Monday, 24 October 2016

A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer-The Yes to Life review!

A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer – book by Bryony Kimmings and Brian Lobel, music Tom Parkinson.

Dorfman Theatre, opened 19

While it’s certainly not the taboo subject it was a few years ago, it still requires a stretch of the imagination to think of cancer as a great subject for a musical. But with A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer, Bryony Kimmings has pulled off a coup. Kimmings declares on her website that she is ‘inspired by the taboos, stigmas, anomalies and social injustices around her’ and ‘creates mind-blowing, multi-platform art works to provoke chang
e.’ And she doesn’t pull her punches. All the serious and painful and raw stuff is there on stage at the Dorfman Theatre on the South Bank, but there is irreverence, anger, some good songs, dancing glittery mutant cancers and plenty of laughs too.

In this co-production with Complicite Associates, and in association with HOME, Manchester, the Pacifist’s Guide is set in one of those chilly, antiseptic hospital lobbies that we’ve all experienced. There are numerous pairs of swing doors leading from this space – and above each sits a big illuminated ‘EXIT’ sign. Of course all of the cancer patients we meet want to be out of there, but there’s no exit from the reality that each one of them has a cancer diagnosis. One character is in denial about her ovarian cancer, another with lung cancer wants to make amends with his estranged daughter, a third has financial worries and is afraid to tell his employers the truth about his absence from work and a fourth faces the possibility of passing on to her baby her own genetic predisposition to developing cancer. At the centre of this, Emma has a young baby undergoing tests. We follow her journey and struggle through to the searingly painful moment when she accepts the diagnosis.

This could have been the end of the show, but we slip into another gear for the final sequence. As part of this finale. members of the cast name friends and family members who have been diagnosed with cancer, or who have died. Then the audience is invited to do the same. Unexpectedly for such a very British institution, it only takes a couple of seconds for people to start offering up a litany of loved ones’ names. Way beyond poignancy, this simple device has the powerful impact of driving home just how widespread the disease is, that most of us will encounter cancer at some point during our lives and that we will need to find our own ways of dealing with it.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Why did you get cancer?

Yes To Life chairman and founder Robin Daly talks about his experience of cancer care in the UK and the lack of an integrative approach.

I am a father of someone who had cancer. My daughter, Bryony, died in 2004 when she was 23 after suffering from three highly malignant cancers, starting from when she was nine years old. She is the inspiration for Yes to Life which has helped thousands of people who want to pursue non-conventional approaches which are not currently available on the NHS. We are part of a very large movement, driven by cancer sufferers and their friends and family members, who want to see change.

When Bryony died, we had only just started looking into how alternative therapies and nutritional support might be able to help her. At that time, further conventional treatments including chemotherapy and radiotherapy would have done her more harm than good. The NHS did not have anything to offer, so we started looking at all the alternatives available.  What we found was that there were plenty of options out there, but it was almost impossible to find the really relevant and good quality information amongst the daunting quantity now on the internet. As private medicine, they also were not free.

Sadly, Bryony was not able to benefit. Twelve years after her death, we try to fill that gap for people who want to take a more holistic approach to their cancer care and we provide support, information and in some cases, financial assistance. I have to say that I am enormously disappointed that so little seems to have changed in the NHS when it comes to Integrative Oncology. very few doctors seem ever to ask the question, ‘why did you get cancer?’

Yes, patient demand means that many oncology centres have bolted on complementary therapy centres – typically run by volunteers – which may offer therapies such as massage, mindfulness meditation and acupuncture, but there is no national requirement for this. The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, part of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is one of only three NHS centres in the country that takes a broader approach to patient care.

Worryingly, we even seem to have gone backwards when it comes to patent choice and the provision of some therapies. Some Clinical Commissioning Groups now restrict funding for homeopathic treatment. Strong pressure from ‘science-based medicine only’ campaigners has meant that there is a growing reluctance for NHS commissioners to fund anything which can’t be backed up by gold standard clinical trials – appropriate for a new potentially harmful drug but surely not in the case of treatments which are low cost, unprofitable, and which have been used successfully and safely, in some cases for thousands of years. There seems to be a whipped-up sense of grievance against practitioners who make no claims and can certainly do no harm but may be able to help. The requirement for incontrovertible evidence needs to be proportional to the possible downside, and to to respect patient choice wherever possible. Otherwise, we inevitably give the monopoly to wealthy drug companies.

I also find it extraordinary that most cancer patients in the NHS receive little or no help when it comes to lifestyle changes. Advice about diet, exclusively given by pressed-for-time dieticians who are medically qualified, seems to be focused on how very ill people can avoid losing weight by consuming large quantities of sugar and carbohydrates. No attention is paid to nutritional therapy to boost damaged immune systems and improve energy levels. Most cancer patients never even receive exercise advice from a professional. You would think that these things would be basic parts of the care package, but not at all.

No one is saying that conventional treatments should be dismissed – if you are in an acute situation surgery, chemotherapy or radiation can be a good choice. But Integrative Medicine has an important role in helping people stay well during treatment, recover more quickly and avoid relapses.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Pomegranate & Feta Quinoa

For a high protein, wheat-free meal quinoa is a versatile dish which blends beautifully with vegetables. It has a higher protein content than grains and is gluten free. Jenny Phillips specialises in supporting people with cancer through nutrition and has given us a delicious recipe this month!

The pomegranate adds a flash of colour and a boost of phytonutrients for immune health. If you are dairy-free simply do not add the feta.

1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic,
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 can chickpeas,
drained & rinsed
1 tsp cumin
Juice & zest of ½ lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
150g quinoa
380ml water
Seeds of half a
120g feta

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
2. Add the vegetables to a baking dish, add the seeds, cumin, lemon and oil. Roast for 30 minutes and remove from the oven
3. Meanwhile make the quinoa: add the quinoa and water to a pan. Season. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes then remove from the heat.
4. Stir the quinoa into the chick peas and check the seasoning.
5. Top with the pomegranate seeds and crumbled feta.