Road to recovery – the emotional stuff

A few weeks ago I promised to fill you in on my ongoing “emotional healing” journey. I haven’t done so yet as, to be honest, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I am in no way “healed” emotionally, nor am I an expert in this stuff. At best, I might be able to amuse you or will give you a bit of insight into the crazy things that people get up to in the name of “healing”. And we will also play a bit of a game – there is a song that I hadn’t heard since I was about six but it recently came back onto my radar in a popular film. Now every time I hear it, I burst into tears (a sure sign that I am harbouring some emotional issues that need to be addressed). Any guesses what the song could be? Hint: the film is the second in a musical series and the song will open up your eyes. All will be revealed at the end.

But first, an update….

UPDATE

Quite a bit has happened over the past couple of weeks since my last full post. As I am typing this I am lying in bed with a sore throat and fever – thanks Charlie!

After my last not-so-good scan results, I escaped to Brighton for a couple of days with a very good friend and had some much needed girl-time.

Then I returned and immediately embarked upon a two-day juice fast. This entails drinking juices and taking supplements but not eating anything. As it turned out, this was good practice for the modified program that my integrative oncologist – Dr Callebout – has just sent me. Based on my latest scan results, he has decided it is necessary for me to take a quite radical approach and is putting me on a three-week juice fast. The program also consists of a huge number of supplements, all of which were completely foreign to me but when I looked them up online are known to play a part in helping to heal cancer either by replenishing lost nutrients and minerals or helping to detox the body and/or rebuild the immune system so that the body can begin to heal itself. I will also be having daily Infrared saunas, walks in the park (if I can still walk, more on that later), twice daily caffeine enemas and Epsom salt baths. There are also a number of repurposed drugs (ie. drugs that are used to treat other conditions that have been found to have beneficial effects on treating cancer such as Metformin for diabetes) but we are holding off on those until seeing how I react to the supplements. However, I am excited about the repurposed drugs as there have been quite a few studies done recently and some very good results. The Care Oncology Clinic in London is doing a very large study which I have contemplated taking part in, see http://careoncologyclinic.com/.

That brings me to a very good book that I am currently reading called “How to Starve Cancer” by Jane McLelland. Jane was diagnosed with stage four cancer many years ago and after doing tons of research cured herself using repurposed drugs (much cheaper and less harmful than chemo). The book goes into great detail on why this research is not making it into the mainstream and what the big Pharma companies have to do with it. This is something I feel very strongly about and will be dedicating a post to at some point.

How to starve cancer book

Anyway, I am kind of looking forward to the three-week fast in a slightly sadistic “research” kind of way. I will let you know how I get on. I may end up having to lock myself in a sealed room for the duration well away from food.

So I am now busying myself getting ready for the fast and ordering everything that I need. The cost is skyrocketing, as expected, but I did manage to keep it down by having Dr Callebout cut back on a number of things.

Not to forget my traditional cancer treatments which I am still pursuing as well. Two weeks ago I had an injection of a hormone blocker called Zoladex. This drug blocks the ovaries from producing oestrogen and basically catapults me into menopause. Why is this necessary? Because the only other drug – Letrazole – that may help keep the cancer from spreading further can only work with women who are through the menopause already. I started taking the Letrazole yesterday. In two weeks I have to go back to the hospital for some tests and then will be put on another drug called Ribociclib. This one works in conjunction with the Letrazole and helps to enhance its effectiveness.

So, in theory, it all sounds good but as we well know there are always side-effects. For me this seems to be pain in my pelvis and sacroiliac joints. It felt like I was being constantly kicked in the pubic bone.  I could just about bear that but then yesterday I started experiencing an extreme heaviness in my legs, mainly my right thigh muscle, and am having trouble walking. I can barely lift my right leg up to get up the stairs and it completely gave out from under me this morning while walking the dog and I fell in a mud puddle. I will see the amusing side of that soon I am sure. ( I also couldn’t help but note that Jarvis, my faithful companion, took one look at me and walked off. Less Littlest Hobo and more Scooby Doo.)

Jarvis in his bed
Who me?

I also have sciatica on my left side which is mainly affecting my calf muscle, also making it hard to walk. So, the worst part of this whole journey so far has been caused by the traditional medication that is supposed to help. That always seems to be the way. But all is not lost! I am a Pilates instructor after all and have been using my reformer and different mat exercises to try to rehabilitate myself. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be making any difference. So yesterday I tried a different tact and went swimming. I managed about six lengths of the pool, which I was pretty impressed with seeing I only have one good lung at the moment.

