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Archive for November, 2012

How to avoid Cancer !


What is cancer?
Cancer is not just one disease, but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer.
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
Cancer is a leading cause of disease worldwide (GLOBOCAN estimates that 12.7 million new cancer cases occurred worldwide in 2008).

The top 4 causes being:
• Lung (12.7%)
• Female breast (10.9%)
• Colorectal (9.7%)
• Stomach cancer (7.8%)
In all these four cancers account for 40% of deaths from cancer.

Although the incidence rate in developed countries is twice as high as the developing countries like ours, but the outcome ( in terms of death and disease) is much worse in the developing countries, owing to poor detection at early stage, and poor case management. However, the incidence of cancers related to infections like stomach, liver or cervix ( which can be prevented) are more common in developing countries.

GOOD NEWS is that about half of all cancer cases are preventable. Prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer.
And even Cancer diagnosis is still not a death statement. If detected early can be cured.

Many reasons within our genes, our lifestyle, and the environment around us may increase or decrease our risk of getting cancer.

There are simple measures that we as ordinary human beings can take to prevent cancers to some extent.

Here are they :

Part 1

LIFESTYLE:

TOBACCO in smoke or chewable form TOPS the list.
Tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality worldwide, causing an estimated 22% of all cancer deaths per year.
Cancer that tobacco can cause are of lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, cervix and female breast.
About 70% of the lung cancer burden can be attributed to smoking alone.
Second-hand smoke (SHS), also known as environmental tobacco smoke, has been proven to cause lung cancer in non-smoking adults.
Avoiding tobacco is best, however cessation of the use of tobacco, gradually reduces the risk, and in 15 yrs is as good as for non smokers.

ALCOHOL
Alcohol is a risk factor for many cancer types including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and breast. Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. The risk from heavy drinking for several cancer types (e.g. oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and esophagus) substantially increases if the person is also a heavy smoker.
WEIGHT & EXERCISE
Obesity is a cause for most chronic diseases and cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney and endometrium.
A general goal of 30 minutes exercise every day and keeping the body weight in the normal range can avoid from a lot of cancer risks.

RISKY BEHAVIORS:
-Practice safe sex & do not share needles, sharps like nail cutters and razors. There may cause Hepatitis B, C or HIV infections which can then lead to Liver or other cancers. Cancers caused by infectious agents(viruses etc) are more common in developing nations e.g. Cervical Cancer, Liver Cancer and Stomach Cancer.

SUN EXPOSURE:
Light skinned especially should protection from sun by use sunscreen with SPF >30 between 10 AM and 4 PM. Skin cancers like Basal Cell Carcinoma(BCC) or Melanomas. BCC are less aggressive but Melanomas are very aggressive and fast growing cancers & kill 75% of those who have them.

PART-2
FOOD

What makes some foods cancerous?
Refined sugars: They act as fuels for the growing cancer cells, as ready energy. Terms suggestive of refined sugars on food labels are: high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, sucrose, enriched bleached flour, white rice, white pastas, white breads and other “white” foods. Refined flour are also lacking in fibres which cause cancer.
Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils: Besides being a cancer factor, trans fats promote heart disease, interrupt metabolic processes, and cause belly fat(obesity) that in turn are again another cause of cancer.
Sodium nitrite (and nitrates): Added to give pink color to the meat. During the digestion process, however, sodium nitrite is converted to nitrosamine, and that’s where the cancer problems begin. Nitrosamine is a carcinogen. Nitrosamines are also found in food items that are pickled, fried, or smoked; in things such as beer, cheese, and fish by products, and tobacco smoke.
Saturated fats: Usually of animal origin which may cause obesity which is indirectly or directly related to certain cancers.
• Some chemical additives like coloring agents and flavouring agents have also been known to be cancerous.

