One of the benefits of my office in Sydney was that it was at the front of the house and through the window by my desk, I could look out over our herb garden to the street and see clients and other visitors as they arrived.
I was expecting Martin, however, I was not expecting him to be walking at a pace that would put a snail to shame. Somewhere in his 50s, he should have been walking better than that. Clearly, there was more wrong than I had been told. Dr Archie Kalokerinos, a delightful Greek doctor with an open mind to many aspects of medicine and health care, had contacted me and asked me to take Martin on as he, Archie, was leaving Sydney and moving to a country practice several hundred miles away in inland New South Wales.
I saw no point in letting Martin struggle down the hall to the waiting room. My previous patient had just left, and I was ready for Martin, so I invited him into my office and asked what the problem was. I wanted to hear in his own words, even though I had some idea.
“I have cancer, lymphatic cancer all through me. They say there is nothing they can do, and I will be lucky to have four months to live.”
Already, I was feeling annoyed. With ‘them’ of course, not with Martin. ‘They’ should never put a time limit on someone’s life. Firstly, ‘they’ do not know. Such numbers are only statistics. Individuals are unique. Secondly, people then start living according to the schedule they have been given, counting off the days, subconsciously fulfilling the expectation that they have been given. Hoping to change Martin’s mind, I explained this to him with some emphasis.
“You see, ‘they’ cannot know this for sure. In addition, they do not know about Dr Kalokerinos’ work and the sessions of intravenous vitamin C (unusual in the early 1980s) that he has given you, nor do they know what you and I can accomplish together.”
“Maybe not, but I have also been told that my heart is in poor condition and that the prognosis for this is also only a few months.” I just stared at him. “A look,” he said, that he came to recognise and be reassured by in the coming months.
“There is one thing I must warn you about,” Martin went on to explain. “Dr Kalokerinos said that you were a naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and homoeopath. I don’t hold with homoeopathy or herbal medicine, I think it is a lot of rubbish. I’m not sure what nutrition can do for cancer, but Dr Kalokerinos thought you could help, so here I am.”
So, I thought, it was good to know where I stood, but this was a straight jacket that I hoped to loosen.
We discussed his diet. I advised that it should be raw, with plenty of vegetables, vegetable juices, apricot kernels, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, all organic when possible [there was not a lot available at that time], and alfalfa sprouts that he could grow himself on his kitchen windowsill. I planned a few supplements aimed at helping his heart and cancer, though compared to now, the amount and range available back then was limited, and so was his tolerance.
At this time, and in fact, during all my twenty plus years in practice in Sydney, I was in general practice. I rarely had clients with cancer, was certainly not focused on it and had very little specific experience on which to build. I just figured I could help to improve his general health, to ‘restore homoeostasis,’ and do what I could to carry on where Archie had left off.
It was lunchtime, and his family was not back with the car, to collect him, so we chatted some more.
“I have recently returned from the Northern Territory,” he said. “I was researching Aboriginal pottery and have brought back lots of examples and copious notes. I was going to write it up and publish a book on it, but that won’t happen now. I simply don’t have the energy.”
I gave him ‘the look.’ He grinned and then his wife arrived.
I saw him every couple of weeks for a while. After he had corrected his diet, he began to gain energy and feel better. “What you’ve done does seem to be working,” he said. “ What about other supplements, could you do more?” It seemed he was ready to open his mind to new possibilities. I could do more and I did, although the choice was limited so many decades ago. I also started him on a detox program that he followed diligently.
A few weeks later he came in, walking a lot better, and gave me a somewhat sheepish look. “Alright, I am feeling better and I do have more energy. Perhaps we should try some of those herbs of yours – but none of that homoeopathic nonsense.” Well, at least this did open up the options available to me, but I really wanted the homoeopathic option as I knew that some very low potency remedies could help his heart enormously. But I bided my time.
The naturopathic course in Australia in the 1970s was very different from anything I have seen here in the UK, even forty years later. We did a full training in physiological and medical sciences, metabolic biochemistry and nutrition, a full course of herbal medicine with pharmacology and pharmacognosy, a full training in classical homoeopathy, basic massage therapy, and training in some of the minor modalities such as reflexology, iridology and aromatherapy. It was a fully packed 3,000 hours spread over three and a half years! However, although trained in classical homoeopathy I had never fully embraced it. I did use and got some very good results with a range of low potency homoeopathic remedies under the Dr Reckeweg brand (available here in the UK too). Low potency means that the starting solutions had only been diluted 1:10 two or three times, and there was still some of the original material left in the solution. My biochemical and scientific approach has never quite made the jump to the amazing dilutions of classical homoeopathy. None-the-less I had hoped that when the time came I could reassure Martin that these low potency Reckeweg remedies were “really” herbal remedies, just slightly diluted.
At Martin’s next visit I wondered who would speak first. We did so nearly in unison, but he beat me to it by a millisecond, just as soon as he walked through my door, looking reasonably sprightly, cheerful and with good colour.
“It’s been four months since my first visit. I should be dead but I have never felt more alive!” We grinned at each other like happy idiots. I gave him my ‘look’, and he grinned some more.
I decided to take the plunge.
“Right, can we now celebrate this event with you agreeing to take a couple of very low-potency homoeopathic remedies? I believe they would do a lot for your heart.”
I took his shrug to indicate agreement, and in the weeks after that, he continued to improve. His heart clearly grew stronger, and he told me that he had tentatively started sorting his notes for the book on Aboriginal pottery.
