Today Briony discusses how she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and how the options she was given at the time were chemo, radiation and potentially a hysterectomy.
We dive deep into steps that Briony took in ridding herself of the cancer by travelling to China and getting a treatment called Photodynamic Therapy which isn't traditionally used for this type of cancer.
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A little side note:
These shows are meant to create food for thought for people going through similar situations. Planting seeds of information about things that perhaps you never knew could and might assist in treating and managing the symptoms associated with your diagnosis.
Alternative treatments are out there to be used, alongside alopathic medicine, or instead of.
That part is completely up to you, but gaining knowledge is the first part in empowering yourself back to health.
I really hope you get some good ol' nuggets of info from these interviews so you can go and start researching yourself and perhaps even start experimenting on the treatment that feels right for you!
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Well, hello. I'm Lanie also known as electro girl, and I'm an advocate for empowering people to get back in the driver's seat of their diagnosis. See , I was diagnosed with epilepsy 30 years ago, and basically was never satisfied with hearing from a doctor that pharmaceuticals would be the only approach to controlling my seizures. I just, wasn't going to take it out of my way mortal. So I committed many, many years to researching and finding an answer outside of the Western medicine approach to find a more holistic approach in managing and treating my epilepsy and seizures to love your diagnosis. Podcast is a show about exactly that each week we will be looking into the life of someone who has been diagnosed with a condition or illness, and it has succeeded in managing their diagnosis, both in and outside of Western medicine. To start off, we will look at the Western medicine, prognosis and approach to dealing with their diagnosis inside the square. Then we'll dip our toes a little deeper into this story where we talk about other empowering modalities that worked for those people outside of that square. Basically what put them back in the driver's seat of the diagnosis. So hang around with me while we explore living in and outside the medical square, when it comes to loving your diagnosis. Okay. Hi, and welcome to the love your diagnosis podcast. I'm here today with Briony Swart, and , we're going to be talking about, well, firstly, introduce yourself , um, what you've been diagnosed with and how long ago that was.Briony:
Yeah, no worries. So it was in 2013 , um, and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and a suspected lymph metastases in my left pelvis. Um, it was just picked up from a routine pap test. So I didn't have, I was, didn't have any symptoms at the time. So , um, that was a good thing that it was, it was picked up.Lainie:
How often were you having pap smears?Briony:
Yeah , I've been very, you know, regular every two years. U m, I was a bit later, it was about the two and a half year mark because I had a o ne y ear old, u h, and I, u h, had just recently stopped breastfeeding him, u m, and then got around to, you know, going to the doctor for the test. And so I kind of, you know, I wasn't expecting anything to be wrong.Lainie:
How old were you at the time? 37. And so, yeah, you just go in, you have a pap smear, like we were like we do, and you just always get that negative response. So I guess my next question to you is what was your feeling when the doctor I'm presuming or assuming that the doctor rang you and said you need to come in, they didn't, just do it over the phone?Briony:
They didn't, he said, come in. So , um, made an appointment and went in and, you know, obviously the anxiety is really high cause you know, that something's not right because otherwise they just tell you it's negative. Um, and I had my baby with me and it was a little bit odd. I felt, I felt like I was watching myself and it wasn't really me. It was really a kind of surreal experience. And I do remember it quite vividly. Um, and it was my GP and I had quite a good relationship with him, but I was super healthy and fit. And , uh, you know, hadn't had big health issues before at the time it was "well you have cancer" and then beyond that, I would find out exactly what that meant, you know, which type and stage and all that kind of stuff, but right then it was okay. We need to find out more basically. And then I went out to the car and I held it together and I got in the car and then just burst into tears. So yeah, just, just let it out. And the little one was with me and I think he thought I was laughing rather than crying c ause he let out, t his little giggle, u m, which, y ou k now, was kind of a good thing at the time.Lainie:
How long in between the diagnosis and the actual end like that initial well you've got cancer and what tests were actually done for you? Like, did you feel like a pin cushion? Because I know with diagnoses at the time , um , you can start to feel like a number. A lot of people kind of complain about that. I just felt like a number and I felt like I was just going through the motions and there was no real like care about me. So how many tests and, and how long did it take?Briony:
