Soul Train: One woman’s breast cancer journey led her to Park Attwood Clinic in Worcestershire, England

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By: Lisa Lambon
Lisa Lambon, a mom in her thirties with two young children, was diagnosed a couple of years ago with breast cancer. Even though the physical aspects of coping with cancer have been demanding, it is the emotional roller coaster ride of coming to terms with this disease which has truly tested her sense of well-being. She describes her journey.

Early on in my breast cancer diagnosis I realized that the notion of doing battle with my disease, so popular in the media, was not going to work for me. A remarkable book called Speak the Language of Healing, by Susan Kuner, et al., suggested I view my life as a spiritual journey and find a way to explore, understand and accept illness rather than go to war. I understood the concept intellectually, but it was not until many months later, with the help of Park Attwood Clinic, that I really began to realize how this would work in my life.

Park Attwood is a magical place, a place of real healing, but it is not easy to quantify the magic. There is no easy way to live with a life threatening illness. Instead, you have to learn to manage the unmanageable, to establish the best quality of life possible. I had endured the rigors of two lots of surgery, six months of aggressive chemotherapy, five weeks of radiotherapy and was still receiving intravenous infusions of Herceptin but wanted to do everything in my power to restore my health.

Like many before me, the first question I asked when faced with the realities of my diagnosis was ‘Why me?’, quickly followed by ‘So what caused it?’ I read incessantly and one book that I found in the hospital library detailed mistletoe treatment. I asked my oncologist about it and he put me in touch with Park Attwood. I arranged to attend an introductory visitor afternoon for cancer patients at the clinic, and a consultation with Dr Orange.

I only had to turn into the drive for the magic to begin. The first thing that strikes you about Park Attwood is the stunningly beautiful countryside in which it is set; if ever you needed to be convinced of the healing power of Nature it is here. The magnificent views over the hills provide an inspirational backdrop for the clinic and grounds, perfect for walking and thinking and taking in the energizing power of water at various points.

The atmosphere of the building is similarly comforting; it feels healing. There are no white coats or horrible smells, just warm friendly people and a comfortable environment with the homely pleasures of a real fire, home baking and fresh flowers cut from the garden. For the well, it is easy to underestimate the importance of these signs of care.

I was very nervous about attending the visitor afternoon. I wanted nothing to do with those with cancer, did not want to be part of the cancer world. Through nine months of treatment I had resisted speaking to anyone with cancer. I was driven by fear, guilt, shame and self-blame and thought I could not bear their emotional pain in addition to my own. Losing my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, radically changed my appearance and put a large dent in my confidence; I felt stripped naked emotionally. For sure, the medical treatments are grim, but for me, diagnosed at 38 with two small children, the psychological burden was far greater. I was experiencing terrible anxiety and had awoken every night for nine months at 4:00 a.m.

When Dr. Orange gave his talk, I found it extremely emotional for here he was talking about health and well-being, mind and spirit. Being familiar with yoga, homeopathy and reflexology, I was not new to complementary therapies, but here was an approach that I could see was special. What attracted me most to the mistletoe therapy was that it was said to be cytotoxic and designed to boost the immune system. Talk was made of other quality-of-life benefits, but really my only interest was in survival.

With Dr. Orange I planned a treatment schedule that would fit with my lifestyle, and my family. More importantly, he looked me straight in the eye and explained in words of one syllable that this was not my fault, something very basic that I needed someone to do. My husband tells me my oncologist had said it before, but somehow I had not heard him.

A nurse taught me how to inject myself. We planned that I would start with a few low-dose injections at home, then quickly progress to two separate high-dose injections, given within one week. This would necessitate two separate 24-hour stays at the clinic for the resulting fevers to be supervised. The high fevers were designed to kick-start my immune system and I was warned that it might be rough. I would continue with twice weekly injections at home for two years.

It was rough. I injected myself on a Sunday night and was told to expect symptoms the next lunchtime. When I arrived at Park Attwood I spent 22 hours of my 24-hour stay in bed, miserable, head pounding, fever soaring, abdomen swollen and sore. The care I received was fantastic. The tranquillity there made it feel like I was on a retreat. I was given herbal medicines to alleviate my headaches, compresses to alleviate the soreness at the site of the injection, and was nursed with real tenderness. I was not well enough to eat much but asked for fruit. The colorful plate prepared for me would rival anything in a five-star hotel.

My second fever came on much more quickly. Although the physical aspects were more manageable, I was so tired of feeling ill that I really questioned whether to continue with the treatment. I just wanted to feel well again. Next morning, when I was bathing, I found a lump under my arm and was terrified it was another tumor. Unable to offer reassurance until the lump could be biopsied, Dr. Orange just held my hand. He is a sensitive and intuitive doctor and is able to reach out to people. The lump turned out to be a swollen lymph node, probably caused by my immune system responding to the high dose of mistletoe, and soon subsided.

The main benefit I have derived from mistletoe was entirely unexpected; in the week after the fevers, I started to sleep through the night. Anyone who has spent the wee hours worrying knows it is no fun; when what you are worrying about is cancer it really is unspeakable, so this new development felt like a miracle to me. Every morning I woke up surprised. It allowed my body to heal, for me to start running and swimming again, to establish some stability in my health and restore my energy levels to enjoy my children. Of course some of this would have happened without the mistletoe, but Park Attwood had also worked its magic on my mind.

I am getting used to describing myself as well. I am happy and fulfilled and I have discovered a talent for creative writing which is taking me in new directions. It is not just Park Attwood that has caused this turnaround; but the care I have received there, the way of viewing illness they have offered me, the relationships I have made, have all contributed, I believe. The Clinic also possesses a great library which has guided my reading and played a significant part in my personal development. The first day I went there I decided it was a place I would be content to die; now I see it as a place where I am learning to live.

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