It can all be terribly overwhelming watching the news these days. I am easily traumatized, easily plagued with images. The news is also slightly surreal as we seem to have access to so much of it. It is difficult to imagine Ukraine in the state that it is, or to properly feel the threat of IS in the comfort of the A/C at home. Everything seems to be taken place in different dimensions where trending topics are #Syria and #BrangelinaSecretWedding respectively.

The feeling that seizes me is one of helplessness, and it is easy for me to plunge into a mixture of depression and guilt. That is how I always remember myself -avoiding the news because of sleepless nights. In search for books of ‘Why them not me?’, I always find the opposite. Why am I suffering, why am I sick? etc. Shows the shallowness of the human brain I think.

In these times of distress, I think about the little things, the simple things. I prayer for help and I pray for hope. Where can I make a difference? I try to fill myself with hope, that if every person that felt like I did made an effort to be kinder, more helpful, more hopeful, we could create stronger people, and stronger communities. I don’t know how but somewhere, somehow, this makes sense to me. This is helping. In Guy’s hospital I wasn’t saving the world, but I was perhaps making sense of life for a family, or giving support to someone bereaved. I remember this song and try to cheer up:

Cooking in my Mama’s kitchen (Baked apples with Halva)

The best thing about going home is familiarity. This is most clearly felt for me in the kitchen. Although I was happy with my kitchen in Cardiff, mama’s kitchen is always tops. This is firstly due to memories of mother’s amazing dishes throughout my childhood up till now. One thing  that has become more important to me since I began to enjoy cooking and baking however has been one essential element – Stock.

Would you like to add garlic to your meal? My mum has fresh garlic, chopped garlic, minced garlic and garlic infused oil. You feel your meal is missing a certain something special – open the third drawer to your left and be amazed at the choice of extras you can find! The fridge is another world entirely. A Narnia of goodness.

Maintaining a kitchen like that is a talent and is only an option for the people who truly love cooking. It takes years of dedication and I can only hope that my kitchen would be an inspiration, just like my mother’s. A kitchen like that is what brings on adventurous cooking and mouth-watering dishes.

Today I tried to make a baked apple recipe, spurred by my love of Mama’s kitchen. I had been looking for a similar recipe for ages and couldn’t find one on Pinterest. Below is the recipe I used. Next time I will add more cinnamon and Halva.


 

Baked Apples with Halva

5 apples

5 tablespoons Halva (around 150g) [maltese Helwa tat-Tork]

1 teaspoon cinnamon + cinnamon stick

3 tablespoons sultanas

Handful pecan nuts

1 cup white wine


 

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Core the apples and make a wide opening, saving the apple bits cut out. ( I left the peel on)

3. Squash the apple pieces and mix with the Halva ,  cinnamon dust, chopped pecan nuts and sultanas.

4. Spoon into the apples.

5. Place apples on baking paper in a dish. Add a cup of white wine to the dish and place a cinnamon stick in the wine.

6. Place in the oven for 40 minutes.

7. Serve warm with cold custard.

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Facts and myths of Genetic counselling

 

Did you know that heatwaves in London are followed by beautiful colourful thunderstorms. The pictures of lightning over London sights are lovely! The call is a Spanish Plume, because the heat is still pretty intense.

I’m more than half way through and I wrote a lot less than I intended to in this blog. Goes to show that I was so absorbed in my learning, and preparing my ethics application for my research project that this just hasn’t had time to be written.

Every day I learn a bit more what it means to be a genetic counsellor. And every day I like it more and more. A typical day in the life of a GC doesn’t come very often. The days are ever changing, and within the NHS guidelines and research always make changes in routines. Typical GC clinics range from predictive BRCA meetings (which have become more common after Angelina Jolie’s announcement), to stressful rapid access meetings that have been scheduled last meeting to deal with pre-natals. The pyschological implications of genetic testing cannot be hidden in any appointment which is why the skills we learn are essential. It becomes so real as it takes the form of a patient’s life and future journey. You cannot un learn genetic information, not can you change the genes you have inherited (yet).

Fact: The counselling aspect is integral

This is why it is part of the job description. Although there is no warrant (working on it), there is a strict registration board for genetic counsellors. This is because the skills of a registered genetic counsellor puts into play a number of counselling aspects as well as communication aspects. Did you know it was international law for someone wanting a predictive Huntington’s genetic test, to have at least two appointments before having the test. It is important for the person to undergo a thorough self-investigation of the pros and cons of the test, ensuring that their own personal decision makes the pros outweigh the cons. All genetic counsellors are very protective of their HD families and this shows the strong bond GCs form with these patients.

Myth: GCs are behind a strong eugenics movement

Anyone who has experienced a appointment with a registered genetic counsellor will tell you that this is not the case. GCs are essential to the education and support of families with any genetic condition. The approach of a GC is non directive and especially nowadays with cancer, the aim is to ensure people have measures in place to protect them and to make informed decision. Apart from non directiveness, GCs are realistic and supportive. The non-judgemental space provided gives families the environment they need to make some really tough choices. Do not judge is the old age adage that form one of the competencies of a Genetic counsellor today.