Functional Medicine Practitioner Victoria Fenton talks about the immensely important topic of building good strategies for cancer care.
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Robin Daly: Hello and welcome to the Yes to Life Show on UK Health Radio. I’m Robin Daly, the host of the show each week. I’m also founder of the UK charity Yes To Life—pushing forward the agenda for integrated medicine in the field of cancer. As part and parcel of that objective, each week I speak to key figures involved in integrative medicine, both here in the UK, and in other countries: doctors, oncologists, integrative medicine practitioners, scientists and activists.
I’m talking today to Victoria Fenton. Victoria is a functional medicine practitioner who specialises in supporting people with cancer. She is a brilliant resource of expertise and experience. I’m talking to Victoria today over the internet on the subject of building health strategies.
Brilliant to have you back on the show.
Victoria Fenton: Hi Robin, it’s so lovely to be back.
Robin Daly: Today we’re going to talk about strategies. Strategies are important because finding yourself in entirely unfamiliar territory with no strategy is a horrible experience.
A carefully put together strategy can throw a bright light in even the darkest situation and offer a way forward at times when on the face of it, there appears to be none. Getting a good strategy when everything is so unfamiliar can seem an insurmountable obstacle, but people have shown us time and time again that it is possible.
I’m hoping that spending a bit of time today exploring ways to put a strategy together under challenging circumstances will be a useful exercise.
Knowing a little of the personal health story that brought you to where you are now, I’m guessing that you found yourself in exactly the kind of situation I’ve just described. For those listening, who have not dealt with circumstances like this, could you start out by talking about the emotional, psychological, and practical challenges involved.
Victoria Fenton: Oh gosh, it is de-stabilising to be chugging along with your normal life and feel like everything is as you planned it when suddenly you are in a situation where you can’t trust your own body. Your self-esteem gets completely eroded, which is what happens when we get health crises or diagnoses of any description. It turns your world on its head, and the cost of that is enormous. It is a huge disruptor to flow and every plan you’ve ever had feels like it goes out the window immediately.
That level of destabilisation actually is a neurological situation that throws the body into what we call fight or flight.
At that moment you are panicking. I experienced this myself, but I’ve also worked with lots of patients who might think they’re not panicking, but underneath the surface there is this real vibration and chemistry of panic happening within their physiology.
As you were alluding to, making plans and strategies at times when the apple cart has been upset feels almost impossible because you are in an emergency state, you are in a chemical state where your body is trying to run away from a saber tooth tiger, effectively. In a panic state it’s not a slow down and think about the strategy state, it is a second-by-second emotional panic, confusion, and fog. Our brains are not powered to work when we are in sympathetic mode, so it’s a huge change in our state and it really does send chaos through our physiology as well as our lives.
Robin Daly: It’s a dichotomy isn’t it? In fact, you don’t really need the fight or flight response in this situation, you actually need to sit down and think about it carefully, and plan a strategy.
Victoria Fenton: A hundred percent. Unfortunately our bodies don’t know that! They’ve been handed a trauma.
Within healthcare we need to start understanding that getting a diagnosis, particularly a surprising diagnosis, is a huge trauma. Sometimes it’s a relief. Sometimes it gives us an explanation for how we feel. Sometimes the emotional impact of answers is enormous, but it’s always a trauma. It’s always a shock and our shock physiology and trauma response kicks in. So yes, at the very time when we need to be calm, rational, and to slow down and breathe, literally our physiology is not built to do that.
Robin Daly: So out of interest, how did you go about building a plan to get yourself out of the corner you were in?
Victoria Fenton: Oh I don’t think I’m a model for that. I think the reason I do what I do is because I made all the mistakes. I really hold my hand up to that. When I first became ill, I was 17 at the time, so I was very young comparatively, and the world wasn’t what it is today.
