Good news – for young people. Experts say deaths from cancer will be “eliminated” (except for those aged over 80) within 35 years. The disease will be relegated to a preventable or curable condition, thanks to improved surgical techniques, better radiology and more effective drugs.
But for now it can be devastating and last week saw a blow for thousands of sufferers when the Government announced it could no longer afford to fund 21 life-extending drugs, some of which cost as much as £57,000 for a single course of treatment. One drug, for advanced prostate cancer, costs £22,000 and can extend a patient’s life for at least three months. These costly drugs don’t cure the disease, they just delay the inevitable.
I know all about extending the life of a terminally ill person: my sister was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. The NHS declined to treat her brain tumours, so I paid £16,000 for private surgery. I didn’t give it a moment’s thought, just stuck it on my credit card, and so the gift of life was just down to cashflow and my dear sister lived for another four months, exactly what the surgeon predicted.
Medical experts say we are at a “special point in history” where cancer can be beaten by 2050, but in the meantime, there will be thousands of deaths from it. This year, 325,000 people will be diagnosed – more than ever. Cancer has taken two of my best friends, as well as dozens of acquaintances. There’s not a woman over 40 who doesn’t regularly wake up and worry she’ll be next.
While it’s becoming easier to identify genetic factors and test earlier and more effectively, there’s another aspect to cancer which we seem reluctant to face up to. We are all going to die sometime. Cancer often brings that date forward. Should everyone have access to drugs costing hundreds of thousands of pounds that just delay death? A difficult decision. The NHS doesn’t have enough money to do its job properly and the Government’s special Cancer Drugs Fund has spent its budget of £280m.
The healthy eating trends of 2015
The healthy eating trends of 2015
1/10 Acai bowls are the new green juice
Who ever thought we’d have been ok with adding spinach to our smoothies? Yet even virtuous green juices started to get something of a bad rep, as the ‘juice fast’ backlash grew and it turned out that some shop-bought juices contained as much sugar as a can of fizzy drink. Bring on Acai bowls, the new darlings of Instagram. Like a gloopier smoothie, these are made with antioxidant-rich acai berries (they are hard to come by - search for powdered or dried berries or frozen puree), which are said to aid weight loss. Blend with frozen bananas, berries and a little nut milk and top with whatever you like - seeds, nuts, cacao nibs, goji berries. A picture-perfect purple powerhouse for breakfast.
Ella Grace Denton, www.weneedtolivemore.com
2/10 Bone broth is the new Miso soup
Remember back in the day when the word ‘broth’ would conjure up visions of Dickensian orphanages? Then miso came along, Gwyneth embraced it, and we all followed suit, lauding how filling and protein rich with little wonder broth was. We’ve come full circle now, as bone broth is back on the radar. The glowing-with-health Hemsley sisters seem to use bone broth in most of their recipes, and rave about its nutritional benefits. “Bone broth is a nourishing all rounder packed with vitamins, minerals, collagen and keratin which makes it amazing for skin – including the dreaded cellulite! The healthy fats in the broth help you to assimilate important vitamins including Vit D.” There you go, something to stew over...
Food Loves Writing, Flickr
3/10 Bee pollen is the new Manuka honey
Every health hipster has a jar of manuka honey on their shelves - if they can afford it that is, a jar can cost about £15. But many claim it is worth its weight in gold, due to its unique antibacterial properties. Traditionally it was used on wounds, but many also claim that it performs miracles combatting cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and digestive problems (although the science is limited). Now bee pollen is the latest ‘superfood’ out there - thought to ward off colds, limit food cravings, improve skin tone, ward off allergies like hay fever (although some caution that it may exacerbate them) and, of course, fight cancer. Again, the science behind these claims is dubious - but it certainly adds a nice sweetness to your morning porridge.
4/10 Kelp is the new kale
Last year saw the emergence of an unassuming green leaf that was previously barely used beyond cattle feed. Now, we have kale chips in Pret, kale juices, ‘massaged’ kale salads - it’s even on the menu in fine dining restaurants. Yawn. Introducing kelp. This seaweed is high in iodine, which is said to improve thyroid function and control metabolism. It is also thought to have anti-aging properties for skin and hair. Try it in salads or add to asian-style soups.
