Mom and Dad on Dad's 84th birthday - having frozen bananas on Balboa Island
For months now, I've been trying to get Dad to see a certain holistic "doctor" for lack of a better term. She is also a friend, and yesterday was the day. Dad has probably one of the best oncologists that money can buy. His doc is such a nice man, so compassionate and kind and brilliant. But kind of old school. And the treatment is a misery. I'm not criticizing - really, I'm not. I just think that there are so many other options available for treatment other than the big three - surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Dad has exhausted all of those, and is currently on a regimen of what is essentially a low dose chemotherapy called Xtandi. It is very VERY expensive. It's barely keeping the cancer at bay. And he feels like crap. No energy, no zest for much at all. He is up almost every hour at night and doesn't get a good night's sleep. No wonder there is no energy, and his day (after his daily gym time!) is spent mostly sleeping. It's heartbreaking to watch.
I have long been interested in "alternative" methods of dealing with disease. Literally ALL of them start with a radical diet change. Lots of juicing. Lots of organic. Lots of reading labels and avoiding anything processed or with ingredients you can't pronounce or recognize. It often times involves lots of expensive supplements to build up those levels in your body that have been so depleted and ravaged by chemotherapy and radiation. Now, in my dad's case, he is fortunate in that he has always exercised and eaten in a pretty healthy way (with various detours here and there into Sugarland - he has a famous sweet tooth.) He has never smoked and doesn't drink. When he had his fat index and muscle mass measured recently, the nurse told him he had the body of a 57 year old. If only... But for just a second he stood a little taller, proud of taking such good care of himself all of his 84 years.
So yesterday we went the holistic route, Dad a little afraid that his oncologist would disown him. She took a thorough history, perused his latest labs, and then performed "muscle testing" on him. Now if you haven't heard of this, it's a method where you hold a substance (in this case, each of the supplements he was currently taking) and she touches various points on your body while you try to resist her pushing your arm down. Dad right away pronounced it "hocum" in that lack of tact way he has. Mary just smiled and explained that in eastern medicine the philosophy is that your body is kind of a miracle of creation - a divine creation in fact - and it knows what it needs to be healthy, even if your conscious mind does not. If you are in contact with a substance that your body doesn't need or like, it's like a distraction or interruption in your ability to control holding your arm up. That gave Dad something to think about. Some of his supplements seemed to be just fine, and others were not. For those, she found others to take the place of them, and also muscle tested those for compatibility and dosage before finalizing her selection.
Then Dad underwent an acupuncture treatment. She concentrated on the top of his head (he is suffering from a lot of cognitive memory loss since chemo) his lower abdomen (he does have prostate cancer) on his lower legs on the inside and outside, and the inside and outside of his ankles. He relaxed and had a nice nap for about 30 minutes. The purpose was explained to be a way of opening up the circulation and allowing good nutrition to get to all of these areas to enrich his body and help him become stronger. When the treatment was over, his face was all rosy. Mary explained that the treatment had, indeed, done it's job and circulation had improved and was raring to go.
We discussed nutrition and the need to consume more fruits and vegetables than grains and carbohydrates. His diet is pretty well balanced, however, so it won't be much of a change for him. I have a feeling that she knew he was pretty overloaded with new and confusing info, and also the holidays are coming. Let him get through them before lowering the boom on sugar and sweets.
Dad was pretty quiet on the way home. And actually, after 4 hours in Dr Mary's office, we were all pretty worn out. I took them home and wound my own way home to a nice comforting treat of French Apple sheep's milk yogurt that I buy each week at the Farmer's Market. We ALL had a lot to think about.
I have been corresponding with someone I buy essential oils from, and she has become a friend. She is trying to teach me, little by little, about energy healing, herbal remedies, and proper use of essential oils. They have some wonderful courses in this (as I think I've mentioned before) in a little place called Clifton, Idaho. It is accessible only by car (airports are 30-40 miles away) and there are no hotels. Kind of impossible to take a week long course when you live in California and there are no hotels. Still trying to figure that one out.
Now my husband is amusedly tolerant of my passion to learn more about this eastern medicine philosophy. He cannot deny, however, that these herbs and oils have corrected sinus and ear infections, as well as a recent cold he caught while we were in Utah a week or so ago. He's not so on board with the muscle testing (and neither was I, quite frankly, until just recently) but he never gives me a hard time and keeps an open mind. I say there's nothing like having a chronic illness that western medicine can't seem to more than put a band aid on to make you look for other alternatives.
