March 19, 2014

Sleep…one of our most important “natural therapies”

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , at 7:42 am by Margi Macdonald


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



August 14, 2010

Men with cells behaving badly

Posted in health, life, love, writing tagged , , , , , at 12:48 pm by Margi Macdonald

Today there are two men on opposite sides of the world, chronicling their experiences of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Both are professional writers, one Australian, the other US-based.

I admire these men –  Jonty Este and Christopher Hitchens – for doing what most men would never do; discussing in public, the dysfunctions of their bodies, and their emotional and intellectual reactions to life-threatening illness and the rigours of treatment.

As ever, Hitchens is grimly, ironically witty. Este writes with direct honesty.

My hope is that their experiences will enable more men to open up and share stories such as this, rather than suffering in silence and emotional isolation.

Jonty Este’s piece is here at Croakey.

Hitchens is published at Vanity Fair.

We wish them well, and hope that one day soon, men living with cancer will have access to supportive services and programs similar to those that their sisters with breast cancer have worked so hard to create.


Image: Red Crabs by Tuli 100986, sourced at Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain

Why are there crabs on this page?

In early medical times, cancer was noted to have a somewhat crab-like movement, with its hard tumours creeping slowly sideways, throughout the body.

You can find the word’s Latin, Greek and Sanskrit history and origins at

July 20, 2010

Pain is the biggest moral issue in Australia today

Posted in health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:05 am by Margi Macdonald

Professor Michael Cousins, AM, a world authority on pain and its management considers pain is the biggest moral issue in Australia today.

For people living with chronic pain, life becomes so much more than managing pain-relief medication, and ‘getting on with it’, as you can see in the image here.

Ours is not yet a culture which supports people living with persistent pain, a condition which can be severe and disabling, and which affects people physically, personally, and socially.

Last week I was accepted as a member of APMA – Australian Pain Management Association Inc

APMA’s work involves ‘providing practical health information, social, workplace and training support’.

APAM members are people living with pain, their families and friends, and health professionals.

There’s much we can do to help people who are affected by chronic pain.

Why not take a few minutes to explore the APMA

If you know someone who is struggling with pain persisting beyond three months, let them know that pain relief is a basic human right.

March 4, 2010

Banis bilong susu- baskets of milk

Posted in brisbane, health, life, love tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:26 pm by Margi Macdonald

Tits, boobs, puppies, girls, hooters, fun-bags, bazookas, boozies and norks. For the next few minutes, we’re peeking into bras, bedrooms and beliefs as we discover how marvellous and multi-faceted our breasts can be.

What’s in a name?

Plenty, it would seem. Is there any other organ which so visibly embodies what it means to be Woman? Have you noticed that names given to breasts sit on the continuum of love and affection which ultimately becomes derision and misogyny?

And what on earth is a ‘banis bilong susu’ Well, it’s Papuan Pidgin-English for bra. Literal translations include ‘baskets of milk’ and ‘walls for breasts’. Susu can be either breast, or milk. What could be simpler?

Letting the puppies off the leash

Burning the bra; early feminists may have been onto something. What was once a sociopolitical act of defiance may be conducive to breast health. The stagnation and extra heat generated during hours of fashionable, cultural constraint mightn’t be such a good idea.

Why not take you bra off? Right now?

Feeling uncomfortable about that?


Let us know. Leave a comment.

Exercise; getting enough of it on a regular basis is consistently advised. The incidence of breast cancer is unfortunately, higher in obese women. Similarly, women recovering from breast cancer treatment are known to do better if they can undertake regular, supervised exercise.

Including upper body exercise and movement in our exercise routines will promote the movement of qi, blood and fluids through our chests and breasts.

The nipple-brain connection

No, this isn’t about our intimate partner’s occasional inability to think logically when presented with a bare nipple or two. It’s all about the love.

Intense nipple stimulation such as sucking causes the pituitary gland in the brain to release the hormone oxytocin. This stimulates the let-down response, and milk begins to flow.

Also released during labour, this hormone causes the uterus to contract during and after delivery and is believed to promote bonding between mother and baby. Both women and men are said to release oxytocin during orgasm; it’s quite possibly the body’s own love drug.

Blood, milk and tears    

The first few weeks of lactation can be traumatic as the balance between supply and demand is achieved. Our milk is either insufficient, banking up, or constantly drenching our clothes, and flooding and choking our babies.

Traditional Chinese medicine says that milk is a by-product of abundant, healthy blood. Efficient emptying of the breasts is thought to guide the milk back up to them, which in turn promotes further milk production.

Acupuncture, certain foods-as-medicine, herbal remedies, and some all-natural topically applied substances can help women manage the physical struggles of the first weeks of lactation.  Cracked, bleeding and blistered nipples, painful engorgement, the dreaded mastitis and insufficient milk supply can all be treated naturally.

Just be sure to consult an appropriately qualified and experienced health professional. It’s vital that you don’t self-medicate with herbal or other ‘natural’ supplements whilst lactating. What’s good for you, may not be good for your baby. Let the health professionals guide you.

Lumps and bumps

We’ve heard it, we know it, but let’s remind ourselves again. We must perform breast self-examinations each month. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it could save our breasts, and our lives.

If you’ve been worried about your breasts, or have forgotten how to self-examine, please see your family doctor for your ‘Well Woman’ health check.

© Margi Macdonald


Cautions & Care The information provided here is for your interest, and is not a substitute for face-to-face care and attention provided by your Family Doctor, and other appropriately qualified health professionals. If you have a concern about your physical or emotional health, you must consult an appropriately qualified and experienced health practitioner.

The images The sculptural breasts are features of ancient works found in Cambodia and Vietnam. These images belong to Margi Macdonald.

The painting Madonna and Child C.1609 is by Artemesia Gentileschi who “was one of the first women artists to achieve recognition in the male-dominated world of post-Renaissance art.”

The words Banis Bilong Susu was first published in the magazine Honestly Woman

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.

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