“Making sense of cancer”
Why are we here to support you?
HealthEqualsFreedom was founded with the goal to support and provide health advocacy to you or a family member with a new cancer diagnosis. We know how scary this time is!
You may have noticed that there seem to be more and more people with cancer around you, friends, colleagues and family? Perhaps the diagnosis of CANCER has unfortunately come to you…..?
Are you newly diagnosed?
One thing you may have already noticed is once you start to share your diagnosis with others everyone seems to have been affected by cancer in some way, and are likely to have already forced their opinion on you and given you all sorts of weird and wonderful opinions and advice on what you ‘should do’ to fix this. You are also likely to have had your healthcare professionals either sensitively or insensitively dump a whole pile of complex scientific information and jargon on you if you are unlucky….
You are not alone, in fact, in 2019 it is estimated that just in Australia each year there are 145,000 new cancer diagnoses (1) or 396 people (4), who receive this news, just like you every single day! Worldwide cancer rates just keep going up and up!
If you have just received your diagnosis you are likely to be scared, confused, overwhelmed, and feel helpless.
You may also feel motivated to do whatever you can to change what is happening with your health. I have drawn a diagram of the kinds of emotions that you may be feeling or thoughts that might be swirling around in your head below..
While many people stay in denial for a long time when diagnosed, others get highly motivated to learn and or seek to change their health situation.
Understanding how to get your health back requires an understanding of ill-health, “Dis (Latin for Lack of) ease”, being the direct opposite of health. The serious consequences of dis-ease include CANCER, infertility, infectious diseases, obesity, diabetes, immune system failure (autoimmune diseases), and more.
Life becomes much much harder if you don’t have your health!
Dr Rachel, HealthEqualsFreedom and our approach
People have described Dr Rachel as:
I was interested in learning as a little girl was very curious and wanted to understand how things worked, particularly biology and was a ‘book-worm’, I was also told many times I was good at explaining complex things and making them easy to understand. I also started studying (two degrees later, Bachelor with First Class Honours and Doctorate) what causes dis-ease and ill-health, this formal study took more than 9 years at University here in Australia and the USA!
I also understand what it is like to get a cancer diagnosis myself, with polyps in my bowel and tumours in my uterus, and the journey I have gone through to improve my own health, and the challenges of changing behaviour on my own health recovery journey.
In fact my doctor said when the bowel polyps were found”
if you don’t change your lifestyle you will get bowel cancer.
I have completely changed what I eat and what I do to protect my health, as I have a strong family history of cancer.
However for you and your family, you don’t have 20 years, you may not have 10 years to spend at University and then another 10 to learn these things to improve your health, you may need help now, right? Sometimes time is of the essence. While we cannot change our genetics (unless we use nutrigenomics and other methods to change gene expression, a topic for another time..) we can do things to improve our health circumstances.
Importantly with my own journey over 10 years ago, I was best placed to do something about my health, and I chose what opinions to take on board from friends and family, often who do not have a healthcare background, and the ‘expert advice’ I was given by healthcare professionals, because I am empowered and don’t take all opinions at face value – that is what my science and medical training taught me to do. That isn’t to say that I will not consider information and opinions that are given.
I am for myself and you are for yourself the expert of your own health or ill-health – you know how you feel, what hurts and what things you will and won’t try.
I also know what it is like to have the people we love most, our family and friends diagnosed with cancer, I will tell you more about that later…..
You and what you might be doing
You will be looking at all of the options that you can take to help yourself. Often that starts with a ‘Google search’. The good news is that the responsibility for your health lies with YOU, not your doctor and certainly not Google. This may sound radical, but it is true…You can choose what treatment path you take. What caused your cancer is not as important as what you do about it. But you need to be careful as much of what is on the internet about cancer is quite literally rubbish, not all opinions are well informed, and not all healthcare professionals have your best interests at heart. You need to understand your decision points, this may take time and help to walk you through concepts.
Most of our Western Medical approach is focussed on doctor-centred medicine, where the power of decision making only resides with your doctor. Research (5) now shows that a patient-centred approach which, empowers people (patients,) gives much much better health outcomes in the short and long-term.
Don’t get me wrong, what your team of doctors and nurses tell you, whatever your stage or type of cancer is very important, but you have the opportunity to make changes and decisions about your care and environment that will help you improve your health. Many of the treatments your healthcare professionals have in store for you are literally designed to knock you off your feet and knock cancer out of you, it is the fight or competition of your life, you want ‘to win’ and turn your health around, which you CAN! Winning over and becoming a cancer thriver is possible with hard work, good luck and the right environment!
