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Life in Limbo Land: Waiting to get booted from the cancer club

Jim Seida / NBCNews.com

“You take a hit to your femininity,” says Diane Mapes, seen here wrapping her hands before working out at Axtion Club boxing gym in Seattle. “But your hair comes back, strength comes back, and my boobs will come back eventually.” Mapes had a double mastectomy in 2011.

By Diane Mapes

There’s nothing like having cancer to make you appreciate the little things in life — like buying shampoo, running a few miles or being able to forget the address of the hospital where you were treated.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2011, I felt like I lived at that hospital. Today — a year out from treatment — it’s in the rear view mirror, along with the double mastectomy and debilitating chemo and radiation I wrote about last October on TODAY.com.

Not that there aren’t still plenty of daily reminders regarding my year of living cancerously: chemo brain, adhesion pain, hot flashes (courtesy of my new BFF tamoxifen) and, oh yes, my board-flat Olive Oyl chest.

But there have been good, uh, developments, too.

The biggest one — for me — is that I now have hair. For those of you who think baseball is slow and tedious, all I can say is try watching hair grow sometime.

I disguised my bald head with a wig from mid-June until New Year’s Eve then gratefully ditched it, along with the tape, the itchiness, and the constant fear that I’d accidentally spin the thing around backwards while swing dancing like some character on Gilligan’s Island.

Passing as … French
Come January, I let my freak flag fly and began rocking a dark gray micro pixie.

“With the wig, I was trying to pass as a healthy, normal woman,” I joked to my friends about my super short ‘do. “Now, I’m trying to pass as French.”

Today, I don’t worry so much about passing. I finally have my old color back and a somewhat normal-looking hairstyle. Although the word “style” may be pushing it. My new hair is a mass of unruly chemo curls, the type of curls I used to spend long hours (and big bucks) trying to achieve with body perms and hot rollers.

‘Chemo curls’ another kink in cancer recovery

That’s the good news.

Well, that, and the fact I’m no longer a chemo invalid, hobbling around my apartment hanging onto chairs and using pliers to open a bottle of water (although my new hobby, boxing, sometimes leaves me feeling this way). Nor am I getting zapped by radiation every day, then coming home to slather greasy ointment all over my lobster red chest in an attempt to keep the skin from peeling off.

I’ve been running for months; ditto for boxing and swing dancing. I have my strength, my appetite, my healthy skin and my hair back (well, most of it, anyway – RIP, dear eyebrows).

I’ve finally kicked treatment to the curb.

But being done with cancer treatment and being done with cancer are two very different things. That’s the bad news.

I remember feeling almost giddy as I waltzed into my oncologist’s office last November, finally done with five grueling months of chemo and radiation. Surely, there was a certificate waiting for me with a huge “CANCER-FREE!” stamp beside my name.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how things work in the cancer club.

“I’m sorry,” my oncologist told me when I asked her point blank if I was cured. “But we don’t really use the C-word.”

Instead, they do quarterly blood tests to look for tumor markers. They do physical exams to make sure I haven’t developed a persistent pain or nagging cough. They do a scan now and then to check up on weird anomalies like lung nodules and liver cysts and to make sure my uterus is still “unremarkable” (a backhanded pathological compliment I’ve come to appreciate).

Life in Limbo Land
In a nutshell, they wait and see if the cancer comes back.

And I wait with them, living my life with one foot firmly planted in the real world and one foot shakily set in what I call Limbo Land.

Am I cured? They don’t know. Am I going to have to go through the whole bloody mess again? They don’t know.

“It’s after treatment that some people have the hardest time coping,” Mindy Greenstein, psycho-oncologist, author and former breast cancer patient, told me when we chatted about this strange new terrain. “You’re dumped back into your regular life but it’s very different. You don’t feel like you’re actively fighting something. You just have to live with it.”

