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The Case for Doing Nothing

30 Oct

I never buy Time magazine.  But while at the airport looking for something to read, the provocative cover caught my eye.  On it was a nude woman, hand over her breast, with the big caption, “What if I decide to just do nothing?”  The subtitle?  “Breast Cancer’s New Frontier.”  Author, Siobhan O’Connor.

I had to read it.

I was thrilled to read that some doctors – surgeons, even – are beginning to realize that many women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer are being pressured to aggressively treat their condition when maybe sometimes a wait-and-see-approach would make more sense.

Currently, 20-25% of all breast cancer diagnoses are DCIS (an acronym for ductal carcinoma in situ.)  DCIS means that all cancer cells found are contained within the milk ducts.  A recent study revealed that the mortality rate for women with DCIS is 3% regardless of how she is treated!  And this survival rate is similar to that of the general population!

In other words, many women are being “massively overtreated.”

I was horrified to read that one woman when informed she had DCIS was then told there was an opening the following week for a mastectomy.  Pressuring someone – directly or indirectly – to remove a breast when she has Stage 0 cancer is unconscionable, in my book.  Fortunately this woman got a second opinion and asked the big question, “What if I decide to just do nothing?”  And, to her credit, this second surgeon admitted, “Well, some people are electing to do just that.”

When I was diagnosed with DCIS in 2011, like all people who hear the word “cancer” directed at them, I was in shock.  I couldn’t even begin to think of intelligent questions to ask.  I couldn’t wrap my head around any of it.  Fortunately, I had several cancer survivor girlfriends to call upon for advice and support.

Julia gave me the best advice, hands down.  She said, “Most cancers are very slow growing.  It’s okay to take the time to make your decisions.  And once you do, you’ll feel better.  This time (right after the diagnosis) is the scariest part.”

Once I heard that, I took a metaphoric breath and dove into research.  I decided I wasn’t going to jump the gun and blindly do whatever I was told. And then I, too, got a second opinion.  The first breast specialist had blithely said to me, “Here’s what we’re going to do.”  Excuse me?  Don’t I get a say here?  This is my body; these are my breasts!

And so, like the woman featured in the article, I also made a decision to do much less than the normal protocol.  Desiree Basila declined surgery, radiation and chemo but decided to take the drug, tamoxifen, which blocks the estrogen which often accelerates the growth of tumors.  Then she would get regular mammograms and MRIs.  I, on the other hand, chose to get a lumpectomy but decided to forgo the tamoxifen and the radiation, both of which were strongly suggested.  In fact, I refused to make an appointment with the radiologist because I knew he would pressure me to submit to radiation therapy.  (I also changed my diet and lifestyle.)

Dr. Eric Winer, director of breast oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, expresses the conundrum of today’s thinking oncologists: “Our two greatest challenges are figuring out better treatments for the 40,000 women who die of breast cancer every year, and at  same time, figure out who, on the other end of the spectrum, is getting exposed to needless toxicity.” (sic)

Absolutely.  You don’t have to be a surgeon to know that radiation causes cancer or that almost all drugs have challenging side effects.  The benefits must outweigh the risks.  “First do no harm” (or words to that effect) is part of the Hippocratic Oath that all medical doctors take.

At long last, there appears to be a gradual willingness on the part of many oncologists to admit that sometimes the treatments being offered are not necessarily necessary and therefore they don’t always warrant the risk.

Author Siobhan O’Connor also makes the extremely valid point  that the word “cancer” is almost, without fail, a very scary word to hear.  But that same word is used to describe a low-grade DCIS that may never be life-threatening as well as a rapacious Stage IV cancer.  This often results in excessive fear that sometimes promotes what could be considered overly drastic treatments.

I love the ending sentence of this article when Basila encourages us to think of quality of life when making decisions regarding breast cancer treatment options.  She says, “I think we really hurt ourselves by trying to just not be dead.”

I believe it is the responsibility of clinicians to be careful how diagnoses are presented so that patients do not unduly panic.  We can also hope that oncologists won’t push certain treatments simply so they can theoretically avoid the possibility of malpractice suits by not treating aggressively.

