Karen's story

These are not my words. Karen is a patient who has asked for this space. I’m honoured to accept!

My relationship with Su Bristow began in 2009, when my oncologist suggested that I might find relief from some of the side effects of chemotherapy by taking herbal medicine. I did find relief, but I gained much more than that. The initial consultation with Su made me realize at once that herbal medicine is a holistic treatment (which my oncologist, excellent as she was, couldn’t provide). The conversations I had with Su every few weeks became a source of stability and comfort in the midst of the instability and deep discomfort of chemotherapy. To have the benefit of Su’s calm wisdom and understanding of why certain symptoms were occurring (loss of taste, distorted finger nails, constantly runny nose, nausea) helped me cope with them emotionally – and the herbs she gave to alleviate the symptoms helped me cope physically. I can’t emphasize enough how much it meant to me, the knowledge that I could talk about all the worrying physical effects of chemo and know that she would listen with compassion and sympathy. The herbal mixtures she prepared became an essential part of my ability to deal with the ever-changing effects of chemotherapy.

Even more important than alleviating specific symptoms, however, was the herbs’ function of supporting and strengthening the various systems (circulatory, digestive, immune, lymphatic) of my body. This became especially important once the chemotherapy had ended, when the work of recuperation really began. My immune and lymphatic systems, in particular, needed support, and my liver needed to be cleansed of all the toxins it had dealt with during the months of chemotherapy. Traditional medicine has nothing to offer for these needs. I’m convinced that my recovery period would have been greatly prolonged had it not been for the herbs that sustained and supported me.

When it was clear that I had made good progress in regaining strength and vitality, Su and I addressed another of my longstanding problems, a history of allergies. Herbs are not instantly-acting miracle medicines, but slowly and surely the herbs that she prepared reduced my allergic reactions to what I breathed and touched. After years of relying on antihistamines, I have been able to reduce my intake to a minimum. The itchy eyes and sneezing that were a daily part of my life, especially in the spring and autumn, have largely disappeared, and my hands are now smooth and free from rough, sore patches of skin.

In 2012, I developed cancer again, and, as in 2009, Su’s counsel and herbal medicine have helped keep me strong, physically and emotionally, through a new course of chemotherapy. Now that I have completed the course, Su again prepares for me each few weeks a herbal mixture that supports my whole body. I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through cancer treatment and the long period of recovery afterwards without her help. I wouldn’t want to find out.