Cancer; my thoughts

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here


There are many kinds of cancer that are much less serious but what follows are my thoughts based on experiences with that which is incredibly confronting for all too many of us; Cancer with a capital C

I have worked with people with cancer many times over the years. I do my utmost to help however I will freely confess that there have been too many times (once is too many) when the tide has just kept coming and there has been no turning it back.

That said I can also truthfully say that I have witnessed many ‘miracles’ over the years including more than a few people who were told to put their affairs in order who are still alive to this day!

I see that this was not due to any one special formula of mine or action on their part. There is no one 'cure' for cancer but it is also clear that some people can sometimes surmount the most impossible obstacles and get better. The question of what is the common ground between survivors has occupied a great many people who have worked in this field and I hope I have covered the key points that most of us agree on below.

As a practitioner, you soon see that everyone's case and life situation is truly different and that you must avoid getting stuck on any one tangent and instead keep an open mind to pick up the areas that most need help or attention.

What can best help lift their vitality, their immunity, their resistance? Above all, you have to remember that it is the entire well being of the person that determines how they fight any kind of disease and if they can recover their health...

Quote from Eli Jones

Dr Eli Jones was a holistic practitioner who treated many thousands of cancer patients at the end of the 19th century and was so respected in his field that members of opposing schools of medicine would go to him if they developed cancer themselves. He wrote in his book Cancer Treatment...

'no remedy or combination of remedies has ever been discovered, or ever will be discovered that will cure all forms of cancer but I have records of cases of genuine cancer that have been cured for 15-25 years with no single symptom of a return of the disease.

Good, pure water, good pure air helps to make healthy red blood, unadulterated food, most vegetables, keep the nervous system strong and vigorous. Stop worrying!'

Eli's advice was to raise the vitality of the patient to as near normal as possible. He wrote 'many times I have noticed this fact that when the eye, the pulse, and the tongue showed the organs of the body secreting properly, good digestion, a strong full regular pulse, the disease itself would be at a standstill, but if the signs showed a weakened vitality, the disease would take on new life and activity'.


What Causes Cancer?

The first thing anyone does when something goes wrong is to ask 'what caused that to happen!'

In my own experience in nearly three decades of full time practice, including working with many hundreds of people with serious or life-threatening cancers, there have only been a small number of people for whom there is a clear answer to the question of what caused their cancer.

We know there are a lot of things that cause cancer in theory and in laboratory experiments; cigarettes, chemical poisons, genetic mutations and certain viruses being some of the most well established factors. However, when it comes to the great many individuals who get cancer we simply don't know why it has happened to them and any amount of analysis of their diet, family history, life-path etc. yields nothing more than speculation.

It is an unfortunate trait of human nature that when we are confronted with something we can't explain we still tend to go with the best sounding explanation regardless! Once a person latches on to the idea that something in their food, their psyche or their environment has caused their cancer it can be hard to shake such ideas loose and this can be a big problem because a) it may well be not true and so can cause a person to misdirect their energy towards radically changing something that was never the issue in the first place and b) it can cause a great deal of negative feelings that can be damaging to our immune systems at the time we need to be at our most robust!

Cancer is an indiscriminate enemy of life, of us. You cannot overestimate how deeply it can strike us no matter how well we may live or how good we may be. There is no 'fairness' when it comes to cancer. In this area of life, we need to put aside our wishful thinking that everything that ever happens in the universe is working to some kind of cosmic scale of justice.

Unless a person will fall prey to fear and superstition then a rapid maturity is required to understand that sometimes bad things happen to good people and that there is no benefit in trying to rationalise why that is.

Not all questions have answers, or at least not all questions have true answers. Stop thinking, talking and speculating about what has caused cancer to get into you or someone you love.

Focus your energy on whatever it is you have to do to get well and, if you have a spiritual nature, then put your faith in the mysterious, marvellous, intelligent healing 'force' that flows through every part of life, including you! This is your 'life-energy' and it wants nothing more than for you to fight and win against what it already knows very well to be the enemy, wherever it may have come from...


Conventional and Natural Medicine

One of the hardest subjects that always comes up for people with cancer is how much should they stay within the conventional system and opt for things like chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I personally do not seek to push people for or against conventional treatments. Every case is unique and, the responsibility for our own children aside, the only person for whom we can truly say 'this is what you should do', is ourselves.


That said, I also think that something that can be stated with certainty is that if there is a viable surgical option on offer then it should almost always be taken. Cancer does not suddenly arrive at the point where it can be physically felt or seen in an ultrasound or MRI scan.

Firstly, it goes through many stages of development starting at the smallest possible microscopic level of a single mutated cell, then growing into a cluster of cells, then a tiny area of tissue, then a pin-head of a mass and so forth. By the time we can actually diagnose cancer it has usually been growing for years.

It must be understood that for this to have happened that there has been a time where the body's natural defences have been overwhelmed and its growth has not been able to be checked.

The immune system is extremely capable of destroying cancer at the cellular and early tissue levels but it cannot do much when it has assumed a certain degree of size and this is why surgery can often be essential to give the body the best possible chance to fight and win against what remains after the bulk of that mass has been removed.

