Friday, November 1, 2019


July 2018.  It came back.  After four years complete remission, the slow-growing follicular lymphoma I had chemo for in 2014 relapsed in 2018.  And not just slowly.  It was already at Stage IV!  This startling discovery last summer was overwhelming. 

So my questions started.  Did I do something wrong? Not do enough? Why did it come back as Stage IV suddenly.  During the 4 years remission, I still did a lot (I thought) to help myself stay healthy -- take targeted supplements, detox liver, exercise, meditation, and a wide assortment of other healing things.  Granted, for two of those years I was taken up with getting my strength back through weight lifting and running again after many years of not running, and even ran in a few senior track meets -- all fun and joyful stuff for me to combat a cancer environment.   In that process, I actually reversed the osteoporosis in my hips -- no small accomplishment -- and started feeling pretty good again! 

Now it was Stage IV again, and worse, no longer the slow-growing disease I was diagnosed with in 2013. It was becoming aggressive  and growing much faster. 

So the why's quickly became unanswerable.  All I could do was just go on with the new situation.  Maybe this disease of follicular lymphoma was just following its typical course, which is to get a remission (hopefully) after the first chemo, then after it relapses have a different chemo, hopefully another remission, and so on.  And just try to live as long as possible.  Or if worst comes to worst, have a bone marrow transplant and hope for a longer survival. I made it four years in remission the first time -- some make it less, some more.  So maybe I did okay. 

But suddenly I was falling into the worst-case category because my oncologist (onc) in Sacramento (who I like very much) started right away talking about a bone marrow transplant.  That freaked me out!  I didn't want to think about that in any way shape or form.  I didn't want to let it into my psyche.  So I didn't.  For about 8 months I hardly told anyone what was happening.  Which is so unlike me.  I took my confusion inside myself. 

March 2019 PET scan.  A PET scan is a test that shows the amount of cancer activity in the body.  Glucose is injected into the bloodstream which the cancer cells immediately gobble up because glucose is their main nutrient -- not their only nutrient, they eat other things to.  But glucose is their go-to at mealtime, with help from my insulin.  My March scan showed an onward and steady march of cancer -- more lymph nodes with cancer, and more aggressive nodes.  So my onc announced that in June, just 3 short months away, the bone marrow transplant (also called a "stem cell transplant" or SCT) should be done, using my own stem cells.  From his experience, he knew it would have grown enough by then to need such an aggressive treatment.   

I finally started reading what a bone marrow transplant would be like.  The amount of time to be spent in the hospital was shocking -- up to two months total!  I had two new kittens, there's no way that could work easily. But the most horrifying thing was the type of chemo given before the transplant.  A really high-dose killer needing two weeks in the hospital just for that.

It all sounded horrifying!  Maybe not for others, but for me, right now.  And yet, all the medical literature was saying that my situation (relapsed and partly aggressive follicular lymphoma) was a "poor prognosis".  The medical research on my situation was in fact so depressing, I just stopped reading it.  I knew I had to DO something, but I didn't know what. I felt cornered, boxed in, confused.  Not a good place for me to be in. 

Where to go, what to do, I had no idea.  Did I really need a bone marrow transplant? I'm not the kind of person to just do what a doctor thinks I should do without deciding for myself.  But what other options were there?  Would it be possible to continue to help myself at all with alternative things?  Or had I tried everything already.  I had read lots of cancer-healing miracle stories.  The thing was....they all did different things! 

For awhile I was frantic -- doing more and more research, taking in more information on alternative options like a jacked-up jumping bean.  With my nutrition science degree and ability to understand research and what could be done -- and why -- I started going deeper into alternative options.  Oh my, I had no idea there are so many!!!  What I knew before had only scratched the surface. The problem started to become....what to choose?  What would help? What would work fast enough? Did I have enough time? 

And then something changed. 

I was hardly aware of it at first.  It wasn't a conscious thing. I suddenly felt like a little stream with a big rock in my way.  To get around it, I had to find a way to flow around it -- differently.  The logic and research and information had only gotten me so far before. I felt overwhelmed and had no answers. But something told me I needed to go farther this time. Deeper into places not yet explored. 

So I just stopped...thinking.  I let my awareness be drawn to whatever came across my path.  Something I read, stumbled across, heard a friend say -- it didn't matter. If my interest pricked up, I pursued it, until it either led me to something else or to a dead end. 

