– Women with metastatic cancer are the strongest women I know

• They dare to hope when the whitecoats would take it all away.
• They endure the misunderstanding of the diagnosis by others who are well-meaning, but misinformed.
• They swallow their fear and put on a brave face for others.
• They process their anger because it serves no one.
• They struggle with loneliness because no matter how many love them and are there for them
… it is a road they walk alone.
• They focus on the good that is in their life because nothing is accomplished by focusing on the bad.
• They fight the demon with everything they’ve got.
• They crawl their way through excruciating, humbling, and humiliating treatments.
• They patiently ride the seemingly interminable roller coaster of good news…
… no, wait, its bad news
… well, it’s not so bad
… sorry, it’s worse than we thought
… aaaah, we’re all gonna die!
• They try their darnedest to retain their sense of femininity in the face of de-womanizing symptoms and side effects.
• They resist regret because that’s a stupid emotion but keeps trying to barge in.
• They can’t help feeling like a failure even though it defies logic.
• They rail against despair because cancer feeds on negativity and who wants to feed the little fucker anyway?

And through it all… they go to work, they take care of their loved ones, and continue to give to others.

To all my metastatic sisters… I salute you!
And I send you a big hug and wet, sloppy smoochy to brighten your day!
 
 

– Million Dollar Baby

My western medical insurance billings for cancer have passed the million-dollar mark. Thank god for insurance. So, more than a million dollars later (that’s $1,000,000), I am still alive. ‘The system’ paid for it. Ultimately, that means all of you. Was it worth it? I would like to think it is but, trying to objectively address an issue here… WTF? I am so unworthy. Rather, there are so many people out there that are more worthy than I that haven’t been so lucky.

I was lucky enough to have had insurance before diagnosis. Now, with the Affordable Care Act, other people like me cannot be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions and I think that’s great. But the system is gonna break.

The ACA forced me to pick a new plan and so, because I knew that my immunotherapy is $20,000 every 3 weeks, for example, I needed a plan that would cover everything after a deductible (no copay, no pharmacy exclusions, etc.). So, I have a high deductible ($6300) but everything is covered after that. That averages to only a little over $500 a month. My premiums went down from $1000/month to $46/month. So my total out-of-pocket cost for this million-dollar care is less than $600/month. Great!… for me.

But everyone with an expensive chronic disease will choose the same sort of plan as I, and it will bankrupt the system. See, in choosing a plan you have to assess your risks and take a gamble as to what plan will be best for you with an unknown future of what you might actually need. For example, you can choose a high premium/low-deductible/high- copay plan or you can choose a low-premium/high-deductible/no copay plan depending on how lucky you feel. The system balanced out because some people profited from the gamble and others didn’t. People like me, who know we are facing huge costs, couldn’t previously get insurance so we couldn’t choose an unlimited coverage plan with the knowledge that we would need it. But now? We have carte blanche! Why not do that MRI every two months instead of every 3? Why not do 5 types of chemotherapy? It’s covered!

It’s not the ACA that is the problem here or even the fact that people like me can have coverage. The problem will come from the fact that there are no limits and there is so much corruption and abuse of the system with very little oversight. It will come from the fact that my immunotherapy costs 3 times as much in this country as in others. And if we think Medicare fraud is bad, just wait. Unlike other drugs, doctors are allowed to directly profit from chemotherapy… like, ridiculously. They buy at wholesale and sell at retail. Plus, hospitals that buy oncologists practices, are able to charge the insurance companies more for the same chemotherapy. And, it’s not a cure. It’s only buying time and, in some cases, causing more cancer!

So, I am blessed. I am lucky. I can afford to be alive, for now. But, unless a system for capping costs and oversight for fraud prevention is put into place, I think the system will implode. If I’m lucky, it won’t happen until I’m gone… but, as with the state of the planet, I kinda feel guilty that I reaped more than I sowed. Sorry…

 
 

– Lessons I am Learning

November, 2012 – soon after diagnosis of Stage IV breast cancer and prognosis of just weeks to live.

