I have procrastinated for many months starting the book that I know I must write, so as cancer has once again bitten a very young member of my family, I feel an urgency to share what I am so passionate about. Below is the introduction with more to follow....
I was touched with cancer even before I was born. My paternal grandmother died of lung cancer a few months before my birth and as I heard my pro-smoking grandfather repeatedly proclaim, “Maude never smoked a day in her life”; however, she did live in a house filled not only with my grandfather’s smoke, but also that of her two sons. She had no idea that smoking, let alone second-hand smoke, could possibly have anything to do with her cancer. Back in the late 1940’s, who would have thought? My grandmother had no idea, she had no choice.
My mother, a polio survivor from age two, was diagnosed with breast cancer and multiple lymph node involvement when she was 42 years old. Before her death at age 59, in addition to breast cancer, she had survived lung, bone and finally abdominal metastases. In the years following her polio diagnosis, unusual and bizarre medical interventions ensued, including monthly abdominal x-rays of her fetus (me) during her first pregnancy as a 20-year-old by military doctors while my father was in the Marines. Again, in the late 1940’s, who knew what danger those massive doses of radiation might possibly have on both mother and unborn fetus? My mother had no idea, she had choice.
As she aged and matured, while the medical community did as well, my mother intuitively took a wellness path less traveled. While I watched TV commercials as a child, wishing for “cute” TV dinners and Twinkies in my lunch bag, she prepared everything from scratch,resulting in, onion and tomato sandwiches on whole wheat, carrot and celery sticks, dried apricots and homemade oatmeal cookies, while my classmates downed their peanut butter and jelly Wonder Bread sandwiches and Hostess cupcakes. My mother had an idea…and she was making choices not only for herself, but for her family, as well.
Unable to walk long distances because of polio, she still was physically very active, whether scrubbing floors on her hands and knees or planting and maintaining a very large garden. In later years, she daily rode a stationary bike. Her diet was primarily vegetarian, but after three weeks at Hippocrates Clinic in San Diego following her lung cancer in 1977, she was completely raw for more than two years, while she guzzled Rejuvelac and grew and drank her own wheatgrass juice. Those were her choices.
In addition to her diet, she laughed long and hard at nearly everything. Her faith in God was unwavering; she was totally committed to her home and family. Her hands were rarely idle, but always busy with something, whether cooking, baking, canning, knitting, crocheting or crafting. Along with my two younger brothers, repeatedly, she would ceremoniously drive us in our pajamas with homegrown, freshly popped popcorn to watch the full moon rise over Lake Erie. In later years after my parents had moved to the other side of the state, we would make those same kind of pilgrimages to Lake Michigan on summer evenings, not to see the moon rise, but to watch the sun set over the lake. She reveled in the simple things of life and the beauty of Nature. Those were her life choices.
Did they make a difference? Yes, I fully believe my mother lived as long and as well as she did, despite all of her many medical challenges, because of the intuitive choices she made. During those 17 years, her down time was insignificant. With every medical insult, she quickly bounced back and kept on going. Hope was never lost. I was with her the last time she visited her surgeon and can still see those pink cheeks, her flawless, wrinkle-free skin as she leaned back on the exam table waiting for a response from him about why she was not feeling well. All he could say was, “I don’t know what to say, Lorene….you look so well!” And she did. Six weeks later she was gone.
I am providing the example of my mother, because her choices defined her life. Although those choices did not cure her cancer, they most certainly allowed her to live a better and longer life as a result. Being a nurse, I often questioned some of the things she did which at the time were not backed by any kind of evidence-based studies as they now are. Intuitively, she combined traditional medicine with complementary and alternative practices, as she embodied all those things we now refer to as mind-body-spirit “medicine”. Her choices for a life well-lived, despite the obstacles, were plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, laughter, a diet of primarily fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains, a positive attitude, belief in a Higher Being, a support system of family and friends, and most importantly, a heart and mind filled with gratitude, unconditional love and unending hope.
You also have choices, what will yours be?