Upon release from surgery I was told a pathology report would be completed within four days. This was on a Friday (what is up with me and doctors visits/surgery on Fridays?…and the coming week was Thanksgiving…you know what that means—who’s working hard on Thanksgiving week?!).
Surgery of any kind, is not easy. The pain (physical, mental, and emotional) that comes with it and the patience that is needed to recover are a given. Once again, it is the mind that must be still as I am not used to being still for long periods and not being able to move my body. I do yoga. I exercise. However, as part of my ongoing journey inward, I took one moment at a time. One step (literally and figuratively) at a time. I embraced this down time. I watched myself grow; and today I am extremely proud for breathing through it, for waiting, for rewiring my mind, for paying close attention to my mind, my body, and my soul. I’m proud of the comeback I have made. I learned to appreciate the stopping and healing. Mostly, as I began to move my body once again, I grew even more grateful for and more in love with my body.
Walking was allowed and recommended after surgery (my doctors always prefaced these conversations with: “Not Tammy Patterson pace, but recovery pace). My mother and step-father have acres of country land—beautiful and peaceful—which brought awareness and consciousness to my walks. I had just begun my first gentle walk of the day when I received a phone call from my surgeon, two days before Thanksgiving. I stopped in my tracks for the news.
I must admit, waiting for this call challenged my breathing practice and my mind. Yes, you know you have been diagnosed with cancer and had it removed, but has it spread? Is it in the lymph nodes? These questions seem to find a home in the thoughts of those diagnosed with cancer. But, I refused to allow those thoughts to win. I had already let my mind/thoughts get away with too much over the years which brought us to this current space. Faith and meditation won, and both kept me sane.
The surgeon read the pathologist‘s final findings:
lymph nodes that were removed were not cancerous (3 were removed)
the margins around the cancerous tumor were clear (extra breast tissue surrounding the cancerous tumor is removed to be checked for more cancer)
size of tumor was smaller than it originally measured—now 4mm
His words were: “…and Tammy here’s the blessing in all of this, the tumor appears to be down by 2mm—its final measurements were 4mm and was 6mm in the beginning.” He said, "What a Thanksgiving blessing and let us be grateful." When our call ended, I dropped to the ground on my knees in streams of grateful tears…that kind of crying you do as a kid when you feel like your body is creating an avalanche from the shoulders to the gut and you can’t stop. As I looked to the sky, the sun's beams seemed a little bit brighter as they danced all around me.
We were to meet again in 6 more days for post-op follow-up. My job was to be gentle with myself and to allow myself some grace. I couldn't help but think that the "war" that I raged in my mind and body from the day of diagnosis to that point, along with the unwavering faith within my spirit had everything to do with the tumor shrinking. My Charlotte and Florida chiropractors said it was likely that it was--along with my corrective care for my neck to get these nerves firing to their optimal capacity. Did you know that the nerves in the cervical spine (the neck) connect to the heart, breasts, lungs, etc...? The Central Nervous System must be in full operable condition, and I will make sure of it for the rest of my life.
On the Monday after Thanksgiving, we left my mom's home to head to Charlotte for my post-op visits. The oncology surgeon greeted me with a hug and sat down with me to discuss next steps and recovery. After this visit, I would be finding doctors in Fort Lauderdale for quarterly blood tests, next steps, etc. The surgeon told me they don't typically recommend chemotherapy for the final size of my tumor; however, he said my oncologist (same center) may feel differently because of the breast cancer type. He did recommend radiation just in case any leftover cancer cells were present. I asked him about percentages of help the radiation would provide, whether or not more harm will be done than good, side effects, etc.; and how is radiation preventative medicine? He explained that radiation would reduce the chance of recurrence within the first two years which is typically when triple negative breast cancer could return--could recur in the lungs, brain, liver or elsewhere--by 5%. Without radiation, the chances of recurrence within two years is 10%. I just could not get out of my head about how radiation would be helping me longterm. I thought about the side effects that we discussed: of radiation possibly causing cancer in the future (he said low chance) and potential burning of lower lobe of right lung (small possibility). Don't I need that to breathe? It was a blessing that the breast cancer was in the right breast as radiation to the left breast could harm the heart! It confuses me that this is the best way to fight cancer. Something else in you is detroyed to rid the possibility of cancer cells remaining in the body. The body then has to fight and repair from radiation, fight and repair from surgery, fight and prepare for possible future damage... I'd rather learn how to naturally fight the possibility of remaining cancer cells and preserve my body, so that it may continue to fight the day to day battle of intruding harm.