Five years ago, I had Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), which is Stage 0, pre-cancer. Not really even considered cancer to most doctors. But the cells in the mass in my right breast were seen as aggressive and on the verge of turning invasive so the doctors at MD Anderson felt strongly that I needed to have a mastectomy. So I did. They also took 6 lymph nodes in my armpit to determine if any invasive cells had “left the building”. None were found but some cytokeratin was found in those cells. That could be from one of two things… cancer that might turn invasive had exited or, the more likely scenario, they were leftover cells from the numerous biopsies I had had. They said that preventive chemotherapy was available for me. I asked what was the chance that it was invasive cancer and that the chemo was needed. They said about a half of 1%. I said that my research showed that I had at least a 10% chance of getting leukemia or some other type of deadly cancer from the chemo itself. I’m not a math major but it seems that it was 20 times better to not do the preventive chemo. They said if I put it that way, I shouldn’t do the chemo. I thought, “shouldn’t you be putting it that way? I mean, isn’t that kind of your job?”

Well, five years later, this little smart ass is full of invasive breast cancer, so I guess I should have had that preventive chemo. But see, I was so full of my smart and sassy self who had researched all the causes of cancer and the naturopathic ways of preventing and defeating it, without chemo and radiation. Yes, I had played chicken, and had the surgery in the interest of keeping time on my side, but I was so convinced that I could defeat cancer and keep it at bay with what I had learned. 50% of the people on my mother’s side of the family had had cancer, so clearly there was a genetic link. I discovered we had hereditary hemochromatosis, which results in too much iron, which feeds cancer. By giving blood, I could keep the iron levels down and negate the problem.

The naturopathic prevention and cure of cancer revolve around three aspects of your “bioterrain”… toxins, nutrients, and emotions. I completely changed my diet to organic, nutrition-rich, anti-inflammatory, plant-based, cancer-preventative foods and detoxified my body regularly. For five years. Yes, I was guilty of putting occasional toxins in but I felt that my regular detox regimen would take care of the few toxins I cheated on.

The CDC states that 85% of disease is caused by emotions. I did a lot of emotional work. I opened up my mind and heart to dealing with previously unresolved issues. I felt cancer changed me in so many significant ways. I grew so much emotionally, I really felt changed. But this, I believe is where I fell short and I left the door open for cancer to return and ravage me. The last couple of years were very stressful for me and I did not handle the stress well. It’s like I forgot what I learned or I was too lazy or in denial. I started to internalize the stress in a very toxic way. And from where I stand now, fighting for my life, the things that I stressed about are not as important as they seemed at the time.

I’m telling you this because we are all stressing about similar things these days and I want you to think about how you are handling the stress in your life and how you can handle it in a healthier fashion than I did. I need to think long and hard about how to really internalize and incorporate deep-seated emotional changes into my life if I want to survive this.

The world seems to be going through so many changes right now. Most of them are difficult but so many of us feel that maybe we are heading for a deeper crisis from which a new world order can emerge because our current priorities and lifestyles are not sustainable. It all seems to center on selfishness and greed. The collapse of our personal wealth was caused by people who got too greedy. The demise of our ecosystems, our weather, our planet, our home, is being caused by our individual unwillingness to have less than our neighbors or what we had yesterday. A timely example of the madness… today is Black Friday, where people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.

There are very few of us that have not been affected by the economic downturn. It has lasted longer and been worse than any of us were prepared for. We’d like to think that we are bumping along the bottom now and that things will be improving soon but it could just as easily go the other way. The situation has changed the behavior of the average person you deal with. In my case, I pay my bills by providing housing to people and I seem to have landed on the bottom of the food chain. When people don’t have money, it seems the landlord is the last to get paid. After 20 years of being a landlord, I found myself in the position of being owed $20,000 and, for the first time, had to evict two parties and take another 3 to court. I felt I had no choice, people were not taking responsibility for their own lives and it was all landing on me. With every action, I tried to do the right thing and handle everything with heart. But in some cases, people turned absolutely vicious and it took a serious emotional toll on me. I had to borrow $20,000 from the bank at high fees to turn around and pay my mortgages or risk losing everything I’d worked my entire life for. That doesn’t necessarily make me greedy. But the stress and worry from my attachment to material possessions created a toxic bioterrain where cancer gained control. Would I trade it all now to be cancer-free and not facing my own mortality?

