make an appointment with her husband, the surgeon for me. But only after the 10th – we had a fancy awards ceremony for Chris on that day. I needed to be whole.  Also mentioned in passing that the dermatologist had said it would not be a big deal – could probably be done with local anaesthetic.

My GP laughed uproariously. No, probably not, she said. There are lymph nodes involved and centimetres that need to be removed.

My spirits plummeted.

Said appointment was duly made for the 11th May at 09h30.  We got there – a lot of minutes early. I filled out the form. Wrongly.

Chris gently removed the clipboard from my shaking hands and filled it out correctly.

The receptionist or whatever you call that person was jabbering on the phone. She kept saying “My doctor this, my doctor that…”

I admit – my evil twin sister emerged and I mimicked her irritating voice saying “My doctor, my doctor… I’ve also got a doctor… but he’s not a proper doctor.”

Chris cringed. I waited expectantly for a laugh… nothing. Not a peep. Stony silence. Ooopsie.

So right then and there I shot my own self in the foot. (Aaahhhhh – say those of you who might have read my Facebook posts from the past two days. No wonder her op got so screwed up! Never mess with the receptionist.)

The Dr emerged and ushered me into his room.

What can I do for you? he politely inquired? I was completely thrown. WTF? He was supposed to have gotten all the grizzly details from my GP – his very own wife. They had told me they’d already given them to him…

So I explained. Feeling like a bit of a tit – because said dodgy spot had now been removed, the stitches had healed really well and it just looked like a bit as though I’d scratched myself.

He eyed the mark out suspiciously. When did all this happen? Two and a half weeks ago was my reply.

Hmmm… he needed to see the histology report. He excused himself and went out of his room. My heart pounded a bit more.

He came back and did all the doctory thing like… tapping my tum (WTF?), listening to my innards, checking that I could swallow.

Then explained patiently how the whole thing worked. He even drew me a picture. It was like an ellipse – if the spot was so big – then 2cm would removed – but obviously they cannot close up a circle without a skin graft – so for every 2cm width – they need to cut 3 x that in length so they could yank it all together (my words- not his). But because he had not seen the histology report he did not know if it would be 2cm or 4cm… I told him that it was early stage, but he just stared at me. He’d wait and see.

That dastardly evil twin kept rearing her head and I cracked one joke after the other… about old arms… and yay for me – I was finally going to sample some nuclear medicine after working at iThemba LABS all those years…

Turns out the man has no sense of humour. Not a shred. Not a blip. I did not raise a single lip curl. Clearly he and his receptionist get on well.

He told me he operated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Let’s do it, I replied and chose the first available day.

His lovely lady handed me a form – in Afrikaans nogal – with all the descriptions and codes that we needed to go and pre-book into hospital for the following week. She had the last laugh because she gave us a wrong code which caused havoc and much to-ing and fro-ing.

Eventually I emailed her and got a terse little very unprofessional one-liner back in response.

“0311 should not be used.”

Chris later told me that she took a private phone call when she was supposed to be finding out what happened to the histology report. He was sitting listening and getting more and more pissed off with the length of time she took to get around to the simple little task of providing “my doctor” with the information he should have had before I ever saw him. Not sure what went down there but I sure as hell will ask my GP.

The date was set for the following Wednesday (16th May). In addition to having my arm excavated, I would need to have the lymph nodes investigated – hence the nuclear meds – to check that the cancer has not relocated itself to other parts of my skanky bod!

The day before the op at 10h49 I get an SMS from the anaesthetic dudes which went like this… :

“Ur anaesthetics tomorrow code 1439×60 min(avg time)= R3981.06. Arrange with your m/aid for PMB auth Celliersstr. Narkose Dienste.”

I dutifully emailed this info off to the medical aid. Also tried to call but after waiting for 5 minutes (no really) I got chucked off the system each time.

Then I get a call from the lovely Dr’s receptionist – Due to “unforeseen circumstances” the operation needs to be postponed to Friday.

I freaked. I want to get this over with. ASAP! There was no apology, no niceness, no freaking eff all. Just would this work for me? I asked what bloody choice did I have? Will this work for me? She repeated with an edge to her voice.

Inquired what needed to be done to sort this out with the medical aid – she said she’d do it for me. Like it was a huge favour!

A few minutes later I get an email from the medical aid saying…

Thank you for the email. We kindly require the following clinical information regarding the lesions:

  • Size of the lesions, how long have they been there, are they changing in colour, texture or size, are they painful/sensitive, are they bleeding, which area of the body are lesions on.

