Healing Modalities and Multiple Myeloma

When looking at my health, I realised that it had taken a lot of wrong living to break down my body. From the food I was putting in my body, to my thought patterns, past experiences, and abuses that I put my body through.

Herbalist

We started with an herbalist as this is a field of health that we are extremely comfortable with. She did a virtual consultation with me and once she knew the detail, she started me on Essiac Tea, Sutherlandia and various other nutritive and bone building herbs such as Stinging Nettle and Comfrey. She also helped me with a more natural pain relief (White Willow Bark tincture). This herb has the active ingredient of aspirin in it, but because it is accompanied by the full bark, it has other chemicals that prevent the ulcers that are one of the side effects of Aspirin.

She also pointed out that I had to look at my nutrition in depth and begin to feed myself with good quality natural food. I was encouraged to cut out as much sugar as possible and reduce my intake of carbohydrates which are also converted into sugar.

Nutritionist:

This started me on my journey to find a good nutritionist as I am a notoriously bad eater, either bingeing or starving; getting bored with food, and needing to learn to view my food as life-giving and life-sustaining.

We contacted a well-known nutritionist in Cape Town who did a virtual consultation with me. I needed to send her all the detail of my medical history as well as certain blood tests which would show her where I needed the most help.

She started me on a course of various supplements which have been my staple since this time. These included Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Vitamin C powder, Omega 3, Selenium. Biocurcumin was also one of my first supplements, which I have continued to take. She also put me on something called A1 Cancer granules. This gave my body the boost it needed, but it was expensive and therefore not sustainable. She advised me at this time to go onto CBD oil, but I was wary as I did not know enough about it. This led to a 2-year delay before I started taking it. I have since learned more about which supplements were lacking in my body and have added K2, a multivitamin, Zinc and Vitamin E.

Homeopath:

I had gone to a Haematologist after my back surgery, as Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer. Unfortunately, he would only treat me if I agreed to bone marrow tests, chemotherapy and maybe bone marrow transplants. At this time, I wanted to give my poor body a break and was hoping that he would help me work through my various options. Unfortunately, he was adamant that my only options involved his suggestions, so I moved away from him.

I needed to have regular blood tests to keep a check on my calcium and iron levels, as well as my liver and kidneys which would take strain from trying to keep my blood clean and in balance. Two GP’s refused to do this and insisted that I go back to the haematologist and follow his plan for me. The frustration levels that I was feeling at this time took my fear and anxiety through the roof.

I remembered a customer telling me about how he went to a homeopath who kept an eye on his bloods and anything else he needed.

I found a wonderful homeopath (Work with one who you connect well with) who was prepared to do just that. At the same time, he remined me that I am more than this illness and that everything needs to be looked after. Here is a definition of Homeopathy that really resonates for me. “Homeopathy is a medical discipline using highly diluted, natural substances which stimulate the mind and body’s own powers of self-regulation, self-repair and self-healing. Homeopaths regard physical, emotional, spiritual and interpersonal health as equally important.”

Reflexologist:

I met my reflexologist when she came to learn the basics of Reiki to add to her practise. She has been one of my angels who has given so freely of her time once a week. Each week brought up different issues, but the main benefit from this wonderful modality was the sense of peace and calmness that I felt after the session. Being told that one has a serious illness is stressful enough, but somehow the doctors believe that they need to stress out the patient even more with tales of a life span that may last 5 years, if I do the treatment. These odds are awful, and it took my power away and placed it in the centre of fear. My mind went crazy with various awful scenarios of my life from this time forward.

Now I know that some reading this will be thinking, “Well, you could die from a heart attack tomorrow, or be in a fatal accident. Life is fragile.” Yes, this is true, but it does not mean that one stops living and hands one’s life over to someone else to make these life or death decisions. I think that decision lies with the Divine.

Physiotherapy:

From the time of my first break, I went for physiotherapy to help ease the pain. It was immensely helpful, but unfortunately, my bones were too soft to sustain this therapy as my muscles were twisting for a very good reason…To keep my vertebra from compressing.

I would recommend physio, though as a short-term treatment only.

