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Sitting in the clinic kitchen and looking out over the cold, white landscape, it’s hard to tell that it will be April next week.  It makes me think of our northern inhabitants and wonder how they manage their long winters every year.  Maybe lots of whale blubber full of vitamin D…  At least the sunlight has significantly increased, bringing in the cleansing season again.  Time to cook up some kitcharee and break out the milk thistle, grin.

Life continues to be intensely focussed on loved ones struggling with illness.  If you’ve been following me since summer, you might have guessed that my sister in New York has brain cancer.  It happens to be the same kind to which my late husband succumbed in 2002, glioblastoma multiforme, GBM.  Lili is bravely going through chemo and radiation with naturopathic assistance.  It’s almost surreal because she is so strong and healthy…as was Mickey.  However she has a better prognosis and expects to live for decades.  All of us pull together to get through this intact, even if it means healing through loss and death.

Mickey’s eldest son is recovering from flesh-eating disease and will need to live in a long-term care facility.  It is astounding to me how he keeps his spirits up.  It’s like visiting an angel.  Last Saturday I went to a Salvation Army store and bought a bag full of movies, books and CD’s which I will deliver to his bedside tomorrow.  It’s fun to visit him, not something one usually feels in a hospital.

My daughter’s partner is still disabled with some unknown illness, which is maybe the hardest, the not knowing.  We go from doctor appointments to the pharmacist to the hospital and keep getting more tests.  Her doctor has been stellar, helping us feel that eventually we will figure this out.  And my good friend who had the heart transplant and is staying with us is having complications that don’t allow him to move forward in his life.  Utter frustration and yet he powers on.  The good news on this illness front is that the family member with mini-strokes is doing fine and back to regular life.

In the middle of all this, I do my best to help and regain some sort of balance.  Normal life happens in between crises and hospital visits and trips to New York.  And yet I’m generally at peace.  It is deeply satisfying to be of service and growing into acceptance.   My own health is improving beyond my expectations and I am booked for a long-desired breast reduction tomorrow, armed with remedies and pain techniques, which will allow me to exercise more comfortably.  At this point I’m looking forward to the two week recovery—my turn to rest!!  My joints are slowly getting better, my eyes are stable with days of actual improvement, my hair is shiny for the first time in decades and my back is no longer keeping me up at night.  My guts are still the resistant area, leading me to deeper awareness of how I hold tension and emotions.  I am definitely not as enlightened as I thought, laugh!!

Yesterday I had a phone consult with my German New Medicine teacher, Ilsedora Laker, about these guts of mine, embarrassed that it’s taking me so long to figure out the trigger.  She took me in the direction of looking for a “lack” and led me to see that because of my guilt around having so much, I deny myself many things, especially time to relax.  In the conversation, I could clearly see the issue but couldn’t imagine not feeling guilty.  Later in my meditation, I asked myself what it would take.  The answer came: to accept that I DO MY BEST to share and contribute all that I have.  I don’t have to be a super-human or beat myself up or drive myself to the brink of exhaustion to justify my existence as a person with wealth.  A beautiful light flooded me and I realized that I’ve cracked the code.  Now to continue reinforcing it gently.  Eureka!

KW-Ice Show2

Katherine performing her solo at the ice show.

In the middle of all this intensity there have been many fun moments: taking slow walks with my sister; participating in the ice show with Felix (see photo); sleeping in the yurt with grandson Felix and our friend Jessica—until 2am when we rushed back home through the woods in the dark because I couldn’t get us warm enough with the wood stove; trying out ecstatic dance with the regulars in Ottawa; cross-country skiing at Fitzroy Park; and simply enjoying the privilege of being well enough to do my daily tasks of cooking, laundry and looking after Felix…who is trooping through all the stress around him with courage and kindness.

The best part of my own healing process is that night is no longer a time of horrific visions and terror but growing into a delicious experience of relaxing and coming home to myself thanks to the ongoing work with EMDR therapist Mary Ann Carmichael.  Decreasing my constant anxiety and increasing my awareness is the central piece that allows everything else to change.  The main thing I need to be careful of is that much of the energy I seem to have may be due to being in a shock state because of my sister’s illness, a long surge of adrenalin that will take me to exhaustion as it did with my late husband.  This time around I need to take better care of myself.

