Before The Bees

Before The Bees


It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

By Rowena J Ronson, Holistic Physician

When a cancer diagnosis is given to us, it is most likely to be a tremendous shock. Even if we have been having undiagnosed symptoms for a while, and have visited our doctor several times over a period of months and have been told not to worry; even if we have been referred to a few specialists who have come up with nothing – our first reaction is mostly and unequivocally, shock. The fall from denial to awareness is shocking indeed.

Our second reaction is fear. Fear of the unknown, of the loss of the delusion of certainty that we thought we had, the aloneness of it all. And in our blind panic, our independence and choice are taken from us as we are admitted and filtered, as swiftly as possible, through the system. We can lose our dignity, our identity, our self-belief and our power, and for many this process is never questioned.

A common and also very limiting mindset is that our health is not in our control. It is not something to take responsibility for or to learn about. The doctors have the answers for us, and who are we to be well informed and query their authority? For many, this paternalistic medical model appeals. It is easier to accept answers than ask questions. It is more comfortable to feel protected from knowledge, than attempt to understand why we are ill and what we can do ourselves, to take responsibility to recover our own health.

Many will never be aware of their prognosis (the likely progression of their disease), by choice, and will prefer to live and die that way, even if the prognosis is positive. And for some, the choice is taken out of their hands, and the doctors will hold back the information, for, in their opinion, the good of the patient and their family. And many will not be aware of their choices of treatment, and how effective conventional treatment is or isn’t for their particular cancer.

Those who do question the system, might do so when first visiting their GP with new symptoms, and being listened to for a few minutes and then prescribed the current first-line medication that seems to fit their symptoms generally enough, in the hope that it will do the trick and sort them out. In an exhausted and exhausting profession, where protocol is followed to the letter, a curious, independent patient is more ‘heartsink’ from the GP’s perspective than we realise. Their response can be defensive, aggressive, judgmental and hostile, leaving the patient angry, unacknowledged, unsupported and dismissed. And the dynamic can get in the way of a swift and appropriate diagnosis.

Many cancer patients will talk of frequent unfulfilling visits to their doctors, repeated prescriptions of toxic, immune-suppressing medication, and a period in a frustrating and worrying no man’s land, until their symptoms worsened enough to produce a recognisable disease picture.

In fact, aren’t we taught to suppress symptoms with painkillers, steroids and antibiotics, rather than question why we have these signs in the first place? When we are in discomfort or pain, our body is attempting to tell us something is wrong. Instead of seeing our symptom as a message from our body that we are out of balance and need attention, we ignore these signs at best; at worst we suppress them with the wrong medicine, and push our imbalance deeper into our system.

Once in the medical system, as a cancer patient, it is all the more challenging to challenge. Many patients report feeling bullied by nurses and doctors if they question their treatment. Most are open to operations, but some query the need or effectiveness of radiotherapy, chemotherapy or ongoing hormone therapy. There does not seem to be an environment where it is safe to question without prejudice or ask for alternatives and choice from someone who really does understand that there are alternatives and patients are entitled to choice.

And way before we become ill, we might think we are following a healthy diet and taking care of ourselves as long as we are eating our ‘five a day’. After all, this is the only guidance we have been given. But because of advertising and conditioning, most of us see sugary food as treats that we deserve rather than the poisons they are. Most of us do not have a clue what a healthy diet consists of and we are completely brainwashed by television and manipulated by supermarkets, on behalf of the food industry, to buy and eat food that has no real goodness at all. The medical profession does not seem to recognise a link between good nutrition and disease prevention, in fact, all research connecting sugar and cancer is ignored, resulting in doctors advising patients already diagnosed with cancer to gain weight by eating sugar.

And sugar is not the only cause for malnutrition and malabsorption of the vital minerals and vitamins we do need to be and stay healthy. Unless we are as mindful as detectives, the unhealthy and often hidden culprits in food, which is labelled to mislead, can and will actually stop us absorbing the goodness from the healthy food we do manage to eat.

