“Remember that the need for nurturance is a genuine human need. To combat an unmet need with willpower is both foolish and futile. Only when we heal the wound of separation and accept and love ourselves without judgement does the need for external nurturance gradually wither away. One way this will manifest is in the diet. Without willpower, without denial or self-coercion, without the need for should and shouldn’ts, the relationship with food will change.”
New year, new you, new books and blogs on how to be the best you can be. You may be tired, overweight, lacking in motivation, stuck in a job you don’t love, and overall, in need of an overhaul. This might have you pouring over books in the self-help or diet section of Barnes and Noble, looking for that foolproof system in getting yourself to where you think you ought to be.
Lord knows that was me when I first found out that I had breast cancer, in January of 2011. I watched Crazy Sexy Cancer, I listened to Louise Hay CDs in the car, I read all about the Budwig Protocol, the Gerson Therapy, read Life Over Cancer, watched “The Secret”, read Abraham Hicks, and researched, researched, researched everything online about anything that might mitigate cancer. I can’t tell you how much conflicting information I came across. It was overwhelming, and I just didn’t know who to believe.
A little backstory for the newcomers:
As some readers might know, after seeking out the Gerson Therapy–and being turned down–I was referred to a holistic MD. So distraught by all the different ideas I’d read about, I decided to just blindly jump in and take the advice of my doctor word for word. I had the financial support of some very kind friends and strangers and I did not want to let anyone down… I had to do this full force for the sake of those who want to see me live. I was EXTREMELY determined to do his protocol exactly as laid out. Meat and eggs only from grass fed and pastured animals, organic greens three times per day, fresh green juice 4 times per day, pastured beef bone broth, unlimited sprouted, organic and truly raw almonds (did you know that truly raw almonds are illegal in the U.S.?) winter squash, unlimited amounts of raw cream (also illegal and difficult to procure in the U.S.) and my one indulgence–wild blueberries–every day. In addition to the food is the supplement regime. Injecting mistletoe into my abdomen daily, and taking an average of 100 pills per day.
For the first 3 months, I followed the regimen perfectly. It consumed all of my time and energy, but I did have help in the form of a personal chef as a gift from my brother. He’s been a life-saver! He turned the food preparation into a no-brainer, the food was there: all I had to do was eat it. And I did, with all the gusto I could muster.
In the process, I felt better energetically, I lost weight initially, and everyone commented on how well I looked! I wasn’t taking any “conventional” treatments from my oncologist… I was completely relying on my diet and supplements to take care of the cancer. During this time period, the only sweet I allowed myself was one shared dessert with my husband at a farm-to-table restaurant in St. Paul, MN. I was proud of myself… proud of my ability to resist, proud of my perfectionism, proud of the near-neuroticism.
At the next checkup with my oncologist–who’d agreed to monitor me during this holistic journey–the CT scans showed that the cancer was still growing. Specifically in my spine, liver and lungs.
Where did I go wrong? I did EVERYTHING right! I took everything my doctor said literally! And now my oncologist put a new chemotherapy on the table, and after a discussion with my holistic MD, we both agreed to take the chemotherapy while adhering to the diet and adjusting the supplement program (I went from 100 pills per day down to 60, and mistletoe injections 3 times per week, oh happy day!) and with this new set of circumstances, I pushed forward.
Hey, Life, why not throw me another challenge? Thanks! -Lill
The summer of 2012 was eventful. In early June, the swelling in my brain from the dying brain tumor caused me to have a seizure. I blacked out and felt I was gone for days and days (but was really only “gone” for 20 minutes or so.) When I was cognizant in the hospital, I saw myself surrounded by people I love and who love me. We were all joking together (as is a treasured and time-honored coping mechanism amongst my family members.) I was in the hospital for two days, and was treated to their food options. French toast, sausage, instant mashed potatoes, spaghetti, baked potatoes and the like.
Low-fat milk and Smart Balance? Sign me up!
I relished the hospital food. It was sweet, it had starchy textures, it was fun. It was actually the best part of being there! I ordered the hot chocolate twice! It was almost a relief, to lay down, give in and say “to hell with the diet” for a couple of days. Strange, no? Where was my steely resolve in all of this?
Oh yeah, it backed off and let me feel like a human for a little bit. A human being who isn’t perfect in the face of adversity, a human with nothing to prove to anyone, a human acting slightly irresponsibly even when dealing with a deadly disease.
The Guilt Monster
Since midsummer until today, I’ve followed a pattern of adhering to my prescribed diet to the letter for a couple weeks at a time, and then binging on sugary things, and have felt guilt and shame.
“The food is being prepared FOR me, for Chrissakes, what kind of spoiled brat am I?” I would tell myself. With every sweet that passed my lips, I would think, “I’m killing myself, I must stop, I’m being bad, all these people are supporting me and this is how I behave…” Serious, serious feelings of guilt.
But, the truth is, I was “perfect” in the beginning (as many people are when they think they’ve found THE DIET TO END ALL DIETS), and where did it get me? The cancer grew anyway. Maybe putting all my faith in one man’s philosophy is a bit extreme. My own intuition needed to be accounted for. And happiness needed to be accounted for, as well. The diet had isolated me. I avoided all social situations where alcohol or food was being served, and I have missed out on so many things because the thought of sitting there with some water and the food I brought with me–and pretending to have a good time being completely sober and eating almonds–caused me too much anxiety. So I’ve been avoiding connecting with people in real life, and you know what, that can’t be good.
Trusting my inner guru
So this is what my intuition is telling me now: crowd out, rather than eliminate, foods. I’ll continue to eat what my doctor has prescribed, and if there is room left in the tummy, I will indulge in something satisfying daily, instead of letting the urges build to monumental proportions. I have been doing this for a couple of weeks and my sanity is benefitting. I ate pie with my family on Christmas Day. I had 2 glasses of Champagne on New Year’s Eve. I had biscotti with coffee for several days in a row. But there hasn’t been any binging on anything taking place, because the urge is not there. I’m no longer aiming for perfectionism, and there is SO MUCH MORE to life than being pure!
If this ain't heaven, then I don't know what is.
I want to share this story with you because I want you to think twice before putting all your trust into one person, one entity, one opinion. Pull from different sources, and ask yourself what makes the most sense to you and what do you think you can shelve? For me, demonizing a macronutrient (carbohydrates) doesn’t make complete sense, especially when it has wreaked so much havoc on my emotional well-being. Sharing pizza with friends is good for the soul, just like carrots are good for your eyes. So for the total picture, seek out many sources of inspiration, and then ask yourself what makes sense and what feels right. Be your own guru, and watch out for dogmatic approaches. There are always pieces missing from those puzzles.
2013 and Beyond
As for the cancer, it continues to grow in my liver and brain, but has reversed in my bones. I just went through 14 rounds of brain radiation to my entire head and it has knocked me on my butt… I am so very tired these days. My radiation doc says that as far as liver disease is concerned, mine is nowhere near as advanced as most cases that he sees, so that offers hope. My intuition also tells me that the supplements that I am on are invaluable to my quality of life, they make all the difference in the world, and I am very glad that I’ve found my holistic doctor for this reason.
I don’t have any resolutions per se, however I would like to commit to seeing life beyond cancer and living more fully. I want to create more, I want to design, I want to learn permaculture, I want to keep moving forward despite the things that crop up to hold me back. No one’s life is guaranteed, it is such a fragile thing and death is such a taboo subject in our society. I want to spend more time with friends, and I want to express myself. It’s all part of the healing path… the healing path that I have personally selected, the one that feels the best.