Ah yes, my lungs. Very useful for breathing with. The scan showed I have some fluid on my right lung and I was concerned about it getting worse so went to see my gorgeous (in manner and looks) lung specialist. Unfortunately, he was not there, but all was not lost. The other consultant performed an ultrasound and could see that there is still some fluid on my right lung but as long as it isn’t bothering me then there’s no need to do anything about it. No need to go poking and prodding unnecessarily. As he pointed out, people do get along quite nicely with just one lung.

And now, back to my story….

After realising that healing physically was not going to be enough and that I had to address my emotional and mental wellbeing, I was lost. I have never travelled this road before and had no idea where to start. But it must be important, right? 6 months ago I found out that I had terminal cancer and not a long time left to live. Surely that’s a big, emotional shock with alot of repercussions. So how did I deal with it? I threw myself 100% into healing physically and buried my feelings about it. I compartmentalised it, felt like I had disassociated from my own body and was watching somebody else’s life, and I ignored it. Until I read the book Radical Remission and realised that that was not healthy. So, as mentioned in Road to recovery – the physical stuff, I decided to start off with a five-day retreat in the countryside at a place called Amchara where not only did they offer juice fasts and vegan, raw food but they also have a number of different treatments on offer.

with pony at AmcharaYes, I did colonic hydrotherapy, but I also had an EFT (emotional freedom technique) session and a Reiki session. Let’s start with EFT. The session started with the therapist introducing herself and asking me a bunch of questions. Then she had me think about something that was upsetting from my past and while I was thinking about it, she tapped all over my arms and face with her fingertips. I think the idea is that she was tapping on meridian points and helping to release tension associated with the thoughts so that next time I can think about the same things without the emotional response. Did it work? I found the whole thing a little unnerving. Imagine dredging up some quite emotional or disturbing events from your past while somebody you don’t know drums on your face. I think having a good rapport and really knowing your therapist helps. I won’t be rushing back to try this again. I did however try it myself while sitting outside in the garden. I can imagine what that must have looked like to any onlookers. A strange lady sitting among the roses tapping out what could be confused for a telegram on her own face.

Then there was Reiki. I have had Reiki before so know it can be quite powerful. I really liked the Reiki practitioner – she was the lady who performed the colonic hydrotherapy on me. So we got to know each other quite well. Ha ha. Anyway, during Reiki you just lie down while the practitioner stands above you and uses her hands for healing either with touch or just hovering above you. I always fall asleep during Reiki, and in this instance as soon as her hands got to my lungs (the first area of cancer) I fell asleep. I dreamed about the practitioner’s house which in my dream was in the woods with a long driveway. I woke up as soon as she moved her hands from above my lower spine area (the last place that my cancer resides). Later I told her about my dream and she said that during the session she had actually been thinking momentarily about her house and how she is going to be moving soon. Weird!

I’m not sure what I expect Reiki to do for me. I guess I had hoped that it could help to heal me on a quite deep, spiritual level. Either way, I always enjoy the sessions and find it quite relaxing and my digestion is always greatly improved for a least 3 days afterwards. So as soon as I got back to London, I found another Reiki practitioner and have now had a few more sessions.

But that was not it – the road on my emotional healing journey is definitely not straight or smooth. After my first cancer scare I started seeing a therapist – the talking kind. No tapping, no spirit guides. It was definitely good to get things out to somebody who doesn’t know me very well. What I really liked about her, is that she was straight to the point. She actually would offer advice and opinions and didn’t hold back. What I really hoped to achieve was to get to the bottom of this dark ball of anxiety that I carry around with me and obliterate it. Simple! Not really. The sessions would help but the anxiety was still there. After a few sessions she suggested I see a colleague of hers who does trauma therapy. I guess she thought that my issues may go back a bit further than I previously thought. She mentioned PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – which I previously thought was something that affected only soldiers. However, she was the second person to tell me that she thought I may be suffering from a bit of it myself. In my case, it wasn’t caused by one very traumatic event but by a series of smaller traumatic events over a number of years. Including my first cancer diagnosis. Being a mother of a very young child and running my own business meant that I did not have time to deal with issues as they arose but instead just buried them. They would then come out in nightmares, some of which would have me screaming for help and waking Neil up.

