Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Anti-Vaccination Campaigns And Organisations ARE A FRAUD.

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Anti-vaccination groups have pushed a scare campaign on the public for years now, claiming that vaccines harm, not help kids.

I was astounded to learn that the whole thing that started this whole scare campaign was a fraud. It's in this video. Have a look. 

To put it simply, this whole idea that vaccinations are bad started in 1998, after a paper released on 8 kids that developed autism after having the measles vaccination. But the fact was, that 8/12 of those kids had another disease at the time.

In truth, after multiple studies, ranging from 5,000 to as many as 5 MILLION kids - no link could between the two could be found, and later on it was discovered that the article all this fuss was based upon was based on completely falsified data... those 12 kids were HIRED by an ANTI-VACCINATION GROUP and NONE OF THEM, yet alone 8/12, EVEN HAD AUTISM.

Of those who wrote the original article, 11/12 have retracted their statement - which never happens in medical articles before. Only 1, the person who wrote the initial article, a person who makes millions off this campaign, a person who had his medical licence revoked prior to this article being written, still backs his claim.

At the time of publishing this paper, which has been confirmed to be fraudulent, Wakefield himself submitted a business prospectus for a new autism testing kit (of a strain of autism that he actually created) which he proposed would earn him $44 million A YEAR!

It's stupid.
But the idea of not vaccinating still goes strong.
And it's already killed millions. 

Prior to that vaccinations were seen as a godsend. Probably because before that we actually had children dying in large numbers in front of us, unlike the thousands who die every year without having an organisation that makes MILLIONS in donations behind them, due to their kids, or other kids, NOT BEING VACCINATED.

The question comes to mind.
Why do people not know this information??

Well it's either: 

1) Anti-vac campaigns and groups, though they may have arisen from actual concern, are now powerful. They keep providing funding to enhance their agenda, making people think those who support them are doing good, when in truth they're unknowingly being led by people who know this information to KILL thousands of dollars a year. 
Now they, either by accident or, more likely, purposefully, have created a whole conspiracy theory around the idea that the government is trying to cover something up or make people sick on purpose. They invest millions into this and are probably making millions off it too... while 30,000 adults in America, a developed nation, die of diseases that would never had affected them had they been vaccinated.


2) There is not enough conversation between scientists and laymen about why things are necessary and what different studies mean (or the studies don't get publicised enough) because doctors/scientists don't communicate well enough with the wider public and the public can't get access of easy to process information.

Likely, it's a combination of both.

The question now becomes:
How do we fix it?

Well, to stop the anti-vac campaigns, we need to raise awareness. 
Make videos like this, blog posts like mine that expose these campaigns as the frauds they are go viral to the people who don't know better and the people who question the necessity.

To do this, we need to EDUCATE PEOPLE on why vaccinations are necessary. What the REAL side effects and chances of those happening are.
And we have to communicate this information to the public, with as little jargon as possible, at levels that ANYONE WHO CAN READ CAN UNDERSTAND.

Vaccinations are why we, in the developed world, don't have to worry about diseases like polio, smallpox and measles. 2 of those 3 still plague the developing world, by the way, and kill MILLIONS of people, a lot of them kids, every year. 
To make sure they're effective, a certain percentage of the entire population needs to be vaccinated. This level, which we call "herd immunity" will ensure that the population can't spread the disease that's being vaccinated against easily. The number varies among different diseases depending on how easily it spreads and other factors, but for the flu vaccine in Australia this year, that number was 95%.

And if you're skeptical about the effectiveness of these programs, a few of these stats should indicate how important they are. 

Reduction in vaccine preventable diseases after 5 years of vaccination in Croatia:
Bernard Keich, "Impact of Vaccination on Vaccine Preventable Disease in Croatia", Periodicum Biologorum Vol 114, No 2, 141 - 147

So they are necessary. And you can see from that video and my data above, they DON'T cause autism, like some groups would have you believe. 
They do have side effects in some patients (less than 1%), but most of them are minor, and they save more than they harm. 

Without them, we'd still have millions of people, most of them KIDS dying every year.
Millions of kids die every year in the developing world from diseases that could have been vaccinated against. 
We are privileged to not have our kids torn away from us. 

