Archives for : HEALTH & MEDICAL

Psychology student Aleksandra Chichikova crowned first Miss Wheelchair World

A psychology student from Belarus, Aleksandra Chichikova, has been crowned Miss Wheelchair World in the first-ever edition of the beauty pageant held in Warsaw, Poland on Saturday.

“Fight your anxiety and your fears,” the 23-year-old Chichikova said at a gala evening, after the contestants had presented themselves in national costumes and evening dresses in elaborate choreographies.

Lebohang Monyatsi from South Africa was the runner-up ahead of Poland’s Adrianna Zawadzinska in the first contest of its kind on a global scale, which brought together 24 young women from 19 countries.

The goal of the contest was to “change the image of women in wheelchairs so they would not be judged solely by this attribute,” contest co-founder and jury president Katarzyna Wojtaszek-Ginalska told AFP.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience after she was crowned Miss Wheelchair World.

The pageant organised by the Poland-based Only One Foundation also seeks to show that a wheelchair is a luxury in many parts of the world, she added.

The contestants were chosen either in national rounds or, in countries with no such pageants, by non-governmental organisations addressed by the Polish foundation.

“It is not the looks that matter the most,” said Wojtaszek-Ginalska, who is also confined to a wheelchair.

“Of course, a good look counts but we have focused especially on the personality of the girls, their everyday activities, their involvement, social life, plans,” she added.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience.

The contestants spent eight days in the Polish capital, busy with rehearsals, photo sessions, conferences and visits.

The inaugural Miss Wheelchair World attracted contestants from Angola, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine and the United States.

Henry Sapiecha

Attached Women Smoke Less & R In ‘Healthier Weight Range’: Heart Report shows

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Women in relationships eat more fruit and vegetables and are less likely to be overweight or smoke than single females, a new survey has found.

The Heart Foundation survey, released Saturday, polled 6,025 Australians aged between 30 and 65, and looked at the clinical and lifestyle risk factors for developing heart disease. It surveyed people in a relationship (married and defacto) and those not in a relationship (single, widowed, divorced and separated).

“The data found women in a relationship fared better in many of the key risk factors, with more women eating their fruit and veg, more in a healthy weight range, more having normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and less women smoking than their single counterparts,” the Heart Foundation said.


Women in relationships rate better on a number of health risk factors.
Twenty percent of single women polled smoked, compared to just 11.8 percent of women in couples, while 61 percent of single females were overweight or obese compared to 54 percent of those coupled-up.

The survey found 7.4 percent of single respondents were at a high risk of having a heart attack, compared to 6 percent for women in couples.

For men, the results were mixed, with the survey finding men in relationships ate better and smoked less, but were more likely to be overweight and were at a higher risk of heart attack.

Heart Foundation national chief executive, professor Garry Jennings, said in heterosexual couples men were generally less healthy.

“If we look solely at couples, men aren’t as healthy as their female partners, with women healthier in almost every aspect,” Jennings said.

Couple relaxing in bedroom

Couple relaxing in bedroom

“It is bad news. The reality is that men are two times more likely to have been told by their doctor that they are at high risk of having heart attack than women.

“Men need to start getting their act together if they’re to live a long and healthy life.”

The release of the survey comes as the Heart Foundation holds its annual Lock in the Love campaign for heart disease research and patient support in Melbourne.

couple run in park-image

The foundation is encouraging people to buy a lock for $10 and attach it to the heart installations at Queensbridge Square or Collins Square in the CBD, NewsCorp Australia reports.

Heart disease is said to be the single biggest killer of Australians, claiming 20,000 lives each year. (6)

Henry Sapiecha

The medical epidemic few women have been willing to talk about – until now

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When Carmel Price’s mother had an operation six years ago, Price helped her in the hospital but never really knew what the procedure was for. “I heard that she was having ‘reconstructive surgery,’ like that her organs had moved around and they were putting them back where they belonged,” said Price, a university professor.

Then Price had two babies of her own and suddenly she understood – and unlike many women in the past, she is talking about it.

