This 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 Ductal 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:
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!
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:
The most important ingredient in healthy eating has absolutely nothing to do with food. It’s not about being vegan, paleo, keto, vegetarian, ayurvedic, or a raw foodie. Nor is it about ditching sugar, carbs, gluten, trans fat, dairy, soy, GMO’s, or red meat.
This ingredient is free and accessible anytime, anywhere. It’s actually quite medicinal and has zero negative side effects. It pairs beautifully with any way of eating. Would you like a taste?
It’s called PEACE.
With so much conflicting information and health fads around diet, it’s no wonder we all get so freaked out about food. Add a cancer diagnosis (or any health condition) to the mix and it’s the perfect recipe to turn the art and joy of eating, shopping, and cooking into a frustrating and fearful experience.
Before cancer – especially in the 8 years prior to my diagnosis – I was a really healthy eater. Mostly plant-based, organic, with minimal dairy, gluten, and processed sugar. I did cleanses 2-3 times per year and exercised regularly. And cancer still had a party in this yogini body. I do feel nutrition is super important which is why it has been a huge part of my healing plan. It can also be a source of stress.
Here’s a popular mindset that use to send me into panic mode…until I added a question mark.
“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.”
Let’s explore this belief together using The Work of Byron Katie. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Can you 100% know for sure what every bite of food is doing to each cell in your body right now AND in the future? Are you some kind of magical medical psychic with X-ray vision?
I call BS (Belief System). I know people who eat fast food every day and they don’t have cancer. I’m the healthiest eater in my family and the only one with the C word on my resumé. And I can also find ways that it’s true ~ there’s plenty of research and I do feel better when I eat better. But can I absolutely know it’s an irrefutable fact? No. And you may find a “yes.” Both answers are valid ~ it’s all about what’s true for you. And it’s so worth taking a look at the cause and effect of being this thought.
How do you react, what happens when you believe that every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it? How do you live your life?
Anxiety, fear, guilt, shame…Mind goes back and forth like a ping pong ball – is this good or bad? I overthink everything and get overwhelmed. I compare myself with others and feel ashamed if I eat a piece of pizza or drink a beer. The joy of eating disappears. I become controlling and then exhausted. My body is tense, my stomach contracts. Jaw clenches, breath shortens, and my heart races. This sounds like the ideal internal environment for digesting a meal, eh?
Who would you be without the thought? (Whaaaat!?!? But I NEED this belief in order to put healthy food in my body.)
Oh really? Test it.
Hmmmm….Without the thought, I actually feel more relaxed and at ease. I’m enjoying the meal that’s in front of me. More present and eating becomes a mindful meditation. I relish in the flavors, textures, and smells. My body is breathing more fully and my stomach softens. I pay attention to how my body feels afterwards too. If I don’t feel so hot, it gives me a clear direction for the next meal. Or not. No self blame or shame. I can research in peace. I notice I crave clean, real foods more often. It’s a natural happening rather than a requirement. Cooking is a true joy – I become more creative and inspired.
Turn the thought around…how could the opposite be true?
“Every time you eat or drink, you are NOT either feeding disease or fighting it?”
Where is the stress? Is it in the actual food or is it in what you’re thinking and believing about it? It’s more stressful in my head. Then the body reacts to the beliefs and creates a pretty shitty inner environment for digesting anything, let alone healing a disease.
Now that my mind is clearer, I’m free to eat however I choose, WITH a side helping of PEACE.
There is no one healthy way to eat. Bodies are unique and go through many changes and seasons as they grow up. What works now may be totally different in a few years (or even next week!). What’s best for your body may be different than mine. So I stay in tune with my body, my business. And I’ve learned a lot.
During treatment, it felt really clear for me to eat an organic, plant-based diet and eliminate meat (other than fish), dairy, sugar, soy, alcohol, and caffeine. I started my day with ginger & turmeric tea and a green juice or smoothie. Click here to see more details. And some people rock mac n cheese throughout all of chemo – that’s ok too! Since treatment has ended, I’m more Flexitarian. I’m also traveling a lot and still watch mind get tempted with stress around food. It’s my practice and peace is my priority.
Cancer has totally upped my game in the kitchen…cooking is a joyful meditation. I’m that annoying person who posts pics of her food on FB ~ many people have asked for recipes so I created a new page on my site. If you want to get alerts for new recipes, follow my facebook page. Here’s a taste…
Organic Baked Potato topped w/Yellow Split Pea Curry, Sautéed Kale/Beet/Onion/Garlic/Chickpea/Lemon Medley, Green Onions, Parsley, Cilantro, & Broccoli Sprouts
Organic Split Pea Yellow Curry over Cauliflower/Quinoa Rice w/side of Swiss Chard and Red Potatoes
Ayurvedic Spiced Latté
So what’s on your plate?
