Releasing scars

My father liked to say that scars are signs of a life well lived. As an Eighth Air Force B-17 navigator during World War II, he would know. He flew 32 missions over Europe, well beyond the “Lucky Bastard Club” level of surviving 25 missions.

I must have lived my life really well because I’ve got lots of scars to prove it. I have a long one on my bikini line from a C-section. Eleven years ago it got a connecting scar that runs all the way up to my sternum, a life-saving gift from my first cancer surgery.

I look like I have a big anchor on my belly. It reminds me of medieval anchoresses, who lived in deep seclusion to seek out their greatest possible happiness. My anchoress status bought me not only life, but a whole new life that includes deep and growing joy. And the scars don’t have to limit me or weigh me down anymore.

What to do about all that internal scar tissue? I have lost several non-essential organs and am lucky to still have my bladder. But my insides are packed, nevertheless, with loads of scar tissue.

I found the answer in fascia (body-wide connective tissue) release, which involves compression and then extension of scar tissue. My practitioner is Lauren Clark Cadman, who I met at a HIME wellness event in Cincinnati two years ago.

At the time I was looking for another option for healing my hand that had been broken in three places after falling off a galloping horse. Physical therapy was unable to help me with the long-term inflammation and swelling. I could not curl my hand, and typing was a painful issue—especially because writing is my “thing.” Lauren cleared it all up in eight sessions and I regained full, pain-free use of my hand again.

I decided to let her work on my abdominal scar tissues. I learned that during each session, it’s best to lie quietly, breathe deeply, and listen intently to my body while she’s working.

Recently she was compressing around my bladder. While she held one spot for a long time, I saw an image of a donkey nose. I chuckled and told her what came to me. As I talked, the scar tissue relaxed and let go. It was being stubborn like a donkey until it was recognized and given the attention it wanted. Then it no longer needed to hold on so tight. I could feel blood flow going down to my toes, loosening up more tissue.

During my most recent session, she was again working around my bladder and intestines. The right side of my body gave a big twitch. After the session, I went to my car and soon found myself crying. I cried off and on for the rest of the day. I understood more deeply how emotional pain is stored in the body, and it’s this kind of pain that can create digestive issues and chronic dis-ease. Lauren quotes a common saying that “the issue is in the tissue” because the subconscious mind stores painful memories in fascial tissue. It’s a way for the brain to protect us until we can safely process our feelings. When we are no longer in fight or flight mode, the body is able to let go of the pain. Crying is a normal and healthy result of this treatment.

I’m not expecting the visible scar tissue on my skin to disappear, but the internal holding is letting go, giving me more space on every level.

I now have more freedom of movement in my entire body–also in part because of practicing tai chi daily during the past couple of years. I used to be much more stiff and had to put a lot of effort into getting in and out of a saddle. Not anymore.

I ain’t done yet, though. This week I woke up from a dream in which I was taking the wooden covering off a mummy. Oh no, my cover’s been blown! More wrappings of myofascial scar tissue in my abdomen need to be released.

It’s time, I’m ready, and so is my body.

Anchor’s away! I’m sailing into my bright new life with good health.

Clearing Chemo Brain

Do you have difficulty with simple mental tasks and short-term memory? Do you feel like your brain is all fuzzy and foggy? Like you’ve got glue between your synapses and the thoughts can’t make the leap into clarity?

I struggled with this for a long time after 42 days of chemotherapy infusions spread out over two years, not to mention anesthesia from seven major surgeries. When I finished my final chemo treatment, I could barely string three sentences together.

A lot of this furry focus cleared up during the first year, but it still persisted. A friend of mine, who only had six treatments, was told she went from being very, very smart to being very smart.

Not good enough. I am a traditionally published author. I need to be able to think and make connections. I need clarity and focus.

The first helpful idea, thanks to Julie Loewenstine, was to take a teaspoon of Brahmi leaf powder (water hyssop) every day. After a year of faithful supplementation, I made noticeable improvement, but I was still frustrated with that gluey sensation gumming up my synapses.

