Fandango’s Provocative Question

There are some questions that are rarely asked because the emotions that they stir up can be almost unbearable and because they cannot help but completely divide opinion. That said, these are often the questions that should be asked because they provoke discussion and, however unpalatable these discussions may be they are necessary if the human race is to continue to move forward. For that reason, I’ve decided to try and answer the incredibly provocative question posed by the fearless Fandango.

There are some questions that are rarely asked because the emotions that they stir up can be almost unbearable and because they cannot help but completely divide opinion. That said, these are often the questions that should be asked because they provoke discussion and, however unpalatable these discussions may be they are necessary if the human race is to continue to move forward. For that reason, I’ve decided to try and answer the incredibly provocative question posed by the fearless Fandango.

Do you believe that terminally ill people should be allowed or encouraged to end their lives via physician-assisted suicide? If so, under any circumstances or should there be restrictions? If not, why not?

My first response to this is to ask another question: If your family pet was dying, visibly suffering and the vet had told you there was nothing they could do what would your reaction be? You knew that, if you did not take action, your beloved cat or dog would face the rest of its life in pain and anguish…what would you do? For most of us, although it may break our hearts we would ask the vet to put the animal to sleep, to end its suffering. How is it then that we do not afford the same kindness to our fellow humans?

Almost 5 years ago, I watched my husband die from esophageal cancer which was complicated by secondary cancer in his liver. I watched him suffer when the doctors put cameras down his throat, he was sedated but told me that the process was agony. I was with him on the day that they decided to operate on his esophagus, a major and frightening procedure. They opened him up and then found the secondary cancer so they woke him up from the anesthetic and, while he was still groggy, told him that the operation would not go ahead and that there was nothing more they could do for him. That was his death sentence, it was delivered with little compassion and it broke my husband’s heart because he knew that he would be leaving this World and everyone in it that he loved. Worse than this, he knew that he would die in considerable pain.

I fought to find him a place in a hospice because I couldn’t bear the treatment that he received in hospital. I don’t want to go into detail because I don’t want to relive the memories but no-one deserves the mental and emotional cruelty that he suffered in the name of ‘treatment’.

Cancer is the most awful disease. It is cruel. It robs people of their dignity, it strips the flesh from their bones and leaves them as shadows of their former selves, in pain, connected to machines, drips, tubes all designed to keep them in their suffering for as long as possible. For what? For who?

A few months before his death I was asked to sign a ‘do not resuscitate order’ and, although I couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to the only man I’d ever loved, I didn’t hesitate because watching someone you love slowly taken apart by this terrible disease is far worse than letting them go. What is it they say about if you really love someone you’ll let them go….?

One of the things that I will always feel guilty about is not spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with my love before he died. In films or on the TV it’s always like that isn’t it? The relative sleeping in a chair beside their loved one’s bed, holding their hand, not leaving, eating or even changing their clothes but real life isn’t like that or at least it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t or wouldn’t accept that my husband was going to die. Of course, I knew on an intellectual level but I wouldn’t believe it because the thought was too awful to bear. So I visited every single day, for hours at a time, but I also carried on with my life because, in my head, that which I knew to be inevitable could never happen.

This went on for several months, my husband suffered, I suffered, his family and mine suffered, it was prolonged, torturous and unnecessary. If my love had been given the option to end his life with a morphine overdose I believe he would have taken it just to put an end to, what had become, a miserable existence; it could really be called a life any longer. If he had made that choice I like to think that I would have supported him in his decision because it was his to make.

When I spoke to one of the hospice nurses after my love had left this World she said that his death had been ‘difficult’, basically, he had suffered. The really awful part of this was that I was not there with him, he was alone with a nurse, a very caring woman but not someone who loved him; don’t we all deserve to be with someone we love when we die?

If medically assisted suicide was allowed I could have been there, he could have been surrounded by the people that he loved at a time and place of his choosing and not at 2am, in a hospice with a kind nurse the only person there to hold his hand. I know that people will say that the processed could be abused, the lawmakers fear that assisted suicide could become murder or that people who would otherwise go on to recover, especially from mental illness, will take their own life but it is their own life isn’t it? The human race is happy enough to kill, many places still have the death penalty, we start wars over territory or religion, we maim and murder for pleasure or profit and yet we balk at the idea of allowing someone to take their own life. Why?

