Once I started having a clearer idea that my lifework would involve helping other people with cancer, my greatest mission took a clear form: to advocate that medical treatments, complementary therapies, and diet go hand in hand.
It is not right for patients to have to “hide” the fact that they are supporting their medical treatment with therapies such as acupuncture, mind-body therapies, or reflexology, if the patients feel that they are getting benefits from these types of care. I see red when medical professionals refer to them as “alternative therapies” or “pseudo-medicine.” The majority of patients do not refuse the medical treatments offered to them. But a large share of them support these treatments with complementary therapies. Pseudomedicine refers to something that is quite frankly bogus, total nonsense. That is not what we are dealing with here.
The purpose of complementary therapies is to complement medical treatment. They are not used as a replacement for surgery, radiotherapy, or cytostatic agents. As I have noted previously in this book, it is extremely important for us to take some responsibility for our treatments and our health. We, the patients, want to be involved in planning the right treatment for us and to also take some personal responsibility for it.
I am interested in the ways and forms of help people have found beneficial.
I am less interested in scientific studies, which contain lots and lots of views in favor and against certain things. It’s important to always read scientific studies with a critical view: who or what organization funded the study? Who does the study benefit? Is it a pharmaceutical company? Is it a major oil corporation? What I want to know is what experiences people have had, what are the things they have found helpful in recovering from their diseases. I strongly believe that doctors’ attitudes towards complementary therapies are becoming increasingly positive.
The complementary therapies I have used include acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, reflexology, aromatherapy, phytotherapy (herbal medicine), and many mind–body therapies. I know that these complementary therapies have been helpful for me, and I do not need this view to be supported by boring research findings, even though numerous studies show the efficacy of these therapies.
It is not enough to merely focus on the body while ignoring the health of the mind.
Every person is a whole. Even though medicine is making constant progress and there is increasing understanding of the treatment of diseases, society continues to get sicker. People suffer from stress, obesity, high blood pressure, burnout, depression, diabetes. There is also a group of people inhabiting a space between sickness and health. They are not exactly ill, but are still unwell. They are not vibrant or balanced. Instead of pumping these people full of pills, introducing complementary therapies, emotional support, and dietary changes in their lives would be beneficial, rather than waiting until they are really, truly ill.
I witness the importance of holistic treatment for people as I lead my Nordic Guide to Healing seminars and retreats. I have seen with my own eyes how people with cancer get immense strength from positive peer support, healthy diet supporting healing, experiences of cancer survivors, and mind–body therapies. All of these aspects contribute to healing. Peer support gives people hope that they, too, can recover from cancer.
An excerpt from Karita Aaltonen’s book I Survived: A Nordic Woman’s Guide to Healing from Cancer