(19-01-28) Grumpy

I know I am supposed to be 100% positive the entire time I am here.

This morning, I am failing.

I’m grumpy because I was up a lot last night, coughing and rubbing my screaming stomach with calculated clockwise motions.

I’m grumpy because I don’t think the food here caters enough to a cancer patient, and it’s DEFINITELY not giving me enough fiber.

I’m grumpy because later today I have to do an enema, and I am REALLY not looking forward to that. In fact, Dr. Rubio Sr told me a week ago that I needed to be doing coffee enemas, and I have purposely NOT brought that up to any of the nurses because the mere thought of it grosses me out. I mean, I can handle a finger in there every once in a while (and once a glow-in-the-dark baby Jesus butt plug, but that’s a whole different story) … but a hose? Up my bum?? Fuck, man.

I’m grumpy because I have to talk about gas and feces with a cute doctor who has twinkle eyes. I would like to officially request that all my doctors going forward are ugly. Ugly and old. But especially ugly.

I’m grumpy because I miss my half dozen pets back home.

I’m grumpy because Hulu doesn’t work here in Mexico.

I’m grumpy because my treatments leave me to have to wait until 3 or 4 in the afternoon to take a shower, which means I walk around half the day with some jacked up bed head, and I didn’t think to bring a hat.

I’m grumpy because most days I am hooked up to bags of chelation, electrolytes, amino acids, and/or chemotherapy for 13 hours at a time. Wheeling around a metal pole every where I go basically means I am confined to the clinic.

I’m grumpy because I don’t have any chocolate in my room, and I know the pharmacy is just a five-minute walk outside, but I am trying to be good.

I’m grumpy because i won’t see my significant other for weeks.

I’m grumpy because I agreed to replace my deodorant with limes (yes, limes), and now I am paranoid about going outside by the pool and inducing a level of funk that could parallel some of these Mennonite lady patients.

I’m grumpy because it has now been four months of me not exercising. I can see the difference, and I can FEEL the difference. I would give a LOT to be able to play a racquetball game right now…or feel my feet start to go numb as I pass the sixth or seventh mile on the elliptical.

I’m grumpy because even though those ozone shots fixed the pain in my knee and right hip, it’s only made me more conscious of the pain in my back, left femur head, and pelvis.

I’m grumpy because every time I try to go into the common room, to use the computer or try out the massage chair, the room is filled with Mennonites who just stare at me.

… It’s only been a week, but I am missing my old life something fierce right now.

(19-01-24) Ozone Therapy

As I lay in my astronaut suit in my hospital bed, I am thinking about how much they infiltrate ozone into my treatment.

(1) ozonated water – They have a certain way of treating the water with ozone, which is said to remove parasites, bacteria, chemicals, and viruses from it.

(2) ozone cutaneous therapy – This is where the astronaut suit comes in, and a tube inserted inside the suit fills up with ozone, permeating the pores all throughout my body.

(3) ozone injections – I received this last night. Essentially, Dr. Rubio used a needle to inject ozone into my right knee and right hip. The ozone creates an enlarged space between the bones in those spots, which then allows oxygen and blood flow to improve. This, he said, would help eradicate the pain in those areas, in just a day or two.

What if increased ozone exposure was enough to prevent more people from getting cancer???

(19-01-23) More Treatments

Two treatments were added to my weekly regimen today: detox foot bath and Rife therapy.

Yo. The detox foot bath was kind of nasty; I’m not gonna lie. Here’s what the water looked like before my feet – my CLEAN feet, mind you – entered the premises:

Here it is, within the first minute of coming into contact with my feet:

Two minutes later:

Ten minutes later:

… and twenty minutes later:

Every single nerve line in our bodies ends in our feet. Our feet store a lot of stress and toxins from having to hold up the rest of the body all day (literally and figuratively), so the premise behind this treatment is to clean out the body by removing toxins stored in the feet.

Next: Rife therapy

I have no pictures for this one; I think I was still reeling from how disgusting that foot water was. I have Rife therapy every Tuesday and Wednesday, so next week I’ll take a photo of the device itself. For now, all I can say is that I held onto these two metal joystick-looking bars and allowed low doses of electromagnetic currents to enter my body through my hands for 10 minutes. I didn’t feel much, although it did bring back fond memories of being barefoot in my childhood basement, playing Pac-man on large arcade games and getting small shocks every time my wrist hit one of the metal buttons on the dashboard.

On a side note, Kyana left today. 😢

(19-01-22) Day 2: Adjusting to the Routine

First thing this morning, I get a knock on my bedroom door. It’s one of the nurses, swinging by to give me meds to take.