The grief that I have suffered and still suffer following the death of my beloved husband would be no different had he died as he did or through medically assisted suicide. The pain would not be lessened but the guilt would have been because I could have been there with him.

We put animals to sleep, when they are suffering, in the name of kindness and compassion, it’s through noble intent. We condemn those who hurt animals or treat them badly because animals like cats and dogs can’t really fight back against the mighty human AND YET we allow our fellow humans to go through far worse in the name of ethics. Why?

To finally answer Fandango’s question: I absolutely believe that people should have the right to end their suffering through assisted suicide if they are terminally ill.

Lisa

x

 

An Attempt at Clarity

In fact, forget all the little labels and try to think about it this way: if something is natural and non mucked about with, chances are it’s healthy: fresh fish, lean meat, fruit, nuts and vegetables essentially. If something has been processed (ready meals, packet foods, soda’s etc) or is ‘junk’ food (take away burgers, pizza’s, fries, donuts etc) then, chances are, it will be bad for you. 

Have you noticed these days that a lot of food packaging these days is covered in little coloured charts and masses of numbers and percentages? This is manufacturers and Governments way of making us more aware of the food that we eat but it’s not exactly straightforward is it? This is the sort of thing I’m talking about:

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So, the colours are pretty straightforward; green is good, amber is OK and red is bad but what about the rest of it? What are the percentages? How much is 30g? What’s the difference between fat and saturates? What’s a reference intake? All in all it’s pretty confusing isn’t it?

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Well, this is 30g of cornflakes and it’s not a lot is it? If you are trying to lose weight you need to be really aware of portion sizes. This portion size will give you 110kcal but, if you eat double this amount, you will be taking in 220kcal and that’s without any milk, added sugar, tea and toast.

If you are counting your calories: 220kcal is about half an hour of fast paced walking……

Then we need to think about percentages but first we need to know what is 100% for each of the categories i.e. what are our advised daily limits:

Fat: a maximum of 70g per day. There is 15g of fat in an avocado and 49g in almonds but there are a great many health benefits to eating both as they contain monounsaturated (or heart healthy) fats. If you are trying to lose weight, both can be included in your daily food intake BUT in small quantities as they are high in calories: 144 cals per 25g of almonds and 160 in a small avocado

Saturated Fat: a maximum of 24g per day. 2 sausages can give you up to 11g of saturated fat or almost half your daily allowance [Source]

Sugars: a maximum of 30g per day. To give you an idea, one Mars Bar has 42g of sugar or almost 150% of your daily allowance.  [Source] It’s obvious that sweets and cakes will contain a lot of sugar but you also need to be aware of the refined sugars that are ‘hidden’ in many of the other foods that you eat – next time you’re wandering around the supermarket with half and hour to spare check out the food labels on ready meals!

Salt: a maximum of 6g per day. Two rashers of smoked back bacon will take up more than half this daily allowance with 3.8g of salt

Now the chart above makes a little bit more sense; if your limit for sugar for the day is 30g then 5g for your breakfast cereal (assuming you eat the recommended portion size) is really quite a lot when you think about the other things you eat on a daily basis that contain sugar.

Sugar and salt are pretty straight forward but fats are a little bit more complicated because you can have good fats and bad fats and knowing the difference between the two will really help if you are trying to live more healthily. Basically, unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) are essential to maintain a healthy body and, when eaten in moderation, can reduce your cholesterol levels. On the other hand, saturated fats and trans fats will increase your cholesterol levels if you eat too much of them and put you at risk of heart and blood pressure problems.

Examples of the good fats:

 

Then there are the ones that you really want to give a miss, accept on very rare occasions if you want to keep healthy. They all contain trans fats (essentially mucked about with oils) which the USA consider unsafe and will be phased out over the next 3 years. As far as I’m aware no such ban is being considered in Europe and foods containing trans fats are not required to be labelled as such despite there being a link between their consumption and types of cancer.

 

Whilst I’ve been writing this, I’ve realised quite how complicated all this stuff is so I’m going to try and simplify it further – without complicated terms, statistics, percentages or little charts. In fact, forget all the little labels and try to think about it this way: if something is natural and non mucked about with, chances are it’s healthy: fresh fish, lean meat, fruit, nuts and vegetables essentially. If something has been processed (ready meals, packet foods, soda’s etc) or is ‘junk’ food (take away burgers, pizza’s, fries, donuts etc) then, chances are, it will be bad for you.

