SUMMARY OF TREATMENTS WITH DR. YOUNG YI
I had been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in August 2014, and after a PET scan, with Stage 4 in September 2014. “Luckily” the biopsy on October 2 had revealed I had one of the “better” breast cancers – composed of “invasive, lobular, estrogen++ cells.” At that point I was told to begin chemo tomorrow or sooner. I simply asked for more information, for more detail. Exactly where? How extensive? How many lymph nodes? I wanted to see the PET scan pictures myself. The doctor was very frustrated with my calm and rational reaction. She ‘got in my face’ and told me that because I wasn’t scared, I ‘didn’t get it’, that I needed to start chemo immediately because she was “trying to save my life!”
My choice was to be not-scared and to make proactive healthy choices and really stay positive and look for the cancer to retreat to wherever it had come from. I wasn’t going to have cancer and the cancer grew. By my birthday on February 25th, after another mammo, three independent medical doctors who saw my recent test and past records told me to accept chemo therapy immediately to arrest the Stage 4 breast cancer that was in my R breast (11 cm tumor), 3-5 lymph nodes, my ureter partially preventing the proper draining of the enlarged R kidney, and my bones (sternum, spine L1-2, and right iliac crest of pelvis). The breast tumor had grown about 30% in 6 months, from 8cm to 11+cm. But I came to realize the metastases in the bones are the worst of it. I was sick and getting sicker and was getting more and more scared just as the doctor had wanted me to.
Day #1, March 29th, 2015
A Sunday afternoon. I arrived for my first appointment, a consultation visit that lasted 2 hours. I did not know if Dr. Young would accept Stage IV-me as a patient. I knew nothing much about what to expect from the acupuncture that he would offer except that there were stories of his success with other cancer cases, even other Stage IV cases. Any confidence I had was simple hope on steroids. I asked Dr. Young to accept me as a patient for a limited time, 9 days, to see if he could help reduce the cancer tumors.
When I came to his office, I was becoming more exhausted by the encroaching fear. And I had complete laryngitis and a chronic phlegmy cough that left me sleepless. I believe if I’d had a crayon, I would have colored myself gray. My breathing was labored and shallow, my chest felt heavy and tight. My eyes were at half-mast; my brain was fogged-in. The severe ‘cold symptoms’ & mucous were side effects of taking non-chemo estrogen-suppressing medical treatments from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) – which could have been any clinic or hospital in America. I had taken 2 of the 3 initial “loading doses” of Faslodex (injected two weeks apart) and daily pills of Anastrozole.
The tumor in my right breast was hard as a rock. Really. And it basically WAS my right breast, over 5” wide x 4” x 2½ thick. It was as if the tumor had consumed the normal breast tissue. What remained was gnarly and misshapen, with the nipple pulled about 2” off from center toward my armpit, with two separate hot spots where the tumor was beginning to ulcerate through the skin. The tumor was pretty much oval in shape and pretty much homogeneously hard: a terrible thing. To me it was no longer a breast with a tumor; it was a barnacle. How did these initial 9 days go?
By Day #3,
Of acupuncture treatments with Dr. Young, I was already able to observe physical, palpable changes in the size and density of the main tumor and was experiencing what I could call mental improvements: fogginess lifting, more awake, more alive.
Meanwhile, the side effects of the anti-estrogen medications were becoming worse. I had received the 2nd dose of Faslodex on April 26, a Thursday, and had just three days later begun treatment with Dr. Young Yi. I was coughing, not because my throat tickled but more to keep my throat clear to breath. The mucous was so thick and sticky, like gummy rubber cement; it would clog my throat and I would choke. By late that first week with Dr. Young, three weeks after I took the first dose of those medications, I developed double pneumonia from the congestion building in my lungs. Whenever I coughed, I cried out because the bottom of both lungs felt like knife stabs. The hospital in Chicago phoned in a Z-pack prescription for me that I really didn’t want to take. Antibiotics are good and helpful, but they also kill the flora in the gut and I’ve read that is 30% of the immune system! I didn’t want to do anything to damage my immune system! Besides, I didn’t think I had bacterial pneumonia, I had mucous filling my lungs because of the medications I was taking.
On Day #5,
Dr. Young began treating the pneumonia with acupuncture and there was immediate improvement after the first treatment. I did not want to take the antibiotic and chose to delay starting it based on the improvement so far.
