Sexism: Men are Victims Too

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Feminism is a delicate topic in Nigeria. The movement has been bastardized but one is yet to fully grasp the agenda of Nigerian feminists.

There appears to be a conflict of interest in defining the essence of their feminist movement. It could be that many of them are either confused or ignorant of the core values of the feminism ideology. As my friend Moji once said, ignorance is a silent, parasitic affliction that twists and bends the lenses of one’s eyes to produce a distorted view of reality.

Today, they are pushing for gender equality; for men and women to be recognized as equal. Tomorrow, they are advocating for gender favouritism; fighting for causes that favour only women – a battle of sexes per se.

For instance, there’s always a special prize for the last woman standing at TV shows like the Gulder Ultimate Search and I have never seen any feminist stand up in its disaproval. This makes me wonder if we inadvertently propagate gender inequality and sexism.

To be fair, sexism is not anyone’s fault. It has become imbibed in our society. As a result, both men and women, directly or indirectly, make sexist comments on a daily basis.

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Nice guys are often ridiculed by both men and women for their niceness and lack of masculine energy to take the bull by the horn. ‘He is not man enough’ is often the derogatory comment used to describe these guys. And that is also sexism.

Recently, I read an article about an emotional man who often sheds tears for women whenever he is heart-broken. As expected, the comment section was rife with sexist remarks. Both men and women were quick to judge the man and say things like:

“How can a man be heartbroken?”

“Do you listen to RnB songs? Gangstas don’t play that shit. They listen to rap.”

“Real men aren’t emotional.”

“Only weak men cry over a lady.”

I had to ask, why can’t a man be emotional and cry over a woman? Is there any law out there that forbids anyone with the male genitalia from crying? I mean, if it is therapeutic for him, he should go ahead and do the needful – there’s no shame in that.

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According to Wikipedia, sexism can affect any gender but it is particularly documented as affecting only women and girls. And this is evident in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to rescue the 219 Chibok girls that were abducted by Boko Haram. There’s no mention of the young boys that are also victims of such abduction or sex trafficking.

Women, not only men, also perpetrate domestic and intimate partner violence, falsely accuse men of rape and other devious acts, molest/sexually harass young boys and commit paternity fraud. Even cancers affecting women get more attention than those affecting men.

Despite all these risks men face, support services for men are almost non existent compared to services for women. There are also ministries for women affairs, but none for men, in the UN and virtually all Nigerian Governments both at Federal and State Level.

Like I aforementioned, our society upholds sexist attitude, directly or indirectly, through the media, culture and/or education. Despite the patriarchal nature of our society, every child, whether male or female, is instilled with a woman’s point of view. The boys are taught to protect and give the ladies special treatment as the head of the family whilst the girls, in total submission to men, are taught to expect preferential treatment from men.

If there’s any justice in the world, no individual will be judged based on appearance and/or masculinity/femininity. Unfortunately, there is none.

Social Media And Averting Cancer in Nigeria

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For many Internet users, social media have become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. A large number of online users prefer to get their news and other relevant information through what others, including news agencies post on social media.

As a result, it has become a daily routine for many people, especially parents, to complain about the “fixation” of young people on their smartphones and social media. They feel a surge of anxiety about the dangers social media and technology pose to the future of millennials. I must admit that I used to belong to this school of thought but I have come to accept that social media is part of evolution. Naturally, we abhor any opinion that contradicts status quo – what we are used to. So it is understandable why many think social media is a time bomb.

The most overwhelming thing about social media is its reach. Through social media, the world has become a real global village thereby bringing us closer to the audience we seek. If social media were countries, they would make up 7 out of the 10 largest countries in the world by population. 

In recent times, we have seen social media exert outstanding influence on the real world through various harshtag advocacies, including medical advocacy. Since social media have a huge presence in our lives, it is only right that we apply social media to our health and well being.

Yesterday, I read about the 12-year old Indian boy, Sparsh Shah, who broke the Internet with his own rendition of Eminem cover ‘Not Afraid’. What caught my attention was the song but I was astonished when I watched the video. The boy uses a wheelchair because he suffers from a rare disease of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a disease I had never heard of. With the help of social media, he was able to get his message across; letting the world know about his talent, disease condition and resilience.

The most successful health awareness campaign on social media so far remains the #IceBucketChallenge. This helped raise $115 million for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease – a motor neurone disorder that attacks nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.