Less than a year ago I talked to my medical Qigong practitioner, Lani Lee, in Columbus, Ohio. She recommended a full month of eating two cups of organic parsley or cilantro every day. I had read that these herbs help pull heavy metals out of the body, and my brain probably had a lot of platinum stored in it from my eight cisplatin treatments. (I call myself the million-dollar miracle woman because of how expensive these treatments are—and I’m worth every penny!) And who knows what else was sticking around in my noggin. So I ate lots of Mexican dishes with cilantro piled on top and drank lots of chicken broth with parsley stirred in.

That helped tremendously, but I still wasn’t there yet.

During the spring I discovered, from reading about how to recover from trauma as part of my research for my next book–Grieving an Addict–that neurofeedback can help. So I started with Kristin Wooten during the summer. It involves sitting in an easy chair with electrodes on the head and listening to music from a computer that is designed to help the brain see what it’s doing and self-correct. Each correction is noted with a blip in the music.

After about twenty sessions, I found this was helping me make that last jump into being able to fully think once again. I am enjoying how my writing flows much better than before, and also has greater clarity.

Of course, many other aspects of my life have helped me clear out chemo brain. And for my writing, my editor, Mary Langford, has made a huge difference. She worked with Master Storyteller Sidney Sheldon for five years and he told her that, in some areas, she was a better writer than he was. I feel most fortunate to have access to her skills through grants from the Ohio Arts Council.

And I feel deeply gratified that I finally have my brain back.

Another advantage of neurofeedback has been its help with persistent insomnia. The local sleep clinic was unable to help me. I haven’t arrived where I want to be yet, but I’m moving in the right direction.

What have you tried that helped you regain your brain?

Clearing chemo brain is a crowning achievement. Photo by Judy Peace while we were celebrating my nine years free of cancer.

Virtual Panel on Gynecological Health Nov. 5

A medical panel of experts has come together for a virtual meeting on Thursday, November 5 at 3 pm CT. 

Topics to be discussed:

  • Options to treat uterine fibroids: when is surveillance acceptable
  • Surgical treatment options available for women with uterine fibroids; traditional surgical hysterectomy and myomectomy (vaginally or abdominally), laparoscopic hysterectomy, and myomectomy, and laparotomy using a small incision in the abdomen
  • Use of power morcellation- what you need to know
  • Importance of imaging findings in guiding approach
  • Importance of following up on tissue diagnosis: leiomyoma/fibroids vs presence of cancer
  • Risk factors for uterine sarcoma / leiomyosarcoma
  • Lessons to be learned from those experienced in treating uterine LMS

To participate, please contact Annie Achee of the National Leiomyosarcoma Foundation:  annieachee@aol.com

For more info, please visit https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ORaJRVl3x9YISH6tH7jwRrwxJNzW-G0rza6kG-bR79s/edit

9 Years Free!

This month I am celebrating nine years free of any evidence of cancer and free of any kind of cancer treatment! After being told to get my affairs in order.

So grateful for my life and to be alive and well!

Currently I am doing neurofeedback and BodyTalk, and advancing in tai chi, along with all my usual self-healing techniques. And drinking daily green sludges–er, smoothies. And as the nurse said yesterday, “still taking 150 supplements.”

Recently did a fun corn maze with my son near Dayton. They had a sunflower patch, symbol of sarcomas.

10 Ways to Reduce Inflammation

Perhaps a good defense against Covid-19, and cancer, is a good offense: reduce inflammation in the body. https://thriversoup.com/2020/05/09/protecting-from-covid-19/ Here are my first ten ways, all found in my book, Thriver Soup.

