The Short List for Staying Sane and Well in the face of Real Trouble

(This is the third in a series of posts about my own experience with cancer. The photos used in this series have no direct connection with the text. They are just random pictures taken during this time of my life. I claim no expertise. This is just about my own personal experience, and what it was like for me.)

After my previous post, When It Hits the Fan, I have had questions about what the alternative therapies were that I used in addition to chemo and radiation. I plan to write in more depth about most of this, but I am going to go ahead and answer that question for those who are curious, and possibly don’t have time to wait around for me to write about each specific thing.

I did many things, and I am not sure how it all worked. I do think that all the things I did worked together. I did 6 rounds of chemo that were three weeks apart. I started most of the alternative things in the four weeks between the surgery and the beginning of chemo. I can’t explain why I chose these specific things. I simply did what made sense to me. After the chemo, I had a scan that showed no cancer and my liver restored to health. I then had 25 rounds of radiation over a five week period and a two night stay in hospital for one last blast. I did the radiation as a preventative measure.
Here are the alternative things I did during chemo and radiation. Most of these things I will continue to do to maintain health. I will write more detail later, in future posts.
–I did a diet that is designed to starve cancer cells. I highly recommend the book that was written by Mike Herbert, Stay Healthy During Chemo. It is available through Amazon.com. Mike is a nutritional doctor who lives here in San Miguel, and his advise is extremely helpful. The diet was very strict and I followed it with no exceptions. Basically, I gave up all sugars (including alcohol and high glycemic foods) all dairy, and the only meat I ate was fish. I eliminated soy from my diet. The only fats allowed are healthy ones. No processed foods. No coffee. I will continue this diet permanently. I have added some more fruit since finishing all the treatments. Also, I eat a white potato now and then, if I want it. But no breads that aren’t whole grains. Brown rice instead of white. And, still, no processed foods. One side effect of this diet is that I have lost weight. I am presently trying to gain a bit of weight…never thought I’d be saying that in my adult lifetime.
–Acupuncture. I did this at least once a week. It really helped with any side effects I was having. I will continue to do this every other week for maintanence.
–I found massages to be very helpful for dealing with stress.
–Supplements. I take a very good supplement program, also put together by a nutritional doctor. Your healthy cells need all the support they can get. I will continue to work with this program, with whatever changes are recommended to maintain health.
–Craniosacral Therapy. This was extremely important to help me cope emotionally.
I have found this therapy so beneficial that I plan to continue with it.
–There is some herbal medication that I am sure you are aware of. It has been a mainstay for me and approved of by the all the traditional medicine doctors  I had, as well as alternative specialists. I have used it medicinally in the form of oil and also brewed as a tea.
–Blue scorpion venom. There has been a lot of work done with this in Cuba. It might be possible to buy it online if you live in the States. I get it from Mexico City. I take it 4 times a day. I will continue to take it indefinitely, as a preventative. It does not interfere with traditional treatments, and has no side effects.
–Soaking baths. These came from Mike Herbert’s book. It involves sitting in a hot bath for 45 minutes. I added  1 cup salt and 1 cup baking soda to the hot bath water. Sometimes I added a bottle of apple cider vinegar. The whole point is to sweat in order to detox. It always helped. I wasn’t allowed to do this during radiation, and I really missed it. The doctor was concerned about the hot water causing burns.
–Coffee enemas. There are videos about this. Make your own decision. I resisted this one, but I think it was very valuable. These work to detox the liver. I did this twice a week during chemo. I wasn’t allowed to do it during radiation, because of the location in my body of the radiation.
–Fasting. I fasted for 24 hours before and 24 hours after each chemo treatment. There is research that convinced me to do this. The point is that the chemo will work more effectively if your body isn’t processing food, and you will have fewer side effects. I did this for the first 5 treatments. I ate just a little with the 6th one, because I was concerned about losing more weight.
–Dealing with myself, also known as meditation, visualization, and prayer.  Lots of that. I also avoided (like the plague) any person or information that I found negative. This is a great time in your life to be very selfish. You don’t have to worry about hurting someone’s “feelings.” This is not about them. It is about you, staying alive.
I researched all the things I did and they made sense to me. I believed that they were what I needed to do, and that made it easy to do them. Once I “set my course” I stayed on it. I got through the chemo without any terrible side effects. I had a few days when I didn’t feel well but I was never incapacitated. I managed to maintain a reasonable social life, and was involved in getting settled in to a new home, not to mention a new country. The radiation was harder in some ways, because the food restrictions during radiation that affects the digestive system are rigid. No fats whatsoever. I did well for the first three weeks, but then for the last two I did experience being very tired. But, I bounced back pretty quickly. It has now been three weeks since my final radiation. I have a very healthy appetite and I feel very good. In fact, I feel like a brand new me.
Again, I am no expert. This is only my own experience and the things I did. I hope some of this is helpful to someone who reads it. It is a troubling experience, but not as bad, at least for me, as I had feared.

Some Things Suck

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Some Things Suck

While on a trip to Mexico with Fred to celebrate my 70th birthday, I was walking down a cobblestone street and landed squarely on my butt. Hard. I am happy to report after returning home and seeing an orthopedist that the injury, while quite painful, is on the mend and no surgery will be required to fix it, just a few weeks with a walker and I will be as good as new. The pain is now lessening and I am reminding myself that this
setback, while it really sucked, is temporary.

I really learned some things about myself (and others) after this crash landing in the street. The most intense learning came from my wheelchair-at-the-airport experience. Fred had called American Airlines to arrange wheelchairs for me in the San Miguel, Dallas, and Nashville airports for our return flights home. I had never envisioned myself as the lady in a wheelchair at the airport, but there I was. I had made a special effort to put on good makeup and do my hair because I knew the wheelchair would be an extremely depressing accessory and I have always been aware that the better I look, the better I feel.

There is a lot to see about other people from the eye level of a wheelchair. Some people actually make eye contact and smile. Some people focus on looking very much away. There are those who decide that since they are more mobile than you are they have a perfect right to rush in front of you and cut in line. And there are some people who are really, really kind and ask if they can help. When you are in a situation where you do need help this offer is welcome, not patronizing. If you have never tried to navigate a wheelchair into the curvy portal of an airport restroom, get it into the handicapped stall, get out of it, do your business, and then repeat–Okay, let’s put it this way–Have you ever tried to parallel park a trailer on the back of a car? About the same skill set is required. There was a lady in the restroom in Dallas who totally took me under her wing. She helped me get the contraption in the stall and waited outside to help me get out. Bless her. Seriously. I hope she wins the karma lottery.

But, the capper experience of the day was the TSA agent in Dallas who confronted me at security. I have never, and I mean never, experienced such a thorough and thoroughly ridiculous body search. Talk about profiling–it felt like they had issued a memo to be on the look out for middle-aged blondes in wheelchairs. This was made even more ridiculous by the fact that I was wearing tight leggings and a fitted tee shirt. The only way a bomb on my person could have been revealed would have been by a cavity check. At the end she actually said,in her professional but perky way, “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” What a set up for me to (figuratively) explode. I just told her I really couldn’t discuss what I thought about it. At which point she dropped her stupid grin and backed away as though she was afraid I might detonate the explosives that were carefully concealed in my lady parts.

Our plane was met by a very nice man with a wheelchair for me when we arrived in Nashville and hopefully, that will be my last wheelchair-in-the-airport experience. But, I guarantee that from now on I will be the person who tries to help, and the person who makes eye contact and smiles. Life is great, but it can be hard.