It was 2004, so it was a long time ago and there was no help. There was no interest in self-advocacy in healthcare at all, so I did all the consulting with the doctors and getting less and less help as I went along, and I made mistakes. I tried all the wrong things, and I panicked. That’s a big part of why I do what I do now because I know I did it wrong. Had my emotional state and my trauma triggers not being pushed, I may have answers and solutions and a resolution a lot more quickly than I actually did.
My goal within my job is to be the person that I would have needed when I got unwell. So I’m not the poster child for effective strategies in my life, but I build them now for other people to help them avoid making my mistakes
Robin Daly: Not the poster child, but nonetheless, it’s good to hear a real world example because that’s what happens, particularly when you’re young.
Since then you’ve gone on to help many people develop their own strategies. What I’d like to do now is to look at some of the common scenarios around cancer that many people around the world face every day to see if we can uncover the first step forward, in the right direction. The most obvious one to start with is the first diagnosis, a massive shock for most people, very likely to turn their world completely upside down. So what would you say to help with this situation?
Victoria Fenton: Some of this will depend on your personality. I’ll say that obviously everyone deals with these kinds of things in different ways, depending on their conditioning, their personality, et cetera. The first and most obvious, and least helpful, thing I can say is don’t panic. The more we can do to lighten that load of sheer terror, the more bandwidth we have to do everything else.
The first step is less thinking about practical steps as strategy, the “what am I going to do now?” It’s actually identifying what you need around you to achieve anything. So for me, it’s less about future focus at that moment of first diagnosis. It’s actually going: okay, this will be hard and I’m going to be rocked and destabilised–what do I need around me in that situation to ensure that when the inevitable happens and I am panicking and upset and things are going wrong, I have what I need.
Take a step back at that point, particularly when patients contact me either when they suspect beforehand, or just when they’ve got the diagnosis, I don’t look to strategizing right away. It’s very much: what is the infrastructure that you are going to need around you whatever happens. An example of that is your tribe. I use the word tribe because using the word family doesn’t always work. People don’t always have a family member, but people normally have one other person, preferably more, but one other confidant, one person that you don’t have to put on a face for. We are human beings and we are not designed to do life alone. We’re certainly not designed to do deeply stressful experiences alone. We are designed to do those in community. So finding your people is the first step. Think: I’ve just been dealt this huge blow. I’m going to need a tribe around me, let me gather them in.
It can be difficult confessing this sort of stuff to people. We have this whole weird thing about burdening other people with our problems and all kinds of emotions pop up. I really think it’s valuable to find your tribe. Number one.
Then identify your team. By team I mean the medical health professionals that you are going to use. Starting from your oncologist. If you hate your oncologist and you don’t go with them, that’s fine, get a second opinion, but you find your key figures, those from the medical establishment, there are some great doctors out there. Or from other people, whether it’s a nutritionist or a functional medicine professional like myself. Counselors, breath work coaches, anybody who you feel like you are going to need to facilitate your balance and healing. It’s almost like surrounding yourself with resources is the first step to a strategy from that moment of diagnosis.
Robin Daly: Well that makes a lot of sense. It is something that people often talk about, getting a team together, but it’s not necessarily stated as the number one thing to do before you do anything else. I can see the effect that would have on you psychologically and emotionally, just to have that in place.
Victoria Fenton: It’s outsourcing effectively. As our brains are formed, we like to know that we can depend on something external to us. Sometimes that’s criticized like new world self-development stuff, “you have to be your own cheerleader” and self-love is where it all starts.
That’s all true, but when it comes to actually dealing with life, it is about being able to relax neurologically because you know you’ve got other people that have your back and are on your side. Preferably with a team that has done it before and who’ve seen it before, ideally many times. I’ve seen all the permutations, and when you get those moments when you don’t have an answer to a question or you don’t know the next step, or you don’t know what the feeling means, all of those things, you’ve got somebody to ask those questions of.
Even if you never use those people. When I get people early on in that process, we identify all the key people. Sometimes they are contacted, and other times, it’s just if this happens, that’s the person we are going to. Just knowing that you have identified those key links and members of your team and community is relaxing and enables you to take a breath and your body to not stress for a minute.
