The Things We Carry

Last night I attended an event where the speaker discussed how to use doTERRA essential oils to help you establish boundaries, let go of emotional and energetic “hooks” that are stuck in you, and how living your purpose is something we owe ourselves and the world. Desiree Mangandog is an inspirational human being. She is a vibrant and joyful person, without an ounce of fake concern. She shared openly with us all and welcomed us to join her in her place of joy.

After the event, I walked up to Desiree. I’ve been feeling so many things over the past few weeks and the fact that it can be completely overwhelming means I don’t always know what to say to people. Let’s face it, I’m an introvert much of the time, so even though I am able to be outgoing when I need to, there are some situations where I’m overwhelmed with emotion and words don’t come as easily. This was one of those times.

I was able to say hi and she hugged me. She immediately had me turn sideways next to her and she began tapping on my back and rubbing between my shoulders in a circular motion. She kept making gestures with her other hand, as if she were sweeping negative things away. She told me I am carrying a lot of spirits with me and kept working on me. I stood there, reflecting on what she was doing and saying. I am a grounded person who is pretty good at creating boundaries and keeping negative people out of my life. She then told me I need to work on my boundaries.

After she was finished, I reflected more on what she had said and it hit me, I am carrying the hopes, love, expectations, and fears of many people right now, as I move through treatment. It’s a road that I’m fortunate enough to be traveling with a wonderful support system. Many people are invested in my beating cancer. It’s a gift. At the same time, it’s a lot of pressure to survive and thrive, when people are behind you, wanting you to win. I want to live. I want to beat this and prove that I can do it. We are all waiting for good or more bad news. I want to deliver good news, but thinking about the entire situation is stressful.

When I’m enduring whatever treatment throws at me, scans and blood draws, nausea, etc., I am doing so alone. The pains and aches and need for endurance is all on me. When I think about it in the context of energy and what I am carrying with me every day, she was right. I am carrying spirits with me. I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to do everything right this time and to not screw it up. I feel like I can’t let down my wife, my friends, and all of those rooting for me. My new job is to let that go, to the best of my ability. Believe me, I care about the feelings of all of these people I’m carrying with me, but I need to try to distance myself from the weight of the outcome.

I’ve been working on mindset and this is a solid next step in maintaining a positive attitude. When we keep carrying around old hurts, damage, abuse, and negative past events, we don’t give room for happiness and joy. Healthy boundaries and limiting access to your life, for those who make you feel bad, are crucial. Yes, cancer came in and threw me around with repeated doses of bad news and negativity recently. It’s not something that’s been easy to work through, but I’m refusing to let the negative hang over me every day. I may get a twinge, but then I want to reconcile it and get back to thinking my usual optimistic thoughts.

I highly recommend finding a morning ritual or bedtime ritual (or both), where you start keeping a gratitude journal and spend a few minutes focusing on the good in your life. I have a ritual where I diffuse certain essential oils in my bedroom when it’s bedtime. I sit in bed and focus on positive things I’m grateful for. I then apply other oils that help support healthy rest and then I’m off to sleep with a happy heart and mind. We should all be letting go of the day before going to bed. Give your heart and face a lift, and focus on being grateful. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily cycle of complaints and judgements. I am guilty as well. The key is to recognize it and to start working on letting it go. We all deserve to cut ourselves some slack and find our joy. I’m determined to get myself to that place and to stay there as much as possible. You should join me. If you’d like more information about my rituals and what I use, feel free to message me. I am happy to share.

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Week 1 in Chemo Town

Have you ever cried in front of a medical professional? Today that happened to me. Of course I’m being bombarded with emotions and craziness right now, but that wasn’t the direct cause. It had everything to do with horrible pain in my low back/hip, while laying on a hard surface for a CT scan. The pain became worse and worse until my hand started to shake and then the tears came. This is what I’ve been working with since the last time I wrote. The MRIs that were needed to diagnose my pelvic/low back pain brought on pain like I’d never experienced. I am able to tolerate a lot of things and have learned with medical procedures to just try to stay calm and go with it. This was different. I almost passed out during the first MRI and had to go home and come back the next day for the second one. They thought if I took oxycodone before the next session, it would all go smoothly. Nope. It did nothing and I had to stop three times to get through the entire process.

