Health and Wellbeing

Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the State advising me to avail of the free testing for colorectal cancer. It says “It has already been 2 years and is time to do this.” All I’ve to do is bring this letter to my generalist who’ll organise it at the expense of the French Government. Though the positive results are between 2-3%, it’s fairly important to do it because colorectal cancer develops in the colon, rectum and intestine from an abnormal growth of cells that can spread to other parts of the body. The common signs of this cancer are: change in bowel habits, nauseas, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, weakness and anemia.

As such, I take this preventive measure seriously and feel lucky to be in a country where health, social and welfare services are accessible to its population. The government is wise because “prevention is better than cure.” Treating an illness is more expensive, takes more time and is more emotionally draining. So, all governments should do this, but why don’t they? These preventive measures cost and, not really the priority, especially of those who are struggling to feed their people. Hence, it’s not surprising that wealthy nations tend to have healthy people. However, there is also the question of politics and policies.

According to World Health Organisation’s (WHO) data, the country with the highest government spending per person per year on health is Luxembourg (US$ 6,906/ Euros 5,441.60); country with lowest government spending per person per year on health is Myanmar (US$ 2/ Euros 1.60); country with highest annual out-of-pocket household spending on health is Switzerland (US$ 2,412/ Euros 1,900.73); and country with lowest annual out-of-pocket household spending on health Kiribati (US$ 0.2/ Euros 0.158).

Spending per capita fell in 11 of 33 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) between 2009 and 2011, e.g. Canada (0.8%), United States (1.3%), 11.1% Greece and 6.6% Ireland. Whereas South Korea’s, Israel’s and Japan’s rate of health spending has grown since 2009. More than three-quarters of OECD countries cut their real-term spending on prevention programmes (including those on cost-effective ones targeting obesity, harmful use of alcohol and smoking). (

There are non-government organisations (NGOs) and charities that try to save lives and improve living conditions of the poor, particularly those in developing countries. Should we add in their already heavily-drained resources the need for advance medical tests and screenings?

As children, we don’t decide on our parents, citizenship by birth and place of residence. Therefore, there’s already an element of chance in terms of being wealthy and healthy. Then, as adults, we’ve to be lucky, hardworking, intelligent and at the right place at the right time to be wealthy and healthy. What are your recent experiences with your country’s health system?


Psychology of patience

I am a great believer of reliability and consistency, so when my website became un-operational for 3 weeks, I became annoyed and impatient. I didn’t expect that renewing the registration of my domain ( through a different company would take time. I spent useless hours trying to speed it up by using live chats, help buttons, etc. for the reason that I had always published an article in the first week of the month and was so frustrated that this had changed.

I delayed grocery shopping, postponed appointments, cancelled cinema outings and prepared dinner simply and quickly in favour of trying to put this website online. After so many hours spent fiddling with the computer, logging on/off, I decided to stop bothering my service provider. (Hopefully, the delay did not disappoint my wise subscribers and readers).

I wanted instant result though I was already told that it would take between 5 and 15 days. My parents brought me up to be patient and be gracious when waiting. But, have I changed? I hope not, and it was just a rare occasion when I thought that impatience was necessary to cope with our current high-speed, information-loaded society.

What did I feel during those 3 weeks? I was irritable, tired and tense. Some people have reported feeling angry, stressed, sick and detached from their relationships when they are impatient. So, why are we impatient? .. because we want instant gratification, which is evident everywhere these days.

There are passes that enable us to jump queues in cinemas, nightclubs, supermarkets, etc. When you post something, there are choices for one-day, 3-day, 5-day delivery or normal one. Quick leisure and fun activities, e.g. games on iPhone, are more patronised than chess and other board games.

Generally, patience equates to healthy and successful career and relationships. We should know the causes of our impatience to be patient. For instance, if you’re impatient because you’re tired or hungry, don’t whinge .. rest or eat. If you’re impatient because your productivity is hampered, find alternative solutions. If you’re impatient in a supermarket because someone in front of you does small talk with the check-out cashier, chat with other customers or grab a magazine from the stand nearby to browse.

