When Your Inner Voice Says “Time Out”

28 Aug

Recently I stumbled upon and reread one of my journals from two years ago.  Two years ago was half a year after my breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent lumpectomy.  It was a time during which I had removed myself from much of “regular life.”  I was not working a “regular job,” I was not socializing, I was definitely being a bit of a hermit.  Cancer had thrown me for a loop and I was struggling to find my footing.  Withdrawing from life seemed necessary at the time, although that doesn’t mean I didn’t sometimes judge myself for it.

When I first discovered the symptoms that took me to my primary doctor and then very quickly to a breast specialist, I was busy working on a big project and trying to start a new business.  In the midst of all this busy-ness, I had a second appointment with the specialist.  As I was getting ready to go to the appointment, I was finding myself extremely and uncharacteristically anxious and agitated.  I was actually stumbling on things, I was so stressed.  When I took a moment to check in, I realized I was scarcely breathing and I felt like I was ready to scream.  Then it finally dawned on me that I’d become so busy worrying about making money that I hadn’t taken the time to even figure out what this momentous thing might mean for me and what I might want to do or not do as a result.  I was about to show up at this appointment completely unprepared.

I stopped for a moment and sat down to breathe.  And then – no surprise – I started to cry.  I gave myself permission to feel all my anxiety and fear.  From that moment on, my attitude changed.  NOTHING became as important as what was going on with my body and the decisions I had to make about my care.

As soon as I returned from that appointment I did a heck of a lot of research.  I also decided to go to the beach to have a small retreat and try to get clarity about my next course of action.  While there, I suddenly remembered a dream I once had but had “forgotten.”  In the dream I was asked, “How’s your cancer?”  I was stunned that I’d had that dream and then tucked it back into my subconscious.   I suddenly realized I didn’t need to stay at the shore anymore; I’d gotten what I came for.  I realized I needed to go home and look at my dream journals.  I also realized I wanted a different doctor.  I wanted someone who would listen to my concerns and include me in decisions about my treatment as opposed to simply telling me what “we” were going to do.

During the course of the next several days, weeks, and months, I spent a great deal of time in the process of introspection and reflection.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t bringing in any money.  Needless to say, that was a tiny bit stressful, but I couldn’t seem to focus on anything as mundane as a job.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but nothing in me wanted to work at a regular job.  I was seriously burned out from several years of hospice work and intensive caregiving (of others, not me!)  And I was actually feeling strongly guided to not begin another job at that point.  And then the Universe conspired to support me in that decision by causing my car to break down.  I had no money to fix my car and so I stayed home.  And continued with my introspection, reflection, and research.

I also took a lot of walks.  And  I wrote.  A lot.  I called a few friends.  I also did something I hadn’t done in many, many years.  I vegged.  In extreme.  I watched loads of Netflix.  I did the Facebook thing.  I sat in front of the screen of my laptop more hours than I care to admit.  But this was where I was at at the time – in a place of non-doing.  I didn’t feel like being a contributing member of society.  I just needed to be by myself.  A lot.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t judge myself.  I did that a lot, too.  This society doesn’t look kindly upon idleness.  I confess I got a bit depressed.  I was poor, I had no car, I had no job except for the occasional odd job.  But now, two years later, I realize this fallow time was absolutely necessary from a spiritual perspective.

Cancer is such a wake-up call.  It is seldom simply a physical disease.  It is always, if we let it be, an impetus for change and growth.  Healthy growth.

My guess is that a lot of women who get breast cancer have been neglecting themselves.  Most women are oh so very good at taking care of others.  Here is what the four years prior to my diagnosis looked like:

  • For a couple years I was a hospice chaplain in New Mexico.  At one point I was serving two offices and commuting upwards of four hours a day – not counting all the driving between clients scattered throughout the central part of the state.
  • My workload increased as the job of bereavement counselor was added to my duties.
  • Then I left the hospice job and started doing private caregiving.
  • Then I moved back home to help care for my parents.  My mother had had a heart attack and a small stroke, and Dad was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
  • While caring for my parents, I got some more caregiving jobs.
  • The opportunity arose to become a hospice chaplain yet again, this time in New Jersey.  And once again, I had almost an hour’s commute each way.

