My Guru Cancer: The Blog

Surgery Recovery, Uncategorized

The Gift of a Butterfly

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About 2 1/2 weeks after surgery, I received a very special gift from a client & dear friend, Shelby. It was a small plant with a green gem-looking stone hanging over it. She had said that she searched all over for it and thought it was perfect for what I was going through. When I got it, I thought the green stone had some type of healing property ~ I set it on my kitchen island.

I was just starting to feel so much better – physically, mentally, emotionally. Pain was being managed really well (I still claim Midol as the drug that changed everything!) and I was starting to move and exercise my arms again. I noticed that the left side (where I had the armpit surgery) was more restricted & painful than the right. I could feel this thick tendon-like thing in my armpit and down my arm. I showed the plastic surgeon and he said to stretch more. And although it was painful, I continued to gently stretch and move my arms the best that I could. It hurt. But ok, trusting the process.

The next morning, I walked into the kitchen and froze. The green stone on the plant was now a huge, gorgeous monarch butterfly. Just chilling in the middle of my kitchen. My entire being lit up in excitement! Oh my God, what is this? Where did it come from? Turns out the green “stone” was a butterfly cocoon! IMG_3867

Shelby didn’t know this, but butterflies are kind of my thing. I have always loved them and felt a special connection with them. I wrote a poem in 8th grade titled, “I think of myself as a butterfly” and drew a picture of a woman with butterfly wings ~ it made the cover of a booklet distributed at school. I re-wrote the poem when I quit my corporate advertising job and moved to Spain.

For my wedding, we had a butterfly release. We lived at the retreat property where we were married for 4 years and created/ran the business ~ on our last day, we were down by the lake and a butterfly crawled onto our hands.

As I approached surgery, I made the decision that if it were my time to leave this earth as a Bethany, I would return as a butterfly. And I would definitely play adorable butterfly tricks on people and mess with them. In an effort not to freak anyone out before my surgery, I decided to keep this reincarnation plan to myself.

I brought the butterfly gift outside to my balcony and sat in meditation. Before I closed my eyes, I noticed a dragonfly had landed on the railing to my right. This sent “holy shit this is so meant to be” chills down my spine. You see, Shelby has also been deeply affected by cancer ~ she has been a caregiver for 3 of her family members’ journeys with cancer. Her son passed away at the age of 6. Her stories of his courage and wisdom through the process astonished me. She shared with me that there was a point when she was feeling torn about his treatment plan and Clayton said, “Don’t worry Mommy, don’t you know the light is in the doctors too? The light is in everyone.” This brilliant little 6-year old opened my eyes and heart to a new way of looking at surgery and it completely soothed any remaining nerves. Shelby and her family created a foundation – The Clayton Dabney Foundation – to support children with cancer. She said that after he died, dragonflies began appearing in the oddest places. They knew in their hearts, it was Clayton.

Remembering this brought tears. I closed my eyes and breathed. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face. The sound of the wind whistling through the trees. A swell of gratitude overcame me. Look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve been through. And I’m ok! I’m here. Really here. I began to gently move my arms ~ opening and closing them like wings. When I opened my eyes, the butterfly was doing the same. Stretching her wings for the very first time. The dragonfly continued to watch. More tears fell from my eyes. This is my rebirth. I again remembered a deep purpose-filled connection to this journey and to myself.

I texted Shelby in crazy excitement to share my story along with a photo of Clayton the dragonfly. She said that she had no doubt in her mind that Clayton was with me. I then went for a nature walk with an extra pep in my step. When I returned, the butterfly and the dragonfly were gone.

Later that afternoon, I had a post-op meeting with my breast surgeon and I learned that the arm band thing had a name: Axillary Web Syndrome. An extremely rare complication that can occur after surgery and could last a few months or forever.

Crap.

Can my butterfly come back?

Coming up….”When Complications become Blessings”

 

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Surgery Recovery

Self-Discovery while in Recovery

Do you heart this blog? Well, it’s now a real, live book baby! Get your copy on Amazon. #mygurucancer 

On Wednesday, April 20th, I was released from the hospital after my double mastectomy. Before leaving, I successfully completed the staff’s requirements for discharge: (1) walk by myself — I was rocking slow-motion laps around the hospital the day after surgery, (2) go to the bathroom on my own —Well, you know that story and thank the heavens that that part of my body started working again, and (3) give myself a shower — This took some creativity ~ especially with the drains & limited range of movement ~ but hey, when obstacles arrive ~ creative inspiration is born.

I was wheeled out of the hospital with my stuffed donkey and flowers in hand, and entrusted to my two primary caregivers: Sweet Hubby Travis and Superwoman Mommy. The hardest part was finally over. Or was it?

The first 10 days of recovery had many ups and downs. There were moments of “fuck this shit, I’d rather die than feel this pain anymore” and moments of “wow, I have never felt this loved and supported.” The whole experience turned out to be quite an invitation to look at stressful thoughts that hold me back from self love.

My Relationship with Medicine & Pain

Medicine (in the form of drugs) and I have had a bipolar past. Sometimes I love and appreciate it. Sometimes I fear and curse it. Before this whole cancer thing, I had the privilege of experiencing years of intense migraines. I tried numerous alternative approaches for healing — acupuncture, homeopathy, emotional clearing, different cleanses, various diets, yoga therapy, meditation, sex/orgasms, chiropractics, osteopathy, natural hormone therapy, essential oils, & a few other ways I’m too embarrassed to mention…some things occasionally brought relief, but nothing was lasting. Over-the-counter medicine really did help, especially if I took it right when I first felt the signs of a migraine. But I still really, really resented taking it. And prescription meds scared the crap out of me.

Then I found a 6-week course with Certified Facilitators that dealt with the topic of “Pain & Illness” using The Work of Byron Katie.

The course allowed me to fully explore my thoughts around medicine, illness, doctors, pain, blame, fear…it was life-changing and laid the groundwork for how I was able to walk into a cancer diagnosis & treatment with more peace & clarity. My core beliefs were:

Medicine is bad for me.

I want the pain to go away.

I can’t handle it.

The pain will get worse.

The pain will last forever.

Through bringing these thoughts (and many others) to inquiry, I discovered just how much more physical pain this mental activity brought to my body. When I believed these thoughts, I was full of terror & panic; I’d start frantically searching for a “forever” cure…my body would tense up ~ especially in my neck, jaw, forehead, & shoulders. My breath would shorten or even disappear. I would start to see me having to cancel the rest of the activities of the day, or maybe the week…all of the things I love to do just vanished. I felt like a victim, life was unfair. I saw images of the future as being in a lifetime of pain & agony ~ death being the best option. I would get easily angered by others, especially when they offered advice or tried to help. They haven’t had pain like this – they have no idea what they’re talking about!

I’m sorry, but how could you NOT get a migraine believing all of this shit!?

Without the thoughts, I noticed that I became more curious about the first sensations felt before a migraine. Pain now became a sensation. I also saw the story “I’m going to get a migraine” and it was met with “can I absolutely know it’s true?” Don’t know. Not yet. I was then fully available to take care of myself in the moment, which often looked like laying down in a dark room with an ice pack over my eyes, breathing, noticing & relaxing any physical sensations of tightness in my body. I’d notice I would reach for medicine or not. And often did. When I took it, I invited the medicine in with love and gratitude. I saw it as a healing, friend. Whether it worked or didn’t, wasn’t my business. I was just doing my part. I focused on the present moment instead of getting caught up in what might happen in the future. I became a witness of the thoughts that floated by. Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know. It felt simpler, kinder. I recognized that all along, I had the wisdom to take care of myself.

The turnarounds were truer…here are a few examples:

Medicine is good for me. Rather than be in days of pain which can send a “fight or flight” stress response in the body, medicine often alleviated the pain within 20 minutes. It allowed me to spend the rest of the day doing things I love. My body felt calmer and more peaceful. My thinking about medicine is bad for me. Yes, seeing it as an enemy – especially after taking some – only created more stress and panic in my mind & body.

I don’t want the pain to go away. I began to see pain as a gift – it’s a teacher. Actually, it’s my greatest yoga teacher. It helps me to slow down, get in touch with my body, breath, & take care of myself. It introduced me to many different forms of healing and I’ve made life-long connections with others. It has helped me to become a more compassionate yoga teacher & person ~ I now have a reference point for intense pain. Plus, I know exactly what to do if a client has a headache or migraine…I’ve been told my hands are magical 🙂

I can handle it. Well, I can because I did. I always have. There has been absolutely NO proof of me ever “not handling it.” Now, “handling it” can take many forms: going to a doctor, taking meds, breathing, sleeping all day, freaking the F out, crying, netflix therapy, movement, stillness, complaining about it, it’s all welcome.

The pain won’t get worse/the pain will get better. Yes, it always has done this too. And at times when it’s not my experience, it shows me to take a different direction ~ go back to the doctor or try something new. I always find that time heals which leads to my next turnaround…

The pain will not last forever. It NEVER has. Nothing is permanent. But the mind will say it over and over again. I often love to repeat the mantra, this too shall pass.

These realizations were monumental and I truly began to experience pain and medicine as a gift, a privilege. And the pain in my head turned out to be way worse than the pain in reality. Bonus…I started to get migraines less often and needed less medicine. Pretty cool side effect of doing The Work, eh?

I have a friend who didn’t want to take medication. And I said, “God is everything, but not medicine?” God is medicine too. So today she sees it’s a privilege to take medicine. She knows that whether it’s working or not is not her business. The medicine says, “take once a day.” That’s all she has to know. It’s written on the bottle. ~ Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change the World

Finding Self Love

So with this foundation of inquiry and having made friends with medicine, you would think I would have floated through recovery in complete bliss. Yeah, I kind of thought that too. Plus, I was sort of excited to take hard core pain meds. As someone who never experimented with drugs (other than mary jane), I was pretty curious about what it might be like…I heard words like “euphoric” ~ cool! Cancer bonus!

