Double Take

'When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you – George Harrison


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The Cancer Test by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley, photograph by Rowena J Ronson

The Cancer Test by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Tinkering by Rowena J Ronson

Photograph, Tinkering by Rowena J Ronson

RJR: There is a new test that is about to become available which can detect if you are going to ‘get’ cancer within the next thirteen years. So my question to Double Take readers, and to you Nigel my fellow dialoguer is, would you take the test?

NS: Why would anyone NOT take the test? I just took a test for bowel cancer – and have been told I’m OK. I recently had a check-up for skin cancer (because I’d had a skin cancer a couple of years ago) and have been told I’m OK. I think many medical tests give false positives and false negatives, but somehow they’re still kind of reassuring when they tell you that you are all right. There are, of course, other more complex answers to your question. But what would you do?

RJR: It was a question posed on LBC yesterday but unfortunately I did not get a chance to listen to the call-in, or contribute for that matter. I suspect that awareness and funding play a part. But you are right, I am looking for a dialogue that covers the wider and yet more personal aspects of the discussion. With new knowledge that only 1% of our susceptibility to disease is genetic according to modern epigenetic science, awareness that there is a probability that we might create malignant cancers in the future, could be a good thing for many. I guess it will depend if we are realists or relativists, and whether we feel by living our life differently we can create change. It could be possible that knowing would create a defeatist attitude, depression, and an inability to enjoy life in the now for fear of the future. Or it might be that we will be empowered to do everything we can to take care of our health in the hope that by doing so, we will change our susceptibility and not allow disease in the future to flourish.

NS: Isn’t it the case (statistically) that in the next 13 years we all (or at least the older ones among us) have a very good chance of “getting” cancer. Do we actually need a test to tell us this? I suppose if the test is foolproof, then it would be irresistible to know the result. But, as you seem to begin to suggest, whether we have cancer or not depends to a great extent on how we choose to live: what we eat, what we drink, what stresses we put ourselves under, what environment we live in etc. If a test could tell us that we are definitely going to have cancer, maybe that would make us look at all these things more closely. I wonder if we might benefit from regularly having an official letter through the front door confirming that we are definitely going to die. That might also make us change.

RJR: I couldn’t agree more. I realised, again from listening to LBC over the last few days, that most people do not take care of their health or take responsibility for it. Those that called in and took part in the discussions mostly said they knew their lifestyle was making them ill but had no time to do anything to change it. And those that called to say they were reading What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and taking magnesium to prevent strokes, or meditating and eating healthily, were told that they were in the minority and most people will not go to such great measures. I was quite stunned actually. Because I am so aware of what is healthy, and surround myself by those who also know and actively take care of themselves, I did not realise how the majority consider a healthy lifestyle totally unachievable.

NS: It takes a bit of effort to know what is a ‘healthy lifestyle’ and, I think, even more effort to put that knowledge into practice. I think I know quite a lot about ‘natural health’ but I can’t pretend that I live the healthiest of lives. Like a lot of people, I try to do it – but in many ways fall short. The same goes for exercise – I have always done quite a bit, but I know that I could do a lot more. And then there is mental/spiritual health… and the same shortcomings. We can blame the human world we live in (which conspires to push us into the unhealthiest of diets and lifestyles) but in the end it has to be down to us. Perhaps we need a shock (like the prediction of a future cancer) to make us change?

RJR: I guess the same issues arise in our own awareness and simultaneous denial of global warming. We know we are damaging our environment to irrevocable destruction, but we continue to partake in the same ‘unhealthy’ behaviours…..

NS: Exactly. Will we always behave like this? Or is there something that could make us change? Perhaps that last question is a wrong one. The ‘something’ that could make us change is already here – the reality of our own deterioration and the deterioration of the environment. Do we refuse to look at the situation completely because we are concerned only with ourselves and with the short term? Or are we too lazy to behave differently?

