Word of the day


Cancer – any of various malignant neoplasms characterized by the proliferation of anaplastic cells that tend to invade surrounding tissue and metastasize to new body sites; the pathological condition characterized by such growths; a disease caused when cells divide uncontrollably and spread into surrounding tissues;  a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body; a nonmedical condition that is undesirable, destructive, and invasive; a harmful activity that spreads quickly; a constellation said to look like a crab.

New normal same cancer


Early diagnosis and treatment can make the difference between surviving cancer and dying from it.

Covid-19 lockdowns have saved some lives but endangered those of others whose diagnosis and treatment have been delayed.

Ovarian cancer is one which is often diagnosed late at the best of times because symptoms can be vague and mistaken for those of several far less serious problems.

You can learn about symptoms at Cure Our Ovarian Cancer. If they persist for more than two weeks, see a doctor and keep going until you get a diagnosis.


Cancer survival rates


What has made the difference to cancer survival rates?


That is what is needed to find better treatments and cures.

Early detection is also important.


Hat Tip: Utopia

Courage, strength, inspiration


Christchurch Boys’ head boy, Jake Bailey, was told he had only weeks to live if his cancer went untreated.

This news was broken to the 18-year-old a week before he was due to deliver his final speech at the school prizegiving on Wednesday.

He did not let that get in the way of sharing inspirational words with his peers, and was wheeled on stage in his wheelchair during a surprise break from his hospital bed. . . 


Whose breasts are they?


Angelina Jolie went public last week on her decision to have a radical mastectomy because she had a high risk of breast cancer.

She carries the BRCA1, gene which her doctors said gave her an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer.

Her mother died of breast cancer which gives her a very real understanding of what that risk could mean.

But John Roughan thinks that the genetic risk poses a dilemma:

Isn’t it a little disturbing that genetic science has caused Angelina Jolie to remove a perfectly fine pair of breasts? A “faulty gene” gave her good reason to watch them carefully, but preventive surgery?

Now that science has mapped the human genome, is this the future? . . .

As knowledge increases so do our choices, not all of which are simple.

I wonder if the geneticists who gave Angelina Jolie an 87 per cent risk of developing breast cancer also told her that “developing breast cancer” does not necessarily mean you will die of it. . . 

. . . breast screening has produced many more cases for treatment than ever proved fatal. Research suggests one case in three would have died without treatment. Some put the ratio nearer to 1 in 15.

One in three is a pretty high ratio and it’s not just that people die. A cancer diagnosis is traumatic for the patients, their families and friends. Even if it’s not fatal the treatment isn’t pleasant and it’s expensive.

Possibly hereditary cancers have a higher fatal rate but I would have thought it useful to weigh those odds against the genetic risk before deciding on drastic surgery. . .

Does he really thank any woman and her doctors wouldn’t weigh the odds before making such a decision?

. . . Angelina Jolie saw her mother die at age 56 after 10 years of treatment for breast cancer. Now, she writes, “I can tell my children they don’t need to fear they will lose me.”

That is one less fear for them but her article did not mention whether they also carry the gene mutation. How sad if a girl or boy should come to maturity regarding an organ of their developing sexuality as a death sentence unless they get rid of it. Sad and unnecessary.

Sad yes, unnecessary no.

Medical science has provided a tool which enables doctors and their patients to make informed decisions on risk and equally informed decisions about what they do about it.

Jolie went public about the decision in the hope other women could benefit from her experience.

Her fame has ensured the story has been widespread. It has given people knowledge. What they do with it is up to them, although not all of them will have access to private services which, I presume., Jolie did.

They’re their breasts, their bodies.

Medical science has given them more knowledge and enabled better informed choices.

That doesn’t come without risks but what does?

That is the future.

Rural round-up


Landcare genetic scientist names recipient of entrepreneurship award – Esther G0h:

A genetic scientist has won the inaugural Women in Science Entrepreneurship Award, receiving $50,000 of venture development advice and access to an international advisory board with experience in science commercialisation.

