Thursday, 23 December 2010

Good Hair Day

I had nothing better to do today so I measured my hair. In one year it has grown 20 centimetres.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

More Great Chrissie Pressies

There’s nothing snugglier than a cashmere hat from Brora. 

A Bold Beanies cotton beanie is great for wearing under a thicker hat on cold winter nights.

Layer the beanie with a super warm sheepskin hood by Fuudluxe.

If your friend is having chemo she may be finding shoes and even slippers rather painful to wear. A pair of Couverture duvet socks will keep her tootsies warm around the house. 

Cashmere socks from Me & Em are lovely for wearing in bed or on the couch.

No woman can have too many scarves, especially if she’s bald. Me & Em do a dotty cashmere gauze scarf that is ideal for chemo heads. It is long enough to make into a decent turban, non-slippy and super warm. 

Zara have a striking floral print wool scarf that will glam up a simple outfit. 

Or push the boat out and buy her a vintage Hermès scarf, a gift that will become an heirloom.


Anti Cancer – A New Way of Life by Dr David Servan-Schreiber. This is the definitive anti-cancer lifestyle book. Dr Servan-Schreiber presents clear, practical suggestions on what to do and what not to do to maximise one’s chances of remaining cancer-free. His advice is backed up by excellent research. I wish I’d read it twenty years ago - but then again, he only wrote it in 2007.

Your Life in Your Hands by Professor Jane Plant. A thoroughly researched book about the factors that promote breast cancer – and how best to minimise them in our lives.

Breast Cancer - Taking Control by Professor John Boyages, MD, PhD. This is a comprehensive guide to every aspect of breast cancer. It provides information about all the different types of treatments in clear language with loads of illustrations. It's and empowering book that gives all the information we need to make informed choices about our own cancer journey.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Jingle Bells

Oh cripes. It’s Christmas again. I’m desperately sticking my finger into the dyke of denial about the whole event. Nonetheless Jingle Bells are leaking through here and there. I use my free hand to cover one of my ears. For Christmas last year I got disappointment and betrayal. Now I don’t want to think about the so-called season of goodwill anymore.

But what does Christmas mean to you? Peace on Earth. Goodwill to all. Presents!

You’ve probably got all the essential seasonal bribes for your kids, parents and partner by now, but what does one buy for one's friend who has cancer? After all you should get her something if only to cheer her up. But you don’t want to seem preachy, nor inappropriately jokey. And in the back of your mind there is a tiny, nagging whisper that this Christmas might be her last... it’s a minefield.

Here is a roundup of Canalily approved Chemo Chic Christmas gifts.

Natural and organic beauty products
Organic Pharmacy Virgin Cold Pressed Rose Hip Seed Serum. Fabulous for rehydrating dried chemo faces and also an excellent healing helper for scars.

Moo Goo Anti-Ageing Face Cream with Resveratrol. Dreadful packaging with pictures of cows’ faces contains a simply outstanding moisturiser.

Spiezia Intensive Moisturiser. A super-nourishing rich night cream made purely from organic, cold-pressed oils.

Nude Cleansing Facial Oil. Smells gorgeous and removes all makeup without dehydrating your face.

REN Rose Duo Gift Set. Divine body wash and body cream.
Pit Rok Crystal Deodorant. A great alternative to aluminium based deodorants – and it works!

John Masters Organics Evening Primrose Shampoo. If your friend’s hair is growing back she really should give it nothing but the best. This is a gorgeous shampoo with no SLS, SLES or other nasties.
Less is More Hair Lacquer. Smells lovely and contains no nasty chemicals.
Invisible Zinc Sun Screen. Wide spectrum mineral based sun screen without nanoparticles that doesn’t turn one into a pale ghost.

Non-toxic make-up

Organic Glam Mascara. Margo Marrone spent five years developing this alternative mascara. It glides on and is luxuriously lengthening.

