All heal

Anthroposophic Medicine Center in Chestnut Ridge, NY

Anthroposophic Medicine Center in Chestnut Ridge, NY

This trip had many reasons. To receive hugs and kisses from my niece and nephew, the best medicine of all, was one of them. The other reason was right behind their backyard.

After 15 years living 10 minutes away from each other, my sister and I now live in separate states. What we didn't know is that her new home would be next door to one of the only places Anthroposophic Medicine is available on the east coast. I don't even have to drive, just walk through the beautiful woods behind her house and I reach this doctors' office in five minutes.

This was my 4th consultation. Some of the appointments had to be over the phone. Traveling wasn't always possible during cancer treatment. For 8 weeks now I have incorporated a new remedy in my healing process. Widely used in Europe, here in the United States, the injections I administer to myself three times a week are an alternative method considered occult and controversial. And for those who know me: alternative, occult and controversy fits me well.

No other medicine gives me deeper sense of healing than Iscador. A remedy made of the sap of the mistletoe, it was first known by the celts. Others consider it flat out parasitic and poisonous and therein may lie its powerful effect on cancer. In the Celtic language, Mistletoe means "All Heal". The ancient Celts believed Mistletoe possessed miraculous healing powers and held the soul of the host tree.

When I told my radiologist about this treatment he said: "It can't hurt." Well, in my view and for many others, it can heal. And it is now part of my regiment. My sister's move might've been just one more nudge of the universe to set things in motion in a mysterious but perfect way. After all, there are no coincidences.

 

I've written a bit more about Mistletoe on a previous post that you can read here. And some info on medical trials using this remedy can be found here. Please find certified Anthroposophical practicioners to guide you on your healing process if you decide to follow this method. A list of doctors in the United States can be found here.

If I knew

"Baby, if I knew what I know now

I would never turn it back around"

~ By Bath for Lashes ~

You know that you came at the perfect time
There was a mountain I had to claim as mine
And you brought every weather from storm to shine
But I'm thankful for who you helped me fight

Baby, if I knew what I know now
I would never turn it back around
Wrong or right, you held me up to the light
The mountain had a mirror inside
And where I was going took time

And you've seen me walk through a veil of fire
Stroll up by the darkness as my pain flew high
And I thought it was you I'd been searching for
Somehow I am a mirror, the mountain a door

Baby, if I knew what I know now
I could never turn it back around
Wrong or right, you held me up to the light
The mountain had a mirror inside
And where I was going took time

 

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even 1%

painting variation: Solar eclipse, Howard Russell Butler, 1923.

painting variation: Solar eclipse, Howard Russell Butler, 1923.

I took the rest of the week off. In 48 hours, I'll have seen 4 different specialists. I'll have brought family, friends, confidants and my beloved also into council. These are people who either know my body inside out, or my soul inside out. They know me biochemically, energetically and emotionally. Because I realized I was mistaken. When you are making a life and death decision the consequences are not absolutely and only yours. Those who love you are right there beside you. So I asked the specialists for numbers. "There is a 5-8% reduction in reoccurrence if you take this drug." Not a very impressive number. But when the one you love looks you in the eye and say: I'll take even 1%, what do you do? When those holding you tight in so many ways and from so many perspectives are all saying: "so you are not even gonna try it?" It's a fair argument. Walking back on my word is a hard pill to swallow. But it's one I am willing to take. Because I love you.

How far?

~ painting detail: Solar eclipse, Howard Russell Butler, 1923.

~ painting detail: Solar eclipse, Howard Russell Butler, 1923.

How far do you go from what you believe? How far do you go from what you've always known? So many times during treatment I had to close my eyes and do what I was told. But there were times I had to draw the line. And it's usually when every cell in my body was screaming.
Not having breast reconstruction was one of those moments. I had to fight so hard to not have a cosmetic procedure that had zero priority on my personal healing choice and process. Now I am facing one more of those moments.
I am supposed to start a 5 year hormonal treatment. 5 years taking a prescription drug that can create havoc in my body. I stopped at the pharmacy, picked up the pills and left it by my bed side. But I cannot make myself take this drug. Every cell in my body is screaming. The laundry list of side effects too many to count. So, what do I do? Close my eyes for 5 years & pretend nothing is happening? I am being told: "Suck it up, that's what you need to do. The breast cancer you had was ER/PR positive. So hormone levels were directly connected to the tumor growth. You have to take it." But It is not just about side effects. After 9 months of cancer treatment side effects become part of life. I can suck it up. Believe me. It's about something else. It's about refusing to believe that a natural hormone created in a woman's body is suddenly the cause of cancer. And should be suppressed with a prescription drug even though it will take your hormonal system further away from any natural balance. Just close your eyes, ignore your entire hormonal system, and believe this drug is protective of your health. And don't worry about the very small chance of this drug giving you other types of cancer. It's very slim." That is what I am being told. How far do I go from what I believe? How far do I go from what I've always known? Once again I am drawing the line. I've decided I will not take this drug. Every cell in my body is screaming: there is another way! So here it is to one more life and death decision. And nobody can stop you because the consequences are absolutely and only yours. 

