Contributing Factors Part 2- Wellness

My last post focused on a top ten list of why I believe I started cancering. This here post is a roundup of things I count towards health.  I’m curious about what others are trying- please comment below as to what feels healing to you.

My appreciation and devotion of Mary has increased during this cancering adventure.
My appreciation and devotion for Mary has increased during this cancering adventure.

When ever I have gone into the Oncologist’s office, or spend time reading books, studies or online articles, I am constantly reminded of the slipperiness of statistics. How do all the various factors add up? If drinking two cups of coffee a day while I take Tamoxifen halves my chance of recurrence  – well sign me up! (Article about the Swedish coffee study) Add getting enough exercise, thats good for a 30% reduction in risk, right?

Pretty soon you can rack up like 5,000% reduction in recurrence risk by following various guidelines.  But the thing is all of those statistics are like stereotypes, there is some truth, but is never universal. (Like say, some women are harpies, but not all women are harpies.) For some women drinking coffee is just the ticket- but for others? Probably not so much. We need to remember that there is no such thing as a 30% recurrence – it is either 100% or 0% for any individual.

Then there is the guilt factor- which I really ought to have added to my contributing factors for illness – Guilt has many ways of entering the mind, especially for those of us whose families have been Catholic for like a 1,000 years. The opportunities for guilt in the aftermath of treatments for cancering can be rich. There are many ways we might blame ourselves. For instance if we hear that Tumeric is a cancer fighter, and we hate curry, BING BING BING the guilt alarm goes off. Or how bout that cup of ice-cream, when you know that studies have implicated dairy and sugar in cancer, what is it do you want metastatic disease?

There are things within our control, and things that are not. Whenever I go to the Oncologist they offer various add on treatments, most of which I have said no to so far.  I feel comfortable doing so because I am aware that there are many ways to shave a few points off my risk- and getting a shot in the belly with a large bore needle monthly to shut down my pesky ovaries, so that I can then take a drug that makes my bones hurt, gives me diarrhea and might kill all my teeth – all for a 4% risk reduction- well I say bring on that second cup of coffee.

So there is this delicate balance between living your life and going for that 5,000% risk reduction. It seems to me that near anything that improves happiness might be a contributing factor towards vibrant health.  I have been trying to collate these things so that I can add the benefit of intention to any action I take.  So when I add turmeric to a meal- well I make of it a gratitude spell- “Thank you Turmeric for keeping our cells healthy!”  Sort of like adding extra credit points to the house hourglasses at Hogwarts.

So without further ado here are some of the things I choose to do to rack up points in the health game. A mish-mash of things both healing and possibly a few factors for cure.

Contributing factors page from my life plan book for 2016.
Contributing factors page from my life plan book for 2016.

#10 – Conventional Western Medicine Treatments – Poison, Slash, Tamoxifen

I chose to do Chemotherapy for a variety of reasons – after I chose it we discovered that I was eligible for targeted therapies for my HER2 positive cells.  I followed chemo with a mastectomy including removal of my axillary nodes.  Pathology after surgery showed complete response to treatments, no evidence of disease which caused a reassessment of my stage from 3C to 0. I chose not to pursue radiation treatments. I credit the good fortune of having targeted therapies as the most beneficial component of the Western Medicine toolbox I received.

I also benefited from a bit of advise from my friend Meg. She encouraged me to pursue a paravertebral block as an option for my anesthesia during my mastectomy. Evidence indicates that it may reduce metastasis.  This required I do a little investigation and ultimately to request a specific anesthesiologist who was trained to do it. You can read more about that Danish study about Paravertebral block and Breast surgery here. 

Finely I am currently taking a daily dose of Tamoxifen, and being checked every 4 months by my oncologist.

