Finding a Reason to Live

Titi Liz & Miss M at the fountain in Bryant Park

Titi Liz & Miss M at the fountain in Bryant Park

I am back from yet another trip to NYC.  This time to meet with a potential holistic cancer team in Rockland County.   Although I am not entirely sold on this new team, the trip was not a total loss.  I discovered some tweaks I can make to my supplement & diet regime…  I learned about a few alternative cancer treatment options…  And I went through a comprehensive blood testing that will hopefully tell me even more about the state of my body and show where there is room for improvement…

And most importantly, I got to spend a weekend in NY! :-)

Miss M and I had a fabulous weekend staying with my old friend “Titi Liz”…  Miss M discovered the joys of a new train: the Metro-North…  I took her ice skating for the first time at Bryant Park and she was a natural…  We went to the Museum of Natural History where Miss M lost herself in the Hall of Ocean Life with its 94-foot long blue whale and interactive fish displays…  And of course we gorged on healthy meals at my favorite vegan restaurants…

Then we came back to Ohio.

I felt the heavy weight and sadness in my heart as our plane flew over the endless farmland and veered towards Dayton.  I didn’t want to be back in Ohio.  I don’t want to be here.  But I am.

I started reading another amazing book while I was away:  Cancer As A Turning Point by Lawrence LeShan, Ph.D.  Instead of examining cancer through the usual lens of pathology, LeShan found that using a strengths perspective with therapy clients to examine their natural talents and passions brought much better results.  LeShan shares moving stories of cancer patients who change their lives, start living their dreams, harnessing  their zest for life, and helping their bodies heal.

His book is about finding and creating a more fulfilling and meaningful life.  A life that maximizes on your natural talents.  A life that is infused with passion.  A life that you want to live.  And how making these changes can actually signal to your body and immune system to kick into gear because there is a reason to stay alive.

It makes sense.  If I am living a life I don’t want to live, full of misery, sadness, and unused potential, then why live at all?  Perhaps our bodies get sick to bring our sadness to light.  To reveal the truth of our existence.  To force us into a new way of being.

Personally, I know my 30’s were a decade full of self sacrifice and unfulfilled desires.  I continually pushed my dreams aside.  Continued to “suck it up and deal”.  Continued to put my life on hold.  Prioritizing my role as a mom, wife, and daughter.  Just waiting for the right time to make myself a priority again.

Then metastatic breast cancer came along and showed me that NOW is the time.

So I am working hard to rediscover my passions.  Finding the activities that make me lose track of time.  Remembering the happiest moments in my life.  Pinpointing the qualities and moments of every day life that bring me joy.  Figuring out what excites me and ignites me.

Which of course brings me back to NY…  My biggest passion…  The place where I experienced the happiest moments in my life…  Where I easily loose track of time…  The city that brings me to tears with its extremes…  That infuses me with its vibrant energy…

Although I cannot be there now.  I vow to be there again one day.  And until then, I will keep finding ways to get my “fix’ and keep the qualities I love about NY and the person I was when I lived there within me.

I think it’s time we all take a look at what brings us joy…  What we’re passionate about…  Our best ways of relating and being in this world…

Each one of us is here for a reason.  We all have a unique gift to give.  A reason for living.

I’m still figuring out mine.  Do you know what yours is yet?

Peace.  – T

Lacing up skates for Miss M's first skating lesson

Lacing up skates for Miss M’s first skating lesson

Riding the carousel at Bryant Park

Riding the carousel at Bryant Park

The Metro-North

The Metro-North

 

Everyone Needs A Little Rest & Relaxation

Bowen Island sunset

Bowen Island sunset

Our recent trip to Mexico reminded me of the importance of taking time for rest and relaxation.  To regroup and destress.  Unwind and do a lot of nothing.

I realize this is another integral piece of my healing puzzle.

Cancer thrives on stress.  Most diseases do.  When we are overworked, overextended, and pushed to the limit our bodies react.  We go into “flight or fight” mode.  Cortisol levels spike.  Adrenaline zips through our bodies.  If stress continues unchecked our bodies begin to break down.  Immune systems falter.  Skin reactions like breakouts and rashes occur.  Organs become taxed and begin to shutdown.  Aches and pains are magnified.  Tissues and cells are damaged.

I recently learned through the testing my naturopath did that my own cortisol levels were in a reverse curve as a result of the chronic stress I was under for the last four years.  Now we are trying to rewire it back to normal with supplements and diet &  lifestyle changes.

Despite knowing how important this piece of the puzzle is, I still struggle with making rest and relaxation a priority.  A lot of people do.

