This year Stitch London’s Cracking Christmas Raffle will be held at our Stitch London Christmas Shindig on December 13th.
This year we’re raising money for a charity which is helping pave the way to giving hope to cancer battlers everywhere. All funds raised will go towards treatment for the amazing Andrea Giles and the Yes to Life Charity.
Here’s a bit more about it:
Possibly the worst news anyone can get after an initial cancer diagnosis is that the cancer is unlikely to be cured. And even though medical science is working hard to find cures, these cures are hard on the patients and a terrible risk to their health. It’s a scary world of chemotherapy, radiation and endless medical treatments.
But galloping to the rescue are Yes to Life. Yes to Life are charity who are showing there are other ways to help fight, and that there’s hope even when the medical world aren’t so sure.
Yes to Life are sneaking up on cancer from a different direction. They help people with cancer in the UK access the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine, they provide support, they help educate the medical profession on other ways to fight, and they work alongside the NHS and the usual treatments to give cancer battlers a fighting chance.
This year Stitch London have chosen to help raise funds for Andrea Giles. Andrea’s story is an inspiring one. She’s battling breast cancer in the face of a grim diagnosis from doctors; she’s becoming a pioneer for a new way of treating cancer; she’s telling the tale as she goes to inspire others; and, a happy coincidence, she’s also learning to knit.
Raising money for Andrea’s treatment is doing so much more than helping this inspiring person to keep on fighting. It will help fund a much-needed charity and prove that these treatments can make a huge difference, which means giving new hope to cancer fighters everywhere.
Andrea’s story is so fascinating we thought it would be best to ask her a few questions and let the lady herself tell her tale.
Hello Andrea. Welcome to Stitch London. Your blog and your battle have inspired us and we’d like to introduce you and your mission to our members. So here goes:
Can you describe yourself in one sentence?
Wow, that’s a difficult one… A woman in search of herself, perhaps! Though I’ve never lost my funny bone ha! ha!
You are currently battling Metastatic Breast Cancer with a combination of complimentary therapy and carrot sticks. Your website says you have had chemo and radiotherapy before. Why the change? Why the unconventional methods?
I had chemo and radiotherapy after my first diagnosis in 2007; though I did have a 5-day course of Radiotherapy after the 2nd diagnosis (October 2009) to help with pain relief to my left shoulder (which it did do – ease the pain I mean!). Doctors said no chemo this time as wouldn’t work due to type of cancer – palliative care only in the form of different drugs….
a) monthly implant to switch off my hormones and keep me switched off – cancer is hormone fed (had new implant every month), b) infusion of Bisphosphonates every month (bone-building drugs) and c) letrazol – a drug that blocks the process of aromatisation, and so reduces the amount of oestrogen in the body.
I started these treatments in November 2009 but decided to stop them all in August of this year because for a long while I had not been happy about using chemicals to treat my condition. Especially when some of the drugs had side effects that were detrimental to my condition! Also since changing my diet to that of raw food and changing my lifestyle to a more holistic one, the conventional medicine no longer fitted with my changing beliefs. The carrot sticks spoke to me.
- Andrea and her friend Chris, who helped her start her website and fundraising effort
One of the ways you’ve already helped yourself is by a special diet of raw food. Do you miss hot dinners? And are you still allowed cake? (Stitch Londoners are big cake fans)
Ahhhhh cake, if only! On a conventional raw food diet you can have your cake and eat it, albeit raw cake, which by the way is amazing. However I am not eating any sweet stuff at the mo, including no fruit, as cancer cells like to eat glucose. They like it very much and take it up quicker than normal cells. So by stopping eating any sweet food that the cancer cells like, you are starving it, ha! ha!
Hot dinners…….. well until very recently I was 100% raw food, but since having a couple of consultations with a natural nutritionist I was advised to introduce some very simple warm food into my diet to be gentle on my liver. The liver is the organ of the body that holds on to lots of toxins as well as tries to clear them out, and so need a lot of care to get it back to full working order after all them damage that will have been done to it through conventional medicines and ‘bad food’ choices over the years. Too much info to explain here really. So for now I am having very simple warm food occasionally (nothing fried – oils become denatured through frying!) Feels odd though to be eating hot food again as I don’t quite feel as if I’m getting optimum nutrients, but I know that what I am doing by eating some warm stuff is being gentle to my system. I still eat a very high raw food diet though.