If you are a woman with DCIS, I encourage you to get as well-informed as possible.  Let’s not blindly put our faith in our doctors and mutely do whatever they suggest.  Let’s do as much research as we can and ask as many questions as necessary.  Let’s find the clinicians who respect our questions and consider all the options.  Then make the decision that’s right for you.  Go full-on with both guns blazing, if that’s your choice.  Just don’t assume it’s the only choice.

 

Blessings and good health to each one 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)

 

PREVENTING BREAST CANCER

8 Jul

This is my most important blog post to date.

It’s about PREVENTING breast cancer.   And indeed ANY kind of cancer.

Good food and healthy eating is the key.  I had always known that it was important to eat healthy, unprocessed food, but it wasn’t until I found out I had breast cancer that I began to learn that many foods actually work to prevent cancer and/or assist the body in fighting cancer.   The key is to focus on foods that come from plants (the green growing things, not the factory kind) and especially to eat as many colorful vegetables and fruits as possible.

We can take all the medicine and drugs we can stand; we can pull out the “big guns” of chemo and radiation to fight our cancer; but unless and until we SUPPORT our body in its healing – through good food, healthy thoughts, plus emotional and spiritual work, our chances for true healing will be greatly diminished.

The following is excerpted from a book in process and I want to share it here and now so that you will support yourself in either getting well or keeping well, whichever the case may be.

You can memorize this list (below) or you can simply try to eat a more vegetarian diet.  Please note that I don’t tell people they must be a vegan or vegetarian or raw foodie because we are all different and we each have different body types, different temperaments, different physical demands, and different taste preferences.  However, the more vegetables and fruits, beans, whole grains, and nuts we can incorporate into our diet, the better.

One more thing to remember: if you can, please try to eat organic as much as you can.  Or at least eat food that is grown by local farmers who are more likely to use less herbicides and pesticides than huge industrial farms.  I know it’s usually more expensive.  I, too, was reluctant to spend the extra money because I was truly financially challenged for quite a while.  However, when I realized my health and life were on the line, the choice became clear.  The bonus is I feel better ethically supporting those who are being kind to our planet.

 

 

CANCER-FIGHTING FOODS!

 

(Much of this I got from the website:  http://www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm)