SCIO (Scientific Consciousness Interface Operations System)

This therapy was suggested by my reflexologist. I only did one session due to financial constraints. It was helpful in that it pointed me in the direction of some of the imbalances or stresses in my body that I was not aware of.

It was an interesting experience which I would like to repeat one day.

BEST Machine: (Bio-Energetic Synchronization Technique)

This is an energy balancing, hands-on procedure used to help re-establish the full healing potential of the body. My friend gave me a few sessions as a gift. I found it interesting and it definitely seemed to help keep me emotionally and mentally balanced.

Counselling:

Counselling has been a particularly important part of my mental health during this time. Working on my fears, anxieties, and deep-seated traumas that needed to be released. (To be honest, this is a long, continual process). I am grateful to the women who have walked this journey with me and given me the time to heal at my own pace.

 

Meditation and Prayer:

Prayer and meditation have always been an integral part of my human journey. But once I was diagnosed and was living with levels of pain that felt that they overwhelmed me, meditation became difficult and a chore.

As a Reiki practitioner, I was not able to do self-Reiki because of the pain. It was just a hot mess all-round.

I am now under pain management which has helped a lot and I am able to spend time back in active prayer and meditation. This in turn has helped me keep calmer during the day. I also meet virtually with a friend and we do spiritual reading and contemplative prayer together. This has indeed helped make a big difference daily.

Oncologist:

The year of 2020 proved to be an incredibly challenging one and 3 more vertebra broke. T4 and T12 in January, and C5 in August. I saw another haematologist who had the same news for me: Chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant.

There were a few reasons still that I was resisting these therapies. Firstly, Chemotherapy breaks bone down even more. This makes no sense to me at all. Why would I knowingly allow me bones to become softer? When my C5 broke, I asked him if he could please give me a bone strengthener, rather than the chemotherapy. He was not happy with this. Thank goodness for my medical aid who said I needed to go to a certain group of oncologists, and they would then pay for my consultations, x-rays, MRI’s etc.

My sister-in-law had been to an oncologist who was more willing to work with the patient, rather than try and rule every facet of the patient’s treatment. Please do not misunderstand me; he also had to tell me that I had an incurable disease which needed chemotherapy. But when I insisted that I wanted to carry on with my healing protocol but add the bone strengthener, he eventually agreed, if I was aware of the risks. (I was, especially after living with these breaks and this pain for 3 years.)

Another thing that he did was send me for a full body MRI to search for all the lesions in my skeletal system. What he found was that I had a growth at the L3 area (The site of my first break which had had a tumour which had collapsed my L3 vertebra entirely and needed to be removed). This tumour was growing into my spinal column and would eventually paralyze me if left unattended. I needed to have a biopsy to find out if it was a metastasised tumour. Thank goodness the results showed that it was a tumour caused by the myeloma and was more likely a re-growth from the original tumour.

Radiotherapy:

Radiation was needed to reduce the growth and move it away from my spinal column. The oncologist explained the dangers of leaving it and I was more than happy to go through this therapy because it was a re-growth. In other words, all my tumour reducing supplements (Bio-curcumin, Essiac tea, various herbs) had not been able to do the job.

The oncologist said that because my body was so sensitive, he would be giving me the lowest dose of radiation which would not do any permanent damage to my organs. My body turned out to be even more sensitive than expected and I struggled with nausea, tiredness, and loss of appetite. I had 20 sessions over 4 weeks and it took about another 2 weeks to recover. We will see in about 3 months if it was successful. My body needs a break from all the x-rays, MRI, and radiation.

CBD and THC:

It took me a long time to embrace this therapy because I have an addictive nature and I was worried that I would be adding to my challenges by risking becoming side-tracked by an added addiction. But now I am so grateful that I was introduced to a person who has become a friend. He has worked in this field for over twenty years and approaches it with great knowledge mixed with compassion and love. I have what is called honey oil. This is a thick syrupy extract which contains 15mg active ingredients in the size of a grain of rice. His product is grown by himself and the oil is extracted by himself. It is 100% organic. I take 30mg a day-half in the morning and the other half at night. This has helped me with reduced pain levels, a calmer attitude, and I sleep well most nights. All these things help my body to heal. A bonus is that it may help strengthen bones as well. This is a very simplified explanation of the healing properties of this oil. An added bonus is that the oncologist agrees that it is a good treatment to add to my healing protocol.

