Stephanie Butland was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2008 and since then she’s had surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and drug treatment … but now she’s thriving and has finally been able to say ‘Bah!’ to cancer in her books How I Said Bah! To Cancer and Thrive. Here she tells Spabreakers what part complementary therapies played in her recovery …
It was the day before I was going to have surgery to have a cancer removed from my breast. I was confused, disorientated and afraid, but I was sure of one thing: if I could go into this unexpected new adventure feeling as relaxed as possible, it would help through the unknowns of the days to come.
So I’d booked myself a massage. The full, hour-and-a-half, pummel-you-into-relaxation-whether you like it or not version. My shoulders were knots, my back was tight, I ached all over. I needed it.
I filled in the form for the therapist: I went down the list of medical conditions, ticking ‘no’ for heart conditions, high blood pressure, migraines, allergies… and then I came to cancer. My pen hovered. I took a deep breath and ticked ‘yes’, my first on-paper acknowledgement of the disease. I handed the form back.
And I saw the moment when the therapist saw that tick. She did the tiniest jump in her chair. Her eyes flew to me, looking me over: I could see her surprise. And then she told me that, if I had cancer, she couldn’t treat me. She wasn’t insured to treat people with cancer. (I don’t know whether that was true, or even possible.) The massage was ill-advised: it could ‘speed cancer round my body’. (Again, I don’t know whether that was true, or even possible.) I left, feeling sad and sorry. I’d always appreciated the very positive role that health and beauty treatments, as well as complementary therapies, could have. If I suffered from sleeplessness, a massage recalibrated me. I’d used homeopathy on poorly children, aromatherapy to help with everyday stresses.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I was given a leaflet about The Haven, a charity in London providing free complementary treatments and therapies to women undergoing treatment for cancer. I felt as though I’d won the lottery. Over the next few months I had hypnotherapy to help me cope with chemotherapy, I went to gentle yoga classes where the PICC line in my arm was accepted without consternation, I had acupuncture which relieved the pains in my sinuses and liberated my blocked bowels.
Away from The Haven, I found a reflexologist whose ministrations meant that I could breathe more freely. Seeing a masseuse who was not put off by the c-word meant deep, dreamless sleep for three nights afterwards, which in turn made days happier and more bearable. And my weekly manicure meant that the splitting and tearing of my nails was kept to a minimum.
Complementary treatments and therapies were things that made my dance with cancer easier and more bearable. They showed me the way from feeling like a patient to feeling like a person. Once the bulk of my treatment was over, I kept using reflexology, hypnotherapy and pampering to help me to become healed and well again.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.