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Celebrating National ‘Share a Story Month’

May is National Share a Story Month, which is an annual celebration organised by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups to recognise the importance of children reading more.

It is the perfect opportunity to share our love of stories and books with our families and friends. In honour of this wonderful event, we are very pleased to share some of our authors’ favourite books they loved as children.

 

Join us in celebrating the power of storytelling and inspiring the younger generation to do the same.

‘The Happy Prince and other tales’ by Oscar Wilde

As a child, I adored reading this fairytale as well as listening to my grandmother’s retelling. I remember as a child being struck by the cruel injustice of society with the haves and the have-nots and the selflessness of the prince that ultimately leads to his tragic fate. The social justice message in this story is as relevant today as it was then. It is also a story of hope, inner beauty and how simple acts of kindness can transform our lives.

Rohini, Bajekal, Nutritionist and Co-Author of ‘Living PCOS Free’

 

 


‘Someone Bigger’ by Jonathan Emmett and Adrian Reynolds

My favourite book that I loved reading to my children was “Someone Bigger” by Jonathan Emmett and Adrian Reynolds. It’s about a boy called Sam who makes a kite with his dad and they take it out on a windy day to see if they can fly it. The problem is he’s told he’s “too small” to fly the kite, which promptly takes off into the wind, out of his dad’s hands and picks up various groups of people on its flight. Eventually, the boy does grab hold of the kite and brings it and its various passengers including a bank robber who escaped from jail and a postman with a sack of mail. I loved it because it just shows the little boy had everything he needed inside of him and he was always big enough to fly the kite if just only someone had believed in him.  So don’t listen to those who doubt you. Always know you can achieve anything if you want to and you believe in yourself.

Victoria Fox, author of ‘Yoga for Cancer’

 


Reading books is one of life’s most endearing pleasures. Born in 1949, my main memories of wonderful children’s books were those by Enid Blyton. Being female I adored Malory Towers, all about a girl’s school. The Secret Seven and the Famous Five series were all among my best reads ever! The Faraway Tree also comes to mind and I am pretty sure that was also penned by Enid Blyton. My mother taught elocution and public speaking so I was read to and encouraged to read by myself from a very young age.

She loved poetry and A. A. Milnes Now we are 6 comes to mind as well as the Jungle Book stories by Rudyard Kipling.  My father lived by the sentiments of the poem IF, also by Kipling and I currently have a framed copy of this ever-inspiring poem on my study wall.  I still never go to sleep without first having read a chapter or two of my current reading material. My own sons, now in their late 40s love Ladybird books as toddlers, particularly The Garden Gang Stories like Percival Pea and Polly Pomegranate by Jayne fisher.

Beverley Jarvis, author of ‘Eat Well to Age Well’

 


There are so many that stand out for us that we read 3 to 4 decades ago but still carry the warm feeling and images with us. Our top picks, full of courageous characters and magic include:

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley, The Children of Green Knowe By Lucy M Boston, The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett and the whole Narnia series, by C S Lewis, with our personal favourite the Dawn Treader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zahra Kassam, co-author of ‘Eating-Plant Based’


‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr, ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philippa Pearce and ‘The Owl Service’ by Alan Garner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I absolutely loved to read as a child. I’m of the generation who learned to read with Janet and John, and I distinctly remember the thrill of parental praise when I grasped the word ‘aeroplane’ when Janet and John were going on one. Most of my childhood favourites were classics, and often centred on animals or nature.:Black Beauty, Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden were read and re-read, often well past the time I’d been told to turn my bedroom light off. My Grandma had an old bound copy of The Flower Fairies which I found completely captivating..

One book I found particularly impactful was When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit: I think it was my first detailed understanding of the realities.. Anne Frank then taught me more. As I hit double figures, I discovered Alan Garner, starting with, and utterly loving The Owl Service, before going on to devour most of his work.

I lived in a village that had a tiny mobile library and I loved library days. It had a really familiar, musty smell. I remember owning, with considerable pride, my own little cardboard, hand-written library tickets and having a tangible sense of responsibility that I must look after, and return promptly, all of the treasures found within.

Carolyn Garritt, author of ‘Get Your Oopmh Back’

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How and why I came to write ‘Yoga for Cancer’

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Blog written by Vicky Fox, author of ‘Yoga for Cancer’

Where it all began

I trained as a yoga teacher in 2008 and felt so lucky to be doing something that not only I enjoyed but I felt huge benefit in. I was always fascinated by the therapeutic application of yoga and how yoga could support people and in 2013 Laura Kupperman came over from Colorado to teach her “Yoga For Survivors” training which focused on how to support people diagnosed with cancer.

I had started studying with her when one of my best friends was involved in a tragic accident which meant that whilst learning how to adapt practices for side effects of surgery and treatment for cancer I also learnt how to hold space, be present with pain and not to be able to fix it. I think this was a huge learning for me just being fully present with someone with all that they were experiencing and with no judgement but just to be. This made my first few classes of yoga for cancer less frightening, remembering that these were just wonderful people coming into the room to have some space where they were nurtured and protected, practice yoga and maybe start to get connected to their bodies again.

What inspired me to write the book

The yoga classes gave them chance to switch from being a patient to being a co-crafter of their well-being and I started to meet the most fabulous people who shared with me what they were going through and I learnt to adapt so that everyone could participate in every bit of the class no matter what they were bringing with them on that particular day.

I volunteered to teach at Paul’s Cancer Support Centre which was a fantastic charity offering support for people living with cancer. The room I taught the yoga in was a shared space room that was used for other activities and it was not uncommon to go into the room, move furniture around and pick up the odd crisp that had escaped under a table. I loved teaching there but I also wanted to give my students the chance to experience what I felt when I went to triyoga, my local studio for a class. A dedicated space just for yoga with all the props you could possibly need and not a crisp in sight.

At the same time one of my friends worked for a company that had a charitable trust and they were thinking of sponsoring me to teach a free class for people impacted by cancer. As a result I approached Jonathan Sattin the owner of triyoga with this idea. We were negotiating room rates when I found out that the trust had voted for a different charity and so I had to contact Jonathan to tell him that I couldn’t teach the class as I didn’t have the funds for the room. He immediately responded that I could have the room for free and I agreed to teach the class for free and there we had it, the free class of yoga for anyone living with cancer started in April 2014. The “free” aspect was really crucial to both myself and Jonathan. It can be expensive being diagnosed with cancer. You might need child care, you might not be able to work, you might need to take taxi’s or have overnight stays in hotels. All this costs money and I wanted the classes to be as inclusive as they possibly could and being able to make them free meant we could do that.

