Natural Xanax: No Prescription Needed!

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Stress…you don’t ever experience that, do you? I’m so glad. Me neither. Phew!! That was a short post. Y’all have a good day, now! Oh, wait, is that you furiously waving your arms in the distance? What? You feel like you’re stuck inside a pressure cooker sipping a cocktail of obligation, guilt and exhaustion?

BOY, DO I HAVE GOOD NEWS FOR YOU, OH STRESSED ONE!

I never really used to understand people who complained all the time, “I’m just so stressed out!”. Having a very laid back personality, I used to take things in stride. Go with the flow, if you will. That was back when I had hormones and life was good.

Now that I’ve quit my day job to pursue my own business(es), I should be on cloud nine, following the American dream, no boss but me. Well, let me tell you…I work harder now than I ever did playing office politics three days per week. I never stop working, or at least thinking about work. It’s all up to me now whether I earn a paycheck. On top of that, I still have 3 kids and a home to manage. And that is stressful!

Even though it’s my stress now and no one can tell me what to do, I still find myself needing a little help to unwind and be “still” so I don’t get snappy or overwhelmed. Since I’ve started on this Young Living Essential Oil journey, I’ve learned a thing or two about taming the inner tension and letting go.

TROPICAL VACATION IN A BOTTLE

What can you do when the world is on your shoulders and you feel like one more task will cause you to explode? I find relief naturally with STRESS AWAY. This is a little bit of Heaven in a bottle and one of my personal favorite scents that Young Living carries.

stress away benefits

Stress Away is an essential oil blend of: Copaiba, Lime, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Ocotea, and Lavender.

Copaiba is an interesting oil from South America. It contains the highest know amounts of a compound called beta-caryophyllene of any essential oil. Guess what else has high amounts of this oil? Cannabis! Why do you think so many people reach for marijuana to self-medicate? Only, the great thing is that Copaiba doesn’t produce a high like marijuana. It has been shown in studies to act via a different pathway that helps relieve anxiety and depression. Win win!

Lime is not only invigorating and uplifting, but it is also well known for its ability to stimulate the immune system, aid in weight management and provide antioxidant support.

Cedarwood has a warm, woodsy aroma that is comforting and relaxing. I use this oil with Lavender in my diffuser at night to help with sleep.

Vanilla…well, vanilla just makes everything smell yummy!

Ocotea helps aid the body’s natural response to irritation and injury. Ocotea also has natural cleansing and purifying properties.

And then there’s Lavender. What’s not to love about Lavender? We’ll be doing a whole separate post about this one!

How do you apply Stress Away? My favorite method is to rub a few drops on my temples, behind my ears, and to my wrists any time I feel anxiety or tension creeping in. I then cup my hands over my nose and inhale deeply. Bonus: It smells so good, people will ask you what wonderful scent you’re wearing at the grocery checkout!

Stress Away is one of the 11 oils that comes with the PREMIUM STARTER KITNot only that, you get a free diffuser with your purchase, which makes the kit a steal! Diffusing is the #1 way to get essential oils into your system quickly. I run my diffuser 24/7 in my house, and I never leave for a vacation without it.

So how can you get some stress reduction in your life on the go without having to make time for meditaiton, yoga, and a nap? Check out this page to get started on your journey to a healthier, happier, and more relaxed life!

P.S.- If you’ve missed any of this series, start here and catch up! We’ll wait for you.

*If you are outside the U.S., please contact me, as your starter kit may vary.

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It Puts The Oil On Its Skin And….It’s Hair Grows Thicker?!?

3 Years Ago

3 Years Ago. Notice That Sexy Bald Spot Up Front

Mother Nature Wants You Dead!

Perhaps some of you out there can relate. As a woman ages becomes wiser, Mother Nature starts to play these cruel little jokes on her just for fun. You see, after 40, you’re washed up! So sad, too bad. Once you’ve birthed them babies, you have no purpose left in the strictly biological sense. You’ve seductively flipped your long, luxurious locks for the last time, sister!

One day, you look in the mirror, and you start to notice just a tiny bit less hair up front than you used to have. It’s subtle at first. You can do a comb-over and keep things in your denial box, for a while. A couple years pass, and there ain’t a comb big enough to cover up that mess! You’re…offcially…old.

Well, that was happening to me at a fairly rapid pace. I would take a shower and have to hold hairs aside so they wouldn’t go down the drain and clog it when they came out. I’m not talking about a handful; just enough to be depressing.