So for four years I was caring for other people.  Relentlessly.  That was my job.  I cared for clients, staff, parents.  But not so much myself.  I felt pretty much in survival mode for much of that time.  My energy reserves were very low.  I did my work as well as I possibly could, and then when I got home, I kind of crashed.  It was hard to summon up the energy to prepare myself a good meal.  And on weekends, I was happy to just stay home.  I didn’t feel like driving anywhere.

In retrospect, it is so obvious  why I got cancer.  I needed something drastic to happen before I would have the courage and wisdom to say no to obsessively caring for others and yes to caring for me.  Not that I wouldn’t care for others on an emotional level (although my energy for that was more limited), but that I wouldn’t subsume myself in the needs of others at the expense of my own.

After a month or so I decided to stop fighting this desire to not work.  I realized that if my intuition was guiding me to not work a “regular job,” then I would simply need to find a way to reduce my expenses.  They were already fairly low, but I did have rent.  That was my biggest expense.  Then my intuition kicked in again. It said  to ask a friend if I could live with them for a while and barter my rent.  They said yes!

During that next year I wrote,  I walked their dog (and myself), I slept, I dreamed, I prepared healthy food, I drew, I painted, I gave a few massages, did a few odd jobs.  But mostly, I simply cocooned.  I badly needed to hibernate and stop focusing so much on others.

Here is what I now realize.  That downtime, that retreat time, that withdrawal from the world, enabled my energy to rise again.  I had to give myself that time to determine what my spirit needed and what I needed my life to look like.  I had to ask myself “What did I want to do less of?” and “What did I want to do more of?”  And very gradually, as I sank into and allowed this delicious downtime, the sap began to flow again.  My energy began to return.  I knew what my spirit wanted to do.  I began to pursue my dreams.  I allowed myself to make plans to move.  I began focusing on my passions and my purpose.  And I finally realized that focusing on my own deepest dreams and desires was what most greatly contributed to my highest health and well-being.

Too often we wait for something rather catastrophic to happen before making big changes.  Don’t wait.  If you’re feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, unsettled, there’s a reason for this.  Be kind to yourself and figure out what you’ve always wanted to do.  Then give yourself permission to do it.  You will find yourself with more vitality than you’ve felt in a long time.

May you be happy!  May you be healthy.

Abundant blessings to you.

Cindy

Second Post-lumpectomy Mammo

8 Oct

I have already announced the results on Facebook, but for those who don’t know me in that context, I finally, finally, finally, finally got my second post-lumpectomy mammogram.  It was twenty months after the first follow-up one, which was fourteen months after they wanted me to have one.  (And the first follow-up one was three months after they recommended me to have one.  Can you tell I’m not crazy about mammograms???)  Two psychics and an intuitive had told me I was cancer-free, but I did the mammo for peace of mind for myself and for any friends who had concerns.

I was able to make the one-hour trip to the hospital free of anxiety.  I was able to walk to the receptionist and then the radiology department anxiety-free.  I was even okay while the technician lifted each breast into place, squashed them, and radiated them.  I also felt fine while waiting for her to upload the films to the radiologist who was off-site that day.  (Apparently the social worker scheduled me on a day when the radiologist was not on-site.  Those with a history of breast cancer are supposed to come Mondays and Tuesdays.  Fortunately the technician kindly allowed me to continue with the mammo that Wednesday due to the fact that I had made an hour-long trip to get there.)  (I live in a tiny mountain town in Colorado, one hour from the two nearest hospitals.)

