This week I made it to the two-year mark cancer-free and healthy and achieved a major milestone: seven months off the drugs (Herceptin and Tykerb) with no recurrence. My immune system is holding its own. When I sat in my oncologist’s office, he was so overjoyed and called me a “miracle.”
But the one question no doctor has ever asked me is, “How did you do it?” And that’s the most important question of all because I believe if we ever really asked every person who has beat cancer why they believed they were able to beat it, that we would come up with a body of data that would be very useful indeed.
I’ve often said in this blog that I don’t have all the answers, that getting well and staying well has a lot to do with the soul and psychological makeup and life force of every individual. But I also believe we do have an obligation to tell our stories to one another, to share what we’ve learned. Stories are powerful.
When my oncologist said, “You’re a miracle,” I answered, “I know. Someone has to be a miracle. Someone has to be able to say, ‘Look at me. If I can make it, there’s hope for you too.’” But I also told him “I work on my health every single day of my life, consciously.” And I think that has made all the difference between life and death for me.
So at this milestone of my recovery, I’d like to stop for a moment and share what I’ve learned in the hopes that it will be of value to someone else, help someone else to keep on living this wonderful life we’ve been given, so precious and amazing.
I take supplements that studies have shown strengthen the immune system. I don’t take every single one of them every day, but I take them all regularly. Aside from antioxidants and your normal list of vitamins, this list includes some things that have been studied and proven to be powerful cancer fighters and immune-system boosters:
- Natural Factors Zymactive Proteolytic Enzymes – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009KPJIO/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i01
- Nature’s Way Sambucus Immune Syrup with propolis ad Echinacea I the blend – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0001C0EA8/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00
- Durham’s Queen’s Delight with royal jelly, propolis, and bee pollen (after reading that studies have shown that bee keepers never get cancer or any other serious diseases) – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003ALLHLM/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i01
- Mannetch’s Ambrotose, which is a glyconutritional dietary supplement, in brief, a product that helps your cells communicate well with one another and metabolize well – http://us.mannatech.com/products/health/product-ambrotose-complex.html. The best price I’ve found for this product is on Ebay – http://www.ebay.com/itm/The-Original-Mannatech-Ambrotose-Complex-Glyconutrient-Immune-Powder-100g-3-5oz-/180869470032?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a1ca91750
Visualization and Meditation
Another practice I follow every day is visualization and listening to hypnotherapy tapes. My wonderful friend Larry Garrett, a master hypnotherapist whom I met when I had the privilege of editing his book about Iraq Healing the Enemy, has made me several custom hypnotherapy tapes. His healing words softly put me to sleep anytime I am troubled or fearful. His CDs have names like “Listen to Your Body,” “Discouragement,” and “Concerns for Health.” I awaken with a peaceful mind and an untroubled heart.
Another amazing CD is “Healthy Immune System” by Belleruth Naperstek – http://www.healthjourneys.com/product_detail.aspx?id=483. The first part of this CD teaches you about the parts of your immune system and helps you to visualize each part as strong and effective, interacting with all the other parts. The second half is comprised of 17 minutes of powerful affirmations about health, life purpose, and wellbeing. It gives you a tremendous emotional lift and sense of safety and an easy mind.
My own personal daily visualization involves asking the archangel Zadkiel to send trillions of tiny, powerful skilled angel physician warriors into my body. I instruct these little warriors to look at every cell in my body. If there are any cancer cells or pre-cancerous cells, I ask them to please kill them immediately and safely dispose of them. Lately, I’ve also been visualizing these angel physician warriors moving through my energy bodies. I don’t know what these energetic bodies are called, but we aren’t just physical beings. I ask them to fix any tears in these bodies, remove any negative energies or energies that do not belong to me, and to cleanse and balance the functioning of these spiritual/energy bodies.
Visualization, meditation, and hypnotherapy are powerful tools for health because fear will kill you long before a disease can, and true health begins in the mind, in our belief systems. If we fill ourselves with dread and paralyzing fear, belief that we are powerless to help ourselves, it will be hard to keep going. I’d much rather live in gratitude, with courage, seeing myself as healthy, telling myself that I have a right to love my life, to want to stay on this beautiful earth and fulfill my life’s purpose.
The Most Important Lesson I Learned This Time Around
Since so much was at stake this time, since 6 months off drugs with no recurrence of cancer is a statistical milestone for a person who was stage 4, I went through a period of time before my scans when I was terrified. I always feel mortally afraid at some point. I’ve come to accept that it’s normal and to consciously work to move through the fear and get to some kind of place and mindset where I’ve made peace with myself and gotten the fear under control. It takes a lot of work with the mind and the heart, a lot of reminding myself of what I’ve learned over that last two years and in my life, but I keep at it. I also ask others to pray for me, and that helps most of all because we can’t and were never meant to be alone in these kinds of situations. For God’s sake, ask for help if you need it!!!
