Jessica Richards breast cancer Black Salve story from Madeleine Kingsley

Jessica Richards breast cancer Black Salve story from Madeleine Kingsley

INTRO

Jessica Richards is a Leadership Development Specialist with a long established Harley Street practice.  At the time of her breast cancer diagnosis, she was also very busy as a corporate speaker, travelling from her home in Bedfordshire all over the country.  One of her areas of expertise is helping people overcome self-limiting beliefs. Jessica, who is also a Patron of CANCERactive, tells here how she refused to be rushed into aggressive treatment, or to submit passively while clinical decisions were made on her behalf.  From the outset, Jessica planned her own systemic treatment which she believes was key to remaining in recovery eight years after diagnosis.  At one point, when she’d been doing remarkably well, Jessica faced huge personal losses and allowed her self-care to slip. She recalls how one small act of professional kindness set her back on the right path, and how she then braved agonising treatment with self-administered black salve in a drastic, but wholly successful bid to be tumour-free.

Jessica describes her book The Topic of Cancer as the manual she was looking for when she started out on her cancer journey – ‘It’s hard for anyone to summon positive mental attitude at such a time,’ she says ‘but I learned that you can be usefully bloody-minded no matter how you are feeling.’ 

INTERVIEW

Few people forget a breast cancer scare. Jessica had always had quite fibrous breasts, but in 2004, then in her mid-forties, she identified a different lump which didn’t match her other side. She describes it as ‘almost like a piece of jelly and not tender’, which increasingly raised her suspicions.  Referred to hospital whilst the world outside enjoyed Christmas fun, she was told that a mammogram and ultrasound both proved inconclusive - possibly because although very slim, Jessica had relatively large dense breasts with a lot of fatty tissue. 

Rejecting the suggested core biopsy in favour of a less invasive fine needle biopsy (at least as a starting point), Jessica felt the technician wielding the needle to be inexperienced: ‘she was sweating and asking the nurse how to get into the various lumps. I pointed out that there was only one lump giving cause for concern. I noticed that she didn’t withdraw the needle, as you’d expect and then put it in a different place.  She stuck it in one place, then manoeuvred it around to another without taking it out. ‘

The style of this procedure is relevant because the very next day Jessica noticed that her breast had really changed shape ‘The lump now looked to be sticking out, and I told my partner at the time that I thought the result would prove positive. What I didn’t know was that it had actually become active and started tethering, pulling the breast in.’ But her biopsy report found only benign fibrous oedemas that could be quite simply removed if I wished, or left alone. No further action was needed.

‘Foolishly’ says Jessica ‘I didn’t take any further action, because I’d had the all-clear in writing. It seems to me that none of the tests I’d had were really diagnostic. They were all a bit hit and miss. Nothing that was done could conclude categorically that I had something in there.  At that stage, I reckon, the cancer, was just starting to form.’

A few years later at 50, Jessica got the standard call to attend a mammogram in a local mobile van. ‘Seeing my breast in a funny shape for so long, I felt even before the appointment, that I’d almost certainly got cancer. A recall letter came afterwards, very nicely and reassuringly put, but saying they’d like to investigate further. ‘Most recalls turn out to be nothing, ‘says Jessica ‘but somehow I knew mine wouldn’t be one of those. By this time the lump was so big that I couldn’t feel it anymore because I was feeling on it not around it.  My breast remained misshapen.  ‘

Nonetheless, Jessica went to the recall centre alone. ‘I’m a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to these matters’ she owns.  At a second mammogram, the radiographer noticed ‘areas of concern’, a phrase she several times repeated. When Jessica asked outright if she had cancer, she was told:  ‘We are not here to diagnose, but yes, it does look like it.’  This time a core biopsy was attempted, ‘but by this time’ says Jessica ‘the tumour was large, and completely encased. ‘In her prolonged attempt to get a biopsy, the doctor ended up literally leaning on the needle, until I told her to stop. She said “Well, we need to break this open.”  I told her that I didn’t feel right about it, and that I felt my body had closed it off for a reason. She said that she would take some cells from the outside to which I agreed. But I think my intuition here probably saved my life. ‘

