Laura, a 46-year-old registered nurse employed in a gynecologists’ group practice office, had located me over the Internet early in March 2007. She had specifically asked for a homeopathic consult, not an acupuncture appointment, but she declined to discuss her presenting problem over the phone.
“I’ve had a slightly irregular pap smear for the past 10 years, never anything worse than a mild dysplasia,” Laura explained when she arrived in my office. “Whenever a culture was done, it always came back negative, just inflammatory cells. But two days ago, I got my latest pap results back from my own gynecologist, and now….it’s cervical cancer.” Laura appeared reserved and self-possessed, her calm description quite at odds with the nature of the diagnosis she had just received. The copy of the pathologist’s report she handed me confirmed what she had just said: CIN III (the most severe grade of cervical intraepithelial neoplasm), high-grade dysplasia, and cellular evidence of carcinoma in situ, the earliest stage of cervical cancer. Laura also recalled having experienced light bleeding after sex once or twice in recent months, which can be an early warning sign.
“At least, they say it’s carcinoma in situ,” Laura continued. “Frankly, I think it’s gone way beyond that.” She proceeded to describe two purplish, ulcerous-looking lesions that had been present in the right groin area for two-and-a-half months and that had been preceded by four months of painful swelling in that area. The lesions oozed a few drops of yellow lymph fluid or blood every day, staining her underwear unless she wore a pad. The swelling was still present, so much so that she had had to change to a different style of underwear just to remain physically comfortable.
“What did your OB/GYN have to say about those lesions?” I asked after examining her. Non healing sores, after all, especially bleeding ones, can sometimes be a warning sign for the possible presence of cancer.
“Oh, I didn’t tell her about them.” Laura hesitated, then flashed a wry smile. “Actually, they closed up for a couple of days just before I went for my pap, then they opened up again the day after, so she never saw them.”
“Any particular reason why you didn’t mention them?”
“Guess some part of me didn’t want her to know about those,” Laura replied. She revealed that she was averse to the idea of having the lesions biopsied because she suspected they might be metastases to the inguinal lymph nodes, which would indicate a more serious Stage II or III cancer that is usually treated with radical hysterectomy radiation and/or chemotherapy. Laura explicitly sought to avoid invasive procedures. Her gynecologist had asked to schedule a colposcopy (a more extensive biopsy procedure in which multiple tissue samples are taken from the cervix), and Laura had agreed, but only on condition that the doctor allow her two to three months to try non-conventional therapies first. Fortunately, Laura’s OB/GYN was sympathetic to complementary and alternative medical approaches and agreed- reluctantly, after duly warning her that time was of the essence in preventing further spread. Laura was willing to assume full legal responsibility for her own health in the meantime.
In my Oriental Medicine practice, I specialize in women’s health issues, and I know from experience that when hormonal imbalances are involved (and reproductive cancers tend to involve such imbalances), it often takes a minimum of three months to effect a significant change. Laura and her physician weren’t giving me a lot of time, so finding a resonant remedy quickly would be critical.
Laura’s story: It’s not what you eat, it’s what eats you
Laura’s lifestyle and dietary habits would be considered exemplary by most standards. She exercised regularly, prepared organic vegetarian meals most days, and consumed wild-caught fish or organic meats three days a week; fish was her favorite entree. Green tea was her favorite beverage; she avoided black tea because it caused heavier bleeding if consumed during the menstrual cycle. Laura reported no digestive problems and could think of only one food to which she had a bad reaction: raw onions, which created an unpleasant sensation of heat in the stomach. She had avoided these since childhood.
Traumatic emotions can often trigger the development of serious pathology, overriding “good” lifestyle habits. When I asked whether any particularly difficult life events had affected her in the recent past, Laura surmised why she had become susceptible to cellular abnormalities at this time in her life. A year and a half earlier, she had been present during the last two weeks of her mother’s final struggle with ovarian cancer at age 75. Just two months prior to that, Laura’s younger sister had been killed suddenly in an auto accident. With her father, a conservative minister, having died two years previously, the sudden bereavement of her only remaining close relatives left Laura in a deep state of grieving and with a feeling of profound isolation (“I have no more witnesses to my life”) from which she had been unable to emerge.