And underneath everything there continues the dream of the centre.  Every time someone is helped with a remedy or a healing technique I fantasize sharing it in a class or workshop.  With the spring sun comes new visioning and soon we will be able to let you know what we will offer here.  Patience all around!  I do realize that I have a compulsive tendency to overdo and am committed to moving forward slowly and thoughtfully.  I think that will be easier with the recent insights.

Here’s to your own visions and dreams–

katherine

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Katherine Willow N.D.

This topic interests me personally. After decades of being driven by subterranean terrors, I find myself finally and concretely learning to feel my body, ground into safety and create a life based on realistic adult thinking. Along the way numerous therapies and naturopathic remedies helped maintain my body, daily functioning (sometimes barely) and relative sanity until I could start coming to grips with the intense feelings which threatened to sink me whenever there was a quiet moment.

All this is to say that treating anxiety and fear can be a long process, although I have seen some patients break a cycle of anxiety and panic attacks in a few weeks or months. Here’s the general treatment plan.

Overcoming anxiety and fear starts with strengthening the body:

1. Restore nutritional deficiencies, especially protein. Eat easily digestible protein (powders come in handy) at every meal and snack. Take enzymes to help absorption if there is gas and bloating.
2. Support the adrenal glands. Depleted adrenals lead to anxiety which in turn depletes the adrenals more. One needs to break this downward spiral or crash into chronic fatigue or depression. I suggest adrenal glandulars as well as herbs and homeopathic remedies and eliminating caffeine, which whips the adrenals into even more fatigue and prevents their recovery. Stop overworking.
3. Move regularly, gently and mindfully to release muscular tension. Weight training is awesome for feeling stronger emotionally.
4. Learn to sleep well to rebuild the nervous system.
5. Acupuncture can help balance weak organs and systems.

At the same time, there is a process of becoming aware of one’s emotions and learning to feel without freaking out or needing to self-medicate.

1. Talk to someone regularly: a therapist, co-counselling buddy, sponsor in a 12-step process or life coach.
2. Bodywork such as massage or craniosacral therapy with emotional release is useful.
3. EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, with an experienced therapist has a strong track record for healing trauma that lies at the root of chronic anxiety.
4. Mindfulness meditation likewise is well documented to help anxiety as well as depression.
5. EFT or emotional freedom technique is a safe and effective self-help technique which can move us out of anxiety in minutes. See http://www.thetappingsolution.com for instructions and inspiration.
6. Energy work such as reiki, quantum touch or shamanic journeying can access soul strength that has been lost along the way.

Then we can learn to relax and defuse the anxious state on our own:

1. Yoga, meditation and conscious breathing.
2. Relaxing massage.
3. The Nordik Spa.
4. Socializing in a safe group of friends.
5. Nature.

Sometimes one needs several modalities over many years to break through layers of habits, addictions, delusions and denial. Sometimes it takes generations.

Finally, we need to understand resistance when we do all of the above without seeing much progress.

Resistance is the biological survival mechanism which tells us it is not safe to relax and heal. It does not respond to rational self-talk, reading self-help books or many of our efforts UNTIL there is a solid sense of safety, usually with another person. Sometimes it takes one person reaching in and being present with our unbearable feelings to begin coming out of the isolation of living in chronic anxiety and fear. And this person doesn’t need a title…

It is common to suffer from anxiety and fears; let’s be gentle and patient with ourselves.

By Katherine Willow

This topic interests me personally.  After decades of being driven by subterranean terrors, I find myself finally and concretely learning to feel my body, ground into safety and create a life based on realistic adult thinking.  Along the way numerous therapies and naturopathic remedies helped maintain my body, daily functioning (sometimes barely) and relative sanity until I could start coming to grips with the intense feelings which threatened to sink me whenever there was a quiet moment.

All this is to say that treating anxiety and fear can be a long process, although I have seen some patients break a cycle of anxiety and panic attacks in a few weeks or months.  Here’s the general treatment plan.

