Scientific Fact or Intuitive Crap?

Scientific Fact or Intuitive Crap?

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I’ve always held the view that alternative therapies are valid treatment options to use alongside, or at times in place of, conventional modalities. In today’s fast-paced, high-pressure society, there are many times when the answer to a simple health issue can be found in slowing down, taking time out, eating better and exercising more. Not always, but often.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been an active patron of alternative therapists through the years. I have a pretty healthy respect for modern medicine and its fastidious process of evidence-based, peer-reviewed research to substantiate treatment claims. I’m not going to turn away from science unnecessarily.

That’s not to say I’ve never engaged in anything but standard medical care. I have seen the odd Naturopath, had acupuncture at various times, a Kinesiology ‘balance’ with a practicing friend, and used herbal remedies occasionally to combat illness.

However, while I’m willing to give most things a go, I approach everything with a questioning mind, and put a lot of effort into researching the validity of different healing practices. If there’s no proper evidence-based scientific research to back up its declarations, I steer clear. I follow the premise that when things sound too good to be true, they generally are – Caveat Emptor.

Until my Breast Cancer diagnosis, I’d never really had any reason to examine the claims of so many therapies in detail, but having Cancer fills you with uncertainty and conventional treatments prescribed by teams of Oncologists, like chemo and radiotherapy, are scary and brutal. There are no promises that they will succeed either, and besides quoting the latest survival stats, no right-minded medical specialist can give you the survival guarantee you so desperately seek.

It’s a tough road to travel. And all the while, everywhere you look, there are shiny proclamations of ‘natural’, easy alternatives. Ones that don’t make your hair fall out or have a whole host of scary side-effects. Amazing treatment protocols with fancy sounding names, incredible cures unearthed in the depths of the Amazon, wellness regimes and dietary crazes spruiked by smiling celebrities, and conspiracy theories that tempt, confuse, and ultimately mislead.

balmy oils

There are people everywhere proclaiming to have cured terminal disease with nothing but food, or juice, or frigging snake oil and bicarbonate soda, willing to sell their secrets or include you in their ‘wellness crusade’ for a fee. There are apps and cookbooks to buy, health retreats to go on and supplements to take. There are plasma amplifiers, electro-magnetic devices, supplement strategies and spiritual remedies. There is B.S. everywhere.

We Cancer patients are easy prey I guess. Desperate to be well, searching for hope, and struggling daily to push away the fear of metastases and a plethora of unanswerable questions like, ‘Why me?’, ‘What went wrong?’ and ‘What will happen to me?’ It’s easy to capitalise on despair.

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It makes my blood boil.

Selling false hope and unsubstantiated quackery to vulnerable people is not only morally reprehensible, it’s downright dangerous.

Because I am very comfortable with my decision to follow the advice of my surgeon and oncologists and pursue conventional treatments for my cancer, I don’t actively search for alternative therapies or seek out the opinions of practitioners outside my team. I feel like I’m in sound, capable hands. It hasn’t, however, stopped me from wondering about the reason for my cancer and wracking my brain futilely.

Yesterday I stumbled across an article professing to extrapolate on the reasons Breast Cancer occurs, or as the author put it, ‘the reasons we create the Dis-harmony of Breast Cancer’. While there were no proclamations of cure, there was an insane amount of garbage spewed forth by someone professing to be a ‘medical intuitive’, who describes herself as a ‘walking, talking MRI’ and charges exorbitant fees ($185 per half hour) to supposedly ‘use their self-described intuitive abilities to find the cause of a physical or emotional condition’.

Apparently, I ‘created’ my cancer because I don’t LOVE myself enough, don’t view myself as a ‘pure, sensual woman’ was NEGLECTED as a child (by a male figure, because my cancer is in the RIGHT boob), am TOO NEEDY with my partner and I’m RESENTFUL of others.

YUP.

Breast Cancer = Needy and Resentful. My cancer is my fault…or maybe my dad’s…or my bro’s.

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There was more. A lot more, but I found myself reading through a clenched jaw and gritted teeth.

Way to go, lady! What a service you are doing to the cancer community by spruiking your clairvoyant crap! Let’s make cancer patients feel even worse about their plight! Let’s concoct a whole host of wacky reasons for Cancer under the guise of helping and healing.

Take your freaking nipple chakras and internal vibrations and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine. There’s my little bit of intuition for you!

Ugh.

 

For those who would like to read this drivel in full, go here. Feel free to voice your own response on her Facebook page here, although don’t be surprised if your comments are deleted. Apparently any kind of alternate view to hers is unacceptable.

