The Pacific Ocean Doesn’t Know I Have Cancer – 13

Monday May 4, 2015

Monday was a day consumed with a promise my niece Lynn (she lived with me for a few months during this time) and I had made to ourselves that we would get to the beach. Each day has been filled with so many activities and so many things to do that the beach always ended up on the bottom of the list.  As we looked at the weather in the morning, it appeared that it might be a very windy and possibly a gloomy day at the beach.

But Monday was a day we had saved and we decided to go no matter how high the waves were or even in the absence of a sunny day. It was the day that even the cruise liners could not dock in some ports on the California Coast and were rooted to San Diego. It was sunny when we left our home just 12 miles from the Oceanside beaches. We were pleased when we got there that the sun was shining. It is just as interesting at the beach when the ocean is angry and so it was on Monday. The waves were very high and the white water was extensive, but the day was beautiful.

The ocean was terribly interesting and it remained windy, but tolerable.

We took the time for Lynn to stick her foot into the ocean and continued to mosey along the beach to enjoy. The dipping of the seagulls and the sounds of the crashing waves against the rocks and sand were musical. There were no brave surfers in this surf. It was apparently just too dangerous. But the Pacific Ocean remains interesting no matter what the weather.  It has its own life and you miss the greatness of it if you expect it to conform to your schedule of viewing.  The Pacific Ocean doesn’t know or care whether or not I have cancer. It has remained the mammoth that it is whether I am viewing it on the shore or at it in a ship or from an airplane from above. It is an amazing creation always full of wonder and always full of the unknowns.

As I watched the seagulls swoop along the beach I wondered whether there was a Jonathan Livingston Seagull among them. I suppose not because Jonathan would have been out way beyond the beach exploring the horizon. Jonathon Livingston Seagull is a story about a special seagull who was always looking for new horizons rather than picking up scraps behind the ships as the other seagulls did. But that is another thing to ponder.  Like Jonathon Livingston Seagull, I have never been happy accepting the scraps on the beach. I have always looked and will continue to look beyond the horizon for more exciting and new adventures.

It was a day to savor for both of us; the fact we took time to go to the beach was important. It forced us to look again at the reason for writing what we are trying to accomplish with this writing.  Once a medical diagnosis is made, the mind and consequently the attitudes and behaviors change. So much thought is given to the diagnosis, the medical advice, the appointments and the prescriptions, etc.  We can be free of all of this because we can choose to take the time to be free. Cancer or no cancer we learned again that the great things in our lives and the universe of the Creator would not be different because of the cancer or any treatment that might ensue. Only my life would be different in so many ways because of a positive or negative attitude I might have chosen.

Otherwise, cancer consumes you and governs your life.

 

I Am Just One Statistic, But I Am One – 12

It has been several years since I had to go to emergency for treatment of something else; the doctors never could determine what the cause for my illness was. It was not the cancer. But it was during that examination that the doctor noticed the lesion. “What is that?” he asked as he looked at the purple lesion on my left breast. He was not happy when I told him it was a lump. I’m certain that he thought I was a pretty dumb old lady.

Medicine looks at cancer in only one way–treat with surgery, chemo, and radiation. Laurie’s pleas have caused me to have new motivation to tell my story as one of those stats with metastatic breast cancer. I know that I am more fortunate than most because mine did not go to all four internal organs, but most certainly it is in my bones. I am so grateful to my Lord for protecting the other organs. I believe as the breast cancer subsided, that it is very possible that the bone cancer has done so, too. But I have not had a bone scan to determine that. It doesn’t really matter; I will continue to send all the powers of my body and mind to deal with it.

I am an important statistic; I am only one, but I am one who has chosen a different route from the beginning. Once the discovery of the cancer was known by many people, including doctors, I have had some radiation and hormone treatment.

Laurie Becklund’s account of her final days would be printed again and again until changes are made in how we look at breast cancer. What she had to say is monumental. My experiences today follow the same potential pattern for women with breast cancer as she experienced. My doctors and my family are quite upset when I don’t follow that medical path of treatment. I am doing some of it now; I don’t know the outcome. I do know that it causes me to think more about my cancer than I ever did before. I fear that may interfere with the faith path I pursued for so long. I pray that I can successfully put the two together and add to the knowledge of this intruder in our lives.

