Blog – My Guru, Cancer

Introduction

Welcome

VideoScreenShotThis blog is dedicated to sharing my journey healing breast cancer. It will serve as a sort of “online journal” for progress, updates, inner & outer work, struggles, enlightening realizations, & more.

Join me on this adventure from pre-diagnosis to the cure…through all of the ups, downs, & turnarounds.

On September 16th, 2015, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer called Invasive Ductile Carcinoma (fancy name, eh?). I am young, healthy, and have no family history of breast cancer, so this news came as a big surprise! Watch this video to learn a little more about how I am handling this diagnosis.

I have chosen a path of healing that integrates traditional & alternative medicine ~ the perfect path for me. I feel incredibly blessed to already be fully equipped with incredible healing tools ~ The Work of Byron Katie (self-inquiry), Yoga, Meditation, Nutrition, Art, Acupuncture, Humor, & best of all…the Loving Support of Family & Friends. I’ve recently discovered the power of writing & a burning desire to share it…so here we are.

I am not here to fight cancer. I am here to make friends with it, listen to it, learn from it, evolve & grow. What if illness happens for our enlightenment? What if it makes our life even better? I am already learning so much from my new guru, Cancer: CRHeartSeated

  • People are kind.
  • Unconditional love does exist.
  • I am fully supported in every moment.
  • The cancer in my head (ie- my imagination) is way worse than the cancer in reality. Whew.

The universe doesn’t just pour a pile of shit on your head; there’s a bigger calling at work here and I’m open to fully experiencing it. Like Byron Katie says, “Life happens for you, not to you.” Here we go!

With Love,

~Bethany

How to navigate this blog

This Welcome Post will remain at the top of the page and the rest of the posts will be ordered by “most recent” at the top. Here is the complete list of posts in chronological order:

Blog Posts

Pre-diagnosis: a Lump & an Angel

By Request: Alternative & Complimentary Therapies for My Breast Cancer Treatment Plan

The Mammo & Ultrasound…I will finally know! Or not.

How I found Peace during “The Waiting Game”

Getting the Call ~ “You have Cancer”

Part 1: Meeting with the Breast Surgeon right after Diagnosis

Part 2: Meeting with the Breast Surgeon for Surgery Options

Medical Update

Inquiry: “The Cancer is spreading ~ is it true?”

The Future of My Boobs (FOMB)

Update: Post-Chemo & Pre-Surgery

Gratitude, Elephants, & Going Potty ~ my experience of breast surgery

Self-Discovery while in Recovery

The Gift of a Butterfly

When Complications Become Blessings

BIG UPDATE! Post-treatment Life of Awesomeness

A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness

All Natural Remedies for Chemo Side Effects

What if Fear is just a Fart?

Inquiry: “Chemo is poisonous to my body” ~ is it true?

Life with Tissue Expander Boobs

Update ~ Prepping for the Last Hoorah: Breast Reconstruction

Meeting BIG Emotions in the Cancer Journey

Follow-ups, the Boob Whisperer, Clear Scans, & Summer Fun

Diagnosis = New Direction

Diagnostic Testing without Stressing

Conventional vs. Alternative Medicine ~ can’t we all just get along?

 

Permanent Links

Medical Updates

Yoga/Breathing/Meditation for Healing

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

Nutrition & Supplements

Alternative/Complimentary Therapies

 

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Alternative/Complimentary Therapies, anxiety and cancer, Cancer Diagnosis, Inquiry, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Side Effects of Chemotherapy, stress and cancer, the work of byron katie and cancer, Uncategorized, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Conventional vs. Alternative Medicine ~ can’t we all just get along?

Ok, I’d like to have an open and honest chat about different avenues of healing and how I’ve struggled. Us cancer patients/thrivers want to support ourselves in every way possible to both cure cancer now and forever ~ we see lots of doctors, read books, talk to fellow cancer peeps, and do research online. Actually, we do A LOT of research online which can sometimes lead to exciting discoveries and more often, it leads to a full on-set of Google-itus (panic attack + frozen in fear + holy-shit-everything-causes-cancer-including-the-treatments-I’m-going-to-die-and-it-won’t-be-pretty syndrome). Just me?

 

Cancer can be treated different ways. There is the more common conventional route, also known as modern medicine, which usually includes a combo of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or hormone therapies. And there is the alternative route, also known as natural medicine, which treats cancer with various natural modalities such as nutrition, juicing, cleansing, herbs, supplements, mind/body work, vitamin infusions, and other therapies.

 

I’m noticing most people fall into one camp or the other.

 

I seem to be a rare bird. Someone who sees SO MUCH love, knowledge, value, and benefit in BOTH worlds. This is why I chose to do a combined approach for healing. I had a good experience while undergoing 18 months of cancer treatment and if you could see me now, you would have no clue that I have been through 5 months of aggressive chemo, 2 surgeries, 5 ½ weeks of radiation, and am currently on Tamoxifen. I look and feel great, and I attribute this to going into the experience with a clear mind and supporting myself with many natural ways of healing too: yoga, inquiry, acupuncture, nutrition, juicing, supplements, emotional releasing, and sound healing to name a few. So yes, I do drugs and nature.

I do drugs and nature 🙂

 

I’m a plant-based organic-eating yogini who also believes in science-based medicine, and this has been one of my biggest challenges: the war between conventional and alternative medicine. They trash the shit out of each other!

 

When trying to support myself in learning natural ways to heal and ease side effects, it was nearly impossible to find an article or study that did not bash chemo, radiation, and surgery. Statements like “chemo only creates cancer and kills people,” “the cancer will come back even worse if you do conventional medicine,” “it’s all a big pharma conspiracy ~ they are just trying to keep you sick so they can make money.”

 

As someone who said yes to what my conventional doctors recommended, this created a lot of fear and shame. I reached a point where it just felt kinder to myself to stop consulting the almighty Google and focus on being present with myself.

 

But then there’s a flip side. When reading articles about conventional medicine or talking to some of my doctors, I noticed many would immediately discredit natural therapies as pure “quackery,” and completely ignore the many accounts of people being healed, for years, without any use of conventional medicine. “That’s impossible. A total waste of time and money. How dare they take advantage of these vulnerable human beings.” Then there are also stories of naturopathic doctors who have mysteriously gone missing after claiming they found a cure for cancer. Or they are faced with legal charges making their medical practice illegal.

 

As someone who has experienced so many benefits from my yoga & meditation practices, eating a clean diet, doing acupuncture, and incorporating more supplements, this left me feeling frustrated and annoyed that doctors weren’t more interested in this. “Hey – look at me! I’m actually enjoying cancer! Don’t ya wanna know why/how?”

 

And if the overwhelming amount of conflicting information isn’t enough, I see people harshly judging each other for their choices in treatment, both in person and also all over social media, forums, & online.

 

It’s tough. I don’t know what is true and what is not. I see valuable points on each side. I’m not a doctor, a scientist, or an expert with healing plants. All I have is my experience of the cancer journey and this part has been hard for me. I have felt torn, confused, and overwhelmed…oh wait, stress causes cancer too! Ahhhhh!!!!

 

I know people who have died after the use of conventional medicine. I know people who are completely healed by it. I know people who have died after the use of natural medicine. I know people who are healed or in the process of healing from it. There are bonuses and risks in both paths; neither carries a guaranteed cure. There are good days and hard days in both paths too, neither is a joyous party 100% of the time.

 

So why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t we just accept that there is more than one way to heal cancer? Why do we need to put down another healing path in order to share and promote our own? Think about it. If you are really set in your beliefs about medicine (or anything), in which scenario are you more willing to change them? When someone comes at you with insults or when someone invites you to an open-hearted conversation rooted in experience and research?

 

In my medical utopia, I see both sides coming together as one. Dropping the judgments and criticism, the shaming and anger, and being more open to learning from each other. We all have the same goal: to cure cancer and live long, happy, healthy lives.

 

So how can we end this war?

 

Simple. I can control every word that is posted on the internet and every word that comes out of your mouth. Easy peasy. Right?

Or…

It starts with me. I can stop trashing conventional and alternative medicine for trashing each other. I can stop seeing them as two separate sides in my own mind. I can focus on the wonderful and helpful ways I have healed from cancer and share them with others. I can stop being defensive/taking things personally when someone questions my treatment choices. I can be open and excited to learn from others who did not choose the same healing path. I can be a compassionate, non-judgmental listener when someone complains about their experience. I can make peace within myself over any shame or guilt I have carried for my own choices.

