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.

 

 

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.’

The Fire Prayer

I first heard about the Fire Prayer Healers in South West France when our builder told my husband a story about his nephew.  He’d put his hand in scorching hot potato puree, and his mother had rushed him to the Fire Prayer Healer to stop the burning.  The following day his hand was perfectly normal apparently.    I was fascinated by this story, and I wanted to know more.  I spoke to friends and neighbours, who told me that in emergencies sometimes hospitals in the area would call Fire Prayer Healers, who would come and work directly with the patient or on the phone.  It never occurred to me that I would need their help too.

fire-orange-emergency-burning.jpgAt the beginning of my cancer treatment, I asked the hospital nurse if there was anything I could do to help with my healing – expecting advice on diet or creams for example.  The nurse produced a list of local healers, one of whom lived very close to my house.  All the healers had a list of their specialities – mine was a Magnetiseur (energy healer) and Fire Prayer Healer.  I was so surprised.

After my chemotherapy treatment, I thought radiotherapy would be ‘a walk in the park’.  I hadn’t really thought about what was in store, as I was just so relieved to be out of chemo.  The radiologist told me that I might have some slight burning to the skin, but after three weeks, the burning was severe, with blisters appearing under my arm.  I called the Fire Prayer Healer for an appointment.  I arrived at her very simple cabin, next to a rural road, opposite a heating fuel supplier.  The room had a simple massage bed, a chair, and the walls were covered in crucifixes and angels.  I laid down on the bed, and she gently massaged my solar plexus, and then put her hand on the burnt area on my breast and underarm.  From time to time she would shake her hand to remove the heat.  She whispered a prayer and then made small signs on my skin with her finger.

I went to my radiology appointment the following day and the radiologist remarked that my skin looked much better.  I told her I’d been to see a healer the previous day.  She smiled and said ‘Aah, la magique….’