A Big Deal! A section of the tumor, a pie piece from 3:30 to 5:30 on a clock, completely disappeared. Gone. At the end of the treatment, there was empty space, no booby, where it had been before the treatment.
Also on Day #5 an amazing (to me) thing happened.
Immediately after the treatment, I told Dr. Young that my upper right teeth ‘hurt’, a lot. Ached, deeply. He wasn’t concerned and I was just mystified at why my teeth were hurting. By evening, the gums of my upper teeth were red, puffy and tender. It dawned on me that my teeth were moving, not that I had ever known what that would feel like, I just knew my teeth were moving. I guess I was too sick to react even though it seems now that I would have been justified to freak out a little bit.
When I woke up the next morning, my first thought was that my mouth felt so quiet and calm, my jaw so relaxed. The gums were no longer swollen. The teeth ‘fit together’ in a meshed way that was foreign to me. I had often thought to myself over the years, “Wouldn’t you think that if the body formed with a closed mouth in utero that the upper & lower teeth would form in a perfect fit?” But my teeth had never seemed to fit together right. My bite was askew. Now, suddenly it felt just perfect.
Then I went to wash my face and my hands said, “Woah! Your face feels different. Your eye sockets and cheeks feel somehow different.” I looked in the mirror and was stunned to see more symmetry in my face. The left mildly cocked up eyebrow was down and even with the right eyebrow and my right cheekbone was slightly lower and more predominant. It was subtle but it was unmistakable. When I put on my glasses to drive to Dr. Young’s that morning, my glasses were way out of adjustment. Whacky, right??
Needless to say, my first question was about my changed face and teeth/bite. Dr. Young’s first question for me was whether I had ever had a bad fall or been struck in the head? Apparently, drum roll, he had somehow, with a few needles in my head, realigned my skull from a severe blow to my right forehead when I was about 10 years old (I was in the wrong place and received the backswing of a left hander’s baseball bat during a game in our front yard). The implications of an injury to the right frontal lobe are easy to research. I was a poster child/adult for someone who had a mild brain injury of this type. Now, it seems, with my skull no longer misshapen, my brain could begin to heal.
In Dr. Young’s world of responsibility for my health, my brain healing was crucial to my recovery. This dramatic adjustment to my brain’s environment allowed my brain to improve it’s overall function as the ‘leader’ of my body and immune system. Dr. Young said it’s probably a contributing factor to why I’ve had so many maladies (depression, chronic fatigue, confusion, fibromyalgia) during my life. Now, with Dr. Young’s continuing brain treatments for improved energy, balance, and circulation, it did cross my mind: could I dare to look forward to a not just a healthy life, but a better life?
And it is only Day #5.
Days #6, 7, 8 April 3rd, 4th, 5th,
I’ll tell you more about the cancer next, but first, the pain in my lungs from the pneumonia improved each day, and I had no more pain in my lungs after 3 days. I never did take the antibiotic that was prescribed. My laryngitis improved a little and my breathing began getting more relaxed and deeper, my chest more open feeling. The mucous continued, and I still choked on gobs of it, but they were smaller gobs.
By Day #9,
April 6th, after seven days of acupuncture treatments, I had had significant, measureable improvement in the tumor size and density. [See Dr. Young’s records.] My breast was feeling more sensitive in a good way, more like it was a part of my body again, instead of a foreign thing attached to my chest. The tumor that had been unmovable, cemented to the chest wall, was now more mobile. This was a big deal since I had been told the tumor was inoperable because it was too big and integrally attached to the chest wall – both of these conditions were changing rapidly. If the tumor was now operable, that would be really good news.
And actually, my whole body was feeling more alive in some profound ways, hard to pinpoint but definite happening. There were subtle improvements in my energy, my alertness, my mental clarity and my mood (not surprising considering the immediately encouraging results). My circulation was improving and there was even tingling in my right arm. When I asked about that Dr. Young said the cancer had been restricting some of the blood circulation going to the arm. Ugh. And the right breast was beginning to feel alive, too. Less like a barnacle.
However, it was also a time of tremendous stress. I was scheduled to return to Chicago in a few days to receive on April 12th the 3rd of three initial “loading doses” of Faslodex “to get me up to therapeutic dose level.” I wanted to continue with Dr. Young where I was having meaningful results with the tumor and in other aspects, but I also didn’t want to quit on the medical protocols because maybe I should be courageous and do the treatments that were making me sick-in-the-short-term in order to save my life? After all, that’s the general routine for cancer, you get sicker before you get better; people take chemo and throw up for months in order to get better. Right?
