Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PICCn' and Grinnin'

My new BFF.
We're growing quite attached.

Because my veins don't take kindly to being poked on a regular basis, it was determined that a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) be inserted.
I schlepped to the hospital yesterday, took the elevator to the lower level - aka basement and found the infusion center. It's a large room. In the center were recliner chairs where those getting IV therapy could relax while their "liquid gold" dripped slowly in their veins. Around the center are bays separated by curtains with beds. Quite comfortable, I might add.
This is where my procedure took place.
My specially trained nurse M invited me to sit on the bed while she positioned herself next to me. We went over the dreaded, but required list of, "this is what could go wrong". This is where I took the deep breath and summoned my courage to keep from shaking her hand and very politely thank her for her time, but I'd changed my mind and would be leaving now...thank you very much. At least she was slow and caring about the whole thing, unlike the bullet speed voice over at the end of a drug commercial on TV.
It was now time for the production to begin. Lots of blue paper drapes, tubes, syringes and other paraphernalia to be revealed and positioned.
To be honest, the whole thing was relatively painless. Yes, the initial poke required some birth coach breathing, but it only lasted seconds. Then the second poke was the magic lidocaine which kicked any discomfort to the curb.

However... oh yes, there was a however.
The guide wire wouldn't advance to where it was suppose to. M pulled it out a little and tried again, and remember, no pain, so all I knew that something wasn't working was her vocalizations. Sill no dice. So much for my left arm.
Another unpacking of sterile equipment and... lets try the other arm. Once again,the ultrasound showed a luscious, round, ready for action vein.
The wire slid in and kept going. She was pleased.
Now it was time for the x-ray tech to arrive with his machine to snap a glossy 8X10 to make sure the tube was where it was meant to be.
 The wait wasn't long and the picture popped up on M's computer.
Houston, we have a problem.
The tube slid up into my juggler vein in my neck instead of down toward my heart.
Try again. She pulled the tube out to the junction point and gave it another go. We waited for Mr. X-ray again. Smile for the camera...
Results? Even after turning my head and tilting my chin as instructed, it wanted to slide up again. Bad, bad tube!
By now, I'm worried, and frustrated and M is more than frustrated. This twirnt spose to happen. I'm quietly praying, I can tell she's praying and we give it the third time's a charm. But this time M has requested help from the other PICC nurse, C. She pushes my head over and down - not quite into an exorcist position, but let's just say, your nose can touch the pillow when you lay on your back. She also pushed on my juggler vein to discourage the tube from entering. She told me to tell her if I started to feel my brain turn to mush. Now, how am I suppose to know that... I gave my brain cells to my kids at birth.
One more wait, one more visit from THE MACHINE, and...
High fives all around. It worked. She finished the procedure, taped my new jewelry in place and I was good to go.
What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
I was sent home with my "care and feeding of your new PICC line" paper.

See how much fun you can have at a hospital?
Next time: Hi Ho Hi Ho, it's off to the cancer center I go. It's Not To Late To Help 

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Stats Are In

The stats are in.
My blood was separated, isolated and amalgamated. The cancer cells received chemotherapies and nutrients to see which ones responded. Imagine that, all done in little glass tubes without touching my healthy cells. Instead of bombarding my body with a huge dose of what may or may not work and hoping for the best, it was all done in the comfort of a lab.

Now the battle plan is in order. Time to prepare the arsenal.
2 chemos and and 17 nutrients.
Because cancer feeds on sugar, my body will be denied the pleasure. The cancer cells will cry out for food - aka sugar and the little receptors will be like baby birds with their tiny beaks wide open. Insulin will be infused with chemo and like a trojan horse the cancer cells will greedily open their doors wide when they see the "food" a-comin'. Ka-blam! All my other cells will be doing what they normally do, thriving and living while the cancer cells are filled full of the tiny warriors with one purpose - death and destruction.
Only around 10% of chemo is needed because they are targeting only cancer cells. I won't be plagued with side effects. And that's not all... I'll have the 17 nutrients acting as the repair and rebuild crew to shore up the walls. l have a 90% chance of full recovery. Now that's a good deal!
My little explanation of treatment is very elementary, but I think you get the point. Lots of bang for my buck. Lots of hope for the future. I have much living yet to do!