I Got Ink! Four New Tatts and A Rad Holiday

I Got Ink! Four New Tatts and A Rad Holiday

I have just spent two blissful weeks away from Cancerland. Away from sterile hospital corridors and acrid smelling chemo chairs. Away from blood tests, cell counts and horrible side effects.

Away from being sick. Away from Oncology everything.

Leaving Cancerland has been the best.

Two Wednesdays ago, straight after yet another infusion of Herceptin and Perjeta, we hightailed it to the airport, hopped on a plane and flew far away from cold, old Melbourne. And, despite my concerns, neither my bionic boobs nor my husband’s new metal shoulder set off the airport security either – phew!

For a whole, delicious week on the Gold Coast, we did nothing but bask in the glorious Queensland sunshine (Winter up there is 23 degrees, Melburnians!), play countless games of ‘Uno’ and ‘Pick-Up Sticks’ with our children, and order BIG at the hotel buffet. We rode on rollercoasters, lounged by the pool, read books and had deep, soaking bubble baths.

We even did this:

dolphin

Yep. *Insert big fat sigh of content here*

How great are holidays!

I must say that this one was extra special. The last six months have been completely ruled by my treatment regime and we haven’t had the chance to get away together. The emotional toll on us as a family has been high, too. There have been lots of tears, and many times where Jay and I have been too drained and distraught to pick ourselves up cheerily and be proper parents. Thanks to the warmth and love of wonderful friends and family, we have somehow managed to keep an even keel through the darkness, even if perhaps a little wonkily at times.

We had all but resigned ourselves to a year spent pretty much house-bound, when at my very last chemo appointment we discovered something shiny: a surprising two-week break in my treatment schedule before the onslaught of radiotherapy. My husband booked us a mini-break then and there just in case my doctors changed their minds!

And that week away was EXACTLY what the five of us needed: time to switch off, slow down, and just hang out. Time to swim away entire days, order room service midnight feasts, cackle uncontrollably on rollercoasters together and eat fairy floss for lunch.

It was a time for pure release.

bubble bath family holidays flume ride turtles

Our holiday helped me reset my sails, and prepare for the next step in my treatment arsenal: radiotherapy. Since coming home, I’ve had to snap back into Cancerland pretty quickly.

The first appointment for Radiotherapy (affectionately called ‘rads’ by those in the know), was to front up for a CT scan, measurements, and – wait for it – TATTOOING!

Yuh huh. Never thought I’d be the type to get any ink done, myself, but after my first rads appointment, I emerged sporting four brand new tatts!

These small, freckle-sized tattoos are placed in specific spots on my chest and side to help the radiologists line up the machine precisely each time I go in for treatment. They ensure that the radiation is delivered to the exact spots in my chest and armpit where cancerous cells were discovered six months ago, to ensure it zaps them away for good.

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For the next six weeks, I will head into the radiation oncology area of the Epworth hospital every day. Treatment itself takes about twenty minutes, but the set-up can be painstakingly slow and uncomfortable. The technicians are fastidious with their work. They measure everything carefully, to the millimetre, making sure I’m in the exact same position every day. They line up my tattoos with funky red lasers and fuss around until they’re all completely satisfied.

So far, I’ve had three doses. Besides a lot of buzzing, beeping and whirring, I feel nothing at the time of treatment. As I progress, I will probably see the area of my right breast and underarm become inflamed (a bit like sunburn). It may blister and peel, but should heal up quickly once treatment finishes.

The scary side of radiation is the list of potential long-term side effects it brings with it. The radiotherapy treatment for cancer involves doses that are thousands of times higher than the radiation you receive from your average xray. Due to that radiation exposure, I will have an increased likelihood of lymphoedema in my right arm, a greater chance of developing leukaemia or a second cancer sometime in my future, and the chance of some scarring to part of my lung. While it’s hard not to get bogged down in scary stats like these, I’m focusing on the here and now, and ensuring we do everything to kill every last Breast Cancer cell in my body.

Here’s to fewer cancer cells, and many, many more holidays!

Kate x

Uncle Fester Rides A Rollercoaster

Uncle Fester Rides A Rollercoaster

Here I am, a week shy of my 38th birthday, and my current celebrity doppelgänger is Fester Addams.

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Go on, laugh! I do all the time.

And then secretly I cry.

I try and try to put on my brave, but sometimes I crumble.

Some days I can look beyond the bald, beyond my brow and lash-less reflection and feel more fab than Fester, but other days are just plain hard. No matter where I go, or what I do, or how many people tell me I look beautiful, I feel people’s eyes boring into me. I feel the burden of a society whose spectrum of normal I no longer fit. I feel ugly, unsightly, unfeminine.

“No hats, ma’am,” the young ride attendant calls.

