Holistically Speaking

Marella Devo (00:21):
Hello, welcome to holistically speaking. I’m your host Marella Devo today. We’ve started a month long of programs focusing on the topic, topic of cancer. We’re going to be speaking with different guests who have completely different perspectives based on their field, on what cancer is all about and how they would treat cancer, how they would work with someone who has cancer. Um, just to remind you our vision, our mission at holistically speaking is to be the Avenue through which the voices of holistic health, like my guest here today can reach you at the times. You need it most. And so my guest today is Brendan Kelly. Brendan is an acupuncturist and an herbalist, and today he’s going to be guiding us through, uh, the Chinese medicine perspective on cancer. So we’ve already had a couple of conversations and I am just fascinated by everything that Brendan has shared with me. And I know that you will find it very interesting as well. So thank you for joining me, Brendan. Um, yeah, so I think it’s really important for our viewers to understand what you explained to me when we had our very first conversation, uh, about the Chinese medicine perspective. And I was fascinated, but by what you said, that Chinese medicine doesn’t even call it cancer. It’s, you know, cancer is a Western medicine diagnosis. Right, right,

Brendan Kelly (01:53):
Right. And that really speaks to the differences between Western medicine and Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine is not Western medicine using acupuncture and herbs, or it’s not Western medicine using natural methods. Uh, Chinese medicine is a very different, uh, medical tradition. And from that medic differences in medical traditions comes differences in diagnosis and treatment.

Marella Devo (02:16):
Right. And so when we look at cancer in particular, so what does Chinese medicine call it then? Or what, how would you conceptualize it?

Brendan Kelly (02:25):
The, most common, my clinical experience treating with people, treating people with the Western diagnosis of cancer. The most common, um, underlying issue with cancer is what Chinese medicine would call heat. And we can roughly equate that to the Western medical understanding of inflammation and translating the Chinese term heat into Western thinking about cancer. Generally speaking, is the over-proliferation of unhealthy cells and there’s many different kinds of cancers. So those cells can be different parts of the body, but there’s too much unhealthy activity that really equates quite well to the Chinese medicine idea of heat, which is overactivity reaching a point where it’s really causing pathology causing sickness.

Marella Devo (03:09):
Right? So you look at heat as the is, is as the cause of the pathology, or is it the expression? It’s both.

Brendan Kelly (03:19):
Okay. And Chinese medicine is very circular in its thinking. So I would say that heat heat is both the cause and the expression of, of the illness. Uh, now having said that there’s many other, um, factors that that can be connected to heat, but, um, the, an underlying similarity in the people’s diagnosis that I’ve treated with cancer. Yes.

Marella Devo (03:42):
Right. And so someone watching at home, I’d be listening to this and saying, so am I feeling hot? If, if I have cancer

Brendan Kelly (03:51):
Or you might, might physically in Chinese medical language is both literal and metaphorical. It’s both science and art or science and poetry. So people may physically be feeling heat. There’s a case study. I can share later on treating someone with the Western diagnosis of leukemia who physically felt hot, hot, so that can be part of it. But, um, not necessarily, there can be other factors that are mitigating that heat or essentially, um, trapping that heat or preventing that heat from being expressed in terms of fuel.

Marella Devo (04:22):
So then what are some of the causes of this heat that then manifests into what we call [inaudible]?

Brendan Kelly (04:28):
That’s a great question. And it’s such a great question. That is it’s, it’s hard to answer in general because Chinese medicine, in addition to, uh, trying to treat a particular diagnosis is trying to treat where the diagnosis is coming from, what Chinese medicine would call the root causes of the condition. But Chinese medicine is also aspiring to treat the individual. So rather than treating the diagnosis or really treating where the diagnosis is coming from, the goal of Chinese medicine is to treat the person and not just the diagnosis or not the condition. So having said that, um, there are some common causes for heat in, in our, in our country, in our culture. One is just being too busy. We, as a people are too busy, not only at work and at home, but stimulation visually busy in terms of entertainment, in terms of being engaged, um, through cell phones and the internet, et cetera, that’s one common cause of heat. One way of thinking about heat is just think about a hot summer day and you’re out in the sun and there’s no shade that condition, um, can happen internally. And one of the most common causes of that is just being too busy

Marella Devo (05:33):
For too long. Right. I also kind of think about it as a, maybe, uh, an engine, you know, overheating. If you’re constantly running, you might be sitting in a chair, but you’re constantly on the computer or you’re constantly engaged. It’s like that engine is always running

.Brendan Kelly (05:47):
That’s an excellent analogy. It’s this, it’s the same idea. The engine that the RPMs have been too high for too long, right? So in a car that can burn out the engine or it physically creates heat and that can burn out the engine within us. It’s the same basic principle. The organs, the glands, the energy in the body has been to engage for too long.

