Bowel cancer kills over 16,000 people in the UK each year, and is rising alarmingly amongst young adults. Make this a year for change! Be proactive!



Boris has threatened that from this week police will be sent to patrol the streets, which I find comforting, especially as they didn’t come out when little Freddy Foxtrot ran off last week with your brand new Apple computer. Fines ranging from £1,000 to £10,000 could be levied on offenders for non-compliance and repeat offending of self isolation infringements. I’m raising my eyebrow at a notion we’re going to impose further financial penalties on a society which is already financially wrecked. I can hear the mitigating pleas, resonating in the courts; I’m not able to pay the fine because …. I no longer have a job… I have lost my business, etc. That’s aside from the neighbour who’s been itching to get even with you, ever since you lit a whopping bonfire last lag b’omer. You might also find yourself grievously named as a suspect in Track and Trace. Whatcha going to do about that, Mr Simmons, now you can’t go to work for 2 weeks, and you’re stuck at home with all the family? It’s not like the neighbour even had the decency to coordinate it with the festival of Succos… Anyhow, are we now to have thousands of people clogging up the courts, for perchance fraternising in a group of seven? Excuse me, m’lady. The Magnificent Seven were actually my own [children]. Unbelievable, eh? And so the comedy continues.  But further government updates have now taken things a huge step further, reversing many freedoms we thought had been restored. Alas, was but a mirage, and what concerns me most – other than the undemocratic nature of these proclamations – is that we could see ourselves ping-ponging like this for the foreseeable future. To misquote Mr Lightyear…. to insanity, and beyond.

Meanwhile in Japan, Kane Tanaka has become the world’s oldest living person, having reached the grand age of 117 years. She chose to mark the occasion with a bottle of Coca-Cola, her favourite drink. She was the seventh of nine children, and is now the third oldest person of all time. A Frenchwoman, Jeanne Calment, (died 1997) still holds the record for longevity, at 122 years old. Age isn’t everything though, as we know too well. For some, life’s journey might be long and uneventful, and for others it can be cut short, leaving a legacy of good deeds and great meaning. With Yom Kippur approaching, we petition G-d for an extension to our lives, and forgiveness for our many failings.

Readers may recall that I mentioned recently a young lady who had been misdiagnosed by her GP for four years, as having haemorrhoids, only to then be finally diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic bowel cancer. She had recently begun fundraising for new therapies, and her appeal went viral. I am devastated to tell you that my friend Lucy Ogilvie (40), died two weeks ago, leaving behind a husband and her daughters aged 2 and 7. The NHS has much to answer for, failing cancer patients such as Lucy, and I fear she will not be the last in such cases of professional misconduct and misadventure. Bowel cancer kills over 16,000 people in the UK each year, double the number from pancreatic. The RCS Commissioning Guide (2013) advises that if the patient is …. in primary care, good practice ‘requires proper examination, prior to attributing symptoms to benign causes.’ Under section 1.3  there is a ‘watch and wait’ policy, but I doubt it is supposed to apply for four years! Lucy had massive abdominal swelling which made her look like she was six months pregnant. This swelling [ascites] was a documented red flag, although it obviously wasn’t enough for her GP to take action, and this GP must be held to account. If Lucy’s untimely death can bring about anything good, it must be that the guidelines must be tightened, and that her fund will be used to positively change the lives of others. Lucy, may you rest in peace.  More on this cancer is warranted in another column.

This past week also saw the announcement of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (87), Justice in the Supreme Court in the US. Although her death was from metastatic pancreatic cancer, she had been fortunate to have been detected with stage 1 disease in 2009, and undergone a Whipple operation. It was not her first run-in with cancer, having already had colon cancer in 1999. Notwithstanding this, she had a relatively uneventful past 10 years until last year, when metastatic cells were found. She resumed treatment on gemcitabine [one of my Gem-abraxane drugs] and despite being on treatment, she went to the gym regularly, where she could apparently do 20 press ups. Her indefatigable lifestyle meant she never missed a day in court. It is not her death that I particularly flag up, but her truly incredible life.

