I’ve been doing a rumba for the last 6 years, being drawn in by the seductive rhythms and passionate low pleading of the song. Each time I’ve turned my face away, hand outstretched, yearning to find my own steps, I’ve been forcefully embraced by a silent partner and led back into the choreography which was chosen long ago.

This metaphor could describe many of the layers I’m peeling away from a life which no longer feels authentic. The process is slow…not like ripping off a bandaid, more like wiping the grime off of a window that has been dirty and nagging for years, but has been overlooked for more pressing tasks.

I graduated from chiropractic school in late 2006 and received my license to practice in 2008 after rigorous national and state exams. Since that time, I have seen probably less than 50 different patients. After some initial excitement of setting up a home office and getting all of my ducks in a row, I’ve just never been “ready” to take the plunge and start trying to attract clients. Granted, there have been some really major stumbling blocks in my life during those years, but I almost feel like I’ve used them as an excuse not to practice.

If I’m being honest, the questions began the first time I toured the chiropractic school. Before I started, I was in a graduate program to teach science, but teaching high school was not turning out to be a very attractive proposition. A classmate of mine, who was a chiropractor herself, told me about her work. It paid well, the hours were decent, and there was an opportunity to help a lot of people using my science background.

It alI sounded very promising, and I decided to check out the school.  As I peered in the technique classrooms, some of the students had others lying on benches, practicing moves that were very foreign and strange-looking to me. My stomach tightened a bit. I couldn’t really see myself there. I ignored that feeling, as I had done so many times, and feigned enthusiasm.  In no time at all, I was enrolled and large promissory notes were signed.

I soon met another skeptic with a delightfully sarcastic sense of humor. Several times each semester, we would sit in the gazebo in the middle of campus, making fun of the chiropractic zealots and questioning whether this was the semester we should drop out and find another career or transfer to a less cultist school.

Once we got about halfway through the program, leaving became less and less realistic. We were in too far, both financially and academically. (Few people realize that chiropractors take all of the same courses as med students; they just have shorter “residencies”.) I also had a pride issue at stake. My brother had bet me at the outset that I wouldn’t finish the program. I proved him wrong. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was a win.

Since graduation, I’ve had numerous opportunities to go in with other doctors or rent my own space. I’ve even signed a lease and backed out of the deal. Something just keeps telling me not to commit. I love the idea of helping people and having my own space, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t love chiropractic. I find myself almost giddy when people cancel appointments. Don’t get me wrong, I find tremendous value in chiropractic, and I am an avid patient. I just don’t want to do it to others all day long.

This is probably the first time I have laid my feelings bare to such an extent, even to myself. It’s not easy to say. I have almost $300,000 in student loan debt, which is far more than my mortgage. I feel like I should suck it up and just make the money. But I can’t. Living through cancer has made it impossible to keep doing things I don’t want to do. The “shoulds” are slowly losing the power they have held over me for my entire life.

I don’t know what I”ll do from here, and that’s more than a little scary. My passion is nutrition. I would love to help people get well with lifestyle changes and natural remedies as much as possible, but I’m not sure I can deal with the public day in and day out. I need a lot of time for introspection, or I tend to get overwhelmed. Teaching might be the ultimate solution, maybe with a practice on the side.

I have a lot of good skills that I must now figure out how to weave into a cohesive fabric of occupational fulfillment while somehow still paying the bills Am I being unrealistic, asking for too much, going crazy? Maybe…probably…but I can’t continue to be an impostor in my own life. For better or worse, this is the new me. And I’m learning to like her.

The Winds of Change Are Blowing…


Those of you who have followed me for any length of time know that I have been on the fence about many things in my life….ad nauseum. Today, I took one small, brave step toward the future, a future that I hope will bring a greater sense of peace and authenticity in my life, something that has been missing for far too long.

I finished chiropractic school in Fall of 2006. I accepted a position in the local hospital laboratory while I was waiting to my national board exams, as I already had an undergraduate degree in that field. Shortly after I took the job, I found out that I was pregnant with my youngest child, who is now 6. I was thrilled! Oh well, change of plans. I decided to work in the lab for 2 years or so and save money to open a practice.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. Over the next several years, my life began to unravel. In 2007, my husband was injured at work, and we ended up losing our home and having to declare bankruptcy. The following Spring, we lost our oldest son unexpectedly, four days after we celebrated the birth of our daughter. Needless to say, I stayed at my job.

