It’s time for me to come clean about something. I have known for a long time that I would have to do it eventually, and nearly nine months after I made this major choice the time has come.
But first a little history. I was originally diagnosed with stage IIC granulosa cell ovarian cancer in the summer of 2006. After two surgeries and six rounds of chemo that summer and fall, I was declared NED (no evidence of disease). That lasted for four years, and ever since cancer has been something I have “dealt with” approximately every four years.
Between my original diagnosis and my first recurrence, I did a ton of reading and research, and I knew that if the cancer came back, I wasn’t going to take a conventional approach again. There are countless alternative, complementary and integrative approaches, and it is difficult to know which ones really work or what might be right for your specific disease. Trust me, I have tried many of them. It is hard to say what the results have been because the cancer continues to return right on schedule, but then again, my doctors told me that was likely when I was diagnosed. They said we would probably be treating this as a chronic illness, which is definitely better than the terminal kind, so I was encouraged.
Now four surgeries (including a complete hysterectomy), 15 abdominal scars, multiple thousands of dollars in medical bills and countless hours pursuing various therapies, specialists and approaches, I am weary of spending my time and money on cancer, though I am still very grateful to have the opportunity to experience the fatigue of living with cancer for 11 years rather than the alternative. So many have had it so much worse. Being a survivor for this long has meant that many of my friends have also experienced multiple recurrences and some of them have not survived. Cancer is not for sissies.
Despite the fact that I have an unwelcome “guest” in my body every four years, the healing practices that I have undertaken have mostly been super positive. Eating better, meditating, doing yoga, being mindful, managing stress and shifting my perspective have all been quite helpful in a number of meaningful ways, as have the supplements, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, Reiki and many other therapies I have undertaken. The only downside to all of it is that the pesky cancer continues to come back no matter what I do. It can be frustrating.
There was a point in the summer of 2013 when I was in California in the midst of approximately $30K worth of alternative treatments that I had this thought: “Conventional treatments made me feel terrible, but were covered by insurance. Alternative treatments mostly made me feel good, but were not. Both are based on the premise that something outside of me will ‘cure’ me. But I have believed for a long time that healing is an inside job, so why am I focusing so much on the externals? Hmmm.”
I honestly didn’t think much about it until last summer when my blood markers were again on the rise, and an ultrasound showed some tumor growth yet again. As has been our pattern, we took a watch and wait approach as my surgeon decided opening me up every time there is a minor growth wasn’t a good practice when it was happening so frequently. For the past year, as is always the case when there are tumors on board, I have lived my life, gone about my business, kept at my practices and mostly ignored those little suckers. I haven’t had another scan or more blood work for a few reasons, the second of which is my major confession.
Firstly, I spent four months last fall and early spring in Hawaii interning on an organic farm where I practiced Qi Gong every morning (I loved it), and the daily practice continued for a few months after I came home as well (until it didn’t). I began an intense new meditation program around that time and the Qi Gong practice slowly got replaced with 30-60 minutes of daily meditation instead. Secondly (confession time – can you tell I’m stalling?), I made a decision when I was in Hawaii that probably seems incredibly foolish to many, and I have had my moments of doubt about it, though most of the time, I know that I needed this situation to test my theory of the possibility of self-healing.
Here it is: I didn’t renew my health insurance. I had active tumors in my body, and still I made the decision to become uninsured for the first time in my life. I know, on the face of it, it doesn’t seem very smart. There are multiple reasons why I actually made this conscious decision, and I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will say that I paid huge premiums last year to use my benefits exactly twice – for a sinus infection and the previously-mentioned follow up oncologist appointment. (Other than cancer, I am super healthy ;). I don’t make a lot of money these days, and even with insurance, very little of my medical bills were actually being paid (seems to get worse every year). I decided I would rather put that money toward other approaches instead. I was also feeling defeated about the recent election results and uncertain if getting insurance would even be an option in the coming years (or in any way affordable). So there you have it.
Now, I have shared vulnerably twice in this post. The insurance thing that I haven’t even disclosed to my family and now I’m telling the world, and the fact that I think it is possible for us to heal ourselves of ANYTHING – even cancer. I am aware that both proclamations make me seem like a kook to many. And I’m ok with that because I have learned to trust my intuition completely, knowing that it absolutely won’t ever steer me wrong. Without a fall-back position, self-healing is now required for me. Ignoring those little suckers in my gut had worked well until a few weeks ago when I began to have some symptoms that made me think perhaps they were growing. Again, I won’t bore you with the details, but I had a pretty tough week until I began a new practice. One week later, I am feeling fine again. Wow!
I know that I have chosen some approaches that are quite different than the norm, and I am fortunate that even my oncologist understands (though he doesn’t always agree) and supports me on my path. More and more of us are taking the road less traveled by, and it is making all the difference for us. Even if I have to manage cancer every four years for the rest of my life, I have no regrets. As I told one concerned friend who questioned my approach, “I am willing to accept the consequences of my choices. Even if I die, I am satisfied with the direction I have chosen.”
I am not advocating for anyone else to do what I have done. I do wish more people knew that there are other approaches to cancer and serious illnesses of all kinds, but each person has to choose what is best for them, and no one else can tell them what that is. What I do advocate strongly is listening to your own intuition, and recognizing that it will never steer YOU wrong. Whatever you choose, you must be comfortable with it, willing to accept the consequences of your decisions and you must believe in it wholeheartedly – belief plays a much larger role than most of us realize.
Because I have now outted myself as someone who believes in self-healing, I realize that I may be under additional scrutiny, and I am ok with that. I have chosen to live a public, authentic and vulnerable life even when it’s scary. I will tell you more about specifically what I am doing in future posts, and if you are interested in support and coaching to make important choices about your own path, please email to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation 30-60 minute coaching session or sign up for my new monthly online series Seasons of Survivorship – there are free and low-cost options available and we will begin at the end of September.
If you want to know more about unique and creative approaches to cancer, I recommend The Truth About Cancer and this upcoming online series Chris Beat Cancer.