The diagnosis was pretty straightforward, I guess, you know, I know other people who , um , have health conditions that have taken a long time, but cervical cancer's pretty straight up, you know, you get a result. And that is the question mark , um, around the lymph metastases in my pelvis that didn't come till after the pet scan. So after the pap test, it was working out, if it was precancer or cancer, I'm like, well, what's the difference? What does that even mean? So then you'd start, you start the information overload and that detail. And , um , it becomes quite a rabbit hole, but , um, pet scan was booked in very quickly and, and that was clear from the cervix perspective, but it was vague , um, regarding the metastasis and, and, you know, obviously that would mean spreading. It could mean other tissues, ovaries, anything in my hips and, and there wasn't a definitive diagnosis on that. So then that became the vague part of, well , how do we treat that? and you understand the medical system or , and realize that it's , not an exact science and, you know, there are protocols in place and I didn't feel like a number. I don't think, I think the people I was in touch with , um, you know, my GP was great and my oncologist was fantastic straight up very blunt, which I appreciated that there was no stuffing around, you know , he joked around.Lainie:
Had you known anyone with cancer before you were diagnosed with,Briony:
I knew people who'd had abnormal cervical test results before plenty of those, but no one who'd had actual cancer results come back, especially without symptoms or anything like that. So , and the doctors explained that it's, you know, it, it can vary quite a bit , especially with something like cervical cancer, it's not, it's not just a simple, everyone's the same and everyone's condition and everyone's situation is very different. Um, so, so yeah, that was acknowledged,Lainie:
I guess, you know, the purpose of this podcast is to kind of give people food for thought that might be going through the same thing as you around treatment. Because from my own experience when you're diagnosed with something and someone is basically saying, I've done the work to understand this more than you have, and this is the road that I think you should go down, you kind of feel you lose a little bit of empowerment because you go, oh, I've got to trust this person because he knows, or she knows what they're doing. So was the first point of call for you, obviously chemo, radiation, like the usual stuff, or what, what was the first Western medicine approach?Briony:
So after the pet scan, when there was more information to go by , um, you know, approximate size and all that kind of stuff, the, surgery aspect was absolutely the primary treatment. Okay. So cut a chunk out of the cervix, get it out. Question mark then was around what follow , what would follow that? So radio or chemo or combination of both or hysterectomy. So by thread ideation, and depending on the type of hysterectomy options would have been straight into menopause. I wanted to have another child. So you've got that weighing heavily on your mind, but also, you know, does that shorten my life? Does it, you know, all these other questions coming in , what about quality of life does that, you know, feeling like it might age, you know, that , all that kind of stuff.Lainie:
Can I just stop you there also, I know with some women that have had hysterectomies too , did you consider your sex life when you , when you were thinking about hysterectomy? Because I know that women are like afraid to have it because they may not be able to feel the orgasm or anything like that. Did that come into your head as wellBriony:
As a secondary thing? I think depending on what they take out, your sensation is still there. You know, they're not taking out the cervix, and above, , not below. So, more as a secondary thing, and we'll later to read on it, to be honest. Okay. Sorry.Lainie:
I interrupted your flow. No,Briony:
That's all right. So yeah. Then the recommendation, if you like from , um, a conservative Australian medical protocol was okay, we'll go with the radio chemo, because if we do the hysterectomy, you will have to follow up with one or both of those anyway. So, okay. That's what I was looking at. So I had a , um , an appointment with the radio person and, you know , explained all the detail , um, didn't bond really well with him, but appreciated that he took me through all of the details and this was still before the surgery. So, so working out that, so from then obviously that was like, why, why do I have to make either of those decisions? And I was , um, it was communicated to me that there were options there, but ultimately it was like, this is what should be done from there. And then I guess from left field came another option.Lainie:
Okay, good. Because that leads me to my next thing. That one thing I will, before we go there is you've got a husband. So did that become a decision that you two had to make together? Or was this just personally your, it was just all about what you kind of wantedBriony:
