With sixteen years of clinical experience, I have some clear ideas of how I like to work – and how I don’t. My ‘value system’ guides the way I apply my knowledge and I have found that the more my values overlap with my clients the more we get done and the more we enjoy it. So here are the headlines:
The most difficult part about working with cancer is that we have evidence but we don’t have a cure. That means that everyone working in this field needs to wield their power lightly and choose their words carefully – and everyone looking for healing needs to maintain a mix of high level curiosity and low level gullibility. Everything I teach is built on scientific fact, clinical evidence or common sense but there is lots of conflicting information out there that makes it impossible to be certain. Not everything that works can be measured, and not everything that can be measured works. We live in a world where evidence is routinely manipulated to create false conclusions to support unethical profits – and there are lots of profits to be made in cancer. When I first started to work in this field research was scarce. Now, there is so much research that it is impossible for anyone to stay up to date. Still, the sum of what we know suggests that cancer is a highly individual disease. That means we are all on a learning journey – you and me both.
My approach to health is natural in a way that isn’t often talked about: not only do I prefer to eat natural food and use natural remedies to improve my health, I want to do it in a natural way. For me that doesn’t include putting coffee directly into my bowel, juicing 20 times a day or taking 50 different supplements. (Importantly, it does include eating animal products; surviving cancer is about optimising your diet and I am increasingly certain that it is impossible to do that without these foods.) I want nutrition to enhance my life, not control it – I imagine you do too. There’s no point improving your nutrition if it increases your stress. I’m keenly aware that the right diet is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. There comes a point when improving your diet another notch is a game of diminishing returns, especially if you’re not getting enough sleep, holding down a stressful or locked inside an unhappy relationship. Health is all about balance, and so am I.
When I was doing my postgraduate research I was reminded over and over again that the intricate biochemical pathways associated with cancer are regulated not only by food but also by lifestyle. I will always try to bring you back to the bigger picture: food, sleep, exercise, oxygen, water, love, fun before focusing on minutiae like supplements and testing. I would take this further and say that I believe the more we climb the ladder of fun, love, connection and spirituality, the more our healing potential grows. I’m not aligned with any particular religion, and it’s not something I talk about much in clinic, but I’m always open to a conversation about the role of higher consciousness in healing.
After my diagnosis I realised that it was not just the way I was eating and living, but the way I was spending my time and using my talents that had to change – it was draining the joy out of daily life and sending all the wrong messages to my cells. I was helped to find my life purpose in 2003 by my wonderful friend and mentor Neil Crofts; we wrote a book together in 2009, based on the concept of Ikigai. Finding your life purpose doesn’t necessarily mean a change of career, it’s all about tuning in to your deeper drives and underlying meaning in everything you do. People describe it as finally understanding who they are and why they’re here.
“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
In my view one of the worst aspects of modern medicine is the way it makes the doctor the expert and the patient the victim. Everything I know about healing suggests it should be the other way round. Your own brain and your own body are your most valuable assets for survival. Your instincts and intuitions, your self-knowledge, and the healing power that nature endowed you with are more powerful than we can imagine. Always bear in mind that no one has any proven answers to your situation – not me, not your oncologist, and not the aromatherapist with the whizzy electrode machine. We are all doing the best we can but some people are away with the fairies and some people are far too blinkered – you need to learn how to tell the difference. Take advice by all means but don’t take it blindly: ask awkward questions, weigh up your options, follow your instinct, trust your gut feeling, ignore what doesn’t feel right, and don’t be bulldozed, or bamboozled by anyone.
Above all, never, ever, no matter whose lips it comes from, believe the phrase, “there’s nothing we can do”.
There is always something you can do.