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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 08:45 GMT
'Holistic therapy gave me strength to go on'
Image of cancer cells
Francis used a holistic approach for her cancer
A recent survey suggests a third of cancer patients are using complementary and alternative medicines.

Experts have been calling for regulation and more research into complementary and alternative medicine.

Frances Carroll, 53, started using complementary therapies with conventional medicine after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996.

She says taking a holistic approach has given her optimism and the strength to go on at an incredibly difficult time of her life.

"You feel very low when you have been given a bad diagnosis.

The mind, body, spirit approach has been integral to my wellbeing on all levels.
Frances continues to practice holistic therapy

"Just after I was diagnosed, my breast nurse mentioned to me about a therapy called reiki.

"I was very keen to give it a try and went for a session."

Reiki is a way of activating, directing and applying natural energy for the promotion of health, healing, balance and wholeness.

The therapist places their hands gently, in a series of positions, on or over the body.

"It was wonderful. I had never had it before and I did not know what to expect. But it was a life-transforming experience.

Personal support

"Reiki helps your spirit and mind to rest. It's an amazing treatment.

"You can feel this heat coming through their hands. It's very calming and peaceful. It's almost like going into a meditative state."

Frances said it helped her to endure the chemotherapy treatment that she had after her mastectomy.

She also tried acupuncture with a Macmillan therapist to help with the nausea and vomiting that she experienced with the chemotherapy.

In her case, acupuncture and anti-sickness drugs had limited benefits on these side effects, but she said the general experience of having time with a therapist was very rewarding.

"The personal support and the care you get is immeasurable. It gave me a lot of courage to carry on."

She found out about other complementary and alternative therapies and enrolled on a holistic course at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre.

Frances continues to use reiki, herbal remedies, homeopathy, reflexology and Indian head massage.

"The mind, body, spirit approach has been integral to my wellbeing on all levels."

She said all of her doctors and the health professionals she had met had been very supportive.

She stressed that it was important to inform all people caring for you about the various treatments and therapies that you are on.

Dr Terry Cullen, chairman of the British Complementary Medicine Association emphasised that complementary treatments were not a cure for cancer.


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