Following these general entries about cancer, thinking, treatment, research, etc. I want to share some blogs about how normal my life continued to be despite the unwanted traveler on my journey. These are anecdotal records from an unpublished book, If You Knew I Had Cancer, written over the past several years about my journey of faith. They cover a wide variety of topics about life as “normal.” You’ll see several styles of writing, depending on the subject and my ability to express my journey of faith. The next one starts with the Pacific Ocean Doesn’t Know I Have Cancer.

Faith is a Great Medicine, Too – 11

I do not think that I would be alive if I had trusted a doctor with the first lump I found. Instead I trusted the Great Physician. I realize fully that it will sound nutty, naive, crazy, and even uninformed to some. But I truly believe that faith is a great medicine, perhaps the most effective one we have if we know how to access it and are willing to use it.

Laurie passed away February 8th; I don’t know what year. Laurie, what you wrote popped up in my life when I needed it. I am trying to chronicle what it is like to have cancer living with me. I probably am chronicling what it will be like to die with it, but I know for certain that I am not in charge of that. I intend to keep counting on my faith to sustain me and my Creator to help me drink more deeply from the fountain of faith. I learn more and more each day that faith is not a thing. Some days I know it’s a river that I can stick a finger or toe in to test the water or I can jump in and experience the strength it gives with its never ending flow.

No one knew I had breast cancer for a very long time, decades. I have never had a mammogram; the one time I tried, the response from the technician was so strange that I have to consider it a message from my God. Sometimes I don’t hear them; sometimes they are clear, concise, and other times it seems the Lord had to hand me a puzzler to catch my attention.

I stopped having pelvic and breast exams so no doctor would see the dark spot on my breast and later the lesion. I told no one, not even my family or my best friends. I didn’t do it out of fear of the cancer; I did it because I did not want the megaphone of thought in the universe proclaiming my cancer. I, alone would determine with my God what thinking would affect my cancer. I never knew how strong my faith was in my body that had been given to me by my Creator, but I knew that I had been given what I needed, and that I needed to continue to learn from the one who had the blueprints, the design.

 

 

 

Laurie’s Hope for the Future: Research Needed – 9

Several years later while cleaning out “stuff” from cupboards and drawers, I found a newspaper clipping I had saved. It was from the Los Angeles Times, written by Laurie Becklund, and titled, “Living, and Dying, with Breast Cancer.” I had forgotten about it and had tucked it away some time ago. I do not know for sure when it was written, but it struck so many chords for me. She so aptly described so much of what I feel and have witnessed about our cultural and personal views about cancer.

Laurie starts with, “I am dying, literally at my home in Hollywood, of metastatic breast cancer, the only kind of breast cancer that kills. I’ve known all along that I was going to die, I just didn’t know when.” Laurie was told a couple of weeks before Christmas, the doctors would not promise that she would make it into 2015.

Laurie made her friends promise never to say she died “after fighting a courageous battle with breast cancer.” Or ever wear a pink ribbon in her name, or ever drop a dollar into a can for cancer “awareness for early detection for a cure.” Laurie expressed my sentiments. The millions raised for early detection, like the Susan B. Komen cancer drive money, are not the answer to a cure. It says the message that early detection is the way, the truth and the light.

Laurie stated that she is living proof that early detection does not cure cancer. She had more than 20 mammograms; and none of them caught Laurie’s disease. Laurie believes “that they may result in misdiagnoses, unnecessary treatment, and radiation overexposure.” I agree with her.

In 1996, Laurie found a peanut-sized lump in one breast; she had a lumpectomy and a short dose of radiation. Five years later, she was told there was little chance of recurrence of the cancer and was told to “have a good life.” Yet 13 years after the original diagnosis, she was diagnosed with stage four cancer in the bones, lungs, liver and brain. This was a death sentence, “with a life expectation of three years.”

Laurie was too scared and too private, she said, to tell anyone. I think her fears about her professional life were well founded and I believe exist, at least psychologically if not legally, today. Who would want to hire, promote, give writing contracts to, or otherwise invest in such a “short-term person.”

Her daughter, her husband, and three friends were the only people who knew. Who, she asked, would remember her as Laurie, the valedictorian, Pulitzer Prize winner, the brilliant writer of award pieces, and all the other successes that had built her career. Who would ever look at her the same again?

