Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Eating Away Cancer

I'm back on quarterly PET scans with one coming up later this week. I'll also be hearing about old drugs, new drugs, new trials and other melanoma-related updates. I will listen to see if there is anything that I haven't already read about. While many doctors are frustrated that patients do their own research (my husband's internist has a sign in his office that says,"I don't care what Dr. Oz says"), my doctors are receptive to my showing up armed with new questions about what I've heard or read.

My frustration is, and has always been, that oncologists are not taking the initiative in promoting good nutrition and eliminating the things in our lives that weaken our immune systems.  I'm not asking them to promise that good nutrition can cure cancer; but, neither can they promise that traditional cancer treatments will cure us. Statistics are clear on the re-occurrence of cancer after traditional treatments when no changes in lifestyle are present.

This will bore the cancer-free readers out there; but 41% of Americans will get cancer and 21% of then will die from it.  You or someone you love may be in that statistic. Early in my diagnosis, I realized that the main-stream treatments recommended by my oncologists were not going to get the job done, especially for melanoma. I would have to take an active part in my healing. These three books have given me a wealth of information on increasing my odds of winning this cancer battle:

They all have a nutrition cancer-fighting component, as well as, great tips for more healthful living. For example, did you know you can soak your fruit and vegetables in water and cheap vinegar if you don't have access to organic? Trust me, you can benefit from these books. SOMETHING is wrong in this country that is making so many people sick, and our immune systems aren't equipped to fight it. Here's help for our wonderfully-made bodies!

Two great blogs have been added to my daily reading. My dermatologist niece referred me to a blog by 36-year-old Chris Wark.

Faced with stomach cancer and a dismal prognosis at age 26, he took things into his own hands. The onion and garlic findings are stinky, but amazing.

The other blog is much lighter and truly beautiful. I am inspired by Sarah Britton's blog to conjure up lovely, healthful offerings.

I needed to make dinner last night, and I wanted to prepare this sprouted wild rice salad. Thankfully, I read the recipe completely (hah! I've written about that before) and realized it takes three days to sprout that rice.  SO, I used things I already had in my kitchen and came up with this:

The fresh peaches, tomatoes, and okra came home with us from our beach trip. We always stop at a great produce shed in Loxley, Alabama, going and coming.  I couldn't even stand to smell beets BC (before cancer). Think dirt! I discovered that if you roast them, they have a wonderful sweet, roasted flavor. And, who doesn't love fried okra. That's comfort food to Southerners. But, I take a more healthful approach these days without smelling up my house and clogging up my arteries. The okra is lightly coated with olive oil (instead of buttermilk and egg!) and I dusted it with organic polenta, then baked it at 350 degrees until it was brown and crispy. Later in the evening, my husband said, "Thank you for that great salad you made tonight. It was delicious AND healthful." (He's not sold on my organic rice cakes with almond butter for breakfast! One step at a time.)

My disclaimer: I'm not a doctor; but, I learned many years ago when dealing with ailing parents that you have to be your own healthcare advocate. You have the greatest stake in the outcome. I regret that I didn't come to the nutritionally superior table before -- lots of beets to eat to catch up.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's About the Journey

"Are we there, yet?" The question asked of parents ten minutes into the eight-hour (or more) drive prevents many a trip from ever happening.  Then, there's the potty stop requested two minutes after the gasoline stop where the "do you need to go" question was repeated several times.  And, don't forget the convenience of hopping on an airplane and being there in a snap (pre-9/11, that is).  All contributing to the decline of a good automobile road trip.  My husband tells of a trip that his family of five made from native Arkansas to Mexico in an un-airconditioned sedan.  His assigned place was lying on the back dash behind the back seat. Hello! Safety, sun-burn -- how did we all survive before the government agencies told us how to live? I must say it was very convenient to lay down the back seats of the Suburban, throw in some sleeping bags, dose the kids with benedryl, and motor! Ah, the good old days.

