Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Friday 18th August, 2017 -Tony Riches/Wendy Janes, D.G. Kaye/ Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, Dan Alatorre/ Heather Kindt, Christy Birmingham


Smorgasbord Blogger Daily

Welcome to the last of the week’s blogger daily posts and perhaps you can enlighten me as to how Friday has come around so quickly!  Anyway I have been offline quite a bit today but I have a small selection of posts you might enjoy from around the community.

The first is from Wendy Janes who is not only an author but a professional proofreader too. This is part three of a series that she has been sharing and if you confuse your its and it’s and other transgressions, this is a post for you (and me). This is posted on Tony Riches blog.

The odd thing about grammar and punctuation rules is that they are a bit of a moveable feast. Some change depending on whether you’re using US or UK English and others are flexible depending on context, style and genre. Sounds like a can of worms, if you ask me. But let’s dive in and try and make some sense of it all.

First, I’d like to select the three rules that I see authors breaking most often. These ones are non-negotiable.

Use of it’s and its
it’s = it is (It’s raining)
its = belonging to (The creature protected its young)
The easy way to remember correct use of it’s and its is to say ‘it is’ whenever you come across either version. If the sentence makes sense when you say ‘it is’ then the correct term is it’s.

Get the rest of the three rules that are most commonly broken: http://tonyriches.blogspot.ie/2017/08/tips-for-new-writers-part-three-rules.html

We have had a post on the subject of writing and now we have one on the topic of reading and how important it is to keeping our brains engaged and active. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie is an authority on the brain and its functions and she was a guest of Debby Gies a couple of days ago.

Madelyn has written a fantastic article on the importance of reading books and explains in her post, just how far the information we retain from reading can help us relate to others, how reading benefits us as we age, the beneficial impact reading has on warding off Alzheimer’s disease, and much more!

Thanks to our ability to scroll through endless words on our computers, tablets and smart phones, more people are reading than ever before.

Still, while the act of reading itself has increased, there is a significant difference between reading anything and reading a book that pulls you into the mind of the author as you take a mental vacation.

Even hours of reading on FaceBook, or skipping from blog to blog reading multiple articles on various subjects, does not seem to have the same positive effect as reading a novel, a memoir or a carefully curated collection of short-stories.

And the more time we spend online, the less time we have for reading those wonderful books on our TBR lists (“To Be Read”).

That’s a real shame, too, because reading a good book is not only an enjoyable, affordable “vacation” that broadens our perspective, it turns out that science has discovered that it actually improves our brain functioning in ways that translate to improved thinking, mood, functional intelligence, more positive and productive connections in our lives, and so-much-MORE.

Read more about the benefits to the executive function of our brains of reading effectively: https://dgkayewriter.com/guest-feature-madelyn-griffith-haynie-power-reading/

Now that the winners for the Word Weaver competition that was created by Dan Alatorre have been announced, it is a great pleasure to share the beginning of the winning story by Heather Kindt.  As the first prize we are looking forward to working with Heather when she is ready to publish her book.

Ruby Slips and Poker Chips  by Heather Kindt

“It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her other surroundings.”

July 1995

Quandary Pond was situated between my house and the tiny one-bedroom shack that sat five minutes down the road. The shack was a rental, and a poorly cared for one at that. Our neighbors didn’t stay there much longer than a barefoot on the pavement outside Price Chopper in July. The house appeared lopsided to me, shingles falling off, and the siding was worn with time. Grass grew as high as my thigh and Uncle Embry often stated his intention to go over there and give the yard the weed whacking it deserved. The last residents had left in the middle of the night. I overheard Aunt Henrietta say something about drug charges.

“I’m going down to the pond!” The screen door shut behind me. Uncle Embry was at work at the air-conditioned post office and Aunt Henrietta reclined in the oversized Lazy boy trying to stay cool in the heat of the Kansas afternoon. The fan that oscillated next to the chair made more of a racket than what it was worth.

I preferred cooling off by the pond. Dressed in cutoffs and a tank from the local thrift store, my braids bounced against my back as I skipped down to my favorite hangout.

Making my way down the path from the house to the pond, I glimpsed a red station wagon sitting in front of the shack. New renters. I never really took the time to get to know anyone who lived there, since they’d probably be gone in a couple of months. Removing my shoes, I dove into the pond, no longer worried about the leeches that some of my girlfriends squealed about. After a short swim, I trudged out, settling on a drip dry as I made my way to the tree where I hid my stash. The hollow in the tree contained a jar for bug catching (usually fireflies at night), a couple bottles of water, a net, a pail and my science journal (which I kept in a plastic bag in case it rained). I picked out the net and started to creep around the reeds looking for Old Bill, the bull frog that was as large as a grapefruit and had so far avoided capture. My goal was to sketch and categorize each frog in the pond, as well as many of the insects. Rounding the bend by a large tree, Bill sat on a rock sunning himself. This was going to be the day. A crop duster flew overhead masking any sounds my feet made in the grass. I lifted my net at the perfect angle for frog catching, ready to pounce.

This is really a terrific story and I am sure that the book will be a winner too: https://danalatorre.com/2017/08/16/dan-alatorres-word-weaver-writing-contest-first-place-ruby-slips-and-poker-chips-by-heather-hackett/

For many people who are recovering from operations or illnesses the thought of bed rest can be attractive initially but then boredom sets in. Christy Birmingham looks at the issue and comes up with some strategies to stay sane.

There are numerous reasons why you might find yourself confined to your bed for a period of time. The most obvious are those regarding health; an injury or illness that means you have to follow doctor’s orders until you’re back to your best.

The idea of being on bed rest sounds, to the average busy person, pretty ideal. Bed is the space we all love; that we have to reluctantly drag ourselves from every morning, and leave behind when we go to work with a forlorn last longing glance. How could bed rest – staying in bed because you’ve been told to! – ever be a bad thing?

What at first feels like a luxury has a tendency to soon feel stifling. Being confined to a single room becomes boring; you find yourself wanting to get up and about, just see something different. While there is an element of enjoyment to be found in a period of bed rest – especially if you are usually always on the go – it’s not quite so enjoyable when you have to be there.

So if you find yourself in a situation where your life is going to revolve around a bed and not much else for a period of time, here is a simple guide to ensuring you stay comfortable both mentally and physically for the duration.

Head over and get these strategies under your belt.. you never know when you might need them: https://whenwomeninspire.com/2017/08/14/bed-rest-survival-guide/

Thanks very much for dropping in and I hope you have enjoyed the snippets and feel inclined to head over and read all the posts. There are a few posts over the weekend and the Blogger Daily will be back Monday.. Take care and thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – Prostate problems and Guest Post – PSA Tests – Yes or No by John Maberry


men's health

Welcome to the next part of the male reproductive system and today an overview of the prostate and health issues to be aware of.  Also a repeat of the guest post by John Maberry on Prostate cancer and the treatments available.

