A Lesson About Surfing With Cancer

photo credit: Huffington Post

photo credit: Huffington Post

This morning I finally sat down to read an article in the Huffington Post: “What Surfing Can Teach You About Overcoming Adversity.” I earmarked the story because the title reminded me of surfer I visited last year in the Infusion Center. His names isn’t Dean, but I’ll call him that to protect his privacy, but  I bet if he knew I was writing about him, he’d probably be OK with me using his real name. He was never shy about telling people he was being treated for cancer.

I met Dean on his first chemotherapy treatment. He had lots of questions. Part of his wellness plan was to include 20 rounds of radiation, something I knew quite a bit about. I went through 30. As a volunteer I don’t want to scare patients, so I don’t go into any of the possible gory details. I believe we all respond differently to medical treatments and my experience will probably be different from someone else’s. My purpose is to help the patient get through the experience the best he or she can.

As his treatment progressed, he had some ups and downs but the one thing that remained consistent was his love of surfing. Halfway through radiation, he lost a great deal of weight. He had throat cancer and one of the side effects of radiation is the muscles hardening. I experienced the same thing with my lower back. I had trouble bending over. Dean had problems swallowing. Like a lot of throat cancer patients, Dean didn’t eat much. He was afraid of choking. His doctors told him he needed a feeding tube and that he couldn’t surf until he was well again. I remember that day clearly when he told me the news.

Every other word coming out of his mouth was the F-word. Needless to say he was quite upset. I just sat and listened. That’s pretty much all one can do when a patient is upset. He or she needs to vent and part of my job is to provide a safe place for them to do that without judgment. One of the things visiting with cancer patients taught me is that we are all on our on life journeys. The patient is in the driver’s seat and for the short time we are together, I am only along for the ride.

A few weeks went by until I saw Dean again. He showed me his feeding tube and told me about his “plan.” Sitting in the hospital after his surgery gave him time to think. He decided he would continue to surf because floating in the water, waiting for the perfect wave was something he needed. He didn’t know if he would recover from cancer but he wasn’t about to let that stop him from his love of surfing.

“How do you plan to keep the area around your tube free from infections?” I asked.
“I got that all figured out. I wrap my waste with plastic wrap and secure it with duct tape. Then I put on my wetsuit.” He said.

Dean went on his three-week chemo break after that but when I saw him again, he was excited to talk with me. He had just come back from the beach. He had been going daily for the past two weeks.

“I am so happy to be out on the water again! You have to PROMISE me that you won’t tell anyone around here what I’m doing. My docs will flip out if they know I’m back to surfing. I plan to tell them when I’m cancer free.”

One of my agreements to living my life is to honor someone’s request to keep a secret. I never told anyone until now. Eventually Dean’s wellness team did find out. What could they do? It’s his life. It’s his body. I enjoyed sitting with him and listening to stories about his day at the beach and the look on some of the surfer’s faces when he took his wetsuit off. He was a fifty-something surfer (with a feeding tube) that could “hang-ten” with the best of them! I’m willing to bet he became somewhat of a legend in the surfing community.

You might think he was crazy for taking a chance on getting an infection, but his need to live life on his terms outweighed any fears of “playing it safe.” I think it was his surfer lifestyle that helped him continue with his cancer treatments. He pushed himself to keep showing up to Infusion no matter how sick he felt and his reward was the ocean.

By the way… his feeding tube is long gone and he is cancer free!

Be Well!

Inge

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Frankincense Used in Cancer Treatment

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My sister-in-law sent me an article from her chiropractor that I thought you might find interesting.  The author writes that frankincense is being studied to treat cancer. The use of essential oils, like frankincense, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.  I don’t know much about them except that I kept a bottle of lavender close to my bed when I went through cancer treatment. It helped calm me and was the only scent that did not make me sick to my stomach.

Several studies were done over the years using the oil and it’s supplement form, Boswellia serrate and has shown promising results, especially for osteoarthritis. The gummy part of the frankincense plant seems to reduce inflammation (the culprit responsible for so many diseases). Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center  is one of the hospitals who studied its affects.

Since I never heard of Boswellia serrate, I looked it up online.

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supplement

From what I could find, the majority of people who take the supplement claim it helps with arthritis pain. I didn’t find testimonies from cancer patients, however a few medical journals claimed the herb was used instead of steroids, for patients who had brain surgery. It helped reduce inflammation without the side effects that steroids can cause.

When it comes to my own healthcare, I choose alternative medicine whenever possible. Healthy food, herbs, and supplements are my medicine. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer back in 2010, my body was so trashed, I had to go with conventional treatment. As soon, as I was more stable, I researched other less invasive treatments, like a change of diet and added it to my wellness plan. I am positive that eating healthy, unprocessed foods, drinking a shot of Tahitian Noni juice daily, along with other supplements and meditation helped me get well faster.

Be well and eat healthy,

Inge Scott

You Can Lead a Horse to Water But You Can’t Make Him Drink

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I know this was the look on my face when I was trying to convince a patient to eat today.  99% of the time I do not get upset with patients, but today I was very frustrated and it centered around a sandwich.

I have known this patient for over a month. He has lost massive amounts of weight since we first met. I always bring him something to eat and usually he does not eat it. He always has the same excuse. He doesn’t feel like eating.

When I was going through treatment I was the same way. I didn’t want to eat and when I did, I usually threw it up. I finally started eating when I ate cannabis cookies. It helped me with the nausea and I got hungry. I told him to get a medical cannabis card and he did. He told me today that the cannabis didn’t work for him. I told him that everything he was going through was normal, but he had to work through it and eat anyway; he has to force himself to eat. He told me he just can’t.  We went round and round and I found myself getting pissed off.

I know I shouldn’t. He is the patient. It’s his life. But sometimes it drives me crazy when I hear (what I think are) stupid excuses of why someone doesn’t want to do something they know is in their best interest. When I was sick, I was determined to get well. I was willing to do anything  I needed to do that. If my doctors told me to lick the lawn for 10 minutes a day, I would have done it.

The only thing this guy has to do is eat. There is nothing physically stopping him from eating. It’s all in his head. He is being stubborn and his stubbornness will kill him and that’s why I’m frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as pleasant as I could be with him but my face probably showed my frustration. I was telling him how important it was to eat. I had all sorts of suggestions for him. He shot every one of them down. He told me that he knew I was right but he just could not eat; inside my head I was thinking, ” Eat the fucking sandwich dude!!!” If he was my husband, I would have told him that out loud, but I am not his relative. His decision is out of my control.

I just don’t get people though. If he couldn’t eat because he physically can’t (he can get a feeding tube if that’s the case) or if he throws it back up, then I understand his reasoning. But this is not the case. He just doesn’t want to and I guess that is what pissed me off.

Thanks for listening…

Believe it or not, I meditated before I wrote this 🙂  Can you imagine what I would have written if I didn’t? There would have been several more f-bombs thrown in, I guarantee that.

Be well

Inge