 

 

 

How and when the book started to take shape

When we went into lockdown in March 2020 it was imperative that I got these classes online as soon as I could because I knew that community was a hugely important part of the class and suddenly we were all being told to stay at home and I knew this would be so challenging for some of my students. Triyoga immediately put a class on their online platform, on a Sunday, which quickly grew and I taught more classes from my home. If you knew anyone who was considered “vulnerable” during the first wave of covid you will know why the support of a community was so incredibly valuable. Some students were told if they caught covid they would not be able to be treated for cancer and other students had trials they were on cancelled as a result of covid. This online community became hugely important because students were unable to see physiotherapists or to get advice on certain side effects and so they started being discussed more widely in class.

The more I taught online the more I got to know my students, the more they asked for yoga poses that might help with a side effect. I wonder if it was that people felt more able to open up in this online format or whether it was just that they didn’t have as much choice. Students that only came once a week to class now were showing up to every class and I realised that what everyone needed support with was not cancer but the side effects of treatment for cancer.

I started creating little, short videos which I either put on Instagram or on my website with some ideas on poses that might help with cording, lymphoedema, scar tissue, peripheral neuropathy and other side effects that people needed support with. I had already started writing a book on yoga for cancer but teaching online helped me find more focus for the book and the idea of A-Z of side effects for treatment for cancer started to take more shape.

What I am most grateful for

I could not have done this book without the sharing and honesty of my students who have emailed me, spoken to me, opened up to me about what they are experiencing and asking what might help. They have trusted me and I am hugely grateful to them for this. My students really need all the credit for this book because it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for them.

Anybody who is fortunate to work in a job where you contribute and others benefit will know how much purpose this gives you in life. I am so lucky to be able to do what I do and meet the most amazing people that I meet. By being forced into online teaching (which is now in a hybrid format of live studio and livestream) it enabled me to reach out to more people and where I had been unable to teach people that lived on the other side of London to me, I was now able to teach people anywhere in the UK or even abroad.

What I hope to achieve with my book

I hope this book will be an extension of these classes and empower anyone impacted by cancer that although you can’t control life you are able to control your response.

Remember, you can read the first chapter for free!

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Hints and tips for preventing food waste by Beverley Jarvis

This blog was written by Beverley Jarvis, author of ‘Eat Well to Age Well‘, to raise awareness of ‘Stop Food Waste Day’. Follow these quick and easy tips to help reduce your daily food waste and become more eco-conscious:

    1. Combine leftover cooked vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and sweet corn with tomato passata, mixed with a little vegetable stock and cooked pasta, to make a tasty pasta bake.
    2. Crumb day-old bread quickly in the food processor. Freeze, then use to make a crisp topping for sweet and savoury dishes. You could use frozen crumbs mixed with seeds as a topping for the cauliflower and broccoli cheese recipe on Page 89 of ‘Eat Well to Age Well’.
    3. If serving just half an avocado, leave the stone in the second half, sprinkle with lemon juice, cover and chill for use on the following day.
    4. Blend leftover oily fish such as salmon or tuna with a little lemon juice, freshly snipped chives and yoghurt or cream cheese to make a delicious, fresh tasting pate. See Page 72 of ‘Eat Well to Age Well’ for a delicious Crab and Wild Salmon Pate.
    5. Eggs freeze well. Always freeze yolks and whites separately and use within 3 months. See Page 195, for my meringues with strawberries and cream recipe.
    6. To make home- made soup go further, add left over vegetables with a little vegetable stock or left over cream. See recipe for hearty vegetable soup, on Page 61.
    7. Add left over vegetables to home-made curry to make it feed an extra person. See chicken and vegetable curry on Page 140.
    8. Combine equal quantities of left over double cream with single cream to make your own whipping cream. Ideal for fruit fools and toppings.
    9. Cooked rice keeps well, if immediately cooled and chilled for up to of a couple of days. It also freezes well.
    10. Make left overs into a plated meals. Cover and chill. Microwave the following day for 31/2 minutes on High to reheat.

 

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Author Q&A: Rohini Bajekal, co-author of ‘Living PCOS Free’

book display

Over the last few years, there has been a shift in narrative about women’s health, especially topics surrounding reproductive health. Renowned MD Obstetrician-Gynaecologist Dr Nitu Bajekal who has decades of experience in this field has worked with her daughter, expert nutritionist, Rohini Bajekal on the much-anticipated book ‘Living PCOS Free’. The book is all about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is one of the most common endocrine disorders worldwide, which affects at least one in ten women or anyone assigned female at birth. Hammersmith Health Books is proud to be publishing this book, which aims to give those going through PCOS an insightful and inspirational guide. This blog is written by Rohini Bajekal, who gives a personal account of why she worked with her mother and co-author to write the book and what they hope to achieve with it.

‘Living PCOS Free’ launches on 28th April and can be purchased here.

What spurred you to write ‘Living PCOS Free’?

They always say you write the book you wish you had on your bookshelf. As Rohini had personal experience of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Nitu has 35 years of experience helping patients, we both had a clear vision for our first book together. We had never come across a book on PCOS written by qualified health professionals that highlighted proven lifestyle approaches alongside western medicine and felt that this needed to be addressed as soon as possible. Nitu had wished to write a book for years but it took a pandemic and several lockdowns to be able to carve out the time to sit down and write it together. The initial idea was to write a general women’s health book but Rohini felt that since Nitu is an ObGyn, a general book would not do justice to the complex nature of these conditions as we would only be able to dedicate a few pages to each condition such as fibroids, endometriosis, painful periods etc. and that would not really help people to address their issues.

Could you tell us a bit more as to why PCOS is more than a fertility issue?

PCOS is often simplified as purely a fertility issue as it is the leading cause of infertility worldwide. However, PCOS and its other short-term and long-term complications are woefully underrepresented both in scientific research and mainstream conversations. It is estimated that as many as three-quarters of those living with PCOS remain undiagnosed.

PCOS is a complex condition that affects the way the ovaries function, resulting in a wide range of reproductive, metabolic, and psychological symptoms that affect women differently.  Societal stigma (due to patriarchal beauty standards) often associated with common symptoms, such as weight gain, scalp hair loss, acne, irregular periods and excess hair growth, means many women are unable to talk about it openly or seek the help they deserve.

In addition, many women are told that losing weight is the only solution to improving their PCOS with little guidance or support on how to follow a “healthy lifestyle”. In fact, 20% of those with PCOS have lean PCOS and are within the “healthy” BMI range, yet still struggle with the symptoms.