Sky

I came to this spot the week before I started cancer treatment.

I left work and parked my car. I sat on a bench and watched the waters rushing by like my mind. Everything was up in the air. What would it be like? How would I feel? Would it be effective? Would I make it?

I could do nothing about it but to go in. Neck deep. And then eventually let go completely. Dive in. Treatment was full on. All I could do was navigate the waters of side effects, procedure, doses, medications and try to stay afloat. Waters rushed by, until it stopped.

This week became this pause. Unplanned closing time. The waters are now still. Like a mirror. Reflection of myself. Last appointment with specialists. You are done. All I can see now is the sky.

Future

I tacked this to the wall above my desk at work and walked away for indefinite long term disability. I circled FUTURE on this floor plan at a time I had no idea if I had one or not. So many times, during these past 9 months I didn't know if I would get to see this space. Today I had a tour of the new studio. On Monday, I will be moving together with my team into our brand new space. Dreams do come true.

Buddha

For the next few days I have to have the patience of a Buddha. And dress like one too. My skin is just too raw. I can't bare to look at it. Let alone put any clothes on. The next 10 days is when my immune system is most vulnerable. Rest is all that's left to do. So, Obi wan Kenobi looking, I'll be home bound. May the force be with you. I'll see you all soon.

But hey, fuck it! Radiation is over. Radiation is over. Radiation is OVER. That is all I need to know. I can find all the patience in the world inside me!

 

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IMG_2324.JPG

Last day

The last day. It took me eight months to get here. During all this time I had to place my life in the hands of others, over and over again. During each session of chemo, each step of the surgery or each dose of radiation someone could've saved me, or not. There is nothing more humbling than that. But delegating my life to others will only take me so far. Now doctors are telling me: "I'll see you next month". "I'll see you in six months". "I'll see you next year". That's it? Wait. No more daily visits to the hospital, blood counts, blood pressure, body temperature, nothing? But, do I even know how to take care of myself at this point? I better. Because my life is now in my own hands. Here. Take it. Hold it. Your life is yours. Thank you for all those who took over this task for me. But I can not delegate my healing to others forever. It is my own responsibility now. This is not the last day. Like many say, it's the first day of the rest of my life.

Why disappear

The world is too busy for you. So you look for that which lives in stillness. You camouflage and stay amongst it. Even the trees forgot you are there. Suddenly a letter arrives, and the bookshelf calls, and the familiar face invites. You attempt to move but you have to say: later. Looking down you noticed your feet are now roots. I'll reply, I'll read, I'll visit - once I've grown. It's almost done. But not quite.

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it will not be televised

I can't show the spark on my eyes just because I could say "see you soon".

I can't share the berries eaten by sparrows as I realized "I have all I need, too".

I can't describe the sound of bare trees dancing as I understood "we are all in this together".

I can't display the pulse in my veins as I realized "I can still run".

The revolution will not be televised. You have to come and walk with me.

Xmas

~ copyright TIME - Bettmann/Corbis

~ copyright TIME - Bettmann/Corbis

We didn't plan it. But that's what happened. Gene & I spent Xmas in bed. You would think that after 7 months of treatment that would be the last place we would like to be. But naps, meals, books and laughs kept being exchanged in bed as gifts. Being sick in bed is one thing. Being happy in bed is another. No medication every six hours. No gauze to be changed. No nurses coming over. No visit to the hospital. Just me and him. Pillows all over, blankets protecting us and peace all around us. So forgive us for the lack of communication. Computer was off. Phones were off. And the only language was that without words. We were wishing you Peace and Love all along. Like Yoko & Lennon before us.

past tense

It took me a while to be able to say: "I have cancer." It would come out in a low tone. Eyes down. Words half trapped in my throat. As the treatment went on I didn't have to say it. It was obvious. My body said "I have cancer" for me. It was present. Since surgery, cancer has been ripped out of my body. It is in the past tense. "I had cancer." Grammatically is a simple shift, emotionally is a 180*. It is taking me a while to be able to say "I had cancer." As treatment is ending I have to say it. It is not obvious. My body needs to hear "I had cancer" from me. In a strong pitch. Looking straight in the eye. Words loud and clear. "I had cancer." It's in past tense.

upstairs

We had to move the bed to the second floor. Closer to the essentials: bathroom, kitchen, less stairs. It was what I needed. I called it: "my emergency room". But I no longer need it. I no longer want it. I have no room for it. Not in my house. Not in my head. Let it fade. Like a bad dream. Wake up. It is over now. Wash the sheets. Make the bed. The night is over. The sun is out. Upstairs.