Next up, oncology visit (same hallway). Instead of first celebrating what I thought was great news, she dove right into doing chemotherapy when it is not even recommended for the final size of my tumor. She said she wanted me to do four rounds of chemo, and I asked why? She said for prevention. I told her there wasn't a recommendation for chemotherapy for tumors under 5mm. Her reply was that my tumor began at 6mm (which is what she uses to determine recommendations) and in order to lower chances of recurrence, I should do chemotherapy. She said without it, the chance of recurrence within two years is 12%. Without waiting for my reply of concerns, she began verbally listing what will happen to my body during chemotherapy. As her list grew longer, I tuned her out by repeating loudly to myself, MY BODY WAS DESIGNED TO HEAL ITSELF, I CAN DO THIS! When her list was complete, I asked if chemotherapy cured cancer and she said no, but it will increase your survival chances over 2, 5, and even 10 yrs. I asked by how much, percentage wise. She fed my stats into a chemotherapy calculator, as if I was the norm! No ma'am, I am not normal. Her calculator came back with a 3% better chance. Three percent! I said, you want me to put my body through all those things that you listed, even the chance of developing cancer, bone damage (and all the other things you listed while my brain was shouting that my body has the potential to heal itself) for 3%; however, you have not once discussed with me a different route in which I can potentially gain that 3%. I asked her what happens if I choose not to and she said she would "feel sorry for me"!...because triple negative breast cancer can be aggressive if it comes back and it can come back in other areas. Well, now you've ignited a fire inside of me! I must give my body a chance to do its job to keep me well; please, don't feel sorry for me.
A second opinion doctor enlisted by a cancer survivor friend, had been following my case all along. He, too, recommended radiation; but, he did not see a need for chemotherapy. His opinion matched that of my oncology surgeon in Charlotte. He was honest about the risks. I truly respect these doctors and their level of kindness and care. I have been blessed to have them. They are highly trained, top in their field, and they have developed clinical trials and many other wonderful progress in cancer care. However, medical doctors are not trained in natural medicine. Many do not believe in it; there are some who believe in integrative medicine which is great. We all have our beliefs. I am not mad or upset. Personally, I just know that if I don't do my part to give my body its chance to heal and protect me in this case, I would be denying a piece of my soul. I don't want to live with that feeling as I have been working to stay true to myself. It's just who I am. We all have our journeys. As sketchy as the roadmap may be at times...this journey is mine.
Since I do plan on getting my blood work done and analyzed quarterly as I should, I set an appointment with a cancer center in Fort Lauderdale (I have yet to find a naturopathic center). I mentally prepared myself for this visit, already knowing what they would say. Another oncologist amazed that I didn't want to do chemotherapy that wasn't recommended for the final size of my tumor. Somehow the beginning size of my tumor had been 8mm, according to their paperwork. Not one Charlotte doctor mentioned the tumor ever being 8mm.
He, too, input my data into the chemotherapy calculator and derived the same percentages as in Charlotte. He said it was a small percentage, but worth it. He also ordered bloodwork, an ultrasound...and a mammogram. Sir! ...At this time, I was only 5 weeks post-surgery and the appointment would've been for the second week in January which would be 7 weeks post-op. Sir! You do realize that I have had major surgery on my breast and a lymph node dissection 3 inches away from the breast incision, correct? It is all still tender and healing. There is a small pool of lymph fluid underneath the lymph node dissection incision. Please tell me why you would want me to flatten my breast like a pancake on a machine filled with radiation? I cannot make this up!
