Over this past summer I attended a First Descents kayaking camp in Vail, Colorado and it was possibly the best experience I have ever had. Even though that trip was two months ago (I can't believe it has been that long!) I still think about it daily. Today has been one of those days where it has been on my mind constantly and for some reason I had an "ah-ha!" moment about something that has been bugging me so much.
I haven't been able to get one question off my mind since I applied for the FD camp... why does kayaking, of all sports, seem to heal us and empower us the most, especially after cancer? I have thought about it and thought about it and I have come up with several semi-satisfactory answers but nothing really seemed to hit the nail on the head. Then today it hit me like a brick... and I was surprised by the answer that I found. When cancer strikes it takes our sense of adventure away from us. We are bound to beds and hospitals, prisoners of i.v.s and medications, and we lose our sense of life... at least for a short while. I think everyone is effected very differently in this matter... in my situation I was bed bound for roughly four months and then had several months of recovery after that, making it impossible for me to do any physical activity for over half a year. To some that might not be a big deal, but it just about killed me. Some people might never lose their energy and some might lose it for years. Everyone is different. But I think regardless of how physically weak cancer makes you a sense of adventure is still lost. You wonder how long you have left to take part in these adventures, how long you have to see the things you want to see and do the things you want to do.
Kayaking embodies all that we miss out on or fear we will never get to experience. Sky diving is adventurous but it takes little physical strength and it is over in a few minutes. Same with bungee jumping, base jumping, etc. Snowboarding and skiing are fun and exciting but they take a considerable amount of skill and practice to really be able to enjoy and not everyone ends up being good at it (I for one am terrible). This is where kayaking is different. It takes enough skill to make you proud of being able to accomplish it but it doesn't take too much skill to where you have to practice for weeks or more to enjoy it. Kayaking also gives you that sense of risk every time you approach a rapid or hit that wave, and when you make it you can't help but get excited. Kayaking also allows you to see things you might otherwise never see. It combines the rush of sky diving, the views of hiking, the fun of snowboarding, and the self satisfaction of competing because even though it's not a race you have exceeded your own goals. Kayaking makes you feel alive in a way that no other activity really does. At least this has been my experience.
So thank you First Descents for giving me a week where I felt more alive than I have in my entire life. There is so much more to say about this camp but in short, the people I met and the things I experienced made me want to chase after that feeling of wholeness that I found there for the rest of my life. I will never again feel like I can't be complete or that I can't thrive in life. That week proved to me that I can.
Death is something I think about on a regular basis. Not to be depressing, but it's a reality. But death is rarely something I talk about. Probably because the only people who would be able to understand are those who have been there themselves, and I know very few people who have been in similar shoes as me. But here, well, I'm sure most people that read this have been in the cancer battle at one time or another so I feel more comfortable sharing in this place. And sometimes death is just something I need to talk about. Can anyone relate?
I never actually felt like my cancer diagnosis was a death sentence but I definitely had my moments where I thought I might be seeing the Lord sooner than I expected. I remember the first time I thought about dying after I heard my diagnosis... it was about three days later. I woke up one morning and found myself just praising God that he allowed me to wake up one more day. It hit me that morning that my colon could rupture any day and I'd be gone. For almost two weeks I went to bed every night praying to be able to wake up... then when I woke up I prayed that I'd be able to go to bed that night. I wasn't fearful, but I knew death was a serious possibility, and I just wasn't ready.
This is just a short note to say that it's ok to think about death, I would venture to say all cancer patients do, but try to not let it run your thoughts. That is still something I have to remind myself of. When death crosses my mind I will let myself think on it briefly, but then I try to focus on feeling alive instead :)
When I got diagnosed with colon cancer I immediately called a highly regarded naturopathic doctor in my area to ask him how I could change my diet to fight the cancer. I was still planning on doing surgery but I had made the decision to not do chemo or radiation unless my situation was marked as terminal. Not that I have anything against those treatments, in fact chemo saved my husband's life when he had childhood cancer, but I didn't feel it was right for me (and my oncologist actually agreed... man was I surprised!). So I wanted to learn some different ways that I could fight the cancer off naturally. This doctor recommended one book..."Alkalize or Die" by Theodore Baroody. When I saw that the book was actually published in the early 90s I was taken aback... surely there had to be a more recent book? Something cutting edge? But now I can say that after reading numerous cancer-diet-plan type books this book is surely the best.
