Two heads are not always better than one

As most of you know, I am not pursuing a conventional treatment plan to deal with the breast cancer.  I believe chemotherapy and radiation to be the most counter-intuitive “treatments” imaginable.  That being said, I have promised those who worry about me that I will keep my ears open and at least hear what both sides have to say.

One might say that having access to more than one strategy would be beneficial.  After all, both naturopathy and western medicine study cancer and advocate for treatments they tote to be helpful.  When neither side offers a guaranteed cure though, what one is actually left with is a whole lot of questions.

Two heads are not always better than one.

I knew going into this journey, being open to both sides would be harder than going completely natural, and definitely more challenging than going the popular, western route, so I shouldn’t be surprised.  What surprises me the most in this contrast of two methodologies is the way I feel in the midst of each.

When I first got diagnosed, I was very accepting and positive.  I was thinking with my naturalistic brain and feeling with my heart, and I was not scared.  As soon I saw the surgeon, that positivity and courage was zapped.  I don’t blame him.  It’s not his fault.  It goes way deeper than that.  As soon as I walk into the medical offices, the lab, or the hospital, the same thing happens.  In fact, it stirs in me before I even get there.  I feel a little bit nauseous, totally unsure of myself, and very unsafe.  I go through the motions because like I said, I’ve committed to others that I will hear both sides.

In between these medical appointments, I go to my naturopath, Dr. Matt Pyatt, twice a week for IV vitamin C treatments and mistletoe therapy (no that doesn’t mean a make-out session!)  In these in-between times, I feel great.  I feel empowered and stress-free.  I feel healthy and happy.  I am welcomed at the office on a first name basis, all of my questions get answered promptly, and most importantly, I am treated like an individual, not just another patient.  The camaraderie that exists in the IV room among patients is amazing and inspiring.

 

It was this realization today that got me thinking…  being in both worlds is not really working for me.  

I believe that stress is a huge player in the cancer game and am doing my best to rid it from my life while I build myself back up and heal.  Through things like researching, meditating, and following my intuition, I am living life presently and positively.  I feel good, like its working, as long as I don’t have any medical appointments.  I’m not sure what exactly this means for me but the realization and awareness of something that isn’t working is always the first step.

Have you ever been pulled in two directions and not known which way to go?  Did you follow your intuition?

 

How to not fall off the wagon… as much

This post is inspired by my cousin Mar, who commented today about having fallen off of her health commitment.  As I began to reply to her, I realized I had way to much to share than to simply reply.

Personally, I’m finding the food thing easy for me right now (probably because for my survival I have little choice in the matter).  The struggle I have is with keeping motivated with my mission here.  I love posting a blog, reading replies, and responding, but I struggle to actually sit down and write daily (which is my goal).  I’m just going to keep going though.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind about falling off, as well as few pointers to help keep you on track!

Falling off is:

  • totally natural, if not expected.  Us humans are not creatures that readily change our ways.  So if you find it difficult to maintain a new lifestyle change then know that you are not alone!
  • not a big deal unless you make it one.  Sometimes one makes a poor decision that is not in line with his or her commitment.  It’s gonna happen!  Don’t let the whole day, week, or month be ruined by it.  Your next decision has just as much power as the last.  In fact it has more power because if the last decision was poor, it has no possibility of being great anymore.  Your next decision has all the possibility in the world to be great, you choose!  

I fall off of my commitments all the time.  I know this is hard to believe because I am just so amazing right?  Why thank you.  Well I do!   Some of the things I have found useful in keeping my commitments in check are:

  • whiteboardI have a white board on my fridge (thanks to Dave).  It’s pretty simple.  A little messy.
  •   The point is it is in a spot that I frequent throughout the day.  So, every time I go to the fridge, I see my possibilities and my commitments, reminding me to stay on!
  • before I go to sleep, I create a schedule for the next day.  Worthy of note, I do not do this when I have fallen off.  It is one of the things that keeps me focused and on track.  When I stop doing this, falling off is usually not far behind.  The benefit of the schedule is two-fold.  First of all I get all that stuff out of my head, making sleep come easier (like I need any help with that).  Secondly, I have a guidebook to look at throughout my day.
  • I put more than just appointments in the calendar.  If I want to walk outside every day, it’s gonna need to be in my calendar.  Besides, doesn’t putting something in there make it more of a commitment for you?  It does for me.  Most things in my
    calendar get done.  Also, all things new to my calendar (in that it is an activity that I am not accustomed to doing already), get an alarm.  This is because I know I will need to be reminded!