On May 3rd, Hubster and darling daughter will load up the covered wagon and ship me and Chaim across the mountain pass to my new digs.
But first...
PICCn' and grinnin'.  Somebody Help the Girl GiveForward Fundraiser

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Let the Party Begin

I made the phone call and set up an appointment with the cancer center. The consultation appointment and blood test was going to cost a chunk of change, but after prayer and ponder, Hubster and I knew it was the way to go.
Chaim was on board.
Our trek began at 8am. My appointment was scheduled for 11am.

Over the river and through the woods to the cancer center we go.
We settled in the office and filled out the paper work. As with all medical waiting rooms - we waited.
But the atmosphere was very pleasant and comfortable. I noticed several greeting others as they came in, like a small family sort of thing. I guess when you hang out in the waiting room or IV suite with the same people for 3 weeks, you begin to connect. Nice.
It was my turn.
Three doctors, one blood test, one hair analysis - four hours.
I was getting my money's worth. And this is a good thing.
Dr. F greeted Hubster and I warmly and then took the time to go over his treatment plan, my records that I'd sent ahead and answer mine and Hubster's questions. It was not rushed. He listened to my concerns and took the time to address them.
Doctor #2 - Dr. M
He enveloped my hand in his large beefy one. I felt the passing of welcoming energy.
His expertise is two fold - nutrition and emotional/mental care.
He spent the time discussing in detail - pulling out the white paper on his exam table and drawing diagrams of cancer cells and how the protocol would destroy the little buggers. Go get um!!! Kill em daid!!!
He also spent time showing me how much my attitude and how I see myself, works in tandem with the chemo and nutrients in the healing process. He'll be my "life coach" as well as my nutritionist, helping me to plan the diet my body needs.
Dr. I was third in the trio.
He's an oncologist and the "hands on" doctor, doing the physical exams. He also explained the treatment plan as well as doing a mini exam to check vitals and such. His pronouncement was encouraging. For someone with cancer, I'm in good health.
Now for the blood test.
Only 2 pokes and 2 vials of blood. Not bad. To Greece it goes. This will determine the exact chemotherapy and nutrients my cancer cells respond to. Taylor made treatment, just for me.
It's been a full and fulfilling day. Hubster and I are hungry. We decide that since we're in casino country, we want to take advantage of a buffet and maybe a quarter or two into the ol' one arm bandit. Lets see if we can hit that jackpot and pay for the treatment here and now...
Chaim enjoyed his chow and watched me down a few sweet, plump strawberries. Yes, they were good!
As for our wild gambling extravaganza...?

Next: Blood test results and strategy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One Thing Leads to Another

Time for the end of treatment pow-wow with Doctor Y.
We go over the new blood test results. They look good. My body has responded well to the treatments. But...
Cancer markers still indicate bad boy cells are lurking, like a criminal hiding in the closet waiting to attack when the guard is down.
We talk about my options. I still need a second opinion and a repeat CT scan from the HMO provider. I'm under the impression that surgery is my first course of action now that my immune system is in tip top shape.
She mentions a doctor she'd met at a naturopathic cancer convention she recently attended. She's impressed with what she hears. His treatments sound promising. His patients are getting well. I take down his name so I can research. I know it will be pricey, and my HMO will not cover it, but it won't hurt to check it out. After all, once the surgery is completed I'll be "strongly encouraged" to follow through with the chemo/radiation protocol.
It's December. Not only is Chanukkah around the corner, but I'm dealing with my bout of tonsillitis. I decide to wait until January to continue the cancer battle.

Fast forward to March.
I've met with my second opinion, Dr. S. That was a disaster.
I've had my second CT scan. Everything looks pretty good.
I've had a third opinion visit with a gastrointeroligist. He spells out the reason that I need chemo/radiation before surgery, and tells me that I might not have to have surgery at all if we can shrink the tumor. Although I'm encouraged by the news, it still boils down to my HMO wanting me to undergo their prescribed treatment.
Time to check out the doctor and clinic Dr. Y told me about.
Everything I've read sounds promising. All the reviews from past patients encourages me. But here's the catch... it will cost way more than we can afford. It seems like an impossible dream.
I'm reminded that nothing is impossible if G~d is involved, so I once again lay the "letter" before Him.
"Here it is, L~rd. These are my options. I know what I want, but it's up to You. You know what's best, no matter what."
That's a hard prayer to pray knowing that G~d might lead me to the HMO rather than the cancer center.
Waiting is not one of my strong suits. I'd much prefer one of those "ahhhhhhh" moments with ethereal music and an audible Voice. I figure, though, if I did get one, I wouldn't know what to do, so I waited.
It started with an email from a writer friend. We don't communicate very often. She told me that she "happened" to talk with an acquaintance who "happened" to mention that she just returned from this same cancer center I was interested in. I had just "happened" to send out a prayer request to a private prayer group that my friend belonged to and she knew I was interested in it. Short story long... this acquaintance of my friend contacted me. She was very impressed with her treatment and the staff and encouraged me to proceed with my inquiry into the clinic. Then a few days later, another lady in the prayer group read my request and mentioned that her son had gone to the clinic several years before and again, the report was positive.
I had my answer.

