Archives for the month of: September, 2013

One of my regulars came in a few months ago and asked for something different.  She had been to the hairdressers and insisted they do a straightening treatment for her even though they strongly advised her against it, as her hair was too thin.  She’s a tiny lady but very emphatic and it’s hard to change her mind once she’s made it up and they lost their battle. 

As a result of the treatment her hair had started to “break”, the strands snapping when brushed or even just with sleeping.  Not to mention the falling out.  Her sister in law had been having scalp massages regularly to help stimulate hair growth and so she wanted to try it to see if she could rescue her locks.


Scalp massage
Photo courtesy google images,


So we started weekly sessions of 15 minute scalp massages using coconut oil (followed by 15 minutes massage for her shoulders which are chronically tight).  About every third week we sneak in a full hour so I can do 45 minutes on her back as well as the usual scalp massage.  We’ve been doing this almost weekly now for four months and she is sporting a thicker, healthier head of hair.  The shiny patches that were visible in May are no longer an issue and she’s been able to grow it out a bit without it looking straggly. 

I credit the coconut oil as much as the massage for the improvement in the condition of her hair.  Did you know that:

  • coconut oil has lauric acid which is a fatty acid that can bind hair proteins
  • coconut oil seals in hair moisture as it possesses the ability of penetrating the hair shaft and thus conditions your hair from within
  • coconut oil’s antibacterial and antifungal properties give the oil the ability of protecting your scalp against dandruff and lice, both of which can hinder hair growth
  • coconut oil is a rich source of nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin K and iron. These nutrients are essential for maintaining your hair’s shine and softness. Vitamin E is particularly effective in eradicating dandruff, which is a major cause of hair fall and hindered hair growth
  • massaging your scalp with coconut oil stimulates blood circulation ensuring that your hair follicles receive the required amount of essential nutrients and oxygen

Using coconut oil in the hair was something I grew up with as I come from a tropical island.  Coconuts grew in my back yard, not that we pressed them to make oil, but my mother did grate the dried coconuts to make ice-cream which we took turns churning in the old fashioned bucket with ice and salt and a handle.  Coconut water was part of our lives.  Now you pay a fortune for it in cafes and it’s seen as the “it” health drink. 

Ah, the many benefits of coconut … how many can you think of?

Two Thursdays ago I went to the launch of a new booklet entitled “Lymphoedema Stories, the Untold Truth”.  This is a booklet produced by the Cancer Action Network, Northern Suburbs, in conjunction with the Lymphoedema Support Group NSW.   It is a very well written booklet of personal stories recounting how people have been diagnosed (often after a long period of time), treated, their compression garments, the cost of the garments and other associated costs of treatment, cellulitis and how they can take action to raise awareness.  Read more here 

Fran Boyle, Medical Oncologist at the Mater Hospital, gave one of the speeches and amongst other things highlighted the plight of the free lymphoedema therapy clinic at the Royal North Shore Hospital.  Last year a third day was approved on a trial of six months for non breast cancer lymphoedema sufferers.  It looks as if this third day may be discontinued at the end of September due to funding constraints.  That means six patients will not be able to receive free treatment for lymphoedema each week.  This is not acceptable.  If you’d like to help petition to save this extra day please download the template letter at to send to you member of parliament (some of the members may have changed since the election so you might want to double check details).

I went along to my local support group meeting on the following Monday night, ready to talk about the booklet and lo and behold, copies had been brought in to the organiser by the Cancer Council, so I was able to explain about it and as I reached the part about the RNS clinic funding one of the ladies jumped up and down with numerous copies of the template letter that she had picked up when she was receiving her treatment the week before.  Clearly we are all on the same page.


Brochures and information collected


The talk at the support group meeting was given by the Cancer Council – I am constantly amazed at their resources.  Their tag line is “Help life get better, support for cancer survivors, carers, family and friends”.  They have information and programs on numerous different aspects of cancer – counselling, Living Well After Cancer, young adults support, legal, financial and HR pro bono services, Cancer Connect, return-to-work resources, allied health professionals, Enrich programme, survivorship and specific treatment centres, Working Beyond Cancer and Cancer Connections.  I particularly liked the pamphlets on Exercise for People Living with Cancer and Living Well After Cancer.  Did you know that if you call the Cancer Council hotline 13 11 20, they can put you in touch with whatever aspect of support you need?  Their operators have all the different programs literally at their fingertips.   For more  information go to



Bright pink lipstick day

Today is bright pink lipstick day, an awareness campaign for those at high risk of breast and ovarian cancers, initiated by Krystal Barter for her charity Pink Hope Community - Here’s me rocking the pink for a cause!

I could say I love using my massage oil (and I certainly do, it’s a lovely light oil that absorbs easily) but it’s not my favourite product.  Anyone who knows me will instantly know what it is … it’s my Space Clearing Mist, from Australian Bush Flower Essences.