RJR: I wonder if it is the survival part of our brains that keeps us selfish and short-sighted. A paradox perhaps, as it this very aspect of us – our will to survive – that will lead to our destruction. I wish too that it were as simple as the fact that we are all too lazy. We have so much working against us – so many mixed messages. Doctors, for example, do not consider there to be a link between nutrition and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. Are you surprised?

NS: I know that up until relatively recently many doctors still did not recognise the link between what we eat and illness, but surely that has changed now, hasn’t it? I agree about the mixed messages – even on what is good for us to eat. One health guru tells us one thing, and one another. I think it’s still the case that many conventional medics don’t acknowledge the link between stress and cancer – with most resources put into drug research, into “cures for cancer” – when it seems likely that many cancers could be prevented by a stress-free, well-nourished lifestyle. We are conditioned to think there is going to be a fix for everything, rather than think about taking care of ourselves.

RJR: I agree completely and welcome Double Takers to join the discussion.

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Heart Connection by Rowena J Ronson

Heart Connection by Rowena J Ronson

Transcendence by Rowena J Ronson

This is an article that appeared in the ARH Journal, Homeopathy in Practice, in 2006 – I hope you find it interesting….. Photograph is called Transcendence by Rowena J Ronson

We know, as practitioners of homeopathy, that a certain distance is needed between us and our patients so that we practise professionally and appropriately. We abide by a code of ethics which protects both ourselves and our patients. If we find we over-identify with stories heard in clinic, we need to stand back and reflect, in order to own what is ours. And therefore we won’t project issues on to our patients that are not part of their case or central to it.

If we are holding on to suppressed anger in our shadow, for example, is it not so easy to see it in others, or imagine that we do? Professional and personal development is all part of our training and on-going CPD. This is an area that particularly interests me and I have written extensively about the subject.  Encouraging students to look within is my passion and, for me, the key to building a successful career in homeopathy. I always recommend having eyes wide open to growth and progress – our own, our patients’ and our practice.

It occurs to me that sometimes there is a certain synchronicity about the way people can appear in our space and time, almost as if it is for a specific reason: perhaps to help us move on; to help us learn. Our patients regularly feel this way about discovering homeopathy and sometimes even about their homeopath. And for us as practitioners, it might be that we glean something more about a remedy, a disease, case management and occasionally even ourselves.

This is why I would like to share with you a recent sequence of events which for me, illustrates how profound a connection we can have with others. If we ever think the healing relationship with our patients is a one-way street, then I hope this story can serve as a reminder that, ultimately, we are all entangled and it is a privilege we can share with our patients when they come into our lives. Sporadically someone will knock on our door and something very unlikely will happen. We won’t just receive golden nuggets about homeopathy or insights into ourselves but we will be given a gift from the universe; our own guidance and healing.

It might seem self indulgent of me to write my personal story here, but I feel I have learned so much these last few months that I wanted to share it with you. So by way of introduction, for several years now, I have been trying to mend my emotionally scarred heart and retentive bowel with a plethora of complementary and alternative medicines, time, self awareness and reflection. All have played their part and I have been grateful for the process. But part of me had still been holding on to old love disappointments revealing themselves in repetitive unfulfilled dreams, painful emotional releases in empathy with characters portrayed in films and physical manifestations of not letting go.

This year I was determined to get to the core of it and make the shift required to move on. I had been visiting my homeopath regularly and had made some progress but September 2005 allowed my healing to step up a gear due to my inexplicable connection with an acquaintance who had become my patient this time last year.

We had met at a mutual friend’s house years ago and I immediately sensed an affinity with him even though our worlds were far apart. It was like a heart connection but not of a romantic nature. Eight years later having not seen him again and after a two-year stint on his waiting list, he started teaching me piano; he is a gifted musician and teacher. Last November he called me as I was about to leave home for my lesson and said to me, “You know you have been telling me all about homeopathy. Well I now need your help. Today I was diagnosed with Leukaemia.”

