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Dr Duncan

Twelve days of Christmas

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I love Christmas. I especially love the traditional Christmas carols that are sung in our churches, schools and at public gatherings around the State. But there is one carol amongst them that has irritated me all of my life: and that’s the “12 Days of Christmas”!

12 days of Christmas


For goodness sake, who has ever seen a partridge in a pear tree? And what is a colly bird? Is it some form of chook? All joking aside, I think perhaps that the song is a great challenge for the young (and not so young), to help them memorise long lists of difficult-to-remember-things! And that, I believe is how it came about in the late 18th and early 19th century, as a parlour game for young children … in the days before iPads and Twitter! But the Twelve Days of Christmas - which start on the day after Christmas Day - are perhaps an appropriate period of time, after all the Christmas celebrations, to sit back and reflect on what each one of us would like “Our true love to bring to us”!

So here’s Dr Duncan’s version of the twelve days of Christmas from a medical perspective. But I challenge you all to use this period of time, to think of how you can all play a part in living healthier lives, so that when your “true love” does comes “a knocking” at your door, he/she is delighted with what they find!

On the first day of Christmas 

I would want every person here in Western Australia to know how special they are, and how necessary they are to the life of our communities. This especially includes those who are marginalised, wounded, abused, forgotten and may consider themselves not “mainstream”

Every person is precious
People holding hands


If you don’t “fit in”, that’s OK, you’re still important and needed. If you’re angry and full of resentment, please believe that there are people who really want to welcome you and include you in their lives. Let this Christmas be a time of healing and forgiveness, so that we start 2014 with a clean slate.

On the second day of Christmas 

I would like us all to use our brains when we eat! Food is glorious and the various ways it can be prepared and presented to us is extraordinary! Some chefs will tell us that we eat with our eyes, which is all well and good, but our brain needs to know what we’re actually putting in our mouths!

Let your eating reach your consciousness

If we pause before we eat, then that might just give us the courage to not eat all of the things that are put on our plates. And remember, not everyone is young, active and in the full bloom of health: there are many people with diabetes and heart disease for whom a calorie laden, fat enriched and salt enhanced meal is literally just another nail in their coffin.

On the third day of Christmas 

I would like you all to be courageous - especially when you visit your Doctor. Always feel comfortable in asking a question - however ridiculous it might seem.

If something is causing you anxiety, then you must ask!

Also ask about whether you “need” that antibiotic you’re being prescribed - we need to limit antibiotic use to those cases where they are really needed, otherwise we’re going to run out of “ammunition” against the bacteria that are becoming resistant to so many of our current antibiotic therapies. And ask about whether a test is really necessary or how much each test costs – there are only so many health care dollars around so we need to use them wisely.

On the fourth day of Christmas 

I’d allow everyone who enjoys a cigarette to smoke … as long as it contained no cancer causing agents. Those who sell brands containing cancer causing agents would be allowed to market them only after they had undergone extensive, properly controlled, clinical trials to prove their safety.

On the fifth day of Christmas

I would introduce appropriate alcohol education into schools. This would be based on sound clinical science, and highlight the fact that alcohol is a very dangerous chemical if not treated with respect and is responsible for more human suffering than any other self medicated chemical.

On the sixth day of Christmas

I would ask that people to “stop and smell the roses”. We rush through life and miss so much beauty.

Remember to stop and breath, and soak up the present.
Lady smelling flowers

On the seventh day of Christmas

I’d go for a jog, for a walk, for a kayak … to treat my body with the respect it deserves.

On the eighth day of Christmas 

I would make sure that I had told my wife and my family that I love them. They are the wind beneath my wings and they deserve to know how precious they are.

On the ninth day of Christmas

I’d try something new: a physical activity, reading a new book, learning a new language, listening to jazz (I’ve never really listened to jazz). Whatever it is, just try something new and stretch those boundaries.

On the tenth day of Christmas 

We’d be into January and the heat would be building up, so I’d make sure that I checked the UV index each time before I go outside. And I would think about all the ways I could avoid harmful sunlight, whilst making the most of the “safe” sunlight that we are blessed with here in WA.

On the eleventh day of Christmas

I might be thinking about escaping the January heat and heading for a holiday. If you’re heading overseas, then that’s a really good time to check your overall vaccination status. The more people that are effectively vaccinated against contagious diseases, the less chance we all have of getting some really serious illnesses.

On the twelfth day of Christmas

I’d be facing the year ahead with optimism and hope and I’d like to thank everyone who has made my life such an amazing experience - especially those in the medical profession who have “done their job” with quiet dignity, with supreme talent and served our West Australian Community so well.

Christmas wreath

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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