Not only do we ignore and suppress symptoms on a physical and physiological level, we also do not listen to ourselves mentally, emotionally and psychologically. Our physical symptoms are often caused by stress and its impact on our mind and hormones, and we then manifest our dis-ease physically in our bodies. But we live in an era where enough is never enough. We push ourselves beyond our limits, to forever achieve more and feel less; to overthink and never just be; to be in touch with everyone else to the detriment of being in touch with ourselves; to never be present, but have a buried past and a fantasy future.

And consequently and inevitably, our dis-ease becomes us. We take it on and we take it in. Our outer struggle internalises and seeks refuge in our inner being and creates temporary equilibrium, a coping mechanism, until it can cope no more. And then it sends us little messages, which we are, unfortunately, taught to ignore.

With all of this in mind, here are some useful guidelines for ways to stay healthy and prevent dis-ease:

For how to nourish yourself:

ü  Get to know yourself mentally, emotionally and physically, and understand your needs as an individual and how to take care of yourself so you can stay in balance and healthy (reflective journal writing can help).

ü  Look for natural ways (for example, yoga, homeopathy, massage, nutrition) to take care of yourself and give yourself support you when you are out of balance.

ü  Find a way of relaxing for your mind and body, which you enjoy and value, and practise it regularly in order to de-stress yourself (for example, meditation, Pilates, yoga, walking in nature, being creative). Hormones adrenaline and cortisol, are over stimulated by stress which includes just rushing around and eating on the go.

ü  Find a form of exercise for your chemical balance and your body, which you enjoy and can practise because you want to, (for example, yoga).

ü  Be mindful of the food you eat and drink, and what substances turn on the addictive part of your brain, which makes you use them despite knowing their detrimental effect on your health short-term and long-term (for example, sugar, aspartame, tobacco, alcohol, drugs (recreational, over-the-counter and prescription).

For the support you seek outside of yourself:

ü  Find a GP who is open-minded, understands you and your needs and supports you in your choice to question and have an opinion on your health.

ü  Find a holistic practitioner (a homeopath, nutritionist, acupuncturist, herbalist or other alternative medicine therapist who will view your health holistically) with whom you can build a relationship and trust, and who will help you mentally, emotionally and physically as the whole person you are, with natural, non-suppressive remedies and/or approaches.

ü  Avoid taking medications (over-the-counter and prescription) that you have not fully researched, making an informed choice for your health consciously and continuously throughout your life.

ü  Take responsibility for your health on all levels, from the food you eat to the emotions you express and the thoughts you think. Empower yourself and be the aware, conscious being you are. You are the person who knows you best.

ü  Keep an open mind and encourage your intuition to guide you to find the right answers and support for yourself.

For a healthy relationship with yourself:

ü  Take care of yourself as you would a family member whom you absolutely love.

ü  Create time for yourself, even if it is only a few minutes a day, as you would do for those you love in your life.

ü  Listen to your body, become its friend, and take note when it talks to you, especially when it says you are out of balance.

ü  Practise turning negative thoughts into positive ones, keep an open heart and develop your intuition.

ü  Find a creative outlet, even if you are totally convinced you are not creative! Creativity in its many forms feeds the soul.

For healthy relationships with others:

ü  Choose healthy relationships that will feed you on all levels and keep you met and understood.

ü  Be yourself, be true to yourself and communicate how you are feeling to those you are in close relationship with.

ü  Practise assertiveness – respecting yourself and respecting those you are in relationship with, equally.

ü  Be in the present, with mindfulness of the past, and openness for the future.

ü  Find a level of acceptance for those in your life who are there not by choice, and seek not only to find ways of dissolving resentment, but also not allowing it to build and fester in the first place.

For the bigger picture – you as a spiritual being:

ü  Find your purpose in life or let it find you.

ü  Practise gratitude – daily list all that you are grateful for, especially at times when you might not be able to see the wood for the trees.

ü  Learn from all your experiences in life and put that learning to good use.

ü  Practise hope and faith, whatever that means to you.

ü  Be in nature. Not only does it ground us, it also helps us see the bigger picture that is always there if we step out of ourselves, open our eyes and take the time to see it.