Prostate problems

As women face problems with their uterus, and possible hysterectomies, so men are faced with problems with their prostates. The good news is that in the majority of cases the conditions are benign, and are not going to lead to cancer, but symptoms should always be checked out.

In a young man the prostate is about the size of a walnut and it slowly gets larger as a man matures. If it gets too large, however, it can begin to cause problems with the urinary tract resulting in frequent urination and in some cases discomfort. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and is very common in men over 60 years old. If problems with urination occur especially at night then a doctor should be consulted. Usually a rectal examination or scans will detect the enlarged prostate and appropriate treatment prescribed. If the enlargement of the prostate and the urination problems are relatively mild then it is usually left for a period of time to see if the normal reduction in testosterone will result in a decrease in the size of the prostate.

If the enlargement of the prostate or the symptoms warrant medical intervention it is usual to prescribe either alpha-blockers (can have some nasty side effects) or a testosterone lowering drug. As the testosterone levels decrease the prostate shrinks and the urination problems are solved. However there can be side effects such as loss of sex drive and possible erectile problems.

There is a herb called Saw Palmetto that is taken by many men, who have been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate. As always, I prefer the natural approach but it is important that you consult your doctor before taking any herb in preference to medication to ensure that your progress is monitored carefully.

In extreme cases surgery may be advised if the urination problem does not improve. It can however result in other problems and should be considered carefully beforehand.

Now for the guest post by  John Maberry author of Waiting for Westmoreland and please feel free to comment and share his post.

PSA Tests—Yes or No by John Maberry

You know about PSA tests, right? A simple blood test that measures the level of prostate specific antigens in the bloodstream. The purpose is to detect the likelihood of cancer. This article is about whether to have one or not. First some background.

The prostate is a walnut sized gland that’s wrapped like a horseshoe around a man’s urethra. It’s primary function is to produce semen. Unfortunately, it can also become cancerous. In the U.S. 1 in 7 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death among American men, behind only (surprisingly) skin cancer. [American Cancer Society] Sounds scary, but only 1 in 38 men will die of it—a statistical disconnect between cancer-caused and other deaths. How so? Most prostate cancer progresses very slowly and starts after age 50, consequently most men die of something else in their senior years—heart attack, stroke, etc. But if it is cancer that kills them, prostate cancer is #2 on the list.

What about elsewhere in the world? According to 2012 statistics from World Health Organization, the incidence is similarly high in the rest of North America, Australia/New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe—probably because of the high level of PSA testing. Mortality is similar in those developed areas but higher in the Caribbean and most regions of Africa, probably as a result of medical treatment not being as available or affordable.

So, you’re a guy or you have one you care about, what about a PSA test? What follows is a whole lot of discussion of what it is and things for you to consider. But before we get to that, let me give you the bottom line—if you’re like me and have a family history of prostate cancer, ignore generic pros and cons and get the test every year or two.

The test entails drawing a small blood sample from a vein (usually in the arm) and sending it to a lab. What happens after that depends on the PSA level detected. Recently the PSA test has come under scrutiny, with one group in America recommending against routine screening. Others still recommend it. See this website for the pro position. Most other groups focused on men’s health or cancer disagree with the con position and have varying qualifiers related to age and family history—with the final decision to be an agreement between the man and his primary care physician. Medicare, and many private insurers still pay for it. Medicaid may or may not. Why the controversy? It relates in part to the limitations of the test itself and in part to what happens after the results come in. See more on the test at the Mayo Clinic site.

Limitations of the test include:

  • False positive results due to prostatitis, BPH, urinary tract infection or other conditions
  • False negatives due to taking certain drugs such as statins, obesity or low PSA despite a tumor
  • Age—PSA rises with age
  • The test by itself doesn’t correlate highly with the age-related risk of death from cancer
  • The risks of side effects from further testing
  • Side effects from treatment that may not be necessary (see more below on what happens after the test

What happens after the test: If the level is high, a retest may be done. A digital rectal exam (a doctor inserts a gloved in finger in the rectum to feel for hardened lumps on the prostate—which may be done in conjunction with or instead of the PSA test as a routine screening test for BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia—enlargement of the prostate that is very common as a man grows older; it causes more frequent urination as the gland squeezes the urethra). Beyond that, a whole host of potentially more costly and invasive (not to mention worrisome) procedures may be done:

  • A test for a urinary tract infection that might inflame the prostate (raising the PSA) as well
  • A transrectal ultrasound to look for tumors
  • A biopsy of the prostate (accessed through the rectum, the perineum or up the penis); this procedure itself can have side effects such as bleeding, infection and irritation

If the follow up tests confirm the presence of cancer this is where things get complicated

  • Is it the typical slow-growing cancer that will cause no problems before you die or the faster growing kind that requires action?

o Newer PSA velocity tests will note whether your PSA level is climbing quickly—a sign of a fast growing cancer

o The Gleason score measures how fast a cancer is growing—it ranges from 2-10, with 10 being quickest and most likely to spread. [My father died of prostate cancer in 1954 at age 48 and it had metastasized widely; my brother had his prostate removed in 1999 at age 68 when an ultrasound confirmed tumors after a high PSA score of 9.9 and a medium Gleason score—he is still alive and kicking at 84] See more on Gleason score here.

  • You have two basic options—watchful waiting or active surveillance with periodic retests (depends on your age) or treatment to remove the cancer
  • Treatments include [See more at Mayo]:

o Radiation—external beamed into the body or brachytherapy (rice grain sized pellets inserted in your body)

o Hormone therapy that reduces testosterone (the hormone helps the cancer grow)

o Cryotherapy (freezing prostate tissue)

o Biological therapy, also known as immunotherapy

o Surgery to remove the prostate

  • The bad news: all of the treatments, except possibly the hormone therapy, have a significant risk of urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction. This is where the issue of overtreatment becomes real and is a core part of the argument against screening—the doctor finds a cancer and the man gets treatment with side effects when if the prostate were left alone the cancer wouldn’t kill him.

So, as noted before, if you’re like me with a family history of prostate cancer the answer is clear—get the test. If you are of African descent, probably should get the test too. In any case, ask your doctor. Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope for the best.

About John Maberry.

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John Maberry dreamed of being a writer from second grade. Life got in his way. Like what, you may ask. Find out the details in Waiting for Westmoreland, the memoir he wrote about how he came to have a happy and successful life. That, after surviving a hard childhood, failed marriages, an eye opening year in Vietnam and more. He finished the memoir five years after retiring from a local government job in busy Northern Virginia.

