How To Be Here

T-38 hours.

I’ve had my EKG, anesthesia consult, and recovery suite tour (which I will be able to play XBOX in on a big flat screen). All good. I’m currently getting pre-surgical IV Vitamin C for the next 3 hours.

Tomorrow I have my heart echo and my surgical consult, along with Reiki, Acupuncture and Chiropractic adjustments.

Then bright and early on Thursday morning I arrive for all-day surgery. 6am until ??. The average time my surgery takes is 8 hours, but due to the fact he’s inspecting all my organs, it could go 12 hours.

I’m ready.

I’m nervous.

I really have no choice to be honest.

I’ve asked Heather randomly these past few weeks a simple rhetorical question. “This surgery is necessary right?”

It is. I ask it because I just need confirmation to psyche myself up to go through it. My detached colon is so inflamed and needs to be removed. I can’t be re-attached. I can’t heal it in it’s current state. Circumstances led to this point so I just have to move forward and do what needs to be done. Also, my body is wasting so much time dealing with it that it may help me heal better without it. Anything is possible right?

These past few weeks I’ve been reliving my last year and a half up until this point and I realized that I’m here in this specific situation, days away from a possible cancer-free surgery because of a very difficult choice I made in December.

I agreed to see the second oncologist here.

If anyone remembers, the first oncologist I saw at CTCA (whom I just learned was fired earlier this year), told me I was going to die if I didn’t do chemo. I remember how devastated I was after I heard those words. I came to CTCA to get help and a different approach, and I was met with an overpowering doctor with a huge ego who didn’t care what words came out of his mouth. I went back to my hotel that day believing I was going to die. I was alone and a complete mess. I called the travel department and asked to fly back home the next day and cancelled all my appointments.

As I was eating breakfast, the Naturopath Oncologist I saw the day before called me and said she arranged for my current oncologist, Dr. Sheelvanth, to see me. She urged me to keep the appointment and he just talk with him. I instantly told her no, but she continued to insist and I swallowed my pride and went into the appointment broken and ready to be told again that I was going to die.

Surprisingly, he simply just talked to me about why he chose to work at CTCA and asked if he could do some tests on my tumors to see what other drugs I could go on that weren’t chemo drugs. And the rest is history.

I was able to find a renewed sense of hope when I was able to do non-toxic protein treatments that didn’t have to be combined with chemotherapy (although most oncologists wouldn’t have given me that option this soon I found out later). I was able to find hope in the natural treatments I had started, the diet I was eating and supplements I was taking. I was able to focus on healing all because of one choice.

I didn’t let my pride win.

I don’t know it all. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even pretend to. When I chose to stop chemo, I had many people telling me I was making a mistake. Some said it in the correct, worried way; while others went as far as to tell me to stop writing my blog because I was way off base and was giving false information. It’s crazy the response you get sometimes when you do things that don’t make sense to people.

But honestly, the only reason I was stopping it at that time was because I truly felt like I was going to die. I wasn’t analyzing anything except that simple fact. I knew I couldn’t make it through another infusion mentally. There’s a possibility my body would have, but I was done. The body can’t heal without the mind. It wasn’t until after making that choice that I started learning more about cancer and how to approach it, which is from every direction.

I never chose to stop chemo because I felt like I knew more than someone else or because of some aversion to the medical field or because I wanted to prove anything to anyone. I stopped because I made up my mind that I didn’t want to live longer, I wanted to heal.

I didn’t want to live longer, I wanted to heal.

Sometimes when I say that to people, they don’t get it. Cancer isn’t a death sentence. It doesn’t even scare me anymore. I do respect it, but I don’t fear it. We’ve made it into such a scary word that it is literally impossible to think straight when you hear the words. People can live with cancer for a long time and many people end up healing from even stage 4 cancer, but you wouldn’t even know that in the beginning of a diagnosis.

Next Steps.