Upon receipt of this information the request for authorisation will be referred to our medical advisor for review.

I zapped off a scathing letter – including some photos saying I hoped the medical adviser found that the lesion looked suitably cancerous, and that I was not in the habit of having myself chopped up for fun. Really – I was beyond pissed off. Copied Chris and he phoned to commiserate.

Still utterly bedonered the day drew to a close with nothing really resolved – except for the fact that the operation had been moved to Friday and I would be lumped with another freaking 3 nights of even less sleep than usual.

The next morning the lady from the medical aid phoned – turns out she thought this anaesthetist cost was going to be x 60 instead of figuring out it was the total cost for 60 minutes and she had called the Dr. to find out what exactly what procedures they were going to do.

The stupid blah blah fishpaste receptionist at the Dr said she did not know what they were talking about and instead of involving me in the conversation – the whole operation got postponed from Wednesday to Friday.

I know this does not seem a very long delay in the great scheme of things- but it’s shit enough finding out that you have a melanoma (even if it is an early stage one) and knowing that you have to have an operation – whereby your arm is going to undergo another cut that is going to take weeks to heal again… as well as biopsies on lymph glands to check that it has not spread without being jerked around by a shitty unhelpful receptionist.

She could have avoided the whole delay.

Note to self… NEVER EVER rip off a silly receptionist again.

Note to all receptionists… Don’t fuck with a person who writes.

Finish the Saga

Lentil Patties

I got this recipe from a very dear friend of mine, Anisabel, who is sadly no longer with us. I enjoyed many Saturday lunches in the Van Zyl’s home back when I was barely out of school and I dated her brother. Lentil patties were a staple in this vegetarian household and were always totally delicious.

I had not made them for ages and had to rack my brains for the recipe the other day.

I knew that potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic were involved, with some flour and eggs to bind them.  I also knew for sure you did not soak the lentils like you do beans. After racking my brains some more I just decided to wash them.

Turned out I had forgotten to boil them.

That’s what you have to do – boil the freaking lentils for 45 minutes first.

The patties were unbelievably tasty but the lentils were like little rocks. Upon consulting Mr Google it was discovered that eating uncooked lentils was not recommended. We decided to try microwaving the patties to see if that helped at all. Indeed it did not – just made them worse.

So instead of having lentil patties and potato bake that night we just had potato bake.

The next day I was not taking any chances. I soaked the lentils for a couple of hours (upon the advice of a friend of mine – she said they do this when making biryani).

This is what I did after soaking…

(NB – I’m cooking for 6 people – the quantities below made around 20 patties – so down- or up-scale accordingly.)

Boiled half a packet of lentils for 45 minutes. 

Added the following veggies to the boiled lentils:

2 potatoes – grated
3 small onions – chopped (but you could grate them if you want)
3 smallish carrots – grated
teaspoonful of smooshed garlic (the stuff you buy in a bakkie in the shop)
dash of soy sauce
salt & pepper

Mixed everything up and then added two eggs and enough flour to bind.

(At this point Luan came into the kitchen and looked at the uninviting mixture in horror. “That looks DISGUSTING” he grimaced. Luckily he had tried the failures the night before and knew they did not taste too shabby.)

I then plopped tablespoonfuls of the mixture into hot oil and fried the patties until they were nice and brown.

Chris and I scarfed a few down in the kitchen before supper. They were all crunchy and delicious.

But don’t do what I then did…  kept them in a covered up bowl for 20 minutes until I had finished cooking the basil pasta – so they went all gross and soggy (although they still tasted good).

Probably best if you serve them immediately rather cooking.


Incidentally… Gemma thought the lentils were quite tasty too and demolished all the left over bits that Emma had refused because she said the texture was revolting. Happily they are not toxic for dogs. In fact some dog food suppliers use lentils as fillers instead of corn. But they did make her a bit farty though. Jack on the other hand refused to even sniff them.


Lentils are a part of the legume family. These small seed-like vegetables are nutrient dense and inexpensive, making them an ideal superfood. They are a fabulous source of molybdenum and folate. They’re also a great source of dietary fibre, manganese, copper and phosphorus. Not to mention being a good source of iron, protein, vitamin B1, B6, pantothenic acid, potassium and zinc.

