I keep receiving messages from people who have either been diagnosed themselves or their family members. Most of them sound very similar, I heard you beat cancer, tell me what you did?
Although I’ve been writing about my chosen treatment path, those posts were more narrative and quite long so I’ve decided to shortlist what I consider to be important elements of the healing journey, in no particular order. Except my version of shortlist is still novel material.
As you read through my list, please understand that I’m just another lost cancer patient who navigated her way through this scary and complex disease, mostly relying on my own intuition to guide me on what’s right for me. Unfortunately there are no guarantees that following in my footsteps will deliver the same results, as everybody is different. So please don’t take this as a roadmap to healing but rather things to consider as you navigate along your own unique path.
My main piece of advice before you read on would be: Trust your instincts.
In an ideal world, this advice would be common knowledge rather than in blog posts of cancer patients.
Body, mind and spirit.
The three are intimately connected therefore the healing journey should address all of these. The conventional cancer treatment methods focus primarily on the physical body because it can be scanned with all our modern technology. However I believe the disease runs deeper than that, and we should shine a torchlight on our insides too.
I’ll start with the easiest one first - our physical body. The reason I say it’s easiest, is because it’s tangible, and the results are visible. We know we can cleanse it with our diet and different detox methods. Also we can strengthen it through physical exercise and the results are measurable and visible. The other two are not as simple, but equally important.
Our mind is so powerful, it can be our biggest ally or enemy, depending on how we use it. So it’s important to work on training it to work for us not against us. Apparently it doesn’t discriminate between fact and fiction, so we can tell our mind whatever we want and it accepts it as truth. If we take a moment to really think about that, we’ll quickly realise how important it is to be careful with the story we tell ourselves, particularly dealing with the treatment outcome.
I am strong! I am fit! I am healthy!! This was my mantra as I did my daily run up the grandstand at the local oval. In the beginning I was anything but those three things. But for months I just kept on running up those stairs and repeating the same three statements in my head…and guess what….they all came true! Today when I run up that grandstand I really do feel strong, fit and healthy. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s such a wonderful feeling when one day you realise you are all those things. It’s important to note that it’s not a fixed state and you won’t feel your best every single day, but overall you’ll know when your ‘I am’ statements have become your truth.
Spirit - needs nourishment just like our body. What feeds your soul? What sparks the greatest joy in you? If you know then do more of it - consider it a vital part of the healing journey. If you’re having trouble finding a source of joy, my advice would be to search and not rest until you’ve found it! For me personally it was dancing. It had the added benefit of being a great source of exercise and a place to connect with some amazing friends. It was so important, I originally wanted to name my blog ‘dancing through chemo’ but later realised that name was already taken.
Lightheartedness - don’t take yourself too seriously. In those moments when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry - choose laughter every time. For example, towards the end of chemotherapy I had a dance performance where I was required to have full stage makeup. I hadn’t worn makeup since starting chemo as I figured my body was already being exposed to enough chemicals. When I went to apply my mascara, I realised I was waving the brush up and down but there were no eyelashes for me to cover. I knew I had lost my eyebrows as that was a lot more obvious, but until that moment I hadn’t even realised that my eyelashes were also gone. And so I had a bit of a giggle in front of the mirror and went along to the performance with some makeup missing.
Positivity - The collective mind of those around you can shape your journey. Although your own vision of your future is the most powerful one, the people inside your immediate circle of family and friends help to shape that future too. You all need to be on the same page. Distance yourself from the pessimistic ones as they’ll unknowingly project their fears onto you, and that’s not helpful for your healing.
Fear can cloud your judgement, so retreat to a quiet place inside of you. If you have trouble listening to your inner voice, then it’s still too noisy on the outside and it’s likely that the environment around you isn’t conducive to your healing.
Meditation - If you’re having trouble listening to your inner wisdom, meditation is the key to unlocking your inner world. All the degrees in this world cannot compare to the knowledge that’s already inside of us. It’s innate, we just forgot about it along our way into adulthood. But if you’ve had the privilege of watching a young child grow in front of your very eyes, you’ll know that this is true. Children don’t hold onto anything. Every single moment is brand new and full of endless possibilities. The world hasn’t yet shaped them into a predetermined mould.
My children have been my greatest teachers along my healing journey and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to awaken during such a precious period - their childhood. They provided me with boundless opportunities to practice being in the present moment, because that’s where they are all the time. No wonder the kingdom of heaven belongs to them and those like them.