New Year – New Start – Take Care 

Lessons Learned From The Movie Cast Away


Rowena J Ronson draws parallels between the movie Cast Away (2000) and the lives of all of us

I see many patients who have been living out their own version of Cast Away; they are lost at sea, on an isolated island, with no hope of ever returning to anything close to their normal existence. That place is a lonely one, each day feeling very much like the last, with only the self to rely on for everything and in every way. Each day is solely about survival. But in that basic realisation lies the answer to seeing the light. By working just on surviving, we can take the first small and necessary steps to build the foundations that will enable us to move forward.


The film Cast Away offers us hope that despite the journey, and how challenging it is for us, finding coping mechanisms makes the process more manageable and even life-saving at times, when we can perceive no light at all, not even a flicker. And those coping mechanisms can actually give us the inner strength necessary, in time, to cast us off our own proverbial island, and on to our own individual  journey back home, even if it is riding a rough sea for a while. But along with the dynamis of movement, comes hope and potential for healing.


One such coping tool that Tom Hanks’s character, ironically named Chuck Noland, used was to visualise the love of his life, creating his temporary ‘purpose’, to get off that island and reunite with her. And to facilitate this, he sketched her picture on the wall of his cave, to remind himself daily of where he wanted to be in the future, once the time was right for him to venture out. He also found a friend, where there was none, a face made of his own blood, imprinted on a Wilson volley ball. He used his friend as a reflection of himself, someone to whom he could express his fear, his longing, his desperation, someone to always be there for him unconditionally and whenever he needed. And here lies a good lesson for us all. To find that friendship and strength within ourselves is a courageous step but one that is worth the work, the leap of faith, the belief. When we can truly offer the strength we give to others, to ourselves, then we are the best friend, to ourselves, we can ever be, especially when we are feeling so alone that whatever support we are offered doesn’t seem to help.


And within the creation of that inner strength, there lies the potential for healing and coming out of the darkest recesses of out minds. We do not know what lies ahead on our journey to heal ourselves. We might find ourselves at a crossroads, much like Hanks did in the closing scenes of the film. But as he said, ‘I was sure I was never going to get off that island, I was going to die there, totally alone.’


He was so desperate that he even tried to take control of his life by planning its ending and he said ‘that is when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket, I knew somehow that I had to stay alive, somehow, I had to keep breathing, although there was no reason to hope, and all my logic said that I would never see this place again (home). So that is what I did, I stayed alive, I kept breathing, and one day that logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in and gave me a sail. And now here I am, I am back in Memphis talking to you, I have ice in my glass, and I have lost her all over again (his purpose for coming home). I am so sad that I don’t have Kelly, but I am so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I have to keep breathing because the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide could bring.’ There is always hope.

The Curious Case of Miley The Trike… and Universal Connectedness

The Curious Case of Miley The Trike …. and Universal Connectedness

I have no idea really why I wanted to buy a trike in the first place. It is not like my previous bike got much of a ride when I was still in my old house, Rivendell. It lived close by in our shed, at the end of our garden, along with an outgrown Diamondback, rode way back in the day when Theo, my youngest, wasn’t the six foot three that he has become. The fantasy of riding our old bikes, for both of us, was so much easier than the reality. When we moved to St Albans earlier this year, both bikes skipped somewhere into recycle oblivion as we took with us the belongings we actually could make use of in the present.

Then recently, the idea of trike riding started to slip into my consciousness. Adult trikes were mentioned on a Multiple Sclerosis Facebook Group that I follow, as a result of my patient, Tonya, requesting me to join. A picture of one would appear here and there and would draw me in. I started imagining a lovely old trike parked up outside my front door, ready and waiting for me jump on her, whenever I fancied, and take me for a ride in the beautiful countryside that surrounds us here in The Shire. She would provide me with the stability my old bike never did. For some reason I had developed a fear of falling years ago, which I had never quite been able to overcome.

So a month ago I took myself up on an inspired urge and I started to search my old friend Ebay and just dip my toe in the waters of trike world. And there she was, bright yellow and very inviting. ‘Bid for me’, she said. And so for the next few days I was tempted more than a few times to up my bid and become yet again, the highlighted green highest bidder. As the week moved on, my confidence started to falter and I was back in my imagination, visualising my new trike growing rusty outside my door, with her empty saddle and wheels unturned. Outbid again, I decided to accept fate and let go of my temporary impulsive madness and fantasy riding free in local summer sunflower-filled fields.

