“And the darkest hour is just before Dawn”The Mamas and the Papas
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR RECOVERY
Cancer is recognised by the medical and complementary medical community as a highly complex and individualised disease. Despite advances in knowledge and an upsurge in the licensing of new treatments, outcomes are still unpredictable and seemingly random. The scientist in me knows that’s because the research is not yet targeting the right things.
There is a dichotomy at the heart of cancer care. We rightly insist on evidence-based medicine but ethical issues prevent us from experimenting on humans with a potentially life-limiting disease. Moreover, the current system of evidence gathering is not designed to cope with problems as complex as cancer; nor is it helpful to use the same standards for researching cyclophosphamide and broccoli. This means that both medical and natural research methods are slow to evolve, for different reasons. Patients who are keen to do everything they can must gather their own support team around them, decide for themselves about the risks, and risk the derision of their oncologist. It’s an archaic and blinkered system that leaves us reliant on dangerous, nuclear medicine even as our knowledge of cancer evolves way beyond the theories that gave rise to these treatments.
Working in this area for over twenty years I have noticed that, as our understanding of cancer deepens, the science becomes more complex. (There’s a clue there: when we understand something it normally becomes easier to explain.) We know what cancer does but we still don’t know how it starts or stops. The complexity adds to the illusion that cancer is unbeatable when the truth is more often that it’s untreatable. We need to move beyond the current constraints of the scientific method and make room for the power of natural healing if we want to solve this dilemma, and that means moving beyond conventional medicine as a the only ‘safe’ solution towards a new understanding of healing as multi-disciplinary goal.
Cancer is undoubtedly a difficult and unpredictable problem which makes it vital that we try everything we know to beat it, albeit in a disciplined and informed way. The growing body of research that looks at integrated oncology protocols (those that include both conventional and complementary medicine) confirms that diet and lifestyle are important at all stages of the cancer experience, from onset and diagnosis, through treatment and into recovery. Cancer patients, more than any other, need to hear that natural healing can make a difference: in many cases it makes all the difference.
HEALING IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT
The ability to heal is a power that you were born with, and it never leaves you. There are countless stories of people healing from cancer of all types and at all stages. My goal is to reintroduce you to your personal power and set you on a personal path to recovery – to join the dots between the promise of science, the power of nature, and the wisdom of you. I hope you will consult a wide range of experts, including your doctor and oncologist, but also recognise that they are not in charge. It’s your body, your choice, and your life. Every step of the way.
The natural approach to cancer is all about changing the tumour microenvironment, a phrase coined by Dr Mina Bissell, and what Dr Nasha Winters calls The Terrain. We need to change the chemical environment that surrounds your cells, to make it less comfortable for cancer cells while still supporting healthy cells. We do that by changing our lives, not just our diets, and definitely not just by taking a list of supplements. Although the science of cancer is overwhelmingly complex, I have tried to summarise the key targets below. No breast cancer protocol is complete without considering all of these factors, which are directly influenced by diet and lifestyle choices.
FOLLOWING THE SCIENCE
Oncologists are generally reluctant to acknowledge the role of self-help, particularly when it comes to nutrition, but cancer patients desperately need to know that they can get involved in their own recovery. A growing body of research based on integrated oncology protocols confirms that diet and lifestyle interventions can make a significant difference at all stages of the cancer experience, from onset and diagnosis, through treatment and into recovery. But the stubbornness to acknowledge the power of nature is not confined to the medical profession, it is a widespread problem. We are all inclined to ignore the warnings of our bodies while pushing ourselves to achieve more and more. I know I had been ignoring messages from my body for years before I was diagnosed. Perhaps that’s true for you too?