That’s John in the photo, relaxing with his friend Larry the Lizard. He met Larry in Mimbres,
New Mexico. John and his wife relocated to scenic New Mexico six years ago. That move and other priorities, stalled the transition to speculative fiction, mysteries and writing genres. Finally, The Fountain, a collection of speculative fiction stories, is coming out in July, 2017. He’s also working on a few novels, planning for one every one to two years. No more delays, time is fleeting.

When not working on the novels or the websites, the family enjoys life in their dream home high atop a hill. His wife of 35+ years has her quilting/craft room. He has an office shared with an energetic dog who lounges on a loveseat behind him when not out chasing rabbits. He’s a happy man and a funny guy (strange/weird his wife says).

Books by John Maberry

About John’s latest release – The Fountain and six more fantasy & Scifi stories.

Humor, twists and more in this collection of seven fantasy and sci-fi short stories. Karma can be painful in “The Fountain”–when a plunderer meets a long-dead shaman. A family adopts a retriever with special talents in “Lily, an Amazing Dog.” A vampire has a strange problem, in “Alfred’s Strange Blood Disorder.” A perennial favorite, dimensional travel, with a strange twist in “The Closet Door.” What could that column of fire be, rising from the Atlantic off the Outer Banks? Read “The Flame” to find out what it meant to troubled writer Carson. A wizard casts a spell that works well for a princess, but will it be as good for him? Check out “The Wizard.” Finally, “The Fribble” offers an alien encounter of an odd sort, to a pharmaceutical company rep searching for new drugs in the Amazon Rain forest.

One of the early reviews for the book

If you enjoy short stories in fantasy/sci-fi genres, and stories that make you think then look no further than Maberry’s tales which will engross you with stories about karma, greed, time travel, aliens and muses.

In this book you will read stories about: a dog with extra sensory perception, a writer battling his own sub-conscience, a wizard who wonders if the spells he casts for others will work for himself, a man who experiences 2 lifetimes by opening a closet door. These are just a few of the stories to stimulate your reading appetite.

Maberry is a prolific writer who knows how to keep a reader captivated till the end and finishes his stories with an unexpected twist. This book also offers an excerpt to the author’s next upcoming novel. As in true Maberry style, he leaves us hanging in anticipation with more to come. A great read!

Read the reviews and buy the collection: https://www.amazon.com/Fountain-more-fantasy-sci-fi-stories-ebook/dp/B071KLTTJR

Read all the reviews and buy both books: https://www.amazon.com/John-Maberry/e/B002BM82FU

Connect with John.

My quarterly webzine on my Eagle Peak Press site
My book website, Waiting for Westmoreland
Writing blog, John Maberry’s Writing
Eclectic blog, Views from Eagle Peak

Social Media:

My thanks again to John for sharing this post and it is worth sharing as the message needs to be driven home…. #Get Checked

All the top to toe posts can be found in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe/

 

Smorgasbord Laughter Academy – Shaggy Dog Stories from around the world.


We all love our dogs and there are books, blogs and poetry devoted to them.. Here are a few of what are known as Shaggy Dog Stories.

From Australia

Whenever two drovers get together, there is the inevitable argument about who has the best kelpie sheep dog. So the merits of their respective dogs was the subject of the debate at the bar.

‘My dog’s so smart,’ said one, ‘ I can give him five instructions at the same time and he will carry them out to perfection.

‘That’s nothing,’ said his mate. ‘I only have to whistle and point and Bluey anticipates the whole exercise.

Finally they decided to put their dogs to the test. The first drover whistled his dog and told him to dash to the saleyards, select the oldest ram, bring him back into town and load it into the ute which was parked outside the pub.

The dog sped off in a cloud of dust and ten minutes later was seen bringing a large ram down the main street. He jumped into the ute, dropped the tail gate and hunted the ram in.

‘Well that’s not bad,’ conceded the second drover. ‘ But watch this.’

‘Bluey, what about some tucker?’

In a cloud of dust Bluey streaked down the main street to a farm five kilometres from town. The dog raced into the chook house, nudged a hen off the nest and gently picked up an egg.

The dog then sped back to town and gently placed the egg at his master’s feet. But without waiting for a pat on the head, the dog gathered a few sticks and lit a fire, grabbed a billy in his teeth and dashed to the creek. Returned and set the billy on the fire and gently dropped the egg into the simmering water.

After exactly three minutes, Bluey rolled the billy off the fire, laid the boiled egg at his master’s feet and stood on his head.

‘Well that beats all,’ conceded the first drover, ‘but why is he standing on his head?’

‘Well he knows I haven’t got an egg cup,’ said the proud owner.

From Ireland

An Irishman Patrick Flanagan was walking his Irish Setter in the countryside. He picked up a stick and threw it, the dog went and retrieved it and brought it back.

Patrick then threw it in a different direction and the dog once again went and retrieved it and brought it back. Patrick then threw it in another direction and it landed in a small lake. The dog went down to the water’s edge, walked across the water, picked up the stick and brought it back.

Well, Patrick was astounded. He couldn’t believe what he had seen and threw stick in the lake again, and the dog once again walked across the water to bring the stick back. As he went into town, he promised that he would show his dog’s wonderful new trick to the first person he came across.

Once in town the first person the dog owner came across was the town drunk Declan Dunphy. Patrick dragged Declan to the lake to show him what his dog could do. Once again, the dog owner threw the stick into the small lake and the dog went to the water’s edge, walked across the water, picked up the stick and brought it back to it’s owner.

Once the Irish drunk saw that, he turned to Patrick and said; “Why that’s great, mister! But when are you going to teach your dog how to swim?”

From France (and various other countries with various makes and models of dog.. )

A wealthy French lady decides to go on a photo safari in Africa, taking her faithful aged Poodle along for the company

One day the Poodle starts chasing butterflies and before long discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old Poodle thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep doodoo now!” Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat.

Just as the leopard is about to leap, the old Poodle exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious leopard! I wonder if there are any more around here?”

Hearing this, the young leopard halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees.

“Whew!” says the leopard, “That was close! That old Poodle nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection. So off he goes, but the old Poodle sees him heading after the leopard with great speed, and figures that something must be up.

The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard. The young leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, monkey, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

Now, the old Poodle sees the leopard coming with the monkey on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?” but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet,

Just when they get close enough to hear, the old Poodle says: “Where’s that damn monkey? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another leopard!”

Have a great weekend and please feel free to share the laughter. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Food in the News – Thumbs up for Coffee


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I love my morning cup of coffee but I usually have at around 11.00 .. it is decaffeinated however.. otherwise I would be wired for the rest of the day.