  • All fruits – preferably organic and especially berries which are exceeding high in anti-oxidants!  Grapes can “put primary tumors into remission and prevent recurrences.”  And raisins are “antimutagenic and particularly good at preventing breast cancers that arise with age.”[1]  Apples, raw and cooked, in fresh-pressed cider and in vinegar block the formation of cancer and help prevent recurrences. Apricots, especially dried, are exceptionally high in anti-cancer carotenes. [2] The bromelain found in pineapple “disrupts the glycol-protein shield that tumors use to protect themselves” and has been found to “reduce metastatic recurrence.”[3] Among 1, 271 elderly Americans, those who ate the most strawberries were least likely to develop cancer.[4] (Strawberries should be organic.)
  • All veggies – preferably organic and especially cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, horseradish, bok choy.  Cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts are purported to be the best anti-cancer foods. [5]  A compound found in cruciferous vegetables, as well as kale and collard greens, changes the way estrogen metabolizes and makes one’s estrogen less apt to promote cancer.[6] Besides cruciferous veggies, the next best choice is: Dark, leafy greens, which “are rich in cancer-preventing carotenes, chlorophyll, antioxidants, folic acid, flavanoids, and – if fresh and lightly washed – Vitamin C.”[7]  Cucumbers are also anti-cancer (and taste great in smoothies.) Carrots contain a lot of beta carotene, which may help reduce a wide range of cancers including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, prostate and breast.  But the carrots should be raw, not cooked.[8] Cancer researchers have found that eating … one raw carrot daily can prevent certain kinds of cancer.[9]  Sweet potatoes can lower cancer risk and “are especially good allies for women exposed to environmental organochlorines and for those wishing to avoid breast cancer recurrence.”[10] “High consumption of tomatoes correlates strongly with lessened risk of cancer.”[11] In fact, all red foods appear to be really good for fighting cancer – red peppers, beets, red grapefruit, red/purple grapes, etc. Turnips and watercress are also very high in anti-cancer compounds.
  • Garlic. “Garlic, the queen of cancer-preventive and cancer-inhibiting foods, counters the initiation, promotion, and recurrence of many kinds of cancer.”[12] Garlic has also “been clinically proven to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells…. Raw garlic is far more effective than cooked or encapsulated garlic; the active principle is linked with the smell.  As little as half a clove of raw garlic a day strengthens immunity and increases the number and power of natural killer cells.” [13] 
  • Ginger.  Used even in small doses, ginger helps prevent the initiation of breast cancer.
  • Legumes.  This includes all kinds of beans – black beans, lentils, kidney beans, split peas, etc.  Peanuts are also legumes but are probably not as healthy as other legumes (or nuts.)  Legumes should be a large part of your protein intake.  They are very high in fiber and very nutritious.  They offer cancer-inhibiting enzymes. Lentils especially are “capable of reversing cancerous cellular changes.”[14]  Chick peas/garbanzo beans are one of the richest sources of protease inhibitors.[15]
  • Nettles/stinging nettles.  You will not find nettles in a grocery store.  But you can find them in many fields.  Or look for an area herbalist to guide you.  Nettles are one of the most nourishing plants we can consume (taken as a tea).  Well-known herbalist Susun Weed says, “Nettle is the world’s riches source of carotenes and chlorophyll, as well as an excellent source of folic acid and selenium.  Nettle is a powerful ally for women choosing chemotherapy, as it protects the blood itself from the mutagenic changes (which can lead to leukemia) caused by the chemotherapeutic drugs.”[16]  Well-known herbalist David Hoffman says that nettles “strengthen and support the whole body.”[17]
  • ·        Whole grains – especially brown rice. (Pre-menopausal women eating the most fiber (>30 grams daily) more than halved their risk of developing breast cancer, enjoying a 52% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women whose diets supplied the least fiber (<20 grams/day). Fiber supplied by whole grains offered the most protection. Pre-menopausal women eating the most whole grain fiber (at least 13 g/day) had a 41% reduced risk of breast cancer, compared to those with the lowest whole grain fiber intake (4 g or less per day). www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=128  Amaranth is also anti-cancer. Oats, barley and rye are also good.  Wheatgrass is extremely alkalinizing and “the enzymes and amino acids found in wheatgrass can protect us from carcinogens like no other food or medicine.”  It is also extremely detoxifying.[22]
  • Mushrooms.  Not the kind normally found in supermarkets, but certain wild and exotic mushrooms like puffballs, reishii, oyster mushrooms, shiitake, straw mushrooms, maitake, Zhu ling, polyporacea, chaga, enokidake, and tree ears are exceedingly healthy and important in the fight against cancer.  However, foraging for these mushrooms is very risky as mistaken identity can lead to serious poisoning or death.  Therefore, buy from Chinese herbalists or other reputable sources who know what they’re doing.
  • Nuts contain the antioxidants quercetin and campferol that may suppress the growth of cancers. (Note: Many people are allergic to the proteins in nuts, so if you have any symptoms such as itchy mouth, tight throat, wheezing, etc. after eating nuts, stop. Consider taking a selenium supplement instead or work with someone on how to eliminate this allergy.)  www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm “All nuts and seeds are good sources of anti-cancer protease inhibitors, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants.” [18]Almonds are especially anti-cancer.
  • Seaweeds like wakame, kelp, and kombu.  Seaweed and other sea vegetables contain beta-carotene, protein, vitamin B12, fiber, and chlorophyll, as well as chlorophylones – important fatty acids that may help in the fight against breast cancer. Many sea vegetables also have high concentrations of the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and iodine. www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm  “Seaweed in the daily diet protects the thyroid, strengthens the lymphatic and immune systems, and prevents the initiation of cancer.”  Seaweed is anti-tumor and helps prevent a cancer recurrence.[19] Kelp also helps protect the body from the effects of radiation, which often leads to cancer.
  • Seeds – especially flax.  Flax contains lignans, which may have an antioxidant effect and block or suppress cancerous changes. Flax is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to protect against colon cancer and heart disease.  www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm  Best of all, flaxseed appears to be anti-estrogenic and quite specific against breast cancer.[20]
  • Tea.  Both black and green tea “checks the initiation, promotion, and growth of breast cancer (and eight other cancers including lung and liver.)”[21]
  • Yogurt.  Christiane Northrup, M.D. says that organic yogurt or other potent forms of Lactobacillus acidophilus help to minimize hyperestrogenism and reduce the risk of breast cancer.[23]
  • A note about soy.  There are numerous studies both encouraging and discouraging the use of soy as a cancer preventive.  I consulted my surgeon as the evidence was confusing.  She told me it was okay in moderation but not as my primary source of protein.