Well, I didn’t breeze through it. Every single thought mentioned above came back with a vengeance. It was like, “Oh really, you think you got this pain thing down? You think you’re totally ok with medicine? I’ll show you biotch!!!” The physical pain I experienced in those first 10 days (in certain moments) was so freaking intense that I could not see the possibility of anything other than…ouch…it hurts. help. ouch. it hurts. so bad. fuck this.

And then I noticed something underneath, which was even more painful: I felt like a complete and utter failure. I shouldn’t be in so much pain. I should be handling this more peacefully. When I took medicine, I hated myself. When I didn’t take medicine, I loved myself. My love was completely conditional. The thoughts kept multiplying until…

I had no choice but to surrender. Surrender “working on myself,” “being evolved,” “being peaceful at healing.” Fuck it. Take the drugs. What? Those drugs weren’t working? Increase the dosage. Go back to the doctor. Take different drugs. Sleep. Cry. What? It hurts like hell to cry, sneeze, or cough? Good. Do it anyways because that’s what’s happening. What? Your mind is distracted and doesn’t feel as much pain while binge watching Netflix? Awesome. Watch more.

Why can’t all of this be self love? Why can’t this be spiritual too?

So once I got over myself, which is really me getting over my thinking of how I should be in this recovery thing…I not only was able to love myself more, I also had some other discoveries…

  • Even though I had pain, there were so many things I was capable of doing! I could go on walks, eat amazing meals, spend time with my family, crack jokes, sing karaoke, have deep heart-felt conversations, post messages/pics on facebook. Even though it took about 90 minutes, I could get myself ready for the day – shower, put on clothes, make-up, cleaned my drains. The pain (again) turned out to be worse in my mind, than in reality.
  • On day 10, I decided to take over-the-counter Midol for my pain because the hard core stuff just didn’t seem to be working as well as I thought it would. This is what had worked before for migraines and what do you know – it ended up being my MIRACLE DRUG. It alleviated my chest pain within 30 minutes and for the first time in 10 days, I felt so much relief and hope.
  • I completely reconnected with my inner child. I loved asking someone to hold my hand. Cuddle me. Pet me. It was my favorite thing in the entire world. And guess what? Someone was always happy to do it. And if I was by myself, I cuddled my donkey and blanket. Yes, I’m 34 and I freaking loved being a baby again. Still doing it to this day (and I’m not in pain).
  • I got to witness my superhuman-caretaker-of-the-year mom in full force! She gave me my meds on time, cooked for me, cleaned the house, held me, helped me vent & cry, and was truly there for me in my darkest moment. This moment was when we realized 5 days worth of meals had yet to exit my body…constipation was one of the medicine’s side effects and I stupidly refused to take the poop drugs in the hospital (hey – I totally rocked handling this side effect with all natural stuff during chemo)…let’s just say after an evening of agony, tears, doing yoga over a toilet, bargaining with God to please just let me poop…mom came to the rescue with a morning enema. I mean, seriously – is that unconditional love or what? (I can see my mom and husband cringing at this very moment…did you really just make that info public? Yes, I did. Because it’s now hilllllllllariousssssss.)
  • I learned to depend on & appreciate my husband more. I’ve prided myself on being an independent, do-it-all myself kind of gal and this whole experience started to shift my relationship with my husband. After my mom left, I had some major anxiety about how in the world we would survive. I had also taken 4 weeks off of work which financially concerned me at times. I worried that I would become a burden to Travis and this recovery time would put a huge strain on our marriage. It was a great thought to question and without  the thought, I got to hear Travis’ heart and how it was his honor to help me in this way. Letting him do things for me and pay for things was his way of loving me. I love that he thought he could do everything for me on top of working full-time and taking care of our Godson. I let him and I also began to outsource which meant….
  • I said YES to help from others. I was unable to have full use of my arms for weeks so when others asked if I needed help, I said YES…can you bring me lunch tomorrow? Yes, can you please bring your adorable dog over for dog therapy? Yes, will you go for a walk with me? Yes, can you do The Work with me? People are so kind. They want to help. It feels good to help. I know this because that’s how I feel when I do things for others. It’s why I love my work so much. Well, it was time for me to say yes to being on the receiving end. After all, “let yourself be pampered by others” was in the doctor’s orders.
  • I got really creative & resourceful. I discovered that I could open the fridge and dishwasher with my feet! My core strength was used to sit up and lay down. I could cook simple meals if Travis left the frying pan on the stove. Travis put morning juices and nut milks in smaller bottles I could lift. I also live in walking distance to fantastic restaurants and Whole Foods. Instead of using the breathing device given to me by the hospital to expand my lungs (which totally looked like a penis pump), I got into singing karaoke on Apple TV’s “Sing” App. (PS – apparently I have a love for disney songs…Frozen’s “Let it go” and Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” became daily rituals for lung expansion allowing me to toss out the penis pump.)

So yes, there was a lot of self-discovery during recovery and it still continues – I am now 8 weeks out and am feeling pretty darn good. So if you’re ever in pain or finding yourself in a situation when you need to lean on others, here’s my advice to you:

Stop trying to be holy and take the drugs, yo. 

Question your thoughts about pain.

Say YES to help.

Let yourself be a child again.

Notice the blessings and all of things you CAN do.

Get creative.

And this is all still a practice for me too. Let me know what you discover. xoxo

Surgery, Uncategorized

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

Do you heart this blog? Well, it’s now a real, live book baby! Get your copy on Amazon. #mygurucancer 

Now that I am 6 weeks out of surgery (bilateral mastectomy), I can sum up my experience in 4 sentences:

It was easier than I thought.

It was harder than I thought.

I did it!!!!

It’s over.

It’s all true for me. And ohhhhh, am I excited to share more of my story with you. This post focuses on my experience right before surgery and while in recovery for 2 nights at the hospital – Medical City in Dallas.

The day before surgery

It’s the night before surgery, and a complete calm has washed over me. Today, I posted this on FaceBook:

BethanyWebbBeingGrateful

What I find mindblowing is not too long ago, I was absolutely terrified that I would never feel a sense of calm and acceptance around my surgery decision. Remember? Damn, I love when the mind is wrong.

It all feels so simple now. I’m ready on every possible level – mentally, physically, spiritually. I just show up and it’s a complete surrender. A sweet surrender. The FaceBook comments keep pouring in and each one tugs at my heart strings. Such a collective feeling of oneness.

Tonight, my husband, my mom, and I sat in a circle, lit a candle, and listened to a pre-surgery meditation that was gifted to me by the team at CanSurround. When it finished, we sat in silence, tears in our eyes.

I. Am. Just. So. Ready.

Surgery day

On Monday, April 18th, my alarm went off at 4:45am ~ it was pitch black and I could hear the rain pouring outside. Oddly, I felt excitement ~ it reminded me of going on road trips as a kid. My parents would wake us up at the butt crack of dawn; still half asleep and in pajamas, we’d pile into the car. I’d have a rush of “woohoo, a new adventure!” excitement and would then fall right back asleep. Yes, my parents are smart as this gave them a few hours of peaceful silence before the 3 of us started our “are we there yet? I’m bored! He’s bothering me” chanting.

And now here we are, another new adventure. My mom, Travis, and I gathered in the kitchen with our hospital bags in hand…let’s do this!

I felt this same sense of peace/adrenaline/curiosity for each moment leading up to surgery ~ I even declined the nurse’s offer to take a xanex chill pill before the procedure. “Oh yeah, I am so evolved,” I thought, “I don’t need those stinkin drugs.” (Note: future me said YES to every possible pain-killing drug after surgery). There was one exception where I lost my cool…When we first arrived, we all gathered in the pre-op room. The first nurse that walked in said, “OK, Bethany – what are you having done today?” My first reaction was, “Well, uhhh….shouldn’t YOU know that?! Why are YOU asking ME?” Panic, holy shit, they are so flipping disorganized, you have to be kidding me, how am I supposed to trust them with my body and this HUGE surgery if they don’t even know what the F I’m here for!??!!? 

Then I learned that this is standard protocol…hehehehe….They are required to ask you this question when you arrive and I would be asked the same question over and over again by each nurse, volunteer, the breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, anesthesiologist, strangers passing by… I then laughed at my mind and realized they are doing this to be helpful, efficient, avoid mistakes, and oh goodie – I know the answer!

I am here for “a nipple sparing bilateral mastectomy. The breast surgeon will also remove the chemo port, and in the left axilla, she will perform a sentinel node biopsy, with a possible lymph node dissection. The plastic surgeon will insert tissue expanders, with a possible allograft.”

Here it is in English:

  • Nipple Sparing: I get to keep my nipples. Because the original cancer was a good distance away from my nipple, I am a candidate for nipple conservation. However, this is not a guarantee. The surgeon swipes a sample of the tissue underneath each nipple and tests it to confirm there are no microscopic cancer cells found underneath. If cancer is found, bye-bye nipples. There is also a chance the blood flow to the nipples will not work properly or the skin can die.
  • Bilateral Mastectomy: the removal of all breast tissue (and cancer!) in both of my breasts.
  • Chemo Port: this is a medical device that was inserted during a day-surgery before I began chemotherapy in October. It’s a small plastic “plug” that goes under my skin, just above my right breast. Instead of sticking me with multiple needles each time I received chemo, the medicine was delivered directly into my bloodstream via the port. It’s completely painless and made me feel like a super hero being “charged up” with special powers each week. And I’m happy to see it go!
  • Sentinel Node Biopsy: This is a standard procedure where the sentinel nodes (the first few lymph nodes closest to the breast tumor) are identified, removed, & examined to see if any cancer is present. A dye is injected into the axilla (arm pit area) and it turns a certain color if something is cancerous. Usually 1-3 lymph nodes are removed.
  • Lymph Node Dissection: If the above procedure shows cancer, this procedure is done which involves removing additional lymph nodes and some of the surrounding tissue. I believe the typical average is 12 lymph nodes and could result in even all of them being removed depending on what the surgeon sees. (NOTE: my surgeon leans more towards the conservative side as there is a lot of recent research that confirms taking out less lymph nodes leads to less complications and radiation cleans up any remaining cancer cells).
  • Tissue Expanders: After the breast surgeon performs the above procedures, the plastic surgeon replaces the breast tissue with tissue expanders that go underneath the pectoral muscle – they are hard balloon-like temporary implants. After this surgery, they will slowly be filled with saline over 6-8 weeks to help stretch the skin and prepare the boobies for the final implant surgery. You literally get to watch your boobs grow and experiment with different boob sizes! They also hold well during radiation which can shrink the skin.
  • Allograft: If the tissue expanders do not fit securely underneath the pectoral muscle, the plastic surgeon will add extra tissue (called allograft) to help them stay in place. The tissue comes from donors which sounds creepy, but it’s so deeply cleaned & processed that there is no DNA remaining. Think of it as extra padding.

