Saturday, 12 April 2014

You don't wanna do it like that...

So before I launch into my treatment journey (and yes I hear you all saying please get bloody started!)  I just wanted to share this with you because personally I think it's really important when somebody gets a diagnosis like this that they are absolutely ready for the amount of 'advice' (and I use that word lightly) they will receive. It is also very timely as I am signed up with my lovely friend Swazi to do the 2014 Moonwalk (actually the Half Moon, but still physical activity involving 13.1 miles of walking at night with your top half clad in a bra only!) and on Swazi's blog Chocolate is not the Only Fruit one of her most recent posts about sponsoring us tackles the very same subject (as she's a much more prolific blogger compared to my pathetic one post a month you may have to look for it - though all her posts are worth having a read of so don't be shy!)

However I do want to begin this post by saying that I know that many of these people who give this type of 'advice' are not doing it out of maliciousness or in any attempt to hurt the person who they want to impart this 'advice' to. They honestly want to share what they know, believe or have been told because they want to help the person. Well I want to believe that this is their starting point.

However in my humble opinion what I actually think is that they are being a bit thoughtless and not always helpful to a person who is already confused, scared, unsure and completely and utterly lost as to what to do for the best. The person receiving this 'advice', without wanting to put too dramatic a slant on it, is frankly having to make decisions about staying alive. So when someone approaches you with something they've heard, read or been told worked for someone else it puts the person being given this sudden 'revelation' (because trust me that's exactly what this is if they haven't heard it before and haven't even considered and accepted or dismissed it into the bin of old wives tales, quackery or snake oil remedies) can be quite mind blowing. Literally. Even if you have dismissed it as a load of hokum that has no place in your treatment plan and never will do, logic goes out the window as you begin to doubt yourself and start questioning what you've decided to do. 

I feel qualified to say this because that is exactly how I felt. I live in a town which is a lovely combination of old school traditions and new school quirkiness. I love it and wouldn't and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. But it sometimes comes with a price to pay. Although I can accept and understand the alternative approaches brigade I also tire of the constant deluge of medical versus non-medical sermons with, I have to say, the non-medical alternative voice, at times feeling much louder and more sanctimonious. When having to make big decisions it can make for difficult and unsettling listening. 

I have always embraced and been a supporter of holistic approaches to health. So much so that hundreds of years ago I qualified in aromatherapy massage (and 'yes' to all you cynics there is such a qualification and 'no' I am not available to hire, nor for your dirty minded individuals do I do 'extras'!) That was all a very long time ago in another dimension. However my point being that I have had first-hand knowledge and have been exposed to a non medical practice that had incredible benefits in the healing process. But that was exactly it. It formed part of a bigger process. By me giving someone a massage with essential oils it wasn't going to cure them of cancer or Crohn's disease or HIV, but what it did do was support the healing process. Aromatherapy massage is a great relaxer, de-stresser, detoxifier, works wonders on the neurological system, is fantastic for aiding good circulation and gives the immune system a great boost. However it is not the cure to acute and life threatening illness and because of the toxicity of some natural products such as essential oils should not always be used whilst undergoing medical treatment. In short it made you feel nice, helped kick start your system which in turn impacted on your overall health. But again, a bit like cancer, the responses are all very individual and what might work for one person has no guarantee of working in the same way for another person. 

I cannot put into words the awful feeling that wells up in the pit of your stomach when you are wracked with indecision about whether the path you are taking is the right one. All you want to do is make the right decision that will enable you to fight this thing head on. What you don't want is the feeling of being judged for not doing something in another way when you have already had to make the most important decision of your life to date - the decision about having a life to make decisions about in the future!!!
Harry Enfield's '"You don't wanna do it like that" character
And another point I want to make so as not to upset my friends who have an interest, are actively involved or work in this alternative therapies field is that I am NOT talking about you. You are my friends and not at any time did my FRIENDS question my plan of action. If alternative approaches were discussed with my friends then it never came across as judgemental or sanctimonious and it was certainly never received in that way. This post is talking about those whom I maybe have a tenous acquaintance with, work colleagues and in many a case complete strangers. Those are the memories that resonate with me. 

Just to demonstrate what I mean I thought I would share some of these with you:

  • Lavender oil rubbed/sprinkled/submerge onto the affected area (never explained exactly how much was required and how frequently - suppose that wasn't too relevant)
  • Ice cold cabbage leaves (again no type particularly specified so can only assume that savoy, red, green or even napa would do it?)
  • Vitamin C IV treatment (a lot more out there about this, but still not sure...) instead of chemotherapy
  • Coconut oil (the wonder oil that just about cures everything, but doesn't help if you hate coconut!)
  • Wearing a bra at night or not wearing a bra at all (this one was clearly interchangeable because was given by the same person. Never did quite clarify why it needed to be complete cladding 24/7 or hanging free all day, every day. Maybe depends on type of breast cancer?)
  • Coffee enemas (again know this one has been around for a long time, but not sure it's for me. Seems like a perfectly good waste of a cup of coffee and really don't relish the idea of shoving it up my jacksy. Call me weird, but that's the 'coffee in a cup and not up my arse' kind of girl I am.)
Anyway I hope I have made my point without upsetting anyone who might hold these views dear to them. I am all for exploring complimentary approaches whilst having treatment (if no likely contraindications with conventional drugs, such as reiki which I really do recommend during the chemo stint of the treatment - again helped me but may not help others!) and particularly post treatment to help heal your body after the trauma and shock it's been through. Looking at your diet, nutrition, alcohol intake, levels of exercise and psychological support I am up for 101% (don't always abide by it, but try to and actually get it!) However when you've got some big decisions to make about the best way to get better you need to know that the decisions you are making are the best ones possible for you. If you believe in what the person is telling you and it makes sense to you that is great. Go for it. But when imparting this knowledge all I ask is please think of the recipient. 

We all know the arguments about the big pharmaceutical companies and their hold over us in this and many areas of medical treatment. However until I can see a big enough meaningful controlled sample of those undergoing these specific alternative treatments I think I, personally, will stick to the tried and tested evidence based treatments out there. They have worked for me and millions upon millions of people out there like me. They've enabled us to live long (or at least longer) healthy lives with our friends and families. Yes there is no doubt that we are scarred, battered and bruised - physically and emotionally - by the seemingly barbaric treatment we have had to go through, but we are still here. 

However if this cancer thing decides to rear it's ugly head again I may well be the first person heading to Starbucks for a caramel macchiato to go!

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