Monday, 27 August 2012

Through the keyhole... and into your prostate!

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in this country. There are around 30,000 new cases per year in the UK and the number is gradually rising. 

Few men are aware of the worrying statistics surrounding prostate cancer and even fewer are aware just how treatable the disease is.

Christopher Eden, the UK’s most experienced laparoscopic (keyhole) urologist spends his life operating on men with the disease as well as explaining just how important it is for men to get themselves checked out.

Early diagnosis is key
According to Mr Eden, prostate cancer normally affects men later in life. “It’s really a disease of ageing men; it peaks usually in the mid-60s,” he says. “What is very interesting is that we’re finding younger and younger patients with it. Last year we had three men in their 30s and over a hundred in their 40s. It’s becoming a much commoner disease.”

Despite the dangers, many men are embarrassed about talking to their GPs or are afraid of getting bad news. But early detection is paramount when it comes to prostate cancer. According to Mr Eden, one man per hour dies from prostate cancer in the UK, having overtaken lung cancer in men around a decade ago.

He explains: “The disease has the potential to shorten life, but it has a very long lead time and can be cured in most men. It’s a slow-growing cancer. If it’s removed by a high-volume surgeon there is usually very good post-operative bladder and sexual function.”

What causes it?
The causes of prostate cancer vary, but there are two major contributors: lifestyle and genetics.

Saturated fats, for example those found in red meats and dairy products, and a deficiency of antioxidants derived from fresh fruit and vegetables can increase the risk dramatically.

Mr Eden’s advice is simple. “Approximately 40% of prostate cancers are genetic. If there is a family history, people should reduce the risk by altering their lifestyle and diet,” he says.

“They should increase their fruit and vegetable intake and also get some exercise as obesity is an independent risk factor for developing prostate cancer. It’s important people know that. From the age of 40, men should be checked on an annual basis, especially if there is a family history, as the risk is two to three times as high.”

Early diagnosis is vital
Although more and more men are concerned about getting prostate cancer, few know how to find out whether they have it. The first step would be to get a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test, which is a cheap and readily-available test and checks for blood bladder abnormalities. Although a biopsy is needed to test for the cancer itself, the PSA test is used as a relatively broad measure to flag up patients that could be at risk.

And those waiting to see symptoms before they head to the doctor’s should think again.

“Typically, men don’t have any symptoms. We need to identify it before they have symptoms or a lot of the time it’s too late," says Mr Eden. "Often men with urinary symptoms have benign enlargement of the prostate. They might have a weak flow or need to go to the loo in a hurry.

"These are often signs of a benign condition, but they should see their GP as prostate cancer can co-exist. They should get the PSA test, but it’s the prostate biopsy that detects cancer.”

While cancer is obviously a very serious illness, prostate cancer is one of the most treatable kinds. “The lifetime risk of having prostate cancer is 30%,” Mr Eden claims. “Having it as a clinical disease is 10% and the risk of dying is 3%. This is largely because a lot of men are diagnosed at a stage when it is curable. It’s much better if it’s picked up at an early stage.”

To find out more about prostate cancer, the diagnosis and the treatment, is to visit

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Boom and bust: the false economy

Special guest blog with Tim Childs

One of the things that has been brought to the fore in the last few years is the economy that booms for a time and then goes bust.

The boom and bust economy serves the get-rich-quick mentality. The worst aspect is that it creates super-rich people and corporations who don’t even pay token amounts of tax, while at the bottom it creates low-wage, dead-end jobs; so it only serves to increase the already large divides between rich and poor. 

But I’m not just blaming the rich; I think we all need to rein in our finances. We can all cut down and live within our means. In this age of easy credit, many people are living on money that they don’t have, buying things they don’t really need and then finding themselves in debt. That includes individuals, corporations and entire nations. 

It’s easy to get our hands on money and worry about repaying it later; and we have paid the price for this. It is my belief that no one should live on credit, and that we should all live within our means. I understand necessities are a different matter; but do we need that plasma TV? Do we need a second holiday? Do we need to redecorate the house at great expense? 

The financial hub in London was living beyond its means, and when things went bust – and boy did they go spectacularly bust – everything went with it, and we are all paying the price for it now (except perhaps the bankers who are still on huge bonuses). 

In the end, most societies’ economies are only really about the wealthy and powerful staying wealthy and powerful, and if some crumbs fall off the table for the rest of us, so much the better. 

But the reality isn’t really one of a nation benefitting, that ‘we’re all in this together’. It’s about a precious few making tons of money while the rest of us look on with no real chance of doing the same.

Shouldn't churches and responsible people be talking about this? Shouldn’t governments and parties of every political hue be trying to stop the worst aspects of boom and bust? 

Whatever happens and whatever is said, it’s obvious that until we start to look at this and the moral and even spiritual bankruptcy behind it, nothing is going to stop the boom and bust of wealthy economies. I hate to say it, but as long as rich people make money, nothing else seems to matter. 

The answer is for all of us to stop being greedy, quite frankly.  How many millions of pounds do you need to be happy? How many houses can you live in? How many cars can you drive at one time? 