A day passed and an hour before the auction was due to close, the owner of the yellow trike contacted me to say that the highest bidder had pulled out of the competition and if no one else bid, she was mine. And guess what, no one else did bid, and so my computer happily told me that I was now the little yellow trike’s new proud owner. In shock, I went through the all to familiar Ebay/Paypal process and contacted the owner for delivery. I had committed, and so it was.

But not according to my son Theo who gave me the reality check he often does. We live on a hill in central St Albans and try as he could, he could not and would not visualise me bounding up the hill to even just get newly-named Miley to somewhere I could ride her freely. He convinced me within minutes, with my already faltered confidence, that Miley would be dealt a similar fate as our old bikes, and live the life of a plant holder, albeit, a very unique and pretty one, outside our door.

I did actually contact the vendors with my riding reservations and cold feet the following day, and they were terribly kind and understanding. They suggested that they deliver her, free of charge, and that I then put her back on Ebay to pay her forward. They delivered her to my friend Dary’s house, as he had the space to take care of her not far from here and I got busy with my new auction. Miley sold herself again easily, with 941 views and 53 bidders. After all, she is beautiful J

Interestingly though, her destined new owner had not been aware of my auction. Phil had been part of the original auction a week earlier but his computer failed him in the final bidding, as fate would have it. And my buyer just happened to change his mind, for reasons I will never know, but can only put down to destiny, as the bidding could have easily taken a different turn at any point, and one of the other bidders could have won.

Soon after my sale was agreed, Phil contacted me having just spotted the relisting post-closure. And this was just while I was waiting for payment from my buyer, although I was already experiencing a sinking feeling that all was not going to run smoothly with this transaction. Unlike my own instant payment through Paypal, my buyer had seemed to disappear into that very same oblivion my original bike had slipped. The bad feeling I was getting from my buyer was juxtaposed to the good feeling I was getting from Phil through our correspondence. And the space in between left me disinclined to approach my next highest bidder, which I think is what I was meant to do, once my buyer sent me a text at 3am to pull out of our deal without explanation.

Phil came up from Exeter by train two days later and I organised to pick him up from the station, take him to Dary’s house and deliver him and Miley, by way of Dary’s trailer, back to the station for the journey homeward bound and Miley’s destined new home. I arrived to find the most charming of men, awesomely determined despite a debilitating, left-side paralysing stroke two months ago, and I loved him immediately. He had planned his journey and how he was going to ride Miley, (he felt the name suited her well), in his head before he had come, down to all the finer details of where the gears and brakes would sit on the handle bars. Phil’s strength of character and sheer will to follow his dream, were so inspiring, even Dary, my most talkative of friends, was left speechless.

Being with Phil for those two very short hours made me see, once again, how we are all connected and that things happen for a reason. I was meant to be involved in the story of Miley so that I could meet Phil and be with him for that time. He taught both Dary and me many life lessons, for those I will always be grateful. In return Phil told me that his journeying 19 hours in total was completely worth it in order to meet me. He managed to shuffle himself on and off three trains to get here, and three to get back and with Miley in tow.

British Rail were completely amazing in their support of this inspiring and odds-defying, wiry and bearded Gandalf character who refused to give up or give in. He made a plan and he went for it. No one could have talked him out of it. In a world where negativity is so quick to undermine us, he stood firm, as we did, by his side. And now Miley stands in his home waiting in anticipation for Phil to ride her in exchange for all the support she will give him in making his life easier. And my love goes with them, and I know we will always be connected, as we always were. And maybe, one day I will ride a gorgeous freeing trike in the sunflower-filled fields near St Albans. But Miley is and always was Phil’s dream and I was lucky to be part of it.

And just when I naively thought that The Curious Case of Miley The Trike was only about the connection between me, Phil and Dary, I discovered that dearest Tonya was in the universal loop too, and fundamentally so. I went to home visit her for our monthly appointment, ten days after Phil’s Saturday blessed meeting. I had prescribed a remedy a month earlier to encourage her to limit her alcohol intake as it is proven to aggravate MS symptoms. She had been using malt whiskey medicinally for a long while now to numb emotional pain that she experiencing having had MS since her twenties. We have been working together for several years and she is such an inspiring lady, forever positive and open to change and healing. Alcohol has been our last and most difficult hurdle, hence the prescription.

