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 communicate 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 a 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 prefer someone else!
There is no known cure for cancer. Sometimes people get better, 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 imbalances that may have led cancer to develop. Healing after cancer is something only your body can do, and nutrition may be able to support that process. There are no known diets or supplements that can cure cancer. Some people have seen tumours disappear on extreme carnivore diets, and some on vegan diets. It’s a highly personal equation.
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 survival goal that they believe to be achievable. If they have stopped believing in your long term future, then it may be time to move on and explore other more hopeful avenues.
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 use them correctly and 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 health and it may make a recurrence less likely.
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 can happen when medical and natural remedies are used together in a personalised and integrative cancer protocol. For this to happen the patient must take the leading role in their own care, consulting experts, choosing the route that feels right. 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. 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 not in line with the evidence but it is persistent. Organisations like Yes to Life and BSIO are making great strides in bringing integrated oncologists, complementary practitioners and enthusiastic patients together.
Supporting yourself with the right diet is a fundamental way to improve your health and resilience and may help treatment to work 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 I can help you to decide your health priorities, plan your care through different stages and understand personal vulnerabilities. I can help you to withstand the drugs and reduce the side effects but it is not within my scope to advise you on treatment, repurposed drugs, or to provide acute or emergency care at any time.
My work is focussed on long term recovery and restoration to full mental and physical health 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. People like me are seen as quacks. 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.
Testing and Monitoring
Because we don’t know exactly how to stop cancer, there are no tests or monitoring methods that give reliable results. Tumour shrinkage does not correlate with survival and even the cancer markers, like CA125, are notoriously unreliable; mammograms and scans can give you snapshots but they are not always helpful, and can spark unhealthy anxiety (which has a profound hormonal effect) and reinforce the view that cancer is a one-way street, which is not consistent with the data from Radical Remission. One of the drawbacks of most functional tests is that they only offer a snapshot in time, and again we don’t always know how to correct the results in favour of cancer. Testing can make us focus on all the wrong things and lead us up the garden path in search of red herrings. (I love a good mixed metaphor!)
I tend to favour monitoring health over monitoring disease and my fundamental view is that if you eat the right food and live the right life your body will move in the right direction naturally without the need for close monitoring. When it comes to cancer, your body knows what to monitor better than we do. I love nutrigenomic testing because it is a test for life and the results are not affected by treatment or disease. The only other test I use on a regular basis is the Precision Labs DUTCH test as it measures many markers that have been linked to breast cancer in the literature, so they are clinically relevant and easy to improve with diet and lifestyle changes. Stool tests can be helpful if you have a history of digestive issues.
I also recommend testing your Vitamin D on diagnosis and at regular intervals thereafter, (www.vitamindtest.org.uk) and asking your GP to measure your HbA1c to get an idea of your blood glucose control.
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.
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.
In order that I can manage my clinic appointments and do the research that each patient requires, I need to set clear parameters regarding email communication outside of scheduled appointments. I prefer to talk to you direct rather than exchange emails, it limits the potential for misunderstandings.
I am happy to answer questions within one week of our appointment when your story will still be in my head. Beyond that, if you have a short query, or a yes/no answer question then I am happy to reply. If you are sending me an update email, then know that I will read it and factor it in to your next appointment. I am always happy to hear how you are getting along, but may not be able to respond. I am unable to respond to frequent or lengthy emails, and multiple questions between appointments as this quickly becomes impractical for me to manage alongside my existing workload, and risks confusion.
This means you need to prepare for our appointments to make sure your questions are answered. Please make sure I have all the information I need to prepare. Consider writing your questions down, or email them to me ahead of time to be answered and addressed in your next scheduled appointment. If you cannot afford a consultation please let me know.
I firmly believe in the importance of work life balance – for both of us. That means there will be times when I am unavailable. I understand that for you everything feels urgent and heightened, that’s the same for everyone I work with, but I cannot provide you with urgent responses or acute care. It is vitally important that you understand that our work together 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 will probably be longer.
If you think you’re reacting badly to a supplement please discontinue it, make thorough notes and we will discuss this at your next consultation. If you think you are reacting badly to a food please stop eating it, take thorough notes and we will discuss it at your next appointment.
I strongly recommend letting your medical team know exactly what you are doing to support yourself because they may have some vital information about food/drug interactions, especially if you are on a new drug. But remember you are asking for specific information about interactions, you are not asking for permission to take supplements. 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. You may well be bumping up against belief systems rather than science. Ultimately, once you have gathered all the information you need, 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.
If a symptom occurs in between appointments that you are concerned about, please see your primary care physician.
If you have any of the following symptoms, please consult your primary care physician immediately: persistent or unexplained pain; unexplained bleeding or discharge from nipple, vagina or rectum; blood in sputum, vomit, stool or urine; breast lumps; calf swelling; difficulty swallowing; excessive thirst; increased urination; unexplained sudden weight gain or loss; loss of appetite; paralysis; slurred speech; unexplained bruising, or rash; black tarry stools; painless ulcers or fissures; bleeding in pregnancy; shortness of breath.
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. More importantly, I normally have people waiting for spaces. In the event you don’t appear, and don’t let me know (email is best) I will wait for ten minutes. If you don’t turn up but would like to reschedule, there is a flat £50 late appointment fee which covers my lost time and the admin of rescheduling,
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.