Monthly Archive: March 2016

– Bedside manners 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Cancer IS a Gift!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Sonia Choquette

 
 

– The Graceful Warrior

 

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

Grace is immediately accessible to you and everyone around you –

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

— Caroline Myss

November, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naaaaahhhh!

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

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

I will walk the path of the graceful warrior.

 

The warrior who trusts his path

doesn’t need to prove the other is wrong

 — Paolo Coelho