How Essential Oils Helped Me During Chemotherapy and Radiation
When I found out I had breast cancer I felt like a fraud or imposter. I owned a wellness centre and taught others how to be well and heal, but here I was battling cancer. So many of my clients were supportive and thought I was insane to think this way, but this is how we bash ourselves up don't we?
I decided to discard this imposter mindset and adopt a resilient mindset, and continued using natural health products, like essential oils, during my treatments because I know how powerful they can be when used aromatically and topically.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are in the plant and are extracted by distillation (steam, steam/water and water) or expression (also known as cold pressing). However, essential oils are constantly changing their chemical composition in the plant and helping the plant to adapt to the ever-changing internal and external environment. They are also known as the life force of the plant. Research has shown that plants produce essential oils for a variety of purposes:
- Attract pollinators and dispersal agents.
- To serve as defense compounds against insects and other animals.
- To protect the plant by their antifungal and antibacterial nature.
Watch this interview with Dr. Alishia Alibhai where she explains very simply what essential oils are and how they help:
History of Essential Oils
"The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day," advised Hippocrates around 400 BC. He was referring to the value of aromatic plants in health and wellbeing.
The use of aromatic plants is the oldest form of medicine, but they were also used for overall health, beauty, and for spiritual practice. These products became the basis for ointments and healing balms in herbal medicinal traditions, as well as fragrant perfumes and incense.
I remember when I'd get a cold or cough, my mother would give me cloves or clove water. When I'd have an ear ache she'd add garlic oil inside my ear. When I got married, I had to sit in a room where I was pampered as if I was royalty in a Turkish bath infused with fragrant oils.
What I Used and When?
If you or someone you know is going through surgery or cancer, consult with your doctor because I'm neither a doctor nor a certified aromatherapist. I consulted with a certified aromatherapist who gave me instructions on what to use. I was so impressed with the healing properties that my husband and I decided to create our line of aromatherapy products called SHANTI. This includes essential oils, natural skin care for problem skin, and natural hair care.
I decided to have a lumpectomy (partial mastectomy), but I ended up going under the blade twice because they didn't get the whole tumor out the first time. At my follow-up appointment with my surgeon, she was so impressed with the healing and asked what I had been doing!
I used Lavender essential oil on my wound every day after I showered.
LAVENDER is calming, pain relieving and anti-spasmodic. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antibacterial. It's widely known for use on sunburns, scrapes, cuts and insect bites.
HELICHRYSUM oil has a powerful, rich, floral, tea-like scent that comforts, lessens the effect of shock, phobias and improves the flow of energy through the body. It helps promote
cell growth, heal scars and skin tissue.
Either of these work for healing wounds.
It's normal to get anxious or nervous before chemotherapy. I used positive self-talk, law of attraction principles, talked to my supporters, but I also used an anxiety release blend to calm me down. I rolled the blend on my temples, my neck - front and back, top of my forehead and wrists.
As I rolled the oil in these areas, I'd say the following affirmations:
- I'm going to be fine during chemotherapy and will feel nothing as the medication enters through an IV.
- I'll have very minimal side effects, if any, and I'll be able to deal with it.
After ChemotherapyI had four chemotherapy treatments every three weeks, and my symptoms were worst after the first one. I explain what symptoms I went through and what I did about them in this video:
The most common symptoms for anyone going through chemotherapy is nausea, fatigue and lack of appetite. I quickly learned after my first chemotherapy that I had to plan ahead to ensure the symptoms don't get worse. I was grateful that after my second, third and fourth chemotherapy treatment, I only suffered lack of appetite, fatigue and loose bowels for 3-5 days.
I used the following essential oils in a diffuser to help build my immune system.
FRANKINCENSE is considered a 'holy' oil, this ritual oil is often used during religious ceremonies and very effective at clearing up mucous and regulating its secretion. It's known to be a great oil for use during labour and in cases of post-natal depression.
MEDIEVAL THYMES is legendary blend and considered to be antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and antiseptic because it has a combination of oils:
- Clove Bud - A strong, spicy and penetrating aroma. It has a positive and stimulating effect on the mind, alleviating depression. It also helps with sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis.
- Lemon - A familiar fresh, clean fragrance used for calming the emotions. Stimulates mental activity, increasing concentration and memory. Excellent antibacterial/disinfectant properties that can be used to soothe throat infections.
- Cinnamon - This familiar warm aroma is a great mind and body revitaliser, helping to alleviate exhaustion, depression and weakness. Assists in digestive issues.
- Eucalyptus - A strong medicinal fragrance that aids concentration. Used in a number of respiratory remedies. Its antiviral properties help fight colds, flu and ease breathing, headaches, muscular aches and pains. Do not use if you have high blood pressure or are taking homeopathic medication.
- Rosemary - This fragrance provides mental awareness and clarity. It strengthens the nervous system, stabilizes emotions and minimizes mood swings.
- Thyme - The supportive and fortifying nature of Thyme is gently empowering, helping you overcome physical, emotional and mental exhaustion by improving clarity and memory. It clears the respiratory system of catarrh and helps digestion.
- Myrrh - An ancient spiritual oil used in purification processes that was said to deepen one's connection to the universe. Provides a sense of strength, stability and courage. This oil has a 'grounding' effect on the psyche, easing fear.
I love the smell of Medieval Thymes and how it made me feel. You can get it here.
My radiation oncologist suggested I use Glaxo Base after every radiation treatment, but I asked her if I could use organic creams and essential oils instead. At first, she was hesitant but after showing her my breast two weeks into treatment she was happy with the results.
I had a treatment daily for sixteen days, not including weekends. After each treatment, I'd use Eminence Organic Skin Care Rosehip & Lemongrass Soothing Hydrator.
My skin was fine until the last five treatments where it turned red. It didn't hurt or feel burned, but it was tender. During this time, we had ordered a new product for our wellness centre, from our aromatherapy supplier, called Holy Grail. This blend includes Frankincense, Myrrh and Turmeric in Hemp Seed oil. The therapeutic oils in this ancient recipe have been used to help support health and wellness in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for more than 4000 years.
I decided to use the body oil on my breast daily and noticed a huge difference just within two weeks. I'm so impressed with this product that we've decided to bring it on-line soon!
Life will throw us curveballs, but it is our job to find the resources to cope so we can stay resilient. When my surgeon told me that breast cancer is 80 to 90% curable, I hung on to those words like a person being thrown a line when they feel like they're drowning. I'm not sure why, but I reminded myself of those words every time someone told me how sorry they were that I had breast cancer. I reminded them that its 90% curable and I wasn't going anywhere.
Being resilient is not only about coping, but its about building your inner strength so you can keep functioning when the tide is high and the current is sweeping you in another direction. I found the use of essential oils an important resource during my journey and it helped me cope tremendously.
Aromatherapy A Guide for The Use of Therapeutic Essential Oils by Colour Energy and Ashbury's Aromatherapy The Beginner's book of Essential Oils by Christine J Dalziel