“My bladder was bulging outside of my body, and if I was on my feet for any significant length of time, like if I was giving a three-hour lecture, or running or jumping, it would fall out even further.” Her mother confirmed that it was the same thing she’d had.

Pelvic organ prolapse – when a woman’s bladder, uterus, or rectum falls down through the vaginal canal – affects millions of women in America, and becomes more likely the older they get. The average age women start to notice pelvic floor disorders, which include prolapse as well as urinary and fecal incontinence, is 56; by 80, half of all women have one or more symptoms. One in 10 end up in surgery.

And yet for years, few women talked about it. Gynaecologists often do not notice it in routine exams, and many women have lived with the condition for years or even decades without realising anything could be done.

“This is a stigmatised condition,” said John DeLancey, a Univeristy of Michigan professor of gynecology and urology. “It’s nothing people would talk about in polite company … And because nobody talks about it, everyone thinks they’re the only one.”

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Recently, however, the conversation has opened up ever so slightly. Last month the actress Kate Winslet spoke publicly about her urinary incontinence since having babies. The FDA recently approved several versions of a pelvic floor muscle trainer, which provide feedback via a smartphone app. And new internal devices for incontinence and prolapse, which advocates say work better than earlier versions, are just hitting the market.

“There has definitely been a sea change starting this calendar year,” said Missy Lavender, executive director of the Women’s Health Foundation, which does education and advocacy on the issue. “We suddenly have people looking at women’s pelvic health, going, ‘Why don’t we do more?'”

References to pelvic organ prolapse appear in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Medieval woodcuts, and the Bible (which says it is a sign a wife has been unfaithful). Treatments throughout the ages included fumigating the lower abdomen with herbs; tying a woman upside-down to a ladder and shaking it; or menacing the wayward organ with a hot poker to frighten it into place.

In reality, pelvic floor prolapse is similar to a hernia where the organs and vaginal walls are pushed out through an opening in the muscles of the pelvic floor. The condition is most common among women who have given birth; in 10-15 per cent of vaginal deliveries, the attachment of the muscles to the side walls tears, weakening the ability of the muscles to support the organs. Most women have no idea there is a problem until years later, when the muscles weaken with age and are no longer able to hold the organs in place.

“It’s not painful so much as uncomfortable,” DeLancey said. “They feel this intense pressure. Often they say they have a backache.”

Pelvic floor problems run in families. Other risk factors include obesity, routine heavy lifting, older maternal age at first birth, and the use of forceps during delivery.

Treatments include the use of a pessary, an internal support device that women can insert to hold the organs in place, or surgery using the patient’s own tissue or a mesh to lift and repair the fallen organs.

There are 320,000 surgeries a year for pelvic floor disorder, 200,000 of which are for prolapse. For less advanced cases, physical therapy can help reduce symptoms.

Left untreated, the prolapse can grow to the size of a grapefruit or larger, and it can become painful if the organs pull on the ligaments. It can become dangerous if the prolapse causes blockage in the tubes that attach kidney to bladder, And it can put women at risk of reduced activity and social isolation.

“Urinary incontinence is one of the top reasons people end up in nursing homes – people don’t want to deal with the smell,” said Cheryl Iglesia, director of MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Section of Female Pelvic Medicine.

In the US, more pads are sold for incontinence than menstruation, Iglesia said. “It is a problem because we don’t have enough trained experts [in pelvic floor issues] to handle the aging population.”

Even when it is not dangerous, it erodes enjoyment of life. Women stop exercising because physical activity tends to worsen the condition – especially running or jumping, or activities involving weights, sit-ups or squats. Some avoid intimacy, fearing that prolapse or incontinence will repel their partners.

But even when women do speak up, they can hit a gender bias.

“My ob-gyn said, ‘Oh, your body just changes after having a baby’ and it’s just life,” said Price, 38, who since her diagnosis has shifted her research to study the issue. “It felt really dismissive. It made it seem like my surgery was elective, as if I was having cosmetic surgery. In other words, if I was willing to be sedentary and just live with it, it wasn’t necessary.””