(Always discuss with your doctor before starting anything new)

 #1 Tart Cherries
“Tart cherries are high in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 124

#2 Quercetin
“The flavonoid #quercetin ‘has demonstrated anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. Quercetin turns the twelve milligrams of vitamin C in the apple into the equivalent of 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.’”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 114

#3 Moving Our Bodies
“Moving our bodies can help balance our hormones, reduce blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, decrease fatigue, protect our immune systems, and reduce the risks of recurrence.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 172

#4 Blueberries
“Blueberries are high in flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 117

#5 Curcumin
“Curcumin works against cancer development in at least ten different ways, affecting each stage of the disease. It offers powerful antitumor, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It stimulates the immune system. It blocks the formation of blood vessels to tumors while promoting the flow of blood to wounds. Turmeric intensifies the anti-cancer activity of other plant-based nutrients, especially green tea and black pepper. It enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 119

#6 Bay Leaves
“Bay leaf contains parthenolide, shown to slow the appearance and growth of breast tumors in mice in a Russian study. This anti-inflammatory is a potent anti-oxidant.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 127

#7 Citrus Fruit
“Citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory flavonoids and stimulate the detoxification of carcinogens by the liver.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 124

#8 Pomegranates
“Pomegranates are full of polyphenols, are anti-inflammatory, contain antioxidants, and have other anti-cancer components.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 124

#9 Coriander Seeds
“Coriander seeds appear to relieve constipation as well as help prevent colon cancer. Their anti-inflammatory properties protect against nerve damage. They also might lower blood sugar and increase the release of insulin from the pancreas.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 125-6

#10 Flax Seeds
“Flax seeds are a rich plant source of omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation, and of lignans, which can retard the growth of cancerous cells. Researchers found that women who consumed the most lignans had the lowest risk of breast cancer. Lignans also appear to enhance the benefits of the chemotherapy drug tamoxifen. Flax seeds need to be ground and immediately consumed for humans to gain access to their nutrients. Eating cereals and chips containing flax seeds probably won’t provide the benefits for which you might be looking. They might, however, provide more fiber, which is useful.”
Thriver Soup, Pg. 126

 

How Can We Help Protect Ourselves from Covid-19?

How can we help protect ourselves from Covid-19 when our bodies are already vulnerable because of cancer?

Almost every disease in older adulthood is made worse by inflammation in our bodies, according to Chris Fagundes, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Rice University. [1]

Inflammation appears to play a role in Covid-19. This virus turns deadly when the body overreacts to the invasion and creates a “cytokine storm.” According to Randy Cron, M.D., Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham, “Cytokines are inflammatory immunologic proteins that are there to fight off infections and ward off cancers… But when they are out of control, they can make you very ill.” [2]

Therefore, perhaps a good defense against Covid-19, and cancer, is a good offense: reduce inflammation in the body.

In addition to my 26 tips for improving immunity to help prevent contracting the virus (which you can find on my blog, all from my book, Thriver Soup), I will next be offering dozens of tips for reducing inflammation in our bodies to help us all stay a little healthier.

Here is a primer on inflammation, which is one of hundreds of reflections I offer in Thriver Soup:

“When threatened by wounds, irritation, or infections, cells inflame to assist with the transition back to health. A molecule called nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB), which normally resides in cell cytoplasm, moves into the cell’s nucleus (hence the name ‘nuclear factor’) and generates redness, heat, swelling, and pain. When the body heals, the NF-kB molecules return to the cell cytoplasm.

“NF-kB, however, also provokes the genes involved in creating chronic inflammation, which generally does not help the body heal. Instead, long-term heat and swelling becomes an open invitation to cancer. One-sixth of all cancers are directly linked to chronic inflammation. Most, if not all, cancers have unusually high levels of active NF-kB. This protein is considered their missing link. Researchers, for example, found that NF-kB regulates the inflammatory cascade necessary for breast cancer cells to proliferate and metastasize.

“Fortunately, inflammation can be smothered through diet and supplements. NF-kB can be suppressed by phytochemical-rich spices, vegetables, and fruit. Antioxidants can block the proteins so they don’t move into cell nuclei. Vitamins C, D, and E, curcumin (found in the spice turmeric), the herb ashwagandha, pomegranate extract, garlic extract, ginger root, green tea, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, and isoflavones found primarily in beans can be effective cellular firefighters. I found such a diet helped reduce my discomfort during treatment, decreasing my need for pain medications.

