Kicking Cancer

Prevention Through Healthy Living

Nutrition School

Hello!  I am wondering if you still have kickingmycancer bookmarked?

A quick note to tell you that I am doing great!

I recently had some friends ask if my site was up and running, which, no it was not because I let it expire.  Too many people being diagnosed with breast cancer so I decided to renew it and fortunately wordpress hangs onto the data just in case!

It has been over two years since my diagnosis and about a year and a half since I finished treatment.

I am now nine months into nutrition school at Bauman College which I love immensely.  I intend to blog about the Eating For Health model designed by Dr. Ed Bauman, my school’s founder in coming months.  The focus is whole foods and plant-based (which does not necessarily mean vegetarian/vegan).  The program acknowledges that all bodies are unique and that there is no “right” diet for everyone.  Diet Direction refers to meal planning based on certain percentages of macronutrients.  The three diet directions are cleansing, balancing, and building.  So based upon specific goals one can be following a diet direction with varying percentages of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.  The school is amazing and I am learning a ton about meal planning, digestive physiology, macro- and micronutrients, in addition to therapeutic uses and properties of herbs and whole foods.

I recently summited Mount Shasta with three girlfriends.  An epic milestone!

I hope you are enjoying life, setting goals, and achieving them!!

Image

Chilling near the Summit

Cancer Behind Me

Almost a year after diagnosis

Almost a year after diagnosis

Hello friends,

It has been such a pleasure sharing this journey with you.  In fact, in many ways it was a huge part of my healing process.  Writing about my emotions or a technical aspect of my experience really helped me to get a handle on it myself.  I never wrote a post that did not feel completely “ripe”, and so only wrote what I really felt like needed to be out there in the world.  When I look back now at all the posts since last March when I first received my diagnosis I am reminded of a difficult, but also manageable and magical year.  Mostly what I remember is tons of support, love, laughter.  I met some remarkable people that I would not have otherwise met, and I faced fears and other issues that made me stronger and wiser.  I am in such an awesome place.  I think what I got most out of this past year is a result of in depth research of the best diet for me and a real understanding and belief that diet and self-care regimen will be unique for each person.  So much has to do with each body type and what feels good to each person.  But the biggie is best said by Suzanne Friedman, qi gong professor at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley.  (I had the pleasure of taking a qi gong course with her on weekends between radiation appointments). We take awesome care of our cars…we take them in for tune ups and dump tons of money into them.  We can’t live with out them and fill them with gas and oil when it is needed.  But when it comes to our own bodies, we skip meals, don’t go to the doctor, don’t get massage/acupuncture “tune ups”.

Yesterday was a gorgeous “no parking along the coast” beach day and the kids, dog and I headed north to Moonstone Beach and Trinidad beaches.  We climbed over rocks, working together to find the best routes and help the dog scramble up and down (I know…poor dog!), we played with sticks and in the sand, built a gnome house, and found tide pool creatures.  It was heaven on earth.  I am completely heathy and happy, with cancer behind me, despite my continued treatment every three weeks with Herceptin, and nightly Tamoxifen.  It was a bump in the road that we made it over, and now we will keep on cruising.

I have gone back and forth about what to do with this blog…keep it, transform it, get rid of it…..so it has just been sitting until now.  On a whim (that is how I operate) I am shuttin’ her down!  I have a TON in the hopper right now and am excited about the present and the future.  No time for the past (except for the wisdom gained and new friends made!)

So although I will not be blogging on the site anymore, I will leave the website up because I can see that it is still of value (an average of  20 people per day from all over the world (!) are finding it).   I will be adding a page with related cancer books and wellness books that I have found inspiring or useful.  So, the website will sit and if anything comes up I will certainly write a post and get it all going again, but in the meantime, just know I am healthy and well.  If I am suddenly not, you will hear about it!!  And thanks all for your concern.  My favorite thing ever is when people ask me how I am doing and tell me they have followed my blog.  So thank you for that.

