Helping others using alternative healing
“I am going to die.” That was Amani Flood’s first thought when she received a cancer diagnosis.
“I fell ill one day and thought I had the flu,” she said. “It turned out to be something much more serious — non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer originating in the lymphatic system. I was in my 30s.”
Doctors said her prognosis was not good and there was not much they could do in terms of treatment.
She turned to alternative medicine as a recourse — and she started believing that survival was possible.
“A cancer diagnosis is a shock. You think to yourself, ‘I’m going to die’,” she said. “But then the will to live kicks in and you try to think of how you can survive. I read lots of survivor stories, and that is what encouraged me and made me believe that if they could do it, I could also survive.
“I had a young son at the time and I did not want to leave him motherless. That was another big motivating factor.”
Dr Flood believes that believing in your own survival is an important part of healing.
“I undertook a totally natural treatment plan and fully recovered without chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.”
Eighteen years later, she’s still healthy and is a naturopathic doctor at Northshore Medical and Aesthetics Centre in Devonshire.
She advises people to use natural medicine to complement traditional cancer treatment, rather than as an alternative to it.
“New cancer treatments have come along since I was sick,” said Dr Flood, who is now in her 50s. “Medical doctors have all the diagnostic tests and can tell you the progression or remission of your condition.
“People should not go off on their own like I did, it can be very dangerous. I had no choice.”
She took up her post at Northshore Medical in March, and dispenses advice on a diverse range of issues including weight loss, diabetes management and attention deficit disorder. “I see patients of all kinds,” she said. “I do acupuncture, homeopathy, mind and body medicine and mood disorders. It is a pretty broad scope.”
She wasn’t always so passionate about healthy living despite having had a health scare as a young child.
“My grandparents were farmers, but I had no interest in vegetables,” said Dr Flood, who grew up in San Francisco, California. “All I wanted was hamburgers and milkshakes. They tried everything but I was given to vomiting and they gave up, eventually. I was born with a small ovarian tumour. After several surgeries, I was prone to stomachaches.”
Her diet improved while a student at the University of San Francisco.
“I met a group of students who were vegetarians and were into more progressive thinking,” she said. “After experimenting with a better lifestyle I noticed the difference in my life. It took me a long time of experimenting with healthy food to enjoy it.
“I love vegetables now, because I have learnt they should not be overcooked until they are slimy. Vegetables actually have a lot of natural sugars in them. If you prepare them right, the sugars come out and vegetables taste quite delicious.”
She came to Bermuda 30 years ago to work in management and corporate administration and kept her interest in natural medicine.
“I was always that person who knew about herbs and natural remedies,” she said. “My friends and family would call me and say, ‘I have a cold’, or ‘I have the flu, what can I take?’ I was always there with my books and reference materials. I would say, ‘Get more vitamin C’, or ‘Put a hot pad on it’.”
Eventually, she began looking at how she could become qualified in natural healing. At age 50 she enrolled as a full-time student in a four-year doctoral programme in natural medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“It was a good time because my son, Akin Richardson, was grown and out of the house,” she said. “I had a foster daughter and she had grown up. Natural medicine was a huge leap from what I’d done before. I really enjoyed my profession, but it was time to change. I decided to become a doctor so that I could help others heal.”
She admitted it wasn’t easy going back to school. To get by she learnt study strategies from younger students.
“I was able to dig in and apply my all,” she said. “By the grace of God I made it. I believe I am the only naturopathic doctor on the Island with a doctorate.”
She’s thrilled to be helping others, but concedes there are limitations to what she can do.
“We can diagnose and treat,” she said. “Anyone can dispense advice, but when it comes to giving a diagnosis and treatment then you need to be a qualified person.
“Medical doctors are internists and can go inside the body cavity. Naturopathic doctors cannot. We are limited to the superficial body. The most we can do is skin tag removal and things like that.”
Naturopathic doctors are not licensed in Bermuda, something Dr Flood would like to change. “Because the Bermuda Government does not license naturopathic doctors, anyone can put a shingle outside and claim to be a naturopathic doctor,” she said. “It is in the public’s best interest to have licensing happen in the course of time. Because it is unregulated that means there are no restrictions and no guidelines.”
To others thinking about going back to school, she said: “It is never too late. Don’t give up on your dreams.”
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