Many have been following my cancer journey, which began with a diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma in January 2019. As most who share the journey will agree, the entire experience is life-changing and shouldn’t be traveled without the support, knowledge and encouragement of those who came before us.
I am now on the other side and honored to share a few insights along with an update on my health. Realizing that no two cancers and no two people are alike, I can only hope these words will inspire others to work hard toward the same positive outcomes I have experienced.
At my one-year follow-up appointment in July, mammograms and an MRI showed no abnormalities. A circulating tumor cell blood test (previously 0 at diagnosis, 105 at seven months and 54 at nine months) was back to zero, and a CRP blood test (inflammation marker) was close to zero at <0.15 (average is 1-3) – a good sign of overall health.
The path I chose and the protocol designed by my integrative team of doctors has worked well for me. But creating that path was no easy task.
Do your research and know your options
One of the first responses people often have with a diagnosis is to look for someone to fix them. The news is overwhelming, and it can feel easier to go with the first recommendation or choose the most extreme measures in an attempt to get it over with quickly. However, there can be tremendous value in doing research and consulting with as many professionals as possible. In my case, it saved my breasts.
When first diagnosed with a 1.5 cm tumor on my left breast and precancerous cells on the right, I was leaning toward a double mastectomy. The “standard of care” (lumpectomy, radiation and hormone therapy) was not for me, and three of the first specialists with whom I consulted agreed that mastectomy was a good second option.
Then through research, I learned of cryoablation, a less invasive procedure that freezes the tumor. Cryoablation is used on different cancers and is currently in clinical trials for breast cancer. I was a good candidate but didn’t want to do the radiation and hormone therapy required of trial participants. City of Hope agreed to do the procedure off-protocol, along with a small surgery on the right to remove the precancerous cells. To address hormones, I continue to take the natural estrogen-reducing supplements DIM (diindolylmethane) and gingko biloba.
I am so grateful to have found these options.
Time to put yourself first
When you hear the C-word, you can’t help but wonder why. I agree with those who approach disease as a sign your body, mind and spirit are out of alignment.
Now is the time to connect with your spirit and soul on a deeper level; to address those things you may be keeping suppressed, to get in touch with your intuition and make positive changes physically, emotionally and spiritually. You will come to understand how much you need that intuition to create your own path to healing.
This time is yours. Put yourself first and make sure those around you support your decision. As author and oncology nurse Judy Kneece said, “At no other time in life will people give you as much permission to make changes.”
Read Radical Remission
Author Kelly Turner, Ph.D. interviewed hundreds of survivors around the world who beat cancer against the odds to determine how they did it. While each listed numerous factors they felt contributed to their success, there were nine key things the majority shared – from radically changing their diets to releasing suppressed emotions. This insightful and motivational book tells their stories and serves as a guide, not only for those fighting cancer but also for those looking to prevent cancer.
Build your integrative team
If you approach cancer on all levels – body, mind and spirit – you realize it is more than the medical community alone can offer. An integrative team will work together to ensure you are addressing all aspects of strength and healing.
In addition to my surgeon and oncologist, I have naturopathic doctors for nutrition and supplemental support, an acupuncturist applying Eastern medicine and an energy worker to help keep things light and positive. I feel confident their combined effort and guidance contributed to my success.
Emerging on the other side
For me, life seems richer and calmer than before cancer. I have a clearer sense of what I want and don’t want in my life and am working on living in harmony with the universal flow. Considering the driven, meticulous, and high-energy path I have been on for 54 years, I wouldn’t have sought this new level of consciousness if it weren’t for this past year, and for that I am grateful.
At our final appointment in August, my oncologist said I looked different from when she met me almost two years ago. “Your body language is more relaxed and less intense,” to which my mom replied, “She’s had that intensity since she was a little girl.”
At that moment, I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of pride. My hard work has paid off. This cancer journey has changed me, and I know I am a healthier – and better – person.
My naturopathic doctor asked what my new health goals were, and I was excited to plan for something other than beating cancer.
However, most of my cancer protocol has now become a way of life, and I love it. I’ll maintain my pescatarian diet (I don’t miss meat at all), avoid sugar and grains, take immune-building supplements, consume less alcohol, practice daily meditation and yoga, and maintain a more balanced pace. I’ll continue using my grounding mats and natural body care products, and will continue with acupuncture and energy work monthly for maintenance.
Today, when I think of my cancer journey, I smile. I made it to the other side better than before and know there is hope for those who follow.