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cancer testing: a fiasco,a misunderstanding or a mystery?

This post has nothing to do with wine but is something I’ve been pondering …

On Wednesday we went as a family to the funeral of Annabel Cooke, a friend who passed away young after battling cancer.  She was an amazing wife and mother but now Richard and their three young children – Josh, Olivia and Ben- must face life without her.  She was also an adored daughter, daughter- in-law and sister.  She was an incredibly giving person and will be missed in many areas of the Marlborough community.  Tragically she is the third young mum to pass away from our St Mary’s primary school community in the last 3 – 4 years (in October of 2008 we lost Janet McLean to cystic fibrosis and before that Jo MacFarlane, also to cancer), all wonderful women who I often have moments of expecting to see walk cheerfully into the school grounds to collect their kids.   

During the time I spent with Annabel I was amazed by how she continued to put others before herself.  On the evening of her terminal diagnosis she was off to school to a parent helpers’ meeting for school camp. Even in her final days when visiting her in the hospice, dosed up with morphine and in a lot of pain she wanted to know what she could possibly do to help out with the upcoming school gala, she was interested in my family and how they were doing, she loved hugging my baby boy and trying to make him smile, she mentioned having Plunket stuff  to finish, she expressed concern about another cancer sufferer in Blenheim who she thought was doing it harder than her, she wanted to work on scrapbooks for her kids …and this wasn’t someone in denial – she was also busy planning her funeral.

I was stunned at how graciously she accepted her fate and how courageously she faced her suffering.   This was someone who made the decision very early on not to be angry nor to fall into justified self-pity.   As a mum I could only feel gutted at her predicament and couldn’t  imagine how I’d cope if I was facing having to leave my children.  It prompted  me to check my own smear test dates and see if I was due again.  But I knew testing hadn’t saved Annabel despite her being conscientious about it.  I also watched a piece on tv recently about Taihape mother Elizabeth Lennox who was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer despite a series of normal smear test results.  I wondered what sort of fiasco was going on with smear testing – was there incompetence, was someone not doing their job, was there another Bottrill case brewing? 

All this made me pick up the recent Listener (Feb13-19 edition) because of a heading on the cover:” Cancer Test controversy – why you can’t rely on screening to save your life.”  The article was a bit of an eye opener for me as I had misunderstood cancer testing to be fairly full proof.  I was not aware that false results are quite common with cancer screening and that these are not really evidence of negligence as such but are simply a reflection of the limitations of cancer testing.   As the Listener article stated: “About 21 women are likely to  develop cervical cancer each year despite being screened.”  According to Breastscreen Aotearoa “if 1000 women aged 50 to 69 have a mammogram very two years for 20 years, seven will have their lives saved, nine will end up with breast cancer that wasn’t detected by screening and 13 will die despite being screened.”  According to the National Screening Unit, women aged 50 – 69 reduce their risk of dying from breast cancer from 1.42% to 1 % with regular mammograms.  All that boob squashing and anxiety for 0.42%.  And for you blokes, well prostate cancer testing  is probably the most unreliable of all – this time with too many false positives – a large European study is reported to have found that as many as half of all men with screen detected prostate cancer may be being treated unnecessarily.  And I gather that this treatment is no fun either!  It surprised me that testing was so inaccurate.  Don’t get me wrong, I still value cancer screening tests immensely because  there’s no doubt it does save lives – but it’s not full proof.  The New Zealand Cancer Society warn in the Listener article that while they support screening they don’t want it to lead to complacency – in other words, you can’t afford to ignore  symptoms and lifestyle changes just because your test results showed no cancer.  

And then there are the cases of aggressive cancer that strike during the interval between screenings that simply can’t be stopped with current treatment options.   This is the reality Annabel had to face and she was remarkable in the way she accepted this and just got on with making the best of her situation.  She had a very strong Christian faith and she really did trust that God had everything under control.  Even the minister, Rev Michael Treston, said he went to offer her hope but she already had bucket-loads and it did overflow – again she was one the giving.  At her funeral service Michael openly said he could not answer the question of why – an honest answer that I appreciated.  He said it was part of the mystery of God. 

I have another friend who has just had her first child , a little girl who ironically she has named Annabelle.  It’s a lovely name that means ‘beauty and grace’.    The miracle of a new life is just as mind-boggling as the way someone can just be gone from this Earth.   

