‘Catching cancer’ early, a Halloween reminder …

We can take time this Hallowed eve of “Halloween” to reflect on the good spirits of departed loved ones. There is a grief process and taking healthy actions to increase health literacy around health and mental health topics as what we do on this blog.

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

Beyond the fact that October was health literacy month, it was also Breast Cancer awareness month. Reminders for self-testing, getting necessary tests like annual blood tests, Pap tests (women) and mammograms for the over 35 group, colonoscopy, particularly those at high risk. This article by Medical News Today was very useful in understanding how and why we need to check our body’s “nodes” (axillary nymph nodes in this case) for any swelling and changes and get to a doctor!

Recently losing a friend to an up-and-down battle with cancer makes me think of all the people I’ve worked with (or was friends with) that got sick, some survive, some do not. There tend to be personality characteristics of people who tend to get sicker, but a big piece has to do with how their environmental stressors and even unhealthy living areas contribute to this. This is indeed the nature-nurture link. Fall is generally the season of pomegranates and thinking of loss as we head into the long winter period of darkness. Maya Angelou’s poem “When I think of death” helps in expressing grief but also a fact of life.

What is your grief? Poems
We grieve, remember, and remind others to self-care

There are several bloggers who write about cancer and many NGOs dedicated to “spreading the word” on such ailments as breast cancer — in the U.S. it is the Susan G. Komen Foundation (similar org called “Alma Zois” Άλμα Ζωής in Greece). This was the first year in a decade we didn’t do their annual fundraiser walk/run and so the necessary funding and advertising for these agencies is reduced. This makes it impossible for people to do the necessary work.

There are also reminders for getting to a doctor and the necessary treatment especially in Covid19 lockdowns ….. thus sharing this blogger’s content here —

“… knowing you are going to die makes clearing out the cupboards so much easier!” The sound of choked laughter came through the phone. “You should write that,” said my friend, once his calm was once more regained. The sentiment had, I think, taken him off guard, but it was a simple observation. Even in […]

First, catch your..?  #cancer — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

In closing a reminder for those interested in reading more about health literacy and aging, as well as the end of life issues (see post).

We never know we go when we are going — We jest and shut the Door — Fate-following-behind us bolts it — And we accost no more

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) born in Amherst, Massachusetts

Fall, nuts vs. candy “corn”

Autumn or “Fall” is that time of year when leaves change color abandoning summer as we move to darker days and nights. The colors are simply brilliant and we may think of seasonal food like pumpkin 🎃 or nuts …lots of them! From the walnut, to the chestnut 🌰, as we recall a wonderful past excursion to the mountains of Arcadia in the Peloponnesus!

Beautiful Autumn

One of my favorite books that taught me about appreciation of good 🍷 wine, seasonal foods, exercising and keeping fit, all the while maintaining our chic scarves tied in multiple ways while enjoying a nice piece of dark chocolate is titled “Frenchwomen for all Seasons” by Mireille Giuliano (published in 2006).

As we transition to “packing on” those extra pounds (kilos) we need to remember that some are healthy for our winter “survival mode” as evidenced from theory of evolution. Indeed the healthy omega 3s are necessary for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and body. So why do we crave all those sugars? I’d say it’s not a bad thing ….in moderation. And of course taking some good supplements like vitamin C or Lecithin vitamin E by Nutrilite a good thing for those over 45 who tend to eat high fat foods and need some extra support building immunity — remember your sunlight or artificial light for good mental health! This is the time of year when we are always craving those extra carbs like sugar. That said here is my take on “nuts vs. candy corn”. You can always ask your doctor or nutritionist and decide! Hmmm….

Good for you”Good” for sharing
Omega 3s, can eat with honey 🍯 a bit of honey 🍯 but mainly sugar
Squirrels 🐿 love themSquirrels cannot eat them (!)
Earth colors Bright colors
Year round Halloween 🎃
Nuts 🆚 Candy corn 🌽

October is health literacy month

Elders, animals, compassion. These are the messages I’d like to share as we continue to be more health literate in our home 🏡 and in your community. October is health literacy month.

