Integrative Medicine—What the Combination of Conventional Medicine with Complementary Therapies Or “Sacred Work” Can Do

I’ve used integrative medicine to navigate metastatic cancer since I was first diagnosed almost a year ago. Integrative medicine means the use of conventional medicine mixed with complementary approaches. I also call these approaches “sacred work”. Results have been quite awesome so far.

I’m so proud of the collage I created in the shape of a mandala in the bi-monthly art therapy group classes that a non-profit offers for cancer people, in Paris suburbia. It took six months to pick images and place them in the circle I’d drawn under the guidance of the art therapist. Creating the collage helped me express how shattered I felt after receiving the diagnosis of a second recurrence of breast cancer with metastasis in bones, the liver and above the breast (right pectoralis minor). I was diagnosed in June 2022 while on vacation in Paris (back then, I lived in Atlanta, GA). The collage has surprisingly helped me bring all the pieces of my life back together, little by little.

I’ve been grateful for my oncologist and the progress made in cancer treatments in the past decade. Still, I’ve known from the beginning that, to have a chance to survive the disease, I’d need integrative medicine.

According to the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Integrative health brings conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way”.

I unexpectedly decided to stay in Paris, France—to settle—while I was visiting my family last summer. That’s what I needed to do to feel more secure.

I immediately started the conventional treatment—hormonotherapy pills and monthly injections. Yet, I also set up a team of complementary practitioners to help me do the “sacred work” as a pastor at The American Church in Paris calls personal growth.

To put it simply, “sacred work” is everything that’s helped me heal my mind, body and soul—Psychotherapy, naturopathy, reflexology, art therapy, sophrology and, of course, yoga.

I’ve looked into trauma

“Sacred work” can be difficult. In psychotherapy, I’ve looked into trauma. I’ve faced my deep insecurity. I’ve explored how, as a child, I was on the lookout for something to go bad at any time with my mom who was going through depression with suicidal thoughts. I’ve looked at my dad’s fear of losing everything since he’d experienced homelessness as a teen. I’ve checked into my need to become my mom’s light to bring her out of depression and show her that everything’s fine. In relationships, I’ve questioned my life-long belief I couldn’t be loved only for who I was. I’ve looked into the belief that I had to do a lot for the men I chose—men with an oversized ego or who couldn’t stand on their feet.

I’ve done sacred work on my yoga mat too. While practicing yoga therapy, I’ve held space for myself, for introspection. I’ve given time for deepen breathing to unknot the knots, to bring space within and in between the organs, the tissues, the fascia. I’ve felt my body, mind and soul be as one, beat at the rhythm of the universe. I’ve felt my intuition speak, insights arise, feelings emerge. For the “do-er” that I am, yoga’s vital.

My naturopath has recommended natural supplements to help reduce the conventional treatment’s side effects. Her faith in nature has guided me, “You need to physically connect with this land which is your new home now. Go and walk bare feet in nature, do yoga in nature as often as you can.”

February 2023. Almost eight months after beginning my treatment, the PET-Scan showed cancer cells on the bones had progressed but all cancer cells in my liver and pectoralis minor had disappeared. “What do you think, doc?” “That’s awesome!”, claimed my oncologist.

No medical study can prove it but I’m pretty sure integrative medicine’s been instrumental in my healing progress. I still have quite a way to go towards good health of course. Still, almost a year after my diagnosis, I’m ready to teach yoga therapy in person again, in Paris, my new home. And that, to me, is a sign. A mighty good sign.

August 2022, doing yoga in a park in Choisy-le-Roi, the city where I live, 5 miles South of Paris, to feel grounded on my new land.

I Am Good Enough

Feeling “good enough” is vital. At least for me. Why? Because over doing or always putting the needs of others before my own has come with a high price.

Piedmont Hospital’s Chapman Cancer Wellness Center provides free wellness and personal development programs for cancer patients and survivors. Last week, the center offered a workshop that spoke to me, “Good Enough: Letting Go of Perfectionism and People-Pleasing”, so I went. It made me reflect on my own—sometimes painful—journey towards feeling “good enough”.

Twelve years ago, I moved from Paris to Atlanta. I was coming out of breast cancer, and I believed that my (new) marriage and a complete change of scenery would make me happier and prevent me from getting sick again.

I was wrong.

In 2014, I got sick with a second bout of cancer.

The ordeal forced me to face something that became clear—I had spent most of my life pleasing others and helping them fulfill their dreams. I was convinced I had to do a lot to be loved, and I was constantly looking for the love and approval of others.

It was time to change, and to start seeing and acknowledging who I was.

Two years later, I did a big step towards feeling “good enough”. I let go of a 25+ year corporate career that was draining me, and I allowed myself to do something I loved—teach yoga therapy.

The workshop at the cancer wellness center, last week, was a new opportunity to check in with myself. What are the areas in my life where I may not feel good enough? How come this is happening? Feeling good enough is my life’s project.

What about you? Do you tend to overdo yourself and please others? If yes, what has motivated you to do that in your life? And what is the cost you are paying to overdo and please others? These are important questions as they may lead you to better physical and emotional well being.