After the shock, of course I wondered whether I should treat him and so I weighed up the ethical issues. True, I had a great fondness for him already but felt I could be objective and that if I put my piano lessons on hold we could change the dynamic between us and start a homeopath/patient relationship. He had also made it quite clear that if he wasn’t going to have homeopathy with me, he would not seek it elsewhere. I felt my previous knowledge of him would not cloud my judgement for remedy choices and that we were not so familiar with each other that case management issues, such as boundaries, would arise.

So I took his case but no one clear remedy state presented itself; instead there was a multi-layered, multi-miasmatic picture. I could identify three highly active miasms – sychotic, syphilitic and tubercular and remedies for each were all strongly indicated but it was impossible for me to decide which one needed treating first. I do actually treat a lot of patients with cancer and most of the time one remedy is evident at the start of treatment but this really wasn’t the case with him.

So he commenced his homeopathic treatment alongside his allopathic and I prescribed according to the cancer protocol created by Dr Ramakrishan and written about in his and Catherine Coulter’s book A Homeopathic Approach to Cancer. For cases of Leukemia he recommends, from his experience, that the principal remedies are Hekla lava, Symphytum, Ceanothus americanus and Strontia. I chose Ceanothus americanus over the others because of the splenetic enlargement in this remedy.

He prescribes the indicated remedy in a 200C potency plussed and alternated weekly with generally either Carcinosin 200C or Scirrhinum 200C, the cancer nosodes. This method involves one dose of the remedy to be taken over a period of a week at fifteen minute intervals for two and a half hours per day. So my first prescription for this patient was Ceanothus americanus 200C plussed and alternated with Carcinosin 200C weekly and I saw him for follow-ups every month to check his progress.

He progressed until the summer of 2005, as if he were not ill at all. From the very sick place in which he originally came to see me, his vitality grew stronger and stronger. He was extremely responsive to the remedies and on the rare occasions that I prescribed acutely – a dose of Arsenicum 30C for a tummy upset, a dose of Aconite 30C on the nights he couldn’t sleep due to his fear of dying and Propolis in tincture for coldsores – good results were always obtained.

In July his Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia expressed itself in a more acute form and his white blood cell count became out of control. He had not been responding so well to the chemotherapy and the new ‘wonder-drug’ Gleevac. Its role was to switch off his Philadelphia gene which created his susceptibility to the Leukaemia in the first place, but unfortunately it had been unsuccessful. I realised too that my remedies had probably been providing only palliative support. However the hospital commented that they had never seen anyone with that level of the disease looking so well and still carrying on with life as normal.

In September he was booked in for a bone marrow transplant, a desperate measure but the only allopathic option available for such a serious condition. In his last appointment with me two weeks before his admission to hospital he told me that he was disappointed. He had really wanted to work with a psychic healer he had recently heard about, who was running a course in October on spiritual awareness and personal development. Coincidentally I had also been looking to join a psychic circle in order to improve my skills of intuition so I decided to follow this lead and explore the course for myself.

I attended my first meeting of the psychic circle on a Friday afternoon and I left feeling completely exhausted. After an unsociable couple of days in which I cancelled all my arrangements, my children returned to me from their weekend stay with their father and I immediately felt overwhelmed. I wanted to be left alone; to shut away from the world in the peaceful stillness of my purple bedroom and not talk or listen to a soul.

By the Monday morning it was clear to me that an old wound had opened up during the psychic circle and had left me lost in a black hole. I felt I needed a repeat dose of Natrum muriaticum 1M that my homeopath had prescribed nine months earlier and, as I could not get hold of her, I took on the responsibility of self-prescribing, not something I normally do. I responded to the remedy with a restless, sleepless night and an unexplained fever which lasted four days. George Vithoulkas, one of master practitioners, would certainly say this is a good sign of a return to health. Other than my temperature, physically I was asymptomatic.

My children took care of themselves and me when they came back from school and I enjoyed being able to let go of all responsibility and just sleep. Time, and a dose of Sepia 30C prescribed by the Homeopathic Helpline, as my homeopath was still unavailable, and I started to recover. And much to my total amazement, so did my retentive bowel. Finally I achieved the letting go I was looking for and my heart breathed a sigh of relief. Whether this would have happened had I not attended the psychic circle, I will never know but I had tried everything up until that point; homeopathy, herbal medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, aromatherapy and colonics.

