In print. It started with an appointment that morning with my surgeon to read the report showing my biopsy results. As I sat waiting to hear my name, I looked around at the magazines desperate to find one NOT about cancer. I felt a deep pit in my stomach and excused myself to the restroom. And there I stayed. I had no intention of ever coming out until the building closed and I could go home. Eventually my husband knocked on the door and I knew my time was up. I opened the door just a crack and he could see my eyes were filled with fear. With enormous love and bravery, he took my hand and we went back in together.
We read the report with my surgeon. I remember feeling so disconnected from the words on the paper and my name on the top. This couldn’t be happening. The report was followed by recommending an oncologist and scheduling a PET scan to see if the cancer had metastasized. At this point, it was certainly in my lymph nodes (17 of 17) and hopefully hadn’t spread to my organs or bones. A few phone calls later, my life became one giant doctor’s appointment. So as of this morning, I was for sure Stage 3. It wouldn’t be until Friday that I would find out any further information. Time seemed to stand still.
Showing incredible love and support, my family became an immediate fixture in my home, friends showed up, meals were made, my kids were taken care of, and the phone never stopped ringing. Joe and I continued to watch countless back-to-back episodes of Mad Men, numbing out the world as we just held each other. My husband began reaching out to friends and family for support and I was shell shocked every time I heard him say my name and cancer in the same sentence. My senses were dulled. I was moving in slow motion and although everyone was talking, I couldn’t hear them.
I finally realized why I couldn’t take in what everyone was saying – it was because no one was speaking my language. My friends and family hadn’t been exposed enough to functional medicine, so they weren’t convinced I had any options other than conventional oncology. I kept hearing people tell me I had to do whatever “they” say, and not to try to “alternative” my way out of this. First of all, who are “they”? And I certainly will “alternative” my way through this. I know that it was an exceptional amount of fear and love talking and my friends and family just wanted me to be open to doing whatever it took to heal – it was just that the world they were so confident in (oncology) wasn’t focused at all on my healing – the collateral damage from treatment can be traumatic, and often life threatening in itself.
Focus. I am grateful for my business partners who organized healing efforts to be in full force immediately. From supplements to acupuncture, reiki and essential oils, they helped me to see through the fog of this horrific week and find moments of feeling my feet on the ground. I knew I had a lot of work to do before sitting face to face with an oncologist. And if you knew me well, you would know that the odds of me not showing up at that appointment were pretty high. I had already contemplated leaving the country. To me, oncology was a black hole that people rarely came out of…one I wanted to do everything to avoid.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, I honestly didn’t know my head from my a*#. I found myself spinning in circles in the middle of my kitchen answering the phone and scheduling appointments. My neighbor was a force of prayer and kept me focused on walking in healing and faith and away from fear, doubt and worry. She looked me square in the eyes and told me I needed to be at the head, NEVER the tail of this journey– to stay present and to surrender my concerns to God. I was going to heal – in fact, she was certain I was already healed. While I could let go of my concerns for one moment, I felt bombarded by information, questions, and expectations in the next. Something had to shift. I needed a plan, something tangible that I could do. I couldn’t just wait around for tests and test results.
It was time to game plan. Before going to any appointments, I needed to call my doctor, my functional medicine doctor. First, I needed to know more about my biochemistry. Luckily, I didn’t have to search very far to get my functional workup since Lake Pointe has a full in-office lab where I could run all my numbers. I never imagined that I would be on the other side of the table, in this way, in my own office. At least I knew I would have access to the best, right here in Minneapolis. (Our lab evaluations test for levels of health and function at a cellular level and served as an ongoing assessment of how my body was doing.) My colleague ran my blood, urine, and saliva tests and faxed them to our mentor in Houston. When I called, he not only provided me with a lengthy list of nutrients and strategies that would heal my body, but he told me that sometimes aggressive cancers require aggressive treatment. And I had an aggressive cancer. He advised me on how to make my body a powerhouse and that I should prepare for conversations regarding chemotherapy. I might need to reconsider leaving the country. He reminded me of how powerful the body is and, if done right, I could avoid significant long term damage from treatment and knock out cancer at the same time. While “doing it right” required an extensive plan, I was willing and ready to master it. If anyone was going to do it right, I was.
** At Lake Pointe we offer functional profiles that include comprehensive blood, urine, and saliva tests. If you or anyone you know is facing a diagnosis, these tests are instrumental in creating individualized nutritional programs to assess and enhance your healing. **
The results. Nerves were high. And it’s always on days like this that people seem to run late. My oncologist too forever to come into the room. The silence was deafening. There we were, just waiting for what was in the envelope. It was one of those “and the Oscar goes to…………” kind of moments, except it was “and your cancer is………..”. Just say it! What was it?? Well, it was Stage 3c. I didn’t even care – we were just so happy it wasn’t Stage 4. The remainder of my body showed no signs of cancer. We were relieved and crying. I can’t describe the irony of celebrating Stage 3 cancer.
Then there were the “necessary talks” about recommended treatment, side effects, timelines, etc. Due to the agressive nature of the cancer, treatment was recommended to start the following Friday. I now understand the conveyor belt effect of oncology, similar to that of obstetrics and labor – once you get on it’s very hard to get off. One intervention often leads to the next, and there is often such a hard sell to getting started right away. I wish this would have been different, and yet it’s one of many hard lessons learned along the way. The following conversations were all too much and I was not in the best frame of mind to talk about social workers and support groups and whether I was going to freeze my eggs or not.
It was enough for one day. To top it off, as we were leaving, I saw someone on my oncology team leaving carrying a Diet Coke. Talk about perspective. This instantly redefined where I was standing . And it eliminated my need to persuade, convince, or argue my oncologist about utilizing nutrition to heal my body. That wasn’t their job. I just needed them to be experts in what they knew, nothing else. While the disciplines of oncology and functional medicine felt equivalent to the separation of Church and State, the goal was never going to be to get my oncologist to be an expert in functional medicine. I already had that.