I was first diagnosed with melanoma at 46 years old. 50 stitches later I was fine.
However, three years later, when a sore on my foot wouldn’t heal, I went to a podiatrist who cleaned up the affected area and performed a standard biopsy. He told me “it’s normal procedure; chances are one in a million that there’ll be a problem”. When I went back for my follow up appointment the next week, he examined my foot and told me it appeared to be healing just fine. When I asked about the biopsy results, he said he’d nearly forgotten, needed to check and would be right back. It had slipped his mind, as again, it’s so rarely problematic. He came back in the room with an ashen face telling me he was sorry but the results came back malignant. I was in shock. I immediately scheduled an appointment with an oncologist with whom I met a few days later, making sure to mention my concurrent back pain. My new oncologist scheduled an MRI and PET scan. I was once again shocked a week later when the test results came back: apparently my foot problem and my back pain were related. I had a tumor on my spine that needed to be removed ASAP before I lost my ability to walk. The assumption was that it was melanoma once again. The pathology reports were shared and analyzed by several leading institutions. Five weeks later we had an incontrovertible diagnosis: I had a very rare form of bone cancer. It quickly sunk in that following spine surgery I would undergo vigorous chemotherapy infusions, radiation and foot surgery. OK, one step at a time.
I’d heard of the Block Center through a close family friend. Though I wasn’t able to travel to the Block Center for actual treatment, I wanted them involved in my care. With great help, I flew out to Chicago 6 weeks after spine surgery and met with Drs. Keith and Penny Block, along with a few of the other clinicians. After some lab testing, I was provided with recommendations for dietary changes, a supplement regimen, bio-behavioral strategies and a fitness regimen. I’m so glad I did! My aggressive allopathic treatment included 18 months of chemotherapy, comprised of 7 different chemo drugs, often administered over 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. During that year and a half, I also underwent 6 weeks of radiation and surgery on my foot. Importantly, I attribute my ability to withstand all this invasive treatment to the individualized program I was given at the Block Center. Thankfully, their whole-person, individualized approach balanced the required allopathic care with equally important complementary care which enabled my own innate healing capacity to kick in and work for me. The Block Center taught me the inherent power of lifestyle change.
On most days, especially earlier in the week, I would come home from infusion sessions and walk– a slow stroll– up and down my neighborhood street. During these walks I’d think of the chemo as my friend. I consistently visualized the agents as “liquid sunshine” flowing through my being, eradicating bad cells with love and warmth. I knew that my walking helped circulate the meds to more “nooks and crannies” within in my body so as to best perform their job hunting down the bad guys. I basically reframed my attitude and created a healthier viewpoint by mentally changing my mindset about what was happening and why. In a way it was like uploading new software to my mind. Penny Block had suggested using “guided imagery” to leverage the mind’s ability to cope by creating peaceful, beautiful realms within. Though challenging, the extent to which one can tap into this inner-resource is invaluable.
I basically applied the same psychological judo or software reset to the essential mission of adhering to the Block Center’s supplement regimen and dietary changes. These product recommendations were informed by blood lab work and tightly targeted to my unique biochemistry. Since everyone’s needs are unique, randomly taking supplements just because you’ve heard that a particular vitamin is good for you is often not helpful and can be, in fact, dangerous. Rather, it’s vital to have the appropriate nutritional lab work performed and, with a qualified nutritionist’s guidance, learn what to take and how to address vitamin deficiencies and/or imbalances.
As expected, I experienced various degrees of nausea during the bulk of my 1.5 years of chemotherapy; but I actually only required a very small fraction of the prescribed mild anti-nausea and vomiting meds. I never once needed to use the stronger option provided. I give great credit to several of the supplements the Block Center recommended as well as to their suggestions regarding consuming fresh raw ginger in drinks, food and tea. They have a wide-range of great knowledge and resources to share. Taking all these oral supplements was and remains challenging, even today. But I’ve learned to view each supplement capsule as a beautiful energy-giving life force and less of an inconvenient chore that must be completed. With the exception of a several week period when the radiation to my thoracic back (where the tumor on my spine was resected) caused an extremely sore throat (esophagitis), employing these various tools and techniques enabled me to ingest the supplements that played, and continue to play, a great role in my ongoing recovery.
As I mentioned, I walked- at some level- almost daily. I’d do my best to swing my arms some and stay focused on priming my system for maximum distribution of that liquid sunshine life force comprised of chemo, supplements, plant-based food and as much reverse osmosis water as I could drink… and then some. For almost a year now I’ve been regularly (with several breaks here and there for one reason or another) swimming laps at my gym pool. Swimming has been most effective for me in terms of spine rehabilitation and energy creation. While swimming, I often tap into some of the basic yoga and meditation “mind exercises” I’ve learned. This has been unbelievably helpful. My new goal is to swim four 40 minute sessions per week.
Life Over Cancer stresses the importance of proper hydration; never more important than while undergoing chemotherapy. I was steadfast in imagining my water intake as washing away the toxic by-products in my system, cleaning my kidneys, bladder and liver through the creation of purifying, healing rivers and streams flowing through my body.
I’ve come along so far and give great thanks to the universal energy source!
Though disciplined, I am not puritanical about my new lifestyle. That would be way too stressful. My new Life Over Cancer-centered integrated lifestyle approach is a beautiful new way to live.
I’ve always been a very grateful person but since my diagnosis and subsequent treatment(s), I’ve surely developed a much higher appreciation and deeper understanding. I endeavor to tap into this new perspective as much as possible when dealing with life’s inevitable stresses and strains. Though not always instantly available, I am eventually able to get there. Instead of giving the problem and/or situation too much gravitas, I try to focus on life itself and how, even with all of its challenges along the way, the opportunity to experience the journey that is life is truly a gift. Each and every day is a blessing and a miracle.
I recall very slowly walking down my street one late autumn afternoon during a week of chemo infusions well into my 8th or 9th month and observing the clear late afternoon sunlight refracting low through the trees on a sharp angle: the canopy of branches and leaves powerfully illuminated by the brilliant light… an unbelievably gorgeous autumn show of rich color, texture and detail. I remember being over-powered by The Great Spirit I sensed in the trees and light. It truly blew me away: the art of amazement. Surely I could tap into and leverage this mighty, vigorous source. Surely we all can.
To quote Vivian Greene, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but, rather, learning to dance in the rain.”