It’s more than “knowledge” it is taking the appropriate actions for your and other’s health and being advocates for local and global change. This is across the globe as it includes animals — October 4th world animal day to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi.

Global health literacy academy had a great past post shared here… along with a dedication to our elders! The 3rd age is a “hot topic” in global health these days .

  • Be generous
  • Be diligent to watch for early symptoms
  • Be proactive about your health and get animals spade or neutered (microchips a must for house pets)
  • Just be mindful!

A big Thank You to all the animals who posed for us for health literacy month !

Let them have books 📚 and cheesecake!

I recently joined an online group to review books that we’ve read for leisure, as it seems counter the trend to online everything (beyond Kindle). Due to environmental concerns or fears of virus spread this has also lead to decrease in publishing in physical format …. given some of the low quality books we sometimes come across (beyond content the actual paper and print cover are a waste of a good tree) maybe this is a good thing! But I can’t help but feel we live in a Fahrenheit 451 world.

Along reading there might be overeating —emotional eating at best — but hopefully still get your daily dose of sunlight and vitamin D for a stronger immune system. Do you recall the quote “let them eat cake” Marie Antoinette supposedly said to save herself from a frenzy of “les miserables” style mobs? This may be of interest as of late…. I’ll not convince you of the levity of ‘her’ statement but clearly we need to pay attention to discrepancy of power and how this may lead to violence and unfortunate tragedies across the globe. Some protests may be justified, some not, and certainly healing needs to take place.

This seemingly increase of violence is not just happening now, as historically man seems to “thirst for blood” as some form of evolutionary population control first encountered in the biblical story of Cain and Abel — jealousy or power driven, more real when people are struggling to survive. I hear people talking about another world war, since the recent Covid economic disasters have heated up some countries’ leaders to want “more”. These unpleasantries in turn are what public health then deals with in “picking up the pieces.”

All this excitement drove me to pick up all the leftover cookies from my shelves in an attempt to re-stack my Fall supply (more later) and make mini cheesecakes — baked American style are better, sour cherries 🍒 and thickening the cherry sauce is even better but the secret is in the crumbly style crust. This was made by leftover ‘ginger people’, oatmeal and stale butter cookies! Practical recycling…and a smile 😊

Back to books …. a disturbing statement from my electrician “my kids don’t read books” (daughter age 9, son age 7) lead me to ask what parents can do to help curb this trend? We need to keep building on information and fundamental literacy and of course our scientific and civic literacies all part of health literacy! Open to remarks please. Here are some recommendations to take home 🏠

  • Demonstrate it yourself …just read anything ! Show and tell is the best behavior modeling.
  • Monthly or seasonal goals — at least one book and talk about it in a group or in person (keep your physical distancing). Even write about it.
  • Act it out ! A bit of dramatic reading out loud helps kids become better readers and increases everyone’s vocabulary. Even in different languages!

    I even bought a recycled zipper type pencil or mask-holder …not very subliminal message but it worked , the interest in books even if only for fun (cartoon style booklets), continues.

Keep on walking and keep on reading!

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Marble, Masks & Memories, Tinos Island

Put on our 😷 masks and headed for a few days in the Cyclades, a dense collection of islands occupying the central part of the Aegean Sea. Worldwide, people know about Mykonos, the “party island”, and some even think it’s a country 🙄 …we won’t judge that (Mykonos is one of the many islands in Greece, 227 inhabited but 6,000 exist). There are many “must visit” isles that are gathered around the windy Cyclades of the Aegean.
Last year I wrote about Naxos island 🌴 but this post is about an isle whose history of marble sculpture production made it famous, becoming an international trading post during the Middle Ages and beyond — Tinos island.
Tinos is a place that people visit for both it’s religious and touristic attraction as it is also directly across from the mythical Mykonos ! It’s also a place of artisans and those who learn how to sculpt marble. You can get there by boat/ship only and it’s worth the trip.

