A couple of years ago, after 6 years of going my own way, I was persuaded to undergo radiotherapy – ostensibly to just dry up the tumour that I was by then pulling out of the breast through poultices. I thought it was time for a change in tactics, I was tired of working so hard on my health, my kinesiologist told me it was natural energy after all, and the very nice silver fox consultant (one of the best in the country) made it sound like a very pain free positive pr0-active thing and told me in a paternal and caring way to just let him make me better. Yes, readers I was seduced, Doh.
He spent much time negotiating with me what he would and wouldn’t do, until I felt satisfied that I had been heard and respected and that we had agreed on a plan. I also told him – with no expectation that he would take it on board – that I knew my body was very sensitive and would not need such a standardised strong dose to be effective. The tests I underwent before treatment were received with amazement by the him and the medical staff. After 6 years of breast cancer with it already in my lymph nodes, it was only in my breast (If they had known all the things I had done in those 6 years they would not have been so surprised.) Unfortunately, and unbeknown to me, in an act of misguided compassion silver fox guy decided that this gave him the green light to disregard his promise and break our agreement by blitzing every available lymph node from my neck to under arm “because your results were so amazing I knew I had a real chance to get rid of all of it systemically”. Those five weeks of daily blitzing are another story – I only got through it with the amazing support of my friends and family – but the upshot of it was that I lost almost two thirds of my breast and despite all the naturopathic support I used, I got burnt to high heavens and then had resume healthcare with a tumour regrowing on radiated weakened skin.
The thing is with radiotherapy is they do the do with all the radiation equipment then send you home for 6 weeks before seeing you again, and it is in that 6 weeks that the body reacts to the radiotherapy. I was really lucky to already have a wonderful Macmillan nurse who visited me regularly so I had help and advice on the dressings – she said she had never come across such bad burns. If I hadn’t already had that in place I would have been, well .. ..Anyways in brief I had bad side effects – not only burns but nerve pain and vastly reduced arm mobility due to skin shrinkage.
About 8 months after this, and being too bored of the still present side effects, I managed to get to a really amazing north London herbalist I had previously seen, for the nerve pain and the general side effects of radiotherapy. He listened to me and then said “Sticky Willy – you need some Sticky Willy – do you remember it from your childhood ” I vaguely remembered sticky green burrs. It is also known as Cleavers, he said. It is very common and prolific. Lets go and find some. So I found myself on a hot summer afternoon trotting alongside this Gandolph type figure up and down Regents canal sniffing the pungency of warm Zoo animals and scouring the hedgerows for sticky willy.
We didn’t find any that day, it was too late in the season, being August, and he ended up giving me a massive bottle of tincture he had made, but I left with the words imprinted in my brain of how to identify it, and how to make tincture and medicine with it, and the vocalised and resonant wisdom that often the best medicine are the things most local to you. The months dose of Cleavers was amazing and gave me the first (and lasting) relief from the side effects.
Fast forward a few years and more recently the last few weeks have been hard on many levels, and I knew I needed to up my pro-active healthcare. With the advent of the sun and the May spring I ventured into the garden, pruned the hedge, saw the bluebells, went to see if the sweatlodge structure had survived another long winter and Lo! Sticky Willy – prolifically everywhere inside and outside the skeletal sweatlodge – to my knowledge a first in 18 years of living here. How amazing. I quickly googled cleavers and found untold health benefits and then googled making tincture to remind myself.
Yesterday I picked loads and bought some vodka to steep it in. But I also saw a youtube video on how to just put it in the blender to make juice. This I tried late last night. Around midnight. The lid came off the blender, an eruption of green vesuvian sticky willy juice all down my wall and then a weird buzzing electrical circuit sound. Pull out the work trolley and saw the ill fitting plug socket that I have maintained is a health and safety hazard for years with no avail to my landlord hissing and smoking, the large gap between the fitting and the wall (that should not be there) an unwitting receptacle for sticky willy juice. Aie. Fighting catastrophic disaster narratives, the urge to make a panicked call to the firebrigade (and fleetingly reliving an episode of ineptitude nineteen years earlier when I did call out the firefighters at 6am for a non existent injured bird of doom) I went under the stairs and turned off the mains. Aie. After a panicked phone call to the out of hours emergency maintenance team I switched the mains back on after having isolated the kitchen circuit to be non functional. Aie. Spent all day waiting for an official electrician or sparky to come and sort it out. Which he did. Harmony and electricity restored, Sticky willy juice made and drunk and left over sticky willy, hemp milk and banana smoothie now chillin in ice cube containers in the fridge.
And now I am left wondering whether there was any deeper meaning or symbolism to the ability of sticky willy to cause a cessation of electrical power for 18 hours. Whatever. It feels great to drink. Has numerous things going for it http://www.livestrong.com/article/143210-benefits-cleavers-herb/ . Oh and if you know anyone who has undergone radiotherapy recently, it could really help them.
And here it is in its full glory in the garden.