You can click on the headings below for advice and information on the various different subjects, whether it's for yourself or a loved one, as well as other positive suggestions and general tips for health and wellbeing.
For information about our group meetings, take a look at the "About Us" page where we give a brief overview of our sessions as well as an explanation of the free complementary therapies available, including but not limited to; Aromatherapy, Indian Head Massage, Reflexology and Therapeutic Touch (e.g. Reiki).
This is one way of viewing ourselves. Health is about wholeness - every part of us being in balance - body, emotions, mind and spirit. There are many ways in which we can help ourselves to be healthy/whole.
We are what we eat. Eating healthily can renew our vitality and that includes our immune system. (see Penny Brohn information)
Supplements - Vitamins and Minerals
These can help us particularly at times of stress and shock (see Penny Brohn information).
Exercise and Breathing
Fresh air and gentle exercise add to a sense of enjoyment and wellbeing. They enhance health and improve strength. Try to do some gentle exercise every day, or at least do some deep, relaxed breathing at an open window. This is known to boost the immune system.
Whenever we are going through a stressful time our bodies tend to become tense, straining every nerve. To learn and practice a conscious relaxation technique can help us to manage these stressful times and allow the body to continue its healing work.
Facing a crisis, such as cancer, often brings up many difficult and painful feelings. Counselling may help you to explore and find ways of understanding and dealing with these experiences.
Meditation is about stilling the mind. It can calm and restore us. It can help us to be at peace with ourselves.
This is a way of creating healing images in your mind which can have a positive effect on your body.
Playing, having fun, enjoying life, being creative can all help the healing process.
Therapeutic touch(may also be known as Healing or Reiki)
This is an ancient healing art. It can help with pain. It can calm and re-balance us. It is a time of peace and stillness.
If you wish to know more: Our library has copies of the Penny Brohn UK introductory pack, available for loan.
When talking about relaxation, this is sometimes mistaken for recreation, e.g. sitting on a chair and watching TV, or reading a book, etc. Conscious relaxation is about re-learning how to reduce stress and tension in our bodies in order to cope with life's daily pressures, and thus enhance our health and well-being.
There are several good reasons why it makes sense to relax:
It can be an effective way of coping with stress and the disorders it causes.
It can prevent or alleviate aches and pains caused by inappropriate muscle tension.
It can help avoid unnecessary fatigue.
It can raise the threshold of tolerance to pain.
It gives the body's own natural healing rhythms a chance to function and increases our sense of well-being.
It re-charges and revitalises us. Research has shown that relaxation enables the immune system to function better.
It can enrich personal relationships because it is easier to get on with people when you are relaxed.
How do we go about learning to relax?
There are many different methods of relaxation and you will have to experiment with what suits you personally.
It is possible to be taught in a class, or, if you are unable to do that, you can borrow/buy CD's that will teach you how to do it on your own.
We have a number of books and CD's in our library that may be of help!
It is important to emphasise that conscious relaxation takes practice and you will need to do it regularly in order to achieve beneficial results.
Meditation is simple, though not easy, and aims to produce a quiet mind. This is not an empty mind, but one in which thoughts and distractions are observed calmly, and are not pursued.
Meditation for health: At its simplest level, meditation can be seen as a means of recovering the ability to disengage from the world and relax completely. This is an ability which most of us have but seem to lose as we grow older, and become driven by our worries and preoccupations. It then becomes more difficult to switch off - the mind is restless, muscles are tense, breathing is shallow and the heart rate is increased.
Meditation can help us to rediscover the relaxation response, which is the state associated with recovery and repair - a condition like deep sleep in which the body-mind is restored and revitalised.
Meditation for insight: Quietening the mind deepens awareness of a calm enduring aspect of the self; and this awareness can carry over into day-to-day life, helping during times of turbulence and distress.
Meditation techniques: There are many different techniques and it can be useful trying different ones to discover which is the easiest to work with. Despite this variety, different techniques do share common features - they prescribe a focus for mental activity, and a particular attitude of mind.
THE FOCUS: The busy mind is given something to attend to in order to steady it. This may be an object such as a candle; or a sound; or a repeated phrase or word. Commonly, breathing is used as a focus, and this can be the rise and fall of the belly, or the movement of the air in the nostrils, or just in front of them, where the upper lip joins the skin between the nostrils.
ATTITUDE OF MIND: In meditation, the attitude is one of calm watchfulness, a willingness to observe whatever happens without being caught up by it. When distracting thoughts and images crowd in, as they will, the meditator observes their presence, lets them drift past, and returns attention to the focus. This is done without fuss, in the knowledge that repeatedly recognising that the mind has become distracted and then returning to the focus is the process that develops the ability to meditate.