This year it was all different, the lines to the Evangelistria (Virgin Mary) monastery were not as long, the stores were less crowded (sure, we did some shopping with masks on!), we SAVED money because there were no nightclubs or expensive bars open ….we slowed down. TIME.

Time to enjoy the silence and count the ships coming in the port, or to do some mindful eating and enjoy an amazing lunch with artichoke cheese pie, their signature “Maistrali salad”, main course Kalamari with fava beans and salad greens ….Oh! And that lovely custard type dessert …all with the restaurant’s exquisite detail to safety. Even our utensils were wrapped and our table and chairs disinfected!

Amazing food with detail to safety

The video “Time” by Julius Sevilla says it best. A great REFRAME to make each day count. Don’t complain, don’t just dwell on what “didn’t happen, or didn’t work out” or the fact that you’re angry 😠 and holding grudges and regretting is not good use of your time.

Just think of the people who were away from that particular place at a particular time that a building came down (recent “atomic bomb” type destruction in Beirut or local floods, fires, and other disasters), those who lent a hand, those who have lost and grieve, but this why we try to PREVENT disaster by precaution and becoming more health literate as individuals as governments or societies LEARN from mistakes of communication, procedure, etc. As one of my teacher said when we had an eye-opening experience “dawn breaks on marble head!”…. Obviously it takes a while for health messages to penetrate. Keep on enjoying your summer and be safe!

“Styling” during Covid and caution with hand sanitizers

Social distancing it turns out is complicated and the data on Covid has been confusing. As much as the disease itself in terms of who and how much exposure ultimately affects our health ultimately leading to negative outcomes, the diagnostic tests, and medical protocols. But for sure masks are here to stay. At least for a while …It doesn’t matter if you put on a regular medical version you buy from your local pharmacy or you buy or make a more fashionable one like so ….

You still can wash and use hot sun 🌞 energy (heliotherapy) to get rid of germs as well as iron the fabric ones, as this means we continue to REDUCE waste! Please be careful when throwing out masks or gloves and do NOT throw in the street! Recent scenes are ludicrous … and infuriating!

masks and gloves tossed in streets 🥵

Regardless of whether you are a conspiracy theorist, a realist, a pessimist, or just following the local policies and laws, one thing is for sure …we have carriers, sufferers and those who ultimately lose their life as Covid destroys major life organs as our lungs. Recent loss of beloved actor (father of one) Nick Cordero really “hit home” for many younger people who think it won’t affect them !

The latest on hand sanitizer warnings by the FDA of toxic methanol is worrisome. I don’t think many of us are checking out the labels and what about sanitizers outside the US ?

Years ago I had visited Disney World and in retrospect I’m with the “Mayor“ and his wife — no handshakes and wear gloves ! It’s styling it … Maybe we should bring it back ?

Disney World — the Mayor and his stylish partner

Shuck those peas…save on cash

Think creative, think cash, and think health. Times are tough …. the phrase “ah shucks!” Is a farm-based word equivalent to “oh shame” or “darn”…. thought of it today as I shucked peas — meaning remove the outside —to put them in the freezer.
It is strawberry season so pick those as also gaining beta carotene and vitamin C with low-fat Loquat (in Greek “mousmoula” μούσμουλα). All Seasonal foods!
Think health.

Pea pods and seasonal goodies

Now that we have a bit more time and maybe saved some money 💰 from not going out …while not making money due to pay cuts or unemployment, we have to think smart. It’s part of our financial literacy. Think cash.

Being a part of free Zoom talks like one I recently participated in with storytelling can help keep your mind busy keep social as well as share in gratitude. We need to flourish rather than relish in self-pity. Support each other.

Lately I’ve been giving new meaning to the line “playing with food” getting ideas from Pinterest or beyond ….Think creative.

Think creative, think cash, think seasonal and think health literacy!

“MAY” Days

We’re getting out of Lockdown …..this May!!  

There are many types of people, but along with all those positive posts and the ‘hoopla’ of the stay-at-home movement, there are a lot of angry (perhaps depressed) people. We all need to be transforming this negative energy into positive energy somewhere else….