Marella Devo (06:05):
Yeah. And what I’m here, as I’m hearing you talk about this, it’s making me think that this, uh, links very well with what we normally think of as stress. So in Western medicine, I think there’s starting to be a very well accepted idea that stress contributes to a lot of our conditions.

Brendan Kelly (06:22):
Absolutely. And stress. Another way of translating the Western idea of stress into Chinese medicine is stress causes heat stress. If physically, mentally, emotionally, we are too engaged, uh, in the world. And, and there’s Western research now, both physical research and mental, emotional research that connects stress to many, many conditions and Chinese medicine would acknowledge that. Yeah.

Marella Devo (06:45):
Yeah. So also thinking of, uh, the idea of heat and being over, you know, overstimulated and constantly busy and stress and all of these, I can imagine that there are other things that also contribute to the, this heat, like nutritionally.

Brendan Kelly (07:01):
Absolutely nutrition in art, in our practice and the way that we practice Chinese medicine. And there is a diversity of ways that people practice Chinese medicine, but certainly within the way that we practice at our clinic here in Burlington, um, nutrition is a major component. So I’m going to speak in general terms and then in specific terms, um, because everyone is different and, and the emphasis in Chinese medicine again, is to treat the individuals. So there isn’t any, um, one diet that’s always appropriate for everybody, right? Or appropriate for cancer. For example, there isn’t, there isn’t a list of foods. All these foods are good and all these foods are bad. Um, it’s not that general, it’s much more specific to the individual, but having said that there are certainly general ideas, um, anything that is processed, uh, in my opinion, creates heat in the body.

Brendan Kelly (07:49):
And the reason it creates heat in the body is cause the organs and the glands are working to get rid of it, but it’s not natural. The body doesn’t want it on a very basic level. So anything with, with preservatives, anything with additives, anything with colors, anything that you need a PhD in chemistry to understand what the ingredients are or pronounce it, or have any conceptualization of what that is that is likely to cause heat. So one basic nutritional idea with cancer or with anything really is eat basic simple food, eat food that our grandparents or our great grandparents would have recognized as food. Right? If, if you have a, uh, something before you have food or a drink and your ancestors would have no idea what that was, that’s not so good. And some of it is very simple, eat, whole grains, eat whole foods, eat a moderate amount of meat. In many cases, eat vegetables, eat fruit when you’re not eating that way among other things you’re likely to be contributing.

Marella Devo (08:45):
Right. I often think about it when I talked to my clients, um, you know, with nutrition coaching and all of that, that if you’re putting something in your that isn’t feeding it, you know, as a building, you it’s a chore, you know, it’s, if it’s not a building health and it’s a chore that your body has to deal with, it has to detoxify. Right? So

Brendan Kelly (09:06):
I would say that detoxification, the organs are working harder than they need to, and that’s very possible that’ll create.

Marella Devo (09:12):
Right? So, um, there was something that you said earlier, that was very interesting where, um, you said that you treat people individually, that it’s not. Cause I often, you know, we often tend to think about, Oh, this is the treatment for this. Especially when it comes to cancer, it’s like, Oh, this cancer is treated this way. This other type of tumor has a different type of treatment. And you know, we’ve heard about it a lot. So what you’re saying is your approach is different. There’s

Brendan Kelly (09:43):
It is different, right? Because we are individuals. We are not our diagnoses, whether it’s a Chinese order, Western diagnosis and we’re not statistics, we are individuals. So the reason that we develop cancer is different. And the, and the way that that cancer manifests is different. And this is not just a peripheral idea. This is not just philosophy. This is very real. This is very, very clinically relevant because the way cancer shows up in people is different, right? And the way to treat where the cancer came from is different. And in some cases we’re really going in, uh, and strongly and aggressively clearing out the heat. But with some people we’re not doing that right away, because in order to clear things out, the organs need to be strong enough to clear things out. So we may, we may need to strengthen work with people to strengthen the Oregon strength in their energy before we can detoxify. Or sometimes it’s not a question of detoxifying heat. It’s a question of bringing in the fluids, the coolant into the body. So those are just two, excuse me, three different general approaches, but we don’t have an herb formula to treat cancer. Right. We don’t have an herb to treat cancer. We don’t have acupuncture points to treat cancer because everyone is different. And the, the possibilities of the way that we would treat cancer really very, very significantly.

