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This Christmas marks the fourth anniversary since 7 year old Jarvis was diagnosed with cancer. Make a Wish foundation has been valuable in offering joy, hope and the chance to feel like a regular kid, for many children like Jarvis.

#WorstChristmasEver

It was only a couple of days before Christmas 2014 when Jarvis’ parents took him to the doctor for blood tests. He’d been feeling out of sorts, lethargic and falling asleep all the time, and they’d noticed bruises on his legs that weren’t healing.

Just two hours later, their GP rang and told them to go straight to the hospital where the team from Ward 3B were waiting. While their instincts told them something was wrong, the truth came crashing down as they arrived and saw the sign – Ward 3B was the children’s cancer ward.

At just four years old, Jarvis was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.

The diagnosis came on Christmas Eve, and Jarvis started chemotherapy the same day.

For the whole family – Jo, Ben, Jarvis and his two little brothers – it quickly became the most desperate Christmas ever.

Every parent’s worst nightmare

Jo and Ben did their best to stay strong for their three boys – with their youngest just 16 weeks old at the time. However, Ben remembers feeling completely overwhelmed: “I was just walking through the ward, pushing the pram with the other kids, and it was all just a bit of a blur.”

In the months that followed, Jarvis began an intense course of medical treatment including daily chemotherapy and high dose steroids. However, the life-saving regime took a huge toll on his health, leaving him listless and often withdrawn. He gained around 40 percent of his body weight due to the steroids and was almost unrecognisable. His muscles also weakened to the point that his parents had to carry Jarvis between his bed at home and the hospital.

As Jo remembers, Jarvis hated going in for treatment. “He’d be crying and saying ‘please, don’t take me….’ He was old enough to know what was coming.”

Over the next three and a half years of treatment, Jarvis missed out on many of the things other kids might take for granted – from school and swimming lessons to birthday parties and playgrounds.

During this incredibly tough time, Jo and Ben felt they had to ‘bubble wrap’ their son.

His incredible wish

Through cancer support groups, Jo and Ben heard about Make-A-Wish® Australia and applied for a wish mid-2017. As a keen reader, Jarvis wished for a very special treehouse, much like the one in his favourite book, The 13-Story Treehouse.

As the #WishForce team quickly discovered, Jarvis’ treehouse had to be somewhere a young boy could escape his day-to-day cares, enjoy some quiet time, and let his imagination roam free. Of course, it also needed a veranda, a rock-climbing wall and its very own flying fox!

Construction began earlier this year, with Jarvis watching on excitedly as his vision came to life.

Today, visitors to the family’s home will find a two-storey treehouse taking pride of place in the backyard – with a good-natured seven-year-old playing with his brothers and friends inside.

Jarvis is now doing his best to put the years of cancer treatment behind him – and while it will be five more years of regular blood tests before he’s completely in the clear – thankfully, his chances of a full recovery are strong.

For Jo and Ben, the impact of their son’s wish journey is clear – it has allowed him to become ‘a regular kid’ again.

“Experiences like this give everyone hope and give kids who’ve missed out and faced a lot of adversity a bit of happiness. That’s very special – and so important,” says Ben.
Bake-A-Wish for kids like Jarvis

Each year, thousands of Australian children are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. For their families and the kids themselves, life is put on hold while they learn to cope with and in the best cases, beat their illness.

Which is why a wish is so important – with the power to calm, distract and inspire sick kids at the time they need it most.

You can help bring more incredible wishes to life in 2019 by joining Make-A-Wish Australia’s largest ongoing fundraising campaign, ‘Bake A Wish’.

It’s a piece of cake, and whether you choose to arrange a dinner party with family and friends or an afternoon tea – every dollar raised means more unique and life-changing wishes coming true for sick kids like Jarvis.

Visit www.bakeawish.org.au or call 1800 032 260 to find out more, pledge your support and access your free fundraising toolkit.

Ari Chavez chats with Sally Obermeder about beating cancer, thriving on green smoothies and most importantly to Sally, being mum to three year old Annabelle, amidst a high profile career.

Sally Obermeder knows her way around a curve ball or two. In October 2011, the bubbly author, a National Entertainment and Lifestyle Reporter for Today Tonight was on top of the world. Her career was thriving and she loved her work but, most importantly, the then-37 year old was 41 weeks pregnant with a longed for baby, a successful IVF attempt after many years of trying to conceive naturally with her husband of a decade, Marcus.

