What effects?

I once met a man who laughed at the very idea that there could be side-effects to drugs. Because if you take something and it causes an effect then it’s a direct one, isn’t it. And there’s some truth to his reasoning, isn’t there. Everything really is a direct effect. Some desirable, some less desirable.

And many people are surprised to realise that I’m on Tamoxifen without the undesirable side-effects. In fact, medical staff often question me twice just to make sure. And I know it’s not just luck. Because I’ve learned many things about minimising these undesirable effects on my way through life and it certainly comes in handy when you’re dealing with the cocktails otherwise known as ‘treatment’. It seems to me that our experience of side-effects really comes down to three things. And the good news is we can get some control over every one of them.

Firstly, we are taking toxic stuff. There’s no getting around that. Chemicals that have a toxic effect on our system. That’s what we want after all, isn’t it. To get rid of those tumour cells. But, depending upon how well the rest of us is working, we can withstand the toxicity to varying degrees. Because we all want to minimise the less desirable effects, don’t we. And the benefit of complementary therapies is that they get us working better. My husband’s a chiro who also does neurofeedback and biofeedback. And the combination helps me get my nervous system working better. And because my nervous system controls how well I process the chemicals, it helps me to process the chemicals more easily. Others I know swear by acupuncture, or meditation, or massage or Bowen Therapy or kinesiology and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. And I’ve benefited greatly from many of these too. And then there’s the power in the use of vitamins and herbs. A good Chinese medical doctor can work wonders. Or a brilliant naturopath. I’m lucky I have one of these in my corner. Building your buffer, I call it. Doing everything you can to support your physical body while it’s processing the toxic stuff. And it’s wonderful when you have an oncologist that supports this. When you don’t have to fight yet another battle.

And then there’s our expectations. Because if we expect something to happen, it’s a little more likely to, isn’t it. And it doesn’t take Einstein to realise we’re raised in a culture where chemo is perhaps more scary than cancer. And it is this programming that we must overcome if we are to write our own stories. Rather than simply repeating the horror stories of others. It blows my mind that so many people begin vomiting on the way to chemo. The fear, the programming creates an association in the mind that is beyond the reach of many medicines to help. Because if it’s created in the mind, it is in the mind we must fix it, isn’t it. And if we spend the time to undo the association, undo the programming, to learn something better, it can be a very different experience. I am always very careful about who and what I listen to and what I read. And when I hear the stories of others that may knock me off balance, I always remind myself that I am writing my own story. Because I am my own person, with my own set of experiences, beliefs and skills. And I remind myself I have the tools and the knowledge to write something very different, to find my power in all of this, to come out shining. And it is my greatest joy to help others do the same.

And finally there’s our susceptibility to the mere suggestion of side-effects. And some of us are more susceptible to this than others. I know, I was one of them. I don’t know exactly why some of us internalise things more easily than others. I guess it’s just one of those things that make us individuals. And there are other times too when all of us can be laid bare, limited in our ability to protect ourselves. The shock of diagnosis can open us up, as can the anaesthetics of surgery. Those endless lists of possible side-effects, possible outcomes. They are everywhere, aren’t they. We hear them at every chemo round, every medical appointment. And we can begin to fear the worst, can’t we. But I discovered this too can be changed.  I worked with a woman not so long ago who developed side-effects simply by reading the insert. She hadn’t even started to take the drugs. So as well as working with my mind, I now choose not to read the inserts. And I ask the doctors not to go through the list of possibilities wherever possible. Some of them are wise enough to know the effect their words can have and choose not to go there. I have a picture in my head I can’t shake, that one day I’ll be talking to a sea of medical staff about the power in their words for better or for worse. Helping them learn to harness these too for healing. Because there’s such power in a doctor’s words, isn’t there. I am fortunate to have an onocologist that already knows this wisdom. And two years on, now taking my Tamoxifen, I continue to hear his powerful words. Still ringing in my ears like a mantra. No side effects are compulsory. Because there’s so much we can do to help ourselves, isn’t there…

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  1. Jules Tarrant October 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Powerful words Belinda. This post in particular would be invaluable to people with cancer and their families globally. Is there a presentation in the works? An interview? A product?
    Looking forward to supporting you spread this ,message across the world. What a difference it will make.

    • admin October 21, 2012 at 3:53 am #

      You know Jules, only last night I heard a conversation about a person who experienced nausea with their chemo. ‘That’s to be expected’ came the reply. It was all I could do to hold back rather than suggest that the expectation helps create the experience. It just wasn’t appropriate for me to go there at the time. But I am looking forward to ‘going there’ with people who are open and interested. And in the not too distant future…