…except I didn’t take last night’s medication, either. And when I insistently questioned what these pills were (because anyone who has seen the movie, Girl Interrupted … or better yet, read the book [which is WAY better] can understand my fear about medical staff just handing me pills without explanation), I was then taken into a back room where two men speaking almost-exclusive Spanish injected me with what felt like a series of really awful bee stings (anesthesia) and then planted a device underneath my skin (temporary PIC line/port). After that, I didn’t ask any more questions…but I didn’t take the pills, either – at least not until later in the day, when I had my daily check-in with Dr. Rubio and listened to him explain what each of the pills were for.

7:30ish – morning meds

8-9 – breakfast

post-breakfast – chelation therapy – Here, they hook my PIC line/port up to a bag of yellow liquid. This liquid serves to go deep inside my body and eliminate traces of metals, toxins, fatty plaques, and mineral deposits – things we ingest, inhale, or consume in miniscule amounts from day to day, which then get stored in our bodies and cause damage later in life. After chelation, I get 1-2 more bags of IV fluids: saline, electrolytes, and B17.

12-1 – lunch. I can already see I will be eating a lot of salad here.

See my pills? Still haven’t taken them….

2-2:30 – ozone therapy. Now this was interesting because it involved a little costume play. I put on an astronaut-looking suit, and a long tube was inserted inside the suit. From there, one of the med staff taped the suit down at my wrists and head, flipped a switch on the machine connected to the tube, and then left me alone for 20 minutes while my bedroom filled with the smell of ozone. Did you know that ozone smells? I did not.

3-3:30 – cabbage therapy. This will likely be my least favorite therapy during my stay here. I like cabbage, to eat. I like the idea of boiled cabbage on my body, since it’s warm. Unfortunately, boiled cabbage smells like farts – really bad ones – and this treatment is done in my bedroom. I spent the whole rest of the night worrying that anyone passing by my room thought I had gastrointestinal problems.

my buddy, Nahaliel
You can’t tell here, but i am secretly singing songs from The Little Mermaid right here.

pre-dinner – daily check-in with Dr. Rubio. He wants me to change my toothpaste. And stop wearing lip-plumping lip gloss. And take my meds, now that I know what they are.

5-6 – dinner

After dinner, the day staff have left, and the rest of the evening is mine to reflect and explore. As of next week, I’ll be getting a cancer vaccine injected into me right before bed, but for now it’s just a time to read, write in my blog, and self-talk my way through this very strange (good strange) experience.

(19-01-21) Day 1 @ RCC

Kyana and I began getting ready for our trip to Tijuana before the sun had even risen. Just a little before 7, we were in the car and starting our 5-hour car ride. I’m pretty sure if Kyana had not been in that car with me, I would have cried the whole way…probably pulled over on the side of the road a few times too, just to bawl a little harder. But she was a rock and setting the example for me; that’s been her role in my life more than I care to admit.

Five hours later, we pulled up to a house in San Diego, where a womyn who had only met me once before took the key to my car and assured me repeatedly that it was no problem to leave my car in her driveway for the next six weeks. It was such a small part of the day but one that deserved a moment of recognition because it served to remind me of one very crucial point: I am not alone in this. And I KNOW I am not alone, but sometimes I do forget just how extensive an army I have fighting here with me – including cousins of ex-girlfriends who are happy to house the Truthmobile for six weeks and essentially save me $425 in parking fees at the San Diego International Airport. Thank you, Nicole. Thank you, Sacha.

We took a Lyft from Nicole’s house to a random strip mall in Bonita, CA, where we stood by a curb with a mountain of suitcases and bags and waited for our driver to take us across the border. I won’t pretend I didn’t fight back waves of anxiety-induced nausea – I was silently freaking out a little, courtesy of Hollywood movies and a Masters degree in Forensic Psychology. I had to remind myself these fears were irrational. Tarah, you checked the credentials on their website. You watched a number of videos about their business. You looked them up on the Better Business Bureau. You read every single review of them online. You talked for over an hour with someone who went there.

Thank you, psych degree. That self-talk strategy comes in handy at LEAST twice a week.

So…against every thing I learned during the Stranger Danger workshops I attended every year in elementary school, I put myself and all my belongings into a dark SUV and allowed a mostly Spanish-speaking man named Adrian drive me across the border. The fact that border patrol agents just waved us through and didn’t even bother to inspect any of us or our belongings should have freaked me out a little bit, but I was waist-deep in self talk at this point and barely noticed.

Once I arrived, I had a tour and then settled into my room. The place is nice. It’s clinical, but not sterile. There is a familiarity in the air that is clearly the work of the employees and not the patients (more on that later). Around 2:30, I had my first meeting with the head honcho himself: Dr. Rubio, Sr. The guy who started this clinic over 30 years ago was going to be my personal doctor. The guy who is credited with doing immunotherapy before other doctors around the world started hopping on that bandwagon would be treating ME.