A few months ago I started going to a support group at Gilda’s Club and I met a retired nurse who was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She explained it as the worst cancer you can have because there are no treatments that work. When diagnosed, the doctor told her she has 2-3 months to live. She’s now been going to Gilda’s club for 3 years and has never touched a conventional drug, even though doctors have recommended that she try something even though it has no track record against triple negative breast cancer. As she was telling her story, she said she ALWAYS gets the “you’re a nurse, you should know better” comments from friends, family and colleagues, but she just laughs them off. She isn’t cancer free, but through her diet and daily Reiki and other holistic treatments, she is beating cancer.

I say all that to say this… she inspires me. Not because she’s taking a similar path, but more so because she’s making good of a bad situation. Throught my few months of attending that support group, I’ve decided to do a few things in the near future.

I want to be a cancer coach in some way or another. I don’t even know what that means to be honest. But if there is some way I can help people forget the fear, regardless of their treatment path, I’d love to do that.

I want to start a cancer organization. I don’t know how I’ll do it or what it will end up being, but I want to expand on the I am Greater Than Cancer theme and go from there. I have a few web development agencies/business teams at my fingertips and can leverage their expertise in developing things like this, so why not try to figure something out. (I started designing a new shirt with the slogan “Be Greater”… but then flonase started to use that hashtag for their allergy medication. Jerks.)

I want to write a book. This one is different though. I’ve just always wanted to write a book and I don’t even think this one has to be about cancer. I have no idea how to do this, but I’m guessing most people have no idea what they’re doing when they write a book.

Funny enough, I’m currently reading a book called “How to be Here” which talks about his struggle to write a book. I’m sure that’s what my book will be like.

Now I’m Just Rambling.

Earlier this month I planned to start writing letters to people, thanking them for their help, friendship, support, etc to send out before surgery. Fortunately, none of you will be getting letters from me before surgery because I quickly stopped writing them because they all felt like goodbye letters. I couldn’t even get a few paragraphs in without picturing the person reading this after I had died. They were hurting my mindset and even though I want to tell so many people what they’ve always meant to me, I’d rather save that for AFTER surgery and not before. I truly believe I will make it through this surgery, but I kept telling myself that in case I die I hope people know how much they mean to me.

The good news is you all know who you are and also, I’m not going to die. I have the love and support of so many people, and many times it feels like I don’t deserve it. I definitely can’t repay the generosity of the so many amazing people in my life. All I can do is wait for an opportunity to pay it forward.

How to be here.

I mentioned earlier that I’m reading a book called “How to be Here”. It’s a self-help/spiritual book about finding meaning in your life. I like these kind of books (Thanks Ryan!)

The chapters are VERY short and one in particular stood out to me a few days ago. This chapter focused on the author’s dad and how his dad went through a lot of heartbreak in his life. His dad died of cancer (ironically at 34) and his brother died a few years later. His dad later said that those losses drove him to have a family and be the father he never had. The author then starts talking about how suffering changes us.

How we respond to what happens to us, especially the painful, excruciating things that we never wanted and we have no control over is a creative act. Who starts cancer foundations? Usually the people who have lost a loved one to cancer. Who organizes recovery groups? Mostly people who have struggled with addiction. We have power, more power than we realize, power to decide that we are going to make good out of even this…

There’s a question that you can ask about the things that have come your way that you didn’t want. It’s a question rooted in a proper understanding of the world, a question we have to ask ourselves continually throughout our lives:

What new and good thing is going to come out of even this?

When you ask this question, you have taken something that was out of your control and reframed it as another opportunity to take part in the ongoing creation of the world.

Death. Disease. Disaster. Whatever it is, you will have to grieve it. And maybe be angry about it. Or be in shock. Or shake your fists at the heavens for the injustice of it.

That’s normal and healthy and often needed.

But then, as you more through it, as time does its healing work, you begin to look for how even this has potential. Even this…

And he summed up my mental state in a few pages. Lately I’ve found my temper to be quick and patience to be nothing leading up to surgery, but I’m going to get through it and focus on creating a more fulfilling life on the other side. I’m not going to let everything I’ve gone through bring me down. There is good to be found through everything I’ve gone through.

Even this.

I am Greater Than Cancer.