In the meantime, in hospital my patient started his two week preparation for his transplant – intensive chemo and radio therapies. When I was well again I visited him and saw he was in such agony that he actually wanted to die. The radiation had burned his entire GI tract and he felt as if he were on fire. He was vomiting every twenty minutes due to the chemo and couldn’t swallow the thick saliva he was producing because of his ulceration. I looked at this lovely young man lying in this hospital bed, his boyfriend by his side, and my heart went out to them both.

At that time the hospital did not allow me to prescribe and I didn’t want to either. The purpose of these strong drugs was to knock out his immunity; to kill off his white blood cells and to make him neutropenic in preparation for the new graft cells, and I wasn’t going to interfere with that process. I had spent the summer researching thoroughly how to treat this patient. Because of the book I am writing, Looking Back Moving Forward, I am regularly interviewing very experienced homeopaths and I asked all their opinions to gain insight. Unfortunately I didn’t get any definitive answers and in fact I felt more confused than ever and disappointed that we have little shared experience in this field to draw on.

So I kept in touch, observed but did not prescribe. Ten days later and a week after his transplant, while we were waiting for his white blood cell count to kick in but at the same time not reject the donor cells, I attended a course run by Jane Wood for homeopaths to learn supervision skills. Early in the day I received a call from my patient’s mother requesting aid for his radiation-induced ulceration; the hospital were now allowing homeopathic treatment again. I had known this was coming and a selection of remedies was waiting for him by his bedside.

The symptoms she described seemed to match his constitutional picture Phosphorus – burning, a great thirst and a desire for coke. He had started to take it in an LM1 potency, one dose daily, in the summer and had responded well. But I was really unsure what this remedy would do and whether, if it were too deep, we were in any danger of boosting his immunity in such a way as to instigate a rejection of the new graft cells. My research had indicated that prescribing constitutionally when a patient is very sick can sometimes aggravate their condition. I was also told there is a 70% chance anyway of fatal graft-versus-host disease within the first ninety days post-transplant and we were only a week in.

I opted for advice I had been given in supervision – a group to which I regularly took this case – and prescribed Borax 30C and Hypericum 30C both alternated every hour. I was hoping that they would work superficially to aid relief of the pain and ulceration but not interfere with the overall process. We were in touch throughout the day and his mother reported back that the Borax made him feel more nauseas and the Hypericum didn’t seem to help so they stopped both by the evening.

I used the day in supervision to process and reflect on the issues that were coming up for me around this case. And there were many as I found myself in a very charged place having also taken on some of the mother’s projected fear for her son. In the afternoon Jane asked for a volunteer to demonstrate a particular technique that she wanted to teach the group so I put myself in the hot seat. The other homeopaths sat in a semi-circle behind me and had to comment, when prompted, what feelings they were experiencing during my piece of supervision. I was to take their feedback and work with them as part of the process.

So I went straight into my patient’s case and Jane guided me deeper into issues of why I chose to work with him and why I choose to work a lot with cancer patients generally. Input from the other homeopaths indicated that the energy had suddenly turned very heavy and morbid, not a feeling I experience working with these patients, but interesting to note nevertheless. I realised that maybe I had got so used to grief that I had become immune to it.

I reflected on my own grief issues and the part of me that hadn’t really wanted to let them go and suddenly I felt that I had achieved one of those gestalt moments when things fall into place and insight is gained. I sat back down next to a fellow homeopath and dear friend, and whispered to her, “I think I need Aurum for my aching heart and addiction to grief.” But I wasn’t going to self-prescribe.

A week later I was booked in to see my homeopath again. The possible virus that I had had a few weeks earlier, I had gifted to my son who had then given it right on back to me in the form of a niggling cough and a weakened voice. Despite this, my homeopath noted, just by looking at me, that a major shift had occurred. Drawing on her background of Chinese Medicine she used tongue diagnosis and acupressure to assess the state of play of my bodily systems and organs.