Through the eyes of a child it simply is what it is, without judgement. Another important lesson that my children taught me. When my hair began to fall out two weeks after my first chemo session, I was devastated at first. I tried to prepare them for the progressing baldness that was about to unfold in front of their little eyes. I explained to my four year old how mummy was given a very strong medicine that will make all my hair fall out, so that when it did happen he already knew it was coming.
It is what it is. When my hair began to fall out in chunks, there was no judgement or devastation on their part, it instantly became a game to them. They would run up to me and take chunks of my hair then release it into the wind and watch the hair fly away. It’s unfortunate that my kids were given the opportunity to play such a game, but once again they showed me the meaning of true acceptance with a hint of lightheartedness.
After a few days, I put an end to their fun by shaving my head as they didn’t always choose the best time to take my hair and it was ending up on our plates at meal times.
Making choices - Remember that we always have a choice. We can choose how we perceive and react to things. Another important lesson I was taught by my child, this time my two year old daughter. We were driving home from a trip to the forest where she had taken a long stick as a souvenir. She was waving it around on the back seat and at some point her stick snapped in half. Her initial reaction was to start crying and complaining about the broken stick. But a few seconds later something interesting happened. She paused and excitedly announced ‘‘now I have two sticks’’ and happily waved them around the rest of the way home.
If it hadn’t been for the cancer, I may not have slowed down enough to tune into their world and would have missed out on all of these golden moments of insight. The old me would have snapped at her right at the start and told her to stop complaining about the broken stick, because there are plenty of other ones and we’ll just get a new one when we get out of the car. Sounds familiar? So how can I be anything but grateful for this journey? Our lives have been enriched as a result of me being shaken up, awakening to what was right under my nose.
The cancer journey is all about making choices and not forgetting that you always have a right to choose. Don’t allow the opposite to happen or to get pressured down a path that isn’t your own.
I distinctly remember the moment I walked into our house after my doctor’s appointment where I was given a referral for a biopsy. He had written in capital letters URGENT and organised it for first thing Monday morning. That was a fairly obvious sign of where things were headed.
Our house at the time had a long corridor at the entry and rooms on either side. Our bedroom was the first room on the left. I walked in quietly and stood at the door for a few seconds. I had a choice to make, the first of many.
I could either turn left into my bedroom, curl up in the fetal position and start crying over what was about to unfold. But at the end of the corridor was the main living room, where I could hear the laughter of my children. I could also walk straight and simply join them in whatever game they were playing. Whichever choice I made, neither one would affect the outcome of my biopsy results. The only thing it would greatly affect is the quality of all the moments between this one and Monday’s appointment. So I chose to walk straight where I was greeted by two angelic bear hugs and I never looked back.
Choose to live moment by moment, don’t ruin this one by crying in advance over something that may or may not happen in the future.
Self love - Parent your inner child - give it what it needs. Our parents tried their best but they didn’t get it all right. What did they neglect? Give your inner child what it needs, whether it’s love, nurturing or attention. There is nothing wrong with self-love. It’s a huge topic on its own that I could write about for days but I’ll save that for a separate post.
As a young child, maybe you were seen but not heard. The people who trigger the greatest reactions in us are our mirrors, trying to show us what our inner child needs to address.
This is why our children are often our main triggers, as they instinctively engage with the child that’s inside all of us. Their childhood is a golden time for us parents to work on our own personal development, as our little mirrors provide us with daily triggers and growth opportunities.
Gratitude - When you’re sitting in slow moving traffic and you notice the yellow flowers in the median strip, as they stand out in the green green grass, with a backdrop of a bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds - you know you’ve experienced a shift. It shows you’ve slowed down enough to see beauty in unexpected places and suddenly you become so grateful for it.
Fake it til you make it didn’t work for me. Perhaps as a starting point, you can begin each day by thinking about all of the things for which you’re grateful. Better yet, write them all down then regularly read through your list and add to it.
However, the shift needs to be deeper than just following motions. Start living your life in such a way that gratitude is a natural byproduct.
Spirituality - Not to be confused with religion. While it’s important to trust your doctor, don’t put your faith in them, reserve that for something much greater. You don’t have to prescribe to a particular religion, but I honestly cannot imagine going on this journey without faith. Without faith, the fear would have consumed me long before the cancer.