Organic Glam Lipstick red. Creamy lipstick with incredibly intense colour.
Inika Organic Eye Liner. Has a nifty sharpener built into the lid.

Inika Mineral Eyeshadow. Vibrant colours. Can be used wet or dry.

Priti Nail Polish. No nail polish is totally safe but Priti is one of the less toxic brands.

Priti Soy Polish Remover. Non-toxic, not carcinogenic and it takes off your nail polish quickly.

This Christmas list is bringing on a bout of covetousness. I'm going out for a walk in the snow. I may be some time... stay tuned. 

Friday, 3 December 2010

Check Up

In his excellent book ‘Anti Cancer, a New Way of Life’, Dr David Servan-Schreiber writes about changes that we can all make in our daily lives that will improve our odds of surviving cancer or, better still, not getting it in the first place.

In clear language Dr David explains why he believes these simple lifestyle changes are important. I won’t go into all his research and reasons why. I mean that’s what the book is all about. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone. But, in a nutshell, here is what Dr David recommends we all try to do:

1. Reduce exposure to carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals as much as possible.

2. Adopt a diet rich in plants and whole grains. Eat grass-fed, organic animal products and filter tap water.

3. Exercise and get out in the sunshine.

4. Release feelings of powerlessness by working on past traumas and repressed emotions.

5. Practise meditation.

So, how am I doing?

1. Exposure.
Gold stars:
* I’m most of the way through Lily’s Product Replacement Programme (henceforth to be known as ‘LPRP’). This involves replacing all my beauty and hygiene products with un-toxic alternatives.
* I’ve chucked out most of the plastic and Teflon stuff in my kitchen and replaced it with glass, stainless steel and bamboo.
* I keep my flat ventilated by opening the windows and doors.
* I’ve stopped eating tinned food, microwave dinners and anything else likely to be contaminated with BPA.
* I’ve reduced dry-cleaning to the absolute minimum required. When I do dry clean the odd sparkly gown I take off the plastic wrapper and air it out on the balcony before putting it away in the cupboard.
* I’ve started using Ecover cleaning products.
* I don’t use any pesticides or insect killers in my flat or on my plants.

Room for improvement:
* I’m still smoking
* I spend half my life on the mobile phone and computer.

2. Diet.
Gold stars:
* My cupboards are overflowing with packets of organic brown rice, lentils, beans and seeds.
* I’ve given up dairy products apart from organic butter, which I have maybe once a month.
* I eat organic meat, eggs and vegetables
* I eat heaps of vegetables and fruit.
* I don’t eat sweets, apart from organic dark chocolate.
* I use a charcoal water filter.

Room for improvement:
* I still drink too much tea and coffee. I’d like to up the green tea and reduce my caffeine intake.
* I probably could cut down on meat.
* I can’t resist the odd fry-up.

3. Activity.
Gold stars:
* I take a morning walk.
* I’ve started going to yoga once a week.
* I wear leg weights around the house.

Room for improvement:
* I really miss swimming but it’s just too damned cold.
* I suppose I could join the g-y-m.

4. Emotional freedom.
Gold stars:
* I practise Lily’s Stress Reduction Programme (‘LSRP’).
* I see a psychotherapist once a week.
* I go to a twelve-step group and talk about my life.
* I keep in close contact with my friends and family.
* I sing and jump around my living room.

Room for improvement:
* I sometimes feel overwhelmed by fear of the cancer returning.
* After my devastating experience with Nick I’m very distrustful of any possible romantic relationships.
* I am overly insecure about money, or rather the lack of it.

5. Meditation.
Gold stars:
* Ummmmmm.

Room for improvement:
* Plenty.

I seem to have some sort of mental block about meditation. I will start off with the best intentions, go through the resistance barrier, get into the flow for a week or three days, feel great – and then stop doing it. Why?