Overcoming anxiety and fear starts with strengthening the body:

  1. Restore nutritional deficiencies, especially protein.  Eat easily digestible protein (powders come in handy) at every meal and snack.  Take enzymes to help absorption if there is gas and bloating.
  2. Support the adrenal glands.  Depleted adrenals lead to anxiety which in turn depletes the adrenals more.  One needs to break this downward spiral or crash into chronic fatigue or depression.  I suggest adrenal glandulars as well as herbs and homeopathic remedies and eliminating caffeine, which whips the adrenals into even more fatigue and prevents their recovery.  Stop overworking.
  3. Move regularly, gently and mindfully to release muscular tension.  Weight training is awesome for feeling stronger emotionally.
  4. Learn to sleep well to rebuild the nervous system.
  5. Acupuncture can help balance weak organs and systems.

At the same time, there is a process of becoming aware of one’s emotions and learning to feel without freaking out or needing to self-medicate.

  1. Talk to someone regularly: a therapist, co-counselling buddy, sponsor in a 12-step process or life coach.
  2. Bodywork such as massage or craniosacral therapy with emotional release is useful.
  3. EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, with an experienced therapist has a strong track record for healing trauma that lies at the root of chronic anxiety.
  4. Mindfulness meditation likewise is well documented to help anxiety as well as depression.
  5. EFT or emotional freedom technique is a safe and effective self-help technique which can move us out of anxiety in minutes.  See www.thetappingsolution.com for instructions and inspiration.
  6. Energy work such as reiki, quantum touch or shamanic journeying can access soul strength that has been lost along the way.

Then we can learn to relax and defuse the anxious state on our own:

  1. Yoga, meditation and conscious breathing.
  2. Relaxing massage.
  3. The Nordik Spa.
  4. Socializing in a safe group of friends.
  5. Nature.

Sometimes one needs several modalities over many years to break through layers of habits, addictions, delusions and denial.  Sometimes it takes generations.

Finally, we need to understand resistance when we do all of the above without seeing much progress.

Resistance is the biological survival mechanism which tells us it is not safe to relax and heal.  It does not respond to rational self-talk, reading self-help books or many of our efforts UNTIL there is a solid sense of safety, usually with another person.  Sometimes it takes one person reaching in and being present with our unbearable feelings to begin coming out of the isolation of living in chronic anxiety and fear.  And this person doesn’t need a title…

It is common to suffer from anxiety and fears; let’s be gentle and patient with ourselves.

There is a building body of research suggesting that Massage Therapy can offer a number of benefits in supporting cancer care.

Things like reducing symptoms of pain, nausea, depression, anxiety and fatigue. It can improve mood, coping and can enhance quality of life. How? By increasing the happy hormone, serotonin, and our natural pain killer, dopamine, levels. At the same time, massage reduces our stress hormone, cortisol.

Depending on where you are in your stage of cancer, there are different options available. During an initial diagnosis, normal Swedish massage would be appropriate. Whether it is light touch or deep tissue is a personal preference.

A few weeks after surgery, light touch or possibly hand and/or foot massage would be welcome; which is similar for during chemo or radiation therapy where nausea, pain and fatigue are often present.

If you are in remission and having post surgical swelling issues, a treatment called lymphatic drainage is a great way to redistribute the fluid build up.
A secondary option that is receiving more study from Harvard Medical School, because of promising findings, is Reiki.

Reiki is an energy-based alternative health care treatment where pure healing energy is passed into the patient. It flows to the areas most needed, clearing blocks, chakras and meridians. Typical feelings after a Reiki treatment are lightness and a sense of well being. It’s wonderful to experience.

It is not uncommon for emotional issues to come to the surface during Reiki. Whether related to the cancer or not, these can be acknowledged, eased or allowed to remain private.

Reiki can be used at any stage of treatment. Because of its exceptional gentleness, it is a great option during radiation treatment or during any portion of the journey where the skin is too sensitive, or if massage seems too much.

Jennifer Presley has been an RMT for 11 years, taught massage for 4 years and has done Reiki since 1998.

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