Radiotherapy Treatment #2: A New Visualisation 

I get to wear my mask for the first time today as they zap my brain! I’m kinda excited….what a sicko. My Dad is coming with me. I think he might be excited too. 

I read a book when I was first diagnosed. It’s the thought that counts. By David Hamilton. It among a number of books and people, helped set my path and allow positivity into my life. 

I had started reading his second book. How your mind can heal your body. But I couldn’t get into it. Hamilton makes it clear from the get go that this is just his theory, he could be wrong and that there isn’t that much science behind it. I needed more at the time and so put it away. Since the surgery it has become a bit of a night-time read for me followed by an episode or two of Veep. 

Last night I saw a new visualisation. I don’t think Jabba the Hutt is going to cut it with these new lesions and I’ve been ‘seeing’ this for a while in my meditations, contemplations and general daydreams….but last night I heard music, I saw myself ‘in it’, and it felt more real. I hadn’t taken my full gamut of pain meds so I don’t think I was hallucinating either. 

*Cue Nina Simone Music*

  It’s a new dawn. 

  It’s a new day. 

  It’s a neeew life for me. 

And no, I am not taking inspiration from The Bacherlorette ad, although I sometimes wished I blogged about that show instead of my actual life…but I am strutting along some city street. There could be some slow motion action too. 

So I am dressed as a tarted-up scientist. Tight white lab coat, slick back hair, dark rimmed frames, Nana Merle’s diamond earrings, shiny lips, air-brushed skin, fabulous black heels. We have a photo in our study that is quite close to what I look like (minus the lab coat and frames). The photo was taken in a photo booth in Marylebone Station one cold winter morning as I needed it for a monthly rail pass I just bought. I took the remaining photos home to show Alex, cause I didn’t think it looked like me. He asked who it was, ’cause it certainly wasn’t the woman who left the house each morning’ and he wasn’t convinced it was the woman he had recently married. The photo travelled home with us because we always wonder who she was….I guess now we know. 

So I’m confidently strutting the streets in my fabulous get-up to get into my body (the lab)….. which is where all the glamour ends, reality begins and my actual visualisation starts.

When I was a bench scientist, my main role was to grow bucket loads of decidual endothetial cells in petri dishes. These cells line the many blood vessels that are found in the juncture between the uterus and the placenta during pregnancy (have I lost you…too much information??). 

The main problem growing these cells was that the petri dish could become contaminated with another cell type called fibroblasts. They are a type of connective tissue and they quickly became my arch nemesis. Overnight, the fibroblast could multiple and cover the whole dish leaving only a few endothelial cells left to replicate, rendering the sample useless for future experiments. 

One way to manage the growth of the fibroblasts was to lug a whole microscope into a laminar flow hood and then carefully suck out the dodgy cells with a long glass pippette. (OK, definately lost the non-scientists! Maybe the photo will help) 

 It meant that the right cells, the endothelial cells, had a chance to grow and fill the dish, ready to harvest and freeze for future experiments. 

So that’s what I’ve started imagining in my body. A glass suction pippette sucking out the various areas of ‘contamination’. 



Cycle 9 Day 5: Scientists v Healers

We often think of healers as differing from scientists such as yourself, do you have any thoughts on how to reconcile these things?

This was one of the questions I was ask ‘on set’ last week during the filming. I thought it was a beautiful question, one that I had never contemplated previously, but one that is so relevant to me now in so many ways.

I had wanted to provide an eloquent and articulate response, that would be inspired, captive the audience and hopefully open up new speaking opportunities….. Instead I gave staccato sentences, that didn’t flow and made me look a little stupid. I was sent the questions beforehand but I had only glanced over them, not wanting to come across like my responses had been scripted…. Lesson learned for next time!

I’ve had a bit more time to think about it.

I would never had even considered these two professions in the same sentence before cancer, but I now believe they share many similarities and I think the notion of ‘belief’ is the common thread between both.

In my scientific mind, a healer believes in the impossible. It’s a belief without restrictions, requirements or caveats. It is often an experience that is individual and unquie. One that can not be replicated. It involves intuition, emotion and a spiritual connection. In a scientist’s world there are rules and methods. Evidence is key, so is reproducibility. It can sometimes be narrow and black and white, but deep down a scientist must also believe in the impossible. If they did not believe in the first instance then why persist with experiments, trials and theories. Why dedicate their life works to it? They work methodically and logically to try and prove what was previously thought of as impossible. They are intellectual dreamers who think outside of the box. Sometimes risking their careers and reputations for their beliefs. Sometimes shunned by their own community for being too out-there, too forward thinking, too radical. But isn’t it this radical thinking that enables us to take those leaps and bounds to advance our knowledge…..

So are they one and the same? Where does that leave me? How do I now fit in? How do I reconcile it all? And does it really matter?

I do my best to balance both sides without living in internal turmoil. Cause in some ways this is what cancer has given me. I can’t disregard all that I know as a scientist. I travelled this path and gathered this information for a reason. So maybe it is my calling to be a better scientist, to be a braver scientist, to push the boundaries, be radical in my thinking. I am reminded everyday that the human body is a miraculous organism. It’s designed to heal or we would not make it out of bed in the morning. So I already believe in the possibility. I just need to hold it. I need to forget the doubt, that creeps in and deviates me from my path, that accepts laziness as the norm and that gets in the way of my dreams.

So can this scientist believe in miracles? In my heart, I now would say yes. And my head is slowly coming on board. After all, one generations miracles are another’s scientific fact. I’m going to get in ahead of my generation and just believe.