That’s all for now, folks.  Enjoy!  Because once you start eating this way, you will feel so much better!  And it tastes good!

Stay tuned for the “cookbook” I’m completing which gives tips on how to make your healthy food more interesting, healthy, and inviting!

Bless you, bless you.


[1] Susun S. Weed, Breast Cancer?  Breast Health!  The Wise Woman Way, Ash Tree Publishing, Woodstock, NY (1996), p.34.

[2] Weed, p. 28.

[3] Weed, p. 39.

[4] Weed, p. 42-3.

[5] Weed, p. 30.

[6] J. Michnovicz and H. Bradlow, “Altered Estrogen Metabolism and Excretion in Humans Following Consumption of Indole-3-Carbinol,” Nutrition and Cancer, vol. 16 (1991), pp. 59-66, as referred to by Northrup, p. 357.

[7] Weed, p. 34

[8] http://www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm

[9] Earl Mindell, Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, Simon and Schuster/Fireside, NY (1992), p.248.

[10] Weed, p. 43.

[11] Weed, p. 44.

[12] “Garlic fights nitrosamine formation… as do tomatoes and other  produce,” Science News, Vol. 145, February 1994, as referenced in Weed, p. 33.

[13] Weed, p. 33.

[14] Weed, p. 35.

[15] Weed, p. 31.

[16] Weed, p. 42.

[17] David Hoffman, The New Holistic Herbal, Element, Shaftsbury, Dorset and Rockport, Massachusetts (1900), p.218.

[18] Weed, p. 36.

[19] Weed, p. 41.

[20] Lilian Thompson and M. Serraino, “Lignans in Flaxseed and Breast Carcinogenesis,” Dept. of Nutritional Sciences, Univ.  of Toronot, 1989, as referenced in Weed., p. 32.

[21] Bonnie Liebman, “Tea  for 250 Million,” Nutrition Action Newsletter, Nov. 1994 (Cancer Research, 52:3875, 1992 and Journal of National Cancer Institute, 85: 1038,  1993) as mentioned in Weed, p. 43.

[22] Ann Wigmore, The Wheatgrass Book, as referenced by Carr, p. 110.

[23] Northrup, p. 357.

Moving through Fear into a Greater Connection with the Divine

3 Mar

March 2, 2012

So I am continuing to process my last two blog entries regarding food and fear and I am realizing they are related.  This is where I am today:

  1. I think the scary dreams are warning dreams, as opposed to prophetic dreams. I think they are messages sent to me which say: If you don’t get on the right course, this is what is likely to happen.
  2. I’m feeling a little bit less anxious because three or four times now this week, I have had pH readings in the optimal alkaline zone.  (Yay me!!!)   This is extremely encouraging.  If I can stay in this zone 5-6 days out of the week, I will feel like I’m on the right track.
  3. This morning’s card was labeled “Fear.” The message was to look at my fears to see if they are valid or if perhaps my imagination is running away with me.  In my case, I think they are reasonable concerns, but I also think I have allowed them to become too consuming.   This card confirms that “fear is a crippling companion.”  It indicates “a loss of faith and connection with the Divine.”

I really need to look at this.   I think of myself as a spiritual being, but have I been walking the walk?  Have I been immersing myself in the presence of the Divine?  Have I been having conversations with God/Goddess/Great Spirit on a regular enough basis?  Have I allowed the healing energy of Divine Presence to flow through me?

This takes commitment on my part.  I need to carve out time in which I can really sink into Sacred Space. One cannot do deep healing or spiritual work in a fast-food, drive-through kind of way.  Although one can certainly offer small prayers all day long, true connection with Source probably requires a slightly larger allocation of time.

I ask myself, What are ways I can sink into a deeper Sacred Space?

Here are my answers.  Yours may very well be different.

