Monday, 30 January 2017

Safe and scientific ways to support healthy detoxification by Sophie Tully from Igennus

Detox diets seem to grow in popularity each year and with the amazing array of health benefits and fast results often promised it is hardly a surprise, particularly at this post-Christmas indulgence time of year. However, before you embark on a costly and likely gruelling regime it’s important to note that, to date, there is very little hard evidence to support the benefits of specific detox regimes on toxin levels or overall health; indeed, in some cases these regimes can be harmful or even fatal. When it comes to the potential benefits of a detox diet there is one major scientific flaw in the promotional basis of most of these regimes – we do not only detox over a 5 day, painful, juice only period but this process is occurring 24/7, 365 days per year. As such, whilst a detox ‘diet’ may help to kick start a new healthy regime, to really see the benefits, nutrition and lifestyle changes to support healthy detoxification must become an everyday thing. Another major flaw is that, for most of us, our ability to detox is generally pretty good, meaning that increasing your intake of specific food and nutrients, unless you are known to be lacking in these specifically, may not actually make any difference at all to your body’s detox capabilities. (1,2).

Whilst evidence is considerably lacking for specific detox diets in humans, there is some research supporting the role of specific nutrients, foods and some common ‘detox’ practices in helping to support detoxification pathways and reduce potential toxic stress in the body; most of these are very safe and hugely beneficial to health, regardless of any supposed detox actions. In addition, some exciting research is showing that we all have slightly different detox profiles written into our genes, so for some of us, these foods and nutrients may actually be quite helpful to super charge otherwise sluggish or blocked detox processes. (3,4,5,6,7,8)
With this in mind, and without going off and spending a fortune on genetic testing and specialist green juices (unless you want to), here are my top tips for safe, scientific and health-promoting diet and lifestyle changes to help get, and keep, your health on track, whilst also supporting your body’s detox pathways.

Avoid foods that are heavily processed or contain chemical additives (9)

Reduce exposure to environmental chemicals (switching to natural personal care products and avoiding damp or polluted environments, for example) (10)

Increase consumption of leafy green and brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables

Drink adequate water-based fluids to stay hydrated (but not over hydrated)

Exercise regularly (21,22,23,24,25,26)

Don’t buy commercially available detox products

PLEASE NOTE: This blog was written to provide advice to support general health and well-being. If you are being treated for or have any health conditions or concerns, make sure you seek the appropriate medical support before making any major changes to your diet and lifestyle

To help address potential toxic load:
Avoid produce known to contain high levels of pesticides (i.e. choose organic where possible) (11)

We are today, unfortunately, surrounded by thousands of natural and man-made chemicals. Whilst for many of them the negative impact on our health is not yet established it can be beneficial to seek out products low in toxins so as not to put unnecessary strain on your body. If you are concerned about toxin exposure, the above suggestions (and associated links in the reference section) can help you reduce the number of chemicals your body encounters daily.

To support liver detoxification and oxidative stress associated with detox reactions (also very good for general health and well-being):
Increase consumption of berries and citrus fruits
Increase intake of fresh herbs, spices, garlic and onions
Ensure an adequate intake of calcium, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium through a varied diet and supplementation where safe and implicated
Consume moderate amounts of protein daily from a range of sources

I’m sure I don’t need to explain why eating lots of plant foods is SO incredibly amazing for you but these items specifically are important for healthy detoxification, so upping them a little in your diet can only be a good thing!

To encourage toxin elimination:
Enjoy a sauna (12,13)
If it is safe for you to do so, having the odd sauna might be a useful practice to help encourage toxin excretion via sweat. A cool shower afterwards can also help stimulate circulation to further encourage toxin processing and removal via the blood.

You’ve probably heard of the concept of flushing out toxins; whether or not this has any scientific basis it is important to stay hydrated to support optimal health and physical function as well as encourage waste elimination in the urine and faeces. Urine should be light yellow and not have a strong odour; if it is too dark or light, or you urinate too frequently then this could be a sign you need to increase or reduce fluid intake accordingly.

To help support digestive health (to further support toxin elimination and reduce toxin exposure):
Increase consumption of fibre-rich foods
Fibre helps provide bulk to the stool, supporting transit and removal of unwanted waste products from the bowel. Our good bugs, living in the bowel, also use fibre as a source of fuel and they help protect us further from potential harm from toxins and pathogens lingering in the gut.
increase consumption of natural probiotic-rich foods

Probiotics help boost the numbers of good bacteria that live in our bowels and play a first-line defence against foreign bodies entering our system through the foods we ingest and air we swallow.