Next: Let's do this!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Onward and Upward

One year.
One year since Dr. Little Black Cloud breezed into the recovery bay and delivered her now famous line,"we have a problem, you have cancer."
I wish I could report that I am now cancer free and training for the Boston marathon. Or that I'm featured in a new book - How to Beat Cancer Without Giving Up the Foods You Love.
But I still have the nasty little beastie hanging out in my southern hemisphere. The tumor is still compromising my sphincter muscles. I haven't moved back to Mitford.

But, here's what has happened in the course of the year.

Every few months, I had follow-up full meal deal blood tests. And the results?
My body was getting healthier.
How can it do that? You still have cancer?
My cells began working together, like a herd of elephants protecting a little one. They banded together to protect and defend. Unlike conventional chemotherapy that cannot differentiate between the good, the bad and the ugly, and destroys everything in it's path, the IV therapy and supplements I received helped the healthy cells get stronger. My immune system was not compromised. On the contrary, it took on new powers to keep the cancer from spreading.
I endured the seasonal maladies - colds and such the same way I had before my diagnosis. I had the usual week of the cruds, and then it cleared up. In fact, in December I went through a bout of tonsillitis. And although it was miserable for a few weeks, I got over it without any setbacks. My immune system fought like little troupers and won.
My follow-up CT scan showed no noticeable changes. No mastitis to other organs.
For having cancer, I'm one healthy chick. Go figure.

And now? What does my future hold?
Glad you asked.
I'm embarking on a new healing journey. Or, really, not new at all, but the next phase in the adventure.
I'd like to introduce you to my new friend, Chaim.
Chaim in Hebrew means - life.
He will be joining me as I post future blogs.
I've reported on my past road trips - girl friend road trips and Israel road trips. This one is called - a healing road trip.

Next: It begins with a suggestion.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

And It's Tasty Too.

Vitameatavegamin... And it's tasty too. The next salvo in my arsenal of weaponry...
Actually, it's called PolyMVA.

 "A unique formulation contains a proprietary complex of Alpha-Lipoic Acid and the mineral palladium (which we refer to as LAPd), Vitamins
B1, B2 and B12, Formylmethionine, N-Acetyl Cystiene, and trace amounts of Molybdenum, Rhodium, and Ruthenium. It is designed to provide energy for compromised body systems by targeting the energy charge transfer mechanism of our cells (the mitochondria) while protecting them as well from free radicals." (PolyMVA website)
All those big, $5 words to say it's like re-charging your cells with energy. Makes them into mini superheros to fight the bad-guy cancer cells.

The protocol began with an oral dosage - and I will not lie, the stuff tastes nasty. Thankfully, it's only 2 teaspoons at a time, and with coconut or almond milk and a drop of stevia, it goes down a spoon full of sugar! Or not.
I moved on to an IV bag of the stuff. Tuesday and Thursday, I'd schlep to the clinic for a 2 hour drip. It looks like Dr. Pepper or root beer in bag form. Then I did an IV chaser of Myers - or Mountain Dew. 

My body drank in the brew  and smiled. My veins, however were getting rather tired of the whole thing. By this time I'm into my ninth month of needle pokes. The ol' veins started playing a game of hide and seek or smoosh. The needle would approach, and the vein began to crawl away or scrunch down and hide. We could hear the little dudes with their tiny voices, "noooooooo. Run away, run away."
I elaborate more in this past blog, FIVE POKES AND A PUPPY

In December, the four month IV PolyMVA protocol ended. No more pokes, no more bags. I would, however continue my diet, vitamins and minerals and oral PolyMVA. Now it was time to see how my body responded to all the "real medicine". Would Dr. M and Dr. S gloat and smirk if my body didn't respond and I began to fall apart because I didn't go the conventional route? Would I be "another statistic" of holistic healing gone bad?
Next: Numbers and images tell the truth.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Real Medicine

♫ Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start… ♫

It's a whole different ballgame when you enter a healing place for yourself instead of a loved one. Now I was the one sitting across from Doctor Y. I was the one having my vitals checked, records created - telling my story and my ultimate goal for recovery. This was now my fight, hearing battle plans with life or death consequences. It was for real, now.