This scattergun pattern is very common. I carried out a Random Lily Poll (RLP) of would-be meditators. Here are some of the things they said: “I don’t have enough discipline;” “I’m too lazy;” “I can’t find the time;” “I’m not spiritual enough,” or “I really should force myself to do it”. Are these self-punishing attitudes helpful or even accurate?

Let’s examine them. I don’t know about you but I’m not a lazy or ill-disciplined person – I work, I do the shopping, cook, get to my medical appointments on time and so on. Meditation only takes ten minutes – I spend more time than that gawping at facebook. Everyone is spiritual, just as we are all physical, intellectual and emotional. And how is forcing myself going to help me to be free?

So what’s really holding me back? The same thing that holds everyone back from all kinds of victories. Fear: fear of pain – I’m alive, therefore I have painful emotions tucked away; fear of the unknown – and the inside of my head is the great unknown; fear that I’m not doing it right or that I will fail. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

BPA - A Canalily Investigation

In past posts I have drawn attention to concerns about Bisphenol-A. Apparently it is an endocrine disruptor that mimics oestrogen in the body. If you’ve been with me up to now (come on, keep up!) you will know that, in the context of breast cancer, this is not a good thing.

I have read that the lining of tins is made of plastic and known to leach Bisphenol-A. In general, plastic will release far more chemicals when heated. Tins of food are heated to high temperatures when they are sealed, in order to kill bacteria.

In August 2009 a group of French Senators tabled a bill that proposed to ban BPA in all food containers. The proposal was watered down and in June this year they approved a proposition to ban BPA in babies’ bottles. Yes, that’s right, BPA is in babies’ bottles and no, I didn’t know that either.

In March the Danish government banned BPA in all materials that are in contact with food intended for children aged 0-3.

Last month the Canadian Government declared Bisphenol-A to be toxic.

Last week the European Union banned it from babies’ bottles. The move has been greeted with a great deal of moaning from the plastics industry.

Surely what is not good for babies is also not good for me?

From:      Canalily
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Coles, Woolworth's

Dear Madam or Sir,

As a breast cancer survivor I am increasingly concerned about the leaching of possible endocrine disruptors into food. It has come to my attention that the plastic linings of food tins may contain Bisphenol-A.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if the tin is lined with plastic until one opens it.

Would you be so kind as to send me a list of the foods that you sell in unlined tins?

With kind regards

From:      ASDA
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Hello Lily,

Thanks for contacting us.

I understand your concerns about Bisphenol A in food as you have survived breast cancer.

However, I am unable to provide you with a list of foods because of the volume of products we sell.

If you are worried about any particular food please let me know and I will speak with the technical team about it.

Once again, thanks for contacting us and if I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards
ASDA Service Team

Am I understanding this right - Asda sell so many products that they don’t have time to keep up with the safety of what’s in them?

From:      Sainsbury’s
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Dear Lily,

Thanks for your email. I can understand your concerns about Bisphenol-A, especially in the circumstances.  I hope you are keeping well now.

I’ve spoken to my colleague and I’ve not been able to get a list for you.  We are aware of the potential health issues but I can assure you that we do follow guidance issued by the FSA.  I’m sorry I can’t give you any more information at this time. If you require information about specific products please call 0800636262 with the barcode and we will be happy to assist you.

We’re grateful to you for taking the time to contact us, and look forward to seeing you in store soon.

Kind regards
Customer Manager

From:      Marks & Spencer
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily

Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns over our food packaging.

Bisphenol-a is a chemical that M&S have been monitoring for a number of years.  We would like to assure you that Bisphenol-a is not used in all plastics as indicated in your email.  In fact there are very few instances where bisphenol-a is used, which is often misrepresented by the media.  It has been known for the media to have to retract statements they make on this subject, certainly this was the case in 2008 when the media reported, incorrectly, that the chemical was used in HDPE plastics (milk bottles).

Marks and Spencer use four main plastic types (PET, PP, PE and small amounts of PS) and we can confirm that the chemical is not present in these plastics.