Robin Daly: So some of these people that we’re talking about, you can speak to openly about your fears and all the rest of it. Other people it’s more that they have been there and therefore they are a resource for the things that are unknown to you.
Victoria Fenton: Absolutely. Like the psychology of selling stuff based on reviews–we like to know people have done it before. The thing with these diagnoses is they are alien to us, but not alien to everyone. It is the worst feeling to feel like you’re alone in the world. Knowing that somebody has been there. It doesn’t actually need to be a super success story, it’s not that we need role models who have beat what we’ve been through and come out the other side, although that’s obviously useful. It can just be people who you can say, “look, I’m experiencing this really weird random symptom today, does that make sense to you?” and they’re like “yeah, that happened to me week two as well.” It’s all of those reporting things that help.
Robin Daly: That makes complete sense. Another circumstance I would say is pretty common is when people jump into a treatment understanding very little about what they’re getting into and in a short time they find themselves in a situation where they’re experiencing horrible side effects from the treatment. Their energy is gone, they are unable to think clearly and experience a sort of fairground ride with no way of getting off. What sort of plan could you put together for them?
Victoria Fenton: That is when I get most of my patients. A lot of times the diagnosis itself is such a shock and we trust people in white coats, so we just literally step into a treatment plan oftentimes researching it only a little bit. Most people will Google these moments and just say okay, this is definitely a drug, this is huge, we’re going into this, and possibly even found forums discussing the consequences of treatment. So people don’t tend to go in totally eyes closed these days, but they go in mentally prepared, but not physically, for what their body goes through as you start these treatments.
It becomes a very medicalized process. Then the fatigue sets in, which is often the thing that people don’t fully anticipate the feeling of, that’s when I get most of my patients because they are looking around for support within that.
Ultimately, when it comes to the strategy, there are two things to say. The first one will be a theme throughout, is talk to other people who have been there. The second point is to judge your own relationship with those forums. There can be a lot of positivity derived from support forums, but there can also be a toxic element of it, where It reinforces fear more than it gives you proactive emotional support, so there has to be balance. That’s not just the case with cancer, that is the case with a lot of illnesses. We get into [forums] because we are seeking similarity and shared experience and the bond that gives us, but it can reinforce panic at times. Particularly when somebody is having a worse experience—we never want illness to get into pain hierarchies. If somebody seems to be experiencing worse effects, we can devalue our sense of trauma and pain because somebody else is experiencing worse things and that’s never a good place to be in mentally.
The major strategy at the point when you are launching into treatments is to educate yourself as much as you know is possible within your realm of expertise, and then ask questions of other people. The benefit right now is that there are a lot of people like me doing this kind of work. We’re able to bridge the gap between medical knowledge, the oncology terminology, which is stressful, and real human physiology. Like what is actually happening inside your body when you’re feeling X, Y, and Z.
Sometimes just having somebody to take the time to explain biochemical pathways is a calming influence. Somebody saying “what you’re doing is taking X medication or you’re going through X treatment, this is chemically what’s happening inside you, and the net result of this is this sensation that you’re experiencing,” that’s why it’s happening.
As human beings, once we understand the why of something, our whole stress and neurological tension around it dissipates significantly. That is massively helpful.
Robin Daly: I definitely agree with that. It’s scary isn’t it, that not knowing what on earth is going on, which is so stressful. It’s the very bread and butter of cancer treatment, there are lots of odd little things happening that you’ve never experienced before and you don’t know whether they are just what happens and you don’t need to worry about it or whether it means something terrible. You’re besieged with questions like that, about what is going on.
Victoria Fenton: Yes, and the reality is that unless you’ve been through it, you really don’t understand it.
When I started working within cancer, there would be random stuff coming up in my patients and I would have to work out whether it was actually supposed to happen or not. Even after the training, there is that learning curve of strange symptoms, dryness or loss of smell, and bizarre things like, “hmm, does this need reporting? Is this expected?” “Can somebody just take account of these notes of what’s happening to me?” is often something that I get from my patients, because there is this sense that we can’t burden the doctors with these random weird symptoms and somebody needs to take notes, take account.
