Katherine thrives beyond mesothelioma

Editor’s note: Katherine Keys is a guest blogger this week. This is her story.

I have been fighting Mesothelioma for 10 years. When I was first diagnosed, doctors told me I had less than two years to live. I refused to believe my time was limited and instead decided to fight the cancer. I am convinced that it was my positive attitude and determination to win that have allowed me to survive against the odds.

At first I thought I had the flu. I was prescribed medication and painkillers but the pain persisted. When the pain was too much to take, I went to the ER. There I discovered I had cancer. I was 49 years old and diagnosed with Stage 1 pleural mesothelioma.

For treatment, I had my right lung and the lining of the lung removed, a major surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). After several months of recovery, I began radiation treatments. I had treatments five times per week for several months. Although I had been scheduled for chemotherapy, I was relieved to learn that I didn’t have to have them.

Upon completing my treatments, I attended my regularly scheduled follow-up appointments. At first, they were monthly, then every two months, three months, six months…and now annually. My follow-up appointments typically consistent of blood tests, a PET scan, x-rays and other tests to confirm that I am still cancer-free. The doctors and staff at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, are true miracle workers and I am forever grateful to them.

I was also greatly helped by the patient advocates at MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org. Not only did they help me obtain financial compensation which helped with my treatments and quality of life, they genuinely cared about my well-being. I am proud to call them my friends and they continue to stand by my side as I fight mesothelioma. Their website is filled with a plethora of comprehensive information surrounding mesothelioma and the trust funds that are available to certain victims.

Today, I feel blessed to be able to spend time with my family and share my story with other people living with mesothelioma. While I have been through a lot and I am still challenged by physical pain and limitations after having a lung removed, I see every day as a gift. I hope my story brings resilience and positivity to people living with mesothelioma.

How to be Fearless

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25, Christian Bible, New International Version

 

I rarely paid much attention to clothing; I was more interested in developing who I was.

Well, it finally dawned on me about 10 years ago that I needed to get a little more with the fashion program. I was sitting next to my friend Laura Dailey in a nice restaurant. She was wearing the current style. I felt silly sitting next to her in my 15-year-old dress, even though it has been my all-time favorite style, pattern, and color mix. I finally conceded that I needed to set it aside. *sigh*

Do you have a favorite outfit that’s outdated? Frustrating, isn’t it?

I needed fashion guidance after recovering from my cancer ordeals. Tracy in Houston generously bought me some beautiful, fashionable dresses when I stayed with her right after my 2009 sarcoma diagnosis. My sister Roselie clearly loved watching me try on and then wear the pretty clothes.

When Thriver Soup was published, I knew I needed professional help with my wardrobe. Amy Elliott Elberfeld, Doris Gibbons, and Patti Raggets came over and went through my clothes. Keep, donate, trash. Out went 3 big black bags of clothing. Amy also gave me a lovely silk scarf that fit my skin tones perfectly and a couple stylish necklaces. She then took me shopping for a couple of outfits.

Painful, but I felt grateful. And fearless.

So I learned that fearless and fashion can go together. Fearless about letting go of what’s no longer serving me, and welcoming what does.

Find out how to become more fearless in my 10-minute video recently posted on the FashionNotFear blog (filmed by my fearless fashionista friend Laura Dailey).

Today I might not be Heidiva the Fearless Fashionista, yet my friends helped make my wardrobe more current and suitable.

Still, my friend Mim teases me: “When I think of fashion, I think of my friend Heidi.”

And we chuckle.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

Clothing ourselves for fashion can help us fit in and feel more confident. It helps us laugh a little more heartily in the face of life’s difficulties. And then we can take our new-found fearlessness and apply it to other areas of our lives.

When the Deceased Call

“`Enter paradise; no fear need you have, and neither shall you grieve!”‘

Sura 7:49, Qur’an

Some people will be surprised by who enters eternal paradise, which is depicted as beautiful gardens, according to the Qur’an.

Sometimes those in the Elysian Fields temporarily pay visits to earthly plots. And sometimes they let us know when they have arrived. By phone, even.

What would you give to receive a quick call or text from a deceased loved one, letting you know he or she is okay—or even nearby?