I think she was so correct. They would see Laurie who had terminal cancer. A “terminal cancer” label is much like the scarlet letter, emblazoned on your forehead, it seems, with an accompanying attitude of pity and sorrow for the death sentence. I realize that prayer and thought can be positive, but I believe with cancer that prayers and thoughts can be surrounded with negativity and fear; that environment cannot help. Culture produces this attitude of negativity. So many negative thoughts in the universal energy supply can only produce a negative effect.

Laurie said it took her more than two years to connect with others like her at the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network Conference. Laurie relates her experiences; most had not metastasized to all four places breast cancer invades. Laurie did what so many do to try to explain this crazy disease. She read everything that she could; she went to conferences; she studied the science that was available; she looked at every side of the cancer that she could. She signed on to all the many places she searched as “So I Won’t Die of Ignorance.”

Laurie’s main message is powerful.

Beyond the Medical Paradigm – 7

As I stated previously in entry six, I in no way belittle the choices others have made or are making. My choice was mine; it was a choice made between me and my Great Physician.

The following episode when I was 93 was extremely revealing and I think not unusual behavior for any medical persons I might have seen on that day. It confirmed and was positive proof that my personal belief that I would be viewed differently if or when people were aware of the “Big C”.

“Do you know the seriousness of this situation?” This was the greeting from my general practitioner of many, many years at my appointment (he has material and test results that show metastatic breast cancer that he is seeing for the first time). But in my heart I felt the real message to me was “Don’t you know you are dying?” I told him I was aware of the seriousness of my situation; normally the greeting would be a positive greeting with a query of how I was feeling and how great I was doing, whether I needed to do a physical or whatever. This greeting surprised me since it was primarily a statement followed by others that were ominous statements about death. That the situation would get nasty very fast, and it would become very painful.

I told him I felt good, and was so pleased that I was doing as well since I had been so sick just three weeks prior, spending one week in the hospital and two weeks in skilled nursing and rehab (I did not go for the cancer and we never did know why I was so sick). I reported to the doctor that my nausea was gone and my appetite was back, I was not losing weight.  I had energy and actually felt much the way I did a few months prior.  The conversation always returned to the seriousness of the cancer and that his purpose was to keep me comfortable and to support whatever my decisions were. He talked of hospice and the services available through that organization.  He then talked about what my wishes were relative to resuscitation, full code, none resuscitation. etc. He just wanted to carry out my wishes. The conversation centered on what I would want done at the end. He also made clear that he was trying to take the burden of such an action (pulling the plug) from my family and would take that responsibility himself.

Remember, this has been my general practitioner for many years. This is a doctor that for decades has been very active in helping me maintain what he perceived and what I chose as practices for good health. As I became older there has been much conversation about how healthy I have been and how amazing the maintenance, the energy, and productiveness have been.

In other words, in his mind I have been able to maintain my activities at home, my commitment to church and community, my professional life, and in general a normally full lifestyle. During the years of our medical interactions, the doctor has been complimentary and amazed about the level of my health. At 90, he saw me more as a 70-year-old relative to what most people could do and be at that age.

The crux of the conversation proved to me what I believed the perception of people would be once they were aware that I had cancer. Within the past few weeks the perception of my doctor of many years has changed from seeing Sy Tucker as a healthy, active, energetic, unusual 93-year-old lady to a 93-year-old lady who has lived a very full life and needs to face the seriousness of the situation.

I reminded him that I felt as well this day as I did a few months ago. The only difference is that now he knows I have cancer. And he treated me not as a well person but as a very sick person. The purpose of the appointment had nothing to do with how well I felt but everything to do with the disastrous things that were going to happen to me in the next short period of time.

 

 

The Path of Faith: A Choice – 5

As I sit here in the beautiful sunshine with the breezes gently blowing on the palms, and the warm California air bathing my mind, body and soul. I am so grateful for the 98 years that I have been given to enjoy and participate in the energy of the universe, to serve, to learn, and to teach.

My house sits at the top of a hill: the view manifests the beauty in every direction.  I have had such an amazing, truly awesome life. The opportunities seem more than anyone deserves. The lessons are always beyond belief.  The opportunities to be, to do, and see never cease (and I say, to see) even though my eye sight is getting weaker, so much of the seeing has not to do with physical, but what lies in my heart and soul.