To get a detailed overview of the alkaline diet read over this website: http://www.alkalizeforhealth.net/
But the gist of it is focusing on our ph levels. You see, our bodies have a ph level, kind of like a pool does, and that ph level can tell us how healthy our bodies are. You're either on the alkaline end of the spectrum or on the acidic end. The majority of people today (almost all actually) would be classified as acidic, and when your body is acidic cancer grows rapidly. The theory with this diet is that if you are able to change your ph level to the alkaline end then cancer will be incapable of growing, and if you have cancer it will eventually die (I say theory here because I have not truly tested it on myself, though after studying it I have to say I'm inclined to agree that it sounds like it would work, even though I know it sounds a little cooky).
I was sick for over 4 years prior to being diagnosed (I went through years of misdiagnosis) and there was only one time in those fours years that I felt healthy. That same naturopathic doctor that recommended the book to me put me on an alkaline diet about a year before I was diagnosed with cancer. I thought I might have something called Leaky Gut Syndrome since I always felt worse when I ate (at the time I didn't think I could have cancer because I had been tested and the tests came back negative). Two weeks after being put on this diet I saw a drastic difference. At this point I had been having intestinal bleeding for several years on a daily basis but two weeks after being put on this diet it stopped. I went a month with no bleeding and had I been more disciplined in that diet I think it might have cured my cancer, but it was very hard to stick to.
That, I have found, is the most difficult part of treating cancer naturally. It is so important to be vigilant and stick to it. I was a college student at the time and just had a really hard time saying no to going out to dinner with my friends. That is the one regret I have, not sticking to that diet... I think my treatment would have gone more smoothly and who knows, I might not even have had to have surgery! But I can't say that for sure.
I wanted to post this because I truly believe that there are so many options out there for cancer patients that doctors don't make us aware of. Even my best doctors had no suggestions for me as far as diet after surgery... even my dietitian at the hospital told me to eat whatever I wanted as long as I felt ok! Cancer has been proven in most cases to be largely diet related... what we are exposed to can greatly effect our health (this could include food, hazardous chemicals, or even things such as laundry detergent and cleaning products). Therefore it seems only rational to think that exposing ourselves to healthy things could prevent cancer and possibly cure it. Just a thought.
This blog is something that has been a long time coming in my life. I have been studying and learning and trying my best to acquire some type of information that might be helpful to someone else out there in my situation. I finally decided to create this blog when I realized that there is no magic healing information and I will never know enough to feel useful. I had to come to the understanding that the point of a blog is to share what you know, even if it isn't a lot, in the context of what you've gone through. Sometimes experiences help even more than book knowledge can, and experiences are something I have a lot of.
So for my first entry, the knowledge I'd like to pass along is something I learned back in 2006 but never really fully understood until I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Shortly after Steve Irwin's death in 2006 I saw an interview with his wife Terri and she said something about him that stuck with me. She said that he always lived his life urgently... if someone came up with an idea, or someone wanted to go do something, he wanted to do it immediately... there was no waiting with him. He lived urgently. She said he did this because he always knew that at any moment his life could be taken from him and he never wanted any regrets. As quirky as he might have been, it was evident that he lived his life exactly like that... urgently and with no regrets.
When I found out I had cancer that interview was constantly on my mind. I didn't know how long I had and I wanted to live the rest of my life with no regrets. I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me as well as focus on what was truly important to me (this will be a later entry because the things you think are important drastically change when you get cancer... a lot to say about that). I wanted to live my life urgently.
That was easier said than done, I found out. There are too many bills to think about (especially after cancer) and jobs and school... the things that matter easily get pushed aside. But I have tried, and am still trying, to live my life to the fullest the way Steve Irwin did. This blog is another baby step for me. Cancer awareness is something I'm passionate about and desperately want to be involved in, so this is my way of doing just that. I hope that here you will find a few answers, even if not many, but most importantly I hope you will find comfort. You are not alone and through cancer you might be surprised to discover how many new friends you will make. Good luck with your own journey, and I hope you enjoy reading about mine.