BCA: Personal Stories

Sister V.

THE CURSE OF THE MOTHER.

That's how I jokingly refer to my breast cancer. I had so often been told that I was at risk. But I stood my ground. Not even the threat of cancer could push me to begetting children and being tied to family life. I was a free spirit following a unique path. It caught up with me in 1993 at age 51.

MAMMOGRAMS: THE PARTIAL TRUTH.

My mammograms had always been 'negative' so I was not terribly concerned to find a small lump and did not act on it immediately. I later came to know that it is a rather common occurance to have cancers undetected by this technology.

OFF WITH THEM!

The journey officially began with the biopsy. Minutes after the procedure the news came that it was cancer. My immediate response was not what the surgeon expected. I said that if it came to a mastectomy, both breasts would have to go. I had no intention of going through life literally out of balance. Fortunately, the surgeon was able to convince the insurance company of the prophylactic efficiency of doing two for one. A new lightness and freedom was about to come into my life. The loss....two useless sacks of fat.

While I generally have a distrust of and contempt for conventional medicine, I had no problems with the idea of a mastectomy. The procedure is superficial and non-invasive. I was also fortunate enough to find a surgeon with an open mind who let me be very involved with decisions and who supported my choices.

NEWS OF THE DAY.

The lab reports said that I had a slow growing estrogen receptive cancer. That was the good news. The not so good news is that several lymph nodes were involved.

SURVIVING THE HOSPITAL.

Hospitals are very toxic environments run by people who with the best of intentions offer drugs and food that deplete the body's resources. I consulted with almost everyone involved before the surgery. I demanded glucose free saline and refused anti-nausea drugs. (I even checked the bags in the OR!) I also passed on post-op anti-biotics. I brought most of my own food which was supplemented with specific foods prepared according to my directions. Amazingly, everyone was quite cooperative and fortunately my stay was short.

JUST DO IT.

I had to stay in the hospital for two days as there was no one home to help me. Obviously I was not 100% with the limitations of movement and tubes decorating my chest. But I had prepared the house to make things workable. I was able to cook and even managed to keep the garden watered, a must in the hot Texas summer. One week later I drove 30 some miles to the doctor. Three weeks later I was mowing the lawn. It's a BIG lawn. Someone had to do it.

TO CHEMO OR NOT TO CHEMO.

Just as all was going so well, the prospect of chemotherapy came up. Just the word oncology makes me shudder. This is the inner sanctum of modern medical insanity and it felt like I was being thrown to the lions. I consulted not one but three high priests before finding one with whom I felt marginally comfortable to preside at the initiation. Once was enough. More than enough. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This treatment had nothing to do with healing. It was pure insanity. I took the fastest exit, firing the high priest and severing the cord which would have kept me bound for life to the health care industry and pharmaceutical corporations. The high priest predicted doom and gloom. But I choose to live and die on my own terms without regrets. I felt like I had dropped a thousand pound weight.

In retrospect, this seems more and more a logical decision. The statistics predict a 50% five year survival rate without chemical intervention. Chemotherapy only raises the percentage slightly. Yet 100% of women were being subjected to this near lethal treatment. It became obvious that the biggest benefit was not to the patients but to those offering it. (The procedures and tests are fiendishly expensive!)

OTHER OPTIONS.

Divorcing myself from the medical establishment did not mean there were no alternatives. Most of my life I had been collecting healing tools and this was the time to put them to the test.

I had been a vegetarian since the early 70's (though I still included dairy and other questionable foods). But by the early 80's I had become familiar with macrobiotics and concluded that it was the most balanced approach. Unfortunately, I did not stay on the diet but through reasons not under my control went back to a more refined grain diet that included dairy, sugar etc. I decided the day of my diagnosis that there was no option but to return to a strict macrobiotic regime.

I also had a background in various body therapies including acupressure and at one point practiced massage therapy. This knowledge has been very helpful in releasing adhesions and reconnecting meridians that were severed and imbalanced from the stress of surgery and chemicals. Within just a few months of the surgery, I had regained full movement of my arms. The numbness has taken longer but now has returned to about 95%. The only sensation I cannot register in that area is temperature. In time I feel that everything will return to 100%.

When I can't fix myself, I rely on others to do the work. I have an excellent chiropractor who speaks my language. I have had some acupuncture too but have not yet connected with just the right person for in depth work.

But the most important tool in my treasure chest deals not with the body but with the mind. Since 1980 I have been practicing Vipassana mediation, a Buddhist practice based in moment to moment awareness. It became such an important part of my life that I spent nearly four years in monasteries in Sri Lanka leading to ordination in 1987. This deep spirtual rooting allowed an ease in dealing with the cancer and life under the new circumstances. There were no tears, no emotional upheavals. Just an observing of changing circumstances as the mind has been trained to do.

SO FAR SO GOOD.

It is now over three years since the surgery and I'm not dead yet. In fact I seem to be in good health. The surgery seems like a distant blip in the tapestry of life. But I don't deny I'll feel some relief when I can report that five years have passed.

There is no way to know how long I will live. Or if I will die from cancer or other causes. But I stand by the decisions I have made and accept the consequences whatever they might be. To date those choices have brought a high quality of life (actually better than before the surgery) and peace of mind. What more can be asked of life?

FROM ME TO YOU.

I hope that my story encourages other women to embark on their individual paths with self-reliance and conviction. If you feel that personal contact would be helpful to you on your journey, I can be contacted at:

Sister V.
P.O. Box 382
Cedar Creek
Texas 78612