I recalled for her my visit to the psychic circle, my downward spiral, the Natrum Muriaticum and the fever that ensued. But for her the cough was incongruent to everything else that was going on. She asked if I would be receptive to her using her new skills in reading Tarot to gain some insight. I was not totally open-minded to this as I prefer to keep my psychic/spiritual and homeopathy support separate but I agreed, intrigued to take part in what my trusted colleague had been learning recently.

She placed a card centrally on the table with the intention of ascertaining what was going on for me right now. Having observed the shift she half expected the cards to reflect some deep and as yet unresolved issues from perhaps childhood or early relationships. The central card was meant to represent a guide and she asked me who this young man might be; he was younger and had a slightly feminine energy. I wasn’t sure. She then placed another card on the first and said that he was unwell and that the card indicated that he needed the remedy Arsenicum in low potency, perhaps a 12C.

It all started clicking into place. A possible option for a remedy for this patient was being given to me during my own consultation. I had not been allowed to visit him while he was so ill so perhaps he was communicating what he needed from me through this spiritual opportunity, rather than the conventional observing of symptoms.

Unprofessional, it may seem and if I were reading this I would have almost certainly thought so had I not experienced it myself. I was visiting my homeopath for my own treatment; my patients have never come up before and I have always been very clear that issues around my patients should be taken to supervision, which I have regularly.

However, the Arsenicum made perfect sense as it is an acute remedy related to Phosphorus and had the burning symptoms that he was experiencing. As an acute and in low potency I suspected that it would work more superficially and not interfere with his deeper level process but of course we can never be sure and I was aware of that. I hasten to add, if the remedy had not fitted his picture, I wouldn’t have prescribed it. Had my homeopath not mentioned Arsenicum specifically perhaps I wouldn’t have even recognised him as the so called ‘guide’ for the cards.

Incidentally, the rest of the Tarot deck didn’t actually show deep issues from my past but light, happy times ahead; a letting go of grief addiction, a healing of my heart and a clearing of the waters within. And then my homeopath turned to me and said ‘Now you can have Aurum (1M); I have wanted to give it to you all year but you just haven’t been ready.’ Amazing, I thought, as this was the remedy I felt I needed in supervision the week before! And by way of some heavenly miracle my cough disappeared when I left her clinic and my voice returned on my way home.

I sent Arsenicum 12C to my patient that night and even though he didn’t receive it the following day, he did start to pick up from the very poorly, almost deathly place he had been in. When he did take it he didn’t notice an immediate improvement on the burning so only took a dose or two but within a couple of weeks he was out of hospital, three weeks ahead of the proposed schedule if he were to make it at all.

I saw him soon after his release and prescribed for him Phosphorus LM2 constitutionally which makes him feel better in himself. He also takes Nux Vomica 30C after every meal, which has fended off the nausea and vomiting symptoms he was experiencing, and a Bach flower remedy combination for symptoms from radiation. We speak regularly and he certainly feels the homeopathic remedies are helping him alongside the heavy allopathic drug-load that he has to take for the time-being.

These last few weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster of a ride. And a question that came up in supervision that I needed to ask myself I will answer here. Was it appropriate that I take his case in the first place? As I said before, normally I do not take friends’ cases. I have tried in the past and even though I could be objective, case management issues, including boundaries, did arise. For example, patients wanting to give feedback to me on how they were doing when we were both in the middle of a business meeting! So I had decided well before this incident that I would refer my friends and their children to colleagues and I have done so ever since.

But it felt right to take on this young man’s case. My previous experience with professional conduct issues made me feel confident that our connection so far was still comparatively superficial and would not interfere but would actually enhance our homeopathic relationship. I knew he would feel safe with me and I knew I could be objective and provide what he needed. I discovered the connection I always felt with him was all part of his case – Phosphoric personalities tend to attract and shine the light, don’t they?