But this may soon be changing... with incidences occuring more and more in developed countries due to the influences of the Anti-Vac movement. 
You and I can stop this trend where it stands.

If We Vaccinate Our Kids. 

You can do your part by sharing that video, or this blog post with those less aware than you so that you can save your kids' lives, as well as THEIR KIDS' LIVES.

My facebook page:

An addition to the original post - A guide to educating those who think vaccinating isn't safe:

One question to pose to all anti-vaccers next time you debate them - what's the harm of vaccinating? The only evidence of it having some conceivable harm was the fraudulent Wakefield studies shown above. No heavy metals are added to vaccines any more by law, indeed, they never exceeded the amount you get in a serve of tuna.

Common Arguments They Make. Why they're wrong:

They often argue "It's good to have some diseases early in life!" - remind them that a vaccine works on that same principle. Except instead of giving you one that can leave you sterile, brain damaged or dead, it gives you a weaker/dead version of the disease so that your immune system is prepped for later encounters with disease. 

"They don't work in all people!" That's true - they don't always cause the intended effect, and vaccinated people can still get sick. However, if enough people in a population are vaccinated (and evenly so) the disease can't spread in the first place, so everyone's gotta do it for it to be effective. Many people (pregnant ladies and immunocompromised people for eg) can't get them - so you're protecting not only yourself and your kids, but also them. That's the concept of herd immunity!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Do Women Deserve More Funding In Health? No. <-- Q&A #1

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Women DON'T deserve more funding in health 

just because they're women.

In terms of funding and treatment in the developed world, women are being looked after just as much, if not, more than men.
But that doesn't mean we ignore the obvious. Men and women are different, and have different bodies, which work differently.
Treating them as separate in terms of treatment and research only makes sense.

But we shouldn't do this just because they're women. 

In this video, Pauline Johnson lays out her "mission" to figure out "why these sex differences occur and use that knowledge to improve the health of women."
We should recognise genders in medicine because it will only lead to better treatments for everyone.

 Pauline Johnson suggests that when looking at health, women should be looked after more.

She frames the whole speech is to make it an issue of women's health and appeals to a feministic agenda that way. She asserts that women should get treated differently to men, and that they deserve a larger chunk of the pot when it comes to medical research and treatments.

Had she framed this argument differently, i.e. scientifically, she would have got her point across to more people, and made her talk more convincing, rather than alienating a large chunk of her audience. 
(The like to dislike ratio at the time I wrote this was about 3:2 - very low for this channel)

Because acknowledging the difference in gender in clinical settings and in drug trials would lead to better treatments for women AND men - it would help more people stay healthy. Period (no pun intended).

It's important to note that the data she presents, as it is with any opinion piece, can be misleading. She's either doing it purposefully to illustrate and convince her audience or she's being blinded by her feministic stand on health.
For example, she uses a statistic that "66% of mice brain studies were on male mice or those whose gender were unspecified" and suggests that this means that women are being neglected in research.
This statement is flawed as we don't know how many studies actually specify gender. All we know is that 34% are specified as female in gender. It's very possible that a lower percentage were specified as male. 

So take some of what she says with a grain of salt. 

However, she makes some vital points on the healthcare for ALL people. There ARE huge differences between men and women. Not so much in the major, non sexual organ tissues/cells like the heart and lungs as she suggests when she says all cells are different, but in the hormones that run around and affect the functioning of the normal and diseased body (which are different in men and women). 

Her idea that we treat and research differently between genders is very valid on heart healthcare. 
Men comprise about 60% of heart patients, but women have a worse prognosis. Is it because they're being neglected? Possibly, but it's not because only men are being studied, as she suggests, but because in clinical trials and hospital situations, GENDER IS NOT ALWAYS ACKNOWLEDGED or taken into account when analysing data.
There is a huge difference in the two.
Over the last few decades, researchers and doctors have begun to see the importance of gender in hospitals.
In a study done on this issue - heart health, linked below - it was found that there is a trend in men of getting higher levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad version of cholesterol) in the third and fourth decades. This suggest there may be some physical or social aspects that aren't considered by doctors or in trials in the case of men, and that these should be addressed more in patients in that category. 
Eventually though, in the 5th decade, women suffer from higher proportions of LDL:HDL due to the post menopause period, as HDL (the good form of cholesterol) levels drop, meaning there is a higher percentage of LDLs left in the body. That same study suggests using HDL levels (or proportion of HDL:LDL) and the amount of fat circulating in the blood as a more accurate form of diagnosis in women [1].