  • Spend time in Nature.  This can mean a walk through the woods, it can mean sitting on a chair under the trees, it can mean lying on the sand at the beach.  The most important thing is being present to the Beauty that is all around.  Let the Beauty feed your soul.
  • Prayer/chanting/singing/meditation.  I’m putting them altogether because chanting and singing are forms of prayer and meditation for me.  Whenever I try praying in a more traditional way (with spoken words), it never feels like enough.  It doesn’t feel deep enough, heartfelt enough.  But if I sing or dance my prayers, they take on greater meaning. I can feel my yearning come through more readily.
  • Art/painting/drawing.  This is something I love to do, and for some reason, resist.  But when I feel inspired and allow that creativity to flow through me, I find myself really happy.  And I imagine the Spirit of Divinity is present in me and through me.
  • Massage/healing.  This pertains to both the giving and receiving of it.  Both can be enormous opportunities for grace and healing and peace.  I continue to practice being in sacred space when I give massage.  However, it is clear I need to find a  way to receive more massage, reverent touch, and healing.
  • Find a wonderful dream group.  I continue to be blessed with an abundance of dreams.  (Relatively few are scary, but I seem to share more of those kind with you!)  What I would love to manifest is a dream group which knows how to enter the sacred space in which dreams and insights can be gently shared in a respectful way.  There is so much richness in our dreams!

May you discover the ways in which you can deepen your connection to the Divine.  As for me?  I’m going to go paint.  Right now!!!

Intuition, Intent, and Finding the Proper Path toward Healing

28 Feb

February 28, 2012

So I had started a blog a couple days ago about how I seem to have come to a  turning point.  Before there had always been  an undercurrent of fear about cancer returning and the subsequent loss of a breast.  But, through grace, recently I’ve come to a place of greater peace.

A few things had converged to create this shift.

  1. I’d gone to a healer.  She worked with me to release and clear old energy patterns and ill-advised thoughts that were lodged in my consciousness.  These thoughts were often the result of beliefs held by my parents or ancestors or others whom I’ve encountered in my life.   After this session, I felt considerably lighter, as if the weight of the world (which I hadn’t realized I’d been carrying) had been lifted from me.
  2. I’d gone to a healing sweat lodge – a lodge specifically for women.   During the third round – the round of personal healing, I’d had an insight.  I realized I needed to let go of my attachment to my breasts.  I needed to stop focusing on them as a part of my attractiveness.  I needed to realize that in the overall scheme of things, what is most important is that I LIVE MY LIFE.  I need to focus on my purpose – what is important for me to do – this day, this week, this month, this year.  I need to stop focusing on what I fear and instead focus on my path. This may seem so obvious to you all, but to me, it was a really important shift.
  3. A friend has a daughter who is healing from a more advanced form of breast cancer using many natural treatments, including spiritual ceremony.  This daughter was advised “not to listen to anyone who tells her anything about cancer.”  Everyone has a story to tell about cancer.  And often the story they choose to tell will be about someone dying.  (How does this serve the person who is struggling to get well?  It does not.)  In addition, doctors often focus on worst case scenarios and treat accordingly- ie, if there’s a possibility one could die, then of course the most aggressive form of treatment is essential.  But we always have a choice in our thoughts and our focus.  If we focus on the worst case scenario, we may very well “call it to us.”   (This does not apply to passing thoughts but to obsessive worries.  For instance, the hypochondriac who always focuses on being sick is likely to become sick more often.)

So after this succession of events, I was recently  surprised to realize ‘Oh!  I don’t feel afraid anymore!”  I realized it might not necessarily be a permanent feeling, but for the time being, I was profoundly grateful to have felt the shift.  I realized I didn’t want to be “that woman who has breast cancer” anymore.  I wanted to be me, living boldly and vibrantly and doing wonderful things in the world.

And then this morn I had another dream. Sigh…

In this dream I discover that my right breast (the one in which cancer had been discovered and removed last August) was puckered and misshapen in the upper left quadrant.  (The lumpectomy had been in the upper right quadrant.)  I was able to manually pull out the tissue and reshape my breast again.  But the dream scared me.

Two weeks ago I dreamed that white dots were discovered throughout my right breast. These dots I knew represented cancer.