Marella Devo (11:01):
So can you tell us a little bit an example, it could be a story, or can you give us an example of what are some of the things that you would do for someone who has the diagnoses of cancer?

Brendan Kelly (11:12):
Yeah, well, the, one of the first things we talk about is the fear, um, fear, um, is a very powerful motivator on all levels, medically, politically, socially. Um, so, uh, cancer is no more and no less than heat as part of it’s. Cause it’s it’s, there are other, um, connected issues with it, but it’s often mostly heat Chinese medicine can treat heat and cancer is obviously a Western diagnosis. So I’m not trained to treat cancer. I’m not trained to diagnose cancer. Um, I don’t practice Western medicine. I practice Chinese medicine, but within the practice of Chinese medicine, heat is definitely treatable, right? So that is often the first place to start, right? Fear is a very powerful motivator, but regular, uh, sensations of fear is not particularly therapeutic. So that’s often the first place. Um, we need to start, um, after having said that if people are, are going to work with us and they’re not doing the Western route, they’re not doing chemo and radiation. And we work with people who do do chemo and radiation to mitigate side effects and other things like that. But if people are not doing the Western route or they’re choosing not to doing, to do the Western route, then we really need to talk about lifestyle. We need to talk about the things that would be contributing to heat. It’s a Chinese medicine is participatory. It’s not like people come in and, and we fix them,

Marella Devo (12:42):
Just give me the pill or,

Brendan Kelly (12:45):
Okay, I’ll take the herbs, I’ll do the treatment. But, um, it’s more than that. It’s participatory the way that treatments work best in general. And with cancer in particular is we’re both involved or maybe the whole family is involved. We have people who are coming in to see us with the cancer diagnosis and they bring their whole family. And sometimes their spouses, literally their kids, their friends, neighbors. And that’s great because it’s a group effort. So if we’re going to be clearing out heat, which at some point we will be with a cancer diagnosis, then we have to understand the things that are contributing to the heat and diet and lifestyle and work and family stuff that could be contributing to heat. It doesn’t make sense to be clearing out heat, uh, with acupuncture and herbs and then be contributing to the heat in the way we live. So people have to be willing to look at those things and address those things in order for you

Marella Devo (13:32):
To make the changes. Yeah. Yeah. So I can imagine some people listening to this and saying, you know, maybe they’re dealing with a particular diagnosis and wondering, so does this work better or worse for say, you know, breast cancer or prostate cancer then say for, um, uh, lymphoma or skin cancer? Is there such a distinction?

Brendan Kelly (13:58):
Well, I think there are distinctions, but, um, I don’t think there’s clear distinctions. I mean, my understanding is that a fundamental root of cancer is heat. If you treat the heat, regardless of where it is, um, it can really change the condition of the body. Now there are cancers that will be more difficult to treat. Um, but there’s many, many cases where the Western statistics for cancer or for other conditions didn’t look very good and people did just fine. So, um, I I’m aware of the Western, uh, some of the Western statistics with cancer and prognosis and lifetime span, et cetera. But, um, those are, are only partially relevant because we’re not a statistic, right? We are not a number, we’re an individual. And if we understand what’s causing heat and are willing to change those things in our lifestyle, then things can be very, very different. So I would say, yes, there are certain cancers that are easier to treat, but, um, we’re not scared off by the particular statistics.