Preoccupied with the imminent birth of Annabelle, Sally paid little attending to the nagging pain in her breast, and a small amount of skin puckering, believing the changes in her body were pregnancy-related. After a routine check from her obstetrician, however, she was referred for urgent scans and a biopsy.

The results were grim. Sally had a rare and aggressive form of Stage 3 breast cancer, and the medical advice was to start chemotherapy immediately. Sally needed to give birth as a priority, so she was induced while oncologists undertook further testing throughout her labour.

“Reeling from shock, Sally gave birth to Annabelle just one day after her cancer diagnosis. Ten days later, she started aggressive medical intervention.”

Ultimately, Sally’s treatment involved eight months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

The chemo, she said publically, was like being “nuclear bombed”. Her nails fell off, her mouth and throat ulcerated, she lost her hair and eyebrows and the ache in her bones was so relentless she could not lie down. The double mastectomy triggered such feelings of grief and shame, she revealed at the time that she felt “unworthy of being in the world.”

And all the while there was Annabelle, baby Annabelle, who needed feeding and changing and cuddling. Sally was too sick from her treatment to do it and, even if she could summon up the energy to kiss her baby, she was forbidden from doing so as the chemotherapy was too toxic for the newborn. It was a painful reality, another loss.

“I can’t get up in the night to feed Annabelle or change her during the days of chemotherapy treatment,” the popular media personality told The Australian Women’s Weekly not long after Annabelle’s birth.

“This is not how it’s supposed to be. She is supposed to know that I am there for her no matter what, not just when the cancer allows. And I hate the cancer for that. Because I feel like it has taken something precious from me and from my baby girl.

“This is something I have wanted my whole life, and now that I have it, I feel like it’s completely compromised. I thought I would be in this baby-and-me bubble. It would just be us, and it would be so beautiful. But instead there’s me and the cancer in one bubble and me and Annabelle in the other bubble, and I just keep shuffling between the two.”

Finally, twelve months later, Sally was given the all clear. She was completely cancer free.

Sally struggled on with her treatment, which at times was so debilitating it took all of her mental strength to continue with it. Courageously, she raised awareness of breast cancer by making public appearances and attending industry events, either with a wig or bald. Finally, twelve months later, Sally was given the all clear. She was completely cancer free.

It had been a brutal battle, but Sally had won it and, determined to restore her chemo-ravaged body to health, she set about pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Key to this was her love of green smoothies, a healthy blend of vegetables, fruits and super foods, which have boosted her energy levels, and helped her lose 15 kilograms, weight she gained due to eating to help fight nausea and sickness caused by the chemotherapy. The smoothie ingredients, which can include any fruits or vegetables, are blended with water or nut milks or cow’s milk, ensuring all the fibre and nutrients are consumed.

Such is her belief in the health benefits of green smoothies, Sally has written a book, with her sister, Maha Koraiem, Super Green Smoothies (Allen & Unwin, $19.99), which includes loads of recipes and tips for the smoothie lifestyle.

“We have been drinking green smoothies for about a year and a half now, and we wanted to include our favourite recipes, the ones we absolutely love that we knew other people would love,” Sally explains, enthusiastically.

“We really tried to think about what is it that’s important to us and to other people, and usually it’s weight loss, so we have a whole section on weight loss, we have a specific kids section because Mums want to know how to get veggies into their kids’ diets and we did a section for people who are just starting out and just want to settle in. We really worked the book to start simple and then get a little bit harder and add a few more ingredients. We wanted people to start to love smoothies and have it for your lifestyle like it is for us.

You’re not juicing, it’s in a blender. You get all the fibre, you get the entire vegetable, you get all of it.

Coming off the back of such aggressive medical intervention, and as a busy working mum juggling numerous demands on her time, Sally was searching for something to boost and sustain her energy levels throughout the day. The rainbow plate of fruit ‘n’ veg that makes its way into her morning smoothie has proven to be the answer, and she does indeed radiate health.

“My energy levels are incredible,” she says. “That’s the thing, suddenly you are not reliant on five coffees a day, and you’re not suddenly going, ‘when is it three o’clock so I can have a coffee? Oh my gosh, how can I prop myself up with sugar?’ The thing that happens, and you notice it straight away, is that you want good food, you don’t want sugar and you don’t really want crap anymore. Then you start to get this buzz.