In fact, THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of your support and cheerleading.  I am determined to get something meaningful (a little something I am working on) out to everyone who played a part…from people who posted a message on here, sent me emails, made me tea, made my family (and sometimes me) amazing meals, donated money to my family or my causes (Marin Cancer Institute or Breast Health Project), brought me tokens for travel/my altar…..all of you THANK YOU.  I have learned so much about community from you all and was super touched by every single message I received on this blog and separate emails so thanks from the bottom of my heart.  I am gushing I realize…I suppose it is one of those moments to just say “Words cannot express the gratitude I feel”.

On a fundraising note….the Humboldt Area Foundation fund (which was started with money from the Simply Mac Raffle, the Mad River Brewing Company Tasting Room’s Pints for Non Profit event, Macs in the Midst, Chicken Boots, and a few friends) has been moved over to Humboldt County Breast Health Project (for more info on why, please contact me directly…it just made the most sense…all entities involved agree!).  It is now called The Integrative Wellness Fund.  I will be honored if you donate to the fund (or the Breast Health Project in general) as people with cancer will be able to have pretty direct access to it within a month!!   I am very excited about this.  The money will enable a cost share for people with cancer going through treatment to have funds for complimentary/wellness care such as qi gong, acupuncture, and therapy.

Much love, and don’t forget to take care of YOU today.  Fill yourself up, and tune up!

Nicole

En route to treatment

En route to treatment

Nutrients

Nutrients

Self-care regimen (Goodies from Amy of Radiant Balance)

Self-care regimen (Goodies from Amy of Radiant Balance)

Me and my favorite boy

Me and my favorite boy

Taste test with the kids (don't make the one on the right!)

Taste test with the kids (don’t make the one on the right!)

Asher spicing up our "root bake"

Asher spicing up our “root bake”

At Humboldt Juice Works with the kids....my fave is The Killer Green

At Humboldt Juice Works with the kids….my fave is The Killer Green

My Integrative Care/Wellness  Healing Team (Amy, me, Jessica, Zena)

My Integrative Care/Wellness Healing Team (Amy (nutrition/aryuvedic, me, Jessica(acupuncture/chinese medicine), Zena( qi gong/chinese medicine))

Thank you once again!  Be well!

Nicole

Nourish Thy Temple

I just wrote the following for the Humboldt Community Breast Health Project newsletter (coming out soon!) and thought I would share it here too since it has been a while since I posted.  Update on the cancer treatment front….still Herceptin (targeted therapy chemo drug) every three weeks through mid-July.    I have an Echocardiogram next week to check my heart and make sure it is functioning properly (the big side effect concerns heart function, so I get checked every three months, but so far my heart has been fine)….all is golden and I feel 150%.  Continuing qi gong with Misty Mountain Healing Arts and mild exercise….walking, jogging, cycling, and chinese/western medicine herb blend four times per day.  Sadly, one who had cancer is not told “Your cancer is gone” after treatment, one only goes into “remission” or NED (No evidence of disease).  So that is my current status and I will always consider my diet (including herbs) and exercise my treatment and best health insurance.

Aahhhhh.  Where to begin?  Well, for starters, I am a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor.  I was diagnosed in March 2012 and proceeded with conventional treatment including an immediate mastectomy, a summer of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and now, a nightly dose of the estrogen blocker Tamoxifen.

I am the mother of two small children, ages 3 and 6, and a lover of the world and being alive.  Despite my propensity toward herbs and natural healing modalities I feel that this conventional treatment was necessary even though these conventional western healing medicines were invasive and toxic.

My approach was to not only succumb to, but to embrace these procedures and medicines, but to heal my body simultaneously with chinese herbs, mushroom tinctures, homeopathy, qi gong (internal and external), acupuncture, aromatherapy, long hot baths, dry brushing my skin, plenty of mild exercise (biking and hiking), improving my emotional health, and consuming a diet which eliminated sugar and dairy, and boosted vegetable intake particularly from the Brassica family and leeks, garlic, and onions.  I juiced, and made nourishing soups.