I was starting to feel less nervous. It was here, in this moment, sitting in front of his desk, that I felt what a few other loved ones had been whispering in my ears for days:

You are in good hands here.

my first meal here
taking my blood, to be used for developing a cancer vaccine that will be injected into me on Monday
making friends 😉

(19-01-14) Prognosis & Plan

I swear: in an alternate dimension of reality, I *must* be a superhero(-ine). My cells just grow with such an alarmingly efficient ferocity that I picture my superhero self as being essentially infallible because all her organs, blood, and internal systems are in constant cell re-development and evolution.

Unfortunately, in THIS reality, those cells just mean my cancer is the number one gang on the block.

Lymph Nodes.

Left hip.
Right posterior hip (which is fucking BULLSHIT because I just got a right hip replacement, so that whole area should be clean as a Muthafuckin WHISTLE right now).
Mid-sacrum (I had to look that one up. It’s the triangular shaped bone that forms between the top of your ass crack and your spine. Even my ass crack has cancer.).
Right knee.

“Uncurable, but treatable.”
Let me break down what this essentially means, according to Western medicine.
This means that I consent to being infused with poison every couple of weeks until my body can’t take it anymore. This means that doctors pump me full of these drugs right here for a little while, and then when these drugs “stop working,” doctors start pumping me with those drugs over there. This means I spend my remaining days on this Earth, inside this body, in doctors’ offices, on the toilet, over the toilet, and in bed.

Fuck. That.

I’m going a different route.

On Monday, I will be waking up before the sun rises and driving from Phoenix, AZ to Tijuana, Mexico. There, I will enroll in Rubio Cancer Center, an immunotherapy clinic that works with Stage 4 Cancer patients. See, other countries don’t all approach cancer the same way that the United States does. In the United States, we attack cancer by flooding our entire body with poison, and then afterward, when everything inside is gasping for its very last breath, we say, “Okay, go enjoy life now! Your immune system will be fine in time.”

Except my immune system DIDN’T end up being fine in time. Have you ever sprayed Raid on a bunch of bugs on the ground? Some seize up the moment the Raid hits their bodies. Some writhe around in the liquid for a while, and you can’t tell if they’re swimming or dancing or screaming or dying, but eventually they stop moving too.
… And then there’s the ones you see moving around in that same room a few days later, and all you can think as you stare at them is, “How the fuck are you still here???”

Hey, breast cancer cells.

Chemo and radiation didn’t kill them. They killed enough, for the remaining cells to hide under the PET scan radar for two – count them, TWO – years. But they didn’t kill all of them. Poisoning didn’t work. Neither did amputation.

So instead, I turn to immunotherapy. For the next 3-8 weeks, I will be injected, infused, and immersed with cancer-fighting foods, juices, supplements, and herbs. I will be replacing traditional water for water that is ionized and/or ozonated. Teas that detox my lungs, liver, and skin will be incorporated into my daily routine. I will give vials of my blood that will be used to create one of seven custom-made cancer vaccines that will then be injected into my veins every night before bed. I will participate in bathing rituals that involve removing toxins from my feet. I will essentially consent to a 10-12 hour/day regimen that no oncologist in their right mind would endorse here in the United States. And since my insurance company won’t pay for any of it, I am closing out all three of my retirement plans to pay for it.

I might lose tens of thousands of dollars.
I might die in that clinic in Tijuana.
I might help the US oncologists feel justified in their disdain for all non-Western medicine.

Or, I might invest tens of thousands of dollars into a life that survived and thrived beyond all odds, thereby giving an extra smug “In your FACE!” taunt to all those US oncologists and their disdain for all non-Western medicine.

Anyone who has spent fifteen minutes with me knows which one of these options sounds more like me.