If you’re ready to put a little more peace on it, join our upcoming Inner Peace Retreat April 27-29th in the Texas Hill Country. You’ll have an entire weekend of nourishing food for your mind and body with the help of a Private Chef, 2 Certified Facilitators of The Work, and Inquiry + Yoga Therapy Sessions. Save $50 when you register before Tuesday, March 13th!
Flashback to 17-year-old me at a Tim McGraw & Faith Hill concert with my besties when one of our favorite songs comes on, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Jumping up and down, belting the lyrics (in perfect harmony, I’m sure), swaying side by side…
Someday I hope you get the chance To live like you were dying Like tomorrow was a gift And you’ve got eternity To think about What you’d do with it
What would I do with it? Well, at that time, my main focus was obvious: try to capture a pic of Tim’s gorgeous butt in those wrangler jeans.
Now that I’m 36 and have rocked through the cancer party–it’s safe to say my priorities have shifted a bit.
One thing I didn’t expect is that Death has become a welcomed, fascinating meditation. You’re dying. I’m dying. We’re all dying. Let’s face it, bodies don’t make it. No medication, supplement, prayer, meditation, exercise, or amount of money will prevent you from transitioning out of this body.
So why do we spend so much time fearing it? Why is death looked at as a worse-case scenario? A bad thing? And why is it such a HUSH topic of conversation?
In my recent blog post, “Diagnosis = New Direction,” I talk about how I prefer to explore my nightmares now. And one of those nightmares is the cancer coming back terminally and being given those words, “there’s nothing more we can do. It’s only a matter of time.”
And here’s my favorite question to contemplate…
How would I live if I knew I was dying?
The time in between my diagnosis and waiting to find out how much the cancer had spread were 2 of the most amazing weeks of my life. All of the daily bullshit stressors completely dropped away and I found myself in an incredible state of gratitude for everything and everyone. I experienced joy in the simplest of pleasures ~ riding the trolley, watching our godson’s soccer games, cooking a meal, sitting under a hot shower, holding hands with my husband, stepping on acorns (not kidding ~ there is something SO gratifying about the crunch of an acorn!).
As I try on this scary future and let myself feel through the terror…I see an opportunity for even more presence, slowing down, deeply connecting with my loved ones. Appreciating every second that I am able to see my Godson grow up. Falling in love with my husband all over again.
I see sharing my experience of dying with others and learning from others. I see acceptance, peace, gratitude for every moment that I’ve been given. Forgiveness ~ making amends with others and within myself for anything that still hurts.
I see traveling more when/if it’s an option for my body. If I can’t travel, I see asking my friends from all over the world to send me short 30 sec videos of the inspiring places they go and things they do.
I’d say YES to adventure…I’d try that salsa class, jump on a surf board, go white water kayaking, float in a hot air balloon.
That’s Me! Cancer Camp in Tarkio w/First Descents
That’s Me! Cancer Camp in Tarkio w/First Descents
That’s Me! Cancer Camp in Tarkio w/First Descents
I’d snuggle. A lot.
I’d continue to take care of my mind with self inquiry and would question thoughts like “I am dying…can I absolutely know it’s true? Or is it truer that in reality, I am still here breathing? Is it possible that I am even more alive than I have ever been?”
I’d love on my body with nourishing foods, movement, time in nature. I’d love the shit out of that piece of chocolate cake and glass of wine too.
Any part of aging would be such a privilege ~ finding a grey hair or wrinkle? Yes, please! That means I get to get older.
I’d probably have some pretty stellar freakouts ~ and just like I did during the cancer journey, I’d get to learn over and over again that I’m still ok in this moment…and this one…and this one…I could feel the intimacy of being with myself in that deep pain & suffering. And the intimacy of being held by someone else.
And there’s one more thing I would be super motivated to do:
FINISH. MY. BOOK.
(Yes, I’ve been writing a book! Woot! Woot! More on this later 😉
So…WHY wait? I can live ALL of this now.
Perhaps the turnaround to my question is truer:
How would I live if I knew I was dying living?