Washington Post


Henry Sapiecha

May 5, 2015

nurses on the battlefields image

INTERNATIONAL Nurses Day is not too far away.

Most people would agree that there is something special about a nurse.

He/she is different from every-one else in the community.

In any place where people are, if there is an injury or unexpected emergency, the call quickly goes out for the nurse. That is because we all know that she is always ready, willing and able to assist.

If the nurse is nearby, a hushed assurance descends upon and unites the gathering.

All is going to be well.

She dutifully and professionally offers herself in the face of danger and disease to all who need her, regardless of race, religion or social status.

While professionally aloof from her patients, she has the ability to generate spontaneous compassion, understanding and discernment.

Her very presence aids the healing process.

She portrays sincere commitment and sacrifice.

Undaunted and unrelenting, she presses on through the lonely night watch, keeping vigil over the sick and frail while others sleep.

Her career is often fraught with abuse and misunderstanding by intoxicated or ungrateful patients.

Yet she treats them all with respect and kindness.

Many nurses have saved lives along our busy highways in an accident, while sadly some have themselves been the unfortunate victim.

Soldiers in all our wars have been greatly blessed by the dedication and faithfulness of our nurses on the battlefields.

Let us always admire, respect and support our nurses as does Frank Mason North when he writes (MHB 895): “The cup of water for you still holds the freshness of your grace, yet these multitudes long to see the sweet compassion of your face”.


Henry Sapiecha


copter on grass image

Increasing demand for Botox and tummy tucks in regional areas has prompted cosmetic surgeons to offer fly-in fly-out services to country towns.

The cosmetic medicine industry is booming in Australia, with some the uptake of some procedures increasing 15 per cent per year.

Regional residents are as enthusiastic as their city counterparts about getting cosmetic lifts, with FIFO cosmetic doctors touring small towns and renting surgical rooms to treat patients.

Dr Ehsan Jadoon has a practice in Perth but spends much of his time doing two-day visits to centres like Alice Springs, Broome and Esperance.

“The services we offer are not generally available locally, so patients would have to fly to Perth or Darwin to have a procedure done,” he said.

“So that’s how it all started. MORE HERE

Henry Sapiecha



YOUNG single women have the lowest levels of wellbeing in Australia, a survey shows.

The NAB Wellbeing Index rose to 63.8 points in the three months to September 30, up from 61.7 in the previous quarter.

While the survey showed Australians were slightly less anxious, NAB says anxiety was still a key detractor of personal wellbeing. More than one in three people rated their current level of anxiety as very high.

Single women aged 18 to 29 reported the lowest levels of wellbeing, followed closely by men in the same age category and people earning less than $35,000.

NAB chief economist Alan Oster says he believes this reflects young people’s fears about job security due to the high level of youth unemployment.

“The difficulty for young people to get jobs and concern about what is happening in the future in terms of higher education are important factors here,” he said.

Women tend to be more anxious until they get older or are widowed but the stress is highest among the young.

“As you go up in the income streams, and particularly as people get older, they tend to be happier.” The greater the person’s income, the better they rated their wellbeing, the survey showed.

Widows and retirees retained their position as having the strongest levels of wellbeing.

More than 2,000 Australians took part in the survey about life satisfaction, happiness and anxiety.

NAB began the quarterly survey in April last year.

Henry Sapiecha




When I was in year four, my best friend and I were playing tennis. She turned to go inside, and walked smack into a glass door. I laughed so hard I … well, she wasn’t the one that did a most embarrassing thing that day – I peed myself laughing. As undignified as it was, my age made it slightly more socially acceptable (there were pinky swears involved and talks of things being taken to graves.) Fast-forward many, many years and I found myself once again staring down the business end of laughing until I disgraced myself when something tickled my funny bone … or I sneezed, coughed or jumped around. Not because my life is so hilarious/active, but because I had two 10-pound babies, delivered au naturel. Goodbye pelvic floor muscles, see you in a few.

