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Sunday, 25 August, 2002, 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK
'Aromatherapy eased my cancer stress'
Karen Illingworth
Aromatherapy helped Karen Illingworth relax

Over the last 12 years Karen Illingworth has had breast cancer three times.

She has had radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

At one stage Karen thought she was going to die.

She was severely stressed and found day-to-day living a strain, but said she found her salvation in aromatherapy.

It almost transported me to somewhere else

Karen Illingworth

The 41-year-old said that, alongside more conventional therapies, aromatherapy from the Bradford Cancer Centre had given her the strength to fight her cancer.


She said the scents from the essential oils had allowed her to escape her worries for a while and relax.

"I found it gave me time out and time to switch off from what I was going through.

"It almost transported me to somewhere else.

"The atmosphere, the music and the oils are great.

"I just found the whole package a way of chilling out for an hour.

"I found it helps me with stress. It gives you the strength to go on."


Karen said she now lives each day at a time, but said complimentary therapies had definitely made her life more bearable after cancer.

"Originally when I found a lump I was only 29. I had a lumpectomy and chemotherapy and I was fine until five years later when I got a lump in the same breast.

Karen and Sharon
Karen with Sharon, a friend she met through a support group

" I had to have it removed and I had radiotherapy.

"Then I got a lump in the other breast and ended up having to have a double mastectomy.

"When it happened to me I thought I was going to die and then I thought no.

"When it happened a second time I was philosophical, but when it happened the third time I thought someone was out to get me."


Karen said that although she has now been clear of the disease for nearly five years she is not assuming she has beaten her cancer.

"I went nearly five years the first time. You have to take each day as it comes."

She said she plans to continue with her aromatherapy, which is provided free of charge to cancer sufferers in her area.

Dr Michele Kohn, Macmillan Complementary Therapies Advisor, said the alternative therapies were popular because they gave patients tactile care at a time when they felt "untouchable".

She said that cancer care was often very clinical and hospital-based, while this offered patients the chance to relax in a more informal situation.

"Often the room is nicely decorated with drinks available and with non-clinical touches like flowers."

She said there were a wide variety of therapies available from aromatherapy to Reiki, massage and spiritual healing and that they were proving very popular with cancer sufferers.


Following the popularity of these therapies Macmillan Cancer Relief has produced a Directory of Complementary Therapy Services in UK cancer care.

In a foreword to the directory the Prince of Wales, the charity's patron, said he knew of cancer sufferers who had been helped by complementary therapies.

"Complementary therapies can provide emotional and psychological support to patients, not just to relieve their physical symptoms," he wrote.

"Indeed friends of mine have told me how much better they have felt as a result of receiving such therapies alongside orthodox cancer care."

Cancer sufferers and their carers can ring Macmillan Information Line on 0845 601 61 61 (Monday to Friday 9am-6pm) to find details of services in their area.

Healthcare professionals can order a free copy of the Director from the Macmillan Resources Line on 01344 350 310.

See also:

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