Cancer And The Single Gal, Part 1

It’s been a while since my last post. This blog was a bit of a security blanket during the worst of things..somehow recovery and the return to “normal” life made it less of a pressing need. Now that life is not so normal anymore, I’m feeling the old familiar urge to pour out my thoughts and feelings in black and white.

Life has taken quite an unexpected turn over the past year. My health is still good as far as I know. I mean, I get the routine pat down and once over, but my oncologist is of the belief that scans and cancer markers are only to be done if symptoms warrant them. And I’m ok with that philosophy being a firm believer in the power of suggestion to create illness. My body and I have a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement going on. It’s working for us so far.

No, what has floored me is my sudden evolution from a sometime chiropractor/fulltime domestic engineer to a single mom who finds herself navigating uncharted territory and needing to support a family. SINGLE…MOM. Not words I ever expected to actually apply to me, even though Lord knows the marriage was a roller coaster ride of alcoholism (his), codependency, and a failure to communicate. To actually take the leap and start a new life after the million times I fantasized about it…terrifying and exhilarating all at once!

Last summer, after a nasty argument fueled by a weekend binge, my husband decided to accept a transfer to another state while we weren’t speaking. I found out when my suspicions led me to check his e-mail and I saw that he had been looking at apartments in Atlanta. He admitted that he had accepted the job, and it appeared that he was leaving without us to start a new life. Things eventually settled down and we agreed to work things out and make the move as a family, selling our home in North Carolina to relocate to Atlanta. He started the new job in July while I dutifully stayed behind to pack, clean and handle every detail of getting the house ready to market while also setting up our new lives in Atlanta.

The girls and I headed South to Georgia the first week of August. No more beautiful 2 story house overlooking the mountains. We were in a dark, depressing apartment for a month with rented furniture, broken kitchen knobs and huge cockroaches in the corridors…four of us, and a dog and cat. The girls had to start new schools in the space of a week and adjust to brand new friends and a very different curriculum. My high schooler was way behind, which became evident despite doing 4 hours of homework each night. She was miserable. I was miserable. Atlanta was miserable. We would come back to Asheville to “check on things” at the house every 2 weeks or so. We let out a collective sigh of relief each time we unlocked the front door. Home.

In the meantime, our house wasn’t selling despite rosy predictions. With every passing day of anxiety and frustration, something in me snapped. I couldn’t do it anymore, so I made the decision to bring the girls back to Asheville and let them finish the school year in familiar surroundings. My husband and I agreed that we would try again this summer. My daughter would graduate and things would be easier…somehow.

Of course, once we got back, the house sold within a month. We were just about to take it off the market as the holidays approached, but we felt that we couldn’t let a solid offer get away. As Thanksgiving rolled around, we found ourselves scrambling to figure out our next move….

 

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Why The Three Wise Men Were on The Frontier of Medicine

three wise men

You know the story. It was a star-lit night in Bethlehem, no room at the inn. The Christ child was born in a manger, and the three wise men came to honor Him bearing gold, myrrh and frankincense. What you don’t know is that they may well have been the forefathers of alternative medicine!

In ancient times, Frankincense was considered more valuable than gold, with Egyptians reportedly saying that it was good for everything from gout to a “broken head”.

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Frankincense is more commonly known as Boswellia, which is highly prized as a supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties. There are 3 kinds of Frankincense, and Young Living carries all of them:

1) Frankincense (Boswellia carteri): otherwise known as “Frank”, this variety is grown and harvested in Somali land, and 2,000 kilos per day are distilled in Dubai.

2) Frereana Frankincense (Boswelli frereana): This was the variety given to the baby Jesus and still serves as a symbol of Christ and is burned during prayers by Egyptian Coptic Christians. The resin is also made into the most expensive chewing gum in the world, which is offered to guests in the Arab world after meals. This variety of Frankincense is harvested over a 9 month period.

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3) Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra): A close relative of #1, this is considered the rarest and most valuable type of Frankincense. It can only be found in Oman, where it grows wild in limestone near the ocean and in the mountains. Frankincense collectors in the region have been harvesting the resin the same way for over 5,000 years in a painstaking process.

Once harvested, the resin can’t be exported by anyone but an Arabian prince. To date, Young Living is the only company that has been given permission by the Omani government to harvest and distill Sacred Frankincense. The company now distills 36 kilos in 2 days without harming the original trees, which are allowed to “heal”.