Conclusion:

The past 4 years have been a journey, and I know that it is a journey I will be on for the rest of my life. My real takeaways of this part of my life are self-compassion and conscious, in-the-moment living. This in turn has led me to have greater compassion for the other as we are all on a journey (some more challenging than others).

Choosing this path in healing is not easy. It is time consuming and expensive and medical aid does not pay for the alternative methods of healing. I am so blessed to have family and friends who make a big commitment every month to ensure that I have the healthiest kinds of food and all the supplements needed for good health. Living with a debilitating disease means that there are some weeks, even months when I have not been able to work and have relied on the goodness of others entirely.

No one is an island, we all need our tribe, no matter what that looks like. Thank you for reading this part of my story.

 

Supplements and Multiple Myeloma

Vitamin and mineral supplements have been an important part of my Multiple Myeloma (MM) journey to health. Even though nutrition is the ultimate way to pack the vitamins and minerals in, it is not always possible to obtain the high nutrient-dense fresh food needed to do this.

As you can imagine, supplementing my food with quality supplements is an expensive exercise which I would not have been able to maintain without the financial help of members of my family and friends. Words can never express the depth of my gratitude towards them. Faithfully, month after month, they deliver these health supplements.

Multivitamins are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, probiotics, essential fatty acids and immune boosters. They support energy levels, promote a strong immune system, and encourage a healthy metabolism.

But, with a chronic, life-threatening disease, stronger doses of some of these supplements become necessary.

One of the concerns with MM is that it leaches calcium out of the bones. This makes the bones weaker, and the high quantity of calcium in the blood puts a strain on the kidneys making them susceptible to kidney failure. For this reason, eating foods and supplementing with the following minerals and vitamins (Magnesium, Vitamins D3 and K2) is immensely helpful for absorbing calcium from the blood back into bones. (I will give more detail of how this has worked for me in a follow-up blog when I speak of the modalities that I have used to help).

Magnesium contributes to increased bone density.

D3 is necessary for strong bones and muscles. It helps absorb calcium and phosphorous from the food we eat.

K2 promotes healthy bone mineral density by carboxylation of osteocalcin, a protein that binds calcium to bones.

Zinc helps your immune system and metabolism function.

Biocurcumin is a potent antioxidant and DNA protector. It is naturally found in turmeric and is a potent cancer inhibiter. It is sold in the form of capsules.

Lycopene is an antioxidant but with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It is found naturally in the pigment of red and pink fruits like tomatoes. It is also sold in capsule form. I have been taking Lycopene since it was recommended by my sister in laws oncologist after she made it clear she wanted to follow the natural route. (I have since moved to her oncologist. (More about this in our next blog)

Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory oil and is most effective when used together with vitamin E. Find the highest quality possible from a health shop. We have found the Wild Alaska fish oil capsules to be the highest quality (ask your pharmacist or health shop assistant for help)

Vitamin E (see Omega 3)

Vitamin C powder an antioxidant and functions in protecting the immune system.

Even though all these supplements are taken daily, I have monthly blood tests which show if my immune system or kidneys are struggling. If a problem appears, these supplements will be adjusted accordingly.

 

 

Herbs and Multiple Myeloma

Herbs have been an important part of my journey from the beginning of my diagnosis. Herbs are the whole plant, (Using the whole herb means that each component of the whole herb works in synergy with all the others and makes the herb more effective than if only single components were extracted from the herb.) These are herbs that I have used from the beginning. They have helped keep my immune system strong.

Essiac Tea is made up of 4 herbs: Burdock root, Slippery elm, Sheep sorrel and Indian rhubarb root. It is used to improve the status of the immune system.

These four herbs help normalize various body systems by cleansing the blood, purging toxic build up, promoting cell repair and aiding in effective general assimilation and elimination.