And the times that I have struggled with his treatment, but not through lack of trying, the answers have been there for us both. They were sometimes unorthodox, to say the least. As I said before, taking a suggestion for a possible remedy for a patient during my own homeopathy consultation is something I would have never considered doing and it is unlikely the circumstance will ever arise again but who knows? I plan on staying clear with my boundaries and those of my patients and will always try and be aware of my projections and issues. But ours is a curious profession and we need to stay receptive to the wonders of it all otherwise we can miss the point.

And I know we absolutely were meant to meet for a reason. I know that we were destined to go on this journey together and that it has been a two-way process. On some level I must have recognised it when my heart first connected with his all those years ago. How lucky we are to work in a profession that is congruent to universal consciousness and connection, in which, if we allow it and stay open, we can learn so much, help so many others and develop and heal ourselves at the same time.

And yes it may all seem strange and wacky to some degree but at the same time the most real and profound experience I have ever had.

December 2005

Rivendell, Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire

References:

Ramakrishnan, Dr, A U and Coulter, Catherine R (2001) A Homeopathic Approach to Cancer. Quality Medical Publishing Inc, St Louis, Missouri, USA


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It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

This is an article I posted on my own health blog evolve2solve a few months ago and I wanted to share it on Double Take for your thoughts and reflections…..

Rowena J Ronson's Evolve 2 Solve Blog

It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

By Rowena J Ronson, Holistic Physician

When a cancer diagnosis is given to us, it is most likely to be a tremendous shock. Even if we have been having undiagnosed symptoms for a while, and have visited our doctor several times over a period of months and have been told not to worry; even if we have been referred to a few specialists who have come up with nothing – our first reaction is mostly and unequivocally, shock. The fall from denial to awareness is shocking indeed.

Our second reaction is fear. Fear of the unknown, of the loss of the delusion of certainty that we thought we had, the aloneness of it all. And in our blind panic, our independence and choice are taken from us as we are admitted and filtered, as swiftly as possible, through the system. We can lose our…

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A Case of The Internet Being More Useful Than The Doctor…. But Hopefully This Is An Exception…. by Rowena J Ronson

Gentle Unfolding (RJR)I am sure we have all been tempted, and some of us have even given into the impulse, to search our random symptoms on the net, in the hope that we will find answers and perhaps even reassurance. But often is the case where we come away from the experience instead thinking that we have terminal cancer or some unusual and terrifying incurable degenerative disease. And those of us who have had that experience seem to preach to others the dangers of searching for answers in this way. Doctors often advise, on no account for their patients to research their health independently and when a patient seems to be informed, a power game ensues and the patient very swiftly, is put in their ‘rightful’ place.

With her permission, I am retelling one of my patient’s recent experiences at her doctor’s surgery. She had been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst by her private gynaecologist and went back to her doctor a few months later, wanting to pursue a repeat blood test and scan through the NHS. She was tested for, among others, the CA-125 marker, which detects ovarian cancer, and she called for the results a week later. She was told that ‘the range’ is between 0 and 35 and hers was 17. The receptionist, who gave her the results, did not know what that meant and said the doctor would call her. When the doctor did, she also said that she did not know what the results indicated and said for her to wait for her referral to a specialist a few weeks later.

Frustrated and anxious, my patient turned to the internet for answers. Of course there was a great deal of information that could have scared her if she had been susceptible. However, she took from her research that a CA-125 level can be raised because of a cyst, fibroid or other inflammation, not necessarily as a result of ovarian cancer. I confirmed this to her as well when she came to see me. Even though not ‘medically trained’, and certainly not a specialist in gynaecology, or oncology for that matter, I have six years training as a homeopath and keep myself informed and am forever learning. I have enough clinical experience to be able to hold the space for patients and enough care to research the questions that I might not know how to answer instantly.

I too was appalled that her GP could not offer her some simple reassurance and understanding of what the blood result might mean. I welcome your thoughts and a sharing of experiences.