While all that is certainly fascinating, why do you need to care about a tree that grows in the Middle East? As a breast cancer survivor (or just as someone who is looking to prevent a cancer diagnosis), I am always looking to the research for how I can improve my odds of staying healthy. This one definitely needs to be part of your immune and cellular health arsenal! I use 2 drops on each breast area daily with coconut oil. I also take this one internally, 2 drops in an empty vegetable capsule daily. The scientific evidence is exciting, and I’ll link to it at the end of the post if you’re interested.

Another unexpected benefit of Frankincense? It is incredibly good for your skin! It has anti-aging properties and improves the appearance of scars. I’m going to share my own picture with you now because I feel like it has made a drastic improvement in my mastectomy scar.

typical mastectomy scar 6 monthsmastectomy scar

When I noticed the results above, I replaced my moisturizer with a blend of whipped virgin coconut oil, lavender, and frankincense. My facial skin is smoother and softer these days!

What are some other uses for Frankincense?

  • ease back discomfort by applying directly on the spine
  • diffuse to uplift mood an help combat sadness and anxiety
  • apply on temples and wrists to relieve stress
  • apply on neck and throat to soothe irritation and coughing
  • apply on dry, itchy skin to soothe irritation

It’s very exciting that this oil is included in the Premium Starter Kit as one of the 11 oils. I have personally gone through 3 of the 5ml bottles. I think it’s time to upgrade to the big bottle!

Here are some scientific articles to peruse:

Boswellia sacra essential oil induces tumor cell-specific apoptosis and suppresses tumor aggressiveness in cultured human breast cancer cells

Frankincense oil derived from Boswellia carteri induces tumor cell specific cytotoxicity

Frankincense essential oil prepared from hydrodistillation of Boswellia sacragum resins induces human pancreatic cancer cell death in cultures and in a xenograft murine model

To find out more about ordering your own kit, check out my Essential Oils page.

Next Up…Why You’ll Huff Peppermint Oil in Dark Alleys!

How To Use Essential Oils For Health and Longevity

ways to use oils

As we continue our essential oil education journey, I’m going to take you from a closet oil sniffer when nobody’s looking in the health food store to a full-fledged oilista! We’ve been over what essential oil is, why you would want to use it, and why it’s vitally important to get therapeutic-grade oil. Now we’re going to visit the how.

There are essentially (get it, snort snort) 3 ways to get the health benefits of your oils:

DISCLAIMER: Anything I discuss from this point forward is only relating to Young Living Oils. Please don’t run up to the health food store and try this with cheap oil. You can seriously harm your body.

Now let’s talk oil!

1) TOPICALLY:

When you apply oils to your skin, they are absorbed into the bloodstream through the pores and follicles. Which means, guess what? So is ANYTHING ELSE YOU APPLY TO YOUR SKIN! Once in the bloodstream, the oils are carried to the organs and every cell in the body within 20 minutes.

For the quickest and most efficient absorption, apply where the skin is the thinnest and the blood vessels are closest to the surface. Examples would be the wrists, temples, inside the elbow, behind the knee, and the back of the neck. Surprisingly, the bottoms of the feet are excellent for absorption, and many of the oils can be used here at bedtime.

Some oils are a little warmer for sensitive skin and can be diluted in a carrier oil such as extra virgin olive oil. The dilution guidelines will always be on the back of the Young Living label.

TRY THIS AT HOME…

stress away rollon

Your Young Living Premium Starter Kit will come with a roller ball attachment that fits on to any of the bottles. One of my favorite uses is to attach the roller ball to the Stress Away (which comes in the kit) and carry it in my purse. When the kids are really pressing my last nerve, or it seems that the whole state of Florida has gone out for a Sunday drive in front of me, I roll it on my wrists and my temples. It smells Heavenly, with a clean burst of lime and vanilla, and it eases tension like nobody’s business!

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Suffer from Seasonal Pollen Challenges? Another great use is to combine a few drops of lemon, lavender and peppermint and and apply either straight or diluted with a carrier to the forehead, temples, and throat. Ahhhh, breathing is good!

2) INTERNALLY:

Even with the highest quality, not all oils can be ingested. With Young Living, oils that are safe for internal use will have white Supplement labels and precise instructions on how they are to be taken. Always read your labels!

TRY THIS AT HOME…

a) Put a few drops of essential oil in an empty vegetable or glycerine capsule (available online or in some health food stores) and take with water like a vitamin. I do this daily with Frankincense to maintain my cellular health, and I’ll be going over that oil very soon.

peppermint brownies

b) I love to put a couple drops of the citrus oils in water each morning, such as lemon or citrus fresh. They are very refreshing and detoxifying to the body and contain substances which are crucial for healthy immune function. You can also put a drop of peppermint in tea or even in brownies.