(19-01-08) Racing Thoughts on the Car Ride Home

  • When I was a little girl, I used to blow on dandelions and make wishes that I would die by the time I was 40 so that I wouldn’t have to grow old. Thirty-something years later, it appears my wish is about to come true.
  • Mom-mom knew, somehow. The last time I went home to visit, I brought her a milkshake on my way to the airport. She cried when I leaned in to hug her. She never cries when I leave PA to head back to AZ. “I’m sorry – I’m just being sentimental,” she said. But I think it was more than that. I think she knew that moment would be the last time we would see each other alive.
  • How the hell am I going to find adequate homes for all five of my pets???
  • I never made it to Africa.
  • I never got my PhD.
  • Does this mean my diet changes now, or that I no longer have to give a fuck? I can’t decide.
  • I’m willing to try DMT now.
  • I want to tell them both in the front seat, “I’m sorry I ruined your day.” Not appropriate.
  • Why in 2019? Why not in 2017, when I would have cared much less?? Is there a reason for this extra brutal slap in the face, or is it just shitty luck?
  • Now I’m never going to have the chance to meet his kids.
  • When’s the best time to quit my job?
  • Jenna is going to have to find a new place to live. I need to sell the house … or am I still leaving it to Keaton?
  • Aunt Crystal is going to be mad when she finds out. I’ve already promised to take care of her when she gets old.
  • I need to cash out my three retirement accounts.
  • Dr. Seidel saw all that cancer when he opened me up. That’s why he didn’t bother to follow up with me after he replaced my hip. He knew I was a lost cause.
  • I failed everyone who fought so hard for me the first time.

(16-01-29) Chemo Session #3

Halfway done with chemotherapy.

I saw an improvement in my numbers this session, compared to three weeks ago.  For one, i only lost 1.5 pounds this time around, compared to almost 8 the last time.  More importantly, my neutrophils were higher: 1.8, compared to 1.2 before.  I was really stressing out about this.  If my neutrophils go below 1.0, my oncologist will put a pause on my chemotherapy until i can get them back up, and research shows that cancer patients are LESS likely to make it if their treatment gets interrupted.  Apparently, there is a plethora of ways that an oncologist will schedule chemo treatments (different drugs [types and dosages], different numbers of days per week, different ways to administer the drugs, and different lengths of time in between each session); it all just depends on what type and what stage of cancer an individual has.  Since my chemo treatment was based on my individual needs, it’s important for me to stay on schedule … and i was worried that it was going to get interrupted this time, for two reasons: (1) my neutrophils were already flagged as “low” last session, and (2) i got a UTI *and* bronchitis during the last three weeks.  I’ve been trying to buffer against this by taking astragalus, echinacea, and zinc – all supplements to boost immunity – every single day.  In fact, right before i had my blood drawn on Wednesday, i triple dosed on those – and then promptly threw up right outside of LabCorp immediately after leaving the building, while a stranger watched.  Fun times.

Still no word on whether the head honchos at ADJC will let me return to work on February 8.  That’s the current thing i’m stressing about.  People (medical professionals, volunteers at the Cancer Support Community of Arizona, and friends) keep saying things like, “If you can get away with not working during your treatment, don’t work.”  Um, that’s a nice fantasy thought, but my bank account is NOT equipped to allow me to spend the next six months without earning an income.  I could probably get away with working less than 40 hours a week, but ZERO hours?  I might end up being cancer-free, but i’ll be celebrating from a cardboard box out on a street corner somewhere … and then where am i going to store my tequila and four cats???

More updates:

(1) I tried something different with fasting this time around.  I’m trying to see if it’s more beneficial to fast multiple days PRIOR to treatment or multiple days AFTER treatment.  Fasting sucks.  It’s been 46 hours and 38 minutes.  I salivated when i smelled pizza cooking in the kitchen this morning, and i had an irrational urge to slap Jenna upside the head when she started rambling about how she was “starving” because she hadn’t had anything but coffee today.  My goal is to make it to Saturday evening at 6:00.  Last time, i only made it to 56 hours before i went to town on some jello, homemade soup from Amy, and a lactose-free milkshake.

(2) I haven’t hit the worst of the symptoms yet – just tired, lethargic, some achy bones from the shot today, and a LOT of irritability from food deprivation.

(3) I know i had more updates, but all i can think about is food.

(16-01-23) Zumba

I’ll never forget the first time i took a Zumba class in Phoenix.  I had just recently returned to Arizona after spending four months with family in Ohio.  During that 4-month stint in the armpit of America, i attended Zumba class regularly with my aunt.  On one occasion, my aunt’s Zumba teacher pulled me to the side.

“Have you ever considered training to become a Zumba instructor.”

I laughed.  “Um… you’re kidding, right?”

“Why not?  You pick the moves up quickly, and you’ve got a good sense of rhythm.  You should really consider it.”

I remember laughing a second time and brushing off the thought.  In the weeks to follow, she made similar remarks, and i got to the point where i thought to myself, “Maybe i *should* consider becoming a teacher.  I had no idea i was this good!”

And then i moved back to Arizona … and took a Zumba class in Phoenix … with a gay, Latin instructor … surrounded by classmates who were mostly Latino … and then i realized with dismay the truth of it all.

I was good at White People Zumba.

I decided never to return to Zumba class again.

