A helping hand through cancer treatment

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Q: My sister is undergoing radiotherapy after chemotherapy. Her skin is incredibly dry – what can she use to help alleviate this? Also, do you have any suggestions for helping to build her up again once she has finished treatment?

Skin Cream Plus for Extra Dry SkinA: There are many emollients available, both over the counter and on prescription. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends Botanical Therapeutics Skin Cream Plus for Extra Dry Skin (£16.95, from Victoria Health), a natural and highly effective moisturiser for face and body.

Also try homoeopathy. I know how effective this can be from friends. Helios Homoeopathy recommends applying Organic Aloe Vera Gel (£5.57, from Victoria Health) after each radiotherapy session. Your sister could also use Helios Burns Cream (from £7.65, helios.co.uk, tel: 01892 537254), which contains soothing hypericum, calendula, cantharis and arnica, three times daily during the treatment period.

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How To Avoid Small-Hours Blues

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Q: I have a stressful job and sleep badly, waking between 2am and 4am feeling incredibly depressed. I feel better when I finally get up.

A: This type of insomnia is a common result of daytime anxiety, according to the late Dr David Servan-Schreiber, psychiatrist and author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac (Rodale, £8.99*).

There’s a vulnerable moment at the end of the first long period of deep sleep (about four hours into the sleep cycle) when we cross over into the lighter REM sleep (dreaming time). ‘Underlying anxiety of any kind manifests itself during that fragile transition,’ he said.

Sleep disturbance and anxiety leading to depression are interconnected, according to pharmacist Shabir Daya: ‘A relentless train of negative thoughts can begin with the tiniest kernel of reality then escalate out of proportion.’ Stress of any kind upsets the delicate balance of our hormones; it starts with the adrenal glands overproducing cortisol, which prevents mood-lifting serotonin getting to the brain. At night, serotonin is normally converted to melatonin, the sleep hormone. With insufficient melatonin and a fractured mind, it’s very hard to sleep. Read More…