When you feel that your patience is running out, try the following: manage your emotion by forcing yourself to calm down, relax (taking deep and slow breaths), speak slowly and softly; distance yourself from the situation by going out for a walk or doing something different; be a good listener and a keen observer; remind yourself that impatience (as I’ve experienced it) doesn’t force others to act or give you what you want.

Patience is referred to as open-mindedness and self-regulation that result in the capacity to tolerate delay, slowness or difficulty without being angry. Patience is backed up by this quote “small reward in the short term but big reward in the long term.” Somewhere some time ago, I read this message, which has found a permanent place in my mind: “Be strong enough to let go and wise enough to wait for what you deserve.” (if you know the author, please comment here).

We don’t have to be psychologists to know that the high rate of impaired attention is due to impatience at home, at school or/and at work. On the other hand, patient people have better interpersonal skills and are viewed positively by their friends, colleagues and family. Therefore, wherever you are, be patient because impatient is detrimental to your health and relationships.


Losing a loved one

My dad passed away on the first Thursday of February this year and I wasn’t able to attend his funeral (as that of my mother a decade ago) because I had influenza, couldn’t take an instant time off from work and a host of other reasons related to distance between 2 continents. His death, like that of my mum, reminded me of my own mortality and the urgency to live fully every day. (Oddly, I didn’t think that I would become an orphan one day).

I hadn’t gotten over yet with the loss of my mum and then my dad; and these days I often find myself recollecting childhood memories. They knew me better than anyone else and I wish they were here. Why aren’t they here now when I need them most? I was never dependent on them for moral, emotional and financial support since I left home at the age of 16 to go to university in another region, but I still feel the vacuum. As they say “you are always your parent’s child,” and I suppose such a loss doesn’t fade with time or age.

My relationship with my dad was harmonious but there were resentments due to hurts and misunderstandings resulting from his and my mother’s life as a couple on one hand and as parents on the other. Their death has made me reassessed the past while dealing with the present and planning for the future.

The death of a parent or loved one is stressful and sometimes is beset with anger, conflict and guilt due to different opinions on funeral arrangement, inheritance and other issues, especially those in a dysfunctional family. An open communication and understanding of each other’s differences in dealing with the death of a parent or loved one can avoid negative situations and quarrels. Actually, this very sad circumstance can be an opportunity to bring family and relatives together.

In Australia, in 2012, the highest numbers of deaths were registered in the 80-84yo (12,619 males & 11,290 females) and 85yo+ (21,913 males and 57,054 females) groups ( saw on 28/02/15). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the top 5 countries where life expectancy increased most were: Liberia (42 years in 1990 to 62 years in 2012), Ethiopia (45 to 65), Maldives (58 to 77), Cambodia (54 to 72) and Timor-Leste or East Timor (50 to 66). Life expectancy in developing and underdeveloped countries is lower than those in the developed nations (e.g. Australia and France 85, Japan 87).

My father passed away a month short of his 85th birthday, which was quite an accomplishment considering that he was born and grew up in the Philippines and worked till in his 70s. I was planning to see him this coming July (during our summer vacation) and give him a copy of my first novel Future Perfect (I should not have tried to save a trip to the Post Office and a few Euros for the stamp — I greatly regret this!) That same week, coincidentally, an Australian friend (not knowing I had lost my dad), sent me a page letter that included these lines: “Live your life now and be happy as this is the only thing that matters. Material possessions and everything else that you fought for stay here – you can’t take anything!”

When we were growing up and people we knew died, our father always said that the dead person didn’t need those friends and relatives pouring in to offer help and pay their ‘respect.’ “Where were they when s/he was alive and in difficulty?” he commented shaking his head.

We live in a world where everyone is busy working, texting, emailing, online socialising, networking, being entertained (etc.), and attention for others is a rare commodity. I agree with my friend that we won’t bring anything with us when we pass away. I also share my dad’s view that what we do with, or for, living beings are what we leave behind. Therefore, we might as well make our actions (big and small) positive, useful and unforgettable.

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