Top cancerous Foods:
1. Soda pops, sweetened drinks: >2 servings per week increases Pancreatic cancer by 87%. Glucose and Fructose both feed cancer cells. Women who ate the most high-glycaemic-load foods were close to three times more likely to develop colorectal cancer.
2. Fried foods: French fries, hash browns, potato chips, samosas, pooris. – Apart from calories, they contain saturated fat and trans fat, they also contain acryl amides. They should be called “cancer fries,”
3. Processed meats and bacons: burgers, sausages, bacons. Nitrosamines are produced from fat at high temperature cooking, as in tobacco smoking. People who eat a lot of processed meat may be 50 percent more likely to develop colorectal cancer, stomach cancer or pancreatic cancer.
4. Red meats: Beef. Researches show even eating twice a week, they raise a risk by 20% of cancers of breast, colon and prostate cancers.
5. Donuts, Cookies, chips and crackers: Refined sugars, refined flour and trans fats. They scream for themselves that they are cancerous foods.
6. Charred meats, smoked meats: Many studies including one from Harvard have shown a high link between charred meats and cancer of colon, stomach. Even delicious smoked meats are high in nitrosamines due to the nature of their cooking. Trick is eat them sparingly, if cannot avoid.

How can healthy eating prevent cancer?
The main principle is eat simple:
Eat unprocessed foods and base your diet largely on plants. Consume foods that have omega-3 fats and other essential fatty acids.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables; many common ones have known cancer-fighting properties.
Get regular vigorous exercise, since tumors cannot thrive in highly oxygenated environments.
Keep your blood sugar stable to avoid being an all-you-can-eat buffet for cancer cells.

Top cancer preventing foods:
Green leafy vegetables: These cute little green trees help to fight off stomach, liver, skin, lung, bladder, prostate, and breast cancers. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, an antioxidant that rids the body of cancer-causing toxins.
Hint: Cooked Brocolli tastes mushy, so avoid over cooking, leave it crunchy, or make stir-fry, or eat raw in salads.

Berries: The darker the berry the better still. Blackberry, blue berry, strawberry, raspberry. They contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that slow the growth of premalignant cells.

Garlic: Fights the nitrosamines in the red meat.
Clue: Add garlic to your tomato puree, sauce.

Tomatoes: contain lycopene, which has been shown to stop cancer cell growth according to research. The sure fire way to increase lycopene is by cooking tomatoes.

Walnuts; are the best among nuts for fighting both breast and prostate cancers. Adding just an ounce of walnuts a day will help to keep the cancer away. Vitamin E (gamma-tocopherol) found in nuts and plant seeds may slow the growth of cancer cells.

Beans: Navy and black beans help delay cancer growth of breast and colon cancers. Add a half a cup to your diet a week, at least!

Coffee: Research shows that coffee may contain healing antioxidants as well, preventing colon cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. An alkaloid in coffee may even prevent cavities!
Studies also show that drinking coffee helps reduce muscle soreness and improves stamina
Harvard researchers are finding an intriguing link between coffee and the prevention of an aggressive type of prostate cancer. However, it’s too early to recommend boosting coffee drinking to men, although one cup of coffee might be helpful.

Green Tea: Antioxidants of green tea are also known to be cancer preventive.

ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS:
Many environmental toxins are blamed to be carcinogenic.

The topic of environmental carcinogens is vast and controversial. For details on each aspect and toxins see the link: Here

Part- 3

KNOW YOUR BODY:
Keep a regular check on your body- any moles on the skin, or your breasts ( in women) or testicles (in men), especially while taking shower, or changing clothes. If you feel any change in the shape size, or feel any lump, or feel any change in your body or symptoms which appear unusual to yourself, you must take doctor’s opinion. Please do not panic. This does not mean you necessarily have cancer or a serious problem. But even if it is, it will be detected early.

BE INFORMED:
Cancer Prevention and Early Detection strategies:
Certain cancers are known to be caused by viruses, and being infectious spread easily in developing countries. They can be avoided by using their vaccines:
Hepatitis B Virus: A set three vaccines given will prevent Hepatitis B which is a common cause of Liver Cancer
Human Papilloma Virus: A sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. A new vaccine against HPV protects 99% against Cervical Cancer.
Helicobacter pylori: For stomach cancer. Hence when detected, must be treated promptly by consulting a Gastroenterologist.

ALSO BE INFORMED THAT: There are certain cancers which can be screened and detected early and prevent complications and premature death.

Following two blogs shall explain in detail how to prevent or detect cancer early. There are specific screening tests and issues in men and women which shall be discussed in next two blogs: Early Cancer Detection in Women & Early Cancer Detection in  Men, respectively.