As people with PCOS have a higher risk of endometrial cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other long-term chronic conditions, it is critical to introduce sustainable nutrition and lifestyle changes as early as possible. All national and international guidelines recommend lifestyle interventions to be the first line of management for PCOS, even before medications. PCOS is a condition that is heavily influenced by our lifestyle — how we eat, sleep, move, stress, interact and so on. The book is packed with information on how to make lifestyle changes, including following a plant-based diet pattern, moving regularly, managing stress, getting restful sleep, nurturing positive social relationships and avoiding use of risky substances such as tobacco and alcohol.

What do you both hope to achieve with the book in terms of awareness and change for those suffering from PCOS?

Our hope is to reach anyone living with PCOS, a complex condition that does not receive the attention it deserves. We especially want to reach those from marginalised communities, including people of colour who are not always able to access the best medical care and support for a number of reasons that we discuss in the book. We have tried to be inclusive as PCOS also affects trans men and non-binary folk. We also hope that family members, partners and friends of those living with PCOS read this book to better understand it and to support the person they care about. Since a staggering 75% of people with PCOS remain undiagnosed, we also hope to reach those struggling with the symptoms such as fertility issues, irregular periods or excess hair growth, but for whom the dots have not yet been joined.

Advocating for PCOS is political and we hope this book is a stepping stone for greater change and awareness around reproductive health. The economic burden of PCOS was previously estimated at approximately $3.7 billion annually in 2020. Even more strikingly, this figure only considers the costs of the initial diagnosis and of reproductive endocrine morbidities, without considering the costs of pregnancy-related and long-term morbidities.

We know that ‘Pinterest’ is about to release a trend report which shows that searches for menstrual cycle are up as younger people wish to empower themselves with knowledge about their cycle – how do you feel about this and how it links in with your work?

We think it is so promising that young people are empowering themselves with knowledge and raising awareness of what a normal menstrual cycle is. Dr Nitu Bajekal is active on TikTok where there are a lot of menstrual educators creating content. We bust a lot of myths in Living PCOS Free around menstruation – we even talk about menstruation in non-human animals! So many people who menstruate struggle with irregular, painful, or heavy periods, not realising that these are not normal because of societal conditioning and lack of menstrual education. As a society, we have to do better at educating everyone around menstruation from a young age and doing so in an inclusive way. We also talk about the importance of tracking your cycle in Living PCOS Free and bust myths around issues such as seed cycling for hormonal health.

Since announcing you were releasing this upcoming book, what has been the reaction from you friends, family, clients and followers?

The reaction has been wonderful. We have been incredibly touched by the support we have received from our followers on social media, by our close friends and family and by many people we admire and look up to in the medical, lifestyle medicine and plant-based communities. Most of all, we have been honoured to receive a few especially moving messages from those who have PCOS themselves and who are especially excited about the release. We are definitely a little nervous about the reaction as we inch closer to the publication date but we are so proud of what we have created. We really hope Living PCOS Free will help many people and stand the test of time.

Could you share with us, a PCOS friendly recipe – (either from the book or one you like to make yourself!)

We have over 30 plant-based recipes from our family kitchen in Living PCOS Free which are incorporated into our 21-day plan.

One of our favourite quick and easy recipes in the book is our Paprika Hummus. Eating legumes (beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, peas) every day is great for short-term and long-term hormonal health as these foods are full of fibre, protein, minerals and vitamins. Hummus is such a versatile dip and this homemade version takes minutes to prepare. It can be enjoyed with a baked sweet potato or potato, on a salad or as a dip with raw vegetables. The recipe also uses aquafaba, the viscous water in which legumes such as chickpeas have been cooked. Aquafaba can be used as an egg replacer as it mimics egg whites in cooking, for example in meringues and marshmallows.

Recipe: Paprika Hummus by Rohini Bajekal and Dr Nitu Bajekal

Serves 4
INGREDIENTS:

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed but set the aquafaba aside
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and discard aquafaba
4 cloves of raw garlic
1/2 tsp of black pepper
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of cumin powder
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp of tahini
1/2 tsp of paprika
1-2 tbsp of premium quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (optional)

A sprig of fresh herbs such as parsley (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Drain water from cannellini beans and rinse.
  2. Save the water from the chickpea BPA free can (aquafaba) and use as much of it as you need to blend to a smooth consistency with all the other ingredients in a good quality blender.
  3. Use most of the aquafaba water if you prefer a runnier hummus. Add as you go along to reach desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as preferred and garnish with a few herbs such as fresh parsley if you like and a sprinkle of paprika for colour. Refrigerate and enjoy within 3-4 days.

If you make this recipe, tag us @rohinibajekal and @drnitubajekal and use the hashtag #LivingPCOSFree

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Be aware of allergies as the root cause of many problems including fatigue

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Blog written by Sarah Myhill, author of Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Ecological Medicine, and The PK Cookbook

Allergy is the inflammation which results from response to substances (called antigens) from outside the body. Some of these present no threat to the body. Examples include pollen, house dust mites, animal dander and foods. Some antigens do pose a threat in high doses, such as metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, nickel), toxic chemicals (pesticides, solvents) or electromagnetic radiation (wi-fi, mobile phones, cordless phones etc).

Allergy has been known about for centuries. For example, 5-10 per cent of people with asthma are also allergic to sulphites. Pliny the Elder wrote of this when he reported the case of an asthmatic patient (rare for his times) who died from a bronchospasm in 79 AD after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The patient had lived a ‘normal life’ but for this ‘one incident’.

Allergy is the great mimic and can produce almost any symptom. Furthermore, one can be allergic to anything under the sun, including the sun! Allergy is also common – at least 30 per cent of the population are allergic to some foods. However, by the time allergy has produced fatigue (the major focus of my work as a doctor) it has usually caused other problems beforehand. Suspect an allergy problem if any, or a combination, of the following are present:

* The onset of fatigue is pre-dated by, and/or there is a long history of:

* asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis, eczema or urticaria

* irritable bowel syndrome with wind, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, alternating constipation and diarrhoea

* migraine or headaches

* joint (arthritis) and muscle pain

* mood swings, depression, anxiety, PMT

* almost any unexplained, recurring, episodic symptom.