Summary

Scientists have found that people who drink coffee appear to live longer. Drinking coffee was associated with lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease. People who consumed a cup of coffee a day were 12 percent less likely to die compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. This association was even stronger for those who drank two to three cups a day — 18 percent reduced chance of death.
An extract from the article published on https://www.sciencedaily.com

Here’s another reason to start the day with a cup of joe: Scientists have found that people who drink coffee appear to live longer.

Drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory and kidney disease for African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Latinos and whites.

People who consumed a cup of coffee a day were 12 percent less likely to die compared to those who didn’t drink coffee. This association was even stronger for those who drank two to three cups a day — 18 percent reduced chance of death.

Lower mortality was present regardless of whether people drank regular or decaffeinated coffee, suggesting the association is not tied to caffeine, said Veronica W. Setiawan, lead author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association,” Setiawan said. “If you like to drink coffee, drink up! If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider if you should start.”

The study, which was be published in the July 11 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, used data from the Multiethnic Cohort Study, a collaborative effort between the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and the Keck School of Medicine.

To read the rest of the article and the benefits identified: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170710172118.htm

 

Thanks for dropping by and look forward to your feedback.. Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe- Female Reproductive System Update -Judith Barrow – Breast Cancer Survivor.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Following on from last week’s posts on the female reproductive system a repeat of a guest post during the original series in 2016. Judith Barrow is a breast cancer survivor and shares her story.

First a look at the statistics

Breast cancer is the top cancer in women worldwide and is increasing particularly in developing countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages.

521,900: The estimated number of breast cancer deaths in women worldwide in 2012 which is the last complete reporting date.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women; however, when looking just at developed countries, lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death in 2012, surpassing breast cancer. This change reflects the tobacco epidemic in these women, which occurred later than in men, according to the report.  Also, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the developing world due to increase life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.

It is estimated that there were 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012. However, this figure does not include women who develop the disease in countries where there is little health care and zero reporting of the statistics.

The good news is the survival rates have increased with earlier detection, more targeted treatments and better medication.

Breast cancer survival rates vary greatly worldwide, ranging from 80% or over in North America, Sweden and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries and below 40% in low-income countries (Coleman et al., 2008). The low survival rates in less developed countries can be explained mainly by the lack of early detection programmes, resulting in a high proportion of women presenting with late-stage disease, as well as by the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.

Source: http://www.who.int/cancer/detection/breastcancer/en/index1.html

Smorgasbord Health 2017

Now for this very personal story from Judith Barrow.

My thanks to one of the kindest and most supportive bloggers here on WordPress. Judith Barrow is also a wonderful author and her books have received amazing reviews. You can find out all about them at the end of the post.

Judith has had a complicated relationship with her breasts as she relates in her story but it became even more complex when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was over twenty years ago and one of the most important messages that I took from her excellent article is ‘Be bloody persistent‘ with your doctor…

You know your body better than anyone and if you believe that there is something that is different about your breasts and it persists for more than a week go and get it CHECKED. Don’t worry about wasting a doctor’s time as it is your time you need to be more concerned about.

As I have mentioned before, these articles are also for the men in our lives who also know us intimately. They too can spot changes in our bodies and also our general health, sometimes faster than we can.

MY BREASTS  BY JUDITH BARROW

judith-barrow

 I’ve always had a strange relationship with my breasts. They seem to have been a separate part of me since they started to grow–unwelcome–at the age of twelve. I was still into climbing trees, playing football; being one of ‘the boys’. The only thing they didn’t interfere with was my reading and writing, unless, of course, I chose to read or write lying on the floor on my stomach.

They were painful arriving. (I thought of them as appearing as unexpected guests in my body, much, I suppose, as I thought of the cancer, thirty years later). I left it as long as I could before asking my mother if she thought I needed a bra. She looked surprised; I suppose I was on the plump side and she hadn’t noticed. Anyway, off she went to Littlewoods store in Oldham to buy the most boring, white cotton bra she could find for me. (I made up for it in my later teens by buying the most exotic colourful bra and pants set I could find).

Those swellings on my chest grew to a size 36D by the time I was fourteen. Sport, my great love at the time, was curtailed by the bouncing around of those bloody boobs until I had the wit to fasten them in with two bras. Away from sport, the next two years saw me wearing the baggiest jumpers and all-encompassing coats I could find

It wasn’t until I left school after my GCEs and was in the Civil Service that I found out what an asset my now 38DD breasts could be. I didn’t dress in a provocative way (with a father like mine I wouldn’t have got away with that, even at the age of eighteen) but I made the most of fashion in the early seventies and, except for my breasts, I was slender. I passed interviews, gained promotions, without many an all-male board looking higher than my chest. I doubt some of them would have recognised me if they passed me in the corridors of those Government buildings. I knew what they were doing, but in those days girls had to put up with such Neanderthal behaviour; those who you could complain to were some of the ones acting like that. It angered me, but as far as I was concerned I gained my promotions justifiably: I was hard-working, efficient, organised; quick-thinking in every grade as I progressed. And I wasn’t going to change the way I was. Such behaviour would have them drummed out of their jobs now.

Even at that age, and working, my father didn’t allow me to date but I did manage to sneak out sometimes on the occasional date. But I was adamant; my breasts were mine; nobody touched!

Until I was married to David. My breasts became fun! And, for five years I revelled in my shape.

Then I had my eldest daughter. During the pregnancy my breasts ballooned; I felt a little bit like the figurehead on the front of a large sailing ship. After the birth, determined to breast feed I struggled for days until one of the nurses on the ward declared I was one of those mothers with ‘large boobs and no nipples’. My breasts were useless; hopeless in the function they were intended for. They’d let me down. Within days I got mastitis. The treatment was pain relief and to bind them. Tight. I was a failure. After a fortnight there was the grand unveiling of my chest. The health visitor pronounced she was satisfied. I wasn’t; these flattened breasts were someone else’s, not mine.

However I came to terms with them.

Then, after two years, I was pregnant again. This time, I’d be prepared; I knew what to do. Two months into the pregnancy, the midwife gave me nipple shields, hard rubber covers whose purpose was to extend the nipples to enable breast-feeding after the birth. In the end they didn’t work but, boy, were they useful when pushing through crowds.

The twins were unexpected; we only found out I was having them six weeks before they were born. The mastitis came back. And so did those damn crepe bandages.

It was eighteen months afterwards that I found my first lump. I was terrified. I had three children under three, my husband’s business was just taking off so he was working all hours of the day to keep our heads above water, and the rest of our family lived over two hundred miles away. My father forbid my mother to come and help; it was his opinion that we’d chosen to live in Wales, over two hundred miles away, why should she have to go all over the country to visit us; to help? We’d made our bed; we’d have to lie in it.

We did. We managed. I had an operation to have the lump removed. The lump was a cyst; benign.

