Inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE WORK OF BYRON KATIE – THE FOUR QUESTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Who would you be without the thought?

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

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

TURN THE THOUGHT AROUND

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

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

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

Examples:

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

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

Examples:

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

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

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

Examples:

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

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

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

Examples:

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

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

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

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

Some additional thoughts that I have worked about chemo:

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

People judge me for choosing chemo.

Chemo will give me a lifetime of serious side effects.

Chemo is making me too tired.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

One friend who attended a workshop sent me this message:

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

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

 

START YOUR OWN PRACTICE OF THE WORK

 

HELPFUL RELATED BLOG POSTS

 

Do you heart this blog? Well it has transformed into a book baby…join my mailing list to get the scoop about its upcoming birth into the world! #mygurucancer
Alternative/Complimentary Therapies, Medical Updates, Surgery, Uncategorized

Update: Post-Chemo & Pre-Surgery

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!

Do you heart this blog? Well it has transformed into a book baby…join my mailing list to get the scoop about its upcoming birth into the world! #mygurucancer