Five years ago, I emerged from cancer with the commitment that I had to be less responsible for other people’s happiness. That included a dozen tenants. I put one of my properties up for sale… 2 months before the market crashed. I kept lowering the price too late, chasing the plunging market. It is now worth less than half of what it was 5 years ago. So many people have lost more. I’m one of the lucky ones. But I have clung, for too long, to the unrealistic expectation that I must not go backwards… that preserving my material worth is necessary for the survival for myself and my son. As a single mom who worked very hard for every scrap of it, I suppose I can be forgiven. But, if I am lucky enough to survive this cancer, it will be because I can get myself to a place where I can truly let go, cut my losses, be free of the chains of financial attachment and stress, and focus on what’s truly important…. love and light.

I’m also guilty of having wanted too much for my son in other ways and that created deadly stress levels as well. I am guilty of overmothering my son. I have been unable to separate myself from his own personal challenges and let him figure things out more independently and on his own. I knew that on some level and that’s why his Amazon survival semester has been so important, to both of us. Also imperative for my survival, and his, is that I accept and embrace who comes out of the jungle next week. Our roles will be reversed. He will be taking care of me. And this little control freak needs to surrender wholeheartedly to that.

And I need to meditate everyday on how lucky I am to have him and all of my loved ones. And that every day is a gift, no matter how it’s wrapped. I love and appreciate every one for what they have given me in my life.

I walk the path of the warrior. I do not accept that I will die from cancer anytime soon. It doesn’t matter what others tell me. I have my own truth which I must live. Or I will die. Spontaneous healing happens. Miracles in medicine are being discovered everyday. We each must find our own path. But it is clear that we must not give up. Or is it?

I am fighting the good fight. I am cleansing my body of toxins and providing it with nutrients and anti-cancer remedies, both naturopathic and toxic modern medicine. I am exploring my emotional landscape now as my primary unexploited weapon. And I become increasingly less comfortable with the metaphors of war.

I do believe that my inappropriate handling of emotional stress contributed to cancer returning and ravaging me. I think that my innate tendency to control my world is part of that stress. I think about acceptance and grace and surrender and how to incorporate that seemingly opposite concept into my fight. It’s like the Buddhist paradox… in order to achieve enlightenment, one must give up all goals. Yet achieving enlightenment is a goal in itself and requires commitment to that goal.

So, how do I eliminate stress and my control-freak tendencies that feed cancer while being determined to rewrite my own destiny by kicking cancer’s ass? How do I incorporate grace and acceptance that my path may not lead to survival and achieve serenity from that surrender into my fight for survival?

Thoughts and emotions are part of the physical landscape and they are crucial to the healing process. I’ve tried to get tough with my cancer. I’ve tried to direct anger towards it. But it feels wrong. Anger is a toxic, negative emotion. Cancer feeds on negativity and toxicity. And, frankly, I am grateful to cancer for what it is teaching me… again.

Five years ago, I focused on kicking cancer’s butt. I felt alive. I took care of my body. I made sure everybody knew that I loved them. I focused on beauty. I focused on sending love to my breast. I knew she was scared because whenever anyone mentioned mastectomy, she throbbed with pain. I assured her that we were a family and that no one was going to break us up. I dreamt that my breasts talked to each other while I slept…. sister to sister. I wrote my breast a letter…

“Dear Boobalicious, I love you. I’m sorry you are hurt. You are not alone in your fight. You are still beautiful. You will grow new cells that are healthy. The old, broken cells will die and pass through and away from us. Be strong in who you are and know that you are loved and will endure. Nobody’s taking you away from me, we will grow old together. Your sister will give you strength and help you heal.”