Our friends and family can only do so much for us, but this is a much bigger beast. Disease will often fast track our personal growth and at times it will seem hard to keep up. But as part of our growth, we’re going to hit new lows, that no amount of love or support from the people around us will be able to comfort. It’s in these moments that we realise we need something beyond what the world around us can provide, we need more love and comfort than people alone can give us. If we allow it, the all knowing part of us will instinctively reach out to the infinite, even if it’s for the first time in our adult life. And through this connection, the rest of our journey will be filled with abundance. One by one our fears begin to subside as we are comforted on a deeper level, where there is no need for words or logic.
I’ve been cautious in this section not to box myself in by using certain language, or more importantly not to isolate too many people if my language isn’t familiar to them.
The language around spirituality is broadening in the mainstream. The most exciting part for me is the fact that it’s encouraging us to shift our gaze inward rather than hopelessly search for it on the outside. Although I’m not big on labels, I do like the term higher-self because it reminds us that it’s already within each and every one of us. In my experience, cancer or disease in general, is mostly a spiritual journey which should be fully embraced.
Empowerment - Don’t give away your power to anyone. Know that it’s your body and the ultimate decision maker is you. Trust your instincts and shop around for the doctor that’s right for you. We don’t usually settle for the first house, car or even pair of shoes. So it makes sense to speak to a few different people who will be calling the shots on the type of treatment that’s supposed to save your life. My search led me to a different country. I’m not suggesting everyone takes it to such extremes, but as someone who met with four different oncologists, I can tell you that they can be extremely different in their delivery.
You see, cancer brings us down to our knees. Those first few weeks after the diagnosis, we are in shock, because everything we’ve been told about cancer has us fearing for our life. This is the most vulnerable state imaginable, yet this is also the time when we meet our first oncologist to discuss our treatment and future prognosis. Their words are so powerful during this time, yet they don’t seem to realise it. They start painting a picture of our future based on statistics, planting a seed which will only grow bigger over the coming months. Be really careful with the seed that gets planted in the early stages. Don’t let someone else be the master of your destiny, the artist of your painting.
When I didn’t like what I was hearing, I literally imagined I had my hands covering my ears and that I was singing ‘laa, laa, laaaaaa’ completely ignoring the picture that the oncologist was trying to paint on my behalf. A little trick a good friend of mine taught me ahead of my meeting with the second oncologist. I think my five year old uses this technique a lot, so much so we even had his ears tested last week. His hearing is just fine. But know that the ‘laa, laa, laaaa technique’ is there for you when someone else tries to take that paintbrush, and starts painting on your canvas. It’s your canvas, so really own it.
Some oncologists can be bullies. The stories I’ve heard from other cancer patients make me sick, not to mention the pressure I’ve experienced on my own skin. They seem to play on human emotions in order to convince patients to accept particular treatments, when the patient shows the slightest hint of reluctance. This makes me really weary of the treatment, if they have to stoop to such low blows, like telling mothers to think of their children and asking them whether they want to be around for their kids long term? That paragraph is bound to cause a stir up, but I’m going to leave it in anyway.
Detoxing - While the scans may have detected a cancer in your physical body, remember that it doesn’t exist in isolation so please don’t forget to extend your detox beyond just the physical.
The physical body is a great place to start as it will inevitably benefit the other two, but it’s important to focus on your insides as well.
In terms of physically detoxing, I took things literally and decided to give my insides a cleanse starting with my intestines and liver. I did colon hydrotherapy every few weeks. I chose not to do home coffee enemas, I just didn’t want any of that ‘stuff’ inside my home. The treatment wasn’t pleasant, but it was necessary. This is where I began to see the intimate connection between the body and mind. If you start cleaning up the body, all of a sudden you gain clarity of mind too.
After the intestines, I moved onto the liver. This order seemed logical as everything would get dumped into the intestines in order for the body to clear it out. I’m sure there are many different methods to cleanse the liver. In the beginning, I chose to follow the method from a book called ‘The Great Liver and Gallbladder Flush’ by Andreas Moritz. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. I only did it once, then continued to take Chinese herbs and drink various liver cleansing teas.
Much later in my healing journey, I met an interesting practitioner who wears many different hats, homeopathy being one of them. Today I’m taking a homeopathic remedy to cleanse my poor liver from all the toxins pumped into me during chemotherapy. It’s been six months since finishing chemo and the detox is ongoing, but I’m confident that the damage isn’t permanent and I’ll nurse my liver back to health.