But living with a cancerous question mark hanging over your head isn’t easy. Your friends and family are sick of hearing about it. Sick of worrying about it. And even simple questions like “How … uh … are you?” are fraught with dark nuances.

“I’m fine — as far as I know,” I usually tell people, going into what I call myChuckles, the Cancer Clown routine. “I’ve forgotten how to spell, I’ve eaten so many cruciferous vegetables I’ve practically got cauliflower ear and my chest still looks like one of the talking trees from Wizard of Oz. But I’m not dead!”

Jim Seida / NBCNews.com

Diane Mapes boxes three times a week for fitness and to strengthen her body for her upcoming reconstructive surgery. “Boxing is my way to hit back,” she says. “Literally.”

When I asked Greenstein how she copes with the fear of recurrence, of mets (not the baseball team but the metastatic spread of breast cancer), of someharsh new disease brought on by treatment, of her own mortality, she said she uses different approaches.

“Sometimes I think of all the worst things that can happen and how I would handle them,” she said. “Other times, I’m a positive thinker. Whatever works in the moment, that’s what you go for.”

I guess that’s where the boxing comes in.

For me, it’s a healthy way to work off the rage I still feel over my diagnosis and treatment, which is sometimes hard to distinguish from the tortures they used to inflict on suspected witches back in the day. Knowing how to throw a punch is also an effective way to keep people from telling me how “lucky” I am I had breast cancer because now I can get big new beautiful boobs.

Yes, distractions like running, boxing, blogging, swing dancing and even dating have worked well for me.

Not that there aren’t the occasional grating moments.

“So when are you going to get your new tits?” one guy asked a while back over drinks.

“Excuse me?” I said, laser beams shooting out of my eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he quickly apologized. “When are you going to get your new breasts?”

He’s hardly the first person — or the first date —  to ask about the girls. Lots of people do, probably because I was so adamant — and so public — about not wanting to lose them in the first place.

Now, at nearly a year post-radiation, it’s time for me to figure out what I want to do about reconstruction, a process far more complicated than your run-of-the-mill boob job. But more surgery? More recovery? More pain? More drains? Once again, my body’s due for a transformation my mind’s not quite ready to embrace.

“If you’ve been out having a normal life, the thought of making yourself a patient again is very difficult,” Greenstein told me when I confessed my hesitation about going back under the knife. “One way of coping is to look at this as the next thing on the way to getting your full life back.”

And I do want my full life back. Not to mention my full bra back.

I’m tired of wearing my V-necks backwards, of misplacing my gummi, department store boobs on top of the dresser, of experiencing yet another wardrobe malfunction at the gym (“Ricky” has a tendency to migrate over to “Lucy’s” place if you know what I mean).

I miss my old carefree self, my old carefree life, where a bad headache or weird leg pain didn’t routinely morph into metastatic breast cancer at 3 a.m. I’m just not sure if new girls are going to help me get it back. I’m not sure what, exactly, is going to help me get it back. To put those fears — irrational and otherwise — to bed for good.

And so I box. And run. And offer advice to newly diagnosed women. I fret about lymphedema and send out tweets about the latest research on this sleeping beast that inexplicably comes to life in our breasts.

I read. I write. I kick myself when I forget to put sun block on my irradiated chest. I laugh with my sisters until I nearly pee my pants and flirt with inappropriately young men. I listen to inspiring stories from survivors and try to spin a few myself.

I sing loudly but listen for dark whispers. Like the rest of us in this lousy club, I keep slogging ahead.

Diane Mapes is a frequent contributor at NBCNews.com and TODAY.com. She’s the author of “How to Date in a Post-Dating World” and blogs about breast cancer at www.doublewhammied.com.

