The Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation neither recommends nor endorses any particular treatment, whether complementary, alternative, or conventional. Treatment choices are personal and should always be made in consultation with your physician or other health
It seems so long ago now but I was diagnosed with breast cancer six and a half years ago. I was simply stunned. It just couldn’t be – there had to be a mistake. I felt good, took care of myself, had lots still to do including raising my kids and all the other things that I had postponed doing because there was always tomorrow. I left Mass General alone and in a fog.
The treatment plan was surgical biopsy which turned into a lumpectomy, then mastectomy (oops, missed the margins and the discovery of a multi-focal cancer), and chemotherapy – 4 rounds of AC and 4 rounds of Taxol. Reconstruction would be down the line.
Not knowing anyone who had survived breast cancer other than my aunt who was totally disfigured by her surgery 40+ years earlier, I relied on my oncologist and my sister who is a nurse. I was willing to do anything to stay alive to raise my kids. So, I sucked it up and jumped into surgery to remove my breast and a sheet of 20 lymph nodes. It was an unsightly result and a depressing event that put me in dark place.
At the recommendation of my sister, I started acupuncture treatments three times a week for energy, stress reduction and, most importantly, the ability to eat something other than watermelon. This made me feel “normal” if anyone can feel normal during chemo treatments.
I credit the acupuncture with both my body’s ability to move the crap through my system…my poor liver…and with stress reduction. Sometimes I would fall asleep on the acupuncture table, when I normally lay in bed, night after night, unable to shut my mind off long enough to get a nights rest. What’s in those needles! Sleeping was left to my hour or so on the acupuncture table and those moments of complete exhaustion when I would almost fall asleep on my feet, when the steroids wore off following treatments.
At one point, when the chemo collided with antibiotics I was taking for a bladder infection, I was convinced that the treatment might kill me. And then there was the medicine to counteract all the treatment side effects or to boost the red or white cell count. Again, I truly believe the acupuncture strengthened my body to help it survive this onslaught.
And--oh, yes --I prayed, and prayed, and prayed a little more.
Since chemo, my immune system is not good, and will likely not improve. However, I continue my acupuncture treatments to build strength and my immunities. My acupuncturists also treat me when I feel a cold coming on. Vics spread on my back and rubbed intensely. This produces huge bruises on my back, but it heads off the cold. Colds for me are like a potential death threat – they turn into a bout of pneumonia. I believe pneumonia is what will ultimately kill me.
The hidden horror is one of finances. About 4 months before my diagnosis, I left a job to join a start-up. Disability insurance was the last thing on my mind – though I did get a hunk of life insurance. During treatments, I worried about the cost of living, and how much more I was worth dead. I blew through that 4 month reserve I had so conscientiously squirreled away, then paid my bills and mortgage for an additional 4 months using my home equity line. I would have lost my house had I not kept that line “just in case”.
I found no financial help. The only thing I was eventually entitled to was food stamps for about 4 weeks. Then I had enough hair on my head to land another job.
I would like to think I’d be brave enough to use alternative treatments more completely if I’m ever back at that place (God forbid). And I applaud this foundation.
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