“I think it’s because if you put it on a plate and look at how many vegetables you’re having, you wouldn’t have that much. You wouldn’t have two cups of spinach, a handful of broccoli, you’re not going to have kale as well, you’re not going to have quarter of an avocado or half an avocado, a banana, a lime, coconut so you are having all these vegetables, some fruit, some super foods. So you’re suddenly going, ‘Well, this is actually really good for you,’ and when would you do this? Probably not ever. Certainly not at the beginning of the day.”

Sally is clear about the benefits of blending versus juicing, believing blending wins hands down in the health-boosting stakes.

“The things that happens, and you notice it straight away, is that you want good food, you don’t want sugar and you really don’t want crap anymore. Then you start to get this buzz.”

“You’re not juicing, it’s in a blender,” she explains, firmly. “You get all the fibre, you get the entire vegetable, you get all of it. That’s why it’s so good for your digestion. I think if you’re juicing, and there’s a lot of people who love juicing and swear by it, I think what happens is you don’t get the fibre, you don’t get the bulk, you are only extracting part of it. You’re not getting the whole vegetable. It’s just like eating it [fruit and vegetables] only you couldn’t eat this many!”

Sally’s changed approach to diet, and her resulting good health, is only one of many changes being a cancer survivor has wrought. The eight months of gruelling chemotherapy, the double mastectomy, the hours lying on the tiles in the shower unable to move, the inability to kiss her longed-for baby have changed her irrevocably. Time is now a precious commodity, something she does not waste.

“That whole experience of having cancer has completely changed my outlook on life – motherhood and everything else outside motherhood. I was grateful before, I have always been a grateful person, but I am far more grateful because I appreciate that it’s not a given that you’re just going to live until ninety,” she explains.

“Sometimes, when you’re younger, you’re just in a bubble where you assume your life will play out in a certain way, and when something shocking like that happens and then you come so close to dying, you really realise, ‘oh, actually this is not a given anymore and every day I am on this planet is actually a gift’.

You choose how you want to spend it and who you want to spend it with. You really re-evaluate that. You think, what is it that is important to me, what is it that I want to do with my time because time is not infinite…You really value your time and it becomes so precious because you realise there is not endless amounts of it.”

One of Sally’s key priorities is to spend as much time as possible with her beloved daughter, Annabelle. Sally, a naturally warm and engaging woman, literally lights up when talking about her daughter.

“She is hilarious and amazing, like they all are, and it’s such a fun age…she’s three and a half now. It’s a really fun time, we do Adventure Wednesdays and we wander around and we create our own adventures, and we talk and talk and it’s just beautiful,” she says, proudly.

I think it [motherhood] has made me a lot more present because you just have to be. They are so interesting, they demand so much of you, you don’t drift off I find, you are really in the moment.

“I think it [motherhood] has made me a lot more present because you just have to be. They are so interesting, they demand so much of your time, you don’t drift off I find, you are really in the moment. If you are playing with them or you are in the park or you’re running around, that’s just what you’re doing and it’s good because it keeps you focused.”

Despite her obvious pleasure in family life, Sally is not immune from the common complaint that mothers typically carry the thought load of the family, the mental lists of commitments, meals, groceries, bills, laundry and housework, and the mental exhaustion this can bring.

“It’s hard being a mum, it just is hard. There are so many demands on you. Sometimes I’ll say to [husband] Marcus, ‘I’m so jealous because you’re so helpful with everything but ultimately you’re not the general manager of the house or whatever’. If I say, ‘Hey Babe, tomorrow can you get the groceries’ then yes, he will do it, but guess what? There’s a step before that, and that is he didn’t have to think of anything that led up to that moment.

“Most mums I know, working mums and non-working mums, it’s them that that falls on, the planning and organisation and orchestration of the family – who is going where, and when and at what time, and the flow on effect of everything – and that is exhausting when you are a mum. It is. My girlfriends and I call it pinging because your brain is always pinging with everything you have to do.”

 

“Most mums I know, working mums and non-working mums, it’s them that that falls on, the planning and organisation and orchestration of the family.”

“Sometimes I juggle it so well, and I’m like, ‘I’m such a rock star!’ and then the next week I am in tears every day thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is a disaster!’. I think I have learnt to accept that some weeks it goes to plan and some weeks it just doesn’t, and that’s the nature of life. It takes a long time to accept it.