So, what do I make of these dreams?  On the one hand, they could be indicative of remaining fragments of fear. On the other hand, these dreams could be signs.  And I realized this morn that the latter explanation feels more likely.   I am not necessarily a prophetic dreamer, but in the past I have been blessed with some “big” dreams which have been gifts and/or messages.

I decided to consult an oracle.  The card I pulled was the High Priestess, representing “discernment, prescience, prophecy, vision.”  Hmmm. That seems pretty darn clear, doesn’t it?

The book that accompanied this oracle deck* also said, “Go beyond the ordinary, past the chaos of modern life, and trust your inner vision to guide you on your path.   Pay attention to your dreams, and keep track of your intuitive hunches, for when the High Priestess appears, she asks you to look for the thread of truth in these places.  Be discerning in all that you do at this time, for the High Priestess reminds you that not all is as it seems to be.”

Sigh….   I have an appointment with my doctor next week.  It’s been on the schedule for 2-3 months.  She will be looking at the mammogram from January which showed a calcification and she will compare it to the films from last May.  I wonder what she will say.  More importantly, I wonder what I will choose to do.

I have been so wedded to the intention of fighting this as naturally as possible.  But based on these (and other) dreams, I wonder if I may need to reconsider the medical treatments I have been so wary of.  I think my next course of action may have to include a vision quest.  I truly need more clarity.

Thanks for listening.

* Wisdom of Avalon Oracle Cards, by Colette Baron-Reid, p. 4-5.

Confessions of a Yoyo-ing Health Food Convert

28 Feb

February 28, 2012

(Note: A dear friend said he found the following blog entry “more than a little obsessive.”  My initial reaction was embarrassment.  I immediately wanted to delete the post.  However, I’m going to leave this up here  because it’s real.  For those fighting cancer who are educated and somewhat health-conscious, there is a tendency to get obsessive about the foods we put in our body.  It’s one thing  we do have control over and, as research shows, it definitely can make a difference.  So the upshot is, obsessive or not, I feel this is an important blog and I’m keeping it.)

Let me assure you that I’ve always been a fan of healthy eating (aside from when I was a child and didn’t know better – eating Lebanon baloney on white bread for lunch every day, along with a Tastycake for dessert.)  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that eating “foods” that have very little actual food left in them (but tons of additives) are not really good for you. I may not have been as healthy as some of the slim vegetarian yoga aficionados we see trotting around in Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but I certainly knew how to cook a good healthy meal with real food, brown rice, veggies, etc.  However, I do confess that I became much more lax the last decade or so.

Like many people who have busy lives, taking the time to prepare healthy food was not always among the top contenders on my to-do list.   I began eating out more, and more and more often, I am quite embarrassed to say, I would resort to fast food figuring that anything was better than nothing and at least  I’d have some protein or carbs to keep me going energy-wise.  (I hasten to add that I now know that I was deluding myself big-time with that theory.)

Having a cancer scare quickly makes one take stock of delusional thinking like that.  I got myself back on board quickly!  I knew I needed to be more vegetarian.  While vegetarians may not necessarily agree that the vegetarian lifestyle can include the words “more” or “less,” for me it made sense to aspire to the lifestyle without having to be a complete and total purist.

I consider myself fairly well educated in general, and specifically with regard to nutritional issues, I am probably more well-read than most.  However there’s nothing like the big C word to make one read a bit more voraciously on the topic. I quickly learned that there were foods that were not only generally healthy, but specifically important in the fight against cancer.  I strove to incorporate as many of them as possible.

Living in a vegetarian household for which I have agreed to prepare a fairly large percentage of the dinners has helped me to eat quite well for several days of the week. Consider, for instance, my diet today:

  • For breakfast:  Smoothie – almond milk, homemade hormone-free yogurt, kale, half an organic banana, and a teaspoon of organic peanut butter.
  • For lunch: Sesame tofu stir fry with local cabbage, organic onions, organic carrots, and daikon, seasoned with lots of cancer-fighting turmeric, some garlic, and a couple dashes of tamari.  Brown rice cooked in organic vegetable broth.
  • For dinner:  Red lentils cooked in organic vegetable broth and seasoned with turmeric and coriander.  Salad with organic baby greens, shredded cabbage, local organic micro-greens, shredded organic carrots, diced daikon, cucumbers, zucchini, and local organic watercress.  Dressed with olive oil and organic lemon seasoned with tarragon and marjoram.
  • For snacks: One small square of dark chocolate, off-the-charts in anti-oxidants.  A gluten-free peanut butter cookie.