There you can see that acknowledging differences in men and women when doing and analysing medical trials helps the treatment outcomes of BOTH WOMEN AND MEN. 
And noting the differences will only lead to more research being done more efficiently which can help EVERYONE.
Not just women as Pauline Johnson suggests.

You may see that in the case of heart health, this study alone shows the necessity to invest more and do more studies on the diet/drinking/smoking patterns (and other risk factors of heart disease) in  30s - 40 year old men, and more should be done on the effects of menopause on heart health for women.

Thus studying these differences, and noting gender in clinical trials IS a completely sound suggestion that should be taken on board.

In the case of depression, Johnson makes a point that 70% of people diagnosed with depression are female. But on studies of symptoms done on 5600 people (60% of those tested were female by the way), men and women were shown to have near equal rates of depression symptoms [2]. 
This suggests that men don't seek help for cases like this, and are under-diagnosed more than that women are neglected. 
HOWEVER, despite this, Johnson's suggestion that women be studied differently to men, due to their differing brain functioning, is a very good idea as the TREATMENT of this diagnosis can be very different.
Looking forward on how this data can help improve the medical system, it becomes clear that more funding needs to be done on making men more aware or willing to come out and seek help for depression, and more funding needs to be diverted on the effects of the mood centre (and hormones associated with that section) of the brain in women in terms of treatment. 

Again, acknowledging the difference in genders will help improve treatment and health research for men AND women.

I haven't done too much endocrinology yet in med school, so I don't know for sure what the differences between male and women are exactly (other than the obvious that I've discovered on my own =P), but the idea that we acknowledge these differences when we research, trial and treat is VERY GOOD and will only end up saving more lives..

And her suggestion that we can make a change by asking our doctors if there is a difference in treatments for men and women is also excellent. Because guess what, this video made me look up the differences in these diseases alone, and has made me (and hopefully the med students who read my posts), as a future doctor and concerned member of society, aware of this difference which hasn't been considered as much in health to date. 

Had she should have framed it as an issue of science and medicine rather than one of gender inequality, more people would be inclined to do that research too.

By the way - this will be the start of a new series - Q&A.
I got messaged this video on FaceBook and asked for a comment on it, and this (with some reworking and slight editing) was my answer. 
This "series", if you will, is not going to be as well worded and written as carefully as my other more inspiring posts, but I'll try and keep it good. 

Comment or message me anything you find interesting in terms of my treatment, how I view life after cancer after cancer or on interesting things you may have seen on the news or the internet, and I'll try and respond as soon as possible. 

Blogger (here of course)


It should be noted that there are huge inequalities in women's health in the developing world for political and social reasons - not for lack of research or investment in treatment as she suggested.
And also - this obviously doesn't concern reproductive health, which is completely different... 
well... for most people that is.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A New Way Of Viewing Diabetes Treatment

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Google Glass is a technology that can only be described as futuristic. 

You can literally check your FaceBook, where you can like my page (I was told to be more subtle in my self promotion... let me know if that was good), browse the net, look at your schedule and take awesome point of view videos without a computer or handheld device!

But it's not exactly Dolce and Gabbana... 

What if I was to tell you that Google is refining this idea and putting all this technology into a contact lens... 
Cool right? 

What I find coolest about this is their business model. 
Not only are they making it possible to check your emails on a boring date, they're also using the idea to help people. 
And making billions off it too.

Tears have a potential for showing accurate blood glucose (sugar) levels. But you can't really get diabetes patients, who need to check their levels every 24 hours, to have a good cry on a daily basis, right? 

Well Google is planning to put an end to the daily near blood test Diabetes sufferers have to put up with.


