Tagged: Well it certainly can’t hurt

TL;DR: Laurel asks the universe a question. Gets answer.

help

As a Jewish person (by choice, by conversion, the hard way, over a year, in NYC) I feel connected to the white haired, angry yet helpful G-d of the Old Testament.

As a person who was raised in the Presbyterian church, I do also love me some Jesus. (And a good old-fashioned Protestant hymn.)

As a dyed in the wool, former- Dead-following, ecstatic dancing, sage burning hippie, I feel connected to the earth and the stars and the turning of the wheel. I believe in magic and fairies and elemental forces.

I know to some people, these things are mutually exclusive, but this is just my way. I know there is something bigger than us.

And while I might not always know what to call it, I do talk to it every day.

In times of trouble or doubt, I ask for direction and most importantly, I ask for my answers to be delivered in ways that I can easily understand. Then I go and do mountains of research and tap every human resource possible; all the while looking and watching and listening for signs.

And I always get them.

Taking time off chemo to undergo that pesky brain radiation had the expected result. My disease has advanced. Again, I landed in the hospital and now I am two steps back. On oxygen again, weak, behind the eight ball. Now the question I faced was this: would my current treatment still be effective, or had the time off given the cancer an edge? If so, what would my next treatment be and would it even work? I had just sent off a fresh biopsy to Paradigm for analysis and the results were disappointing. The sample taken was too small, there was nothing to report.

That left me in a tricky spot. Should I just go for the next thing and hope for the best? This would mean I could never go back to my old treatment regimen and would never know if I could have gotten more mileage from it. On the other hand, I could give my old protocol another week to see if it would finally kick back into gear— but in doing so, would risk further advancement of my disease in the case it was really tapped out.

So, I asked. “Help me out here. Show me in ways I can understand.”

When I woke up, this was the first thing in my inbox:

mistakes

Okay. I  guess I can see how a decision making app created to help a person select a vacation destination or a new expensive camera might also aid a chick in pursuing various chemo options. I download the thing, run the numbers and sticking with the current treatment comes out ahead. Barely.

Next!

I send an email to my favorite witch, Paige Zaferiou. I ask her to throw some cards on my behalf. Here, in part, is what she reports:

The short-term outcome of staying the course is the Daughter of Swords. This indicates a potential need for study, schooling, learning of some kind. . . This card can also indicate that a message is coming to you, and it will contain important information you do not yet possess . . . Finally, the card I pulled to determine whether you should truly stay the course is the 10 of Cups. That is the card of YES, of happiness, and wishes come true. . .

Okay. If I’m smelling what she’s stepping in, I keep going with the old stuff, but keep an eye out for some new info. Mmm hmmm . . .

Lastly, I hit up my favorite random bible quote generator and here’s what it kicks out:

 

Old Testament, natch. I see you,  YHVH. (But also, Christians sometimes refer to the Book of Isaiah as “The Fifth Gospel”, so I see you, too, Jesus!) I take this one to mean I should listen to my gut. Which I do. I tell my oncologist I want to give the old stuff one more chance. Just to be sure.

Fast forward to yesterday’s chemo.

I am focused, determined to make the most of this. I go alone and I don’t even read. I rest quietly, imagining the great General Patton standing in front of an ginormous American flag, like the opening scene of the movie “Patton.”

Just like in the movie, he yells,

“I don’t want any messages saying ‘I’m holding my position.’ We’re not holding a goddamned thing. We’re advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding anything except the enemy’s balls. We’re going to hold him by his balls and we’re going to kick him in the ass; twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We’re going to go through the enemy like shit through a tinhorn.”

I don’t know what a tinhorn is, but in my mind I see a tiny Patton step off the edge of the stage and into my IV tube. As he gets sucked in, another mini general takes his place and does the same. They march into my bloodstream. Kicking cancer’s ass.