Not bad, right?  I confess, even I was impressed with today’s feast.

Now let me confess to you yesterday’s diet:

  • Small smoothie (See above.)
  • 2 chicken tenders (prepared by Carversville General Store.)
  • One bottle Snapple Peach Tea.
  • Mug of blackberry tea.
  • Brown rice with dribble of chicken drippings.
  • Blanched broccoli.
  • 3 slices of whole grain bread with butter.
  • Purified water.
  • Homemade unsweetened iced tea.
  • 2 large helpings of salad (See above, but without the daikon, carrot, or watercress.)
  • 2 1/2 pieces of iced carrot cake (with only a modest amount of carrot observed in it.)
  • Fairly good-sized bowl of microwave popcorn (with very little butter in it.)
  • Bowl of homemade (by friend’s son Adam) soup with chicken, carrots, rice, and seasoned with sesame oil.

Well, on second thought, that may not be too horrifying, but I confess to feeling no small amount of guilt about the cake and the Snapple.  (I did enjoy both though.  I did, I did.)  Plus, although I don’t have a problem with butter specifically, this was not organic butter and so it no doubt contained the hormones that are very uncool for someone with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer issues to ingest.   The chicken may have had been raised in an unhealthy corporate farm as well.

And while one day like yesterday is not a huge deal, I am chagrined to confess that it followed a week of some indulgence.  I was out of town for 3 days last week. Those of you who travel can attest that it is much harder to eat healthfully when one is on the road.

In the car ride to the destination, I did eat a couple of delicious locally grown apples (from Solebury Orchards) and snack on things like organic nachos, nuts, and rice thins.  And for the first lunch from the small buffet at corporate headquarters I had egg salad on half a piece of whole grain bread with lettuce, spring water, and fresh fruit salad.  But that night at a wonderful and very fine Italian restaurant I did allow myself one piece of bruschetta, two fried risotto balls, a salad, and half of a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  (Oh was it ever good.  It was really, really good.)  And the next day I had, among other things, the rest of the spaghetti, the dessert I’d taken home (the best and lightest cheesecake I’ve ever, ever had), and, on the road, some local candied pecans.

Perhaps you’re thinking, Cindy, this is not such a big deal. You are allowed to eat real food that doesn’t look like it was prepared at an ashram.  The problem is: once you’ve had a cancer scare, you tend to be a bit more nervous about what you do and don’t eat.  I have several friends who’ve had breast cancer who were/are MUCH more disciplined about their food intake. One dear friend was so afraid to put anything non-organic or unhealthy in her mouth that she was literally afraid to eat for a couple months.  Another ate a strictly macrobiotic meal the whole time she was getting treatments – even taking containers of the “good stuff” with her to parties and social gatherings.  Another friend is able to refrain from putting a single piece of cheese in her mouth.  Her boyfriend confirms that she does not veer from healthy eating.  Ever.  Sadly, I don’t seem capable (yet) of such discipline.

Here is the test to see whether I’ve gone too far off-balance.  A couple days ago I finally received in the mail some pH strips with which to test the alkaline/acid balance of my body.  For those who don’t know, disease of any kind has a much harder time getting a foothold in an alkaline environment.  Sadly, most Americans are way on the acidic side.  I was eager to see how my body was doing.

I returned from my trip on Thursday night.  The next morning I found the mail carrier had delivered my package of pH strips while I was gone. I eagerly opened it and went to take a pee so I could test it out.  The result?  I was one step below the target alkaline range.   In other words, I was acidic, but on the lowest end of the acidic scale. I was pleased.  After a couple days of indulgence, I was close to the alkaline zone.  I could get back on track, I was sure.