You know, I spend a lot of time just listening to honor those crazy symptoms that probably don’t mean a lot in terms of severity or need attention, they are expected side effects, but that doesn’t mean they’re very nice to go through. They are destabilizing and they increase the sense of distrust within your body. The biggest vibration and emotion I get when I think about cancer and the patients that I have, is things take over your body. Whether you are thinking about the cancer taking over, taking up space, or the treatment and these toxins that we are pumping in taking over the body. Your body becomes a very machine-like medicalized thing where things have taken over you. That can be extremely uncomfortable mentally, emotionally, as well as all the physical stuff that goes on.
Robin Daly: Absolutely. That point you made about not burdening the big doctor is based on something very real, which is they’ve got almost zero time for you. Telling them your symptoms, even if you thought you ought to ask them, you probably are not going to fit it in. So to have somebody who actually does the job of listening is extraordinarily valuable, even if you don’t do anything about it.
Victoria Fenton: Yes, and when you’re dealing with all these complicated physiological experiences, you tend to go to Google at this point. If you’ve got the energy, you tend to head onto the forums and to Google, and then you find all of these potential other things that you could be doing, whether that’s nutrition, supplements, treatments, going into the alternative world, and that can be massively confusing. Nutrition for cancer, or supplements for cancer, it’s a world where a lot of cancer patients try to educate themselves in a discipline that would take somebody like me at least a year to get my head around. They’re trying to do it while they’re in the middle of treatment.
Navigating the correct solution is incredibly complicated when you want to try the extreme things. This is not a bit of vitamin C, this is thinking of trying an extreme dietary solution. Get a bit of counseling advice on it if you’re thinking you want to go to a clinic and get an intravenous drip. Always try and recognize that you’re in the middle of something—whether you are in cancer treatment or you’re about to go into it—you’re emotionally charged. If you’re having treatment, you’re physically not in the greatest of centered spaces, so always ask somebody for guidance on how to navigate the crazy world that is complimentary and adjunct therapies for all of these things.
There’s stuff that you can do, but there should never be this complex that you should be doing everything, because that can get very overwhelming.
Robin Daly: It’s an interesting balance. You are not deferring to experts wholesale, the role of somebody at the center of their own treatment decisions is incredibly important, but you’re also not an expert over the weekend either. You are staying at the center of your own treatment choices, but actually outsourcing a lot of advice and expert opinion to inform those choices.
Victoria Fenton: Absolutely. That’s my job as an educator, I don’t tell people what to do, I give people the information that they might not get from just Googling. At that point, as long as I don’t think it’s medically negligent of me to support their decision as a professional, given the situation that’s in front of me. If somebody wants to try something, at that point that it’s their body, it is their right to say, “this is what I want to try.” My job is to give them all of the reasons why that’s positive and the potential benefits and the potential pitfalls. These are the things we need to bear in mind, given their lifestyle, where they live, or who they live with.
Then we make a practical plan together—how are we going to construct life so that it works. The biggest problem with a lot of these additional therapies for cancer is they’re a bit exhausting, particularly changing your diet when you are exhausted anyway. You need help, or a plan, or you need meal delivery services, whatever it is, but we need to get a strategy on board. It’s not just saying “I’m going to clear my kitchen cupboard out on a Friday night and start again on Monday with a different diet.” It’s very much actually understanding does that fit? Is it the right choice? How can we do it best so that all of my life complexity is taken into account, not just my cancer diagnosis. That’s the biggest problem with illnesses like this, the whole world becomes about the cancer. A lot of my work is convincing them that they are not just the cancer. The cancer is something that has happened but there is life as well. There are other people in this world that we have to map around and judging that balance between focusing on solutions and not making every waking moment about cancer is a difficult one.
It’s a really challenging thing to manage.