Going into surgery, I was in complete surrender to the unknown. I love that during my pre-op visits with my surgeons, I asked them what the best ways were to prepare for surgery and they said, “The best thing to prepare is your mind. Trust us. We have your best interests in mind and we want the best possible outcome for you.” So, that’s exactly what I did.

Last kiss before the operation
Last kiss before the operation

IMG_3807

I became child-like a curious. Each person who walked into the pre-op room was smiling, kind. I marveled in wonder while the plastic surgeon drew artistic lines all over my chest with a red marker. He made eye contact with me with a reassuring, “you’re ok. We’ve got this.” My breast surgeon looked so confident and well-rested as she tied her hair up in a bun. This is what they do and they do it well. I watched the fluids enter through my arm. I saw the care and concern in my husband’s and mother’s eyes. Neither wanted to leave my side. My last hug and kiss with each of them was special and intimate, not scary. I loved being wheeled around in a bed! And in a bed in an elevator! The last thing I remember is being wheeled into the operating room under these huge, beautiful lights that looked like colorful honeycombs. I said, “wow…those lights are so beautiful!” And that’s it. Goodnight.

I foundSurgeryMessageFB out later that right before I started surgery, my breast surgeon went to see my mother. She pointed out a special place to sit in the waiting room. She explained, “your daughter will be on the operating table just on the other side of this same wall. This is where you can be the closest to her.” Wow. The kindness. I also found out that my plastic surgeon wore cowboy boots with his scrubs through my surgery. Gotta love Texas.

Waking up

I woke up in the recovery room which was full of other patients. We were all separated by curtains. The first thing I remember is a huge intense, painful pressure on my chest; it felt like a giant elephant was sitting on me. I was unable to fully breathe, so I took small, shallow breaths and tried to focus on breathing in my belly. I could tell the nurse was under-staffed and whenever I could get her attention, I asked for ice chips because my mouth was insanely dry. I floated in and out of consciousness and could hear the moaning and groaning of other patients; one woman in particular, “nurse! nurse! It hurts! It hurts soooo much. Help me, please.”  Or maybe that was me? The typical amount of time in the recovery room is 1 hour and I was in there for 3 hours – I remember hearing staff members approach the nurse saying, “Bethany’s family is ready to see her now” multiple times. I could picture my mother & husband in the waiting room after 2 EXTRA hours went by saying, “Damnit! I want to see her NOW!” I smiled at the image and went back to sleep.

I awoke to being wheeled into my final recovery room ~ a private room with a beautiful view and this is where I’d stay for 2 nights. I watched my husband, mom, and mother-in-law rush in to see me. Travis reached for my hand, “hey baby, how are you…?!” I smiled and said, “Ok. It’s hard to breathe. It hurts. A lot.” And it did really fucking hurt. Way more than I thought it would, to be honest. I was given a pain pump of morphine ~ they said if I feel pain, I can pump it every 8 minutes when the green light turns on. I thought of some of the other women I talked to who had gone through this surgery, and they said that they didn’t even need the pain pump or maybe used it once. Well…I pumped that shit like it was a hand exercise. And later that evening when it still didn’t seem to relieve the pain, they asked me if I wanted a morphine boost. All of the “I’m so evolved and awesome and don’t need extra medicine” bullshit thoughts vanished and were replaced with:

YES, PLEASE. BRING IT ON. 

One unexpected & uncommon side effect of the drugs was that I was unable to pee on my own. I would try and try…I pressed on my stomach, let water run in the faucet, put my hand in hot water, my mom played waterfall noises from her iPhone, I counted tiles to distract my mind…nothing. What’s cool about modern medicine is if you can’t pee on your own – they can do it for you! I had to get catheterized 3 times…each time, they removed about a liter and a half of urine. The mild discomfort was nothing compared to the sweet Jesus relief I experienced when it was done. After the 2nd day in the hospital, I finally began to go on my own which was one of the most exciting things in the world at that time. The simple joys…If you are ever in the presence of someone who can not pee, here are 3 things not to say/do:

  1. “Just try harder.”
  2. “We really need you to be able to go to the bathroom on your own.”
  3. If I politely ask for everyone to leave the room so I can try to pee in solitude, LEAVE THE ROOM instead of standing close enough to me so that my knee is brushing the back of your thigh while you make my bed. This is especially true if we just met 30 seconds ago.

Easier than I thought

All jokes aside, the staff was amazing. And even though the pain level was so much more intense than I expected, there were so, so, so many things that were BETTER than I expected. Examples:

  • The moment I saw my new breasts. Before surgery, I dreaded this moment. I imagined it on so many occasions and was brought to tears every time – I saw me standing in the hospital mirror, seeing the first glimpse of my creepy-looking-mutilated-use-to-be-beautiful-and-never-will-be-again breasts. Then horror and regret filled my mind. Well, reality turned out to be pretty awesome. I lifted up my gown, looked in the mirror and thought, “wow – they look pretty damn good! Hey honey, did you see these?” I had adorable little A-cup breasts. The clear surgical tape was wrapped around me like a bra and I could see some swelling & discoloring from bruising, which is expected.
  • The breast surgeon’s execution was brilliant. The only incisions she made were along the outer, lower part of each breast. I believe she has magical powers; somehow, she was able to remove the chemo port by my right collar bone AND do a half lymph node dissection in my left armpit through these incisions. The scarring is healing beautifully and is barely visible now.
  • The plastic surgeon is an artist and creative genius. He was able to secure the tissue expanders without any allografting and he noticed that I already had a scar on my belly (it was from having a mole removed when I was a teenager). He threaded the tubing for the two drains to exit through this scar so that I wouldn’t have any extra scars on my body. The drains were easy to keep clean and came out in 2 weeks. It did take a little creativity on figuring out how to hide my drains when in public – a sweet fanny pack I bought in Barcelona 9 years ago did the trick.
  • I can still feel my breasts. The skin on the inner & upper breast still has sensation! It’s very common for women to completely lose all sensation of their breasts after a mastectomy because sensory nerves are removed with the breast tissue. I jokingly had asked the breast surgeon, “you mean if my breasts caught on fire, I would have no idea?” I could joke but this was something I was depressed and anxious about…sensation meant a lot to me personally and sexually with my husband. I did hear from another woman that yes, she did lose sensation but “other senses are heightened if you know what I mean…;)”
  • The food in the hospital was incredible! Assuming hospital food would suck ass, I had called the hospital to let them know I’d be bringing my own food. She asked what my dietary needs were and I explained that I eat all organic, vegetarian + fish & eggs, and no dairy, soy, sugar, or gluten. She said, “sure, no problem – our chef (what they have a chef?) is starting to lean towards using more organic ingredients these days so I’ll make sure he has plenty of items on hand during your stay with us.” For breakfasts, I ate an organic egg omelette w/fresh veggies and a side of organic fruit. Soup & salad for lunch and one dinner was organic salmon, sautéed kale, and sweet potato mash – Travis and my mom ordered a plate too and we all enjoyed it together. I felt pretty darn pampered.
  • People are so kind. I have now collected thousands of examples of this throughout the entire journey and there was never a shortage of kindness and love in this part. In fact, I think it amplified. The staff, my family, friends, all of the flowers and thoughtful messages…. everyone and everything was/is here for me.

There are so many more blessings I discovered throughout the recovery process as well as extremely tough moments of physical & emotional pain. Much more to share with you.

Right now, I’m grateful to now sit in reflection of it all.

Me, post-op, and on a lot of drugs!
Me, post-op, and on a lot of drugs!

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Alternative/Complimentary Therapies, Medical Updates, Surgery, Uncategorized

Update: Post-Chemo & Pre-Surgery

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Spring is definitely bringing a lot of change & transformation – I always love this time of year. Lots of updates…

Well, my friends, as of March 2nd ~ C-Love is officially DONE! Although overall I had a pretty darn good experience going through chemotherapy ~ it feels SO GOOD to have one big part of this treatment plan complete. If you missed my Nae Nae Bell Ring, you can check it out here.ChemoBellRing

I will write more about my time in C-Love and will also include some tips on all-natural cures for various side effects. I attribute my positive experience mainly to my mindset: I chose to gratefully receive chemo as a healing cleanse instead of fearing it as a poisonous necessary evil. And it worked. More on how I got to this genuine space of gratitude later…HINT: The Work of Byron Katie 😉

My hair is coming in much more quickly than I anticipated! It’s been extremely entertaining; it’s like all of my hair follicles became over-excited to jump start again, which produced a strange layer of fuzz on MY FACE and neck. Yep, I shaved my face on more than one occasion. It seems to have simmered down for now. My head feels like a combo of a soft bunny rabbit + baby chick and I have to say the color is leaning wayyyyyyy more towards gray than I prefer at the age of 34. I’m excited to see what it will look like when I grow up. The only place my hair has yet to return is on my thighs and hamstrings ~ WEIRD and I’ll take it!

YogaVideoScreenShotDuring the past 6 weeks, I have been slowly building my strength back, cleansing w/foods & supplements, and am still enjoying afternoon naps. Muscles have been achier – it feels like no matter which activity I do, I end up being soar from it. I had the complaining thought, “geez, my body is feeling everything” and then it dawned on me…”awesome! my body is feeling EVERYTHING!” My energy is now steadily increasing and I noticed a HUGE boost after I made the decision to do the double mastectomy. I continue to be amazed at the mind/body connection of this process.