Marella Devo (15:02):
Yeah. And, um, what’s interesting in hearing you talk about it that way, is that just yesterday I was having a conversation where, you know, somebody was asking me, well, you know, are, you know, are some of these approaches proven for, because that’s our mindset, you know, we’re kind of used to thinking about, well, this particular approach helps this kind of cancer and this other approach. So this kind of cancer where for you, it’s more organic and just really treating the individual and right,

Brendan Kelly (15:30):
Right. And that’s a very, very good point because there’s quite literally thousands of studies, Western research studies that indicate the effectiveness of, of acupuncture, herbs, effectiveness of Chinese medicine. So there’s a tremendous amount of Western research about that. But having said that there is a real limitation to that research because that Western research is based on Western medical assumptions, Western medicine sees things a certain way, Chinese medicine see things, sees things other ways. So the limitation of the Western scientific studies about the effectiveness of acupuncture or of Chinese medicine assumes that everyone who’s in this study is going to be treated the same way. Right? They’re going to receive the same acupuncture treatments, the same herbs, the same herb formulas, everyone’s treated the same because we’re looking to quote unquote control the study. Chinese medicine does not control because everyone is different. It’s it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that Chinese medicine lacks scientific rigor or lacks medical rigor, but we’re trying to treat the individual. So the point, the acupuncture points that are used, the herb formulas that are used, the nutritional suggestions that are used are individualized. So when people say, well, there’s not the proof. Well, in my opinion, there’s quite literally 5,000 years of proof to indicate the effect in this Chinese medicine. Right. And, and sometimes it’s hard to fit one medical perspective into a nanometer.

Marella Devo (16:52):
Yeah. Yeah. Cause you’re right. It’s um, I had never stopped to consider the fact that it is, you know, a lot of them kind of scientific approach to medicine is like, let me find the one pill that helps everybody. Right. But Chinese medicine isn’t even taking on that philosophy of saying everybody’s going to be different. So everybody’s going to need a different approach. Correct. And maybe we know that these tools are helpful, but whether I use these three or these four over here, it depends on the person. Yeah.

Brendan Kelly (17:21):
Or I might use these two now and these two later and, or the sequence might be different. So where were we? I think it’s a real, um, limitation to treat everyone the same way. It just, for me clinically just doesn’t make sense. I don’t, if someone has a cancer diagnosis or whatever diagnosis they’re coming in, I’m trying to understand the person who has that condition. So it’s always going to be customized. Yeah. One size does not.

Marella Devo (17:44):
Yeah. There is, like I say, often there is no single diet that’s right. For everyone. Right. There is no single treatment that would be right for every single kind of breast cancer.

Brendan Kelly (17:53):
No, definitely not. It just doesn’t. Um, it doesn’t take into account the uniqueness of each person.

Marella Devo (17:59):
Gotcha. So can you tell us a story of a, one of your favorite clients or

Brendan Kelly (18:06):
I have a lot of favorite clients, but I’ll give you, I’ll give you one good story about cancer, treating cancer, well, treating what Chinese medicine and understanding the cause of cancer because I’m not, I don’t treat cancer and I’m not qualified to treat cancer, but Chinese medicine has a lot of understanding of it. So there was a very nice man that I was treating, who, uh, came in to see me because he had had a recent blood cell count and his blood cell count was 42,000. And he had those, uh, that blood count done because he, his, uh, primary care practitioner, um, was concerned that he made them be developing leukemia. And in particular, the slow progressing leukemia that chronic lymphocytic leukemia, there’s a fast progressing leukemia, which is blood cancer. And then there’s a slow progressing leukemia. So his primary care physician was concerned based on his signs and symptoms that he maybe he was developing leukemia.

Brendan Kelly (19:01):
So he had a blood cell count done, and it was 40 2005 years before that his blood cell count was 22,000. So one from the Western view, one indication of CLL chronic lymphocytic leukemia is that your blood cell count doubles in five years. So started at 22,000 was now at 42,000. So it was just about to double. So his Western practitioners said, well, it hasn’t doubled yet. So, um, come back in a couple of months. And if it goes from 42,000 to 44,000, which would indicate that it doubled, then we’ll give you chemo. Yeah. And he wasn’t real keen on that idea because he had an, a number of people in his community that had gone through chemo and he saw what had happened to them. So he came in to see me, he came in to see us. So, um, what I told him is if we can work on heat, definitely and leukemia, there’s a one understanding and Chinese medicine where that heat progresses to the level of the blood, which is a deep level, rather than the skin or the bones or the, or the tendons and ligaments, it’s even more internal it’s in the level of the blood.