“When brought back under control, NF-kB provides the body with important healing mechanisms…. Keep the chronic flames doused with an anti-inflammatory diet to help preserve your internal landscape.

Thriver Soup Ingredient:

“Ask your doctor to measure inflammation markers in your blood (C-reactive protein and albumin). ‘Patients with the lowest level of inflammation were twice as likely as the others to live through the next several years,’ according to long-term studies by oncologists at the Glasgow Hospital in Scotland.

“Talk to your oncologist about what anti-inflammatory foods and supplements work well with your treatment choices.”

Thriver Soup, Pg. 174

Other sources:

[1] [https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2018/10/30/new-research-on-inflammation-shows-how-extreme-emotions-can-undermine-health/#4bc491af56f5]

[2] [https://www.forbes.com/sites/claryestes/2020/04/16/what-is-the-cytokine-storm-and-why-is-it-so-deadly-for-covid-19-patients/#6b77ed6460fc]

Another 6 Ways to Improve Your Immunity

“One study demonstrated that significant changes take place in the brains of those who practice mindfulness meditation, even after only eight weeks of daily practice. Their moods lifted and their immune systems were strengthened.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 314

“According to Donald Yance, herbalist and certified nutritionist, licorice also blocks tumors and enhances the immune system. If you have any high blood pressure issues, I suggest using licorice in which the DGL (glycyrrhetinic acid) has been removed.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 149

“So maybe having a treat every so often is a way to increase the joy in life and give a little boost to the immune system. Denying myself an occasional treat isn’t terribly nurturing for the soul.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 150

“Probiotics in general can facilitate digestion, help the gut maintain regular bowel movements, stabilize the immune system, and assist with detoxification.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 140

“Reishi mushrooms can increase white blood cell and tumor-fighting cell production, cut off the growth of new blood vessels to tumors, and reduce the migration of cancerous cells. They have been known to decrease the toxicity created by chemotherapy drugs. When looking for a supplement, select one with a higher level of triterpenoids, which provides the most benefit. The more bitter the tea or tincture, the more potent it is. The recommended dose is three to five grams per day, or ten to thirty drops.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 134

“Don’t sprout alfalfa seeds, said Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions. The resulting sprouts promote inflammatory illnesses and suppress the immune system.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 133

10 More Ways to Improve Your Immunity

“Laughter gives your diaphragm, abdomen, lungs, chest, and face an enjoyable little workout. It also increases oxygen levels in the blood and tones the whole cardiovascular system. After laughing, all your muscles relax, including your heart. Your blood pressure and pulse rate temporarily drop. You might be able to tolerate pain a little better, and your digestion will improve. Your immune system also functions more optimally.”
Thriver Soup, pg.  287

“Green tea has been shown to stimulate the immune system, inhibit metastasis, reduce inflammation, provide anti-oxidants, promote the effectiveness of radiotherapy, and detoxify the body.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 149

“Moving our bodies can help balance our hormones, reduce blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, decrease fatigue, protect our immune systems, and reduce the risks of recurrence.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 172

“Sea vegetables provide a great number of necessary minerals and vitamins. They help the body detox and are rich in iodine, which is toxic to breast cancer cells. Both wakame and kombu stimulate the immune system and encourage cells to die in a normal way.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 137

“I also found out that stress depresses the immune system by repressing the white blood cells.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 178

“Aloe vera has an anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor gel that stimulates the immune system and protects against the ill effects of radiation treatment.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 136

“The practice of qi gong assists the energy flow, helps the body stay calm, can improve with cellular regeneration, and slows the aging process. The practice is linked to improved bone density and better immune responses.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 175

“Some studies suggest the sunshine vitamin might provide some protection against colon, prostate, and breast cancer, probably because it helps control cell growth and maintain a strong immune system. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, enabling the body to absorb calcium, and assists the body with maintaining normal blood levels of phosphorus.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 148

“Repressing threatening emotions depresses the immune system.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 184

“Honey has been used since ancient times as part of traditional medicine. It works as an antibacterial, antioxidant, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral agent, probably because of its flavonoids.”
Thriver Soup, pg. 47

How to Cope with Anger During Lockdown

There are so, so many legitimate things to feel angry about right now. Cancer. Your changed life. Now the coronavirus pandemic. The basic, reliable structures of your life have collapsed, compounding your pain. It feels so overwhelming.

