It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and for good reason. Life has been kind to us and it’s thrown me off guard. It’s been a process to put down my fists and take solace in the fact that my battles – for now – are over. I’ve been cancer-free since January. The kids are healthy. We just got back from a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Jamaica. Life, mercifully, is good.
We rented a home through Inspirato and spent 8 glorious days in post-nuclear family bliss at the Tryall Resort near Montego Bay. My dad, my stepdad, my mum, brother and his girlfriend, and of course me + Rodney with a gang of kids nipping at our heels.
I’ve been aching to write a post because the last time I wrote, while things were on the mend, the year was still a fresh wound, more present than past. In the weeks and months since, I’ve received many letters thanking me for my candor and sending best wishes for a prosperous 2016. It was lovely to feel such compassion; I’ve shed many tears of gratitude, including one memorable moment in Jamaica when it was just me and a plastic glass of wine, sitting in the pool, staring out at the palm-speckled sunset beyond.
Early this year, I declared to Rodney that 2016 would be “the year of healing” and I’ve followed through on my word, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Speaking of my word, I swore not to talk about people or events that happened on my November retreat in British Columbia, but I would like to tell you a story that has stuck with me since. All names are anonymous of course.
I met *Julia on the first day of retreat and she immediately impressed me with her strong sense of self. The first night she admitted that she was taking a break from ongoing rounds of chemotherapy and was hoping that her body would heal with natural methods alone. With young kids at home, I worried that she’d have a setback. But I’d recently finished the book “Radical Remission” by Kelly Turner and was open to the idea that maybe she’d gain some comfort from this plan.
You can imagine my shock when a few weeks after our return, Julia sent me an email stating that her cancer had gone into remission. This, coming from a woman whose cancer was so extensive that it had spread to her bones. Not a speck was left.
How did she do it? I won’t pretend that her process was easy – she eats a vegan diet, mostly raw. She takes supplements. She practices yoga, she meditates; she cut out every major stressor from her life, including her demanding job. She’s traveled to see energy healers, stepped into a machine called “The Life Vessel” which gave us a good chuckle in November. And she hasn’t stopped with these efforts now that she’s healthy again.
The lesson from this strong-willed woman is to embrace a healing mindset, no matter how many quizzical looks are thrown in your direction.
Although I’ve been healthy-ish over the past 15 years, there is always room for improvement. Starting with food.
On retreat, I was impressed by the number of women who were under the care of naturopathic doctors (in addition to their oncologists and primary care providers). I’m picky about my food sourcing and choices, and never eat food with preservatives. I make most of my meals at home using fruit and vegetables that I hunt and gather from the farmer’s markets and my CSA. But I knew that I had a lot to learn about how to optimize my health with nutrition and supplements.
As luck would have it, Jackson’s former naturopathic vet made an introduction, and it was with some trepidation but mostly excitement that I made my way over to her Union Square office one cold day in January.
“Most people can’t tolerate dairy and wheat” she told me during my first meeting. But under no circumstances should someone with a weak immune system eat any kind of inflammatory foods. Those were my orders, ma’am yes ma’am.
She told me to nix the wine (even red, it interferes with healing sleep functions at night), and to avoid eating pork.
“Pork valves are used for human heart surgeries because a pig’s tissue is similar to ours. It’s confusing for the immune system.”
So I’ve given up these once-treasured foods. Wheat (spelt is acceptable); Dairy; Pork, mostly, although the occasional slice of bacon finds its way into my diet.
I’ve had a harder time with wine and alcohol. I’m convinced that I net benefit from the serotonin that floods my brain when I watch the uncorking of a cold bottle of well-earned rosé, sleep disturbances be damned.
Aside from introducing me to an empathetic peer set, my November retreat taught me to value my relationship with healthcare providers. Love them to the point where you have to quash an overpowering desire to hug them at the end of your visit. If that sounds crazy, I can tick off five people who fit that description, number one being my oncologist. And I’ve ended my relationship with those providers who don’t.
I see a therapist once a week for shiatsu massage so good and painful that it makes my eyeballs roll into the back of my head. I used to think that massage meant the occasional splurge involving fluffy white bathrobes and plenty of oil. But I’ve found nirvana in the cramped top floor of a yoga studio where I submit to acupressure and an old world treatment called moxibustion. I ended my first session by hopping off the table and giving Shakti a bear hug; she responded in kind. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.
There have been many other healers, so I won’t go into the details. I’ve submerged my body into a sensory deprivation flotation tank; visited with a Chinese acupuncturist on Elizabeth Street; a reflexologist around the corner on Hester St. poked at my feet. The Tibetan herbalist has been slow to call me back but I do plan to see him soon. Which reminds me that I need to schedule those Chakra balancing and Shamanic healing sessions. Who doesn’t want to be reunited with her power animal and reconnect her heart to her soul?
But the strangest meeting of all was a visit with a psychic. “You strike me as the kind of person who’d be open to it” my naturopath said as she passed me the number of a woman who charges more than a luxury handbag for an hour-long conversation.
I had to admit that I was curious.
“It’s the year of healing” I reminded Rodney when I slipped the cost of the visit into our conversation.
“It’s $300 an hour?!”
Yes, and I’m not mentioning the other $200 for fear that our marriage will implode.
It seemed as though my psychic was rehashing details about my life that were easily accessed through the blog.
To her credit, I wasn’t a good subject since I was skeptical of her services, and aside from my aunts, uncles, and grandparents, I have limited knowledge of my family history.
“Who was the seamstress?” she asked while channeling a woman named Maria.
But something interesting happened that day. Midway through, she stopped the reading.
“Have you been seeing ladybugs?”
At which point the hair on my arms stood up on end because the night before my visit, I’d dreamt that a ladybug had landed on my arm.
I mentioned the dream, and my psychic, muttering about important news, flipped through a notebook.
According to my esteemed savant (and later verified by Sir Google), ladybugs bring good luck and signal that you can leave your worries behind. Symbolically, ladybugs represent rebirth, fortune, trust, and joy.
“You know that cancer is in your past don’t you?” She peered over the book.
Since that day, I’ve seen ladybugs everywhere. Emma painted one at school, another flew into our bus and landed on the window as we were leaving Jamaica, I’ve come across them in books, their images have popped up unannounced onto my computer screen.
I’m not one who falls easily for stories about spirits or the afterlife, but when I see one of these sweet creatures, I feel Jackson’s unwavering presence, just like he’d never left.
I’ll stop here. There is much more to write – a new business in the works, a collaboration with one of my favorite food brands, Jacobsen Salt Co., and a summer at the lake around the corner – but I’ll save those updates for another time. The cadence of posts will be slower than what you’ve seen in the past but don’t let that fool you. I’ve been busier – and happier – than ever. I hope that you’ve all been off to a great start in 2016. See you back here soon….