Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Getting on with it

On the edge of Mesa Arch looking down
My friend sent me this great article the other day and I have to say that it was very timely.  It was titled "No one told me that getting on with life after cancer would be so hard" by Mary Jennifer Markham, MD who writes of a patient experience.  The patient, a woman who had undergone chemotherapy for lymphoma for an entire year, had a clean bill of health at this exam but was having other problems that were just as hard to deal with.  How to get on with life after cancer.

Any of us who is lucky enough to have a life after cancer has had those concerns.  You know the ones I am talking about; "will it come back?" "what is that pain?", "why am I so tired all of the time?", "will my lab results look good?", "will my scan be good?", and so on.  We were all (if we were lucky) coached in what to expect from treatments (hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, neuropathy, feeling as if you've been hit by a Mack truck) but we were never coached for how to get on with life if you survive. What do you do? Do you rest for a while and try to recover from chemo and if so how long? What if you decide to go back to work and the cancer comes back and you have to quit and reapply for all of the benefits and assistance all over again, something that has taken months and months to get in the first place.  What if you work full time and find that it is too much for you right now and have to quit or cut your hours back so much you can't afford to live.  What do you tell people about why you have been out of the workforce for over 2 years?  What is that pain in my side/leg/head/arm/throat anyway? Is it the cancer coming back?  Did I take my supplements/meds today? Did I eat enough vegetables?  Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.  Fun isn't it?

someone else making fun of "the system"
Those are the types of things that have been rolling around in my head lately.  Once you are on "the system" (SSI, section 8, health care, etc.) it is seemingly impossible to get off.  It's set up all wrong.  They like to tout it as being "easy" to return to work and even have classes to help you learn new skills so you can join the "workforce" again, usually making minimum wage in the labor industry but, hey.  If you make any money they deduct half of it from your monthly pay so it sounds good so far, right?  But it's not, because then you get hit by having to pay more for rent and healthcare and you get less food benefits so all of the sudden that extra money you made is gone and not only is it gone, but you end up paying more for earning it.  Messed up huh? I think so.  By my calculations one would have to make enough money in the month to be able to pay for everything (rent, phone, car, insurance, food, gas, internet, household supplies, medical expenses, etc.) just to be able to come out ahead and get off "the system"and have a job with benefits so that healthcare would not be an issue because, well, you never know.  This is where I am right now.  It feels a lot like nowhere really, somewhere between the lines of parallel universes trying to figure out which one of those I belong to now.  When you are told that you have cancer and you might not have too long to live you change.  You are emotionally, mentally, physically and in every other way challenged to reconstruct your life with your new knowledge.  Priorities change, health and well being become paramount and things like work, or school, or career, move toward the bottom of the list waiting to be dealt with when or if you get the chance.  It is hard to re-prioritize your life especially when it has already been through enough re-prioritizing for while.  I told myself that I would not be too hasty in seeking employment.  I want to give myself enough time to make sure that everything is going to be ok, that I can handle working full time physically and mentally, that I will make enough money to be able to get off "the system" and still have benefits, that my next couple of scans all still say good things, that I have the mental ability to concentrate on something for a given amount of time, and that I am not just too fatigued to stay awake, alert and present for more than 3-4 hours at once.  But when?  I feel like I need to start making some plans.  Set a goal.  Start the process of starting over again.  Here is my idea, I would love to know what you think.

I was browsing some of my favorite blogs the other day and came across my friend Sonnet's awesome blog For the Love of Food.  Sonnet writes about food and good, nutritious, healthy, vegetarian food at that.  She has so many delicious recipes and is very knowledgeable about nutrition, food and health.  I noticed that she is a holistic health coach, something that I have really been looking into lately, and sent her an email asking about it.  Turns out that she is attending the same institute I am have been looking into and she has nothing but good things to say about it.  Sonnet and I both attended Antioch University in Seattle and as a result have high expectations of the schools we choose to attend and how they structure the learning process.  It was such a relief to hear positive things about the school.  I am very excited to begin the process of obtaining my certification to be a holistic health coach.  From my experiences over the past two years, all of the research, and all of the questions I get regarding my health and cancer diagnosis, and cancer assassination, I feel that it is my calling in life to help others become healthier.  This certification will allow me to do that even better by taking the knowledge and first hand experience I already have and integrating it with more knowledge of how to do so while also expanding on the knowledge I already have, plus I will be credible and certified having a platform from which to operate and share such knowledge professionally.  The program is great! They even help with setting up your own practice and give you all kinds of tools and resources to do so.  It is a 12 month program but in 6 months I can become certified meaning that by the first of next year I can be independent and off "the system" while helping others and doing what I love to do!  I even got a scholarship to attend, but the bummer is that it costs $5,000 and my scholarship is only for $500 plus I get another $500 off if I pay in full bringing it down to only $4,000.  Yeah right!  I live on $7 a day!  So in the meantime I am making mobiles to sell.  Let me know if you want one.  Saving to buy supplies to make some jewelry from my tumbled agates that I found on my rock hunting trips so I can sell that too and scheming about how in the world I am going to make some money and get off "the system".
some of my tumbled agates waiting
to become jewelry