If wishing to lose body fat and improve a range of markers of health and well-being:
Moderately reduce calorie intake (17,18,19,20)
This reduces the amount your liver has to deal with, allowing it to focus on removal of potential toxins. Slow and steady weight loss can also help liberate stubborn toxins that are buried deep in fat tissue.      
Exercise is not only great for health, well-being and supporting cancer recovery but it also encourages sweating through which we release some toxins. Make sure to shower soon after so anything eliminated via this route is not reabsorbed.

To make sure your new healthy regime is safe:
Ensure you are still getting adequate nutrition and energy
A range of studies and anecdotal reports have shown that just a few days on a highly restrictive low calorie regime can lead to some serious health complications, and even long-term organ damage or death, (27,28,29) not to mention being a huge added stress on the body - which also comes with a range of negative health effects (30,31)      
Poor regulation of the ‘detox’ industry means that almost anyone can create a product and sell it to the public, meaning, in many cases, you don’t know what you are getting, the products haven’t been tested for safety and they are most certainly not going to be scientifically proven to work.


2.      Klein AV, Kiat H. “Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence.” J Hum Nutr Diet. 2015 Dec;28(6):675-86. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12286. Review. PubMed PMID: 25522674.
3.     Romilly E. Hodges and Deanna M. Minich, “Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application,” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 2015, Article ID 760689, 23 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/760689
4.      Liska, D. Quinn, S. Lukaczer, D. Jones, D. Lerman. R et al., 2004, 2nd Edition. Clinical Nutrition: A functional Approach. Environment and toxicity. Chapter 9, 237- 261.
5.      Liska, D. Lyon, M. Jones, D.  2010, 3rd edition. Textbook of Functional medicine. Chapter 22, 275-298.
6.      F P Guengerich. “Effects of Nutritive Factors on Metabolic Processes Involving Bioactivation and Detoxication of Chemicals” Annual Review of Nutrition 1984 4:1, 207-231
7.      Bidlack WR, Brown RC, Mohan C. “Nutritional parameters that alter hepatic drug metabolism, conjugation, and toxicity.” Fed Proc. 1986 Feb;45(2):142-8. Review.
8.      Yu-Feng Li, Zeqin Dong, Chunying Chen, Bai Li, Yuxi Gao, Liya Qu, Tianchen Wang, Xin Fu, Yuliang Zhao, and Zhifang Chai. Organic Selenium Supplementation Increases Mercury Excretion and Decreases Oxidative Damage in Long-Term Mercury-Exposed Residents from Wanshan, China. Environmental Science & Technology 2012 46 (20), 11313-11318
12.   Krop J. Chemical sensitivity after intoxication at work with solvents: response to sauna therapy. J Altern Complement Med. 1998 Spring;4(1):77-86
13.   Ross GH, Sternquist MC. Methamphetamine exposure and chronic illness in police officers: significant improvement with sauna-based detoxification therapy. Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Sep;28(8):758-68.
14.   Desai MS, Seekatz AM, Koropatkin NM, Kamada N, Hickey CA, Wolter M, Pudlo NA, Kitamoto S, Terrapon N, Muller A, Young VB, Henrissat B, Wilmes P, Stappenbeck TS, Núñez G, Martens EC. A Dietary Fiber-Deprived Gut Microbiota Degrades the Colonic Mucus Barrier and Enhances Pathogen Susceptibility. Cell. 2016 Nov 17;167(5):1339-1353.e21.
15.   Lallès JP. Microbiota-host interplay at the gut epithelial level, health and nutrition. J Anim Sci Biotechnol. 2016 Nov 8;7:66. Review.
16.   Zhang H, Wang J, Liu Y, Sun B. Wheat bran feruloyl oligosaccharides modulate the phase II detoxifying/antioxidant enzymes via Nrf2 signaling. Int J Biol Macromol. 2015 Mar;74:150-4.
17.   Ard JD, Gower B, Hunter G, Ritchie CS, Roth DL, Goss A, Wingo BC, Bodner EV, Brown CJ, Bryan D, Buys DR, Haas MC, Keita AD, Flagg LA, Williams CP, Locher JL. Effects of Calorie Restriction in Obese Older Adults: The CROSSROADS Randomized Controlled Trial. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Dec 21.