Years ago, I can’t even remember how long now, I did a couple weekend courses with the lovely folks at Australian Bush Flower Essences up at Terry Hills (  I loved their product and used them for my family and friends, making up “potions” as I like to call them.  My favourite to make is the Emergency Essence – it’s the Australian version of Bach Rescue Remedy and for years I carried a bottle around in my handbag and it would come out every time there was a kid mishap or tantrum.  Or if a friend was upset I’d hand the bottle over as a gift.  Beautiful stuff, really gentle and effective.

Back when I learnt about the essences the mists didn’t exist.  I can’t remember when they came onto my horizon but I know I won’t give the Space Clearing one up.  I have a bottle next to my bed, one in the kitchen and one in each of my practice rooms.


Space Clearing Essence
photo courtesy Australian Bush Flower Essences

What’s so great about it?  

Here’s what the website says – Creates sacred and harmonious environments. Purifies and releases environments with built-up negative emotional, mental and psychic energies. Great for clearing tense situations and environments and restoring balance.

Here’s what I say about it – it calms EVERYTHING down, plain and simple.  It also clears the energy out of the room.  You know how sometimes you walk into a room and it just feels heavy or negative?   Space Clearing Mist just lifts all that heavy feeling and cheers you up instantly.

There are times when clients are telling me their story that they can become a bit overwhelmed and with their permission I get my trusty spray out and it allows them to compose themselves again so we can have a good session.

And more often than not, I spray it in between clients, so that the only energy in the room belongs to my current client and myself.  We can sometimes take on other people’s “stuff” and I like to think that by spraying my Space Clearing regularly I’m not holding onto energy that isn’t mine and my clients walk out with only what truly belongs to them.

If you find that you get drained easily after seeing certain people or places then perhaps you might find it beneficial to try some. 

Oh, forgot to mention – it smells divine too.

It’s funny sometimes how you have a run of one thing or the other.  Obviously in my practice I see a lot of ladies who have been through cancer treatment of some form or another, but I use my lymphatic drainage for other conditions too and in the last three weeks I’ve had four clients come through with balance, migraine or sinus issues (or a combination of all three).  It’s as if they were waiting in the wings until I had finished my Vodder training.

Manual lymphatic drainage can be used to treat a number of different conditions, not just lymphoedema.  I learnt some new techniques at the Vodder training which involve working on the hard and soft palate of the mouth (the roof of the mouth).  I know that sounds horrible but it’s actually very relaxing and beneficial.  After clearing the neck fully and the lower part of the jaw, the roof of the mouth is cleared using one finger (with a finger cot on to keep things sterile!) with very light pressure.   Working with the hard/soft palate is beneficial in treating migraines, ear conditions (including balance issues), sinus and even post stroke.  After clearing the mouth the rest of the face is treated using special techniques for the nose, eyes and ears, depending on which are affected.


Hard and soft palate.
Photo courtesty of google images,

I had a new client come in who was initially diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease (for more info go to  Later they changed the diagnoses to migraines.  He has lived with headaches and dizziness for most of his life.  We were taught a protocol for both those conditions, in fact, the treatment for both is remarkable similar.  I’m not sure he remembers much of what happened, he was asleep in five minutes.  It’s quite disconcerting having someone sleep while your finger is in their mouth – I coped with that.  When I was working on his eyes (literally) he decided to do a snore and wake himself up which made me jump and almost bash into the wall behind me.  Once I stopped shaking from the fright I finished off the rest of his face while he fell straight back asleep.  He’ll be in for his third treatment this week so we’ll see how he’s progressing.

At the other end of the spectrum I had a new client who is seven years old and who has been plagued by sinus all her life.  She was very patient with me and coped very well with the mouth work (I did bribe her with a gift of her own finger cot at the end).  Poor thing, as if having a finger in your mouth wasn’t bad enough I then cleared her ears thoroughly which includes me sticking my finger right at the base of the ear canal.  I did clear my last client’s ears too but he slept through it all so it wasn’t an issue at all.  I think she’ll be more comfortable at the next visit seeing as she’s experienced it all now and knows what to expect.

Then an old client came in who has been a bit dizzy.  Can I point out here by the way that all have been to the doctor to check for underlying issues.  We’ve done a couple treatments (along the same lines as the other two clients) and she was off for further scans on Friday, so I’ll find out how she’s going next week.

And one of my favourites was my good friend Annie’s mother.  She’s 81 and the most elegant lady I know, other than my mother who looks good in a house dress!  She had a car accident a couple months ago and since then has been feeling a bit dizzy (but on the plus side her metal heart valve doesn’t make as much noise when she’s relaxing!).  So again, very similar treatment with the hard/soft palate work.  The only problem of course is that she has a plate with dentures on it covering the roof of her mouth.  Tact and decorum is part of my work.  When it came time I turned around to put on my finger cot and she removed her plate and when I finished I turned around again and like magic it reappeared.  Then she said “do I talk too much” (Annie, are you crying with laughter yet?) and promptly fell asleep for the rest of the session.  She has a follow up this week so we’ll see how she feels.