In fairness, I frequently and blatantly lied to my GP, my midwife and possibly a little to myself about “doing my Kegels” – an 80’s throwback expression for what we now call pelvic floor exercises. With the bliss of ignorance, it wasn’t until I’d had my two little heffalumps that I discovered wishful thinking and a devil-may-care attitude doesn’t translate to tightly toned pee-regulating muscles post-birth. If you take one thing from this article, make it this – you really will repent at leisure if you don’t do them; it took years to get myself back in pre-pregnancy working order (the same exercises that help prevent loss of control also help treat most cases.) While I’m grateful I had still retained a lot of muscle control, I did have to pass over my preferred energetic exercises for much more low-key options for quite some time, and there were definitely occasions I was glad to be at home alone when watching a particularly funny episode of Friends.

One thing I did discover during my time of legs-crossed-when-laughing is public perception has progressed. If I had been born 20 or 30 years earlier, this whole topic would have been cause for great secrecy and embarrassment. But marketing boffins have been hard at work since 2009 to give us a new take on (to steal from the good people in the tampon marketing industry) “leakage freakage.” One of the better efforts goes to TENA Lady, who released an advertising campaign featuring the evolution of women’s fashion from corsets to slinky slips to ask consumers the question – Fashion has evolved, shouldn’t bladder protection? Yah.

But wait: there’s more: in a case of Celebrities: they ARE just like us, actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg, as a spokesperson for Poise, candidly spoke about the condition in a TV spot that ran during an Oscars pre-show – i.e. serious prime time. The ad also featured Goldberg speaking about the condition through the lens of different, historical female personalities. “I went [loud sneeze] and my God, such a puddle,” says Goldberg, who was dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

While the marketing men are merely after our dollars (incontinence garments have exploded into a mutli-billion dollar cash cow), there have been benefits beyond improved products on the shelves. The push to remove the stigma surrounding bladder control issues, especially in those in the younger age groups, has seen incontinence become much less of a taboo subject – not something to be enjoyed, but not something to be ashamed of either. That’s a good thing when you consider incontinence problems are experienced by more than 18 percent of women who’ve had one child, nearly 25 percent of women who have had two children, and 32 percent of women who’ve had three or more. This means more women will read about it (and hopefully get in at the prevention end of the story), more women will seek help, and we’ll all feel a lot less awkward about the subject if we do need help.

FREE HELPER ALERT – The Continence Foundation of Australia has released the Pregnancy Pelvic Floor Plan smartphone app to help you stay on top of your pelvic floor exercises. It’s available from the App Store and from Google Play for Androids.

Henry Sapiecha



A New York City mom made the ultimate sacrifice — giving up her own life so her baby girl could live.


Doctors told cancer patient Elizabeth Joice that she would never get pregnant, so when she did last year, it was something of a miracle.


But joy quickly turned to heartbreak for Elizabeth and her husband Max when doctors presented her with an impossible challenge: terminate the pregnancy and begin treatment — or put her life in danger.


It didn’t take Elizabeth long to reach her decision.


“Having a kid was one of the most important things in the world to her,” Max told The Post. “She said, ‘If we terminate the pregnancy and it turns out I can’t have a baby [later], I’ll be devastated. She knew this might be her only chance.”


Elizabeth and Max were together for two years in September 2010, when an MRI showed that what doctors thought was a herniated disc was actually a tumor.


Elizabeth Joice and her husband Max


“The day the doctors called us with the results is also the day I proposed to her,” Max said. “She said, ‘If it’s terminal, I’m not even going to fight. Let’s travel the world until I keel over.’ ”


Max made a beeline for the kitchen and returned with an engagement ring made of tin foil.


“I said, ‘You don’t have the option not to fight’ and proposed to her then,” Max said. “We got married a month later.”


Elizabeth, 36, described as fiercely independent and optimistic, endured four rounds of chemotherapy, a surgery and even more chemo to make sure the tumor was eradicated.


She was declared cancer-free for three years but still longed to have a baby, even though doctors told her it was impossible.