Robin Daly: The panic makes cancer take over everything, doesn’t it?
Victoria Fenton: It’s not somebody’s mind being silly, that is their nervous system entirely prioritising their survival. We like to think of ourselves as really intelligent human beings. We are really simple animals. The biggest problem with cancer is that neurologically our nervous systems, particularly if we’re talking tumor based cancers, is such a disconnected part of our physiology. The brain isn’t aware of it until it’s found through some diagnostic procedure that has been done then suddenly our mind is aware of it and our mind understands that we didn’t identify it ourselves. Something has been growing inside us and we didn’t know. Mentally that’s quite de-stabilising, and I’m using that word a lot because it is the major thing that happens that neurologically our entire focus goes into focusing on that thing that we couldn’t find until a diagnostic procedure has been done.
There is the old phrase energy goes where attention flows. That’s true. If your nervous system is trying to identify a survival strategy, which is effectively what you’re doing, then every waking moment becomes about it. Neurologically it’s not just the mind being silly or obsessing, it’s a neurological failure.
Robin Daly: Can we look now at another situation—another place that we know many people experience the worst kind of empty handedness—the day their treatment ends. One moment they go from being on treatment and fully supported in doing that to being discharged. Feeling life will never be the same again, horribly fearful of recurrence, and fundamentally ill-equipped for any sort of normal life. Can we look at ways to get a plan together for these circumstances?
Victoria Fenton: Absolutely. You know it’s 50-50 when I get patients [at this point]. Being terrified of a recurrence means that you tend to run towards all of the healthy practices that you think you were failing which is why things happened in the first place.
The biggest first step with every patient that comes to me in that headspace and the recommendation I have for people who are at that point, just being out of treatment, is: stop. Stop, take a major deep breath, and emotionally process the fact that you had cancer.
The most important next step, the one that everybody misses, people don’t really understand it is a necessary step. They go from cancer, terrible, will process it, emergency status, and now we’re out and we’re technically “fine.” Now we need to stop it happening again.
What doesn’t happen in that moment is to emotionally understand that I’ve just been through a mini version of hell. Every decision that you make without having gone through a bit of trauma processing will come from a panic fear based angle, and that’s never a good place to make decisions and choices from.
So whenever I get somebody who comes to me in that space, my first consultation with them is not let’s think of the greatest nutritional strategy and let’s supplement you and let’s do a bit of detox because it might be a bit of a toxic process that you’ve just been through. It’s not that. It’s literally a coaching session, if not several, to emotionally process all of the unthought thoughts and unspoken feelings and unresolved internal dilemmas that they haven’t been able to deal with because they’ve had cancer.
I really do press that it is fundamental to not make future decisions based on fear. I’m just adamant about that universally, with whatever condition I’m dealing with. It is not healthy to make decisions based on fear, particularly “gosh, what if it happens again?” The thing with cancer is there’s a lot of “god I never noticed first time round, what if it happens again?”
Robin Daly: That’s a very good rule of thumb.
Victoria Fenton: The things that I might’ve said when they first came to me might be exactly the same once we’ve done that little bit of processing. You are entering into a “health regime,” based on a fear-based response that you don’t want to go back to.
Wherever you have just been in terms of cancer, the whole energy behind it is wrong. It just creates friction and conflict. If you say it would be really a good idea to follow X diet, as soon as you do something that’s slightly off that diet you panic because you’re like, “oh my god, I’m going to be back at having cancer again.”
I’m always going to talk about nutrition and supplements and that kind of stuff because that’s my job, but you don’t get cancer because you’ve eaten wrongly or behaved wrongly. There is a lot behind cancer that is causal, and it’s very rare that it is singularly to do with one lifestyle choice, which means that making these decisions about nutrition and lifestyle are not insurance policies against ever having cancer again. I try and coach my patients to get into the mindset that being the healthiest you can be is your insurance policy for everything.