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My friend Rachel managed to capture this photo of me getting ready for my second MRI.

I will always be honest about what procedures are like. Every other person I’ve ever spoken with has cruised through an MRI without any incident. Apparently, there is a very small percentage of people who suffer excruciating pain during an MRI. The good news is that I’m one of those rare people, so the odds of it happening to you are much less likely. The bad news is if I ever have to have another MRI, they will probably have to sedate me for it. Sigh. Being rare isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Being rare and not having blood markers for cancer has definitely not helped, in terms of my recent diagnosis. It would have been great to have known sooner, but it couldn’t be helped. I’ve had to inform my brother of being rare and not having blood markers, so he and his kids will know to ask for further testing if anything seems suspicious.

My doctor placed my port a week ago. It’s implanted in the chest and runs up through a vein in your neck. It grosses me out, but it’s worth it to avoid suffering through constant IVs. The nurse just has to “plug in” to the port and you’re pretty much good to go. It’s sore, bothers me, and I wish I didn’t have to have it, but I do. I’m still watching bruises from the many IVs I’ve had over the past couple of weeks disappear. This is easier. I did have “weeping” after surgery, because I’ve had to stay on Advil to keep my pain levels down. Fortunately, it finally stopped. I’m including photos, so if you’re squeamish, I apologize.

Last Thursday I had my first chemo treatment of this cycle. My doctor has decided to give me the full dose of both drugs one week and then two weeks off. The cycle will repeat 5 times. Last time I had to go in every week and they gave me less drugs, more often. I had some nausea, but it only lasted a couple of days. I did okay with the full dose, until a couple of days later. The nausea started and I’ve had trouble getting food down without feeling like it might come back up. I haven’t vomited, but I have to be aware of what sights and smells will make me feel queasy. I tried CBD capsules for the nausea and it made me sleepy and did wonders for my low back.hip pain. It’s now been five days and I’m still really nauseous. My job right now is to make sure to feed myself.

Today I had my first appointment with the radiation doctor. The MRI did show that there is cancer present in my L5 vertebrae and sacral area. This means the cancer has metastasized and is present on the bone. They say it isn’t bone cancer if it starts as a different type of cancer and spreads to the bone. I just know it’s been painful and I want it gone. The plan is to hit the area with radiation every day, M-F, for two-three weeks. I’ll be doing it simultaneaously with chemo. The hope is that it will shrink the bad cells and give me less pain, while the chemo gets in there and kills them off. Makes sense. I just know this won’t be the easiest path. Chemo has it’s side effects and so does radiation. We shall see what happens.

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After today’s prep for radiation treatments. You can barely tell that I cried, but believe me, I was ready to go home. This is a nurse de-accessing my port.

I’ve definitely been pushed to and beyond my physical and emotional limits over the past few weeks. I admit it, it’s a challenge to stay positive all of the time and to not get dragged down when enduring some of this stuff. Today, when the doctor asked if Sam and I wanted to go over the films of where the cancer is located, she said yes and I said no. Why? I was feeling overwhelmed and knew I couldn’t see or hear any more bad news. She showed Sam and they discussed it all. I have the information I need, but was able to put off seing the extent of the cancer in my body until later. I am not in denial, it’s just been too much and I needed to keep my head clear as I headed in for my CT scan.

Right now I’m stressing a bit over “did I choose the right diet?”, while reading various research studies and testimonials. Who knows for sure? Keto or raw vegan were the two that seemed the most legit to me, from a cancer viewpoint. I feel like I have to choose everything correctly, or I may not have another chance. Things are much more serious this time around and it’s a lot of pressure. You truly can get caught up in all of the bullshit during something like this. In a moment, your hopes can be dashed, or you can feel elated. I’ve called it the rollercoaster before and that’s exactly what it is. I’m fortunate to have a wife who makes special foods for me to eat and supports me every step of the way, and friends who are invested in my survival. It can be difficult when you’re facing horrible things and you, alone, have to endure it. That said, having a supportive circle is priceless.

I start radiation on Thursday. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’d love for my port area to not be so sore and to get my appetite back. Small steps and postive thoughts. I’m doing my best to focus on that.