 

Ok, this sounds great…but HOW?

 

The Work of Byron Katie. I take my stressful thoughts and judgments about doctors, medicine, treatment, myself, and others to inquiry. I sit in meditation with the 4 questions and turnarounds and I free myself from the war within. It leaves me more open, more available, and more authentic with myself and others.

 

When I read articles or watch documentaries, I not only take notes on what I’d like to incorporate into my own life or ask my doctors about, I take notes on stressful thoughts that come up from the words that I read. See…it all can be a gift. Bringing me back to my work. My awakening.

 

When I do my work, my mind opens to see that my “medical utopia dream” is actually more of a reality than I realize. I remember that my conventional doctors talked to me about nutrition, yoga, meditation, acupuncture…they even recommended writing. My Chinese Medical doctor encouraged my use of conventional therapies and he offered acupuncture and herbs that not only helped to ease side effects, they helped the medicine to work more efficiently. Last week, my Dermatologist recommended using essential oils for scarring. How cool!

 

My practice keeps coming back to this: There is no single right or wrong way to heal. We all do what is right for us. For me, the most important part of my healing path is peace.

 

If you’re looking to find more peace around any type of diagnosis (from cancer, to allergies, to low back pain), I invite you to join me and my dear friend, Helena, for our upcoming online class series, “Making Peace with Disease using The Work of Byron Katie” that starts December 4th. Save $30 when you register by tomorrow. You can join from the comfort of your home and even stay in your PJ’s. I won’t judge 😉

 

And let’s keep this conversation flowing…how else can we work together to create a more harmonious, healing experience for all?

Image result for byron katie quote defense is the first act of war

Work with me…

Schedule a private session

New online series! Making Peace with Disease through The Work of Byron Katie: Dec 4 – Jan 21 

Yoga, Inquiry, Gong Meditation: November 9

Yoga & The Work ~ Teacher Training: November 19 & January 14

 

Related blog posts…

Alternative/Complimentary Therapies for My Breast Cancer Treatment

Inquiry: “Chemo is poisonous to my body” ~ is it true?

All-Natural Remedies for Chemo Side Effects

Mental Medicine: The Work of Byron Katie

 

anxiety and cancer, Cancer Diagnosis, Inquiry, Post Treatment, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Side Effects of Chemotherapy, stress and cancer, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Diagnostic Testing without Stressing

Last week, I was lying in a twisty yoga pose when I felt some new lumpy tissue above my left breast. “Perfect timing!” I thought, since my next follow-up appointment with my breast surgeon was just around the corner. I felt zero anxiety, zero stress leading up to the appointment.

Today during my visit, I had two different doctors explore the lumps with their hands and then they did a sonogram. I noticed thoughts arise my mind, “The cancer is back! This can’t be good!” accompanied by scary images of the future. Yet, I didn’t believe them. I clearly saw that they are not real, in this moment it’s just imagination.

Do you know what I experienced instead?

Pure gratitude for reality. Gratitude for the lumps showing up, gratitude for the trained experts, and gratitude for the sonogram machine that can further investigate what’s going on in my body.

My breast surgeon then said, “It all looks good! See you in 6 months.”

5 Steps to Clear Scanxiety

Do you feel anxious, worried, & fearful when it comes to doctor appointments and diagnostic tests? If so, you are so not alone. Whether you’re simply scheduling the appointment, driving to the exam, sitting in the waiting room, getting your boob squashed, or being rolled in and out of a magnetic test tube…it’s possible to be at peace.

Here are 5 simple steps that have helped me deal with the oh-so-common Scanxiety:

  1. Connect with your breath.

Notice where your breath is in your body. Begin to focus your breath on your belly. Take a deep breath in through the nose, and a nice long exhale out through the mouth.

  1. Touch something solid.

Use your hands to touch something solid – the chair, a wall, the table. Feel the floor beneath your feet, your hips on the chair, or your back or stomach on the exam table.

  1. Notice your surroundings.

Become a witness of what is around you. See the shapes, colors, and textures. Notice the sounds – the voices, the music, the machinery. Take in the smells (ok, maybe not!). Observe the movement of people around you. See the kindness in people’s eyes.

  1. Question your thinking.

If you feel stress, pause and notice your thoughts. “This will be painful…The results will be bad”…and ask yourself these 2 questions from The Work of Byron Katie: Can I absolutely know it’s true in this moment? Who would I be, right here, right now without the thought?

  1. Remember it’s all here FOR you.

The doctors, the nurses, the staff, the needles, the drugs, the lighting, the equipment, the music, the warm blanket…it’s all here for you. To support you. To get a clear picture of what’s going on in your body. To help you heal. To give you the next direction.

And if you try these 5 steps and epically fail…that’s all good too! You are free to freak the f*ck out. There is nothing wrong with you. Forgive yourself. Begin again. There will always be another opportunity to practice in Life School, I promise.

Work with me…

Schedule a private session

New online series! Making Peace with Disease through The Work of Byron Katie: Dec 4 – Jan 21 

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: October 21

Yoga, Inquiry, Gong Meditation: November 9

Yoga & The Work ~ Teacher Training: November 19 & January 14

 

Related blog posts…

What if Fear is just a Fart?

Inquiry: “The cancer is spreading” ~ is it true?

How I Found Peace during “The Waiting Game”

A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness

Uncategorized

Diagnosis = New Direction

Last month in Tulum, Mexico

Today is the 2-year anniversary of my diagnosis. I fully celebrate this day. I’m weird like that 😉 In the writing I did while awaiting test results, “Making Peace during the Waiting Game,” my inner work revealed a new definition for “diagnosis.” That word use to sound scary, permanent, a future-crumbling end…YOU’RE SCREWED LADY! Through meditative inquiry, I came to realize it’s none of these things.

It’s a new direction in life. It’s an arrow from the universe that says, “Ok, Love —> this way.”

Directions for the immediate moment: do nothing, breathe, stay present, find a doctor, show up to the appointment, question any stressful thoughts, take medicine (or not), go for a walk, or sit in nature. Directions may encompass a larger calling: change your career, help others through sharing your experience, pick up a paintbrush, volunteer, adopt a new workout routine, develop healthier eating habits, move to a new city, travel to an exotic land, do what you love.

Remembering THE call

As I reflect on the moment I got the call, I am met with fond memories. It was actually one of the sweetest, most intimate moments I have ever had with my husband. Feeling the squeeze of his hand when I answered the phone and was greeted by the doctor’s voice. The way time slowed down when we heard the words. How we held each other, trembling, crying, after we hung up the phone.

How I became a witness to the mind going in a million stories and scary movies, watching my body dry heaving over a toilet. I experienced pain, but it was not painful. It was pain with the absence of suffering.

The image of my mom’s face on the iPhone screen telling me she is booking a flight to come see me the next day. I remember the comforting hug at the airport, not wanting to let go.

I’m crying right now writing this. It was beautiful.

Those of you who have followed my journey through treatment to becoming cancer-free have seen that freedom from cancer can exist with or without cancer cells growing in your body. It’s possible to experience peace, joy, humor, connection, love, in what you think would be a nightmare.

So what are your nightmares?

Is it receiving a life-threatening diagnosis? Finding out that a loved one has tragically passed away? Going bankrupt? Or maybe it’s losing everything in a hurricane ~ a recent experience for many families in Houston and Florida.

The Work of Byron Katie is mental medicine. If these nightmares live only in your head, The Work is preventive medicine. It’s how to meet all of your fears, worries, anxieties with understanding and compassion. Identifying your stressful thoughts about each situation and then bringing them to inquiry can loosen the grip of your anxiety. It can help build resilience so that you can handle whatever life brings you. Coz let’s face it, we’re not in control of this thang called life.

I now prefer to explore my nightmares. I often ask myself:

How could this be good?

What is it teaching me?

Before I was diagnosed, I made a list of all of the ways that having cancer could make my life better. You can find the list here. I am happy to report that they all came true. And there have been countless more unforeseen blessings. This exercise + more examples can also be found in Katie’s first book, “Loving What Is,” ~ go to the chapter titled “Making Friends with the Worst That Can Happen.”

Over the past few months, I’ve been investigating my fears of the cancer returning terminally.

I have terminal cancer…and that means:

Cancer is killing me.

It’s not fair.

Death is painful.

