Complementary therapies helped me through chemo
Emma Cannon, 49, is married with two daughters and practises as an integrated fertility specialist in London. In 2005, Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer and used a combination of complementary therapies to support her through treatment at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. A long-standing lump in my left breast was eventually diagnosed as breast cancer. It had spread into seven lymph nodes. My consultant prescribed surgery [lumpectomy], chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I felt that, while conventional medical treatment would address the cancer, I would also need complementary therapies to keep me strong and help me tolerate the invasive regime. I use the same approach with my fertility work – it’s about using both together for the best result.
I was more afraid of the chemotherapy than the cancer, and knew I had to change my mindset. Internal conflict can cause tension in the body and I believe that can limit our capacity to heal. So, rather than treating the experience as a battle, I tried to see cancer as my teacher and learn from it.
My complementary therapist practises hypnotherapy and emotional freedom technique (EFT ). I told her I needed to believe that chemo was the silver elixir of life, and would do nothing but good for me.
She asked me to imagine going into the chemo ward for the first time. I saw it as a terrible, toxic, dirty place. Using hypnotherapy and EFT, we changed it into the Starship Enterprise – a place that was shining clean, where life-giving liquid would be injected into me.
That visualisation totally changed my mindset. It was hard believing that I was strong enough to take the toxic medicine and then build myself up again, but the moment I decided to see it positively, the whole experience became healing. I had hypnotherapy before each of the ten sessions, plus acupuncture before and after. I also visualised my blood counts recovering between each session. My chemo was never held up and I was able to work and carry on much as normal. The doctors were surprised at how well I coped.
But my hair fell out. On one of my lowest days, some friends came round, put on my wig and made me look pretty. We went for a walk down the King’s Road in Chelsea and I felt I had my mojo back. Then something amazing happened. A man pulled up in his car and asked me out to dinner. I said: ‘You have no idea what this means to me. I will remember you for the rest of my life – but I can’t have dinner with you.’
Not everyone will survive cancer, just as not everyone will be able to have a baby. At times, I would look at my children and think: ‘Will I live?’ I found that, sometimes, we discover our deepest resources during the most difficult times – and that can be transformational.
• Emma’s book Fertile is published by Vermilion, price £20*
With horror stories abounding about an increase in children’s tooth decay, GP Dr. Dawn Harper says the simplest way that parents can make a difference is to brush with their children twice a day for two minutes, and make sure they floss once daily. (Dentists now agree that flossing mistakenly got a bad rap last year.) To emphasise the importance of teaching children well, Dr Harper has joined forces with DenTek, which makes a range of dental products for children, including Kids Fun Flossers/£4 at boots.com), which come in a wild-fruit flavour.
App of the week Louise Parker: Lean for Life
As well as free recipes and exercises, a key feature of this app is the food diary, which is the best way to be aware of everything you eat. Cleverly, this diary is all in pictures, so, instead of writing down every item of food and drink you consume, just snap it on your phone. Each day, you can see at a glance ‘whether the sugary snacks have piled up or meals look too “beige”,’ says Louise (www.louiseparker.uk.com). The Lean For Life app is free to download on iOS from the iTunes App Store, with the option of paying £3.99 to unlock more recipes and exercises.