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Social media has also helped in tackling the cancer scourge. In 2014, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the world’s largest independent cancer research and awareness charity, raised over $13m in six days through Twitter and Facebook from the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign. They asked women to post selfies without makeup on social media using the hashtag #NoMakeupSelfie. The money generated has since been reinvested into clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries that will eventually lead to novel interventions for patients.

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This got me thinking of ways we can harness social media properly and change the medical landscape in Nigeria. The power of social media to bring patients, clinicians, scientists, advocates, innovators and financiers in the country to the same table is fairly underutilised.

It is speculated that about 100,000 new cancer cases occur annually in Nigeria. As a consequence, it is dire that we act fast and nip it at the bud. Using social media, we can create awareness about the disease and also promote researches into cancers affecting Nigerians.

Online surveys on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can go a long way to ascertain public awareness of the risk factors and symptoms of most common cancers in Nigeria. Many Nigerians are averse to paying a visit to hospitals when they notice a symptom; they often wait until their medical conditions deteriorate. This online campaign will help in sensitising people to become aware of the risk factors and symptoms of the disease thereby increasing early detection of the disease. Early detection helps a patient to seek medical treatment early enough to boost chances of survival.

Also, encouraging cancer patients in the country to share their stories and experiences via social media can go a long way to dispel the myth that cancer is a spiritual disease and help others to understand the magnitude of the disease. This can also spur online readers to donate money to fund treatment and research institutes/groups striving to find a cure for different types of cancers, including HIV/AIDS-related cancers.

Listening to patients, who are living with specific cancers speak publicly about their experience via Facebook pages, tweetchats, blogs, vlogs, podcasts and websites, can also be therapeutic for other patients. It creates an avenue for them to come together and form support groups or even charity organisations or companies around cancer.

However, there are risks involved with using social media in rapid spread of information about cancer in the country. There’s an abundance of information on the social media, some of which could be too much for some or inaccurate or misleading. Despite its shortcomings, I sincerely believe that someday social media will lead the change we desperately need in the Nigerian health sector as one of the tools that can help deal with cancer and its impact.

Cancer: Join The Fight

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Yesterday February 4 was World Cancer Day; a day set aside by the United Nations (UN)/World Health Organisation (WHO) every year to raise awareness about cancer and encourage its research, prevention, detection and treatment.

Cancer encompasses a wide range of complex diseases affecting various organs in the body. It is the leading cause of the death worldwide, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

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Despite this ailment being a scourge, its awareness, prevention and treatment is surprisingly still poor in Nigeria. It is really sad the way we take health issues in this country.

During the last general elections, neither All Progessive Congress (APC) nor People’s Democratic Party (PDP) mentioned health in their mainfesto. All focus was on economy, infrastructure and anti-corruption war.

Nigeria economy greatly depends on crude oil production in the oil-rich areas and the price of crude oil in the international market. However, there is still little or no awareness about the possible health hazards like cancer that will develop over time in those areas as a result of the exploration and exploitation of crude oil.

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Cancer is unfortunately ubiquitous; we are all affected by it whether directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) are present in the air, food and water we are exposed to. Drugs, hormones, viruses, petrochemicals, bacteria, metals, radiation, tobacco, obesity and increased alcohol intake all increase cancer risk.

The U.S. Department of Health Services estimated that about two-third of all cancer cases worldwide is linked to our environment and our life style choices. WHO also estimated that about 100,000 new cancer cases occur in Nigeria annually.

This highlights the dire need for us, as a people, to prepare for the Tsunami that is about to break in cancer by raising awareness and promoting research for prevention and treatment of all cancer types. This will go a long way in reducing cancer incidence and cancer-related deaths in Nigeria.

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Luckily, cancer incidence is still lower in Nigeria than developed nations like the United Kingdom (UK) so there is need to nip it in the bud. James M. Allan, a Professor of Cancer Genetics at Newcastle University, suggested that the difference in life expectancy at birth in both countries may be the reason behind this.

The current life expectancy at birth in Nigeria is 52.62 years whilst life expectancy at birth in the UK is 80.54 years (source: CIA World Fact Book). And the median age of most cancers at diagnosis is often between 60 and 68 years.

The most prevalent cancers in Nigeria are breast, cervical and prostrate cancers. Cancer treatments are expensive but these are curable if detected early. The outlook for patients with these cancers is much better than two to three decades ago, with better cure rates and longer term disease freesurvival.

However, cancer treatment centres are very few in the country. And most of them lack modern equipment for diagnosing and treating the condition. It was reported last year that only two radiotherapy machines are functional in the country.