#9 –  Complementary Care:  Traditional Chinese Medicine + Acupuncture + Naturopathy

When I knew in my gut that I had cancer I went to my acupuncturist before I went in for my mammogram. I credit her with helping me wrap my head around what was going on, and to help me gain the courage to address it directly. Her good sense allowed for frank discussion of what my options might be as far as western medicine or possible alternative therapies. The calming effect of acupuncture treatments helped me make better choices for myself, and after I entered treatments helped mitigate some of my side effects.

I have also pursued other TCM treatments in tandem with Western Medicine. I continue to drink herbal formulas twice daily – affectionally referred to as Swamp Tea. The formula is changed every time I visit Hai Shan Clinic, at first every 6 weeks, and now every 8 weeks.

Lastly I have had Naturopaths on my team from the beginning and have taken a variety of vitamins, minerals and supplements – including modified citrus pectin prior to and after surgery. To take advantage of the many ways it prevents metastasis. You can read the study on the National Institute of Health on the benefits of pectin Here.

#8 – Energy Medicine

This has taken many forms, Most all of which were gifted to me. From Reiki in the chemo lounge, to Gemstone therapy, to plant spirit medicine and sound healing, to Traditional Tibetan energy medicine, to my dedicated circle of meditating friends who kept me in their thoughts on Tuesdays for most of a year.  All of it aimed at getting the good vibes surrounding me, balancing my chakras and in general just raising my energetic vibration to be incompatible with cancering.  I had some profoundly wild experiences with all of this. I believe it to have been divine intervention that I had access to these wonderful healers.

#7 – Community,  Stronger Together

Whoa Nellie do I live in a great place. My peeps fed our family for months, organized a fundraiser, put me on prayer lists at a dozen churches, sent me cards, and art and love in all kinds of forms. The year of treatments especially taught me that we are surrounded by love.  Even now when I venture to some community event, and see people I haven’t seen since my pCR,  they need to hug me, and express gratitude for my existence.  My cancering taught me that truly no one is an island, and that any illness or recovery effects all the people in the web of community. I am immensely grateful for all of the amazing folks around here, and to those who live farther away who reached out with love to support us.

#6 – Mindful Eating

Food is Love. Food is Medicine. Plus you are what you eat.  There are so many opportunities to make food a powerful force for good. Eating with loved ones creates oxytocin- the inner drug of connection. Food gives our bodies the energy we use to function and the parts we need to maintain and repair ourselves. Bliss, fuel and building supplies in one convenient package. This is a modality that I mostly have been pretty lazy about, since I was eating fairly well pre-cancering, but it is an area that holds lots of mojo that can be harnessed for healing. (Pure water also tops the list, though Never drinking out of plastic.) The biggest changes we have made in our diet as a household is to insert tons of fermented foods, and to emphasize colorful foods and healthy proteins. (Plus I drink homemade cappuccino with Joe every morning.)

#5 – Keep Moving

There is no end to the ways movement enhances health.  It keeps the lymphatic system flowing, and keeps our batteries charged. From silly dancing, to walking as often as possible, to stretching every time I need to use the fax machine at work.  Somewhere along the way, once my fatigue was more manageable, prioritizing moving anyway anyhow became a norm.  I think that for me, someone who has never been an athlete, I needed to be a bit empowered about movement.  I am unlikely to ever go to the gym, but I can walk to work or dance in the kitchen while making dinner.  Move it move it move it. Besides it just feels really good.

#4 – Meditation and Prayer

I am still a baby meditator, and I know I keep bringing it up, but if the manic monkey brain with a tendency towards the vigilance of what I call Tiger Reality stays in charge all the time I’m in trouble. Meditation is like accessing your inner Zen Mechanic- calming the sympathetic nervous system and turning on th parasympathetic nervous system.  It is a good way to get clarity and perspective. I have found it to increase my capacity for compassion and empathy.  The true companion to meditation is connecting to the sacred, my practice is at my altar, and it feels like it sets me up for a wonderful day and joyous life. I don’t think the gods care much how we check in, just that we do.  I credit the prayers said on my behalf during treatments with mucho percentage points.