 I Only Thought I Had Bad Hair Until Chemo

Wanna complain to the Universe about your misfortune? Whammo! It can most definitely get worse. After the top picture, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent a year of treatment including double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by reconstruction. All in all, it could have been a far more devastating experience. I took care of myself with food, supplements and exercise to get through it relatively unscathed. One of the worst parts? Losing my hair.

I know, I know, that sounds really shallow. But, not only is a woman’s hair one of her most powerful outward signs of femininity, it’s loss also reminds her daily that she is sick. As long as you have hair on your head, you can be undergoing the most rigourous treatments and still feel normal. When you lose it, you suddenly become a “patient”, someone to be pitied.

Once chemo was over, my hair started to grow back, very curly I might add. At first, it looked like I would end up with better hair than before. No loose locks in the shower, no thin spot up front. I was secretly tickled.

Then, over the past several months, as my hair has gotten longer (and been colored enhanced), I started noticing that my part was getting wider again. And I was getting some hair on my hands when I washed it. “Oh no! Not Again.”

Oil To The Rescue

ningxia red

I figured it was just my destiny as a menopausal crone to be follicularly challenged. Well, over the last few weeks, I have noticed those little baby hairs coming in fast and furious at my hairline. And…my part is filling in. At first I thought it was just my imagination, but now it’s unmistakable. The only thing I have done differently is diffuse and apply my Young Living Oils daily and drink the super-antioxidant, essential-oil infused Ningxia Red drink by the same company.

You can hear life-changing testimonials from other people, but until you start to experience your own health shifts, they’re just that…stories. I’ve only been using these oils for about a month and a half, and I feel better on the inside, but I’ve been waiting for a sign, an “Aha!” moment. Well today, the outward signs of health are mirroring the changes going on inside. “Aha!”

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I’m putting the cart before the horse a little bit (again, I know!) with this post. We had really just begun our oily education. But I felt compelled to share this with you today.

Coming up..The what, why and how of essential oils. Then we’ll move on to individual oils and their unique uses and health/beauty benefits, including cancer prevention and possibly…adjunct treatment!

If at any point you feel like you’re excited and want to give these a try, e-mail me and I’ll tell you the best and most economical way get started with the company I use for my family and my patients.

Girl Interrupted

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I feel a little guilty writing this post. Many of the other entries I’ve read tonight have been about recovery. About new beginnings, rediscovering the joys of friends and work, and just getting back to normal after the long battle with breast cancer. I feel like I’m supposed to capitalize somehow on the life-changing experience that I’ve had. But lately I’m just stuck.

Physically, I’m on track. I eat pretty well. I exercise several times per week. I take all the right supplements. But emotionally, I’m doing the exact same things that made me unhappy, and angry, and resentful. I’m an intelligent person. I just can’t seem to figure out how to change things that should have been changed long ago. And I know that all of those bottled up emotions played a role in my illness.

I think a big part of my hesitation in acting is that I no longer trust myself to have a valid feeling. Thanks to the hormonal upheaval of chemo, my mood bounces around like a ping-pong ball from one day to the next. I swear I wake up each morning not knowing who will show up, the easygoing,funny, optimistic girl I used to be or the down-in-the-dumps menopausal hag who would rather live in a cave with tissues and sad songs.

While I am exaggerating my mood swings, you can see how difficult and frightening it would be to make any life-changing decisions in this turmoil. “Did I decide that because I was hormonally imbalanced that week, or did I really feel it was the best thing?”.

I actually picked up a prescription for an anti-depressant today. The last time I took an SSRI for post-partum “blues”, it took me six years to extricate myself from the grip it had on me. Not to mention I gained 25 pounds that wouldn’t budge no matter what. I didn’t lose that weight until I quit taking the magic pill. So trust me when I say that this is not an exciting prospect, and I’m not sure I’ll actually do it. The optimist in me still has hope that another solution will appear.

The kicker of the whole situation is that I know exactly what the problem is. And it isn’t depression. It’s lack of estrogen. Estrogen stimulates serotonin receptors in the brain and has actually been used successfully as an anti-depressant by itself. The one thing that would really help me is forbidden. What a cruel dilemma.

Intuitively, however, I do realize that there are certain problems which existed long before I was hormonally challenged. Relationships that are either one-sided or emotionally stunted, a job that drains my energy, a strong penchant for people-pleasing…not exactly a recipe for health. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to change the things we know are wrong. Why is it so terrifying to take a leap of faith? Sometimes it seems that we’d rather live for decades in familiar unhappiness than to risk the pain of the unknown.