But even though I didn’t consciously feel any anxiety, after I heard the results I was amazed at how relieved I felt.  “You are free and clear,” she said.  Phew.  It was like I finally let go of the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding.  I had thought that I’d probably ultimately be fine, but I thought (like the last few times) there would be something “suspicious” or “disturbing” that they’d want to investigate further.  At some level I just expected them to want to do extra x-rays (like they had before) or ultrasounds (like they had before) and then to want to do various rather invasive, uncomfortable biopsies (like they had before.)  Somehow I was not prepared for:  You’re good to go!

I felt so incredibly light walking out of that hospital.  I felt like I was floating.  I continued to feel joy for the rest of the day.

I am so very, very grateful for this gift.

And I am sending much, much, much love to the numerous friends who have not been so blessed.

Another Lesson to Learn

30 Jun

Hi everyone.

Okay, so I have had two “cancer dreams” this week.  In the first one, there were several of us looking at a whole array of things designed to fight cancer.  After looking at everything, I came to a place of surrender.  I decided I didn’t want to do all this stuff.  I was either going to be well or I was not.

In the second dream, I had had a mammogram and there were two places of concern I was supposed to talk to the radiologist about.

I imagine these are warning dreams.  They are saying, “Please, go get a mammogram now!”  On the other hand, they could be fear dreams.  They could be saying, “You are afraid of a cancer recurrence and we will reflect your fears to you.”

The primary reason I have not had a mammo in the past six to eight months is: I don’t have insurance.  I made several calls and appointments to try to get a reduced-price mammogram and I didn’t get anywhere.  And I’m sad to say, I gave up.  Or rather, I put it aside for a while.  Now these dreams and my intuition are saying, “Get it done.  Find a way and get it done.”

I had an insight today while listening to Christi Calvano Maybo at Circle of Miracles (a place to go on a Sunday morning to be inspired by spiritually enlightened people.)  She was speaking about how if we are in service to others but not to ourselves, we will get ourselves in trouble.  We will find our joy rapidly disappearing. She spoke about how essential it is to be kind to ourselves.  She spoke about the need to receive as well as give.  She spoke about how we need to stop listening to the “supposed to’s” and listen instead to our heart.  Our heart will steer us rightly.  Our heart will tell us what is right for us.

This is a lesson I thought I had learned.  I know I had “lost myself” when caring for my parents.  But eventually I made changes and started listening to my heart’s desires.  This was good.  However I realized this morning that there might be an additional lesson.  And I think it is this:  I need to learn to take care of myself even when I think I can’t afford it.

Those of you who know me well know that I have long had struggles over money issues.  This continues to be an area in need of healing and major shift.  I am quite aware that if I were more financially abundant, I would be getting mammograms, going to doctor appointments, eating much healthier on a much more consistent basis, going to various healers, and taking various supplements.  All of this is difficult with no “extra” money and no insurance. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be taking care of myself!  I can’t use this as an excuse.

If I had a friend who wasn’t getting medical care because of a lack of money, I would rapidly suggest many options to her (i.e., make this phone call, go to that clinic, etc.)  I would nudge and nag and encourage her to follow whatever avenues were available.  I would pray for her and support her in whatever way I could.  Should I not then do the same for myself???

This is a big, big lesson for me.  Don’t stop taking care of yourself just because it’s hard, Cindy.  Find a way.  Find a way.

Stalling on Getting Another Mammogram

30 Jun

(I wrote this on April 16, 2013.  It’s now June 30th.  Clearly I’m stalling not only on getting a mammogram, but on sharing this with you all.)

Hi folks.  I decided it’s time to admit to you all (and me) that I have been stalling.  My last mammogram was January of 2012.  It’s now fifteen months later and I still haven’t gotten another one.  For the average woman, this would be just fine.  But I was diagnosed with early breast cancer (DCIS – ductal carcinoma in situ) during the summer of 2011.  General practice is to get six-month mammograms for a year or two after that to keep tabs on things.  I rejected that recommendation for reasons listed in a previous blog (concerns about radiation, etc.) however even I know that I’m kind of pushing the envelope here.  I was going to compromise and get a mammogram at ten months.  Then I pushed it back to one year.  And here I still haven’t had one.

