To be honest, although I have been asked to write about this case for over a year, I have found it difficult to gather my thoughts and articulate my experience. I suspect it is because Lionel’s case had the most profound impact on my homeopathic practice and perspective, making me realise that being a homeopath can be so much more than just a prescriber of remedies. In fact, at times, the “added extras” seemed just as, or perhaps more important.
It is easy to feel a failure if the Hahnemannian paradigm is to be, “the preserver of health” (Aphorism 4), and if, “the highest ideal of cure is rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of the health, or removal and annihilation of the disease in its whole extent” (Aphorism 2).
Although I did my best, with the support of knowledgeable colleagues, I was not able to fulfil this ideal, and Lionel died on 31st October 2021. On reflection, although I was not able to preserve Lionel’s life indefinitely, there is much that I was able to do.
Lionel was doing well on a combination of tissue salts for cataract and visual degeneration as a consequence of HRT treatment for prostate cancer, which was seemingly under control. Within 4 months Lionel reported an improvement of 40% in his sight.
In March 2020 he shared a diagnosis of spinal and pelvic osteoporosis which we would look at in more detail at the next consultation, although I had some concern about his new complaint of back ache. By the end of June Lionel shared that he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 liver and bone cancer with liver metastasis. I remember the call vividly, and the feeling of being entirely overwhelmed and out of my depth, despite my eight and a half years of practice.
It was easy to feel a sense of the negative about the future prognosis. However, after sharing the case and my feelings with trusted peers, I had a chat with myself and decided that what I needed to be was constructive and clear about what I could do to support my client.
I would do everything that I could to support Lionel’s needs, whatever the circumstances. I would make the best homeopathic prescriptions I could, seeking greater professional expertise, if necessary. I would do my best to maintain Lionel’s health, sense of wellbeing and quality of life.
We made regular monthly appointments and, exceptionally, as Lionel’s case progressed, whilst recognizing my own boundaries, I made myself available to him, his wife and daughter, (who were also clients of mine), whenever they felt they needed support.
I also listened and responded to what Lionel wanted and felt he needed. I strongly believe that “empowerment” in an individual’s health journey is key. It might be a clear head to be able to complete his anthropological articles, where chemotherapy and radiotherapy had made him fuzzy brained.
More often than not Lionel asked for sufficient energy and breath to be able to take part in family life: home educate his daughter, help his wife with the household duties or chop wood in his garden. All were important in defining a purposeful, useful and meaningful existence.
Lycopodium 6c and subsequently LM’s in ascending potencies kept Lionel stable and largely comfortable for over a year. Added to which, Aspidosperma assisted Lionel’s reduction in lung capacity, and Chelidonium tincture supported his liver function.
He was able to enjoy walking until the last month of his life, and despite the progression of the disease, Lionel frequently spoke of a sense of “wellbeing and optimism”. Remedies also helped with the side effects of conventional treatment, until Lionel decided to opt out of the conventional treatment route.
It was a great privilege and endorsement of homeopathic practice when homeopathy became his therapy of choice. Alongside the realization that Lionel’s health was failing, my intention remained the same. My aim was always to preserve Lionel’s life (vital force) for as long as possible, whilst adapting to the changing landscape, always mindful of maintaining and sustaining the most important gift homeopathy has to offer – a sense of wellbeing.
Ten days before his passing, and benefiting from Arsenicum 12c in addition to Morphinum 6x 3 x daily for side effects of medical morphine, Lionel’s wife reported that he was “a bit better” and “able to sit on the bed on his own”, with an improved appetite.
Four days later, and five days before his final breath, she described him as “calmer” and “comfortable and peaceful”. Lionel died at peace, having organized his affairs and spent time with his family members.
My final actions were to firstly to support his wife and daughter with Natrum Mur and Calcarea Phos, respectively. But of equal importance was reflection on the fact that often “the cure”, is not returning a client to perfect health, but to maximise and optimise human existence, by the many means we have at our disposal.
©Daniela Karsten 30th January 2023