That was the physical body, but what about the rest of me? Remember what I said about shining a torch on your insides and having a good old spring clean there too.
Let’s start with the mind or brain. Post diagnosis, that particular organ is about to get a real workout. Everyone knows someone who beat cancer by doing something specific. They either drank a particular concoction or they managed to source the roots of some super rare yet nutritious plant that only grows during a particular season on this one mountain in the middle of nowhere. And every story in between. So be prepared for all the well intentioned friends and family who will bombard you with information and stories that worked for other people. Don’t hold it against them, they are just trying to be helpful because they really want you to survive this. And because you’re fearful and you trust them, you’ll try just about anything.
However, it doesn’t take long for you to become completely overwhelmed as you run out of bench space in your kitchen turned pharmacy. At some point you’ll probably raise your hands in surrender, just like I did. At one point I realised I had so many pills on my kitchen bench that they were enough to fill me and I almost reached a point where I didn’t need any food. That’s when I called it quits and decided to return back to basics aka real food. I got a box and put most of the supplements in the pantry, leaving only a handful behind. As those jars ran out, I would then go to the box in my pantry for other ones. This made more sense than taking a gazillion different things at once.
As your mind goes into a whirlwind, I would suggest starting a journal. The topic of journaling is so important I’ve decided to dedicate its own section later on, but it’s worthwhile mentioning it in in this part on detoxing. As a way to clear your mind, write your thoughts down on paper to make room for new ones. No one needs to read this, it’s just part of your therapy.
Now onto the rest of your insides, the deeper stuff.
I learnt a very important equation early on in the journey. Yes there was room for maths too.
Anger = acid.
Apparently cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment, therefore the aim is to decrease acidity in the body. You can eat all the kale in the world to alkalise the body, but if your source of acidity is linked to emotions, namely unresolved anger, then you can see how focusing on the diet alone won’t help you beat cancer.
My advice - get to the bottom of whatever it is that’s making you angry. In my case, the anger was out of context. I certainly wasn’t angry at anybody in my life at the time when I got diagnosed. But it was in me and some people triggered it more than others. In hindsight, I see that I may have gone through post natal depression after the birth of my second child, which went largely unnoticed by the person in the middle of it all - me. When I pointed this out to my family years down the track they all said they knew. Then I got mad at them for just standing by while I suffered, but according to them I wouldn’t let anyone say anything to me about it.
During my healing journey I’ve worked hard to get to the bottom of this issue. I enlisted the help of an emotional clearing therapist, counsellor, psychologist and meditation teacher. It was a team effort, albeit an expensive one. I’d say I’m on a much better path now.
Negative emotions get stored in the physical body, therefore a vital part of the clearing process is firstly identifying them, and finally finding a way to let go of them.
I started off with the easy ones. For example, I carried some guilt over the way I ended a few relationships in my past. So I picked up the phone and rang two of my exes. The first one was so sweet, he laughed because my apology came 17 years later. He reassured me that all was forgiven a very long time ago. But I explained to him that I needed to do this, because I was still holding onto some guilt and I didn’t want to carry it any longer. Once I stopped crying, we ended up having a great conversation, which left me smiling for the rest of the afternoon.
It was a very similar story with the second phone call. He gave me great advice on who I should contact to help me along my journey. My overdue apology opened up a new pathway which led me to a wonderful new friend.
I understood the meaning of clearing the air between us. Now when I think of them, all I sense is their friendship and support, without any negative connotations.
The third one I couldn’t ring because he died in a car accident, so I decided to write him a letter. That was so therapeutic. I know he read it. The air between us has changed, and now I smile every time I think of him.
I feel it’s important to note that I didn’t simply revisit my past and try to right my wrongs, but rather visited my insides to see what I was still holding onto. It doesn’t have to be a difficult exercise, just think of a person who has hurt you or who you have hurt, and observe your reaction. That’s how you’ll come up with your list. Forgiveness is key!
Now of course there are bound to be some really difficult ones on this list, particularly if they’re in your family. The stakes are much higher with loved ones. The forgiveness won’t happen overnight, but at least start taking the first few steps towards it. After all, this is what a healing journey is all about.