So I visited her last Tuesday, an appointment for which she had actually forgotten, but the door stood open for me nevertheless, as a friend of hers was just leaving. She welcomed me in and said that she had been planning on asking me to come and see her that week anyway, as she had had a relapse of her MS, which surprised me as there were no signs of any decline. For a while she had been expecting her yearly relapse, and she told me that it had happened ten days earlier, on the Saturday that Phil had come up from Exeter. Coincidentally, the station where we met, happened to be five minutes walk from Tonya’s house. Although she would not have been walking that day. She had suddenly lost all control over both of her legs and was paralysed, so much so that she had to drag herself across the floor and pee in the shower.

She called her family and an ambulance, but because she was considered a non-emergency as she had family support, they didn’t come immediately. While she was waiting, she sat at the top of her stairs, making a plan to go and stay with her parents, when suddenly after only a few hours of paralysis, she felt her parachute open, to use her words, and she could feel something shift and an inner healing begin. She knew immediately that she was already on the road of recovery from this relapse. And she told me that over the ten days between then and my visit, she had gained 10% of her strength every day and was now practically back in as much balance as she was before the relapse.

She spoke of triggers for the relapse possibly being the shocking news of a really good friend of hers, who had always been there for her, suddenly dying of alcohol poisoning a few days earlier. And as disturbing as this was, she admitted this had not given her enough motivation to cut back herself. But the relapse had certainly given her the required push. Since that Saturday she had not desired alcohol at all. Experiencing what it would feel like to have her disease progress to that point in time where she could be wheelchair-bound, had given her the wake-up call she needed, and she was now well on the way to being alcohol free. Or at least having control over her drinking as opposed to the alcohol having control over her.

As I sat there listening to her story, I realised that in those few hours of the brave and beautiful Tonya’s relapse, the gorgeous and willful Phil was using all his strength to come and visit us in her neighbouring streets, to travel his great journey, to create a destined exchange and form a very significant connection. He came not only to take Miley home with him but to give us all, including Tonya, a very special message, and Tonya received it spiritually, energetically and literally, while he was unknowingly within only a few meters of her.

Whether the homeopathic remedy I prescribed for her a month earlier for alcohol addiction played a part in this whole scenario, I will never know. I am guessing it was a combination of many energies all rolled into the most beautiful of synchronicities that illustrates to me, yet again, the complete awesomeness of universal connectedness. I told Tonya Phil and Miley’s story while with her and she called me afterwards to say that soon after I left, a gorgeous trike appeared and was parked outside her house all day, just as a little reminder….

(This story is true and real and the identities of all the players have not been hidden, with their permission – August 2013).

Rowena J Ronson

Holistic Physician

Ten ways I can assist you improve your health on all levels – mentally, emotionally and physically…

Ten ways I can assist you improve your health on all levels – mentally, emotionally and physically by Rowena J Ronson, Holistic Physician


1)     Treating you with classical constitutional natural medicine (homeopathy) to increase your immunity, and help you shift long term issues in your health, for example, hormonal imbalances, digestive disturbances, repeated infections, allergies, a general lack of well-being and/or low energy, or issues that are holding you back emotionally.

2)    Prescribing for you, acute homeopathic remedies to treat your acute illnesses in a more natural and holistic way, without suppressing your immunity.

3)    Working with you to improve your diet to aid weight loss, weight gain or general health issues brought on by mineral and vitamin imbalances from incorrect dietary intake of food.

4)    Motivational coaching and nutritional guidance for you to lose weight and find and more importantly, maintain, your perfect shape and size – the you inside you, that you really want to see in the mirror and show to the world but never knew how.

5)    Life coaching to help you resolve the issues that have been holding you back in your life so far. From difficulties in any of your relationships, to finding love for yourself and others, to living your real purpose in life – we can explore it all.