While doctors will aim to help you, especially if you have had a CANCER diagnosis – YOU actually have the POWER to take charge of what you do (even the medications you take), eat, and think with the knowledge that your body CAN heal and repair itself if given the opportunity.
Asking questions and challenging your treatments is empowering and important. Many patients do not even know that they can have this personal power over their cancer treatments and approaches taken on their behalf. Many of the treatments that doctors use in oncology are experimental and have only been used on a few patients, and in fact, this is often the case. In other disease settings, more testing would be done before giving to a patient. Time is of the essence, however, sometimes the treatments are not at all helpful and only make your quality of life worse because of their toxicities and side-effects. It is KEY to ask questions and become comfortable that you are making choices, even if you are feeling very sick.
Putting the right things on, in and around your body for as little as 3 months can reap amazing changes even if your health history is really bad, with a few small tweaks in a better environment your body will work better and this is the exciting thing, changes all add up to potentially changing how your body is working and healing.
Certainly, things you choose to do, e.g. the food you eat or how much you sleep, may have bigger impacts than others, you CAN simply choose what works best for you and supports your commitment to your short-term and then long-term health recovery. If you have had a recent diagnosis, you may want to do as much as possible as quickly as possible, or you might need to take baby-steps, everyone is different and your cancer journey is your own, not your doctor’s, family’s or anyone else, but your own, whatever you choose is correct and should be supported!
At HealthEqualsFreedom we are here to guide you with health advocacy and practical credible non-medical resources to support you no matter what changes you decide to make on your journey!
Our goal is to help you reframe YOUR cancer journey!
Cancer and Family and Friends
Make sure your loved one is getting the right treatment.
Unfortunately, I have been touched by cancer in many ways, my maternal grandfather died of throat cancer.
My paternal grandfather died of prostate cancer, but he kept it a secret, we thought he had heart problems – as he didn’t want to ‘worry us’! We all only found out that my grandfather had prostate cancer when my Dad gave me his death certificate at the funeral. My Dad asked me to explain the medical terminology on the Death Certificate, as Dad didn’t know what the medical words meant!
My Cousin, an aircraft engineer for a famous Australian airline, died at 38 after fighting an original thyroid tumour, diagnosed when he was 27, followed by a series of brain tumours, the first of which was found three months after the thyroid tumour and was a large benign brain tumour the size of an orange above his ear (mentioned above), then a series of glioblastomas (malignant aggressive type) for 9 years: you name it he had it – all types of treatments – 5 brain surgeries, radiation, chemo, and experimental chemo. I was there for him and my family, even organising the experimental chemo, with his brain surgeon (Dr Charlie Teo) and his oncologist, which extended his life by a month, which may not seem like much, but when your loved one is dying, every second for us was precious! He left behind his wife and two little boys, 3 and 9 and the rest of us.
Two months after my Cousin died my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had surgery followed by chemo, we are grateful he has been progression-free for over 5 years, luckily Dad was diagnosed early, because he got the bowel screening kit, an Australian government initiative which is sent to every Australian automatically when you turn 50 and is sent out regularly thereafter. My Dad was very motivated to get the test done as my cousin had just died, unlike earlier in his life, as a strong Aussie ‘invincible’ bloke who didn’t go to the doctor much!
What I did do for my Cousin and my Dad in those years was offer suggestions and support to help in their cancer journey to improve their diet and improve the home environment to improve the support for their body’s fight against cancer. I was a health advocate for them with some of their healthcare professionals attending appointments and explaining jargon and implications following these meetings.
I have other family members who are currently battling different types of cancers.
Many of my colleagues and friends have been diagnosed with blood, liver, brain, breast, skin, uterine and cervical cancer to list the main culprits, it seems everywhere you go you meet people touched by cancer, there are many types and forms.
Here is a photo I took while visiting a friend undergoing chemo, we were at Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne, in the Super8 healthy food cafe. This hospital was built in June 2016, the car park for 330 patients, which was FULL when I visited. This hospital has 96 overnight inpatient beds, 110 chemo day beds and chairs and 42-bed capacity intensive care unit.
When my Dad was undergoing chemo, in a hospital in country NSW, in his usual joking way he described the hospital as “packed” and the “place was pumping” quite literally!
There seems to be something really wrong with this picture…..too many people are being affected by cancer!
My dream for a long time has been to support people who are in the thick of the darkness that comes with the cancer diagnosis and offer support and care to make their journey better. I would really like to see less CANCER and many more cancer thrivers and who go onto doing all the things that fulfil them in their life.
