Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Transformation Journey Part 1: The Blessing Called Cancer

"What does it take to be a healer?" they asked of Dr. Bernie Siegel
( Love, Medicine, and Miracles, 1986)

"The willingness to deal with your own wounds."

When I graduated from nursing school in the early 1980s, I began working at our local hospital. Our floor soon transitioned to the "cancer" ward or oncology department. In the space of two years, I admitted people who had pink cheeks and looked mostly healthy, and were full of hope that no matter what they had to endure with chemotherapy and radiation, they would emerge fully whole and resume their lives cancer free. There was a young boy with a brain tumor that caused frequent seizures; there was a retired nurse; and there was a young guy with a beautiful wife who had just recently given birth to their first baby girl. This particular guy waited all day for the doctor to bring him the results of his lung scan. As I was getting ready to leave after working 3-11pm, his doctor finally swoops in and tells me to get his chart and accompany him. We walk to the end of the hall and enter the patients room, and this doctor tells the patient, "You have terminal cancer. I'll send the oncologist to see you tomorrow." And he walks out. That was it. I left for home minutes later, still in shock, down the same hallway, passing by his door. He was just sitting there on the side of the bed. I walked in and asked him if he was going to call his wife because she had been there earlier, anxiously waiting with him, but had to get home to take care of the baby. He said, "No, I think I'll wait until tomorrow. She needs her sleep." I offered to sit with him but he said, "Thanks, I'll be okay." It was a scene often repeated.

How could he be okay? I wasn't okay. I went home and thought about him all night. I thought about the injustice of waiting all day for a doctor who had the compassion of a rock. I thought about his sweet wife and how happy they had been earlier that evening, talking about their new baby. His new baby. And I cried for them.

I cried for all of them. Because they were the kindest, sweetest, most decent people. They were never the demanding patients. I held their hands through painful treatments, I held their heads through unbearable sickness, but mostly I watched these beautiful souls slowly become the grey, fragile shadows that cancer and chemotherapy leave behind. The healthy pink colored faces, so full of hope initially, slowly fading to gaunt grey skin stretched over bone. One of my patients went quickly. As I walked in to give him his medication, he grabbed my arm and looked into my eyes and pleaded with me, "Help me." But he started forcefully bleeding from his mouth and nose and it was determined that his carotid artery had ruptured. He had been receiving radiation and there was nothing I (or the code team) could do. When someone looks in your eyes and asks you to help them, but all you can do is hold their hand and watch them die, you never forget it. It changes you forever. Trust me. "Don't get attached. Keep your professional distance," my wise, well meaning, older nurses advised me, trying to protect me from letting it "get to me."

Sorry girls, no can do. And any nurse that tells you they can, is in the wrong profession. It's one thing if you work on a maternity floor and everyone goes home with a baby, a cool little hat, and a token washtub. But how can you justify the fact that you are repeatedly putting chemicals used in warfare into people and telling them that it will make them better? I could no longer be a part of something I didn't believe to be true. I had to get out before I was required to become certified to give chemotherapy.

Nurses are trained to make careful observations, and there is no mistaking the look of cancer. And fear. And quiet resignation. And battle fatigue. Quality of life traded for quantity. Faces that became etched in my memory. There was one woman who I admitted who refused treatment. She stood out from everyone else because she had the most unusual orange color. She explained to me that she was only there for tests and she was headed to California to work with a doctor who believed in juicing to heal cancer naturally. She told me everyone thought she was crazy, but she had watched her mother die a slow and painful death from cancer and chemotherapy treatment, and she refused to do the same. If she was going down, she was going down kicking and screaming, not drugged out and defenseless! She refused to eat anything but raw food (mostly carrots) which explained her unique color. The oncologist and most nurses thought she was just "out there." But her valid research intrigued me. She was absolutely certain that she could heal herself naturally with juicing. Her absolute belief and conviction resonated with me. And her un-waivering faith. She asked me to pray with her and I asked her to keep in touch; and I told her I would continue to pray for her and I believed if anyone could beat it, she could. And she did. Cancer free.