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It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

Rowena J Ronson takes a comprehensive look at cancer, health and the importance of what we can do for ourselves…

When a cancer diagnosis is given to us, it is most likely to be a tremendous shock. Even if we have been having undiagnosed symptoms for a while, and have visited our doctor several times over a period of months and have been told not to worry; even if we have been referred to a few specialists who have come up with nothing – our first reaction is mostly and unequivocally, shock. The fall from denial to awareness is shocking indeed.

Our second reaction is fear. Fear of the unknown, of the loss of the delusion of certainty that we thought we had, the aloneness of it all. And in our blind panic, our independence and choice are taken from us as we are admitted and filtered, as swiftly as possible, through the system. We can lose our dignity, our identity, our self-belief and our power, and for many this process is never questioned.

A common and also very limiting mindset is that our health is not in our control. It is not something to take responsibility for or to learn about. The doctors have the answers for us, and who are we to be well informed and query their authority? For many, this paternalistic medical model appeals. It is easier to accept answers than ask questions. It is more comfortable to feel protected from knowledge, than attempt to understand why we are ill and what we can do ourselves, to take responsibility to recover our own health.

Many will never be aware of their prognosis (the likely progression of their disease), by choice, and will prefer to live and die that way, even if the prognosis is positive. And for some, the choice is taken out of their hands, and the doctors will hold back the information, for, in their opinion, the good of the patient and their family. And many will not be aware of their choices of treatment, and how effective conventional treatment is or isn’t for their particular cancer.

Those who do question the system, might do so when first visiting their GP with new symptoms, and being listened to for a few minutes and then prescribed the current first-line medication that seems to fit their symptoms generally enough, in the hope that it will do the trick and sort them out. In an exhausted and exhausting profession, where protocol is followed to the letter, a curious, independent patient is more ‘heartsink’ from the GP’s perspective than we realise. Their response can be defensive, aggressive, judgmental and hostile, leaving the patient angry, unacknowledged, unsupported and dismissed. And the dynamic can get in the way of a swift and appropriate diagnosis.

Many cancer patients will talk of frequent unfulfilling visits to their doctors, repeated prescriptions of toxic, immune-suppressing medication, and a period in a frustrating and worrying no man’s land, until their symptoms worsened enough to produce a recognisable disease picture.

In fact, aren’t we taught to suppress symptoms with painkillers, steroids and antibiotics, rather than question why we have these signs in the first place? When we are in discomfort or pain, our body is attempting to tell us something is wrong. Instead of seeing our symptom as a message from our body that we are out of balance and need attention, we ignore these signs at best; at worst we suppress them with the wrong medicine, and push our imbalance deeper into our system.

Once in the medical system, as a cancer patient, it is all the more challenging to challenge. Many patients report feeling bullied by nurses and doctors if they question their treatment. Most are open to operations, but some query the need or effectiveness of radiotherapy, chemotherapy or ongoing hormone therapy. There does not seem to be an environment where it is safe to question without prejudice or ask for alternatives and choice from someone who really does understand that there are alternatives and patients are entitled to choice.

And way before we become ill, we might think we are following a healthy diet and taking care of ourselves as long as we are eating our ‘five a day’. After all, this is the only guidance we have been given. But because of advertising and conditioning, most of us see sugary food as treats that we deserve rather than the poisons they are. Most of us do not have a clue what a healthy diet consists of and we are completely brainwashed by television and manipulated by supermarkets, on behalf of the food industry, to buy and eat food that has no real goodness at all. The medical profession does not seem to recognise a link between good nutrition and disease prevention, in fact, all research connecting sugar and cancer is ignored, resulting in doctors advising patients already diagnosed with cancer to gain weight by eating sugar.

And sugar is not the only cause for malnutrition and malabsorption of the vital minerals and vitamins we do need to be and stay healthy. Unless we are as mindful as detectives, the unhealthy and often hidden culprits in food, which is labelled to mislead, can and will actually stop us absorbing the goodness from the healthy food we do manage to eat.