I know I haven’t given miraculous results here, everyone’s a work in progress.  I just wanted to share another application for manual lymphatic drainage that perhaps you weren’t aware of before.  There are so many others, but we can save those for another day.


Lipoedema is not a term that many are familiar with, but those that have the condition probably wish they were not familiar with it at all.  It’s something that I have not worked with much over the last seven years, in fact, I worked with one lady when I was still doing my clinic hours at college and until very recently I hadn’t seen another case.  That’s not to say they are not to be found everywhere, unfortunately, the condition is way too common but quite often the suffers are unaware they have it.  I’ll explain why in a minute.

Firstly, what is lipoedema?  Lots of people have heard of lymphoedema and it’s something I often talk about. 

According to Dr Helen Mackie of the Lymphoedema Clinic at Mt Wilga Hospital:

Lipoedema is a symetrical swelling of both legs, extending from the hips to the ankles, caused by deposits of subcutaneous adipose (fatty) tissue. The underlying cause of these fat deposits remains unknown. While lipoedema is not a disorder of the lymphatic system, it is frequently confused with bilateral leg lymphoedema.  The fat deposits in the lower leg extend to the ankles often with flaps of tissue hanging over the foot, but the feet are not affected.  Typically there are fatty bulges in  the medial upper thigh and the medial lower thigh, just above the knee.  Clinically the affected individuals complain of increasing swelling as the day progresses which is relieved by prolonged elevation of the legs overnight.  Pain and tenderness is also a feature of the condition.

If you’d like a copy of the entire paper, please let me know.


Three stages of lipoedema
Photo courtesy google images,


The reality of the condition is that it affects mainly women and mainly the lower half of the body, so you could be a size 12 on top and a size 22 on the bottom.  The legs usually feel soft, almost baby-skin soft, and sufferers bruise easily and are sore. The symptoms usually appear around puberty and there are often hormonal imbalances present.

When they go to their doctors because they are putting on weight for no reason and only on the bottom half they are often told they are fat and need to diet and exercise more.  While both of these things are generally good advice for an overweight person, this condition doesn’t respond easily to those measures – what happens is the upper body loses weight and tones up and the lower body stays pretty much the same.  Some weight and inches may be lost in the lower body but generally not much.  As you can imagine, this can lead to a cycle of depression.

With any luck, sufferers come accross someone, anyone, who recognises that what they have is lipoedema.  When you can find out about the condition, how it affects you, what you need to do to minimise the impact on your daily life, then you can start the life-long journey of control/maintenance.  It’s also very important to realise that it isn’t the patient’s fault – it is a genetic disorder – they haven’t been doing anything wrong.

It’s a horrible diagnosis.  There is no effective medical treatment for lipoedema, but the accompanying conditions, eg hormonal imbalances, can be treated to try and help stabalise weight gain, along with dietry and exercise advice.

Treatment with manual lymphatic drainage and lower grade compression garments can bring some relief, but because this is a life-long condition it gets expensive to have treatment as often as is necessary.  Patients usually spend time every day doing their own simple lymphatic drainage, elevating their legs and trying to exercise as much as they can. 

Having not come across lipoedema in my clinic for years, in the last few months I’ve had three patients come in – none of them diagnosed. 

The first patient actually knew of the condition, her mother and daughter have it, but she doesn’t believe she does, even though she is showing the classic signs.  When she is ready we can do some regular treatment.

On Friday and Saturday last week I had two new patients who seem to have lipoedema.  Neither had heard of it. 

The first is in the very early stage, she is very aware of her body and any changes it goes through and she is ready to do everything she can to keep the progression at bay.  She has spoken to her physiotherapist about the condition and I have sent her Dr Mackie’s paper and they will work together to try and control the condition.

The second patient is coming in for manual lymphatic drainage for her arm post breast cancer.  When I gave her the once-over I noticed that her lower body is out of proportion to her upper and as I know that she exercises at least four times a week and does some really heavy workouts with a trainer I asked a few more questions.  Her father has very swollen legs, as do her two sisters and one of her daughters.  It made sense to her.  I’ve sent her Dr Mackie’s paper as well and she will take it to her GP who is open and willing to learn about new things.

It’s all about education.  Medicos are not taught about this condition and so they can’t be expected to be able to diagnose it. 

There is an amazing support group here in Australia – the Lipoedema Australia Support Society,  They do great work sharing information to help sufferers cope.  They also have a facebook page, Lipoedema Australia, which gives lots of great information.  Check them out if you’d like more infomation.  Or of course you can send me a comment and I’ll answer as best I can.