An Unexpected Detour

“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.” Paracelsus, Sixteenth-Century Physician

After taking off last summer from blogging, I wasn’t planning on taking another break. My last blog left off in November, when I joined the staff of As You Like It; The Pleasure Shop. I have so much to report on this new adventure! But before I do, I want to talk about my unexpected detour.

In early December, I learned that I had breast cancer. For many reasons, I was stunned. I believed my dedication to healthy eating and fitness protected me. In fact, so confident was I in my lifestyle, I had told myself many times over how grateful I was that I’d never have to walk “that path,” meaning the path of a breast cancer thriver. I couldn’t have imagined that one of the tools I had chosen to ensure healthy aging and vital sexuality—bioidentical hormones—would become such a threat. Alas, my tumor was receptive for both progesterone and estrogen. So much for bypassing menopause.

Fortunately, my intuition spoke loudly and clearly. It told me that other than surgery, I could not do conventional medicine. The day I was diagnosed, I asked my provider for options, confessing that I was more afraid of western medicine’s way of treating cancer than cancer itself. Amazingly, she had a book for me. Aptly titled, “You Did What? Saying “No” to Conventional Cancer Treatment,” this small but mighty book was my salvation. I then read Kelly Turner’s inspiring “Radical Remission,” Raymond Francis’ “Never Fear Cancer Again,” and others. In January, I watched most of Ty Bollinger’s series, “The Truth about Cancer” along with Chris Werk’s series, “Chris Beat Cancer.” I’m currently reading Donald Yance’s “Herbal Medicine, Healing & Cancer,” which astounds me with the power of herbs to heal at the systemic level.

My own intuition and other resources convinced me that there is far more than the one way of healing ourselves from cancer. I didn’t like conventional medicine’s war metaphor and “doing battle” with cancer.  I had no desire to declare war on any aspect of myself and do the equivalent of dropping a napalm bomb on my body by submitting to radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapies. My sense was that cancer was not a foreign invader, rather, my cells were just a bit confused. I called them my “errant cells” and sent them and my breast love daily. I believed (and still do) that only through love, faith and trust would I heal.

Thus, I contacted the Mederi Centre for Natural Healing in Ashland, featured in “You Did What? Saying “No” to Conventional Cancer Treatment” and am now following an intensive herbal medicine protocol. Several of my herbs help my body cull harmful estrogen metabolites from my system; some strengthen and protect cell membranes; some strengthen liver function and overall immune function; some prevent angiogenesis (the process of cancer cells growing blood vessels; some induce apoptosis (the natural process of cells dying when defective—cancer cells forget how to do this).

I take herbs and supplements daily and eat an extraordinary diet, consuming about 25 organic vegetables and fruits daily. Many foods act on cancer cells as well. I make all of my own food, such as organic breads, beans, quinoa, rice, amaranth, kimchi and drink green and medicinal teas throughout the day.

In addition, I meditate and exercise daily; I go to acupuncture weekly; I’m working with a counselor to root out old emotional issues and patterns; I’ve become a Reiki practitioner and regularly give and receive healing touch. I respect that there is mystery and unknown in the healing process—and I am learning to trust and have faith. I don’t have the answers and don’t profess to. But what I do have is a healthy, strong body that is cancer free and free from side effects of western medicine (“collateral damage” as my surgeon called them).

I’ve been hesitant to write about my process for so many reasons. Here are just a few:

  • I’m just a bit pissed off about the mammogram thing. Persistent marketing by corporations that make billions on peddling fear convince us that mammograms will protect us. I had a “normal” mammogram just five months before I found the dent on the underside of my breast as I lifted my arm to apply deodorant. The diagnostic mammogram I was given in November was also a “normal” mammogram—it was the ultrasound that detected the tiny Grade 1 (non-aggressive) Stage 1 (no spread to lymph nodes) tumor that had distorted my breast tissue. To me, mammography is a false promise—and don’t get me started on Oregon Imaging’s questionable ethics in billing practices. Despite my understandable lack of faith in mammography, I am told repeatedly that it is the “standard of care” in the industry and I must get another in a year. I’m researching other options: thermography and ultrasound top my list.
  • Our cultural narrative on cancer is fear-based and controlled by the cancer industry. We are taught to fear cancer and to believe that anyone with cancer is under an impending death sentence. We are told that there is ONE WAY—and ONE WAY only—to deal with cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and for some, hormone therapy with carcinogenic drugs like tamoxifen. The attendant message, whether spoken or not is that failure to follow the ONE WAY will lead you to an early death. After conducting massive amounts of research, I completely disagree.
  • Some people look at me differently, which completely sucks. I get looks of fear—that’s Mother Culture at work—but what I really hate is the looks of pity, or worse, the comments, “Wow, you look so good!” Or the hushed tone, “So, how are you really doing?” As if I should look like I’m dying or feeling horrible. Even worse is the look of doom when I mention that I’m not doing conventional medicine.

Here’s my truth: I am strong and healthy and have not been sick a single day since my diagnosis. I am cycling, walking, hiking and lifting weights regularly. On my 55th birthday (my “rebirthday”), I had that tiny tumor surgically removed and was out walking two days later. My surgeon called me a few days later to tell me she had obtained “clear margins,” meaning the tumor was removed fully surrounded by healthy tissue and my lymph nodes were clear. She then referred me to Willamette Cancer Institute to meet with a regular oncologist and radiation oncologist. With faith in my intuition, trust in my healing path and my higher power, I skipped those appointments and chose this path of natural healing.

One of the hardest parts about my path is loneliness—bucking cultural norms can be isolating. Fortunately, I’ve just found a group, “Healing Strong,” that is for people like me who are following a similar wellness approach to healing. Melanie from North Bend, Oregon, has been so supportive. Anyone considering this path will find support from “Healing Strong.”

Finally, everyone who confronts a cancer diagnosis has to decide how to proceed. While western medicine did not appeal to me, it may be someone else’s hope and salvation. Trust in western physicians runs strong in this country. It is how we’ve been trained to believe. (“The Truth about Cancer” tells this story powerfully and explains why we may want to question this cultural narrative.) I’m not trying to convince anyone that a natural healing path is right for them—just that it exists, along with so many other options our culture routinely and easily dismisses.

Next time I blog, I’ll get back to my topic: intimacy, connectivity, empowered sexuality. I taught seven adult sex ed classes from February 7 to March 20, and learned so much! Can’t wait to pass along some great information.