Your rage is multiplied, complicated, and justified. And on top of that, you are locked up, either alone or with loved ones, as if a prisoner in your own home. It’s like you’re sitting in your personal pressure cooker, where grief, resentments, and blame build to the explosive point.

It’s something none of us have really dealt with before. It’s a hard time for all of us.

We want relief from that constant niggling agitation we might feel. Our minds acknowledge that life is way out of whack, but that doesn’t always translate into compassion for ourselves and each other. To cope, it seems easiest to disconnect our awareness from our bodies. We sometimes end up self-destructing with food and alcohol and maybe even lashing out at those whom we love. I find myself eating a lot more chocolate and popcorn these days, and I have been less patient with my son.

Even though our ways of dealing with stress can be quick fixes to ease our discomfort, they are ineffective ways of coping. While we might feel some sense of relief, these knee-jerk reactions usually make us feel worse in the end.

Processing

We can’t control these difficult external events, but we can control our internal attitudes, behaviors, and choices. We get to choose if we are going to be victims of our circumstances, or if we’re going to rise up and take responsibility for ourselves and our own lives.

If we look underneath our anger, grief, and sorrow, we will probably find an incredible sense of powerlessness, as if the floor is giving way underneath us. It may not feel like it at the time, but this sensation is just an emotion—energy in motion within our bodies. While it’s scary to feel these feelings for what they are, our emotions alone do no harm. They are the result of a chemical dump from our brains into our bloodstreams. For the emotions to lift—which is where we can find relief—these sensations need to be deeply felt without our minds running interference.

So have a seat, or lie down on your bed. Tune in to your body. Where is that irritating feeling of powerlessness sitting? Can you feel the rage putting pressure someplace inside you? If so, take a moment to feel it. Allow it to be what it is without any thoughts or words. Give it your whole, undivided attention without judgment. That’s all it wants, anyway.

Your emotions, if felt fully and deeply, will lift after ninety seconds. If it lasts longer than ninety seconds, you’re probably engaging your mind and thinking about what’s bothering you. That’s not helping you right now. Let the thoughts go, and if you can’t, write them down and shred them. Then try the process again.

Another strategy you can use is to breathe deeply while mindfully observing your anger, grief, and powerlessness. Just look at it. Don’t judge it or act on it. Instead, have compassion for whatever it is you’re feeling. It’s a human response to an inhumane situation; there is no logical reason to feel ashamed or guilty about your feelings.

By loving yourself enough to experience the energy moving inside your body, without thinking about what makes you upset, you can allow it to harmlessly shift around until it evaporates.

Integrating

            Once the emotions lift, you can begin reorganizing your reality, away from the victim mentality and toward opportunities, learning, and desires. There are so many free educational and entertaining options available online. Perhaps focus on gratitude that these choices—vastly more wonderful than at any other time in history—are accessible to you right here, right now. I find these gifts extraordinary.

For example, I finally got my son to watch the movie “The Cold Blue” so he could see what his grandfather lived through during World War II. I watched a documentary about children’s show host Fred Rogers, of “Won’t you be my neighbor?” fame, and was amazed. Fred had the uncanny ability to explain difficult concepts, like “assassination,” to help children cope with national crises. Most recently, I participated in free online meditations.

These would never have happened without the lockdown and the generosity of others. With gratitude, I find my attention shifts and so does my internal awareness. It’s a lovely, empowering gift to myself and relieves the stress of living in lockdown.