There were some real reasons for my fear in the weeks before this important scan. Over the last two and a half months I have been through an unbelievably stressful time in my life. I finished up the stress of grading huge papers for my two classes at UCI and turning in my grades for the Winter term. That alone makes me feel like I want to check myself into a hospital or a mental ward, whichever is closest. But instead of having a spring break, I had to finish putting together a 250-page portfolio of recommendations from clients, educators, and students; lesson plans and handouts and sample for every class I’ve taught over the last six years; work histories, community service, statements about my philosophy of teaching, etc.; and teaching evaluations by people in my department. That took me weeks, and the final stretch was excruciating—late nights in hopes that I can win my three-year tenure. Because if all five levels of committees don’t approve my application, I’m out of a job. Hey, no pressure!!
The cherry on the top of the ice cream sundae was that my department head asked me to teach two sections of a course I’d never taught before, which is made up of writing-challenged students, ESL students, and various other levels of non-Native English speakers. I have absolutely NO experience teaching ESL and this has been a challenge for me.
All of this made me clumsy and distracted. I walked into a chair in my bedroom, broke two toes, and limped around for a week and a half. Then a good friend of mine accidentally closed the car door on my fingers and my entire life flashed before my eyes. I poured hot water from a tea kettle onto my hand instead of into my tea cup. And finally, I came down with a chest and sinus infection form which I’m still recovering.
It’s Not Stress that Makes Us Sick
I’ve been working with the theory that one of the main causes of cancer is tremendous stress. Both times that I’ve gotten sick, I was under some of the worst stress of my life. So, my goal for the last two years since I beat stage 4 cancer has been “Don’t let stress get hold of your life. When it rises to a certain level, keep it under control.”
So, naturally, as the time for my CT scan, bone scan, and visit with my oncologist drew near, I convinced myself that I was doomed. With all this stress, heck, I probably had cancer again.
However, instead of freezing up and rolling into a little paralyzed ball, I asked myself some questions to see if I could possibly see my situation from a different perspective that did not include getting cancer again. I’ve been taught to examine my emotional states when they are in fluctuation from one extreme to another and ask myself the questions, “What is different this time? How did I get from no fear to fear that I’m sick again?”
When I began to really think about it, I realized that within three years of my recovery from cancer in 2004 I lost my mother to a terrible medical accident and my father to cancer, and I stayed healthy. So my next question was, “Are there different kinds of stress?”
Suddenly I saw a new pattern. I had one of those “Aha moments” and everything shifted. I realized that both times I’d gotten cancer, I was in a period where I felt absolutely worthless and powerless. A man I loved dearly broke my heart and I literally wanted to die. Moonbeam, the best cat I’d ever known and loved, had died of cancer and there was nothing I could do for her. I just had to watch her fade away. A teaching job I’d worked hard to keep by being “super teacher,” the one who volunteered for everything and did everything her department asked of her. Then just like that I was axed by the huge CA state educational budget cuts—and no one in my department came to my defense or stood up for me. What, I asked myself, was the point if you do your absolute best, get letters from the head of your department because of your excellence, and they still show you the door?
Suddenly, it all made sense. I realized that stress was not the enemy, self-hatred and feelings of failure and worthlessness are the enemy.
I contacted all my friends for prayer and started taking extra good and loving care of myself. The day before my tests, a feeling of peace and absolute certainty that I was all right descended. This time all my scans came back not only normal, but “poster-child super normal” and my oncologist said, “You’re a miracle.”
The Most Important Thing We Can Do in Life is What We Love Best
When I shared this new idea with my dear and wise friend Isabelle, she told me an amazing story she’d heard of a woman who was dying of lymphoma. This woman had cancer everywhere and was in the last stages of the disease. Her doctors sent her home to die. And she did die. However, when she passed over, she was given the clear message that the most important thing we are supposed to do in this life is to be true to our own natures, to follow our bliss; to do not what we think it is our duty to do or what other people think will make us happy and successful, but what we truly love and want to do with all our hearts. After the angels showed her this, they gave her a choice. She could either continue on with the death process or she come back to life and share this information with others.
This woman chose to come back. And as soon as she did, her cancer went into rapid remission. When she started talking about her story and putting it out into the world, she was discovered by a prominent writer who became her champion and told her that she had to write her story and that he would help her. She went on to write a best seller about her experience.
Two years ago when I was first diagnosed as stage 4, I wrote about the big things I was starting to learn. One of my most important realizations was that it is not enough to like ourselves. We must be totally, wildly, madly in love with ourselves and our precious, miraculous lives.
I am coming to believe that self-love is the first step toward real and permanent healing. From that place, when our hearts are full, we are truly free to love others in a way that is healing to them as well. I believe a heart filled with love for self and others elevates the body to a new place of strength and joy, recharging the life force. That’s the place from where I want to live each day. Fear is one of the greatest wastes of our energy and our life force. Choose joy.