Creating the conditions for meditation: The most important pre-condition is establishing a space and time where you will not be disturbed. Many people find that twenty to thirty minutes is a minimum period, although brief moments of intense withdrawal during the day also have a part to play.
POSTURE: Sit or kneel comfortably with your back straight, head tilted forward to straighten the neck, and try to remain motionless during the meditation.
BEGIN: By affirming your intention to meditate, let go of all distractions and preoccupations.
END SLOWLY: Open your eyes and stretch before standing up. Make sure that you are fully returned to normal wakefulness before re-engaging with the world.
This is not a list of recommendations - just a few things which members of the group have found helpful to them.
Avoid people who tell "horror stories", make you feel bad or lower your spirits.
Take personal things into hospital with you that will help you to "own" the space (e.g. a soft toy, photographs, music etc.) There is some evidence that music playing and/or positive statements being made during the surgery, can have a very beneficial effect on the patient. Some group members have negotiated with their surgeon for this to happen during their surgery. Complementary therapies may be very beneficial, both prior to and following surgery, as well as during convalescence. Potted plants may help during a long stay - having something else to look after, to tend and water daily. NB Plants are not allowed in some hospital wards.
There are some things that may help with the side effects of surgery:
Arnica, a homeopathic remedy, is very useful for shock and bruising but it is best taken under the guidance of a qualified homeopath.
Rescue Remedy, a Bach Flower Remedy, is effective in times of shock or panic.
Maintain a positive attitude - this does not mean having to put on a brave face and hide your feelings. Don't say you're fine when you're not fine - talk about it! Positive affirmations may help with fear and anxiety. Coming to a support group might help.
Female cancer patients are eligible for a free "Look Good, Feel Better" make-over, which takes place bi-monthly in the Maggies Centre at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, between 1-3pm - telephone 0191 233 6600. Ask for a separate leaflet which gives more details.
This is not a list of recommendations - just a few things which members of the group have found helpful.
Macmillan produce a very useful booklet about radiotherapy - you can get a copy FREE by phoning them on 0808 808 0000 or by visiting be.macmillan.org.uk. We also have a very good video about chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the library.
Avoid people who tell "horror stories" or who make you feel bad or dispirited. However, do chat to people in the hospital and make friends if this feels right.
If you are worried about anything to do with your treatment, ASK QUESTIONS. You may find it helpful to write down your questions beforehand and also to write down the answers - when you are worried or anxious it is difficult to remember what you wanted to ask and also to concentrate on, and remember, the replies. You might like to take someone with you to help you with this.
Don't forget that you can ask to see a Macmillan Nurse.
The radiotherapist will draw marks on the skin to try and keep the irradiated field as small as possible minimising damage to surrounding tissues, and may also ask you if small permanent marks (tattoos) can be made. These are only done with your permission and are used to show where the rays are to be directed. Tattoos give you more freedom between treatments (for washing etc.) so discuss this with your doctor prior to radiotherapy treatment and if it is what you want, say it very clearly.
Expect to wait and be aware that delays do happen, e.g. machines breaking down. If you GO PREPARED e.g. books, personal stereo, drink, snack (you can buy food and drink at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care) you may not feel so angry or let down if delays occur. Take with you a soft toy, photo or something else that comforts you.
One member found that a personal stereo with large headphones (rather than the little ear-pieces) shut out the surroundings and was a great help during treatment. Think carefully about what to play on it (e.g. comedy CD's are very therapeutic at other times but it would not do to be shaking with laughter when you are meant to be keeping still for the radiotherapy treatment!) Some of the examples group members have suggested are: meditation, visualisation, relaxation CD's, affirmations or relaxing music.
A number of things may help with the side-effects of radiotherapy:
Aloe Vera gel applied very gently to the affected area.
Aromatherapy Radiation Cream, applied before and after treatment.
A flower preparation called Radiation Remedy.
A homeopathic remedy called Radbrom.
Live yoghurt can help with mouth ulcers.
Some women have said that wearing make-up, painting fingernails etc. made them feel better. Female cancer patients are eligible for a free "Look Good, Feel Better" make-over, which takes place bi-monthly in the Maggies Centre at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, between 1-3pm - telephone 0191 233 6600. Ask for separate leaflet which gives details.
Also, positive affirmations may help. Some found the book "Getting Well Again" by Carl and Stephanie Simonton has helped them. (Available in our library)
Remember that maintaining a positive attitude does not mean putting on a brave face all the time. It means making choices and doing whatever you need to help you through whether that is laughing or crying, getting angry, shutting yourself away to meditate, avoiding people, asking for help, buying yourself something nice etc. Going to a support group can help.
