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Breast Cancer in men

Complementary approaches for breast cancer

Most of the men we spoke with had not used complementary therapies, although a few had made some changes to their diet or lifestyle since being diagnosed with breast cancer. A few had been given the chance to try various complementary approaches during or after their breast cancer treatment. Tom tried reflexology during chemotherapy, Derek had a couple of massages after his operation which were offered to him through a local breast cancer centre and Eric been offered aromatherapy and had had it every day at the hospital for six weeks.

 

Tom’s hospital offered patients complementary therapies. He had reflexology during some of his...

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Age at interview: 54
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 50
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Because we talked with my angel of mercy [breast care nurse] about what might be done and she did mention that the hospital, which is quite progressive in many ways, and is, does encourage patients to have various holistic therapies, or complementary they use, that's the word they use. And so, reflexology. Is that right?
 
Yes.
 
Yes? And so I thought I'd try that, and it proved wonders. It was extremely effective, in offsetting this queasiness I had. Actually toward the end of the administration of the chemotherapy and immediately afterwards.
 
So there was a reflexologist actually there working on your feet as you were ..?
 
So the reflexologist came and worked on my feet for an hour or - say an hour - whilst I was having the chemo, and the nausea completely went away. And I think then probably - so I think probably the timing was - I think the queasiness started around the third or the fourth, and I think the last two sessions I had the reflexology, and that removed the queasiness. So that was actually - I mean I actually really love having my feet massaged, and so it wasn't a problem. So it quite sort of appealed to me. So there I was, listening to my John Coltrane -
 
I was wondering if you were listening to John Coltrane for that time!
 
And she was, and they were working away. Interestingly, I found that there seemed to be as many different versions of reflexology as practitioners. I don't know if that's my own personal experience but there was one in particular who was extremely into it, extremely competent in the sense that I felt as though my feet became a keyboard for her. And she was really very precise about working her way around my feet, as though every spot of my feet was like a key on the keyboard. Others seemed to be a bit more vague about exactly what they were doing, and although it was actually quite pleasant, it didn't seem - there was a sort of sense it wasn't so precise. But whatever, the two occasions in the chemotherapy ward, I think it was two occasions, were very successful.
 

The hospital wrote to Eric to ask if he would like free sessions of aromatherapy about two years...

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Age at interview: 78
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 70
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So throughout all of this, the surgery, the chemo and the radiotherapy, it was just your wife that you were really getting support from?

 
Yes.
 
There was no-one else?
 
Well… no, I don’t think there was a lot of support anyway. I saw the breast care nurse once or twice but I think that was more or less just seeing how I am. The only other thing, I think, I had aromatherapy The only other thing, I think, I had aromatherapy for six weeks every day for six weeks at the hospital, and that was paid for by Marks and Spencers.
 
Oh, lovely! How did you get that?
 
Pardon?
 
How did you get that?
 
The hospital just wrote to me, would you like six weeks of aromatherapy? Yes please! I said well, it can’t do any harm, can it? Went to the hospital and this girl told me Marks and Sparks were paying for it. Whether it still continues or not, I don’t know. I had my six weeks and that was that.
 
Good. And when was that? Was that while you were getting the chemotherapy as well or…?
 
No, no that was a couple of years later.
Two men had made extensive use of complementary approaches within their lives. Tim had trained as a Reiki practitioner. He regularly used Reiki on himself and on friends and family.
 

Tim felt somewhat ‘on his own’ after he was discharged on Tamoxifen after his surgery. He...

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Age at interview: 73
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 60
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 So that was it, and I was then tested and it was suggested I should have tamoxifen, and I had- they did all sorts of scans and things, and found that there was no cancer anywhere else. And at a certain point they said, “Okay, we’ve done the knife work, we’ve put you on pills, goodbye, come back in six months time”. And I came home, and I thought wow, I sort of feel quite on my own here [laughing] now. So I started chatting to my daughter and my daughter-in-law and various other people and all sorts of- my step-daughter, and all sorts of ideas came up, and I followed up on a lot of different things, and out of that, I developed really quite a change in my life. One of the obvious parts was dieting, and I found a very interesting Greek doctor, who helped me a lot with thinking about dieting and positively looking at my life. I had reflexology once, and the- interestingly enough the thing that person picked up most was my stomach. I’ve always had a bit of a weak stomach, and so this lady suggested I should use a type of colon treatment, and I use something called lepicol which is psyllium husks, it’s an inert powder, I’ve used it ever since, and it’s been incredibly good [laughs.]. It has an extraordinary effect on keeping my stomach comfortable. So that was another aspect. Then of course I had [name of lady] and in fact we went back to her and my wife has joined me, we’ve been going to see her once a year, ever since. So that was another aspect. I then met a friend who- oh and also my daughter, it was my daughter who started this, she said, “Dad you’ve got these nice warm hands, have you thought of Reiki?” And I said, “No, I’ve not really heard of it”. So we discussed it and to cut a long story short, I discovered a Reiki Master who lived just outside Richmond, so I went and was initiated into Reiki 1, and I’ve been using that ever since. I did in fact go to the level of Reiki 2. 

