Calling All Angels! Help Lua cover costs of cancer therapies.
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As a healer who has studied, embraced, and recommended alternative and complimentary therapies for nearly fifty years (and eaten a mostly organic, whole food diet for the last 25 years), to hear the doctor say I have an incurable form of breast cancer is a shock to the system.  This is a story of the wisdom and energy that animates our bodies, which is both our life force and our deepest knowing, and how hope and healing manifest through prayer and intention.  

It started Memorial Day weekend - 14 hours of strenuous yard work over three days to uproot the prolific nut grass that was choking the decorative and floral plants in both the front and back yard.  I'd gone back to my yoga practice in earnest - the air in Sacramento was making me wheeze for about 20 minutes after my high intensity cycling classes, so I joined the karma crew at Arden Hot Yoga and was feeling like I'd never been stronger in my life and as I approached my 60th birthday I had regained much of my flexibility.  But the yard work - digging and pulling for hours on end - landed right around T-12 (bottom of rib cage on the spine) and all of my usual methods for realigning the spine weren't working. 

After a chiro fractured my third rib just underneath the L shoulder blade, I swore I would never go to a chiro again (2017).  But my family of body workers and light workers were unable to release the restriction in my back, so I started searching for a chiro with good reviews and methods for releasing the musculature both prior to and after adjusting the spine.  I booked an appointment and the first visit was fine.  I informed him of my prior injury, informed him that I had osteopenia ( the bones are weaker than normal, but not so far gone that they break easily, which is the hallmark of osteoporosis).  Consequently, he opted to adjust the mid thoracic spine with me lying supine (face up), a lower impact approach.  The second adjustment felt intense, but not like anything was cracked. But in the morning, as I started to take a breath in, my ribcage TOTALLY seized up, giving me about 30% normal lung capacity.

I went to an Osteopathic Manual Therapist who is AMAZING, and he released the diaphragm so that I could once again breathe ($95 for a 15-minute session).  I called my tribe of fellow healers and they all got busy putting my displaced ribs back in place and relieving the muscle spasms in the intercostals (little muscles in between the ribs) and my L hip flexors.  After three weeks, there was little improvement, but for my breathing.  In fact, the pain was getting worse and migrating all over the ribs, the shoulders and into my hands, down to the left leg and turning into plantarfasciitis.  I was worried that the Rheumatoid Arthritis (that had been reversed with the addition of a few supplements to my regimen) was returning,  and I ordered a 12-week supply of cerasomal cis-9 cetyl myristoleate (CMO), a fatty acid chain that had completely reversed the chronic RA pain that had been slowly crippling me from 2007 through 2010.  A few sessions with a Bowen Therapist had brought about a 40% reduction in my pain and kicked my lymphatic system into gear.  Daily kelp and CMO had me pain free within a span of twelve weeks. My rheumatologist changed my diagnosis from RA to "elevated rheumatoid factor" in August of 2016.

By late June 2019, I phoned my primary care office.  My doc was out on maternity leave until January 2020, so I was seen by my son's primary doc.  I requested an x-ray, and the doctor felt it was unnecessary. l prevailed, explaining that I wanted data, and that if there was a fracture I would suspend my attempts at yoga and rest until it healed, but that if there was no fracture, I would continue with slow-motion asanas and avoid anything that provoked pain or discomfort.  The x-ray was unremarkable.

I continued with gentle stretching, but was becoming less and less mobile over the next month and by mid-August I had a feeling that something was VERY WRONG.  I went back to the condescending Dr. "I don't like diagnostic tools, because they necessitate more diagnostics" and requested an MRI.  He indicated that he didn't like MRIs, because all kinds of asymptomatic things show up that you have to chase down with more tests.  I indicated that it just sounded like lazy medicine to me, that my insurance would cover the test (I'd had one with the prior chiropractic injury), that it was my right to request it, and his obligation to order it, which he did.  The online platform for communication with my entire medical team (PCP, Ob/Gyn, rheumatologist, endocrinologist, etc.) provided a copy of the referral instructing me to contact a certain phone number if I hadn't received a call to schedule the MRI within ten business days.  I waited the requisite number of days and phoned the imaging center to schedule the MRI, which was set for August 27.

In the meanwhile, I also called the insurance company and changed my Primary Care Physician to an osteopath who went to medical school at Touro University, which I knew trained their docs intensively in Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (the origin and foundation for CranioSacral Therapy), and was hopeful that perhaps Sutter Medical might offer OMT - an uncommon practice in mainstream healthcare.  I booked my first appointment (meet and greet) with the new PCP, whom I will refer to as Dr Yes.