Initially I tried to get one but found it too difficult.  I still don’t have health insurance and I was surprised to find that there weren’t any free or discounted mammograms available.  Or at least none that I could easily find.  Then I was caught up in caring for my parents, preparing for and leading a retreat, packing up and moving to Colorado, and I just didn’t feel I could put anything else on my plate.

I confess I am of two minds.  There is one part of me that is worried I might have cancer again.  I continue to second-guess myself about choosing not to follow the allopathic recommendations of my surgeon and the oncologists – ie, drugs and radiation.  I haven’t been as pure with my diet as I should be and I have gotten lax with taking the supplements that would help me.  (It’s kind of mind-boggling that I have let myself get so lax with the supplements.)

There is another part of me.  This is the positive-thinking, spiritual side of me.  (Some might call it a Pollyanna rose-colored glasses side.)  Although I may not be perfect in the care of my physical body, I have made great strides in the care of my emotional/mental/spiritual side.  I have made changes in my life that feel really good to my spirit.  I’ve moved to a place that makes me happy, I am doing work that I love, I have very little stress, and I am immersed in more spiritual practices than I have been for a long time.  I know of cases in which cancer has disappeared when the person began making much-needed changes and began living the life they always wanted to live.  There is a part of me that believes I am so on the right track now.  Haven’t I learned the lessons of cancer and embraced a new life for myself?

On the other hand, I worry that if I focus on cancer – ie, get a mammogram, I will be calling it to me.  As I write that last sentence I kind of cringe at how dumb that sounds.  Simply getting a mammogram does not exactly equate with “focusing on cancer.”  I’m quite sure the average person would say, “Just get the darn mammogram so you can set your mind at ease!”

I still have reservations about mammograms.  I still think they are unhealthy in many ways – not just the radiation, but the squishing of a breast that has already faced trauma multiple times.  It just doesn’t feel like a very respectful or safe way to treat an already injured breast with previous cancer cells.  (Why doesn’t someone invent another method???  Come on now!)

I realize if I get the darn mammogram and it looks clear, I don’t have to have these small niggling worries.  On the other hand, if it shows a possibility of cancer again, yikes.

I’m noticing I’m reluctant to share this post with my friends.  They’re going to get on my case and tell me to hop to it.  I know they are.

Well, I guess it’s time to be brave and ‘fess up.  I need a mammogram.

When Fear Raises Its Head – Again

4 Nov

When Fear Raises Its Head – Again

November 1, 2012

Whenever someone has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the specter of fear is always waiting, ready to haunt again. After taking a long hiatus, it raised its ugly head again recently.

There is a beautiful Cherokee elder who lives in Bucks County.  I had met her many years ago and recently had the opportunity to reconnect with her because she knows my housemate well.  One day a couple months ago, we sat down and had a nice long chat on the back patio.  In the course of the conversation, I had casually mentioned I’d had a health scare last year.  When she asked for more details, I told her briefly and afterwards I noticed her gazing at my chest a few times, as if trying to discern something.

She showed up again the end of September and knocked on my door.  She asked me if I’d be interested in trying some mushroom medicine she had.  (Turkey tail mushroom has had remarkable success in altering the course of some people’s cancers.)  She also wanted to pray for me.

We were outside at this point and I stood facing her with my hands upturned in a receiving posture.  She placed her hands over mine facing downward but not touching, and then she began to sing in a loud and clear voice this beautiful prayer in the Cherokee tongue.

I stood there in humble gratitude with a huge smile on my face, filled with the grace and beauty of this prayer.  The prayer came to an end and then she spoke a prayer in English so that I would understand.