Wait. Something is wrong. The back of my head is on fire? I sit up, confused. Itchy. A nurse walks past my door, looks my way, does a double-take, reels back in. I look at my arm, hand, see my veins bulging like snakes. Suddenly, there are six nurses in my room. There is a great deal of rushing around. Someone squirts a huge dose of Benadryl into my line after the generals. I fall over sideways, like a bear shot with a tranquilizer dart. “You could have warned me” I say.

What I didn’t know, is that on or around the sixth dose of Paclitaxel, some patients suddenly display an allergic reaction. For those that do, this signals the end of this course of treatment.

Aha! The missing information!

Nope. There’s something else. Today, from my oncologist:

We looked back at the genomic analysis from early 2014 and it highlighted that TOPO2A is expressed in the cancer cells, which could mean that this is one of the drivers of the cancer.  Inhibition of this enzyme could therefore be an effective strategy.  Liposomal doxorubicin would be the best drug with which to pursue this.

Now THAT is what I call news I can use. I start my new treatment next Thursday.  I am happy I did what I did. I may have lost another week but I know now, with certainty that the treatment had done all it could. I never have to say, “I wonder if . . .”

I am confident the new stuff will do some good for a good long time.

I am grateful to whatever force it is that guides us if only we ask. And listen. And if you haven’t seen it, “Patton” is a really good movie.

 

 

 

 

 

New weapon in the fight against Foot-in-Mouth-Disease

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People say the darndest things. Especially when they’re worried and/or scared. Ok, some people are just jerks, but mostly they mean well and the stuff they say just comes out wrong.

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Today a friend pointed me to the Emily McDowell Studio website. She’s designed a fresh, honest line of heartfelt “empathy cards.” Like Hallmark, but for grim times.

Check ’em out. They’re fun but not flippant, cute but not coy. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of room inside for you to copy the inspirational quote about never giving up that you saw on Pinterest this morning. (I’m kidding.)

Honestly, I think she’s on to something. I hope these cards will make great strides in the battle against the tragic, (and so often incurable) Foot-in-Mouth-Disease.

THANK YOU EMILY!

I’m soaking in it

OGaKxS

Of all the cancer treatments I’ve been on, my least favorite was Affinitor. Why? Because they told me not to take baths! (It makes the skin on your feet peel off.) They also told me, “not to clap my hands” (?!) but I didn’t give a crap about that rule, because I am not addicted to generating applause.

I am, however, addicted to long, hot baths.

Baths have now replaced all my former vices— and I had plenty, let me tell you. Like any good gateway drug, it now takes more than some cut-rate epsom salts to get me off. (Plus, so much of that store-bought product comes with extra chemicals.) So, half out of necessity, half out of curiosity, I’ve become a bit of a mad scientist. Bathtub gin, bathtub meth— pfft, let’s make some REAL bathtub drugs! Who’s getting in with me?

Kava/Damiana Soak for Magicks and Happy Thoughts

(I order my herbs and muslin bags from Mountain Rose Herbs, they’re organic, and fairly priced.)

I must preface this one by saying I am a bit of a hippie. This bath smells like Stevie Nicks’ dirty laundry and the water you soak in will be a sludgy brown color. (It won’t stain your skin or tub though.) If you can get past those two hurdles— embrace them, even—in my experience, this bath is pretty doggone rewarding.

Mix 1 cup kava  and 1/2 cup of damiana in a pot and fill with water. Bring up to a boil and then simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs into a muslin bag and tie. Give it a squeeze and toss into the tub along with the “broth” you just made. Light some candles. Get in and float away . . . see what happens next.

 

 

File under: things that don’t work

I like to think there’s wisdom in folk medicine. I had a horrible earache once and I read the cure for that is to stick a whole garlic clove in your ear. I did it and it was creepy, but it totally worked. So now that I have lymphedema (or as I like to call it: Lunch Lady Arm) I thought why not check the Google and give some down home remedies a whirl?