And so this mysterious thing we call life goes on…

(gee that was getting a bit much… think I need a glass of wine 😉 )


It’s not all about the wine – jerks

I get this…A LOT from people..and some make wine too! “Hey Fiasco, how’s the Tweetering, Twottering or whatever you call it going you big Twit”  and  “how much piss are you selling on there” or ” I guess people must sucker into buying it because they haven’t got much else to do being on the computer all day”…..I usually don’t say much to these little wind-ups because these people really don’t understand.  Their loss, our gain…

Right. I think the wine industry at large (this is especially so for the bigger brands) have treated their customers like ‘widget grabbers’ or ‘stock unit snatchers’ and little attention has been paid to the actual person drinking their wine.  PERSON is the optimal word here too!  Actually, I tell a lie.  The attention towards people is usually centred around focus groups where they brainstorm new ideas, deals, or concepts that will help speed up or increase the ‘snatching process’.  We all know that a well run campaign, whether it be a neck tag offering a prize, or a new critter label – or whatever – can do incredibly well for the producer.  But I guarantee this,  at the end of the day that wine producer (through market intelligence etc) may know who buys their wine, but I guarantee they don’t know them!   Well get this…the world is changing, and if you produce anything and you are not actively attempting to know your customer personally, through the tools that are now available, then you could be in trouble.

The Social Media revolution is just starting and it has been a total revelation to us.  We’ve not only met some incredible people but they have become our friends.  I also know this. Take away the wine – they will still be there!

Sure we make wine.  SO WHAT!




Wild Weather!

Last night was stormy and living in a house surrounded by trees, it sounded like they were all about to crash in on us…and one did!  The view from our backdoor this morning…firewood delivered to the doorstep 🙂

Wind delivered firewood!
Wind delivered firewood!
No Aaron nagging needed for jobs that involve loud machines

No Aaron nagging needed for jobs that involve loud machines

It has been a case of ‘four seasons in one week’ around here.  I took the photo below on Monday morning when we started the day with minus three.  And yet at week’s end we have strong northerlies and a predicted high of 23 oC. 

Monday morning view from the doorstep

Monday morning view from the doorstep

Anyway the strong winds have accelerated the loss of leaves from the vines.  Once the leaves are all off, we will begin pruning.
Second set pinot vines with autumn leaf loss

Second set pinot vines with autumn leaf loss

With fruit gone, sheep can be let in to 'mow' vineyard grass

With fruit gone, sheep can be let in to 'mow' vineyard grass





Indevin is arguably the best contract winemaking facility in the world.  Thats why Fiasco is made there 😉


Turkey Time


 Well it’s official – Fiasco Wines has now secured it’s first sponsorship deal.  We are the proud sponsers of Mortisha the Turkey.  Mortisha was found wild in Blenheim just prior to Christmas.  It is still a mystery as to how she came to be checking out the shops.  There was a complete fiasco as a capture was attempted and for a time she escaped, ironically to the roof of a pet shop.  Eventually she was caught and taken in by the local radio station, More FM – who decided to keep her as a mascot, saving her from anyone who had ideas of a tasty Christmas dinner.   Now this was a fiasco we couldn’t resist, and we like to do things a bit differently…and so it is that this turkey is the first ever to be sponsored by a wine company. 

On Saturday the turkey was blessed at the Pets Day Out and there are plenty more excursions planned for the bird.  We hope to see Mortisha do a few laps at the Relay for Life in the near future. 

So what does the sponsorship involve for us?  Well we want to see Moretisha well looked after so we contribute to her upkeep but have and will also supply wine prizes at the various events/causes Moretisha appears at with More FM.  The Pets Day Out helped the SPCA and the Relay for Life is an awesome event to help the Cancer Society.  In return we are getting some great exposure from Jamie, Nige & the team at More FM… and of course Moretisha herself is said (gobbled?)  to prefer Fiasco over all other wines!


Celebrate with Free Shipping!

Since conjuring up a great deal with a local courier company, we can now offer free shipping (CASE LOTS) anywhere ANYTIME in NZ.  The Winewankers Vlog has whipped us up into a frenzy around here.  So  for a limited time and we mean a limited time our Sauvignon Blanc is available by the case for $12.50 / bottle and the Gewurz $13.50 / bottle.


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