Interesting, isn’t it, that such an act of grace and beauty would subsequently begin, once again, the niggling dance of fear?

I found myself thinking, ‘What did she see?  What does she know?  Do I have cancer again?’

I found myself looking for other clues.  I began to notice that once again my breast, after being completely pain-free for many months, would sometimes be a little achy/uncomfortable/sore.  (And no, it is not related to my menstrual cycle which has been “on hold” for a few months now.  And yes, I’m quite aware that this could be psychosomatic.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not  uncomfortable and disconcerting.)

I decided to do an inventory of my dreams from the last month, as the elder had indicated I might have a significant one.  I noticed the following:

  • I was startled to remember I’d had a “cancer dream” just a couple days before  the Cherokee prayer.  At the end of the dream I said, “Okay, I’ll get myself checked out.”
  • In the first dream after her visit, I wrote in my journal:  “Waiting for a little message.  Instead it’s a big wave – an over-the-heads, can’t-be-ignored, get-everything-clean message.”  (That’s all I remember about the dream and it’s all I wrote down.)
  • I had two doctor dreams.  In one, a doctor was helping me birth a baby.  He knew I was stubborn and literally prayed I would come to my senses and do things in a way he felt was safe.
  • There is a coffin-sized box downstairs with someone in it.  I am freaked out by the thought of that coffin.  (Yes, I’m sure this is symbolic of me being afraid of death.)
  • In another, I am signing into a cancer center.  In this cancer center, the patients are expected to dance every day.  I am dancing – kind of cha-cha-cha-ing backwards, and am full of joy.  It’s fun!
  • Three young women approach a health food store.  It’s dark and looks closed.  The door appears to be locked.  But then I see them inside walking down the aisles.
  • I have a few dreams of family members being sick or in dangerous situations or being suicidal.
  • I have one dream of an explosion, and one dream of a gun being fired.
  • I have two dreams about rats.  In one, I am being bitten on the toe by a rat and call out, “Help me help me help me help me help me!”
  • I dream also of sharks (they don’t appear ominous), and I have a wonderful dream of a praying mantis on a flying carpet-type leaf which comes to land on me, and also a dream about finding beautiful feathers that look like they belong to a phoenix.

In the face of all this, I have decided to get another mammogram. The last one was in January.  My breast doctor wanted me to get another one in July.  A November mammogram will be my compromise.

I also started acknowledging my fears to a few friends, which helped emotionally but did not necessarily help the fears to fade.  Then I found myself voicing my fears to my therapist, and that helped greatly.  (Thank goodness for both good friends and good therapists!)

Meanwhile, I am getting back on track with my supplements.   And my diet.   My diet is largely “not bad,” but there is certainly room for improvement!  I confess I do still veer off-track with my food choices, but I come back on track more quickly and stay on track longer.  (I don’t know if I’ll ever be the kind of person who can be totally strict and rigid with anything.  But I am the kind of person who can keep fairly balanced.)

This is my update, friends.  I share it not so that you’ll worry about me, but so that any women out there in a similar boat will know that this dance with fear is normal.

(And yes, I will keep you updated.)

May you be well.

Tips for the Newly Diagnosed

2 Sep

Tips for the Newly Diagnosed

September 1, 2012

I found out this morning that another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It really does feel like a bit of an epidemic.  At least among those in my age range (40- 60 years old.)

Now I know that the idea I had a couple of days ago is right on target.  I need to summarize what I’ve learned in the last fifteen months so that someone who is newly diagnosed will have some tips on how to navigate the first month or two following a diagnosis.

So here you are, Lisa.  And anyone else out there who has just received “the news” that they have breast cancer.