I’ll throw in here that the progress I was making was noticeable every single day. Not only that, the progress would continue over night so that when I returned the next day, before that day’s treatment, the tumor would measure smaller than it had immediately after the treatment the day before. Dr. Young would explain that there was “momentum” and that’s why he treats daily and it’s important to not skip any days. I have a friend who saw Dr. Young for macular degeneration (his vision improved to 180°). When he missed three consecutive days, his vision returned to what it had been 2 weeks before and that progress had to regained. So, I tried very hard to organize my return to Chicago with a 24-hour turnaround. If I could go get the 3rd dose and return to Dr. Young’s, only missing one treatment, I would do that.
On paper, the 24-turnaround looked like a perfectly good solution but, in fact, I wasn’t up to any of it. I was still very tired, not sleeping because of the cough. I was more awake, but that only helped me realize how weak I was feeling, more alert but that made me realize how I’d been struggling to manage. I’d already been living out of a suitcase for 4+ weeks – Chicago/Orlando/Chicago/DC. I’d been having cancer, so my body was a little busy, and having to negotiate with doctors and diagnoses and side effects, and I didn’t want another dose of the medications. It seemed to me that if the inflammation got even a tiny bit worse, they would have to suck the mucous out of my lungs or I they would fill up with mucous. Antibiotics were not the answer to that.
I initiated long conversations with the doctors and staff at the Chicago hospital about my options. They were “worried about me” if I didn’t take the next dose. Yes, I could restart the meds if I stopped at this point. Yes, they would let me return to their hospital for treatment if that became necessary. Then one phone call late one afternoon sealed the deal. I was speaking with my oncologist’s young PA and she said (I’m paraphrasing but this was the gist): “You can’t heal from Stage IV cancer, you know that, right? We can treat you but it will come back. It will always come back and then we will treat you with stronger and stronger medicines until you die of the cancer or from the medicine, probably in 2 - 5 years. “ When I replied, “But people do heal from Stage IV cancer. It does happen.” And she was quite firm with me, “No. No one can heal from Stage IV cancer.” I knew I was done with a paradigm that firmly believes that I’m going to die anyway regardless of my obediently taking any-and-all the make-you-sick treatments they offer.
I fully appreciated what I was going to be asking Dr. Young to do. “Will you please stand between me and the cemetery and do the best you can to make this incurable cancer go away?” He had the courage to say, “yes,” he would try. He agreed to continue my treatment. “I can’t say you are going to heal, no one knows that. God only knows that. But I will do the best I can for you.”
On April 11th ,
I told CTCA I would not return. I canceled my reservations and appointments to receive more of the medicines that were making me sicker – and DECIDED to continue receiving the daily treatments from Dr. Young that were reducing the cancer significantly and making me feel stronger and healthier. A pretty obvious decision but there were tradeoffs:
The Treatment Plan as of April 8th: 20 more treatments. Dr. Young was treating the obvious cancer tumor and also treating me holistically so was treating the other cancer sites, as well. He was treating my immune system to help my body to help him and to keep myself well from cancer in the future. He was treating my Lungs and I could already begin to breathe deeper than I had been able to in a couple of years; I’d had 3 or 4 bouts of bad bronchitis that lasted months. (Bronchitis: “Un-screamed screams” in Lousie Hay’s book, Heal the Body.) My posture and core strength was improving – my body felt like it was getting somehow younger. He was treating my kidney pain that was chronic – tests had shown an enlarged kidney that was not draining properly due to a block in the ureter. He was supporting my Liver, where I had a constant dull ache that was sometimes quite painful. He was treating my long-increasing incontinence, caused primarily by a very difficult birth of my first child 37 years ago; weirdly, surprisingly, it was becoming better too.
He was also treating whatever was necessary to improve my brain function, increasing my blood and cerebral fluids circulation and so treating my ‘brain’s ability to be a better ‘leader’ of my immune system and entire body’s functions. How did he do that with about 10 needles in my head?