The Federal Government, in conjunction with the state and local governments, need to float and equip more mobile centres throughout the country to fight this scourge. And also create awareness about the causative factors, preventative measures, likely treatment options and facilities where such treatments are available. I implore them to also make provisions in the annual budget for extensive researches into all cancer types affecting Nigerians.

Cancer is no respecter of age, sex, ethnicity, religion, class, wealth, beauty, talent, intelligence, fame or power. But together we can all do something about cancer. Join the fight against cancer.

Success

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What is success? What does it mean to you? Does it entail money/wealth, fame, academic and career achievements, titles and health? What about family? In all honesty, success means different things to different people. One’s definition of success gives an insight into his mind and perception about life.

Being born and raised in Nigeria, where everyone is crazy about titles and money is everything, it is quite easy to understand why many believe success is all about money – having lots and lots of it and academic titles/job promotions/political appointments. Dr Chris Kwakpovwe, the writer of the popular Bible reading guide Daily Manna once wrote, “Titles may enhance us but they aren’t our identity.” Indeed titles are not our identity. Think about this; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Microsoft, Apple and other products we consume today are owned and created by persons, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and late Steve Jobs who have/had no title. Would you say they are not successful because they lack titles? Don’t misconstrue my point, titles are awesome but they are useless if you don’t put them to great use.

I know a lot of people reading this are already asking themselves, what does a young man in his 20s know about success? What has he really achieved? I am still light years behind, both in age and achievements, but I have experienced joy and sadness, success and failure, and had it both good and bad. My success made me have a quasi-outlook on life; because things were quite easy for me, I struggled to comprehend when people complained about same things being difficult for them. However, nothing changes a man like failure and I am no different. Failure changes one’s outlook on things; it emboldens you and makes you hard-bitten.

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Let me paint a mental picture for you. Close your eyes and think about the best and worst relationships you’ve had. Which of them taught you more – the good or the bad one? Hear Robert Kiyosaki, “Inside every problem lies a gem of wisdom, a gem that makes us smarter, stronger and able to do better regardless of economic conditions.” Failure, in its own right, is success coated with indelible lessons, only if you learn from it. My failure and disappointments made me appreciate life and success more. John Maxwell once said, “The greatest lessons in life are from our losses. Everyone experiences loss but not everyone learns from it. Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”

Each and every one of us have experienced (or will still experience) something that changed our lives and we have never been the same ever since. Jonas Guiterrez, a rich Argentine professional footballer, who is living the dream of many said after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, “I think the most important thing in life is health. Health and happiness. Sometimes we get into a lot of trouble for things that aren’t significant.” Sometimes we get caught up or engrossed with frivolities such as acceptance and fame on social media (virtual world), fashion trends etc. Thanks to satellite TV and social media, everyone is “close” to the fabulous lives of their favourite celebrities and yearn for their lives.

Numerous chats with people down the years made me realize most youths long for success but a few are prepared to put in the effort. Regardless of your definition of success, one thing is certain – it is a long continuous process. Even Kim Kardashian, who is often criticized for lacking talents apart from her beauty and good derriere, works hard to maintain her success. Success does not fall on one’s laps – like manna from heaven. It has to be earned through hard work, perseverance, persistence and determination.

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Michael Wardian, after becoming the World record holder for 50km on the treadmill said, “I think about my goal. Don’t give up because it gets hard or something gets wrong. It is the middle that’s tough. People cheer at the starting and finish line. The middle miles need mental toughness.” Oh Yes! Everybody likes to be associated with success; failure is an orphan. In other words, who no like to embrace the winner? Cast your minds back to when you got accepted into the University, everyone was ecstatic for you and you became an overnight celebrity at your matriculation ceremony. The same thing reoccurs when you finally graduate and everyone adds Dr, Barr, Engr, as the case may be, to your name. However, only a few understand what you had to go through to obtain that degree – the mental, emotional and psychological stress heightened by sleepless nights.

Every successful person you know today has had it rough but never gave up. If you aim at being excellent at what you do, you ought to be willing to sacrifice a certain part of your life. You have to do the work; dot the ‘i’s and cross the‘t’s. Tim Gower wrote in his book, RELENTLESS:  “There is no privilege greater than the pressure to excel and no greater reward than earning the respect and fear of others who are in awe of your results.” He further described three types of personalities in the book; the coolers who let others decide whether they are successful or not, the closers who feel they are successful once they get the job done e.g. African footballers in Europe and the cleaners who never feel as if they have achieved success because there is more to do.

