Accepting What Is

It seems that everything I’ve read, watched, studied – every speck of knowledge from the past – has led me to today. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, having the sense of understanding that what we focus on today becomes our reality tomorrow. With each a-ha moment, download during times of meditation and silence, pure divine intervention, prayer and answered prayer, cumulatively, they have equipped me to process and handle the most challenging situations.

The most recent challenging situation has put us on a new path, the path that you all are walking with us. We are all spread out, around the world, but I don’t feel the physical distance. I feel your heart energy.

Today’s journey is about accepting what is. HP and I will continue to make healthy choices, balanced with living-life-our-way choices. We have had deep, heartfelt discussions about bucket lists, desires, needs, approaches and strategies. Looking back, I am very happy we have navigated these waters with a sense of ease, knowing, trusting. Best of all, there has been great comfort in knowing that we share an undying love for each other and life. Forever.

With each conversation, we get closer to turning the corner, and around that corner I think we will find acceptance. I said to HP today that we will never look back and regret living each day to the fullest. Being able to do this, wholeheartedly, I believe is dependent on learning to allow certain thoughts to visit, and being able to sit together with those thoughts in peace. With acceptance comes peace and from peace comes living life to the fullest.

The saddest times for me is when I allow my mind to think of the way we thought our futures would be. For as long as I can remember, HP and I have been totally in love with the thought of retirement, traveling around the country in an RV, traveling the world and growing very, very old together. The attachment came when we repeatedly thought and talked about our futuristic dreams and, with each time, it became a belief, an expectation. The loss of that belief creates a reason to grieve. It seems to me that the loss of thoughts that turned into a belief can lead to the most intense of grieving times.

Being a perpetual student of life, my inner voice tells me today’s teacher is telling me the importance of letting go of attachment to old thoughts and beliefs, things and people and learning to transform the energy reserved for attachments into the energy needed for accepting what is.

Living life to the fullest…. Judi & Howard

The Faslodex Scavenger Hunt

There has been a rest from writing, mainly because there has been a reprieve in HP’s health issues. Howard started on the NED-170 therapy about one month ago. It consists of three prescription drugs, one being a low dose chemo pill, plus four supplements. Thankfully, he has been on one of the prescription drugs for years, and 3 of the supplements since he returned home in August. He has felt great. He has said he feels normal. Wow!

It is mainstream knowledge that estrogen feeds breast cancers. What is not widely known at this point is that it probably feeds at least two other types of cancer, lung and prostate. Our NED contact was fairly certain that HP’s estrogen hormone was high and feeding his lung cancer. Based on her suspicion, we tested his estrogen levels. Confirmed. High. Our naturopath has started him on a supplement to manage high estrogen levels, called Indolplex. Indolplex offers zero toxicity. It may be more cost effective to eat lots of broccoli and Brussel sprouts, but one can’t realistically eat all day long, so popping the supplement has been easier.

But, it isn’t that easy. Another NED-170 patient has been receiving a combination of Zometa (bone strengthening) and Faslodex (estrogen management) infusions for her end stage breast cancer (metastases in her spine, ribs, shoulders). Her cancer was so advanced, the same cancer center that we go to in Colorado Springs didn’t offer traditional treatments and gave her months to live. She was diagnosed in July 2017, the same month Howard was diagnosed. By October, her PET scan showed No Evidence of Disease (NED). She continues to enjoy a high quality of life. Her story gives us a great deal of optimism.

But, as I said earlier, it isn’t that easy. Our unplanned journey has been easy at times, but as we get farther down the road, a different road, it becomes more challenging. Our NED contact, wants Howard to have the identical regimen as her breast cancer patient. We thought, piece of cake. Rocky Mountain Cancer Center was our common denominator. So we called our oncologist doctor to tell her the story of NED, the breast cancer patient, and the hopeful results. Our doctor walked across the hall and talked to her doctor. By the time they called and talked to us, the discussion was fairly demeaning. Such as, “you do realize there is a difference between breast cancer and lung cancer, right? You do know that estrogen is a female hormone, right?”

Ummmmm, YES. I say, “You do realize we are in a clinical study, right? A study that helps further the advancement of treatments.” “You do realize, right, that the protocol you all are married to right now is a result of tests and trials so, if you refuse treatment because it isn’t the norm, how do we continue to help the advancement?” Silence. Breaking the silence, she said, well, you can pay for it yourselves. Or, go to another country to get it. Or, relocate, because it is a once a month infusion for who knows how long.