I believe that this “side work” I was engaged in helped me to feel in control and of positive mind set.  In the end I can honestly say that I “sailed” through the year with only minor issues.  Being in harmony with what was happening with my body and mind was key.

Although quite regimented, it was quite a year to say the least.  This self care regimen required discipline, will, and commitment.  I do not, however, want this article to be about me and details of my process, but instead to offer some basic inspiration to the reader who may have been recently diagnosed, is currently in treatment, other survivors, caretakers, and simply people who wish to minimize their risks of developing a cancer, or catching a problem before it developes into disease.

In April 2012 I was interviewed by Micheal Dronkers of KHUM radio and I will always remember him asking if I felt I had recieved what he termed “random cancer”.    I was, after all, a healthy and active 42 year old woman who has limited stress and eats all organic, healthy food.  At the time I said that yes, it was sure enough Random Cancer, but after nearly a year of research and intensive self-care I realize that, although I do not blame myself for causing my cancer, I can see how a tumor could have formed.  We all have areas for improvement!

My goal is to not let it ever happen again, so I carry my newly learned self-care skills and altered life style forward into my awesome life.  I am so happy to be alive and get this chance!

Obviously few of us know how or why our cancer originated and proliferated to the point of disease.  Cancer, which is basically just the abnormal growth and proliferation of cells, has been around for centuries (the first documented case was in 1500 B.C. and was depicted by drawings on papyrus of tumors in a breast).  It is likely a result of multiple factors, including environmental.

Basically, Prevention is the Cure, and it boils down to self-care.  Nourish your body, mind and spirit with positive thinking or a meditation practice, yoga, qi gong, swim, walk, read or write poetry, spend time in nature, pray to your god(s), work with angels, heal relationships, keep powerful emotions such as fear and worry in check, clear clutter from your physical and emotional lives. The list goes on and on because each one of us is different.  When we are living in grace and harmony with our path our bodies feel good.  That means less cortisol and harmful hormones floating around in our bodies, and better function of all of your organs, among other great benefits.  Tumors are formed as a result of stuck qi or energy.  We need to lubricate and jiggle, laugh much and breathe deeply to keep the energy flowing in order to not create blockages.  There is much to be said here, but for every individual the path will be unique….find yours!  Blessings.

A few recent photos.

Asher and Mommy on a date.

Asher and Mommy on a date.

The Nada family enjoying Mount Hood

The Nada family enjoying Mount Hood

Taylor and Mommy knitting on Christmas morning

Taylor and Mommy knitting on Christmas morning

See your dish?  They are all washed and on my porch.  Thanks for all the dinners everyone.  My family will never forget all that LOVE and goodness!

See your dish? They are all washed and on my porch. Thanks for all the dinners everyone. My family will never forget all that LOVE and goodness!

 

A Fund at Humboldt Area Foundation!

With the donations made this summer in my name (thank you!) at Simply MacIntosh and Mad River Brewing Company, I have started the process of opening a fund at Humboldt Area Foundation.  The money can be utilized for holistic therapies (yoga, qi gong, acupuncture, counseling, guided imagery, and Jin Shin Jyitsu) by residents of Humboldt County with cancer going through chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

The day after my mastectomy surgery I was handed a gift certificate for a massage (incredible), and I obtained a scholarship to be able to do regular Jin Shin Jyutsu, acupuncture and qi gong at Marin Cancer Institute.  I really benefited from these complimentary treatments and think my experience would have been drastically different without them.  I have met many people with cancer who are having trouble making ends meet just keeping up with their bills due to missed work days and high deductibles and medical expenses.  That is why I decided to start this fund.