 

Tim was also in a men’s group. They practiced certain rituals and the group offered a supportive...

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Age at interview: 73
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 60
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 And another aspect, which I got involved with also is through my daughter was meeting a woman who, I would describe as a spiritual psychotherapist in a way. And she had formed various groups, she gave various teachings, and she had a group called Wise Women, and women- my daughter belonged to that, and the women gather and get- discuss all sorts of things, and began to trust each other enormously, and it becomes in a sense a support group. And this woman was just in the process of forming a man’s group for the first time, so I joined that. This is back in ‘96, and we worked with her for quite a few years, and then she decided she wanted to go in a slightly different direction, so we had to choose, should we disband, or shall we carry on, on our own? And we’ve carried on, on our own, so there are about eight of us, eight or nine, and we meet once a month, we do a certain ritual together, but mainly it’s for support and help and it’s most, most unusual group, it’s very powerful, we trust each other enormously. So we can tell each other anything, and that’s rather rare for men. We can open up our deepest worries, we can explore with each other, and we’re very supportive, so people- quite different sort of people, so that you get views from different angles about things, and I’ve noticed that all of us, over these years have grown in stature, in sort of confidence, you know in feeling comfortable in yourself. It’s been very, very exciting and very powerful thing to belong to. So that was yet another aspect I would say.

 
But these other people, all are still working, most of them are. And they really have to make an effort after a hard day’s work, to get to somebody’s house, to have the session, and they want to. It’s a commitment which I think reflects the fact that every one of us in one way or another has been helped by the group. We had- we once had an away weekend, we all went to Wales and we were there for, two nights. We borrowed the house of somebody’s sister who is herself in this sort of, type of thing and has gatherings and so on. And we had an extraordinary time there, which I think cemented the relationships between us. I think each one of us, at that time, had a major experience of you know, releasing something. And funnily enough we were talking about death. I remember that my experience there was that I was feeling pretty unhappy. I let all that out. And we talked about it a great deal, and out of that came this message, live in the now [laughs]. And we drummed it and we did everything. I mean it all sounds a bit funny talking about this but, it really works, it somehow works and when you’re really in it, you can have an impact on yourself. No doubt about it. 
David had been interested in crystal therapy, and in energy ley lines and electromagnetic fields for over forty years and had written a couple of books on the subject.
 

David had a longstanding interest in ley lines and could use divining rods. He used crystals to...

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Age at interview: 72
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 71
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 How do the crystals make you better?

 
These crystals? They make me feel better. Cost me a thousand pounds, the big one, which didn’t make me feel too good when I was handing the cash over – but I find that they’re extraordinary things. They’re beautiful – one of nature’s beautiful creations.
 
But do you choose?
 
Special type of crystals?
 
Uh huh.
 
I’ve got a special type of crystal I put around my bed to stop these unhealthy energies coming in. It’s just an ordinary quartzite crystal with faceted at the sides, and I discovered the best thing to do is look up my internet site that gives you all my information about how earth energies work, how standing stones work and about demons and sort of things as well.
 
So is this something you’ve always been interested in, or since the breast cancer?
 
No, I’ve been interested in this for forty years. There was a program on Tomorrow’s World about forty years ago in how to use divining rods – a very scientific program. And I thought, you know. Lick a typical little [name of city], I thought, “Divining rods don’t work.” And I tried it at a standing stone, to my absolute horror, discovered I could pick up the energy from standing stones, which are actually placed above underground streams, and the energy goes up into the standing stone, which acts like, what do you call it, a prism, and then transmits the energy across to a burial ground – and you can very easily follow these sort of things.
 
Complementary therapies – I do have a crystals therapy set, which you can diagnose a person using this. This is [name of person] work again. It’s a sort of signal generator, which transmits energy into a crystal – you hold the crystals in your hand, and your whole body radiates at that specific frequency – and you can use a sound meter to diagnose various levels of ill health in your body, and you can also use it as treatment – you can put it on your body, which I did, around the hips, to stimulate the white blood cells – because the radiotherapy reduces the white blood cells, as far as I know, and you can use it, of course, on the wound as well too. I’m not entirely sure if it works or not, but it’s quite a fascinating thing – but you’ve got to try everything when you have a problem with ill health.
 
Did you feel, because you were doing that, though it helped you may be psychologically, that you were winning?
 
Oh yes, big psychological help, being able to do these things.
 
It sounds very much that you use conventional medicines as well – you weren’t dismissing anything.
 
Mm hmm.
 
Do you want to say anything about the two of them and how you feel they interact with each other?
 
They’re completely complementary. I wouldn’t advise anyone to go completely down the complementary road and ignore the radiotherapy, chemotherapy and so on – that’s not a good idea at all. 


Last reviewed June 2017. Donate to healthtalk.org
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