Cancer made me reprioritise myself, gave me the time to be present and see the beauty that was around me. Cancer has shown me that I needed to heal more than my physical body.
There was a lot going on in my life when I was diagnosed in 2008. I was a busy Mum of four children between the ages of 7 and 14. I was working a few nights a week at the local Supermarket packing shelves, I was volunteering at my childrens’ school most mornings, taking my children to their after school and weekend sport, music and dance lessons and doing household chores and laundry.
I had been horrified several years before when my kid’s’ Paediatrician had asked me what I did with my “me time”? “Me time” was not a concept that I could comprehend. When was there time for something so frivolous, it was a struggle to get through the day as it was. I scoffed at the time, but this conversation still comes to mind even now when I write this because it shows how far down the list I was on my priority list.
In hindsight I had been becoming symptomatic a couple of years prior. I put on about 12kgs of weight in a short space of time. I had seen my regular Doctor who had commented on my extra girth and I had asked her to please explain as I had always eaten a healthy diet and done regular moderate exercise (several years later a sample was taken and the weight was found to be lymphatic fluid retention). Any blood tests she did prior to the diagnosis showed nothing out of the ordinary. Yet I was physically exhausted and needed to sleep after morning school drop off, and I would often sweat profusely without there being a cause. My Doctor put a lot of this down to my being so busy and peri menopausal.
It was through a breast exam with a Specialist that an enlarged lymph node was found under my arm. I was sent for an Ultrasound and fine needle biopsy (which was clear). The specialist saw me monthly to “keep an eye on it” and had told me “enlarged nodes aren’t good” but not elaborated. It doubled in size, she was a surgeon so removed it and sent it off for biopsy.
I received my diagnosis one week later. I had gone to the appointment on my own, not knowing what I was walking into. She was able to tell me it was Non Hodgkins Lymphoma of the B Cells and indolent and she had been in touch with the Haematologist I would be seeing. He had said I would definitely need to have chemotherapy but more tests were required prior to meeting with him.
The minute I left her office I cried. I called my husband who said he was going to come straight home. I walked the Shopping Centre doing the back to school shopping for the kids, silently sobbing all the way, called up to my Mum’s (who had been babysitting) and pulled her aside with tears still flowing and broke the news to her, bundled the kids in the car and took them home. The kids were upset wondering why I was crying and so upset, they wouldn’t have seen me this way and probably wouldn’t have remembered when my Dad had passed away, they had been so young. We decided to tell them. The timing wasn’t great, getting diagnosed the day before my eldest’s birthday.
I cried for the best part of 48 hours. Honestly I think I was all cried out, there were no more tears left to cry and as strange as it sounds I had a voice in my head tell me I had cried enough. It was time to get to healing and getting better.I was somehow able to move on from the initial shock and trauma pretty quickly.
For the kids’ sake we tried to keep life as normal as possible. I stopped working immediately, stacking shelves 4-5 hours at a time late at night is exhausting and takes a lot of energy which I just didn’t have. We met with the Haematologist shortly after. He checked the scans which showed I had enlarged nodes pretty much everywhere. All through my abdomen, there was a large one pressing on something going to my heart (I was breathing very shallowly due to it and they had concerns if it got much bigger that would be it). He told me I was Stage 3 but I needed to have a bone marrow biopsy and if that was positive I would be Stage 4 which meant 6 cycles of what he referred to as poison and immunotherapy. I also had a PET scan which lit up like a Christmas tree.
So the diagnosis after tests was Stage 4. I started without too much delay on the RCHOP combination. I was very fortunate that it was covered for most by the Government, all but about $500.
I had been and had meetings with the Principals and Class Teachers at my kids Schools and made sure they were aware and had the facts about what was going on. I made a point of going into the school for afternoon pick up to avoid the kids being questioned directly from well meaning parents (worrying they might upset them) so they were able to come directly to me. We had a lot of support from parents in the school community and in the kids sports teams etc which was helpful and we were grateful for.
I had the first 3 cycles of RCHOP. In between each cycle there would be an appointment with the Oncology team. It had gone from the initial positive prognosis I had been initially been told to the more real version, being told I might get 5-10 years with ongoing treatment if I was lucky.
At the halfway restaging scan my prognosis was dire. The treatment wasn’t working, there had been minimal impact and that after treatment I would be treated as palliative and to go home and get my affairs in order.
I walked out of there putting my hand up and thinking to myself I’ll show you. I just knew as awful as things looked I would be okay. I had found information through a website called 11 Natural Strategies to Kill Cancer (unbeknownst to them) I had done it their way so far. It wasn’t working. It was time to give some of these strategies and supplements a try. What was there to lose?
So, I did. I took Vitamin C, Flaxseed Oil, CoEnzyme Q10, Aloe Vera Juice, Probiotics, a multivitamin and milk thistle not all to start with, but I sourced and added them to my protocol. I started doing deep breathing, and doing visualisations of my immune fighting, and the nodes shrinking, seeing myself well. I spent alot of time outside in nature, being present and seeing the beauty that was around me.
I also continued with the treatment.
I started to feel better - mouth ulcers cleared up, my hair stopped falling out and had grown back to peach fuzz, constipation was gone, I had more energy, I looked better in myself. It was amazing.
I do feel there was also a Spiritual or Energetic thing that was happening, I would get this tingling effervescent sensation over my entire body, it would last for an hour or so at a time on several occasions. It is hard to explain. But I believe it contributed to my healing.
After my final RCHOP I went for a restaging PET scan. I had my appointment with the Haematologist who was so thrilled that all but one tiny patch of cancer had gone. He said it wasn’t expected and he couldn’t explain it but whatever it is I was doing to keep doing it. A follow up scan a year later showed it was all gone.
I have had relapses. One was a single node that I was given oral chemo for but it didn’t resolve until I added alkaline water to my protocol.
There have been a couple of relapses that were Stage 4. The first was watch and wait, I added more supplements to my protocol, included reiki healing (I self reiki daily as well) and added sound healing and healing meditations and visualisations and affirmations. The cancer was put into remission.
The last Stage 4 relapse I required more conventional treatments. I believe I had a small amount of cancer in my spine that was spread through my system due to a deep tissue massage I had a few months prior. It spread so fast, I had lymph nodes cut off my urethra going into my right kidney, my new Haematologist said it was the quickest way to resolve it. I was given R-Bendamustine. I had full remission after. I still take supplements and use strategies.
As upsetting as it is with the relapses I have come to understand healing is on all levels. It isn’t just about healing the physical body. It is about healing emotionally and mentally, there is also a spiritual and energetic aspect as well. All areas need to be sorted. I ask myself what needs to be healed? What baggage am I still carrying that I need to let go of? What do I need to forgive myself for and who do I need to forgive? I give my myself the time and space to work on it. Healing is about being at peace and having harmony in the body. It is an inside job.
Cancer made me reprioritise myself, gave me the time to be present and see the beauty that was around me. Cancer has shown me that I needed to heal more than my physical body. I am grateful and feel blessed every day I have had since, being able to see my kids grow up, get degrees, find partners, weddings and start to have their own children.
I found purpose and meaning in my life after so much trauma. I feel like I am here to help other women. I wouldn't be living an incredible life that is better than what I could have ever imagined without cancer. I don't live in fear. I am present with people and found out who my people are.
There have been setbacks along the way, and by no means has it been easy, but I wake up thankful every day. Grateful for my life and those around me who continue to support me.