Letting go - Let go of the things that no longer serve you, in my case idealism and unrealistic expectations. I’m mainly speaking here as a parent. I had raised the bar too high on myself, which left me constantly feeling guilty over my perceived failures, without realising that the bar was raised to unrealistic heights in the first place. Our biggest battles were on the food front. Oh the effort I went to in order to feed my kids what I considered a healthy diet, only to be met with protests at meal times and kids crying for bread and butter or cereal at dinner time. Accepting the fact that I don’t have to win every battle, and that even with the occasional breakfast food for dinner, they were still eating well overall. I needed to broaden my view beyond single battles.
This was particularly relevant when it came to my exercise routine and supplement intake. Acknowledging that I’m not a robot that can be programmed to perform tasks at a certain time each day, but rather a living, breathing human being with real feelings and emotions that are constantly changing during such a challenging time.
Some days I was super energised and felt like I could run a marathon, while other days were not so great. Accepting these fluctuations in energy and mood, and adapting my routine to suit, rather than fighting the natural flow of things in order to upkeep unrealistic expectations I placed upon myself.
Near enough is good enough because the stress of falling short is worse for our health than the missed training session or two or three.
No excuses - If ever there was a moment to stop making excuses and start taking action, then surely a cancer diagnosis would be that trigger? Say yes to more things.
Lemons - A cancer patient’s best friend. Never leave home without one. I start each day with a freshly squeezed lemon in some warm water. That’s not true, I start most days with a freshly squeezed lemon in some warm water, but am completely at ease when I realise I’ve forgotten for a few days in a row. Not only is this a great way to boost the immune system, but also helps to make our bodies less acidic. True story, even though lemons are sour.
Friendships - The healing power of true friendships should never be underestimated. Quality connections with others can be such a powerful healing aid. Friends have such a crucial role in a cancer patient’s healing journey. Together they help to project that vision of your healthy future and are there to remind you of it when you inevitably stumble along the way.
Once again another topic which deserves an entire blog post of its own, but here’s a quick summary. I’ve been truly blessed with so many wonderful friends in my life and I honestly attribute my successes to them. The importance of our connections with others becomes really obvious when you hit your rock bottom. That’s when you realise just how much we can do for each other. I said it so many times, I feel like everybody else collectively saved me. All of their well wishes, good thoughts, prayers, positive vibes - whatever you want to call it, that’s what saved me. Me, myself and I are just one person and I stumbled often along the way, but it was all of you guys that carried me through this and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.
Journaling - Oh how I wish I had followed the advice of the wise ones who told me to do this from the very beginning. Now all I have are some lengthy emails or messages I wrote to friends, to remind me of what it felt like to be in that state of openness, bliss, acceptance and all the other wonderful things I experienced in the early days.
In my section on spirituality, I talked about disease being a way of fast tracking personal growth. At times it will be hard to keep up with your own insides. This is why journaling is so important. Consider it a vital part of your own therapy.
Along this rollercoaster ride you’re likely to have some amazing insights, and although they might seem mind blowing in the moment, trust me you do tend to forget them. Especially if you go down the chemotherapy route. Baby brain is bad enough, but it’s nothing in comparison to chemo brain.
Juicing - We all know that juicing is a great way to get lots nutrients into the body, without exerting as much energy on digestion. But cancer is a time to really take that message seriously and actually consider it a part of your therapy. Particularly vital if you’re having chemotherapy, your body will need all the building blocks you can give it, to help with the repair processes.
Buy a juicer you will actually use. My mum moved in with us to help take care of the kids, while I was having chemotherapy. She juiced just about anything that didn’t have a heartbeat. I already had a cold press juicer, which had at least 5 different parts for cleaning. This is the one she mostly used. However, just before she moved out, she bought me a nutribullet, as an attempt to work around my laziness. She was really worried I would stop juicing because cleaning the machine would be a deterrent. And she was probably right, these days it’s all about the smoothies.
Supplements - Rather than detailing my extremely long list of supplements, I’ve chosen to write about my experiences with this topic in general. As mentioned earlier in the text, at some point I became completely overwhelmed with my growing list of supplements and simply stopping taking most of them.
Apparently this is a common problem among cancer patients. So be mindful that you don’t say yes to too many things. Oh I need this for my liver, and this one is for clearing the lymphatic system, then there is that one over there for improving my gut lining and don’t forget the one with angiogenesis effect to stop the cancer cells from forming their own blood supply. Then there’s the one to help regulate my crazy hormones post chemotherapy. Don’t even get me started on all the different immune boosting supplements.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against supplementing a healthy diet, but be sensible about it.
