Cancer Didn’t Keep Me Down
When I had an oral surgeon give me the bad news: it’s cancer–I wasn’t entirely surprised. After all, I had been experiencing a mouth sore in my upper pallet for nine months that should have healed in 30 days. It really didn’t hurt much, it just wouldn’t go away. What was surprising was that I was one of the most unlikely candidates for the diagnosis. I never smoked, only drank a glass of wine occasionally, and had regular checkups at the dentist.
Most of the doctors I saw that year (2014-15) relied on their ability to see cancer cells in my mouth, and they never did. No one ever recommended a trial of antibiotics either. Cancer doesn’t respond to antibiotics, so it could have helped with an earlier diagnosis. The cancer was small and slow growing, but it was aggressive and had started attacking the bone. There were several options, and I chose the most difficult, but the one that was most likely to have the best outcome.
A friend from church recommended the VCU Massey Cancer Center and set me up with my first appointment. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I realized after the surgery the doctors couldn’t possibly accurately describe the procedure I went through without scaring me to death. I tried to be informed and prepared, and my faith, my family and my church community supported me all along the way. I was so blessed to have so much support.
My surgery involved removing four molars, and the bone they were attached to. Then the bone was replaced with bone from my shoulder blade and it was stitched all back together with muscle tissue from my back. It was a 10-hour surgery—almost twice as long as my husband’s open heart surgery to repair a heart valve and a bypass procedure three years earlier.
My head was swollen like a basketball. I had a tracheotomy, so I couldn’t talk and used a dry erase board to communicate while I was in the hospital. I was in ICU for one week and a step-down unit on the same floor for a second week. The trach was removed the morning before I was released.
I was so glad to talk again. It was so hard to communicate with just the dry erase marker. Although I stayed on a feeding tube for five months, I forced herself to eat solid food so that I wouldn’t lose the ability to swallow.
I followed the doctor’s orders pretty closely, but my family and I did some additional research to learn ways to restore my strength. Just 30 days after the surgery I had 30 radiation treatments. The treatments only lasted about five minutes each, but the five days a week really wiped me out.
Getting my energy back was a real challenge. I was told that it would probably take a full year for my body to recover. I drank protein shakes, fruit and vegetable purees and tried an herbal protocol that involved taking 40 capsules a day. Needless to say, that was hard to swallow.
It helped, but was difficult for me to sustain, because of the difficulty I had in swallowing so many pills. I began looking for a liquid supplement and found one called Ningxia Red, a fruit and vegetable puree infused with 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils.
I found that not all oils are alike, so I recommend not purchasing cheap oils thinking they will actually improve your health. And most cheap oils cannot be ingested because they contain additives to create a scent. Always read the label. I chose Young Living essential oils because the company is very clear about where the plants are grown, how they are harvested without pesticides, and how they are distilled—first run only and not diluted, as are cheaper brands.
I also used an essential oil room diffuser. I found that the days I felt well enough to get up off the sofa to do things were the days I remembered to run the diffuser. Lime is my happy oil. Every time I felt productive, I had lime in the diffuser. My use of essential oils is a journey that will take another session to explain, which I will do in a future post on www.boomerconnections.com.
My husband Daryl and my two daughters, Sarah and Megan, were my research team. I didn’t want my cancer to come back, and my husband didn’t want another heart attack, so we started looking for ways to prevent a reoccurrence of both illnesses. Daryl came across a protocol developed by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, called the 4 Pillars of Health.
It is such a sensible approach: food, movement, sleep and relaxation. If you can manage these four aspects of your life, you can improve and maintain a healthy body. Chatterjee’s philosophy is to empower every individual to become his own architect of good health.
I look at the 4 Pillars as a breakdown of the complicated medical procedures we generally follow. I’m not talking about throwing out modern medicine. I’m talking about doing what I can to assist in my recovery and stay above the wellness line. I am forever thankful for the great skill of my surgeons and the excellent care I received from Massey. Now it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to stay well and make their work successful.
My hope is that what I learned through my ordeal can help others going through tough health challenges. I think people fighting cancer and other serious illness will be surprised at how much they can do on their own. It’s like baby steps becoming giant leaps towards wellness. Don’t ever feel like you are alone. There are so many people who have survived cancer and other traumatic illnesses who want to help. I will be letting you know about some of my resources and tips as we continue the conversations here at www.boomerconnections.com.