We moved back to live in Sydney at the start of 1986 and took on board what I had learnt from Ian’s self help course. In 1987 we traveled to Nepal and trekked the Anapurnas up to 10,000 feet level. It was on this trek that my left arm became swollen. On return to Katmandu we visited an American doctor at an international medical clinic. He diagnosed the problem as lymphodema and was shocked that I had never been told that flying and high altitudes were a common cause of this after breast cancer. On return I had to research how to best treat the condition as my doctor and cancer specialist didn’t have any long term maintenance ideas. This was probably the time when I realised that I had to take responsibility for researching treatment options and not depend on doctors to have all the answers.
In December 1991, seven years after initial diagnosis, I discovered a secondary cancerous lump on the same breast (the initial radiation caused long term damage to the breast). This time it was a mastectomy at the Mater at North Sydney on Boxing Day! Due to blood loss I was the only patient in Intensive Care during that period. As there were secondaries in my lymphatic system I was advised that follow up treatment of chemotherapy for six months was required. This was delayed while I agonised over whether to have the treatment or not. As a nurse, having worked in palliative care and witnessed the effects of chemotherapy on patients, my first husband (acute leukemia) and my present husband’s late wife (breast cancer) it did not feel right. The oncologist was very persuasive and convinced me that there was no alternative. I started the first week’s treatment and within days was convinced that it was damaging my immune system and stopped the treatment. I met with the oncologist to tell him of my decision to stop chemotherapy immediately. It proved to be a most stressful meeting as I left the surgery with the threat: “You will be dead in six months unless you follow through with my treatment” and “you should know better, you are a nurse”.
I began in earnest to concentrate on all the alternative treatments and lifestyle options I was convinced would make a difference to my condition. It was about this time that I found CISS, became a member and accessed and read as much cancer information as I could. I tried several options including macrobiotic diet, meditation, regular exercise, yoga, electromagnetic mat, coffee enemas, psychotherapy, juice fasts, TCM and acupuncture.
We moved to the Blue Mountains from Sydney in 1999 on my husband’s retirement. In January 2002 after soreness to ribs, headaches and extreme tiredness I had a bone scan which revealed spots on two left side ribs. I was referred to the oncologist at Nepean Cancer Centre at Penrith who could not be sure if it was metastases or radiation damage. It was suggested I return in six months for a further bone scan. After using the Quantronic Resonance System (QRS electromagnetic mat) twice daily to left rib cage, the pain subsided and I didn’t return for the bone scan. In January 2003 I again became extremely tired and experienced further pain in my left rib cage. A new bone scan was done. This time the radiologist diagnosed metastases in both 5th and 6th left ribs plus possible metastases on frontal head bone.
I began weekly IV infusions of vitamin C plus glutathion with an orthomolecular doctor as well as weekly visits to Dr Chen at West Ryde, a Sydney a specialist in TCM treatment of cancer who had treated me previously. He gave me weekly acupuncture plus
Chinese herbs. After six months another bone scan showed there was no further spread of metastases and there was a slight decrease in one rib hotspot. Because I had not had any conventional treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation since the previous scan, the oncologist said it could not have been cancer and dismissed and scoffed at the alternative treatments I used as irrelevant.
My health is a full time job with priority given to supplements, exercise, using ionised water (high ph), healthy eating, regular juice fasts, yoga, coffee enemas and meditation. Also I need a weekly lymphatic massage to maintain my arm. My husband has learnt to give me this massage. I believe I am now well read on all aspects of cancer and health and look back upon the course I took with Ian Gawler in 1985 as life defining in my cancer experience.
I am well, have seen my sons grow up, grandchildren and a first great grandchild in 2008, all things I thought I would not see at one time. We are now both involved with Blue Mountains Cancer Help at Katoomba where I attend support groups each fortnight as a nurse and cancer survivor to support people beginning to face the challenge I faced twenty five years ago this year. Our organisation is now certified to run the twelve week Gawler Foundation Cancer, Health and Wellbeing course, the one that changed my approach to managing my cancer in 1985.