listening to our bodies

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

when i walk in those doors

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.

the Factory.

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.

every morning.

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.

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.

strenuously.

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.

 

our first day :)

September 12, 2016

so many lovely “firsts” today!

our first official morning homeschooling … so much planning and dreaming and preparing and the morning was FANTASTIC! the boys (and mama) were so excited for every detail. i busted out the big bright velcro-date-attaching calendar and we began to really learn all about the date … we counted, we observed and charted the weather, we practiced our shape of the week (octagon). then i pulled out the standing pocket holder and we learned our sight words for the week,  number recognition, and math addition equations.

the boys needed to get wiggles out at this point so we took a snack & wiggles break🙂

we then did some math worksheets- caleb loves these, josiah not so much but both boys did fantastic on their pages and we wrapped up today with some sweet time cuddling on the couch reading winnie the pooh (chapter book with very few pictures … a first and i wasn’t sure how long the boys would be interested but they surprised me with how focused they were … so sweet).

i’ll be adding more (phonics & reading practice with josiah, handwriting with both boys, bible memory, etc) but today felt great seeing how long some things would take, how long our attention would last, what tweaks i may want to make.

it feels fantastic adding this level of structure and focus to our learning time. the boys are such little loves!

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being SILLY!

 

our next big first … took the boys to their first day at a friend’s home daycare. they will go there 2 afternoons a week while i have time to do that which is healing for me (writing, reading, sauna, exercise, quiet … anything my heart desires! SUCH a gift for this season).

after droppng the boys off, i got to start my first day volunteering at my girl’s school – SUCH fun! i loved being there & am so thankful to get to do it each week. those high schoolers are precious!

and now … i find myself alone at starbucks, with my coffee, my book, and my laptop … with 2 hours spreading before me. the definition of bliss? i think so.

updates & radiation

September 9, 2016

i sit here to write, with my  mind racing even as my body begs for rest. but when i lay down, my heart palpitations kick in to high gear. they are back with a vengeance after this latest round of herceptin.

it has been a hard few days. i started radiation tuesday and that night, had several hours of keep-me-awake-on-the-couch-should-i-go-to-the-ER heart pounding, skipping, racing. the next morning it continued, even as i lay on the radiation table, so i walked up to the 3rd floor to the office of the lovely cardiologist that i saw a couple weeks ago. her nurse hooked me up to an ekg and they were able to capture multiple ‘events’ which she says is premature atrial complex – not necessarily a sign of heart malfunction but unsettling (understatement). she prescribed a med to reduce them.

and again, i am walking through the jungle of decision-making. seeking counsel. researching. praying.

because, is the 2 percent difference in benefit of continuing herceptin for 12 months vs 6 (i’ve done 7) worth the increasing side effects? the numbness in my hands this week, the nails that continue to split, the cracks in my nose and lips that haven’t lifted since starting regular chemo february 4, the slowing of hair regrowth, the fatigue, the heart issues.

again and with words that will never be sufficient to capture the depth of my gratitude, i am being faithfully guided and given insight and specific counsel for *my treatment by my beloved integrated oncologist. the one who texts, emails and called me from her home phone this morning to see how i was doing and to advise of her most recent recommendations.

recommendations that resonate as YES! YES, of course, checking my blood levels of herceptin because the half life is 28 days and my infusion is every 21 days and i likely simply have TOO MUCH IN MY SYSTEM and thus the increase of side effects … of course that makes sense. and of course i will not take one more drop until this has been evaluated.

this is in stark contrast to the counsel of my local oncologist, as expected.

and so, i navigate. and listen and ask questions and pray for wisdom.

i am so thankful for my hubby who reminds me of the HOPE that I KNOW … the reality that is beyond and above this particular step in this journey. i step back and i know: it is all good and this will all be good and used for good and i will be well. i *am* well.

 

this weird in between

August 24, 2016

last week felt different, felt like a turning of a corner. i’d been sailing along, feeling healed from surgery in july and just cruising along with my every-three-weeks herceptin infusion.

then the heart palpitations hit, the day after my last infusion. for several days, i was sidelined, hesitant, worried. what was going on, why was my heart pounding and racing and skipping?

was it the herceptin (which has as it’s main side effect, impact on heart function)?

bigger than that, and underlying really all these next treatment steps, is this: if i believe that i am healed, and the post chemo breast MRI said “complete response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy” and “no visible residual abnormalities” and “completely resolved”

and the pathology from my surgery (lumpectomy and 12 nodes taken) revealed “no residual invasive carcinoma seen” – NONE!

and the surgeon said the pathologist only sees this maybe twice a year and used the word “miracle”

then do i walk into unknown and potentially huge side effects from continued treatment?

i am thankful for the question – for the hard pause this last week represented and the grappling that feels inextricably linked to this healing journey.

more questions, more seeking, more praying, another invaluable consultation with my integrated oncologist, more revealed.

 

 

 

this weekend

August 14, 2016

it’s been a tough weekend. not in a catastrophic, acute crisis way but just in my heart & mind. i woke up saturday morning feeling overwhelmed, weary and depleted. i think that the multiple intense doctor appointments last week, the infusion of herceptin thursday, going fast, having had to grapple with another huge treatment decision last week, hubby having been out of town then back home and working nonstop, the relentlessness of parenting demands and household maintenance and feeling like i’ve neglected many of the essential pieces of my healing protocol – i think it just hit me. sunk me a bit.

i struggled with feeling – and even heard this sentiment – that shouldn’t i be feeling better; shouldn’t i be feeling more relief and space and hope? what’s my problem??

and of course, my reasonable self knows that yes, these things are true. i AM over the worst of my cancer treatment; i AM healed and well!; i AM around the bend and looking over the new horizon.

yet, when i step back and give myself the compassion i’d give a dear friend, i know that yes … i am weary and it makes sense. this season has been more dark and full of turns and dips and aches and heavy. of course i have days of deep fatigue; of a struggling spirit and overwhelm.  of course.

and then there are the real side effects of herceptin that i take via infusion every 3 weeks, until january. this weekend, that has looked like heart palpitations, fatigue and the ever present runny nose and split fingernails and aches.

yesterday i felt desperate for solitude — and not the kind that has a one hour time limit and kids knocking at my door the whole time. i wanted to escape for the weekend to somewhere quiet, maybe even near water. alone.

i didn’t get away and my heart still yearns for that quiet … that time away. for now, for this moment, i am giving myself grace to rest and feel the feelings and prioritize healing over tasks and do my best to love my people.