Perhaps these pointers are elementary to you, but do you actually do them?  I know I have heard this all before.  Theact of typing it all out has served as a reminder to continue to follow through for myself.  What things do you do to keep committed to yourself?  Please share below as I can use all the pointers I can get!

There is sadness here

Don’t get me wrong by the title.  I am doing really well since surgery #2, as I’ve mentioned to several of you recently.  It’s true.  This surgery was WAY easier than the first.  I guess because they didn’t remove lymph nodes and I therefore did not need a drain.  The range of motion in my left arm was supremely disabled after surgery #1, so much so that I could hardly change my shirt or brush my hair.  Day by day, my range of motion got better and coming out of surgery #2, I am happy to report it was not negatively affected at all.

So, recovery then was way faster.  I was even able to eat at the hospital before being discharged.  I only took pain killers for maybe 3 days and now (10 days later) am pretty much back to normal.

So why the sadness then, you ask?

Well, it has come up in meditation.  The first time I noticed it, a couple days before surgery #2, I was doing a lying meditation in bed.  I was focusing on my breath and of course frequently drifting off into thought (meditation takes practice and constant reminders to come back to focus).  As I delved into a total body scan, whereby the goal was to attend to the whole body and sense which spots or areas were troubled or tight or uncomfortable, my heart stood out.

My heart hurt.

It felt heavy and sad.  It was kind of weird because I don’t typically feel sad,  at least not for myself.  Even when I was diagnosed, I wasn’t sad for me, and only really got upset when I spoke with others about it.  I can feel others’ sadness but not usually my own.  I was not upset about the feeling and didn’t cry.  I simply stayed with it for a few minutes before moving onto another ache.  I accepted it completely.

Of course there’s sadness here. DUH!

I noticed it again just prior to being wheeled into surgery #2.  I was told after surgery #1 that how one feels going into surgery is typically how one feels coming out.  If that feeling is anxiety then one might wake up screaming.  If it is calm though, one would likely wake up calm.  Remembering that, I thought that it would be a good time to practice the mindfulness skills I’ve been learning and practicing in group.

My initial instinct was to do another lying meditation and just try to calm my whole body, however, as soon as I relaxed, the sadness was profound.  I even started crying.  Then I started to freak out a bit because I was thinking, “NO… I cant be upset when I go into surgery or I’ll wake up upset!”  Okay, so I was a bit of a wreck.

So, I switched to a “mini”.  Mini’s are something we learned the day before surgery in group and involve breathing in a particular way (turns out there are several ways to meditate).  There are a few different ways to do a mini that I wont go into here, but the one I chose to practice in those moments before surgery, was a square mini.

The square mini includes 4 parts of breath, all equal in length (like a square).  Breathe in for 3 seconds, pause for 3 seconds, breathe out for 3 seconds, pause for 3 seconds.  Repeat.  In group, I initially found the pauses, especially after the out-breathe, very difficult but surgery day, it worked perfectly.  It managed to calm me right down and to (miraculously) keep me solely focused on breathe for the good part of 2 or 3 minutes!  I was calm going in and calmer than usual coming out.  Success.

Finally, this past Wednesday, I shared all of this at group.  The doctor who leads our group said that often when people notice sadness, their initial reaction is to push it away as it is an unwanted or unpleasant feeling.

“Don’t push it away”, he said.  “I understand why you did pre-surgery but I encourage you to sit with it next time you notice it.  Be with it.  Notice how it feels physically in your body.  If sadness is there, let it be there and get to know it.” (this is loosely quoted from memory).

He also warned that people often say, “I’m sad.”  This is an inaccurate statement though because they are not sad, rather they are many things (I am a wife, mother, sister, daughter etc).  By labelling oneself as “sad”, one is almost encouraging the feeling to be all consuming.  It is more accurate and beneficial to say, “Oh, sadness is there.  There it is.  I know that feeling,” and accept sadness as a feeling one is experiencing rather than a label of who one is.