There is a moral and a spiritual dimension to all of this. It may be legal and above board to make money while the sun shines and to hell with everyone and everything else, but there will be a price to pay.

However rich or poor you may be and wherever you find yourself in the social system, such behaviour is contrary to God’s laws.

So how does a person prosper and live as a Christian at the same time? By putting God first! I think we put God first by acknowledging that there is a spiritual and moral dimension to life, and by regarding other people as being as precious as ourselves, our own families and friends. 

Finally, is it good for people to expect so many years of the high life and then somehow always be waiting for the ‘pay-off’? I believe this creates instability simply because so many of us are expecting it to happen. The rich get richer, even the poor live well for a while, and then the proverbial hits the fan… and most of us suffer the consequences. 

This particular credit crunch might be slightly different in origin, and I’m no economist so I can’t fully understand or explain it, but the effects are basically the same; we’re all in it together through the bad times, but when the good times roll around again it’s every man for himself.

This is the bankrupt morality at the heart of so many wealthy nations and until we challenge it, beginning with our own greed and selfishness, we can expect the same thing to happen over and over again. 

Click here to read more from Tim Childs. 

You can read more on finance and other life issues in the next issue of Sorted magazine, which is hot off the press.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

How to become a legacy maker

Guest blog with Chris Spriggs, director of the Lifespace Trust

My daughter, who is five, complained to me the other day from the safety of her back seat in the car. I mentioned that the new football season was about to start.

“Are you going to be stuck to it like you were stuck to the Olympics?” she said.

She sighed. Then huffed. Her hands audibly dropped into her lap.

It’s true. I was caught in the act of being glued to whatever the Olympics threw our way. I had that brilliant 2012 Results app on my phone so I could track every lap of the velodrome when I couldn’t watch it live. I practiced my mental arithmetic with the medal table. I screamed for Jess, Greg and Mo on Super Saturday. I was at one with the nation.

The word on the street
A reinvigorated conversation is underway, and it is about the ‘L word’: legacy. Lord Coe probably has the word tattooed on his chest. Legacy was one of London 2012’s unique selling points in its bid back in 2005.

But what does legacy mean in practice for us non-Olympians?

L is for long-term lifespan
It was great to hear six-time gold medallist Chris Hoy talk about how Steve Redgrave (who only got five Olympic golds, shucks!) inspired him. And the photos of Laura Trott – two-time gold medallist in the velodrome – snapped at the age of 12 with her hero Bradley ‘mutton chops’ Wiggins, and then aged 16 with (Queen) Victoria Pendleton, each holding their bicycles.

Someone else’s story of heroism can be a powerful (and legal) drug to keep an up-and-coming athlete training through the English winter and pressing through the daily lactic acid build-up.

Like love and like getting gold, legacy takes time. What can we do now that will positively shift the trajectory back towards a society that is less corrosive and more cohesive? We don’t just want 2012 to be the new 1966, a moment we look back on and think ‘that was great, back then’.

The legacy of London 2012 can be to lift our eyes further, higher and to become stronger about what we value most.

E is for ethical impact
Of the many wonder-drenched moments, Mo Farah stands out for me; perhaps because I’m also a runner. I love the fact that in Mo’s post-race interview with the BBC, after he had clung on tooth and toe for that second gold, he started talking about child poverty. The next day, Mo is at Number 10 Downing Street talking about how to overcome starvation in Somalia.

"Winning my second gold last night was a dream come true,” he said, “but I'm here today for perhaps the most important race of all; the race to tackle hunger and malnutrition around the world.
"Last year I visited Somalia during the famine. It was shocking to see people in the country where I was born simply not having enough food to eat. My wife and I came back from Somalia determined to do what we can to help people there rebuild their lives.”
The legacy of London 2012 could be a bigger picture view, one that is not about medals and medal table position, but the influence we all have to transform other people’s lives for the better.

G is for glorious games makers
Few of the 70,000-strong games makers team saw any of the Olympics! Yet they showed individual flair, initiative and friendliness. London smiled; in torrential city rain and sumptuous August sun.

There is power in doing something freely and for free. What a contrast to the banking crisis and the fat cat bonus crew. The legacy of the games makers can be the reminder of what it is to be human, to welcome the stranger, to take the time to point another in the right direction.

A is for an athlete’s attitude
When we talk of inspiring a generation, I hope it’s not just the younger generation. I hope London 2012 inspires parents and grandparents to not just strive for a chunky piece of shiny metal to hang around their necks – hey, equestrians Mary King and Nick Skelton are 51 and 54, respectively, but to absorb some of the resilience and determination that the athletes demonstrated in buckets.

Piers Morgan tweeted his disappointment that Bradley Wiggins didn’t sing the national anthem from the podium and that he should respect to our monarch. Dear Bradley, with his clumsy sideburns, replied that he too was disappointed; disappointed that Piers wasn’t jailed for alleged insider dealing and phone hacking.

Too many people in our national headlines are insulting rather than inspiring a generation. So many of Team GB demonstrated a spirit that transcends what we are normally subjected to by j-list celebrities. J is for junk and, happily, there is no j in legacy.