Bella Bids Fudgie Farewell

(The final Dog’s Blog #432)

Was barking bored, snoozing outside in the sun because nobody was paying me any attention when I dimly heard a car in the distance.

Somebody’s coming… galloped to the gate and checked out the scenery.

Nothing! Just a couple of moo-dy old cows glaring balefully at me. Then suddenly there was a flurry of activity. People arrived and started unpacking stuff.

Sniffed them… hmmm… never met these humans before. Nope… not even the little one.

Heard another car pull up and bounded back to the gate. Oooh… these are familiar smells… they belong to my friend Fudge.

Mom, Alpha and Grandma!

We all smooched. Then Fudge appeared.

Shame… she looks a bit unsteady on her feet. Maybe the long trip has been a bit much for her. Driving in the car makes me feel horrible too.

We did the little sniffy backside welcome dance thing but Fudge was not as interested as she usually is.

Turned out the little person’s name is also Bella. Was quite confusing, every time someone called “Bella” I obediently presented my own furry butt, only to be told… “Not you dog Bella. Human Bella”.

Later on that evening I accompanied all the humans down to the tennis club. Sadly, there was a nasty little snack there that tried to pick a fight with me and I ended up being sent home. No fair!

Fudge got to stay. She chose a smart spot under the braai and licked up all the chop fat that landed on the floor. Lucky for me Fudge’s mom is a softie and she snuck me a whole chop when nobody was looking.

I’m allowed to sleep inside now – although my humans have gone off to Australia for a bit so I’m still outside. Hope they’ll be back soon – it’s a tad lonely without them.

Slept with Grandma in my humans’ room. Fudge slept next to her mom in their room. Poor thing, she keeps having these weird hic-type things. Don’t think she is feeling very good.

Next day Alpha, Mom and I took the little person for a walk down to the river. Felt bad because Fudgie stayed home with the others – but I never miss a chance to have a swim. Went leaping and flying as soon as I spotted the water.

Oooh! A dip in the river is just soooo delightful. Paddled around chasing my own tail for a bit. Then shook some water on the little person – come on – play with me!

Seems she is not as keen on the water as I am.

The following morning my poor friend Fudge looked even worse. Her mom and Alpha looked really miserable too.

Next thing I knew they all went off in their car. Oi! Hullo! You’ve just arrived. You can’t leave now.

They came back much later, but sneakily parked the car by the orchard. They were both weeping and snicking. I could not see Fudge anywhere. Then they hefted out her duvet and foofled around. Mom came inside the fence and looked around for Fudge’s ball. She took it back to the orchard.

Something was terribly wrong.

I watched whilst they spent a long time in the orchard. Then they got back into the car and drove around to the proper parking place. I dashed up to the gate.

Mom buried her face in my fur… Oh Bella, she wept… my Fudgie is gone.

Alpha’s face was all wet too.

Gave her hand a lick – no worries – I’ll look after you.

I did not leave her side for the next few days.

Note from Mom: 

As you may have read, our darling Fudgie started suffering from epileptic fits in February 2016. Eventually we were advised to put her on meds (Pexion) which she’d been on for about 4 months. In the beginning the pills worked well – but in the last few weeks they had become less effective. Fudge had had a couple of full-on fits in the space of a week and had taken to jerking and tikking a fair amount more than before (hence the foam rubber under the bed). Then she’d have days when she was just fine.

She travelled peacefully to the farm in the Eastern Cape. We were all looking forward to no stairs to worry about and a huge garden, river and veld to play in – albeit it very downscaled playing to what we were used to do.

It was very windy for the first few days and this bothered Fudge greatly (there is no wind in Pretoria!!!). She started flatly refusing to take her pills. No matter what delicious morsel I stashed them – she was not interested. Her condition got worse without them and I had to resort to forcing them down her throat. Something I had never had to do before – not even last year when she was so sick with IMHA and had to take over a thousand pills. She also started drinking copious amount of water and we feared her kidneys might be packing in. She was not sleeping much and every time her eyes closed she would jerk awake. I spent large chunks of the nights sitting on the floor gently stroking her and holding her paw but she was clearly uncomfortable and distressed.

In two days her quality of life severely diminished right before our very eyes and we could see that she was suffering – stoically – in good old Fudgie fashion. This time it did not look as though she was going to rally around as she had done so often before and be okay again.

It was the 23rd of the December and we were out in the boondocks – halfway between Barkley East and Rhodes. There are no vets on tap like there are in the city.

We had to make a tremendously difficult and heartbreaking decision. One that was best for our precious doglet.