Click here to learn more about my decision-making process for surgery. Just a few days after the post, I attended the pre-op visit and I had a feeling that I would have an even clearer answer of how to move forward after that appointment. And I was right. It felt right. Since then, I have felt so much more relief and am enjoying the process of preparing for this big event which is scheduled for THIS Monday!

It may sound strange, but doing little things – like buying post-surgical bras, frozen peas, & button-down shirts – feels like a way of emotionally processing this shift. A way to move from unease to acceptance. I even bought my current boobs a cute little lacy bra to wear for a few weeks and some funny underwear to wear during surgery. (Hey, there’s nothing wrong with making the surgeons laugh while their working on my body, right?).

Last weekend, I took my boobs on a relaxing retreat at Living Waters near Austin ~ the retreat property I use to manage and is now run by my brother and his fiancée. This turned out to be THE BEST possible way to prepare…I went on nature walks/hikes, journaled, was able to participate in a women’s yoga retreat, ate amazing meals prepared by my chef brother, and had an incredibly healing Reiki session with someone I feel a soul connection with. It. was. just. awesome. Plus the wildflowers are beyond gorgeous this time of year!

SkinnyDip

IMG_3694 (1)On the last night, Emma (my soon-to-be sister) and I decided to do a ceremonial skinny dip plunge in the lake. The water was so refreshing! Then the next day, my brother and I hiked Reimers Ranch and spontaneously decided to jump in the river with our clothes on and then lay on the warm rocks under the sun. I have a thing for water…it’s always a mental game-changer for me whether it’s an ocean, lake, bath, or shower. I left this trip feeling pure adrenaline for life and what is to come. I’m so grateful I gave this gift to myself.

I have also been exploring a really interesting inquiry – I have been questioning the thought “I am losing my breasts” using The Work and I’ve come to realize two things:

  • I am not losing MY breasts. They are not mine. I do not own them (or this body). THESE breasts are changing which makes it so much less personal. The reality is, some tissue (which I’ve never even seen before) is getting replaced. That’s it. Same skin. Same nipples. Much simpler.
  • I am GAINING my breasts. Isn’t this also happening? Even though these new breasts will have expanders and then implants, they will, in fact, be my new natural, healthy breasts.

This inquiry is leaving me with a sense of child-like curiosity as I approach surgery, recovery, and reconstruction. My mind is also looking at the reality of the procedure: I show up Monday morning and go to sleep. When I wake up, it’s done. I rest. Experience wonderful drugs. Get 24/hr care in the hospital for 2 nights (and organic meals…what?!). I then go home, chill out, see what it’s like to have T-rex arms (you’re not supposed to lift your arms for a few weeks), read, watch movies, go for walks, get waited on, and bond with my “nurse” mom and husband. My part sounds pretty easy: be present and enjoy the ride. I can do this.

The surgery starts at 7:30am on Monday, April 18th, and will last about 6 1/2 hours ~ if you’re into praying or meditation ~ I invite you to send me some love at that time!

 

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Surgery, Uncategorized

The Future of My Boobs (FOMB)

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FOMB Logo

Over the past 2 months, I have been contemplating surgery options ~ a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or double mastectomy ~ and a decision has finally arrived. I would love to tell you that all I had to do was sit quietly in meditation and watch this clear beautiful neon-sign-of-an-answer show up before my eyes.

This was so NOT the case for me.

The “peace with the unknown” I initially experienced about surgery options turned out to have a pretty quick expiration date. In fact, the whole “decision-making” process has been the most challenging, gut-wrenching, emotional part of this entire journey so far. Chemo was a freaking breeze compared to the turmoil my mind has gone through. There were times I wished I didn’t have a choice. There was even a moment I wished the cancer would show up somewhere else in my breast so I could know what to do. Why? Because I was believing the thought…

“I will make the wrong decision.”

Under the influence of this thought, I am paralyzed with fear. My mind can only see the worse case scenario of each option. It’s all shit and I’m forced to choose the lesser of two evil shits. For the 1st time, I truly feel like a victim and I am furious that I’m in this situation. I want someone/something to give me a clear answer. I worry what people will think of me if I choose this or that. I tell myself I’m a failure at being “peaceful.” I’m overcome with emotions and I tighten my body which leads to exhaustion, achier muscles, and headaches. In summary, when I believe this thought, I feel like complete, total, utter crap.

Without the thought – and it took some time get my mind here – I feel so much lighter. The pressure is lifted (literally) off my shoulders and I again, see the blessings in each option. I feel more motivated and open to learning more if needed, talking to others, sitting with myself, & enjoying my life. I feel empowered, open, free, and trusting of my own intuition and the universe.

Turn it around to: “I will make the right decision.”

Suddenly, I am reminded that each option has major bonuses. A lumpectomy is an easier surgery plus I found a plastic surgeon who can do another procedure so my boobs look similar. I get to keep my natural breasts and they’ll be smaller which is nice for my shoulders. A mastectomy gives me peace of mind that the cancer is 100% gone and there’s way less of a chance of reoccurrence. I don’t need to worry about monitoring my lumpy breasts with diagnostic tests & biopsies. My breasts will look more like they did before I began treatment and they’ll stay perky for life which is also nice for my shoulders! And looking back at my history, have I ever really made a “wrong” decision? Even the times I thought something bad was happening…it turned out to be even better than I imagined. I broke my ankle and then met my husband when he offered me a stool to sit on…we were kicked out of our apartment and ended up moving to a retreat property and creating a new business…I failed my first yoga training and then started my own private practice. The only thing that could go “wrong” is the label my mind puts on it. Also, I will make the right decision – something will feel really right at some point.

Hmmmm….feeling much better.

Here are some other stressful thoughts I have taken to inquiry:

People will judge me.

If I choose a lumpectomy, the cancer will come back.

If I choose a double, I will not like my breasts.

I should be more peaceful in this process.

I want the universe to give me a clear decision.

I am not “evolved” if I choose a double mastectomy.

I need to be at peace with my decision.

Doing The Work really helped to bring me back to the present moment and clear my mind of some major bullshit. And I noticed I still go back and forth to attaching to some of these thoughts. Here are a few other techniques that have supported me.

Clarifying My Intention

Sitting with the questions, “Why am I choosing surgery? What is its purpose? What do I want from this experience in the longterm?” helped me to clarify a clear vision to hold as I walk through different options. For me, it boils down to:

  • Cure this body of cancer cells
  • Prevent cancer cells from returning
  • Feel longterm mental peace
  • Look/feel good about my body

Gathering Information

I dove into learning as much info as I could about each option. This included asking more questions to my breast & plastic surgeon, getting a 2nd opinion for surgery and reconstruction, and talking with other women who have had each type of surgery. Some new info I learned was:

  • A much less invasive lumpectomy is an option with my 2nd opinion breast surgeon. Of course, clear margins are needed which could lead to more surgeries.
  • There is a higher risk of reoccurrence with a lumpectomy; a double mastectomy drops the reoccurrence rate from 12% to 1%. The survival rate is the same.
  • For a lumpectomy, “you get what you get” in terms how the breast looks is not true – there are plastic surgery techniques to help the breasts look even. In a separate surgery, the other breast can be reduced and lifted (which involves cutting out the nipple and moving it up). After a lumpectomy is complete, there is more monitoring of the breast tissue with frequent mammograms and ultrasounds.
  • For a single mastectomy, the plastic surgeon can make the other side match. However, over time – aging will make the real breast sag while the other remains the same.
  • For a single or double mastectomy, there are at least 2 surgeries. The 1st is when the breast tissue is removed and expanders are put in place to help stretch the skin and prepare the breasts for implants. The implants are done months after radiation and extra fat is injected between the implants and the skin for a natural look & feel. My 2nd opinion plastic surgeon offers a less invasive technique for reconstruction that includes the use of implants + liposuction. He would use fat grafting (liposuction) in more forgiving areas like “love handles” which leaves very little scarring and is an easy recovery. The 1st surgeon wanted to do implants + belly fat which involves a 3rd pretty intense surgery that cuts the stomach from hip to hip to gather belly fat to help build the breasts. After these surgeries, there are no more mammograms or ultrasounds – just the occasional chest X-ray.
  • Radiation will be recommended regardless of which surgery I choose because cancer was found in my lymph nodes.

Two things began to become clear: (1) I prefer my 2nd opinion medical team: Dr. Laidley (breast surgeon) and Dr. Antonetti (plastic surgeon) at Medical City and (2) doing a single mastectomy was not an option for me. It’s either a lumpectomy or a double.

I also have REALLY loved connecting with women who have been through this. There is an instant bond that exists with cancer patients and survivors ~ an immediate sense of connection and compassion. I also received a helpful reminder from each woman that it’s completely normal to feel everything I am feeling. Fear, worry, anxiety, doubt….these are all natural human emotions in life and in this process. I am not alone. Ever. For some of the women who chose a lumpectomy, the cancer came back and they ended up getting a mastectomy or a double. The ones who were very happy with their lumpectomy and are still cancer-free had a much smaller tumor initially with no involvement of the lymph nodes. For the double mastectomy women, most of them said the procedure was hard but not as tough as they thought it would be, and not one person regretted their decision.

Everyone I talked to reminded me that this is a personal decision; I need to do what feels right for me.

After many weeks of this information gathering phase, I started to get completely overwhelmed…I had thought that during one of the meetings, something would just click and my decision would be made. But I still felt torn. I knew it was bad when one day, my husband asked me if I wanted a salad for dinner. If so, he would go to the store and buy lettuce. I completely freaked out on him, ran into the room sobbing, “YOU make the decision! I can’t handle it!”

