|It’s very hard to share my story or to find a place where I feel I belong because when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in my right breast on January 16, 2011, I chose to opt out of the current standard of care treatments. Instead I had two lumpectomies (a second for wider clear margins). It was hard to stay “out of the main stream” treatment. But as I left my Oncologist’s office after stating my choices, she gave me a beautiful gift. She wrote on a piece of paper “David Servan-Schreiber MD ANTICANCER: A New Way of Life” and handed it to me, saying ” if this is the path you are choosing, you will need this book.”
This book changed my life, my eating style and I am alive and cancer-free today because of the choices and changes I made in February and March of 2011. Yet, I hesitate whenever I meet a group of survivors to share my story because I would never want to discourage anyone from their choices the way I have been discouraged by others. Strangers have said to me that I “must fight.” I dropped out of the Cancer “Support” Group because they were unsupportive. I left the Tumor Center because they called me several times a week to question my decision in various ways. I was accused of “just being scared”, and of being foolish.
I withdrew to my family, who supported my decision completely. My three children, their spouses, my 16 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren are all more attentive and fully understanding of my choices. I was 70 years old and had lived with a debilitating and disabling chronic pain disease most of my life. The permanent side effects of having lymph nodes removed, having radiation and chemotherapy were more frightening to me than dying of the cancer without intervention. My surgeon was understanding and supportive, my individual oncologist was helpful to answer my many questions and give me the tool I needed, the anticancer book. I went to a Naturopath to get advice on how to combine and use the supplements I choose to add to my diet.
My plan was to fully support my immune system in every way I could. That turned out to be meditation, supplements, talk therapy for old issues, and a diet free of sugars and starches and embracing multigrains, vegetables and fruits, and grass fed meats and dairy products in small amounts. I learned to love Asian mushrooms and other foods I had rarely used before. I’ve become a better cook, using Indian, Asian and Mediterranian recipes. I am a pacifist at heart and rather than fighting my over-active cells which had become cancerous, I embraced them with love and light. Once recovered from the two lumpectomies, I felt better and had more energy than I had known for years. My hair and nails improved and I lost 17 pounds. At my 6 months and year checkup, there was no sign of returning cancer.
This is where I find myself today. What I chose is not for everyone. If I had been a young mother my decision might well have been different. Cancer may still be the way I leave this life. But my life is improved every day by the decisions I have made in the past 14 months. I offer my experience to anyone searching for a different path. As I left my General Practitioner’s office last month, she said to me “I so admire what you have done. I wish we could offer your path within the standard of care for older adults to choose from. Doctors and patients are just not ready to entertain the idea yet.”
I have gained one of the five to seven years I hoped for when I began this journey. I’m less anxious, more peaceful, and more healthy than I have ever been. Life is full of those things I had been putting off. I’m writing more, started drawing and painting, working on another book of poetry and communing with friends and family more often and with newly minted connection. Every day is important now. I’m sure this at least can be understood by cancer survivors.