From near death to a new kind of life…
On July 28, 2012, I was told I had a few months to live. It spread to your brain, they said. I’m sorry.
Stage 4 metastatic melanoma had spread to my brain and internal organs. Once cancer reaches your brain, I found out, you might as well be dead.
Doctors didn’t know who they were dealing with. It was time to weed the cancer garden. Time to live. Time to love.
Cancer Land and the Dark Night of the Soul
My beloved and I left ordinary reality and moved to Cancer Land. It was time to take my life into our own hands. My beloved was on board — in fact he spearheaded this new mission to transform a dying woman into a vibrant, more-alive-than-ever woman. Hardest years of my life, my Years of Living Cancerously.
Healing Starts in Community
We couldn’t make the journey alone. That’s the first thing I tell anyone with a new cancer diagnosis. It takes a village.It took us months to find that out. We were alone and isolated and in poverty for far too long. Talk about Dark Night of the Soul! How about fucking frightening? How about hopeless and devastating?
My Kahuna and I combed the internet for healing treatments and practices that made sense. Doctors have had little to offer the advanced melanoma patient (that is changing). I needed love. To love my body. I needed life. A reason to live. I needed to create a compelling future.
But first, we had to buy time….
Here are the bare bones of my cancer experience so far, starting at the beginning in 2008 when I first noticed the mole on my foot that has since spread to my brain. I’ll keep adding to this timeline. Cancer is fucking scary. No one should have to go through this. Check your skin, people. Early detection can save lives.
August 2008. Noticed that a large mole I had all my life on the side of my right heel was starting to look different. Bigger. Ragged edges. Denial.
August 2009. The mole had grown considerably in diameter and thickness. Often it bled but summer shoes (Crocs and sandals) helped it heal. Denial. Scared of arrogant judgy doctors + expense.
February 2010. The mole had doubled in size and was continually ulcerated. Oozing. Bleeding. Used a lot of band-aids. Could no longer wear certain shoes. Denial breaking way to acceptance. Fear.
March 2010. Saw a dermatologist. She said, “no way this is melanoma, come back in a month and I’ll biopsy it if you insist.” I insisted.
April 2010. Biopsy. Melanoma. Clark’s level IV. Stage IIC. Derm’s last words to me were “don’t let them give you Interferon”.
May 5, 2010. Wide excision (surgery to remove the mole plus enough around the edges to “make sure they get it all”). Clean margins. Sentinel node biopsy of lymph nodes (to see if cancer spread) behind right knee and in right groin was negative.
May 13, 2010. Skin graft surgery to help healing of wound and decrease pain. Surgeon said I’d never wear high heels again. He also told me not to bother with a PET scan or treatment. “You’re clean,” he said. “We got it all.”
April 2012. Abdominal pain, nausea, crushing fatigue. Treated with acupuncture, nourishing Chinese herbs, and rest. Felt better after about 2 weeks.
July 28, 2012. Admitted to hospital through ER after 3 days of severe abdominal pain, nausea, and fatigue. Ultrasound and CT scan revealed a mass in my lower right abdomen that was almost certainly metastasized melanoma.
July 30, 2012. CT guided needle biopsy confirmed melanoma in an iliac lymph node and a nearby tumor. Small spots in breast, liver, and lung.
August 2012. Brain MRI. Two lesions, left temporal lobe and left parietal lobe.
August 2012. Began Gerson therapy and my cancer healing program.
October 2012. Began twice-weekly high-dose (50g) Vitamin C IVs.
October 2012. CT scan of abdomen and chest. Tumors are shrinking.
October 31, 2012. Brain MRI to prepare for Gamma Knife.
November 1, 2012. Gamma Knife stereotactic radiation of the 2 brain lesions.
November 2012. Began Iscador treatment, every-other-day subcutaneous injections of mistletoe. Ow.
January 14, 2013. Brain MRI and abdomen/chest CT. Tumors holding steady or reduced in size.
March 25, 2013. Brain MRI and abdomen/chest CT. New lesion in brain, in occipital lobe. Abdominal tumors slightly larger.
May 2013. Transitioned away from Gerson and toward eating in alignment with my metabolic profile. Still juicing 10 times a day, but the composition of the juices has changed. Still doing 4-5 coffee enemas daily.
May 8, 2013. Brain CT scan to prepare for Cyberknife treatment of the new brain lesion. CT revealed FOUR new lesions. Scrapped Cyberknife and scheduled Gamma Knife.
May 27, 2013. Brain MRI to prep for Gamma Knife. Lesions holding steady.
May 30, 2013. Gamma Knife to treat five brain lesions.
Summer, 2013. Everything changed. In a good way! Lightened up on the juicing (still having 6-8 juices a day). Added some new herbs and pharmaceuticals. Got sexual & emotional healing through tantra. Found life purpose in tantra. Started a daily yoga and meditation practice to get more breath and build strength back in my body. (I am 5’7″ and was down to 93 lbs at one point; I’m still in double digits but building muscle and strength.) I’ll have more scans in a few months but am basing my evaluation of my health on how I feel — better than I have in over a year. I’m on the upswing. Moving through this. The Dark Times are over. New Life begins.