Fast-forward to children all grown-up, the complications of air travel, and a desire to travel more  leisurely. Combine that with melanoma, which impresses on you the need to take time to see what you might have missed or ignored before, and you have -- voila! more road trips. I am so blessed to have a husband who is willing to stop on a dime for a sudden antique shop spotting or a local restaurant that looks intriguing or to get off the interstate because little towns are more interesting.

There are just so many things what you'll miss if you don't sign up for the road trip.  I feel more enlightened because of our most recent trip.  See for yourself.

Four-year-old Hudson has an obsession with White Fang.  I think I saw him on I-70. Beautiful dog.

Gotta love a girl this talented.  (note foot on the side mirror)


Come on, now.  You know you still honk your horn in a tunnel.

Never had the luxury of stopping when an antique shop or flea market beckoned (think teens in the car moaning and groaning).

My daughter  - Blue Eyed Bride - always said she wanted her wedding at this little church in Point Clear, Alabama, just down the road from the Grand Hotel. That didn't work out, but we still enjoy taking the scenic bypass to see it.

"Out of the river all ugly and green, Came the biggest old alligator that I've ever seen!" - Grateful Dead (how he got on the ceiling, we'll never know)

So, my friends, I implore you to add an extra day or two onto your trip, when time permits.  The great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

However, when this awaits you at the end of your road trip, you don't want to tarry too long. 

Here's to a week on the Gulf beach and the journey to get here!

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Psalm 24:1

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Land of the Free - Sherry's Story

Who would of thought ... 
I would be homeless?
Who would of thought ... 

I'd lose my job and my home? 
Who would of thought ... 
I would get caught up in the bondage of sin?
Who would of thought ... 

I'd use over and over again?
Who would of thought ... 

I'd be hopeless and dirty 
And living from bridge to bridge? 
Who would of thought ...
I'd be stigmatized
In homelessness over and over again? 

Who would of thought ...
I would ever be proclaimed
Mentally ill?
Who would of thought ...
I would be in a mental hospital?
Who would of thought ...
There was no one I could turn to? Who would of thought ...
I'd be beat up and robbed
From trusting in the wrong people? Who would of thought ...
I'd ever get well, again,
With food, clothes, and yes ...
A home, again?
Who would of thought?

There's been a lot of talk about freedom this week.  And wars.  And liberation.  And victory.  It's been on my mind.  We've won a lot of wars, but victory is not yet in our grasp. In the news we see challenges to freedom in many countries and even in the most free country in the world -- our own.  Some challenges are blatant -- the sex trade, addiction, mental illness, homelessness.  Other challenges to freedom are more subtle-- attacks on our Christian beliefs, government interventions that threaten our businesses and personal lives.

I've learned a lot about freedom - and a lot more having to do with the real world - from Sherry.  I've wanted to tell Sherry's story for a long time, since I met her, actually, in 2006.  She changed my life and she says I changed hers.  I have her permission to tell it, and it's a trust that I will treat with respect and care.  It's not pretty.  But, neither is war.  And that's what Sherry's life has been -- War.  There have been been some wins and some losses.  There have been forward movement and setbacks. There have been times when we have been thoroughly fed up with each other! There have been times when we have both cried out to God for help for each other.  I've spent a lot of time shaking my head and throwing up my hands about Sherry. And, I know she gets frustrated with me, too.  She often says, "I'm a mess, aren't I?"  And, I reply, "Yes, you are. But, so am I."

The telling won't be short. And, the story isn't over. But, it'll be honest and interesting, because you can't make this stuff up!  This is real life.  So, come back and take the journey of Sherry with me.  Many of my readers know Sherry, personally, and many know about Sherry. God puts us in each other's lives for reasons that we can only imagine. She might just change your life as she has mine.

"So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed."
John 8:36 NIV

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm Back!