Dr Dianne Gleeson, a director of DNA diagnostic facility EcoGene, says the award will encourage more women at top levels of the industry, where they are underrepresented.

“There is growing commercial demand for scientific services and women can make a valuable contribution to the development of the industry in New Zealand and overseas,” she said . . .

Managing irrigation compliance – Sally Rae:

For the North Otago Irrigation Company, environmental management is a “fundamental part” of its business.

“We need to embrace our environmental requirements and push towards full compliance. There’s no other option,” the company’s environmental co-ordinator, Jodi Leckie, said . . .

Quick call sees woman go country for long haul – Sally Rae:

When Nicole Amery returns to the bright lights of Auckland, she feels like a “possum in the headlights”.

The city no longer has any appeal for the young woman, who was brought up in a non-rural family on Waiheke Island.

A split-second decision to head south to Telford to undertake an equine course, rather than study design, turned out to be life-changing . . .

Better lamb crop this year – Gerald Piddock:

Signs are looking good for a bumper lamb crop in Central Canterbury as the first of the new season’s arrivals hit the ground on coastal farms and lifestyle blocks.

South Canterbury scanner Brian Bell has been scanning ewes every day for the past month. He is just over halfway through his assignments and, with about another six weeks to go.

Results were 5-10 per cent up on last year and farmers were reasonably happy, he said . . .

Arable farming shows positive signs – MAF:

Cropping farmers expect strong global commodity prices and increasing demand for dairy support to underpin a significant increase in returns over the coming year.

Many arable farmers had a profitable season last year, but there is increasing interest in converting some of their land to dairy which is still performing more strongly. . .

Meat supplies ready for World Cup – Hugh Stringleman:

Concerns that hungry Rugby World Cup visitors and rabid All Blacks fans will run short of good New Zealand red meat have eased, according to local market operators.

An extraordinary autumn and winter of grass growth have brought forward finished cattle, lambs and deer, while the high NZ dollar has helped the local market compete with export returns.

Because of the pick-up in the flow of prime cattle, the local market price has “come off the peak” and now sits at $4.25/kg, said Fred Hellaby, principal of the largest Auckland meat processor, Wilson Hellabys.

It is unusual for that indicator to go down heading into the seasonal period of shortest prime beef supply, not including the added Rugby World Cup demand . . .

Merinos go multi-purpose – Hugh Stringleman:

Substantial increases in prices are being offered to farmers by New Zealand Merino in two and three-year contracts for fine wool, soon to be followed by Merino meat contracts at attractive prices. The higher contract terms flowed on from the extraordinary increases in market prices for wool and lamb during the past 12 months, said NZ Merino chief executive John Brakenridge.

For him, after 15 years of unrelenting effort to create premium markets for Merino products, the latest surge repositions the sheep as a multi-purpose animal.

It was also a wonderful springboard for the $36 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) with the government, which was the first of its kind, signed in May 2010 . . .

Climate debate pits farmers against science – Jon Morgan:

Despite the best efforts of the Government and its officials, the opposition among farmers to the emissions trading scheme refuses to fade away.

Many would like to see the debate ended with the acceptance that the legislation – and the belief behind it that climate change is man-made – is indisputable.

But in the farming media the debate rages on. There, it is one- sided, with only the rare brave person willing to stand against an overwhelming opposition.

And, on the surface, the farmers have a point. Their animals’ burps and farts are to be taxed. Put like that, it is laughable . . .

Caring pasture based dairy farmers encourage biodiversity – Pasture to Profit:

Biodiversity on pasture based dairy farms is seriously important. If dairyfarmers are seen by the public to be caring for the environment & making a special effort to protect the biodiversity, this too is a major PR with our consumers. There are very strong arguments for farmers to protect biodiversity as well as enjoying it for its own sake. The farms are both our homes & our work places.