If we can make your future not about just not getting cancer again, but actually this pledge to really nurture your being, not just your body, your whole being emotionally, spiritually in terms of friendships, connections, and physically, then you are the healthiest you can possibly be.
At that point, hopefully this never happens, but if cancer does come back to your doorstep, you are much more centered emotionally, physically, mentally, you’re in a much better, balanced place and you have more bandwidth to deal with things. That’s the approach that I take because then it doesn’t build any kind of policies based on running around avoiding the potential of cancer.
Robin Daly: It’s a very different focus—the change between the driving force being not to get cancer again, to being as healthy as you can, is completely different.
Victoria Fenton: It’s huge. I’m not saying that anybody ever gets completely to the space where they’re not thinking about cancer, but the more that we can do to lighten our load of fears and traumas and all of this panic stuff, literally the healthier we will be. I come from the belief that the least stress you can put through your system, the healthier you will be, and stress in the broadest sense of the word: nutritional stress, toxic stress, chemical stress, emotional stress, mental stress, all of those things are stressors. So if you’re trying to build a whole life based on the core fear you are literally starting from a point of stress and that’s never going to be a place that has strong foundations.
Robin Daly: That makes complete sense. You have mentioned recurrence a few times. That’s a situation you wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I wanted to look at two variations. Firstly, someone who’s simply been down the conventional treatment route. They’ve done everything, they’ve been told they’re fine. Nine months later, they find themselves back at the hospital with symptoms and having investigations. Now they’re in a situation where the treatment that they trusted to get them well hasn’t worked and they’re probably being offered some more. What would you say to them at that point to build a strategy for success?
Victoria Fenton: Do your research is the first thing. That isn’t contradicting what I’ve just said, I don’t actually mean independent research. I just mean the issue with trust in healthcare is huge. So the fact that we trusted a treatment or trusted a doctor, and oftentimes people will end up at the same doctor with the same treatment, or a slight tweak to it or something slightly different being recommended, we are automatically in a place of distrust.
So everything that you need to do at that point is build up your trust again. I have a bias here and I will sit in my bias, which will be if you’ve tried it one way, it’s not necessarily to try it a different way, but look at what else might be out there in terms of treatments, in terms of the more holistic support in terms of adjunct therapies. Speak to a second doctor as well. I think a lot of people have fear about saying to a doctor “I just want to get a second opinion.” I never have fear about referring my patients to a second functional or integrative medicine specialist, because we’ve all had different experience in clinics, which means that we’ve all seen different things and have different lenses with which we view things.
We all think it’s an emergency when stuff like this happens, but the reality is that most often a week or two is not going to make a massive amount of difference. At that point you’ve got the bandwidth to call a functional medicine clinic and just say, I wonder if you could have a conversation with me because I’m going down the road again, I just want to speak to another specialist to see if there’s a different drug or there’s a different option, or just discuss the potentials of other things.
The other thing to say is it’s not a failure if something comes back. Doctors aren’t gods, drugs aren’t miracles. We try the best we can. I genuinely believe that there is no wilfulness to harm within any healthcare professional. Sometimes things don’t work and sometimes treatment options that I choose in a functional medicine way are not impactful on that human being. Yes, we are more mortified, more than the patients. A lot of the times when the choices that we’ve made don’t fully pay off we are willing to try again and to think creatively when we’ve exhausted one potential avenue. Not getting into the psychology of failure or distrust is the best you can do to guard against falling into that kind of mentality of failure.
Robin Daly: Well the other scenario I want to look at is like the first one, but amplified by 10, which is the person who did everything that they thought was right across the board and there they are back with a recurrence. That’s a very difficult situation to face. How do you get a strategy there?
Victoria Fenton: It is very difficult as somebody who works with a lot of people who consult me right at the end of this process and a lot of people who’ve got technically incurable situations, the mentality behind that can be very negative. Particularly when you’ve thrown everything at it, including money, when you do everything there is a financial implication to it too.