I know she is talking to me, but I glance over my shoulder and pretend not to hear. “Excited, Rooey? This is going to be fu-un,” I coo. Maybe if I keep my back turned, she’ll give up and start the ride anyway. I haven’t prepared myself to unveil my baldness in front of a crowd of onlookers and the sudden threat of it is sharp. I wince.

The attendant is now hovering right next to my car, pointing to a sign above us that states ‘No Loose Items’ in bold lettering. I had already read it as we waited in line, but had been hoping it was more of a recommendation, than a rule.

“Excuse me, lady. Your hat – it needs to come off, please.”

I glance up at her and grimace. “Please – can you let me keep it on?”

“Sorry. Ride rule. No hats allowed.”

“But…I have no hair,” I squeak, imploring her to let me go.

She baulks, clearly embarrassed, then bends a little closer and lowers her voice. “I’m so sorry. You’re going to have to take it off. Really sorry, but it’s ride rules.”

I bite my lip and nod softly. To our right, the waiting queue snakes back and forth, four rows deep. Arms drape languidly over railings, faces gaze intently. Here I am in full view of a crowd of onlookers, having to unceremoniously expose myself.

I coil as far down into my seat as I can, and slide off my hat.

Instantly, I hear quiet murmurs break out as the front rows catch a glimpse of the bald woman about to ride the roller coaster; the one-woman freak show.

Tears prick. My face flushes crimson. I can’t look up.

Fortunately, before I am forced to endure any more embarrassment, the ride takes off with a sudden jerk, and whisks me away. We sail up towards the sky and then suddenly barrel down the bright, curved rail. Air streams past my face and my stomach lurches to my chin as we drop into the next turn. We twist and jerk around corners, down dips, pressed sideways in our seats as we screech and gleam around the looping course.

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A minute later we sail to a smooth stop, back at the platform where it all began. I close my eyes, breathe in deeply and smother a laugh. All my previous humiliation has dissolved and my body is now zinging with frenzied relief.

I feel like reality has just collided with the metaphor of my life.

From the carriage in front, both of my boys whoop with glee. I turn around, watching my daughter babble happily, tucked into the safe crook of her Daddy’s arm.

Her eyes, shining with wonderment, catch mine. “That was so fun, Mum. Can we go again?”

We clamber off together, linking arms and smiling broadly. My kids chatter non-stop about how ‘epic’ the rollercoaster was. They don’t notice my missing hat at all.

I wish I was brave enough to leave it off.

An Ode To Eyebrows

An Ode To Eyebrows

I miss my eyebrows a lot. Even more than I miss the hair on my head! They managed to hold on throughout my first lot of chemo, but disappeared pretty quickly with the weekly infusions of Taxol I’m having at the moment. From what I can gather talking to other cancer patients, eyebrows take a while to come back after treatment finishes too, so I guess they’ll be MIA for a long while yet. My eyelashes are abandoning ship too, which has left my eyes feeling pretty dry and looking rather raw! It’s certainly a challenge to look at my reflection in the mirror now and feel comfortable in my skin; a true test of my humility, I guess!
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The Path to ‘#Wellness’

The Path to ‘#Wellness’

Name:                         Kate                           

You have:                  Breast Cancer*            

Oh, sheez. Tough break…

It’s OK, though lovey! I’ve read all about Breast Cancer*!

Ohmagosh there’s so much stuff on curing  Breast Cancer* out there!

what-if-i-told-you-there-are-multiple-cures-for-cancer-but-theyre-suppressed-since-cancer-is-worth-160-billion-a-year Read more

THREE CHEERS FOR FAT!

THREE CHEERS FOR FAT!

It’s been another tough week. I seem to be saying that a lot lately, don’t I?!

SHEEZ universe, give a girl a break!

Just when I feel like things are feeling a bit more settled in my mind and I’m getting a firmer hold on the whole cancer bizzo, something else creeps up and trips me over.

And then

…kicks me when I’m down.

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Broken Wheels

Broken Wheels

Ever so gradually, as each week passes, I have felt the wheels falling off my resolve a little.

This past week has been particularly tough. After finishing my final dose of AC chemotherapy three weeks ago and starting to feel better, I hit a snag last Wednesday with the sudden onset of vomiting, nausea and fatigue. It completely caught me off-guard and left me with a mouth full of ulcers over Easter. How mean is that, taking away my chance of unfettered chocolate indulgence? Instead I spent the long weekend gargling salt water, unable to eat and feeling really flat.

It takes a lot of energy to stay upbeat and positive in the face of cancer. Even on the days when the sun is shining, my diagnosis hovers like an ever-present black shadow. I can push to look beyond the shade, but the sun on my face is never as bright.

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