Astragalus is an adaptogen and immune stimulant. Adaptogens coordinate and regulate a broad spectrum of biochemical processes. They are innocuous, nonspecific in activity and are a normalizer of functions. I have been taking this in tincture form from the beginning.

Sutherlandia taken as a tincture helps stimulate immune cells to attack cancer cells. This is an adaptogen herb which improves the general metabolism. Amongst other valuable health benefits, it promotes relaxation and better-quality sleep. It also helps with the wasting that is a common occurrence in cancer patients

Ginkgo biloba helps to thin the blood. Multiple Myeloma makes the blood sticky, and this causes problems with clotting. Ginkgo also helps my brain function better as it helps improve blood flow.  

Burdock root tincture – for liver support. But while taking the Essiac tea, it is not necessary to add this tincture.

Dandelion tincture – This has been made from the fresh whole herb. It is full of nutrition and may help reduce inflammation. Multiple Myeloma causes inflammation throughout the body, but it is detected in a blood test in the liver. The dandelion therefore gives the liver support. The liver comes under a lot of stress during this time, so eliminating toxins is important.

Moringa contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It is also an antioxidant which helps protect cells from damage. I add the powder to my smoothies, or just put a teaspoon of the powdered herb on my tongue and drink it down with water.

Another important herb was added this year when more bones broke, it strengthens bones, reduces pain and  my anxiety levels which have skyrocketed over the past year. (If you would like to know more about this herb, please message me directly.)

In conclusion, we have found that adding fresh herbs to my food, daily, has also helped strengthen my immune system. These include garlic, ginger, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and chillies.

Nutrition and Multiple Myeloma

Once diagnosed, the first thing we looked at was my nutrition. I did a remote consultation with Nutrition Therapist, Sally-Ann Creed. This was an excellent starting point as she helped me identify where my nutrition was lacking. She also gave a suggested eating plan which is Keto-based. This was to cut out all carbohydrates that convert to sugar. The idea was to try and starve the cancer cells. (Unfortunately, my Myeloma tumour did not respond adequately to the tumour reducing nutrition. However, no other tumours have formed, and I believe that is because of the good nutritional protocol).

I have been following the following protocol with positive results. The protocol is composed of fresh vegetable juices (to try to detox as well as get the body to an alkaline condition), diet (the Keto diet proved to be most effective) and taking herbal supplements.

 My brother bought a book through Amazon called Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Dr Patrick Quillin, PhD, RD, CNS. I found it extremely helpful as well as inspirational. There is an extraordinarily strong and growing movement to fight cancer by natural means.

 

So, let us start with the juices. My mother and brother have been my juice angels. They have bought, juiced, and bottled my juices for the past 3 years, and they continue to do this for me. Juicing should start as soon as possible to eliminate toxins from your body. Wherever possible, they tried to buy organically grown vegetables as there is the least likelihood of toxic chemicals being present. The veg are then soaked in filtered water (we fitted water filters directly to our kitchen taps) with vinegar added (1 tablespoon of vinegar per 2 litres of water) for 20 minutes before juicing. This is to neutralise any surface toxins present on the vegetables. They bought a juicing machine, and the first juices were made with carrots, beetroot, green apple, celery, turmeric, and ginger. This was done during the detoxing stage and I started with a glass a day working up to 3 glasses a day for about 3 weeks. The combination was then changed to a more alkaline mix (kohlrabi or red cabbage, celery, green peppers, and cucumber – approximately equal proportions (3 glasses per day).