On September 11, I arrived at the physical therapy office for my first appointment to assess the pain, swelling, and weakness in my hands and feet, which I believed to be referred from the spastic L hip flexor and nerve impingement in the cervical spine.  I paid the co-pay and waited to be called in.  The PT attending me that day informed me that we were not going to be having a session that day, that they would refund the $15 co-pay, and that I should proceed upstairs to the family practice (Let's call him Dr. No), because the MRI results and report would be reviewed with the doctor who ordered the tests. The doctor's tone and demeanor were vastly different that day, a mixture of penitence and slow deliberation with no trace of his usual dismissive and patronizing superiority.

Dr. No explained that the MRI not only indicated a fractured seventh rib at the right flank, but also revealed multiple lesions on my axial and appendicular skeleton (ribs, spine, iliac crest, and right shoulder, and pelvis), specifically "osseous structures suspicious for diffuse osseous metastatic disease" or BONE CANCER.  He referred me to the medical oncology department, and ordered for the next day a PET-scan from the base of the skull to mid-thigh with contrast dye. Dr. No said he would be happy to continue as my primary care doc until my doctor returned from maternity leave in January, and sent me on my way.  I was reeling, certain that the fact it had metastasized to the bone meant that there was no treatment - I was a goner (this was the last metastatic phase of both my brother's and my mother's cancer battle).

On 9/13 (Friday the 13th), I saw that the report was in from the PET-scan, but knew that they would wait to provide the report to me until the oncology team met with me.  I couldn't get through an entire weekend knowing the results were in but that I'd be left in the dark for a few days.  So I staked out a chair in the waiting area at my new Osteopath’s office and, when called up, requested a copy of the PET-scan report, which I could get help interpreting to some degree - enough not to freak myself out reading it unsupervised.  An hour later, I'd spent five minutes with the attending physician and left with the report in hand.  It showed many lesions in the axial (spine and ribs) and appendicular (pelvis, sternum, manubrium, shoulder) skeleton, and lesions in all four quadrants of the right breast, suggesting breast cancer and metastatic bone disease (cancer spreading from the breast), but nothing in the left breast and all clear in the organs and soft tissue.

A referral was made to oncology, and my sister Lisa and I met with the oncologist the following week.  She ordered a breast MRI and we met with her the following week to review the results - again imaging suggesting cancer in the right breast.  A biopsy was ordered for the following Friday.  It felt like an eternity between these appointments, and the pain in my bones worsened by the day, necessitating a walker and fairly powerful opioids to quell the deep bone pain.  The oncologist drafted a letter to my employer (State of California) recommending that I be approved for teleworking (from home in my pjs) due to the weakness of the bones and risk of falling.  This was quickly approved, and my employer has been mercifully flexible and accommodating with my schedule so that I can preserve my sick and vacation leave and still put the hours in to do my job. Once we got the pain management figured out, I found a balance between pain relief and mental acuity for focus on the detailed research and work I do.

The biopsy/ultrasound/mammogram results came back, and we met with the breast oncologist on October 7th.  He confirmed that I have a highly aggressive and fast spreading form of cancer known as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2 positive). I'm undergoing a 12-week round of chemo therapy through December 21 (at which time they will repeat the PET-Scan to see what the treatments have achieved), as well as a full year of infusion with HER2-targeted therapies (Trastuzumab or Herceptin). I have just completed a week of radiation treatments on the metastasis in the left hip socket, which was growing excruciatingly painful, and the pain is already down to about a '3' on a scale of one to ten, as opposed to last week's pain level, which was '20.' Monthly injections of a bone strengthening agent to rebuild the bone that was digested by cancerous lesions already seem to be working and my posture is gradually improving. They tell me that this cancer is incurable and will require close monitoring and ongoing treatments when it does recur, and that, if all goes well, I may have another five years to live.  

But I’ve declared a Jihad on Cancer, and am determined, God willing, to be one those people we all know who was supposed to be dead 20 years ago.  I am asking for your prayers, visits if you have time and proximity in your favor, and am launching this campaign to help me cover what the insurance company does not:  copays, prescriptions, complementary treatments such as colonics, acupuncture, Chinese and Tibetan herbs, vitamins and supplements,  devices such as  compression socks & orthopedic shoes for neuropathy, and gentle body work sessions as I heal!

I ’m feeling so incredibly held by the Divine Loving Force that animates every last atom of our existence and buoyed up by the outpouring of prayers and love from all of the extraordinary friends and family members who keep showing up to bless the way! Thankful that the chiro cracked a rib and drew attention to what was brewing under the surface. Let the healing continue!

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