Stunned (updated with some anger) 


Happy October. Let the pink washing begin. From perfumes (filled with harmful chemicals), to t-shirts, to Campbell’s soup and BPA laden water bottles with delicate and beautifully feminine pink ribbons on them. I want nothing to do with it. Fuck your pink ribbons. There are still too many of us dying. It’s not a pretty pink disease. It’s full of scars and disfigurement and destroyed body image, infertility due to the barbaric methods of treatment, isolation, depression, anxiety, indescribable fear. But sure, KFC, slap a fucking pink ribbon on your buckets. Cuz hormone filled fried chicken is really good for breast cancer. 

I’ve HAD IT with this place. This is the insane asylum of the universe. 

This week has felt incredibly heavy for a number of reasons. I feel like the universe is doing some crazy shit across the board, and I’m just standing here confused and hurt, feeling incredibly alone.

This breast cancer experience has brought some incredible people into my world, and I’m certain I never would have met them if it hadn’t been for my diagnosis. I don’t have the right words to express my gratitude and appreciation for that aspect of this tremendously difficult time in my life. I know that without these women, I would certainly not be able to face the day with the willingness to view this experience as a teacher.

Early on in the diagnostic process, I was led to a friendship that has provided me with hope when I’ve been overcome with doubt, strength when I’ve felt cripplingly weak, and courage when I’ve wanted to run away and hide instead of facing the day’s itinerary. I was at Breathe yoga in Pittsford getting a juice with a friend when one of my instructors who I hadn’t seen in about a month (because I was a little busy trying to pick up the pieces of myself that were shattered by the “You have cancer” phonecall on April 11th) came over to say hi, and asked how my decision making for grad school programs was going. I told her through my tears what was happening in my world, and she offered her sincerest apologies, and told me that she has a cousin who is around my age who has been dealing with breast cancer since she was 21 years old, and offered to connect us. At this point, I had not met another 20-something diagnosed with breast cancer, so I was extremely grateful for her offer. She gave me her email address, and I emailed her that same night. The following day, I received an email from someone I now consider a sister and dear friend. We have both expressed several times (including the first time we heard each others voices on the phone) that it feels like the universe wanted us to meet-there are just too many similarities-aside from the shitty diagnosis of cancer. Our ways of thinking, our views on disease in relation to emotional trauma, spirituality, the fact that we are both black lab lovers and owners… This is an excerpt of the very first email I received from her:

Amy,

I am so sorry you  are dealing with this! Although it is really refreshing to come across someone else with such a similar mindset about all of it. It sounds like you are doing all the right things. My first go around, at 21, I was scared and my doctors scared me more, and therefore I fell victim to conventional treatment, when I believe it was against my best interest. I think chemo is a crock of shit, it weakens the immune system, the strongest defense our bodies have against cancer, weakens the mind, and weakens the spirit- It is an outdated treatment, and quite barbaric at that.  During that time I had sought out all sorts of alternative treatments, I found a holistic doctor, Dr. Mary Wise, who was a Yale graduate and studied with Dr. Andrew Weil, who conveniently was located right in Henrietta. She unfortunately has retired this spring, otherwise i would be recommending you see her!
 My second go around at age 23, I was pissed. I refused all treatments until I was comfortable and did my homework. I flew to Chicago to see Dr. Keith Block who is in my opinion the most educated, realistic, forward thinking doctor in the country on integrative medicine and cancer- he wrote the book Life over Cancer, and I highly recommend you read it. I also flew to see Dr. Donald Abrams at the Osher Institute in San Francisco who is very forward moving with AIDS and cancer and has done extensive research on the benefits that marijuana has on fighting immune related diseases. I went to the university of Miami and met with one of the doctors who created the test for HER2 to learn more about HER2 + cancer, because initially my cancer was ER/PR + and HER2- and the second time it was triple positive. I wasn’t very keen on a mutating cancer and needed to understand what exactly was happening before accepting any drug treatments like Herceptin. During all of these visits and travel i learned a lot about what cancer is, how it works, and what we can do to fight it. Supplements, exercise, and eating well can only take us so far. Before I was even diagnosed I was a vegetarian for 5 years, I was a 3 sport athlete, and was raised on organic food. It took reading Mind over Medicine to really hone in on what the greatest defense of disease was for me. We are all different- and you nailed it, the one size fits all treatment is bullshit. It comes down to following your gut. Youre the one that has to fight this battle. What feels good, what feels like it is curing you, is. Whether it’s the mushroom complex (I’ve even gone so far to start a shiitake mushroom farm), whether its the yoga or exercise (I run 5+ miles a day, completed my first half and full marathon in the past two years and am 100 percent positive it has helped keep my cancer at bay), whether it’s meditation, or reading, or being around people that make you feel alive- those are the things that are the best medicine. Honestly. I’ve never felt healthier, more alive, more strong than in the past few years since taking my health into my own hands.
Reading her email was eery in a way, because I almost felt like I was having a conversation with myself- even down to her writing style. Her words were reinforcing so much of what my gut had been telling me all along- that the “one-size-fits-all-protocol” is garbage, that I’m the one who needs to feel comfortable with the decisions I’m making. That my happiness and emotional well-being plays a role in the healing process. Her email felt like a gift from some higher power. Later that evening, we talked for several hours on the phone about everything from cancer to our dogs. She came to my birthday party in July, we participated in a writing class together at Writers and Books, we’ve gone for runs, we’ve shared meals, laughs, and love together. I am so tremendously grateful for her presence in my world.
This past Thursday, I got a text message from her saying “Welp-I’m no longer a good role model for ya :/”, with a picture of results from a CT scan. She went in Thursday morning for chest pain, and they found 3 large masses in her lungs-“Findings are worrisome for a neoplastic process”. Fuck. Shit. Piss. Fuck. For those of you that don’t know, once breast cancer moves beyond the breast and regional lymph nodes, survival statistics are not very good.
Later in the conversation, I expressed my frustration with the fact that we aren’t scanned regularly. This was our exchange:
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Awe is an understatement. I cannot begin to express the amount of gratitude I feel for her presence in my world. Her being is an inspiration to me.
Another friend of mine, a 19 year old with liver cancer with more spunk and energy than I’ve ever seen in one human being was rushed into emergency brain surgery this week when it was discovered that there was a tumor on her brain. Her spirit is beautiful and wonderful and I have no doubt that she will recover well. As of right now, speech is a bit difficult, but I know she’s a trooper. In a text conversation with her this afternoon, I asked how she was feeling and she said, in typical Willow fashion, “doin better every day. I’ve still got lots to do here hehe”. And she’s not kidding. The world needs her spirit. 
With all of that being said, I’m fucking angry. I’m angry that anybody has to go through this. I’m angry at the amount of young people dealing with cancer in our world. I’m angry with the fact that the barbaric treatment they’re putting us through is still not enough to stop this fucking trainwreck of a disease. Why are there so many of us? This wasn’t always the case. And yet it seems like it’s everywhere I turn. There are so many toxic aspects of our modern lifestyle..and I’m furious that people are dying every single fucking day, and the medical community is still scratching its head in confusion. There are so many truths regarding our health that are hidden from public consciousness it seems. Dairy, for starters is something I’ve mentioned before, and I don’t have the energy to go into detail about it now. But hormones from another BEING mimic the effects of hormones in our own bodies when we consume them. Even if you’re buying the “hormone free” milk-just because it doesn’t have ADDED hormones doesn’t mean it’s risk free…. I’m planning on writing something about the dairy industry when I have more energy..
I’m emotionally spent. I have cried more this weekend than I have in a long time. I didn’t run yesterday or today. I’m just not myself right now. 
Seeing these horrible things happening to people close to me is also bringing up a lot of fear around my own situation, wondering if every sensation I experience is cancer trying to take over my body. There’s a part of me that seems to intrinsically know that I will not die of cancer. I don’t know how, or where that part of me comes from, but it’s been present from the beginning, and it’s something I continue to try to hold a space for, even when my fears challenge it. This weeks events have definitely triggered lots of fear, which has muted that inner voice, and I am questioning it. Honestly, I’m not really afraid to die. Am I ready to? Do I want to? No. And actually that’s pretty significant for me to even be able to say considering my struggles with depression: I don’t want to die. I’m also not particularly afraid of it-its the one thing we’re all guaranteed to do at some point upon entering this world. I am afraid of suffering. I’m afraid to leave my mom and other loved ones behind. I’m afraid that I’ll never experience healthy romantic love and true intimacy and sharing with a man. I’m not ready to leave this place, I feel like I still have lots of work to do. And so do both of my friends. And nobody knows what’s going to happen-to any of us. I am continuing to try to foster hope in the face of challenge.. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having hope. 
This post is dedicated to Mackenzie and Willow, 2 of my personal heroes. I love you both and believe in your strength.
Please keep them in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, etc. 

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