5/10 Matcha is the new green tea
Yes, yes, yes, green tea, weightloss, yadda yadda yadda, boosts metabolism, etc etc. For 2015, though, it’s not about just any old green tea - this is matcha green tea. Made from finely milled high-grade matcha leaves, which are grown in the shade, matcha boasts 130 times more anti-oxidants than your bog standard green tea and is supposed to boost energy levels, lower stress, improve your mood and aid metabolism. It can be consumed as a regular tea, added to steamed milk for a matcha latte or even used to add a pleasant green shade and flavour to ice-cream.
6/10 Whole 30 is the new Paleo diet
Thought you were a culinary champ with your caveman-style eating plan? Well, think again, paleo is for wimps! Ok, not quite, but while people on the paleo plan cut out grains, legumes, sugar and processed foods, there is an increasing trend to paleo-fy your treats, with almond-flour pancakes, banana bread and a lot of brownies. The Whole 30 plan is a purer, stricter version of Paleo and really takes you back to basics when it comes to eating natural foods. The 30-day plan bans scales as well as sugar and alcohol, so that you can concentrate on nourishment rather than weight.
7/10 Fermenting is the new sprouting
Just when we thought we were ahead of the game by starting to sprout our own seeds and with sprouted flours creeping on to the market, the health set had to kick it up a notch. Now it’s all about making your own kombucha (fermented tea), sauerkraut or kimchi (both kinds of pickled cabbage). Fermented foods are said to aid digestion thanks to the creation of enzymes and probiotics in the process. Plus they tend to be high in B-vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids. Think of it as the new jam-making, and break out those mason jars.
8/10 Banana flour is the new coconut flour
Coconut flour was one of the coolest baking ingredients of the year, beloved by Paleo fans. Its highly absorbent qualities mean you only need a tiny bit for baking, keeping your creations low carb but resulting in the odd dry-crumbly-mess baking fail. Banana flour is the next flour to experiment with. Made from green bananas (and no, not banana-flavoured), it is gluten free and light in texture, so ideal for baking. High in resistant starch, which is effective against colon cancer, obesity, and diabetes, it is already being lauded for its nutritional benefits in Africa and South America, and will surely start to become much more visible on health-food shop shelves in the near future.
9/10 Bulletproof coffee is the new soy latte
Nowadays it is possible to walk into almost any cafe and order a soy latte without being eyeballed as a lunatic by the person behind the counter. But would you have the guts to request a stick of butter in your morning brew? Well, some coffee shops are offering exactly that. Bulletproof coffee is a paleo-friendly invention which involves a black coffee with a dollop of coconut oil or butter. Bleurgh. But advocates say it gives you more slow-release energy, sharpens your brain and helps you to focus - and even that it is delicious. Now the theory has been expanded into a whole ‘Bulletproof’ diet plan, rich in fat. Who wants to bet on when Starbucks will give it a shot?
10/10 Tiger nuts are the new almonds
2014 was a good year for almonds. Gym-goers and raw foodists alike carried around a stash for healthy, protein-rich snacking, almond-milk lattes were quaffed, and almond flour featured in so many paleo and gluten-free treats. Now tiger nuts, or ‘earth almonds’ (yes, really), are about to vie for snacking superiority. Tiger nuts are not nuts, but the tubers of the sedge plant. Originally a key food source for Paleolithic Indians, they have until recently been used as animal feed or a side dish in South America, Africa and the Middle East, or in Hispanic companies made into a sweet, milky drink called horchata. But now the hipsters have got their hands on it, drying, roasting and flavouring with the likes of sweet chilli for an on-the-go snack. High in healthy fats, protein and natural sugar, it is rich in energy content, and thought to help prevent heart disease and improve circulation.
How can we choose between giving cancer victims another three months with friends and family, or providing carers and support for hundreds of elderly people who shouldn’t be sitting in hospital?
Death rates for the most common cancers are falling fast, if they are diagnosed in the early stages. The NHS has a “five-year plan” to spot cancer earlier, but there is still an unacceptable time lag between diagnosis and the start of treatment.