Brendan Kelly (20:08):
So that, that, that, uh, leukemia diagnosis fits very nicely into a Chinese medical understanding of heat in the blood. So I said, we can do this, but we got to work together. You have to, um, help me help you get rid of this heat. So he agreed. So he agreed to cut out meat beef in particular. And he went to pork because beef is slightly warming. It doesn’t mean that beef is bad. It doesn’t, I’m not advocating everyone have a vegetarian diet. Um, but beef is somewhat warming and pork and fish are neutral and cooling. So they wouldn’t contribute to the heat. He agreed to cut out, um, sweets and he really sweet tea. And it’s, I’m not condemning sweet tea, but the, uh, the sugar in particular creates what Chinese medicine calls, dampness, which is like a wet, heavy blankness blanket like Flint. So when we’re clearing out heat, we can’t have something obstructing the heat from leaving the body.

Brendan Kelly (21:01):
So we cut out, Oh, it’s like, it’s hot and muggy, right. It’s it’s, it’s like now it’s a hot damp day, a hot humid day. Yeah. Heat is, is the heat internally. And the dampness is humidity. Um, so we wanted to get rid of both of those things. So we agreed to that. And then he agreed to eat more vegetables. He wasn’t real keen on vegetables, but he agreed to eat leafy green vegetables. Cause that would clear things out of the body. And then at least as importantly, he agreed to slow down and we all have things to do in life. It’s not that being engaged in the world is somehow bad, but he really essentially overworked. He was working 60 to 70 hours a week. He cut that down to 30, 35 hours a week and he just agreed to, uh, relax more. He was sleeping six or seven hours a night.

Brendan Kelly (21:45):
He went to sleep nine to 10 hours a night. Um, so what were the results of that? And he was, he came in for acupuncture, uh, twice a week for one month. So that was eight treatments. And then the second month he came in once a week for that month. So a total of 12 acupuncture treatments, not that many, right? And then he took a relatively high dose of herbs, not an extreme dose of herbs, but he was taking, um, about 20 grams of herbs a day, a usual doses, 10 to 12. He was taking about 20, but not a huge amount. And those herbs were designed to clear out the heat and the rest. And the relaxation was designed to cool things down and getting rid of the heat inducing foods. And the damp inducing foods was allowing the body to clear things out.

Brendan Kelly (22:25):
So after two months of acupuncture, two months of herbs and lifestyle and diet changes, he went back, um, to, um, get blood tests. So what happened before we get to the number of what happened as a result of that, he lost 30 pounds and that was the same. He was in his mid fifties. And that was the same way that he was in high school. Wow. He said he had more energy than he had remembered since high school, high school, his brain fog went away. His relationship with his wife, he said, was great. His relationship with his family was great. He just felt good overall. Right? And then the last thing, he went back and got the blood cell count tested. It went from 42,000 to 10,800. And so it was 52 months in two months. So it was 50% less than it had been five years before.

Brendan Kelly (23:12):
So that was a 75% decrease in eight months. And that was great news, but truthfully, it wasn’t that surprising. He was clearing out the heat. He was making the lifestyle and diet changes to reduce the heat. And the acupuncture and herbs were clearing out the heat and bringing in the coolant and diagnostically his pulse and his time we’re saying that. So it was really great news, but it wasn’t surprising. He knew, he knew how he, he felt he wasn’t having night sweats anymore. He wasn’t having being hot during the day. He didn’t have nodules that were coming from the heat, cooking the blood. Um, he felt his brain fog went away. He felt good. And from the Chinese medical perspective, his pulse and tongue post-diagnosis and tongue diagnosis are major parts of what we do. They were really good. So that’s an example where if people are willing to work with the process, not only can the diagnosis improve, but what we’ll call the quote unquote ancillary benefits or their lifestyle is better. Energy is better thinking is better. He’s just better in here

Marella Devo (24:13):
Feeling happier. Yes. Yeah. Not just diagnosis free, just healthy.

Brendan Kelly (24:18):
Right. And so there’s a difference between treating sickness and promoting health and Western medicine is very, um, focused on treating sickness and that’s part of it cancer or whatever. That’s part of a medicine, but that’s only part of the picture, at least as important is preventing the disease from reoccurring and also promoting health and Chinese medicine is really oriented towards that. Yeah.

