"I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." -- Anne Lamott
Well, I'm pretty sure the title of this post says it all but just to be clear...
On Friday, March 17th, I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer with an unknown primary source.
For those of you who are a little uncertain what metastatic cancer means, it is cancer that has spread from a primary location to another location in your body.
Yeah, it's still a little hard for me to wrap my head around too.
However, if I'm honest, it really wasn't that shocking given the golf ball size swollen lymph node in my groin. Hearing the words come out of my doctors mouth was still, needless to say, disheartening.
For me, the last six weeks have been filled with doctor appointments, antibiotics, ultrasounds, CT scans, a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, biopsies and waiting.
A lot of waiting.
And you probably want to know the story, where I'm at and how I'm moving forward with this very strange and unfamiliar diagnoses.
I've been debating on whether or not to share and how much to share because there is so much unknown still. Part of me wants to keep this tightly wrapped in my protective bubble of a handful of family and friends because it makes me feel safe. Ultimately, I think there is great power in vulnerability. I think there is a power so mighty and fierce in the collective whole, and that in some strange way, that by sharing, something great will come from this.
In some strange way, from the moment I was diagnoses, I've felt this, in an almost unexplainable way, was a gift that will unfold with time. And part of my purpose in this life is to share, with the hopes that someone reads something that may help them.
So here is the story, where I am at with all of it and what I am currently doing about it.
THAT LYMPH NODE IS HUGE!
About six months ago I went to the doctor for a swollen lymph node in my left groin. It was big enough to be concerning and it was painful and also coincided with another infection but my doctor didn't seem too concerned. Even when in my gut I wanted to press for more tests, I ignored it and kicking and screaming, got on the antibiotics she prescribed and the infection and lymph node went away with a seven day dose. Two weeks later, I was climbing Mt. Whitney and my swollen lymph node was a thing of the past. I didn't really think much of it other then my initial gut feeling of, "Something feels off here."
Then at the end of January I developed another infection and the lymph node became swollen once again and started to become extremely painful. I decided to go back to my doctor and see what she thought. However, this time I went back to my OBGYN instead as I had a better relationship with her and I knew she would be fully on board to do anything to get to the bottom of this.
We decided to put me on stronger dose of antibiotics for 14 days because there was a chance that if this was again an infection, it could be contained in the lymph node. So, again kicking and screaming, I started this gnarly dose of antibiotics but when nothing changed, we both became concerned and decided that we needed to explore this further.
The following week I went in to have an ultrasound which showed that there was definitely an abnormal growth. Duh. I'm no medical professional but the golf ball size lymph node in my groin was a pretty good indication that something was abnormal.
Then came the biopsy; which, let me just say, I've been poked and prodded so many times in my life and I usually barely blink and eye, but this one got me good. More so emotionally then anything.
And then it was back to waiting. Lots of waiting. Which is always the worst.
Then on Friday, after an emotional week of doctor calls and waiting, I got the call from my doctor with the final pathology report: Metastatic Cancer. I had cancer, it had spread to the lymph node and we have no idea where it started in my body.
hey, what's up your um....?
Serendipitously, I had already had my annual colonoscopy schedule for March 21st and my mom was flying in March 20th to take me to my appointment and spend a little quality time with me. My colonoscopy is a part of my yearly screening for colon cancer, which I had when I was twenty-four.
Part of me thought this was going to be it. I was almost sure of it. But after my upper and lower scope showed no signs of stomach or colorectal cancer, I was rather shocked (and relieved). We could cross those off the list. Can you see the excitement in my eyes right after my procedure. ;)
Then on Thursday, March 23rd I got a CT scan with a barium contrast to indicate if the primary cancer was anywhere from my lungs down to my reproductive organs. Other then the lymph node in my groin, the scans revealed nothing. No masses or tumors here either.
This super 'delicious' stuff is what you take before a CT scan. I kept saying it was my "banana milkshake" to my mom while singing, "my milkshake brings all the boys to the ground..." as I chugged the chalky paste down.
So now what?