Back in the Saddle Again

Today, I find myself writing this, after yet another whirlwind of appointments, upsets, and harsh realities. My cancer has spread. There’s no easy way to say that, so let’s just get to the point. It’s in the lymph nodes in my lungs and between my lungs. I’ve had a ct scan, a pet scan, a lung biopsy, and one MRI. We are doing MRIs of my lower lumbar and hip areas to determine if the original pain that is located in my SI/hip area is also cancerous. There are enlarged lymph nodes, but we don’t know if the bone is affected. No one wants to hear this news, certainly not someone who has already been through treatment and thought it was behind her.

We are wasting no time. On Monday I will get my port and on Thursday I will start chemo again. My oncologist has made it clear that this is serious. My wife and I sat across from him, hoping to hear better news, trying not to cry when it turned out to be worse. He went over everything and a game plan. Upon leaving the room, it was hard to see the staff looking back at me with what I call “cancer face”. It’s that sad face, where people can barely make eye contact, and feel sorry for you. I’ve experienced it before and will experience it again. It just happens, especially when people don’t know what to say.

We received our information for all of the upcoming appointments, walked out to the car, and then proceeded to sit there, crying and hugging each other. We certainly knew it was a possibility that it would come back. We knew it was aggressive and in my bloodstream and could resettle somewhere else. You know the facts, but you feel so good after finishing treatment that you move forward with your life and put it behind you. None of the typical symptoms occurred that would signal something is wrong. I had my checkups, and then something happened that made no sense until it lead to this new cancer diagnosis – pain in the SI/hip area. The pain has been going on for over 6 months now and I attributed it to a car accident I was involved in. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t getting better. The pain happens when I lay down and I have discomfort in the same area and down the left leg the rest of the time. Advil has made it livable, although sleeping has been rough for months now. It’s easy to mistake that for an injury from a car accident.

I’m sharing this because I want people to practice self-care. I want them to be aware of what’s going on with their bodies. Something you keep excusing as nothing, could be something. Now, I don’t want to encourage people to think every pain is cancer. If you have symptoms that are persistent, especially if it gets worse, you should insist on being checked out. I had a chance to have an MRI 6 months ago, but I had to pay upfront for it. I couldn’t do it. If I’d had one then, I would have known what was going on and gotten a 6 month jump on treatment. Hindsight is 20/20, but it does no good to think that way. “If only I hadn’t eaten sugar”, “If only if I’d changed my diet sooner”, “If only I’d said something sooner” – none of this kind of thinking will heal you. It’s self-destructive and I’m putting it behind me.

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Feeling reflective

Now is the time for throwing everything at this. I’m at a crossroad and have to decide if I want to do everything I can to stick around, or if I want to half-ass it and hope for the best. If you’ve followed my journey thus far, I’m pretty sure you know what I’ve decided to do. I am starting back with chemo. I tolerated it well last time and the hope is that it will knock the cancer cells back. We now know it didn’t kill them off entirely last time, so I’m also starting the keto diet now. It’s a big switch from being a vegetarian, but the research I’ve done says it is the way to go. A side benefit of that is that it will knock down my blood sugar, which is awesome for any diabetic. I will be starting back with acupuncture, hypnosis, reiki, and massage. I am already using a combination of essential oils and supplements that will support my body, much like last time, except I’m increasing quantities. I’m going to be using hash oil and edibles to help with my appetite. So many things. It seems overwhelming at times, but trying everything together will leave me with no regrets.

At this point, I am only thinking of knocking this back and staying around. I am thinking about my nieces and nephew and my desire to watch them become fully functioning adults. I am thinking about the good things to come and my desire to be a apart of it. I am thinking about the plans I have with my wife and what I want to create through our artist’s studio and doTERRA business. I am thinking about the plans I have with my friends and wanting to establish our shared dream, Green Mountain Collective. At the end of the day, this project is my legacy. It encompasses my dreams and ideals and also benefits good people and our local community. I am thinking about what I have left to see, build, and experience, and the moments that take my breath away and make me appreciate being alive. I’m ready to keep fighting and you’re welcome to join me on this new, yet familiar journey.