I had to take a break and step away from it all for a few days. Then Type A Bethany took over with…

The Good Ol’ PRO/CON List

Yep, I’m a dork and created an entire spreadsheet titled “The Future of My Boobs” which listed out the pro’s and con’s with each surgery option, along with the procedure recommended by each doctor, and additional questions/things to consider. I then scheduled a FOMB meeting with my mom and husband and we walked through everything together. At this time I was a week away from my last chemo session so chemo brain was in full effect. This process helped to better organize my thoughts and make sure I had a clear understanding of each option. Here it is in case it’s helpful for you too.

Lumpectomy Pro Con Bethany Webb Double Pro Con Bethany Webb

Trying it on & Feeling it out

I decided to “try on” my two different decisions as if I were trying on a new dress. Ok, I’m doing a lumpectomy. How does it feel? Do I notice any physical sensations? How do I feel as I imagine the next 60 years? Then I tried on the double.

This is what shocked me the most. When I try on a lumpectomy…I lose my breath and constrict my body. I feel anxious.

When I try on a double, I feel relief.

This is not what I expected to feel. I mean, after all – I ended up getting what I thought I wanted with a less invasive lumpectomy. But the truth is, it still didn’t feel right. I have what doctors call “Fibrocystic Breast Disease” which is a fancy term for “super lump boobs.” So for me, a lumpectomy feels easier this year, but harder in the long run with the constant monitoring of my breast tissue. A double feels harder now but so much better as I imagine the rest of my life.

I also noticed that when I would talk to people about it, I was looking for them to tell me it was ok to choose a double mastectomy. I mean shit, there was also that moment of hoping for more cancer to show up so I could make this decision. Instead of looking outward for that permission, I decided to give it to myself instead.

So yes, I have chosen to do a double mastectomy.

If you are surprised by my decision, so am I. If you are relieved by my decision, so am I.

Yet still…

Still I don’t know

I had felt so incredibly solid in my decision for weeks and then I found out the reconstruction process may take longer than I had originally thought – it could be NEXT spring or summer. This threw me over the edge and I began to second guess EVERYTHING. Am I making a mistake? Will I regret it? Are these just pre-surgery jitters or is my heart talking? Back to the ping-pong match of going back and forth between options. I’m not going to lie – the past few weeks have kind of sucked ass.

All I wanted was that feeling of clarity to come back and stay forever.

I discovered that I really, really, really needed to spend time with my emotions – give them the FULL expression. I’ve gone from feeling perfectly fine to sobbing within seconds. I had a hard time sleeping and would wake up in the middle of the night in tears. I felt like movement helped – longer walks, jumping on the trampoline, yoga, epson salt baths. One day, in a fit of anger, I tore up a cardboard box…I attended an incredible Somatic Movement + Sound Healing Workshop ~ I cried before, a little during, and a ton afterwards. My husband held me on many occasions and facilitated me on additional stressful thoughts. It was so clear that suffering started in my mind and then the body followed. But this awareness angered me even more – I was watching it happen and couldn’t just press the “off” button.

IMG_3636 (2)I also feel like I’ve been experiencing a natural mourning/grieving process for my breasts. They will never be the same as they once were. Well, actually – they are already not the same! But how do I know they won’t be better? The worse that can happen is my stressful story about them. I’ve spent some time drawing pictures of my old boobs too which was healing.

One day, I was journaling in nature working the thought, “I want the universe to give me a clear decision” and I was listening to Pandora. When I was in the turnarounds, I heard these lyrics:

Settle down, it will all be clear.

If you get lost, you can always be found.

Know you’re not alone.

I’m going to make this place your home.

Thank you, universe. Right now, what’s true for me is a double feels like the best decision. And I’m open to my mind changing. This Thursday, I am scheduled for a pre-op visit with the surgeons to go through the details of the operation & how to prepare for it. The surgery is scheduled for April 18th. I’ve decided to just spend my time doing things I love, be present with anything else that comes up, and see what happens.

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And maybe…just maybe…Future New Boob Bethany will go from this to this!

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Inquiry

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

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Before and after my diagnosis in September, I started using The Work of Byron Katie like crack. Ok, so I’ve never tried crack but you get the gist. The Work, also known as inquiry, is a way to identify and question thoughts that bring stress and suffering to our lives. I’ve been practicing The Work since 2009 and became a Certified Facilitator in January of 2015. The certification training program itself has absolutely nothing to do with “how to teach the work” and everything to do with how to work on your own stressful thoughts in every possible area of your life: relationships, parenting, health, finances, work,  fear, criticism, body image, etc. Because I experienced so much relief and joy in everything I was questioning, I learned to trust this process of inquiry 100% ~ there was no longer a lost feeling of where to go when I felt upset, angry, lonely, frustrated…I always had a clear direction out of pain: do The Work.

And being diagnosed with cancer has given me the ultimate invitation to really live this practice.

I can’t even count the number of stressful thoughts that I’ve taken to inquiry during this experience, but there are definitely a few that stand out as incredibly life-changing for me.


images“The cancer is spreading”
has been a re-occurring thought, especially during the 2 weeks between my diagnosis and not knowing if it was stage 4. The first step of inquiry is to isolate a situation when I believed the thought. For me, this thought has come up multiple times: when I found a new lump in my breast, when the breast surgeon told me the cancer is “traveling” since it has reached my lymphatic system, when I felt intense pain in the back of my neck or other parts of my body, or when I would get a migraine…all of these situations are the same: I feel or hear something and that means…the cancer is spreading. For the purpose of this inquiry, I’ll focus on the 1st time I had this thought:

SITUATION

It’s a few days after my biopsy and the night before meeting with the breast surgeon for the 1st time. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room and my mom and husband are there. I’m feeling my left breast and notice a large new lump at the top of it and the thought hits me, “The cancer is spreading.”

So now that I’ve identified the stressful moment in time and the thought, I take this thought to inquiry with Byron Katie’s 4 questions and turnarounds. The Work is meditation, so I continue to meditate on the specific situation, ask the question, and await an answer.

 

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Stressful thought: “The cancer is spreading.”

1. Is it true? (the answer to the 1st 2 questions is a simple “yes” or “no.”)

Yes.

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

No.

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

I feel the lump and a huge wave of panic comes over me. My heart races, breath shortens, I feel a constriction in my heart and my throat. My shoulders hike up to my ears and I slouch forward to protect myself. I frantically begin to press on it and around it and convince myself it’s a new tumor. Immediately, I have an image of the future ~ the tumors continue to spread throughout my whole body at a rapid rate. I see cancer taking over my body, my life, my happiness. I see an early, sad, painful death. I feel helpless, hopeless, out of control, & absolutely terrified watching these images. I treat myself like a victim and then I start to bully me for not getting the 1st lump checked out sooner. I could have prevented all of this; it’s my fault. I ask my mom to feel the lump and I study her face. If she looks panicked, then I will panic even more. She seems calm but she’s just putting on a show so I don’t freak out. I can’t listen to my mom or Travis as they try to comfort me. They don’t know what it’s like. I feel separate from them. I’m angry and confused at my body ~ how could it do this to me? Then I turn to God ~ what the FUCK lesson are you trying to teach me here, asshole? I want to crawl in a hole and just cry and cry. I don’t want to deal with this and at the same time, I feel a huge pressure/sense of urgency to DO something NOW before my body becomes one big tumor.

4. Who would you be without the thought?

I’m sitting in the living room. It’s quiet, I’m comfortable on the couch. I feel the lump and I’m curious. It’s new and interesting. My mind is open and calmer ~ I see many possibilities: maybe it’s inflammation, a cyst, swollen lymph, who knows? I add it to the list of questions I have for the doctor tomorrow. The future looks simpler. I feel more at ease taking things one step at a time. Right now, relax on the couch with my family. Tomorrow, go to doctor. Without the thought, I still may show my mom and husband as an FYI and there’s not a dependent need for validation from them. I love that they’re both here with me now and in this process. I feel supported and connected to them, to me. My body relaxes, breath deepens, throat softens. I appreciate my body showing me the lump so I can learn more. I don’t give the lump a label either ~ it’s not bad or good or cancer or not ~ it just is. There’s even a hint of excitement with launching into this brand new journey of the unknown. Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know. Much more relaxed and at peace.

 

THE TURNAROUNDS

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.

ORIGINAL THOUGHT: “The cancer is spreading.” 

TO THE OPPOSITE: “The cancer is not spreading.”

Examples:

  1. It could be inflammation ~ I did just have a large biopsy needle & anesthesia needle poking into my breast multiple times a few days ago.
  2. It’s a swollen lymph node or a cyst ~ I’ve had many of these before and they felt similar to this.
  3. It could be fibrocystic tissue or a fibroadenoma which is not cancerous.
  4. I have absolutely NO PROOF at all that I am feeling a tumor. It’s just a story I put on a lump. I mean really, where’s my proof? I can’t see actual cancer. I can’t even feel it ~ I feel skin, something hard and bumpy.
  5. Outside of the situation, when the doctor tells me “the cancer is traveling” ~ she also said she didn’t think it has taken root anywhere else. So the cancer is not spreading according to the cancer expert as well.

TO THE SELF: (note – when you are judging an object, the turnaround to the self becomes “my thinking” instead of “I”). “My thinking about cancer is spreading” or what fits better for me is, “The cancer in my thinking is spreading.”

Examples:

  1. Holy shit, this is MUCH truer ~ right now, the only place the cancer is definitely spreading is in my mind. In my imagination, my entire body is full of tumors until my painful death. Yet, the reality is that I’m on the couch, very much alive, feeling a lump.
  2. It’s the story I put on the lump that is creating my suffering and panic. Not cancer. These scary stories are multiplying one after the other, just like cancer cells divide and spread.
  3. My thinking uses images that I’ve seen in movies of painful deaths from cancer and I imagine it’s happening/going to happen to me. This is the start. I scare me by believing these images and thoughts.
  4. Even outside this situation, when I have a pain in my body and think the cancer is spreading ~ the cancer is only in my thinking in that moment too ~ I have no proof that the neck pain, migraine, stomach ache is cancer spreading. But I do know it’s spreading in my mind.

