My Journey

Still Life and Chemotherapy

So much snow…the stillness and absolute quiet…the magic of morning enveloped in its beauty.  Our little piece of heaven on earth!  Patterns on the lake enchant me as a light snow falls on its frozen surface creating ribbons of movement in an otherwise still life.

There is something about living near water.  Each season its own story to tell…its own beauty to share…its own spirit to capture.  In winter, the lake moves slowly, the color deepens and often it is still.

I feel that too…that’s what I love about winter.

Winter is the season to focus inward…a time to hunker down and recharge to look inward with self-reflection and nurturing.  Winter is unpredictable and often brutal.  In Seattle, when it snows everything is on hold as we figure out how to navigate the hills over ice and snow and downed trees. But it is also lovely as it turns our usual gray winter and short days into a sparkling, bright winter wonderland.

It is time for comfort…for wrapping up in quilts, wooly sweaters and mittens.  It is spiced cider and a warm whiskey lingering long by the fire.  It whispers of hope and a future to come.

I am not surprised that cancer found me in winter.  It knew I would need the quiet and solitude to process all that this multiple myeloma is for me.

In my research for understanding cancer, I’ve been led to many interesting and fresh thoughts on health and wellness.  One of the most intriguing to me is found in Chinese medicine.

Chinese medicine teaches us to live in harmony with the seasons…that if we are in harmony with the seasons we are healthier and can help prevent disease.

In Chinese medicine, winter is associated with the kidneys and the bones.  Interesting that these are two primary areas that are affected by multiple myeloma!  The most common damage done by multiple myeloma is kidney failure caused by too much calcium in the blood and bone fractures caused by malignant cells nestling in the bone marrow of the big bones that pushes that calcium into the blood! Fortunately, I have not had issues with kidneys and only a small T5 vertebrae bone fracture. So, I believe I have time to focus on keeping these areas healthy.  It is not a coincidence that my cancer was discovered in winter.

What I’ve learned from Chinese medicine is that winter is a good time to revitalize the kidneys and rest is one of the key components to kidney health.  Meditation and writing connect our inner selves and revitalize kidney energy (fascinating)!  Bone health is strengthened by eating foods that naturally grow in the season, think root vegetables, and by eating hearty soups and broths.  Bone health also requires getting plenty of rest and reducing stress.  The sense organ in winter is the ears…the quiet of winter opens us to hear more of the world through being surrounded by stillness and quiet…restoring us and giving renewed energy.  And winter activities for renewal are about reflection, meditating, reading and writing…all soul nourishing…all naturally finding a place in this new journey of mine.

I find it so interesting, that I have applied these principles to my cancer healing strategy.  They are adjunct to my traditional medical treatments that involve clinically proven chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is big word. And one that scared the heck out of me.  It’s not what I expected.  It is very organized, complicated, targeted, unique to the cancer and not necessarily hours in a chair with a needle in the arm.  The goal is to kill cancer cells or slow cancer’s growth over time.  Chemo is given several times over weeks or months in a series of treatment periods, called cycles. Since chemo also kills normal cells, these chemo days are followed by periods of rest when you receive no treatment. The rest lets your body recover and produce new healthy cells.

My chemo cycle includes a subcutaneous shot two times a week, a daily pill and a steroid.  I tolerate it with little discomfort so far, but sleepless nights are followed by fatigue, so I feel a little manic at times.  My hair is not falling out and won’t with this treatment.  I am admittedly getting “chemo brain” a fairly common side effect that makes thinking fuzzy.  I write everything down. Haven’t yet forgotten names of my hubby or children so I think I’m going to be okay. During chemo, the immune system weakens and I’m more susceptible to getting sick so I am a bit more cautious.  Also, good nutrition, exercise, reducing stress and making relaxation a priority is foundational for chemo progress.

The goal is to get back to “normal” blood levels in three to four cycles.  If this chemo works as planned, a stem cell transplant may be in my future…nasty side effects…but the most promising possibility for long term remission, (still no cure) …I’ll share more on this later.

I trust the doctors…I trust the science…and I trust that there are always other ways to learn and apply a holistic approach to healing and wellness. Exploring is not just interesting it is empowering.

So, I add the lessons from Chinese medicine that are thousands of years old, to the medicine discovered and is only years old.  Willing and learning to find recovery and balance in the new and the old.

One thing I love from my research is the consistency of the message and the truth that our attitude and approach to living makes a huge impact on our progress.  And not just for cancer but for life overall.  Simplicity…living with the seasons…finding harmony in our surroundings…finding peace and strength through faith…living life in each moment.  This makes so much sense to me.  The awareness has heightened my joy and appreciation of all that is around me…and a snowy Monday and the lake in still life was an unexpected gift.

I will live in winter knowing it is good for me…revel in its beauty…rejoice that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to be silent and a time to speak…

And as the days grow longer, so does my optimism…winter means the promise of spring.  It is said that “if we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” (Bradstreet)

Oh, how I love the brilliant minds that teach us…

snow day.jpg


2 thoughts on “Still Life and Chemotherapy

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