 

  1. Give yourself the time and space to feel your feelings.  It is normal to “freak out” emotionally when you get this news.  You may look normal to the outsider, but on the inside, be assured there is some panic going on.  Even if you seem strangely calm, do not be deceived – you are likely in shock.  You may notice, for instance, that your normally assertive and intelligent self fails to ask for definitions of the many new terms being thrown at you by the radiologist who reviews your mammograms and/or your primary doctor and/or your breast doctor.  You may notice that when asked if you have any questions, your mind draws a blank.  It’s because you’re in shock, my dear.  Believe me, the questions are likely to come later – probably when you’re trying to sleep.  If you don’t give yourself time to feel your feelings and begin to process them, you may find yourself a bit vulnerable to accidents (hopefully minor) or unexpected outbursts.  Like the time I was getting ready to go for a consultation and I found myself bumping into furniture, stubbing my toes, and dropping things.  I was so nervous.  I finally realized that if I didn’t take the time to sit down and really breathe – or cry, I was probably going to really hurt myself!  If you allow time and space for emotional outbursts, you are less likely, as well, to freak out in an inappropriate situation like at work or with your children.  If you actually schedule time to be alone – at home, at a park, or (I know this sounds oxymoronic) with a dear friend, you can allow yourself to scream, to cry, to rant, or to curl up in a fetal position.  Just try not to hyperventilate.  Remember to breathe.
  2. Make sure you’re comfortable with your doctors, surgeons, radiologists.  There is a good chance you are going to be seeing them several times and it is imperative that you trust them and that they show you respect.  If you have a good working relationship with your clinicians, it makes the whole process ever so much easier.  The very last thing you need right now is someone who is overbearing, rude, abrupt, or untrustworthy.  If you have any doubts, get a second opinion from another doctor.  I changed to a second doctor/expert early on and I was so very glad I did.
  3. Take time to make the decisions regarding treatment that are right for you.  This was the most helpful advice I ever got.  My dear friend, Julia, reminded me that the vast majority of cancers grow slowly over a period of time.  If you need a week or two or three to sort through the many options, do it!  This is your body and you must feel comfortable with your course of treatment.  Do not let doctors or clinicians pressure you to do something until or unless you have decided that it is an appropriate course of action for you.  Take the time to do research.  Look online, read books, talk to other breast cancer patients and survivors.  My advice is: use your brain, but in the end, trust your gut feelings.
  4. Change your diet right now.  Chances are there is room for improvement.  If you eat meat and dairy, either eliminate it or make sure you are using hormone-free products – preferably also organic and/or locally raised.  (Less likely to be filled with all the chemicals and toxins that agribusiness routinely uses in their food “production.”)  Double, triple, quadruple the number of vegetables and fruits you consume.  Most veggies and fruits are not only extremely nutritious and supportive of your immune system, but many actually fight cancer.  They fight free radicals, they slow tumor growth, they neutralize nitrosamines and toxins, they balance out hormones, and they even help make changes at the DNA level.  You can’t afford NOT to eat lots of produce.  (Again, please try to make it organic if at all possible, or from local farms and gardens.)  Juicing is an excellent way to maximize your nutrition and help detoxify your body.  Also, eat lots of salads and soups.  And then throw things like chopped kale, onions, carrots, and flaxseed into almost everything you consume.
  5. Make your environment as pure as possible.   Drink pure, filtered water whenever possible.  Use natural cleaning products and detergents.  Don’t use air fresheners, hair sprays, and certainly no weedkillers on your lawn or pesticides around your home.  Consider not using nail polish or hair gel or perms or harsh dyes.  And definitely don’t drink out of plastic drink containers that have been left in a hot, sunny car.  And definitely don’t microwave in plastic containers.  (In fact, try to avoid microwaving as there are some studies which show the nutrition is lost in the process.)
  6. Cut way back on alcohol consumption.  Quit smoking cigarettes.
  7. Exercise.  Maintain a healthy body weight.
  8. Try to get as much sleep as you can and make your bedroom dark at night. (Except for moonlight.  Moonlight is very good for you.)
  9. Under your doctor’s guidance, make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D.  Those lacking sufficient Vitamin D are more prone to cancer.  Consider also the possibility of adding other medicinal herbs or supplements to your health regime.
  10. STOP DOING THOSE THINGS THAT STRESS YOU OUT!  If you hate your job, now might be an excellent time to leave it.  If the company of certain people makes you anxious, stop spending time with them.  If you are overcommitted and overwhelmed, let go of as many commitments as possible.  This is major TAKE-CARE-OF-YOURSELF TIME!!!  Everyone and everything else must take a lower priority right now.  Even if you have children, you must place your needs at the top of the list right now.  After all, if you don’t do all that you can to get well, they could lose their mother.  YOU are the priority!  YOU!!!
  11. Enlist and/or accept the support you need right now.  If someone offers to take care of your kids, if they are a responsible person, by all means, say yes.  If someone offers to accompany you to an appointment or to drive you, if that would be comforting and helpful, say yes.  If someone offers to make you some healthy food, say yes!  Now is not the time to be a martyr and do it all yourself.  Allow yourself to be supported.
  12. If you are uninsured or do not have the funds to pay for your treatment, ask the doctor’s office to put you in touch with a social worker.  All hospitals have social workers and they can help you navigate the system and get the care you need.  In Pennsylvania, at least, if you have breast or ovarian cancer, my understanding is they expedite your medical assistance application.
  13. Give yourself time to do the work on your emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues.  Oftentimes there is an unexplored or unresolved old issue or habit that can be part of the root of your illness.  For instance, many women are trained from a very young age to take care of everyone else first.  If this describes you, you may need to learn the lesson that you are important and worthy of care.  For others, they may have had a lifelong dream to do something very big or meaningful or special or exciting.  It may be time to dust off that dream.  For others, they may have a deep spiritual yearning for greater connection with the divine or greater peace.  This may be time to deepen your spiritual practices.  Find friends that you trust, a good counselor or clergyperson or spiritual advisor, and give yourself permission to work to get healthier on many levels – not simply at the physical level.
  14. Above all, now is the time for MAXIMUM SELF-CARE!  Now is the time for flowers on your table, delicious healthy food, movies, books, time in nature – whatever represents nurturing to you.  And now may be the time for massages, facials, Reiki, or acupuncture.  (Check with your doctor about any contraindications.)  Treat yourself the way you would treat an especially beloved friend or family member.  You deserve to be treated well!!!