Joan Ruth Bader was born in March 1933, in Flatbush, New York, to father Nathan Bader, an immigrant (fur seller) from Odessa, and her mother Celia, an immigrant from Austria. After the death of her elder sister, at age 6, her mother made it her life’s ambition to see her daughter succeed. This was not to be, for Celia died of cervical cancer the day before Ruth’s high school graduation.  She enrolled on a BA degree at Cornell University, where she met her future husband Martin [Marty] Ginsburg, at age 17. After marrying immediately after they finished college, she was inspired by the McCarthy hearings to enter the law faculty, seeing it as a means to effect change. She then enrolled at Harvard Law School, as one of only nine women in a class of 500, and by this stage she was also a young mother.  Marty developed a rare form of testicular cancer during his third year as a student, and Ruth attended classes for both of them, arranging for his friends to keep up with lecture notes, so he could continue with assignments. She finished almost top of the class, having survived on two hours of sleep a night. This woman was cut in the same mould as her legal contemporary Margaret Thatcher (born 1925), despite dissimilar political leanings. Marty made a full recovery, graduated cum laude, and became one of the US’s leading tax attorneys. Surprisingly Mrs Ginsburg couldn’t find a law firm willing to take her on because she was a woman, and instead she opted to teach Law at Rutgers University, although they paid her less than her male counterparts on the grounds that her husband ‘had a good job.’ Doubtless first hand discrimination made an impact on the young and astute Ruth Ginsburg, and as a result of this, she hid her subsequent pregnancy under big clothes.

When Bill Clinton was interviewing for the Supreme Court vacancy in 1993, he remarked she was not his initial choice, but after having a chat at the White House, he remarked it felt less of an interview, and more an honest discussion. Within 15 minutes he knew he had made the right choice. One of her most compelling features throughout her dazzling career was her ability to be friendly with everyone, despite legal and professional disputes. Shortly after her colon cancer diagnosis, her husband Marty died, aged 78, from metastatic testicular cancer which had been treated 51 years before. Ms Ginsburg fought on, for a wide range of human rights and discrimination causes.

She was only the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and although not a liberal, she shifted further to the left as a country shifted to the right, working furiously to tackle discrimination. This effectively made her the darling of the liberals. Uncommonly it was only when she reached her 80s that she became a true phenomenon with her diminutive face, engulfed behind giant spectacles, becoming something akin to a cult figure. In 2016 she made a famous jibe, saying, “she was tempted to move to New Zealand, should [Trump] win.” And win, he did. RBG had put her hypothetical money on Hillary Clinton, underestimating Trump’s appeal amongst the liberals. This remark nearly cost her the position in the Supreme Court, and she was compelled to apologise. It is not difficult to see why she and Donald Trump were so diametrically opposed: He – bombastic, and consistently controversial, and she – quiet, unassuming and articulate. Although shy, she had a wry sense of humour, often suggesting the ideal number of women justices on the Supreme Court would be nine, a comment which raised eyebrows. “People are shocked,” she remarked, “but they had been nine men, and nobody raised a question over that!”

It was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish that they would hold off announcing her replacement until after the presidential election on Nov 3rd. Donald Trump is instead wasting no time, insisting he will fill her position as swiftly as possible. This is causing tremors within his own team, and several Republican senators have already indicated they oppose nominations [before the election]. If he succeeds, he would create a 6:3 Conservative majority. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, has refused to rule out impeaching the president to block his proposed nominee, saying her party would ‘use every arrow in its quiver.’ That’s fighting talk, delivering quite a ‘wham’ to the ‘wig!’

Given we have just celebrated Rosh Hashana, a metaphor about trees, apples and honey would not be untimely. Apples – as we know, don’t fall far from the tree. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is survived by her children, both consummate professionals in their own right; her daughter Jane is a Law Professor at Columbia University, and her son James, President of a classical music company.  Justice Ginsburg, you are a light to our generation, a credit to your country, an inspiration to womankind, and a loss to your profession. We salute you.

May we all be inscribed for a better year

Love Jacqueline x