As someone whose search for a cure really did spread quite far and wide, my advice on the issue of supplements would be this: Keep it simple and don’t forget that less can be more.
Virotherapy - Definitely worth looking into. In my case, I went to Latvia for Rigvir and believe that journey completely changed my trajectory. The theory behind this particular virotherapy is to inject the body with a good virus which penetrates the cancer cells and replicates inside until it destroys the cancer cell from within.
But it wasn't just the virotherapy. Those working at the clinic adopt a more personalised and holistic approach to cancer treatment. I walked away with so much more than just the vials containing a virus to help fight my cancer cells. I'll write a full blog post detailing my experiences at the virotherapy clinic in Latvia and the lessons learnt on this special journey.
Diet - This is a big one! Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food (Hippocrates, 400BC).
I look forward to the day that our healthcare system not only acknowledges but fully embraces what the father of modern medicine knew over 2000 years ago. I know I’ll see it in my lifetime, enough people are waking up.
But how did it all go so wrong for us? If you take one look at a hospital food menu, you’ll know we still have a long way to go. I remember being wheeled back into my room after waking up from surgery, only to be greeted by my afternoon snack and the dinner menu for me to complete. I simply took a photo of the sugar filled tray to document the sad reality of our ignorance.
During my five day stay in hospital, most of my meals were brought in from home or by a good friend. She made me smoothies and salads daily, with fresh vegetables from her garden. The green/brown ones didn’t look overly attractive and made quite a few nurses frown, meaning we still have a long way to go. But hats off to the friend who drove 45mins each way to bring me nutritious food in hospital, while I was recovering from major surgery. As I said, it takes a village.
A word of warning on the topic of diet. Although this is an important one, please don’t let it consume you. The stress around labelling foods as either good or bad and having every mouthful go under the microscope is no way to live. I know this because I did it for months, and remember thinking that my fear of food is going to kill me. I had a very limited list of safe foods which made it almost impossible to go anywhere. Once again I took things too far.
Then one day I visited a friend for lunch who had made a delicious vegetable soup. She had fresh sourdough bread and butter on the side, and told me I just had to try it because the butter was mouthwatering. It was obvious she really knew how to enjoy her food, something I hadn’t experienced in months. So I did the unimaginable and had some of the bread and butter, making sure I really enjoyed every mouthful. In that moment I realised that my attitude towards food was all wrong. It didn’t matter that I was eating a super healthy vegetarian diet when my attitude towards food in general was full of fear. That day something shifted, and I began enjoying a much wider variety of food, minus all the self imposed labels and negative connotations.
These days, my diet consists of a simple vegetarian diet that’s low in sugar and processed food. I try to get it right most of the time, but am no longer completely overcome by guilt if I have the occasional ice cream or a piece of cake. After all, I’m human.
Fasting - Another big one. I believe that our bodies instinctively know what to do, if we just step out of our own way and stop imposing ever-changing theories on it. I became really good at listening to my body and eating only when hungry. I quickly noticed that I was never hungry in the morning, when everyone else was sitting down to eat breakfast. Initially, my family tried to force me to eat, but I stood my ground on this issue and eventually they backed off. They were worried because I had lost a lot of weight. But my body’s priority was healing, not piling on layers of fat. For as long as I felt good on the inside, I wasn’t too worried about my shrinking figure.
Once again I used my kids as confirmation that my logic wasn’t flawed, as instinct is all they have. I knew from observing them when they’re sick, they either lose their appetite altogether or eat very little, depending on the severity of their illness. I never force feed them when they’re sick. This lasts a few days, then as soon as they’re better their appetite comes back with a vengeance. Yes they lose a little bit of weight temporarily, but it all comes back soon enough.
Although my cancer was a lot more serious than kids fighting off a virus, for me the logic was the same. When my body went into healing mode, it knew not to take in too much food because digesting food takes up energy. Energy which was better spent elsewhere, like fighting cancer.
Towards the end of my time on chemotherapy, I attended an interesting presentation on the topic of fasting. Throughout the three hour long talk, I found myself nodding my head a lot, as the speaker provided me with real evidence based explanations of why I was on the right track by following my instincts.
At this talk, I was introduced to the concept of intermittent fasting, where the body goes without food for extended periods of time each day, allowing it to enter healing mode. As my post is already quite long I won’t go into detail, but this is exactly what my body ended up doing and I’d encourage you to look into it.
