October 19, 2016
the gift of a few hours alone each wednesday has become a pocket of such refreshment and refueling. i am not sure i truly understood the deep and real ways that deep relaxation, invigorating creative work and simple pleasures just for the sake of pleasure – how these things actually move my body toward healing.
intuitively and experientially, i now know this to be true. we need to pour in to and build and prioritize the beauty, the quiet, the joy-giving, soul-filling, creative around us and within us.
i am so thankful for today, for every wednesday when i drop my littlest loves off to play and learn with others for four amazing hours.
my first stop is the sauna, which is like a literal happy pill that energizes, fuels and invigorates me *every time, in ways i couldn’t have imagined.
then, i allow myself the treat of tucking in to a local coffee shop (often parking and taking a brisk walk first) to read, write & study. bliss!!
today, after leaving the sauna, i couldn’t contain a big grin and drove on the back roads of town, windows down, music blaring … singing and laughing and feeling the deepest soul exhale.
it’s been so beautiful to shift away from what felt like an empty call in our culture for “self care” toward an understanding of the deep richness of cultivating quiet, creativity, and restoration on this path of healing. these pockets of time are a gift & this mama feels no guilt, only gratitude.
October 17, 2016
my beloved created a GoFundMe page early on in this journey, sharing thoughtful updates as i’ve walked through the chapters of this story. his perspective on our life unfolding has been tender and insightful.
and the support i’ve received has truthfully been life-saving, as it has allowed me to take specific healing steps that otherwise would have been out of reach.
seeing an integrated oncologist at key decision-making junctures in this journey has been made real by this support and i know for sure that her input and guidance has meant a dramatically different trajectory for my life. it makes me tearful to consider.
healing foods to build my body and not support the growth of cancer; sauna; supplements to support me during chemo and now radiation; naturopathic and acupuncture support … and so much more. all of these things made possible by the deep generous support and i will live, forever grateful.
as i walk through radiation, and look ahead to a surgery in the coming year … i covet the support to continue to build and heal and move joyfully beyond this cancer valley.
October 17, 2016
i have been in a groove, moving through radiation every morning, then jumping in to the daily groove of juggling the many balls that is my life. i have been eyeing the end date of radiation, counting down, and thinking through next steps to finish out conventional treatment.
i decided to keep my appointment with my local oncologist last week, which typically precedes the next day’s infusion of herceptin – even though i’ve decided to stop the herceptin, for now. i was looking forward to seeing my labs and assessing different levels, as well as – and most of all, honestly – pressing through with relationship and dialogue and big-picture vision with this woman who has walked closely beside me since my diagnosis.
((when she learned of my decision to go against her recommendation and stop herceptin, i received a message from her office, asking if i wanted to “transfer care.” i felt stunned, because in my (perhaps utopic) vision of the model of care in medicine, if a patient disagrees with their doctor about one decision (of a multitude made) – that doesn’t mean that they stop working together. it means that we disagree, and that we remember that i am in this body, driving my healing, and i weigh many factors in making a decision and we continue to move together toward our common goal of my healing.))
so i decided to step in to that space that can feel awkward and tender, and sit with her in face-to-face conversation. i am always glad when i choose this option.
we went through much of the robotic check-the-box questions, and at one point in conversation about radiation, i shared that i often experience dizziness when standing up from the radiation table. this is something i’ve shared with the radiation oncologist (the doctor who specifically oversees my radiation treatment and with whom i meet weekly). he has maintained that it is not a side effect of radiation, although i know that it started 2 weeks after i began and typically hits only when standing up from the radiation table.
so my doctor stopped me and began to ask more questions about the dizziness. i was unfazed by her deeper questions and still wasn’t absorbing her level of concern.
as the appointment concluded, she said gently that she wants me to get a brain mri; that she thinks i’m probably fine but would like to be sure.
i felt that crashing in my stomach; that dark panic starting to hit. what was going on? because this appointment was supposed to be a quick check in, nothing to see here, moving right along. and this doctor, who had dismissed a different side effect months ago that i actually *was worried about, was now insisting on an mri of my brain. to look for the spread of cancer, of course.
and she wanted it done that week.
i felt the familiar companion of fear and anxiety start knocking at my door. the spinning of reality, the pit in my stomach, the wrestling with possibilities. a quick check to dr. google confirmed that spread to the brain is a signature of the particular type of cancer that i had.
how does a girl walk through this wait? this holding still of time and space while everything moves as normal all around?
the next morning, i got a call from the imaging clinic to schedule the mri. they had a cancellation that afternoon and did i want it? yes. i know now that i prefer to just do the hard thing instead of put it off when it comes to wild ride of these tests and waits.
