Much of what I've read or seen with regards to fighting cancer on your own revolves around taking care of your body. Nutritionally, spiritually, mentally. We all know this, but it takes effort. I'm finally ready. No more excuses. I'm home, my guests have departed, my financial aid forms have been submitted, and the brain fog has lifted somewhat. Let's get this party started...
So begins a new chapter since my diagnosis. The quest to gather the information that speaks to me. To uncover treatments that resonate with me. To unravel the mystery that lies within me. To knock this tumor right out of me! Just this last week has brought much inspiration:
First I stumbled upon Outsmart Your Cancer, by Tanya Harter Pierce, in a thrift store. It has already proven to be a comprehensive resource for alternative and non-toxic cancer cures, as much of what I've found via Google ends up being covered in this book.
I finally got around to watching The Beautiful Truth, a documentary following the story of a 15 year-old boy, Garrett, who did a school project on nutrition as a major factor in preventing and curing disease, even cancer. His parents own a farm that rehabs orphaned or injured wildlife and he always researched proper diets for the animals they were taking care of. All of his research stressed the importance of a proper, natural diets for the animals. So he began to wonder why you never heard any such thing with regards to humans. So he began digging, and oh, what a tangled web he uncovered! The movie provided much food for thought, even if it did sensationalize much of the information. Discussion of that very flaw with Boyfriend did allow me to declare, "Isn't the benefit of being inspired to learn more worth getting past the presentation?" He agreed.
Then came Crazy Sexy Cancer, part two in my "Cancer-Movie-Night" series. A documentary by actress Kris Carr, who turned the camera on herself when she was diagnosed with a rare, terminal form of cancer, was a DELIGHT, if a movie about cancer could ever be such a thing. Her positive attitude, often turning to raw sadness, grief, overwhelm, and more, really hit the nail with what I feel on a regular basis. But I've been at this for TWO MONTHS. The movie chronicled four years of highs and lows during her journey with cancer. She met other cancer patients going through their chosen treatment paths, all with varied backgrounds, family lives and outcomes. She spent the four years exploring every option, from diet to acupuncture to yoga to laugh therapy to reiki to spiritual practice. The movie ended positively, with her cancer not giving her any outward symptoms and her doctor declaring the cancer stable enough that she need not see him or get another MRI scan for a full 12 months. It was a powerful message for me - never give up, never stop exploring all your options. Some of my favorite lines (paraphrased):
"It's all in our heads, we all have cancer of the mind."
"I feel like Alice in Cancerland."
"Fuck cancer." (I want one of the hats from the movie!)
"What are you, one of those guys who likes cancer chicks?"
I'm definitely ordering Kris Carr's book (along with a slew of others) tomorrow. Can't wait!
I was also inspired enough to purchase Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer today, along with about 53 pounds of organic fruits and veggies. That's right, I'll be kicking my tumor's ass with knowledge and juice. Let the juicing begin!
I spent a few hours yesterday at the Santa Barbara Zoo and it got me thinking. The purpose of my zoo visit was to see California Condor display, and boy, did I ever feel like one lucky bird-nerd to get to see and learn about those guys. The four young adult condors seemed happy playing, hanging out and occasionally, flying around their pen.
But many of the animals were in their pens or cages alone, sometimes pacing or appearing distressed or bored. The red-tailed hawks were tethered to their perches across the cage from one another. The Asian elephant seemed sad and lonely. Same with the gorilla. And the big cats.
Just what is the quality of life of all of these animals? Of course there's the argument that if they weren't in the zoo, they would be dead. I know, like WILD animals or something. Survival of the fittest. And I do understand that that many of the wild animals were brought to the zoo or captivity because they'd been orphaned or injured, and were "saved" by humans to live out their existence peacefully and safely in the zoo, as "rehabilitated wildlife".
Is there such a thing? I struggled to see any shred of happiness or dignity in the eyes of the two bald eagles perching on the bottom of their cages, wings too damaged to fly. The purpose of such a bird's existence is to hunt, find a mate, and soar. With the clouds. These animals are being kept alive, even made to suffer, because their species is endangered.
Here we are, at my point. Humans have a fascinating attachment to LIFE, don't they? We spend all of our existence clutching to it, existence itself, our sole purpose in life being to STAY alive. Really? I'd like to think that the whole purpose of my life is to be happy, to learn and to live my life to the fullest extent possible. To soar. Not to merely exist in this body, on this planet. The thing I am most afraid of is not dying, but suffering, and being unable to do anything about it for myself.