Many of the oils available can be safely used in cooking. Choose from Basil, Cilantro, Lime, Taste of Italy, and others. Since they are so potent, just a toothpick dipped in the oil imparts the flavor to the whole dish.

3) AROMATICALLY:

This is where that awesome Diffuser comes in that you get free with your kit. It breaks up the oil into nanoparticles that can be dispersed evenly throughout the air. But these oils don’t just mask odors. They actually change the structure of odor-causing molecules and neutralize them. In addition, they increase oxygen availability, produce negative ions, and release natural ozone. Anyone heard of “ozone therapy” ? Look it up.

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Here are just a few of the health benefits that come from diffusing essential oils: reduce bacteria and mold, relax the body, relieve tension, clear the mind, help with weight management, improve concentration, alertness and mental clarity, stimulate neurotransmitters, improve digestion, improve hormonal balance, and more…

TRY THIS AT HOME…

Since chemo and radiation, I struggle with mood, focus, and memory. My favorite daytime mixture is JOY and PEPPERMINT. I swear to you, it makes a huge difference in how I feel and in my ability to focus. I love it! And it smells divine.

Also, I have some issues occasionally sleeping through the night. My favorite nighttime mixture is THIEVES (for immunity), LAVENDER, and STRESS AWAY. I also put lavender on the bottoms of my feet. Sleep…accomplished!

Now that you know how to apply and use these oils, we’re going to get started with the most versatile oils and go over their individual benefits and a few DIY recipes to get you started.

Stay Tuned!!

Check out this tab when you’ve made up your mind to go for it.

Pardon Me, Can I Have Your Immune System?

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What if I told you that you could harness the incredible power of a healthy immune system that didn’t even belong to you? Kind of like a rent-a-cop for your white blood cells? Um, yes please!

Well, the good news is that you can, without harvesting organs or taking anyone hostage. Because your new healthy immune system would go to waste in prison, or at worst be traded for cigarettes.

The Guards Have Left the Building 

As many of you reading this blog know all too well, a body assaulted by chemotherapy and radiation doesn’t fight infection very well. You become incredibly familiar with your dwindling “White Blood Cell Count” as you trudge to your next appointment and cross your fingers.

What you may not know is that your immune system had a glitch long before you were ever diagnosed, while you still looked and felt “healthy”. A properly functioning immune system has white cells that function as “guards at the gate”, kind of like the ones you see at a military base entrance.

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Surprise! Everybody Has Cancer 

I hate to break this news, but we all have rogue, or “cancer” cells floating around our bodies all the time. When our physiology is functioning normally, our immune cells, those “guards”, recognize the cancer cells as enemies and promptly mount an attack to get rid of them. When something breaks down in that process, the cancer cells are able to gain a foothold and multiply out of control.

So when the doctor tells you, “Congratulations! We got all of the cancer.” or, “You’re cancer-free”, that is a fairy tale. There’s no way to guarantee that one of those “bad cells” didn’t survive the treatment. As a matter of fact, it’s almost a certainty that it did.

Excuse Me, Mr. Plant, I Need To Borrow Your Immune System

What can you do to prevent cancer or keep it from coming back? There’s no one, simple answer to that question. Just as there were multiple factors that allowed cancer to invade your body, there are multiple things you must do to keep it in check and co-exist.

One of the most powerful weapons I have in my anti-cancer arsenal is my Young Living essential oils collection. Why?

Inside every plant, shrub, tree, or flower is a source of energy, life and healing compounds. The essential oil is like the blood and immune system of the plant. In the plant, it seals cuts and heals wounds, provides nutrients and oxygen for cellular regeneration, and guards against unwanted harmful invaders.

The essential oil is 200-10,000 times more powerful than an herb from the same plant. Therefore, it has incredible medicinal power and a little goes a long way.

In 20 seconds, the oil can penetrate the tissues of the skin and get into the bloodstream, and it is one of the few substances with particles small enough to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. This is how certain oils affect brain inflammation, emotions, focus, and concentration.

Essential oils are among the most powerful anti-oxidants on earth. Some are antibacterial, some are antiviral. In addition to supporting the immune system, they benefit the body in many ways: relaxing muscle, helping to maintain normal blood sugar levels, soothing aches and pains, aiding digestion, promoting sleep, slowing aging, etc.

I Don’t Have Time To Squeeze Oil Out of Plants!

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That’s quite a picture! You in your secret basement lab wringing out some poor peppermint leaves into a jar. Let’s not go there.

How do they get the essential oils out of the plants?