Flash forward five years later, and i find myself timidly walking up the front steps of a historic house, wondering, “Why am i doing this, exactly?”  A recent online search had led me to the website of this non-profit organization, Cancer Support Community Arizona.  This group has tons of resources for cancer patients and survivors, and their main headquarters functions out of a historic house in central Phoenix.  I reached out to one of their contact people after noticing that they had a weekly meditative yoga class, but then on a whim i decided to sign up for the Zumba class happening later that night.  I have known for about two weeks now that i need to get back into exercising, but there are barriers now that weren’t in place before cancer: the threat of germs from equipment that does NOT get cleaned regularly; the self-consciousness that stems from being a bald female; and, most significantly, the fatigue, which is daily but somehow doesn’t stop me from silently berating myself on a regular basis about not being able to work out on the level that i used to.  I’ve been avoiding the gym, and i know it.  The problem is, the rest of my body knows it too, and it’s responding accordingly.  Sooo… i didn’t want to go to Zumba class, but “I don’t want to” isn’t a legitimate excuse.  I signed up.

When i walked into the house, i was immediately greeted by two females with smiles emanating from their mouths AND eyes.  “You must be here for the Zumba class.”

I nodded, suddenly shy.  “It’s my first time here.”

The prettier girl stepped forward and held out her right hand; i ignored the immediate fear that now creeps over me from the thought of stranger germs and shook her hand firmly.  “I’m Kristen.  Zumba is in the house out back,” – there’s a house behind this house?  Who funds this non-profit, anyway??? – “and Joy, the teacher, is expecting you.”  She gave me quick directions, and i hurried to get there with enough time to find a spot in the back corner of the room.

Space wasn’t an issue; when i arrived to the back house, there were only two people in the room.  It wasn’t hard to figure out which one was the teacher.  One lady was wearing a sweatshirt hoodie over old leggings; the other lady was wearing a white tanktop with blue and red hearts all over it, a red ruffle mini skirt, black stocks, and black flats.  I made eye contact with the latter womyn, who promptly said, “Are you Tarah?” After a nod from me, she continued, “Well, welcome to our Zumba class.  Have you ever done Zumba before?”

I proceeded to tell her about my experiences with Zumba in Ohio and then made a passing reference to how the Zumba there was way different than here in Phoenix.  She looked genuinely baffled.  “Now, that’s odd.  We all get trained by the same program … maybe it’s just about what is more popular in certain regions.”  I nodded, not wanting to mention my suspicion to the White blonde lady standing before me that White People Zumba was kind of like taking the short bus to school … sure, all the students are going to the same building, but the whole learning experience is rather different for one group of kids compared to the other.  Joy and i chatted briefly, and then i went to occupy a space in the corner of the room.

The class ended up being rather small – just the teacher and four of us students.  I immediately noticed that i was the youngest one there, by at least a decade.  I was also the only one without hair.  These are things i pay attention to a lot now, especially when i am in a space where i know there are other cancer patients/survivors.  After the warm-up song, i also noticed one other thing: There was no point in my earlier fears about attending this class, for this was clearly going to be another opportunity to engage in White People Zumba.  It was like being in Ohio all over again (which, for the record, i wouldn’t ever recommend to *anyone* unless i want them to be punished for something terrible that they did).  I was able to pick up basic steps with ease, and the times i found myself getting most confused was when the teacher was losing the beat (yes, i’m serious) to some trendy Rihanna or Chris Brown song.  (I had to fight the impulse to ask the teacher if she PURPOSELY put Rihanna and Chris Brown songs back to back on her compilation.)  At times, my arm mobility was limited, but for the most part i could have handled more of a workout.  I felt good, knowing that.

Will i return?  I think so.  It’s a relief to be in an exercise environment that i *know* is clean, since immunity concerns are common for anyone who has/had cancer.  It also helps that everyone in the room KNOWS why i have no hair, so i don’t have to deal with people looking twice at me in confusion.  Also, even though i know i could have handled more of a workout, there will be times when i will be more limited, so i like being in a class where they will understand if i need to stop and take a break.  And finally, now i know that there is a niche for White People Zumba, even in a city comprised of 41% Hispanic or Latino.

(15-12-30) Cancer Hair Care

I can honestly say i never anticipated the day when i would see a line of wigs in my closet.  Earlier this week, my amazing hair stylist, Melinda (owner of Switchblade Salon) actually spent time on her day off to meet me at United Beauty Supply Hair & Wigs and help me with the selection process.  This was not something i was looking forward to.  Less than two weeks ago, Melinda cut most of my hair off, and we donated it to Locks of Love – better to put that eggplant-purple mane to use creating a wig for a cancer kid in need, rather than watch it fall to my bathroom floor in clumps as the chemo treatments progress.  According to my readings, my hair is supposed to start falling out this week or next.  Every day, i wait for today to be the day.  I avoid washing it.  I avoid brushing it.  Today was the first day since my hair cut that i actually had the nerve to put a blow dryer and a flat iron to it, and several times i caught myself holding my breath as i was trying to style it.  (“Seven pieces you can flat iron, tarah – just seven.  After seven, leave your hair alone … that is, if you still have it.”)  This shouldn’t be a big deal, right?  It’s hair.  So what if my hair is the shortest it’s ever been?  It’s just hair … not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things … yet i cried the whole time Melinda cut it all off, and I cry when i notice it’s so greasy that i have no choice but to wash it that day, and i cried today when i finished my seventh strip of flat ironing and saw a piece i wasn’t happy with but wasn’t “allowed” to touch.