Jessica’s handling of the results – which could only be given at a particular time on a Wednesday typify her fortitude under pressure.  She had to ring from the airport on her way up to work in Edinburgh, already knowing pretty much, that the suspected diagnosis would be confirmed. ‘There I was at Luton Airport, in a relatively quiet space, hearing the bad news from a young girl who kept apologising for what she had to tell me. I ended up reassuring her how well she was doing. When I looked around after the call, I saw that the check in queue had gone quiet and that people were looking at me. I just shrugged my shoulders, said “So!” Then I flew off and did the job. I still had a roof to keep over my head and bills to pay -  not going to work wasn’t going to cure me, and I had no idea how much time off I’d need in the near future.


By process of eliminating hospitals of poor repute and those (being accident prone) – she’d already sampled and found wanting, Jessica settled for a local hospital where she was to have surgery and radiation. ‘Then I saw an item on the television news – suddenly cancer stories seemed everywhere - about  a trial with radiation being given  at the time of surgery, so that you didn’t need  numerous follow up radiotherapy visits.  One of the very few friends she’d told of her illness, suggested she went to see the consultant who was treating his own wife.  She was seen at his Harley Street rooms just down from Jessica’s own, ‘Things’ she remembers ’now really took a turn for the worse. I couldn’t read scans at the time, but I could certainly read his face as he read mine, and it looked really bad. He said suddenly “Has anybody told you how big this thing is?  It’s at least three and a half to four centimetres.”  Was that big?  I didn’t know!’ Jessica reflects.  ‘In some situations three and a half centimetres is a disappointment. In others, you wouldn’t want it on the end of your nose!’ He looked at me and said “It’s enormous! He then told me that corners could not be cut with a tumour like this, that they weren’t doing combined surgery and radiotherapy at the moment, and that anyway I was not a suitable candidate.’

Jessica was told that she now needed a lymph node biopsy to check spread. She’d also need chemotherapy which would be accelerated in the second half to every two weeks, rather than the standard three. Chemo would last some time – somewhere between five months and a year – and she would be quite poorly.  A partial or full mastectomy with reconstruction would follow.  “I noticed’ says Jessica with characteristic dry humour ‘that every time I went to see someone else, I got told something worse. I’d paid to see this man privately, though he was going to then treat me on the NHS. But now I didn’t know what to think. I was very taken aback to find myself booked in for this and that procedure and be told to turn up as bidden.  I thought’ Whoa! Hang on a minute!  I’m not satisfied with the information I’m getting. I need to know more. I can’t think straight. I’ve been a therapist for 30 years now, and even if I hadn’t been, anybody knows that when you are in a state of shock, you are in fight or flight mode.  You can’t see things clearly, and yet we are immediately expected to make some very complex and critical decisions.


‘The best thing I did for myself was to decide that I didn’t get this overnight, and if it was missed all those years ago, it wasn’t going to kill me within the next three weeks. So I was going to give myself a few weeks to get used to my situation, and review it rationally.’  Meanwhile, in place of her usual oncologist, Jessica saw a young medic who was standing in for him. He told me everything that he was supposed to about the coming chemo,  and I asked him why on earth  if  it came with so many associated risks,  I should do this to myself, so that I would be weak and ill before facing the major surgery that was to follow. It didn’t add up to me. This young doctor took the trouble to explain that there was no guarantee, but the chemo might shrink the tumour, in which case I’d need less surgery to the breast. 

“For God’s sake’ I said “I’m now 50 years old. I’m not a Page 3 girl!  What the hell do I care?  Why would I need to nearly kill myself, compromise my health and fitness and maybe become permanently ill, just to have a better set of jugs at the end of the day?  This was the least of my concerns!”