They've released a press statement from their most innovative R&D department, GoogleX, stating their intent to develop this contact lens to monitor blood glucose levels. They plan to use LED lights on their billion dollar baby to alert patients (and their doctors) when the glucose levels have "crossed above or below certain thresholds," making life much easier for patients who suffer from heart disease, kidney failure and liver disease that ultimately end the lives of soon to be number 1 killer in Australia.

Diabetes affects 380 million people.
That's 1/20 people
That number will double by 2030. 

And, on average, for type 2 diabetes (90% of cases), you have the it for 7 years before you even have it diagnosed. So there's probably a lot more people suffering from it than we think.

Google helps people with this invention and stands to make 10% of the world need their product. And on top of that, it's pretty damn cool.

This is brilliant. 

But what are other benefits that this technology could bring? 

Not only is this invention helping sufferers of this disease who potentially get near fatal blood sugar level dips and rises from things like eating and exercising, it can also lead to advancements in controlling and maybe even curing diabetes. 

Emergency situations where insulin is needed quickly can be mitigated with something that constantly monitors your glucose levels. This can save the lives and limbs (literally) of the nearly half billion already suffering from disease. 

And with this disease, it often takes patients years of blood testing, dieting and dosage testing (where you literally use yourself as a guinea pig)  to find an optimum blood glucose level they can maintain. 
This has the potential to reduce that time to minutes. 

But the biggest potential of this technology, which can read your glucose levels in a second, lies in the ability to test the effectiveness of new drugs and the impacts of diet in a heartbeat. This will save HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS in drug development, making drug investment a less risky and costly investment than it is today. 

This will lead to more drugs being discovered (and not only those helping diabetes patients by the way) quicker. And it will also allow us to test the effectiveness of dieting options more reliably too - because, especially in chronic diseases like this, drugs are not always the best option.

Diabetes is not the only thing this can help.

Your eyeballs aren't just limited to revealing your blood sugar levels. There are possibilities this could be expanded further. 

Your eyes can also be potentially used to monitor heart rate, and maybe even blood pressure, which can help in emergency hospital situations and in chronic sufferers of heart failure and other such diseases much less intrusively, and restrictively, than the blood pressure cuffs and manual pulse taking we are forced to use today. 

And if this kind of technology can be developed to monitor your circulatory system, that is, your blood, you can also test the effectiveness of all drugs without having to take blood tests every day, again saving millions, scratch that, billions in the drug development process.
There will be a blog post about ideas to help drug development too by the way! And soon too. 

Of course, you can easily monitor eye movement and blinking with this kind of technology, which will help millions of people suffering from sleep apnoea (lack of sleep that often goes hand in hand with obesity and being overweight, affecting 50% of the developed world's population) and the probably billion or so who can't get a good nights sleep too!

And on top of that, you can still use this to subscribe to my blog (by email, on the right hand side) and like my FaceBook page too. How's that for subtlety?

This technology is not here yet. The model shown above is only a prototype. But with billions of people who'd possibly benefit from it, I'm pretty sure it'll be here soon. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dealing With Loss. Survivor's guilt.

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This Is Tragic.

Bree and her friend Bridgette were diagnosed with leukemia, on the same day, at the same hospital. They underwent painful, grueling treatment together. They spent the hardest times of their young lives with each-other...

And now that Bridgette's died, Bree can't imagine living without her...

It speak volumes on our ability to love...
And how love's power can even outweigh our ingrained instinct to endure.
It's tragic...

But this kind of loss happens every day. And not just to cancer patients like her and I.

I felt a loss similar to hers not too long ago. The loss of my first patient.

To be fair, I'm not a doctor, yet. After my experiences as a cancer patient though, my drive to wanna become a doctor - a dream of mine from childhood - only grew stronger. Hugely. But on occasion, I meet people, either through this blog, from a friend, or at hospital, who are going through hard times. Through my experiences, I try and help them by giving them encouragement, someone to talk to, and, in the case of other cancer patients, who, I guess, make up the majority of people I talk to, trying to inform them of what's to come (all the while trying to get them to be happy, despite what could be a long, hard battle).

