Sparkling stars

A couple of days ago I saw pictures of three little girls, younger than my daughter, that were sold as prostitutes in India. Their big, intense black eyes pierced the camera and through my computer screen burned a big hole in my heart. In their eyes I could see an unending grief, if I just could see those dark eyes, I would have thought they belonged to old women that hadn’t done anything but suffering throughout their entire life. What have those beautiful eyes gone through to become so empty? They didn’t resemble eyes, but rather giant black holes that sucked me in and emptied me on all my energy. How can the world be this cruel? How can the men and women exploiting these children call themselves humans?

I wish I could grab them and bring them to me. I wish I could erase the darkness in their eyes and replace it with sparkling stars and hope.

Everyone needs a hideaway

I grow up partly during the Iran-Iraq war. A blue cloudless sky, sunshine and stable weather were associated with fear since the risk of Saddam’s bombers turning up increased during these conditions. Schools would close under long periods and parents would send their children to safer places if they had the opportunity. My grandmother lived in a village with the mountains as protection for the bombers. When I was in primary school, my brother and I were sent to her during school holidays, or any time school would close due to the risk of air attacks.

My grandmother had a big dark storage/pantry room on the first floor with a dip blue wooden door. When the longing for my parents became too strong and I needed somewhere to hide and cry so that my brother would not see me, I used to sneak into the storage room. Amongst the crock jars filled with home made tomato paste, baskets of fruits from my grandmothers fruit orchards, bags of rice, lentils, walnuts, dried basil and grapes hanging from wooden beams in the ceiling to dry out to raisins, there were boxes of the magazine “Danestaniha” that my uncles left behind. Danestaniha, which means knowledge in Persian, was a science magazine in Iran, written for layman with articles about science, technology, culture and nature.

I used to open the boxes and take a magazine, seat on a bag of beans or a barrel of pickles and read while I was crying. After a short time I would be totally absorbed by the articles and forget all about my parents and the world outside. I couldn’t understand everything I read, but it was fascinating. I could travel to the cities in ancient times long gone, the laboratory of foreign scientists, jungles of amazon, glossy images of writers in black turtlenecks and get a glimpse of the wild life of the animals. Sometimes I could just browse through one number after the other and look at the pictures. My grandmother used to once in a while stick her head in and ask me not to shuffle around my uncle’s boxes too much, but I could hear in her voice that it was ok, so I continued.

The magazines and this dark room, with scents from Ceylon tea, saffron and fresh fruits were my hideaways to cope with a world not entirely shaped for an eight years old big sister who loved her younger brother more than anything.

Google or mom, whom to trust?

My children are bilingual (French and Swedish), my maternal language is Kurdish and I speak Kurdish with them, they understand but answer me back in Swedish. They do speak English as well. My son, who is the older one, has started to swear in English and in the middle of his French or Swedish sentences a “damn” or two can sneak out. He would never swear in the languages that he masters, since he can put the words in a context and understands that it doesn’t sound good.

A couple of days ago we had a discussion regarding this and he ensured me that I was exaggerating, after all he had googled if “damn” was a bad curse and according to google it wasn’t, so I didn’t have to worry at all. Well then, I will just go back to my grant writing and let google raise my children.

Patient preferences and treatment choices for localized prostate cancer

After receiving cancer diagnosis, follows a chaotic time full of anxiety, fear and endless grief for the patients. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer amongst men in Canada and in the most cases it is diagnosed when it is still curable, nevertheless these men are faced with a long journey with many decision points along the road where they must manage their personal fear of a cancer death with the overwhelming thought of leaving their loved ones behind. In this state of mind, it is expected of the patients to get involved in the decision making process regarding their treatment.

Treatment options for localized prostate cancer are many, vary widely, and there is no consensus regarding the optimal treatment strategy. Ongoing research in the area of patients decision making and post intervention regret, reveals some insight in the patient’s choice of treatment option. Surgery is often preferred by patients seeking a cure, while brachytherapy is more often chosen by patients professing a desire for “the least invasive” treatment. Although patients stated that side effects are important, few patients report that side effect factors ultimately influence their treatment choice. However, there are several studies pointing out that men with prostate cancer often base treatment decisions on scientific misconceptions and anecdotal experiences of friends or family. Race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status plays a role as well.

Some studies show that the actual treatment choices bear little relation to the patient preferences, and instead show a strong association with clinician specialty. Physician’s advice depends heavily on the their specialty (radiation oncology vs. urology), as well as geographic region. In a recent study published in nature , researchers investigated the importance of physician’s attitudes about different treatments and the quality of life in prostate cancer, by performing a survey of specialists to assess treatment recommendations and perceptions of treatment related survival and quality of life. The conclusions from the study were that the radiation oncologists and urologists both prefer the treatment modalities they offer, perceive them to be more effective and to lead to a better quality of life. Patients receive biased information, and a truly informed consent process with shared decision making may be possible only if they are evaluated by both specialties before deciding upon a treatment course. In the absence of relevant randomized trials no decision regarding the superiority of any of the treatment modality can be made and the potential impacts of treatment side effects on quality of life for patients and their partners have to be considered in the informed decision making process.

Moments

My father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away very quickly last year leaving me in a spiritual void wondering about the meaning of life. Finley, I came to the conclusion that for me, the meaning of life is hidden in small moments in my everyday life. It is hidden in the laugher of a child, memories from past that leaves me with a warm feeling, small arms around my neck and a snotty kiss on my cheek without asking for it, morning coffee spiced with love, messages from people I care about, smile of a stranger in the subway or a cheerful good morning from the students. I need to stop once in a while during my day and acknowledge these moments before they are gone.

Frustration leads to innovation

According to a report from Canadian parliamentary budget office 40% of young Canadian graduates are overqualified for the work they do. There is obviously a mismatch for graduates between their skills and opportunities that leave them with high debt and low incomes. The keys to reverse the trend are industry-university partnerships, jobs-oriented training and greater counselling and guidance to prospective university students in choosing their field of study. However, the Internet is full of innovations born from frustration. I hope that the disappointment and frustration of being overqualified will not just result in despair, but in a new wave of innovative entrepreneurs.

Weekends

The best thing with the weekends is to walk the kids to their activities, and have time to answer all the why, how and whens. To listen to their theories and thoughts about the form and shape of the snowflakes, what happens if one falls into a black hole, what was there before the big bang, and what happens after you die? I cannot answer all the questions, we philosophize together, holding hands, sometimes have a quite moment listening to the snow crunch under our feet, that moment does not last long and is disrupted by yet another why.