  • Childhood problems – This would include being a sickly child with recurrent ‘infections’, such as tonsillitis (actually probably allergy). Indeed, a colleague who is a consultant paediatrician considers it medical negligence to surgically remove tonsils without first doing a dairy-free diet. Rhinitis, sinusitis, catarrh and colic are typical dairy allergy symptoms.
  • Symptoms change with time – Often the allergen is the same, but the symptom changes through life. Allergy to dairy products typically starts with colic and projectile vomiting as a baby, followed by toddler diarrhoea, catarrh and glue ear, recurrent infections (tonsillitis, croup, middle ear infections) and ‘growing pains’. Teenagers develop headaches, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, PMT and asthma. In adult life, muscle, tendon and joint pain (arthritis). Any of the above may be accompanied by fatigue.
  • There is a positive family history – I have yet to find a patient who is dairy allergic who does not have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) who also has symptoms suggestive of allergy to dairy products. Allergy to gluten grains also runs in families.
  • There is a tendency to go for a particular food – One of the interesting aspects of allergy is that sufferers often crave the very food to which they are allergic. This was illustrated by one patient who told me that when he died he wished to take a cow to heaven with him. It was dairy which was his main problem! If wheat appears with every meal, then allergy to such is likely.
  • There are symptoms of fermenting gut – Microbes from the gut are minuscule and easily spill over into the bloodstream. This is called ‘bacterial translocation’. These bacteria do not cause septicaemia (blood poisoning), but they may cause allergy reactions at distal sites. I suspect many clinical pictures can be explained by this, including irritable bladder, interstitial cystitis, intrinsic asthma, chronic urticaria, chronic venous ulcers, polymyalgia rheumatica and arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and so on).

How to identify your personal food allergies

I never do tests for food allergy because they are unreliable. False negatives are common – so, for example, many people who are intolerant of gluten will test negative for coeliac disease. Often, when the test is negative, they are told by their doctor that it is safe to eat that food – not so! There are many tests for food allergy on the market, but again I find positive results can be misleading, not least because the patient believes absolutely in the accuracy of tests and ends up avoiding foods unnecessarily or eating foods which are causing them symptoms.

The only reliable way to diagnose food allergy is by an elimination diet. The key is to cut out those foods that one is consuming daily. The reason that reactions may be prolonged or delayed is that daily consumption masks the link between exposure and symptom. Western diets include daily consumption of grains, dairy products and often yeast. If in addition one is eating other foods, such as potato, soya or tomato, or drinking regular tea, coffee or whatever on a daily basis then this too should be excluded. One should stay on this diet for at least one month before reintroducing foods to the diet – this should be done cautiously since reactions can be severe. Dr John Mansfield developed a practical, easy-to-follow elimination diet that is described in his last book, Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss.

The Stone-Age or Paleo diet is a ‘best guess’ diet and a useful starting place, hence my recommendation of the PK (Paleo-Ketogenic) diet as explained in our book Paleo-Ketogenic: the Why and the How. If it transpires that there are multiple allergies, then these days I do not put people on a more restricted diet – that is because some people get completely stuck on two or three foods and are unable to bring in new foods because of the above severe reactions. Instead, I put in place the interventions I recommend for a general approach to inflammation together with specific desensitisation techniques to switch off allergy (see our book Ecological Medicine).

Increasingly I am finding that one does not have to be perfect to reduce allergy and allergy symptoms. Simply reducing the total load is helpful – attention to the general approach is as important as specific desensitisation. However, the key steps are:

  • The PK diet
  • Extinguishing the inflammatory fire with my Groundhog Chronic regime (see any of our books) including antioxidants, especially vitamin C
  • Identifying possible causes, not forgetting micro-organims in the upper gut that should not be there, and eliminating or avoiding them
  • Detoxing to reduce the factors that cause inflammation
  • Reprogramming the immune system with probiotics, micro-immunotherapy, enzyme potentiated desensitisation (EPD) and neutralisation – all explained in detail in Ecological Medicine.
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Spring-perfect recipes from ‘Eat Well to Age Well’

Spring has officially sprung so what better way to celebrate than by trying out some delicious and healthy recipes perfect for this season? Taken from the recently launched cookbook, ‘Eat Well to Age Well’ by Beverly Jarvis.

King Prawn Noodle Salad Bowl

Serves 2

This is a great fish dish with Oriental flavours. It is easy to prepare and speedy to cook – a tasty and nutritious meal, which looks pretty too.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp sesame seeds

150 g wholegrain noodles

3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

250 g shelled raw king prawns

1 rounded tbsp red curry paste

2 tsp runny honey

2 tsp fish sauce (I like Blue Dragon)

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1⁄2 lime, juiced

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

1 carrot, shaved into ribbons

2 radishes, sliced

4 baby sweetcorn, sliced thickly

2 spring onions, chopped

 

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a chopping board and knife, a large saucepan with a lid, a large frying pan or wok, a dinner plate, vegetable peeler, citrus juicer, tablespoon, and teaspoon, a small bowl, a wooden spoon and 2 shallow serving bowls.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

The prawns make a valuable contribution towards your RDI for protein as well as providing vitamins A, B6 and B12 plus calcium and iodine. Prawns contain quite high levels of cholesterol but a 1996 study, compar- ing a low-cholesterol diet with one that included eating prawns every day, found that the prawn diet increased HDL (‘good choles- terol’) and significantly decreased triglycerides while only slightly increasing LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol). Prawns also have a good balance of essential fatty acids with almost three times more omega-3 fatty acid than omega-6 fatty acids (see page 17). The vegetables contribute fibre and antioxidants.

INTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a clean, hot frying pan, over a medium heat, toast the sesame seeds for about 1 minute, stirring frequently, until golden, then transfer to a plate and set aside.
  2. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, normally about 5 minutes. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the prawns and stir-fry for a minute or two until pink all over.
  4. Add the curry paste and stir-fry for a minute.
  5. Add the honey and fish sauce, with about 4 tbsp water, and stir and heat for 2 minutes.
  6. In a small bowl, make the dressing by combining the soy sauce, lime juice, remaining oil and coriander.
  7. Combine the drained noodles with the carrot, radishes, sweetcorn and spring onions.
  8. Pour the dressing over the noodle mix and toss everything together.
  9. Serve the noodles, divided between the two bowls, with the prawn curry poured over, and topped with the reserved toasted sesame seeds.

 

Vegetable Risotto With Roast Tomatoes

Serves 2 – 3

Risotto makes a filling and truly delicious main course, which is easy to cook if you use this largely baked-in-the-oven method. It is a great complete meal, with bags of flavour in both the risotto, which is cooked in vegetable stock and the tangy tomatoes. I usually prefer using brown rice for extra fibre and vitamins. However, there are times when a creamy, satisfying risotto just has to be made with arborio rice. You will find it in supermarkets, alongside long-grain rice, sometimes just labelled ‘risotto rice’. However, don’t stress if you can’t find arborio risotto rice; just use long-grain white rice instead. It won’t be exactly like an Italian risotto but it will still taste great, I promise!

