I have been passionate about alternative medicine since the early 1980s when my stepfather, Dave, was diagnosed with motor-neurone disease. Western medicine offered Dave no hope – there wasn’t even any palliative support then; so my mum and Dave set about trying various approaches, from acupuncture, physio and massage to sprouted seeds and intramuscular injections of vitamin B12 in an attempt to find a cure themselves.
They did not ultimately find a cure, but Dave far outlived his doctors’ expectations, both in time and in quality of life. Dave was told repeatedly that he was wasting his money having acupuncture, that it was ineffective and any perceived improvement on his part was entirely placebo. This was the 1980s, and although acupuncture is now well researched and Western medicine generally accepts that it has a therapeutic effect, back then it was derided by all but the most radical medics.
However, Dave was convinced that acupuncture helped – his general movements and fine-motor skills improved post treatment, as did his speech and most importantly, the constant lung congestion he suffered from eased and his breathing improved.
I was convinced too, and after a career in publishing I began training – first in massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and Reiki, later in acupuncture and, most recently, in nutrition.
I find being trained in a variety of alternative therapies helpful when working with patients to resolve what are often complicated conditions. On a practical level, some therapies are just not suitable for everyone. On a clinical level, I believe that when used synergistically, alternative therapies are even more effective than when used in isolation. For example, a patient coming to see me with migraine might receive a shoulder and neck massage to relieve local muscle tension, acupuncture and/or reflexology to remove energetic blockages and by recommending a certain diet to support adrenal function and nutrients that aid muscle relaxation we can come at the condition physically, energetically and biochemically.
I adore my work and over the past 15 years have learnt so much from my patients that I often think of the Henry Higgins quote from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion: “Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby!” I really am grateful that I have been fortunate enough to turn my passion into a vocation.