18.   Martin CK, Bhapkar M, Pittas AG, Pieper CF, Das SK, Williamson DA, Scott T, Redman LM, Stein R, Gilhooly CH, Stewart T, Robinson L, Roberts SB; Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) Phase 2 Study Group.. Effect of Calorie Restriction on Mood, Quality of Life, Sleep, and Sexual Function in Healthy Non-obese Adults: The CALERIE 2 Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Jun 1;176(6):743-52.
19.   Meydani SN, Das SK, Pieper CF, Lewis MR, Klein S, Dixit VD, Gupta AK, Villareal DT, Bhapkar M, Huang M, Fuss PJ, Roberts SB, Holloszy JO, Fontana L. Long-term moderate calorie restriction inhibits inflammation without impairing cell-mediated immunity: a randomized controlled trial in non-obese humans. Aging (Albany NY). 2016 Jul;8(7):1416-31.
20.   Alhamdan BA, Garcia-Alvarez A, Alzahrnai AH, Karanxha J, Stretchberry DR, Contrera KJ, Utria AF, Cheskin LJ. Alternate-day versus daily energy restriction diets: which is more effective for weight loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Sci Pract. 2016 Sep;2(3):293-302.
21.   Feurer J. Effect of a mixed 6-week training period on body fat in moderately to severely obese patients, without caloric restriction, with a 3-month follow-up. Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2016 Sep;59S:e53.
22.   Friedenreich CM, Neilson HK, O'Reilly R, Duha A, Yasui Y, Morielli AR, Adams SC, Courneya KS. Effects of a High vs Moderate Volume of Aerobic Exercise on Adiposity Outcomes in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Oncol. 2015 Sep;1(6):766-76.
23.   Weiss EP, Albert SG, Reeds DN, Kress KS, McDaniel JL, Klein S, Villareal DT. Effects of matched weight loss from calorie restriction, exercise, or both on cardiovascular disease risk factors: a randomized intervention trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Sep;104(3):576-86.
24.   Johnstone AM. Fasting - the ultimate diet? Obes Rev. 2007 May;8(3):211-22. Review.
25.   Archer T, Ricci S, Massoni F, Ricci L, Rapp-Ricciardi M. Cognitive Benefits of Exercise Intervention. Clin Ter. 2016 Nov-Dec;167(6):e180-e185.
26.   Febbraio MA. Exercise metabolism in 2016: Health benefits of exercise - more than meets the eye! Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2017 Jan 4.
27.   Johnstone AM. Fasting - the ultimate diet? Obes Rev. 2007 May;8(3):211-22. Review.
28.   Sánchez B1, Casalots-Casado J, Quintana S, Arroyo A, Martín-Fumadó C, Galtés I. Fatal manganese intoxication due to an error in the elaboration of Epsom salts for a liver cleansing diet. Forensic Sci Int. 2012 Nov 30;223(1-3):e1-4.
29.   J M Isner, H E Sours, A L Paris, V J Ferrans and W C Roberts. Sudden, unexpected death in avid dieters using the liquid-protein-modified-fast diet. Observations in 17 patients and the role of the prolonged QT interval. Circulation. 1979;60:1401-1412, originally published December 1, 1979
30.   Tomiyama AJ, Mann T, Vinas D, Hunger JM, Dejager J, Taylor SE. Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med. 2010 May;72(4):357-64.
31.   Mazurak N, Günther A, Grau FS, Muth ER, Pustovoyt M, Bischoff SC, Zipfel S, Enck P. Effects of a 48-h fast on heart rate variability and cortisol levels in healthy female subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;67(4):401-6.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Mind Choice Blog No6. The chronic illness roller coaster - depression

Mind Choice Blog No6

The chronic illness roller coaster - depression

It wasn’t cancer this time but the ride is not dissimilar.  When I was diagnosed with cancer 11 years ago I initially had no physical symptoms other than losing my voice (cancer of the larynx) and after the initial shock, I felt a tremendous energy and felt more alive than I had done for years.  Although saying that, I could still be floored at times thinking of my little son and whether I would live to see him grow up.   With this illness, an autoimmune condition causing vasculitis and nerve damage, I was initially so physically ill it was more a matter of just getting through each day.  But that’s just the beginning of any chronic illness then come the stages of loss identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross of denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.  Not really experienced as stages but emotions that come and go in no particular order and like a roller coaster gradually lose strength and impact.

