The Comfort of Calendula

Last week I had a follow-up appointment with my wonderful oncologist, Dr Suzy Cleator, at the LOC. After three years my reaction to these appointments has gone from being semi-paralysed with anxiety to being laid back to the point of blasé. I hardly even mention them to my friends anymore.

‘Let’s have a look at you’, said Suzy. I ripped off my dress with the carefree nonchalance of a seasoned consulting-room attendee.

‘You’ve had a very good cosmetic result. There’s no obvious damage from the radiotherapy.’ I’m always delighted to hear these words but I bit back the riposte that I wanted to blurt out: ‘I used calendula ointment throughout my radiotherapy.’ Suzy and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on matters  complementary and alternative. And it is hard to argue with her when she is so clever and knowledgeable about cancer treatments and I’m so – not.

Yet it is true that my left breast is as smooth and unblemished as a, as a… breast! So how have I been so fortunate in this department? It might be lucky genes. It might be down to the extreme skill and precision of my oncologist and the radiographers who treated me. It might have something to do with the uber-healthy diet that I adhered to whilst I was ill (and still try to adhere to now). Or maybe it was the magical calendula ointment?

The nurses told me not to use anything other than aqueous cream to soothe my frazzled breast. ‘Why not?’, I asked. ‘Some creams contain metals that can aggravate the radiation burns,’ was the reply. Well that seemed like sensible advice. I determined to try a preparation that did not contain any metals or other dodgy additives yet might help to speed up the healing process. So I used the calendula ointment that my mum sent me from Gould’s Pharmacy in Hobart and I didn’t tell the nurses. It was powerful stuff but very sticky and it left greasy marks on my clothes. After a while I switched to Spiezia organic calendula ointment.

My opinion is this: good outcomes from cancer treatments depend on a huge variety of factors; medical; dietary; physical; spiritual and emotional. But I’ve just come across research that conludes that ‘Calendula is highly effective for the prevention of acute dermatitis of grade 2 or higher and should be proposed for patients undergoing postoperative irradiation for breast cancer.’

Score one for the tree-huggers.

Have you tried any treatments, either useful or useless to help you through radiotherapy? Please tell us your story.

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