If you would like to do some year-end giving and want to see this fund succeed (it could make money once invested and live on into perpetuity) please donate (check or credit card) to:

Humboldt Area Foundation

363 Indianola Road

Bayside, CA  95524

707-442-2993

The fund is not named yet, so just give my name and the money will get in the correct pot.

Thanks so much!

Nicole

To Take, Or Not To Take? That is the Question

When I arrived home from Radiation in Marin, relieved to put all of this behind me (the bulk of it anyway), I received an email from a friendly friend entitled…I Know You Like Research.  I do, I do!  Especially when the research has to do with a pill that I need to put in my body for five years (ten years of hormone therapy, but five will be tamoxifen, the later five an aromitase inhibitor).  I will provide you with the link to the article Tamoxifen:  A Major Medical Mistake? (click here in fact), but if you are on tamoxifen, or are going to be on tamoxifen, please proceed with caution.  It is a wonderful, informative  article which prompted me to drop the regimen for four days before my doctor (also wonderful and informative) urged me to forge ahead, embracing the drug.

The article opens with the story of DES, a “medical blunder/shameful chapter” of medical history.  Tamoxifen and DES are similar in structure and both produce hormone-like effects.  I will try to explain in a nutshell for those not interested in reading the whole article…..Tamoxifen acts like an estrogen blocker.  As I mentioned in my previous post, my cancer cells were estrogen receptor positive (ER+).  So, they have these “key holes” that are waiting for the estrogen key to click in place and “drive” the cell.  So tamoxifen acts as a weak estrogen–the structure is similar to estrogen and for every tamoxifen molecule that plugs into an estrogen receptor on the cancer cells,  the estrogen is effectively blocked.

The problem is that while Tamoxifen acts as an anti-estrogen in breast cancer cells (because it inhibits activity of regular estrogen) it also acts as an estrogen in other areas of one’s body such as the uterus (also but to a lesser extent, bone, liver, blood) and is known to cause uterine and other cancers.

So…..treating cancer only to cause another cancer.  A dilemma.

The article goes on to explain that the lucrative Tamoxifen is the most widely prescribed cancer medication in the world, generating hundreds of millions of dollars for the pharmaceutical company that produces it.  Same old story.

So…..

I suppose my point is that none of these decisions are easy.  If you have been following my story since the beginning you know that I am a big supporter of “Take One Step At A Time”.  It has been motto in a way and I did not take a new step until I was completely in harmony with it. I was actually excited for my mastectomy “can I have it yesterday?”, the same thing for chemo, and radiation.  I was ready for each of those things.  I know all of these things are horrible (maiming and toxic), but I do not feel like I have the luxury of deciding anything different given the extent of my disease.  When it came time I was not super excited about taking Tamoxifen, but now that I have read this article, quit taking it for a few days, and was presented with another article and in-depth discussions with my doctor I am in harmony with it and will do my best to embrace it.

I felt honored that Dr. Gullion read the article I sent and discussed it at length with me.  Of course you may say!  It seems like that should just be a part of a doctor’s job, but these days doctors are so busy and overwhelmed that things like that may often fall through the cracks.  So, he read it, we talked by phone about a multitude of studies and is continuing research. Here is the article he sent me.  It is more  balanced about the benefits and side effects.

The hardest part for me with taking something like tamoxifen is the thought that I am playing into fear.  I am healthy!  I did chemotherapy and radiation, have an impeccable diet, get plenty of exercise and rest and am in an awesome emotional space.  How could my cancer metastasize?  It should be gone.  I did all the work!  One thought Dr. Gullion shared with me about the chemotherapy, however, is that my cancer cells weren’t rapidly dividing (it is important to know your cancer characteristics!  They are all so different) and chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells (hence hair loss).  So, my cancer cells may not have been touched by the chemo drugs.  Who knows?  We will never know!  They could have been in a resting phase.

The idea is to come at it from every possible angle.

So, the debate continues.  The different camps get in their corners, and in the meantime I will continue to scrutinize, educate myself, do qi gong, take herbs, and for now……take my tamoxifen.