The United Beauty Supply store at 7th Street and Bethany Home Road deserve a shout-out, for they helped make an awkward, self-conscious experience a bit less miserable.  In fact, there was even a time i found myself laughing, after Yaneika pulled down this one long, wavy, blue-and-black-colored wig for me, and i realized that wig could be my ticket to a Shakira impersonation for Halloween, 2016.  (I tried on a Beyonce-looking wig, too, but let’s face it: me trying to pull off Beyonce for Halloween would be as pitiful as Avril Lavigne trying to pull off Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”)  I tried on a total of 11 wigs, Yaneika and Melinda remained patient with me the whole time, and i walked out of that store not as an embarrassed cancer victim but as a secure cancer survivor who just found another way to plan ahead for one of my treatment’s most common side effect.  People routinely make fun of me for my ongoing need to plan, to organize, to write lists, and to color-coordinate … but there is (for me, at least) both power and comfort in doing this, and having wigs waiting for me in the closet on that day when my hair starts falling to the floor in patches will help make that day a little less traumatic.  I mean, i’m still going to cry about it – and then get mad at myself for crying – but at least i’ll be able to take comfort in knowing that i planned ahead.

(And i’m not gonna lie … the curly-haired wig i did end up purchasing is SUPER bouncy and crazy awesome in an old-school-big-hair-is-in-again kind of way, and i’m kind of excited about busting out some wild-looking hair on random days when i am feeling a little extra spunky.)

(15-12-27) Castor Oil Packs

In college, i took this class called Sociology of Health & Wellness.  Dr. Finnegan Alford-Cooper, a professor i will remember for the rest of my life, opened my eyes to the medical model of illness.  She challenged our narrow-minded, privileged perspectives to be more open to Eastern medicine philosophies (and less trusting of the Western medicine that we are all trained to automatically invest our time, beliefs, and money in).  Don’t get me wrong; i am still a product of this society.  My six-tiered medicine cabinet is clear proof of how quick i am to pop a prescription or over-the-counter pill any time an ailment appears at an inconvenient time.  However, i recognize that the way our society handles sicknesses and overall health creates … well … MORE sickness and LESS health.  I also know better than to automatically turn my nose up at naturopathic, homeopathic, and holistic remedies.  That college class opened my eyes, but personal past experience has shown me that naturopathic medicine can provide authentic, complete healing in times when all my “regular,” covered-by-insurance doctors can provide are temporary band-aids to much larger problems in my body.

A few days ago, I spent $300 for a consultation appointment at Nature Works Best, in Tempe.  That visit deserves a different entry all in itself, but there was one recommendation made by Dr. Nguyen that day that i tried for the first time this evening: castor oil packs.  She gave me a handout and specifically advised me to put castor oil packs on my entire abdomen every night for 45-60 minutes.  Following the doctor’s orders took some preparation: buying castor oil and a piece of wool flannel from a health food grocery store earlier in the day; heating up a hot water bottle; putting old towels on my bed, in order to prevent my sheets from getting stained; lying in bed for an hour while a castor oil-soaked  piece of flannel laid across my abdomen, and a hot water bottle perched on top of that allowed the castor oil to better penetrate into my skin.  Before i settled into bed, i threw on an episode of How to Get Away With Murder, seeing this as an easy opportunity to watch a TV show while honoring my doctor’s request to do this every night.