The biggest thing that I like to stress to people is that you have not failed as a human being. You have not failed. There is a complex reality occurring within your physiology and the strategies you have tried didn’t work on this occasion. But the reality is that nobody has tried absolutely everything.
There is a shift I make at that point to the more weird and wonderful. I never lose my foot in kind of proper treatment oncology, conventional medicine, but at that point I’m like, let’s do some deep spiritually, seeking a purchase on this. Is there some ancestral healing that we need to do is, and I span the whole gamut because I think that within medicine and healthcare we know a lot, but we don’t know absolutely everything. Energy medicine is huge. There are all of these other things that we can look at. As long as we are moving the needle towards feeling better all of the time, within ourselves, emotionally, physically, we’re working in the right direction.
The first step is allow yourself to feel all of that despair, because if you don’t process that despair, it’s a huge unfelt feeling. This is probably something that I should just have said right at the beginning: what I’m doing is giving tips for how to process an emotional situation. First step to all of them is to feel that the complete despair and pain within the situation, and then use these strategies to process it. It’s really important that we do every step and don’t just try and hop, skip and jump over the pain.
Allow yourself to truly feel that “oh my god, I tried everything” and shout and yell and break plates. It helps. Probably not the best China, but you know, just all of the things that you want to do because you’re frustrated and angry. Don’t hold that inside of you because it has metabolic consequences, hormonal consequences, which can lead to cancers. They can grow out of unprocessed anger.
Feel all the feelings, take a moment, and then regroup. Feel free to do the experimental stuff, to do the more adventurous things. Always bearing in mind that somebody should be overseeing and supporting that. I do that a lot. Lots of patients want their mushroom trips and things like that at this point. Okay, but we’re not going to do that in place of common sense strategy physically, but there are huge healings that happen from really surrendering to the spiritual nature of the human experience.
Robin Daly: I think you’re absolutely right, somebody who thinks they’ve done everything could maybe have not examined their fundamental relationship to life. To find their will to be here wasn’t that strong. There is something making them feel unworthy to be here or something, the effects of that are unknown, but they certainly exist. I think there’s no doubt about it, the effects exist. For some people, they seem to be enormous.
Victoria Fenton: You know, I freely admit that I struggle to talk about this level of health with people, particularly when there is a diagnosis such as cancer, which has been publicized a lot. There’s a lots of fear around it and to start saying “well, maybe your relationship to life wasn’t correct. Or it wasn’t on point.” It feels judgmental from somebody like me.
I take a step back at that point and say to my patients, look, I’ve got a really legitimate list of diagnoses that happened to me. I can detail the science of my experience. I can tell you the biochemistry, exactly what happened to me at 17, which is how old I was when I got unwell. The deeper layer of that is that I was not living my actual life. I was faking my reality. I was just performing all the time and my body was suffering the consequences of that and it was broken. I’ve got genetic conditions and labels and diagnoses, and I can bore people to death with the practicalities of it, but the essence is that the only reason my system went wrong is because I was not running my physiology right. I was not in tune with who I was going to be on any level.
I don’t have any shame about that. I was doing what I thought was right. I don’t think any illness is any different. It’s challenging to get to this place psychologically, but illness is often an opportunity to correct our frequency on some level, whether it’s our relationship to our own body or our relationship to our identity, who we are in this life, how we’re showing up, or literally our relationship to other people, or to the world as a whole. All of that inner work is so supremely valuable and can work miracles.
When I’m doing my job, yes a supplement can help here and there, but the stuff that works miracles is allowing people to feel like they’ve facilitated on a journey of healing more than external healing.
Robin Daly: Very interesting. So I want to try and squeeze in one more scenario for strategising: many people these days have had cancer run in their families, like a grim reaper causing the most devastating losses. I imagine it could be quite easy to feel fatalistic about one’s own chances. Can we talk about getting a strategy to counter what may seem like the inevitable?