INGREDIENTS:     

1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil 1 medium-size red onion finely chopped 1 stick celery, finely chopped

1 medium-size carrot

sliced 125 g sweet vine tomatoes, quartered, or halved if using cherry tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 150 g arborio risotto rice, or long grain rice, rinsed and drained

1 tsp freshly grated root ginger

1 clove garlic, crushed

650 ml hot vegetable stock

3 tbsp white wine, or dry cider, optional, or use water

5 tbsp frozen peas

1 small red or yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped

EQUIPMENT:

You will need a chopping board and knife and a large frying pan with lid which is both hob- and oven-friendly. (If you are worried about the handle, triple wrap it in tin foil, before transferring the pan to the oven.) Also a teaspoon, tablespoon, wooden spoon, roast- ing tray, measuring jug and cheese grater.

NUTRITIONAL NOTE:

The rice makes a valuable contribution towards your RDI for carbohydrate. The tomatoes and bell pepper add fibre, antioxidant polyphenols and vitamins A and C.

TO SERVE:

50 g vegetarian parmesan cheese, freshly grated. Handful basil leaves, chopped. The oven-roasted tomatoes.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 210°/190°C fan/gas 6.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat 1⁄2 tbsp oil over a medium heat, until shimmering.
  3. Stirring frequently, over a medium heat, fry the onion, celery and carrot for 5-7 minutes, until softened.
  4. Meanwhile, put the tomatoes onto a roasting tray. Drizzle them with the remaining oil, season with salt and pepper, then roast for about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir the rice, ginger and garlic into the pan with the vegetables.
  6. Increase the heat and add 300 ml of the stock, with the wine or water. Stir well and bring to a rapid boil.
  7. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven, above the tomatoes
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the risotto from the oven and transfer it back to the hob.
  10. Gently, stir in the peas and the red or yellow pepper, with the remaining stock.
  11. Cook uncovered, stirring, over a me- dium-high heat, for 5-7 minutes or so, until the rice is al dente and the peas and peppers are just cooked.
  12. Remove from the heat, adjust the sea- soning if necessary, then serve, sprinkled with the basil, and the parmesan cheese, accompanied by the roasted tomatoes.

 

 

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10 reasons why you should exercise when you have bowel cancer

Blog written by Sarah Russell, author of The Bowel Cancer Recovery Toolkit.

When it comes to bowel cancer, exercise could well be one of the most powerful tools in your armoury.  It helps you manage the side effects of treatment and it might just save your life.

We need to start thinking about physical activity as the 4th treatment option for bowel cancer (alongside chemo, surgery and radiotherapy).

Being active during and after your treatment will help you overcome many of the debilitating side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy, such as fatigue, muscle loss and weakness. It can help your body tolerate the treatments better and there is emerging evidence that exercise can help your body fight the cancer cells.

Some studies show that being active after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer can improve your chance of survivorship by around 30%.

But above all, being active gives you a sense of wellbeing and control and boosts your psychological health.

It helps you feel that you’re doing something for yourself. And it just makes you feel better.

Yet I also know that exercise is one of the most difficult things to do when you have bowel cancer.

Despite the research, the messages from medical professionals about exercise are mixed and contradictory. There is very little encouragement to be active, and not much in the way of supervised exercise classes or groups. The ‘rest is best’ message is unfortunately very pervasive in medicine and society, so people aren’t getting the encouragement they need. If the Doc says to rest, then that’s what you’ll do.

Some research I did in 2018 (on behalf of medical devices company ConvaTec.co.uk) found that 90% of people who had bowel cancer said they didn’t do enough exercise for good health, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (150 minutes of moderate activity per week).

Statistics like that keep me awake at night.

If you’re not meeting guidelines for exercise, you increase your risk of other co-morbidities – diabetes, heart disease, depression, arthritis etc and fall into a vicious circle of inactivity and worsening quality of life. And we know that around 70% of people with cancer have at least one other chronic condition.

So basically we need to get moving and change this statistic, and fast.

People with bowel cancer need to get moving and feel confident around exercise, not to be scared of exercise or allow the barriers they face to prevent them being active.

 

But where to start?

But it’s hard to know where to start, or what’s safe. What sort of exercises should you do after surgery? Can you exercise with a stoma? How much exercise can you do when you’re having chemo? What if you just don’t feel like it? And how are you meant to get active when you feel exhausted and sick?

You might be sceptical, uninterested or just too unwell to think about exercise, or think that the notion is crazy when you can’t even get out of bed.

But you CAN do it. It’s going to require a shift in mindset and to think about ‘exercise’ in a very different way. It’ll need you to dig deep into your resilience and find a support crew and specialists to help you.

Try to think about what you can do rather than what you can’t.

But first, here are 10 reasons why exercise is so great for people with bowel cancer:

Reason 1

It is completely safe to be active when you have bowel cancer. In fact, not only is it safe, but it should be viewed as part of your treatment and recovery plan. Some studies have shown that being active after diagnosis, you can reduce the risk of recurrence of colon cancer by around 30%.

Reason 2

Being active when you’re having chemotherapy and radiotherapy can help to combat some of the side effects and long-term consequences of treatment such as muscle loss, weakness and fatigue. Even short 10-minute walks will make a huge difference. Little and often is best.

Reason 3

Rest is not best for anyone, even when you have bowel cancer. By resting too much, you risk become even weaker and losing muscle… which results in loss of confidence and loss of fitness. Get the balance right between movement and rest instead. After surgery you do not need to ‘rest’ for 6-12 weeks, instead gradually start to become more active, walking more and doing core exercises.

Reason 4

Even if you have advanced cancer, bone metastases or a complex condition it’s still ok for you to be active. You may need to make some adaptations or work under the supervision of an exercise specialist or physio, but some sort of movement is one of the best things you can do to help you cope with cancer treatments and for quality of life.

Reason 5

It might seem counterintuitive, but research has shown that exercise is a great way to overcome cancer related/chemotherapy fatigue. Studies show that doing some gentle exercise (short walks to start with or some stretching, pilates or cycling) can actually help you feel more energised and reduce your feelings of fatigue.

Reason 6

But you don’t have to go to the gym. Being ‘active’ really means just sitting less and moving more. It doesn’t have to be hard and it definitely does not have to hurt. Exercise needs to nourish you, not punish you.

Reason 7

If you’re an athlete or already do a lot of activity, you can continue to exercise throughout treatment if you feel well enough. There are examples of runners, rowers and competitive athletes who can still train when they’re having chemotherapy or other treatments. You may need to adapt your training level or certain exercises for a while, but if you feel well there is no reason why you should stop exercising completely. You just have to listen to your body.

