I felt like it was time to write this week, but I wasn't sure what to write about. Usually I think about my words for a few days and then it flows easily. But I felt a bit stuck. Then as I thought about all that I've shared, it hit me that I've shared very little about my new treatment plan, and yet it is all consuming everyday. So here it is.......
When the 3 big treatments don't work (chemo, radiation and surgery) you have a choice to make: give up and let cancer take its course (and live out your doctor's prophesying words) or try something else. When you start researching and looking into alternative treatments there are many to choose from. So how do you choose? You pray, you talk to people you trust and you go with what feels right for you.....and you have to believe in what you're doing if you want it to work. And then you cling to HOPE.
Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a huge hit a few years ago. Women all over read it and watched the movie, and may have even made some lifestyle changes based on the book. Maybe what Gilbert didn't realize was that she was close to writing an alternative treatment plan for cancer. My new treatment: PRAY, EAT, BODY, MIND. This is a treatment plan that focuses on healing, not on a cure. I have to start with pray because I completely believe that my cancer journey has been more spiritual then anything else. I believe it is a journey that God has taken me on. So above all else, I always give my healing to Him and trust Him with it. But I also believe God has given me the intelligence to research and figure out ways to help myself on the road to healing.
So my next step to healing is EAT. I have drastically changed my eating habits over the past year. I have learned a lot about how much food affects our health and the growth of cancer. Cancer cells multiply much faster than normal cells, and they thrive on sugar. So, I'm trying to starve my cancer cells; I am on a completely sugar free diet. This restricts me from a lot of food, since almost everything has sugar or turns into sugar in our bodies. I eat mostly vegetables. I'm learning to be creative, and I've done lots of experimenting with different recipes. I also eat fish, chicken, nuts, and legumes for protein, and lots of healthy fats: butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado etc. These fats are really good for me. They actually inhibit the growth of cancer cells. I do have 1 serving of fruit a day (in my morning smoothie), but that's it. On top of my diet, I take about 30 vegetable-based supplements everyday. A lot of these are designed to fight cancer, such as turmeric, and others are to boost my immune system, such as multivitamins and probiotics. It is believed that if you boost your immunity, you give your body the chance to fight cancer. I also drink pectin 3 times a day (it's terrible). Pectin is proven to prevent cancer from metastasizing. The tricky part is I can't take pectin with my supplements (I need an hour in between), so I take 7 rounds of meds a day. This means I usually don't leave the house without a pill pack in my pocket. I often try to plan appointments/get togethers around med times. It's a crazy drug schedule, and I need one of those weekly pill planners to keep it all straight. I also have a checklist on my fridge. I've been doing it since February with a few additions after surgery. It definitely is getting easier. This supplement plan is a financial sacrifice for my family. It costs a lot to take natural drugs, but thankfully Darryl says I'm worth it!!
There has been a lot of focus on my BODY over the last year from myself and my medical team. What I'm learning is that maybe too much focus was on my cancer, instead of focusing on the rest of me to equip me to fight cancer. So now I'm working hard at undoing the physical damage that chemo and mostly radiation caused. Through this process, I'm learning to love my body and to listen to it better then I used to. I used to get up at 5 am and exercise hard for 30-60 minutes, trying to shape my body into what I believed it should look like in order to fit into a new pair of jeans or to go bathing suit shopping. Now I do strengthening exercises that will help my body enjoy life. I use Pilates and yoga to help me stretch and gain flexibility, so I can play with my kids and overall feel better. I have learned the importance of deep breaths to help my whole body relax. Breath feeds our entire bodies with life-giving oxygen, but we don't think about it very much. I'm learning that my exercise needs to have a social component, so I can focus on others and not just myself. I walk with friends for my aerobic exercise because it's good for my physical body and good for me to connect with people. I'm more in tune with how I feel and what my body needs instead of working out because it's on my to-do list. I now recognize my body as an intricate amazing instrument that has been through so much, recuperated, and still capable of fighting cancer if I fill it with what it needs and treat it well. I think that God must have had so much fun designing our bodies. The capabilities of the human body are amazing and so detailed.
Probably the most important component of my treatment is my MIND. It's so much more powerful then we realize. Being positive, believing you are healing, helps just as much as the supplements and exercise (if not more). I'm learning to love everything I do and cut out the things I don't. This helps me keep my stress level in check. I used to do more then I should and strive to be exceptional at everything I did to please everyone around me. I cared so much about what everyone else thought about me that I didn't consider the stress it was creating. I truly believe that my rushing around and constant striving is what allowed my immune system to break down and not fight cancer. Now, I focus my mind on worship and good thoughts, so that I feel good. I give my worries to God and truly leave them there, so I can live like I have nothing to fear. I am learning the importance of filling my mind with inspiration and peace at the start of everyday. I read my Bible and read books that inspire me. I set goals for each day that are achievable and have just started to set goals beyond a month ahead.....this has been hard for me to do since surgery. Keeping my mind in a good place is the hardest part of my treatment plan. Negative thinking and feeling sorry for myself can be hard to tame. I have to admit that the past 2 weeks have been incredibly hard, and some days my mind kept me in a pity party. I missed being at school so much that other "issues" crept up and got the best of me. Thanks to a few friends, my mom, and my counsellor who patiently helped me get out of this slump. They checked in often and listened to my ramblings as my mind sorted through another round of confusion. I needed to let God help me sort through the mess and then get everything lined up in my mind again. I know it probably will happen again sooner, rather then later. It's a constant battle......staying positive, trusting God completely, focusing on living instead of fearing death. But it's completely possible. "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" Phillipians 4:13
The best part of this new treatment plan is that it's unique for me, and it's about my whole body. I really feel like you can't help one part of your body without looking at the whole. I think we do an injustice to ourselves when we focus on one part and not the rest (I used to do this all the time with quick diets or intensive workout plans). I think this treatment is being effective - I feel great. It's time consuming, but forgiving when time slips away. Why share it with all of you? Because I have been told that I most likely had cancer 5-6 years before it was discovered. 1/3 of people are susceptible to developing cancer. If someone had told me about all of this before, I may have been able to prevent it. You don't need to go as extreme as me, just find your own version. Now go have a green shake, walk with a friend, and give your mind a rest! Do it for me!