This is not a list of recommendations - just a few things which members of the group have found helpful to them
Macmillan produce a very useful booklet about chemotherapy - you can get a copy FREE by phoning them on 0808 808 0000 or by visiting their website:- be.macmillan.org.uk.
Try to avoid people who tell you "horror stories" or make you feel bad.
Maintain a positive attitude - try positive affirmations. Coming to a support group can help.
If you've been warned that your hair is likely to fall out as a result of treatment, consider having your hair cut shorter before starting. Some members have found this easier to cope with. Try to organise your wig whilst you still have hair, to help with matching colour. Not everyone likes to wear a wig all the time, so you may want to seek out hats and scarves to wear as an alternative.
Try to arrange to have "bloods" taken the day before chemo is due, you can then phone next morning to check if OK - this saves waiting around only to be told that the blood result is not good enough for chemo to go ahead.
A number of things can help during the treatment itself - visualisation (also affirmations) particularly if you are afraid of the chemotherapy, take a personal stereo with your own choice of music or speaking CD's. A foot massage or reflexology is very relaxing and may help with any nausea. Arnica cream can help with bruising from needles but do not apply over broken skin.
There are several things you can try to help with nausea:
Aloe Vera juice (usually 1 tablespoon 3 times a day but check bottle).
Slippery Elm powder (1 teaspoon 3 times a day in liquid).
Sea Bands (acupressure wrist bands, usually used for travel sickness).
Eating crystallised ginger/drinking infusion of hot water and finely chopped ginger.
If constipation is a problem, Lactulose may help. You can also try linseeds.
If you have poor veins it may help to ask to have a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line fitted.
Some found live yoghurt helpful for mouth ulcers and some found that pineapple chunks helped with a sore or dry mouth.
Female cancer patients are eligible for a free "Look Good, Feel Better" make-over, which takes place bi-monthly in the Maggies Centre at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, between 1-3pm - telephone 0191 233 6600. Ask for separate leaflet which gives details.
Not everyone suffers these side-effects but sometimes chemotherapy can upset the digestive system. It can cause nausea and vomiting, diminish overall feelings of wellness, cause sore gums and mouth sores and ruin the appetite.
The following is a recipe from a chapter in "Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul" by Barbara Curtis.
The recipe includes essential ingredients - fruit and tofu provide phytochemicals and protein; and liquids for depleted bodies. The cool popsicle soothes sore mouths and settles stomachs and is easy to put together.
One 8 oz glass of freshly squeezed orange juice
One cup frozen mango or frozen berries
3/4 square tofu, medium firmness
Add passionfruit juice or other fruit juices for flavour
Put all ingredients into a blender. Blend to liquify. Add more juice if liquid is too thick - it should be as thick as a smoothie. Pour blended mixture into moulds and freeze.
The drinks are quickly made complete meals and can be used at any time of the day. They are easy to eat and easily digested. Once you have tried a recipe you can introduce your own variations.
At times of illness and stress - sweets can be comforting. These delicious desserts / breakfasts use the natural sweetness of fruit which is also an important source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Build Up Drinks and Smoothies are interchangeable when the liquid content is adjusted. All of the recipes are blended recipes. When using almonds they are less bitter if skinned; put them in a pan of hot water and bring to the boil, simmer gently for a few minutes until the nuts can be easily removed from the skins by pressing. Remove from the water and cool briefly before skinning.
Build Up Breakfast
Blend all or a selection of the following:
Banana, apple, almonds, porridge oats, freshly squeezed orange, dried fruit e.g. unsulphured apricots, sultanas, figs, raisins.
Pinch of ground cardamon, pinch of asafoetida, rose water and honey.
This recipe is quick to make, absolutely delicious and very filling.
Serve with goats / sheep's yoghurt and fresh fruit or eat on its own.
1 tblsp almonds - ground
4 fl oz soya milk
1 tsp malt extract
1 tblsp hunza apricot kernels
4 fl oz spring water
Blend all together.
Build Up Drink
(Makes approximately 8-10 servings)
10 oz. plain tofu (1 pkt)
2 tblsp cooked brown rice
2 pints (approx.) soya milk
few drops vanilla essence
2 tblsp ground almonds
1 heaped tsp slippery elm powder
Poach tofu in water for 10 minutes.
Blend all ingredients well in a blender.
Push through a sieve and adjust texture and flavour.