6)    Relationship counselling to resolve the issues that are keeping you stuck in what feels like unresolvable differences…. in your romantic relationships, with your family, your friends and at work.

7)    Helping you to learn to relax and provide yourself with good quality sleep.

8)    Working with you to increase your awareness about your health in order to assist prevention of chronic illness in the future.

9)    On-going counselling and coaching for whatever you need to work on in your daily world, so you feel supported, confident, and able to get the most out of your life in all ways.

10)   Confidence building, assertiveness training and general personal and/or spiritual development work tailor-made for your particular needs. 

Homeopathy for Fertility, Pregnancy and Babies

Homeopathy for Fertility, Pregnancy and Babies

With my patient’s permission, I would like to share with you a little story….


A lovely patient of mine who had been seeing me for a couple of years to support her first child after his birth, for digestive and immunity issues, and for herself for her general well-being, came to see me last year for fertility, as she was trying unsuccessfully to fall pregnant again. I knew that her first labour experience had been quite traumatic and she was very fearful of a repeat performance. So I organised for her to see me for a counseling session where we were to specifically focus on that experience – to talk it through in all its detail with a hope that she could then move on and fall pregnant again.


My intention was also to prescribe a homeopathic remedy to release the trauma and support her on her healing journey. Staphysagria, a trauma remedy for women who feel their bodies have been invaded and abused by the childbirth process, was indicated and I prescribed it in a high potency and booked her in for an assessment a month later. She found the session and the remedy beneficial to her process and within a couple of weeks, to both our astonishment, she was pregnant again, having cleared the trauma she was holding in herself and the fear of going through childbirth again.


I supported her throughout her pregnancy with homeopathic remedies and counselling, for both her emotional anxiety state and physical ‘pregnancy’ symptoms and in March she gave birth to her second son. She became fearful in the last month that she would have to be induced again as she was sure that that is what instigated the circumstances for a difficult birth the first time.


When she was due and before the hospital’s scheduled induction, I prescribed specifically to bring her labour on, as well as calm her anxiety. I used Gelsemium and Caulophyllum, although I would only recommend use of these remedies with the support of a qualified homeopath, who knows you well and is experienced supporting women through childbirth. These remedies were indicated for this specific scenario and I prescribed them at the appropriate times, potencies and dosage. The result, a natural induction followed by a natural labour, and a very happy mother!   


There were some difficulties in her third stage which we talked through afterwards and again, I prescribed therapeutically for the trauma she was feeling physically and emotionally. I have been treating and supporting her and her new baby regularly over these last three months, post birth, in all the ways she has needed. I have actually been home visiting them to make it as easy for her as possible and this has worked well. I also treat her eldest son too with his emotions and behaviour, inevitably influenced by the birth of his baby brother, and the knock-on effects of divided attention and tired parents!


And each time I visit I get to hold this gorgeous new baby – an experience second to none. Looking into a young baby’s face is like holding up a mirror. Everything I am experiencing in myself in that moment is picked up and reflected back to me from those deep pooled eyes, so close to the baby’s soul. A smile, then it changes into a dropped bottom lip, I respond with compassion and my face changes, and the baby picks up on this, and changes again. Emotions are so transparent – the baby so receptive. It really is something almost impossible to behold, and it delights my soul that I played my part in supporting this little soul on his journey into being.  

Double Take on John Diamond’s Take on Alternative Medicine

Double Take article published in the Society of Homeopaths Journal in 2004


by Rowena Ronson and Nigel Summerley


One Issue, Two Perceptions and A Step Outside The Box


The idea for this column was born out of a conversation in which we discovered we had two different perspectives on something that had touched us both – but that our dialogue led to a new consensus. We shall continue to explore other controversies that benefit from a ‘double take’ . . .

RR: I wasn’t one of those avid readers of John Diamond’s column in The Times; through three years’ full-time study of homeopathy and raising two young boys single-handed, I had little time for newspapers. I was one of those touched by his untimely death and felt he was reaching from the grave to tell me something – but at the time I wasn’t sure what.

My first contact with him was bizarre. I was writing my final-year dissertation and putting in yet another late night on my computer when I was beckoned by my rarely used remote to switch on the television. A programme on Diamond was just beginning and I sat for an hour transfixed as he told his story, his journey with cancer. It was March 2001; the documentary, I believe, had been made a year earlier, and he had died on March 1. He touched me.