May you be well, friends.  May you be healthy and well. This is a scary time, but it can also be a powerful, life-changing time.  Take it one day at a time.  And take care of you.

The Courage to Say No

13 Aug

So today I called to cancel my doctor appointment for September.   It was a regular follow-up/check-up with my breast surgeon – a little over one year after my lumpectomy.

My doctor/surgeon wanted me to get another mammogram prior to the appointment.  She wants me to get them every six months, for the time being.  My girlfriend, Julia, a breast cancer survivor, said this is typical after a cancer diagnosis.

The problem is I know a mammogram every six months following a cancer diagnosis is the standard recommendation for the first year or two.  But I don’t like it.

I have already voiced my concerns multiple times in this blog about the problem of the primary diagnostic method in this country also being a risk factor for contracting the very disease it is supposed to be diagnosing.  It’s a little crazy, to me, that we could be endangering ourselves while attempting to diagnose ourselves.  But there’s another issue.

Every time there is a mammogram that shows a slight irregularity – ie, microcalcifications, or something that could be either a tumor or a cyst, they’re going to want to do a biopsy.  And many of these biopsies are somewhat invasive – at least from my perspective.  When there are microcalcifications, they must do a stereotactic biopsy in order to properly locate the problem area.  For me, this was a painful procedure.  Twice.  And it does leave a little scar.  I could be wrong, but I have some concern that there will be several times my mammograms are “concerning,” and then several times I’ll have to have a subsequent biopsy, and before you know it, I’ll have received several extra doses of radiation and several more scars on my breasts.

