Care and Cure – same same, but different!

by Anne Malatt, Ophthalmologist, Australia

What is the difference between care and cure?

Both words originally came from the same word – isn’t that curious?

The Latin noun ‘cura’, meaning ‘care’, became the verb ‘curare’, meaning ‘take care of’ and then the Old French ‘curer’, meaning ‘cure’.

The original sense of the word was ‘care, concern, responsibility’, particularly in a spiritual sense, but in late Middle English the meanings ‘medical care’ and ‘successful medical treatment’ arose, and hence ‘remedy’.

Interestingly, curare is also a type of poison, as are many medical treatments, when not used according to directions (and sometimes even when they are!).

Modern medicines are powerful, and sometimes a helpful treatment can become a harmful poison, especially if the dose is too high. Paracetamol is a great painkiller, but it can also kill liver cells, if taken in excess. Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill cancer cells, but they can kill healthy cells as well, hence their side effects. Continue reading “Care and Cure – same same, but different!”

Common Sense – True Medicine

by Anne Malatt and Paul Moses, Australia. 

Anne: I’ve always wondered about the term common sense.

We all use the words:

  • “It’s just common sense!”
  • “Use your common sense!”
  • “She has no common sense!”
  • “Common sense is not very common” as the saying goes – but is that true? I feel there is more to it than we commonly understand.

What does common sense mean to you?

Paul: I too have wondered about that and I looked it up in the dictionary, and the words are derived from the Latin sensus communis meaning ‘feeling in common’.

The word sensus means a sense, a feeling we have in our whole body, not just a thought we have in our minds.

The word communis means something that we all share and have access to, equally so, no matter who we are.

So common sense is a communal thing, the feeling we all share, that we all have in common.

Anne: So common does not mean low, stupid or less than in some way, but brings us to equality and shared values. It transcends all the barriers we have put between us – gender, age, colour, race, religion, nationality, culture – and brings us back to the truth, that we all share a knowing we have in common. Having common sense does not make us ‘common’, or a ‘commoner’, in the commonly used sense of the word, but makes us part of a community.

Paul: So in practical terms, what are we talking about?

Continue reading “Common Sense – True Medicine”

The Big C – why me?

By Eunice J Minford MA FRCS Ed, Consultant Surgeon, N.Ireland 

We all know what the phrase ‘the Big C’ means – it is a way of saying cancer without using the word cancer. I recall hearing it when I was growing up, people whispering it to one another that, “so and so has the Big C” – the feelings of fear, trepidation and worry were palpable. Even though as a young child I initially didn’t know what the Big C was – I knew it was something bad, terrible, to be avoided at all cost if possible, there was a sense of finality to it and the smell of death hung in the air. It didn’t seem to matter which particular big C you had – they were all cloaked with the stench of illness, disease, decay, sickness, bodily destruction and death. Even in the medical world, the word cancer was often avoided in the past so as not to induce such fears in the patient and euphemisms were used like ‘growth’ or ‘ulcer’ without revealing the true diagnosis.

The depth of fear around the Big C was and is huge – people instantly equate the C word with death, but not just death, it is a death that is considered to be slow, painful, miserable, full of sickness, sadness, a failing body, losing weight, having chemotherapy and its side effects like losing hair – of losing one’s bodily functions perhaps and being dependent on others for help and support in a way that we never think we will need to be. And the reality is that cancer can wreak havoc on the body and all of the above can be part and parcel of the journey with cancer – and suffering of one kind or another, be it physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual is a common experience for the cancer patient even with all the advances in palliative care, medicine and surgery. Yet all these medical advances focus more on the physical aspects of the disease and to some degree, but usually less so, the psychological and emotional components, with very little, if any, addressing of the spiritual dimension.

Yet many people with cancer struggle with the ‘why me’ questions: what is the meaning of this cancer, this life even? Why do I have cancer now, at this stage of my life? Is there a reason? Is there a purpose to it? Is it a punishment? Is it God’s will? The existential angst that arises through a cancer diagnosis is huge but often goes unaddressed and unanswered, especially in a way that is truly healing.

Continue reading “The Big C – why me?”

Contagion – Part two: Non-communicable diseases, are they really not communicable?

By Anne Malatt and Paul Moses, Australia. 