Jessica was decidedly unimpressed to learn that her severe treatment prescription was based on a supposedly state-of-the-art computer programme that considered only the slight facts of a patient’s pre or post-menopausal state, and the size and stage of her tumour. ‘That’s it? That’s all?” she queried of the young man who was doing his utmost to reply fully and frankly.  At which point the nurse who had been sitting in pronounced ’Oh Well, my sister has just had six months of chemo and a double mastectomy and she’s absolutely fine.”  Jessica ignored what to her seemed an insane observation: ‘Absolutely fine, when she’d had such major surgery?’

To Jessica it seemed as if, with chemo, she was expected to take an awful risk for little or no return. The young doctor said she needed to think very carefully about it. ‘I need to ask you something’ she said . “If you were in my situation, would you have chemo?” And he said “No.” ‘Thank you” said Jessica, ‘You can cross me off the books.’  She did, however, agree to a lymph node biopsy, in which two sentinel nodes (‘which are like the gatekeepers) and an ordinary node were removed. A single cancer cell was found in one, a micro-metastasis in the second, and nothing in the third – a result that , Jessica was assured, was entirely in accord with her case.

She’d also been reassured about the surgery that now lay ahead: ‘They said that because the lump was so hard and so defined I was a surgeon’s dream. I was also very slim and very fit, and everything was in the right place so I would heal up without any complications. They might even be able to do a lumpectomy because the tumour was right on the outside of my breast, and they may even be able to do it through an incision under my arm. But I would still need reconstruction because of the margin they would have to remove. They said they would still like to take the rest of the lymph nodes even though they were willing to bet money on not finding any more spread in my case. “We never do “they said. “Well why do you want to take them, then” I countered.  “Well, to be safe.”  That didn’t compute to me’ says Jessica.

A letter to her GP claimed that Jessica was satisfied to proceed with surgery, including lymph node removal and reconstruction.  In fact, she felt that she still didn’t know enough to make that decision. Further discussion with the hospital registrar ‘and a nurse who Jessica found an interference ‘and very patronising.’  Jessica explained that if somebody was going to be amputating her breast – or even part of it – she wanted first to speak to the person who would wield the scalpel. – a reasonable enough request. ‘Oh!’ said the nurse ‘What is it about this that bothers you?’ ‘Oh’ replied Jessica, ‘Probably the same thing that would bloody well bother you about it!’

By now there was another consideration: the hard lump had again broken down and become jelly-like. On the plus side this showed that Jessica’s visits to a naturopathic medical doctor in Brighton were paying health dividends.  ‘Holistic, for me, is everything’ she says. ‘I’m a very practical, rational person, and I like people with a foot in both doors.  This man – (Ian Cole) - has practiced in the NHS for 20 years and was a holistic professor, specialising in integrative medicine.

Ian Cole had been very comfortable with Jessica’s decision to have the surgery and then return to his clinic for intravenous vitamin C – ‘A natural form of chemo.’  He had also approved a strict protocol of diet and nutrition for combating cancer. Jessica had already been a vegetarian – apart from the occasional piece of fish since teenage. She topped up with an appropriate cocktail of vitamins and minerals. But at her hospital visit three weeks after starting the diet, her doctors now seemed terrified by the tumour’s softening.  They said they needed to rethink surgery, because the tumour had completely broken down and cancer might now be in the margins. If they went ahead with the original straightforward plan, they might then have to go back in for further surgery to remove a wider margin around the site. The charming prospect was that Jessica might end up ‘looking like a dog’s dinner.’  It now seemed better for them to do a more radical surgery in the first place. Jessica spoke to her integrative specialist who advised that she visit a hospital where she’d not been seen and ask for a scan.

Although Jessica tells her cancer story in a steadfast, unsentimental style, there is no doubting the turmoil she suffered on the way.  At this new university hospital, she describes ‘coming face to face with the most aggressive bully one could meet in a hospital. He told me I was going to die because I hadn’t come here first.  He spoke in a very disrespectful and aggressive way. You could tell by her face that the nurse sitting there was quite ashamed and embarrassed.  Basically he said that I was already three months down the line, and had already left it too late.  He said that he had seen other women who thought they’d take the integrative or alternative route and they were all dead.