As were the lumps I found and had removed on a regular basis over the next ten years.

Until ‘the one’. I knew it was different; it followed on from an abscess I’d had in the other breast. After two operations, a month of walking around with a drain in the abscess and daily visits from the district nurse, I’d taken my eye off the ball, so to speak.

And then, when I was well again, our eldest grandson was born. It was a time of celebrations.

So that morning, during a belated check when I found the lump, I knew. It wasn’t painful; it wasn’t hard; this was different.

Off to the doctors, then to hospital. I think the specialist was fed-up seeing me. ‘It’s the same as always, Mrs Barrow,’ he said. ‘No more needless operations. Ignore it, go home, enjoy the rest of your life.’ I tell no lie, those were his exact words.

Going home, we were stunned. But in a way, relieved.

‘He must know what he’s talking about,’ I said to David.

‘What do you think?’ he said.

‘It’s different.’ But I wanted to believe it wasn’t.

After days of argument he persuaded me to go back to the doctors.

It was round about the time that doctors’ surgeries first held their own budgets; our doctor agreed to send me to Cardiff University Hospital. There was money to pay for another check-up. But only a for second opinion, nothing else.

I remember that morning so well. I think what I noticed most was the quiet, the hushed whispers below the hubbub of the clinic; the rattle of trolley, the constant ringing of the telephone, the rustle of the nurses’ uniform, their voices confident as they went about their duties. We were a motley crew, those of us sitting on the grey plastic chairs; all at different stages of our breast cancers. Or potential cancers. There were the women–and two men– some accompanied by anxious relatives, others alone, who were quite obviously, like me, waiting for a verdict, a diagnosis of what they most dreaded. Then there were the others, some clad in headscarves, others unselfconsciously devoid of all hair. Some frail- looking, some, glowing with health. All with that air of waiting.

I’d forgotten to bring anything to read; to take my mind off why we were there; to take my attention away from my husband and his constant nervous drumming of his fingers on his knees.

The only magazines I could see were either about rock climbing or windsurfing. I kid you not. Someone had either donated them in the belief it would be something for us poor benighted souls to look forward to–or those publications had found their way from another ward. Perhaps the Orthopaedic ward? That thought gave me an unexpected inward laugh.

Eventually we were called in to see the specialist for an examination and then I was sent for a mammogram. After an hour we were taken to the specialist again and I was told I would need to have a biopsy. This had never happened previously; I’d just found the lump, had it confirmed as a lump, and had it removed. I suppose I thought it was different because we’d asked for a second opinion. They took a small sample of the lump out for examination. We waited for the result for hours. I can’t describe how I felt: it was as though it wasn’t really happening; I worried about the children, who we’d left with friends, I worried about David and how he would cope if the test came back positive How I would cope.

It did. I did. We did.

Thankfully the hospital ignored budgets.

When Sally asked me to write this post I didn’t want to labour over the operations, or the follow-up treatments and procedures. We got through them together, David and I, we were made stronger. Are stronger.

What having cancer did do for me, was to tell me that I should be brave enough, determined enough to live as I’d wanted; to share some of the pieces I’d been writing, secreting away, for years.   So I did. And in those early years, I had poems, short stories published. Then I went further; I took a degree in English Literature, then a diploma in drama and, finally a Masters in creative writing. I wrote four novels. Five years ago I had the first of my trilogy published by Honno, an independent press for women. Quite apt I think.

Now I run one-to one workshops for creative writing and classes for adults with the local council.

My breast and I have called a truce. I agree to check, they agree not to produce any lumps.

And I have celebrated every day of these last twenty years.

I hope all of you, diagnosed today, can do the same.

About Judith Barrow

I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I’ve had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles, notably in several Honno anthologies. My play, It’s Friday so it must be Fish was performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. A short film was made of my play, My Little Philly, and toured the Indie Festival. I am also a Creative Writing tutor and run workshops on all genres.

When I’m not writing I spend time doing research for my writing, walking the Pembrokeshire countryside or organising the letting of our holiday apartment Saddleworth House.

Judith’s Books

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Links to Buy Judith’s books
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6
Honno: http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781906784058
The You Tube link:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft1HGNvfY3k
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3295663.Judith_Barrow

Websites and Social Media
Website: http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk
Website: wwwjudithbarrow.com
Blog: judithbarrowblog.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithabarrow
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3/about

My thanks to Judith for her down to earth and frank post about her survival from breast cancer.. An inspiration.

Please share so that it reaches as many women as possible.. thank you Sally

 

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe -Female Reproductive System- OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER by Karen Ingalls


Smorgasbord Health 2017

This was first published last year but it is a message that is important and should be repeated regularly. My thanks to Karen for sharing her story and also the symptoms all women should be aware of.

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the reproductive system. Karen is an ovarian cancer survivor and therefore supremely qualified to write this article.. The post carries an important message about understanding how our bodies work and how we should be on the alert for anything that seems out of the ordinary.

OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER  by Karen Ingalls.

photo-on-2-14-16-at-139-pm-crop-u6133I am a retired registered nurse and had very limited education about gynecological diseases and cancers. From working in hospice I only knew that ovarian cancer is the deadliest one of all gynecologic cancers. My journey and initial diagnosis with ovarian cancer is not an unusual one.

I had gained a few pounds and developed a protruding stomach, both of which were unusual for me since I had always bordered on being underweight. When my weight continued to increase, I began an aggressive exercise and weight-loss program. I never considered these changes to be anything more than normal postmenopausal aging.

I saw my gynecologist for my routine PAP smear, which only determines the presence of cancer cells in the cervix. She could not get the speculum into my vagina and when she palpated my abdomen she felt a mass. I was rushed to get a CT scan, which revealed a very large tumor in my left lower abdomen. Two days later I had an appointment with a gynecologic-oncology surgeon for an evaluation.

A week later I had a hysterectomy by the gynecologic-oncology surgeon from which I learned the tumor was malignant. It is critically important that such a specialist in this field of oncology perform the surgery. They are experts and know what to look for and how to safely remove any tumors.

My surgery involved removing the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, omentum, ten lymph glands for microscopic investigation, and ten inches of my colon where the tumor had grown into. I am blessed that there were no cancer cells in my lymph glands or other organs. Two weeks later I was then started on chemotherapy for six rounds.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and common to many women so they are often ignored or attributed to something more benign. Most physicians do not consider the possibility of the presenting symptoms to be related to ovarian cancer. Often the woman is sent from one specialist to another, which I call the “Gilda Radner Syndrome.” With each passing day the cancer is growing and putting the woman at greater risk of being at a more terminal stage.