Before my first bone transplant, I found that having the words of someone who's been through the process more powerful than those of my doctors. They just stuck, there was just more power and credibility to the words that came out of a fellow patients’ mouth. And about midway through last year, I met a patient who was about to undergo a BMT. He'd been going strong for years after his lymphoma was in remission, but it had come back, and this was his last option.

A nurse responsible for coordinating the transplant asked if I could tell him about the procedure. I started talking to him and giving him tips for the procedure. I comforted, consoled and encouraged him when he got scared.I even prayed with his crying family at one point... and continued doing that through the whole transplant procedure, where I could.

I can still remember his eyes on the eve of his discharge from hospital.

I'd told him of all the things he had to look out for after the transplant - the possible fevers, rashes, diarrhoea and fatigue, amongst other things. I gave him tips on the recovery process, and assured him that he could do it.

I still remember the laughter of him and his family as I left his room.

Despite his shaking, despite his pain, despite the suffering, his eyes were filled with hope for the future. Hope that he could, and almost would be normal again.

That was the last time I saw him...
He died a few weeks later.

He wasn't old - he was in his 20s, only a few years older than me.

He'd only started living.


When I found out, I was shocked. He was suffering, he wasn't done with treatments yet. I knew that and he knew that too. But he'd seemed so positive, so sure he'd make it, and the doctors thought so too… but he didn't.

After that shock, I started asking myself unanswerable questions.
What had he done to deserve this?
What would happen to his baby?
Why him and not me?

I was feeling the same thing Bree had after Bridgette died... the pain of sheer and utter loss... the pain of losing someone so close to me.

The next few weeks, I couldn't bring myself to do anything. I didn't wanna read, write, talk to people. All I did, day in and day out was browse pointlessly through the internet, not even registering what I was doing...

It was only later on that I realised, that I was told, that I was going through depression.

Frank's death was a major cause of it, but the frustration of the ongoing treatment and the medications I was on, all contributed to my feeling down... out... and empty.

I could see that something was wrong… I didn't want it to stay that way. 

But it was JUST SO HARD to even break the pattern of doing nothing and not caring.
Especially after the world seemed so meaningless, so unfair, after all this.

After a while… when I could bring myself to do it I sat down and asked myself, what next?

It was then that I remembered my own blog post about depression. I looked over that post again. And I took my own advice.

I talked to somebody about it.

That somebody, for me, was Dad.

I told him how I was feeling, and he listened. He didn't know about Frank's death, didn't know about the loss I was going through. But he gave me another perspective of looking at things... and that would mean the world to me.

Me, I was trying my best to help people. And that's not a bad thing to want to do.

But he made me see that I was overdoing it - I was giving up my own happiness, sleep and even food only months after my second transplant, a critical stage of my health.

I was staying up late, talking people through their problems, writing too much too often and pushing myself harder than I should've been.

He assured me that I would help more people in the long run through my being a doctor, if I first helped myself. I agreed. 
He also convinced me that I'd help others in the short term if I did that too. I couldn't write or study medicine if I was stuck in hospital for the next few years, right?

And that helped me see that I couldn't hurt myself anymore over Frank's death.

A different perspective was all it took...

But the question still remained. 

How could I get over the loss?

This time I loved back to how I used my mind to beat my cancer and again took my own advice.

I asked myself why.

Why was I was feeling that way...

After a while of soul searching, I saw it was exactly what that poor girl was going through. Survivor's Guilt

The feeling of regret after you lose a loved one. It's the same regret when you fail at something at life. Regret that you hadn't done enough, hadn't been there enough. It only adds to the melancholy that is loss.
But why was I punishing myself that way, instead of asking what Frank would have wanted for me?
In the end… I knew that he would want me to be happy. To do him proud.
Why shouldn’t I do that instead?

Why was I blaming myself for Frank's death.
I thought I'd given him hope. And then stolen it from him…
Why hadn't I done more?

That was what was eating me.
On top of the loss of a good friend.

But after a while of asking myself why again, I realised that I had told him of all the risks, of all the pain that comes during and after a bone marrow transplant. I told him he wasn't done yet - that the recovery process takes years for some.

