December 15, 2011

Oh Holy Night Sweats …

Night sweats vs. hot flashes … and the winner is … night sweats!  Many thanks to the two sessions of chemotherapy as it has thrust me into early onset of menopause.  Delightful, chemotherapy is the gift that keeps on giving.  Previously I set the intention that I would “bring my cycle back on-line” and this would signal my body is coming back into balance; the added benefit, no more hot flashes or night sweats.  I have reevaluated this intention and have dismissed it as a foolish benchmark of balance.  Besides, do I really want to begin the process of menopause over a second time?  I think not!  For now, I dress in layers, carry a fan in my purse, and proudly announce when a hot flash is making its way on scene.  I will embrace each hot flash happily with the understanding that I must love my body, just as it is. 

I am still processing a conversation that took place during a women’s Christmas brunch.  The brunch was delightful and laughter filled.  During the gift exchange, the women began to speaking of a dear friend that recently passed-away from cancer, I did not know her.  The stories of her touched me deeply; she was a young woman in her 30’s with three children under nine years of age.  The stories recounted included the deep love shared between husband and wife, the joy felt each time the mother looked into her children’s eyes, and the meaningful imprint made in the lives of those around her.  The shared stories of this young mother were touching and inspiring; as these women spoke, tears filled my eyes.  Although I desired to share in their stories, the urge to get-up and run into another room, fall to my knees, and weep was marked.  Questions, thoughts, and feelings overwhelmed my soul.  I questioned, when it is my time to leave this earth, how will people speak of me? Have I made a positive imprint on the lives of those around me so much so that they will recount touching and loving memories of their time with me?  This experience was deeply touching and thought provoking; the seriousness of my reality flooded my mind.  Did these women forget that I am living with a serious cancer diagnosis?  I paused to remind myself that the collective conscious is that I am healthy and this is an outstanding phenomenon.  As the conversation progressed, I could feel myself settling in as though I was watching from afar as a virtual observer.  This conversation was the beginning of an emotionally charged and trying couple of days.

After meeting with my local Ayurvedic practitioner, I felt uneasy and I began to explore why I felt this way; this feeling set-in for two days.  It seemed as though I was walking a tightrope and I knew it would not take much to knock me off balance.  I lost my balance after receiving a return telephone call from my local oncologist.  It has been approximately seven weeks since my last blood work panel and I contacted her office inquiring if they would order the blood panel, as we previously discussed.  I was not pleased to learn that she [oncologist] was refusing to order blood work earlier than every 12 weeks.  What I was not prepared for was the distasteful tone as the telephone call progressed.  I expressed to the doctor that if I were currently receiving chemotherapy then I would have a complete blood panel conducted every three weeks.  Although I am not receiving chemotherapy, I am in the middle of working to bring my body back into balance in an effort to eradicate cancer from my body.  The doctor smugly expressed many thoughts including if your alternative person wants your blood work so bad then they can order it and the standard of care when monitoring cancer is to order blood work every three months.  I gently reminded her that my Ayurvedic practitioner does not have the ability to order blood work and it was not for them, it was for me; noting it would be irresponsible of me not to monitor my blood work.  I next remarked that there is no established standard of care when a patient chooses alternative instead of western medicine.  The more she spoke the more I realized that this doctor was not only mocking me but had become a bully.  Is that what western medical healthcare professionals do when a patient chooses to be in the driver’s seat of their own health care?  In the nearly five months since my diagnosis, I have never encountered such a hostile, uncompassionate, aggressive, and distasteful individual until now.  Distressed and taken back by her behavior and attitude; I simply ended the telephone call.  I was completely blindsided by this bump in the road; I became emotional and tried to grasp why another person would treat someone as she did.  Did she even realize or care that I had become unsettled?  Does she not understand that I am somewhat alone in my quest to find balance?  I was not in a good space emotionally.  I was not questioning my treatment choices that one is an easy choice– do I want to continue to poison my body or balance it? Balance!  I was however, feeling alone, fragile, and deceived.

When the oncologist and I first met, we discussed the totality of my alternative treatments and the timeline for my blood work; she agreed and never voiced an objection.  Perhaps her practice had a policy change or her professional ideology shifted; this remains a mystery.  I certainly would have understood if she was unable to order blood work on the time-line I requested, if it was outside the scope of that which she is permitted.  I would have been disappointed; nevertheless, there was undoubtedly a better way for her to conduct her interaction.   I thought the oncologist was on my team; she respected my choices, and was willing to assist where she could.  I do not much fancy being deceived, just be honest from the beginning.   Perhaps the oncologist could have offered some suggestions as opposed to engaging in mocking expressions and bullying. When I ended the telephone call I was confused, angered, and in distress.  Maybe she was having a challenging day.  I plan to send her a note to express how her words and tone affected me and potentially sparing the next patient, deciding to take the road less traveled, her wrath.

I firmly believe that where the mind goes, the body follows.  My mind was lost, weak, and fragile; my body joined my mind later that evening.  I awoke weeping, at 2:00AM; I whispered to Curtis that I did not feel well.  As I wept, I remarked that this is messed up; I just need my blood work so that I can make sure that I remain on track.  I added that no one really understands how alone I feel, at times, in this journey through breast cancer.  My darling Curtis knew exactly the words to comfort my mind and bring me peace.  In short, he noted that my whole life I have been an advocate for those in need or the underdog.  I have been preparing for this journey through breast cancer my whole life.  He expressed, that I know how to advocate, how to stand alone with confidence and conviction in the most challenging circumstances.  True, it may be lonely at times but this is what I do and I do it well.  Poignant words that I must remind myself of more often these days.  Sharon Kapp too reminded me that I must trust myself.  I am grateful for her generosity, kindness, and what I call – the “Zen Factor” of who she is

After an emotional couple of days, I am back on track and no longer feel as though I am walking a tightrope.  My feet find themselves firmly planted on the ground and I feel at peace.  I am fortunate that I am surrounded by individuals who love me, respect my choices, and support my family.  The generosity of others is vast and unending.  Things have a way of working themselves out~ 

Today, I am hopeful.