My walk with my Creator is hard for me to fathom; therefore, it is difficult to put to paper to explain to someone else the nature of my journey. It is particularly difficult to explain cancer’s journey with me. So many of the choices and episodes that I made are contrary to cultural attitude, cultural expectations, and what may be perceived as normal.  I have chosen to not let cancer dominate my life and not allow the “Big C” to frighten me or to control my choices.  I had cysts removed from my ovaries and suspicious tissue removed from my left breast when my children were small. My doctor told me in a matter of fact way and did not make a big deal of the findings. I don’t remember whether I was frightened.  As a very busy young mother, teacher, wife, and community member, somehow I lived with little thought about any cancer issues. I had my yearly pelvic exam, I had my yearly conversation with the doctor and went on with my life.

 

Thinking and Believing: The Choices We Make – 4

Quantum physics has given us information about consciousness, energy, thought, and other universal laws of nature that govern all of our lives, yet many view the information with skepticism. Many prefer to think that their lives are governed by circumstances, by some predetermined destiny over which they have little or no control.  Physicists have known for some time that what we once thought was solid matter is actually vibrating energy, a universe of unlimited potential.  This is a source that has no bounds and is always available to fill our orders. But it cannot fill what is not ordered, nor can it deliver properly when the address is not correct or the order is not specific.

The energy source never ceases. We can harness it for our personal and professional use. We accept the wonders of science that affect us; we understand the liberating influence much of science has had on our lives. Technology, travel, health, energy, space or any of the many discoveries decade by decade, year by year, moment by moment engage our fancy.

We accept most of the advances and learn to live with them, appreciate, and come to think of them as a normal part of our existence.

That is, until we enter the realm of the mind, the domain of thought, the energy of consciousness that we cannot see. These are the areas that should concern us the most.  As persons we need to understand the advances made in understanding consciousness, energy, thought, learning, the brain, knowing and being. We have grown up with a psychological paradigm that is difficult to change. That paradigm essentially teaches us that we must see something to believe it. We have generally been taught that “Seeing is believing,”  “Show me and I’ll believe it” or “I’m from Missouri, the show-me state.”  Unfortunately, we have the universe in reverse. The Biology of Belief and the studies done by Dr. Bruce Lipton and others inform us that what we believe we will see.

Our thoughts, our mind’s energy, are precious. They directly exercise control of the physical brain and, therefore, our behavior.  We must learn to monitor our thoughts because we get and we become what we think about.

Remember, we get what we ask for whether or not we want it.  Whatever you are thinking about, you are attracting to you. We are the thinker of our thoughts.  We can be the changer of our thoughts.

Generally speaking our culture is based on this premise to change to a paradigm of “believing is seeing” is very difficult.  That is why it is so difficult when negative thoughts about a person are presumably based on what scientists would call facts; learning to change that thinking to positive energy in the universe is nigh impossible, but absolutely necessary.

The succeeding entries (journals, diary, anecdotal accounts), starting several years ago, are a part of a book that documents the journey of faith and with cancer as the unwanted traveler on my journey.

If You Knew What Would Be Different? – 3

I traveled a different path, one of faith and trust–trust in my God and the body that I was given at my birth. It is a constant test of my faith and trust, and it is a constant research project for my always curious and creative encounter with life.

In my professional career, I wonder about the questions I might have had in the progression of jobs that I have been so blessed to have.  I don’t even know when the beginning time of the cancer was. But it has been there for decades, that I know. What would have been different about the questions of the reporters when I ran for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1970 if they had known I had breast cancer? Would I have been able to be an Associate Professor of Education at Cal Western University, if the Dean had known that I had breast cancer? Would I have been invited to be an Assistant Dean, Graduate Studies, at the University of Cincinnati? What questions would have been asked about my health at Oregon State when I was chosen Dean of Education? Would cancer have been a part of the reason for retiring from Oregon State University if it had been known? Would I have been able to have the wonderful career I had at National University for 13 years after my retirement? I was then in my sixties. It wasn’t in the mix at all.

Age was starting to factor in employment. What would cancer have added to the mix? I had wonderful years at National University. Would I have had the same incredible relationship with my students over the years if they knew I had breast cancer? Would they have attributed anything they disliked or saw in my behavior to cancer? As it was, we could always have a dialogue without any thought about what might be happening “because I had cancer.”