Kerneels, Chris’s brother kindly helped us to locate a vet in Aliwal North who was willing to assist. He mentioned that he had to go out – if we missed him we should just wait. We drove for 2 hours and were incredibly lucky to catch the vet just as he was leaving. He agreed that there was no need to cause extra stress and move Fudgie from her comfy spot on the back seat, all snuggled on her pillow and duvet.

He was gentle and quick.

Our hearts shattered into thousands of pieces as we held her whilst she breathed her last.

We took her back home to the farm and buried her in the orchard, next to little Zorro (my mom-in-law’s Pekinese) who had gone to the Rainbow Ridge a month or so earlier.

Fudge, the big-hearted dog with the blog, now has the most fabulous resting place. Her life was a ball.

Thank you all for loving her almost as much as I did.

 

Three lovely rays of sunshine

This is a tribute to three lovely rays of sunshine. Strong women who totally brightened up my life, and many others, over the years in various ways. They have all succumbed to the bastardly C – but not without a fight.

Somehow the topic of food connects these three lives that were not really connected at all – except through me.

Joansie and Kirstie were probably diagnosed around about the same time – a good few years ago now. You know how Facebook is – there are always things circulating about what to eat or not to eat; what’s good for you; the most miraculous veggie that cures everything; interesting herbs and all that shite. I’d see stuff and point it out to Joan, then email the same info off to Kirstie, who was not a FB fan. Joan would post funny chemo videos and I’d pass along those links to Kirstie for a laugh. I’d only known Kirstie for a couple of years and sometimes I think she thought I was a tad bonkers but she appreciated the fact that she could talk about her illness around me, and not pretend that she was fine.

One is always a bit reticent when a friend is sick – like really sick – do you pussy foot around the topic or do you just come out with IT.

Once Joan had been diagnosed she immediately made a FB group and regularly updated a select group of her friends. This made talking about IT easier. She was always so cheerful and upbeat. She recounted horrendous episodes in a funny way that had a person sort of laughing and crying at the same time. I so admired her take on life.

She’d often post pics of her hospital food – saying how delicious it was. Carefully describing the globs of stuff on the plate. But if I close my eyes the first image I get of Joansie is when we were at Helderberg College way waaaay back in 1979. We were in the dorm together – she was a year or so younger than me so whilst we were not really friends – the dorm was sort of family. Sheesh! She was always Miss Goodie-Two-Shoes. Neat and tidy, with a shiny face and her trademark sparkly cheerful personality. We hooked up again 30 years later in 2009 on FB. Her upbeat personality had not changed one iota. We all held her hand – virtually – commented on wig choices and then celebrated when Joansie beat the bastardly C the first time.

Kirstie embraced a really healthy way of eating after she was first diagnosed – she cut out red meat and alcohol and dived into the fresh fruit and veggie regime. It worked for her.

For a while…

Then the tumours came back with a vengeance. We went out for lunch in 2014 – no rabbit food shite that time – Kirstie was telling me that they had discovered the Spur had a special – two burgers for the price of one. She and her family had tootled off and taken advantage of the deal. I agreed that it was great value for money – only paying for two people. Hell no! She replied with a giggle – we ate two burgers each. We fell around the table laughing.

Another time we went for lunch in 2015 was also funny – although it wasn’t really funny. By that stage Kirstie was very weak and we got her a wheelchair to conserve energy. I wheeled her into the restaurant and everybody leapt to attention and started making space for us to sit down. No thanks – chirped Kirstie – I want to sit upstairs. She proceeded to climb out of the chair and made her way slowly up the stairs. The look on the faces of the other patrons was hysterical.

When I dropped her off at home later I wondered if I would ever see her again. I didn’t.

During the course of our lunch, we somehow got onto the topic of birds. Kirstie told me how she loved little birds and one day she wanted an aviary. A few weeks after she died, I was sitting at my desk, feeling really miserable when a little sparrow type birdie landed on the window sill, pecked at the window until I looked at it. It chirped away with its little head on one side and stayed there for a good few minutes, chatting to me. Suddenly I felt better – like Kirstie had come back to say I’m okay – don’t be sad.

We now call all the little birds in the garden “Kirsties” and make sure there is food for them.

