When I first received my cancer diagnosis, I was really pissed. For the last 20 years, I have been focused on health. Through diet, exercise, eliminating toxins and practicing yoga and mindfulness, I thought I was the picture of immunity health. I ate a primarily organic, gluten and grain free diet. I kept all artificial crap out of my life, and really focused on being a healthy human being.
But I missed something important. I was an anxious and stressed out mess. In addition to my full-time job as an accounting and business instructor, I also took on extra projects writing curriculum, tutoring, and was nearing the end of a very stressful doctoral program. I was sitting at my desk for upwards of 14 hours a day, with “breaks” to run, walk, practice a little yoga or cook a meal. My Garmin would ping me every now and again to get up and move, and I would reluctantly comply. I was FAR to busy to take much time to clear the move bar on the device, but I did my best.
Once I was done with this work like crazy life, I would go to bed, but my head would just spin with thoughts. I put together my to-do list for the next day, stressed about students, strategized getting everything graded, worked through the next iteration of my dissertation, and tossed and turned. I wasn’t sleeping more than two or three hours at a time, without waking with a random thought or need to pee. This had been going on for years, and it took a cancer diagnosis to realize I was living in a state of constant fight or flight. I was not releasing emotions or feelings well, I was working too much, sleeping to little and literally stressing myself into a compromised immune system with my lifestyle.
This had happened before, in 2015, when I got very ill with Lyme disease. At that time, I was drinking to much, and had put on some weight due to stress. I was running all over the place, teaching accounting in one town and yoga in a couple of others. I was either teaching or in the car driving from one location to the other. I had just gotten home from a trip, where I was in four different airports over a long weekend, with a half marathon thrown in. My immune system just couldn’t handle it and I got sick. I made some serious lifestyle changes at the time, but then slipped back to my old routines far too quickly. Fast forward to 2020, when I found the lump in my right breast. But it was COVID and it was hard, if not impossible, to get in for an appointment. Then my insurance was changing at the end of the year, so I wanted to wait (thinking it was just a cyst), until I could do any treatment at one location instead of two different ones.
The next challenge was making sure that the diagnosis and treatment aligned with my beliefs. If you have followed me for any length of time, you know I have some alternative views on healthcare, and have had some extremely negative experiences in Western medical settings. I made an appointment for my annual thermography at my local naturopath’s office, with a follow-up with a new primary care provider when the thermogram results suggested it. What followed was a disastrous few months of trying to navigate the western medicine paradigm (this will be a whole other post…).
Ultimately, I had a successful lumpectomy and sentinel node removal on April 12th. I had made some dramatic lifestyle changes since I originally thought it might be cancer after the January thermography. Reducing the stress in my life was the step close to the top of my list. I had been reading several different books on the metabolic approach to healing cancer, and how others have healed themselves naturally. Getting stress under control is a primary factor, but to be honest, far more challenging than ANY of the other steps I needed to take.
First, I took a leave from my doctoral program and discontinued my part-time job tutoring. I stopped all of the extra curriculum writing projects, took on no new clients for my small tax preparation business. I formulated a plan that included just my teaching job, which I was luckily able to still be doing completely remotely, and my tax client list who have been with me for a long time. I got my daily “work for money” schedule down to about 4-5 hours per day and spent the remainder of the day working on self-care and self-healing. My diet was streamlined to the “Keto for Cancer” diet, which was a pretty easy transition. I really just needed to eliminate dairy and watch my blood sugar and ketones a bit closer.
The stress management part also needed to include implementing a daily meditation practice, with no excuses on NOT making time. I was able to purchase a PEMF mat, infrared mat, near-infrared light, and get on a solid supplement plan. I started spending more time in our infrared sauna, that had been sitting sad and lonely in a corner of our house for lack of time to get in it. I feel fortunate that I was able to take these steps to support my healing journey.
I also had to face many of the dark places in my mind. I had to confront suppressed anger, resentment, trauma, and sadness. Grief that had been dormant needed to be dealt with. I needed to do some serious work on my ability to speak my truth to truly get well. I needed to allow myself to be vulnerable, ask for help, say when I needed something, learn that the word NO is ok to say out loud, and just be generally more honest. I needed to reframe my perception of events in my life to be able to come to peace with them. EVOX took a defining role in that process.(Want info on EVOX? Message me!!)
Today, five weeks after the successful surgery, I feel physically very healthy! I have been running a time or two a week, walking almost daily, added back a regular yoga practice, and have taken some serious steps towards stress reduction and emotional health. I am working through some programs that are helping me to take these steps to successfully navigate my health going forward, and determine what the future looks like from a work perspective. Many of the extraneous tasks I removed in January are not coming back, but few will come back with serious boundaries around them. I learned this year that it isn’t selfish to take care of yourself. If you don’t get your stress under control, and face your inner darkness, you are not going to be able to take care of others. Put your own oxygen mask on first….