First line of defense - a no stone untouched blood workup. Not just the bare minimum CBC test, but a full meal deal, dessert included panel. Since this was all out of my pocket, no insurance company was involved in deciding how little to get away with. No, I got bang for my buck.
 Based on the results I got a complete diet change and introduction of vitamins and minerals to boost my immune system and correct the areas that needed help. I got a two plus hour block of time with my doctor. I listened to her, and she listened to me. At the end of our session, I walked out of her office armed with an arsenal of weapons to kick my nasty little enemy in the touchas (pun intended), along with hope and a warm enveloping hug. Oh, and remember in my last blog where I wondered why I didn't get to sit in the doctor's office with the desk, but instead had to do the "results" chat on the narrow hard exam table? Dr. Y's office had a bonafide desk and padded chair. 
As I mentioned in my blog - Carbs and Salads:
Out went my favorite pasta dishes, baked potatoes and warm toasty bread. In came salads and green vegetables - lots of them. But my body welcomed it - like it was just waiting for me to get the wake up call.

Next course of action was to introduce my body to some hard core treatments. IV therapy.
Yup, needles in the veins, three times a week.
We began with vitamin C and Myers.
Although the body can't absorb the high levels of vitamin C orally, and can have some pretty negative affects, given in IV form, it goes directly into the blood stream. Unlike conventional chemotherapy which indiscriminately kills all cells - cancer and healthy ones alike, vitamin C targets only the cancer cells. 
Along with vitamin C, I was given a Myers cocktail. No, not a fancy colorful drink with floating fruit and an umbrella. This little number includes magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, B vitamins and calcium. It helps boost the body's immune system and helps it fight the cancer. 
Each treatment took between 2 to 3 hours depending on the IV drip speed. With recliners, a movie or soft, relaxing music and conversation with those around, the atmosphere was comfortable. And there were times when a nice afternoon nap came in handy. 
No gurneys, beeping machines, antiseptic smells. Call it a spa for the veins. I'm sure there might even be clinics where a mani/pedi is available.

Next: But wait...there's more!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Will the Real Medicine Please Stand Up

My HMO wants me to long as I play by their rules. And I guess that's only fair. It's their dime. Well, theirs and the bigger picture corporations that own them.

Time to turn the corner and follow the road less traveled.

This is an overview of naturopathic medicine according to the American Cancer Society.
"Naturopathic medicine is a complete alternative care system that uses a wide range of approaches such as nutrition, herbs, manipulation of the body, exercise, stress reduction, and acupuncture. Parts of naturopathy are sometimes used as complementary therapy along with mainstream medicine. Naturopathic medicine is a holistic approach (meaning it is intended to treat the whole person) that tries to enlist the healing power of the body and nature to fight disease."
Sounds good. Looks like they've done their research.
However, this comes next:
"Available scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can cure cancer or any other disease, since virtually (underline mine) no studies on naturopathy as a whole have been published. The individual methods used by naturopathic medicine vary in their effectiveness. Homeopathy, for instance, has been shown in studies to be of little value. Other naturopathic methods have been shown to help in prevention and symptom management. Examples include diet for lowering the risk of severe illnesses such as heart disease and cancer and counseling, relaxation, and herbs to help reduce anxiety.
Available scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine is effective for most health problems. Most of the claims of effectiveness are based on individual cases, medical records, and summaries of practitioners’ clinical experiences."

Who's scientific evidence are we talking about? Large insurance HMO's? The pharmaceutical industry? Who's studies are they speaking of?
If millions of dollars goes into cancer research yearly, why are more people dying from the various forms of the disease?
Wouldn't individual cases, medical records and summaries of practitioners' clinical experiences give an accurate picture of results?
These were the questions I asked myself as I pursued the path of healing.
Considering that the people who hold the purse strings of the American health industry go to no lengths to discredit naturopathic medicine, I reasoned that there might be more to it than meets the eye. Perhaps if there was a cure for cancer - the American Cancer Society would be out of a job (and if you do an internet search, you'll find out where the millions of dollars really go). If there is a cure for cancer from natural elements - food we eat, vitamins and minerals found all around us, free for the taking, the pharmaceutical industry would take a big hit. 