The oncologist asked to invite the radiology oncologist to the visit after our consult. I wanted to hear what he had to say as I try to always be open-minded. He recommended radiation. Again, he was kind and caring and offered me to sit and meet with him in his office to discuss my concerns. He was very honest in reporting the pros and cons. None of it sat well with me. I said, no thank you. His nurse "felt sorry for me" as well. No ma'am, I rebuke your words! I refuse to let you make me believe that your way is the only way that I will survive the next two years without having a recurrence of breast cancer. This is what cancer patients or any person with a chronic illness deals with on a daily basis. Patients feel backed into a corner with no say so. They lose hope. What does that do to the thoughts of the mind? The mind is what can save us, but not if it is fear-ridden, and feeling beaten down without hope.
Understand that I am grateful for the presence of conventional medicine because when I can't help myself, I need them. I have gone to doctors all of my life for yearly check-ups, for childbirth which resulted in an emergency c-section, previous surgery, and for my broken wrist...I'm not against doctors. I thank them for their service. We need them in emergencies, for sure! I just have trouble understanding how to prevent cancer with processes that could cause cancer and other bodily harm, longterm. These are just my thoughts. I am certainly not a doctor of cancer, but I am a person who was diagnosed. I am a person who knows my lifestyle and how I feel this occurred in the first place. I am a person who has studied the effects of stress, and I was never asked about the stress in my life or how to help reduce it ( I already knew, and I've worked my own program, but that's not the point)--it's other patients that I also worry about. I am a person who spends day and night studying holistic health and keeping those type of professionals in my circle. I will continue to get my blood analyzed and handle results accordingly.
Although cancer is likely no longer present within my body--I get blood tests soon (and if it is, it's having one hell of a struggle to keep itself together with all the ammunition with which I'm arming within my cells!), it has to be my forever goal to keep my body cancer/disease free and to continue fueling it with nutrients that allow it to consistently repair and strengthen itself while caring for my mental and emotional health as well. It is my job, if I choose to do it. The thought has crossed my mind about the presence of or recurrence of cancer. I am human. However, the difference now vs. then is I don't linger there, in that "what-if" space for that space will cause me to become ill, again. I acknowledge the thought, return to the present moment where I know I am alive and well; and I keep breathing. I cannot worry about a future that has not yet happened, but I can keep doing the work of maximizing my health, and meditating and visualizing a life without cancer. This heals my mind which helps heal my body. And that's it...
The human body is amazing, if we allow it to be. I ask all of you to take inventory of how you are treating your body. Trillions of cells depend upon each other. Stop to think about how you nourish your body. Are you preventing your body from healing or from functioning properly by feeding it sugar and other harmful ingredients? Are you crowding your mind with angry, frustrating and negative thoughts? Are you holding onto heartbreak and disappointment? Stress from work or personal life? Are you moving your body? All of these things play a part in the proper functioning of the body. Please do not take your mind, body, or soul for granted. Nourish it. Protect it. It is the only place in which you have to live. Are you willing to do the work to save yourself? Find your “why” and ask, “Why do I need to stay healthy in my mind, body, and soul?” I believe you already know, but you have to acknowledge it and say, ”Yes, I’m ready!” Get your "shenanigans" (my word instead of cursing) together!
Thank you for reading and for catching up on my journey. Good health is a lifelong process. I am currently completing a course to learn and create herbal ways to support the health of cancer patients through their treatments or to enhance the natural healing for those who are not in treatment. It is amazing! A lot of what I have learned is even great for supporting other chronic diseases and basic immune health for all. I look forward to sharing this knowledge and tinctures with you! Meanwhile, if you or anyone that you know needs help with elevating their mind, body, and soul, I'm here to help!
Disclaimer: Although I am fascinated by the human body-especially the human brain; and although I have happily and excitedly spent years on learning, training, and on certifications regarding the human body, I am not a doctor-I could be if I could just figure out how to get past the math parts of it all! Seriously, speak with your healthcare provider before changing your healthcare plan or nutrition and exercise plan. I am just providing knowledge. MyFit is not, nor is anyone that I mention in my blog, videos, or in my sessions, responsible for your health. I am not advising you to put any of this information into practice. These are my thoughts, my feelings, my journey. If you choose to implement or try any of it, it is at your own risk. The people and ideas that I speak of will be things that I believe in as I am always true to myself.