Letting Go

Just at the point when I started to feel better after my breast cancer treatment, I became aware of incredible tension in my shoulders. It’s been six months since my last cancer treatment, and I’m feeling pretty strong, but this next challenge arrived when I thought I could finally relax.  The sensation is something like the image from the film Black Swan when the feathers are trying to break out from under the skin on her back.  As a metaphor it’s pretty powerful  – renaissance, phoenix rising, letting go – and that’s how I try to think about it.  The reality is pretty uncomfortable as it’s hard to sleep at night when every turn is painful.

Breast cancer is no longer in my thoughts and discourse all day, but there is always a residual fear that the cancer will come back.  I am no longer ‘carefree’ – I am monitoring my health like a hawk with the added stress that this mysterious illness can be silent.  The tension has manifested itself in my shoulders, like a soldier after the war has finished but still in fight or flight mode.

woman in beige dress stretching her hands
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

The upper back and shoulders is a classic area for people to hold on to tension and stressful thoughts.  I could hardly move in bed because of the tightness.  I craved to be massaged.  I also knew I needed to cry.  I was crying over small things – watching the news, listening to a song, imagining the pain of others, but it wasn’t enough. My theory is that once I release this tension through crying, I will be bien dans ma peau (comfortable in my skin) again.

I looked for sad films, but my tears would only last for a short period of time and the tears never felt powerful enough.  Then I remembered a mantra given to me by my friend Robin, which is also called The Crying Prayer – Vajrasattva.  Every time I listened to this, particularly the version I would burst into tears.  I have also been doing Yoga with Adriene – a series of yoga programmes which are seemingly guaranteed to make me cry.  She has specific routines for upper back and shoulder tension, which are fantastic.  I also have a physiotherapist who massages this area too.

What’s happening in my upper body is a physical manifestation of the psychological tension I have felt throughout this process.  I’m hoping that as my body heals, my mind does too.  I keep thinking of those feathers trying to burst out of my back…..wish me luck.

Animal Magic

If you’re a dog owner, you’ll know that their particular needs and wants usually come up high on the list of house priorities.  This is even more true of terriers, a breed which is generally pretty independent and not a ‘human pleaser’.  They’re much more concerned about, in no particular order, walks, food, and playing.  Then something happens when you’re ill, your feisty little dog becomes the perfect companion.  It happened almost straight away.  I’m not sure whether he could smell the cancer – certain breeds can do this – but they definitely know that you need their support.IMG_1586For almost a whole year, my dog Sammy followed me around everywhere, he lay on the rug next to my bed, sat next to me on the sofa, and generally behaved as if his most important job was to comfort me and help me get better. I will never look at him in the same way again, and every time he is naughty I remember his incredible kindness, and generally forgive him everything!

The cat didn’t fare quite so well.  Just before my diagnosis his skin started to get really bad.  Endless trips to the vet didn’t resolve the issue.  In my darkest hours, he started to look even worse – scaly skin with open sores and threadbare fur.  He almost became a physical representation of what was going on inside my body.   When my friend Christine came round – a Fire Prayer healer (see previous blog) – she explained that the cat was absorbing my illness to help me, and would get better once I started to get better.  She placed her hands on the cat to try and relieve its skin discomfort.

It’s been a year now since the beginning of my breast cancer treatment, and six months since it finished, and the cat is now looking like a normal cat again – he’s regained his weight and his fur is looking shiny and healthy again.  Did it absorb my illness?  If he did, I am so grateful to him.  He had just been an outdoors cat who had arrived in our garden looking for a home – given his selfless acts, he now has special status in the house!

Never underestimate the intelligence and sensitivity of your furry friends!

 

Bath Time

If you have a bath, the chances are you don’t use it very much.  Most of us are in a hurry and so jumping in the shower seems much more efficient.  But going through cancer treatment is a time when you need to focus on your wellbeing 100 percent.  Before the chemo started I wanted to be able to use the bath as a refuge, somewhere to relax and unwind – something which I’d forgotten how to do.  Bathing in the water is really good for the body and the mind – I needed its restorative powers as I went through what was going to be a really challenging time.

pexels-photo-105934.jpegI knew I was going to have zero energy after my chemo started, so I made sure I cleaned the bathroom, and set it up as a little bathing retreat.  My friend Clare bought me a little headrest pillow, I got the tap fixed (the thermostat had been broken for about four years) and I made sure the fluffiest towels were at my disposal.

The bath become a place to relax after each hospital visit to literally clean out the toxins mentally and physically.  Before getting into the bath, I would use a dry skin brush on my body, to help flush out the nasty chemicals and to improve my skin.

When you have a cancer diagnosis you need to be very careful about which bathing products you use, as you don’t want anything which contains harmful chemicals.  I used natural soap to clean my face, and that was it – skin has a tendency to dry with chemo, so it’s best to guard whatever natural skin oils you have, not strip them away.  I used to put Epsom Salts in the bath, which are are great detoxifier help after each chemo session to flush out the chemicals in my body.  Epsom Salts are from England, but any natural bathing salts will probably have the same effect.  They also have the added benefit of softening your skin – as the chemo progressed, I had an itchy rash on my head, where the  hair had fallen out, and also on my body, particularly on my arms.  Before cancer, I would regularly put moisturiser on my body after having a bath, but during the treatment I wanted to keep all my pores open without any blockages, so using these salts really helped to keep my skin soft.

I also put a little Bluetooth speaker in my bathroom to listen to music and guided meditations.  Spotify have lots of meditations, including Deepak Chopra’s. They help you to relax, think more positively, and help with sleeping, which was becoming a real problem for me.  Part of the meditation also includes breathing exercises, so you’re really oxygenating your body too which helps with the healing process.

This is just a little something to help to get you through a really awful process.  I’d forgotten to take care of myself, and the simple pleasure of lying in a bath really helps you to relax, and also clean you out your mind, body and soul.

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’.

dawn sunset beach woman

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.

pexels-photo-399629.jpeg

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.

 

 

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.

aloe vera blur cactus close up
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

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…

chain gold cone pendulum
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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!

seashells in a bag
Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

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.