Thursday, December 31, 2020

Healing tools



Healing can be a full-time job, though I don't like to think of it as work. But for various reasons I haven’t been able to stick to all of my routines over the past few months, so the following - incomplete - list is for those who are interested in the tools I have been using in my recovery from stage III cancer and also a gentle reminder to myself. And of course these are not exclusively for cancer patients, nor do you have to have been sick to use these. They are for 'general maintenance' as well as active healing.

First of all, I should state that I underwent the standard conventional cancer treatments and remain under the care of my oncologist, with frequent surveillance scans. I am lucky to still be in remission and aware how precarious a state that is after the type and stage of cancer I had, and I would never advocate for using alternative treatments at the expense of medical care; I very much put my faith in a combination of conventional and complementary therapies. Everyone has to find what feels right for them. Some patients are happy to be in the hands of their consultants and don't explore other options, and that is their choice and valid, too.

When you do a lot of different things, it is hard to pinpoint which individual elements work, and it may well be the mix (and there is no prescribed formula). While I cannot claim that any of this is curative, I have personally experienced miracles along the way, in particular with the complementary therapies (for example feeling vibrant and strong after a session I had walked into depleted and weak from chemoradiation).

Also, I believe (and my history is an example of this, as I was doing all the right things prior to my diagnosis of lung cancer at the age of 34) that you can have the perfect healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise, but if there is unresolved trauma, grief or similar chronic stress, those physical, matter-to-matter aids can only do so much to prevent dis-ease. That is why energy healing is so important to me. Of course a lot of the physical tools go beyond the physical, too, so none of the below are easy to categorise.

Diet: I have always had a healthy diet, but after my diagnosis I became 95% vegan (I eat eggs every now and again - we have our own hens - and occasionally have milk, cheese and yogurt). The main aim food-wise has been to incorporate as many vegetables (and fruit, but to a lesser extent, because of the sugar content) as possible - more than the 5-a-day, a low number adjusted to the Western way of eating - and mainly eat unprocessed organic food and no refined sugar. We grow some of our own food and get an organic box delivered.

I bought a juicer before I got my full diagnosis - it was one of the things I did in those awful weeks of waiting for test results that helped me feel a bit more empowered and not completely helpless. I started with a lot of carrot juice, but then switched to greens and have been making mostly green juices since, as well as smoothies. For a while I was drinking celery juice every morning (see Medical Medium, though I don’t agree with everything he says) and plan to take it up again in the spring.

Supplements – I know many patients take an array of supplements, but I didn’t want to get into too strict a regime, and I generally feel we should get most nutrients via food if possible. It can be overwhelming to navigate the huge selection of supplements and the claims made about them, and with all my choices I try to balance adopting helpful habits with not putting pressure on myself (which would create more stress). Having said that, I have tried a few supplements: CBD oil and turmeric were recommended to me by a healer early on. I haven’t taken the CBD oil in a while, but try to add turmeric to meals as much as I can or take the capsules. A friend gave me a bottle of Essiac when I was waiting for test results, and my sister has been making the concoction for me ever since. Again, it is something I haven’t kept up, but may return to. I also take B-vitamins or a multivitamin and certain minerals when needed.

Sea-swimming: I started doing this regularly again this year, and I think that in addition to retreating from the world (largely due to COVID) this was the reason I haven't had any colds or the flu since - after recurrent respiratory infections following my treatment and especially since my return to work. And that is just one of its physical benefits - swimming in the sea has been amazing on so many levels and is a spiritual practice in its own right.

Walking and running: I like exercising on my own, but I did Parkrun once a month (with a group from our local cancer centre, led by the resident physiotherapist) before it had to be cancelled due to the restrictions and trained in the gym of the Cancer Centre once a week. I also joined a running group with my neighbour. All those activities are on pause at the moment. This year I did more walking than running and tried to get in as many forest walks (to add in forest bathing) as possible.