TO THE OTHER: “I am spreading the cancer.” 

  1. When I believe the stressful thought “the cancer is spreading” ~ my body reacts. It panics, heart races, caves forward, I’m in fight or flight mode, the body’s natural healing may be affected. So even though I see my innocence in going along with this thought, I can also see that if I don’t intercept thoughts like this with inquiry, I am creating quite a hostile environment in my body ~ and possibly an environment where cancer can spread more easily. So I can see where “I am spreading the cancer” could be true in a way.
  2. I spread the cancerous thoughts to my mother and husband by showing them the lump and labeling it as “cancer spreading.”

YAHOO: “The cancer is spreading!” Yahoo! Sometimes the 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?

  1. If it has spread in my breast, it hasn’t spread very far from it’s original source.
  2. I am thankful I already have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow and she is an expert with cancer cells. She will share treatment plan options which can give me a direction.
  3. So I can notice that even if it’s spreading, I’m still ok in this moment. In fact, without my stressful thoughts, I feel at peace. Happy. Healthy. Sitting on the couch.
  4. If cancer continues to spread, I feel like I would literally be forced to live in the present moment. Which could be…awesome.
  5. The bullshit things that use to annoy me (my husband being late, dirty dishes in the sink, my mom worrying too much) melt away. What’s important is life, together, now and I don’t want to waste another moment not appreciating everything and everyone in it.
  6. So I can identify what I’m believing about the cancer spreading: “I won’t live a happy life. Cancer will kill me. My life is over.” These thoughts can be taken to inquiry and I can already see they are complete BS (hahahaaa, BS is a “Belief System.”)
  7. I am more motivated to really clean up my lifestyle even more…it’s actually exciting. Healthier foods, daily yoga, acupuncture, rest, nature, more inquiry, travel when I can…all with the intention of healing. Living in my own retreat. This sounds nice, actually.
  8. Cancer has a right to live. How do I know? Because cancer cells are living in my body. That’s reality. And it’s not my business when it leaves. But I can do my part: get the best doctors, show up for treatment, take care of my body, thoughts, emotions. Whether it spreads or dies is not my responsibility ~ it’s in the hands of the doctors, medicine, and universe. I can take care of the cancer in my mind, right here and now with inquiry and actually live in peace whether the cancer spreads or not. Wow.

After this inquiry, my mind was completely blown open. I had no proof of cancer spreading ~ it was all in my mind. And look at all of the examples of how my life could be better even if the cancer spreads? What would stop me from living that way now? Getting the best treatment. Eating the healthiest foods. Living in the moment. Loving others and myself unconditionally. Questioning stressful thoughts. Cutting out the BS. This is my prescription for happiness now.

The ironic part about this situation is that the lump disappeared by the time the diagnostic testing began on October 1st. I still have no clue what it was, but it served as a beautiful foundation for the power of the mind in this process. The thought “The cancer is spreading” has come up several times over the past 6 months. In fact, just last week I had a weird pain in the top of my thigh and I watched the thought try to fly in ~ the difference was that this time, I laughed my ass off about it. It was like, “oh wow, look at that sweet mind go…yet here I am with just a sensation in my leg.”And the thought left. And so did the pain. And I still shared this with my oncology nurse at chemo yesterday.

After the series of diagnostic testing on October 1st, the oncologist walked into the exam room and said, “Good news ~ the cancer has not spread to anywhere else in the body.” I’m not going to lie, there was an audible sound of relief for everyone in the room. We all had tears in our eyes; our bodies collapsed back into our chairs. It was a very special, moment that I will always remember.

And some people do not get this news. I am very well aware that someday I may hear that I am stage 4. If it were true, the process would be the same for me. I’m stage 4 and that means? Make a list of the thoughts that come up and question them. Find your freedom now.

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Medical Updates

Medical Update

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There has been a lot of movement over the past few weeks! On January 21st, we met with the breast surgeon and confirmed that I have all 3 surgery options: lumpectomy, mastectomy, double mastectomy. The surgeon was overwhelmingly excited about my breast MRI results, and I learned that even though my response to chemo has been amazing at shrinking the tumors, she still needs to take out all of the tissue that was originally affected by the cancer. This means the lumpectomy (my original preference) would be rather large and noticeable. Click here to read more about my appointment with the surgeon.

I have been in “information gathering” mode as well as “sitting with myself in stillness and compassion” mode (which yes, has involved a lot of tears). Last week I had a consultation with the plastic surgeon; this week we’ll meet with another breast surgeon for a 2nd opinion, and I will continue to speak with other women who have been faced with the same decision. Although I don’t know which option I will choose (or which option will choose me), I trust that at some point something will stand out as a clear YES.

Remember those fun little cysts on my ovaries? This month, I will have another ultrasound and follow-up visit to confirm that they have either shrunken or disappeared. In the VERY unlikely chance they have gotten larger, Dr. Oh (yes, that’s my gynecologist’s name!) may recommend surgery. I envision them gone 🙂

I am in my 5th and final month of chemo ~ only 4 more sessions to go and let me tell you, I am ready! My symptoms continue to be manageable, plus my hair is starting to grow back in the form of fuzzies! Because my WBC (white blood count ~ oh yeah, I’m getting these medical terms down) has been low, the oncologist asked me to skip chemo for a week so that my body can build its immunity back up. This is normal for chemo patients yet feels strange because I feel great! I have re-scheduled my weekly acupuncture to be the day before chemo to help boost my count. Assuming I don’t need to skip any additional weeks, my last chemo day will be March 2nd. Hearing that bell ring….

It was so awesome having my mom in town for a few weeks in January and then my Dad joined her for 5 days. Sound healing & yoga with Mom, acupuncture with Dad, a fun trip to Living Waters for wedding dress shopping with Emma, and time to just chill and be. I am continuing to follow the same diet plus fish & eggs and now 2 daily green juices (instead of 1). And I just finished my 1st “cancer” painting that I will share soon! I love nurturing this little vessel every way that I can.

Something new and fun is that I have started a monthly inquiry circle in Dallas for The Work of Byron Katie. We had our 1st meeting on Sunday and we’ll continue to meet the 1st Sunday of every month. Please join us if you’re in the area! Unfortunately, I made a tough decision to postpone May’s Inner Peace Retreat (Yoga + The Work) so that I can give my full attention to my body in post-surgery recovery. Once this treatment plan is complete, I will be “sharing the crap” out of The Work in many ways: workshops, class series, and retreats.

PS ~ you can always find the latest medical update here: https://bethanywebb.com/blog-my-journey-healing-cancer/medical-updates/.

That’s it for now! xoxo

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Surgery

Part 2: Meeting with the Breast Surgeon for Surgery Options

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FlowFocus

On January 21st, I met with Dr. Ganaraj for the 2nd time to find out what my options are for surgery after chemo. I have been in chemo for over 3 months and the latest MRI from December has shown that the tumor in my breast went from 4.2 cm to microscopic in size and the cancer in my lymph nodes has shrunken from 3.8 cm to 1.2 cm. YEAH!!!

To mentally prepare for this meeting, I have allowed myself the time to discover the benefits of all surgery options: a lumpectomy (removal of the tumor in the breast), mastectomy (removal of one breast), bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts). Although I have been able to find perks (pun intended) for all options, I had my heart set on a simple lumpectomy.

In fact, here is exactly how I wanted it to go…

Surgeon swoops in with a huge smile on her face doing a happy dance and says…“Oh wow, we are all so blown away with your progress and the cancer is almost gone! I’m 100% confident it will be gone by the time you finish chemo. For surgery, we will only need to take just a little bit out to triple check the tissue is cancer-free. You won’t even notice a difference in your breast.” Then she would lay out the timeline for the rest of treatment so I can finally make other fun “life” plans this year.

Ok, so I see I was a bit attached to this specific outcome.

While working on my previous “Part 1” blog post, I began to re-live the thoughts & emotions from the 1st meeting and started to feel uneasy about the meeting this week. I was taking the past and projecting it into the future ~ that’s what the mind does. What if the news she shares is again shocking and not what I anticipated? What if I am, again, naïve about what I think is a surgical option for me? And the biggest thought, “I won’t be able to handle what she says to me.” After taking this thought to inquiry, I decided this is how I am walking into the meeting: my job is to show up, be open, ask questions, and the next step will be shown.

Meeting with the surgeon for the 2nd time was like meeting with a different surgeon. She was full of smiles and relief. She was absolutely blown away by my progress with chemo so far ~ I have literally “made her day” and am the success story she is telling many of her other patients. Look! I got exactly what I imagined for this part!

She said that I do have all 3 surgery options, which is great news. But the lumpectomy she described is not what I imagined. She could “try” to do a lumpectomy but she would still need to take out all of the tissue that was originally affected by the cancer to make sure we get clear margins. When she held out a ruler, it looked to be the size of a tennis ball. She said that it would leave my breast with a noticeable deformity and it would not match the other breast. Radiation could also further shrink the breast. Unfortunately, my left breast is already smaller than my right one ~ damnit, universe, why didn’t you cancer up my right boobie instead? I had thought they could put a little extra “fun” in there to even them out but apparently that’s not possible ~ you just get what you get.

It’s confusing for me because according to the latest diagnostic tests, the cancer is already almost gone and it will disappear even more over the next 6 chemo sessions ~ so why take out so much tissue? She says not all cancer cells show up in tests ~ only the microscope can tell so they take out all of the tissue that was originally affected. I asked, “what’s the point of doing 5 months of intense chemo to shrink the tumor if you’re basically going to take out the same amount of tissue anyways?”

Her response: “Think of the tumor as a glass mirror. When I throw it on the ground, it shatters into pieces. This is what the chemo is doing to the tumor ~ we hope that we are getting all of the shards but they tend to spread out. You did have a few satellite nodules too. And I would be taking out less than we would have needed to in the beginning. Remember that cancer is a systemic disease, so the chemo’s main goal is to kill the cancer cells in the entire body, and because we have seen how well your tumors have responded to the chemo, this tells us it is definitely working for the rest of the body too. This is good news! When you first came in and I saw the size of these tumors, I was really, really worried. So this is just amazing to see your response.” With a lumpectomy, there is a slightly greater statistical chance the cancer could come back and/or she may not be able to get clear margins which could mean a 2nd surgery.

