Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blood counts dramatically improve after 1 week at Hippocrates!

This week, I'm writing while I am getting chemo. I always feel a little drugged, due more to the anti-nausea meds. I guess that is not surprising, but this message may not sound completely like me.

Thank you for reading the piece on the CommonHealth blog. Your on-blog comments were really helpful for Rachel and Annie, and all your notes (both on and off the blog) were so wonderful and uplifting to me, which was such a nice bonus. Even if you didn’t comment, thank you for getting the good energy out there!

Even bigger (to me), I want and need to thank you for your prayers for a good chemo week. I must be starting to sound like a holy roller (no offense to any holy rollers) but honestly, I cannot believe the difference your prayers make in my little life. If it is possible to have a good chemo week, I had one last time around. I felt fine during chemo, and still felt okay leaving the infusion room, I had minimal nausea all week, and was even able to fly to Florida on Saturday. So if you think of it, say a little prayer right now for this to be a good chemo week, too! Aidan is in a play this week, and I would really love to go and see it and feel good enough to focus on him.

I was lucky enough to spend last week at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach. Tiron and the boys flew down with me, and had their own beach vacation while I was there.

Hippocrates focuses on providing information and services so that you can heal yourself. My personal focus was on learning more about the raw food diet, juicing, and food combining. I learned that this place is like a mecca for people from all over the world who want to heal. It felt almost biblical, with people from all walks of life arriving with all sorts of health challenges. A few were there to simply detox or to kick-start a healthier lifestyle. But so many were there to learn what they needed to heal themselves.

In some cases, there was an obvious sign: someone in a wheelchair or using a walker, or blind, or bald in that way that only chemo can do. But most folks were indistinguishable from the general population. It made me wonder, again, how many people I impatiently run into who look "normal" but are dealing with pain or disease, and who are doing the best they can.

The grounds are about 35 acres of greenery, with benches and hammocks, statues, etc. placed here and there, lots of waterfalls, really beautiful and relaxing. No traffic noise at all. Everyone, from the directors to the housekeepers, has such a positive attitude without feeling like cheerleaders. They all speak in terms of “health challenges” rather than your diagnosis or prognosis, and everyone, without exception, operates from the assumption that you can and will heal. That kind of energy is uplifting to your soul.

I'll admit that the menu was a bit challenging. The focus is 100% raw foods. Not only does that mean “salad bar” for lunch and dinner, it is THE SAME salad bar: leafy greens, more sprouts than I’ve even seen in my life, cucumbers, onions, sun-dried olives, crispy dulse (sea vegetable). There were one or two new side dishes (again, raw) at each meal. AND, breakfast is cucumber juice. I don’t each much but I initially assumed I would starve. And, indeed, for the first few days, I carried a bag of nuts and crackers with me, and munched on those between meals.

After about three days, I started to feel incredible. I had lots of energy, and even stopped snacking between meals. The side dishes were becoming more and more interesting (raw pasta made from zucchini, marinated mushrooms) or maybe I was just so deprived that they looked good! In any case, the diet became fun, and the chef did a cooking course, too, If you can call it cooking?

There were lectures on topics like growing your own sprouts or how to handle questions at Thanksgiving when everyone else is eating turkey.

Though the workout room held equipment for all abilities, open 24 hours every day, and I had lots of free time, I STILL couldn't find the time to work out. Hmmm. Maybe it isn't my schedule. Maybe it is just me.

They also had four small swimming pools: a regular pool (no chlorine), a warm salt-water pool, a Jacuzzi (or maybe it was a hot tub) and a really cold pool. Oh, and an infrared sauna. Plus the usual spa treatments and a few “unique” spa treatments.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, at Hippocrates, they focus both on what goes into your body and what goes OUT of your body. The all-inclusive package includes a colonic, where they clean your colon. And they recommend that you do enemas to stay clean. Followed by a wheatgrass implant. (Sorry if I spoiled your taste for wheatgrass.)

I traded my “included colonic” for an extra massage in a yurt, which was amazing.

All this said, who knows what works. But, happy news -- when I got the results of my blood tests, my white count is higher than it's ever been, and spectacular by any measure! My other bloods are also great (well, liver function isn't perfect, but it is within the "expected" range). They told me to keep doing whatever I am doing. Yay!

After all I learned last week, I continue to feel like any cure for me will come from something higher than myself, and I feel like, as a group, we can tap into that power and move that energy in a positive way. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you are doing to channel that energy into my healing and my quality of life.

Much love and light to you in your life today!

Love, Marie

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Article and audio on WBUR health blog

I just learned this and had to share it!

My friend, Rachel Zimmerman, is a journalist and runs the WBUR Health Blog. She asked me to write something about my experience going through chemotherapy.