So, while I may be doing “all the right things” to prevent a cancer recurrence, in many ways I feel that I’m almost inviting it by default. I need to find the courage, somewhere, to stand up for myself and be fully alive, even if it means facing those demons that I’ve been avoiding for so long. But who knows, next week I might change my mind.

 

 

Well, I’ll Be Damned, She’s Back!

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I never thought I’d say that. The doctors seemed so certain, case closed, seen it a million times before. But that just goes to show, my body doesn’t fit  neatly into a mold created by modern medicine. She plays by her own rules, always has. And just when I get used to the idea of “what is supposed to happen now”, the agenda changes. But I should have known better. My body is a fighter.

One of the perils (or perks, depending on your point of view) of getting invasive breast cancer in your forties is the near certainty that menopause will follow chemotherapy. As my oncologist told me, “Don’t worry, your ovaries will be dead soon.” I fired him not long after that comment, oh, and the sepsis that he thought could wait until morning.

For a while, he was right. My last cycle was in June of 2013, before my lovely tango with Taxol began in July. My ovaries went into hiding like two frightened puppies under a blanket during a fierce thunderstorm. Except for a brief period earlier this year that I chalked up to experimenting with some hormones (bad girl!), I have been effectively menopausal for nearly a year. Hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, weight gain, you name it, I’ve experienced it.

So, imagine my surprise when my monthly visitor came last Saturday. I had been in a horrible mood the week before, and I felt very crampy and bloated, but I just thought I was receiving yet more exciting menopause bonus gifts. Then I worried. One thing that breast cancer steals is your ability to just brush things off. Once active treatment ends, every pain, every headache, and every symptom that once would have been “normal” creates a small sense of panic.

Added to my fear was the fact that I’ve been using Estriol cream to offset the unpleasant sexual side effects of low estrogen (which works very well, by the way). This is not exactly sanctioned by my oncologist. Ok, not at all. I’ve done a lot of research, and Estriol doesn’t seem to cause growth of the uterine lining the way estradiol does, but there are always exceptions. So, as the spotting lingered on, my mind went to the possibility of uterine cancer. I called my gynecologist.

I had my appointment this morning with Dr. M, another wonderful doctor that I’ve been lucky enough to find. Just to let you know how unusual she is, she once called me from her cell phone on vacation to warn me against seeing the breast surgeon that I had originally chosen. It turned out that she had done her residency under him and saw him cut corners that put patients lives in jeopardy. No one would ever have known this because he is incredibly charming and prays with his patients, and they adore him. I can’t tell you what that meant to me.

Dr. M wasn’t particularly worried. She smiled at me and said, “I think you’re just menstruating.”

“But the oncologist told me I was done.”

“They say that all the time, but I see women get their periods back at your age. Now you really need to think about contraception.”

“Huh?” In the space of five minutes, I went from a menopausal crone to a woman with a cycle who needs to worry about getting pregnant. It must be the hair. When I went to Florida last month, I saw a fabulous hairstylist who erased my silver locks and made me a bithcin’ blonde. My body must have just taken notice of this turn of events and decided that we’re younger now.

Dr. M didn’t flinch when I told her about the Estriol. She said that she didn’t think that would cause bleeding using it only twice per week, but we’re waiting to see what happens. She told me that if the cycles didn’t have a pattern, or the spotting didn’t stop soon, to give her a call and she would order an ultrasound.

I guess I’ll have to take back all of the feminine products I moved to my daughter’s bathroom months ago. I know I should be freaking out that I have enough estrogen to restart a menstrual cycle, but in a strange way, I’m kind of tickled. My body is rebelling against the months of insults that have been hurled at it and trying to regain balance. In my opinion, that’s pretty awesome.

Hormone Update

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It’s been almost a month since I saw the integrative MD and received the forbidden hormone prescription, hands trembling. I felt such mixed emotions that day. On one hand, I knew from experience how wonderful estrogen makes me feel…enthusiastic, outgoing, sexual, and just happy. On the other hand, I was acutely aware that I could be signing my own death warrant.

My first prescription (yes, there have been several) was for a vaginal cream containing mostly estriol along with smaller amounts of estradiol, testosterone and progesterone. Ironically, the day before I started it, I felt fantabulous! I was in a great mood, full of energy. Then I used the cream. At night it gave me hot flashes, and when I woke up I felt slightly hung over, tired, and generally blah.