More from TODAY.com contributor Diane Mapes:

Cancer kiss-off: Getting dumped after diagnosis

Mastectomy and the single girl: A bucket list for boobs

Dating after diagnosis: Love in the time of chemotherapy

Related: 

Five years after cancer, an emotional Hoda thanks her doctors

http://todayhealth.today.com/_news/2012/10/29/14785145-life-in-limbo-land-waiting-to-get-booted-from-the-cancer-club?lite

Healing Cancer Naturally – A Holistic Approach

by Mary Laredo, Natural News

In 1971, President Nixon declared a war on cancer. In the ensuing decades, tens of billions of dollars have been spent on the cause yet a cure by orthodox means remains elusive. By any standards this campaign has been a failed endeavour; or worse, a shameful fraud. Progress is a myth, and sustaining hope for the development of a safe and effective cancer drug is pointless. It’s up to each individual to empower themselves with knowledge of the myriad ways to eradicate cancer without harming the body. Although it’s easier to prevent cancer than to reverse it once it has taken hold, it is nevertheless reversible with holistic therapies that address imbalances of the body, mind and spirit. This is not an opinion; it is a statement of fact that’s based on this author’s first-hand experience.

A comprehensive approach to healing cancer includes at least the following eight factors:

  • 1. Proper nutrition and clean water
  • 2. Detoxification
  • 3. Immune building
  • 4. Oxygen therapy
  • 5. Natural chemotherapies
  • 6. Lifestyle changes: adequate sleep, sunlight & exercise
  • 7. A positive attitude
  • 8. Spiritual cleansing

Regardless of the cancer’s aggressiveness, the body will respond to this holistic approach – the speed and degree to which it does so is commensurate with the diligence and extent to which these eight factors are applied. No cancer treatment, conventional or otherwise, comes with an iron-clad guarantee; however, it’s important to consider that orthodox treatments ravage the body and ignore the underlying causes while alternative treatments strengthen the body and address its healing requirements. Reason and logic side with alternative therapies.

These guidelines are merely an overview of what a comprehensive holistic protocol would include. The term “cancer survivor” refers to those who have been diagnosed with the disease and are still alive – whether they are in remission or not. The cancer survivor should adopt as many of these strategies as is feasible, slowly incorporating them into one’s lifestyle and working with a naturopath if necessary. A holistic healer can be located through the help of a reputable chiropractor, acupuncturist or other practitioner of the healing arts. A health food store may also provide contacts.

It’s useful to determine whether the body’s chronic stressors include specific nutritional deficiencies, absorption problems and/or the burden of toxic heavy metals. This insight is possible through analysis of hair, urine or blood, and will help determine which supplements and therapies will enhance treatment. Without addressing these conditions, optimum healing may be delayed or prevented.

1. Nutrition

Proper nutrition and pure filtered water is critical to a successful anti-cancer strategy. Diet alone can make or break the effectiveness of any cancer treatment and is therefore the most important strategic point. Knowing which foods feed cancer cells, which interfere with the treatment, and which assist in healing is vital.

Refined sugar feeds and strengthens cancer cells and should be the first substance to be eliminated. Sugar substitutes, refined flour and trans fatty acids damage the body and numerous studies link them to cancer. Dairy and all mucus-forming foods should also be avoided. Processed foods, carbonated beverages, coffee, alcohol, chlorine and fluoride fall into the category of foods and substances that interfere with healing and may fuel the cancer’s growth. Conversely, a diet of nutrient-rich foods will enhance all levels of the healing process.

All plant foods contain nutrients that aid healing. Herbs, fruits and vegetables have properties that protect against and inhibit the proliferation of cancer while strengthening, cleansing and repairing the body. These include green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), sea vegetables, fruits (especially berries and dark grapes with seeds and skins), garlic, ginger, turmeric and green tea, among many others. A diet containing an abundance of organic plant foods provides layers of nutritional protection.

Concentrated fats from flax oil and olive oil may be used unheated while coconut oil can be used for cooking. Although these healthy oils as well as fats from whole foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds provide the essential fatty acids necessary for oxygenation of cells, they should nevertheless be kept to a minimum (approximately 15% of diet) since fat slows digestion and in large quantities may accelerate tumor growth. Once the cancer is stabilized this restriction may be relaxed.