“May day, May day!” Recently, in the beautiful community of Anogia (Ανώγεια), Rethymno region near the Psiloritis Mountain in Crete, there were some senseless killings over some misunderstandings and turf for sheep-goats. Two people wound up dead by gun shots, and a potential vendetta is ensuing. This is not unlike gang violence, domestic violence, or what we are seeing in several U.S. states where people “took to guns” over rights. As a matter of fact, the sales of guns in the U.S. have been on the rise due to the fear of COVID-19. Is this what we want ? On the one hand the reality of the pandemic and on the other, human intolerance?

Have we changed much since the biblical story of Cain and Abel ? We are all prone to anger. Sometimes it is necessary in the face of injustice or helping someone in a tough situation.  But we caution about the “Amygdala Hijack” (see this Healthline article) where our aggression or fear take over when and we react in ways we regret. You must ‘beat it’ before it beats you or your family …. some of you can read Anger Management for Dummies or read/listen The Anger Trap or other great books on anger management, or how about an on-line course? and as always seek  support via therapy.

Do something creative, gather flowers, make wreaths, plant a garden and think of bringing in the positive energy into your world honoring rebirth. Appreciate the beauty of nature. Be inspired by Ron Finley the “Gangsta Gardener” who helped transform urban settings, helped young people dream again!  Getting back in touch with the earth…. he fostered health literacy and became an example from current and future generations in some U.S. inner cities. 

The word that represents the month of “May” comes from the Roman-name goddess “Maia” (which also in Greek is the name of the midwife who delivers babies). Most make May wreaths while some dance around the May Pole in most parts of Europe (and in the U.S.). In my home we throw flower petals around the house to bring in the positive sun-spring energy. We have never needed this so much as this year during the lockdown! 

The colors of all flowers and plants make any room brighter, our mood lighter.  If you ever get a chance to go to visit flower shows even better! This year we could not gather in indoor flower shows unless in the outdoors, as the one I visited a few years back in Genoa, Italy called “Euroflora” (Euroflora_Genoa_2018). A gathering from various landscapers and florists demonstrating their creativity on the grounds of a pavilion, overseeing the sea. We learned about the plants and blossoms of the world and how we could make our own home and neighborhood/community even better. Granted some of us suffer from sringtime allergies but these can be in-check and helped over the long term.

We all may be stuck in the ‘shoulds’ of life some of which may be necessary for our daily survival. For example, we should eat at least 5-a-day fruits and vegetables (some people say 3-a-day in different colors is enough), drink 6-8 glasses of water daily, exercise at least 10 minutes daily, sleep 7-8 hours as part of our self-care routine (indeed what health literacy is all about).  Be careful about those little gremlins of ‘shoulds’ and read a useful book, Taming Your Gremlins. The author even came up with a perfect ‘mind map’ of all of this negative self-talk (see example).

Let’s focus on the power of affirmations . Messages that may affect us both positively or negatively. Thus, MAY you…

  • walk in sunlight to warm your soul
  • hear the birds and bees sing their happy songs
  • feel butterfly wing “kisses” on your sun-touched skin
  • understand that you are not alone — we all should share our collective experiences and support each other.
  • choose the beautiful ‘flowers’ of your thoughts and heart to remind yourself of better things in difficult days that may come!