Would I have had the same relationship with my church family? This was a little tougher. I often had the desire to share my secret with them because I believe in prayer. But I didn’t. If I could have suggested only positive prayers and a concentration of wellness with trust in our Lord, it might have worked. I’ll never know about that past. It was a conflict for me. Somehow I had a pact between me and my Creator; that was my source of support, hope, and comfort. It was, and is, a constant struggle to keep in the river of faith.

I still consider My Lord to be my Great Physician. I believe everything that I need is there; being able to access it for my cancer and life is a daily challenge. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude is so important. I have to think each day about what I can do, not what is lacking. Every day. Every day.

My Secret Journey with Cancer – 2

How did I live this long with cancer?

As you are thinking as you are reading this, why wouldn’t you want to take care of this when it was little?  Because it didn’t bother me. I lived these many years in what most people would say perfect health. How many times was I asked how I stay so healthy? I cannot begin to innumerate the times people have talked about my energy, my health in general, and my capacity for work.

I have been a professional in education at all levels for over seventy years. I suppose for most people this would be three careers. I was fortunate to include in all these beautiful years a family with two incredible sons, four awesome grandchildren and many, many nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, as a lucky person born into a big family. I have had the opportunity all these years to live in the greatest country, experience the world United States of America, this great Republic. I have been given opportunities to serve, to grow and learn that are boundless and seemingly impossible.

I know it is difficult for anyone reading this to believe that no one knew.

I did not tell my family, I did not tell my friends, I did not tell my pastor, I did not tell my personal doctor, not other specialists, I did not even tell my friends or family who were experiencing cancer, not anyone. There may have been a couple of doctors involved in my first life scans. In essence I told no one. It really remained between me and my Creator who gave me the body and will to fight it. I believe my professional life would have been difficult if it had been known by all those living around me that cancer was living with me.

They would have thought about me as not completely healthy. They would have thought about me as a victim. They would not have the same impressions about my superior health, my superior energy, and my ability to work for many years. The things that make a professional life as successful. There would have been literally hundreds of people looking at me knowing I had breast cancer; hundreds of people seeing Sy Tucker as not well rather than incredibly healthy and energetic. My opportunities would have been quite different if many of the people I’ve met in my life had the knowledge of cancer being present in my body.

As a pioneer woman in the greatest generation, I have had the opportunity to work in many fields. As a professional, my main research field has been the study of the brain and thinking and learning. The critical aspect of the brain is our thoughts. We become what we think. Consider thought as something we create at all times, and something that is created around us by others at all times. This creative process is our connection to the Divine and the Infinite.

I must ask you the question? If hundreds of people I worked with knew that I had cancer or disease, would they continue to think of me as a healthy, energetic professional? I know the answer to this. It’s scientifically one of the reasons for my choice.

If You Knew I Had Cancer – 1

Introduction:

As I start to publish pieces of a special book, If You Knew I Had Cancer, it is important for the reader to know that this journey has been long and a journey travelled solely with my Great Physician. These are accounts of the deepest journey of faith I have travelled in my lifetime. This is the documentation of cancer trying to exist and grow in my body and finding it very difficult because the Great Physician and I were teaming against it.  No one knew. I told no one that I had breast cancer; I did not tell my family, not my doctor, not my friends, not my church family, not anyone. It is important to know that I viewed cancer not as a victim, but as someone having an unwanted travelling partner. I would not let cancer control my life nor would I have others spending time asking me about the big “C.”

These writings, diary entries, are an effort to help with choices women have who live with cancer. I am not advocating for any specific choice; I just want to tell my story of faith as medicine.  I am quite certain that the incredible career that I have had over these many decades with the unwanted travelling companion could not have existed in the same way if people were aware that I had cancer.

Part of the reason for my choice grew from not only my belief in my Great Physician, but from my knowledge and professional career involved in the study of the brain, learning and the power of our thoughts. It grew also from my belief that I was given at my birth everything that I needed to become all that I was created to be.

All of these ideas are contrary to the way cancer is viewed in our culture. The minute persons are diagnosed with cancer they become victims to that culture. I refuse to live like a victim. Once my cancer was known to my family and my physicians, medical options were introduced as treatment. Faith still remained dominant.

The excerpts that follow are personal accounts from my unpublished book, If You Knew I Had Cancer: My Personal Journey with Faith.