When I finally got to meet with the breast surgeon at the cancer center my husband and I were armed with our list of questions. What I quickly found out was that this doctor was merely the surgeon. While she could explain to me my diagnosis she wouldn’t be discussing with me the proposed treatment plans or answer my myriad of questions related to them. She could tell me the “standard of care” or the standard treatment plant that everyone is given: surgery, chemo, radiation, hormone suppressing drug. (I had a hormone driven cancer). I realized I wasn’t going to get all of my answers in this first visit. However, I was told the first step which was surgery. Some people are recommended to have chemo first if their tumor is large or aggressive but mine was fairly small and they were confident they had caught it early.
I was told I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma which means it started in the milk ducts and has spread into the surrounding tissue forming a tumor. The tumor was about 2 cm according to the ultrasound. The breast surgeon explained that they would simply go in and take out the tumor checking for clear margins and then do a test to see how many lymph nodes would need to be removed (again standard of care). What they do is insert a blue dye into the duct that shows cancer and then see which lymph node in the line of nodes will turn blue. Our lymph nodes are in clusters throughout our body and their main job is to detox. They tell our body which cells are good to keep and which to get rid of. When cancer shows up in the breast it typically ends up moving to the lymph nodes under the arm. So the theory is, to prevent metastasis (spreading of cancer throughout the body) they should remove the lymph nodes which are directly in line to receive the cancerous cells. Most people have 3-7 removed, some as many as 12, the surgeon said. I heard of one lady that had closer to 60 removed! This all puts your body at risk for lymphedema, which is very common for people with breast cancer following surgery.
The ultrasound showed that my lymph nodes looked clear.
There was the typical sense of urgency to get to surgery and get this thing removed as soon as possible. I have since been enlightened that this is a fear tactic and really has no merit. I have learned that cancer actually takes years to grow and I most likely had this growing in me for several years. Therefore there wasn’t a true sense of urgency. In hind sight I wish I had not rushed to surgery, but more on that in a later post.
I had waited two weeks to get my diagnosis and would wait another 3 weeks for surgery. It was recommended that I undergo an MRI to check if the cancer has spread anywhere else and to get a clearer picture for the surgeon before surgery. I had asked if I could skip the MRI and she said yes.
I waited about a week, praying and debating, as to whether I should do the MRI. I was worried about the negative effects of the scan as well as the loud noise and fear of claustrophobia. I eventually decided I would do the MRI in order to help the surgeon have the best picture of what she would see when she cut me open.
It took another week to get in for the MRI, one week before my scheduled surgery. A dear friend took me and supported and helped me through the process and it ended up not being as bad as I expected.
However, the results of the MRI were definitely unexpected!
The MRI showed that the tumor was not a mere 2 cm but was closer to 4 or 4.5 cm. Also one of my lymph nodes looked dark which concerned them. They said they would need to biopsy the lymph node. Another biopsy??? Again, hindsight is 20/20 but I was following their standard of care.
They got me in for a biopsy two days later on Friday. I would need to wait until Monday for the results. Wednesday was my scheduled surgery.
Side note, every time they do a biopsy they leave a small titanium marker in the tissue that was biopsied. They say that you will not even know it is there. So I had three titanium markers in me at this point, the two breast biopsies and the lymph node. I later learned this marker can be refused. Again, I wish I had had the knowledge because I regularly have pain from mine.
They also wanted to do another biopsy via MRI of the tissue near the tumor to ensure that it was in fact cancer. They scheduled that for Monday.
More Bad News
The call Monday morning was again unexpected and would flip me on my head. The surgeon called me herself and said that the biopsy showed that the cancer was now in my lymph node which would change the whole trajectory of our plan. Their fear is that if it has spread to the node then it might have spread elsewhere in the body.
Side note, my nodes were clear just a month before and this is not an especially fast growing tumor. Could it be that the node was just doing its job and trying to rid the body of the cancer cells???
The surgeon continued to tell me that we would have to pause surgery until I could meet with the oncologist and that more tests would have to be done. They wanted to do a CT scan of the upper body and pelvis as well as full body bone scan, all looking for evidence of cancer (tumors?) anywhere else in the body. This all on top of the MRI scheduled for that day.
The tests were scheduled for Tuesday and surgery at this point was canceled because they needed the results and I would still need to meet with the oncologist to decide whether I could proceed to surgery or would need chemotherapy first.
So to recap: I would be having four major tests, all toxic to the body, in a matter of 7 days.
- Wednesday: MRI (contrast in your blood stream; may make metal move – titanium markers; dizziness and fatigue)
- Friday: Ultrasound (safe); biopsy (may disrupt the tumor spreading the cancer cells)
- Monday: MRI (contrast in your blood stream; may make metal move – titanium markers; dizziness and fatigue)
- Tuesday: Bone Scan (radiation exposure and radioactive contrast in your blood stream)
- Tuesday: CT Scan (radiation exposure and contrast in your blood stream)
I was devastated. I had prepared mentally and practically for my surgery, had help lined up, meal train on schedule. And now it was cancelled. And chemo? I thought we weren’t going to have to do this??
While I was distraught my friends encouraged me and everyone prayed for guidance and healing and for good to come out of all of this. My friends armed me with scripture and prayed over me for peace.
I met with the oncologist the following Monday. She informed me that all of my scans were clear and that although the lymph node did show cancer, her and surgeon agreed it would be ok to move forward with surgery. Yes! This is what I prayed for. She told me that if I preferred I could have chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor, since it was so large, but they weren’t sure if the chemo would actually help. Um, thanks for offering, but no, I don’t want the chemo.