Get a little crazy …

  1. Create out of boredom — Lockdown may not be the “introvert’s paradise” as once thought according to a recent MIT technology review. Since librarians tend to be more introverted, they actually took the time to put all these books in order … wow, that’s crazy !
  2. Transform our lives — Some think it’s crazy to “live” more from our internet connections than be “in touch” with the real world. A lot can be said about this… it seems the Matrix is becoming a closer reality. Scary. Several articles are written about how things will be “different” and how we need to transform our thinking (see April VOX article featured in Apple News). Though I did like the idea of change in the context of young people building resilience by building educational partners, presented by Harvard Professor Gil Noam who represents the PEAR Institute.
  3. DreamsIt was just a dream. I thought I was losing my mind when I was holding and reading an upside down newspaper written in hieroglyphics, while all these cars were leaving a parking lot quicker than I could count to ten. It is as if Walmart or Public were having a sell-out. I woke up realizing that this was a lucid dream and it is not unlike what people have been reporting they experience due to Covid19 (see National Geographic article)
  4. Health illiteracy — I realize how much people follow their leader but to the point of over 100 people calling in a hotline in Maryland (US) asking for the medicine that Trump prescribed? That is absolutely nuts, …see article in Business Insider. Definitely shows how health illiterate and outright dangerous people can be. Guess what people ? They’ve cut the chloroquine studies short due to safety concerns so please don’t go there!
  5. Funny dances in home. I mimicked something from this Fortnite character called “Deadpool”. Well at least Fortnite is trying to promote physical activity! or how about doing a line dance or better yet a “line” dance as you are on hold for those 30 minutes waiting to get your order in… the experience can be exhausting and then when it arrives the quality is questionable….
  6. Business and socializing — two sides of the coin. It turns out that constant online work is exhausting . However if you space things right you’ll be less crazy and more happy as it’s a “coping” tool. I had TWO online friend meetings in one day. Coffee ☕️ by day and Champagne 🍾 by night! Hey it might be one of my only Friday eves I actually “found” time. Yes we know our brain is tired from those little screens …. use Zoom to your benefit! We had a friend’s meeting with champagne or wine in our favorite crystal glasses. Time zone difference did not matter. One friend was baking her awesome cookies while another celebrated her teen son’s birthday (mind you he was having another party with his friends on-line I’m the room next door). Then there are those ZOOM parties and how to host them…..
ZOOM Trivia, crazy stuff!
Like tulips in the Springtime…. FLOWERBAR in Alimos

Caution Caution no health literacy alert! Be careful what you drink….

No Trump Cocktail for me …thank you

“Oh we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy “… lyrics of SEAL “Crazy” hit me every day as we are almost at almost 2 months of lockdown.
Some crazy 😜 tips to help your days …like
we did and still more to come . Oh yeah my fish “Tiko” has a new bodyguard in the form of a nutty bird …

In all seriousness now. It is almost two months later in Lockdown. We are doing our best despite the long-term economic “slaps” we have been given, especially by the EU! This latest Bloomberg article talks about the “humbled Greeks” teaching the world about lockdown and Covid19. OR is it a bit of “learned helplessness”? Despite constant “punches” resilience building dictates that for us to survive we need to have health literacy!

The country’s HLS-EU data dictates that half of the people are considered health literate though there are declines in the over 50 years old groups and those less educated groups (no surprise). Thus why reading about aging and caretaking can take it’s toll….. check out the book chapter in the International Handbook of Health Literacy!

AntigoneD with “Cousteau”… her hair even matches with the flowers 🌺, crazy!

LOVE THOSE PETS, The flowers, the hair! I am in with the creative genius Antigone D… thinking of some good stuff to share with you in the near future…

Bacalao, and that little ‘bugger’ Corona gave me an opportunity!

Who would have thought the post about the outbreak of Coronavirus last January would have quickly lead to our social distancing and obsessive cleaning, and toilet paper hoarding. Our sense of trying to make sense of economic disaster, among other conspiracy theories, are all seemingly science fiction now come to life and talk of an Orwellian “1984”. All because of microscopic Coronavirus CoVID-19. And this my friends is NO JOKE.

March was national month in the U.S. for Colorectal Cancer, Kidney Disease, Nutrition, and Tuberculosis, and on the mental health side, awareness for self-harm. In the U.K. this was the month for Ovarian and Prostate Cancer. And internationally, March was Red Cross Month… a critical need at this point in time. Around the world we are seeing short-staffed, overworked healthcare workers, hospitals, and we wonder what about us? Can we follow the rainbow, as we continue to build on building health literacy about disease, pandemics, and help people reduce complications to disease through health education such as continued ‘smoke free’ efforts?

