Choosing the right therapist is tricky. It’s not just about their knowledge and training, it’s also about the interpersonal chemistry, and style of working and, more importantly, their beliefs. In the notes below, I have tried to cover the bases about the way I work, my aims in helping you, and what you can expect as a client: an informal set of terms and conditions to help you make your choice. It’s another long read, but I think it helps if you know what to expect. If you like what you read on my website, and resonate with the points below, I hope you’ll feel more inclined to book an appointment with me – or maybe with someone else!
Let’s be clear: there is no known cure for cancer. Sometimes people get better, and sometimes they don’t. The reasons are not fully understood. Medical treatment is quite good at eradicating cancer cells; it does not address the underlying hallmarks of cancer that may have led cancer to develop. Healing after cancer is something only your body can do, and nutrition can support that process.
Nutritional therapy can help to support you during and beyond treatment to create the conditions for natural healing but no matter what you have read about Laetrile, artemisinin, resveratrol etc., there are no known supplements that can cure cancer, and there are no known diets that cure cancer. Some people have seen tumours disappear on extreme carnivore diets, and some on vegan diets. It’s a highly personal equation.
Everyone who works in cancer care, is doing their best, but there is no road map, so no one can make any promises. All of us, including your oncologist, are led by beliefs as well as by the evidence. It can be helpful to clarify what those beliefs are for every member of your team – at all stages you need your team to be working towards a goal that they believe to be achievable. Don’t be afraid to ask the awkward question of any of us.
Although conventional and complementary care are aiming for the same thing – the absence of cancer – they are sometimes incompatible, especially during the ‘killing phase’ of treatment. Cancer treatment is based on killing cells, and nutritional therapy is about supporting cells – so it’s particularly important to get the right advice from someone who understands the drug/nutrient interactions during this stage of your cancer experience.
If you do go through conventional treatment your overall health at the end is likely be worse than at the beginning, even if the cancer is gone. Your immune system may be weakened, your microbiome depleted, your stress and blood sugar elevated, and your system inflamed. Nutrition can help you regain your former health and, more importantly, improve it to make a recurrence less likely.
Long term healing is very much about changing the tumour microenvironment to become less favourable for cancer cells to thrive. Cancer recovery is about healing your whole body and your whole life. Food is fundamental to that process but many other aspects of life are important too, the Radical Remission project is the best illustration of healing after cancer.
The best results happen when medical and natural remedies are used together in a personalised and integrated cancer protocol but, for this to happen the patient must take the leading role in their own care – and in my opinion that’s where the magic happens. While this idea is taking hold among a few enlightened oncologists, it is a long way from being widely accepted. There is still a strong cult of doctor knows best within oncology departments, even when they feel there’s no hope for you. Your oncologist may well believe that only he can help you, and that nutrition is not powerful enough to make a difference. This belief is dangerous and not in line with the evidence but it is persistent. Organisations like Yes to Life are making great strides in bringing integrated oncologists, complementary practitioners and enthusiastic patients together.
As a complementary practitioner, my role in your integrated cancer programme is to help you focus on what’s important for you. When your diet is poor, your gut is struggling, your environment toxic, your genes misbehaving or your mindset hampered by stress and anxiety, it’s hard to function well. Supporting yourself with the right diet is a fundamental way to make all of these systems better, but it’s important to know where to start. I am trained as a nutritional therapist, a nutrigenomic counsellor and a life coach, so all of these things fall within my remit. I am aware of most of the treatment protocols and drugs (though new ones are arriving ever day); I can help you to withstand them and reduce the side effects but it is not within my scope to advise you on treatment, or to provide acute or emergency care at any time. Where clear evidence exists I will also support you to optimise treatment outcomes, for example with intermittent fasting, and judicious use of supplements. I am not the right practitioner if you want help to follow Jane McLelland’s metro map, or if you want intensive support through acute phase cancer or long term treatment.