The next day, I had the same exact reading.  Okay, so taking my supplements and getting back on track for one day was not going to be enough.  I tried to make up for it by eating lots of salads that day, even though I was out and about and not at home. I began the day with a smoothie and by the time I finally had time for lunch, I was ravenous.  So in addition to a salad, I had another Peach Snapple, some baked potato crisps, a bit of tunafish, and two gluten-free peanut butter cookies.  For dinner I had a Caesar salad (light on dressing, no added cheese) with wonderful grilled chicken.   I was only halfway good. And the accumulation of all of the past days’ dietary digressions led to a more seriously acidic reading this morn.

Let me add here that part of the reason for my added anxiety about my diet is that about two months ago I had asked a professional intuitive/channel whom I know if I was “doing enough” to stay cancer-free.   What she was told was that I was on the right track but that I needed to focus on staying alkalinized. (I knew the importance of alkalinization from my research as well.)

This is why I’m sharing with you the monotony of my dietary dealings.  I want you to learn from me!   If you want to be healthy, stay alkalinized and eat healthy!  Lots and lots and lots of greens, lots of veggies, lots of salads and raw foods. You can do it!  And hopefully, in another month or two, I will be more consistently on track and a living, breathing, beautifully energetic and radiant model of glowing health.

Thanks for listening.  Be well, friends!

PS  In the afternoon on the 29th and in the morning  on March 2, I made it into the “green zone!”   The green colors on the color scale of the pH strips indicate one is in  the alkaline zone.  The optimal  zone is 6.75 to 7.5.  I was there twice! YAYYYYY!!!!

PS2  (Added March 3, 2012)  Rather than write a separate entry, I decided  to add a postscript to this blog.  If anyone thought I didn’t misbehave too badly diet-wise (above), let me assure you, I really really really did last night and this morn.   There will be no dispute about how far off my healthy eating plan I fell.

Let me confess.  I began the morning well – leftover brown rice with spinach and almonds plus red lentils, followed shortly thereafter by one organic egg (from the chickens who live on my property) with red onion, goat cheese and herbs.  I also made a big pot of vegetable soup, but only ate about a cup of it.   All well and good, right?

Well about 3 hours later I remembered the Breyers chocolate ice cream my housemate  had in the freezer.  I indulged in not one, but TWO bowls of it.  (Oh my, it was good.)

Four hours later I am ravenous.  Of course.  I’ve waited way too long for my next good meal.  And  when that happens, look out.

I was craving something salty and crunchy and I had nothing.   So I went to the grocery store and debated between several options before getting a bag of Herr’s popcorn, which my companion and I began eating as  we walked through the store. Then the subject of (yes, I am in confession mode, I have to tell you) McDonald’s came up.  And we ended up going and I had a $1.00 double cheeseburger, a small fries, AND an apple pie.  The only thing I DIDN’T do wrong  was have a small cup of unsweetened iced tea.

Oh, it’s not over, friends.  This morning I got up early and decided to join my parents on their weekly Saturday breakfast out.  They chose Perkins.  Perkins does not have too many healthy options.  I looked over the menu and the only thing that was calling to me was… pancakes.  Ay yay yay, Cindy.  White flour is soooo not good for me.  It makes me bloat.   Syrup is sooo not good for me.  (Or for fighting cancer.   Simple sugars like syrup actually feed cancers.)  (I did have a side of fresh fruit cup.)

And ya know what?  I notice my physical energy is low today.  When I eat healthy food, my energy is usually pretty good.  But I can officially vouch for the fact that junk food, fast food, carbs and sugars will deplete your energy!  Guilt is one thing (and yes, of course I feel it), but low energy is another.  Perhaps I will eventually remember that when I eat this kind of thing  the feel good part is only temporary!  Then I crash energy-wise.

I  obviously can’t do anything about the crap I put into my body the last  twelve hours or so.  But what I can do is eat lots of soup and salad today.  I will also drink lots of water and take extra drops of my detoxifier.   (Pure Body.  Go to http://ToYourHealth.MyTouchstoneEssentials.com)  I also need to  take a long walk and get some extra  exercise and fresh air.

Back on track.  That’s all I can do – get back on track and resolve to go longer before falling off the wagon next time.  I know myself well enough that I won’t be able to be a total purist any time soon, if ever.  But I can go for longer periods before any indulgences….

Please disregard my lapses, dear body.  I want what’s best for you.  I will try to consider your needs more diligently next time!