Starting last March to the beginning of this year I was working with a past dental student to educate 5th and 6th graders about not starting to smoke, becoming smoke-free communities, appropriately talking about health benefits including healthy teeth (April is Oral Health month). This year it will be very different, as we will offer a similar lecture via e-learning.

On the bright side, it has given me the opportunity to tie-in the COVID-19 issue with people quitting now, for healthier outcomes. I am giving a lecture “Are you Ready to Quit?” to a group of over 50 participants, and I could not possibly find so many participants to ‘make time’ under normal living situations…sad but true. That little critter ‘corona’ virus has made us slow down….. so much so that we will all be at least 3 kilos overweight this summer for lack of exercise (even walking)!

Last March 2019 in a grammar school

So now for my opportunity to educate you about increasing your Omega-3s with some good fish (not just vitamins) as that Nordic favorite, Bacalao. Love that vowel-filled word “bakalao” (Bakaliaro – μπακαλιάρο in Greek) a salt-preserved fish. Now that we are all on lock-down, we are going in for those freezer reserves.. we pulled our salted friend from the freezer and de-salted it by emerging it into water overnight, just in time for the traditional meal for Independence Day in Greece March 25th. Baked in a “plaki” style dish [Recipe sample] or fried with a milky type dough [Argyro’s recipe], are great for Bacalao… but of course be mindful of any food allergies you have.

This year we added some extra spices in preparation including cayenne pepper, paprika, wild oregano (antiseptic qualities fight disease!)

Last year we were free of disease, and posted about free-floating flags and community health as signs of “allegiance” which is good and needed to survive in times of crisis. Living it now with COVID-19, a semi-unknown “enemy”. Little Coronavirus or COVID-19 caused a “butterfly effect” where we are forced to STOP and take a good look at ourselves, and for some of us plunge into our fundamental Maslow-type need for basic necessities. An article on what would Freud say about our hoarding of toilet paper in The New Yorker is priceless.

Two sides of a coin?

Sure we are all losing money, but think, some are making money (OK you can start on the conspiracy theories and the pharmaceutical industry!).

Too much screen time and kids in the house gaming all day. Also an opportunity to try something new, even something old like play cards or checkers, keep your distance.

Be vigilant about cleaning and leaving our shoes at the door. But also an opportunity to “gather within” and DO your Spring cleaning or go a bit beyond Spring cleaning….

Worries about having enough, but what about Less is more ? You can finally clean out all the food from your cabinets and freezers to make space for more. And if a neighbor doesn’t have spaghetti how about lending a hand? oh yes. And learning a new recipe online !

“I have nothing to do”, really ? All this off- or online stuff just makes for a brief adjustment. Maybe we all NEED to slow down. Busy streets are silent and we can actually hear the birds and see more fish 🐟 in non-murky waters now.

Take care of your plants. Try talking to your plants, walking up and down your balcony or a quick jog around the house …. note: if your plants talk back to you, then it is time to call in that mental health hotline!

Those poor pets are exhausted during lockdown…. dear Sylvie here had her daily fill of walking, she’s not even my dog! All animals teach us that they love unconditionally. She does not care if we pet her WITH or without our gloves …and yes it is important during this time to at least walk in open spaces at least 2 meters away (about 6.5 feet) for 30 minutes at least 4 times a week on good days (for many of us living in lockdown, SMS is required).

You will always be free, a temporary situation will not take that away. Most people get angry because they are inconvenienced or stuck in old patterns of thinking. They are impatient. Maybe it’s time to LEARN to adjust to change. Try Participating in Zoom or TEAMS e-platforms. On the other hand, get away from the screen and read some poetry about those little things that matter.

Your loved ones will make it through and better care for themselves during this time. So, you won’t be in perfect shape this summer or maybe you will with strengthening exercises like yoga and meditation. Self-care is vital and this includes getting support!

Take care of our personal health, as our governments try to adjust to constantly changing data, and the unknown. Enjoy that wine or beer in moderation (Mind the Cup!). Why not have it be a Corona a great Mexican beer as we don’t want them losing business! Do we?

Why not a Corona beer? To your health!