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.

Why?

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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.

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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 dictionary.reference.com

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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