Phoenix Rising

I really didn’t want to have chemotherapy.  Not only did I not want to lose my hair, but I didn’t believe in it.  Surely something which was going to damage my immune system and kill healthy cells was going to poison me, and in the long run weaken me, making it more likely that I would have cancer again.  It was all so quick, and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so I had to put trust in my surgeon, who did seem to know what he was talking about, yet I still struggled with the idea as the day drew closer, especially as I had been told this treatment was just ‘preventative’.  On the lead up to my first treatment, I talked to friends and family, and would often use the word ‘poison’.  I clearly had an issue, and I knew this type of language was not going to help me get better.  So there I was, stuck between a rock and hard place – my gut said, ‘don’t do this’, and my head said, ‘you don’t have a choice’.

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I have a clear memory of those first few chemo sessions.  I was hysterical.  I entered into the ward, and saw lots of very sick people around me – grey, no light in their eyes, and weakened bodies.  What on earth was I doing?  I didn’t belong here and I was going to become one of ‘those people’ and my life would be over.  I cried hysterically, so much so, they sent the psychiatrist in to see me.  They wanted me to take anti depressants, but to my mind, it was perfectly understandable that I was upset, and anyway I didn’t want any more crap in my body.  I also hated the port that had been put under my skin and made me look like a robot.  It gave easy access for the chemo drugs directly into my veins, and is something which usually stays in the body for two years.  I couldn’t stand looking at it- not only did I look like some sort of futuristic robot, with a large implant under my skin, but the idea that I could just be plugged into the machine was a dystopian  nightmare.

So what to do?  I knew it was important to believe the treatment was going to make me well, but as it was ‘preventative’, it was very hard for me to get my head around the idea that this was helping me.  My friend Andrea, a medical doctor with experience of cancer care told me to imagine the chemo as if it was little particles of light cleaning my body.  When I was plugged into the machine, I should try to meditate on this, rather than the idea I was being poisoned!  My dialogue (inner and outer) focussed on the idea of re-birth, a renaissance, phoenix rising – I was going to come out of this stronger, fitter and with purpose.  This gave me the strength to get through it, and rather than be a victim of cancer, I was going to try and turn it into a positive.  So, over time I came to accept what was going on (or was so weak, I didn’t have the energy to fight back!), and I also became far more empathetic to the people around me in the hospital – rather than thinking of these people as ‘the other’, I felt we were all in this together, no matter what stage we were at.

One day I shared a room with a lady who was wheeled in on a trolley.  She was literally wasting away – she could have been 40 or 80, it was impossible to tell.  I remember the two ambulance men (built like rugby players) lifting her gently onto the bed, and then with immense kindness one of them placed her soft slipper back onto her foot.  Later in the day a nurse came in, and spoke to her in a calm reassuring voice, and on leaving kissed  her on the forehead.   With these gestures I was struck by the humanity of all the staff  – it outshone the treatment and it helped me to face this terrible challenge.

I still find it difficult when I read things about chemotherapy and the lasting damage it can do, but all the dreadful side effects are slowly melting away, and I’m hoping my positive frame of mind is helping my body to make a full recovery.

Regime Change

One of the first changes I made after discovering I had breast cancer was to my diet.  At first I was blown away with the amount of information, not just on the internet, but in well-intended emails which arrived in my inbox.  If I only ate more celery, carrots, flax seed, avocados, broccoli…..the list went on….I would be cured.  I probably would have done the same thing had it been a friend of mine, thinking I was helping, but I actually had to tell people to stop.  I was so stressed by the whole diagnosis, trying to get my head around what was about to happen, I couldn’t cope with the ‘quick fix’ solutions which were being offered.

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I wanted my liver to be in good shape, in preparation for all the toxins which were about to be put into my body – general anaesthetic, chemo and radiotherapy.  I thought I ate pretty well, but everything I read stressed the importance of cutting out dairy, sugar, meat and alcohol.  At the beginning I think I went a bit overboard.  I even tried only eating alkaline foods – the theory is, cancer cannot survive in an alkaline-only environment – but saying no to fresh in-season organic tomatoes seemed crazy.

