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Wed, 15th October 2014

"It's therapeutic". An older guy from under a rough straw hat said to me as I stopped and looked at his handiwork. "Makes me feel good too". He had obviously been sitting by the side of the road for a while in the sun. Busily beavering away at unwanted weeds in the green grass between gutter and front fence. "I do it nearly every day". He continued digging and picking with a little pronged hand fork. "These bindies hurt if you walk on them when dry, but I also like to get my hands in the dirt, and play around".

It didn't take long to realize the guy was right. He was exercising in a low key way. Bending and unbending, digging, prodding, getting his fingers covered with dirt and green stuff, and obviously meditating and letting the world go by. "Relaxation is good for the body and soul".

Besides, I thought, being a doctor, the dirt contains millions of different nutrients. With some water, it makes plants grow, whether they be weeds, bindies, veggies or flowers. Some must be absorbed by the skin and help body health too. This guy had learnt the art of relaxation, the world's number one "destressor". Letting the mind wander, let it fill with thoughts from nature, from outer space, from the weeds and bindies. The fact he was sitting on the side of the gutter was immaterial.

"I talk to lots of passers-by too", he said. "They all want to know what I am doing and why". So a philosophical exchange is possible. That too calms the nerves, reinvigorates the inner person, and encompasses you in a sense of well being and goodwill to others. Even to wandering cats and dogs. "I go for a walk past your house most days and often see you in the distance", I said. "Yes, I see you too. Walking is good, but you must not stop or you will get sore knees". On this I agreed. Joints are made to move, not be motionless when you are sitting. We parted company and he continued bonding with the weeds and dirt, and no doubt feeling he had solved a few more challenges of the universe.



Is it possible for the pill to cause breast cancer, for this seems to be more common now in younger women?


Many studies world wide over many years indicate there is no relationship. In fact, it is claimed to reduce some forms of female cancer. Just the same, it does increase oestrogen exposure. However, many believe man made chemicals in the environment may also lead to abnormal oestrogen production, so increasing risks in large groups. Regular self examination is essential, and mammograms often provide early diagnosis.

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What is the attitude of doctors to podiatrists?


Regular toenail, toe and foot care is a great idea, especially if the person is diabetic and has difficulty bending and cutting their own nails, suffers corns and calluses, or footgear is unsatisfactory. Ingrown toenails can also be suitably managed. Government benefits are available to certain qualifying persons. It costs around $50 a consultation. Often visits are timed 8 weekly. It depends on where you wish to place the dollar - on your back, in your stomach or with comfortable walking.

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My mum has been very depressed, and started medication. Now, a few months down the track, she suddenly bursts forth in rage, with minimum provocation, which is quite unlike her.


The relatively new breed of medication called the SSRIs can reduce the terrible symptom of depression. But in some, side kicks can occur. Sudden bursts of rage, elation, or strange abnormal behaviour can commonly occur. The doctor must weigh benefits against possible negatives. Sometimes a change to another member of the same family of medication may help.

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We continue to hear about bird flu. What are the chances that a massive epidemic will occur.


Chances are extremely high, even though governments world wide are taking massive precautions to prevent this from occurring. Many believe it is only a matter of time. It is due to a variant of Influenza A virus. A similar type caused the terrible 1918 pandemic which killed millions in a very short time. Avoid traveling to countries where mass cultivation, slaughter and open sale of chooks occurs. Always continue with hand washing routines as well as all measure of general hygiene.

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I am an older person. My hip joint causes terrible pain. But I fear a surgical assault on my body.


The hip replacement operation has been around for fifty years. It is extremely safe, very successful in the majority of cases, and could remake your now miserable life. The sooner you take the plunge, the happier you will be.

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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.



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Dr James Wright is associated with lovely Vimiera Retirement Village ( in the leafy Sydney (NSW) suburb of Eastwood. It is operated by Mediaid Centre Foundation (, a non-profit Public Benevolent Institution which provides housing for the elderly, as well as providing a large amount of health information.

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