I was so fascinated by this talk, I signed up for a three day workshop and I couldn’t wait to learn more on the topic of curing diseases through fasting. Unfortunately the presenter had visa issues and the workshop has been postponed, but I’ll be sure to write about it when I do eventually attend.
Depending on the severity of the disease progression, you would match the intensity and frequency of the fasting protocols. The most rigorous being lengthy water fasts. I don’t know enough yet to give advice, but what I do know is that they should be done under supervision. There are retreats where an entire team of practitioners guides the cancer patient through a water fast, monitoring them each step of the way.
Exercise - Huge one! So much so, I initially attributed most of my success to exercise alone. But later realised I had such a large repertoire of therapies, it wouldn’t be fair to attribute ALL of my success to any one in particular. Hence the main reason for writing this post, because it’s important to highlight all of them.
Exercise was one of the biggest ones because it really helped to highlight the intimate connection between body, mind and spirit. It had the power to lift me up even on the darkest of days. Particularly if the source of exercise had the added benefit of sparking joy. The way dancing did for me.
Exercise provided the opportunity to physically represent the internal struggles, and provided opportunities to practice pushing through them.
Hiking was the best example of this in my case. A new track, along with all of its inclines, not knowing where they end, often doubting whether they end at all. The sweet taste of success after conquering a monster incline but also the ease with which you climb on subsequent attempts when you know that you can do it.
Along with meditation, hiking has been my biggest discovery on this healing journey and something I’ll continue well beyond my cancer days.
I would strongly recommend including physical challenges into the healing journey, and practice overcoming them, as it will inevitably help on the emotional front as well.
Chiropractor - A good chiropractor is worth their weight in gold. This has been my firm belief since being introduced the the wonderful world of chiropractors back in 2013.
Before having children, the only chiropractor I knew of was Charlie’s quirky brother from the TV show ‘Two and a half men’. When my newborn son had some tummy issues and I couldn’t figure out the cause, a midwife suggested I take him to a chiropractor. Best decision I ever made, and since then, I’ve been relying on my chiropractor more than the gp.
My chiro saved me on so many occasions throughout my time on chemotherapy. During the worst period which was on the first drug, I was having chiro treatments before and after each chemo session. In conversation with other cancer patients, I learnt that the same drug wiped many of them out completely, making them bed ridden or worse. Some even got admitted into hospital due to severe adverse reactions to the treatment. So whatever I was doing was working, and I believe the weekly chiropractor treatments were a major contributing factor.
When my chiro went away on holidays during the Christmas break, I was halfway through the second chemotherapy drug and that’s when I realised just how much his treatments were really helping. I began struggling during his absence, even with simple things like lifting weights at my training sessions or opening jars. I’ve got a funny story to share on that topic, but I’ll save it for another post. The supervising physio noticed my regression and said it was expected on chemotherapy. However as soon as my chiropractor returned and I resumed treatments with him, I got my strength back. When I pointed this out to my hospital physio, she dismissed it as coincidence.
In my opening paragraphs, I wrote about the connection between body, mind and spirit. As a cancer patient, that connection became so obvious. If one goes on a downhill spiral, the others follow suit. I believe this is why I went through all of this and made it out alive on the other side, so that I can help other cancer patients. Let others know how important it is to take care of all three. Yes the chiropractor might be adjusting the physical body, but it affects the emotional body too. If you’re sensitive enough to the changes, you’ll notice that the benefit of a treatment is on all levels.
I’m not superhuman, there were many tears shed along the way. But every time I observed my mind begin its downward spiral of negative thoughts and thus also manifest in the physical body, my chiropractor was usually my first point of call. He always made time to see me. Sometimes even on his days off, that’s how much he cared. And each time he’d help me to pull through to the next hurdle. So I would definitely recommend including a good chiropractor in the mix, even if you’re going down the conventional path. I’ll forever be grateful for mine, as he helped save my life.
Homeopathy - I know it works as I’ve watched it reverse some fairly severe reactions in my children, and they’re too young for it to be placebo. For example, my son’s allergic reaction to peanuts subsided before my very eyes, without having to reach for his epipen. That situation really put my faith in homeopathy to the ultimate test and solidified it following the successful outcome.
But as with any therapy, there isn’t an answer for absolutely everything, and so I only used it in specific situations.