Not only do we ignore and suppress symptoms on a physical and physiological level, we also do not listen to ourselves mentally, emotionally and psychologically. Our physical symptoms are often caused by stress and its impact on our mind and hormones, and we then manifest our dis-ease physically in our bodies. But we live in an era where enough is never enough. We push ourselves beyond our limits, to forever achieve more and feel less; to overthink and never just be; to be in touch with everyone else to the detriment of being in touch with ourselves; to never be present, but have a buried past and a fantasy future.

And consequently and inevitably, our dis-ease becomes us. We take it on and we take it in. Our outer struggle internalises and seeks refuge in our inner being and creates temporary equilibrium, a coping mechanism, until it can cope no more. And then it sends us little messages, which we are, unfortunately, taught to ignore.

With all of this in mind, here are some useful guidelines for ways to stay healthy and prevent dis-ease:

For how to nourish yourself
Get to know yourself mentally, emotionally and physically, and understand your needs as an individual and how to take care of yourself so you can stay in balance and healthy (reflective journal writing can help).
Look for natural ways (for example, yoga, homeopathy, massage, nutrition) to take care of yourself and give yourself support you when you are out of balance.
Find a way of relaxing for your mind and body, which you enjoy and value, and practise it regularly in order to de-stress yourself (for example, meditation, Pilates, yoga, walking in nature, being creative). Hormones adrenaline and cortisol, are over stimulated by stress which includes just rushing around and eating on the go.
Find a form of exercise for your chemical balance and your body, which you enjoy and can practise because you want to, (for example, yoga).
Be mindful of the food you eat and drink, and what substances turn on the addictive part of your brain, which makes you use them despite knowing their detrimental effect on your health short-term and long-term (for example, sugar, aspartame, tobacco, alcohol, drugs (recreational, over-the-counter and prescription).

For the support you seek outside of yourself
Find a GP who is open-minded, understands you and your needs and supports you in your choice to question and have an opinion on your health.
Find a holistic practitioner (a homeopath, nutritionist, acupuncturist, herbalist or other alternative medicine therapist who will view your health holistically) with whom you can build a relationship and trust, and who will help you mentally, emotionally and physically as the whole person you are, with natural, non-suppressive remedies and/or approaches.
Avoid taking medications (over-the-counter and prescription) that you have not fully researched, making an informed choice for your health consciously and continuously throughout your life.
Take responsibility for your health on all levels, from the food you eat to the emotions you express and the thoughts you think. Empower yourself and be the aware, conscious being you are. You are the person who knows you best.
Keep an open mind and encourage your intuition to guide you to find the right answers and support for yourself.

For a healthy relationship with yourself
Take care of yourself as you would a family member whom you absolutely love.
Create time for yourself, even if it is only a few minutes a day, as you would do for those you love in your life.
Listen to your body, become its friend, and take note when it talks to you, especially when it says you are out of balance.
Practise turning negative thoughts into positive ones, keep an open heart and develop your intuition.
Find a creative outlet, even if you are totally convinced you are not creative! Creativity in its many forms feeds the soul.

For healthy relationships with others
Choose healthy relationships that will feed you on all levels and keep you met and understood.
Be yourself, be true to yourself and communicate how you are feeling to those you are in close relationship with.
Practise assertiveness – respecting yourself and respecting those you are in relationship with, equally.
Be in the present, with mindfulness of the past, and openness for the future.
Find a level of acceptance for those in your life who are there not by choice, and seek not only to find ways of dissolving resentment, but also not allowing it to build and fester in the first place.

For the bigger picture – you as a spiritual being:
Find your purpose in life or let it find you.
Practise gratitude – daily list all that you are grateful for, especially at times when you might not be able to see the wood for the trees.
Learn from all your experiences in life and put that learning to good use.
Practise hope and faith, whatever that means to you.
Be in nature. Not only does it ground us, it also helps us see the bigger picture that is always there if we step out of ourselves, open our eyes and take the time to see it.