There’s a famous saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. The ( not so secret) apple for cancer prevention is:

Take home apple, oops message is: “Half of the cancers are preventable and can be avoided through healthy living and better awareness.”

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Negative Stereotypes


Think Norway. What occurs to your mind?
A beautiful country up in the north, where it snows, its all peaceful, no crime. No?

Think Africa. What crops up in the same  head?
Poverty, AIDS, famine, a picture of a starved kid pops up in imagination, and for some well informed perhaps they think of it’s corrupt leaders. Yes?

BTW, don’t  you know Africa is not a country but a second largest continent?
It comprises of  57 countries, each with a distinct culture, language and of course like any other country, each of them have their distinct problems.

So will it  be  justified to summarize all these sovereign states with just  four or five issues, that too very negative.

Why did this stereotyping occur?
The answer is simple. Disinformation.

How?
Of course through the various advertisements from the social sector, that with all their good intentions wish to collect funds for development in the continent. And the media, that through its good intentions tries to highlight to the world the grave  issues they face. However, despite their good intentions, they end up creating a negative stereotype.

Ever thought what must Africans be thinking or feeling of this stereotyping of  them?
It is not that such issues do not exist,  they do, but then this is not all, about Africa.

To highlight this negative stereotyping, without  lashing out in anger, a group  has come out with an extremely creative and cheeky parody called “Africa for Norway” with the message:

“ Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?”

Also imagine if they also used  picture of a Norwegian child shivering in cold, without permission from those concerned?

Here is the parody “Africa for Norway” :

What message do they want to convey through this initiative?
1.Fundraising should not be based on exploiting stereotypes.
2. We want better information about what is going on in the world, in schools, in TV and media.
3.Media: Show respect.
4.Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions.

For more details on the brilliant project click>>  Radi-Aid .

Coming closer to home, who would know more about stereotype than Pakistanis and Muslims with a “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”  being their holy passport to the outside world.

On a personal note:

Growing up as a minority Muslim in a metropolitan New Delhi, India, I came across some curious stereotypes:

  • How many wives  does your father have?
  • Why doesn’t your mother wear a burqa or why doesn’t your father have a beard?
  • Is you father a professor of Urdu in Delhi University?
  • Do you eat Biryani everyday?

Equally ridiculous questions were asked when I came two decades ago, as a newly married immigrant to the megacity Karachi in Pakistan:

  • Are you a Hindu? (On wearing a saree and bindi together, and being of Indian origin).
  • Did you have Hindu friends?
  • Did you ever eat food in Hindu households?
  • Kya India mein VCR hota hai? (Are there VCRs in India?) ( The last curious query  sounds hilarious 😀 now, but it almost got me crying as a new immigrant. Those were the days when India had only Fiat, Ambassador or Maruti cars,   no Sony TVs and yes, not even StarPlus channels 🙂 ).

Not sure if these stereotypes were also created through media !

India and Pakistan: Let’s recover our natural bond


All dreams can be turned into realities, all we need to do is to first break the barriers within, and take the first step forward. PHOTO: AFP

Published in Express Tribune on Aug 15, 2012 : http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/13383/india-and-pakistan-lets-recover-our-natural-bond/

Many stories in our lives, no matter how insignificant, leave us changed. I narrate my personal life experience, as a young child, which subconsciously broke my psychological barriers between India and Pakistan. This was long before I even decided to marry a Pakistani, and cross over to the other side.

Living in a rented house in New Delhi, India, we were faced with a senior Hindu couple as our landlords, who were old workers of a radical Hindu extremist organisation. Being a very strict vegetarian couple, even the normal Hindu families wouldn’t feel comfortable renting their upper floor.

My parents, being moderate Muslims, were respectful of their religious sentiments, and in dire need of a short term rental place. They thought they would be able to spend next six months as tenants there, without any problem. The owners had put restrictions on us for certain non-vegetarian food items which we were not allowed to cook in the kitchen. It did make us a little uncomfortable but out of respect and religious sentiments, we would strictly abide by their rules.