‘I remember thinking’ says the feisty Jessica, ‘that the way I was feeling at that moment, he was a lot closer to death than I was. I don’t take kindly to bullies, and especially not bullies to people with cancer. But I said nothing because I wanted that scan.  I asked the very nice radiologist if he could tell whether my cancer was still active. He said “Sometimes you can, let me have a look.” And then he said that normally you see the cancer invading. In my case the tumour looked completely inactive and was lying flat along the tissues. He said that this was a very good sign that my nutritional treatment was working.’  Less than a month had passed, and it was already putting the cancer to flight.
It was now time for Jessica to resume her search for a more congenial and forward-looking consultant.  Her GP said, gently, that whilst he totally understood her wish to be in the care of someone she trusted, would she please hurry up and do something. Any new specialist might even now draw the lines on the grounds that this woman had seen enough different people.  But the PA to her next and perfect choice Mark Kissin told her that although he had several women waiting to see him - all, like her ,from outside the Surrey area,  she was one of those he had pulled off the list to see him.  “On hearing this’ says Jessica ‘I felt over the moon. But I would say to anyone reading this that it’s vital to keep copies of all your records and paper work, so that you can show them to anyone new you choose to approach.’

Jessica could not have known back then, that through all their meetings following a first consultation in October 2007 (she’d been diagnosed in May) Mark Kissin would never actually treat her at all. Yet their professional relationship, as this inspired integrative consultant monitored and supported her, became the cornerstone of her recovery.  Jessica describes him as one of those rare doctors who is also a truly compassionate and understanding healer.

Mr Kissin’s first question was the broad brush: ‘Tell me how you got here.’ After hearing her story, he examined her and said ’I don’t know whether you’ll survive or whether you’ll succumb.   Only time will tell us that. But I can tell you that at this moment you are not in any urgent situation.’ He said as far as the lymph node situation went– and already two hospitals had decreed that her survival depended on all nodes being removed – he had done the largest lymph node trial, of over 100 surgeries, and to his knowledge he had never found cancer in people with the results she had shown. He agreed with her decision not to meddle further with the lymph.  However, he said ‘We should remember that the enemy has visited.  But we don’t know how those cells get into those lymph nodes. ‘(Jessica had heard that they could get pushed into the lymph nodes when they do the biopsy.) Mr Kissin agreed to be her doctor and to review other options if and when her chosen treatment protocol was not working out.

Much later, when she came to write her book, Jessica interviewed Mark Kissin and asked why he had taken her on. ‘Out of a sense of fairness’ he replied, ‘I saw that you had chosen a different route from the one we used on the sat nav. But the sat nav doesn’t always get you where you want to be.’

A very good answer – and Jessica stresses that Mr Kissin only ever made suggestions regarding conventional treatment whilst monitoring the integrative path that was her choice. He recognised that she wasn’t there to be told what do, but that she valued him highly as a member of her team. 

Jessica was already very fit and continued with an exercise regime that encompassed running, and, at her local gym, kettlebells, Pilates, high intensity training and circuits. “I had never felt ill’ she recalls ‘just chronically tired. But as time went on I felt less and less tired. Eight years on I feel, physically, as vibrant and energetic as I did as a child.’

At the Brighton Clinic, Jessica took advantage of as much vitamin c therapy as she could afford –though perhaps not enough to be ideal, she says.  She started off going every day, six days a week for three weeks, then twice a week for a couple of months.  ‘When you don’t have NHS treatment’ she reminds ‘and you make different health choices, you have to self-fund. You are on your own, and these clinics are not cheap, because they have their own high expenses. I was looking at about £1000 a week. Even had I had health insurance they would not have paid for this.  I asked my GP about funding for the vitamin c treatment and was told you can only get it if you have scurvy or if you are an alcoholic!’

