What a week!

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What is needed right here is a big eyes-crossed emoticon. But I’m too tired to find one, so you will have to make it up in your head.

This has been one crazy week.

On the bad side, my neck/shoulder pain has continued. I finally was able to figure out that it happens whenever pressure is put anywhere in the neck/shoulder/back/front region, on either side, although the pain is only on my left side. You can pretty quickly deduce that this is a condition that does not allow much rest. Just leaning back on the couch triggers it, and lying down in any way or shape, on either side, or front of back, triggers it. If I find a position that puts less pressure in these areas, it seems to involve odd neck positions, and that triggers it too.

So here is what that has looked like. At night I go to sleep and within a few hours the pain has reached the point where I have to get out of bed. I may not necessarily wake up for this. One night I found myself sitting in the kitchen chair with no memory of how I got there. Other times I wake up for the initial leave of the bed, but wherever I wander, I keep dozing off, as in my head flops over, I walk a little unsteadily, shall we say. Sometimes I catch myself starting to fall off, whether I am standing or sitting. One of the things that helps the pain is standing in the shower, so I have done that a couple of times. Last night I kept catching myself falling asleep standing in the shower. With just a few hours of sleep at night, I have been exhausted in the daytime as well. With only one exception, I haven’t been able to take a nap because as soon as I lay down it starts hurting and I get up again.

Needless to say, I have not been very productive this week, with two exceptions. The first is that on Friday I actually made it to a coffee shop after radiation and wrote for awhile. This was not due to planning and discipline, but to a stroke of inspiration I had on the way to radiation. The last chapter of my book started falling into my lap, and I knew if I didn’t get it down I’d lose the heart of it. I wrote on my iPad rather than my laptop, since I had not planned for this, so it was awkward, and I didn’t complete the chapter. I need to work on it some more, but I have allowed myself to put it off a few days because I know I am so tired I could not do it justice. But I was happy to at least make a start on this promise to myself.

This week I also hosted my first dōTERRA online class. It is a week-long class with ten participants, and I have to say, it has been a lot of work, and I have been a little dazed and confused for part of it, but it has actually been fun. I have made some really fun mistakes, like the time that my computer continued broadcasting live for quite awhile after I thought it had been turned off. I still have not watched it to see just how badly I embarrassed myself, but I know I whipped my wig off and sat down at the computer, and that I caught on video my comment that I had just slathered myself in marijuana, referring to the anti-inflammatory cream I have with cannabis trichomes, which I used to try to stop the pain. Not available through dōTERRA, by the way! Didn’t work either, just as the oils I did try did not work, and the Motrin does not work, and the muscle relaxants prescribed by the doctor on Friday did not work. Well, the muscle relaxants enabled me to get a few hours more sleep than I have been, but they did not prevent me from waking up in pain.

Nevertheless, I have discovered that what those dōTERRA people say is true: I actually do love this stuff, and I do love sharing about it. And I do love the people I have been sharing with. Some I know, some I know only from Facebook, others I don’t really know at all. When I set up the class, I said I had room for ten people to participate, and these ten people asked to be included. They actually all seem to have been showing up for the classes, whether live or the recorded version available later. They have been wonderful and supportive and kind. They have told me I am beautiful, even though I can see the video broadcast of myself and I am horrified! They have told me that I am doing a great job, even though I find myself reading from a paper and still stumbling over the words, whether from exhaustion or natural lack of talent. But I have really appreciated their kindness. Really.

Other bad things have been happening in my body recently as well. Whether they are related to my pain I don’t know. But I have been puffy, like steroid puffy, even though I am no longer on steroids. My fingers have been swollen, and so have my feet and ankles. The neuropathy left from chemotherapy has been more pronounced. Here is where the dōTERRA did supply some relief from discomfort, as the area around my toes was numb and inflamed, and a good application of helichrysum and frankincense in fractionated coconut oil made them feel much better. The general inflammation, however, has been pronounced, and could well have something to do with the pain I have been experiencing.

I need a deeper change, however, and I know that. I have been eating terribly. I have been eating very unhealthy food in unhealthy amounts, and I feel awful. I know that I also need to take control of my diet and my life because of this disease. It seems as though every week I run into someone whose cancer had beat cancer once only to have it return a few years later. That second visit is generally a lot harder than the first. Often, in fact, it is fatal.

So I am back to my vegan diet, and I will let you know how that goes.