Reason 8

The mental and psychological effects of exercise are immeasurable and incredibly powerful. Using movement as a way to recover after surgery and treatment will help you to rebuild your body, your confidence, self-esteem and energy levels. In fact I think the mental aspect of exercise is the most important of all, giving you a sense of control and positivity.

Reason 9

You don’t have to feel 100% well to exercise. It’s ok to start feeling tired or even quite unwell. Just moving a bit, going for a walk, doing some gentle stretches or something like yoga can actually help you feel better. You may have to push yourself to get started, but once you’re going, you’ll realise your body can do more than you thought.

Reason 10

And finally… after abdominal surgery for bowel cancer and especially if you have a stoma, you absolutely must do core/abdominal rehab exercises. You can start them within a few days after your operation. It’s essential to strengthen the muscles and restore the function of your core. Even though some doctors and nurses are cautious, clinical nursing guidelines advise that it’s safe to start 3-4 days after surgery with appropriate exercises. You’ll find these exercises in my book ‘The Bowel Cancer Recovery Toolkit’ and also online in my rehab exercise

classes and videos at www.theostomystudio.co.uk

 

There is a huge gap in patient care after bowel surgery. Too often people are told what they can’t do, and there’s very little support to tell them what they can do.

The Bowel Cancer Recovery Toolkit, aims to fill this gap, with expert advice, support and encouragement to help you exercise and remain active during and after your diagnosis.

So go out there and challenge the statistics (and help me to sleep at night!). Sometimes you will need to give yourself a push to get going when it might be the last thing you feel like doing. Showing up and getting started is always the hardest part, but you can do it.

‘When it comes to exercise, something is always possible, and something is always better than nothing’.

 

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Celebrating International Women’s Day

This blog post was written by Hammersmith Health Books founder, Georgina Bentliff.

In honour of this day that internationally celebrates women’s achievements, we would like to make a special mention of these brilliant authors of 2021-2022 Hammersmith Health books. All write, based on great expertise in their chosen field, to improve the health of others and are dedicated to achieving a healthier future for women and for all.

Dr Sarah Myhill, MB BS

Dr Myhill qualified in medicine (with Honours) from Middlesex Hospital Medical School in 1981 and has since focused tirelessly on identifying and treating the underlying causes of health problems, especially diseases of civilisation’ with which we are beset in the west. She has worked in the NHS and independent practice and for 17 years was the Honorary Secretary of the British Society for Ecological Medicine, which focuses on the causes of disease and treating through diet, supplements and avoiding toxic stress. She has recently deregistered from the UK’s General Medical Council and is not registered as a Naturopathic Physician with the Association of Naturopathic Practitioners. She has particular expertise in treating CFS/ME. Visit her website at www.drmyhill.co.uk

 

Beverley Jarvis

Beverley has been teaching and writing about cooking since she qualified as a home economist and cookery teacher in the late 1960s. Her guiding principles have developed through many years of working as a home economist, including a stint as head of home economics for the Nestle company, and through writing about food and teaching cookery. She has presented a series on microwave cookery for the BBC and appeared on Food and Drink plus morning TV shows. She has previously published 23 cookbooks under the name Beverley Piper, starting out with Microwave Cooking for Health, published by Penguin.

 

 

Dr Shireen Kassam, MB BS, FRCPath, PhD, DipIBLM

Dr Kassam is a Consultant Haematologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at King’s College Hospital, London, with a specialist interest in the treatment of patients with lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). She is also passionate about promoting plant-based nutrition for the prevention and reversal of chronic diseases and for maintaining optimal health after treatment for cancer. In 2018 she founded Plant-Based Health Professionals UK (https://plantbasedhealthprofessionals.com/), a community interest company whose mission is to provide evidence-based education and advocacy on plant-based nutrition. In 2019 she became certified as a Lifestyle Medicine Physician by the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine.

 

Dr Zahra Kassam MB BS, FRCPC, MSc, DipABLM

Dr Kassam is a Radiation Oncologist at the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre in Ontario, Canada and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Toronto. Her areas of clinical practice are gastrointestinal and breast cancers and she has published peer-reviewed papers on these malignancies as well as in education and mentorship. She is a certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician with the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine and has completed the eCornell certification in plant-based nutrition and the Plant-Based Nutrition course at the University of Winchester. In 2019 she co-founded Plant-Based Canada (www.plantbasedcanada.org/), a not-for-profit organisation with the goal of education the public and health professionals on the evidence-based benefits of plant-based whole food nutrition for individual and planetary health.

 

Carolyn Garritt, MSc

Carolyn Garritt is a cancer rehabilitation personal trainer and Exercise Lead for the West London Maggie’s Cancer Support Centre. She has been working in this relatively new field for more than eight years and is a qualified personal trainer and instructor in running, boxing, sports conditioning, chair-based exercise and Nordic walking. She has trained hundreds of people recovering from or living with cancer. She also has personal experience of cancer – she helped both her parents become more active after their cancer diagnoses and in 2020, while she was writing this book, was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Visit her at: https://getyouroomphback.wordpress.com/

 

Sandra Hood, RD

Sandra Hood is a specialist NHS dietitian with a degree in dietetics from Leeds Metropolitan University. She is also Honorary Nutrition Advisor to the Vegan Society. Her first book, Feeding Your Vegan Infant – with confidence, was published by the Vegan Society in 2005 and she has had articles published in magazines and contributed to many clinical publications. Sandra worked closely with Plamil Foods Ltd (the first UK soya milk company) in the 1980s to produce Infant Case Histories to prove the efficacy and benefits of a plant-based diet for infants. She has been vegan for over 40 years and enjoys running, cooking and caring for animals including her rescue dog.

 

 

Magnolia Cardona, MB BS, MPH, PhD

Dr Magnolia Cardona is a former GP, public health practitioner and current associate professor of health services research. She is a passionate advocate for the rights of older people dying of natural causes to not be over-treated with low-value care and instead have a dignifying end of life through aligning treatments with patients’ values and planning in advance. She arranged her own first advance care directive before the birth of her child by elective caesarean, as she envisaged the possibility of things going wrong and had the urgency for planning what clinicians and her family should do if she couldn’t decide. She now conducts research with patients, families and clinicians on ways to improve the end-of-life experience for all.

