Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fast Friends

Dear Friends,

So many people replied with the affirmative to the in-jest line of my last email, when I wrote about my upcoming return to chemo-land: I will be doing the whole fasting regimen again (can’t wait, anyone want to join me?!)
Got me thinking.
Mt Pollux late summer
Part of what feels bad about a cancer diagnosis is that you can get to feeling isolated. And although I can’t say I actually missed too much this last year, I did have to narrow my plan-making and social world to accommodate appointments and procedures. And let’s face it, food is the great social connector. So during fasting, at least for me, it’s a very real manifestation of self–imposed isolation, even when fasting for a higher purpose. The higher purpose here is to weaken any cancer cells that might be trying to set up shop, so that ensuing chemotherapy is that much more effective. Turns out, a welcome benefit of fasting is to severely limit side effects of the chemo, so a win-win situation.

Another thing I hate about this whole diagnosis is the seemingly endless need for self-centeredness, which is neither my general nor preferred posture. I am a giver and doer and an outgoing, face-the-world kind of person. If I knew my fasting, just among my circle of friends, had some kind of  broader impact, something more lofty than just helping my personal health outcome, it would help me immeasurably and would help me feel more connected! My friend DH wants me to call this the ChemoNationFastingTour! HA!

That said, my 500 calorie for 4 days routine is a bit severe & I think for most, would be difficult to sustain while working and doing life. So I had an idea: I’m a naturopathic doctor, I LOVE to take patients through seasonal cleanses, something most people can do without too much planning or stress, which does not deeply restrict calories and which offers some pretty quick health benefits. So, if you’d like to join this virtual party, howzabout a Fall Cleanse? If you’re game, you can do one day, two days or three.  Okay, if you do four days I would start to think you have an eating disorder! And of course just do it once, not 6 times like me. I need to retain SOME bragging rights here folks.

If you want to fast/cleanse with me, you can tell me what it’s like for you. You can cheerlead. You can glow among coworkers. You can lose a few pounds! Heck, you can take the money you would have spent on your usual food intake and donate to the charity of your choice. Here are things a fast/cleanse will not do: permanently shift your BMI, bring back hair for male pattern baldness, provide effective birth control or get your windows clean!

If you’d like to take up a cleanse, see the attached handout for the why & how, food shopping list included. Here are the dates of my fall fasts starting right up next week. I do not recommend doing a fast/cleanse once the cold sets in, wrong time for it for it. I will carry on through the January 5th, mercifully the last infusion, but you shouldn’t go on into the cold.

First round of fasting: Friday, Sept 12 through Monday September 15th.
Second time if dates work better for you: Friday Oct 3rd-October 6th. This is serendipitous, coincides with Yom Kippur. If you tend to fast that day anyway, you’ll have a nice jump start!
Third round: October 24th-27th
I will sign off here with a surge of energy to create this little offering; you know me, always love a project!

With love & light,
Here's the link to the Fall Cleanse info:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lushy Time of Year

Our neighborhood lotus pond is in full regalia with its platter-sized iridescent leaves waving and balancing on slender stalks, the prayerful and buttery pink flowers dancing in their midst. I always think about how mucky and ominous the pool looks in spring, and appreciate the transformation from something not very pretty to something "half wild & wholly tame" (with apologies to Kipling), something anticipated and awesome.

buttery pink flowers dancing in their midst
I can say the same thing about the growth around my ovaries. Ominous when determined to show cancer, but the awesome news we were hoping for arrived today, my pathology report came back
Stage 1. This is fabulous news in so many ways and entirely rare in the world of ovarian cancer.

And here the back story unfolds. Due to strong family history of breast cancer, I decided in 2007 to test for the BRCA gene. My results were negative. I breathed a small sigh of relief and kept up my state of the art detection approaches and uber-healthy lifestyle. With the breast cancer diagnosis in January, I was asked to get tested. I quickly reported my previous-not-that-long-ago negative finding and was told much more is known now; I should retest. Lo and behold I do carry the gene for BRCA.

All I can say is PROFOUNDLY BAD TIMING ON MY PART. I was being as proactive as I could be. Had I tested positive in ’07, I would have had prophylactic removal of my breasts and ovaries.  And how frustrating that one of the largest cancer research centers in the world would not be scouring its database and harnessing digital technology to alert patients who tested negative in the late 1990s and up through the 2000s, to RETEST. I have been in touch with my team there, you betcha, and will educate & write more on this topic going forward.