For all that she would have liked more; Jessica found the intravenous vitamin c to be a game changer. ‘My improvement continued and all my blood tests kept coming back normal.  I was having regular scans every three months, then four and six months apart. She found these outpatient experiences so negative ‘like being in a holding pen at the gallows!’, that she asked Mr Kissin if she might discontinue them, and just see him at clinic, because they were not conducive to her wellbeing.

At this time she was dealing with other stresses way beyond her own cancer world.  A few months after she was diagnosed Jessica’s own mother also contracted a very rare cancer,   and Jessica was trying to care for her as well as going up and down to her own hospital visits.  Financially too, she was hard-pressed: ‘In the corporate world they book about a year in advance and people quite naturally don’t want to take the risk when they hear you have cancer. In addition, everyone in my family, apart from my father, was very anti the treatment I had chosen. I had to ban them from speaking to me about it. This happens to a lot of people and even those few years ago, I had very little sympathy and support because people assume that cancer makes you lose your hair and look ill. So if you don’t look like a classic cancer patient, they decide that what you have can’t be grave. I used to hear all the time: “Oh, at least what you had wasn’t serious” or “Are you sure you were really diagnosed?”’

Now began a dark and peculiar twist in Jessica’s otherwise upbeat story.  Her mother died ‘a horrible death’ after 18 months of illness. Under the extreme pressure, Jessica split up with her partner of 11 years. The teacher and mentor she’d cherished for 27 years died, and three months after her mother, her father also died.  And all this loss in short order took place as Jessica approached that critical five year turning point from diagnosis.

By this time Jessica was also taking bio-identical hormones prescribed privately, – ‘a natural protection from cancer exactly like one’s own natural oestrogen’.  She’d chosen this after turning down Tamoxifen. Mr Kissin was a little taken aback, as he found the hormones counter-intuitive to conventional advice. But he told Jessica ‘You’ve made the right decisions so far, so carry on. He added “To be honest “we used to treat women with oestrogen years ago. Sometimes it resolved things, and sometimes not…”

He told Jessica he would like to see her in six months, which disappointed, as she had been hoping now to enjoy a year’s grace from the medical world.  They bandied the time differential between them for a while ‘He too is very feisty!’ she laughs.  ‘I realized he wanted me back sooner because of the hormones I was taking.’ Eventually it was agreed that she would have her usual blood tests in six months, and if all was well she could then defer her six month visit for the full year.

Ironically, this long-awaited high point triggered a dramatic dive for the worse. Jessica had always imagined that she’d emerge to celebrate that five year watershed with her partner, his Mum (to whom she remains very close and chose as a hospital buddy to attend appointments with her), her own parents and her many friends and neighbours close to her home. It was all to have been a great party.

‘But the reality was that my parents were dead and I was now single. My local friends had all moved on and I was alone in the house that I suddenly saw had become incredibly tatty. Everything kind of slowed down and I felt like Miss Havisham. I couldn’t stop working because I’d had to remortgage my house to pay for treatment, but I was going downhill emotionally fast.  It felt as though I was just flogging myself to death earning money to pay for treatment so that I could continue working to flog myself to death. This didn’t make much sense for me – so I stopped taking care of myself and completely dropped off the wagon. As part of that process I started drinking again – though never in the sense of getting drunk. During this time I think I gave the tumour a chance to get up and start kicking again‘ 

When she did see Mr Kissin again, in 2008, he recognised at once that something was wrong, and pressed her for the story. “Just life’ Jessica shrugged.  But he persisted, and eventually she told him.  She added, with her own inimitable black humour “I am sure many ladies have offered you their bodies over the years, but perhaps not quite the way I am going to. I’m obviously not going to make ancient bones, and if it’s any use to you, how would you go about having mine for research?”  He said that he would look into it, but also said ‘Let’s not talk about that now. ‘

Jessica wanted to be careful about how grimly she spoke to this man with whom she’d shared ‘probably the most serious conversations of my life’ because she didn’t want to distress her ex’s mother, Sheila, who was present as her supporter.  But when Mr Kissin pressed her to make a six month appointment to return, she just looked away, not wanting to express her doubts about being around.  Mr Kissin pressed harder and stressed that he did not want this patient to disappear off the radar.  Reluctantly she promised to think about it, whilst privately having no intention of seeing him again.