I understand her point of view and at the same time, I feel kind of cheated. It seems like if chemo only shrunk the tumor to half its original size, there would still be the same recommendation for surgery? And something I thought of later and will ask her…after cancer treatment when patients are in so-called “remission,” scans are done to make sure the cancer has not come back or spread to another area. When the scans are “clear,” it means there’s no cancer and everyone celebrates ~ they don’t need to take tissue out each time to determine this. So why is it different now?

So it’s not the exact news I wanted to hear and it’s also good that I do have a lot of options. She said a mastectomy is the safest option from her perspective and the plastic surgeon would make sure that the other breast looks even. The chances of cancer coming back are decreased and I wouldn’t need an annual mammogram on my left breast. I’m open to this and will meet with a plastic surgeon soon for a consultation. Some questions for him are: Over time with aging, does my right boob grow down while the other stays up? Creepy. And is it really true there’s nothing you can do to fill in the breast from a lumpectomy?

A double mastectomy is usually what women my age do ~ that way the breasts are both perky and even for life and an annual mammogram is not required. She says it does not increase the survival rate ~ it’s more of an “emotional” decision according to the doctor. I am not a candidate for using body fat to build the breasts (I don’t have enough of it!) so implants would be used.

I’ll also need surgery in my left axilla (armpit) to remove the cancerous lymph nodes and there are 2 few different options for that. One would be a separate surgery but would involve taking out less lymph nodes and the other would be done during the breast surgery and would involve taking out 10-12 (or maybe up to 35). She is open to trying the first option and if more need to be taken out, option 2. My hubby was the one who brought up doing option 1 ~ GO HIM! And GO HER for being open.

I have been taking this all in and it has been emotional. Right now I see bonuses and downsides for all 3 options and I trust at some point, something will stand out as a YES for me. It’s just so crazy I’m even thinking about this!!! It would probably be an easier decision if I didn’t care what my boobs look like or I was super old… but yes, I’ll admit it: I want the sexy bikini yogini bod back 😎. Some people may say that’s vain but that’s how I honestly feel. Since chemo started and I’ve lost weight, I’ve experienced entirely different breasts ~ they’re smaller, kind of long & stringy. It seems similar to how my girlfriends describe their post baby/nursing breasts. Perky boobs for life may not be such a bad idea…

So my next steps are:

  • Keep gathering questions for the surgeon.
  • Visit with a plastic surgeon to get a consultation, see photos, find out what reconstruction could look like.
  • Get a second opinion for doing a lumpectomy (maybe another breast surgeon feels more confident about taking out less tissue so I can keep my natural breasts without a deformity).
  • Talk with other women who have had each type of surgery.
  • Continue to take my stressful thoughts to inquiry: The doctor misled me. She shouldn’t take out so much tissue. I will make the wrong decision. 

Luckily I have plenty of time to find out what feels right for me ~ surgery will be in April (they wait 4-6 weeks after chemo so the body can build its immunity back). A few weeks after surgery, she recommends the standard treatment of 5-6 weeks of radiation (5 days per week) ~ I have thoughts about this too but right now I need to pace out my mind and take things one step at a time.

Right after our meeting, I was standing in the hallway by myself, looking out the window. It was raining heavily and then started to hail. While listening to the Rain Photosoft thumps of hail hitting the floor and metal railings, I was overcome with a comforting feeling of peace and pride. My eyes started to tear up and I just breathed it all in. Damn, even though the meeting went differently than I anticipated, I handled it so well. And I wasn’t trying to be strong, it was a natural happening. And here I am not knowing what my decision is and I’m ok with it. Ok, with not knowing. Cancer is such a great teacher of making peace with the unknown.

I realize it might be crazy to announce this information before I’ve made my decision. There’s part of me that wants to preserve it so that I don’t unintentionally invite in hundreds of other people’s opinions. With so many other opinions floating around (and there have been many throughout this whole process!), it can be hard to hear my own voice. So I want to be clear: I love you and I’m not sharing this information to get your opinion on what I should do for my body.

It can be very easy to have a clear opinion on treatment when you have never been in this situation. I know, because that use to be me. Before I experienced any of this, I would have said, “people are crazy to even consider chemo and to remove a breast or two is even crazier!” Now my mind is open and I see there is no single “right” way of dealing with cancer treatment; this experience has completely humbled me. I don’t know what’s best for anyone else, ever. Treatment is a personal decision and I’ll no longer judge how anyone else chooses their treatment plan. And I am so thankful to have the expertise of these doctors ~ with years and years of experience with cancer cells.

With that said, if you have been through this experience, I would like to hear from you. Are you happy with your surgical decision? How has your life been affected? Would you do anything differently?

I love that I have the opportunity to share a transparent, “real-time” journey of what it’s like to have cancer and be in treatment. I love that I have the courage to do this and it honestly feels so good, so healing, to be so vulnerable. And if it can help just one person find more peace in this process, it’s so worth it.

So here I am, continuing to lay it all out on the table. Moving forward, the info I share may start to get even more “TMI” (can we say, nipple talk?). What I share is my business and what you read is yours, so I’ll leave it up to you!

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Cancer Diagnosis, Uncategorized

Part 1: Meeting with the Breast Surgeon right after Diagnosis

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The following was written September 18th when I had my first consultation with the breast surgeon. Part 2 will describe my 2nd meeting with the surgeon on January 21st to discuss surgery options.

This morning, I woke up at 5:30am (not like me at all!) and spent a quiet morning in the dark with my mom drinking tea and doing some gentle yoga. In the midst of hamstring stretching and hip opening, I just felt the tears begin to pour out again. I welcomed them. The body just needs to do what it needs to do. She placed her hand on my back while I was in child’s pose and stroked my spine. I am so beyond happy she is here. I love her so much and feel so close to her. I love how intimate we are and that I can share this experience with her. I fell into her arms and we cried together.

I was actually really looking forward to the appointment with the breast surgeon, Dr. Ganaraj…I had my handy list of questions to ask. I was nervous yet also excited to see the doctor and learn more…get a game plan…My mom and I had a great morning walk and I got all dressed up. I decided to wear super sexy underwear to my appointment ~ if things got stressful, I could remind myself that I was wearing a secret, doctor-not-approved baby pink thong…intended to bring some comic relief to a potentially stressful situation.

While in the waiting room, I met my Health Navigator ~ I had no idea that role even existed and wow, what a brilliant idea. She handed me this phenomenal binder of information ~ everything from cancer education to treatment procedures to tips for health and wellness. I was so excited to see recommendations for writing, yoga, acupuncture, healthy diet, humor ~ this is my wheelhouse! The Health Navigator said she is here to support me through the entire process. Their team cares about my wellness as a whole and they want to hear from me anytime ~ I have everyone’s cell phone numbers and they will always return my call the same day. She looks like everyone’s favorite Grandma ~ one you could snuggle with for hours. It was a wonderful introduction and again, very impressed with conventional medicine ~ it’s not what I thought it would be. (Side note: to this day, I have never heard from my health navigator…hahahaha.)

I decided that me, my mom, and Travis should take a “cancer selfie” in the waiting room. My first cancer photo….but wait, Cancer SelfieI’ve been taking cancer photos for almost a year now and had no idea. I have to say, so far I do LOOK pretty damn good with cancer. And even more confusing (but hey – it’s good news), I FEEL really great with cancer. Aside from the whirlwind of believing stressful thoughts as if they were some kind of addictive candy…I’m kind of rocking it.

I met Dr. Ganaraj in the exam room with a big smile. She asked, “how are you doing?” My response was, “well, I’m extremely happy to see YOU!” She was surprised by my reaction and said that usually she is the last person patients want to see. She then did a manual breast exam and I pretended to ignore the extremely worried look on her face. She took measurements of the large lump in my breast and a 2nd lump that I also noticed the night before for the first time (and nearly had a panic attack). Then she measured the mass in my axilla.

I got dressed and we all met in her office. Going into this meeting, I assumed the treatment plan would be pretty simple: we would talk about surgery and then maybe a little chemo…I’d be cancer-free by the end of the year, no biggie. Apparently, I was very naive.

She said that the cancer is extremely aggressive, which is common in younger bodies.

Gulp. Think of the sexy underwear….think of the sexy underwear….NOT working.

She went on to say that there’s a large tumor in my breast and it has spread to my lymphatic system, which means it is definitely traveling throughout my body. The good news is that she doesn’t expect it has taken root anywhere else yet. She pulled up a screen to illustrate how the cancer cells form in the breast and then multiply & divide ~ it was one big blur to me. Aggressive? Really? She said that the masses are too big for surgery now ~ if she did surgery it would be mutilating to my body and could result in possible nerve damage. A series of diagnostic tests will be ordered for October 1st (the day insurance starts) to confirm if the cancer has spread anywhere else. She then recommended doing 5-6 months of chemo first with the goal of shrinking the tumors and mopping up the remaining cancer cells in my body. Surgery would come next and hopefully, the shrinkage could make me a candidate for a simple lumpectomy. Then radiation. Then 5 years of hormone therapy.

Shit. That was wayyyyy more than I was expecting.

It’s a very ODD sensation…to hear someone tell you things about your body and not be able to feel it AT ALL. Then again, would I want to feel this? Maybe reality is kind in this way. It makes it so surreal though. Is she really talking about MY body? I have cancer AND it’s this serious, really? She said the survival rate is pretty good with this type of cancer…Wait a minute…SURVIVAL rate? Is there really a chance of me dying? Could this really be how my story ends? Dying of cancer in my 30’s? My mind already started to picture Travis with his second wife since the first love of his life died of cancer. This thought is unbearable. She’s gorgeous, by the way ~ very exotic looking with long dark hair and deep green eyes…she’s a wonderful mother…and he’s happy with her. I become just a memory.