Radio & Chemotherapy

Further to surgery I have met many people for whom even the idea of radiation or chemotherapy treatment is extremely hard to countenance. These are deeply daunting things to contemplate having done to you under any circumstances and compounding the confusion that arises over 'what to do' are all the opinions and stories of others they have heard which may well have been good but equally may have been very bad.

I counsel against a 'blanket belief' of radiotherapy or chemotherapy being a good or bad thing for cancer. For some people, it will be curative and life-saving, for others it may make too little a difference to be worth the suffering it can cause, for some people, it will weaken their own defences too much and they would have been better off without it...

My best advice in this tremendously tricky subject is to drop all preconceptions and adopt an open and enquiring mind-set. Each person, including you, is different and needs to find their own way for their health and healing.

In terms of the 'what to do' I think it is essential to ask honest and direct questions to the key medical professionals who are offering these treatment options. Starting with what I think is surely the straightest question you can ever ask a person which is 'what would you do if you were in my situation right now?' Another fair question is 'optimistically, but based on your experience and the published evidence, what is your best guess of how much this could improve my chances?'

Is natural medicine safe to use alongside?

Many people I meet and work with want to stay within all or most of the treatment suggestions of their oncologists as well as working with what I have to offer and I always respect their wishes in this regard and encourage open communication between all parties as much as possible.

All people who work with people who have cancer only want for them to get better and to be relieved of their suffering as much as humanly possible. It must be understood that we are all on the same team even if we may have radically different approaches!

It also must be understood that there are no treatments or recommendations that I ever give to my own patients with cancer that are going to in any way interfere with or reduce the effectiveness of anything being done to help them in conventional medicine. I am sure this is going to equally be the case for the majority of qualified and experienced natural health practitioners and herbalists out there.

On the contrary it can be clearly seen that the safe and natural help of herbs etc. sees people responding to their conventional treatments much better than they might have otherwise; especially in terms of keeping the body internally clean and maintaining a robust immune system...


Diet & Nutrition

Good diet and nutrition are incredibly important for all living things, including people! If this is a subject that you feel you need to increase your knowledge on, then I have written up a reasonably in-depth article called 'Excellent Nutrition' that covers the main points in practical detail; you can find it here.

Further to that my thoughts on this subject come from meeting many people with a diagnosis of cancer who have read or hear things that make them think that it is their diet that holds the cause and cure of their cancer and so have gone on profoundly radical or restrictive diets.

I do see a vital place for detoxification for many people with all kinds of chronic illness (more on this just below) but that process is only ever meant to be for a limited time-frame only and it is a great concern to meet people who are on strict diets still months into their diagnosis who have lost significant weight and strength as a result of inadequate levels of good nutrition in the pursuit of continual 'cleansing'.

It cannot be overemphasised how important it is to have a healthy immune system for anyone fighting cancer. White blood cells are the literal 'army' of that immunity and what do we make white blood cells from? The answer is protein and the main sources of protein in the diet are meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products etc. Which in turn are the exact foods that many people with cancer have been convinced by one or more sources that they need to give up in order to get well.

I have met and worked with many people who have survived cancer, most have learned an incredibly valuable lesson, even if it was through the hardest way possible, which is about living each day to its fullest. In terms of nutrition this includes eating healthy food but it also includes eating those foods they know and love.

The first point in the article of nutrition linked above is 'enjoy your food' it goes on to say that 'this is the single most important point any nutritionally minded health practitioner could make to you!'

Nausea or loss of appetite

A big problem that comes up a lot for people with cancer is nausea and/or the loss of appetite that can come from the illness itself or from side effects from drug treatments that are being used. When this gets to the point that the person is losing weight and strength then it can fairly be called a crisis and solving it must be given the top priority.

There are two strategies that I have found to be effective time and again in this situation; the first is when nausea is the main issue and in this case using Ginger in a certain way has always seemed to quickly help. Read the article on Ginger here with attention to either trying one of the tea recipes or the formula written up under 'Ginger Drops' to find ways to make it work immediately!

If loss of appetite is the key issue, then the great digestive tonic Gentian is surely one of the best of all herbs to help. The article on Gentian here goes into practical detail about exactly how to use it to get the best possible effect.

Lastly if gastritis &/or reflux is causing torment then there are some combinations of herbs that have been seen to work time and again, and quickly too. This is written up in detail here.

Nutritional medicines

Nutritional medicines and supplements are another huge area in the natural health world and I do think there is sometimes a place to use intensive doses of nutrients in addition to a healthy diet.

They certainly can be most helpful for anyone who has developed a deficiency through illness or inadequate diet and there is clear and irrefutable evidence that such deficiencies frequently occur, some of the most common being iron, vitamins B12, D & C, zinc, selenium, magnesium & iodine.

I also think can be a place to use nutrients as 'medicines' in the sense that taking a much higher dose of that nutrient than just that which would prevent a deficiency can convey a therapeutic benefit that the body could not have achieved by itself by having a normal level of those same nutrients.