Victoria Fenton: It’s difficult because there is this genetic thought process and people often seek the genetic tests so they can work out whether they carry the gene for this, that, and the other. The reality is that just because things are common doesn’t mean they’re normal. Cancer is a complex progression in everybody. Even if it’s hormonally driven, even if there is a genetic component to it, the only way to deal with that is a strategy it’s actually psychologically.
It’s not thinking that if you just eat right. Supplement right. Sleep right. Do everything right. You’ll be healthy. Again, you can hear the way I say these things—the system strategy is built on tension, no flow and health. So actually the there are three ways to think about it.
One is nothing’s inevitable. Two, if it is going through the family lineage, particularly female family lineage, there’s lots of potential of ancestral healing within that because female hormone driven cancers tend to be ovarian and breast. They are feminine wounding. This is archetypal feminine healing that needs to happen. The more you can surround yourself with positive empowered, feminine energy, the healthier your femaleness will be. Vice versa, if it’s masculine, prostate cancers running in the family, surrounding yourself with conscious archetypes of strong energies empowers healing throughout the lineage.
The other reality is, it might happen, and running around spending your life trying to escape your genetics is probably a waste of time and a waste of energy. The true essence of things of life, I believe, is it shouldn’t be that you have to control everything that happens to you. It’s that you create that center of health within you, health on every level, not just physically, but also emotional stability is healthy. By creating that level of acceptance so that you know, that if your genetics do “get the better of you,” you have a strategy. You know what you are going to do and you plan your coping strategy should that day happen. Then almost everything we’ve been speaking about from the moment we started talking doesn’t happen because you’re actually walking into that first potential diagnostic appointment with a clear roadmap.
Usually when you get to plan it ahead of time, you leverage all of the broader solutions, people like me, people that are going to talk about nutrition and juicing and green vegetables and broccoli, you don’t step into panic situations. You’ve already got the roadmap written. If you want help doing that from professionals, we’re always happy to help. Technically functional medicine was always sold as preventative medicine. The reality is that in the modern era everybody already has a chronic illness. So we haven’t gotten to the stage where we can help anybody prevent anything, unless you have a life optimising type of person, but preventative strategies means having a plan should anything happen.
I’m more than happy to help, it has to be individual at that point because it depends on your age, your life situation, your support structures, et cetera. It’s almost like having a will or a funeral plan or any of those future planning things. The reason this helps is because it just decreases fear and tension, it removes those stresses.
Robin Daly: Wow a lot of great advice, Victoria. Very pragmatic and based on your own experience. I heard some key themes recurring, do you want to just summarize the most important points that you’ve said today?
I think there are a few that you could apply to almost all the questions that I asked you. Victoria Fenton: From my perspective, not running everything from fear is the major theme of everything that I do. Whether I’m talking about cancer, or life, every single situation. I also stress that it’s not always going to be possible so the second theme is really to have the right professionals around you, and feel free to change those professionals. We’re not in this alone and it’s about getting the right external support advice and counseling. Don’t feel like you are doing this on your own, but don’t always expect your key caregiver within cancer care to be the person that you can ask every question to.
Not running from fear. Absolutely everything that can help you that can just change your frequency and your state from panic stress, sympathetic, alertness, fight, or flight to, okay, we’re breathing, rest and digest, let’s receive energy, all of that kind of stuff. Those behaviors, those things that you can do to change your state will be helpful all the way along.
Robin Daly: Absolutely brilliant. Thanks so much, Victoria. We’re going to have to leave it there. I always love talking to you—such a mine of great information and advice. Thank you very much.
Victoria Fenton: No, thank you, it’s such a pleasure to speak to you.
Robin Daly: I imagine many of you will want to hear more about Victoria after listening to her excellent advice. The place to look is her website, which is https://victoriafenton.net, where you can read more about her and the services she offers, and which video presentations or to listen to podcasts and much, much more.
Thanks a lot for listening today. Next week, I should be back with another great guest. So I hope you’ll want to listen again. Same time, same place: the Yes to Life Show here on UK Health Radio.
Kindly written by Literary & Transcript Editor Amy MacLennan