Living under cancer sword

February 13, 2020

When you’re pregnant you have  hopes and dreams for your babies and their futures, dreams you probably aren’t fully aware of unless you lose them.

Some of our dreams were dashed when our sons were diagnosed with degenerative brain disorders and died young, Tom aged 20 weeks, and Dan 10 days after his fifth birthday.

Life with the boys who had multiple disabilities and passed none of the developmental milestones wasn’t easy, nor was coming to terms with their deaths.

Many people who learn about Tom and Dan say they couldn’t cope if that happened to their children. I’d probably have thought the same until I had to. Then, the only alternative to coping was not coping and through necessity, I coped.

That doesn’t mean I always did it well. There were some very long nights and some very dark days; nights when I fell into bed exhausted by grief but couldn’t sleep, days when it felt like I was stuffed full of dark clouds and was ready to burst. But even at the very worst of times I had the love and support of my husband, wider family and friends, shining light against the darkness of despair.

And our sons, who could do so little, taught us so much: how blessed we are to have that support; that people are people regardless of what they can or cannot do and that ability isn’t a right it’s a privilege

Our response has also been governed by the knowledge that it would only compound the tragedy of our son’s difficult lives and early deaths if being bitter and twisted and focusing on what we’d lost stopped us appreciating and enjoying all we still had and could have.

And we still had their older sister who gave us the joys and challenges children provide.

None of those challenges were major until nearly three years ago when she was diagnosed with low grade serous carcinoma (LGSC), a type of ovarian cancer that is frequently incurable.  Jane, at just 32 years old, was told with current treatments her life expectancy was likely to be only five to 15 years.

Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cause of female cancer death in New Zealand. Yet we  knew almost nothing about the symptoms. For two years Jane was told by doctors her symptoms were not serious, right up until she required emergency surgery from cancer complications. You can read more about the symptoms here:

Not letting what we’ve lost with the lives and deaths of our sons, blind us to what we still have is, of course, easier in theory than practice and it has been harder still to focus positively in the wake of Jane’s diagnosis.

There’s been a lot of tears, a lot of prayers and a lot of swears. There are nights of restless sleep when I wake to find the nightmare is real, and days when I cry easily and often. But again we’ve got wonderful support from family and friends, and just as she gave me a reason to not just survive but live a full life when her brothers died all those years ago, Jane’s example is providing an inspiration for me now.

18 months after diagnosis and 8 weeks after breaking her leg skiing.

If it’s hard for me as a mother, how much harder must it be for her,  a young woman living under the cancer sword, facing what it’s already cut from her life, the pain of that and the knowledge that it could take so much more?

She could have sunk into depression and stayed there. She could have chosen to focus only on herself. Instead she is doing much, much more.

She is fighting not just for herself but for all the other women around the world who share her cancer, many of whom are young like her.

What will determine whether women like our daughter live or die is research. Rare cancers like Jane’s, account for almost half of all cancer deaths yet receive just 13.5% of research funding.  The limiting factor isn’t science, it’s the money for the scientists to study it that’s lacking.

When Jane was diagnosed there wasn’t any way to donate directly to her cancer anywhere in the world. She knew that had to change if she and other women were to survive. She liaised with doctors,  researchers and charities around the world and founded Cure Our Ovarian Cancer – a registered charitable trust, that facilitates donations for low-grade serous cancer research both in New Zealand, and internationally.

Jane spends most of her days connecting with women and researchers around the world, fundraising for research into her cancer. Through Cure Our Ovarian Cancer and it’s partner charities, she’s helped raise more than $200 000 in less than two years. And aside from a small payment fee, 100% of every dollar raised goes to research.

She’s humbled by the public’s generosity, but also overwhelmed by how far is left to go. Tens of millions are needed if change is to happen in time for her. But as Jane says, “How can I do nothing? Knowing that in 10, 20, 30 years time, women will continue to die in droves without research. You just have to try.”

We’re in awe of everything Jane is doing while living with this awful cancer. It’s heartbreaking but her example pushes us to do better every day.

As a family we are committed to helping in every way we can. We’ve funded three research projects in the US and NZ and continue to do what we can. But this problem is too big for one family to solve without help.

This is why we’re going public. Because our daughter,  and all the other women with this dreadful disease,  need your support.

Our message to you is simple. Please donate, please fundraise and please tell everyone you know about our incredible girl and this horrible cancer. Women’s lives are on the line.