This immeasurable gift came to me in a dream one warm morning in mid-February.

The phone rings and I pick it up. I hear, “Hi Mom, I’m in the flower garden.”

It’s my deceased son’s voice.

I wake up, filled with that oil-and-water mixture of deep gratitude, love, connection, joy—and terrible sorrow. Sound familiar?

I don’t rise quite yet. I bask in the afterglow and wallow in some grief.

Then I go to his garden, started for him behind my bedroom window. Along with the many crocus blossoms I’d already witnessed around Valentine’s Day, I discover that Tristan’s first daffodil has just opened its sun-ripened orifice. He had come to see his beautiful flowers and be near me.

When I started the garden more than a year ago, I had no idea my son would come calling in the middle of winter to see his first daffodil open. With help from several friends I had planted the flowers so I could sit and reminisce and make an offering. For him to visit surpassed my wildest expectations.

Oddly, his timing coincided with the passing of a pastor who, along with his caring wife, had gifted my son with coral bells for his garden. It was like Tristan had visited that particular morning, in time for a memorial gathering, to also say “thank you” to Gary and Liz for their thoughtfulness and for indirectly helping me heal my grief.

While I did not know Gary well, I knew he had worked for years with my friend who also had lost her son. My friend gradually attained serenity and acceptance around her son’s passing.

The moment she learned that Tristan had passed, she arrived to sit by my side, hold me, and sob with me. Yet through her tears, she glowed with the radiance of peace. I looked  her in the eyes and said, “I want that.” And she helped show me how. Because Gary had shown her how. Gary’s loving influence continues now through me. And Tristan’s lost life will be used to help others make better choices and also let go of grief and enter paradise.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

How have you connected with a deceased loved one? A friend of mine places a rose under a specific tree at the Kentucky Horse Park each year when she visits, honoring a special friend. The possibilities are as open as we are creative.

Source:

http://www.islamicity.org/quransearch/action.lasso.asp?-db=Quran&-lay=tblMasterTranslit&-format=SReply1.asp&-op=cn&Topics=1674&-token=Gardens%20of%20Paradise%3C!–Asad–%3E%7C%7C%3Cta%3Etrue%3C/ta%3E%3Ctt%3Etrue%3C/tt%3E%3Cts%3Etrue%3C/ts%3E%3Cdc%3Etrue%3C/dc%3E%3Ctx%3Etrue%3C/tx%3E%3Cal%3Etrue%3C/al%3E&-Sortorder=ascend&-Sortfield=cv&-find

Discover 3 Kick-butt Keys to Thriving Despite Cancer

Discover 3 kick-butt keys to thriving despite cancer. Important attitudes, behaviors, and major life choices are explored in this episode of Breast Friends Cancer Support Radio network. Listen for tips on managing chemotherapy, the difference between being healed and being cured, reducing pain levels, and getting out of the hospital early. Find genuine hope and practical options to improve outcomes.
https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/97339/3-keys-to-thriving-after-cancer

 

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Who is the Rarest One of All?

There are about 7,000 rare human diseases. How rare is rare? In the United States, it’s when a disease affects fewer than 200,000 people.
     Um, that doesn’t seem quite so rare to me. However, diseases falling into this category tend not to get research funding. Without research, conventional treatment options are few or nonexistent. That is an enormous issue for 30 million people in the United States.
     Just think of what that means for those with truly rare diseases. No one is going to fund research when only a small handful of people have a particular disease.
     When I speak of a small handful, I am referring, for example, to those with undifferentiated endometrial #sarcoma. I have only heard of three women besides myself who had it. I’d say that’s pretty dang rare. And mine owned the additional prefix “highly.” Read: “the most deadly.”
     My tumor slides earned the privilege of a trip to an international conference.
     Not the honor I wanted.
     #RareDiseaseDay was Feb. 28. This short video clip is about my experience with having a rare disease.
     Cincinnati’s TV station #WLWT channel 5 came to my home to do a segment on healing from a rare disease when conventional treatment runs out of options.
Watch the 1-minute show here.
     Note that Thriver Soup is not my story. It’s a series of more than 250 practical tips for healing. People with everything from anxiety attacks to Parkinson’s are adopting and benefiting from the useful ideas they’re finding in its pages.
     Healing from rare diseases, even terminal situations, is possible. I am living proof.