“I had a real turning point late last year when I decided that I’m going to stop trying to have a set routine that I create on January the 1st that carries me through the whole year because I have finally accepted after ten years that the nature of my job is that it is a job with no routine, so I have gone, ‘Okay, I am going to stop trying to force it into a box and make it fit and then getting pissed off when it doesn’t fit. I am just going to look at this week on its own and next week on its own…and just keep it a little bit fluid’. Some weeks that means I work all day Saturday, some weeks that means I work five nights after Annabelle has gone to bed…I just fit it in as best I can for that week.”

The mind-boggling demands of juggling her high profile media career, her online store and authoring her books, have not distracted Sally from what requires her full and considered attention – Annabelle. When she is with her daughter, all the other demands on her time are put to one side and she focuses on the task at hand, mothering her child.

 

-Ari Chavez

*MORE INFO*

Sally’s book: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/food-drink/Super-Green-Smoothies-Sally-Obermeder-AND-Maha-Koraiem-9781760113711

Sally’s online store: http://www.swiish.com

Benefits of green smoothies: Click below

GREEN SMOOTHIES! WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ supports the idea that without the foundations of a good diet you are wasting your time and money trying to balance your health. Shannon Burford, a naturopath based in Claremont, firmly believes a correct diet, herbal medicine and nutritional balance can make an enormous impact on an individual’s health even for those dealing with allergies, asthma, Autism, ADHD, infertility or cancer.

Meeting Shannon at his clinic, aptly named Cura Integrative Medicine, you become instantly aware of the aroma from the herbs and tonics on his shelves with names and labels not found in any commercial advertisement or local pharmacy. 

Over a pot of freshly brewed herbal tea, Shannon describes his own healing journey after contracting Dysentery and Typhoid while travelling through India and Cambodia in his early 20s. Already holding a degree in Science from Curtin University, Shannon realised the impact of nutrition on his health and while he appreciated the need for antibiotics, he knew working on prevention and building his strength from good food and herbs would see him on a better path for the future. 

His impressive resume now covers a Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Science and a Bachelor in Health Science (Naturopathy), he is also a Master herbalist and nutritionist, a lecturer in nutritional medicine, naturopathic philosophy and author in a variety of health topics, including cancer and men’s health. He is also a father of two. 

“The relationship between good food and behaviour now seems so clear,” he muses. “There is a need, a real urgency to understand the impact of what we put into our bodies. I want to educate as many people as I can and fuel the growing awareness that nutrition is a huge contributor to health. 

“You have no doubt heard people say ‘wholefood, wholefood, eat more wholefood because it is healthier’, right? Why exactly? It is all about the full package. With processing comes removal of the valuable nutrients. That is why brown rice is a better choice than white rice.” 

Another turning point in his life was the birth of his son, and realising the impact toxicity, allergies and ADHD behaviours have on children. Shannon said it was then that a passion in children’s health was awakened.

Naturopathy holds the core philosophy that the body can heal itself and everyone is an individual.
We live in a polluted world and eat processed food, with processing methods drastically reducing nutritional content.

Shannon describes his experiences as a parent of a child with terrible reactive eczema determined by allergy tests as fuelled by an exhaustive list of triggers such as egg, dairy, food colouring and sugar. His son was also diagnosed with asthma and prescribed ventolin.  

He recalls the day his son, then aged two and a half, ate a brightly coloured iced donut as a special treat and the transformation that followed, which he describes as nothing short of the Incredible Hulk, as his young son began wild screaming and hurtling furniture across the floor, an episode that lasted about an hour. Once older, and able to communicate clearly, his son described the headaches and other symptoms he suffered once exposed to sugar and food colouring. 

Today, his son has none of these issues. 

” HMA (Hair Mineral Analysis) is an invaluable screening tool to assist with conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and preventative health care”

Shannon says whilst his primary passion is in evidence-based nutrition, he combines this with the power of herbs lifestyle changes. He explores his patient’s health like an iceberg, depicted by the small visible peak being the symptoms, yet his work is to discover what lies beneath the surface, hidden in our diet, environment and toxicity within. 

His diagnostic process is thorough, with calls for blood, saliva, stool, allergy and hair analysis as required, as well as diet, sleep, energy and behavioural discussions and observing the eye lids, tongue and fingernails among other things, to get the full picture on a patient’s health and tailor a precise treatment plan to suit.   

Naturopathy holds the core philosophy that the body can heal itself and everyone is an individual. One size does not fit everyone! A tailored diet and certain herbs can create an optimum environment for health,” he says. 

He is a strong advocate for Hair Mineral Analysis (HMA), especially for children due to its comprehensive results without the invasiveness of a blood test. The test is simply cutting a collection of hair from the back of the head, yet it can detect an excess or deficiency of vital nutrient minerals such as calcium, selenium, zinc and iron. It can also identify over-exposure to heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic or aluminium.  