Undeterred, the couple moved from the Upper East Side to Roosevelt Island in June 2013 to prepare to raise a family. Within a few days, Liz discovered she was pregnant. “I totally blew a gasket,” Max said. “They said there was no chance this was happening — and here it was happening.”


But only a month later, they received the devastating news: the tumor was back.


Doctors removed the mass, but because she was pregnant, Elizabeth couldn’t undergo full-body MRI scans and her oncologist couldn’t see whether the cancer was growing.


The baby was due March 4, but the doctors could no longer wait. In January, a surgeon performed a C-section and beautiful baby Lily was born.


Elizabeth’s health quickly declined as her cancer spread. Tumors invaded her right lung, heart and abdomen “We said our goodbyes,” Max said. “It was like something out of a movie. We sat there and cried. We tried to tell stories, talk about all the great things.”


“Liz came home five days after Lily was born,” Max said. “That one night at home was all we had.”

Henry Sapiecha



Television host Helen Kapalos shares her story of how vague symptoms turned into something more sinister – and why all women need to be vigilant about their health

‘My message to other women is to get that second opinion. Explore other options. There are always other options’ … Helen Kapalos. Photo: Damian Bennett


Stop worrying, the doctors told Helen Kapalos. It’s probably just the flu. You’ll feel better soon. Specialist after specialist waved her away. None could explain why her skin itched every time she ate, or why she seemed to catch every bug going around. Fatigue, disrupted sleep, night sweats: the list of symptoms kept growing.

The Today Tonight host knew something was wrong. She ate well, exercised and had always been healthy. Now, it was as if her body “just didn’t feel comfortable in its own skin”. Determined to get to the truth, she pushed for more tests. None gave an answer; they simply eliminated possible causes.

At this point, her best friend took her aside. Having had ovarian cancer, she was concerned that Kapalos’s symptoms were a sign of something similar. A scan was quickly arranged.

“I was lying there, watching it all on the screen,” Kapalos, 42, says. “They identified it straight away and said, ‘Wow. This is a really large tumour.’ The first thing I thought is that this is Mum’s story. But this time, I want it to have a different ending.”


Until now, Kapalos has not spoken in detail about her experience. A private person, she was motivated to go public partly to encourage awareness of ovarian cancer, but also because of the death of her mother, Joanna, from cancer. Joanna’s symptoms were also initially dismissed by doctors, and she did not get the life-saving surgery she needed.

“I’ve decided to talk about this because I don’t want to see people going through what Mum went through,” she says. “But this is not about being alarmist, nor am I a ‘victim’. This is about women being proactive and positive about their health.”

The story begins almost 20 years ago in the NSW coastal town of Newcastle, when Kapalos – then a 22-year-old reporter at ABC Radio – was still living in the family home. She remembers every detail of that night. It was hot, the airconditioner humming in the background, and she had fallen asleep on the couch, still wearing her sandshoes. In the early hours, she was woken by her mother. “She just walked out and had a massive haemorrhage,” Kapalos says. “The paramedics told us she was only 20 minutes from death.”

An ambulance rushed her to hospital, where she received a radical hysterectomy and multiple blood transfusions. A few days later, doctors broke the devastating news: the benign fibroid on her uterus had morphed into malignant, inoperable cancer. If it had been removed even a few months earlier, they told her, she’d most likely have recovered.

Joanna died 15 months later, aged 56. “I was the one taking mum to the doctor when she had her fibroids,” Kapalos says. “I was really concerned they were growing so quickly. But the doctor just said to her, ‘It’s benign, we’ll leave it. Surgery’s too invasive.'”

“When I was diagnosed, I thought, ‘There are two columns I can put this into: reactive or proactive,” she says firmly. “Immediately, I went, ‘Of course this is confronting. But now that I finally know what it is, I’ll find out everything I can about it, how to deal with it and how to heal from it.”

The toughest period was the few weeks between finding the tumour and having it removed. Until they operated, the surgeons couldn’t tell if it was malignant, or whether they’d need to take out other organs. “The hardest part was ringing Dad,” she says. After her mother died, her heartbroken father, Dimitri, returned to Greece, where Kapalos visits him every year. “He was in shock. But I said to him, really emphatically, ‘It will be a different outcome this time.'”