Ben & Jerry the ice cream makers have established the “Caring Dairy” Program with Sustainable Indicators. Most pasture based dairyfarmers would embrace this program & agree fully with the targets . . .  

Fruit and wine growers under pressure – MAF:

Many orchardists and winegrowers are feeling the pressure of lack of profitability or threat of disease.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has released the kiwifruit, pipfruit and winegrowing analyses as part of its annual Farm Monitoring Report series. The reports provide models and an overview of the financial performance of typical orchards and vineyards, based on information gathered from a sample of growers and industry stakeholders. . .

Tough times for pip fruit growers – Jon Morgan:

The pipfruit industry is in serious financial strife, according to a senior industry figure.

John McCliskie, a Nelson grower and exporter and former chairman of the Apple and Pear Board and past chairman of the World Apple and Pear Association, told the Pipfruit NZ conference that bankers and international customers were starting to question the industry’s viability.

He told the growers, who were meeting in Havelock North yesterday, that they must change the industry’s strategy and alter the way they marketed their fruit . . .

Let’s give farming another kick – RivettingKate taylor:

So now’s it’s dangerous for me to bring my kids up on a farm? FOR GOODNESS SAKE (picture half a dozen strong words combined with a slow shake of the head and a grim mouth to match).

This story was on the radio this morning and it has now caught my attention on stuff.co.nz. According to the story, children raised on livestock farms have a greater risk of developing blood cancers later in life . . .

Reacting to the same story: Breaking news: farmers’ children don’t live forever – Andrei:

 Children of livestock farmers ‘face cancer risk’
Is there anything of usable value in this, probably not . . . 

The true nature of nature – Bruce Wills:

Some 80 years ago, pioneers started experimenting with artificial insemination to improve our livestock.  A big challenge they faced was how to get this time sensitive ‘product’ out to farms before couriers were commonplace.  Someone suggested carrier pigeons, but there were some obvious flaws.  Not every pigeon makes it to the right place on time and to our native hawk or Kahu, a pigeon is ‘meals on wings’. 

While times have moved on, the end result of this breeding refinement is now appearing on the nation’s farms. It’s the first sign of spring and some 150 days after the rams were let out in April, I’m now counting down the final four weeks.  Since calving comes around 283 days after last December’s mating, September is shaping up to be a busy month at my Hawke’s Bay farm, Trelinnoe. . .  

LIC set to pay record dividend – Owen Hembry:

NZAX-listed animal and farm improvement company LIC will pay a record dividend in a result chairman Stuart Bay says reflects the vibrancy of the farming industry.

Revenue at the dairy farmer co-operative for the year to May was up 21.4 per cent on the previous year at $165.6 million, with record underlying net earnings of $17.1 million, up 87.9 per cent.

The result would give farmer shareholders a record net dividend of $13.6 million, the company said . .

Ballance shareholders receive bumper rebate – Owen Hembry:

Fertiliser company Ballance Agri-Nutrients will pay a record rebate to it shareholders.

Operating profit for the year ended May 31 was $85.9 million, compared to $20.7 million the previous year. A record total average payment to shareholders of $50.29 a tonne included a rebate of $46 a tonne on fertiliser purchased and an imputed dividend of 10 cents a share, resulting in a total distribution of $49 million, the company said. . .

Federated farmers Waikato provincial president James Houghton takes issue with that in playing fast and loose with co-operation:

The news that fertiliser cooperative Ballance Agri-Nutrients is planning to pay a record rebate back to its shareholder farmers such as myself, was met with a few expletives around my area last week.

In the corporate world an $85.9 million operating profit, especially when up from $20.7 million the previous year would be great news.

In a co-operative though, it looks plain greedy. . .

Tanning our hides


Among the signs advertising beauty treatments in Singapore was one promising to lighten skins.

That struck me as strange, but perhaps people from there regard our desire to gain a tan as just as peculiar.

