anxiety and cancer, finding peace with cancer, stress and cancer, the work of byron katie and cancer, Uncategorized

Are you eating Fear or Peace?

The most important ingredient in healthy eating has absolutely nothing to do with food. It’s not about being vegan, paleo, keto, vegetarian, ayurvedic, or a raw foodie. Nor is it about ditching sugar, carbs, gluten, trans fat, dairy, soy, GMO’s, or red meat.

This ingredient is free and accessible anytime, anywhere. It’s actually quite medicinal and has zero negative side effects. It pairs beautifully with any way of eating. Would you like a taste?

It’s called PEACE.

With so much conflicting information and health fads around diet, it’s no wonder we all get so freaked out about food. Add a cancer diagnosis (or any health condition) to the mix and it’s the perfect recipe to turn the art and joy of eating, shopping, and cooking into a frustrating and fearful experience.

Before cancer – especially in the 8 years prior to my diagnosis – I was a really healthy eater. Mostly plant-based, organic, with minimal dairy, gluten, and processed sugar. I did cleanses 2-3 times per year and exercised regularly. And cancer still had a party in this yogini body. I do feel nutrition is super important which is why it has been a huge part of my healing plan. It can also be a source of stress.

In the same way that I question my stressful thoughts about medicine (ex/ “Chemo is poisonous to my body ~ is it true?”), I question my thoughts around food.

Here’s a popular mindset that use to send me into panic mode…until I added a question mark.

EatingPeaceorStressBethanyWebb.png

Let’s inquire

“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.”

Let’s explore this belief together using The Work of Byron KatieCan you absolutely know that it’s true? Can you 100% know for sure what every bite of food is doing to each cell in your body right now AND in the future? Are you some kind of magical medical psychic with X-ray vision?

I call BS (Belief System). I know people who eat fast food every day and they don’t have cancer. I’m the healthiest eater in my family and the only one with the C word on my resumé. And I can also find ways that it’s true ~ there’s plenty of research and I do feel better when I eat better. But can I absolutely know it’s an irrefutable fact? No. And you may find a “yes.” Both answers are valid ~ it’s all about what’s true for you. And it’s so worth taking a look at the cause and effect of being this thought.

How do you react, what happens when you believe that every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it? How do you live your life?

Anxiety, fear, guilt, shame…Mind goes back and forth like a ping pong ball – is this good or bad? I overthink everything and get overwhelmed. I compare myself with others and feel ashamed if I eat a piece of pizza or drink a beer. The joy of eating disappears. I become controlling and then exhausted. My body is tense, my stomach contracts. Jaw clenches, breath shortens, and my heart races. This sounds like the ideal internal environment for digesting a meal, eh?

Who would you be without the thought? (Whaaaat!?!? But I NEED this belief in order to put healthy food in my body.)

Oh really? Test it.

Hmmmm….Without the thought, I actually feel more relaxed and at ease. I’m enjoying the meal that’s in front of me. More present and eating becomes a mindful meditation. I relish in the flavors, textures, and smells. My body is breathing more fully and my stomach softens. I pay attention to how my body feels afterwards too. If I don’t feel so hot, it gives me a clear direction for the next meal. Or not. No self blame or shame. I can research in peace. I notice I crave clean, real foods more often. It’s a natural happening rather than a requirement. Cooking is a true joy – I become more creative and inspired.

Turn the thought around…how could the opposite be true?

Every time you eat or drink, you are NOT either feeding disease or fighting it?”

Where is the stress? Is it in the actual food or is it in what you’re thinking and believing about it? It’s more stressful in my head. Then the body reacts to the beliefs and creates a pretty shitty inner environment for digesting anything, let alone healing a disease.

Now that my mind is clearer, I’m free to eat however I choose, WITH a side helping of PEACE.

Eating peace

There is no one healthy way to eat. Bodies are unique and go through many changes and seasons as they grow up. What works now may be totally different in a few years (or even next week!). What’s best for your body may be different than mine. So I stay in tune with my body, my business. And I’ve learned a lot.

During treatment, it felt really clear for me to eat an organic, plant-based diet and eliminate meat (other than fish), dairy, sugar, soy, alcohol, and caffeine. I started my day with ginger & turmeric tea and a green juice or smoothie. Click here to see more details. And some people rock mac n cheese throughout all of chemo – that’s ok too! Since treatment has ended, I’m more Flexitarian. I’m also traveling a lot and still watch mind get tempted with stress around food. It’s my practice and peace is my priority.

Cancer has totally upped my game in the kitchen…cooking is a joyful meditation. I’m that annoying person who posts pics of her food on FB ~ many people have asked for recipes so I created a new page on my site. If you want to get alerts for new recipes, follow my facebook page. Here’s a taste…

So what’s on your plate?