If you are interested, here is a link to the article and an accompanying audio, which was done by our friend, Annie Brewster. Annie is a physician at MGH and doing studies of people going through various challenging life situations.

Please leave comments about either; they are really helpful. If you are shy, I don't think you need to use your real name.


I haven't yet figured out how to do the automatic link on this page, so you'll need to cut and paste to see it.

I hope you are having a wonderful day!

Love, Marie

P.S. I'm writing from the chemo infusion room. A friend, who came to visit today and had chemo a few years ago, commented that this is a nice place, so I see it through some new eyes now. Still, everything is relative. I'm thankful for the awesome view of Boston I got today. (Not to complain, but Bali would be nicer.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cardio week, St. Teresa, and life is good

I decided that sending an update before chemo, rather than afterwards, is more uplifting. Chemo is tomorrow, so here I am tonight.

Last time around (2 years ago), I was able to view chemo as an adventure. This time, it feels like old news, been there, done that, etc. As funny as chemo can be, it is way more fun to focus on other stuff.

However, hospital stuff seems to make up a portion of my life. Even on a non-chemo week, I was at the hospital on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If I didn't spend so much time at the hospital, I might actually be able to exercise and be healthier.

I'll back up a bit. On my chemo day, my oncologist normally asks how I did with the last treatment so that she can adjust the prescription for that day. I ran through my side effects, all were as expected, and then excitedly told her: My chest pains totally disappeared after I started drinking Chinese tea.

As often as we've talked about my chest pains in the past, it never went beyond, "uh huh" until today. She stopped and said something like, "Let's skip the chemo pump this week. Sometimes that can cause a heart issue. I'll make an appointment with a cardiologist."

I was OVERJOYED to skip the pump, and amused that Western medicine will not be outdone by Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Still, nothing is free. And I feel a little like the hungry caterpillar in Eric Carle's children's book:
On Monday, I saw the breast cancer doctor (I'm almost five years out of that one -- keeping my fingers crossed!).
On Wednesday, I saw the cardiologist. Great guy. From Nashville (gotta love that) and supported the Chinese teas.
On Friday, I had an echo stress test on a bike (no IV needed. whew). The techs kept making me laugh, which really does lower your heart rate. I thought that was just one of those nice things people tell you to cheer you up. Meanwhile, the bike pedaling automatically gets harder and harder, trying to raise your heart rate to its max. It was an interesting competition, and I passed with flying colors. Yay! Love good news.

It truly felt like cardio week last week, though, as three other friends saw their cardiologist as well, all for different reasons. Thankfully, we are all up and walking around. That counts for alot.

The other "medical" event this week was wig shopping. I get varying answers from the docs on whether I will need this, but my hair is definitely thinning. Thankfully, I had alot to start with! Though it is easier to shop for wigs when you have hair rather than afterwards, I kept putting it off. A friend took the reins, researched my options for places, made the appointment, went with me, and made it all no big deal. THAT was cool, watching her take on a dragon in my life and extinguishing its fire.

Back to chemo day: It was time to add another chemo drug to the mix. I got to choose. One has "no noticeable side effects," whatever that means. The other causes "often disfiguring skin rashes." Hmmm. Which would you choose?

The other theme this week (besides cardio) was St. Teresa. St. Theresa of the Little Flower is a constant prayer for me lately; the writings of St. Teresa of Avila were a surprise focus of the Kripalu workshop I attended this weekend; our friend, Teresa, brought a chicken pot pie (okay, she isn't a saint but we felt pretty blessed by that) and another Teresa I've never even met gave me a beautiful prayer shawl. At this point, I feel like I have to add Aunt Theresa, who showed me that, no matter what the circumstances, you should always look and act your best self, and then maybe even have a little party!

Despite all the medical appointments, after the effects of chemo wore off, I was able to feel good and be active. The week was filled with wonderful moments, big and small. It's nice not to think about cancer all the time. I often think of Kris Carr (actress who lives with stage 4 cancer) who appeared on Oprah. When Oprah asked, "Do you spend every moment thinking about dying?" Kris responded with something like, "Heck no. Right now, I'm thinking, I AM ON OPRAH!!!"

Overall life is good. On top of that, I feel like people are opening their lives and their selves to me in a different way than before, so I am trying to pass that along and do that with others I meet. On my end, it feels like you are creating a state of grace that makes miracles possible. Thank you for being so generous of spirit. Not only does this have a huge impact on me and my family, I feel like this must be shifting and impacting our world in a positive way. If a butterfly flapping its wings can create weather patterns on the other side of the world, just imagine what all our bigger acts of kindness are doing!

If you are so inclined, do continue to send prayers that the chemo is killing those cancer cells, and that I find any other avenue I need to heal this.

Much love,