     How has Thriver Soup changed your life? I’d love to hear.

How to Make Smart Choices in a World of Dumb Nutrition Fads

Remember hearing that to lose weight you need to eat a low-fat diet? Or that it was fine to eat a fake sweetener?

Did you try doing the right thing by eating lots of salads, only find out later that your favorite dressing consisted of unhealthy soybean oil and high-fructose corn syrup?

Now you can make smart choices in a world of dumb nutrition fads.

Please join me Saturday from 1:30-4pm to hear top nutrition hacks from local experts. Find out

  • How to determine your current nutritional status;
  • How to feel better now by reducing inflammation; and
  • How to select nutritious, whole foods.

When: Saturday from 1:30-4pm

Where: Grace Tree Yoga & Growth Studio, 8933 Cincinnati Dayton Rd, West Chester Township, Butler County, Ohio 45069.

Tickets Available
you_are_what_you_eat_registration.eventbrite.com

Also, Cancer Treatment SOS is live TODAY at 2pm EST. Learn how to thrive beyond end-stage cancer! Author and speaker Joni Aldrich will be in conversation with #ThriverSoup. Please join me.

7 Tips for Reducing Pain Perception

CureToday magazine posted this article as my story. Note that it is best to talk to a health care provider before making changes based on these 7 tips.
If you click on the link and look at the article, that will help prompt CureToday to invite me to write more articles. It also will be helpful for getting the word out. Even better if you share the link. Thank you!
http://www.curetoday.com/share-your-story/7-tips-for-reducing-pain-perception

How to Survive Hospital “Nutrition”

From 1988 to 1993 there were over 2,700 articles dealing with milk recorded in the ‘Medicine’ archives. … They were only slightly less than horrifying. First of all, none of the authors spoke of cow’s milk as an excellent food, free of side effects and the ‘perfect food’ as we have been led to believe by the industry. The main focus of the published reports seems to be on intestinal colic, intestinal irritation, intestinal bleeding, anemia, allergic reactions in infants and children as well as infections such as salmonella. … Contamination of milk by blood and white (pus) cells as well as a variety of chemicals and insecticides was also discussed…  In adults the problems seemed centered more around heart disease and arthritis, allergy, sinusitis, and the more serious questions of leukemia, lymphoma and cancer.

Robert M. Kradjian, MD

Juice, milk, something processed, sugar/corn syrup drinks and processed puddings containing artificial ingredients.

While staying in the hospital after my abdominal surgery, I was started on a clear liquid diet. Then I was moved to a “full” liquid diet. It consisted of adding dairy, wheat, sugars, and petrochemicals to the menu through milk, ice cream, cream soups, and artificial colorings and flavorings.

Fortunately, before the surgery, I was able to talk to a hospital dietitian to let her know my body does not properly digest dairy or wheat, I did not want sugar, and I needed a substitute with protein.

She suggested soymilk. Too estrogenic for me with my cancer background, I said.

She was temporarily at a loss for how to help me get something more substantial on my “full” liquid day. Then she remembered she could get me some almond milk.

That works for me, I said.

I knew this would be a problem because the last time I went through abdominal surgery I was still limited to clear liquids during the 24 hours when I was supposed to get “full” liquids. I felt like I was starving after not having eaten for more than a week. I desperately needed protein and the hospital did not supply any.

Whey protein is a dairy product. Sugar and corn syrup are hardly “therapeutic nutrition.” Note the apple on the cover, and the statement “contains no apple juice.”

The almond milk option indicated to me that hospitals are getting a little more up to speed on what actually is nutritious and what is not.

Another indicator is the hospital-floor refrigerator unit available to patients. When I stayed in the hospital years ago, those refrigerators were full of sodas. I cannot imagine anything worse for someone and who has had abdominal surgery than to add carbonated beverages that fill the abdomen with even more gas than is already added through surgery. My hospital roommate 25 years ago was drinking soda and complaining bitterly of her terrible gas pain. She did not make the connection between the soda gas and her gas pain.

So I am grateful hospitals are moving in the right direction.