As we collect more clues for how to get our hands on Faslodex, we feel relieved knowing we are using a natural and zero toxicity supplement to manage his estrogen. We will retest his estrogen levels soon to measure the success of Indolplex. Faslodex is not a zero toxicity drug, and has plenty of side effects, some that could be very problematic for Howard, but we want to hear the words, no evidence of disease.

Maybe, someday, mainstream medicine will embrace the possibility and knowledge that estrogen also feeds other types of cancers, too. We now know that our oncologist and RMCC may not be able to go outside of the box to help, because the pricing model for drugs is prohibitive, and insurance companies are the judge and jury.

We are currently mining the answers on how to be successful outside of the box, a box that offers no solution for longevity or quality of life. The scavenger hunt is on. Of course, we want to replicate the results of the other cancer patient. Who doesn’t want to hear, “your most recent PET scan shows no evidence of disease (NED)”?

Day 3 with NED-170

This morning, we remain optimistic. We are hopeful and confident at the same time.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that we were meeting with a doctor who would support us on our journey and prescribe the drugs needed for NED-170. We did, and she did. We love this doctor. At one time, she was an integrative oncology doctor, but has moved into another specialty. So when we asked her to be on our team, the decision was easy for her.

When she said yes, I cheered inwardly and outwardly. Team Howard hit a home run, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have this doctor on our team. Another bonus is that our new integrative doctor was referred to us by our naturopathic doctor, whom we adore. We have an entire team with us now, speaking the same language.

It does not escape me how truly blessed we are to have friends and family walking this path with us, shining light on the dark corners. Miraculously (with Howard’s courage), we have not had many dark corners over the last 7 months, but we have had enough to know it is easier to hold hands in the dark with loved ones. I also include our awesome medical professionals when I say “loved ones.”

Next week, we go on a vacation, to Mexico City. Howard loves to plan, and he has planned a week of celebration. And celebrate, we will do. We will celebrate his courage, his health, my health, our good fortune, my birthday, NED, our friends, our family, our medical team.

And, true confessions, you will see pictures of food and cheer that are not part of our Gersen Institute nutritional protocol. And nothing screams CELEBRATE like the 2 restaurants that HP picked out for us – Pehua and Pujol Restaurants. I guess you could say we are in search of “work/life balance” on this trip. Mexico City, for us at this time, is all about LIFE.

We forever love you all… our friends who are family and family who are friends. Xoxoxox. Judi

Flow, Timing and Friends

“Where are we at?” “Let me know where you’re at.” These sentences were perfect grammar where I grew up. One of my first career jobs in 1970 was being a stenographer. Shorthand, dictographs. Words that are so old they don’t come up in auto spell when typed. I was trained to compose and edit memos for the utility in Michigan. All communication was scrubbed for accuracy and consistency by the stenographers’ pool. For instance, it was ALWAYS kWh. Not KWh. Not KwH. kWh was the one and only way to abbreviate kilowatt hour. It wasn’t until I met my match in 1987 when I had 2 bosses that called me on my “where you at?” grammar. A bad habit broken. Thank you, Emily and Don. 😘.

Throwing good grammar aside… so, where are we at? Today, HP has decided on a therapy for his cancer. It is a patent pending protocol of prescription drugs and natural supplements. This protocol is in the testing phase, leading up to an FDA approval. Hopefully. Eventually.

Getting to a decision has not been easy. Let’s backtrack for a minute. On January 18, we met with our oncologist to discuss a maintenance plan and the results of his latest lung tumor biopsy. You already know that the biopsy didn’t produce more markers. We were hoping for another level of markers to determine new drugs, hopefully more targeted drugs for maintenance. Without additional markers, the oncologist was left with one conclusion. More chemo. Indefinitely. That news didn’t set well in our guts and hearts.

All of this motivated us to open our minds and hearts to other options. These alternative options were like learning a foreign language in 2 weeks. We became immersed. The more immersed we became, the more doors that opened. You may have heard in the corporate world, there are no dumb answers while brainstorming. One never knows when the golden nugget may appear. It usually appears as an idea that piggy-backed off a random idea. I think the same principle applies when praying for guidance… remain open, don’t rule anything out. And, no doesn’t mean no. Timing is so important.

And, that is exactly how we arrived at our decision. An idea, presented to us by a good friend in our little, local village, took hold during our open-heart, research phase. This was an idea that was presented to us earlier when we began our journey back in August 2017. It didn’t take hold back then, because our hearts and minds were embracing chemo. That’s where we focused our sights. Until, the end of the 6 cycles that turned, eventually, into 7. We postponed number 8 to buy some time for more research, more cues. Now, I sit back and enjoy the benefits of hindsight. Hindsight shows me a vision of a perfectly choreographed dance, of divine unfoldment, between family, friends and my invisible team of guides.