I despised working in the lab. It was a regulatory job filled with nit-picking rules and mind-numbing details. I equated myself to a well-paid hall monitor. I flirted with the idea of doing something with the chiropractic degree several times, but I could never quite find the strength and energy to make the change. And saving money was a pipe dream with three kids at home. Two years dragged into five.

So many times I promised myself that I would quit suffocating my dreams and find my purpose in life, but I lied. I plodded along, one foot in front of the other, the good responsible girl to the end. Meanwhile, my body rebelled against the repressed anger and resignation, and I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in March of 2013. I fully believe that my job was a contributing factor in my disease.

To most people, my job would seem like a cakewalk. I only work 3 days per week, 8:30-5. I don’t do strenuous manual labor or have to deal with extreme weather conditions. I don’t work most weekends or holidays. Just saying these things to myself has kept me there for over 7 years. “What kind of spoiled brat leaves a job like that?” But I have slowly died inside over those years, and part of me has given up hope of ever finding what I’m meant to offer this world.

I know you’re probably thinking that I have finally taken a chiropractic job. Nope. I have no prospects, no grand plans. I simply walked into my boss’ office this afternoon and told her that I need to make some changes at the end of September. I will no longer be doing my 3 day gig. I can’…it..anymore. I offered to stay on in a PRN, as-needed capacity, where I can say “yes” or “no” on any given day and take a break whenever it suits me, for a week, or six.

I have known this woman off and on for nearly 20 years. She started out working in the lab like me. We have been friends. although more distant lately. What was her response? Did she immediately act surprised, the disappointment showing on her face? No. Our conversation lasted all of five minutes. She simply said “Ok. I’ll take a look at it and let you know.” So, I suppose she has to do her thing and I have to do mine.

I guess I’m crazy, because we certainly can’t afford to live comfortably without my income. There will no doubt be sacrifices until I line something else up. But I need this time. I need to sit back and take stock of the last 18 months of treatment and regroup, play in the garden, and enjoy the last vestiges of summer warmth. Many days, I’m not even sure that I really want to be a chiropractor anymore. All I know is that it’s time to start listening to that inner voice and heed the lessons that breast cancer taught me. Life is too short to be unhappy.

Wanted: Part Time Calling With Excellent Benefits


As I head In to a six-day stretch (including Mother’s Day weekend) in Folsom prison at work, I find myself scouring craigslist in multiple states daily, hoping against hope that my dream job will appear. It never does…unless my destiny is to be a long-haul truck driver or a masseuse. I don’t think so, though, because I can’t drive more than six hours without stopping for the night, and I’d much rather be the “massagee” than the “massager”.

I thought last week that fate might be trying to send me a message. Two of the women I work with go to the same chiropractor in town. Each of them approached me at different times to let me know that he was looking to take another doctor into his practice and wanted to talk to me. I let it go at first, but then I thought, “What the heck, I’ll send him an e-mail.”

I’ve always had a bad habit of being a people-pleaser, and job interviews are no exception. If the job is one I really want, I find myself promising to do the interviewer’s dry cleaning, take his kids to school, you name it. He turns into my father in my head, and I’m suddenly 10 years old again, with no voice and no demands.

So, I was actually proud of myself when I fired off an e-mail to this chiropractor, telling him what I was looking for, and what I was and was not able to do. A big part of this was the fact that I really only want to work 3 days a week right now, for the sake of my kids and my recovery. Friends of mine who have taken similar positions have made great money, but they have worked 12-15 hours per day.  I hit “send”, and I honestly never expected to hear from him.

Much to my surprise, he called the next day. We talked for a good 30 minutes. Well, mostly he talked and I listened, throwing a few “uh huh”s and “I see”s in every now and then. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. His wife just finished treatment for Stage 4 ovarian cancer, so I think he felt a connection to me in some way, since my friends told him all about my breast cancer ordeal.

But mostly, he talked about money. How he was trying to move away from insurance and more to a cash practice. Ok, makes sense so far. But then he kept going on about how much money could be made from all his cutting-edge rehab equipment. And the person he hires could easily make $100,000/year if they were willing to do a little marketing. Continuing on about the position, he said more than once “This has to be profitable for me.”

And then, the coup de grace, he brought up the part in my e-mail about me only wanting to work part time for now. He said “That could be a problem. I work 40-50 hours per week and take paperwork home at night sometimes.” So how did I respond? Of course, I stood my ground and told him that this was non-negotiable, right? Wrong!! I think I said something about wanting to wait a couple of months before I plunge in full time and work those 50-hour weeks. I caved like a house of cards.