Sadness, anger, fear, anxiety – often our habitual reaction to these emotions is resistance, we push them away which drives our thinking and behavior. We may try to distract ourselves by getting busy or we worry and ruminate over things.  For example, angry thoughts about why the doctor didn’t diagnose us earlier or fear and uncertainty about illness and the future.  We may find ourselves searching for answers on the internet or getting caught up in frightening thoughts about the future rather than being with what’s actually present.   But, these normal, human habitual tactics of avoidance or elaboration fuel the feelings and emotions, so it becomes a vicious cycle as seen below.  Tension is part of the body’s fight-flight response to stress and in this state of readiness to run or fight, there is no energy for healing.

The Cycle of Suffering

What we learn in mindfulness is that as soon as we notice this happening, whether that is immediately or after some time, is to drop into the body and notice what we are actually experiencing.  We may become aware of tension, holding and resistance and can simply bring awareness to this and breath with it, allowing it to soften on the outbreath, maybe even saying the words “softening, opening’ to ourselves or hold it gently in awareness.  We may become aware of sensations in the throat, chest or belly and experience feelings of sadness or fear and hold this too in awareness, a compassionate, friendly awareness that allows what is already there to be experienced.  Sometimes, we can be surprised at what is really beneath it all and at how quickly it passes, if we allow it to be fully experienced rather than pushed away.

For example, not so long ago I found myself feeling anger towards my GP, this is what I wrote in my journal:-

“Noticing angry thoughts towards my GP. Why didn't you listen over the last few years when I complained about xxx and xxxx? Noticing these angry thoughts, I realise I don't want to carry anger so I drop into my body and there is a big well of sadness.  I am finding it difficult today, the pain, the confusion with medication and reordering, the confusion over my diagnosis and now some problem with my blood test results necessitating an emergency call with the doctor. I feel sad and alone.”
How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing-
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things teach us:
to fall,
patiently trusting our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

-Rainer Maria Rilke
from the Book of Hours 11, 16 translated by Anita Burrows and Joanna May

 However painful these feelings maybe I can feel the physical sensations in my body, I am alive, whereas with depression it feels more akin to flat lining, shut off from everything, my body and life itself.  I find it a challenging state to be in.  I don’t remember depression when I was living with a diagnosis of cancer but the months before Christmas I was stuck in depression or more of a ‘fed-up’ state and it felt like getting through a murky, horrid, unending, lifeless stuckness.  I was dragging myself around, getting through the day and then just wanting to blank out in front of the TV.  Perhaps this state was an avoidance of underlying painful feelings.  I tried to open to it, to let it be, to not take it personally but it was difficult and I did begin to catch myself in “I am depressed, I am boring, I am bored with my life, why do I feel like this’?  I did my best to notice these thoughts and just let them pass rather than getting caught on the old hooks.  I even had little reminders from teachers I revere on post it notes to remind me, like this one from Pema Chodron:-

“Learning how to observe our experience in a friendly way rather than identifying with it, resisting it or rejecting it”

I was reducing the steroids and the pain killers that I am on and my mood state may have been due to this.  My lovely acupuncturist said “I am giving you heart for what you are going through, be kind to yourself”.  It is something we do need reminding of, okay this is a difficult time but we can bring kindness to ourselves, it’s alright for a while to curl up in front of the fire or TV and remember that this too will pass.  It has been a difficult year, I have also been grieving the loss of my beloved dachshund, Saxon, who was like a first child to me.  Here we are getting prepared for a sponsored walk for Yes to Life back in January 2008.

I was very fortunate to go on a week’s silent retreat in early December which was exactly what I needed as it turned out.  It was with teachers I love and admire, Vidyamala Birch who set up Breathworks and Colette Power.  The first morning Colette led a meditation bringing loving kindness towards the difficult.  It was something like – we all suffer, we avoid, avoid, avoid and then end up in overwhelm.  Can we be present with the difficult and the painful like when we are with a friend who is suffering.  We know what to do, to listen, to be there, to try to understand and empathize to know what we might offer for comfort – touch hand on the heart or belly where we feel emotions, words ‘Clare its okay, you’re alright. After this 30 minute practice we then went into the main temple for a long silent sit.  As soon as we started in silence, sadness flowed out of and through me and I felt immense compassion and gratitude toward the teachers I have been guided by – Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, Vidyamala. 