He was also treating my Left Breast where I had a large fibrous mass similar to the one that had been in my Right Breast for 10+ years before the cancer, becoming denser over time and eventually, apparently, had become the now-diagnosed malignant cancer tumor. The Left Breast fibrous mass was also becoming less dense daily.
He was also treating my chronic tinnitus that I had had for 2 years and it was gone after 3 days – returning briefly a few times, but generally gone.
Days #10 – 20, April 7th thru 17th,
I was relaxed after making the stressful, possibly life-or-death choice to not return for the drug protocol.
On Day #11, there was an overnight big change with a sort of pie-shaped piece of the tumor, 10:30 to 11:30 – which was just the encouragement and reinforcement I needed. Dr. Young was working most intently on this area of the tumor, wanting it to ‘retreat’ from the armpit area where the lymph system was involved. The nipple was still ‘pulled’ or ‘pushed’ two inches to the by some mass in the breast.
Over the days, my liver pain became less achey. Altogether, I was feeling better, clearer and more calm. The coughing and poor sleeping continued but the mucous stopped getting worse and worse. I was very tired most days in spite of 8+ hours of rest at night, resting/sleeping during the 2-3 hours of treatment, then napping in the late afternoon. The body needs more rest to heal so I was not resisting.
I had some weird symptoms come up: a buzzing feeling in my outer thighs and a sharp pain in the top of my left foot. Both were familiar symptoms I had before the onset of fibromyalgia in the mid-1990’s. Being well aware that in the holistic healing paradigm the metaphor of “peeling the onion” is often used – symptoms reoccur in the reverse order of their arrival until the root cause is found and can be treated directly, this was good news to me. Maybe my improved immune system, brain function, breathing (read: more O2) and circulation were cleaning things up all around my body! By the end of the 10 days, the buzzing feeling had become itchiness. A definite sign of healing.
Dr. Young had a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. He created lines of weakness (thinness) across an edge of the tumor then, as he continued to treat everywhere and everything else, aggressively treat that ‘separated’ section like a ‘small, more vulnerable enemy’ that could be ‘more easily defeated’. It was incremental, but it was working, day by day more progress could be measured and I could feel the changes in the tumor.
Day #21 – 30 April 18th thru 27th,
Dr. Young fixed my head and improved the blood circulation in my brain, he may have fixed my ability to heal my whole life in my soon-to-be-healthy future. I’m hopeful.
Dr. Young is fixing the cancer. And my immune system. And my lungs. Since my mother died of pulmonary fibrosis and my chest has been feeling heavy and my breathing has been getting more restricted over the last couple of years, I have considered whether my decreasing lung function was taking me in that direction. Teaching yoga, I had always been able to hold the longest OM, but that had changed. Fifteen years ago, I was told by another Chinese medicine doctor that my Lung energy was weak and it seemed to be coming true. My ability to take long deep breaths has now returned and it is wonderful.
Day #31-40 April 28th thru May 7th
Slow, steady progress. The main large lump that remains gets softer and smaller each day. Meanwhile, I’m dealing with the systemic changes that are happening within me on so many levels; like, for instance, my brain seems to be changing. I notice that decision-making is easier, that I can actually make decisions quite easily about minor things – without second guessing myself so many times I actually manage to confuse myself - ugh. It’s so much easier now that my brain knows what it’s thinking and moves on, instead of continuing ad infinitum to think about what’s it’s thinking about – like one of those art installation of mirrors, where you can see yourself seeing yourself seeing yourself.
The slow progress is progress and I’m so very grateful for the progress! I’m so very thankful for the shrinking tumors and for feeling better generally. But sometimes, standing naked from the waist up, feeling vulnerable, day after day after day, letting the someone (even the Good Doctor) plant 100’s of acupuncture needles in my back, neck, head, chest, and torso, gets to me. It’s counter-intuitive, in a self-respect/self-protective kind of way, to let someone poke your upper body full of needles, prick-prick-prick-prick (even though most are painless!), day after day, seven days a week for over a month now. I wonder if I’m ‘hopeful’ or ‘willing to do anything’ or ‘afraid for my life’ or ‘a martyr’ or just ‘insane’. Thank goodness the tumors are visible and palpitate-able so I get the daily positive feedback. It’s getting smaller. It’s getting less dense. It’s getting better. Still I worry about the long-term outcome, the deeper bone sites. Are they getting smaller, too???
