You make living with cancer easy: Believing in a cure, giving thanks for what you have, and NEGU (never ever giving up!)

Yes, I am told that I make living with cancer look easy. Is it my hair, my NEGU team, my docs, my nurses, the food, or all the rest I do? I have no idea and I really wish there was a magic answer. All I can tell you is there is no auto pilot in any medical issue. You have to take control and make living your priority. I know this sounds easy, or maybe it doesn’t.  I am consumed by tests, many visits to the cancer center both UCLA and Hoag (more than I would like!), drugs, supplements, eating, exercise and just plain living. Living with cancer is like training for a marathon with many unknowns and a lot of ups and downs along the way. Not like I have trained for a marathon. I know I am thankful for my body. As it speaks to me, I whisper words of thanks and treat it with kindness too. Thank you body! Thanks for not being too tired even though I know you are. Thanks for yelling at me to rest and keep you safely away from germs. Honestly, your body does talk to you, you just have to listen. Yes, I often feel that something is not right, and I am proof that when something isn’t right, it isn’t right.

My nurses tell me to stand strong in the way I handle my disease and don’t waste too much time explaining to others what or why I do what I do. No one can fully understand what I do on a daily basis to stay strong. I still like to reach out to others especially those who are in the fight. I do have to apologize for my approach. I have seen a lot and seen a lot of women lose the fight. So, I don’t have tolerance for doctors who can’t think outside the box and patients who want to be on auto pilot to manage cancer. Yes, I wish it was so easy, but it is a job. I have explained it simply.  Having a cancer job means that just like you question what you put in your mouth when you eat, you should question the medication put in your mouth and in your veins. It also goes further than that. Get to know your body. I believe I have made some mistakes in the past like walking around the San Diego zoo with little immune system to end up with pneumonia. About 9 out of 10 people I sit next to at the infusion center have no idea what drug they are taking and at the same time having horrible side effects from chemo. No one should be vomiting from chemo. There are loads of drugs to manage side effects. Also, I am a firm believer in eating. Yes, I can’t taste my food and have no appetite. You need food to stay alive. Yes, I believe in supporting your body with a variety of things both holistically, naturally, and plain old pharmaceuticals. When it comes to cancer, chemo kills cancer, radiation kills cancer, surgery kills(removes) cancer, but food supports your body. If you want to find what will kill your cancer, find the right doctor. Each doctor has their expertise. This is why I have a large team of docs. They all have something to add, but I know without chemo I wouldn’t be alive. The chemo kills the cancer for me. Each person is individual and there is no one size fits all approach. Cancer is scary. Answers are scary. Understanding how cancer behaves is scary, but it isn’t. With so little control, the control has to be in the understanding of it all. I get lots of questions and a lot of upset patients with their doctors. There is no one to blame except for the patient needing to ask the difficult and specific questions to their doctor. When the doctor can’t answer, find a new one. Doctors are not fortune tellers and don’t have all the answers. My oncologist is my partner in my treatment. We have learned a lot about cancer, each other, and lots of chemo drugs. He understands my motivation and my tolerance, so we work together on a plan. I know he has 100s of patients and each has motivation or a set of issues. I make myself his priority when I have to.
So while my blood counts are finally in a good range and safe range to exit my house, I will take a vacation. I will take a break because I deserve it and my boys deserve it. I will appreciate every moment after all these weeks trapped in the house. I will enjoy my boys and not sweat any of the small stuff. Sometimes you just need a break from cancer. Spring is here…enjoy your day, find your sunshine, live for today and don’t let the small stuff invade your every day. A few more words I have to say. Don’t procrastinate doctor visits…make your appointment today. Your health is too important. Thanks to all the supporters! Without your help especially with Alex, today would be different. One last tip from some amazing teachers Alex has had: listen to your child(ren) and pay attention to their body language. Often, the body language says it all. Just listen, don’t solve their problems. I know it is difficult to not give words of wisdom, but often those words can wait. Again, make the most of your day! As my dream of tropical breezes becomes a reality, I will be making the most of all these days without chemo. Bon Voyage to the Caribbean! In a week or so, I will be back to the chemoland and closet. Until then, mai tais, mojitos, and martinis!
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