A pair of hands cupping blue flame

Switzerland's Best Kept Secret

A cancer diagnosis automatically makes life more challenging and living in a foreign country compounds that. Having to navigate the medical system in a language that is not my mother tongue is no small feat. I have been living in Switzerland on and off since 2006 and as an ex-pat, I make an effort to participate in some of their traditional customs.

The (other) secret

One such custom is quite intriguing. It’s a practice dating back to the Middle Ages and when I was about to have my first radiation therapy session, I was advised by my English-speaking cancer group to get in contact with specific healers.

They have several monikers such as: “Faiseurs de Secret” (‘Secret Makers’)/“Barreurs de Feu” (“Barriers Against Fire)/ “Panseurs de Secret” (“Secret Healers”) and “Coupeurs de Feu” (“Fire Cutters”). Shrouded in mystery, these healers are given a ‘gift’ that has been passed down to them for generations. Much isn’t divulged to the general public but apparently, this ‘secret’ involves reciting special prayers with the specific intention that help patients recover from all sorts of maladies ranging from severe burns to side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

What is notable is that these healers are even recognized by established hospitals that even have a list that patients can access to get in contact with one while undergoing various medical treatments.

My experience with the healers

On a personal note, I contacted ‘Madame M’ via WhatsApp during my first session of radiation therapy last April of 2020. I gave her my full name, my diagnosis, current treatment, and a picture of where I would be radiated. There was no payment involved (in fact they frown upon compensation, though if insist, you can send them a small monetary tip in the mail). Every day, I texted her right before and after my radiation and she did her ‘magic’. I can attest that my side effects were relatively mild and what’s more, I had no discoloration or burn marks from the intense sessions.

So naturally, when I was told that I had to have more radiation sessions for a new tumor pressing down on my neck nerves and undergo chemotherapy again, I made no hesitation to not only contact Madame M but also ‘Madame N’ because the more ‘fire cutters’ who send you ‘prayers and positive energy' the better.

Believing in something bigger than myself

I’m happy to report again that my radiation burn marks are hardly noticeable. Of course, skeptics will have various reasons as to why this is so but I believe my ‘fire cutters’ played an active role in getting this result. Scientific research studies also back me up. “The patient’s belief in ‘Secret's' beneficial effects and the fact that the patient or family reaches out to Folk Medicine increases confidence, which might drastically reduce the stress level. This reduction in the patient’s stress could help to achieve optimal and more rapid wound healing”.1,2

At the end of the day, I want to give myself the best chances possible of increasing the notoriously short life span that a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis traditionally carries. This means exploring all conventional and non-conventional avenues.

Would you like to try 'the secret'?

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on May 26, 2021, Angie Brice Hessbruegge passed away. Angie's thoughtful writings and advocacy efforts will continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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