My work is focussed on long term recovery and restoration to full mental and physical health. I do that by supporting your body systems to work at optimal levels, and by promoting natural healing using my knowledge of nutrition and nutrigenomics.
A Balancing Act
From the moment you are diagnosed, everyone will be giving you an opinion about what you should do. It’s vitally important to tune in to your own feelings and intuitions. Learning who to listen to (and believe) is a key skill you will need to develop if you decide to go down the integrated route.
The Cancer Act was brought into power in 1939 because the power of radium to kill cancer cells had been newly discovered and people were selling it on street corners, putting themselves and others in grave danger. Clearly, selling radium is a stupid thing to do, and the medical profession were right to outlaw it but, unfortunately, this has led to a view that cancer can only be helped with conventional medicine. It’s a view that most members of the public adhere to, and deciding to follow an integrated oncology plan can feel rebellious and risk the disapproval of your medical team.
Of course, oncologists are some of the busiest medical professionals on the planet, doing a tough job. It’s no wonder they don’t have time to read the research about nutrition and cancer. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend letting your medical team know exactly what you are doing to support yourself – firstly because they may have some valid information about interactions, especially if you are on a new drug and, secondly, because it’s a good way to educate the medical professionals. It may even help someone else. But if they roll their eyes or impose blanket bans on supplements without asking which ones, you know that they are not on the same page. When you follow an integrated plan you must be prepared to make independent decisions about who to listen to. If that is going to make you uncomfortable I recommend waiting until after treatment to begin nutritional therapy.
I spend more time researching cancer than working with clients which means I ‘see’ clients for a maximum of five hours per week. I estimate that for every hour I spend consulting with a client, I spend another two reviewing the case and writing follow up notes. Analysing test results and researching conventional drugs and treatment protocols adds a further time element. The hours I spend doing that are factored into my prices. Obviously this limits the number of clients I can support and can lead to a longer wait before working together. Since my primary aim is to promote long term recovery and provide excellent support and focus for each client I find this works better than taking on too many clients.
I expect you to be punctual for our appointments and I will show you the same courtesy. Obviously sometimes things happen, especially when going through treatment, and I often juggle appointments for clients. Please try to give me notice if you expect to be late – I may be able to rearrange. In the event you don’t appear, and don’t let me know (email is best) I will wait for five minutes. If we need to reschedule there is a flat £50 late appointment fee which covers my time and the admin of rescheduling,
I firmly believe in the importance of work life balance – for both of us. That means there will be times when I am unavailable. It is vitally important that you understand that the care I provide is not designed to support acute or urgent needs – it is about long term recovery and healing. If you email on Thursday, it may be Friday – but equally it may be Tuesday – before I respond. If I am on holiday, it is likely to be longer.
The amount of information I need to advise you about your diet and lifestyle is huge. Every time you ask a question I need to check what type of cancer you have, the stage, receptor status, drugs and treatment plan, and your personal information such as allergies, diet content etc. before I can give you a safe reply. As a specialist I also deal with a lot of very similar cases and I dare not rely on my memory of anyone’s situation. Thus, there is no such thing as a quick question. I am happy to answer a couple of emails between appointments but if the questions are complex or the emails frequent I will suggest a consultation. This keeps us both more comfortable and ensures I can take the time I need to support you. If you cannot afford a consultation please let me know.
Working together is a choice we both make, and one I take seriously. I have been doing this work for twenty years and I love what I do but it is intense and exacting work – I need my clients to respect my boundaries just as much as I respect yours. It is vitally important for you to have wholehearted and empathic support and, with the best will in the world, the chemistry doesn’t always work. If I feel at any point that our working relationship is failing I will raise the subject with you. If it does not improve, I will let you know and may withdraw my services. I will always try to find a suitable person to refer you to. Please feel free to do the same if you feel I am not meeting your expectations – I value feedback and openness.
When you book an appointment you are accepting that you have read and understand the above information.