Spiritually it has been an interesting week as well. While I was experiencing discomfort during one of my radiation treatments, I closed my eyes and tried to go to that place where I danced with Jesus on the water. (For those who are new, this is an image my pastor gave me when I was first diagnosed, of Jesus reaching out to Peter and inviting him to walk on the water with him. I have visualized that during some of my more difficult times, only rather than walking I found myself dancing on the sparkling Sea of Galilee.) Only when I tried this time I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get out of the boat, because I knew I would sink, because I knew I didn’t have the faith that would allow me to walk. So I sat in the boat, and Jesus came and sat right outside of it, both our arms resting on the side, and we talked. “Well, you can’t really blame me, can you?” I asked. I’m not sharing them again here, but I have my questions and Jesus knows what they are. I remember some years ago when I brought them up (again) to one of my pastors, he said,
“Sharon, do we have to dance this dance again?” And I guess we do. I am locked into it, seemingly for a lifetime. I spin and spin and become dizzy, and can no longer tell which way is home.

I have given God ways to free me from it so I can rest in his arms forever. “God, please just let me have one full night of pain-free sleep.” Such an easy thing for the creator of the universe, yes? No, I guess not. It probably wouldn’t work anyway. I would probably just say, well, I got better. It was time, and my body healed my injury. Why would God give me a chance to fail and go back on my word again? But okay, this hurts and I’m tired.

I do see another doctor on Monday. My radiation oncologist prescribed the muscle relaxer I started taking last night. So by process of elimination, by Monday we will be able to say say it’s not that, and move on, and hopefully find what it is and what needs to be done. Unless God or my body chooses to heal it first. Either way is fine. The faster way is better, whatever that is.

So that’s what’s up right now. Thank you all for your support! Love to all of you!

I need to be brave

Blog what if fail or flyAs I was sitting in the waiting room at chemo yesterday, I read a blog by a fellow cancer patient and amazing person, Nanea Hoffman, in which she talked about being referred to as a warrior. But she said she felt more like the battlefield than the warrior. I couldn’t agree more! Even reading the title and intro to the blog, I was thinking, I am not a warrior. I am not doing anything heroic here. Just like everything else in life I get kudos for, I am just taking one step at a time, “following directions” as Nanea put it.

But I’ve been doing a bit of inner assessment lately, and I have decided that perhaps being the battlefield is not enough. Perhaps I really do need to hit that warrior pose.

At a recent trip to my oncologist, I asked about my prognosis. Funny how it took all these months to get to that question, but it did, and then I only asked it because my daughter wanted to know. So here is the answer. Right now I am cancer free. However, because I was at Stage 3C, there is a 40 percent chance of the cancer reoccurring. That’s why I am undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, to reduce those chances.  My five year survival rate is 72-82 percent. My ten-year survival rate is 55-65 percent. Now those odds are better than even, right? I have more of a chance of surviving than I do of dying, but honestly those are also pretty good odds of dying.

Yesterday evening I was talking to one of my son-in-law’s friends who is studying nursing, and he said that he has full respect for medicine, but that he also believed there was more to it than that, and that our will plays a large part in our healing. And I had to wonder, where is my will in all this? Because I have been feeling awfully defeatist lately.

I am at a point in my life where I just feel kind of lost. I have no idea what the future holds, and no real firm plan for it. I’m just kind of tossing filaments of hope out there and praying something comes back on them. Or to put it more accurately, I am spinning filaments of hope, when what I really need to do is get off my butt and start tossing them. They are not going to reap anything sitting in a pile on my bed.

Physically, I have been on a deep downward spiral. Some of this can be attributed to chemotherapy, for sure. I seem to have blessedly escaped most of what I had feared with chemo, but its effects have been certain. Before I began chemo, I was a vegan, and I will not equivocate on the fact that a vegan diet is established as that which is most likely to prevent and help heal breast cancer. When I asked my oncologist about diet, that was the first thing out of his mouth: there is some evidence that a diet free of animal products is effective in cancer prevention and treatment. But the next thing out of his mouth was, don’t worry about that during chemo. Just eat whatever you are able to eat.

And oddly enough, one of the first things I was unable to eat was most vegan foods. Things that had been the main staples of my diet suddenly made me gag. In my first chemo cycle (AC — adriamycin and cytoxan), I had trouble with a lot of foods. There seemed to be one thing that I’d latch onto and I’d eat that almost exclusively until that too made me gag, and then I’d latch onto something else. These were not vegan foods. There was boiled chicken and rice, well known for nausea abatement after all, then quesadillas, then tuna sandwiches on Beckmann’s Whole Wheat Bread. At one point, I became unable to drink coffee any longer. In the space of a week I threw two full Starbucks iced almond lattes in the garbage after just a couple of sips. At home I switched to tea. Now if you know me at all, you know that coffee has always been my “comfort food.” Such is the power of chemo!