My family will suffer.

It’s my fault.

God is punishing me.

I’m questioning my beliefs and finding out how it could be good if I received this news. It has left me with a fascination and curiosity about death. So far, the only thing that’s really dying are beliefs. One by one.

When a friend’s mother was told by doctors that the cancer had spread and she only had a few months to live, her mother responded with, “Ok. My diagnosis is to live every day to its fullest.” Now that’s a clear direction. Two years later, she passed in peace.

Looking forward to sharing my discoveries with you. xoxo

Upcoming events…

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: Sept 30 (Dallas) and October 21 (Ft. Worth)

Yoga, Inquiry, Gong Meditation: November 9

Yoga & The Work ~ Teacher Training: November 19 & January 14

6-week online series! Making Peace with Disease through The Work of Byron Katie: Dec 4 – Jan 21 

 

Related blog posts…

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

How I Found Peace during “The Waiting Game”

Getting the Call ~”You have Cancer”

A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Reconstruction, Inquiry, Medical Updates, Post Treatment, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Uncategorized

Follow-ups, the Boob Whisperer, Clear Scans, & Summer Fun

It’s been 2 1/2 months since my final reconstruction surgery. Recovery has had its’ ups and downs ~ physically, mentally, & emotionally as described in my last post about meeting big emotions. Although I technically finished treatment on May 4th ~ it really hasn’t felt that way.

In addition to the crazy places my mind went, all of my follow-up appointments happened to fall during the month of June: my plastic surgeon, breast surgeon, oncologist, & gynecologist, as well as my physical therapist twice per week. Add a CT scan and a vaginal sonogram to the mix…June was rockin.

It helps me to remind myself of WHY I have these appointments. They are FOR me. To support me, to make sure things are healing properly, and to monitor this body so it can continue to be free from cancer. My job is to show up and continue to free my mind of cancerous thinking.

I love physical therapy (aka private yoga therapy paid by insurance).

I was able to work with the amazing Tiffany again ~ she is the one who helped me with cording after my mastectomy. I call her my “Boob Whisperer” as her main goal was to help my boobs become more even by breaking up the scar tissue from radiation. I didn’t realize how much the tissue underneath the skin was affected from radiation until I got my final implants ~ the scar tissue has been pulling leftie up and out.

I’m not going to lie ~ I was NOT cool with my new boobs at first. Leftie was a couple of inches higher and if you were standing to the left of me, my left nipple would be looking straight at you saying, “Hey – I’ve never seen life from this angle before.” Rightie looks pretty good until I flex my pec muscle ~ it then shrivels up into a squashed raisin. I can get self-conscious of it when I’m in certain yoga poses and when I’m intimate with my husband.

I also adopted a daily practice of obsessively staring them down in the mirror, examining their weirdness from every angle, comparing them to my gift-from-God original breasts, and then crying. A lot.

As healthy as this practice was, I realized another approach would be more beneficial for my sanity. Investigating my stressful thoughts about body image using The Work of Byron Katie: “I want them to change. They should be even. I want my old breasts back. They are not attractive. It’s not fair.”

These thoughts weigh heavy on my heart. They block me from seeing the miraculous healing that’s taking place. Can I love my body just as it is? Yes, I can love it in all its glorious weirdness. Do I need to despise my body in order to take action? No. I can do my part from a place of peace – ask the surgeon questions, go to physical therapy, do my home practice, buy flattering bras, be gentle with myself, and commit to my inner work. There’s also the option of a revision surgery in December which was recommended by my surgeon. I’m open. We’ll see.

This is all an ongoing practice for me ~ I am a work in progress. And what’s cool is although there are moments of struggle, I’m still living a very full and happy life.

I am looking and feeling better every day. My energy is coming back. I have NO doctor appointments for 3 WHOLE MONTHS (a new paradigm!). And best of all, my last CT scan was CLEAR!

I learned that according to doctors, I have been in remission for over a year already! The start date is the day I was pronounced with “no evidence of disease” which was after my mastectomy & lymph node dissection on 4/18/16. The words “in remission” and “survivor” don’t really fit for me ~ I prefer “cured” and “thriver” unless there’s proof otherwise.

1st yoga selfie & beach trip with my girls

I have lived in Texas for 17 years and every summer, I have cursed the heat. Last year was the summer of expander boobs and radiation. So now, I’m embracing spending as much of summers in “Not Texas” as possible 🙂

This summer seems to have a water theme! I just went to Vero Beach, Florida to visit my family. Walking the beach, body surfing, kayaking, and relaxing with my family was the perfect transition.

It finally feels like treatment is OVER!

Tomorrow, I’m heading to cancer camp (YES – that’s a thing!) hosted by First Descents in Montana for a white water/kayaking adventure with my friend, Michelle. We met in Spain 10 years ago and she was diagnosed 6 months after me. How funny it is that at one time we were touring Spanish vineyards, sipping Cava, & partying in clubs all night…now we text boob pictures to each other and ask questions like, “How much hair do you have left? How are your boobs doing? Can I see them? Do yours ripple like this?” as well as so many words of encouragement. I can’t wait to see her.

After Montana, I’ll spend a week in Colorado and then in August, a romantic trip to Tulum with my husband. I am so looking forward to this time with him where we can just be a young, regular ol’ couple, in love, in paradise, in celebration of a new chapter of our life. We’ve been through a lot over the past few years.

Self-care continues with daily movement, inquiry, and eating organic, plant-based meals + fish & eggs. I’m mostly free of gluten, soy, dairy, & processed sugar. If I splurge, it’s for pizza, wine, and chocolate…and it’s worth it! More on my lifestyle diet here.

To boost my immune system further, I’ve started to get into medicinal mushrooms like Reishi (which I took as a supplement) and Chaga (which I drink as a tea or add to coffee). I still love acupuncture and go once or twice a month and after my trips, I’ll start massages with an oncology-trained therapist.

I’m offering some REALLY cool online class series, workshops, and retreats in the fall. Join my mailing list or FaceBook page if you’re interested. It feels SO GOOD to be back in the swing of things.

Much LOVE to you and have an amazing summer!!!

 

Upcoming events…

Inner Peace Retreat ~ Yoga & The Work in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky: Sept 7-10

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: Sept 30 (Dallas)

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: October 21 (Ft. Worth)

6-week online series! Making Peace with Disease through The Work of Byron Katie: Dec 4 – Jan 21 

 

Related blog posts…

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

When Complications Become Blessings

Meeting BIG Emotions in the Cancer Journey

Complimentary Nutrition & Supplements for Cancer Treatment

Cancer Diagnosis, Inquiry, Post Treatment, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, the work of byron katie and cancer, Uncategorized

Meeting BIG Emotions in the Cancer Journey

Inside-Out-Craft-3-758x1024People often tell me, “It’s amazing how positive you are all of the time about cancer!” Lol…I love your story of me 😉 And perhaps you have not read my blog. Yes, I have found a way to navigate the cancer journey with peace, grace, humor, & joy. The entire experience has been and continues to be the biggest blessing of my entire life. And guess what? I still freak the f*ck out sometimes too!

Some of the biggest emotional rollercoasters have been felt during this past month AFTER I completed cancer treatment. This took me by surprise…I mean, I’m done – right? There’s NO cancer – right? What’s going on here?

When I was in the middle of chemo, I attended a cancer support group. With my bald head and tiny body, I shared that I was surprised at how well I was doing ~ I felt pretty darn good compared to the stories I had heard and my attitude remained clear and positive. Then the ladies said, “Oh…you just wait until after treatment. You’re going to feel horrible.” Then I went on to hear about how terrible their lives are, the side effects from treatment (which honestly didn’t really seem related to treatment), and how they live in constant fear of a recurrence. As I witnessed their suffering, I could see so clearly that it was in their minds ~ if they could just let go of these stories, this victimhood, they would have a happy life (insert spiritual arrogance here). Why can’t they just see this?

Well, I’ll tell you why. When you’re in the midst of suffering, you are bombarded with a sea of stressful thoughts, images, physical exhaustion, & BIG emotions. A dark cloud looms over you, covering your eyes, so that all you can see is crap here and crap there. You are blind and stuck in a shitty mental movie. How do I know?

I’ve been here. And I’ve come to realize that depression, fear, anger, resentment, loneliness, and disappointment are not a problem. Do you want to know what makes these moments unbearable? It’s thoughts like…

I should be happy.

