Cancer; one practitioner's perspective

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Finding a good herbalist

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

Some 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


I have worked with people with serious cancers many times now, I do my utmost to help however, there have been too many times (even once is too many) when that 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 there was no hope, to put their affairs in order, who are still alive to this day.

I see that this was not due to any particular herb, drug, diet, mindset or other special combination of actions or efforts on their part or mine. There is no 'cure' for cancer that works for everyone, nevertheless, clearly, some people do surmount even the most impossible obstacles and get better.

As a practitioner, you find that everyone's case and life situation is markedly 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.

The most important questions to ask are along the lines of ' what can best help lift their vitality, their immunity, their resistance to the disease? Above all, you must remember that it is not any one thing, but rather the entire well-being of the person that will determine how they can fight, survive and live on.

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!'

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 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.

Not all questions have answers, or at least not all questions have true answers. It is recommended to simply stop speculating about what has caused cancer to get into you or someone you love. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people and there is no benefit in trying to rationalise why that is, it just is.

Instead, 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 they should take everything on offer from the conventional system and where, if anywhere, should they draw the line.


I personally do not seek to push people for or against conventional treatments but I think that if there is a viable surgical option on offer then it should nearly always be accepted with thanks and a brave heart.

The reason I say this is that 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 often been growing for a long time.

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.

Radiotherapy & 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 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 and, 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. Of course, I fully respect their wishes in this regard and encourage open communication between all parties as much as possible.

All practitioners 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 other 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 want to review or feel you need to increase your knowledge on, there is an article called 'Excellent Nutrition' that covers the main points in practical detail; it's here.

Further to that, my thoughts on this subject are heavily influenced from meeting many people with a diagnosis of cancer who have read or heard 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 this is only ever meant to be for a limited time-frame. Unfortunately, it has been a too-frequent experience to meet people on incredibly strict diets, who have been following them for months on end, and who have lost significant weight and strength as a result.

Pursuing cleansing is not a reason for inadequate levels of nutrition and it cannot be overemphasised how important it is, for anyone fighting cancer, to have a healthy immune system. White blood cells are the literal 'army' of our immune systems and the only way we can feed the troops and make these vital cells is if we have enough protein from our food. The main sources of protein in the diet are meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products etc. i.e. the foods that many people with cancer have been told they need to give up in order to get well.

The first point in the article of nutrition linked above is 'enjoy your food'. People ought not to go on overly restrictive diets and they ought not to remove too much protein from their diet for too long. On the contrary, it is very important to enjoy your food and be looking forwards to your meals.

Nausea, loss of appetite, gastritis

Major problems that happen for quite a few people who are fighting cancer are nausea, loss of appetite or gastritis. One or more of these can come from the illness itself or from side effects from chemotherapy. Three herbal strategies have been seen to be highly effective and well tolerated in these situations

The first is Ginger for nausea. Used in sufficient doses, this always seems to help. A strong tea is good or, if possible, a special formula called 'Ginger drops' can also be rapidly effective, more here

The second is Gentian for loss of appetite. The page on this herb goes into practical detail about exactly how to use it to get the best possible effect, more here

Thirdly, if gastritis, or reflux, has become an issue then there is a certain combination of three herbs, Licorice root, Fennel seed and Catmint leaf, that have been seen to rapidly and reliably work, more here

Nutritional medicines

Nutritional medicines and supplements are a huge area in the natural health world. Supplements can certainly be helpful for anyone who has developed a deficiency through illness or inadequate diet and there is irrefutable evidence that such deficiencies do frequently occur, some of the most common being iron, vitamins B12, D & C, zinc, selenium, magnesium & iodine.

I also think that there can be a place to use nutrients as 'medicines' in the sense that taking a 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.

Where I get cause for dismay in this area is in meeting patients who have, through one path or another, become entrenched in an extremely intensive and expensive course of nutritional supplements that is plainly too much for their systems to handle. I suggest to not go into excess in this area, rather take the old and wise approach of moderation in everything.


Cleansing & Detoxification

I mentioned above how I see a vital place for detoxification for many people who have chronic illnesses. All the great, old traditions of medicine saw internal cleansing as an essential first step in the healing process of many diseases.

However, it must be understood that a robust cleansing program can be hard to handle. We must be very careful, especially when cancer is in the picture, to not deplete the person's vitality to a point that their immunity is weakened. 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, perhaps for just a few weeks or even less, you can help keep the liver activated and the blood clean with the gentler cleansing tonics such as Juniper, Cleavers, Red Clover and Burdock - all of which may be very well suited to longer term use if needed.

The 'cleansing diet that we typically use alongside the herbs is written up here, the important subject of detoxification is talked about in more detail here

Juniperus communis (Juniper)


Herbs & Immunity

In many ways, this is the area where I feel I have the most to offer my patients with cancer. There are some simply fantastic herbal allies for the immune system and I am 100% certain they have helped many people to get better and live on.

There are other great immune herbs but the ones I personally use the most, and are deeply grateful for their sure support, are combinations of Astragalus, Echinacea, Panax Ginseng and Withania along with the mushroom medicines Reishi, Coriolus and Cordyceps. More on the vital subject of immunity here

Echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea)


Pain & Fear

One of the biggest, 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 anxiety has come into your life with this most challenging of conditions, then there is a certain approach that is sure to help, this is all written up in detail here


Constitutional health note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a 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