Unfortunately, the internet is full of ill-informed opinions and very little fact, so-called ‘Dr Google’ is often full of propaganda and sales speils sponsored by drug companies or written by people with agendas or snake oil treatments. People who are newly diagnosed with cancer are scared, feel helpless and are very vulnerable. Claims of miraculous cures for cancers and charlatans are all over the internet.
I have attempted to make complicated topics easy, this way you can refer to these often and apply the explanations and associated tips easily and quickly as there is no time to waste!
What is a Patient Health Advocate?
A patient advocate is medically savvy and will stand by you!
A health advocate is a person that attends medical meetings with you when you are talking to your healthcare professional, either face-to-face on the phone or by video link. This person listens to the information provided by the healthcare professional and explains to the patient and the family anything that needs further simplification or clarification, and can ask the healthcare professional questions as needed. Further discussion of topics raised with the patient and family can be done during coaching outside of the visit to the healthcare professional. This may be required particularly if difficult or complex decisions are needed regarding the treatment pathway. Many of the cross-roads in the cancer journey are hard.
Sometimes people do not have family members or trusted friends that can help them navigate the complex healthcare system. This is a customised service that HealthEqualsFreedom provides.
The health advocate can support the person (patient) and their family during decision making, e.g. seeking other opinions or options, navigation of the cancer treatment network and healthcare system, and they can also research new approaches on behalf of the patient/family to consider.
Our team has had extensive experience in health advocacy from a family-lived perspective and also has trained and consulted with healthcare professionals in cancer related treatment and new approaches to therapy.
Compassionate Access to medicines available through drug companies systems may be assessed if appropriate and available, and can also be managed on behalf of individuals and their families.
If HealthEqualsFreedom’s team cannot provide assistance to you and your family, we will refer to organisations or services that can.
I have a Bachelor of Science degree with first-class honours in Pathology, or the study of dis-ease and what causes cancers, from the University of Sydney. I also hold a PhD in Medicine, where I continued to study Pathology. I studied my PhD at both the University of Sydney and Stanford University in the USA. Since graduating I have worked in the development of medicines to treat cancer and other diseases for over 20 years or in other words ‘disease management’.
I have taught and trained the medical healthcare professionals, staff members and the public, for example, I have delivered over 500 hundred seminars to the public on ‘Healthy Sleep’. I have worked in the medical department giving information to doctors, pharmacists, patient’s and their families of a global drug company. I have worked as a Life, Leadership, Career and Executive Coach, which all have a different focus depending on my client’s needs. I have worked with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) as a planner for participants and their families. I have also setup a hospital wing extension of a mental health rehabilitation facility. I got my cousin access to an experimental medicine for his brain tumour, through my knowledge and understanding of the process known as ‘Compassionate Access’ and got the medicine from the drug company for free, saving our family over $30,000 AUD. In summary I like making medicine simple and helping people when they are vulnerable.
This website focusses on evidence-based resources to provide you with a reliable resource to support you at this time.
Today I am more interested in reversing cancer progression rather than what caused it and more pro-active approaches. I am a strong and passionate advocate for preventive medical approaches, which I will also discuss with you especially if you decide to work with me on an ongoing basis, if you want to, which becomes more relevant the healthier you become. I have walked in your shoes, alongside friends, family and others, cancer is not something anyone should experience, but if you are, you are.
Using an empowering approach is best as no one can change the past.
We are all here for a season, a reason or a lifetime, we never know what will happen or where we will end up, however, your journey is your own and it would be great if you could make it is as good as possible.
Time is all I have. Time is life’s currency. How will you spend yours?
I hope that I can help people like you take action and feel empowered towards regaining your health, I want to see you well! Time is of the essence, YOU can make informed decisions regarding elements to include in your health improvement program NOW! Research has shown the longer people are proactive in their own cancer recovery journey, the better their outcomes and many go on to live full, long and happy lives.
When you are ready, willing and able to make a change in your environment, which includes your mind, body and spirit, we are here to help you focus on the positives and make substantive changes to your health.
We aim to EMPOWER you to be in control of your own health. No-one else is better placed to look after YOUR health, but YOU after all.
Let’s make sense of cancer together.
Health Equals Freedom!
Yours in good health,
I am not a big believer in titles as I said you are your own health expert! But for the purposes of this page I have put together a few of my roles/titles:Dr Rachel – CHO (Chief Health Officer) or (Chief Heart Officer)[Health Advocate, Cancer Recovery Coach, Patient Advocate, Thought Leader, Trainer, Mentor, Author, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Cousin, Aunty, Great Aunty and Consultant]
Dr Rachel can be booked to talk at your club or organisation as a motivational speaker.