If you have additional information about tamoxifen, please let me know.

I am heading home and ready for the cozy holidays.  The Scoop is closing for a month, and I am ready to hunker down and play with my family!  Happy Holidays.

Getting' some hair in time for winter!

Growing some hair in time for winter!

Good Luck for Now

The radiation phase of my treatment is now complete.  Yeah!!!  I have been celebrating for days.

My skin looks great despite some tanning with minor reddening in the boost area and a now brown “splotch” caused by my negligence in hiking all day without proper protection over a portion of the site.  Although I was not as disciplined as I could have been, I applied lanolin twice per day as per the suggestion of the radiation oncology staff at the Center.  I also used a burn cream that I got from Pine Street Clinic that they miraculously obtain from Chinese hospitals (apparently difficult to get).

Radiation Therapy was a positive experience and I absolutely loved my team led by Doctor Francine Halberg.  I cried in my car reading their well wishes on my diploma after my last visit to the Center.  The people are exceptional.  Kind, genuine, diligent, precise, and even fun are but a few words to describe my team.  It seems like ages ago when Dr. Halberg told me that she wished I could have been a fly on the wall during the afternoon planning session when my surgeon, Dr. Leah Kelley assisted in the planning in order to pinpoint the location in my arm  pit area where, despite her diligent scraping, there may have been some microscopic cancer cells remaining.  I think my favorite day was in preparation for the boost (the area that would receive extra radiation since microscopic disease may have remained), the team left me lying on the table with my arm above my head for so long that the only response I could muster (since I could not move a millimeter) was to start giggling uncontrollably.  I had to think about despicable things in order to stop myself from laughing.  What I loved about the day so much was getting to meet and witness in action some of the players in the “behind the scenes” planning and laying out of my plan.  They are a brilliant, focused, creative and “top in their field” bunch and all of their busy-ness and adjustments, surrounding my corpse pose and the monstrous machine, gave me confidence that I was in the best hands possible. So……

A Year in Review:

December 29, 2011:  Nicole discovers odd lump on her right breast.

March 20, 2012:  After misdiagnosis by primary care doctor and ultrasound radiologists’ interpretation, the tumor was finally classified as cancerous by Dr. Ellen Mahoney.  Late March and early April filled with phone calls, appointments, and diagnostic testing including mammogram, MRI and PET CT scan.

April 20, 2012:  With skillful mapping and meticulous mastering of scalpels and clamps, Dr. Leah Kelley of Marin Cancer Institute removed the insanely large (~5 inch diameter!) tumor.

May – September 2012:  Adjuvant chemotherapy program overseen by the experienced, wise and loving Doctor David Gullion.   4 cycles of Adriamycin and Cytoxin (every other week) followed by weekly administration of Taxol and Herceptin.  (Herceptin is through the clinical trial, and will continue every three weeks through July 2013).  Riding my bike 300 miles in six days to my first appointment was definitely a highlight of this whole experience.  I will never forget the doctors and gang from the Center that joined me for the final 50 miles from Bodega to Fairfax!

October 15-November:  Daily Radiation (Monday through Friday) administered by the dream team described above – 30 doses.

November 2012 – November 2017:  Hormone Therapy is an important part of my adjuvant treatments, and at five years is longest lasting of my treatment protocols.  Tamoxifen is the pill I will take daily (at least I can be home for this one!!) Tamoxifen is a drug that blocks estrogen from binding to breast cancer cells (not all tumors are driven by estrogen, but mine was ER+ which stands for estrogen receptor positive and it just means that the receptors are present on the surface of cancer cells).

Which brings me to today!  Feeling so grateful to all involved on my multidisciplinary medical team.  These doctors in addition to the other doctors at the Center (they work much of the time as a team with a “tumor board  conference” every Tuesday and in the hallways of the center) have left me feeling like I have done everything possible from a medical standpoint to remove and destroy the cancerous cells in my body.  Trust in this team  has never once wavered and has made all of the difference in my attitude and positivity all the while.

