If you’ve been following my blog, you know that last week I finished a 4-part series called “Hear My Voice.” The series shared some of my experiences and learnings from my participation in the Hear My Voice Outreach Training program at the Thriving Together Conference for people living with MBC. The conference was in Philadelphia and was sponsored by Living Beyond Breast Cancer.
I hope you checked out one or more of the posts in my series to learn more about what MBC is, how it affects those of us who live with it, what resources there are to support us, and how you can do your part to help us end this epidemic. I’m happy to report that so many of you heard my voice. I received almost 600 visitors to my website, and Instagram likes during this series. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the series, please do, and share your favorite posts with a friend!
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Now, onto the actual topic for this week. The past several months on my metastatic breast cancer journey have been challenging ones. Earlier this month, my husband Marc and I visited my former naturopathic doctor, Dr. Aviva Wertkin, in Brattleboro, VT. It has been almost four years since I last saw her. I first met Dr. Wertkin in Connecticut, but she left four years ago to start her private practice, Naturae Medical, which is thriving. Dr. Wertkin was voted Brattleboro’s best physician in 2016! The purpose of our visit was to bring her up to date on my health journey since I was last under her care and to seek her recommendations on how to treat my progressing cancer.
Dr. Wertkin is a naturopathic purist which means that her approach to health care is entirely naturopathic. If I had approached my health care this way 25 years ago, perhaps I never would have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or any other cancer. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I had never even heard of naturopathy until I met her in 2009 and my health care world was opened up and transformed.
For the first four years of my MBC healing journey, I combined conventional and naturopathic medicine, often referred to as ‘integrative medicine,' and enjoyed excellent results. Integrative medicine combines the best of conventional medicine and naturopathic treatments. I am a strong proponent of and believer in integrative medicine, as it has worked well for me for almost eight years. Make no mistake about it; integrative medicine requires a lot of me. Dr. Wertkin made it crystal clear in our first appointment back in October 2009 that I must adhere to a strict dietary regimen, regular detoxification in the form of juice fasts and daily coffee enemas, and take many supplements prescribed specifically for me. The treatment is time-consuming and exhausting. These past five months, I confess that I have slacked off on my naturopathic treatments. I believe this has contributed to the progression of my cancer.
Lately, my time has become consumed with all the research I am doing on different approaches to treating my cancer. My oncologist has recommended intravenous chemotherapy in the form of a drug called Abraxane, which I have rejected for a variety of reasons. At my request, Dr. Wertkin and I have been in communication with three alternative cancer clinics in Mexico. Their treatments are innovative and progressive, but since they are not approved by the FDA, they are not covered by my health insurance which makes pursuing any of them expensive. One of my dear friends has done research on these alternative treatments for me, which I greatly appreciate. When you have a spare moment, check out all the results that appear if you search online for alternative cancer treatments. The results cover a spectrum of opinions. Some call alternative treatments quackery, others claim that alternative treatments have completely healed them of their cancer, and everything in between. I continue to prayerfully sift through it all, knowing that I will follow the right path.
Last week, I joined a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to Integrative Healing for Advanced Breast Cancer. Already they have been very helpful and insightful because each group member brings their first-hand experience. About two weeks ago, I was blessed to visit with some old friends. The wife is a cancer survivor, and her husband is a long-time former employee of one of the nation’s foremost cancer centers and a specialist in integrative nutrition. It was helpful and encouraging to speak with them about my future treatment prospects.
Other friends and family have shared their thoughts and opinions. I continue to be grateful for the support and prayers of those whom I dearly love. But, at the end of the day, I am very clear that because I am the one on this arduous journey, the direction I take must be decided by me and me alone, in prayerful surrender to the Spirit of the Living God leading and guiding me. Yes, my husband, my mother and my brother are right beside me, but they are not the ones on the path. Only I am.
These past months have been tough, to be sure. It’s not fun. For the most part, I feel fine physically. I may have an ache or pain here or there, and I feel tired sometimes. That’s okay; I just need to take a nap from time to time. I do have enough energy to do what I need to do - prepare my sermons and worship on a weekly basis, preach, manage the household (sort of!), travel to get my son, see friends, go to doctor’s appointments, etc. I’m beginning to make plans for my 50th birthday celebration in just four months, and I want to be a brand new person for it!
In preparing to write today’s post, I looked back at three of my previous blogs that gave me strength and inspiration. If you haven’t read them, please do, and you’ll know how to channel your prayers for me. They are: Faith – Acting As If, Be Still My Soul, and Whose Report are you going to Believe? Please continue to pray for me and wish me well as I continue charting my course. I am still on the journey. Thank you for walking beside me. God bless you.