These are the most common symptoms:

*Abdominal bloating
*Pain in abdomen
*Low back pain
*Frequency of urination
*Changes in bowel habits
*Increased indigestion or change in appetite.
*Pain with intercourse
*Fatigue
*Unusual vaginal discharges
*Menstrual irregularities

If a woman experiences any of these symptoms for two weeks, it is recommended that she see her gynecologist and insist on an abdominal ultrasound and a CA125. The only laboratory-screening test currently available is a CA125 blood test, which unfortunately has a high incidence of false positives. We women need to be our own advocates and demand these inexpensive tests.

If the ultrasound and possibly a CT, MRI, or PET scans reveal a tumor, then in my opinion the woman must see a gynecologic oncologist. Typically the woman undergoes a debulking surgery, which is a complete hysterectomy and removal of any lymph nodes or any suspicious surrounding tissue or organs. The only way to accurately determine if cancer is present is through specimen testing of the tissue.

The risk factors are:

*Family or self-history of breast, colon, ovarian, or prostate cancers
*Eastern Jewish heritage (Ashkenazi)
*History of infertility drugs
*Never been pregnant
*BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 positive mutation
*Older than 60

I was staged at IIC and given a 50% chance of surviving 5 years. I had no family history of ovarian cancer and only one relative who had had breast cancer. I did not fit the typical criteria, and the BRCA1 and BRCA2 markers were negative for mutation. So the question, “Why did I get ovarian cancer?” remains unanswered and it is actually not an important one any longer.

The word cancer creates fear in everyone either mildly or extremely. Yet so often the things we fear are never as great as the fear itself. As a young person I had learned from my grandmother and adopted aunt that attitude, acceptance, and determination are the keys to facing a fear and to healing the body, mind, and spirit. Those women were, and still are today, w strong role models for me. They taught me about living a healthy lifestyle, which included a belief in God, exercise, good nutrition, positive thinking, healthy touch and meditation. These lifestyle choices had helped me face childhood abuse, divorce, alcoholic parents, and untimely deaths, and now they have helped me live with cancer.

I prefer to use the word challenge instead of problem, test, or trial. I like the word challenge because I envision positivity, learning, growing, and putting my best efforts forward. I did not think about being cured of the cancer, but more about how I can live my life with dignity, and what I am to learn from this new role as a woman with cancer. A family friend, Dr. LaJune Foster once said, “Look about for each bright ray of sunshine: cherish them, for in the days ahead they will light your path.” I deeply believe in this way of living.

I wrote about my journey with ovarian cancer to educate, support, and inspire women and their families. It is my own unique experience, but there are some common emotions, events, and experiences that all cancer survivors share. Like many others traveling this road, I have experienced valleys and mountaintops, darkness and rays of sunshine. I do not know what the future holds for me, but I have learned a lot about myself and met some incredibly courageous women.

The challenge of ovarian cancer was an opportunity for me to become a better person. My life is far richer and has the greater mission, which is to spread the word about this lesser known disease. I truly see each moment as a gift that is not to be taken for granted, but lived to its fullest with love. An important lesson I learned with the challenge of ovarian cancer is that the beauty of the soul, the real me, and the real you, outshines the effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. It outshines any negative experience.

  51gerumf7fl-_uy250_Buy the book: www.amazon.com/Outshine-An-Ovarian-Cancer-Memoir

Karen Ingalls is the author of the award-winning book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir; a volunteer with the Women & Girls’ Cancer Alliance of Florida Hospital and Women for Hospice; a public speaker; and an advocate for ovarian cancer awareness. Once a week she posts a blog about health/wellness, relationships, spirituality, and cancer. She resides in Central Florida with her husband. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO GYNECOLOGIC CANCER RESEARCH.

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She is the author of two novels: Novy’s Son and the award winning, Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

Buy the books

www.amazon.com/Novys-Son

www.amazon.com/Davida-Model-Mistress

Connect with Karen on her websites and social media.

www.outshineovariancancer.com
www.outshineovariancancer.blogspot.com
www.twitter.com/KarenIngalls1
www.facebook.com/pages/Outshine-An-Ovarian-Cancer-Memoir
www.facebook.com/pages/Karen-Ingalls/1473379352893458?sk=timeline
www.goodreads.com/kareningalls
www.linkedin.com/pub/karen-ingalls/37/509/ba8
www.kareningallsbooks.com
http://www.kareningalls.blogspot.com

My thanks to Karen for her detailed and inspirational post and it would be great if you could share the message on your own networks.. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Latest Research – Vitamin C treatment for Sepsis


Smorgasbord Health 2017

In April I posted an article on the latest research into IV Vitamin C treatment for some cancers. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/smorgasbord-health-2017-latest-research-vitamin-c-and-cancer/

There is now new research into the use of IV Vitamin C, combined with Vitamin B1 and steroid hydrocortisone in the threatment of sepsis. If you read the whole article it also backs up the earlier study with regard to cancer treatments.

Article by Dr. Mercola

Each year, an estimated 1 million Americans get sepsis and up to half of them die as a result. Sepsis is a progressive disease process initiated by an aggressive, dysfunctional immune response to an infection in the bloodstream, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as blood poisoning.

While illnesses such as bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat, kidney infection or even localized infections can turn septic, sepsis is most commonly acquired in hospital settings. Starting out with symptoms of infection, the condition can progress to septic shock, which may be lethal. Unless treated, sepsis can result in extremely low blood pressure that is unresponsive to fluid replacement, weakening of the heart and multiple-organ failure.

Unfortunately, treatment can be a considerable challenge, and is becoming even more so as drug-resistant infections become more prevalent. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, sepsis is the most expensive condition being treated in U.S. hospitals, costing more than $24 billion in 2014.

Critical Care Doctor Discovers Inexpensive Cure for Sepsis

Earlier this year, news emerged about a critical care physician who claimed to have discovered a simple and inexpensive way to treat sepsis using intravenous (IV) vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B-1) in combination with the steroid hydrocortisone— a discovery that may save tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year.

Dr. Paul Marik, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in East Virginia, published a small retrospective before-after clinical study showing that giving septic patients this simple IV cocktail for two days reduced mortality nearly fivefold, from 40 percent to 8.5 percent. Of the 50 patients treated, only four died, but none of them actually died from sepsis; they died from their underlying disease.

In all, Marik has treated more than 150 septic patients with this protocol so far, and only one has died from sepsis. In the featured video above, Marik discusses his study and the vitamin C protocol.

More than 50 medical centers around the U.S. have also started implementing the protocol, with similarly spectacular results. This should be cause for celebration but, as usual, there are detractors and skeptics saying Marik’s study is little more than fodder for hyperbole. Many doctors are also weary of using such a novel treatment.