And in an effort to not be on the computer all day, in a future post I will write about all of the OTHER things and people I am grateful for, namely my supportive husband, kids, extended family, so many friends, a broad community, including the Breast Health Project, my chinese medicine practitioners and teachers, and qi gong.

I will spend today enjoying the beautiful and bountiful rainfall, organizing my stuff, packing, and cooking a big celebration meal (Indian food I think!).  Tonight I see Tosca (SF Opera) with my sister and tomorrow morning early I will brave the storm, driving home to my beloved family in time for Nutcracker rehearsal and cookie baking.  Not to sound cliché, but LIFE IS GOOD (for me, right now).  There has been so much suffering in my community as of late and it reminds me that suffering is universal and also a part of this thing we call life —these instances can’t really be compared, they all suck (for lack of trying for a better word).  Cancer, severe injury, disability, depression, unfathomable loss, and even more global issues and concerns like famine, habitat loss, war, the list goes on.

For some reason it reminds me of the Good Luck Bad Luck story that I love so I will post it here.

I wish all of you good luck and many blessings today!

Good Luck Bad Luck!

There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?” A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck?

Who knows?

Author Unknown

 

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Radiation Therapy In a Nutshell (Through the Eyes of Nicole)

This post was going to be called Radiation Therapy 101, but I decided I do not know enough about it to offer even a rudimentary discourse.  Instead I will shed a bit of insight as I know it today.

The goal of radiation therapy as used for a cancer patient is to direct the beams in areas in order to damage the DNA of cells rendering them useless.  Radiation is the third step in the  hopeful eradication of the cancerous tumor that once inhabited my body.  (Step 1 as you may recall was surgery (mastectomy) and Step 2 was four chemotherapy medicines (AC followed by Taxol and targeted therapy Herceptin)).

Normal/healthy cells have an ability to repair the DNA sequences due to a biological mechanism that they normally possess (miracle of life!), whereas cancer cells do not have the ability to repair these mixed up base pairs (remember genetics/biology way back when?)  After all, if the cancer cells did contain these repair mechanisms, they would have fixed the DNA before they went rogue, hence, would never have become what we refer to as cancerous.

Radiation planning is quite intensive.  I have seen the films of my torso in which the planning was based.   A CT scan provided the planning “scape” as I will call it.  The location and size of tumor (including the region where surgeon Dr. Leah Kelly was not able to get a clean margin during tumor removal due to the closeness of the skin layer) dictate where the radiation beams will need to penetrate.  During the planning the team of doctors and physicists determine a custom treatment protocol  that takes into account the vital organs (yeah, team!  thank you for considering my heart and lungs important).

As mentioned in a previous post, I lay on the table with my head and arm cradled in the Nicole Nada mold and I am lined up with green laser beams and tattoos in order to be in the exact position every time.  My plan includes 3 different fields (angles direct from above and “tangentials”) and one sliver bordering my right lung gets a special treatment referred to as electrons which act on a level a bit  more superficial (as to not get down as deep as my lung).  Every other day a bolus is placed on my chest for all fields except the electron field.  The bolus is made of a material that has properties equivalent to tissue when irradiated and the purpose is to modify the dose at skin surface and at depth.  In other words, the bolus acts as “pretend tissue” and using it every other day allows the beams to penetrate differently and to a different depth.  It is all part of the planning and each and every little “trick” used during my sessions makes me feel like I am in excellent hands.  The handful of technicians that I see daily are very friendly, interesting, and fortunately have good music taste.  They always offer a warmed blanket which, coupled with my hospital robe, makes me feel like I am at a spa.  (ha ha)

I completed radiation number 12 (out of thirty something) this morning and am heading north to Arcata in moments to be home with my family for the weekend.

Enjoy your weekend, I will certainly enjoy mine!