An interesting thing happens when you are diagnosed with cancer. You want answers and you want them RIGHT NOW. You want to know exactly what you need to do right this very instant to make this thing go away.
Time stands still yet everything else is moving so damn fast around you.
Its like in the movies where the main character is standing in a busy intersection and everything is racing around them at lightening speed and you are just standing there staring. How can life really be going on around you when YOU just found out you have cancer?
The big "C" word consumes your every waking moment. If you are extremely proactive like myself, you are researching any and everything you can. From possible forms of cancer that metastasizes to this specific lymph node, to holistic and natural treatments and protocols I can start incorporating right now to get the body ready for whatever may come, cancer is on the brain at all times.
More then anything though, this has been a huge exercise in seeing how far I've come and leaning into the unknown. I've been forced to dig deep and bring forth everything I've learned over the last few years about coping and thriving through the unfamiliar waters of the unknown without completely melting down.
And throughout this all, I've felt a sense of calmness and peace I've never felt before. As if, everything tool I've learned, from mediation to self-love and forgiveness, to eating in a way to support my body through this, to asking people for exactly what I need, has armed me with everything I need to get through this patiently.
Because unfortunately, there is a lot more waiting ahead of me.
And that is where I am at now.
My case has now been turned over to the Moore Cancer Center oncology department at UCSD and is being reviewed by the oncologist on staff. I hope to get an appointment with them in the next week.
But for now I wait.
I imagine next will be a PET scan to indicate potential hotspots and possible surgery to remove the lymph node.
So now the big question. How am I emotionally with all of this?
Initially it was hard to hear that once again, cancer had found it's way back into my life. Being faced with it at such and young age and watching members of my family and friends go through it for several years, I'm no stranger to cancer. But here's the thing, no matter how many times you hear the word, it's still just as shocking when someone says, "You have cancer."
Then throw in the word metastatic and it can send you into a bit of a panic.
However, after the initial shock wore off and as my colonoscopy and CT scan came back clean, I'm optimistic that this isn't as bad as I had originally thought. That hopefully, it's just some weird rare cancer that is confined to my lymph but looks like metastatic cancer.
In the meantime I've put myself on a super strict Alkaline diet, working with my natropath/Chinese medicine doctor incorporating as many holistic and natural therapies as I can right now to get my body and immune system as strong as possible.
I strongly believe the body can heal itself when given the right tools. I also believe that sometimes Western medicine is needed and this is one of those times. So I'll be using both to heal from whatever is going awry in my body.
As I wait to gather more information I'll fight like heck to do whatever I can in the meantime to start the healing process. And that looks a little something like this:
Immune supporting therapies
Alkiline, organic diet ONLY
Colonics and enemas to properly detox
Therapy and Reiki
Visualization and mediation
Essential Oils (Frankincense and Myrrh) and many others
Laughter - lots of it!
And I'm reading and talking to EVERYONE I can about all my options. I'm not going to rush into anything until I know everything I can.
Below is one of the books I'm reading.
And the lemon tree my mom bought me... when life gives you lemons...you drinks LOTS of lemon water for detoxification.
I know some of you may role your eyes at this but there are countless stories and research out there that support the incredible benefits of Integrative Medicine and that is the only way I'll be comfortable treating this.
At the end of the day, it's very personal. Although I choose to share openly because I believe sharing and connecting with others is not only healing for myself but could possibly help someone else, this all comes down to one thing; what feels right and the best to me.
And I truly hope you learn to apply that same idea to your own life.
In the meantime, I have a favor to ask all of you. Whether you pray, meditate, think positively, climb big mountains to feel closer to your source, please keep me in mind when you are doing all of it.
Keep me in your thoughts, your prayers, your meditations, your light. When you are doing things that make you happiest, I hope you can radiate that joy my way. I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of the unknown. And I believe, more then anything, that I will get through this with your love, laughter, and light shining my way.
I plan to document this journey as much as I can through this blog and videos. So if you want to be apart of it, please check back regularly.
Until then, so much love to all of you.