Within a half hour, my stomach started cramping.  I figured it was the two (okay, four) garlic sticks i ate an hour before; with my treatments, i am not supposed to have ANY processed foods, and my body has been quick to teach me lessons this past week each time i ignore the eighteen pages of dietary restrictions laid out by three of my five doctors.  I barely made it through the 42-minute episode before rushing to the bathroom.  Yucky experience.  Afterwards, i returned to my bed with my tail between my legs and a pout on my face.  Immediately, i started doing some research on just what this castor oil pack treatment is doing to my body, and i had another wake-up call about the miracle of NOT-so-modern medicine.  Castor oil, a product that has been around so long that the New Testament of the Christian Bible refers to a time when Jesus allegedly blessed the plant that creates the castor oil, has all these AMAZING benefits. I wasn’t even looking for benefits.  I had, after all, just come back from an unfortunate bathroom trip, so my exact wording in the Google search engine was “cons of castor oil pack treatments.”  It took me more than 15 minutes of reading before i could even find ONE drawback: upset stomachs and bathroom issues that occasionally led to people calling out of work the next day.   Apparently, this oil penetrates into our skin to clear toxins that have built up.  Frequent trips to the bathroom – while an inconvenience in the moment – can be a clear sign that our body is trying to get rid of something unhealthy, something that shouldn’t be there.  I also read that castor oil on the abdomen is just one of many ways that this product is used.  People use castor oil and castor oil packs orally AND topically to prevent bacteria and yeast infections, alleviate joint pain, prevent cold sores from abscessing, reduce swollen glands, address sun burn, reduce arthritic inflammation, stimulate internal organs, soften calloused and dry skin … and, from one husband’s testimony, reduce the size of a pot belly that his wife couldn’t shake off after giving birth to their child.  Whether ingested or applied topically, castor oil could fill a resume page with a whole list of credentials … and i had never even HEARD about this until a few days ago.  I read information from eight different sites and was blown away by what this home remedy could do.

And now, as i wrap up my entry for the night, i can honestly say that my stomach is no longer cramping, i don’t have garlic breadsticks weighing down my body as i get ready to go to bed, and i am feeling a *bit* less disgruntled about that $300 i spent the other day to see a doctor that my insurance company refuses to cover due to political pressures (particularly those involving the pharmaceutical industry).

No one can say that having advanced cancer isn’t a learning experience.


(my favorite link, although more credible sources are listed further below) –>  http://www.curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=617583





http://www.livestrong.com › Diseases and Conditions


http://www.drdavidwilliams.com › View Health A-Z › Immune Health

(15-12-25) Exercising With Cancer

December 25 marked the first time since November 15 that i was actually able to exercise.  I probably wouldn’t have done it without the gentle urgings of Maya.  I have grown stagnant in my king-sized bed these days, allowing the astonishing fatigue and persistent pain to quell my otherwise incessant need to stay in shape.  Maya must have had enough because today was the day she got me out of bed for something other than an appointment or a quick trip to a retail store for some minor item that i couldn’t manage to find on Amazon.

We went to Estrella Mountain.  Had someone taken me to this mountain a year ago, i would have laughed at the sheer lack of challenge these trails provide … but today, it was just what my (naturopathic) doctor ordered.  For 1.25 hours, I hiked an easy trail at a moderate pace, stopping occasionally to hold my face out into the sun and inhale deeply – partly to account for a couple of my chemo side effects (shortness of breath; unexpected coordination problems), but mostly just to take a moment to feel GRATEFUL.  I’m outside.  I’m walking.  On a mountain.  With my re-girlfriend and a dog i already love as much as my own pets.  We get to have Chinese food after we’re finished.  Today rejuvenated my spirits a bit, and the magnitude of that is *not* lost on me.


(15-12-23) The Learning Process of Medical Marijuana

Okay.  Let me start by saying that i have pretty liberal views when it comes to recreational drugs.  I find it absurdly hypocritical that the pharmaceutical, alcohol, and tobacco industries have a long-standing SUPPORTED history of capitalizing off of people’s needs/wants to adjust their realities in particular ways, while our country has simultaneously spent four decades and over a trillion dollars on a “War on Drugs” that never actually showed any success (thanks, Nixon, for spearheading that campaign back in 1971!  You were an awesome president in SO many ways).

With that said, I work at a correctional facility, so i keep my views to myself and my drug use legal.  I’m not trying to get investigated by I&I for admitting to incarcerated youth that i *agree* with many of them about legalizing weed, nor am i trying to get convicted of some petty possession charge and subjected to some ridiculous mandatory sentencing laws that would leave me in prison longer than a rapist.  When Arizona legalized medical marijuana back in 2010, i silently applauded the state for finally not being one of the LAST states in the country to make progressive changes, like it tends to do … but i continued to keep my opinions to myself and my drug use legal.  Medical marijuana use did not apply to me, after all.

But it does now!

Obtaining a medical marijuana license was clearly at the top of my priority list.  I was released from the hospital on November 19, and by November 20 i was already showing up to clinics to fill out the paperwork.  A consultation session on November 21 ended with official approval for me to obtain a license, which was issued to me via mail on November 25.  The card arrived the following Monday, and by Thursday, I was already being chauffeured by my awesome roommate, Renee, to the Herbal Wellness Center to start stocking up. By this point, i was MORE than over the prescription medication that had lined up along my bedroom window: Oxycodone, Valium, Dilaudid, Xanax – not to mention the Colace and Zofran medication that had been prescribed to address the side effects of the pain pills.  I was doped up zombie-style on pain meds all day long, with no appetite and no ability to use the bathroom like a normal person.