Then he said “You do have a husband, right?” What? I told him that I was married. He replied “Good. If you were a single mom, that would be a problem.” I responded with appropriate indignation, right? Wrong!! I babbled on about how my husband was very supportive and willing to help with the kids (so I can work those 50 hour weeks). Which is not even true. Who are we kidding? My husband eats, breathes, and sleeps work. I see him maybe two hours at night and on weekends.

We ended the conversation with me agreeing to come to his office next week and see where things go. I was disappointed with myself almost the moment I hung up. First of all, this man has never met me before and has absolutely no filters. That doesn’t bode well for a pleasant work environment in my book. He was never rude or mean, just clueless. Second, no way am I ready to put in those kinds of hours. And the money thing just bothers me. I’m not against profit, but the whole idea of being a physician giving health lectures at a buffet or tackling people at a mall to get new patients is just “icky” for lack of a better word.

I guess I’m stupid to turn down that kind of income potential, but I’m all about what feels authentic and gives me more time to enjoy life and family these days. So I’ll be firing off another e-mail tomorrow, thanking the good doctor for his time and politely canceling our meeting. And I’ll be back on craigslist….maybe tomorrow will be the day they put in the ad for a rocket scientist, part time of course.

Livin’ It Up “Cancer-Free”


It’s been a whirlwind week in the land of the “cancer-free”. I have celebrated grand new beginnings and bittersweet endings. I’ve been wined and dined and entertained. I’ve put up a tree with twinkling colored lights and adorned the house with the festive colors and scents of Christmas. Here’s a peek at what transpired…

First, I finished radiation last Wednesday. After 28 sessions of daily nuclear warfare, I got a Certificate of Completion signed by all the staff at the radiation center, and Dr. Rad came out of an appointment with another patient to give me a hug. This was in stark contrast to the complete lack of acknowledgement I received at the oncology office for finishing chemo. Not a word. I will really miss these wonderful, caring people.

I actually had very mixed emotions when I left my final appointment. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to be done with treatment. Yet, a kind of sadness washed over me. I felt as though I’ve been treading water non-stop for 9 months, and the entire focus of my life has been staying strong and surviving. That final appointment was like I had finally been rescued and could collapse and let it all go. And let it all sink in. I tend to downplay the effect all this has had on me, but it has been a lot to endure. And, in that moment, I had to pause to grieve for what I’ve lost.

Here is a picture of my skin post-radiation. It looks a lot worse than it is; I’ve really only had some minor tenderness and itching as it heals. The new skin is coming through as the top layer sloughs off. I’ve put lotion on religiously, and I think it has paid off. My skin feels soft and smooth. I also want to stress the importance of stretching the irradiated area as much as possible to keep the scar tissue from taking hold underneath. It can get quite tight if it isn’t exercised.

Photo Dec 08, 10 10 10 AM


On Thursday, I went to the very posh and eclectic Red Stag Grill at the Bohemian Hotel in downtown Asheville with two friends, one of whom just had major surgery. I thought I was just tagging along to visit her and catch up, but she surprised me by turning it into a celebration lunch for the end of treatment. It was a wonderful treat. The restaurant has the feel of a formal hunting lodge, with dark woods and rich leather seats. The chandeliers appear to be made of antlers, which you’ll see in the picture below. I half expected to see Teddy Roosevelt come through the door and belly up to the bar.

Photo Dec 08, 8 48 44 PM


Friday brought a new beginning. I took the plunge and signed a lease for my chiropractic office space! Ironically, that is the name of my practice, New Beginnings Family Chiropractic. I chose that name years ago, having no idea what it would come to mean in my future. I’m very nervous and very excited. I want to offer holistic health care focusing on nutrition and supplementation in addition to chiropractic. I would really love to help people through the cancer journey and beyond.  I might fall flat on my face, but I owe it to myself to give it a shot. I now have a shiny set of gold office keys on my keychain.

Saturday night was spent at a large Christmas party at the home of a new friend. There was every kind of chip, dip, fruit, carved meat and appetizer you can imagine, and an open bar. The house was beautifully decorated for the holidays and had a very warm, inviting feel. There were several local bands who took turns playing informal gigs in the living room. The music ranged from Bluegrass to the Beatles to Christmas carols. What a perfect evening, sitting in a comfy chair with a glass of wine while being serenaded by candlelight.