Then I got this in my email inbox this morning:
My name is Amy Kaufmann. My husband and I own and operate OrthoPets. We make custom made Orthotics and Prosthetics for Animals. We like to take new charity cases every few months. Our latest case we took on was Andre. Andre is from Alaska, and last March, Andre was caught in a snare (trap) in Alaska. In order for him to survive, he chewed off his own front and back paw. He was nursed back to health by the Alaskan Dog and Puppy Rescue. This rescue contacted us a year ago to see if we could make him a set of prosthetics. Andre came to Denver in April and is doing great with his new prosthetics. Now, we are just trying to find him a home. He is a needy dog, and needs to be around someone that has alot of time on their hands. He has been living with me (my husband, 2 year old son, and 2 Italian Greyhounds). He has also spent time with two of my employees. They both have dogs and kids at their house, and he has done great. He spends his days at our clinic, where we have owners and dogs coming in and out. For the most part, he does very well. He does have a BIG bark, but we have never experienced any signs of aggression. My 8 pound IG bosses him around! He does have some issues, and I would be happy to go over them with you. I know that every dog has their [sic] own issues!
We have tried to place in a [sic] three different homes, and so far, we do not have a match. I am now writing to see if maybe any of you might have any leads for us or contacts. We just can not keep him any longer. We like to take on cases like this, and help out as many dogs as we can, but because Andre has been with us for so long, and we have been paying all his expenses (over $4000), we want to be able to help other dogs, not just Andre. The Alaskan rescue does not want him to come back because there is so much snow in Alaska, which would be hard for a dog with two prosthetics to get around. Please let me know if you might have any leads. We are in touch with the Denver Dumb Friend's league, who is willing to take him in as a special needs dog, and help with adoption as well.
Oh, boy does this open up a can of worms with me. Obviously the dog has some kind of will to live, to have chewed off his own feet to save the rest of himself and stay in his body, but his implied neuroses make him a whole other special needs case altogether. If you'd like to help, please contact Amy through the OrthoPets website.
My friend Jenny often quotes this line from the book The Little Prince - "We are responsible forever, for what we have tamed." This brings me back to our pets. Responsibility has nothing to do with keeping your pet alive. It means providing your pet with a quality of life. All creatures deserve that. Plant or animal. Wild animals (normally) get to choose, domesticated animals are dependent upon humans. So don't just water your plants, admire them. And don't just feed your cat, spend time with her. Don't just provide your dog with "the best medical care", try to understand what he would really choose, if he had his own voice in the matter. Before you write me off as wackadoo, I don't mean to say that you have to talk to a psychic about whether Rover wants a purple bandaid or a green one. Trust that you know your pet well enough, and really think about what it would be like to be in his paws. Be his voice. And remember that he loves you, too.
This is a topic I have have given much thought, with my own cats and horses. Several years ago, my old lesson horse Reggie colicked so severely that I had to take him to a large animal hospital for more comprehensive treatment. He ended up staying at the hospital for three days, for observation, fluids and treatment. Upon his arrival, the veterinarian asked me, "Is he a surgical candidate?"
That horse is worth his weight in GOLD. I could never replace him as far as my riding program was concerned, but even more importantly, as my teacher and friend. But the chances of a full recovery for intestinal surgery for an equine of any age is only about 50%. Reggie was twenty-four years old. I couldn't put him through that. And he knew it.
I replied, "No," knowing full well that the entire hospital staff was judging me for not agonizing over what would appear to be a cold, heartless answer.
He recovered, the incident inspired a much needed dietary change, and he is still with us today, at the ripe old age of twenty-nine. In fact, I half expect him to outlive me. Lucky for me, But it's not really about me, is it?
So Andre the famous two-legged dog has been rescued, flown from Alaska to Denver, rehabilitated, fitted with prosthetics, and had three homes willing to adopt him. But they didn't work out. The media and animal advocate groups are making a point of out of the fact that pets are getting caught in illegal snares and traps meant for wild animals with his story. Countless dollars have been spent, much time has been sacrificed to maintain his existence on this planet. But I hope, with all my heart, that he's happy, and not just being kept alive for the sake of a good story. Because merely existing, with no one to love, no one to understand you, that's not worth existing at all. If he finds that love, finds that someone, now that would make him a lucky dog.