I wrote my cancer a letter and proposed a deal…“I know why you came and I thank you. You are no longer needed and your purpose no longer exists. I now appreciate life and love, thanks to you. Your time is over. You can live out your natural life. There will be no more violence unless you violate this treaty by continuing to multiply. Multiplying hurts me, it hurts my breast, it hurts you. It will not be tolerated. Go in peace.”

I thought about giving up, leaving it to the Fates, the doctors, God… anyone, as long as I didn’t have to take responsibility anymore. It was bigger than me. But I thought, if I give up, then life has no meaning… it has all happened for nothing. I’ve always envied those with a sense of purpose, those whose destiny is clear. This, apparently, was my destiny, and I needed to rise to the occasion. I decided that my strength was greater than my fear and that my strength would heal me.

But I had that mastectomy. And that cancer didn’t go away. Now, 5 years later, I have Stage IV cancer that the doctors say will kill me. I look for answers, all day every day. What if the only answer is that there is no answer? That this just happened because life’s a bitch… and then you die? What if my legacy is not to teach people how to fight? What it if is to teach people how to surrender to and die with grace?

Naaaaahhhh! Sorry, but it makes me giggle. I really do need to embrace and incorporate grace. But who I am is a fighter that makes life on my own terms. I must fight stronger and harder than I did five years ago. I am not ready to surrender. I have served cancer an eviction notice as an ironic swipe at my landlord stress over the last year. I will do everything in my power to get it out and try to keep it from coming back. I will continue to be tough and committed and I will not yet entertain the notion that I might not prevail.

And I will meditate on grace and love and beauty and light and use them to vanquish my foe in ways I didn’t understand then.

I will walk the path of the graceful warrior.

 

Update note: In May, 2016, I celebrated two years of being NED (No Evidence of Disease). : )
 
 

– Bedside Manners 101

I wish that I could teach a class that all doctors were required to take in medical school…. Bedside Manners 101.  You could all help me teach it, I’m sure. The lessons are simple, but they seem to elude so many of them…

1.) Listen to your patient. They know their body better than you.
2.) Cancer (and many others) is a devastating diagnosis. Chill out and find your empathy.
3.) There are such things as miracles that defy the odds. Balance your need to help your patient know what to expect with communicating the hope of the outer range of what is possible.
4.) Empower your patient to take charge of their healing. You are only a swabbie. Your patient is the captain of this ship.
5.) Talk in plain language. Jargon that is second-nature to you may be new and frightening to your patient.
6.) You are not God, so don’t act like one. Be sensitive to the fear and awe some have of you. You can create a self-fulfilling prophecy when you tell people they will die.

I once had a radiologist gleefully exclaim that she was right!!! That the mass WAS cancer and I could have that mastectomy after all, as though it was the best news I could have received. Except that previous biopsies had “shown” that it wasn’t cancer and I had gone into her office just to confirm that. She was right, the others were wrong, and she was beside herself with pride. I had had no plans of getting a mastectomy, this was hardly good news, I was devastated, and I wanted to slap her for her insensitivity. There’s a reason radiologists don’t normally talk directly to patients. They should still have to take my class. : )

When I was diagnosed with Stage 4, the oncologist with tears in his eyes, said there was no hope for me. My son was in the Amazon on a survival semester and he said I needed to send a helicopter into the jungle to get him so he could say good-bye. “But, he has two more months in his program!”, I exclaimed. “You will not be alive in two months”, he said. That was October, 2012… 3 and a half years ago.