The areas where the chemical are used are poly-carbonates (the material that baby bottles are made from). Its other main area of use in the food packaging is within the plastic coating on the inside of grocery cans.

We have independently reviewed all the experimentation on the research carried out to date and we can conclude that none of this work is able to form any direct link to human health effects.  Our own studies are backed up by all the main food regularity bodies (FDA, EFSA, FSA), who have concluded that the chemical does not present a concern to human health. 

Where we know the chemical to be used, we also know that it is food safe and there is no current technological alternative that can be used.  We monitor the chemicals use and carry out random independent testing on the levels found in food and to this date we have not had a positive result.  In other words, where the chemical is used in can linings, it has not then be found to actually migrate into food.

As the chemical continues to be of concern to the public, we are of course working with the can manufacturers and chemical companies to reduce and ideally replace its use.  In the meantime, we can assure you that all Marks and Spencer packaging complies with relevant EU legislation and where possible we take a leading standards approach on chemical safety, through our own independent testing and monitoring programme as well as setting limits on chemicals that are higher than legislative limits.

I hope you will find this information useful.
Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

Please be aware that this email is from a ‘no reply’ email address.

If we can assist any further, please visit the help pages of our website.

Here you will find answers to some of our frequently asked questions. If after using this facility you still need assistance, please use the contact us link that will appear in the bottom right hand corner. To contact us directly please select the ‘in store service and feedback’ option under ‘email us’.

Kind Regards
Marks & Spencer Customer Services

From:      Canalily
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Marks & Spencer

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

You have, however, missed the point of my enquiry.

I did not write to ask about the safety of BPA. As you say, there is controversy in this area. Some think it safe, others do not.

Having had breast cancer, I prefer to adopt the precautionary approach. It is my intention to buy only those tinned goods that do not contain any BPA. Hence my question is: which tinned foods stocked by M&S do not have plastic linings that may contain BPA?

With kind regards

From:      Marks & Spencer
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily

Thank you for contacting us further about the lining of our tinned products.

I am unable to answer this question right now but will speak to our technologist for our tinned products. I appreciate your precaution with plastic lining and although he may not be able to provide an actual list of products excluding this; I will source further information that may prove useful to you.

On receipt of this information I will be in touch further. Thank you for your continued patience and I apologise for any inconvenience this causes.

Kind Regards
Marks & Spencer Customer Services

From:      Marks & Spencer
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily,

Following on from my previous correspondence, I have now received a response from our technologist.

He has informed me all of our cans are lacquered to prevent corrosion in contact with the food. You can think of this as a kind of food safe varnish. Any can with a ring pull will contain a layer of plastic (it is how the ring pull works)

The final exception is that our sweetcorn and tomatoes are plastic lined.

I understand this may be disappointing to you and I apologise for any disappointment this causes.

Thank you for getting in touch.

Kind Regards
Marks & Spencer Customer Services

From:      Waitrose
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in the lining of Waitrose canned foods. BPA is a material that attracts a good deal of controversy and misinformation.

Firstly it is important that there is a protective film inside a can to separate the food from the metal and thereby prevent the can from corroding and migrating into the food. BPA is not itself used to coat the inside of cans but is one of the building blocks used to make resins which are then further reacted to form an inert and resistant protective film. Only minute traces of unreacted BPA are in the finished polymer.

The main issues surrounding BPA (and raised by the EWG) are:-

(1) BPA has been shown to have weak oestrogenic activity in animal studies but this is at dose levels many thousands of times higher than the European Union (EU) statutory limit of 0.6 mg/kg for migration from food packaging materials.

(2) A few researchers have suggested low-dose endocrine effects, however this is a controversial theory that has not been confirmed by a detailed independent study on behalf of the EU.

(3) This EU study also found no evidence of the chromosomal abnormalities reported by Hunt et al at the Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA.