“HMA is an invaluable screening tool to assist with conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and preventative health care,” Shannon boasts. 

The results of the test have become quicker of late with a diagnostic laboratory now based in Perth rather than overseas. 

His HMA testing has confirmed Shannon’s belief that zinc deficiencies exists across the population of Western Australians, young, old, male and female, primarily attributed to our soils that fail to retain nutrients coupled with the growth of crops in the same soil over and over. So while foods like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, oysters, beef, wholegrains, egg yolks and seafood contain high levels of zinc, the very nature of the way those foods are grown may very well mean we still need something extra to keep our bodies balanced.  

People with zinc deficiencies demonstrate poor wound healing, prolonged infections, low appetite and kids may experience recurrent ear infections, sleep disturbance and anxiety.

“In an ideal world, we shouldn’t need a nutritional supplement or a herbal medicine mix if we were eating all living and whole foods. The reality is though, we live in a polluted world and eat processed food, with processing methods drastically reducing nutritional content. The body is also burdened with chemical preservatives and additives.” 

People with zinc deficiencies demonstrate poor wound healing, prolonged infections, low appetite and kids may experience recurrent ear infections, sleep disturbance and anxiety. Yet the physical signs may be as small as white marks on fingers nails.  

“A balance of the vital nutrients is important for optimal health and zinc is tremendously important for people of all ages, it supports a healthy immune system and the growth and development of the body during adolescence, childhood and pregnancy and is essential for men’s prostate and productive health. Lack of zinc has also been shown to have a clear link to anorexia and bulimia too. 

Get your kids eating oats for breakfast and start their day on the right foot. Shannon’s tip is to try making a pot of chamomile tea and use the tea to cook your oats. It will reduce anxiety and is good for the gut!

Shannon explains that good nutrition can also impact the severity of disorders such as ADHD and Autism in children, however he said for some parents it is hard to make the dietary changes in a society so busy and so focused on instant gratification with medications so readily available that offer noticeable and immediate behavioural modifications. He describes some parents returning to his clinic, sometimes years later, deciding to try the slower but longer lasting naturopathic and nutrition path, after becoming frustrated with the cycle of medications and behavioural management which left their child ‘under a cloud’ or ‘void of themselves’.  

Whilst it is unfortunate that the majority of people turn to Shannon after they have exhausted conventional medicine avenues, he still holds high hopes that one day preventative medicine will reach the forefront of his clientele. 

When faced with resistance or uncertainty from his exhausted and time poor patients about what their kids will eat, what they can afford or what changes they are willing to make permanently to their pantries, Shannon says it’s all about tailoring a plan for the individual. People will only make changes when they are truly ready, a small change for better health is better than no change, so slow substitution and reducing the sugar load is key. Obviously some families have reached the end of the line when they arrive at the spiral staircase which leads to Shannon’s quaint office and are willing to forgo all bad habits in search of better health. 

His best advice is to set your kids up for success by teaching them early on to make good food choices. Shannon explains eating healthy isn’t about restrictions, it’s about creating new habits. 

“The small changes you make to your child’s diet will ripple through their entire life,” he says. 

And yes, he does practice what he preaches, and so do his children. 

“I aim to eat as pure as possible, organic where I can to obtain the best quality. If the food comes from a box, I would say don’t eat it,” he says. 

“For breakfast my kids and I will eat oats with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, psyllium husk, a sprinkle of pro-biotic and maybe some frozen berries, with soy or rice milk. 

“But I understand that kids go to birthday parties and they love cheesy pizza and pasta, my kids are like most kids, we don’t live in a cave, but we don’t eat gluten or sugar and we don’t have the bad choices available in our home. My kids have grown aware of the ingredients in products and how food makes them feel and as such they aren’t interested in the coloured cakes or the lolly bags, apart from the bubble blowers.” 

For any food that does happen to come cloaked in cardboard, he is a big advocate for label reading.  

“The most important thing on the box is the ingredients list,” he said. “Check out the details of what it contains more than the standard breakdown of fat, sugar, carbohydrates and look at the placement of the ingredients on the list. Where is the sugar? If it is listed first, it means the product contains mostly sugar.”  

For more information contact Shannon at Cura Integrative Medicine 08 9284 4644, wellness@curamedicine.com.au, www.curamedicine.com.au