By early summer 2012, Abi was left in a precarious position because according to the standard of care offered by the UK’s NHS, she had run out of options. So I began looking outside of mainstream medicine.
I’m a fan of Tim Minchin, and I have always loved his ‘Storm’. It includes the following lines:
Alternative medicine has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work. Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine!
I understand Tim Minchin’s cynicism; alternative medicine is often criticised for its lack of scientific proof as to its efficacy. But after my research, could any less be said of the mainstream options for children with low-grade gliomas? Teams of researchers have trialled chemotherapy and radiotherapy under clinical conditions, but the results have been quite underwhelming. Furthermore, they pose health risks unto themselves and no matter what your opinion of ‘quackery’, many of the alternative treatments are non-toxic. You could legitimately argue that if a patient gives preference to an ineffective treatment, over one that is proven, then that is a risk. You might also argue that it is wrong to give false hope to unproven treatments that ultimately fail. Is it really, though? In our situation, with nowhere else to turn, I had begun to hold hope very dear. Who would dare take that from me?
If Abi got seriously ill again, would I trust my daughter’s life to alternative medicine, over and above the UK’s National Health Service? Absolutely not! She would be immediately back in the hospital for surgery! But I was willing to try alternative medicine while I still had some time.
So I began researching a whole range of alternative therapies and came up with a list I was willing to try. Abi got homoeopathy and I put her on a diet that contained lots of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins. That meant lots of greens and omega 3 through fish. Lots of beans and lentils. Lots of nuts, such as almonds and walnuts. Lots of fresh fruit, such as oranges, apples, cantaloupe melons and raisins. And a particular favourite of Abi; lots of 70%+ dark chocolate, because that is thought to be an anti-carcinogen. I preferred organic foods because they are free of pesticides and we don’t yet know the long-term effects of adding heavy chemicals to the food chain. I also bought a purifier for both drinking and shower water.
We are a vegetarian family, but Kara occasionally asks me for chicken. Abi, though, was not particularly happy about this. “At least it goes up to heaven!”, Kara argued. “No it doesn’t,” Abi replied. “It goes down to your belly!”
I removed foods from Abi’s diet where studies have indicated they could be harmful to tumour patients. For instance, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that both sugar and red meat increase the risks of cancer. If you wanted a better indicator that sugar is bad for brain tumour sufferers, then consider PET scan technology. That’s an imaging method that monitors the uptake of glucose by functional processes of the body. In other words, the technique relies on the fact that tumours feed on sugar. Before the intensive farming practices introduced in the 1950’s, our dairy herds would have been feeding on omega–3 rich grasses. So their produce would have contained an abundance of this fatty acid, which has known anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to help fight cancer. Unfortunately, the modern industrial farming practices have introduced corn, soy and wheat into the cow’s diet. They are rich in omega–6, a fatty acid that promotes cell growth. So when omega–6 is out of balance with omega–3, it is bad for cancer sufferers. Hence, wherever possible, I removed dairy from Abi’s diet. Because of that omega imbalance, we avoid unfermented soy products too.
Abi was given a whole range of supplements too; Boswellia Serrata, Curcumin, DCA, Turkey Tail mushrooms, Maitake D-Fraction, Melatonin, Zinc, Omega 3 and Whey Protein.
In early summer, 2012 I called a spiritual healer and found him to be well grounded and caring. I thought we had nothing to lose by paying him a visit. I’m glad we did because I felt our time there was incredibly enriching. The healer spent a half-hour or so performing ‘energy work’ on Abi and I have rarely seen anyone quite so focused. The very least he did was give Abi lots and lots of love. That’s positive, no matter what your opinion of spiritual healing.
Perhaps giving Abi lots of alternatives all at once was not very scientific, but I will admit to scrambling around looking for hope, and if I achieved anything at all, then I wouldn’t much care how I got results.