Years later, I was teaching a Nursing Skills lab at a local community college and working for an orthopedic surgeon. Eventually I was working 12-16 hours daily at the office and had to give up teaching. I absolutely loved my job, my co-workers and my boss! I had a cool sports car (300Z), my first house, money in the bank, and I was the personal assistant to a prominent orthopedic doctor who trusted me to write his orders and fill in for him in his absence. Life was good! But the hours were crazy. I never knew when I was going to get home or how long I would be there before I would get called back to the hospital to make rounds with my boss. Many times I would tell my husband I would meet him for dinner, and not get home until midnight. He wasn't a fan. Or I would get a call at 11pm from my boss, usually with a mouth full of popcorn, asking me to pick him up at 5am to make rounds before he went to surgery and I went to the office. You had to know him. We all loved him. But I was getting tired. And he got called to Active Duty and closed his practice.

A friend of mine gave me a bottle of an herbal preparation called "KM" that was formulated by Dr. Karl Jurak for his own specific health challenges in 1922 and distributed by Matol Botanical . I began researching each individual herb that was in the preparation. I have this insatiable hunger for knowledge and understanding. There was no internet, no instant search engines--just bookstores. I bought a book and listed every property of each herb in the formula. It was an amazing botanical preparation. I traveled half way across the country to meet Dr. Karl and hear his story. He had been working on his Doctoral Thesis in Botanicals when he came up with this formula to purify his blood so that he could climb the Australian Alps without becoming short of breath. For Karl, climbing the Alps meant that you tethered yourself to some friends and if one of you became weak and slipped, you risked the lives of the others. And Karl had done that and didn't want it to happen again and endanger his friends. He had been sharing his preparation for many years and helped thousands of people feel better. The more I learned, the more I knew that the body would heal itself if given the proper nutrition. Dr. Karl was a brilliant scientist, a warm humanitarian, and a kind, caring man.

My neighbor at the time, was your typical sitcom busybody. She was so crippled with arthritis that she would drive across the city street from her driveway to mine to keep me updated on the neighborhood gossip. I kept telling her about KM and how much it could help her with all her ailments and she kept telling me how much her knees hurt and the cost of all her medications. One day when I was going to work, she honked the horn and blocked my driveway and rolled down her window. "Are you a nurse?" she asked. I laughed and said, "Yes, why?" She said, "I just thought you were a quack or a hippie or something, always trying to sell me that herby stuff!" And she drove off.

She wasn't alone. Most people thought I was crazy. But I was so excited to find such a great product based upon good science that I would tell everyone and go on and on and on . . . .

Because to me, it was like finding gold in my backyard. And I wanted to share it with my family and friends. So I'd be like, "Hey, I found gold in my backyard! Come over and you can dig up as much as you want!" And my family would be like, "Uh, I have to work." And my friends would be like, "Uh, I don't have a shovel." And I learned a valuable lesson. You can't want something for someone more than they want it for themselves.

In the year 2000, in a small town called "Lone Pine" on the way home from a funeral, I listened to Tony Robbins talk about green drinks, Dr. Robert Young, and Live Blood Microscopy.

This was the defining moment, the catalyst of transformation, right there on Interstate 79, in Lone Pine, Pennsylvania. Not to mention, the answer to a lifelong prayer.

By the time I was 8 years old and lost both my parents, I began to wonder if my life really mattered to anyone. Why not take me too, why did I get left behind? I felt alone and many times prayed to God to take me in place of someone else who mattered to someone. Well that didn't work . .

So I figured I must have some purpose for being here. I started praying in a different way. I have prayed the same prayer ever since. First I thank God for all the blessings in my life. I ask forgiveness for the times I have not done what He would have wanted me to do; and I ask that my life on Earth fulfill whatever I was sent here to do and not be in vain. I have asked for signs and validation so many times that I sometimes wonder if a lightening bolt and a personal "Here's your sign" might be headed my way! I don't believe in coincidences, because I believe everything happens for a reason. But I do believe in "Synchronous Events" which Dr. Siegel calls "God's way of being anonymous." And a Divine Hand was definitely guiding me toward natural healing. In "Physician in Transition," Peter Albright (1989) describes synchronous events like a "string of beads." At the time these events happen, they don't seem like steps in a process; but as you look back, you can string them together like a necklace.

In his book, "The Recovery of the Sacred," Dr. Carlos Warter states, "When these events occur, we embark in search of our individual truth. It is the undercurrent of the mystery of life that guides us and gives us the correct timing for our actions. Thus we need to learn patience, an important element in the larger context or 'big story' of our existence." (1994:xviii).

The next step was to begin my Doctor of Naturopathy degree. I was ready. I was excited! I understood alkalinity and healing the body at the cellular level. I researched programs and found exactly what I wanted.

Just as I was about to begin, another event happened that would change my life forever. My husband was diagnosed with cancer.

* that story in part two.

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