Essential Oils are extracted in many ways, but the primary method is steam distillation. But there are a number of ways that the oils can be grown and extracted that are very cost efficient and produce large amounts of cheap oil, such as:

  • Using Chemical Solvents. These mix with the oil in the final product and leave behind chemical residue which doesn’t have to be listed in the ingredients.
  • Diluting the pure essential oil with another oil or a synthetic substance (think perfumy) to make it go farther. Again, this won’t be on the label!
  • Steam distilling the same batch of plants over and over again. This would be like using the same coffee grinds to brew six pots of coffee. That sixth batch would be pretty weak and useless.
  • Spraying the crops with chemical pesticides to increase crop yields.

Young Living doesn’t use any of these methods. They sell only the first distillation, and no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are ever used. As a matter of fact, they use their own oils as pesticides, and most weeds are still picked by hand. Pretty rare for a large corporation!

Young Living Lavender Fields, Utah

Young Living Lavender Fields, Utah

Interested in the science? I’ll link to a few abstracts below for you to peruse:

1) Anti-Cancer activity of essential oils: a review

2) Immunomodulatory activity of geranial, geranial acetate, gingerol, and eugenol essential oils: evidence for humoral and cell-mediated responses.

3) Anticancer activity of essential oils and their chemical components – a review

If any of this strikes a chord in you, and you want to get started with your own oil journey, check out the Essential Oils tab on my home page to sign up.

Red, White, and Blackberry Blue

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So I had a rather unconventional 4th of July weekend. It started out in the usual way with a spectacular fireworks show Friday night over the lake. Saturday, we were invited to a friend’s lawn party. And that’s when things started to go downhill, literally.

All of the party guests were supposed to bring a dish, so I decided to try out a brand new vegan blackberry cobbler recipe. We have a huge wild blackberry bush behind the fence in the backyard, and it has been bursting with fruit this past week. 

The recipe called for 3 cups of berries, and as I measured out the batch my husband had picked earlier, I was a cup short. I went outside to see if I could round up some more ripe berries, but all of those at eye level had already been taken. I asked my husband to bring me the ladder from the garage so I could reach the top of the bush where many more fine specimens were sitting. (Insert dramatic music here)

If you’ve ever picked blackberries, you know what a chore it is. Those little boogers are protected by thorns about half an inch long all over the branches. It is a labor of love. Well, I decided it would be easier just to lean the ladder against the fence than to open it. After all, it’s a fence; it wasn’t going to fall over. 

Just as I climbed to the top rung of the six foot ladder, I had a fleeting thought. “This is probably not a good idea; it feels a little…” Game over. Evidently, I forgot those two semesters of college physics, where I learned about the fulcrum. When I put all my weight on the top of the ladder, the bottom flew out from beneath me. I was catapulted like a circus act head first over the fence.

It happened so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to brace the fall with my hands. I landed on my forehead, twisted grotesquely on my neck, and landed on my back. My first thought was that I might be paralyzed. I wiggled my fingers and toes. Good sign. My next thought was that it hurt like hell, my arms and legs pinned in place by the thorns sticking through my skin.

My husband sprinted into the garage to get the clippers and then fought the thick brush to get to me. I couldn’t move for the brambles, and he literally had to cut me out of the bush. I was finally able to stand and survey the damage. My arms, legs, and hands were scraped up and my face was bruised and bleeding, but I thanked God in that moment for letting me walk away. My husband told me later that I landed a foot away from a large rock.

I think there was a lesson in that fall, besides the obvious ladder safety review. We get so caught up as cancer survivors in doing all the right things to prevent a recurrence. If we can only eat the right foods, take the right supplements, do the right amount of exercise, everything will be ok. I realized Saturday that my life, anyone’s life, can be over in an instant, cancer or no cancer. Maybe we should spend less time worrying and more time savoring each day, doing things we love with people who matter.

As for me, I’m pretty stiff, but I saw the chiropractor today, so hopefully my neck will be on straight again soon. I’m covering my face pretty well with makeup so I don’t look like I’m a battered woman. 

By the way, I laid down after the great blackberry caper for about 20 minutes with ice on my head and neck. And then I made that damned cobbler! And it rocked.

Supplements and Everyday Miracles

My 14 year-old daughter and I took a girls’ road trip this weekend To Winston-Salem, NC, home of Wake Forest University and the Demon Deacons. image

I attended a nutrition conference put on by a wonderful vitamin company, Standard Process, as part of my chiropractic continuing education. The speaker was an acupuncturist and herbalist who has created a hugely successful multi-state practice by treating and healing people using only Chinese medicine and whole-food supplements.

