It was almost 5 years ago that Daleen heard the words “It’s cancer”. Or, more accurately, she didn’t hear them. Because she already knew she had cancer. The kind lady charged with delivering the dreaded diagnosis thought she was talking to both Daleen and me, but truth be told Daleen heard nothing. I’ll be honest and tell you that it was incredibly difficult to stay focused. I had a million thoughts and questions and more than a little fear. After all, the singular love of my life was now threatened by something I couldn’t even see. Then, 25 years of an intimate relationship with the United States Army kicked in and I began to focus, to listen and to write, then to question everything and to attack. In short, I had a new mission, to be a “support person.” And so on that particularly bleak and miserable day in January 5 years ago, cancer became the pivotal force in our lives. Throw in hypoparathyroidism to boot. The outlook was not particularly rosy. A few days later though, Daleen did hear. She heard doctors tell her that “We’ve got to jump on this, get on top of this immediately!” She heard that she’d need a daily planner for all the appointments, all the tests. She heard words such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and over and over again “you have to make a decision now!”
At first, she acquiesced and heard “good job, we’ll get this or that scheduled right away.” As long as you agree with the medical profession, they are genial and caring. Pretty quickly though, Daleen made the choice to heal herself naturally. The good folks in white coats were aghast! They cajoled, they pontificated and they tried their utmost to persuade her to get the chemotherapy started and make the appointment to meet with the radiologist. Unfortunately, that’s also the time when she heard she was crazy, she should listen to her very smart doctors. We’ve all learned that a second opinion is often vital and that you should obtain one of the most important decisions in life. Try going against conventional medicine and asking for a second opinion. Make sure you have steeled yourself before you do, your road will get very bumpy and rocky very quickly. When it became clear to the physicians that there would be no chemotherapy, no radiation, they came after me. I was told that I was, after all, a reasonable person. One doctor pulled me aside and gently suggested that Daleen might very well benefit from seeing a Psychiatrist. I was called at home, at work and literally at 11 o’clock at night all with the intent of getting me to change her mind. Clearly, they did not know the resolve nor the strength of Daleen and her convictions! When it became clear that their efforts at trying to persuade me were not going to work, I actually had an oncologist tell me my wife would probably be “Dead by Christmas”. This is from a learned man, a physician, and an officer. He was, sadly, no gentleman. Sigh.
Let me add here that we also met some wonderful medical people and though it took longer for the anger at the “cancer experts” to ebb than we’d like to admit, we understand most do what they do because it’s what they’ve been taught to do. Kudos to the kind folks who offered Daleen a hug, we just wish there had been more of them. Of course, we still need the white coats; we now think of them more like mechanics. When we’re broken, we go to get fixed, then go on with our lives. After all, who doesn’t need a good mechanic now and then?
Please don’t misunderstand; Daleen knew the chemical route would kill her, but she was unsure about simply being a healthy person. No one we knew personally had gone this route and many voiced their concerns. From a polite “I hope you know what you’re doing” to a shocked “Really? No chemotherapy, no radiation?” to “I think you’re crazy but good luck”, we heard it all. Fortunately, others offered kind shoulders and there are two fine incredible men who made it a priority to encourage their Mom almost every day, each in their own way. I could not have asked more, nor could I be more proud of them. There is an inner strength in all of us and if you choose to go against conventional medicine you’ll need to harness every bit of that strength. You’ll lose friends, friends who don’t know how to deal with cancer. Other friends will start to distance themselves and still others, being unsure of “what to do or say” will become distant. Just when friendship is needed the most, friendships are challenged the hardest. We accepted the fact that relationships would change, but we were naïve in their scope. Some thought it was a judgment about them as they went the chemical route when they were diagnosed. Others thought it was a judgment about them as they work in a hospital or the medical profession. It was neither. It was simply a desire to heal naturally, safely.
What also happened on that day was the beginning of our quest to learn everything about cancer. Then about healing yourself from cancer naturally then on to living naturally. What a journey it’s been! We made so many changes, so many lifestyle alterations that we started to lose track. It was at that point we realized a record was needed. When we added up all the changes, the number initially was more than 135. It’s since climbed to over 150 and grows steadily. More slowly now than before, but the learning never stops. It never stops because the fear never completely goes away, the fear that cancer might yet rear its ugly head. Along the way we also learned that we’re stronger than we knew, we’re more adaptable than we thought possible, we’re blessed with the knowledge that we have resources that didn’t exist even 10 years ago thanks to the power of the internet and finally, we learned acceptance. Acceptance turns anger aside and acceptance opens doors to enlightenment.
Tomorrow, if it’s true that change is good for the soul, walk with me through some of our changes, it’ll be good for your soul!