You've got a month to live!

Tuesday 6 April, 2010 by chigong

Like many people with cancer, Paul was very shocked when he was diagnosed. He was faced with many difficult emotions and decisions. Below Paul shares his story about how meditation (a complementary cancer therapy) gave him strength to cope better during and after his cancer and its treatment.

Paul’s story may prompt questions from other cancer patients and their families. If you'd like to know more about complementary and alternative cancer therapies you can call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20. We would also suggest you read the information at the end of Paul’s story about the use of meditation in cancer care.

Hello, my name is Paul Litchfield and I wanted to share with you all my story.

Late November 2008 I was diagnosed with Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Specifically affecting my tongue and 3 lymph nodes in my neck. After all the various tests you get with this kind of news I was told the tumour was 8cm and growing fast. Then I was told there was nothing they could do for me and I was given about one month to live.

Thus began a terrible time of coming to grips with this devastating news. How to tell my wife, family and friends. The first thing I did was tell the doctors, No it's not going to play out that way. Figure something else out. Find some way to give me some time.

After many discussions it was agreed that I would receive some chemo and see how that went. Well a Miracle occurred and the tumour shrank by about half from one dose. After that they said well okay have more chemo and now you can have some radiotherapy. So began 7 weeks of intensive radiotherapy 5 days a week, combined with three weeks of chemo, various types and by the time it was all over the tumour was completely gone from my tongue, all that was left was the three lymph nodes still having not shrunk completely.

So after I recovered from all that I had a partial resection done on my neck to remove the affected lymph nodes. So now I am in recovery from all of that. The last PET scan I had a couple of weeks ago was 100% clear and the doctor said come back in a year!

Well that was the mechanics of the Cancer. The reality was very different. As I said I had to face the realities of my situation and truly without the many forms of support from my wonderful wife, family and friends gave me, I don't think I would have survived it.

But interestingly enough I "knew" from the initial diagnosis that this was not the end for me yet. That's why I told the doctors, no it's not going to play out the way they were telling me it would. Where this certainty came from I do not really know, just that it was there. Every time I went to see the doctor, I asked him, how I'm doing Doc, he would shake his head and say Mr Litchfield, I'm sorry but I can't change my mind you are still going to die, maybe not quite so soon but no more than a couple of months at most.

On my last visit he said to me "Well, all I can say is you're a better poker player than I am, I put my cards on the table and you dealt me a better hand. Whatever you are doing do not stop."

And that brings me to what was I doing during all this time and did it and does it have anything to do with not only my survival, but my continued recovery as well.

For the last 18 years I have been working as a healer. Specifically a form of Chinese healing called Chi Gong. My wife and I have treated many patients over the years many with serious problems such as my own. Some people survive cancer some do not. I don't think there is any one reason why this happens, but it's clear to me that some things help and others do not.

For me personally to find myself with cancer was a huge shock as I was doing as many so called good things to keep myself as well as possible, meditating every day, good diet, plenty of exercise, trying to be a better person, and yet I got a typical smokers cancer, amusing as I had never smoked a day in my life.

Of course there was the occasional medicinal wine and I do mean occasional. And apparently if there is a localised infection in the area alcohol can play a part in the development of this type of cancer and I actually did have a burn in my throat from some food that was too hot and got caught in my throat which was taking a long time to heal.

But there were also things from my past that haunted me and which despite many attempts to free myself from their effects I was always somewhat sad, fearful and angry at life for what I considered things not my fault! But I have come to see that and (again I stress this is just my point of view,) that while there may be no actual plan of life, things do seem to occur in a perfectly timed manner.

And I have come to accept that the things that were deepest in my heart did have a definite effect on my health and it is also clear to me that I could have done a lot more than I was doing, particularly when it came to meditating more. My wife was always complaining and rightly so that I was very good at sussing out other people's problems and doing what I could to help them, but very bad at doing the same for myself!!!

During my ordeal whenever I could I would sit or lie down, more often lying down and do a meditation called the Golden Light Meditation. Basically all it involves is visualizing, telling yourself it's there whatever works for you, that the whole body is enveloped and pervaded by a pure golden light that enters all the body's organs and filters out all the rubbish in them and replacing that with all the things the body needs to heal and be healthy.

Simply breathing in the good stuff and breathing out the bad stuff. Usually for an hour at a time sometimes more. I did this for as many hours a day as was possible for me, sometimes up to 8 hours a day as I had nothing else to do. Gradually I felt stronger and could start to feel that I really would survive. I still do 6 hours a day. This is as necessary to me as having a shower and brushing my teeth.

As well as this I really started to take responsibility for how my actions affected not just myself but everyone around me. My friends now tell me that the haunted look is gone and some barely recognise me. My closest friends remarking where did that angry arsehole go? All I know is that my future is possible now in a way that wasn't before because I am free of so much baggage.

How does this happen? Are there Miracles? Yes I believe there are and many prayers were said on my behalf, some from me to God, yes, but not the kind of prayer that begs for life and I will do this in exchange. No my prayers were more a deep feeling intuition that the Divine exists and if related to rightly perhaps something can change maybe not, but it's okay either way, and I truly felt that it would be okay.

Today my fear of the cancer returning is still there and my doctor was adamant that it would return by last Xmas. Wrong again, and sometimes I go a whole hour without thinking of it! Yet basically my life is returning to a kind of simple balance that I'm not sure I've ever experienced before, but am enjoying.

So I'm writing this story with the hope that perhaps others can know it's possible to survive this type of cancer and who perhaps would like to join me in my daily meditations and see where we end up together.

We understand how important it is for people with cancer to explore treatment options. Many cancer patients look into using complementary therapies. These are therapies used alongside your conventional cancer treatment. Examples of complementary therapies include meditation, creative visualisation, massage and hypnosis. There's no scientific evidence to prove any complementary or alternative cancer therapy can help prevent, treat, control or cure cancer. However, after using some of these therapies many people say they feel a lot better. They say it helps them gain a sense of control over their situation.

Cancer Council Victoria fully supports this. We realise how important it is that people with cancer and their families know where to get reliable information about using complementary and alternative cancer therapies. Because of this we have written a booklet on complementary and alternative cancer therapies.

Updated: 06 Apr, 2010