Not one to dwell on the frustrating side of life, I went to work on what else could I do to help prevent further issue. Which is why I was in a bit of a rush to have my ovaries out. And a good thing I advocated for myself and pushed this along. Most of my docs thought waiting until late fall would be ideal, give myself a chance to catch my breath from the onslaught that defines conventional cancer care. So the surgery I had last week, which was supposed to be entirely preventive, did not turn out that way, but to find ovarian cancer early is huge. Stage one is excellent. In some ways that breast cancer may well have saved my life.

So, what do you do when you are supposed to be recuperating from TAH/BSO (that's medicalese for total abdominal hysterectomy-bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, or simply put: removal of the precious uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries!) while simultaneously staring down the barrel at 6 rounds of chemo-yum yum? 

Here's my Top Ten List:

1. Clean the bathroom cupboards! Of course!
2. Work with patients a few hours at a pop, in person or by Skype, offers both deep satisfaction and helpful distraction. Keep on sharpening this mind.
3. Rework the yoga postures so my sutures don’t burst.
4. Create kick ass Powerpoints (a contradiction in terms), while lying on the couch, for a number of lectures I am to give this fall. 
5. Experiment with eyeliner (verdict: makeup makes me look like a tramp.)
6. Weed the flower boxes and commence the (annual) lament on the state of the fall garden.
7. Take slow walks by myself or with whoever will have me, build my endurance and speed right back up.
8. Listen to books on tape while daydreaming as I force myself to rest up (currently: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, a terrific read, even-keeled and lovely.) while lying in my chaise lounge in the shade.
9. Slip into my art room and send out birthday greetings, wedding wishes, and the ever increasing pile of condolences cards.
10. Stare at my basket of scarves and have the stunning realization that this fall I will be starring in a new show: The Reluctant Return of the Babushke Babe!
I will write again in a week or so, in response to all the replies I got about wanting to fast with me during my chemo-nation tour this fall. You guys rock! Know that I feel 100% myself, spirits high, happy at home, enjoying my family, my friends, my work and my ultimate good fortune this lushy time of year. 

Love & light,

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tough Cookie

Well, I have good news and bad news.

The good news is I am recuperating in my beautiful sun-filled home with doting Paul and Sophie nearby. Misha was at Mass General & we were in touch with Jonah, who is tethered to Chicago basketball. A finer family I could not find.  Again, no painkillers for me: they kept saying at the hospital, my, you must have a high tolerance for pain, but truth be told, I did not experience pain,  probably due to that secret homeopathic magic: Arnica  (and then for you homeopathy aficionados, Miss Bossy Pants over here took Nux vomica for the trapped air left in the abdominal cavity from the laparoscopic procedure. Worked like a charm!)

The bad news is the there was cancer on one of my ovaries. This is a bit of shocker as we had all visualized this surgical foray as the endpoint of this cancer tour. It was caught early and my spunky, red-cowboy-boots-wearing-surgeon, says it’s likely no cancer was left behind. But it does mean I win a free return trip, all expenses paid, to that bummer of a place, chemo-land, to begin mid September as a precaution…. which makes good sense to me. I have faith I will fair as well a second time through as I did earlier this year. I will be doing the whole fasting regimen again (can’t wait, anyone want to join me?!) and in these coming weeks will have to sort out all the many work, social, & travel plans we made for our now, not-so-celebratory autumn. Paradoxically, the main feeling I have, is feeling badly about disappointing or burdening people. So, I’m sorry!

Your ongoing love, support & humor really does help me. And I am always open to your prayers that I will tolerate well the treatments ahead with this strong body, upbeat nature, and my shiny spirit. Throw Paul & the kids in those +++ thoughts, too; I know it is hard on them to worry about me. Like everyone, I really need to get along with all the work I have set out to do, dreams to accomplish, family to cherish & love to share. But I have also learned how to be in the moment and focus on healing.  I’m a tough cookie as you know by now; I feel peaceful and powerful even with this news. As Jonah reminded me late last night: Ma, no problem so big, we can’t solve.
Love & light,

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flexibility & grace

Rechem is the Hebrew word for womb and from it comes the essential word rachmanus, or compassion. As I contemplate having a hysterectomy this morning, I am not thinking about losing even an iota of my own ability for compassion.  Each challenge feels like an opportunity for getting stronger and better and for leaning on the people and the habits of mind I am blessed enough to know. SO! No loss of compassion here J.
There is an element of stepping into the unknown, no matter how much I know about this procedure. Here’s to stepping in with confidence and faith.

Stepping out near Lake Michigan last week. Just like the ocean and very calm this day
What an amazing organ I am about to let go of, this peach of a womb, soft and warm, that has lived inside me since I was inside my own mother. It has graced me with blessing beyond belief, three healthy, robust children who came rushing out into the world, eyes open and spirits ready to fly. That growing with child and shrinking again, growing with child and shrinking again always impressed me. Not too many parts of us can expand and contract like that and do it without much complaint. That was and continues to be the exact physiologic metaphor for the flexibility and grace motherhood demands.