There’s something wrong with me.

It will get worse.

These feelings will never go away.

These BIG emotions fluttered in and out after my final reconstruction surgery. They were also fueled by the fact that during recovery, I was feeling very disappointed with the cosmetic outcome and also developed an upper respiratory infection that was accompanied by an intense cough…I coughed so much that I threw a rib out of place and vomited a few times. I was whiney, annoyed, and just wanted to get back to my normal life. I didn’t want to do The Work. I didn’t feel like doing movement. I’d curl up into my bed and cry. And then came in the above self-judgment and stressful thoughts.

How do you react, what happens when you believe that you should be happy, when you’re not? I am even more frustrated, ashamed, disappointed. I harden inside and want to close myself off from the world. I see images of the “old Bethany” who was peaceful and free – where did she go? COME BACK!!!! I don’t see the possibility of a happy future.

Who am I, feeling this way, without these thoughts? I’m here for me. I rock me through tears, I ask others to hold me. I feel the support of the bed. I tell myself that it’s ok, you’re doing great, and this too will pass. I am so sweetly connected with myself. These BIG emotions are welcomed and I let myself fully FEEL.

One night, I experienced what one might call an “emotional exorcism.” I was sobbing, hovered over the toilet and vomiting. My body was shaking…I felt 100% completely out of control. There was no choice but to surrender into grief. Grieving for the changes in my body and my life. My husband encouraged me to keep letting it go, which I did for what felt like hours. I awoke the next morning and cried more. I went to Acupuncture and cried through that as well.

And then, a shift.

I began to feel lighter, relaxed, at peace. My smile and sense of humor returned. Life looks sparkley again. I feel like myself again. I have more energy and feel excited and hopeful for the future.

For me, these BIG emotions could not be bypassed. It felt important and necessary for me to really feel them. Let them have a life. Let them move through me. And now that I’m on “the other side,” I can go back to inquiry ~ identify what I was thinking and believing ~ and continue to become enlightened by suffering.

BIG emotions are a natural part of life and the cancer journey. Suffering teaches me humility, connection, self-care, and the power of the mind.

So to the women who I judged at the cancer support group: I am so sorry. You are entitled to feel however you feel. There is nothing wrong with you. How can I help?

There are many ways to deal with emotions ~ venting it out may be the best way for you. For me, it’s often not enough. Feeling my way through it and questioning what’s beneath it is how I find the most freedom. What works for you?

With love & gratitude for ALL of the cancer journey (and that includes suffering),

~ xoxoxo Bethany

Join me for an upcoming event…

Yoga, Inquiry, & Gong Meditation: June 23

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: July 8

Inner Peace Retreat ~ Yoga & The Work in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky: Sept 7-10

 

Related blog posts…

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

Self-discovery while in Recovery

A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness

 

 

 

Breast Reconstruction, Cancer Diagnosis, Medical Updates, Surgery, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Update: Prepping for the last Hoorah ~ Breast Reconstruction

OMG. It’s finally happening. After almost 2 years of cancer treatment, the finale is just around the corner. Breast reconstruction (ie – new boobs!) is scheduled for May 4th! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I am one big bag of emotions ~ overjoyed to be DONE, really DONE, with treatment (except 5-10 yrs of hormone therapy) and ecstatic to meet my new breasts. Yesterday I was driving between yoga clients and broke out into tears. I’m in awe. Wow. It’s really happening. I really did this. So proud of me!

What. A. Journey.

My thinking is also anxious ~ how will they look? How will they feel? Will I like them? What if something goes wrong? Dear God, that was a lot of potential “complications” I signed off on…including my own death!

And impatient & boob obsessed ~ are we there yet? Time for new boobs? I want them now! New boobs….pause. Come back to your breath. Inhale. Exhale…Boobs, BOOBS, boobs, NEW BOOBS!!!!

This past week, I had my pre-op visit with my plastic surgeon and underwent testing (bloodwork & EKG) to ensure this body is ready to go! We talked about the type, size, & projection of my implants. I’ve chosen to go with his recommendation of the newest round “gummy bear” implant ~ it feels the most natural, is leak-proof, and lasts the longest (20-30 years). I held one, squished it around, put it under my shirt, and tossed it up and down. Pretty nice…

The way he chooses the size is by measuring the width of my chest and then I have the option of choosing the projection ~ how far forward my boobs are (low, medium, high, ultra high). He was really into the ultra high, but after looking at photos ~ I’m going with high because they look more natural to me.

When I first met with my plastic surgeon, he handed me a pamphlet of his work and I remember one woman in particular stood out: Samantha. Samantha’s boobs are amazing. Give me Samantha’s boobs. Yes, please. Ironically, Samantha was actually the name of my alter-ego when I wore my sexy wig during chemo. Destiny? I think so.

My surgeon confirmed that mine would be similar to hers and that she is actually now a bikini model. New career in my future?

Breast Reconstruction Surgery

The surgery is much shorter (about 2 hours) and the recovery is supposed to be much easier than the last. He will go into the same scars from the mastectomy and make a smaller incision, remove the tissue expanders (SEE YA and won’t miss ya AT ALL), and replace them with the implants.

What’s super weird is that while I’m off in a deep, drug-induced sleep, he props me upright in the bed and tries on about 5 different implant sizes to see what looks best. And no, Travis can not watch this part and give the final “Ok.” Apparently that might be traumatizing for a husband.

He will then liposuction fat from my love handles and put it into my breasts for extra padding between the implant and skin ~ it also helps to shape the breasts. I have been diligently working very hard on building this fat with the help of nightly Coconut Bliss ice cream..I’ve gained 15 lbs back from my lowest weight in chemo, 108. How crazy weird is it that in less than 2 weeks, I will be wearing my muffin tops in my breasts???!!!

I try not to think about the procedure details too much…it creeps me out. Actually, it’s my thoughts that are creeping me out. The procedure doesn’t even exist yet. It definitely takes a certain type of stomach to do this work and I’m grateful for the expertise of my surgeon and his staff. And even more grateful that I get to show up, go to sleep, and wake up with new boobs.

The finals will be softer, closer together, and more natural looking than my expanders + the same anti-gravity perk. And they will not be perfectly symmetrical ~ because of radiation, the left side will always be a little higher and tighter than the right. Hopefully things will be pointed in the right direction. Or maybe I’ll end up with a set of googley eyes. We’ll see!

So now it’s my job to just let go and trust.

Getting Ready

In preparation for the surgery, I am also eating more pineapple and papaya ~ they have natural enzymes (bromelain & papain) that help the body heal faster and reduce scarring. I’ll also be taking 30c of Arnica ~ a homeopathic remedy for healing from trauma, bruising, etc. the day before surgery and for a few days after.

Other than that, my welcomed distraction has been planning our Inner Peace Retreat which is NEXT weekend in the Austin Hill Country! So the weekend before surgery will be spent doing what I love: relaxing in nature, teaching yoga, exploring inquiry, eating delish organic vegetarian meals, and connecting with an amazing community of like-minded folks. And I get to lead it with my dear friend and fellow facilitator, Susan…she’s amazing! I anticipate a lot of silliness & laughter, coupled with insightful, life-changing Mind/Body work. Still a few spots left if you want to join!

The property is Living Waters on Lake Travis ~ it’s where my husband and I were married 6 years ago. We loved it so much that just a few months after the wedding, we asked the owners if we could move there, take over, and grow it into a thriving retreat business. Which it now is! We rocked it for 4 years before returning to Dallas. The first week of May is our 10-year anniversary of being together + our wedding anniversary. So it’s safe to say this time at Living Waters is special to me in so many ways.

My mom will be coming in town for the surgery to help me (she is the best nurse ever!) and to celebrate the end of our journey. She has probably been to Dallas 6-7 times over the past year and a half. Her unwavering support, ability to anticipate my needs before I’m even aware of them, and compassionate care has helped me IMMENSELY throughout this process. It sounds cliché, but I have couldn’t have done this without her. Actually, I could have…but I would have gone completely cray cray on many more occasions. Love you, mamma.

Recovery is about 5 weeks, yet I should be driving within 3-5 days and can lift up to 15-20 lbs. I plan to take 2 weeks off of work and then play the rest of May by ear. Many women have shared with me that the pain isn’t bad at all ~ they’re off heavy pain meds within a day or so, yet I’m also well aware that the pain level from the last surgery was wayyyyy more than I expected. So I’m setting aside the time to just be…

Ok, friends ~ YOU have been with me throughout all of this! Can you believe it? It’s happening!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for your continued encouragement, support, & inspiration. Send some healing vibes to me the morning of May 4th.