Now, four infusions into my second chemo cycle, Taxol, I am feeling completely different. At this point I am ravenous. I am hungry all the time. I believe I am feeling the effects of the steroid, decadron, that I get with my infusions. Why I would feel it more now I don’t know. I got it in the first cycle, 10 mg by IV with the chemo infusion, then 8 mg a day for three days after. That came to 34 mg every two weeks. Now I only get it with infusion, but I with the Taxol I get infusions every week instead of every two weeks. That means I am getting a total of 20 mg of decadron every two weeks, which is a lot less total, but perhaps it doesn’t have a chance to clear my system as well? It has given me insomnia, and the heebie jeebies, and it has made me want to eat all the time. And I have slipped back into some really negative eating patterns of unhealthy foods in unhealthy quantities, and I even started drinking diet sodas again. It’s a vicious circle, I know. The bad foods and sodas only make you crave more bad foods, regardless of what made you start eating them in the first place.

So I am thinking that with my revived appetite, it might be that I can start eating the vegan foods I used to enjoy. And then maybe I can cut out the bad foods I have been eating.

I initially had a lot of paranoia about foods as well. Actually I had paranoia about everything, because, you know, diminished immune function due to chemo leaves you open to infections. So spring flu season rolled through shortly after I started chemo and I did catch a chest cold, and yes it was worse than the chest cold that everybody else had. It turned into a fever and had to be treated with antibiotics, and then it turned into a cough that hasn’t completely gone away eight weeks later. It does seem I have had some troubles with food. I really couldn’t eat food that had been left out for a long time, or leftovers, without getting quite an upset stomach. But my white blood cell count remained high through the first cycle of chemo because I was getting Neulasta, which boosted white blood cell production higher than normal.

In this second cycle, I no longer get Neulasta because the effect of the Taxol on your immune system is not as drastic. My white blood cell count has continued to fall every week, however. This week it was at 4.5, which I think is low for a normal person, but okay for someone on chemo. Nevertheless, my chemo nurse has told me that I can eat those forbidden vegetables. I’d been told to avoid any fruits or vegetables that can’t be peeled. That took a lot of joy out of a lot of things, like simple sandwiches, never mind actual salads. I substituted doTERRA Terra Greens, a powder which you can mix with water and drink. It wasn’t awful, but you couldn’t put it in a sandwich like lettuce and tomatoes. It didn’t have that crunch, and you couldn’t stick a fork into it, like a salad. It lasted 30 seconds, because you don’t savor it. You get it down. I’m sure of its health benefits, but it’s not a meal.

I know chemo will be over in eight weeks, but I don’t want to spend those eight weeks slipping further down this slippery slope.

The answer to my problems is not all diet, however. It is a battle in my mind, and in my spirit, and in my body. It is a battle against fear, and against this deep down sense that I am not worthy, or just simply that I am not able to achieve success.

I have spent a long time dwelling in my mind and honestly ignoring my spirit and body. My mind demands to be entertained, to be kept busy. I couldn’t stand still in a line at a store without getting out my cell phone to occupy my brain. There are probably a lot of good reasons for this. There are a lot of deep dark holes in my life that my brain has done a darn good job of keeping me out of. Distract and deny. That is perhaps the secret to this “strength” people keep accusing me of possessing. But it is not real strength. Real strength lies in the ability to look into those dark holes and turn on the light.

Even my spiritual practice has rested in my mind. It consisted primarily of reading the Bible and having brief one-way conversations with God. Well, I have pretty much given up the Bible reading at this point. I know there are ways to read it and ways to not read it, but I couldn’t master those. I just kept tripping over things, stopping and saying, “Wait. Is this really what you are like, God?” I have read the Bible many times over the last 40+ years, in many different frames of mind. I have read it and have not seen all the things in it that I cannot avoid now. I will probably go back to it at some point, because it has drawn me all my life, but for now I have put it down. I am thinking perhaps it is time to spend some time allowing God to speak to me, that it is time to still the mind’s incessant need for input and let my spirit be quiet so I can hear. God, who are you? Who am I? What do you want from me? Or, more to the point, God help!

I am thinking it is time to spend more time in my body as well. My strength has been zapped. The first chemo made me feel tired all the time. In this round, I think I might have a little more energy, if only from those darn steroids. I haven’t been able to use it much, though, because my muscles and endurance have suffered and getting them warmed up and going again is no easy thing.

But this I know. Days drift by, and I need to catch them before they have all disappeared and I am left adrift in the mist. I am afraid of the future, and it has created in me a kind of paralysis. I don’t want to move. I think of things do be done and I am filled with a deep lethargy. I have got to break free of this. I need to find a way to support myself and my family, and to fight this battle like a warrior. For this very moment, perhaps the best I can do is utter that prayer: “Help, please.” Show me the way. Give me the strength to walk the path, even when it leads me up the mountain. Help me to not only endure, but to succeed, to conquer the darkness that wants to swallow me.