 

 

Ebony Lewis, BN, MIPH

Nurse Ebony Lewis is experienced in emergency medicine and geriatrics, a skills combination that has made her highly aware of the needs of older people to be treated compassionately at a place of their choice, including their own home rather than in the emergency department environment or the intensive care unit. She loves talking to older patients, visiting them at home for their health assessments and helping them express their values and preferences before they become critically ill. She was awarded an international prize for her research into advance care documentation and is now undertaking her PhD studies on frailty.

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Breathe, stretch, swing, lift. Exercise, and cancer-related lymphoedema

This blog was written by Carolyn Garritt, author of ‘Get your oomph back, a guide to exercise with a cancer diagnosis’ and Vicky Fox, author of ‘Yoga for cancer, an A to Z’.

Lymphoedema is the term given to swelling that can occur as a result of fluid building up within our lymphatic systems. These systems can be disrupted by cancer surgery and/or radiotherapy, or by cancer cells that are in the lymphatic system itself. Normally our lymph nodes take waste fluids and move them on to be expelled by the body as urine, however if these nodes have been damaged or removed through cancer treatment, the fluid can become blocked as its transport system isn’t working properly.

Physical activity can help

Many people, both those experiencing lymphoedema and those who know it’s a risk for them, don’t realise that exercise can really help – both in reducing our risk of developing lymphoedema, and in helping to manage symptoms. In particular, we want to recommend three types of exercise to you – yoga, Nordic walking and strength training.

Breathe. Stretch. Yoga for lymphoedema

Yoga is beneficial to the lymphatic system as it focuses on breathing fully. When we are breathing fully and using our diaphragm (our main breathing muscle) to breathe, this helps to move the lymph fluid towards the heart. The lymphatic system is one-way (from the periphery of the body to the centre) and the lymph doesn’t have a heart to pump it, so it functions better when it has this help. Well we all function better when we are supported, don’t we? Our diaphragm moves up and down when we are breathing fully, and this massages our system and encourages fluid to move.

Gravity is also a fabulous support that we don’t often think of. Anytime we raise our arms or legs above our heads we help the movement of lymph fluid back towards the heart. You don’t need to be super bendy to do this though – we normally work on elevating the legs when we are lying down on our backs. You can access gravity and use it to your advantage by, literally, putting your feet up.

In yoga we often work dynamically, moving the limbs in and out of poses, to also create a kind of pumping action so parts of our body get slightly squeezed (muscles contracting) and then released when we come out of the pose. This internal pump encourages movement inside the body of blood and lymph fluid, so it helps to move fresh blood into an area of the body and take toxins and dead cells away from an area.

Yoga poses also look at releasing scar tissue or areas of tightness in the body that may be as a result of surgery or radiotherapy. Scar tissue can act like a gate restricting the movement of fluid in the body. This is especially important if lymph nodes have been removed and there is a sort of “dead end” where the fluid is no longer being filtered by the lymph node. By stretching and releasing out these tight and restricted areas we help fluid like the lymph flow and not get stuck. This may just help to reduce some of the pressure felt in the arms or legs affected by lymphoedema or it may just make those areas of the body easier to move and less uncomfortable.

Vicky’s favourite pose to get everything moving

Lie on your back, legs and arms reaching towards the ceiling and then make a fist with your feet and hands (so you make them as small as you can) then widen your feet and hands and open them up to make the biggest foot/hands that you can. Repeat a few times to stimulate the hands and feet and encourage movement of fluid from the outer edges of the body back towards the centre of the body.

Then try adding onto this flexing and pointing the feet and hands. This creates a pumping action which helps to move fluid back towards your heart. If you do it you will feel the muscles in the forearms and shins working and these muscles are really important to help with movement. Muscles squeeze and then release which stimulates movement of blood and fluid and can be really helpful with lymphoedema.

Vicky says: ‘Yoga can give you a sense of being empowered because yoga is something you do for you. No one can do it for you. You are in control and can explore what works for you, so you are the co crafter of your wellbeing’

Swing – go Nordic walking

Nordic walking – using poles similar to hiking poles, is a clever and likeable form of exercise. As you walk, you swing your arms and pump your fingers, and these actions are believed specifically to reducing swelling.

There’s good evidence around its efficacy: Jonsonn (2013)[1] found that swelling (in the arm) ‘was significantly reduced after an 8 week programme of Nordic walking 3-5 times a week’. Di Blasio[2] went further and recommended that Nordic walking ‘should be prescribed to prevent the onset and to treat light forms of upper limb lymphoedema’.

Carolyn’s personal experience mirrors the evidence: she has mild lymphoedema, swelling that comes and goes. It is normally much less noticeable, and feels less tight, on days that she has used her Nordic poles. She teaches it to all of her clients.

Nordic walking is also a highly sociable outdoor activity that you can do surrounded by nature. What’s not to love?

Lift. Strength training is safe

It is emphatically recommended that people experiencing cancer related lymphoedema use exercise to build strength in the area affected. Until relatively recently the advice given was frequently to the contrary, and people with symptoms would be advised to avoid lifting completely.

Dr Kathryn Schmitz, previously Chair of the American College of Sports Medicine led the field in understanding the impact of strength training on lymphoedema. She[3] challenged traditional thinking by conducting a trial in which women with lymphoedema followed a progressive weightlifting training programme. Yep, weight lifting – heavy ones. The trial found that, contrary to some expectations, progressive weightlifting didn’t make swelling worse. They also found that participants had fewer flare ups, reduced symptoms, and increased strength.

Later Nelson[4] reported ‘strong evidence that resistance exercise produces significant gains in muscular strength without provoking lymphoedema’.

What do we mean by strength exercises? Carolyn says

‘Your best bet is a combination of moves that use several of our big muscles together – squats, lunges, climbing up steps. Then add exercises that work the limb or area affected. So, for breast related lymphoedema, I’d recommend using a resistance bands or hand weight to do shoulder press, triceps press, bicep curls, etc.’

Part of the benefit of exercising, of course, is around how it can make you feel, how it can improve your mood and make daily life feel better and more manageable, both physically and mentally.

Before you start

There are, of course, some precautions to bear in mind. Although they’re not the most comfortable, if you have a compression garment for the area that swells (sleeve, tights, vest etc), you are encouraged to wear it during exercise. It’s also recommended that you stay well hydrated before, during and afterwards, and that you look out for any changes in the affected area.

If you were given exercises to do by your clinical nurse specialist or oncology/surgical team, then do refer back to them to look for any specific advice that you were given personally.

If you become tired while exercising, stop. It’s one thing to work hard and push yourself, but another consistent message that we both hear in our chosen fields is that being active after a cancer diagnosis, and especially with lymphoedema, is best done slowly, gently, progressively.

