Today’s Star Columnist: Dr Mary Wren

Star columnist Dr Mary Wren
Star columnist Dr Mary Wren
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I’ve noticed media articles recently about the “epidemic” of cancer in Britain despite

the money and research invested . It made me wonder why. The articles mentioned smoking, alcohol and obesity and how these things need to be tackled more stringently. Even as I read my heart sank – as I know that patients are already bombarded with lifestyle advice, rules and lectures which can make them feel like children in front of the headteacher. Will more rules help or are there other things to consider?

I love the detective process involved in medicine – looking for clues, collecting evidence, finding out the story and then looking for answers. So why do people smoke or drink and eat too much? Is it to provide temporary pleasure when inside they feel empty? Or to cope with stress or to fit in with others? What is the root?I have heard stories where people recovered from cancer after dealing with unforgiveness and bitterness. I heard another story of someone who got well when they started loving themselves-instead of being filled with hate. Our physical bodies are only our mobile homes we live in!

They really matter but are not the whole. We can forget that what eats away at us inside can show itself physically. Maybe we should consider more research on these things? I have also read about research showing that we all get rogue cancer cells in our bodies through our lives but only rarely do they take root. If our immune systems are healthy we fight off the invader! So things such as reducing stress, having a balance in diet, rest and work matter, as do laughter and a positive attitude.

Now being a radical sort of person this brings up all sorts of ideas in my mind! What would happen if the NHS focused on support for the inside as well as the outside of people? What would happen if we offered a chaplaincy appointment to everyone with a new diagnosis of cancer? What would happen if as patients we chose to let the illness be a wake-up call to sort out the rubbish in our hearts – choosing to forgive, to laugh more, to be thankful? What if we could prescribe holidays or funny dvds!? People like Jane Tomlinson who did amazing things while having metastatic cancer challenge and inspire us. Maybe the answer to cancer is more than we think.