Taking in information and dissecting it and in particular at that time, you know your at your most vulnerable because you're emotional, it's your own physical body. It's got all, you know, all of that. You're absolutely overwhelmed. So it was probably the next stage where he really kicked in to be more involved. And that's when he found out about treatment called , um , photo dynamic therapy. Um, so look, it's something that he researched online, which is, you know, kind of, well , okay , what, what is this thing? But , uh, was looking at medical journals and articles, including the Lancet and some really, really detailed stuff. So he basically filtered all of that and showed it to me. And then it was, he was part of the decision with me. Yeah. It was ultimately still my decision in, as far as he and I went and we were kind of, you know, the pair looking at exploring these options, but that's that well outside the medical , uh , people, because it wasn't available in Australia. So it's something that's been used for decades for skin cancers , um , in Australia, you know, if you have a look now, it's loads of dermatologists everywhere and all sorts of skin conditions, including skin cancers, but it wasn't available for deeper tissue at that point in time, it was just trying to make that decision around. Do we do something that's against what is recommended by doctors in Australia or not .Lainie:
Right. And that was that the only option you were tossing up at the time was, was it just like, so, you know, you've gone, okay, there's this road and this is the guaranteed road, or there are other ways we can do this was, was PDT. Is that the acronym for it? Photodynamic therapy? Was that the only thing you were looking at at the time?Briony:
Uh , look, there were other supporting things. Um, but that's complementary kind of stuff, you know, so nutrition and all those other things to help you body, but they're not going to get rid of it. Right. So the decision was, h ow t o make that kind of decision. I'm quite an organized person myself. So I did a project plan. U m, and you know, it was, it was about timing t oo. How, how long before I go to whatever treatment is going to give me the greatest opportunity and success in whatever we choose throw in some ovarian tissue being taken out to potentially use later to help with fertility, depending on the upcoming treatment, t hrown around of IVF to get eggs out for that option to be open later. So all of that, I popped o nto a bit of a timeline and really decided that we could give it a go, go to China, come back, u h, do an IVF cycle a s i n g et t he eggs out. And, u m, you had to wait to get a pet scan. So do that. I n-between have a pet scan if it worked great. If it didn't, then I'd go back to the traditional radio and chemo.Lainie:
Wow. And what was the timeline that you were looking at for all of that? Okay, so flying to China. So just for those that don't know, what's a pet scan.Briony:
So pet scans, basically you have, you know, you have fluid , um, through your body and that's picked up by a pet scan. So it's, you know, your whole body goes in and it's basically to see how big the cancer was in my cervix and if it was anywhere else in my body. So if it had spread, wow.Lainie:
So you had a one-year old and then you were contemplating going to China to do a therapy that wasn't tried and tested. I mean , I just love your bravery. I always have, so yeah, I mean, it does take courage to do that and fantastic that you had a supportive partner that was along that because it's really difficult when you're diagnosed and you would know this too , to convince friends and family who care about you, that this is what your choice is , and just have them accepted, especially if you're going off the beaten track and trying something new.Briony:
So absolutely. And yeah, and there were people close to me who didn't want me to do it, but were supportive. And there were other people who were on board and said, go for it. You might as well, it's not going to hurt. It's not going to harm that kind of thing. So, and all of those things weigh on your mind when you're making those a decision like that. Cause it was significant..Lainie:
Okay. So when did you go to China after that timeline and did your hubby go with?Briony:
Yep . So diagnosis was in August of 13 and then the pet scan was soon after , uh, the surgery was soon after that. And then I had ovarian tissue out and then we went in , uh , November, I guess, or two months . So basically the treatment in China was a part of a hospital that was set up for user pays international people who just came to get that treatment. And it was for a little over a week. And then the protocol was two weeks break and then having another round of a bit over a week. So yeah, hubby came and baby came and we went to China. I did around treatment. Then we went to Thailand for a holiday, which was the best thing we could've done then went back to China for another round of treatment and then came homeLainie:
Amazing. And so were there risks involved with this? And if so, what were they and did you have to sign things?Briony:
No. signing things. I think, I think I basically told them I'll be back testing and if it works great. And if it doesn't then you know , we'll talk again. So yeah. No there wasn't any signing I'd sent medical records over to China. There were doctors who looked at it there. It was, it was my, you know , my decision and my liability, I guess. Yeah.Lainie:
All right . So you've done all that. Um, did it hurt?Briony:
No, I started the process is day on, day off. So you drink a solution. It was chlorophyll based solution. So it looks like a really bad green smoothie. It's only a little, you know , like half a glass maybe, but it's really concentrated that then absorbs into your body and more so into the cancer cells. And then the following day, I would go back and have the actual treatment. So it's infrared light treatment. That's applied because the cervix is accessible vaginally. That was how that looked . And basically it's not, you know, you're not putting poison in your body to kill the cancer cells. It's applying Infra red light that reacts with the chlorophyll based solution to , um, create oxygen. And the oxygen has a detrimental effect on the cancer cells.Lainie:
Well, they do oxygen therapy, don't they? I mean for , for cancer now, but it's just not this particular method. And do they do it in Australia now?Briony:
There are studies around for different types of cancer. So there's a little bit, but there's still not a lot happeningLainie:
Comfortable with saying the name of the place that you went to ,Briony:
Um, it was a called NG PDT . Um , but they're not , um , operating there anymore. I did have a call a couple of years ago, asking if I'd be available for someone like, as a referee, a patient referee, if you like, to be called . Cause they were looking at expanding and moving around , um , in different countries. And I said, absolutely. But I imagine the COVID ceased all of that. So yeah, I'm not sure what , what that's at . Um , but there are some studies in Australia , um,Lainie:
And people can do their own research, really photo dynamic therapy. That's an interest to you. So it wasn't a given that it was going to work, you've come back home. And how long after the therapy did you realize actually this is working?Briony:
so, so there's a recommended timeframe to wait until after any treatment that happens in Australia for normal treatments, depending on what it is, that'll determine the timeframe to wait between when the treatment's finished and a pet scan to check the results. U m, c ause you can have inflammation to start with t hings, things go down and settle. U m, so in that time came home went through a r ound o f IVF collection to get some eggs out for later, depending on what would happen. U m, and then about six weeks later, I had a pet scan back in Melbourne and that came back clear. SoLainie:
Unbelievable on a spiritual level, do you believe this this was purely science? Or do you believe that there was other things involved? You know, because on every level with, illness, people pray and people do other stuff and it may or may not work. Was this a purely scientific thing that just worked for you or did you put other things in play?Briony:
Look I think you can only help yourself by looking after yourself, trying to stay calm. I did heaps of meditation more than I've probably ever done before , um, you know, really tried to look after myself, but I'd always been, as I said, fit and healthy. So the base , the base was there. Look to me, it was very much science. It's new technology. It disappoints me that it's not available broadly right now, especially because it didn't make me sick. Um , and a lot of people going through a lot of cancer treatment and they're absolutely smashed by it because it impacts on healthy cells through the body as well. So, yeah . So to me, it's about the science about the technology, but with support emotionally and looking after myself to , help my bodyLainie:
so amazing, you get to keep the cervix, you have another baby and you know, you did everything right for yourself and , and your family. So all the naysayers were probably just like, whoa, it actually worked amazing. Now you did mention that you have to see your oncologist still every year. Is that because you're now susceptible to cancer and there's a level that you actually still have to maintain, of health.Briony:
Very normal. Yeah. At the start, it was once every three months, a couple of years later I had a scare things just looked a bit different, but also I was between pregnancies. So things had been a bit stirred up. That was thankfully fine. But yeah. So now I'm back to once every 12 months. Um , and it's regular pap test plus , um , a couple of biopsies that are taken each time. Yeah . And I've had , you know , got results a couple of weeks ago from the last one.Lainie:
And are there any particular supplements or things that you're taking to prevent the recurrence of it or you're just , you know, keeping up your amazing, healthy lifestyle, but nothing in particular that,Briony:
Yeah, not specifically, look at the time looking into things. I sort of went mostly vegetarian, but I was kind of that way anyway, so that w asn't a big impact. U m, I've always been a sweet tooth and a big baker so I cut sugar right back. U m, do I eat sweet things now? Yes. When I w ant to, but I also found that I don't crave it. Like I used t o because I did cut a lot of it out for some time. So t here's probably a happy medium if you like. Y eah.Lainie:
a lot of the, a lot of the research shows that sugar is very bad for cancer, that the cancer loves the sugar. Well, basically.Briony:
when you have a pet scan, what they inject has sugar in it. So it's, u h, it attaches to the cancer cells and you know, that's a s cientist can see that. So if you've got cancer, cutting it down m akes sense. C ause otherwise y ou're just f eeding it, but if it's not in your body, then it's not going to cause it,Lainie:
Okay. So this is, this is a really important thing. Um, so the love your diagnosis concept here , um , is about, you know, just basically, you know, getting in touch with the fact that you've got this and how to, how to cope with that , in a way where you're not working against yourself. So what were you, you were just saying that you don't love your diagnosis, so I'm going to let you take this away.Briony:
Yeah. I liked the concept and I admire that , uh , some people are able to have peace with the diagnosis because it's helped them be who they are and they've moved through their journey and come out the other side, stronger, all that kind of stuff. Part of thatste get, but I hated my diagnosis. I still hate it. If I could change it, I would , um, if I could have had the vaccination for cervical cancer as a preteen instead of getting it. Absolutely. I wish that could have happened. Can't change that though. Um, so no, I don't, I don't love my diagnosis. Um, you, there was a lot of shit that came from that. It was really hard a nd really challenging. Yeah. But I, I can appreciate that other people can move forward, and, u m, voice i t that way,Lainie:
I suppose, because I guess with what you went through, it was a treatment and it worked and you don't kind of have to live with it everyday . Like for me every day , I have to think about maybe a seizure, maybe, you know , so for someone like myself and someone that has an ongoing condition, I guess you have to learn to love it very differently to what you went through because it hasn't defined you, you know, you've, you've been able to kind of , "walk away" and go, wow, that was a great experience. Not,! but the best thing out of it is, and I'm so glad that you were honest about that because I can imagine it would have been just a horrendous thing to face mortality as well, like potentially.Briony:
Yeah, I think when you're talking, man , you know, once you've had, I totally appreciate that you and others, once you've had cancer, it's always been in your body and it's therefore naturally, one of your greatest fears that to be told it's come back , but you don't have the day to day? Um, well, in my situation, for example, I had problems with fertility to deal with for many, many years. Um, you know, pelvic floor needs a lot of work to hold everything up. Uh , there are things like that, but that's, you know, that's, that's minor in comparison. Yeah. But it's, it's always there in the back of your mind. Yeah .Lainie:
You can't run away from, and, and you're right. I mean, I don't love my diagnosis either, but I , love myself now and that is part of loving it, you know, like, and that's, that's the beauty of this podcast is just to , to find that, that truth for people, you know, and what what's that saying? What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And you're an incredibly strong resilient woman. Anyway, if you know, I think anything that you would have been diagnosed with you would have like kicked in the butt big time. For anyone listening, that's going through the same thing. If you had little parting gift of words that you could tell someone who's actually going through the same thing, you know, what would it be as far as looking outside of the square,Briony:
It's be involved as much as you are comfortable with. For me, you know , I have an exercise science degree, I understand the human body. Uh , I wanted to know all the details. I had loads of questions and I needed to know to satisfy what I was okay with going through. I know other people who don't want to look, if they've got a cut on their finger, they just want to be told by an expert here's what needs to happen. I've absolutely value the medical profession and the people in it. But I also understand that Australia is pretty conservative. It's pretty risk averse. And so for me, my pathway took the best bits of both the best bits of what's available and , um , part of the norm here and also a new technology that, you know, it wasn't easy to access, but that worked for me.Lainie:
Thank you so much for sharingBriony:
Be involved and take control.Lainie:
yes. In the driver's seat. Absolutely. Thank you so much for sharing. It's such a great success story and I hope a lot of people that listen , um, just, you know, get a few little more tools in their toolkit to deal with something like this. Thanks Bree. ,Briony:
The love your diagnosis podcast is proudly produced by me. So just to recap, a little bit Briony was diagnosed with cancer and she found that she didn't want to go down the path of getting the hysterectomy and chemo and radiation first off. So what she did was she and her husband looked deeply into photodynamic therapy, which is not an approved method of killing cancer in Australia. It's actually used for skin cancers and other things like that. Lung cancer and oesophageal cancer. I think it's had some benefit in, but in Briony's case, she went to China and went through the treatment and it worked for her cervical cancer. The main benefit of Briony story for those that are going through it is that you can think of other ways, you know, be creative, with your diagnosis. You don't just have to take one person's opinion about what the outcome for you is g oing t o be. And it's really important that other people share their stories so that this information gets passed on. If you enjoy today's show at this stage, all you have to do is listen and tell your friends about it because there could just be a story on here that they've got diagnosed with, or that they can relate to where they get to think outside the square and a few seeds might be planted in their brains about other ways of dealing with it , besides just what the original diagnosis and prognosis is. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn a little bit more about other options for what you can utilize for your wellness journey, click on the link below to the happy herb company. They've got lots of amazing products to assist in getting you started in your wellness journey. Thanks again for listening. I'm Lainie Chait.