Whether you want to be like your parents or not, you always have much more in common with them than you think. Their characters become part of your character. Where do you think your quirks come from? Some of your best qualities as well as what you'd might consider flaws? Our parents are our greatest teachers because they're our mirrors. Next time you're complaining about something that your parents do that drives you up a wall, think about whether that is something that you'd like to change about yourself. Because you can't change them, but you can change yourself.
My parents, Boyfriend and I were having dinner last night, and as I went to cut my corn off the cob, my mother asked me, "Where and why did you learn to do that?" Everyone else was picking up their corn cobs and just eating the corn directly.
"Oh, I do that because I don't like the corn in my teeth. I saw someone do it at a dinner party somewhere, and thought it was a good idea."
Mom declared, "I always wondered about that, because you didn't get it from us."
Dad concluded, "So you just pick up random idiosyncrasies from people?"
Not sure that cutting my corn off the cob suffices as a random idiosyncrasy, but whatever. "If they seem like a good idea. But I carry a paper towel in my hand everywhere I go - because you do."
My dad smiled at himself and chuckled. "Well, I got that from your grandmother, she always had to have a tissue in her sleeve."
Since Brain Tumor (SBT), many people have told me what an inspiration I am. My boyfriend keeps reminding me. I keep rolling my eyes. Because while I'm certainly honored to be able to inspire others, I know I'm not positive all the time. It's been one peak followed by many valleys, then the occasional peak, followed by more valleys. Don't get me wrong, I've witnessed the power of positive energy - and I've been blessed by it's benefits. But I've also spent too much time ridden with guilt. Guilt over feeling as though I'm a burden. Financially and emotionally, on my friends and my family. On Boyfriend. He's seen me cry, cry, and cry some more over the last month, and on my worst days, I worry that the crying alone will bring him to the conclusion that I'm not worth the trouble, no matter how inspiring, amazing, and beautiful I may be on my best days.
Guilt is really the most useless of all feelings. I'm an advocate for feeling what you need to feel, whether it be sadness, anger, or whatever. Let it out. Don't hold it in, or it will eat you alive. First-hand experience has made me wiser than I once was about keeping things to myself. This is easier said than done, because guilt is it's own planet. I've spent entirely too much energy feeling guilty over that which is out of my control. Focusing on my mistakes. Dismissing my accomplishments and the gifts I have to offer. It doesn't do us any good, that guilt. If you have truly done something to warrant feelings of guilt, do something about it, make the wrong a right, and MOVE ON. Most of our feelings of guilt are just assumptions that a we've made someone feel bad, and you know what? That someone can talk to me about it and we can work it out, or he can hold it against me, and it's out of my hands. It's HIS problem, and I can't be responsible for how SOMEONE ELSE feels.
None of us can.
But I can take responsibility for my own happiness. Just like I did almost two years ago, when I decided I needed to come to California. By myself. So I did. And it taught me that if I do the best thing for myself, it will be the best thing for everyone else, too.
As Boyfriend continues to remind me; I have my words, my positive energy and my love. If I can give that, and someone gets something out of it, if someone is inspired to do something nice for someone else, well, that's a pretty big gift for everyone, myself included.
We all have gifts to give. What are yours? Remind yourself. (In the comments, of course!)
I'm one of those, "It's merely a flesh wound!" kind of people. Can't stop. Never give up. Even when I'm hobbling around with a limb missing. Offers of assistance are often countered with, "Nope, I got it!" I suffer from bouts of extreme guilt, worried that I may not deserve what help I do receive. And God forbid I ask for help, even when I've fallen and can't get up.
But I'm changing. Slowly, but surely. I had a breakthrough on the asking-for-help business while in Colorado. My new friend Frances let me help her in her garden for a couple of days in exchange for some herbal advice, essential oils and a plant brushing healing ceremony that we did together while I was at her Frogworks Studio.
"Are we square, Frances?"
"Sure we are - you spent two days helping me in the garden."
"Don't give too much away, you did a lot for me..." Suddenly, it was like I was talking to myself.
Several people took me aside during my Colorado visit and said, "If you ever need anything, just ask." Apparently lot of people love me and would do anything for me. Huh.