Variations: Use different grains e.g. millet, oats. Use different nuts e.g. cashews, brazils. hazels.
Add some fresh fruit or some dried fruit or more banana.
Add carob powder or a little organic honey.
Banana Tofu Whip
1 pkt silken tofu
1 tblsp light carob powder
natural vanilla essence
2oz. dates, chopped
2 tblsp freshly squeezed orange juice (organic)
Soak dates in orange juice for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Blend all ingredients and chill.
Garnish with desiccated coconut, grated carob bar and thin triangles of fresh orange.
5 hunza apricots - soaked and stoned
1½oz. silken tofu
8 fl oz hunza juice - liquid from soaking
1 tblsp cooked rice or other grain
Blend all together.
1 tblsp cashew nuts - ground
1 tblsp oatflakes
4 fl oz soya milk
2 oz. soft fruit e.g. strawberries or raspberries.
Tofu Fruit Drink
1½ oz. silken tofu
4 fl oz soya milk
1 tblsp cooked grain e.g. rice, millet, barley
1 ripe banana
juice of 1/2 lemon
Blend all together.
Juice of 2-3 oranges
a little spring water
1½ oz tofu
1½ oz cashew nuts - ground
Blend all together.
The above drinks can be varied in many ways, it's fun to experiment.
All recipes can be thinned to taste with spring water, fruit juice or soya milk; if made thicker they can be used as desserts.
Other ingredients which can be added:
Wheatgerm, brewers yeast, yoghurt, dates (after soaking), natural vanilla essence, tahini, other nuts or seeds, Barley Cup or Yannoh.
16 fl oz soya milk
1tblsp almonds or sunflower seeds - ground
2 tblsp carob powder
1 tblsp honey or molasses
Blend all together.
1-2 ripe pears - chopped
4 fl oz spring water
1 tblsp almonds - ground
pinch of ground cinnamon
Blend all together.
Vitamin A (Carotene)
Green leafy vegetables, yellow fruits (apricots, peach etc.) carrots, capsicums, dried fruit, chives, parsley, watercress, alfalfa, sweetcorn, whole corn meal, tomatoes, sea vegetables.
Vitamin B Group
Sea vegetables, brewers yeast, nuts, legumes, yeast extracts (e.g. Marmite), grains, grain sprouts, bean sprouts, seeds, honey, beer, parsley, mushrooms.
Vitamin B 12
Alfalfa sprouts, grain sprouts, sea vegetables, fermented soya products (miso, tempeh, natto), organically grown comfrey and alfalfa.
Bean and grain sprouts, oranges, other citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, capsicum, comfrey, blackcurrants, prunes, kohlrabi, sea vegetables, papaya.
Alfalfa, sea vegetables, sunflower seeds, corn and sunflower oil, fresh fruit and vegetables, fenugreek sprouts.
Alfalfa, watercress, alfalfa sprouts, soya bean sprouts, spinach, parsley, celery, broccoli.
Legumes, nuts, grains, green leafy vegetables, dried apricots, raisins, seeds (sesame and sunflower), carob, cider vinegar, olives, sea vegetables, alfalfa.
Sea vegetables, watercress, celery, dried fruits, citrus fruits, root vegetables.
Seeds, nuts, grains, soya beans, olives, parsley, dates, spinach, apple, apricot, pear, garlic, beetroot.
Grains, garlic, watercress, spinach, asparagus.
Sea vegetables, watermelon, cucumber, spinach, kale, okra, strawberry, root vegetables, umeboshi plums.
Sea vegetables, dried fruit, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, parsley, watercress, carob, wild rice, garlic, onion, olives, blackcurrant, alfalfa.
Sea vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, wild rice, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, parsley, chives, okra, olives, garlic.
Nuts, grains, watercress, legumes, grapes, parsley, dried apricots, lettuce, dates, cherries, pineapples.
Legumes, nuts, sea vegetables, grains, seeds, wild rice, carob, cider vinegar, dried fruit, brewers yeast, sprouted beans, garlic, mushrooms, parsley.
Legumes, nuts, sea vegetables, grains, seeds, wild rice, garlic, mushrooms, honey, dried fruits, cider vinegar, parsley, green leafy vegetables, alfalfa.
Sunflower seeds, root vegetables, strawberries, lettuce, spinach, celery, cherries, figs, apricots, tomato, grain, apples.
Sea vegetables, seeds, legumes, watercress, green leafy vegetables, olives, raisins, celery, parsley, garlic, onion, other root vegetables.
Watercress, sea vegetables, tomato, spinach, raspberry, chives, red currant, hazelnut, soya beans, radish