I lost weight very quickly, but the nurses at the hospital stressed the importance of having some protein to keep me strong in terms of energy and in building muscle mass.  In the end, after a slightly extreme beginning, I made a no sugar, dairy, meat and alcohol rule in the house but I could eat anything (within reason) out of the house.  My daily diet usually included porridge (with lots of seeds, nuts and fruit) in the morning, and then vegetable soup for lunch, then something with beans or pulses for dinner. The other thing which happens of course with chemotherapy was my appetite was pretty low, but I would make an effort to eat regular small meals to keep my strength up.

According to my friend Andrea, an expert in Chinese medicine and healing foods, chemotherapy makes the body cold, so you should only hot foods.  Conversely, radiotherapy heats up the body, so it’s important to eat cold or cooling foods, to create balance in the body.  This is one rule I stuck to throughout the treatment.

There is tons of advice out there about miracle cures, as well as the properties of various foods, but I found it too difficult to make extreme changes to my diet – mainly I just didn’t have the head space for it.  For me, cutting out meat, sugar, dairy and alcohol made it much easier on my liver to process all the other toxins my body it was having to deal with.  I drank loads  of water too, of course, and following the hot/cold rule made a lot of sense.

On a final note, I find it interesting that French hospitals take nutrition very seriously, whereas friends of mine in the UK had no nutritional advice – quite the opposite – the rule was, ‘carry on as normal’.  More worryingly, a friend’s mother in the US was told that she should absolutely not make changes to her diet during her treatment.  It’s almost as if the Anglo-American conventional medical culture is positively hostile to any form of natural healing.

 

 

Making Up is Hard To Do

When you lose your eyelashes and eyebrows, you lose definition in your face.  Suddenly you look ‘sick’ to the outside world, and almost unrecognisable.    Your skin tone also changes, so doing your make-up is quite a challenge.  It’s also not advisable to have any tattooing or micro blading done, due to the risk of infection, so you need a few tips and tricks to try and make you feel more human.

 

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The basic rule, is ‘tone it down’.  If you go too heavy on the make-up, you’ll end up looking like a clown.  I was given advice by make-up artists who visited hospitals during my chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

  1. Eyeshadow is your friend.  It softens the face and adds definition.  Choose a lighter colour than normal, and always take it from the outer corner, moving inwards, and avoiding the inside of the lid.
  2. Use white eyeliner on the inside of the eye.  This will make your eyes appear brighter and less ‘sicky’.
  3. Use an eye pencil, lighter than your normal shade, definitely not black and draw a line just above where your eyelashes used to be, to give the impression of eyelashes.
  4. Use a brow pencil, go a couple of shades lighter than your normal hair colour, and gently draw on your brows, but go easy.
  5. Finally, dab a little colour on your cheeks or lips, to make yourself feel human again

Failing this, just wear a large pair of sunglasses when you go out!  It may sound vain but one of the things I dreaded with chemotherapy is taking my natural glow away.  It does disappear during the treatment, but it starts to come back gradually, and I hope I will be in full blossom soon….

Aloe Vera Magic

Halfway into my chemotherapy, when I was feeling particularly grim, I decided to make an appearance at a village funeral.  It was a lovely community event and a tribute fitting to the lovely man who had died.  I had to leave early because of the cold, but my husband stayed on for a little bit longer.

Whilst there, a lady who owns an exotic garden not far away and a real pillar of the community came up to my husband and said ‘I know your wife is ill with breast cancer please come and see me, I may have a cure.’

I was intrigued, but exhausted by the whole process.  I felt like I was near death towards the end of my chemotherapy treatment, and my morale was very low.  I couldn’t stop thinking about her offer to help, and so when I was well enough and the chemotherapy was over, we went to visit Marie Christine at the local exotic garden.

She sat us down and first of all told me I should eat the new shoots of bamboo as they come through the earth.  Boil them in salted water for about ten minutes, peel and then eat with vinaigrette.  We already had bamboo in the garden, so this wasn’t a problem.  The small shoots tasted a bit like artichoke hearts and are apparently full of calcium, so are great for repairing the damage done to your bones during the chemotherapy treatment.  I also enjoyed, what became, my morning ritual of picking bamboo shoots poking through the ground each morning.

