What is between Early Stage Breast Cancer and End of Life?
If you ask just about anyone who has just been diagnosed as Stage IV the answer would probably be a flood of tears, and the inability to put a sentence together in any coherent fashion and a terror of the unknown. Now four years and nine months down the line from my official diagnosis, and over 5 years from when they should have made the diagnosis I would say that what lies between these events has been some of the happiest times of my life.
Of course I can’t claim to be glad to be here, or that the journey hasn’t been painful or without times of utter dispair but I have managed to find an equilibrium between life and cancer as it bobs up and down of the ocean of my mind, even though at times I might feel as though I am drowning. Of all the things that might have helped me most to get to this place there are three things that spring to mind.
The Internet – an invention that is as praised as it is vilified, but then the same can be said of the invention of moveable type. A lot of amazing things have been made possible by that, but there is an awful lot of dross out there as well. As a tool for someone who lives in a small town in the country and doesn’t have day to day contact with anyone else who has MBC, the internet and the forums I have found have been enlightening and empowering. They have introduced me to cyber friends all over the world who have the same diagnosis and the same understanding of what it means to be considered to have a disease that cannot be cured. You are walking along and suddenly the floor has become a spring that rises up and hits you for six. Just the concept that there are others out there like you is not the same as having contact with someone like you. For a start there are a number of things that don’t need to be expressed because they just get it and even more than that, they can just empathise with the core of how you are feeling so you can then just cut to the chase. That core understanding is so valuable and saves an awful lot of time, and also allows for greater honesty. Even more than that because these are people who know that there is a life to get on with and enjoy, as well as curse. It is like the British weather, some days are wonderful, others a bit iffy, and some just dreadful, but they are days to be lived.
The internet also brought me blogging, though that is somewhat more recent. I did start a blog two or three years ago but it wasn’t until the last year or so that I have really felt the need to express myself in the written cyber-word. I kept a diary every day for about 39 years, until about May of last year when I just stopped. I just didn’t want to write about the simple things in my day, I needed the space to speak and develop ideas.
The internet also empowered me with information. At first it was looking at stats, which just scared the B’Jesus out of me and I swiftly decided to stop looking at them. Basically I am not a statistic, and I’ve never been average anything, height, weight, you name it and I’m not average at it. I also have a certain level of intelligence which I have chosen to use for research into alternative therapies and treatments; and by this I mean diet, nutrition, supplements and empowering my body to resist the interloper. I strongly feel that this information should be made available to cancer patients for them to make their own decision about the best treatment for them. If conventional is right for you then do it. I prefer to mix things up a bit.
Mindfulness – this really helped me to get my act together and I feel quite another person now. I know now that I need to focus on this exact moment all the time, and I have developed the knowledge that eventually I can actually come back to a place where I can do that; no matter how unlikely is may seem when I am in a Heffalump trap of dispair.
The knowledge that in this moment things are ok is a powerful one, and it is also a subjective one. This moment it now what I thought it would be before I was diagnosed. It is not what I thought it would be ten years ago when I started University with the hopes of getting a degree and a good job that wasn’t as soul destroying as the one I had at that time. I don’t know who it was who said that truth is stranger than fiction, but by heck they were right. Ten years ago I thought I might actually have a plan for life … five years ago any plan was blown out of the water … now I just tend to go with the flow, which actually might be the best plan of all. You can’t take things with you when you go, except the sum total of your heart and soul; that which is within your very being. In the end that is all you leave behind as well, but you don’t have to be famous or talented, rich or saintly to leave a contribution to the world.
Taking control. Ultimately we all have to find our own way to live with the absolute truth that we are all mortal. I am not exactly sure why I decided that I had to do it ‘my way’ but one of the reasons was the feeling that no one in the medical profession was really interested in giving me any sense of hope. False Hopelessness is one of the worst things about a cancer diagnosis. That as an individual I can’t have any influence over my destiny and that is up to the medical profession. To put it bluntly I believe that this is utter bull sh*t.
I had a friend who died of stomach cancer the summer between the second and final years at University. One of the reasons she died so soon, and with such a sense of dispair is that she utterly believed in conventional western medicine and that the cancer had already won even before she had her final diagnosis. We had met doing a course to get the qualifications to go to University, and she was studying pharmacy. That was her world … science has all the answers. I have never been so sure about that. Science may have all the answers, but scientists do not. They frquently only believe in the science they wish to see and understand. The fact that there are alternative ideas out that which are scientifically proven does not matter to them if it doesn’t fit their hypothesis. There again life is like that for all of us. Personally I have always been able to believe in God and I see it as perfectly logical in it’s lack of logic – if that makes any sense at all, and I’m not sure it even makes sense to me!
Cancer has not always been as common as it is today, though it has always been feared. There must be something about the modern way of life that is causing this and for me it is a matter of some of the things that we lack. It is said that there are now more over-nourished people in terms of thenumber of calories that we consume, and yet we are also very under-nourished because what we are eating is not providing the nutrients that we need, only the empty calories. Since the Second World War there have been huge changes in the way that food is produced and the types of fertilizers used. The fertilizers are doing the same to the soil in many ways, providing the calories, but not necessarily all the calories (nutrients) that the soil needs to give to the produce so that it can be handed on to humans. There are nutrients that we lack, and some of these, for me, are one of the causes of cancer. And yet when does a doctor do a screening of the nutrients that you may be deficient in? It has been shown that selenium, vitamin D3 and other things are deficient in the majority of those with breast cancer, but what is the first line of treatment offered? The right non-toxic nutrients, or slash, burn.
Cancer is not as simple as a few missing nutrients. Ten different types of breast cancer have now been identified, partly because so much is invested in finding the causes of breast cancer, and I just don’t believe that there is a single cause. We all need our own Perfect Storm to create a tumour, and then it gets a life of its own. For some intervention will come early enough to interupt the Storm and calm things down, others of us are unlikely to be so lucky. Personally I needed to take control and do what I could do to interupt the Storm, and I am not stupid enough to think that because things have been quiet for a while that it is not just sitting out there waiting for its opportunity. It is, but I wanted to start with a kinder, less toxic approach that could help to strengthen me and give me the best chance. Taking control was my way of dealing with it, but others will choose the scientific route, just as some choose not to believe in God. If it is right for you it is the right way as long as it is an informed choice that you are making. A little belief goes a long way.