Burn the maps

No maps for the realm I live in now.  I no longer know if I am living or dying, there is literally no way to tell.  I feel better in the past few days, and even went swimming a day or so ago with a new friend who is fearless, and also has a Stage IV cancer.  We celebrated our day of feeling well!  Two old gals having a great time!

But I remember all too well my recent “episode” as my primary doctor called my collapse a month ago. And the sense of my death there, waiting.  One new possibility to explain it: maybe I had a TIA, or small stroke.  No way to know, but it does kind of fit.  Bizarrely, this actually sounds like good news.  Maybe it’s not the cancer, coming back with a vengeance.  But I really don’t know.

This evening I walked over to the Rose Villa prayer group and while there, not my intention in going, I asked for help in discerning how to proceed in my life.  Showered with prayers!  I’ve never been a good praying out loud type person.  We didn’t pray in my childhood, no one I knew did that.  As an adult, I have all sorts of practices that I use in a skillful and reverent way, but praying out loud isn’t one of them.  It’s a great comfort to hear, and my heart is full of gratitude. An easing up of the feeling that I’m in this all by myself.

Here’s the thing:  how do I proceed in a sustainable way?  Without too much efforting, but with enough that I do get stronger over time.  Without being so careful that I no longer know my actual boundaries, but without stepping into another episode, either.

There are no maps here, no one to look to for advice, no tried and true resource.  No one knows.  What’s interesting is the shimmering, the shimmering grace I named this blog for.  That shimmering is saying “you need to turn inwards and seek your own deepest wisdom.”  That keeps coming up over and over again, in a wide variety of ways.

In Buddhism, guru yoga is a practice I’ve tried off and on for decades.  In it, you imagine the Buddha, or Green Tara, or Jesus or Mary, or whatever form of the Holy that inspires you – in front of you.  From their head a white light flows into your head, filling it with white light.  A ruby red light flows from their throat to your throat, filling your words with their wisdom.  Lapis Lazuli blue flows from their heart to fill your heart with their compassion and loving kindness.  And then you rest in this direct connection.  Not as easy as it sounds, but powerful.

Now I have been introduced to a variation of this practice by Christiana, my Tibetan healer here in Portland.  For this variation, I visualize Green Tara (for me, because I have a devotion to her) inside my heart, inside my own body.  Her white light fills my head, her ruby red throat energy fills my throat, and so on.  It’s a little more complex than this, but you get the idea.  Filled with her green light in my heart, I rest with that and at some point, I will ask for guidance and direction, from within my own soul.  It’s promising. And not easy to do.

One easy answer is to simply live in the Now, without any map into the future at all.  Yes, but that really doesn’t answer my dilemma of how to get stronger in a sustainable way.  One of the loudest voices from my family is to override all pain and all obstacles with a force of will.  Just do it.  That mantra.  I did that, and went from a IV to a III.  It worked, I was successful against all odds. However, I also discovered that in so doing, I was draining the energy pool underneath my whole being, the Jing energy, faster than I was replenishing it, if that is even possible at this point.  Some practitioners of Chinese medicine say that Kidney chi cannot be replaced.  When you run out, you die.  Others say that it can be replenished slowly and with great care.  That is what I want to do, or try to do, now.  But who the fuck really knows if it’s possible.   No one really knows.

So, more alternative docs on the horizon as I check out a few, slowly.  I shall see Dr. Nida who is a master Tibetan doctor coming to Portland in a few weeks.  Restorative yoga seems right to me now.  Laying outside on the grass in the sun, check.  Practicing a little chi gung, check.  Eating with mindfulness, a nourishing diet, check.  Walking around the Rose Villa campus when I can, yes.  Meditation, check.  Adrenal support capsules, okay.

A fragment of a new map is forming, one little piece at a time.  I can do this!

Thank you and blessings to all of you who offer me support in such a tapestry of ways, weaving a blanket of love to catch me when I fall.  May you know a deep and abiding wellness, the joy that lies beyond all suffering,  throughout your days.









