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.

 

 

 

New Data Needed – 10

Laurie’s research and search for knowledge teaches us that the 40,000 women who die annually can’t wait for FDA approval of trials, etc., nor can the estimated quarter-million Americans waiting in the wings. Apparently we really don’t know because none is required to report a metastatic diagnosis. Even the death certificates normally state other symptoms such as respiratory failure, anomia, cardiac difficulties, etc. That means the metastatic breast cancer is not counted as the cause. Uncounted entities usually don’t get much attention. So it is with metastatic breast cancer, I fear.

“We know now that breast cancer is not one disease. What works for one person might not for another. There is no one “cure.” We are, each in effect, one person clinical trials. Yet the knowledge generated from these trials will die with us because there is no comprehensive database of metastatic breast cancer patients, their characteristics and what treatments did or didn’t help them,” said Laurie. “In the Big-Data era, this void is criminal.”

Laurie felt that in the era that data abounds everywhere, the personal histories of individual treatments that helped or did not help, would be extremely helpful to women who were trying to make decisions about their cancer treatment.

I believe that we are all individual; I believe our Creator gave us all that we need to live our lives in an optimum way. Each one of us must find where our help lies.

The Susan G. Komen organization is the most powerful one in the breast cancer funding. It has raised millions and millions of dollars. Very little, Laurie stated, goes to research. Almost all of it goes to “awareness and early detection.” As stated earlier, all those who die and suffer each year with metastatic breast cancer are uncounted statistics who know otherwise. Virtually all were detected early and received early treatments. Laurie felt that the awareness campaigns are painfully out-of-date.

“We need people–patients, doctors, scientists, politicians, investors, families–to make a fresh start. we must create a new system of data collection and an open, online broad-range data base about patient histories that will provide information valuable to those who’ve been given a death sentence. Patients as well as doctors must contribute,”
said Laurie.

These were important words, Laurie. I wish I could have known you. We would have started that data bank. I hope with your words and this writing, something will emerge. I know my situation is unique. But I believe each one is.

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.

What Changes When People Learn You Have Cancer? – 8

I have lived without cancer and I have lived decades with cancer. Once I knew there was a possibility of cancer I chose not to tell anyone. That may seem to be a strange choice but my professional training, my understanding of thought, my knowledge of perception and long study of behaviors gave me reason to believe that perception of “who I was” would change if they knew that cancer were present in my life.  Not only would people see me differently they would treat me differently.

This is also a journey of faith that people might have difficulty understanding. I believed and still believe that I was given by my Creator incredible gifts of body, soul and mind.  I believe that among those gifts is the ability of the body to heal itself and the mind to play a positive role in living to be well. The fact that cancer might be present in my body did not mean I was sick. It meant even deeper faith in what I had been given to stay well and why would I concentrate on some little undiagnosed intruder that was causing me absolutely no trouble? I preferred to spend my time thinking about how well I was. Those thoughts were not only more productive, but allowed me to live with the energy and passion for life that I have had for these many years.

If at any stage of my life with cancer I had made known to others that cancer was a problem in my life it most assuredly would have become one. Not only would I be focusing thought on the intruder, but the many who knew of its presence would be focusing thought on its presence in my body.

There would have been a very large tower transmitting messages about the cancer inside Sy Tucker’s body. I believe the universe is so constructed that the same messages given from many locations find each other and become a very strong, single broadcast. Positive find positive and negative find negative. If you want to change the message you have to change the station, you have to change the transmission, you have to tune out the negative messages.

Had all of those around me plus those many I met along my journey known I had cancer for many decades they would have, I am certain, hammered me with questions, shown concern for my dilemma in many overt ways, and generally spent much of our time together worrying about the status of my health. An example of this is my niece who called me right after arriving home from one appointment to tell me she had been thinking about how differently my family would have treated me if they had known I had cancer.

I fully realize that the path I chose may seem peculiar and may even seem selfish. How could I keep such an “important” issue from those who cared for me? I was not trying to keep people out of my life. I was rather living my life to include them in the fullness of my life.

This choice I made was a very conscious choice based on how I wanted to live my life. I had markers along the way that helped me make this decision, but from an early age I have understood that faith is not a garment you put on and take off at your convenience.  This choice was made with faith.

