It has been a strange and soul-searching week-and-a-bit, hence no blog. Readers of previous blogs will know that my good friend Lyn has been a massive and constant support to me in general, but especially on hospital visits, where she lights up the whole waiting room and has us all chuckling. Since the last post she has been in hospital herself, seriously ill with a neural aneurysm – and needed brain surgery to save her life. She is home now and I will see her tomorrow for the first time, but I would be grateful if you could send thoughts for her continued progress and recovery.
You might have also noticed there have been no posts from hospital or accounts of exciting encounters with Dot. After a recent blood test which showed just how healthy my bone marrow is, I had a kind of awakening. The objective of this particular chemo is to destroy almost every cell in my body (a few cancer cells, but generally also a lot of very good quality ones), then replace them with cells grown outside (stem cell transplant) with the hope that my body rebuilds itself. I came out of the appointment wondering why on earth I was doing this. The quiet whisper has become a roar and I can no longer avoid it. The shock and speed of my diagnosis left me no time to explore other options, and, fearful and panicked as I was, I leapt almost whole-heartedly (but to be truthful, with a lot of apprehension) into the treatment regime that appears to be my only hope. I might be pink and bouncy when I am in hospital, but underneath all that I have extreme doubts about this treatment and especially the side effects. We’re not just talking hair loss and nausea. The possible side effects are included on the consent form I had to sign before treatment started, and the registrar apologised that he had run out of space but I could have a further booklet to enlighten me if I wanted to know more. Included in those that did fit on were heart failure, arrhythmia (like I need more?!), sudden death, liver failure, kidney failure, permanent brain damage, liver/lung changes – oh, and failure of treatment. So I could go through all that and still not be well. My instinct that this poison was, well, poisoning me, was absolutely spot on. I haven’t looked at the statistics of the people suffering from side effects, but I have never been much of a gambler; if there is a chance I could get any one of those things I would rather not throw the chips down, thank you very much, so the whole scenario has been very much on my mind.
This whole episode was also heightened by several people mentioning the possible use of medicinal cannabis for the nausea I was complaining about. Of course cannabis is illegal just about everywhere in the world, and not because a very small percentage of people get off their heads on wacky baccy. Oh no. Cannabis is illegal just about everywhere because it poses such a massive threat to several massive industries including Big Pharma. There are literally hundreds of case histories showing how cannabis oil has treated cancer, but you have to do a lot of illegal things to be able to use it, which isn’t my particular strength. I get stopped going through Customs with just hand luggage, so I’m not about to get into anything even slightly illegal as they will come here first. Plus we have a policeman living just over the way, and nice as he is, I think he would probably want to investigate the source of the sweet smell emitting from our apartment. Go Google Rick Simpson if you are interested to know more. This started to get me ever so slightly frustrated. The truth is I have such a rare and aggressive form of cancer that they don’t have a neat regime like in other cancers. I know there are countless people alive today who are grateful for their treatment, but basically treating me is a work in progress which has lots of caveats and a fair amount of crossed fingers.
Thinking about the cannabis oil led me to other alternative therapies. My mum fought breast cancer for a second time with alternative therapy after an horrific encounter with radiotherapy when she first had the disease. That was 27 years ago and she survived longer than most women on conventional treatment at the time although, sadly like them, she did eventually succumb. In fact yesterday was the 20th anniversary of her death. Hi Mum! So I do know a bit about it, and it has definitely played a part in my health choices ever since. A contact of Stephen’s sent a lovely email wishing us both well and suggested some herbs that might help me as well as details of a medical herbalist we could talk to. By this time my chemo appointment was drawing close and I was feeling more and more strongly that I needed some thinking space. At my pre-chemo appointment on Weds I said that I needed to delay the treatment until next week due to work commitments (partly true). There was no struggle but it was a hard thing for me to do as although inside I am quite a rebel, on the outside I am a real scaredy-cat. Anyway I managed it, and on Friday we were on our way to see an Ayurvedic medical herbalist. Apart from the glorious sunny weather, driving through one of the prettiest parts of England was a balm to my soul and we had a very useful appointment with her. She suggested an intensive 3 week treatment that would be taken in India called panchakarma shodhana. We’re not talking Indian Spa here – it is a seriously uncomfortable treatment that is designed to force the toxins from your system. I am still investigating the possibility of going to India, but I have already started on the slow version here. I left with my bag of disgusting tasting herbs and tinctures. I am following a 75% green veg no fruit diet (cancer cells love sugar), so basically any plateful must have 75% greens. So I am having really odd breakfasts like poached egg on steamed spinach and poached haddock on spinach and curly kale and I have just started fruit-free green shakes. I’ll report back on that one! Curly kale of course being the latest big fad since spinach. Did you know that spinach isn’t any better for you than any other greens? The scientist apparently got his decimal point in the wrong place and for decades we were duped into thinking spinach was especially excellent. See…never trust the science :-)
I haven’t yet decided which route I am going to take. Astrologers amongst you will know that it is Mercury Retrograde at the moment. For the uninitiated that means it is a very bad time to make decisions. It is a time of research and investigation and of pondering. We have a meeting with the consultant on Tuesday in which I am going to suggest I take a 3 month break from chemo to investigate other methods of healing and discuss with him my very deep seated concerns about the treatment. I will have Stephen there to help back up the scaredy-cat, don’t-want-to-upset-people side of my nature. What does seem wrong though is that I should even worry about bucking the system. You could say, and no doubt many will, that I am considering refusing something that science proves works. The reality is that very big money funds the science with a vested interest to show that it works, which is absolutely not always the case. Anything ever so slightly threatening to these organisations has been stamped out by the 1939 Cancer Act. Read the inspiring but truly horrific case history that is going on as I write, to discover what we are up against http://sallyrobertsourstory.wordpress.com/sally-roberts-story/
I started this blog many posts back saying that I wasn’t angry and that for me it was all about acceptance and surrender. I have found in the last week that I am actually becoming very angry; I am angry that I am being shoe-horned into a treatment that may not be in my best interests, and that options that may work better for me have been hounded out of town so they can’t compete. I am also angry that I have to put a huge amount of effort into doing all this when all I really want to do is get on with life. To this end I am becoming increasingly enamoured with Thich Nhat Hanh and the way he teaches mindfulness. I am reading his book ‘Fear’ (see Book Blog for more info) because of course I am afraid. I face a very uncertain future and that is very scary. In ‘Fear’, he teaches that we have to come back to the ‘here and now’ as this is the only moment in which we can be fully present. The past has gone and tomorrow isn’t here yet, but I am here now. The poem I want to leave you with is one from the book that I have just started working with to help me understand and dispel this anger. Anger and cancer are not good bedfellows. So we end up back at acceptance. Sometimes I astound even myself :-)
I have arrived, I am home.
In the here, in the now.
I am solid, I am free,
In the ultimate I dwell.