Sadness is here somewhere and my mission this week in meditation (“safe” meditation at home alone) is to welcome it and get to know it better.  The reason I say “safe” is because I know this will require time alone for me to fully embrace.

Do you push sadness away or have you gotten to know your sadness?

The power of a blog… the power of you!

This morning, prior to surgery # 2, I finally decided to share this blog that I have been working on since my diagnosis.  It was a difficult decision, accompanied with mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness.

Will people like it?

Why is my story so important?

Is it perfect enough yet?

On Facebook I asked friends to read it and leave comments.  The response was overwhelming.  In just one day, over 250 people visited this site with almost 1000 views of the various posts!  Some of you even left comments (woohoo and thank you).  The greatest thing is that a couple of you shared this blog with your friends.

Now this is where the power lies.  I don’t know some of you and when you share it with even more people that I don’t know, the potential reach of the blog is immeasurable and unpredictable.

The proof of this is already occurring.  This morning my friend Fawna, whom I’ve written about before, shared this blog with her Facebook community.  Several of her friends commented on it.  One of her friends, whom I do not know, posted this:

“Whenever I need a mental check in, I check out Fawna Bews FB page and found this amazing blog. It’s very true, our health is so important. If I look at the onset of my current viral situation I am reminded here that I will heal and need to take my health and wellness into my own hands moving forward too. I really have not been doing this as best as I could be these days, letting career and life’s stresses run me down & choosing quick, unhealthy foods to comfort me at night to turn the day off. So, today I’m very thankful I’ve been able to read these words with my burning eyeballs and start to visualize my recovery and create new living habits! It’s a process but I’m very very hopeful I can do it. Well her words meant alot to me today. I’m bed rested right now but it is not as serious as her. If she can find positives, develop goals and be at peace with the recovery process then I definitely can!”

Has this blog inspired you yet?  Perhaps it will inspire someone you love too.  Please share!

Surgery #2 and unanswered questions

It is 8:30 am as I drink a final glass of water before surgery #2 and reflect upon the last month and a half.

  • I got the breast cancer diagnosis on January 7, 2013.
  • Had lumpectomy on January 29, 2013.
  • Met my naturopathic oncologist, Dr. Matt Pyatt, on February 5, 2013.
  • Found out on February 11, 2013 that the surgeon did not take enough out and I would require a second surgery.  Also found out that the cancer in my body responds to hormones.
  • Began a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Group on February 13, 2013.
  • Had my first IV vitamin C therapy on February 14, 2013.

It was at the MBSR group that I really began to reflect.  Another lady there, whom I happened to sit beside is dealing with breast cancer for the second time.  She went on to tell me how she refused chemotherapy and radiation the first time and will again.  I immediately felt connected to her.  She then went on to ask me about my treatment plan and that is when I realized I don’t even have one yet.

I don’t have a treatment plan!  

Reflecting now, I am wondering a whole lot of things.

If this cancer is hormone receptive then why have I not yet been started on hormone therapy?

More importantly, why have I not yet been referred to an oncologist?

Why have I not been hooked up to the resources that everyone else has?

As you probably know, I am looking at every alternative to chemotherapy and radiation that I can.  That being said, I do want to hear the oncologists out.  I plan to know the benefits, success rates, and downfalls of every treatment and make a decision from there.  The problem is, I still don’t have access to the information!

So today, right now, I am preparing myself to go to the hospital for surgery #2 and I have a couple of goals.

  1. Get it all!  Well I guess this is my goal for the surgeon not me, but still important!
  2. Stay calm and positive.
  3. Get my questions answered.

Overall, I am feeling very positive about things.  I am confident that today will go well.  Your support, prayers, love, and thoughts mean the world to me.  Please keep it coming!

 

Ignorance is not bliss

When I was actively working on Bundles of Energy and diligently spreading the word of whole food and amazing health, I regularly came across the “ignorance is bliss” attitude.  You know the type.  In fact, I imagine you have probably played that card yourself at least once or twice… come on admit it!

