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Complementary Therapies Help Me Manage Pain

photo of aromatherapy oils
Beth Ayen - Blogs
By Beth AyenJune 29, 2021

So many people want to weigh in when you get a cancer diagnosis. They all want to help by giving you the miracle cure or treatment.

Early in my multiple myeloma diagnosis, I had a barrage of people wanting to tell me about the miracle cures they read about in an article or heard about from a friend.

In fact, this was sometimes a huge bone of contention for people who thought their way was the best way and got upset if I didn’t try it. Their intentions were good. They wanted to help. But they didn’t understand how overwhelming it was. I’ve had to find what works best for me.

There are millions of complementary treatments that claim to help with medication side effects. Others say they destroy cancer cells. As a cancer patient, you’ll have to wade through an overwhelming amount of information to find things that can help with the effects of the cancer and the drugs you take to treat it.

I trusted my doctors and the advice they were giving me, but I also had every book written on cancer stacking up on my doorstep. My initial prognosis was 2 to 3 years to live back in 1997, so I decided I had to try what I could. One friend told me the cancer would go away if my family and I didn’t say anything negative about the cancer, the treatment, the side effects, or our feelings about it. We couldn’t do it.

I also tried coffee enemas, juicing, diets, supplements, and vitamins. Studies show curcumin seems to help slow down the disease, but it never did much for my numbers.

Finding the right complementary treatment became a full-time job. I found that I was expending precious energy on researching, organizing, and shopping. My small children were wondering why their mom had no hair and had tubes sticking out of her arm from treatments, yet at the same time I was busy trying to cure myself. Something had to change.

I learned to separate the things that had some validity from the things that had none. When I first started, the internet was brand new and became very helpful as time went on.

The things that have worked for me are things that help with the side effects of the cancer and cancer treatment. They seem very simple but can make a huge difference. Stomach issues have been minor, and I’ve used over-the-counter antacids, bland diets, and peppermint oil for that. I found that my potassium and magnesium were both low, so diet and supplements have been important for avoiding muscle cramping, spasms, and weakness.

For me, pain has been the obstacle to a normal life with my cancer. I use over-the-counter topical analgesics that can really help with neuropathy. I also bought an adjustable bed to help relieve spinal and leg pain at night. This was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I’ve tried many different essential oils because of the testimonies about how effective they are on pain. I don’t find them to be very helpful. For me, aromatherapy oils are the most beneficial for relaxation and calming effects.

The best complementary pain treatment for me has been massage. My husband does a great job massaging me. Massage has amazingly reduced pain and swelling. It has been hard to work around broken ribs, but we manage.

The overall most effective complementary treatment by far is rest. Napping is miraculous. Exhaustion piles up on itself and is hard to recover from. It also seems to compound side effects as well. I’ve found that being rested is the best way to get through the day.

Complementary treatments are important but need to be individualized for every patient. I’ve chosen traditional medicine to do the big job on my cancer treatment, but I need these therapies to get through some of the hard stuff.

I’m not here to judge what others believe or do regarding complementary treatments and wouldn’t want to be judged for my choices. I’m doing what I believe will provide my best chance of survival.



Photo Credit: Moncherie via Getty Images

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About the Author
Beth Ayen

Beth Ayen has been living with multiple myeloma for 23 years. Recently retired from teaching, Beth loves spending time with her grandchildren and taking road trips with her husband, Mark, around their home state of Wyoming and beyond. Her passion is to connect with people, especially those with cancer, to encourage them through their journey.

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