Auntie, as my parents called her, would come and check the kitchen often. But since my parents were complying to their demands and respecting their sentiments, they did not object. In fact, they let her reassure herself.

Once my father’s aunt in Lahore fell sick, and he wanted to see her before she passed away. Luckily the whole family got the visa too. My parents informed uncle and auntie that they were going for a visit to Pakistan. To be honest, we expected a negative reaction from them for their tenants were to leave on such short notice.

Surprisingly, a day later, the senior couple came upstairs to us and made an appeal. They said they lived in a house in Lahore before they migrated to India in 1947, as newlyweds, and if we could bring back a picture of that house to them, it would mean a great deal. They had the house address memorised by heart, even after almost 29 years of living away from it. They had a strong bond with Lahore and were holding on to memories of their youth spent there.

The address was (some number), Ram Gali, Lahore.

We went to visit their house and took photographs of it. The current residents were very hospitable and showed us all the different and curious things about the house they had left exactly as they were.

One such thing was the “Om” emblem installed at the head of the entrance of the house. We were surprised and found it immensely kind of the new residents to have left it there as the Sanskrit word ‘Om’ is of sacred importance to Hindus.

When we returned, the first thing my father did was he developed the photos, and present it as an album to our former landlords.

Upon receiving the album, the old couple broke down. Tears and simultaneous smiles shone on their faces as they touched and saw the pictures. My parents gave them details of the house, verbatim from the current residents in Lahore. They were particularly moved by the symbol “Om” still being in place, and the name of the street still being Ram Gali. Maybe, sitting across the border, they had the idea that Pakistan is extremely anti-Hinduism and all their belongings would have been destroyed or reconstructed by now.

Around the same time, my nani (maternal grandmother) had passed away, and mother would feel depressed. Auntie would then console her by saying,

You are my daughter; as it is I have none.

She had two sons, and they, too, were living away at that time. Her motherly emotions were not stymied by differences of faith. She was beginning to realise that our prejudices based on religion were unimportant and meaningless.

Auntie never came up to check for non-veg being cooked in the kitchen again, as she had before. But she did visit to give us guavas from her tree in the backyard, or chameli (jasmine) flowers from the garden, which my mother loved so much.

Our new house was under construction and uncle once offered,

Take me there, for I have experience in house building and can give you some suggestions.

After six months, we moved to our own house, but the relationship we had weaved out of love remained. It was no more a torn fabric of partition but a beautiful tapestry of friendship and love.

They did not visit much as they were very old, but whenever we visited their house, we received hugs with a warm reassurance,

“We are your nani (grandmother) and nana (grandfather),” they would say, helping us children cope with the absence of our own.

Now, I’m married to someone from across the border and I believe that my Indian nani and nana’s attitude played a major part in removing the demonised presumptions I had of people across the border. Perhaps this was what gave me the courage to even think that living with a man from Pakistan would not be such a bad idea after all.

Two decades on, witnessing the turbulent tides between India and Pakistan’s relations, and watching the feelings of misunderstanding existing between certain sections of people on both sides, I feel there is a dire need to break these psychological barriers. We may now be independent but we share with each other more than what a simple defined border can weaken. Our traditions, culture, attire, our liking of spicy food and chapattis and our love for our families are all mutual.

Thankfully, the distance-less, border-less social media is playing that role. It is bringing people across the border closer as friends. Even something as small as a Twitter trend about our friendship can make a difference in someone’s mindset and remove our biases.

This year, I’ve seen a group on Facebook, as the name implies, “Celebrate India, Pakistan Independence Days for Peace, August 14/15, 2012”.

Following a plea to “Pray for Peace between India and Pakistan” on December 18, 2011, initiated by a Toronto based Indian journalist, Swati Sharan, almost 200,000 people across the globe prayed for peace. Inspired from this success, the idea to form the above mentioned group and to celebrate independence days together for peace was conceived. Thus a Facebook event was created.

A number of peace groups from different parts of India, Pakistan and even Canada joined in. (They are all listed on the event page).

Growing in just a few months, now all these groups are set to celebrate the two independence days on ground as ‘peace days’, in their own unique ways. They all look forward to take it further each year, hoping that more groups will soon join in.