I recognized my symptoms instantly as the “progesterone doldrums”. I’ve tried progesterone several times before, and I just don’t tolerate it well. I called the doctor’s office to get the prescription tweaked. The second attempt had no estriol (it gives me hot flashes), half the progesterone, and testosterone. No dice. My libido was definitely improved by the testosterone, but the progesterone was still too much.

After another call to the doctor, he decided to separate out the progesterone so I could adjust the dose as needed. The estradiol and testosterone are still combined. I’m supposed to use the cream once at night, but I’ve had to experiment because it seems that I need a dose in the daytime as well. I’ve tried splitting it in half and using it twice, but that makes each dose too small to be effective.

Meanwhile, taking hormones has been causing a lot of stress. I’m so torn about the risks vs the benefits. There are several studies showing that breast cancer survivors who take hormones are at no greater risk of recurrence and actually have better survival than those who don’t. But I can hear my oncologist’s voice in my head, telling me that I’m making a really bad decision.

So what are we to do, the breast cancer brigade? Do we fade quietly into the background with painful joints, weakened hearts, mushy brains and zero sexuality? Or do we forge an unpopular path less traveled and hope for the best, armed with our own research? Yet again, the choices are impossible.

As for my hormonal foray, it has proved to be much more difficult than I was hoping. As I write this, I’m in the middle of a hot flash, perhaps caused by the Arimidex I took an hour ago per my new doctor’s instructions. He’s willing to give me hormones, but he doesn’t want my body producing any extra or the wrong kinds.

And truthfully, I can’t say that I feel better emotionally, which was my main goal in starting this journey. I’m up and down. Saturday I felt on top of the world, but the past two days I’ve been quiet and withdrawn. And my chin is breaking out just a little, maybe from the testosterone.

So, let’s review. I was willing to take a huge risk with hormones for the trade-off of having brighter moods, less fatigue, a sex drive, a clearer mind and protection for my bones, joints and heart. And what have I accomplished? Sex drive…check.  Clearer mind…check.  Less fatigue..sometimes. Brighter mood…still quite unpredictable and fleeting. And that last one was at the top of my wish list. I’m just tired of feeling blah.

Wednesday I go to get my hormone levels checked. I started to cancel since I haven’t been on a steady dose over these past few weeks. But then I decided that it might be a good idea to get a snapshot of where I am for future comparisons.

At this point I’m not feeling enough of a benefit to justify the risk, and the thought of taking Arimidex goes against my gut. I’ll give this expensive experiment a little more time before I make a final decision. At $55 per prescription, I’m about “tweaked” out.

I Had To Buy New Big Girl Panties….

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Life for the past week or so has been rough. I went on the fabulous, soul-sustaining trip to Florida with my son, and the after-glow lasted for several days once I got back. I felt like a new girl, like I wasn’t in the middle of a grueling 4-month course of chemo. Then the crash came…

Last Tuesday, I woke to the most overwhelming sense of sadness that I’ve had since finding out about the breast cancer back in March. It came out of nowhere and threw me for a real loop. It felt exactly like the neurotic, post-partum funk I always experienced when I brought a baby home from the hospital. I lost my bearings, and I couldn’t control the tears which flowed freely at the drop of a hat.

I chalked the emotional avalanche up to the complete dearth of estrogen in my body caused by the chemo drugs. Interestingly, I have to say that Adriamycin, aka “the red devil”, didn’t feel as inherently toxic to my body as Taxol has. Yes, it made me more physically ill with nausea, heartburn, etc, but I feel intuituvely that Taxol is leaving a more lasting, albeit silent, wake of destruction. For all it’s red rage, Adriamycin did not stop my menstrual cycle. First drop of Taxol = “instant menopause”.

I had an appointment with the oncologist at last Thursday’s treatment. He asked how things were going. I held it together for a few minutes as I described how horribly I was struggling with the emotional aspect of having no estrogen. I asked if he had read the research about using low-dose vaginal estrogen to help with menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients. He said that he had, but that he didn’t feel comfortable doing that because he wasn’t sure how much estrogen would be released systemically. Game over. I started sobbing.

He went on to tell me that I could get anti-depressants and lubricants, neither of which appeals to me as a long-term solution. I explained that I had been on anti-depressants for post-partum issues and that it took me 6 years and 25lbs to break out of that prison. I finally got to a happy, balanced place with the running and the healthy diet. Then this shit happened. I almost felt sorry for him because he is a genuinely caring person, and I know he felt bad that he couldn’t offer me any real hope. His advice was, “Don’t get ahead of yourself. Just take things one day at a time.” Ok.

