49. Operation Rebuild Stephen

Another interesting and very thought-provoking week in sunny Bournemouth. My visit to the homoeopath (Mike) resulted in Stephen booking a visit too. We were both very aware that his support during my lymphoma journey was absolutely vital to my ability to survive it; I was blessed to have his rock-like strength and total belief to sustain me during the very many dark nights of chemo-induced debilitation and depression, but even in, or maybe especially during my darkest moments I was very worried for him. Apart from having an extremely stressful day job that lurches from one deadline to another and a cash-guzzling flat that stubbornly resists being sold, he was belting backwards and forwards to the hospital to bring me everything I needed, or looking after me at home. In one of the early blogs, as people were offering and sending such strong healing and support I asked that Stephen be included; an illness is never about one person, and I was extremely worried about him. Who cares for the carer?

                We are now nearly a year on from my stem cell transplant and the recent Grand Cross between heavyweight planets (some astrology talk here folks) has brought forth its fair share of introspection. When big astronomical events like this happen – which is especially rare when the four eclipses are also taken into account – astrologers can sometimes be accused of anticipating a big world ‘event’ to jolt us out of our complacency. There are no doubt some enormous things on a world scale that have erupted during this time, but on a personal level I have found that for the most part what we experience are subtle shifts in our awareness, and things that have remained buried, possibly for years, come to the surface and demand attention. And that can be the catalyst for enormous change. My recent trip to see Mike was part of that catalyst. Stephen has been suffering from various ailments for several years which have stubbornly remained resistant to detection through the usual means. His blood pressure was high while I was ill so his doctor gave him drugs that made him dopey and down and told him he would need more to control the problem as the years progressed. Somewhat predictably the doctor discounted anything alternative. That’s nice and positive then. Stephen has had ultrasounds, endoscopies and gastroscopies to investigate stomach ache and urinary infections and has failed to recover from a knee injury (self-inflicted on a cruise ship!) that happened a couple of years ago. This went on for nearly a year, then Stephen decided it was time to reclaim his personality and some control of his life; he stopped taking the Ramipril (blood pressure) and Lamsoprazol (acid stomach) and we started to research alternatives to the menu offered by Big Pharma. Although a lot of times a suggestion from a friend can be fruitful, I think it is also very hard to manage your own health without an overall ‘director of operations’; we have a cupboard full of half used remedies to bear testimony to that approach. Just before his visit with Mike, Stephen was especially tired and low, which in itself makes you feel, well, tired and low. No amount of sleep was enough, and he felt as if his system was shutting down. I was really worried and very pleased that he was seeing someone I thought would be able to help him. There is something wonderful, nay, liberating about seeing a therapist who looks at all levels of your being and asks all kinds of seemingly irrelevant questions.

Stephen emerged wide-eyed an hour later. Mike is a homeopath, Ayurvedic doctor, herbalist, chiropractor, kinesiologist and iridiologist. I can’t imagine when he has time to do his shopping. He works non-stop from the beginning of the appointment to the last second and sees clients back-to-back for not very much money at all. He said that Stephen’s adrenal glands are exhausted and his intestinal tract is so acidic it is barely functioning – none of the lovely organic food and expensive supplements he is taking in are being absorbed which is resulting in him being deficient in some important vitamins and minerals. No wonder the poor guy is exhausted. Stephen now has a great pile of herbal and ayurvedic remedies to rival mine and we both have to write out our daily dosage schedules so we don’t get confused. In fact, I think a spreadsheet wouldn’t be a bad idea :-). His treatment includes moving to a diet that avoids dairy and eggs, coffee, wheat and pork. For a through-and-through Yorkshire man this is understandably hard – there is really nothing like a bacon butty in times of need – but it is all in aid of a good cause.

I am hugely relieved that Stephen has found help, but I realised I had only a very vague idea of the role of the adrenals. I was very aware that Stephen’s system had become stuck in ‘fight or flight mode’, an untenable situation which would obviously lead to some kind of burn-out. Which it now has. In my quest to learn more I started some research this morning, and everything fell into place within about two seconds. I was horrified that his debilitation could have got so far without it being picked up by Someone Who Should Know. Where M.E. was possibly birthed in the 20th century, Adrenal Fatigue has been dubbed the 21st century syndrome; a no-man’s land of stress that pushes our bodies way beyond their natural ability to cope. In a similar fashion to M.E. and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue doesn’t merit any attention from conventional medicine because it falls through all the gaps in scientific observations and standard blood tests. I don’t have enough space to give a mini-lecture on it so go Google it if you are interested. The symptoms mirrored Stephen’s experience exactly: extreme tiredness even after a night’s sleep, a grey, heavy feeling akin to depression; reliance on sugary coffee to get going in the morning – and then more throughout the day; a need for sugary snacks in the afternoon, a feeling of being overwhelmed by life. It was such a relief to read the symptoms and realise that all of these seemingly random expressions of dis-ease actually have a name, and what’s more, a cure.

I am of the firm belief that once something has a name it ceases to be such a mystery and you can find ways to deal with it. Stephen, hugely relieved, kind of bent forward with his head in his hands for a few moments and I did what I always do in these situations – cry. Regular readers of the blog will realise that I could be hired as a professional weeper, but my tears always indicate a release of some kind and it is often for somebody else. I am embarrassingly hopeless at weddings, for example, but at least on those occasions I cry everyone else’s tears of happiness to save them the discomfort. On this occasion the tears were for me. They were out of relief that Stephen doesn’t have to ‘man up’ and pretend he is fine when actually he is anything but. He can rest and sleep and be allowed to be ill, because he is. I can help to look after him. That’s novel and such a change from him caring for me; the blog has all been about ‘me, me, me,’ which I am heartily sick of. It is good to have a change of scenery and I write this with his blessing; I suspect there are many other people carrying on with their lives in a very tired fashion who might draw a little hope and help from this blog as it seems to reach out to where it is needed. Throughout the past year I have been so pleased when people have asked how Stephen is bearing up, but it is usually after they have asked how I am. Stephen isn’t an addendum to my life; he is everything. Now I feel he can have the attention he deserves, and the support to gradually claw his way back to health. There isn’t an overnight cure for Adrenal Fatigue. The herbs given to him by Mike will help his system to absorb the nutrients it so badly needs, but I think that by the simple act of allowing himself to be ill he can now start to get well.

Wishing you well




About Margaret Cahill

After diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma in 2013, I started this blog to stay in touch with friends, family, and and an ever increasing network of lovely people who sent me healing. The readership increased and I ended up blogging for all I was worth to try and stay sane through the chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. Then after I went into remission (thankfully) I was enjoying the writing so much that I have carried on, and the blog seems to have become a bit of a resource for people, which is lovely. The original year of blogs have now been made into a book, Under Cover of Darkness: How I Blogged my Way Through Mantle Cell Lymphoma. It fills in a lot of the gaps between the blogs, and the tone falls somewhere between graveyard humour and explicit details of chemo treatments. I do hope you enjoy it :-) Mxx
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2 Responses to 49. Operation Rebuild Stephen

  1. Susan Joiner says:

    Thank you for this very wise piece. I’ll send it on.
    Love to you both
    Sue J xxxx


  2. Iris Horsey says:

    Hi Margaret

    Thank you for your posting. Now it is uncovered as you say Stephen has a chance to help himself. Good luck to you. I have an idea that adrenal fatigue in the past has made my whole body, including my heart, slow down which is not so good..

    Iris Horsey



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