My third friend, Anisabel, was the first to die. She had been to visit us on her way back from England and was looking really skinny. Great, but skinny. So skinny that I passed on a pair of my jeans and they fitted her with room to spare. Unheard of because she had always been considerably larger than me. We just assumed she’d been living a bit frugally overseas, had been walking a lot and had lost weight. Upon reflection, she was tired too – but again – I put that down to jet lag. She was so looking forward to starting her new life in the boondocks on the Garden Route – finally having a bit of money to start her own business. We were talking about making a recipe book “Surviving on a shoestring!”

Anisabel was a great cook. She made really delicious food and iced cakes like an angel. We’d been friends for ever. My children looked upon her as a family member, even though we were not actually related. She made wedding, fiftieth, eightieth and many fancy kids cakes for us. She loved reading as much as I do and we came upon a cheapskate method of gifting – we’d buy second hand books – often read them first and then pass them over. Worked a treat because you could then afford to buy three or four books instead of only one.

While she was visiting that last time, she bought a tub of Liquorice Allsorts at Woolies. She then proceeded to demolish most of them. I was vastly amused – I love the stuff too – but so many! Eish! When she left there were a few rattling around in the bottom of the tub. Here, she said. You finish these.

That same tub is now filled with breadcrumbs in the freezer and every time I use them – I think of Anisabel. She also tossed a peg at me whilst she was packing to leave. It must have been stuck on one of her garments and traveled from England with her. Here, she said. Have a peg. It was nice solid peg, so I clipped it onto the washing powder bag – never realising that I would in fact be having frequent chats to that same peg every time I do the laundry!

She was diagnosed with the bastardly C in December and given three months. No prolonged battle for her. She quickly made her peace with the world and cheerfully lived out those last few months – making jokes about how they would be able to use her for a lawn sprinkler because she’d been stuck with a needle so many times. She did not even reach the target of three months.

Anisabel passed in February 2015 and Kirstie in September of that same terrible year.

I remember Chris had a visiting professor from Jordaan and we’d been taking her around on Heritage Day – showing her all the cool stuff we have in Gauteng. We’d just left Maropeng and I was sneakily checking FB on my cell phone in the car. Went cold as I read a post from Joansie saying that the bastardly C was back. It was like a kick in the gut and to my shame (because this haunts me horribly) being still raw from Kirstie, I messaged her back something along the lines that I had had it with cancer – claiming two friends of mine in one year and she better bloody well be okay. She replied that she hoped she did not make it three! It was not in the same year, but sadly, oh so sadly – she was the third.

Farewell my sunshine-flavoured ladies. You are gone… but not really.

Butts are a bit of a problem!

Celebrating World No Smoking Day today! (31st May)

Scientists have figured out (duh) that cigarette butts are one of the most abundant types of litter found around. That means there are plenty of butts out there. (Studies estimate that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts find their way into the environment each year.)

Yuk.

Worse, much much worse, it’s one of nastiest, deadliest forms of waste.

People who would not dream of pitching a cool drink tin out of the car window will happily chuck a burning butt out. Not particularly caring that it can set fire to something. And they do too – burning butts are often the cause of serious veldt fires.

People also drop them on pavements or into gutters, where the wind will blow them into storm waters and all sorts of other places.

Beaches are ideal for putting out butts. One huge ashtray – right? Wrong.

Or… they flick butts casually into water – dams, the sea and rivers.

But you probably wouldn’t flick a cigarette butt into your swimming pool – would you? Why not? Because you or your family might swallow it whilst swimming and that would be nasty and dangerous.

So why not care if a fish, bird or animal chomps it instead?

Cigarette butts are tiny little bundles of toxins. In other words… poisonous. They get into our marine ecosystems and cause havoc with the wildlife and the quality of the water.

And we all know that water is extremely precious – right?

Due to the fact that cigarette filters are specifically designed to accumulate toxins, each cigarette butt can contain up to 60 known human carcinogens including… arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium and lead. (In fact, there are around 1,400 potential chemical additives.)

Toxicological data has shown that these chemicals from discarded butts are capable of leaching into surrounding water where they can hurt aquatic life. Nicotine has been shown to be lethal to species of fish, crustaceans, zooplankton, and other aquatic organisms, as well as being a known insecticide.

On top of leeching toxins, cigarette butts present an ingestion, choking and poisoning hazard to wildlife who mistake them for dinner!

Cigarette filters are also composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that can hang around in the environment for long periods of time. Plastics of this sort have been found in the stomachs of sea turtles, fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures.