So.  Now i am officially on the list of Arizona residents who can legally obtain and use marijuana to address the pain and side effects of having Stage 3C Invasive Cancer.  The hard part is over, right?

Ha, ha.  NOPE.

Remember: I wasn’t really a recreational marijuana user prior to this, so it’s safe to say that i am quite ignorant about the plant itself.  I mean, sure, we all know that THC is the component in marijuana that gives you the fun deep-thinking-laughing-over-nothing-now-I’ve-got-the-munchies high, but when Zach, the employee over at the Herbal Wellness Center, starts talking to me about THC vs CBD vs CBC vs CBG vs THCU in various marijuana strains, i suddenly realized how my students must feel when i am droning on about drawing parallels between central ideas and themes in multiple informative texts that we’ve read over the term.  I was LOST within moments of him speaking.  He was patient, informative, and conscientious about my ignorance, but i *still* left that facility with the most limited understanding of what this $500 worth of weed was about to do to my body.  Yup.  $500.  I had some experimenting to do.

Back at home, I found myself with smokeable weed, a variety of edibles, and concentrated cannabis oil – and not a clue with where to begin.  Do i start with CBD-based product, THC-based, or a hybrid?  Should i even bother smoking it since i have never been a smoker to begin with, or should i follow Zach’s suggestion and research how to cook the marijuana with coconut oil, in order to use it in future meals and baked goods?  What dosage do i start out with, and how will i know whether i need to take more?


As i type this backdated entry on December 28, i can honestly say that i am still in the experimentation phase of this learning process.  Here’s what i know so far:

  • Much like hybrid cars, THC/CBD hybrid edibles are the preferred way to go – at least for cancer patients.
    by FAR my favorite product purchased
  • When ingesting any THC-based product, i need to be STRICTLY monitored by loved ones because i will eat every g*d*mned thing i can get my hands on.
  • THC-based marijuana + holiday times = TOO MUCH SNACKING
  • A seemingly insignificant piece of a marijuana-infused chocolate bar can keep me high for 24 straight hours … which made for an interesting appointment with my oncologist the Friday morning i decided to tell him i would try chemotherapy.
  • Marijuana is toxic to dogs … but that won’t stop dogs from climbing up on countertops to get to a marijuana chocolate bar.
  • Making sure your loving pet doesn’t die from a drug/chocolate overdose will easily cost you $1,000.
  • Learning my limits continues to be an ongoing process that amuses the h*ll out of my friends and roommates.

THE END – for now

Helpful Links

http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock <– (There is a cool clock here that generates the amount of money we spend on the “War on Drugs” BY THE SECOND.)


(15-12-18) Port Implant

Today, i had an outpatient surgery so that Dr. Gunia could implant a port near the left side of my collarbone.  This port reminds me of when i was involved in the Phoenix BDSM community, and i would see people walking around events with objects implanted just underneath their skin.  For them, it was about aesthetics and shock value; for me, it is about having a stronger avenue to receive the seven bags of medications i will receive intravenously through chemo: 2 anti-nausea, 1 steroidal, Taxoteral, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta.  The port wasn’t necessary.  I could have just received these meds directly through my veins … but i was told that sometimes people’s veins collapse after continued chemotherapy doses.  I didn’t want my veins collapsing.  I also didn’t want track marks … which, admittedly, i don’t know would actually happen but was worried it could.

My life already feels like there is nothing beyond medical appointments … medical appointments and body modification.

(15-12-16) Cancer Hair Cut

I cried today.  A lot.

Melinda handled it gracefully.  She has been doing my hair since 2006.  She’s walked me through styling lessons; red streaks, brown streaks, purple streaks, blue streaks; gray roots coverage; bangs, no bangs, bangs again.  She has patiently handled my tantrums when i couldn’t get my hair to lay right after a new style, taught me how to braid (i already forgot), and given me professional up-dos for i-don’t-know-how-many formal events.

And today, she chopped off years of her hard work.

I had to do it.  I didn’t want to.  I have had long hair almost every single year of my life.  It’s a part of my feminine identity, and i wasn’t ready to let that part go.  However, the thought of my long locks falling out in large clumps once chemo drugs took effect made me sick to my stomach.  I had a choice: drag myself through this painful, arduous process of losing my hair slowly; or proactively take control, cutting it all off now and donating it to Locks of Love.  When i put it in that perspective, the choice seemed obvious.

… but that doesn’t mean i didn’t mourn the loss.