I went back after I came through the fires of hell, eight months later, and damn… I looked good! I was walking again and feeling good. I couldn’t wait to see how happy and surprised he would be. I had moved back to Colorado and I needed an oncologist for my ongoing immunotherapy infusions. I didn’t have a lot of choices… he ran the only clinic in town and that was a two-hour drive away. He was a cold fish and, as the conversation went on, I realized that he was irritated at my survival. My very existence was an affront to his ego… proof that he’d been wrong. Then he told me that I could not do my naturopathic protocol if I wanted to receive treatment from him. I said, “How the heck do you think I survived against all odds?” and walked out. I now drive an additional half hour each way to get my immunotherapy from an integrative oncologist.

Dr. Doomsday wasn’t necessarily wrong in his assumptions. I had tumors everywhere and there isn’t a doctor I’ve met that hasn’t shaken their head incredulously at my survival and recovery. I actually think I owe him a debt, possibly my life. See, he pissed me off when he tried to take away my hope. I thought to myself, “Oh, yeah? I’m not buying into that crap. This is not how my story will end. I’ll show YOU!” I’ll never know, but I wonder if he had not delivered such a dire prognosis in such extreme terms, if I would have simply and silently died?

The oncologist that worked to save me later admitted that she thought I had about two weeks left when she first saw me. The difference is that she didn’t tell me that until after I was NED… a day she never thought we’d see. She never told me how serious it was, just that we’d do what we could and encouraged me to hope and to fight and to do all the naturopathic things I wanted to.

I am relating this to you because doctors probably never will take that class on Bedside Manners. Doctors are a valuable tool in your toolbelt, but YOU are the master of your destiny. No one will ever care about your survival more than you. It is up to you to find out what they think, do the research, process it, and figure out what YOU think. Stay in touch with your body and your feelings and honor both. Your body is trying to heal from the toxins in our environment and the ones times we might put in to fight this disease. It is SOOO important to be loving and kind to your body… to detoxify and nourish it and support your immune system. Get in tune with your higher healing self. This is a voyage of self-discovery… embrace it. Surround yourself with loved ones that believe in you and get rid of energy vampires. And never, ever, ever let a doctor with bad bedside manners or anyone else snuff out your hope or belief in yourself. You got this…

At any given moment, you have the power to say,
this is not how the story is going to end.
— M.H.S. Pourri

 

– Cancer IS a gift!

I believe that everything happens for a reason.
People change so that you can learn to let go,
things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right,
you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself,
and sometimes good things fall apart
so better things can fall together.
― Marilyn Monroe

Some people say that cancer is a gift. Others respond vehemently that it most certainly is not a gift… that a gift is something you would give to someone else and that we wouldn’t wish this on anybody.

For me, cancer has been a gift. First of all, if I don’t see it that way, I can’t get through the day(s). This better damn well have some good come from it, right? So maybe I’m just rationalizing it. But my life view is that life is a gift and that every experience we have is to be savored and learned from… even, and perhaps especially, death.

It is so tempting to think that everything happens for a reason. I believe it does. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a mono-deity calling all the shots, planning every little thing. What it means to me is that when something happens to me, I’m going to MAKE it mean something. God helps those who help themselves, right? I’m going to learn whatever that experience offers. I’m going to make lemonade when life gives me lemons. And then it will be a good thing… I will have made it so.

One gift that cancer has given me is that I now know that I am a badass… with reservoirs of strength that I could never have imagined I had. Another gift is the revelation that more people than I could ever have possibly imagined love me… with an unbelievable intensity. And the knowledge that love is the most powerful force in the universe.

Perhaps the most important gift is that I have found my voice. All my life I just wanted to be understood. It’s what we all want, isn’t it? And through blogging and posting, I’ve been able to reason out and articulate my feelings so that I could understand myself and all of you have been so instrumental in that quest by providing your own insights, feedback, support, and love. Not only do I feel loved, I feel understood… for the first time in my life.