May the fourth be with you…NEW BOOBS!

 

Related Posts

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

The Future of My Boobs (FOMB)

Gratitude, Elephants, & Going Potty ~ My Experience of Breast Surgery

Self-discovery while in Recovery

Life with Tissue Expander Boobs

Breast Reconstruction, Medical Updates, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Surgery, Uncategorized, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Life with Tissue Expander Boobs

After my double mastectomy last April, I remember reading an online article about how women are now forced to live with prosthetic body parts because of breast cancer. I thought to myself, “Wow, that sounds horrible. I guess I’m really lucky that I didn’t need to go through that too.” I even felt a little shame about it, “I got off pretty easy.” I had an image of these women in my mind: they are suffering, cancer victims.

Flash forward 3 months…I had just finished radiation and was planning a month-long celebration vacation. This was the first time I was flying post-surgery so I asked my plastic surgeon if there was anything I needed to know about traveling with tissue expander boobs ~ ummmm….do they set off the security alarms? Can they blow up at a certain altitude?

He said there’s nothing to worry about and his office could give me a letter explaining that I’m in breast cancer treatment. As I read through the letter in the waiting room of his office, my heart skipped a beat:

“Bethany is undergoing breast reconstruction and currently has prosthetic devices in her chest.”

Wait a minute. Say what? Prosthetic devices?

Pointing to my tattas, I asked the assistant at the front desk, “Are these prosthetic devices?”

“Yes,” she responded.

I burst out laughing. There I was imagining these poor victimized women with their prosthetic body parts and guess what? I’m one of them!

But yet, I’m not a victim ~ it’s not so bad having temporary anti-gravity boobies (which by the way, don’t blow up on airplanes). Are they weird as hell? Yes. And with clothes on, they look like boobs with an extra perk.

So…What are Tissue Expanders?

Tissue expanders are temporary implants that replace women’s breast tissue after a double mastectomy is performed (often, and in my case – it’s done in the same surgery). The outer layer is much harder than a regular implant and there is a small round area at the top of the expander for filling. They serve 4 main purposes:

  1. It emotionally supports a woman as she gets to wake up from surgery with some sort of breasts.
  2. They stretch the skin to prepare it for the final implants/breast reconstruction surgery.
  3. They hold the skin in place as it goes through radiation, which can shrink/tighten the skin.
  4. So the woman can be overly excited to receive her final implants because gosh darn…they’re gonna be better than these!

I also think tissue expanders could use a new name. Please choose from the following:

Boobs of Steel

Fembot Tattas

Basketball Boobies

Bionic Super Hero Breasts

Boobie Fill Tuesdays ~ the Expanding Process

From A to D ~ watch my boobs (and hair) grow!

Starting one week after surgery, I visited the plastic surgeon for weekly boob fills on Tuesdays. This is another way of saying that I got to see my boobs GROW a half or full size every week!!! He places a syringe full of saline in the top of the expander (the silver part). I don’t feel any pain ~ just a little pressure ~ and then sure enough ~ bigger boobs! Yes, I did take a video (how was I his 1st patient to do that???) and no, I’m not sharing it here.

I really enjoyed experimenting with different boob sizes. The expanding process happens until you reach your desired size, which for me is a small C. Anything larger than that would look a little too porn star on my small frame. He then blows up the “used to have cancer” side to be a size larger because it will be going through radiation which shrinks the skin.

So I spent the summer of 2016 with a leftie super boob!

The Hardest Part for Me…

I had heard from most women that tissue expanders weren’t painful ~ they were weird and uncomfortable at times ~ but not painful. So I was surprised to experience some pretty intense holy shit pain during the expanding process. Like I mentioned before, the fills were not painful. It was the time between fills. Because my tissue expanders are placed underneath my pec muscles, my pecs received an intense stretch when I got a boob fill. This then put extra pressure on my rib cage and surrounding shoulder girdle muscles. During this time, I also had a rare complication called “cording” which made it difficult to fully move and stretch my left arm. The fact that I’m a tiny person may have made it more difficult too. What supported me the most is physical therapy, yoga stretching, breathing, and yes – pain medication. Once again, I was confronted with my thoughts about medicine and you know what? It helped me immensely.

Life with Tissue Expanders

After the filling process was complete, the pain disappeared. The expanders did a great job of holding the skin in place during radiation. Now I am in “the waiting game” for my final surgery which is scheduled for May 4th. My plastic surgeon tends to wait longer than usual for the final reconstruction ~ 8-12 months after radiation. Since the skin can shrink during and even months after radiation, the longer time frame gives my skin plenty of time to fully heal, which will lead to a better aesthetic outcome and a less likely chance of complications, such as rippling and capsular contracture. I figure that I’ll have these boobs the rest of my life, so what’s a few extra months?

During the waiting game, I am still living a full life. I don’t really notice them much until I look in the mirror for my nightly ritual of massaging oils & lotions onto the skin to help the healing process.

Do I regret choosing this surgery?

To be honest, I have had moments where I have questioned my surgery decision. There has been a natural grieving process for my breasts ~ they have permanently changed (and they were pretty fabulous before!). I’ve had to be gentle with myself through many tears. Sometimes I feel insecure and not “natural” or as “feminine” as I used to be ~ more on this in a separate blog post. My mind has told me “A lumpectomy would have been easier. I made the wrong decision. I won’t like my final breasts.” Yet, is that true for me?

Actually, it’s not true. A lumpectomy + radiation would have made my left breast much smaller, so I would have needed to do breast augmentation on the right side to match (this involves more scarring as my right nipple would be removed and moved up). I am also reminded that my natural breast tissue was incredibly dense and lumpy ~ it was difficult to decipher the cancer lumps vs. natural lumps. I don’t know if I’d ever have cancer again, but I was guaranteed to have lumps again which means I’d need to go through a lifetime of “find the lump/mammo/ultrasound/biopsy/wait for results.” There are many ways to spend my time and if I have the option, less time in a doctors office works for me.

So…Do I regret it?

NO. I’m happy and grateful for this path. It’s the right choice for me. Without the stress, I’m free to be completely entertained by my boobs of steel. I show them off quite frequently. In fact, I recently spent a day at the Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe and soaked nude in the women’s natural spring hot tub. I felt free, confident, and at peace. The other 2 women in the tub left 2 minutes after I arrived, but hey ~ no need to build a stressful story around that. I had the place to myself for 2 hours!

When a woman asks me, “what do they feel like?” I usually immediately grab her hand and place it on my breast or I’ll offer to show her what they look like in the bathroom.

When someone hugs me, they often ask, “oh – am I hurting you?” Dude – I’m the one with the hard-ass, indestructible bowling ball boobs that dig into your chest when we hug…”Am I hurting you?”

PS ~ they can NOT be used as massage tools. I tried with my husband and he wasn’t into it. However, they CAN be used to hold a plate of food while watching Netflix.

They keep me in my yoga practice. Daily stretching, movement, & some strengthening is choice-less for me.

I am also free to LOVE the anti-gravity bonus…you see, I didn’t realize just how much my natural boobs yanked on my shoulders & neck until I had weightless breasts. There are tiny, strappy, tank tops and bras that I can now wear and I LOVE it! Most of the time, I don’t even need a bra (except to cover my nipples in some shirts).

They don’t move. At all. So rebounding on my trampoline doesn’t hurt anymore. I don’t need to wear 2 sports bras while running (ok, I actually don’t run…but if I did, major support was needed!). So I created this facebook video to showcase this talent…

 

Final Surgery ~ May 4th!

I am beyond stoked for my final surgery, which is coming up in less than ONE month! Time has actually flown by and I am so okay with that. I have had fun designing my final breasts with my husband ~ we googled boob images online and showed my plastic surgeon. PS – googling boobs can bring up some pretty disturbing images…

The final ones will be much softer, closer together, and more natural looking. I will actually be able to have cleavage again! I’ve longed for the day I can look down and see a butt crack on my chest again. I plan to wear a lot of slutty clothes after May ~ tube tops, backless shirts, bikinis…bring it!