A Girl and Her Dog

Driving from Arcata a few days back, I turned and saw my bicycle gear and yoga mat propped on the back seat and beyond that my panting dog, and I could not help but to think of my arrival in Arcata 15 years ago.  I was in the Coop parking lot with my little blue CRX loaded with my bike, yoga mat, a whitewater kayak, a beat up old guitar that I could only play a few chords on, and my awesome sidekick, a golden retriever named Vista.   I had gotten a job at the Coop’s bakery counter and was checking on Vista (who traditionally hung in the car in the parking lot) when a customer walked by and said “I love it!  Just a girl and her dog.  This looks like the LIFE!” as he perused the contents of my loaded down car.  For some reason I always remember that and I felt pretty proud of what I was creating for myself.  Some people would not have wanted my life, but I loved it, and at twenty-five I felt like everything was falling into place.  I had found my new town a few months before on a weekend visit to Arcata with raft guide buddies, Mitch and Gray. I fell in love with the beauty and remoteness of the area, the idea of no traffic, no bridge toll, a place I might be able to someday afford to buy a house perhaps.  I had thirty-five dollars to my name when I moved from Marin to Arcata (I had been working/volunteering as a poor, but very happy raft guide for years and was a student at San Francisco State), and my CRX was on the verge of breakdown (leaky oil gasket that resulted in huge billowy clouds of black smoke), but I had found a place to live on the dunes with a trail to the beach, and a super cool roommate, Billie, who is still (lucky dog) a raft guide on the Grand Canyon in the summer.

A few days ago I left my family for six weeks of radiation in Marin.  Just me and my dog, Honu (and bike and yoga mat, but no whitewater boat).    It was truly heart wrenching and after being a blubbering mess from Arcata to Eureka, I pulled myself together and was reminded in a flash that there will be a certain freedom that I can look forward to and embrace while on this journey.  I am heading south this time instead of north, and this time it is only for six/seven weeks, not an unknown or an eternity.   My life is much different now.   I have a loving husband and two beautiful children, and I am a business owner of a cool little business right down the street from that Coop parking lot.   And oh yeah…I had cancer from which I am recovering.  The community that has become mine over these past fifteen years is a huge support in my healing from cancer journey ….local businesses and individuals raising money toward my cause and supporting me emotionally, with meals for my family, kind words, wisdom, etc. So much has come my way and I feel so fortunate to be a part of this community.

Radiation starts in an hour.  I met the machine a few days back.  I have three or four little dot tattoos (permanent, as in forever) on my body that need to be all lined up with lasers and tape measures as I lay on a foam pad that was molded to my head and arm a few weeks ago.  This is how the technicians ensure they radiate the exact same spot every time.  Here is the machine. I laid in it while Mamba music played and I stared above at the coral/fish scene fluorescent light covers.

State-of-the-art Linear Accelerator…the radiation machine.  Also, my “mold” which cradles my head and my right arm in a raised position.

In changing room before radiation dry run. I’ll put this robe on at three p.m. every week day for fifteen minutes or so under the machine, then free to go home.

So, I am terribly sad to not be with my husband and children, but I look forward to the adventure and time I will spend with my sister and her family, and some friends, and my dog.

I was at Cafe Brio one day in the thick of it–tired, starving kids on a sugar crash after an overwhelming birthday party and I heard a woman at the coffee bar talking about how she could not figure out what to do that day because she had already done all of her shopping, folded her laundry, cleaned her whole house, and had no clients that day.  She even had already exercised!  I felt like handing over my kids.  I think of her periodically, and she comes to mind now while I am in Marin because I can be just like her.  Hmmm.  What shall I do today?

I started today with a three hour hike in my favorite Marin watershed…Mount Tamalpias.  Including the Yolanda Trail which I had hiked the day before my mastectomy.  Then, a cool thing happened…I ran into my surgeon (a lovely woman!) on a morning run at the base of the mountain.