Animal protein should be eliminated if possible; however, we are all of different constitutions, so for those who must consume flesh, it should be restricted to small amounts of organic, pasture-fed beef or poultry, and wild-caught fish. Beans and legumes are an excellent source of fiber and many important nutrients and may be consumed in moderation.

While whole grains also contain fiber and nutrients, there is disagreement among experts as to their place in a healing diet. Due in part to their sugar and gluten content, and the digestive load they place on the body already burdened by cancer, they should be eliminated or restricted to gluten-free varieties, at least until the condition is stable. Likewise, natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup should also be restricted while cancer remains active. The herb stevia is a safe sweetener.

The cancer survivor should aim for a diet that is at least 80% raw. This will ensure an alkaline environment as well as an ample supply of enzymes for healing processes. Oral supplementation of digestive enzymes with meals and systemic enzymes on an empty stomach will further aid healing.

2. Detoxification

Effective healing requires the removal of accumulated toxins and metabolic wastes. Being mindful to eliminate or minimize the ingestion of processed foods, substances, and environmental toxins that inhibit the healing process is of primary importance. It’s also beneficial to begin a healing regimen with a cleanse of the kidneys, liver and colon to remove stored toxins. There are many effective cleansing formulas and procedures that can be found at health food stores, the internet, or through a holistic healer.

In addition to consciously avoiding toxic exposure and cleansing the organs of elimination, there are various therapies and practices that will help purify the body. Some include daily stretching to release acids from tissues; rebounding on a mini-trampoline to move lymph fluid, flush waste, and increase the number and activity of white blood cells; perspiring in a sauna to purge toxins through the skin; juicing to alkalize and cleanse tissues, and castor oil packs to enhance circulation, stimulate the immune system and aid in detoxification.

Toxic build-up can also be released through fasting, which helps to heal and rejuvenate the body. The practice of coffee enemas should also be considered since it prevents the reabsorption of toxins, cleanses the blood and liver, and counteracts the symptoms of a potential healing crisis. To be clear on how to proceed with a fast or enema it may be necessary to speak with a health care professional.

3. Immune Building

The immune system is our body’s natural defense against harmful substances and abnormal cell development. Any cell within the body can mutate in response to negative stressors, but a healthy immune system will stop its growth and defend against an uncontrollable malignancy. There are various groups of white blood cells that possess an innate intelligence for healing. Their functions include identifying, attacking, destroying and finally removing abnormal cells through the body’s lymph system and organs of elimination. Strategies to strengthen and build these natural defenses to prevent or treat cancer include a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods and supplementation. Chlorella, mushroom extracts, aloe vera, and milk thistle are just a few of the many supplements that strengthen the body’s natural defenses.

4. Oxygen

The more toxic the body, the less oxygen is delivered to cells. Oxygen starvation at the cellular level leads to disease; in fact, it’s an undisputed fact that cancer cells cease to grow when blood and tissues are sufficiently oxygenated. There are many ways to oxygenate the body, including a highly alkaline diet (80% raw). This raises the body’s internal PH which enhances the transport of oxygen to cells. Regular exercise, deep breathing, and adequate consumption of pure water are other simple methods to increase oxygen uptake. Ozone, which is activated oxygen, may be used therapeutically in the home by drinking ozonated water and using ozone saunas. Hospitals in Mexico, Europe and Malaysia administer intravenous ozone infusions with great success. There are also clinics in the United States; however, they operate under threat of FDA reprisal and confiscation of ozone equipment. For more information about oxygen therapies and ozone visit (www.oxygenhealth.com) , (www.colecenter.com) , and (www.ozonehospital.com) .