I choose to focus on the bright side of this process, the cancer bonuses and what I’m learning about myself. How I’m becoming more loving, accepting, and patient with my body and mind. How I can find humor in anything. This isn’t painting an airy fairy image over everything ~ it’s actually reality. And when I’m feeling down, The Work of Byron Katie brings me back. It’s a kind universe.

Related Posts

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

The Future of My Boobs (FOMB)

Gratitude, Elephants, & Going Potty ~ My Experience of Breast Surgery

When Complications become Blessings

How I Found Peace during “The Waiting Game”

 

 

Inquiry

Inquiry: “Chemo is poisonous to my body” ~ is it true?

“You’re going to put poison in your body?” a good friend of mine innocently asked when I told her of my diagnosis and treatment plan. “Chemo only creates cancer and kills people” is what I heard from an “expert” in alternative care when I watched The Truth About Cancer on-line series in the beginning of treatment (you know, while it was coursing through my veins).

Seeing my bald head, an old man approached me while I’m was in the middle of a pedicure, “Are you in cancer treatment? My friend was too for xyz cancer and I was with him every brutal step of the way until the end of his life. Can I add you to my prayer circle?” 

CHEMO IS POISON.  Everybody says it, even some doctors. But have you ever stopped to really consider…is it actually true for you?

In case you haven’t noticed from my blog ~ The Work of Byron Katie has been THE most helpful tool in finding peace during my cancer journey. It’s a way to identify & question stressful thoughts ~ a way to notice the side effects of holding onto a belief and the freedom that fills your body & mind without it.

Stressful thoughts about chemo and conventional treatment came up often for me. A friend & fellow Certified Facilitator, Robyn Povich, facilitated me on the big kahuna thought, “Chemo is poisonous to my body.” After sitting in this meditation, I was able to walk (& often sleep) through treatment with clarity, peace, & even humor. I can honestly say that I ENJOYED much of my chemo experience ~ while I was IN it ~ not just went it was over. What???!!! Here’s how I got to this space…

 

THE WORK OF BYRON KATIE – THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Stressful thought: “Chemo is poisonous to my body.”

1. Is it true? (NOTE: the answer to the 1st 2 questions is a simple “yes” or “no.” ~ I’ve added mental commentary so you can see where my mind went)

Yes. (Look at how many people are saying it and remember all of the movies I’ve seen? I’ve read the list of side effects and attended the chemo class – HELL yeah, it’s true!)

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

No. (I can’t 100% know for sure that it is poisonous to MY body….hmmmm…)

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

I freak out. Pure panic. A warning siren goes off in my entire body ~ my stomach feels queezy, my shoulders climb up to my ears, my jaw tightens, breath shortens. I worry I’m making the wrong decision and I treat myself as an uninformed idiot playing into Big Pharma. I tell myself I’m doing it all wrong. I feel shame and embarrassment when speaking to others, especially my “all-natural” friends. I’m angry and begin to distrust my doctors ~ they don’t really want to heal me. I take the horror stories I’ve heard from others + the movies I’ve seen and project them into my own future ~ tragically dying young. I get a case of the “what-ifs.” What if they’re right – what if it will kill me?! Or even worse, what if there’s a lifetime of side effects making my quality of life pure shit…forever. I see no possibility of joy, only worse-case scenarios. I treat chemo like it is the devil – it’s out to break me and ruin every part of me – mind, body, and spirit. I see my body as sick and frail, unable to “handle” the poison. I see it seeking revenge on me by giving up and letting the cancer spread further. I’m a terrified, lonely, hopeless victim.

(Sounds like an ideal state for healing cancer, huh?)

4. Who would you be without the thought?

I am back at home in my body ~ I feel my breath…my body is relaxed and strong. I see how well I am doing ~ I feel courage, pride, and gratitude. I realize that I am not experiencing all of the horrible side effects that I heard about in this moment ~ in fact, I feel pretty good. And the side effects I do have (no hair, weight loss, tired, achey) aren’t so bad after all. I remember all of the amazing women I have met who have been through chemo and are living happy, healthy lives. I am more present and positive. I am able to share my treatment plan with others with confidence ~ I trust that I am making the right decision for me. I see my doctors as kind, caring, and truly on my side. I remember my oncologist’s words, “I think we can cure this.” I feel my breast and armpit and can feel the lumps getting smaller and smaller. I am grateful for medicine and scientific research. I see chemo as a gift, as a healing cleanse that is working WITH me, not against me. My job becomes much simpler: show up for the next treatment, relax, and receive.

(Ahhhh…what a relief. But the 4 questions aren’t enough for my mind – it needs more PROOF which takes us to the turnarounds.)

TURN THE THOUGHT AROUND

A statement can be turned around to the self, the other, and the opposite. Sometimes more ways and sometimes less. For each turnaround, find at least 3 genuine examples of how it’s true. For me, the turnarounds really serve to open my mind to so many new realities.

Stressful thought: “Chemo is poisonous to my body.”

TO THE OPPOSITE: “Chemo is not poisonous to my body” or the extreme opposite, “Chemo is healing to my body.”

Examples:

  1. I have no solid proof that right now, it is poisoning my body. I only see images in my mind and they are not real. How can I know for sure what’s going on in there?
  2. I’m getting good reports by the doctors. I can feel my tumors shrinking. I still have white blood cells.
  3. It helps me to slow down and get plenty of rest, which supports healing.
  4. It is part of a treatment plan where 85% of women are cured of this type of breast cancer. And oh yeah, it’s called chemoTHERAPY…heheheee, forgot about the therapy part 😉
  5. I am still able to exercise, do yoga, go walking, work, eat, take naps, have sex, and even travel.
  6. It is a healing cleanse – it wipes the body clean of what no longer serves it.
  7. My healthy lifestyle is protecting my healthy cells.
  8. I am not experiencing crazy, horrible side effects ~ I never even threw up once.
  9. Because of the side effects listed, I am more motivated to support myself with healing foods, supplements, and exercise. I honestly think I am healthier!
  10. I know many women of all ages who have rocked through chemo and now live happy, healthy lives.

TO THE SELF: (note – when you are judging an object, the turnaround to the self becomes “my thinking” instead of “I”). “My thinking about chemo is poisonous to my body.”

Examples:

  1. When I believe my stressful thoughts, my body is tense, panicked, not breathing fully. It’s in stress “fight or flight” mode which may not necessarily help the healing process.
  2. I continue to replay the stories I’ve heard from others in my head and gossip about it to other people. This reinforces the “poison” image and leaves me feeling frustrated, confused, and hopeless.
  3. I heard a story, I believed it. The label “poison” lives in my mind, not in my reality.
  4. When I go into an imaginary future of pain, suffering, side effects, and an early death.
  5. Chemo itself is innocent, it’s a clear or red liquid. It’s my thinking about it that creates suffering in this moment.

TO THE OTHER: “My body is poisonous to chemo.” 

(This one sounds weird, but I’ll try it on…)

Examples:

  1. Ah ha! My lymphatic system collects and moves toxins out of my body ~ it then releases it through sweat, urine, or poooo….
  2. My body is strong and healthy; the healthy cells have continued to rock regardless of what chemo does. Maybe there are parts of my body that rejected chemo?
  3. Oh, I did 5 months of chemo and am still alive, in fact ~ I feel pretty great. And there’s no more cancer!

YAHOO: “Chemo is poisonous to my body!” Yahoo! Sometimes the non-traditional yahoo turnaround is available. It’s a way to look at your original thought ~ and assuming that it is actually true, how could this be good? How could this serve you?

(When Robyn mentioned this turnaround, my heart sunk a little. Eek! Then she pointed out the following example:)

Examples:

  1. Chemo is poisonous to cancer cells. Isn’t that why you’re taking it?

(YES! One of the many gifts of working with a facilitator ~ they are often able to point out things that are hidden to the mind. Then I could find a few more on my own:)

2. It helps me stay really clear and consistent in my self-care ~ for me, this is a clean diet, daily movement, and taking my “mental medicine” ~ the work of byron katie.

3. It helps me to find all-natural cures for dealing with side effects (and sometimes I used medicine too) ~ check out this blog post for details.

Some additional thoughts that I have worked about chemo:

People who are evolved don’t choose chemo (or any conventional medicine).

People judge me for choosing chemo.

Chemo will give me a lifetime of serious side effects.

Chemo is making me too tired.

It’s been one year since I completed chemo. It just wasn’t poison for me; I actually gave it a new name: C-Love.