With an open mind, death can be a catalyst for truly living. This contemplation on dying is giving me the perfect prescription for how to fully embrace life. So what are YOU waiting for? #RxLiveLikeYouAreDying
I was recently interviewed by CanSurround, an inspiring company who offers online mental & emotional support for cancer patients and thrivers. A few months after my diagnosis, I attended their presentation at the ITW Convention (Institute for The Work of Byron Katie) in Los Angeles. I was immediately moved to tears at the beautiful offering of this company and the kindness and passion driving their business.
They give cancer patients direct and easy access to so many of the healing tools I had been gifting myself: The Work of Byron Katie (thought inquiry), journaling, meditation, sound healing, helpful articles, and the ability to build an intimate support network.
Filled with that ooey gooey, goosebumpy feeling ~ I knew right away: I want in on this!!!
After connecting with the founders, I was given the sweet opportunity to create online yoga videos for the web site ~ 3 different practices that really supported me mentally, physically, and emotionally throughout treatment (one you can even do in bed!). And of course when I first saw the videos, all I could focus on were how uneven my expander boobs were from radiation…lol…moving on 🙂
Yoga for Deep Sleep
Chair Yoga for Peace
Yoga for Strength, Flexibility, & Presence
If you or anyone you know would like to create a CanSurround account for free, please email me at Bethany@BethanyWebb.com. If you are a professional health organization interested in offering this healing resource to your patients, click here.
I have SO enjoyed my experience with CanSurround and hope to continue working together to help others find more peace and ease in the journey called cancer. Here is the Braveheart article written by CanSurround. xoxoxo
You Can Have Cancer and Be Happy
A young woman’s story of shaping her cancer treatment with gifts of self-care
When former President Jimmy Carter announced his cancer diagnosis of melanoma in July 2015, he told reporters he was “surprisingly at ease” when doctors had diagnosed him, as written by Michele Gorman in a Newsweek article. “I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve got thousands of friends,” he said. “I’m ready for anything, and looking forward to a new adventure.”
The former president’s description of his state of mind—surprisingly at ease—was the last thing many people expected to hear from the 90-year-old. Like Carter, however, cancer survivor Bethany Webb seems to have created a sense of ease while living with cancer.
After experiencing the initial disbelief and emotional turmoil of her cancer diagnosis, Bethany dove into the tough and continuous inner work that would enable her to meet each phase of treatment with a calmness, acceptance, and even excitement she had not anticipated at first. She made informed decisions (with the support of her medical team, family and other care providers) that empowered her to “have a great experience with cancer.” She said many people find it difficult to understand how that could be. In truth, Bethany worked incredibly hard to care for herself—mind, body and spirit—long before diagnosis and throughout treatment. She’ll do so for the rest of her life, because she knows it works.
The gift basket that continues giving
Facing an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 34, Bethany underwent many forms of conventional therapy—chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, breast reconstruction, and hormone therapy —over a two-year period. She appreciated the need for conventional medicine and the science and research behind it. Bethany also suspected she’d need help managing the potential side effects. “I was determined to gift myself with a variety of complementary therapies to help get me through treatment,” said Bethany.
Embracing the options that appealed to her, Bethany was able to design a creative and healing cancer experience. She is quick to add, “At times, going through treatment was very, very hard—both physically and emotionally. But I accepted that I had cancer and I had to undergo treatment.” Acceptance helped Bethany to change her perspective about cancer and treatment. “I looked at cancer as happening for me, not to me. What if it’s all a gift that is here to make my life better? What is it teaching me? These insights freed my mind to enjoy much of treatment and share my experience in a blog.”
Among the potpourri of complementary therapies Bethany placed in her gift basket were yoga, acupuncture, writing, art, breathwork, sound healing, meditation, and reiki. She also focused diligently on caring for her mind during treatment. For six years prior to her cancer diagnosis, Bethany had used The Work of Byron Katie (a form of self-inquiry) to manage stress. “When the mind is stressed, the body’s systems don’t work as efficiently,” she said. “Being diagnosed with cancer, was the ultimate invitation to do The Work.”
As she embraces life beyond cancer treatment, Bethany continues to use The Work to identify and question stressful thoughts to free herself from their grip. “I’ve learned that reality—even living with cancer—is so much better than the scary movies that are playing in my head. Cancer has been an incredible teacher and gift.”
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’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?
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
People 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),
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.
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.
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:
It emotionally supports a woman as she gets to wake up from surgery with some sort of breasts.
They stretch the skin to prepare it for the final implants/breast reconstruction surgery.
They hold the skin in place as it goes through radiation, which can shrink/tighten the skin.
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
Bionic Super Hero Breasts
Boobie Fill Tuesdays ~ the Expanding Process
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.