Perhaps the greatest test for whether I feel cancer is a gift came when a friend posed the question… “If you had the chance to go back to pre-diagnosis, and not have the cancer, certainly you’d choose that?” I was amazed as the realization dawned upon me and I answered, “No, I wouldn’t choose to not have had cancer”. Knowing what I know now and having made it through the darkness several times, I can’t imagine going back to the person that I was then. What a ditzy airhead that woman seems compared to me… the fire walker. I wouldn’t choose to go through it again (although, being stage 4, I most likely will go through it again). But I wouldn’t now choose a different path to be where I am now. I want to be who I am now. Even if it means I am dead soon. Crazy? Obviously, I’m not looking forward to the day that it comes back and the gates of hell open once more but, hey, denial has gotten me this far.

How about you? Imagine the worst thing that happened to you, even if it wasn’t cancer. How did it shape you? Do you appreciate the part of you that came out of the darkness? If not, maybe you didn’t learn the right lesson? Maybe this is a realization we can all apply to help us have no regrets. To help us accept and love who we are, warts and all, and to harvest the good out of every experience. I mean, we’re here now, why not make it count?

I’ve lived an amazingly wonderful life. And I’m kinda excited about what’s next. Because my healing journey has opened my eyes and heart to a spiritual awareness of the simultaneous permanence and impermanence of things. Life as we know it is impermanent but the atoms that combine in so many different ways to create the hologram of our perceived existence, are the same atoms that were created in the Big Bang and will recycle to create another hologram.

The only reason I am fighting so hard to buy some time in this incarnation is for my son. I’m not ready to stop nagging him yet. Hahahaa. No, seriously, my love for him will not die when I disincorporate but there is still so much love to lavish on him here. And how cool would it be to sing a grandchild to sleep in my arms? And how much cooler of a mother and a grandmother will I be because I’ve been on this journey with cancer?

I am deeply reminded that our life’s journey is a gift,
not a given, and that we can never truly know
how long the journey will last. All we can do is decide
how the journey unfolds

– Sonia Choquette

 
 

– The Graceful Warrior

 

Grace is the breath of God – an invisible essence beyond intellect that moves swiftly amongst us. 

Grace is immediately accessible to you and everyone around you –

through humility, devotion, and the courage to follow divine guidance.

— Caroline Myss

November, 2012

I walk the path of the warrior. I do not accept that I will die from cancer anytime soon. It doesn’t matter what others tell me. I have my own truth which I must live. Or I will die. Spontaneous healing happens. Miracles in medicine are being discovered everyday. We each must find our own path. But it is clear that we must not give up… or is it?

I am fighting the good fight. I am cleansing my body of toxins and providing it with nutrients and anti-cancer remedies, both naturopathic and toxic modern medicine. I am exploring my emotional landscape now as my primary unexploited weapon. And I become increasingly less comfortable with the metaphors of war.

I do believe that my inappropriate handling of emotional stress contributed to cancer returning and ravaging me. I think that my innate tendency to control my world is part of that stress. I think about acceptance and grace and surrender and how to incorporate that seemingly opposite concept into my fight. It’s like the Buddhist paradox… in order to achieve enlightenment, one must give up all goals. Yet achieving enlightenment is a goal in itself and requires commitment to that goal.

So, how do I eliminate stress and my control-freak tendencies that feed cancer while being determined to rewrite my own destiny by kicking cancer’s ass? How do I incorporate grace and acceptance that my path may not lead to survival and achieve serenity from that surrender into my fight for survival?

Thoughts and emotions are part of the physical landscape and they are crucial to the healing process. I’ve tried to get tough with my cancer. I’ve tried to direct anger towards it. But it feels wrong. Anger is a toxic, negative emotion. Cancer feeds on negativity and toxicity. And, frankly, I am grateful to cancer for what it is teaching me… again.

Five years ago, I focused on kicking cancer’s butt. I took care of my body. I made sure everybody knew that I loved them. I focused on beauty. I focused on sending love to my breast. She was scared. I wrote her a love letter. I wrote my cancer a letter and proposed a deal… if it would back off, I wouldn’t attack it violently.

