Chemo Relief

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"The take home point for me is, follow one's instincts about total wellness."

Chemo Relief Acupuncture Yoga Integrative Medicine Breast Cancer BRCA Gene Ovarian Cancer

Story Transcript

My lived experiences in that in 2007, I had breast cancer, and my sister and my father's families had breast cancer. But we did not know at the time - it was BRCA gene related. It was just a phenomenon that women kept getting breast cancer in their forties, which is, you know, it should have been a marker, but we didn't know at the time. But the reason I bring it up is, I live in Marin. I'd already been visiting an acupuncturist and there is a wonderful group here called the Pine Street Clinic. And so my oncologist, I went and I said, You know, I really have had a lot of success with alternative therapies in my life. So in addition to the surgery for breast cancer, I would like to do acupuncture. And 2007 my oncologist said, No, you may not do that. We do not have data. Your supplements, and your acupuncture could inadvertently, you know, reduce the effectiveness of the regimen. So don't do it. Well, I didn't listen to them, so I went ahead and I had surgery and radiation and because of my acupuncture, because supplements and also, because I was smart enough that time to take a lot of time off work and do yoga, pretty much every day, that I went to yoga, before I went to my radiation and so forth, I had only one bad day in that whole regimen of treatment. And I didn't have any of the burns or any of the negative things they said the radiation would lead to. So, there was some compromised tissue later on because, you know, when you burn your body, you burn your body. But at the time, my quality of life was pretty strong, and I had a seven year old daughter at the time. I had all kinds of reasons to want to be vital. So I was absolutely convinced that it was, I love my surgeons for the Western medicine part was good, but I needed the eastern medicine part and, you know, integrate.

So then, four years later, my sister had subsequently had a terrible case of ovarian cancer. I mean, it was caught practically stage IV. She lived, which was a blessing. And then I'm like, Oh, well, I'd better have my ovaries removed. And in the removal of my ovaries. They were supposed to be prophylactic, you know, before anything had happened. They did find an incy wincy bit of cancer and even though they'd caught it with clean margins, so, like, we need to do chemotherapy to make sure it doesn't come back. And I'm like, radiation was bad enough, but chemo really? And they didn't... Nobody gets diagnosed with ovarian cancer, like stage zero like, minor stage I, when they only have chemo that's good for people like my sister, who were, you know, gonna blast us, or you're gonna die if we don't. So it turns out the chemo really was, I couldn't even go through the six cycles, I made it through five, it was pretty horrible stuff because they just don't know. But in the meantime, here's the back to the integrative medicine part of the story. My oncologist this time, I'm like, I gotta do acupuncture. I gotta do my supplement. And in the four years between 07 and 2011, they said, yes. Yes, we have the data. Yes. Go do it. Especially because I was doing it on my nickel. Yes, do your acupuncture and yes do these other things, they will help you. And so it was interesting to me that four years is a lightning speed shift and Kaiser's, willingness to support the integrative medicine approach and that you need to take care of your whole body.

Now I speak from someone whose cancers were caught early. I was not on the razor's edge of mortality. So my story should be totally put in that context. I am now what, 13 almost 13 years out from my breast cancer and I was caught early. I have a cute little scar. I still have my breasts, life is good. A little scrunched up tissue on my left rib, which has been the, let's say, a learning opportunity around wellness and keeping my yin going and so forth. But I have two girlfriends who had the same early D C I S, if you know what that is, and their's came back, and then they both had to do a mastectomy. And so it's like with mine, with it come back? What where the odds of it coming back? And so on the one hand, we, I, that's all rear view mirror. You know, I'm still freaking out on the brain effects of the chemo, but, you know, my breast cancer, whatever. And yet,I have these examples of girlfriends who did the exact same stuff I did. And you know, their's came back. And so we're all very different bodies in situations and your girlfriends, like she attributes it to her doing the chemo. But we don't know... is it the roll of the dice? Is it the... you know what I mean? It just it ...There is no knowing for sure.