Let me ‘splain something to you

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I have never, ever in my whole entire life been able to sell something. I could not sell a glass of water to a rich man who had been wandering lost in the desert. I could not sell a blanket to a wealthy family in a snowstorm with a baby. I could not sell the cure for cancer if I happened across it. Nope. Nada. It’s just not me.

This stems from my inability to take things from people. Can’t do that either. Not even help. I am not sure why this is. Perhaps it has to do with my deep seated feelings of unworthiness. Or perhaps it is simply that I have a servant personality. Those rich people who are dying of thirst or freezing? You’d better believe I’d supply them with water and blankets, but I’d GIVE them to them, not sell them.

Nevertheless, a couple of factors have converged in my life. One of them is financial anxiety. I have been receiving California State Disability while getting cancer treatments, which has been fine. But it will run out in just a couple of months now, well before my cancer treatments are finished. I will have at least two more months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments after the disability runs out. Then I will have to wait four to five months and will have to have a major surgery. It is reconstructive surgery, but without going into gory details, at this point it is not elective. I have complications from the mastectomy that are going to have to be taken care of. I wasn’t working when I was diagnosed with cancer, so I don’t have a job to go back to, and I can’t imagine finding a new job right after treatment with a fairly lengthy leave needed within just a few months. In addition, there are other things going on in my life, places where at this moment my attention is needed, enough that it would make holding down a full-time job difficult.

So what to do??? I am thinking at this point of retiring, getting social security. That would not be enough money to live on, however. The nice thing about social security, as opposed to disability, is that you are allowed to earn money to supplement your income, and there are a few possible avenues. I could do free-lance paralegal work for local attorneys, but that is not likely to produce a steady stream of income. Hey, I could finish those books I have been working on! I could even self publish for practically no money, and maybe a few people would buy one. This has been my main plan for awhile. Or perhaps I could become a Walmart greeter like so many other social security recipients.

But no, please, don’t make me become a Walmart greeter!

So into this life of mine comes something new. doTERRA. I have a friend, Erika, another cancer patient, who was a doTERRA Wellness Consultant. I also have another friend who had told me about her sister, who’d had Stage IV Breast Cancer (Stage IV is considered incurable) who had become cancer free even though she had not been able to complete chemo due to side effects. She used a few supplements, including several from doTERRA, and swore by the doTERRA Frankincense oil that she put on the sole of her feet every night. So I asked Erika about the products. Now the retail price of some of these things is more than I can afford, so Erika suggested that I could become a Wellness Consultant myself. That way I could buy things at wholesale prices, and also receive points back from my purchases, which I could use to get other products.

So that’s what I did.

I have really enjoyed the doTERRA products. I have diffusers around the house, and I have had oils in them most of every day. Some I choose just because I like the smell, and some for the purpose of improving my life. I’d had a nasty chest cold and cough for awhile when I first received my doTERRA shipment. The cough had me up numerous times during the night, and not even the codeine syrup my doctor prescribed could stop it. That night I put the Frankincense on my feet, and I put the doTERRA Breathe blend in the diffuser in my bedroom, and a little bit on my chest. I laid down and just felt so peaceful as I drifted off to sleep. That was the first full night of sleep I’d had in several weeks!

I have really enjoyed learning about the doTERRA products. I know people in MLM schemes where the entire focus seems to be on the MLM scheme rather than on the products. Not so with doTERRA. The products are great. I have tried a lot of the products and look forward to trying more in the future. The doTERRA group I belong to has a Facebook page on which education videos are posted pretty much daily. None of these are about sales and recruiting. They are all about the essential oils, or on various needs people face and how to meet them with the oils.

At any rate, if I make money at this it will be amazing. It will be a miracle! But it is something I can try to do. At the very least I am getting benefits from the products, and that is also something I can share with family and friends.

If you are interested in doTERRA products, I invite you to visit my website, at www.mydoterra.com/sharonmurch. Spend some time learning about essential oils, and the company. In the upper right hand corner, there are three lines. If you click on those three lines, it will allow you to access links where you can shop, or look into joining doTERRA. At the bottom of the page is a link to the product catalog, which has a lot of information on the products, and the wholesale as well as retail prices of them all. And if you happen to be local to the Castro Valley area, send me a message or an email and perhaps we can meet up. I am happy to share with you what I have and what I know, and to give you some free samples. I don’t have anything on me to sell right now, so if you wanted to buy something I’d have to order it. But you know me: I love to give stuff away.

Thanks so much for reading this, which I hope doesn’t sound too much like a pitiful cross between a sales pitch and a plea for help. But in with that, it’s an offer, too, for some great products which I absolutely believe will benefit your life and the lives of those you love.