A big reason for this is the society we live in…  With its messages about working hard and being productive…  The admonishments about being lazy…  It is built into the fabric of the United States.  The country that gives workers a mere 2 weeks vacation (while places like Brazil and Sweden get 4-6 weeks)…  The country that offers no paid maternity or paternity leave – making us the ONLY first world nation on Earth to deny parents this right.  We are clearly delivering the message that working hard and being “productive” is the most important thing in life…  And then we wonder why our kids are so messed up!?!??  Don’t get me started…

Even as a stay-at-home-mom I feel judged.  I feel the need to detail just how busy my days are.  To dispel the false perception that being a SAHM means I sit on my ass all day and watch TV.  In truth, it is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

Most of my life I’ve bought into these false notions.  Believing somehow that my worth was based on how much I accomplished.  I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I’ve worked steadily since the age of 15 – Sometime working 3 different jobs at once…  Often times juggling work with school to pay my way through college…   Burning the candle at both ends.

But our bodies can only live like this for so long.

When cancer came knocking on my door in 2011 I knew things had to change.

At the beginning of my cancer journey I read an amazing book – Lynn’s Legacy by Christa Johnson, MD.  One part in particular stuck with me…  Her acknowledgment that, “It is not unusual for a person to develop [illness]…. as the only way he or she can justify taking time out to get needed rest.”   Shit.  That was me.

After years of being stressed to the max and caring for everyone else but myself, I finally had a way to justify taking care of me.  How sad that the reason was metastatic breast cancer.  A part of me believes the Universe brought metastatic disease into my life so I would always have the perfect “excuse” to take care of myself.  But now my goal is to embrace self care, rest, and  relaxation for its own sake.  For my sake.  Because it is necessary.  Because I deserve it.  And not cling to cancer for justification.

So what do I do to rest, relax, and take care of myself?  I blog…  I read…  I continue go for reiki sessions…  I exercise…  I meditate…  I go for walks in the woods or head to the beach…  I take vacations…  I watch the sunset…  I chat with my girlfriends…   I spend time with those I love…   I make regular trips to NYC (which I’m doing again this week!  Yay!)…  And I’m trying to be ok with just sitting around and doing nothing every once and a while.

Most people assume the changes to my diet predicated my healing.  Although I know that is a major piece of the puzzle, I also know in my heart that it is the deeper work, the psychological work, the soul work that has truly made a difference.

Listen to your soul.  Take care of yourself.  And find some time for a little R&R.

Peace.  – T

Nature walk with Miss M at Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark

Nature walk with Miss M at Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark

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Keep On Walking

Miss M beach side viewThe da Silvas have returned from a glorious week in Mexico!   We had a heavenly time.  Spent every day at the beach…  Playing in the sand…  Swimming with the fish…  Listening to the intoxicating rhythm of the ocean waves…   Just doing a lot of nothing.  It was just what the family needed.

On our last night there I took a walk along the beach after dark.  The sky was lit up with stars and I had the whole beach to myself.  As I walked I noticed how different the ocean looked at night…  No longer tranquil and welcoming…  The darkness made the water ominous and I felt a bit anxious and afraid.  I cut my walk short and returned to our room.

I think so much in life can be terrifying when we’re in the dark.  I guess that’s why we try to plan, control, and manipulate things as much as possible.  Believing this will remove some of the unknown.  Lessen the fear.  But in truth, we can plan all we want but life will continue to throw unexpected curve balls.  After all that I’ve been through in the last 3 years I now realize this more than ever.

It also casts my recent scan success in a different light.  Yes, I am overjoyed about the news of my cleans scans…  But I still recognize that the future is unknown.  That life may throw me another curve ball.  That my scans may not always be clean.  The cancer can come back.  And my journey is far from over.

Miss M tells her therapist that she thinks we’re keeping secrets from her about my cancer.  If I’m cancer free now, she wonders, why do I still have so many doctor’s appointments?  Although I wish my cancer saga ended with the results of those last scans, that is not the reality.

Today I made calls to start organizing the next piece of my journey.  I scheduled my next reconstructive breast surgery for April.  I confirmed with my oncologist that it is ok to remove the port in my chest when I go in for surgery.   I made an appointment for the end of February with a new holistic cancer team in New York.

The saga continues.

And although the future is still unknown, these days I feel like I am better at dealing with whatever comes my way.  My journey with cancer has brought me to a better place internally.  I am a different person now.  More grounded.  More present.  More easygoing.  Less controlling.  Better able to deal with life’s difficulties.  And fully aware of my blessings and the beauty of my life.

I continually seek to acknowledge the dark places, the fear, and the unknown…   But then keep on walking forward – refusing to let fear hold me back from exploring all that is in front of me.

Much love to all…   – T

palms on the beachMe & Miss M beach

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Eliminating Environmental Toxins

What a week!!!

Thanks to everyone for your calls, emails, comments, and messages of congratulations.  I had no idea how many people there are out there cheering for me.  I hope you all realize there is NO WAY I could achieve such amazing results without your support and love.  I get teary eyed just thinking about it.

Tomorrow hubby, Miss M, and I are off to Mexico for our week long celebration.  Hooray!  But I thought I’d post one more piece of my healing puzzle before we go…

Today’s puzzle piece is about eliminating toxins.