Thats how I learned all about cabbage poultices. I had a special helper that day who was totally into it.

haze

Verdict: It didn’t do diddly squat, but it was entertaining.

cabbage arm

Further adjustments

A lil bit ago I was featured in the Oakland Floats Wellness Blog. Soon afterwards, I got this super nice email:

 

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I don’t have much experience with chiropractors. Back in the day, when I was married to the chef, I slept wrong or something and one day I suddenly couldn’t turn my head to the left. My husband publicist’s husband happened to be a chiropractor so I called him up and told him what was happening. He said to come on down to his office later that day. When I got there, he put me on an undulating pneumatic torture table. While I was face down on the thing with my spine bobbing along like an inchworm, the doctor suddenly sat down on the floor near my head. He put his face in front of my face and said, “I think your husband is sleeping with my wife.” When I got up off the table my neck didn’t hurt anymore but my heart was broken. It kind of turned me off on chiropractors, you know?

That was a long time ago though, so while I was in SF for my infusion, I visited Dr. Brett at his super awesome Piedmont clinic. It turns out that he’s a former MMA fighter who decided to use his powers for good. He has a great story and if you want to hear it, you should pay him a visit, because I can’t do it justice. He also founded a non-profit called Pura Espina Pura Vida, and hopes to one day open a free chiropractic clinic in Oakland. I’m not even going to mention how gorgeous he his because LOOKS DON’T MATTER. (You’re going to google him now, aren’t you? Okay fine, here. See for yourself.) Anyway, he spent a long time explaining how chiropractic works in general, my own unique slouchy computer-user spinal issues and the specific way in which he thought he might be able to support my healing. I agreed with him and  after showing me lots of different models of bones and spines which were really neat, it was time for my adjustment, which went down like this:

I kneeled on the floor with my upper body on what looked like a really short weight bench. He told me to turn my head turned to the side and rest my hands, palms up, on the floor. Then, when I was properly situated, Dr. Brett Jones threw open the window and ducked out of the way as Chuck Norris flew in and delivered one solitary, unbelievably powerful flying roundhouse kick directly to the base of my skull.

image006

 

I mean, I think that’s what happened.

I sat up to see if I was still alive and all I could do was giggle at the sensation of cold, invisible raindrops raining down the back of my neck. It felt like something that had been closed for a long, long time had been opened. Like a garden hose, unkinked, with water newly coursing through it. Quite awesome, actually. And that was the end. I made an appointment to come back again the next time I was in town. If you live in the Bay Area and you’re looking for a chiropractor, you should definitely give him a call.

The sun was shining and I had a few hours to kill before my infusion, so I decided to stop at a redwood hot tub place just down the street and have a soak. As I climbed out, I slipped and fell down the stairs, bruising my ribs and nearly ripping my arm out of its socket. My neck still felt great, though. Next time, I think I’ll play it safe and take a pass on the jacuzzi.

 

 

 

Spa day? Dolphinately.

 

Hey, sorry to keep doing blog posts on weird stuff that’s only available here in Vegas, but hey — at least this way, you’ll have a list of things to do next time you visit. Other than cocaine and hookers, I mean.

I read a little something about Yoga Among the Dolphins at the Mirage in the Sunday NYT. Dolphins are okay, but I never really felt like they were my spirit animals or anything. There are people though, who ascribe all sorts of magical powers to them. Dolphin have healing energy!? Obviously, I needed to find out for myself  — what was the porpoise of this? (Sorry. Had to.)

Bottom line? It was a yoga class. In the middle of a fish tank. As far as I can tell, I didn’t receive any telepathic communication or healing vibrations, but the sounds of honking and squeaking and clicking was a nice distraction from the burning pain emanating from my hamstrings. At one point, when we were in Purvottanasana pose, I glanced over and one of the dolphins was up against the window, floating upside down, imitating us.

After class ended and we left the small studio within their tank, they swam along beside us on the surface of the water, flipping their tails as we walked away.