5. Natural Chemotherapies

There are many natural, non-toxic chemotherapies that directly or indirectly kill malignancies. None of them are stand-alone treatments however, and should be considered as one component of a comprehensive protocol. Amygdalin, also known as laetrile or vitamin B17, selectively targets and destroys cancer cells while healthy cells remain unharmed. The substance is naturally occurring in many plant foods, including apple seeds, bitter almonds and apricot pits, and may also be obtained through oral supplements or administered intravenously. Four decades worth of clinical evidence and case studies attest to its efficacy. Supplements may be found online, and many hospitals in Mexico and Europe administer intravenous laetrile; however, the FDA has deemed this therapy illegal in the States. Other treatments that indirectly kill cancer cells include shark liver oil, shark cartilage and melatonin, all of which cut off the blood supply to tumors.

6. Lifestyle Changes

Deep, restful sleep is an important part of an effective healing strategy. During sleep our bodies undergo the processes of rebuilding, detoxifying and healing. The liver works during the deepest level of sleep, the delta level, to break down and eliminate carcinogens. Additionally, sleeping in complete darkness contributes to healthy levels of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that promotes restful sleep. Eating three hours before sleep, especially protein, should be avoided since it diverts the body’s healing efforts to digestion. The value of adequate sleep should not be overlooked because without it our healing efforts will be compromised.

Other lifestyle changes include sunlight exposure and daily exercise. Research links lack of sunlight to certain cancers and vitamin D from sunlight has been shown to shrink tumors. Adequate exposure during the early morning or late afternoon hours is the safest way to obtain the restorative benefits of sunlight. The darker one’s pigmentation, the more exposure is necessary. Avoid over-exposure during the hottest part of the day as sunburns can damage skin and promote cancer.

Regular exercise speeds up the elimination of toxins and is necessary to keep the body oxygenated and to improve lymphatic function while building immunity. These therapeutic benefits can be achieved through moderate exercise at least three times per week and gradually increasing duration and/or intensity as new thresholds are reached.

The body, through its resilience, will heal itself when given what it needs. Its sustenance however is not the end of the story. Addressing the mind and emotions is the second component of the holistic approach that should not be overlooked.

7. A Positive Attitude

Developing a positive attitude will reduce psychological stress and profoundly aid the healing process. A cancer survivor can achieve this in part by becoming proactive through researching alternative options. This is an empowering strategy and gives one a firm sense of control. There are innumerable books and websites that outline alternative cancer therapies. One of many extensive sites and a good place to begin research is (www.cancertutor.com) .

There are also many inspiring books and success stories written by cancer survivors – including A Cancer Battle Plan by Anne Frahm, The No-Dairy Breast Cancer Prevention Program by Jane Plant, Ph.D., and Cancer: Curing the Incurable Without Surgery, Chemotherapy or Radiation, by Dr. William D. Kelley, DDS, to name but three. These encouraging stories give one a strong sense of hope which is essential for survival.

Each individual has the power to control their own thoughts and attitudes, thereby creating their reality. A constructive outlook perceives a cancer diagnosis as a necessary life-changing event and an opportunity to transform one’s life.

8. Spiritual Cleansing

Spirituality is the third aspect of the holistic paradigm and refers to our sense of peace. It involves settling unresolved conflicts, forgiving and asking forgiveness, liberating toxic emotions such as anger, bitterness, hatred, resentment, regret, and fear, while embracing our capacity for love, compassion and joy. Spiritual cleansing is a process that can be achieved through various means, including meditation, affirmations, visualization and/or prayer.

These strategies should be embraced by the cancer survivor as permanent lifestyle changes. Occasional diversions are to be expected, but one should try not to lose focus. Although it may at times be difficult to remain faithful to the holistic protocol, its benefits over conventional treatments are beyond measure. Furthermore, the regimen becomes increasingly rewarding once healing begins and measurable results are achieved. The holistic protocol creates a physical, emotional and spiritual environment that simply will not support cancer.

Source: www.naturalnews.com

http://www.foodmatters.tv/articles-1/healing-cancer-naturally-a-holistic-approach

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