Arnica to promote healing in the body. For all of my surgeries, I went into hospital with just a vial of arnica in my pocket. That was it. I didn’t need any pain medication once the morphine wore off post surgery and I never had any complications.
My standard warning with any alternative therapists really applies here - trust your sources. I’ve been fortunate to come across only one questionable one among some amazing homeopaths.
But as I said earlier, this journey is fast paced and often we’ll find ourselves struggling to keep up emotionally, making it difficult for a homeopath to do the same. Therefore I mainly relied on homeopathy for the physical repair work. These days I’m still on a liver cleansing remedy because this organ greatly suffered through chemo and beyond.
Bicom therapy - Similar to my description of homeopathy, yes it works but in my experience not for absolutely everything so use it wisely. I noticed it really helped reverse some of the negative side effects of chemotherapy. An important one being returning my appetite. I was already eating very little, but once I began chemo, I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything in those early days.
As a result, I ended up driving 1.5hrs from home to see a Bicom therapist. I returned a brand new person and a hungry one. I kept this up for six months during chemo and another six months beyond, slowly decreasing the frequency of my appointments.
Oral health - Take care of your teeth and gums. Visit a trusted holistic dentist and have your mercury fillings removed. A healthy smile is important on so many levels.
Chemo will often cause damage inside your mouth, but there’s a lot you can do to help. I switched to a children’s calendula toothpaste and regularly rinsed my mouth with bicarb soda mixed in water. As a result, I never had any issues with mouth ulcers or dryness.
Sleep - Don’t stay up late at night consulting dr google. Sleep is much more beneficial for your healing. Apparently every hour of sleep before midnight, is worth two hours after midnight.
Studies have shown a link between cancer and low levels of melatonin, a hormone produced while we sleep. So make sure you get plenty of shut eye. This is one I’m still struggling with as most parents of young children will appreciate that late at night is our only child free time.
Chemotherapy - I can’t believe this one is on my list but unfortunately that’s still the reality of modern day cancer treatment. I tried to go down the non chemo path but when the true aggressiveness of my cancer showed itself to me, I realised I didn’t have much choice. Not to mention the pressure I felt from all around me to conform.
Every cancer story is different, but since I’m writing about mine and chemo was very much a part of that story then it needed to be mentioned on this list.
I didn’t have the luxury of time on my side, as I may have with one of the slower growing cancers. So all of my chosen therapies suddenly became complementary to the chemo and helped my body to get through the chemo with relative ease. According to the stories of other cancer patients going through the same treatment, I was the anomaly with the shortest list of side effects.
But the way you approach the chemotherapy is very important. Ask for more time if you need it. In my case, I had almost three months between diagnosis and starting chemo. During this time I really worked on cleansing my body. As a result, I went into the chemotherapy with a clean slate, rather than adding to a build up of toxins.
While reading this blog post may have been exhausting enough and I applaud you for finishing it, but imagine having to live it? Now you can begin to appreciate why I said it takes a village.
Now of course I didn’t do ALL of these things at the same time with the same intensity, I adjusted depending on what my body needed. They all became a normal part of my daily life. This is why I keep referring to it as a healing journey, for me it wasn’t something that happened alongside everyday life - it became my life.
Although, I know some people choose to take a different approach and not give it too much attention, in the hope that it will simply be over and done with. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it, just like with parenting.
I personally chose to really delve into things and fully embrace whatever came my way, the good, the bad and the ugly. For me this approach seems to have worked because it has led to a positive outcome. I’ve been given the all clear from cancer and have come out of this bearing many gifts.
The picture of the finish line that was painted for me by the oncologists, couldn’t be further from my truth. Instead of their prediction of slowing down to a crawl near the end, I ended up dancing in celebration of finishing.
I had my final chemo dose on a Tuesday, and that weekend I boarded a plane with my wonderful dancing group to perform at the Serbian Festival in Sydney. I kept telling my dance teacher what a crucial role the group played in my healing journey, and towards the end I think he began to understand.
Cancer rattles us to our core, it scares parts of us we didn’t even know existed. But hopefully by sharing my own story, I’ve shown that it can actually be used as a catalyst for embarking on a wonderful journey of personal development, growth and triumph. It’s a rare opportunity in our life where we are cradled in the protection of the prayers and well wishes of family, friends even complete strangers, leaving us free to look inside and try to figure out some of life’s biggest questions. For these reasons and many more, I’ve only ever referred to it as my blessing and path to awakening.