Avoid exercise if you have cellulitis. Avoid strength exercises if you’ve had surgery in the last 8 weeks.

If your affected limb/area becomes heavy or more swollen quickly, or if you are experiencing pain, do seek the advice of your specialist nurse, physio or doctor.

Whatever exercise you’re going to do, our best advice is to

  • Restore your range of motion first before building back strength
  • Learn good technique so you do it well. This is essential to prevent injury and so that you can feel confident in what you’re doing
  • Take baby steps so that you build back strength slowly
  • Be progressive. Keep a note of what you’re doing and how it makes you feel. Allow yourself to build up gradually
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to judge and to look at what you used to be able to do and feel frustrated. Notice even your frustrations with a sense of a smile. Vicky says ‘Being kind is practicing yoga.

And now to relax


Vicky’s favourite pose to relax into is lying with legs up the wall or legs over a chair. This is a splendid example of how you can achieve something by doing nothing. Just by elevating the legs gravity helps to move fluid back towards the heart. You can relax and be a human being (not a human doing) and let gravity do all the work.

 

More support for those with lymphoedema

Check out the Lymphoedema Support Network as an excellent place for well-qualified, clinical advice on all forms of lymphoedema.

If you have lymphoedema in a place that you can reach, you may find some relief by learning appropriate self-massage techniques. Dr Kelly Reed is an oncology specialist physical therapist and lymphoedema guru. She has a richly-stocked YouTube channel called Cancer Rehab PT that you may find helpful.

Importantly though, if there’s anything that is currently concerning you about your own symptoms, please talk to your specialist nurse, or oncologist.

‘Yoga for cancer, an A to Z’ by Vicky Fox will be published by Hammersmith Health Books in May 2022

Carolyn Garritt’s ‘Get your oomph back, a guide to exercise with a cancer diagnosis’ is available through Hammersmith Health Books now.

[1] The effects of pole walking on arm lymphoedema and cardiovascular fitness in women treated for breast cancer: a pilot and feasibility study, Jönsson & Johansson, 2013, Physiotherapy Theory and Practice Vol 30, 2014 – Issue 4

[2] Nordic walking and the Isa method (2016), Di Blasio, Breast Care 2016;11:428-431

[3] Weight lifting for women at risk for breast cancer-related lymphoedema: a randomized trial (2010) Kathryn H Schmitz et al JAMA 2010 Dec 22;304(24):2699-705

[4] Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Volume 30, Number 9, September 2016,2656-2665

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Get Your Strength Back After Cancer

This blog was written by Carolyn Garritt, author of ‘Get Your Oomph Back’.

Cancer treatment can leave you feeling tired and weakened. Each of the treatment modalities (surgery, chemo, radiotherapy, hormones, immunotherapy) can, in one way or another, result in fatigue, and in us feeling like we do not have the strength that we did before diagnosis. Most people find that they need to move less, and rest more, during treatment and that can lead to the muscles becoming ‘deconditioned’ as they have had a period when they worked less.

If you’ve been out of action for a while, the chances are you’ll have lost some of your muscular strength and this can be why simply climbing the stairs or getting out of a chair feels harder than it did. Resistance training can help to rebuild our functional strength.

Alongside muscle loss, cancer treatments can leave us with stiff or painful joints and with a reduced range of motion, and exercise can be used to help diminish pain and to build strength in the connective tissue – the tendons and ligaments that support the joints and help them to remain mobile.

Strength, or resistance, training is therefore a key component of cancer rehabilitation. It is my belief that everyone who has had a cancer diagnosis would feel the benefit from it and should plan to be doing activities to that end for the rest of our lives. There is a full programme of relevant exercises that you can tailor to your individual situation in my book Get Your Oomph Back but, in honour of World Cancer Day, I am providing here for-free a guide plus short film to the 10 most universally useful exercises for anyone with a cancer diagnosis. These will help you with lung capacity and lower-body strength.

Try this. The exercise I perhaps use more than any other: sit to stand

Sit in a hard-seated chair that’s either heavy or resting against a wall (so it can’t slide backwards). Looking ahead, rather than at the floor, stand up without pushing yourself off with your arms. Try to avoid stamping the floor – keep your feet flat, firm, hip-width apart. Sit back down again, trying to control your downward motion so that you land on the seat gently.

 

Repeat this for as long as you can – 10 or 12 stands might be enough for now. As you get into a rhythm, try to dig your heels into the floor when you’re coming up to stand, as this activates the glutes (the big muscles in your buttocks). Gently squeeze your bum as you come to stranding straight. Build this up – it’ll really help. See if you can get to a point that you can sit-to-stand for a whole minute.

Then try speeding up and work on how many you can fit in – with good technique, mind – during that minute. Eventually, it can be done holding a weight, or on one leg.

 

Client story: How sit-to-stand got Hima fit for surgery

Hima was diagnosed with lung cancer, and although surgery was the best treatment option, her surgical team felt that she would find it difficult to tolerate. So, aged in her mid-eighties, she was advised to get fitter, so that she could safely have her surgery. She started coming along to the gentle exercise class that I run. I don’t think she had done anything like it before in her life.

At the end of each class, the whole group does as many ‘sit-to-stand’ as they feel they can. This exercise gets you properly out of puff, sends the heart rate right up, and is helpful for building strength in your lower body and confidence in your own ability. It is the one exercise, more than any other, that I urge people to do at home as well as in the class, and Hima did her home study with considerable gusto. She just got completely into doing them, and would bob up and down, grinning. The number she could do increased massively over the weeks until she reached the magnificent point that she outdid everyone else in the room, keeping going longer than any of her classmates, most of whom were 20, 30, 40 years younger than her. She was able to stand up out of a chair and sit down again more than 60 times. The average for her age is 9-14.

And then she disappeared from the class. Her family got in touch a little later to say that she had had her surgery.

From ‘Get your oomph back’ – 10 lower body strength exercises to do at home

This routine will work the large muscles around the legs, hips and buttocks, and therefore could help to improve strength that you will notice in everyday activities. Provided it’s safe for you to exercise (it’s always worth checking with a GP or one of your cancer team), this can be performed at home. You just need a firm chair that won’t roll away or tip back, and a resistance band.

Follow this short film, which illustrates the lower body strength routine that is in the book.

Try to do 10 to 12 of each move, then have a rest. You could do the routine every other day – this is regular enough but still allows the muscles their time to repair. Build up so that you can do the routine, have a rest, then repeat it a second time.

‘Get Your Oomph Back’ by Carolyn Garritt is available directly from Hammersmith Books, and from all major booksellers.