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Marie Christine then explained that there was an actual cure for cancer, discovered by Father Romano Zago whilst living in some of Brazil’s poorest communities.  After making his discovery he wanted to share it as widely as possible.  He later worked with an Italian oncologist to test the reaction in a study of 450 patients – the results were positive in most cases, although not in all.  What did I have to lose?  As I was in the middle of treatment, I decided to wait until the chemotherapy and radiotherapy were over.  The recipe is very simple:

  • Half a kilo of organic honey
  • 45-50ml of cognac or whisky (apparently other spirits work too, just not wine or beer)
  • 350gm of aloe vera leaves – the spiky leaved variety

Put all the ingredients in a blender, blitz and then leave in a jar in the fridge.  Take a large spoonful before breakfast, lunch and dinner until the jar is finished (usually 10 days).  If there are no results, repeat the process again after 5-10 days.

You can find more information in the book Cancer Can be Cured by Romano Zago – I am skipping through the finer details and there’s lots of information on the internet.

So, I made up the mixture, using a plant she gave me, along with honey from our beehives, mixed with Armagnac, the local spirit.  I diligently took a spoonful (for about a week) before each meal, but the effect was so powerful, I felt drunk pretty much all the time.  I’d spent the previous six months eating very carefully, being pretty nauseous and without alcohol, so this potion was a little bit too much for my system to take.  I do get it though – cleaning out toxins in the body, so self-healing kicks in.  Now I am stronger, I will try it again, perhaps as a post New Year detox.

My advice:  it’s probably worth a go, but don’t do it if you are feeling fragile, as it really packs a punch.

Aloe Vera is an amazing plant – I would always use the gel from its leaves to take away the burns on my breast and chest area, or put it on the scars where the port had been under my skin.  Just cut the tip of the leaf, split it at the side, and take out the gel.  It seems to work, and is a nice contrast to conventional treatment.  There’s something really soulful about taking a leaf from a plant growing on your terrace, and using it as a cure, or just a balm throughout this process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnetic Energy

When something bad happens in your life, sometimes strange coincidences start to happen, it’s as if the universe kicks in to support you.  One of the odd things that happened to me (amongst the many) was the work of a diviner who had previously tested for water in our well.  We hadn’t seen him for at least five years, when my husband had called him on behalf of our neighbour to find the location of the underground water pipes in his old house.   My husband mentioned that I had cancer, and he  immediately asked for my full name as he was part of a healing group, he could heal remotely.  He added that the reason for cancer is usually geopathic stress (negative energy lines in the earth), or bad spirits attaching themselves to the body.  In my case it was geopathic stress (thankfully), and apparently our bed was in the wrong place.  We had to move it, and call him to check it was in the right place.  But how would he know?  Well with remote viewing of course…

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So we moved the bed.  The large kingsize bed was now squeezed into the corner of the bedroom.  I was in the middle of my chemotherapy, so it wasn’t very convenient to say the least.  We both climbed over each other in the middle of the night, hoping that this was not going to be a long term solution to our problem.  We duly called the diviner three days later and he confirmed the bed was in a healthy place.  He would come round to fix our energy problem in the next few days.

Sometime later, the diviner arrived with a pendulum, several charts, and a baton of crushed scallop shells.  He confirmed that the section of the bedroom I had been sleeping in was the cause of the cancer, as the pendulum swung like crazy over one of his charts.  He was going to redirect the negative energy out of the house, into the garden area, and then neutralise the bad energy by burying the crushed scallop shells in a particular spot in the garden.  He then went from room to room, checking the energy, the fridge, our mobile phones, the electricity meter and the water supply.  Everything was neutralised with special symbols, incantations and shells positioned in various places!

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Has it made a difference?  Well the idea of bad energy doesn’t surprise me – I can often get that feeling when entering a house whether it has a good or bad vibe.  Did it cause my cancer?  It may have contributed, but I think it’s a whole collection of things which I am now addressing.  Do I believe in prayer?  Yes I do, and I am grateful for any help I have in this corner of rural France.  The fact that this man is in a healing group, and will come all the way to our house to try and help us really restores my faith in humanity and that’s a great thing.

