I’ve done things differently than most cancer patients. My Oncologist says she’s only had one other patient who was as calm and certain as I am. From the beginning, January 9, 2011, I have been certain of only one thing, I have no interest in Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy treatment for my triple negative Invasive Carcinoma. I did have two lumpectomies, the first biopsy showed there was still cancer on the bottom margin and the other margins were not acceptably wide, so I had a second lumpectomy and I allowed a single lymph node to be taken at that time.
As I joked to my surgeon, I am more afraid of the lymphedema than the cancer. Likely, that’s because I have lived with a chronic, debilitating pain syndrome since an auto accident when I was three months old. The quality of my life with two chronic pain conditions, as well as painful arthritic joints was not an acceptable goal for me. The only person who every really understood my reasons was a nurse with MS.
Living through the End
July 16, 2014
The lymph node was strongly positive, so I have always known that cancer cells were circulating in my blood and lymph systems. Without Chemo and Radiation, both doctors were sure my cancer would return in six months. I gathered all the details of both treatments, listened carefully to all the statistics but nothing shook my feeling of the rightness of staying away from the standard of treatment. I fully support anyone else who makes a different decision. We are each a unique case.
“So what will you do now?” asked my Oncologist after hearing my determination. I surprised myself when I said firmly, “I’m going home and research how to support and improve my already challenged immune system—supplements, diet, whatever it takes.” If I’d thought at that moment about the high financial cost of that decision, I might have wavered. I’m glad I didn’t, because the past three years and five months have been worth every penny I’ve paid for my alternative protocol, almost 25% of my monthly income.
I believe the universe is benevolent and will supply what I need when that is the right outcome for me. This is why, once I had made my decision, before 24 hours was up, I had found a book that became my textbook for the anticancer lifestyle that I lived to put my cancer into remission. That book is Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber MD PhD, a brain researcher who lived 18 years with reoccurring brain cancer by supporting his standard treat-ment with the lifestyle in his book. My choice was to use the lifestyle on its own, I never thought I was “curing” my cancer, or even that I would achieve remission, but I did believe that I could buy time and an acceptable quality of life. I set a goal for 2-4 years of relatively normal (for me) life. I’m at three years and five months and last Monday my Oncologist said, without benefit of staging information, that I might live two years. She also signed me up for Hospice, acknowledging that it might be a tad early but would give me in-home-support until I can get into the Assisted Living facility. The past few years have been the best since my forties.
It’s six AM and I’m free, for a little while, from the roaring electric fans and a/c unit required to offset the heat wave we’ve been having in SW Idaho. I open the blinds and see a healthy breeze blowing the weeping birch and the tulip poplar near my front door. With the still slanted sunlight shining mostly on the tree tops, the rippling and swirling leaves seem to sparkle and twinkle in the clear morning light. I open the front door and slide up the storm window, letting more air flow into my apartment. I smell the honeysuckle across the walk in my neighbor’s yard. This year we have song birds and a pair of mourning doves living in the many trees on the property of this senior community. They have been singing up the sun for almost two hours now, beginning before first light. Other years we have had only crows here so the songbirds are a treat.
I’m going to miss the openness of my little one bedroom apartment and our park-like grounds. I’ll miss the lovely cross ventilation that changes the air in my space in less than fifteen minutes. I love our constant breezes, except when they blow off the feed lots or the sugar factory. Or when they blow up a storm from the west and then blow it through before we get the rain.
This is an agricultural area, unfortunately very industrialized. We do however have a surprising contingency of organic farmers who sell from their farms or from the Farmer’s Market on the college campus annex area. Very fresh veggies and fruits without pesticide or fertilizer chemicals are available clear into the fall. I’ll never go there again, but a family member can go and bring back the things I love to eat, as long as I am interested in eating.
I love this beautiful world: sky, water, and earth. The breathless beauty of nature, space, and even time seems so amazing to me right now. I expected to be sad because I’ve always loved this earth life, my family and friends, my pets, my creativity. But I am not sad, I’m grateful for the knowledge that the days ahead are a gift in which I can drink in the beauty and savor the treasures of this life—my life. I told my second son yesterday during his phone call that I want a Celebration of Life but I want to attend. I want it while I can savor the pleasure of their company and while I can say “I love you” right to them and seal it with a hug.
When this joy fades at the end, it’s my intention to stop eating and drinking and to drift away on the ever present Idaho breeze. By then, I will be looking forward to the next adventure. It will be different than anything I’ve ever imagined, I suppose, and that seems fitting to me.
Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7:30-8:30 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.