It wasn’t until we looked 3,562 miles outside of our little bubble in Manitou Springs that we became open to NED-170. Howard leaned hard toward going to Peru to have shaman support, eat plants and drink bark water. Was it the 2nd time we heard about NED, or 3rd? I truly don’t remember. At times, the journey travelled so far is a blur. Thankfully, our friend didn’t take our silence as a no. And, even if it had been a clear no back then, no didn’t mean no. Silence meant not now. The timing doesn’t feel right. And, I’m not sure it was all about the timing. It was because, maybe, our brains were full. We had taken on as much as we could take on at that time.

The more we read about NED, the more people we talked with, HP’s decision to go in this direction started taking hold. It feels right. He doesn’t need to travel 3,562 miles to participate. Everything has fallen into place. Tomorrow, we meet with a doctor who may be the one to prescribe the prescription drugs. We have a good handle on the supplements. In fact, we have already been doing much of the protocol thanks to our awesome naturopathic doctor, and thanks to our children who set us on a good path early on. I am convinced that is the reason HP did so well during chemo and radiation. We have over 6 months of therapies in his system.

Optimism and Hope have returned. Welcome home, dear friends. We had to experience your absence to fully appreciate your Presence. We are open to and appreciate your prayers, your positive thoughts and light. We pray that we find a prescribing doctor on Monday and I envision HP beginning the full regimen of NED ASAP. We are learning through experience to Flow while being focused on the importance of expediency. Flow and expediency seem like opposites, but I now know flow can embrace its counterpart and work for us with maximum benefits.

Thank you for your unconditional love, light, prayers and support. My heart overflows with love and gratitude for you in our lives. May I support others on their path as you have supported us on ours.

And, who knows, HP may still travel 3,562 miles to commune with the rainforest gods. Flow and timing will prevail. What I do know for sure… I love you and am grateful for you. ❤️

Knowing what I know today…

One of my favorite questions to ask, and to be asked, is “knowing what you know today, what would you do differently?” For the eager seeker, the answers to this question can be game changers.

Happy Sunday morning. I would like to share what I would say if someone asked that question today.

Knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t wait for a diagnosis to make fundamental upgrades in my diet. Little by little, I have learned over the years the importance of nutrition. Most of my knowledge and ultimate shift, I credit my kids. They innately knew about the alternative foods. Based on new experiences and research, I made minor, incremental changes in my food selection. Looking back, I first learned the difference between nutritional carbs and empty carbs. Then, I learned about the benefits of cooking from scratch as much as possible. We decided to eliminate certain processed foods. We learned to read labels and select only processed foods that had a clean label. It was a grand day when I found I could buy canned tomatoes without added sugars and high sodium levels. I would become so upset with myself if one day I shopped and didn’t feel like reading labels, and came home with something that has MSG in it. I quickly became trained to read labels on anything new. This became a whole new challenge in Costa Rica. Some people learn Spanish by watching TV. Some learn by completing classes taught by locals. I should have taken that route, but didn’t. But I learned to read labels in Spanish. And, fortunately, we ate local, fresh foods for the most part. Please pardon my sidebar. Back to the intended path.

The path being, I wouldn’t wait for the diagnosis before making changes. I would have been more religious with my 3-day juicing fasts. I would do it more than twice a year. I would have fasted from alcohol more than once a year. I would suppress my inner voice’s rationalization that said, “yes, Judi, you can do all this and be the healthiest person in the world and have a heart attack while exercising.” This may be very true. True confession: I had to feel the symptoms of overindulgence and aging before I was motivated enough to follow through with fasts and cleanses that always made me feel better.

I am on this Unplanned journey with Howard and participating fully in our game-changing diet. The diagnosis of his cancer has changed both of our lifestyles for the better. Do our alternative methods support the traditional chemo methods? As I sit here and look at Howard, he doesn’t look like he has been through 7 cycles of potent chemo cocktails and a round of radiation. 90% of his days, he feels good.

The time pressure we feel while changing our nutritional game isn’t pleasant. The diagnosis was a great motivator, however. “Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?” I would try to find something that would provide the same motivator without the diagnosis. Remember the 80/20 rule that applies to many situations? I would definitely flip my choices to be 80% healthy and 20% “let go and live it up”. Nutrition seems to be that important.

These are my observations from the caregiver’s corner. And this caregiver is now enjoying the benefits of a healthier lifestyle without a diagnosis. I am hoping the return on my investment is diagnosis-avoidance. Who knows? I surely do not.

