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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)

 

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.