Tibetan Medicine update

Dr. Tenzin is back in Portland, and I got to see her today.  She encourages me to eat better, especially broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.  And soursop, a strange fruit I’ve never seen.  My husband Eric looked up on his laptop where to find it in Portland.  I’ll let you know.  Dr. Tenzin says that some folks are finding soursop to be 90 times more effective than chemo!  Worth a try, part of the adventure of this process.

And says “Joy.  Focus on joy.”  In her own very respectful way she indicates that I am worrying too much, thinking too much, and need to relax.  Yup, got that right. Easier said than done, that.

Dr. Tenzin did her Tibetan bowl magic on my body again, this time focusing on clearing my lungs.  When the last vibration had sung itself out, I felt my whole chest cavity open and clear, and my breath deepened. Christiana, who lives in Portland, is learning and I bet she will be extremely good at this, too.  I plan to provide this to myself as often as we can afford it; it’s delicious and effective.  I wish everyone in the world could have this experience at least once!

Dr. Tenzin taught me a Medicine Buddha Healing chant, and even suggested that I record her singing it in Tibetan on my phone.  The idea is to sing it for every bead on my new sunstone mala, 108 times a day.  Memorizing just about anything is hard for me, but I look forward to this practice, and hearing her voice every night, with her profound encouragement: Trust yourself.  Live your life fully every day, find joy.

And I will be sending out the energy of the Medicine Buddha to everyone I know and to all sentient beings, as well.

Because, hey, I am stronger now!

PS on Food as Medicine

For those of you who might have read this last post on food as medicine,  I have some other recipe books to recommend that help a great deal with cancer and really any other illness or disease that you might live with.

Eating Your Way Back to Health: A Guide to Anti-Inflammatory Cooking, by Jessica K. Black, ND, and her second book, More Anti-Inflammation Diet Tips and Recipes: Protect Yourself from Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies, Fatigue and Pain.  Both of these books, written by a Portland local Naturopathic doctor, offer some really excellent recipes and information about foods we might be choosing.  She has a foolproof banana bread recipe, for example, that is gluten free and sugar free and tastes great, easy to make.

When I was much younger and lived in NYC in the late 60s, there was a restaurant not too far from me in what became the East Village that served only macrobiotic food.  I loved that food, and used to think that if I ever got really ill I would revert to a completely macrobiotic diet.  Well, now I am really ill, and am turning naturally to this diet.  It’s similar to all of these I’m recommending now, but based more on a Japanese style of eating, with seaweeds, rice, and no sugar except fruit.  I find that I am now craving this food.  My old copy of Zen Cooking is probably out of date, but I assume there are newer books out with an updated macrobiotic menu.

Kidney cancer is a strange disease, in that all the doctors of Chinese medicine and Tibetan medicine that I’ve consulted have urged me to eat meat and eggs.  What I find is that I feel stronger and healthier when I eat meat about 3 times a week.  Most cancer fighting menus urge patients not to eat meat at all, but I get a pass on that one.  I give thanks to every animal who has sacrificed.  That part is hard for me.  We buy only locally grown beef that is humanely treated, feed no antibiotics, and is free range.

I think we’re back to trusting our own bodies, and listening deeply to how they respond to just about everything we try on this healing journey.  Bodies don’t lie, they are trustworthy, so I hope that you listen carefully to yours.

And do feel free to share here what you might have learned about this topic.  Comments are most welcome.  I want to learn more.





Food as Medicine

Early on this journey, a good friend and renowned chef Amelia Hard turned us on to a cookbook entitled The Cancer Fighting Kitchen, by Rebecca Katz.  Great food, great taste, and easy to use.  Eric prepares the Magic Mineral broth every weekend, and then creates a range of meals using the broth as the basis.  And it is indeed magic!  He plunks into a large kettle every type of vegetable you could imagine, plus kombu which is a seaweed, and lotus seeds (which I read was good for kidney cancer) and covers it all with filtered water.  Then cooks the whole thing for about 6 to 8 hours, all day.  The drained broth goes in the fridge and the vegetables, which have surrendered their goodies to the broth, go into the compost.  Sometimes he adds chicken bones, sometimes range fed beef knuckle bones.