One of the many good side effects of Dr. Young’s treatments has been a tremendous increase in my skin’s senses. My skin feels more alive, which apparently means it used to feel more dead. So interesting that I hadn’t realized that it felt that way until it now feels so improved. Maybe it’s my generally increased circulation or improvement in my Brain function. Or maybe more specifically the large improvement in my Lung function (in TCM – Traditional Chinese Medicine – the Lungs are related to the skin, Liver to eyes, Kidneys to ears, and Stomach to muscles) that provides a better energy environment for the skin and maybe also simply provides an increase in O2 to my whole body. I look forward to getting home and using the Qi Machine – serpentine “motion-manufacturer” for the body.
Also, the incontinence is greatly improved. When I do let Dr. Young know it still bothers me some, he adds a few extra needles in my abdomen that day, and voila! During the treatment resting time one day, I felt my pelvis tilt and my abdomen lift – like my pelvic floor had shifted. Wow! Hoping the improvement is now more permanent.
Day #41 - 50 thru May 17th,
Things are going slowly. Sometimes it feels like it is too slowly. There is a large stubborn area that just keeps changing, getting noticeably smaller, noticeably thinner every day, but it won’t ‘let go’ and it won’t divide. So Dr. Young is working on getting it to become more diffuse and ‘melt away’. It’s so very frustrating for me because there are no big changes during these 10 days, no dramatic results. Dr. Young continues to be concerned for any possible vestiges of the tumor in the direction of the lymph glands so he keeps lots of needles blocking the mass back toward the breast. He knows he’s ‘messing with the energies’ (my words) and wants to be careful.
Dr. Young is taking such a risk reputation-wise and putting himself through so much stress to address this serious life-and-death situation every day. I mean, he does have a choice not to deal with this. It is my problem not his; yet he has taken it on. Sometimes he breaks into a sweat when he is applying the many needles. And sometimes he leans back and looks at his needle placements so far and I can see his mind thinking through the patterns, then he will place more needles. He’s being paid well, okay, but I also understand that at any point he could say, “That’s all I can do for you.” And, “You must return to western medicine and take chemo,” would be the unspoken recommendation. So, yes, I do have fear every day about this not working as hoped. It’s possible that even after all this… I’m not being a Pollyanna, even though I talk like one. I remain a Hopeful Realist With Some Doubts! This one area that is very tenacious concerns me, but every day there are small improvements so we are still moving in the right direction.
Day #51 – 60 May 18th thru 27th,
Dr. Young does have a Theory. His Theory is that he is ‘healing’ the cancer cells, not killing them. He’s inviting them to ‘change’ back into normally functioning cells. Using the military metaphor that he often uses: he’s “getting the enemy’s army to surrender and join my army of good cells”. This very much what seems to be happening because the tumor once entirely occupied the breast area on the right side and now there is lots of normal tissues there. There is even a thinness, less fatty tissues, but Dr. Young says that will fill in again when he stops ‘chasing it away’ – wanting to be sure all the areas are good and gone, clear.
Also, Dr. Young has a “River Theory” that would predict the metastases sites are ‘withdrawing’ from wherever they have spread to in the body. The idea being that the original cancer site “overflowed” out of its original location, it got too big to be contained there, and it spread into the lymph system and then on to other parts of the body. As the original cancer site heals, the theory is that the overflow of cancer cells will return to their origin at the first tumor site.
It’s not the western way of thinking about the body - but surely makes a hellava lot more sense to me than what the western docs had said: “Take all our medications and deal with all the side effects and, if we think it’s a good idea, have a mastectomy and radiation treatments, and hopefully the cancer will be better … until it comes back because it will come back - it definitely will - stronger than before. And you will live 2-5 years then die of cancer anyway,” … if the our treatments haven’t killed you. Really???? I thought they were crazy-talking!!!! (Hope I’m right!!)
I can’t count my chickens before they hatch, but I’m feeling hopeful which is better than the alternative. (Yes, my hopefulness does ebb and flow, sometimes hourly, certainly daily.)
Day #59, April 26th.