the roller coaster afternoon included my first hair cut (!!!) – which was such sweet joy and tearful celebration of healing, followed immediately by the appointment for the mri.
sometimes it feels like too much.
claustrophobia and mri’s are not the best of friends. and this one, with the cage around my head, while laying still in a tunnel and then being injected with contrast and laying still even longer – was rough. i vacillated while laying there – i had moments where i focused on my breathing, exhaling the fear and inhaling the belief that i was well, visualizing my brain as well and without disease. but there were pockets of panic; of placing my hand over my heart to feel it racing and pounding, imagining dark hard outcomes.
i woke up friday morning clothed with the dark cloud. oh LORD, please. please let me be dealing “only” with radiation side effects and the ending of treatments and the opening up of the bright spacious new that i see ahead.
let me focus on my loves before me, and savor this day at home with them, not fighting stray thoughts until the call comes.
i reached out to a couple dear trusted friends, sharing this dark hard and feeling desperate for encouragement. i read and reread the texts that came, being reminded of what i knew and hearing words of life and hope. oh, the power in our words!
late morning, i called the imaging clinic and asked how long i should expect to wait before hearing results from the previous day’s mri. she said that the results had already been sent to the doctor, so i immediately called the factory. i told the receptionist that i knew that my results had been sent, that i also was aware that my doctor doesn’t work on fridays but that i hoped that wouldn’t prevent me from hearing back from another doctor that same day. she assured me that the on call doctor would call later in the day.
so life swam on … learning and eating and cleaning and picking up my girl from school and then late afternoon, my phone rang.
the cheery voice on the other end was sydney from the factory. she said she was calling to give me … pause … the results from my … pause … mri. my heart was pounding out of my chest. yes, yes, sydney – what are the results??
“no malignant lesions” in my brain, she said.
i hung up the phone, shaking with relief … just so thankful.
it felt like the gift of life and healing that i’ve been walking out, was just returned to me. no more barriers, no more delays, only purposeful joyful growing-in-strength and wellness and love and life as i have the gift of this one before me.
October 15, 2016
i’ve kept a little journal, logging moments big and small where i was given a gift of deep kindness and generosity. i am so thankful already that i have this record because rereading it brings back such appreciation and gratitude.
just this week, i was blown away by kindness-out-of-nowhere; 2 surprises arriving a day apart that brought me so much joy. i feel humbled and also it makes me think how much it means, deep in to this journey, to have faithful support still rallying around. particularly walking through this home stretch of 33 radiation treatments (6 to go!), the gifts of love mean so much.
this totally adorable gift arrived from my precious lifelong girlfriend, jaina. how completely adorable is all of this, with her handmade card and personalized bag? and the pink and gold polish? love.
the next day, this arrived:
the picture hardly captures the beauty of this hand-quilted pillow … colors that i love, and that verse, “i know that my Redeemer liveth” (job 19:25). such a beautiful, thoughtful gift.
((kind of a funny story of how it arrived:). it was after lunch, the boys were watching their requisite one cartoon before rest, hubby was working away in his office and i snuck a bathroom break (gasp). from inside the bathroom, i heard hubby calling “babe” so i came out to see what was going on, pulling my pants up all the while. lo & behold, standing there in our living room was darling bonnie, a lovely lady who was in my bible study small group last year. hubby was decked out in his fabulous robe! lol. apparently, josiah heard the doorbell ring and rushed to greet our visitor, inviting them in.🙂 ))
such kindness honestly enveloping me every step of this journey and i feel a gratitude words cannot capture.
September 26, 2016
“you’ll get really good at listening to your body.”
those words shared from the kind and gentle heart of my acupuncturist last spring, early in my journey, continue to echo in my mind.
and she was right.
i realized last week that i have greater clarity, greater certainty about my body – what it needs, what it’s calling for, what is or is not a wise healing choice – than ever before. and that awareness is growing. i have far to go but will spend my days growing in this awareness of … this peace within this body of mine.
i woke up friday morning early with a scratchy sore throat. i knew immediately that it would be unwise to go to radiation that morning; that my body was facing either succumbing to this illness my boys had been hit with earlier in the week, or overcoming it. after going to radiation the previous four days, i knew this day would likely be a deal-breaker, just too much for my body.
so i called and cancelled, with not one ounce of question. (their response – that after consulting with the doctor, they would approve my absence this time, as long as i didn’t make a habit of it- that’s a whole other story … *wink* !)
i think of a million times that my body has spoken to me and i didn’t recognize what it was telling me; didn’t heed the nudge, or welcome the intuition.
it feels so empowering to be growing in understanding of the many beautiful miraculous ways our bodies operate! and how connected my mind, my body, my spirit … truly are.
“thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! your workmanship is marvelous – how well i know it.” psalm 139:14
September 21, 2016
i remember that first appointment with my main oncologist on january 18th. one of my best friends was with me, and i felt complete revulsion in my spirit as i walked through the doors of that building.
i don’t belong here, amongst these people – this isn’t me! i am embarrassed to share those initial thoughts that screamed within me. i don’t want to smile and meet their eyes; i want to sink down and sit in the hard dark feelings engulfing me.
i am so thankful that my heart has softened to the many that are walking this journey beside me, and i now love to look up and meet eyes and whisper hope even in my smile.
but i still detest walking in that building. and now there is another Factory – their second location where i typically received my infusions after chemo ended, and where i currently go every morning for radiation.
i underestimated the hit it would be on my heart and mind to start each morning at that place. i assumed that i could breeze through this, walk through those doors, quickly finish my radiation and be done for the day.
but the reality is that starting each day surrounded by and immersed in an environment of CANCER feels crushing. the physical aspects of radiation are real and increasing (that fatigue? it’s pretty unreal. and after the last few treatments, i am super dizzy when i stand up … which lasts for an hour or so and then hits later in the day or when i’m laying down for bed) … but those feel manageable. certainly the physical side effects are not as devastating as chemo.
but chemo was every 3 weeks; i only had to enter that place every few weeks. now, every day, the air of cancer treatment is smothering. the other morning, i sat in my van just tearful with dread and sadness.
i am literally counting this down … today was #12 of 33. october 20 cannot come soon enough.
September 19, 2016
one of the most miraculous aspects of this journey has been the frequency of moments of great clarity and resonance; times when pieces start fitting together and i have an unmistakable YES in my heart and mind about my healing path. often, it comes first in the form of a nudge to perhaps reread a book that i put down a few months ago … i then reread a section that suddenly is a perfect fit for the place i am now walking out and i begin to dig and other sources confirm the information and ideas.
this happened last week and once again i feel so grateful. knowing is so beautiful … doing can be more difficult.🙂
rewinding a bit: i made a seemingly hard but actually very easy decision last week to discontinue a medication that has been causing pretty intense side effects. in email correspondence with my integrated oncologist about that decision, i concluded by sharing my deep and overwhelming priority of building and strengthening my immune system. her reply contained so many nuggets of truth but one stood out – she urged me to “strenuously” avoid sugar.
it reinvigorated my thinking and commitment to that aspect of my eating … i needed that zero-ing in because my clarity in that area has been a little foggy lately. there are many things i know i want to avoid and many that i want to include in my eating and somehow, the sugar decision had not been top priority lately.
in the beginning, right after diagnosis, i immediately and entirely eliminated sugar. all sweetener, all the time. in my mind, sugar fed cancer so it was very simple for me: no feeding cancer.
and now, my understanding has grown. and the sugar piece actually and interestingly, is more about the systemic affect it has on my body – not just specifically “feeding cancer.”
i needed to start from scratch and relearn these basics about how sugar impacts my body, and i found some information in one of my most cherished and invaluable books (“The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer”).
“the pancreas secretes insulin in an effort to decrease blood glucose levels, particularly after eating. it helps transport glucose in to muscle cells to be used for energy or into fat cells to be stored as fat. when we are overweight, we can develop ‘insulin resistance’, whereby the insulin less easily carries glucose to its destination, and both insulin and glucose levels rise in the blood, setting the stage for diabetes and increasing breast cancer risk.
… the number of receptors for insulin on breast cancer cells is 5-10 times greater than the number on normal breast cells, making breast cancer cells very sensitive to the growth-promoting qualities of insulin. insulin is high when blood glucose is high, and we know that glucose is an energy source for the growth of breast cancer cells.
dr. pamela goodwin, a breast cancer specialist at mount sinai hospital in toronto, monitored 535 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer for up to 10 years, and found that those with the higher insulin levels were about 8 times more likely to develop a recurrence and die of the disease than those with normal insulin levels.”
i think back to my meeting with an alternative practioner last december, a couple weeks before getting my diagnosis. her tools revealed some concern in the area of my pancreas.
i think of the nauseated, upset tummy feeling that persisted last spring and summer.
about how hard it has been during some seasons, to truly kick the sugar habit.
and so today, i am reminded. and i know for certain, that my healing path includes decisively keeping my blood insulin levels low. this means not giving my pancreas reason to secrete large amounts of insulin which happens after eating sugar, sweets, and high glycemic carbs, omega 6 fatty acids (vegetable oils and the like) … high glycemic foods.
oh, so many pieces to put together! so thankful for grace along every step of the way; for information and encouragement that sparks changes that bring more healing.