Emotional Fallout Support
After writing my last post, which was real for me, first of all, thank you, as I received so much heartfelt support. The parents have been very supportive. Friends have reached out here and in Facebook-land, or called. We saw Maria and Yani for brunch and a short hike at Chautauqua Monday after my appointment with Dr. West. It is so important to have social connectedness and support, and I thank you.
And second of all, just getting it out there, acknowledging it, and getting it off my chest, helped a lot. In other words, I listened to the parts and what they were feeling, acknowledged them, and they calmed down. IFS for the win! Yay!
Monday we saw my integrative oncologist Dr. West. It was a good pre-chemo meeting, with an updated supplement protocol. She is suggesting/prescribing supplements to offset the side effects of the chemo drugs I’ll be getting, for example to protect my heart from the Doxil. Another side effect of Doxil is hand and foot syndrome, but she says she has never had anyone experience it, so that would be great if I can just bypass that.
One of the recommendations she has, is also backed up in Valter Longo’s book, The Longevity Diet, which she recommended. That suggestion is fasting before chemo, 24, or 48, or even 72 hours ahead, because it puts regular cells into self-protective starvation mode, but the cancer cells have their oncogenes turned perpetually on, so for them it is full steam ahead, and so they are more susceptible to the chemo. Longo calls it the magic shield. He talks about how oncologists have been looking for years for that magic bullet that will only target cancer cells and not healthy cells. Then he had this idea of creating a shield for cells. He says on page 119 of the book:
Imagine a battlefield where ancient Romans and Carthaginians are mixed together wearing very similar uniforms. The common approach of cancer therapies is to seek a magic “arrow” (or “bullet”) that will kill only the Carthaginian soldiers, without harming the Romans. This is tricky, because the soldiers all look the same to archers standing fifty yards away.
But suppose before shooting their arrows, the archers ordered the soldiers, in Latin, to kneel and raise their shields. Because only the Romans would understand the command, they would take cover, while the Carthaginians would remain standing, exposed to the incoming arrows.
In this imaginary historical example, the Romans are the normal cells of the body, the Carthaginians the cancer cells, the archers the oncologists, and the arrows the chemotherapy. If you starve a cancer patient before injecting chemotherapy, normal cells will respond by putting up a defensive shield. But the cancer cells will ignore the command to kneel and thus remain vulnerable — providing a way to potentially eradicate cancer cells with minimal damage to normal cells.
And he has backed it up with studies. So whoohoo! Not only will it target the cancer more but it will not affect the normal cells as much, and therefore side effects should be lower.
So, I will be water fasting the day before and the day of, and not consuming carbs the morning after, for this go-round. In the future I might up it to two days before, but baby steps…. Water fasting is hard.
Along the lines of not feeding cancer cells sugar/carbs, which they love, I have been advised to follow a therapeutic ketogenic diet. I have been struggling with it because I just can’t believe it is good for me to be missing all the nutrients in fruits and vegetables. But Dr. West said something to the effect that, “Yes, but reframe that idea, because all those nutrients are going to feed the cancer.” Ahhhh. That helps my perspective. So I’ve been being more keto this week. Actually I think I’m doing pretty well. But keto flu? That is a real thing, as the body suffers withdrawal from carbs. Massive headache on Wednesday, and bowel disturbances Thursday, but am feeling pretty okay today. So hopefully that is the worst of it.
So starve the cancer of sugar, and put the normal cells into self-protective starvation mode, to cause the chemo to be more targeted to cancer, and voilà: A one-two punch.
I am admitting to myself that I actually might be using the “fight” metaphor more this go-round. I had been hesitating to do so before, because cancer is simply part of my system that has gone awry due to various stresses, but they’re also little growing-to-infinity machines that will not stop themselves, so maybe I must view it more as a fight.