 

Now, the diet. Patrick Quillin says “Nutrients can improve cancer treatment by protecting the patient from the damaging effects of chemotherapy and radiation while allowing these therapies to kill the tumour. Also, nutrition makes chemo and radiation therapy more of a selective toxin against the cancer and not a general toxin against the patient”. As mentioned earlier, the Keto diet has been followed, not strictly but as close as possible. I have needed to change my diet slightly as time has gone by. I find that some foods make me feel sick, while others my body craves for. So, I have added certain grains (Quinoa) and beans (chickpeas) and slowed down on my animal protein. I also find now that raw vegetables are far more nurturing than cooked. My suggestion here is, go with what feels right. (Please note I am referring to healthy foods only)

 

At the same time, certain nutritional changes must be made. Firstly, you must cut out sugar. Sugar feeds cancer cells as well as slowing down the immune system. You need to starve the cancer cells. You need to cut out all starches (wheat, potato, cereals, pasta, white rice) It is fine to eat sweet potato as it has a low glycaemic index. You also need to cut out dairy products, although plain full cream yoghurt and unsalted butter are okay. Reduce your fruit intake, even though the sugars in fruit are better for you, they still feed the cancer. You can eat plenty of berries. All meats (grass-fed and hormone-free), leafy veg (dark green leafy veg are better), cruciferous veg (like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, Brussel sprouts) pumpkin, and sweet potato are good. I also eat nuts (I have found that raw is better).

 

Healthy eating must be a way of life. Your body will thank you.

Multiple Myeloma…My Journey Through Holistic Practices

It has been far too long since I last wrote a blog for Essential Herbal Products. 5 months to be exact. When I noticed this, I realized how my health has kept me wrapped up in a world of learning to live within the new boundaries imposed by my body. Let me explain…

I was transported by ambulance to Addington Hospital at 6.00am on the 12 April 2017. I had a compression fracture to my L3 vertebra. I was given a brace and after 12 long days in hospital I was discharged with the understanding that I would go to the Spine Clinic at King Dinizulu Hospital for further tests.

I went to the appointment on 10 May 2017 and the doctor who saw me never examined me properly. In fact I never even got out of the wheel chair nor did he get out of his chair. He asked me if I could feel anything in my legs and when I said yes. He said “You need a MRI go back to Addington.”

We went back to Addington that same day and they said they could give me an appointment for February 2019. When we said that was too long they said they could give me one for June 2018. That was still too long.

After this delay of over a month, I went to my GP. She referred me to get a bone density scan. She also tried to get me onto medication for Osteoporosis, as this was what was now presumed was my medical issue. (Osteopenia). Medical Aid refused this treatment and so I took up a regimen of vitamins and exercise. I was also attending weekly physiotherapy to deal with the pain. Although this helped me with pain control, I did not get any better. As a matter of fact, I only got worse. By year end I could only stand for 4 hours before my legs refused to move properly.

Eventually, in January 2018, I had another x-ray via my private doctor. My L3 vertebra had now totally collapsed and was compromising my spinal cord. I was referred to an Orthopedic surgeon who said that it looked like I had fallen from a ten story building. He referred me for an MRI. This revealed that not only had my L3 totally collapsed, but that there was a tumour (possible malignancy) on my spine. I was also told to get blood tests done which pointed out a monoclonal gammopathy (Possible myeloma). The surgeon emphasized that if the operation had not been done, I would have been permanently in a wheelchair. The operation is called an L3 corpectomy and anterior spinal fusion.

The operation was eventually performed on 7th March and it was confirmed that I do indeed have myeloma. For those wondering what this is, myeloma is form of blood cancer that develops in the bone marrow. Normal plasma cells transform into malignant myeloma cells and produce large quantities of an abnormal immunoglobulin called monoclonal protein or M protein.

So Sue…you believe in natural therapies…what did you do?

 When I received this news, Christine (The one half of Essential Herbal Products) and I got together to work out a healing protocol. Something that would work together with the necessary surgery and any other therapies I may need. This regimen may change after I’ve seen the oncologist which is happening on 8th May 2018. Nothing can be set in stone (As Chris says).