So, I stopped seeing my therapist and went to the recommended trauma therapist. I have seen her now three times and always feel better when I leave. I am not sure exactly what she does or how it works, but it seems to work. The idea is that she has me think about a traumatic event or something that is bothering me and, rather than tapping me on the face, while I think about it she gets me to relax via various prompts so that next time I can bring up these long buried issues without the physical and emotional response. Is it helping? Yes, I think so. But I definitely need a lot more sessions.

The other pretty obvious route to emotional healing is through meditation -something I am notoriously bad at. I was always the one who fell asleep and snored during the relaxation session at the end of yoga class and, it seems that this is still a talent of mine. I also can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes as my mind is always whirring with a list of things I need to do. A couple of years ago I downloaded a guided meditation app called Headspace. All I have to do is plug my headphones into my phone and take between 10 and 20 minutes to meditate with the app. However, I could just never get myself to sit down and do it as there were always lots of other things that needed doing. So then while I was away at the retreat, I would wake up at about 6 AM and breakfast or juice wasn’t until 9 AM. And there was nothing to do – no dishes, no little boy to get up, no breakfast to make. So I would lie in bed and meditate and it worked quite well for me. So now, when I wake up in the morning, if I am early enough I try to do a 15 minute meditation before I even get out of bed. Sometimes it works, but sometimes I still find it hard to concentrate.

So because of my problems with self meditation, I decided that the best thing for me would be a class. The first local class that I came across was a sound-healing meditation class. I didn’t know what this was, but thought I would go and find out. I like sound and I like meditation so it couldn’t go wrong, could it? Boy, was I wrong. First of all, I was the only one there. The teacher was explaining to me how the purpose of the class is to let out different sounds and taken altogether, this creates vibrations which can have a healing effect. At that point, I was praying for somebody else to come into the room so it wouldn’t be just me. It worked! Two more people came in. We then lay down and the teacher started leading us through some guided meditation and then made some vocal noises which we copied. That wasn’t so bad. Then we went into what I can only call a free-styling section. Basically, we were encouraged to make any noise that we felt like making. It started out quite quietly and tame but eventually somebody started wailing and somebody else was making noises like I had never heard before (picture a very angry but drunk orangutan). I found it impossible to relax as I was so embarrassed but at the same time fighting the urge to burst out laughing. Needless to say, I did not go back to that class.

the Gruffalo

Then I tried a lunchtime meditation class in the same venue. Again, they were short on numbers. Just me and one other lady. This was more my kind of thing. We got to lie down with a blanket over us and the teacher guided us through an hour of meditation. Unfortunately, before the class I had been browsing around a children’s toy shop and in the window was a wooden, automated Gruffalo. That’s not so bad – I quite like the Gruffalo. However, during the meditation class I was struggling to stay awake and ended up in a half-sleeping, half-waking state where I was dreaming about the Star Trek enterprise (no idea why) and the Gruffalo. It doesn’t really make for very successful meditation. I ended up falling fully asleep, snoring and drooling. So I haven’t been back to that class either but I might try it again.

Sometimes I try to meditate or at least practice mindfulness while walking the dog. I like to stand in the woods and close my eyes and focus on the sounds and smells around me. However, every single time when I open my eyes Jarvis has disappeared so all the benefits of relaxation and calmness are quickly replaced by panic and fear as I run off to find my errant dog. (In case you are wondering where he gets to, I usually find him chewing on some leaves -we think he thinks he is a cow. He likes to chew on leaves and grass).

So, as you can see, my emotional healing journey has been a bit up and down. There was a time when I was getting so stressed about trying to deal with the emotional stuff that it was having a negative effect so I pulled back. There has to be a balance. I find the best thing for me is to get away for a couple of days to the country or by the sea and just have some time to myself.

Jen by a canal I try not to make too many plans or lists and have a little notebook called “Jen’s brain download” which I use to write down all of the thoughts or plans that are going around my head to give my mind a little more space and peace.

So, my plan for the future is to keep seeing my therapist, keep up the Reiki and try to find an appropriate meditation class (with more than one person in it and no Gruffalos). Also, to keep writing this blog (yes it is therapeutic!), try to get away at least once a month, continue with my morning meditations when possible, walk the dog and enjoy being alive.

Oh yeah, the song that has me in tears every time I hear it? Angel Eyes by Abba. Why? I have absolutely no idea. My therapist and I spent about half of a session trying to work it out. Some things are just meant to stay buried.

Angel Eyes album cover

 

Yours in health and ABBA,

Xoxo

JustJen

ps. To cover the escalating cost of supplementary treatment, my friend has set up a GoFundMe page for me. Everybody has been very generous and any donation, no matter how small, is appreciated.