Honestly, the best part of this whole experience was having access to the Mirage spa afterwards. I drank a smoothie and then took a 25-minute shower, glopping at least 40 dollars worth of Moroccan Oil conditioner onto my head. Then I sat around the the steam room trying not to hear a midwestern tourist complain loudly about every possible thing under the sun. Eventually, she ran out of problems discuss with her friends and decided to go do something else. To celebrate my freedom from a hot wooden box, I stuck a couple of cucumber slices on my eyelids and held them in place with an icy cold washcloth blindfold while I marinated in the Jacuzzi. After a long while, I climbed out of the whirlpool wrapped myself up in a robe and laid down on a lounge chair to watch fake candles flicker against the faux venetian-plastered wall.

I felt just like a marshmallow – some kind of gooey blob held together by a thin exterior membrane. I thought to myself, “This is heaven.” Which led me to wonder: “What if this really was heaven?” What if after we die, we go? I thought about it for a while and decided that wouldn’t be so bad — as long as that loudmouth broad doesn’t get in.

 PS: Yes, I have seen The Cove. I don’t support marine shows. The Mirage enclosure is a research-only facility, the dolphins are rescues, (not captured) and they are not made to perform tricks for food. The dolphins seemed really happy and healthy — just in case you were wondering.

 

Hitting the juice

 

I treated myself to an IV today. In Vegas they have luxurious spas for hangovers. You can go and lie down in an awesome massage chair in a dark room and they give you an iPad all loaded up with music and a squishy blanket. They stick a needle in your arm and boom – you’re all rehydrated and pumped up with vitamins and the antioxidant glutithione (which my TCM doctor also recommended I take), for 100 bucks. It is LEGIT. So, I went and while the bag was dripping into my vein, I thought about all the epic hangovers I have endured and how nice it might be if I could turn back time and go back to the days I drank way too much vodka because my marriage was falling apart and I thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. But then I thought about all the great things that are happening in my life now, even despite having a stupid cancer problem and decided I wouldn’t go back even if I could.

Anyway, the place is in the MGM and it’s called Reviv. Thumbs up.

 

Hitting the juice again.
Hitting the juice again.

 

 

I got stoned

A few of my early memories are centered around a rock that was in the front yard of my parent’s house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was around three or four years old. The yard was landscaped with crushed granite, with a couple of smallish boulders tossed around for flair. One of them just happened to be the right size and shape for my little person brain to think of it as a special pal. When I turn these moments over and watch them again in my mind, I know that I REALLY loved to sit on this rock, that I would attempt to do just that every time I went in or out of the house — and probably because of this, (understandably) I can still sense the vague echo of annoyance which emanated  from my mom and dad.

A few months ago, when I decided to clean out my heavy-ass purse, this is what I found:

They're not heavy, they're my brothers

 

 

That’s a bunch of rocks. Not even sure where or why I picked them up. So, yeah, I guess I’m still getting attached to rocks. The email I got from Anna from Vibrant Reiki offering “stone healings” combined with my upcoming scan to create a perfect storm of craving for a fresh new magical hippie fix. Now I can say I literally have left no stone unturned.

After a regular Reiki session, Anna stuck a baseball-sized chunk of raw fluorite in each of my hands, and then busily went about weaving an energetic “grid” around me, using over 100 assorted “sacred gemstones” like quartz crystals and bloodstones and I forgot what else. Let me just stop here for a moment and say that when you pay a stranger a few hundred dollars to stack a bunch of rocks on you in the hope of fighting the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells going on inside your body, well, you might tend to start feeling like an asshole. That is, until the stones you are clutching so fervently suddenly stop feeling like cold, hard rocks and subtly shift into feeling like warm, soft hamsters. Once those rocks change, IT IS ALL OVER. Go on and float right over the falls on a wave of positive bullshit and smash yourself on the boulders below. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. None of this is real. Rocks aren’t real. You’re not real and cancer isn’t real either. What a fucking relief.

Go on and judge, lord knows I do.. Anyway, at the end of my session I didn’t want to hand over the fluorites. They just felt so good. Again, I should remind you, I thought my first friend was a rock.

I just ordered some fluorite online.