A friend once asked, “are you on the RD?” I had no clue what that meant. It stands for the “Red Devil” and is a nickname for the chemo drug called Adriamycin that is responsible for hair loss. I thought to myself…wait a minute, isn’t it the Red Savior? I mean, isn’t that why we’re doing this? Making friends with medicine is much kinder to me than fearing and hating it. And that may not be true for everyone.

Of the many C-Love selfies, these are my favorites!

 

And I sure as hell had a party when I was done. A full-on Nae-Nae dance party!

Right now as I sip tea in a coffee shop in Dallas, I am just SO grateful I chose this path. Once again, I got to see that the stories in my head were worse than the reality of it. I am humbled and no longer judge others for their choice of treatment. Everyone needs to do what is right for them ~ there is no one way to heal.

I’ve had many more thoughts about medicine as I went through surgery and radiation too. Even after treatment, my mind still comes in and tells me scary stories about the future…they are just thoughts and thankfully, they all have a home in inquiry.

I have been sharing this work in what I call “Mental Medicine” workshops at the Dallas Cancer Support Center and am working privately with clients who are recently diagnosed, have completed treatment, and/or have family members with cancer. It is SUCH a privilege, such an honor….to work in this space, from this space. I get it. I’ve been there. There is a way out of the suffering. And I’m still a work in progress too.

One friend who attended a workshop sent me this message:

“My experience this week (having her first chemo treatment) is a thousand times better than my thoughts about it last week. Thank you for all of your help and care!”

The work works. Now… where do you fear medicine? Are you willing to question your sacred beliefs?

 

START YOUR OWN PRACTICE OF THE WORK

 

HELPFUL RELATED BLOG POSTS

Cancer Diagnosis, Inquiry, Post Treatment, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

What if Fear is just a Fart?

I am truly grateful and blessed to be someone who can say the words, “I use to have cancer and now I don’t.” My latest CT scan showed no evidence of anything cancery in my body – cancer free baby! Cancer is over.

Or is it?

hellomynameisfearThe truth is cancer has come back many times….in my mind. The fear of cancer returning and returning terminally is a big practice for me. Yes, I’m aware it’s all mental and holy crap – it can take me for quite a ride! It’s like a vampire who sucks the joy out of everything. It’s the voice that says, “Don’t get too excited…What if…?”

And from the many women who I have connected with during this journey – I’m not the only one who experiences this fear.

Back in August when I was on my post-treatment celebration vacation, I attended a retreat in Quebec led by a friend & Certified Facilitator for The Work of Byron Katie, Tom Compton. Tom is amazing. I consider him to be one of those connected, special souls who was put on this earth to inspire others to live a fearless, joyful life, simply by being himself. Life has given him many surprises as well ~ his wife recently passed away from breast cancer.

Hearing him speak of his time with his wife as she transitioned inspired me ~ it showed me how death can be an intimate, heart-opening experience for a family. I also loved seeing how well he is doing ~ he moved to California and started surfing every day. He is happy and has somehow started to reverse the process of aging (he looks 20 years younger than the last time I saw him!).

What I have feared about death is how it will affect my loved ones, especially my husband. I shared this with Tom, and he said “it would break his heart. And then it would break it wide open.”

While I found comfort in his words, I also started to ask a lot of questions.

“How did your wife know the cancer had returned?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, my mind came in with, “EEK! Are you sure you want to know this? The answer is totally going to fuck with you. WARNING!”

And I still wanted to know.

He said that her stomach became very bloated and they found tumors all along the lining of it ~ from then, it was just a matter of time. I felt an immediate pain in my stomach. However, I acted brave and moved on to the next conversation.

So of course, naturally, for the first half of the retreat, my stomach became bloated. It was crampy. I started obsessively feeling it for lumps. Oh shit, this is it.

One of the main reasons I joined the retreat is to confront any remaining fear/unease around my cancer diagnosis. I could see that this was the perfect time for me to experience these sensations. It was happening for me. Throughout the retreat, I did a lot of inquiry on my fear of death, fear of having chosen the wrong treatment plan, and fears of my family suffering.

There was a lot of crying. It felt tender and kind to let the little terrified girl inside of me fully speak – fully express herself. I also felt very held and supported by Tom and the other retreat participants. It became clear that a bloated belly is not a problem – it’s what I’m believing about it that hurts. Cancer returning is not a problem. Death is not a problem. It’s the labels I put on them that create my suffering.

Then one afternoon, I took a bath. I looked at my bloated belly and caressed it. I wiggled my legs straight and began to lean into a forward fold. And then…something magical happened.

I passed gas for about 30 seconds…it was the longest wind relief I’ve ever experienced! I burst out with laughter – farts are always entertaining to me – I grew up with brothers and we have so many fond family fart memories. Did you know you can save one in a jar and give it to someone as a gift?

When I sat up from my forward fold, my stomach was flat and back to normal – my giggles turned into an overwhelmingly grateful big ol’ ugly cry. My fears. My terror. All along, it was just a fart. Then the next day, my menstrual cycle made an appearance after a 3-month hiatus.

So I share this somewhat mortifying story with you for a reason. How often have you experienced fear and it turned out to be absolutely nothing? Or maybe your fear came true, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise?

Maybe fear is just an entertaining, farty friend, inviting you to get out of your head, let go, and enjoy reality.

If fear still has a grip on you, I invite you to identify what you’re thinking and believing and take it to inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie. I would love to hear what you discover. xoxo

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Alternative/Complimentary Therapies, Cancer Diagnosis, chemotherapy, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Side Effects of Chemotherapy, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

All Natural Remedies for Chemo Side Effects

This post is for anyone looking for natural & effective ways of dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy.

So here you are, about to take the next step into your healing cancer treatment plan: chemotherapy, which I affectionately now call “C-Love.” Take a look in the mirror at that sweet, beautiful face. You are strong. Fearless. Or possibly scared shitless?

If you’re like me, you may have heard 1,000 horror stories about chemo and I’m here to tell you that it just wasn’t my experience. Do you think your body has a better opportunity to heal when you are cursing and fearing your treatment or accepting it with gratitude? I chose to receive C-Love as a healing cleanse for my body. I envisioned my healthy cells being protected and anything that no longer serves me being washed away. I chose to see the good in all things ~ the needles, the nurses, the
drugs, the side effects. Chemo taught me how to slow down, focus on me, and love myself unconditionally. How to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and connect with others. How to see I am always supported, even when I’m not feeling so hot. There were some hard times, a lot of easy/fun times, and some hilarious times. Open your mind to the blessings that are always around you ~ I promise, they are there.

I noticed different sensations would come and go and I LOVED learning all-natural ways to support my body and mind. So here is a list of what worked for me. I invite you to see what you’re drawn to, clear anything necessary with your doctor, and find what works for you. You’ve so got this!

Overall Health & Wellbeing thru the Cancer Journey

(click links for more guidance on each therapy)

Yoga

Breathing

Meditation

The Work of Byron Katie

Walking

Rebounding

Acupuncture

Nutrition

Supplements

Emotional Releasing

Writing

Art

Essential Oils

Sound Healing

 

Low Immunity

  • Eat organic, plant-based diet with lots of fruits and veggies.
  • Avoid meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy, soy (ALL soy- especially for estrogen-positive cancers). If you eat meat, choose all-natural meats with no growth hormones or antibiotics.
  • Stay hydrated and drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of filtered water (alkaline spring water in glass bottles is best).
  • Organic Raw Vegetable Juices
  • Ginger & Turmeric Tea (click link for recipes)
  • Warm Water w/Lemon
  • Curcumin Supplement
  • Garden of Life Organic Multi-Vitamin
  • Garden of Life Raw Organic Vitamin C
  • Garden of Life Raw Organic Probiotic
  • Vitamin D
  • Calm Magnesium & Calcium Supplement
  • The Work of Byron Katie ~ Do you think your body has a better opportunity to heal when you are at peace and loving life or when you are stressed and angry? When you are cursing and fearing your treatment or accepting it with gratitude? Question your stressful thoughts and find peace during the cancer journey.
  • Daily movement like walking, yoga, dancing, swimming, rebounding.
  • Time relaxing in nature
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Wash hands frequently and avoid touching face & mouth.
  • Keep all-natural hand sanitizer in purse.
  • Avoid crowded places, especially during nadir days ~ when WBC (white blood count) is lowest.