“I’m just sorting them out, so perhaps someone else can……..” His voice trailed off as he again saw the ‘look’. “Alright, you think I will live that long but………” More of my ‘look’, of course, he would, I was determined by now.
In the end, however, Martin had developed an amazing and strong attitude in relation to his cancer. One time he phoned to cancel an appointment saying, “I don’t have time to have cancer right now. I am busy studying hydroponics and building the equipment, so I can grow my own chemical-free vegetables.”
Martin was very generous. Not only did he give me permission to share his story, as I saw fit, but he also came to the NSW College of Natural Therapies where I taught at the time and shared his story with the students in a lunchtime talk.
During this time, he had continued to see his oncologist. These visits had been reduced first from fortnightly to once every two months until, about a year later, Martin came in with a further grin on his face and said; “My oncologist says I should not go back to see him for at least a couple of years. He says my case is ‘boring’, he can find no evidence of cancer.”
It was to be a full year before I saw Martin again, though he assured me by phone that he was keeping up with his protocol, so I was both delighted and yet concerned when I saw his name on the bookings for the day. I was even more concerned when I saw him coming up the garden path to the front door on crutches.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I was out walking across the open country and fell. I was told I had sprained my ankle, so I kept going and managed to hobble home. I kept hobbling for about 6 weeks….” I gave him the familiar look again.
“I know, I know, I should have come to you, but I didn’t. I have seen the doctor again and he has diagnosed a torn Achilles tendon and said there is nothing he can do. My sister is a physiotherapist and says it will be two years of treatment and that I may never walk on it again. So, now I am here with you. What can you do?”
The look I gave him was not the usual one. I was perplexed and concerned. I hated the thought that I might let him down.
“I don’t know of a diet, vitamin, herb or homoeopathic remedy that can heal the two ends of a broken Achilles tendon, now, after 6 weeks, at some distance apart, bring them back together again and get them to join up.”
He looked crestfallen but accepting, so I took a punt.
“There is one thing I can suggest but I have no idea whether or not it will work.” In one stroke, and without thinking, I removed any possible positive placebo effect.
I explained that I had just completed a lengthy Reiki, hands-on healing training. I was willing to give it a try if he was. In fact, the science in me couldn’t see how it could possibly work. I had only done the training when bullied by Barbara, the publisher of the Wellbeing magazine for which I wrote two or three articles every issue, and who was a good friend. We were both taught by Beth Gray who was the first non-Japanese or white woman to be trained by the original masters of Reiki. In fact, Barbara went on to train with Beth for 10 years, before she could become a true master in her own right. But I digress.
I explained Reiki to Martin and, probably feeling he had nothing to lose, and that after all homoeopathy had turned out to be a lot more powerful than he had expected, he agreed. So, for the next several weeks he came to my office every Monday and Friday and sat with his affected ankle cupped in my two hands. We talked about a zillion things and I think we both enjoyed the sessions. But what excited me the most was that every time he left he walked a bit better than when he came in. He swapped one of the crutches for a walking stick, then both crutches, then he dropped one stick, and then the second one. Then he gradually moved from limping to a properly balanced walk, all in about six months. His physiotherapist sister was totally flabbergasted – and so was I. I developed an immediate respect for Reiki.
Soon after this he and his wife left Sydney and moved to the country, to a large and rambling house on dozens of acres of Australian ‘bush’ or scrub, red earth with a few trees. He kept in touch, mostly by mail. He was back to potting which was no mean achievement as he hated an electrical potting wheel and only used a kick wheel, a feat that should have been beyond both his once-broken Achilles tendon and his allegedly poor heart.
By then most of his family were clients so I had frequent updates on his health which were all good. As I recall, he lived an extra fourteen years, and I could just imagine him muttering, “Only four months indeed, more like a hundred and seventy.”
Some years later before I left Australia, I was within 50 miles of where he lived, which was 400 miles from Sydney, and he and his wife persuaded me to spend a couple of nights with them. I arrived to find him with an axe in his hand, hewing wood for their stove. This was a man who at one point could barely walk 20 yards from his car to my office. He had built himself an enormous ’shed’, only a vast flat roof on stilts as it almost never rains in the Australian bush, and it was only needed to keep the sun off. It was a memorable visit. He allowed me a go at potting with his wheel (not much good) and gave me a pot he made at the same time which was beautiful.
Then his wife called us in, with the evening and dinner in mind.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Sure, come on in” she replied.
“What are you having?”
“Salads just like you told us.”
I wondered what would go in the salad because nothing much grows in the Outback. “Vegetables from my hydroponic system of course.”
“Alfalfa sprouts – just like you told us.”
“Where are they?
On the windowsill in the laundry – you told us.”
“What dressing do you use?”
“Flaxseed oil – you told us.”
“Where is it?”
“In the deepfreeze – you told us.”
“What are we drinking?”
“Red Clover tea – you told us. We are also having some cheese.”
“Cheese, what cheese do you mean?”
“Goats cheese – you told us, and we have persuaded some friends near here (a mere 20 miles away) to keep them.”
“Where do you keep the nuts?”
“In the fridge – you told us.”
And so it went on.
Every tiny little thing I had ever suggested or mentioned he had followed to the letter.
I have said to students and many clients since, “Never underestimate the benefit of every tiny thing you do to improve your diet and lifestyle, and never underestimate the harm you can do anytime when you think to cheat, even just a little bit.”
This man, with two death sentences hanging over his head, lived another fourteen years, fourteen years of a life full of activity and delight as he followed his interests and fulfilled his dream.
His book was published, and I have a signed copy in a special place on my bookshelf.