Since the deaths of her family members, Laura had been “obsessed” (her words) on a daily basis with memories of her family. Even while performing other tasks, her mind would constantly dwell on these memories. She said she had no one to share these experiences with, as her family had lived in a distant state, so she felt cut off from others in her environment and could not express her emotional state to spouse, friends, or colleagues. (“They don’t have a clue…it’s all hidden inside me.”) Laura preferred to sleep on her left side, but lately she hadn’t been sleeping well at all. Over the past six or eight months, she had been waking frequently at 3 a.m., lying awake for hours reliving her mother’s final illness and memories of her father, mother, and sister. She often dreamt of them. Things had gone so far that in the months just before her pap smear, she had started to occupy the wee hours of the night imagining the cemetery where they were buried and mentally planning a gravestone for herself next to theirs, right down to the monument style and details of the inscription. Considering that she previously had been a firm believer in cremation and disdained the idea of burial, this represented quite a mental shift.
I asked Laura if she had experienced any other unusual mental or emotional changes recently, even if they seemed to be unrelated. Yes, she stated, she was having strange memory lapses. She had left her office door unlocked over a weekend (a first), and had locked herself out of her car four times in the past two months, “and that hasn’t happened since I was a teenager.” During the same time period she noticed having trouble finishing sentences; “the words would just disappear on me in mid-thought.” Laura claimed to always have had a “spiritual” relationship to music, but since her family’s passing she had been actively seeking out classical or New Age music or religious oratorios that were somber and made her feel even more morose, bringing tears to her eyes.
Rounding out the picture
It can be tempting to develop a knee-jerk response to certain symptoms; for example, “grief” leads to prescribing a remedy in the Natrum family. The nature and expression of Laura’s grief, however, led me in another direction entirely. I was beginning to have some ideas about a remedy that fit well with Laura, but I first wanted to learn about other lifelong tendencies she might have had. She felt that her greatest strength was her ability to focus single-mindedly on a goal (though she was aware that this trait did not serve her well in relationship to her grieving). She stated that she could handle both cold and hot weather equally well, but that dampness and humidity annoyed her and made all her complaints worse. She much preferred the desert to subtropical climates for this reason. She also felt worse a few days before every full moon, when she would retain water and have more trouble sleeping. She tended to have one headache premenstrually every month, always starting at the left occiput, which was relieved by aspirin. About a week before the onset of menses, she would experience a bloody discharge when blowing her nose each morning, which ceased once the menses began. She also complained of chronic sinus troubles, always worse in the left nostril, and of having to blow her nose repeatedly when moving her bowels in the mornings. “I have a bad habit of picking my nose, too…of course, never when anyone is looking.”
Laura had some long-standing uterine fibroids which were not particularly symptomatic, but ultrasound had shown that most of them were pedunculated (stalk-like) in form. I noticed that she had sparse hair on the lateral half of her eyebrows; Laura indicated that this had been the case since she was about 30 years of age.
Looking for the sycotic miasm
Most cervical cancers are linked to human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that is responsible for genital warts. Many varieties of HPV are relatively harmless, but a small number of types are known to cause cervical carcinoma, often years or even decades after the initial exposure. Laura hadn’t said anything about her private life, but in view of the diagnosis, I felt it important to explore this issue. The details that emerged from Laura’s story proved helpful indeed. As the daughter of a minister, Laura always felt that she had to serve as a role model, not only within the family but also in her work as a nurse in a physician’s office, and she found her current diagnosis embarrassing. Laura had been married for 15 years and had known her husband for nearly 18 years. In her early 20s, however, before she ever attended nursing school, Laura had been involved in a clandestine relationship with a young man who was engaged to another woman but was known to be a philanderer. Laura saw this relationship as an adventure, an expression of breaking free from her rather strait-laced upbringing, but there were consequences. It was during that time that her then gynecologist found something “suspicious” on the cervix and performed what she remembered as cryosurgery, applying an unknown green substance to the cervix after the procedure. A year later, she had an outbreak of genital warts, which were medically suppressed and burned off. Since that time, there had been no recurrence. HPV is a latent virus, however, and from a homeopathic view, we could say that the virus was lying in wait for an opportunity afforded by a breakdown of Laura’s immunity or Vital Force. The bereavement experience might have been just the trigger for that breakdown.