Learn more: cureourovariancancer.org

Follow Cure Our Ovarian Cancer on Facebook and  Twitte and Instagram.

Jane’s personal blog is janehascancer.com


Rural round-up

July 21, 2019

Meeting the gas challenge – Tim Fulton:

New legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will hit farmers in the pocket. Tim Fulton reports.

Waikato farmer George Moss, who operates two dairy farms, believes running a small business can be just as difficult when meeting environmental targets as large scale farming.

Moss and wife Sharon operate two small dairy farms at Tokoroa in south Waikato. One is 72ha milking 180 Friesians and the other is 67ha milking 175 crossbreds. They also own an adjoining 40ha drystock block. . .

Fonterra co-op leader Miles Hurrell – we can turn this around – Jamie Gray:

Nearly a year into his job as chief executive of Fonterra, Miles Hurrell is a man on a very public mission.

Since late last year, the co-op has been pulling out all the stops to streamline itself, improve earnings and trim debt.

There has been no shortage of criticism and there’s a lot at stake. The livelihoods of about 10,000 farmer-shareholders depend on it, and Fonterra is New Zealand’s biggest exporter by far.

Stung by the co-op’s first-ever loss last year, Hurrell’s job is to turn around the supertanker that is Fonterra. . .

Berry farm gets government help to expand hydroponic operation – Esther Taunton:

A $2.37 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund will allow a Northland company to expand its hydroponic berry-growing operation, creating dozens of new jobs in the process. 

However, not everyone is happy about the arrangement, with the Taxpayers’ Union saying Maungatapere Berries should have got a bank loan.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced the partnership on Friday, saying it would allow the Whangarei-based business to add four hectares of berries to its existing operation. . .

Fingerprinting food :

AgResearch is finding new uses for a machine that uncovers the unique fingerprint of food.

The Crown agency’s lab at Lincoln is using a mass spectrometer to quickly analyse the interaction of genes and the environment.

In a sign of technology advances in the field, work that previously took over an hour can now be done in seconds on samples of meat, milk, plants and wine.

It will open up new opportunities for food science and industry, AgResearch senior research scientist Dr Alastair Ross, who leads the metabolomics platform, says. . .

Handpicked is judges’ top pick

Meat co-op Alliance Group’s Pure South Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef has won international honours in the World Steak Challenge for the second year running.

Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef, which combines selection for exceptional quality and marbling with extensive wet ageing, took out a gold medal for ribeye and a bronze medal for fillet at the event in Dublin, Ireland, on July 10.

The latest honours repeat the premium product’s success at last year’s contest, which helps benchmark the quality of beef production against global competitors. There were more than 300 entries from 25 countries in the competition. . . 

A 20% drop in methane emissions would cause global cooling, says expert – Lauren Dean:

A leading environmental professor has said farming can become completely ‘climate neutral’ if agricultural methane emissions are reduced by just 20 per cent over the next 30 years. . . 

Myles Allen, a professor from the University of Oxford, who has served on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claimed this kind of gentle reduction in methane emissions would be enough to fully compensate for the warming impact of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from agriculture.

Farmers have already been cutting methane emissions by 10 per cent every 30 years, through measures such as better slurry storage and application. . .

Ongoing stable methane emissions from cattle doesn’t change the climate – Alan Lauder:

Could it be that a lot of cattle producers world-wide are being unfairly blamed for progressing climate change because of the methane released by their cattle? Going one step further, in this contributed article Alan Lauder, long-time grazier and author of the book Carbon Grazing – The Missing Link,  suggests that the methane emissions of the Australian sheep and cattle industry are not changing the climate, because they have been stable since the 1970’s.

WE have to ask the question, is the current way of comparing methane and carbon dioxide, using the Global Warming Potential (GWP) approach, the best way to assess the outcome of the methane produced by ruminant animals like sheep and cattle?

I raise the point, keeping in mind that the debate is about “climate change”. We keep hearing the comment that we have to limit “change” to two degrees.

I am not suggesting that the science the IPCC and the world is relying on is wrong, but maybe it is worth having another look at how we are interpreting it in the area of ruminant animals. . .

 


Ag part of the tech boom

July 5, 2019

Politik discusses Knowledge Wave Mark Two which seeks to boost the tech sector and quotes Helen Clark from the original Knowledge Wave conference:

Our export profile resembles that of developing countries, not that of a developed one.

