Living Aggressively Through Treatment
About a year ago, I completed a round of conventional oncology and researched adjunct therapies for breast cancer. Yesterday conventional oncology declared me clear of cancer. It has been a journey of hope and optimism that includes facing the terror and fear associated with this chronic disease and coming round to a full rich life dedicated to healing and health.
Loss of a parent at 18 months, two decades of stress in executive roles, and a lifelong love of sweets all set the stage fostering cancer cell growth in my body. A decade ago I shifted to a healthful life stance with an improved diet, the recognition of love, and a desire for spiritual evolution. Now living as an ex-patriot in Costa Rica, I was able to compose an integrated oncology treatment program blending conventional oncology with researched complementary alternative therapies, and body/mind/spirit practices. Staying home has been important for me. Here in Costa Rica I found skilled and talented professionals who were experienced and could support an integral treatment program. There was never a medical need to return to the United States. I’ve always felt like a well treated guest in this benevolent social democracy.
With carefully supervised IV’s of nutrients and acupuncture with accompanying herbs, I was able to tolerate conventional treatment and continue my very green and very healthful, mostly raw diet. This attention to my daily physical health and meditation practice brought me through the toxic chemotherapy and radiation process. By reaching to my network of friends and professionals, I discovered many natural ways to mitigate side effects of treatment without adding pharmaceuticals into the mix. Now, a year later, I manage with a mix of acupuncture, high quality nutritional supplements, and a good diet for continually cleansing my cells and rebuilding my gut flora. I continue the conventional oncology maintenance with a hormone suppressing pharmaceutical, a bisphosphonate for bone health, and regular scans and screenings. Anxious moments still precede the oncology appointments and the news has remained good.
Reflecting on this year of astonishing turns in my life, I see I am Living Aggressively through treatment.
- -Living Aggressively means I’m the team lead and final decision maker for my team of caregivers, medical and alternative, and family and friends. Living Aggressively means I am informed. I check in with everyone. Sometimes I defer to professional judgment. Other times, I listen to my body. After research, all decisions are transparent, made in consultation with the professionals and validated by other key team members.
- -Living Aggressively means I’m going to dig to learn and try the least invasive, most natural remedy to manage side effects of treatment. Living Aggressively means I will accept conventional medicine and a pharmaceutical solution when it’s necessary.
- -Living Aggressively means I’m establishing the lifestyle patterns and habits (exercise, diet, emotional life, spiritual practices) that will ultimately change the biochemical terrain, that is the ecosystem in my body/mind/spirit to shift whatever condition previously failed to reject the cancer.
As I surround myself with a milieu of affirmative prayer, I have learned lessons of love, gratitude, and receiving, all with equanimity. While one can never be certain about the presence of cancer, I am living forward, living into dreams coming true, with a deepened spiritual sense and the miracle of a blessed marriage. Many friendships forged deeper and stronger as I learned to receive love and care. My desire to give grows stronger; I feel the affections and generosity of others. This is what now matters most for my life.
Managing chronic disease is an all too frequent challenge many face in retirement. Some face their own mortality or declining health; others find themselves in the role of primary caregiver. The story of Theo and I in this year of discovery and treatment is a story of deepened intimacy and vital preparation for aging together. We fully expect to be around another decade or two or three.
There is mystery around How old do you feel? Some of my peers say 20-something. Others say 40-something. I recall at my 60th birthday, I announced I finally felt over 40. And recently a spiritual work reminded me that my soul is ageless, timeless, ever present. As I step into my elderhood, rich in time, rich in experience, I feel filled with potential, more than ever in my life.
Recently a friend said, Do you have any regrets? I’ve reflected on this question for months. The answer remains, No, no regrets. Even though I’m still detoxing, physically I feel better than I remember. Now that I’m better at receiving love and care, my mood and well-being are richer. Facing death, mine and the possibility of other loved ones, has certainly brought an appreciation of balance in life and acquiescence for death.
Most people challenged by life threatening health issues say one of the gifts is the reminder of what’s really important in life. These words are just the surface of a welling up of gratitude I feel for all the love in my life, Theo, family, friends, doggies. Yesterday as we were waiting for the radio oncologist, I spent a good deal of time in dreadful thought of Theo and I facing our death. While no one here is dying now, we all die. I am hoping this event can be neat and not painful. Underneath all this fear came gratitude, and deep love and appreciation for all the love and generosity we have experienced through this challenge.