I know what you’re probably thinking.  If it catches cancer in time, then of course it’s worth it!

But here’s the thing.  Most of us carry a few cancer cells in our body at any given time.  This is actually normal.*  The problem is when they multiply.  But if we live right – ie, eat well, keep our stress level low, exercise, keep our weight down, and stay away from toxins, excess estrogen, and radiation(!), those cancer cells will likely not multiply.  What particularly interests me is knowing that most vegetables and fruits, as well as some other foods like seaweed, nuts, beans, and grains, can actually prevent those rogue cells from multiplying.

So my own personal choice is this:  get off the clinical hamster wheel.  I don’t want a steady succession of mammos, followed by biopsies, potentially followed by more lumpectomies.  It feels like it could happen repeatedly – and with each time I’m sure I would experience the resulting stress and fear – all of which can further cause dis-ease!!!  Instead, I want to TRUST that I know what to do within my own inner wise self.  And I want to trust that my beautiful wise body can fight off cancer when I live right and eat right.

 

And I can guess what many of you are thinking.  ‘But I know so-and-so, and she has been a vegetarian and a yoga practitioner for years!  And she got cancer!’  Well, who knows what other factors were present in her life?  Who knows what part genetics played in her health?  Who knows what kind of emotional stressors or psychological issues were at play?  And besides, that’s not the point.  I am talking now only about me.

FOR ME, at least for now, I will do occasional mammograms and check-ups.  But I am NOT going to obsess about it and do it every six months. FOR ME, the obsession adds to the fear factor and is counterproductive to my health.

For whatever various reasons, I feel healthy now.  I’ve been healthy my whole life until last year and I trust that I got the message, I heard the wake-up call, and I responded by making some changes.  I feel back on track.  I am trusting my feelings.  I believe that I am cancer-free right now.

 

My current plan is to get another mammogram in December or January.  That will be eleven to twelve months since my last one.  And if that’s good, I will probably get the next one two years later.

This may sound wayyyy too risky or crazy for many of you.  And I get that and I honor your opinions and choices.  But I know I need to listen to my inner voice.  And I believe in her wisdom.

 

My hope is that gradually, I will shift my lifestyle to one that breeds truly exceptional health.  As I get my ducks in a row – greater financial abundance, more exercise and yoga, more consistent exceptionally healthy eating, wonderful healing herbs and supplements, and a joy-filled, love-filled life, I trust that I will live to a very ripe and wise old age.

But in order to stick with this plan, I have to have the courage to say no to many of the recommendations of the medical establishment.  And believe me, it does take courage to stand up to these clinicians.  I am very blessed with a practice who, though somewhat traditional in terms of allopathic recommendations, also respects the right of their patients to make their own choices.  And even so, I have felt extremely nervous voicing my own opinions.

When I spoke with the office manager on the phone yesterday, she was very nice and very respectful.  And I still had knots in my stomach just from talking with her and “sticking to my guns.”  My very non-invasive, intuitive, first-do-no-harm, personal choice guns.

 

I know I will probably receive a few comments from some readers and friends who will be worried that I’m not being aggressive enough in keeping tabs on what’s happening in my body.  But I ask that you please respect my choices.  I am choosing a slightly more moderate, less fear-based road.   For now.  If I find myself getting too far off-track, or if my intuition or dreams start ringing alarm bells, I promise to make an appointment for a mammogram immediately.

 

May you be blessed and healthy and happy and well.

 

* “Cancer is a perfectly natural process. A very small percentage of cells in every person who has ever lived turn cancerous. And the body usually gets rid of those cancerous cells before they do harm. This process has been going on for eons. It is only when more cancer cells are being created than the body can get rid of that the problem comes. With increased toxins, viruses, carcinogens, etc. our immune systems have become significantly overworked and weakened.” (http://www.angelfire.com/az/sthurston/understanding_cancer_and_cancer_cells.html)

 

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