Sexually transmitted diseases such as HPV are considered in classical homeopathy to be associated with the sycotic miasm. The remedy Thuja occidentalis, from the white cedar or Arbor vitae, is historically known for its links to STDs such as gonorrhea and genital warts and is also considered to be an archetypal sycotic remedy. Based on Laura’s history, her emotional reserve, recent memory losses, emotional responses to somber music, religious history, relative secretiveness about her condition even to her physician, her food and weather aversions, the location of the lymphatic lesions (and the apparent desire to “hide” them from the physician) and above all her monomania, I chose the remedy Thuja occidentalis. See Figure 1 for the repertorization in MacRepertory that led me to this remedy. I chose the 1M potency because of the duration of her emotional fixation; in my clinical experience, the longer an imbalanced situation has gone on, the higher the potency required to correct it, unless the person is highly sensitive, which was not the case here.
March 10th Rx: Thuja 1M in water, divided dose three times in a single day.
A note on adjunctive therapies
Dr. Ramakrishnan has remarked that when people receive a diagnosis of cancer, they want to experiment with many different therapeutic approaches, and any attempts by the homeopath to discourage this will be futile. Laura was no exception and requested help on as many fronts as possible. Adjunctive therapies that I recommended for her included vaginal suppositories with Thuja-Lomatium essential oils, a patented broccoli derivative extract to help reduce estrogen dominance (a factor in many reproductive cancers), and occasional Pranic Healing sessions with a certified colleague to encourage stimulation of the Vital Force.
Close, but no cigar
Two days after taking the initial remedy, Laura left a message on my office voicemail. “I have my life back,” she exclaimed. “All of a sudden, I can think about my mother and my sister without regret or gloominess. It’s as though I’m more distanced from them; I can’t explain it any better than that. But I have hope now that I can go forward without always looking backwards. I can keep my mind on the present. That’s the first time I’ve felt this way in a year and a half.”
After one week, I called to ask her what was happening with the lesions in the groin region. Laura reported that the bloody and purulent discharges had ceased for a few days after taking the remedy, but they then opened up again. She was still feeling mentally buoyant and was sleeping well but was beginning to experience a few creeping obsessive thoughts about her deceased family members once more. I felt strongly that Thuja was the right remedy given the almost immediate improvements in the mental and emotional sphere, but perhaps due to the recalcitrance of the latent virus, one dose was not enough to achieve the results we wanted. So I did something I rarely do in practice: I instructed her to repeat the remedy, even though only a week had passed.
March 18th Rx: Thuja 1M in water, divided dose.
Once again, the remedy boosted Laura’s mental/emotional state, and the groin lesions closed up once more. Laura then left town for a scheduled vacation, and I did not see or hear from her again until her return several weeks later. At her follow-up appointment, Laura indicated that the emotional benefits were continuing to hold this time, but that the groin lesions were beginning to discharge a few drops of blood and lymph fluid again, which was not a good sign.
10M to the rescue
On rare occasions, I will use techniques from Pranic Healing to confirm the choice of a remedy. This involves scanning 11 energy centers on the front and back of the body for states of congestion, over-activation, or depletion and then rescanning them individually while the patient holds the candidate remedy against the thymus. When the chosen remedy is truly resonant, holding the remedy in this way causes all critically imbalanced energy centers to decongest immediately. From the beginning of my work with Laura, Thuja had consistently caused her congested and over-activated sacral energy center to return to a normal depth and width, and the same was true for the minor energy centers in the groin.