We have learned enough to know that any healing protocol has to be inclusive of all areas of our lives:

  1. The first and most obvious one that we looked at was my food. What was I eating and drinking? What needed to be added and what needed to be removed? After much reading, discussion with our herbalist and knowledge we had received from an Integrative Therapist, we chose what would be most relevant for me and for dealing specifically with a cancer of the blood. Adding vegetable juices was an important part of the food protocol. I am so grateful to my mother who makes up 7 large bottles of juice (It includes carrot, beetroot, turmeric, garlic, ginger and a variety of other vegetables.) These are then frozen and I drink 1 a day. (If you are interested in this we are happy to share with you.
  2. The second area we looked at was vitamins and minerals. I must admit that I have been terrible at taking supplements. I always felt confused by the conflicting information and so basically stayed away. When my back first broke, the doctor put me on Calcium, magnesium, Omega 3 and zinc. So that was already in place. When I received the myeloma diagnosis, we learned that I must stay off calcium as the disease was already breaking down my bone and putting too much calcium in body. Now I am on a protocol of high vitamin C, a variety of minerals, multivitamins and extra vitamin B. (If you are interested in more of this, we are happy to share).
  3. Herbs, of course, are an important part of my everyday protocol. Our herbalist gave us a lot of information regarding Essiac Tea. She then made some up for us and I have this twice a day. Essiac is an excellent detox, moving the toxins out of my blood while supporting the liver and kidneys. If you are not familiar with this herbal blend, here is a link with a lot of important information. (http://essiacfacts.com/). The other herb that I take daily is Astragalus It is one of the most powerful immune-building plants on the planet. It is an adaptogen herb which helps beat stress while fighting disease at the same time. In addition to pumping up my immune system, studies show it’s vital for cardiovascular health and can even fight off tumors and alleviate symptoms of chemotherapy. We also decided that I needed to do a parasite cleanse.
  4. Essential oils also play an important role. I use lavender to help me have a restful sleep. Since my diagnosis, sleep has been elusive. Waking up at all hours of the night wondering how things are going to pan out, worrying about worrying. Lavender is the aroma therapeutic distress that I need. The other oil is Frankincense which I have added to Grapeseed oil and this is massaged into my hands and behind my ears. (I haven’t been able to reach the soles of my feet to massage there, hence my hands and pulse points.

What about a holistic approach…surely you don’t leave it up to nutrition only?

No healing protocol is complete without spiritual, emotional, mental and physical practices.

These may change as time goes on, but for now these things are helping to keep me grounded and in the now.

Spiritual protocol: This includes spiritual reading (A spiritual author). At the moment it is Richard Rohr, but it could be Rumi, Kahlil Gibran or Joanna Macy (To name a few).

Writing down my dreams and doing dream work. This helps me to get in touch with that part of me that is intuitive. For example, the one dream showed me how angry I am with myself. This anger is destructive and needs to be heard. What is making me angry?

Speaking with a Spiritual Director who calls me out on my nonsense (What I like to call my Drama Queen).

Guided meditations, centring prayer and inspirational podcasts are all part of this protocol too.

Emotional protocol: This includes journaling on my daily feelings, thoughts, emotions, and so on.

I also do a daily zendala or mandala. This helps me get out of my head and into my heart. I have found this a very gentle emotional healing tool.

Mental protocol: I have taken this time to study up on myeloma as well as various people’s experience of healing the natural way. I realise that my fear of the unknown loses its power when I study up as much as I can of the issue that is causing the fear in the first place.

I am also getting back into work-doing the social media for the business as well as doing the online orders and answering questions on social media. This all brings a sense of normality back to my world and keeps me from worrying obsessively.

Physical protocol: Exercise is extremely important. I am so grateful for the daily walking |I did before the op. Even though it was painful, my muscles remained strong and helped me post-op.

A friend has been coming on a weekly basis to give me reflexology. This has been helping and healing me on all levels.

These are becoming a daily routine. They help me to remain calm, grounded and ready to love my body back to health.

Prayer flags from dear friends.

Family, friends, prayer and support: This is one of the most important parts of my healing protocol. The way that my friends and family have surrounded me with love has been overwhelmingly special. Visiting, praying, bringing food, messaging, buying me groceries, supplying my weekly juices, supplying me with the vitamins and minerals needed, coming to read with me, being prepared to face the scary C word with me head on, talking until it lost it power. I have seen my tribe and it is beautiful and big. I am forever grateful and know that there is no way to repay them, except by paying this forward when I am well enough to do that.

All being well, I look forward to being back at Shongweni Farmers Market on Saturday 5th May 2018.

Lots of love, light and laughter

Sue