BREAST CANCER JOURNEYS Major Lessons Learned From an Almost Twenty Year Cancer Journey
By Marilyn Holasek Lloyd
With out Divine Guidance, I would not be here today. I had to make some very hard choices in 1996 and went against the medical standard of care. My wordpress blogs from Breast Cancer Journeys explains those choices. Start with Marilyn’s Story and then Independence Day, an essay I wrote for the organization, Healing Journeys. If you haven't already done so, please go to BLOG INTRO for links to these articles and others.
The cause of my breast cancer was an immediate issue. The oncologist at the time said Don’t worry about cause. I did not agree with that at all because I felt if cause is not known, then how could I try to prevent a recurrence, and also what about the other women to be diagnosed? Cause was important! I felt that I needed to take some responsibility for the diagnosis of my breast cancer. I was a sugarholic since a child, had gained weight in middle age, and had consented to 17 years of mammograms on pre menopausal breasts. But I always felt that medicine had to share part of that cause recommending mammograms so early. I felt right away that those 70 mammograms including 2 to three xrays a side on my dense breasts starting at age 33, was part of the cause.
One of my major mantras that came to me through divine guidance in 1996 is this: If everything in my life that I had done so far had led to breast cancer, then I needed to redo every aspect of my life to survive breast cancer. This took great courage and fortitude but I did it. Everything changed. Diet, exercise, meditation, support groups, and constant research. I must say fear is a great motivator.
I always felt from the very beginning that I needed help in the form of some branch of medicine or alternative medicine for guidance on surviving cancer. I had very little no knowledge of alt med in 1996 and integrative medicine did not exist. I stand by that early decision despite all that happened. One needs to find a practitioner that can help one navigate very unknown territory.
I learned from the first alt med practitioner that although he helped me detox, how alt med can give bad advice and take advantage of fear. It was early in integrative medicine 20 years ago. He was authoritarian and I was afraid. I blindly followed his advice and got into real trouble with overdoses of vitamins. And when I got a virus two years later, the combination of the virus and the high doses likely led to the liver dysfunction reflected on my blood tests. Possible culprits were fat soluble vitamins, like A and E, which are stored in the liver, and B6.
This first alt med doctor also treated almost all cancers alike, and his knowledge wasn’t as great as I thought. My brother's doctor in NYC tried to warn me about the dangers of these high doses, but I still persisted in taking these supplements out of fear, and also because I took comfort in the belief that I was vigorously fighting my cancer. On top of that, the first practitioner really took financial advantage of cancer patients in many ways. What a learning experience that was. And it was repeated with another doctor, too, in New York State.
Then I found the the physician who has helped me LIVE all these years, since 1998, Dr. Peter D'Adamo in Connecticut. Indeed, Dr. D’adamo’s brilliant insights have allowed me to live with a good quality of life.
Dr. D’Adamo is an ND, a licensed Naturopathic Medicine Doctor in Connecticut. NDs are not licensed in the South, and I had no idea about the scope of their expertise. Dr. D, as I affectionately call him, understands physiology, and how it applies to the individual patient. From all of his knowledge has evolved how blood type determines so many areas of health, from the study of epigenetics (how genes react to the environment), to mapping out all the major pathways in the body and what herbs can help with those pathways, to the study of the individual patient’s genetics with an analysis of the patient’s genome with a program called Opus 23 - www.generativemedicine.org.
From the very beginning of my breast cancer journey, major lessons in survival were learned in a local wellness group. We met once a month for support, sharing our lifestyle changes, and giving each other practical information like wellness recipies and survival strategies. We helped each other through some very tough times, and became very good friends. The group was such a blessing.
From left to right Gerda Piecha, Norella Decederfelt, Barbara Raphael, Geraldine Sullivan, and Marilyn Lloyd (Norella and Geraldine were the members without a cancer diagnosis)
Online support groups were very helpful, and I met some wonderful, kind, loving people. Some became part of my life and will be there forever.
But other major lessons, very painful emotional lessons, were learned in online support groups. In an alternative medicine support group, research on all sides of issues must be presented. No research should ever be ridiculed or censored. Members of a support group should not have to talk to their therapist because they are upset by a support group. That is one of the greatest ironies of all. One lady we knew used to shake when posting to the support group because she could feel the ridicule which would be coming.
Another hard lesson learned is there is no way to know if the person writing is telling the whole truth. Are they covering up information to push their own agendas? Another red flag that must be addressed.
Some support groups seem to push the flavor of the month strategy to groups because of something they read. This is a dangerous thing to do without regard to the physiology of the individual patient. So the patient becomes bombarded by, you should take this or you should take that. All which are very expensive.
Now things are even more complicated with unknown genetic backgrounds, but some doctors are actually incorporating genetic information into the holistic treatment of the patient. But can you imagine how much harm can be done with types of supplements or treatments, dosages, and duration, with just glib recommendations from alt med groups? So basically I am saying be forever vigilant on advice given by internet groups. The patients themselves need to take responsibility for checking out the recommendations.
From the very beginning. I learned that one must use mind- body medicine to survive cancer. Our website will include more mind-body information over time. I learned to meditate, and faithfully did those meditations for years. I also used visualization and mantras.
Most of the mantras were used during exercise which was mainly walking three miles a day, 5 days a week, and learning Tai Chi. There is a lot of research out there on the benefits of exercise and surviving cancer. Now my ankle and foot arthritis and tendon problems has left me with only swimming. As Dori, from the movie, Finding Nemo, would say, Justkeep swimming; Just keep swimming.
Most of all, this journey has taught me the importance of support from family and friends in the survival journey. It made all the difference for me in the beginning and ever since. And if one doesn’t have a supportive family, then find a support group to attend in person and also online.
All of this writing is just a jumping off point. Cancer is a journey, not a destination.
As each year of survival passed, my journey continued, and sadly others did not. (And frankly it all depended on tumor classifications from the very beginning. Some ended up with very virulent cancers at a young age.) And some of us lived long enough to cope with additional, quite different, medical challenges. And so the journey continues, but what is most important is how one lives each day to make that journey as tolerable and fulfilling as possible. Dr. M. Scott Peck said, “Life is difficult.” That is true for every living person. And that is why I have had the word COPING on both license plates for over 30 years. I have always viewed that word as so honest and realistic. Coping is the best we can do with any day, good or bad. And how one copes with that life journey with all the difficulties and joys makes all the difference.