 

Nausea

  • Stay hydrated and drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of filtered water (alkaline spring water in glass bottles is best).
  • Ginger & Turmeric Tea
  • Organic Raw Vegetable Juices
  • Curcumin Supplement
  • Eat smaller meals multiple times per day.
  • Eat blander foods and avoid spicy foods.
  • Enjoy soups, smoothies with turmeric & ginger.
  • Avoid over-eating; stop eating before you are full.
  • Gentle belly breathing
  • Take ALL medications and supplements WITH food unless directed otherwise by doctor.
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga: Practicing constructive rest position (lying on back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor) or reclining bound angle pose (lying on back, soles of the feet together, knees wide) has helped me with the stomach flutters. I place my hands on my belly and breath into them. Pelvic tilts, rocking the knees side to side, and child’s pose have been really helpful too. Avoid a lot of up and down movement.
  • Warm (not hot) showers and baths
  • Acupuncture

 

Fatigue

  • Daily movement – choose something you love – walking, yoga, rebounding, swimming, dancing – at least 30 min/day will help you to build & sustain energy.
  • Rest when you need to rest. Think of your energy level like a gas tank between each treatment ~ don’t over-do it in the beginning and pace yourself. This your time to slow down and be.
  • Master the art of napping ~ it’s AWESOME! The body heals when it sleeps.
  • Eat organic, plant-based diet with lots of fruits and veggies.
  • Avoid meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, dairy, soy (ALL soy- especially for estrogen-positive cancers). If you eat meat, choose all-natural meats with no growth hormones or antibiotics.
  • The Work of Byron Katie ~ Believing stressful thoughts can zap your energy; clear your mind and gain greater peace by questioning your stressful thoughts.
  • Stay hydrated and drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of filtered water (alkaline spring water in glass bottles is best).
  • Meditation
  • Breathing
  • Yoga: A short, gentle flow with supported back bends & heart openers (I prefer blocks & lots of blankets).
  • Acupuncture
  • Physical Therapy
  • Warm (not hot) showers and baths

 

Aches & Pains

  • Stay hydrated and drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of filtered water (alkaline spring water in glass bottles is best).
  • Ginger & Turmeric Tea
  • Calm Magnesium & Calcium Supplement
  • Curcumin Supplement
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Yoga: Gentle stretching & breathing with an extended exhale. If legs are extra achey, I will lie on my back and place my legs up the wall.
  • The Work of Byron Katie ~ Question your stressful thoughts about pain (ex/ – “I want the pain to go away.” “I shouldn’t feel like this.”) and question stressful thoughts about what you think the pain means (ex/“It will only get worse. The cancer is spreading. I can’t live like this.”).
  • Warm (not hot) Epson Salt baths
  • Acupuncture

 

Mouth Sores

  • MUST-DO for prevention & treatment: Homemade mouth rinse ~ Add 1 tsp or baking soda + 1 tsp Sea Salt or Himalayan Crystal Salt to 20 oz of water. Rinse mouth 5-6 times per day throughout treatment. This also worked for me at the first signs of a sore throat.
  • Avoid spicy and acidic foods.
  • Ask nurses if sucking on ice while receiving chemo would be helpful (it was recommended for me while receiving the red Adriamycin drug).

 

Constipation

  • Triphala Supplement ~ helps maintain healthy flow of digestion and purifies the blood.
  • Psyllium Husks ~ helps to soften the stools so they can pass through more easily.
  • Ginger & Turmeric Tea
  • Traditional Medicine’s Smooth Move Tea
  • Organic Raw Vegetable Juices
  • Stay hydrated and drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of filtered water (alkaline spring water in glass bottles is best).
  • Eat prunes daily or drink warm prune juice
  • Avoid foods with a lot of bread, meat, dairy
  • Buy a Squatty Potty!
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga: incorporate gentle core strengthening and twists into your yoga practice.
  • With your hand, gently make circles over your belly in a clockwise direction.
  • For severe constipation, self administer an enema (uncomfortable and WORTH IT!).

 

Hemorrhoids

  • Follow above constipation remedies.
  • Replace toilet paper with all-natural, unscented baby wipes.
  • Add more oils into meals and smoothies (organic, unrefined coconut, olive, sesame oils are best).
  • Keep anus clean and apply a little coconut oil to it.
  • Acupuncture
  • Laugh on the toilet ~ come on, this is pretty ridiculous, eh? I can even tried “toilet yoga.”

 

Dry Skin

  • Keep skin well moisturized throughout treatment.
  • Use all natural (preferably organic) oil-based body products without harmful chemicals or plant-based estrogens.
  • I used organic argan oil, jojoba oil, and Juice Beauty products.

 

Chemo Brain

  • Acupuncture
  • Restorative Yoga: calming poses like forward bends, child’s pose, pigeon, legs up the wall.
  • Meditation
  • Breathing
  • Creamy Ayurvedic Spiced Latté Tea (w/Black Pepper)
  • The cancer journey can be so overwhelming with all of the new information, medical terms to learn, bills, treatments plans, mental/emotional issues…brain fog would be natural for any person going through this! Consider, where can you do less in your life? Can you make time to just relax and be?
  • Humor ~ Everybody forgets stuff, and I chose to laugh about it with myself and others instead of getting frustrated over it. Sometimes I’d remember things and if I didn’t, that’s ok too. This is an appropriate time for the mind to be mushy. Enjoy being more present – people spend a lot of money and time on forgetting the past and future!
  • The Work of Byron Katie ~ Question your stressful thoughts about memory (ex/ “My memory should be better. People will be angry with me (if I forget). My memory is permanently damaged.”) or about any stressful situations you may be experiencing.

 

Weight Loss

  • Increase healthy fats like avocados, olives, nuts, nut butters, seeds, coconut/olive/sesame oil.
  • Add more protein like organic beans, wild-caught salmon, and soy-free, pastuere-raised eggs.
  • Add vegan protein powder such as Hemp Protein or Vega.
  • Buy new clothes that actually fit. This was an emotional game-changer for me!
  • The Work of Byron Katie ~ question any stressful thoughts about your body image (ex/ “I want my old body back. My body is too skinny/ugly. People don’t find me attractive.”).
  • Remember, this too shall pass. Bodies are always changing. This is an opportunity to love yourself regardless of your outer appearance.
  • Acupuncture
  • Eat before and after exercise.
  • Yoga: focus less on cardio movement and more on grounding & strengthening poses Warrior Poses, Triangle, Chair, Tree, Half Moon, & Goddess Pose.

 

Hair Loss

  • Before hair loss (which occurs about 2-3 weeks into treatment), consider cutting and donating your hair to a charity.
  • Have a hair shaving party with close friends and family!
  • Keep an electric razor on hand for when hair begins to fall out. When you’re ready, GI Jane that shit off!
  • Buy a wig, invite some girlfriends to come along!
  • Buy cute scarf’s, hats, wraps – I loved these: chemobeanies.com.
  • Throw a hat/scarf party.
  • If you really don’t want to lose your hair, consider getting the “Cold Cap” treatment, which may be covered by insurance.
  • Acupuncture
  • Embrace being bald ~ there are so many bonuses!
    • The most low maintenance hairstyle you’ll ever have
    • Best head massages
    • Shower at least twice per day
    • No need to buy any hair products – no shampoo, conditioner, styling spray, combs, hair ties, razors
    • Travel just got way easier
    • No more shaving! (people pay a lot of $ for this)
    • Smoothest legs you’ll ever have
    • Feel like a true badass walking around bald – OWN IT – you’re beautiful. Plus people are soooo kind when they see you’re going through cancer treatment. If we all treated each other like we were going through cancer, the world would be a happier place
    • Enjoy the fun process as it grows back – it starts with the super soft fuzzies and then maybe a new color or curlier or straighter!
  • The Work of Byron Katie ~ Question any stressful thoughts about your body image (ex/ “I want my old body back. I look like a sick person. People don’t find me attractive.”).

 

Hot Flashes

  • Acupuncture
  • Wear layers that can easily be stripped off in public.
  • Sleep naked
  • Sleep next to a fan
  • Apply a cold wash clothe on forehead.
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Breathing

 

Acid Reflux or Indigestion

  • Avoid acidic foods like citrus, tomatoes, and vinegars.
  • Take Papaya enzymes before meals.
  • Eat small meals more frequently.
  • Drink warm water with meals.
  • Sleep with the head elevated above the heart.

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© 2016 Bethany Webb. All rights reserved.