What I know for sure today… I know I will walk in these shoes with Howard, because I believe that what we are doing is doing more good and no harm. And I want a lot of time and good health on our side as we continue to enjoy retirement life together.

Reinventions

I know. I know. It has been a long time since my last blog article. 32 days to be precise. I couldn’t write during a time of confusion, non-clarity, although several friends suggested I write about my feelings anyway. Out of that confusion and non-clarity came weeks of research.

I understand we aren’t the first people to be on this cancer-fighting, mountain climbing path. Far from it, and this disturbs me a great deal. The reasons for the rise in cancer are another topic of conversation, one I don’t have time to talk about right now. We are too engrossed in our own small world, but luckily there are people who have made this their life’s work.

What has happened over the last 32 days? It started with an appointment with our oncologist. This was the appointment when we were to hear about the lung biopsy results and brain MRI. The oncologist confirmed the lung biopsy did not reveal any new information. This in itself was deflating, because the test was not a “walk in the park” for HP. However, this news wasn’t a surprise. We had heard the same news from the pulmonologist. She simply confirmed what he had already told us.

Dr. M, the oncologist, quickly moved from lung biopsy results to brain MRI results. She said the scan shows a new spot on HP’s right cerebellum. She is not sure the source of the spot. Because she is unsure about the spot, combined with no new details from the lung biopsy, she decided to continue with Alimta chemo, indefinitely. For HP, this conclusion left him with a lot to think about. Me, too. For both of us, our thoughts went within to digest this information.

My way of processing is to put my questions out to the universe. I have my “invisible” team who never fails to respond. Howard has his way of digesting, questioning and processing new information. We have always been a great team when we put our thoughts together, especially now. Together, we have put together a new roadmap. He may not come down the slope the same way we went up. What he feels right now, and I support him 100%, is it is time to give his body a chance to heal from the onslaught of toxins and chemicals from chemo.

We watched a documentary, The Sacred Science. It is available for free on http://www.thesacredscience.com. We watched a 9-Part series produced by Ty Bollinger, The Truth About Cancer (TTAC). We have followed many leads from friends. Honestly, it was like drinking from a fire hose. And, for those of you who delve deep into research, you know it is impossible to unlearn or to unsee once you are exposed. The last 4 weeks have opened our eyes even more.

It wasn’t easy taking in all the information and painting a clear picture from the random knowledge that came to us through answered questions. As of today, we have a plan to help clean out the toxins that we consciously put into our bodies, and unconsciously inherit due to air and water quality and over production of mainstream food chain. We can’t do much about the quality of the air we breath and the water we drink, but we are officially off mainstream nutrition.

And, through research and drinking from the fire hose, one thing became evident to me. The alternative things we have been doing since August are the top reasons HP has done so well after 7 cycles of chemo. Since August, we have been drinking alkaline water, the Ketogenic diet, organic whenever possible, regular appointments with our naturopath for course correcting, acupuncture, frankincense essential oils, CBD oil, bone broths, fat balls, bullet proof matcha lattes, portion control with animal protein. I know I am forgetting some of the basics, but that 6-month old knowledge has been overridden with new knowledge that resulted in another course correction. The foreign items that landed in our pantry in August will be joined by even more foreign items.

As of this week, we are juicing more, having more smoothies, and are 99.99% vegan. I am allowing myself a .01% margin of error due to the fact I didn’t have a clue 3 weeks ago. And, no alcohol. We start our day with a shot of lime or lemon juice, bullet proof matcha latte; berry smoothie that has about 14 ingredients to aid digestion, strengthen bones, providing rich nutrients for blood and cell repair; veggie juice; a detox system that includes herbs and enemas. HP wouldn’t want me talk about this last part, but I can’t leave it out, because it is a powerful component of detoxing from chemo. So, combine all these new things to our former 6 months (minus Keto for now), and we are feeling empowered.

We have hope in this detoxing phase. We don’t have a clue what the future holds. But, my inner voice reassures me, “every day make good choices, and that is all you can do”. What do I know for sure? Controlling an outcome is an illusion. I learned that a couple of years ago, and it has never been more clear than today.

Going hand in hand with our ramped up alternative diet, HP and I will continue to explore more alternative options. He has his eyes on a clinic in Peru. Another one called, The Gersen Institute in Mexico and Europe. We are also considering Vitamin C therapy infusions, done locally. We have learned through research there are many, many options to help support him on his path to detoxify, allowing his body to heal his immune system and fight cancer, naturally. He hasn’t ruled out traditional therapies, but he/we are giving it the “side eye” for now. All I can do today is make good choices and write about what has been.