Our export profile is unique among developed countries for the volume and value of primary produce and the large part that plays in our economy.

But the quote, and some policies from this government, send the message that there’s something wrong with that.

They ignore the fact that primary production does so well in New Zealand not just because of our natural advantages – the climate and soils – but because of the investment in, and application of, research and technology.

There is some comfort in David Parker’s statement:

“The agritech sector has been chosen as a key focus because it brings together two of New Zealand’s key competitive advantages – our expertise in agriculture and horticulture with our well-educated workforce,” he said.

This focus is already being undermined by government policy which incentivises forestry over food production.

Economic growth,  a broader based export economy and technological innovation are all worthy goals but none should be achieved by dragging down or devaluing primary production.

Our export profile does resemble that of a third world country, but primary production in New Zealand is very much a first-world business and already part of the tech boom.

When climate change could threaten food security, our ability to produce highly nutritious food in a very efficient manner is of even more importance.

 

 


It’s Fieldays’ week

June 12, 2019

The National Fieldays (and it is Fieldays not Field Days) officially open today.

We were there last year – met a lot of people we knew, got lots of invitations to eat and drink, only a few of which we accepted and got lots of invitations to buy, none of which we accepted.

We won’t be there this year but lots of other people are including:

and if you’re in need of some entertainment, there’s always the Rural Catch competition.


How much does Minister know?

February 19, 2019

Conservation Minister Eugene Sage has ruled out genetic modification in the fight against pests:

 Predator Free 2050 aims to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators by 2050, and has a number of government agencies involved in the plan including the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

But Predator Free 2050 is forbidden from carrying out any research which could lead to the use of genetic modification or gene editing, a letter written by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage shows.

The letter of direction to Predator Free 2050 obtained by lobby group Life Sciences Network said its primary tasks were to invest in breakthrough scientific research, but not to research into genetically modified organisms and technologies or gene editing, and to raise funds for co-investment by other (non-government) parties, in landscape scale projects and breakthrough science, excluding any science involving genetic modification.

“Gene technologies are problematic and untested and have significant risks.” . . 

This directive counters officials’ views that GE could be an alternative to 1080:

“It could be efficient and much more cost-effective method of pest control than conventional approaches.

“For potential application to replace knockdown tools such as aerial 1080, they would be most effective for short generation pests such as rodents, and less effective for longer generation pests such as stoats and possums, due to their requirement to spread over generations.” . . 

The minister’s refusal to permit sciencetific exploration is rank stupidity.

It’s also hypocritical coming from a member of the party that exhorts everyone to accept the science on climate change.

But how much does the minister know about the science when the strongest opponents of GM food know the least and think they know the most?

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.” . . 

Is the minister’s decision based on a lack of knowledge or just politics and emotion trumping science?

Whichever it is, a minister should not be shutting the door on scientific exploration.


Better meat better

January 16, 2019

New Zealand researchers are hoping to prove that the best red meat is good for heart health:

The University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute has recruited a group of men between 35 and 55 to eat free meat three times a week for two months.

Prof David Cameron-Smith says the men have been allocated either grass-fed Wagyu beef, grain-finished beef or a vegetarian alternative.

“We’re making a direct comparison against soy, so it’s a vegetable alternative,” he told Newshub.

The study is looking at how complex fats in high-quality unprocessed meat affect heart health. Prof Cameron-Smith says Wagyu beef is rich in healthy fats.

“They have very high concentrations of omega-3 fats, and other anti-inflammatory fats that may protect you against heart disease – so that’s where our research comes in.”

Prior research hasn’t brought good news for meat-lovers. While some studies have been inconclusive, many end up concluding the more red meat you eat, the higher risk you’re at of developing heart disease and other conditions, including cancer. Prof Cameron-Smith suggests that may be a reflection of the kinds of red meat people are eating.

All meat isn’t equal.

Better cuts are unprocessed with no additives.

“A healthy diet needs to have a range of protein sources – including vegetable protein sources – but if you are going to eat meat, make it the best meat.” . . 

If the study proves that better meat is good for heart health it will provide ammunition against the people who are trying to convince governments to tax meat.

Better meat is already more expensive than lower quality alternatives.

Adding a tax to it would make it even more expensive and lead more people to buy cheaper, and less healthy, alternatives.

 


To the point

August 25, 2018

A useful guide and not just for researchers ;

Utopia, you are standing in it!

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