In March 1999, I received the results from the biopsy on the lump on the left side of my neck. It was malignant. I was given the diagnosis of lymphoma. That's cancer of the lymphatic system to the uninitiated. Further tests clarified that it was an aggressive form (fast growing) and in the intermediate stages (pretty well advanced).
A decade and a bit of training and practice in the use of various non traditional approaches to health and healing gave me the incentive and motivation to question the route of treatments that the hospital was wanting to channel me down. I had trained in NLP (an understanding of the effects of the brain on our actions), and was I believe one of the first people in Europe to qualify in an approach to physical therapy called Self Healing. OK, I thought to myself as I sat in the car in the hospital car park after receiving the news, I guess now is the time to put theory into practice, an opportunity to test my beliefs in the capacity of the body to heal itself. And that's exactly what I did. I designed my own healing programme and within 6 months, the cancer was in remission, within one year, there was no sign of the lump or of the cancer anywhere in my body. Three years on and I am healthier and fitter than I have ever been in my life.
The Healing Plan
The healing plan that I put together for myself fell under two groups of three overlapping areas.
The initial issue on the physical side of the equation was to act and act quickly. My first action was to book an appointment with a homeopath who I knew to have an interest and some experience in working with serious conditions. This was my main route to arresting the growth of the cancer cells and went a long way to supporting the detoxification process. The homeopath also addressed the question of my immunity by testing for any vitamin or mineral deficiencies in my body.
I read that cancer cells love an environment that is lacking in oxygen so I exercised daily to the degree that I could. The weakness and illness that had been gathering speed over the previous months took on a monumental spurt immediately after the biopsy. There were days that my exercise for the day was to breathe deeply. But what better way of getting the oxygen into the cells. As my strength increased over the coming weeks and months, so did I increase the degree of exercise that I did.
Herbs were my main source for detoxification. Bought fresh and produced at home into a less than appealing concoction, they cleansed the blood and boosted the immune system in the process. And, of course, the other essential element was food. I totally changed my diet. Diet was probably one of the most challenging areas to understand. There are so many conflicting versions of the 'right way to eat', at then end of the day, you have to make your own decisions based on the information that you have. In the first instance, I used mainly common sense. I ate organic. Fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts were- and still are- my staple diet. I cut out all stimulants from my diet. No sugar or caffeine. I cut out all dairy products. (I had been a vegetarian for years so there was no meat in my diet at all anyway). For the first time in years, I ate very well indeed. I did fresh juices every day and grew my own seeds into sprouts. And, of course, I drank a lot of water.
Detoxifying enemas became a way of life. Skin brushing and alternating hot and cold showers were added to my bath routine daily to stimulate the immune system. Ozone therapy was something that I felt that I gained a great deal from. This is where some blood is taken out, mixed with ozone and replaced into the vein. It's a direct and powerful way of raising the oxygen levels in the body.
I used a great deal of my existing knowledge to help myself. I went to see a physical therapist on a weekly basis. What I didn't know or understand, I researched. Indeed, the confusion created by the many diet books led me to enrolling on a course in Natural Nutrition.
And I rested a lot. I respected the needs of my body.
I had been intrigued for years with the body and mind link in health and knew enough to realise that it was essential to have a positive outlook. I was constantly alert to my emotional state and when there was a dip, a bit of self pity, a depression looming, I would do what I needed to do to get myself through it as quickly and easily as possible. Some days it was easier that others but I always managed to get myself back on top. The main techniques that I used was re framing which is the process of putting a positive slant on the event or feeling. I brought a lot of humour into my life. I laughed a lot.
I chose very carefully to spend my time with people who would not drain me. I limited the amount of time spent around anyone or anything depressing. I learned to value and respond to my own needs above the needs of others.
I enrolled my imagination. I imagined the cancer cells getting sick and dying. I 'established' an imaginary hospice in my body where the cancer cells were looked after until they died and left for good. The 'nurses' were the T cells of my immune system. I did this 7 to 8 times a day. I kept repeating it until I could not 'see' any cancer cells in my body. I imagined a transportation system where the bodies of the cancer cells were taken out of my body and disposed of in an appropriate way.
So, through the mind as well as the body, my aim was to reduce growth, improve immunity and detoxify.
This was a less well defined area but equally, if not more, important in completing the task I had set for myself.
Meditation was an essential part of every day. Sometimes I would use a meditation tape that led me through a process. Sometimes I would sit and simply be in the moment. Sometimes I would hold a thought, a question in my mind and then let it go. Sometimes I would gain understanding, sometimes not.
I considered death. Common sense said that whatever route I took, traditional, non traditional, that there were no guarantees on offer, no extended warranties with this deal. I was on my own. Having made the decision that I made, I needed to be OK with any outcome. I did not want to be on my deathbed with regrets. So I met the demon, the question of the possibility of death being nearer that I would prefer it to be.
I went to see a couple of healers and had three amazing experiences when I had appointments with a psychic surgeon.
Did any of this help with immunity, cancer cells or detoxifying? I really don't know but I do know how important this time was to me and the strength that I gained from it.
Traditional and Non Traditional
I did also tread the traditional route. My oncologist was just wonderful. She listened to me and she and her team supported me all the way. They did their tests and then they stepped back. Always there in the background, interested in what I was doing but never impeding their ideas, or their treatments on me.
Is the non traditional route the one for everyone? No! I talk to many people who are about to embark on treatments or who have had them. One lady called to ask me what I had done. "She would do anything, she said, anything it takes except……………" and proceeded to present a long list of things that she absolutely under no conditions, give up. I wished her luck and suggested that she call be back anytime she was serious about talking non traditional.
The debate about the pros and cons of chemotherapy and radiation is not something that I intend to get into here. I made my choice on the information that I had and on what I felt was right for me. And it was the right choice for me. I guess the most important issue for me is that people do get the opportunity of making that choice in an informed manner.
I was lucky to have a lot of basic knowledge and skills. I knew where to start contacting people who could be on my team. I can only imagine how confusing and frightening it must be to be given the news that I received without any background information or awareness. People need to be given options, real options to choose from. And if they do choose the traditional route, a pick and mix approach from the non traditional model will help to ease the way for them. One undisputable fact is that chemotherapy destroys the immune system. So why not give patients things to take and things to do that will boost the immune system. Chemotherapy is very toxic. Herbs to counteract the toxicity could ease suffering and speed recovery. Ozone therapy would provide a wonderful lift to a body battling with the after effects of radiation.
For me, though, the key issue is in being able to take responsibility for one's own healing process. Education, information, knowledge to make and maintain choices should be on the agenda from professionals as much as any treatments, whether from the non traditional or the traditional route.