Journeying with patients through cancer is one of the most challenging but also one of the most rewarding parts of my practice. Challenging, because it confronts both myself and my patients with all of the issues and taboos that most people spend their lives trying to avoid – death, disfigurement, loss, social isolation. Rewarding, because it invites us both to embrace our shadows, to journey into our personal underworld, and return to our lives, more fully alive, whole, more conscious of our place in the world. The following is one of the journeys I have been privileged to share in my practice.
L. is a 34 year old woman with cervical cancer, whose cervix had been eaten away by the malignancy. She presents with shooting, stabbing, tearing pains in her uterus. She has also suffered since her teens from incredibly painful menstrual periods, being bedridden with pain for up to 10-15 days per month, and from genital herpes. Vaginal warts were burned off when she was 16. She is prone to “splitting headaches” and to dry, scaly, itchy skin. She has had many vaccinations, to which she has reacted badly.
She was very thin and nervous, shaking and pacing about like a caged animal. Her history is extremely fraught: at home, she had to protect her mother and sisters from her father, a drunk who would go out of control and become physically and sexually violent. She took on a care-taker role for everyone, even those who raped and beat her, such as her drunken boyfriend.
Her boyfriend was later murdered. She was publically accused of his murder and described herself as having being “treated like an animal, torn to pieces” by the police and the tabloids. She, meanwhile lived in terror, knowing that the true murderer was still at large.
Her eight year old son was taken from her and put into care. She dreamt of rape, knives, violence, and of being a Jew in a concentration camp. “I always imagine the worst thing happening.” The destruction at every level, all through her ancestry as well as in her current complaints and the many deaths around her, led to an initial prescription of Syphilinum 10M.
Within two weeks she was able to spend time on her own without breaking down. She stopped feeling so “outside herself”, a feeling which is typical for situations needing a deep remedy such as Syphilinum. “I’m usually desperate to be nice so that people won’t hurt me, not now.”
I have found that patients with cancer are usually “nice”, sensitive people who suppress their rage, their own individuality. It is often only after allowing their deepest feelings to surface, expressing their rage and pain that healing and release from the past is possible. (Any talk of “forgiveness” before that happens is usually a further suppression of these feelings).
L. spent 3 months on Syphilinum, ascending in LM potencies from LM1 to LM3, at which point she reported: “Now, I know there is a future; before that, all I could imagine was a horrible, painful death.”
When working with a patient through cancer, I will book in frequent follow-up appointments, up to twice a week, as needed. At every session, I ask “what do you need now?” The journey is rarely a straightforward one, old or new issues arise and these need to be addressed as they come up; changing remedies, potencies and therapeutic interventions as appropriate, to be truly homeopathic to the case.
For these 3 months, I saw Lyn weekly and she spoke at length of the pain she had suffered. At the end of this time, L. was “seething with indignation” at what had taken place in her life. Her next remedy, Staphysagria 10M, followed by 50M, then CM, took her further into her journey.
During her treatment, she was also prone to regular bouts of influenza-type symptoms. Nux Vomica 6X and Sulphur 6X, in alternating doses, were given for these. She experienced the bouts as “cleansings” of all the alcohol and “junk” food she had used to numb her feelings; the remedies functioned as a detox.
She gradually began to experience her grief in a really intense way, breaking down into tears and sobbing hysterically, out of control. At this point, Ignatia 10M was prescribed. It helped her dramatically but only lasted a few hours. It was re-prescribed as a liquid dose, succussed and then taken as required (as frequently as 5 times daily at the start, settling at single doses weekly).
Two months on Ignatia 10M brought her to a place of power, where she felt strong enough to ask for help. She started building a support network for herself; got in touch with good friends she had left behind and got rid of others she considered “toxic”. She became much more involved with the homeopathic consultations; became more assertive, telling me what she needed, and when she needed to see me.
A cancer cell has lost its sense of “self”, its true purpose in the body. Likewise most patients with cancer have lost their sense of themselves; their lives unlived, lost in caring for others or from being oppressed/suppressed by their life challenges. Becoming more assertive, attending to their own needs is a crucial step forward in the healing journey.
Six months into the treatment, Lyn’s painful menstrual periods had improved but still troubled her. Ascending potencies of Folliculinum from LM1 – LM4 brought these into balance, “for the first time in my life”. During this time, she explored finding a direction for her life; talked about “having a purpose” and “finding herself”.
L. was seen by her gynaecologist after 9 months of treatment. To his amazement, her cervix appeared healthy, no sign of malignancy.
I saw her a number of times over the next 3 years. She enrolled in a college course, started a new relationship (her first “healthy” relationship), found a satisfying job, and “reclaimed” herself. She used Tabernanthe iboga from LM1 up to LM6 in this time; received an intercurrent dose of Syphilinum 50M, when she “lost her bearings” after some deep family abuse memories surfaced; had ascending potencies of intercurrent Carcinosin (200, 1M, 10M) over 6 months, when guilt and self-recrimination about her child clouded her recovery. (I have found Carcinosin, in one of its many forms, to be almost always needed at some stage in the cancer journey). During this time, L. became physically symptom-free, found peace in herself, and talked a lot about “death and rebirth”, “renewal”, “true life purpose”, “connection with family and ancestors” (all keynotes of this new remedy, that I was proving at the time).
As a homeopath, I have long noticed that in the energy field of my practice and of my life, I continually attract patients who stretch my ideas of what is possible; who teach me to move beyond myself. I am taught to be mindful of my own thoughts, belief systems, words and energy, and have learnt over the years that all of these affect my patients as surely as my remedies.
L.’s journey, so far from my own life, challenged my credulity, shocked me with its violence, pushed my prescribing into new areas, and showed me that to be homeopathic to her case, I had to be willing to prescribe any remedy at any time, in any order, and in any potency. She inspired me enormously with her courage, creativity, and willingness to transcend her horrendous history, and bring healing into her life, continually reminding me of Ben Gurion’s dictum: “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles, is not a realist.”
Keywords: cervical cancer, violence, physical and sexual abuse, concentration camp, nice, menstrual pains
Remedies: Carcinosinum, Folliculinum, Ignatia, Nux vomica, Staphysagria, Sulphur, Syphilinum, Tabernanthe iboga