October 26th 2015
This week Yvonne Beasley, Complementary Therapist gives her take on how complementary approaches have become widely embraced in contrast to the often amusing anecdotes of how complementary therapies were originally perceived. She writes in response to ‘The Truth About Cancer’ videos and texts that are currently doing the rounds, suggesting the Pharmaceuticals are financially driven to keep us all focused on conventional medicine and away from alternative/complementary approaches.
I’ve always had a problem with organisations who ‘bash’ everyone with opposing views and that’s where these people lose me. Of course there are ‘jump on the bandwagon’ people out there. They are in every walk of life but I cannot believe even as a Complementary Therapist who completely believes in the power of complementary therapy, that there is a wholesale con going on to force us all like sheep down the conventional route by the pharmaceuticals.
The Witches of Eastwick
Up until my retirement last month, I worked as the Lead palliative care complementary therapist for 15 years in a Hospice, heading up a team. I commenced in the days when we were very much considered ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ and not to be trusted with our weird potions and therapies by most of the medical staff, although it was the Clinical Director who promoted us and brought us into the organisation.
In the early days I was physically barred from the ward by the ward manager and told ‘there is no place on my ward for your weird stuff’. A local GP began giving out leaflets to patients who reported to him they had benefited from Reiki claiming, on GP headed notepaper, we were channelling evil spirits. Although amusing, this involved the management of the organisation having to contact our insurance company to make sure there could be no serious repercussions, which would impact on our insurance. I’ve interviewed prospective complementary therapists who had a very aggressive ‘them and us’ stance and stated we should all encourage people to abandon conventional treatments and eat apricot kernels (they didn’t get past the 1st interview!).
I’ve calmed terrified patients who have been told that because they have had radiotherapy they shouldn’t have reflexology because they will transmit radiation via the soles of their feet to the therapist. I’ve calmed Catholic patients who have been told by their Priest, after confiding in him how wonderful they feel after a Reiki session, that they must desist because he and only he can heal them. Sometimes I felt I was living on a different planet!
All that was a very long time ago now. Today Complementary Therapists are accepted as part of the clinical team and their opinions are sought by Consultants on a daily basis because it has been established that treating mind, body and spirit brings about better outcomes all round.
I have sat beside a dying patient performing Reiki until his very last breath. I have comforted bereaved families with just my time and compassion and maybe a foot massage to help them ‘open up’ and grieve. I’ve seen and helped more cancer patients and their families than I care to recall and I totally believe we have made a massive difference to peoples’ journeys and yet I still believe in a balanced approach. We are not in competition with each other. People are far more than the disease. No, we don’t ‘heal’ in the generally accepted sense of the word and a responsible Complementary Therapist would never claim to do this. But we can and do bring peace, calmness and acceptance into patients’ lives, which in my experience, nurtures the immune system and brings balance. There is room for both models.
The best we have
Do I believe the Consultants we trust with our lives are in the pockets of the Pharmaceuticals? I have come across one or two in my career who very definitely were and I am certain there are others but I don’t believe they all are. Do we know all there is to know about this disease and it’s treatments? Absolutely not. I’m not personally convinced that mammograms by their very nature may not cause more harm than good – if there is a tiny tumour in there, how can we be sure ‘plating’ it won’t cause it to splinter off? I’ve asked several Consultants I’ve worked with over the years and not one has been able to answer definitively. And yet despite my doubts I still present myself for my check-ups because it is the best we have here and now. Likewise chemo and radiotherapy – one day we may discover conclusively that eating kale and nothing else is the definitive answer to all cancers and I pray science moves forward for our next generation or even the one after that so people never have to hear the word ‘cancer’ and be terrified. Research has to be the way forward.
Increasing life expectancy
When I commenced at the Hospice, I generally saw a life expectancy of 6 – 12 months after referral. I leave the organisation at a point where medical research has brought things along so far that I saw people come and go for years more. One patient joked when he heard about my retirement; ‘well Yvonne I never thought I’d out last you’.
At the end of the day most patients would agree that if a cure isn’t possible then extending life to spend as much precious time with their loved ones would be their absolute wish. That, I believe, is the patient’s choice alone and if they choose conventional or complementary, a combination of both or just prayer, then surely we should support that choice and walk with them.
Question: do these types of videos and text confuse/frighten women or empower them?
Question: how many women would reject what is presently the Gold Standard in cancer care – chemo and radiotherapy in favour of alternative therapies?