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the easiest examples of cleaners today. Debate about who is better than the other has divided the football world. Despite what these two football greats have achieved, they don’t rest on their laurels. Their hunger for success is what drives them and they have created a legacy for themselves.

Our environment determines our path; it is the most powerful teacher of all in our success quest. If you aim at being successful in your chosen field, it is pertinent to identify the right environment that allows you take advantage of your three brains – right, left and subconscious – to achieve your dream. Crowd mentality can’t get you to the sky, where we all believe is our starting point but by creating a niche for yourself in your field and proving everyday why that niche deserves to be yours.

Marijuana and Cancer

Mounting evidence shows ‘cannabinoids’ in marijuana slow cancer growth, inhibit formation of new blood cells that feed a tumor, and help manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects.

Cristina Sanchez, a young biologist at Complutense University in Madrid, was studying cell metabolism when she noticed something peculiar. She had been screening brain cancer cells because they grow faster than normal cell lines and thus are useful for research purposes. But the cancer cells died each time they were exposed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive ingredient of marijuana.

Instead of gaining insight into how cells function, Sanchez had stumbled upon the anti-cancer properties of THC. In 1998, she reported in a European biochemistry journal that THC “induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells,” an aggressive form of brain cancer. 

Subsequent peer-reviewed studies in several countries would show that THC and other marijuana-derived compounds, known as “cannabinoids,” are effective not only for cancer-symptom management (nausea, pain, loss of appetite, fatigue), they also confer a direct antitumoral effect. 

A team of Spanish scientists led by Manuel Guzman conducted the first clinical trial assessing the antitumoral action of THC on human beings. Guzman administered pure THC via a catheter into the tumors of nine hospitalized patients with glioblastoma, who had failed to respond to standard brain-cancer therapies. The results were published in 2006 in the British Journal of Pharmacology: THC treatment was associated with significantly reduced tumor cell proliferation in every test subject. 

Around the same time, Harvard University scientists reported that THC slows tumor growth in common lung cancer and “significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread.” What’s more, like a heat-seeking missile, THC selectively targets and destroys tumor cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed. Conventional chemotherapy drugs, by contrast, are highly toxic; they indiscriminately damage the brain and body.

There is mounting evidence, according to a report in Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, that cannabinoids “represent a new class of anticancer drugs that retard cancer growth, inhibit angiogenesis [the formation of new blood cells that feed a tumor] and the metastatic spreading of cancer cells.”

Dr. Sean McAllister, a scientist at the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, has been studying cannabinoid compounds for 10 years in a quest to develop new therapeutic interventions for various cancers. Backed by grants from the National Institute of Health (and with a license from the DEA), McAllister discovered that cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of the marijuana plant, is a potent inhibitor of breast cancer cell proliferation, metastasis, and tumor growth. 

In 2007, McAllister published a detailed account of how cannabidiol kills breast cancer cells and destroys malignant tumors by switching off expression of the ID-1 gene, a protein that appears to play a major role as a cancer cell conductor.   

The ID-1 gene is active during human embryonic development, after which it turns off and stays off. But in breast cancer and several other types of metastatic cancer, the ID-1 gene becomes active again, causing malignant cells to invade and metastasize. “Dozens of aggressive cancers express this gene,” explains McAllister. He postulates that CBD, by virtue of its ability to silence ID-1 expression, could be a breakthrough anti-cancer medication. 

“Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” says McAllister, who is seeking support to conduct clinical trials with the marijuana compound on breast cancer patients.

McAllister’s lab also is analyzing how CBD works in combination with first-line chemotherapy agents. His research shows that cannabidiol, a potent antitumoral compound in its own right, acts synergistically with various anti-cancer pharmaceuticals, enhancing their impact while cutting the toxic dosage necessary for maximum effect. 

Breast cancer cells killed by CBD on right compared to untreated breast cancer cells on left. (Courtesy Pacific Medical Center)

“Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy.
Investigators at St. George’s University in London observed a similar pattern with THC, which magnified the effectiveness of conventional antileukemia therapies in preclinical studies. THC and cannabidiol both induce apoptosis in leukemic cell lines. 

At the annual summer conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, held this year in Freiburg, Germany, 300 scientists from around the world discussed their latest findings, which are pointing the way toward novel treatment strategies for cancer and other degenerative diseases. Italian investigators described CBD as “the most efficacious inducer of apoptosis” in prostate cancer. Ditto for cannabidiol and colon cancer, according to British researchers at Lancaster University. 

Within the medical science community, the discovery that cannabinoids have anti-tumoral properties is increasingly recognized as a seminal advancement in cancer therapeutics.