So, maybe I had been supressing, pushing away and ignoring painful feelings which had led to a sense of dullness, in my practice and my life, because I was shutting off part of my experience.  I needed the guidance of these teachers to bring a delicate, receptive and focused awareness to my experience and to “imbue the breath with tenderness”.  Many of us over-effort to gain insight or have a better experience and here I was learning about soft effort.  I noticed that what arose in my meditation practice, hardly seemed to want to be seen, it comes, I focus my attention on it and it disappears just as quickly.  It’s like a scared child coming into a room, if you pay attention to it, it runs out but if you hold a kind, gentle space it may feel safe to enter.  Again the words of Pema Chodron ring in my head – “let go of the idea of fruition”.  Reflecting back, maybe my formal practice during this time had been focusing on the pain and tension in my chest and wanting to soften and open to the feeling but in an over-effortful way, wanting to release feelings, wanting to change my experience rather than accepting it as it was. 

Our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion
–the Buddha

Towards the end of the retreat, we practised loving kindness meditations when you bring to mind a friend, remembering times together and times you have supported each other and all the struggles or anxieties they may have and send them good wishes.  Then come back to yourself and send the same good wishes, compassionate feelings toward yourself.  Then broadening out to include people around you, in your home and community and out beyond into the country and the world.  This can be a very powerful practice and certainly my experience was just that – I felt the pain and suffering of the refugees and people in prison and hospitals.  What I found interesting was that I then began experiencing joy and aliveness.  Maybe I had really shut myself off in my own small world of “my suffering” – my story of feeling low and feeling shame and coming off steroids etc etc.    The isolating container of the “story of me”.  The practice opened me back out to feel the joy of being alive and connection with others.

The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
-          Milton, Paradise Lost

So here’s what I need to remember and maybe these are good tips for life and for the start of 2017.   We are going to travel the rollercoaster but by being aware of the experience we can ride it rather than be thrown about by it.

1.      Compassion, compassion, compassion – When you notice it is a difficult moment, bring your attention into the body – are you aware of any tension in your shoulders or back, how’s your breathing?  This is a moment of suffering, what’s in your experience (thoughts, feelings, sensations) being curious as to what’s here, maybe placing a hand on your heart or where you are feeling pain or tension and acknowledging whatever is there and holding it in loving awareness.

2.      Connection – remembering that everyone struggles and suffers in their lives and that there are likely to be many people suffering in the same way.   You are not alone.  Keep yourself open to feeling connected maybe even by ensuring that you see your friends and family rather than cocooning yourself.

3.      Cultivation of good experiences - it can be really beneficial to us, in practice and daily life, to take in the good and to build inner resources so that we can cope when life is difficult.  So when we notice a pleasant or enjoyable moment, to really savour it and allow it time to be felt and to settle into the body whether it’s feeling relaxed, feeling cared about, feeling grateful or any other positive experience. 

The Laughing Heart (Charles Bukowski)

Your life is your life,don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
Be on the watch.There are ways out.
There is a light somewhere.
It may not be much light butit beats the darkness.
Be on the watch.
The gods will offer you chances.
Know them.take them.
You can’t beat death butyou can beat death in life, sometimes.
And the more often you learn to do it, the more light there will be.
Your life is your life.
Know it while you have it.
You are marvellous the gods wait to delightin you.

By Clare McLusky

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Courgette fritters

At our last Outsmart Cancer workshop, these courgette fritters were a hot favourite, and they are totally delicious and both gluten dairy free.

Ingredients (to make 4 fritters):                                   

1 large courgette
½ onion, peeled
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
40g gram flour( for gluten free) or plain flour
1/2 tsp dried coriander
black pepper
olive oil

1. Grate the courgette and onion using a food processor or mandolin; put it in a bowl. Press the garlic into the mixture. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables and leave for at least 15 mins to extract the liquid.
2. Drain using a fine sieve to remove as much liquid as possible.
3. Return the veg to a dry bowl and add the flour, coriander and black pepper.
4. Mix well. Form into balls and flatter into patties
5. Heat oil and fry the fritters gently for 5 minutes on each side.
6. Serve with a large side salad for a delicious lunch for two, or a yoghurt dip with grated cucumber as a starter.

Jenny Phillips is a qualified nutritionist and author of Eat to Outsmart Cancer.
Find out more at

Monday, 2 January 2017

Keeping me sane – the role of Art as a coping mechanism through cancer by Penny Golledge

Visionary Artists inspire us all to look beyond the veil of cultural and linguistic limitations.  Human consciousness is evolving; the artificial boundaries between art and science are rapidly being erased.  Using the imagination and tapping into mystical, magical themes, the Visionary Artist transcends this physical world, opening a doorway into other realms we all recognise.

My latest mystical, more esoteric artworks are a reflection of the Spiritual Awakening I had whilst on my journey through Cancer. My eyes were opened to the more esoteric and sacred meaning of art and how it has been used since time immemorial to illustrate this phenomenon.