If you are interested in the science of cancer then the best place to start is to read about the ever-evolving Hallmarks of Cancer, as described by Douglas Hanahan and Robert Weinberg. In 2000, they started with a list of six ‘hallmarks’ that are characteristic of every cancer cell; they expanded the list in 2012 and again in 2022 to arrive at fourteen properties that define cancer and its enabling characteristics. These observations have not only provided targets for medical research but also furnished a deeper understanding of how we can influence the tumour microenvironment with nutritional therapy. If you follow the science it is abundantly clear that the way we eat and live is closely involved in the origins of cancer, and that making better choices could offer avenues for healing both alone and in combination with medical approaches.
Until we have pinned down the cause(s) of cancer, our best hope for making a good recovery and protecting ourselves against future diagnosis is, quite simply, to accept that the way we were living before diagnosis didn’t suit us, and to do everything we can to create a significant ‘before and after’ shift in our life using the tools at our disposal: environment, mindset, food, supplements gut health, microbiome and DNA. These are the factors we will explore in our work together.
ENLISTING THE POWER OF BELIEF
Another powerful area that isn’t given enough consideration is our belief systems. We all deserve a balanced, objective approach from our cancer carers, whether or not they are part of the medical profession. Health professionals are always keen to show that they are “evidence-based” but when you scratch the surface you’ll find that every single person who works in cancer care has a belief system that influences the way they practice. From the oncologist who “doesn’t believe in” the benefits of nutrition, despite mountains of evidence, to the homeopath who “doesn’t believe in” the benefits of radiation therapy despite evidence that it prevents recurrence: we all have an angle. If you didn’t already have one, your own belief system will rapidly evolve from the moment you are diagnosed. Where it lands depends in large part on who you speak to and what you read – and it may profoundly affect your odds of survival.
Much has been written about the power of placebo effect (see Bruce Lipton & Jo Dispenza). People sometimes think of a placebo as something that doesn’t work when, in fact, it’s the exact opposite: scientifically speaking, it’s nothing that does work! Placebo experiments prove that beliefs can be as powerful as drugs, and they can have an enhancing effect on treatment. In many ways it’s the most exciting idea in health care (unless you’re a pharmaceutical company).
The placebo effect is normally associated with positive outcomes, but it has a dark twin – the nocebo effect – which describes the way negatives outcomes occur when you hold negative beliefs. The habit of giving a prognosis to cancer patients along with a diagnosis can sometimes act as a nocebo, creating limiting beliefs that cap expectations and stop them believing in the possibility of better outcomes. We need to beware of that potential.
As soon as we see that something as nebulous as belief can influence outcomes then the whole concept of a prognosis crumbles, which may help to explain why they are so often wildly inaccurate. It’s vitally important that you don’t let anyone cast a nocebo spell over your life. So feel free to ditch the predictions if it’s not helping you heal; you’d be in good company, many prominent oncologists and psychologists believe that attitude is far more important than diagnosis for predicting survival.
LET THE HEALING BEGIN
These days, I gather that in many oncology departments it’s customary for patients to ‘ring the bell’ when they finish treatment. If I could, I’d like to spend an hour with everyone who rings that bell, explaining that – although treatment is finished – recovery has only just begun. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave the hospital free from cancer, but ironically it’s likely that you will be a lot less healthy than when we were at diagnosis. Treatment leaves your immunity compromised, your gut in tatters, your genes unprotected, your nutrient levels depleted, and your metabolism at rock bottom. It’s vitally important to start building back as soon as possible in order to reduce the risk of recurrence. The end of treatment also happens to be the time when patients tend to hit an emotional low as they come to the end of the supported phase of treatment, and wonder what to do next.
It’s the perfect time to begin the healing – to tell yourself a new story about your life. A time to nourish yourself again – to feed your cells, your gut, your brain and your dreams. A time to reflect on what elements of your life you want to change, and to remember the messages that your body was trying to tell you all along. It’s also the perfect time to implement a powerful protocol without fear of interfering with your treatment goals.