And yes I do miss cake – maybe one day I’ll have a slice of raw cheesecake again.
If you think any of your readers might be interested in trying raw food there are 3 places in London that have good selections. Inspiral Lounge in Camden – they make the most amazing raw ice-cream too (no dairy in sight), Vantra on Soho Square (organic and buffet style), and Saf Restaurant – a gourmet vegan restaurant – fabulous food. And here in Brighton too there is a fantastic restaurant and café called Aloka – their raw food is the best I’ve ever had.
Has having cancer changed the way you live your life in good ways as well as the expected bad ones?
Cancer has changed my life in so many ways, but above anything else it forced me to think about where I was going with my life – the jury’s still out on that one, hence my description of myself as a woman in search of herself!
Having chosen to change my life by going to university and take myself off in a certain direction, cancer came along and knocked me off that planned path. But in doing so it has forced me to face myself more clearly and more openly. Though this has taken time and is still on going. To question the way I think and feel about myself and others and the wider world and our place within it and how we conduct ourselves whilst on this planet; our relationship to each other and all living beings and the impact this has.
I have found I have questioned myself a lot; who am I, what is my purpose etc. Also I have a new and improved outlook on life, as I enjoy the beauty in small things more; a child whizzing down a street on a scooter, the sound of the wind through the trees, seeing happy faces and hearing laughter. I feel so glad that I am still here and a part of life as I have so much to be thankful for.
Also I have met and continue to meet so many amazing people; people who genuinely care for others, who delight in others delight, who support without judgement, who want the best for others without pressure; very inspiring people who I look up too and aspire to being like.
Your story is amazingly upbeat, humorous and inspiringly brave in the face of a terrifying diagnosis and so much
treatment. How do you stay so positive?
- Andrea and her supporting army
Sometimes I do have down days or off periods when things pile up on you (like the dishes!!!) but look out of the window; it’s sunny, everyone is smiling, you can go for a walk, the birds are singing, the colours are bright, or it’s misty, how magical does that feel, conjures up fairytale stories, moisture settles on cobwebs and how beautiful do they look, or it’s raining, kids are splashing in puddles, it’s great to get togged up in waterproofs and feel the power of the rain, or it’s windy and what a laugh that is as it blows through you and around you.
It’s about perception really, and enjoying the things that make you and others feel good. When you feel good it ripples out to others and is reciprocated. I think I do generally have a positive outlook on life as a friend once commented (and I’m not blowing my own trumpet here – I don’t have a trumpet actually, but this is what she said to me) that she always liked talking with me because I would always find a positive when presented with a negative. So I guess that’s what I do, though I think it’s just how I am, but I’m not Pollyanna, just like to try and be upbeat.
You kept your diagnosis quiet for quite some time but have recently started a blog on your website. What made you choose to share your tale with others?
I guess in the past I didn’t want to be seen as ‘Andrea…..Cancer woman’ as if the cancer would be the way people saw and related to me. I wasn’t sure about the funding/website thing because it meant having to bear my soul to everyone and I didn’t know how I would react to having to do that. I was fearful of doing it, but strangely enough I have felt it to be very liberating as though I didn’t realise it til I’d done it.
I had been putting myself under a lot of stress by hiding my diagnosis as it meant struggling with things that I needn’t have had to if others had known, and also not being able to talk freely with others because of my need to feel protective of them; protecting others from news that might be difficult for them to deal with and respond to.
Now my truth is out there (or rather my cancer truth is out there) and I am free of carrying it all on my own, and if others find it difficult to deal with or talk about that is for them to sort out for themselves. I can understand some may find it difficult but we all have to be responsible for ourselves and our thoughts. By my sharing my story with others I am taking responsibility and ownership of this part of myself and acknowledging it to be valid. By letting people know of the alternative treatments I am having I was hoping it would give those who read it an insight into other treatments that are available should they wish to explore further.
I didn’t realise I would get such an interested response, such as your enquiries, and I am rather overwhelmed that you think I could be a positive role model in this, however if it allows more people a way into discovering more about these forms of treatment than I am more than happy if my story inspires!
What do your friends and family think of the new treatment idea?