Off to radiation number one.  I will let you know how it is going.

In Order to Live Well Today

It’s hard to believe I just finished chemotherapy infusion number 15.  One to go.

Today I returned home from chemotherapy in Marin to my daughter telling me that they lit a peace candle at school for three women and a dog who were hit by a car while on an early morning run.  Later that day I found out that I know one of the women…a vibrant, wonderful woman, a mother, and Montessori school teacher in our community.  She suffered major injuries and is in the hospital along with another of the women.  Sadly, the third woman, a mother of two, a wife, and a lecturer at Humboldt State University was killed.  So tragic that I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.

Since my diagnosis in March, I have been majorly wrapped up (mind, body, and spirit) in my cancer, a disease that is potentially life threatening.  While I try to keep it at bay, I sometimes have the thought that someday the disease could take my life, but for now I am fortunate to be alive, having the gift and honor of being a mom each day and night, even if I am in Marin, saying goodnight to my husband and kids on speaker phone.  Being a mom is clearly the most important part of me, and from what I have heard about the woman who was killed in this tragedy…it was the most important part of her.  Emotions surrounding my cancer have taken second fiddle.  I hear she was the most dedicated and loving of moms and the nicest woman around.  I am so sad for the loss that her family is suffering.  My heart aches and I am reminded to live and love each and every day as if it could be my last.

I watched a video few nights back on curing cancer naturally.   One sentiment that stands out to me from the movie is the following:  Whatever you are doing for your healing (yoga, diet, qi gong, acupuncture, herbs, homeopathic medicine, exercise, prayer, etc)… Don’t do it in order to “not die”…..do it in order to live well today.

I was happy to come across this because lately when I perform my healing regimens in order to “not die” or to “fight for life” it feels desperate or manic a bit.  With an underlying fear to boot.

So, now I come at my healing regimen with more peace and calm.

As the summer wraps up, I certainly have been busy living well each day and feel so blessed and fortunate.

I hope you are living well each day too–with all of the crazy and wonderful things life throws your way.

Epic Mount Tam hike with friends (Phoenix Lake to Stinson Beach).

“Forging” the South Fork of the Smith with Taylor. Her first river crossing!

Fragile

I might seem like I can hack it, but perhaps it would be best if you resisted the urge to tell me the worst possible cancer stories you know. It may mean that I burst into tears the second I get into my car or see my children next, or maybe even that I can barely hold it together while standing there bravely conversing with you, or that it keeps me up late at night when I should be getting my precious cancer-fighting well-being sleep.  Or maybe all of the above.

I may be strong, but I appear stronger than I really am, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone with cancer who does not spend at least a few minutes each day hoping that the cancer does not metastasize, or worrying that his/her children will have to grow up without a parent.

Believe me, I know the realities.   There are tons of stories where the person with cancer is fine….they diligently go through their intensive treatments, they love themselves, their children, husband, and life in all of its awesomeness as much as I do, and they fight for their lives by doing every single thing they possibly can, yet they still die a few years later.  Or less.   I see stories like this online and have read them in books, and have even known a few who had very little time on the planet after being diagnosed.    It is scary business.  I try not to go here or I will fall apart.

There are also tons of survival stories.  People who have beat the odds.  These are the stories I want you to bring me, or none at all.

Also please do not approach the subject of  “well, there is a reason for everything” or “it will turn out how it is meant to”…..I am totally cool with karma and God and the big picture, but I don’t really want to hear about it while I am fighting for life, AND I know for a fact that no children should have to grow up without one of their parents and that the best possible place and role for me is here on the planet with my children until I die of a ripe old age.  And if there is some big picture or karmic reason why I am not supposed to be here, I will fight with and curse at the gods until my last breath that it was not the right thing.  My place is here.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

(No need to comment here or on my fb about people not thinking/being cold-hearted—-that is not what I am looking for.  I really think that these people just don’t know, so I am educating).

 

 

 

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