It is vitally important that you finish treatment with enough strength left in reserve to embark upon a recovery plan. It is understandably difficult for doctors to admit that treatment options have run out for patients – that’s one of the reasons that working in oncology is so tough. But it takes a very brave oncologist (or patient) to stop treatment while the body still has enough reserves left to have a chance of benefitting from other avenues of healing. In the past twenty five years I have seen too many patients die from their treatment rather than from cancer. Don’t let this happen to you. Treatment may well be able to give you a few more weeks or months, but sites like Radical Remission are packed full with stories of patients who have been told there is nothing more that medicine can do, and who then go on to live a long and happy life.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
When I first started practicing, it was considered not only brave but also a little foolish to work with cancer patients – there was a gaping hole in the care and information available to patients who wanted to get involved in their own recovery. I made it my mission to fill that gap, but it was a lonely place to be. More recently there has been a welcome increase in awareness of ‘integrated oncology’ and there are many highly qualified practitioners, including medical doctors, who are able to support cancer patients with a combination of conventional and complementary care, especially during treatment.
We are lucky in the UK that treatment is free on the NHS. Healing is also free – from nature. Carefully mixing the two seems to deliver the best results and that’s what I help people to do. My work is based in evidence, experience and empathy, drawing on the science while encouraging your own self-knowledge. I help dozens of women each year to see their situation with new eyes, and regain their health and happiness. Our goal is to create a meaningful ‘before and after’ shift in your life that will allow your your natural healing ability to thrive.
INFORMATION AND SUPPORT WHEN YOU NEED IT
I am a well-established expert in the world of integrated cancer care: I have been a cancer survivor/thriver for twenty-five years; a nutritional therapist for twenty years; and I have been studying nutrigenomics for ten years: an unrivalled length and depth of experience. As a former tutor and lecturer in nutritional therapy, I have trained hundreds of nutritional therapists, and I am frequently invited to speak to professional audiences.
After twenty years I still love what I do, particularly the way my work brings me into contact with so many strong-minded and inspiring individuals with a huge appetite for life. My role is not to heal you but to help you heal yourself, to help you identify the areas that need to change to improve your chances of making a full recovery. Our work will help you to overcome some of the uncertainty, remind you that there is so much more to healing than your prognosis is able to encompass, and empower you to grab hold of your future with confidence. My clients tell me our work transforms their view of cancer and their beliefs about health – providing a deeper understanding of their diagnosis and biology, overturning many of the popular myths, helping them see beyond the limitations of the medical perspective, and supporting them at a deeper level than the ‘one-size-fits’ all cancer programmes found in popular cancer books and websites. Approaching cancer in this way attracts exceptional people and it can bring exceptional results.
If this approach resonates with you I recommend booking a consultation below:
If you haven’t listened to my talk (and all the others brilliant speakers) on the recent Your Life and Cancer 2020 conference you might like to go there after this. This was a breakthrough event for the UK that I was proud to be part of. Yes to Life is an amazing charity set up specifically to support people who want to approach their cancer recovery from a wider perspective than conventional medicine admits.
- Postgraduate Certificate in Personalised Nutrition – Middlesex University/CNELM – 2018
- BANT Registered Nutrigenetic Counsellor – 2017
- Institute for Functional Medicine: Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice – 2017
- ION Short Course: Cancer Nutritional Support before, during and after treatment and beyond – 2015
- Dip. ION (Distinction) Nutritional Therapy – Institute for Optimum Nutrition
- Certified Professional Coach – International Coach Academy – 2012
- BSc (Hons) Management Sciences – UMIST
- 25 year survivor (drug free) of Grade 3, Stage 3, receptor negative breast cancer – underwent lumpectomy, axillary clearance, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
- Nutritionally managed complete remission of Proliferative Verrucous Leukoplakia diagnosed in 2006, without medication or surgery.
- 20 years clinical experience – working with breast cancer patients exclusively since 2016.
- BANT – Member of the British Association for Nutritional Therapists since 2003
- BANT – Registered Nutrigenetic Counsellor since 2017
- CNHC – Member of the Complementary and Natural HealthCare Council
Picture: Nude in the Bath and Small Dog, Pierre Bonnard
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