Yet, here I am. Alive. Healthy. Still married.

I told the doctor how confusing it was to hear this information, because I feel so healthy. It was a very “out of body” experience hearing her describe what’s supposedly going on in there. And geez, I’ve built a career out of being “in tune” with my body. I guess I’m not as intuitive as I thought. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “You feel healthy because you are healthy.” Ok, I think I like her.

I then asked in a shaky voice, “will I lose my hair?”

“Yes. Within the first few weeks of chemo.”

I literally felt a dagger in my heart. My hair. My boobs. My two favorite parts of my body. I was known for these things!!! Don’t you know the girl with the mermaid hair, double D boobs, and a size 2 yogini bod? That’s ME damnit and this “me” is being threatened on all levels. In high school I had the nickname of “PT” which stood for “Perfect Tits” ~ some guys at another school created a jingle for them…”Beth’s breasts are the best…”

Sigh.

The surgeon said she would set up an appointment with the oncologist right away and schedule the tests. As we said our goodbye’s, I started to feel my body tremble. I was barely holding it together. As we walked out of the office door, I completely fell apart. It was like my legs stopped working. Travis held me up as we walked through the lobby and then parking lot. My mom grabbed the keys and told us to sit in the back together. I collapsed into the car and began whaling.

There was no stopping the mind from going all over the place. Fear of death, pain, suffering consumed me. Anger, confusion, terror, shame, panic. This was a necessary vomiting of the mind and although it was one of the hardest moments, I still felt supported in the car, being held by Travis, mom driving.

I have been able to revisit this moment and identify numerous thoughts:

The cancer is spreading.

I will die young.

I won’t know what to do.

This shouldn’t be happening to me.

Chemo is poisonous to my body. Evolved people don’t choose chemo.

I created my cancer.

My body betrayed me.

Chemo will make me look sick and ugly.

I will be in unbearable pain.

I’m not intuitive/evolved. Evolved people don’t get cancer.

I’m a failure.

I should have gone to the doctor sooner.

I can’t handle this.

Cancer will prevent me from living a full life.

Cancer will ruin us financially.

And this is why I love The Work of Byron Katie. I am able to go back into a stressful experience, identify thoughts, and one-by-one, question them. As I meet each thought with understanding, I gather more and more proof that suffering only exists in my mind. It’s what I’m imagining might happen that creates my stress. It’s what I’m believing about cancer, about chemo, about my body that sends me down the rabbit hole. And what I’m believing isn’t real in the moment. I was in the car, being held, and driven home. Reality is always kinder than the movies playing in my head.

In the upcoming blogs, I will begin to share the full inquiries that have impacted me the most ~ you may be able to relate to them in your own life even without an illness, and it will give you an insight into the mind of a cancer patient.

So even though September 18th was one of the hardest days I have ever experienced, it was also a doorway into living a more fearless, present life. Thank you, Cancer.

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Uncategorized

Getting the Call ~ “You Have Cancer”

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The following are 2 journal entries written the day of and the day after I found out about my diagnosis.

September 16th, 2015

imagesIt’s hilariously insane how many times I checked my phone today. Today could be the day I get the call. I wasn’t experiencing fear ~ it was more like an excited/anxious anticipation. The feeling I use to get right before a big basketball game in high school or before starting one of my yoga retreats.

I taught a morning yoga class and the rest of the day was open. I thought about going to get my car washed and decided to stay at home instead and dive into some Netflix Therapy while I continued my Phone Stalking. I successfully distracted myself with a new series on Netflix called “Rectify” (highly recommended!) and then Travis came home.

I was on episode 4 when I got the call. “Holy shit! This is it!” It was in the afternoon and Travis was next to me on the couch. (Thank God I didn’t go for that car wash!). The home was quiet. I answered the phone & put it on speaker. The doctor said she just got the pathology report and wanted to call me as soon as possible.

“This is the part of my job that’s really difficult. I’m afraid I have bad news. They did find cancer in both the breast and lymph node.”

Time stopped ~ there was a quiet stillness that’s hard to describe. It was as if someone else’s life was being described to me. My hand grabbed Travis’ hand. “It’s called Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma, grade 3, and it’s the most common form of breast cancer.” Good, I thought ~ that means doctors will know how to deal with it. She shared how she recently had a patient who was 27 years old and diagnosed with the same cancer ~ she is now doing great and just had her 1st baby. “People make it through this and live very happy lives.” She said she would send the pathology report to the breast surgeon, and then find out if the surgeon recommends I wait until my insurance kicks in October 1st to have a consultation or begin now. Unfortunately, with biopsies you can not tell what stage the cancer is, or if it has spread to other areas. It started in my left breast and had definitely spread to my left lymph nodes.

My lulus have cancer. I looked down at my left breast. Really? It looks so connection2divinefine, it feels so fine other than some soreness from the biopsy. That’s cancer in there? How is this possible? As soon as I got off the phone, I turned to my husband and the tears began to flow. The best words I can use to describe how I felt were…. “surreal” and “fucking weird.” I loved how my husband held me, both crying/trembling together. I love him so much my heart could burst.

Then all of the sudden, my body got extremely hot. So hot, that I had to take my shirt off. I paced around the living room…Wow. What? Really? I remember actually pinching my arm multiple times to see if this was some sort of crazy dream. Me? Cancer? Realllllllly?

I called my mom on facetime. That was really, really hard. Nobody wants to get this phone call from their child. Seeing the tears in my mother’s eyes while I told her the news made it more real. She nodded her head, “Okay, okay.” I love that the moment I asked if she could come to Dallas, she responded with an immediate “Yes, of course.” Her ticket was booked within an hour to arrive tomorrow. We agreed that she would call my Dad and that I would call my brothers.

What started to plague my mind the most was…HOW is this possible? Why is this happening to me? How did I get cancer? I had thought that perhaps all of the inner work I did up until this point would have given me a “cancer bypass” ~ I already learned all I needed to know, right?

I’m 34. Young. Healthy. Happy. Yet, this reality is still true. I hear Byron Katie’s words, “who would you be without your reasons?” It really is the best time for me to have cancer, isn’t it? I have a healthy vehicle and the time and support to take care of this now. I have the tools to fall in love with it. I gently caressed my lulus and thanked them for showing up.

It wasn’t until 6pm that I realized how bad of a headache I had and that I hadn’t eaten lunch. Sweet Travis jumped to prepare dinner for me. Earlier, he had said, “you don’t have to do anything around the house anymore, honey. I’ll do all the cooking and all of the cleaning. I’ll go get your car washed too.” How amazing is he? I was more than happy to receive. My Dad and I traded texts ~ he said how proud he was of me for how I am handling this. I agreed. Then we texted hilarious images back and forth….my favorite one being the poop emojis with big eyes and smiley faces.

The doctor called back and said that the breast surgeon thinks that it’s fine for me to wait until October. The surgeon offered to clear time in her schedule Friday (in 2 days) for the consultation so that we can begin testing on the 1st. She said she would comp the visit since I don’t have insurance yet. Wow. Kind. Universe.

I cleared my work schedule the rest of the week. It feels like my “healing team” is all coming together.

Around 8:30pm, the body and mind just fully let go. Let Out LoveI started in a child’s pose and the tears began to pour out. Deep whaling, shaking, moaning…I just let it all out. At one point, I was hovered over the toilet, dry heaving. It
wasn’t painful, it just felt like the body needed to do its’ thing and luckily, I have had a lot of experience with emotional healing to know that all I need to do is to get out of the way. Then I laid in bed while Travis massaged my head.

Right now, it’s 3:47am. I’ve been up since 1am or so. My mind is active and I felt the need to write. I have no idea what I’ll be doing with these words. I don’t know if another eye will see them. I just know I am supposed to write. My head is starting to feel better too. Breathing.

September 17th, 2015

My mommy is here! My mommy is here! I picked her up from the airport ~ one of the BEST hugs I’ve ever experienced. There is something so soothing and comforting about being nestled into your mothers chest. I. Am. So. Happy. She. Is. Here.

BeforeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA she arrived, I had the morning to myself and it was magical. I did my morning “steam & tizzle.” This is a new tradition for me ~ I’ll boil ginger and turmeric root in water, place my face over the steam and breathe it in for a few minutes. Then I’ll add clove and steep a bag of decaf green tea. I love to drink the tea with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and raw honey ~ it’s incredible and is anti-inflammatory, helps with allergies, boosts immunity, cleanses, & is high in antioxidants. After my steam & tizzle, I went for my morning walk. I felt so much more present ~ like the best high I’ve ever experienced ~ the colors, sunlight, sounds were so much more alive. There was this lively sense of quiet inside of me. I’ve had similar experiences when I attend Byron Katie’s workshops & schools. Life is simple. Life is beautiful.

At the end of the walk, I talked with the property manager at our condo. He said, “I don’t mean to pry, but you’re in such great shape and you’re so beautiful ~ do you really just do yoga? I mean, you look like you’re in your 20’s.” I remembered that he had just had a mini phone consultation with my husband last week, getting tips on food/exercise/stress relief. I told him, “yes, it’s yoga, walking, and I do love rebounding and swimming. Organic foods are important to me and I’ve learned to listen to my body and eat what feels good ~ I’ve been known to rock pizza and a burger too. I also think the most important thing is to take care of the mind ~ and we use The Work of Byron Katie to deal with stress. When the mind is stressed, the body’s systems don’t work efficiently.” But then I could feel myself begin to turn “my experience” into “advice giving.” And then I blurted out, “But shit, what do I know ~ I just found out yesterday that I have cancer. So yes, you can do all of these amazing things for your body & mind and still get cancer!”

It felt good to be blunt and honest. I mean, really…what do I know about health for anyone else? Living this way feels right for me, nurturing for me. I will continue to live this way to support healing cancer. I’ve come to realize that I have created a wonderful vehicle to support cancer healing: I’m young, healthy, strong, open-minded, and know exactly how to deal with stress.

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