Strength training: I bought dumbbells for the exercises I was given to prepare for surgery and now do short workouts with them at least once a week. During chemo I lost weight (when I had already been underweight) and my muscles dwindled alarmingly, and I will never take strong arms and legs for granted. Using weights makes me feel strong physically and mentally.

Acupressure mat: I got one this year, and it is a game changer. Thousands of spikes apply pressure to the skin and muscles, targeting a lot of acupressure points simultaneously. The effect is deeply relaxing, like having a massage. I use it on my back and on my feet and sometimes rolled up under my neck, but you can use it for other parts of the body as well. John loves it, too.

Yoga: My main yoga practice is hatha and yin yoga, for deep healing, but I also do some other classes (all via Youtube or with the help of books).

Yoga Nidra: Something I had done occasionally, but this year I made it a regular practice, with this video my healer sent me.

Meditation: A friend and seasoned meditator introduced me to Natural Stress Relief meditation, and it has replaced the Joe Dispenza meditations I had been doing (though I do want to get back to those as well). It is similar to Transcendental Meditation. Ideally you do two sessions of at least 15-20 minutes per day. I find focusing on the mantra (in this case one syllable) helps quieten the chatter in my brain and easily gets me into a trance-like state. 

Ho’oponopono: Somebody gave me a printout with this Hawaiian prayer years ago and it had been sitting in one of my folders. Whenever I came across it I was intrigued, but only this year, again with a nudge from my healer, I started practising it properly. I also like to listen to one of Sandra Rolus's videos with repetitions of the prayer that you can fall asleep to.

Aromatherapy: Frankincense has anticancer properties, and it has become my number one essential oil – I put it in the diffuser during yoga and meditation. I also use a lot of other oils, depending on what I need or feel like, and I always have a bottle of lavender oil in my bag.

Deep breathing: I do Wim Hof's exercises and use the 4-7-8 technique as described by Andrew Weil in Spontaneous Healing - breathe in on a count of 4, hold for 7, breathe out on a count of 8, and do this for about five minutes (my hypnotherapist is also a big fan of 4-7-8 breathing). Since reading James Nestor’s Breathe, I have also started taping my mouth to encourage nasal breathing, and I try to slow down my breathing to five or six breaths per minute whenever I think of it.

Hypnotherapy, visualisations, counselling, energy healing: I had a couple of sessions with my RTT therapist Rachel Gotto and continue to use her customised audio recordings. She has also become my mentor and I schedule Zoom calls with her when I feel the need. A friend who is also a hypnotherapist guided me through visualisations and I use her recordings as well. I regularly see the psycho-oncology counsellor at our cancer centre (a free service) and have calls with a mentor and friend. I do ongoing work with divine clearing therapist and 'spiritual midwife' Dr. Yvonne Murphy (a recommendation from a friend who also had cancer). Other healers who have helped me a lot include Jeff McInerney and faith healer Aidan Wrynne. [I will do a separate post on these real-life healers and therapists and all the teachers and authors I follow.]

I have also tried EFT and do the Healing Code (a similar technique) on myself and others (my mum still does the Healing Code for me twice a day; she is so good). And sound healing - a friend played her Tibetan bowls on me one day, which was incredible, and I listen to videos with the Hu chant, amygdala healing and other binaural sound therapy and similar.

Purpose: Another topic for a separate post, but one of the key factors in healing, is finding and following your purpose. Of course that is rarely just one thing. For me, painting and drawing is up there (something I had neglected before getting sick), as are family and friends, writing, being of service, and living a simple life, one that aligns with my values.

Gratitude and slowing down: Prioritising what is important, not sweating the small stuff. Being present with whatever is happening and whatever I am doing. A friend gave me a gratitude jar when I was diagnosed, and even on the darkest days I managed to find something to write on one of the coloured pieces of paper, and I make a point of reflecting on things to be grateful for every day.

Doing things that bring joy, relaxation, meaning: All of the above and more. Art, reading, writing (including Morning Pages), gardening, playing and listening to music, conversations, community, being out in nature, walking, sea-swimming, cooking and baking, play and laughter come to mind.