It is a fact that Government ministries worldwide have reviewed and re-reviewed the various pieces of research work associated with BPA and they remain unconvinced that it has any adverse effects whatsoever at the extremely low levels at which it may migrate into foods and beverages.

UK Food Standards Agency

"there is still no conclusive evidence of a link between harmful effects [of BPA] on human reproductive health and exposure to the chemicals"

European Food Safety Authority

"low-dose endocrine effects of bisphenol A in rodents did not demonstrate such activity in ways that were robust or reproducible in humans"

USA Food & Drugs Administration (FDA)

"FDA sees no reason to change its long-held position that current uses [of BPA] with food are safe"

It is with this knowledge from regulatory bodies and the current absence of any viable alternative material that we permit the use of BPA as a raw material for the production of can linings for Waitrose branded products. We do, however, continue to closely monitor this chemical as new evidence comes to light and recognise the concerns of some of our customers as they read the adverse publicity about BPA that emerges in the media from time to time. Please be assured that we regularly get our products tested to ensure that any migration is within the strict EU limit (above) and, to date, have found no problems. We work closely with our suppliers to identify potential alternatives but, as you can appreciate, we need to act in a precautionary fashion to ensure that we do not prejudice the safety of our canned products by changing to a new material until we are completely certain it is an improvement on existing linings.

We trust this answers your enquiry, thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Waitrose Customer Sales and Support.

From:      Canalily
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Waitrose

Dear Sir.

Thank you for your prompt reply.

You have, however, missed the point of my enquiry.

I did not write to ask about the safety of BPA. As you say, there is controversy in this area. Some think it safe, others do not.

Having had breast cancer, I prefer to adopt the precautionary approach. It is my intention to buy only those foods that do not contain any BPA whatsoever. Hence my question is: which tinned foods stocked by Waitrose do NOT contain plastic linings that may contain BPA?

With kind regards

From:      Waitrose
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Thank you for your return email.

I have posed your question to the buyers and unfortunately, there is not a definitive answer :

'In terms of a list of which cans have BPA in the linings, this will include the majority of canned goods. There are some products such as canned citrus fruit and pineapple that contain much less because the can bodies are lined with tin plate rather than lacquer, but even for these products the can ends will be coated with lacquer which contains BPA.

I would like to reiterate that the products are safe to consume but as the customer has particular concerns about any cans containing BPA then the most sensible approach would be to avoid all canned foods.'

I apologise for not being able to fully answer your request.

Waitrose Customer Sales and Support.

From:      Coles
Subject:   Tinned Foods
To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delayed response.

Your feedback regarding the BPA was forwarded to our Quality Control department and they have advised that they do not have a list of the products that contain BPA.

They have advised that if you are to provide specific details of the products, then they can advise.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. Our business is committed to serving our customers and feedback like yours offers us insight into how well we are achieving this. We look forward to being of service to you in the future.

Yours sincerely

So, it seems that all tinned food and drinks are likely to contain Bisphenol-A. The manufacturers protest that the BPA contaminated linings are essential for ‘food safety’ reasons.

A question: Food canning technology has been around for a century or so. I seem to remember eating lots of tinned food when I was growing up and I never once got botulism or died. What did we do before we started lining the tins with resins and plastic?

Another question: Bisphenol-A has been found in mothers’ milk. If we are taking steps to ban BPA contaminating babies’ milk in their bottles, shouldn’t we also be thinking about banning BPA from the food that mothers eat and then pass on to their babies through their breast milk?

All in all I find the replies from the supermarkets rather lame. I award an 'A' for effort to M&S and Waitrose. Tesco and Woolworth’s did not even bother to reply.

More fun stuff about BPA:
What Labels Don't Tell Us - a report about BPA by Breast Cancer Fund

A long article with lots of arguments

Here is a List of American companies that use BPA free tins. If anyone knows of any European or Australian tinned goods that are BPA free, please add a comment below.