My own Facebook page is littered with messages about well being, yet all of last year, I ignored them.  I knew better for sure… WAY better!  I let the busyness and stress of life get in the way of my own well being.

And here we are.

A good friend of mine told me not to take on guilt about anything as Cancer can happen to anyone at anytime and it’s not my fault.  I get and appreciate where she is coming from and I also know I contributed to where I am at right now.

Last year I had the schedule of probably three people on my plate.  I went from being a stay at home mom for seven years to working full time in a high stress job, taking on my Masters degree in Counselling Psychology full time, and of course raising my kids full time too.  Not to mention, for a while there I was also working 15 hours a week at their school.  As you can probably imagine, making dinner was not a priority.  We ate out a lot.  WAY too much.

I know that stress and food play a huge part in the manifestation of cancer and all illness.  I have learned many more things about cancer since this journey began as well.  Am I holding onto guilt about it?  No.  I learned a long time ago to not have any regrets.  Everything happens for a reason.

When I was diagnosed on January 7, 2013, I looked at it as an opportunity.  I have had dips in attitude along the way, particularly when I was in a lot of pain post surgery, however, I stand by that initial sentiment.  Already, friends and friends-of-friends have taken on something healthier in their life because of my request on Facebook on January 27, 2013.

My point is, don’t ignore your health.

You have one body for your whole life.  Medicine has come a long way since the cave man days but it would be unwise and neglectful to depend on it as your plan A.

Plan A should always be to eat well and be well, in body and spirit.

What will you do to take better care of you?  Today is day one.

Angels – Part 1

I need to introduce Fawna as she is a key figure in my story.  She is one of my people.  She is my angel.

Rewind a few years.  Well, 6 1/2 years ago, June 2006, to be specific.

That is when my husband and I decided to move our small family away from the bustling city of Calgary, AB and out to the country.   More specifically to the little village of Longview, AB.  I believe our family of five (at the time) increased the village’s population to a whopping 306!  It was a bit of a culture shock to say the least.  Add to that the fact that we knew no one and everyone else in Longview had grown up there and were surrounded by large, supportive families… Oh yeah, and less than a month in, we got pregnant!  Make that population 307!

Anyway, we did manage to make a few friends right from the start.  D and M lived right across the street and had a son the same age as Grace, so naturally we hit it off.  They invited us to their pig roast at the end of the summer.  I know right?  Pig roast… what is that?  Essentially it was a large gathering of friends eating food, having drinks, and socializing.  In Calgary we call this a barbeque.

It was at this pig roast that I was introduced to Fawna.  Initially we were introduced because we were both pregnant and had kids at the Longview School.  In fact, our friendship went on as such for a few years.  We co-chaired the parent council together, exchanged childcare once in a while, and Fawna even invited me into the ladies group that she and her friends had once a month.

I cant really pinpont when our relationship blossomed beyond that.  It could have been the many teas we had while discussing the care of youth at risk but probably it really began the day I went to her ranch for a vision board workshop.

I remember really not wanting to go.  I had just finished two long days of a seminar in Calgary in the midst of winter snow storms and horrid traffic.  I was exhausted and yet compelled to go anyway.  I wore my most comfortable sweats and headed west.

Fawna began the day with a chakra meditation.  At the time, I was fairly new to the experience of meditation and still did know that I almost always cry when I meditate.

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I don’t remember the specifics of what came to me in that meditation but I do remember that I stepped over into the world of “woo” that day.  Woo is my word to define everything spiritual and related to energy.   I shared with the group how scared I felt to accept woo into my being.  I was worried my husband would love this newfound wisdom about me.  I was ashamed at the grief I had given my mom about her woo-ness for so many years.

What I got from the group that day was, of course, complete acceptance.   And from my husband, also complete acceptance.

When I was trying to relay the experience to my friend Michelle, she said,

She’s your angel.  Fawna is your angel.

Michelle’s statement shocked me at first and settled quickly.  It is true.  Fawna is my angel.  She is an angel to many.  Anyone who meets her is bound to feel safe, comfortable, and protected in her presence.  She has that essence about her.  She is compassion.  She is my angel.

Do angels appear as friends or loved ones in your life?