I realised art awakens the soul and illuminates the spiritual path of each person by providing access to the highest mystic truths. It provides a bridge between the material, creativity and spirituality.

Art helps us recognise and integrate ALL wisdom paths that expand consciousness and provide personal contact with the Divine.  When I paint my visionary artwork, I often find I have channelled the images from somewhere else! The Spiritual journey isn’t ‘owned’ by any one religious faction or cult - it is an Al-chemical process experienced by the Soul of every individual.

Carl Gustav Jung said:
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Alchemy of the Soul can only be learned through experience, and self- examination so ‘Go within; and discover who you are, why your feel the way you do, and what actions you intend to take to alter your life’s path. Your EMOTIONS ARE the key to enlightenment.

I live in the beautiful New Forest, nestled in the South of England, so I am very close to the coast, but also a stone’s throw away from the forest where ponies roam free. I started painting at a very young age.  I would walk along the beach, pick up stones then take them home and make them into characters with paint. My friends all liked them and soon I was making them as little gifts. I would sit for hours and paint anything and everything. No surprise my favourite subject at school was Art, and I just continued on into adult life, painting just for pleasure. I was asked by friends and family to paint their pets, and in my first job, I was always the one making banners for the baby showers, or farewell messages to hang above the desks of colleagues at work on special occasions. Commissions for Pet Portraits increased, I began to paint Wild Animals but often dipped my toe into the world of Fantasy.

How life changed when my daughter was diagnosed with Leukaemia

I married in 1984, and had my first child, a little girl in 1985. My second child was born in 1987, a little boy, but in 1989 life changed when my daughter was diagnosed with Leukaemia at the tender age of 4.

For two years, she was in and out of hospital receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy and our priorities changed. In 1991, the doctors performed a lumbar puncture to find out if the cancer had gone, but sadly my daughter (aged 6 now) had relapsed and the cancer had spread to her brain and spine, so her chances of survival were very much reduced.

We were told, the only hope was for her to have a Bone Marrow Transplant, so we were all tested to see if any of us matched.  Miraculously, my little son (her brother) who was 4 was a perfect match, and the doctors prepared them both for the transplant in 1992.    My amazing son saved my daughter’s life and words cannot convey the gratitude and love I feel for them both.

After a traumatic 8 months in isolation, my beautiful daughter eventually began to show signs of recovery despite many setbacks. I am pleased to say she did survive and went onto live a full and happy life well into her early 20’s. She went abroad on two conservation projects and even sky dived for charity putting all her childhood trauma behind her. She is one of the longest surviving Bone Marrow Transplant children in the U.K and life returned to ‘normal’ for a while.

Unfortunately, all the stress took its toll on my health and I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2010.  After 2 cycles of chemotherapy and surgery plus invaluable advice from amazing people in holistic and alternative medicine, I am still here to tell the tale. 

Sadly, the chemotherapy and radiotherapy my daughter received as a child left its legacy.  On December 6th 2011, she collapsed from a sudden and devastating stroke which has left her disabled. Despite all the odds, she managed to survive again and today she is walking and talking. Stroke is a known late effect of cancer treatment, something few people like to acknowledge or talk about.

If that wasn’t enough, in 2013, my husband was diagnosed with Oesophageal Cancer. Unfortunately he didn’t survive. He died on 6th December 2013, two years to the day that our daughter had her stroke.

Life has been exceptionally difficult at times, but I can honestly say, Art and painting has kept me sane.  

In the 90’s, as my daughter was recovering from her bone marrow transplant, I was asked to create 3 CD covers for the hard rock/blues guitarist, Bernie Marsden his band The Snakes.  He was one of the original core members in the band Whitesnake and wrote the hit song “Here I Go Again” and co-wrote “Fool For Your Loving” along with many others.  Hampshire Brewery commissioned me to design beer bottle labels, winning them the Camra Award for that year and in 2002, I won the overall first prize for ‘Paint a Wildlife Subject’ at the Business Design Centre, London.

I then joined Marwell International Art Society in Hampshire and the Society for the Art of Imagination, exhibiting at a number of prestigious galleries around the world including: the Mall Gallery in London, H.R. Giger Museum in Gruyere, Switzerland, Renaze in France and recently in October 2015, the Ecomusée du Fier Monde in Montreal, Canada.   I continue to exhibit in local galleries in and around Hampshire and Dorset UK when I can.