Banishing Evil Spirits

There are lots of healers in South West France – it’s very rural and the traditional methods of healing are still very present.  My neighbour Evelyn who has had terrible back problems had seen a healer in a nearby village, and the results had been pretty miraculous.  I had a lot of tension in my upper back following  my treatment, so I thought why not.  But rather than a quick back rub, I ended up receiving what was akin to a full-on exorcism.

crucifix on top of bible
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The healer lived in a farm house down a small back lane.  When I arrived on a swelteringly hot August day, the men of the house were all taking their post lunch nap before going out into the fields again.  I was welcomed into the house by the old lady and invited to sit down at a large table.  I explained that I had had breast cancer, and I was concerned it would come back, plus I had lots of tension in my upper back.  She picked up a pendulum lying on the table, blew on it, and then held it over my breast area.  The pendulum began to move, and she announced everything was clear.  She then stood behind me as I sat on the chair and began to massage my neck and shoulders for a few minutes.  There was a silence and I wondered if it was all over.  I hadn’t really felt anything, and was mentally preparing to leave.  At that moment, as if she could read my thoughts she said: it’s not over yet.  She picked up her crucifix and stood behind me as I sat on the chair.

Our well diviner (see previous blog) had already explained to me that my cancer was most likely due to geopathic stress (our bed was in the wrong position), or that bad spirits were attached to me, so as I’d already dealt with the energy lines in the house I guess I needed to cover all my bases to make sure there wasn’t anything evil attached to my body.  The healer proceeded to say a prayer over me, and asked me to take her hand and walk back and forth across the room in the holy spirit.  What was remarkable was when I did this there was a cool breeze even though it was baking hot outside with zero wind.  She then asked me to sit back down and called out for the cancer to be gone, and for any evil spirits to leave my body.  This went on for around fifteen minutes with the crucifix at my chest. There were no dramatic moments, but I did feel perfectly safe, and was grateful for any help she had given me.

Following on from this, she then asked if my breast area was still hot from the radiation. Had I received the Fire Prayer?  I explained that I had, but she told me it hadn’t been done properly.  She then held her hand just above the breast area, and recounted a prayer over and over.  Occasionally she would make a sharp movement with her hand as if she was shaking something off.

I spent almost two hours with the lady.  She told me to come back if I needed some more help, but that I was perfectly fine.  The only thing she did suggest was to take Propolis a by-product from bees with healing properties.  She wrote the name of a farmer who lived in a village not far from me, but would only pick up the phone at 6pm when he’d finished on the farm.  At the top of the note it said ‘Tell him Delphine sent you“.

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.

Pickled Apricot

One of the weirdest things I did during my breast cancer treatment was to put a pickled apricot in my belly button before every chemo session.  It’s actually called Umeboshi, a Japanese pickled apricot, which can be bought in jars from health food shops.  My friend Andrea who is an expert in Chinese healthcare explained that this would be effective in combatting nausea during the chemotherapy treatment.  The navel is the centre of the body, and the properties of the Umeboshi balances its energies.

 

 

Umeboshi2

So how do you fit an apricot in your navel?  Here’s how.  You take out the stone of the apricot, and then wrap the Umeboshi in gauze and carefully place it in your belly button.  Then tape it to secure it.  You leave it in for as long as you feel necessary, so it could be 24 hours, or it could be five days.  I generally took it out after five days, when the worst of the chemotherapy was over.  The dressing itched slightly, and I always knew when I’d had enough.

So does it work?  Well, I certainly didn’t suffer too badly from nausea.  I was never sick, but I never had much of an appetite.  The hospital wanted me to take anti-nausea medication, but I refused it.  I’d just had enough, so even if by putting a pickled apricot in my belly button acted as a placebo, then I think it helped.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

I remember as I was nearing the end of my treatment, an Irish friend Anne told me about a large bell in a cancer wing of an Irish hospital.  When patients had finished their treatment, they were encouraged to ring the bell to mark the end – a sort of celebration – it seemed like a lovely idea.

When I first heard about this, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind.  I couldn’t wait for my treatment to be over, but would it be a celebration?  Every time I imagined ringing the bell I wanted to rip it off the wall.  Rather than it being an ‘air punching’ moment, I imagined screaming out, relieved it was all over, but angry too that I had been subjected to this treatment.

pexels-photo-633497.jpegAs part of my ‘therapy’ I would listen to songs on Spotify whilst driving back and forth to the hospital.   The song Ballerina by Van Morrison would often crop up on a playlist from his album Astral Weeks.  One of the lines of the song is ‘All you gotta do is ring a bell’.  The song went round and round in my head, conjuring up the vision of me trying to ring the bell in the hospital.  While singing along there would be tears rolling down my face.

As the final day of radiotherapy neared, I was exhausted and literally burnt out.  I stared at the wall during the treatment and then pulled my gown back on, feeling numb.  The radiologist turned to me at the end with a smile on her face, and said ‘this is your final session.’  I just burst into tears, sobbing as an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders.  She comforted me by saying that I had been well dressed with make up on every day.  I replied ‘yes, I’ve tried to be strong for too long.’

It’s a Cover-Up

I’d always presumed I would wear a wig if I lost my hair after chemo.  My friend Chloe had given me her old ‘breast cancer’ wig which was a good fit and the same colour as my hair, so it was left in a drawer until Doomsday.  The fact was, when my hair did start to fall out, my scalp became very itchy and bumpy with some sort of rash.  My instinct was to wrap it in something very soft, but the inside of the wig was harsh and coarse.  What to do?pexels-photo-936559.jpegAt the point my hair began to fall out, my friend Philippa came round to see me.  I was distressed because it had started to appear whenever I sat down – the sofa, the dining room table, my pillow……she suggested wearing a turban, and set about looking on the internet for scarf tying tutorials.  Now the thing about Philippa is that she is an ex-Vogue stylist, so I knew I was in good hands.  Philippa also runs a cool online brocante shop Duck’s Nest Vintage www.etsy.com/shop/Ducksnestvintage?ref=ss_profile

Rather than look like I should be scrubbing steps, I tried to channel Sophia Loren or Liz Taylor on board a Mediterranean yacht in the sixties.  It was also winter, and our house is very drafty, so wearing a scarf round my head also kept out the excruciating cold which my newly shaved head experienced.  I found a large oblong scarf the easiest to wrap around my head, rather than the square scarves which create a different look.   Here’s the link for Liberty scarf tying tips: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k4xMtHQMdg

Later on, as my hair started to grow back, and the weather became warmer, it became difficult to wear scarves around my head, as it was just too hot.  It was also the period when I’d lost my eyelashes and eyebrows, so I was feeling particularly gloomy about my looks.  I’d been given lots of beautiful square silk scarves – some from my stepdaughter who’d recently visited Beirut.  My hair was growing back, but it was more like a peach fuzz, so it couldn’t really be exposed, together with the fact that I had developed a sensitivity to the sun due to the chemo.  My friend Jeny Sugg came to the rescue.  She often wears funky scarves, and has a cool retro style, and persuaded me to create a more fun look with large glasses, hiding my lack of eyebrows and eyelashes, together with square scarves tied with more volume on top.  Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXWgVQweGVY&t=276s.  Jen makes beautiful handmade items such as knickers, cards and cushions – she also has an online shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/frenchkitschdesigns?ref=search_shop_redirect

I now have a Pixie cut hairstyle, so I am scarf-free.  It’s such a relief to have my head uncovered, but looking back the scarf provided little moments of joy during a pretty dark period.