Read the rest of this very important post : http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/07/10/vitamin-c-for-sepsis.aspx?utm_source

Smorgasbord Health 2017

What is Vitamin C

Vitamin C is probably one of the best known of our nutrients. It is rightly so as it has so many important functions within the body including keeping our immune system fighting fit. The best way to take in Vitamin C is through our diet, in a form that our body recognises and can process to extract what it needs.  For example a large orange a day will provide you with a wonderfully sweet way to obtain a good amount of vitamin C, but to your body that orange represents an essential element of over 3000 biological processes in the body!
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Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body.  It therefore needs to be taken in through our food on a daily basis.  It is in fact the body’s most powerful water-soluble antioxidant and plays a vital role in protecting the body against oxidative damage from free radicals.  It works by neutralising potentially harmful reactions in the water- based parts of our body such as the blood and within the fluids surrounding every cell. It helps prevent harmful cholesterol (LDL) from free radical damage, which can lead to plaque forming on the inside of arteries, blocking them.  The antioxidant action protects the health or the heart, the brain and many other bodily tissues.

Vitamin C is an effective agent when it comes to boosting our immune systems.  It works by increasing the production of our white blood cells that make up our defence system, in particular B and T cells.  It also increases levels of interferon and antibody responses improving antibacterial and antiviral effects.  The overall effect is improved resistance to infection and it may also reduce the duration of the symptoms of colds for example.  It may do this by decreasing  the blood levels of histamine, which has triggered the tissue inflammation and caused a runny nose.  It has not been proven but certainly taking  vitamin C in the form of fruit and vegetable juices is not going to be harmful. Another affect may be protective as it prevents oxidative damage to the cells and tissues that occur when cells are fighting off infection.

This vitamin plays a role along with the B vitamins we have already covered in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps determine our emotional well being.

Collagen is the protein that forms the basis of our connective tissue that is the most abundant tissue in the body.  It glues cells together, supports and protects our organs, blood vessels, joints and muscles and also forms a major part of our skin, tendons, ligaments, corneas of the eye, cartilage, teeth and bone.  Collagen also promotes healing of wounds, fractures and bruises.  It is the degeneration of our collagen that leads to external signs of ageing such as wrinkles and sagging skin.  There is a similar affect internally that can lead to degenerative diseases such as arthritis.  Vitamin C is vital for the manufacture of collagen and is why taking in healthy amounts in your diet can combat the signs of ageing.

Our hormones require Vitamin C for the synthesis of hormones by the adrenal glands.  These glands are situated above each kidney and are responsible for excreting the steroid hormones.  The most important of these are aldosterone and cortisol.  Cortisol regulates carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.  Aldosterone regulates water and salt balance in the body and the other steroid hormones, of which there are 30, help counteract allergies, inflammation and other metabolic processes that are absolutely essential to life.

The cardiovascular system relies on Vitamin C that plays a role in cholesterol production in the liver and in the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids for excretion from the body.  The vitamin also promotes normal total blood cholesterol and LDL (lousy cholesterol levels) and raises the levels of the more beneficial HDL (Healthy cholesterol) It supports healthy circulation and blood pressure, which in turn supports the heart.

The other areas that Vitamin C has shown it might be helpful to the body is in the lungs reducing breathing difficulties and improving lung and white blood cell function.  It is recommended that smokers take Vitamin C not just in their diet but also as supplementation.  Exposure to cigarette smoke may severely deplete the presence of Vitamin C in the lungs leading to cell damage.

Many studies are showing that Vitamin C can protect the health of the eye by possibly reducing ultra violet damage.  The vitamin is very concentrated in the lenses of the normal eye which can contain up to 60 times more vitamin C than our blood.  Damaged lenses appear to have a much lower amount of vitamin C which indicates that there is not sufficient to protect the lens from the effects of free radicals or support the enzymes in the lens that normally removed damaged cells.

Research is ongoing with Vitamin C and certainly in the fight against cancer there are some interesting developments.  As usual I will be covering the latest medical research of our featured vitamin and mineral.

Vitamin C works as part of a team helping in various metabolic processes such as the absorption of iron, converting folic acid to an active state, protecting against the effects of toxic effects of cadmium, copper, cobalt and mercury (brain health).

One word of warning if you are on the contraceptive pill. Vitamin C in large supplemental doses can interfere with the absorption of the pill and reduce its effectiveness.

QUESTION – WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN C.

A total deficiency is extremely rare in the western World.  A total lack of the vitamin leads to scurvy, which was responsible for thousands of deaths at sea from the middle ages well into the 19th century.  Some voyages to the pacific resulted in a loss of as much as 75% of the crew.  The symptoms were due to the degeneration of collagen that lead to broken blood vessels, bleeding gums, loose teeth, joint pains and dry scaly skin Other symptoms were weakness, fluid retention, depression and anaemia.  You can link these symptoms back up to the benefits of vitamin C and understand how many parts and processes of the body this vitamin is involved in.

In a milder form a deficiency has also been linked to increased infections, male infertility, rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal disorders.

You can find out the food sources of Vitamin C in the full post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/smorgasbord-health-vitamin-of-the-week-vitamin-c-immune-system-and-3000-biological-reactions/

Thank you for dropping by and as always if you have any questions that you wish to leave in the comments please do and you can also email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Guest Writer – Julie Lawford – Left/Write: On being a Southpaw


As part of a series of health posts over the summer Julie Lawford explores the differences between those of us who are right and left-handed. Previously posted on Julie’s blog.

Left/Write: On being a Southpaw by Julie Lawford

I’ve never mentioned it before on my blog, but, in common with only around 10-12% of people, I’m left-handed.

At school, I was tormented for my left-handedness – but never by fellow pupils. My junior school was overseen by a psychotic headmaster with Victorian attitudes and a bullying streak that would have seen him shamed in today’s education system. In the 1960’s, the fact that he would, scarlet-faced with explosive rage, blood-vessels bursting from his neck, physically terrorise pupils who fell short of his most exacting standards, was considered acceptable. Parents did not feel burdened to look beyond the high academic standards the school achieved.

The curse of cursive

This terrifying man would teach Penmanship to classes of 8-11 year olds.

My problems arrived as we graduated from pencils to an antiquated pen-and-inkwell combination – his view being that everyone should be able to master the skill of writing in traditional cursive style, using a pen and ink. We were each allocated a wooden pen holder and a single pen nib. Our desks held inkwells in the top right-hand corner. We would all dread our Penmanship lessons – they were terrifying for anyone with even slightly ham-fisted handwriting.