But we need to see more of this sentiment beyond the virtual world and into the real one.

Learning from these example, I again feel reassured that after all dreams can be turned into realities. All we need to do is to first break the barriers within, and take the first step forward. After all, we cannot deny the fact that we were once one. We stood united and even fought against the British together, hand in hand. And today on India’s Independence Day, despite the political and legal barricades, we have to learn to love each other. We already do so naturally; maybe we aren’t expressive enough or have yet to unlearn our biases and accept each other as brothers that we are, but it is undeniable that love does exist.

I pray for Pakistan and India to thrive far more than they already have. Where Pakistan will always be in my prayers, India will too. I wish for lasting peace to prevail between the two nations, the two neighbours, the two brothers.

Happy 65th birthday, India! Happy independence day.

Whatever IS will be WAS.


The above heading is a Buddhist saying by Monk Ñanamoli. The  in depth meaning of its essence could not be more powerfully conveyed than by an ancient  Buddhist ritual called dul-tson-kyil-khor ( Mandala of colored powders).

Sometime ago in search for an idea for silk painting I accidentally bumped into a beautiful  handmade creation, which in first hand looked like an intricate colorful geometrical design, called Sand Mandala.

As the name implies, it is a creation made from colored sand. Mandala means a palace. There is much more to it than the eyes can see.

From the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this is not just a creation of a beautiful sand castle, but a spiritual journey, for which requires a great practice and meditation before embarking on it. Even during the creation , which usually requires 4 monks (bhikkus) who keep chanting hymns and focus all their minds and actions into its creation.

The sand mandala for them is a three dimensional Palace of Imagination in which they enter, and each dot, line, shape and color that they create in it stands for a specific aspect of Buddhist Philosophy. There are many types of Mandalas, and each stand for a unique symbol.

The creation has to be accurate, and the work  between the 4 creators, working on each quadrant,  has to be well coordinated.

Billions of grains of colored sand powder are carefully and accurately placed in its specific location, using two copper conical pipes called chapku, which are gently tapped over the other, to release controlled amount of sand.

The colors for the painting are usually made with naturally colored sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Mixing red and black can make brown, red and white make pink. Other coloring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark. In the ancient times they used colored dust from the lapiz lazulli, emerald, ruby, and corals and other precious stones to get colored dust powder.

It takes from few days to few weeks to create a mandala.

However, the most mind boggling part arrives when the whole intricately built sand mandala is undone ( yes, you read it correct) from outside-in in a rotas wheel movement, never to exist again, by the very monks who created it. This metaphorically implies the impermanence of things.

The dust collected is immersed in a flowing water ( river nearby) symbolizing the transference of the energy of goodwill ( imparted to it during its creation)  and compassion, to the rest of the world. {The whole idea gave me shivers and goose bumps}

Hence, when even  at first look it appears to be an end of a creation, but in the real sense, nothing is ever destroyed forever, just that it is returned to the nature, to rejoin elements.

And this does happen to all animate and inanimate objects on earth, be they complicated  humans,  simple plants, soft clouds or  even lofty mountains.

When Buddha passed away, one of his disciples remarked:

Aniccaa vata sa”nkhaaraa — uppaada vaya dhammino
Uppajjitvaa nirujjhanti — tesa.m vuupasamo sukho.

Impermanent are all component things,
They arise and cease, that is their nature:
They come into being and pass away,
Release from them is bliss supreme.

It compels me to be reminded of Kabir’s doha:

Mati kahe kumar se tu kya rondey mohe,
Ik din aisa ayega main rondoonga tohe.
(The clay says to the Potter: What will you maul me, a day shall come, when I shall maul you).

Or yet in another doha he reminds:

Kaya nahin teri nahin teri,
Mat ker meri meri.
(This existence isn’t yours, don’t call it “It’s mine, it’s mine.”)

And of Bulleh Shah’s kaafi:

Na Kar Bandeya  
Meri Meri
Na Teri Na Meri
Char Dinan Da Mela
Duniya Fair Mitti Di Dheri.
(O people, why  be obsessed with me, mine. Its neither yours nor mine. Its for a while, then we all shall be but a pile of dust).

Indeed, “from dust we were born, and to dust we shall return.”.