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I HAVE HEARD THE BLACKBIRD. I HAVE LIVED: So wrote best-selling novelist Henning Mankell about coping with lung cancer in Quicksand: What It Means to Be a Human Being. The book was published in English shortly after his death at the age of 67 on Oct. 5, 2015.

Mankell revealed that he felt sucked down and swallowed up by quicksand when he was diagnosed in January 2014.

The Swedish crime novelist, theatre director and political activist struggled for 10 days and nights to stay "afloat." Finally, he began to leave the quicksand behind and his zest for life returned.

But Mankell could not stop thinking about his illness. He searched for ways to cope.

Books

Over the years, books had been his refuge. He turned to them when he failed to meet a deadline, when love affairs ceased and when theatre productions went wrong.

Now books still brought him comfort, distracting him from thinking about his illness. But only familiar ones worked: only those he had read many times before. In his study, he made a pile of the books he wanted to reread. He started with Robinson Crusoe.

Pictures

When Mankell began his first cycle of chemotherapy, his eyes became irritated and it was difficult for him to read. He began to alternate reading with looking at images of works of art, one picture a day.

Again, he started with his favourite artists. Caravaggio, born in Milan in 1571, and known for creating a strange dramatic world. He also looked at the work of Honoré Daumier, a political caricaturist, painter and sculptor who was born in Marseille, France in 1808.

As Mankell wrote, "Every picture that means something special to me also has a story to tell, even if they open different doors to the ones opened by written texts."

Music

His third way of thinking about something other than his illness was music. He started going through his record collection: jazz, classical, African folk, blues from the southern states delta. Most of all, he listened to Miles Davis and Beethoven and occasionally to the liturgical music of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.

Mankell maintained a strict routine: he read books, looked at pictures and listened to music.

He was a person who had been diagnosed with a serious illness, but he was also the same person he had been before: "It was possible to live in two worlds at the same time."

 

 

MORE MEN SEEK COSMETIC SURGERY: Increasingly, men are lining up at doctor's offices, looking for a little nip and a tuck.

According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons there were 51,140 cosmetic surgery procedures in the United Kingdom in 2015. Of those 4,164 procedures were performed on men. This is almost twice the number of men who had cosmetic surgery a decade ago.

Instead of facelifts, more men are opting for non-surgical treatments including, Botox, laser treatments, facials and prescription skincare regimes. Designed to plump, smooth, lift and tighten the face, these treatments require regular touch-ups.

Men report they use anti-aging procedures for career reasons, to appear younger and to remain competitive in the workforce. Others say they just want to look as good as they can.

Americans spent more than $12 billion on cosmetic surgery in 2014, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Surgical and nonsurgical procedures for men were up 43 per cent over the past five years.

 

 

OLDER CANADIANS TOUT SUPPORT FROM PEERS: Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians, according to Statistics Canada.

So where do Canadians turn for help after a fall?

Researchers put that question to 20 older adults who visited the emergency department, as a result of a fall. The participants lived in a city in south-western Ontario, and were aged 65 to 88. The majority of people in the study did not require hospitalization.

Here are three things to know:

1. Most older people would prefer not to ask for help.

Why?

They cherish their independence, and they said asking for help made them feel:

  • devalued
  • indebted, and
  • they were afraid of becoming a burden to others, and especially their grown children.

A woman told researchers: "Quite honestly if [the cleaning lady] had not been here when I had fallen I probably would have waited till I felt like it and then just crawled back into the house and not said anything."

2. Older adults excused family members from providing assistance, saying they have their own families and work commitments.

Participants were also reluctant to seek help from family because they feared been viewed as needy dependents.

There were other reasons, too.

For one thing, participants disliked having to conform to other people's schedules. Some got around this problem by establishing a routine whereby friends or family were available on specific days to help with errands. "Like my son takes me out every Wednesday. It's our day out," one woman explained. "So you know I try to arrange any appointments that I might have."

3. Older people preferred to rely on close friends instead of their older adult children.

One woman put it this way: "Oh, it would be easier to ask a girlfriend [than my son] because we are good friends you know . . . They're all around my age and they're kind of like me, independent."

Similarly, a married man remarked: "You know we [as neighbours] help one another back and fourth all the time. There's nothing involved in asking for help."

In this study, reciprocity, or a sense of "give and take" among peers, trumped other factors, when older adults sought help.

Studies report that family members are the main source of informal care for older relatives in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, over eight million individuals or 28 per cent of Canadians, provided care to a family member or friend in 2012.

Patricia Miller and colleagues reported full details of their study online in the February 2016 issue of Ageing & Society.

 

 

THE GREAT SPIRIT PRAYER

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to all the world.

Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.

Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.

Note: This is the abridged version of The Great Spirit Prayer, by Yellow Hawk, Sioux Chief