Katz offers some fantastic soup and main dish recipes and salads, some muffins and deserts, smoothies and such.  What we have learned is that sugar of any kind feeds cancer cells, so we use acacia honey which is a low glycemic sweetener, and some maple syrup.  Bleached flour and breads, even potatoes, all end up as sugar, so they are out, too.  Mostly.  I can actually tell now when I eat too much sugar, I get sick quickly.

This book would be good for anyone.  It’s set up to help you deal with treatment side effects, such as nausea, depression, lack of appetite, and fatigue, as well as prevention and actually removing tumors.  She tells us what each ingredient is good for.

Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, describes his own personal journey with cancer, and how he used food to fight his brain cancer, even while being ridiculed by other doctors.  For him, it worked well.  He lived about 20 years past his prognosis.  His book includes a holistic model including mind-body meditations.

He recommends organic cherries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, black raspberry extract, rosemary, parsley, black olives.  No frozen fish.  Omega-3 butter (not margarine) and eggs, avoid processed pork, red meat less than 3 times a week.  Basmati rice, virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil for cooking and salads.

Mushrooms, green tea (steep 10 minutes) and turmeric supports something called angiostatin, which blocks the growth of new blood vessels needed for a cancer to grow.  If you use turmeric, it needs to be plus pepper and coconut oil.  You can read more at http://www.anticancerbook.com.  He was a doctor, so this book is detailed, technical, but readable, not a recipe book.

Experts don’t agree on food as medicine, in his opinion, because the pharmaceutical industry on one side makes their money on drugs, and the food industry protects itself by discouraging dissemination of links between food and illness.  They don’t want anything to change.  For those of us who are fighting for our lives and cannot or will not use western medicine, “it is unacceptable to continue to be the passive victim of these economic forces.”  So his book covers the politics of all this, too.

Foods to Fight Cancer, by Beliveau, Ph.D.is a lovely, full color book that goes into more detail about what to use, and how to cook it, but is not a recipe book.  “Food is like a chemotherapy” taken three times a day, he says, studied by humans for zillions of years.  Nutraceuticals are any food that contains a large quantity of one or more molecules with anticancer potential.  Antioxidants don’t cut it in terms of dealing with cancer.  He groups his guidelines into several categories:

Cabbage: brussels sprouts, kale, watercress, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower.  Eat 5 x a week.  Do not boil.  Cook quickly, steam or stir fry.  These foods he claims can fight existing tumors.  Eric makes a great curried cauliflower soup from the Katz book.

Garlic: garlic,onions, leeks, shallots, chives.  Good to prevent prostate and stomach cancers.

Soy: use as food, not a supplement.  I can’t use any soy, gives me migraines.

Tumeric: with pepper and coconut oil.  Anti-inflammatory. (Research from other sources report that turmeric can remove tumors. I’ll post about getting turmeric directly into my veins.  )

Green tea: Try Oolong.  Gyokuro is a mild green. Bancha is what I use.  It blocks angiogenesis, so over time it can kill a tumor.  No blood supply, no tumor.

Berries: Same as the other book.  Anti-angiogenesis.  Cranberries help kidneys.  Pecans.

Omega-3s:  We have been buying more expensive eggs, for example.  I just started using Ghee made from omega-3 butter, organic.

Seaweed, Ginger, Mushrooms.  I add these items based on research from other sources, especially mushrooms.  That’s a whole blog unto itself, coming up soon.

This post is like flying overhead at about Mt. Hood height or higher, surveying the landscape of ‘food as medicine’.  It may save my life, and it is a whole realm unto itself. It’s a daily occupation to get as much as this into each meal as I can.

It helps when someone else can cook for you, and cook with LOVE!  The all important ingredient.  But if you are on your own, get the Katz book and enjoy!