I had thought about giving up, leaving it to the Fates, the doctors, God, anyone… as long as I didn’t have to take responsibility anymore. It was bigger than me. But I thought, if I give up, then life has no meaning… it has all happened for nothing. I’ve always envied those with a sense of purpose, those whose destiny is clear. This, apparently, was my destiny, and I needed to rise to the occasion. I decided that my strength was greater than my fear and that my strength would heal me.

But I had that mastectomy. And that cancer didn’t go away. Now, 5 years later, against the odds, I have Stage IV cancer that the doctors say will kill me. I look for answers, all day every day. And again I wonder… what if the only answer is that there is no answer? That this just happened because life’s a bitch… and then you die? What if my legacy is not to teach people how to fight? What if my legacy is to teach people how to surrender and how to die with grace?

Naaaaahhhh!

Sorry, but it makes me giggle. I really do need to embrace and incorporate grace. But who I am is a fighter that makes life on my own terms. I must fight stronger and harder than I did five years ago. I am not ready to surrender. I have served cancer an eviction notice as an ironic swipe at my stress over the last year. I posted it on my mirror to look at every morning. I will do everything in my power to get it out and try to keep it from coming back. I will continue to be tough and committed and I will not yet entertain the notion that I might not prevail.

And I will meditate on grace and love and beauty and light and use them to vanquish my foe in ways I didn’t understand then.

I will walk the path of the graceful warrior.

The warrior who trusts his path

doesn’t need to prove the other is wrong

 — Paolo Coelho

 

– I love you

Practice love until you remember that you are love.

— Swami Sai Premananda

I love everyone. Yes, you. Even you, whom I have never met.

That’s what cancer has given me… it’s made me soft in the head. : )

No, seriously. All those things that I thought were so important… guess what… none of them are.

 

The beginning, the middle, the end… is love.

I love you for your part in the universe.

I’m sorry for any role I’ve played in causing you pain.

Thank you for being you.

I love you, I’m sorry, thank you. Cha cha cha. Dance with me now.

 

I humbly request that you resolve to live and love every day. Do it for me. I care. I love you.

 
 

– The long, dark night that leads to the path of light

 

October, 2012 —

2 MRIs, 2 cat scans, 2 ultrasounds, 2 biopsies and 2 days later, all I’d been told was that I was full of Stage IV metastatic cancer. Impatient, I asked the nurse for my reports and had just finished reading them when the oncologist walked in. I said, “Well, it looks like we have good news and bad news.” With tears in his eyes, he said, “I don’t have any good news for you, lady.”

I said, “You spent an hour on an MRI of my brain and there’s nothing there… that’s good news!” He said, “Yes, but you have a massive tumor in your neck which has crushed your C4 through C7 vertebrae and cancer in your lymph node nearby, it’s just a matter of time.”

I said, “My pancreas is clean, nothing in my adrenals, spleen, colon, or vital organs except a couple small suspicious lesions on my liver and my lungs that you don’t seem to be concerned about… that’s good news!” He said “Yes, but it IS on your liver and your lungs and it is everywhere nearby… this will kill you, it’s just a matter of when.”

“Perhaps”, I insisted, “but when it does, it will be because my organs shut down and since it isn’t in my organs yet, I have time to live to fight another day! That’s good news, damn it!”

He wasn’t buying it… he snuffed my little candle out.

I spent a very dark night alone in the hospital room that night. He thought I should airlift Slade out of the Amazon immediately so that he could spend my last days with me. I said if I were to be alive in 2 months, I want him to complete his journey for the next 7 weeks because he will need what he is learning… to survive without me. He said, “You won’t be alive in two months. He deserves the chance to say good-bye.” It didn’t fill me with confidence.

I thought about the book I was writing about my supposedly kicking cancer’s ass 5 years ago. I thought about what a pathetic piece of arrogant crap I was to think that I had had anything to teach anybody about surviving cancer. I’d obviously messed THAT up. I tossed and turned about what I had to accomplish in the next couple of weeks to sort my affairs so that my poor family didn’t have to deal with the mess of my life that I’ve always tried to clean up but never quite got to…. real estate, storage units, which friends would want which jewelry, etc. And, of course, the most painful subject continuing to cycle around… Slade. Isn’t there more for me to contribute to the evolution of this beautiful man?

