April 27, 2011

For people with cancer: to supplement, or not to supplement?

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , , at 9:30 am by Margi Macdonald

One of the things we know that people with cancer are likely to do, is seek out so-called natural remedies to ease side-effects of treatment, and aid recovery.

It’s imperative that people receiving all medically prescribed treatment understand that self-prescribing with supplements and herbal medicines is unwise and unsafe.

Buying off-the-shelf from the supermarket, internet or health food store without a personal, comprehensive consultation with a natural medicine professional is far too risky.

Before commencing supplementation, you MUST see an appropriately qualified natural medicine practitioner who will make sure your medical treatment and general health are not affected by incorrect or inappropriate use of dietary supplements and/or herbal medicines.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America provide useful information about this subject here.

In  Australia, natural medicine practitioners with a Bachelor of Health Science degree in Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine and/or Naturopathy are your recommended natural health professionals.

If you’re struggling with a health concern or major life-changes, please visit the Welcome page.


February 24, 2011

Australia, cancer and the rough end of the pineapple

Posted in health, life, love tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:53 am by Margi Macdonald

rough end of the pineapple: Australian slang: a bad deal, or a raw deal; the worst part of a bargain

As if a cancer diagnosis isn’t bad enough, we also know that the rigours of treatment are often physically and emotionally scarring, painful, and debilitating.

We also know that with medical advances, more and more people now live with cancer as a chronic illness.

Unfortunately, modern treatments leave many folk with relentless, treatment-induced pain.

In my own work, I’ve seen enough people to know just how difficult and pervasive this type of pain can be.

I’ve also observed that unlike fellow survivors in the USA, Canada and Europe, Australian cancer survivors often struggle with disjointed, poorly diagnosed and poorly managed pain and debility.

I also know that many Australians dealing with cancer are set adrift, unsupported, confused, and unable to receive the benefit of cohesive, clinically sound, complementary therapies of the kind provided at prestigious medical institutions such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, and others.

In 2009 as a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology, I attended the annual congress in the USA, shared inspiring and informative  conversations with health professionals working in the most  prestigious institutions there, and left with a thorough understanding of the many programs of integrative care available in America.

Visit the Society for Integrative Oncology here, and wander through page after page of programs and services available to many Americans.

It really is time Australian Oncologists, Medical Administrators and Health Ministers took a good hard look at what they don’t offer Australians.

Comprehensive, nurturing, supportive, clinically effective, holistic care is still an impossible dream in this country.

We are at least a decade behind other first world countries.



Image: Queen Pineapple Sir William Jackson Hooker 1785-1865

Related post: here



February 3, 2010

Complementary medicine and cancer care in Australia – far from best practice

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:18 pm by Margi Macdonald

Recently I’ve reflected upon progress towards a greater integration of complementary therapies with Australian biomedical oncology practices and attitudes.

My reflections arose after a recent enquiry about my work.

Here’s my edited response to that particular heart-felt enquiry.

I can definitely offer appropriate therapies to help your friend through the rigors of  treatment, and the whole ‘thing’ of dealing with cancer.

Mine is a compassionate, gentle, supportive style of practice, which places the client and her/his unique needs at the centre of the process.

I have a brochure which outlines all of this.

This week, I am facilitating an information session with a cancer support group at a regional private hospital. The group is a satellite of a larger support program offered in Brisbane, where in times past, I’ve presented information sessions.

Two medical oncologists – mainstream – sometimes refer people to me, but sadly, they wait until people have very advanced disease.

I am definitely a Complementary practitioner; my work is informed by the work, research and programs offered in the USA for a decade now, at places such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center Houston; Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; and other centres such as Dana Farber, and Alta Bates Summit. I just dropped my membership of the US-based Society of Integrative Oncology. I attended the SIO conference in Atlanta in late 2008. Mindblowing.

I rarely prescribe herbal medicines or supplements while folk are receiving chemotherapy, and if I do, it’s in consultation with their medical oncologists.

Best practice oncology in the USA, and some European countries – which very definitely incorporates Complementary therapies – is ten years ahead of the antiquated practices and attitudes in this country.

I consider that given the emerging overseas evidence – clinical, empirical and anecdotal – Australian oncologists are bordering on negligence in their failure to actively seek to understand Complementary therapies, and direct their patients to credible practitioners.

I hope I am able to help your friend.

I wish it was different here, I really do, and I am perplexed and increasingly irritated at the blinkered vision and conservative attitudes which pervade the thinking of too many medical practitioners in this country.

I cannot understand why it is that most oncologists here, seem ignorant of the therapies, programs and facilities offered to cancer patents and their families in some of the world’s most prestigious, highly regarded institutions.

And what stage do we call attitudes and platitudes such as the ones below negligence, and not just plain ignorance, and a distinct lack of compassion and insight into the needs and lives of people living with cancer?

These comments were made to me by Australian oncologists within the last three years.

”I’m just too busy to find out about it”

“My peers would give me a hard time if they knew I was doing this”

“I let the patients figure it out and make the choices themselves”

I know that there remain equally disturbing levels of ignorance, and antiquated and blinkered thinking, in certain sectors of the natural medicine world. There are, sadly, still some absolute quacks out there, whose practices and attitudes are ego-driven, unkind, and negligent.

How do we integrate the best of biomedicine, with powerful and effective healing arts and sciences?

Do leave a comment.

This is important.

To see how the ‘big guns’ in cancer treatment and research are including Complementary therapies in their care of people touched by cancer, follow the links listed below.

If you are living with cancer, or love someone who is, consider asking the oncologists involved, why Australians don’t receive the levels of care available at these centres.

Place…of Wellness MDAnderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

Integrative Medicine Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York

Complementary Therapy Programs & Support Groups Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, California

Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston

Cautions and care

These pages are for information purposes only, and are not a substitute for the correct care and attention of appropriately qualified and experienced health care professionals. If you have a concern about your emotional or physical health, seek the advice of your preferred health practitioner.

© Unless stated otherwise, all images and content here are the property of Margi Macdonald.

November 28, 2009

My on-going professional development is good for you

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:06 pm by Margi Macdonald

Like all health professionals, natural medicine practitioners must dedicate themselves to a life-time of observation, study, and inquiry.

The benefits to our patients and clients are innumerable.

This year I spent a semester tutoring 2nd year acupuncture students. Imparting one’s knowledge, and needing to be ten steps ahead of our students kept me on my toes, and honest!

I regularly participate in an international discussion group of scholars and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

This year we’ve explored – amongst other things – difficult and tricky cases, H1N1 flu prevention and management, health reform, and the history of our medicine. I am in esteemed company there, and am regularly in awe of the accumulated knowledge, wisdom and experience of many contributors.

The year’s activities enabled me to reflect upon my style of practice, and the individualised care and attention I offer to people.

I’m confident the ability to understand and respect natural and traditional medicine without disregarding the discoveries of bio-medicine is not only safe and effective, it is the medicine of the future.


The image

A 19th century representation of the great Tang dynasty physician, scholar, doctor and medical ethicist – Sun Simiao. He’s the one sitting on the tiger.

He was the supreme physician. Read some more about him here, if you like.

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