Ah, this is an interesting one. Everyone is supportive in their way, however some responses have been tinged with the….. ‘ well, I guess if you think it’s going to work that’s good, but I don’t know if I could do it’ In other words they would have stuck with the orthodox route, whilst others who, from the conversations I have had with them, are more enlightened about alternative treatments have not put any ‘buts’ in the sentence and have been really enthusiastic about my choice.
- Hiking somewhere lovely
You lost the use of one arm due to metastatic breast cancer moving into your bone, but radiotherapy and your alternative route means you returned to cycling, hiking and doing yoga. Are the doctors amazed at your success so far?
I did lose the use of my left arm due to my metastatic breast cancer in the bone, and the use slowly returned after having Radiotherapy to the left shoulder blade, the site of the biggest cancer cell location and the cause of the pain. The cycling etc I was able to do before changing recently to my current therapies. That said however, I strongly believe that my diet change helped immensely (and continues to help) in my recovery and energy levels and general well-being.
The doctors have always been pleased with my progress, but they are a reticent bunch when it comes to showing overt enthusiasm for anything other than the orthodox.
Your treatment started on November 7th and will continue for the next three months. Treatment for most cancer fighters consists of chilly disinfectant-smelling rooms and bad hospital food. What’s the centre in Brighton like?
The clinic in Brighton (Vision of Hope) is very homely and cosy. What was once a large Edwardian semi-detached residence is now a space of healing, and there is definitely no smell of nasty disinfectant! The Doctor and his assistant are 100% attentive and personable. I feel more like I am away at relatives, in as much that almost everything is done for you, though of course none of my relatives ever stuck a needle in my arm!
The fabulous Andrea beating the stuffing out of cancer in 'the pod' at the Brighton clinic
The room that you have the hyperthermia and ozone treatment in would be classed as the conservatory if being used in a domestic setting, which is lovely as it overlooks the garden, and each patient has that space to themselves for their length of treatment. The Vitamin C room can take up to five patients, and is more like a reception room. We lounge in padded directors chairs with hot-water bottles, blankets and music of our choice and rest or chat as we infuse the Vitamin C. Everything has an air of calm, even the décor. I am staying in one of the two flats available above the clinic and this is a blessing as it makes everything so much more manageable and less stressful. For me the small and personal is the perfect choice as it is so unlike a hospital environment.
Plus I have buzzy Brighton just down the hill which has one of the best health food shops I’ve ever been to and believe me I’ve been to loads (in fact in case you didn’t know, I used to be the co-owner of one! – we were pretty amazing too, but we didn’t have the space to sell organic veg! which this one does).
What kind of treatments are you having? Are they very different from chemo and radiotherapy?
The ‘Back to Wellness’ page on my website explains all my treatment or you can look at Vision of Hope for even more detail of the treatments.
Andrea's first knit. Much better than mine ever was...
Rumour has it you’ve got yourself some knitting needles. Do you have ideas of the kind of things you’d like to make or will you just see where the yarn takes you?
I am doing the typical Aunty thing and experimenting with my nieces and nephew in mind. For the girls I am knitting a little cowl type scarf with a pom-pom on one end, and for my nephew he gets a multi-coloured, possibly two stitch type scarf!
- John Snow at Yes to Life event
Ultimately I would like to knit myself some funky jumpers and stripy socks, but I think that’s a long- way off yet! By the way one scarf is almost ready – I just have the pom-pom to make and attach. I may send you a photo if you’re lucky!
(Andrea did send us a photo shortly after this interview. So here’s her lovely pom pom scarf)
Do you have any advice you’d like to pass on to other cancer fighters or their families and friends who may not know where to start when looking into complementary and alternative therapies?
A very good place to start and one I wish i’d known about long ago, is the charity YES TO LIFE.
As their tag-line states, their centre offers ‘support and information on all aspects of complementary and alternative cancer therapies’.
(Below is a little Yes to Life video of a London event they did to raise awareness of the charity)
Another really helpful and knowledgeable person is Patricia Peat of Cancer Options
Both offer invaluable advice and are excellent sources of information. They take the struggle of doing multiple google searches and having too much to deal with. They listen and offer advice based upon what you are looking for and can offer more besides to give you wider informed choices.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you all the best and will be keeping up with your blog to see how it goes. Stitch London sends you woolly hugs and hopes the donation we make from our Cracking Christmas Raffle will help you and everyone else battling cancer to triumph.
Follow Andrea’s story over on her website at http://www.andreagilescancercharity.co.uk/