Vitamin C is the stand-out example of this when it comes to cancer but there are many others that may be of great benefit for some people some of the time.

Where I do get cause for dismay in this area is in meeting patients who have, through one path or another, become invested in an extremely intensive and expensive course of nutritional supplements that is plainly too much for their systems to handle.

Too much of something can be just as harmful as too little of it and there is an upper limit for any kind of treatment program, whatever it is. I see that most people instinctively feel when they are going over this limit but, especially with the extreme anxiety that cancer can create, can over-ride these instincts and continue taking massive amounts of medicine even when their body is clearly not handling them well...


Cleansing & Detoxification

I mentioned just above how I see a vital place for detoxification for not all but many people who have chronic illnesses and it can certainly be said that every great old tradition of medicine saw internal cleansing as an essential first step in the healing process of many diseases.

Many people understand this instinctively and can even feel how their system needs a clean so there are two areas I would like to offer two pieces of advice in this key area and one heartfelt caution.

The first advice is, before anything far more extravagant and expensive; consider two of our greatest herbal allies when it comes to the cleansing process. They are Juniper for the kidneys and Celandine for the liver. The page here goes into detail on how to use these two great herbs safely and surely.

The second advice is to consider the value of following a cleansing diet for at least a little while. This is written up in practical detail here. Over the years, I have put a great many people on to this diet for a month or so. People nearly always do well on it and they usually say that they found it all entirely do-able.

The heartfelt caution in this area is a) not to do the cleansing for too long and b) not to do the cleansing too hard!

For some people, as little as two weeks is about the right time to really push a cleansing process. The average person needs a good month. In practice, I rarely go above 6 weeks without at least a break to regroup and reconsider.

Not doing things too hard means being really careful, especially when cancer is in the picture, to not deplete the person's vitality to a point that their immunity is weakened. I will happily give a person a robust cleansing program when they are relatively well. For someone with cancer I will think very carefully about how much their system can stand and adjust the doses and length of treatment accordingly.

For many people, after a reasonably strong push at the beginning, you can help keep the liver activated and the blood clean with the gentler cleansing tonics such as Cleavers, Red Clover and Burdock - all of which may be very well suited to longer term use if needed.

I have met a lot of people who have got the idea that their cancer has come from their food and they have gone on to incredibly strict diets along with cleansing herbs etc. After too long of doing this they become terribly weakened, cold and, worst of all, lowered in their immune health.

There is such an art to good medicine in so many ways. An art to knowing what herbs or drugs to use; an art to the critical matter of giving the right dose; and an art to knowing how long to treat for...

All of these matters are vital to the treatment being part of a cure, or at least a remission, and not becoming part of a further problem and key parts of the reason I again urge you to get a good and experienced practitioner to help you if this is at all possible.

Juniperus communis (Juniper)


Herbs & Immunity

Part of me wants to say a lot here but there is so much info on herbs elsewhere on this site whilst there are a few key points in the rest of this article that I want to get across here that I haven't said anywhere else.

The main thing I want to impress on you is just that the right herbal medicines are fantastic allies to an immune system that needs all the support it can get!

There are many other great immune herbs but the ones I personally use the most are some combinations of the roots of Astragalus, Echinacea, Panax Ginseng and Withania and the concentrated extracts of the mushrooms Reishi, Coriolus and Cordyceps.

I have worked with a great many people whose battle against cancer and then their long-term recovery has been enormously helped by these allies and I feel hugely grateful to them for their sure support! More thoughts on the vital subject of immunity are found here.

Echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea)


Pain & Fear

One of the biggest and most understandable fears that come with cancer is the fear of a pain that is too strong to withstand and that will crush our ability to be of good heart.

The fact is that we have always had an incredible herbal ally that, if used correctly, will always and reliably allay pain to whatever extent is necessary. I am talking here about the opium poppy.

These days it has been refined and pharmaceuticalised into many drugs such as codeine and morphine but the essence of it is still the same. You can be very confident that so long as you are open and honest about exactly how things really are with your doctor that you will get the relief that you need for pain.

If you are feeling very anxious then I can assure you that there are several steps that I have seen to work 100% of the time in even the most extreme cases and this important subject is talked about in practical detail in an article on tension and anxiety here.

Lastly, I know it will seem a strange idea from the outside but, for some people it becomes essential to their mental health to learn how to relax into anxiety and so then to remember how to relax into life. If this is an important subject for you then have a listen to one or more of my relaxation exercises found here.


Constitutional health note

You may get a lot of benefit from learning about your 'constitution'. There are four types of people in the world depending on how hotter to cooler, and at the same time, dryer to damper, a person is. This is old knowledge (the Ancient Greeks were just the first to write about it) and it has a great many practical applications to health and healing.

For example, either of the two 'damper' constitutions is far more likely to need a more cleansing approach whilst the 'dryer' constitutions often need to focus much more on building up their food and nutrition.

It's a fascinating and absorbing subject and if you are interested in exploring it further I suggest you start with the brief introduction here and then the more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd