Great Client Great Outcome

I started working with Sarah and the Sanctuary at a critical time.  I’d started to change from being a functional heavy drinker, and once the transition commenced to being out of control, I was heading towards and in many ways already in a serious amount of chaos.  The in control career girl façade was starting to slip, the shame of which made me hide more behind the bottle.

I contacted Sarah at a very low ebb, and quickly found a place that was empathetic yet straight talking.  The whole relationship is built on honesty, which was made clear very early on.  The sense of being accountable and responsible started to give a sense of direction and hope.  I started to understand that I was gaining rather than losing, and choosing a better life.

I’d be the first to admit that I haven’t been the quickest to catch on, with some bumps along the way.  However, I feel significantly better and in control of my life for the first time in a long time.  Gradually, the pieces of a positive life that Sarah encouraged me with in tough times have started to emerge.

I can’t praise Sarah enough for being there with patience, wisdom, encouragement and humour.

You Really Want Us to Tell the Truth???

More and more I have been listening to client’s stories of how they have been treated once they have braced themselves to tell the truth about how much they are drinking. Every ‘expert’ in the media proclaims that the first port of call if you have concerns about alcohol misuse is your GP. Really??? Let me just recount two of the outcomes of this brave move.

Middle class 50 year old Mother heads to the surgery, having braced herself for being honest about her bottle of wine a day problem. Knowing that she has to spill in ten minutes maximum, she has rehearsed her confession endlessly so that it is succinct and coherent.

Telling the doctor that she is not depressed just would like some help, she refers her to the drug and alcohol team, and although she will get an appointment to be reviewed, she will not be offered any counselling for possibly three months.  So be it, the patient feels relieved that some help no matter how long the wait has to be a good thing.

She attends the appointment. Following the Audit, the ‘counsellor’ asks about her children. She only has one, and he is 15 years old. Alarm bells start to ring for the client, and she asks why her son has any bearing on her drinking patterns. She is told that social services should be informed because her son is potentially at risk. From being relieved to have addressed her problem, she is in now in heightened panic and stand up to leave. Too late. The ‘counsellor’ has now decided that he is going to inform the social services, and within 5 days there is a knock at her door. The whole experience not only made her turn to alcohol again, having bravely tried to cork it, but she has this on her records.

Middle class 48 year old Mother who has been through a very unhappy marriage with one incident years before of domestic violence again braces herself to first of all discuss her anxiety problem with the GP, and then admits to perhaps drinking a little too much sometimes. Up until now her regular doctor has listened and been reasonably helpful. This is a young doctor who asks about her children. Asked why there is the mention of risk. Her children have never ever been at risk, and although the client considered her half bottle of wine a day dependent, two glasses, there was never a time when her daughters were in danger. She also panicked, refused to continue with the consultation, and 10 days later was called by social services with the outcome of having to attend a meeting some way from her home with her husband to discuss her relationship, alcohol intake and mental health.

So do you ever imagine any women who are frightened of both continuing drinking and of course successfully stopping drinking alcohol and all that entails who have so much to lose by their admission being recorded would ever intervene? Do you think they would openly discuss their unhealthy alcohol consumption with no fear and perhaps being offered prescriptive solutions that could ease them through the first few weeks?  Of course they don’t. So the outcome of this absolute truth is that it is invariably left until it has developed into a late stage dependence or another alcohol related illness, or they just kill themselves by lack of appropriate care.

Wake up to 19th century attitudes to a 21st century problem and the real facts instead of pretending that there is the remotest chance of tackling this with current ‘expert’ mainstream options.

More Evidence on Link between Alcohol and Breast Cancer.

Women who regularly consume alcohol increase their chances of developing breast cancer by 50 percent, a link that has been well established by epidemiological studies. Now, two UMass Medical School researchers are collaborating using a unique in vivo model system to better understand how alcohol consumption affects breast cancer initiation, growth and aggressiveness.

Alcohol research expert Pranoti Mandrekar, PhD, and cancer researcher and clinician Jean Marie Houghton, MD, PhD, have been awarded an exploratory and developmental grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to establish a mechanistic link between alcohol consumption and human breast cancer. This collaborative project combines the strengths of two senior investigators leveraging powerful UMMS resources: the UMass Cancer Centre Tissue Bank and the Humanized Mouse Core.

“This study investigates the effect of alcohol consumption on the growth and aggressiveness of patient-derived breast cancers in a novel in vivo mouse model,” said NIAAA Program Officer Philip Brooks, PhD. “The project brings together basic and clinical researchers who are experts from different fields.”

With the association of alcohol consumption and increased breast cancer risk well established, Dr. Mandrekar, associate professor of medicine, and Dr. Houghton, associate professor of medicine and cancer biology, have set out to uncover the molecular basis of this risk, which will allow scientifically validated recommendations regarding drinking and women’s health. They believe that alcohol consumption by women—of more than two drinks per day—causes an inflammatory response in breast tissue that can lead to cancer, worsen previously diagnosed cancer, hinder treatment and hasten recurrence.

The central hypothesis of this grant is that alcohol directly—via activation of stress induced heat shock proteins—orchestrates an inflammatory microenvironment conducive to initiation and progression of human breast cancer in vivo. To test this, they will use a combination of in vitro cell culture studies and a novel mouse model of human breast cancer to determine the effects of chronic alcohol consumption on human cancer growth, progression and metastasis.


While current guidelines suggest that women limit daily alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day and that this level of consumption is protective of cardiovascular health, the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer suggests otherwise. Preliminary studies conducted by Mandrekar and Houghton show that breast cancer cells grow rapidly in response to physiological concentrations of alcohol. “Once we know what pathways are activated or suppressed, those pathways can be targeted,” said Mandrekar.

Mandrekar and Houghton are enthusiastic that the grant gives them the opportunity to involve other UMMS colleagues who have particular expertise that makes this research project feasible. They are collaborating with world-renowned diabetes researcher Dale Greiner, PhD, the Dr. Eileen L. Berman and Mr. Stanley I. Berman Foundation Chair in Biomedical Research and professor of molecular medicine. Dr. Greiner pioneered the creation of the humanized mouse, an immune-deficient mouse model that readily accepts the growth of human tissue, including tumours. “Equally exciting is the future opportunity to apply this knowledge to other cancers.

As a survivour of breast cancer, I can only hope that very soon there will be warnings on bottles of wine that highlight this as one of the major concerns for us all.