Big news! My naturopath at The Center for Traditional Medicine in Lake Oswego (Dr. Peterson) wants  me to start a new treatment.  High dose vitamin C intravenously.  Vitamin C is well knows as an antioxidant when taken orally but when given in high doses intravenously it actually becomes an oxidant creating hydrogen peroxide and killing cancer cells.  It also is supposed to be great for relieving side effects of chemotherapy such as fatigue (did I mention that I've been sleeping about 12 hours every day), chemobrain, rebuilding and renewing cells, with the added bonus of the feeling of abundant energy and wellbeing.  Sign me up!! Sounds great huh? I bet is is great! The not so great part about it is that it costs a lot more than the nutritional IV's with glutathione that I have been getting for the past two years.  Another one of those things that has to change because I am in that place right now.  Cancer dead, no more chemo, no more pharmaceuticals, and needing to change and get on with the next steps of treatment after cancer.  The first three months of the treatment is going to cost $800 as I need to get IV's once and sometimes twice a week.  Those IV's are also administered over a period of 3-5 hours so it also means I will be in the clinic a lot again for a little while until I get built up to the level I need, after that it is a weekly thing.  I am super psyched to start this treatment so that I can begin to feel normal again, have enough energy to stay awake all day (until at least 8 or 9 at night) and enough mental clarity to concentrate on something more than a sit-com.  I am not going to even schedule my first treatment there until I know that I can afford to pay for at least the first 3 months though. if anyone out there feels like they can spare a few dollars feel free to contact The Center for Traditional Medicine (503-636-2734) and put some financial loving into my account there.  I know times are hard and the economy sucks but I will say that every little cent helps the cause.  I hate having to ask for help, it sucks.  I want to help not always have to be helped.  I know that day will come one day though and I will be able to give back to so many what has been given to me, good health and a wonderful and abundant life.

I am also going to put the call out again for any unused gift cards that anyone has hanging around.  Those were so incredibly helpful before and I definitely made good use of them.  There are other ways to donate to help cover medical expenses such as the ChipIn on this page or directly into on PayPal.  Every little bit makes such a difference and I am so very grateful for the generosity of you all.

So that is pretty much the long and short of it all.  Where to go to get on with it and as Dr. Markham said "no one ever told me that getting on with life after cancer would be so hard".  But I am thrilled to be alive and have this problem.  The alternative just wasn't going to work for me.

Cancer Can Suck It!


  1. Well, Laura, having just read your comment on my post today, and now reading this, and nodding my head in agreement a lot, I can see we must be having a cyber mind-meld.

    Oy on the money problems, huh? I tried going back to work full-time right after treatment was done. THAT was a big mistake...very long story, had to cut back to half-time, then crawl my way back to 80% & change my work status to permanent partial disability. 80% is still too much in my job, but I can't afford to work less.

    I hope this education program works out well. It sounds great & when it's something you're really interested in, it makes a difference. Also, has any doc checked your Vitamin D levels? Women with breast cancer are prone to lower than normal levels. I started taking D3 even before I got checked, was still low, so tripled my D3. It has helped a ton.

  2. Thank you for this excellent post. I am lucky enough to have "survived," but my psyche has been forever frayed by cancer. It is hard to go on with life after cancer because one's life as we know it stops, and a new one begins.

  3. Accidental Amazon,
    I felt exactly the same after reading your post too! Mind meld indeed! Thank you for sharing your "going back to work" story with me. It helps me to not feel so lame by not thinking that working full time might not be the best idea right now. What you described is exactly what I don't want to happen. I will ask the doc about my vitamin D levels. I was taking vitamin D but I have been really poor lately and not able to buy any more after I ran out. Perhaps I should put it further up on the top of my "important" list :)

  4. Beth,
    Isn't that the truth! I don't think that feeling of "having cancer" will ever go away even when the scans and labs all look good. I am not happy that others are having this type of a struggle but it is nice to know that I am not the only one going through this crazy time...not that I would wish it on anyone, but you know what I mean. Cancer is a lonely place even when you are surrounded by people.