During Laura’s follow-up visit, I rescanned the critically affected energy centers and found that although Thuja still benefited her, these key energy centers only partially decongested with the 1M potency. I scanned Laura’s energy field with Thuja in the 10M potency; happily, it decongested all of the energy centers instantaneously.
I rarely need to use such high potencies in practice, and I had some reservations about doing so. But with only one month to go before Laura’s scheduled colposcopy, this was no time to pussyfoot around with half-measures. (An old Dutch proverb goes, “Soft doctors make bad sores.”) I reminded myself that the latent HPV virus had been making a home in Laura’s body for 25 years and was deeply entrenched, which would help explain why the 1M potency no longer worked and why only the 10M appeared to be aggressive enough to finish the job. I briefed Laura on the nature of homeopathic aggravations in case any should occur, and then sent her home with the high potency.
April 17th Rx: Thuja 10M, divided dose in water.
A third party confirms the action of the remedy
What happened next was quite dramatic. The morning after taking the 10M, Laura’s inguinal lesions expelled slightly more blood than usual and continued to drain continuously for three days. Then they closed up completely, and this time the swelling in the groin area also decreased rapidly – a first. Laura reported dreaming about the dead again, except that this time the “dead” person was still alive and graciously hosting his own festive wake. She also dreamt of being a fish happily swimming in the ocean.
A few days after the 10M dose, Laura visited my Pranic Healing colleague for another of her sessions. True to her usual reticent habits with healthcare practitioners, Laura disclosed nothing about what had been transpiring on the homeopathic front. The healer began to scan the energy field with her hands and immediately stopped short, scanned again, and looked extremely puzzled. “WHAT are you doing?” she queried. “Your energy field is so much denser and stronger all of a sudden!” She proceeded to scan the chakras one by one and declared that there was virtually no congestion in either the reproductive area or the groin. Laura, beaming like a Cheshire cat, then divulged her new, higher remedy potency, the only change that had occurred in her therapies since her previous visit.
All’s well that ends well
Over the next several weeks, symptomatic improvement was maintained. About two weeks after the 10M dose, Laura experienced intense itching all over her body, culminating in what appeared to be dry, scaly eczema. Laura indicated that she had suffered from similar bouts of eczema as a small child and again as a young adult, so this was a perfect illustration of the homeopathic principle of “return of old symptoms.” I instructed her not to suppress the skin symptoms, and amazingly, in just 24 hours nearly all of the eczema patches disappeared as rapidly as they had come.
In mid-May, Laura underwent the scheduled colposcopic exam. Just four days later, her gynecologist’s office telephoned to announce that not only were no cancerous cells present, but all evidence of any degree of cervical dysplasia had disappeared as well- for the first time in more than a decade! Laura later provided me with a copy of the pathologist’s report, the wording of which barely concealed incredulity about the discrepancy in findings between the pap smear and the colposcopy.
More than three years have passed since Laura first sought homeopathic help. During that time she has received two additional doses of Thuja but has not required any chronic remedy for approximately a year and a half. She continues to have regular pap smears, all of which have remained normal, and there has been no recurrence of the lymphatic abnormalities. Her one complaint is that the remedy has changed her relationship to music: “I don’t wallow in Mahler any more, but sometimes I kind of miss that.” She is full of new projects and dreams and feels she can finally let go of loved ones from the past. We both give thanks for Arbor vitae, Laura’s own “Tree of life.”
This article has been submitted to Homeopathy Today.
Pranic Healing is a system developed by the late Master Choa Kok Sui of the Philippines. It is a synthesis of esoteric teachings from India and China and draws upon the traditions of external medical Qi Gong. Practitioners learn how to scan 11 major and numerous minor energy centers (chakras) by developing sensitivity in the hands, and how to project specific therapeutic colors to chakras that are out of balance.