WELL­NESS REV­O­LU­TION Tak­ing back con­trol of our well­ness.

Our busy life­styles can make it hard to pri­ori­tise our health, yet we are of­ten our own best heal­ers, says well­ness au­thor

In the Moment - - Contents - Sara Daven­port Words: Lot­tie Storey

With thou­sands of op­er­a­tions scrapped ear­lier this year, the cri­sis in the UK’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice is hit­ting pa­tients hard. For the past few years, on­line pe­ti­tions have been do­ing the rounds, warning Sec­re­tary of State for Health and So­cial Care Jeremy Hunt of im­mi­nent break­ing point.

If that point is nearly here and not go­ing away any time soon, what can each of us do to take con­trol of our own health? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. The big stu is best left to the ex­perts, of course, but much of the rest is up for grabs. It’s a ques­tion of ed­u­cat­ing our­selves and tun­ing into our bod­ies.

‘Lis­ten to the whis­pers and you won’t have to hear the screams’ – this Chero­kee proverb sums it up en­tirely. Most of us know the feel­ing of hav­ing ig­nored those lit­tle, nig­gling ail­ments that end up caus­ing much big­ger prob­lems in the long run. But some­times we might need a bit of help to trans­late those whis­pers.

One woman pi­o­neer­ing this ap­proach is health ad­vo­cate and phi­lan­thropist Sara Daven­port, who has decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in the com­ple­men­tary health eld, hav­ing founded Breast Cancer Haven (www.breast­cancer haven.org.uk) in 1998.

The char­ity now op­er­ates across seven centres in the UK, each o er­ing in­for­ma­tion, coun­selling and the widest range of com­ple­men­tary ther­a­pies in the coun­try free of charge to any­one, any­where, a ected by breast cancer.

Sara’s de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish Breast Cancer Haven came af­ter a close friend was di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease and ex­pe­ri­enced dis­as­trous treat­ment. “No-one read her notes. Her treat­ment was du­pli­cated by mis­take. She never saw the same doc­tor twice,” re­calls Sara. “Af­ter the mas­tec­tomy, there was no more help. She was left to get on with the af­ter-e ects and to nd help for her var­i­ous is­sues where she could.”

Un­for­tu­nately, this wasn’t an iso­lated case. “Wher­ever I went, peo­ple told me the same story. There was a huge gap that too many peo­ple were fall­ing into and some­thing needed to be done. It never oc­curred to me that I would be the one to do it.”

At the time, Sara had been run­ning a suc­cess­ful art gallery in Lon­don for 10 years. But her con­vic­tion for sup­port­ing the emo­tional needs of cancer pa­tients was so strong that she sold all of the paint­ings through an auc­tion house, closed the gallery and used the money to es­tab­lish the rst Breast Cancer Haven.

The char­ity has pro­vided respite and sup­port to tens of thou­sands of women over the years, but for Sara it con­sol­i­dated a pas­sion for health that has re­mained her life’s work. Her in­ter­est in com­ple­men­tary ther­a­pies (de­vel­oped over years of rst-hand ex­pe­ri­ence) works in

“We only have one body. If we treat it

like a car, with reg­u­lar MOTs and re­pairs, we can im­prove the parts that

don’t work as well as they used to”

har­mony with ortho­dox medicine, cre­at­ing a tai­lored, in­formed ap­proach to our health and well­be­ing.

To­day, the gap that Sara saw back in 1998 has resur­faced again 20 years on, but this time the cri­sis is more com­plex. She be­lieves that the short­ages and nan­cial strain faced by the UK health ser­vice are be­ing com­pounded by our mod­ern, tech­nol­ogy-re­liant life­styles. “Some­times we for­get to stop and lis­ten to our bod­ies. In a stressed, busy world dom­i­nated by the dig­i­tal, we can be cut o from our phys­i­cal selves. As a re­sult, there are times when we don’t re­alise how badly we are func­tion­ing,” she says.

“Many of us are also su er­ing from a lack of con dence in tak­ing care of our own well­be­ing,” adds Sara. “We’ve been taught to hand all of our health con­cerns over to doc­tors and pre­sume that when times get tough, they will sort it. In do­ing so we have for­got­ten that when it comes to ev­ery­day well­ness and mi­nor com­plaints, we all used to be our own best heal­ers.”

So, what is the al­ter­na­tive? “We only have one body. If we treat our bod­ies like our cars, with reg­u­lar MOTs and proac­tive re­pairs, we can im­prove the parts that aren’t work­ing as well as they used to,” Sara says. “If we know how our body works and un­der­stand what its sys­tems and or­gans do, we can spot prob­lems way be­fore we need to visit the doc­tor. And, at that early stage, is­sues are of­ten sim­pler to sort, too.”

Sara might not be a health pro­fes­sional, but she con­sid­ers this to be her big­gest strength. “I am not a doc­tor, I’m not a nutri­tion­ist, nor a psy­chi­a­trist or any­thing else with a la­bel on it. I stand rmly in the mid­dle with a wider view than most. Health is my pas­sion and I have spent 30 years re­search­ing every as­pect of it. I have per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of just about every ther­apy, I’ve lis­tened to the sto­ries of hun­dreds of very ill peo­ple, and I spend my spare time read­ing the lat­est health re­search. My overview and un­der­stand­ing is far wider than if I’d trained in a speci c eld, plus I have ac­cess to spe­cialised pro­fes­sion­als for greater depth of in­for­ma­tion when needed.”

Sara has chan­nelled this ex­pe­ri­ence and proac­tiv­ity into a new book: Re­boot Your Health: Sim­ple DIY Tests and So­lu­tions to As­sess and Im­prove Your Health (Hay House, £12.99). In it, she con­sid­ers all as­pects of phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional health, o er­ing easy tests and ques­tion­naires to give a clear pic­ture of ex­actly how healthy you are right now – what is work­ing and what is not – be­fore o er­ing easy-to-fol­low ex­pla­na­tions and sug­ges­tions for ad­dress­ing any im­bal­ances or prob­lems. “I sat down and wrote my ul­ti­mate DIY man­ual for how to get healthy and stay healthy,” says Sara. “We all want to be healthy and happy now and in older age. And you re­ally can take steps to get there. I re­ally wanted to share this mes­sage.” Read more from Sara on the Re­boot Health web­site (www.re­boothealth.co.uk).

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