Two years later I was chatting with my journalist cousin, Jon Ronson, and he told me Diamond had been a close friend and they had shared a scepticism about alternative medicine. I hadn’t taken this on board before, and possibly hadn’t wanted to. But now I was intrigued to know more. When I saw his books in Waterstones I sycotically bought both ‘Snake Oil’ and ‘C – Because Cowards Get Cancer Too’.  I don’t think this is just because of my morbid fascination with cancer. Other writers have penned their stories and I have not been drawn to buy those. I wanted to know why this man was anti complementary medicine, what had been his experience, why had it not worked for him.

I had seen from the documentary that he had been under the surgeon’s knife and blasted with ‘chemo’ and ‘radio’ therapies, but his books told me the whole story. His words moved me, he befriended me with his humour, my ‘unprejudiced observer’ training allowed me to hear his point of view and I was able to gain his perception.  From what he wrote, he seemed to have done his research on homeopathy.

In ‘Snake Oil’ he puts up an excellent argument against our healing art and the other disciplines that make up the growing CAM industry. And his experience of complementary medicine was not a good one. As I read it, I felt he was entitled to his opinion … and to voice it.

NS: In 1997 I was associate editor of The Sunday Telegraph’s health magazine, ‘Rx’. As well as being in charge of production, I had special responsibility for alternative health coverage. I was initially given a free hand to write and commission articles on unorthodox therapies, but 10 months into the project I found I was required to include a regular column by The Sunday Telegraph editor’s brother-in-law, John Diamond. Its purpose? To rubbish alternative health.

My fears that this would be a misleading, ill-informed and biased contribution were more or less fulfilled; and my complaints about references to Hahnemann’s ignorance and the ‘unscientific’ basis of everything from acupuncture to osteopathy got nowhere. The message from on high was that this was precisely what the editor wanted.

Diamond on homeopathy: ‘To stick to those quaint principles when we know rather more than Hahnemann ever could about the way the world and its inhabitants work is the equivalent of running our rail system at 29mph because Victorians believed moving any faster was more than the human frame could endure.’

Disillusioned, I started looking for work elsewhere; two months later I was working at The Times, producing an alternative health magazine called ‘Healing’, written and edited by people who had a knowledgeable and positive approach to holistic therapies.

Diamond died but his influence outlived him, not only in his books but also in a handful of journalistic imitators who today carry on the anti-alternative work in the health and science pages of national papers.

Why did I find Diamond’s writing loathsome at that time? Because through my work as an alternative health writer (busy training as a homeopath) I felt I had served on the front line of exposing the shortcomings of allopathy and educating readers to see that there were serious alternatives that they could choose to use.

Diamond – almost bullet-proof to criticism because he held the ace card of his imminent death – seemed to be a bitter and negative man, sadly destined to die prematurely but determined to take as many alternative practitioners with him as he could.

There was a time when I would have linked the mental symptoms from the proving of diamond the substance (‘impatient, intolerant, critical . . . needs to assert himself by picking on someone he neither knows nor respects’) to Diamond the man.  But now I have come to respect the fact that he had every right to take his stand for what he believed in, just as homeopaths do.

RR and NS:  We can either be as negative about John Diamond as he was about homeopathy and other complementary and alternative therapies, or we can try to understand why he was like he was.  If we simply ignore Diamond and the anti-alternative school of health writing and the fact that they strike a chord with their readers, we fail to acknowledge that to a large proportion of the populace we look like charlatans making money out of sick people’s hopes and gullibility.  Understanding what we are up against may help us to present ourselves in a new way.  As alterative health practitioners, it is easy to buy into the paradigm of cancer being a matter of choice and that with a positive attitude, a revamped diet and a natural choice of medicine, good health can be restored.  With someone suffering from cancer, who has tried some alternatives, who has not responded, and is working against the clock: who are we to say that they have taken the wrong decision for their health?  Who are we to say that we would not feel that alternative medicine had failed us, and that it doesn’t work?  Who are we to say that we would do any different?