Unfortunately, harmful chemicals and toxins are everywhere.  It is impossible to get rid of them all but we can get rid of many.

I firmly believe that the growing use of toxic chemicals plays a significant role in cancer.  There are specific chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors, hormonal imbalancers  and carcinogenic compounds that are in our every day products.  While one chemical alone may not produce cancer, together, the synergistic properties are definitely toxic.

For a complete list of what is in your products go to the Environmental Working Group‘s website.  It is amazing.  Check out the book What’s In This Stuff: The Hidden Toxins in Everyday Products & What You Can Do About Them.  As well as Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams.

MOST COMMON CHEMICALS TO AVOID:

  • parabens (personal care & baby products)
  • phthalates  (personal care products and plastics)
  • BPA  (plastics & tin can linings)
  • formaldehyde (cleaning products – can appear under a number of different names)
  • sodium laurel sulfates

**  Many chemicals are listed under different names.  For example, “fragrance” is often code-word for a combination of chemicals including phthalates.  So avoid things with fragrance.  **

Here is a rundown of the products I’ve changed & some great all natural ones I’ve found:

HAIR:   I stopped coloring my hair…  I switched my shampoo & conditioner as well as my hair styling products (most contain parabens).  I found a great pomade:  John Masters Organics.  It’s a bit pricey but I bought it almost 6 months ago and still have over half left.  A little goes a long way!

SKIN:  Look at the ingredients in your soap, cleansers, moisturizer, and antiperspirant.  I stopped wearing antiperspirant all together (because of the aluminium & fragrances).  I switched to all natural ingredient soap (ie. no ingredients i can’t pronounce) – Dr. Bonner’s is a great brand to try…  As well as all natural facial moisturizer – I adore Loving Naturals Anti-Aging Cream…   And I wash my face with Eminence Organic Coconut Milk Cleanser (which smells heavenly!)…  For sunscreens try to avoid commercial brands with oxybenzone, avobenzone, & octinoxate.  I just ordered some new natural ones to bring to Mexico if they turn out good I’ll let ya know!

MAKEUP:  I rarely wear makeup these days.  Right now I just use Physicians Formula Organic Wear Tinted Moisturizer.  Which you can get at any pharmacy or grocery store.   I also stopped getting manicures & pedicures :-(  But recently found some non-toxic water based nail polishes that I’m excited to try (Acquarella, Sante Nail Polish, Suncoat, & Piggy Paint for kids).

TEETH:  I’ve read that it’s best to avoid too much flouride so I switched to all natural, flouride free toothpaste (for both me & Miss M).  There’s already enough flouride in the water.  Also, many big name brand toothpastes contain sugar & sugar substitutes (xylitol, sorbitol, saccharin).  And one brand (I won’t name names but read your ingredient list) contains the toxic chemical triclosan.   Plus, I keep hearing mercury amalgam fillings are toxic.  So i need to get mine switched.  Anyone know of a good dentist who does that???

CLEANING:  Toxic chemicals are in our clothing detergents, dryer sheets, dish soaps and most household cleaning products.  I use Planet dishwashing liquid…  Seventh Generation dishwasher and clothing detergents…  I’m trying to wean myself off dryer sheets…  And I just started making my own household cleaning products that I SWEAR work even better than commercial ones.  (The recipe involves water, white distilled vinegar, tea tree oil, lemon, + peppermint oil or lavender oil for fragrance).

KITCHEN:   We switched to stainless steal pots & pans (no more Teflon!)…   Although we do have one Green Pan which is non-stick but less toxic at higher heats with less chemicals…  We got rid of our plastic Tupperware and switched to Pyrex glass…  Plastics are the big worry here.  Especially avoid putting plastic in the microwave or dishwasher or placing hot food in plastic containers as this leaches the harmful chemicals out & into your food.

FOOD:   Stop drinking bottled water (the chemicals leach out of the plastic into your water) – Plus, it’s just BAD for the environment!…  Watch out for pesticides (especially in fruits & veggies), and avoid food in cans.  Can linings are riddled with BPA.  Be especially careful with tomato products – the acid from the tomatoes leaches even more chemicals from the can lining.  The only brand of canned beans that does NOT have BPA in the lining is Eden Foods.  And if you’re gonna eat dairy please make it organic.  They pump cows full of hormones to keep them lactating after their babies are taken away and those hormones end up in the milk & then in us.  I partially blame hormonal dairy for the rise in early puberty in girls and estrogen positive breast cancers.

Phhewww….   That’s a lot.  And I’m sure I missed out on a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

One thing I’ve learned on this journey is that you must take baby steps or else it is totally overwhelming.  So don’t try to tackle this whole list.  Just pick a few things & start there.

Every little thing makes a difference!

See ya’ll in a week!  Hugs,  – T