As a child, Andie Holman loved sports but when puberty hit, all the fun went away. Her “enormous boobs” were the problem.
By the time she was 13, she was wearing “granny bras”, huge contraptions that did not give her the support she needed.
She endured sweat stains and heat rash, suffered chronic neck and shoulder pain, as well as “creepy and lecherous attention” from men.
At 15, she went under the knife.
She wishes her doctors had better prepared her for the surgery. Her vegetarian diet, and the cigarettes she smoked, worked against her recovery.
“I hadn’t been counselled to get it together nutritionally and perhaps I wouldn’t have had an infection and [required] second stitching under anaesthetic as a result,” the 49-year-old said.
“No one gave me any advice beforehand. That wasn’t done back then. Ideally, I would have been far more aware of taking care of myself and getting my body really healthy before undergoing something as serious as a four-hour surgery. I had no idea what kind of impact the surgery was going to have on me.”
She hopes Love Your Scar: How to Heal Beautifully Using Nutrition, Massage, Homeopathy, Yoga and Many More Natural Therapies, will help others fare better. The book draws on her own experience, and her 20 years as a massage therapist, homeopath and nutritionist.
“It was a labour of love and I’d fussed over it so much,” she said of the book that started as a pamphlet she handed out to her breast cancer patients.
The first edition came out in 2010; she worked on the second for three years before it was released in September.
“Nutrition is such a minefield, with people saying you should eat this or you should eat that. I’m more about giving general guidelines without saying you must do this or that. Finally, I just had to say to myself there will always be new research. I just had to let it go. If I have to write another edition in a few years, then so be it.”
Mrs Holman left Bermuda for London, England to study homeopathic medicine in 1995. Five years later, she was offering alternative treatments such as reiki, aromatherapy and holistic medicine, out of London Bridge Hospital’s oncology department.
She began working with scar patients in 2003 after meeting a woman with breast cancer, who was wheelchair-bound.
“She wanted a relaxing massage,” said Mrs Holman. “She’d had a mastectomy about ten years before, and she was being treated with chemotherapy and radiation for a recurrence.
“She had been sent for additional tests because she couldn’t breathe. She was sure the cancer had gone to her lungs.”
Mrs Holman discovered that the woman’s scar tissue had clamped on to her rib cage.
“She was bent totally forward by her scars so she couldn’t inflate her lungs,” she said.
Mrs Holman offered to massage the woman’s mastectomy scars, warning that the treatment would be experimental. “In massage school we’re taught to avoid that area, out of fears of sexual assault accusations,” she said.
After only 30 minutes, the “overjoyed” woman was able to get up out of her wheelchair.
Word of her success spread and soon doctors from outside oncology were asking for help.
“Scars became my speciality,” Mrs Holman said. “I saw a little boy from Russia who had been shot by a gun, I saw patients who’d had C-sections. I saw one man who had been so badly burnt he couldn’t extend his legs.”
With every patient she asked for feedback, so she could learn more.
In 2012, she and her husband, Mark, left London for Colorado. “A year after moving here, I studied to become a yoga teacher and, a year after that, joined the local volunteer fire department,” said Mrs Holman, who has taken a break from her practice to focus on writing.
“Having driven a Mini Cooper in London, it’s quite a ride driving a fire engine on mountain roads.”
• Join Andie Holman at Spirit House in Devonshire tonight at 5.30pm, and tomorrow at 4pm. Tickets, $20, are available at andieholman.com/love-your-scar-talk-friday-oct-13. Admission includes a PDF of the book and free basic membership to andieholman.com for a year.
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