Complementary Care of Cancer Patients

4 Dec
Complementary Care of Cancer Patients
Breath of Life Clinic Programme  – Roisin O Kelly, Naturopath/Herbalist

Having worked for 15 years as a nurse (including oncology nursing) and 20 years as a complementary therapist, I am appalled recently to see the frequent occurrence of cancer, particularly in young people. It is compassion for these patients who suffer so much which has prompted me to give write this article and make some helpful, effective and safe tips available. Complementary does not mean alternative. The advice here is in addition to what your cancer consultant advises. From my experience, they work well together. Many of the suggestions have research behind them, others are ones I have found very useful while working with numerous patients in my clinic.  Cancer is not a simple disease and it does not have a simple cure. However, I have seen many patients respond favourably when the approach is to boost the immune system through the following guidelines, which is to give cancer patients the best fighting chance. As natural therapists, we do not treat cancer. We treat the whole person, physically, mentally and spiritually. Often, the person soon feels better, copes a lot better and the quality of life improves. Life has value. Sometimes the patients recovers, sometimes the patient does not recover. We can only do our best.
 May God bless your journey.

1.       Diet
 Eat unprocessed foods, as near their natural state as possible. Eat a diet low in yeast, salt, sugar and saturated fat. Include plenty of fresh vegetables, raw and cooked, especially green veg, salads, soups, whole grains, oily fish, fresh nuts, seeds and fresh fruit. Eat organic if possible. Fiber is important to avoid constipation. Enjoy your food. If you hate what you are eating and feel miserable, it is not making you healthier ! Get enough protein for repair of the body. Be careful of extreme diets, they weaken the body further.  During Chemo, appetite and digestion is poor. Nutritious juices and soups are recommended at this time.  Tea and white toast may seem tempting if tummy is unsettled but please try different nutritious foods to find something which suits you.

2.      Fresh air and Exercise
Keep moving to improve circulation to every cell of the body. The blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients to every organ. In TCM, cancer is sometimes considered stagnation in the flow of energy. Swimming, Dancing, Cycling is great if you are well enough. Boosts immune system. If your friends asks you 'what can I do to help ?.. ask them to pick you up and drive to somewhere beautiful in nature. Go for a walk instead of coffee and a cake ! If confined to house, do some simple exercises or short walks.

3.      Positive Attitude
I know this is not an easy one ! Stay in the day. Try not to project forward to next week or next month. Worry does not change anything. If you read the bible, you might realise we are told 365 times not to be anxious or afraid, once for every day of the year. If you are a worrier, I strongly recommend a complex homeopathic remedy called LM63 for anxiety. Take 10 drops 3 times daily. Learn to meditate. Practice deep breathing to reduce stress. Music is uplifting. Make a dvd of your favourite songs. Wear bright colours. Burn oils at home. Sit in nature often. Do 'Something Fun', laughter workshops are great.

4.      Relaxation
Adequate rest and sound sleep. Do not work to the point of exhaustion. Go to bed before 11 most nights. If you do not sleep well, take some Camomile, Passionflower,  Oats in capsule form. A few drops of Lavender essential oil on the pillow will help. Ensure your room is dark (raises melatonin). Ideally, do power nap between 12-3pm.

5.      Go NATURAL
Our bodies are bombarded with chemicals from the moment we shower in the morning. In recovery phase, use the minimum of chemicals from deodorants, after shaves, perfumes, make up, soaps, shampoos, fake tans, nail polish, hair colours, household products etc. Use plain white soap to wash and Breath of life oil as moisturiser. Wear natural fibres, (cotton/ linen) unrestrictive clothing and flat shoes, especially around the house. Allow your skin to breathe.  Limit exposure to electro-magnetic radiation from computers, mobile phones and microwaves.

6.      Supplements
Supplement your diet with a good quality multivitamin including the important anti-oxidants Vitamins A, C and E. Take selenium and Omega 3 Fats, e.g. flax seed oil.
 Vit D3 (the sunshine vitamin) has a lot of scientific support which suggests it helps boost immune system. Depending on the type of cancer , addditional supplements may help. Dr Neil Mc Kinney is a Physician and Naturopath. His book 'Naturally, There is Hope' gives lots of useful guidelines but please do not self-prescribe. Get professional advice from a Nutritional therapist or Naturopath. Always let your doctor know what supplements and herbs you are taking.

7.      Herbs
Some of the herbs which have shown positive effects in research are Astragalus, Echinacea, Ashwagandha, Bupleureum, Milk Thistle, Feverfew, Burdock,Tumeric, Sutherlandia, Butchers Broom, Cat's Claw, Artemesia, Sheep sorrel, Codonopsis, Peau D'arco and Wheatgrass. They should be prescribed by a trained and registered herbalist and may be given in a personalised formula as a tincture. Some herbs have precautions. Others block the absorption of certain medicines so again, please do not self-prescribe and do ensure Oncologist is happy for you to use them. Generally, herbs are stopped day before chemo for 3 days.

Esssiac, an herbal decoction contains Burdock, Slippery elm, Indian rhubarb and Sheep sorrel.Take at night as herbal tea. I have used it for many years and find this tea a gentle, natural and effective detox.
Breath of Life oil
Contains a blend of Lavender, Eucalyptus and Tea tree in a base of Grapeseed. Apply all over the body twice per week after a shower paying special attention to cancer area. Apply daily to area of cancer, e.g. breast, prostate, chest.  Do not put directly on wounds or broken skin. Lavender helps stress, Eucalyptus is renown for its warming properties and Tea tree for its anti-fungal/anti yeast effects. It stains your clothes so wear old dressing gown for 30 mins until absorbed.

8.      Reflexology
In Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital, Reflexology is recommended for patients who have had chemotherapy and radium and good results are reported. Fortnightly sessions are recommended in Breath of Life. Useful as adjunct therapy.

9.      Healthy Relationships
If there are colleagues, friends or family members you have argued with in the past, if you can, it is really a good idea to 'let go' and forgive. A letter, email or phone call is often enough. You may need help with this one!
10.   Prayer /Spirituality
Prayer is powerful. Find a way you enjoy. Many people receive great hope from reading the bible or saying the Rosary. For others, sitting quietly in the garden, or simply admiring beautiful flowers is, in itself, a prayer. Ask family and friends to pray for you. For me, attending mass is important but in my experience, all forms of prayer are good.

Summary - My view of cancer
Cancer is an imbalance in the body, similar to a see-saw out of balance. Each of the 10 appproaches outlined above help tip the see saw into balance in some small way. The aim of Breath of Life is to help the patient be as healthy as possible on a physical, mental and spiritual level. Our mission statement is 'May all who enter here find peace of mind and joy of life'
Breath of Life, Portmarnock, Co Dublin, 01 8460942, Office hours Tues/Thurs/Fri 9.30 -5.30pm
If you have any additional health tips for patients suffering with cancer, I would be happy to hear from you. 
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