I have been known to give this advice:  Someone can only make you feel guilty if you let them.  Right?  So, this guilt laying heavy on me must be self-imposed. During the first few months of my blogging hiatus, a few people asked me about the lapse in posts.  And, maybe I felt a little guilty.  But, eventually they stopped asking.  Blue Eyed Bride advised "don't blog if you don't want to."  So, I didn't.  After all, there was plenty to do with moving back to Muncie, developing new clients, continuing with existing clients (many out-of-state), making time to see my children and grandchildren in South Carolina and Colorado, traveling with the man of my dreams as time permitted...  You get the idea.  Just like the demands on your time.

Plus, I found myself explaining, "I have to be inspired to write and not just write for the sake of having a blog post." As with many life-bloggers, you think:  Who really cares about what's going on in my life, anyway?

But, in the last few days I have had a time of remembering why I started writing this blog in the first place.  I had MELANOMA.  And, as I searched for information on survivors (please, I prayed, let there be some survivors), I didn't find much personal information.  So, I began to share my experience with my brand of cancer, hoping that it might encourage someone.  And, if you've ever had an event in your life that focuses the interest of your family and friends on YOU, you'll understand that it's a way to provide an update to those who might care.

Eventually, I wandered off into some other topics because I was clear of melanoma and my quarterly scans were all good. My check-ups lengthened to every four months.  So, the writing became less of a passion and more of an obligation... so I stopped.

Then, low and behold, in April I felt a tiny bb-sized lump in my inside left thigh.  Not the leg of my original melanoma site.  On the other side of my body!  We watched it for a couple of weeks, and I decided that it might be getting larger, so my doctors did an ultrasound and needle biopsy and, there it was.  Back.  Melafriekingnoma!  Since it chose to take a journey from the original site, my doctors called it "metastatic."  I chose to not call it that since the PET scan and brain MRI revealed that the rest of my body was clear.  I prefer to call it a new occurrence.

You say potato, I say patahto.  Whatever.  It was still melanoma, and it had to come out.  It did on June 2.  Quite simple compared to the first one in 2010.  Outpatient, local anesthesia, smaller incision --  about five inches and down to the muscle.  As my surgeon at IU Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis was closing the incision, I asked if there might be a crater in my leg since he took so much.  He kindly replied, "God blessed you and me with a little extra fat, so I'll just move a little over into the hole."  See, I knew it would come in handy.  I can think of some of my friends who would be in serious crater territory due to a severe lack of filler material.

Warning:  This is about to get graphic.  But, since you asked:

I know.  Sorry, but this is a medical update and you need to know this.  The incision is healing nicely after adding some antibiotics at end of week one when it looked a little angry.  The inside thigh is a tough place to heal; can't keep a bandage on it because when you walk it slips down around your ankle.  Add that I'm allergic to adhesive, and it just doesn't work very well.  But, it's coming along.  I'll see my oncologist in July for a discussion of the latest poisons they want to put in my body which aren't effective and just make you sick.  More on that as it happens.

So, you see, I had to write.  I was inspired.  The cancer came back and I had to let you know.  And, I had to issue a public "Thank you from the bottom of heart" to all of you who were on your knees praying for those PET scan and MRI results. Everyone from my family and close friends to casual friends and the minister at my church who anointed me with oil two days after I knew the biopsy results. Thank you to my doctors for putting up with my unending conversations on medical books we share and my skeptical reaction to new melanoma drugs. (Want some light reading?  Try "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" and "Commotion In the Blood: Life, Death and the Immune System")  I am humbled by their knowledge and passion and care they provide. Thank you to Alli, my oncology RN, who prayed before she opened the PET scan results and rushed to call me so we could high-five on the phone.  I'm so blessed and undeserving to have such loving, caring people in my life.

I feel an obligation to tell my story and share my journey.  I'm sharing it with others who are on the journey - -  my cousin Kerry, my client Dale, my friends Jim and Dave, the countless others I see when I enter the cancer center.  I'm sharing it for those who might unexpectedly find themselves on this journey.  If my experience encourages or helps or just provides information, then I am rewarded.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5-6