The last two weeks of 2010 and the first two weeks of 2011 was a whirlwind of tests, surgery, blood transfusions and talking to what seemed like hundreds of doctors and interns. Everyday I got new information about my prognosis depending on the results of the most recent test. I was also given pain medications because rectal cancer is literally “a pain in the ass!” I am so grateful that my son dropped everything and put his life on hold to be my medical advocate. There was too much going on for me to keep up and even though my husband wanted to be around more, he had to continue working. Bills still had to be paid even if you are sick.
Doctors start their hospital rounds at six o’clock in the morning. I was never a morning person, so when a doctor came to see me at that time, I had no idea what he was talking about. The drugs I was taking made me to groggy to understand what was going on, let alone give my consent to anything. James moved into my hospital room and made sure he was awake to talk with doctors to find out what the day’s “game plan” would be. It took at least two weeks for my medical team to come up with a tentative plan that would give me the best chance at survival.
Cancer is a fickle bitch. One day your up and the next day things can go to hell. A big determining factor is how healthy the patient was before getting cancer. I was lucky. I had no other health problems, therefore, I told my health team to give me the most aggressive treatment available. Statistically (if you like to look at survival rates) I had a ten-percent chance of survival. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I have not dug deeper into these so-called survival statistics to see if the patient made any life changes to help themselves though. I would be interested in finding that out. I am a firm believer that the patient has to be an active participant in their health plan (unless they physically can’t… like those in a coma). Drugs can only do so much and often they contribute to more health problems down the road. Remember, chemo drugs and radiation therapy both are carcinogens.
I think it was early February of 2011 when I was lucid enough to go online and look for other cancer survivors. I started my search in cancer chat rooms. I strongly suggest staying away from those. At the time, the comments from cancer patients were a real “downer.” I know people need to vent and maybe a chat room is a good place for that, but I’m the type who wants to stay positive, so I look for others who are like-minded. To me, complaining doesn’t help matters.
I kept typing “cancer survivors” in my search engine and I finally came across the name, Kris Carr. I learned that she was not just living with cancer she was “thriving.” She was upbeat and just the person I needed to read about. She had an online support group (I think she has since changed the name and added more content.) The cancer patients and survivors in her online community share their personal stories of recovery and road back to wellness. Kris taught me about nutrition and lifestyle changes that helped her. I’m sure I was one of her best students. I became vegan overnight. I bought a juicer and a blender that were in my price range. (You don’t need fancy, expensive equipment to get the same results) I never met Kris, yet she was now part of my wellness team. I always knew I would beat the c-word, now I had a plan to make it happen.
My body recovered faster than the doctors expected. I know it’s because the food and supplements I took helped build up my immune system faster.
Kris’s name is on my gratitude list. I have since come across more cancer survivors who share the same stories. The main thing we all have in common is we made changes to our diets. We got off “the crazy train” and stopped to “smell the roses.” I know that all sounds cliché but it’s true. If a cancer diagnosis does not change your life, you are still sleep walking through life.
It’s people like Kris who inspired me to write about my wellness journey. I figure the more positive voices there are out there, the more proof that our lifestyle changes and (plant-based) food choices work. I am coming up on my three year cancer-free anniversary. I am healthier now than ever. I have no more intestinal problems. My poop is normal. I have no more hemorrhoids. I used to have boils in my groin area and they are gone. My doctors are amazed and thrilled… but not as much as me.
Kris’s book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor is part of my wellness library. Someday I hope to meet her in person, but for now she is my online bodhisattva and wellness warrior sister.