Finally, today we took the kids to our local Farmer’s Market to pick out a Christmas tree. We’ve been getting our tree from the same family for almost 20 years, and they recognize us when we pull up. The patriarch of the family has aged quite a bit and has mostly turned the hard labor of the tree farming over to his sons now. He was in very poor health a couple of seasons ago, so we always breathe a sigh of relief when we see that he’s still around. Below is a shot of us together about four years ago.



Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind at work. I’m looking forward to that like an impacted wisdom tooth. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 5 days, more so than I have in a long time. I stopped to smell those roses, and I felt content, and at peace.

I put “cancer-free” in quotation marks because that is an illusion. None of us is ever truly “free” of cancer. There are always micro-clusters of cancerous cell floating around in us, waiting for our immune systems to fall asleep at the wheel. Now that I’m “cancer-free”, the real work begins. I have to figure out why cancer set up shop in my body and how to keep that from happening again. All of these treatments have slowed the cancer down enough for me to have a fighting chance, now let’s get busy fighting!

Now Look What Cancer Made Me Do…


I’m about to step off a precipice into a free-fall. Where I’ll land, nobody knows. Will there be a net? Maybe. I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland sans acid. At least I hope no giant white rabbits will appear in this gig.


My odyssey into becoming a full-fledged chiropractor has been longer and more filled with twists and turns than a Swiss mountain road. I’ve been doing it in a half-assed, chicken shit kind of way for years; a small home office with a few family members and friends of friends. If it had been my sole source of income all this time, let’s just say Alpo would be looking mighty good for dinner about now. Thankfully, I’ve been employed in a hospital lab as well, so I can afford groceries.


Oh, I’ve had plenty of legitimate reasons for dragging my feet. Let’s see. I got pregnant right out of chiropractic school with the idea of working at the lab for a couple of years and then starting my practice when the baby was a little older. That was planned. My oldest child died four days after she was born. That was not planned. That one threw me for a loop. I finally recovered enough to think about a practice again. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ok, God, time to challenge someone else!

Well, here I am, still standing and rebelling. And I’m pulling myself back up to try again. I have had many opportunities come calling in the past few weeks, and I’m listening very carefully. It looks like I may be getting an office next month in a holistic practice including two acupuncturists and a massage therapist.

Holy crapballs, what am I doing? I’m terrified, yet exhilarated. The two crazy people in my head have been arguing non-stop for days.

“Stop! Are you nuts? It’s the holiday season in a bad economy and you want to start a business? Why don’t you just slit your wrists while you’re at it?” (I know, this one is a bit dramatic.)

“I know it’s a little crazy, but it can’t be a coincidence that I keep getting offers to rent space. The universe is sending out lots of signals, and I shouldn’t ignore them.” (This one is a little naive but very sweet.)

It’s true though. I feel like someone is reaching right down from the cosmos and kicking me hard in the ass. And I have a strong feeling that person is my son. At least I’d really like to think so. He was my biggest cheerleader for starting a practice while he was alive, and he is no doubt wondering what the holdup is.

It would seem that I had to wait for the cancer to reveal it’s true purpose. I’ve written about how this horrible diagnosis has made some positive changes in my life quite unexpectedly. And they continue to unfold in delicate layers. As a result of this experience, I have developed a strong desire to help others through cancer treatment and recovery. I’ve spent years doing continuing education in nutrition, supplementation, and functional medicine. And yet I had no direction for all that knowledge, just a closet full of lecture notes and a dwindling bank account.

In the past year I have put much of that knowledge to the test in designing my own “integrative” treatment plan. I’ve been the ultimate guinea pig, navigating the taboo world of alternative medicine in an effort to salvage my body from the  wreckage of conventional cancer treatment. And I must say, I haven’t fared too badly. I’ve missed less than a week of work through chemo and radiation so far. What a shame that people have to search for holistic treatment like drug addicts in a dark alley or else face the disdain of theIr doctors. I want to be the “go-to woman” in my community.

So what will I do when that first cancer patient shows up looking for help? Give her an awesome adjustment, of course. And hold her hand and tell her it will be okay when she doesn’t know if she can do it. And arm her with information so she will be prepared and not be as terrified. And together we’ll create a plan to help her not just survive cancer, but to thrive in spite of it. Now that is a vocation.


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.