Then I thought about what the doctor said and got pissed off! I slapped myself and said, “Didn’t you even read your own book, you idiot? It’s all about not buying into that crap! If you don’t think you can make it, there’s no way you can! Your only chance to win is to KNOW that you will.” I decided then that I wouldn’t die for at least two months.

And when I made that decision, I crawled through that dark night onto this amazing path that is bedazzled with the light and love and healing energy of all of my healing angels. The countless little miracles that continue to fall into place for me every day show me that for whatever reason, I am very clearly on a path.

I am wedding naturopathic remedies with medical oncology, growing spiritually, and learning ever more about the power of love and light. I reunited with my church and was lovingly embraced and enfolded into dozens of remarkable, healing, loving souls. Perhaps the most remarkable new friend I made at the church last night happens to be a naturopathic medical oncologist. He gave me so much valuable, educated advice about what I’m doing in wedding the two approaches. The best thing is that since it was in a spiritual setting, he clasped my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “Stage IV is not the end the oncologists sometimes say it is. You have such a strong soul, vibrancy, vitality, and commitment. YOU can do this.” How can I doubt my path when a jewel like that falls in my lap?

At any given moment, you have the power to say,
this is not how the story is going to end.

— M.H.S. Pourri

 

– New Orders

There is no death, only a change of worlds.
Chief Seattle

The other night I was sleeping on my side and I awoke to someone gently shaking my shoulder.
“It’s time to go”, she whispered. It resembled the vague excitement of being woken up early to leave on a road trip when you were little.
“You’ve been reassigned. The universe needs you elsewhere.”

Oh, okay, then.

I was suddenly excited to go and disappointed when the dream faded and I was left with the same old mountain to climb.
 
 
 
 

– When tears turn to giggles…

I was still in a daze after Dr. Cheng’s proclamation of doom. After a bus ride of staring out the window at the rain and crying uncontrollably, I pulled myself together for my afternoon appointment.

The waiting rooms at MD Anderson always have several jigsaw puzzles in varying states of progress. I quite liked it… walking up to a puzzle that actually had a solution was very comforting. Plus, it took your mind off of what you were waiting for. The waiting areas were also filled with people who were fearful of what was facing them. Usually, I tried to infect them with my endless enthusiasm, but I appeared to have run out.

There was a cute, older, African-American couple holding hands. I tried to guess which one was the patient. She was stoic, but he was definitely her Rock of Gibraltar…. it must be her. I smiled at them and turned to a puzzle. It worked for a few minutes, then the memory of Dr. Cheng’s face appeared. All the ways that I could feel sorry for myself streamed in. It was a pitiful, pathetic, ‘poor-me’ party. That lady had her sweet husband to give her strength. Where was my Rock?

My eyes teared up and the puzzle in front of me was a blur. Jesus, get it together! What if they came and called me right now? What if someone sees me? I choked back the desire to sob and shake. Looking around, I saw no Kleenex. Seriously? I sat perfectly still, pretending to study the puzzle, blinking methodically to evaporate the tears before they fell. Plop! One fell on the table beneath me. Plop, plop. Damn! My nose was starting to run. I snuck a little sniffle.

A white blur appeared from the periphery in front of me… a hand holding a tissue. I looked up gratefully at the woman who had been holding hands with her husband. Her soft, brown eyes fixed mine with a look of such compassion that I smiled and a little sob escaped.

As I took the tissue, I noticed it was about 3 feet square! What the hell?

“It was all I could find. I went into an exam room to get it for you,” she offered apologetically. It must be one of those liners they put on the exam tables to keep things sanitary! I burst into laughter and, relieved, she joined me. I stood up and hugged her.

A hug and a giggle… that’s what I had needed.

Aren’t people lovely sometimes?

 
 

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