Time to do my own research. Time to find answers.

This is a short list of books I read. The puzzle pieces were beginning to fit into place.
  • Five to Thrive - Lise Alschuler, Karolyn A Gazella
  • Defeat Cancer: 15 Doctors of Integrative and Naturopathic Medicine Tell You How - Connie Strasheim
  • Knockout: Interviews With Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer - Suzanne Somers
And these are the websites I found helpful.
And then there were the reports of chemotherapy and radiation treatments I read about, and heard from family and friends. Most were not favorable. Most spoke of mental and physical suffering. Most shared that the quality of their lives took a nosedive. Many battled their cancer - some for years - the end result - they died. Many shared that their initial cancer was defeated only to come back in another area of their bodies with vengeance. 
After placing everything I'd heard and read and studied on a scale, the balance was tipped.

Next: Diving in head first.
Please partner with us in this healing journey.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Seconds Please

One of my last attempts to make friends with the conventional medical world through my HMO was the decision to get a second opinion. My naturopathic doctor encouraged me in this regard. She told me to shop around within our three HMO covered hospitals in our city for a surgeon that might be more innovative. One that was up on the newest procedures and technology. One that would take the time to listen to me, and perhaps validate my decisions. I studied physician bios, both their education and personal pages. Then I sent three names and bios to Doctor Y for her perusal. I told her to read between the doctor speak and promos to see if one seemed doable.
We narrowed it down to one and I made the call. But unlike a page from a feel good novel, the news I received was real world time. This doctor didn't deal with my surgical needs (even though his bio said he did). The office recommended another surgeon.
Ah yes, Doctor S.
The exam was conducted with two medical students at his side (which I did give approval for - after all they need to learn their craft). I felt, however that I was being used as the specimen - the teaching cadaver. All conversation was around me. Dr. S slapped on the white glove and did his exam (I'll spare you details) followed by one med student's white glove. She wasn't practiced in the fine art of patient comfort. Don't ask me why med student #2 was there. Just observing, I guess. And then they discussed their "findings" above my head. I was instructed to meet them in another room for their assessment.  So I went from one examining room to another. I hopped on another exam table - which I always wonder - why do people in TV shows and movies get their results in posh offices with the Divine Doctor sitting at the big wood desk and patient sitting in a padded chair? The doctor and his entourage swept in, Dr. S sat on one of those fun little twirly chairs while Thing 1 and Thing 2 stood, back to the counter, arms folded and nodded as he gave his proclamation.
I now "probably" had stage 4 cancer and the tumor had "probably" invaded another part of my body by what they felt during the exam.
Well, that's a fine, "how-do-you-do."
I tried to show him my latest blood tests (which, by this time I'm well into my naturopathic treatments). It showed that the cancer had not spread. Because they were not done at sacred HMO labs, he gave them a 5 second glance and told me I needed chemo and radiation. He started to pull out the same pamphlet I was given by surgeon #1. Standard procedure, I guess. I declined, thanked him for his time and told him I would keep in touch.
He ordered me another CT scan, which I needed. After all, HMO will pay for this.
However, the contrast dye he ordered, is not even used anymore. I had to go through my GP to get the right one.
Skipping ahead in my story.
After the CT scan was complete, the results went to Dr. S. I received a phone call from him personally to give me the results. Thankfully my GP doctor sent me a copy of the written results before the phone call. And, thankfully, the results showed no significant changes except for the "suspicious" lymph node had gotten a little larger. Everything else looked good.
This is what Dr. S presented to me. I "probably" had stage 4 rectal cancer now and instead of the tumor invading the one area he mentioned in my initial 2nd opinion visit about 6 months before, he now decided it had "probably" invaded my groin. I needed chemo and radiation.
By now my blood pressure was pretty dang elevated and I tried to keep my voice steady and polite as I informed him that his interpretations and mine of the findings were quite different. When I told him I was in the care of a naturopathic doctor, and the treatments were helping me, he asked me when I was going to use "real medicine". Yup, his exact words.
Next: Real Medicine