Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Hope and a Future.

Stage 4.
Breast cancer
Lung cancer
Rectal cancer
Prostate cancer
Brain cancer

Makes you want to stop reading, doesn't it? So depressing. Hopeless. Edge of death.

There are six black recliners on one side of the room and six on the other - side by side with a small glass top table between. We're close enough for conversation. Close enough to hear each other's business. But then, it doesn't matter. We're all fighting the same battle. We're all comrades on the front lines up against the same foe. We watch each other's back. Care about each other's outcome, test results, setbacks and victories.
Some of us have been together from the beginning of the 3 week cycle. Others, we say good-bye to after only a few days. Some will say farewell to us and continue on to fight for another week or two.

Let me share a few of their stories.

Betty started out with lung cancer, which moved into her brain. She went the conventional way. She's undergone different chemos and treatments. All of them made her sick. All of them came with the price of side effects. She's from Wyoming.
Berry, also, started out with lung cancer which moved into his liver and brain. Conventional treatment - side effects. The day after his last radiation, against his doctor's advice, he and his wife hopped a plane so he could begin treatment at Century Wellness on Monday. They came from Massachusetts.

Jerry has prostrate cancer. He also did the conventional treatment. Same story. Sickness and side effects. He still has cancer. An avid golfer, he now has a hard time walking around. He's from Southern Nevada.

Mel is from California. He's in advanced stage stomach cancer, and has to carry around his stomach feeding tube machine. As all the others, he tried the conventional approach. Same song, different verse. Side effects. Some days are better than others for him. He's determined to kick the disease. Seriously, he should be dead by now, but he's not.

Aaron has rectal cancer - again. After the full round of conventional - chemo, radiation and surgery, he was given the "in remission" title. However, that didn't last. It came back. All within a year. He's from So Cal.

Each person speaks about the living hell they went through with their treatments. Not one of them speaks highly of their journey. They all dealt with doctors who considered any other alternative something only witch doctors dabbled in. They were all categorized, staged, given the dreaded countdown to eternity numbers and sent on to the infusion rooms and radiation rooms.
"This is how we do things. There is no other viable way. No studies to prove any other approach."
And in the immortal words of my dear ol' surgeon, "when are you going to use real medicine?"
But each of my comrade's stories don't end on a sour note.
They've all survivors. Not of their cancer. No, they are survivors of conventional methods that did not work, or caused more issues.
Each one of them walk in to the center every morning with hope and a future. They all look pretty good. Sure, there are red light and green light days. A little nausea; looking forward to an afternoon nap. Let's face it, we're still doing chemo - albeit in small doses. But the chemo is sandwiched between layers of nutrients, vitamins, minerals which repair and protect the healthy cells. Our bodies are fortified with life and energy to fight the good fight.
And along with that - something that I feel is the yummy sauce which holds the fixins' in place - we are given hope, encouragement, laughter, joy, peace, kindness...
We're told every day by the staff, whether in word or deed that we're important and cared for. They are on our sides. They want us to thrive - not because that's what pays their bills, but because they see on a regular basis the results of love and compassion and G~d given tools to repair and restore our bodies.
Combining science, nature, hope and prayer in the treatment of cancer.
Yes, this about sums it up.
(I've changed names to protect privacy)

Next - Graduation Day

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Week One. It's a Wrap

"You're in the front row of the chorus line."
I like these words.
At the end of my first week, Dr F gives me the low-down on my blood tests.
They look good. Very good.
I leave the Center with a spring in my step and a big smile on my face. My first week - in the can. My body is responding, G~d is on His throne, and all's right with the world.

My schlep down the hill is uneventful. Two hours later, I pull into my driveway.
I'm home. My house, my family, my bed. Ahhhhhh.
From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, I can relax. No infusions.

Hubster and One and Only Son prepare Shabbat dinner while I hang out on the couch. You know, I could get used to this. Costco rotisserie chicken and artichokes hit the spot. Yes, I'm a blessed woman.
 And there's more.
On Saturday evening, after a restful Shabbat day of napping, I'm treated to dinner, gifts and lots of love from Lovely Daughter, Son-In-Love, a pile of Grands (count them...5), Hubster and One and Only Son. Pre-Mother's Day, don't you know.
And there's more.
On Sunday, I'm loved on by 3 more Grands.

But now, I must pack up and take my leave. It's been a delightful weekend - too short.
Time to return to Century Wellness Center for my second week.