We’re not talking about people with hang nails or acne here. This man told stories about patients like Ed, who had suffered a massive heart attack which left much of his heart muscle destroyed. When he first came for an office visit, it took him 20 minutes to walk from the front door down the hall to the consultation room. After each excruciatingly slow step, he had to rest against the wall before he could go on. When he finally made it to the office, he looked up with defeat in his eyes. “The doctor told me to get my will in order. He’s given me two months to live. Can you help me?”

Talk about the wind being knocked out of you! I can’t imagine the pressure of that plea. The practitioner told him that he would do his best to help him. The man could only come in every two weeks at first because he needed that long to recuperate from the exertion of the visits. Slowly, things began to improve. The man began walking in his neighborhood. In a few months, walking turned to jogging and rock climbing. Eventually, he stopped coming in. The practitioner often thought of him and wondered how he was doing. Eight years later, he ran into a mutual friend who filled him in. “Ed said to tell you hello if I saw you. He’s hiking in Utah.”

The weekend was full of inspiring stories like this one. Stories about scheduled surgeries being canceled because they were no longer necessary. Stories about diabetes being turned around in two weeks. Stories about women being able to fulfill the lifelong dream of motherhood after years of infertility. And the greatest part was that the stories were true and the remedies were simple. Whole food vitamins, nutrition and acupuncture.

I have to admit that I have been buying tons of synthetic vitamins to support me through my breast cancer treatment, and I never thought much about it. Among the interesting facts I learned this weekend was the pearl that most synthetic vitamins are made from coal tar, a known carcinogen, or petroleum products. The capsules are often made from the connective tissue of sick or weak animals. Recent studies that have come out showing that people who take the most supplements have the highest death rate from all causes are based on synthetic vitamins, not whole food supplements.

When you eat a carrot or a piece of broccoli, you’re getting a whole vitamin complex with all parts working together to provide the beneficial effect. Synthetic vitamins artificially strip one portion of that complex away and concentrate it into a pill with other undesirable ingredients. Not only does this significantly reduce any benefit that may have been received, it is sometimes harmful.

I came away from the weekend with a wealth of knowledge and great hope as both a doctor and a patient. I know that I will definitely be revamping my supplements after this weekend. Oddly enough, my Mima used to say that she would never take vitamins because they give you cancer. Maybe she was on to something.

Taxol…Bad To The Bone

Here is the 80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY: (I couldn’t resist):)

I am officially almost 72 hours out from my first Taxol chemotherapy infusion, so I think it’s safe to give you a preliminary update. Here’s how it went down:

THURSDAY (INFUSION DAY)

Taxol infusion is a longer affair than AC (Adriamycin/Cytoxan), mainly because there is a much greater potential for immediate allergic reactions, and you have to be monitored more closely. Therefore, they drip the medication in very slowly over 3 hours or so. By the time all is said in done, you’ve spent 4 hours plus in your “chemo suite”, which is really a misnomer, because there is no minibar, mint on the pillow, or even HBO. I won’t really be recommending this on Trip Advisor, although, sadly, it’s better than some hotels I’ve stayed in. All in all, Thursday was leaps and bounds better than than AC, which is spawn of Satan. I had zero nausea and went about business pretty much as usual. I still let my hubby cook dinner; I have to use the cancer card sometimes!

FRIDAY

Friday was a great day. I was a little tired, but I had been very restless the night before from being hopped up on steroids, and I couldn’t sleep past 5 am. I went in for my Neulasta shot, went to the acupuncturist, and took the kids to lunch and to do a little shopping. I made dinner and turned in early. I was sooo excited that this Taxol stuff was going to be a breeze.

SATURDAY

And this is usually when the Gods look down on my self-satisfied smugness and let out a long, evil belly laugh. Let’s just say, Saturday they were really having a ball. I was ok when I woke up, but a steady ache had started to settle in my pelvis. Still, I managed to get out with the family for a few hours. By the time we came home, the ache was more like a pain and the fatigue was much worse. I just started to feel really “unwell”. I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, trying to find a comfortable position, which is very difficult when angry Lilliputians are drilling wood screws in your hip bones and putting your ovaries in tiny vices.

I think a lot of my “crash” had to do with the steroids finally clearing my system, ending my artificially induced high.

SUNDAY

Today is a better day. I’m still achy, but I am functioning. I will be off to the drug store later to buy some Claritin, which I have read on some cancer forums may ease bone and joint pain. I’ll let you know if it works.

Also, I am almost done putting together a post on supplements which have helped me tremendously with this journey. Stay tuned…