Thursday, April 21, 2011

Love, Medicine, and Miracles

I named this post after the title of a book by Dr. Bernie Siegel because I feel that throughout my illness and recovery, I have seen evidence of these. Siegel feels that these are all necessary to recover from cancer. I have seen this manifest in different ways. I am amazed that I have even witnessed a miracle. It is easy to forget that miracles can take place in this modern age and time, my friend Nadine reminded me weeks ago. Well, it's true.

Love for me can take many forms. In this context, I have seen it in three ways. First, I have seen it in the prayers of those around me. Prayers from my family, friends, and church community as well as prayers from co-workers and even strangers. When someone prays for you, it's like they are saying I care about you enough to take a moment to think about you and ask God to have favour on your circumstance. It says, I love you. That's huge! I appreciate every prayer that has been said. I draw strength from these as well as from my own prayers. Next there is demonstrative love. I have seen generosity in a number of ways. I was so touched when my sister with her young family (husband and baby in tow) flew to Toronto to be with me for moral support. When she told me she would come, I told her that it wasn't necessary. (Too much to ask, I thought.) But this visit meant a lot to me and took the form of daily visits. Although, I just had surgery and had a longer than expected hospital stay, I got to hold and cherish my nephew and in those moments I did not remember that I had a stiff neck or dizziness or fatigue. My phone was ringing a lot in the weeks to follow as I heard from cousins, friends, relatives, coworkers, and my mother (twice and sometimes three times daily). My mother-in-law to be is also dealing with illness so we were able to call each other during the day to provide mutual support. Each week I had a few visits from friends which lifted my spirits with our jokes and laughter. Then there is my fiance who saw me daily and although I had bloody scar and surgical tape on my neck and dry, pale skin, said I looked so cute in my blue pyjamas. He put up with my mood swings from exhausted and dizzy to hyperthyroid to "hypo hell". My mother who came over two times (not the end I am sure) to clean our apartment with her efficiency, zeal, and ferosity. My dad who fixed things and drove me to some of my appointments. My older brother who listened and provided a shoulder to cry on two days before my surgery when I was so afraid. And my baby sister who helped me to celebrate Valentine's day with chocolates and novelty gifts. Flowers, cards, and stuffed toys. Njeri with her phone calls and a gift of a juicer. Encouraging e-mails. A phone call in with my kindergarten students filled with "I love you" and "When are you coming back?" In these and so many ways, I have seen love demonstrated. Then there is the community. Church people who I did not know well but offered to help. One offered a therapeutic touch session. Another provided conversation and an ear to hear the ups and downs of my illness. My pastor who regularly checks in. Community is rich and necessary. This is why I felt at some point that I needed to reach out to other cancer patients and survivors. I started to go to Wellspring for support. After I began to speak with other cancer patients and survivors, I felt this weight begin to lift off my shoulders. I did not have to keep this a secret and the word cancer stopped scaring me. In fact, I felt stronger each day. From my first visualization/meditation class to the very intense yoga, I realized the fierceness and strength of being a cancer patient/survivor. I go to Wellspring a few times each week to participate in workshops as well to learn about cancer prevention. I am participating in their creative workshops too. The cancer survivors and patients I have met are ready to share their stories and I am always inspired by them. I feel blessed.

Without saying much, medicine has been a huge part of my journey. Medicine has taken the forms of the customary treatment for thyroid cancer: diagnosis, surgery, thyroid hormone replacement, and radioactive iodine ablation. But I have learned and practiced other forms of healing. Naturopathy has helped in preparing for the surgery and follow-up. The homeopathics and different products help to encourage my body's own healing response. Yoga and meditation helped me to still my mind, decrease my anxiety, and increase my positivity. Reiki and therapeutic touch were both new to me and provide balance and clarity. My own self-directed healing comes from food, books, and creativity. Food which is a source of medicine with its vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and other healing properties. (You can see my Vegan Photo Album and Living La Vega(n) Loca posts). The books and magazines which I am reading have provided excellent sources of information regarding healing, veganism, and recipes/nutrition. (Please see my Book Reviews.) I've started going to counselling again to help me process all of the issues that are coming out of my journey. Lastly, creativity has helped me in my healing journey through art, journalling, blogging, and music. Although I have not done too much musicmaking (except learning a couple guitar chords and playing Motown and Erykah Badu songs on the piano) recently, I find healing in listening to uplifting songs. Right now, it's all about the roots reggae so my online radio is locked to SKY.FM.

I find that miracles have been part of this journey too. Maybe you wouldn't call them all miracles but I do. When the unexpected happens or you're at the right place at the right time and things fall into place, it is easy to take these for granted and disregard it. The first miracle I had was meeting Woody Harrelson (please see my post Living La Vega(n) Loca). I am not a huge fan of Harrelson but I've become one. Since my surgery, I read Alicia Silverstone's book which inspired my veganism and Alicia was inspired by his lifestyle and activism to become Vegan. Also I had watched three of his films-- Zombieland, Defendor, and Go Further. So imagine my shock, when I saw him and met him. Another miracle came with my health. Most thyroid cancer patients stay for 2 days in hospital. I stayed for 4 days because I had hypocalcemia. Hypocalcemia is caused by a lack of calcium in the blood. Calcium is an electrolyte which promotes normal functions in the body (especially the heart). You can survive weeks and weeks without a thyroid (although you would be in "hypo hell") but cannot survive without calcium. My calcium levels were extremely low. The cause of my hypocalcemia was the removal of my 3 out of 4 of my parathyroid glands. Parathyroid glands help to regulate calcium levels in the blood and I had one of these glands. Only thing my gland was not working because it had to be moved during the operation and reimplanted. So with calcium pills and intravenously, it took four days for my calcium levels to get to a normal level so that I could leave the hospital. For the next several weeks after, I had to take very high doses of calcium carbonate (3 times daily) and Rocaltrol (an expensive medication) until my parathyroids could work. I'm happy to say that two months later, my parathyroid gland did work and I do not have to take these anymore. Also, after struggling to find a new endocrinologist (see my post The Best Cancer or A Tale of 4 Endos) without any effort on my part, I was transferred to Endo #4 (this was another miracle) who said it was safe enough for me to fly next week. This meant that I would be able to attend a healing retreat for young adults with cancer. So when I e-mailed Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC), they still had a space available. Since it was so last minute, the prices of the flights had gone up and my AirMiles would not cover it. The miracle came when a person said they wanted to help me that same day. She wished to remain anonymous and is paying for half of my ticket. I've never had a stranger want to help me in such a big way. I asked her if I could mention this donour on my blog and what this donour wanted for this donation. The answer: to know how the retreat was for me and to "play it forward". Amazing!!!!

I will continue to add to this post from time to time as I see evidence of love, medicine, and miracles in my healing journey.

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