Big News! After waiting for over 10 days to get the results of the mammo and ultrasound done on April 14th, finally Dr. Tlemsani called from CTCA. She was impressed with the changes! The main tumor is described as diffuse and therefore difficult to measure, but it’s definitely much smaller, and the lymph nodes do not appear to be cancerous – no longer ‘suspicious’. (I never had a biopsy of the lymph nodes.) Dr. Tlemsani wants me to return to Chicago for a PET scan 3 months after my previous one in March, so we agreed to set up an appointment after mid-June in Chicago. I’m very interested to learn about the status of the various previously identified malignancies: breast, lymph, bones. This will be the most important test to evaluate the success of the “enemy army defecting” into being on my side, and the “River Theory”!! I don’t hold Dr. Young responsible if his theories didn’t work perfectly in my case. It is clear to me how hard he has been trying, every day. And he didn’t have to do it at all.
Day #61 – 69 May 28th thru June 5th,
Dr. Young trying to divide the tumor, and it getting softer but it continuing to glom together in one mass, every treatment slightly smaller and slightly thinner.
Since my arrival, here so much has changed. The tumors, my skin, my brain, my breathing, my liver/kidney pain, even my face. Perhaps a NEW me is emerging – a new HEALTHY me is emerging. Perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to rush that profound a birthing?
Day #71 – 80 June 7th thru 16th ,
So much to think about. Good Stress/Bad Stress, it’s all stress. I have to handle the next few weeks to even get to the point where I can begin to formulate a plan for my life. Wow, this is new territory for me!
Acupuncture-wise, cancer-treatment-wise, it’s much, much easier to stay confident when there’s easily measured progress, big positive changes. It’s so reassuring, but it is harder to get a firm grip on the small, incremental changes happening daily. Like watching your child grow and not really noticing that every single day they are bigger than yesterday, these tumors were getting smaller, but every single day it was hard to quantify the change. I could feel the change with my finger tips after each treatment, my finger tips knew, but I also thought I might be giving myself false encouragement – “Yes, I’m sure it feels smaller.” Then I’d think, “You’re just fooling yourself. You are feeling what you want to feel.” Yes, we are making progress but the slowness makes it a little confusing. Depending on the ebbs and flows of my confidence, I am sure and then again not-so-sure – BUT, over time, as the weeks go by, there is measureable progress and I’m reassured and so grateful.
Dr. Young feels more confident about the lymph area now and is concerned primarily with the mass that remains, the malignancies we know about elsewhere in my bones, and my liver – and my immune system and my brain system. (Ha – just those things!) If the mass is still malignant, which we don’t know, it is a mass of the strongest cancer cells, the strongest cells of enemy’s army. Therefore, Dr. Young says daily, how it’s so important that we really do a good job and clear this last bit. Here is where future relapse is hiding. Here in the place, a few cancer cells can wreak havoc by creating an entire new colony, a stronger, bigger, meaner, more deadly army that will show up a few years later. To really cure the cancer, to fully heal my body, means that every last member of this army has surrendered! And then, with a fully functioning immune system, my future is full of health – I just have to watch out for earthquakes, landslides, tornadoes, and errant buses. Getting run over by a bus would be too ironic after all this!
Getting the PET scan information next week will be so helpful. What is really going on? Where is there malignancy? Where is it okay? Where does my body still need help? Is there a crisis we are unaware of? Are the bone sites worse, improving, or better yet, resolved? Is my hip pain sciatica or the pelvis tumor growing into the bone, dissolving it as the days pass? Will we have success, or failure? Chemo after all? Life or Death? Shit. No wonder I’m a little nervous.
Day #81 – 94 June 17th thru 22nd,
When I came to Dr. Young, the right breast main tumor (over 5” wide), extended over into my armpit and had spread from there into the lymph nodes. Over the past months, the acupuncture treatments have reduced the tumor from every direction. Most importantly, Dr. Young felt he had to get the main tumor away from it’s proximity to the lymph system to prevent any continuing spread of cancer cells (River Theory: “rivulets of cancer cells can overflow from the main river (tumor) into the lymph system and so on to the rest of the body”).
The area to the outside of the breast toward the lymph glands is very quiet now and remaining dense tissues are receding toward the breast. This means Dr. Young is able to treat the remaining stubborn mass (at 9 to 11 o’clock), the ‘strongest army’, more directly from more directions; he is now able to ‘approach’ from 6 to 9 o’clock. His goal is for any and all cancer cells to retreat into the most tenacious mass, so then, when this mass surrenders, the CANCER surrenders. With his River Theory, a metaphor, when the Heart of the enemy army changes (defects!) and joins MY healthy, friendly, pro-life army, the other sites of metastatic Cancer will also surrender. Strategy: to back the Nazi cancer cells, the SS officers of the enemy army, into a corner and then end it. Deliver the energetic knockout punch. Surrender. Liberation Day.