In spite of years of warning and repeated exhortations to slip, slop and slap, a tanned skin is stil regarded as more attractive than a pale and pasty one.

My generation spent most of its childhood outdoors. Summer Sundays at the river always finished with the application of Q-tol, that pink, sharp smelling liquid which I don’t think is available any more, which took the sting out of sun burn.

When I was a student I spent two summers as a pool attendant in Taupo, wandering round with as little on as was decent and only after my nose blistered did I start applying sun screen.

I’ve paid for it since with a couple of  skin cancers. They were basal cell carcinomas, which don’t usually spread and were spotted by my GP and removed and in the wake of that I am much more careful about limiting sun exposure.

The need to do this doesn’t just apply to Pakeha, there’s been a 90% increase in the incidence of melanoma in Maori.

Macdoctor has a theory as to why.

Life’s fatal


Too much red meat will kill you – study

I didn’t realise that was news because I’ve been reading reports recommending eating only moderate portions of red meat two or three times a week for years.

But I was interested in this:

Red meat was defined as beef, pork, bacon, ham, hamburger, hot dogs, liver, pork sausage, steak, and meats in foods such as pizza, stews, and lasagna.

No mention of lamb.

Does that mean lamb doesn’t count as cancer and heart disease causing red meat?

Or does it just mean that lamb is such a small part of the average diet in the USA the study didn’t think it rated a mention?

First Brit baby born without cancer gene


The first British baby born from an embryo screened to ensure she was free from a genetic risk of breast cancer has been delivered.

The use of this technology is controversial but I understand why propsective parents might choose to use it.

Our sons had degenerative brain disorders the cause of which was never determined but which was almost certainly genetic.

Neither passed any of the developmental milestones which left them with multihandicaps. Tom lived just 20 weeks and Dan died 10 days after his fifth birthday unable to do anything more by himself when he died than he could when he was born.

We decided the one in four risk of having another baby with the same condition was too great.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) wasn’t available 20 years ago and given no-one knew what to test for wouldn’t have been an option anyway.  But if we could have used it we almost certainly would have.

Gore shepherd perfect woman


Perseverance paid off for Gore Shepherd Jaimee MCMeeken who claimed the Perfect Woman  title on her fourth attempt.

Ms McMeeken has entered the competition for four years in a row, last year finishing second, and was determined to keep coming back until she won the trophy.

She achieved that yesterday after two days of intense competition between 30 contestants, with Wanaka shepherd Michelle Osbourne and Wanaka office worker Alice Ferguson second and third.

. . . Now she had won, she would not be back as a competitor, Ms McMeeken said.

She had loved coming back each year and had learned being patient and not rushing was the key to success.

“Every year I’ve learned different things and how to get better and better.

“It’s not about being butch, it’s about femininity . . . Even in speaking, it’s about taking a deep breath. And I never look at what everyone else is doing,” she said.

Among the tests the contestants faced was gutting and skinning a possum.

Proceeds from the contest, held annually in Wanaka, go to the Canlive Trust which helps people with cancer.

Rough Diamond a Little Smoother


I had a quick chat to Tim Shadbolt who was selling Southland’s attractions at the Farming In Southland stand at the Fieldays last week.

His grin was as wide as ever but I didn’t notice that he’d got botox injections.

It wasn’t vanity but charity which motivated him to endure the pain.

Believing it would take nitroglycerine to remove all the wrinkles on his face caused by his trademark grin, Tim Shadbolt said his first experience with botox was likely to be his last.

The Invercargill mayor received two botox injections near his eyes after volunteering for an extreme makeover competition organised by a local beauty clinic.

“It was excruciatingly painful, and luckily they gave me a rubber ball to squeeze while getting it.”

Tim showed off his new face at the Extreme Makeover Big reveal party in Invercargill yesterday. Proceeds from the event went to Look Good Feel Better, a charity which gives free beauty treatments to women who have cancer.

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