It is evident to me that I believe my life would have been different had I announced the presence of an intruder in my being was most certainly confirmed. I am certain that my professional life would have been quite different, I am certain that many of the wonderful opportunities that I have had in my professional and personal life might not have occurred if I had made a different choice. I am certain that my resume would look quite different at 98.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Gold Threads of Faith – 14

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June 4, 2016

It seems that some days are uneventful, but I know that no day given to you as a gift from your Creator is meant to be uneventful. Within the twenty-four hours, things happen–sometimes more noticeable than others.  Perhaps that’s the essence. The plan is working perfectly. In the Midwest we used to say, “the skids are greased.”  Mother used to say, “smooth as silk.” There are so many expressions that portray those good days, those times when “you don’t have anything to write home about.”

But I submit that those days are more about a lack of gratitude, a lack of appreciation for what you are not seeing, feeling, or experiencing.

yes, IT IS ONE OF THOSE DAYS, SO I’M GOING FOR A WALK….

The California sun is warm this morning; if the weather reports are correct, it is supposed to be a hot one. The sky is blue; not a hint of a cloud. It was pretty quiet when I was taking  my walk, I guess the birds had already done most of their harmonizing earlier in the morning. A few darted across the sky; perhaps they know more about the weather than we do. The palm fronds are barely moving at the upper levels. They are waiting for the breezes that always come a little later. What a day.

I realized that the difficulty I’ve been having writing about Living With Cancer is because I have lived for so long without writing about it. I wrote about it. I seldom thought about it; there was nothing to think about. It did not bother me. I was busy living my life with it, not consumed by it. What you think, you become, is the axiom. I spend my time thinking about what I wanted, not what I didn’t want. I was consumed by the incredible things around me. The beauty of life, the joy of family and friends, and the amazing tapestry we can weave with the gold threads of faith.

So you’ll have to excuse me for not trying to report to you each day or week, or whatever, about my cancer. I will try for the sake of science, medicine, and faith to report things that add relevance to my uninvited guest in my body. I will seek the boundaries of my faith to help anyone who cares to understand the actions of the Great Physician.

Which Way Today, Lord? – 15

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Sunday July 24, 2016

If cancer thrives on stress, my cancer has had lots of company lately. Somehow, the breast cancer appears to be diminishing. I stopped the XGeva shots a couple of months ago to get some dental work done. It is possible, apparently, that any major dental work could be a problem in the jaw bone area. My doctors have never seen this condition in the jaw bone area, but know that it exists. It’s difficult to get real information. Apparently any deep work might have difficulty healing. Still trying to get my teeth cleaned and get back to the shots to protect, or help protect, my bones from the potential leeching from another drug.

My experience rings so true; if you take one drug, there is generally a companion to counteract it. In this case, the hormone blocker stops the estrogen from feeding the cancer, but has the potential of weakening the bones. Hence, the XGeva.

My energy is low; that is annoying to me. My life has been one of high expectations implemented with high energy and opportunities. My faith keeps my prayers pretty simple. Which way today, Lord? I am amazed at what I can still do. Everything gets a little harder or I find new ways to accomplish things. Writing is getting more difficult; the macular degeneration is progressing. I can magnify things, but the magnification helps only to some extent. The difficulty lies in not seeing every letter of a word, missing the tail on the “h,” having some spots of obscurity, etc. I continue to try to do the things that keep my mind busy. Writing and reading are mainstays; what to write continues to be easy.

Editing is the most difficult part; I hate mistakes. Cancer is not the only challenge. Life goes on whether or not cancer is living with you. I am so fortunate to have the gift of each day. I think of the last time that I saw my primary physician a year and a half ago; he wanted to put me in hospice and told me my time was short and very painful. As I told him then and I need to tell him now, the Great Physician sees it differently. I can’t know what tomorrow will bring.

I have many of the arthritic discomforts that I have had for years, I am more fatigued, my organs are functioning extremely well for being in use for 95 years, I can still care for my physical needs, and I am trying to live as independently as possible. I will admit when I am chopping onions or washing the dishes, I wish I could just sit down and have someone bring me my food and clean up the dishes. I wish I could have someone by my side to edit my writing, and being able to get in my car and do what I need to do would be wonderful.

But if I dwell on those things, I would be sitting in the corner feeling sorry for myself. Sounds like a recipe for depression and despair. It is not the cancer that is restricting me; it is the macular degeneration that has caused more challenges; thanks to the Blind Center, there too, I have learned to keep the joy of engagement in my life. I am thankful that my life has forced me to be a problem solver. Life now, as always, is a series of problem solving activities.