If you’re ready to put a little more peace on it, join our upcoming Inner Peace Retreat April 27-29th in the Texas Hill Country. You’ll have an entire weekend of nourishing food for your mind and body with the help of a Private Chef, 2 Certified Facilitators of The Work, and Inquiry + Yoga Therapy Sessions. Save $50 when you register before Tuesday, March 13th!

InnerPeaceRetreat_YogaTheWork

Work with me…

Schedule a Private Session

Loving What Is Workshop ~ Yoga & The Work: March 24

Inner Peace Retreat ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: April 27-29

Making Peace w/Disease Online Series: May 7-June 11

Related blog posts…

Nutrition & Supplements for My Healing Cancer Journey

All-Natural Remedies for Chemo Side Effects

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

Mental Medicine ~ The Work of Byron Katie

Cancer Diagnosis, finding peace with cancer, Inquiry, stress and cancer, the work of byron katie and cancer

HOW would you LIVE if you knew you were dying?

Flashback to 17-year-old me at a Tim McGraw & Faith Hill concert with my besties when one of our favorite songs comes on, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Jumping up and down, belting the lyrics (in perfect harmony, I’m sure), swaying side by side…

Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it

What would I do with it? Well, at that time, my main focus was obvious: try to capture a pic of Tim’s gorgeous butt in those wrangler jeans.

Now that I’m 36 and have rocked through the cancer party–it’s safe to say my priorities have shifted a bit.

One thing I didn’t expect is that Death has become a welcomed, fascinating meditation. You’re dying. I’m dying. We’re all dying. Let’s face it, bodies don’t make it. No medication, supplement, prayer, meditation, exercise, or amount of money will prevent you from transitioning out of this body.

So why do we spend so much time fearing it? Why is death looked at as a worse-case scenario? A bad thing? And why is it such a HUSH topic of conversation?

In my recent blog post, “Diagnosis = New Direction,” I talk about how I prefer to explore my nightmares now. And one of those nightmares is the cancer coming back terminally and being given those words, “there’s nothing more we can do. It’s only a matter of time.”

And here’s my favorite question to contemplate…

How would I live if I knew I was dying?

The time in between my diagnosis and waiting to find out how much the cancer had spread were 2 of the most amazing weeks of my life. All of the daily bullshit stressors completely dropped away and I found myself in an incredible state of gratitude for everything and everyone. I experienced joy in the simplest of pleasures ~ riding the trolley, watching our godson’s soccer games, cooking a meal, sitting under a hot shower, holding hands with my husband, stepping on acorns (not kidding ~ there is something SO gratifying about the crunch of an acorn!).

As I try on this scary future and let myself feel through the terror…I see an opportunity for even more presence, slowing down, deeply connecting with my loved ones. Appreciating every second that I am able to see my Godson grow up. Falling in love with my husband all over again.

I see sharing my experience of dying with others and learning from others. I see acceptance, peace, gratitude for every moment that I’ve been given. Forgiveness ~ making amends with others and within myself for anything that still hurts.

I see traveling more when/if it’s an option for my body. If I can’t travel, I see asking my friends from all over the world to send me short 30 sec videos of the inspiring places they go and things they do.

I’d say YES to adventure…I’d try that salsa class, jump on a surf board, go white water kayaking, float in a hot air balloon.

I’d snuggle. A lot.

I’d continue to take care of my mind with self inquiry and would question thoughts like “I am dying…can I absolutely know it’s true? Or is it truer that in reality, I am still here breathing? Is it possible that I am even more alive than I have ever been?” 

I’d love on my body with nourishing foods, movement, time in nature. I’d love the shit out of that piece of chocolate cake and glass of wine too.

Any part of aging would be such a privilege ~ finding a grey hair or wrinkle? Yes, please! That means I get to get older.

I’d probably have some pretty stellar freakouts ~ and just like I did during the cancer journey, I’d get to learn over and over again that I’m still ok in this moment…and this one…and this one…I could feel the intimacy of being with myself in that deep pain & suffering. And the intimacy of being held by someone else.

And there’s one more thing I would be super motivated to do:

FINISH. MY. BOOK.

(Yes, I’ve been writing a book! Woot! Woot! More on this later 😉

So…WHY wait? I can live ALL of this now.

Perhaps the turnaround to my question is truer:

How would I live if I knew I was dying living?

With an open mind, death can be a catalyst for truly living. This contemplation on dying is giving me the perfect prescription for how to fully embrace life. So what are YOU waiting for? #RxLiveLikeYouAreDying

Work with me…

Schedule a Private Session

New! Inner Peace Retreat ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: April 27-29

New! Making Peace w/Disease Online Series: May 7-June 11

Related blog posts…

How I Found Peace During “The Waiting Game”

A Different Kind of Breast Cancer Awareness

Diagnosis = New Direction

Surgery

Part 2: Meeting with the Breast Surgeon for Surgery Options

FlowFocusOn 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!