‘I went to leave’ says Jessica, ‘reliving the set piece that once again turned her life around. ‘We always had a little kiss on the cheek, and suddenly my doctor embraced me – I don’t know how long for, but it was obviously long enough, because at the end I looked up at him and said “You know what, Mr Kissin, “I might have run out of reasons for doing so, but now I’m going to give it another go.” ‘   That simple act of compassion from one human being to another, was a game changer, which is why I always stress that you should choose your team members as much for who they are as what they do . This man is the main reason I am still alive. People like that are healers in every sense.”

Once back home, Jessica sat down to formulate a new plan ‘because when you have a plan you have hope!
Point one was declining to hear blood results that she feared would not be good.  She asked Mr. Kissin’s PA to withhold them, but soon had a call from the top man himself asking her why. ‘Because I know they’ll be bad.’ She said. ‘But what if I already know’ he said.  Jessica drank in the implications. ‘Well, you’ve told me now, haven’t you?’  Mark Kissin said, with a smile in his voice.  ‘Yes. They are all normal’ Says Jessica, ‘He had tried to find a way to tell me without going against my wishes!’


A few months earlier Jessica had read a blog by the journalist Nora Bond who was going through chemo. The headline was ‘Black salve saved my life.’ Of all the naturopathic therapies Jessica had considered, she had never even heard of salve.  So it intrigued her and eventually she sent for a pot from South America.  After a long search for someone who could help her administer it and oversee her care, she found David Holden, a clinician from New Zealand whom she consulted on Skype.

On May 11, 2013, the actual sixth anniversary of her diagnosis, Jessica locked her front door, applied the black salve to her breast, and steeled herself for what lay ahead. She did have a word with the tumour saying ‘It’s between you and me now. And I will endure whatever I must, because at the end of this, you are going to be gone or we’re both going to be gone, and I don’t care which is the outcome, because I will not live with this anymore.’

There followed 30 days of ‘absolute hell’ in which she recorded the process in photos, feeling that she could not return to Mr Kissin without a record of what had passed. ‘Some days’ she recalls, without glossing over the worst ‘I was in so much pain I couldn’t wash let alone eat, but I am very strong-minded. I went for a month with not more than a few minutes sleep at a time, because the pain was relentless. The way I can best describe it is by likening it to the moment that you stub your toe so hard that it takes your breath away and you just can’t speak. It’s like that for hour after hour after hour. ‘

Jessica stresses that not everyone necessarily shares her extreme experience of black salve, but that it is wise to have very powerful prescription painkillers on hand, as she is unsure whether hers even touched the pain. ‘The pain is one reason why some people don’t see it through and so end up with some really dodgy results. That was absolutely not going to happen for me, so I put up with hours of indescribable agony. I couldn’t speak, let alone talk on the phone. Only a stray cat used to come and sit next to me.’

Although Jessica did not really believe it would happen, her tumour did eventually come away. ‘It’s a strange process. It doesn’t just go bang all over. The salve works in areas at a time, then it dries off and starts again in another area all around the tumour.
As time went on, I had bigger and bigger windows when it was just agony but not so excruciating. The most frightening episode - bearing in mind that though I’m not squeamish, I’m not used to seeing raw wounds, especially in myself - was when the plug burst open. I had been told that whatever happens I shouldn’t touch this plug that forms like a black eschar or dead tissue over the area and eventually just burrows its way through.