September 2013. Started hot yoga, 3-5x/week. Cancer hates heat. Heat synergies with my other supplements to supersize their action on the bod. Plus, it’s building my body back up. Muscles, booyah!
October 2013. PET-CT scan of my body. Abdominal tumor has reduced in size my 1/3. No new tumors. My weight crossed into triple digits.
November 12, 2013 (11-12-13). Brain MRI. NO CANCER IN MY BRAIN. No new tumors. Previously-treated tumors GONE except for one still in healing stage. Doctors do a happy dance.
December 2013. Found my life’s passion and new life direction. I am an artist. I paint women’s souls, their essence, the way they see themselves. My paintings evoke the divine feminine.
January 2014. Started super-secret cancer protocol. Whoa.
February 2014. Started new protocols to correct life-long deep body imbalances, adrenal fatigue, sex hormone imbalances, etc. Because this is now the professional work of my amazing and brilliant husband: Functional Diagnostic medicine. This diagnoses and corrects sub-clinical imbalances and issues.
March, 2014. CT scan of chest and abdomen/pelvis, Brain MRI. No new tumors. All little tumors — GONE. The biggest abdominal tumor is now 1/3 its previous size and has broken up into sections that are beginning to resemble their original lymph node origins.
Brain looks good. Nothing new in there. All previously zapped tumors completely gone and healed, except one that they’re still watching.
Still juicing, still doing coffee enemas, still taking boatloads of supplements.
May, 2014. Went through Spiritual Sexual Shamanic Experience (SSSEx) with the International School of Temple Arts. Huge shifts in beliefs and emotional patterning. This was a big part of my healing.
Moved to San Diego, California for the sunshine and for the incredible community of like-minded beings. We do not heal alone, nor in darkness.
October, 2014. Headaches. Bad headaches. Brain MRI revealed recurring tumor at site of previously-treated brain tumor. Opted to self-treat with our inclusive cancer healing regimen and re-assess in a month.
December, 2014. CT scan of abdomen shows little change from March 2014. New Brain MRI revealed growth in recurring tumor AND a new tumor. Surgery is the only option, plus radiation later.
January, 2015. Still awaiting surgery scheduled. Turns out the laser brain probe surgery program at UCSD was canceled with little warning to us. Scramble to find a new neurosurgeon. I’m not doing well. Can do very little now. Surgery with new neurosurgeon scheduled for February 3.
February 3, 2015. Laser ablation surgery to the big tumor in my left frontal lobe. This tumor had been previously treated with Gamma Knife but re-grew.
February 12, 2015. Gamma Knife radiation to new tumor.
June 8, 2015. Started BRAF targeted “chemo” drugs, Taflinlar and Mekinist. Side effects fairly minimal except skin itching and eruption, and I feel way better with more energy and more thinking clarity.
July 8, 2015. Brain surgery #2, open bilateral craniotomy to remove large re-grown tumor from left frontal lobe. Same tumor that was laser ablated and previously Gamma Knifed. This sucker is finally going down for good. Had a tonic-clonic seizure coming out of anesthesia.
August 20, 2015. Spine MRI done after something showed up on PET-CT scan. Diagnosis: leptomeningeal carcinomatosis (tumors in the cerebrospinal fluid in my spine). Prognosis: THREE WEEKS. Seven visible tumors plus many “seeds” for new tumors.
August 31, 2015. Received first infusion of immunotherapy, Keytruda and Opdivo.
September 2015. Multiple vertebral compression fractures. Pain up and down my spine. Riding in a car is difficult because of the pain.
September 11, 2015. Cyberknife radiation treatment to spinal tumor at T6.
September 12, 2015. Near-death experience in ER (found out later I was in adrenal crisis). Couldn’t breathe, called 911.
September 2015. Kyphoplasty surgery to treat the worst of my compression fractures. Easy outpatient surgery.
September 2015. Another ER visit, with a second tonic-clonic seizure.
October – December 2015. Evaluated for epilepsy with 24-hour EEG. Results negative. Meanwhile, I took some heavy anti-epileptic drugs. Liver got very toxic due to the immunotherapy, had stage 2 liver disease for awhile.
November, 2015. Second and final immunotherapy infusion.
Early 2016. Nope, I’m not epileptic, I have Adrenal Insufficiency!
December 30, 2016. NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE! NO CANCER EVIDENT ANYWHERE!
Still juicing, still taking 150+ supplements a day. My weight is up and since August I’ve been in the gym doing resistance training and cardio. Still tired though, and still fighting massive brain fog.
February 2017. After an ER visit with chest pains, lightheadedness, massive brain fog, and wildly fluctuating blood pressure, found a cardiologist who diagnosed me with POTS: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. It’s an autoimmune disorder, likely brought on by immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a lifesaver but in my case it caused Adrenal Insufficiency, a lifelong problem where I have to take supplemental hydrocortisone to stay alive, and POTS, an autoimmune disorder.