On Monday, the routine begins again. I meet with Dr I for an exam. All my innards are good and healthy. Recovery is progressing as planned.
As I enter the infusion room, my IV friends are there too. We've all survived our weekend, and we greet each other like college buddies returning from our weekends. We catch each other up with our stories.
Back to the business of healing.

On Tuesday, I meet with Dr M. Such a treat. His upbeat manner is good for the body and soul.
We talk about the weekend and he gives me the blood report from the test taken on Monday.
Yup, my little blood soldiers are doing their job - everyone from the Lieutenants to the Special Forces. All are carrying out their duties.
It's chemo day. Finger pokes and orange juice. Within 2 hours, I'm done.
It's a windy day. I'm ready for a little nap before I venture out to Whole Foods.

My mind goes back to the infusion room at the hospital and I can't help but become sad. Very sick people, curled up in blankets, alone and silent, enduring yet more bags of chemotherapy. Most will be there for 6 to 8 hours. And then there are the ones confined to beds in the cancer ward. Hair gone, strength gone; and many with no hope of recovery. They've given up, biding their time until their bodies can't take the stress of more poison.
Is conventional Western medicine really in the business to save lives...
I wonder.
Next: My friends and their stories.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Healing Cruise

Century Wellness Center cruise.  At least so far, that's what it feels like.

Hubster and I took an Alaskan cruise several years back. We boarded a ship, set sail, met
new people - all headed for the same destination. The ship staff's main goal was to insure that we were happy, pampered and had our needs met.
We hobb knobbed with people from all walks of life, of varied ages and from all parts of the US. Some were wealthy and the trip didn't even dent their bank accounts while others no doubt mortgaged the farm to fulfill their dream. But as we sat together in the dining room, we were all on equal ground. It didn't matter. We were living the high life.

And now, I'm experiencing somewhat the same thing.

As I sat in the parking lot on Monday morning, allowing myself a few final moments of thought...
What's it going to be like? Will my body respond to the treatments? Can I chicken out and go home?
I received a phone call from my son telling me he loved me. It was quite unexpected and very serendipitous. I'm sure the L~rd planned that one. I breathed a last prayer and made my way into the waiting room to begin the new adventure.

After waiting awhile I was ushered into the back room by the nurse with an apology for the wait. There were quite a few others who were newbies ahead of me. The first day takes a little longer.
I met with Dr I who went over my chart and our consultation meeting. We discussed my present health. Then I was ushered into the infusion room to begin my first bag o' gold.
What a difference from the hospital infusion room where I had my PICC line inserted. Night and day!
The atmosphere was cheerful and hopeful. Conversations filtered around me. Already, the meet and greet was in gear.
I was prepped and attached to my first infusion. The cruise was on. Within minutes, I was included in the introductions. We were all first timers. The two hours passed quickly and friendships blossomed. We're all on the same journey and we want to do it together. As others finished their treatment, we'd all wish them a pleasant day.
"See you tomorrow."
"Let's do this again."

Yes. I made the right decision. This is a place of healing. With every drop of liquid in my veins, every swallowed capsule, every smile, every conversation, new friend, touch - my body, my soul and my spirit are being renewed, restored, refreshed.
I'm on a journey of recovery. I'm on a cruise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Time Has Come

The day has arrived. Chaim is ready. Hubster and Lovely Daughter will join me on the trip to settle me in.
"Are you nervous?" asks Lovely Daughter.
"Yes. But I'm also excited."
 So much prayer and preparation has gone into this adventure. I know the L~rd has arranged it to happen. And I know there has been opposition from the enemy of our souls. I've had a few melt downs as I second guessed, wondered how it would all work out - worried how we'd finance it all. Things are still up in the air, but it's time to take that walk of faith. Here we are. Ready to go.

After unloading the car into my spacious studio Residence Inn room, we were off to a Sunday buffet. The food was abundant. As you can see, Chaim approved of my first course.

On the way back we hit up the local Trader Joe's to fill my kitchen.

The afternoon went by fast. It was time for Hubster and Lovely Daughter to return home. Although I knew I would make the trek back down the hill on Friday for the weekend, it was hard to say good-bye.
Although I've gone solo in Israel on several occasions, this would be different. Time to be brave and all that...
And besides, I wouldn't be alone. The G~d of angel armies had His hand on my shoulder. One last, "I love you". One more hug. The door closed.

Time to settle in.
Chaim and I pulled up a pillow. Turkey BLT and a cup of tea while watching Call The Midwife.

Next time:
A new day is a dawnin'.
You Can Help!