Today, we are a reinvention from yesterday. Tomorrow, we will likely be a reinvention of today. And, so it is.

The Elusive Biopsy Results

Summer 2017, after a series of injuries and surgeries in Costa Rica, the doctors told Howard, “you have stage IV non-smoker lung cancer, adenocarcinoma”. This was confirmed during hip replacement surgery, when they took a biopsy of cells from his hip bone. Just in case further testing was needed, they prepared a bloque de parafina biopsia (paraffin block biopsy).

Howard was in the process of downsizing our stuff in Costa Rica to move back to Colorado. But this news accelerated his relocation timeline, the need to get back to Colorado as soon as possible, and establish a cancer treatment schedule. When the oncologist at CIMA hospital told me we should take this biopsy block with us to the U.S., the sense of urgency was intensified. How long will the block last? What will TSA say? Do we need to buy a cooler to keep it refrigerated during the flight?

The thing that caused me the most concern when moving to Costa Rica was the comfort of my cats during the flight. We took a non-stop, red-eye, flight from Denver to San Jose on Frontier Airline so Storm and Cloud would be in their carriers for the shortest amount of time. Prior to flying with them, I put them in their carriers for brief periods just to get them used to their space. I did practice runs with their pills for sedation. I timed everything. How long before I saw signs of sedation? How long did sedation last? Would Storm and Cloud react to the meds in the same way? Did they appear relaxed or distressed? How long can they go without water, because the sedation may dehydrate them? It was my concern for my fur kids that kept me awake, the middle of many nights. Howard and I would be fine with our move. It was our decision, and we would roll with the punches. But Storm and Cloud had no say in this new adventure. I was 100% responsible for their safety, comfort and happiness.

Five years later, the cats would not be joining us for our “re-pat” flight. My only live travel companions would be Howard and the biopsy block. I knew Howard was determined and had a strong will to return, so he would be fine. It was the block I worried about. I didn’t have enough information, so I phoned a friend, our health insurance agent, Mauricio. He was by our sides every step of the way at CIMA Hospital. He stayed with us as long as we needed for him to translate forms, conversations, and to get authorizations from Best Doctors, Howard’s insurance provider. “Mauricio, I’m so nervous about this biopsy block. I know how important this is, and I don’t want to mess anything up. Will you go with me to the pathology department and help me get the biopsy block?” He did, of course. With his help, my anxiety dissolved. The block was small enough to fit in my purse. No refrigeration needed.

Upon arrival, back in Colorado, Martine and I hand-delivered the biopsy block to Penrose Hospital pathology. Our mission was to get pathology to agree to a rapid turnaround of biopsy results. We needed more markers to determine the characteristics of Howard’s adenocarcinoma. These additional characteristics could guide oncology in prescribing Howard’s chemo cocktail. In the meantime, the oncologist ordered the standard cocktail of Alimta, Carboplatin and Zometa. After a week or so, Penrose pathology concluded the cell samples didn’t survive the trip and provided no additional markers. Oncology made the decision to continue with the standard cocktail and go for more biopsies after the 6-treatment cycles. We worked fast and hard to get the biopsy block to Colorado and into the right hands, so we were disappointed to hear the results were inconclusive, to say the least.

After his 6 rounds of treatment, oncology referred us to a lung doctor. The pulmonologist would attempt to go through Howard’s mouth, down through his bronchial tube and then up and over into the lung. There were no guarantees for getting the sample cells needed for a new biopsy. But if successful, additional details could provide guidance for Howard’s maintenance treatments. On December 27, six months after the hip replacement and first bone biopsy, Howard went in for the bronchoscopy. We would hopefully gain more details and markers for his type of cancer.

On January 9, we met with the pulmonologist. From the biopsies taken, pathology was unable to give us any additional details. The biopsy produced only a few amount of cancer cells, not enough to provide additional markers. This means, at this time, a more customized maintenance treatment plan is on hold.

Treatment #8 was yesterday. The cocktail was simple, Alimta and anti-nausea. Howard is feeling fine this morning. I am grateful for his continued stamina and successes. He is a strong climber. We are still on Mt. Everest, so to speak. Been to the summit and are taking our time on the descent.

Next week, we will meet with oncology to get her read on the reports from the latest pathology results. We have compiled a few questions. In summary, we have traveled a lot of ground in the last 6 months. Time has flown by. Some of it has been a blur. Some of it has been with great clarity. Most of the time has been filled with hope. And surrender. Our moments of fear have strengthened our resolve to live in the Now.

We are not sure why these important biopsy results remain elusive. For now, we find comfort in saying, “it is what it is.” Until we know more…