Marella Devo (24:42):
I really liked when we were speaking on the phone, I really liked something that you said where, um, instead of treating the branches, you’re treating the root. And I think that was such an interesting way to visualize it because a lot of times we, you know, have a headache. And so the headache is just like the brand, you know, you can take a pill to kill the headache. It’s just a manifestation out in the branches of something that could be happening on a much deeper level.

Brendan Kelly (25:09):
Right. Definitely. And, and as I see it, the symptoms are the messenger, right? The symptoms are trying to tell us that something is out of balance. So what happens when the messenger shows up? Well, we can greet the messenger and say hi, or we can tell the messenger to go away. And if we’re constantly telling the messenger to go away, then we’re not listening to what the messenger is saying because the messenger is our friend, the symptoms potentially are our allies rather than our enemy. And so the symptoms are our own way of us telling ourselves that something is out of balance. And it doesn’t mean that that Chinese medicine dismisses the symptoms or is not capable of treating symptoms. It is. But it’s trying to understand where the symptoms are coming from.

Marella Devo (25:48):
Yeah. I, I like to think of symptoms as messengers. Right? They’re your messenger, you know, don’t shoot the messenger, listen to what it’s trying to say. Yeah.

Brendan Kelly (25:55):
Right. Because if you shoot that messenger and kill that messenger, inevitably another messenger is going to show up and it often is louder and a little less polite and it makes a little more noise because we didn’t listen the first time around. Right. So treating the messenger, uh, with respect is yeah.

Marella Devo (26:11):
Yeah. So I know you have some resources. Um, so we’ll show those resources and maybe you can talk about them. Sure.

Brendan Kelly (26:20):
Yep. We have our website, which is www dot Jade, M T wellness.com. That’s our website that has a lot of information about Chinese medicine. There’s also a brief 10 minute video of me talking about my understanding of cancer, where it comes from. And there’s a lot of other information about Chinese medicine there as well. Um, two good general books about Chinese medicine are, uh, the first between heaven and earth, which is a nice discussion of some of the underlying philosophies of Chinese medicine. And another one is the web that has no Weaver, which is also is a nice introduction to some of the ideas of Chinese medicine. And I use them in the classes that I teach, but they’re very appropriate for people in general. And I’m offering a couple of classes. One is an introduction to Chinese medicine, which is happening at Johnson state college in Johnson, Vermont, uh, Saturday, October 19 and Saturday, November two from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. And it is open to the public. Everyone’s welcome to take it. Um, and it’s also available for one college credit

Marella Devo (27:25):
And there’s another class as well. Yeah.

Brendan Kelly (27:28):
And there’s another one, um, about, uh, that I’m teaching, uh, it’s about a 75 minute class down in new Bedford, Massachusetts at this wonderful conference called Bioneers, um, which is the weekend of Friday to Sunday, October 25th to 27th. And binders is a great environmental, social, um, conference. And I’m going to be talking about the yin and yang of climate change. Right?

Marella Devo (27:51):
Wonderful, great, um, wonderful resources. And it’s just been so interesting to hear you talk about this completely different perspective on cancer, where it’s essentially heat under Chinese medicine. And you’ve, uh, shared with us, uh, how looking at our stress levels and not being so busy, not over exerting ourselves, resting, eating a natural foods, diet, all of these things are important to, you know, prevent ex excess heat. Yes. Is there any final thing like, Oh my gosh, I forgot to say this. The one thing we have, like 30 seconds,

Brendan Kelly (28:30):
We all have cancer cells in our body. Um, it’s not a question of if we have cancer or we don’t have cancer. We all have cancer cells from the Chinese view in the Western view, the, uh, goal of Chinese medicine is to allow ourselves to clear the cancer cells. Right? And if, if things are imbalanced, the body will naturally do that when the body’s not able to clear the heat, the heat builds up and one of the possibilities is cancer. So cancer is not necessarily something to fear, so scary. It doesn’t have to be.

Marella Devo (28:57):
And I love that you shared that on ending in that, on that note, that it doesn’t have to be a scary thing it’s just hate and that just helps make it a lot more, um, something that we can deal with, you know, just psychologically. So thank you so much for joining us. Join us next week. We’ll have bill Warnock, a natural path sharing his perspective on how he approaches cancer. See you next time.