There is exciting progress over these days with the stubborn mass finally changing shape, reducing from below, becoming less oval, less defined. Even the original dipple I noticed 13 years ago is un-dippling. I’m so encouraged that this area is showing definitive progress daily. Finally (I think I already said that)!
The hard part is anticipating the trip to Chicago on June 22nd for a PET scan . This scan is the $64,000 Test – these results are going to be the jury’s verdict: Life or Death. At least, that’s how it feels to me. I know there’s been great progress here, but are the bones also healing. Am I healing? Me and Dr. Young (and his staff) are the only ones who’ve maintained their confidence throughout this long process – and I happen to know for a fact that both of us have had our doubts. “There are no guarantees. I will do the best I can for you.”
Day #86 & 87 June 22nd & 23rd, 2015
Chicago. I and my daughter arrived at the hospital on the CTCA limo and it was old, familiar ground to me. Our appointment at the Garden Level Clinic was soon after, so we made our way there and received our ID credentials. Without a long wait, I was ushered in to have blood work drawn which was the easy process it usually is for me since I have ‘hoses’ for veins in my arms. Phlebotomists love me! After the blood draw there was time until my Imaging appointment at 3 pm and we sat in the pleasant cafeteria so Emily could have some lunch.
Since Emily has not been much informed during the past few months due to her 24/7 job as an administrator at a prep school, I needed to prepare her for the possibility that we would receive difficult news. Cancer in the bones is tough. There is really no ‘cure’ for cancer that has metastasized to the bones. If the bone sites have been getting worse for 3 months, even while the breast tumor and lymph nodes had appeared to become non-malignant, it would not be good news. Stage IV breast cancer was not a diagnosis that could be easily resolved and we needed to be braced for a go/no go on my healing prognosis. This test, the PET to be done later that afternoon, would tell the tale.
I had been focused on getting the PET scan done; the nearing date for the PET scan; getting to Chicago; connecting with Emily; the pre-procedure for the PET scan; the PET scan itself, silence in the room and me being perfectly still. But everything after now, the only thing to do now was to worry. Not just what will the news be, but will I be able to handle the news if it’s bad. Will I be angry, or sad, or raging, or just cry, or become hysterical and ‘lose it’? And if it’s good – how good will it be? Sort good in the sense that it’s not bad, or really, really good in the sense that all of the malignancies are improved or gone.
Emily was great. Let’s go out to dinner! Let’s find a nice restaurant – we are not going to have dinner in the CTCA cafeteria. Everywhere you look, everyone in the room is in one stage of cancer or another. So true to pro-active Emily form, it wasn’t long before we were in a cab for a 15 minutes ride to the Sweetwater Tavern. We had a nice dinner. Visited a bit. But we were both very tired and our appointment the next day with the oncologist began with an 8:30 check-in. It felt like limbo – no happiness, no sadness, no fear, no worry. Empty emotions. Too many emotionally possibilities would have been appropriate so I just shut down.
After a good sleep for both of us at the Lotus Hotel, we grabbed the shuttle to CTCA in the morning. Almost immediately after arriving in the Clinic we began the process. First meeting with a nurse for vitals, weight/BP, etc. Everything looked good there, except I had lost 10 pounds since March. They don’t like to see weight loss in cancer patients; it’s usually not a good sign.
As the nurse was leaving I guess she could sense the tension in the room. Emily and I were friendly but in a taught, spring-about-to-sprung way. As she opened the door, she looked back and said, “Don’t worry. Your test look good.” To Emily and I she might as well have done a drum roll, the kind of drum roll that is followed by a good thing happening. We were cautiously relieved and hopeful, finally, the PET scan scales tipped a little bit in my direction for the first time.
My oncologist, Dr. Tlemcani, arrived with a big smile on her face. I have really good news to share with you. And she proceeded to let us know that the malignancies were almost ALL gone, except a lesion in the T7 spine vertebrae and one remaining in the sternum. “We have never seen results like this before. People leave here for 3 months to do alternative treatments and always come back 3 months sicker, never, never better. I am so thrilled for you. And, of course, I want to know all about what you’ve been doing, because it’s been working!”