In August, she went under the knife. Surgeons removed a tumour slightly bigger than a tennis ball from her right ovary. It was benign, and that’s all they took out. Six weeks later, she was given a clean bill of health. “It’s the best possible outcome,” she says, smiling.

She is under no illusions, though, about what might have happened had she “stopped worrying”, like her first doctor advised. At best, her tumour would have grown rapidly, requiring a major operation instead of keyhole surgery. At worst, it could have turned fatally malignant – just like her mother’s. “I felt Mum’s presence acutely at this time,” she says. “I think I’ve always had this story playing out in my subconscious.”

Her refusal to let doctors dismiss her early symptoms is no surprise. Yet even after her tumour was discovered, she kept a level head. Her first specialist, for instance, blithely ordered the removal of her ovary. When Kapalos questioned her, she was affronted. “I received a schoolgirl chiding,” she says. “Luckily, I sought another opinion and the next specialist said, ‘No, we don’t need to take out your ovary at all.'” This means her fertility has not been affected.

“My message to other women is, ‘Don’t let one doctor encase your diagnosis in alarmist terms. Get that second opinion. Explore the other options. There are always other options.'”

Kapalos stresses she is not criticising all doctors. In her experience, most are thorough, empathic and professional. Nor does she want people to self-diagnose via Google or start thinking they know more than their specialists. But she does suspect some women are reluctant to “make waves” by questioning their doctor or seeking alternatives. “We need to be vigilant about our health,” she says. “We need to be okay with checking in on ourselves and following through on that.”

Her commitment to preventative health is why she cycles to Channel Seven’s Melbourne studios most days, favours wholesome foods and devours books about philosophy and self-improvement. It’s also why she serves as an ambassador for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

“Ovarian cancer mortality rates are higher than those for other cancers,” she explains, pointing out that the symptoms frequently mimic those of other conditions. “It’s often not detected until the late stages. There’s so much more awareness about breast cancer now, thanks to all those fantastic campaigns. We need that same type of awareness with ovarian health.”

Kapalos was 18 when she met physiotherapist Craig Boettcher. They were together for 18 years before divorcing in 2007. “I married the first man I fell in love with and that was a rewarding experience. But I’ve since been happy on my own, too. This year has been about getting my house and health in order. I’m open to a relationship, though. I love the idea of being in love and having a fulfilling partnership.”

Professionally, she’s never been more satisfied. In the course of her two-decade career she’s worked in radio and TV – as a producer and presenter – for ABC, SBS and every commercial network. A highlight is The Last Whistle, a 1998 documentary she wrote, directed and produced at regional TV station NBN about the closure of Newcastle’s BHP steelworks.

“Journalism is the most rewarding profession you’ll ever be fortunate enough to be in,” she says. “I’m confounded when I hear young women say, ‘I want to be a presenter on prime-time TV.’ Is that about being a journalist or having a profile?”

Naturally, she is heavily involved in the planning of every Today Tonight episode. Her workday begins at 7.30am, when she dials in to a conference call from home. By noon, she is in the office, attending meetings, recording radio promotions and watching early cuts of each story.

“I’ve never worked in an environment where it’s so hands-on and rewarding as where I am now,” she says. “Everything that’s happened this year has made me even more positive. There’s so much more I want to do in this world. I see it as a green light to just get out there and keep embracing life.”


• Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any gynaecological cancer and there is currently no early detection test.

• In Australia, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 89 per cent; for ovarian cancer, it is 43 per cent.

• The four most frequently reported symptoms for ovarian cancer are: abdominal or pelvic pain; increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating; needing to urinate often or urgently; feeling full after eating a small amount.

• If these symptoms are new and you experience one or more of them persistently over four weeks, consult your GP.

• You can also download Ovarian Cancer Australia’s symptom diary at, or the KISS & Makeup iPhone app, which allows you to record your symptoms and helps you communicate with your GP.

This article first appeared in Sunday Life.


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