Today, I am in a little bit of a better place. Ever the problem-solver, I took the advice of my Gyspsy goddess acupuncturist and made an appointment with an integrative MD that she knows well and respects. She assured me that I would really like him and that he is very open-minded. I hope so…the initial consult is $465 for two hours. And of course, he is not covered by my insurance. I’m a little very leery of spending this much out of pocket since I know there will inevitably be follow-ups and supplements, but I really want to meet a doctor I can fall in love with and who gets me. I will run my hormone hell by him.

I have also been reading more inspirational things on the web lately. I went on the BreastCancer.Org discussion boards yesterday and read about ladies who are 5 and 10-year plus survivors of Stage 3 breast cancer. Some were even 25+ years out with things like triple-negative status and 20 positive nodes. I needed to see that. They are living normal lives and having fun, and they don’t spend every day anymore worrying.

I’m considering doing a 5k to celebrate the final round of Taxol next week. Friends are uging me on, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull it off two days after chemo. I’ll go with my gut when next Saturday comes. Whenever I get back to racing, I have designed the t-shirt I’ll wear:

5K CANCER SHIRT

5K CANCER SHIRT BACK

I’ll keep you posted…until then I’m pulling up my crisp new pair of big girl panties and reclaiming control.

Breast Cancer Is All In My Head

80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:

As I did my 2 mile walk-run last Sunday at the park, I felt the breeze on my face and watched the river flow by next to the trail. It felt good to be there again. I tried to remember back to last summer when my world was intact and everything chimed along without the constant interruption of doctor’s visits, tests, and statistics. What a different time that was. I was training for my half marathon, and I had almost gotten to the point where I could do 10 miles with just a few minutes rest. It seems like a million miles away….before my body betrayed me.

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I’m not going to lie to you. I’m a positive person, and I love to laugh and make fun of myself, but this crap is starting to wear me down. It’s getting in my head. This odyssey began in March like an atomic bomb, and then it was off to the races. CT scans, bone scans, surgery, endless combinations of pharmaceuticals, blah, blah, blah…..

I know that a lot of my current mindset has to do with the medically induced menopause that may or may not be permanent. I’m now 3 months into chemo with one more month to go, and the drugs are slowly but surely killing my ovaries.  I have hot flashes at night that interrupt my sleep and dark thoughts that creep into my days, and I don’t like that.

Today I was looking at Naturopath programs online. This is an area that really fascinates me, and I think it would be very fulfilling to help people heal with natural methods and nutrition. I was excited for about 10 minutes when I caught myself thinking “I don’t know if I have time for that. It’s a 4 year program.”  Low estrogen does not create a happy place for me. I knew this before I was ever aware of “the cancer”. That’s why I was taking bioidentical hormones. They just made life better all around. It seems cruel that just when I found a good balance, it was pulled out from under me with no alternative.

Aside from the hormonal roller coaster, cancer just plain messes with your head. I don’t think I ever realized how powerful knowledge is. The knowledge that you have a potential death sentence hanging over your head. Last summer, I was blissfully ignorant. I had this time bomb ticking inside of me, but I went about my business, and I ran, and I feared nothing. I remember thinking that they must have the wrong chart when they told me I had breast cancer. I felt so alive and healthy. I wondered on the way home today if I would still be going full steam without the limits my mind has imposed.

They say that my 10 year survival rate is 82%, which is much higher than the statistics I saw on the internet when I was first diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I should be happy with the news, yet I still question all the time whether I’m doing the right thing in following the “standard of care”. It just never quite made sense to me that I could heal my body by destroying my immune system with poison and radiation. This is a daily struggle in my mind. Sure, I’m doing a lot of alternative things to minimize the damage, but can my body overcome it? It’s a gamble at best and a very difficult road to travel.

I guess the bottom line is that I’m tired. I’m just tired. And there’s a lot more of this journey left to endure. In less than a month, I’ll face a whole new set of decisions surrounding radiation therapy and Tamoxifen. Some women do fine with both. Some suffer miserable, long-term side effects. I’ll face this with the same rebellious determination that I’ve relied on to this point. The doctors are going to have to prove to me why I should inflict more trauma on my body and my psyche. 82%. Those are my odds with just surgery and chemotherapy; I think it will be hard to improve much on that.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back in the cancer saddle, making a morbidly twisted joke. But sometimes even a funny girl has to let her guard down.