And yet you know what is also really scary – even those people who put their cigarettes out in the designated places have no guarantee that their butts won’t also end up in the water. The bins get emptied. Butts are chucked onto rubbish dumps. Here they are blown around and it’s highly likely that they end up where they shouldn’t as well.

So what is the answer?

Whilst scientists are trying to find a practical use for cigarette butts maybe people should consider stopping or cutting down smoking… or at least disposing of their butts in a responsible way.

 

Keep an eye on dem bones!

Osteoporosis – sneaky stuff!

A while ago I did some research on osteoporosis for a cartoon strip that I used to do and realized it’s really quite scary stuff. Sneaky too!

Like you don’t have any idea your bones are slowly getting less dense until you break something. Usually your wrist, spine or a hip. Kadoef! That’s when you find out your very structure is beginning to crumble.

Pretty much like it sounds huh…

Osteoporosis: osteo = bones + porosis = holes = holey bones.

Or less dense bones to be more medically correct.

Seems like it affects one in two women and only one in eight men. This is mainly because men have higher bone density than women do.

And how does one get this dreaded lurgy? Simple really – don’t eat properly.

Lack of calcium pretty much does the job. Lack of vitamin D too – although it would appear that the vitamin D is needed to help with the absorption of calcium from the intestines. Most things work hand in hand – you need the one for the other to kick in properly. Or out.

Normally – your body removes old bone and replaces it with new. Osteoporosis occurs when this process becomes imbalanced. The bone is resorbed more quickly than it is replaced and so bones weaken and can break.

There’s more… you don’t only need calcium for healthy bones – you need it for normal heart, muscle and bone function. So here’s the cruncher – if your body picks up that your levels are low – too low to function one hundred percent properly – it simply makes a plan. It releases special hormones, including parathyroid hormones, which help break down or resorb bone tissue to release calcium into the blood.

And yay – your body can continue to function normally. But duh – to the detriment of your very own bones!

Hang on a sec… still have a few years to go before you hit the big five oh – so really don’t have to worry about all this ridiculous stuff. Right? Wrong. By 50 it’s probably too late.

Specially if you smoke. That makes it worse… like really really worse.

Check out the facts – peak bone density is reached at around the age of 25. If all goes well, said bones stay strong and healthy for about ten years after that. Then at about 35 they start losing around 0.3% – 0.5% of their bone density per year – just part of the normal old aging process.

No biggie right. Happens to everybody.

But… if you smoke – as in a pack a day throughout your adult life (not to mention those weaselly kids who start puffing at the age of 12) this can lead to a whopping loss of between 5% and 10% bone mass. Considerably accelerates the decline of the normal bone density process. Throw in some decreased estrogen levels (which smoking also aids and abets) and wham bam – you don’t have half the skeleton mass that you thought you did.

But am slim, trim and healthy, you console yourself. That’s got to count for something. Baaaaaaaa – wrong again! Makes it even worse. Especially if you weigh less than you should for your height. Slightly built people run an even higher risk of osteoporosis.

Plus they tell you that drinking alcohol and coffee also increases the risk – but was rather relieved to note this has not actually been proven. Boils down to a case of all things in moderation – no going over board. Drinking too much alcohol or getting through life on copious quantities of coffee is bad for other things apart from your bones anyway.

Turns out that once you have got osteoporosis – you can’t completely cure it – so it’s much better to prevent it in the first place.

Most of the articles I read suggested that to avoid osteoporosis you should consume x amount of calcium daily.

This depends on your age. And no – this does not mean you can pig out on rich creamy stuff – the low fat and fat free type of milk, yogurt and cheese apparently contain more calcium. Don’t forget the vitamin D and while you’re about it plenty of muscle strengthening exercise is recommended as well.

Ah hah, thought I, with a small pang… one can build up bones and make them stronger by exercising. Walking is good. But what really cracked me up, pardon the pun, is that all the exercise really does – apart from building muscle tone and making you feel better – is gives you better balance which then reduces the risk of falling and breaking stuff.

It does not actually bring about any substantial increase in bone density.

Amongst this doom and gloom, was quite delighted to see that along with fortified milk, cheese, butter, margarine, cereal and fatty fish, natural sunlight is a form of vitamin D. So next time I’m catching some rays and my lovely husband yells at me to stop frying myself – can tell him I’m legally topping up my vitamin D levels.

All this trouble and in the end you might get hit by a bus. Well – think about it this way – at least if you’ve got strong healthy bones – you’d give that bus a run for its money!