Unanticipated Medicine

Rixt and her partner Marcel, right after receiving some very good news

Rixt Wolters, a young mother, was faced with cervical cancer after her pregnancy. She managed to overcome this sickness with an uncommon method. This is her story.

Rixt Wolters’ home is filled with cooing baby noises, a tea collection ranging from Japanese sencha to English breakfast, and plenty of room for play such as the polka-dotted tipi in the corner. The washing machine is whirring in the background. As soon as I enter the living room, I feel a sense of comfort and calm. But this serenity is in stark contrast with the journey she made to get there. It was a lot more rugged than that of the average young mother. She tells me her story while rocking her new-born and lovingly shushing her toddler.

“Mommy is having a conversation now,” she says to the little blond girl tugging her sleeve for attention. Her daughter does a feeble attempt at protesting, but Rixt is firm and the girl settles for playing with her mother’s hair. “I like that,” she says softly in Frisian, and turns back to me. I’m witnessing parenting at its finest.

Rixt recently made a radical change. She went from her well-paid, stable job as a physiotherapist to being a freelance alternative care therapist. This might seem risky and insecure for most, but for her it was the only option. “I was in a situation that just wasn’t nourishing for me anymore, regarding my work,” she says to me.

“The body is a sort of antenna.”

While traditional healthcare focusses on the one body part that is not working properly, alternative care has a more holistic approach. To explain it to me, she uses the metaphor of a red light blinking in your car. “You go to the garage to get it fixed, but all they did is take out the red light. And then you’re allowed to drive around again. But you still don’t know why the red light was burning in the first place.”

The blinking red light revealed itself in Rixt’s life as cervical cancer. Barely six weeks after her eldest was born, her gynaecologist told her her womb was “awfully sick”. She couldn’t believe what she heard. “A beautiful baby just came out of there.” Yet, her doctor told her it was likely that her uterus needed to be removed in its entirety. But with the wish for another child and a feeling that something was off, Rixt didn’t accept that judgement at face value.

She decided to try alternative care. What she found there, was that her mind and her body are intrinsically connected and that what is wrong mentally can materialize as a physical problem. “The body is a sort of antenna,” she says. She also realized that her thoughts and feelings have an incredible influence on her health. With negative thought patterns “you can make yourself sick.”

“I think everyone recognises how hard you can be on yourself sometimes.”

“I think everyone recognises how hard you can be on yourself sometimes. That you think, that’s so stupid of me, or I don’t know, or I can’t do it,” she says while trying to console the wailing baby in her arms. “I’m going to walk around for a bit, maybe that helps.”

What was lacking in her life was the love she felt for herself. When her therapist made her read a passage about self-love and being good enough as you are, “I immediately started crying,” she says. “I thought: yes, that’s it.”

And that is why it wasn’t a risky choice at all to leave her old job, she explains to me over her steaming cup of tea. In a sense, it was what saved her life. “If I hadn’t taken this step, I could have very well gotten bad news again.” 

Despite the fact that alternative care played an invaluable role in her recovery, Rixt carried on with traditional health care as well. She went through several operations, all the while aiming to preserve her uterus. Fortunately, this succeeded. However, her cervix was shortened to such an extent that a cerclage had to be placed. A cerclage is a strap that is placed around the cervix to prevent premature birth. Due to this cerclage, Rixt’s youngest daughter was brought into the world via a caesarean section.

Rixt is not against traditional health care at all; rather, she believes that traditional and alternative care could very well complement each other. But generally, there’s still a “boundless faith in the white coat,” and they turn up their nose at alternative care. In response to her story about self-reflection, Rixt her gynaecologist said she “couldn’t work with that at all.” Part of the problem is the lack of scientific research and consequently evidence of the validity of alternative care, according to Rixt. But the baby girl babbling in her arms is all the proof she needs. Just one week after starting her new job, she got pregnant again. “And so, we’ve come full circle.”

“I am perfect the way I am”

A fulfilling job, a house filled with baby murmurings and children’s laughter, and a loving husband; It sounds like the perfect ending of a fairy tale. The labour of self-reflection and inner work certainly seem to have paid off very well. Yet Rixt realises it doesn’t end here. “It’s something to keep working on, and also to pass along to my daughters,” she says while looking at them warmly. “It already starts when they’re so young. For example, my eldest, when she’s dressed up as a princess, she says she’s prettier. And I tell her no: you’re always pretty. And that’s just the outside we’re talking about. During their upbringing you have to constantly let them feel that they’re good just the way they are. And not just the nice things. If you’re angry or sad, that’s okay too. In this society it is not done to be angry or frustrated, but that’s also part of you; it’s what makes you, you. And these little ones are mirrors in that respect. So, it’s okay when they’re angry. They are perfect just the way they are. And that is a reflection: I am perfect the way I am.”

Will she be nervous when it’s time for her next check-up? “No,” she smiles. “Because I now know what’s under the blinking red light.”

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