I reread the book "Radical Remission" by Kelly Turner that I'd read 4 years ago but this time, I saw different things in it.   Everyone with cancer or with a loved one or friend with cancer needs to read this book. It has valuable stories and examples of what common threads bind those of us who heal from unlikely circumstances, even at times when there seems no hope.  If something caught my eye from any of the examples, I tried it.  With one caveat.  

It had to feel "easy" to me.  It had to feel doable.  Not another mountain to climb. (See next post for more detail on these unusual but easy things like spa day, atypical meditations, singing.) This sounds strange I realize.  How can doing anything to heal cancer be EASY? In the medical world, most things having to do with cancer are pretty hard... surgeries, chemo, radiation, immunotherapies, and on and on.  Moreso, how were these easy things going to help cure or even help an aggressive cancer at all? I didn't see how, but something started to happen that I hadn't really experienced in a long long time.  

I started to relax.     

That was unexpected.  And I started listening, not just to the morning birds, but to myself.  That's crucial I realized, because the main thing that Radical Remission survivors have in common is that they follow their intuition. One has to be listening to hear one's own unique intuitive guidance, right?  Once I got quiet enough to hear something, anything, I could decide to follow that guidance. Or not.  It made sense. 

What also makes sense is that relaxation is crucial for the parasympathetic nervous system to help the immune system function better. And I have cancer in my immune system.  Have you ever told yourself to "just relax"? It doesn't work.  I had to start a manual override and DO things that were relaxing, in every little thing I did.  Every single day. And not just meditate 30 minutes every morning (although that's a good start because science has proved the beneficial effects of meditation/relaxation on the immune system). 

Along with all this relaxing, I was thinking about death a lot.  Not just dying in general, but my own imminent death.  With my "poor prognosis" splayed all over the medical literature, I decided I'd better face up to it in a very real way, right now. I thought about little details like what to do with my possessions, where my cats would go, how would I like my funeral to be, or burial or cremation.  Functional, practical things -- true, but who decides these things if we don't?  

After awhile, a feeling slipped in, almost unnoticed.  It's strangely comforting to get all those end-of-life details out of the way and after awhile, it no longer felt upsetting to think about death. Whether it was going to come soon or whether I'd get to keep living awhile longer, it no longer mattered as much. What a relief. 

About the same time, I stumbled across a revolutionary new book, quite by accident, that has been a game changer for me.   How to Starve Cancer (Without Starving Yourself), by Jane Mclelland.  I read it in one day and took 10 pages of notes. It's the most brilliant thing I've come across so far in healing cancer! So in keeping with my new approach of going with whatever peaked my interest, I went with it.  And started doing as much of it as I could.  (More on these strategies in a future post.) 

June 2019 PET Scan.  The next PET scan was in June, and I was dreading it as usual. Scanxiety it's called.  My onc expected it to be the tipping point, where the decision to start the transplant would begin. 

Then something unusual happened.  And totally unexpected. 

My cancer had only progressed "slightly" -- not the huge explosion of aggressively growing lymph nodes that needed to be dealt with immediately, as my onc predicted.  And I was feeling relatively good. What?  Is that possible with Stage IV?  My onc thought I should've been feeling sick with "B" symptoms that come with an aggressive cancer -- fevers, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue.  

I could hardly believe it -- something was working!  I knew I only had a few more months breathing room to keep doing all the many things I'd started between March and June that had kept it somewhat stable.  As I write this long overdue update (November 2019), I'm feeling better than I did in June.  So in this blog I want to update my dear family and friends, but also share some of the things I've been doing.  Perhaps something I say might be helpful to you or loved ones that may have cancer. 

If this kind of healing information works, it should be easy to come by.  But it isn't! It hasn't been for me -- I've had to grope, stumble, and fall into it.  At times it seems I'm almost magically led, but I don't really know about that. I do hope this blog may be helpful to  others in any kind of way with some tidbit of information that may ease the path.   

Stay tuned as I share this process in future posts.  Please subscribe to this blog, top right above, and updates will be automatically sent to your email.

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Thank you all for your healing intentions and thoughts, your emotional support, and your well wishes -- all these I appreciate more than I can ever say.  It means everything to me.  And please feel free to post your comments below. I'd love to hear from you!