Not for a moment do I recommend that you disregard conventional medicine; this section just explains how I have found complementary medicine inspirational, comforting and healing. It’s not possible to say if it works or not: the fact that I look terrific (according to my friends!) and feel energised and positive is enough for me.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I had one of those long, dark nights of the soul (click here to read more) but emerged out of it determined not to let Ross and our son, Tommy, suffer any more devastating losses within the nuclear family. Wandering back from radiotherapy soon after it began I passed the Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic round the corner from us and, on a whim, popped in and made an appointment.
You can read about my early forays into TCM with Dr Deng here .
So why TCM? Well, like Ayurveda, it has been round for over 5000 years and, as an anthropologist, I place great faith in ancient beliefs and cultures. The core TCM tenet centres round the balance of the qi: once it stagnates or the Yin and Yang are out of kilter, health problems will arise. The kidney is the most important of all internal organs:
Western physiology and anatomy limits its description of the kidney to the actual organ itself, TCM assigns such profound, broad significance that it is obvious that the Chinese concept of `kidney’, as the home of the `ancestral qi’ (inherent constitution) and the root of yin and yang for the entire body refers to a much vaster terrain. Dr Michael Tierra
Thus the health of the kidney is critical to restore the correct ph balance (7.4) in the body and to discourage the growth of cancer cells. When the blood is alkalized, it is able to contain more oxygen, absorbing up to 100 times more than a body with a high acid content. Eating right is therefore critical. Further, in relation to cancer, TCM pinpoints possible causes of blood stagnation, which seem pertinent in my case:
Traditional Chinese medicine holds that cancerous tumors are the result of blood stasis or phlegm accumulation or both. Qi activates and governs blood circulation. Deficiency of qi may cause blood stasis. Stagnation of qi, which is usually due to an emotional upset or affection by exopathogens, is another common factor that impedes the normal flow of blood and results in blood stasis and eventually tumor formation. A Practical English-Chinese Library of Traditional Chinese Medicine by Prof. Dr. Enqin Zhang
Thus acupuncture is an important tool to stimulate the kidneys; as Prof Ang says ‘Its like a telephone exchange; sending signals to the brain via the needles to tell it to wake up and do some work!’ My body, due to its cold properties of Yin, very faint pulse and low blood pressure is almost comatose! Cupping can also be instrumental in trying to stimulate the stagnating blood. Four weeks of that was enough for me though! Job done…
Professor Ang practises a more modern form of TCM; he is the leading light in E-acupuncture, developed originally in China, and which is based on the ECIWO system (the Embryo Containing the Information of the Whole Organism). As Prof Ang put it in a lecture to the UN:
The information of the entire organism is contained in embryo cells. By stimulating precise acupuncture points, it is possible to activate the growth factors, which ensure a proper cell differentiation and full development cycle. This makes it theoretically possible to repair damaged tissues and bones, re-establish normal biological cell processes including in tumours, regulate proper hormonal secretions, trigger body growth and balance body functions.
His diagnosis is made by putting a probe on the ear, which is a microcosm of the whole body, while you hold a metal rod. The probe takes readings, which are then translated into numerical values for the different parts of your body and the acupuncture is applied accordingly. Read more about auriculotherapy here . He then cross checks his findings against some simple questions to determine your Yin/Yang.
|Indicators||Cold (Yin)||Hot (Yang)|
|Aversion||To cold||To heat|
|Desire||To be warm||To be cold|
|Thirst||Not thirsty||Always thirsty|
|Urine||Clear, long passing||Scanty and deep coloured|
|Tongue||Pale, white coating||Reddened with yellow coating|
|Pulse||Deep, slow||Rapid, superficial|
This is only a guideline and I would not recommend you self-diagnose. Much better to find a recommended TCM practitioner and have a once-over before having some acupuncture.
Ayurveda has a similar system of maintaining the balance of the three doshas (Pitta – fire, Vata – water, and Kapha – air) as being central to good health and assigning properties them. Once you know what your dominant dosha is you can seek to balance it via your diet. Being a Hindu system it is of course vegetarian, though not vegan. This system would suit strict vegetarians and the food is delicious – but only if you are a cool person who needs heat: Pitta people can’t eat chilli, ginger or anything that would make them hot so Indian food then becomes rather bland. You can read more about Ayurveda here . It is a very similar system to TCM, as you would expect to find in two ancient belief systems, both over 5000 years old
I have regular appointments with Prof Ang when I am in Singapore and cannot recommend acupuncture highly enough. It really helped with my horrible radiotherapy burn, and I have grown lovely new skin, which is impossible to tell apart from the old skin surrounding it. I also think that the whole ritual surrounding acupuncture, including the application of the moxa (Artemisia) heat stick to the needles while you are resting, is an intrinsic part of the healing process. I feel great after acupuncture!
Some easy ways to boost your immune system
Obviously boosting my immunity is critically important over the next five years. As well as all my healthy diet, exercise (new research shows that walking for half an hour a day can aid recovery for some sorts of cancer by up to 40% ) and regular taking of the magic lingzhi tablets – ganoderma lucidium mushroom spore as prescribed by Prof Ang to boost immunity – there are some common-sense and simple things that you can do to help yourself.
- Avoid sugar! Too much sugar can suppress the immune system. I only eat fresh fruit sugars and at breakfast time.
- Avoid stress – easy to say, I know! Yoga and meditation can be very calming, or just taking some deep breaths!
- Eat lots of mushrooms, especially shitake, enoki, oyster. Good for boosting immunity and full of antioxidants.
- Eat lots of avocados! Full of essential amino acids, antioxidants and healthy fats. It’s a super food!
- Eats lots of cruciferous vegetables – kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, chard etc. All boost liver function and help to flush out toxins
- Eat lots of ginger and turmeric. They both help break down the accumulation of toxins in the lungs and sinuses in particular. Also helps cleanse the lymphatic system.
- Take spirulina (if you can bear it!). Its super-food credentials include stimulating the immune function, anti-cancerous, contains iron and selenium…but it is pretty disgusting!
- Garlic with everything. It’s antibacterial, antiviral, an immune booster and rich in antioxidants.
- Vitamin C is a great immunity booster – it’s in all fruit and vegetables
- Concentrate on brightly coloured foods as they contain the most antioxidants – citrus, berries, kiwis, grapes, apples and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, asparagus, (depending on your Yin/Yang of course!).
- Exercise – even if only walking – see above! Stimulates the lymphatic system and increases oxygenation of the blood.
- Sleep. Try and get 7-9 hours a night to fight off infections and replenish your energy.
- Find a healthy weight without dieting like crazy. Being overweight puts a lot of unnecessary strain on the body, but if you follow my recipes you will be eating a balanced diet which is also nutritious and cuts out all processed and junk food which adds the pounds.
- Surround yourself with good friends and loved ones. This is known to support your physical and mental well-being. Life is too short to hang out with people you don’t like!