Cancer, Alternative Treatments, and Crying for A Vision

Cancer, Alternative Treatments, and Crying for A Vision

“Grandmom Jones” stood in a white room, looking at me over the shoulder of my Aunt Ella.  My aunt, the one going through breast cancer treatment, was facing away from me, talking quietly, to her mother, not noticing me.  My grandmother looked earnestly into my eyes, then reached down under her shirt, pulled out her left breast and pointed at it.

I woke startled.  The dream was so clear, so real.  It prompted action.  It had been at least five years since my last mammogram when I was 38 and now at 43 I finally made the appointment.  I always had some lumps in my breasts; why should this painful large one in my left breast be a problem?

From dream to mammogram, biopsy and result was about a month.  My unsuspecting mother came with me to see the doctor.  Nothing can erase the feeling of agony that came as my breath went, hearing the words, “You have breast cancer.”  It was an awful wave of fear, and with it came the regret that I couldn’t even protect my mother from those words she’d heard along with me.

It was not just the shock and real fear of impending mortality, or knowing that life-saving treatment could be torture that sharpened the edge of these words.  It was the abrupt loss of all my lifelong dreams.  The dream of bearing my own children, of having a whole and healthy body with breasts un-scarred, and other more sweet dreams seemed hopelessly lost.

The first thing to clear up with God was “What do you want from me?”  Do you want me home now?  Because, I will go!  Anything but chemo, loosing my hair, my breasts or torturing this body.  What will I have?  What do I have?” This was more than redefining self.  This was about whether I could accept any new self, or even make it to having a new self at all?  There would be no moving on with treatment, or taking one of the greatest leaps of faith ever, until this basic question was answered; am I staying or going?

The answer came as I surrendered to whatever my fate.  It came from deep within my bones.  I knew that I would live.  It was not my time to go.  I would live, but I would to have to fight for this life.  The despair and hopelessness left me.  It was time to get to work.

My father was a forklift operator in a factory swirling with asbestos.  His chest X-ray showed blunting and some pleural thickening.  Though he never followed up on the preliminary tests, it was assumed to be the beginning of Mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.  This type of cancer is estimated to kill14 million each year.[1]

My father, the son of my guardian angel grandmother, chose not to fight.  He had other problems even greater than cancer that kept him from choosing the fight.  Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Korean War did not help.  But it was the fear of becoming physically dependent on others that overwhelmed him.  He avoided the whole issue of treatment by taking his life in 1995.  This would not be my path.

Dreams, visions, and inspirations through prayer and meditation, what I call “crying for a vision,” would guide me through chemotherapy, mastectomy-reconstruction, complications, and the many challenges of cancer recovery.

After the biopsy, whenever I prepared myself to make an appointment for the recommended lumpectomy, I would have panic attacks.  I experienced a persistent vision/nightmare of a gun going off, with the blast hitting my breast and spreading out across my body.

“What did it mean?  Why would I see a gun?  The symbolism suggested I could die if I did this!  Did it mean the cancer would spread if I had a lumpectomy at this stage in the disease?

I petitioned, “God, what do I do?  Should I get the lumpectomy or go for something more drastic like the mastectomy?  What would you have me do?” This only way to get a true answer was to be open to what works, letting go of outcomes fearlessly.

I call this the warrior stance.  To survive you have to be totally open to what is right, not necessarily what you want.  Otherwise, you risk losing it all anyway.  I call cancer a warrior’s disease.  I think of the ancient Greek women known as the Amazons, who would lop off one of their own breasts so it wouldn’t get in the way of their archery bows in battle.

The answer came in meditation as an image of me with a flat chest.  Ouch! I would op for a mastectomy, even though a team of doctors at one of the best cancer centers had recommended the less disfiguring lumpectomy.  “OK God, if this is best, then I want a decent reconstruction!  Please guide me to it!”  It took a while to find the reconstruction I was eligible for and the surgeon.  Time is cancer’s friend and the patient’s enemy.

My next dream held the key for me.  I was in my childhood backyard with a large writhing mass on my lawn.  It looked like gauze, filled with moving tent caterpillars.  Then I saw someone shoving, what looked like, a gas nozzle into the “massive squirming, gauzy thing” and it shrank to nothing.

The dream’s meaning seemed clear; do chemo, and do it quickly!  I called a highly regarded oncologist near my family home.  “Yes, we used to do neo-adjuvant chemotherapy all the time,” said the doctor.  Neo-adjuvant chemo is chemo that is given before surgery.  “You can start tomorrow,” he added.

Everything fell into place.  I started chemotherapy and the large (5 cm x 6 cm) tumor shrank by half with the first dose.  Before the negative side effects set in, I had more energy than I had had in years.  It was as if a parasite had been removed from my body.  I felt wonderful.

After the mastectomy and reconstruction, the pathology report showed that the cancer had been multi-focal.  This meant that there were multiple sites where the cancer had spread within the breast.  A lumpectomy would not have been sufficient!  The cancer could have spread if the other sites had been missed.  Mastectomy had been the way to go.

There was no dream six years later preceding the news that the cancer had returned.  Being on top of self-care, I’d had a chest MRI every two years, so we caught it early.  This news brought the same agony, but it lasted only 48 hours.  Then I went to work.

The local recurrence was removed by lumpectomy followed by low dose Insulin potentiated therapy (IPT).  IPT is not considered standard of care, an alternative therapy that uses low dose chemotherapy drugs, whose effects are enhanced on the cancer while sparing the patient.

This is done by lowering the blood sugar, “starving” the cancer so to speak; then “tricking” it into taking all of the chemo in by following the chemo immediately with glucose and eating.  This is how IPT outsmarts cancer.  Animal studies have shown it to enhance the effect on tumors by 10,000[2].  I had all my hair and was able to return to work right away.

I have been a Registered Nurse for 17 years, and patient, having to fight for my own life.  I have no qualms about using everything necessary, going to any lengths to live.  Before becoming a nurse, I had the good fortune to have experienced the healing power of food and other complementary therapies.  This and a little help from God and my Grandmom have kept me going.

The key is to trust, tap in, and stay connected spiritually.  All answers will come.  Healing methods may be conventional, complementary or alternative; the answers will come.  Will I live in this body forever?  No, but I will do my best to live and share my blessings.

 


[1] According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, deaths for the 1999-2005 period

[2] http://www.springerlink.com/content/u5wrtgt65bfkmkq5/


2011 James “Rhio” O’Connor Memorial Scholarship Essay
By Karen Jones, RN ~ Karenjonesrn@gmail.com~
http://www.survivingmesothelioma.com


About the Author