However, there is still work to be done. I needed something substantial without dairy, wheat, sugar, or petrochemicals. I am grateful they did have the almond milk option.

And the hospital refrigerators… see the pictures of what they offered. Items filled with dairy, sugar, and long lists of unpronounceable chemicals. Really? For people whose bodies are so compromised they are in hospital beds?

Since when do sugar and corn syrup support advanced recovery?

Where are the fruit and vegetable smoothies? Where are the probiotic drinks? Or perhaps even trays of fresh fruits and vegetables for those ready for them?

Perhaps part of the reason the hospitals are not supplying these foods is because Americans are not used to eating them and therefore the foods might rot in the fridge unless health nuts like me come along to eat them.

And real food is more expensive than these standard options. Hospitals probably don’t have big enough budgets to provide real food for every patient.

Unfortunately, a poor diet can lead to health conditions that land one in the hospital to begin with…

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

If you are going to stay in the hospital, find someone to bring you better quality food for each stage of recovery.

Source:

Robert M. Kradjian, MD, Breast Surgery Chief Division of General Surgery, Seton Medical Centre, Daly City, CA, from http://www.notmilk.com/kradjian.html

Sharing my Story with the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation

Click here for my brief story

The Northwest Sarcoma Foundation provides hope, education, and support to sarcoma patients and their families in the Pacific Northwest while investing in research to improve cure rates for sarcomas.
Its CARE values are
Compassion — Providing comfort through a sympathetic awareness.
Advocacy — Promoting accurate diagnosis, research, and treatment options through  investment in research
Responsibility — Providing timely, accurate information and reliable resources.
Education — Providing educational materials for patients and families about this disease.
Its vision is better treatments for sarcoma patients and increased cure rates.

Mesothelioma Website Gives Virgil a Chance to Survive

Note: Virgil Anderson is alive today and receiving life-saving treatment because he found an organization that provided him with the information and support he needed. As we all share what we learn from our journeys with cancer, whether ours or another’s, we can give each other more options and genuine hope. Thank you, Virgil, for sharing this with us.

Virgil writes:

My story of illness and cancer is similar to the struggles of others: I was diagnosed at 50 with the devastating type of cancer called mesothelioma. I am now very sick and fighting for treatment and for my life. I am limited and unable to enjoy the activities I once did. Just breathing is difficult for me now, and I can blame all this on exposure to asbestos.

My message is an important one, and I want to educate people about the risks of exposure to asbestos. I want other people to know that prevention is important with mesothelioma and that early detection and diagnosis are crucial for effective treatment. Avoid asbestos, but if you have been exposed, get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

I grew up in the small town of Williamson, W.Va., and my story with asbestos began in high school. I worked in demolition, taking down buildings with tools and with my own hands. It was hard work and I was exposed to asbestos-laden dust. Disrupting asbestos in older buildings is one of the top ways people are exposed to asbestos fibers.

After that job I moved on to others, including working on cars. I tore out and replaced hood liners and made repairs to cars, including working with clutches and brakes. All of these parts contained asbestos. Without knowing the dangers or how to protect myself, I was again exposed to asbestos fibers.

Asbestos was once used extensively in so many applications, especially in the construction of buildings. The real dangers of inhaling or accidentally consuming this mineral were not known until the 1970s when regulations were finally put into place. Because I never knew the risks, I worked for years around asbestos and now I have mesothelioma.

I am now living with the consequences, as are many other older Americans. Mesothelioma sneaks up on you many years after asbestos exposure. I now have a hard time breathing and even walking. I spend much of my time in bed, unable to do normal daily tasks. My symptoms include chest pain, a terrible cough, and shortness of breath.

Treatment is limited for me. Treatment for mesothelioma is already difficult, but my cancer has spread to the lymph nodes so surgery is not an option. I am hoping to undergo chemotherapy, which may shrink the tumors and bring me some relief, but a cure for this disease just isn’t possible.

I hope that by sharing my story as far and as wide as I can that I will reach people who may still be able to take steps to prevent mesothelioma or to get screened and treated early. If there is any chance you think you may have been exposed to asbestos, do not wait to talk to your doctor about it. Monitor yourself for symptoms and get screening tests to catch this terrible disease early. My story should help others avoid a similar fate.