All I'd done was give him advice for getting through the procedure and speeding up his rehabilitation. And someone to talk to. And someone to visit him, laugh with him, someone to give his brothers and wife a shoulder to lean on when they needed it.

Yeah, he died young, and yeah the last few weeks were filled with struggle. But there was no way I could have stopped that. He'd been unlucky to even get the disease in the first place, yet alone get one the chemo and a transplant couldn't fix.

That reminded me of a quote from M.A.S.H. 

"Rule number 1 of war [or medicine, or life], young men die. 
Rule number 2, doctors [, no-one] can't change rule number 1."

All I'd done was give him some happy moments in the last days of his life.
I'd done all I could do.

That guilt I was feeling was only harming me. Something Frank would never have wanted for me.
And realising that allowed me to let that pain go…  

But I didn’t want it to end that way.

The loss of this still stuck. The feeling that this was all unfair was still there… But… sad as that was, I couldn’t change that… Sowhy was I only focusing on that?

The best way I could honour his life, and let him live on, past his time, I realized, was to learn from my experience with him and help others get through what I went through. To help others get past their losses and failure. To help others turn the pain and anguish that comes with it into something that can help them, and help others in life.

That's what this post is about.


·                     He reminded me that no-one can live forever, that no-one always wins in life.

·                     That when we lose someone or something we care about, we will miss them.
But once we get past our grief and failure, we have a choice on how we deal with it.

·         That his personality. His spirit.  His impact on this world… Still lived on, beyond past his time, by how he’d changed those around him. By how his amazing family gathered around to help each-other. By how he could laugh in the face of much pain…

·                     That we can either dwell on the past and close ourselves off to others and to opportunities... 

Or we can learn from them, from the mistakes we've made on our journey with someone or to something, and use that to not only get over our loss, but also to improve ourselves.

That way we can be more successful, influential and HAPPY human beings.
Ones our loved ones would be proud of.

It won't happen in a day. We may have to do some soul searching to get there. And if we can't see any other way of looking at it, talk to somebody about it. 

I hope my experience with Frank can help you see your way around your losses.
When you lose someone close to you - a friend, a family member, your mother, your father, your son - you will feel loss, and you will feel pain. 

Frank was a close friend. He’ll always be a part of me. I can only imagine how hard it would be to lose a brother, partner or child to this disease…

But after a while, YOU have the choice on how to remember them.
So LEARN from those you've lost. Let their time on this Earth, let their qualities, their words, their philosophies, or their tragedy, inspire you to be a better person.

They live through you if they've taught you how to live.
They smile on as you smile and make them proud. 

Always remember that.

What does that mean for me as a med student?
I've learnt that I can't save everyone... 
I'm only human... people live and die and no doctor or scientist, can change that.

I've learnt that I need to take care of myself before I can help others. I need to make sure I get better first, that I don't overstress myself (especially now, while I'm still recovering) and when I become a doctor, that I don't blame myself for deaths or misfortune I could not prevent.

But does that mean that I, like many doctors, close myself off to others and never get close to patients?

I'm not a person who can or wants to do that... And I'm not going to turn to alcohol, or other drugs, to get over the sadness my profession entails either. Alcohol abuse is surprisingly high amongst doctors, despite their better knowledge, for a reason...

What I will do is remember this story, and remember what I've learnt from it.

I will still care for others, I will still connect with my patients, I will ALWAYS try my best to help them in their times of need.

But when I lose someone, when I miss out on a promotion or fail and exam, when I just feel down and out... I will talk to someone. 

And I WILL get over it. 

A talk I gave, on this issue and on the horrible stereotype and expectation cancer patients are expected to live by (read about that here:) 

If you or a loved one is facing loss or depression of any kind, you can always get over it. It won't happen straight away, it will take time. But talk to someone about it. Talk to a friend, a loved one, someone who you trust most. Talk to a psychologist or a psychiatrist about it. 

Or feel free to talk to me on this blog, on my facebook, wherever you want..I will try my hardest to help you.

My facebook page is here:
Comment below anonymously if you'd like.

And by the way, Frank isn't actually my friend's name. It's just a name I made up to protect his, and his family's, confidentiality.