#3 – Love, Passion & Purpose

Zest for living is almost a prerequisite for healing.  I have known some super zesty people who lived their truth until the very end of their lives.  Spending some time getting really clear about why I want to keep living provides some sort of energetic push towards healing on all levels.  (Here is where wanting to stick around to watch my boys grow up comes in.) Getting better at connecting to those I love and following my bliss to use my gifts to serve the universe, has become the primary focus of my life. I also want to add that having a loving husband who has stood by me as my wing man for over 20 years, especially during my illness, stands as a major contributing factor to having a good life.

#2 – Nature – May the Force be with you.

Mama Earth is the source of all of us. Being in nature increases happiness almost immediately.  Having access to the natural world outside my door has been a huge contributing factor to regaining my health. From sharing my life with chickens and cats to all the amazing birds that live near me, to the scent of unfurling cottonwood leaves I feel immersed in life-force.  Plant friends greet me wherever I go- and glimpses of wild creatures make my heart sing. Last Year’s sighting of the humpbacked whales in the Columbia ranks as one of the highpoints of my entire life. Nature is in constant communication with us if we open up our hearts.

#1 – Cancering Magical Realism – Choosing a Happiness Mindset

I have written a whole post about this one, look for it later this week. Basically this is the big corral that holds all my Pooka ways. Cancering Magical Realism is the mindset that opens up worlds of wonder and possibilities.  It is choosing to believe in magic and miracles. It is what empowers all kinds of little enchantments, to get my mind to the right place at the right time. It enhances any and every action that I apply it to.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Shadow Dancing. Really making an effort to look in the corners of myself, bring into the light behaviors and programs from my blind spots.  This is pretty intense – but getting easier.
  2. Writing. Writing on this blog, and in my journal has been a game changer for me. I had abandoned my writing practice over a decade ago- picking it back up has been huge.
  3. Clothing & Color. Not to be repetitive, but the benefit of making myself new clothes, and becoming an amazon fashionista can not be over emphasized. I need to acknowledge its special healing powers.  I think it is so powerful that it can even sometimes heal others in my vicinity.
Candle light blessings
Candle light blessings

So that’s how it is all adding up for me at the moment. A sort of synergistic stew of ideas and actions.  I’m super interested in what things other people find helpful for themselves.  Are there things you do towards self healing? What about actions that contribute to a cure or prevention of disease? For those of you without cancering in the picture, what are the ways you care for yourself? Please comment below.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan MItchell says:

    Iris- Your writing is a blessing to all of us,as you work through the uncertainties of life next to us. I had to pause as I saw the 5 candles at the end. I’m about to visit My sister, whose son died of cancer last December–non-smoker, Buddhist, and care-giver to his neighborhood and friends. I’m picking up five of these salt candle holders that were his—- a reminder of him and his good life. Jan M.

    1. Iridacea says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your family’s loss. There are too many beautiful people lost to us before their time. I’m also honored to be a small part of a synchronicity that connects you to your nephew. Our beloved ones remain with us in so many surprising ways. Safe travels as you go to be with your sister.
      much love

  2. Julia C Wagner says:

    Thank you for another inspiring share. Since moving to the far reaches of Nehalem, some 30 miles east into the Tillamook State Forest, I have been growing younger each day. Water comes from a mountain spring and regularly needs maintenance, each morning begins with fire building (truly a meditation), the farm animals fed, my day’s food prepared, all of these daily practices conspire with the beauty of Mother Nature herself to slow my mind, my pace, and my heart rate. So grateful for the healing energy brought forth through getting back to nature and the very basics in living. I miss my Blue Scorcher neighbor, but have stopped in during every visit made to the Astoria area:) love to you Iris. Keep writing!

  3. Iridacea says:

    Oh Beautiful Julia that sounds so wonderful. I want to come visit this spring! I love to think of you living the “Good Life” ala Scott and Helen Nearing.
    xo iris

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