I was permanently worried about infection, and then having to involve the NHS, so on this particular day I put a plastic cover over the breast and went into the shower.  Coming out, I checked the dressing that looked a little damp around the edges, and to my horror, as I looked beneath the dressing; half the plug came away, leaving an inch and a half hole deep into my breast. Seeing tumour exposed and looking at me, I nearly had a panic. This inevitably took place on a Friday afternoon, when I had no way to get in touch with anyone in New Zealand over their weekend.’

Despite the appalling shock, Jessica managed to keep hold of herself, remain focused and remembered that she had no choice but to keep applying the salve until the lump fell out of its own accord – even if this meant putting it on a gaping hole. ‘This was tantamount to major surgery with no anaesthetic’ Jessica recalls ‘and I really should have thought to have a contingency plan in place.’  A normally strong-minded guy friend came to visit and Jessica commandered his help, at least to stand outside the door, in case she passed out whilst taking the dressing off, as she knew she must. He complained that he had not signed up for this (though nor, indeed had Jessica.) She pretty much ordered him up the stairs to wait outside the bathroom where, to her utter amazement and relief, she found that the plug had completely sealed over.  Her companion was redundant.  The waiting and suffering game continued, until one day Jessica removed the dressing to find that the tumour had come away with it. ‘Again I felt huge relief, and although there was a huge wound, I needed no more painkillers after that.  I should say, though that I have a very high pain tolerance.’

Jessica dropped the tumour into a jar of formaldehyde. ‘I remember that night in bed was the first time in a month that I could raise my arms above my head. As I did so, I looked at the tumour on my chest of drawers and said “That’s the only chest you’re getting into in this house!”’ She still has the histology report on the half of the tumour that went to the lab. It showed that what had obviously been cancer tissue had been completely destroyed and necrotised.

Jessica maintains that the salve wasn’t a systemic cure, but rather a form of surgery. What helped her most was the holisitc treatment she’d followed for years. ‘Cancer’ she says is a very individual issue, and everyone has to deal with it in an individual way. You have to be careful with the salve because it does put your immune system under a lot of pressure. The salve destroys the protein sheath around your tumour so that your immune system can go and annihilate it.  As the salve breaks down the protein, your immune system goes into overdrive dealing with that tumour.  For maintenance then and now, I take an anti-cancer tonic from a herbalist called Alan Hopking.’

Jessica remains under the care of Mr Kissin and he remains, she says reserved in all that he says.  At the start of this year he suggested a series of tests including mammogram and biopsies, which Jessica declined.  ‘He completely accepts that I won’t have invasive tests, but I agreed to extensive blood tests. She asked him not to call on her birthday as she didn’t want to hear bad news.
Nonetheless Mr Kissin did call to wish Jessica happy birthday and asked if she wanted a call the following day if the blood tests proved normal. She said that if he hadn’t looked at them already, she didn’t want to know. He said he just knew they would be normal. They spoke again 24 hours later. ’’What happened to your suspicious mind’ asked Jessica. Mr Kissin said ‘You just keep proving me wrong! Your results are disgustingly normal.’

Jessica has come though breast cancer with remarkable resilience. ‘But I am not’ she cautions ‘the person I was before. The life I had then, with all those loved ones has gone. The people… those pleasures in life … all gone. ‘ So what keeps her going? “Just being above ground’ she says simply, ‘There is now nobody and nothing that I want. I have no plans.  I am completely and utterly free, and in the Buddhist sense, beyond desires.  I come and go as I please. I live as I want; I have some wonderful people in my life and at 58 I love going to work. I’ve taken up ringing the bells in church, which is very physical. I go dancing – modern jive and blues and sometimes I wear a tutu, just because I feel like it! I continue going to the sports centre. I share an allotment with a friend. I thought of moving, but in the end I completely redecorated the house exactly as I wanted it. I still have Sheila – my ex boyfriend’s mother in my life, and the old cat has moved in with me as well. I wouldn’t wish on anybody else what I have been through, but thank God, I am on the other side of it.’ ends

 

 

 

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