 

 

Shamanic Journey

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I remember speaking to a friend of my husband’s who had been treated by a shaman, and successfully cured from cancer.  The process was long and intense, and required focussed dedication from both parties.  His description of his journey fitted my image of shamanic healing – hard work, and essentially stripping back the person to his or her soul level.  I was intrigued, but couldn’t imagine how I could experience this type of healing in my current state whilst going through a pretty gruesome treatment.

rainforest during foggy dayMy friend Vicky had mentioned someone called Papa Shaman who lived in South West France.  I’d always imagined shamans living in the South American rainforest, not in the suburban edge of Biarritz.  I looked on the website www.papashaman.fr and saw that he was having a healing ritual in the evening – like a shamanic taster – it seemed too easy, but I was intrigued all the same.

So one evening I dragged my poor husband along with me, and entered into the world of shamanism.  We both arrived in bad moods, having struggled to find the venue, and we were both cynical to say the least.  People were sitting around in a circle on their mats, waiting for Papa Shaman to arrive.  I remember feeling quite irritated, as it all seemed so flaky, and I was conscious that my husband would probably hate it.  Papa Shaman arrived – a gentle and earnest person, who explained that we were in this healing experience together, so not to judge people – could he read my mind!  But something remarkable happened, as people began to speak about why they were there, I began to soften and feel empathy rather than irritation.

The ceremony itself involved everyone lying down on their mats in a circle, whilst Papa Shaman moved into a trance-like state with the use of a large drum.  He then instinctively moved around the group, whispering incantations, and laying hands near the areas of the body which needed to be healed, and around the head.  It was an incredible experience, and the hour and a half we lay in the dark, felt more like ten minutes.   When he mumbled prayers, or their equivalent, it really did sound like something you would hear in the jungle or a rainforest.  I would sporadically feel a cool breeze on my face, or on parts of my body, and he instinctively knew where I had had the operation, without me saying anything.

When it was all over, he told each of us what he had seen through a series of visions, and also gave us advice on what we should do.  Plus at the end of our mats we received a stone which he said was precious and we should keep with us at all times.  The lady next to me actually started crying, because she could feel my pain, which really touched me and made me realise how cynical I had been.  Apparently Papa Shaman had also spent a considerable amount of time lifting out a concrete block from my husband’s chest – that didn’t surprise me – he has a tendency to hold onto his emotions.

So we both left feeling lighter and better – it’s difficult to explain why or how, but something profound did happen, and I felt Papa Shaman was always completely genuine, and the effort he put into the group’s healing that evening was really exceptional.  It felt like the right thing to do.

 

 

 

Being a Diva

One of the best pieces of advice I received after being diagnosed with breast cancer, was to be more like Mariah Carey – a diva.  At first I didn’t quite get it – was this really the best time in my life to be strutting around in fancy clothes, demanding only the very best.  My friend Clare explained to me that it was about taking care of myself, and using this time in my life to be number one.  Don’t be a people pleaser, don’t think of others needs, just think about yourself.pexels-photo-276064.jpegApparently one of the common symptoms of people who get cancer is that they are often ‘givers’.  I don’t think of myself as selfless by any means, but I had stopped looking after my own needs, and was definitely feeling a little lost.  Clare had told me to be selfish and to make sure I had a ‘healing ‘ environment at home.  So after my operation and before the chemotherapy started, my husband and I had a checklist of items to complete:

  1. Make sure you are warm – put an extra heater in the bedroom
  2. Your bathroom should be a little more luxurious: put Epsom salts in the bath after each chemotherapy treatment; soak in the bath with a pillow to rest your head and put in a wireless speaker so you can listen to healing music while bathing
  3. Change your bedlinen regularly, and make sure it’s lovely crisp white cotton
  4. Have a scented soy wax candle next to your bed
  5. Put a pile of books or/and Kindle next to your bed – you’re going to have plenty of time to read
  6. Have some sort of screen in there to watch films and TV series on
  7. Wear a beautiful pair of pyjamas or nightdress in very soft cotton
  8. Have your room cleaned thoroughly before your ‘healing’ retreat starts
  9. Have a notebook next to your bed, to write down your thoughts – light and dark
  10. Use the best face cream you can find, as your skin is going to need nourishment

If you’re wondering why there isn’t a picture of Mariah Carey, it’s because I couldn’t find one without royalties.  She’s very easy to picture anyway in your mind’s eye, and a little mantra for me whilst going through my recovery was always ‘What would Mariah Carey do?’  It’s just a little reminder to make yourself number one during this trying time.