If I had terminal cancer, I would want to live as long as possible. It’s a natural reaction. But would it not be better to accept one’s fate and prepare to die as comfortably as possible? Death is still a huge taboo and it’s interesting that many of the US tech billionaires are investing huge sums of money in research that looks at ways of delaying it, from cell replacement to cryogenics.
Last week, that die-hard Lothario, Jack Nicholson, told a journalist he was scared of dying alone in his Hollywood mansion with nobody by his side. We are living longer than ever and medical breakthroughs are prolonging lives – hence the huge number of elderly people who require support after they leave hospital.
The most difficult journey for us to contemplate seems to be the one to our last breath. In 35 years’ time we might have beaten cancer, but we won’t have beaten death. Learning how to accept it is still a difficult subject.
Here’s to the Pub Landlord – a better bet than Ed
Every day, the Tories and Labour vie to set out their key policies for the election. But what’s the difference? The Tories offer us a road to nowhere and I’m appalled that Labour appears to have endorsed more windfarms in the countryside, after Ed Miliband said going green “was at the heart” of his beliefs.
Both parties procrastinate when it comes to tackling excessive drinking.
Although senior health professionals signed a letter to a Sunday newspaper last week calling for a minimum price on alcohol, after it emerged that 80 per cent of weekend visits to A&E are related to booze, Labour refuses to commit and says the policy is “under consideration”.
At least my favourite comic, Al Murray, is brave enough to have some real policies. His FUKP party has announced that the Pub Landlord will stand in Thanet South, against Nigel Farage. They plan to brick up the Channel Tunnel, revalue the pound at one pound 10 pence and lock up the unemployed.
The Green Party has seen its membership rise to 45,000, while Ukip can claim almost 42,000 members. But Al has 192,000 followers on Twitter and is conducting a UK tour on which plenty of dates are already sold out, at almost £30 a ticket. The Pub Landlord’s YouTube political broadcast has been viewed by 360,000 people in two days and ranks as a comic triumph.
He has enraged Ukip supporters, who complain that Al is “one of the London elite, posh, Oxbridge and left-wing”.
Meanwhile, barrister Bobby Friedman whinged that the democratic process “has been hijacked for a pub skit”.
Anyone who has seen Al Murray live knows that he combines the brains of Milibandroid with a rapier-like wit, honing in on the futility of voting for any of our main parties.
Ed Miliband is worried that young people have not registered to vote – but he should be more concerned they might find The Pub Landlord more appealing than his wishy-washy plans.
Let’s see if This Girl has made a difference in a year
Walk just 20 minutes every day and you’ll live longer and cut the risk of an early death by a third, according to a huge European study published in a US journal.
Walking also has huge psychological benefits: writers Iain Sinclair and Claire Tomalin discussed how important it was on the Today programme yesterday.
Tomalin has walked in the footsteps of Dickens and Pepys when writing their biographies and Sinclair follows the same walk every single day, as a form of meditation. Theirs was a really enlightening conversation.
Walking is free, and easy, so why has Sport England spent thousands of pounds (of our money) on a slightly patronising ad campaign, “This Girl Can”, to entice women to exercise? Were Clare Balding, Sally Gunnell and Dame Kelly Holmes paid to endorse it?
The ad has been viewed a million times on YouTube and features (shock horror) real women of all shapes and sizes, aged from 14 to 51, running, exercising and looking sweaty and exhilarated.
It’s peppered with patronising slogans like: “I jiggle, therefore I am”. Tell me how many more women are exercising in a year’s time, and I’ll be impressed.
It’s easy to click on to an ad, but a lot harder to go out in the cold and run, or find the time to go to a draughty local swimming pool after you’ve dropped your kids off at the childminder and before work. How do you find a local tennis court – and the money to pay and someone to play with?
Exercise needs to be normalised at an early age – but politicians have ensured schoolchildren do less sport than 10 years ago, and playing fields have been flogged off wholesale.
Two-thirds of all adults do less exercise each day than doctors want, so the problem is not confined to young women. My motto is, “I walk therefore I can” – but Sport England has airbrushed out my age group.
Maybe we jiggle in the wrong places.Reuse content