I’ve always loved a bit of complimentary therapy. I find a massage or reflexology session a real treat. Don’t worry though, I wasn’t about to ditch the conventional cancer treatment in preference for ‘positively thinking the cancer out of my body’. I’m not that brave. I know there are some that believe it is the way forward and have spurned conventional therapy in its favour. I also think that cancer is as much a mental issue as a physiological issue so it is important that people have choices in how they are treated. I happen to think that chemo, although not an appealing prospect, has a proven track record for blasting the shit out of cancer so I’m happy to go with it.
Fortunately, the NHS is beginning to embrace the idea that complimentary therapies can be useful in conjunction with conventional medicine. They offer massage and reflexology in the cancer day ward at Guys Hospital where I am being treated. This is brilliant, although waiting lists seem to be long and I haven’t yet been able to book a slot.
There is a fantastic charity in Fulham called ‘The Haven’ (http://www.thehaven.org.uk/) which has been set up for breast cancer sufferers. It was founded by a woman who was concerned at the lack of emotional support and information available to those going through Breast Cancer treatment. The Haven offers breast cancer patients 10 free therapy sessions tailored to each individual, and the range available is huge. They also run workshops on nutrition, meditation and moving on after breast cancer amongst a host of other subjects. There are two more Haven centres in Hereford and Leeds.
I have visited four times now and it is a very calming place to hang out. I’ve had acupuncture to try to combat the side effects of chemo, as well as a counselling session where I just got to talk about what was bothering me. After my reflexology treatment, I had the best nights sleep I’d had in weeks. All good stuff. You can eat a healthy, home cooked lunch there for the bargain price of three quid, or just hang out in the lounge area where there is tea and coffee and a whole library of books about cancer and its treatment.
I am also fortunate that my sister in law Emily, has recently studied to become a Sound Healing Therapist, and has needed a guinea pig to practice on! She uses all sorts of instruments to create sounds including Tibetan singing bowls, drums, tuning forks and bells. As well as being extremely relaxing, I can’t help but feel the vibrations these sounds set up in my body must be doing some good. The idea, I think, is that they bring the body back into harmony. Whatever its doing, I love the sensation it gives me and can highly recommend it.
Emily has also taught me the Tibetan Medicine Buddha chant......
Bekhanze radza samund gatay
The translation is:
May all sentient beings suffering sickness
Be relieved of that sickness
May all sickness go away and never come back
Direct and to the point I think you'll agree! So I have been giving that a go. Surely its worth a shot? The idea is that you should chant it 180 times every day for 40 days! I haven’t got the discipline or dedication to go that far, but I try to incorporate it into my yoga routine which I do a couple of times a week.
And on the subject of yoga, I have found that really useful, especially during the first week after chemo when energy levels are low. I've done several courses over the years so know enough to be able to do a bit at home. I make it as energetic as I can manage and it gets my body moving when I’m not feeling up to getting out and about much. I did try going to a yoga class a few weeks ago during my good week, but the yoga teacher was so nervous about me being there. I think she thought I was going to keel over without warning. So although I felt fine doing the class, there seems to be a perception that chemo patients are a frail bunch. It was an interesting lesson for both of us I think.