Spontaneous Healing

dr weil

The last time I read Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil M.D. was probably sixteen years ago. It was right after I graduated from massage school. From the first day of class I was hooked on massage and alternative healing/medicine. I also had a part time job at a massage kiosk located inside a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco. The booth was next to the “Whole Body” department, so in between customers, I learned as much as I could about herbs and supplements by asking questions from the staff. There was also a nice selection of books they let me read in my booth.

Dr. Weil has been around since the 70s. He has a medical degree and has written several books about alternative medicine and the mind/body connection. I am in the middle of Spontaneous Healing again and came across an idea asserted by Dr. Weil to “view all illnesses as a gift.” This isn’t the first time I heard someone say that illnesses (like cancer) can be seen as a gift, because having it changes the person’s life (usually). I do agree that cancer did change my life on all levels but I won’t refer to my cancer episode as a gift. I got plenty of weird gifts in my life, so if getting rectal cancer was a gift, it was a pretty crappy one (pun intended).

In 1986, my dad died at the age of fifty-six from heart disease, which sent me into what I call, a “spiritual crisis.” After a couple of months of being in a “funk,” I went to see a shrink. She gave me several self-help books which led me into reading spirituality books. Back then the western medical profession considered such writings as “New Age” psychobabble, but was becoming more accepted by mainstream America. Western medicine still won’t acknowledge the mind/body connection when it comes to disease, except for a small percentage of doctors.

Cancer was not a gift for me but it was my “wake up” call. Even when I was working as a massage therapist and eating vegetarian, I didn’t focus on my whole self. Stress was something I constantly dealt with. I did visit the Zen Center a couple times a month to sit Zazen but I didn’t practice it on a daily basis at home. We left the City and moved to Chico, thinking that it would be quieter there. It was, but I still felt stressed out. During that time the economy tanked. My hours were cut at the restaurant I worked at. Massage wasn’t as popular in Chico as in San Francisco, so I stopped doing that. We moved again to Southern California thinking jobs would be better there. I ended up working three part time jobs which caused more stress for me. I didn’t eat fresh home cooked meals. Who had the time?

Then cancer  hit me. That changed everything. I did what everyone does who has been diagnosed.  I wanted to know why I got cancer. I thought I was healthy. The truth is I convinced myself I was but my lifestyle proved otherwise. Dr. Weil also writes how stress is a major player when it comes to us getting sick. That I agree with. It’s been proven that stress lowers the body’s immune system. When the immune system is lowered for a long period of time, all kinds of diseases develop because the body’s defense system is to weak to fight them off.  Throw in a diet that comes from a package, that has no nutritional value and you have a recipe for cancer.

Luckily, I didn’t dwell on the “why me?” question to long and instead looked for answers as to how to start from where I was at. Everything on the Internet I read about healthy living was really not news to me. It was in the books I read years before, but at the time, I guess it didn’t sink in. It looked good on paper but I didn’t put it into action in my own life. Now I get it. There is no going back to my old habits.  Meditation, yoga, exercise, mindfulness, and plant based foods are part of my daily life. My stress is almost nonexistent. I got the message loud and clear and for that I thank cancer… sort of.

Live Well and be Happy!


My New Normal

new normal1

June 2011 I was declared cancer free. The news was awesome but the intense chemotherapy and radiation created new issues for me. Life as I knew it would change (possibly) forever. Instead of being upset about it, I prefer to look at it as, “my new normal.” The chemo attacked my nervous system so my balance is off. If I don’t use my walker, I look like I had too many wine coolers and there have been a few times, someone commented on my “public drunkenness.”

Thirty rounds of radiation did a number on my pelvic bone. The first scan showed five insufficiency fractures. They have since healed but the bone density in that area is thinner. Falling on my butt could cause my pelvic bone to break in half and that doesn’t sound fun at all…so a walker it is.

The cancer was mainly in my rectal area, where the sphincter muscles are, which is why I was having all those bathroom accidents in my pants starting a year before my diagnosis. I wore adult diapers for eleven months when my colorectal doctor suggested I get a colostomy bag. He was waiting to see if my sphincter muscles would magically repair themselves, but it never happened. If you ask me, I think Dr. C. was just waiting for my body to recover from the chemo/radiation before stressing my system with surgery. The cancer was killed in record time. The total treatment was only five months. As far as stage four cancer goes, that is unbelievable! I see patients with my same cancer who are in treatment for two years before they are told they are in remission.

Colostomy surgery was October 19th and I was back home five days later. The next month was challenging as far as getting used to my “bag.” There were a few messes to clean up but I had a great home health nurse who helped me. She wasn’t trained to take care of colostomies so we learned together. The lesson cancer continued to give me was “patience” and that included learning how to take care of my ostomy and bag. The first couple of months, it took me twenty minutes to change my bag, now I do it in less than five minutes.

Luckily I have a wicked sense of humor because having a colostomy bag that “toots” without prior warning can be embarrassing. I raised a teenage boy, so I know all about fart jokes. My ostomy is noisy sometimes, usually at the most inopportune time, like when I’m sitting in a meeting or introducing myself to someone new. How do I handle it? I laugh of course! Then if it’s appropriate I take the time to educate others about colostomy bags. Most never heard of them.

One time I was at a concert with James and we had to get a “pat down” by security before entering the venue. The guard felt the bag under my shirt and asked what it was. James blurted out, “It’s a bag of shit!” So no one would be confused that it might be marijuana, I added it was my colostomy bag and I was happy to show it to her. She declined. Too bad, that could have been a real educational moment.

Over the years since  my surgery I talked with several patients waiting to have their colons removed and have an ostomy bag. Most are scarred which is understandable. Aren’t we all a bit afraid of the unknown? I’m lucky. I have my colon, there is just a detour going to the exit now. Looking back over all that has happened to me, from nearly stroking out from blood loss the day I first came to the ER, up until now, I can say I am one lucky broad. So what if I wobble when I walk and fart like a man? I am alive… no, I am thriving and to me that’s all that matters. All this stuff is my new normal and I can live with that.

Live Well and Be Happy!

Omega 6 Deficiency and Dermatitus

olive oil


It’s been a little over a year since the skin on my face changed.  I was diagnosed with eczema and prescribed a steroid cream. It went away (somewhat) but when I stopped using it, it came back worse. So I started snooping the Internet for answers. There were so many natural recommendations and I tried several, but they all made my skin worse… until I found a video of a young woman who suggested taking three tablespoons organic virgin olive oil daily, along with two capsules organic olive leaf. My skin cleared up in four months. I have a small patch sometimes when it gets extremely hot, but for the most part I am happy with the results.

Then I got to thinking the other day as to WHY I got eczema in the first place. I seem to have controlled the symptom but don’t know how it started, so I got back on the Internet to investigate. I found a study written in Science Daily that suggests that omega 6 deficiency causes severe dermatitus. Organic virgin olive oil has omega 3 and omega 6.

Most Americans eat a “Standard American Diet” (SAD) and get too much omega 6 fats, leading to all kinds of serious health problems: diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease. The key to good health is to have a balanced ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3. I became vegan in early 2011, so maybe it took a few years for my body to become depleted. I have since included more nut butters and avocados to my diet and of course the organic olive oil.

If you are having dry skin problems, you might get good results from the olive oil regimen. It couldn’t hurt to try; it’s food and food is the best medicine!

Stay Well and Be Happy!