In the not-so-distant past, contagious or communicable diseases were greatly feared, and the cause of many deaths, often on a mass scale. The Black Plague, the Spanish Flu, and smallpox all come to mind and are seared in our collective memories. With the advent of modern sanitation and medicine, these diseases have become much less common. As they have waned, the importance of non-communicable diseases has risen.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) now account for 68% of all deaths, worldwide, every year. (1)

In Australia, chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death, accounting for 90% of all deaths in 2011. (2)

What are non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

Continue reading “Contagion – Part two: Non-communicable diseases, are they really not communicable?”

Contagion – Part one: Contagion

By Anne Malatt and Paul Moses, Australia.

When someone walks into a room, we know how they are feeling.

We can feel it with our whole being, and we then confirm it with our five senses.

If they are angry, we feel it first. We then see it in their facial expression, in the way they hold themselves hard and the way they move and walk, we can hear it in the way they bang things down or stomp their feet, we can smell and taste it in the air we breathe and we can touch it if they come into contact with us, but most of all we just feel it.

And we can react or respond in different ways.

Most of us tend to tense up, contract, and go hard ourselves, in an effort to protect ourselves from what we can feel is coming at us. We may be on edge, ready to fight, or flee. It may bring up memories and feelings in us of when other people have been angry with us, and may even have hurt us, or those we love.

Whatever our reaction, it can be very challenging to stay open and loving with someone who is behaving in this way, no matter how much we may love them.

So, can this anger be contagious?

Continue reading “Contagion – Part one: Contagion”

Esoteric Medicine: is it complementary or alternative medicine and what’s the difference?

by Eunice J Minford MBChB MA FRCS Ed, Consultant Surgeon, N Ireland

I used to think that complementary medicine and alternative medicine were the same thing. I have come across others who speak of them as one and the same thing as well. The words are used interchangeably by many, and both often get tied together in the abbreviation ‘CAM’ – to refer to all things complementary and alternative in the world of medicine.

I was also very dismissive of anything that was in any way alternative/complementary and basically anything that was not mainstream medicine, and which had not been verified scientifically as I understood it. I viewed them, as many medical doctors do, with contempt and considered them all to be a waste of time and potentially dangerous if they prevented people getting access to ‘real medicine’. I had heard stories of people refusing medical treatment and who insisted on the ‘alternative’ path – only to end up dead when their cancer was of course not cured by the ‘alternative’ treatment. So it would be fair to say I was pretty staunchly against anything that had the label of complementary or alternative, as to me they were all in the same bag!

At that time I was of course very much in the arrogance of the medical/scientific consciousness, which thinks that doctors and scientists are the only ones who understand the body, illness and disease and treatment, and that unless people have been through the rigors of a bona fide medical and scientific training, then they basically have no right to make any claims as to the workings of the body – even their own. Continue reading “Esoteric Medicine: is it complementary or alternative medicine and what’s the difference?”

Gallstones – more to it than the five F’s?

By Eunice Minford, MA FRCS Ed, Consultant General Surgeon, N.Ireland

Gallstones are quite common (25-40% of the population have them) and they can cause a variety of medical conditions. However, it is only the minority of patients (10-20%) with gallstones that develop symptoms requiring removal of the gallbladder – many people live with gallstones without even knowing they have them and without any symptoms. Some conditions caused by gallstones, like pancreatitis, can be quite serious and even life threatening. Much more commonly, patients present with pain in the right side or across the top of their abdomen, often associated with nausea and vomiting. Some people notice it is brought on by eating fatty foods in particular, as the gallbladder is involved in digestion of fat – it stores bile and contracts to release bile into the gut when we eat a fatty meal. The pain can occur when a gallstone gets lodged, preventing the passage of bile from the gallbladder into the bile duct and gut.

Being a surgeon myself, it was not difficult to self-diagnose gallstone disease when I first developed symptoms about 10 years ago. I had been out for a meal and had eaten too much, along with having a particularly rich chocolate dessert. It tasted yummy at the time, but several hours later when I was in agony my body was saying something else! I eased the pain and the nausea by making myself sick – off-loading what was clearly an over-loaded system.

Over the next couple of years I had intermittent attacks, often precipitated by eating something that was too fatty.

Continue reading “Gallstones – more to it than the five F’s?”