I was rescheduled for surgery for two and half weeks later. I was finally getting this tumor out!
Learning More About Healing Cancer Naturally
While I waited, I continued learning as much as I could about cancer and what these natural people were talking about healing cancer naturally. Along with Dr V from Heal Breast Cancer Naturally and breastcancerconqueror.com I found ChrisBeatCancer.com. I listened to story after story of people who opted out of chemo and radiation, and even surgery, and allowed their body to heal the cancer. They just supported their body in the healing with nutrition, lifestyle, and alternative therapies. I was amazed at all I was learning and soaking it up like a sponge. I had already read Dr. V’s book and then read Chris Wark’s book to learn the principles in healing. I got their cookbooks and started learning to new recipes to eat in a way that would support my body in healing. I fasted several times and learned the benefits of intermittent fasting. I continued with my own personal counseling but also added Music Therapy groups, relaxation techniques, and massage. I started taking daily walks outside for exercise, sun, and oxygen. I learned about the benefits of castor oil and started using a castor oil pack at night on my liver and over my tumor.
I had read about a woman who’s tumor shrunk in one month to a smaller size after putting castor oil pack over it daily. I didn’t expect this for me but it couldn’t hurt to try it!
By the time surgery came I wasn’t sure if my tumor had shrunk at all or if my body was starting to heal, but I knew that at least my system was doing better and would have a better time healing from surgery.
Surgery was successful. The surgeon removed 5.5 cm of tumor/cancerous tissue and got clean margins. She then proceeded to tell us that she only needed to remove two lymph nodes and they would let us know after testing whether the second one had cancer in it or not. I was bandaged up and ready to go home.
I had lots of support in healing with a meal train from church and neighbors, and my father in law came to help with the kids. By the weekend I was feeling good and was out taking my daily walks. I would need to not do anything strenuous or pulling on my chest for a couple of weeks but I healed quickly.
The surgeon called with the results of the test assuring me again that they had gotten clean margins, that the whole tumor was all one type of cancer and that of the two lymph nodes they removed only the one had cancer cells in it. Praise the Lord!!
A week later I went in for my post-op appointment with the surgeon’s Physician’s Assistant who checked my incisions, which was healing nicely, and answered some questions about exercise and such. She also discussed the next steps of treatment which would to meet with the oncologist to review the further tests done on the tumor after surgery, as well as meet with the radiation oncologist.
Conventional or Alternative Treatment
At this point I had read enough about the outcomes of the healthcare systems “standard of care” in the oncology world as well as the outcomes of healing naturally and with alternative therapies to know that I probably wasn’t going to pursue chemo and radiation. I also knew that the oncologist I had met with prior to surgery wasn’t going to work well with someone like me who thinks differently about health care and would want to pursue more natural means. I knew I would have to look for a new oncologist. I also knew I wasn’t going to keep any appointment with the radiation oncologist so I didn’t bother making an appointment.
After praying, asking for recommendations, and researching the other oncologists I found someone who I hoped would be a good fit. I made an appointment for August.
Meanwhile, I pursued the natural route by booking an appointment with a naturopath. I had considered working with a naturopath a few years ago when struggling with depression and anxiety, and gut issues. I knew that they would be able to help me get to the root causes of whatever was causing my issues and guide me in healing. What held me back was the money. Naturopaths, as well as most functional medicine doctors and any natural therapies, are out of pocket and not covered by insurance. I knew it would be several thousand dollars to pursue this course of action and I just couldn’t spend the money on myself. This time I had no excuse to not spend the money. My health was at stake. So I booked my appointment for the middle of July.
I had a plan to continue helping my body to heal with food and nutrition, lifestyle changes, dealing with emotional trauma, reducing stress, improving sleep, and removing toxins. I would also do testing with the naturopath to find out what was really going on in my body so I could begin to heal it. I had a good support group with family, friends, church family, and counseling.
I would continue to learn and read and study all I could. I would take vacations and enjoy time with family. But most importantly I would trust God to heal me.
God’s Presence in the Journey
You see, I had been seeking God and trusting Him to guide me throughout this process and had been amazed at how He answered prayers and answered questions. When I didn’t know what to do He revealed answers. When I got stressed out or overwhelmed with anxiety He sent a friend to pick me up with His word. I was learning what it meant to trust God with my life and to seek Him daily. I knew that I would not be able to get through this without Him. I also knew that my life was not my own. I had given Him my life and was allowing Him to have control. So no matter what would happen with my body I would know that He was in control and His will would be done.
I prayed for healing. I prayed for Him to heal my body of the cancer and all of the other issues that were causing dis-ease in my body. I asked Him to heal my trauma and my relationships. I asked Him to bring me joy in the midst of pain. I asked Him for peace when I got bad news or began to fear the present or the future. I asked Him for guidance in all of the difficult decisions I would have to make. I asked Him for strength each day to do what I needed to do that day. I prayed for my family, that they would have peace in my decision to do things differently. I prayed for my boys that they wouldn’t be negatively affected by the many hours spent away from them trying to take care of myself. I prayed for strength for my husband and asked that He would be supportive.
God answered all. Above and beyond. In this short journey I have truly found peace and joy and strength and wisdom. I am forever grateful for how getting a cancer diagnosis changed my life and drew me closer to God. Through this trial I have seen God work in me and my situation and have gotten to know Him better. I have learned to trust Him and look to Him more often and remember that His way is the best way.
I am grateful that I got cancer. Because God is using it for His glory and my good.
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