Road is clear

The ultrasound was clear. No bumps on the road. No lumps on my way. The road is wide open. It was just breast tissue that has now been forever changed after all the chemo and the hormonal changes that followed. I now have to remind myself that I went into instant menopause during this treatment. So I not only get those hot flashes, but a breast that may feel more lumpy than it ever did before. As a result, neither the doctor or I could tell if what we were feeling on my right breast was normal or not, until we did this ultrasound. But now I am good to go. The road is clear. Nothing to stop me. Other than my mind. Yes. I got into some dark country roads. Winding down to many "what ifs" scenarios. Hard not to go there. It is difficult to believe the long detour your life took is about to lead you on a long wild ride with open skies above. So forgive me to have scared you. But thank you for being there with me. Now let's hit the road. We have a long journey ahead.

~ photo taken on the way home, with my entourage of friends beside me.

Surrender

surrender.jpeg

So I lost it. I confess. I broke down. After I found something on my right breast, the doctor is ordering an ultrasound. It will be later today. I've been trying not to panic for the past three days, but I am failing miserably. I've been trying to fix it in my head. Day and night. I am trying to understand it in my heart. Day in, day out.

I frantically wrote emails. Some went to women who have "been there, done that". They all told me: "We all panic." "You are being proactive, just go and take care of it. That's all you can do". Other emails went to my musketeers. Men who I adore as brothers. They've shower me with their strength. And some emails went to my entourage. They will be escorting me throughout the day. I'll have a ride to work with a Starbucks drive-in included. Green tea to go, please. Another friend will drive me to the appointment. Others will be there waiting for me at the doctor's office along with Gene. How many people can you fit into an ultrasound room? We'll find out.

The irony of it all is that I've had 3 separate appointments with 3 different specialists. They found nothing. Ten days later, it is now a different story.
I'll tell you one thing: there's a lot of guilt passed around with a breast cancer diagnosis. The 1st guilt trip is to have created your cancer to begin with. I absolutely believe that every disease has a psychosomatic component to it. But I also know too well, that there are traumas way too deep. And Uncovering them can take too long.

And then comes the other guilt factor: "Well, well... when was your last mammogram?" "What about self-examination, why didn't you do that?" We could've treated it much earlier if you had done it, so..." Yes. A lot of doctors kinda blamed me for not having detected the mass on my left breast the 1st time. And here I am while me and my boobs have been scrutinized up and down.Nobody saw it.

So I am letting go. I am now surrendering. I can't control where this ride will go. Take me there. I am ready to do what needs to be done. Just like I got up and went to work this morning. I'll do what is asked of me. But, Panic. It ends now. The Guilt, too.

Now, how?

I am afraid. I am stepping on egg shells. I just crushed it, see? I wished I could just drop this awareness and be innocent again. But that is a luxury for those still living in the illusion. I don't have that. I carry this awareness around. This preciousness surrounding every moment makes you want your every move to count. It feels heavy sometimes. There, I just crushed one more. So I am left with transcendence. Which sounds obnoxiously daring. But it's the only thing left to do: going beyond the reality I ever thought possible. That is what I have to do. Now, I just have to figure out How.

~ from a letter to Bea - part 2.

Enough

I thought I understood what "living in the present moment" meant...what "being in the now" was. When I was given my diagnosis I thought that was the lesson. And I said to myself: "So, that's what they meant about being present." In theory, I immediately grasped what that was. But the rabbit hole always goes a bit deeper, doesn't it?

It is only now, when I am about to step back into my routine, back to "my life" that the pretty understanding up in my head, has to become the down and dirty task of practice. And the difference is huge. There is this big gap in between the two. A Grand-Canyon-size gap. And I am standing right on the edge staring at it.

So, it is that wide, it is that vast the place you reach once you finally let go of the baggage of "not enough". And I am not talking about "not being enough" or the ridiculous version of "not having enough". That was lessons 101 for this cancer apprentice and I better fucking believe it by now. The practice of being present becomes a piece of cake after seeing it! And that rabbit hole was indeed much deeper than you imagined.

The "not enough" that is waving at me... "Can you see meeeee? I am all the way down heeeeere?" The "not enough" that I am squinting to see and I better not let it get out of my sight...Oh, ok, there you are! Is a very different "not enough". It escapes your hands and runs away from you, while the others "not enoughs" lay heavy on your shoulders.

This "not enough" is the realization that it will "never" be enough. No matter how many times I open my eyes and I am here with that light, that bird, that skin, that tartness, that note: it will never be enough for me. A thousand years would not be enough. Not even a million years would do.