As a left-hander, my fear was intensified by the helplessness of my situation. For a left-hander, it’s all but impossible to use a pen-and-ink without smudging every line and spattering your paper with ink. As a right-hander working from left to right across the page, you’re pulling your pen along, and the ink flows smoothly out from the tip of the nib. With a left hander, the pen is pushed. It catches the paper, it pings and splashes. And, as your writing hand follows immediately in the wake of wet ink, you bear the added trial of having to avoid smudging every word as you write it across the page. I failed, time and again, to produce work of the required standard and was repeatedly pilloried for my shortcomings. I was made to feel there was something deficient about me, because I’d been born left-handed.

We’re a sinister bunch

My old headmaster’s persecution of lefties isn’t without precedent. At various times in history, left-handedness has been seen as some pretty dreadful things: the mark of the devil and a sign of neurosis or criminality for example. The word sinister, as in… creepy, disturbing, evil, menacing… is the Latin word for left. And in olde English, the word left arises from the Anglo-Saxon word lyft, which means weak or broken. Even in modern language the bias lingers; a left-handed compliment is actually a criticism or insult.

Ambi… ambi… what?

Like many left-handers, I have some right-handed and some ambidextrous behaviours (no smirking in the back row please).

As a child, sport worked mostly in my favour. I played hockey right-handed, due to the lack of left-handed hockey sticks back in the 1970’s. I played tennis with a racket in my left hand but could do a quick swap to my right hand when a left-handed backhand was out of reach.

Then there was the learning of musical instruments. I could cope with the piano but when it came to the clarinet I had to sit and grip it between my knees, as my stronger arm, my left, was at the top of the instrument, not the bottom, making it feel too unstable to hold. But I was okay with the guitar. I know some left-handed guitar players invert their strings and play with the neck of their guitar to the right, but I learned right-handed (the ‘normal’ way) and that seemed to work for me.

My mother once tried to teach me knitting, and when I couldn’t naturally grasp the required motions, she found a left-handed friend to teach me. I went from working left-to-right (or perhaps it was the other way around) to swapping entirely but neither approach felt right. I would start in one direction, then put down my needles, and pick them up again and set off in the other direction. The results were confusing and to this day, I’ve never managed to get to grips with knitting.

Whilst I use a knife and fork combo in the traditional way (fork to the left, knife to the right), I use a spoon in my left hand. I try to avoid desserts which require two utensils because using a spoon in my right hand makes me look like a toddler shovelling mush into my mouth – not pretty at all.

I used to wear a watch on my left wrist, because that’s what everyone does, but it gets in the way as I write, catching on the edge of the desk and being generally uncomfortable, so nowadays, I hardly ever wear a watch at all.

Puzzlingly for some, I use a computer mouse in my right hand. But I have a tendency to put cards in envelopes in such a way that when a right-handed person pulls them out, they’re upside-down.

What about the… who?

We left-handers have never mobilised like other minorities. We don’t have pressure groups and alliances, annual marches or colourful branding. We haven’t bemoaned the unfairness or bias we encounter. We just get on with it.

But the truth is, when it comes to industrial design, the southpaws of this world are frequently forgotten, with handles, buttons, switches and levers favouring the right-handed community.

Many smaller tools are designed for right-handers – scissors, can openers, vegetable peelers, serrated kitchen knives for example. It’s thanks to shops like http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk that those left-handers who struggle more than I do with right-handed cutting implements have somewhere to go to find tools that work for them. Many left-handers just make do with the right-handed versions and adapt their techniques – as do I.

As a paper crafter, it’s tricky to cut stuff out neatly with my set of precision right-handed scissors, because I can’t actually see the line I’m cutting. But I’ve got used to how right-handed scissors work in my hands, and where I need to line up to cut and I wonder, if I ever took hold of a pair of left-handed scissors, whether I would be able to adapt.

I saw an article today in the news about some new open-plan office ‘pods’ designed to give people privacy and a sense of insulation as they worked in open-plan environments. You can see them here. I thought they were a fascinating concept, but it was immediately obvious that these pods are designed for right-handers. I scanned the promotional material but I couldn’t see any reference to a reversed version for left-handers.

But it’s not all bad

Although this is disputed (ahem… perhaps by all those right-handers), left-handers are supposed to be more introverted, intelligent and creative. Far be it for me to disagree. Apparently in left-handed people the connections between right and left brain are faster, meaning – apparently – that we can deal more effectively with multiple stimuli. That sounds nice, whatever it means.

The worlds of art, music, drama and literature are filled with left-handers. There’s a great list of 1000 left-handers Here including all manner of famous names, and a few infamous ones too.

The list of left-handed presidents of the USA is disproportionate (eight out of 44) and includes Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton and, latest to join the list, Barack Obama. And space is disproportionately southpaw too – one in four Apollo astronauts were left-handed.

But because this is (mostly) a blog about writing, I’m giving special mention to a few left-handed authors: Douglas Adams, Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka, Mark Twain and H G Wells.

Are you a Southpaw?

I’m curious. Statistically, 10-12% of the readers of this blog will also be left-handed. Are your experiences the same as mine? Have you grappled with anything in this right-handed world – implements, skills or activities? Have you found ways around those challenges?

If you’re an author (right or left-handed), have you ever written a character to be specifically left-handed? And if so, why?

I’d love to open up the comments section for all things left-handed and have a lively debate, so please, do share.

About Julie Lawford

Always engaged with the written word, Julie Lawford came to fiction late in the day. Following a career in technology marketing she has been freelance since 2002 and has written copy for just about every kind of business collateral you can imagine. By 2010, she was on the hunt for a new writing challenge and Singled Out – her debut psychological suspense novel – is the result.

Julie is based in London in the UK. Whilst penning her second novel, she still writes – and blogs – for marketing clients.

Singled Out by Julie Lawford

About the book

‘There’s something delicious about not being known, don’t you think?’

Brenda Bouverie has come on a singles holiday to Turkey to escape. Intent on indulgence, she’s looking for sun, sea and … distraction from a past she would give anything to change.

But on this singles holiday no one is quite who they seem. First impressions are unreliable and when the sun goes down, danger lies in wait. As someone targets the unwary group of strangers, one guest is alone in sensing the threat.

But who would get involved, when getting involved only ever leads to trouble?

Singled Out subverts the sunshine holiday romance, taking readers to a darker place where horrific exploits come to light, past mistakes must be accounted for and there are few happily-ever-afters.

A simmering psychological suspense laced with moral ambiguities, for fans of Louise Doughty, Sabine Durrant, Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Haynes, S.J. Watson and Lucie Whitehouse.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Singled-Out-Julie-Lawford-ebook/dp/B00RO1GH28/

Connect to Julie Lawford at her website and on social media.

Website: https://julielawford.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieLawford
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julie.lawford.1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/julielawford/

Thank you to Julie for this insight into living in a world with a right-handed bias.. and we would love to hear about your experiences. Thanks Sally