Breast cancer and homeopathy

Breast cancer and homeopathy

"Complementary Therapies, and homeopathy in particular, have helped me win back my life"

Alison Francis Black was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer just over three years ago in September 2005, at the young age of 33 and one year after the birth of her baby boy, Owen. And the news was totally shocking. Suddenly she felt she was a disease and no longer a person. She became very, very frightened and incapable of managing her life.

Just one year previously she had had extensive tests on a breast lump that didn’t feel normal to her, but as she was breastfeeding and had experienced a degree of mastitis, specialists at Weston Super Mare PCT simply diagnosed a permanently blocked milk-duct, or galactoceole.

The lump was re-checked by biopsy when Owen was one and, ’out of the blue’, a Grade III cancer was diagnosed. This had, by then, already spread to nearby lymph nodes. She was immediately told to stop breastfeeding and urged to take a course of counselling. Then, in the space of a couple of days, she was told she would have a mastectomy followed by radiotherapy and months of chemotherapy. She was also told that the treatment would mean she was very unlikely to ever have any more children. This was a particularly upsetting blow to her as she had not ’finished her family’ and was desperate to have more children.
I think I went to pieces. I just couldn’t cope with the news. I became very irrational about everything. My husband and family (my Mum and my sister) basically took over and managed all my appointments and took care of my son. Of course, I had to give up teaching. My life stopped.

Alison was concerned about aspects of the planned treatment. As a violinist, she wanted to reduce any chance of lymphodema (common after lymph nodes have been removed). Permanently swollen arms would have meant she might find it difficult to play again. She transferred to Frenchay Hospital, where consultant surgeon, Mr. Simon Cawthorn, had an excellent track record for avoiding lymphodema. as well as an excellent reputation as a breast care surgeon.
She had surgery within weeks.

The counselling she had received turned out to be both necessary and effective. I was so angry and scared, and I needed to find a balance for my emotions in order just to function properly. She attended a three day course at Bristol Cancer Care (now Penny Brohn Cancer Care) and knew it was for her. Going there saved me from a kind of madness. Suddenly I found other very young women with breast cancer in exactly the same situation as I was in. Before, I had felt like an anomaly. There were mothers of young children, like me, and even pregnant women. I decided to book on to a five day retreat at the centre during my chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy treatment took 9 months, through which she felt very sick. She became crushingly tired and lost her hair. However, her days on retreat helped her calm down and look at herself more objectively. Always an open-minded person, she was now determined to use everything and anything to get better. I had always had an interest in complementary medicine I’d even used Chinese herbs, acupuncture, massage and osteopathy, and always try to eat organically, so when my oncologist Dr. Braybrook suggested homeopathy, I readily agreed.

Alison was referred to Dr Elizabeth Thompson at Bristol Homeopathic Hospital and began a course of treatment aimed at helping her in three ways - with the side-effects of chemotherapy, to help her come to terms with her condition and to try and ensure no relapse of the cancer. ’If I had to single out one complementary treatment that I really felt helped me the most it would definitely be homeopathy. Dr Thompson was fantastic; she spoke to me as a person, she really wanted to know how I ticked. She didn’t focus on my symptoms but she focused on me as a person, how I was coping emotionally, and how she could help ease the emotional pain I felt. I remember, in one session, her asking how I was and telling her that I didn’t think it was possible to feel more emotional pain than I felt I said ’I feel like my heart is breaking’. Much of this pain was associated with the devastating news about my fertility and coming to terms with the fact that I would never have any more children. The remedy she then prescribed changed me utterly and I turned a corner.

Alison continues her regular acupuncture, osteopathy and massage to keep her arms mobile and has changed her diet in line with advice from the Penny Brohn Centre, so that now she eats an almost vegan diet, avoiding meat and dairy products and still takes the Chinese herbs.

There are still downs at times: Alison was put on the drug Zoladex, which seemed to her to have a lot of side effects including that of bringing about an early menopause. "It made me feel very tired and old, indeed, older than my years, dragged down and heavy". But a repeat of her homeopathic remedy in a different potency took those symptoms away. She has had scares too she was recalled after a mammogram, fearing the worst, it however turned out to be procedural. She says she is lucky to have a loving and close family, a great GP, a group of excellent complementary therapists and a wonderful homeopath.

Alison’s recognises how far she has travelled, "When I was diagnosed I was one person. But now I know that I left that person behind when I started on my journey to recovery. Homeopathy has played a huge part in that. I think it helped make me more was able to find out what really mattered in life.
Alison adds, I am really angry about the way some of the press ridicules homeopathy. Choosing your treatment is a personal thing and the right kind of treatment is different for different sorts of people, so different treatments need to be on offer for you to make a personal choice. All I know is without my wonderful son, the love and support of my family and friends and the homeopathic treatment, I don’t think I could have done it.

"My homeopathic remedy is like my crutch I seriously feel as if I can’t live without it. I don’t know what I would do without Dr Elizabeth Thompson and the Bristol NHS homeopathic hospital."

Chris Woollams of CANCERactive added, Although just three years along her journey, one of the most important lessons for cancer patients and oncologists alike is to understand the devastation many people experience when diagnosed with cancer. While a few extreme orthodox medical ’experts’ rush to criticise complementary therapies and decry them for having no scientific merits like, no cellular action nor clinical trials - this neglects the importance of their role in rekindling a person’s self-belief, energy, purpose and emotional state. And, given that science is at last getting to grips with how one’s emotional state can hinder or heal, it may not be too long before a few famous critics have to eat their words. And when that day happens I will be proud to say we have been in the vanguard of helping people like Alison tailor integrated therapy packages to their own personal needs and condition.

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