Even simpler? Prepare and eat food made from natural, individual ingredients. As food author Michael Pollan says:

“Simply by starting to cook again, you declare your independence from the culture of fast food. As soon as you cook, you start thinking about ingredients. You start thinking about plants and animals and not the microwave. And you will find that your diet, just by that one simple act, that is greatly improved”

 

 

 

 

It’s For Your Own Good

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this…. 

What’s your first reaction when someone tells you you’re wrong? Feel a bit miffed? Hackles go up? Think of arguments to defend your position? All perfectly normal; none of us really likes being told we’re wrong and, worse, being proved wrong.

There was recently a case in point; Cancer Research UK (for whom I personally have massive respect) were caught up in a Twitter battle which was then picked up by the mainstream media. Why? They had the audacity to put out an advertisement which did nothing more than state facts:

Cancer UK ad

It’s perfectly true, people who are obese are more likely to die from certain cancers than those who are a ‘healthy’ weight; it was a very bold ad and was, I’m sure, designed to attract attention. However, it also put out a more subtle message which is, effectively, ‘if you die from an obesity related cancer, it’s your fault’ or, to put it another way ‘the choices you make are wrong‘. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing as I’m sure that it put the fear of God into some people and  made them think about a more healthy lifestyle but it can also put people’s backs up and make them defend their choices more rigorously however compelling the evidence against them may be. This is certainly true of Sofie Hagen Sofie Hagen who started the Twitter storm with comments like:

“So hey, hate fat people. But admit that you hate fat people. That whole ‘It is unhealthy’ speech is embarrassing and it’s getting old now. You don’t want us to be healthy, you want us to hate ourselves. Because you hate us. Own up to your bigotry.” and

“If you genuinely think you care about the health of fat people, fine. Has centuries of shaming, bullying and scaring fat people made us lose weight? Or are there more fat people than ever?”

When I read those comments my first thought was ‘wow this poor girl is really scared’ but the second was ‘she is completely delusional’.  I’m sure that she knows, on some level, that being obese is not healthy  but she’s never going to admit it all the time that people are telling her she’s made the wrong choices. I doubt very much if she will try to lose weight because, the more people attack her position, the more likely she is to defend it.

I some ways I absolutely applaud Cancer Research UK for their ad as I think that rising levels of obesity are a concern but I can’t help wondering if promoting all the positive aspects of a healthy diet would be more effective? In order to break an addiction people need one of two things: a massive negative from continuing with their addiction or a massive positive from stopping – which do you think is more productive? I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this….

 

Love Hurts

The question is: What is too much?

It’s a sad fact of life that, sometimes, the things that we love most will not make us happy in the end and this is so true when it comes to food. Unfortunately people build emotional attachments to certain foods in the same way that they do with people and, just as we must accept that our love of Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie is destined to be unrequited, we must also accept that our love of some foods will ultimately do us harm.

Various Governments have gone to great lengths to ensure that food packaging these days is covered with loads of nutritional information which is supposed to enable us to have a healthy and balanced diet. Unfortunately there isn’t enough room on the packaging to explain what all the percentages and diagrams actually mean so most people don’t take a blind bit of notice. There are a few things in food which we need to keep an eye on if we are going to live a healthy life and one of them is:

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Sugar: Much of the processed and fast food that are the staples of many people’s diets these days contain an awful  lot of added sugar and, simply put, ingesting too much sugar can lead to heart attacks, liver failure, type two Diabetes, certain cancers and a host of other nasties that you really don’t want. The question is: What is too much? Anything more than about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons a day is the answer. So what is going to take you over your 25 grams?

A single can of cola has about 39 grams

A supermarket sandwich and a low fat yoghurt have around 30 grams

A blueberry muffin has around 30 grams

Just these 3 items could well be lunch for someone who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle: there’s no fat in cola, a sandwich is just a sandwich, the yoghurt is low fat and everyone knows that blueberries are good for you. Right? Unfortunately no – in this one meal you will have around 99 grams of sugar which is 4 times the recommended daily amount. If you then add in cereal and milk for breakfast you will have around another 15 grams; sweet and sour chicken with rice for dinner could add another 60 grams which takes your total for the day (without snack bars, sweets, ice-cream or chocolate) to around 174 grams

You will also need to check any labels carefully when you decide to reduce your sugar intake as it can be referred to as sucrose, syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, glucose, saccharose and sweeteners, to name but a few!