I watched a series of videos recently called "Quest for the Cures." It was all about alternative cancer treatments, and people, there are some exciting things being done. Different methods with different cancers. On that stood out was controlling sugar in your diet (because the tumor feeds on sugar) and at the same time using insulin to control the sugar in the blood. The tumor literally starves and dies. I wish I could remember what type of cancer that was for, but it was an amazing treatment. I was so excited and grateful all at the same time. So many great physicians and great minds trying to stop this horrible disease. And they're succeeding. The regimen is usually tough: very strict diet, lots of supplements. The basic philosophy is this: a healthy body has a healthy immune system, and if that is the case, cancer cannot exist. The whole aim is to restore health and balance to your immune system, and folks, that cannot be accomplished if you're killing it with chemicals. It is, however, a personal decision. I totally understand why you would want to stick with the more traditional treatment. Even though it's horrible, it somehow seems more "friendly" and familiar. I honestly don't know what I'd do if the choice were mine, so I'm not judging anyone's choice. But these new possibilities are very exciting and very encouraging.
Also, for someone like my dad, who has already been through the mill, and is out of options, trying something new is like, he has nothing to lose. So why not exhaust all possibilities? As Dr. Mary said, her aim is to help him feel more energetic, and less tired, and if we're all lucky then maybe - just maybe - the cancer will be beaten back just a bit as well. The sky's the limit, and a positive attitude is everything. I just want my Dad to be able to enjoy whatever time he has left in his life. He's lived a good life, and had some great experiences, and has been good to people. He deserves to enjoy some rich experiences as he grows old.
So that has been my focus the past month. Call it a passion. I'm excited to learn and see what some of these methods can do for me, because quite frankly, I'm tired of feeling swollen and achy with weird symptoms that my rheumatologist can't quite figure out. SOMETHING is off kilter SOMEWHERE and I need to work on figuring it out, rather than slapping medication bandaids on it. Advil is going to kill me if I don't stop taking so much. If the Prednisone doesn't kill me first.
Now - we did take a quickie trip to Utah a couple of weeks ago. Such fun and such beautiful weather. The day we left it got quite cold, though, with a freezing wind, and I was glad to come home. I had girl time with old friends Nancy and Michele. We lunched at The Banana Leaf in Provo and laughed ourselves silly. I love those girls... We are planning a road trip to Seattle and Victoria, BC next year. Saving our little pennies for that!
We picked up my niece Margot and had dinner with my brother and his family another night. What a great time! I always realize how much I miss having this brother closer whenever we get to see him. His daughter is the same age as my two oldest granddaughters, Mia and Lexi, so it was fun to have an evening with little Ari as well. My niece ran down 3 flights of stairs to greet us, and when we dropped her off, she ran right back up 3 flights of stairs. Ran. All the way up. L looked at me, sighed, and said "Youth..." She was a breath of fresh air.
We took a side trip to Spanish Fork, UT. Where my dad grew up, and where we went for vacation almost every year when my grandpa was alive, and we were just little kidlets. We took pictures of the cute little house he grew up in, and the grade school he went to (where my brothers and I also played on the playground each summer). It's now a City Hall building, and that playground is now a parking lot. Too bad. But they were hanging Christmas lights on the building and that was fun. Then we took a picture of an old building that looked like it used to be a hardware/building supply store. I think it's the building that my grandfather used to own so many years ago. It was such a small town back then that I can't imagine that there were TWO businesses like it in the same town. I'll have to confirm with Dad.
And of course, there was Andrew. Our shipper extraordinaire. Whoever purchases our Clean Screen Magic products receives them expertly packed and shipped by Andrew. He is doing such a great job, and is flourishing with his new responsibilities. It's a pleasure to see. We had a good visit with him.
So it was a good trip all around, although very quick and way too short. And here we are: the HOLIDAYS! Birthdays galore (L's, Zach's, Hayden's, my brother Brent's, my dad's, my SIL Jill, and my mom's is coming up in December), a Thanksgiving feast next week, and then things really get ratcheted up. I've almost got all of the Christmas shopping and shipping done. I will be able to sit back and relax and enjoy. L asked wistfully if I will bake this year (I've been on a strict gluten free/grain free/sugar free diet these past few months) and I think I will have to relent and make some of my traditional goodies. Christmas just wouldn't be the same without them. I'll just have to be disciplined and not have TOO much or I'll pay for it. In spades.
And so that is the November report. Odd as it is. The December version should be a bit more lively. Let's just say there are some surprises planned. I'll leave it at that. I love this season with it's warmth and festive lights and comforting traditions. I'm realizing more and more how important it is to get in there and enjoy. To not be merely a spectator but to be active in making the memories that our own children and grandchildren will hold onto one day as their comfort and joy. Deck the halls, everyone.