I like to think of myself as creative, in the art room, the kitchen, our clinic, all over. But surely my greatest creation is my kids who leap beyond me in that department and spread so many good ideas and so much beauty and goodness in the world. I am thankful I was able to have and raise a family. Now on the morning of this procedure, it seems even more poignant to me that though love with Paul brought our kids into being and intertwining genes left clear and specific growing instructions, it was in and through the womb each had their start and began growing into the people they are.

I dragged my feet after Jonah was born, through my 30s and I am embarrassed to say, through my 40s, too. I could never say for certain and greedy as it sounds, that I did not want another child. So now, at this auspicious age of 54, (I say auspicious as in Hebrew, when you take the word for life (chai) and give its numeric equivalent, it adds up to 18, so 54 is considered triple chai,) I can finally say, OKAY! I’m not giving birth to any more children! Time to shift my posture toward grandchildren (you reading this Sophie, Misha, Jonah!!?) HA!!

My friend ZP wrote: “It took me forever to let go of that uterus, when I finally resolved my attachment I visualized it as this lovely angel with the flowing fimbria wings that I was releasing after its glorious service in providing a nest for my 3 children to develop in.”

I feel that. I feel the self-compassion I know I need for healing  and I feel your compassion and love for me too. May we each go from strength to strength, be fortified by the challenges we face and know that in love and community healing and resilience happen.

With love & light,


Monday, August 11, 2014

Saving All the Good Stuff

Greetings from sunny, dry, blue skied Arizona. Paul & I just spent a fun, engaging, social, political HOT week with our naturopathic clan at our annual convention where I was one of the speakers. I am also on our national board, so even though that kind of work can be tedious, call me nuts, but I rather enjoy it.  I will never tire of these people, our vision and the promise of natural medicine. 

I also wanted to let you know that this Friday I am having a hysterectomy and hoping that everything goes well. If you have a sec drop me into your prayers and positive thoughts. I am visualizing a good outcome; I know I keep giving up body parts but not to worry, I'm saving all the good stuff!
Sending love & light for an excellent end to your summer!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Dear Friends and Family,
Some years ago while on a rare and special trip to the south of France to make books and art by the sea sans la famille, I wandered into an outdoor market. While there and on impulse, I bought a beautiful silk scarf, uncharacteristic for me, as I never wore scarves, not for warmth, not for fashion. How could I have known that many years later my floral wonder in swirling maroons and soft browns would be my favorite piece of cloth to cover my bare head during treatment for breast cancer? How could I have known how my friends & family would step up to love and support me through this crazy year? I guess we just never don know how one material thing, one event, one interaction or shared experience might connect us to the next as our lives unfold before us. This pushes me to be the best I can be at every turn, you just never know!

We are counting our blessings here with the completion of radiation treatments last week.  The kids were all home for a quick visit to help me mark the moment. And boy was it good to be all together, if even for just a skinny minute.

I am taking this month to build my reserves and gear up for the next phase of things.  I'll have surgery to gently remove my ovaries & fallopian tubes, & then the implants swapped out for more permanent ones later this fall. I will start Tamoxifen soon, which blocks estrogen receptors in my body… other words, a bit more diving into unknown waters. That said, everything now is in the realm of preventive and cosmetic and away from treatment per se, which is a good place to be. I continue all the natural medicine & lifestyle things I know to help build my reserves & my resilience. I am rocking the shortie-short hair do, with some class I am told. Random people ask if they can touch my head to feel the strangely soft fur that is growing in by the day. I am also working more which I love and yes, Paul & I continue to really enjoy the ballroom dancing, too!

I am hoping you are having a bit of summertime wherever you are and that our paths cross again soon! Keep in touch when you have a sec.

With love & light,

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Radiant Summer

Dear Friends,

I just completed my eighteenth zap, ten more to go! I am feeling the surge of energy that goes along with seeing the finish line in clear sight.  I am back in the proverbial saddle enjoying seeing patients, accepting other work opportunities and lapping up this perfect summer heat.

I decided that the more technical aspects of what I am doing during radiation treatment should be published beyond what I send out to you, my loving circle of friends & family.  So if you want to read about that, you can find Positively Radiant: Naturopathic Medicine Approaches to Complement Radiation Therapy, which was published today on the Huffington Post & can be found at this link:

Hope you are off to a healthy and peaceful summer & that our paths cross soon. Drop me a line when you have a sec!
Covered up from the sun, just how the doctors want me. Don't get too excited, not my real hair! This is the half wig I hardly ever wore but needed a pix for our practice newsletter. Not too shabby!
 Love & light,