C is for coaching and clubs
For the past year, my family of five has got up at the crack of dawn on the first Saturday of each month to an event called Kids Run Free. It has rained on nearly every occasion.

Our eldest two (aged seven and five) love using the musical megaphone to start the various races with event organiser Steve and packing up afterwards. They take part in their age-appropriate races, and my wife or I do the free 5km race, which starts in the field next door.

They give 100% and so do we. Then we all go into Leamington Spa to Starbucks, relive the races and celebrate the effort. I should invite Steve along one day.

Recently, my kids donned high-vis yellow jackets and marshalled at the adult Parkrun event. Points are given not just for running but also for volunteering (that’s ‘games making’ to us enlightened 2012ers).

The legacy of London 2012 can be more of this; more ordinary Steves in XL orange tops cheering on our kids. More Parkruns, local infrastructure and grass-root funding for musical megaphones. More involvement for kids and their (fatigued) parents on rainy Saturday mornings.

The legacy can be this: to create opportunities, develop talent and reward the effort of all.

Y is for your response
Steve reminded me that the legacy from London 2012 isn’t just down to the Graingers, Rutherfords and Ennises of our world. Lord Coe is right when he says “legacy is not a one-man mission”.

If I want a generation to be inspired I have to do something. So this is what I am going to do: I am going to complete my UK Athletics coaching course. And I’m going to let my weakness for running silly distances spill over into cheering on younger people. Whether they run a mile or 100 miles.

I’m coming to terms with the fact I won’t ever win gold at a home Olympics. But my legacy – as a husband, parent, mentor, runner – is partly down to what I do today, tomorrow and after that. I want to be the best legacy maker I can be. I want to do my little bit to inspire a generation.

That’s something my daughter would love me to get “stuck” to.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

What a national anthem!

I've heard lots of people slag off "God Save the Queen" for a variety of reasons.

Some people say it's boring, that no-one knows the words; others that it's too pro-monarchy. But watching the nation's top athletes blasting it out with tears running down their faces would surely move the hardest of hearts.

Having said that, Jamaica's sprinters haven't just wowed me on the track - their national anthem made me really stop and listen; not because the tune is the catchiest I've ever heard (that accolade surely has to go to the Italians), but because the words were so profound.


Eternal father, bless our land

Guide us with thy mighty hand

Keep us free from evil powers

Be our light through countless hours

To our leaders, Great Defender

Grant true wisdom from above

Justice, truth be ours forever

Jamaica, land we love

Teach us true respect for all

Stir response to duty's call

Strengthen us the weak to cherish

Give us vision lest we perish

Knowledge send us, Heavenly Father

Grant true wisdom from above

Justice, truth be ours forever

Jamaica, land we love

An anthem that asks for God's guidance? That teaches respect and care for the poor? A song that calls for wisdom and truth? That's amazing! No wonder they absolutely smashed it!

I wonder whether there's any link between the global impact the two relay runners that sang it out - Bolt and Blake - have had compared with their incredibly successful, but relatively unknown teammates - Carter and Frater. 

You may think this is a completely ridiculous observation, and it definitely helps that they are such great sportsmen and personalities, but I truly believe that God honours those who honour Him (1 Samuel 2:30). 

And as every football fan knows, you only win when you're singing... Or is it the other way round? :)

Monday, 6 August 2012

Pearls of wisdom: what a kick in the teeth

I had a wisdom tooth extracted this morning and I can’t say it was particularly pleasant. At one point it felt as though the dentist was unscrewing a section of my brain and hoiking it out through my whimpering jaw.

I’m not a brave person; in fact the thought of large needles jabbing into my gums and a pair of angry looking pliers approaching my pearly whites filled me with abject horror. Worst of all though, when I went to bed last night, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t have a great deal of wisdom to spare.

Now before you stop me, I’m aware that wisdom teeth aren’t actually the source of human knowledge. But it did get me thinking about where wisdom comes from, and if it’s possible to get a top up.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of wisdom-related information in the Bible.

The first thing I learnt was that God is exceedingly wise: “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding [wisdom] is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).

Secondly, we can access this wisdom ourselves: “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).

What a relief! Out of my mouth came a rather large wisdom tooth, leaving a large, tender void. But out of God’s mouth comes true wisdom; knowledge and understanding that we can read about, hear and experience for ourselves. And when it leaves his mouth, there is no void; His wisdom is infinite, so it never runs out.

Most comfortingly, God’s wisdom isn’t like ours. He doesn’t make mistakes or falter over decisions; His common sense never holds him back. I, for one, consider that a huge relief.

Because although I’ve still got three wisdom teeth in reserve, I’m fully aware that my knowledge, judgment and powers of discernment are fatally flawed. A whole jaw full of them couldn’t stop me from putting both feet in my mouth on a daily basis.

So when my head hits the pillow tonight, there will be no need to worry about where my wisdom will come from. I’ll simply be waiting for the tooth fairy to leave me a large deposit in place of my precious – and freakishly large – bit of back tooth.

I know what you’re thinking… I definitely need to wise up if I'm expecting that to happen!

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.