In the same way that the Nazis were not going to stop themselves, and something had to be done, maybe I can view this as an honorable, noble war. At the same time I will continue to work to stabilize and normalize my system so it is not necessary for stressed out cells to turn into cancer. WWII could have been prevented with a much larger world view, and less punitive reactions to WWI. But hindsight is 20/20, yes?
I remember from many years ago, reading that a study had been done (I don’t know where I read this!) that if a patient visualized their immune system as a tiger and the cancer or virus or bacteria as a prey animal, and that the tiger was hunting and killing and eating successfully, that patients had better outcomes. So maybe I’ll try that while chemo-ing.
Back to Dr. West, another thing that came out of it was some possible emotional roots to my problem. I ended up crying, because they both were saying, “You are too heady, you need to get into your body, you need to inhabit it more, get grounded.” And I have a part that has a really strong reaction against that. It says, “I don’t want to be in my body!!” So I will be working on what that is about and how to deal with it.
Which leads me to counseling. I’m a counselor, *and* I have my own counselor for this process. She is someone who knows both IFS and EMDR, and so we are going to keep working on how to unload whatever is needing unloading. I saw her Tuesday after Monday’s appointment, and we approached that topic. That’s all I’m going to say about that, though! Client confidentiality!
I had been meaning to get to the dentist sometime after my blood cell counts normalized, and never got it done, but we’ve seen things go by that indicate having a healthy mouth should be a priority before chemo treatment. It has been a little too long since I’ve been. I have no complaints, but thought, well I’ll see if I can get in for a cleaning and check up before chemo, so I had set an appointment for Wednesday. However, Dr. West advised against it, because I’m in between laparoscopy and chemo, and setting free any bacteria would be a bad thing right now. So luckily I was able to cancel the appointment without any negative ramifications. So I’ll have to wait until November or December or maybe the new year.
No Rec Center
Along those same lines, I have an annual membership to the local rec center which is paid monthly. I had been told that I could suspend it at some point if necessary. So I had emailed, but gotten no response. The auto-withdrawal date was approaching though so I called and asked directly. I said I needed to suspend it due to health reasons. First she wanted a doctor’s note or something, and I just had to laugh a little, and then say, well I have ovarian cancer and I start chemo again on Tuesday. She backed off quick at that point, and expressed her condolences and concern. She also made sure that my one remaining already-paid-for personal training appointment could be moved out past its current expiration date of October to February. And, what’s more I got an email from the director expressing his concern and wishing me well. So that was lovely. I hope to get back there, but while immuno-compromised it’s not good to be around too many people, and their germs.
So, pre-chemo, and because Grant has another job at his long-time clients’ house in the mountains, we will be going up this weekend. It should be lovely. They are so awesome to allow us both to stay and just be at home there. Normally someone else is there also but this weekend we’ll have the place to ourselves it sounds like. So that is a little pre-chemo vakay that we both need. Maybe we’ll do a bit of four-wheelin’, and certainly we’ll get in some walks and small hikes.
Day of Chemo
So on the day of I will be having an echocardiogram as a baseline for them to make sure the Doxil isn’t changing anything for the negative. That, unfortunately, is scheduled for 7:00 a.m. And I live 1.5 hours away. Ugh. Then there will be labs at 10:00, meeting with the doc at 11:00 and chemo at 12:00. Grant wants me to have some back up support, in case I have reactions to these new drugs, or to the old one (apparently I could have an allergic reaction to the carboplatin), and he needs to work, so he has enlisted our dads to go down and meet me there. We are not expecting them to get there by 7:00 as that would be cruel and unusual. But it will be good to have backup, and for them to hang out together as well.
So I guess that’s it for now. Can’t think of anything else anyone absolutely needs to know at this point.
Just send me some vibes, positive energy, pray for me, whichever…. Some triple blind studies have shown that prayer works! And some haven’t. Here is an article that discusses it, quite scientifically while raising very theological questions, interestingly enough. Pretty humorous depending on your point of view.
In any case I’ll be working it on my end, to the best of my ability.